Charles Darwin’s 1859 book was called On the Origin of species, and the word evolution itself appears no where in the original text. Without knowledge of DNA, or even genetics, Darwin explores what he calls “natural selection.” Who/what is selecting? In nature, the environment selects by favoring those traits that gradually allow an organism to better survive and reproduce.
Another scientist, Alfred Russel Wallace, had the same theory but it was Darwin who realized natural selection is key to species variation. Thus, Darwin is the one known to have inspired the little feet upon the fish on some bumper-stickers and pins. In recognizing that variation occurs in nature over eons of time, these variations are favored (or not) by climate, geology, predators, polar shift, and more, Darwin was able to realize that all organisms are related. We living things are miraculously varied, adapted brilliantly, and specialized. The interpretation that we “descended” from monkeys is incorrect.
We are related, with more than 95% of our genetic code to chimpanzees. But we also share most of our DNA with all carbon life forms to varying degree. This is not a bad thing, it is an awesome and mind boggling miracle. We belong. We belong on earth, and unless we destroy our home planet, we will belong among all ever-evolving life-forms.
Sharks for example, have been on earth roughly 400 million years. In that sense, they are far more evolved than we. But we have changed their environment, and so after all this time, sharks could die out as a species.
Genius though he was, the Darwin fish is something the man could probably never envision. Charts used for decades that show fish triumphantly pulling themselves up to dry land, and those wherein a chimp is shown in stages to straighten upright until it assumes the Homo Sapiens forward looking determination stance are also false. Life forms of fish and fauna, trees, birds, apples and apes are still with us. They have successfully adapted their own variations. The famous Australopithecus, Lucy, and the recently discovered Ardi, a female Ardipithecus, whose remains are four million years old, are separated in time and form by more than a million years. Our specific blend of hominids, Homo Sapiens, has only been around about one million years. There is no missing link, just missing of the mark, in some interpretations of facts.
In the nineteenth century, the idea that we are “animals” was shocking. It was viewed as a demotion by many. Religions particularly felt threatened. Defenses went up as if to protect humanity from a crushing blow similarly dealt when Galileo realized, and taught, our earth is not the center of the universe.
Even today, people object to ideas they see contradicted in scriptures. Modern science recognizes and pursues truth, and some cannot wrap their heads around the notion that God is possibly big enough to have created many universes filled with many life forms.
The idea of “random chaos” is elicited, but there is nothing random, or chaotic, in the over all long term view of true Darwinism. We didn’t just happen. It’s bigger than that. Darwin wrote: “There is grandeur is this view of life… Endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” That, perhaps past all the controversy that was certainly to come, Darwin could see hope for science and humanity to embrace this wonder with dignity and pride, is perhaps where the true revolution occurs, and is being evolved, even now.