April 9, 2020
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Who Discovered Evolution?


Good evening, everyone. It’s a distinct pleasure to
introduce tonight’s speaker, Ned Friedman. It turns out I’ve known
Ned a very long time. A mere 40 years ago, when I was
very young and decidedly green assistant professor
at Oberlin College, I had a young man named
William Edward Friedman in my paleontology class. And in fact, Ned did a
lot of the microscopy for his senior thesis in
plant biology in my office. And so over the time that I
knew him as an undergraduate, I really came to know him well
as a very bright, affable, curious young person,
just the kind of person that you hope will go
into a career in science. Ned move from Oberlin
to the West Coast and got his PhD from
Berkeley in 1986, then did a short
postdoctoral stint at the University of
Arizona, before starting his first professorial job
at the University of Georgia. He was there for
about eight years and then migrated again halfway
across the country, at least, to the University of
Colorado, where he would spend the next 15 years. Now, during this time
interval, from the time he started graduate school
through his time at Colorado, Ned developed a very fine
reputation for research on the anatomy and evolution
and function of vascular plants. And in particular, Ned
devoted a lot of time to studying what you
might think of as the lost generation of plants. Some of you may know,
unlike animals, plants have two distinct multicellular
phases in their life cycles. One of them, the
gametophyte phase, is much reduced in seed plants. In fact, the gametophyte phase
develops within the tissues of its parent. That generation had not received
a lot of study in modern times until Ned came along. And he showed
beautifully just how much functional and
evolutionary information was resident in both the male
and female gametophytes of seed plants. Among other things,
he showed that if you look at the development of this
generation in early flowering plants, it sheds a lot of light
on the evolution of the group. Ned also made another
fundamental contribution to our understanding of
plant reproductive biology. And that is, if you look in
pretty much any textbook, it will tell you that
there is something called double fertilization carried
out by flowering plants, and that this is
unique, and it’s one of the things that makes
flowering plants special. Well, it was unique until
Ned came along and showed that this same phenomenon is
found in another group of seed plants called the gnetales. And so through this really
careful anatomical work, Ned was able to shed a
great deal of new light on reproductive biology and
lifecycle evolution in plants. Now, it turns out that
in 2011, Ned moved again. This time–
thankfully for us– he moved to Harvard,
where he became the director of the
Arnold Arboretum and the Arnold
Professor of Biology. And I think it’s
fair to say that Ned has done a terrific job in
strongly enhancing the research and educational mission
of the arboretum, while also growing
in a wonderful way its mission as a
Boston public park. And so the arboretum,
I think, has never been healthier than it is now. Now, at the same
time, in addition to all of his administrative,
teaching, and mentoring duties, Ned has really
spent a lot of time, an increasing amount
of time, trying to understand early evolution. Well, not– early evolution
is kind of my beat. But the early thinking
about evolution– who were the first
people to really think about evolutionary concepts
in anything like the way we think of it now? What did Darwin know
of these writings? And how did they
influence his career? And that’s what Ned’s going
to talk to us tonight about. So please welcome Ned Friedman. [APPLAUSE] Thank you very much. It’s wonderful to be here. It’s a magnificent day out
at the Arnold Arboretum. So I did sneak out to become
inspired by biodiversity, and then made my way over. As Andy alluded, this question
is a pretty simple question. But fairly early in my career
as an evolutionary biologist, I began to ponder where
my discipline came from. And I’m going to tell you, this
has been a 30-year journey. It’s all sort of
been on the side. But it’s become rather a
large obsession in my case. And it’s led to me collecting,
for example, this– I collect images of Charles
Darwin in caricature from the 19th century. And I’m very interested
in how that then affects societal
reactions to evolution. This is a French
drawing from the 1870s, actually in a
political newspaper. So let’s ask the question,
who discovered evolution, tonight and see if we can
come up with an answer that surprises you. So let’s start first
with what is evolution. And we’ll keep it very simple. Of course, I mean a department
of organismic and evolutionary biology. So there’s a lot to
say about the topic. But I’ll just–
for tonight, we’re just going to say it’s descent
with modification over time, vast amounts of time. So back to Andy’s
areas that are very early in unicellular life and
all the way up to the present. And the way I look at it
is, these are my ancestors, actually, about 90 years ago. My grandfather is on the right,
and my mother is actually standing on the top step. And as you can imagine,
we don’t look identical, but we look pretty similar. But if we go back
a few generations– I’ll just show you what
my ancestors looked like 400 million years ago. [LAUGHTER] You’ll notice that there are
some similarities– the four limbs, very friendly
looking, I would say. And we now know that this
is what all of us a sense are descended from. And that’s a little bit more
descent with modification. But of course, 90 years
versus 400 million. That gives you some time. Now, if I push it back
to, let’s just say, 650 million years ago, our
ancestors are single cells. So a lot happened, actually,
between 650 and 400. Frankly, it’s been
kind of quiet, I’d say, in the last
400 million years. I do look a lot like that
little fish out of water. So these are my ancestors. Now, we’re just going to
go with that, just descent with modification. How did biodiversity arise? And that’s the question I
want to look into tonight. Who discovered evolution? And the standard
answer, the one that I think you’ll find in almost
every textbook or at least every impression
among the public, is that this young boy, not
at this point in his life, discovered evolution. This is Charles Darwin as
a young boy, probably nine or so years old, in Shrewsbury. He was the son of
a medical doctor and a grandson of
a medical doctor. And so what did one do? When one reached
a certain age, one was sent off to medical school. And Charles Darwin was sent off
to medical school in Edinburgh, which would have been the
most eminent medical school certainly in the
world or among them, where he very quickly
discovered that he could not stand the sight of blood. And watching operations before
anesthesia was available was a very, very
unpleasant thing to do. So you’ll notice that he
became a college dropout, which is an important thing. I think, often in my
classes with young people here at Harvard, I
want to remind people that the path to a variety
of interesting things in life does not have to be
straight and narrow. Darwin told his father he just
could not be in medical school and that he was dropping out. So plan B had to be arrived at. And plan B was, well,
then we’ll send you off to Cambridge University. There, you would sort of– it’s
a little bit of a finishing. You do your classics,
not too much science. And you would be eventually
ordained a clergyman in the Church of England. And for those of you
who enjoy Trollope, you can just picture
sort of the scene. Trollope, you send the
parson off to the country where butterfly collecting
and plant presses really are the main activity,
and you squeeze in those sermons on Sundays. And Darwin did not take his
university life particularly seriously. He said in his autobiography,
“during the three years which I spent at
Cambridge, my time was wasted as far as the
academical studies were concerned as completely as
at Edinburgh and at school.” And in fact– this is
a wonderful cartoon some of his friends made of him
riding a beetle with his bug net. He was always out collecting
insects and shooting birds. And I mean, he loved
natural history. And that just meant
not in the classroom. That meant getting out there. And as you can see, it
says, “go it, Charlie.” So there he is, out
after his beetles, which he loved to collect. Now, in 1831, he is graduated
from the university. And his father now thinks
it’s time to get a job. And Darwin assumed he
would have to get one. He hadn’t thought
particularly hard about it. He was born in a wealthy family. But an amazing opportunity came
up through a number of things that I won’t go into,
but they’re well-known. He was invited to be the captain
of a very famous boat now, a captain’s companion
and a person who would know a lot about natural
history on the HMS Beagle. This was a surveying ship that
was going to be sent in 1831 really to South America
to do all kinds of surveys for British merchants, so that
you knew where things were deep, where they weren’t. All these charts were
going to be created for the hydrological commission
to be sent so that people could get from point A to point B. His father relented. Initially, his father
said no, this is absolutely out of the question. But there’s a great story. His father said to Charles,
if you can convince your uncle to think that this is not
crazy stuff, I will relent. And off Charles went
to his uncle, who said, I can’t see why not. And everything turned on
that one little incident. But what happened is he left
this very unbiodiverse island. You know, you’re thinking about
the United Kingdom and England, there’s some biodiversity
there obviously, but a minuscule portion of
the world’s biodiversity can be found there. And on the voyage
of the Beagle, he would be exposed to the tropics,
to the tip of South America, to the most diverse
environments. So you can imagine that,
for a person who’s loving– who had a great interest
in natural history, this was eye-opening,
the insects, the fossils that he actually got to dig up
and encounter in South America. And five years later, he returns
from the voyage of the Beagle, where he settles
into London, where he plans to write up a lot of
his findings for, essentially, various societies
because a lot of these are new discoveries of species. And there are all kinds of
things that he’s learned. He also opens up a
private notebook. And in 1837, within
the year of his return, we know that Charles
Darwin has begun to ask the simple
question, where did all of this biodiversity come from? And the answer, he said,
in 1837, is it is evolved. And what you’re seeing
here is a genealogy. You can think of
your own family tree. One is a common ancestor
of some hypothetical group of organisms. Over here is
another group that’s less closely related than
B and C are to each other. It’s a more distant thing. And he says, “I think.” So he says, this is how
biodiversity– you descend. You change. You go off into different
parts of the biological world. And that’s what
creates biodiversity. And this is really what
we’re talking about. Right? And our primate cousins. That’s what he saw
in that diagram that he had put into one
of his private notebooks. Now, we know that within
the next year, knowing that the world was
evolved, he understood something very profound
about how evolution worked. And as he wrote, he
said, “in October, 1838, being well-prepared
to appreciate the struggle for
existence, it at once struck me that
favorable variations would tend to be preserved
and unfavorable ones to be destroyed. The results of this would be
the formation of a new species.” This is, in fact,
natural selection. The world is very competitive. It is Malthusian. And of course, what
did Charles Darwin read not long before he
came up with this idea? He read Malthus On Population. He took Malthus On
Population with humans, and he put it into the world. And he said it was a harsh
world, a world where most are born, and most of them die. Only the few survive,
and they would have to be the ones best
adapted to their environment. This is survival of the fittest. Now, that’s 1838. Now, Darwin is in a mode
of reading every bit of natural history he can. He’s going to get married
in these next few years. He’s going to move out to Downe. But he doesn’t have
to work for a living. He literally has enough
money that his profession is natural historian and he
can do what he wishes. Now, most people with
that kind of money might actually do very little. He doesn’t have to do anything. But Darwin worked
harder than anyone else could have worked on the
questions of what accounts for the world of biodiversity. By 1842, we know that he penned
his first essay on evolution and the principle of
natural selection. It was not published
in his lifetime, but was finally published
in 1909, long after he died. And you can see,
“conclusion, such are my reasons for believing
the specific forms are not immutable,” that they change. And he’s reasoned this out. Now, you might think,
well, he’s on the precipice of announcing that he figured
out that this world has evolved, and he knows
that how it evolves is through a principle
of natural selection, that the fit survive, and those
that are less well adapted are culled from the population. Nope, he wasn’t ready. He was a man who
thought he really had to understand every
manifestation of his ideas in any possible way. He had to challenge,
is evolution true? If it is, then it must explain
certain broader sets of facts. So he spent the next eight years
actually working on barnacles and cutting his
teeth as a practicing expert on a taxonomic group. And here are some of
the wonderful volumes with the illustrations of the
Cirripedia, the barnacle phase. There’s a wonderful story of his
children, one of his sons going over to a neighbor’s house– during this time,
it was actually Sir John Lubbock, who became
a very important person in English history,
the Monuments Act, but he was also a
natural historian. And one of Charles’s
sons asking his friend at the neighbor’s
house, so where does your father
study his barnacles? [LAUGHTER] It just seemed that this must
be what every father does. One sits at microscopes
and looks at barnacles. Well, he comes out of
the barnacle phase. And he’s finally convinced
by his closest friends, whom he has shared insights
into his thinking, to start writing the book,
the book on evolution. And he begins in 1856. And he continues writing. And this is a massive book. It was not published
in his lifetime. And I’ll tell you why. The same time Darwin’s
thinking about evolution and writing a book,
there’s another Englishman who grew up right on
the Welsh border who’s away in the Malay Archipelago. And his name is
Alfred Russel Wallace. And he spent eight years
in the Malay Archipelago. He had set off on
these journeys– this was the second major journey. The other one was
to the Amazon– to essentially solve what he
called the species question. Where did all of
this stuff come from? Unlike Darwin who could just
be the companion of someone who was the captain
of a ship and had all of his bills
paid by his parents, Wallace had to make a living. And so he made his living
by shooting everything, and capturing everything,
and pressing everything, and sending it to
an agent London, who would sell it for people’s
Victorian curio cabinets. And so a lot of death came
along with Wallace’s admiration of birds of paradise
and everything else. But he, too, had
an amazing insight during his time in the
Malay Archipelago– actually, during
a malarial fever. And as he wrote in his own
autobiography, “why do some die and some live? And the answer was,
clearly, that on the whole, the best fitted live. From the effects of
disease, the most healthy escaped from enemies,
the strongest. Then it suddenly flashed upon
me that this self-acting process would necessarily
improve the race because in every generation,
the inferior would inevitably be killed off and the
superior would remain. That is, the fittest
would survive.” And indeed, this is the
principle of natural selection. And he came up with this idea
not long after reading Malthus, On Population. So it just shows you that there
are no walls between science and social theory, social
theory, political theory. These things are much
more dynamic than we often give them credit for. And this is a
perfect case, where something that was laid
in the 1790s in Malthus and On Human Population
could literally stimulate two of the
most important people of the 19th century
to understand how evolution accomplishes
essentially change, descent with modification. So what does Wallace do? Well, he’s not feeling so well. He’s in the middle of nowhere. And he’s got malaria. But he sits down. He writes out a manuscript. And he says, I’m going to
send this over to England. I’ll figure out if
someone can put it in a journal on my behalf. But I think I’ve got
a pretty good idea. So he sends it off to England. And who does he send–
he doesn’t really know a lot of people
in the power structure because he’s outside of it. So he thinks, well, I’ve– there’s this fellow
by the name of– oh, yeah, Charles Darwin. And I will send it to him. And so he does. And in 1858, as Darwin
is writing his big book on evolution and
natural selection, having thought about this whole
question for 20-plus years but published nothing,
he gets a manuscript from Alfred Russel Wallace
on the very essence of what he’s been doing for 20 years. As he wrote, “I never saw a
more striking coincidence. If Wallace had my manuscript
sketch written out in 1842”– the one I showed you earlier– “he could not have made
a better short abstract. So all my originality,
whatever it may amount to, will be smashed.” Can you imagine 20 years of
labor, of examining your idea, and understanding it is the
key to life, understanding it, and now you’re holding
it, and as a gentleman, you must now transmit
this document to a journal for publication? Well, interestingly
enough, that week– this isn’t the worst thing
that happens to Charles Darwin. That very same
week, what we have is scarlet fever running
through the village of Downe. As he writes to his good
friend, Joseph Hooker, the director of the Royal
Botanic Gardens Kew– “you will, and so will Mrs.
Hooker, be most sorry for us when you hear that poor
baby died yesterday evening. I hope to god that he did not
suffer so much as he appeared. He became quite suddenly worse. It was scarlet fever. It was the most
blessed relief to see his poor little innocent face
resume its sweet expression in the sleep of death. Thank god he will never
suffer more in this world.” And that was the third
child that Charles Darwin had to bury. He had an 11-year-old
daughter, Annie, that he also– and if you go to a village
of Downe, to the church, you will see Charles
Darwin, his namesake, at the age of two, who
died of scarlet fever. Well, what happened
is actually one of the most interesting
sort of episodes in the history of science. The power structure
that sort of existed made a set of decisions. One of them was Joseph
Hooker over at Kew, and the other is Charles
Lyell, the great geologist. And they had realized– Darwin had made them aware
of Wallace’s manuscript for potential transmission
for publication. But they decided,
since they knew that Darwin had thought
of natural selection as a mechanism and had done that
many years ago, that they would arrange for a special meeting
of the Linnean Society in which Wallace’s
paper would be read, but also, extracts
from Charles Darwin’s, that would establish
Darwin’s temporal priority, while giving both
of them credit. And in fact, in
the summer of 1858, On the Tendency of
Species to Form Varieties and On the Perpetuation
of Varieties and Species by Natural
Means of Selection was read. Darwin was not there. Wallace didn’t even
know it was happening. He’s in the Malay Archipelago. Decisions were being
made on his behalf. And here, you can see an extract
from the unpublished work On Species. This is from his
essays in the 1840s. They had a fair hand copy that
established that this idea existed in that time frame. They also had something
connected to Harvard. Charles Darwin had confessed
to Asa Gray, the great botanist here at Harvard, and
former Fisher professor, that he was an evolutionist,
and this is why. And they had a fair hand
copy made of this letter, again, establishing
the date of 1857. And then you have Wallace’s
1858 manuscript, which was intended for publication. And these were all
published in 1858. So what does Darwin do now? He’s had this little
set of bits and pieces. But he’s got this
gargantuan manuscript with 1,000 citations. It’s got details. It is– I’ve read it. It is unreadable. [LAUGHTER] It is. It’s a tough, tough read. So he abandons his big book. And he sits down to write a
short abstract of his ideas. He goes, I’m going to just
scrunch this thing down. And in a matter of
eight or nine months, he’s going to go
from start to finish. It’s going to be intense. And he is going to
write with passion. And he’s going to
take all of his ideas from the last 22 years and
turn it into an abstract. NOw, when we talk about
abstracts in the sciences now, we think about a paragraph,
right, at the front of a paper that we then publish that
might be 15 pages long. Let me show you what
Darwin’s abstract looks like. This is it. It’s On the Origin of Species. It’s about 500 pages. This is the short
version of his ideas. Now, one of the great
things about this is it was written quickly. He didn’t go into
all of the minutia. He really was able to focus on
the big facts, the big things that were going to convince
the world that evolution was an explanation of life. And as he said, “this
abstract, which I now publish, must necessarily be imperfect. I cannot here give references
and authorities for my several statements, and I must trust
to the reader reposing some confidence in my accuracy.” Which is thank goodness. If you go through the big
book with all the citations, you’re going to stop
at about page 12. But this book is really
the popular version of it, filled with information but
without all the citations. And he just wrote it out. He said, trust me. But not everyone was
so happy with this. And there was some
fallout from the abstract. And this leads to Darwin
getting quite a bit of mail. So we know that On
the Origin of Species is released by John
Murray, still located on Albemarle Street in
London, if you’ve ever been. I just was actually there
to see Mrs. John Murray VII two weeks ago. And here’s what happened. Some people started writing
Charles Darwin saying, you know, I know some people,
like over here in France, that talked about evolution
and natural selection long before your book that’s
getting all this attention. So here’s Darwin,
writing to Hooker. He says, “I’m surprised
that Dicaisne should say it was the same as mine.” Natural selection. “Noudin”– this
natural historian– gives artificial selection
as well as a score of English writers, but I cannot find
one word the the struggle for existence and
natural selection.” So someone’s a little irate. We don’t have the
letter to Darwin, but we know what it said. It said, you didn’t mention– and this is back when
England and France we’re a little bit edgy about
who got credit for things. Well, here’s Charles Naudin. He was a very eminent
breeder and hybridizer. And this is a paper,
“Considerate Philosophical Considerations on
Species and Varieties.” It is a paper about
evolution and the fact that the world has evolved. As Naudin wrote in
1852, “We do not believe that nature is proceeded
to form its species in a manner that we ourselves used
to create varieties”– meaning through
domestication and gardening– “rather, it’s nature’s
process that we have applied to our practices.” What nature already
is doing, that’s how we create
agricultural end products. That’s how we create all kinds
of things– animals and plants. Were just borrowing nature’s
process of choosing. But he doesn’t have any of the
Malthusian language in there. He doesn’t have the
concepts of the extreme sort of cuts that have to be made. But he does have quite
a lot of insight. “To start a new lineage we
choose among the large number of individuals– those
that seem to deviate from the specific type
in ways that suit us. And with a rational
selection and follow up the products obtained, we do
after an undetermined number of generations create artificial
varieties or species that meet more or less the ideal
type that we were aiming for.” “With a relatively small
number of primordial kinds, nature successively gave
birth to all the plant and animal species that
inhabit the globe.” That’s evolution. Did Charles Darwin know
about Charles Naudin? Of course. I mean, he read everything. Did he know about this paper? Of course. Naudin, in this paper, shows
that there’s a lot of variation out there– the raw
materials for selection– that artificial
selection actually is artificial because
it’s only borrowing what nature is already doing
in an evolutionary sense and we’re just guiding
it towards what we want. He knew about deep time
and the fossil record. And that the early fossil
record had simpler organisms. And that later on, you have
more complex organisms which is consistent with evolution. And he actually thought
that classification of life should be genealogical just
like in Darwin’s little thing. It’s a branching diagram
and he wrote that. Now a few weeks later,
he gets a letter from Baden Powell, a very
eminent Professor of Geometry at Oxford University. We don’t have the letter. But Darwin writes him back and
we know what’s in the letter. Darwin writes to
Powell, “My health was so poor, whilst
I wrote the Book, that I attempted no
history of the subject, nor do I think I
was bound to do so. The only novelty in
my work is the attempt to explain how species
become modified, and to a certain extent,
how the theory of descent explains certain large
classes of facts.” And this is where he’s
pretty bold here– “And in these respects
I received no assistance from my predecessors.” Well, that’s complicated. He’s writing history now. It would appear he might be
at the center of history– a little bit complicated. The task, as he goes
on to say, would not have been a little
difficult and belongs rather to the Historian
of Science to me. And that’s absolutely true. But let me show you
Baden Powell’s book. Because what Baden
Powell says is, yeah, you’re getting a lot of
attention for this Origin book but I wrote a book about
evolution in the mid 1850’s. And it was actually a very
important book about evolution. It’s called, Essays on the
Spirit of the Inductive Philosophy, the Unity of Worlds
and the Philosophy of Creation. This is evolution. And if you look at
the first edition– I love this book. This is– he’s a clergyman. He’s in the Church of
England because he’s a professor at Oxford so he’s
studied in world theology. And what you have
is the globe on top of an elephant on top of a
tortoise with a question mark. And this is from the
“Hindu Creation Story”. So he was well aware of
other creation mythology. He didn’t choose anything
other than this one, but because it had the
organisms it is quite wonderful. So that is what sits
on the title to– on the cover of a
book about evolution by Baden Powell on the
philosophy of creation. And Darwin goes on
to say, “I most fully agree that your work–”
meaning, Baden Powell wanted to know why he
wasn’t mentioned in Origin– “must have had a great effect
with philosophical minds in removing prejudices
on the subject. I’ve had to make by letter
the same acknowledgment to the Author, as I
believe, of the Vestiges. Stay tuned for a second. Vestiges now turns out
to be the third letter he’s gotten about his book. So I will tell you if you–
and Baden Powell’s book is eminently readable. It’s a fascinating read. The fossil record he knew
was good and consistent with a descent
with modification. He actually began to understand
that embryology– if you could modify the way an embryo
develops into adult, over time those
changes in embryology would actually give
rise to new species. We now think of that
discipline as Evo-devo or evolutionary
developmental biology. Was not the first. And he was resolute
that there could be no miraculous explanations
in the natural world, which led to a lot of trouble
with the Church of England where he was, in fact, going
to be tried and excommunicated for heresy until he
conveniently died in 1860. So what is Vestiges? And who is the
author of Vestiges? Well, it was an
anonymously written book. In 1844, it first appears. It goes through 10, 11
editions before Origin. It is the best selling book on
evolution in the 19th century until after Darwin dies
and Origin catches up. And everyone wondered
who wrote it. Darwin was correct
in his suspicions, as were some others. But it actually wasn’t
a natural historian. It was an Edinburgh
Scottish publisher, and his name was
Robert Chambers. And he had accumulated
wealth and he was so afraid of putting his
name on this book, because he would end up losing
all of his publication firm and then it would be boycotted,
that he never admitted to it. It was only after he died
that it was finally revealed. But “the first step was an
advance– from the simplest forms of being to the
next more complicated, and this through the medium
of the ordinary process of generation.” And in fact, this is the
person who first comes up with the evolutionary
developmental biology idea that if you modify how
you go from a zygote– along the way you
make changes early on, you can have very big
changes in the adult. And that, in fact, is
part of what we now study quite a bit in my department. He also knew about
the fossil record. But he actually
understood that embryology was going to be key
to understanding how evolution worked. And that was
articulated in 1844. Amazing insights. Darwin gets another letter
from Herbert Spencer, a well-known philosopher– February 2nd. We’re only a couple months
out from publication so it’s been a busy,
busy month or two. I was so much out of
health, Darwin says– and this is a standard
Victorian saw. This is not– he wasn’t
necessarily feeling great. He had some digestive issues. But you just sort of said this
to sort of put people off. It’s a strategy. So I grudged every hour of
labor and therefore gave no sort of history of
progressive of opinion. I have now written
a preface– ah-ha, he’s gotten tired
of these letters– in which I give a
very brief sketch, and have with much pleasure
alluded to your excellent essay on evolution. And in fact, as early
as 1852, Herbert Spencer had been writing about
evolution more as a philosopher and an anti-creationist. He really took it
to the creationist. And if you ever read some
of these articles in these newspapers– these
liberal newspapers– they just devastate
creationists. He’s like, show me the data. And it’s like, did species
just sprinkle out of the sky? Did they come up
out of the ground? Did a few viscera and
limbs come together? It’s all in these articles. It’s brilliant, brilliant stuff. And he went on to
publish these articles and they were very
important, certainly in shaping public opinion. Darwin has given up. He’s decided he’s got to
stop getting these letters. So he’s going to
create a small preface to On the Origin of
Species, and it’s going to have what he calls
his history of the discipline. He’s going to write the
history of his own discipline that he is at the center of. Bad idea. All right? We can all accept
that he’s probably not going to get it quite right. So what he does is he
sits down he sort of writes all the people he
can think of and remember very quickly. We actually think he may have
written it as early as the 1855, 1856, but
there are some things that are missing in
the archives that don’t allow us to know that. Now, the second
edition of Origin has been published in England– first edition sold
out immediately. The problem is they
did a big print run and they’re not ready to
print the third edition. American edition has gone
through three printings by now. Appleton Press, the
American publisher that did most of the evolution,
is already knocked off, but they’ve got some back stock. So where’s the next version
of Origin coming out? It turns out it’s being
translated as we speak, so to speak, in
Germany by Heinrich Braun, a natural historian. And so Darwin says,
hey, why don’t you slip this little preface
in the German edition. So Darwin– the first history
of evolutionary thought appears in the German language
in the spring of 1860. I’m not much acquainted
with German authors as I read German very slowly. Therefore, I do not know whether
any Germans have advocated similar views with mine. If they have, would
you do me the favor to insert a footnote
to the preface? I would call that
less than ambitious if you want to count
him as a historian. Right? He’s being a little casual. But here it is. This is in fact, the
first articulation that the discipline has
a history that predates On the Origin of Species. Then the third printing of
the American Origin sells out. And this German thing,
which it was originally obviously written in
English, comes out in America in the
summer of 1860. So Americans could read the
history of evolution in 1860. And finally, in 1861,
the second edition doesn’t have it from 1860. In 1861 you can see
the historical sketch. Now you can be in
England and get the news. But they’re the last here. So let me just look at this
little historical sketch. He begins– I will
here attempt to give a brief but imperfect sketch
of the progress of opinion on the Origin of Species. This is very accurate. Especially the imperfect stuff. So let me give you a
couple of examples. I mentioned that
Alfred Russell Wallace co-discovered the principle
of natural selection. And he did it
entirely independently in his own brilliant way. Now, after Origin
had been published and the historical
sketch had circulated– this is a Charles Lyell,
the great geologist, writing to, actually, Alfred
Russel Wallace in 1867. He goes, my dear
Wallace, I’ve been looking into Darwin’s
historical sketch thinking to find some allusion to your
essay– when he gets to 1855, but I can find no
allusion to it. Remember he’s the one who
created the little co-reading at the Linnean Society. And he’s a little bothered that
Darwin hasn’t given Wallace full credit. Because in fact,
beginning in 1855, Wallace started publishing
articles on evolution in the UK. And they’re not mentioned in
this historical sketch at all. And so here’s one on the
habits of the orangutan. You can imagine
where that’s going in terms of human origins. Another attempt to arrange
the classification of birds in an evolutionary way. And here’s one about how
varieties can actually sort of evolve into species. And all Darwin gives him
in this historical sketch– if you look at the Origin
is, “The third volume of the Journal of
the Linnean Society contains papers by
Mr. Wallace and myself in which, as stated in
the introductory remarks to this volume, the theory
of Natural Selection is promulgated.” So I would say that’s
somewhat casual. This is just what
it means to be human and to be at the
center of something. It’s not evil. It’s not necessarily
anything other than the fact that Darwin wasn’t thinking
very hard about how to give attribution. And he wasn’t a historian. But here’s another funny
part of this little essay. “Lamarck was the first man whose
conclusions on this subject excited much attention.” And most of us who
come through biology will learn about Lamarck
and giraffe’s necks willing to get longer to get
the stuff up in the tall. And we’re told Lamarck
wrong, Darwin right, natural selection, and so forth. And that Lamarck was a
really important evolutionist in the early 1800s. But Lamarck was not
the first person to essentially excite attention
on the topic of evolution. He did start writing
about evolution in 1801– year 9 of the French Revolution. But here’s someone
who is writing about evolution in the 1790s. He lived in the British
Midlands in this house right here next to the
only three-spired cathedral in England, the
Church of England. And he had on his book
plate this wonderful thing which was three cockle shells. And it says, Litchfield,
which is in the Midlands– E conchis omnia–
‘everything from shells. Now you might think,
well, what does that mean? Cockle shells and so
forth– it means, evolution. Everything from marine
invertebrate life on up. And you might say, oh, no one’s
going to be in on that joke. Well, he was a medical
doctor and he painted it on the door of his carriage as
he went about zillions of miles taking care of his patients. So everyone saw this. And I guarantee you at
least one person noticed it and he lived there in that
three spired cathedral. And he was none
too happy about it. He knew what it meant. And he then wrote, in
1784, a little article unbeknownst to this person
with the cockle shells to the Gentleman’s Magazine. And he attacks this person
for his evolutionary views. And he ends this whole
thing with a wonderful poem. “He too renounces his
creator and forms all sense from senseless matter. Makes men start up
from dead fish bones as old Dewcalian
did from stones. Great wizard he by
magic spells can build a world of cockle
shells and all things frame while eyelid twinkles
from lobsters, crabs, and periwinkles. Oh, doctor, change
thy foolish motto, or keep it for
some ladies grotto. Else thy poor patients well
may quake if thou no more canst mend than make.” What he’s meaning is, remove
that from your carriage or you will never
practice medicine anywhere near where I live. And it came off the
carriage immediately. Who was this person? Charles Darwin’s grandfather,
the first English evolutionist, Erasmus Darwin. And I think it’s reasonable to
assume that Erasmus Darwin was known to Charles, who read
his work on evolution. So there he is Erasmus
Darwin, the first Darwin to publish on evolution. The first Englishman to
publish on evolution. And he published in
this very long book about animal biology
and medical, sort of, thought and philosophy. There’s a little
section with six pages, but it is about evolution– Zoonomia. “When we think over
the great changes introduced into
various animals by artificial or
accidental cultivation, as in horse or in dogs– which have undergone so
total a transformation that we are now ignorant from
what species of wild animals they had their origin.” In other words, imagine how much
we’ve done with domestication, couldn’t that explain evolution? So it’s an analogy. Just like his grandson
would use and many others. “When we resolve in our
minds the great similarity of structure, which obtains in
all the warm blooded animals– from the mouse and bat to
the elephant and whale”– to my four-limbed fish
crawling out of water. Right? It’s the idea that we have
these similar body plans. That is the concept of homology
that we would now accept. “The final cause of
this context amongst the males seems to be that
the strongest and most active animal should
propagate the species which thence become improved.” It’s the first articulation of
the process of sexual selection leading to change. “Would it be too
bold to imagine that in the great lengths of time
since the Earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before
the commencement of the history of mankind– that all warm blooded
animals have arisen from one living filament?” Pretty impressive stuff. But it’s just six pages– deep time, common
origin of all life. And there you have it. Darwin, in his autobiography– I would say, rather, you
know, not credibly, says, “I had previously
read the Zoonomia of my grandfather, in which
similar views are maintained, but without producing
any effect on me.” Well, I don’t buy it. Janet Brown will
tell you exactly the same thing– baloney. It had to have had some effect. All right. So we know that Charles Darwin
wasn’t the first evolutionist– and I’m going to come back
to how many there were before Darwin– and he
never said he was– but we often really don’t
appreciate the context of Darwin because we tend
to write everyone out of the history except
the sort of ones that make for a good story– Lamarck, French, wrong– Darwin, English, right. All right? That’s a simplified
version but that’s what introductory biology
students really have been getting for 100 years. But let’s ask the question, were
Darwin and Wallace the first to actually publish on the
principle of natural selection? And we now know, as Darwin came
to appreciate, that he wasn’t. And nor was Wallace. And it’s interesting
because in 1860, someone who’d published The
Principle of Natural Selection got very irritated
at Charles Darwin. And what this person
did is he wrote a letter to the Gardener’s
Chronicle, which was a newspaper on
gardening and domestication and all kinds of other things,
and said, hey, what about me? And Darwin writes to Lyell,
“In last Saturday Gardener’s Chronicle, a Mr. Patrick
Mathews publishes long extract from his work in
1831, in which he briefly but completely anticipates the
theory of Natural Selection. It is certainly, I think, a
complete but not developed anticipation.” Fair enough. How many of you had heard of
Patrick Matthew before now? All right. So there you go. History has not been
good to Patrick Matthew. The question is, is that right? There it is. This is what he wrote to
the Gardener’s Chronicle on his “Nature’s
Law of Selection”. And he says, I noticed in
March 3, your long quotation from the Times, stating
that Mr. Darwin professes to have discovered the
existence and modus operandi of the natural
law of selection. This discovery turns out
to be what I published– now he says very fully,
and I would dispute that, as far back as 1831. What does Darwin do? What can you do? He’s already– the
book is a sensation. So he just writes a letter
to the Gardener’s Chronicle and says, “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 can do no more than
offer my apologies to Mr. Matthew for my entire
ignorance of his publication.” But I’ve told you
he read everything. How could he miss this? Well, let’s see
what Matthew said. “As Nature, in all her
modifications of life, has a power of increase
far beyond what is needed to supply the place
of what falls by Time’s decay”– Malthus– “–those individuals who possess
not the requisite strength, swiftness, hardihood,
or cunning, fall prematurely
without reproducing– their place being occupied by
the more perfect of their own kind who are pressing on the
limited resources that nature offers.” “As the field of existence
is limited and preoccupied, it is only the
hardier, more robust, better suited to
circumstance, individuals who are able to struggle
forward to maturity. Those inhabiting
only the situations to which they have
superior adaptation and greater power of
occupancy than any other kind. The lesser are all destroyed.” This is a very clear principle
of natural selection. It’s not a close
call like, Naudin, who said that we pick things. This is about Malthusian
world of biodiversity. “From the unremitting
operation of this law– the breed gradually acquiring
the very best possible adaptation of these to
its condition which it is susceptible of and when
alteration of circumstance”– The environment changes– “–thus changing the character
to suit these as far as its nature is susceptible
of change.” So again, over
time things can get warmer, colder, drier, whatever,
this process will self regulate and create new species. Where did he published it? Here’s the book. Matthew– On Naval
Timber and Arboriculture. It’s a book about how to grow
trees, chop them up, and sell them to the Navy, which
was a good business. He owned the
largest landholdings in Scotland of trees–
of arboriculture. And the book shows
you not only how to grow the trees for the
various parts of the ship, but how to cut them, and where
they show up in the ship. And then, mostly buried
in a very odd appendix, is the “Principle of
Natural Selection.” Darwin did not read a book on
Naval timber and arboriculture. But nevertheless, he
became aware of it, and he freely said there it is. But not well-developed
I guarantee you. It seems a little strange
that if you really thought you’d done something
great you’d put it there. Well, Darwin would,
in the 1860s, come to know about another
principle of natural selection that was published in 1818. It’s a set of essays
by an American colonist from British times
who then goes back to Edinburgh for medical
school and stays in London, William Charles Wells. And he actually had this
idea, not for species changing from one end to the other, but
that human disease resistance might be locally adapted. And this was sort of
inspired by the fact that populations around
the globe were moving. And oftentimes when populations
left one continent for another they did not fare
well against diseases that might have been found
not in their home range. And so he writes, “Of
the accidental varieties of man, which would occur among
the first few and scattered inhabitants of the
middle regions of Africa, someone would be better
fitted than the others to bear the diseases
of the country. This race would consequently
multiply while the others would decrease.” That’s natural selection
for disease resistance. But it’s not natural
selection like Matthew and others for one
species becoming another. Now Darwin did not
know it, and Darwin put this in his historical sketch. And basically, this
is just within humans. The final one is less
known, and actually we’ve only sort of started
dealing with it in the last couple of decades. And it’s actually
a wonderful story. This James Hutton, who was
a very important Edinburgh geologist– part of the
Scottish enlightenment. Really, a man who understood
the Earth was old. But he also sired a child out
of marriage fairly early on, and his parents thought maybe
Edinburgh was a little too fast for him and so they sent
him out to the country estates where he did a lot of
agricultural management on the family land. So again, he’s
coming into contact with agriculture, domestication,
all of these things that then end up really
feeding the evolutionary mind. And as he writes– because he
knows the world is old and he knows that climates change–
he’s read the rocks– “Those which depart most from
the best adapted constitution will be most liable to perish,
while those which most approach to the best constitution for
the present circumstances will be best adapted to
continue in preserving themselves and multiplying the
individuals of their race.” That is in fact
natural selection. And importantly he said, “the
same principle of variation must influence every
species of plant, whether growing in a
forest or a meadow.” And that is within species. He didn’t even
conceive of the idea that species A could
change into B, C, or D. But he knew that
the Earth was old and he saw natural selection
as a self-regulating and modulating mechanism where,
as environments changed, species became
selected to be better fit for those environments
as they change. But you always stayed
within a single groove. Nevertheless, he’s the
only one before Malthus, to have this idea. All right? That’s pre-Malthus. So he knew about variability
because he worked in an agricultural context. He knew about this concept
of natural selection allowing, as environments
change, the organisms to track. And he didn’t believe
that natural selection leads to new species. But he certainly knew the
Earth was old and had changed. Now, again, the
thing is you don’t want to read too
much into everything. But we can go back
to the ancients and to Lucretius, one of
my favorite ancient texts on the nature of things. And you will find something
sounding very much like natural selection. “For time doth change
the nature of the world; one state of things
must pass into another; nothing remains the same. All things move on. All things does nature
turn, transform, and change. One thing decays, grows
faint and weak with age; another grows, and
is despised no more. So therefore time the
whole nature of the world changes, and one state of the
earth yields place to another.” That’s evolution. “In those days many breeds
of animals must have died out, unable by
procreation to hammer out a chain of progeny. All those that you see
drawing the breath of life either by guile or
courage or by speed from the beginning of
time have been preserved.” That’s natural selection. Isn’t that magnificent? There is the human
intuition here at work. And I’ve gone back to look
at all of the earliest translations that
if you’re worried, I have a modern translation
of the Lucretius that’s been read in
with Darwinian eyes. I can tell you the first English
translation, which is long before Darwin’s time,
reads exactly the same just slightly older English. So you can find it
in different places. So let’s ask the question,
is Darwin given more credit than he deserves? So this really asks
the question that we have to always ask, what’s the
nature of scientific discovery? And a lot of people say
it’s you find something, you describe it. That’s kind of a
discovery but I think it’s a much deeper set of issues. And I would argue
that the first thing one has to do when one
thinks about evaluating the place of a person or
the importance of a person is you have to think
about what the idea is. So we have to ask– there has to be an idea. Now let’s just take the
broad idea of evolution. So the idea that all
the biodiversity is descended from a single
common ancestor of life some almost 4 billion years ago. All right? That’s an amazing idea. And as Darwin would say
in the ultimate versions of his historical
sketch, he counted up 37 people who published on
evolution before he wrote and published On the
Origin of Species. That’s a pretty good number. And I can tell you I worked
pretty hard to find more. This morning I got
a distressing email, which means I got a
lot more work to do. I’ll tell you about
that in a minute. So here’s Darwin’s list. They’re all over Europe
and only one in the U.S. And I suspect that something
very interesting about the age of our country, and
also us leading up into the time of the Civil War. But I can tell you
there are many others. And I actually can tell you
that they are from all over– Europe, France, Scotland,
England, Germany, Austria, Switzerland. There are often connections. When does it happen in Austria? Right after a big
revolution in Vienna. You start to see
evolution burgeoning out. So again, not in isolation. All of this has
context in society. And I’ll just tell you right now
I maintain a website with all of my early evolutionist. There are about
70 of them so far. Although, I got another
four from Italy this morning from a colleague that
I got a deal with. And I don’t even read Italian. But I do, and I
will just show you, here’s a QR code– if you snap
it, or you look at it later, this will take you
directly to that website where you can read
about the 70 people before Charles Darwin who
actually contributed ideas about evolution. But to give you some idea
of how far back it goes– this is the first book, sort of
in modernity, about evolution. It’s called, Telliamed. It’s De Maillet’s
name backwards. It’s published posthumously. It is rather absurd in many
of its ideas about evolution but in essence it is that every
terrestrial species of life has an evolutionary
ancestor in the water. And it’s quite radical. And it was published in 1748. Republished in 1749,
1750, and 1752. And you can see it was a
little too hot for France so it got published in
Amsterdam to begin with. Now, the French
are all over this. Diderot? You may know Diderot,
the grand philosoph. He’s writing about evolution
in some of the weirdest places you ever saw. People are talking about it. Let me give you
something really obscure that gives you some idea of
how big this was in France. 1794– a multi-volume
six volume set. A view of nature and letters
to a traveler among the Alps with reflections on
atheistical philosophy now exemplified in France. Remember they’re a bunch of
French atheists over there. We English, we’re very proper. We’ve got our church. And they’re just–
atheism, evolution, they’re being joined. Correct? So what does he say? “It was found out that
nature, one day teaming in the the vigor of youth,
produced the first animal– a shapeless clumsy
microscopical object. This, by the natural tendency
of original propagation to vary and protect
the species, produced other better organized. These again produced others
more perfect than themselves, till at last appeared the
complete species of animals, the humankind, beyond
whose perfection it is impossible for the work
of generation to proceed.” Now, he’s an
anti-evolutionist but he wants you to know that these
really atheistic French are talking about this stuff
all over the place. So here’s the most
insignificant– no one’s read this thing
probably in 200 years except for me, maybe– but these little gems
tell you that the world was one in which evolution
was being talked about. And in France by the end– this is the same year Erasmus
Darwin publishes Zoonomia. So this is before
Zoonomia comes out, we know that the
French are all over it. Now, I’m just going to
give you an example. I’m going to pick a
year, not randomly. Let’s pick– Darwin’s
Origin is 1859? 40 years earlier– 1819. What was going on in
the evolutionary world? Let’s go to Germany. Leopold Von Buch, a very famous
geologist and plant geographer, visits the Canary Islands. Ah, it’s that
island thing again. You remember, there
were some other people who have been
inspired by islands like Wallace and Darwin? Well, Buch goes to
the Canary Islands. He’s on the Canary Islands and
he ends up doing all the botany with a colleague from Norway. And then he publishes A
Flora of the Canary Islands. What’s in this little thing? And here’s Teneriffe. This is the map
that was actually produced from his expedition. It hangs on my wall. Like I say, stuff sticks to me. But it’s a magnificent map. And he starts to
speculate about the plant species on this island. What does he say? “The individuals of a genus
strike out over the continents, move to far-distant
places, form varieties– which owing to their segregation
cannot interbreed with other varieties and thus be returned
to the original main type.” They speciate, and then they
are reproductively isolated– phenomenal. “Finally, these
varieties become constant and turn into separate species. Later they may again reach
the range of other varieties which have changed
in a like manner and the two will now no
longer cross as they behave as two very different species.” And he saw all of this
on the Canary Islands. And he understood, where did
the flora of the Canary Islands come from? The nearest continent. Just like Darwin knew where
the plants and animals of those islands that
we know sort of off to the west of South
America might have some stuff from South America. So here we go. “A favorable chance may
arise from a particular set of circumstances with seeds
above in the mountains. Left to itself,
the variety which results from the new conditions
to which it is subject, will form, within the course of
time, a separate species which moves away even more from
its primitive form–” And he knew that this geographic
speciation– basically you move away and then you become
reproductively isolated– explained how evolution worked. He also understood that
you’ve populated islands from the flora of your
nearest continent, which is exactly what Darwin
would find in the Galapagos. And the environmental
changes, that were essentially
present on these islands as a species encountered
new environments, were essentially getting
the species to change. That’s Lamarck. That’s not natural selection. He didn’t have a mechanism. Now here’s– the same year–
in France, Lecons De Flore, Jean-Louis Marie
Poiret, a clergyman, but a very good
natural historian. He writes a book on
lessons on plants, a course complete of botany,
and so forth and so on. Magnificent book. There has never been an
article written about Poiret. I will be working on that
now in the coming year. Imagine this. We don’t know our own history. Is he minor? I don’t think so. Not only do we conceive
the possibility of the creation of new
species, but we frequently have the proof before us. “There are however
special circumstances where plants end up naturalizing
in climates or soils which are foreign to them. This results in varieties
which in the long run lose their original
type and reproduce after many generations endowed
with these new attributes which they do not lose–” That’s inheritance, essentially. The thing becomes permanent. “–and which lead to the
formation of a new species. It is very difficult to deny
that new species are formed in nature when we
carefully observe what is happening
everyday in our gardens where it is not uncommon
to see varieties end up constantly reproducing
the same by their seeds. Why wouldn’t the same
happen in nature?” So there it is–
horticulture, agriculture. It’s a perfect example. Darwin knew that. And so he had all of
this wonderful evidence for evolution and he
wrote it up in 1819 and published it in French in
a wonderful set of volumes. Now, I’ll go over to England– same year, 1819. This is William Herbert. He was a clergyman– Church of England. And he was also like
the standard model we have from Trollope. He was a hybridizer of plants. Brilliant hybridizer–
he was always crossing different species. “On the production
of hybrid vegetables with the result of
many experiments made in the investigation
of this subject.” 1890, transactions of
the Horticultural Society of London. He was the greatest
Amaryllis breeder. A beautiful book he
published in the 1840s, but he was a full
on evolutionist. “If it is meant only that
a fertile offspring may be supposed to intimate, that
the two parent plants have branched out from one common
stock since the creation of the world, I am
fully disposed to admit the truth of that position. But I should go much further,
considering that many species which we cannot now by
artificial means prevail upon to intermix, have also
descended from one original.” In other words, if I hybridized
any two species in the genus, it’s evidence that there must
be something that links them. Not just that they were
separately created. Why, if they were separately
created, could I do this magic? They had to be descended
from a common ancestor and retain the biological
ability to interbreed. And he wrote about
hybridization, which turns out in plants,
less commonly in animals, but much more so
than we thought to be a very important part
of creating new species over evolutionary time. And he really understood
a lot of the basic science of the day. So, evolution was
all over the place. Darwin grew up in a world
that talked about evolution. And it would be a grave mistake
to sort of race this background of people because
he’s reading them, he’s reacting to
many of them, and he is in the midst of
these discussions. Now if we come to the
idea of natural selection, it’s a little bit tighter cut. We have Hutton. We have William Charles Wells. We have Patrick Matthew. We have Charles Darwin
coming up with it in 1838. And then we have Wallace
in 1858, 20 years later. But what is an idea? I have a lot of ideas. I guarantee you most of them
never see the light of day. It may even be the some
of them are fantastic. But if I never put pen to
paper, they’re worthless. That’s just a fact. The ideas that
matter are the ideas that are put out and tested in
the world in that marketplace where people debate. And I can guarantee you when
it comes to James Hutton, no one really knew
what he meant then. And we can remove him. Wills Charles Wells
certainly didn’t think about this as a mechanism
for evolution at large. And if Patrick Matthew wants
to lay claim that he fully exposited on the principle
of natural selection, he had a very
strange idea of how to get this incredibly important
idea out into the world by putting it in the
appendix to a book about how to cut trees up for ships. So I don’t buy it. All right? We’re left with Wallace, on my
close end, and Charles Darwin. They both knew. Wallace, every bit as
much as Charles Darwin, knew when he figured this out,
it was the key to the universe. Nothing less. And that’s why he wrote
it up immediately. That’s why he sent
it to Charles Darwin. And that’s why he
wanted it out there to be debated among
people who debate ideas. So the ability to
convince others becomes really important. You have to share it. And now we come to
the final arbiter. So you’ve got this idea. You’ve written a paper,
and you’ve sent it, and it’s been read at
the Linnean Society and published in
the Proceedings. But now, that’s going to be
just a little set of papers. Is that going to
change the world? I would argue– no. Does that mean we wouldn’t
have gotten there eventually? No, I think we
probably would have. But you actually have to go out
there and promote the ideas. You have to write about them. You have to use
your connections. You have to– there is
a process in science that’s very important. And only Darwin, went about
writing the abstract– this isn’t about
natural selection. This is about how evolution
explains everything. And that natural selection
explains how it works. And when you look at this
abstract and you begin– he starts by taking
you to the familiar– the things in your own garden,
the domesticated plants that we eat, the domesticated animals– and he says if you can at
least imagine summing this up over hundreds or thousands of
years, what could happen over millions? And then he takes us out
to variation in nature and he gives example
after example. He talks about the
Malthusian principle, that there is so much that dies. That it’s the cut of the
1% that ever makes it. We don’t see,
commonly, birds dying. Trust me, they die all the time. And they die at alarming rates. And then, he goes on to show
his idea of natural selection. The laws of variation–
the raw materials you need to actually have selection. He goes into them. And then, quite
honestly, he says, well, I think I’ve got
a great set of ideas but what are some of the
challenges to really making you believe in evolution? Let me describe them. And then– instinct. The mind is evolved. He’s pushed us
already to the mind. Hybridism– how can hybridism
explain evolution and change? He goes into the geological
record in two chapters. And then he says,
I can use evolution to explain how organisms are
scattered across the earth. Their diversity has pattern. And its come over
time, and migration, and change in climate
and environment. And then, he goes to embryology,
which was really important. And then he recapitulates
all in about 500– 490 pages. It’s magnificent. And it is the book that
convinces the world that we are an evolved world. And I’ll leave it to
Alfred Russell Wallace to tell you exactly how he
felt about this arrangement. “Mr. Darwin has created a new
science and a new philosophy. And I believe that never has
such a complete illustration of a new branch of
human knowledge been due to the labors and
researchers of a single man. Never have such vast masses of
widely scattered and hitherto utterly disconnected facts
been combined into a system and brought to bear upon the
establishment of such a grand and new and simple philosophy.” “I do not know how or
to whom to express fully my admiration of Darwin’s book– I do honestly believe that
with however much patience I had worked up and
experimented on the subject I could never have approached
the completeness of his book– its vast accumulation
of evidence, it’s overwhelming argument, and
its admirable tone and spirit. I really feel thankful
that it has not been left to me to give
the theory to the public.” “As to the theory–” he said
to Charles Darwin, “of “Natural Selection” itself,
I shall always maintain it to be actually
yours and yours only– my paper would never have
convinced anybody or been noticed as more than an
ingenious speculation, whereas your book
has revolutionized the study of Natural History.” Two things we can learn
from Wallace’s words– the first is, he was
an extraordinarily, generous, wonderful,
warm, person who was as generous as anyone
could be in giving Darwin this kind of credit. But take nothing
away from Wallace, he is the co-discoverer but
he didn’t write the book that convinced the world. So who discovered evolution? Charles Darwin in a sense. But he was the world’s
70th evolutionist. [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE]

Jean Kelley

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1 COMMENTS

  1. John Champagne Posted on March 24, 2020 at 2:27 pm

    In the same vein as Matthew not publishing in a proper venue:
    I am not particularly effective at presenting what appears to me to be a very important proposal. It is an outline of an alternative political-economic paradigm modeled on biological phenomena, with efficient and fair policy manifesting something like a nervous system for the planet.

    I did present at an academic conference, but the paper was not published. It was called 'radical' and said to be weakened by 'leftist tendencies'. (No one warned me ahead of the conference that there would be a test of political stripe. A political test appears out of line.) It was also said that the proposal (a call for fees to be charged to industries proportional to adverse impacts on the environment, with fee proceeds shared to all) would require change in human nature.

    I asked the conference organizers what change in human nature they thought would be needed to implement a policy that charges fees to industries proportional to pollution put, resources depleted, habitat destroyed, or whether it was the equal payment to all people as a natural wealth stipend that conflicted with human nature. They did not offer the courtesy of a reply.

    The proposal includes the idea that we could take random surveys to discern whether more people want stricter or not-so-strict limits on various kinds of impacts. Maybe taking random polls was seen as contrary to human nature…(?)

    If I cannot grasp the meaning of what 'change in human nature' is needed, I cannot modify my proposal so that it is more realistic. If I see that the question of what change in human nature would be needed is ignored, then my suspicion that the assertion about a need to change human nature is false remains. 
    The whole point of getting feedback is to improve ideas or discard them if need be. But this opaque assertion about conflict with human nature is not at all helpful.

    Years ago, I assumed that many people would want these ideas to be widely shared. I thought some people would want to join me in asking those professors (the people who invited me to the conference based on a summary) what about the proposal they thought was contrary to human nature. That was an incorrect assumption. (My friend did write to them and she told them that I feel strongly that they should answer and that I will not stop asking. I don't think she said that she also wanted to know and thought they should answer.)

    My response to a Call for Papers that sought ideas that draw from various disciplines to solve environmental problems:
    Biological Model for Politics and Economics:
    Integration of Human Society and the Biosphere:
    gaiabrain.blogspot.com/2007/09/gaia-brain-integration-of-human-society.html

    Reply
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