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Was Blyth the true scientist and Darwin merely a plagiarist and charlatan?

Edward Blyth
Edward Blyth (1810-1873)

Of course today, for biologists, Darwin is second only to God, and for many he may rank still higher.

— Michael White, 2002

1. Was Darwin a plagiarist and charlatan of limited intellect rather than the deity his followers portray him to be?

2. Was the creationist Edward Blyth the true pioneer of natural selection?

3. Was Blyth’s conception of natural selection as a mechanism of preservation versus a mechanism of innovation the more accurate characterization of what natural selection really is?

I wish to remain open-minded on these issues as they deal with history, and history is difficult to reconstruct. I assert is that these hypotheses are worth exploring, though not necessarily absolute truth. However, as I studied the topic further, it became clear a cloud of suspicion regarding Darwin could not be put to rest.

I now turn to the work of a very prominent anthropologist and ecologist by the name of Loren Eiseley (1907-1977). Eiseley was the head of the Anthropology Department at University of Pennsylvania and president of the American Institute of Human Paleontology before becoming the Provost of the University of Pennsylvania. By all counts he was a first rate scholar. He published several books about Darwin: Charles Darwin, Darwin’s Century, and Darwin and the Mysterious Mr. X: New Light on the Evolutionists.

Edward Blyth in Wikipedia:

Loren Eiseley, Professor of Anthropology and the History of Science at the University of Pennsylvania, spent decades tracing the origins of the ideas attributed to Darwin. In a 1979 book, he claimed that “the leading tenets of Darwin’s work “the struggle for existence, variation, natural selection and sexual selection” are all fully expressed in Blyth’s paper of 1835. He also cites a number of rare words, similarities of phrasing, and the use of similar examples, which he regards as evidence of Darwin’s debt to Blyth.

The above is taken from Darwin and the Mysterious Mr. X: New Light on the Evolutionists which was, curiously enough, published posthumously by Eiseley!

My hypothesis is that Edward Blyth should have been given far more credit for the theory of natural selection. Because Blyth was a creationist, he did not see natural selection as an adequate mechanism for biological innovation. He believed natural selection as primarily a means of preserving species, not primarily creating large scale biological innovations. Even though a creationist, he seemed open to some forms of evolution (as creationists are today), and it would be hard to argue that he believed in the absolute fixity of species. Blyth’s position on natural selection would be consistent with many IDers and creationists today.

It was Darwin who promoted the hypothesis that natural selection could be a designer substitute, but the basic concept of natural selection is attributable to Blyth. At the end of the essay I will provide links to papers by Blyth which I believe Darwin plagiarized. Keep in mind, Darwin’s book was published in 1859, 24 years after Blyth stated the fundamental tenets of Natural Selection. Here are a few highlights however:

Blyth in 1836:

It is a general law of nature for all creatures to propagate the like of themselves: and this extends even to the most trivial minutiae, to the slightest individual peculiarities; and thus, among ourselves, we see a family likeness transmitted from generation to generation.

When two animals are matched together, each remarkable for a certain given peculiarity, no matter how trivial, there is also a decided tendency in nature for that peculiarity to increase; and if the produce of these animals be set apart, and only those in which the same peculiarity is most apparent, be selected to breed from, the next generation will possess it in a still more remarkable degree; and so on, till at length the variety I designate a breed, is formed, which may be very unlike the original type.

The examples of this class of varieties must be too obvious to need specification: many of the varieties of cattle, and, in all probability, the greater number of those of domestic pigeons, have been generally brought about in this manner. It is worthy of remark, however, that the original and typical form of an animal is in great measure kept up by the same identical means by which a true breed is produced.

The original form of a species is unquestionably better adapted to its natural habits than any modification of that form; and, as the sexual passions excite to rivalry and conflict, and the stronger must always prevail over the weaker, the latter, in a state of nature, is allowed but few opportunities of continuing its race. In a large herd of cattle, the strongest bull drives from him all the younger and weaker individuals of his own sex, and remains sole master of the herd; so that all the young which are produced must have had their origin from one which possessed the maximum of power and physical strength; and which, consequently, in the struggle for existence, was the best able to maintain his ground, and defend himself from every enemy.

The concepts of natural selection and even sexual selection are laid out plainly, even the concept of adaptation and the struggle for existence!

Here is Blyth in 1836 again:

The true physiological system is evidently one of irregular and indefinite radiation, and of reiterate divergence and ramification from a varying number of successively subordinate typical plans; often modified in the extremes, till the general aspect has become entirely changed, but still retaining, to the very ultimate limits, certain fixed and constant distinctive characters, by which the true affinities of species may be always known; the modifications of each successive type being always in direct relation to particular localities, or to peculiar modes of procuring sustenance; in short, to the particular circumstances under which a species was appointed to exist in the locality which it indigenously inhabits, where alone its presence forms part of the grand system of the universe, and tends to preserve the balance of organic being, and, removed whence (as is somewhere well remarked by Mudie), a plant or animal is little else than a “disjointed fragment.”

This is astonishing! Blyth offers the concept of environments creating adaptive radiations!

Then Blyth in 1837:

A variety of important considerations here crowd upon the mind; foremost of which is the inquiry, that, as man, by removing species from their appropriate haunts, superinduces changes on their physical constitution and adaptations, to what extent may not the same take place in wild nature, so that, in a few generations, distinctive characters may be acquired, such as are recognised as indicative of specific diversity? It is a positive fact, for example, that the nestling plumage of larks, hatched in a red gravelly locality, is of a paler and more rufous tint than in those bred upon a dark soil.17 May not, then, a large proportion of what are considered species have descended from a common parentage?

Is this a stretch? Note what Ernst Mayr had to say:

The Missing Link

Eiseley (1959) vigorously promoted the thesis that Edward Blyth had established the theory of evolution by natural selection in 1835 and that Darwin surely had read his paper and quite likely had derived a major inspiration from it without ever mentioning this in his writings … Darwin quite likely had read Blyth’s paper but paid no further attention to it since it was antievolutionary in spirit and not different from the writings of other natural theologians in its general thesis

In fact what is a bit incriminating is Darwin owned copies of Blyth’s work, and that these copies have Darwin’s notes in the margin. Reading Blyth, it really is hard to see that Darwin made any innovation except the illogical conclusion that natural selection can create large scale biological complexity and design. As Allen Orr said, “selection does not trade in the currency of design”.

Something interesting is also apparent: there were a lot of naturalists who doubted the permanence of species, and Blyth was among them. Nevertheless, Darwin wrote in 1876, contrary to the truth:

I never happened to come across a single [naturalist] who seemed to doubt about the permanence of species …

Darwin effectively claims that he was singularly exceptional in his belief that species could be transformed by the environment. This claim is clearly untrue! The suspicion then arises whether Darwin was lying. In fact, Professor George Simpson acknowledges the appearance of lying with a bit of disbelief (the missing link):

These are extraordinary statements. They cannot literally be true, yet Darwin cannot be consciously lying, and he may therefore be judged unconsciously misleading, naive, forgetful, or all three.

Thus, Darwin’s behavior was so obviously suspicious to some that his admirers had to make excuses to explain away the appearance of lying.

The discussion of this topic will obviously be more than I have space for here, and I welcome input in the comments section if there are any relevant data points. But I close with some thoughts regarding Darwin’s genius (or lack thereof) or Darwin’s integrity (or lack thereof):

Professor C.D. Darlington writes The Mystery Begins

[Darwin] was able to put across his ideas not so much because of his scientific integrity, but because of his opportunism, his equivocation and his lack of historical sense. Though his admirers will not like to believe it, he accomplished his revolution by personal weakness and strategic talent more than by scientific virtue.

Thomas Henry Huxley Darwiniana Obituary:

Shrewsbury School could find nothing but dull mediocrity in Charles Darwin. The mind that found satisfaction in knowledge, but very little in mere learning; that could appreciate literature, but had no particular aptitude for grammatical exercises; appeared to the “strictly classical” pedagogue to be no mind at all. As a matter of fact, Darwin’s school education left him ignorant of almost all the things which it would have been well for him to know, and untrained in all the things it would have been useful for him to be able to do, in after life.

Thus, starved and stunted on the intellectual side, it is not surprising that Charles Darwin’s energies were directed towards athletic amusements and sport, to such an extent, that even his kind and sagacious father could be exasperated into telling him that “he cared for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching.”

Sir Gavin de Beer:

The boy [Darwin] developed very slowly: he was given, when small, to inventing gratuitous fibs and to daydreaming

and

Lies-and the thrills derived from lies-were for him indistinguishable from the delights of natural history or the joy of finding a long-sought specimen.

John and Mary Gribben:

… he devised a plan so cunning that even Machiavelli would have been proud of it. During 1845, Darwin worked on a second edition of his successful journal of the Beagle voyage, and added new material to the descriptions of the living things he had seen in South America. These new passages look innocuous enough in themselves. But as Howard Gruber pointed out in his book Darwin on Man (Wildwood House, London, 1974), if you compare the first and second editions … you can locate all the new material … string it together to make a coherent ‘ghost essay’ which conveys almost all of Darwin’s thinking about evolution [in 1845]. It is quite clear that this material must have been written as that coherent essay, then carefully chopped up and inserted into the journal.

The whole case of Darwin’s plagiarism was laid out rather tediously in Charles Darwin — The Truth? Interestingly the essay mentions Brian Goodwin and our very own John Davison here.

I hope this essay inspire some to revisit these important issues. If the hypothesis inspired by Eiseley is true, and if natural selection is an inadequate explanation for biological design, and if it turns out that Darwin was little more than a plagiarizing opportunist making illogical extrapolations of Blyth, then Blyth will be the one history smiles on, and Darwin will be the one history despises.

References to Blyth:

An Attempt to Classify the ‘Varieties’ of Animals with Observations on the Marked Seasonal and Other Changes Which Naturally Take Place in Various British Species, and Which Do Not Constitute Varieties by Blyth in 1835.

Varieties of Animals Part 2 by Blyth in 1835

Observations on the Various Seasonal and Other External Changes Which Regularly Take Place in Birds by Blyth in 1836

Seasonal and Other Changes in Birds – Part 2 by Blyth in 1836

Seasonal and Other Changes in Birds – Part 3 by Blyth in 1836

Seasonal and Other Changes in Birds – Part 4 by Blyth in 1836

On the Psychological Distinctions Between Man and All Other Animals by Blyth in 1837

Psychological Distinctions Between Man and Other Animals – Part 2 by Blyth in 1837

Psychological Distinctions Between Man and Other Animals – Part 3 by Blyth in 1837

Psychological Distinctions Between Man and Other Animals – Part 4 by Blyth in 1837

UPDATE 8/31/2006 I will link to opposing opinions on the net if I feel the scholarship is worthy. Here is Dr. N. Wells at ARN : Salvador on Blyth and Darwin

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148 Responses to Was Blyth the true scientist and Darwin merely a plagiarist and charlatan?

  1. Great post, Sal.

    As David Stove said in his book Darwinian Fairytales:
    “”Darwin had a lifelong habit of not acknowledging, until he was obliged to do so, the debts his work owed to other people; either that or he had a still worse habit of not even noting them. But his debt to Malthus was so great that even Darwin could not have failed to notice…” page 28.

    I left that bit about Malthus in at the end because according to Stephen Jones ( working primarily, I believe, from your source Loren Eiseley ) even Darwin’s crediting of Malthus was not quite true.
    http://members.iinet.net.au/~s.....lsbthsthry

  2. Charlie!

    Whoa! Thanks for linking to Steve Jones. For the reader’s benefit:

    Darwin’s Dishonesty

    Darwin’s Lies (1)

    Darwin’s Lies (2)

    Darwin’s Lies (3)

    Many historians have commented that the most curiously revealing statement in Darwin’s autobiography comes close to being an unconscious lie-

    Stephen Gould

    Gould goes on to defend Darwin, but one can’t help but feel it’s all spin.

    Darwin lied about “being on board H.M.S. Beagle, as naturalist
    ….
    nor was Darwin appointed, or even called, the Beagle’s naturalist except in his own imagination
    Browne EJ 1995
    ….
    Amid the flurry of preparations, a 22-year-old man picked his way. He moved awkwardly around the ship, not only because his 6-foot frame was oversized for the cramped quarters, but also because he felt profoundly out of place. He had no official position on the ship, having been invited to keep the captain company during the voyage and act as an unofficial naturalist. It was usually up to a ship’s surgeon to act as the naturalist for a voyage, but this awkward young man had no such practical skill. He was a medical school dropout who, for want of any other respectable line of work, was considering a career as a country parson when the voyage was over. … The name of this awkward young man was Charles Darwin
    C Zimmer 2001
    ….
    In the event, CD’s [Charles Darwin's] appointment was not official. Although CD lists himself on the title page of Journal of researches as ‘Naturalist to the Beagle’ and in the Zoology as ‘Naturalist to the Expedition’ this is not to he understood as an official title conferred by the Admiralty.

    Note how Darwin’s deception has persisted to this day. Google on “official naturalist” you’ll see how many hits include Charles Darwin as the official naturalist, even PBS archive.

  3. This is great work, Sal. I wonder if there are some historians who specialized on Blyth. A handful of them would make a great PBS special: “Darwin: Genius or Liar?”

  4. 4

    Charles Darwin was an excellent observer of nature which is to say that he was a naturalist rather than a scientist. Alfred Russel Wallace was also a fine naturalist, far more productive than Darwin and it should be noted that in later life he abandoned the hypothesis he helped found. Scientists test their hypotheses and then proceed. Naturalists generally do not do experiments so they are unable to proceed. Most Darwinians are naturalists rather than experimental scientists. Most remarkable, when a professed Darwinist, Theodosius Dobzhansky, set out to experimentally prove the efficacy of natural selection, failed, and admitted that he had failed, he was promptly forgotten by the establishment and continued to ignore his own failed experiment.

    The primary spokespersons for the Darwinian fairy tale have been, without exception, naturalists rather than bench scientists or even field naturalists. The chief ones, Gould, Mayr, Provine and Dawkins, completely abandoned their scientific training to retire early with endowed chairs to which they remained glued at some of our most prestigious institutions and spent the rest of their lives cranking out book after book of pure science fiction. These books, occupying several meters of shelf space, have but one purpose in mind which is to convince an adoring, naive, unsuspecting public that there is now and never was purpose in any aspect of the living world. They have obviously been eminently successful.

    It is hard to believe isn’t it?

    “We seek and offer ourselves to be gulled.”
    Montaigne

    “A past evolution in undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  5. It is becoming clearer- evolutionism co-opted & twisted the work of Creationists- Blyth for Natural Selection and Gregor Mendel in genetics- in order to get their PoV across to the masses.

    I wonder if the NCSE will let people know about this?

    Great work Sal, Charlie and John D.!

  6. Darwin cited Blyth’s research in Origin of Species, “Mr. Blyth, whose opinion, from his large and varied stores of knowledge, I should value more than that of almost any one, thinks that all the breeds of poultry have proceeded from the common wild.” So clearly, Darwin was well-aware of Blyth’s findings on natural selection and cited them appropriately, though Blyth had argued against the transmutation of species.

    Darwin and Blyth carried on an active scientific correspondence, both before and after Origin of Species. There is no reasonable doubt as to the contributions of each scientist. Blyth made important studies of varieties within species, and of natural selection. Darwin posited the common descent of species with natural selection being an important mechanism of adaptation.
    http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/Departments/Darwin/

    Not only did Darwin make many novel observations during his voyage on the Beagle, but he also did extensive studies of barnacles, corals, molds, and orchids — even predicting the existence of a yet to be discovered pollenating moth. His active correspondence shows a scientist interested in every detail of biology.

  7. I am amazed at the amount of energy ID Creationists invest into attacking Darwin. I suppose that Darwin is of interest to historians of science, but from from the point of view of a scientist, it seems distinctly odd.

    I guess this relates to the way that ID Creationists seem to look at everything from a religious point of view. I’ve noticed that they like to refer to evolution as “Darwinism” (a term that I’ve never heard used by any biologist), as if evolution were some sort of competing religion with Darwin as a god or prophet. Indeed, the post refers to Darwin’s “followers” and calls him a “deity.” So perhaps they imagine that they can somehow undermine evolution by attacking Darwin.

    To a scientist, this sounds a bit ridiculous. Scientists like to give credit where it is due (because they hope to get recognition for their own work), but the status of evolutionary theory today doesn’t in the slightest rest on the authority of Darwin, and most evolutionary scientists aren’t actually all that interested in Darwin himself. If Darwin were generally agreed to be a plagiarist and an all-around Bad Guy, nothing would change, any more than the recognition that Newton was a generally unpleasant fellow who stole credit from Leibnitz and Hooke has altered the usage of Newton’s Laws of Motion in physics. Despite his historical significance, modern evolutionary theory rests on the contributions of thousands of scientists who have confirmed and extended the theory.

  8. Zachariel,

    Thank you for the quote and your kind words for Blyth.

    For the readers

    As Zachariel mentioned,

    Darwin wrote:

    Mr. Blyth, whose opinion, from his large and varied stores of knowledge, I should value more than that of almost any one, thinks that all the breeds of poultry have proceeded from the common wild

    Darwin was well aware of Blyth, but the issue is whether Darwin was systematically trying to give the appearance that Darwin was the true pioneer of Natural Selection, Sexual Selection, Adaptation, etc….

    Darwin gave the superficial appearance of being meticulous in giving credit where credit is due. See Without Reference

    Darwin wrote:

    No one can feel more sensible than I do of the necessity of hereafter publishing in detail all the facts, with references, on which my conclusions have been grounded; and I hope in a future work to do this.

    But is this simply a veneer to cover the fact he did the opposite, namely, hide the fact he was plagerizing?

    What is disturbing is Darwin gives generous praise for a small part Blyth’s ideas. It appears superficially, Darwin systematically acknowledged minor works by a rivals while taking great care to hide the fact major portions of Darwin’s ideas proceeded from Blyth. Darwin was so profuse in giving praise for Blyth in these small areas, why not the more significant ones? Why did Darwin permanently refuse to reference Blyth’s more important works, like the copies of Blyth’s articles which Darwin had and annotated in the margin! Here is my (not so serious) take on what Darwin could have said:

    Blyth put forward the foundations of natural selection, sexual selction, adaptation via selection, irregular and indefinite radiation for the preservation of life…..I am merely then extrapolating Blyth’s ideas and saying these conservative mechanisms founded on seleciton are also innovative mechanims which can also create eyes, lungs, brains, wings, ears, and a host of other irreducibly complex systems which Michael Behe and Bill Dembski will take me to task for long after I’m gone. However this will happen in 1996, after I lived the good life of fame and fortune built on my unproven speculations….

    Well that was my rendering of what Darwin could have done if he were truly generous to Blyth. Instead he thanked Blyth for Blyth’s knowledge about chickens and heaped praise upon Malthus for what Blyth had written even before Malthus.

    Salvador

  9. trll observed:

    I am amazed at the amount of energy ID Creationists invest into attacking Darwin.

    trrll,

    Thank you for you comment. But what is equally amazing the status of Deity Darwin is being afforded in secular culture. Why do even have a Darwin Day? Aren’t the contributions of Newton, Faraday and Maxwell, and so many others far more deserving of celebration?

    To the anti-Darwinists out there,

    here is something to be thinking about: 2009: Origin of Species Sesquicentennial

    I want to encourage critics of materialistic evolution to start thinking even now about organizing conferences and other public events in 2009 aimed at deflating Darwinism and its contemporary offshoots (it’s never too soon to start).

    …these conferences should aim at undoing the hagiography that secularists have built around Darwin. The man and his theory need to be knocked off their pedestal.

    Bill Dembski

    I know it may seem awfully mean spirited, but well, if Darwin rose to fame on charlatanry and plagerism (I’m not asserting he did, yet), then like a gold medalist caught using steriods, Darwin should be stripped of his honors and exposed as a fraud.

    Salvador

  10. scordova: “But is this simply a veneer to cover the fact he did the opposite, namely, hide the fact he was plagerizing?

    Uh, no. Darwin specifically cites Blyth’s work indicating that Indian and European cattle descend from a common ancestor, as well as poultry. And the British scientists who formed Darwin’s primary audience were well-aware of theories and Blyth’s work concerning natural selection. It was not a secret, but a subject of some discussion. They were also aware that Darwin was attempting to demonstrate that species were not inviolate, and the existence of varieties evolving from common ancestors was an important, but not sufficient bit of evidence.

    A clear reading of Origin of Species, and of the correspondence between Darwin and Blyth, indicate that both scientists were only concerned with the facts and the truth as could be determined from those facts.

    But, as trrll noted, the origins of the Theory of Evolution has no relevance to its validity.

  11. Hi trrll. Allow me to comment on a few things…

    I am amazed at the amount of energy ID Creationists invest into attacking Darwin.

    If my memory doesn’t fail, it was Darwin who started to propose that biological life forms were NOT the result of design, but the result of unguided *natural* process. So ID didn’t attack Darwin first; Darwin attacked the design hypothesis first.

    I’ve noticed that they like to refer to evolution as “Darwinism” (a term that I’ve never heard used by any biologist)

    Read http://www.evolutionnews.org/2....._myth.html

    as if evolution were some sort of competing religion with Darwin as a god or prophet.

    Evolutionist Michael Ruse says:
    “Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion — a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit that in this one complaint — and Mr. Gish is but one of many to make it — the literalists are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today. (Michael Ruse, “Saving Darwinism from the Darwinians,” National Post (May 13, 2000)

    Indeed, the post refers to Darwin’s “followers” and calls him a “deity.”

    A few months ago Darwin Day was “celebrated” all over American, with great religious fervors. Heck, even some religious people joined the bang wagon and sung praises to Darwin. Where are Einstein Day or Newton Day or even Mendel Day?! What’s so special about Darwin that he deserves a day for himself?

  12. Zachriel,

    Thank you for you points. You wrote:

    British scientists who formed Darwin’s primary audience were well-aware of theories and Blyth’s work concerning natural selection

    But Origin of Species appeared in 1859 which is 24 years after Blyth was published. It seems Blyth was forgotten except in select circles. But if Darwin’s books were written for a large audience, then it is incumbent on Darwin to acknowledge to the public his sources.

    I am obviously quite a bit partial in my inclination to give Darwin a bad wrap, but Loren Eiesely would hardly seem one to share my biases.

    I think Eiesely’s hypothesis about Blyth desrving great credit is sound, however, still in question is whether Darwin systematically tried to steal credit for work that was not his. That is a much harder case to establish, but I think whatever circumstantial evidence is there should be given a larger hearing.

    Salvador

  13. 13
    Reciprocating Bill

    S. J. Gould addressed this specific argument vis Blyth in his 2002 masterwork “The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.” To wit, on page 137 and 139 (138 is entirely footnotes):

    “The following kind of incident has occurred over and over again, ever since Darwin. An evolutionist, browsing through some pre-Darwinian tome in natural history, comes upon a description of natural selection…the great anthropologist and writer Loren Eiseley thought that he had detected such an anticipation in the writings of Edward Blyth….

    “Yes, Blyth had discussed natural selection, but Eisley didn’t realize-thus committing the usual and fateful error in this line of argument-that all good biologists did so in the generations before Darwin. Natural selection ranked as a standard item in biological discourse-but with a crucial difference from Darwin’s version: the usual interpretation invoked natural selection as part of a larger argument for created permanency….

    “Darwin, in his characteristic and radical way, grasped that this standard mechanism for preserving the type could be inverted, and then converted into the primary cause of evolutionary change. Natural selection obviously lies at the center of Darwin’s theory, but we must recognize, as Darwin’s second key postulate, the clam that natural selection acts as the creative force of evolutionary change.”

    See the original for much more detail. Bottom line: your discussion of Eisley’s work is nothing new, and, with Eisley, misses the point of Darwin’s essential contribution.

  14. Mats: “If my memory doesn’t fail, it was Darwin who started to propose that biological life forms were NOT the result of design, but the result of unguided *natural* process. So ID didn’t attack Darwin first; Darwin attacked the design hypothesis first.

    You stated that very well. Darwin proposed an alternative to Special Creation, and in return he is attacked personally.

    Mats: “Read [on references to Darwinism]“.

    Checking the sources, most references are to neodarwinism, which is the successor theory to Darwin’s original theory, and integrates genetics and population dynamics.

    In modern scientific parlance, “darwinism” is usually used to refer to the assertion that natural selection is the predominant mechanism of genetic evolution, as opposed to e.g. neutral theory.

  15. trill, I’m sure Denyse is ready to do this herself, but I’ll refer to a blog of hers about the use of the term “Darwinism”: http://post-darwinist.blogspot.....rm-of.html . Your statement about that is ironic under that light.

  16. Trrll,

    I have a lot of comments on this but let’s start with the term Darwinism. It is used by the biology department at U. Cal Berkeley. Are they behind the curve there? Maybe you should write them to straighten them out.

  17. jerry: “ have a lot of comments on this but let’s start with the term Darwinism.

    The official evolution website at Berkeley defines ‘Darwinism’ as the historical theory proposed by Darwin. Note the use of quotes.

    Misconception: “Most biologists have rejected ‘Darwinism’ (i.e., no longer really agree with the ideas put forth by Darwin and Wallace).”

  18. In the previous comment I mentioned the U. Cal Berkeley. In another thread about John Davison’s theory someone named Leo said Darwin’s theory were so well documented and supported that few scientist really doubts them. When I made a challenge to Leo to be the first one to present a comprehensive defense of Darwin, he punted and said I should go to the Darwin exhibit in New York which is now closed. Salvador asked to keep the concepts on that thread relative to John’s theory so I did not reply.

    My comment in the previous paragraph is also not exactly in sync with this thread but in response to Leo, I went to the U. Cal Berkeley website to learn more about Darwin and am currently diligently watching their lectures on biology and Darwin. In a very informative set of lectures the professor talks in detail about the Origin of Species and why it was so successful. The structure of the book was a stroke of genius. Essentially Charles Darwin was a fantastic salesman. His book is set up to make a sell and my wife who has a background in sales management said its approach is one of the best. The professor related how Darwin used the first few chapters to relate what all knew at the time about breeding and variety in nature as well as Malthus’s ideas so that when he introduced natural selection the reader had been nodding in agreement for over a hundred pages. It was only a little bit more to ask them to nod in agreement about the speculation he introduced and close the deal as the term is used in sales management. Charlie was a fantastic used card salesmen given the information about Blyth. Blyth couldn’t sell the original but Darwin could sell the used version.

    Darwin actually falsified his own theory in the chapter on natural selection because he emphasized a constant struggle for resources which is continually causing adaptation and is essential to his theory but as we know the natural world is one of stasis not constant change despite this struggle. By the way the Berkeley professor failed to mention this contradiction. And he said the current theory is known as “neo Darwinism” as well as the “modern synthesis.”

    Again the UD challenge; can a Darwinist or if they don’t like that term, someone who supports Darwin’s ideas give a coherent defense of Darwin or neo Darwinism?

  19. I think Eiesely’s hypothesis about Blyth desrving great credit is sound, however, still in question is whether Darwin systematically tried to steal credit for work that was not his. That is a much harder case to establish, but I think whatever circumstantial evidence is there should be given a larger hearing.

    Sal, as I’ve already tried to post, it has been given a wider hearing:

    From Bowler, P.J. (1989) Evolution: The History of an Idea. (there is a newer edition out, but this is the one I have):

    One thing is now clear: Darwin did not borrow the idea of natural selection from an earlier writer. Several naturalists have been credited with anticipating the discovery of natural selection, principally, William Charles Wells, Patrick Matthew, and Edward Blyth. The notebooks confirm the fact that there was no crucial input from these sources, and it is doubtful if any of these so-called precursors of selectionism anticipated the true spririt of Darwin’s theory.

    (citations omitted)

    Bowler is a professional historian of science, so he’s aware of the claims, and rejects them after examining the evidence from Darwin’s notes (as people here have already noted).

    There’s a footnote on TalkOrigins that gives some references:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faq.....el.html#r6

    Bob

  20. Bob OH,

    Thank you for the datapoints. I hope the readers will take them into consideration.

    Salvador

  21. Bob OH,

    If I may ask, what notebooks were the notebooks bowler was using to prove Darwin didn’t plagerize, was it Darwin’s notebooks?

    Salvador

  22. jerry: “His book is set up to make a sell… The professor related how Darwin used the first few chapters to relate what all knew at the time about breeding and variety in nature as well as Malthus’s ideas so that when he introduced natural selection the reader had been nodding in agreement for over a hundred pages.

    Precisely. Darwin’s audience was a skeptical scientific community. He marshaled evidence from multiple fields of study in order to convince that audience. That is the purpose of modern peer review, and the reason his theory was originally put forth before the Linnean Society, his scientific peers. (They were hardly rubes, but the most knowledgeable scientific community of the day.)

    jerry: “Blyth couldn’t sell the original but Darwin could sell the used version.

    I’m not sure what point you are making here (assuming it is not merely rhetoric). Blyth was published in the scientific journals, and did convince his peers concerning the importance of natural selection and common descent in the divergence of varieties within species. Darwin cited Blyth’s evidence of the common descent of domestic animals in Origin of Species.

    jerry: “but as we know the natural world is one of stasis not constant change despite this struggle

    I’m not sure how you can justify that statement when looking at a fossil of a T. Rex or H. habilis.

  23. Here is something interesting:

    Darwin’s illegitimate brainchild
    If you thought Darwin’s Origin was original, think again!
    by Russell Grigg, Australia

    The concept of evolution by natural selection is sometimes referred to as Charles Darwin’s brainchild, and indeed he often referred to it in his letters to his friends as his dear ‘child’. However, this is a far cry from the facts. At best it was an adopted child; at worst an illegitimate child.

    Erasmus Darwin and James Hutton—1794
    In the last issue of Creation, we showed that Charles’s humanist grandfather, Erasmus, preempted Charles on the subject of evolution by some 65 years with his book Zoonomia (1794), and that Charles used almost every topic discussed and example given in this work in his own On the Origin of Species, published in 1859.1

    Now new evidence has emerged that a Scottish geologist, Dr James Hutton (1726–1797), conceived a theory of selection as early as 1794. Hutton is best known as the man who proposed that the earth was ‘immeasurably’ old, not thousands of years, because he rejected the Flood of the Bible and so erroneously assumed that there were no major catastrophes in the earth’s early history.2

    Paul Pearson, professor of paleoclimatology at Cardiff University, has recently found in the National Library of Scotland a formerly unpublished work of three volumes and 2,138 pages, written by Hutton in 1794. Entitled An Investigation of the Principles of Knowledge and of Progress of Reason, from Sense to Science and Philosophy,3 it contains a full chapter on Hutton’s theory of ‘seminal variation’.4

    For example, Hutton said that among dogs that relied on ‘nothing but swiftness of foot and quickness of sight’ for survival, the slower dogs would perish and the swifter would be preserved to continue the race. But if an acute sense of smell was ‘more necessary to the sustenance of the animal’, then ‘the natural tendency of the race, acting upon the same principle of seminal variation, would be to change the qualities of the animal and to produce a race of well scented hounds, instead of those who catch their prey by swiftness’. And he went on to say, ‘The same “principle of variation” must also influence “every species of plant, whether growing in a forest or a meadow”.’5

    Others—1831–1858
    Apart from James Hutton, there were several other authors who, many years before Charles Darwin, published articles on the subject of natural selection.

    William Wells (1757–1817) was a Scottish-American doctor who, in 1813 (and published posthumously in 1818), described a concept like natural selection. He said that in central Africa some inhabitants ‘would be better fitted than the others to bear the diseases of the country. This race would consequently multiply, while the others would decrease.’ He went on to say that ‘the color of this vigorous race … would be dark’ and that ‘as the darkest would be the best fitted for the climate, this would at length become the most prevalent, if not the only race, in the particular country in which it had originated’.6

    Patrick Matthew (1790–1874) was a Scottish fruit-grower who, in 1831, published a book On Naval Timber and Arboriculture, in the appendix of which he briefly mentioned natural selection and evolutionary change. Matthew publicly claimed that he had anticipated Charles Darwin, and even described himself on the title pages of his books as ‘Discoverer of the Principle of Natural Selection’.

    Professor Pearson points out that Wells, Matthew and Charles Darwin were all educated in the university city of Edinburgh, ‘a place famous for its scientific clubs and societies’, which was also Hutton’s home town. He makes the interesting suggestion ‘that a half-forgotten concept from his [Charles’s] student days resurfaced afresh in his mind as he struggled to explain the observations of species and varieties compiled on the voyage of the Beagle’.3

    Edward Blyth (1810–1873) was the man whose ideas probably influenced Darwin most. An English chemist and zoologist, Blyth wrote three major articles on natural selection that were published in The Magazine of Natural History from 1835 to 1837.7 Charles was well aware of these. Not only was this one of the leading zoological journals of that time, in which his friends Henslow, Jenyns and Lyell had all published articles, but also it seems that the University of Cambridge, England, has Darwin’s own copies of the issues containing the Blyth articles, with Charles’s handwritten notes in the margins!8

    Charles Darwin’s ‘Historical Sketch’
    After the publication of his Origin of Species in 1859, Charles was accused by his contemporaries of failing to acknowledge his debt to these and other predecessors who had written about natural selection. The cry became so loud that, in 1861, he found it necessary to add a Historical Sketch, which listed some of these previous writers, to the third edition of his Origin. Then, under continued attack, he enlarged this in three subsequent editions until, in the 6th and last edition, he mentioned some 34 other authors who had previously written on how species originated or changed. But he gave very few details of what they had said, and they were sealed off in the Historical Sketch, away from the main line of discussion. Darlington calls it ‘the most unreliable account that ever will be written’.9

    This was not enough for the English satirist Samuel Butler. In 1879, he wrote Evolution Old and New, a book in which he accused Darwin of slighting the evolutionary speculations of Buffon, Lamarck and Darwin’s own grandfather, Erasmus.

    Modern accusations of plagiarism
    One of the leading modern evolutionists to claim that Darwin ‘borrowed’ (some would say ‘plagiarized’) the works of others was the late Loren Eiseley, who was Benjamin Franklin Professor of Anthropology and the History of Science at the University of Pennsylvania before his death. Eiseley spent decades tracing the origins of the ideas attributed to Darwin. In a 1979 book,10 he claimed that ‘the leading tenets of Darwin’s work—the struggle for existence, variation, natural selection and sexual selection—are all fully expressed in Blyth’s paper of 1835’.11 He also cites ‘Blythisms’ and use of rare words by Darwin (such as ‘inosculate’, meaning to pass into), after it appeared in Blyth’s paper of 1836, similarities of phrasing, and Darwin’s choice of similar lists of creatures in similar contexts.12

    Eiseley’s work seems to have encouraged other 20th-century evolutionists to speak up. Darlington accused Darwin of ‘a flexible strategy which is not to be reconciled with even average intellectual integrity’.13 In 1981, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe referred to Eiseley’s ‘courageous’ stand and wrote: ‘Darwin by his own account was a voracious reader of other men’s work … . It was not in his character, however, to make a return for what he received.’ And: ‘The evidence does not permit of any conclusion except that the omissions [by Darwin] were deliberate … a serious sin of omission remains to be redeemed by the world of professional biology.’14

    It is true that in his Origin Charles mentions correspondence with, or information from, Blyth—on the habits of Indian cattle, the hemionus [Asian wild ass] and crossbred geese,15 but, as Eiseley comments: ‘Blyth is restricted to the role of taxonomist and field observer.’16 So why was Darwin so loath to credit Blyth with the key element of his theory? Why did he not cite Blyth’s papers that dealt directly with natural selection?

    Answer: Probably for two reasons.

    Blyth was a Christian and what we would nowadays call a ‘special creationist’. E.g. concerning the seasonal changes in animal colouring (such as the mountain hare becoming white in winter), Blyth said that these were ‘striking instances of design, which so clearly and forcibly attest the existence of an omniscient great First Cause’.17 And he said that animals ‘evince superhuman wisdom, because it is innate, and therefore, instilled by an all-wise Creator’.18

    Blyth correctly saw the concept of natural selection as a mechanism by which the sick, old and unfit were removed from a population; that is, as a preserving factor and for the maintenance of the status quo—the created kind.19 Creationists like Edward Blyth (and English theologian William Paley) saw natural selection as a process of culling; that is, of choosing between several traits, all of which must first be in existence before they can be selected.

    Conclusion
    History has bestowed the dubious credit for the idea of evolution by natural selection on Charles Darwin. Apart from the fact that selection itself, while a real phenomenon, is utterly impotent to provide the extra information necessary to produce new traits, most, if not all, of the major ideas attributed to Darwin had previously been discussed in print by others. Not only was this ‘brainchild’ of Darwin’s not really his, but it also had many fathers!

    Fairness or fear?
    Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913), while living at Ternate in the Malay Archipelago, independently developed a theory of evolution almost identical with that of Charles Darwin.1 In 1858 he sent Darwin a copy of his manuscript on natural selection, entitled On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely From the Original Type, which outlined in complete form what is now known as the Darwinian theory of evolution.2 Darwin’s friends, Charles Lyell and Joseph Hooker, immediately arranged to have Wallace’s manuscript, along with two earlier unpublished items by Charles Darwin (an 1844 essay and an 1857 letter to Asa Gray), read at the next meeting of the Linnean Society of London, on 1 July 1858. This has euphemistically been referred to as the reading of a ‘joint paper’, but it all took place without the personal participation of Wallace, and even without his knowledge or permission—he was still on an island off the coast of New Guinea! It also caused Charles to rush through the writing of his Origin of Species, and publish it on 24 November 1859. Some have seen this so-called ‘joint paper’ not as fair play on Darwin’s part, but rather as the result of his fear of being scooped by Wallace. Brackman says: ‘Wallace, not Darwin, first wrote out the complete theory of the origin and divergence of species by natural selection … and was robbed in 1858 of his priority in the proclaiming of the theory’ (emphasis in the original).3

    References and notes

    Wallace had been thinking on the subject as early as 1845, and had published a rather general paper on it in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History, September 1855. See ref. 2, p. 78.
    Eiseley says, ‘It was Darwin’s unpublished conception down to the last detail, independently duplicated by a man sitting in a hut at the world’s end.’ Eiseley, L., Alfred Russel Wallace, Scientific American 200(2):80, February 1959.
    Brackman, A., A Delicate Arrangement: The Strange Case of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, Times Books, New York, p. xi, 1980.

  24. I wish to thank everyone for their patience. I’m trying clean out the spam buffer every 15 minutes as it seems we’re getting a lot of comments trapped there (about 50% of the legitimate ones on this thread alone, including mine!). Also currently there are 79 posts in the moderation queue. I have no jurisdiction over those comments.

    Though I have my differences with the ID commenters so far, every comment by them I think has been very substantive. And thanks also to the pro-ID commenters as well.

    Given the emotional nature of this topic, I appreciate the restraint everyone has shown. Any more data points on this topic would be welcome.

    Salvador

  25. But what is equally amazing the status of Deity Darwin is being afforded in secular culture. Why do even have a Darwin Day? Aren’t the contributions of Newton, Faraday and Maxwell, and so many others far more deserving of celebration?

    We have a Darwin Day? I didn’t know that! Why didn’t anybody ever tell me? Are there parades? Certainly, as a biologist, it seems to me that I deserve a day off from work on Darwin Day! But I’d definitely be in favor of a Newton Day, a Faraday Day, and a Maxwell Day, as well. Especially if there are parades.

    If my memory doesn’t fail, it was Darwin who started to propose that biological life forms were NOT the result of design, but the result of unguided *natural* process. So ID didn’t attack Darwin first; Darwin attacked the design hypothesis first.

    Again, I am amazed that you so completely missed the point as to think that the argument is about “who started it.” The point is that as far as modern biology is concerned, Darwin is of purely historical interest. It is as if somebody was trying to prove that the colonies were really at fault in the war with England, and imagining that if they could just prove that point, then America would admit that they were wrong and rejoin the British empire.

    Read http://www.evolutionnews.org/2....._myth.html

    Well, for “Darwinist,” I found 20 citations in PubMed, all historical. For “Darwinian,” I found 207 references, a large fraction of which do not seem to be research papers. Even a search for “Darwinian” (which I have heard used, albeit not often) nets under a thousand. Just to put those numbers in context, a search for “natural selection” yields over 15,000 citations; a search for “evolution” yields over 181,000. I stand by my statement that as a biologist with over 25 years of experience, I have never heard the word “Darwinism” used by a biologist, or indeed anybody other than a Creationism/ID advocate, nor have I ever heard a biologist describe himself or anybody else as a Darwinist.

    Evolutionist Michael Ruse says…

    Who? I did a search on “Michael Ruse.” The only one I could could find was identified as a “philosopher,” not a biologist. By the way, “evolutionist” is another term that I’ve never heard used by a biologist. Biologists talk about “evolutionary theory” or “natural selection.” If Darwin’s name comes up at all, it is usually as an adjective; e.g. “Darwinian mechanisms” is occasionally used to refer to distinguish the classical natural selection described by Darwin from the much wider range of evolutionary principles recognized by modern biology.

  26. scordova:

    You don’t have the ability to moderate the Moderation Queue? I’m not sure who else has been moderating it lately…it might just be myself since the queue seems to stack up if I don’t clear it myself often. Especially annoying is that the spammers are now wording their spam so it gets by akismet, sometimes even addressing Dave so it appears to be a legitimate comment at first glance:

    Dave
    Interesting topic… I’m working in this industry myself and I don’t agree about this in 100%

    etc.

    Then of course we have the lovely ranting comments cursing out Bill that we receive all the time.

    trrll:

    You must be very new to this subject matter then. The people at the World Summit on Evolution certainly knew the term “Darwinist”:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/204

    Now whether they like it or not is another matter. I doubt there is a group consensus on this point.

  27. Patrick,

    I have the ability to moderate the Akismet queue which is where most of the “affection starved housewives” attempt to hijack Uncommon Descent. I’ve been able to clean that queue out.

    However, I don’t have the ability to moderate any comments in the moderation queue. Not that I’m really eager for the job!

    Salvador

  28. Reciporcating Bill:

    You quoted Gould as follows:
    “Darwin, in his characteristic and radical way, grasped that this standard mechanism for preserving the type could be inverted, and then converted into the primary cause of evolutionary change.”

    Indeed, Darwin did “invert” the meaning of natural selection. In all things to be found in The Origins, Darwin consistently stands logic on its head. It remains a mystery that the obvious errors remain so obscure to so many. E.g., Darwin tells us that a “variety” is an “incipient species”. How does that match up with nature? Answer: it doesn’t. As does little of what he conjectured. Why not allow science to move forward?

  29. Why do Darwinists like PZ Myers act as if only ‘creationists’ use the word ‘Darwinist’?
    PZ Myers:”Using the word “Darwinist” puts you in the creationist camp and demonstrates that you haven’t been paying attention to what the scientists actually say.”
    They act as though they can argue a point by arguing a word (same scenario with micro v. macro evolution).

    Tom G and others have already linked to many mainstream uses of the term Darwinism. Dawkins, Orr, Ruse etc. all use it.
    Lynne Margulis says she is a Darwinist and not a neo-Darwinist..
    I know that Ken MIller is both an othodox Catholic and an orthodox Darwinist.

    Implying that an opponent’s use of ‘Darwinist’ demonstrates ignorance of the subject is a useless tactic. Especially ironic when you are wrong.

    Trrll:
    We are not on Pubmed. We are writing on a popular meadia blog.
    If you check popular media you will find that plenty of non-creationists use the term. And not only in reference to history.

  30. 30
    Reciprocating Bill

    PaV said,

    “Indeed, Darwin did “invert” the meaning of natural selection. In all things to be found in The Origins, Darwin consistently stands logic on its head. It remains a mystery that the obvious errors remain so obscure to so many…why not allow science to move forward?”

    This doesn’t speak to the substance of my post. Per Gould’s scholarship, the notion of natural selection was a commonplace among biologists prior to Darwin, typically invoked as a mechanism in opposition to change. Eisley’s “discovery” of Blyth’s invocation of natural selection was yet another instance of oft repeated misunderstanding of both pre-Darwinian thought (specifically, the pre-Darwinian apprehension of the role of natural selection) and of Darwin’s novel contribution (natural selection as a “creative force” – Gould, p. 137 of TSET).

    Scordova’s report of Eisley’s thesis repeats these 40+ year old errors yet again. I don’t see how that moves science (or scholarship) forward.

  31. We are not on Pubmed. We are writing on a popular meadia blog.

    However, if you’ll look back, you’ll see that I was speaking specifically about the terminology as used by biologists. I do think that the misconception of Creationists that the virtually universal acceptance of evolution among biologists reflects the influence of a religion of “Darwinism” has a lot to do with why ID is not taken seriously by scientists. It leads to misguided strategies like attacking Darwin (as if the stature of Darwin had anything to do with the acceptance of evolution by scientists) or the much-ridiculed practice of “quote mining,” in which creationism/ID advocates try to dig up quotes by prominent scientists that sound supportive of ID, failing to realize that the acceptance of evolutionary theory rests not on the words of the “prophets,” but upon the scientific evidence and the success of evolutionary theory as a foundation for biological discovery.

  32. The difficulty is, NS has never been shown to be a “creative force”. Especially with regard to substantial biological innovation, ie. novel cell, tissue, body plans, etc…

    In light of the data we have now with regard to the molecular realm, I’m more inclined to believe that the information was all pre-coded and ready to unfold at certain intervals (possibly taking cues from the environment).

  33. In the humanities, personal names are often “adjectivized” (e.g. Platonic, Cartesian, Kantian, etc.). One almost never sees this in the sciences.
    (One exception that comes to mind is Bohmian, but this is because Bohm’s quantum theory is so different from other versions.)

    This is in part because science contains a depersonalizing element — who made the discovery or innovation is not important, because it now belongs to everyone who exerts him or herself in understanding it. And this depersonalization is one of the most spiritually uplifting things about science — as well as the source of its capacity to fuel technological transformation.

    I tend to think that the widespread usage of “Darwinism” is supposed to conjure up an image of an inflexible dogma whose adherents are all “true believers” — much like other twentieth-century isms (Marxism, Stalinism, Communism, Maoism, Fascism, etc.).

  34. From The Survival of Charles Darwin (1984) by Ronald W. Clark:

    …The situation is more complex with Edward Blyth, a “very clever, odd, wild fellow, who will never do what he could do, from not sticking to any one subject,” as Darwin once wrote of him. Blyth was a contemporary naturalist who spent much of his working life in India and who regularly corresponded with Darwin. During the mid-1830s, he contributed three articles on species and varieties to the British Magazine of Natural History, in which he suggested that the work of domestic breeders might be paralleled in nature. “May not, then, a large proportion of what are considered species have descended from a common parentage?” ha added.

    Cyril Darlington, writing on Darwin’s Place in History [(1959)], has noted: “In the course of his argument Blyth closely examines each of the problems which was to occupy Darwin’s mind during the following forty years: blending inheritance as against mutation, the inheritance of acquired characters, geographical isolation, geological successions, island faunas, the origin of instinct and so on. In all these relations Blyth quotes a wealth of examples from his own observations of nature. These afterwards appear repeated, or indeed copied, by Darwin in his preliminary essays of 1842 and 1844.”

    However, Blyth contended that natural selection would tend to conserve species, and this can be taken as a reason for Darwin’s omitting any reference to him in the historical introduction he added to the third edition of The Origin. Loren C. Eisley has given Blyth greater credit for contributing to Darwin’s views than do most naturalists, commenting “It was Darwin’s contribution, of course, that he altered the struggle for existence and made of it a creative mechanism,” but adding “In doing so, however, he passed by way of the stepping stone of Edward Blyth.”

  35. Zachriel

    You stated that very well. Darwin proposed an alternative to Special Creation, and in return he is attacked personally.

    Actually, in this forum Darwin’s theory has been under scrutiny more than his personality has. However, what prevents us from checking if his ideas were original or if they were copied from someone else?

    Trrll

    The point is that as far as modern biology is concerned, Darwin is of purely historical interest.

    So? It doesn’t necessarly follow that, just bkz Darwin is of “historical interest”, we can’t check the true founder of his words and concepts.

  36. Trrll

    I stand by my statement that as a biologist with over 25 years of experience, I have never heard the word “Darwinism” used by a biologist, or indeed anybody other than a Creationism/ID advocate, nor have I ever heard a biologist describe himself or anybody else as a Darwinist.

    Well, I can’t control on what you have heard, but the fact is that the term is used by both Darwinists and Darwin-skeptics.

  37. Charlie,
    Seems to me that PZ Meyers wants Darwinists to be called “The Scientists” while others are called IDists or Creationists. It’s the typical Darwinian poisoning of the well.
    Nothing new under the sun.

  38. Reciprocating Bill:
    “This doesn’t speak to the substance of my post. Per Gould’s scholarship, the notion of natural selection was a commonplace among biologists prior to Darwin, typically invoked as a mechanism in opposition to change.”

    Well, this is exactly the point of my last point: Darwin’s ‘innovation’–that is, seeing a different, creative purpose for NS–was completely ‘inverted’ and wrong! The ones who went before him, who believed that NS was a phenomena of ‘stasis’ rather than ‘change’, were correct in their belief. In other words, Darwin’s “theory” in nothing more than an “inversion” of reality. How’s that commendable in any way?

  39. Trrll
    I did look back at what you had said, which is why I responded as I did.
    trrll:

    I am amazed at the amount of energy ID Creationists invest into attacking Darwin. I suppose that Darwin is of interest to historians of science, but from from the point of view of a scientist, it seems distinctly odd.

    I guess this relates to the way that ID Creationists seem to look at everything from a religious point of view. I’ve noticed that they like to refer to evolution as “Darwinism” (a term that I’ve never heard used by any biologist), as if evolution were some sort of competing religion with Darwin as a god or prophet. Indeed, the post refers to Darwin’s “followers” and calls him a “deity.” So perhaps they imagine that they can somehow undermine evolution by attacking Darwin.

    You said you’d never heard the term used by any biologists. You’ve been shown that whther or not you’ve heard it very many biologists use it.
    And they use it to describe their own personal points of view, not a historical concept.

    If you look at how IDers use the term, it has always been used, in my experience anyway, as a qualifier.
    We do not disagree with “evolution”. If we say “evolution is unproven” then some quippy defender will say “you IDiot, you don’t believe in change over time?”.
    When an IDer refers to Darwinism, as has been pointed out repeatedly on this blog, he is talking about the specific claim that natural selection acting upon random genetic variation alone can account for all the diversity of life. This is how Dawkins uses the term.

    In the meantime, while you impugn every ID utterance with religious meaning, you insist on calling ID proponents ID Creationists. I’ve never heard ID proponents use that term.

  40. Mats: “Actually, in this forum Darwin’s theory has been under scrutiny more than his personality has.

    Perhaps, but that’s not what you said.

    PaV: “In other words, Darwin’s ‘theory’ in nothing more than an ‘inversion’ of reality.

    Indicating, then, that Darwin’s theory is novel. Of course, the vast majority of scientists disagree with your assessment as to its validity.

  41. 41
    Reciprocating Bill

    “The difficulty is, NS has never been shown to be a “creative force”. Especially with regard to substantial biological innovation, ie. novel cell, tissue, body plans, etc…”

    This is also off point. The factual correctness of this phase of Darwin’s thesis (natural selection as creative force) isn’t relevant to Scordova’s original essay, which concerns the originality and ultimately the honesty (not correctness) of Darwin’s contribution. Nor does it speak to Gould’s correction of Eisley’s mistaken thesis.

    Scordova’s original argument is that it follows from the “discovery” that the notion of natural selection predated Darwin that Darwin’s contributions were not original, but rather dishonestly plagiarized. Gould showed that this does NOT follow – anyone familiar with the literature of the era knows that natural selection was a notion well known to biologists in the decades prior to Darwin, but construed as a conservative force. The rediscovery of instances of the idea deployed in this way (as in Blyth) in no way diminishes the originality of Darwin’s contribution – which was to propose that selection is a creative rather than a strictly conservative phenomenon.

    This point stands without regard to whether Darwin was correct.

  42. Bob OH quoted Bowler:

    The notebooks confirm the fact that there was no crucial input from these sources, and it is doubtful if any of these so-called precursors of selectionism anticipated the true spririt of Darwin’s theory.

    Does any one know what notebooks these refer to? The reason I ask is raised by AC Bradbury Part 2 – The Mystery Begins

    some fifty pages are missing from that particular notebook, their departure marked only by two cryptic notes on page 1:

    “All useful pages cut out. Dec. 7/1856/.”
    and
    “(and looked through April 21, 1873).”18

    What on earth are we to make of this?
    A man who treasured everything he wrote as though it were gold dust cuts “All useful pages” from a single twenty year old notebook, and then keeps them safe and sound for (at least) another twenty years. Is there not something very strange in such behaviour?

    Why did Darwin feel it necessary to remove those particular notes? Certainly there are pages missing from some of his other notebooks, but only the odd page or two, here and there. Nowhere, but nowhere, else did Darwin ever remove a block as substantial as the pages missing from the notebook for that crucial year.

    I have been informed that “many commentators think these pages were included verbatim in The Origin”. Perhaps I’m being obtuse but I can see no element in this ‘explanation’ which would warrant or require the physical removal of the pages from the notebook.

    The questions raised by such odd behaviour are numerous, and very, very relevant to his subsequent reputation. That is to say, it is hard to think of a non-suspect reason for his action. After all, if the cut pages were preserved so long after their removal then clearly they had substantial significance, for Darwin at least. Why did he wait nearly two decades before removing them? Indeed, why remove them at all?
    What was so important about these jottings that led Darwin to refer to them as “useful pages”? And why was he moved to read them through again nearly 40 years later?

    And last, but definitely not ‘least’, what was the final destiny of those missing pages?
    Did Darwin himself finally destroy them at some time between 1873 and his death in 1882? Were they destroyed by some other hand after his demise? Or are they, just conceivably, still in existence somewhere, concealed for reasons known only to their owner?

    Were it not for the excellent research carried out by Professor Eiseley, the fact that these notes are (apparently) lost beyond recall – together with a number of equally important letters – would be little more than just another fathomless historical curiosity. In the light of Eiseley’s findings it provides a whole new beginning to our assessment of Charles Darwin and his involvement with the evolutionary hypothesis. A story to which I have, with respect, added a conclusion which even Eiseley overlooked.

    In other words, Bradbury suspects the notebooks were santized to cover up incriminating evidence of plagiarism. Thus the notebooks would not necessarily be good demonstrations of non plagiarism.

    Furthermore we have this troubling fact about Darwin’s account of his voyage on the Beagle, the say voyage where he was less than truthful about his role:

    Darwin Myth #3: It Happened At Sea
    In complete contradiction to popular myth, it wasn’t until 1837, when Darwin began to work on what he called “the species question”, that he began to record the ideas which would eventually form the basis for The Origin.

    In other words, if Darwin began to work on the evolutionary hypothesis whilst still at sea, it certainly wasn’t conscious. As we shall see later, it was actually at some time during the nine months after the Beagle returned to England that Darwin rejected his earlier views, did a major about face, and began to work on the idea of gradual transitions between species involving step-by-step changes under the directing influence of natural selection.

    The confusion, as we’ve already seen, was in no small part due to Darwin himself. As John and Mary Gribben explain in their latest work on Darwin:

    “… he devised a plan so cunning that even Machiavelli would have been proud of it. During 1845, Darwin worked on a second edition of his successful journal of the Beagle voyage, and added new material to the descriptions of the living things he had seen in South America. These new passages look innocuous enough in themselves. But as Howard Gruber pointed out in his book Darwin on Man (Wildwood House, London, 1974), if you compare the first and second editions … you can locate all the new material … string it together to make a coherent ‘ghost essay’ which conveys almost all of Darwin’s thinking about evolution [in 1845]. It is quite clear that this material must have been written as that coherent essay, then carefully chopped up and inserted into the journal.”

    Considering Darwin was less than truthful about his role on the Beagle, what would prevent him from stretching the truth on anything else about his voyage. The suggestion is that he was fabricating a story to go along with how he came to his astonishing conclusions, when in fact, all he did was repackage Blyth.

    The only innovation being he said such a mechanism as natural selection can be innovative. But well, it is hard to credit it him being a genius because to this day natural selection has not been demonstrated to be a sufficient mechanism for evolution.

  43. For the benefit of the readers, here are the names of Darwin’s chapter’s:

    Preface
    Introduction
    Chapter 1 – Variation Under Domestication
    Chapter 2 – Variation Under Nature
    Chapter 3 – Struggle for Existence
    Chapter 4 – Natural Selection
    Chapter 5 – Laws of Variation
    Chapter 6 – Difficulties on Theory
    Chapter 7 – Instinct
    Chapter 8 – Hybridism
    Chapter 9 – On the Imperfection of the Geological Record
    Chapter 10 – On The Geological Succession of Organic Beings
    Chapter 11 – Geographical Distribution
    Chapter 12 – Geographical Distribution continued
    Chapter 13 – Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Organs
    Chapter 14 – Recapitulation and Conclusion
    Glossary

    Home

    Origin is available for free on line at: The Origin of Species

    Compare the table of contents of Darwin’s 1859 book with Blyth 23 years earlier. Regarding the vestiges of rudimentary organs, something is interesting here. Bradbury found He who hesitates:

    Darwin also spent some time reading the recently published Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, a rather amateurish attempt to outline a process of divinely-guided evolution (‘theistic evolution’ as it would now be called). This book was originally published anonymously, the true identity of its author, Robert Chambers (the editor of Chambers’ Journal), being revealed only several years later.

    Commenting on Chambers, Darwin writes :

    “I have also read the ‘Vestiges’ … the writing and arrangement are certainly excellent, but his geology strikes me as bad, and his zoology far worse. … The idea of a fish passing into a reptile, monstrous!”

    Charles Darwin
    The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin

    Ok, so we have in Darwin’s book, Blyth and Chambers. Why do I get the feeling if we snooped more, practically the whole book is little more than a hodge podge of other peoples ideas?

    For the reader’s benefit.

    Vestiges of Natural History of Creation was written in 1844. The entire books is available for free online VESTIGES OF THE NATURAL HISTORY OF CREATION

    Here is a summary, and it’s amusing that it is connected with Phrenology:

    Chambers initially intended his book to be a “philosophy of phrenology”. Vestiges draws heavily on the naturalistic rhetoric and especially the doctrine of the natural laws of Combe’s Constitution. Vestiges took the phrenological doctrine of natural laws and brought it to cultural territory it might not otherwise have reached. Vestiges is now usually remembered for the controversy it initiated over transmutation (evolution). Charles Darwin later remarked that Vestiges was important in preparing many people to accept his own theory of evolution. Reading the book in a post-Darwinian world often leads to the skewed representation of Vestiges as a flawed precursor of Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859). However, during the 1840s and 1850s Vestiges was the only ‘evolution’ book readers in the English speaking world were familiar with. Although much of the critical invective directed against the book focused on the issue of speciation- readers of Vestiges found a grand tale of the “development” or progress of nature from swirling clouds of interstellar gas, to the geological ages of the Earth, to the increasing complexity of organic forms and the improvement of man. The “development” narrative of Vestiges is one modern readers may find quite familiar- but it was just this that was so odious – so shocking- to many Victorian readers. Only in 1884 (long after Chambers’ death) with the publication of the 12th edition, was it revealed that Vestiges was written by Robert Chambers.

  44. scordova: “The only innovation being he said such a mechanism as natural selection can be innovative.

    Where others had suggested on the fringes, Darwin provided a unified model (theory) that explained everything from the succession of fossils to the nested hierarchy of extant life, and marshaled evidence from fossils to hybridism to the geographical distribution of life. He made specific predictions, including the existence of yet to be discovered species and what their plausible characteristics would be. We know Darwin’s theory was a substantial departure because every working scientist of the time acknowledged it to be so.

    scordova: “Origin is available for free on line at: The Origin of Species

    I agree. Anyone interested in the history of science should read Origin of Species. It is still considered a classic work (albeit dated), and shows how Darwin combined elements of evidence and ideas from many different sources to arrive at a new and powerful scientific theory. It was controversial when first presented in 1858, and still apparently controversial today. However, the Theory of Evolution is, in the words of the National Academy of Sciences, “the central unifying concept of biology”

    While your source calls Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation “amateurish”, Darwin points to bad geology and worse zoology. In any case, the phrase, “The idea of a fish passing into a reptile, monstrous!” was in a letter Darwin wrote to Hooker. The phrase was in quotes and Darwin attributed it to his father.

    CHARLES DARWIN TO J.D. HOOKER.
    Down [1844?].

    …I have also read the ‘Vestiges,’ (‘The Vestiges of the Natural History
    of Creation’ was published anonymously in 1844, and is confidently believed
    to have been written by the late Robert Chambers. My father’s copy gives
    signs of having been carefully read, a long list of marked passages being
    pinned in at the end. One useful lesson he seems to have learned from it.
    He writes: “The idea of a fish passing into a reptile, monstrous. I will
    not specify any genealogies–much too little known at present.
    ” He refers
    again to the book in a letter to Fox, February, 1845: “Have you read that
    strange, unphilosophical but capitally-written book, the ‘Vestiges’: it
    has made more talk than any work of late, and has been by some attributed
    to me–at which I ought to be much flattered and unflattered.
    “), but have
    been somewhat less amused at it than you appear to have been: the writing
    and arrangement are certainly admirable, but his geology strikes me as bad,
    and his zoology far worse.

    http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext00/1llcd10.txt

    I bolded the section attributed to Darwin’s father. This is followed by Darwin questioning Hooker about his “doubtful belief in imagination of a mother affecting her offspring”. This is a good indication of where the science of heredity was in those days. And these sorts of letters are a good bellwether of how science was done, and where Darwin’s thoughts were leading him.

    Darwin read Blyth. He read Malthus. He read Chambers. He read Lyell. Everybody of note did. None of this is a secret.

  45. Sal

    Good question. Why is there a Darwin Day (and not a Pasteur Day, Mendl Day, Newton Day, Einstein Day etc)?

  46. scordova (quoting): “Only in 1884 (long after Chambers’ death) with the publication of the 12th edition, was it revealed that Vestiges was written by Robert Chambers.

    Well, apparently it was “confidently” known by 1844, though it is amusing that Darwin’s father had been attributed as the author of Vestiges, and he thought he “ought to be much flattered and unflattered”.

    Darwin stitched together evidence from many areas of research. It’s seems rather ludicrous to suggest that Darwin could have ‘stolen’ material from Blyth and Chambers. These works were quite well-known and talked about at the time. The relationship between Darwin’s eventual opus and previous studies would have been clearly understood by his audience — the most sophisticated scientific community of its day.

  47. For the reader’s benefit, here is the 1845 sequel by Chambers, Explanations: A Sequel to “Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation” By the author of that work,

    It had a lot of passages that echoed origin of species. Some highlights:

    The remains and traces of plants and animals found in the succession of strata, show that, while these operations were going on, the earth gradually became the theatre of organic being, simple forms appearing first, and more complicated afterwards. A time when there was no life is first seen. We then see life begin, and go on ; but whole ages elapsed before man came to crown the work of nature. This is a wonderful revelation to have come upon the men of our time, and one which the philosophers of the days of Newton could never have expected to be vouchsafed. The great fact established by it is, that the organic creation, as we now see it, was not placed upon the earth at once; it observed a PROGRESS. Now we can imagine the Deity calling a young plant or animal into existence instantaneously; but we see that he does not usually do so. The young plant and also the young animal go through a series of conditions, advancing them from a mere germ to the fully developed repetition of the respective parental forms. So, also, we can imagine Divine, power evoking a whole creation into being by one word; but we find that such had not been his mode of working in that instance, for geology fully proves that organic creation passed through a series of stages before the highest vegetable and animal forms appeared. Here we have the first hint of organic creation having arisen in the manner of natural order. The analogy does not prove identity of causes, but it surely points very broadly to natural order or law having been the mode of procedure in both instances.
    But the question is, Does geology really show such a progress of being? This has been denied in some quarters, and particularly in the elaborate criticism upon the Vestiges, which appeared in the Edinburgh Review.* In reality, the whole of the geologists admit that we have first the remains of invertebrated animals; then with these, fish, being the lowest of the vertebrated ; next, reptiles and birds, which occupy higher grades; and, finally, along with the rest, mammifers, the highest of all; and yet controversialists will be found gravely telling their readers, “It is not true that only the lowest forms of animal life are found in the lowest fossil bands, and that the more complicated structures are gradually developed among the higher bands, in what we might call a natural ascending scale ;” * the pretext for giving this unqualified contradiction to the above grand fact being, that when we take the special groups of animals, as the invertebrata, the fishes, the reptiles, &c., there are some real or apparent grounds for denying that the low forms of these groups came before the higher.
    ….
    We can there trace several of them with tolerable distinctness, as they singly pass through the four classes of Fishes, Reptiles, Birds, and Mammals; the Birds, however, being a branch in some part derived equally with the reptiles from fishes, and thus leaving some of the mammal order in immediate connexion with the reptiles. The lines or stirpes have all of them peculiar characters which persist throughout the various grades of being passed through, one presenting carnivorous, another gentle and innocent animals, and so on. We have, therefore, in the animal kingdom, not one long range of affinities, but a number of short series, in each of which a certain general character is observable, though not always to the exclusion of the organic peculiarities of families in neighbouring lines, especially in the class of reptiles.

    He even alluded to problems in the fossil record, particularly the Silurian. Sound familiar? Similar ideas published 14 years later in Origin.

  48. Zachariel wrote:

    Darwin stitched together evidence from many areas of research. It’s seems rather ludicrous to suggest that Darwin could have ’stolen’ material from Blyth and Chambers.

    Zachariel,

    Prior to high speed computer comparisons, it was quite easy to repackage other people’s work and leave the impression it was original. The argument was not that these earlier works were not already published, the argument is that Darwin practically slapped together other peoples work and left the strong impression he was the pioneer. All one needs then is a cultural environment which will be willing to sustain that impression despite obvious facts to the contrary.

    The more that I look into the preceeding writings, I wonder if his only major contribution is the idea that natural selection is a mechanism of large-scale design and the primary means of evolution. In fact Darwin doesn’t prove it, no one has proven it. He merely offered some hand-waving arguments, not strong theoretical justifications. He failed to prove his most original claim.

    If it is the case he was wrong about natural selection being the primary engine of evolution, what do we have left in his book that wasn’t written by others already?

    We have Blyth and several others giving the idea of Natural Selection and Sexual Selection.

    We have Chambers giving the idea of organic evolution.

    We have Lyell giving important ideas in geology.

    I already see hints of embryology and vestigial organs in Chambers writings, and it may only be a matter of finding who Chambers was appealing to. I see less and less of anything we could give Darwin much credit for except the very part of his theory that is being rejected today, namely, Natural Selection as the source of design…..

    Anyway. I appreciate your participation. I think you have argued your case very well and in a civil manner. I salute you, sir.

    Salvador

  49. scordova: “Prior to high speed computer comparisons, it was quite easy to repackage other people’s work and leave the impression it was original. The argument was not that these earlier works were not already published, the argument is that Darwin practically slapped together other peoples work and left the strong impression he was the pioneer.

    Your assertion makes no sense in context. These other works were well-known in the circle of Darwin’s peers, the greatest minds of the age. Darwin unifed the various threads of evidence and ideas, creating a new scientific understanding of life.

  50. Whatever else Darwin may or may not have stolen the credit for surely no one can deny that he plagarised Blyth’s beard. Look at the picture!

    [/joke] //for those with no sense of humor

  51. Sorry for that mess. I was editing out a lot of stuff I had written that is now redundant but did a terrible job.

  52. Sorry we don’t have a preview feature. I know that would really help. If any of the admins are reading this, this would be a good thing to add to Uncommon Descent.

    Salvador

  53. Darwin was what I said earlier, a fantastic salesman who presented a very persuasive idea called natural selection. In advertising there is a name for the development of a very short and descriptive slogan and it is called a selling proposition. His was one of the best. As a result Darwinian evolution was the greatest con job of the 20th century and we owe him that accolade as recognition for his work. He exceeded the other con artist of second half of the 19th century, Marx and Freud.

    But like a lot of salesmen (based on what was presented here) Darwin just reorganized other’s ideas, added some of his own and developed a very coherent sales pitch that sounded extremely plausible. However, like many salesmen he over sold a product that was flawed and with limited benefits by persuading you that it could cure everything. As some have mentioned above a lot of people were desperately waiting for something that would cure everything.

    His ideas along with genetics explain a lot of micro evolution (neo Darwinism). But, neither he nor his supporters today stopped there and that is where his ideas fall apart. So give him credit where it is due but also recognize that his ideas (whether others or his own) have limited value as an explanation for evolution.

  54. You said you’d never heard the term used by any biologists. You’ve been shown that whther or not you’ve heard it very many biologists use it.

    Very many? I saw a few isolated quotes, nothing to indicate that “very many” use the term. I tell you as a biologist that I’ve never heard it used in 25 years. And the closest thing we have to statistics is my search results on PubMed, which indicate 207 citations mention it in title, abstract, or keywords, compared to over 180,000 that mention evolution, about 0.1%. Based on my personal experience, that’s probably pretty representative of the percentage of biologists that use the term.

    In the meantime, while you impugn every ID utterance with religious meaning, you insist on calling ID proponents ID Creationists. I’ve never heard ID proponents use that term.

    I must have accidentally omitted the slash. I usually say “ID/Creation advocates”. ID advocates often don’t like to be called Creationists, but they seem to employ the exact same arguments that the Creationists used to use, and everything that I say about ID is equally true about Creationism, so I think that it is reasonable to talk about them collectively. And I think that Barbara Forrest’s work has definitively established that at least as far as the Discovery Institute is concerned, ID is merely an alias for Creationism, instituted for political purposes. Most ID people seem to be Christians, and when they talk about intelligent design, it is clear that they have in mind a supernatural Designer, usually the Christian God. But I have occasionally spoken with nonreligious ID advocates who are interested in broader possibilities such as alien designers or the idea that the entire universe might be a computer simulation, so there are clearly some people who believe in ID as distinct from Creation.

  55. The more that I look into the preceeding writings, I wonder if his only major contribution is the idea that natural selection is a mechanism of large-scale design and the primary means of evolution.

    This is certainly what he is primarily credited for. It is generally recognized Darwin drew on a number of concepts that were already around in some form or other. Darwin’s contribution is generally regarded as unifying these ideas into a theory of common descent based upon natural selection.

  56. Thanks for the offer, Sal.
    Here is attempt #2. (good luck to me…)

    Zachriel,
    You have misread the letter by Darwin to Hooker. It is, in fact two letters, one to Hooker and one to Fox, with what appears to be very sloppy editing. The reference to “my father” is not by Charles to his father, but by Charles’s son, Francis , to Charles. The notes pinned to it are referenced elsewhere as Charles’s (as was his custom) , not his father’s.

    Also there is no mention in the real letter about Chambers being the author.
    The information about his authorship is an editorial with the parenthesis unfortunately not closed in the version you read. This was not information that Darwin had at the time.

    Only in 1884 (long after Chambers’ death) with the publication of the 12th edition, was it revealed that Vestiges was written by Robert Chambers.

    http://pages.britishlibrary.ne.....intro.html

    The book was still anonymous to Darwin in 1854 when he wrote this letter to Huxley:
    http://darwin.lib.cam.ac.uk/pe.....;pkey=1587

    After starting this reply I found this reference which clears the matter up:
    http://www.georgiasouthern.edu.....hesis.html

    Despite Vestiges’ immense popularity, however, Chambers made no headway in convincing the scientific community that his work was to be taken seriously. Yet the pseudo-scientific book did have Darwin’s undivided attention; as one who took his life’s work seriously, Darwin scrutinized it methodically. According to Francis Darwin, “My father’s copy [of Vestiges] gives signs of having been carefully read, a long list of marked passages being pinned at the end” (Life and Letters 1.301). Darwin’s intensity is understandable when we recognize him for the man of strategy that he was and the stake that he held in the race to become science’s next Copernicus.7 Francis went on to mention how his father’s careful inspection of Vestiges caused him to notice and avoid many errors that he perceived had cast an unscientific light on evolutionary theory.

    On the other hand, Darwin also must have noticed Chambers’ manner of presentation and perhaps grudgingly acknowledged the positive response that Vestiges had achieved as a result. Chambers had beaten Darwin to public acclaim even though Vestiges’ version of evolution, at least in Darwin’s mind, was an insult to science. His thoughts are revealed in his 1844 letter to Joseph Hooker:
    “I have also read the “Vestiges,” but have been somewhat less amused at it than you appear to have been: the writing and arrangement are certainly admirable, but his geology strikes me as bad, and his zoology far worse.” (301-302)

    He referred again to the book in an 1845 letter to his cousin William Darwin Fox:
    “Have you read that strange, unphilosophical but capitally-written book, the “Vestiges”: it has made more talk than any work of late, and has been by some attributed to me–at which I ought to be much flattered and unflattered. “(301)

    Darwin probably felt more unflattered than flattered, but certainly not defeated. In fact, the entire development had almost certainly strengthened his resolve. He was first able to decipher scientific and “unphilosophical” errors in Vestiges and also sit back and observe the reaction of the scientific community to them. In doing so, Darwin would avoid the same mistakes (or what Victorians would perceive as mistakes). And as a careful observer, Darwin would emulate some of what made Vestiges successful, what  he  called  “writing and arrangement”  that was  “certainly admirable”  in a book  “capitally written.” Darwin, the calculating scientist, may have lost the battle but would eventually win the war as the definer of evolutionary theory. His motivation to succeed is evident from part of another letter written to Asa Gray in September, 1857:
    “In regard to my Abstract, you must take immensely on trust, each paragraph occupying one or two chapters in my book. You will, perhaps, think it paltry in me, when I ask you not to mention my doctrine; the reason is, if any one, like the author of the “Vestiges,” were to hear of them, he might easily work them in, and then I should have to quote from a work perhaps despised by naturalists, and this would greatly injure any chance of my views being received. “(Life and Letters 1.478)

    After Vestiges, the scientific community was still waiting to be presented with a satisfactory evolutionary theory. As a result, the door remained open for Darwin’s views to be “received.”

    Notice there is no mention of the fish-reptile transition, as this is a note Darwin pinned in his own copy (as was his custom) which the editor, Francis, mentioned.

    Comment by Charlie — August 27, 2006 @ 10:38 pm

  57. Barbara Forrest demonstrated on the stand at Dover that she has no credibility on this issue. To her, being a design theorist, by definition, makes one a creationist.

    Q. Is Dr. Ken Miller a creationist?
    A. Dr. Ken Miller is an evolutionary biologist who is also a Catholic.

    So is Behe.

    Q. Would you consider him a creationist?
    A. Not in the sense, no, I would not.
    Q. Well, Dr. Miller testified in this case that, quote, God is the author of all things seen and unseen, and that would certainly include the laws of physics and chemistry, end quote. Is that a creationist talking?
    A. In his own personal viewpoints, I understand Dr. Miller to be a theistic evolutionist. And that is a position that intelligent design proponents vehemently object to. They do not recognize it as a valid position.
    Q. When you say, intelligent design advocates object to it, are you talking about all intelligent design advocates object to that?
    A. Specifically, Dr. William Dembski has stated that, design theorists are no friends of theistic evolution. And that is a sentiment shared by at least the major figures in the intelligent design movement that are the subjects of my research.
    Q. Michael Behe, is he one of them?
    A. Michael Behe, as I understand him, is a creationist.
    Q. And he would attack Ken Miller’s viewpoint that God is the author of all things, seen and unseen?
    A. I’m not sure what Professor Behe would say about Professor Miller’s viewpoints. I’m sorry. I don’t have a specific comment by which to judge.

    A. Dr. Miller, as I understand him, is not a creationist. He certainly believes in God. He has been very open and up front about that. But his view about the science is that he accepts evolutionary biology, and he finds no inconsistency between his understandings as a scientist and his viewpoints as a Roman Catholic.

    Once again, same for Behe.

    Q. Well, using your methodology then and accepting what Dr. Miller has said about God, the creator of all things seen and unseen, should you disregard anything that Ken Miller says as unscientific?
    A. It would depend, sir, on a specific statement. I can’t make that assessment based on simply a hypothetical, very general question of the kind that you’re giving me.
    Q. What other information do you need?
    A. Could you give me a specific statement?
    Q. Well, Dr. Miller testified, quote, God is the author of all things seen and unseen, and that would certainly include the laws of physics and chemistry.

    At which point the prosecution objects.

    Babs hasn’t one bit of objective evidence to separate Behe from MIller in labeling one a creationist and the other not.

  58. If I may ask, what notebooks were the notebooks bowler was using to prove Darwin didn’t plagerize, was it Darwin’s notebooks?

    Yes.

    Bob

  59. We have a Darwin Day? I didn’t know that! Why didn’t anybody ever tell me? Are there parades? Certainly, as a biologist, it seems to me that I deserve a day off from work on Darwin Day! But I’d definitely be in favor of a Newton Day, a Faraday Day, and a Maxwell Day, as well. Especially if there are parades.

    We do have a holiday on Newton day: it’s on his birthday. Most places don’t do parades though, I’m afraid.

    Sal – A lot of the material you’re finding about Darwin’s antecedents is well known: if you’re interested, I would heartily recommend reading Bowler’s book. Darwin took a lot of ideas from his contemporaries, and synthesised them into his Big Theory. The point is that no one else had made the synthesis: they had all seen little bits of the picture, but it was Darwin (and Russell!) who put it all together.

    Bob

  60. The piece referenced above to solve the questions of Darwin’s letter to Hooker is very interesting and anyone interested in this matter should give it a look. It traces the influences on Darwin’s work by many writers of the Romantic Period, including poets, sociologists and philosophers as well as fellow naturalists.
    http://www.georgiasouthern.edu.....hesis.html

    The notes to end chapter one include:

    10
    Blyth’s essay was entitled An Attempt to Classify the “Varieties” of Animals, with Observations on the Marked Seasonal and Other Changes Which Naturally Take Place in Various British Species, and Which Do Not Constitute Varieties. Darwin has been accused of plagiarizing Blyth’s idea, which correspondence has shown he had read. The accusation has fallen, for the most part, on deaf ears. (See Loren Eisley’s Darwin and the Mysterious Mr. X. New York: Dutton, 1979.)
    11
    Despite the similarities, Blyth came to completely different conclusions than Darwin did….
    It is most curious how Blyth interprets his observations of nature in terms of a Creator, while Darwin uses the same phenomena to dismiss that Creator. This is further evidence that Darwin’s rhetoric about attending to “facts” was a red herring. The issue was never over facts but the proper interpretation of those facts. Darwin’s comments in a letter to Joseph Hooker are instructive in this regard: “How differently people view the same subject, for I look at insular Floras … as leading to an opposite view to yours” (Correspondence 3.89).

    True to this day.
    The paper cited reveals that evolutionary thought had permeated the consciousness of the culture and that it was a popular philosophy just awaiting a suitable interpretation of the evidence.

  61. jerry: “His ideas along with genetics explain a lot of micro evolution (neo Darwinism).

    Which is very interesting, because Darwin couldn’t observe microevolutionary processes. He inferred them from the evidence in biological structures. Only in modern times has Darwin’s prediction of microevolution been confirmed.

    Charlie: “You have misread the letter by Darwin to Hooker.

    Quite possibly.

    Charlie: “It traces the influences on Darwin’s work by many writers of the Romantic Period, including poets, sociologists and philosophers as well as fellow naturalists.

    These ideas permeated society. Mary Shelley even cites (and misinterprets) the experiments of Dr. [Erasmus] Darwin in the Introduction to Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. Scientific explanations concerning the nature of life were all the rage among the Romantics and they eagerly anticipated every new scientific finding on the subject. Shelley’s Frankenstein delves into the very heart of this controversy even before Origin of Species.

  62. Zachriel writes:

    But, as trrll noted, the origins of the Theory of Evolution has no relevance to its validity.

    I love the smell of double standards in the morning!

  63. Zachriel:
    But, as trrll noted, the origins of the Theory of Evolution has no relevance to its validity.

    And just how would one validate the premise that all of life’s diversity owed its collective common ancestry to some unknown population(s) of single-celled organisms (that just happened to have the ability to asexually reproduce and metabolize)- all via some blind watchmaker-type process?

    Heck how can one validate the bacterial flagellum “evolved” (via some blind watchmaker type process) in a population in which not one bacterium had a flagellum?

  64. Here is an interesting article:

    EDWARD BLYTH AND NATURAL SELECTION

    Francis Hitching, an evolutionist, wrote: “Darwin took everything Blyth had said and used it to support an opposite conclusion”

  65. Joseph: “And just how would one validate the premise that all of life’s diversity owed its collective common ancestry to some unknown population(s) of single-celled organisms (that just happened to have the ability to asexually reproduce and metabolize)- all via some blind watchmaker-type process?

    Start with the evidence for the common ancestry of vertebrates; the nested hierarchy in time of fossils, the nested hierarchy of extant life, the nested hierarchy of genomes. Do you have a problem with this limited claim of common descent? If you do, then there is no purpose in discussing the posited mechanisms of this evolutionary divergence. If not, then we can proceed to discuss plausible mechanisms.

  66. And just how would one validate the premise that all of life’s diversity owed its collective common ancestry to some unknown population(s) of single-celled organisms (that just happened to have the ability to asexually reproduce and metabolize)- all via some blind watchmaker-type process?

    As with any theory, by deriving predictions and testing them by experiment and observation. In this case, the theory makes quite detailed predictions about the degree of sequence similarity of genes and proteins of different organisms. With the advent of gene sequencing, it has become possible to test these predictions. So far, they are holding up remarkably well.

    Heck how can one validate the bacterial flagellum “evolved” (via some blind watchmaker type process) in a population in which not one bacterium had a flagellum?

    By developing hypotheses regarding the evolutionary intermediates that yield testable predictions regarding sequence and structural homologies (see Matzke for one recent model and a review of earlier models.

  67. Babs hasn’t one bit of objective evidence to separate Behe from MIller in labeling one a creationist and the other not.

    Well, duh. Dr. Forrest was called as an expert on the historical development of Creationism into Intelligent Design, not as an expert on differentiating the views of Drs. Behe and Miller.

  68. And just how would one validate the premise that all of life’s diversity owed its collective common ancestry to some unknown population(s) of single-celled organisms (that just happened to have the ability to asexually reproduce and metabolize)- all via some blind watchmaker-type process?

    trrll:
    As with any theory, by deriving predictions and testing them by experiment and observation. In this case, the theory makes quite detailed predictions about the degree of sequence similarity of genes and proteins of different organisms. With the advent of gene sequencing, it has become possible to test these predictions. So far, they are holding up remarkably well.

    That is all well and good IF IT WERE TRUE. However we have been told that there is NO WAY to predict what would be selected for at any point in time. And we know we can’t predict what mutations will occur.
    We also know that an organism is NOT the sum of its genes. Nor does DNA make an organism what it is.
    Also nothing that you posted would support any particular mechansim.

    Do we even know if such transformations are even possible? No (ie the transformations required if all of life’s diversity owed its collective common ancestry to some unknown population(s)? No. We can’t even test the premise.

    Heck how can one validate the bacterial flagellum “evolved” (via some blind watchmaker type process) in a population in which not one bacterium had a flagellum?

    trrll:
    By developing hypotheses regarding the evolutionary intermediates that yield testable predictions regarding sequence and structural homologies (see Matzke for one recent model and a review of earlier models.

    What “evolutionary intermediates”? And how would they demonstrate a mechanism? And if Matzke’s “model” was so good why wasn’t he an “expert” witness? Could it be due to the fact his model is junk? Most likely. And homology was refuted as evidence for CD decades ago. So why would anyone still try to use it?

    trrll:
    Well, duh. Dr. Forrest was called as an expert on the historical development of Creationism into Intelligent Design, not as an expert on differentiating the views of Drs. Behe and Miller.

    Well she messed up on that. One has to wonder how she came to be an “expert” on anything. Real educated people can trace ID back to Aristotle and perhaps even before.

  69. trll

    What experiments were performed or observations were made to confirm the atheist dogma hypothesis that everything descended from one or a few common ancestors by chance instead of descending by design?

  70. The so-called mountains of evidence out there is for descent from one or a few common ancestors. I’m not sure I’d call it mountains but I would call it adequate to call common descent the best explanation. This is all the chance worshippers ever offer is evidence for common descent. The problem is they don’t use it to argue against intelligent design. Intelligent design is compatible with common descent. They use it to argue against creation as described in the Holy Bible which they conflate with intelligent design. That my dear friends is called intellectual dishonesty. It’s a sure sign of a weak mind clinging to an indefensible argument. It’s no wonder that 50% of U.S. adults reject evolution by chance. The wonder is that it isn’t 100%. If the chance worshippers hadn’t been so successful in conflating ID with religion so they can play the establishment clause card whenever we try to broach the truth to kids in public schools I have little doubt that the percentage who believe the chance evolution narrative would dwindle down to the 10% (positive atheists) who are its core support.

  71. So we know that anything empirical, anything observable or remotely testable, about descent with variation was already well-established long before Darwin. Microevolution, then, as now, was accepted by scientists of any variety of metaphysical beliefs. No predictions of microevolution could then possibly be seen to be confirmation of a ‘blind watchmaker’ Darwinian theory.
    All Darwin did then was add on the completely unobserved, untestable, metaphysically and philosophically popular idea that nature created itself from nothing and give it the veneer of scientific credibility.
    His contribution to the plan remains today as the part for which the so-called ‘mountains of evidence’ provide no support and the evidence that natural selection can act as a creative force in upward evolution is still wanting.

  72. What Dave said.
    Sorry for the cross-post Dave.

  73. The chance worshipper narrative description of evolution won’t die as long as the tale continues to enjoy its exclusive presentation by authority figures as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to impressionable young minds in public school science classrooms. We really have to win the political war so our side can get a fair hearing. The chance worshippers know they are doomed if chance evolution can be questioned in public school. They therefore abandon scientific arguments and head straight to federal court to make sure their argument is the only one heard. That’s not just intellectual dishonesty. It’s despicable. Abusing the constitution to further atheist dogma infuriates me even though I’m a so-called weak atheist (agnostic) myself. I took the following oath upon joining the USMC some 30 years ago and there’s no time limit in it. It obliges me to continue fighting domestic abusers of the plain meaning of the constitution.

    I, David Springer, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

  74. Zachriel,

    I wrote “His ideas along with genetics explain a lot of micro evolution (neo Darwinism).”

    You wrote

    “Which is very interesting, because Darwin couldn’t observe micro evolutionary processes. He inferred them from the evidence in biological structures. Only in modern times has Darwin’s prediction of microevolution been confirmed.”

    Don’t you know that micro evolution is very important for biological processes but trivial as far as evolution is concerned? What we are talking about on this site is evolution. Darwin had no idea about micro evolution since the concept had not yet been developed. So I am glad you agree that as far as evolution is concerned Darwin had only trivial effects. Obviously Darwin had a greater effect, essentially to mislead science for 150 years with his grandiose claims just as Marx and Freud have led hundreds of millions down the garden path. Darwin’s observations on the Beagle were only of micro evolution and he made a mis-guided effort to extrapolate to much more complex processes and that a large part of the scientific community bought his bogus predictions hook line and sinker. They still do with no evidence. What does that say about modern science?

    Are you one of those who bought into his bogus claims?

  75. 76

    Was Edward Blyth a creationist? As it reads in talk.origins FAQ by John Wilkins:

    “As de Beer says, it is unlikely that Darwin was indebted to him if his views were so opposed to Darwin’s6. Darwin had read Blyth, but not until after his own formulation, and Blyth later became a valued and constant correspondent of Darwin’s. If he felt that Darwin had, as Eiseley claimed, plagiarised natural selection from him, he would not have become such a strong friend and supporter of Darwinian evolution. ”

    (source: http://www.talkorigins.org/faq.....atsel.html )

    Edward Blyth apparently supported Darwinism. Another source seems to confirm this:

    “All of this is largely forgotten today, and instead he is best known for his early (1835) recognition of some of the principles of natural selection–made not only long before Darwin and Wallace went to print, but even before the former first came up with the concept. Blyth, however, did not see the ramifications of the principle (nor did anyone else), and did little to develop his thoughts any further. Later he became one of the first to embrace Darwinism, and was a vocal supporter for the remainder of his years.”

    (source: http://www.wku.edu/~smithch/chronob/BLYT1810.htm )

  76. jerry: “Don’t you know that micro evolution is very important for biological processes but trivial as far as evolution is concerned?

    Did you know that the measured rate of morphological change in extant life is greater than or equal to the observed rate of morphological change in the fossil record? This is a falsifiable prediction of the Theory of Evolution. (Reznick 1997, Gingerich 1983)

    jerry: “Darwin had no idea about micro evolution since the concept had not yet been developed.

    Darwin: LET us now see whether the several facts and laws relating to the geological succession of organic beings accord best with the common view of the immutability of species, or with that of their slow and gradual modification, through variation and natural selection.

    jerry: “Darwin’s observations on the Beagle were only of micro evolution…

    Darwin couldn’t observe microevolutionary processes. He inferred it from macroscopic variation, just as Blyth inferred the common descent of domesticated animals. Microevolution *explains* the observed properties of extant life and the succession of fossil life.

  77. Zachriel: “Did you know that the measured rate of morphological change in extant life is greater than or equal to the observed rate of morphological change in the fossil record?”
    Let’s see, are you saying that the morphological change in extent life is greater than the observable rateo of moprphological change in the fossil record during the 10 million years at the beginning of the cambrian?

  78. Zachriel,

    Are you aware of the findings from paleontology? Essentially what they have found was no gradual change but sudden appearance and stasis until extinction. That falsifies Darwin’s ideas in Darwin’s own words.

    Do you want to debate the stasis finding? You won’t get very far because there is no evidence to contradict it and it is one of the major findings of paleontology. Given that and your quote of Darwin what do you say about neo Darwinism?

    As far as morphological change, I suggest you switch threads to go to John Davison’s thread on his ideas. The link is

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....hives/1522 and is just a couple of threads above this.

    He essentially said there has not been any major evolution for millions of years and none is going on right now. Challenge him and see where it leads.

    Darwin observed variation and made gross errors when he assumed it was evidence of macro evolution. Nothing that Darwin observed is now considered evidence for macro evolution. The most marvelous example of this is Darwin’s finches.

    Keep trying. Eventually you will start to understand our point of view and why no one has refuted it yet.

  79. NB:
    Was Edward Blyth a creationist?

    If his writings offer any insight he was a Creationist. It would be wise to go by Blyth’s own words than to listen to talk origins.

    Perhaps he became a “friend” so that Darwin would pay him for taking his idea.

    Did Blyth not see the ramifications or did he just not have the funds to further the idea? Or maybe he didn’t think it needed further development.

  80. Are you aware of the findings from paleontology? Essentially what they have found was no gradual change but sudden appearance and stasis until extinction. That falsifies Darwin’s ideas in Darwin’s own words.

    Yes, Darwin was clearly wrong about gradualism, and in hindsight this seems to have been little more than a prejudice of the times. Of course, Darwin did not have the benefit of modern computer simulations that have established that the theory of natural selection does not in fact predict gradual change, but rather something resembling punctuated equilibrium.

    Here, we see once again the (to a scientist) bizarre ID obsession with Darwin, as if modern evolutionary theory would somehow collapse if Darwin could be shown to be wrong about something. As I’ve noted previously, it seems to me that this reflects the fundamentally religious outlook of so many in the ID camp. In religion, of course, the holy books and the prophets are key; undermine them, and you undermine the religion. But however much the ID crowd would like to think of modern evolutionary theory as part of a religion called “Darwinism,” Darwin has very little to do with the modern acceptance of evolutionary theory.

    PZ Meyers does a nice job of expressing what scientists think about Darwin’s importance to modern evolutionary theory:

    Another feature of Wells’s book, and creationists in general, is the obsession with Charles Darwin. I like the guy, I think he was brilliant, and it was his insights that launched modern evolutionary biology. But come on—he’s been dead for 124 years. He didn’t have all the tools we do now: no genetics, no molecular biology. Science has moved on well beyond Darwin’s day, but not for the creationists, who still think they can whimper and whine about errors in a book almost 150 years old and thereby dent work that nowadays depends in large part on molecular and genetic and population genetics…fields that didn’t even exist for Charles!

  81. What experiments were performed or observations were made to confirm the atheist dogma hypothesis that everything descended from one or a few common ancestors by chance instead of descending by design?

    Nobody does experiments or observations based on ID. Not biologists, not ID advocates, not even the Discovery Institute, which clearly has the funds to support experimentation—if they could think of anything to do—and which periodically issues optimistic predictions about the expected future achievements of ID-based science, which still have failed to materialize. The reason nobody does any experiments is that ID is too vague to make any definitive predictions. Basically, all the ID crowd is willing to commit to is that something, sometime, designed something biological. The power of a theory to drive scientific research derives from its specificity—from the potential for an experimental or observational outcome which the theory cannot explain, and which potentially could disprove the theory. I cannot imagine, even in principle, any conceivable observation that would be inconsistent with some sort of variant of ID.

    Evolutionary theory, on the other hand, is rich with predictions. It makes quantitative predictions about the degree of genetic homology between species; it makes predictions about the outcome of computer simulations of natural selection; it makes predictions about genetic change and speciation in the wild. All of these predictions, can be, and are being tested. It is amazing that a theory which predates molecular genetics or modern computers continues to stand up to tests by methods that Darwin could not even have conceived of.

  82. trrll:
    Yes, Darwin was clearly wrong about gradualism…

    Say what?

    trrll:
    Of course, Darwin did not have the benefit of modern computer simulations that have established that the theory of natural selection does not in fact predict gradual change, but rather something resembling punctuated equilibrium.

    There aren’t any valid computer simulations of biological reality. And genetics & molecular biology are no friends of evolutionists.

  83. Well she messed up on that.

    Dr. Forrest’s testimony seems to have been pivotal in the decision, convincing a judge who (prior to the trial) was described (by DaveScot, no less) as

    a good old boy brought up through the conservative ranks. He was state attorney for D.A.R.E, an Assistant Scout Master with extensively involved with local and national Boy Scouts of America, political buddy of Governor Tom Ridge (who in turn is deep in George W. Bush’s circle of power), and finally was appointed by GW hisself. Senator Rick Santorum is a Pennsylvanian in the same circles (author of the “Santorum Language” that encourages schools to teach the controversy) and last but far from least, George W. Bush hisself drove a stake in the ground saying teach the controversy. Unless Judge Jones wants to cut his career off at the knees he isn’t going to rule against the wishes of his political allies.

    Having read it myself, I can see how her testimony would convince any unbiased observer.

  84. There aren’t any valid computer simulations of biological reality.

    There are simulations using genetic algorithms derived from natural selection designed to give an idea of what sort of behavior to expect from an evolutionary process. And they frequently exhibit punctuated equilibrium.

    And genetics & molecular biology are no friends of evolutionists

    As a biologist who has discussed molecular biology with such scientific luminaries as Salvador Luria and Sydney Brenner, I can tell you that that is not what the molecular biologists think.

  85. There aren’t any valid computer simulations of biological reality.

    trrll:
    There are simulations using genetic algorithms derived from natural selection designed to give an idea of what sort of behavior to expect from an evolutionary process.

    You believe that? Really?

    trrll:
    And they frequently exhibit punctuated equilibrium.

    Computer programs frequently exhibit what the programmer wants them to.

    And genetics & molecular biology are no friends of evolutionists.

    trrll:
    As a biologist who has discussed molecular biology with such scientific luminaries as Salvador Luria and Sydney Brenner, I can tell you that that is not what the molecular biologists think.

    I have read geneticists and molecular biologists who think that way. But perhaps trrll can tell us what makes an organism what it is. Then we can test the premise of whether or not one population can “evolve” into another. We know it isn’t the genes or DNA- we can place a mouse gene in an eyeless fly but the next generation of flies develops fly-eyes, not mouse eyes- so where is the info that tells what type of eye shoudl develop?

    In his book “Why is a Fly not a Horse?” geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti recounts the following:

    A scientist was talking with a farmer. They agreed that if the scientist could tell the farmer the number of sheep in his flock the scientist could take a sheep. The scientist glanced over the flock and shouted 53! “That’s right,” said the farmer. “That science of yours is pretty amazing. Take yer pick.”
    The scientist bends over and scoops up an animal.
    “You must be a molecular biologist.” Said the farmer.
    “Why yes, I am. How did you know?” inquired the scientist.
    “That’s not important” replied the farmer..” Just put down the dog.”

    trrll
    Dr. Forrest’s testimony seems to have been pivotal in the decision, convincing a judge who …

    … had his mind made up BEFORE the trial- a judge who said he watched “Inherit the Wind” for historical content- a judge who was obviously over his head when it came to the expert testimony? LoL!

  86. Trrll,

    Has Richard Dawkins been notified that Darwin has been thrown overboard. Maybe PZ Meyers should apply for Sir Richard’s job. One reason we have an interest in Darwin is because that is what is taught in the schools. Since we both think Darwin is bogus, maybe you should join us in trying to get Darwin out of the curriculum.

  87. I don’t think that gradualism was a prejudice of the times but rather of Charles Darwin and Charles Lyell.
    There were plenty of evolutionist at the time who disagreed with Darwin in rejecting saltation, including his own bulldog, Thomas Huxley, and his cousin Francis Galton.
    Darwin’s commitment to gradualism was a philosophical one, as he believed any appeals to large evolutionary leaps were rubbish, and the equivalent of miracles and special creation. As his theory was explicitly purposed against clerical or religious thought he had an ideological interest in banishing such ideas.
    In the face what was the only possible evidence of the historical nature of his theory, the fossil record, he was committed to a rational defence of gradualism because that was the only conceivable way to get from one form to the other without design, especially given that such was unobservable in extant forms. For his theory to be fully materialistic it had to rely only on the same uniformitarian principles as invoked by Lyell.
    Darwin may not have had the benefit of computer simulations, but he had the same benefit of the fossil record and observational science as had his opponents, and yet he ignored these.

    And, speaking of what Darwin did add to the theory of evolution of his day:

    “When Darwin presented a paper [with Alfred Wallace] to the Linnean Society in 1858, a Professor Haugton of Dublin remarked, `All that was new was false, and what was true was old.’ This, we think, will be the final verdict on the matter, the epitaph on Darwinism.”Fred Hoyle and N. Chandra Wickramasinghe, Evolution from Space (1981), p. 159.

  88. Has Richard Dawkins been notified that Darwin has been thrown overboard. Maybe PZ Meyers should apply for Sir Richard’s job. One reason we have an interest in Darwin is because that is what is taught in the schools. Since we both think Darwin is bogus, maybe you should join us in trying to get Darwin out of the curriculum.

    Even when I was in high school, quite a few years ago, what was taught regarding evolution went quite a bit beyond Darwin, and that was before the molecular biology and computer revolutions. If what they are teaching today ends with Darwin, then they are clearly not devoting sufficient time to evolution. In a modern biology course, Darwin rates a brief mention as the originator of the theory, but the course should focus on evolution from a modern perspective, including such things as genetic algorithms, genomic analysis, and field studies of evolution in the wild.

    I have read geneticists and molecular biologists who think that way. But perhaps trrll can tell us what makes an organism what it is. Then we can test the premise of whether or not one population can “evolve” into another. We know it isn’t the genes or DNA- we can place a mouse gene in an eyeless fly but the next generation of flies develops fly-eyes, not mouse eyes- so where is the info that tells what type of eye shoudl develop?

    Your question reflects a quite profound misunderstanding of how gene regulation works. To make a fly develop a mouse eye, you would need to replace dozens of mouse genes that define how an eye is made, and they would have to be heavily modified to work in the background of the fly’s body, something we do not even begin to know how to do. But one thing that evolution predicts is that the most fundamental regulatory genes—not the ones that define the details of how to make they eye itself, but the ones that simply turn on those eye-making genes—are likely to be highly conserved, because functions at such a deep level are hard for evolution to modify. A single gene defect that leads to no eye at all (as opposed to a malformed eye) is likely to be in such a regulatory gene. This led to the prediction that the homologous mouse gene might function similarly in a fly—a prediction that has turned out to be correct.

  89. a judge who said he watched “Inherit the Wind” for historical content- a judge who was obviously over his head when it came to the expert testimony?

    If having watched “Inherit the Wind” is the best evidence of bias the ID crowd has been able to come up with, they are really clutching at straws. And I’ve read the decision. It was clear to me that the judge fully understood the expert testimony. Indeed, the high quality of the decision has largely erased many of my reservations regarding the ability of the courts to adjudicate technical scientific issues. I thought that it was a model of cogent, logical reasoning, evincing a remarkably strong grasp of both the science and governing legal precedent. I note that many legal commentators have commented that because the decision is so well-reasoned, it is likely to serve as a model for decisions on similar cases in the future.

  90. Computer programs frequently exhibit what the programmer wants them to.

    However, programs utilizing genetic algorithms frequently exhibit surprising behavior that the programmer did not intend or anticipate. That natural emergence of “punctuated equilibrium” patterns of change in many different types of simulations—something that was not intentionally programmed in—is a good example of this.

  91. bfast: “Let’s see, are you saying that the morphological change in extent life is greater than the observable rateo of moprphological change in the fossil record during the 10 million years at the beginning of the cambrian?

    There is a great deal of difficulty measuring the rates of morphological change during the early Cambrian. Most of the evidence of that epoch is shrouded by the intervening events during the last half-a-billion years. Nor is 10 million years an insignificant duration.

    I assume because you resorted to such an early period that you accept the standard model for the evolution of vertebrates and other latter-day lineages.

    But it turns out that the early Cambrian is not a complete mystery. Genetic evidence indicates that many phyla, including the bilatera, date from the Precambrian and their period of evolution was much longer than fossil evidence had indicated. Since then, distinct microscopic evidence of Precambrian bilatera have been found, e.g. Dickinsonia.

    jerry: “Essentially what they have found was no gradual change but sudden appearance and stasis until extinction.

    The importance of punctuated equilibrium to explaining certain aspects of the fossil record is still in some dispute. It certainly doesn’t indicate that evolution doesn’t occur, but only that evolution occurs in small, isolated populations that then supplant their parents. In any case, evolution can be directly observed including broad morphological changes, so there is no question that evolution occurs and that species do not necessarily remain in stasis until extinction. The modern model is probably something close to scale invariance; lots of small changes, a few fundamental changes, and the occasional revolutiony change. However, even Darwin knew that the rate of evolution would not be constant and that natural selection may not be the only mechanism of change.

    Darwin: “Species of different genera and classes have not changed at the same rate, or in the same degree.”
    “I am convinced that Natural Selection has been the main but not exclusive means of modification.”

    Joseph: “Nothing that Darwin observed is now considered evidence for macro evolution. The most marvelous example of this is Darwin’s finches.

    The Grants’ work with Darwin’s Finches shows the very best in dedicated observation over long periods of time. They demonstrated the effects of ecological selection, sexual selection, genetic drift, and contingency in isolated populations. Quite an achievement. For anyone interested in how observational science actually works, I heartily recommend the Pulitzer Prize winning story of the Grants, The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time. I’m sure you would disagree with Peter and Rosemary
    Grant’s scientific assessment of their life’s work. But hey! What do they know about finches?

  92. Joseph: “However we have been told that there is NO WAY to predict what would be selected for at any point in time. And we know we can’t predict what mutations will occur.

    This is a misunderstanding of the nature of observation and the nature of scientific prediction. If we predict that you will roll boxcars 1 time in 36, that is a valid prediction. If we predict that genes will randomly mutate at a given rate, that is an empirical prediction. If John Horner predicts that dinosaur eggs will likely be found in Montana in strata associated by geologists with the shores of an ancient inland sea, and finds not just eggs, but babies and entire nesting colonies, that is predictive confirmation.

    Joseph: “Heck how can one validate the bacterial flagellum “evolved”?

    I note you are making a challenge about an event that is so far in the past, microscopic and soft tissue, that most of the evidence is lost in the hundreds-of-millions of years of intervening time. It is surprising we can know anything whatsoever about such ancient events.

    The simplest prediction would be that the flagellum is composed of homologous elements that have other functions in the cell. And it is. The flagellum is composed of a rotating pore combined to a motor system, both common and plausible precursors.

    joseph: “And genetics & molecular biology are no friends of evolutionists.

    The journal Genetics lists “evolution” 10900 times, “natural selection” 3280 times, “intelligent design” 4 times. Apparently, scientists involved in the study of heredity still think evolution is something important to investigate.

    trrll: “And they frequently exhibit punctuated equilibrium.

    Typically, they exhibit scale invariant behavior. Think fractals or coast lines. Lots of small changes, a few larger changes, the occasional revolutionary change. Other natural phenemona have this sort of scale invariance. Waves on a beach, rocks falling from a cliff, meteors striking the Earth. (Of course, we don’t want to confuse the mathematical model with the details of the actual historical evolution. But it interesting to note that Mandelbrot, who proposed the model of chaotic behavior, studied the cotton market. While marketers discussed various events that effected the cotton market that seemed to be unique circumstances associated with particular historical events; including market crashes, wars, and weather patterns; when Mandelbrot examined the data, he discovered the ups-and-downs in the market price were scale-invariant and he could ignore just about everything the marketers said.)

    On the point about gradualism: Evolution does proceed gradually over geological time-scales and Darwin made a very good first-order approximation. As more evidence and more sophisticated models of the process have become available, naive gradualism has been abandoned. As I previously mentioned, Darwin knew that evolution may not have a constant rate but would respond to the environmental conditions. A good example of evolution would be the increase in brain size in hominids. It proceeded rapidly for a couple of million years then leveled off. This change was accompanied by other morphological changes, shortening of the arm-leg ratio, changes in the hand and foot, etc.

    Charlie: “Darwin may not have had the benefit of computer simulations, but he had the same benefit of the fossil record and observational science as had his opponents, and yet he ignored these.

    Two chapters of Origin of Species are dedicated to the fossil record; On the Imperfection of the Geological Record, and On The Geological Succession of Organic Beings. Darwin predicts the existence of intermediaries. And species discovered after Darwin and found in the appropriate strata such as Homo habilis and Homo erectus are clearly intermediate.

    Joseph: “We know it isn’t the genes or DNA- we can place a mouse gene in an eyeless fly but the next generation of flies develops fly-eyes, not mouse eyes-…

    Yeah, pretty amazing confirmation of common descent.

  93. trrll:
    If having watched “Inherit the Wind” is the best evidence of bias the ID crowd has been able to come up with, they are really clutching at straws.

    It isn’t. Read the book “Traipsing Into Evolution” IF you want more.

    Trrll:
    And I’ve read the decision.

    Me too and it is clear the judge stepped beyond his authority.

    trrll:
    It was clear to me that the judge fully understood the expert testimony.

    It is clear to me that he blindly accepted what the plaintiffs “experts” said while dismissing what the defendants experts said.

    trrll:
    I note that many legal commentators have commented that because the decision is so well-reasoned, it is likely to serve as a model for decisions on similar cases in the future.

    I note that many legal experts state the judge went too far and obviously is still clueless about ID. As a matter of fact I would say the past Dover school board knows more about ID than the judge and it was obvious that they didn’t know much about ID at all.

    I have read geneticists and molecular biologists who think that way. But perhaps trrll can tell us what makes an organism what it is. Then we can test the premise of whether or not one population can “evolve” into another. We know it isn’t the genes or DNA- we can place a mouse gene in an eyeless fly but the next generation of flies develops fly-eyes, not mouse eyes- so where is the info that tells what type of eye shoudl develop?

    trrll:
    Your question reflects a quite profound misunderstanding of how gene regulation works.

    Yeah sure- perhaps you can enlighten me.

    trrll:
    To make a fly develop a mouse eye, you would need to replace dozens of mouse genes that define how an eye is made, and they would have to be heavily modified to work in the background of the fly’s body, something we do not even begin to know how to do.

    What genes define how an eye is made? What genes define the type of eye?

    trrll:
    But one thing that evolution predicts is that the most fundamental regulatory genes—not the ones that define the details of how to make they eye itself, but the ones that simply turn on those eye-making genes—are likely to be highly conserved, because functions at such a deep level are hard for evolution to modify.

    That is nonsense. Evolutionism doesn’t even predict regulatory genes.

    Now a common design would predict such a thing…

    trrll:
    This led to the prediction that the homologous mouse gene might function similarly in a fly—a prediction that has turned out to be correct.

    Again that is nonsense. Did the common ancestor of the mouse and fly have such a gene or did those genes arise separately?

    It appears that trrll is the one grasping at straws and telling us about predictions that never existed.

    Come trrll what makes an organism what it is? We know that although genes may influence every aspect of development they do NOT determine it. And if they do NOT determine it then modifying genes will not get the reults evolutionism requires.

  94. trrll writes: To make a fly develop a mouse eye, you would need to replace dozens of mouse genes that define how an eye is made, and they would have to be heavily modified to work in the background of the fly’s body, something we do not even begin to know how to do.

    Incredible. First he tells us how to make a fly develop a mouse eye and in the same breath tells us it’s something we do not even begin to know how to do.

    This is really chance evolution in a nutshell. Nobody knows how to even begin demonstrating how chance could produce the complexity of life but that doesn’t stop them from filling bookshelves with texts describing a process that is unpredictable, undemonstrable, unwitnessed, and unrepeatable. Unfrigginbelievable.

  95. trrll

    If the genes that regulate turning on the eye making genes are predicted by evolution (show me where this prediction was made please) to be highly conserved does that mean that if we find they are not always highly conserved then evolution is falsified? Of course not. That’s how real science works – when predictions fail the hypothesis is falsified. How science that has become ideological dogma works is that if a prediction doesn’t pan out you craft an ad hoc explanation for why it didn’t and leave the underlying dogma intact. Chance and necessity haven’t been questioned since the discovery of DNA. It’s an assumption and because it’s so vague and powerful and in the distant past an explanation can and will be crafted to fit any and all observations. It explains everything and thus explains nothing.

  96. In the OP scordova wrote:

    “My hypothesis is that Edward Blyth should have been given far more credit for the theory of natural selection. Because Blyth was a creationist, he did not see natural selection as an adequate mechanism for biological innovation. He believed natural selection as primarily a means of preserving species, not primarily creating large scale biological innovations. Even though a creationist, he seemed open to some forms of evolution (as creationists are today), and it would be hard to argue that he believed in the absolute fixity of species. Blyth’s position on natural selection would be consistent with many IDers and creationists today.”

    Well, let’s do it then, give Edward Blyth more credit. But shouldn’t we then in all fairness also give him more blame?

    scordova quoting Blyth (1836):

    “…. The original form of a species is unquestionably better adapted to its natural habits than any modification of that form; and, as the sexual passions excite to rivalry and conflict, and the stronger must always prevail over the weaker, the latter, in a state of nature, is allowed but few opportunities of continuing its race.”

    Oh, my, oh my, what have we here? The very proof that we should give credit, where it is due. Clearly, “social Darwinism” is a misnomer, ir should be called “social Blythism”.

    This most important information should change a few things. As you all know, Coral Ridge Ministries have released a video and book called “Darwin’s deadly legacy”, which traces social Darwinism from Farwin to Hitler. But clearly the title should be changed to “Blyth’s deadly legacy”, shouldn’t it?

    And imagine that we all thought that Edward Blyth was such a gentle and good-tempered human! No, we must the root of evil right, where it is: amongst the evil creationists that have supplied the evolutionists with the idea of “struggle for survival”.

    Yes, indeed, credit should be given where it’s due.

    By the way, Blyth wrote in 1835 that

    “[s]ome arctic species are white, which have no enemy to fear, as the polar bear, the gyrfalcon, the arctic eagle-owl, the snowy owl, and even the stoat; and therefore, in these, the whiteness can only be to preserve the temperature of their bodies …”

    If Blyth had done a bit further of thinking, he might have figured out that the whiteness of these predators could have served to make them less easy to spot for their prey.

  97. What genes define how an eye is made? What genes define the type of eye?

    The genes for the proteins expressed by the cells that make up the eye. The receptor genes involved in cell-to-cell communication that coordinate the embryonic development process that leads to the formation of the eye. The regulatory regions for all of those genes. Certainly hundreds, if not thousands, of distinct DNA sequences

    Incredible. First he tells us how to make a fly develop a mouse eye and in the same breath tells us it’s something we do not even begin to know how to do.

    We know just enough to have an idea of the scope of the task, and to know that it is well beyond current biological knowledge to achieve. Fortunately, evolution leads us to suspect that even though there are an enormous number of differences between the two eyes, there is likely to be a “master switch” that would be conserved by natural selection, and is fundamentally the same in flies and mice. That prediction leads to a search for the hypothesized master switch, and it is found. This is yet another example of how evolutionary theory continues to drive scientific discovery.

    This is really chance evolution in a nutshell. Nobody knows how to even begin demonstrating how chance could produce the complexity of life but that doesn’t stop them from filling bookshelves with texts describing a process that is unpredictable, undemonstrable, unwitnessed, and unrepeatable.

    Yes, this is science in a nutshell, and a good example of how science differs from religion. Genuine science does not purport to explain every detail from the outset. Rather it provides a set of tools—testable theories and experimental/observational methodologies—by which we can work out the answers step by step. For example, we have a theory of quantum mechanics that purports to explain all of the complexities of biochemistry. Yet we cannot at this time work out exactly how a medium sized protein will fold in response to the chance interactions with solvent molecules, nor do we have any method of witnessing it directly. Indeed, scientists are currently filling bookshelves with research studying protein folding. And there is no guarantee that we will ever have the answers, much less that we will ever know for sure that we will have them correct. Scientists are comfortable with this state of incomplete knowledge. Those who require instant, pat answers are better advised to study religion.

    If the genes that regulate turning on the eye making genes are predicted by evolution (show me where this prediction was made please) to be highly conserved does that mean that if we find they are not always highly conserved then evolution is falsified?

    No, this was not a strong prediction (an example of a strong prediction would be that two newly identified vertebrate species will have the same genetic code). It is rather along the lines of an educated guess based on the theory. If the regulatory mechanisms were completely different, that would be a problem for evolution, but that they are so similar that you could swap one gene for the other is more along the lines of an educated guess—something that the theory says is likely, but that it does not absolutely require.

    Of course not. That’s how real science works – when predictions fail the hypothesis is falsified.

    A good theory will provide some strong predictions, that must be true if the theory is correct, but it will also provide weaker predictions—things that are likely to be true if the theory is correct. If a strong prediction fails, then the theory must be discarded or modified in a fundamental way. Failure of a weaker prediction does not invalidate the theory, but it may cast a certain amount of doubt upon it. If research based upon such weaker predictions consistently fails to bear fruit, then scientists eventually start looking for a more fruitful theory. In terms of its ability to generate both strong predictions and weaker ones that drive successful research, evolution remains one of the most successful theories in the history of science.

  98. That is nonsense. Evolutionism doesn’t even predict regulatory genes.

    Darwin, of course, did not know anything about genes, but evolutionary theory has advanced a long way since Darwin. An early realization was that for evolution by natural selection to work, there must be hierarchical systems of genetic regulation. For example, if dozens of genes needed to be modified for an eye to be moved, then the position of the eye would be “locked in,” because the chance of those mutations occurring simultaneously would be very small. So there must be a mechanism that says, essentially “put an eye here,” without having to redefine all of the information about how to make an eye—an approach similar to that later devised by human programmers who developed “object oriented” programming languages. Since modern species are all “successful evolvers,” they must have such hierarchical control systems. This realization fueled the search for such regulatory systems, many of which have now been identified.

    Now a common design would predict such a thing…

    Yes, a design theory can predict anything you want. We can certainly envisage a designer who likes hierarchical designs and reuses code, but we can also envision one who crafts each organism individually and completely different, like an artist. ID people are quick to jump on the successful predictions of evolutionary theory, and say, “We could have predicted that.” But of course, it is easy to predict something after the fact. It is no coincidence that it is scientists working from the predictions of evolutionary theory who are willing to invest their reputations and a significant portion of their careers into pursuing predictions of evolutionary theory. ID advocates love to talk about the predictive power of ID, but they never seem willing to put their money where their mouth is, take those predictions into the laboratory, and actually bet their careers on those predictions.

    Did the common ancestor of the mouse and fly have such a gene or did those genes arise separately?

    Evolutionary theory prohibits separate origins for genes with such a high degree of similarity; the must have been present from a common ancestor.

  99. trrll wrote:

    Since modern species are all “successful evolvers,” they must have such hierarchical control systems. This realization fueled the search for such regulatory systems, many of which have now been identified.

    Hierarchical patterning of various features in biology was accepted even by creationitst as evidence of a common designer. If there are hierarcical patterns which are not explainable to common ancestry, then that part of the naturalistic thesis will be shattered.

    The hierarchical pattern in itself does not distinguish whether the origin of the pattern was due to:

    1. common descent
    2. common design
    3. some combination of #1 and #2

    Salvador

  100. Hierarchical patterning of various features in biology was accepted even by creationitst as evidence of a common designer. If there are hierarcical patterns which are not explainable to common ancestry, then that part of the naturalistic thesis will be shattered.

    But in fact, it is not evidence of a common designer, unless you can define some characteristic of the designer that forces it to use such hierarchical gene control patterns, even down to the same regulatory genes and factors, on organisms as radically different as flies and mammals. This may be why the only people who actually went looking for conserved hierarchical patters of control of gene expression were those were inspired by evolutionary theory to do so. Hierarchical control patterns could conceivably arise by convergent evolution, but in this case one would not expect to find homologies down to the level of gene sequence. This is something that (in evolutionary theory) can only occur by common inheritance.

  101. trrll,

    Do you have Michael Denton’s book, Evolution a Theory in Crisis. He makes a powerful case for hierarchical patterns in morphology actually resisting the Darwinian interpretation. His molecular interpretation of hierarchical is half descent, and can be improved in a couple spots. But still make the case that hierarchies are anathema to Darwinism, contrary to popular thought. I would not be surprised to see the same for regulatory genes someday…..

    Hierarchies and order in circumstances that would lead to disorder are suggestive of design.

    Salvador

  102. Do you have Michael Denton’s book, Evolution a Theory in Crisis. He makes a powerful case for hierarchical patterns in morphology actually resisting the Darwinian interpretation. His molecular interpretation of hierarchical is half descent, and can be improved in a couple spots. But still make the case that hierarchies are anathema to Darwinism, contrary to popular thought. I would not be surprised to see the same for regulatory genes someday…..

    No, I haven’t seen Denton’s book, but I don’t see how anybody could make a “powerful case” for an claim that is so obviously nonsensical on the face of it. Can you summarize his arguments?

  103. trrll asked:

    Can you summarize his arguments?

    Not in the space of this thread. I leave it to the interested reader to consider Denton’s usage of hierarchy against Darwinian evolution. On the surface hierarchies might incline one to believe in Darwinian evolution, Denton shows the true implicaiton of hierarchies in geological time is counter-intuitive and anti-Darwinian.

    Salvador

  104. There was a point some years ago when I spent a lot of time looking into Creationist claims. I had the idea (in retrospect, naive) that Creationists, not being constrained by an evolutionary perspective, might have discovered some problems with the standard evolutionary paradigm that could lead to some important insights. It turned out to be a colossal waste of time. Everything that I tracked down to original sources turned out to be wrong—either a misunderstanding, or even more commonly, a gross misstatement. Much of their literature appeared to me to be intentionally deceptive. While I haven’t read Theory in Crisis, what I’ve seen of Denton’s work fits into that pattern. For example, in this article, he argues that the inverted design of the mammalian retina, as compared to the octopus retina, is a necessary adaptation to provide adequate blood supply to the warm-blooded vertebrate retina.

    This implies strongly that high-acuity vision in the eyes of cold-blooded vertebrates would be possible with a non-inverted retina and that it is only in the case of the higher and warm-blooded vertebrate species where the metabolic rates are far higher that the inverted arrangement to bring the photoreceptors adjacent to the choroidal vessels is a necessity for phototransduction.

    It all sounds very plausible—unless of course you go to the effort to actually look at the structure of an octopus retina, and see that the octopus retina is just as well, if not better, vascularized than the vertebrate retina, and that support cells are present to replace the function of the ciliary epithelium (another issue that Denton makes much of) all without blocking the photoreceptors or impairing their packing. So what am I to make of Denton’s argument? Could he possibly have made such an argument without even bothering to look at an octopus retina? It’s not like it’s hard to find the information. It’s hard to imagine that anybody with an ounce of scientific integrity would do this. Or was he consciously making a deceptive argument with the expectation that most of his audience would not trouble to look up the details?

  105. trrll

    While you were looking at that octopus eye and trying to figure out why optic nerve placement was different from mammal eye did it occur to you to think about the similarities? How long ago did mammals and mollusks diverge – I’m guessing during the Cambrian 500 mya if not earlier. How on earth could chance evolution of land and water animals, a vertebrate and invertebrate, lead to such similarly constructed optical devices? I’ll tell you how. Because the information for how to build a camera eye was there before the first camera eye appeared. That’s how front-loading works. Thanks for bringing this marvelous bit of evidence for it up for discussion. Convergent evolution is something that RM+NS does not predict while front-loaded evolution does.

  106. DaveScot: “did it occur to you to think about the similarities

    The basic principles of focusing light are based on simple geometry. A close look at the different structures shows that they developed independently. Note that mammalian eyes have a homologous structure whether the organisms are aquatic, avian or terrestrial.

  107. To Zachriel,

    Not even the Grants understand what brought forth the variation in the first place. And not even they know the mechanism for the change. For all they know it could be “built-in responses to environmental cues” as Dr. Spetner describes.

    trrll:
    Yes, a design theory can predict anything you want.

    That is false. It would be more true if you stated that evolutionism can “predict” anything you want.

    trrll:
    But of course, it is easy to predict something after the fact.

    That is evolutionism in a nutshell.

    Did the common ancestor of the mouse and fly have such a gene or did those genes arise separately?

    trrll:
    Evolutionary theory prohibits separate origins for genes with such a high degree of similarity; the must have been present from a common ancestor.

    LoL! What was the alleged common ancestor of flies and mice? Did it even have HOX genes? Did it even have eyes?

    And knowing whet we do know about proofreading and error correction (within cells) saying evolutionism “predicts” anything about mutations is laughable nonsense.

  108. It all sounds very plausible—unless of course you go to the effort to actually look at the structure of an octopus retina, and see that the octopus retina is just as well, if not better, vascularized than the vertebrate retina, and that support cells are present to replace the function of the ciliary epithelium (another issue that Denton makes much of) all without blocking the photoreceptors or impairing their packing. So what am I to make of Denton’s argument? Could he possibly have made such an argument without even bothering to look at an octopus retina? It’s not like it’s hard to find the information. It’s hard to imagine that anybody with an ounce of scientific integrity would do this. Or was he consciously making a deceptive argument with the expectation that most of his audience would not trouble to look up the details?

    Michael Denton’s area of scientific specialty is retinas. Are you so sure the octupus verted retinal eye’s architecture would work well in a vertebrate? Woud you trade your eyes in for an octopus? There are other constraints in addition to vascularization. Seeing is not the only constraint under which an eye might be architected, any more then gas mileage is the only criteria to judge the technology in a motor vehicle.

    Here is an article by an Opthalmologist. I presume he would understand eyes pretty well:

    Is Our ‘Inverted’ Retina
    Really ‘Bad Design’?

    Some evolutionists claim that the verted retinae of cephalopods, such as squids and octopuses, are more efficient than the inverted retinae found in vertebrates.[46] But this presupposes that the inverted retina is inefficient in the first place. As shown above, evolutionists have failed to demonstrate that the inverted retina is a bad design, and that it functions poorly; they ignore the many good reasons for it.

    Also, they have never shown that cephalopods actually see better. On the contrary, their eyes merely ‘approach some of the lower vertebrate eyes in efficiency’[47] and they are probably colour blind.[48] Moreover, the cephalopod retina, besides being ‘verted’, is actually much simpler than the ‘inverted’ retina of vertebrates; as Budelmann states, ‘The structure of the [cephalopod] retina is much simpler than in the vertebrate eye, with only two neural components, the receptor cells and efferent fibres’.[49] ….

    Finally, in their natural environment cephalopods are exposed to a much lower light intensity than are most vertebrates and they generally live only two or three years at the most. Nothing is known about the lifespan of the giant squid; in any case it is believed to frequent great depths at which there is little light.[52] Thus for cephalopods there is less need for protection against photic damage. Being differently designed for a different environment, the cephalopod eye can function well with a ‘verted’ retina.[53]

    It’s very easy to find reasons to say a design is not optimal. For example, one could say a truck is sub-optimal compared to a car because it’s fuel mileage is so low, thus Trucks evidence poor design…..

    I wouldn’t be so quick then to be accusing Design theorists of lacking integrity….

  109. Michael Denton’s area of scientific specialty is retinas. Are you so sure the octupus verted retinal eye’s architecture would work well in a vertebrate? Woud you trade your eyes in for an octopus? There are other constraints in addition to vascularization.

    But this is the major constraint cited by Denton, and if this is his area of expertise, then presumably he is making the strongest argument that he could come up with. Moreover, if retinas are indeed Denton’s area of expertise, then I can only conclude that he knew that the argument was invalid when he made it, and that he is being intentionally deceptive. This is, of course, what soured me on Creationism and ID. As a scientist, I can forgive somebody for being wrong. Indeed, there is a long scientific tradition of fruitful research being impelled by incorrect theories. What I cannot excuse is intellectual dishonesty.

    Here is an article by an Opthalmologist. I presume he would understand eyes pretty well:

    An ophthalmologist is a physician, not a basic scientist. Physicians typically know a lot about the treatment of disease and very little about the fundamental biology (I should know; I teach medical students). So when he makes the very same false arguments, which would be refuted by even a few minutes spent studying the actual anatomy of the octopus eye (which you’ll note is not included in any of the article’s several illustrations), it is quite possible that he is genuinely ignorant. Still, anybody with a shred of intellectual integrity would be expected to check before making such assertions.

  110. LoL! What was the alleged common ancestor of flies and mice? Did it even have HOX genes? Did it even have eyes?

    The hypothesized common ancestor of flies and mice is a long-extinct organism dubbed Urbilateria. It is presumed to have hox genes, which are even found in roundworms. Nobody knows if it had eyes.

  111. How on earth could chance evolution of land and water animals, a vertebrate and invertebrate, lead to such similarly constructed optical devices? I’ll tell you how. Because the information for how to build a camera eye was there before the first camera eye appeared. That’s how front-loading works.

    I agree. The information of how to build an eye is encoded in the fundamental laws of optics and chemistry, which dictate, for example, that a simple pinhole can function as a primitive lens, and that light sensitivity is a common feature of many organic molecules. Given the overwhelming selective advantage to even rudimentary light sensing, the early evolution of light-sensing cells, and the subsequent evolution of eyes of a variety of structures was clearly inevitable.

  112. trrll wrote:
    The information of how to build an eye is encoded in the fundamental laws of optics and chemistry, which dictate, for example, that a simple pinhole can function as a primitive lens, and that light sensitivity is a common feature of many organic molecules.

    That is incorrect. The laws of physics are informationally insufficient to encode the architecture of an eye. The architecture of the eye must account for the laws of physics, but there are aspects of the eye that transcend physical law (namely required boudnary conditions), therefore physics and chemistry cannot give information on how an eye is to be buuilt, it can only describe the general problems that must be overcome, not the solutions to those problems.

    Gregory Chaitin refutes that physical laws are sufficiently rich compared to biology.

    Given the overwhelming selective advantage to even rudimentary light sensing,

    Why do think a selective advantage will be available to be selected against in the first place? That is just an assertion. It hardly qualifies as theoretical or empirical fact.

  113. trrll argues:

    But this is the major constraint cited by Denton, and if this is his area of expertise, then presumably he is making the strongest argument that he could come up with. Moreover, if retinas are indeed Denton’s area of expertise, then I can only conclude that he knew that the argument was invalid when he made it, and that he is being intentionally deceptive. This is, of course, what soured me on Creationism and ID. As a scientist, I can forgive somebody for being wrong. Indeed, there is a long scientific tradition of fruitful research being impelled by incorrect theories. What I cannot excuse is intellectual dishonesty.

    Before you start swining around accusations of dishonesty, it would be honest to say that the simplest vertebrate eye (inverted retina) may have considerably more capacities than the most advanced cephalopod eye (non-inverted retina).

    The issue was not vascularization alone, but vascularization under the constraint of a considerably more complex sensory scheme. In that light, Denton hardly seems dishonest.

    For the readers benefit, see: Inverted Human Eye a Poor Design?

    Salvador

  114. trrll

    The laws of physics, according to your logic, must also encode slings and arrows which are far less complicated than camera eyes. I wonder why no animals are born with a built-in sling for a weapon? Actually I don’t wonder. That’s a rhetorical question. Do you feel any shame at all making up this stupid crap as you go along?

  115. The laws of physics, according to your logic, must also encode slings and arrows which are far less complicated than camera eyes. I wonder why no animals are born with a built-in sling for a weapon? Actually I don’t wonder. That’s a rhetorical question. Do you feel any shame at all making up this stupid crap as you go along?

    I’ve got a built-in sling. It’s called an arm, capable of slinging projectiles at speeds approaching 90 mph. It’s worth noting that humans sling projectiles than any other primate, and Calvin has plausibly suggested that improved throwing ability might have been one of the early selective advances driving growth of the protohuman brain.

  116. That is incorrect. The laws of physics are informationally insufficient to encode the architecture of an eye. The architecture of the eye must account for the laws of physics, but there are aspects of the eye that transcend physical law (namely required boudnary conditions), therefore physics and chemistry cannot give information on how an eye is to be buuilt, it can only describe the general problems that must be overcome, not the solutions to those problems.

    Gregory Chaitin refutes that physical laws are sufficiently rich compared to biology.

    You don’t understand Chaitin at all, do you? To begin with, nobody actually knows how many bits of information are required to specify the laws of physics, because we don’t have a complete physical theory. But even if we did, and the number of bits was relatively low, that does not mean that the laws of physics could not encode all of biology. From Chaitin’s perspective, the information content of biology is determined by its maximally compressed form. So there is no reason why the laws of physics cannot encode biology in a compressed form. Indeed, there is a simple, if inefficient algorithm for deriving the structure of the eye—and indeed all biological structures—from the laws of physics. Simply test every possible DNA sequence up to a plausible maximum length, from shortest to longer, and see if it encodes for a functioning eye. While this is too inefficient to do in practice, the very fact that the algorithm exists demonstrates that all possible biological structures are encoded in the laws of physics.

  117. trrll

    Your arm isn’t a sling. This is a sling. It has an effective range greater than 200 meters and can lob stones up to 500 grams at velocities exceeding 30 meters per second. That is enough force to bring down big game. But hey, at this point I’d pay cash money to see you try to prove the effectiveness of your arm as a sling by throwing stones at charging grizzly. :lol:

  118. Before you start swining around accusations of dishonesty, it would be honest to say that the simplest vertebrate eye (inverted retina) may have considerably more capacities than the most advanced cephalopod eye (non-inverted retina).

    So why, then, was Denton unable to make an honest case, instead citing features shared by both retinal designs as if they are advantages of the inverted retina? For example, he argues

    The pigment epithelium sheet consists of epithelial cells that produce organelles containing melanin granules. Since RPE cells are located between the choroid and the retina, they often are classified as part of the choroid instead of the retina. The melanin they contain functions to absorb stray light, preventing the reflection and scattering of light within the eyeball, and ensuring that the image cast on the retina by the cornea and lens remains sharp and clear.

    Another function of the pigment is to form an opaque screen behind the optical path of the photoreceptors. This light absorptive property of the pigment is critical to maintaining high visual acuity. Hewitt and Adler concluded that the diverse function of the retinal pigment epithelium cells “is essential for the normal functioning of the outer retina.”

    What he fails to mention is that the octopus retina has a pigment layer, with pigment granules located within the inner segments of the photoreceptor cells (i.e. behind the light-sensing part of the cell), as well as in support cells (which also provide the other functions of the vertebrate pigment epithelium). Here again, he manage by careful omission to give the false impression that a feature shared by both the octopus and the vertebrate retina is a unique advantage of the inverted retina.

  119. DaveScot: “Your arm isn’t a sling.

    The artificial sling you mention merely increases the length of the arm which by itself is more than capable of traversing an arc to build momentum before releasing the trajectile.

    The arm is a sling.

  120. No Zach, the arm is not a sling. This is a prime example of why biologists have a difficult time recognizing design. You can’t even distinguish the mechanical principles that separate an arm from a sling.

    A sling has a projectile that is rotated repeatedly about a pivot point with energy added on each rotation. A heavy projectile can thus be gradually accelerated so that its momentum becomes far greater than a human arm can impart in a single motion. A discus throw is analogous but a human being can’t spin his whole body either as rapidly or for as many rotations as he can a sling. But the principle is the same, the spin rate accelerates over multiple spins and with it the momentum in the discus.

    Thanks for playing but you should really leave the design issues to the experts in design and stick to rearranging the entries in the phylogenetic tree or whatever it is you goofballs do for a living.

  121. And by the way, a sling as described above is far less complicated than a camera eye, is a superior weapon that can kill large animals at great removes, can be constructed of organic components long available to evolution (skin and ligaments) with the exception of the projectiles which are stones found almost everywhere, and according to trrll’s ridiculous logic this device is “encoded in the laws of physics” so it’s available to evolution in a way that must be, because it is simpler, the same as the camera eye. So I ask again, why if this (and I can think of many more things that must be encoded in the laws of physics according to trrll) is encoded in the laws of physics don’t we see it employed as we see the camera eye employed? The answer is that the camera eye was part of the original front-loaded design of life and a force-multiplying sling was not.

    Thanks for playing trrll but you should stick to sticking needles in frogs too and leave the design stuff to people who know a little more about design than you do.

  122. Another example would be a blowgun with poison tipped darts. Again, these are less complex than a camera eye and can be constructed of biological components long available to evolution (poison, hollow bone, lung to provide gas pressure, sharp quills, feathers for flight stabilization). This is a terribly efficient weapon for a predator. Yet none have it except through intelligent design (spitting cobra is the closest thing I can think of but its range doesn’t come close to a blowgun’s and it’s just a liquid stream not a penetrating projectile). If these devices are encoded in the laws of physics then why is this simple and highly effective weapon not found on organisms possessing other things of a complexity that far, far outstrips a simple blowgun? Once again, it’s because RM+NS is inadequate to task of designing a simple blowgun. If a blowgun wasn’t in the original design library then it just doesn’t appear in nature.

  123. DaveScot: “A sling has a projectile that is rotated repeatedly about a pivot point with energy added on each rotation.

    Why do you try to argue with obvious points? There is no doubt that people can sling rocks or sling mud. The arm acts as a sling when a person uses the arc of the extended arm’s movement to build momentum in a projectile. The longer one’s arm, the more momentum can be built. It doesn’t require an artificial tool.

    sling
    http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/sling

    DaveScot: “A discus throw is analogous but a human being can’t spin his whole body either as rapidly or for as many rotations as he can a sling.

    And that’s another example of a natural sling. As the projectile is heavier, the person uses his entire body to impart the momentum by rotation.

  124. DaveScot: “Another example would be a blowgun with poison tipped darts.

    That some structures are only available to design and not to nature is actually expected. Evolution can’t create arbitrary structures, but has to work by a process of modifying existing structures.

    Nevertheless, some varieties of Cobras can spit jets of venom. Archer fish also spit to catch prey, though the spit is non-poisonous. There is a tube in the roof of its mouth which it closes with its tongue, and it can hit insects several feet above the water. I’m sure if you look, you’ll also find examples in the insect world.

    As far as vision, there are ample precursers to indicate why an eye might form by modification of simple photoactive chemistry and a simple focusing mechanism. Various light-sensing mechanisms are thought to have evolved independently several times in nature.

  125. Another example would be a blowgun with poison tipped darts.

    Nematocysts.

    If these devices are encoded in the laws of physics then why is this simple and highly effective weapon not found on organisms possessing other things of a complexity that far, far outstrips a simple blowgun? Once again, it’s because RM+NS is inadequate to task of designing a simple blowgun. If a blowgun wasn’t in the original design library then it just doesn’t appear in nature.

    Although the fact that we can in principle conceive of an exhaustive search through all the possible biological structures encoded by the laws of nature proves that all such structures are encoded within those laws, natural selection is a heuristic search rather than an exhaustive one. Because natural selection does not constitute an exhaustive search through the possible structures encoded in the laws of nature, not every conceivable structure will be found and implemented.

  126. A sling has a projectile that is rotated repeatedly about a pivot point with energy added on each rotation. A heavy projectile can thus be gradually accelerated so that its momentum becomes far greater than a human arm can impart in a single motion. A discus throw is analogous but a human being can’t spin his whole body either as rapidly or for as many rotations as he can a sling. But the principle is the same, the spin rate accelerates over multiple spins and with it the momentum in the discus.

    Actually, you can “wind up” for a throw by rotating your arm multiple times. It happens not to be the most efficient way to throw, but it works OK. Basically a sling simply extends the range of the arm, and enables throwing techniques that are not as efficient with a short arm. But an arm is a multiple-purpose device, not purely a throwing tool, so its design reflects optimization for multiple tasks.

  127. trrll:
    The hypothesized common ancestor of flies and mice is a long-extinct organism dubbed Urbilateria. It is presumed to have hox genes, which are even found in roundworms. Nobody knows if it had eyes.

    That’s the rub isn’t it? Of course it is presumbed to have HOX genes for the reason you posted earlier:

    Evolutionary theory prohibits separate origins for genes with such a high degree of similarity; the must have been present from a common ancestor.

    IOW we have NO idea. We also don’t have any idea whether any process can afford the changes required to get from Urbilateria to flies & mice. Nothing but speculation under the assumption such changes did occur.

    trrll:
    Nematocysts.

    Yup a great intelligent design for defense and hunting on an otherwise “simple” organism.

  128. trrll: “Nobody knows if [Urbilateria] had eyes.

    Reconstructing the eyes of Urbilateria

  129. trrll: “Nobody knows [Urbilateria] had eyes.

    Reconstructing the eyes of Urbilateria

  130. trrll: Nematocysts.

    Joseph: “Yup a great intelligent design for defense and hunting on an otherwise ‘simple’ organism.

    The question was to provide an example of a poison dart in biology. Gelatinous zooplankton are not normally considered intelligent.

  131. trrll

    Arms are not slings. Nematocysts are not blowguns. And I’ve grown weary of your silly replies. Adios.

  132. DaveScot: “Arms are not slings.

    People sling mud. You must be using a special, private definition.

  133. One last reply trrll. According to your logic EVERYTHING physically possible is encoded in the laws of physics. Therefore this encoding explains everything. And thus explains nothing. Have a nice life.

  134. zach

    You’re banned here. I’m sure by me a long time ago. I unspammed a couple of your comments because they were interesting. Most of them are stupid which is of course why you were banned. I’m allowing one last stupid one through for an example.

    You said: “People sling mud. You must be using a special, private definition.”

    No Zach. I’m using a sling as a weapon and I already provided a link to it which I’ll do again:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sling_(weapon)

    Anyone who doesn’t recognize that an arm isn’t a sling after I was kind enough to provide an encyclopedia article describing a sling quite frankly shouldn’t be cluttering up our blog and wasting our time arguing with you. There are smarter foes to engage. Don’t expect any more of your comments to appear so stop wasting your time. I see there’s about a dozen of them in the sandbox.

  135. IOW we have NO idea. We also don’t have any idea whether any process can afford the changes required to get from Urbilateria to flies & mice. Nothing but speculation under the assumption such changes did occur.

    Speculation that results in testable hypotheses that have already led to major discoveries about genes that regulate development. This is how a genuine scientific theory expands knowledge–not by explaining everything all at once, but by providing a basis for discovery. The best criterion whether an idea constitutes a scientific theory is that scientists using the theory to guide their work produce a continuing stream of discoveries.

  136. One last reply trrll. According to your logic EVERYTHING physically possible is encoded in the laws of physics. Therefore this encoding explains everything. And thus explains nothing.

    Of course, by definition, everything physically possible is encoded in the laws of physics. It is the ultimate front-loading.

  137. The discussion so far has been good.

    It think the original topic of Blyth has been explored well, and the subsequent discussion of other topics has been interesting. I’m giving the giving the green light now for you all to take the conversation wherever you all would like it to go within bounds of civil discourse.

    Thank you all for your participation.

  138. trrll,
    I appreciate the thought in most of your comments, but this idea that everything physically possible is encoded in the laws of physics must depend upon some imaginary definition of “encoded”.
    You seem to me to be ignoring the difference between necessary conditions and sufficient conditions.

    An ice sculpture is certainly physically possible, and it is certainly dependent upon the laws of physics, but without begging the question of mind reduced to physics how can you possibly say that the ice sculpture was coded for by the laws of physics?

  139. Sal,
    The Blyth issue was taken up on Dr. Dembski’s “Some of My Favourite Darwinist Quotes” post when Poul (http://evilution-is-good-for-y.....fairy.html) introduced the same idea there that he did here.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ment-56764

    Although it died here we are still kicking it around on that thread.

  140. Zachriel,

    Even though I found this argument over arms and slings to be rediculous I let the relevant comments through (whether other mods did the same I have no idea). And I\’m not surprised Dave is giving up…

  141. trrll:
    Speculation that results in testable hypotheses that have already led to major discoveries about genes that regulate development.

    And again regulating development is not the same as determining it.

    trrll:
    This is how a genuine scientific theory expands knowledge–not by explaining everything all at once, but by providing a basis for discovery.

    Have you read “The Privileged Planet”? It provides a basis for future discoveries.

    and even though he can’t respond:

    Zachriel:
    As far as vision, there are ample precursers to indicate why an eye might form by modification of simple photoactive chemistry and a simple focusing mechanism.

    Reality demonstrates that we have no idea how or why an eye might form. However it is very telling that you use the very typical MO of trying to simplify the issue. Too bad we know that vision systems are not simple at all…

  142. DaveScot: “A sling has a projectile that is rotated repeatedly about a pivot point with energy added on each rotation.”

    once again, DaveScot quotes a wikipedia article which he obviously hasn’t read all the way throught and directly contradicts him:

    “How to sling

    For a conventional throw, one does not make multiple rotations of the sling, a proper slinging action requires just one rapid rotation. The more times you swing it, the less likely you’ll hit anything.

    (Some slingers will rotate the sling slowly once or twice to seat the projectile in the cradle.)

  143. [...] Natural Selection was pioneered by the creationist Blyth, and Darwin later plagiarized Blyth’s work and published his own corrupt variation of Blyth’s ideas. (See: Was Blyth the True Scientist and Darwin merely a plagiarist and charlatan). [...]

  144. [...] Natural Selection was pioneered by the creationist Blyth, and Darwin later plagiarized Blyth’s work and published his own corrupt variation of Blyth’s ideas. (See: Was Blyth the True Scientist and Darwin merely a plagiarist and charlatan). [...]

  145. [...] Was Blyth True Scientist and Darwin Merely a Plagiarist and Charlatan [...]

  146. [...] Was Blyth True Scientist and Darwin Merely a Plagiarist and Charlatan [...]

  147. […] The ID friendly version of Natural Selection was pioneered by the creationist Blyth. I argued that there is credible evidence that Darwin plagiarized and distorted Blyth. […]

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