Thursday, October 14, 2010

Butler on Darwin

“The Deadlock of Darwin” by Samuel Butler takes the approach of the Intellectual critique of Charles Darwin and his work. To understand this critique I believe that you must know a little about the past history between Darwin and Butler. Butler had tried to contact Darwin numerous times to discuss some issues he had with The Origin of Species. Darwin did not reply to his critiques so Butler decides to write extensively about Darwin and his work. Without committing the genetic fallacy I think it’s still important to know a little bit about Butler’s motivation to write about Darwin.

Butler was not a scientist so he took the path of critiquing Darwin from within. He did no counter research to disprove Darwin’s theories nor did he provide a counter theory. It was purely a rebuttal to his book. In today’s world of academics and science you would not be taken seriously in your rebuttal if you were not also a scientist or expert in the field that you are crituiqing. The whole purpose of peer reviewed journal is that your paper is reviewed by experts in the field that you’re writing about. You can’t be someone with no training or expertise in a subject and just criticize them. This may be ok for television or blogs but not in the academic world.

Nevertheless Butler produces a decent argument against Darwin at first glance. He goes on to make the point that Darwin has not come up with any of his own ideas. He states that Evolution and Natural selection were not his ideas and that, in essence he was being false with the claim that he came up with these theories and ideas. It seems a plausible argument until you realize that what Darwin did was more than just repeat what other scientist said. It’s true that a lot of the theories in the origin of species were known before Darwin, but Darwin had taken these theories and put them together in a concise clear manner that had not been done before. These theories were like dots on a blank page, what Darwin did is connect these dots to make the picture. This was the genius of Darwin’s work. Most scientist of his day had read the works of his grandfather Erasmus Darwin, Lamarck and Buffon. Yet nobody at that time had been able to put the full picture together. Darwin did this and for that reason he will be remembered or credited with sharing these theories with the world.

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