Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection and Social Darwinism

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While he was on the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle, a man named Charles Darwin viewed the relationship of plants and animals all over the world. He observed organisms on islands off the coast of South America and those on the mainland. His observations showed that these organisms were related, but not identical. This led Darwin into believing that over time, organisms must adapt to suit their environment. He explained his theories thoroughly in his book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

Darwin decided it was possible for a species to change from one form and develop into another over time. This led him to the notion that all life forms were not fixed, but continuously changing or evolving. The other part of the theory was that living things weren’t the result of many separate creations, but of long, intertwining biological histories. His general idea was that amongst a family of plants or animals, individual members carried hereditary traits. These traits would be general to the individual’s family, but not the species. It was these traits that could give the members a better chance of survival and means by which to reproduce. This was what Darwin called “natural selection” or “survival of the fittest.” According to the theory, those individuals with slightly better adaptations would get more food, be healthier, live longer and, most importantly, have more mates. As time progressed, traits would become more obvious; therefore later generations would be ...

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