Pre-Darwinism Views Essay, Research Paper
Before November 24, 1859, many people simply believed that species were created by
God in their present forms, or that it was possible for organic matter to be spawned from
inorganic matter. However, Charles Darwin used these ideas to create his thesis, On the
Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.
The first true theories on evolution arise during the classical Greek period. On a
handful of Greek philosophers believed in the theory of evolution and natural selection.
Unfortunately, the two philosophers who influenced western civilization the most, Plato
and Aristotle, opposed any theory of evolution. Plato believed that there were two
worlds, one real world, and one imperfect world that we perceive with our senses. Any
variations in life were imperfect images of their ideal forms. However, Aristotle didn?t
believe in two worlds; instead, he believed in a ?scale of nature.? Each life form was
arranged on a type of ?ladder?. It started at the bottom with the least complex organism
and continued up to the most complex organism. Each organism had a pre-determined
?rung?, which allowed no ability to move up, and no open spaces for a new organism to
According to Neil Campbell in his book, Biology: Fourth Edition, ?Juedo-Christian
culture fortified anti-evolution theories.? (p. 400-401) The creationist-essentialist dogma
that species were permanent and created for a specific purpose became deeply embedded
in Western thought. Any person who dared to theorize or believe in theories about
evolution were instantly labeled heretics. The medieval church saw evolution as saying
that God did not exist, that we are not the ?supreme creation?, and that humans could just
be evolutionary mistakes.
However, in the later 1700?s and early 1800?s there was a ?scientific revolution?
taking place. People began to use scientific experiments to explain what they had always
put faith in. According to Campbell, the first big step in the development of the theory of
evolution was made by Carolus Linnaeus. (p. 400-401) Linnaeus was the founder of
taxonomy and developed the naming system for organisms that we still use today. He
grouped organisms based on similar characteristics. This, for Darwin, would become a
focal point of his theory of evolution.
When Darwin began his research aboard the H.M.S. Beagle in 1831, he had some
pre-constructed ideas. The first was that he rejected Plato?s, Aristotle?s, and the
Church?s ideas that organism were made the way they are, and will never change. The
second was about Linnaeus? filing system; Darwin believed that similar species must of
evolved from similar ancestors. During his trip on the Beagle, Darwin collected 13
different types of finches that he believed were different species. When he returned to
Great Britain in 1836, he learned from ornithologists that the 13 different types of finches
he collected, were indeed separate species. This discovery led Darwin to theorize that if a
species was isolated, then it would adapt to fit it?s surroundings; just like how the finches
adapted new beaks depending on their native types of food.
Finally in 1844, Darwin wrote an essay on his theory of natural selection and the
origin of species. When Darwin finished his book on evolution, The Origin of Species, he
had two major ideas: the first was that evolution was the explanation for life?s unity and
diversity; the second was that natural selection is the cause for adaptations. Darwin
provided numerous example of his theories, but he was still doubted. However, on of his
modern day supporters named Ernst Mayr has provided his own theories and proof of
With respect to Darwin?s ideas on natural selection and adaptation, Mayr used an
closely related group of insect species to prove this point. In Malaya round, pink flowers
are common; so the mantid native to Malya is round and pink. However, in Central
America, most plants have green, oval-like leaves; so the mantid to Central America is
green and oval-like in shape. This example shows how species of common ancestry have
adapted to fit their individual surroundings.
With respect to Darwin?s ideas on evolution, we will look at the mustard plant.
The mustard plant is the evolutional ancestor of six different vegetables: cauliflower,
cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi. Breeder have been able to prove
this by focusing on one particular part of the plant to accentuate. The process of
accentuating the plant parts by breeders is evidence of evolution, except that humans are
manipulating the results to meet their own needs. There really is not much more
information on Darwin?s theory of evolution, due to the fact that the majority of his book
focused on adaptations rather than evolution.
So, as you can see, Darwin?s disbelief in the notions that evolution occurred,
caused him to investigate evolution, and led to the creation of Darwinism. Darwin did
present a great deal of evidence to prove his point, however, his theory still has one major
problem; the ?missing link?. Darwin was able to show evolution from the simplest
organism to the most complex organism as a complete chain; except that he is missing the
link between primates and humans. In spite of all the evidence and the ?missing link?,
Darwin?s ideas are still being debated to this day; however, most biologists now believe in
Darwinism and support Darwin?s ideas on evolution and natural selection.