Darwinian evolution: Is it based on science or not? On October 2, 1836 the young Charles Darwin finally set foot, once again, on English soil after a long and difficult voyage around the world, his mind was exploding with thoughts of what he had seen and what, he thought, that they had represented. Young Darwin’s world had now been changed forever, he now had a passion, a passion that was to lead him to a life of much pain and sorrow for now he was on the brink of igniting a scientific and social explosion the repercussions of which that are still being felt to this very day.
During this time, early nineteenth century, the scientific community was certainly not at all like it is today, as a matter of fact there was no such thing as a professional class of scientists, those who were engaged in any sort of scientific work were all, every one, creationists which precluded any real need to seek answers or ask questions…God was the answer. When Darwin first stepped aboard the Beagle he too was a creationist, a theology student in fact, but on October 2, 1836 he had changed, he had been forced into a new world through scientific discovery, he recalled while wandering in the mountains of Chile finding fossils of sea creatures which meant, to him, that these mountains erupted from the sea taking a long time to accomplish, a very, very long time.
He recalled the tortoises from different Galapagos islands which were well differentiated but had to be of the same ancestral stock, the four species of mockingbirds were so similar they must have sprung from one origin. Charles was being forced toward one conclusion. If nothing else Charles was a meticulous and thorough investigator which worked to his advantage while carefully piecing together his new findings.
He certainly was not unaware of the fact that what he may have uncovered would be bitterly contested on all fronts, scientific and religious, therefore step by step he slowly went about the business of verifying each of his contentions as best he could. When he completed his work, when he was satisfied that it was through natural selection that all species evolved into the species that they are today, did he shout his finding to the world? No! Was it because he was unsure of his discovery? Absolutely not! Was he fearful of attacks upon his work, character, and possibly family? Not really.
Charles Darwin was a passive gentleman and was uninterested in a confrontation of any sort, he knew what he had accomplished and he was quite comfortable with that. His work remained concealed for many years. One of the things necessary to backing up any scientific discovery is that it must be repeatable by other scientists. The first measure of proof that natural selection was real came in a letter Charles received from an American, Alfred Russel Wallace, who had heard what Darwin was working on and thought that he, Wallace, was onto the very same thing.
Darwin and Wallace had come to the very same conclusions. Charles was now forced to release his findings and face the music. Fortunately, there were some who were convinced that Charles was really on to something and took his side, Joseph Hooker and Thomas Huxley took on the powerful Bishop of Oxford Samuel Wilberforce in a legendary debate. It was a wild affair at which the Captain of the Beagle, Robert Fitzroy, made a spectacle of himself parading about the chamber with a Bible on his head. One by one more scientists began to cozy up to the idea of natural selection, however, there were problems. Charles Darwin, I don’t think concerned himself too much about the bashing he was continuously receiving from the religious, what may have disturbed him right up to his death were criticisms from the scientific community, such as it was in those days.
Some scientists, even his own friends were not convinced that traits transferred from one generation to the next would in fact continue, they would be watered down and cease to be.(across the channel in Europe was Gregor Mendel who through his work became known as the father of genetics which solved Darwin’s problem of passing on traits, this was never known to Charles in his lifetime). Another even more serious problem that plagued poor Darwin was from a well respected man of science, William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin or Lord Kelvin who’s major work was with heat and temperature (The Kelvin Scale). Lord Kelvin contended that if the earth began as a molten rock, and given how it is today due to it’s cooling, he calculated that the earth could not be much older than several million years which, of course, was no where near the time needed to accomplish the evolutionary process of Darwin (Lord Kelvin could not have known that the earth creates its own heat through radio active decay of elements within earths core).
It is because of the attacks from science that eventually have been successfully responded too and the predictions made (Darwin predicted that we descended from apes and that the birthplace of humanity was Africa) that confirm beyond a doubt that Darwinian evolution is based on solid science. Since Darwin’s time all discoveries in archeology add to the confirmation of natural selection, also the new sciences such as DNA used to track our descent back to…Africa. For sure Darwin got that right and he was close on the apes prediction in that humans did not descend from apes, rather, humans and apes descended from a common ancestor (close enough). With all the scientific tools available in this day and age all available evidence confirms Darwinian evolution is science, science at its finest.