Did Darwin plagiarize his evolution theory?
Some historians believe that all of the major contributions with which Darwin is credited in regard to evolution theory, including natural selection, actually were plagiarized from other scientists. Many, if not most, of Darwin’s major ideas are found in earlier works, especially those by his grandfather Erasmus Darwin. Charles Darwin rarely (if ever) gave due credit to the many persons from whom he liberally ‘borrowed’. This review looks at the evidence for this position, concluding that much evidence exists to support this controversial view.
Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802)
A common (but erroneous) conclusion is that Charles Darwin conceived modern biological evolution, including natural selection.1 An example of statements commonly found in the scientific literature indicating this would be the comment by Michael Fitch: ‘Not until Darwin, did anyone draw the same conclusion … except Alfred R. Wallace. … But Darwin undoubtedly preceded him in the conception of the theory’ of evolution by natural selection.2 A study of the works of pre-Darwinian biologists shows that, in contrast to this common assumption, Darwin was not the first modern biologist to develop the idea of organic evolution by natural selection.3,4
Furthermore, most (if not all) of the major ideas credited to Darwin actually were discussed in print by others before him. De Vries noted that some critics have even concluded that Darwin did not make any major new contributions to the theory of evolution by natural selection.5 A study of the history of evolution shows that Darwin ‘borrowed’ all of his major ideas—some feel plagiarized would be a more accurate word—without giving due credit to these people. A few examples are discussed below.
The pre-Darwin modern theories of biological evolution
The modern theory of biological evolution probably was first developed by Charles De Secondat Montesquieu (1689–1755), who concluded that ‘in the beginning there were very few’ kinds of species, and the number has ‘multiplied since’ by natural means.6 Another important evolutionist was Benoit de Maillet (1656–1738), whose book on evolution was posthumously published in 1748. In this book de Maillet suggested that fish were the precursors of birds, mammals, and men.7 Yet another pre-Darwin scientist was Pierre-Louis Maupertuis (1698–1759) who in 1751 concluded in his book that new species may result from the fortuitous recombining of different parts of living animals.
At about this same time the French encyclopedist, Denis Diderot (1713–1784), taught that all animals evolved from one primeval organism. This prototype organism was fashioned into all those types of animals alive today via natural selection. George Louis Buffon (1707–1788) even expounded the idea at length that ‘the ape and man had a common ancestry’ and, further, that all animals had a common ancestor.8 Macrone concluded that, although Darwin put evolution on a firmer scientific basis
‘ … he was hardly the first to propose it. A century before Darwin the French naturalist Georges Buffon wrote extensively on the resemblance among various species of birds and quadrupeds. Noting such similarities and also the prevalence in nature of seemingly useless anatomical features (such as toes on a pig), Buffon voiced doubts that every single species had been uniquely formed by God on the fifth and sixth days of creation. Buffon suggested in guarded language at least a limited sort of evolution that would account for variances among similar species and for natural anomalies.’9
De Vries noted that
‘Evolution, meaning the origin of new species by variation from ancestor species, as an explanation for the state of the living world, had been proclaimed before Darwin by several biologists/thinkers, including the poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe, in 1795. Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck in 1809, Darwin’s grandfather, the ebullient physician-naturalist-poet-philosopher Erasmus Darwin, and in Darwin’s time anonymously by Robert Chambers in 1844.’10
One of the most important pre-Darwinists was Charles Darwin’s own grandfather, Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802). He discussed his ideas at length in a two-volume work, Zoonomia, published in 1794. This work was no obscure volume, but sold well, and was even translated into German, French, and Italian. Darlington argued that Erasmus Darwin ‘originated almost every important idea that has since appeared in evolutionary theory’, including natural selection.11 While still a young man, Charles travelled to Edinburgh where his grandfather had many admirers.12 While there, Robert Grant explained to Charles Darwin at length Erasmus’ ideas on ‘transmutation’, as evolution was called then. Darwin never once openly admitted that his grandfather had a major influence on his central ideas.
Some scholars even assert that Erasmus Darwin’s view was more well developed than Charles Darwin’s. Desmond King-Hele made an excellent case for the view that Charles Darwin’s theory, even ‘in its mature form in the later editions of the Origin of Species, is, in some important respects, less correct than that of Erasmus’.13 Both writers stressed that evolution occurred by the accumulation of small, fortuitous changes that were selected by natural selection. Erasmus wrote that
“ … in the great length of time since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the beginning of the history of mankind … all warmblooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which THE GREAT FIRST CAUSE endued with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts, attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions, and associations; and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down those improvements by generation to its posterity [spelling and punctuation modernized by author, emphasis in original].”14
Large sections in many of Charles Darwin’s books closely parallel Erasmus’ writings.15 King-Hele even claimed that the similarity between their works was so close that Darwin’s grandfather ‘had it all charted in advance for him’.16 Yet ‘Charles persistently fails to note the similarity … an omission which sometimes leaves him open to criticism’ of plagiarizing. It is not difficult to conclude that Darwin’s plagiarizing was on a large scale because even the terminology and wording is remarkably similar to his grandfather’s wording.17
Furthermore, in some ways the conclusions of Erasmus Darwin were more advanced than those of Charles Darwin. For example, Charles evidently accepted Lamarckian evolution to a greater extent than did Erasmus, a conclusion that proved to be a major blunder for him.18 In explaining the evolution of the giraffe’s long neck, Darwin ‘accepted the validity of evolution by use and disuse’ although in this case he used natural selection as the major explanation of giraffe neck evolution.19 And last, for both Darwins, ‘the theory of Evolution was no mere scientific hypothesis but the very basis of life’.20
Robert Chambers (1802–1871)
Another important pre-Darwinian thinker was Robert Chambers (1802–1871). His book Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation was first published in 1844.21,22,23 In a summary of this work, Crookshank concluded that Chambers believed that the extant varieties of humans were a product of evolutionary advances and regressions. Vestiges not only advanced an evolutionary hypothesis, but argued that the natural world ‘could best be understood by appeal to natural law rather than by flight to an intervening deity’.24
Without Chambers’ book, Darwin admitted that he might never have written The Origin of Species.25 Millhauser claimed that Chambers’ work was critically important in the Darwinian revolution for other reasons. One reason was that Chambers’ popularizing of his evolution theory in Vestiges helped prepare the way for Darwin. Middle-class consumers ‘took up the book with the same enthusiasm they felt for the latest novels …’.26 Vestiges went through four editions in only six months, and 10 editions only a decade later. It is still in print even today.27
Many radical reformers were especially enthusiastic about the book but, ironically, scientists ‘quite generally dismissed its shoddy zoology and botany’.26 Nonetheless, Vestiges was read or discussed by most all segments of British society.28 Equally important was the fact that Robert Chambers’ works were the stimulus for Thomas Henry Huxley, who became ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’ and one of the most active and important of all of Darwin’s disciples.29
Patrick Matthew (1790–1874)
Yet another naturalist who discussed major aspects of evolution, specifically natural selection, long before Darwin was Patrick Matthew, whose priority was later acknowledged both by Charles Darwin and Edward Blyth.30,31 Matthew actually
‘ … anticipated Darwin’s main conclusions by twenty-eight years, yet he thought them so little important that he published them as an appendix to his book … and did not feel the need to give substance to them by continuous work. Darwin’s incessant application, on the other hand, makes one think that he had found in evolution and its related concepts, not merely a scientific theory about the world, but a vocation … .’32
Gould notes that: ‘Matthew, still alive and vigorously kicking when Darwin published the Origin, wrote to express his frustration at Darwin’s non-citation’.33 In response to Matthew’s evidently valid concern Darwin only ‘offered some diplomatic palliation in the historical introduction added to later editions of the Origin’. Darwin also responded to Matthew’s ire in the Gardener’s Chronicle for April 21 1860 as follows: ‘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 …’.34
This statement indicates Darwin’s guilt. Nonetheless, Gould tries to justify Darwin with the excuse that Darwin was not aware of Matthew’s views on natural selection because they only appeared in the appendix to Matthew’s book on timber and arboriculture. This could well be, but does not justify the slight Matthew was given ever since. His priority should be acknowledged today but instead he is totally ignored.
Edward Blyth (1810–1873)
Loren Eiseley spent decades trying to trace the origins of the ideas commonly credited to Darwin. He summarized his conclusions in a 1979 book titled Darwin and the Mysterious Mr. X. Eiseley reached the conclusion that Darwin ‘borrowed’ heavily from the works of others, and never publicly acknowledged many of these persons. According to Eiseley, one of these persons, English naturalist Edward Blyth (1810–1873), originated many of the ideas for which Darwin was given credit, and less-charitable evaluators may be inclined to label Darwin’s many unacknowledged borrowing infractions as plagiarizing:
‘No less a scientific giant than Charles Darwin has been accused of failing to acknowledge his intellectual debts to researchers who preceded him. Loren Eiseley, professor of anthropology and history of science at the University of Pennsylvania until his death in 1977, came across the work of Edward Blyth, a British zoologist and contemporary of Darwin. Eiseley argues that Blyth wrote on natural selection and species evolution in two separate papers published in 1835 and 1837, years before Darwin’s Origin of Species was published in 1859. Eiseley details similarities in phrasing, the use of rare words, and the choice of examples between Blyth’s and Darwin’s work. While Darwin quotes Blyth on a number of points, he doesn’t reference Blyth’s papers that directly discussed natural selection.’35
Even Darwin’s book, The Descent of Man (1871), Eiseley argues, was largely a repeat of the ideas of others such as Carl Vogt’s 1864 book Lectures on Man. Eiseley states that Darwin’s ideas on human evolution in this book were ‘scarcely new’ and ‘could not have been new since the time of the Origin … . Nevertheless, the world wanted to hear what the author of the Origin had to say on the evolution of man’.36 Although the fact that many naturalists preceded Darwin is now widely recognized, some die-hard defenders of Darwin—such as the late Stephen J. Gould—have tried, unsuccessfully in this reviewer’s opinion, to justify (or even deny) Darwin’s lack of candour in acknowledging the origin of ‘his’ ideas.
Gould31 claims that Darwin was influenced by many people, and could have developed his ideas tangentially (as evidently happened with Wallace). Although Gould37 claims that ‘all good biologists’ discussed natural selection ‘in the generations before Darwin’ he argues that the charges of plagiarism are not entirely true because certain aspects of Darwin’s theory were unique to him. This may well be, but a cloud of suspicion still hangs over Darwin. The very close similarity of Darwin’s ideas to many of his forerunners—and even the wording Darwin used—argues that ‘suspicion’ is a very charitable interpretation of the situation. It is true that Darwin’s and Blyth’s ideas did differ in certain minor details, but, in this reviewer’s opinion, Blyth’s theory of natural selection was much closer to the findings of empirical research, both then and today, than was Darwin’s. Specifically, Darwin saw natural selection as the creative force in evolution, a ‘positive force for evolutionary change’, whereas Blyth saw it more as a negative force that eliminated species.
Darwin’s view has been carefully refuted by others and will not be reviewed here. Suffice is it to say that natural selection can only eliminate traits by eliminating those organisms with them and opening up new ecological niches. It cannot create new traits. This fact was recognized even in Darwin’s day. For example, Richard Owen wrote much about this concern. For example, in one letter Owen used
‘ … the same analogy to restate figuratively the basic objections he had expressed when Darwin’s Origin of Species was first published in 1859: that although natural selection is a valid mechanism to explain species diversification through time, it did not answer the more basic question of the origin of the inheritable individual differences subsequently “naturally selected” for survival in a surrounding and changing environment. Without an answer to the problem of inherited variations, Owen believed that the origins of species were not fully understood. Darwin himself confessed: “Our ignorance of the laws of variation is profound” [emphasis mine].’38
Others also charged Darwin with plagiarism
Although some feel that it is inappropriate to judge Darwin by today’s ideas about plagiarism, accusations of plagiarism were first made by Darwin’s peers only a few years after Darwin published his classic work Origin of Species:
‘Eiseley is not the only critic of Darwin’s acknowledgement practices. He was accused by a contemporary, the acerbic man of letters Samuel Butler, of passing over in silence those who had developed similar ideas. Indeed, when Darwin’s On the Origin of Species first appeared in 1859, he made little mention of predecessors.’39
When essayist and novelist Samuel Butler (1835–1902) ‘accused Darwin of slighting the evolutionary speculations of Buffon, Lamarck, and his own grandfather, Erasmus’, Gould reported that Darwin reacted to these accusations with ‘silence’.40 Evidently aware that these charges may have had some merit, in the third edition of his Origin book, Darwin gave a few more details about the sources of his ideas. Nonetheless, ‘Under continued attack, he added to the historical sketch in three subsequent editions’40 of the Origin. This concession, though, was
‘ … still not enough to satisfy all his critics. In 1879, Butler published a book entitled Evolution Old and New in which he accused Darwin of slighting the evolutionary speculations of Buffon, Lamarck, and Darwin’s own grandfather Erasmus. Remarked Darwin’s son Francis: The affair gave my father much pain … .’41
One can certainly understand why the affair gave Darwin ‘much pain’. Others have concluded that Darwin’s plagiarism went well beyond copying sentences in books or even borrowing ideas without giving credit.
Alfred Russel Wallace
Even Darwin’s commonly alleged major contribution to evolution, natural selection, had been developed earlier by others including William Charles Wells in 1813, and later Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913). In 1858, Wallace sent Darwin a copy of his paper describing his independently developed theory of evolution by natural selection. Although Leslie concluded that ‘Darwin conspired to rob Wallace of credit for natural selection’,42 others argue that Darwin was backed into a corner and was left with no choice but to co-author his first paper on natural selection with Wallace. Stent concluded that it was not Darwin’s sense of fair play that required the simultaneous publication with Wallace, but rather Darwin’s fear of getting scooped.43 Brackman claims that Darwin’s putative plagiarizing from Wallace was ‘one of the greatest wrongs in the history of science’. He adds that ‘Darwin and two eminent scientific friends conspired to secure priority and credit’ for the theory of evolution, and specifically the mechanism of evolution, natural selection, for Charles Darwin.44 Zoologist Williams uses even stronger words, arguing that Brackman demonstrated that ‘Darwin stole (not too harsh a word) the theory from Wallace’ [parenthetical comment his].45
Evidence for this includes similarities in phrasing, the choice of specific examples to support the theory and the use of certain uncommonly used words. Broad and Wade bring out that even contemporaries of Darwin such as Samuel Butler criticized Darwin ‘passing over in silence those who had developed similar ideas’ before he did.
Kenyon even concludes that the famous so-called joint paper by Darwin and Wallace was in fact presented without Wallace’s prior knowledge!46
Regardless of whether Darwin appropriated some of Wallace’s ideas, Darwin still managed to receive most all of the credit for the theory. Wallace is largely unknown today except among a small group of Darwinian scholars. Brooks relates that his interest in Wallace was aroused when he was preparing to teach a
‘ … course on evolution organized around the study of original scientific contributions on this subject. Each year began with a reading of Wallace’s 1855 “law” paper, the joint Darwin-Wallace papers, and Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Over several annual cycles the similarities between the concepts, even the wording, in Wallace’s papers and several chapters, but especially chapter IV, in Darwin’s 1859 book had become increasingly apparent and disturbing. Were these really coincidences of two totally independent conceptions? Or did Darwin somehow profit from Wallace’s papers and manuscript?—a possibility to which Darwin gave no recognition, not even a hint. A nagging doubt remained; there were too many similarities … but, as noted in the preceding chapter, there is no mention of Wallace’s work anywhere in chapter IV’ [emphasis mine].47
After his extensive study of Wallace and Darwin, Brooks concluded that ‘Wallace’s ideas emerged, without any attribution, as the core of Chapter IV of the Origin of Species, a chapter which Darwin himself cited as central to his work’.48
Rhawn is even more direct about Darwin’s plagiarism, and concludes that the reason for Darwin’s unethical behaviour was fame.
‘As fame repeatedly escaped him, Darwin became increasingly withdrawn and depressed. He dabbled in this area and that, and then spent 15 years devoted to the study of barnacles, about which he wrote four short papers. And then, on June 8, 1858, Darwin received a letter from Alfred Russel Wallace, accompanied by a 12 page summary of Wallace’s ideas on evolution, i.e. natural selection. Wallace was a renowned naturalist and had published a number of papers on evolution which Darwin had read and expressed interest in. From an island near Borneo Wallace had forwarded his monograph to Darwin. The paper was utterly brilliant! Darwin then claimed to have recently arrived at identical conclusions, and thus claimed Wallace’s theory as his own.’49
Rhawn also concludes that as a result of this paper:
‘Darwin immediately abandoned the study of barnacles and began feverishly working on a book, a synthesis of the words of Blyth, Wells, Pritchard, Lawrence, Naudin, and Buffon: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection which he published in November of 1859, almost 18 months after receiving the paper by Wallace.’49
According to Rhawn, Darwin relied heavily on the paper by Wallace in producing his work, and speculates that Darwin’s motivation was the same as is often true today among scientists:
‘As Darwin well knew, this “synthesis” and the theory of “natural selection” would garner him world fame. Darwin, his well connected friends in the scientific community, and his acolytes had gone to extraordinary lengths to rewrite history and to spin myths regarding Darwin’s’ utterly insignificant observations when as a youth he sailed on the “Beagle”—observations which were little different from numerous naturalists writing and publishing at the time.’49
Clearly, there remain many unsolved issues surrounding Darwin’s most famous work that need to be resolved.
It is widely recognized that all of the major ideas on biological evolution that Darwin discussed predated his writings. As is noted by Kitcher:
‘ … creationists propounded a “creation model” of the origins of life on earth. Their story was based on a literal understanding of the book of Genesis. … The trouble with this proposal is that it was abandoned, for excellent reasons, by naturalists, virtually all of them extremely devout, decades before Charles Darwin wrote The Origin of Species’ [emphasis mine].50
Although Charles Darwin was highly successful in popularizing the idea of organic evolution by natural selection, especially among the scientific community, he was not the originator of major parts of the theory as is commonly supposed. Nor was Darwin the originator of even those aspects of evolution for which he most often is given credit today, including natural selection and sexual selection. Yet, he implied that these and other ideas were his own creation. In a study of Darwin, Gould concluded that:
‘Darwin clearly loved his distinctive theory of natural selection—the powerful idea that he often identified in letters as his dear “child”. But, like any good parent, he understood limits and imposed discipline. He knew that the complex and comprehensive phenomena of evolution could not be fully rendered by any single cause, even one so ubiquitous and powerful as his own brainchild.’51
Good evidence now exists to show that Darwin ‘borrowed’—and in some cases plagiarized—all or most of his ‘dear child’ from other researchers, especially his grandfather. They were not ‘his own brainchild’, nor his child, but that of others which he appropriated, evidently often without giving them proper credit.
I wish to thank Bert Thompson, Clifford Lillo and John Woodmorappe for their valuable insight and feedback on an earlier draft of this paper.
- Bowden, M., The Rise of the Evolution Fraud, Sovereign Publications, Bromley, Kent, p. 1, 1982. Return to text.
- Fitch, M., Universal Evolution, Gorham Press, Boston, p. 68, 1913. Return to text.
- Thompson, B., The History of Evolutionary Thought, Star Bible & Tract Corp, Fort Worth, 1981. Return to text.
- Glass, B., Temkin, O. and Straus, W., Forerunners of Darwin: 1745–1895, The Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1959. Return to text.
- De Vries, A., The enigma of Darwin, Clio Medica 19(1–2):136–155, 1984; p. 145. Return to text.
- De Beer, G., Introduction in the 1969 reprint of: Chambers, R., Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, p. 11, 1969. Return to text.
- De Beer, Ref. 6, p. 12. Return to text.
- De Beer, Ref. 6, p. 14. Return to text.
- Macrone, M., Eureka! Barnes & Noble, New York, p. 150, 1994. Return to text.
- De Vries, Ref. 5, p. 145. Return to text.
- Darlington, C.D., The origin of Darwinism, Scientific American 200(5):60–66, 1959; p. 62. Return to text.
- Zimmer, C., Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, HarperCollins, New York, p. 14, 2001. Return to text.
- King-Hele, D., Erasmus Darwin, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, p. 81, 1963. Return to text.
- Darwin, E., Zoonomia: Or the Laws of Organic Life, J. Johnson, London, 1794; reprinted by AMS Press, New York, p. 505, 1974. Return to text.
- King-Hele, Ref. 13, p. 99. Return to text.
- King-Hele, Ref. 13, p. 89. Return to text.
- King-Hele, Ref. 13, p. 87. Return to text.
- King-Hele, Ref. 13, p. 81–82. Return to text.
- Gould, S.J., Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms, Harmony Books, New York, p. 312, 1989. Return to text.
- King-Hele, Ref. 13, p. 90. Return to text.
- Millhauser, M., Just Before Darwin, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, 1959. Return to text.
- Chambers, R., Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, John Churchill, London, 1844; reprinted by Leicester University Press, Leicester, 1969. Return to text.
- Chambers, R., Explanations: A Sequel to ‘Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation’, Carey, Hart, 1845. Return to text.
- Richards, R.J., Commotion over evolution before Darwin, American Scientist 89(5):454–456, 2001; p. 454. Return to text.
- Crookshank, F.G., The Mongol in our Midst, E.P. Dutton & Company, New York, p. 1, 1924. Return to text.
- Richards, Ref. 24, p. 455. Return to text.
- Richards, Ref. 24, p. 454. Return to text.
- Secord, J.A., Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2001. Return to text.
- De Beer, Ref. 6, p. 35. Return to text.
- Darlington, Ref. 11, p. 53 Return to text.
- Gould, S.J., Darwin vindicated! New York Review of Books 26(1):36–38, 1979; p. 38. Return to text.
- Huxley, F., A reappraisal of Charles Darwin, The American Scholar, Autumn, p. 489, 1959. Return to text.
- Gould, S.J., The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, p. 138, 2002. Return to text.
- Quoted in Gould, Ref. 33, p.138. Return to text.
- Garfield, E., From citation amnesia to bibliographic plagiarism, Current Contents 23:503–507, 1980; pp. 504–505. Return to text.
- Eiseley, L., Darwin and the Mysterious Mr. X, Dutton, New York, p. 201, 1979. Return to text.
- Gould, Ref. 33, p. 137. Return to text.
- Gruber, J., Owen was right, as Darwin’s work continues, Nature 413:669, 2001. Return to text.
- Broad, W. and Wade, N., Betrayers of the Truth, Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science, Simon & Schuster, p. 31, 1982. Return to text.
- Gould, Ref. 31, p. 36. Return to text.
- Broad and Wade, Ref. 39 p. 31. Return to text.
- Leslie, M., Into the limelight, Science 294(5549):2059, 2001. Return to text.
- Stent, G., Paradox of Progress, W. H. Freeman, San Francisco, p. 84, 1978. Return to text.
- Brackman, A., A Delicate Arrangement: The Strange Case of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, Times Books, New York, from the introduction, 1980. Return to text.
- Williams, K., The origin of Darwinism, The New Republic 187(17):31, 1982. Return to text.
- Kenyon, A., Darwin’s ‘Joint Paper’, Journal of Creation 14(3):72–73, 2000. Return to text.
- Brooks, J.L., Just Before the Origin: Alfred Russel Wallace’s Theory of Evolution, Columbia University Press, New York, p. 239, 1984. Return to text.
- Brooks, Ref. 47, quoted from book jacket. Return to text.
- Rhawn, J., Astrobiology: The Origin of Life and Death of Darwinism, University of California, San Jose, pp. 223–226, 2000. Return to text.
- Kitcher, P., Should Evolution be Taught in Schools? Slate.msn online journal, p. 1, 1999. Return to text.
- Gould, S.J., Darwinian fundamentalism, New York Review of Books, p. 1, 12 June 1997; <www.nybooks.com/articles/1151>. Return to text.
Whilst I am a creationist, plagiarism is not an argument worth our attention. Plagiarism is a modern crime. The rise of authorship is only a few centuries old. Narrative was traditionally a communal form albeit oral form of text. We all borrow ideas. Every sermon, indeed all of our knowledge is borrowed to some extent. That Darwin is credited exclusively with this fraudulent theory is a historical error not a scientific one, in my opinion.
The author acknowledges that the 'plagiarism' view is controversial, and cites evidence for it. As per the writing guidelines of Journal of Creation: "The views expressed in the papers are those of the authors and not necessarily those of CMI." This reflects one of the purposes of Journal of Creation: to provide a forum for discussion and debate for origins issues within the biblical creationist community. As such, we would welcome papers of differing points of view from the author; we do not regard this as the final word on this topic. This article, and all Journal of Creation articles we publish on our front page, are made available for our wider readership to expose them to the breadth of creationist thought out there and for them to make informed judgments on these issues for themselves.
A book worth reading on this subject is ' Darwin's Ghosts' by Rebecca Stott.
Well researched. But how do you draw the line between plagiarism and "developing" other peoples material? After all we all have to learn and develop somehow, and it is always from those who have gone before. In the creation world Ken Ham might have inspired many creationists who came in on his coat tails, are they plagiarists if they copy some of his ideas etc?
Darwin had the good fortune (!) to be in the right place at the right time. Whether this was a direct act of God or a permission to the adversary to prosper this cause (we wont know until the end.) but he drew together all these other writers material into a concise thesis as a seemingly plausible counter argument to creation by God. This sort of challenge proved necessary in earlier centuries when God used various "scientists" to challenge the church which claimed the earth was flat and that the solar system revolved around the earth, this would appear to be the other way around, the church had creation right but was being sifted by the counter argument and it has had to dig in and defend, which your organisation does admirably.
As always an interesting article. It should not be surprising Darwin plagiarised from others. Indeed the Greeks espoused similar ideas well before Darwin and the others. Lucretius espoused ideas almost identical to Darwin and his prdecessors, specifically to try to eliminate the Creator, just as Darwin tried.
Can you explain how this article fits in with your ministry states found under the "about us" page?
So, in the article you say, "This could well be, but does not justify the slight Matthew was given ever since." I'm not saying that it is right to ignore those who had ideas before someone else, but science doesn't always work like that. Many examples of this can be seen in the book, "The disappearing spoon." Often, the person who take the research to completion is the one given the credit and often they don't list everyone who helped or everyplace they got ideas from. Darwin blended many ideas, some his own, some from others to create his large theory. This is what science does, isn't it?
In the end I just see this as an attempt at mud-slinging and deceptive to the many lay creationists who will read it. They will take this information in and when they attempt to use it, it will only make creationist as a whole look bad.
I have recently taken an independent study course with an evolutionary biologist where we had conversations regarding creation/evolution. The class was amazing and I highly recommend other creationists do the same, to get a better understanding of what evolutionists believe and to share your own beliefs with someone very influential. Articles like this were left out of the conversation because they only attempt to attack Darwin as a person, not his theory.
Isn't this Ad hominem? "marked by or being an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made" (webster)
Please help me understand what CMI is doing with this article and how it fits the ministries goals, thank you.
Since this is a Journal of Creation paper, it is meant as a piece of research offered for consideration for the creationist community. As such, per the writing guidelines of Journal of Creation: "The views expressed in the papers are those of the authors and not necessarily those of CMI." Darwin is a character of interest in the origins debate, so biographical details of Darwin, especially as they relate to his evolutionary ideas, are issues we will feature in the Journal of Creation. This article was published on the website to give the readership a look at what is published in Journal of Creation.
Dear CMI -
Jerry Bergman, as widely read as he appears to be, does not point out that many other scientific ideas, such as General Relativity, Newtonian Mechanics, some topics in human physiology, and in chemistry and physics, etc., were foreshadowed by others working in the field, in some cases predating the generally-credited promulgator of the mature theory by many years (or even centuries). Newton himself said “If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” (a phrase which, in its earlier form, was originally attributed to Bernard of Chartres, hundreds of years earlier).
In many cases, credit for a mature discovery is given to the person who is able to synthesize previous knowledge into a coherent statement and to provide evidence that supports its cohesiveness. For better or for worse, this is how human intellectual endeavors work out.
And this process has no bearing at all on the actual validity and correctness of the theory. Are we to reject Einsteinian Relativity on the basis that some of its aspects were foreseen by Lorenz and others? Are we to reject the work of William Harvey or Marcello Malphigi because the Bible earlier said that “the life of the flesh is in the blood”? Bergman’s essay does not give any reason to reject evolutionary theory – actually, by pointing out how many times such ideas were put forth prior to Darwin’s work, it strengthens the likelihood that the theory has validity. Bergman’s obvious motive in this article is to cast aspersions on Darwin and his work in hopes that the faithful will be even more likely to reject evolutionary theory.
However, the question the article addresses is whether Darwin's work can be pictured as merely 'standing on the shoulders of giants' like Newton, Einstein, and others, or 'stealing their thunder for his own glory'. There is a line, and it was a line acknowledged to exist when On the Origin of Species was written. Citing examples of 'standing on the shoulders of giants' in the history of science doesn't prove Darwin was doing the same thing. And the essay never says that accusing Darwin of plagiarism provides reason to reject evolution. But it does provide reason to re-examine the history of evolutionary ideas closer and more critically instead of adopting the popular fiction that evolution was a bombshell that hit the world fully-formed for the first time in 1859 and was solely Darwin's brainchild. The problem is that this popular fiction is also a convenient fiction for cementing the supposed truth of Darwin's ideas. Does Dr Bergman go too far in his conclusions? We leave that to the reader to decide, since this is a Journal of Creation article, in which "The views expressed in the papers are those of the authors and not necessarily those of CMI."
This is not really surprising, isn't plagiarism the de facto basis of evolutionary belief? Is it not claiming credit for that which actually originates from the omnipotent God of all creation?
Thank you for this most interesting article. I am just wondering if the authors of the current article could not have mentioned with benefit, as regards the section on Alfred Russell Wallace, for not mentioning Gertrude Himmelfarb's "Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution", 1959! She goes into considerable and convincing arguments to support this exact case about Wallace losing the priority to Darwin, with Lyell's connivance. It is a most valuable "read".
After recently reading Wallace's "The Malay Archipelago" and looking up related material, I am convinced that Darwin used much of Wallace's work while the poor man was trekking through jungles gathering samples and being constantly sick. I must add that I am a Creationist. Evolution pertains only to changing habits of physical characteristics to adapt to local conditions.
Concerning evolution, either one believes the Bible, the unerring Word of God, or they believe the religion of evolution. Both cannot find lodging in the mind of an honest and objective heart. The account of creation in Genesis is more than enough to refute the theory of evolution.
I am a creationist. However, in my opinion, this article is of little persuasive value amongst evolutionists and unfortunately misinforms its intended audience. I took a Teaching Company Class on Darwin from one of the leading professors in the education community. In that class, I learned that evolution was known about and discussed as a minority scientific opinion preceding Darwin. However, it just didn’t “take-off” because it didn’t have any substantial evidence for quantifying the “natural selection” argument. That is what Darwin did. He collected vast amounts of physical evidence supporting the argument. His book was so well documented that what had been a minority position started to become popular among the scientific community. Unfortunately, it was also used by atheists for support. Of course, Darwin used the evolutionary ideas of the day, which you regrettably call “plagiarism.” But he didn’t plagiarize his data or his findings. Darwin suffered a great deal over what his findings revealed. His health mysteriously deteriorated and he was constantly taking radical treatments to maintain his body and mind. We can’t criticize Darwin because of his findings. He delayed publishing for fear that he didn’t have enough data to support his arguments. Apparently, because he was being scooped by Wallace, he published his findings. This also had an adverse effect on his marriage because his wife was a Unitarian Christian, but she did not let Darwin’s opinions change her faith and she supported and nurtured him to the end of his life. Darwin apparently was grateful for that.
What I find quite ironic about this article is that the origin of Darwin's theory of evolution, generally accepted to be incorrect by creationists, is disputed, as if this deeply flawed theory was actually something worth taking credit for. In my opinion, Darwin and those of his peers (and those who went before them) sought acclaim for these fallacious theories, not to advance scientific knowledge or truth, but because they knew that the majority of people in that time would not have sufficient understanding of the principles of science to catch them out in their lies. There may also have been an element of "sticking it to the religious establishment" which literally was THE establishment ie the Church of England the state church under which Darwin had studied for the clergy, and was rejected from when he lost his faith. Sadly, when Darwin's "scientific" theory became more widely accepted, those whose ideas he used to write his books felt left out of this burgeoning new "science". As the scriptures say, "seeking to be wise they became fools", scrambling for fame and credit for erroneous pseudo-scientific theories which have been proven time and time again by creationist scientists to be incorrect. Sadly, we live in an age where might triumphs over right, namely, the politics of science is far more important to those in the scientific establishment who have power, than truth itself. Only in the Judgement will many of these souls discover the truth. Fortunately, many have woken up and found faith in spite of the "powers that be" because they have found a higher Power in Jesus Christ.
Why is it relevant that Chatles Darwin plaigarized others work?
Because it shows the history of evolutionary thought is more complex than is typically thought, which should cause the reader to look into that history more critically.
It would appear that many scientists and not just Darwin believed in evolution. Not just a single person. I don't think that this helps the argument of creation. As today many scientists believe in evolution as it would also appear it did then
What it should do is cause the reader to investigate the history of evolutionary ideas more closely and critically than just adopting the popular impression of 'the virtuous scientist Darwin single-handedly destroying the creationists in 1859'. Moreover, Darwin is a character of interest in the origins debate, so facets of his biography have intrinsic interest.
Darwin and those who went before him, with the same ideas, were so horribly wrong. Yet then as now, a lot of people who were church goers obviously didn't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and did not really believe that God created all thing in just 6 days, they somehow could not believe that He is all-powerful, even though the Bible clearly gives many examples of His power and might, the same people would not believe that God parted the waters so that the Israelites could escape from the pursuing Egyptians. It is the same today. The deception has to start with someone and we know who that is. The devil will use anyone to try and turn people away from the Living God, and scientists being people of high intelligence are very susceptible, because generally they are much admired and many deserve to be. Thanks to CMI for the terrific work you do in presenting the wonders of God's creation in such detail and in truth.
Thank you for this excellent article. It's amusing reading the philosophical & semantic games used trying to 'catch you out' as folks respond to your presenting what is plain: hidden right out in the open, and 'not done in a corner' to those with eyes to see. It's not resisted because not defensibly, demonstrably true, but because of Romans 1 & 2 sin & hypocrisy. So consistent with the lies of the Serpent in Genesis 3...the false religions & philosophies of man in the world as archaeology increasingly reveals with a trail of evidence right back to Babel, & the prophecies of Scripture. It was indeed humbling to discover these things for myself, to see idols & excuses fall ---& for self to be stripped naked without covering excuse! ----But also oh so freeing & revealing of the love & gratitude owed our wonderful, long-suffering, merciful & holy Creator ---as He intervenes to salvation, or in legitimacy-confirming chastening: directing the saints & churches back to our true purpose as God's witnesses while it is yet called to day ---with a sustaining understanding of lingering corruption & God's long-suffering mercy & provision yet offered that we do not faint... And we have hope through the promises& infallible, lending itself to persevering in the faith for Christ, sharing in His suffering, & pointing others to Him & His word & the Spirit of Truth. That whosoever will may choose ---urging in love with truth salt & light. John 1,3 & 8. Romans 1&2. Romans 10:17. Colossians 2 --especially vs. 8. 2 Thess 2. 1 Tim 4. 2 Tim 3&4. 2 Corinthians 10&11. 2 Peter 2&3. Jude. Revelation! May God use your ministry mightily to open many eyes through the gentle, insistent & faithful proclamation of the offense of truth & the Cross as the Prophets of old & Christ in the new.
This reminds me of Watson and Crick deliberately failing to acknowledge the intellectual theft of Rosalind Franklin's research into the structure of DNA and all their lives basking in the glory of 'their' discovery. (Although I would never equate the the structure of DNA with one of the greatest lies perpetrated in the name of 'Science' )