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A historian’s careful view of debunking Darwin

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Evolution News and Views

Recently, we wrote about how a forbidden Darwin debunker had to be stopped. Debunking is all right as long as it doesn’t touch the culture’s true icons*:

In the last few years, Sutton has himself embarked on another journey to the depths, this one far more treacherous than the ones he’s made before. The stakes were low when he was hunting something trivial, the supermyth of Popeye’s spinach; now Sutton has been digging in more sacred ground: the legacy of the great scientific hero and champion of the skeptics, Charles Darwin. In 2014, after spending a year working 18-hour days, seven days a week, Sutton published his most extensive work to date, a 600-page broadside on a cherished story of discovery. He called it “Nullius in Verba: Darwin’s Greatest Secret.”

Recently, historian Michael Flannery looked at the question of whether Darwin really plagiarized the concept of Darwinism (natural selection acting on random mutation generates huge levels of information, not noise), and writes at Evolution News & Views,

It’s true that Matthew suggested a form of natural selection and perhaps even one that was animated by abrupt change rather than gradual change — though it seems to me that evolution might actually proceed in different circumstances by either mode and in that sense is fairly unremarkable. However, even at best sheer priority of an idea isn’t enough to garner status in the history of science.

After all, Matthew didn’t develop the idea much further and issued his idea as an appendix to tree-raising for the building of ships. It was hardly a central component of his thinking.

To my view it is not enough to first discover something; one must actually demonstrate it and share it with the general community of scholars. … One thing I am sure of — you can’t steal an idea you acknowledge, and Darwin certainly did acknowledge Matthew.

As for Wallace, one thing Patrick Matthew did not have was a context for his theory. Wallace published his famous Sarawak Law Paper in 1855. He stated there that, “Every species has come into existence coincident both in space and time with a closely allied species.” He then laid out four geographical principles and five geological principles by which evolution operated. Darwin knew of this paper and so when he saw Wallace’s Ternate letter, describing a theory much (he thought at the time at least) like his own, he was startled and shocked into finally presenting his theory of evolution in full.

Darwin can, did, and indeed should take full responsibility for his particular theory. There were long rumblings about evolution before Darwin, from his own grandfather’s Zoonomia to Robert Chambers’s Vestiges, but Darwin’s “contribution” was indeed special and unique and he is therefore particularly culpable for the mischief and tragedy it has caused in its social applications.More.

File:A small cup of coffee.JPG * It’s interesting. Darwin never fell victim to the “Down with the dead white male” assault because he provides precious little asshats of Asscrat U a rationale for believing that human beings are not special and our brains are shaped for fitness, not for truth, precepts they show every evidence of planning to live by.

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One Reply to “A historian’s careful view of debunking Darwin

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    Creationists should be the one to knock out old Chuck from the top 100 scientists list he is usually on.
    We have been doing it and deserve the kill.
    Darwin didn’t steal any idea. this, as I see it, because his big idea was unrelated to biology.
    It was simply SMALL STEPS equal a-b. he saw it in geology, expressions, plants etc.
    he simply concluded all biology could be explained just like geology. Small steps tied together producing a micro to macro result.
    He was a one trick pony. He was confident he was right. It worked as far as he saw it.
    It didn’t but he thought so. Indeed the errors of geology led him astray.
    it was HOW that he figured out. not the result. Indeed many thought things had created themselves.
    Thats why still much of his stuff is the best stuff on evolution HOP{E of being true. not those who came later.

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