Charles Darwin Essay

1778 words - 7 pages

prue evolution AMore than a century after his death, and four generationsafter the publication of his chief work, 'The Origin of Species',Charles Darwin may still be considered the most controversialscientist in the world. His name is synonymous with the debatethat continues to swirl around the theory of evolution, a theorythat deeply shook the Western view of humanity and its place inthe world.We tend to speak simply of the theory of evolution, leavingoff the explanatory phrase, 'through natural selection.' At most,perhaps, the general public has heard of 'survival of thefittest' a poor phrase as far as I'm concerned, since fitness ineveryday usage is associated with physical conditioning andathletic ability. 'Survival of the most suited to itsenvironment' would be a more accurate, and convincing expressionfor this pedicular concept. But to most of us, 'evolution' simplymeans that human beings are descended from apes, a slightmisunderstanding, since both humans and modern apes aredescendants of a mutual ancestor that is now extinct. It's notevolution but the theory of natural selection and the evidence hecollected to prove to fellow scientists, peers, students, andmost importantly the masses of public and the church that were atthe heart of Darwin's contribution to biological science.Charles Darwin did not invent the concept of evolution. Anumber of prominent scientists and other thinkers during theeighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century(among them Charles Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus Darwin) hadoffered detailed theories of evolution (Clark, 1984, pg.24-25).Therefor the idea of evolution went very far back in Westernhistory.At that time this concept was referred to as The Great ChainOf Life and was conceived in the middle ages, based on a mixtureof classical and Biblical ideas. The ranking order ranged fromthe 'lowest' forms of life to 'higher' living beings (lion),through the various classes of human beings from peasants tonobles to Popes, and upwards through the hierarchy of angles toGod.This concept, in and of itself, has nothing to do withevolution, in fact it seems to be anti-evolutionary, since everymember is fixed in its own place. This chain was created in atime when the world was considered to be more static rather thana diverse collection of dynamic ideas.But the Newtonian revolution of the seventeenth centuryreplaced the old static world with a new world view in whicheverything was naturally in motion. In the course of theeighteenth century the notion of progress, of gradual butrelentless pursuit of betterment, began to take hold in westernthought. It was only natural that the ideas of change and ofprogress should eventually be applied to the Great Chain ofBeing. The natural implication of a 'dynamic' chain of being wasa sort of tree of life, gradually sprouting upward from basicprimordial ooze, branching outward into all the varied species onour fine planet, ending with, of course, eighteenth century Man.This...

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