The research and quantity of publication by Charles Darwin is certainly staggering. Even without writing a sentence about his theory of evolution, the totality of his publications come to volumes of scientific observation.
The research and quantity of publication by Charles Darwin is certainly staggering. Even without writing a sentence about his theory of evolution, the totality of his publications come to volumes of scientific observation. Yet, Darwin is more well known in the world of science and philosophy for the implications of the conclusions regarding his observations, or his theory of natural selection. It is those conclusions that have drawn criticism and question since his ideas were published in the 19th century.
A significant problem with his theory is that he in essence skips past his observations to foregone conclusions, which in many instances are questionable. The volume of his scientific observations make his assumptions at times challenging to ferret out. Yet he was not shy about drawing those conclusions. His work includes a detailed description of emotions from his book, “The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals,” published in 1872. The connection for those who know Darwin’s idea’s should be obvious: they are similar because man evolved from animals. By that time he had already published his more famous book, “On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life,” in 1959. For Darwin, even the variation of expression is a sign of evolution.
But by the same measure, one could prove natural selection by observing his own life. His father, Robert Waring Darwin, was a successful physician and financier. In 1825, Darwin was sent to Edinburgh University with his brother Erasmus to study medicine. But he could not stand the sight of blood, so his father proposed the ministry. In 1827, he was admitted to Christ’s College Cambridge, and studied Greek. In the following years he would gravitate toward chemistry, botany and the sciences, and would become a devoted follower of a botany professor at the college, John Stevens Henslow. The teacher would recommend the passage on the HMS Beagle, where he would investigate geology, zoology in South America, the Galapagos Islands and the Pacific oceanic islands.
Do the vicissitudes of his life demonstrate his theory? His life was full of variation, like millions of species. It is full of accomplishment, an extraordinary life to be sure. But where should the credit go? His father? His human ancestors? Perhaps his tenacity is due to a persistent frog, a courageous lion or an inquisitive monkey.
With all due respect to Darwin, he suggests as much in his descriptions, concluding that the monkey is, “remarkable for intelligence,” noting that the variation among monkeys is probably “the result of how they were treated or educated.” Perhaps the monkey had its own Cambridge or Oxford. He draws other flawed conclusions from observations. He concludes in “Descent of Man,” that man’s traits have no doubt come from a number of creatures, including dogs, horses, and other domestic animals. Those good characteristics include special tastes and habits, general intelligence, courage, bad and good temper.
Other pertinent observations in the “Descent of Man” include: man and mammals are both infested with parasites; the method of birth, as well as the brain is also similar. There are similarities between horses and humans: neck and forehead muscles. Muscles among humans are varied. Man also has variations in a number of aspects, including size, weight, skin and hair color. One certainly cannot fault his intimate and detailed descriptions; they are exhaustive. The problem is with his conclusions: variation or similarity among species necessitates an evolution from other creatures. It doesn’t. His observations are what they are, scientific observations.
There are millions if not billions of variations among humans, and even more among other species. Do the observations increase the likelihood that humans evolved from other animals or creatures? No. Attempting to reach conclusions before acquiring data through observation is not good for science. In reality, Darwin’s struggle to find his avocation proves only what it is: one man choosing to follow a desire to use his talent.
© 2010 Larry Ingram
Based in St Louis,
Larry Ingram writes about the news media, movies and culture, as well as topics like race, privilege, Christianity, religious expression and tolerance.
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