A scientist shed new light on the origins of Charles Darwin’s “abominable mystery.”
Darwin was deeply bothered by how flowering plants conquered the world seemingly in the blink of an eye, while other large groups, such as the mammals, evolved gradually. He toyed with the idea that flowering plants might have evolved on an as yet undiscovered island.
Forgotten historical documents show a rival scientist was arguing for divine intervention in the rise of the flowering plants. This greatly vexed Darwin in his final months.
Professor Richard Buggs said, “The mystery seems to have been made particularly abominable to him by its highly publicized use by the keeper of botany at the British Museum to argue for divine intervention in the history of life.”
Darwin coined the phrase, abominable mystery, in 1879. In a letter to his closest friend, he wrote: “The rapid development…of all the higher plants within recent geological times is an abominable mystery.”