Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species
In 1831, “Charles Darwin ” sailed as a passenger on
the HMS Beagle. His five-year voyage took him to
the coasts of South America, where he observed
various kinds of animals. One set of creatures in
particular, the Galapagos finches, caught Darwin’s
attention. He studied the birds, collected samples,
and observed that they had various beak sizes and
shapes. These observed variations inspired the
initial development of Darwin’s “Theory of Origins.”
He returned to England in 1836.
In 1842, Darwin began drafting On the Origin of
Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the
Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for
Life (often referred to simply as Origin of Species).
His work was heavily influenced by Sir Charles
Lyell’s Principles of Geology (1830) and Thomas
Malthus’ An Essay on the Principle of Population
(1798). Origin of Species was ultimately published in
1859.
Guess what? I liked Darwin’s book. In a nutshell,
Origin of Species proposes “Natural Selection” as
the mechanism by which an original simple-celled
organism could have evolved gradually into all
species observed today — both plant and animal.
Generally, Darwin presents a theory of evolution,
which he defines as “descent with modification.” It’s
a fun read, and a compelling hypothesis for the
time.
However, 100 years later, scientists realized that
Darwin’s basic theory needed work — “Natural
Selection ” is a conservative process, not a means
of developing complexity from simplicity. As
scientists started understanding the nature of
genetics, they were forced to update Darwin’s
original theory. They proposed that Natural
Selection, in conjunction with genetic mutation,
allowed for the development of all species from a
common ancestor. Although true beneficial
mutations have never been observed (scientists
only observe harmful, “downward” mutations), this
is today’s general conjecture regarding evolutionary
change.
But what about the “common ancestor” at the
bottom of the evolutionary tree?…

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