NABOKV-L post 0016764, Fri, 18 Jul 2008 13:01:15 +1200

Re: great novelist (Lolita, Pale Fire, Pnin) ...
I would reply to the Discovery Institute were it really interested in
open debate and facts rather than a priori convictions that (as I have
pointed out elsewhere) Nabokov's assumption that mimicry exceeds
predators' powers of deception has been falsified.

Brian Boyd


From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum [mailto:NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU] On
Behalf Of Sandy P. Klein
Sent: Friday, 18 July 2008 9:06 a.m.
Subject: [NABOKV-L] great novelist (Lolita, Pale Fire, Pnin) ...


Complete article at the following URL:

Vladimir Nabokov, "Furious" Darwin Doubter

So was Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) secretly a fundamentalist Christian,
a mad man, or just plain ignorant? The great novelist (Lolita, Pale
Fire, Pnin) was, in his own telling, a "furious" critic of Darwinian
theory. He based the judgment not on religion, to which biographer Brian
Boyd writes
X/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1216187638&sr=1-4> that he was
"profoundly indifferent," but on decades of his scientific study of
butterflies, including at Harvard and the American Museum of Natural
History. Of course, this was all before the culture-wide sclerosis of
Darwinian orthodoxy set in.

As Boyd notes in Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years, "He could not
accept that the undirected randomness of natural selection would ever
explain the elaborateness of nature's designs, especially in the most
complex cases of mimicry where the design appears to exceed any
predator's powers of apprehension."
Boyd summarized the artist's scientific bona fides
tag=artBody;col1> in an appreciation in Natural History.

For most of the 1940s, he served as de facto curator of
lepidoptera at Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology, and
became the authority on the little-studied blue butterflies
(Polyommatini) of North and South America. He was also a pioneer in the
study of butterflies' microscopic anatomy, distinguishing otherwise
almost identical blues by differences in their genital parts.

Later employed at Harvard as a research fellow in entomology while
teaching comp lit at Wellesley, Nabokov published scientific journal
articles in The Entomologist, The Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative
Zoology, The Lepidopterists' News, and Psyche: A Journal of Entomology.

[ ... ]

Comforting! But Singh misses the point of Nabokov's question. It's not
the perfection of the pattern that needs an explanation. The
novelist/lepidopterist asked, if a particular artistic subtlety in that
perfection is beyond the ability of a predator to perceive, how did
nature select it?

Posted by David Klinghoffer on July 17, 2008 8:14 AM

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