Major Contributors to the Theory of Evolution

868 Words4 Pages
Long before Charles Darwin, other people made important contributions to the historical development of the theory of evolution. It all started in 5th century BC when early Greek philosophers characterized the origin of the natural world as by the power of nature rather than by supernatural force. They proposed the theory of evolution to explain the basis of the natural world. Thus, evolutionary theory began with the Ionian philosopher Anaximander (611-546 BC) who proposed living beings gradually developed from water and that humans originated from animals. He proposed the world had arisen from an undifferentiated, indeterminate substance. In the 6th century BC, Xenophanes (570475 BC) developed Anaximander’s theories by using fossils as evidence for a theory of the Earth as originating from water. In the 5th century, Empedocles postulated that the universe was composed of the elements: earth, air, fire and water. Darwin pays tribute to Empedocles for his theory of natural selection; Empedocles argued for reproductive fitness and survival of the fittest. In Roman times, the poet and philosopher Lucretius (99-55 BC) followed in Empedocles footsteps, proposing a similar evolutionary theory in which species were born out of the Earth formed by the combination of the elements with natural selection and survival of the fittest.
Plato (428-348 BC) and Aristotle (384-322 BC) were the two most influential philosophers of western thought. Plato introduced the concept of eidos, the unchanging ideal forms of all the phenomena of the world, stating variations were imperfect manifestations of the ideal, divinely inspired form. Thus, Plato ruled out evolutionary thinking. Aristotle questioned Plato’s philosophy - stating gradation in the natural...

... middle of paper ...

...s evidence of divine design.
Although the naturalistic models of origins have existed for many centuries, only since the work of Charles Darwin (1809-1882) has biological evolution become propagated into society due to the Christian worldview of his time. The critical break from the concept of fixed species began with the theory of evolution by natural selection formulated by Darwin. Influenced by Thomas Malthus, Darwin surmised that population growth would lead to a “struggle for existence” where favorable variations would prevail as others perished. Each generation, many offspring fail to survive to an age of reproduction due to limited resources, explaining the diversity of organisms from a common ancestry through the working of natural laws. At the end of 1859, Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species led to widespread acceptance of Darwinian evolution.

More about Major Contributors to the Theory of Evolution

Open Document