Sutton’s book

book : Science Fraud (2022), by Dr. Mike Sutton

review by Ton Munnich, February 2022

Dr. Mike Sutton is a scholar of extraordinary qualities. Educated in law and criminology, his research forced him to acquaint himself with evolutionary biology and 19th century history. He did that so thoroughly that he was able to challenge the traditional narrative about Charles Darwin. That traditional narrative will take some years to fade away, but in the core it is proven wrong. Several authors contributed to that, the most important being Mike Sutton. His books of 2017 and 2022 show convincingly that Charles Darwin is not the originator of the idea ‘natural selection’. Darwin plagiarised Patrick Matthew who published the idea and the term 28 years earlier.

The stakes were high. Darwin, with Newton, is the top crown jewel of England’s intellectual tradition. Tearing down that monument affects reputations and positions. Authors, scientists, historians, venerable scientific societies, they all are embarrassed because for decades they published superlatives about Darwin’s genius and noble character. The highest English awards in the life sciences are called the Darwin Medal and the Darwin-Wallace Medal. Suddenly these Medal-winners have a Plagiator Medal on the wall of their study. No wonder there is resistance against Sutton’s findings.

To drive a point like this home is no small matter, Sutton’s energy and perseverance are remarkable. All the more because he works in England, which is Darwin-territory. Had he been French or Dutch, he would have been under less pressure. His well-written book presents dozens of clues and facts that support his point. Perhaps his opponents will refute one or two details, but there can be no doubt that his point is right. Since he finished the project very successfully, there is no reason to disturb Sutton’s victory boogie woogie. But there is a but.

English and American naturalists trumpet in superlatives not only about Darwin but also about the natural selection theory itself. They call it the deepest, highest, greatest scientific theory of all time. Sutton shows that the superlatives about Darwin are not justified, but he does not question the equally exorbitant superlatives about the theory. Sutton argues that the deepest, highest, greatest theory of all time is not Darwin’s but Matthew’s finding. However, that is not the way Patrick Matthew looked at it. He was fully aware that the idea is not particularly deep or brilliant. Here is how he said it:

  • “to me the conception of this law of Nature came intuitively as a self-evident fact, almost without an effort of concentrated thought. … to me it did not appear a discovery. … it was by a general glance at the scheme of Nature that I estimated this select production of species as an a priori recognisable fact – an axiom requiring only to be pointed out to be admitted by unprejudiced minds of sufficient grasp.”

That is Patrick Matthew’s sober valuation of natural selection. It was Darwin who inflated the idea to extravagant proportions. Darwin had a knack for pomposity, his favourite word was ‘grandeur’.

Patrick Matthew’s sober view on natural selection is in line with the notion among biologists that it is a very simple theory. In 1940 biologist Dr. Olive Dickinson Maguinness (Sheffield University) muses: “In outline the theory of evolution by natural selection seems so simple that we wonder why it was not thought of earlier.” In 1962 J. Tyler Bonner (Princeton) calls it “extremely simple”. And in 1999 the guru of Darwinism John Maynard Smith states: “… Darwin’s idea is simple – perhaps because it is so simple ….”. It is a simple idea, it seems useful to unhype the concept natural selection.

Natural selection is only half the explanation of Evolution. Evolution happens in two steps. The first step is the arising of variation. The second step is Nature making a selection from that varied range. Without the first step the second step is impossible. Without variation there is nothing to select from. Let us dwell for a moment on these two steps. The science that deals with variation is called Genetics. It is the science of Darwin’s Austrian contemporary Gregor Mendel, a.k.a. ‘the father of Genetics’. The key word in Genetics is heredity. Heredity creates new life forms by gene recombinations and, sometimes, by gene mutations. Look at ten brothers: they are all different, because each of them is a unique recombination of parental genes. Thus heredity creates a reservoir of unique and varied life forms. After that, natural selection eliminates the less adapted ones.
So a Mendel-step and a Matthew-step. In the Mendel-step heredity creates 100% of new life forms, in the Matthew-step natural selection mows away the 90% least fit. Many top biologists see this two-step character of Evolution. Nobel Prize laureate Thomas Hunt Morgan, for instance, calls them the creative step and the destructive step. Morgan: “Natural selection does not play the role of a creative principle in evolution”. His colleague William Bateson agrees: “its function is to select, not to create”. Lynn Margulis agrees too: “natural selection is intrinsically an elimination process”.

After the Second World War Darwinism reigns more than half a century, with its basic equation: Evolution = Natural Selection = Darwin. Mike Sutton saw a flaw in the equation, he successfully corrected it into: Evolution = Natural Selection = Matthew. That is better. But the correct equation seems to be: Evolution = Variation (Mendel) + Natural Selection (Matthew).

Dr. Mike Sutton made a brilliant contribution to the history of science. Out-arguing an army of Darwinists, he rendered to Patrick Matthew the credit he deserves. And in the process Sutton earned scholarly credit himself.

book : Nullius in Verba (2017), by Dr. Mike Sutton

review by Ton Munnich, April 2018

The ongoing digitization of archives enables the application of the new scientific method called Big Data. It shows patterns that can not be discovered with traditional methods. Dr. Mike Sutton, an award-winning criminologist at Nottingham Trent University, applied Big Data to an unresolved issue regarding Charles Darwin. The results are remarkable.

Darwin publishes his theory of natural selection in 1858 and 1859. He calls it “my theory”. The Scottish naturalist Patrick Matthew then declares that he has published the exact same theory in 1831. Darwin counters: he writes that Matthew only mentioned the idea in the appendix of an obscure book about a different theme, and that nobody knew that passage, he himself included. Matthew gets little opportunity to reply again, and Darwin continues to call it “my theory”. Since then, Darwin counts as the discoverer of the idea of natural selection. In the biological community a critical utterance about Darwin is professional suicide. But Mike Sutton is not a biologist, he is a criminologist, specialized in matters of plagiarism. He investigates what happened between Matthew’s book (1831) and Darwin’s book (1859). Here are some of his results :

  • In 1831 England is the most important seafaring nation. The British Empire will only stay afloat provided there is enough naval timber. Matthew’s book on arboriculture for the production of naval timber touches on national interests and is well known. In that book Matthew presents his theory of natural selection. In the main text and in the appendix.
  • Nowadays countless scientific publications appear. In Matthew’s time that was different, in 1831 only seven books on botany were published in England. Every expert knew Matthew’s book.
  • Darwin claims no one knew Matthew’s book. Sutton checked this claim by applying Big Data technique to the now digitized archives. He found that between 1831 and 1858 Matthew’s book has been reviewed or quoted in a printed publication by 24 people. Seven of them are naturalists, four of whom belong to Darwin’s inner circle. Enough to safely assume that Darwin knew the book. The web of connections is dense. With 24 people writing about it, many more read, heard or talked about it. Sutton introduces the concept of “knowledge contamination”. It is like a virus: when two people talk, the flu virus jumps. When two naturalists talk, the Matthew virus jumps. Darwin is in the center of the infected group, eager to take it all in. He cannot be virus-free.
  • In 1831, in order to clarify his idea, Matthew takes a novel and unusual detour. Being a professional tree grower, he first talks about the domesticated situation of nurseries. There the breeder selects the specimen with which he wants to breed. Thus Matthew introduces the professional breeder’s term ‘selection’. And then he says that selection also happens in the wild, where nature itself does the selecting. Hence ‘natural selection’. Later, Darwin takes exactly the same detour: his Origin-book starts with two chapters about nurseries (selection) and then talks about wild nature (natural selection). Darwin’s argument is a copy of Matthew’s argument.
  • Matthew introduces the term “the natural process of selection”. Darwin speaks about “the process of natural selection”. The same. Plagiarism.
  • Sutton’s new evidence, combined with known facts that he refreshes, leads to his conclusion : not Darwin but Matthew is the originator of the theory of natural selection. All elements of the theory are present in Matthew’s book in 1831, then his insight is spread for three decades by J.C. Loudon, Edward Blyth, Robert Chambers, P.J. Selby, A.R. Wallace and others, all well known to Darwin. Then Darwin copies it, calls it “my theory” and says no one knew Matthew’s book.

There is more, Sutton’s book is a gem. With irony and wit he presents “independently verifiable data” and “fact-based evidence”. Although he repeats some of his points more often than necessary, the conclusion must be : this is brand new science, executed well, on a high-profile subject, and with remarkable results.

De bovenstaande recensie stuurde ik op 31 augustus 2018 naar het blad Bionieuws. Het antwoordde dat het geen Engelstalige kopij plaatst, maar het deed me een aanbod. In het nummer van 8 september 2018 kwam Sutton ter sprake, Bionieuws nodigde mij uit om daarop te reageren, ik kreeg 500 woorden ruimte. Ik stuurde een stukje van 475 woorden, het werd zonder al te veel verminkingen geplaatst. Hieronder volgt dat stukje. De verminkingen zijn hersteld en het is iets uitgebreid :

Ton Munnich


oorspronkelijk in : Bionieuws, jaargang 28 nr. 14 : 22 september 2018, blz. 17

Geachte redactie, in het vorige nummer recenseerde u A.N. Wilson’s boek Darwin, Victorian Mythmaker (2017). Uw recensent oordeelt negatief erover, zoals onder meer blijkt uit de kop boven zijn recensie: “Herijking Darwin ontspoort door nepnieuws”. Dat oordeel is terecht. Wilson’s oppervlakkige Darwin-biografie is door experts van tafel geveegd, hij is een al te productieve veelschrijver met zijn 20 romans en 30 non-fictie boeken. Maar uw recensent gaat een stap verder. Hij veralgemeent zijn afkeuring van Wilson tot een afkeuring van andere kritische auteurs over Darwin, ook hun werk zou “nepnieuws” zijn. Met name bestempelt uw recensent het voortreffelijke werk van Dr. Mike Sutton als nepnieuws. Graag reageer ik daarop.

Eerst een korte kanttekening. De natuurwetenschappen, inclusief biologie, zijn in ontwikkeling en gefocust op de toekomst. Achteruitkijken is niet hun sterke punt. Het lijkt daarom nuttig dat vak-biologen zoals uw recensent in historische kwesties afzien van termen zoals nepnieuws of fake news.

Wie verdient welke credit voor bijdragen aan de evolutieleer? Er is veel discussiestof hierover, debat is wenselijk. Hier een aanzet :
  Het idee natural selection ontstaat in het Verenigd Koninkrijk ongeveer als volgt. In 1831 introduceert Patrick Matthew het idee in een boek over houtproductie. Dat hele boek heeft de natural-selection-aanpak, maar het theoretische destillaat geeft hij nog apart in de appendix. In het diep-anglicaanse Engeland van 1831 is zijn zienswijze taboe, want God speelt geen rol erin. Daarom schaart de Engelse intellectuele elite zich niet openlijk achter het nieuwe inzicht. Wel circuleert dat inzicht vervolgens drie decennia in hun kringen. En dan doet Darwin iets handigs ermee. Hij publiceert het idee opnieuw, maar hij monteert God in het plaatje, als Schepper die het eerste leven inblaast. Zo maakt hij van Matthew’s evolutieleer weer een scheppingsleer, en die is aanvaardbaar voor de anglicaanse kerk. Darwin heeft goede connecties in de kerk, het is zijn peer group. Hij is bachelor theologie en wordt begraven in het anglicaanse hoofdkwartier Westminster Abbey. Deze model-anglicaan wordt voor de Engelsen de man van Natural Selection, de ongelovige Matthew verdwijnt uit beeld. En er is een tweede oorzaak waardoor hij Matthew uit beeld drukt. Matthew is boomkweker in het verre Schotland, zonder voorname connecties, zonder profijtelijk netwerk. Darwin daarentegen is een steenrijke exponent van het victoriaanse Engeland, met uitgebreid netwerk in de Londense elite. Zo verdwijnt Patrick Matthew 150 jaar uit beeld.

Recentelijk hebben twee wetenschappers Matthew gerehabiliteerd. In 1996 verschijnt W.J. Dempster’s boek Natural Selection and Patrick Matthew. Dempster schrijft elegant en erudiet, hij is een waterval van relevante feiten. Zijn conclusie: de primeur van het idee Natural Selection ligt niet bij Darwin maar bij Patrick Matthew.
.. De tweede wetenschapper die Matthew rehabiliteert is plagiaat-onderzoeker dr. Mike Sutton. In 2017 verschijnt de gecorrigeerde tweede editie van zijn boek Nullius in Verba. Sutton’s specialiteit is Big Data. Met die moderne techniek vindt hij samenhangen die Dempster’s betoog bevestigen en aanvullen. Verder wijst hij op de Arago Priority conventie die bepaalt dat bij primeur-conflicten in de wetenschap de voorrang gaat naar degene die het betreffende idee als eerste heeft gepubliceerd. Patrick Matthew publiceerde de theorie van Natural Selection 28 jaar vóór Darwin. Geconfronteerd met dat feit erkent Darwin schriftelijk dat Patrick Matthew hem vóór is geweest. Daarmee is het debat beslist : niet Darwin maar Matthew is de bedenker van Natural Selection. Darwin’s verweer dat hijzelf de theorie bedacht zonder Matthew’s werk te kennen, dus zonder te plagiëren, wordt door Sutton om meerdere redenen afgewezen. Sutton’s conclusie : Darwin heeft het idee niet zelfstandig opnieuw bedacht, hij kende en plagieerde het idee van Matthew.

Hoogste tijd voor een KNAW-symposium met Dr. Mike Sutton als spreker.