This is interesting, if you like disproving creationists’ claims. In London’s Daily Mail, we read Better late than never! Charles Darwin cleared of stealing ideas for theory of evolution … 40 years after historians first accused him. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
Iconic naturalist Charles Darwin has finally been cleared of stealing ideas that helped shape his theory of evolution more than 40 years after historians first accused him.
Researchers assumed Darwin kept a letter from fellow naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, also with theories about natural selection, for two weeks – enabling him to revise elements of his own theory of evolution, before announcing it to the world in July 1858.
That old clunker re-surfaces from time to time, and we mentioned it here: Pat Buchanan Presents Every Creationist Fallacy! Let’s see what the Daily Mail, says:
However, scientists turned detective have now vindicated Darwin from the accusations by tracing historical shipping records to prove he received the letter a month later than previously thought.
He [Wallace] wrote his ideas in an essay, sending it to Darwin in 1858 to be passed on to noted geologist Charles Lyell. Researchers accused Darwin of keeping the letter for two weeks – lying about the date of receipt to give him time to revise his own ideas.
That’s exactly the sort of thing creationists pounce on, as if discrediting the character of a scientist will somehow make his theory go away. Let’s read on:
The controversy all began in 1972 after a researcher found another letter from Wallace to a friend sent on the March 1858 steamer from the island of Ternate in modern Indonesia. The letter still had postmarks from Singapore and London that showed it arrived in London on 3 June 1858 – two weeks before Darwin said he received the essay from Wallace.
Historians could not understand how two letters on the same steamer can travel along the same mail route back to London, yet Darwin did not receive his until two weeks after the other letter arrived. The mystery led to numerous conspiracy theories – including the accusations Darwin stole ideas from the letter, which plagued Darwin’s reputation.
Okay, that’s the accusation. So how was it resolved? We continue:
National University of Singapore researchers – in a paper for Biological Journal of the Linnean Society – began the almost impossible task of tracing the 154 year old letters back to prove Darwin was innocent.
Here’s a link to their paper: A new theory to explain the receipt of Wallace’s Ternate Essay by Darwin in 1858, but you’ll need a subscription to read it. Okay, back to the Daily Mail:
“[I]t occurred to me [said Dr John van Wyhe – a historian of science and Senior Lecturer] to trace the letter from Darwin’s end, rather than Wallace’s. … If Darwin really received it on 18 June- how could it get there? It had come to his house in the countryside from London the day before, the 17th.” … Dr van Wyhe discovered a steamer had arrived in England on the 16th – the day before – with mail from India and South East Asia – Wallace’s letter must have been on that ship instead.
There’s lots of detail in the article, so if this classic “cold case” interests you, click over there and check it out. But even if this gets Darwin off the hook for plagiarism, there remains the lingering suspicion that late in life (six years after the alleged date of his death) he would sneak out of his home, prowl the streets of London, and commit the crimes attributed to Jack the Ripper.
Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.