Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Part 2, Charles Darwin: the book

After his return from the voyage of the beagle, Charles Darwin married his cousin, Emma Wedgwood. As he studied and thought, he read Thomas Malthus' work Population. Having seen the obvious variation of the Finches during his trip to the Galapagos, he began to think of the way that favorable variations must be preserved, and others gotten rid of. Malthus explained that a struggle for life was always going on, and thus the weaker were killed off, and the stronger survived. This, Darwin thought, must be how the finches varied. "Here I had at last got a theory by which to work."
He was urged by Hooker, a botanist, and Charles Lyell, the man whose three volume work had gotten him started, to publish his ideas. Darwin moved slowly however, until 1858, when A. R. Wallace, (1823 – 1913) a naturalist, sent him his own essay on the same topic. Darwin quickly rammed his own work through, and, in 1859, at the age of fifty, Charles Darwin published his book the Origin of Species: of the preservation of favored races by means of natural selection.
Darwin begins the book surprisingly well. The doctrine of fixity of species is his first target. With examples, reason, and common sense, Darwin proves that, to a certain extent, animals do change. A dog may be larger or smaller, have a differently shaped nose, or a bigger head, yet it still came from a common ancestor, a dog.
Thus Darwin begins to tread the cold waters of evolution by putting one toe into the pool. Next he tells us that the best survive by means of natural selection. If there is a drought, and the only food to be had is high up in the trees, the giraffe with the longer necks will survive. The long necks will thus breed children with long necks, and the giraffe neck will continue to grow longer.
Up to this point, in his reasoning, Darwin was correct. Birds with stunted wings usually die off and the more fit to survive will breed  birds with proper wings. However, Darwin then carries his reasoning farther. The flying fish (a type of fish that leaps out of the water to escape its predators) that can jump the farthest will survive, and his children will jump a little farther, until, finally, his children can jump so high that they begin to grow wings, and become birds. Darwin said it did not seem too fantastic to him to believe a horse could become a giraffe, nor, a seal a bird.
He admits, on page eighty five of his book, that, the evolution of an eye seems too fantastic, but, he says, "Reason tells me, that if numerous graduations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case, if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case, and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable (unsupportable) by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive (destructive) of the theory.”(Author’s parentheses.)
I will follow up with Part 3, Charles Darwin: the refutation. Because camels cannot evolve into dolphins.

Through His Strength We Will Conquer,
Andrew C. Abbott

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