A Conversation for The Theory of Evolution - Part I

Darwin - but which one?

Post 1

Gilgamesh of Uruk

A couple of points -
Darwin didn't notice the Galapagos finches at the time - or rather, he didn't realise they were finches. His original starting point was the shell shape of the tortoises.

The theory of evolution - Charles Darwin had absolutely NOTHING to do with the formulation of the theory of evolution. This was fully formulated at least as early as Erasmus Darwin's time. Charles Darwin's contribution, and Alfred Russell Wallace's contribution, let it never be forgotten - I wonder if CD would ever have published if ARW had not independantly reached similar conclusions - was one possible MECHANISM by which evolution might proceed - natural selection.

Darwin - but which one?

Post 2


Thanks for making those points Gilgamesh smiley - ok

Darwin - but which one?

Post 3

R. Daneel Olivaw -- (User 201118) (Member FFFF, ARS, and DOS) ( -O- )

Good point.

It is odd-Wallace had to convince Darwin to publish, but then fell back and wouldn't accept all the implications of evolution by natural selection.

Darwin - but which one?

Post 4


Evolution was a concept familiar, if not respectable, prior to Darwin. It was a concept he probably found scandalous at first. It is apparently true that he didn’t recognise some of the best evidence that he used in Origin of Species until its significance was pointed out by others.

This takes nothing away from his intellectual achievements, or the impact he had on much of subsequent biology.

Lets be clear - many people had thought about evolution before Darwin. What Darwin did was formulate a theory of how evolution could actually work (natural selection) and provide LOTS of evidence over many, many years to argue his case.

Other people thought of similar concepts to natural selection but none with the wealth of evidence and depth of thought that Darwin brought to the subject. He was apparently a modest and cautious man and didn’t publish his thoughts for twenty-odd years, partly because of the scientific climate at the time, partly because he was famous as a geologist and believed he needed to develop a reputation as a naturalist before he published such a revolutionary idea. Whether this caution is an admirable trait or not: when he finally did publish, the evidence he presented was extensive and for the most part, impeccable.

In science, provenance of an idea is always controversial. Scientists rarely work alone - ideas get shared, thoughts and publications get built on - that’s pretty much the nature of the beast. Darwin collaborated with a number of people. He drew his ideas from a number of sources. And other people, working alone, had similar ideas.

Darwin deserves the credit he has received because of his thorough and thoughtful treatment of an idea that was probably genuinely his own. It was certainly born from many other ideas from geology, biology etc. and very probably, there were people who had the same idea independently of Darwin, possibly before him.

This takes nothing away from Darwin's achievement. He made the theory of natural selection as a mechanism for evolution his own, through a combination of insight, good observation (even though much of that observation came from asking other people what they themselves had observed) and above all, good science.

Darwin - but which one?

Post 5


I was always told that the first edition of 'Origins...' did not use the word 'evolution', and Darwin disliked the implications of the word (organisms progressing in a direction towards something better). I think I read this in Gould's 'Full House', anyone care to comment?

smiley - biggrin

Stesmiley - mod

Darwin - but which one?

Post 6

Rod, Keeper of Pointless and/or funny discussions or statements

True, He only started using the word evolution in the 6th edition.

About why he didn't publish:. one of the reasons probably is that he knew what kind of uproar it would cause. Around the same time as he finnished his book similar writings were greatly critisized.


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