The theory of evolution by natural selection or survival for the fittest suggests that living things have undergone some gradual changes since time in memorial. That all things have a common origin, from nonliving to living and that complex creatures have evolved from simple ones through processes of mutation that enable them have some adaptive characteristics.
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These acquired mutations are passed on to the next generations eventually leading to a very different creature compared to the first one. The changes undergone is to enable them acquire adaptive features that enable them survive in the environment in which they live.
Usually, those that are not favored by the environmental conditions are naturally eliminated by either immigration or death while those who modify their features survive well in the ecological setting they find themselves in. Examples of such features are wings and beaks for birds, hooves for animals and others that accord a creature a functional advantage to compete with the environment.
Most sources have it that Charles Darwin is the father of this theory; even in schools students are thought the same. Due to lack of time and interest on this issue, this misconception has been widely belief but on looking at the primary sources, it is clear that Darwin’s theory was build on ideas that had earlier been suggested or discovered through observation by other philosophers thus nullifying this belief.
Today, the term universal Darwinism has been used to imply the various applications of the Darwin theory, such as evolutionary, epistemology, psychology, ecology and many more. Current sources also describe the development of an organism as a result of Darwinian competition which occurs between the embryos parts at all levels, that is from a molecule to an organ, from simple to complex. This creates a notion that Darwin is the father founder of evolution theory. This can be disapproved by various sources as described below.
Evolutionary theory is of the ancient times while Darwinism is of the recent past. Some Greek philosophers such as Anaximander had already proposed that life comes from non life and that human beings have evolved from animals.
This is a clear indication that Darwin just introduced the idea of natural selection on this already existing philosophy. The idea of irreducible complexity was also suggested by Michel Denton a biologist who set the idea that such systems such as the heart, eye and ear are made up of several parts which function as one integrated and removal of one part could lead to the failure of all.
Darwin suggested that the functioning of such features in different environment for example the eye’s adjustment to various amounts of light and different distances is as a result of gradual change by natural selection which is a bit absurd. Such system existed long before and an evolvement in them is impossible to occur, making it clear that his idea was built on an already existing one.
Early before Darwin’s invention, his grandfather, Dr. Darwin Erasmus had postulated the passage of traits from parents to their children in his work in 1974. According to him, these survival traits were passed on from generation to generation.
Between 1774 and 1829 Lamarck presented the evolution mechanism whereby characteristics are acquired through inheritance. In his theory, he states that an animal’s organ has to continue growing until it reaches a certain limit whereby the organ continuous to strengthen and enlarge in proportional manner in which the organ is put in use. This growth is dependent on time.
According to him, those organs that are not used weaken with time and finally disappear. He demonstrated this by use of a giraffe’s neck, he says that the necks gets longer in each and every sequential generation as the giraffes stretch to reach the tree’s leaves a conditions that contributes to change in their body shape.
Though with no scientific backing, Lamarck’s idea was greatly embraced. Lamarck also proposed that life did not have a common origin, but each generation came up with new features through a process known as transmutation. He used fluids movement in canals to demonstrate his idea whereby these fluids will eat into the canals edges due to variation in their motion at some point leading to development of new organs. The two ideas he proposed were named Lamarckinism and they greatly contributed to Darwin’s theory.
In 1858, Alfred Russel Wallace came up a theory that expressly showed that nature was responsible for various divergence and emergence of new organs with time. Many new organs are frequently produced at each and every generation according to how nature favors their development.
This was introduced at the very same time Darwin was preparing his easy on the origin of species where he could include his idea on theory of evolution by natural selection. This was a great challenge because he feared not to be recognized as the founder of this theory and all his ideas are undermined. This is clear that the idea on how animals get adapted to an environment for their survival and continuity was an idea not only for him.
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Long before the two, in 1946, Aristotle had the same idea of gradual change from simple form to complex. To him, characteristics are passed on from one generation to another, however, these concepts had not been incorporated into the evolution theory (Zirkle 34). This further suggests that Darwin’s idea of trait inheritance was not his own original invention.
Al-Jahiz also had the idea that environment changes with time plays a role in the he development of some traits in creatures that enable them to survive. Abu Rayhan Biruni also had the notion that just like artificial selection works, so does the natural selection. In artificial selection, the required traits in some breeds are perpetuated through breeding thus eliminating the undesired ones.
In the same manner, under natural selection, the undesired qualities are eliminated enabling the species to survive well under the present conditions. This continues with time resulting into a variety of species with different traits from the original one (Lamarck’s bibliographical excerpts n.d).
Lyell who was a geologist believed in the theory of uniformitarialism by James Hutton which states that the earth is shaped Natural occurrences have also undergone by forces that are in motion up to date.
These forces have been in work for a long time, to him, catastrophism such as volcanic eruption and earthquake are not responsible for shaping the earth. Lyell through his study of stratigraphy that is, the layering of rocks observed that the earth is much older than people may think. This was demonstrated at how roots of trees were buried at different heights in the rock strata at the bank of Mississippi.
Lyell also observed how fossils are deposited in the rock strata with the simpler ones on the lower strata and the complex ones in the upper strata, a clear indication that there was some evolvement in the fossils. He believed that environmental changes are also a contributing factor towards evolution though these changes in fossils may be gradual making it possible for them to take place unnoticed. Darwin explained this biologically but the founder of this theory was Lyell (Lyell and Deshayes 513).
From the above discussion it is in order to conclude that, many earlier philosophers came up with the idea of evolution where gradual changes occurred from simple form to a more complex one. They proposed the idea that only those species which could acquire functional advantage and successfully pass it to the next generation could survive.
Darwin latter built his theory on these already suggested ideas which have not been recognized after Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. From the available sources, it is with no doubt that Darwin was not the founder of this evolution theory as generally believed by many people.
Lamarck’s bibliographical excerpts. Web.
Lyell, Charles And Deshayes, Gérard. Principles Of Geology: Being An Attempt To Explain The Former Changes Of The Earth’s Surface, By Reference To Causes Now In Operation, Volume 1. New York: ABE Books, 1998. Print.
Zirkle Conway. Natural Selection before the “Origin of Species”, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. California: Science History Publications, 1941. Print.