PreDarwinism Views


Pre-Darwinism Views Essay, Research Paper

Before November 24, 1859, many people simply believed that species were created by

God in their present forms, or that it was possible for organic matter to be spawned from

inorganic matter. However, Charles Darwin used these ideas to create his thesis, On the

Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

The first true theories on evolution arise during the classical Greek period. On a

handful of Greek philosophers believed in the theory of evolution and natural selection.

Unfortunately, the two philosophers who influenced western civilization the most, Plato

and Aristotle, opposed any theory of evolution. Plato believed that there were two

worlds, one real world, and one imperfect world that we perceive with our senses. Any

variations in life were imperfect images of their ideal forms. However, Aristotle didn?t

believe in two worlds; instead, he believed in a ?scale of nature.? Each life form was

arranged on a type of ?ladder?. It started at the bottom with the least complex organism

and continued up to the most complex organism. Each organism had a pre-determined

?rung?, which allowed no ability to move up, and no open spaces for a new organism to


According to Neil Campbell in his book, Biology: Fourth Edition, ?Juedo-Christian

culture fortified anti-evolution theories.? (p. 400-401) The creationist-essentialist dogma

that species were permanent and created for a specific purpose became deeply embedded

in Western thought. Any person who dared to theorize or believe in theories about

evolution were instantly labeled heretics. The medieval church saw evolution as saying

that God did not exist, that we are not the ?supreme creation?, and that humans could just

be evolutionary mistakes.

However, in the later 1700?s and early 1800?s there was a ?scientific revolution?

taking place. People began to use scientific experiments to explain what they had always

put faith in. According to Campbell, the first big step in the development of the theory of

evolution was made by Carolus Linnaeus. (p. 400-401) Linnaeus was the founder of

taxonomy and developed the naming system for organisms that we still use today. He

grouped organisms based on similar characteristics. This, for Darwin, would become a

focal point of his theory of evolution.

When Darwin began his research aboard the H.M.S. Beagle in 1831, he had some

pre-constructed ideas. The first was that he rejected Plato?s, Aristotle?s, and the

Church?s ideas that organism were made the way they are, and will never change. The

second was about Linnaeus? filing system; Darwin believed that similar species must of

evolved from similar ancestors. During his trip on the Beagle, Darwin collected 13

different types of finches that he believed were different species. When he returned to

Great Britain in 1836, he learned from ornithologists that the 13 different types of finches

he collected, were indeed separate species. This discovery led Darwin to theorize that if a

species was isolated, then it would adapt to fit it?s surroundings; just like how the finches

adapted new beaks depending on their native types of food.

Finally in 1844, Darwin wrote an essay on his theory of natural selection and the

origin of species. When Darwin finished his book on evolution, The Origin of Species, he

had two major ideas: the first was that evolution was the explanation for life?s unity and

diversity; the second was that natural selection is the cause for adaptations. Darwin

provided numerous example of his theories, but he was still doubted. However, on of his

modern day supporters named Ernst Mayr has provided his own theories and proof of

Darwin?s ideas.

With respect to Darwin?s ideas on natural selection and adaptation, Mayr used an

closely related group of insect species to prove this point. In Malaya round, pink flowers

are common; so the mantid native to Malya is round and pink. However, in Central

America, most plants have green, oval-like leaves; so the mantid to Central America is

green and oval-like in shape. This example shows how species of common ancestry have

adapted to fit their individual surroundings.

With respect to Darwin?s ideas on evolution, we will look at the mustard plant.

The mustard plant is the evolutional ancestor of six different vegetables: cauliflower,

cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi. Breeder have been able to prove

this by focusing on one particular part of the plant to accentuate. The process of

accentuating the plant parts by breeders is evidence of evolution, except that humans are

manipulating the results to meet their own needs. There really is not much more

information on Darwin?s theory of evolution, due to the fact that the majority of his book

focused on adaptations rather than evolution.

So, as you can see, Darwin?s disbelief in the notions that evolution occurred,

caused him to investigate evolution, and led to the creation of Darwinism. Darwin did

present a great deal of evidence to prove his point, however, his theory still has one major

problem; the ?missing link?. Darwin was able to show evolution from the simplest

organism to the most complex organism as a complete chain; except that he is missing the

link between primates and humans. In spite of all the evidence and the ?missing link?,

Darwin?s ideas are still being debated to this day; however, most biologists now believe in

Darwinism and support Darwin?s ideas on evolution and natural selection.

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