Darwinism and its Implications in Other Fields

Charles Darwin, the son of a wealthy doctor/financier, originally studied medicine before developing a fascination with natural history. While traveling aboard the HMS Beagle as a “self-financed naturalist”, he collected flora and fauna from many different parts of the world, one of which, the Galapagos Islands specifically influenced his work On the Origin of Species. The island had species that, although geographically isolated, shared similar traits with species from nearby South America. His idea was that although they shared similar ancestors, each of these species had developed traits beneficial to their survival in their own respective environments.The slow and methodical transformations resulted in drastic changes over millenniums (which humans cannot see) and the creation of two distinct species. This work was published as a result of his research and other scholarly works on the subject of evolution; however, it took him 25 years to publish his work as a result of the trip. His tone in the piece reflects a philosophical upbringing designed to persuade readers to support his idea of ‘natural selection’ as a natural phenomena.

Future thinkers would corrupt Darwin’s idea that pre-determined traits create advantageous or disadvantageous realities for creatures; while influential in biology and the sciences, thinkers like Francis Galton would corrupt it and propose human manipulation of these concepts in order to create a “perfect” individual. While one cannot state that Darwin’s ideas caused many eugenics programs around the world, they did add scientific reason behind individuals’ desires to attempt to shape their realities through science. Social Darwinism was built upon this idea of “survival of the fittest” (a phrase which does not appear in On the Origin of Species) to apply nature to explain human enterprises, specifically the success or failures of groups and organizations.

Was “The Origin of Species” the foundation for evolutionary biology?

Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England in 1809. Darwin was from a family of scientists. His father was a medical doctor and his grandfather was a botanist. His mother died when Darwin was just eight years old. Darwin’s family was wealthy and was able to send him to Edinburgh University at age sixteen. He then attended Christ’s College in Cambridge. At Christ’s College, Darwin’s botany professor, John Stevens Henslow, recommended Darwin for a position as a naturalist on the HMS Beagle. In 1831, he set sail to travel the world and study nature all over the globe. He was particularly interested in the Pacific Islands and the Galapagos Islands. These studies led him to create his theory of evolution. After returning to England, he started to write about his findings in the Journal of Researches. In his writings, he developed a theory about the origin of living things that was controversial with other naturalists, who disagreed with him.

In his most famous work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, he writes about this controversial theory. This piece was published in 1859. He wrote about his theory that animals and humans have evolved over time and came from common ancestors.[1] He focuses a great deal on his theory of natural selection, or the theory that only the strongest of species reproduce so that only the best qualities are passed down to the next generation. The book was written for the general public and sparked widespread interest after it was published.

How has our understanding of nature and evolution changed since Darwin wrote The Origins of Species? How has it stayed the same? Why do you think it was so hard for other scientists to accept Darwin’s theory? It has been said that this book is considered the “foundation of evolutionary biology.” Do you agree with this? If not, why?

[1] Darwin, The Origin of Species. 1859.

Gladstone: A Theologian, Scientist, or Both?

John Hall Gladstone’s interest in science and religion began during his childhood. He and his three brothers were tutored throughout their youth. They became quite interested in natural science through this education. Gladstone furthered his interest in science while attending chemistry lectures during his time at University College London. Additionally, during his adolescence, he held a great passion for religion and claimed he wanted to work for the ministry. In 1850, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society, a prestigious group of European scientists who contributed a fair amount of research and work to the natural sciences. Gladstone’s interests ultimately focused on both science and religion.


Gladstone wrote “Points of Supposed Collision Between the Scriptures and Natural Science” in 1872. This work showcased his support for both religious and scientific hypotheses associated with creation. When considering his interest in both of these fields, it is evident why he supported these conflicting views on creation. Gladstone wrote this piece about a decade after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species. Darwin made controversial arguments regarding how species were created in this work. He claimed that God was not the sole creator of all beings. Instead, he believed that evolution and natural selection were the root cause of this phenomenon. A great deal of Europe’s population, a society dominated by Christian ideology, felt frustrated by these assertions. Gladstone, however, was not horrified by Darwin’s views. He stated that while reading On the Origin of Species, “I felt no shock to my religious faith: indeed the progressive development of animated nature seemed to harmonize with that gradual unveiling of the divine plan which I had loved to trace in the Bible.”[1] Rather than seeing Darwin’s claims as an attack against Christianity, Gladstone believed they helped solidify many of his religious ideas regarding creation. He believed that scientific and spiritual beliefs regarding creation could coexist. By writing in this way, it is possible that both scientists and theologians agreed with his work.

Rather than solely supporting religious or scientific hypotheses on creation, Gladstone interestingly supports both in “Points of Supposed Collision Between the Scriptures and Natural Science.” How do you think Europe’s population reacted to such claims? Although he exerted an interest in both ideologies throughout his life, do you believe he should have supported only one side on this controversial topic?

[1] Points of Supposed Collision Between the Scriptures and Natural Science, 1872.

Darwin and Natural Selection

Author: Charles Darwin, born in 1809 in Great Britain, was from an intellectual family that made up of some of the leading intellectuals of the 18th century. While Darwin had initially planned on pursuing medical studies, he switched to divinity studies while attending Cambridge University, where he discovered his passion for science.

Context: During the time of his influential writings, most Europeans believed that God created the world in seven days, as assured by the Bible. While on a scientific expedition on the HMS Beagle ship, Darwin became enthralled with Lyell’s “Principles of Geology,” which suggested that fossils found in rocks were not conceived by a divine source, but were actually remnants of animals that lived hundreds of thousands of years before. After discovering his own findings of the same kind, Darwin began to enforce Lyell’s theory. Upon returning from his voyage, he began an attempt to explain how species evolve, which eventually became his theory of evolution by natural selection. His theory, therefore, held that the living species that are best suited for the environment in which they live are more likely to survive and prosper and multiply by the process of reproduction, and as environments change, the species adapts, which slowly makes slight changes to the species over time.

Language: Published in 1859, Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species, provided a full theory of evolution and was intended for other scientists, as well as the public at large. While the language is not particularly complex, it still requires common scientific knowledge. Darwin wrote for other researchers, philosophers, and scientists, as much of the language would have been tough for a leisurely read.

Audience: Darwin’s theory was written not only as a recording or his observations, but also for various other scientists. The book was very controversial because it rejected the then-common belief that God created the world and all the species in it. Although highly disputable, Darwin’s theory of evolution was widely popular and was mostly read by those educated with a science background.

Intent: By recording his theories, Darwin intended to create conversation about the possibility of evolution. Darwin sought to show people that species are formed by evolution and natural selection served as the primary agent. Although controversial, his writings forced both scientist and the general public to engage in theories of natural selection.

Meaning: Darwin introduced the scientific theory that species evolve through the process of natural selection. Using evidence gathered from his expedition, Darwin introduced new ways of explaining different forms of life based off the idea that there is a struggle for survival and only those species that can adapt or are well suited for their environment will survive and evolve.


Darwin and the Origin of Species

Author: Charles Darwin (1802-1882) was an English naturalist and geologist, whose contributions to evolutionary theory were significant. He was born into a wealthy family, and his father was a doctor, which Darwin almost pursued as a career path. His family was largely Unitarian. Darwin was highly critical of the Bible as a source of history, and traveled the world in order to disprove many of the Bible’s scientific stances.

Context: 1859, when much of the world believed in the Bible as an explanation for the science of the natural world. Many people believed that the world and every species on it were created by God. Darwin sought to disprove this.

Language: Darwin writes using many basic scientific terms, but in a way that is understandable.

Audience: Darwin writes for a population interested in scientific theory, perhaps written for those who previously had doubts about Biblical scientific explanations. His audience does not need an extensive background knowledge in science.

Intent: Darwin writes in order to inform people of the way in which evolution occurs, disproving certain Biblical theories. He wants to provoke thought among a large population, inspiring a naturalistic rather than Biblical approach to science. Furthermore, Darwin writes in order to provide a wider pool of opinions and beliefs.

Message: There are more species born than can survive, which creates a struggle for existence among species. Survival is determined by those who have even the slightest advantage, which will turn the balance. These advantages give a being significant benefits where its survival is concerned. This theory of natural selection accounts for the extinction of certain species and the survival of others.