Refutation @ Stake

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Hi, hope you’re keeping well. Here’s a fleeting update to keep you in the proverbial loop,

  1. I’ve been working flat out on a refutation of a ludicrously silly accusation that Darwin and Wallace were plagiarists. It’s a repetitive occurrence arising out of some people’s refusal to make the effort to engage in research properly. To study science history, you’ve got to assess your findings in the perspective of the period, not modern day. Therefore, stumbling upon various versions of natural selection, a) wasn’t unusual in Victorian times, and, b)  is nothing new now. The development of evolutionary theory is very well studied and there are very good reasons for Darwin and Wallace to be held in higher esteem than all others. Most people will accept being corrected and welcome being directed towards a good text on historical research. Not this time alas. Ego and ignorance is a potent mix, so I’m making sure I’ve got every aspect covered. It’s quite a good read in places, even though I say so myself, so it will be going out in some form sometime soon, and there are definitely some passages that will end up in The DISSENT OF MAN. Speaking of which…
  2. Funding has well and truly stalled on the book. We're at 68% and have been for a few weeks. Don't panic though, we will make it, and I am eternally grateful for your support and patience. This would not happen without each and every one of you. And me. We're a team. As a team, can I ask for a bit of back up on the wing, please? A few nudges of friends and family to get a few more pledges would be wonderful. Please. Thank you.  
  3. Researching the plagiarism case, my reading trail bumped into the lovely Darwin caricature, below, by the rather excellent David Levine . It’s near the beginning of Chapter 3: Misserving Memory in Stephen Jay Gould’s 1987 An Urchin in the Storm: Essays About Books and Ideas, which you can tell from The DISSENT OF MAN is a rich and intoxicating mixture.
  4. Heady too, in the cognitive science of religion sense, because that is what I really can’t wait to get into print and tell you about all the fantastically exciting breakthroughs in our comprehension of how our brains work, and where our innate spirituality fits in. It’s the most cutting edge field, drawing upon evolutionary theory, evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, philosophy of science, linguistics, genetics, theology, and, well, probably quite a lot more.
  5. Oh … SEX !
  6. I almost forgot. There’s got to be some sex in there, so you could use that to sell a copy, couldn’t you? 
  7. Back soon. Bye bye for now. Feel free to leave comments, messages, jokes, ideas, offers, etc. in the comments, or just stick a postit note on your screen, and I'll try and get round to reading it soon.

All the best,


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Nell M
Nell M says:

Very interesting. As a teacher I can tell you that the "orthodox view" - as the article puts it - among my students, is usually that Darwin invented evolutionary theory all on his own and presented it to a universally outraged, Puritanically religious public. People tend not to know about Wallace, or Chambers, or anyone else who was working on similar things at the time. It's interesting to find out about Matthew; I'm now wondering about the public reception of his work. Seems to me, though, that saying Darwin was a plagiarist is a bit like saying Newton was. Newton's weren't the only theories/laws of motion but he's justly remembered as having come up with the best ones that were on offer - likewise with Darwin and evolution. It's future generations that have claimed Darwin as the be-all and end-all of natural selection (if not in academia then definitely in the wider world), so in the absence of evidence to the contrary it seems rather unfair to blame him for that.

April 27, 2016

JF Derry
JF Derry says:

Hi Neil. You're right of course, the story that children are taught is overly simplistic, but honestly if you weighed them down with the detail, the simple message about natural selection would be lost to the history of development of the idea. It is fluid, concepts building communally over time, emerging from the hubbub. Some understandings get damn close to what we now have as our best model for nature. Matthew was as close as any in that he saw Malthusian checks (competition) and die offs, weak and strong, unsuited and suited. The reason it's not Matthewism is because his description was grainy and confusing, and dispersed as padding in a book about timber for the Navy. There really isn't much to base a science upon and it needed a figurehead like Darwin to independent discover the processes at play and develop the concepts through to their conclusion, and importantly, to the point where predictions may be made. Matthew was a bit cantankerous too. Instead of seeing the beauty of nature, he saw white supremacy and a world ripe for colonisation. Wars he welcomed to keep a nation healthy. The historical record is correct to focus on Darwin and Wallace while giving all others an honorary mention amongst good company (viz. Aristotle, Empedocles, Bacon, Descartes, Buffon, Lamarck, Blyth, Wells, Matthew, Chambers) in a footnote. As far as persuading anyone, Darwin just let the evidence do that, and he kept publishing evidence in support for the rest of his life. And in terms of whom, probably in the order, clergy, public, science, wife. But he never won over Emma's head, just her heart.

May 02, 2016

JF Derry
JF Derry says:

Nell, I am very sorry. That is a terribly embarrassing typo with your name in the previous comment.

May 06, 2016

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