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Science and Environment

Charles Darwin and Natural Selection

Explaining How Evolution Might Work

Wilf Hey

Charles Robert Darwin was born in 1809 in Shrewsbury in the English county of Shropshire and died in 1882 in Kent. Although his life in the 19th century began and ended, his thoughts had a profound effect on the Western life and thought in the 20th century. 4000 miles to the west, in the New World, was the Emancipator Lincoln was born on the same day as Darwin, of course, a much simpler conditions. Darwin was born in a mansion; his father was a wealthy doctor, his paternal grandfather of one of the most famous (and most) men of his time, and poet Erasmus Darwin; his maternal grandfather was Josiah Wedgwood, whose name is known for fine china today. 

As a young man Darwin studied medicine, but he realized that his prissy disposition of a career in medicine was a hindrance. He went back to college to be with the aim clergyman of the Anglican Church. As it turned out, however, he was more interested in his hobby, the study of nature. 

During his theological studies, he went with Adam Sedgwick (one of the three founding fathers of modern geology) on excursion and recognition earned by his skills as a naturalist. A year later he embarked—much to the chagrin of his father—as an accompanying scientists on the research ship HMS Beagle one that went on a five-year Entdeckungsreise around the world. 

While serving on the Beagle, Darwin decided not to do so for longer than he wanted to become a priest, and chose the life of a naturalist. His acute observations of birds, turtles and mammals eventually condensed into an idea, although had no new components, but almost every aspect of Western thought revolutionized: the idea of ​​the evolution of species by natural selection. 

In the Galapagos Islands 650 miles off the coast of Ecuador, Darwin identified 14 different species of finches—not only breeds or strains, but real species (because they multiplied and artgetreu only within their own species). Each differed from the finches on the mainland, and this gave Darwin think. 

Although he was religious, but he had trouble with the idea that God had created 14 species of finches specifically for these islands, especially since they differed all prevailing on the few species of the mainland. He came to the conclusion that just the isolation of the birds on the islands has led to the gradual changes through which the different species were then developed. At the time of Darwin almost all naturalists accepted evolution as a fact—defined 1) as a gradual development, especially from a simple to a more complex form and 2) as a process of evolution of species from earlier forms. However, it was much speculation about how evolution might work. J.-B. Lamarck (1744-1829) had claimed that animals would give typical features which they had acquired to their offspring. 

According to Lamarck’s theory of the giraffe had developed over many generations a long neck by craned her neck. This view was popular among contemporary scholars, but Darwin rejected it brusquely with the remark that Jews have male children circumcised for countless generations, but see it so far not look as if Jewish boys born circumcised. 

Darwin came to the conclusion that there was a simple process at work. Galapagos finches, he argued, sometimes accidentally slipped with a slightly more curved beak. For the other grains that they found here in their new habitat, the descendants of mainland finches had it a little easier to survive when their beaks were more curved. This advantage leads to the fact that more finches survived with crooked beaks and could multiply, and so curved beaks would gradually occur more frequently. 

This was a very convincing explanation for the wide variety of finches on the islands compared to the one or two dominant species on the mainland for Darwin. This gradual, gentle process he called natural selection. 

Darwin had no hurry to make his revolutionary idea public. In fact, friends urged him decades later to publish his studies. Even then he did it only after another naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), Darwin asked for a comment on a yet unpublished book—which contained almost exactly his idea to Darwin’s horror. Now Darwin hastened to his book printed. (Wallace himself was keen to reassure the public that Darwin had the idea of ​​natural selection first and developed more fully.) With breakneck speed driven more revolutionary thinkers Darwin’s theory ahead and built their importance from an attack on religious beliefs. Thomas Huxley in England, Haeckel in Germany and Asa Gray in the US fought not only Lamarck’s theory, but the religion with the same. They claimed that evolution by natural selection do the unnecessary creation—and even God himself. 

Today, science has Darwin’s ideas almost entirely abandoned—or at least greatly modified in the form of neo-Darwinism. Natural selection is no longer regarded as a sufficient explanation for the diversity of life. Darwin tried to explain, as a kind of could develop into another, but some of his followers extrapolated from an explanation of how all classes of animals could somehow be transformed into completely different creatures (such as reptiles into birds and mammals). 

Darwin’s observations gradually germinated into an idea that served to revolutionize almost every aspect of Western thought. 

The extreme form of this thinking is that life itself is formed naturally from inanimate matter—without any action of God. It is highly doubtful that Darwin himself ever thought that natural selection is an all-encompassing phenomenon that replaces God as too many people now think. 

The vast majority of scientists, however, holds fast to the populist victory of the Darwin-trailer—that science can now explain creation without a creator. Thus, the theory of evolution in Western thought as it were an enemy of religion and confirmed what many want to believe: that the existence of God is itself a theory on which mankind could now do without. 

Public opinion has certainly not thought of that understanding how something works (survival), is quite different than understanding how something is created. Thus, the evolution was raised to the current doctrine, rather than to be recognized as what it really is: scientific speculation.