"It is nonsense to suggest that the theory of evolution by Natural Selection
was Darwin's own theory."(p47)
"It is one of the injustices of the history of science that Matthew, the pioneer of the natural process of selection,
should be brushed aside."(p40)
"The three characters in the basic development of evolution are Cuvier,
Lamarck and Patrick Matthew. The origin of species has no new ideas."(p29)
This is a book of someone who hates Darwin and Darwinists. It is written
by a historian of science. Dempster is not a creationist. In some older creationist books,
creationists used to attack the person of Darwin.
We have gone a long way since then. Modern creationists do not attack the person,
but the theory. However, Dempster likes attacking persons.
Here is an astonishing demonstration of Dempster's attitude towards Darwin:
"In spite of his long debility, his daily
throwing up and his frequent nervous interludes, Darwin's sexual ability
did not decline. Allowing for the frequent miscarriages so common in those days
he kept poor Emma almost permanently pregnant from 1839 to 1856."
It is quite clear from many more statements throughout the book, that
Dempster cannot possibly tell an objective history (1).
If one only reflects on the title of the chapter on neo-Darwinism: "Neo This and That",
it's clear again that Dempster cannot distinguish between his emotions and a
professional historical account.
Matthew is the hero of the book. Matthew was the first to publish the concept of natural
selection. Matthew predicted the existence of DNA. Matthew wrote about everything present in
Neo-Darwinism including Punctuated Equilibrium!
I am not implying that Dempster has all the facts wrong in his book.
Some of Dempster's facts are not widely known among Darwinists. For example that Darwin wrote:
"I freely acknowledge that Mr Matthew has anticipated by many years the explanation
which I have offered of the origin of species under the name of natural selection.
I think that no one will feel surprised that neither I, nor any other naturalist,
had heard of Matthew's views, considering how briefly they are given and that they
appeared in the appendix of a work on naval timber and arboriculture".
[21 April 1860].(p28). See also: 10.
Dempster does not say that Darwin lied, but complains that Darwin could and should have known
the work because it was published by a well known publisher and was reviewed by a well known
reviewer in a magazine to which Darwin had subscribed.
Dempster's complains many times about injustices done to Matthew by Darwinists.
Dempster's interpretation and selection of the facts is extreme anti-Darwin.
However, the book is a rich source of all the influences on Darwin and Darwin's predecessors.
The true founder of Evolution was Lamarck.
Dempster is rewriting a history which gives Darwin too much credit and forget to mention
Patrick Matthew, who set out the theory of natural selection for the first time in print (1931).
However according to Ernst Mayr :
"Patrick Matthew undoubtedly had the right idea, just like Darwin did on September 28, 1838,
but he did not devote the next twenty years to converting it into a cogent theory of
evolution. As a result it had no impact whatsoever." (5).
Also, according to W. D. Hamilton:
"Credit in science is partly for effective communication, not just for right ideas. (...) Likewise Darwin, not Patrick Matthew, gets the credit for evolution by natural selection because Darwin wrote his ideas clearly and persistently with extreme multiplicity of illustrations, not as a few paragraphs (clear though these paragraphs also were) of note F of an Appendix to a book on Naval Timber and Arboriculture".(11).
Contrary to the impression Dempster gives the reader, it is not true that Patrick Matthew is
never mentioned in the Darwin-literature.
The astronomer Fred Hoyle (7)
reports that the term "natural selection" was coined in 1831 by Patrick Matthew.
Stephen Jay Gould (1985) mentioned him in The Flamingo's Smile, quoted
by Daniel Dennett in Darwin's Dangerous Idea (p49) (2).
Further Patrick Matthew has been mentioned as a precursor of Charles Darwin in
Søren Løvtrup(1987) (3); in L.R. Croft(1989)
The Life and Death of Charles Darwin (reported by James Hayward,1998 (6))
and in Gertrude Himmelfarb (1962) Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution (p.184).
Dempster does not mention such cases. It's true however that one doesn't find Matthew in the
standard textbooks of evolution.
This is what historian Peter Bowler (9) has to say about Patrick Matthew and Dempster:
"Evolutionary concepts in the nineteenth century. Natural Selection and
by W. J. Dempster
The Pentland Press, 1996
- Patrick Matthew, Horticulturist and Writer
- Natural Selection - The Appendix to Naval Timber and Arboculture
- Confrontation with Darwin
- The Confrontation between Scientific Observation and Biblical Orthodoxy
- The Use of Selection by Nineteenth-century Breeders
- The State of the Species Debate in 1836
- Charles Darwin's Predecessors
- Matthew the Obscure
- Edward Blyth and his Classification of Varieties
- Neo This and That
- Natural Selection and its Justification of Colonialism
- Patrick Matthew's Review of Descent of Man
One writer has even gone so far as to hail Matthew as the originator of the modern evolution theory (Dempster, 1996).
Such efforts to denigrate Darwin misunderstand the whole point of the history of science: Matthew did suggest a basic idea of
selection, but he did nothing to develop it; and he published it in the appendix to a book on the raising of trees for
shipbuilding. No one took him seriously, and he played no role in the emergence of Darwinism.
Simply priority is not enough to earn a thinker a place in the history of science: one has to develop
the idea and convince others of its value to make a real contribution. Darwin's notebooks confirm that he drew no inspiration
from Matthew or any other alleged precursor.
Finally, there is one curious mistake in Dempster I want to mention.
According to Dempster "Darwin in the last paragraph of every edition
of the Origin dragged in the Creator [contrary to Matthew] and only later
regretted he had truckled to society." (p24).
The famous last paragraph reads:
"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers,
having been originally breathed by the Creator into few forms or into one ...".
Now Dempster blames Darwin for unnecessarily dragging in the Creator.
However, the words "by the Creator" are not present in every edition (4).
In the 2nd edition "by the Creator" is introduced after "originally breathed." (8).
For example in my 1972 Penguin paperback copy of the first edition there
is no Creator in the last paragraph. Also in Stephen Jay Gould's copy there is no Creator.
Dempster is completely unaware of this fact. It would have been better,
if Dempster had have clarified the matter by investigating Darwin's original manuscripts.
That's the job of a historian of science.
Dempster's book is good reading for old-fashioned creationists who hate Darwin and
the Darwinists as much as Dempster does. But beware: Dempster is an atheist and
takes the existence of evolution and natural selection for granted.
- The production of Dempster's book was paid by the 'Trustees of the Patrick Matthew Trust'.
- A review of Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea on this site.
- Løvtrup devotes three and a half pages to Patrick Matthew ('Darwinism: The Refutation of a Myth'). However, Løvtrup is not mentioned by Dempster.
- Letter to New Scientist 12 October 1996 by A.E. Parrott.
- Ernst Mayr, The Growth of Biological Thought, 1982, page 500.
- James Hayward, The Creation/Evolution Controversy, 1998 p54.
- Fred Hoyle(1983) The Intelligent Universe. A new view of creation and evolution, p244.
- Information: here on the site
The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online. With a site like this it is easy to
investigate Darwins works! For example it appears that Darwin uses "the Creator" 6 times (apart from the one mentioned)
in the first and sixth edition (and probably all editions) of The Origin of Species.
- Peter Bowler (2003) Evolution. The History of an idea, third edition, p.158.
- In the Origin of Species 3d ed. (See Complete Works of Charles Darwin website),
there is "An historical Sketch of the progress of opinion on the origin of species" (10 pages). Darwin wrote (page xvi):
"In 1831 Mr. Patrick Matthew published his work on 'Naval Timber and Arboriculture,' in which he gives precisely the same
view on the origin of species as that (presently to be alluded to) propounded by Mr. Wallace and myself in the 'Linnean
Journal,' and as that enlarged in the present volume. Unfortunately the view was given by Mr. Matthew very briefly in
scattered passages in an Appendix to a work on a different subject, so that it remained unnoticed until Mr. Matthew himself
drew attention to it in the 'Gardeners' Chronicle,' on April 7th, 1860." ...
- Narrow Roads of Gene Land. The collected papers of W. D. Hamilton. Volume 2, p.211.