“Credit Darwin’s towering genius. No mind ran so freely, so widely or so freshly over the hills and vales of existence. But there’s a limit to how much credit is reasonable. Parking evolution with Charles Darwin overlooks the limits of his time and all subsequent progress.
Science was primitive in Darwin’s day. Ships had no engines. Not until 1842, six years after Darwin’s Beagle voyage, did Richard Owen coin the term “dinosaur.” Darwin was an adult before scientists began debating whether germs caused disease and whether physicians should clean their instruments. In 1850s London, John Snow fought cholera unaware that bacteria caused it. Not until 1857 did Johann Carl Fuhlrott and Hermann Schaaffhausen announce that unusual bones from the Neander Valley in Germany were perhaps remains of a very old human race. In 1860 Louis Pasteur performed experiments that eventually disproved “spontaneous generation,” the idea that life continually arose from nonliving things.
Science has marched on. But evolution can seem uniquely stuck on its founder. We don’t call astronomy Copernicism, nor gravity Newtonism. “Darwinism” implies an ideology adhering to one man’s dictates, like Marxism. And “isms” (capitalism, Catholicism, racism) are not science. “Darwinism” implies that biological scientists “believe in” Darwin’s “theory.” It’s as if, since 1860, scientists have just ditto-headed Darwin rather than challenging and testing his ideas, or adding vast new knowledge.”
The poor guy had to face the wrath of Darwinian fundamentalists for this piece.
It’s a pity that I have to put this disclaimer up front, that I’m not a Lamarckist. The times we live in… sigh…
I got this letter today from a systems biologist, Dr. Denis Noble of Oxford. It’s a made up letter, but it makes a very relevant point, regarding the similarity between Darwin and Lamarck’s ideas, and how Lamarck has been given such a bad press. Some references might come as a shock to a few neo-Darwinists!
“On reading the amusing article ‘Why I hate epigenetics’ (Physiology News 77, Winter 2009, p. 43) Denis Noble dreamt that he was the Editor and had received the following letter, which he then translated into English for the benefit of readers of Physiology News:”
Letter from Lamarck (kindly click)
Notes by Denis Noble
1. In his introduction to Harvard’s republication in 1964 of The Origin of Species, Ernst Mayr wrote (pp. xxv–xxvi) “Curiously few evolutionists have noted that, in addition to natural selection, Darwin admits use and disuse as an important evolutionary mechanism. In this he is perfectly clear. For instance,… on page 137 he says that the reduced size of the eyes in moles and other burrowing mammals is ‘probably due to gradual reduction from disuse, but aided perhaps by natural selection’. In the case of cave animals, when speaking of the loss of eyes he says, ‘I attribute their loss wholly to disuse’ (p. 137). On page 455 he begins unequivocally, ‘At whatever period of life disuse or selection reduces an organ…’ The importance he gives to use or disuse is indicated by the frequency with which he invokes this agent of evolution in the Origin. I find references on pages 11, 43, 134, 135, 136, 137, 447, 454, 455, 472, 479, and 480.”
Any one whose disposition leads him to attach more weight to unexplained difficulties than to the explanation of a certain number of facts will certainly reject my theory.
[Charles Darwin: On the Origin of Species]