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Darwin’s Origin of Species voted “most influential academic book”

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And that is what is killing it.

From Yahoo News:

Women’s rights, the foundations of capitalism and the warping of space-time can all take a backseat to meticulous descriptions of long-beaked finches, at least if public opinion is any measure.

“On the Origin of Species,” Charles Darwin’s famous tome on evolution, has been voted the most influential academic book in history, according to an online survey answered by the public.

The biology bombshell edged out competitors such as “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare”; “On the Vindication of the Rights of Women,” by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley; “The Wealth of Nations,” by Adam Smith; and even physics classics such as the theory of general relativity by Albert Einstein and “A Brief History of Time,” by Stephen Hawking More.

It’s the most influential work because it is essentially a big philosophy, the creation story of naturalist atheism and Christian Darwinism. Not really science.

I’ve lost all hope of count of the many science news releases that offer “evidence” for Darwinian evolution (natural selection acting on random mutation generates huge levels of information).

Some are sound but so many are just plain flawed—they are really just candles lit at Darwin’s shrine. Like the famous finch beak claims.

Why is that fatal? Because in the wake of genome mapping, real sciences of evolution have begun to grow up. See Talk to the fossils: Let’s see what they say back.

One way the new proposed mechanisms of evolution are different is that they aren’t philosophy. It would be hard to make a creation story out of chromosome doubling or horizontal gene transfer. The most they do is fill in pieces of the history of life accurately.

That may not be what the public wants, but it is what scientists need.

As I noted elsewhere,

The more we learn about the history of life on earth, the less evolution is theory and the more it is history. It is less like Epicureanism and more like World War II. That cannot be good for Darwinian thinking, which fills in large gaps in history by the exercise of theory. Things that “must have” happened if the theory is correct are assumed to have happened.

But history is not like that. Consider, for example, Pearl Harbor, when the Japanese crippled the U.S. Pacific fleet in a surprise attack, though the United States was not at war with Japan. Assume that the account broke off there. Maybe a theory can fill in the blanks for us and tell us what “had to” happen.

But then, what if we later discover more and more evidence for what actually happened? It will be bad news Tuesday for some theories developed in the absence of evidence — maybe for quite a few theories.

That’s a key reason that the hegemony of Darwin is weakening. So much that we now know either doesn’t fit the theory or could get on just fine without it. More.

The change is inexorable, but don’t expect pop science media to catch on any time soon. Many will go under first.

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10 Replies to “Darwin’s Origin of Species voted “most influential academic book”

  1. 1
    brian douglas says:

    Denyse: “It’s the most influential work because it is essentially a big philosophy, the creation story of naturalist atheism and Christian Darwinism. Not really science.”

    Really? So, what science credentials do you have to make this judgement? B.Sc.? M. Sc.?

    I don’t question or deride your religious beliefs. But what are your qualifications with regard to science? I admit that it is possible to have an exceptional understanding of the science without being a scientist. But, why should we accept your views over those of the scientists?

  2. 2
    Jack Jones says:

    Denyse, You are not gonna please all the people with your wonderful articles, especially when they hold the strange idea that chemistry in the present acted differently in the past.

    hahaha

  3. 3
    brian douglas says:

    “Denyse, You are not gonna please all the people with your wonderful articles, especially when they hold the strange idea that chemistry in the present acted differently in the past.”

    Ah, there goes Joe lying about what people say to support his religion. It must be a sad existence.

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    They have obviously forgotten the impact of Newton’s Principia, or Copernicus on the Revolution of heavenly bodies [hint, hint, guess where our political sense of the term revolution in part comes from], or of Galileo’s work or Kepler’s work.

  5. 5
    Blue_Savannah says:

    They should have saved this announcement for a more appropriate day, like April 1st.

  6. 6
    Robert Byers says:

    I guess the bible wasn’t a academic work to these voters
    if the PUBLIC mmatters on this book about evolution then why doesn’t the public matter that denied evolution? Why isn’t the public worthy of equal time in school on these subjects if they have the ability to weigh these matters?
    Possiby the origin contentions of our days pushed many voters to score for the evolution side. Trying to help you know..
    I can see where they would see it as a slap against Christianity and something to explain important things but more important then others?
    Possibly they mean in the subject of origins it was out of proportion influential.
    Anyways if the public knows best why do the SUPREME courts presume to dictate right and wrong and rule?

  7. 7
    Jon Garvey says:

    I’m sure it’s influential – but that’s not the same as being read. It would be interesting to take a poll amongst working biologists (let alone the public who were polled) as to how many have read Origin of Species.

    That’s not to knock the book, which has many merits (which differ quite widely depending on which edition you read), but to comment on how little “influence” has to do with “engaging with arguments” nowadays.

    DoI: Got it from school library when studying zoology 1969, and failed to read. Eventually read 1st edition in 2011 after retiring. I find my understanding of Darwin would be significantly different had I read the later editions, but it’s easy to spot those who clearly haven’t read it, and they are legion.

  8. 8
    Virgil Cain says:

    Darwin’s book had a sciency feel to it but it was devoid of science. Sure it contained observations but that is only one step in science. There wasn’t any method of quantification for natural selection. No way to measure it. And without that you don’t have any science.

    The book argued against a strawman. It didn’t contain any way to measure its core concept. It was and is as religious as the Bible.

  9. 9
    bornagain says:

    A few notes on the the supposed ‘most influential book’ in academia:

    Anti-Science Irony
    Excerpt: In response to a letter from Asa Gray, professor of biology at Harvard University, Darwin declared: “I am quite conscious that my speculations run quite beyond the bounds of true science.”
    When questioned further by Gray, Darwin confirmed Gray’s suspicions: “What you hint at generally is very, very true: that my work is grievously hypothetical, and large parts are by no means worthy of being called induction.” Darwin had turned against the use of scientific principles in developing his theory of evolution.
    http://www.darwinthenandnow.co.....nce-irony/

    An Early Critique of Darwin Warned of a Lower Grade of Degradation – Cornelius Hunter – Dec. 22, 2012
    Excerpt: “Many of your wide conclusions are based upon assumptions which can neither be proved nor disproved. Why then express them in the language & arrangements of philosophical induction?” (Sedgwick to Darwin – 1859),,,
    And anticipating the fixity-of-species strawman, Sedgwick explained to the Sage of Kent (Darwin) that he had conflated the observable fact of change of time (development) with the explanation of how it came about. Everyone agreed on development, but the key question of its causes and mechanisms remained. Darwin had used the former as a sort of proof of a particular explanation for the latter. “We all admit development as a fact of history;” explained Sedgwick, “but how came it about?”,,,
    For Darwin, warned Sedgwick, had made claims well beyond the limits of science. Darwin issued truths that were not likely ever to be found anywhere “but in the fertile womb of man’s imagination.”
    The fertile womb of man’s imagination. What a cogent summary of evolutionary theory. Sedgwick made more correct predictions in his short letter than all the volumes of evolutionary literature to come.
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....ed-of.html

    SKEPTICS OF DARWINIAN THEORY
    Sedgwick to Darwin
    “…I have read your book with more pain than pleasure. Parts of it I admired greatly, parts I laughed at till my sides were almost sore; other parts I read with absolute sorrow, because I think them utterly false and grievously mischievous.”
    Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873) – one of the founders of modern geology. – The Spectator, 1860
    http://veritas-ucsb.org/librar.....itics.html

    Here is the letter from Adam Sedgwick to Charles Darwin:

    Sedgwick, Adam to Darwin – 24 Nov 1859
    Excerpt: There is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical. A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly.,,
    http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-2548

    Here are a few more critiques

    Was Darwin a Scholar or a Pitchman? – Michael Flannery – October 20, 2015
    Excerpt: By and large, the scientists of his day were not much impressed with Darwin’s theory. John Herschel called natural selection “the law of higgledy-piggledy,” and William Whewell thought the theory consisted of “speculations” that were “quite unproved by facts,” so much so that he refused to put the book on the shelves of the Trinity College Library.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....00191.html

    Someone tries telling the truth: Darwin wasn’t that great but he met an elite need – July 29, 2014
    Excerpt: , he (Charles Darwin) devoted almost every bit of his magnum opus (Origin Of Species) to tedious examples of artificial selection in domestic animals. He brushed away the glaring advantage of artificial over natural selection with rhetoric along the lines of “I see no reason why” natural selection might not have fashioned the eye or any other organ or living thing. For such schoolboy ineptitude he was roundly criticized by his contemporaries, all of whom are now consigned to history’s dustbin, regardless of their skills and biological competency.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....lite-need/

    In fact, far from being a ‘science’ book, Darwin’s book contains far more (bad) theology than it contains anything of what may be considered proper, rigorous, science.

    Charles Darwin, Theologian: Major New Article on Darwin’s Use of Theology in the Origin of Species – May 2011
    Excerpt: The Origin supplies abundant evidence of theology in action; as Dilley observes:
    I have argued that, in the first edition of the Origin, Darwin drew upon at least the following positiva theological claims in his case for descent with modification (and against special creation):

    1. Human beings are not justified in believing that God creates in ways analogous to the intellectual powers of the human mind.
    2. A God who is free to create as He wishes would create new biological limbs de novo rather than from a common pattern.
    3. A respectable deity would create biological structures in accord with a human conception of the ‘simplest mode’ to accomplish the functions of these structures.
    4. God would only create the minimum structure required for a given part’s function.
    5. God does not provide false empirical information about the origins of organisms.
    6. God impressed the laws of nature on matter.
    7. God directly created the first ‘primordial’ life.
    8. God did not perform miracles within organic history subsequent to the creation of the first life.
    9. A ‘distant’ God is not morally culpable for natural pain and suffering.
    10. The God of special creation, who allegedly performed miracles in organic history, is not plausible given the presence of natural pain and suffering.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....46391.html

    “Religious views were mixed, with the Church of England scientific establishment reacting against the book, while liberal Anglicans strongly supported Darwin’s natural selection as an instrument of God’s design.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.....of_Species

    Moreover, Darwin introduced no math whatsoever in his book. In fact, Darwin said that he found math to be ‘repugnant’:

    “During the three years which I spent at Cambridge my time was wasted, as far as the academical studies were concerned, as completely as at Edinburgh & at school. I attempted mathematics, & even went during the summer of 1828 with a private tutor (a very dull man) to Barmouth, but I got on very slowly. The work was repugnant to me, chiefly from my not being able to see any meaning in the early steps in algebra.”
    Charles Darwin, 1887 – Recollections of the Development of my Mind & Character, the work which Darwin himself referred to as his autobiography

    Personally, if we are considering only positive impacts and not the tremendous negative impact that “Origin” had on academia, then I consider Newton’s “Principia” to be far and away the ‘most influential book’ ever written in academia:

    This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. And if the fixed stars are the centres of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; especially since the light of the fixed stars is of the same nature with the light of the sun, and from every system light passes into all the other systems: and lest the systems of the fixed stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other mutually, he hath placed those systems at immense distances one from another. This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God pantokrator, or Universal Ruler;,,, The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect;,,, from his true dominion it follows that the true God is a living, intelligent, and powerful Being; and, from his other perfections, that he is supreme, or most perfect. He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, his duration reaches from eternity to eternity; his presence from infinity to infinity; he governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done. He is not eternity or infinity, but eternal and infinite; he is not duration or space, but he endures and is present. He endures for ever, and is every where present:
    Sir Isaac Newton – Quoted from what many consider the greatest science masterpiece of all time, his book “Principia”

  10. 10
    Jack Jones says:

    Marxism has been influential, doesn’t mean we should respect or celebrate it.

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