publication of his chief work, "The Origin of Species", Charles Darwin may still
be considered the most controversial scientist in the world. His name is
synonymous with the debate that continues to swirl around the theory of
evolution, a theory that deeply shook the Western view of humanity and its place
in the world.
We tend to speak simply of the theory of evolution, leaving off the
explanatory phrase, "through natural selection." At most, perhaps, the general
public has heard of "survival of the fittest" a poor phrase as far as I'm
concerned, since fitness in everyday usage is associated with physical
conditioning and athletic ability. "Survival of the most suited to its
environment" would be a more accurate, and convincing expression for this
pedicular concept. But to most of us, "evolution" simply means that human beings
are descended from apes, a slight misunderstanding, since both humans and modern
apes are descendants of a mutual ancestor that is now extinct. It's not
evolution but the theory of natural selection and the evidence he collected to
prove to fellow scientists, peers, students, and most importantly the masses of
public and the church that were at the heart of Darwin's contribution to
Charles Darwin did not invent the concept of evolution. A number of prominent
scientists and other thinkers during the eighteenth century and the first half
of the nineteenth century (among them Charles Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus
Darwin) had offered detailed theories of evolution (Clark, 1984, pg.24-25).
Therefor the idea of evolution went very far back in Western history.
At that time this concept was referred to as The Great Chain Of Life and was
conceived in the middle ages, based on a mixture of classical and Biblical ideas.
The ranking order ranged from the "lowest" forms of life to "higher" living
beings (lion), through the various classes of human beings from peasants to
nobles to Popes, and upwards through the hierarchy of angles to God.
This concept, in and of itself, has nothing to do with evolution, in fact it
seems to be anti-evolutionary, since every member is fixed in its own place.
This chain was created in a time when the world was considered to ...
... middle of paper ...
... the principle of natural selection.
Natural selection, as Darwin saw it, simply can not be ignored. For just as a
largely barren earth is re-colonized by the survivors descendants, which must
adapt through either variation or mutation to fill the ecological niches left
empty by the prior extinctions. Just as an area devastated by a forest fire are
filled by an evolution of new forms, not by the existing ones from unburned
areas. We may not be able to see the entire history of evolution but from our
viewpoint we have hundreds of examples of natural selection taking place all
around us each and every second of each and every day. Fortunately, Charles
Darwin (and maybe I should credit Alfred Lord Wallace) had the insight and
boldness to conceive and develop a theory so controversial to his time and
Clark, R.W. (1984). The Survial of Charles Darwin. New York:
Sproule, Anna (1990). Charles Darwin. Concord:Irwin
Warburton, Lois (1992). Human Origins-Tracing Humanity's
Evolution. San Diego:Lucent Books
Howell, F.C. (1980). Early Man. Virginia:Time-Life Books
Nouvelle, C (1885). The First People. Paris:Silver Burdett Co.
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