The English literacy critic and biographer A.N. Wilson is a brilliant writer. We’ve been aware for some time that he’s a Darwin skeptic, too. Most recently, in the London Spectator, he praised Discovery Institute biologist Michael Denton for writing one of the best books of 2016 – Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis, which Wilson called a “truly great book,” “fascinatingly clear,” that “destroys the Darwinian position.”
Now we learn that Wilson has been working for the past five years on a biography of Charles Darwin. That is fascinating news. To judge from a sample (not an excerpt, apparently) in the London Evening Standard, it promises to be merciless (“A.N. Wilson: It’s time Charles Darwin was exposed for the fraud he was”). And in a particularly unkind irony, the book’s British publisher is John Murray, which published Darwin’s own books, On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man.
Wilson proposes moving Darwin’s statue from its current place of honor at London’s Natural History Museum, and replacing it with the statue of museum founder Richard Owen that originally occupied the spot. (See here for a brief video conversation with Dr. Denton on Owen, Darwin, and the revolving statues issue.) In a further indignity, Darwin is already slated to be replaced on the 10 pound note with Jane Austen, a “more benign figure.”
The great fact of evolution was an idea that had been current for at least 50 years before Darwin began his work. His own grandfather pioneered it in England, but on the continent, Goethe, Cuvier, Lamarck and many others realised that life forms evolve through myriad mutations. Darwin wanted to be the Man Who Invented Evolution, so he tried to airbrush all the predecessors out of the story. He even pretended that Erasmus Darwin, his grandfather, had had almost no influence on him. He then brought two new ideas to the evolutionary debate, both of which are false.
One is that evolution only proceeds little by little, that nature never makes leaps. The two most distinguished American palaeontologists of modern times, Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge, both demonstrated 30 years ago that this is not true. Palaeontology has come up with almost no missing links of the kind Darwinians believe in. The absence of such transitional forms is, Gould once said, the “trade secret of palaeontology”. Instead, the study of fossils and bones shows a series of jumps and leaps….
Darwin’s second big idea was that Nature is always ruthless: that the strong push out the weak, that compassion and compromise are for cissies whom Nature throws to the wall. Darwin borrowed the phrase “survival of the fittest” from the now forgotten and much discredited philosopher Herbert Spencer. He invented a consolation myth for the selfish class to which he belonged, to persuade them that their neglect of the poor, and the colossal gulf between them and the poor, was the way Nature intended things. He thought his class would outbreed the “savages” (ie the brown peoples of the globe) and the feckless, drunken Irish. Stubbornly, the unfittest survived. Brown, Jewish and Irish people had more babies than the Darwin class. The Darwinians then had to devise the hateful pseudo-science of eugenics, which was a scheme to prevent the poor from breeding.
We all know where that led, and the uses to which the National Socialists put Darwin’s dangerous ideas.
That connects a lot of dots. With the crowning insult of Darwin’s own publisher being involved, it almost makes you feel bad for the man. Actually, I’ll go further – I do feel bad for Darwin. The book is out on September 7 in the U.K., but, frustratingly, not until December 12 in the United States. We are looking forward it.