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Robert Chambers is not even mentioned in Dennett's book, but in Britain, the idea of evolution (under the name "development") was commodified and popularized, or "brought off the streets and into the home" (Secord in Darlington, 1961, p. 8), by Chambers (1844/1969) a good fifteen years before Darwin's Origin. Chamber's remarkable best-selling book, Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, which "was immensely popular with the general public, and discussed at length in leading reviews" (Ruse, 1979, p. 94), went through seven editions in the first four months after it was published. Alfred Wallace whose theory of natural selection was published simultaneously with Darwin's (see next section) was among those who acknowledged their deep intellectual debt to Chambers and his idea of evolution through natural law (Lovejoy, 1968, p. 362). Contrary to the impression created in Darwin's Dangerous Idea, where Dennett would have Chambers effectively erased from the pages of history, there is certainly no historical doubt that after Chamber's book the subject of evolution, in Ruse's (1979, p. 127) words, "was no longer a private scientific question but a burning question that had been thrust upon the public eye".

With respect to recognizing the first person to popularize the idea of evolution using the word "evolution" it was Herbert Spencer, not Darwin, who did so (e.g., Bowler, 1989; Carneiro, 1972; Gilson, 1984). Introduced to the readers of Darwin's Dangerous Idea only near the end of the book as "[o]ne of Darwin's most enthusiastic supporters...and an important clarifier of Darwin's ideas" (Dennett, 1995b, p. 393), Spencer is made to appear as a minor player who came along after Darwin and stood by on the sidelines cheering him on. In fact, it was Spencer (e.g., 1852a, 1852b/1892, 1857/1892, 1862, 1892) who, well before Darwin, publicly took on the Creationists, or those who believed in the immutability or special creation of species, and then popularized and defined the word "evolution" in a prolific series of articles and best-selling books each of which, like Chamber's Vestiges, went into multiple editions and translations. While it is historically significant enough to merit pointing out the marginalization of the person who in fact did "the most to popularize the term 'evolution'" in the nineteenth century (Bowler, 1989, p. 9; Carneiro, 1972; Gilson, 1984), there is something far more substantive at stake, and this is the meaning of the term "evolution" itself and hence the scope of the whole evolutionary discourse. When Dennett and other Darwinian texts speak of evolution, and the discovery of natural selection as its explanation, they speak about evolution as defined by contemporary Darwinism today.

Contemporary Darwinism defines evolution as the consequence of natural selection (see next subsection), but this definition and the idea of natural selection itself were not widely accepted until after the synthesis of natural selection with Mendelian genetics, principally through the work of R.A. Fisher (1930/1958) in the 1930's (Bowler, 1989). Where Spencer is discussed, Darwinian texts often make the difference between a Spencerian theory and a Darwinian theory the assertion that Spencer was a "Lamarckian" who did not believe in natural selection while Darwinian theories reject Lamarckism and see evolution as the result of natural selection (see later discussion on Darwin's actual views on Lamarckian