Monday, July 19, 2010

The Darwin Conspiracy: "I am convinced..."

"I am convinced that Charles Darwin – British national hero, hailed as the greatest naturalist the world has ever known, the originator of one of the greatest ideas of the nineteenth century – lied, cheated and plagiarised in order to be recognised as the man who discovered the theory of evolution." -- Roy Davies, The Darwin Conspiracy.

Did Charles Darwin rely on the daringly original thinking of Alfred Russel Wallace? Did Darwin take steps to hide Wallace's influence and thus assure his own priority? Was British class prejudice -- gentleman vs. "fly-catcher" -- at work?  Did Darwin even have a single original idea, or were all his ideas -- including that of "natural selection" cribbed?

This book reads like a well-written mystery -- there's even a Colombo in it -- and is a great free introduction to the background to the Origin of Species.

Free e-book version available here.


The_Iceman said...

And the catholic church protects child molesters.

Blame Crash said...

Two wrongs don't make a right, now do they.

Or maybe we could say " the new boss, same as the old boss"

xn--hrfn-woa said...

Another vapid conspiracy theory

"Your page-one article "Alfred Russel Wallace's Fans Gear Up for a Darwinian Struggle" (Dec. 20) fails to mention a couple of obvious problems for those who allege that Charles Darwin stole any of his key insights from Mr. Wallace.

First, those insights can be found in notebooks dating to 1838, and a preliminary draft of "On the Origin of Species" was completed in 1844, twelve years before Messrs. Darwin and Wallace began corresponding. Second, scholars who have carefully compared their joint publications of 1858 are struck by how very different the two theories are, given Mr. Darwin's initial reaction to the essay Mr. Wallace sent him.

A good place to start, if one is serious about this topic, is an essay published in 1985 by Malcolm Jay Kottler "Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace: Two Decades of Debate Over Natural Selection." Mr. Kottler points out that by Mr. Wallace's own admission Mr. Darwin's journal from the HMS Beagle, published in 1842, was a constant inspiration and may have led him to read Thomas Malthus's "Essay on Population," the work that gave Mr. Darwin a key to the puzzle of natural selection in 1838, and to Mr. Wallace, 20 years later.

Work such as this, rather than the allegations of a former BBC producer and a lawyer, will help interested readers understand the complicated relationship between these two great naturalists."

-- James G. Lennox, Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh

RkBall said...

The e-book provides powerful forensic evidence that Darwin backdated his notes, or, maybe to be charitable, we should say, "updated".

xn--hrfn-woa said...


The e-book provides amateur reinterpretation of others' work to manufacture its conspiracy.

I have yet to find any evidence that any of the sources Davis cites reach the conclusions he imputes to them (but will continue looking).

xn--hrfn-woa said...

Incidentally, skimming through TDC, I can find no evidence that Davis claims that Darwin "backdated" or "updated" his (extremely voluminous) notes. Davis' thesis appears to be more that Darwin borrowed ideas from others in refining his theory. To some extent this is correct, but Davis appears to exaggerate the degree to which this was a factor well beyond what his cited sources claim.

RkBall said...

I'll try to track it down and post here.

RkBall said...

"All the original pages of the manuscript had been written on a grey wove paper, but the two long interpolations Darwin had added in June 1858 had been written on a bluish grey paper with only two grey wove original pages surviving. The additions were obvious."

This is one example of Darwin adding to his manuscript only after a key insight has been offered by Wallace. Chapter 25 of the book.

RkBall said...

Darwin’s copy of Wallace’s Sarawak paper on divergence is annotated (by Darwin). Davies interpreted this as evidence of Darwin’s awareness and of Wallace’s ideas, and the priority of Wallace's thinking to Darwin's.

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"