Thursday, July 22, 2010

More on the Darwin - Alfred Russel Wallace Controversy

Extracts from a current paper on the Darwin - Wallace Controversy.

"Though Darwin never acknowledged the Sarawak Law paper [1855], a graduate student, Lewis McKinney (1966) found a copy of it in his collected papers. It had been heavily annotated by Darwin who had obviously recognized its importance....

* * *

"... This completed Wallace’s theory of evolution; he wrote it out and posted it to Darwin from the island of Ternate on 9 March [1858] when the first available ship arrived. McKinney (1966) has drawn attention to another letter, which still exists, and was sent by Wallace on the same boat, on the same day, to Frederick Bates (figure 3). The letter corroborates the dates of posting; it carries the cancellation marks for the various stages of its journey from Ternate and arrived in the Leicester post office for delivery on 3 June.

"The letter to Darwin should therefore have been delivered on the same day or very soon after, but he claimed not to have received it until 18 June. The fact that he had, in the meantime, written to Hooker on 8 June to say that he had finally solved the frustrating problem of how species diverged in nature, looks a little suspicious in these circumstances.

* * *

"That Wallace almost certainly solved the problem of divergence before Darwin did is, perhaps, not surprising. Wallace had much the greater experience in the field of biogeography, which was so fundamental to unravelling the relationships between species. But, even more importantly, he had the advantage that, unlike Darwin, he was looking actively for evidence of evolution while in the field, and
could therefore tailor his data collection appropriately.

* * *

It appears [i.e., it's not proven] that Wallace's contributions enabled Darwin to overcome his conceptual logjams and provided him with some key insights that were integral to his theory as finally published subsequent to Wallace's published papers and letters to Darwin.  Darwin finally acknowledged Wallace, but not in the first edition of the Origin, and not in its second.

Extracted from J. Biosci. 35(3), September 2010 ePublication: 30 June 2010


Anonymous said...

This paper seems somewhat muddled. For instance in discussing events of the 1950s it states "Darwin later credited the writings of Malthus as the clue he needed to discover natural selection", when in fact Darwin credited Malthus as early as 1942 (in an essay discussing natural selection).

The paper's support for its assertion that "Wallace almost certainly solved the problem of divergence before Darwin did" is confused.

It cites "his 1857 letter to Asa Gray", but Darwin wrote 7 letters to Gray in that year. He claims this letter was where Darwin "first propounded the principle of divergence with modification", but in which letter, and given Lloyd's apparent unfamiliarity with Darwin's writings (Malthus and failure to specify which 1857 letter), should we trust his claim that this is the "first"?

Further, the claim that Darwin's principle of divergence derives from Wallace's (which the paper provides no explicit evidence of) is disputed, e.g. by Soshichi Uchii ( ).

Both Lloyd and Davis appear to emphasise the chronology of the writings of Darwin, and those he is purported to have plagiarised, to the virtual exclusion of the contents of these writings (which would allow us to compare similarities of ideas).

RkBall said...

xn-etc. You are good, man. I'm knockin' 100 years off your first two dates.

"which letter" -- the one alluded to by Davies.

"this is the first" -- If this is the one where Darwin made a copy to keep for himself, then this is undoubtedly "the first" -- Davies believes Darwin made the copy to help secure his priority - he subsequently wrote to Gray to "remind" him of the letter he sent him.

"contents" Davies throughout his work emphasizes that Darwin's writings up to the time of receiving the letters from Wallace were heading in quite a different direction. This is a theme.

There should be a Wallace vs. Darwin site. People could duke it out. You could head it up.

P@J said...

what is the point, Ball?

You seem to have moved from arguing that Darwin's ideas were false to argung that his ideas were not original.

Are hoping by knocking down his character, you case dispersion on his ideas? Is this just an extended ad hominem?

RkBall said...

I never argued for anything. I just posted a link and posed some questions. It's an interesting controversy.

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