Talk:Charles Darwin/Archive 10

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"Realized" might be better stated as "concluded" in first sentence[edit]

The operative verb "realised" in the first sentence shows bias in favor of Darwin's theory. It may be better if we changed the verb to "concluded" or even "surmized."

Charles Robert Darwin FRS (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist[I] who c concluded that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors, and published compelling evidence to that effect.

Also, compelling is in the eyes of the beholder, is it not? "Persuasive" might be a better adjective. (RA421 (talk) 21:48, 12 November 2009 (UTC))

The verb "realised" gives due weight to the overwhelming majority scientific view, and properly does not give equal validity to fringe views or to pseudoscientific views objecting to evolution, in full accordance with WP:NPOV policy. Also note that we can make the necessary assumption that the validity of evolution is established on the detailed page on the subject. There's been discussion about the phrasing of the second point, and as the sources state, it was compelling evidence for evolution and common descent, though less immediately so for natural selection. That too is accepted now, as modified in the modern evolutionary synthesis. Of course we state where Darwin put forward theories which have been shown to be incorrect, for example his idea of pangenesis was rejected. Hope that helps, . . dave souza, talk 22:39, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
There is a sound principle in law against asking leading questions, i.e. questions which assume the truth of some proposition other than the one apparently questioned. Thus the classic "When did you stop beating your wife?" is leading because it assumes that you did beat your wife while apparently only asking about stopping. In handling NPOV, the same principle has surely to be applied to statements. A partially disguised assumption is at the root of the problem which I and others have with "realize" (OED British as well as American spelling!). If you say "X realized A", this implies that A is true, in that it's inconsistent in English to say "X realized A, but A wasn't true". (You don't say, for example, "I realized that I was awake, but I wasn't"; you have to say something like "I thought I was awake, but I wasn't", or "I concluded that I was awake, but I wasn't".) I happen to agree fully that what Darwin is said to have "realised" is true, but equally I feel that in the first sentence of the article, "conclude" conveys much better what I think should be the Wikipedia NPOV, and doesn't in the slightest distract from conveying the current overwhelming consensus. Peter coxhead (talk) 11:39, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
As your argument shows, you're bending over backwards to give equal validity to the proposition that Darwin's realisation was incorrect: see WP:GEVAL in the context of WP:UNDUE regarding "articles should not give minority views as much or as detailed a description as more widely held views; generally, the views of tiny minorities should not be included at all", and note that only a tiny fringe of pseudoscientific biologists dispute Darwin's realisation. As you state, OED gives precedence to "z" spellings while acknowledging the "s" version, but the latter is much more common in British usage, and is shown as the UK spelling in other reputable dictionaries, such as Chambers, as well as being the default in UK English spellcheckers that I've used. To me, "realize" jars as an Americanism, Oxfordians may disagree. . . dave souza, talk 12:25, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
I don't think that using "conclude" in the slightest bends over backwards to give equal validity to the proposition that he was incorrect. The revised sentence would read ".. concluded .. and published compelling evidence." Another argument against "realised" (I should never have included a side-remark about spelling :-) ) is that it trivialises (whoops, nearly wrote "trivializes") his achievement. Compare "I've just realised that I left my umbrella behind" with "I've just concluded that I left my umbrella behind". Look at the Wiktionary definition of realize: Darwin didn't just "become aware of" via a sudden revelation from outside. I suspect that you and I aren't going to agree about this, but my vote is still very firmly for changing "realised" to "concluded". Peter coxhead (talk) 14:11, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
In my opinion, "realised" gives the right sort of implication very concisely: "concluded" lends itself too readily to "concluded wrongly". It is fair to say that Darwin examined geographical and taxonomic evidence, and realised that this showed descent with modification. Another wording conveying the same impression can certainly be considered, and I'd welcome other views on this. . . dave souza, talk 17:30, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
As I indicated when I changerd the word earlier today, the word "realised" can be construed a number of ways and adds confusion.
Look it up in the Oxford Dictionary. The primary meaning of "realised/ized" is "made real".
As in "Pope Julius II planned to rebuild St Peters but the project was not fully realised until after his death".
You are using the word (I presume) with the intention of meaning "Darwin discovered that this is the way things are".
I presume that you do not mean to imply that Darwin was the actual creator of evolution (possibly as planned and designed by some other higher authority).
If you don't mean that Darwin made it happen, then don't use the word "realised" because it adds confusion.
You have already been asked to think of some different way of saying this for a variety of reasons. Mine reason is one of accuracy and clarity. If you can't think of a better word, you might need to slightly rearrange the sentence, or simply take advice from one of the other editors who have made suggestions.
Amandajm (talk) 09:12, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

(←) Drive-by comment, if I may... The fact that realise has other meanings, including to make something happen, is a complete red herring. It also has a clear meaning of "to become aware of", and in this context that is the only possible interpretation. Furthermore, it is the correct interpretation. If you use a word such as concluded then you open the door to the interpretation "concluded incorrectly", just as with realised you strongly imply "realised correctly". But that's the whole point. According to the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion (not to mention simple fact), he was correct to realise this. I cannot think of a better word than realised. Thanks for listening! SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 10:26, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

Coming late to the party: the common meaning of "realized" so overwhelms the others that there is absolutely no danger of such misinterpretations as Darwin "created" evolution or "made it happen". I know that Wikipedia doesn't allow common sense, but surely, in this case, common sense can be relied upon to forestall any such mistakes. "Realized" (or "realised"), given its common meaning, exactly encapsulates the required sense. --Old Moonraker (talk) 10:51, 25 November 2009 (UTC)
The primary dictionary meaning of "realised" is not the one that you are using.
Forget all this stuff about "concluded" might be interpreted as "wrongly concluded" and "realised" implies that it was right.
If you lot are prepared to use a non-scientific word such as "realised" in place of the standard word used in every science report "conclude" or "conclusion", then you should not be writing about scientific subjects.
Didn't any of you ever do science at high school? Were you never taught how to write up your experiments? You're writing an encyclopedia here, not a novel based on Darwin's life and certainly not a magazine article for the Sunday lift out.
Use the correct term.
Amandajm (talk) 01:29, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
Had we finished here? I see that User:Amandajm has made the change, but I don't see a consensus. --Old Moonraker (talk) 07:57, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
I don't think that there was a consensus; on the other hand, I support the change.
  • I agree that the alternative meaning of realise is something of a red herring (although this usage seems to me much more common in American English than in British English, so may colour the meaning of the word to someone used to this dialect).
  • The issue is, for me, the spirit of Words that may advance a point of view. Before reverting, please read this section again. We should choose the most neutral word available, while of course maintaining the correct sense. What is the argument for realise? dave souza's seems to be that not using it gives comfort to anti-Darwinians. Isn't this a tacit admission that the word has been chosen precisely because it isn't maximally neutral? Articles on topics which have strongly-held, but minority, opposition need, in my view, to be extra careful to use neutral language.
Peter coxhead (talk) 08:48, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
<ec> I've undone the change, as there's no consensus for the change and this isn't a science report but an encyclopaedic entry giving due weight to the overwhelming scientific consensus. Conclusions drawn from any one series of experiments are necessarily tentative, as is science itself, but for around 140 years there has been no serious doubt in science that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors. It's necessary to put this clearly, as from 1925 large numbers of school students have been denied knowledge about evolution, and since the 1970s there have been remarkably successful efforts to convince the public that biblical creationism relabelled as creation science or as intelligent design is valid as science. Darwin realised that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors on the basis of all the evidence available to him, and this finding has been consistently corroborated as new scientific approaches to the the issue have been discovered. It's not just Darwin's conclusion that we're dealing with. . . dave souza, talk 08:58, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
Dave, I agree wholeheartedly with you about the science involved and the problems with education in this area in parts of the world. But this isn't the point, surely? The point is that Wikipedia editors should strive to use the most neutral language possible. You're actually saying that you deliberately aren't using the most neutral language because this would give comfort to anti-Darwinians. It's pointless to get into an edit war here; one word is hardly worth raising an NPOV dispute about (and there's a long backlog anyway of more serious reports). However, this doesn't mean that I agree with you. There just is no consensus on this point. Peter coxhead (talk) 09:46, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
The links to the relevant guidelines are at the start of this section in dave souza's first two posts. In brief, those links show that articles on science do not choose words on the basis of whether they might exclude the views of non-scientists. Darwin took many years to gather and analyze information, and I think "realise" does a good job of conveying what Darwin did. There is certainly no NPOV problem with the word. Johnuniq (talk) 10:04, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

In a discussion, if you disagree with the previous speaker you have several options how to start, e.g.:

  • "You are wrong, because ..."
  • "I would like to introduce an additional argument that has not come up before:"
  • "Basically there is some truth in what you said, however ...".

I would argue that the second example is both intellectually honest and persuasive. And we need to be persuasive if we want to disseminate the facts to readers who have been misinformed by creationists. We don't want to be the "liberal" (funny American word, that) mirror image of Conservapedia, writing basically for the edification of readers who share a certain POV. Let's compare some options:

  • "... who realised that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors, and published compelling evidence to that effect."
  • "... who concluded that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors, and published compelling evidence to that effect."
  • "... who believed that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors, and published compelling evidence to that effect."

I think these three version correspond to the three examples above. If I had to choose between them I would prefer the second based on what I have explained already. But let's look a bit closer:

We are discussing the very first sentence of the article, which should be as crisp as possible. What information does "realised" or "concluded" convey in addition to the rest of the sentence? (I think I needn't discuss "believed".) Consider the following:

  • "... who published compelling evidence that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors."

This sentence already hints that Darwin's position was correct. The sentence with "realised" leaves no doubt about it, and at the same time hints that he might have been the first. (He wasn't; see Common descent#History.) "Concluded" goes in a different direction: It stresses, redundantly, that Darwin arrived at his position through research, rather than e.g. a sudden insight.

All things considered, since the publishing itself is a bit peripheral and we really don't want anyone to think that Darwin published someone else's results, I would suggest the following:

  • "... who made a compelling case that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors."

Hans Adler 10:14, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

An important point that has perhaps not been stressed enough is that this is not a scientific paper but a biographical article in an encyclopaedia. From that perspective, realised seems to me much better than concluded, in that it conveys the historical significance and world-view-changing nature of Darwin's conclusions much more clearly. Granted that realised assumes the truth of the thing that Darwin realised, in a way that concluded does not. But I think concluded has far too tentative a tone. From a historical perspective, he didn't hesitatingly offer a conclusion, hedged about with caveats; he hit upon a massively important fact. I have just been looking through Roget's thesaurus in search of possible compromise words, and not much (i.e. nothing) jumps out as a good candidate. Understood, discerned, worked out, discovered, postulated? I don't think any of these would help. SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 10:29, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
Returning to Hans Adler's contribution, could those who don't like "concluded" please comment on the suggestion of "who made a compelling case that ..."? I take the point that this is a biography and not a scientific paper, and agree that it is important to convey in the lead to the article a sense of the dramatic impact made by Darwin and the Origin of Species. As I said before, one of the reasons I don't like "realised" is that for me it doesn't have sufficient 'gravitas'; when I read it, I think of expressions like "Wow! I just realised ...". It's pretty clear that "realise" is a word with different associations to different people. Peter coxhead (talk) 10:53, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
I think that dodging the realised/concluded issue by adopting the Hans Adler solution is certainly better than using concluded, but it seems a bit weak. It fails to convey the historical significance. Maybe something like "...whose historical significance lies in the fact that he made a compelling case..." or "who is remembered as the person who made a compelling case..." might go some way towards convincing me - but those sorts of construction run the risk of introducing weasel words. SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 11:01, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
Agree that the "compelling case" part on its own risks being misunderstood as suggesting that people were conned by the case, weaselling out of the reality that testing and investigation have substantiated Darwin's initial realisation. . . dave souza, talk 11:14, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
You are not going to prevent this by simply adding the word "realised". What's your expectations regarding creationist readers of this article? Do you want them to head to the edit tab or to Conservapedia after the first sentence, or do you want them to read on and hear our version of the story? Hans Adler 11:18, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
Snalwimba, like Peter coxhead I don't think that "realised" expresses this. You seem to be thinking of the word as a substitute for "discovered" (which doesn't fit because it was in the air at the time and had already been proposed more than 1000 years ago). But that only seems to work if you know that this substitution has happened. Otherwise "realised" is an extremely weak word, often used as a space filler or for variety in expression. Hans Adler 11:22, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
We should be presenting the well substantiated situation clearly and accurately for those whose minds are not already made up. This series is quite interesting, and as the first example explains, coming to accept the science is not instantaneous. Of course some may stop reading two sentences further on, when they read about the fact that evolution occurs, but there's no point in hiding things to cater for dogmatic fringes. Darwin clearly wasn't the first to discover evolutionary change, as the article makes clear, but it was his realisation that species were not fixed which propelled him to seek an explanation. His finding of common descent differed from previous ideas of spontaneous generation and parallel lines of descent, as put forward by Lamarck and Grant. The article on common descent lacks references or secondary sources on this issue, and modern historians such as Bowler say that Darwin's idea was novel, though Wilkins suggests a predecessor published in 1858. . dave souza, talk 11:44, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
OK, so your point is that there are people out there who have never heard of evolution than carefully framed as either "it's false" or "it's a matter of opinion"? And that they need to be exposed to the fact it's actually generally accepted outside a few extremist circles? I am ready to believe the first point and totally agree with the second, but I am not sure hitting some of our readers over the head in the first sentence by saying something that's redundant for everybody else is a good strategy for achieving that. For people with a fine sense for nuances it's much more important that this article sounds as relaxed as any other article on uncontroversial facts, rather than evangelistic. Hans Adler 12:04, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
I would like to pursue Snalwibma's direction, but can't think of something better right now. Hans Adler 12:04, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

"Realised" doesn't sound at all right to me. I might suggest "proposed" or "theorized" as alternatives.
I wasn't sure whether "concluded" might be too strong, as perhaps suggesting that Darwin felt a greater degree of certainty than was actually the case. So, going to the source: THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES BY MEANS OF NATURAL SELECTION; OR THE PRESERVATION OF FAVOURED RACES IN THE STRUGGLE FOR LIFE. By Charles Darwin, M.A., F.R.S., Author of "The Descent of Man," etc., etc. Sixth London Edition, with all Additions and Corrections. (The 6th Edition is often considered the definitive edition.) -- --

"After five years' work I allowed myself to speculate on the subject, and drew up some short notes; these I enlarged in 1844 into a sketch of the conclusions, which then seemed to me probable: from that period to the present day I have steadily pursued the same object. ... Mr. Wallace, who is now studying the natural history of the Malay Archipelago, has arrived at almost exactly the same general conclusions that I have on the origin of species. ... I can here give only the general conclusions at which I have arrived, with a few facts in illustration, but which, I hope, in most cases will suffice. No one can feel more sensible than I do of the necessity of hereafter publishing in detail all the facts, with references, on which my conclusions have been grounded; and I hope in a future work to do this."

-- So, it seems clear from this that "concluded" is exactly Darwin's own attitude and own wording, and I suggest that we use it. -- Writtenonsand (talk) 16:01, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

Darwin's splendid modesty is not a good basis for a brief modern evaluation. See points above. . dave souza, talk 21:09, 26 November 2009 (UTC)
I don't believe that the "modern" POV is very relevant to this issue. This article is about Charles Darwin (1809–1882), and therefore about Darwin's thoughts, ideas, and/or opinions. Darwin said plainly that he considered his ideas on natural selection to be "conclusions". "Modern" views of this subject are completely appropriate for articles like Evolution], Modern evolutionary synthesis, etc., but less so for this Darwin-centric article. -- Writtenonsand (talk) 03:16, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Modern scientific evaluation does not use the word "realised" to express its "conclusions". Amandajm (talk) 21:35, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

Clearly "realised" is more problematic than I had supposed. I guess different people have different responses to the word. For me, it still seems the best word, but I would be very happy to see a work-around that avoids it. But bear in mind that arguments like "Darwin used the word conclusion ..." and "modern science does not use the word realised ..." carry (IMHO) no weight at all. This is not a scientific article but a biographical article in an encyclopaedia, and it is written not in 1859 but in 2009, with the benefit of 150 years' hindsight. Our job here is not to parrot what Darwin said, or to write a quasi-scientific article in modern scientific jargon, but to enable readers to understand how Darwin fits in to the history of science. SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 08:55, 27 November 2009 (UTC)

I have to say this was the first time I read the Charles Darwin article and as soon as my eyes cam across 'realised' I went straight to the talk page to comment on it - not something I would usually do over a single word.

I think the root of this problem is one of science, what science is, and more importantly whether science can be said to reveal truths about the world.

It seems to me that User:Dave Souza and others who propose use of the term 'realise' do so because they consider Darwin's theory of evolution to be a sound explanation of 'what is really there'. This discussion revolves around whether Evolution is a 'theory' or a 'discovery' of truth.

In order to make my own small attempt to go some way to putting this argument to rest, I'd like to simply suggest that scientific theories cannot possibly be true, because they rest on the premise of falsification. In other words, no scientific theory ever makes a truth claim because in order to be science it must leave itself open to falsification.

When we attempt to apply quantum physics to the celestial bodies, it does not work, but when we apply it to tiny atoms it does, so is it 'true'?

The idea that science consists of 'discoveries' rests on the assumption that there are some number of facts out there in the world waiting to be discovered. This, in my opinion is POV.

Thus I would argue that use of the word 'realised' is POV also, because it assumes that Darwin discovered a truth, which he did not do and cannot have done because Evolution like all scientific theories are open to falsification even within the phi

come on guys, just because x-amount of 'top scientists' 'verify' Evolution as a 'fact' it doesn't mean it isn't POV, what about all the non-scientists. Only asking scientists (or people who consider science to reveal truth) for their opinion on evolution is like only asking muslims for their opinion on the truth of the Koran.

Louboi (talk) 10:26, 3 December 2009 (UTC)

In a scientific subject, the aim is to give due weight to the overwhelming scientific consensus that evolution occurs through common descent. While many creationists such as Michael Behe agree with that but debate natural selection, there is indeed rather common political or religious anti-evolution amongst non-scientists, especially in certain countries. We can note their opinions where the relevance and significance of the opinions is properly sourced to third parties, but we don't give them equal validity as science. As far as "truth" is concerned, this article covers scientific truth, not the revealed truth of the Koran. Of course that iself is debated, Harun Yahya is not all that representative. As discussed below, I do want to review how best to convey the essentials, but that will take time. . . dave souza, talk 11:46, 3 December 2009 (UTC)
"the aim is to give due weight to the overwhelming scientific consensus that evolution occurs through common descent."
This I am fine with. I am not arguing for a more prominent place for anti-evolutionary theories.
"As far as "truth" is concerned, this article covers scientific truth, not the revealed truth of the Koran."
Now you've got it!
Go to the Wikipedia page on the Koran and there you will see that it says "Muslims believe the Qur’an to be the book of divine guidance and direction for mankind"
If in that article we are dealing with Islamic belief, why is this not assumed? In this article Darwin 'realises' a truth - why does it not say: "the vast majority of the scientific community believes that Darwin's theory...."
The underlying assumption is that science is true and that people who do not believe it are making a mistake - that is POV.
That science reveals truth is not the view of the vast majority of people. A lot of people consider science to be very useful, explain a lot of things etc etc, but revealing truth is very strong.
I'll say it again, 'realised' is a bad word because it assumes that science reveals truth, in a way that - for example - the article on the Koran rightly does not do with respect to Islam.

Louboi (talk) 19:42, 3 December 2009 (UTC)

I agree that the word "realised" isn't proper in this instance. I completely believe in evolution, I'm an atheist, but "realised" isn't right there. Someone please change it, be bold.

I am also changing "fact that evolution takes place" (which links to something that contradicts it), to the "theory of evolution". No I'm not a creationalist, it's just correct scientific terminology. You would also say the "theory of relativity" and the "theory of gravitation". Anonywiki (talk) 19:56, 29 December 2009 (UTC)

Your edit was factually wrong – Darwin's work led to general acceptance of the fact of evolution, but his theory wasn't widely accepted until many years after his death. See also evolution as theory and fact. No-one should believe in evolution, the overwhelming scientific consensus that it occurs is based on information and reason, not on faith. . . dave souza, talk 21:00, 29 December 2009 (UTC)

Excuse me but I base all my beliefs on information and reason. "faith", as I understand it, is just another word for "believe". I believe that the earth orbits the sun. I believe that I am typing this on a black keyboard. I believe that I didn't write the declaration of independence. Saying you "believe" something is true does not somehow add some credence to the idea of it not being true. Idiot.

The people like you really annoy me. You go around as if you were the only people who realised that religion was all nonsense and as if you must go and state the THEORY OF EVOLUTION as being a "fact", and it is not a fact. Your link contradicts your statement as much as it supports it, it says it is part fact and part theory. Overall the thing is a THEORY, if you just take the fact-based parts of it then you're THROWING AWAY PRACTICALLY THE WHOLE POINT of how it relates to humans, and doing a huge discredit to it. If I didn't say that it wasn't my belief you'd probably accuse me of being religious and saying that's why I was saying it as was done to countless other people. Anonywiki (talk) 02:21, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

You must realize that the word "theory" in science is different from the common usage, just as the word "pin" is different in bowling as it is in sewing. A theory in science is an accepted explanation for something which cannot be better explained by something else. It explains observations and makes predictions, something the Theory of Evolution does very well. It is a fact. By harping on a non-scientific usage of the word theory you are either being ignorant or dishonest. Skepticboy (talk) 21:00, 6 January 2010 (UTC)

Hypothesized would be the right word. How much "evidence" there is for any "theory" makes no difference if we can't ultimately repeat it. Science or scientific method depends on repeatability. Anything beyond that is ultimately philosophy. Why can't we all just get along and discuss what we do know? We know so much that is actually observable!!! Darwinism has many many problems hence a weak hypothesis but his seems to be the majority opinion yes, OPINION now. Biological life if far far more complex than Darwin ever could have imagined and the evidence does not seem support to support no designer but none the less he did HYPOTHESIZE the idea. What's wrong with that very scientific word? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Tegsaskid (talkcontribs) 22:12, 7 January 2010 (UTC)

Too weak and capable of misinterpretation by those who stil think that "Darwinism has many many problems" and subscribe to the creationist view of intelligent design – this article is on a scientific topic, and should not be shaped by fringe theological views. . . dave souza, talk 22:30, 7 January 2010 (UTC)
I don't feel extremely strongly about this issue either way, but in my opinion, "First proposed"/"first concluded"/"first hypothesized"/"first recognized" all sound better than "realized." If only because the tone of "realized" is rather awkward.—DMCer 06:54, 10 January 2010 (UTC)

"Too weak and capable of misinterpretation by those who stil think that "Darwinism has many many problems" "

Once again Dave souza, Wikipedia is NOT about using à-la-carte language based on what you think other people might think. Wikipedia is about having a neutral point of view and using proper scientific terminology.

As far as I'm concerned, Darwinism does have many, many problems, and pretty much every person half-educated on the subject would agree with that. The fossil record for instance has a lot of problems when you want to match it with Darwinian evolution, but you wouldn't know anything about that would you because you're stuck trying to police Wikipedia with your own OPINIONATED language because you think other people might get the wrong idea if you didn't. These people you are trying to use Wikipedia to CONVINCE exist only in your head.

Please, big people are working here. Do you really think scientists, paleoanthropologists etc. want to see that amateurish practically theological language there? Reverted. Anonywiki (talk) 23:49, 10 January 2010 (UTC)

Section break, clarification[edit]

In the edit summary for this edit you say:
"If you show a SINGLE place in the entirity of wikipedia OR other scientific literature where "realised" is used like that I'll leave it."
It is not at all difficult to find instances of such usage in the scientific literature, the scholarly literature on the history and philosophy of science, or popular expository works written by well-respected scientists. Here are three such examples, one of each type:
  • Solid state physics, solid state devices and electronics p.2.28, by C M Kachhava:
"Debye realised that there are not only high-energy modes, as in the Einstein distribution model, but also very low-energy modes as well."
  • Theoretical Concepts in Physics: An Alternative View of Theoretical Reasoning in Physics, p.464, by M. S. Longair
"Einstein realised as early as 1917 that light rays must be deflected by the presence of matter."
  • The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, The Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next, p.40, by Lee Smolin:
"[Einstein] realized that the effects of acceleration were indistinguishable from the effects of gravity."
Now please adhere to your promise and stop reverting the article back to your preferred version.
David Wilson (talk · cont) 06:41, 11 January 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for that very useful clarification, David, it does indeed show exactly the same usage in the literature. The time now seems appropriate to implement the proposal discussed on 19 December in the #Apology section below, so I've made that change. Thanks again, dave souza, talk 12:38, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

As far as I'm concerned, Darwinism does have many, many problems, and pretty much every person half-educated on the subject would agree with that.

Yes, I would say that every person half-educated on the subject would agree with that. Unfortunately, people who are fully educated would never agree with it. I prefer to listen to fully educated people. They're so much...smarter. Skepticboy (talk) 20:29, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

Not necessarily "smarter"; if you accept the Tortuca effect thesis, it may be that they don't have the creationist ability of "simply not thinking about whatever it is they don’t want to think about.".... dave souza, talk 22:18, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

"Too weak and capable of misinterpretation by those who stil think that 'Darwinism has many many problems'.."

I actually sympathise with what appears to be an “agenda” here, Dave, but I think leaving it as “realised” is a mistake (for many of the reasons listed above). You may think you are making a worthwhile point against “creationists” or people who through ignorance think that evolution and the theory of natural selection are just “theories” in the pejorative sense, and perhaps you’re right (I would be tempted to make a point too), but unfortunately this same point is at the expense of good scholarly writing. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Matsoljon (talkcontribs) 22:06, 20 January 2010 (UTC)

(Didn't sign, Sorry - first time user;)Matsoljon (talk) 22:10, 20 January 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for signing, no problem! As David Wilson has shown in his comment above of 06:41, 11 January 2010, the term is in scholarly use and means what it's intended to mean. This section was started with discussion of "bias in favor of Darwin's theory" raising the issue of misrepresentation of Darwin by anti-evolutionists, and as discussed above, we have to give due weight to the overwhelming scientific majority view on the basic subject of evolution. More significantly, Darwin didn't invent the idea of evolution or, as he knew of it at the time, of transmutation of species. Somewhere on the Beagle expedition, probably between South Africa and St. Helena, he realised that the facts he was finding implied that species were mutable, and that tramsmutationists like Robert Edmond Grant were more right than his beloved Cambridge tutors like John Stevens Henslow. Darwin's own contributions, of common descent and natural selection, come across as him realising the implications of various pieces of information coming together. If there's a better term for it, that would be welcome, but we've considered alternatives and that option really seems to work best. Thanks for thinking about it, dave souza, talk 22:29, 20 January 2010 (UTC)

Thank you, Dave, and thank you for your welcome on “My Talk”.

“This section was started with discussion of "bias in favor of Darwin's theory" raising the issue of misrepresentation of Darwin by anti-evolutionists, and as discussed above, we have to give due weight to the overwhelming scientific majority view on the basic subject of evolution.”

I certainly agree with that.

But on the issue of using “realised”, I just have a couple of things to say. But as a preamble, if you like, I want to make the distinction between a theory and the reality that scientists etc test it against (I’m not being insulting, I assume everyone knows this already, but I’m making a case). Scientists don’t “prove” theories are true. But by conducting experiments they falsify the “bad” theories (again I assume you know this and obviously this is in agreement with the philosophy of Karl Popper).

Now, I think it’s bad practice to state things in such a way that a theory sounds like it’s the “truth” (meaning in perfect agreement with reality) because it destroys this distinction (between theory, or scientific fact, and reality or truth. To say that “X realised that Y”, where Y is a theory, is suggesting that Y is “in perfect agreement with reality”. Now, I think the statement “all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors” does correspond perfectly with reality, but I also think we need to remember that it is still a theory (nothing is proven, remember, according to Popper) consistent with the general scientific method and perspective I already briefly outlined. Of course, in the case of evolution, someone arguing like this sounds rather silly - it sounds like you’re being pedantic bordering on obsessive. Of course not all theories are the same - Popper would argue that theories that have “survived” criticism and rigorous testing are more “corroborated” (but never fully verified). But even if you wanted to make some exceptions, like the statement “all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors”, for the sake of scientific consistency, I think we should refrain from using “realised” in this context (incidentally, in regards to making exceptions, I certainly wouldn’t make any exceptions in respect to the sources given by David Wilson - these seem to me to be much more egregious cases of the word “realised”).

Anyway, so much for theory. As far as concrete help is concerned, have you thought about deleting “who realised that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors” altogether? You probably know more about the history of evolution than I do, but I thought that this idea didn’t actually come from Darwin (I could be wrong, of course). But if it does, what about “Charles Robert Darwin FRS (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist who first proposed the fact that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors, and also the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection” or some variation on this? Kind Regards, M. Matsoljon (talk) 01:05, 21 January 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for the idea, but it's a bit trickier as there has been the suggestion that he wasn't the first to publish ideas of common descent, though he did come to this idea on his own. There's also a distinction in that he was recognising the facts that organisms change through time and that different species share ancestors, just as varieties were long accepted to do. His theory of natural selection provided an integrated explanation for this occurring, but he wasn't the first to outline the mechanism of natural selection. Darwin's work had enormous impact in shifting the scientific consensus and popular views from a static view which had become increasingly strained by new discoveries to an evolutionary view, and the aim is to convey that impact. . . dave souza, talk 04:44, 21 January 2010 (UTC)

Just describe it truthfully. Evolution is a theory, therefore Darwin was theorising. The only appropriate word is 'theorised'. Mark Squires. 01:35 27 Jan 2010 —Preceding unsigned comment added by Markdsquires (talkcontribs) 01:37, 27 January 2010 (UTC)

"Just describe it truthfully. Evolution is a theory" If you want to be truthful, you'd reference the posts above about what the word "theory" means in science. Not guesswork, but a body of facts that supports to the exclusion of others the proposition that life has evolved in the way evolution describes. Or, to quote a definition I read: To scientists, a theory provides a coherent explanation that holds true for a large number of facts and observations about the natural world. It has to be internally consistent, based upon evidence, tested against a wide range of phenomena and demonstrate problem solving. This is evolution in a nutshell. When you say theory like it's guesswork you really don't lend much credibility to your argument. Skepticboy (talk) 18:07, 28 January 2010 (UTC)

I understand what you are saying but I think it is irrelevant whether you or I agree on our definitions of the word ‘theory’. What’s important is that Darwin was presenting one. To reiterate my point that that its verb theorise, as defined below for ease of reference, succinctly describes what Darwin was doing.

1 “–verb (used without object) 1. to form a theory or theories.)”

2 “to develop a set of ideas about something” Cambridge English Dictionary

22:58, 31 January 2010 (UTC)Markdsquires (talk) The definition of a word in context can't be irrelevent. If someone talks about knocking down pins with a ball, you can't say, "Why would you knock down little sewing supplies with a ball?", then when he defines the word pins as it's used in bowling, say the definition is irrelevent. If there is a scientific theory, it's different from a guess in other contexts. Darwin "theorised" based on unrefutable evidence. Skepticboy (talk) 21:54, 1 February 2010 (UTC)


Antoinette Blackwell answered Darwin in The Sexes Throughout Nature in 1875.

Time only for a quick note. I've been working on the Descent article. I don't want to give anyone here a heart attack but Holiday in Wales makes it clear that Moore and Desmond saw a potential opening that whoever wrote the Wikipedia article originally probably didn't notice. Nor did Browne. I would prefer to not include very much in this article--you've pointed out the length constraint. One sentence mentioning Ms. Blackwell or Ms. Cobbe would be nice. -SusanLesch (talk) 03:53, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for the heads-up, Desmond and Moore tend to be provocative, though very well researched. Their paraphrase "less evolved" is unfortunate, the bits they quote that women's "faculties are characteristic of the lower races, and therefore of a past and lower state of civilisation." make Darwin's views clear, and as they say, he supported Victorian stereotypes. Have tweaked the holiday in Wales section accordingly. . . dave souza, talk 11:49, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
You're welcome. But I am asking for one sentence to be added to this article, Darwin's biography. Your last addition plus some context would work for example, "His views supported Victorian stereotypes." -SusanLesch (talk) 18:39, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Related issues are covered in the #Social Darwinism section. That includes "Darwin's views on social and political issues reflected his time and social position.", which could logically be followed by a short sentence mentioning his view that "He thought men's eminence over women was the outcome of sexual selection, a view disputed by Antoinette Brown Blackwell in The Sexes Throughout Nature." That would then be followed by "He valued European civilisation...." While we need to avoid giving undue weight to a small aspect of a massive work and complex character, as a first step I'm reasonably happy with adding that sentence. Any ideas for a specific citation supporting that sentence? Ideally we'd refer to one of the books already used as a reference, such as Browne or Desmond and Moore's Darwin. In a related revision, the #Social Darwinism section might be better renamed #Social issues or #Social views, and moved to follow the #Religious views section. The content could be reorganised to emphasise his own views, relegating the rather defensive aspects of #Political interpretations to a subsection. Anyway, what do you think of the suggested sentence as a first step? Note that I suggest a link to the book as the biographies of Blackwell and Cobbe don't say anything obvious about Darwin. . . dave souza, talk 21:33, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
By the way, Cobbe may have been earlier than Blackwell in writing a "critique of Darwin", if the reference on her page to "Darwinism in Morals (1872)" is correct: the source about Blackwell seems to be more specific, describing her as "the first (evolutionist) woman to publish a critique of Darwin’s view of the sexes". Suggest reviewing the statements in the Descent article. . . dave souza, talk 21:48, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Oh boy. Here is Cobbe reprinted in 1872, about 33 pages (from Theological Review 1871). She is concerned with human's moral judgements and actions and she surely does critique Darwin. Not one of the sources I have read even mentioned her critique before. Good work!
I would like to suggest an existing source (Browne or Desmond and Moore) but cannot. Hilary Rose in Daedalus (American Academy of Arts & Sciences) mentioned Blackwell last summer which might work, assuming that Blackwell was the first woman to tackle sexual selection. I'll be back after I've searched again for that information. This and related talk pages are about the most humbling experience I can remember on Wikipedia.
I planned to do Blackwell's book for DYK this weekend and will try to add something about Darwin to her biography, which is a fair criticism. -SusanLesch (talk) 00:00, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for the kind words, no need to feel humbled – your investigation is very informative, and it's just as an amateur striking lucky that I noticed the date. Too many years checking building dimensions on drawings! We can always cite Vandermassen: Sexual Selection, which I thought gave a pretty useful analysis. . . dave souza, talk 15:43, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
Cobbe published her essay in January 1871. Descent was published on 24 February 1871 but Darwin Online talks about complimentary copies of the first edition in late 1870. I wonder if she received one. Browne said that "Darwin never trusted her again" on V.2 p. 332 because she reprinted and edited poorly a letter he wrote. -SusanLesch (talk) 02:40, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
The sentence and Vandermassen source you proposed sound great. Would you add it when you have time? My DYK is almost done. All these small changes are done: Darwin added to Frances Power Cobbe and to Antoinette Brown Blackwell. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex corrected to say Blackwell was "one of" the first women to write about Darwin (not the first). You took care of Darwin from Descent of Man to Emotions. Also one sentence was added to Clémence Royer (sorry I don't know the first thing about her). -SusanLesch (talk) 03:32, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

<ri> Have added the suggested sentence, as above, hope to rethink the section in the near future. Thanks, dave souza, talk 17:10, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

It fits right in. Thank you! -SusanLesch (talk) 01:16, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

Logical quotation[edit]

As discussed, hope the recent changes will be brought into compliance with WP:LQ. . . dave souza, talk 21:28, 24 November 2009 (UTC)

I restored the logical quotation style. I also noticed that "He learnt classification" was changed to "He learned classification"; I kept that change but I wonder about WP:ENGVAR – my guess is that the change is an improvement. Johnuniq (talk) 23:48, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
Thanks! Not sure about learnt and learned, think people here aren't very rigid about it. . . dave souza, talk 00:01, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

Little Willie's dress[edit]

Trying to describe son Willie's outfit, "smock" seemed more appropriate than "dress", but "frock" appears to be a good compromise, and the nearest Wikipedia article I've found is Smock-frock. However, sources suggest I was wrong about dress: Victorian Children and [1]chronology of boys' clothing support the view that "Throughout the century, babies and toddlers were kept in dresses-- little different from those worn by their sisters. Both boys and girls wore white frilled lacey pantaletts under their frocks which covered their legs to their ankles. Some time between the ages 3 or 6 years, depending on mother's whims, boys were "breeched" or put into various styles of smocks/ tunics or suits.." So, frocks seems to work reasonably well. . dave souza, talk 16:56, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

Thank you. I don't usually write about it on Wiki but historical costume is one of my areas of expertise. "Frock" is applied to a number of male garments, notably the "frock coat" which has a skirt. Amandajm (talk) 02:04, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

Lead revisited[edit]

This editshifts the introduction out of historical and, in my opinion, logical sequence, reintroduces the weakening effect discussed above, and is ungrammatical. I'll restore the previous version now, please discuss. dave souza, talk 21:12, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

While thinking it over, and looking at the flurry of edits Amandajm had made to a long discussed lead, I've decided to review the final product once Amandajm stops. The version at present loses clarity, in my first glance. Note that the theory of evolution redirects to evolution and hence is a dupe link, and it's incorrect to say that Darwin "formulated the theory of evolution" as that conflates natural selection with evolution. . dave souza, talk 21:43, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

and revisited again[edit]

The lead now reads as follows: Charles Robert Darwin FRS (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist[I] who formulated the theory of evolution. From his long, detailed and wide reaching scientific observations of nature he concluded that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors, and published compelling evidence to that effect. [1][2] Darwin's book On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, established evolutionary descent with modification as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature.[3] He examined human evolution and sexual selection in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, followed by The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. His research on plants was published in a series of books, and in his final book, he examined earthworms and their effect on soil.[4]

The statements that it makes tell exactly what he did that made him famous, and puts his primary claim to fame within the first sentence. Here is a summary. This is what Darwin did that is significant to the world:

  • was a naturalist
  • formulated a famous theory
  • observed, concluded and published
  • established a scientific explanation
  • examined, researched, examined, and further published.

Subsequent paragraphs in the intro:

  • The second paragraph explains his theory and states its general acceptance. This paragraph reflects on the first. This material was previously in the first paragraph. It should not be the first paragraph, because it doesn't state his reason for fame; it elaborates on it.
  • There follows a potted bio with an introductory linker..... someone might want to word this differently, but it requires a opening link to his overwhelming interest.
  • The publications are a major reason for fame. They are not merely biographical material. That is why they are in the first paragraph now.
  • His burial with honours is part of the bio. Other awards or honours could also be mentioned here.

Amandajm (talk) 22:08, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

NOTE: Formulated is correct. Use either "Formulated the theory of evolution" or "formulated the "theory of natural selection". The term "theory of eveolution" needs to be in the first paragraph. Amandajm (talk) 22:08, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

Looking at the current first sentence Charles Robert Darwin FRS (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist[I] who realised that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors, and published compelling supporting evidence of this in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species in which he presented his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.[1][2]

  • It drags on and on and on with twists and turns. Write a concise sentence that states simply why the man is worthy of a biography. In other words, what is he most famous for? You are obliged to state name, dates, country, field of work, That's four pieces of information before you get to the crux of it. I ask you, what one thing did he do that is his claim to fame? He formulated a very significant theory.
He isn't famous for "realising" something. He is famous for giving his ideas (a theory based on conclusions drawn from research) a form that could be read, studied, analysed, accepted (and even dismissed entirely by those locked into a different way of thinking). "Formulating" is a concise way of saying that the ideas were ordered and published.
  • You have reintroduced the word "realised". You say you want to be taken in good faith, but your persistance in using this word in place of the accepted term "concluded" seems to indicate some agenda. If you don't have an agenda, then it must be either a genuine lack of understanding on your part or sheer bloodymindedness that you continue to use a word that several well-informed and erudite editors have told you is inappropriate.

next sentence The fact that evolution occurs became accepted by the scientific community and much of the general public in his lifetime,[3] but it was not until the emergence of the modern evolutionary synthesis from the 1930s to the 1950s that a broad consensus developed that natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution.[4]

  • This interpretative and explanatory historic stuff has no place in the first paragraph. It's not about the importance of Darwin.

Third sentence In modified form, Darwin's scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences, explaining the diversity of life.[5][6]

  • This is about Darwin's importance. It needs rewording.

Biography section It reads badly.

  • If Darwin was already interested biology before he went to Edinburgh, then state that first in this paragraph, as in "Darwin became interested in natural sciences as a boy..." or some such. Clear simple sentence.
  • State that he went to Edinburgh Uni to study medicine in a clear concise sentence. Then tell what happened. Join them with a "but" or a "however".
  • Joining the bit about Cambridge University to the rest with an "and" is very clumsy and reads badly. An "and" is used to join similar parts of a sentence. You have two sentnece parts that are dissimilar and don't flow. Cambridge is a new sentence.

Last paragraph of intro I notice that you have changed my wording "Darwin's pre-eminince as a scientist" to "Darwin's scientific pre-eminence"

  • This change indicates to me that your comprehension of the nuances of the English languages is lacking. You are using the word "scientific" incorrectly. He didn't have scientific pre-eminence. He had pre-eminence as a scientist. A scientist is what he was. The adjective "scientific" relates to things pertaining to science as in "scientific report" or "scientific procedure".

Amandajm (talk) 12:40, 27 November 2009 (UTC)

Hi Amandajm, Please take care with your contributions and avoid making personal comments about other editors such as "your persistance in using this word in place of the accepted term "concluded" seems to indicate some agenda. If you don't have an agenda, then it must be either a genuine lack of understanding on your part or sheer bloodymindedness that you continue to use a word that several well-informed and erudite editors have told you is inappropriate". The only affect this has is to weaken your own arguments. As it happens your comments on the capability of the particular editor of the revisions you are referring to only adds further weight to this impression. You are an experienced contributor and clearly do not need to be lectured on WP:CIVIL so leave your thoughtful analysis to stand on its own merit. Tmol42 (talk) 13:07, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
I'm glad to have suggestions for improving the writing, and will ignore the snark. No problems with the last one, so have implemented it. The suggestions about breaking the history into shorter sentences are good in principle, but trying it out today my ideas didn't come together satisfactorily. Don't share the opinions about the opening paragraph, as the priority in my opinion is to explain concisely the three aspects of his evolutionary concept and show their reception, hence long term significance. Will come back on that in more detail, rather rushed this weekend. . . dave souza, talk 22:12, 27 November 2009 (UTC)

Analysing the problems[edit]

I observe what has been going on here and conclude that the aim of dave souza and others is to emphasise the factual and scientific nature of evolution so that there is not the tiniest opening for creationist thinking to slip in unnoticed.

To this end, normal scientific terms like "concluded" and "theory" have been suppressed, regardless of their correctness and their general use in scientific and encyclopedic publication. The reason for suppression is that they just might indicate or leave opening for the tiniest hint of doubt.

Bonafide scientific study and publication avoids emphasis on words like "fact" and routinely use "theory", "hypothesis" or "principle" regardless of how well established an explanation may be.

Bonafide scientific study and publication always leaves room for question, reassessment and the furthering of research, the reaching of different conclusions and formulating of different theories.

To put it plainly, in your attempts to block the alternate "theory of creation", you have been less than scientific and in so doing have undermined your own credibility.

If you read the present leading paragraph, you will find that because it is written using a string of verbs that merely state what the person did, it cannot be argued with, from a creationist point of view. This is what Darwin did, and that's that. (I leave opening here to change "theory of evolution " to "theory of natural selection" in the first sentence if it is considered more biographically accurate, as a theory of evolution had already been "proposed" by another scientist.)

And yes, it uses those scientific terms "concluded" and "theory" that you are trying so hard to avoid. Amandajm (talk) 22:40, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

Your analysis is incorrect, please assume good faith, and your changes have severely disrupted the biographical sequence and coherence of the lead to this article, which is a biography.
The suggestion that early mention be made of The Origin has merit, and I'm happy to emphasise that his theory (not "a theory") of natural selection is a theory. However in view of the delay in acceptance of that theory, it's worth clarifying and emphasising the distinction between that and his findings on evolution and common descent. As discussed above, I and other editors consider "realised" an accurate depiction of Darwin's own process in finding a now well proven aspect of nature, and remember this article isn't just for scientists. That's what he did before reaching the now well accepted conclusions. I'm willing to consider other options, and have given some thought to "found" but that could imply incorrectly that he was the first to find evolution, though he has a better claim to the refined concept of common descent that we now almost take for granted.
Darwin's primary fame is for establishing evolution through common descent as the scientific consensus, and for publishing his theory of natural selection which became accepted by 1950 and is now a major part of the MES. The Descent is less well known, and his books on plants and earthworms are biographically significant but not his primary claim to fame, so relate to biography rather than the first paragraph about his theories of evolution.
Darwin is also famous for his voyage and his journal of that voyage, and his eminence as a geologist also needs emphasis. I've split the second paragraph to focus attention on these aspects.
The next paragraph now covers his investigation and publications on evolutionary topics, concluding with his last work on earthworms. That's followed logically by his death and funeral, and I accept that it's worth clarifying that it was his scientific pre-eminence that was honoured by the state burial.
These are incremental changes, rather than the drastic revision which you have made to this featured article. Please discuss and seek consensus before reverting to your version, or making further dramatic alterations. . . dave souza, talk 23:42, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

Geological Societ, not Geographical Soc.[edit]

The article states: "On 17 February Darwin was elected to the Council of the Geographical Society and Lyell's presidential address presented Owen's findings on Darwin's fossils,...". I believe this should be the Geological Society. Note: Lyell was president of the Geological Society, and there is no "Geographical Society", and it's clear from the previous paragraph that he presented at the Geol.Soc. I can also confirm this with references from books, e.g. Steinmüller "Darwins Welt". Stephan Matthiesen (talk) 12:10, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

Yes, I believe you're right. On page 351 of Charles Darwin: Voyaging Janet Browne says that Darwin was elected to the council of the Geological Society in February 1837, on the same day that Lyell delivered his outgoing presidential address, although she doesn't give the exact date. I have now made the correction.
David Wilson (talk · cont) 13:05, 10 December 2009 (UTC)
Oops, thanks for that. Don't know how that error crept in. . dave souza, talk 17:38, 10 December 2009 (UTC)
The infobox has Geographical... Peter coxhead (talk) 18:11, 10 December 2009 (UTC)
Thanks, have corrected that too. D&M do make it clear that the geological was Darwin's base. . . dave souza, talk 18:24, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

20 June 1837 - Date of finishing journal is misleading[edit]

"Darwin finished writing his Journal around 20 June 1837 just as Queen Victoria came to the throne" - I believe this is a bit ambiguous and misleading. My understanding is that there is no evidence when exactly he finished writing, it was some time "late summer"; the date in the article referes to Victoria's coronation, not to his writing. I know at least one text where the author apparently has used this Wikipedia entry, but misunderstands it and writes: "20 June: Finishes writing Beagle journal" as if this was a definite date. We should try to avoid such misunderstandings. I'm not sure why a reference to Queen Victoria is necessary here, as the Queen wasn't really involved. So I suggest to rephrase the sentence to "Darwin finished writing his Journal in summer 1837 (, coinciding with the beginning of the Victorian Age)" where the part in brackets is optional if we want to keep the Queen. Stephan Matthiesen (talk) 12:26, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

Looking into this a bit, you're right. It seemed worthwile mentioning the start of the Victorian age for the context, as I for one had the vague idea that she was already on the throne by then. Your suggestion for that is good. The date came from Desmond & Moore's Darwin p. 228 "On 20 June the country went into mourning as William IV died. With the flags at half-mast Darwin finally finished the Journal." However, Darwin's personal journal p. 13 recto says "From March 13th to end of September entirely employed in my journal [of researches]..... October - November. — .... finished proofs of Journal" so that looks inaccurate. John van Wyhe's 2008 book Darwin: The Story of the Man and His Theories of Evolution says that Darwin "completed the work in November 1837". Will change it accordingly, sorry for any misunderstandings arising from my perhaps rather over-literal reading of D&M. . . dave souza, talk 18:16, 10 December 2009 (UTC)
As suggested, have mentioned the Victorian era beginning, and have shown Darwin beginning correcting proofs in August 1837, citing Keynes 2001, page xix. At the start of August Darwin was hoping to have proofs to show Henslow in a couple of weeks,[2] but on 16 August he was reporting a delay by the printers,[3] and on 23 September he was struggling with the process and the "savage" printers.[4] Can review that if further info turns up, hope that correction helps. Thanks, dave souza, talk 19:27, 10 December 2009 (UTC)
p.s. useful comment from Darwin to his cousin Fox on 28 August, "The proof sheets are beginning to tumble in; so that I shall be tied by the leg, hard at work as any galley slave during the next five weeks."[5] By the way, according to our article on Vicky her coronation was on 28 June 1838, so presumably the flags were no longer at half-mast by then. . dave souza, talk 19:41, 10 December 2009 (UTC)


Editor Dave Souza, I have been pulled into line and must apologise to you for not assuming "good faith" when you denied that you had an agenda for continually changing the biased word "realised" for the one usually used in the description of scientific processes, "concluded". If you deny having an agenda then I must presume in good faith that you do not have one. I also must apologise for using the term "bloodyminded" and suggesting that your changes "lack understanding". I have been reminded that these are inappropriate language from one editor to another.

Under these circumstances, I shall just have to keep reiterrating that the change that you are making is inappropriate, unscientific and simply wrong, and that your reason for making it (given that you state you have no agenda) remains a mystery. Amandajm (talk) 08:36, 11 December 2009 (UTC)

Thanks, I really feel that "concluded" weakens this introductory sentence. Perhaps it's association with "jumping to conclusions". I've tried looking at alternatives, and did think of "perceived" as a possibility but did not think that was appropriate either. Reading the Rough Guide to Evolution today, it struck me that "established" might be more suitable.

Charles Robert Darwin FRS (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist who established that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors, and published compelling supporting evidence of this in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species in which he presented his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection. The fact that evolution occurs became accepted by the....

That has the disadvantage of perhaps implying that he established it generally before publication, and as you've observed before, it's a rather long and straggly sentence. I'm happier with the following suggestion:

Charles Robert Darwin FRS (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist who established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection. He published his theory with compelling supporting evidence of evolution in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species. The fact that evolution occurs became accepted by the....

Your constructive comments are welcome, please just accept that there can be genuine differences of opinion. Thanks, dave souza, talk 13:51, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
How about "recognised"? If I had written the sentence in question I would probably have chosen it in preference to any of "realised", "concluded", or "established"—although I can't see much wrong with any of those other options either. Nevertheless, despite having no personal preference between "realised" and "concluded", I am not at all impressed by the arguments so far presented for replacing the former with the latter. As long as no sounder reasons are provided for making that change, I do not support it.
David Wilson (talk · cont) 14:00, 19 December 2009 (UTC)
It works for me at first glance, we don't want to imply that he was the first, but "recognised" seems ok in that respect. What do you think about the suggested splitting of the sentence in the second proposal, leaving aside which word is used? . . dave souza, talk 15:22, 19 December 2009 (UTC)
The current version of the opening sentence seems rather unwieldy to me, and I think yout split version is much better. However, I think the second sentence could still be improved a little. It seems to me that the adjective "supporting" is redundant, since evidence which is already described as "compelling" could hardly be anything else. I would also say "compelling evidence for evolution" rather than "compelling evidence of evolution". I don't think there's anything grammatically wrong with the latter, but it's possible that the former is a little more idiomatic in this context. On the other hand, it's also possible that I just have an idiosyncratic personal bias in the matter.
David Wilson (talk · cont) 18:56, 19 December 2009 (UTC)
Ok, trying it out that gives the following:

Charles Robert Darwin FRS (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist who realised that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection. He published his theory with compelling evidence for evolution in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species. The fact that evolution occurs became accepted by the....

Hopefully going some way to meeting the comments by NBeale below, that version uses "realised" instead of "established". . dave souza, talk 21:31, 19 December 2009 (UTC)

<Yes but Darwin didn't really "establish" this there were huge gaps in his theory when he proposed it (esp he had no idea about genetics) and it is really only in the last few decades that the genetic evidence has become available to establish it beyond any reasonable doubt. So really we should say something like: "Charles Robert Darwin FRS (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist who proposed the scientific theory that the branching pattern of evolution with all species descending over time from common ancestors, resulted from a process that he called natural selection. He published his theory with compelling supporting evidence of evolution in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species. The fact that evolution occurs became accepted by the...." NBeale (talk) 20:20, 19 December 2009 (UTC)

Thanks, but that's getting a bit further away from Darwin's three ideas, mutability of species, common descent, and natural selection. As was his primary aim, he established that species were mutable in a way that Lamarck, Geoffroy, Grant and Chambers had failed to do, and gained general acceptance of his novel idea of common descent. I think your wording almost implies that they were a commonplace at the time, which was not the case. Acceptance of his theory of natural selection was held back for various reasons, and while his lack of knowledge of the causes of variation and the mechanisms of heredity made it difficult for him to answer certain objections, these are in my opinion not so much gaps in his theory as necessary parts of the modern synthesis, which is not just Darwin's theory. Anyway, can you accept with the version added immediately above your comment? . . dave souza, talk 21:31, 19 December 2009 (UTC)

Darwin's finches; botany abbrev[edit]

At the page Darwin's finches, there is a long section of text that I think ought to be moved to the sub-articles of this page such as second voyage of the Beagle, and reduced to a summary in Darwin's finches. This section takes up far too much space in an article that should be on the birds. Can anybody tackle this? Also: doesn't the botanic abbrev "Darwin" refer to Erasmus Darwin? —innotata (TalkContribs) 19:22, 12 December 2009 (UTC)

It's essentially too long and detailed for the Beagle voyage article which already covers the main points related to that voyage, and does relate directly to "Darwin's finches". Possible options would be to trim it to a suitable size on that article, in discussion with other article editors, or perhaps keep that article focussed on the relationship to Darwin's work and have a separate article specifically about the birds titled Geospizinae or Galápagos Finches. Another option might be a new article covering the impact of the finches and possibly other species on Darwin's work as a main article, with the mention in the finches article reduced to summary style. Something to discuss on Talk:Darwin's finches. Don't know about the abbreviation, expert advice would be welcome. . . dave souza, talk 23:33, 12 December 2009 (UTC)
I don't know about making that into the article "Darwin's finches". That term refers to the birds, and Geospizinae is only rarely used these days: see tanager. Darwin's finches is the only acceptable term for the birds. If this stuff can't go on Darwin's finches or the Charles Darwin pages, I suppose it should be removed, shortened, or given its own article. I think the quotes should be hived off to Wikisource or Wikiquote or somewhat. —innotata (TalkContribs) 23:44, 12 December 2009 (UTC)
Suggest try announcing intentions on the article talk page, and summarising the issues with a focus on the finches, briefly summarising the important points about the quotes while leaving external links for the quotes for anyone that wants to read them. There are common misconceptions about the finches and their influence on Darwin which the article should mention, the more concisely the better. Thanks, dave souza, talk 01:04, 13 December 2009 (UTC)
Supplement: using the List of botanists by author abbreviation at the IPNI authors search for Darwin gives
  • Darwin - Charles Robert Darwin 1809-1882
  • R.W.Darwin - Robert Waring Darwin 1724-1816
  • S.C.Darwin - Sarah C. Darwin fl. 2003
  • S.P.Darwin - Steven P. Darwin 1949-
No mention of Erasmus, note that Robert Waring Darwin isn't Charles Darwin's dad Dr. Robert Waring Darwin, but his dad's uncle of the same name, Robert Waring Darwin of Elston. Anyway, Darwin is indeed correct for CRD. [added 12:31, 18 December 2009 by Dave souza, forgot to sign then, dave souza, talk 18:56, 20 January 2010 (UTC)]

Ah, I only just noticed this, after leaving a note at WT:PLANTS. This is hard to believe. Charles described a few species, but Erasmus described many. —innotata (TalkContribs) 18:31, 20 January 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for the heads-up, don't forget Darwin collected many plants on the Beagle expedition. . . dave souza, talk 18:56, 20 January 2010 (UTC)

Coat of Arms[edit]

Someone has carefully added this stuff, which is fair enough in its way. But this article is very long anyway and it seems to me that this is trivia. Also the arms belong to the family so if we are to have it it should be in the Darwin-Wedgwood family article NBeale (talk) 13:32, 18 December 2009 (UTC)

Thanks, I wondered about the addition. It's not really part of the text itself, but still adds to the overall size of the article, and primarlly relates to the family. Don't know if these are being added to all bios. . . dave souza, talk 13:37, 18 December 2009 (UTC)
As I understand the use of coats of arms in the UK they are granted to an individual, and then passed to the oldest son. They do not belong to the "family" for anybody to use. So unless this coat of arms was specifically granted to Darwin himself it is inappropriate to include them here. --Michael Johnson (talk) 21:21, 18 December 2009 (UTC)
Greetings all, I added the arms last night. There was an article in the Journal of the Heraldry Society of New Zealand this month which stated that these arms were indeed inheritted and used by Charles Darwin. (Michael Johnson is correct about the process for granting and inheritting arms.) I am double checking Charles' use of the arms with the editor of the journal, but if I have not misinterpreted something I'd be disappointed to see them left out of the article simply on the grounds of article length. To answer someone's question, yes these arms are slowly being added to as many biographies as possible, as long as the subjects were the legal holders. A1 Aardvark (talk) 05:33, 19 December 2009 (UTC)
As he was a fifth child it seems unlikely he inherited them. So was he granted them? If so there may be an argument for including them, but not I think in this form, it is too large. Maybe just a shield. --Michael Johnson (talk) 07:45, 19 December 2009 (UTC)
I hate to remove something that has taken quite a lot of work. But it might be better to have it in the D-W family. According to English Heritagethis it is a family coat of arms. NBeale (talk) 08:13, 19 December 2009 (UTC)
Also I've looked in Desmond & Moore and there is no mention of this in their brilliant 800pp biography. Which suggests to me that it does not belong in the article. NBeale (talk) 08:17, 19 December 2009 (UTC)
Michael Johnson wrote:
"As he was a fifth child it seems unlikely he inherited them. ..."
But he was only the second son, and his elder brother, Erasmus, died without (known) issue some 8 months before he did. So, who would have inherited them on Erasmus's death, Charles himself or his eldest son, William?
David Wilson (talk · cont) 13:07, 19 December 2009 (UTC)
Overall I think it reasonable to include in the article if there is evidence that Darwin actually used them, eg on his stationary, or on the gate to Downe House, for instance. Otherwise the link seems tenuous at best. --Michael Johnson (talk) 06:07, 20 December 2009 (UTC)

<The only reference to "Coat of Arms" in the Darwin Correspondence Project is this letter. The footnote suggests that the "The coat of arms ... of the Waring’s of Elston Hall, Lincolnshire, which was adopted by CD’s sons William and George with the motto ‘Cave et aude’ (see Freeman 1978, p. 70)." from which I infer that it was not CD's Coat of Arms - and in any case that CD had little or no interest in it. So put it in the family article, not here. NBeale (talk) 17:13, 20 December 2009 (UTC)

A neat conclusion. However, the notes to that letter from his sister refer to "Letter 541 — Darwin, C. R. to Fox, W. D., 24 Oct (1839)". Darwin Correspondence Project.  which shows he had some interest at one time – "can you tell me from memory what the motto to our crest is for I mean to have a seal solemnly engraved." To add to the confusion, the motto seems to be the same, but the description by Darwin's sister of "a Chevron between three Stork’s heads erased at the neck" does not match the figure shown here. Of passing interest, in Darwin's letter to Fox he notes his finding that "W. Darwin my great grandfather is described in the Phil. Transacts for 1719, as a person of curiosity, who discovered the remains of a giant, evidently an Icthyosaurus.—so that we have a right of hereditary descent to be naturalists & especially geologists." Must check that up sometime. . . dave souza, talk 11:07, 22 December 2009 (UTC)

Sorry for taking so long in getting back to this issue. It was more complicated than I had initially thought! It seems that the arms were granted after Charles death, but were within his "destination" whatever that means. (Apparently they could have been used on memorials for him. Also, note the arms of Darwin College. Apparently the Darwin family "had used arms [similar to those I've illustrated] but had apparently done so without authority. A differenced version of those arms was granted to Reginald Darwin, of Fern, Derbyshire, for himself and the other decendants of his father, Sir Francis Sacheverel Darwin, and his uncle Robert Waring Darwin (Father of Charles), on 6 March 2890." - New Zealand Armorist Journal citing Anthony Wagner’s “Historic Heraldry of Britain”. I'm not as expert in heraldry as I'd like to be, but I think all of this means that a certain branch of male heirs of the Darwin-Wedgewood family (Reginald's) used these arms. I don't mind where it goes, I'm happy to defer to those who know more about heraldry and about Darwin. Finally, I am happy to create a copyright-free SVG version of the arms of Darwin college for use on that wiki page if others think that would be useful. Cheers A1 Aardvark (talk) 10:35, 1 January 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for doing that research, could you add the above information box to the Darwin–Wedgwood family with a note stating when the arms were granted, citing your source? Are they the ams of CD, or of his descndants?. . dave souza, talk 16:56, 1 January 2010 (UTC)


( (talk) 04:54, 2 January 2010 (UTC)editsemiprotected) I think Darwin's ethnicity should be changed to caucasian, not English.

In the infobox his ethnicity is shown as 'English', which links to English people, entirely appropriately. Mikenorton (talk) 09:21, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
I see little point in his ethnicity being there at all. It's not referenced. It's not mentioned or referenced anywhere else in the article. Ethnicity can be a vague concept at the best of times. Remove the infobox entry and let readers draw their own conclusions (if it's important to them) from what is in the text. HiLo48 (talk) 21:58, 30 January 2010 (UTC)

Darwin 2009 commemorations[edit]

I guess this section is okay. It's really a little more about us than about Darwin. Should it be shortened a little? Kitfoxxe (talk) 03:05, 5 January 2010 (UTC)

Maybe it's not so bad. Still I think most readers are interested most in the years 1831, when the Beagle set sail, to 1882. Kitfoxxe (talk) 23:51, 18 January 2010 (UTC)
I think it's a good idea to move info to Darwin Day or somewhere equally suitable, and trim this article down to a minimum now that the year is over. . . . dave souza, talk 00:08, 19 January 2010 (UTC)
I support that move. People who are interested in that can have their info in one place with a link to it here. Kitfoxxe (talk) 00:59, 19 January 2010 (UTC)
Should there be an article, "Commemorations for Charles Darwin"? Kitfoxxe (talk) 07:52, 20 January 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The idea of a commemoration of Charles Darwin article sounds good. Steven Shapin (7 January 2010). "The Darwin Show". London Review of Books.  gives a useful list with some that could be added to it. Will aim to implement this shortly. . . dave souza, talk 14:36, 25 January 2010 (UTC)

OK, that's a start made. No doubt it can be expanded, now that there's less constraint on space in that new page. . . dave souza, talk 18:34, 25 January 2010 (UTC)

glyptodon instead of megatherium?[edit]

I believe that the bony armadillo-like animal mentioned between the 33rd and 34th citation is a glyptodon not a megatherium. I am a high school science teacher and have not taken the time to figure out how to change things. Perhaps someone could?

Tbruinius (talk) 05:16, 8 January 2010 (UTC)tbruinius

Hi! Thanks for your observation, you're sort of right but the error was Darwin's, not ours. The sentence in question is "He identified the little known Megatherium, with bony armour which at first seemed to him like a giant version of the armour on local armadillos." but if you read on to the Inception of Darwin's evolutionary theory section you'll note that Owen's findings included that "The armour fragments were from Glyptodon, a huge armadillo-like creature as Darwin had initially thought." The Second voyage of HMS Beagle article goes into more detail, in the Fossil finds section describing how he identifed fossils using Bory de Saint-Vincent's Dictionnaire classique as including some Megatherium fossils (or perhaps Megalonyx) and in the same layer found bony armour. From Cuvier's misleading description Darwin thought that the bony armour identified the fossil as the little known Megatherium, named from a single specimen. The Fossils section describes how after the voyage Owen decided that the armour was from a different creature than the fossils, and named this new creature Glyptodon, though in fact the armoured creature that had misled Darwin had already been named Hoplophorus. Keynes covers the issue here. It's not surprising that there was confusion when these discoveries were first being made. To change things, find attribution we can cite for the changed information: you'll see quite a few inline cites in both articles. If you think we're not covering this complex issue very clearly, please propose altenative wording on this talk page for discussion. After your account has settled in you too can edit this semi-protected article, but the same rules apply – your own opinion, no matter how expert, is original research and has to be attributed to published information. Hope that helps, dave souza, talk 11:02, 8 January 2010 (UTC)
Have made some changes including adding a reference, to try to clarify the point. Hope that helps, dave souza, talk 13:16, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

Minor grammatical mistake[edit]

{{editsemiprotected}} The last sentence under the "Religious Views" heading should use the word "lay" rather than "laid". The past tense of 'lie' is 'lay', not 'laid'. Johnmoff82 (talk) 22:15, 9 January 2010 (UTC)

Fixed. Good catch. --Old Moonraker (talk) 22:52, 9 January 2010 (UTC)
From online info it looks as though you're right, but it looks wrong to me so this may be a question of U.S. usage against British English: as a workround I've changed it to simply say "while she rested", hope that works for everyone. Thanks, dave souza, talk 12:45, 11 January 2010 (UTC)


In view of the proposal that we should add "Darwin did not compete for an honours degree" before "did well in his final examination",[6] I've clarified Charles Darwin's education#University of Cambridge to show why he wasn't on a Tripos course. Given that grade inflation now makes an honours pretty much equivalent to an ordinary in 1831, this is not detail worth explaining in this article. As an example, Emily Brown's overview for Christ's doesn't go into it. Further sources on the Tripos – Herbert p. 32, Smith, Barlow. . . dave souza, talk 13:30, 19 January 2010 (UTC)

  1. ^ a b c Kidd, Charles; Williamson, David, ed. (2003). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage. London: Debrett's Peerage Limited. p. 1490.