To Shanan, Rachael and Danielle
who bring light into my life
About the Author
Eric Barnett was born at Gosford, on the Central Coast of
New South Wales, the youngest of four sons.
When he was six years of age, the family moved to live at
Newtown in Sydney. Eric played first-grade Rugby League with the Newtown Club at
17 years of age as a goal-kicking centre. He then went to England where he
played three seasons with the prestigious Huddersfield first-grade team in
Yorkshire and during this time he was also a cricket professional at Leeds, also
He returned to Sydney where he played first-grade Rugby
League with the Balmain Club.
Eric was also a player/coach of Rugby League in Darwin and
Port Moresby where he was captain/coach of the Papua team. He also played League
in Christchurch, New Zealand.
He later played Rugby Union with the Wasps Club in London,
the Nomads team in Toronto and the Wanderers team in New York. He played cricket
in Toronto and with the Staten Island team in New York.
While living in New York, Eric studied television
production and was dux of that year, which allowed him to work with the American
NBC Network in St Paul, Minnesota, where his eldest daughter, Shanan, was born.
He later returned to Sydney to work for Channel 10.
Eric then joined the Regular Army with the rank of Captain
and saw war service in Vietnam, serving in various regions there. While Eric was
serving at Army Headquarters in Canberra his second daughter, Rachael, was born.
From 1968 to 1995 Eric was a financial member of the
Australian Journalists’ Association.
Eric is a multi-instrumentalist, playing the guitar, the
Japanese harp, the Hawaiian pedal-steel guitar and drums. He has performed in
Ireland, New Zealand, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and New Guinea.
Eric is also a songwriter, playwright and author.
CHARLES DARWIN AND GENESIS
- read a part sample....
Professor Brandon Priestly gives a television talk on
Darwinian evolution pre a discussion by the other five participants in another
television interview on the same subject matter.
Professor Brandon Priestly of Dewsbury University, England
is a well-preserved man in his early sixties with long, white, dishevelled hair
slightly receding at the side of the forehead. He wears a light brown and navy
polka-dot bow tie.
Professor Priestly is sitting in his seat in the television
studio when the director’s voice comes into the studio.
‘Commencing in five seconds, Professor. Five, four, three,
two, one. Cue.’
‘Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury on 9 February 1809.
His father, Robert, was a prosperous country physician, and his mother,
Susannah, was the daughter of the famous Staffordshire potter, industrialist and
writer, Josiah Wedgwood.
‘Charles was the grandson of Erasmus Darwin who had won for
himself a major reputation as a doctor and a free-thinking radical speculative
biologist. For his time, Erasmus was the stand-out exponent of evolutionary
thinking, explaining organic life according to evolutionary principles, which
anticipated later theories. Charles later repudiated Erasmus’ theory, insisting
his own theories had been conceived independently. It would be logical to assume
that his grandfather’s strong prejudice for biological change helped to shape
Darwin’s own thinking.
‘In 1825, at the age of 16, Darwin’s father enrolled him at
the Edinburgh University to study medicine. Darwin, the medical student, found
the lectures boring but it laid the foundations for his future achievements. He
had a diversification of reading and eagerly pursued the study of natural
history. After dredging expeditions in the Firth of Forth, Darwin dissected the
marine specimens he had found. Darwin also learnt the art of taxidermy, a skill
that would stand him in good stead during his later voyage.
‘Darwin made friends with the Edinburgh zoologist, Robert
Grant, who agreed with the conceived idea of organic evolution of Jean-Baptiste
Lamarck, the French botanist and zoologist. Lamarck stated that characteristics
acquired by organisms in response to changed conditions of life, etc, can be
inherited by their offspring. This probably reinforced for Darwin his
grandfather’s theory of biological transformation.
‘Perhaps the most significant sea voyage in the history of
Western mankind was the five-year cruise by Charles Darwin as official
naturalist on board The Beagle from 1831 to 1836. This voyage commenced
Darwin on a long career of accumulating, assimilating and calculating data
culminated in the formulation of his idea of organic evolution.
‘Darwin’s journey on The Beagle was a
thought-provoking, five-year journey that unchained him from the shackling
control of Genesis. The voyage of The Beagle is also symbolic of a much
greater journey which mankind en masse made from the confined fundamentalism of
Darwin’s time, through to the questioning, doubting and uncertainty of the 20th
century. Darwin’s experiences and thinking during his five years on board The
Beagle became the experience of the whole world.
‘In 1859, Darwin set forth the framework of his theory in
the brilliantly structured Origin of Species, supplemented and detailed
in his many later books of which the stand-out was The Descent of Man,
published in 1871.
‘Darwin’s evolution theory suggests that all the diverse
forms of life on Earth were the result of natural and random processes, and not
by the creation of God. The acceptance of Darwin’s theory played a major role in
the secularisation of the Christian Western world.
‘For Darwin, the crucial process in evolution was
‘The Galapagos Islands were about 500 miles from the west
coast of South America, possessing unique flora and fauna. Moreover, some
species vary greatly from island to island.
‘Since the Galapagos Islands are volcanic and of
geologically recent origin, their isolation from the South American mainland,
together with surrounding swift-running currents and deep waters, led Darwin to
see how a new species could evolve. The animals Darwin discovered were unique,
but nonetheless related to those on the South American mainland. Darwin’s
research also found minor differences between animals of the same species on
different islands. Geographical isolation prevents the dilution of mutant genes
which occur within the isolated group, but the potential is there to subject the
group to new environmental conditions, where different variations are favoured.
‘Darwin found the natural history of the Galapagos
Archipelago ‘eminently curious and well deserves attention’ for he found
the Islands populated by an extraordinary number of exceptional and distinctive
flora and fauna species.
‘Darwin recorded in his journal in excess of 100 species of
flowering plants, dozens of insect species and close to 30 species of birds.
‘Darwin was very interested in the – found only on the
Archipelago – giant tortoise and two closely related lizards, one terrestrial,
and the other, the unusual marine iguana with partly webbed feet and that fed on
seaweed, also possessed the ability to remain submerged for extended lengths of
‘Darwin was enthralled by the way many of the organisms,
such as the iguana, tortoises and mocking thrushes, together with a variety of
the plants, varied from island to island. In some cases the variation was so
considerable that individual island configurations appeared to be quite distinct
‘These distinct, yet closely related species, dispersed on
the islands of this Archipelago, resulted in the emergence of organic evolution
in Darwin’s thinking. Darwin noted in his journal: ‘The distribution of the
tenants of this archipelago would not be nearly so wonderful if, for instance,
one island had a mocking thrush, and a second island some other quite distinct
genus; if one island had its genus of lizard, and a second island another
distinct genus, or none whatever – or if the different islands were inhabited,
not by representative species of the same genera of plants, but by totally
different genera. But it is the circumstance that several of the islands possess
their own species of the tortoise, mocking thrush, finches, and numerous plants,
these species having the same general habits, occupying analogous situations,
and obviously filling the same place in the natural economy of this archipelago,
that strikes me with wonder.’
‘Darwin pondered on the possibility that the closely
related species on the islands of the Archipelago had descended with
modification, or evolved from a shared ancestral species which originally
inhabited the islands. Was it probable, in opposition to the tenet of the
immobility of the species, that these individual species had been specially
created for these small, barren and rocky islands?
‘There are 14 different species of finches on the Galapagos
Islands, all of which originated from a common ancestor. These species have
achieved world acclaim as ‘Darwin’s finches’. In the varied species of finches,
there is a considerable difference in the body size, size and shape of beak,
plumage and behaviour. There is a large variance in the size and shape of the
beak between the species. Some have the standard finch-like beaks, others
parrot-like beaks, while another group possess slender warbler-like beaks, some
being de-curved for the exploration of flowers.
‘The most unusual species has a straight beak for
wood-boring. This variation in shape of the beak between the species is related
to the way in which the particular species of finch obtained its food. The
finches have evolved into species capable of feeding on all varieties of food
supplies usually utilised by specialised bird families. To the lay person they
could easily be classified as distinct species. Although there is
diversification in size, colouration, size and shape of beak, and
feeding-habits, the 14 species of Galapagos Islands finches are unquestionably
closely related, for they exhibit identical display and song patterns, and all
are members of the same sub-family of finches.
‘These ‘Darwin Finches’, this new series having evolved
from pre-existing species in nature, were not the fixed immutable entities most
biologists presumed. Darwin wrote: ‘Seeing this graduation and diversity of
structure in one small, intimately related group of birds, one might really
fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species
had been taken and modified for different ends.’
‘Additional to the interspecies variation within the
islands, another feature of the natural history of the Archipelago which
germinated Darwin’s thinking on evolution, and diminished the doctrine of
immobility of the species, was the observation that despite the uniqueness of
the fauna on the islands, the majority of the species were distantly related to
allied species on the South American mainland, some 600 miles to the east.
‘Commenting on this link Darwin wrote in his journal:
‘If this character were owing merely to immigrants from America, there would be
little remarkable in it; but we see that a vast majority of all the land
animals, and that more than half of the flowering plants, are aboriginal
productions. It was most striking to be surrounded by new birds, new reptiles,
new insects, new plants, and yet by innumerable trifling details of structure,
and even by the tones of voice and plumage of the birds, to have the temperate
plains of Patagonia, or the hot dry deserts of Northern Chile, vividly brought
before my eyes.’