“…better than a dog anyhow…”
“Besides a general interest about the Southern lands, I have been now ever since my return engaged in a very presumptuous work & which I know no one individual who wd not say a very foolish one.— I was so struck with distribution of Galapagos organisms &c &c & with the character of the American fossil mammifers, &c &c that I determined to collect blindly every sort of fact, which cd bear any way on what are species.— I have read heaps of agricultural & horticultural books, & have never ceased collecting facts— At last gleams of light have come, & I am almost convinced (quite contrary to opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable. Heaven forfend me from Lamarck nonsense of a “tendency to progression” “adaptations from the slow willing of animals” &c,—but the conclusions I am led to are not widely different from his—though the means of change are wholly so— I think I have found out (here’s presumption!) the simple way by which species become exquisitely adapted to various ends.— You will now groan, & think to yourself ‘on what a man have I been wasting my time in writing to.’— I shd, five years ago, have thought so.— I fear you will also groan at the length of this letter—excuse me, I did not begin with malice prepense.
Believe me my dear Sir | Very truly your’s | C. Darwin”
Charles Darwin in a letter to Joseph Dalton Hooker, 11 January 1844.
Several items of note, Charles Darwin describes his rejection of the immutability of species as something akin to “confessing a murder.” Secondly, Darwin began to formulate his theory of natural selection in the autumn of 1938. This is important to his claim that five years prior to this letter, he would have considered himself a waste of time, keep in mind that John Dalton Hooker is one of Darwin’s closest friends, for his rejection of the aforementioned. Third, Darwin immediately mocks and rejects Lamarck. Fourth, Charles Darwin confides in someone else about his theory but he still has enough doubts to describe his work as “foolish” and “presumptuous.” By July of 1844, Darwin’s “foolish” work would produce a 230-page essay to be published at some future date and his famous memorandum to his wife,
I have just finished my sketch of my species theory. If, as I believe, my theory in time be accepted even by one competent judge, it will be a considerable step in science. I therefore write this in case of my sudden death, as my most solemn and last request . that you will devote 400 pounds to its publication. . I wish that my sketch be given to some competent person, with this sum to induce him to take trouble in its improvement and enlargement. [source]
The book wouldn’t be published for another 15 years.
Darwin Correspondence Database, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-729 accessed on Sat Jul 07 2012
“In the theory with which we have to deal, Absolute Ignorance is the artificer; so that we may enunciate as the fundamental principle of the whole system, that, in order to make a perfect and beautiful machine, it is not requisite to know how to make it. This proposition will be found, on careful examination, to express, in condensed form, the essential purport of the Theory, and to express in a few words all Mr. Darwin’s meaning; who, by a strange inversion of reasoning, seems to think Absolute Ignorance fully qualified to take the place of Absolute Wisdom in all the achievements of creative skill.”
Beverley, Robert Mackenzie. The Transmutation of Species. London: James Nisbet & Co., 1867. Print. (p.295)
One of the many contemporary critics of Charles Darwin. In my brief time upon this Earth, I have learned to never underestimate the importance of ignorance.
h/t: Daniel C. Dennett
“Aristotle, in his ‘Physicae Auscultationes’ (lib. 2, cap. 8, s. 2), after remarking that rain does not fall in order to make the corn grow, any more than it falls to spoil the farmer’s corn when threshed out of doors, applies the same argument to organization: and adds (as translated by Mr. Clair Grece, who first pointed out the passage to me), “So what hinders the different parts [of the body] from having this merely accidental relation in nature? as the teeth, for example, grow by necessity, the front ones sharp, adapted for dividing, and the grinders flat, and serviceable for masticating the food; since they were not made for the sake of this, but it was the result of accident. And in like manner as to the other parts in which there appears to exist an adaptation to an end. Wheresoever, therefore, all things together (that is all the parts of one whole) happened like as if they were made for the sake of something, these were preserved, having been appropriately constituted by an internal spontaneity, and whatsoever things were not thus constituted, perished, and still perish. We here see the principle of natural selection shadowed forth, but how little Aristotle fully comprehended the principle, is shown by his remarks on the formation of the teeth.”
Charles Darwin, the first footnote on the first page of An Historical Sketch at the beginning of The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.
According to John van Wyhe, a fellow at National University of Singapore and researcher in history & philosophy of science at Cambridge University,
This sketch of the history of evolutionary theories, which, to this day, usually forms the basis of accounts of the same subject, is a concise overview of the fact that Darwin was by no means the first to realize that life evolves nor that something like natural selection might be a cause. This passage is taken from the beginning of Darwin’s The Origin of Species (6th edn 1872). It was first added to the 3rd edn in response to criticisms that Darwin had insufficiently acknowledged his predecessors. [Wiki]