The story of Gregor Mendel is aggravating. It makes you wonder what might have been, had this Austrian monk encountered Charles Darwin, and had his discoveries become known to the disciples (and opponents) of Darwinism early on (see 10/14/2003 headline). Though the two men may have come within 20 miles of each other one day, historians are fairly certain that Darwin was unaware of Mendel, though Mendel knew of Darwin. Mendel believed that the laws of genetics he deduced just seven years after Darwin’s Origin of Species was published posed a serious challenge to the theory of “transformism” (that one species can be transformed into another).
It is also aggravating, in retrospect, to see how Mendel’s discoveries were treated once they did become known. “Ignored” is the word most often used in history books to describe the early reception of his paper. As we shall see, nearly 72 years went by before it was no longer possible to ignore Mendel’s findings. By then (the 1930s), Darwinism had triumphed in the Scopes Trial, had a full head of steam and was unstoppable. It just became a matter of fudging Darwinism enough to massage Mendelian genetics into it. These days, the neo-Darwinists tend to claim Mendel as their own, but the evidence shows that the creationist monk would have been offended by any such association. Nigel Williams, writing in the October 14, 2003 issue of Current Biology, stated that “Once Gregor Mendel is placed back into the intellectual landscape that he would himself recognize,” it was clear that he would have “seen The Origin of Species as a challenge to his own worldview.”
Gregor Mendel, a Catholic creationist, believed he had demonstrated that species are resistant to change, because characters are inherited without alteration throughout generations. This was a novel idea to breeders of the day. No one knew just how characteristics were inherited. Common experience showed that children resembled their parents, but how did the various traits get sorted out in the union of sperm and egg? Why were some crosses of plants or livestock sterile, and others fertile? Darwin toyed with a hypothesis he called pangenesis, which assumed that traits from all over the body somehow flow into the gametes….
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