According to Charles Darwin, natural selection is a process whereby the survival of different living organisms depends on their gradual adaptation to certain environments over many generations.
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It is commonly known by the phrase, ”survival of the fittest”, which means that only the species that have well adapted to their environment, is well suited to survive in that habitat. The theory of natural selection by Charles Darwin also states that, variations in size, shape, strength, and color do occur naturally in all living things.
These natural variations, called mutations through evolution, affect which living organisms will survive to live long enough to reproduce. For instance, animals with traits or qualities that are well suited to their environment, such as long legs in wading birds, are more likely to survive long enough to breed than others of their species.
When these animals breed, they may pass on the favorable traits to their offspring through their genes, while those with unfavorable traits are most likely to die without reproducing. As more and more organisms in a particular species inherit a favorable trait, the gene becomes more common in the population, and so the species changes.
Reactions to Charles Darwin’s Theory
Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection encountered a sharp reaction especially at Evangelical Protestantism, since it greatly undermined the story of creation by God and current defenses of the faith at two critical points. By implication, it questioned the audacity of accuracy of the Bible, which had been his most important exhibit in demonstrations of “evidences” for Christianity. Secondly, Darwinism, as the theory came to be known, also totally reversed the perceptions of the relation of science to the Christian faith.
In the mid-nineteenth century, American Christian apologists rested their case heavily on the argument through scientific revolution, by uncovering some of the marvels of God’s intricate and awesome design of the universe. They argued that it was inconsistent to rationally believe that such a complex and orderly system could lack an intelligent designer.
In addition, the Protestant reactions to Darwinism did vary considerably, they argued that if Darwinism had to do simply with biological development, the process it posited could only be subsumed under God’s providence, and they suggested that evolution was a way of God doing things.
During this period, the American scientific arena was dominated by a formidable number of scientists who did not find the natural-selection hypothesis adequate enough. A few naturalists endowed with much flexibility of mind also doubted the immutability of species.
Majority of the scientists held allegiance to Jean Baptiste Lamarck’s theory that evolution was evident as organisms adapted to environments to meet their biological needs out of resources in such environments and the instruments that they effectively employed would develop further, while the inefficient ones atrophied.
These features according to Lamarck’s theory were inheritable, and the species were directed towards a goal whose progress seemed inevitable. So, with the perception of Lamarckism, progressive religionists quickly adapted and saw evolution as God’s way of doing things.
One example given by Lamarck to support his theory was that, ancestors of modern giraffe were deer like animals with short neck and small forelimbs, and so for it to survive, a giraffe had to stretch their necks so as to feed on the tall trees which had remained from a period of drought.
Due to the continuous stretching, the length of the neck and forelimbs increased, therefore making all acquired characters inherited.