There’s been a profusion of articles in the popular press as he big Darwin anniversary swings into top gear. Many of these make over-stated cases that Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection has been "shaken up", or "over-thrown" (see for example this blog post).
There’s another at the Daily Telegraph today: Charles Darwin’s tree of life is ‘wrong and misleading’, claim scientists. Setting aside the obvious point that Darwin couldn’t have got all the details right given the scientific knowledge of the time, the article seems to restate the popular myth of the big icon of evolution – the diagram of evolutionary relationship as an oak tree:
In Darwin’s The Origin of Species, published in 1859, the British naturalist drew a diagram of an oak to depict how one species can evolve into many.
Well, it’s not there in my edition, which I think is a facsimile of the 1859 edition. The diagram that is there (and it’s the only figure in the book) is this one:
This diagram’s not very much like an oak tree. I suppose the author of the article must have been thinking of is this one, presented by Haeckel in The Evolution of Man (1879):
It’s interesting that Haeckel’s tree has the implication that all this evolution has been progressive, with the ultimate point being Homo sapiens.