Monday, March 11, 2013

Part 1: Charles Darwin: the man

In 1809, in England, Robert and Susanna Darwin had a son. They named him Charles. The young man loved to explore, and to tell stories. He wanted to know how things worked, he wanted to learn.
In 1818, after the death of his mother, nine year old Charles was sent to boarding school at Shrewsbury, a Unitarian school. As he grew older, the plan for him to become a medical doctor fell through, as Charles did poorly in his studies at school. Instead, he was sent to school to be a minister. Upon graduating in 1831, instead of becoming a comfortable country parson, he was given the chance of a lifetime. A trip around the world in the name of exploration. The name of the ship was the Beagle. Under captain Fitzroy, they would navigate the waters off South America, survey and explore. Darwin was to be the captain’s companion and ship’s naturalist. Although he had no formal education in this field, he self-appointed himself to the latter position. Upon arriving on the ship Darwin was given Sir Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology by the captain. He brought another book with him, the Bible.
Sir Charles Lyell’s book said that the present was the key to the past. That all of what we see now, the rivers, the rainfall, and the erosion, have always been this way. The erosion of the Colorado River, through Grand Canyon, (not used by him, so far as I know, as an example, but I use it to illustrate) has always been this way. The river carved the canyon, the rain caused the badlands. The world was very old, there had been no great flood.
Darwin read this book on board the ship, and, eventually, began to wonder. As he continued to wonder, he came to Galapagos Islands. At this time, the doctrine held by, at least, the majority of Christians was that species never changed, they were immutable. Animals were fixed; a bird could not vary even its beak size. At the extremes, some even believed God, from time to time created new species.
Darwin, on these islands, saw finches that were different from each other on each island. A thought came to his mind, and this thought, as it began to take hold of his mind, eventually began to become a book. But that book belongs in Part 2: Charles Darwin: the book. The little boy who liked to create stories was about to create the ultimate story.

Through His Strength We Will Conquer,
Andrew C. Abbott

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