Friday, 1 April 2016

Did Darwin plagiarize Matthew? Part 2: Debunking claims about parroting Matthew (1831)

Mike Sutton is a reader in criminology at Nottingham Trent University who has used google, in order to track down the provenience of certain quotes that are often attributed wrongly. He now thinks he has sufficient evidence to conclude that both Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace plagiarized Patrick Matthew (1831. On Naval Timber and Arboriculture) and stole Matthew's idea of evolution through natural selection from it.

One part of his exercise (Sutton 2014, Nullius in Verba, ThinkerMedia, chapter 4, don't buy it, it's not worth it) was to find phrases in Matthew (1831) that were apparently never used before. Concluding that Matthew was first to coin and use these phrases (called Matthewisms), authors who used the same phrase afterwards were taken to have them from Matthew (1831). These authors were called first to be second.

The following authors were all taken to (probably) have the phrases in question from Matthew (1831), the implication being that they all read Matthew's book and, if they didn't cite Matthew, betray this by the use of the phrases in question. The list below is list 2 from Sutton (2014, chapter 4) with comments added, were Sutton's premise is evidently false. (Too long to read? Scroll to end).

  • 1832 — Mudie: "rectangular branching"
This is from The Botanic Annual (p. 298). As in all cases, where an author may or may not have re-used a term of Matthew (1831) without acknowledging his source, the mere use of the phrase does not transport any information about Matthew's book or the idea of species transmutation through natural selection in it:

"It [the Chili pine Araucaria imbricata] also stands alone; and the rectangular branching, the thick twigs, from the close setting of the leaves, make it, no doubt, a majestic object amid the rocks and rapid condors, the snow, the violent storms, and the blazing volcanoes of the Andes."

The author goes on and on with imagining the beauty of the trees and the Andes landscape (he has never been there). Surely, nothing in Mudie (1832) can bring a reader to the conclusion that there must be a book by someone that contains an idea about natural selection.

  • 1833 — Ellerby: "plants so far asunder"
T.S. Ellerby's Memorial of Felix Neff, the alpine pastor, is a biography based on a French account (Notice sur Felix Neff: pasteur dans les Hautes-Alpes), which has not yet been digitalized. There is, hence a chance that "plants so far asunder" is merely Ellerby's translation of a French equivalent. Secondly, the passage, where the phrase occurs is an anecdote about Felix Neff trying to teach the ignorant inhabitants of the valley of Fressiniere at Ban de la Roche, how to plant potatoes properly. They jeopardized their yield by planting them too close to each other and just under the surface. When the peasants refused to accept Neff's advice, Neff traversed the whole valley during several days, took the tools from the peasants' hands and planted the potatoes properly. However, "when they saw him depositing their plants so far asunder, and five or six times deeper than they deemed requisite," they dug the potatoes up again, as soon as Neff was out of sight, and planted them according to their own prejudice (p. 198-200).

Matthew (1831, p. 154), on the other hand, wrote about the self-thinning that occurs among tree seedlings in natural clearances in forests. Whether Ellerby got the inspiration for using the phrase "plants so far asunder" from a private reading of Matthew (1831), is a moot question. Nobody reading Ellerby's account of an anecdote about a pastor failing to teach his peasants proper potato cultivation, could therefrom have gotten wind of Matthew's book.

  • 1835 — Main: "luxuriant growing trees"
Main (1835. Illustrations of Vegetable Physiology, ..., p. 166 + 280). Same as with Mudie (1832, see above).

  • 1834 — Conrad: "admixture of species"
"Mêlange d'especes" was a very common phrase in French science and it is very old. It can be found, for example, in M. Bertrand's Eléments d'Agriculture, from 1775, or in the Encyclpédie Oeconomique ou Systême Général d'Oeconomie Rustique from 1770.
  • 1834 — Roget: "living aggregates"
Matthew (1831) was not the first to use that phrase, though the original use was, again, in French. Cuvier wrote about the "agrégat vivant" in 1829 (see here).

  • 1834 — Low: "long continued selection"
Low may well have gotten this phrase from reading Matthew (1831), but re-using the mere phrase carries no information about Matthew's book for the readers. They could not have gotten a whiff of the existence of Matthew's book or the idea of natural selection in it, from reading Low (1834. Elements of Practical Agriculture, p. 500):

"And it must be regarded as highly important as a mean of improving the live-stock of Great Britain, that a breed has been actually formed, by long-continued selection and care, which may always be resorted to, to effect the purposes required, in the same manner as recourse is had to horses of known pedigree, to communicate their characters to the progeny. In this manner the labours of those who have improved the short horned breed, have extended far beyond what the original breeders contemplated. They have not only improved a peculiar breed, but have furnished the most efficient means that can be used of improving the live-stock of the entire country; and it is to be trusted that the breeders of this class of animals will have encouragement to maintain the characters of the breed with as much care as is used in the case of the race-horse, seeing that it is for a far more important object."

  • 1836 — Rafinesque: "evinced in the genus"
Rafinesques (Flora Telluriana, p. 95) wrote:

"To unite in the single Genus, Carex, plants with 2 or 3 stigmas or styles is still worse; and not to perceive that such a Genus of 300 Species is a fine Nat. family with many Genera distinguished by this and the seminal covering, proves that the absurd Linnean principles evinced in the Genus Lichen now a Class! prevail as yet among us. Whoever preserves Carex entire ought to keep Lichen and Agaricus entire, and make a single Genus of Ombellifera."

Compare this with Matthew (1831, p. 107f):

"May we, then, wonder that our plantations are occupied by a sickly short-lived puny race, incapable of supporting existence in situations where their own kind had formerly flourished—particularly evinced in the genus Pinus, more particularly in the species Scots fir; so much inferior to those of Nature's own rearing, where only the stronger, more hardy, soil-suited varieties can struggle forward to maturity and reproduction?"

Why should Rafinesque take his phrase, used to rant against the Linnean system, from Matthew using the same phrase, in order to say something about the degeneration of cultivated plants? Even if he read the phrase in Matthew (1831) and it stuck to his sub-conscience, and it later re-emerged when writing, what's the point of such psychologising? A phrase that is picked up somewhere and regurgitated in a different context. What can it signify? The phrase transports nothing. That, however, is exactly Sutton's logomachy that he claims that the phrase is the concept (e.g., here and here).

The slightly longer phrase: "proves that the absurd Linnean principles evinced in the Genus Lichen now a Class! prevail as yet among us," however, is a very different concept from: "our plantations are occupied by a sickly short-lived puny race, incapable of supporting existence in situations where their own kind had formerly flourished—particularly evinced in the genus Pinus."

  • 1837 —Wilson: "threatened ascendency"
Here, the reference that is given by Sutton as Wilson (1837. "The Elections." Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 42. pp. 238-247) already tells that this is not about natural history/evolution. And it is not:

"But in a country like Great Britain—where, with the universal diffusion of freedom, there is a deep and wide-spread interest throughout all ranks and classes in the stability of its institutions—the fear of change, when once it becomes prevalent, must have effects as wide and general as they are pernicious. Men of property cannot view without the greatest alarm the growing power and threatened ascendency of those fluctuating masses, who acting so often on the principle that they have nothing to lose and little to fear, would have every temptation to exert their legislative influence, as a means of plundering the wealthy. Men of high-minded and liberal spirits, cannot, without indignation, look forward to the subversion of all that is chivalrous and polished and cultivated in society— and the substitution of mean, coarse, and selfish vulgarities, that would undo the civilisation of centuries, and strip political and private intercourse of all its humanities, and half of its virtues. Men who love genuine and equal freedom, cannot sit still when those safeguards are sought to be removed, which, by controlling all, give liberty to all, and without which the caprices and violences of democracy would bear unresisted dominion, and the shifting mob-majority of the day would receive unbounded license for endless tyranny, and reciprocal retaliation." (p. 244)

So this was a rant about the political situation of the day. Compare this with Matthew's threatened ascendancy of races (or species) meaning a threat of extinction:

"Among the millions of specific varieties of living things which occupy the humid portion of the surface of our planet, as far back as can be traced, there does not appear, with the exception of man, to have been any particular engrossing race, but a pretty fair balance of powers of occupancy,—or rather, most wonderful variation of circumstance parallel to the nature of every species, as if circumstance and species had grown up together. There are indeed several races which have threatened ascendency in some particular regions, but it is man alone from whom any general imminent danger to the existence of his brethren is to be dreaded." (Matthew 1831, p. 387)

Matthew is not, here, talking politics, although he does elsewhere in his book. The above passage is not about election, revolution, equal rights of democracy or anything that Wilson is on about.

  • 1837 — Anonymous[31]: "nature's own rearing" [Endnote [31]: Spectator Journal.
This is from page 946 of The Spectator (No. 484, for the week ending Saturday, October 7, 1837). Sutton, again, fails to even look at the headline, which would take some scrolling because it is one page astern, 945. In fact, the headline says 'The Theatres.' That is, the context of this phrase is a critique of the play Winter's Tale given at Covent Garden: 

"It is this false system that makes mere puppets of so many actors; in particular, it has spoiled two clever young ladies of the Covent Garden Company, Miss Helen Faucit, and Miss Taylor. Miss Taylor's Perdita was not the simple shepherdess, but a court lady assuming the character: instead of a flower of Nature's own rearing, we were presented with an artificial imitation—and not a very good one either."

Are we to believe that the author of this critique must have taken the phrase of "nature's own rearing" from a book on naval timber or that a reader of this critique somehow got wind of Matthew's book from this critique? 
  • 1837 — Dovaston: "sport in infinite varieties"
This is from the Magazine of Natural History and Journal of Zoology, Botany, Mineralogy, Geology, and Meteorology (vol. 1: 74-77, 1837), wherein Dovaston published Some observations on the Oak under the alias Von Osdat.While the context does indeed make it likely that Dovaston had read Matthew (1831), this case shows that the mere phrase transports no information about Matthew's book (see also Low 1837, above, and Gazlay 1856, below):

"Botanists have given two species of the oak, Quércus Ròbur (common British oak), and Quércus sessiliflòra (sessile-fruited oak); but both species sport in infinite varieties. It has been the opinion of some planters, that the wood of the sessiliflòra is inferior in quality to the Ròbur; and I am inclined to favour that opinion myself. I think it will be found, on examination, that the wood of the Ròbur is more dense and compact than the sessiliflòra, and grows into a more noble and majestic tree." (p. 75)  

Unless some reader did know or searched for publications of "some planters," he would not have gotten the slightest whiff of Matthew's book and his idea about natural selection and species transmutation in it.

  • 1838 — Anonymous translator: "portion of the surface of our planet"
As already shown, under the fourth and fifth point (Conrad 1834 and Roget 1834), missing the original of a translation can be fatal for an ostensible Matthewism. Hence, it verges on negligence to give the author as "Anonymous translator" without trying to find out what that original actually was. 

Sutton's gives this reference in the list at the end of the book: Anonymous 1838. "Economical uses of the willow." The Penny Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. Firstly, this article is not in the 1838 volume of the Penny Magazine, but in the volume of 1842. This does not get clear, however, unless one scrolls through the whole thing that google has put online. The 1838 volume ends at page 508 and the 1842 volume commences with page 1. The article in question starts at page 434 and ends on page 436, but it can be read better following this link, because the scans are better than in the link given above and no volumes are concatenated.

Secondly, this article is not a translation. Thirdly, the anonymous author of this article does cite and quote Matthew (1831) directly, but only on a practical use of willows. Fourthly, the phrase "portion of the surface of our planet" can nowhere be found in this article. Here's the quote of Matthew:

"Mr. Mathew [sic], in his 'Treatise on Naval Timber,' states, in reference to these properties of red-wood willow:—"Formerly, before the introduction of iron-hoops for cart-wheels, the external rim, or felloe, was made of willow; and when new, the cart or wain was drawn along a road covered with hard small gravel (and in preference, gravel somewhat angular); by which means the felloe shod itself with stone, and thus became capable of enduring the friction of the road for a long time, the toughness and elasticity of the willow retaining the gravel till the stone was worn away." (p. 435).

Hence, this is a case of shoddy referencing combined with misquotation and ignoratio elenchi (missing the point).

  • 1840 — Buel: "infirm progeny"
Where Matthew (1831, p. 108) warned that nurserymen should be as careful in the (artificial) selection of tree seeds as the animal breeders were in selecting from their livestock, Buel, in a footnote, warns against crossing pumpkin with squash, which he regarded as first cousins. Hence "infirm progeny" would here be a case of inbreeding depression, whereas Matthew deplored poor selection regimes among nurserymen leading to weak progeny. 

  • 1840 — Swackhamer: "beat off intruders"
The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, vol. 7 (1840) printed "The Game of Twenty Questions. From the unpublished manuscript of a foreign minister." Why they did so is anybody's guess. The unnamed foreign minister recounts how they dined at Mr. Planta's place—many important people—how all those lords and chancellors engaged in small talk, and how some Mr. Canning proposed that they should play the game of "Twenty Questions." As the foreign minister was an American and did not know this British parlor game, he felt a need to record it (for rules etc. see here). The foreign minister then goes on to detail a round of the game with all the questions being asked and answers being given. The thing that was thought up by the foreign minister, and had to be guessed by Mr. Canning, was the wand of the Lord High Steward. When Canning asked, whether the thing to be guessed was ever used, however, our foreign minister had to confer with lord Grainville. The latter remembered that: "the Lord High Steward carried his staff to beat off intruders from his majesty's treasury!"

Matthew (1831, p. 303), however, discussed the influence of the soil on seeds, especially in the winter or wet season. He thought that many trees could, once established on certain soils, easily beat off intruders, but they were limited because their seeds would not survive these seasons in these soils.

What polite words can anybody find for someone suggesting that the American foreign minister, recounting a parlour game, must have taken his phrase from Matthew?   

  • 1841 — Johnson: "adapted to prosper"
From the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society (vol. 1, pp. 390-99), this is one more example of an author that may or may not have re-used a phrase from Matthew (1831) without acknowledging it (see page 393 in his article), but it is irrelevant because the phrase transports no information about Matthew's book and its contents (see also Mudie, Dovaston, Low above).

  • 1841 — Hill: "deeper richer soil"
Link to source. The question of re-use is, again, a private matter of the author that may or may not have been so, but carries no import (see Mudie, Dovaston, Low, Johnson above).
  • 1842 — Selby: "greater power of occupancy"
Selby (1842. A history of British forest-trees) cites Matthew (1831) on about 25 pages, but only one of these citations is not about technical matters such as timber quality for human purposes, pruning, trenching, planting, treating seeds etc. This citation is at page 391 and it actually rejects Matthew's idea about greater power of occupancy:

"The soil upon which most if the Abietae prevail, is usually of a dry and cool quality; thus, the débris of granitic and other primitive rocks, and barren sandy districts, are very commonly occupied by Pine and fir forests, sometimes of enormous extent; the thick and close manner in which they grow, and the dense shade they produce, effectually preventing the vegetation of other species. Matthew, however, in his able treatise on naval timber seems to think that its indigenous location in such districts arises not so much from preference of soils of the nature above-mentioned, as from its having more power of occupancy in such soils than any other plant of the country; and this opinion he endeavours to support by stating that the Pinus sylvestris, planted in a good or rich soil, attains larger dimensions and its best timber properties, and that it is only driven from this superior soil by the greater power of occupancy, planted in a good or rich soil, attains larger dimensions and its best timber properties, and that it is only driven from this superior soil by the greater power of occupancy possessed by the oak and other deciduous trees, an opinion in which we cannot altogether acquiesce, as we see no reason why the fir, if it grows with such additional vigour in a richer soil, as Mr. Matthew asserts, should, at the same time, be unable to maintain a contest with the oak or other tree." (Selby 1842, p. 391)

Obviously, Selby did not understand the relativity of growth in a richer or poorer soil. That is if the pine does grow better in rich than in poor soil, but the oak grows still much better than the pine there, then the oak will oust the pine from the rich soil. If on the other hand, pine grows worse in poor than in rich soil, but still better than other trees, it will exclude the other trees from poor soil. In modern parlance, soil quality would be called a dimension of the ecological niche (/niːʃ/).

While it is obvious for us to see, in retrospective, that this insight about ecology (competitive exclusion) has been inspired by Matthew's thinking in terms of natural selection and competition between trees, his contemporaries did not have our retrospective vantage. Selby obviously failed to get Matthew's idea, here. If this proves anything, then that Selby did not receive (read or understand) Matthew's exposition of the idea of natural selection in the appendix. It surely shows that Selby read Matthew (1831) as a work on technical matters of tree planting, training etc., because 24 of 25 pages that cite Matthew, do so on technical matters. 

  • 1844 — Low: "overpowering the less"
Link to source. Same as with Mudie, Dovaston, Low, Hill etc. above. May be so but cannot have lead anybody towards Matthew's book.
  • 1846 — Emmons: "habits of varieties"
Link to source. Same as above (see Mudie, Dovaston, Low, Hill, Low).

  • 1846 — Alabama Supreme Court: "Infirmity of their condition"
This is from the Reports of Cases at Law and in Equity, argued and determined in the Supreme Court of Alabama:

"Campbell, contra, contended, that the case was not varied since it was last here—the bills stood alone; no evidence of delivery to the plaintiff—no evidence of consideration, to relieve them from the infirmity of their condition. He cited 6 Wend. 644; 13 Mass. 158."

Whatever the particulars of the case, "infirmity of their condition" means the poor standing of a defendant in a lawsuit and does not have the slightest thing to do with Matthew (1831, p. 387) arguing about the degeneration of domesticated animals or cultivated plants being unable to survive without the help of humans, because of the infirmity of their condition:

"As far back as history reaches, man had already had considerable influence, and had made encroachments upon his fellow denizens, probably occasioning the destruction of many species, and the production and continuation of a number of varieties or even species, which he found more suited to supply his wants, but which, from the infirmity of their condition— not having undergone selection by the law of nature, of which we have spoken, cannot maintain their ground without his culture and protection."
  • 1848 — Charnock: "stiffest and most obdurate"
Link to source. Same as above (see Mudie, Dovaston, Low, Hill, Low, Emmons).

  • 1849 — Emmons: "deteriorated by culture"
Link to source. Emmons has  previously (see Emmons 1846, above) said something about fruit trees and  potatoes. Why should he not later remember a phrase from Matthew (1831) in recording that the Virginia White May Wheat may have deteriorated by culture, although Matthew used that phrase in a different context. The point is as with Mudie, Dovaston, Low, Hill and Emmons above, that these sources cannot have lead any reader to Matthew's book. By the way, the whole idea of deterioration or degeneration through cultivation is from Buffon who has been translated into English by Barr in 1797. No need for anybody to consult Matthew (1831), in order to get this idea.

  • 1852 — Wilkin: "figure is best accommodated"
"Figure is best accommodated" occurred in a book called "Sir Browne's work: including his life and correspondence" edited by Simon Wilkin and published in (1835). Sutton simply overlooked that this phrase is not by Wilkin (1835) but by Browne (1658). Wilkin just assembled the works of Browne, edited and republished them. This Wilkin-Browne case was first published in a brilliant rebuttal of Sutton's book by Grzegorz Malec (see here).

  • 1853 — Andrews: "impressions and habits acquired"
This is from page 14 of the Reflections on the Operation of the Present System of Education. Andrews basically says that, no matter what, a bad pupil will become a bad adult: 

"The force of punishment will be found to resemble the application of power in changing the growth of the tree: weeks years of confinement, will not effect a complete reformation in the offender. His life may seem to be changed, his habits reformed; but as he goes out to mingle again with the world, as one occasion after another presents itself to him, his former passions begin to revive those early impressions take possession of him and he becomes the same that he was originally only that his degraded position renders him far less able to resist the temptation to do wrong. Impressions and habits acquired in youth are proverbially lasting." 

Sutton (2014, chapter 4) argues that Andrews' use of a tree analogy, here, makes it likely that he got the phrase from Matthew. He even claims that Andrews had an "intense interest in scientific forestry." Now, Andrews' tree analogy only occurs at page 13 and 14 and shows no expert knowledge of scientific forestry. Andrews' tree analogy has the intellectual import of a priest using it in one of his sermons. It has nothing to do with Matthew (1831).

What is worse, the passage where Matthew (1831, p. 386) used that phrase has nothing to do with trees. It is Matthew's trial to unite his idea of natural selection with Lamarck's idea of the inheritance acquired traits. Matthew, here, speculates about the possible influence, on evolution, of mental impressions and acquired habits in higher animals, from humans to insects (see also below, Leidy 1858). 

  • 1854 — Mure: "dogmatical classification"
The title, A Critical History of the Language and Literatur of Ancient Greece, vol. 3, already gives it away. Here, Mure is duking out a historiographical fight with Mr. Grote concerning the question whether a strict distinction ("dogmatical classification") can be drawn, between historical records of ancient Greece that belong to the fabulous and others that belong to realistic writings.

"I further maintain therefore, that any such tripartite classification as that of Mr. Grote— who first condemns in the mass the whole Greek tradition prior to the exact year of the Dorian conquest as pure fiction, because he has no means of demonstrating it to be true; who next suddenly admits Greek tradition from the Dorian conquest down to 776 to be Mythology founded on a broad basis of fact, although he has no means of demonstrating the existence of that fact; and who thirdly, admits Greek tradition from 776 downwards to be “true or objective history,” although there are no contemporary historians for about two centuries afterwards;—any such dogmatical classification must be a fallacy." (p. 530)

Compare this with Matthew (1831, p. 381) airing doubts about the systematics/taxonomy of his time:

"Throughout this volume, we have felt considerable inconvenience, from the adopted dogmatical classification of plants, and have all along been floundering between species and variety, which certainly under culture soften into each other." 

No reason to suppose that Mure must have taken the phrase from Matthew, but if he did, this will forever remain a speculation that cannot be proven and would, even in that case, be completely irrelevant.

  • 1855 — Fishbourne: "power to permeate"
Fishbourne was an admiral of a ship and he later wrote a book on his experiences in the far east and China. In this context, he wrote about the various human races and wondered why the Miou-tze, "a race of independent mountaineers," would stay isolated "in the midst of a people who seem to have had more than ordinary power to permeate and pervade other races; shewing them to possess an indestructibility of race like the Jew." 

If interpreted biologically, this would be rampant racism on Fishbourne's part. Fishbourne, however, continues to argue that the reason for their isolation is religious (cultural). He thought they kept and worshipped rudiments of Christian scripture and practice and were, therefore, open to conversion.

"The ignorant always invent something strange but ridiculous, to account for what they do not understand; [...] Of their real position and character we have much to learn, and it may be of the most interesting, not to say important kind, for it may be that, like the Jews at Kae-fung-foo, they have a copy of the Old Testament scriptures, but have lost the knowledge of the character in which it is written; [...] and as a consequence, the people have only a general knowledge of their contents ; so that only such meagre portions of the truth as may have been embalmed in their customs and traditions is current amongst them, revolting them from idolatry like the Jew, and predisposing them so towards Christianity, that when it was presented to them they met it with acceptance." 

That is, Fishbourne explains the failure to permeate the Miou-tze of the ruling Chinese race, which otherwise shows a great power to permeate other races, as a cultural/religious thing. Again, this has no connection whatever with Matthew (1831, p. 335) writing of the power of the roots of some tree species to permeate the stiffest and most obdurate soils.
  • 1855 — Laycock: "mental or instinctive powers"
This is from the article Further Researches into the Functions of the Brain by Thomas Laycock published in 1855 in The British and Foreign Medico-chirurgical Review 16: 120-144. Laycock wrote (p. 127):

"Since what is true of the whole, is true of every part thereof, it follows that the nervous system is also the seat of all those quasi-mental or instinctive powers by which the unconscious mind attains its end."

Compare Matthew (1831, p. 364):

"There is a law in nature, tending to render every reproductive being the best possibly suited to its condition that its kind, or that organized matter, is susceptible of, which appears intended to model the physical and mental or instinctive powers, to their highest perfection, and to continue them so."

Where Laycock distinguished instinctive from mental powers as quasi-mental, Matthew distinguished the physical from the mental + instinctive powers. He lumped mental and instinctive. The phrases mean different distinctions. This context makes it seem unlikely that Laycock took his phrase from Matthew.

  • 1856 — Gazlay: "adaptation to condition"
Both Gazlay alias Cephas Broadluck (1856. Races of mankind: with travels to Grubland, p. 57) and Matthew (1831, p. 3) write about the adaptation of humans to their specific condition of life. As above (see Low 1837 and Dovaston 1837), however, the reader could not have gotten a whiff of Matthew's book or the idea of natural selection in it from this use of his words:

"In a country where ice and dogs cover the face of the earth, the social phenomena sink to individual and family attachments. There is really no social organization, with its numerous and complicated details and relations, by which the mind is constantly supplied and excited. Instead of which there is substituted an interminable struggle for food; and the mind quietly adapting itself to the invention of simple means required for that absorbing object. This is nothing, remarked the Doctor, but a perfect physical and mental adaptation to condition; the worst of it being that s like condition may be an artificial instead of a natural one." (p. 56f)

It is also interesting to note that "adaptation to condition" overlaps with the next phrase "restricted adaptation" below (see Powell 1858) in Matthew (1831, p. 3) "restricted adaptation to condition." If these phrases were used like names for certain concepts with distinct meanings, one would not expect them to overlap in usage. 
     For example, "friction force" and "force of habit" do not usually overlap, because their different meanings would then collide in the nonsensical expression "friction force of habit." This shows that Matthew did not coin these phrases as names for distinct concepts with distinct meanings. Matthew just tried to express himself in words, as writers do, but not every two words that thus happened to find themselves side by side to each other were therefore names or coinages of concepts or theories.

  • 1858 — Powell: "restricted adaptation"
This is from The British and Foreign Evangelical Review. It was, as its name suggests, a periodical publishing review articles on theological publications. The article in question is not by Baden Powell, as Sutton suggests in his reference list, but instead by an apparently anonymous author, who reviewed Powell's book Christianity without Judaism. The third essay of Powell's book was on dispensationalist theology, a view that biblical history is best understood as a series of separate time periods (dispensations). Each dispensation is said to represent a different way in which God deals with man. In reviewing this part of Powell's book, the anonymous author writes:

"He [Powell] begins by referring to the apostolic declaration in the Epistle to the Hebrews (chap. i. 1.) as presenting to us a brief but comprehensive view of the "nature, character, and connection of the successive Divine dispensations,” and as confirming, according to our author, the restricted adaptation of all the older dispensations to the mere condition of the parties respectively addressed. “The view presented to us is that of successive revelations, systems, covenants, laws, given to
different individuals, families, or nations, containing gradual,
progressive, and partial developments of spiritual truth, and intimations of the Divine will for their guidance, accompanied with peculiar positive institutions, adapted to the ideas of the age and the condition of the parties to whom they were vouchsafed.” (p. 501f)

That is, Powell and his reviewer were writing about the ways in which god adapted his rules and revelations to the different ilks of humans he saw himself confronted with. It would be utterly absurd to regard this as a case of evolution (of divine dispensations) through selective pressures exerted by humans. No connection to Matthew (1831) whatever.

  • 1858 — Floy: "law manifest in nature"
This is from a sermon by Dr. Hallock recounted in The National Magazine: devoted to Literature, Art, and Religion, vol. 13, p. 183, (vol 12 ends with page 572 and vol. 13 is concatenated). The editor Floy summarizes Hallock's divinations (beware, lots of spiritualist BS): 

"The Road to Spiritualism, in four lectures delivered in the New York Lyceum, by Dr. Hallock, author of "The Child and the Man." [...] Dr Hallock, the high-priest of nature says: "Bring before the man who holds this key these empire-splitting and world-convulsing questions which have vexed it so long, and mark what he will do with them. Ask him: Ought I to starve my body to a skeleton, or mutilate any part of it, for the glory of God and the good of my soul? Should I be a Shaker, or a Mormon, in my relation to woman? He asks you, Are these practices physiologically and socially right? You answer, No. Then they are theologically wrong, and no authority can save them from ultimate disgrace. Physiological, theological, and every other law manifest in nature, must accord, if from no other necessity, then from this, that they have a common end, which is, the development of man."

That is, Hallock simply thought that both the polygamy of the Mormons and the celibacy of the Shakers were unnatural—against the law of physiology, theology and every other law manifest in nature.

This has absolutely nothing to do with Matthew's law of degeneration: "There is a law manifest in nature, that when the use of any thing is past, its existence is no longer kept up" (Matthew 1831, p. 367). Why should the fact that Floy (1858), in parroting Hallock's gibberish, happened to use the same phrase as Matthew did before, signify that Floy must have read Matthew (1831)?

  • 1858 — Leidy: "impressions in insects"
This is from the Summary of the Transactions of The Philadelphia Biological Society: reported by Henry Hartshorne, M.D., Recording Secretary." As it is published in the Journal of the Lousiana State Medical Society (1858, Vol. 15, p. 673-679), these two societies seem to have had reporting secretaries traveling to and fro. That is, the transaction may have taken place in Philadelphia and only been reported (by Hartshorne, not Leidy) in the Journal of the Lousiana State Med. Society. [Ht to Julian Derry for help getting the full record.]

At Feb. 15th., Dr. T. G. Richardson read an elaborate paper by Dr. George Patic, of Galt, Canada West, upon the Functions of the Spinal Cord, as illustrated by experiments on cold-blooded animals;* endeavouring to show occasion for some modification of the theory of reflex action of Marshall Hall, and for the opinion that perception is one of the attributes of the spinal cord, and especially of the medulla oblongata." (p. 676)

This already sets the stage as a discussion about the question, whether the spinal cord and especially the brain stem are mere autopilots or whether some kind of perception or consciousness can be attributed to them. The Marshall Hall mentioned is associated with the theory of the reflex arc that proposed an automatic reflex involving the spinal marrow only. Hence the context of the deliberations of the society, here, is neurobiology. (The reference given for the asterisk says: "* See N. Amer. Medico-Chirurg. Review, May, 1858." This was a common practice, to first read a paper, then publish it, so that the members of the society would know in advance, in which issue it would end up and could cite it in advance, ht to Julian Derry.) Anyway, Dr. Leidy was not convinced and argued for the autopilot. This has been reported thus:

"Dr. Leidy remarked that the experiments narrated in the paper did not appear to him entirely conclusive, as the movements described might be automatic. [...] He believed that the conveyance of impressions, in insects, for instance, to the chain of ventral ganglion, should be expected, without supposing perception to produce the apparently voluntary movements."

Leidy even recounts an experiment of his, in which he kept a pigeon alive after removing the cerebrum (that's the big part of the brain with which we consciously think) and how the pigeon would, for warmth, walk into a fire and how he needed to repeatedly pick it out of the ash-pan, or else it would have grilled itself. Thereafter, a lively debate commenced—all neurophysiology.

Compare this with Matthew (1831, p 385f) struggling to unite his idea of natural selection (circumstance-adaptive law as he called it) with the Lamarckian idea of volition and sensation having an effect on evolution:

"This circumstance-adaptive law, operating upon the slight but continued natural disposition to sport in the progeny (seedling variety), does not preclude the supposed influence which volition or sensation may have over the configuration of the body. [...opaque passage omitted...]"

He then seems to say that instinctive behaviour is more likely to be found in insects with shorter life-cycles than in animals with longer ones. For some reason he then calls this lack of continuity of individuals greater continuity of existence and concludes:

"This greater continuity of existence, or rather continuity of perceptions and impressions, in insects, is highly probable [...opaque passage omitted...]."

The whole passage is very opaque and difficult to understand. Mike Weale, for example, thinks Matthew is hinting at racial memory (he does talk about human races in one of the passages I omitted) and swarm intelligence.

In conclusion, this is a case of shoddy referencing on Sutton's part, because the author reporting the Transactions is not Leidy, as he makes his readers believe, but Hartshorne. Leidy may never have used the phrase "impressions, in insects." Moreover, the contexts are neurobiology vs. a trial at uniting Lamarckism with natural selection (circumstance-adaptive law) that is really opaque (may include stuff about swarm intelligence or racial memory).

The question is: Why should the fact that Hartshorne, in reporting the deliberations of the members of his medical society during a session on neurophysiology, used the phrase "impressions, in insects," signify that he has read Matthew (1831), who had previously used the same phrase in a different context?

Let me summarize the blunders of Mike Sutton, just to show you what a pseudo-scholar he is:

1. He mistook the translation of a Swiss-French pastor's failure to teach his peasants proper potato cultivation with Matthew's observations on self-thinning in forest rejuvenations (see above, Ellerby 1832).
2. He failed to check whether anything in Matthew (1831) could be from non-English sources (see above, Conrad 1834; Roget 1834).
3. He mistook a rant of Rafinesque (1836) against the Linnean system with a rant of Matthew against the poor selection regimes of nurserymen.
4. He mistook political rants with biological ones (see Wilson 1837—threatened ascendancy).
5. He mistook a theatre critique with a scientific piece (see above, Anonymous[31] 1837).
6. He failed concerning an ostensibly anonymous translation, that was neither a translation nor even contained the phrase in question (see above, Anonymous translator 1838).
7. He mistook poor selection regimes with hybridization (see above, Buel 1840).
8. He mistook an anecdote about a parlor games with the competitive advantage of established trees (see above, Swackhamer 1840).
9. He mistook the failure of a contemporary (Selby 1842) to get Matthew's idea as a proof that Selby did get Matthew's idea.
10. He mistook law-stuff with natural history (see above, Alabama Supreme Court 1846).
11. He mistook an editor and re-publisher for the original author (see above, Wilkin 1852).
12. He mistook the worst that's ever been published on education with the best that's been published on natural history (see above, Andrews 1853).
13. He mistook a piece on language and historiography with one on natural history (Mure 1854).
14. He mistook cultural (religious) causes with natural (ecological) ones (see Fishbourne 1855).
15. He took a review of Powell (1858) on theology to be an original natural history source.
16. He mistook an account of a spiritualist ranting about the polygamy of Mormons and the celibacy of Shakers with science (see above, Floy 1858).
17. He mistook communicating member's report of a debate about neurophysiology involving Leidy (1858) with an original statement by Leidy and took it to be on natural history.

The other parts in this series can be found by choosing the rider/label 'Patrick Matthew' from above the blog posts. 


  1. The point - that the blogger Dr Dagg so conveniently fails to inform readers in his typically biased blog post of newly discovered facts - is that this "first to be second" analysis of Matthew's orignal 1831 term "natural process of selection" led to my orignal - as my book fully explains - discovery that Robert Chambers (author of the highly influential book "the Vestiges of Creation" - which is proclaimed as having "put evolution in the air" in the first half of the 19th century - cited Matthew's book. Which means he read it.

    And - most importantly - Chambers met and corresponded with Darwin pre 1858. That is a significant point missed in this blog post. That one point (I could make so many more) proves a route of some kind of Matthewian knowledge contamination from a reader of Matthew's book to Darwin's brain existed. And in doing so it disproves the old Darwinist myth - started as a self-serving lie by Darwin himself - that no naturalist read Matthew's book pre-1858

    And why, anyway, would we not look at this notion of who is apparently first to be second with apparently unique Matthewisms? Note the word "apparently" - I labour it it heavily in my book in this regard. The technology allows us to explore this. Why not explore it - despite its obvious limitations? It certainly throws up some names - such as Robert Chambers (but more besides) - worthy of further investigation by objective scholars in the paper archives of those identified with it.

    Chambers - as just one example - is newly discovered by me to have actually cited Matthew's 1831 as early as 1832. And Chambers is one of seven naturalists newly discovered to have cited Matthew pre 1858. ALL Discovered by me.

    See the significance of the newly discovered facts - as opposed to the desperate obscuring spin - by those apparently seeking to conceal them with biased spin. Here: