Friday, November 19, 2010

Darwin & Samuel Butler

Author: Jonathon Dyck

  Samuel Butler just wanted to help Charles Darwin solidify his theory, however as Doctor Stephen Ogden has pointed out Darwin did not want Butler's assistance (Ogden, 2010a). These two ended up in battle with one another over seemingly insubstantial matters. One of Butler's criticisms of Darwin is that he was just writing for fame and is not the originator of the theory of evolution or even of natural selection (Butler, 2007). Unfortunately for Butler, he is completing a Genetic Fallacy that is defined on Dr. Ogden's blog as "to mistake an explanation of the origin of an idea for a statement relating to its truth, falsity, validity or invalidity" (Ogden, 2010b). It does not matter how the idea is packaged or delivered, what matters is how people perceive it. Through the course there have been other examples of critics of Darwin calling on him as not the originator of the idea, including Bernard Shaw. The difference comes that Butler had a personal bone to pick with Darwin and Shaw did not, at least not to my knowledge.

  Sometimes an idea needs a catalyst to really take hold, with a modern example being global warming. Naturalists such as Canadian David Suzuki had been preaching concerns about global warming for years, but then it was Former American Vice President Al Gore that got the credit for his book An Inconvenient Truth (2006). Even though there is a majority of the scientific community that has bought into the global warming theory, there are still some that do not think that it is true. It appears that Gore could also be charged with taking an idea that had already been stated and made it popular. Suzuki and other environmentalists that had already made these claims were likely upset that it took someone from outside their field to promote these ideas, but happy that the public is taking notice of the issue. This is the sort of approach that Darwin took, and it does not matter who makes the claim but who in the community latches onto it.

  It is also interesting to think that Butler says that all that Darwin added to the theory of evolution is that animals have variations and those with variations favorable for its surroundings will live on (Butler, 2007). Once again it does not appear as though Darwin is trying to take claim for all of evolution, but instead try and publish his viewpoint on it as quickly as possible. It does not matter who came up with the idea, the important part is that it is discussed. Species becoming varied randomly does not sound any more unreasonable then variations occurring because of environment and desire (Butler, 2007). The environment does have a large effect on a species and their development, but it is not the only cause of variation. Even though Butler's alternative to random variation is helpful, it is hindered by his negativity towards Darwin. If less time were spent trying to criticize Darwin and more time on his own theory it would have made for a much stronger argument.

Butler, S. (2007). Essay on Life, Art and Science, by Samuel Butler. Streatfeild, R.A. (eds.).
Edinburgh; Ballantyne Press.
Gore, A. (2006). An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It.
New York, New York; Rodale Books.
Ogden, S. (2010a). Fallacies and Critical Responses to Darwinism. Retrieved October 14th, 2010 from the Darwinism Scrutinised Website:
Ogden, S. (2010b). Humanities 321 Seminar: Critics of Darwinism. Simon Fraser University Burnaby Campus, Fall Semester 2010.

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