A Dreadful Discovery: Big Data Proves Wallace and Darwin Counterfeit Discoverers

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Lecture date: Sun, 27th Jul, 2014
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Estimated 17 min read

Few outside of expert circles in the history of scientific discovery know that – contrary to what is written in thousands of textbooks and scientific papers – neither Darwin nor Wallace were first to discover the theory of natural selection. Patrick Matthew is acknowledged by experts in the field as the first to discover the complete theory of natural selection (e.g.: Clarke, 1984, Dempster 1996, 1996, Hallpike 2008; Wainwright, 2008, 2011, Dawkins 2010). The published literature proves that Matthew, who owned a fruit orchard in Scotland, deduced the process, and then fully articulated and disseminated it in his 1831 book: On Naval Timber and Arboriculture with major Edinburgh and London publishers. In that book, Matthew called upon others to find evidence to test his hypothesis of ‘the natural process of selection’ fully 27 years before Charles Darwin’s and Alfred Wallace’s papers, which did just that, were famously read before the Linnean Society (Darwin and Wallace 1858), and 28 years before Darwin (1859) principally reproduced Matthew’s entire hypothesis, albeit supported by a great and unique synthesis of confirming evidence, in the Origin of Species.

If you study the literature in order to discover more about Matthew you will read almost everywhere on the topic (e.g. Dawkins 2010; Bowler 2014), that Matthew merely buried his ideas in an appendix of an inappropriately titled and obscure book, that he just hinted at the theory, that he never knew the importance of what he discovered, that he failed to take his ideas forward in any other work and that he failed to influence anyone with his discovery. Yet, according to the enlightenment scientific motto of the Royal Society, nullius in verba, we should not merely believe and then simply parrot what others have said. Rather, that in absence of evidence it is imperative not to take the word alone of any authority that something is true. Instead, we should find out for ourselves. Quite so, since evidence in the published but previously ‘hidden’ literature, newly discovered with big data analysis (Sutton 2014), disconfirms all those stories about Matthew’s work. It seems unlikely to be mere coincidence, therefore, that all these disconfirmed stories originated in Darwin’s and Wallace’s self-servingly published excuses for not having read Mathew’s book.

Science Myths

Evidence proves that Darwin’s and Wallace’s excuses became explanatory science myths from being perpetuated by biased Darwinists in order to necessarily fill the knowledge gap and solve the problem of how on earth Darwin and Wallace never read the one book in the world that both really needed to read. Darwin and Wallace needed to read it because miraculously it contained the exact same theory which both replicated, the same four words to name it and many of the same terms and highly idiosyncratic explanatory examples they duplicated to explain it (see Sutton 2014).

In 1858 Charles Darwin’s and Alfred Wallace’s papers were read before the Linnean Society. In 1859 Darwin published the Origin of Species. Both Darwin and Wallace claimed to have discovered natural selection independently of one another and independently of Matthew’s prior publication. Hence, when Matthew confronted Darwin in the press in 1860 to claim priority as the original discoverer of the theory, Darwin conceded that Matthew’s prior publication of 1831 did fully express ‘his’ theory! But Darwin claimed that neither he nor any other naturalist was aware of Matthew’s ideas. After 1860, Wallace continued to maintain that he discovered the theory independently of anyone else. Moreover, Wallace, who famously believed in spiritualism, ludicrously claimed that his Eureka moment arrived in his fevered brain during a – unique in the history of discovery – consciousness enhancing bout of malaria! More wisely in hindsight, Darwin claimed no Eureka moment but said instead that the discovery dawned upon him gradually over a number of years.

For his part, Matthew, an Edinburgh University educated award winning hybridizing fruit grower, botanist and agriculturalist with an international reputation in England, Scotland, France and the USA, explained that the theory came to him by deductive reasoning as a self-evident natural law (Matthew 1860a), albeit no doubt based upon two decades of prior observation and experience – literally ‘in the field’. In reply to Matthew’s (1860a) effective complaint in the press that Darwin had replicated his theory without citation, Darwin (1860) wrote back:

‘I think that no one will feel surprised that neither I, nor apparently any other naturalist, had heard of Mr. Matthew’s views, considering how briefly they are given, and that they appeared in the appendix to a work on Naval Timber and Arboriculture.’

Not to be so easily silenced, Matthew replied (Matthew 1860b), informing Darwin that his heretical book, for which the world – dominated by the church – was not then ready, had been reviewed by the famous naturalist, engineer and publisher John Loudon. Something that Matthew was too polite to inform the public of at the time, or at any time thereafter, was that Loudon’s 1832 review deployed the term “origin of species” when he wrote:

‘One of the subjects discussed in this appendix is the puzzling one, of the origin of species and varieties; and if the author has hereon originated no original views (and of this we are far from certain), he has certainly exhibited his own in an original manner.’

Unable now to stick with his first tale that no naturalist had heard of Matthew’s views, Darwin left the term naturalist out when in 1861, in the third edition of the Origin of Species, he once again made his excuses. This time he wrote:

‘In 1831 Mr Patrick Matthew published his work on Naval Timber and Arboriculture in which he gives precisely the same view on the origin of species as that (presently to be alluded to) propounded by Mr Wallace and myself in the Linnean Journal and as that enlarged on in the present volume. Unfortunately the view was given by Mr Matthew very briefly in scattered passages in an Appendix to a work on a different subject, so that it remained unnoticed until Mr Matthew himself drew attention to it in the ‘Gardener’s Chronicle’ on April 7th, 1860.’

By so doing, Darwin left it wide open to interpretation that ‘remained unnoticed’ might just, mean remained unnoticed by himself and Wallace – as opposed to meaning that the book was unnoticed by anyone at all who had any influence or standing in the field. Previous Citations of Matthew’s Work To date, there has been no hard evidence that Darwin’s or Wallace’s work was influenced by Matthew. Today, however, big data analysis in Google’s Library Project of 30 million plus books and other publications allowed me to uniquely discover and then create a list of published authors, from all walks of life, who did cite Matthew’s (1831) book before 1858 (see Sutton 2014). Seven of those authors were naturalists. But most importantly, three of those naturalists played key pre-1858 roles facilitating and influencing Darwin’s and Wallace’s published ideas on natural selection. Those three are: Loudon (1832) – who we have met with already, but whom none appear to have noticed soon after edited and published Blyth’s (1835 and 1836) acknowledged influential articles on evolution; Chambers (1832), anonymous author of the bestselling ‘Vestiges of Creation – which both Darwin and Wallace, in print and private correspondence acknowledged greatly influenced their pre-1859 thinking on the subject of organic evolution – and Selby (1842) who later both edited and published Wallace’s (1855) famous Sarawak paper on organic evolution.

Hence, it is a bombshell discovery in the history of science that Matthew’s book was read by seven naturalists. More so that three of the seven were at the very epicentre of influence and facilitation of Darwin’s and Wallace’s pre-1859 publications on organic evolution and natural selection. That three out of the total number of just seven naturalists newly discovered to have cited Matthew’s book pre-1858 played such pivotal roles at the epicentre of influence and facilitation of Darwin’s and Wallace’s published work on the exact same unique scientific discovery would alone count as a mere tricoincidence amazing beyond rational belief. But in light of what we additionally know about those three naturalists, I would argue that anyone claiming mere coincidence would have to be barking mad. Because Darwin actually knew, met, and conducted correspondence with Chambers pre-1858 and fully admitted (Darwin 1861) that Chambers’s Vestiges had been a great influence on preparing the general public and scientific community to accept the theory of natural selection. Darwin (1861) admitted also that Blyth was his most prolific informant, and a regular correspondent on the subject of species and varieties.

Furthermore, Blyth’s 1835 and 1836 papers are widely acknowledged to be major papers on the topic of natural selection that greatly influenced Darwin (e.g. Eiseley and Grote 1859; Davies 2008). Wallace made no reference to Blyth or Chambers in either his 1855 Selbyassisted Sarawak paper or in his Linnean paper three years later (Darwin and Wallace 1858). Similarly, Darwin failed to cite either Blyth or Chambers in his 1858 Linnean society paper – although from the third edition  onwards he later cited both in the Origin of Species (Darwin 1861).

Having established that it is now fully 100 per cent proven that the history of science needs re-writing to accord Matthew absolute scientific priority as the only possible independent discoverer of the theory of natural selection, in the rest of this article I move on to present just some of the findings from a textual, concept, and ‘unique explanatory examples’ analysis (Sutton 2014) to present evidence to argue that Darwin and Wallace lied when they each claimed to have discovered natural selection independently of Matthew’s prior-publication.

Can we tell apart the most important parts of Darwin’s and Wallace’s scholarly works from Matthew’s earlier publication? In order to discover whether Darwin’s, and also Wallace’s, versions of natural selection are essentially not Matthew’s, in 2013 I set about looking for key Matthewian concepts, heuristic examples and phraseology in the published and unpublished works that comprise Darwin’s and Wallace’s papers.

In weighing evidence of guilt or innocence, the premise of this particular analysis is that if on more than one occasion Darwin’s and Wallace’s key concepts and prose appear too similar to Matthew’s to have possibly occurred by chance, then that evidence, combined with the proof presented above that Darwin and Wallace are definitely not independent discovers, is sufficient to judge, on a balance of reasonable probability, that both Darwin and Wallace deliberately and dishonestly plagiarised Matthew’s hypothesis and committed science fraud by claiming to be independent discoverers. Moreover, besides naturalists, the number of other authors who read Matthew’s book before 1859, who were also in Darwin’s and Wallace’s social circles, exponentially increases the likelihood that Darwin and Wallace were aware, before that date, of the one book in the world they each really needed to read above all others. Whilst Nullius in verba (Sutton 2014) presents and discusses the results of that particular and lengthier analysis, the word limit imposed upon this article prevents the presentation of all but one or two examples of plagiarism from many newly detected examples. Stating with just some of that evidence for Darwin’s plagiarism, Matthew (1831 p. 383) wrote:

‘…diverging ramifications of life, which from the connected sexual system of vegetables, and the natural instincts of animals to herd and combine with their own kind, would fall into specific groups, these remnants in the course of time moulding and accommodating their being anew to the change of circumstances, and to every possible means of subsistence, and the millions of ages of regularity which appear to have followed between the epochs, probably after this accommodation was completed affording fossil deposit of regular specific character.’

Twenty eight years later, Darwin (1859 – respectively p.383; p. 129 and p.331) followed: ‘…as before remarked, one order; and this order, from the continued effects of extinction and divergence of character, has become divided into several sub-families and families, some of which are supposed to have perished at different periods, and some to have endured to the present day.’

‘…ramifying branches may well represent the classification of all extinct and living species in groups subordinate to groups…’

‘Hence we can understand the rule that the most ancient fossils differ most from existing forms. We must not, however, assume that divergence of character is a necessary contingency; it depends solely on the descendants from a species being thus enabled to seize on many and different places in the economy of nature.’

From these three snippets of text alone we can see that using Matthew’s book as a secret template for gleaning unique key ideas, examples and text, Darwin bloats, disperses and re-phrases Matthew’s earlier published work in an apparent effort to hide its provenance. Yet, seemingly unable to resist Matthew’s term ‘ramifying’ he replicates the Originator’s unique understanding about new divergent species branching from a common ancestor. He also replicates Matthew’s explanation for strangely extinct species in the fossil record being a product of their descendant’s evolutionary favoured adaption to their immediate environment which is subjected to changes in their circumstances over great epochs – described by Darwin instead as ‘periods’ of time. Matthew wrote of fossil deposits being of ‘regular specific character’, which appears to mean that older fossils, which are those lower down in the strata, are less like modern species than those nearer the top. Darwin’s replication of that exact same observation is clearer: ‘…the most ancient fossils differ most from existing forms.’

Matthew’s ‘Natural Process of Selection’

It seems Darwin sought to make other improvements to Matthew’s unique prose. In the main body of his book, notably not in its appendix where Darwin falsely claimed Matthew buried his ideas, Matthew coined the term; ‘natural process of  selection.’ to name his discovery. The only grammatically correct re-ordering of those same four words is ‘process of natural selection’, which is the very term that Darwin coined 28 years later in the Origin of Species. As if that is not extraordinary coincidence enough in one book supposedly independently replicating the unique discovery inside another, it is most improbably a fantastical double coincidence that big data analysis reveals the second person to go into print with the exact original Matthew-coined version of that term was Chambers (1859) in his review of Darwin’s Origin!

Turning now to Wallace’s plagiarism, Matthew (1831) wrote first: ‘… we have felt considerable inconvenience from the adopted dogmatical classification of plants and have all along been floundering between species and variety which certainly under culture soften into each other’. ‘In endeavouring to trace in the former way, the principle of these changes of fashion which have taken place in the domiciles of life, the following questions occur: Do they arise from admixture of species nearly allied producing intermediate species? Are they the diverging ramifications of the living principle under modification of circumstance.’

Twenty four year later Wallace (1855) replicated: ‘We are also made aware of the difficulty of arriving at a true classification, even in a small and perfect group;- in the actual state of nature it is almost impossible, the species being so numerous and the modifications of form and structure so varied.’ [And] ‘Many more of these modifications should we behold, and more complete series of them, had we a view of all the forms which have ceased to live. The great gaps that exist between fishes, reptiles, birds and mammals would then, no doubt, be softened down by intermediate groups…’

‘It has now been shown, though most briefly and imperfectly, how the law that “Every species has come into existence coincident both in time and space with a pre-existing closely allied species,” connects together and renders intelligible a vast number of independent and hitherto unexplained facts. The natural system of arrangement of organic beings, their geographical distribution, their geological sequence, the phenomena of representative and substituted groups in all their modification.’

In those two paragraphs, Wallace padded and dispersed Matthew’s unique ideas, explanatory examples and his prose to duplicate (a) the need to veraciously classify species (b) the diversity of species arrived at by means of natural selection in nature, as opposed to under the artificial selection of human culture (c) the use of the word ‘soften’ regarding the hypothetical notion of intermediate species in nature (d) the hypothesis that new species arise by branching (ramifying) from a closely allied species (common ancestor) (e) the likelihood that such new species emerge due to adaptation to their immediate environmental conditions.

Matthew’s discovery was necessarily preceded by that of another Scot born also in the age of the Scottish Enlightenment. James Hutton proved the Earth to be unimaginably older than previously believed. And it was his discovery that allowed Matthew to understand the great length of time involved for new species to emerge by way of natural selection. However, as Alexander Broadie (2012) explains: ‘…it is one thing to be right (or largely right) and another thing to persuade people that you are right.’ It was Darwin’s geological mentor, the Scot Charles Lyell, who popularised his fellow Scot’s, Hutton’s, discovery. And it was Darwin who popularised Matthew’s. While Matthew was right, we now know that all the books are wrong to claim that Matthew, though right, failed to influence anyone. We know also now that Darwin and Wallace were wrong not to admit that fact. Matthew was right on Geological Catastrophes Matthew was also right and both Lyell and Darwin wrong on the subject of geological catastrophes causing extinction events. Darwin (1861) subtly ridiculed Matthew as biblical ‘catastrophist’ from the third edition of the Origin onwards. Today, we know the Originator Matthew was correct although his discovery and explanation is confined to a derisory footnote in what has been written about Punctuated Equilibrium. Dempster’s (1996. p.202) criticism of what he sees as Richard Dawkins’ misreading of Darwin on this issue is particularly enlightening. Contrary to modern day Darwinist spin, Punctuated Equilibrium Theory is in fact Matthewism and not Darwinism. Rampino (2011) provides the full explanation of this point.

In the final analysis, my dreadful discovery that Matthew’s book was cited by renowned Victorian naturalists who influenced and facilitated the pre-1859 work of both Darwin and Wallace means that Matthew now has full scientific priority for the theory of natural selection. Worse, new discoveries about extinction events prove that Matthew’s version was better than Darwin’s! Incredibly, therefore, Darwin and Wallace, celebrated respectively on the back of the English £10 note, and a Royal Society commemorative postage stamp, are both counterfeit and second-rate discoverers. Moreover, there is a wealth of additional evidence that Darwin and Wallace lied and committed science fraud by claiming no prior knowledge of the discovery of natural selection. The failure of the international scientific community to treat Darwin’s and Wallace’s remarkable claims of immaculate conception of Matthew’s prior and prominently published theory, as an intriguing science problem in need of a solution raises serious ethical questions about the professional integrity and intellectual capabilities of recognised ‘experts’ in the field of evolutionary biology and the history of science. However, neither science nor history as enterprise suffers from the discovery of Darwin’s and Wallace’s great science fraud. On the contrary, it was the application of sceptically curious objective thinking and the application of hi-technology facilitated research that led to its discovery.

If we do not desire knowingly to celebrate science swindlers as heroes, it is essential to put a great injustice right. Moreover, we must recognise Matthew’s immortal greatness if we choose evidence-led veracity over myths to inform explanations of how great discoveries are made. The United Kingdom and Scotland in particular has a new science hero in Matthew. Perhaps the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh will at last take Matthew’s papers out from the box in its archives, upload them to a website and provide the public with a Patrick Matthew online collection? Maybe Scone Palace, from where the English famously stole the great coronation Stone of Scone – and in whose grounds Matthew was born on a farm called Rome – could plant seeds from the same locally growing Giant Californian redwoods that Matthew planted in the 19th Century. Might now the Museum of Natural History in London commission a statue of Matthew to take the place of honour currently accorded to the world’s greatest science fraudster Charles Darwin?

Some of the text and ideas in this talk were earlier published in 2014, in various posts and articles in my blog: ‘Dysology and Criminology: The Blog of Mike Sutton’. Other content is taken from my 2014 book Nullius in verba: Darwin’s greatest secret.

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Philosophy of Science

Dr Michael “Mike” Sutton is Reader in Criminology at Nottingham Trent University (UK), where he teaches Hi Tech Crime and also Crime Reduction and Community Safety. Before that he worked for 14 years as a…