Charles Darwin “. . .a theory of descent with modification through variation and natural selection.” The Expansion of Science Descartes' “Mechanical world” made science possible Carl von Linné (Linnaeus) published Philosophia Botanica (1752) William Paley published Natural Theology (1802)
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“. . .a theory of descent with modification through variation and natural selection.”
hiding?Scientific Research Problems Question # 1
“Such is the economy of nature, that no instance can be produced of her having permitted any one race of animals to become extinct.” Thomas Jefferson, 1785
John Wesley, the religious reformer, pronounced, in 1770,“Death is never permitted to destroy [even] the most inconsiderable species.”
The fossils of some extinct species, e.g., mammoths, giant sloths, horse-like creatures, seemed to resemble contemporary species. Were they related; if so how?
How do we account for the geographic distribution of animals in the world, e.g., marsupials and flightless birds in Australia, finches and turtles in the Galapagos Asian and African elephants?
Did that all occur at the end of the trip on the biblical ark? How did the species spread in such exact patterns? Why are more closely related species usually found closer to each other (e.g., hummingbirds in the Galapagos, drosophila in the Hawaiian islands).
Why does there appear to be a progression of complexity of fossils found in different layers of the earth’s crust?
Why are there no species or only simple species in the oldest layers, and why do vertebrates appear only in more recent layers? Why are species in closer layers more closely related?
How do we account for the many evidences that the earth is many millions of years old?
How do we reconcile the evidence that people have been living and dying for thousands of years with the Bible record?
How do we reconcile evidence that animals have been living and dying steadily for millions of years with the biblical idea that death did not occur until after Adam’s fall.
[Ralph Waldo] Emerson's fledgling evolutionary faith began to emerge in his 1834 lecture "The Relation of Man to the Globe.“ [after reading Sir Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology] . . . "Man," Emerson said, "is no upstart in the creation, but has been prophesied in nature for a thousand thousand ages before he appeared." . . .
“[F]rom times incalculably remote" there had been a "progressive preparation" for the human species, carried out in the lower or "meaner creatures" preceding it. "Man," as Emerson told his audience, "was not made sooner, because his house was not ready."4
In this same lecture, Emerson chronicled the way in which the hard rock that once surfaced the earth gradually became covered with soils more hospitable to life. With this development the "first faint traces of vegetable and animal life begin to appear, and in the lowest strata the most imperfect forms; – zoophytes, shells, and crustaceous animals; then fishes and reptiles."5 When these rudimentary forms had existed for some time, "Then a new formation – the remains of a new and higher order – begin to appear, more nearly resembling man, and giving earnest of his approach; and as the new race waxes, the old race retires."6
As a result of his scientific studies, Emerson concluded that one of the distinguishing characteristics of the "present age" was "the study of organic remains," and that "solid learning is got from the fossils." When we look at the geologic record, he reflected, there are "No leaps, no magic," but rather the "eternal tranquil procession of old familiar laws.” (Gordon, Robert C., PhD)
The world has gone through a number of great catastrophes, with the flood being the last. After each catastrophe, God would repopulate the earth with a new creation and a batch of new species.
Charles Darwin, in 1859, proposed a “theory of descent with modification through variation and natural selection.”
It was intended that Charles, like his father and grandfather, would become a doctor. At Edinburgh, he could not bear to watch the surgeries, done without anesthesia, so he dropped out.
Later, he finished his studies at Cambridge, where he studied for the ministry. However, at Cambridge he developed a passion for collecting biological specimens.
His mentor at Cambridge, Henslow, recommended him to be ship’s naturalist on the HMS Beagle.
Darwin embarked on Dec. 27, 1831, for what became a 5-year trip mapping the coastlines around South America and elsewhere.
He took with him volume 1 of Sir Charles Lyell’s new book, Principles of Geology. This book argued that the world was millions of years old, with changes taking place slowly.
Darwin’s journals and specimens had assured him a good reputation before he had returned.
He “wrote the book” on the formation of coral reefs.
He did ground-breaking research on barnacles.
Darwin, in 1838, read Robert Malthus’s Essay on Population, that argued that animals would have to struggle to survive since they would multiply faster than the food supply.
For the first time, Darwin thought of a mechanism to explain how extinct species could be related to current species and how species could vary.
In 1842, he wrote out a 35 page pencil sketch of his ideas.
In 1844, he expanded it to 231 pages, put the manuscript in a safe with some money and instructions to publish it after he was dead. He wrote to Lyle, Hooker, Huxley and others, explaining his theory. He continued research on the theory of natural selection.
In 1845, he wrote, “In my wildest daydream, I never expect more than to show that there are two sides to the question of the immutability of species.” (Irvine)
During the next few years, he corresponded with Alfred Russell Wallace, a naturalist in Indonesia whose observations were leading him in the direction Darwin had gone. But Wallace’s ideas were tentative and undeveloped.
The bombshell came on June 18, 1858. Alfred Russell Wallace sent Darwin a long letter outlining his new theory of species evolving, reaching the same conclusions in an uncanny parallel to the way that Darwin had.
Hooker and Lyle presented Wallace’s and Darwin’s papers to the Royal Society. Darwin was ill and home grieving over the death of an infant daughter to Scarlet Fever..
In 1859, Darwin published Origin of Species, one of the most important books of the 19th century.
It proposed “. . .a theory of descent with modification through variation and natural selection.”
Creatures produce more offspring than can survive.
From Robert Malthus, Darwin got the idea that the population of a species grows faster than the food supply; therefore, there will be a competitive struggle for food. In the process of the struggle for food, those more fit will live.
There is great variation within a species.
From his travels on the Beagle, on which he collected thousands of specimens, as well as in his observations of pigeons, dogs, other domesticated animals, and the human species, Darwin observed a huge variety within a species. Even within this class, we all vary.
Some of that variation is passed on to future generations.
Although Darwin had not read Mendel, he knew, as we do, that some of the variation that randomly occurs within a species is passed on. For example, people born with an extra finger (polydactyly) often had descendants with extra digits. Sheep with thicker wool were bred (artificially selected) to produce offspring with thicker wool. Cows giving more milk are bred to produce offspring who also give more milk.
In a natural setting, through natural selection, any variation (i. e. mutation) that helps an organism adapt to the environment, i.e., get food, escape predators, and find a mate, is most likely to be passed on.
Given the geologic age of the earth outlined by Lyle, the variation occurring within a species could become so great that varieties would become new species.
Given enough time, all species could have evolved from one prototype.
The controversy hinges on two main points. First, while the variety among dogs, cows, etc., is created by artificial selection, Darwin argued that competition in nature would cause the same kind of variety by natural selection, unguided by a divine providence.(This is a natural offshoot of Cartesian Mechanism, in which the material world acted according to natural laws.)
Second, given the huge expanse of time which had been proposed by contemporary geologists, Darwin proposed variations within a species could cross the genetic line and become separate species.
In fact, concludes Darwin, all species might be developed from one original prototype, again, possibly without divine intervention.
Capitalism and “Social Darwinism”
Capitalists such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller argued that capitalism was the best form of “survival of the fittest.”
They argued that the government should not help the poor, infirm, or unfit. If the lower classes died in their factories of mills, that was just a natural process by which society was improved. Rockefeller called it “a Law of God and of Nature.”
Karl Marx saw in “Social Darwinism” the idea that we could alter the environment of individuals and thereby develop new traits and qualities. For example, the abolition of private property could lead to humans getting rid of their aggressions, leading to a Utopian society.
Nazism and “Social Darwinism”
Early German nationalists argued that nations were essentially the same as members of a species. When fighting between nations occurred, the human race was made “fitter.’ They also argued that it was a natural process to eliminate inferior nations or peoples.