I've just learned that a very nifty old book has been posted at Project Gutenberg: At the Deathbed of Darwinism, by Eberhard Dennert. It was published in 1904, a very interesting period in the history of evolutionary biology, when Haeckel was repudiated, Darwin's pangenesis was seen as a failure, and Mendel's genetics had just been rediscovered, but it wasn't yet clear how to incorporate them into evolutionary theory. In some ways, I can understand how Dennert might have come to some of the conclusions he did, but still … it's a masterpiece of confident predictions that flopped. It ranks right up there with bumblebees can't fly, rockets won't work in a vacuum, and no one will ever need more than 640K of RAM…he specifically predicts that 'Darwinism' will be dead and abandoned within ten years, by 1910.
Today, at the dawn of the new century, nothing is more certain than that Darwinism has lost its prestige among men of science. It has seen its day and will soon be reckoned a thing of the past. A few decades hence when people will look back upon the history of the doctrine of Descent, they will confess that the years between 1860 and 1880 were in many respects a time of carnival; and the enthusiasm which at that time took possession of the devotees of natural science will appear to them as the excitement attending some mad revel.
Continue reading "Dennert and the deathbed of Darwinism" (on Pharyngula)