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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Darwinism: Latest installment of the Darwin legend

Australia's Hiram Caton writes to say,

Hello Denyse!

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

Synopsis of the Legend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[indispensable reading follows:]

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

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

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

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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