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.