The Darwinian Revolution I
Background to Darwin

  1. Natural Theology
    1. In the West, Galileo's view that in the study of nature, biblical studies must defer to scientific studies
      1. This generally was not considered to be an inherent conflict
      2. Natural Theology - the belief that a greater understanding of God could be reached by studying creation - developed in the 1600s
      3. Two widely read books in 1691 promoted the idea that a harmonies relationship between Genesis and geology could be found
        1. John Ray - Wisdom of God in the Creation
        2. Thomas Burnett - Sacred History of the Earth
    2. Growth in knowledge in botany, natural history, and geology in the 1700s shaped but did not change this basic idea
      1. William Paley - Natural Theology, or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearance of Nature (1802)
        1. advanced the "design requires a designer" argument
        2. furthered by the Earl of Bridgewater in 1830s with the Bridgewater Treatises
    3. Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist
      1. Organizes all known living things into a system he regarded as "god's plan"
      2. Created the binomial system still in use today that gave each species a genus (family) and species name
      3. Seemed to confirm the fixed nature of each species, though Linnaeus later speculated about the possibilities of change
    4. Linnaeus's ideas would also seem to fit well with the traditional idea of a Great Chain of Being
      1. An understanding of life that dated to the Middle Ages
      2. All life, from the meekest to the divine, were joined
      3. the links between them were infinitely small, and there were no gaps
      4. In this understanding, all life forms were uniquely created to fill their spot and did not go extinct
    5. Creation and change in other cultures
      1. Many cultures posit a specific creation in their theologies
      2. However, the religions that originate in India, with their cyclical view of time, coupled with a belief in reincarnation, do not
      3. Instead, these cultures view the world as as enormously or infinitely old, and essentially unchanging
      4. The Mesoamerican world view, which includes the Maya and Aztecs, is similar
        1. Lacks emphasis on reincarnation, but views time as moving in enormous cycles
        2. Some of the cycles of Mayan chronology are billions of years in length
  2. Introducing the idea of change
    1. Count de Buffon (1707-88), French naturalist, superintendent of the Royal gardens
      1. Held that species changed across time
      2. Did not believe in progressive evolution, but rather that the devolved from earlier more robust forms
      3. There was support for the idea of degeneration in traditional theology
      4. However, provided no mechanism to explain these changes
    2. Jean-Baptists Lamarck (1744-1829)
      1. Proposes inheritances of acquired characteristics as a mechanism for biological change
      2. Individuals modify themselves to adapt to their environment, and passes these changes on their descendents
      3. While late empirically discredited, remained important to those who saw a plan in natural and human development - endorsed by Stalin, for example
      4. Charles's Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) proposed similar ideas
  3. Fossils, Geology, and the age of the Earth
    1. Fossils
      1. Fossils challenged the idea that species never went extinct, and that our world is essentially what it was at creation
      2. Well known far into early history
        1. Greeks speculated about the problem of marine fossils found high in the mountains
        2. East Asian traditional medicine made much use of "dragon bones"
      3. By 1800, generally thought of as accidents of geology or evidence of some violent upheaval
      4. After 1800, the discovery and identification of large, extinct species, such as the Megatherium, severely challenged the idea of no extinctions
      5. Further, the apparent sequence of fossils in the rocks, with reptiles in lower, presumably older rocks ad mammals in higher, younger rocks, was problematical as well
    2. In the Christian West, the Earth was generally seen as young
      1. Most adhered to a chronology based on the Bible, which was read to put the age of the earth at about six millennia
      2. Using the Bible and available sources the Bishop of Usher (The Annals of the World, 1658) had calculated the date as (in modern notation) 4004 BC
      3. By the 1700s, some natural historians and theologians argued for a somewhat older Earth, but most were still talking in terms of thousands of years
    3. Catastrophism
      1. Finding a way to link together fossils and the growing evidence for a much older Earth with biblical accounts led to catastrophism
      2. Baron Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) was a primary proponent of this idea
      3. Held that the surface of the Earth was formed quickly through a series of catastrophic evens, such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and the Flood
      4. Admitted to extinction, but saw the apparent sequence in the rock as a progression towards the creation of Man
    4. Uniformitarianism
      1. Emerged in the late 18th and early 19th century
      2. Held that the surface of the Earth had formed gradually because of slow, steady processes
      3. These forces proceeded uniformly, not catastrophically, over very long periods of time
      4. James Hutton (1727-97), Theory of the Earth (1795)
        1. Earth surface formed by two forces working gradually across time
        2. A leveling force, gravity, and an uplifting force, the heat of the Earth's core
        3. As these forces act slowly today, the acted slowly in the past, an would require an Earth of an enormous age
    5. Charles Lyell (1797-1875), Principles of Geology (1830-33)
      1. Generally recognized as the founder of modern geology
      2. Expanded and systematized Hutton's ideas
      3. So influential that geologists gave little credit to the importance of the occasional catastrophic event until the last generation
      4. Highly influential on Darwin, who carried a copy of Lyell on the voyage of  the Beagle
        1. allowed for very long periods of time for development of biological forms
        2. also influenced his thinking in terms of the power and importance of slow, steady change