Darwin is the greatest and most cited scientist in modern science with his contribution spanning centuries. He was born in 1809 and died in 1882 after a heart failure. He made vast contribution to science in his lifetime which remains relevant in the modern science. Darwin’s interest in science began when he was young. He had problems with the traditional classical curriculum which demanded that he learnt Latin and ancient Greek. He loved being outdoors exploring nature and hunting. This did not please his father but still he was supportive of his interest when it became clear that Darwin had passion for nature. He went to Cambridge College to study arts but he continued to pursue his interest in science. His had great interest in botany and zoology. While ate school he found many scientists who became his mentors. He regularly had engaged these mentors in conversation of scientific issues.
It was during his Beagle voyage that he got immersed into the science world as he travelled the world and experienced differences in nature in different parts of the world. This trip gave him the experience which contributed largely to this ability to his knowledge on nature. This journey took him five years to travel to Africa, South America, Tahiti, Australia, and Galapagoss. This expedition explored the vastly different nature and geology of different places in the world. During his exploration he discovered the diversity of nature in each location he visited and this prompted him to think about their origin through survival for the fittest. All through his exploration he constantly wrote correspondence and study specimen samples from around the world to his mentors. His work had earned him respect and recognition in the scientific community.
The beagle voyage inspired Darwin to develop the theory of evolution by natural selection. It gave him an exposure to diverse and abundant nature which inspired him to think about the origin of all species. He began by documenting variations he discovered in animals and plants. It took him 20 years to develop the theory by collecting evidence and documenting them. He went to study his theory of natural selection by focusing on barnacles. He believed that studying one area in science provides new ways of thinking about other areas. At this stage, Darwin performed experiments to prove his theory of natural selection through evolution. He performed an experiment on pigeons where he applied artificial breeding hoping to provide proof to his theory. Darwin was determined to prove his theory therefore he went to perform many experiments using different species. He published his theory of natural selection however it created a lot of controversy in the Victorian England.
He wrote his first paper on natural evolution in 1842 however it was for personal use. He did another paper in 1845 focusing majorly on bird species he collected in Galapagos Islands. In this paper, he noted that the birds had the same shape of beaks but different sizes and this prompted him to imagine that they might all have evolved from a single species. He was not keen on publishing his theory as he fascinated by the carefully gathering and studying specimens. In 1958 however, it came to surprise when A.R. Wallace wrote to Darwin asking for his opinion on the paper he had written on evolution by natural selection. Darwin was devastated as he had worked on the theory for years. He was afraid that his work would go to waste if Wallace’s paper would be published. With the help of scientists and friends Wallace and Darwin cooperated together to develop the theory and present it at the Linnean Society. The joint paper did not provoke much interest which proved beneficial to Darwin’s experiment. He took a different route and wrote the Origin of Species. This was a game changer as he got a lot of recognition for it (Costa, 2014).
The Origin of Species was published in 1859 however he kept on updating the book. Through his subsequent editions, his ideas became clearer while other ideas were developed. His survival for the fittest ideas came up in his fifth edition in 1869. In his autobiography, he wrote on the similarities in embryos to prove his theory of common ancestry. His other publications include the variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication in 1868 and the Descent of Man in 1971. In this 1871 publication he wrote that human beings originated form ape family hence they share a common ancestry. Although this theory was fiercely rejected in his lifetime, it soon gained popularity among mainstream scientists.
The concept of natural selection is remarkable as many philosophers before Darwin had not discovered it. The theory uses adaptive changes experienced by species towards the environment over a period of time. It explains the nature balancing itself by eliminating the inferior. Darwin developed the term survival for the fittest to further explain his theory. For any species to survive, it must compete with others in its habitat for space and food. Any weak species eventually die because they cannot access the resources unlike the strong ones who are able to live well. Darwin was careful not to mention the final causes of natural selection so to avoid controversies. This is because the change determinants vary from one population to the other and also the environment. Variation of features increased the chances of elimination of inferior members. He used the argument made by the previous philosophers that the universe continually experienced change due to randomness and necessity. The randomness is then explained through natural selection in which stronger species remain while the weaker ones are eliminated (White & Gribbin, 2009).
He was holistic in his approach to studying species and making conclusions. His theory proved the dual nature if biological processes that occur in species (New, 2017). His discoveries continue to influence research in biology. The modern science has developed through his work and experiments. He inspired other scientist to specialize on different fields of biology.
His theory caused uproar in the Victorian era as Christianity was largely practiced. Many people in this era were religious and believed that God created animals and plants. Any concept that did not support religious perspectives was considered improper and the society rejected it. They were not convinced that natural selection is the reason behind the existence of species in every generation. He did not support the role of supernatural phenomena in the existence of animals and plants. He points out that the world evolves and species adapt to their surroundings therefore there is no need of a supernatural being to create. He also notes the contradiction between the natural world and the concepts brought about by the Bible. He advocated for scientific research free form the influence of religion. This caused him a lot of criticism from the church as being part of a spiritual revolution. It logical to understand Darwin’s point of view as he is a scientist and would have wanted pure science in his work. Although he became religious he did not merge his scientific and religious views because of the contradiction.
Also opposed the belief that all members of class are identical, he suggested that any difference in a class is accidental. The philosophers that existed before Darwin such as Plato emphasized on typology that stability in species is a result of the invariance. Darwin opposed this concept of essentialism by noting that the variations in a class caused instability hence the need to eliminate. He brought in the concept of race which many people thought it was racist. However he argued that no human beings are equal and the variations resulted in the competition. It is true though that human have variations however the biological components have less to do with superiority or inferiority.
He rejected the aspect of teleological force as being a great equalizer. He believed that there was no final cause that ensured that the world remained in order. He refuted the claim that a force was responsible for the biological functioning of species. He advocated for nature and it driving force in balancing species. He also opposed the determinism theory developed by a French philosopher named Laplace. The determinism theory suggested that the future if species could be predicted while on the other hand had concluded that randomness resulted in creation a generation of a species.
Apart from the concepts of his theory his relationship with Wallace brought controversies also. Although he did a lot of research work on natural selection by evolution, it is thought that Wallace had also contributed much but did not get enough recognition. Wallace is less known yet he contributed to the development of the theory. It is thought that he may have used Wallace’s ideas to develop his known with acknowledging his contribution (Kutschera, 2003). In conclusion, regardless of all these controversies, he remains famous for his discoveries and his contribution to science. He work is studied in classrooms across the world and also scientists are using his concepts to develop new ideas.
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