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The Forum > Article Comments > Darwinís cathedral > Comments

Darwinís cathedral : Comments

By Hiram Caton, published 23/2/2006

Charles Darwin was an amateur who deserves no place among the pantheon of scientific greats.

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I struggle to understand what this piece is about is the author having a go at Darwin or creationist? Or is he simply rambling on.
Posted by Kenny, Thursday, 23 February 2006 1:32:39 PM
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He appears to be having a crack at the old experimental vs. theoretical research argument. As if the sole measure of a successful scientist is a physical product, rather than a theoretical legacy which further experimentation in based on. One wonders where theoretical physics sits in his estimation (notice how his fields in which 'great scientist' work is dominated by chemistry and biology).

Carl Sagan characterised scientific progress as the continuous and steady theoretical progress, punctuated by experimental leaps. However the two are not mutually exclusive. Darwin's lack of a patentable 'invention' in no way diminishes his stature.

The use of the term 'invention' is also strange, implying a kind of alchemical approach to experimentation, where different questions are squeezed to fit an answer. Pasteurís initial revelation was just that, recognition of the implications and possibilities of what he observed to be occurring. His 'inventions' came later as he applied the principals of his discovery.

The author also asks who decided that Origin of the Species is the greatest single scientific work. I seem to remember a few months ago a survey of members of the Royal Society nominated Darwin at the top of their list.

But yeah Kenny, itís difficult to see the point.
Posted by its not easy being, Thursday, 23 February 2006 2:28:11 PM
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A pretty miserable depreciation of Charles Darwin's contribution to our collective knowledge of the worlds evolution.
As a very confused young person, I vividly recall laying my hands on a copy of Origin of Species through Natural selection.
Reading it changed my life....
I am not concerned that he was an 'amateur'....That's probably why he was capable of assessing his own observations and also why he was reluctant to publish being a Christian Believer.
I read nothing in the article that refuted his observations but rather some pique that other great thinkers were not sanctified as Charles Darwin has been honored by interment in Westminster Abbey.
He wont be forgotten as will the author of this critic
Posted by maracas, Thursday, 23 February 2006 3:08:14 PM
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After reading it twice - that the author believes in evolution, but is claiming that Darwin's contribution is less than what is usually claimed.

This is possibly correct. However... only those with an solid understanding of both biology and history could say for sure. And many others are probably not particularly interested.

Some of the information rings true to me. Other claims make no sense. For example, there is nothing wrong with amateur science. The nature of Darwins education and income are not a basis on which his work and standing can or should be criticised.

Similarly, not all science requires precision instruments. Conceptual and theoretical work for example, does not always require instruments. My background is physics. Many key breakthroughs in physics have been achieved on blackboards or paper. The author's background is humanities right. Were all key achievements in humanities by professionals, perhaps there were some writers out there who exceeded despite amateur status, a lack of modern pens, and dare I say it, no ruler.

But none of this directly discredits the original point made by the author. Maybe he is correct, maybe Darwins contribution was less significant than claimed. What bothers me is that this sidetracks from the main public issue of the day.... whether science teachers should or should not be forced to teach the creationist theory of intelligent design.
Posted by WhiteWombat, Thursday, 23 February 2006 4:34:26 PM
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WhiteWombat,
I think you have exactly evaluated the writers position.

Though I believe greater and more rewarding work has been done in the biological sciences to benifit humanity; whereas Darwin concentrated in the philosophy [theory] of science.
Posted by Philo, Thursday, 23 February 2006 8:26:43 PM
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Darwin, Einstein are well known now and will be in 500 years time. Why because they are the figure heads of two fundamental shifts in humanities world view. Newton will always be the scientist scientist and many others have made a greater contribution to our daily lives. But these two stand alone in the impact they have had on the way we see ourselves and our place in the grand scheme. So much so that many people still canít except it. I would love to add a third for quantum physics but it was to much of a team effort to pick someone. Planck or Heisenberg or BohrÖ..
Posted by Kenny, Thursday, 23 February 2006 10:00:53 PM
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