Archive for July, 2010
Myths have circulated that Charles Darwin recanted the theory of evolution while he was dying. Some of the stories read like this: “Shortly after Darwin’s death at seventy-four on April 19, 1882, the evangelistic widow of Admiral of the Fleet Sir James Hope [Lady Hope] told a gathering of students at Northfield Seminary in Massachusetts that she had visited Darwin in his last hours and found him reading the Epistle to the Hebrews. Darwin, she said, announced that he wished he ‘had not expressed my theory of evolution as I have done,’ and he also asked her to get some people together so he could speak to them of Jesus Christ and His salvation, being in a state where he was eagerly savoring the heavenly anticipation of bliss.”
extinction and natural selection go hand in hand
Darwin uses “extinction” occurs 74 times in the sixth edition; “evolution” is not mentioned once. Encouraged by his brother, Erasmus, Darwin read An Essay on the Principle of Population by Thomas Robert Malthus, an English political economist in 1838. Darwin recalls in his Autobiography the sentinel moments:
In October 1838 … I happened to read for amusement Malthus On Population, and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long-continued observation of the habits of animal and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favorable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavorable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new species. Here, then, I had at last got a theory by which to work.
The origin of natural selection theory was rooted in behaviors in the struggle for existence, a behavioral science. As Darwin explains, “This is the doctrine of Malthus … [that] many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and … consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence” was the foundation of Darwin’s theory of natural selection:
The exhibit explains – “Natural selection is a simple mechanism that causes populations of living things to change over time.”
“Simple”, according the Answers.com means 1) having or composed of only one thing, element, or part, and 2) not involved or complicated, easy, a simple task. A common antonym of simple is difficult.
Perhaps, the zeal over evolution caused Eldredge to overlook what Charles Darwin actually wrote in The Origin of Species: the term simple was only used 56 times, while difficult was used 213 times. Darwin even entitled Chapter VI – “Difficulties of the Theory.” Chapter VI became an add-on chapter after the 1st edition. There is no “simple” chapter.
“The Origin of Species has special claims on our attention. It is one of the two or three most significant works of all time—one of those works that fundamentally and permanently altered our vision of the world… It is argued with a singularly rigorous consistency but it is also eloquent, imaginatively evocative, and rhetorically compelling.”
For evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala at the University of California, Irvine, Darwin gave the world “design without a designer.” For militant atheist Richard Dawkins, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” In an interview with American pop-media journalist Bill Moyers, Dawkins said that “among the things that science does know, evolution is about as certain as anything we know.”
Darwin, however, was not as “certain” as Dawkins—even on the power of natural selection. In The Origin of Species, Darwin flips his theory on the power of natural selection.