Responses to Darwin
Article Summaries

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1. J. R. Lucas, "Wilberforce and Huxley: A Legendary Encounter"

Seth Wood and Daniel Palmer

The legend is of a supposed confrontation that took place on June 30, 1860 at the meeting of the British Association in Oxford.

The legend maintains that Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Oxford, "Soapy Sam," challenged T. H. Huxley's defense of evolutionary theory by asking whether it "was through Huxley's grandfather or grandmother that Huxley claimed his descent from a monkey." (Macmillan's Magazine 1898) Huxley, according to this account, replied that he would rather be descended from a monkey than be associated with a man who obscures the truth, implying the Bishop obscured truth. Apparently, this account proclaims Huxley and, consequently, evolution the victor.

Huxley's biography contains a similar account.

Lucas then mentions that a number of other accounts exist from the end of the nineteenth century that do not agree on all details but convey the same general message.

Lucas then brings to light that there are some accounts that disagree in both detail and message from the legendary account. The first dissenting account he mentions comes from a journalist's report of the proceedings of the British Association in 3 issues of the Athenaeum and a shorter article in Jackson's Oxford Journal. According to the journalists the discussion of descent from apes was on ongoing thing and not even significant enough to mention. It also appears that Huxley may not have even made the comment but instead that Joseph Hooker was the one to challenge Wilberforce. Hooker took credit and later stated Huxley made the comment.

Lucas then makes it clear that this meeting drew a significant amount of attention. Lucas points out that Huxley was potentially damaging to Darwin's theory because if he did indeed retort with such a personal blow to Wilberforce, the polite English audience would not approve. Lucas states people were already interested in Darwinism, so a personal slam of Wilberforce was not to tactful.

Lucas then makes it clear that Wilberforce was accused of not being a scientist who presumed himself to speak of scientific matters. Lucas shows that 5 weeks before the meeting Wilberforce had written a review of Darwin's Origin that was indeed scientific in content.

From this information, Lucas concludes that we can be sure that Wilberforce made some valid scientific points at the meeting.

Lucas then states to evaluate Wilberforce's argument that evolution is scientifically false, we must distinguish between the Darwinism of the day and the Darwinism of today. Lucas also notes that the Darwinism of today was not developed till the 1940's. Current Darwinism is "at least 3 stages removed from the theory Darwin propounded."

According to Lucas, Wilberforce was making three scientific points in his review and in his speech. 1. No evidence exists of any new species developing 2. Selective pressures had effects on species but did not cause a change of species 3. The phenomenon of the sterility of hybrids was huge evidence for the stability of species.

Lucas then evaluates these points stating that only the first one rests on shaky ground. The other two hold true. Darwin had no idea how genetically stable species were and he had no knowledge of genetics.

So Lucas states that Wilberforce was in the right till Darwinian's could produce an explanation of how one species could become another.

Lucas then points out that Darwin was impressed with Wilberforce's argument and that Darwin did his first revisions based on Wilberforce's arguments. But Darwin was also critical of Wilberforce in noting that the evidence was inevitably doubtful.

Huxley defends the Darwinian theory as more than a hypothesis. A hypothesis implies that one can take the proposal apart with specific facts. Instead, Huxley claims that natural selection is an explanation of phenomenon in natural history and that it is the "best explanation" of the origin of species in the world. Lucas argues that Darwin's hypothesis had its greatest strength in its power of organization of such a broad and potentially esoteric topic into something coherent and intelligible.

Lucas argues that both sides of the debate, in attempting to invoke scientific principles in their arguments, fail to argue effectively because the Darwinian theory comprises a paradigm shift. In effect, what one scientist may believe in regard to the theory of natural selection will then affect the scientist's way of thinking in other related matters. As a result of the broad implications of Darwin's theory, neither Wilberforce nor Huxley could consider the argument dispassionately, with their opinions having clear bases of facts. As a result, Wilberforce utilizes some non-scientific principles in his argument to the British Association and Huxley readily compares and accepts Darwin's theory as an "imperfect light" (Lucas 321).

Because of the paradigm shift contained in Darwin's theory, a dilemma readily becomes apparent. Either the theory exists as a hypothesis, in which case scientific data alone becomes important, or the theory exists as a broader explanation for species at large, in which case extraneous facts become important. If the latter is true, as proponents of Darwin argue because of the holes in the fossil record, then Wilberforce's rhetorical flourishes would become fair means of persuasion.

Wilberforce has had charges levied against him, including that the Bishop knew little of science and that he appealed to figures of authority too much. Such an appeal would seem rational, given that most of the scientists gathered at the meeting agreed with Wilberforce's ideas. Additionally, as previously stated, the Bishop did manage to poke a number of legitimate holes in the Darwinian theory that Darwin himself had to acknowledge as problems.

Lucas argues that the grandmother-grandfather-ape dialogue that most remember from the Huxley-Wilberforce debate could not have occurred. He cites two reasons for his opinion: 1. There were a lack of key witnesses in the actual debate. The only supposed earwitness, Grandmother of Macmillan's Magazine , wrote of the exchange approximately forty years after its occurrence. Lyell, who wrote one of the other accounts of the debate, bases his writings on second-hand stories. 2. The reply of Huxley ("I would rather be descended from an ape than a bishop") is too good of a reply. Such a reply would have put the Darwin camp at ease. However, Darwin himself advises Huxley to stop his polemics in the near future. Also, a difference of opinion within the debate crowd existed, with regard to which of the two combatants acted in a more uncouth manner. Some in the crowd felt bothered by Wilberforce's rhetorical tactics and lack of scientific evidence, rather than the monkey statement itself. In fact, Wilberforce may have questioned his own ancestry and not Huxley's line of descent.

Lucas attributes the common view that Huxley bested Wilberforce to the fact that, within the culture of the Western world, Darwinism prevailed. Enough evidence began to surface in the 1880s to allow for a better possibility of Darwinism actually existing as the truth. Huxley's own aversion to religion eventually exacerbated the quarrel between religion and science, particularly as Darwin's supporters began to take on Huxley's view of the debate. Those scientists wishing to spell out their autonomy eventually began to empathize with Huxley's supposed sentiments. Consequently, those who eventually won the war (i.e. the Darwinists who essentially prevailed in the Western world) had the opportunity to write the history and events of the debate.



2. Joe D. Burchfield, "Darwin and the Dilemma of Geological Time"

Alison Cherryholmes and Tammetha O'dom

Geological time was a problem that plagued Charles Darwin even before the first edition of On the Origin of Species appeared. Darwin choose to use the denudation of the Weald, a valley that stretched "between the North and South Downs in the south of England," in order to demonstrate the "quantitative magnitude of time"(302). The results of this method placed the earth's age at approximately 300 million years. The Saturday Review printed a review that criticized Darwin's work calculating time by using the Weald. Knowing that his results were wrong, Darwin placed a footnote in his second edition which stated that he had not "allowed for the denudation going on both sides of the...Weald-Bay"(304).

In 1860, John Phillips argued that the Weald could be denudated in 1.3 million years. Phillips' calculation of geological time stated that only 95 million years had passed "since the beginning of the Cambrian" (305) period. Knowing that he had made a mistake, Darwin took out all mention of the Weald in the third edition of his book. However, he was sure that the world was older than Phillips' results had stated. Other critics of Darwin's results included Fleeming Jenkin and Lord Kelvin. Jenkin, using Kelvin's results that the earth was 98 million years old, stated that natural selection could not happen in that short of a time span.

In 1868, James Croll's results stated that "the earth's stratigraphic crust had been deposited...more rapidly than most geologists believed possible"(310). He showed that natural selection could occur in a shorter time span than Darwin had stated. However, even with Croll's results, Darwin still feare that the "time scale" that Kelvin came up with would shorten the Precambrian period in to a shorter period than was needed for
his theory of natural selection to work.

In 1869, a collaborator of Kelvin's named P.G. Tait gave Darwin the optimism that he so desparately needed at the time. Tait questioned the "cosmological speculations of the older mathematician, including Laplace, whose results had been used by"(315) people such as Jenkin and Kelvin. Darwin now had a reason to doubt the physists' results as they had doubted his. However, Darwin suffered yet another blow when Wallace started to change the theory of natural selection in order to fit into the limitations set by Kelvin's results. Wallace used Croll's arguments that "pronounced orbital ellepticity...would produce long, harsh winters..."(316) which would result in an ice age. Wallace combined Croll's and Lyell's results and arrived at his own estimation: 24 million years "for the time since the beginning of the Cambrian"(317). The estimate would fit into the limitations set by Kelvin and still leave enough time for the process of natural selection.

George Mivart used the fact that there was a short period of time to work in to support the fact that all new organic beings must have appeared spontaneously rather than through natural selection. The fact that Wallace had altered his views in order to fit his theory into Kelvin's theory as a sign that his assumptions were correct. He felt that if the conclusions that Kelvin drew were correct, then natural selection would not
be possible. Even with all the evidence piled up against him, Darwin refused to side with Wallace and speed up evolution in order to fit it into Kelvin's time frame. 


3. Stephen Jay Gould, "Fleeming Jenkin Revisited"

Jason E. Holdren and Andrej Miller

No summary received.


4. Alvar Ellegard, "Missing Links"

Volker Neumann and Brian Huber

In this excerpt from Alvar Ellegard's book, he presents many interesting points from both sides of the arguement concerning evolution. Throughout the reading, he is fairly unbiased in his treatment of the subject. The main focus is the flaw in Darwin's theory in terms of "missing links." Opposers of Darwin point out the fact that there is no evidence of transitional forms connecting early species with those who inhabit the earth today.

Darwin did acknowledge this flaw in his theory. I feel this was the only professional way in handling the situation. One who continuously denies a patent flaw only lowers even further his/her credibility. Yet Darwin provides an explanation by asserting that intermediate forms are rare and therefore are less likely to be found in the fossil record.

Another objection to Darwin's theory is that most of his hypotheses were speculative and could not be proven experimentally (p. 219). But one must ask, "how can a scientist effectively experiment upon such a theory?", especially in a natural setting where one would attain the best results. This would take thousands of years (at least; this is based on early estimates) and would be absurd to even consider. At that time, the estimated age of the world was 6,000 years. Yet history presented different estimates as Ellegard pointed out in relation to ancient Egypt and its identical depictions of such animals as birds, cats, and dogs who looked the same as our modern species (p. 224). This led many to believe the earth was much older than originally thought. But anti-Darwinians were not thwarted.

Immediate after Darwin's publication of The Origin of Species, the effort in refuting his arguements were plentiful. Anti-Darwinians demanded findings of a complete chain of ancestry and intermediate forms of a modern animal. Such findings would be nearly impossible. And if a discovery was made that came even remotely close to that demand, such is the case with the finding of a species that had both reptile and bird-like features which resembled an intermediate form, anti-Darwinians were not satisfied. They would simply state that the "fact[s] produced...were dismissed as not to the point" (p. 229). Essentially, Darwin was in a Catch 22. There was no way he could satisfy the skeptics.

But such religious doctrines as the belief that all things go from a state of perfection to one of degradation become less credible as more of the fossil record is uncovered. The "belief in progress with the traditional belief in deterioration, however, becaome increasingly difficult to uphold..." (p.234). Hence, the Darwinian belief that all things progress from a primative form
to a more advanced form gradually becomes accepted.

Obviously, there were many nuances to the debate over Darwinism. Ellegard presents a few of them the reading selection from "Darwin and the General Reader" and effectively presents both sides of these issues. This debate will go on for years to come with both sides searching for the truth.


5. Daniel P. Todes, "Darwin's Malthusian Metaphor and Russian Evolutionary Thought"

Charles T. Barber and Brian Reed

Russian reaction to Malthus was fairly negative. Malthus's Essay on Population was first published in 1798, but it was not reviewed in Russia till 20 years later, and not translated into Russian for another 50 years. Malthus' views did not match Russian views on economies, competition, or society. Russian society, even though it was aristocratic and monarchist, like Darwin's England, was not as competition-based as English society was. Darwin played at solo sports like mountain climbing and sailing, while Russian sparred in groups. Darwin thought of evolution in his terms from studying the coastal areas of the tropical equator regions and England. These regions are nothing like the vast expanses of continental land of Russian.

The Russians' view on evolution matched Darwin's theory, except for two things. First, the Russians did not agree with Malthus and therefore Darwin's Malthusian metaphor did not fit their experimental data or cultural influences on theories of evolution. Second, Russians thought that the vast expanses of land provided more than enough resources so that competition between species did not occur that often. The Russian view of evolution saw more cooperation between species because the main struggle for life was against abiotic conditions such as the environment, the climate and geography. The Russians' theory was called mutual aid, because their scientific evidence showed that in Russia, despite its wide range of climates, had many species that worked together to survive the elements of nature, not competition from other species.

Naturalists like K. F. Kessler called to attention the premise ofcooperation in nature, agreeing with Darwin, yet aedding to his theory. He and others felt that Darwin was wrong in feeling that competition and survival of the fittest was the primary or only way living organisms evolved. The theory of Mutual Aid was put forth at this time by Kessler to explain that cooperation in nature was an essential component for a species to survive also. This would be as in the defense of oneself or other animals, or also to find food. Mutual struggle is not the only thingthat facilitates the survival of the animal kingdom, but mutual aid as well, said Kessler. In isolated Siberian Russia, a Russian scientist Kropotkin observed animals in common try to survive the harsh conditions, such as the lack of food and temperature in general. Kropotkin believed that the mutual aid of animals resulted from demanding physical conditions. These men did not really wholeheartedly disagree with Darwin, they justfelt he and others such as Huxley had not recognised another significant component of how nature operates: Mutual Aid.


6. Peter Bowler, "Darwinism: Religious and Moral Problems"

David Bass, Matt Duffey, and Chris Calvin

The Problem of Design

For centuries most believed in traditional creationism, that God created all and was the chief designer of all that is present. Darwin's theory on the origin of life, though, began to change these traditional beliefs as more and more people began to believe in evolution. His theory of an evolution of the species by means of natural selection contradicted traditional creationism. Darwin did believe in a God, but his beliefs were similar to those of a Deist. Natural selecion, in effect, denied the existence of a God involved with His creation.

There were many, though, who tried to reconcile the difference between evolution and design by God. The main problem with Darwin's theory for many was natural selection. It seemed to be a cruel mechanism full of suffering. Why would a benevolent God implement such a system? Their explanation for the origins was dubbed theistic evolution, that God implemented evolution and has a purpose, or goal, in designing it. This article reports many thories of theistic evolution which attempt to reconcile the difference between the consequences of Darwin's theory and Creationism. Many, like Lamarck, believed in an inheritance of acquired characteristics which benefitted mankind and were set forth by a designer. The author of this article, though, states that scientists could not agree on this issue and in the end a theory could not be set up that would retain design and still bescientifically respectable.

Evolution and Man

Darwin believed that his theory on evolution must include man. The problem was that this was controversial and if accepted, opened the debate as to how man evolved. The main problem concerned how nature developed man's mental and moral attributes. Darwin felt that man's mental development was a result of man adopting an upright posture. This allowed him to use his hands for toolmaking. This enhancement made our increased intelligence an inevitable consequence of natural selection. Thus with this increased intelligence, and the leisure to apply it to abstract questions, did philosophers begin to extend the social instincts into general moral laws imposed through religious sanctions. Darwin's followers thus make it possible to argue that moral values are an inevitable product of human social evolution.

Others tried to find fossil records of what was called the 'missing link' between man and ape. As archaeological evidence could not produce the missing link, Lubbock, Tyler, and Morgan tried to use modern savages to illustrate what they believed to be early stages of human cultural development. They felt that this would illustrate how the white race had lived in prehistoric times. Thus, these modern savages became the equivalent of the missing link to many evolutionists.

Evolution and Philosophy

The intention of the materialists was to explain everything in terms of matter and motion. Herbert Spencer, however, had developed the most popular of the new philosophies. His idea arose from a combination of evolutionism with the British tradition of utilitarianism and laissez-faire. Around the middle of the century utilitarianism and associationism were in a state of crisis. Spencer's combination of utilitarianism and universal evolutionism seemed to be the best response to the crisis. Spencer popularized the term "evolution" and coined the phrase "survival of the fittest". He cared little for the details of science. He figured biological evolution was just one aspect of a universal process, and he was convinced that Lamarckism played a much greater role than Darwin admitted. His philosophy created a morality based on the individual's success in contributing toward the progress of evolution. By 1852 Spencer had published an article favoring Lamarckian evolution. About the same time he came across von Baer's concept of embryological growth as a development from general to specialized structures. He decided that this was the pattern for all natural processes, which he eventually called evolution. He viewed evolution as a branching process, not all branches progressing, with complexity of structure leading from homogeneity to heterogeneity. Spencer's philosophy suggested that morality was based on how nature reacted. If someone was moral they would be rewarded withsuccess. Spencer also insisted that nature had to take its course. One could not foresee the future and speed development towards it. Nature is inherently creative, and the lack of constraints on evolution guarantees the freedom of the human individual.

C. Lloyd Morgan coined the term "emergent evolution". This refers to the capacity of nature to generate totally new, unpredictable qualities at certain levels of organization. T.H. Huxley first explored the prospect that nature may be without purpose or moral significance. Huxley said that is was by a cosmic accident that man has been given faculties that allow him to recognize the meaningless character of the system that gave him birth.