The following essay will cover how Charles Darwin had to write his book in a way as to not offend the beliefs of people at the time.
In Britain, in 1859 there were 750 000 (Richard, J. no date. “Looking at History: Roman Catholicism 1800-1850) people who believed in creationism so this made it much more difficult for Darwin to transfer his theory without severe repercussions. These repercussions were usually letters of criticism from the public and his peers, however there were some violent acts against him because he was questioning their most profound belief.
There were 3 groups of biologists who were the main critics of Darwin’s the Origin of Species, these being the Lamarkians, the Vitalists, and the early Mendelians.
“The Lamarkians and the Vitalists rejected the idea of natural selection as too materialistic and as giving insufficient weight to will and effort and other psychological forces. Whilst the early Mendelians who were fascinated by the discovery of genetic units (gene differences) with large effects (such as hornlessness in cattle) wanted to make mutation responsible for positive evolutionary change and so only believed in natural selection to get rid of negative and harmful variants” (Darwin, C.
2003. the Origin of Species.
United States: Penguin Group). Meaning that the Lamarkians believed that species lost parts of them that they didn’t need, the Vitalists believed that species were created separately whilst Darwin clearly states “that species had not been independently created, but had descended, like varieties, from other species” (Darwin, C. 2003. the Origin of Species. United States: Penguin Group) And that the early Mendelians only believe in it to accept mutation for positive changes only.
Due to these three different facts, we can see that whatever Darwin wrote, he would offend the beliefs of someone, somewhere in England. As he says in his book, “No one can feel more sensible than I do of the necessity of hereafter publishing in detail all the facts, with references, on which my conclusions have been grounded; and I hope in a future work to do this.” (Darwin, C. 2003. the Origin of Species. United States: Penguin Group)
The critics “proved” to Darwin that he was wrong because through their own studies they found that the earth was no more than maybe 60 000 years old. One critic for example, Professor Owen stated that “The archetypal idea was manifested in the flesh under diverse such modifications, upon this planet, long prior to the existence of those animal species that actually exemplify it. To what natural laws or secondary causes to the orderly succession and progression of such organic phenomena may have been committed, we, as yet, are ignorant […] These phenomena shake our confidence in the conclusion that the Apteryx of New Zealand were distinct creations for that specific island” (Darwin, C. 2003. the Origin of Species. United States: Penguin Group) This saying that it was physically impossible for these species to exist because of the earth was 60 thousand years old and that the number of progressive mutations could not have taken place because it would have taken much longer than the age of this planet.
Charles Darwin knew before setting foot on Her Majesty’s Ship Beagle that there were going to be huge consequences from his findings. He spent 5 years collecting samples and 22 years writing his evidence and making connections between varieties of species. Darwin was very careful in the way he wrote his book by introducing theories through the course of his book and not just saying, evolution is right, creationism is wrong. He backed up every single little conjecture that he made with at least 3 examples of his work. In doing this, I believe that Darwin made his life a lot easier, though the comments of his book may show otherwise. This also proves to us how much time Darwin spent in making sure he didn’t offend the beliefs of the people to harshly.
Louis Agassiz, a well renowned scientist of his time and one of Darwin’s most challenging critics said that “The evidence of nature pointed to the unity of a plan originally conceived by a source of greater intelligence than any known in the physical universe” (Largent, Mark A., and Christian C. Young. Evolution and Creationism: A Documentary and Reference Guide. New York: Greenwood Press, 2007.) Meaning that according to the facts of nature there is an obvious plan made by God or another higher being.
And although Charles Darwin did have his fair share of critics, he also had some supporters. Perhaps one of the more supportive ones was Thomas Huxley. Prior to reading The Origin of Species he thought that the earth was what it was today as it was throughout its lifetime. However, after reading it his response was “How stupid of me not to have thought of that.” (“Thomas Huxley.” UCMP – University of California Museum of Paleontology. 17 June 1994) Huxley organized a debate to which his opponent was the Archbishop Wilberforce, to whom he thrashed in the debate. In the conclusion of this meeting, all accounts agreed that evolution was the best way to explain the vast variety of species on this planet.
In some ways, Charles Darwin was indeed the Galileo of his time. Galileo tried to prove to the world that the world was a globe while nearly the rest of the world thought you’d fall off it forever if you went past Asia. They both found revolutionary theories that would shock the world. Few books have moved the beliefs of so many people from one end of the spectrum to the other. This is one of those books. Darwin himself believed in creationism when he set foot on the HMS Beagle: it wasn’t until he ventured to the Galapagos Islands that he truly believed in his own theory.
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