PDF Darwins Puzzle - Unravelling the riddle of reason

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As Thomas Kuhn and others have demonstrated, the history of science is not an asymptotic curve of stately progress toward Truth and the unfolding of the shroud covering Reality. Rather, it consists of long periods of paradigmatic status quo, occasionally interrupted by shifts in the shared cognitive structure, resulting in a new and different way of interpreting nature.


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Because of the contingent nature of history, no two paradigms or paradigm shifts are ever the same. The history of the independent discovery of natural selection by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace, and the resolution of the ensuing priority dispute, provides a case study in the scientific process and the interactive nature of contingency and necessity in history.

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The question some raise, however, is this: should Wallace be given even more credit? If Wallace had my manuscript sketch written out in , he could not have made a better short extract! Even his terms now stand as heads of my chapters. Motive, of course, is virtually impossible to prove, but the chronological sequence can be analyzed.

The strongest associative evidence is another letter sent by Wallace to Frederick Bates, the younger brother of his naturalist colleague and Amazon companion Henry Walter Bates. The letter is assumed to have beeen sent the same day, March 9, and appeared in London on June 3. The clearly-dated, post-marked letter no envelope — the letter itself was addressed and post-marked , is in possession of the grandson Alfred John Russel Wallace.

Wallace, with a working-class mentality, deferred to his superior Brackman, pp. Brackman concludes:. No matter how heinous is a conspiracy, the participants — especially if it is successful — are apt to develop a plausible rationale for gilding it.

Flight of Fancy

The message was clear: Lyell and Hooker bore historical responsibility for the cover-up. In this instance, he appeared helpless, informed powerful friends of his impending doom, pointed subtly in the direction of a solution, let his friends solve the problem by dubious means, and went along with the solution — claiming it, of course, as theirs p. Any time there is a question of scientific priority the situation could be nothing but delicate.

But the respect and deference shown by both Darwin and Wallace toward each other provides us with evidence that though the arrangement may have been a delicate one, it was worked out between the two men in a gentlemanly way. In a letter dated January 25, , for example, Darwin wrote to Wallace:. I owe indirectly much to you and them [Lyell and Hooker] for I almost think that Lyell would have proved right and I should never have completed my larger work, for I have found my abstract hard enough with more poor health. Everyone whom I have seen has thought your paper very well written and interesting.

It puts my extracts written in , now just twenty years ago!


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  6. Wallace was equally generous in his accreditation to Darwin, as this passage from a letter written on May 29, , shows:. You are always so ready to appreciate what others do and especially to over-estimate my desultory efforts, that I can not be surprised at your very kind and flattering remarks on my paper. I am glad however that you have made a few critical observations and am only sorry you were not well enough to make more, as that enables me to say a few words in explanation pp.

    The deliberate cutting up of letters, manuscripts, notes, and various forms of correspondence by Darwin was his regular, rather disjointed method of organizing his major publishing projects. When one requests the original manuscript for the Descent of Man at the Cambridge Library, for example, one receives a box filled with clippings, snippets, notes cribbed on the backs of envelopes, and the like. Darwin collected these and labeled them as to their source, date of receipt, the chapter into which they would fit, etc.

    The above letter clipping from Wallace to Darwin, and labeled by Darwin, fits this pattern.

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    But it leaves one to wonder what plan Wallace was working on that he had already written part of, since the essay was composed in the course of two nights in late February, a full five months after this letter to Darwin. Did his feverish discovery overturn the ideas he was developing in this plan? If not, what happened to this manuscript?

    If so, then why did Wallace not expand the essay into a longer book-length manuscript? To persons who have not thought much on the subject I fear my paper on the succession of species [the Sarawak Law of ] will not appear so clear as it does to you. That paper is, of course, only the announcement of the theory, not its development. Here a plausible scenario presents itself. Lacking further supportive evidence for a mechanism to drive evolutionary change, coupled to the fact that he perceived his paper to be largely ignored by the scientific community, Wallace continued about his business of naturalist in relative anonymity, but never abandoned his ultimate quest to understand the origin of species.

    What is a Limerick and how do I write one?

    Wallace, in no position either logistically in his travels, or scientifically in his research to complete a work thorough enough to be received positively, decided to sit back and wait to see what Darwin would produce. The September 27, , clipping indicates that, if anything, Darwin should have been a little chagrined instead of surprised, having already been warned by Lyell that he should publish.

    Darwin, , p.


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    5. His hand forced by Wallace in , Darwin found a solution to his apparent dilemma i. With the primary evidence missing in this historical mystery, we can only speculate on what really happened at Down. The extreme interpretation of a conspiratorial cover-up is not supported by the evidence. But the analysis is inconsistent.

      Receipt on May 18 would leave 25 days for completion of those folios [on divergence] by June 12 [the date Darwin noted his thoughts on divergence in the manuscript]; May 28—29 would leave scarcely two weeks. Conspiratorial historicism makes the pen move too quickly. But even worse, Brooks assumes the Wallace-Bates letter that arrived in London and post-marked June 3, was in the same batch as the Wallace-Darwin letter and essay.

      This is not a historical fact, but an inference, but even if true, this makes both May dates impossible, and, assuming Darwin did not lie in the letter to Lyell about the arrival of the Wallace material on the same day the 18th , then the arrival date must be June, not May. McKinney has consistency problems as well. So which is it? Either the Bates letter is damning evidence, or it is not.

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      Brooks and McKinney cannot have it both ways. Either way, to accuse one of the greatest scientists in history of committing one of the most heinous crimes in science on one of the most important aspects of his theory, one better have compelling evidence. Modern skeptics are fond of saying that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. These claims against Darwin are truly extraordinary but the evidence is not. If Darwin had cribbed divergence from Wallace, they why submit this older version?

      And why was divergence listed in the table of contents for Natural Selection in March, ? And how could he have explained divergence to Asa Gray, almost a year before the Wallace essay? In Darwin was knee deep in producing a massive, multi-volume work entitled Natural Selection. Next page. Unlimited One-Day Delivery and more. There's a problem loading this menu at the moment.

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