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Evolutionists’ careers built on plagiarism?

A recent article in Cracked, discussing plagiarism, used the careers of Richard Owen and H.G. Wells – both important evolutionists – as 40% of “Five Great Men who Built Their Careers on Plagiarism.”

Read it and see what you think.

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30 Responses to Evolutionists’ careers built on plagiarism?

  1. 1

    This is an April fool’s joke in advance, right? Also on the list are the Christians T.S. Eliot and Martin Luther King Jr.

    Besides, though Owen was an “evolutionist” in a broad sense, he was opposed to Darwinism (his positions seem confused and highly variable). His ethical lapses may also be motivated by anti-materialism. A biographical page at Berkeley notes:

    Owen also described the anatomy of a newly discovered species of ape, which had only been discovered in 1847 — the gorilla. However, Owen’s anti-materialist and anti-Darwinian views led him to state that gorillas and other apes lack certain parts of the brain that humans have, specifically a structure known as the hippocampus minor. The uniqueness of human brains, Owen thought, showed that humans could not possibly have evolved from apes. Owen persisted in this view even when Thomas Henry Huxley conclusively showed that Owen was mistaken — apes do have a hippocampus. This tarnished Owen’s scientific standing towards the end of his life.

  2. Except that Richard Owen was an anti-Darwinist and early supporter of what some now call “intelligent design” (he called it “ordained continuous becoming”). Indeed, Richard Owen is recorded in the history of science as perhaps the best-known anti-Darwinist of the 19th century:

    “Owen is probably best remembered today for coining the word Dinosauria (meaning “Terrible Reptile” or “Fearfully Great Reptile”) and for his outspoken opposition to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Owen

    In fact, Owen was dedicated to the idea that evolution proceeded by “the continuous operation of the ordained becoming of living things”. He was, in other words, an early supporter of “intelligent design”, and a relentless critic of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

    For example, “…Owen tried to smear [T. H.] Huxley ["Darwin's bulldog"], by portraying [Huxley] as an “advocate of man’s origins from a transmuted ape”. Owen believed “…that living matter had an “organising energy”, a life-force that directed the growth of tissues and also determined the lifespan of the individual and of the species.” He also strongly supported Lamarck’s theory of evolution (i.e. evolution by means of the inheritance of acquired characteristics), which was, of course, in direct opposition to Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection.

    One of Owen’s strongest allies was the American anatomist and staunch young-Earth creationist, Louis Agassiz of Harvard (and Cornell). Agassiz was also a virulent racist, promoting the idea that whites and blacks were members of separate species, that blacks were both mentally and physically inferior to whites, and that they had been created that way by God around 4,000 BC.

    And H. G. Wells was a writer. Yes, he accepted a modified version of Darwin’s theory of evolution, but so did many other writers of his time.

    What does this have to do with the idea that Wells plagiarized some of his writing? Are you trying to assert that “evolutionists” (i.e. writers who accept evolution) are necessarily plagiarists? If so, then the fact that you have mentioned Richard Owen – an avowed anti-Darwinist and supporter of “intelligent design” – as a plagiarist along with Wells, means of course that both “evolutionists” and “intelligent design supporters” are necessarily plagiarists, right?

    This particular post is perhaps the most egregious misuse of elementary logical argument I have encountered in many, many years, plus an almost textbook case of guilt by association.

  3. I am sorry. I am not following. How does this show that Owen was not plagiarizing an earlier scientist?

  4. In Owens’ defense, he did argue before the Zoological Counsel that Mantell’s work on the Iguanadon was so good that he wanted to use it in some of his public presentations, but when he tried to purchase it after sending several queries to the relevant parties, he was informed it wasn’t ready.

  5. To follow up on David Kellogg’s post, I’m curious what others here would think if someone used the, erm, Cracked article in support of a post entitled “Christians’ careers built on plagiarism?”

  6. O’Leary wrote:

    “How does this show that Owen was not plagiarizing an earlier scientist?“[Emphasis added]

    H.G. Wells was not a scientist, he was a writer, and according to the article to which you linked, Wells plagiarized a historian (Florence Deeks) in two books of history (The Outline of History and A Short History of the World), not science.

    In other words, both the title and underlying premise of this thread are completely bogus, except as “anti-evolutionist” propaganda.

  7. 7

    Denyse, my comment was meant to show the absurdity in the title of the post. What, out of curiosity, did you tend to convey by it?

    It may be worth noting that “Cracked” is a juvenile humor magazine and that the article’s author doesn’t know the first thing about plagiarism (as evidenced by the absurd inclusion of T.S. Eliot). The case of Dr. King is more complicated, but to explore that in detail would require a scholarly explanation of plagiarism and its history — a discussion outside the range of both this website and “Cracked” magazine.

  8. I have to agree that citing a satirical site that claims H.G. Wells is “probably most famous for his radio drama War of the Worlds” is probably something we best shouldn’t do.

  9. 9
    AmerikanInKananaskis

    Richard Owen was a vehement DENIER of Darwinism. H.G. Wells wasn’t even a scientist.

    I’m all for criticizing Darwinists when you have an actual point, but how on earth do these people qualify as “important evolutionists”?

  10. In #9 AmerikaninKananaskis asked:

    “I’m all for criticizing Darwinists when you have an actual point, but how on earth do these people qualify as “important evolutionists”?”

    They don’t if you are trying to make an honest logical argument using evidence, but if you are pushing propaganda, then hey, whatever works, right?

    Once again, Herr Doktor Goebbels would be proud…

  11. “Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.”
    —Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion

  12. Hi all,

    Tribune7, H.G. Wells is probably “most famous for his radio drama, War of the Worlds.” Maybe he, you, and I would all wish it were otherwise, but it is a fact. I didn’t invent it, honest.

    AmericaninKananaskis, I am told that Richard Owen invented the term “dinosaur.” If so, that would make him pretty important in the history of evolution. He did not need to have agreed with Charles Darwin about everything.

    (That demand came later, when the discipline was already falling into serious disrepute.)

    H.G. Wells was one of the best popularizers of evolution theory ever, and is worthy of a place in the canon of its saints.

    I almost feel injured on his behalf that you would deny it.

  13. 13

    Denyse, you didn’t invent it but it’s still wrong. H.G. Wells wrote the novel War of the Worlds. The radio drama was a much later adaptation of the novel by Orson Welles (no relation).

  14. Denyse:

    AmericaninKananaskis, I am told that Richard Owen invented the term “dinosaur.” If so, that would make him pretty important in the history of evolution. He did not need to have agreed with Charles Darwin about everything.

    By these standards G. Agricola was as much an “evolutionist” as R. Owen. I don’t think that that would make sense.

  15. 15

    Owen was a design proponent:

    Owen was the leader of British comparative anatomy and an important exponent of a natural theology or attribution of design in nature.

    He opposed evolution by natural selection but viewed evolution as a kind of teleology:

    In his notorious review of the Origin of Species in 1860, Owen tried to undercut Darwin’s priority by attributing evolution to a mysterious “continuous operation of the ordained becoming of living things”. As Owen had long been an apparent opponent of evolution, this about-face infuriated Darwin’s supporters, especially Huxley, who saw Owen trying to steal Darwin’s credit. Huxley had long competed for authority and status and their rivalry is one of the most notorious in Victorian science.

    His views changed, but I wouldn’t call him an evolutionist:

    Owen’s views on the possible transmutation of species evolved during his lifetime. At first he had espoused a Cuverian functionalism. Each species evinced a unique design to suit if for its role in the economy of nature. This view was amenable to British natural theologies and although smacking a bit continental, was considered safe science by Owen’s elite patrons. Owen’s views changed by the mid-1840s reflecting the work he had done comparing the anatomy of vertebrates. Owen believed he recognized Platonic “archetypes” or ideal forms reflected in particular species. Today we would say that he offered this as an explanation for vertebrate homologies.

    Biographical Page at Victorian Web

  16. 16

    From the Owen biography at the World of Biology (Thomson reference). Alas, it’s behind my university subscription wall:

    Owen was a strong opponent of the theory of Charles Darwin concerning natural selection as a critical force of evolution. To the end of his days Owen refused to accept the theories of evolution, and remained a determined creationist. Owen and other anti-Darwinians have badly lost this scientific and philosophical battle, as the ideas of Darwin and his followers have come to reign virtually supreme among modern biologists. Nevertheless, Richard Owen was perhaps the greatest vertebrate paleontologist of his time,and one of the most influential ever.

  17. 17

    Encyclopedia Brittanica on Owen:

    By 1859, the year of the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, however, Owen’s judgment was muddied by his sense that his own preeminence in biology was about to be lost, and he set about to discredit Darwin, who had been a good friend and colleague for 20 years. Owen wrote a very long anonymous review of the book (The Edinburgh Review, 1860), on which Darwin commented:

    It is extremely malignant, clever, and I fear will be very damaging. . . . It requires much study to appreciate all the bitter spite of many of the remarks against me. . . . He misquotes some passages, altering words within inverted commas. . . .

    Owen is also said to have coached Bishop Wilberforce in his debate against Thomas Huxley, one of Darwin’s chief defenders. As Darwin’s thesis began to become more accepted in the scientific community, Owen shifted his position somewhat; although he denied Darwinian doctrine, he admitted the accuracy of its basis, claiming to have been the first to have pointed out the truth of the principle on which it was founded.

    Sorry if this seems to be piling on, but the identification of Owen as an evolutionist in any sense we would now recognize deserve to be refuted. Further, one does not become an evolutionist simply by coining the term “dinosaur.”

  18. Tribune7, H.G. Wells is probably “most famous for his radio drama, War of the Worlds.” Maybe he, you, and I would all wish it were otherwise, but it is a fact. I didn’t invent it, honest.

    IMHO, he would have been better had he stuck to writing science fiction rather than trying his hand at movies. Sure, Citizen Kane was great, but seeing him in wine commercials toward the end of his life was pitiful.

  19. To put Ludwigs post into perspective:

    In Owens’ defense, he did argue before the Zoological Counsel that Mantell’s work on the Iguanadon was so good that he wanted to use it in some of his public presentations, but when he tried to purchase it after sending several queries to the relevant parties, he was informed it wasn’t ready.

    Now compare it to William Dembski:

    The video was so good that I wanted to use it in some of my public presentations, but when I tried to purchase a DVD of it (I sent several emails to relevant parties), I was informed it wasn’t ready (to my knowledge the video is still not available for sale in DVD or any other format — if it were, I would gladly purchase it and encourage others to do so). Moreover, at the time, the video did not have a voiceover explaining the biology of what was being shown.

    HT to Richard T Hughes for spotting that.

    -DU-

  20. Denise O’Leary would probably be interested in knowing that Richard Owen was anti-materialist. He believed in intelligent design, and in a mind separate from the brain.

    His notoriously bad behaviour towards his colleagues is in no way a discredit to the modern I.D. movement, though, I’m sure she’d agree.

  21. 21

    IMHO, he would have been better had he stuck to writing science fiction rather than trying his hand at movies. Sure, Citizen Kane was great, but seeing him in wine commercials toward the end of his life was pitiful.

    Perhaps you’ve confused him with Orson Scott Card, a different science fiction writer.

  22. H.G. Wells is probably “most famous for his radio drama, War of the Worlds.” Maybe he, you, and I would all wish it were otherwise, but it is a fact. I didn’t invent it, honest.

    Orson Welles gave us the radio drama. H. G. wrote the novel upon which it was rather loosely based.

  23. H.G. used that Time Machine he wrote about for the sole purpose of selling Paul Masson wine, but he had a lot of fun doing it!!!!

    WeaselSpotting you are being mean LOL.

  24. Perhaps you’ve confused him with Orson Scott Card, a different science fiction writer.

    Ah, yes, that must be it.

  25. 25
    AmerikanInKananaskis

    I am told that Richard Owen invented the term “dinosaur.” If so, that would make him pretty important in the history of evolution. He did not need to have agreed with Charles Darwin about everything.

    Your point is that he coined a term. And that makes him relevant to modern Darwinism how? Someone would created a term for them either way.

    Linnaeus (a die-hard creationist, by the way) is credited with inventing our nomenclature system, although he may have actually lifted it from Peter Artedi. That’s a more relevant case, although it still has nothing to do with modern evolutionary theory.

    Let’s at least get our heads together before making irrelevant criticisms based on “Cracked Magazine” articles of all things.

  26. I’m an ID supporter and have to agree with Kellog, madsen and others in wondering what O’Leary’s intended point is. Consider a couple small tweaks to her original quotation:

    A recent article in Cracked, discussing plagiarism, used the career of MLK – an important Christian – as 20% of “Five Great Men who Built Their Careers on Plagiarism.”

    What conclusions might we be able to draw from stuff like this?

  27. There are some really funny (and interesting) things on cracked.com, but I would not post their stuff here. Just my opinion

  28. C’mon everybody. Did you read the article? Did you notice today’s date? (April 1). Mrs O’Leary is having you on! And you all fell for it – she really had you going. Next she’ll tell you the Curious Case of Syd Finch. Sheesh.

  29. You people are so politically incorrect. Don’t you know that when a hero of the left plagiarizes, it is not plagiarism, but an “authorship issue“.

  30. H.G. Wells was just a writer.

    So was Harriet Beecher Stowe.

    One major exception, of course, was that Wells wrote non-fiction.

    H.G. Wells’ contributions to Darwinism are that he helped popularize eugenics and wrote one of the first true “wedge” documents.

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