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Science historian: “Darwin’s neuroscience was in trouble from the beginning”


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Michael Flannery, author of World of Life and Alfred Russel Wallace: A Rediscovered Life, writes in response to “Darwinist neuroscience in trouble?: Even facial expressions are not that informative, never mind brain scans”:

Fact of the matter is Darwin’s neuroscience was “in trouble” from the beginning. It seems to me the real question is how did things like evolutionary psychology and Darwinian neuro “science” even gain a foothold in the first place.

When Darwin published The expression of the emotions in man and animals in 1872, Wallace reviewed the book in The quarterly journal of science. While Wallace (as always) gave Darwin a few deferential compliments, it was overall a pretty damning review.

Wallace began by saying, “An insatiable longing to discover the causes of the varied and complex phenomena presented by living things seems to be the prominent characteristic of Mr. Darwin’s mind. Nothing is so insignificant as to escape his notice or so common as not to demand of him an explanation.” He continued, “It is rather curious that an author who is not usually satisfied with anything less than a real and intelligible explanation, should yet be so ready, in some cases, to admit innate ideas or feelings. Among the numerous, and often most interesting, observations on his own children, Mr. Darwin tells us that a child six months old was distressed at seeing its nurse pretend to cry. He thinks, in this case, that ‘an innate feeling must have told him that the pretended crying of his nurse expressed grief; and this, through the instinct of sympathy, excited grief in him.’

Now, although I imagined myself much more disposed to believe in innate ideas than Mr. Darwin, I cannot see the necessity for them here. A child at that age often cries or is distressed at any strange face, or even at the sight of a friend in a strange dress. The nurse’s attitude and expression were strange; they made her look unlike herself, and the child got afraid, and was about to cry. That seems to me a better explanation than that the child had an innate knowledge that the nurse was grieved.” Wallace ended his review by noting that the book had some “admirable” illustrations and was suited to “general readers.” Not exactly a rousing endorsement . . .

Like I said before: You know it’s not really a science when common sense assessments would do just as well.

Denyse O’Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

Darwin made a lot of crazy conclusions. In DESCENT of MAN he said retarded people were more hairy then other people because they were in reversion to being closer to the ape. None of this is true and retardation is not intellectual inferiority but simply memory interference that retards intellect. He said stiff about vocal cords in some peoples being evidence of a differently selection influence. He said music was a attempt to bring sexual selection positive results. The famously ignored thing he said was women were innately intellectually inferior to men in intelligence. He offered only the hope to them that by careful breeding they could raise girls intellectual ability to a higher status. The bible makes clear all humans are the same in intellect as we are all made in Gods image. Motivation and society explains away female intellectual inferiority to men in history or today. All within the will. no genes stuff. Darwins Descent of man would be a good summer read for creationists. It shows why the whole idea of evolution was poorly researched or thought out from the first. The establishment just hated God and Genesis. They neede then and now Darwin. it was all humbug all along. Robert Byers
Steady on there, Charles! Axel
“Many instincts are so wonderful that their development will probably appear to the reader a difficulty sufficient to overthrow my whole theory,” Darwin wrote. He evidently felt that instinct was an unanswerable difficulty, for his next sentence was: “I may here premise that I have nothing to do with the origin of the mental powers, any more than I have with that of life itself.” (Luria, Salvador; Gould, Stephen; Singer, Sam (1981). A View of Life. Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, Inc. Menlo Park, CA. p. 556). Barb

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