Darwinism is a belief system based on the biological evolutionary theories that were presented by Charles Darwin. The theory uses natural selection as a means to explain how and which individuals of species survive and reproduce. Charles Darwin was the creator of this theory, but he did not create the name Darwinism. It was a English biologist named Thomas Henry Huxley that came up with the term. Darwinism is also known as the Darwinian theory. Darwin explained his theory in a book he published in 1859 called The Origin of Species. Darwin's theory goes against what the Bible teaches and rejects the concept of divine design. It relies entirely on natural processes to explain life.
Influences on Darwin
Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809. His mother died when he was eight and his father was a doctor that feared his son would become a failure. Darwin’s father sent him to Edinburgh University for him to further his education after traditional Anglican Shrewsbury School. At the university, he was exposed to students that held to radical evolutionary theories. Edinburg University attracted many students who were banned from graduating from other universities because of their point of view. The courses themselves had little impact on Darwin, but there is no doubt that the time he spent at Edinburg helped shape his worldview that later caused him to create his scientific theories. While at Edinburg he learned much and with the urging of Robert Edmond Grant, a pupil of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck who created radical evolutionary theories, he conducted his own research.
After Edinburg, Darwin went to Cambridge University, where he had other influences. He met people that wanted to reform the natural science curriculum that was taught at Cambridge. People like Rev. John Henslow had a great impact on his beliefs at this time. He also was influenced by Sir J. Herschel's book Introduction to the Study of Natural Philosophy. Even Darwin himself said there was no other book that influenced him more along with Humboldt's Personal Narrative. Also, it was at Cambridge that Darwin began to develop a passion for bug collecting. Furthermore, it was John helm slow that connected Darwin with the captain of the H.M.S. Beagle. Darwin admitted that while on the H.M.S. Beagle a great influence of his was Charles Lyell book Principles of Geology. The book moved him to create a theory of his own. While, Darwin struggled to develop a theory on how a new species was created, he looked to Herschel's Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy for help. He then wrote the On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life where he described his theories.
Darwin's Theory of Evolution
Darwinism is based on the ideas that make up Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Darwin proposed his theory of evolution in the book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. Darwin’s theory of evolution is made up of five different components or theories. The theory of evolution is the first which is the theory that organisms are very slowing changing and have been for a long time. The second is the theory of common descent. Common descent is the theory that all organisms that are alive today have descended from the same ancestor long ago. The third is Multiplication of species which explains diversity through the isolation and multiplication of certain organism because of geological factors. The fourth is gradualism. Gradualism is the idea that evolution and all the changes that take place in organisms happen through gradual change and not quickly or in jumps. The last of the theories is natural selection. Natural selection is the mechanism that Darwin proposed that evolution occured by.
- Main Article: Natural selection
Darwin's theory, which has become a tenet of evolutionary theory, states that the environment affects individual organisms in a population. Also known as "survival of the fittest", the theory basically describes organisms as in a continuous struggle with one another for food, shelter, and other necessities of life. The individual having the best characteristics for success in the struggle to survive will be more likely to reproduce and pass those characteristics on to the next generation.
Natural selection is the most important mechanism when discussing Darwin's theory of evolution because it is the process that Darwin believed to explain adaptation. It is the retainment of structures that are advantageous to a species and allows it to better compete and survive in the world. Natural selection weeds out all the organisms that are unfit to survive and helps the fit to survive. Natural Selection helps the ones that are most equipped to survive their environment. Darwin’s most recognizable example of natural selection are the discoveries that he made with finches on the second voyage to the Galapagos islands on the H. M. S. Beagle. Darwin Also used “artificial selection”, a term he coined, to better explain his theory. He pointed to the selective breeding of pigeons to look a certain way and appear completely different from other pigeons. The variety that existed among pigeons because of selective breeding helped him form his opinion and theory of evolution. He proposed that instead of humans doing the selecting it was nature.
Descent With Modification
- Main Article: Common descent
Descent with modification is the first element of Darwin's theory discussed in The Origin of Species. Darwin proposed that newer organisms are modified versions of their ancestors. Darwin theorized that all of the finches he observed on the Galapagos Islands had descended from one common ancestor, which had originated on the mainland of South America. Using that scenario as a model, he proposed that all living things are descendants of a single ancestral lifeform. Darwin used this theory to account for similarities between living organism and those in the fossil record.
Prentice Hall Biology (2008) describes the evolutionist interpretation as follows:
|“||Descent with modification also implies that all living organisms are related to one another. Look back in time, and you will find common ancestors shared by tigers, panthers, and cheetahs. Look farther back, and you will find ancestors that these felines share with horses, dogs, and bats. Farther back still are the common ancestors of mammals, birds, alligators, and fishes. If we look far enough back, the logic concludes, we could find the common ancestors of all living things. This is the principle known as common descent.||”|
Darwinism consists of the following claims:
- All living things are modified descendants of a common ancestor.
- Natural selection has been the principle mechanism of modification acting upon undirected variations that originate in DNA mutation.
- Unguided processes are sufficient to explain all features of living things - any appearance of design is simply an illusion.
Problems with Darwinism
There are several problems with Darwinism. Darwin’s theories that comprise darwinism have several gaps. One of the gaps in Darwinism is the complexity of organisms. The great strides we have made in sciences like molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics have shown us the marvelous complexity of the world we live in. We have found that there are a myriad of complex system at the cellular level. When Darwin was writing his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life he said that if an organ was found that was so complex that it couldn't be formed by many gradual changes his theory would break down. What science has found out today clearly qualifies as something that could break down his theory.Another problem with Darwinism is the lack of evidence for its theories in the fossil record. In his book, Darwin laid out his theories and predicted that the very important evidence needed to support his theory would simply appear later. He thought that the tremendous amount of missing transitional forms not found in the fossil record would be found in the future. After 150 years of searching, scientists still haven't found the copious amount of transitional forms that Darwin claimed would be discovered. In fact, the lack of evolutionary transitional forms is so great that we have even less than in Darwin’s time. Because of new information that has risen some of the classic evolutionary transitional forms have been discarded because of new information that has risen. If Darwinism were true many more transitional fossil would have been discovered, instead the fossil record shows support for the Genesis account of creation.
Influence of Darwin's Theories
- Main Article: Social Darwinism
Darwinism changed the world drastically. It is almost certain that Darwin had no idea the influence that his book and ideas would have on the world. He did not know that many years after the publication of his book and after his death the moral impact that his theories would have on the world. Darwin’s ideas and theories led to radical changes of people’s worldviews. People found that Darwinism suited their own desires and led to a rejection of God and the Bible. Darwinism gave people an excuse to turn away from God and do as they please. The influence of Darwinism caused people’s morality to deteriorate. People no longer follow the Judeo-Christian values and chose to do what they want. Today more than ever the influence of Darwinism is clear. As years past after the publication of Darwin’s book, more people accepted the amorality that Darwinism promoted and political parties began to use Darwinism to justify their actions. Political parties like the Nazi’s used Darwinism to justify what they were doing. It allowed those who committed awful crimes against humanity to justify their actions to themselves and others. Hitlers beliefs that people were animals and that the same rules learned from livestock breeding could be applied to us came from his belief in Darwin’s theories. The Nazis thought they could take human evolution into their own hands and create the perfect race. The support that the Nazis received in Germany that other races were genetically inferior was resulted from the common belief that Darwinism was fact. Darwinism was being taught in all levels of education as fact and this greatly influence the country of Germany. It led to the morals of people being corrupted and people using Darwin's theories as excuses to commit atrocities.
- Main Article: Neo-darwinism
At the time Darwin wrote his manuscripts on evolution the scientific community knew nothing about genetics or how variation was created within a population. Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics, published his research several years after Darwin wrote The Origin of Species, which remain unrecognized for its significance until the early 1900s. As one of the fundamental principles of genetics, it was made clear that variety was limited to the genes present in the population, which were passed to offspring in predictable patterns. Mutations then were proposed as the source of variety driving evolution in population, leading to the perspective also known as the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis.
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