[Taxacom] London - Systematics Association Lecture

Kenneth Kinman kennethkinman at webtv.net
Thu Dec 3 22:03:32 CST 2009

Hi All,
      I agree with Robin that you have to judge Darwin within the
context of his own times.  In that context, what he accomplished is
       To brand his shortcomings as "failures" is much too easy and
tempting in retrospect.  Whether he gets too much credit (in comparison
with Wallace) is debatable, but how could either of them have envisaged
the genetic discoveries of the 20th Century given the evidence they had
to work with.  The later discoveries of genetics were built on the
shoulders of such giants. 
       As Richard said, the most we can accuse them of is not being as
prescient as we might like.  Is it just too easy to criticize them 150
years after the fact.  In the context of their times, they advanced
knowledge considerably and set the stage for the future science of
genetics about which they could have only guessed.  In turn, saltation
(as opposed to gradualism) built on genetics, and was therefore even
more removed from the scientific knowledge of Darwin's time.  
      ------Ken Kinman   
P.S.  As for the 150th Anniversary not getting much press, that is
actually to be expected given the superifical nature of modern news
coverage.  Sex, sports, and celebrities get an inordinate amount of
attention (such as the coverage of Tiger's fender-bender, etc.).  So
when something like a future new bird flu causes a "real" pandemic, we
can then criticize the media for over-blowing such things as swine flu,
Tiger Woods' temporary problems, or even the importance of Afghanistan
to the future of world events.  Most modern news media (with exceptions
such as PBS) are more interested in selling commercials than provide
really important information that has long-term consequences.  It just
reflects that most humans concentrate on short-term desires to the
detriment of broader long-term goals (concentrated into the same trends
among most of their governmental representatives continually seeking
reelection).  A majority of humans' priorities today are pretty
superficial and short-sighted,
Robin Leech wrote:
Mike, you must understand that his geologist mentor, Lyell, and many
others of his day all thought things occurred gradually.  Nothing
happened suddenly. 

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