Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection

People believe that the theory of evolution was sparked by the trip on the Beagle. And it partially was. When Charles Darwin was 22, he set off on a chartering ship- the Beagle. He came from a religious family where his father wanted him to be a preacher but he defied Christianity! So, what changed his mind? Well, three things did. A book, and a discovery, and of course, some friends.

That book would be The Principles of Geology. This was a book about how the earth changed over time. It went against the belief of most people at the time: that God created the world in six days. It played a role in Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection and inspired his ideas. If the earth was slowly changing through earthquakes and tectonic activity, could animals change as well? That was his question when he discovered natural selection. The book also gave him the courage to confront the world with questions that contradicted the Bible and Christianity.

Later on, when he was on the Beagle, he found some fossils and got specimens of animals all around the world. It was here that he made the discovery that led him to drift away from contemporary beliefs. Finches, at the time, were classified as Finches. That was it. There was only one kind that people recognized. But, when he compared finches at the Galapagos Islands and other places, he found they were different. This is when he came up with the theory of evolution. Slight genetic mutations created, at random, a larger and a narrower beak. Depending on the circumstances, these might be better suited for food-gathering and survival. As a result, one kind would survive and the other would die because of the genetic disadvantage it had in the environment. The one that was better suited would live to reproduce and pass down it’s good genes. The bad ones would eventually die out.

Finally, and of course, his friends helped. The people who helped were Joseph Hooker, Charles Lyell, and T.H. Huxley. Joseph Hooker was Darwin’s closest friend and encouraged him to show his ideas to the world. He encouraged him and gave him the confidence to speak out. Charles Lyell was the author of Principles of Geology which turned his beliefs upside-down. Then, there was T. H. Huxley. He was so strong a supporter of evolution he earned the nickname “Darwin’s bulldog.”

So, we really can’t give all the credit to Darwin though he was the scientist that changed the world! People at that time were against him. They didn’t have much evidence, but going against their religion and many others was reason enough. They would go so far as to insulting pictures about his theories, but over time, as evidence piled up against these people, scientists started to agree with him. Today, we believe he laid the cornerstone to modern biology and there is no study of new species that is carried out without a mention of Darwin’s name. It has become the first piece of the puzzle to figuring out where we come from.