Westminster Review

Charles Darwin’s notoriety long preceded the publication of The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in November 1859. The Darwin family legacy has been likened to the Kennedy legacy in the twentieth century.

The Darwin legacy sold the book. No publicity was needed. All 1,250 printed copies were sold on the first day. The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was an immediate success, the Harry Potter of the nineteenth century, and sequel to the widely popular Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation.

In the afternoons, Prince Albert was known for reading Vestiges aloud to Queen Victoria. The English writer of Vestiges, Robert Chambers (1802–1871) goal was to inspire popular interest in evolution—a Discovery Channel forerunner.

Darwin, however, received wide spread of publicity, with the Westminster Review leading the publicity campaign. In 1851, Chambers aligned with the widely popular Westminster Review journal that had been established in 1823 by British philosopher and economist Jeremy Bentham and James Mill as the official arm of the Philosophical Radicals. The Westminster Review was a the New Yorker prototype.

By the mid-1850’s, Westminster Review represented the views of the elite radical intellectuals, including Harriet Martineau and the young journalist Herbert Spencer, John Stuart Mill (James Mill’s son), William Carpenter, Robert Chambers and later, Thomas Huxley. Eventually, Huxley proclaimed himself “Darwin’s ‘bulldog’”.

 

Ironically, Huxley’s verdict on The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in the Westminster Review, despite deep admiration and expressions of commitment to Darwin’s theory, also highlighted Darwin’s insurmountable problem—natural selection. In Charles Darwin – The Power of Place by Janet Browne points out that Huxley’s evaluation published in the Westminster Review “could not fully accept the principle of natural selection.”

Huxley at the Westminster Review was not a lone critic of natural selection, however. Some of Darwin’s critics were initially even within his inner circle, including botanist Joseph Hooker. Hooker had classified the plants Darwin collected in South America and the Galápagos Islands.

In response to Darwin’s inquiry of Hooker thoughts on his natural selection hypothesis, Hooker replied negatively with British civility –

[There] might have been a gradual change of species. I shall be delighted to hear how you think that this change may have taken place, as no presently conceived opinions satisfy me on this subject.

Agonizingly aware of the inner circle rejection of the natural selection hypothesis, the kingpin “Means” of the theory, Darwin concedes in a letter –

[Charles] Lyell and Hooker, though they would listen with interest to me, never seemed to agree. I tried once or twice to explain to able men what I meant by Natural Selection, but signally failed.

A consensus on the evolutionary the role of natural selection was not even reached within the inner Darwin circle.

The problem with natural selection stems from the lack of one essential factor—scientific evidence. In an 1859 letter to Asa Gray, Darwin clearly acknowledges that the natural selection hypothesis has “too few facts” and is, therfore, “grievously hypothetical” –

What you hint at generally is very, very true: that my work is grievously hypothetical, and large parts are by no means worthy of being called induction [scientific], my commonest error being probably induction from too few facts.

In the intervening 100 years since the publication of The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, evidence for natural selection continues only as “grievously hypothetical” concept.

Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini in What Darwin Got Wrong (2010) deliver a stunning exposé on Darwin’s inane assertion that natural selection is the evolutionary theory “Means”. As “out-right, card-carrying, sign-up, dye-in-the-wool, no-holds barred atheists”, Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini drives two points –

Darwin’s theory of natural selection is fatally flawed.

In fact, ET [evolutionary theory] can offer no remotely plausible account of how filtering by natural selection might work.

Italian geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti in Why a Horse is Not a Fly aligns and concurs with Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini’s assessment, noting –

Natural selection could perhaps be invoked as a mechanism accounting for the survival of the species. But the claim that natural selection is creative of life, of life’s essence and types and orders, can only leave one dumbstruck.

Huxley, in the 1859 Westminster Review, pinpointed the kingpin problem with The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection—natural selection. Darwin did not heed the warning.

This begs the question, why has The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection continued as a powerful worldwide influence. Ardent evolutionist and historian, Janet Browne, answers –

Huxley welcomed the Origin of Species as ammunition for promoting science [sic] at the expense of the church, and the principles of naturalism over theologically based concepts.

The Huxley Westminster Review pattern continues—a philosophical imperative disconnected to the scientific evidence. As in the days of Huxley, the evolution industry continues today to promote the theory of evolution simply for the purposes of undermining biblical authority.

History clearly demonstrates, in time philosophical imperatives must answer to the scientific evidence. The clock has nearly finished ticking on Darwin’s “grievously hypothetical” theory.

 

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Darwin, Then and Now is a journey through the most amazing story in the history of science - the history of evolution. The book encapsulates who Darwin was, what he said, and what scientists have discovered since the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859.

With over 1,000 references, Darwin Then and Now is a historical chronicle of the rise and fall of the once popular theory of biological evolution.

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