Tag: Darwin (Page 2 of 2)

Darwin’s a Revolution?

Janet Browne from Harvard University came to Colby to speak on the Darwinian Revolution. Two points Browne elaborated on was how Darwin is not the only one to speak on Evolution and that the Darwinian Revolution is not really a revolution. Her talk spoke a lot on Darwin’s life and what we have made of it; she spoke of his upbringing, his death and how he’s remembered today. After listening to her expertise on Darwin, I think Darwin was a smart guy who was simply lucky to be recognized as greatly as he is today. So what was it that made Darwin so well recognized, and considered revolutionary?

Of course Darwin is well recognized for his evolution theory. A theory that has greatly contributed to the sciences and has been studied internationally and will continue to be studied for years. Darwin should be well recognized for his work, however, according to Janet Browne there were also other great people who contributed to the evolution theory but are not as greatly publicized – Herbert spencer, Robert chambers, Russell Wallace, etc. Thus, Darwin is brilliant for his work but he was not the only one contributing to such a great theory.

Through Browne’s talk we saw what an ordinary guy Darwin was. Other than being super intelligent, Darwin was a family guy, he married Emma Wedge Wood, who was also wealthy, and they had a bunch of kids. It is also worth mentioning Darwin was an ordinary, privileged* guy. He was privileged to have the money from his parents to move to the rural, Kent ,UK , in a house with servants as of a young age. He had the resources to become educated and have the time to pursue his studies without worrying about working for money. In addition, he was able to use his own back yard to do his studies.

A final point I would like to make about Darwin is how we have come to know Darwin as the great scientist. Today there exist memes, quotes, and sayings said to be stated by him but were actually not, and rather, just inspired by his work. For example, a famous quote that was incorrectly cited as Darwin’s is “Species most responsive to change will survive.” The picture of the apes evolving into humans was also not Darwin’s creation. Apparently, at Darwin’s funeral he was treated like a saint, today, there is a statue of him in the natural history museum in London and his sons even made an effort to incorporate Darwinism into genetics, to continue to branch out his name in the sciences.

I think Darwins’ story is so interesting because this was considered a revolution and is so highly thought of by the people who are very passionate about him, his work and what he represents – the UK. I feel that there is a lot of hype around Darwin and passion for him not only because of his work but because he represents the UK. From this talk we see how he was indeed smart, but he was a normal guy who received a lot of attention. He had the resources to do what he did and was lucky to get the publicity that he got. The people are what keep Darwin so relevant. What does this have to say about revolutions? Well, this shows how powerful those are who get to report history and also have the money and power to make landmarks to commemorate someone in history.



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.

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.

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