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Darwin to a critc

Letter 2724 — Darwin, C. R. to Woodward, S. P., 6 Mar [1860] :: Darwin Correspondence Project

My dear Sir.

I should be very glad of any criticisms on the origin— I imagine you have not finished it. ...
The fair way to view the argument of my book, I think, is to look at Natural Selection as a mere hypothesis (though rendered in some degree probable by the analogy of method of production of domestic races; & by what we know of the struggle for existence) & then to judge whether the mere hypothesis explains a large body of facts in Geographical Distribution, Geological Succession, & more especially in Classification, Homology, Embryology, Rudimentary Organs The hypothesis to me does seem to explain several independent large classes of facts; & this being so, I view the hypothesis as a theory having a high degree of probability of truth. All turns on whether the above classes of facts seem to you satisfactorily explained or not.— The difficulties are great; but they concern the “imperfection of the Geological record,” “means of distribution” & “possibility of transitions of organs” And on these classes of facts we are confessedly ignorant, & we do not know how ignorant.— I simply believe that we are far more ignorant than any one supposed—

Forgive me for troubling you with this harangue, for I should very much like to stagger you,—to pervert you or any good man ought & must require months of self reflection. *

Yours very sincerely | C Darwin.

It may be a vain & silly thing to say, but I believe my Book must be read twice carefully to be fully understood.— You will perhaps think it by no means worth the labour.

*CD and others wrongly suspected that Woodward was the author of an anonymous critical review of Origin published in the Athenæum, 19 November 1859

How very different to how some "scientists" take criticism these days....


The "Social Code", Norm, Ethos of that day, are not entirely 'Gone With The Wind', but to view the pitiful smattering that we have today, mostly in the military, one might as well say it is all gone. If we are to ever resurrect it, I believe it must be done without the aid of the legal profession and the courts. Perhaps a member of the monarchy or the Pope might take it on as a life's task? If someone were, in fact, successful, do you think that a "modern scientist" would ever subscribe?

The defensiveness over their results was the first thing that made me realise what a crock AGW might be. I used to manage teams of programmers and the people who would come to me with a folder full of results to be checked were always the people whose testing I would skim over. Their software always went in as near perfect, not really worth the time. The people who produced almost nothing, or tried to say "oh yeah, don't worry, I did test that" were those who always had broken code when it went into my testing phase.

The scrutiny of an ATM or a Nevada gaming machine is far tougher than a theory that we're going to spend trillions on.

(incidentally, I've met a few scientists who are appalled at what the CRU got up to.)

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