As pointed out in this post, he had the nerve to refer to googling as a method of big data analysis, simply because of the slight sophistication in setting Google's options other than to default. These were to search books.google.com, to limit the search to specific periods of time and to search for exact phrases by using quotation marks as in searching for the exact phrase "natural selection." He did not hesitate to call that ostensibly new method Internet Date-detection and had the effrontery to abbreviate it ID.
What are we to expect behind the pompous phrase computer assisted plagiarism analysis of such a scholar? In fact, his Comparative Analysis of Phrase, Prose and Concept relied on computer assisted gut feelings:
"In the quest to discover whether Darwin's and Wallace's versions of natural selection are essentially not Matthew's, I set about looking for key Matthewian concepts, examples and phraseology in the published and unpublished works that comprise Darwin's and Wallace's papers. [...]In determining further evidence of guilt or innocence, the premises of the analysis that informs this chapter are that if on more than one occasion Darwin's and Wallace's key concepts and prose appear too similar to Matthew's to have possibly occurred by chance, then that additional new evidence, combined with evidence from Chapter Four, is sufficient to judge that it is beyond all reasonable doubt that both Darwin and Wallace deliberately and dishonestly plagiarized Matthew's hypothesis. In which case, there can be no rational alternative left other than to conclude that both of these great icons committed the greatest science fraud ever known.A fully systematic, expert, comparative textual analysis is beyond my current abilities and resources. Indeed, I do not know how one might best systematically research this exact question, although I suppose that running NTA and something like my Mega Darwin File through commercially available academic plagiarism checking software, such as Turn-it-in, might be one way to begin. It would be possible for me to try that, especially since my Mega Matthew File includes Matthew's entire hypothesis, and I have another containing the first edition of the Origin, along with Darwin's unpublished essays and other notes. However, I never did conduct such an analysis during the research for this book. Hopefully, in the near future, I or others will explore that particular approach and publish the findings.In the meantime, this chapter presents the results of my more preliminary research on the topic, which made extensive use of Microsoft Word's finder tool within my Mega Darwin File. All apparently relevant findings were triangulated with ID in order to determine the apparent originality of particular key phrases used by Matthew and Darwin. This checking process was vital to avoid the pitfalls of etymological fallacies that might arise by way of my erroneously believing key phrases and words were rare or unique to Matthew." (Sutton 2014, chap. 5, my emphasis)
|While using technology, |
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An apt analogy will save you a lot of headaches over the above quoted explanation of what Sutton has actually done. Suppose three sources contain a statements to the effect that "it is hot!" Sutton will discover these similar statements by letting Word search his sources (actually Darwin, Matthew and Wallace) and he will also use Google, in order to make sure that no other potential sourced (e.g., Wells, Blyth, Chambers) contain that statement. But his analysis will consider no other text before or after these statements that could add any context for interpretation. That way, he will completely miss the fact that the former source referred to the weather and the latter to the spiciness of food.
Here's an example that everybody can access without having to spend money on his abysmal book. In the comments section of the coverage of The Telegraph, Sutton compared Wallace's Sarawak paper with Matthew (1831):
"And there are many more audacious replications to be seen before we are done with Wallace. In the following presentation of them, I believe no further commentary is required. Wallace’s plagiarism unfolds clearly once followed by Matthew’s original text."And, leaving various passages that hardly show any similarity in wording aside, he continues to marshall as evidence of plagiarism the following two passages and concludes:
‘As his hypothesis is one which claims acceptance solely as explaining and connecting facts which exist in nature, he expects facts alone to be brought to disprove it; not à-priori arguments against its probability.’Matthew, (1831):
'As our author's premises thus appear neither self-evident nor supported by facts it might seem unfair at least it would be superfluous to proceed to the consideration of his conclusions and corollaries.'From this simple preliminary comparison of extracts from the Sarawak paper with NTA [Sutton's acronym for Matthew (1831)], it is patently obvious that, three years before he sent his Ternate paper to Darwin, Wallace had plagiarised Matthew’s hypotheses. The similarities in wording, concepts and ideas are too great and too numerous for Wallace to have possibly come up with them independently the Originator." (Sutton in the comments section of the Telegraphs coverage and in 2014, chap. 5)
Even if some reader sees the striking similarity, which I do not, the problem is the context.
Wallace (1855) actually says that he will not accept a priory criticism as could have come from theologians or philosophers, but that he will only accept evidence. For example, closely allied species that are not associated geographically or geologically would serve as evidence contrary to his law. That one can glean from the very paragraphs adjoining the quoted passage.
Matthew (1831, p. 308), however, criticized a long passage from John Loudon, which he had found quoted in Sir Henry Steuart's book on arboriculture and re-quoted himself on pp. 295-298. Matthew criticised this long quote "in limine," that is, he criticises Loudon's assumptions (pp. 298-307). In attacking the particular assumption that pruning up a tree can do any good for it, Matthew (1831, pp. 307-8) works himself up one of the rare rubies in the rubbish of his book, explaining how pruning can only mar the adaptedness of a tree and gushing out with an insight informed by his idea of natural selection:
"The use of the infinite seedling varieties in the families of plants, even in those in a state of nature, differing in luxuriance of growth and local adaptation, seems to be to give one individual (the strongest best circumstance-suited) superiority over others of its kind around, that it may, by overtopping and smothering them, procure room for full extension, and thus afford, at the same time, a continual selection of the strongest, best circumstance-suited, for reproduction. Man's interference, by preventing this natural process of selection among plants, independent of the wider range of circumstances to which he introduces them, has increased the difference in varieties, particularly in the more domesticated kinds; and even in man himself, the greater uniformity, and more general vigour among savage tribes, is referrible to nearly similar selecting law—the weaker individual sinking under the ill treatment of the stronger, or under the common hardship.
As our author's premises thus appear neither self-evident nor supported by facts it might seem unfair at least it would be superfluous to proceed to the consideration of his conclusions and corollaries." (Matthew 1831, p. 307-308)As is clear from this context, the last paragraph beginning with "As our author's premises..." ends a rant against Loudon (or Steuart) and says that Matthew will not even bother to review and criticise the conclusions of this author (Loudon or Steuart), because he found his premises wanting. Admittedly, it is a bit harder to get this context and meaning, because one needs to look 10 pages astern, in order to get it.
Sutton, however, thinks that Matthew was referring to himself as "our author" and mistakes the passage as a modest gesture at why Matthew had appended his main exposition of the idea of natural selection to the appendix.
"Having refuted Darwin’s excuses that Matthew hid his discovery solely in the appendix of NTA, and that both NTA’s title and subject matter were inappropriate to contain unique ideas on organic evolution in the first half of the 19th century, it is perhaps useful to examine why Matthew did put so much of his discovery, and his discussion of its implications, into the appendix. He may have done so for two reasons. It seems likely that he believed it was the right place for a deductively derived hypothesis, as apposed to an inductive theory inspired and supported by sufficient confirmatory empirical evidence. If so, that would explain why he wrote the following in the main body of NTA (Matthew 1831, p. 303):It's sad how, in trying to bust a current myth about Patrick Matthew's obscurity, Sutton creates a super-myth about Darwin's and Wallace's plagiarism. The supermyth buster has fallen into his own trap it seems.
‘As our author's premises thus appear neither self evident, nor supported by facts, it might seem unfair, at least it would be superfluous, to proceed to the consideration of his conclusions and corollaries.’
Those further conclusions and corollaries were saved for the appendix, which may also have been used so extensively because it seemed the appropriate place for heresy." (see Sutton, A Bombshell for the History of Evolutionary Biology, patrickmatthew.com)
Sutton, M. 2014. Nullius in Verba. [Don't buy, it's a waste of money!]