Evolution Scientifically Established Before Darwin’s Birth

English speaking authorities found a master thinker, Darwin, He created evolution. Charles Darwin is the messiah of evolution. Any critique of this miracle, this shattering of ill preconceptions, is labelled “postmodernist”, and no doubt arises noxiously from a gross lack of non-appurtenance to the church of righteous thinking (prestigious, well-paid American academia). Or then is to be attributed to the hysterical nationalism of the French.

This roughly summarize some of the critiques American professors have made of my “Lamarck Discovered Evolution” essay. It is typical.

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck Scientifically Established Evolution By 1800

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck Scientifically Established Evolution By 1800

Paradoxically, this scornful attitude comforts religious creationism.

Why? Making Darwin into what he was not, a snow capped giant towering above a sea of error, is all too close to the terror of the religious mindset. Making Darwin into God, neglects the evolution of ideas, the giant collaborative reasoning that is science. It reintroduce the concept of the prophet: everybody got it all wrong, before, then comes miracle man, Darwin. Miraculously speaking English.

So why not Jesus for miracle man?

Or why not Muhammad? Hey, Muhammad spoke Arabic, which is obviously the language of God.

The scientists who claim Darwin did it all, are lying. Lying because they have not integrated the scientific method, and do not know how truth is established historiographically is the worst possible case.

Most of the ideas demonstrating that there had been “biological evolution” were evolved before Darwin.

The truth is that Darwin was astounded by the audacity of several of his professors who praised ‘Mr. Lamarck” for having shown how life had “evolved” from “simple worms”.

Darwin’s publications came in a full century after evolution started to be established scientifically.

Buffon introduced the idea that migration caused speciation. He illustrated this with pachyderms.

Augier introduced the “Tree of Life”, then much improved by Lamarck. Lamarck’s Tree was much more specific than the general idea that all species came from fishes (Pre-Socratic philosophers).

Lamarck had spent decades looking at life and fossils through a microscope, and he demonstrated that life had evolved over millions of years, by documenting in extreme, microscopic details the evolution of mollusks.

The great geologist Lyell got a copy of one of Lamarck’s books from a friend in 1827. He wrote back:

“I devoured Lamark… his theories delighted me… I am glad that he has been courageous enough and logical enough to admit that his argument, if pushed as far as it must go, if worth anything, would prove that men may have come from the Ourang-Outang. But after all, what changes species may really undergo!… That the Earth is quite as old as he supposes, has long been my creed…”

However, Lyell, a close friend of Darwin and Huxley, rejected evolution when he was a professor at the prestigious King’s College, London.

Lyell explained in a letter to Whewell in 1837:

“If I had stated… the possibility of the introduction or origination of fresh species being a natural, in contradistinction to a miraculous process, I should have raised a host of prejudices against me, which are unfortunately opposed at every step to any philosopher who attempts to address the public on these mysterious subjects”

When finally Lyell endorsed evolution, he endorsed Lamarck. Darwin’s daughter Henrietta (Etty) wrote to her father: “Is it fair that Lyell always calls your theory a modification of Lamarck’s?”

No wonder. Darwin revisited Lamarck’s example of the giraffe, with more details:

“The giraffe, by its lofty stature, much elongated neck, fore-legs, head and tongue, has its whole frame beautifully adapted for browsing on the higher branches of trees. It can thus obtain food beyond the reach of the other Ungulata or hoofed animals inhabiting the same country; and this must be a great advantage to it during dearths…. Those individuals which had some one part or several parts of their bodies rather more elongated than usual, would generally have survived. These will have intercrossed and left offspring, either inheriting the same bodily peculiarities, or with a tendency to vary again in the same manner; whilst the individuals, less favoured in the same respects will have been the most liable to perish…. By this process long-continued, which exactly corresponds with what I have called unconscious selection by man, combined no doubt in a most important manner with the inherited effects of the increased use of parts, it seems to me almost certain that an ordinary hoofed quadruped might be converted into a giraffe.” (Darwin 1872. Sixth edition of his seminal book, Origin of Species.)

In other words, Darwin subscribed to Lamarck’s book of 1801, on inheritability of acquired characteristics. (The whole problem now being what these “acquired characteristics”, now called “genes”, “epigenetics, transposons, prions, soma, whatever…) are and how they arise…)

Darwin had produced a toy model of evolution. Anatomist Gould told him that some varieties of birds he found in the Galapagos were different species. Yet they all belonged to the finch group. Darwin then brandished that as an example of evolution.

Darwin’s dubious birdies no doubt beat the millions of years Lamarck had uncovered. That’s the strength of the Anglo-American empire!

Darwin’s “B” notebook showed that he speculated a species could turn into another by summer 1837. He discarded Lamarck’s independent lineages progressing to higher forms, drawing a tree of life with a single trunk branching out (there too Lamarck proved right: decades behind the microscope, remember?).

On the continent, evolution was solidly established.

Cuvier discovered the “Ptero-Dactyle” (name Latinized later), and Mesosaurus (sea going giant). Cuvier also invented stratigraphy, and demonstrated species came and went.

Cuvier was a Christian fundamentalist, but a very clever one, with an open, and changing mind. He invented most of the “Creationist” Biblical arguments. Yet he explained why he could be proven wrong in the fullness of time, thanks to, say, more discoveries.

Lamarck’s reputation was soiled because Cuvier smeared it all over with “pangenesis”. The original texts make it clear that Lamarck believed in natural selection. In the case of giraffes, to put it in modern terms, he believed that giraffe ethology, and the vegetation being what it was, due to climate, put a selective pressure favoring giraffe’s anatomy, the way it was. (Cuvier later said it was all about “desire”; that’s not in Lamarck).

Darwin tried hard to prove pangenesis. A battle was engaged, still ongoing. Many of the arrogant certainties of the 1960s have been washed away. Elements of heredity are known now to travel among species, and interact with ethology.

To combat religious fanatics, we need the weight of evidence, not inappropriate celebritism. Misrepresenting those who discovered evolution only helps creationists.

Darwin is an important biologist, but evolution had been scientifically established more than a generation before he published anything.

Everything else is pathetic tribalism, and, or, making fun of the scientific process. No way to help the advancement of civilization.

Patrice Ayme’

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5 Responses to “Evolution Scientifically Established Before Darwin’s Birth”

  1. gmax Says:

    You should reproduce some the disparaging comments I saw on some other sites, debating your ideas. And that you just answered.

    Although what you say is pretty straightforward, and well documented, the scornfull blindness of some of these scientists is amazing

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      This essay was in answer, in particular to a comment of Massimo. I did not reproduce it here, because it would have been confusing. All some calling me a postmodernist, I ignored. I don’t agree with postmodernism when it has nothing new to say (that’s most of it). However, in the case of Darwin (or Newton, or Einstein, and a fortiotri all the Lockes, Humes, Hobbes, etc.), tribalism is what made their renown.

  2. Ian Miller Says:

    Actually, I would suggest the ancients discovered evolution. An example was sheep. The wild sheep gives brown hair, with a slight layer of “wool” near the skin. At first, the ancients used the hair for felt, but eventually they worked out that by selective breeding, they could shorten the hair and enlarge the wool. Lucretius noted that the patterns on living things, e.g. sparrows, was reproduced faithfully, and he assigned that to the array of many atoms determining everything in the egg, and he also suggested that very occasionally there was a change in the array, and a variant emerged. That is near enough to evolution for me.

    Also, I suggest that evolution is far from clear right now, because it is necessary to explain WHY mutations start forming. Two examples. In New Zealand, there is an alga, Gigartina decipiens, that shows quite bit of plasticity, and in principle could eventually settle into more than one species, however other algae in exactly the same environment show no such plasticity. The second example is the last of the rhynchosaurs. It has persisted without any evolutionary change probably from pre-jurassic times. Why has it down nothing ion the evolutionary sense? There rare still plenty of questions. That does not mean that Darwin, Lamarck, Lucretius, or the early animal husbands were wrong; just that knowledge grows with time, and the earlier, the less was known.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Agreed 100%. Actually my next essay on the question is going to be about just that (if I find the time!). Basically the mood imparted by Dawkins is 100% wrong (and he ignores epigenetics, naturally).

      My view of evolution is the dynamics of complex reproducible geometry. Quantum Physics has got to play a role. It has to be part of the mystery of how these complexities arise.

      I believe teleonomy itself had to be discovered by evolution, and species maybe are more or less teleonomic (maybe from some transposon, or virus, or prion). So some evolve, and others do not.

      The funny thing is that the knowledge about evolution grows with time, and is getting more complex… a bit the way Lamarck himself described evolution!

  3. Patrice Ayme Says:

    Quantum Mechanics WILL explain effect such as found by John Cairns, from Harvard (1988). See:

    Symonds, N (21 September 1991). “A fitter theory of evolution?: Biologists have always denied that organisms can adapt their genes to suit a new environment. But some startling discoveries about bacteria are making them think again”. New Scientist (1787). pp. 30–.

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