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Monday, August 04, 2008

Darwin: Now that it's all in ruins, they're fighting over the rubble?

In Science or Monkey Business?: A Review of Roy Davies’ The Darwin Conspiracy, Flannery talks about the oft-raised question of whether Darwin routinely made unattributed use of the work of others.

I've often wondered about that, ever since - in 2002 - a Darwinist prof informed me that the reason people raised that question was that they didn't really believe in Darwin.

It was one of those moments of recognition - he sounded just like a certain type of fundamentalist informing me that the reason people analyzed the Bible critically was that they didn't really believe in Darwin. It strengthened me in my resolve to write By Design or by Chance?

In fact, people have raised the question over the years, and now Roy Davies throws in his hat:

The central theme of this rather slim 204-page volume is that Darwin lied and cheated his way into prominence as the principal discoverer of modern evolutionary theory and hence into the annals of science and world history as arguably the most influential theorist of Western Civilization. Who did he cheat? Several people - Edward Blyth for one, but most notably Alfred Russel Wallace. How was he able to do it? It’s a long and elaborate tale, but basically with the help of his friends Joseph Dalton Hooker and Charles Lyell, who “agreed to put their own reputations on the line” and read a joint Darwin/Wallace paper for the Linnean Society on July 1, 1858, the two men in an unseemly collaboration “to ensure priority for Darwin” (their longtime friend and fellow gentleman of rank and standing), manipulated key dates and events to make it appear that Charles had indeed come up with the crucial features of adaption and natural selection independently of Wallace who at the time was away collecting specimens in the Malay Archipelago (see p. 153). They informed Wallace of the reading (selecting the details carefully, of course), and so half-informed and ignorant of most of their machinations, Wallace (a man of much more middling means and social class) was delighted to be thrust into such rarified atmosphere as that inhabited by the Linneans elite. He could never have done it on his own. But this joint paper exercise wasn’t really about Wallace; it was about Darwin. In fact, the whole preemptive reading was railroaded into the Society agenda rather quickly after Darwin received the now-famous Ternate letter from Wallace laying out in detail the essential features of natural selection. The whole scheme was designed to deflect an almost certain trumpery on the part of Wallace if something wasn’t done and done posthaste.

Much in this history depends upon what Darwin knew and when he knew it.
From this account, Darwin does not emerge as a very pleasant person, let alone the object of the ridiculous hagiography (pious saints' legends) I have mentioned here in the past. Actually, Darwin's theory and the huge anti-traditional religion enterprise it has spawned is in a state of collapse, because (1) Most of the evidence is against either Darwin's original theory and its "neo" version, and no one can say any longer what is correct.

Meanwhile - for public consumption, the hagiography and misrepresentation go on. One thing the Darwinists can count on is that few legacy media would dream of exposing this stuff.

See also:

Darwin misconceptions in textbooks slammed in biology journal

Darwinism as a religion and the courts


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