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Theory of Evolution

The Voyage of the Beagle

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Charles Darwin was profoundly influenced by his experiences as the ship "Beagle" cruised the Atlantic and Pacific waters of South America.  Darwin began to examine his own previous assumptions, review and perhaps challenge the popular mental constructs of his time, evolve new principles such as adaptation and natural selection from the facts he experienced, and finally communicate his new insights to the general public.

Darwin's Experience

Innovation

The voyage of the Beagle took Darwin to the rain forests of the Amazon, with a multiplicity of species unkown in England.  Darwin visited settlements in Brazil, where Europeans had large ranches on land taken from Native Indians and worked by Negro slaves.  On a storm beaten Atlantic shore, Darwin saw the skeleton of a dinosaur.  Darwin talked about the Bible with his fundamentalist captain, and took two natives educated in England,  back to Tierra del Fuego to evangelize their fellow tribesmen.  Darwin climbed the Andes Mountains to find fossils of sea shells at the mountain tops.  While on this expedition, the Beagle was damaged by a tsumami on the Pacific coast of Chile.  Darwin noted that the Galapagos Island finches were different on every island and adapted to their local enviornment.
 
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Darwin's Questions

"Quaestio"

What separates Darwin from the ordinary person was not his experiences alone, but his capacity to question.  He asked "why" were species adapted to different enviornments.  He looked for some mechanism in the adaptation of plants and animals to their environment. 
 
Concerning speed, Darwin himself was unsure about how fast evolution moves.  Adaptations arose by numerous small changes.  (Audi 1999, 205)
 
Darwin saw no apparent goals in evolution.  Variations occur in all directions.  However, environment also changes to continue some characteristics and to eliminate others.  (Audi 1999, 204)
 
Darwin (not knowing Mendel's genetics) struggled with problems of heredity.  Darwin affirmed pangenesis, by the blending of cell gemmules from parents.  An objection to such a theory is that such a blending would neutralize the effect of natural selection.  (Audi 1999, 205)

Darwin's Insights

"Lectio"

DOCTRINAL CONFLICT:  Darwin appeared to be in conflict with the Book of Genesis in the Bible in several ways:  1) evolution by natural selection postulates a single tree of life; 2) evolution postulates mindless natural selection in opposition to intelligent design by a Creator; and 3) other ways such as the earth was ancient for Darwin, but appeared young in the Bible account.  (Bunnin 2003, 330)
 
ACADEMIC CONFLICT:   The influential fifth argument of Aquinas for the existence of God was the argument from intelligent design.  (Brunnin 2003, 478-480)  In the century before Darwin this became the fundamental argument for the existence of God.  William Paley in Natural Theology (1805) argued from finding a watch in a field, and arguing to an intelligent watchmaker.  The watch has adaptive complexity, like the eye, so that if one part is different, the watch does not work at all.  (Audi 1999. 205)
 
Darwin read Paley at Cambridge.  (Brunnin 2003, 331-332)  But Darwin moved to agnosticism, perhaps due to the death of his little daughter.  Certainly pain and death in the world moved Darwin to agnosticism.  For Darwin change was not random, but natural selection offered a higher probability of successful adaptation.  Paley argued that even imperfect adaptation to environment allowed for a Creator, and perfect adaption to the environment showed the benevolence of the Creator.  Darwin was opposed to creation of species, opposed to any internal force directing evolution, and opposed to Lamarchian adaptations to the environment from parents as an evolutionary mechanism.  (Audi 1999,205) 
 

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