Linaeus and Evolution

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During creation debate at a university in Guelph Canada, contenders Dr Steven Haller and colleagues claimed in the question time that Linnaeus, the creationist inventor of the Biological Classification System became an evolutionist at the end of his life. As we had no time to refute this claim during the debate, our Canadian colleague Ian Taylor (Author of In the Minds of Men) replies, referencing Himmelfarb, Gertrude. 1968. Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution N.Y. WW Norton & Co., First ed.1959. 509 pages, notes, bibliography, index; and Gillispie, Charles Coulson ed.1973. "Dictionary of Scientific Biography. N.Y. Charles Scribner & Sons. Vol8, page374 - 381.) "

Taylor states: the source of the oft-quoted notion that Carl Von Linne (Linnaeus), 1707-1778 abandoned creation and took to evolution is a statement from the author Himmelfarb, p.170.
"It is one of the ironies of history that Linnaeus' classification of species should in large part prevail today, surviving so long the assumption upon which it was based, that of the immutability of species. It is also ironic that his famous dictum -'the number of species is the same as the number of forms created from the beginning' - which has come down as the classical expression of immutability, was retracted by Linnaeus himself within a decade of its publication. Confronted with the evidence of a hybrid [Linaria vulgaris] form that could reproduce itself, Linnaeus was finally forced to concede that, 'it is possible for new species to arise within the plant world,' and thus 'the basis for all botanical science, and the natural classification of plants [is] exploded."

Himmelfarb gives as her source of the last quote above as:
Hagberg, Knut. Carl Linnaeus. Translated by Alan Blair. London, 1952, quoting from Linnaeus' Dissertation on Peloris, 1744.

The facts, however, are given in Gillispie, vol 8 p.377
"Linnaeus' botanical ideas changed over the years on an important point he was forced to relinquish confidence in the constancy of the number of species. In Peloria (1744, quoted above) he described a monstrous form of Linaria vulgaris that he wrongly interpreted as a hybrid between Linaria and a completely different plant. He thereafter held that new plant species could develop through hybridization (See Plantae hybridae, 1751) and reached the daring conclusion that within every genus only one species had originally been created and that new species had developed in time through hybridization of the mother species with species of other genera. This concept was based upon a peculiar theory, traceable to Cesalpino, concerning the 'marrow' and the 'bark.'
Here follows a long description of this peculiar theory, and the author concludes:
“the theory, although interesting as an attempt to approach a genetic kinship concept, has nothing to do with a theory of evolution in the modern, Darwinian sense of the word."

Taylor continues: My comments here are that Linnaeus knew nothing about genetics and information theory. Had he been living today he may well realize that populations of plants, like animals, can be divided and the incomplete gene pool in each of the two sub-populations can continue to lose genetic information. The result after a number of generations can be that the two sub-populations may change in appearance, especially if they occupy different environments. The individuals may be regarded as plants of two different genus and when crossed a new "species" is formed. This would not be true however, as the two plants were initially from the same gene pool and thus likely of the same kind i.e. they had a common ancestor. If the two sub-population are isolated for a sufficiently long time with greater loss of genetic information, crossing may produce infertile offspring or no offspring at all. This is not evolution as Darwinists claim but simply the loss of ability to reproduce. The same thing happens within a few short years to a married couple!

Finally, Gillispie p.379
"Linnaeus was a complicated man. His enormous scientific production was supported by a self-esteem almost without parallel. He considered his published works to be unblemished masterpieces; no one had ever been a greater botanist or zoologist. Unable to [p.380] accept criticism he sulked like a child ... Yet Linnaeus also could radiate an overpowering charm, and almost all of his students loved him. ... His view of nature was deeply religious; central to all his work was God's omnipotence. He never deviated from the devout physicotheology that was widespread in the eighteenth century, but he stamped it with his peculiar sense of mystery and wonder. 'I saw,' he wrote in the introduction to the later editions of Systema naturae, 'the infinite, all-knowing and all-powerful God from behind as He went away and I grew dizzy. I followed His footsteps over nature's fields and saw everywhere an eternal wisdom and power, an inscrutable perfection.' "

Editorial Comment: Linnaeus' original assumption was that his concept of species was the same as the Genesis kind hence if kinds were fixed so were his species. He was wrong, but it was too late. His popularity ensured that his first mistake became entrenched as Creationist doctrine, thus paving the way for the population to accept Darwin's proof that if he could use the Galapagos Finches to show species aren't fixed, and therefore the Bible is proven wrong. How important it is to not elevate Christian speculation about science to the same authority as God's Word. Now that Evolution is so popular, the fact that Darwin was totally wrong about the Galapagos Finches is blithely ignored.