Darwinism

O’Leary’s review of a book on Darwin’s co-theorist Wallace

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My review of Michael Flannery’s edition of Darwin’s co-theorist Wallaces’s World of Life  in Touchstone has been published.

Having followed the intelligent design controversy for a decade, I have noticed a recent key change. This year, being the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, should have continued Charles Darwin’s century and a half of triumph. Yet his followers’ accolades are greeted with increasing incredulity, among both serious scientists and the general public. For example, serious scientists and thinkers convened last year at Altenberg, Austria, to consider alternatives to Darwin’s theory of evolution, and a recent Zogby poll showed that most people still don’t believe it, after countless years and dollars spent to convince them.

Darwinism is sort of like Frostie the Snowman. Adults do not believe it because it is not believable.

21 Replies to “O’Leary’s review of a book on Darwin’s co-theorist Wallace

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    It is unfortunate that this is only a partial reprint of Wallace’s book. Ah well, it’s better than nothing!

  2. 2
    Collin says:

    A very interesting and well written review. Makes me want to read the book.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Off Topic: This is just plain neat:

    A Material Based on Sharkskin Stops Bacterial Breakouts:
    excerpt: In tests in a California hospital, for three weeks the plastic sheeting’s surface prevented dangerous microorganisms, such as E. coli and Staphylococcus A, from establishing colonies large enough to infect humans. Bacteria have an easier time spreading out on smooth surfaces, says CEO Joe Bagan: “We think they come across this surface and make an energy-based decision that this is not the right place to form a colony.” Because it doesn’t kill the bacteria, there’s also little chance of the microbes evolving resistance to it. Hey, it’s worked for sharks for 400 million years.
    http://www.popsci.com/science/.....aving-skin

  4. 4
    Mark Frank says:

    a recent Zogby poll showed that most people still don’t believe it

    No it didn’t. The only results I have ever seen published from this poll were about whether alternatives to evolution should be taught in school. Possibly there were questions about the respondents’ beliefs and possibly the results showed most Americans still don’t believe in evolution. That’s the limit to what it might have established.

  5. 5
    Graham1 says:

    x
    serious scientists and thinkers convened last year at Altenberg, Austria, to consider alternatives to Darwin’s theory of evolution

    Oh really ?

    This is part of the statement agreed to by all 16 participants:

    By incorporating these new results and insights into our understanding of evolution, we believe that the explanatory power of evolutionary theory is greatly expanded within biology and beyond.

  6. 6
    Cabal says:

    Darwinism is sort of like Frostie the Snowman. Adults do not believe it because it is not believable.

    Who are telling them that it is not believable? How much help are they getting in order to learn what it is – and what it isn’t?

    “Adults” are helpless when subjected to the heavy propaganda against evolutionary theory. What percentage of adults make the effort required to understand the theory? If asked, would O’Leary be able to properly teach the theory of evolution to a typical adult?

    While O’Leary has been following the intelligent design controversy for a decade, I have been interested in the origins of species and in particular our own species for most of my life – and yet I would have to spend a lot of time and effort if I wanted to teach the ToE to an average adult.

    In my world, evolution is about a myriad of things, like hox genes, point mutations, nested hierarchies and much, much more.

    Whereas for a creationist, whether a design proponent or not, the chances are he will be more concerned with non-scientific stuff like genetic entropy, claims about low probability equating improbability, mystical terms like CSI and many more. It may sound sciency to the average adult, but is it proper science?

    Not to mention the heavy influx of pure religious fundamentalism in the debate as well.

    I am sorry for average Joe.

  7. 7
    Flannery says:

    Two points here folks:

    1) To Mung: I purposely elected not to include the chapters on Wallace’s discussion of nature and general evolution because some of the material is dated and much of it was a rehash of earlier work (esp. Darwinism, 1889). In any case the entire World of Life is not scarce and is available in most academic libraries. Indeed the 9 chapters that I extrapolated were those that even Wallace understood as “the most prominent feature of my book.”

    2) To Cabal: Your delineation of what is and is not science is arbitrary and self-serving (i.e., everything “I do” is science, everything “they do” isn’t). I suggest a careful and unbiased read of Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell. By the way, although this has been stated over and over, ID is not creationism. You won’t find it in Meyer’s book or in the ID work of Wells, Dembski, or Behe. Creationism adheres to much more than ID, which is merely that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection. That is NOT creationism.

  8. 8
    Graham1 says:

    To Flannery: then why does Bill describe ID as a bridge between science & theology ?

  9. 9
    Collin says:

    Cabal,

    You do make a good point, but you carry it too far.

    When I took college level biology I realized that the evidence for evolution was much stronger than I had supposed.

    But later, I realized that the teacher made some interesting mistakes.

    1. He claimed that morphological similarities proved common descent. It suggests it, but as another teacher said, it proves common origin, not necessarily common descent.
    2. He “proved” evolution by telling us that scientists have created proto-cells in a lab.

    3. Extra wings on flies shows mutations can give the the extra material needed for evolution (even though in nature those flies die within hours if not minutes).

    4. He proved evolution by the peppered moth.

    5. He did not mention the Cambrian explosion, limits of the ability to breed dogs (how come there are no dogs with wings yet? And why are the dogs least like wolves most prone to disease and malady?), that the vast majority of mutations are damaging, that bacteria that have developed resistance to drugs are often weaker than their pre-mutated brethren in a neutral environment, or that all or almost all mutations detected, whether beneficial or not, constituted a decrease in information or complexity.

  10. 10
    Collin says:

    A note on dogs:

    Dogs bred to be large are prone to arthritis and major stomach problems. While chihuahua’s more often than not have to be prevented from killing their young. It’s as if they know that they are an abomination and must be ended.
    Here’s a quote from wikipedia on chihuahuas (I know, not the most reliable source, but it was easiest)

    “This breed requires expert veterinary attention in areas such as birthing and dental care. Chihuahuas are also prone to some genetic anomalies, often neurological ones, such as epilepsy and seizure disorders.”

    Also see this article about a British show on pedigree dogs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedigree_Dogs_Exposed

    My favorite part of that article is the statement that bulldogs have to be delivered by caesarian section because their heads have been bred too big.

  11. 11
    O'Leary says:

    Collin at 9: 3. ” Extra wings on flies shows mutations can give the the extra material needed for evolution (even though in nature those flies die within hours if not minutes)”

    Well, that tells us what we need to know, doesn’t it?

    Not only is Darwinism not a fount of innovations, neither is tinkering (usually).

    Norman Borlaug is here honourably excepted, because his crops launched a worldwide “plague” of obesity on a planet once stalked by famine. We need more plagues like obesity, worldwide – plagues that depend on people’s choices, not terrible fates. (Look, if you need to change your life, change it. Glad if you have the chance and choice.)

    Show me how extra wings can turn our local yellow jacket hornet into a serious pest instead of a minor pest, and I will listen.

    Show me how extra wings will cause the insect to die within minutes and – so what? I wish most of them would, actually. Has anyone ever considered marketing this solution?

    Anyway, it all tells me nothing whatever about evolution, just why tinkering does not usually produce a viable result.

  12. 12
    Collin says:

    O’Leary

    What are you doing up so early? Isn’t it like 4 AM in Toronto?

  13. 13
    sxussd13 says:

    Dear Mrs. O’Leary

    I would like to see a couple of reviews about Yale Evo Course, the professor looks so dramatic.

    This might be worth picking up or plucking apart.
    kind regards,
    sxussd13

  14. 14
    Mung says:

    1) To Mung: I purposely elected not to include the chapters on Wallace’s discussion of nature and general evolution because some of the material is dated and much of it was a rehash of earlier work (esp. Darwinism, 1889).

    Yes, nothing against your book. I understand it wasn’t intended to be a re-print.

  15. 15
    Flannery says:

    I knew that, Mung. I just wanted folks to understand why I elected to do it that way.

    To Graham 1: Why in the world would describing ID as a bridge between science and theology be creationism?! Simply because a scientific theory has theological implications doesn’t mean it’s not science (that would rule out 90% of cosmology) and it most surely doesn’t mean it is creationism.

  16. 16
    Oramus says:

    Cabal, if it takes that much effort to ‘learn’ Darwin’s version of biological development concepts, then it’s got real problems.

    Neo-darwinism is like the Blob, slowly suffocating under the weight of its own hedge bets.

    “Adults” are helpless when subjected to the heavy propaganda against evolutionary theory. What percentage of adults make the effort required to understand the theory? If asked, would O’Leary be able to properly teach the theory of evolution to a typical adult?

    While O’Leary has been following the intelligent design controversy for a decade, I have been interested in the origins of species and in particular our own species for most of my life – and yet I would have to spend a lot of time and effort if I wanted to teach the ToE to an average adult.

  17. 17
    Mung says:

    I knew that, Mung. I just wanted folks to understand why I elected to do it that way.

    Hello Michael. It is not often that one gets to speak with an author of a published book on the internet!

    I have your book, it is sitting on a shelf (sorry ;)). I will say, it is on the TOP shelf, lol. When i became aware of it, it immediately grabbed my attention.

    I am interested in Wallace. While his “World of Life” is not currently in print, there are a few “Wallace centric” books available.

    Can you give a me a reason to take your book off the shelf and begin to read it ahead of the other books currently available to me?

    Thank you

  18. 18
    Flannery says:

    Sure, I’m happy to. You’re quite correct that there are a number of Wallace books out there, biographies by Shermer, Raby, Slotten, Fichman; and there are others who have written on Wallace, Kottler, Smith, etc. If you read my book first I think you’ll have a better idea of who Wallace was and what defined him as a biologist and thinker. You’ll have a context in which to place Wallace with Darwin and a clear picture of precisely how Darwin constructed his evolutionary theory versus Wallace. My intro runs through much of the historiography concerning Wallace giving an assessment that comports to what Wallace actually said rather than what some authors want him to say. You’ll also understand what I mean by “intelligent evolution.”

    By the way, if you’re interested in an excellent biography of Darwin get Ben Wiker’s The Darwin Myth.

  19. 19
    Mung says:

    All right, you’ve convinced me, in this year of Darwin, I should be reading Wallace. I’ve pulled it down and begun reading.

    Bill gives it high praise in the foreward:
    Flannery’s intriguing theses significantly revise previous historiography of both Darwin and Wallace.

    Are you acquainted with:

    Natural Selection and Beyond: The Intellectual Legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace

    Would you recommend the book by Martin Fichman (footnote 44)?

    I have Wiker’s book. Maybe I’ll have at that one next.

  20. 20
    Flannery says:

    Mung,

    Yes, I have _Natural Selection and Beyond_. Some of the essays are quite good, others have problems. I particularly take issue with the essays by Charles H. Smith and Steven J. Dick.

    I highly recommend Fichman’s Elusive Victorian. It is, in my opinion, the best book-length biography of Wallace.

  21. 21
    Mung says:

    I really like the point you make about Wallace’s perception of other races as compared to Darwin’s. Oh how things might have been different!

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