Category: October 6 (Page 2 of 3)

Just Keep on Keepin’ On

Whenever I feel like my work isn’t being appreciated enough or that I won’t one day amount to anything, I’m going to think back to Janet Browne’s lecture, “The Darwinian Revolution.” In her lecture, Browne told us that most of Darwin’s work wasn’t appreciated until long after his death, and that many of his fellow scientists tried to deny his work for nearly 100 years! However, the truth behind Darwin’s work remained intact and now his views are widely accepted in the scientific world. This just shows that even when if people doubt your work,  you just have to keep on keeping on.

Before the lecture, I thought that Darwin’s findings were always thought to be self-evident, as they are now, but it seems like every scientist must go through a rough patch.  This made me think, what other scientists have had to go through struggles similar to Darwin, or how many budding scientists won’t get their work realized for the next 100 years because of pre-conceived notions?

One of reasons why Darwin’s work wasn’t widely accepted during his lifetime was because of his religion, or lack thereof. Darwin was an atheist, a practice which heavily opposed the majority the scientists, who were Christian. To Christian scientists, Darwin’s theory of evolution might have been dangerous, because it opposed their entire belief system. Creationism is still a popular mode of belief today, so I can only imagine how strong the influence of God in science was back in their time. Because of this difference, it was very easy to cast aside Darwin’s work by questioning his character or his state of mind. While yes, that was a different time, I feel like something similar could happen in 2016. With the raising levels of Islamophobia worldwide, what’s to stop someone from discounting the work of  a gifted Muslim person simply because of their religion? It’s a scary thought, but it’s happened before.

Dawrin’s work was also put in the shadows because it caused people to break down their strongly held beliefs to consider new things.  Before evolution was proposed, many people accepted certain ideas about the natural world as a given. Species were not thought to be linked in a “family tree”. Most species weren’t even thought to be connected, but were unrelated and unchanged since the moment of inception.  For people who believed that everything was independent for hundreds of years, it’s reasonable for them to be suspicious about a  mysterious set of cross-connections between species. However, it’s when people hold onto their beliefs and are unwilling to think about the possibility of another option, when things go awry. This is what happened to Darwin, and it could very well happen again now.

Even though Darwin had to jump through many hoops, even after he had passed, he still came out victorious in the end. His work is now the building block of evolutionary theory and he is very well respected in the scientific community. He has liquor, cafes, and clothing dedicated to him, his house was made into a museum, and his statue sits, ironically enough, in a cathedral. Which goes to show that no matter what obstacles come your way, it’s best to keep on keeping on, and the work will speak for itself.

Constructing Revolutionary Narratives

Janet Browne’s talk on the Darwinian revolution revealed the power that people have to shape revolutionary narratives. Darwin himself hinted at the revolution that his explanation of evolution would cause. Supported by his family, who began to cement his legacy even when he was still alive, Darwin’s fame only grew after he published On the Origin of Species. Atheists and scientific groups have subsequently appropriated Darwin’s image and the story surrounding his ‘discovery’ of evolution has undergone various revisions. If the story of Charles Darwin draws out over hundreds of years, what other revolutions that have happened or are happening are subject to the influence of contemporary historians, philosophers, and everyday people? Probably all of them. The ways that revolutions are represented in popular culture impact the social conception of what happened as much as, if not more than, what actually happened. Continue reading

The Association of Darwin’s Name

Janet Browne spoke very eloquently and passionately about Darwin and his legacy. But throughout her lecture, I became more and more interested in hearing about the other evolutionists and their discoveries prior to Darwin. It is hard not to know who Darwin is and what he discovered. He has become socially understood as the “Father of Evolution.” However as Janet pointed out, his discoveries were grand, but not entirely revolutionary. His connection with the finches and theory of survival of the fittest certainly was new news, but Darwin was inspired by other evolutionists. And I am now curious as to what was discovered prior to Darwin. The picture that is painted in classrooms, history books, and society was Darwin made a discovery that was completely new to the world. Browne showed the classic image of ape gradually evolving into man. This image is heavily associated with Darwin, but much to my surprise, he did not create this image. I am still unsure who did, but at least now I know it wasn’t Darwin. Darwin’s discovery has been exaggerated and glorified immensely. The association of image with Darwin’s name an example of the exaggeration. Darwin’s name has become associated with much more than evolution.

The interest I have always personally had in Darwin is the religious ramifications of his discovery. I was surprised to learn this predominantly was an issue in the US and not in England. Having studied the Scopes Trial and studied religion in the US, evolution plays a big role in policies and laws in the US and of course Darwin is associated with them. Darwin’s discovery was scientific, but Americans managed to make it about religion. He created a theory discovering birds and Americans made it into an evil theory that refutes the word of God. Atheism then became interchangeable with evolutionist. Even though these words mean different beliefs, they are intertwined and often misused. I believe when Darwin made his discovery he did not  expect or even suspect the global ramifications it would have. Janet Browne mentioned that Darwin was most likely agnostic. However, I presume many have assumed him to be atheist. Religion and science have always had conflict particularly in the US. Darwin is one of the few to cause disputes within religions particularly within the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church only relatively recently finally accepted that the Earth is not the center of the universe. I would imagine it will take a long time, a lot of evidence, and possibly a sign from God for the Catholic Church to officially accept evolution. Evolution has become much more than a scientific theory. It has become a belief to some or a threat to others. It has become its own religion to some extent. You either believe in evolutions or you don’t. There has yet to become a name for the equivalent for agnosticism in regards to evolution. I am sure there will be a term coined in the near future.

What Kind of Revolution?

History has told us that Charles Darwin was not the first person to suggest the theory of evolution, but he is whom we credit with this discovery. This is a controversial part of history, but we have seen this happen in other fields of study. Janet Browne was quick to let us know that Darwin was modest about his accomplishments and did not seek all of the attention he received. Rather, other scientists and members of society made him into the representative of what we call the Darwinian Revolution. The Darwinian Revolution was not all Darwin, and, as Browne would argue, not quite a revolution. However, I would argue the Darwinian Revolution was a revolution based on the long lasting implications it has had on society.

Darwin knew that his discoveries would have uncomfortable social and political implications. This contributed to his hesitancy to share them with the rest of the scientific community, and the rest of the world. Religion was the way to explain the unknown, and it governed everyone’s lives. Suggesting that some other process produced humans than creation caused widespread horror. While probably not to the degree it was back then, many people are still outraged by this suggestion. So while the Darwinian Revolution changed science, it also changed religion. Darwin also knew his discoveries would cause a revolution, but not in his lifetime. Even before his death, Darwin had become romanticized as a hero of modern science. His supporters were adamant about keeping his legacy alive. They made sure the theory of evolution was never discredited or considered irrelevant. They were successful, considering we still learn and talk about it today. However, this has continued to be a controversial topic, especially in the United States.

Browne stated that The Darwinian Revolution was long because it lasted more than a few years; one hundred and fifty to be more exact. However, I would disagree with this statement. As we have seen in this course, revolutions often last many years and continue to influence society after they end. The Darwinian Revolution is no exception. The changes that occurred in the scientific world were vast, and this also affected the education system. When it comes to religion, the Darwinian Revolution’s influences are still very prevalent. The decision to teach evolution in public schools in the United States was implemented very recently in relation to the acceptance of evolution as a legitimate scientific theory. The resistance of religious institutions and groups has not gone away, even today. Darwin has become the symbol and hero of atheists. Darwin considered himself to be agnostic, but for some reason many religious people cannot separate science and religion. This is definitely not true of everyone. There are many people who can accept both. When charting the evolution of the Darwinian Revolution, it has changed from a scientific revolution to a religious one. Because of this, I would argue that the after effects if the Darwinian Revolution still play a large role in the questions asked by people about science, religion, and the intersection of the two.

ReThinking the Darwinian Revolution and its Connection to Others

So far in the continuing revolutions course we have heard a whole range of revolution stories from elements of the scientific revolutions, to environmental revolutions, and even social/artistic revolutions. All of the speakers have demonstrated how a revolution is no streamlined, cookie cutter event, but instead can embody an enormous range of social impacts, cultures, academics, communities,  results, etc. Janet Brown’s lecture last Thursday (10/6) on Rethinking the Darwinian Revolution not only embodied an enormous amount of detail and interesting conclusions, but it also brought to light a few common threads that have run through all of the speakers we have heard from so far.

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Darwinism Today

From today’s biology education inside and outside classroom, it is only natural for people to connect theory of evolution by natural selection with Charles Darwin and Galapagos finches in a mind map; some who worked really hard in class might also remember Darwin’s study of barnacles. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg of the theory of evolution. Today’s theory of evolution is much more than Darwin’s idea; in fact, the original Darwinian theory itself, if not complemented by other later studies, probably would not have been accepted at all: the public did not recognize or accept the theory until the development of modern molecular biology and genetics, which made the theory much more complex than what Darwin proposed. Therefore, using the term Darwinian Revolution to describe the development of the theory of evolution in today’s conversation might be a misnomer.

When attributing all the credits of the formation of the theory of evolution to Darwin, we often forget other naturalists who equally contributed to the theory. It is safe to say most people are acquainted with the Darwinian theory from their school education; however, it is equally safe to say that Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Alfred Russel Wallace, Thomas Henry Huxley, and other naturalists who made great contribution to the development of the theory, are often left forgotten. According to Dr. Browne, much of our knowledge and vocabulary of the theory of evolution today has non-Darwin sources. However, for some historical reasons at the time, Darwin ended up reaping all the fame. Even though the increasingly independent academia grants us the necessary information to look at the development of the theory in an unbiased light, we sometimes are still limited by the historical and conventional understanding of the theory.

The misconception of the theory of evolution partly stems from the popularity of Darwinism. People use the term Darwinism arbitrarily in different contexts, such as economics and sociology. The wide adoption and adaptation of the theory in different fields are gradually included in Darwinism, rendering the theory of evolution itself less concrete and less scientific. For example, the term “survival of the fittest” has lost its original biological meaning, which concerns not only survival but also reproductive success.

Moreover, we have to think of the theory of evolution as a dynamic theory. The study of genes and the development of molecular biology, which took place about one hundred years after Darwin, have made the theory of evolution scientifically tenable. It is also possible that more rigorous research will further change the theory of evolution. For instance, the development of epigenetics, which studies the modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself, has caused the revival of Lamarck’s theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics and the modification of the Darwinian theory.

It is very likely that the “Darwinian theory of evolution” will continue to change in the future, drifting further apart from Darwin’s opinions. Therefore, in using the term “Darwinian Revolution”, we should keep in mind that it is much more than Charles Darwin.

Charles Darwin (et al.)

Naturalist, geologist, and scientist, Charles Darwin, is often accredited with is contributions to the scientific field with his ideas on evolution. His book, “On the Origin of Species”, published in 1859, was innovative in it’s introduction of his new theory of evolution. While initially not well received by the general public, evolution is now widely accepted by the public as well as the scientific community. Darwin’s contributions had supposedly revolutionized the way we looked at species development, religion, and the story of creation. He was heavily praised and became the face of innovative thinking and evolution. He remains one of the most studied, talked about, and applauded scientist to date.
During Thursday’s talk with Dr. Janet Browne some of these beliefs about Darwin and all of his contributions to science were overturned. Notably, his publication was joined with Alfred Russel Wallace. Yet, Darwin is the one who is typically accredited with the development of this theory. Both men had independently developed the same theory, yet only one reaped the benefits of notoriety. Dr. Browne noted that Darwinism may indeed be romanticized to an unworthy degree. Evolution as a theory was made as successful as it is today with the assistance of many other notable scientists. It is unfair that Darwin should receive all of the glory for a collaborative effort.
The disparity in notoriety between Charles Darwin and other scientists encourages us to question what was different about the two. Dr. Browne questioned many important details of Darwin’s life and upbringing that may have isolated him from other scientists. Darwin received incredible support from his family, which may have ultimately led to his success over other scientists. During, and even after his life, his family’s support helped to push him further into the eyes of the public. Ultimately, they gained him the publicity that he needed to gain notable credit for his ideas.
During his life, Darwin’s theories weren’t even accepted to the point where they were impactful in the grander societal scheme. Only after his death and only due to his family’s constant publishings and encouragements did his ideas finally take flight. Finally, religious notions were replaced by scientific evidence suggestive of evolution and natural selection concepts. The fact that Darwin’s ideas (which others also had), did not even impact the thinking of society during his lifetime says something about what he actually contributed to his field. He was reliant upon his family to spread his theories after his death. Why we credit Darwin with these ideas is largely due to the fact that he was the only one that was heard about. However, that by no means justifies the lack of recognition that other scientists had.
Darwin’s evolutionary theories did transform the concepts of creation that previously existed. Natural selection unearthed many fundamental creationist beliefs. However, while these theories while transformative to science, they shouldn’t be accredited solely to Darwin. There were multiple scientists who developed similar ideas who deserve if not the same amount, more credit than Darwin receives. Revolutions are very rarely the result of only one man’s thinking.

The Caged Animal

*Because of a class from 7-9:30 on Thursday I was not at the discussion, this response is on the documentary Blackfish*

As a child I always wanted to go to a zoo. Being fortunate enough that I grew up far enough from a city, hiking in the summer and fall, and going to the mountains in New Hampshire in the winter I saw a lot of natural wildlife. The most exciting was seeing my first moose while driving in the northern part of New Hampshire. From that sense, I understand the allure of being able to see great animals up close. It creates a memory that is unforgettable. For this reason, I understand the reason that zoos are so popular.

Having once gone to a zoo I also understand the reason people are thrilled to go to them. Especially if you are from a city the ability to look at animals that you have never seen before is an amazing experience. However, Blackfish paints a different picture. While primarily focused on SeaWorld and the orca whales that live there, Blackfish paints a larger and darker image of zoos around the world. The scary apart about zoos are not when everyone is there, but when the lights go off and the animals are left in even smaller cages. Should a zoo only be okay to go to base on the size of the cage that animal lives in? Or how much the animal usually travels in a normal day versus how much it can while it is in its enclosure?

Both of these questions I believe are important when determining whether a zoo is a plausible place for an animal to live. If an animal usually has extremely large migrating patterns, then putting that animal inside of a zoo just makes no sense. The zoo should be a place that we can take in the beauty of an animal without taking away its way of life. For this reason, orcas along with many other animals are most likely unable to live in zoos. It might be not as cool to go to the zoo and see a much smaller variety of animals about. Or zoos could look at this another way. How they could turn the enclosures into much better areas for the animals. How could zoos learn from what has happened at SeaWorld has done to make sure that the animals are living in okay enclosures.

While watching Blackfish I often imagine the opposite in terms of how large of a space would humans have to live in to be okay. Again I have been fortunate enough to have traveled and experienced the vastness of the wilderness.  Personally I can’t imagine trying to live an apartment my entire life. While I might not know knowledge of the outside world I believe that deep down your inner soul would want to explore. I believe that pour inner animals would also come out in very negative ways just like the caged orcas.

Darwinian Revolution: The Evolution of his Legacy

When thinking about the Darwinian Revolution, I find myself wondering whether Charles Darwin realized the gravity of his scientific discoveries when he first published his famous tome “On the Origin of Species”. Often times, visionaries and groundbreaking thinkers like Darwin are just as likely to think that their work will change the world as they are to believe that they will have little impact at all. Thankfully for Darwin and the scientific community as a whole, his legacy is that of a true revolutionary – one who forever transformed the science of not just biology, but other fields as well. The Darwinian Revolution as it has come to be known was a groundbreaking shift in scientific thought throughout the world, but according to Janet Browne, it is much more than that.


Traditionally, the Darwinian Revolution was a revolution in scientific thought that took place in the years following the publication of Darwin’s findings on evolution. In this revolution, evolutionary concepts gradually took hold in the field of biology, challenging traditional concept on the origin of life, the very nature of life itself, and humanity’s place within nature on Earth. However, this interpretation is a very limited one according to Browne, and ignores some of the other fundamental changes that Darwinist thought brought onto the western world and the world as a whole. In England, there was relatively little noise regarding Darwin’s atheism, his theories’ implications for religious doctrine, and the social implications of his works, but in other places across the world, the opposite was true. In the United States, the much more religious populations rejected Darwin’s teachings, favoring the gospel of Christianity that espoused that the Earth and all life on it was created by God over the course of a week a few thousand years ago. In 1925, the Scopes Trial, in which a high-profile trial of a school teacher who tried to teach evolution to American children, illustrated that even decades after Darwin’s work had become widely accepted within much of the scientific community, there were still many who wholly rejected the idea of evolution in favor of traditional religious interpretations of the origin of life. Darwin’s work also led to changes in social policy, and not necessarily in good ways. In the late 19th and early 20th century, many new pseudoscientific theories regarding subjects like “biological racism” and “social Darwinism” bastardized Darwin’s work in an attempt to apply his concepts of evolution to different races and cultures in order to justify colonialism and European imperialism.


Overall, the Darwinian Revolution, like other revolutions, has a wider sphere of impact than traditionally recognized. While Darwin’s work certainly revolutionized scientific thought in the decades after his publishing, the implications of his theories inspired other schools of thought. His enlightening observations on evolution reached the entire world and are now taught in classrooms all over the planet. Perhaps the Darwinian Revolution is still not over, and will only come to an end when all believe in the scientific method over religious dogma, but until then, Darwin’s legacy will continue to inspire rationality and scientific thought all over the world.

The Darwinian Revolution Closely Examined

Charles Darwin was one of the greatest minds in human history, and his theory of evolution and his idea of natural selection are some of the most incredible discoveries of the modern era of science. Darwin is recognized for his accomplishments today, but this was not always the case especially during his time. The religious controversy that he sparked by making these claims about the history of mankind was unbelievable, and many of his ideas were not truly recognized as substantial and valid for close to 100 years. Now he has become a household name and is recognized all over the world for his contributions to human history. There is a college named after Darwin, a city, multiple mountains, movies, and he was pictured on the British currency. This makes it clear that he is very well recognized today for his major discoveries and ground breaking research and studies, however it is very interesting to hear about the controversy around his work during his life time.

The cultural assimilation that his book and his studies caused was very substantial. Many of the well known scientists of his time period were not in support of his work because they were so grounded in their beliefs about religion and about the history of humans. Sometimes even after hearing his studies and theories he had formed after many years of studying they still chose not to fully believe or validate his claims just because even the major scientists of the time were so religious and so grounded in their prior thinking. As you can imagine, the general public acted similarly and was also dedicated to their religious beliefs and refused to accept any other way of thinking for the most part. This led to much of the public writing to Darwin with many major philosophical questions about religion and about life as a whole. Darwin for the most part was humble and polite with people when they asked him questions that he didn’t have the answers to.

A major part of the history of Darwin as a naturalist and a evolutionist is the fact that he did not have a job and was living off of an inheritance from his parents. He also married a wealthy woman named Emma Wedgwood and they had many kids together which greatly contributed to his happiness in life. This happy home environment and lack of an occupation allowed him to fully invest himself into his work and spend many years researching and examining various species of animals and plants. Of course this is not the only thing that contributed to his success and incredible discoveries, because he also was extremely brilliant and compulsive. This led to him breaking down every action or thought he ever came up with and fully considering every positive and negative consequence. This included things in his life such as marriage, where he fully broke down all the pros and cons of getting married and eventually decided that it was a good idea and he would enjoy being married. Another interesting fact I learned during this lecture was that there were many other evolutionists at this time along with Darwin, who had similar lines of thought, but clearly did not have some of the major theories or discoveries that Charles Darwin had himself. Some of these evolutionists were Herbert Spencer, Robert Chambers, and Alfred Russel Wallace. It is very interesting to think that people read the Origin of Species at this time and saw and read other works and studies from other evolutionists and yet for 100 years his work was not recognized as what it truly was.


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