The evolution of a controversy.In college, the famous naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882) had one major passion: he loved to shoot things. Zoology zoology, branch of biology concerned with the study of animal life. From earliest times animals have been vitally important to man; cave art demonstrates the practical and mystical significance animals held for prehistoric man. he found dull; geology, even worse. What he really liked was hunting. And collecting beetles.
He was also a religious man. Although his father wanted him to become a doctor, Charles was horrified hor·ri·fy
tr.v. hor·ri·fied, hor·ri·fy·ing, hor·ri·fies
1. To cause to feel horror. See Synonyms at dismay.
2. To cause unpleasant surprise to; shock. by the sight of surgery; so he chose a different path and entered Cambridge University Cambridge University, at Cambridge, England, one of the oldest English-language universities in the world. Originating in the early 12th cent. (legend places its origin even earlier than that of Oxford Univ. with the intention of securing a position as a country parson. It is one of those odd facts of history that the man later vilified for promoting a scientific worldview world·view
n. In both senses also called Weltanschauung.
1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.
2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group. was at one time committed to a career in the Church of England Church of England: see England, Church of. . To the extent that he was interested in the natural world, like many of his colleagues, Darwin believed that changes in plant and animal life were but the working out of God's laws over time.
He might well have retained that belief for the rest of his life, but in 1831, just after graduation and a few short weeks before accepting his new job as a clergyman, Charles was offered a place on a surveying ship named the Beagle. Some say it was divine intervention. The Beagle was embarking on a mission to map coastlines and collect scientific data, and the captain, Robert Fitzroy Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy (5 July 1805 – 30 April 1865) achieved lasting fame as the captain of HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin's famous voyage, and as a pioneering meteorologist who made accurate weather forecasting a reality. , was looking for Looking for
In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with. a young gentleman travelling companion who could also serve as geologist and naturalist. Charles' friends at Cambridge recommended him, and after some reluctance on his father's part, the 22-year-old Darwin set off on what turned into a five-year, around-the-world cruise that changed the course of science forever.
During his voyage to South America South America, fourth largest continent (1991 est. pop. 299,150,000), c.6,880,000 sq mi (17,819,000 sq km), the southern of the two continents of the Western Hemisphere. , the Galapagos Islands, Australia, Tahiti, Mauritius and South Africa South Africa, Afrikaans Suid-Afrika, officially Republic of South Africa, republic (2005 est. pop. 44,344,000), 471,442 sq mi (1,221,037 sq km), S Africa. , Darwin observed the world's rocks, fossils, plants and animals, and came to the conclusion that mountains and other geological features had been built up slowly over enormous periods of time. He also realized that there were once numerous species of animals that are now extinct; that all new species have their origins in variations of previously existing species; that nature -- like domestic animal breeders -- "chooses" traits according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. what features of a plant or animal best suits its particular environment (hence "natural selection"); that all species descend from other species with modification; that in nature plants and animals competed with one another for resources and territory; and that, over the long run, those that adapted successfully to their ecological niches survived and flourished, while those that did not perished, a phenomenon he termed "the survival of the fittest."
This, in brief, is the thesis Darwin presented in The Origin of Species, which he wrote some twenty years TWENTY YEARS. The lapse of twenty years raises a presumption of certain facts, and after such a time, the party against whom the presumption has been raised, will be required to prove a negative to establish his rights.
2. after his return to England and published in 1859. Its initial run of 1250 copies sold out immediately and it has never been out-of-print since. In this elegant little book, Charles Darwin carefully laid out the argument for his theory of evolution. The Origin of Species is the foundation of modern biology (and a large part of geology), and on its 150th anniversary it is worth pondering for a moment, for Darwin's theory is central to our efforts to protect ourselves and our planet. Without it we could not find a cure for cancer, fight AIDS, save endangered animals, or grow more food to feed the poor.
Yet despite its importance to ecology, agriculture and medicine, many reject the theory of evolution. In the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. , for example, most people believe that each species was created by God, just once, in its final form, a theory known as "creationism creationism or creation science, belief in the biblical account of the creation of the world as described in Genesis, a characteristic especially of fundamentalist Protestantism (see fundamentalism). ." Others argue for a modified version of creationism they call "intelligent design," which accepts some parts of biology but which still puts nature under God's guidance and direction. Most Americans reject evolution in large part because they do not understand it.
In a recent poll by James Owen The common English name James Owen can refer to:
for National Geographic News ( http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/08/060810-evolution.html , 10 August 2006), it was found that less than half of American adults could provide even a minimal definition of DNA DNA: see nucleic acid.
or deoxyribonucleic acid
One of two types of nucleic acid (the other is RNA); a complex organic compound found in all living cells and many viruses. It is the chemical substance of genes. ; and the impression that the theory of evolution suggests that humans are descended from apes, which is not true, and which Darwin never claimed, is a misconception held by many. (Apes and humans share a common ancestor.)
In Europe, objections to the theory and teaching of evolution eventually subsided. Today more than 80% of European adults surveyed accept the concept; whereas in the United States only 14% of adults said that they found evolution "absolutely true." Protestant fundamentalism, conservative Republican politics, and a lack of education have led most Americans to reject a theory that with the discovery of thousands of fossils of transitional species, the data collected from over one hundred years of anatomical and biological observation, and the unravelling of the mysteries of DNA is uniformly accepted by the world's scientific community.
Part of the reason there is so much ignorance on the subject among average Americans is that the teaching of evolution in schools has been opposed by local governments for nearly a century. In 1925, the Tennessee State Legislature A state legislature may refer to a legislative branch or body of a political subdivision in a federal system.
The following legislatures exist in the following political subdivisions:
The Scopes "Monkey" Trial, immortalized in the 1960 film Inherit the Wind, became a cause celebre, but few remember that Scopes lost, and that it was not until 1968 that the Butler Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
In the ensuing years, and even up until today, dozens of state legislatures and community school boards have repeatedly tried to ban the teaching of evolution in favour of creationism or intelligent design. Only a few years ago, for example, the Dover, Pennsylvania School District was taken to court by a group of parents when it required the presentation in the classroom of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. In 2005 the parents won their case in U.S. District Court and the members of the School Board who supported the intelligent design initiative were all defeated in the ensuing election. That same year, the Kansas State Board of Education Kansas State Board of Education is Kansas' Board of Education. The board is a constitutional body established in Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution. The ten members of the Board of Education are each elected to four-year terms. held hearings in an attempt to demonstrate, as one board member put it, "that evolution has proven false and that intelligent design is science-based and strong in facts." This was supported by the conservative Republican members of the board, including several born-again Christians, and the teaching of creationism proceeded in Kansas schools until it was eventually overturned by a newly elected board in 2007.
Darwin would have been amused by these ongoing controversies, but certainly not surprised. He himself harboured mixed feelings about the ways in which his own theories developed over time. In his autobiography, Darwin wrote about how he was teased mercilessly by the crew of the Beagle for his religious beliefs and for his habit of quoting the Bible to answer any unsolved questions. He also wrote of how his experiences examining the natural world led him in new directions.
And yet, like Galileo and Voltaire before him, Darwin's scientific approach to nature left him with a sense of awe. He ends The Origin of Species with the following lines: "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity
Perhaps the creationists and the evolutionists are not so very far apart after all. Only God knows.
David Blanks is the Chair of the History Department at the American University in Cairo American University in Cairo, at Cairo, Egypt; English language; founded 1919. It has faculties of anthropology, computer science, economics and political science, engineering, English and comparative literature, management, mass communication, psychology, science, .
Daily NewsEgypt 2009
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