Search Results for Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin (1809-82) was an English naturalist whose The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection of 1859 proposed a view of evolution in which “natural selection” determines which species survive and which perish.
In opposition to Larmarck, Darwin believed that evolutionary changes were the result of mutations.¹ New species that happened to survive in physical environments (which also changed) replaced those species that did not.
For many followers of Darwin there is no master or divine plan guiding evolution. In 1871 he wrote The Descent of Man which traced, according to the theory, mankind back to the anthropoids. The clarity of his exposition and the force of his ideas have influenced practically every aspect of modern society.
The Welsh naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, independently conceived the idea of “survival of the fittest” around the same time as Darwin. Recent challenges to this view are still deemed quite suspect, but postmodern, New Age and religious trends towards seeking alternative ways of viewing evolution continue to challenge the current scientific paradigm, which ironically has come to resemble a religious belief.²
Pope Benedict XVI has supported the idea of Theistic Design, a view that some believe is similar to Intelligent Design. Benedict, however, questions aspects of evolutionary theory, arguing that it’s not truly scientific and cannot explain an implied rationality of the process it outlines.
¹ The following outlines how Darwin’s understanding of mutations differed from those of today.
Today, most scientists regard the term “mutation” as a description of a change in an individual gene, and more precisely as some minute alteration of the DNA of that gene, especially a nucleotide substitution. But the idea of mutation has changed considerably from the pre-Mendelian concepts of Darwin’s generation, who viewed “fluctuating variations” as the raw material on which evolution acted, to today’s up-to-the-minute genomic context of mutation. Source: http://www.cshlpress.com/default.tpl?action=full&–eqskudatarq=911&typ2=hpl
² Few realize how the unavoidably biased interpretation of experimental results can shape our worldview, in both the social and the so-called “hard” sciences. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimenter%27s_bias
- Charles Darwin (articles4friends.com)
- Darwin’s Doubt: Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (Kenneth Samples) (rodiagnusdei.wordpress.com)
- Turkey: Creationists Want To Airbrush Darwin Out Of Evolutionary Picture (eurasiareview.com)
- Charles Darwin (speculativefictionweblog.wordpress.com)
- Misrepresenting Darwin (choiceindying.com)
- What Darwin didn’t know (rodiagnusdei.wordpress.com)
- Go On a Virtual Journey with Charles Darwin (freetech4teachers.com)
- Biologist and Atheist Richard Dawkins on Charles Darwin – Brian Gallagher – Santa Barbara’s Independent (richarddawkins.net)
- South Korean Textbooks Embrace Creationism (newsfeed.time.com)
- The Pirates! With Charles Darwin! (freethoughtblogs.com)
A body of thought, often said to be first developed by Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), which supposes that human social groups evolve along the lines of Charles Darwin’s theory of biological evolution–i.e. “survival of the fittest.”
Social Darwinism may been criticized in several ways.
First, it assumes the validity of Darwinian theory.
Second, it grafts an idea pertaining to the physical environment, biological organisms and animals onto the social environment of human beings.
Third, it ignores the theological possibilities of providence, intervention, revelation, infused knowledge, blessings, graces and saintly intercession.
Fourth it may be used by elitist, supremacist and racist groups in an attempt to rationalize inequitable or perhaps scandalous social conditions and practices.
» Sociology, Sociobiology
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Darwinism Theory of evolution proposed by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace.
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Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a French natural scientist, Jesuit priest and philosopher. Many of his ideas were opposed by the Catholic Church, especially his view of creation, which the Roman Curia believed distorted the idea of original sin forwarded by St. Augustine. And some of his works were banned from publication during his lifetime.
However, de Chardin did earn academic honors for work in geology and palaeontology, and by the time of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) some of his ideas were influential as the Church tried to reform many of its teachings for the 20th century.
In Le Phénomène humaine (The Phenomenon of Man) de Chardin combines a scientific outlook with his religious beliefs by suggesting that humanity is evolving towards a state of spiritual perfection. Explicit to his theory is the notion of the Omega Point, a transcendent being (a.k.a. God) who draws creation toward itself.
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Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck (1744-1829) was a French naturalist who served in the French army, studied medicine and botany, and in 1773 published a pioneering work on French Flora.
He introduced the distinction between vertebrates and invertebrates in his Natural History of Invertebrates (1815-22).
Lamarck’s work prefigured Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution but with one crucial difference. Lamarck suggested that organs develop or degenerate over generations according to their use or disuse.
Lamarck’s idea that the change of an organ’s size – according to use or disuse – is genetically passed on to offspring proved to be false. His theories were soon replaced by Darwinism.
However, recent theories suggest that so-called epigenetic changes occur in species.
Epigenetic changes have also been observed to occur in response to environmental exposure—for example, mice given some dietary supplements have epigenetic changes affecting expression of the agouti gene, which affects their fur color, weight, and propensity to develop cancer.†
And sometimes these changes are transgenerational:
Marcus Pembrey and colleagues also observed in the Överkalix study that the paternal (but not maternal) grandsons of Swedish boys who were exposed during preadolescence to famine in the 19th century were less likely to die of cardiovascular disease; if food was plentiful then diabetes mortality in the grandchildren increased, suggesting that this was a transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. The opposite effect was observed for females—the paternal (but not maternal) granddaughters of women who experienced famine while in the womb (and their eggs were being formed) lived shorter lives on average.†
While epigenetic changes don’t indicate differences in organ development due to use or disuse, they do suggest that in some cases the effect of environmental factors – not just genetic – on a given organism may be transmitted to its offspring.
So although technically wrong, Lamarck’s approach deserves more respect than commonly granted. One might even say he was in the ballpark.
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Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) was a British economist, professor and clergyman stationed in a parish at Cambridge, where he was educated.
He’s known in economics for his theory of population, outlined in An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798).
For Malthus, population usually increases faster than the means of subsistence (i.e. available food supply).
According to his theory, whenever the rate of population growth slightly exceeds that of food production, an even higher rate of population growth follows. But if the population growth rate is a great deal higher than that of food production, population growth is limited by famine, pestilence and war.
Malthus’ ideas challenged the accepted early 19th century view that population growth meant economic growth. Malthusian theory encouraged decreasing the birth rate, a view that became somewhat popular.
On the down side, his work was often taken up as a weapon against attempts to improve the lot of the poor. But Malthus’ legacy contributed to the development of contemporary demographics—the statistical study of society. His outlook also had a profound influence on the economist David Ricardo. And Charles Darwin wrote that Malthus’ work influenced the theory of natural selection.
I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population, and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long- continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The results of this would be the formation of a new species. Here, then I had at last got a theory by which to work”.¹
¹ Charles Darwin, autobiography (1876), cited at http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/malthus.html
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Some contend that the idea of the ‘New Age’ originated as a marketing category in the 1980s, with New Age style ideas going back, of course, to the 70s and 60s.
Others note, more comprehensively, that the media also uses the term, as do many individuals and organizations. Whatever its origins, the ‘New Age’ refers to almost anything relating to contemporary spiritual discourse and practice.
New Age books, music, lectures, workshops, videos and websites deal with humanity’s development, usually with the goal of self-actualization and sometimes global transformation.
At the outset of the 20th-century, the American psychologist and philosopher William James outlined his The Varieties of Religious Experience several innovative spiritual trends remarkably similar to today’s concept of the New Age:
…for the sake of having a brief designation, I will give [it] the title of the ‘Mind-Cure movement.’ There are various sects of this ‘New Thought,’ to use another of the names by which it calls itself.¹
From the 1980s to around the new millennium religious fundamentalists, especially of the North American Christian variety, targeted the New Age as the workings of Satan. Important figures like C. G. Jung, Rudolf Steiner and Fritjof Capra were caricatured as Satanic hostiles to apparently ‘true’ fundamentalist versions of the Christian faith.
However, the emphasis of fundamentalist reactionary attacks has arguably shifted from perceived psychological and spiritual threats to scientific ones. Believers in evolution sans God are the new devils in the flesh to be countered and corrected by those single-minded Fundamentalists who believe they have a privileged interpretation of Christian scripture.
This shift is probably due to recent advances in mapping and sequencing genomes. The possibilities of this technology are staggering, and the new is always scary to those deeply entrenched and invested in longstanding cultural biases.
¹ William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Penguin, 1985 , p. 94.
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