On her second visit to Colby, Professor Janet Browne lectured on her specialization – Charles Darwin. “The origin of the Origin.” Opening her presentation with visuals of Darwin represented in a picture, oil painting and caricature she narrated on how popular Darwin had become. Darwin was one of the most famous scientists of his day. His work was regarded as the foundation for the modern world. A man who had a revolution named after him. At the age of 22 while on his voyage of the Beagle his experiences gave him the apparatus to speak about the Origin of Species. Darwin’s publication The Origin of Species sold out and its arguments spread like forest fire not only in scientific circles but also in public domains. He arguably started the first international scientific debate in history.
Theology or Science? The church had been a dominant institution in the early 17th century but science overthrew religion. Science through Darwin attempted to explain what people thought was a divine origin. His doctrines made people feel uncomfortable. The notion of evolution was new to the Victorian society. Evolution had been a subject of study for years prior to Darwin’s publication, there were several other evolutionary thinkers and opponents of organic evolution such as Lyell and Louis Agassiz but Darwin’s 1859 publication was the climax and served as a mid-point to the so-called Darwinian revolution.
The Darwinian revolution is an on-going movement whose origins can be traced to the 18th Century. The impacts of the climax publication live on long after Darwin’s death. The effects of his theories began to be felt while he was yet alive, his concepts are experiencing gradual acceptance as the centuries go by. The 21st Century is currently witnessing the most heated debates of Darwin’s notions. The debates are fueled by the contemporary knowledge of genetics and heredity. Darwin’s concept of natural selection became popular in all kinds of spheres, this concept was in some way used positively but majority of the times it became adopted to push forward narratives of injustice. Herbert Spencer’s widely published works were read and embraced by elite in society. Spencer coined the term ‘survival of the fittest’ in an effort to replace Darwin’s natural selection. This was a vulgarization of the evolution theory that became very popular in the 19th Century. Spencer emphasized that only some would survive the struggle stressing that the lower class were not worthy in society. He flipped Darwin’s findings to justify and promote inequality and injustice.
Eugenic doctrines were invariably coupled with other ideologies the Darwinian revolution. Initially, Eugenics began as a study to explain the decline of the nation’s biological fitness as evidenced by the British army during warfare. Galton referenced Darwin’s work as he spearheaded the Eugenics movement. He saw the need for society to diverge from what was becoming the norm of degeneration. ‘Keep Britain clean’ and he thought Eugenics would do this. Galton thought society was confining in natural selection and voiced out that they should add artificial selection. He might have wished for the success of natural selection but he certainly felt that things should be added on to make it all work.