Essays academic service


Charles darwin theory of evolution research paper

Growing up a shy and unassuming member of a wealthy British family, he appeared, at least to his father, to be idle and directionless. But even as a child, Darwin expressed an interest in nature. Later, while studying botany at Cambridge University, he was offered a chance to work as an unpaid naturalist on the HMS Beagle, a naval vessel embarking on an exploratory voyage around the world.

In the course of nearly five years at sea — during which time the Beagle surveyed the coast of South America and stopped in such places as Australia and, most famously, the Galapagos Islands — Darwin took advantage of countless opportunities to observe plant and animal life and to collect both living and fossilized specimens for later study.

After the Beagle returned to England in October 1836, Darwin began reflecting on his observations and experiences, and over the next two years developed the basic outline of his groundbreaking theory of evolution through natural selection.

Public’s Views on Human Evolution

But beyond sharing his ideas with a close circle of scientist friends, Darwin told no one of his views on the origin and development of life. Indeed, he did not publish his now-famous volume, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, until 1859, more than 20 years after he had first formulated his theory. On the Origin of Species may never have been written, let alone published, if it had not been for Alfred Russel Wallace, another British naturalist who independently proposed a strikingly similar theory in 1858.

This being the age of Victorian gentlemen, it was agreed that the two scientists would jointly publish their writings on the subject. The following year, Darwin published On the Origin of Species, a lengthy, fleshed-out treatment of his ideas on evolutionary theory.

The book was an immediate bestseller and quickly set off a firestorm of controversy. Yet the concept of species adaptation was not so radical at the time. Scientists had been debating whether animals evolved decades before Darwin put forth his theory. All existing creatures, he argued, descended from a small number of original or progenitor species.

Darwin compared the history of life to a great tree, its trunk representing these few common ancestors and an extensive system of branches and twigs symbolizing the great variety of life that has evolved from them.

Darwin and His Theory of Evolution

This evolution, Darwin wrote, is due to two factors. The first factor, Darwin argued, is that each individual animal is marked by subtle differences that distinguish it from its parents.

The second factor, Darwin argued, is that although variations are random, some of them convey distinct advantages — superior camouflage, a heartier constitution or greater speed, for example — that better equip a creature to survive in its environment.

A greater chance of survival allows for more opportunity to breed and pass on advantageous traits to a greater number of offspring. Over time, an advantage spreads throughout a species; in turn, the species is more likely to endure and reproduce. Thus, over the course of many generations, subtle changes occur and accumulate, eventually morphing into bigger changes and, possibly, even a new species.

Evolution and Religion Research Package

Yet evolution continued to be vigorously rejected by British and American churches because, religious leaders argued, the theory directly contradicted many of the core teachings of the Christian faith.

Darwinian thinking also appeared to contradict the notion, central to Christianity and many other faiths, that man had a special, God-given place in the natural order. Instead, proponents of evolution pointed to signs in human anatomy — remnants of a tailbone, for instance — showing common ancestry with other mammals. There seems to be too much misery in the world. Regardless, it was around this time that the British scientific establishment gained the upper hand in the debate over evolution.

And while the public disagreement between ecclesiastical and scientific authorities did not end in the 1860s, religious thinkers became more wary of directly challenging evolution on scientific grounds. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, churches instead focused much of their energy on resisting the idea that man had evolved from lower animal orders and hence had no special place in creation or, for that matter, a soul. Indeed, while some churches, including the Catholic Church, eventually accepted evolution as a God-directed mechanism of biological development, none questioned the role of God as the sole creator of man.

By the time of his death, in 1882, Darwin was considered the greatest scientist of his age. Moreover, the very church his theory had challenged accorded him a full state funeral and burial in Westminster Abbey, near the grave of Sir Isaac Newton.

Indeed, his interment in the abbey was seen by some contemporaries as symbolic of an uneasy truce between science and religion in Britain. Julia Margaret Cameron Report Materials.