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Charles Darwin And The Theory Of Evolution

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 2 10

The Theory of Evolution

The theory of evolution is actually a study of nature. Charles Darwin was not the only one or the originator of this theory of evolution. There were other naturalists and scientists who had similar views. Even his grandfather had made comment on it.  By observing nature, we can learn that nature itself decides on the life and death of plants and animals. Stronger ones will live, while the weaker ones perish. There is this continuous process of “natural selection”. Animals and plants gradually changed, evolved, and transformed in order to survive better in the changing environment. Charles Darwin’s “Theory of Evolution” caused a revolution in science and society.

Charles Darwin(129480)

Charles Darwin's life

Charles Robert Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England , on 12 February, 1809. His grandfather, Erasmus Darwin was already a well-known scientist having very far-sighted ideas about “air travel”, “submarine exploration” and “evolution”. Charles Darwin’s father, Robert Darwin, was a doctor, and his mother, Susannah, was the daughter of the famous pottery-owner, Josiah Wedgewood.

In 1825, Charles Darwin attended medical school at Edinburgh Medical School, but gave up three years later to pursue Bible studies at Cambridge University. In 1831, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. From there Charles Darwin became friends with two professors, geologist Adam Sedgewick and botanist John Henslow. It was Henslow who recommended Darwin to Captain Robert Fitzroy for his round the world survey expedition. On 27 December, 1831, Darwin set sail on the 235-ton, 90-foot, HMS Beagle, with Captain Fitzroy, as a “naturalist” to survey the world and its natural surroundings. The trip lasted 5 years when HMS Beagle finally docked at Falmouth on 2, October, 1836.

In 1838, Darwin married his cousin, Emma Wedgewood. He moved to live in Down House, near Bromley in Kent, and concentrated on his research and writings until his death.

Charles Darwin's world expedition

The voyage first crossed the Atlantic Ocean and sailed along the east coast of South America, rounded Cape Horn and up north along the west coast of South America to the equatorial islands of the Galapagos. From the Galapagos, the HMS Beagle crossed the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand and Australia. All along the journey, Darwin collected and collated numerous plant and animal specimens which would eventually be part of his subjects for his ideas about evolution. From Australia he set sail across the Indian Ocean, passed the Cape of Good Hope, westward back to Brazil and finally northward crossing the Atlantic Ocean again to reach Falmouth, England on 2, October, 1836.

Charles Darwin's voyage round the world

Charles Darwin's findings

Darwin found that fossils from the very deep layers of rock that appeared very unfamiliar, while the upper layers contained fossils that were similar to his present environment. In the Galapagos Islands, Darwin witnessed strange plants, animals, and birds, which did not exist elsewhere. The giant tortoises fascinated him. These giant tortoises also had different shapes of shell depending on which island they lived. Different variations of the same species of birds lived separately in the 13 different islands of the Galapagos.

In 1839, three years after he returned from the round the world voyage, Darwin published his findings under the long title “Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries visited during the Voyage round the World of HMS Beagle”. It was a best seller. As member of the Royal Society, Darwin became a respected scientist and author. It was to be another 20 years, in 1859, that Darwin found the courage to publish his “Origin of Species”. It was prompted by another naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace who was working in Malaya and Borneo at that time, who had similar ideas about the theory of natural selection. On 1 July, 1858, both of them had a joint announcement of their findings at the Linnean Society. And on 22 November, 1859, Darwin shocked the world with his book “On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life”. All of its 1250 copies were quickly snapped up.

Initially, Darwin’s idea of evolution was condemned, especially by the Church, fearing that the prevailing Christian orthodoxy on how life was created, would be challenged. Darwin did not respond to the hue and cry, but continued with his research and writings, until his death on 19 April, 1882, at the age of 73.

At the request of Darwin’s colleagues, and after public and parliamentary petitioning, Charles Robert Darwin was accorded a state funeral and buried in Westminster Abbey, near to Isaac Newton.

What is Darwin's Theory of Evolution

Contrary to popular belief, which was a misinterpretation, Darwin never wrote anything about the origin of man. The closest to this idea was his subtle statement that, “light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history".

What then is Darwin’s theory of evolution?

Animals and plants evolve with the passage of time. Nature did the choosing, the fittest survive to live another day. The theory runs like this:

Reproduction: Parents produce similar offsprings.

Too Many Young: Not all offsprings will survive.

Variations: Not all offsprings are exactly the same.

Natural Selection: The struggle to survive, species develop special features to better adapt to the changing environment.

Inheritance: Over a long period, these special features become more dominant and common, resulting in the changes of the species.

Origin of Species: Species which are better suited to the environment, gradually win the battle to survive. Those weaker species which cannot adapt and change, simply perish. As the environment continues to change, species evolve and stay well adapted to survive another round of this cycle of evolution.

Latest theory of “fits and starts”

The latest theory of evolution is that evolution is not a gradual and continual process. In 1970 the idea of “fits and starts” was presented. It states that species stay the same for a very long period of time. Then a sudden burst of evolution process will take place over a relatively short period, before settling down again. This theory is called “punctuated equilibrium”.

 

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Comments

Mar 19, 2013 12:37am
Aurelia
In evolutionary terms, fitness doesn't necessarily correlate with strength, speed, or size. A small bird with a colorful tail maybe 'fitter' than a large dull colored bird. Punctuated equilibrium has been criticised by gradualists like Richard Dawkins and John Maynard Smith. With The Descent of Man published in 1871 Darwin applies evolutionary theory to human evolution, detailing his theory of sexual selection. He originally intended to write an essay about ape evolution but it turned into a book. Darwin also illustrates that human faculties like sympathy and morality are present in other animals like apes and dogs.
Mar 19, 2013 9:29am
Marlando
Hi--Another well written and researched article. Congradulations. I personally question the theory because it fails to origin of life and, as I understand it, the idea that evolutionary changes occured in small changes is not documented by the fossil record. And so as you can see, your article stirs a lot of food for thought. Another 2 Big thumbs and a rating from me.
Mar 19, 2013 6:47pm
Goodguy
Hi Marlando,

Thanks for the encouragement.

As with all theories and postulations, there are always grey areas to be covered. Be that as it may, there is still another component in life that intellectuals are unable to explain, that is, the concept of consciousness.
Mar 19, 2013 1:41pm
Aurelia
Evolutionary theory is supported across multiple scientific disciplines. It is both fact and theory (in the scientific meaning of the word). Evolution does not deal with "origin" of life but other theories do. Abiogenesis is the natural emergence of life from inorganic matter. The Miller 13Urey experiment for example, showed how most amino acids can be racemically synthesized in conditions which are believed to be similar to those of the early Earth. There are other mechanisms proposed too like lightning and radiation and the "metabolism first" hypotheses. The reason that there are less fossils than we would like, is obvious, bone breaks down very easily. Many so called transition fossils of man however have been discovered since Darwin wrote the "On the Origin of Species" and said that the lack of transitional fossils was the "obvious and gravest objection" to his theory. There are many lines of science which provide evidence for evolution by studying: paleontology, developmental biology, biogeography, morphology and genetics. Since diverging from a common ancestor, humans have gained 689 genes and lost 86. Chimpanzees have gained 26 genes and lost 729 that are still present in humans. Evolution can occur gradually or fast. For example the the gradual evolution of whales from their land-based, mammalian ancestors, is documented in the fossil record. Some single-celled organisms however evolve extremely fast.
Mar 19, 2013 6:53pm
Goodguy
Hi Aurelia,

If we really think logically, there cannot be a beginning. There is always the retrospective question of what was before this beginning. If we observe nature and the universe, we will see a pattern of recurring cycle, formation, evolution, and dissolution, and then the cycle starts again. There is no beginning nor ending, simply because there is no such thing. It is just our human intellectual deficiency that we are looking for a beginning of all things. Just like little children insisting that there is a real Santa Clause somewhere.
Mar 19, 2013 7:32pm
Marlando
See my reply to Aurlia
Mar 19, 2013 7:18pm
Aurelia
Eastern religions tend to see things as being cyclic while Abrahamic religions see a beginning and and end, I was not referring to such ideas. If you are referring to what came before the Big Bang, this is something no one knows. I was actually talking about the beginning of life on earth, between 4.3 and 3.8 billion years ago. The the Big Bang occurred approximately 13.77 billion years ago.
Mar 19, 2013 7:35pm
Marlando
Very smart response you make for sure--But don't miss Goodguy's comment about consciousness and beginnings--as for me evolution is an unproven theory and yet the best one we have......so far.
Oct 13, 2013 12:16am
jeanclaudvansam
it doesnt make sense to me to say,"If we really think logically, there cannot be a beginning" it seems like an argument from ignorance and conviction.

"There is always the retrospective question of what was before this beginning." i believe that is known as the Slippery Slope Fallacy, question after question to answer questions after more questions. That does not sound logical. The fact that we do not know for sure when, where, or why the origin of life began should not be a stopping point in our search. We should be looking for the answer because if the theory of evolution and origin can not be proved we are left to settle for what man can imagine. Which seems to be a bearded old man sitting on a cloud writing down our every move so we live under his rule until death.
Jan 25, 2014 2:29pm
Yngwie
I love Darwinism ! Could discuss it all day, but hard to really debate clearly here.
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