Darwin Term Paper

The Free essays given on our site were donated by anonymous users and should not be viewed as samples of our custom writing service. You are welcome to use them to inspire yourself for writing your own term paper. If you need a custom term paper related to the subject of Biology or Darwin , you can hire a professional writer here in just a few clicks.

From his theories that he claimed were developed during his voyage, Darwin eventually wrote his Origin of Species and Descent of Man, which exploded into the world market over twenty years after his return home.

Wallace, King and Sanders wrote in Biosphere, The Realm of Life: "In 1859, Charles Darwin published a theory of evolution that implied that humans evolved from apes. . .The Darwinian revolution was the greatest paradigm shift in the history of biology, and it greatly changed the way that ordinary men and women viewed their own place in the world." (1)

World Book tells us: (2)". . .The study of the specimens from the voyage of the Beagle convinced Darwin that modern species had evolved from a few earlier ones. He documented the evidence and first presented his theories on evolution to a meeting of scientists in 1858 . . . Darwin's theories shocked most people of his day, who believed that each species had been created by a separate divine act. His book, which is usually called simply The Origin of Species presented facts that disputed this belief. It caused a revolution in biological science and greatly affected religious thought." (3)

Two ideas have been propounded by evolutionists through the years and repeated ad hominem to the general public by Darwin's followers: That Darwin was the most important figure in the history of evolutionary thought, and that he had established evolution as a fact.

But is this indeed the case? Did Charles Darwin actually make some stunning new discovery of human origins, as is popularly believed, or was the concept of the evolution of species nothing new at all, and in fact was it something that had been discussed for centuries prior to his birth?

To begin our investigation into the truth of the matter, we may gain some insight from the dean of twentieth century anthropologists, William Howells, formerly of the University of Wisconsin and senior Anthropologist of Harvard University, who had this to say on the subject:

"Darwin is supposed, by those who have not read him, to be the man who thought of evolution and who said that men were descended from monkeys. Neither notion is even half true." (4)

The authors of Anthropology Today agree: "The belief that evolutionary theory began with Charles Darwin is widespread but incorrect."(5)

Even Leakey and Isaac, after their monumental tribute to Darwin in Human Ancestors, had to admit: "Darwin was not the first to consider the possibility that life, including human life, had originated through a prolonged process of gradual change involving natural rather than supernatural mechanisms."(6)

First of all, let us find out what evolution is supposed to be; let us define it. Evolution is the theory that all living organisms supposedly have transformed from one species into another through a gradual process of adaptation to changing environmental conditions, which transformation is said to have taken place through the extremely fortuitous timing of natural selection, hybridization, inbreeding and (more recently) mutation, and that through this process all living species are descended from a common natural ancestor, and fish became amphibians that turned into reptiles that turned into mammals etc. etc. We will deal with the evidence and possibility of this having ever occurred throughout the remaining chapters of this work. For now the definition is adequate for our purposes.

Often it is implied that the theory of evolution is some new, scientific theory that replaced old, primitive ideas of a supernatural creation by an supreme Being. This line of thought is expressed in the Encyclopedia Britannica (7): "Evolution provided the first unifying, general principle to all living things," however "in legends of creation popular among the peoples of antiquity-Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Hebrews, whose sacred book, the Torah, known to Christians as the Old Testament, contains two descriptions of the creation of plants and animals. The omnipotence that primitive peoples ascribed to their deities made it natural for them to believe that the gods created everything in existence. For this reason, the origins of the Earth, the heavens, the seas, plants and animals, and men and women were wrapped in unquestioned dogmas, some of which hold true today. It is only comparatively recently, in societies and civilizations possessed of scientific knowledge and methods of investigation, that such dogmas have come under question."

Contrary to this opinion though, we find in fact that evolutionary thought is itself a rather old idea. The editors of Biology Today would agree:

"Much has been written on whether or not the Darwinian theory was original. Inevitably, historians have concluded that there was little novelty in what Darwin and Wallace were saying. Down through the centuries, from ancient Greek times on, various writers have suggested that new species can arise through the modification of old and that among all the possible organic types, the world contains only those that can survive the struggle for life." (8)

This is indeed interesting, that the concept that Darwin is given so much credit for was not even a very modern idea in his own day.

We find that Anaximander of Miletus (611 B.C.-546 B.C.) advanced the traditional evolutionary idea, already quite common in his day, that life first evolved from a type of pre-biotic soup, helped along a bit by the rays of the sun. He believed that the first animals developed from sea slime which had been evaporated by the suns rays. He also believed that men were descended from fish. (9)

It would seem that the premise of evolutionary thinking hasn't changed much since the ancient Greeks, for William Howells said of Homo sapiens: "Man, therefore, is a modified fish." (10)

Howells further wrote, (11)"'Plato having defined man to be a two-legged animal without feathers, Diogenes plucked a cock and brought it into the Academy, and said, 'This is Plato's man.'"

Other prominent Greeks advanced the idea of evolution. Aristotle taught the doctrine of evolution in his Ladder of Nature, of which Erik Nordenskoid wrote, "Here we find enunciated for the first time a really complete theory of evolution." Democritus, who came up with an early version of the atomic theory, had an evolutionary theory, and Epicurius described the theory plainly in his writings. Paleontologist and curator of the American Museum of Natural history for many years, Henry Fairfield Osborn, considered Empedocles to be the father of evolutionary thought.

The Chinese philosopher Chuangtse formulated a close approximation to the evolutionary theory, and some ancient Hindu ideas have an evolutionary outlook in their theory of the soul's development through re-incarnation.

Since the beginning of the Renaissance in the late fourteenth century evolutionary ideas began to take shape in the minds of many philosophers. More than one author has said that by the time of the eighteenth century the entire intellectual atmosphere of England and Europe was actually saturated with the idea of evolution.

Many of these ideas came out of the schools of the French, German and Spanish naturalists, who contended that all species of life were derived from purely natural consequences of adaption to various environmental conditions.

The terminology was somewhat different then, the phrase "transformation of species" was used instead of the present Darwinian version, "evolution of species," thus these precursors of Darwin were called "transformists" or "transformationists," much as a modern believer in evolution would be called an "evolutionist."

The renowned political philosopher Rousseau (1712-1778) clearly demonstrated in his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, written in 1754, that evolutionary ideas of man's descent from an animal form were very well known in his day, and that these ideas went all the way back to the time of the ancient Greeks. He began the first part of that essay with this statement: "Important as it may be, in order to judge rightly of the natural state of man, to consider him from his origin, and to examine him, as it were in the embryo of his species; I shall not follow his organization through its successive developments, nor shall I stay to inquire what his animal system must have been at the beginning, in order to become at length what it actually is. I shall not ask whether his long nails were at first, as Aristotle supposes, only crooked talons; whether his whole body, like that of a bear, was not covered with hair; or whether the fact that he walked upon all fours, with his looks directed toward the earth, confined to a horizon of a few paces, did not at once point out the nature and limits of his ideas."

Rousseau himself wisely declined to affirm any of these evolutionary views, stating that there was insufficient evidence for any of them to be proven: "On this subject, I could form none but vague and almost imaginary conjectures. Comparative anatomy has as yet made too little progress, and the observations of naturalists are too uncertain to afford an adequate basis for any solid reasoning."

He then stated that ordinary common sense, even apart from any religious conviction, would lead one to believe that man had not evolved from an animal, but had always existed in his present form: "So that, without having recourse to the supernatural information given us on this head [the Bible], or paying any regard to the changes which must have taken place in the internal, as well as the external, conformation of man, as he applied his limbs to new uses, and fed himself on new kinds of food, I shall suppose his conformation to have been at all times what it appears to us at this day; that he always walked on two legs, made use of his hands as we do, directed his looks over all nature, and measured with his eyes the vast expanse of Heaven." (Rousseau, On the Origins of Inequality) (12)

In the third epistle of Alexander Popes Essay on Man ( 1733-1734) there is a hint of the evolutionary theory, along with man's common origin with the animal world, although it is extremely difficult to determine whether he is endorsing the idea of man's descent from animals, or merely affirming that all beings were created from like, humble elements. The French Philosopher Montesquieu described his belief that all present species had descended from a relatively few number of ancient species.

Maillet (1656-1738), the French Consul and philosopher of note, preceded Darwin by well over a century with his theory that the land animals developed from creatures that formerly lived in the ocean depths. In his Telliamed he wrote that life first began with aquatic beings that had to "terrestrialise" themselves as the land appeared out of the water. He believed that there were two kinds of ocean animals, those that swam near the surface and those that lived on the ocean bottom. Maillet claimed that those that lived near the bottom became the walking animals. He proposed that those marine animals that swam near the surface turned into birds since, during the course of time, they were thrown up on the land by the waves of the sea, consequently they had to learn to fly since the tall grass on the beach prevented them from returning to the water, thus their fins split into wings and feet. One of the main premises of his theory is that descent occurs with slight modification over the span of many generations, nearly identical with Darwin's ideas a century later.

The philosopher Maurpertius (1698-1759) definitely elucidated the very essentials of the Darwinian theory of evolution many years before Darwin was even born, proposing that it took place by the same process of survival of the fittest through chance favorable variations, which he called "errors" (and which modern evolutionists call mutations), that occur during the foetal stage of development. Maurpertuis wrote: "May we not thus explain how, from only two individuals, the multiplication of the most dissimilar species might have followed? They might have owed their first appearance merely to accidental occurrences. Perhaps the elementary parts did not maintain the arrangement which had existed in the animal ancestors: each degree of error could have created a new species, and, thanks to repeated deviations, the infinite diversity of animals manifest today might have resulted. This diversity developed with time, but perhaps grew imperceptibly in the course of the centuries." He wrote in 1750, "Chance has produced a countless number of individuals; a small number of these were constructed in such a way that the parts of the animal could satisfy his needs; in an infinitely greater number, there was neither fitness nor order, and they all disappeared [became extinct]; the only ones which survived were those in which order and fitness prevailed. These species in existence today are only the smallest part of what a blind fate had produced." (Maupertius, Essai de Cosmologie.)

Some of Darwin's ideas sound as though they could have been taken line for line from Maupertius writings.

Compare this with the Origin, where Darwin wrote: "Natural Selection acts exclusively by the preservation and accumulation of variations, which are beneficial under the organic and inorganic conditions to which each creature is exposed at all periods of life. The ultimate result is that each creature tends to become more and more improved in relation to its conditions. . .If under changing conditions of life organic beings present individual differences in almost every part of their structure . . .then, considering the infinite complexity of the relations of all organic beings to each other and to their conditions of life [environment], causing an infinite diversity in structure, constitution, and habits, to be advantageous to them, it would be a most extraordinary fact of no variations had ever occurred useful to each being's own welfare . . . But if variations useful to any being ever do occur, assuredly individuals thus characterized will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life . . .this principle of preservation [preservation is actually the opposite of diversification of many varieties from one species] I have called Natural Selection. It leads to the improvement of each creature in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life, and consequently, in most cases, to what must be regarded as an advance in organization." (Darwin, Origin, pp.60-63, Benton Pub., 1952)

In another place Darwin wrote: "The fact, as we have seen, that all past and present organic beings can be arranged within a few great classes, in groups subordinate to groups . . .The real affinities of all organic beings, in contradistinction to their adaptive resemblances, are due to inheritance or community of descent . . . I believe that animals are descended from at most only four or five progenitors, and plants from an equal or lesser number. Analogy would lead me one step farther, namely, to the belief that all animals and plants are descended from some one prototype. . .As species are produced and exterminated by slowly acting and still existing causes, and not by . miraculous acts of creation, and as the most important of all causes of organic change is . . .the improvement of one organism entailing the improvement or the extinction of others . . ." (Darwin, Origin, pp.238-243)

Jean Baptiste Robinet (1735-1820) fully anticipated Darwin on the gradual accumulation of beneficial adaptions to produce new species from pre-existing ones. Robinet wrote almost a complete synthesis of Darwin's basic theory years before Darwin's birth: "Each generation introduces some differences and these differences endlessly multiplied and accumulated produce significant alterations in the prototype; these differences suppress old parts or multiply them, engender new ones, transform the combinations, vary the results, and finally produce something very different from the model itself." Robinet, Vue Philosophique (1766); De la Nature (1768)

Comparing this idea with what Darwin wrote, we see that Darwin's ideas were not very original: "When many of the inhabitants of any area have become modified and improved, we can understand, on the principle of competition, and from the all-important relations. of organism to organism in the struggle for life, that any form which did not become in some degree modified and improved, would be liable to extermination . . .The theory of natural selection is grounded on the belief that each new variety and ultimately each new species, is produced and maintained by having some advantage over those with which it comes into competition; and the consequent extinction of the lesser favored forms almost inevitably follows . . .thus as I believe, a number of new species descended from one species, that is a new genus, comes to supplant an old genus . . . For all the species of the same group, however long it may have lasted, are the modified descendants from the other, and all from a common progenitor." (Origin, On the Geological succession of Organic Beings, pp.167-169, Benton, 1952)

Modern theories of evolution have not advanced much at all since the time of these men, all of whom preceded Darwin by nearly a century. Stein and Rowe mention in Physical Anthropology that the contemporary of Linnaeus, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788) had "proposed every major point that Darwin would later include inThe Origin of Species." (13)Further on the authors write, "...it was left to Jean Baptiste de Lamarck (1744-1829) to propose a systematic theory of evolution as an explanation of organic diversity."(14)

Lamarck was a pupil of Buffon's, as were many of the other early evolutionists. Gordon Taylor wrote of Lamarck, who anticipated many of Darwin's ideas, that "Particularly unfair to him was Darwin, who skimmed through one of his books and pronounced it a farrago of nonsense," (15) yet we find Taylor praising Lamarck thusly: "Though Lamarck's name has become covered with contumely, he was in fact a great naturalist: his contributions to the classification of the invertebrates alone are sufficient to have earned him an honored place in the history of biology. More than this, he can claim to be the first biologist to propose a theory of evolution . . ." (16)

We find from the pen of Lamarck: "Species cannot be distinguished completely from each other; they pass into one another, proceeding from the simple Infusoria right up to man" (1802). He wrote in 1809, the year of Darwin's birth: "Every observant and cultivated person knows that nothing on the surface of this earth remains forever the same. Everything undergoes in time the most gradual changes which take place at varying degrees of rapidity, depending on its own nature and circumstances . . . these changing environmental conditions bring about a change in the requirements, customs and manner of living of animals, which in turn results in a transformation and development of organisms. Thus these are subject to imperceptible change, even though such change only becomes noticeable after a considerable period of time."

Often evolutionists have attempted to imply that before the advent of Darwin biological thought was in a condition of disorder, but that Darwin somehow stepped in and straightened the whole thing out, with of course the usual tie in with religious preconceptions as a primary cause for the problem being strongly hinted at. Typical of this line of thought is this quote from Encyclopedia Britannica: "Evolution is the kernel of biology. It is significant that, before Darwin established evolution as a fact and showed how it was brought about, biology was in a state of chaos."(17)

Wallace, King and Sanders wrote in their book Biosphere, The Realm of Life (18): "In Darwin's time, by his own account, all serious biologists believed that species (specific kinds of plants and animals, such as pineapples and dogs) were fixed and unchanging. But On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural selection, Darwin's great work, changed all of that . . . The Darwinian revolution swept away a lot of age-old assumptions. The most painful loss, of course, was Darwin's dispensing with the necessity of assuming a wise, foresightful creator. Also dispensed with, as unproved and unnecessary, were other deeply held assumptions. The theory of evolution challenged the previously accepted idea that each species was a permanent, fixed entity; that had to go. . .Darwin argued that the species had no reality other than that of the individuals composing it, and that the idea of a species was just a category invented by the human mind . . ."

This seems rather ironic however when we find from another Encyclopedia article that, "The Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) became known as the father of modern taxonomy through his major work Systema Natura [The System of Nature] first published in 1735. Linnaeus, however believed that each species was created by God and incapable of change." (19)

Linnaeus, the father of the discipline of taxonomic categorizing of species of plants and animals, whose system, known as the Linnaean System, is still the basis for classifying plants and animals used today, confronted and confounded the evolutionists of his day, because he believed and proved that species could be classified in an orderly manner based on the distinctive types of creatures, referring to the Genesis kinds spoken of in the Bible.

Thus, and this is fully accepted today by all competent zoologists, there are distinct classes of animals, fitting into the various Kingdoms, Phyla, Sub-phyla, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species. It seems incredible that Wallace, King and Sanders can defend Darwin's illogical and mistaken assertion that species do not exist, yet this is not uncommon with modern defenders of evolutionary theory. It is interesting that none of the names of any of the evolutionists of that period are used for modern scientific terminology in botany or zoology, nor are their ideas very much even discussed when classifying animals, only the name Linneaus is used in reference to the Linnaean system he developed for us.

It is also a mistatement to assert, as Wallace, King and Sanders seem to imply, that Christian belief did not allow for variation within species. Obviously orthodox Christian belief would not imply that all humans are exactly alike simply because we are all descended from one pair of human beings. All men are created equal, but we all have different physical attributes. The many varieties of bears, the grizzly, the brown bear, the black bear and the polar bear for example, in a Biblical framework, were all descended from one pair of ancestors, and have adapted to their various locales, not through developing new traits or changing into new species, but through the initial genetic potential that they inherited. This is known as variation within species, which many Christian writers even in Darwin's day believed in, as according to the wise plan of the Creator, who put this potential into the make-up of animals for survival in diverse climates, geographic locations, etc., but the bears remained bears nonetheless, there was no evidence of their having evolved from or evolved into any other species of animal but a bear.

As far as Darwin contributing anything of order to the science of biology, a more objective view would be from Gordon Taylor, who wrote: "If Darwin plunged us into a hopeless world of chance it was because he was in reaction from a philosophical and theological position . . ."(20)

Taylor further said that Darwinist philosophy: ". . . presented the living world as a world of chance, determined by material forces, in place of a world determined by a divine plan."(21)

Another giant of science who opposed the evolutionists of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was the French statesman and zoologist Baron Cuvier (1769-1832). Cuvier is regarded as the father of the modern sciences of comparative anatomy and paleontology. Cuvier maintained that all species were special created by God for a special purpose, and that each organ in the body had been created for a special function. He argued correctly that it would be impossible for any creature to survive any significant change in its structure, although he did make allowance for variation within certain limits, which as has been stated is totally in accordance with the Biblical view.

All of the ideas in the Origin were already widely known and read before and during Darwin's time, so it is evident that he was not propounding anything at all that original. Even in his Historical Sketch, which Darwin wrote as a preface to the later editions of the Origin after Lyell called him to task for not giving enough credit to his predecessors, he belatedly admitted that he was not the first to come up with the idea. There he wrote of "the celebrated botanist and palaeontologist Unger" who had published his belief in gradual modification and change of species in 1852, seven years before Darwin's publication of the Origin. (22)

Darwin claimed that the main ingredient in this process of evolution (though not the only one, the extermination of whole populations of animals, as seen in the above quote, was very much a part of his idea of biological "improvement") was natural selection: "I have now recapitulated the facts and considerations which have thoroughly convinced me that species have been modified, during a long course of descent. This has been effected chiefly through the natural selection of numerous successive, slight favorable variations: aided in an important manner by the inherited effects of the use and disuse of parts. . ."(Darwin, Origin, pp.239)

We find though that even Darwin's idea of natural selection was not original either. Professor William Lawrence, F.R.S., wrote of natural selection in 1822, years before Darwin sailed on the Beagle. Darwin wrote, in what seems a rather petulant tone, in his Historical Sketch a response to critics accusing him of trying to take credit for an idea that was not his own. He revealed: "As far as the mere enunciation of the principle of natural selection is concerned, it is quite immaterial whether or not Professor Owen preceded me, for both of us, as shown in this historical sketch, were long ago preceded by Dr. Wells and Mr. Matthew." (Historical Sketch to later editions of the Origin.) Jacques Barzun wrote that, "Anyone in fact, who would gauge the familiarity of the European mind with evolutionary ideas before Darwin need do no more than reread Tennyson's In Memoriam. There he will find not only. . . natural selection, but likewise man's kinship with the ape, the chain of beings, their development, and the consequences to religion and morals of the thoroughgoing naturalism of science."(23)

While Darwin was still a youth it appears that the entire culture of England was awash with evolutionary ideas. Years before he even set foot on the Beagle, we find a collection of anecdotes on monkeys titled Apology Addressed to the Travelors Club, or anecdotes of Monkeys published in 1825, which were written , according to Geoffrey Bourne, with "the double objective of making the ideas of the evolutionists look foolish and of satirizing human weaknesses."(24)

Loren Eiseley informs us: "Charles Darwin did not compose the theory out of thin air. All of the elements which were to enter into it were being widely discussed during his college years." (25)

At first Darwin claimed that his method of observation and deduction was based on the empirical, scientific method of Bacon: "I worked on true Baconian principles and without any theory collected facts on a wholesale scale," i.e. let the facts speak for themselves, but he contradicted himself later on and did not in fact use this method. De Beer tells us: "This was invalidated by Darwin himself when he wrote to Lyell (June 1, 1860): 'Without the making of theories, I am convinced there would be no observations." (26) Thus it appears that Darwin did not use a very scientific method when arriving at his conclusions. Reminiscent of Darwin's penchant for telling fibs and spinning fantastic tales as a youth, De Beer again informs us that "Darwin's method was to spin a hypothesis about anything that struck his attention (i.e. anything that he was predisposed by ideas to see) . . ." [the above words in parenthesis are not my addition but from the article itself.] (27)

It has been clearly demonstrated,contrary to the numerous tributes of praise to Charles Darwin at the beginning of this section, that he was by no means the first person to come up with the theory of evolution.

Having read of Darwin'own actual bleak academic background before his voyage on the Beagle, it should not surprise us to find out that the idea that he has been given credit for by so many of his followers, the evolution of species, was not his own idea in the least. What is suprising is that he has been hailed by these same followers as the great inovator of some grand new scheme of life, when nothing could be farther from the truth.

The so called "modern" theory of evolution itself has been around for thousands of years. It is not some novel development as a result of any scientific discovery, despite the claims of its most ardent adherents, but is simply the resurrection of an ancient, pagan creation myth, biased towards a materialistic, non-theistic view of the universe, which view has been warmly adopted by the cultural and liberal media elite from Darwin's time on down to the present day, and foisted upon an unwitting public as the so-called "scientific" explanation of the universe and man's role to play in it, when nothing could be farther from the truth.

What may be even more surprising is that Charles Darwin was not even the first Darwin to come up with the theory of evolution. Who was this other Darwin whose name was synonymous with the theory of evolution years before Darwin was even born?

Word Count: 4952

Related Essays on Biology