Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is perhaps the most famous, and certainly the most controversial, scientific theory ever developed. First published in 1859 in a book titled, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, the theory proposed that human beings - and all living creatures for that matter - had arrived at their current state through a process called natural selection, which is the result of millions of years of adaptation. Darwin found his ideas solidified when on a trip to the Galapagos Islands where evolution had run rampant, and he later put those thoughts into words that almost anyone could understand.
Believe it or not, declaring that living things had been crafted by a natural process instead of being personally created by the Christian god caused a bit of a stir in the Western World. The suggestion that human beings may have descended from apes wasn’t meant as a personal slight at anyone, but people sure took it that way. Even the idea that the Earth was millions of years old was, and unfortunately still is, a highly controversial notion. Scholars, religious figures, and cartoonists alike all lined up to lampoon Charles Darwin and his wild ideas. Fortunately for him, his theory would be “naturally selected” as time went on, and has become the most probable and elegant way of explaining life on Earth as we know it.
Sides Were Taken In The Massive Debate Over Darwin’s Findings
Soon, reviews and opinions of On the Origin of Species began pouring in, and theological battle lines were drawn. Darwin’s intention was never to directly challenge religion, but many took it that way. People opined things like “Why does Darwin feel the need to question God?” and “Is the theory of intelligent design not good enough for him?” To some religious types, the very notion that Darwin had beliefs that clashed with their own was an inherent attack on Christianity. On the other side of the divide, supporters of Darwin readied themselves for the coming debates, including Thomas Huxley, who deemed himself “Darwin’s Bulldog.”
The Queen Considered Knighting Darwin, But Her Bishops Heavily DissentedPhoto: Wikimedia COmmons
Charles Darwin became really popular, really fast. Whether you agreed or disagreed with his incendiary theory, everyone was talking about Darwin. One of his biggest fans was the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, who even submitted Darwin’s name to Queen Victoria as a possible candidate for knighthood less than a year after the publication of On the Origin of Species. Prince Albert also supported the idea, but the Queen’s ecclesiastical advisors put the kibosh on that right away. There has since been a movement to grant Darwin his knighthood posthumously, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Darwin Clarified His Beliefs On Creative Power In The Face Of All The Criticism
Although Charles Darwin never intended to directly challenge the church, he found that his own beliefs were heavily challenged by his own research. Darwin was religious, and had even partially believed in a creationist worldview, but it just didn’t jive with what he had observed in nature. Privately, Darwin decided that he no longer believed in intelligent design. He confided in Charles Lyell that if predetermination and providential planning were behind evolution, then the entire process would be superfluous. Thus, in his mind, that predetermination must not exist.
Darwin Buckled Under Pressure From Criticism And Changed His Mind Repeatedly On How Old The Earth Might Be
While Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was fairly solid from the beginning and remains the backbone of our modern understanding of evolution, his theorizing certainly wasn’t flawless. In particular, Darwin struggled when it came to applying a geologic time scale to his ideas about the origin of life. In his first addition, Darwin attempted to demonstrate how much time evolution would have had to work with by repeating the claims of other scientists that the Earth was over 300 million years old. In the second edition, Darwin backed off this declaration a bit, stating that the Earth had to be at least 100 million years old. By the third edition, Darwin dropped any mention of geologic time altogether.