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Science or Monkey Business?: A Review of Roy Davies’ The Darwin Conspiracy

Imagine if you will a rather pathetic little boy oppressed by a domineering father and overshadowed by older sisters assuming maternal roles that directed his every move.  Under such conditions it’s not surprising that certain survival strategies would be employed by the boy to establish his place in the family pecking order.  Thus it was, according to biographers Adrian Desmond and James Moore, that a young Charles Darwin stole his father’s peaches and plums only to “discover” them later in heroic fashion and would invent “deliberate falsehoods” in order to gain attention.  In school he would regale classmates with stories of fantastic birds and remarkable flowers, flowers he could change into different colors.  “Once,” write Desmond and Moore, “he invented an elaborate story designed to show how fond he was of telling the truth.  It was a boy’s way of manipulating the world” (1).  But what happened when the boy, whose insatiable need for attention never waned, became a man.  How might he then manipulate the world?  This question, which few have dared to even pose, has been asked and answered in a provocative new book by former BBC writer/producer, Roy Davies titled, The Darwin Conspiracy: Origins of a Scientific Crime, just released by Goldensquare Books (http://darwin-conspiracy.co.uk/). 

The publisher of this book describes itself as a “small independent publisher based in London with a background in publishing history-related titles.” 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 Linnean 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.  “They [Lyell and Hooker] agreed,” writes Davies, “as Darwin was now claiming, that he had sketched out his evolutionary theory not in 1842, but in 1839. Moreover, they claimed that the contents of the 1844 essay [Darwin's preliminary draft of his theory] had not only been read by Hooker, but had been communicated to Lyell himself. There was no mention of the fact that both men had voiced serious objections over several years to Darwin’s migration theory, which (alongside the idea of perfect adaptation) had been central to his thinking in 1844 and for a long time after” (p. 153).  This is really only part of the story, but it is its salient feature.  In short, “Had Alfred Russel Wallace sent his letter of March 1858 not to Charles Darwin but to the editor of the Annals and Magazine of Natural History,” writes Davies, “it is likely that we would today talk about Wallaceism rather than Darwinism” (p. 161).  This is an important point and one that I will return to shortly. 

The book itself rests upon Davies’ examination of postal and shipping records, seeking to demonstrate that Darwin failed to accurately relate when he received certain letters from Wallace.  By either claiming that the letters were recieved much later than normal delivery times would now suggest or by simply destroying some of his critical (and damning) correspondence with Wallace, Darwin was, according to Davies, able to cut a clear path that would lead straight to him as the primary evolutionary theorist instead of Wallace who supplied the Down House naturalist with most of the critical features of what would become known as Darwinian evolution.  Davies spins a detailed web of duplicity and manipulation on the part of Darwin, “a very secretive man with a driving ambition” (p. 160).  To bolster his case Davies provides a series of four appendices that include a timeline of Darwin/Wallace ideas, 1831-1862; a shipping timetable between Southampton and the Malay Archipelago, the essential route of their correspondence; a routing map of Dutch mail steamers in the late 1850s; and a reprinting of Wallace’s crucial paper that had such a startling – Davies might say epiphanic! - effect upon Darwin, “On the Tendency of Varieties to depart indefinitely from the Original Type,” dated “Ternate, 1858.”

As Davies admits, the story of Darwin’s plagiarism not new.  As the Origin celebrated its centennial, Cyril Dean Darlington openly questioned precisely how Darwin arrived the theory, admitting, “After a hundred years we are almost as uncertain of the authorship or editorship of Darwin’s writings as we are of those attributed to Homer or Hippocrates” (quoted on, p. 20).  Darlington’s skepticism was of tremendous historiographic importance because it broke, for the first time, a Darwin industry that had been jealously gaurded and carefully crafted by the patriach’s family.  But other doubters would follow:  Loren Eisley became convinced that Darwin stole much of his theory from Edward Blyth’s articles in The Annals and Magazine of Natural History published between 1835 and 1837;  then there was Howard Gruber who discovered that, “He [Darwin] completely rewrote his Galapagos entries to take in the new ideas and information he had gleaned from [the islands' Vice-Governor Nicholas] Lawson and other specialists between 1837 and 1845 [long after his return], giving a distorted picture of how the Galapagos had struck him on the voyage ten years before” (p. 36).  Others such as Yale graduate student H. Lewis McKinney and professor Leonard Wilson performed research that increasingly pointed to Alfred Russel Wallace as the leading dramatis persona in the unfolding saga of evolutionary theory.  What Davies provides here is a synthesis of data constructing a grand narrative of Darwin’s duplicitous fraud with the addition of detailed, never-before-published, data relating to the Darwin/Wallace correspondence.

But why has it taken so long for this information to come to light?  And why has the scholarly community been so reticent to even hear evidence against their putative hero?  Davies cites several favors:  national pride (every study questioning the authenticity of Darwin’s theory, Davies points out, was American not British); class, after all Darwin was a gentleman while Wallace was a man “with ideas above his station” (p. 50); and finally Wallace himself has been seen as a disreputable radical, a vehement champion of land reform and an adherent of spiritualism, something Davies dismisses as “outlandish” (p. 165). 

All of these are likely explanations.  However, there is probably a more important one, one not fully considered by Davies.  It is that Wallace himself confused the issue by always insisting that he was an avid Darwinist.  Even when keen Darwinian analysts such as Samuel Butler and A. A. W. Hubrecht began calling for Wallaceism, Wallace himself always refused the designation.  Thus as time passed on Wallace simply faded away as a significant player in the development of the theory that would bear Darwin’s name.

This point is more important than one might immediately think.  Why was Butler, Hubrecht and others talking about “Wallaceism”?  What is Wallaceism?  In brief it is teleological evolution.  Instead of Darwin’s radical materialism, Wallaceism is a very different kind of evolutionary theory.  It was first announced when Wallace made his break with Darwin’s metaphysical presumptions.  Wallace simply couldn’t agree that the human intellect could be explained by natural selection; something else, a higher spiritual force or power had to be invoked.  When Darwin read Wallace’s paper in the April 1869 issue of The Quarterly Review  saying as much, he viewed it as a “murder” and scatched an emphatic “NO!!” in margin of his copy.  Wallace would develop his ideas further, especially in chapter 15 of his 1889 Darwinism: an Exposition of the Theory of Natural Selection With Some of Its Applications (reprinted in ”Why the recent article in Nature calling for Wallace recognition is right AND wrong,” March 11, 2008, of this blog).  Wallace insisted that natural selection and “survival of the fittest” (a term he suggested Darwin adopt) can account for much in nature but not everything.  It cannot account for the origin of life, consciousness of animals, and the intellect of man; only an “Overruling Intelligence” can do that, he argued.  Thus, Wallace had constructed a thoroughly teleological form of evolution.  He gave full expression to this in what this reviewer believes to be his magnum opus revealingly titled, The World of Life: A Manifestation of Creative Power, Directive Mind and Ultimate Purpose (1910).  Now this was WALLACEISM!  It is hard to say why Wallace resisted the term, but I suspect much was imbedded in the long struggle for the preeminence of natural selection in the world of science.  Wallace may have conjectured (wrongly) that adding Wallaceism would only endanger the theory and ruin years of promotion on its behalf. Additionally he may have made another miscalculation, namely, that to refuse Wallaceism would deny his opponents a clear target at which they could fire their materialistic arrows.  This is Martin Fichman’s conclusion (2).

Whatever the reason, one of the problems with Davies’ analysis is that he fails to appreciate the significant differences between Wallaceism and Darwinism.  In short, he knows the men but not the -isms.  As one reads through The Darwin Conspiracy  one is struck by how central Davies sees the work of both Darwin and Wallace in constructing their theory against the natural theologians of the day, seeing the two as united in their opposition to special creation.  Thus Davies frequently misinterprets and misreads Wallace.  For example, he asserts that Wallace “was not intellectually constrained by the idea of a world designed by God” and that he didn’t need “to make room for God in his theory” (p. 3).  It is simply not true.  As Wallace’s biographer Martin Fichman points out, “His Malay travels reinforced Wallace’s disavowal of adherence to any traditional orthodox religion.  But,” he adds, “Wallace’s emerging evolutionary worldview was compatible with a broader spiritual and teleological framework that would become more overt on his return to England” (3).  Davies’ inability to see the important difference between Darwin’s and Wallace’s worldviews prevents him from accurately reading key primary resources, such as Wallace’s “On the Habits of the Orang-utan in Borneo.” For Davies Wallace is simply linking the primate with man in ways Darwin later would in his Descent of Man.  But an examination of this essay will demonstrate nothing of the kind.  In fact, Fichman again applies a more nuanced and accurate interpretation of the essay suggesting “that Wallace’s observations of these apes were leading him to invoke more explicitly the concept of design in nature” (4). 

As a consequence there is an important irony to Davies’s tale that purports to be “light-years away from the established orthodoxy” (xix).  Despite the hype it is, in fact, rather mundane and uninteresting.  For Davies it is merely a question of whose name belongs on the materialistic metaphysic we call evolution.  If that’s the only issue, all we need do is get the typsetters moving to make the change.  Even assuming he’s right changing the attribution alone won’t really matter much in the big scheme of things.  In sum, Davies is merely suggesting a change of index terms not of ideas.  This rather sobering realization reduces its grand promise to reveal “one of the greatest crimes in the history of science” down to something more akin to petty larceny.

But there is more at stake here, and I would suggest there is a deeper reason most of the Darwinian faithful have resisted – and indeed will continue to resist – the change:  to open the theory up to the likes of Wallace may open the flood gates to true Wallaceism.  For true Darwinians and even neo-Darwinians this cannot and most assuredly will not be allowed under any circumstances.  Here we would find design triumphant!  After all, Wallace constructed a theistic evolution that made natural selection “subservient to other, higher directed powers” (5).  In his World of Life Wallace tackled what Darwin failed to do, the origin of life.  It was a gap in evolutionary theory that the old German professor of natural history at the University of Heidelberg Heinrich Bronn had criticized Darwin for at the first appearance of his Origin bookIn an extremely prescient chapter titled “The Mystery of the Cell,” Wallace argued that the simplistic view of one-celled oranisms as some kind vital protoplasm was wrong.  The simple cell is not simple, it is amazingly complex.  He chided Haeckel for his atheistic monism and wrote, “If, as I have attempted to do here, we take a broad and comprehensive view of the vast world of life as it is spread out before us, and also of that earlier world which goes back, and ever farther back, into the dim past among the relics of preceding forms of life, . . . we meet with ever greater and greater difficulties in dispensing with a guiding purpose and an immanent creative power” (6).  For Darwinists this would never do!  For such staunch materialists it would be better to believe the lie than admit that Darwin was alas a plagiarist.  If the problem was just a matter of names that’s one thing, but Wallaceism is not Darwinism and the faithful followers of the Down House Saint know it. Unfortunately, Davies seems to have completely missed this point.

But on another level Davies’ book should not be ignored.  The portrait painted of Darwin here is much different than the one we usually see - the quiet, mild-mannered, meticulous naturalist, careful, methodical, always thinking.  Typical is Mark Ridley who wrote, “Wherever Darwin was – at the dinner table and watching people laugh and have a good time, or visiting the doctor with his children – he was observing carefully, reflecting, questioning and tentatively fitting his ideas into a grand theoretical system” (7).  But perhaps this wasn’t the real Darwin we’ve so often heard described.  Perhaps he was, in fact, a rather pathetic attention-getter, interested more in fame than facts, worried more about reputation than science, a borrower, a poseur, a cheat.  It’s hard to say, but it has more than a distant ring of truth.

Why?  Because it does comport to other details of his life.  For example, Darwin always insisted he was in a perfect muddle about religion.  He adopted Huxley’s term agnostic to describe himself.  Yet in his actions we see something else.  We see a man at the end of life, a man “looking old and ill,” perfectly willing to refuse friends as “too indisposed” for visitors but eager to entertain Edward Aveling and Ludwig Buchner, two the most prominent atheists of the age, in his home less than seven months before his death (8).  In that meeting he made two statements that at least match with the character portrait painted by Davies.  First, he asked Aveling about his atheism.  “Why should you be so aggressive?  Is anything to be gained by forcing new ideas on people?” (9).  In other words, Darwin didn’t object to atheism as a truism, he objected to the word  from a strategic standpoint.  Darwin, I think, was revealing a glimpse of the hand he had been playing for years, namely, in a effort to establish radical materialism as the reigning worldview he simply adopted an attitude of atheistic minimalism.  In other words, keep God out of it and He will gradually disappear under the weight of a theory that posits a uniformity of natural causes in a closed system.  It was brilliant and it had a demonstrable model in the fossils that Darwin had spent so much time with.  His evolutionary theory would be the materialistic poison that would bring God to extinction; his atheistic minimalism would be the sediment that buried Him and consigned Him to obscurity.  That was Darwin’s master plan.  But this was a very dangerous game.  If the plan were too transparent the proverbial jig would be up.  So to keep suspicions to a minimum and lend credence to his ostensibly “scientific” and “objective” image, he framed this strategy by carefully crafting an unwilling persona, the portrait of a man only slowly and reluctantly leaving his faith.  When he told Aveling and Buchner that, “I never gave up Christianity until I was forty years of age” (10) he was telling a bold-faced lie.  Darwin’s materialism was well in play as he wrote his Notebooks in the 1830s in his twenties and thirties.  Sometime between May and June of 1838 (age 29!), for example, he was already admitting his philosophy with impish delight – “Oh you materialist!” he chimed (11) – when suggesting that thought, desires, and even “love of the deity” is a product of mere heredity.  A bit later – but not much -in his Notebooks he would be captivated by David Hume’s skepticism and Auguste Comte’s secular humanism.  And this was the man who didn’t leave Christianity until he was forty?  Nonsense!

So there’s an element of believability to Davies’ book.  Not because I believe Darwin stole Wallace’s theory (I find that quite possible but comparatively uninteresting), but because the duplicity demonstrated in The Darwin Conspiracy fits a pattern of behavior wholly in character with this revered naturalist.  In short, I do not know if Davies’ thesis is correct or not.  To sign on to it I would have to know much more about how Goldensquare Books peer reviewed this work (or even if it was peer reviewed).  I would like to know what Wallace scholars like Martin Fichman and Ross A. Slotten have to say.  For now I’ll simply say Davies has written an interesting albeit imperfect book that deserves serious attention and not perfunctory dismissal.  

As it is one cannot escape the feeling that Darwin was up to some monkey business and had been all along.

Sources

1.  Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991), p. 13.

2.  Martin Fichman, An Elusive Victorian: The Evolution of Alfred Russel Wallace (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004), p. 310.

3.  Ibid., p. 34.

4.  Ibid., pp. 39-40.

5.  Ibid., p. 204.

6.  Alfred Russel Wallace, The World of Life: The Manifestation of Creative Power, Directive Mind and Ultimate Purpose (London: Chapman and Hall, 1910), p. 350.

7.  Mark Ridley, How to Read Darwin (New York: W. W. Norton, 2005), p. 111.

8.  Desmond and Moore, p. 656.

9.  Ibid., p. 657.

10.  Ibid., p. 658.

11.  Charles Darwin, Charles Darwin’s Notebooks, 1836-1844, trans. and edited by Paul H. Barrett, et al. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987), p. 291.

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12 Responses to Science or Monkey Business?: A Review of Roy Davies’ The Darwin Conspiracy

  1. Whoa, if there’s any truth to it, then I wonder what that will mean for Darwin Day.

    Speaking of Wallace, I recall back in my high school days a biology book that said that Alfred Russel Wallace made some pretty big contributions to evolutionary theory, but was “seldom recognized for what he did.” Never mention the key reason why. ;D

    Of course when you don’t believe everything was just one great big accident then I guess you won’t get credit for anything. :roll:

  2. Thanks much for excellent work, Michael!

    I don’t think it makes much difference what Darwin was really like or whether he plagiarized the idea of natural selection.

    Darwinism is the creation story of materialist atheism. Whatever characteristics Darwin the prophet, seer, and relevator requires, in order to induce and maintain belief, will simply be ascribed to him.

    Among Darwin fans, hagiography is a duty and misrepresentation is virtuous.

  3. Denyse, Darwin’s character matters for two reasons:

    Political correctness teaches that Darwin’s scientific discoveries caused him to lose his religious faith. Many of his biographers, however, suggest that it was his materialism and his growing anti-religious sentiments that drove his science and not the other way around. If that is true, then his research was less about following the evidence and more about using it to harmonize with his previously held beliefs. He has been charged (credibly in my judgment) with the non-scientific attitude of wanting to refute Paley’s design argument even before he began his so-called journey of discovery.

    Also, Darwin was obviously self conscious about the way others would react to some of his more controversial statements. In the “Descent of Man,” he insists that [A] it is foolish to allow inferiors to breed, [B] nevertheless, our “nobility” bids us to be compassionate, yet [C] we ought to discourage inferiors from breeding anyway. So, what was [B] all about? Was he really being compassionate? Or, was he merely trying to appear compassionate so he could more readily promote his decidedly uncompassionate world view? Did he really believe that we have a “noble nature,” or was he simply putting a smiley face on his materialism and camouflaging his assault on the inherent dignity of the human person?

  4. Denyse & Stephen,

    Thank you both for your comments. In one sense you’re correct, Denyse; as I tried to point out, whether Darwin stole his idea of natural selection doesn’t matter if we’re not going to look at it as part of a larger metaphysical construct. This is was what distinguished Darwin from Wallace and is REALLY what matters in the end.

    But Stephen you too are absolutely right in pointing out that Darwin’s character speaks to the theory as much as to the man. I am throughly convinced that Darwin’s metaphysical beliefs drove his alledged “science.” Darwin had been exposed to transmutation and other kinds of heretical ideas while at the famed University of Edinburgh struggling to please his father to become a physician. It didn’t work out. But what it did do was give him the essential features of the atheistic materialism that he would carry with him for life. His life-changing experience didn’t occur at the Galapagos Islands when he was 26, it was his school days at Edinburgh when he was 16! This is crucial for it changes everything. From that point on Darwin sought to develop a theory upon which his metaphysic could hang. No wonder he was aghast when Wallace told the world he didn’t think natural selection could account for human intellect! (Denyse, Wallace would have so approved of your book, The Spiritual Brain!! And, of course, I do too.)

    But more germane to the Down House “hero,” his life shows that Darwinian evolution is not only a secular creation myth, the story of its own creation was (and sadly still is) itself mythical – chiefly created by the myth-maker himself, Charles Darwin. In truth very, very few of Darwin’s contemporaries have ever picked up on this and neither have his biographers. I continue to work out the details so if any additional thoughts along these lines come to mind please let me know. I appreciate the feedback immensely.

  5. This statement, “Imagine if you will a rather pathetic little boy oppressed by a domineering father and overshadowed by older sisters assuming maternal roles that directed his every move” lines up well with an analysis I have made of atheists. I have observed similar patterns in atheists I have worked with in practice as a psychologist or have known as friends or colleagues.

    Some Psychological Aspects of Atheism

  6. “…then there was Howard Gruber who discovered that, “He [Darwin] completely rewrote his Galapagos entries to take in the new ideas and information he had gleaned from [the islands' Vice-Governor Nicholas] Lawson and other specialists between 1837 and 1845 [long after his return], giving a distorted picture of how the Galapagos had struck him on the voyage ten years before”

    It’s always been puzzling to me why there was a gap of so many years between the voyage of the Beagle and Darwin finally publishing his theory. Why did he wait for two decades after supposedly coming up with his theory in 1838 before publishing On the Origin of Species in 1859? Excuses have been given: he felt the world wasn’t ready to hear it; it was so radical he had trouble squaring it with his supposed theism; his time was taken up with geological studies, etc.

    But, perhaps he just swiped the idea from Blythe and Wallace in 1858 and rearranged his prior work and data to show it as his idea.

    Yes, Darwin’s character matters very much to the believability of his theory. It’s a story-based theory, not a mathematical one. Newton, for example, also had some very serious character problems and eccentricities, but it has absolutely no effect on his science. His theories on gravitation and optics, and his invention of the Calculus are subject to strict mathematical scrutiny and are able to stand outside of his persona.

  7. Leads one to wonder if Wallace had been more concerned with getting credit, we would have a teleological evolutionary theory now instead of a blind chance one. The winners write history. You may come up with a great idea, but if you don’t get credit for it, someone else will. And they will almost certainly change it to fit their own views. In terms of changing a culture, getting credit for an idea is vastly important so you can control how the culture is affected by it. A lesson to ponder.

  8. tragicmishap,

    I think the blind chance theory would have eventually won out (not because of its merits), but because I think academic worldviews would have shifted that way anyway. So, then we’d be having scientists say, “Oh, that quaint tired old theory was disproved and replaced decades ago. [about teleological evolution]” Without giving any evidence as they like to do (just call it ‘antiquated’ and be done with it). I would imagine also that if Wallace could have forseen the situation today, he might have been more concerned with getting credit.

  9. 9

    But, perhaps he just swiped the idea from Blythe and Wallace in 1858 and rearranged his prior work and data to show it as his idea.

    Perhaps aliens landed and gave Darwin a time machine and he went back 20 years and fed himself the work from Blythe and Wallace from the future. He had to do that otherwise when carbon dating was invented somebody might have noticed that the paper was 20 years older then it should be.

    StuartHarris, do you habitually speak ill of the dead with no basis whatsoever?

    Yes, Darwin’s character matters very much to the believability of his theory.

    Assuming that you can prove our outrageous slurs, what then? Do you think that biologists worldwide are going to stop considering evolution when trying to solve problems because somebody who’s been a very long time dead was proven to be a bit of a dog torturer?

    I’m just interested in what you think you are going to achieve by this StuartHarris? Presumably if you had any proof you would make it public, write a book something like that? Innunendo and slurs will reflect back on you, after all Darwin is not around to either defend himself or care about your slurs!

  10. 10

    Does Darwins own words not throw any light on the situation?

    My work is now nearly finished; but as it will take me two or three more years to complete it, and as my health is far from strong, I have been urged to publish this Abstract. I have more especially been induced to do this, as Mr. Wallace, who is now studying the natural history of the Malay archipelago, has arrived at almost exactly the same general conclusions that I have on the origin of species. Last year he sent to me a memoir on this subject, with a request that I would forward it to Sir Charles Lyell, who sent it to the Linnean Society, and it is published in the third volume of the Journal of that Society. Sir C. Lyell and Dr. Hooker, who both knew of my work—the latter having read my sketch of 1844—honoured me by thinking it advisable to publish, with Mr. Wallace’s excellent memoir, some brief extracts from my manuscripts.

    At the very beginning of his book, Darwin acknowledges that Wallace had come upon the same ideas independently. What part of “acknowledging independent derivation of the same ideas in his seminal work on the subject” constitutes “stealing ideas”? Wallace receives numerous citations in Darwin’s work, why would you cite somebody from whom you were stealing not only credit but work and data?

  11. RitaFairclough,

    As I said in my piece, I’m not ready to necessarily agree completely with Davies’ conspiracy theory. However, what I DO know is, we simply cannot take Darwin’s own words to shed much light on anything. The more I dig into Darwin’s life the more duplicity I see. I mention his claim to not having left Christianity until age 40 in my review; this is clearly not so as evidenced in his private Notebooks, now made public since 1987.

    But there are other examples. So many of the materialistic ideas that Darwin wove into his evolutionary theory were the products of earlier free-thinking heretics that he had experienced as a teen in Edinburgh. As a young inductee in the radical Plinian Society, Darwin learned materialistic science from William Browne, who insisted there was no difference between animals and men (shades of Darwin’s Descent of Man?); from William Greg he heard a lecture arguing that “the lower animals possess every faculty & propensity of the human mind”; from his instructor Robert Jameson he heard a Lamarckian lecture on “The Origin of the Speices of Animals”; and from Robert Edmund Grant, his walking companion and confidant, he was taught that “there was no spiritual power behind nature’s throne” and that the same organs in different animals were homologous suggesting some evolutionary materialistic scheme. Darwin made little of these experiences in his later writings, which I simply find hard to beleive. They’re too close to his later ideas.

    All these elements, learned when Darwin was about 16 crop up in his Origin of Species. I find Darwin’s insistence that he came upon these notions at the Galapagos hard to swallow. Darwin’s plaintive cry that he left religion relatively late in life (as he claims in his autobiography and elsewhere) just doesn’t comport with other facts we now know about his exposure to radical ideas early on. I’m still finding more, but I’ve become very suspect of Darwin’s later claims. I believe Darwin (and later his family) carefully crafted a persona of the “reluctant agnostic.”

    So I don’t know if Darwin stole from Wallace or not (that he would have had to have acknowledged Wallace after the Ternate letter is a given), but I DO know that the particular brand of evolution he concocted was tailor-made for a materialist – Browne, Greg, Jameson, Grant all would have approved.

  12. 12

    Maybe Wallace’s fault is that he does not have the same official birthdate as Abraham Lincoln! LOL

    Here is the Darwin-Wallace story as told by Olivia Judson in a NY Times article:

    By 1858, Darwin had spent more than 20 years studying plants and animals and thinking about evolution. . . . But he had published nothing. (He had, however, published books on several other subjects, including an exhaustive study of barnacles, both living and extinct.) Then, in June of that year, Darwin received a package from a young man named Alfred Russel Wallace; in the package, Wallace enclosed a brief manuscript in which he outlined the principle of evolution by natural selection.

    On July 1, 1858, Wallace’s manuscript, as well as a couple of short statements on natural selection by Darwin . . . . were read at a meeting of the Linnean Society in London. . . .

    Of the material presented that night, the manuscript by Wallace is, in some respects, the more impressive: it is clearer and more accessible. Yet it is Darwin we celebrate; it is Darwin who, like a god in a temple, sits in white marble and presides over the main hall at the Natural History Museum in London. Why?

    The reason is the “Origin” . . . .the “Origin” changed everything. Before the “Origin,” the diversity of life could only be catalogued and described; afterwards, it could be explained and understood. Before the “Origin,” species were generally seen as fixed entities, the special creations of a deity; afterwards, they became connected together on a great family tree that stretches back, across billions of years, to the dawn of life. Perhaps most importantly, the “Origin” changed our view of ourselves. It made us as much a part of nature as hummingbirds and bumblebees (or humble-bees, as Darwin called them); we, too, acquired a family tree with a host of remarkable and distinguished ancestors. (emphasis added)

    So the article says, “Of the material presented that night, the manuscript by Wallace is, in some respects, the more impressive: it is clearer and more accessible.” Today, the Linnean Society of London confers a medal called the “Darwin-Wallace medal.” The Linnean Society of London, unlike the rest of the world, has not forgotten Wallace.

    BTW, Judson’s article says that the “Origin” (which as everyone knows is the book “On the Origin of Species”) “changed our view of ourselves” — i.e., Darwinism is not just a scientific idea but represents a worldview, a philosophy of life, and even a religion. And I don’t know why Judson calls our alleged ancestors “remarkable and distinguished”; while I don’t think that the idea of being descended from monkeys — or worse — is anything to be ashamed of, I don’t consider it anything to be proud of, either.

    The Darwinists are not now going to be objective about Darwin — they have simply invested too much in Darwin worship. There are the “I love Darwin” items (T-shirts, coffee mugs, etc., and even a doggie shirt), “Friend of Darwin” certificates (conferred at a reunion of the Dover plaintiffs team), Darwin Day celebrations, the Darwin-Lincoln nonsense (they have nothing in common other than the same official birthdate), etc..

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