Was Charles Darwin Wrong? No. More than 150 years after he wrote his 1859 groundbreaking opus, “On the Origin of Species,” honest and factual evidence overwhelming supports Darwin’s theory and its application in nature, and in other systems such as business, social networks, and more. Understanding how evolution works is an intellectual advantage.
What Is The Theory Of Evolution By Natural Selection?
When English naturalist Charles Darwin brought forward his scientific argument for the theory of evolution by means of natural selection, he unknowingly paved the way for population genetics. By establishing that all species of life descended from common ancestors, Darwin published his theory of evolution based on vital evidence he had collected on a five-year ocean voyage aboard the ship HMS Beagle, a voyage that enabled him to examine the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he had collected. He began a series of detailed investigations and conceived his theory of natural selection in 1838.
Seeking time to perform comprehensive research and further geological work, Darwin also had earnest discussions on his ideas with several other naturalists. He was taken up with expounding on his theory in writing in 1858, when he received an essay on exactly the same idea from Alfred Russel Wallace. This initiated collaboration between the two, who came out with a publication of both their theories. Darwin’s work asserted evolutionary descent with modification as the underlying principle behind diversification that happens in nature.
In 1859, Darwin wrote: “The Affinities of all the beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great tree. I believe this simile largely speaks the truth. The green and budding twigs may represent existing species; and those produced during each former year may represent the long succession of extinct species … The limbs divided into great branches, and these into lesser and lesser branches, were themselves once, when the tree was small, budding twigs; and this connexion of the former and present buds by ramifying branches may well represent the classification of all extinct and living species in groups subordinate to groups … From the first growth of the tree, many a limb and branch has decayed and dropped off, and these lost branches of various sizes may represent those whole orders, families, and genera which have now no living representatives, and which are known to us only from having been found in a fossil state … As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications.” (See references here…)
Darwin asserted that populations around the Earth evolved through natural selection, which is a process that springs from three elements about those populations:
More offspring are born than those that survive and possibly sustain existence;
Traits differ among individuals, which also drives the variations in rates of continuation and propagation of the species;
Offspring that come out of pairings inherit the traits of their parent species.
These three elements that govern populations support the Darwinian evolutionary philosophy that theorizes that when individuals among a given species cease to exist, they are replaced by progeny of parents that are better adapted (read: more highly evolved) to exist for longer, and to propagate themselves in the very environment in which their process of natural selection occurred. Traits that are more suited for the progeny’s functional roles in the environment they are born into, appear and get recorded in their genetic makeup. Although natural selection is the only acknowledged cause of adaptation, it is never taken as the only agent of evolution. Non-adaptive causes of evolution also include genetic drift and mutation.
It was Darwin’s work that established the branching off from evolution that occurs with modification, and with the establishment of evolutionary descent as the primary scientific explanation for natural diversification in populations.
The early 20th century saw the integration of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection with genetics. This was through the field of biology known as population genetics. The significance that natural selection holds as a cause of evolution eventually became entrenched in other disciplines in biology. In consequence, Darwin’s theory of evolution easily displaced and rendered out-of-date such theories on evolution as progress and orthogenesis.
Darwin’s theory effectively stamped out the hypothesis that life has an inherent tendency to evolve in a steady, undeviating pattern due to some internal or external driving force. This is the premise on which orthogenesis was based, a hypothesis that suggests an intrinsic force that gradually transforms species. Orthogenesis proponents have relegated natural selection to not being the driving force behind evolution. Also according to them, theories of speciation for a rectilinear mode of guided evolution as happening in individual species with substance, or entity-making attributes, are also unacceptable. For orthogenesis proponents, evolutionary development occurs in a noticeable direction, most specialized in higher taxonomy groups. In orthogenesis, some species could be led to extinction.
Progress theories for evolution hold fast to the proposal that the history of life on earth has proceeded with a clear tendency towards increasing complexity in living organisms. An examination of taxonomic groups down the line suggests that more recent living organisms possess more complexity and specialization as compared to the earliest species. Supporters of this theory cite how bacteria have less complex general makeup than mammals. However, this claim on the occurrence of evolution by progress is innately flawed in that there is little, if any, reason to expect evolution to get carried out on a large scale trend such as that proposed by the very theory of progress. Although small-scale speciation can be expected as controlled by both time and space, the empirical and theoretical evidence is deemed obscure and unverifiable at most.
The theory of evolution as formalized by Charles Darwin dates back to the first pre-Socratic Greek philosophers. Such philosophers include Anaximander and Empedocles. Aristotle concretized these forms and ideas that earlier philosophers had failed to name, and he called them species. The new method of modern science in the 17th century rejected the Aristotelian approach. This modern science approach brought in the laws of nature into the process of species survival and perpetuation.
The theory of evolution considers all life on Earth as having descended from a universal common descent, a last universal ancestor (LUA) or last universal common ancestor (LUCA) that existed some 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago, placed sometime in the Paleoarchean era. The LUA is the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of all of Earth’s current life. Also known as the cenancestor, the LUA was the most recent organism from which all living organisms on Earth descended. Tina Hesman Saey wrote in Science News on May 14, 2010:
“A universal common ancestor is at least 10²⁸⁶⁰ times more probable than having multiple ancestors,” according to Brandon University biochemist Douglas Theobald.
According to the same article, Theobald also found that “A model that had a single common ancestor and allowed for some gene swapping among species … is 10³⁴⁸⁹ times more probable than the best multi-ancestor model.” (See references here…)
Was Darwin Wrong?
The evolution of the species was already established as a historical phenomenon and natural selection as the principal mechanism that brings about that phenomenon. Other thinkers, such as Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, had already suggested that all species are descended from common ancestors, long before Darwin came out with his opus, “On The Origin of Species,” in 1859. The marked difference with Darwin’s work was that it exceptionally concretized the theory with a rational explanation, which then made it more able to create an impact as compared to the weaker influence that earlier thinkers had rustled up.
British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, and biologist Wallace, Darwin’s co-discoverer of evolution by natural selection, had indeed independently conceived the theory of evolution through natural selection and pushed Darwin to work with his own theory and ideas on Darwin’s 1859 opus, but he was strongly attracted to unorthodox ideas of spiritualism and the dualistic philosophy of the mind. This made him unpopular among his peers.
The period that characterized the “eclipse of Darwinism” in the late 19th century eventually collapsed upon itself when scientists who opposed Darwin’s theory proffered substitute evolutionary concepts that they couldn’t even sufficiently defend, let alone sustain with adequate observational evidence. Modern evolutionary synthesis eventually gained a foothold in scientific disciplines from the 1930s to the 1950s, thereby integrating population genetics and Mendelian genetics, which in turn brought renewed interest in Darwinism on an enhanced and renewed level.
While scientists tirelessly pursue and examine various aspects of evolution, they are able to form and analyze hypotheses, to configure scientific postulates, to maximize empirical facts, and construct experiments in the laboratory and on the field. Professionals belonging to the discipline of biology assent with one another in bringing forward the evidence of descent with modification as one of the most secure and certain facts that have ever been introduced into science. The explorations and resulting discoveries that have pervaded in evolutionary biology have made a valid and palpable impact not only within the traditional branches of biology but also on other pedantic curricula.
Being just a theory, what Charles Darwin had put forward certainly deserves more than a rapid dismissal as being against fundamental Christian teachings and against ultra-orthodox doctrine. It has also taken severe criticism from Islamic creationists such as Harum Yahya, who chose to take the Koran’s six-day creation story as literal truth, and the late Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who was a Gaudiya Vaishnava teacher and the founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, commonly known as the “Hare Krishna Movement”, who maintained that God created “the 8,400,000 species of life from the very beginning,” in order to establish multiple tiers of reincarnation for rising souls. Srila Prabhubapada found it improbable that Darwin’s “nonsensical theory” could openly fail to support the concept that souls ascend without the species undergoing change. (See references here…)
Very few people find the theory of evolution palatable enough to digest with an open mind. In fact, surveys and polls of Americans in February 2001 proved that less than half of those polled could oppose the fact that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.” Aside from real ignorance and confusion being the main factors that have created so many anti-evolutionists, the doctrine of creationism has also deeply influenced proponents who believe that matter and all things were created, substantially as they now exist, by an omnipotent Creator, and not gradually developed or evolved. Political action to disable the teaching of evolutionary biology in public schools has also been a direct hindrance to the propagation and widespread acceptance of the theory of evolution by natural selection. With such open attacks and criticisms, it can seem an uphill battle for evolutionary theorists to penetrate mainstream consciousness and awareness because of the proliferation of cultural barriers, asinine magazine and newspaper references, fatuous nature documentaries in various media and the unabated spread of unsubstantiated information. (See references here…)
The evidence Darwin had presented held fast to four categories: Biogeography, paleontology, embryology, and morphology. Bio-geography helped Darwin prove that closely-related species share a deep organic bond prevailing throughout time and space. Common ancestors mean closely allied species exist near each other. Paleontology helped Darwin establish that descendants of a common ancestor logically succeed one another in time. Through embryology, he capably proved that “the embryo is the animal in its less modified state” and that state “reveals the structure of its progenitor.” Through morphology, the very essence of natural history, he proved that taxonomic clustering is possible based on the anatomical traits that closely-allied species shared and those that they didn’t. (See references here…)
Evolutionary biologists have found that repeated convergent evolution and the anagenesis or the phyletic change of life can be ascertained by examining common sets of biochemical and morphological traits or by common DNA configurations. These correspondent traits and configurations are more pronouncedly alike among species descending from a more recent ancestor, and can thus be employed to establish evolutionary histories by utilizing existing species and fossil record. Studies into speciation and extinction patterns have also developed what have become established modes of biodiversity.
Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection has never been disproved, because of the mere fact that people who attempt to do so always fail to find any real scientific evidence that can contradict the overwhelming and increasingly diverse knowledge base that supports Darwin’s theory.