It’s late in Real Time so I can only do a brief one now…
I made the mistake of noting on Twitter that I lacked minions after PZ accused me of hating his. Of course I don’t hate them. It’s just that, as an agnostic I am superior to them in every way. Anyhoo, several Agnostic Wilkins Minion Volunteers popped up. Welcome to the possible future autarchy, folks: @shanemuk @tynk_ and @HomunculusLoikm – I am carving up the spoils of conquest now, to save time.
On more serious subjects (what is more serious than conquering the world?), in teaching Blumenbach today I came to see that I was wrong to think he was the source of the interbreeding criterion for specieshood. Instead he says of species that
… animals belong to one and the same species, if they agree so well in form and constitution, that those things in which they do differ may have arisen from degeneration
He thinks that races, or subspecific varieties, are caused by environmental deviation from the original species stock, which he calls “degeneration”.
He contrasts this with the views of Johann Leonhard Frisch (1666–1743; I think – there’s no citation):
The immortal Ray, in the last century, long before Buffon, thought those animals should be referred to the same species, which copulate together, and have a fertile progeny. But, as in the domestic animals which man has subdued, this character seemed ambiguous and uncertain, on account of the enslaved life they lead; in the beginning of this century, the sagacious Frisch restricted it to wild animals alone, and declared that those were of the same species, who copulate in a natural state.
I think the reference is either to Frisch’s Wörterbuch, which he prepared as a philologist, or to his Vorsstellung der Vögel in Deutschland (1733-), but as I have access to neither I can’t say for sure. Anyone got a microfilm copy in their library? He’s overinterpreting Ray, I think. Ray said that a species was when similar forms are reproduced through seed. Buffon thought that what a Linnaean would call a genus or family was a natural species and the Linnaean species were like Blumenbach’s “varieties”, degenerated from the premiere souche (original stock).