He was the grandson of two prominent abolitionists:
The following is the transcript of Professor H. James Birx In the middle of the last century, Charles Robert Darwin presented a scientific theory of organic evolution.
His view of life challenged traditional biology and represented a conceptual revolution that has altered forever how we interpret the universe, life on this planet, and the human being within nature. However, Darwin himself was disturbed by the philosophical implications and theological consequences of his discovery that species are, in fact, mutable.
Taking Darwin seriously, the entrenched static view of life forms is replaced by a dynamic conception of the living world throughout earth history. Furthermore, this naturalistic interpretation of reality holds far-reaching ramifications for the beliefs that humankind Darwin and wallace both separated from but occupies a special place in nature.
Darwinian evolution has replaced the anthropocentric and theocentric cosmology with a universe that is utterly indifferent to the evolution of life in general, and the emergence of our own species in particular.
Among the ancient Greek philosophers, Aristotle argued that appearance is reality. He taught that nature is a ladder of forms or a great chain of being from minerals, through plants and animals, to the human being. Grounded in teleology and essentialism, his biology maintained the eternal fixity of all species.
In fact, the Aristotelian worldview claimed that nature had no beginning and will have no end. It ignored fossils, denied extinctions, and consequently rejected the idea of evolution. Clearly, Aristotelian philosophy and Darwinian evolution are mutually exclusive interpretations of life on earth.
Among the Romans, the philosopher Lucretius presented a materialistic view of this universe in his poetic work On the Nature of Things. He held that the earth itself had given birth to plants and animals including the human being.
During the Italian Renaissance, Giordano Bruno argued that this universe is eternal in time, infinite in space and endlessly changing. Furthermore, advocating pantheism, he maintained that God and nature are one and the same thing. In doing so, his bold cosmic perspective challenged both the Thomists and Aristotelians.
The traditional theistic interpretation of this universe and the new Brunian cosmology were mutually exclusive views of the world. As a result, Bruno was condemned as a heretic. Inhe was burned alive at the stake in Rome. In astronomy, however, the subsequent discoveries by Kepler and Galileo among others helped to demolish the ancient and medieval conceptions of this universe.
Nevertheless, it still remained for a naturalist to replace a static view of life forms with an evolutionary interpretation of all species. Having studied rocks and fossils, Lamarck came to the inescapable conclusion that life forms had evolved throughout geological time.
Lacking both a necessary explanatory mechanism within the framework of science and sufficient empirical evidence, he was unable to convince other naturalists of the truth of biological evolution. However, neither Lamarck nor Chambers was able to explain organic evolution in terms of science and reason, i.
Although the idea of evolution had been "in the air" for many decades, it still remained for a rigorous naturalist to bring empirical evidence and logical argumentation together in a convincing and intelligible way in order to persuade other naturalists that life forms do, in fact, change throughout geological time because of natural causes.
Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace represent an exemplary case study of conflicting interpretations of the human being as well as the failure of nerve.
Inafter working twenty years on his "descent with modification" theory, Darwin received a letter and manuscript from Wallace. No doubt with disbelief, Darwin read the enclosed essay which outlined a scientific explanation for the evolution of species remarkably similar to his own interpretation of the mutability of plant and animal forms on the earth.
Although Darwin had been working for two decades on his proposed multi-volume work on the evolution of life, he had continuously postponed the publication of such a book because of the inevitable controversy that would surround his theory of descent.
Now, independently, Wallace had also discovered the scientific theory of organic evolution by means of natural selection or the survival of the fittest as Herbert Spencer referred to it.
This parallel discovery of scientific evolution by Darwin and Wallace was the result of many similar events during the early years of these two naturalists. Darwin had been born into a wealthy family; both his father Robert Waring Darwin and paternal grandfather Erasmus Darwin had been successful medical doctors.
Since childhood, Darwin was a naturalist at heart, being interested in geology and especially entomology. He particularly enjoyed collecting and classifying beetles. During his formative years, he held to the then-taught idea of the eternal fixity of species and was a religious believer although he never took the study of traditional theology seriously.
He preferred collecting insects, studying rocks and fossils,and taking nature walks with other naturalists.He sent Darwin his theory in , which, to Darwin's shock, nearly replicated Darwin's own.
Charles Lyell and Joseph Dalton Hooker arranged for both Darwin's and Wallace's theories to be presented to a meeting of the Linnaean Society in One hundred years after his death, one of the two men who jointly came up with the theory of evolution by natural selection still struggles to emerge from his friend's shadow.
The genius of Darwin (left), the way in which he suddenly turned all of biology upside down in with the publication of the Origin of Species, can sometimes give the misleading impression that the theory of evolution sprang from his forehead fully formed without any precedent in scientific.
Darwin or Wallace? Scientific and Religious Interpretations of the Human Being [Editor's note: The following is the transcript of Professor H. James Birx's presentation on May 1 at The Harbinger symposium, "RELIGION & SCIENCE: The Best of Enemies - .
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