Darwin: “I expect and hope that the frame-work will stand”

Here we have another quote-mine of Charles Darwin, from “Darwin Recant?” on the blog for the book Darwin, Then and Now by Richard Nelson, which is:

a journey through the most amazing story in the history of science; encapsulating who Darwin was, what he said, and what scientists have discovered since the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859.

Darwin, Then and Now examines Darwin’s theory with more than three hundred quotations from The Origin of Species, spotlighting what Darwin said concerning the origin of species and natural selection using the American Museum of Natural History Darwin exhibit format.

With over one thousand referenced quotations from scientists and historians, Darwin, Then and Now explores the scientific evidence over the past 150 years from the fossil record, molecular biology, embryology, and modern genetics.

While we receive this tired argument:

The rise of atheism early in the twentieth century, rather than bringing an age of enlightenment, became the breeding fields for the bloodiest century in history—largely at the hands Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, and Mao. Contrary to Dawkins contention, the theory of evolution unleashed worldwide insanity—not peace.

I am more interested in another claim. Earlier in the piece the author provided information concerning the myth that Darwin recanted evolution of his deathbed, and asked to be saved, which we know to be false. Then:

Certainly, Darwin was critical of his own arguments for evolution in The Origin of Species. In a letter to Hugh Falconer in October 1862, Darwin wrote,

I look at it as absolutely certain that very much in the Origin will be proved to be rubbish

In the wake of 150 years of unprecedented scientific research on the fossil record, embryology, molecular biology, and genetics, the theory of evolution remains as it started —“rubbish.” However, any recanting document prior to his deathbed experience in April 1882 continues to escape the reach of historians.

Surprisingly, the author provides a link to the actual letter in which Darwin wrote this, on the Darwin Correspondence Project website. Here’s the before and after:

Nevertheless just to explain by mere valueless conjectures how I imagine the teeth of your elephants change; I should look at the change, as indirectly resulting from changes in the form of the jaws, or from development of tusks, or in case of the “primigenius” even from correlation with the woolly covering; in all cases natural selection checking the variation. If indeed an elephant could succeed better by feeding on some new kinds of food, then any variation of any kind in the teeth, which favoured their grinding power would be preserved. Now I can fancy you holding up your hands and crying out what bosh! To return to your concluding sentence; far from being surprised, I look at it as absolutely certain that very much in the Origin will be proved rubbish; but I expect and hope that the frame-work will stand.

The author, rather unsurprisingly for an anti-evolutionist, purposefully leaves out a crucial portion of the quote – “but I expect and hope that the frame-work will stand.” Surely Darwin is not writing against his theory as a whole, only stating that details about it may change. Nelson said that historians should pay attention to “I look at it as absolutely certain that very much in the Origin will be proved rubbish,” as it provides evidence that Darwin recanted before 1882. But this is clearly not a recanting, if you just look at the quote in context.

But, reading “any recanting document prior to his deathbed experience in April 1882 continues to escape the reach of historians,” is   Nelson still perpetuating that Darwin did recant in 1882? Ken Ham doesn’t even believe it. If so, Nelson, I suggest you read a book: The Darwin Legend by James Moore.

All this, despite the description on the book reading, in part: “encapsulating who Darwin was, what he said” (emphasis mine).

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One thought on “Darwin: “I expect and hope that the frame-work will stand”

  1. Pingback: Ken Ham and Rachel Held Evans Around the Blogosphere | eChurch Christian Blog

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