Soren Lovtrup

Darwin was not without his critics. In his book, Darwinism: The Refutation of a Myth, Soren Lovtrup points out that "some critics turned against Darwin's teachings for religious reasons, but they were a minority; most of his opponents ... argued on a completely scientific basis." He goes on to explain:

"...the reasons for rejecting Darwin's proposal were many, but first of all that many innovations cannot possibly come into existence through accumulation of many small steps, and even if they can, natural selection cannot accomplish it, because incipient and intermediate stages are not advantageous."

Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873)

" (of Darwin's Origin of Species) I laughed at till my sides were almost sore..."

"...I have read your book with more pain than pleasure. Parts of it I admired greatly, parts I laughed at till my sides were almost sore; other parts I read with absolute sorrow, because I think them utterly false and grievously mischievous. You have deserted—after a start in that tram-road of all solid physical truth—the true method of induction, and started us in machinery as wild, I think, as Bishop Wilkins's locomotive that was to sail with us to the moon. Many of your wide conclusions are based upon assumptions which can neither be proved nor disproved, why then express them in the language and arrangement of philosophical induction?

“But I must in the first place observe that Darwin's theory is not inductive,—not based on a series of acknowledged facts pointing to a general conclusion,—not a proposition evolved out of the facts, logically, and of course including them. To use an old figure, I look on the theory as a vast pyramid resting on its apex, and that apex a mathematical point."

But I cannot conclude without expressing my detestation of the theory, because of its unflinching materialism;—because it has deserted the inductive track, the only track that leads to physical truth;—because it utterly repudiates final causes, and therby indicates a demoralized understanding on the part of its advocates. 

The Spectator, 1860
from David L. Hull,
Darwin and His Critics
. The Reception of Darwin's Theory of Evolution by the Scientific Community,
Harvard University Press, 1973, pages 155-170

St. George Mivart

Perhaps the most formidable of Darwin's critics was St. George Mivart. His major book, On the Genesis of Species, took aim at the notion that natural selection could account for the accumulation of the incipient stages of useful structures (Mivart, 1871). Stephen Jay Gould notes that

"Darwin offered strong, if grudging, praise and took Mivart far more seriously than any other critic...Mivart gathered, and illustrated "with admirable art and force" (Darwin's words), all objections to the theory of natural selection---"a formidable array" (Darwin's words again). Yet one particular theme, urged with special attention by Mivart, stood out as the centerpiece of his criticism. It remains today the primary stumbling block among thoughtful and friendly scrutinizers of Darwinism. No other criticism seems so troubling, so obviously and evidently "right" (against a Darwinian claim that seems intuitively paradoxical and improbable).

Mivart awarded this criticism a separate chapter in his book, right after the introduction. He also gave it a name, remembered ever since. He called it "The Incompetency of 'Natural Selection' to account for the Incipient Stages of Useful Structures." If this phrase sounds like a mouthful, consider the easy translation: we can readily understand how complex and full developed structures work and owe their maintenance and preservation to natural selection---a wing, an eye, the resemblance of a bittern to a branch or of an insect to a stick or dead leaf. But how do you get from nothing to such an elaborate something if evolution must proceed through a long sequence of intermediate stages, each favored by natural selection? You can't fly with 2% of a wing or gain much protection from an iota's similarity with a potentially concealing piece of vegetation. How, in other words, can natural selection explain these incipient stages of structures that can only be used (as we now observe them) in much more elaborated form?"

Gould goes on to point out that among the difficulties of Darwinian theory "one point stands high above the rest: the dilemma of incipient stages. Mivart identified this problem as primary and it remains so today."

Note: Mivart's criticism that natural selection was incompetent to account for the incipient stages of useful structure is an understatement. In fact, the history of life on Earth lacks any evidence for incipient stages of useful structures. Statis is natural. Natural selection actually explains why major evolutionary change does not occur on a gradual step-by-step basis and is the foundation for a new Theory of Conservation or Macrostasis.

Louis Agassiz

"Between two successive geological periods, changes have taken place among plants and animals. But none of those primordial forms of life which naturalists call species, are known to have changed during any of these periods. It cannot be denied that the species of different successive periods are supposed by some naturalists to derive their distinguishing features from changes which have taken place in those of preceding ages, but this is a mere supposition, supported neither by physiological nor by geological evidence; and the assumption that animals and plants may change in a similar manner during one and the same manner is equally gratuitous."

Louis Agassiz
Contributions to Natural History: Essay on Classification, p. 51.

Louis Agassiz

"...Have they (geologists) found fossil remains which they can prove to belong to the progenitors of the eagle, or of the horse, or of the donkey, or the whale--of any creature, in short from a mouse or a mole up to a man? I am aware, indeed, that fossil remains of animals thought to resemble the horse have been found, but Mr. Darwin might as easily prove that the donkey is descended from the dromedary, as that the horses of the present day are descended from the Hippotherium...Why is it...that naturalists do not come into light of existing facts, and point out to us some other living species? They know that existing facts would not bear them out. Hence they grope their way, by the aid of fossil bones, millions of ages back into the past; and there, amid its pitchy darkness, they fancy they see the desired transformations taking place."

"...What, then, is the sum of the changes which Mr. Darwin is able to point to within the historic period as tending to prove his hypothesis? It amounts absolutely to nothing. ...There are...many animals living now which can be compared with their progenitors of the 3,000th generation back. Can Mr. Darwin show, then, in the case of any one of them, that, by successive variations accumulated during 3,000 generations, it has sensibly advanced towards some higher form? Can he show that 3,000 generations have, in any instance, done aught towards proving the truth of his hypothesis? It appears that he cannot point to a single such case as yielding him support. 3,000 generations have done literally nothing for his hypothesis, If so, neither would 30,000, nor 300,000; for,...if you multiply nothing by a million it will be nothing still."

"There are...absolutely no facts either in the records of geology, or in the history of the past, or in the experience of the present, that can be referred to as proving evolution, or the development of one species from another by selection of any kind whatever."

"Those who accept Mr. Darwin's account of the descent of man must accept along with it not a little that is, if possible, even more incredible. For example, while a certain monkey race has, by a series of insensible gradations, occurring during a period of enormous length, developed into man, other monkey races, during a yet longer period, have remained monkeys, making no progress whatever! Mr. Darwin, I presume, would maintain that at least half a million of years have passed since man emerged into humanity from the last of his ape-like progenitors How far remote, then, must be the time when the ape from which man has descended, branched away from the stem of the Old World monkeys! But during this period - so long that, to us, it is practically an eternity--Old World monkeys have remained Old World monkeys, with the solitary exception of that wonderful member of the ancient series of the Primates, with his plastic frame, of which Mr. Darwin catches "an obscure glance" through the dim vista of ages."
Source: Lyon, William Penman, Home (?) versus Darwin, an (?) Examination of Statements Recently Published by Mr. Darwin Regarding the Descent of Man. London, Hamilton, Adams and Co., 1871, pp. 29, 138-139, 140, 145.

Agassiz, Elizabeth C. (Ed.).
Louis Agassiz, His Life and Correspondence
Cambridge, Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1893. p. 647.

Wolfgang Smith

"The point, however, is that the doctrine of evolution has swept the world, not on the strength of its scientific merits, but precisely in its capacity as a Gnostic myth. It affirms, in effect, that living beings created themselves, which is, in essence, a metaphysical claim.... Thus, in the final analysis, evolutionism is in truth a metaphysical doctrine decked out in scientific garb."


Lynn Margulis

Lynn Margulis says that history will ultimately judge neo-Darwinism as "a minor twentieth-century religious sect within the sprawling religious persuasion of Anglo-Saxon biology."


Michael Denton

"Ultimately the Darwinian theory of evolution is no more nor less than the great cosmogenic myth of the twentieth century. Like the Genesis based cosmology which it replaced, and like the creation myths of ancient man, it satisfies the same deep psychological need for an all embracing explanation for the origin of the world which has-motivated all the cosmogenic myth makers of the past, from the shamans of primitive peoples to the ideologues of the medieval church. The truth is that despite the prestige of evolutionary theory and the tremendous intellectual effort directed towards reducing living systems to the confines of Darwinian thought, nature refuses to be imprisoned. In the final analysis we still know very little about how new forms of life arise. The "mystery of mysteries" - the origin of new beings on earth - is still largely as enigmatic as when Darwin set sail on the Beagle."


Richard Owen

“But do the facts of actual organic nature square with the Darwinian hypothesis? Are all the recognised organic forms of the present date, so differentiated, so complex, so superior to conceivable primordial simplicity of form and structure, as to testify to the effects of Natural Selection continuously operating through untold time? Unquestionably not. The most numerous living beings now on the globe are precisely those which offer such a simplicity of form and structure, as best agrees, and we take leave to affirm can only agree, with that ideal prototype from which, by any hypothesis of natural law, the series of vegetable and animal life might have diverged.”

'Individuals, it is said, of every species, in a state of nature annually perish,' and 'the survivors will be, for the most part, those of the strongest constitutions and the best adapted to provide for themselves and offspring, under the circumstances in which they exist.' Now, let us test the applicability of this postulate to the gradual mutation of a specific form by some instance in Natural History eminently favourable for the assumed results. In many species nature has superadded to general health and strength particular weapons and combative instincts, which, as, e.g., in the deer-tribe, insure to the strongest, to the longest-winded, the largest-antlered, and the sharpest-snagged stages, the choice of the hinds and the chief share in the propagation of the next generation. In such peculiarly gifted species we have the most favourable conditions for testing one of the conclusions drawn by Messrs. Darwin and Wallace from this universally recognised 'struggle for the preservation of life and kind.' If the offspring inheriting the advantages of their parents, did in their turn, however slightly and gradually, increase those advantages and give birth to a still more favoured progeny, with repetition of the result to the degree required by 'natural selection,'-then, according to the rate of modification experimentally proved in pigeons, we ought to find evidence of progressive increase in the combative qualities of antlers in those deer that for centuries have been under observation in our parks, and still more so in those that have fought and bred from the earliest historical times in the mountain wilds of Scotland. The element of 'natural selection' above illustrated, either is, or is not, a law of nature. If it be one, the results should be forthcoming; more especially in those exceptional cases in which nature herself has superadded structures, as it were expressly to illustrate the consequences of such 'general struggle of the life of the individual and the continuance of the race.' (43) The antlers of deer are expressly given to the male, and permitted to him, in fighting trim, only at the combative sexual season; they fall and are renewed annually; they belong moreover to the most plastic and variable parts or appendages of the quadruped. Is it then a fact that the fallow-deer propagated under these influences in Windsor Forest, since the reign of William Rufus, now manifest in the superior condition of the antlers, as weapons, that amount and kind of change which the succession of generations under the influence of 'natural selection' ought to have produced? Do the crowned antlers of the red deer of the nineteenth century surpass those of the turbaries and submerged forest-lands which date back long before the beginning of our English History? Does the variability of the artificially bred pigeon or of the cultivated cabbage outweigh, in a philosophical consideration of the origin of species, those obstinate evidences of persistence of specific types and of inherent limitation of change of character, however closely the seat of such characters may be connected with the 'best chance of taking care of self and of begetting offspring?' If certain bounds to the variability of specific characters be a law in nature, we then can see why the successive progeny of the best antlered deer, proved to be best by wager of battle, should never have exceeded the specific limit assigned to such best possible antlers under that law of limitation. If unlimited variability by 'natural selection' be a law, we ought to see some degree of its operation in the peculiarly favourable test-instance just quoted.

Mr. Darwin asks, 'How is it that varieties, which I have called incipient species, become ultimately good and distinct species?' To which we rejoin with the question:--Do they become good and distinct species? Is there any one instance proved by observed facts of such transmutation? We have searched the volume in vain for such. When we see the intervals that divide most species from their nearest congeners, in the recent and especially the fossil series, we either doubt the fact of progressive conversion, or, as Mr. Darwin remarks in his letter to Dr. Asa Gray, one's 'imagination must fill up very wide blanks.'

Richard Owen
'Darwin on the Origin of Species'
Edinburgh Review, 3, 1860, pp. 487-532.

Pierre Paul Grasse

"Today our duty is to destroy the myth of evolution, considered as a simple, understood, and explained phenomenon which keeps rapidly unfolding before us. Biologists must be encouraged to think about the weaknesses and extrapolations that theoreticians put forward or lay down as established truths. The deceit is sometimes unconscious, but not always, since some people, owing to their sectarianism, purposely overlook reality and refuse to acknowledge the inadequacies and falsity of their beliefs."