16 thoughts on “Wallace, Darwin and evolution

  1. I was surprised to see a continuation of the myth that Darwin was enlisted as a naturalist for the HMS Beagle. That position was held and jealously guarded by the ship’s surgeon, Robert McCormick. Darwin answered a newspaper ad called to his attention by botany prof, John Henslow for a supernumerary position as a “Gentleman’s Companion” for the Beagle’s captain, Robert FitzRoy. The position gave FitzRoy someone to associate with since he was forbidden to fraternize with his crew. McCormick strongly resented favors given to Darwin by Fitzroy, and finally by the time they reached Rio de Janeiro, McCormick “sicked out” and finagled a transfer of ships from the admiral. This allowed Darwin to semi-officially take over the position as the ship’s naturalist.

    The question of Darwin’s name being more familiar than Wallace’s is more a matter of education than Wallace’s being ignored by history. It is also a matter of Darwin belonging to the inner circles of the scientific elite at the time of the simultaneous publication of his and Wallace’s papers by the Linnean Society, as well as having published a major book explaining the formation of atolls, and Darwin’s previous discussions of natural selection with Charles Lyell and Joseph Hooker with whom he had shared a book-length “essay” on the subject which he intended to publish posthumously. After Wallace returned to England, Darwin introduced him to some of his inner circle.

    Neither Darwin nor Wallace made much of a splash with the publication of their papers. At the time, Thomas Huxley was ironically dead set against the “transmutation of species” (evolution), but that changed as did Darwin’s celebrity with the publication of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, which sold out almost immediately on printing. One of the ironies is that Wallace and Darwin are often credited with be the only originators of natural selection, but as Darwin pointed out in an appendix at least 4 people beat them both to the punch, one of them being botanist Asa Grey. However, like Wallace’s and Darwin’s original papers, none of them had much of an impact, and it was only with the depth of detail in Darwin’s book that everything suddenly changed.

    Wallace went on into social activism supporting land nationalization, unbacked paper currency, and fighting eugenics. He was ahead of his time except for his forays into spiritualism and his ideas of separate development of consciousness and human spirit independently of natural selection. In fact, in his opinion the purpose of the universe was as a foil to human spirit. There were also several differences in his concept of natural selection from Darwin’s ideas, but it’s time to end this discussion.


  2. Oh, how could I have forgotten; Darwin’s idea of extinction came from finding fossils of animals that no longer exist and his concept of orogeny came from being anchored a few miles off the shore of Chile when a severe earthquake struck and when the ship returned, Darwin noted that one side of the fault line had risen 3 feet from before.

    As we all know, however, this is all explained by the Great Deluge, in which all the plants and animals ran up the hillsides to escape the approaching flood waters. Dinosaurs and pine trees could run the fastest, so we find them near the top. Clams, mussels, oysters, and algae were also pretty good runners, so they made it pretty far up the hills, and we can explain the strata of all other fossils through sound reasoning the same as explained above.

    The reason there are tall mountains is that during Noah’s Flood, the great isotropic pressure from the deep flood waters forced the dense rock upward, as a moment’s reflection would show. How Darwin could have come to the preposterous connection between earthquakes and growth of mountains leaves one wondering about his abilities as a scientist.

    Fortunately, I had this explained to me be one of my readers so that I wouldn’t make the same mistakes as Darwin.


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