Introduction: Darwin and His Voyage
The English scientist Charles Darwin made an invaluable contribution to the biological science, being able to create a theory of the development of the animal world based on defining the role of natural selection as the driving force of the evolution process. Therefore, the Darwinian Revolution is referred to as a theory that explains why there is a vast diversity of flora and fauna on the Earth. Prior to Darwin, many European scientists had developed various similar theories, which influenced his way of thinking. However, only Darwin managed to create a breakthrough that has drastically changed the natural sciences. The foundations for the theory of evolution were Darwin’s observations during the world tour on the ship named “Beagle” from 1832 to 1837 (Masci 755). The expedition, which lasted for five years, has become a great school for Darwin’s knowledge and experience. The impenetrable jungle, savages, cannibals, unusual animals and plants, deadly encounters with the people of many countries – everything was in abundance during the years of travel. It was then when Darwin has “discovered” the evolution for himself. In particular, his visit to the Galapagos Islands became a stepping stone towards his success. (Stanford, Allen & Anthon 16)
The Galapagos have given Darwin a chance to peek through the blinds, which allowed him to make another step closer to the truth. It should be noted that back then Darwin was only a young man with the little experience, but he had massive interest in science. During his research, he found many similar living creatures that possessed different variations. The most interesting observation made by him was that these animals had differences in various islands of the Galapagos. For example, the tortoises with long necks populated the islands covered with trees, where they had to reach the food. On the other hand, the creatures with short necks inhabited the islands, where there were more grassy plains than trees. This simple observation had a significant influence on Darwin, but it took him many years to figure it out. After returning to his home in England, Darwin has conducted the further research on the topic using all the information he was able to gather during the travel, as well as the findings of the other scientists (Stanford, Allen & Anthon 18).
The History of the Evolutionary Theory
The development of the evolutionary theory has begun in 1837 (Shanahan 12). However, only twenty years later, at the meeting of the Linnean Society of London, Darwin read the report, which contained the basic principles of the theory of natural selection. At the same meeting, a report was read by A. Wallace, whose views coincided with those of Darwin. Both reports were published together in the Journal of the Linnean Society, but Wallace admitted that Darwin had developed the theory of evolution earlier, deeper and fuller than him. As a result, emphasizing the priority of Darwin, Wallace named his main work published in 1889 “Darwinism” (Wallace 12).
Darwin’s work of his whole life was named glibly in the traditions of the times he lived in: “The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life.” It was released in 1859 and sold over 1,250 copies, which was considered a huge success for the scientific work at that time (Shanahan 180). Darwin himself mentioned that the success of the book could have been a proof that the question of the variations of the flora and fauna has “hovered in the air”, and that the minds of researchers were prepared for it. However, he claimed that by probing the views of many naturalists, he was unable to meet the one who would doubt the constancy of species. Moreover, Darwin’s meaning of natural selection was not accepted at that time, as it opposed the principles of natural theology, which claimed that God has created all the existing things in the way people can observe them. It should be noted that the first draft of Darwin’s theory has been made in 1842 (Shanahan 14). However, there is a disagreement about the question of whether Darwin has reached the evolutionary concept, which is described in the “Origin of Species,” or his views underwent radical changes. In this work, Darwin showed that the species of plants and animals are variable, and that the present species have evolved naturally from the other species that existed previously. The features of the new species are created by the natural selection of the non-directional changes that are useful for the organism. Thus, the form most suited to the current environment will survive. In 1868, Darwin published his second major work named “The Variations of Animals and Plants under Domestication,” which was a supplement for his theory (Shanahan 111). In this work, he included a variety of the actual evidence of the evolution of organic forms drawn from the centuries-old practice. The third great work on the theory of evolution named “The Descent of Man” was published in 1871, with the addition of the book “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals”, thus giving it a logical ending (Shanahan 249).
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The Evolution of Darwinism
Although Darwin’s theory was based on a huge number of facts, was carefully designed and looked very convincing, it has met a resistance in the scientific community and secular society. Even the secular press of that time wrote that Darwin’s ideas are not only unscientific, but if they are widespread, the morality would lose its steady authority. Therefore, the adoption of the theory of evolution was a hard struggle, but Darwin himself did not take part in it due to his poor health. In addition, the financial independence of the very wealthy Darwin family allowed him not to participate in the “struggle for existence.”
Darwin’s theory has not triumphed immediately and simultaneously in all countries. Thanks to the efforts of Hooker, Lyell and Huxley in England, Haeckel and Mueller in Germany, it has been established in these countries during the life of Darwin (Masci 758). In France it was not successful, because its scientific circles were dominated by the idea of catastrophism by G. Cuvier, and the theory did not find active supporters. In general, in the process of the formation and evolution of Darwin’s theory (which has occurred throughout its history), the controversy was centered on a limited number of the key issues – the evidence of the rightness or wrongness of the evolutionary ideas. In particular, Darwin offered to look for them in the fossils. He hoped that in time, interspecific transitional life forms, which prove the rightness of his teaching, would be found. Since then, hundreds of thousands of fossils were discovered, but the situation remained rather tense. Only a few findings could barely pass for transitional forms. Moreover, between different vertebrates (fish, reptiles, and birds) there were at least some dubious transitional forms, and the process of transition from invertebrates to vertebrates remained a mystery. In addition, there were no convincing examples of transitional forms in the plant kingdom (Yahya 47).
However, Darwinism gradually gained strength, which allowed him not to listen to the authoritative opponents. For example, the famous works of Louis Pasteur, showing no traces of spontaneous generation in inanimate nature, were met with hostility. In the days of Pasteur, the theory of germs was flourishing. Prior to his work, people thought that the emergence of worms in the meat and fermentation of wine was a spontaneous processes (Yahya 17). As a result, among the men of science, not all have perceived the idea of Darwinism. In England, among them was the founder of the British Museum of Natural History, the anatomist Richard Owen, who opposed to the ideas of Darwin from a scientifically-based position. By the early twentieth century, it became clear for many that Darwin’s theory is flawed, since it remained unconfirmed in the fossil record. As a result, the numerous supporters of Darwinism began to tinker and improve it, creating neo-Darwinism or the synthetic theory of evolution. Since then, it is constantly evolving and is referred to even nowadays.
A Critical View on Darwin’s Theory
Darwin’s teaching is based on the explained facts of evolution, which is the basis of the modern evolutionary theory. However, the latter could not have been created on a single comparison of naturalistic facts. Therefore, one may assume that that Darwin’s evolutionism of the 1840s has been developed in the framework of the old ideas of natural theology, which claimed that God has created all the existing things (Masci 759). In his works, Darwin used the language that was characteristic of the natural theology. However, he started filling the old religious concepts with the evolutionary content. Thus, one may argue that Darwin has drawn a hypothesis in the form of the creature that is able to make a selection much more precisely than a human. The omnipresent and all-seeing being is able to look inside the organisms and make the selection of their significant variations and features that occur very rarely in nature and may ensure their survival in the future. This line of reasoning has directly testified that Darwin did not break up with the old theological ideas. Apparently, the immediate causes of the introduction of the Creator into the evolutionary process has served as a primary explanation of the changes occurring with the species, while a small stock of intraspecific variations has had lower priority (Shanahan 118).
It is worth mentioning that Darwin paid little attention to the definition of variability, which is the adaptive response of organisms to the environmental factors. He thought that the main material for the evolution is provided by the so-called indefinite variability that occurs under the influence of the external environment, but does not have an adaptive nature, i.e. it emerges spontaneously without a particular reason. On the other hand, various opposing theories gave the dominant role in the process of evolution to adaptation. According to these theories, the adaptive changes are inherited and are the material for the evolutionary process. However, certain changes of adaptive sort – the so-called adaptive modifications (e.g. the crooked trunk of the tree that grew in harsh conditions) – are not inherited (Wallace 85). Only the ability of organisms to adapt to the certain external factors is transferred from one generation to another, as evidenced by the consistency with which the adaptive modifications appear again after the restoration of the former conditions. In addition, numerous experiments have shown that the hereditary changes emerging in the organisms are not adaptive. The adaptive modifications are not the new abilities, but the reaction developed due to the evolution of organisms (Wallace 86). Moreover, the majority of the other concepts of evolution that explained the driving forces of the historical process in nature were speculative or based on the idealistic attitude. However, the materialistic nature of Darwin’s theory made it unacceptable to the conservative part of biologists and religiously-minded circles. Still, it should be noted that in order to improve the theory of natural selection, Darwin lacked many things, and especially genetics – the core of biology. Furthermore, Darwin was not strong in logics, and some of his statements were contradictory. For example, he was unable to explain the simultaneous existence of complex (the animals) and simple (the germs) forms of living organisms, while, according to his theory, lower beings always evolved into the higher ones (Yahya 58). Moreover, mathematicians have repeatedly drawn attention to the neo-Darwinian tautology in the provisions of the survival and adaptation – species survive because they are able to adapt, and the ability to adapt provides their survival. The time factor is also the key point for the theories of Darwinism and neo-Darwinism: there has always been enough time for the evolution, and the same time factor ruled out an experimental test of whether there is variability in species due to the change in the habitat conditions (Yahya 124). Thus, due to the unverifiable biological macroevolution (from molecules to a man), the Darwin’s theory can be considered the object of faith, and is supposed to be derived beyond science.
The Value of the Evolutionary Theory
Despite all the flaws and weak points of his teaching, Darwin has become the first man in history to develop the theory of biological evolution. It is of great methodological importance and has not only clearly and convincingly justified the idea of organic evolution, but also has made it possible to check the validity of the very theory of evolution. It is a decisive phase of one of the greatest conceptual revolutions in science. The most important event in this scientific revolution was the replacement of the theological ideas of evolution, which claimed that flora and fauna were created in their modern form. Despite fierce criticism, Darwin’s theory quickly gained recognition due to the fact that the concept of the historical development of nature explained the observed events better than the idea of the immutability of species. To substantiate his theory, Darwin, in contrast to his predecessors, has attracted a huge amount of facts available to him from many different areas. Highlighting the biotic relations and their popular interpretation was an important innovation of the concept of Darwinian evolution. It gives the right to conclude that Darwin created his own concept of the struggle for existence. It was fundamentally different from the ideas of Darwin’s precursors. This is the essence of the scientific significance of Darwinism.
Another merit of Darwinism is his revelation of the driving forces of the organic evolution. The further development of biology has deepened and complemented his views, which has formed the basis of modern Darwinism. Nowadays, in all biological disciplines, the leading place is occupied by the historical research methods that allow examining an individual path of evolution of different organisms and penetrating deeply into the essence of biological phenomena. The evolutionary theory of Darwin has been widely used in modern synthetic theory, where the only guiding factor of evolution is natural selection, the material for which is provided by the mutations. A historical analysis of Darwin’s theory inevitably gives rise to the new methodological problems of science, which may be the subject of a special study. The solutions to these problems entail widening of the field of knowledge, and hence the scientific progress in many areas: biology, medicine, and even psychology, on which the evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin had no less influence than on the natural sciences. Moreover, the Darwinian approach has enabled an efficient conversion of breeds of pets and cultivars, and breeding of new, more productive strains of microorganisms that are used as the producers of antibiotics. Thus, Darwinism has created the basis for viewing the entire biosphere of the planet as a complex evolving system, which may potentially allow humans to manage the evolutionary process.