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Check Out These Surprising Early Reviews of A.N. Wilson’s Darwin Biography!

David Klinghoffer

A.N. Wilson

Ha, I’m joking. These are not surprising at all.

We’re still more than a month out from the U.S. release of Wilson’s Charles Darwin: Victorian Mythmaker. It goes on sale on December 12 but already the Amazon page is accumulating negative reviews. Have these folks obtained advanced copies from the U.K.? Maybe, though none is listed as a “Verified Purchase.”

I haven’t read the book, and it may be fine or foul, but we know that A.N. Wilson, the British literary critic and biographer, takes an uncompromising, slashing attitude toward his subject and the subject’s theory. Hence the “reviews” pretty much write themselves:

  • “The worst biography of Darwin ever written”
  • “Possibly one of the most dishonest biography ever written.”
  • “DIshonesty [sic] made into a book. Anybody who knows the subject would be appaled [sic].”
  • “Smear piece lacking actual research or scholarship.”
  • “I honestly cannot believe that Amazon carries this book, not to mention labeling it as a ‘Biography.’”
  • “The irony is that the publisher of the English edition of this atrociously researched book is the same as for Darwin’s On the Origin of Species — John Murray.”

Only this one surprised me:

  • “Amongst all the facts he gets wrong and fails to find, the historian Wilson should have read ‘Nullius in Verba: Darwin’s greatest secret’.”

Should have read what? Oh I see, the last of these is contributed by Mike Sutton, author of Nullius in Verba Darwin’s Greatest Secret.

On the other hand, if I were Wilson, I would take comfort from these:

  • “Though Darwin’s all-encompassing theory is now widely regarded as paradigmatic science, Wilson provocatively considers it a quasi-religious credo — like Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto — ultimately doing more to shape political attitudes than to advance scientific understanding…. Sure to spark debate.” (Booklist (starred review))
  • “The prolific novelist and biographer probes the character and controversies of Charles Darwin’s life and the controversial theory that turned the world on its head…. An illuminating new biography of a legendary figure in the scientific world whose legacy continues to draw reappraisals.” (Kirkus)

I’m still sometimes surprised by the degree to which responses to anything critical of Darwinian theory are on autopilot. All you have to know is that Wilson is a literary bigwig writing for a well known mainstream publisher, Harper, who in the past has written critical biographies of Christian figures, but who now comes along with a book attacking the secular saint, Darwin.

With just those few facts, you could predict exactly the response from the people on Amazon, whether they’ve seen a copy of the actual book or not. It doesn’t matter whether Wilson’s biography of Darwin is good or bad. This is what they will say, must say.

And I was going to say I could write these myself, but the truth I couldn’t. I lack the vitriol, which is the essential glue joining together the Darwinist peanut gallery.