The English scientist Sir John Herschel, who ironically had a major influence on Charles Darwin, objected to Darwin’s Evolution Theory after its publication. He said, “Science aims to find not just empirical laws but true causes: causes recognized as having a real existence in nature and not being merely hypotheses or figments of the mind.” Herschel labeled Darwin’s theory the “Law of Higgeldy-piggeldy” and asserted that complex adaptations of life could not arise from chance variation.
Since Sir John Herschel’s critics of Darwin’s Evolution Theory, scientists’ view of the theory has come a long way.
A Brief History of Evolution
For thousands of years, humans imagined the earth as the center of the universe, thought all celestial objects orbited the earth, and believed the universe and earth were eternal. Fundamental matters such as gravity, origins of humans, the relationship between plants, animals, and humans, were philosophical curiosity and had virtually no practical use in people’s daily lives.
In the third century BCE, Aristotle highlighted the variations among the individuals of species, yet he concluded that essential characteristics of every species kept the same. Centuries later, the Catholic Church accepted Aristotle’s essentialism and instated the doctrine that every species was created in its current form with unchanged essential characteristics. Because scientific findings had to be in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church, the origin of species had persisted to be a philosophical matter up until after the scientific revolution in the western world.
Darwin’s Evolution Theory
Contrary to popular belief, European scientists had already proposed the evolution of species long before Charles Darwin was even born. However, until Charles Darwin came along the mechanism behind evolution stayed a mystery. For instance, until the mid-nineteenth century, scientists’ speculation was that acquired characteristics could be inherited. Charles Darwin was the first scientist to successfully theorize the origin of species, evolution by natural selection, and later on evolution of humans.
Evolution is in progress even as you read this article, whether humans accept it as a fact or not:
- Two distinct species of mice are mating and their hybrid mice pups are immune to pesticides.
- Humans create specific dog breeds.
- Since its discovery, bacteria have increasingly evolved to outsmart antibiotics.
- A special fish managed to beat the toxic pollution in New York City’s dirtiest river.
Denying evolution today equates to denying the existence of pesticides-immune mice, domestication, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the fish swimming in the dirtiest river of New York.
Gravity was once a philosophical curiosity. However, today we use the gravitational theory to launch rockets, to go to the moon, to send spacecraft to take pictures of other planets. Likewise, the origin of species was once a philosophical curiosity. However today, thanks to evolution theory we develop vaccines, produce antibiotics, domesticate plants and animals, genetically modified organisms, study genetic disorders, even catch criminals.
Gravity and evolution are not just theories, they are facts.