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Darwinism: Latest installment in the Darwin legend

Australia’s Hiram Caton writes to say,

Hello Denyse!

I’m sending you this latest version of my synopsis of the Darwin Legend. There are two new entries since our last contact–Darwin’s Biggest Fib, and Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln and Race. The fib is his claim, in the 6th ed of Origin, to have been the first to have argued the case for evolution. The other article draws attention to belief in the superiority of the Caucasian race espoused by Darwin and Lincoln. Darwin also believed that the lower races were on the path to extinction. Any comments will be appreciated.Cheers! – Hiram Caton

Synopsis of the Legend

++Belief that the Origin was a ‘revolutionary’ scientific breakthrough conflicts with the fact that public opinion was at the time saturated by the evolution idea. It was so widespread that in 1860 the showman P T Barnum put on display a freak, Zip the Pinhead, alleged to be the ‘missing link’ between apes and humans. In the Historical Sketch preface to the Origin, Darwin acknowledged 34 prior evolutionists.

[When I was in school 45 years ago, we learned that Evolution was a big, general idea in mid-nineteenth century Britain. It wasn't until I had to listen to wearisome rants by new atheists and Darwin lobbyists seeking funds that I discovered that Darwin had supposedly invented the idea.]

++The natural selection principle was not Darwin’s world-changing discovery. It was first stated in 1831 by Patrick Matthew and was independently discovered in 1836 by Darwin’s colleague, Edward Blyth. Herbert Spencer came close to a formulation in 1852, and Alfred Russel Wallace formulated it in 1858. Aware that natural selection did not explain racial variation, Darwin devised sexual selection as a supplementary principle.

[And we know where that led. To all kinds of silliness, actually. = "You cheatie on your sweetie because of your 'selfish genes'" - classic, stupid Valentines Day story]

++The Origin did not found modern biology. By 1850 it was a thriving cluster of cell biology sciences whose leaders were Matthias Schleiden, Theodor Schwann, Louis Pasteur, Rudolph Vircow, and Robert Koch. Darwin, a naturalist, was not involved in this research mode. His unfamiliarity with cell biology is manifest in his Pangenesis theory of the basis of organisms. Conversely, evolution did not become a parameter of experimental biology until August Weismann set out his germ plasm theory of inheritance in 1884.

++The Origin did not instigate a ‘revolutionary’ disruption of science from religious belief. That antagonism became a major cultural force thanks to the French Revolution. Utilitarianism, positivism, and socialism were the main drivers. By the 1830s these secularists began to add evolution to their rebuttals of religious beliefs. By 1860 this position was widespread throughout Europe and Latin America. Conversely, numerous scientists and clergy believed in the compatibility of science and religious faith, including the discoverer of the first quantitative biological laws, Gregor Mendel.

[Well, Mendel was a monk, right? I suppose he must have thought that the laws of inheritance were compatible with being a good Catholic ... otherwise .. ?]

++The Origin did not set out a single paleontological sequence of evolved species. Reason: methods for empirical analysis of fossil evidence were meager, a predicament that remained until the 1890s. The discovery of the Burgess Shale fossil deposit in 1909 could have supported a blossom of paleontology, yet that did not happen for another half century. The rudimentary level of human paleontology is expressed in the acceptance, in 1912, of the Piltdown Man as a genuine fossil. The hoax was not exposed until 1953.

[Hiram, I have always wondered about the fact that the Piltdown hoax took so long to be exposed, because a smart high school student could have exposed it. I casnnot believe that many people did not know. A sociologist might be able to explain why it was so important to keep the fraud going. Steve Fuller? ]

++Although Darwin opposed slavery from an early age, he did not believe in racial equality. In the Descent of Man and in correspondence, he arranged humanity in a hierarchy, with Caucasians at the top, and he believed that the extinction of ‘lower races’ was on course and would continue. This widely-shared view was integral to Euro-American imperial domination. Abraham Lincoln is among the anti-slavery proponents who so believed. Post-Civil War America imposed segregation on the freed blacks and Amerindians, while imperial powers treated colonial subjects in that vast empire as inferiors.

++The only application of evolutionary theory with practical effect was eugenics, devised by Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton. Three of his sons were dedicated to the cause, and one, Leonard, was the long-term President of the Eugenics Society who claimed to advance his father’s views. He was also patron of a key figure in the creation of neo-darwinism, R A Fisher, who also supported eugenics.

[indispensable reading follows:]

Charles Robert Darwin www.darwin-legend.org
a.. The Darwin Legend
b.. Getting Our History Right – Six Errors about Darwin and His Influence
c.. The Origin of the Origin of Species: Revolution or More of the Same?
d.. Darwin’s Illness
e.. The Syllabus of Errors
f.. Darwin’s Cathedral
g.. Three Minilegends
h.. Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln and Race
i.. Darwin’s Biggest Fib
j.. Soren Lovtrup’s Rebuttal of Darwinism
k.. Review of Carroll’s On the Origin of Species
l.. Review of Mayr’s One Long Argument
m.. Review of Dempster’s study of Patrick Matthew

[Well, thanks, Hiram! I don't expect to see this on typical school curricula, which are still fronting Darwin legends and vilifying anyone who doubts them.

But, you know, there are always people who actually want to know what really happened. And, in the end, they are the people who matter.]

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13 Responses to Darwinism: Latest installment in the Darwin legend

  1. Very interesting post, especially the Darwin/Lincoln parallel. This is OT, but I highly recommend Dr Caton’s provocative book The AIDS Mirage as well.

  2. Madsen, thanks for pointing that out. Wow. He’s an AIDS denialist. What are the odds?

  3. For those who want to read Hiram Caton’s book on Aids, it is online at

    http://www.virusmyth.com/aids/hiv/hcbmirage.htm

    The print version is 62 pages and available for $94 on Amazon.

  4. David Kellogg,

    Hiram Caton discusses punctuated equilibrium on one of his websites.

    http://www.whither-progress.or.....lution.php

    I have a question. If we quote an idea by Caton does that make us AID’s deniers too?

  5. Methinks it looks like a weasel with fleas.

  6. It has been said,

    “Birds of a feather flock together.”

  7. 7

    jerry, I responded earlier by calling Caton a crank. This comment was deleted for being rude. So be it. I will rephrase: Caton has at least one really cranky idea (that HIV does not cause AIDS). I think his sustained embrace of such a cranky idea undermines his credibility.

  8. David Kellogg @ 2 What are the odds of Caton or any other ID enthusiast being an AIDS denialist? Pretty good. ID was founded by an AIDS denialist.

    While you’re reading Caton’s book on http://www.virusmyth.com, check these other pages out:
    http://www.virusmyth.com/aids/index/pjohnson.htm

  9. Re AIDS: A complicating factor is that in many impoverished environments, AIDS has not been diagnosed by a test but by a general pattern of symptoms.

    That makes perfect sense in a world where AIDS is a “sexy” disease whose treatment might get funded by wealthy Western nations. But many other diseases are decidedly not sexy and their treatment will not get funded.

    (Because no one cares if you are a poor, illiterate person who is dying of a disease that you could only get if you live in an impoverished country near the Equator under unsanitary conditions that you can’t really help.)

    Why would a medical professional – who may even have taken the Hippocratic Oath! (First, do no harm) – accept responsibility for discovering that it isn’t AIDS (= so this patient isn’t eligible for any help and can just go die somewhere in misery)?

    I think that was one reason there was a recent deflation in the world figures for AIDS.

    Of course I can’t prove it, because no one will admit it. If I were working at a clinic in such a region, I wouldn’t admit it either.

    It is reasonable to assume that there is indeed a virus that causes AIDS.

    BUT many cases described as AIDS may well be due to other causes, especially in environments where no serious research is pursued and there is no shortage of causes of debilitating disease. Also, no budget to determine which is what.

    PS: I remember a missionary doctor explaining to me some years ago that the government of the country in which he served had US$.50 – that’s fifty cents per head – to spend on health care per year.

    I have heard similar stories and many worse ones from other such doctors.

    I recommend two things: Give generously to the work of medics in developing countries. Also, treat treat all statistics about charged issues coming from such countries with caution.

  10. 10

    Those are outlandish charges, Denyse, made without evidence. I suggest you take a look at 2008 Report on the global AIDS epidemic by UNAIDS. Chapter 2 shows clearly that HIV/AIDS estimates are made carefully and not in the cavalier and politicized manner that you suggest.

  11. With regard to public policy it would be very unwise to assume HIV doesn’t cause AIDS.

    OTOH, with regard to academic — or even public — debate it would be very unwise to make it politically incorrect to argue that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS.

    OTOH, if an AIDS denier should make false claims — say citing an authority as a supporter after that authority has changed its mind — it certainly should be called out.

  12. Some may wish to look at this 2007 story: “AIDS numbers downsized: Learning experience”

    Excerpt: “JOHANNESBURG, Nov. 19 — The United Nations’ top AIDS scientists plan to acknowledge this week that they have long overestimated both the size and the course of the epidemic, which they now believe has been slowing for nearly a decade, according to U.N. documents prepared for the announcement.

    AIDS remains a devastating public health crisis in the most heavily affected areas of sub-Saharan Africa. But the far-reaching revisions amount to at least a partial acknowledgment of criticisms long leveled by outside researchers who disputed the U.N. portrayal of an ever-expanding global epidemic.”

    Indeed. There is a huge public health crisis in many parts of the world, but a great deal of it is traceable to bad living conditions, and not just one single HIV virus.

  13. My two penn’orth on AIDS – it’s a contributory factor to the dubiety of SOME statistics that the first dignostic tests to be used in Africa were very unsatisfactorily developed and called far too many false positives.

    The situation is somewhat different now – if a sufferer is diagnosed by a combination of symptomatology and a good immunoassay if not molecular (RT-PCR) assay, then the result is better than 98% reliable. Reliable results can lead to better predictive statistics; furthermore, although the aid-donating countries moan about Africans not changing their habits, there is an increase in condom use and some evidence of heightened awareness and modified behaviour amongst the susceptible. Sure, the poor public health conditions account for large morbidity and mortality figures – but AIDS is a real and major cause of incapacity and death, and there must be an unremitting campaign against it.
    Personally, I don’t much care if it’s antivirals, condom use, monogamy, or total abstinence – whatever combination works. What we cannot do is, for want of effort and will, simply let humans die from the consequences of being human, however much we may disapprove of the ways in which they are used to expressing their humanity.

    Bandying statistics around is no help to the family bereaved of those members capable of working its fields and growing its food.

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