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of natural selection, and expresses the situational logic pointed out by Popper. If the idea of natural selection is the "best idea anyone ever had" then there are a number of people that should be given a lot more prominence in the history of science because the idea of natural selection was not new with, or exclusive to, Darwin.

Among the most clearly documented "discoverers" of the "best idea anyone ever had" were Matthew (1831/1971), who is marginalized as a historical curiosity in Dennett's book, and Wallace (1858) who is mentioned in a brief section. Others on the list who advanced the idea of natural selection prior to Darwin and receive no mention in Darwin's Dangerous Idea include Blyth (e.g., 1835) who wrote various articles on heredity, variation and selection between 1835 and 1837, and the French botanist Naudin (1852) who made the comparison, as Darwin did later, to the "artifical selection" peformed by human breeders. A number of scholars have questioned whether Darwin's discovery of natural selection was truly independent of these earlier sources or whether, in fact, he copied, without citing, one or more of them (e.g., see Darlington, 1961; Eisley, 1979; Løvtrup, 1987). In general, there is no conclusive evidence to ground the charges.

As soon as Darwin published the idea of natural selection, however, Matthew came forward publicly in print to claim priority to the idea. Darwin acknowledged that Matthew had been first but said he had not been aware of Matthew's work when he arrived at the idea. The "adaptive disposition of life," Matthew (1831/1971, p. 36) had written some three decades before the publication of the Origin, is the result of "the extreme fecundity of nature...a prolific power (in many cases thousandfold) much beyond what it is necessary to fill up the vacancies...As the field of existence is limited and pre-occupied, it is only the hardier, the more robust...[who survive] the struggle...[Those with] superior adaptation and power of occupancy...come forward to maturity from the strict ordeal by which Nature tests their adaptation...and fitness to continue their kind by reproduction". The issue of whether Darwin knew of Matthew's work before he started writing about the idea may impossible to prove one way or the other, but what cannot be denied is that Matthew, among others, certainly had the "best idea anyone ever had," and he had it before Darwin.

Dennett mentions Alfred Wallace (1858), who is a bit harder to marginalize than Matthew and some of the others who are not mentioned since he published the theory of natural selection at the same time and in the same place as Darwin. It was after Wallace's work came to light that Darwin's version was rushed to press through the efforts of his influential and wealthy circle of friends and published with Wallace's after a joint presentation to the Linnean Society. Dennett fails to mention some important points with respect to the differences between Darwin and Wallace, however. What is of interest here with respect to retrospectively making Darwin the one-man center of the evolution revolution, which by the now current Darwinian view, as previously discussed, is based on the idea of evolution by natural selection, is that while Wallace held strictly to the idea of natural selection as the core explanatory concept of adaptive evolution, Darwin increasingly separated himself from it.

In particular, as time went on Darwin turned increasingly away from natural selection and more towards Lamarck's idea of adaptation through the inheritance of acquired characters following the use and disuse of parts. "No one", thus, including Lamarck, wrote Darwin, in a letter to Nature in 1880, promoting himself, in effect, as the leading proponent of Lamarckian inheritence, "has given more examples of this than I have" (Huxley, 1982, p. 6). In contemporary Darwinism the theory of acquired characters is typically used to distinguish "Darwinism" (the "correct" theory) from "Lamarckism" (the "incorrect" theory) and at the same time discredit Lamarck who, as mentioned above, advanced his theory of adaptive evolution well before Darwin. The distinction is also used, as noted above, to disredit other key players such as Spencer for the same reason. But if rejecting Lamarkism is part of what makes a Darwinian a Darwinian, then between Darwin and Wallace it was Wallace who, in rejecting Lamarkian inheritance and remaining loyal to the idea of natural selection, was the true selectionist and thus the true "Darwinian" of the two. An argument could be developed, on this basis, that if contemporary evolutionary theory going under the name of "Darwinism" is about evolution by natural selection in contrast to evolution following from Lamarkian inheritance or a combination of the two it might more appropriately have been named after Wallace. The same issue arises, as discussed briefly below, with respect to Mendel's work.