Thursday, May 14, 2009
Shermer, Michael. "A Skeptic's Take on the Public Misunderstanding of Darwin." SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN (February 2009).
On July 2, 1866, Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of natural selection, wrote to Charles Darwin to lament how he had been “so repeatedly struck by the utter inability of numbers of intelligent persons to see clearly or at all, the self acting & necessary effects of Nat Selection, that I am led to conclude that the term itself & your mode of illustrating it, however clear & beautiful to many of us are yet not the best adapted to impress it on the general naturalist public.” The source of the misunderstanding, Wallace continued, was the name itself, in that it implies “the constant watching of an intelligent ‘chooser’ like man’s selection to which you so often compare it,” and that “thought and direction are essential to the action of ‘Natural Selection.’” Wallace suggested redacting the term and adopting Herbert Spencer’s phrase “survival of the fittest.” Unfortunately, that is what happened, and it led to two myths about evolution that persist today: that there is a prescient directionality to evolution and that survival depends entirely on cutthroat competitive fitness. . . . Read the rest here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=darwin-misunderstood.