Every time we hear about Darwinism or evolution theory, we always think about Charles Darwin, who was an English naturalist and geologist and contributed a lot to the science of evolution. His theory was so revolutionary that it not only influenced the world of science, but also the world of business, economics, and even social revolution in modern China and Japan.
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.
Although Darwin wasn’t sure about his proof of his theory, although he caused a religious controversy, and although many people didn’t accept that Darwin was right until nearly 100 years later, it is undeniable that Darwin had a huge contribution to modern-day thinking and modern-day biology. While Darwin was doing his research, many other scientists were also exploring similar topics yet did not get the same research done or credit as Darwin. This raises the question, what made Darwin different? Was it his unique family life and the way he went about his life in general?
The first notable detail of Darwin’s life that likely contributed to his success was that he ddi not have a job, but instead lived off of independent wealth that was left to him by his parents. He married his cousin who also came from a successful family, growing his personal wealth further. Because Darwin did not need to be going to a job and focusing time on job-related issues, he was able to spend time doing what he truly enjoyed, science. This may have set him apart from other researchers at the time as he not only enjoyed science for the joy of it, but also that he had so much time to pursue scientific topics of his own interest.
Another part of Darwin’s life that may have contributed to his success was his wife and family. Many documents show that Darwin and his wife were very happy and that they had many children that also added to their happiness (although in his marry/not marry list, children were at the top of both lists!). This may have made him be able to focus more on his work and less on marital or general family life issues. Darwin needed to have a comfortable family life to be able to even make the voyage on the Beagle.
Darwin’s family was supportive of him during his life as well as after his death, making the Darwinian revolution possible. Starting from having his funeral and being buried in Westminster Abbey with other revolutionaries. From there, his children also helped transcribe his books and were instrumental in crafting the record of Darwin himself. At the time that they were doing this, Darwin’s theory was not widely accepted, and many people thought that it went against their religious views. If his children had not pushed his popularity and theories throughout their lives, his work may have not surfaced to the extent that it has, and we would likely not think of evolution in the same way, or would have heard it from someone else.
The extent to which Darwin’s family was important can be seen in that Darwin was able to do other things that he was interested in, such as classifying barnacles, breed pigeons, observe differences between humans and apes, work on hybridization and still become one of the most well know men in modern science, easily surpassing other evolutionists such as Herbert Spencer, Robert Chambers and Alfred Russell Wallace. He was able to follow his interests on his own time line and have his theories become revolutionary after his death. If the other evolutionists had come from the same type of background and same type of happy family, maybe things would have been different.