This video is called 2012 The Catalyst – Did Darwin steal theory of evolution from Wallace?
By Theo Arrowsmith in Britain:
Credit where it’s due
Sunday 20 January 2013
Hardly has the dust settled from the Darwin bicentenary in 2009 than we’re into another celebration of evolutionary science.
This year will see a programme of free lectures at the Natural History Museum in London under the overall title of “Wallace 100.”
It will culminate on November 7, the centenary of the death of the much-neglected Alfred Russel Wallace.
The inaugural lecture on February 7 is intriguingly titled Wallace and the Joy of Sects, Rewriting the Bible as a Scientific Text.
It will be given by popular biologist Professor Steve Jones.
The full programme may be obtained by inquiry at the museum. Although the lectures in the Wallace 100 series are free, tickets must be pre-booked online.
The name of Wallace deserves to be as well known as that of Darwin – despite the latter’s ironically godlike statue on the main staircase of the Natural History Museum.
One or two facts about the two men might explain this partial occlusion of one and the remarkable prominence of the other.
Had Darwin not enlisted as a naturalist on the trans-global survey ship HMS Beagle, he would most probably have “taken holy orders.”
As it happened, Captain Fitzroy of the Beagle was a strict disciplinarian – very necessary in the Royal Navy in those times – but also utterly convinced of the literal truth of the Bible, especially of Genesis.
The necessary proximity of Darwin the developing scientist and questioner to a Fitzroy who had all the (Biblical) “answers” already led, for Darwin, to conflicted ideas and his development as one of the first dialectical materialists. Most histories however portray a respectful relationship between the two men.
On his return Darwin spent the next 40 years in active research and publication.
But two lesser-known facts stand out from his life.
Firstly, Darwin suffered from a continuing and chronic illness, involving nausea, vomiting and frequent bed-bound periods, due to which he was often unable to work.
Rather more satisfactory was the fact that his relatively secure financial background enabled him to speculate in shares in the then growing railway system.
Care and good luck with his investments resulted in Darwin amassing a fortune of £13 million – as the Morning Star pointed out on August 11 2010 – by the time of his death in 1882.
Understandably Victorian, ie capitalist, society would find itself in conflict with the revolutionary implications of Darwin’s evolutionary ideas.
But Darwin himself was far from the revolutionary conclusions of his great contemporary Karl Marx.
In the book Darwin’s Blind Spot Ryan explains that “at the time the Origin (of Species) was published, imperialism was the dominant … ethos in Europe … and the Britain in which Darwin lived as a comfortable country squire was the greatest imperial power since the Roman empire.”
At that time, “Darwinism was in perfect harmony with imperialism … the national expression of the evolutionary paradigm … the just reward for quality and struggle … Darwin eschewed any extension of his views to politics (but) his successors had no hesitation in carrying his ideas into more controversial areas.”
From Ryan’s insight we may understand how Darwin’s work has been misused by later ideologists – and misunderstood by well-meaning admirers.
Rather more sinister is the eclipse of that other great evolutionary scientist Wallace.
Let us hope that the Natural History Museum’s programme will right this historic wrong.
In a 2008 collection of essays edited by a science librarian from the US and a senior curator from the museum Wallace’s intellectual legacy is examined.
What is beyond doubt is that, by his memoir sent from the Malay archipelago to Darwin in 1858, Wallace was instrumental in kick-starting the Linnaean Society’s meeting on evolution.
If that is true, why has history not brought us the name of Wallace as prominently as that of Darwin?
Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that Wallace was an advocate of socialism at a time when the imperialist ethos referred to above by Ryan was already being questioned by Marx and similar thinkers and activists.
Certainly Wallace later became involved in the then fashionable craze for spiritualism.
But his achievements in the promulgation of the science of evolution should not be ignored. Hopefully this year’s series of lectures will greatly aid in establishing another great scientist’s reputation.
- The Forgotten Naturalist: Alfred Russel Wallace (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
- Pre-Darwin Darwin, Without the Post-Darwin (longstreet.typepad.com)
- Alfred Russel Wallace, the man who pre-empted Darwin (telegraph.co.uk)
- Celebration to honor Darwin and evolutionary biology (kansas.com)
- The Natural History Museum (london-revealed.com)