'Charlie Is My Darwin': the errors

Torn Rubbers' unacknowledged masterpiece, Charlie is my Darwin, while commendably celebrating the work of Charles Darwin, makes a number of minor factual errors, viz:

  • Darwin did not sail to countries far and near—his first landfall on his circumnavigation was in South America, which is a considerable distance from his native England. His penultimate landfall was equally distant, so he did not sail to countries near at all (unless you count his holiday to France prior to his Beagle trip).
  • In the context of the verse in which they appear, the lines He spent his youth in search of truth / A-followin' his idea imply that Darwin thought of his "idea" (evolution by means of Natural Selection) before he set sail. He actually came up with the idea after his return to Britain.
  • The song states Although he'd borne the church's scorn, / He faced 'em without fear. Firstly, Darwin was terrified of controversy, and seldom faced anyone - he left that to Huxley and Company. Secondly, and somewhat pedantically, the church is singular, so he should have faced it, not (th)em.
  • The song states He spent his wealth and risked his health / To share his Big Idea. Darwin remained very comfortably off until the end of his days; he was never in any danger of spending his wealth.
  • The song refers to Mendel's beans. Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics, actually grew peas - but peas doesn't rhyme with genes, and beans does.

Rubbers' reference to Gould  still arguing the toss was, however, not a mistake: the song was written before the untimely death of Stephen Jay Gould.

This article was published in 2000.

3 thoughts on “'Charlie Is My Darwin': the errors

  1. Craig Buckley

    It depends how you measure far and near. 

    Darwin's first landfall on foreign soil was the Cape Verde Islands, off the coast of Senegal. 

    Before that, the Beagle visited the Canary Islands, but was forbidden to land by the Spanish Consul who feared they might bring cholera to the islands.

    Also, I don't think its fair to say that Darwin was 'terrified of controversy'.  If he had been he wouldn't have said anything, and he certainly wouldn't have followed up The Origin with Descent of Man.  Darwin's ill health (even before the publication of The Origin) made travelling an ordeal for him.  He was rarely able to travel out and visit close friends, much less engage in lively debates.

     

    Other than that, fair comment.

    Reply
  2. Gregory C. Mayer

    Also,"chance" selection is completely wrong. Although CD emphasized the statistical nature of selection, it is variation that is random or chance, not selection. Selection is the non-chance mechanism that leads to adaptation. That Darwin's theory attributed modification to "chance' was a canard of his opponents, perhaps most colorfully expressed by Herschel when he denounced slection as the law of "higgledy-piggledy", and is still used by creationists today.

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