The Victorian upper class loved Darwinism and so did everyone who wanted to think we are just another species, for whatever reason:
Surely the “iconic” status of Origin could never have been predicted by either Darwin or his publisher. Murray did think it would sell well, but personally he thought the book was absurd. Nevertheless, Origin not only sold well, it sold phenomenally — and it still does. This is all the more astonishing since one would never have guessed this by any indicator of the intellectual prowess of its author. Darwin’s exceptional gift as a rhetorician masked a less than shining intellect in other respects.
Gertrude Himmelfarb acknowledges Darwin’s adroitness in presenting his argument. Instead of presenting facts, Darwin mounted an argument that offered a “logic of possibility” (Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution, p. 334). Certain facts, of course, were presented, but then Darwin inflated the implications of those facts by rather adroitly promoting them into possibilities and then into probabilities; when a difficulty became too great to explain away he appealed to our ignorance of nature, sometimes (as with the fossil record) giving instead a promissory note of future discovery. It was clever and crafty but “brilliant” is probably a word better reserved for genuine creative accomplishment. Coherent and masterful logical exposition should not be conflated with rhetorical sleight of hand.
Paul Johnson’s brief critical biography, Darwin: Portrait of a Genius (2012), is most revealing in this regard. He uses “genius” in his title as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the ironic fact that Darwin, despite his ability at “stealthy self-promotion,” was a poor mathematician, a worse anthropologist, possessed limited foreign language skills, and was an awkward theoretician. While Johnson’s book is not flawless, he is surely correct on these points. He is also refreshingly honest in observing, “One has the feeling that Darwin was often inclined to avoid the hard cerebral activity of thinking through fundamental scientific principles, taking refuge in minute observations” (p. 122).
Michael Flannery, “Darwin’s Origin of Species — Some Historical Reflections 160 Years Later” at Evolution News and Science Today
But no one wanted to grasp the nettle. The price Darwinism charges for putting the rubes in their place is way too high. And at one time, many fans probably just wanted an excuse to embrace eugenics or worse. All Darwinism needed to provide was plausible cover.
And to judge from Darwinism’s lobbyists and followers in recent decades, who want to make a living putting rubes in their place, without embracing eugenics, he has certainly paid off.
But the genome map is killing all that. If the genome says, horizontal gene transfer, they can’t just shout “Darwin!” in response. Not after all those years of “parent-offspring” spiel.
But now, about the history of life … Here’s what the fossils told us in their own words