Charles Darwin | Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution by natural selection

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution stands test of time

charlesdarwinb.jpg By Robert McCarthy

Feb. 12 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, and 2009 marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. This double-anniversary is the perfect opportunity to assess the impact of Darwin's ideas on the modern world.

Darwin's theory is both simple and elegant - adjectives describing the best and most convincing scientific ideas. One hundred and fifty years ago, scientists knew that the Earth was very old, that human births greatly outnumber food supply, and that physical characteristics can be selectively bred in domestic animals. Darwin tied together these disparate observations in a theory, natural selection, that explained how evolution occurred - in short, organisms better adapted to their environment to prosper, contributing a greater proportion of their genes to future generations. Over millennia, these genetic changes give rise to new species.

Darwin's theory is the centerpiece of modern biology. In the 150 years since its publication, paleontologists have discovered transitional forms (such as Archaeopteryx, a feathered dinosaur) that provide the "missing link" between two species, while other researchers have observed natural selection occurring in both the wild and under laboratory conditions. Of course, scientists have also shown that evolution occurs via other mechanisms and at different levels. These advances expand on Darwin's original theory without invalidating its central premise.

Darwin's theory has always been controversial. According to a recent poll, fewer than 50 percent of Americans believe that humans evolved from an earlier species of animal. In Florida, the word "evolution" was only added to the K-12 science standards last year! Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, many Americans believe that the world was created 6, 000 years ago - and that religious ideas should be taught alongside evolutionary theory in public school science classes. However appealing they may be in other respects, religious convictions are not scientific theories. In science, theories such as evolution (and gravity) are equivalent to fact, and based on more than belief and conviction.

The theory of natural selection is one of the greatest, most misunderstood ideas ever wrought by human intellect. If Charles Darwin were alive to make a wish on his birthday, I think he might have asked for greater scientific literacy, starting with the teaching of facts like evolution in public schools. We owe it to Charles Darwin, and to our children, to see that he gets his wish.

Charles Darwin's Theory

by stogie5

One theory is that it is a deliberate ploy of the human race to help those behind adapt better to the inevitable ending of their lives. Darwin's simple theory of the survival of the fittest holds that every species is struggling to increase its hold on this planet and guarantee the survival of its descendants. That is our greatest primary urge. Other animals help their peers to survive: the dying elephant, for example, trails away into the bush so that he does not slow down the herd. Are the dying just "helping the herd" by putting out propaganda that death does not contain a sting? But this theory does not explain why NDEs are erratic, or why we shunted down an evolutionary sidetrack for years by making them something that people were reluctant to talk about

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On the Galapagos Islands where Darwin's finches reside, (tiny birds are so called because these inspired Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection) humans have come forward to provide them life-saving assist. (Photo : Sarah Knutie, University of Utah).

Temple University Press Social Darwinism: Science and Myth in Anglo-American Social Thought (American Civilization)
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