The overlooked third man

April 20, 2015, King's College London
Darwin, Wallace, and the overlooked third man

The horticulturist who came up with the concept of 'evolution by natural selection' 27 years before Charles Darwin did should be more widely acknowledged for his contribution, states a new paper by a King's College London geneticist.

The paper, published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, argues that Patrick Matthew deserves to be considered alongside Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace as one of the three originators of the idea of large-scale evolution by .

Furthermore, Matthew's version of evolution by natural section captures a valuable aspect of the theory that isn't so clear in Darwin's version - namely, that natural selection is a deductive certainty more akin to a 'law' than a hypothesis or theory to be tested.

Patrick Matthew (1790-1874) was a Scottish landowner with a keen interest in politics and agronomy. He established extensive orchards of apples and pears on his estate at Gourdie Hill, Perthshire, and became adept in horticulture, silviculture and agriculture.

Whilst Darwin and Wallace's 1858 paper to the Linnean Society, On the Origin of Species, secured their place in the history books, Matthews had set out similar ideas 27 years earlier in his book On Naval Timber and Arboriculture. The book, published in 1831, addressed best practices for the cultivation of trees for shipbuilding, but also expanded on his concept of natural selection.

"There is a law universal 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. This law sustains the lion in his strength, the hare in her swiftness, and the fox in his wiles." (Matthew, 1831: 364)

In 1860, Matthew wrote to point out the parallels with his prior work, several months after the publication of On the origin of species. Darwin publically wrote in 1860 "I freely acknowledge that Mr. Matthew has anticipated by many years the explanation which I have offered of the origin of species", while Wallace wrote publically in 1879 of "how fully and clearly Mr. Matthew apprehended the theory of natural selection, as well as the existence of more obscure laws of evolution, many years in advance of Mr. Darwin and myself", and further declared Matthew to be "one of the most original thinkers of the first half of the 19th century". However, both asserted their formulations were independent of Matthew's.

Even if Matthew did not influence Darwin and Wallace, his writings provide a valuable third point of reference on the notion of macroevolution by natural selection, argues the paper's author, Dr Michael Weale. Dr Weale has created a public website to act as an online repository of the writings by Patrick Matthew, including some of his lesser-known work.

Dr Michael Weale, from the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics at King's College London, said: 'Whilst Darwin and Wallace both deserve recognition for their work, Matthew, the outsider who deduced his idea as part of a grand scheme of a purposeful universe, is the overlooked third man in the story. Matthew's story is an object lesson in the perils of low-impact publishing. Despite its brevity, and to some extent because of it, Matthew's work merits our renewed attention.'

Explore further: Darwin's theory of gradual evolution not supported by geological history, scientist concludes

More information: 'Patrick Matthew's Law of Natural Selection' by Michael Weale is published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society and can be accessed here.

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18 comments

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julianpenrod
1 / 5 (12) Apr 20, 2015
Matthews' comment only asserts that creatures fit their environments. But anyone who saw that there are no elephant in the sea could conclude that! And that idea has been with biology since the beginning! Matthews' comment could be seen as saying a round lump of clay is molded by a designing hand to fit in a square hole, rather than putting the round lump of clay on the square hole and letting gravity gradually reshape it. This "law" of saying creatures their environments is not codifying "evolution" as the means whereby they fit them! Lamarck used acquired characteristics, one theory even said the chemical male up of an area directed change to fit it. Matthews only said it happens, not how it happens! As more and more proof builds up that Darwin was wrong, they seem desperate to try to get as big a team on their side as possible to con the unwitting.
SaulAlinsky
5 / 5 (9) Apr 20, 2015
But anyone who saw that there are no elephant in the sea could conclude that!
Manatees...
docile
Apr 20, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.8 / 5 (10) Apr 20, 2015
Matthews' comment only asserts that creatures fit their environments. But anyone who saw that there are no elephant in the sea could conclude that!
-But julianne there used to be elephants in the sea...

"Ancient Elephant Ancestor Lived in Water, Study Finds
Carbon isotopes in tooth enamel retained signatures of Moeritherium's diet, while oxygen isotopes evidenced the local water sources from which they originated.

"By comparing variations in the ratios of these isotopes with those of terrestrial animals that lived during the same period, the team determined that the proboscidean was likely semi-aquatic."

-What else dont you know? Lots?
julianpenrod
1.4 / 5 (11) Apr 20, 2015
So often, arrested development misfits display imbecility in their vicious attempts to pretend sophistication to waylay the truth. Elephants have round legs, ending in a a flat base, all but useless for swimming, and trunks, tusks and large ears, completely unavailing for swimming if not a threat to moving through the open ocean, and an apparent inability to hold their breath for long underwater. The manatee has no such legs, in fact, it has the equivalent of fins, it is more streamlined and can hold its breath underwater. Moeritherium was also small, more streamlined and lived in freshwater sources, not the open ocean. Neither of these were elephants! Can either SaulAlinsky or TheGhostofOtto1923 provide documented history of populations of elephants living all or most of their life in the open ocean?
Returners
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 20, 2015
"There is a law universal 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. This law sustains the lion in his strength, the hare in her swiftness, and the fox in his wiles."


This is saying things in nature tend to get better at what they do (and the best survive except in catastrophism,) and there must be an underlying law that causes it.

This is something I think both faith and science agree on.

We know good genes survive and cancerous genes tend to die out, both at the organism level and the cellular level, when the cancer destroys the organism. If a genetic disease progresses before reproductive age then it will be selected out of the gene pool, except possibly by future re-mutation.
Vietvet
4.6 / 5 (9) Apr 20, 2015
Elephants and manatees do indeed share a common ancestor.
http://www.sireni...tion.pdf

I really enjoy these photos.
https://www.googl...68%3B351
Returners
1 / 5 (4) Apr 20, 2015
Breeding two sub-species of apple which have diffferent good traits to obtain a new strain is technically "evolution" but this is man-directed (intelligent creation) and it doesn't produce all-new positive genes.

Matthew's assertion as rendered in that article slightly violates the law of entropy, and that my friend agrees more with creation than not, in that and ordered being creates a reality which has members who self-seek order even in the midst of chaos and entropy.

Entropy is, after all, a form of order in it's own self. So there is no such thing as true chaos, because even entropy is a law.

Once we recognize this the question becomes directed at how this law interacts with the origin of the universe, not just species, and we see that all laws are logical; if, then, else, equals, etc.

Galaxy emergence is an act of creation, just as development of the horse from dirt molecule to full adult and any stage between is an act of creation.
MandoZink
4.5 / 5 (8) Apr 20, 2015
So often, arrested development misfits display imbecility in their vicious attempts to pretend sophistication to waylay the truth.

Asserting "arrested development" is such a double-edged sword for a guy swimming in a quagmire of conspiracies and belief.

http://www.rense....deby.htm
http://www.fstdt....ID=96311

Ah yes. And so remarkably certain about it all.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 21, 2015
So often, arrested development misfits display imbecility in their vicious attempts to pretend sophistication to waylay the truth
You know you miss so much when looking down your nose while at the same time pointing it at the sky.
Elephants have round legs, ending in a a flat base, all but useless for swimming, and trunks, tusks and large ears, completely unavailing for blah
Well hippos have round legs, walruses have tusks and flying fish have ear-like fins. Animals evolve these things as needed.

Really, speculative morphology is not your forte is it?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (6) Apr 21, 2015
Hey Julian ever hear of the aquatic ape theory?
http://en.wikiped...pothesis

-the idea that our ancestors were also aquatic? It would explain your nose problem - our noses grew long to let the water drain off.

Sorry vietvet my latest iPod OS upgrade doesn't let me rate people. Nice pics.
cjn
5 / 5 (8) Apr 21, 2015
Otto:
Well hippos have round legs, walruses have tusks and flying fish have ear-like fins. Animals evolve these things as needed.


This last statement is not true. Evolution is not directional, and certainly doesn't do things "as needed". Favorable traits are selected-for, and become increased in a population over time. This is generally derived from a 'mis-expression' or over/under expression of an existing trait, and not from whole-cloth. For example: Many species could probably benefit from wings, but they don't spontaneously sprout into existence.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Apr 22, 2015
Well hippos have round legs, walruses have tusks and flying fish have ear-like fins. Animals evolve these things as needed
This last statement is not true. Evolution is not directional, and certainly doesn't do things "as needed". Favorable traits are selected-for... Many species could probably benefit from wings, but they don't spontaneously sprout into existence
Yeahyeah I figured someone would take issue with this. Would you feel better if I used quote marks like you did?

Truth is, individuals without these advantageous traits will tend to die before reaching maturity. So the ones with them 'need' them. Traits which are no longer 'needed', like the saber tooth or variations in coloration or hibernation or seasonal reproduction (including us), are often stored within the genome to reemerge in later species as they are 'needed', epigenetically perhaps.

This may be true with aquatic traits as subgroups find themselves spending more time in water.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (4) Apr 22, 2015
I often wonder if the transition to seasonal mating in humans could somehow be induced as a way of controlling population growth. After all we are essentially an invasive tropical species in a temperate world.

Dan Browns latest book portrayed a rogue geneticist who engineered a bug which spread worldwide and sterilized 1/3 of the population. It might be easier to merely evoke the expression of a trait which is already lurking in our genes. It would certainly make for wild spring flings, but would tend to reduce conflict and distraction in many ways during the rest of the year, when men and women could truly be equal.

Neanderthal mating probably became seasonal which may be why he was overrun and extincted by cromags. We have cultural inclinations which favor June weddings and May Day celebrations which will produce babies at the right time of year to maximize their survival rate. Is this an expression of underlying genetics?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Apr 22, 2015
Favorable traits are selected-for

I'd say unfavorable traits are selected against (which doesn't invalidate your statement. It's just a minute difference I'd like to point out). I posted this before but I still think it's the best "evolution-in-a-nutshell" explanation I've ever read (from bash.org):
Some people...have the idea that evolution is a fucking system of...
"oh i need flippers, i'd better grow some" type bullshit. :P
It's more like "Oh shit look at that freak over there with the flippers hahaha OH SHIT I AM DROWNING OH GOD SAVE ME FLIPPER BOY".
Vietvet
3 / 5 (4) Apr 22, 2015
@Otto

I

Neanderthal mating probably became seasonal which may be why he was overrun and extincted by cromags. We have cultural inclinations which favor June weddings and May Day celebrations which will produce babies at the right time of year to maximize their survival rate. Is this an expression of underlying genetics?


Homo sapiens and bobonos enjoy non-reproductive sex year round and both have seasonal birth peaks. IMHO the same would apply to Neanderthals.

http://www.nytime...tes.html
http://pin.primat...bo/behav
http://darwinstud...ans.html
cjn
not rated yet Apr 23, 2015
Antialias:

Generally, the expression of a trait is neutral in respect to "favorability" to the environment. It's only when it is negative in the extreme that a tray is selected against. Successful traits are selected-for within a population by enhancing fitness or reproductive fitness, thereby increasing the frequency of that trait.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2015
The way I see it the environment is the thing that does the selecting. Specifically it is change in environment that causes evolution to happen.
An adaptation that leads to a different fit to a static environment would be be more on the road to speciation - as the 'old' genetic makeup is still as fit as it was before.*
Historically it has been in times of environmental upheaval (after big extinctions) that evolution was most prominent.

*I realize this isn't as clear cut as all that, as the presence of other members of the same species is also part of an individual's "environment" (such members compete for resources, after all). To some degree an individual itself also changes its environment (consuming food, excreting waste, ... ). So there probably is no such thing as a truly static environment.

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