Firstly I’m NOT interested in arguing whether Darwin (and his bubble) told any untruths. (Quite possibly, they may have, but it’s irrelevant. Sutton is making no claims against Darwinian evolution itself. There may be evidence of untruth claims, there may not be any worthwhile peer-review of such claims, there are plenty of rebuttals of such claims. All irrelevant.) I’m arguing about whether, even if true, it makes any sense to therefore publicly claim “Darwin was a liar”.
Telling an untruth – even with intent to deceive – doesn’t necessarily make you a liar. Got that? Do not pass go.
OK, so even if Darwin (and his bubble) told untruths (with intent to deceive), the question becomes one of his / their motives and the motives of anyone wanting to promote the “Darwin was a liar” message? (Sutton has not yet responded to the specific points in my original post. JF Derry has provided plenty of rebuttals in the comments there.)
My best guess at Darwin’s untruths is that
- (a) he probably did not consciously use Matthew’s work as a source,
- (b) probably didn’t believe he’d been influenced when he published, and
- (c) after subsequently corresponding with Matthew and giving acknowledgment in the 3rd edition of The Origin of Species, he probably thought the matter closed – so he could get on with the ongoing task of expounding and defending the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection – for which Darwin is rightly recognised.
- (d) over time he may have realised he may actually have been influenced by Matthew’s work, at first and/or second hand, and was embarrassed, but the bubble needed to defend the project now in progress primarily against the religious / creationist establishment at that time.
- (e) Matthew was possibly seen as a nuisance crank in his personal claims – to various publishers, not just Darwin’s bubble, and
- (f) an impression reinforced by the fact Matthew was a Chartist, part of a radical socialist campaign against the Victorian establishment.
Motivations were (and still are) largely “politics” (small p) as I said already.
When I said that several times in conversation with Sutton, he denied it initially, assuming I meant Politics (capital P, partisan). I was simply pointing out he himself had made a political choice not to include the Chartism angle in his own book. That is, politically he has made tactical choices which truths not to include in his own book, given his own strategic aims in publishing.
Which is the “so what?” I’m questioning: – Why make the claim?
Now, however, I’m not so sure the politics is purely tactical, given Sutton’s actual Politics – front and centre in his Twitter bio (*). I fear Matthew is to be cast as the downtrodden socialist worker sticking it to the Tory establishment. That context may indeed be real, but it’s not part of the content of the science.
Objective truths have to be valued above all within the processes of science itself. Sci-comm campaigns are of course always full of exaggerations, half- truths and white -lies. Shit happens in the real world, it’s how we get stuff done. Climate change – and (say) David Attenborough speaking at #COP24 – being the highest profile current example. Galileo as I mentioned, and his relationship with the Catholic church, being another high-profile historical example.
In my repeated experience, people who claim to be defending some narrow definition of truth above all else, tend to be doing so for reason of some extreme, misguided or dogmatic agenda. In balanced positions, most people can see that practical truth is usually more complicated. Science, and other topics claiming / wishing scientific qualities, tend to get blurred between use-mention / content-context distinctions, when dealing with this problem. [Many more examples in current dialogues.]
[If you want to respond to anything specifically written in this post please make sure you’ve read the original first, and considered the 4 explicit points summarised as being the questions at issue.]
[(*) Post Note – And, he he ha ha, he’s not ignored me entirely: He’s edited his @Dysology Twitter bio to remove the revolutionary leftie bollox. Hillarious. What a total charlatan. RIFF: This whole exchange – including rebuttals – nicely proving my real agenda that science is polluted by politics and that culture is infected by scientism. Together these form a vicious circle. Society is degenerately devolving to lowest-common-denominators – a kind of PC-autism. “Common” factors because the world of human communication is reduced to single noisy “village” – there is only one context, no boundaries or good fences to mediate – let alone facilitate – proper constructive dialogue. (Brexit – populism without wisdom – is simply the latest example.)
Terry, we coined and shook-hands-on a two word name for this state of affairs when we spoke Friday last. Remind me 😉]
[Post Note: Key part of Sutton’s argument as presented to us (inc me directly) is Harry Frankfurt’s definition of truth. Sutton of course misses Frankfurt’s point “On Bullshit”. See follow-up on the distinction between careful good-faith lying and careless bad-faith bullshit in the ongoing draft / footnotes here. Care matters.]