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← Mail-boat record 'proves Darwin stole his original ideas from a Welsh scientist'

Mail-boat record 'proves Darwin stole his original ideas from a Welsh scientist' - Comments

koldito's Avatar Comment 1 by koldito

I doubt this will be of interest to any working biologist. If Davies is correct, though, then we should expect creationists to start talking about how Wallacists attempt to supress alternative theories about the origin of life and so on and so forth.

Sun, 25 May 2008 21:09:00 UTC | #175245

HourglassMemory's Avatar Comment 2 by HourglassMemory

I think a lot of people aknowledge Wallace as well. It's not like he's the equivalent of Antonio Meucci (to Graham Bell) for Darwin.
I at least know that Darwin wasn't the only one around with the idea.

Would a group of TRUE scientists get really upity about who got there first? What matters is what's discovered. Richard Feynman said something like that in the book I'm reading.

We'll see if Darwin stole the idea. Probably we'll never know.
What I focus on is the idea. What would change if we did find out?
Darwin still plays a hell of a part, in History.

"Stole"? What about "Influenced"?

Sun, 25 May 2008 21:10:00 UTC | #175246

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 3 by mordacious1

I do not think Wallace's contribution has been forgotten.

I thought that Darwin was hesitant to publish his ideas because of his wife and the rebuke he would receive from society. When Wallace's letters arrived, he realized he had to publish right away or miss being recognized for his work.

Sun, 25 May 2008 21:20:00 UTC | #175250

Pieter's Avatar Comment 4 by Pieter

Having attended Leiden University i would be very suspect of anyone from there claiming to be an expert on anything. What a crappy school.

Besides, didn't Darwin have the Origin of the Species already written, but just unpublished for a decade prior to 1859?

Sun, 25 May 2008 21:34:00 UTC | #175251

sb84's Avatar Comment 5 by sb84

Didn't Darwin and Wallace acknowledge each other's contributions to the theory? I thought Darwin even objected to the term "Darwinism", because the idea should be attributed to Wallace as well. That doesn't quite fit in with the idea "Darwin stole the idea for his own glory". But then again, maybe it's different after 15 years of research...

Sun, 25 May 2008 21:37:00 UTC | #175255

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 6 by mordacious1

According to Mrs. Fulbright (see topic on christian science book) a dinosaur ate Darwin's manuscript so he had to rewrite it.

Sun, 25 May 2008 21:41:00 UTC | #175257

catskill's Avatar Comment 7 by catskill

The Wikipedia entry for Alfred Russel Wallace has a section titled "Natural selection and Darwin". A quick read of this material dispels any notion of controversy.

Sun, 25 May 2008 21:48:00 UTC | #175259

Rational_G's Avatar Comment 8 by Rational_G

This is complete bullshit.

Sun, 25 May 2008 21:51:00 UTC | #175263

nother person's Avatar Comment 9 by nother person

Yes, totally bogus manufactured controversy. Wallace's contribution is universally acknowledged. He and Darwin were rivals, but very friendly rivals. Although Darwin presented brief papers on the matter to the royal society, one of his own and one of Wallace's, a year or two before 'Origin' was published, Wallace never published anything nearing the significance of Darwin's book. Nor can credit for 'the idea' be granted to Wallace, as their were half a dozen others speculating along the same lines at the time. It took darwin to put it all together.

Sun, 25 May 2008 22:17:00 UTC | #175273

DingoDave's Avatar Comment 10 by DingoDave

If this was true, wouldn't it mean that we should henceforth refer to evolutionary biologists as a 'bunch of Wallies'? :)

Sun, 25 May 2008 22:22:00 UTC | #175274

Ian's Avatar Comment 11 by Ian

Darwin's priority is safe. It is well known that he wrote an abstract of his theory in 1842, which was stored in a closet under the stairs of Downe house, to be published in the event of his death.

It is also well known that Darwin consulted friends on his theory, including Sir Charles Lyell, who had urged him to publish.

Furthermore, Wallace failed to follow the theory through to its logical conclusion and apply it to humans.

Anyone who wants to know more can consult Darwin by Adrian Desmond and James Moore.

Sun, 25 May 2008 22:41:00 UTC | #175276

j s bach's Avatar Comment 12 by j s bach

The Origin of Species is a bloody big book. Could it really have been cobbled together in such a short time? I think not. Furthermore, I have always understood Darwin had long composed manuscript on the O of S which he asked his wife to publish in the event of his death.

Sun, 25 May 2008 23:13:00 UTC | #175277

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 13 by mordacious1

I think Richard is working on a book about Darwin for the anniversary. For every good book like Richard's, there has to be 20 crappy ones trying to cash in on the subject during such a special time.

Darwin was gay, he had Galapagos finches nesting in his beard, he was really a creationist...any BS to sell a book.

Sun, 25 May 2008 23:18:00 UTC | #175278

GordonYKWong's Avatar Comment 14 by GordonYKWong

oh great... now what will Ben Stein bleat on about?

"Wallacism leads you to killing people."

"Wallacism is filled with controversy."

"Big Science will silence all those that disagrees with the Wallacist."

Sun, 25 May 2008 23:31:00 UTC | #175280

happy's Avatar Comment 15 by happy

That'll teach all you Darwinists - Wallace was the one truly divinely inspired, and one day us Wallacists will rise up....


I just wish more people had come up with the theory, and sooner.

As was pointed out to me, Darwinism was coined by the opposition, to make people who liked "the theory" seem like they had some devotion to a person, not an idea. Do what I do, and never use the phrase.

Also, look forward to Richard's take on these matters. Maybe everything this guy says is true, although as it seems to have been debunked within a few posts....

Mon, 26 May 2008 00:07:00 UTC | #175288

mmurray's Avatar Comment 16 by mmurray

Would a group of TRUE scientists get really upity about who got there first? What matters is what's discovered. Richard Feynman said something like that in the book I'm reading.

Yes of course. The one who gets there first gets the fame, the Nobel Prize, the money, the offers of jobs are the best Universities etc.


Mon, 26 May 2008 00:18:00 UTC | #175293

Raiko's Avatar Comment 17 by Raiko

I can't believe someone wasted a book on that. :D

Asides from the old Wallace-doesn't-get-enough-credit meme, as far as I know, we know Darwin wrote his idea before Wallace, but didn't publish it, and we know that Darwin's work was much more detailed than Wallace's.

Also, Darwinian and Darwinist sound better whan Wallacian and Wallacist. ;)

Also, we should all cry about giving Lamarck much more credit, then, too. He might not have gotten it entirely right, but he still contributed the major idea of linking inheritance and speciation together.

Would a group of TRUE scientists get really upity about who got there first?

You wouldn't believe it, but there are contributions to Nature about that. There was one just recently.

Mon, 26 May 2008 00:43:00 UTC | #175300

bugaboo's Avatar Comment 18 by bugaboo

Actually, Patrick Mathew (a Scot) came up with the idea. Naval Timber & Arboriculture" published in 1831. He thought it so obvious that it couldnt possibly be that original so didnt make a fuss. At least thats the story i heard. But Darwin gets credit in my book and Wallace has always been credited for independent discovery.

Mon, 26 May 2008 00:48:00 UTC | #175304

dyak's Avatar Comment 19 by dyak

"Davies, a former head of factual programmes at BBC Wales" - BBC "factual"? Hahahahaha. Someone from Wales promoting a welsh scientist? Uhuh.

Whatever happened, it was Darwin who spent decades of painstaking research to provide support for the theory. Sealing it up for posthumous publication hardly seems like the act of a ursurper in the struggle for glory.

Maybe I'm being unjust, but I can't help thinking a certain author from the BBC is trying to make a quick buck amplifying an questionable detail about history's most controversial scientist.

Mon, 26 May 2008 00:53:00 UTC | #175306

Christopher Davis's Avatar Comment 20 by Christopher Davis

"As was pointed out to me, Darwinism was coined by the opposition, to make people who liked "the theory" seem like they had some devotion to a person, not an idea. Do what I do, and never use the phrase."---happy

I'm with you on this.

Mon, 26 May 2008 01:07:00 UTC | #175309

Goldy's Avatar Comment 21 by Goldy

Hah ha! Take that, Darwinists! I have always maintained my Wallacianism (after all it does so confuse Cretinists and IDiots :-D)

Also, Darwinian and Darwinist sound better whan Wallacian and Wallacist. ;)

Them's fighting words there! Just you wait while we evolve... ;-P

Mon, 26 May 2008 01:42:00 UTC | #175311

Ascaphus's Avatar Comment 22 by Ascaphus

But everyone credits Origin of Species as being the place the idea was first published, which isn't true. Wallace definitely deserves half the credit for the idea.

This makes me wonder where he received his training in biology. I remember reading as a grade school kid about Darwin and Wallace. For examples of good histories of biology try "The Growth of Biological Thought" or "One Long Argument" and others by Mayr. Nobody has been 'hiding' Wallace or 'pushing' Darwin. Where do people come up with these weird ideas? There are plenty of good controversies and genuine puzzles out there - why make one up?

A skeptical mind might think that this is just a biological novice and trained Darwin hater looking for a new angle...


Mon, 26 May 2008 02:04:00 UTC | #175320

Adam Morrison's Avatar Comment 23 by Adam Morrison

I had to read up on this when I did my Anthropological Theory class in the last year of my undergrad. Like Mitchel said, there were a lot of people who influenced Darwin (and Wallace most likely) in coming up with the theory of Evolution by natural selection.

The reason Darwin is usually given the tip of the hat is the sheer volume of evidence Charles compiled and studied (for example his work on pigeon breeding) where as Wallace didn't have as much material.

Finally I would suspect that Darwin's view that humanity was a product of evolution helped make him the 'face' of evolutionary theory. It certainly would have pointed the religious animosity towards him, as Wallace thought humans were excluded from the evolutionary process.

Of course, none of this matters as evolution never happened, we were all poofed into existence by a designer
*Cue troll* *cough 'artful' cough*

Mon, 26 May 2008 02:27:00 UTC | #175326

hyposcada's Avatar Comment 24 by hyposcada


Actually I received my zoology degree and PhD from one of the best universities in Britain! The point which you and other poorly informed people on this forum seem to have missed is that the theory of natural selection was jointly published by Darwin and Wallace in August 1858, 15 months before Darwin's Origin of Species was published. In science publication is everything. It is irrelevant from the point of view of scientific priority that Joe Smith discovered natural selection four hundred years ago if he never got around to publishing his idea. Personally I believe in reporting historical events accurately and giving credit where credit is due. If you seek to distort the facts then you are not better than the IDiots. I suggest you familiarise yourself with the history of the events surrounding the discovery of natural selection before posting your opinions.

George Beccaloni

Mon, 26 May 2008 02:39:00 UTC | #175329

King of NH's Avatar Comment 25 by King of NH

What does it matter? Both of these heathens will pay for their blasphemy at the rapture. Darwin at least bought somewhat of a lessened sentence in Purgatory for his noble renouncement of his evil words. This Wallace thing doesn't surprise me: evil men are rarely unique in evil ideas.

Okay, seriously though, before I split my sides. I'm fairly certain most Darwin scholars agree the man never arrived at the idea on his own, and it was only a culmination of geology, biology, and sociology that allowed such a work as Origin of Species to be published. This was a scientific paper, not a romance novel. Ideas, in science, are meant to be shared.

Davies is not unique, though, in his iconoclasm. Every author that creates a classic work is soon accused of something. E.A. Poe was a mad-man. Whitman was gay (probably so, I know, but of no academic importance). Shakespeare was illiterate, or actually Marlowe under a pen name. Thoreau lied about his time at Walden. Einstein had autism. Artists have the same fate. Di Vinci had ADD, for example. Careful, Professor Dawkins! If I were you, I would cultivate your own, minor rumor to follow you into history.

Mon, 26 May 2008 02:59:00 UTC | #175332

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 26 by hungarianelephant

25. Comment #184723 by hyposcada on May 26, 2008 at 3:39 am

I'm sure Matt (Ascaphus) will clarify whether he was referring to you or Roy Davies. However, in your ire you seem to have missed the point.

In science publication is everything. It is irrelevant from the point of view of scientific priority that Joe Smith discovered natural selection four hundred years ago if he never got around to publishing his idea.

Davies is arguing precisely the opposite - that what is relevant is where the ideas came from, and specifically that Darwin stole them.

I'm pretty sure that most non-scientists would agree with the first part of that argument. You're welcome to argue against it, but if you want to come here and criticise other posters for not getting their facts straight, you might be well advised to choose your language more carefully when talking to reporters. "Everyone credits Origin of Species as being the place the idea was first published" is not accurate.

Mon, 26 May 2008 03:11:00 UTC | #175334

hyposcada's Avatar Comment 27 by hyposcada

27. Comment #184728 by hungarianelephant on May 26, 2008 at 4:11 am

Matt (Ascaphus) appeared to be commenting on the quote he cited - if not why cite it? In my reply to his post I was not concerned with what Davies was arguing - only with comments about my own arguments. For my opinion of Davies' book see:-

My 'quotes' cited in the icWales article were in any case only an approximation of what I actually said (what more can be expected of newspaper reporters?). I would have substituted "most people" for "everyone" had I seen the proofs.

Mon, 26 May 2008 03:28:00 UTC | #175337

Barry Pearson's Avatar Comment 28 by Barry Pearson

Obviously, here is one of the places to look for answers:

"The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online"

This is interesting: "Darwin's first recorded doubt in 'the stability of species', from his Galapagos bird notes from the voyage of the Beagle, 1836"; "First sketch of the theory of evolution, 1842".

(I haven't read enough to know whether the online material resolves the topic of this thread).

Mon, 26 May 2008 03:32:00 UTC | #175339

Barry Pearson's Avatar Comment 29 by Barry Pearson

I just searched "Darwin Online" for "Malthus", and found the following:

"... and in 1838, after reading the "Essay on the Principles of Population," by Thomas Malthus, in which the struggle for existence among human beings is clearly set forth, he conceived the idea that a similar struggle among animals and plants had led to the extinction of those individuals which were least fitted to their environment, and that by differentiation, resulting from the action of different environmental conditions on organisms at first similar, new species had come into existence. In June, 1842, he first committed his ideas on the subject to paper, and this first draft, of thirty-five pages, he rewrote and expanded to 230 pages in 1844."

Mon, 26 May 2008 03:53:00 UTC | #175342

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 30 by Richard Dawkins

This is worse than ridiculous, it is fatuous, for the reasons given by many of the above posters. Darwin clearly laid out his ideas in the 1840s. And Wallace's independent but much later discovery is frequently and fulsomely acknowledged, not least by Darwin himself. The reason Darwin is honoured more than Wallace is not just that he thought of natural selection much earlier. It is also that he wrote The Origin of Species and it was this, not either of the 1858 papers by Wallace or Darwin, that actually changed the Victorian mind. Indeed, these papers, read at the Linnean Society in 1858, were almost totally ignored by the scientific world. It was The Origin in 1859 that set the world on fire, because that was there Darwin set out the EVIDENCE. The reason Darwin was able to write The Origin so quickly was that he had long been collecting notes for his 'Great Book', to be called Natural Selection, which was never in the end published. The Origin was Darwin's brief abstract, as he called it, of his Great Book.

I'll only add one small point. What is all this chauvinistic nonsense about 'Welsh scientist'? The word 'Welsh' occurs not just in the headline but frequently throughout the article. Wallace happened to be born in Monmouthshire (a border county now considered part of Wales but formerly part of England) but his parents and grandparents were English, and Wallace was raised, educated and lived in England, near London. You might as well call me Kenyan, my father Burmese and my mother Sri Lankan, just because we were born in those countries. Wallace, like Darwin, was English. But in any case, what difference would it make whether he was Welsh or English, except that it seems to be the motive for this absurd article's being published in a Welsh newspaper?

Wallace and Darwin were admirably gentlemanly towards each other: a fine example of how scientists ideally should behave where questions of priority are at stake.

This is a silly, ignorant article, which should never have been published.

Mon, 26 May 2008 04:09:00 UTC | #175347