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Darwins Dangerous Idea

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... ship's naturalist for H.M.S. Beagle's voyage of global scientific exploration (1831-1836) The Voyage of the Beagle. THE ORIGINS OF THE ORIGIN ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Darwins Dangerous Idea


1
Darwins Dangerous Idea
  • Jeffrey L. Richey, Ph.D.
  • GSTR 221-O Western Traditions II
  • Berea College
  • Spring 2005

2
  • If one had to isolate a single all-consuming idea
  • which has taken hold of the human race in the
    post
  • political era in which we now live, it is the
  • interrelatedness of natural forms the fact that
    we
  • are all on this planet together human beings,
  • mammals, fish, insects, trees all dependent
    upon
  • one another, all very unlikely to have a second
  • chance of life either beyond the grave or through
  • reincarnation, and therefore aware of the
  • responsibilities incumbent upon custodians of the
  • Earth.
  • -- A. N. Wilson, The Victorians (2003), p.
    230

3
BEFORE DARWIN
  • Exact date of divine creation calculated by James
    Ussher (1581-1656) October 23, 4004 B.C., with
    no change in species since
  • George Cuvier (1769-1832) proposes
    catastrophism as explanation for extinction,
    but did not accept theory that new species arise
  • The Comte de Buffon (1707-1788) acknowledges
    change in species over time, but knows no
    explanation estimates Earths age at 75,000
    years
  • The Chevalier of Lamarck (1744-1829) explains
    change in species over time as inheritance of
    acquired characteristics
  • Charles Lyell (1797-1875) rejects catastrophism
    in favor uniformitarianism (gradual change by
    regular forces and processes still acting on the
    Earth today e.g., erosion, volcanic activity)
  • By 1830s, change in species over time
    acknowledged by many, but explanation unknown

4
CHARLES DARWIN (1809-1882)
  • Born to wealthy English manufacturing family
    (heir to Wedgwood china fortune)
  • Studies theology at Cambridge University in
    preparation for Christian ministry
  • At 22, becomes ships naturalist for H.M.S.
    Beagles voyage of global scientific exploration
    (1831-1836)

5
The Voyage of the Beagle
6
THE ORIGINS OF THE ORIGIN
  • In the Galapagos Islands, Darwin observes 13
    different species of finch
  • Only 1 species of finch exists on the nearest
    land mass, the South American mainland
  • How did 1 species develop into 13 distinct
    species?
  • Darwins answer descent with modification
  • The finches Darwin observes have beaks adapted to
    specific foods and regions
  • Darwin hypothesizes that finches best adapted to
    their environment survive, thrive, and reproduce
    in larger numbers than finches that are less well
    adapted
  • Darwin calls this natural selection

7
ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES (1859)
  • Darwin develops his theory of evolution by
    natural selection by 1838, but does not publish
    it
  • In 1858, he receives a letter from Alfred Wallace
    (1823-1917), who reveals that he has
    independently developed an identical theory
  • Wallaces letter inspires Darwin to publish his
    theory and risk censure

8
Responses to Darwin
  • Darwin is criticized on four points
  • The Earth is too young for evolution to have
    taken place
  • Genetic factors dilute over time, making descent
    with modification impossible
  • Only design can account for complex life forms
  • The fossil record does not reveal transitional
    forms (missing links between species)
  • Most of these criticisms have since been refuted
  • Earth approximately 4.5 billion years old
  • Genetics and DNA verify descent with modification
  • Design flaws are abundant in nature, suggesting
    problematic or nonexistent purpose
  • Biologists continue to debate whether evolution
    is sudden or gradual

9
Consequences of Darwin
  • For traditional Christians, human beings are
    Gods special creation, made in Gods image
    (Genesis 126) and different from all other life
    forms
  • Regarding the world as changing and chaotic seems
    to deny Gods perfect design for it
  • Many, but not all, Christians denounce Darwin as
    a heretic
  • For others, Darwin not only explains biology, but
    also society
  • Social Darwinism applies natural selection to
    social problems such as race relations, poverty,
    and European global domination
  • Many feel that Darwin s discoveries justify
    unchecked capitalism, colonialism, and
    competition of all kinds

10
  • Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and
    death,
  • the most exalted object which we are capable of
  • conceiving, namely, the production of the higher
  • animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in
    this
  • view of life, with its several powers, having
    been
  • originally breathed into a few forms or into one
    and
  • that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on
    according
  • to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a
  • beginning endless forms most beautiful and most
  • wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
  • -- Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species
    (1859), 1st ed.
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