Charles Darwin was an English naturalist and who is most famous for contributing to the science of evolution. He came to the conclusion that all of the species of life that we observe today evolved from common ancestors. He, along with Alfred Russel Wallace, introduced the theory of natural selection in which evolution is the result of survival of the fittest. Due to his contributions to evolutionary science Darwin is widely celebrated today. There are cities, streets, mountains and colleges all in his name. There are mugs, posters, and other memorabilia in honor of Darwin, and even people with tattoos of Darwin. He has become a somewhat romanticized figure. When someone thinks of evolution they almost certainly will think of Darwin. He has become the face of evolution and has essentially been crowned as the founding father of the science of evolution. However, regardless of whatever fame Darwin has achieved through his post-mortem romanticization his theories of natural selection supporting evolutionary science created significant controversy.
In the 1850s reception of a theory which essentially denied the existence of a divine creator was bound to cause dissension. This was blasphemous in the eyes of many clerical individuals. Many people were not ready to abandon their creationist views and adopt this new evolutionary science. As a result, Darwin received many hostile comments progressing to claim he would never be allowed to enter heavens gates. Interestingly, even those individuals who did read and appreciate Darwin’s work were perplexed by the concept of there being a divine creation of life on Earth, and then the natural evolution that followed. People meshed religious views and scientific ones to believe that the creator created and then natural science took over from there. These are questions that still trouble people today.
Another interesting descendant of Darwin’s evolution by natural selection is eugenics. Eugenics itself is extremely controversial. It is a so-called science which seeks to improve the human race through breeding. Eugenics essentially seeks to preserve higher qualities and traits in the human race and eliminate undesirable ones. The means in which eugenics propose this is done is through artificial selection, or preventing the sick, weak, or untalented from reproducing. The most well known case of eugenic “science” was in Hitler’s Nazi Germany where those who were not healthy Aryans were eliminated because they were seen as a burden on the state. Many people were sterilized, and many who were sick, crippled, mentally handicapped, or elderly were simply killed. These practices, although in no way endorsed by Darwin, were offshoots of his theory of evolution by means of natural selection. They offer an example of the differing effects that Darwin’s revolution had. Darwin’s theory of natural selection shaped the foundation of evolutionary science to come. His work is widely accepted and extensively celebrated, yet Darwin also provides a clear example of the ways in which revolutionary thinking can not only be negatively received at the start, but how revolutionary thinking can also lead to adverse theories. The Darwinian revolution was by no means perfect, but then again no revolution is.