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Mike Sutton
Mike Sutton
Dr Mike Sutton is the author of 'Nullius in Verba: Darwin's greatest secret'.

"READ ALL ABOUT IT!" Weirdly, the Guardian Science Editor Fails to Fact Check on the History of Scientific Discovery

Jul. 18, 2017 2:58 am

According to Harry H. Frankfurt, the Princeton University expert philosopher of "On Bullshit", the difference between a liar and a bulshiiter is that the former is concerned with the truth but the other could not give a.... (ahem) care. The liar knows what the truth is and wishes to convince us that the opposite position is true. The bulshitter, however, does not care what is true when making a claim, only that you believe what they say is true.

In yesterday's Guardian newspaper in the UK you can find an article on Alfred Wallace. It's, arguably, a load of grade-F philosophical-grade bullshit, because it studiously ignores the fact Matthew - not Wallace or Darwin originated the theory of macroevolution by natural selection (see:Sutton 2015). But the greatest dollops of bovine incontinence come with the claims in the Guardian that:

  1. Alfred Wallace coined the term "Natural Selection."
  2. Alfred Wallace coined the term "Darwinism"

OK, so let's look at the independently verifiable facts. The earliest so far discoverable published use of the term "Natural Selection" in a biological/actuarial/sense is by Corbaux (1833). At that time Wallace was just 10 years of age. See: Nullius in Verba: Darwin's greatest secret for other independently verifiable earlier and later examples of published use of this term - all published before Wallace wrote a word on the topic!

Secondly, Wallace did not coin the term Darwinism. In reality, the modern usage of the term was coined by Huxley in 1860 (see here) . The term was also used to refer to Charles Darwin's grandfather as early as 1840 (see here).

So that's two pieces of bullshit bagged and dropped in the dysology bin.

Moreover, when Wallace was just 9 years old, in 1832, John Loudon wrote of Patrick Matthew's (1831) origination of the theory of macroevolution by natural selection that he appeared to have something orignal to say on "origin of species" no less! (see: Loudon, J.C. 1832. Matthew Patrick On Naval Timber and Arboriculture with Critical Notes on Authors who have recently treated the Subject of Planting Gardener’s Magazine. Vol. VIII. p.703.).

Among seven naturalists who cited Matthew (1831) pre-1859 Loudon went on to edit two influential papers on evolution written by Blyth, who was a great influence on both Darwin and Wallace. This is just one of several routes for Matthewian knowledge transfer that have been newly discovered (see Sutton 2015) for more information).

Perhaps the Guardian should at least bother to fact-check claims before going into print to spread even more myths on the topic of the discovery of the unifying theory of biology.

A Guardian article on the genuine originator, Patrick Matthew, would do nicely to set the record straight on iits errors of fact. Meanwhile, here is some real news on this topic!


That sloppy mythmongering article in the Guardian confirms the Dysology hypothesis:

.Letting scholars get away with publishing fallacies and myths signals to others the existence of topics where guardians of good scholarship might be less capable than elsewhere. Such dysology then serves as an allurement to poor scholars to disseminate existing myths and fallacies and to create and publish their own in these topic areas, which leads to a downward spiral of diminishing veracity on particular topics.

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