Home » Intelligent Design, News, Tree of life » Scholar: Darwin did not invent the Tree of Life. He never called his diagram that

Scholar: Darwin did not invent the Tree of Life. He never called his diagram that

File:Tree of life SVG.svg

"Circle of Life" always made more sense, it turns out/Ivica Letunic

The concept was commonly used for centuries to represent order in nature, but it is dying.  Except in school, where your kid is forced to learn it.

From Nathalie Gontier’s “Depicting the Tree of Life: the Philosophical and Historical Roots of Evolutionary Tree Diagrams” (Evolution: Education and Outreach, 19 August, 2011 ), we learn,

It is a popularly held view that Darwin was the first author to draw a phylogenetic tree diagram. However, as is the case with most popular beliefs, this one also does not hold true. Firstly, Darwin never called his diagram of common descent a tree. Secondly, even before Darwin, tree diagrams were used by a variety of philosophical, religious, and secular scholars to depict phenomena such as “logical relationships,” “affiliations,” “genealogical descent,” “affinity,” and “historical relatedness” between the elements portrayed on the tree. Moreover, historically, tree diagrams themselves can be grouped into a larger class of diagrams that were drawn to depict natural and/or divine order in the world. In this paper, we trace the historical roots and cultural meanings of these tree diagrams. It will be demonstrated that tree diagrams as we know them are the outgrowth of ancient philosophical attempts to find the “true order” o f the world, and to map the world “as it is” (ontologically), according to its true essence. This philosophical idea would begin a fascinating journey throughout Western European history. It lies at the foundation of the famous “scala naturae,” as well as religious and secular genealogical thinking, especially in regard to divine, familial (kinship), and linguistic pedigrees that were often depicted by tree images. These scala naturae would fuse with genealogical, pedigree thinking, and the trees that were the result of this blend would, from the nineteenth century onward, also include the element of time. The recognition of time would eventually lead to the recognition of evolution as a fact of nature, and subsequently, tree iconographies would come to represent exclusively the evolutionary descent of species.

Note: Below, Markf quotes an apparent such use from Origin of Species:

As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever-branching and beautiful ramifications

Origin of Species Chapter 4 – summary.

For which, thanks. But peer-reviewed Gontier writes,”Darwin never called his diagram of common descent a tree” in a  respected evolution education journal. UD News had no reason to doubt her accuracy.  No wonder people complain about peer review. Seems another case of The Prophet Darwin getting rewritten, to show that he cannot be wrong, but – as it happens – some do remember his Sacred Words.

File:Darwin tree of life.jpg

Darwin's first known sketch of Tree of Life, 1837

Besides which, there’s this pesky early illustration of a tree (left), so different from the circle depicted above, its scrawliness leaving no doubt that it was Darwin’s original conception. Below it is the version that – we are told by an education site – appeared in Origin.

File with:  Ridiculous Darwin hagiography

Also: Mediaeval alchemists were real scientists, it turns out

and

Guy who DOESN’T support ID: Genomics has “overturned” Darwin’s iconic Tree of Life

Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista

 

 

 

 

 

phylogeny_sketch - Figure 1: This was the only illustration that appeared in Origin of Species.
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6 Responses to Scholar: Darwin did not invent the Tree of Life. He never called his diagram that

  1. As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its
    ever-branching and beautiful ramifications

    Origin of Species Chapter 4 – summary.

    Why is that almost every time I investigate a post by “news” it contains a major error?

  2. Branching is the point of the using the word “tree.” Wrapping it into a circle does not change the fact that it depicts branching.

  3. I see you changed the title of the post. It originally said something like: “Darwin did not invent the tree of life. He never used those words.”

  4. Mark, Why is it your mommy didn’t love you?

  5. Larmark, that is an odd response. What does it mean?

  6. 6
    nathalie gontier

    I never wrote that Darwin did not make use of the metaphor of a “tree of life”, I wrote that he never called his diagram that features in the Origin, a “Tree of Life”.
    And for the record, I do not support intelligent design.
    Nathalie Gontier

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