A conspiração de Darwin: as origens de um crime científico

terça-feira, junho 30, 2009

Sempre vem à tona a suspeita de que Darwin plagiou o trabalho de Wallace sobre a Seleção Natural. A Nomenklatura científica e a Galera dos meninos e meninas de Darwin, como sempre, esperneiam e vociferam invectivas e anátemas aos críticos e oponentes da teoria geral da evolução de Darwin.

O livro The Darwin Conspiracy: Origins of a Scientific Crime [A conspiração de Darwin: as origens de um crime científico] de Roy Davis, veio botar mais lenha nesta fogueira. Segundo o autor, Darwin plagiou a obra de Wallace.

Eu, como historiador da ciência em formação, ainda não estou convencido de que Darwin cometeu tamanha baixeza intelectual, mas destaco aqui dois excertos de Davis que me deixaram com a pulga na orelha. Sorry periferia, mas está em inglês:

Chapter 18: Changing course

WORKING through the papers in the black box at Cambridge, Dov Ospovat noticed that as 1856 ended and 1857 began, Darwin’s ideas about species variation began to change. They no longer depended on the natural theological structure of the 1844 essay.
Darwin was no longer claiming that variation only ever happened in newly formed and isolated environments where perfect adaptation did not yet apply. Instead, he now claimed that variation could occur at any time, with or without changes in external conditions. It was a complete reversal, and Ospovat was puzzled. There was nothing specific he could point to that might have caused this fundamental change in Darwin’s ideas. It certainly had not come either from Darwin’s study of barnacles or from a weight of collected evidence.’

Quite clear about the huge implications for the development of Darwin’s theory, Ospovat spelled out his discovery. In 1844, Darwin had believed there could be no species variation in nature without a change in geological conditions. He had stated: ‘geological change alone causes adaptation in species’. He was convinced that species could change only when the environment to which they were perfectly adapted changed. Now, he was of the opinion that ‘geological forces are not a causal factor in organic change’.2

In a letter to Hooker in November 1856, only two months after the publication of Wallace’s birds article, Darwin referred to ‘notions’ he was testing that ’species do become changed and that time is a most important element … in such change’.3 Ospovat drew his deductions:

Together, these shifts in emphasis and the numerous others that could be added to the list produced a substantially new conception of the evolu¬tionary process. It is the Darwinian conception we are familiar with from the Origin but it is not a conception that we are justified in reading back into Darwin’s earlier writings.4 ~

What Darwin was suddenly arguing was that variation i? nature was ‘an innate property of organisms’, something natural and unavoidable in all circumstances. Ospovat was absolutely convinced of the importance of this change in Darwin’s thinking.

Everything that Darwin had put at the core of his theory before this point was no longer valid. Suddenly, his new thinking on variation comprised the core of a new theory. Darwin was beginning all over again.

Ospovat was convinced that the mainspring of the theory that led to the Origin less than two years later was understood by Darwin only in the last few months of 1856. He was also convinced that what had turned Darwin’s theory of natural selection into a theory of progressive develop¬ment was his discovery of something he called his ‘principle of divergence’.5 There is, however, nothing in Darwin’s autobiography, in any of his letters, nor anywhere in his journal, to give an account of how or when he was led to or stumbled upon such a principle.

Years after the Origin had been published, when he was celebrated the world over as the greatest naturalist who had ever lived, Darwin described the moment he understood the idea of divergence: ‘I can remember the very spot on the road whilst in my carriage when to my joy the solution occurred to me and this was long after I came to Down’.6 However, of the intellectual process, and of how all his work and experience fused together to illuminate the way ahead, there was not even a hint.

Back in the twentieth century, one researcher had her own reasons for examining the correspondence of Charles Darwin. What she found, or rather did not find, caused her to suspect that things might not have been as open or as transparent between Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace as everyone had been led to understand.


Chapter 19 Most unlucky man

BARBARA BEDDALL, newly armed with a master’s degree in zoology from Yale, took exception to Loren Eiseley’s suggestion that Charles Darwin had plagiarised the ideas of Edward Blyth in the development of his theory of evolution. Beddall felt that Eiseley must be misguided, and set out to research Darwin’s original papers and correspondence in Cambridge in an attempt to prove him wrong.

Beddall was unusual. She had taken her first degree in zoology in 1941, but after eight years as a research librarian at Time magazine and seven years as a writer, she returned to zoology and the question of how Darwin had arrived at his ideas. By this time she had gained the reputa¬tion of being a formidable researcher.

Starting at the basics, Beddall began her wider research with a decision to concentrate only on primary source material. She knew from Francis Darwin’s introduction to his father’s letters that there were some gaps in the extant correspondence, but when she began she could have had no idea how crucial those gaps would prove to be. Sifting through the volumi¬nous correspondence, which at that date had not been assembled in date order, Beddall desperately wanted to find the letters exchanged between Wallace and Darwin. They would, she hoped, indicate exactly what Wallace had told Darwin about his own work in that first letter. Instead, she discovered that the letters Darwin had received from Wallace in 1857 and 1858 no longer existed; nor could she find equally important letters from Lyell and Hooker to Darwin in the summer of 1858. Similarly, a vital letter from the American botanist Asa Gray could not be found. I Beddall felt aggrieved. Reporting her lack of success in finding the letters, she said she had not expected such a thing. She had found it ‘very odd’ that the most critical correspondence in Darwin’s files between 1855 and 1858 was missing. She commented: ‘Without these letters, a clear idea of the extent of Wallace’s influence on Darwin is beyond-academic assessment and the full story impossible to gauge’.2 -

Beddall believed Darwin had been much more aware of Wallace than he had ever let on, and that someone had ‘cleaned up the file’.3 In her opinion, Darwin’s son Francis had destroyed the missing letters after his father’s death. The idea that it might have been Darwin himself seems not to have occurred to her.

Although the files might have been purged, there was an intriguing anomaly. Beddall discovered that in the entire Darwin archive, just one small scrap remained of a letter Wallace had written to Darwin. It came from a second letter, which Wallace had written to Darwin in September 1857. Of the first, sent from Macassar in October 1856, there was no trace. The absence of the letters was a great disappointment and Beddall was not convinced by Francis Darwin’s explanation that when files were full, his father discarded old letters to make room for new.4

Darwin had covered his tracks well. He always maintained that he had not received the first letter from Alfred Wallace until the end of April 1857 (rather than inJanuary of the same year).5 However, the timings do not add up. In order to accept Darwin’s assertion, one would have to believe that the most efficient contemporary postal service in the world had taken six months to transfer a letter from the Malay Archipelago to Charles Darwin’s home, rather than the promised two months, without any expla¬nation of where it had been in the meantime. Further, one would have to accept that, due to an extraordinary coincidence, in that lost interval of four months, Charles Darwin conceived of an entirely new species theory and turned away from ideas he had been wedded to for the best part of twenty years. Alternatively, one could theorise that Wallace’s letter had indeed arrived at Darwin’s home at the beginning of the year, and had been in Darwin’s possession during those first four crucial months of 1857, during which his ideas underwent such a dramatic change.


Site do livro.

PDF do Cap. 15 gratuito aqui.



Ospovat e Beddall são historiadores da ciência de renome. Se eles quebraram a cabeça e não entenderam o por que de muitos fatos sobre o affair Darwi-Wallace, o bom senso diz que onde há fumaça, há fogo.

Cruz, credo! Darwin, plagiador? Durma-se com uma baita suspeita dessas...