How Was Darwin Wrong? – Darwin’s Errors

O.k. then, here’s your chance, TSZ folks. Have at it.

Darwin made errors, even Darwinian evolutionist Mike Elzinga agrees.

What are/were those errors/mistakes?

Perhaps the odd closet ‘Darwinist’ might even think to change their mind about calling them-self a ‘Darwinist’ as a result of answers provided in this thread…or it could be a rather short thread, with few admissions.

Context: Preprint for a Douglas Allchin paper in American Biology Teacher, 2009 (same Journal that published Theodosius Dobzhansky’s theistic evolution: “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense…” paper, 1973) Celebrating Darwin’s Error’s.

Title Changed: from “How Darwin Was Wrong” to “How Was Darwin Wrong?” – 06-12-2013

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76 thoughts on “How Was Darwin Wrong? – Darwin’s Errors

  1. petrushka: I don’t think doubt in the face of insufficient evidence is ever a mistake.

    By “Darwin’s Doubt I mean something very specific:

    Nevertheless you have expressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and clearly than I could have done that the Universe is not the result of chance. But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?

    I confess that I am not entirely sure what Darwin means by “conviction” here, and if by “conviction” he means something like “metaphysical speculation” as distinct from empirical science, I’ll grant him the point — partly.

    But of course Plantinga’s infamous evolutionary argument against naturalism takes it that the evolution + naturalism is incompatible with accepting the reliability of ordinary cognition, and that is a profound error — and if that was Darwin’s actual view — as Plantinga seems to think — then that would be an error on Darwin’s part — although not an empirical or factual error.

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  2. Freud would echo Darwin’s doubt, and as a thoroughgoing evolutionist who sees evolutionary process at work in thinking and in all feedback steered processes, I tend to agree.

    What we think is constrained by the properties of the thinker, which are evolved.

    Thinking that ideas are somehow disembodied and free of corporeal taint is a bit like thinking that species are prefigured.

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  3. petrushka: Thinking that ideas are somehow disembodied and free of corporeal taint is a bit like thinking that species are prefigured.

    Actually, if one looks at Aristotle’s philosophy, it’s not “a bit like thinking that” — it’s exactly like that — two slightly different corollaries of the same metaphysical vision.

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  4. I find it interesting that theists rail at reductionism, when the most destructive form of reductionism is reducing thought to words.

    Language does enable communication, but thought is not reducible to words or language, any more than a duck can be reduced to atoms without losing duckness.

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  5. Things Darwin got wrong:
    1) Blended inheritance
    2) The age of the earth

    And many others not relevant to the Origin of Species. As Allan noted in his first response, “Everyone gets things wrong.”

    P.S. If you wish to be perceived as a “scientist/scholar”, you should probably stop blatantly mis-characterizing peoples’ responses, and ease up on the amateur psychoanalyzing of motives.

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  6. Gregory,

    Allan Miller wrote (seemingly sarcastically):

    Well spotted. But my post did contain a reference to a Darwinian error, expressed (for my own amusement) in ironic terms – to make it plainer: as others have noted, Darwin’s source of variation was flawed. Blending inheritance was a potential killer, and environmental fluctuation doesn’t reach into the organism to promote change. Variation (it turns out) is broadly endogenous in origin, albeit sifted by extra-organismal mechanisms.

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  7. Darwin was wrong about the origin of the Parallel roads at Glen Roy.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/darwin-was-really-wrong/

    Darwin was wrong about the origin of some boulders.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/darwins-boulders-and-the-human-face-of-induction/

    Darwin was wrong about races, sexism.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/darwin-reader-darwins-racism/

    Darwin was wrong about “the key thing”, Darwinism itself.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/darwinism/darwinleaks-new-blog-aims-to-leak-darwin-stories-no-jail-time-anticipated/

    Darwin was wrong that ever increasing complexity would be selected by nature.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/darwinism/behes-rule-vindicated-again-paper-shows-adaptive-evolution-in-the-near-term-is-maladaptive-for-the-future/

    Darwin was wrong when he argued that competition was the major driving force of evolution.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/darwinism/darwin-too-important-to-be-wrong/

    Darwin was wrong that his theory worked 100% of the time.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/speciation/uncommon-descent-contest-question-21-reposted-what-if-darwins-theory-only-works-6-percent-of-the-time/

    Darwin was wrong about race:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/darwinists-tie-themselves-into-knots-denying-the-obvious/

    Darwin was wrong to claim we came from ocean slime.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/doubts-about-darwin-spreading-into-the-brit-population/

    Darwin got his math wrong.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/education/debunking-darwin/

    Darwin lied in the origin of species.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/darwinism/making-a-monkey-out-of-darwin-by-patrick-buchanan/

    Darwin was wrong about the fossil record and transitional forms.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/you-still-walk-amongst-judges-prophet-darwin/

    Darwin was wrong about gradualism and adaptation.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/presenting-a-united-front-evolutionists-are-finding-it-more-and-more-difficult/

    Darwin was wrong, because the holocaust.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/a-complete-darwin-quote-with-a-brief-translation/

    Darwin was wrong about invasive species.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/darwinism/coffee-new-york-times-admits-heresy-into-the-house-of-the-beard/

    Darwin was wrong about gradualism.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/the-sad-case-of-the-darwinian-fundamentalist/

    Darwin was wrong because Darwinism is a religion

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/after-big-faster-than-light-neutrino-meet-for-the-moment-there-is-no-explanation-that-works/

    Darwin was wrong about his predictions

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/darwins-predictions/

    Darwin was wrong because he did not consider gamblers ruin.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/evolution/gamblers-ruin-is-darwins-ruin/

    Darwin was wrong to reject theology as a route to knowledge

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/education/darwins-original-sin-audio-lecture-now-up/

    Darwin was wrong because he was aware that his theory had implications beyond science

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/evolution/darwins-valiant-defenders-contradicting-themselves/

    [I’m guessing that this went into moderation because of the large number of links, rather than because the thread originator flagged it for moderation. So I’ll leave it here for now. — Neil Rickert]

    [Confimed: I did not flag this post. Both these added comments can be removed. – Gregory]

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  8. 2) The age of the earth

    But he was less wrong than his contemporaries. Prior to radiometric dating, there was no way to make an accurate measurement.

    I find it interesting that his estimate of the time needed for evolution surpassed the maximum age estimated by physicists. A case of making a projection and expecting (or hoping for) confirming evidence.

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  9. Yes, it went straight into mod 🙂

    But it was easy to collect such a list, seems Darwin got more then just a few things wrong. I was actually unaware of the some of geological leanings of my prophet. Oh, wait now, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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  10. petrushka: But he was less wrong than his contemporaries. Prior to radiometric dating, there was no way to make an accurate measurement.

    I find it interesting that his estimate of the time needed for evolution surpassed the maximum age estimated by physicists. A case of making a projection and expecting (or hoping for) confirming evidence.

    I agree absolutely.
    For this reason, I find equating “How Darwin Was Wrong” with “Darwin’s Errors” to be either sloppy writing, or a rhetorical gambit.
    Either way: meh.

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  11. damitall2:
    What the heck does it matter if Darwin made mistakes? He sowed a seed that grew a vast quantity of productive science – even if it was only because intelligent people were waiting for an alternative to the highly unsatisfactory hand-wavings of the theistic alternative

    Okay. It was that the upper class (intelligent people) wanted a alternative to a theistic origin of biological relationships and origins.
    Yet this motive can be accused as having clouded competent scientific enquiry.
    This motive too quickly ignored YEC ideas because creationist non YEC ideas failed. This motive shows a incredulousness to creationism despite living in a Christian civilization.
    Darwin persuaded himself because he was persuaded the other was not true.
    Yet it was true but wrong in particulars.

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  12. petrushka:
    I don’t think doubt in the face of insufficient evidence is ever a mistake.

    One of the reasons we are having this conversation is that Darwin was a very cautious and thorough thinker. He was very good at drawing the line between speculation and strongly supported theories.

    He was also very good at arguing against his own theories. so much so that creationists have no trouble finding Darwin quotes to defeat Darwin.

    So when we discuss his errors we are mostly discussing speculations — clearly identified as such — that turned out to be off track.

    The only places where an error would be truly important are in the age of the earth and common descent.

    OKAY. Many of Darwins errors I listed were in his second and he said some were speculations. Yet they were within his evolutionary tent and show the same ability in research.
    That is NOT very good.
    I agree he was a thorough thinker on his point. It was carefully down but it still was not accurately scientific. It was lines of reasoning and non biological evidence that was the core of his case. So he fails as a thinker of science.

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  13. Thank you at least for staying on topic, Robert. I must admit I find it hard to read your posts due to your writing style/habits.

    “he [Darwin] fails as a thinker of science.”

    No, I don’t think so. I’m not anti-Darwin and neither should you be. Darwin was/is not the Devil. Take the fruitful with the unfruitful in scientific work and there is nothing wrong with celebrating Darwin’s successes, along with his failures and errors.

    “It was that the upper class (intelligent people) wanted a alternative to a theistic origin of biological relationships and origins.”

    In reality, Robert (in case you actually care about reality), there are a lot of ‘intelligent people’ who are not ‘upper class.’ Intelligence does not guarantee wealth or status.

    Origins stories are wonderful and fascinating. Even the ‘modern scientific’ origin story of Big History evolution/emergence/development is amazing if/when one looks at it scientifically, rationally, calmly. Need it be disenchanting? No. Need it be anti-theistic? No. It can be inspiring, taken the right way.

    It seems to me that a lot of people forget that origins stories are not just about looking backwards; they are also about looking forwards.

    Please don’t simply blame Charles Robert Darwin for that. It goes much deeper and wider, higher and nearer than that.

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  14. Now that Gregory has been officially reprimanded for his rather childish attempts to censor his critics, maybe he’ll be good enough to finally explain what his real purpose was for this bizarre thread.

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  15. Gregory,

    If someone gets wrong a major hypothesis and this means gets wrong that there is no evidence enough to back up same hypothesis THEN I don;t see that person as a thinker of science. A thinker of speculations about biology but not science.
    Science is about accuracy in conclusions due to methodology rules.
    Any one can imagine different looking pigeons , by artificial selection, can be mimic by nature with natural selection and say AGA the origin of complexity and diversity in nature,.
    Its just a line of reasoning and desirable hunch.
    yet without biological evidence, much less scientific biological evidence, its just science fiction imagination.
    Science fiction writers do predict things that do in time happen but its just speculation and failure means they are just story tellers.
    Error defines if a person is a thinker in science or not.

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  16. Thanks for your opinion. I think you’ll find a fairly comprehensive history of improving and refining theories and hypotheses over time if you’d care to look.

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  17. Richardthughes:
    Thanks for your opinion. I think you’ll find a fairly comprehensive history of improving and refining theories and hypotheses over time if you’d care to look.

    Sir. No. its not about improving and refining theories and hypothesis!!
    Thats spining fundamental error AWAY.
    Thats why the word Paradigm shift was coined. Another way of saying some claimed scientific conclusion was PLAIN WRONG. Yet , like Fonzie, they can’t admit scientists could be wrong. If they are scientists whatever.

    Evolutionism is absolutely wrong and never happened. Refining/improving a wrong idea is still saying it ain’t really wrong. Just a few spots on it.
    Creationists are attacking directly Darwins hypothesis and anyone else in his Amen corner.
    This is an invasion of the empire and we shall overcome.

    [fixed bad blockquote tagging — Neil Rickert]

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  18. 0_o. Evolution is supported by various, consilient lines of research.But I supposed you have a better supported explanation? One that can find the next Tiktaalik,explain our fused chromosomes or how Lenski’s E-coli adapted?

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  19. Robert Byers: Creationists are attacking directly Darwins hypothesis and anyone else in his Amen corner.

    You don’t need to attack it, simply come up with a more productive alternative and it’ll die all on it’s own, just like thousands of ideas before it when a better idea came along.

    Can you do that Robert? What’s the replacement?

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  20. I’ve read all the way through this thread, and I still don’t understand what Gregory wants. Darwin was a man of his times like all of us. He made a great many testable proposals. Most of them turned out to be more or less incorrect, but most of them (incorrect or not) turned out to be helpful. And a couple of his testable proposals have withstood a century and a a half of testing, and have turned out to be not only correct, but foundational. Taken in historical perspective, Darwin had the sort of insights one would expect for his time (nor was Darwin the only one to have them, since the time was right).

    And of course, as is the case with most originators of seminal proposals, Darwin is respected for his ideas, which steered scientific research into fruitful directions which still bear fruit and promise to continue to do so. Study of Darwin is a study in biography and history, NOT a study in current science. What he was wrong about is of only historical value. What he was right about continues to drive the shape of biological research, though in ways far beyond anything Darwin could have dreamed of.

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  21. Richardthughes:
    0_o. Evolution is supported by various, consilient lines of research.But I supposed you have a better supported explanation? One that can find the next Tiktaalik,explain our fused chromosomes or how Lenski’s E-coli adapted?

    The consilient lines of research , we say, ain’t helping. Line by line. Deleted by better research by the critics of evolution.
    Saying this list of yours is evidence is making our case at the poverty of evidence.
    by the way these are all just lines of reasoning and don’t work without a prior presumption. no science going on here really.

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  22. OMagain: You don’t need to attack it, simply come up with a more productive alternative and it’ll die all on it’s own, just like thousands of ideas before it when a better idea came along.

    Can you do that Robert? What’s the replacement?

    Attacjing it will make it die in our time. nO need for alternatives although we can do that.
    Its on its merits that it remains or disappears into the ashheap of history of wrong guesses about nature especially rejecting the witness of origins in the bible. The word of God after all.

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  23. Evolution has been about to die for 164 years.

    Remember this, Robert, on your deathbed, the theory of evolution will be stronger and better established than it is now.

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  24. Flint:
    I’ve read all the way through this thread, and I still don’t understand what Gregory wants. Darwin was a man of his times like all of us. He made a great many testable proposals. Most of them turned out to be more or less incorrect, but most of them (incorrect or not) turned out to be helpful. And a couple of his testable proposals have withstood a century and a a half of testing, and have turned out to be not only correct, but foundational. Taken in historical perspective, Darwin had the sort of insights one would expect for his time (nor was Darwin the only one to have them, since the time was right).

    And of course, as is the case with most originators of seminal proposals, Darwin is respected for his ideas, which steered scientific research into fruitful directions which still bear fruit and promise to continue to do so. Study of Darwin is a study in biography and history, NOT a study in current science. What he was wrong about is of only historical value. What he was right about continues to drive the shape of biological research, though in ways far beyond anything Darwin could have dreamed of.

    The fruit created is what one can’t swallow.
    Studying darwin is not a study in biography and history but a study in the origins of a error and a modern study of its continuance as a error.
    if he was a poor thinker in science and incompetent in so many conclusions, read his second book and then the first, then one can judge his ideas more closely for the same fundamental errors in investigation.
    Evolution has not stood the test of time in testing but is today newly being tested on its wild claims. What is there to test in a thing of extrapolation?
    Only now does it matter if evolution can stand peer review by real reviewers with no stake in iys acceptance.
    these have always been obscure circles but now evolution is under need to prove itself. The past of darwin is relevant for this examination but the past acceptance of evolution is and will be irrelevant.
    I think 15 years will not pass before its relegated to a mere hypothesis and not a liked one.

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  25. This was a great thread about pointing out, a introduction, Darwins mistakes in everything and a wee bit more.
    Do the evolutionists here submit, so easily, that Darwin got most of ideas wrong??
    Hinting that his big ideas, still popular in circles, was just as unfounded and intellectually incompetent as the great list of errors he accumulated??
    HM. Perhaps creationists should press this point. Darwin got so much wrong, and this all connected to evolution, that in normal scientific parlance it would discredit the researcher.
    where is the book?? I have the idea but can’t write well or hold a audience (Not the same thing I hear )
    in fact a sharp evolutionist should figure to beat us at the game. Admit in book form the heap of Darwin errors to avoid the bigger rejection of his big idea.
    Creationists should thunder before they steal our thunder.

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