Did you know that Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, does not contain a single mention of the word "evolution"? I am reading it for the first time and was struck not only by the absence of that term in Darwin's first edition (it does begin to creep in after 20 years in later editions) but many other discrepancies between the historical Darwin and modern Darwinism.
For those inclined to believe conspiracy theories--for instance, that it was not Darwin, but Darwinists or even anti-Darwinists who invented the theory of evolution--here are some items to consider:
- Darwin was a mediocre student at Cambridge, where he learned little science or mathematics and preferred theology. "He passed the final examination in January 1831 at an undistinguished position, tenth in the list of candidates who did not seek honours" (Richard Keynes, in the introduction to the first edition of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published by the Folio Society, 2006).
- Darwin's disordered notebooks and papers, in which he supposedly developed the theory of evolution, only to keep it "secret" for 20 years, were not transcribed and published until 2000.
- The modern reconstruction of Darwin's theory of evolution evolved itself. It began to take iconic form only after the 1960s, when historians of science began to "read between the lines" of Darwin's work. His career was divided into an initial period of 10 years when he was a biologist on the Beagle, then a "secret period" of 20 years until he and Alfred Russel Wallace "simultaneously" broke the theory in 1858, and finally another 20 year period until "evolution" began to appear in his writings by name shortly before his death.
- Darwin's interests were erratic, not to say eccentric. He spent eight years studying the sex life of a Peruvian barnacle. He published four extensive monographs on the subject between 1851 and 1854. During this period he wrote nothing on "transmutation of species," the early term for "evolution." His young son asked a playmate, "Where does your father do his barnacles?" (Keynes, xxi.)
- After barnacles, Darwin turned his attention to fancy show pigeons. He joined the Philoperisteronic Society and added an aviary to his house.
- The scientific establishment at the time did not exactly acclaim Darwin's On the Origin of Species. The geologist Adam Sedgwick wrote Darwin a scalding letter. "Many of your wide conclusions are based upon assumptions which can neither be proved nor disproved," Sedgwick said, accusing Darwin of "deserting the true method of induction." (xxiv). The astronomer Sir John Herschel called Darwin's work "the law of hiddeldy-pigglety."
Finally, no matter what you might decide about the "evolution of evolution," both Darwin and Darwinists reject the idea that Neanderthals might have been, in the words of the subtitle of On the Origin of Species, anything like a "Favoured Race." They died out, right? This being so, it is interesting to me that a portrait of Charles Darwin (above) exhibits most if not all the characteristics of a Neanderthal: sloping forehead, powerful jaws, craggy brow, occipital protuberance and large nose. We don't know quite what to make of it but wish Darwin had willed his skull as well as his thoughts to science.