Darwin Deleted: Imagining a World without Darwin
by Peter J. Bowler
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
In this book, (Bowler 2013) Darwin Deleted: Imagining a World without Darwin, Professor Bowler - Professor emeritus of the history of science at Queens University Belfast - creates a counterfactual history of how things might have turned out had Darwin died aboard the Beagle and never written about natural selection.
His book is well written and entertaining once you get beyond the necessarily very thorough caveats about the usefulness of thinking counter-factually in the introduction. However, it contains significant and unforgivable errors. That I am no Darwinist and no science historian and yet the fact that I know them to be 100% erroneous does not bode well for Bowler or Chicago University Press and it's so-called "expert" peer review system!
A book such as Bowler's takes a lot of work - blood sweat tears and even bone marrow - but his credulous parroting of the Darwinian myth that Matthew's published discovery of natural selection did not reach the brains of either Darwin or Wallace is his utter downfall. An error of fact that, unfortunately, makes his entire book a fool's errand. All is not lost of course. He could bring out a second edition with Patrick Matthew as the protagonist.
In this review, I prove my point. On which note, what follows is a brief presentation of Bowler's errors and the published evidence in the literature that proves him to be 100 per cent wrong.
Error of fact 1:
On page 54 Bowler (2013) writes of Patrick Matthew:
`Patrick Matthew may well have stated the idea of natural selection as early as 1831, but he did nothing to explore its implications or to persuade his readers that it had the potential to revolutionize biology. His contribution is worth noting, but to suggest that is provides the basis for dismissing Darwin as the true founder of the theory is to misunderstand the whole process of how scientific revolution happens.'
In point of disconfirming fact for Bowler's argument:
Other great discoverers, such as Mendel, Fleming, and Higgs, did not take their ideas forward, but others did. The main issue, therefore, in the story of Matthew, Darwin and Wallace is simply to determine whether or not Matthew influenced Darwin or Wallace. Focusing upon that question, we do know that Matthew fully articulated his discovery of natural selection in a publication 27 years before Darwin and Wallace (1858) replicated it. And we know that both Darwin (1859) and Wallace claimed to have also discovered natural selection independently of one another (Darwin and Wallace 1858). Darwin (1860 and 1861) specifically claimed no-prior knowledge of Matthew's discovery and Wallace (1871; 1905) less specifically, simply claimed to have discovered it independently.
We now know (see Sutton 2014) that Loudon (1832), Selby (1842) and Chambers (1832) each cited Matthew's book before being at the epicentre of influence and facilitation of Darwin's and Wallace' published work on evolution. That fact alone proves that Matthew in fact did influence others of the importance of his discovery. And those others - via 'knowledge contamination' - must most surely have influenced both Darwin and Wallace.
So Nullius in Verba Charles Darwin! Because other naturalists who influenced you actually cited Matthew's book pre-1858!
(1) Loudon edited and published Blyth's (1835 and 1836) hugely influential papers on evolution - papers which Bowler mentions as having stated several key concepts of natural selection. And Darwin (1861) freely admitted the great contribution Blyth made to his own thinking on the topic.
(2) Chambers (1832) cited Matthew's book and then went on (Chambers 1844) to publish the Vestiges of Creation - a book which Both Wallace and Darwin admitted was a great influence on thinking about natural selection and organic evolution in general.
(3) Selby (1842) cited Matthews book many times and commented upon his key natural selection notion of power of occupancy. And Selby edited and published Wallace's (1855) famous Sarawak paper - which contained many examples of key natural selection ideas. Darwin also read that paper pre-1858.
That three of only seven naturalists, newly discovered to have cited Matthew's book in the literature, should have played such essential roles in influencing, editing and publishing the work of Darwin and Wallace proves beyond all reasonable doubt that Matthew did persuade his readers that natural selection had the potential to revolutionize biology. Bowler is proven wrong, because under the very criteria that Darwinists such as Bowler specifically created to exclude Matthew from his rightful place as an immortal great thinker of science, the new discovery of his certain indirect influence upon Darwin and Wallace, means that as both first discoverer and proven influencer Matthew now has full and complete priority over Darwin and Wallace for the discovery of natural selection. Perhaps Darwinists would now like to exercise their right to cognitive dissonance and invent some new `bury the Scot' criteria to protect their namesake from being knocked off the pedestal he fought to so hard for them to put him on?
Error of fact 2
On page 31 Bowler writes that Wallace missed the key element of using artificial selection to explain natural selection.
Bowler (2013, p. 31):
`Alfred Russel Wallace also conceived a basic idea of natural selection, although we shall see that he understood its implications rather differently. Wallace also missed key elements of the case Darwin presented, most obviously the analogy between artificial and natural selection.'
However, Bowler very conveniently fails to mention that Eiseley (1979, pp.71-73) believed Darwin plagiarised Matthew's (1831) prior use of the analogy of artificial selection to explain natural selection and even replicated a specific example of trees raised in nurseries in his unpublished essay of 1844.
Bowler has penned another absolute fallacy by telling us that Wallace did not deploy the artificial selection analogy. Because in his own Linnean Society paper, Wallace (see Darwin and Wallace 1858), whilst specimen hunting in the jungles of the Far East, in actual fact, does incredibly replicate Matthew's prior- discovery that artificial selection is the key to explaining natural selection. Wallace (1858) wrote:
`...those that prolong their existence can only be the most perfect in health and vigour - those who are best able to obtain food regularly, and avoid their numerous enemies. It is, as we commenced by remarking, "a struggle for existence," in which the weakest and least perfectly organized must always succumb.' [And]: `We see, then, that no inferences as to varieties in a state of nature can be deduced from the observation of those occurring among domestic animals. The two are so much opposed to each other in every circumstance of their existence, that what applies to the one is almost sure not to apply to the other. Domestic animals are abnormal, irregular, artificial; they are subject to varieties which never occur and never can occur in a state of nature: their very existence depends altogether on human care; so far are many of them removed from that just proportion of faculties, that true balance of organization, by means of which alone an animal left to its own resources can preserve its existence and continue its race.'
By failing to discover who Matthew influenced, who in turn must have influenced Darwin and Wallace, Bowler's (2013) entire book is a fool's errand because it is based on the false premise that Darwin and Wallace were independent discoverers of natural selection. To compound that dysology Bowler, creates the fallacy that Wallace did not replicate Matthew's prior use of artificial selection as an analogy to explain natural selection. Bowler's deploys that specific fallacy to make the case that Darwin was an original thinker. Clearly, the hard facts prove that nothing could be further from the truth. Because both Darwin and Wallace both audaciously replicated Matthew's use of artificial selection.
Here is just one example, of many, that Matthew (1831) wrote in the main body of his book on this issue:
`Man's interference, by preventing this natural process of selection among plants, independent of the wider range of circumstances to which he introduces them, has increased the differences in varieties particularly in the more domesticated kinds...'
In his unpublished essay of 1844, Darwin wrote:
`In the case of forest trees raised in nurseries, which vary more than the same trees do in their aboriginal forests, the cause would seem to lie in their not having to struggle against other trees and weeds, which in their natural state doubtless would limit the conditions of their existence...'
We should not actually be in the least bit surprised to find Wallace replicating Matthew's artificial selection analogy to explain his discovery, because Selby, the editor and publisher of Wallace's (1855) Sarawak paper, cited Matthew's book many times in his own book on forest trees (Selby 1842), which is an irrefutable case of Matthewian knowledge contamination of Wallace's pre-Origin work. I made that particular discovery in 2013. It was completely undetected by anyone until I published it in (Sutton 2014). So much then for Bowler's uncritical parroting of the Darwinist myth that Matthew never influenced anyone with his discovery.
Error of fact 3: Bowler Deploys Darwin's sly Appendix Myth
Darwin knew full well that Matthew's unique ideas were in both the main body of his book and in its Appendix. Indeed he wrote to his friend Joseph Hooker admitting as much (Darwin 1860b). Yet still Darwin went on to lie (Darwin 1861) that Matthew's ideas were brief and buried in his book's appendix as an excuse for not having read them and for his fallacious claim that those ideas went unnoticed pre-Origin of Species. Bowler merely parrots Darwin's great lie, flying in the face of the fact that Matthew's ideas run throughout the book where they take up many pages - including Matthew's artificial selection analogy, and the unique name for his discovery. Indeed, as outlined above; the very artificial selection analogy that Bowler (2013 - pp. 56-58) admits Matthew used is in the main body of his book - not its appendix.
See Sutton 2014 for hard proof of how page after page of Matthew's (1831) text on natural selection is in the main body of his book.
Another Darwinian Myth in the Making
In the weird unscholarly Darwinist tradition of writing that you are personally naming or calling something, when it has already been thus named by others, Bowler gives the false impression that he is uniquely coining his own term and its concept (see my blog on Richard Dawkins doing the exact same thing). In this case, Bowler (2013, p 139) writes:
'The formalist perspective encouraged a more structured progressionism that I call "developmentalism". '
But Bowler never coined the term developmentalism, because its been used by natural scientists since 1869. For example, see the Anthropological Review (1869, p.ixxxix):
`He dissented from developmentalism, we believe decidedly it has been said by Professor Welcker that although he was sceptical upon the descendance hypothesis he reserved himself expectant but the readers of the well argued exposition of his views entitled. Some Remarks on the Succession and Development of Animal Organisation on the surface of our globe, in the different periods of its existence, would rather conclude that he had decided against developmentalism after careful and thorough investigation.'
By giving such a powerfully false impression that he has coined the term "developmentalism", Bowler engages in exactly the same type of Darwinist dysology that led so many Darwinists to go into print with their erroneous beliefs that Darwin coined the term and concept `natural selection' and that Richard Dawkins coined the terms and concepts of the `selfish gene' and, most ironically, `replicator'. Of course, Darwin and Dawkins did no such thing. But, just like Bowler in 'Darwin Deleted', they sure as hell gave the self-serving impression that they are being original by naming terms and ideas that are, in fact, pre-named and pre-owned.
Discussion and conclusions
Bowler's weird error of fact, in claiming that Wallace, pre-1858, did not use the artificial selection analogy first used by Matthew to explain natural selection, led him ultimately to draw the 100 per cent wrong conclusion to crucially inform his ultimate prediction about what would have happened had Darwin drowned pre-Origin (Bowler 2013, p170):
`Wallace would not have used the analogy between natural and artificial selection...'
Surely this amazingly massive error, and the failure of any Darwinist to spot it before I, is further evidence that leading Darwinists are suffering from dreadful bias when it comes to assessing the orignality of their namesake?
That Bowler's book passed peer review, and has been highly praised by fellow biologists and science historians, is indicative of a widespread and very deep-seated scientific monopoly on 'knowledge' that is facilitated by conflict of interest when it comes to judging who has priority for the discovery of natural selection. Failing to apply the scientific principle of nullius in verba (on the word alone of no one), it seems that Darwinists have been unable to see that their namesake is only their namesake due to their own failure to investigate Darwin's (1861) impudent claim that Matthew's ideas went unnoticed until he called Darwin's attention to them in 1860.
If Darwinists refuse to accept now that they are named after the wrong scientist, then we should not be surprised. It is important to understand that those calling themselves a Darwinist will have a colossal conflict of interest when it comes to judging whether someone not called Darwin should have priority over their hero for the very idea that made him famously their namesake. In light of the new discovery, that Matthew did influence Darwin and Wallace pre-1858, we should expect Darwinists to experience cognitive dissonance and set about making a number of implausible arguments along the lines that Matthewian knowledge contamination from Loudon, Chambers and Selby cannot be 100 per cent proven to have occurred. Failing that, we should expect them to create a new made-for Matthew excuse to deny his priority. Perhaps Darwinists will now newly create a third criteria for priority? Perhaps they will argue next that it is not the originator who influenced others to take a discovery forward that has priority for a discovery but whoever more famously convinced the wider world of the veracity of that discovery? After all that is exactly what appears to have happened by default in the case of Richard Dawkins and the 'selfish gene' and - with exquisite backside biting irony - the 'selfish replicator' (see Sutton 2013).
The Darwinist Bowler is very far from alone in creating his own and spreading old fallacies, lies and myths to keep Patrick Matthew buried in relative obscurity. One cannot help wondering, how Professor Bowler - an expert historian of science - could have unwittingly made so many glaring factual errors? More so, his book is published by the prestigious University of Chicago Press, which means that it will have undergone expert peer review. How could the reviewers possibly fail to spot those obvious errors of fact? Surely it cannot be because they serve to perpetuate the myth that Darwin and Wallace each discovered natural selection independently of Matthew, can it?
Bowler's 2013 dysology sits among many other examples, by other authors, publishing with prestigious scientific publishers, which confirms the Dysology Hypothesis that poor scholarship facilitates and encourages others to get away with publishing further poor scholarship. Moreover, it is yet another example from a long list of scientific publications, by major science publishers, which are written by Darwinists who have, since 1860, managed to contain the threat of Patrick Matthew by publishing numerous downright fallacies, lies and myths.
The Anthropological Review (1869) Volume 7.
Bowler, P. J. (2013) Darwin Deleted: Imagining a World without Darwin. Chicago. University of Chicago Press.
Blyth, E. 1835. An attempt to classify the "varieties" of animals. The Magazine of Natural History. (8) (1), Parts 1-2.
Blyth, E. 1836. Observations on the various seasonal and other external Changes which regularly take place in Birds more particularly in those which occur in Britain; with Remarks on their great Importance in indicating the true Affinities of Species; and upon the Natural System of Arrangement. The Magazine of Natural History: Volume 9. p. 393 - 409.
Chambers, R. 1832. Chambers's Edinburgh Journal. William Orr. Saturday March 24th p. 63.
Chambers, R. 1844. Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. New York. Wiley and Putnum. (published anonymously).
Darwin, C. R. and Wallace, A. R. (1858) On the tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection. Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnaean Society of London.
Darwin, C. R. (1860a) Natural selection. Gardeners' Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette no. 16 (21 April): 362-363.(This is Darwin's letter in response to Matthew's in the Gardeners Chronicle where Darwin clearly indicates he had no prior knowledge of Matthew's book).
Darwin, C. (1860b) Letter to Hooker. 13th April. Darwin Correspondence Project. Darwin Correspondence Database.
Darwin, C. R. (1861) On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. (Third Edition) London. John Murray.
Eiseley, L. (1979) Darwin and the Mysterious Mr X: New Light on the Evolutionists. New York. E. P. Dutton.
Loudon, J.C. 1832. Matthew Patrick On Naval Timber and Arboriculture with Critical Notes on Authors who have recently treated the Subject of Planting. Gardener's Magazine. Vol. VIII. p.703.
Matthew, P (1831) On Naval Timber and Arboriculture; With a critical note on authors who have recently treated the subject of planting. Edinburgh. Adam Black. [...]
Selby, P. J. (1842) A history of British forest-trees: indigenous and introduced. London. Van Voorst.
Sutton, M. (2013)The Selfish Gene Myth is Bust: Richard Dawkins is an Invented Originator. BestThinking.com
Sutton, M. (2014) Internet Dating with Darwin: New Discovery that Darwin and Wallace were Influenced by Matthew's Prior-Discovery. BestThinking.com
Wallace, A. R. 1855. On the law which has regulated the introduction of new species. The Annals and Magazine of Natural History. Series 2. 16. 184-196
Wallace, A. R. (1871) Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection. A Series of Essays. New York. Macmillan and Co.
Wallace, A. R. (1905) My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions, Volume 1. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. Note: Taken here from digitally printed version (2011), Cambridge University Press.
View all my reviews