jueves, 20 de mayo de 2010

Speak Up Wallace!

Let´s look at the construction of the theory of evolution from the point of view of Alfred Wallace.

14 years younger than Darwin, Alfred Wallace was a bright, young naturalist studying in modern day Indonesia when a novel new theory struck him. It was a theory that explained the facts of variation within species, geographical variation between species, and Malthusian economics. It was the theory of evolution through natural selection. Half a world a way from England, he needed to mail his theory to see what people thought of it-- and who better to do this to then the well known and respected naturalist, Charles Darwin.

Not soon after he recieves a letter back from Charles saying something along the lines of this-- Dear Wallace, I believe that not only is your theory correct, but that it will be one of the most powerful, influential, and divisive theories in the history of science. Unfortunately, I have already thought of this theory and therefore will be publishing a book to the world before you even have time to get home. I hope you enjoy the rest of your travels.

In my estimation, most people would have been pissed to read something like this, but Wallace was ecstatic that not only was his theory thought to be right, but that he had actually received a letter back from the great Charles Darwin. Darwin had waited much too long to publish his theory and now he was going to have a legitimate moral dilemma in trying to take all of the public credit for the idea when another person had clearly conceived the same idea, albeit much later. However, for the rest of Wallace´s life, he seemed to be content in his second place of evolutionary history. He often referred to Darwin as the original creator of the theory and to himself as the less important. So in asking the question "Why Darwin?" could it possibly be due to the own timidity of the other independent naturalist theorist, not the historians?


Zach Ming

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