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Preview: The Rough Guide to Evolution

The Rough Guide to Evolution

Updated: 2011-07-24T23:42:00.777-07:00


השכלה‎ לא !טמטום המוח


השכלה‎ לא
!טמטום המוח

Today the chief scientist of the ministry of educa...


Today the chief scientist of the ministry of education in Israel (G Avital) is creationist who think that a real scientist will reject evolution and discover that there is creator.
(and all the climate scientist are greedy liars)
Hascala ?

Well, of course the movie would include the whole ...


Well, of course the movie would include the whole "Annie myth" -- the script even credits the book "Annie's Box" as the source material. Given that you've written criticisms of that book already, I wouldn't have expected you to like that part.

(I haven't seen the movie yet myself, but probably will, given the chance, even though I largely agree with you over the lack of evidence that Annie's death had anything to do with Darwin's work)

As requested, here is what I wrote in Facebook: &...


As requested, here is what I wrote in Facebook:

"I would have loved to watch it with you, as I was facing some comparable issues. I had to remind myself, over and over, "This is not a documentary."
Of course, having seen the manuscripts, I smiled at the overly clear handwriting and at the certainty with which the text was put to paper. I was also bothered by Emma's position and thought that it would have been really sad for such a man to be married to such a woman (fortunately, this is just part of the treatment of a character in the script).
Unlike you, I enjoyed the structure of the film and was surprised to see how beautifully it fit together from that perspective. Very few films have a truly consistent structure and this one is the exception to that rule."

I have been thinking about whether the film was too sentimental or not (mostly because someone else suggested it was). I am sure that most commonly, the death of a young child would have a deep sentimental impact (to achieve a different effect, would be very difficult). Because the film does not try to be a historic representation, but rather a retelling of history, it is important to understand the way in which the story links ideas together. In the film, Darwin concludes that Annie's death is related to his marriage to Emma (so the pigeon breeder explains how weakness creeps in when closely related animals are bred) and so, it becomes imperative for the character to exorcise those demons.

Perhaps, it is sentimental, but the script requires causes for actions (or lack of action). The link between Darwin's writing of the Origin and Annie's death might not be historically accurate, but the script requires it.

the video was cool..and they did a very nice colla...


the video was cool..and they did a very nice collaboration..
music lessons

Actually, there is a, admittedly very small-scale ...


Actually, there is a, admittedly very small-scale but still, zoom-tool in Ben Fry's visualization -- the underlying text shows up if you mouse-over the respective section It's even highlighted in the same color-coding for the different editions as the graphical output. However, I'm not sure how deletions are displayed here.

Nice to meet you. I was going to paste the link ...


Nice to meet you.

I was going to paste the link without permission because I had very felt the interest for your blog.

Please link me with the blog if it is good.


I have a generally good knowledge of evolution, bu...


I have a generally good knowledge of evolution, but my knowledge is weak in some areas. For about a decade I've looked for an evolution book that's both comprehensive and easy to read. "Rough Guide" appears to be what I've looked for all these years.

Les Lane

Happy Birthday to your blog!


Happy Birthday to your blog!

Baba did a fantastic job at the Festival! I didn&...


Baba did a fantastic job at the Festival! I didn't get to the gala dinner, but I did see him at the opening event and brought some friends to his Tuesday night performance. More details can be found at my blog of the Darwin Festival:

At any rate, I liked some of the vadlo evolution c...


At any rate, I liked some of the vadlo evolution cartoons!

Hi Carl I use the term "infallible" beca...


Hi Carl
I use the term "infallible" because that is how I view your work--I am jealous that you can write so much so quickly and so expertly on so many subjects without ever slipping up. The fact that someone as careful and authoritative as you can accept the "Annie hypothesis" uncritically is evidence of how far this problem has gone.

I am afraid that I disagree with your assessment of what you call "best historical scholarship". I wonder how many people who continue to cite the Annie myth have read the whole of Moore's piece of "scholarship" and evaluated the evidence presented therein? Have you? I think you will be surprised at how thin that evidence actually is!

I will be happy in the very near future to present a detailed point-by-point analysis of the piece by Moore that set in motion this whole sorry mythology. I agree it is not sporting not to tell all at the outset, but I am concerned that if I reveal all on the blog before the paper has been published, then it may lessen its chances of being published. As it is the journal that commissioned the piece is not being very sporting, in that they seem to be back-pedaling on whether they wish to accept it.

But the truth will out one way or another!

And I look forward to convincing you and the rest of the world that the emperor really does have no clothes on!

PS. van Wyhe is a collaborator on my paper--we are just working out whether his contribution is enough to merit co-authorship.

Mark--I've never claimed to be infallible, so ...


Mark--I've never claimed to be infallible, so I don't know why you use that word in association with me. When I've written about Darwin and religion, I have not relied on some sort of divine inspiration. Instead, I've relied on the best historical scholarship I can find. James Moore, for example, made the argument that Darwin gradually fell away from religion over many years, and that the death of his daughter played a part in that decline. You can read his argument here. Moore offered detailed evidence to make his case. He was not simply peddling a "myth." And it doesn't seem sporting of you to accuse him and other historians of promoting myths, when you aren't willing yet to offer up evidence of your own to the contrary.

I am always willing to revise my own understanding as new evidence comes in. And that's not a myth: here's some evidence. I look forward to reading your own paper and hope to get hold of Wyhe's. But until then, I have a hard time seeing why I should be one of your examples of someone who doesn't appreciate your hidden revelations.

I'm afraid you'll have to ask van Wyhe, Ma...


I'm afraid you'll have to ask van Wyhe, Mark, but my recollection is that he's equally opposed to the hypothesis. On page 41 of "Darwin: The Story of the Man and His Theories of Evolution" he writes Around 1849 it seems Darwin stopped going to church, though Emma and the children continued to do so... [in 1851 Annie died]... Darwin was devastated but there is no evidence for the claim that her death killed off Darwin's Christianity as it had been declining since his return from the Beagle voyage".

So, not much new there, but van Wyhe is pretty well informed about Darwin. Beautifully produced book, a general introduction with lots of illustrations and pull-out facsimiles rather than a scholarly book, but fun to own.

Oh dear Dave, I was trying to hold back on releasi...


Oh dear Dave, I was trying to hold back on releasing the article in dribs and drabs in case the journal gets upset, but with that 1849 quip, you have provoked me now! If you have evidence for it, let's have it! If not, here is what I have written in the current draft of the article:

"[the assertion by Randal Keynes] that Darwin stopped attending church services [after Annie's death] is based on a passage from the 1889 publication Darwin and God (40) by George William Foote (a secularist who was later imprisoned for blasphemy):

"In September 1842 he went to live at Down, where he continued to reside until his death. He helped to found a Friendly Club there, and served as its treasurer for thirty years. He was also treasurer of a Coal Club. The Rev. Brodie Innes says " His conduct towards me and my family was one of unvarying kindness." Darwin was a liberal contributor to the local charities, and " he held that where there was really no important objection, his assistance should be given to the clergyman, who ought to know the circumstances best, and was chiefly responsible."

He did not, however, go through the mockery of attending church. I was informed by the late head constable of Devonport, who was himself an open Atheist, that he had once been on duty for a considerable time at Down. He had often seen Darwin escort his family to church, and enjoyed many a conversation with the great man, who used to enjoy a walk through the country lanes while the devotions were in progress."

Here it is worth stressing that in this passage, there is no date associated with the start of Darwin's non-attendance at church and no link at all to Annie's death. Darwin's non-attendance could have started at any time after his move to Down House, whether in the eight and a half years before Annie's death or in any of the three decades that followed.

In a footnote Keynes suggest that the "late head constable of Devonport" may have been "William Soper, who served at Downe between 1858 and the mid-1860s". No evidence is put forward for this identification, but, if true, it still provides no evidence of a link to Annie's death, which occurred seven years before 1858.

Blast. Picked the issue up in the Wikipedia articl...


Blast. Picked the issue up in the Wikipedia articles on Charles Darwin and on Charles Darwin's views on religion, but didn't get round to updating Development of Darwin's theory.

Done now, all three now state that "Darwin's faith in Christianity had already dwindled away and from around 1849 he had stopped going to church." Source: van Wyhe, John (2008), "Darwin: The Story of the Man and His Theories of Evolution."

Your paper sounds interesting, hope it provides more detail helping to explain what we know of these developments.

Mark, you are correct that little has been made ...



you are correct that little has been made of Darwin's time in Edinburgh, other than acknowledgement that several sources there did have huge influences on his later thinking. This complete lack of a cohesive assembly of these influences prompted me to collect and collate them for "Darwin in Scotland", available from all good book sellers, now :-)

Before the book, I had been trying to foster collaboration for Darwin200 for years, but minds and doors are closed. There are some independent events, but they could have been so much more.

I do cover Hume's major influences, but it is a nonacademic work, and the treatment is frustratingly shallow in places. Simply, the material and potential for investigation is too much for one person and one book.

Many of the best Darwin artifacts were given to Cambridge, along with the rest of his possessions. However, what remains in the city are many buildings and places were Darwin studied and spent his time during those brief couple of years: for example, Old College and Lothian St.

However, most importantly, it is the natural locations in Edinburgh and Scotland at large that had the largest impact on him. Therefore, any "tangible links" are already there since Darwin's day, and will be for millennia to come. They only need to be reinforced through careful research and I think this is where you and others have been lax: for example, Prestonpans where he accompanied Grant, Hutton's Section at Holyrood and the related Siccar Point, and, Glen Roy and the related Agassiz's Rock in the Hermitage of Braid.

More indirect, but also associated there are Hume's statue and grave, the (Walter) Scott Monument, Darwin's uncle's grave, to name but a few.

Lastly, there is the contemporary evolutionary biology taking place at the several universities in the city.

What a shame nothing more could have been made of all this.


From Michael Boulter, Darwin's Garden (London:...


From Michael Boulter, Darwin's Garden (London: Constable, 2008), p.55 (last page of Chapter 3):

"Annie didn't get better and the symptoms reminded her father of 'an exaggerated one of my... illnesses. She inherits, I fear with grief, my wretched digestion.' Annie died in the spring of 1851 at the same Malvern clinic where her father had sought a cure for his own gastric illness. The tragedy added to Emma and Charles's woes, taking Emma closer to the Church and Charles to his theory."

I have just noticed that Randal Keynes in his book...


I have just noticed that Randal Keynes in his book Annie's Box (pp. 278-9) also notes parallels between the arguments in the Dialogues and in Darwin's Autobiography.

JFD, I was not meaning to be aggressive. Electroni...


JFD, I was not meaning to be aggressive. Electronic media for communication are rather blunt instruments in which it is hard to gauge the emotional tone. You should imagine my comments delivered with a leg-pulling smile. I can hardly get too judgmental about self-publicity on this blog when the whole blog acts as publicity for my book ;-)

I am genuinely interested to know what your book says about Hume and Darwin. Also, I am a great fan of the beautiful city of Edinburgh and of Charles Darwin, but I could not recommend to a Darwinian tourist visiting the UK to visit Edinburgh purely for the Darwinian sights, as the tangible links are so few. Or am I missing something? Of course, the city is worth visiting on its own merits, but that is a different issue.

What a terrible absence must have descended upon t...


What a terrible absence must have descended upon the Down House after Annie's death. Losing a child is the worse tragedy that any parent could imagine. Thank you for sharing your research.

Self-publicity in the buried comments of your blog...


Self-publicity in the buried comments of your blog? Hardly Mark!

My motivation for writing was that given your flippant comments on Edinburgh, I thought that you would appreciate being directed to a useful source that you have clearly overlooked.

But, from your aggressive response, I guess not.

Och well. jfd

jfd, is this shameless self-publicity or does the ...


jfd, is this shameless self-publicity or does the book actually contain discussion of the links between the Dialogues and Darwin?

Perhaps a more imaginative Google search, for exam...


Perhaps a more imaginative Google search, for example, "darwin scottish enlightenment" would have turned up what you were looking for:

I can see how you might shamefully conclude that, "the tangible links to Darwin in Edinburgh are rather scanty and it is probably not worth visiting the city just to see them".


I can see the creationist response to this revelat...


I can see the creationist response to this revelation: "Darwin was a plagiarizer!". Anyway, good article. I have read Dialogues but never saw the connection with the works of CRD.