Evolution Without Evidence: Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species


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Darwin and evolution by natural selection (American Museum of Natural History)

Darwin discovered fossils resembling huge armadillos , and noted the geographical distribution of modern species in hope of finding their "centre of creation". Richard Owen showed that fossils of extinct species Darwin found in South America were allied to living species on the same continent.

At the zoo he had his first sight of an ape, and was profoundly impressed by how human the orangutan seemed. In late September , he started reading Thomas Malthus 's An Essay on the Principle of Population with its statistical argument that human populations, if unrestrained, breed beyond their means and struggle to survive. Darwin related this to the struggle for existence among wildlife and botanist de Candolle's "warring of the species" in plants; he immediately envisioned "a force like a hundred thousand wedges" pushing well-adapted variations into "gaps in the economy of nature", so that the survivors would pass on their form and abilities, and unfavourable variations would be destroyed.

Darwin now had the basic framework of his theory of natural selection, but he was fully occupied with his career as a geologist and held back from compiling it until his book on The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs was completed. Darwin continued to research and extensively revise his theory while focusing on his main work of publishing the scientific results of the Beagle voyage. In November , the anonymously published popular science book Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation , written by Scottish journalist Robert Chambers , widened public interest in the concept of transmutation of species.

Vestiges used evidence from the fossil record and embryology to support the claim that living things had progressed from the simple to the more complex over time.

What Darwin Didn’t Know

But it proposed a linear progression rather than the branching common descent theory behind Darwin's work in progress, and it ignored adaptation. Darwin read it soon after publication, and scorned its amateurish geology and zoology, [41] but he carefully reviewed his own arguments after leading scientists, including Adam Sedgwick, attacked its morality and scientific errors.

While few naturalists were willing to consider transmutation, Herbert Spencer became an active proponent of Lamarckism and progressive development in the s. Hooker was persuaded to take away a copy of the "Essay" in January , and eventually sent a page of notes giving Darwin much needed feedback. Reminded of his lack of expertise in taxonomy , Darwin began an eight-year study of barnacles , becoming the leading expert on their classification.

Using his theory, he discovered homologies showing that slightly changed body parts served different functions to meet new conditions, and he found an intermediate stage in the evolution of distinct sexes. Darwin's barnacle studies convinced him that variation arose constantly and not just in response to changed circumstances.


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In , he completed the last part of his Beagle -related writing and began working full-time on evolution. He now realised that the branching pattern of evolutionary divergence was explained by natural selection working constantly to improve adaptation. His thinking changed from the view that species formed in isolated populations only , as on islands, to an emphasis on speciation without isolation ; that is, he saw increasing specialisation within large stable populations as continuously exploiting new ecological niches. He conducted empirical research focusing on difficulties with his theory.

He studied the developmental and anatomical differences between different breeds of many domestic animals, became actively involved in fancy pigeon breeding, and experimented with the help of his son Francis on ways that plant seeds and animals might disperse across oceans to colonise distant islands.


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  7. By , his theory was much more sophisticated, with a mass of supporting evidence. In his autobiography, Darwin said he had "gained much by my delay in publishing from about , when the theory was clearly conceived, to ; and I lost nothing by it". Various biographers have proposed that Darwin avoided or delayed making his ideas public for personal reasons. Reasons suggested have included fear of religious persecution or social disgrace if his views were revealed, and concern about upsetting his clergymen naturalist friends or his pious wife Emma.

    Charles Darwin's illness caused repeated delays.

    Charles Darwin's Observations - Biology for All - FuseSchool

    His paper on Glen Roy had proved embarrassingly wrong, and he may have wanted to be sure he was correct. David Quammen has suggested all these factors may have contributed, and notes Darwin's large output of books and busy family life during that time.

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    A more recent study by science historian John van Wyhe has determined that the idea that Darwin delayed publication only dates back to the s, and Darwin's contemporaries thought the time he took was reasonable. Darwin always finished one book before starting another. While he was researching, he told many people about his interest in transmutation without causing outrage. He firmly intended to publish, but it was not until September that he could work on it full-time.

    His estimate that writing his "big book" would take five years proved optimistic. An paper on the "introduction" of species, written by Alfred Russel Wallace , claimed that patterns in the geographical distribution of living and fossil species could be explained if every new species always came into existence near an already existing, closely related species. Darwin was torn between the desire to set out a full and convincing account and the pressure to quickly produce a short paper. He met Lyell, and in correspondence with Joseph Dalton Hooker affirmed that he did not want to expose his ideas to review by an editor as would have been required to publish in an academic journal.

    He began a "sketch" account on 14 May , and by July had decided to produce a full technical treatise on species as his "big book" on Natural Selection. His theory including the principle of divergence was complete by 5 September when he sent Asa Gray a brief but detailed abstract of his ideas. Darwin was hard at work on the manuscript for his "big book" on Natural Selection , when on 18 June he received a parcel from Wallace, who stayed on the Maluku Islands Ternate and Gilolo. It enclosed twenty pages describing an evolutionary mechanism, a response to Darwin's recent encouragement, with a request to send it on to Lyell if Darwin thought it worthwhile.

    The mechanism was similar to Darwin's own theory. While Darwin considered Wallace's idea to be identical to his concept of natural selection, historians have pointed out differences. Darwin described natural selection as being analogous to the artificial selection practised by animal breeders, and emphasised competition between individuals; Wallace drew no comparison to selective breeding , and focused on ecological pressures that kept different varieties adapted to local conditions.

    Creationism and evolution

    Soon after the meeting, Darwin decided to write "an abstract of my whole work" in the form of one or more papers to be published by the Linnean Society , but was concerned about "how it can be made scientific for a Journal, without giving facts, which would be impossible. By early October, he began to "expect my abstract will run into a small volume, which will have to be published separately. By mid March Darwin's abstract had reached the stage where he was thinking of early publication; Lyell suggested the publisher John Murray , and met with him to find if he would be willing to publish.

    On 28 March Darwin wrote to Lyell asking about progress, and offering to give Murray assurances "that my Book is not more un -orthodox, than the subject makes inevitable. Murray's response was favourable, and a very pleased Darwin told Lyell on 30 March that he would "send shortly a large bundle of M. He bowed to Murray's objection to "abstract" in the title, though he felt it excused the lack of references, but wanted to keep "natural selection" which was "constantly used in all works on Breeding", and hoped "to retain it with Explanation, somewhat as thus",— Through Natural Selection or the preservation of favoured races.

    On 5 April, Darwin sent Murray the first three chapters, and a proposal for the book's title. On the Origin of Species was first published on Thursday 24 November , priced at fifteen shillings with a first printing of copies. In total, 1, copies were printed but after deducting presentation and review copies, and five for Stationers' Hall copyright, around 1, copies were available for sale. The third edition came out in , with a number of sentences rewritten or added and an introductory appendix, An Historical Sketch of the Recent Progress of Opinion on the Origin of Species , [85] while the fourth in had further revisions.

    The fifth edition, published on 10 February , incorporated more changes and for the first time included the phrase " survival of the fittest ", which had been coined by the philosopher Herbert Spencer in his Principles of Biology In January , George Jackson Mivart 's On the Genesis of Species listed detailed arguments against natural selection, and claimed it included false metaphysics. The sixth edition was published by Murray on 19 February as The Origin of Species , with "On" dropped from the title.

    What Darwin didn't know

    Darwin had told Murray of working men in Lancashire clubbing together to buy the 5th edition at fifteen shillings and wanted it made more widely available; the price was halved to 7 s 6 d by printing in a smaller font. It includes a glossary compiled by W.

    Book sales increased from 60 to per month. In the United States, botanist Asa Gray , an American colleague of Darwin, negotiated with a Boston publisher for publication of an authorised American version, but learnt that two New York publishing firms were already planning to exploit the absence of international copyright to print Origin.

    In a May letter, Darwin mentioned a print run of 2, copies, but it is not clear if this referred to the first printing only as there were four that year. The book was widely translated in Darwin's lifetime, but problems arose with translating concepts and metaphors, and some translations were biased by the translator's own agenda. He welcomed the distinguished elderly naturalist and geologist Heinrich Georg Bronn , but the German translation published in imposed Bronn's own ideas, adding controversial themes that Darwin had deliberately omitted.

    Charles Darwin and the Origin of Life

    Bronn translated "favoured races" as "perfected races", and added essays on issues including the origin of life, as well as a final chapter on religious implications partly inspired by Bronn's adherence to Naturphilosophie. Darwin corresponded with Royer about a second edition published in and a third in , but he had difficulty getting her to remove her notes and was troubled by these editions.

    Page ii contains quotations by William Whewell and Francis Bacon on the theology of natural laws , [] harmonising science and religion in accordance with Isaac Newton 's belief in a rational God who established a law-abiding cosmos. WHEN on board HMS Beagle , as naturalist, I was much struck with certain facts in the distribution of the inhabitants of South America, and in the geological relations of the present to the past inhabitants of that continent.

    These facts seemed to me to throw some light on the origin of species—that mystery of mysteries, as it has been called by one of our greatest philosophers. He mentions his years of work on his theory, and the arrival of Wallace at the same conclusion, which led him to "publish this Abstract" of his incomplete work. He outlines his ideas, and sets out the essence of his theory:. As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected.

    From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form. Starting with the third edition, Darwin prefaced the introduction with a sketch of the historical development of evolutionary ideas. Chapter I covers animal husbandry and plant breeding , going back to ancient Egypt.

    Darwin discusses contemporary opinions on the origins of different breeds under cultivation to argue that many have been produced from common ancestors by selective breeding. However, for Darwin the small changes were most important in evolution. In Chapter II, Darwin specifies that the distinction between species and varieties is arbitrary, with experts disagreeing and changing their decisions when new forms were found.

    He concludes that "a well-marked variety may be justly called an incipient species" and that "species are only strongly marked and permanent varieties". Darwin and Wallace made variation among individuals of the same species central to understanding the natural world. In Chapter III, Darwin asks how varieties "which I have called incipient species" become distinct species, and in answer introduces the key concept he calls " natural selection "; [] in the fifth edition he adds, "But the expression often used by Mr.

    Herbert Spencer , of the Survival of the Fittest , is more accurate, and is sometimes equally convenient. Owing to this struggle for life, any variation, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if it be in any degree profitable to an individual of any species, in its infinitely complex relations to other organic beings and to external nature, will tend to the preservation of that individual, and will generally be inherited by its offspring I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection, in order to mark its relation to man's power of selection.

    He notes that both A. Darwin emphasizes that he used the phrase " struggle for existence " in "a large and metaphorical sense, including dependence of one being on another"; he gives examples ranging from plants struggling against drought to plants competing for birds to eat their fruit and disseminate their seeds. He describes the struggle resulting from population growth: "It is the doctrine of Malthus applied with manifold force to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms.

    Chapter IV details natural selection under the "infinitely complex and close-fitting He remarks that the artificial selection practised by animal breeders frequently produced sharp divergence in character between breeds, and suggests that natural selection might do the same, saying:. But how, it may be asked, can any analogous principle apply in nature?

    I believe it can and does apply most efficiently, from the simple circumstance that the more diversified the descendants from any one species become in structure, constitution, and habits, by so much will they be better enabled to seize on many and widely diversified places in the polity of nature, and so be enabled to increase in numbers.

    Evolution Without Evidence: Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species Evolution Without Evidence: Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species
    Evolution Without Evidence: Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species Evolution Without Evidence: Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species
    Evolution Without Evidence: Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species Evolution Without Evidence: Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species
    Evolution Without Evidence: Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species Evolution Without Evidence: Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species
    Evolution Without Evidence: Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species Evolution Without Evidence: Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species
    Evolution Without Evidence: Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species Evolution Without Evidence: Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species
    Evolution Without Evidence: Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species Evolution Without Evidence: Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species

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