NABOKV-L post 0016785, Mon, 21 Jul 2008 02:21:21 -0400

Re: great novelist (Lolita, Pale Fire, Pnin) ...

"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"
Excellent point, David. And one might add that sometimes there arise markings that are could be completely non-adaptive for the animal, but for some reason our species finds them remarkable or pretty. I gather VN might argue that they may exist simply to entertain whatever creator might be out there, and who can argue with that?

Date: Sun, 20 Jul 2008 19:43:46 +0100From: skb@BOOTLE.BIZSubject: Re: [NABOKV-L] great novelist (Lolita, Pale Fire, Pnin) ...To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
This debate is increasingly confusing! Let's note once again that the PREY deceives while the PREDATOR strives to avoid being deceived. Getting things wrong is bad for both sides. Note, predators are often also prey as you move up the food chain. Learning to eat without being eaten is a constant force in Natural Selection.At various times even devout Darwinians (even Darwin?) look in awe at Nature's diversity and wonder "How and why?" Natural Selection, with all its outstanding technical problems (e.g., step ONE, the first self-replicator!), does seem the least-imperfect answer once one accepts the billions of years available for small changes to accumulate. If you're a Young Earther, of course, in spite of the evidence, it's rather difficult to accept any gradual emergence of species -- and answers are sought in the Word'a'God (pick a God, choose a Word). Many Religionists have a problem understanding the Scientific Method: they see modifications in theories and disagreements between scientists as sure signs of failure. Yet these have proved to be a source of strength and increased understanding compared with faith-based dogma. Scientists are quite free to be theists, agnostics, or atheists without disturbing their basic belief in the idea of a rational (but humanly fallible and disputatious) pursuit of Nature via observation and experiment, theory-building and theory-dismantling.I'm inclined, on the basis of scattered evidence, to place VN on the right side (MY side!) of this ill-defined dichotomy of "world-views." There'll be days when we look in amaze at a trompe-l'oeil water-blob etched on a butterfly's wing. So, we can't explain that in a naive mechanical cause-effect appeal to Natural Selection. Does that perfect water-blob, perfect to the point of appearing to have the correct refractive index!, improve the insect's survival or mating propensities? God knows! Who said that? Seriously, such advantages, if any, can conceivably be tested. As with JA's cute example (the brighter predator scans her putative meal with care), one assumes that mating involves shaggability factors beyond our ken. Speaking of Man as predator, the counter-productive irony is that the water-blobbed wing might prove irresistible to VN's net. Which reminds me that last week's Sunday Times CULTURE supplement carried a fetching frontpage photo of VN in full lepidopterist hunting attire.Here's a 1976 experiment proving in the most direct way the impact of mimicry: how to look edible or inedible. Did VN see this before he died (1977)?Science 18 February 1977:Vol. 195. no. 4279, pp. 681 - 683DOI: 10.1126/science.195.4279.681Prev | Table of Contents | NextARTICLESBatesian Mimicry: Selective Advantage of Color PatternJ. G. STERNBURG 1, G. P. WALDBAUER 1, and M. R. JEFFORDS 11 Department of Entomology, University of Illinois, Urbana 61801Field studies of releases and recaptures of diurnal moths painted with yellow to resemble the edible tiger swallowtail and of black moths that resemble a toxic species of swallowtail produced these results: (i) A greater proportion of the black moths were recaptured; (ii) daily trapping for a week after each release showed that the black moths survived longer than the yellow-painted moths; (iii) an analysis of wing injuries shows that most attacks can be attributed to birds and that the yellow-painted moths were attacked more often, more vigorously, or more persistently than the black moths. These results are interpreted as showing a greater predation pressure on the yellow-painted than on the black moths and, therefore, as confirming the Batesian theory of mimicry.Submitted on August 11, 1976Revised on October 26, 1976Stan Kelly-BootleOn 18/07/2008 05:05, "joseph Aisenberg" <vanveen13@SBCGLOBAL.NET> wrote:

Nabokov's assumption that mimicry exceeds predators' powers of deception has been falsified. J.A.: What does Boyd mean? Isn't this article sort of substantiating Nabokov's metaphysical questioning? It's funny because when the whole issue of Christian "Intelligent Design" came up I immediately thought of Nabokov and laughed. I've been quibbling with Nabokov's anti-evolutionary ideas every time I came across them for years now. How did Nabokov allow himself to be so certain that mimicry is far more elaborate than is necessary to trick a predator? When you eat stuff you're usually going to look pretty closely at it, I would imagine.

From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum [mailto:NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU] On Behalf Of Sandy P. KleinSent: Friday, 18 July 2008 9:06 a.m.To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDUSubject: [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 <> 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 <;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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