Darwin Essay, Research Paper
The question of how man evolved has been pondered since man first stepped foot on this planet. Many great philosophers and explorers have made attempts to try to answer this question. Charles Darwin was one of these people. Darwin led a full life of exploration, and during these adventures, he accumulated much information about evolution. He met many explorers that had various ideas of their own about how man evolved. In discussion with these people, he figured out if what they were telling him was fact or fiction. This helped him to formulate his own theory.
Curiosity was aroused in Darwin at a very young age. He was one of those children that are always into things, trying to find out how things work. He was especially interested in the outdoors. He was a very smart child, but his father, Robert Waring Darwin II, didn’t think so. “Darwin had a youth unmarked by the slightest trace of genius.” (Rachels,7). This didn’t stop Darwin, though. He never lost this curiosity throughout the years. At the age of 18, he made a very important discovery about flustra, which is “1. That the ova of the Flustra possess organs of motion and 2. That the small black globular body hithero mistaken for the young Fucus lorious is in reality the ovum of the Pontobdella Muricata.” (Rachels,7).
In the early 1800’s, a group of naturalists led by Captain FitzRoy, were planning an overseas trip, which they called the Voyage of the Beagle. They invited Darwin along, not as a naturalist, but as a helper. Through this trip, Darwin met many explorers that had their own theories about evolution. The first theory, which is the best known and most widely accepted one, is creationism. Creationism states that God created the heavens and the earth. This is the theory stated in the Bible, and many people believe this and preach this theory daily. Many people attend church at least once a week to engage in discussion about their beliefs. This isn’t the only theory, though. James Hutton introduced a different approach to evolution. His theory, uniformitarianism, suggests that the prominent features of the earth’s surface were produced by forces like wind, water, and weather over a long period of time. His theory was only partly true. It explains the question how fossils form, but it really doesn’t thoroughly explain evolution. Another theory of evolution is catastrophism. This theory, brought about by Cuvier, says that the earth went through a great series of catastrophes. In his theory, Cuvier suggested that there was one big super continent. He said that the continents slowly drifted apart from one large continent by plate tectonics. Darwin had the chance to talk to all these people on his trip on the Beagle, and they gave him the idea to look into evolution.
During Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle, he stopped at the Galapagos Islands in September of 1835. This stop is very important in the formulation of his theory because he discovered that even though the islands were very close together, and each islands contained different species of animals, and each of the species was adapted to their specific environment. (Darwin, 20). Darwin didn’t realize it at first, but he had found exactly what he was looking for in terms of how man evolved.
” ‘Descent with Modification’ was staring him
in the face: the tortoises and finches were
descendants of common ancestors, ‘modified’,
as Darwin says, ‘for different ends’. And so the
popular story is that, confronting the inhabitants
of the Galapagos, Darwin became an evolutionist.” (Rachels, 21).
This is only partly true, though. The finches were different species, but the tortoises were all variations of the species they belong to, but the thought about the finches was true. “The upshot that is, although the visit to the Galapagos was, along with many other episodes on the Voyage of the Beagle, important in the undermining Darwin’s faith in immutability, it was not critically important.” (Darwin, 22).
Darwin was very grateful to the Galapagos Islands because this is where he first became interested in evolution. This is also where he started the formulation of his theory, which is the theory of natural selection. “The theory sees evolutionary changes as the inevitable consequence of three obvious facts. (Rachels,25). The first fact is the geometrical increase of population. If left unchecked, the size of the population of a single animal or plant species would increase until the world is overrun.
The second fact is the variance within the species. Individuals with the same species aren’t always exactly alike. They differ in their particular characteristics. He found this out from the tortoises that he thought were different species, but they were actually of the same species. ” all forms of life on the earth have evolved out of other forms that lived at an earlier time, and that those in turn had evolved out of still earlier forms.” (Korey, XI). The members of the species have varied characteristics because they adapt to their surroundings, and this may require their characteristics to change a little. “He (man) has evolved out of lower and simpler kinds of life and differs in no fundamental way from others on this planet.” (Korey, XI).
Competition for survival is the third fact that connects to natural selection, which is more commonly known as survival of the fittest. The idea of “survival of the fittest” is that some beings have advantages over others, whether it be the size, strength, fastness, or techniques that are used to make it easier to hide from predators, like skin that camouflages the being. Future generations of a species will tend to resemble the individual who has the advantage. Darwin compiled all of this information together and called it Darwinism.
Darwin didn’t discover survival of the fittest, though. It was actually discovered by a scientist who was also trying to explain evolution. His name was Alfred Wallace. He wasn’t getting much success with his ideas so he teamed up with Darwin. They combined their ideas and together came up with something that worked. Darwin used their ideas to write a book. This book is called “The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection.” And it became a very successful book.
There are many arguments made in this book. On argument is made about the statement that animals would overrun the earth if they were left to reproduce like they are supposed to. This could never happen because a population hits a certain maximum population and stops. It is also argued that a high percentage of organisms have to die before they can reproduce. He talks about how the struggle for existence is random and it happens sporadically. Artificial selection is when breeders breed animals that have the characteristics that they desire. This doesn’t always create the perfect animal, though. Some characteristics may have to be sacrificed in order to get the characteristics desired. For example, a sheep with shorter legs is desired because the longer legs enable the sheep to jump over a fence and escape. The sheep with the shorter legs might come out a lot smaller because the legs have to be able to support the sheep’s body weight. The breeder had to give up the size of the sheep to get the shorter legs.
“Darwin’s great work, ‘The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection’, appeared, and was heavily attacked because it didn’t support the depiction of creation given in the book of Genesis.” (Kirjasto). There were many people opposed to Darwin’s theory, especially religious figures. “The religious implications of Darwinism are often discussed. From the outset, churchmen have worried that evolution is incompatible with religion.”(Rachels,1).
Darwin’s theory had a profound impact on man’s perspective of evolution. Darwin’s theory came as a shock to common, everyday people. Not many people believed that Darwin’s idea were true, at first. Some were even angry with Darwin for even implying that their superior being didn’t exist. As time on, though, people started to realize that his ideas actually made sense. Some started to accept his ideas, others didn’t. They were sticking to their beliefs. Darwinism still isn’t proven as the beginning of man, but there are people that believe it is. This theory seems very logical, and even though there’s no real way to prove that it’s actually the beginning of man, Darwin did find a lot of information that has been very helpful to scientists. Scientists have found many ways to use his information to broaden evolutionary horizons.
Still, others argue that Darwinism is not only religiously wrong, it is also mortally wrong. Implying that man evolved from a lower life form is also implying that man is as low as those life forms. “Traditional morality, no less than traditional religion, assumes that man is a ‘great work’. It grants to humans a moral status superior to that of any other creatures on earth. It regards human life, and only human life, as sacred, and it takes the love of mankind as it’s first and noblest virtue. What becomes of all this, if man is but a modified ape?”(Rachels,1).
Darwin made a scientific breakthrough. He did this by being an explorer throughout his life. He had help from many great scientists and by going on the Voyage of the Beagle. Darwinism impacted people in a huge way, and has helped scientists a lot. Even though many people put down Darwin’s theory, it has helped scientists greatly. Charles Darwin is a very important person, and if he were alive today, he would probably be honored for his achievements.
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Jastrow, Robert, ed. The Essential Darwin. Boston and Toronto: Little,
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Rachels, James. Created From Animals: The Moral Implications Of
Darwinism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.