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Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 271–289 | Cite as

Darwin, Wallace, and the Descent of Man

  • Joel S. Schwartz
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References

  1. 1.
    Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, ed. Nora Barlow (New York: Norton, 1958), pp. 130–131.Google Scholar
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    Alfred R. Wallace, Alfred Russel Wallace: Letters and Reminiscences, ed. James Marchant (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1916), p. 110.Google Scholar
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    Alfred R. Wallace, Alfred Russel Wallace: Letters and Reminiscences, ed. James Marchant (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1916), p. 128. Doubting the sincerity of Darwin's offer, Kottler believes that “Darwin was concerned with another priority dispute with Wallace”. (Malcolm Kottler, “Wallace, The Origin of Man and Spiritualism”, Isis, 65 [1974], 145–192; quotation on p. 149.) But Kottler offers no evidence to support his disbelief in Darwin's sincerity. The priority in proposing the theory of natural selection was never disputed by either Darwin or Wallace, the entire matter being settled amicably to everyone's satisfaction.Google Scholar
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    Ruse claims that Darwin by 1869 “had lost patience with Lyell” and had little sympathy for Lyell's religious misgivings. But Ruse goes on to state that Darwin was “downright appalled at Wallace.” (Michael Ruse, The Darwinian Revolution [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979], p. 247.) Darwin was also somewhat displeased with Thomas Huxley during this period. Huxley, a steadfast champion of Darwin and his views, nevertheless wanted Darwin to provide direct evidence of transmutation of species. Hull states that “Darwin grew weary of telling people that he did not pretend to address direct evidence of one species changing into another. Among those who contributed most to Darwin's weariness was Huxley. Throughout their collaboration, Huxley steadfastly maintained that intersterility infallibly distinguished species and ‘until selective breeding is definitely proved to give rise to varieties intersterile with one another, the logical foundation of the theory of natural selection is incomplete.’ Darwin believed, on the other hand, that it was difficult ‘to make a marked line of separation between fertile and infertile crosses.’” Darwin's “weariness” with Huxley is not nearly so significant as the serious breach that had occurred between Darwin and Wallace over the subject of man. Darwin's Descent cannot be regarded as a response to the reservations of Lyell or Huxley. Both men, despite these reservations, became with the passage of time in the 1860s stronger supporters of Darwin and his position. (David Hull, Darwin and His Critics: The Reception of Darwin's Theory of Evolution by the Scientific Community [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973], p. 49.)Google Scholar
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    Discussing the origins of Wallace's socialism, phrenology, and spiritualism, Turner regards them as components of a school of thought called “physical puritanism,” popular with “amateurs who often tended toward political radicalism.” Physical puritanism had as its goal “the healing, cleansing and restoration of the animal man.” (Frank Miller Turner, Between Science and Religion: The Reaction to Scientific Naturalism in Late Victorian England [New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1974], p. 80). Young looked at the origins of phrenology and natural selection from an entirely different perspective. He maintained that both phrenology and natural selection relied on the “naturalistic method” of gathering evidence: “Logicaly it [natural selection] was in the same position as phrenology for most of the nineteenth century. It rested on naturalistic observations and a mass of anecdotes collected more or less systematically.” Young has overstated his position in placing phrenology on an equal footing with natural selection. The standards of evidence were much higher for evolutionary work, as Young observed, and also the meager evidence based on nonscientific happenings in support of phrenology is certainly not comparable to the enormous amount of data carefully compiled in support of natural selection by Darwin and others in many areas of study, such as anatomy, paleontology, and geology. (Robert M. Young, Mind, Brain and Adaptation in the Nineteenth Century: Cerebral Localization and Its Biological Context from Galt to Ferrier [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970], pp. 44–45.)Google Scholar
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    Smith suggests that Wallace believed socialism would establish a society that would permit the natural selection of the higher moral and intellectual qualities he cherishedm and this would allow human progress. However, Wallace arrived at these beliefs during the latter stages of his career (in the early 1900s) and it is not likely that he enjoyed such a clear vision of the value of socialism for the human race in 1869. (Roger Smith, Brit. J. Hist. Sci., 6 [1972], 177–199; quotation on p. 196.)Google Scholar
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    Like Kottler, George maintained that spiritualism was the sole cause for the shift in Wallace's view and that this shift took place after 1865. She refers to Wallace's 1864 paper and states (without any supporting evidence) that Darwin was “pleased” with Wallace's views on man. Moreover, George ignores the modifications in Wallace's thinking about natural selection and man and fails to note or examine the comments made by the members of the Anthropological Society at the time Wallace delivered his paper. Surely Darwin could not be “pleased” with Wallace's new position. (Wilma George, Biologist Philosopher: A Study of the Life and Writings of Alfred Russel Wallace [London: Aberlard-Schuman, 1964], p. 71.)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joel S. Schwartz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyCollege of Staten Island of the City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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