In late October, 1831 the HMS Beagle set sail for a five year voyage around the world. On board was renowned geologist Charles
Darwin who sought to document native species around the world and study ancient fossils. During this journey, he traveled to five of the continents, but the most revolutionary findings of this trip were found in South America on the Galapagos Islands.
Darwin first traveled to South America where he developed new theories on plate tectonics and the geological history of some of the islands he had landed on. Darwin discovered raised beaches, landforms, and layers of volcanic rock. He would even experience and earthquake while in Chile and witness first hand how the ground rose. Darwin would later theorize about this fascinating geological history by writing a
book several months later.
In South America, Darwin would also discover fossils of extinct mammals in the newest level of strata, signifying that they had recently been extinct. These creatures were extremely similar to armadillos found on other continents. These findings gave Darwin the first idea of species distribution and would greatly assist him in his further findings of natural selection among species.
Soon after, Darwin traveled to the Galapagos Islands where he would make his most profound findings. Landing among several of the more secluded islands, Darwin discovered that the native species were greatly different from the fossil records he had studied. Furthermore, he also discovered that despite these differences, there were many strong similarities between the ancient and new species. This was the first hint at the concept of evolution.
Darwin studied many of the main species of the Galapagos Islands; most important were the finches and tortoises. Among the finches, Darwin discovered that those who lived on one island had several important differences than those that lived on another. These distinctions included longer beaks on finches who needed to reach the nectar from their food source, while short hard beaks on finches who had to crack nuts for their food source. These differences were vital for the finches’ survival as it gave them access to their food source. Those who lacked these new characteristics were not adapt to survive in their environment. Survival of the fittest is an incorrect term commonly associated with Darwin for this reason. Darwin believed that natural selection instead occurred in which species with the best traits for survival would pass them on to their offspring. Survival of the fittest was an argument presented by Herbert Spencer, but many later scholars would combine the two. Among the tortoises, it was possible to tell which island a certain tortoise came from by subtle differences.
It was on the Galapagos Islands that Darwin began formulating his theories on evolution and natural selection. The fossil records hinted that changes over time created new species, also known as evolution. The finches and tortoises suggested the theory of natural selection, the occurrence of favorable traits being passed on to further generations.
Darwin also theorized on a more controversial issue. After returning from the first voyage of the Beagle, many indigenous people were brought back to Europe. When the second Beagle voyage occurred several years later, they witnessed that the natives who remained on the islands were still uncivilized but those brought back to Europe had adapted to their environment. Darwin believed that humans were not too different from the animals he studied. Years later, these views would go on the feed the growing racist theory that would be entitled Social Darwinism. Social Darwinism argued that some races were superior to others, and that those in the lower brackets were not given the necessary traits needed to survive. Those in these lower stages were the blacks, Native Americans, and many indigenous South American peoples.
When Darwin returned from his voyages, he was treated as a celebrity for his geological findings that he had published. He set right out to continue his studies and visited many zoologists who had species he could study. He began comparing similar current species with the fossils of one ancient specimen. He learned that there was a core species that had branched off into many similar species who had adapted due to their environment. His work with plate tectonics also gave him the background to develop his theories further. He summarized that when Pangaea first broke apart, the species were relocated and would evolve over time to fit their new surroundings.
When these views were first presented, Darwin was accused of radical heresy. His scientist friends were devout Christians who used their findings to further prove the greatness of God. They tried to discredit Darwin by claiming that any similarities in species were purely coincidental, and that they were independent, unique species rather than varieties of the same species.
criticism, Darwin continued his research and went on studying new ideas that related to his theory of evolution, such as transmutation. During a trip to the zoo, Darwin noted the remarkable similarities of apes to children. This began the theory of common descent. He researched these findings for several years, with no revolutionary discoveries, though studying a broad range of topics. During this time, Darwin married his cousin Emma who was a devout Anglican and was deeply concerned with Darwin’s views on religion. Though Darwin was still religious at the time, after the death of his daughter Annie, he shed all religious views.
For a little over a year, Darwin struggled to combine all of his findings into one “big book”, which provided the proof that was lacking in his
essays. The book, On the Origin of Species, became extremely popular and sold out immediately, even selling more copies than what were available. Darwin’s strongest case was on common descent, though he neglected to delve into human evolution.
Despite not including humans in his book, immediately after its release, critics argued that Darwin was implying humans evolved from monkeys. This misconception still exists today. Other criticisms were centered around religious reasons, that included his blasphemous break from the Church doctrine and his heretical take on Genesis.
Darwin, who had become increasingly ill during this time, was unable to publicly respond to increasingly common arguments that arose from his work. Around this time his daughter also fell ill, which affected his ability to respond to criticism as well. He finally responded to these views more than ten years later with his work entitled The Descent of Man, and Selection Related to Sex. This work provided the arguments for the evolution of human psychology, but was once again misinterpreted.
After Darwin’s death in 1882, further interpretation of his works occurred including Social Darwinism and Eugenics. These interpretations would connect Darwin’s name and findings with controversial theories, and this misconstruction of his findings would lead to many further fallacies in the future. Current arguments to evolution include the growingly popular Creation Theory. Unfortunately, this so called theory is in fact not a theory at all. Science calls for all theories to have the ability to be scientifically tested, and while the creation belief is an opinion, it can not be tested using the scientific method.
Darwin’s beliefs were revolutionary at his time, and would challenge the status quo views held at the time. While his theories were and still are misinterpreted, his core findings provide the basis for biology today.
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Basics Of Natural Selection Natural selection, or “survival of the fittest”, is an evolutionary shift in a species. It occurs when member or members of a species possess specific genetic traits (natural or a mutation) that are beneficial to their survival in a particular environment. Those that survive because of that trait are obviously the only left to reproduce Biography of Charles Darwin’s own Evolution Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsburry, England on February 12, 1809. He is the son of Robert Waring Darwin, a physician. Darwin showed little interest in his education at Shrewsburry School and in medical studies at Edinburgh University (1825-27). He decided to turn away from becoming a physician after witnessing several operations performed without anesthesia. On the Theory of Natural Selection Whether it is Lamarck¹s theory that evolution is driven by an innate tendency towards greater complexity, Darwin¹s theory of natural selection, or the belief that the evolution of plant and animal life is controlled by a higher being, the process of evolution cannot be denied. Archaeological investigations have proven that species evolve over time, but Charles Darwin «The Catholic church has absolutely no view on 'Darwin's Theory of Evolution' or 'Darwinism' what is commonly believed by the magistarium is that one should not necessarily take the Bible in a literal sense...»
- An excerpt from Robert Richard's
The Meaning of Evolution.
Charles Darwin, a British naturalist has revolutionized biological and genetic studies with his new Lamarck’s Influence on The Development of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution There have been many ideas on the theory of evolution. Some simply take our existence for granted, others prefer to explain all evolution in terms of the bible and the presence of a God. However, there are those who have researched the topic of evolution and have offered an explanation as to where a species