An examination of the Todd Charles Wood Paper
By Danzil Monk
In 2009 Todd Charles Wood published a paper that was featured in the Answers in Genesis's Answers Research Journal. Answers in Genesis is a major creationist organization and one of my favorite anti-evolution sources.
The published paper both examined and exposed the Roy Davies book "The Darwin Conspiracy" as an unreliable proof of a Darwin conspiracy. This article is an examination of the Todd C. Wood paper.
My goal in this brief examination is not to argue either for or against the Darwin conspiracy, though I have my convictions that there is indeed a conspiracy of some sort, I will reserve that opinion for another time. My goal here is to examine the paper of Todd C. Wood to see if indeed he has been as efficient as he could have been in his effort to dispel the Darwin conspiracy idea and if indeed he has, as he seems to claim by his title and conclusion, accomplished his goal.
I must state by way of disclaimer, that this article is not an attempt to attack Todd C. Wood or Answers in genesis. I respect and value both as important and dedicate sources of Christian defense and life and hope that my comments will be received only as an effort to gain clarity and get closer to the truth.
I have contacted both Todd Wood and Answers in Genesis before making this review public.
Top representatives from Answers in Genesis have informed me that contrary to the claims of the atheist evolutionists who referred me to the paper, it's inclusion in the 2009 AiG Research Journal was not and endorsement of its content by AiG. I was informed that the Journal's function is to provide a place where Christians can discuss their differing views and perspectives. Naturally I was relieved to hear that.
As for Brother Todd Wood, I contacted him on January 31, 2013 via email and requested an interview with him to discuss his work with CORE and his paper "There is No Darwin Conspiracy". He asked that I send him a list of my questions and said we could do the interview the same week. I complied by sending him a brief list of twelve questions, all but one of which are the ones I have raised in this paper. I have not heard from Brother Wood since then. I can only assume that his situation with CORE and other more pressing matters has prevented him from getting back to me, indeed, he has our prayers.
Because of the importance of this matter I feel that I should not delay any longer, however should Brother Wood contact me and consent to the interview, I will certainly update this report.
I should also mention that I have challenged every evolutionists who has attempted used the Todd Wood paper against me in our dialogues, to defend its credibility and they were unwilling to do so. When I inquired as to why they would use a paper that they could not defend, they would only say that it was reliable and go no further. It is for this reason only that I decided to write this review, so that other creationists in dialogue with desperate evolutionists who will say anything to win an argument, will be able to avoid being tied up on the subject of the Todd Wood paper.
The January 28, 2009 paper as it appeared in the Answers Research Journal opens with the following abstract:
"Roy Davies's book The Darwin Conspiracy contends that Charles Darwin plagiarized his theory of evolution from Edward Blyth, Patrick Matthew, and especially Alfred Russell Wallace. In support of these contentions, Davies offers evidence of similar terminology between Darwin and Blyth/Matthew and mail delivery schedules that allowed Darwin to take advantage of Wallace's letters about evolution. Careful scrutiny of Davies's claims finds them lacking credibility. The similar terminology between Darwin and Blyth/Matthew are inconclusive. Darwin could have derived the incriminating words from other sources. The mail schedules presented by Davies are unverifiable since the letters in question are no longer extant. Given the weakness of Davies's argument, Darwin is unlikely to have plagiarized any component of his theory of evolution by natural selection."
In all honest, I have to say that after reading the paper, I found it difficult to fully accept that it was presented without bias towards Darwin doubters. Not only because of the title and the comments in the abstract but also for other reasons that will be addressed later. But here in the abstract I was particularly concerned about the way he worded his comment, what he left out and the conclusions he clearly draws.
Notice carefully that while he includes Alfred Russell Wallace (with emphasis) as one Davies claims Darwin plagiarized, supported by "evidence" of similar terminology in the opening list of the abstract, he strangely leaves out Wallace when stating his conclusion.
"The similar terminology between Darwin and Blyth/Matthew are inconclusive."
The fact is that there are several sources that point out the clear similarity between Darwin's Origin of Species and the writings of Wallace, and that believe that there is a case against Darwin, including A.C. Brackman whom Wood's does mention in his list of references but does not reference any of his material in this paper. And John L. Brooks, whom again Wood also lists in his reverences but does not reverence any of his material, not even "Just Before the Origins" which deals in detail with the Darwin Wallace matter.
Wood continues by stating,
"Darwin could have derived the incriminating words from other sources."
Which is indeed possible, but what concerns me is that he gives no thought or acknowledgement to the fact that Darwin could have also got his words from Wallace or any of the others he was accused of copying. Why he neglects to acknowledge this is never explained.
Finally, Wood states:
"Given the weakness of Davies's argument, Darwin is unlikely to have plagiarized any component of his theory of evolution by natural selection."
This kind of comment seems to me to be unmerited, unless Roy Davies was the authority on the matter, which he clearly is not. For Wood to speak as if Davies's failure to defend his claims is final proof that Darwin was guiltless of the plagiarism charge; is not only premature but unreasonable. Since there are others who leveled the same kind of charges against Darwin who were quite intelligent and persuasive, Wood would have done well to at least include commentary on them as well before proclaiming the innocence of Darwin. At the least, he could have simply stated that based on what Davies has presented, it seem as if there is not sufficient evidence to establish a Darwin conspiracy.
I would be fine with a claim that Roy Davies's work (which Wood obviously has studied), does not conclusively support the accusations against Darwin, (which on several points I think Wood proves quite convincingly), but that is not what Wood is claiming here. It seen that by refuting some of the arguments of Davies, all accusations leveled against Darwin concerning his unacknowledged borrowing are therefore rendered baseless. With that I have a problem.
Don't misunderstand me, it is quite possible that Wood has indeed read everything available about this issue and has determined based on what he has examined that Darwin is innocent of all such charges, but that is not indicated in the paper. Not only does Wood not make the claim that he has read all the arguments and examined all the available evidence, but he does not even reference several key witnesses against Darwin. In addition to overwhelmingly referencing those sources that were favorable to Darwin, Wood seems to directly reference few sources that are hostile to Darwin. And when he does use such sources, he does not seem to focus on their most incriminating arguments against Darwin. For example, Wood makes use of H.L. Mckinney to address the letter dating issue but says nothing about Mckinney's claim that Darwin did indeed copy Wallace. Nor does he mention Mckenney's Ph D thesis opinion that Wallace was five years ahead of Darwin on evolution.
A.C. Brackman is listed in his reference list but I did not see any use of Brackman in the paper. Yet Brackman also accused Darwin of plagiarizing Wallace with the help of two eminent scientific friends (Lyell and Hooker).
Samuel Butler, a contemporary of Darwin also accused him of failing to acknowledge those whose work he borrowed from. And according to Steven J. Gould, Darwin was silent about the accusations.
John Langdon Brooks is also listed in wood's reference list, but yet again he fails to make use Brooks in his paper or engage any of Brook's claims against Darwin, which are formidable.
Incidentally, Brooks does some extensive investigative work on the Darwin/Wallace matter in his book "Just Before the Origins: Alfred Russell Wallace's Theory of Evolution. (1984).
Additionally, while engaging Davies's claims, Wood seems to spend far too much time on the word "inosculate" use issue which could have been established with a few quick references, yet Wood uses quite a bit of space to drive the point home that Davies and his source Eiseley were incorrect in their claim that Darwin got the word from Blyth. It seems to me that much of the time Wood spent putting this argument to rest could have been used for some of the details Wood states "have unfortunately been omitted for the sake of brevity", including Davies's claim that Darwin admitted after reading Wallaces's 1856 paper, that he feared his own ideas were outdated. (Davies, pg 68).
While delving into his refutation of Darwin's borrowing the word "inosculate" from Blyth, Wood makes use of Darwin's grandfather Erasmus's work while ignoring the well documented arguments that Darwin also borrowed from the work of his grandfather without giving any credit to him.
I also found the following statement of concern:
"The only remaining evidences of Darwin's alleged theft of Blyth's natural selection are nine instances of parallel terminology in Blyth's paper and Darwin's essay of 1844 and Origin (for detailed references, see Eiseley 1959). Schwartz (1974) does not deal with these particular instances, probably because they are generally unremarkable"…….
"These nine instances of parallels between Blyth and Darwin are hardly conclusive evidence of plagiarism. One can easily imagine that some of these parallels came from common secondary sources and even from the folk wisdom of the day. Furthermore, the three slightly substantive parallels do not relate directly to the issue of natural selection, which is the alleged object of Darwin's theft."
My concern is not with the possibility of Wood's conclusions being correct, but with his failure to even acknowledge that he could be wrong. There is no indication that the use of the nine instances of parallel terminology could not have been the result of borrowing. Yet he gives no reason why this is not possible. Wood seems to be going out of his way to trivialize even the possibility of any connection.
When Wood asks:
"As Darwin sought for an explanation of the origin of new species, how could he take inspiration from an essay arguing the opposite of his own views?"
I have to wonder if he really does not think that by studying an opposing view one can gain a better understanding and ideas of one's current trend of thought. It is common knowledge that attempting to refute one's own views is the best way to determine their strengths and weaknesses.
Concerning Patrick Matthew, Wood again suggests that differences negate any possible dependence:
"A close examination of the two passages in question reveals that the alleged dependence of Darwin on Matthew is due to a misreading. Since both authors discussed the protection from selection afforded by human cultivation of trees, it is easy to overlook the differences. Matthew's passage means that by protecting trees and preventing natural selection from working, the varieties of trees have been made more different from each other than they would otherwise be. In contrast, Darwin claimed that the release from natural selection has led to the occurrence of more variation among tree offspring than in nature. Matthew noted that protection from selection can lead to the establishment of very different varieties, while Darwin merely noted that release from selection leads to wider variation among individual trees than is apparent in nature. These differences render dubious the idea of direct dependence of Darwin on Matthew.…"
"Given the great differences in their understanding of natural selection, the accusation of plagiarism against Darwin is unlikely."
I am not clear as to why Wood insists that lack of direct similarity in wording or conclusion, negates any kind of possibility of dependence, yet at the same time he is sure that:
"As to the phrase "natural selection" itself, one can hardly sustain a case of plagiarism based on two words, even such important words as these. The analogy with artificial selection that dominated Darwin's thinking for so long immediately suggests "natural selection" as a logical expression for Darwin's idea. He hardly needed to steal it from Matthew."
It appears to me that he has just argued in both directions.
Under the heading: Revising the Journal of Researches Wood states:
"Of all of Davies's claims, this one is the oddest. Davies implied that when Darwin revised the Journal of Researches in 1845, he inserted material into the book to make it seem as if Darwin had pondered the question of evolution while still aboard the Beagle. According to Davies, Darwin "completely rewrote his original Galapagos entries to take in the new ideas and information . . . giving a distorted picture of how the Galapagos had struck him on the voyage ten years before" (p. 36)."
Wood then gives this interpretation of the above point:
"The crux of this claim is the idea that Journal of Researches was intended to represent a journal or diary kept by Darwin while aboard the Beagle. This is erroneous. In the original 1839 edition, Darwin wrote in the preface, "The present volume contains in the form of a journal, a sketch of those observations in Geology and Natural History, which I thought would possess some general interest" [emphasis added] (Darwin 1839, p. viii). In the revised edition, Darwin indicated that he "largely condensed and corrected some parts, and have added a little to others, in order to render the volume more fitted for popular reading" [emphasis added] (Darwin 1845, p. v). Darwin made no pretense that the original edition was any kind of faithful transcription of notes made during the voyage, and he made no effort to conceal the fact that he added material to the revised edition."
Perhaps it is me, but these two sections don't seem to match. What Wood says is the "crux of the claim Davies is making is not what he says Davies has said.
The argument Davies seems to be making was not simply that Darwin revised the document and pretended not to have done so; but that he revised it in order to give the impression that he had begun to consider evolution while still on the H.M.S. Beagle.
Because Darwin did not say it was a faithful transcript of notes made during the Beagle voyage, does not negate the possible intention (from what he wrote in his revision), to give the impression that he considered evolution while still on the Beagle.
Wood seems to be going out of his way to minimize the legitimacy of Davies's claim on this point.
Again, I could be misreading something in this and I am willing to be corrected.
Under the title "Divergence" Wood gives suggested reading:
"Likewise, in responding to earlier claims of Darwin's intellectual theft, Beddall (1988) uncovered ideas about divergence in Darwin's writings that significantly preceded his interactions with Wallace. For an excellent review of Darwin's principle of divergence, readers should consult Kohn's (2009) essay, "Darwin's Keystone: The Principle of Divergence." Before reviewing Darwin's development of divergence, it will be helpful to discuss the significance of divergence to the evolutionary argument."
Naturally, I have no objection to his doing so, but I do find it interesting that he does not suggest John L. Brooks's "Just Before the Origin" which deals with the Darwin/Wallace Divergence matter in detail. One example is on pages 210-212 in which Brooks makes use of the Gray letter to demonstrate that, contrary to claims of Lyell and Hooker, Darwin not only had a different theory on divergence from Wallace, but that Darwin was clearly lacking in his understanding and Wallace was more developed. Brooks also details evidence of the copying of Wallace by Darwin in other areas of the book, even going so far as to investigate the mail system and timing of mail travel back then in order to establish the possible dishonest acknowledgement by Darwin of when he actually received Wallace's manuscript. Additionally, Brooks and others make note of Darwin's questionable date claims to gain priority over Wallace, and yet Brooks and others are ignored.
Finally, in his conclusion, Wood states:
"Conspiracy theorists also tend to conveniently ignore legitimate criticisms."
While I agree, I must point out that Wood's failure to acknowledge legitimate criticisms against Charles Darwin, does not make a good case for his claim to be presenting:
"a genuine attempt to discover the truth"
I was concerned by the absence of even a brief criticism of Darwin's "science" and its effect on society. The paper comes across as a pro-Darwin piece that extols the values of Darwin's ideas without stating any fault with Darwin.
Having read it, I now understand why so many atheists and evolutionists that I have been in dialogue with has at some point referenced it as proof from a creationists that Darwin is not guilty of any possible unacknowledged borrowing or plagiarism and that Charles Darwin was indeed a great scientist.
So my concern with Todd C. Wood's paper, (while I love and respect him), is that he chose to title it "There Is No Darwin Conspiracy" and then proceeded to partly refute the claims and arguments of Roy Davies without demonstrating that Roy Davies was the top contender as the primary opponent of Darwin's integrity.
He then concluded by stating emphatically that there is no Darwin conspiracy. Based on his paper, I feel that this conclusion was premature and his failure to mention or acknowledge any problem with Darwinian evolution is unfortunate.
It would have been more acceptable and even prudent if Brother Wood had chosen another title such as "Challenging the Darwin Conspiracy according to Roy Davies" and concluded by saying something to the affect that, having demonstrated that Roy Davies was carless with his sources and claims, and had a history of propagating unsubstantiated conspiracies, a Darwin Conspiracy cannot be substantiated by relying on the works of Roy Davies.
Including a comment about the fallacy of Darwinian and neo-Darwinian evolution and the false science that Mr. Darwin accepted and propagated so as to make it clear that the paper was not an attempt to glorify Darwinian "science" would have been wise as well. Failure to do so gives the impression that Darwin was above error or unethical behavior. It is certainly no secret that prominent men of science have been known to practice unethical deed in an effort to succeed in the science community. And it is well known that Darwin was wrong about many things that he taught as science.
As it stands, "There Is No Darwin Conspiracy", while useful, leaves much to be desired as a credible examination of the Darwin conspiracy. To borrow some of Brother Todd Wood's words with my own flip, "given the weakness of Wood's argument, Darwin is unlikely not to have plagiarized any component of his theory of evolution by natural selection."
I am still awaiting an interview opportunity with Brother Todd C. Wood, but the reports are that he has been quite busy with transition. However, should he contact me, I will be sure to update this paper.
I look forward to your comments.
 Dr. Jerry Bergman, The Dark Side of Charles Darwin, pg 150
 Darwin Vindicated! Pg. 36
 Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, Acquiring Genomes: A Theory of the Origin of Species (NY: Basic Books, 2002), p. 27.
 David Quamman, The Kiwi's Eggs: Charles Darwin & Natural Selection (London Weidenfeld &Nicolson, 2007).
 BETRAYERS OF THE TRUTH Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science by William Broad and Nicholas Wade