The Story of the Cosmos - CHARLES DARWIN

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CHARLES DARWIN

 

Life Story

As a child he was naturally inquisitive and solitary as he thought about things. Not a great student.

His grandfather had written of evolution which Darwin as a young boy read.

He went to Cambridge to study to become a Naturalist and Church Vicar to which he felt well suited, albeit, with some doubts as to the strength of his religious convictions. He fled medical school in Edinborough, Scotland where the blood and gore of its practices, of the time, horrified him.

Aged just 22 he was offered the chance to make a 5 year voyage round the world on The HMS Beagle, whose mission was to explore the waters of the South Americas, during which time his Church Vicar view of himself disappeared.

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He joined the crew paying his passage to be there as an observer and add something to science. His reading material for the trip was a Geology book which attempted to describe the planet having geologically evolved to its current form and not something created from Genesis.

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Darwin didn’t simply make observations on the voyage; he also attempted to make sense of them, not necessarily correctly.

Journeying with them were some South American natives being returned after having spent time in England being civilised and educated, such that they pass those benefits to their tribes upon return. Darwin, revisiting a year later observed the natives had abandoned their upgrades to return in effect to type, with the natives, they were supposed to have civilised. Darwin misinterpreted this to view they as a less evolved human form.

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Darwin also failed to understand the geology of the Andes where evidence of sudden and rapid land mass changes conflicted with the book on the subject he was then reading.

Fixity of Species had been the dominant view of creatures at that time and it influenced the biases Darwin had when shabbily collecting specimens on The Galapagos Islands, home to species, found nowhere else on Earth, not paying the necessary cataloguing attention needed as to where precisely on the various islands he’d collected them.

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Only much later, after returning from the voyage, would Darwin begin to see from his specimen collection that there was subtle change occurring within the specimens he’d collected, not allowed for by the divinity driven Fixity of Species but better described by evolutionary, Natural Selection.

Aged 33, he was already an established Naturalist, interested in the trans-mutation of plants and animals and how they might evolve.

He had 10 children with his wife Emma, a practicing Christian and strong believer, 7 of which survived through to adulthood.

He suffered anxiety throughout his life and was often physically ill for long periods.

Darwin published his revolutionary view of evolution in 1859 with species evolving independently from a guiding hand of God, the established vision of a harmonious world divinely ordained to serve God’s noblest creation, mankind, would be shattered; intellectual dynamite.

He saw mankind as an intrinsic part of the living world and not apart from it, radically different from the established view of mankind’s separate and special creation. Everything had been created to serve mans needs, the day was set at 24 hours as we needed to sleep for 8 of them, which was what set the spin speed of the planet.

Against this background he set about organising his observations and experiments to text, starting with an essay, Natural Selection.

In 1844 a book published ‘Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation’ was published by a then unknown author, which was read widely and ferociously denounced by the establishment, causing Darwin to refrain from publishing his essay.

Darwin realised from the reviews, were he ever to publish, he’d have to armor-plate it with the necessary detail and body of experimental work supporting such a significant pronouncement.

He held these views secret to himself for 20 years in fear of personal damnation. Once, attempting to share his ideas with a friend, whose reaction was non-committal, he knew then his old teachers at Cambridge would not accept his ideas either and whose respect he greatly feared losing. Those who studied Nature we expected to serve evidence of God’s work to those who studied God directly, the Church.

His wife, Emma’s reading of his final manuscript made her anxious for his salvation, for him to be able to join her in the afterlife, although the book did acknowledge the existence of a creator but not with man as a special creation by God. Darwin was never a strong believer and the passing of his, much loved, 9 year old daughter, extinguished any residual belief he had.

His style of writing was to take the reader gently from observations and examples to the grand over arching conclusions, in what was to become the central book to Biology.

Years of controversy were to follow as the establishment saw the fabric of creationism fray as they prepared to meet their new relatives, Apes, a debate which still rumbles to this day. Darwin went on to write 9 more books, all the while supported by his wife, Emma.

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Legacy

His theory of evolution resonates to this day.

The Religious consequences wrought; Creationism, Intelligent Design and Atheism.

It’s suggested, The Bible can be read literally, where often conflicts are to be found or allegorically, where the message beneath the text is the more important.

Genesis, Chapter 1 allegorically attempts to describe the creation of the world, Chapter 2 tells of the fallibility of human nature. Its then not needed to pay attention as to when God created us in sequence, whether before or after the plants and animals.

Early Christians therefore paid more attention when reading The Bible to what was the message God wanted communicated other than a strict literal one as to whether or not what’s written is truth or not.

It was not until the 16th century that sections of the Church switched to a literal meaning of the text from The Bible and starting such analysis as calculating the age of the Earth at around 6,000 years.

19th century fossil collectors started to age the Earth at millions of years, much older than The Bible claimed it was.

The unearthing of Dinosaur fossils remains much older than any humans now also contradicted a literal reading of Genesis which noted all creatures we created on the same day.

When Darwin then linked us to Apes it blew the Intelligent Design protagonists of the Industrial Revolution, of his time, out of the water, with their view being, well and all as they were now building complex machines, to build a human was only something God could do.

The American Bible Belt of the 1920’s was to become the real front line in the war between Christian Creationists and evolution, not a battle between religion and science but one between morality and politics. Fundamentalist Christians wanted the teachings of evolution banned in schools; Liberalists did not but lost their battle in court. The debate had then drifted to the social front, as to, how do the principles of Survival of the Fittest play out to its full extent within society. Not being allowed teach evolution flew in the face of freedom of expression, getting to the point, if one chose to believe in evolution they ought to relinquish their Christianity.

This bubbled along through to the early 1960’s when Christian Fundamentalism chose to move to a fully literal, non- allegorical, interpretation of The Bible.

The 1980’s was to see the re-emergence of Intelligent Design with its own scientific truths built in, a super-intelligent mechanic, God, who periodically intervenes to make improvements as we go along.

Darwinian Fundamentalists entered the fray in the late 20th century believing Darwin has done away with the need for God altogether, promoting Atheism in its stead. Such protagonists include Richard Dawkins, author of the publication, The Selfish Gene.

The Human Genome has since identified us as having far fewer genes than expected, with many common gene sequences shared with far less complex species than ourselves, evidencing that evolution is likely driven by more than just The Selfish Gene.

The latest evolutionary player to enter is The Theory of Memes which deals with the transfer of information with its mutations in the process are colonising us whilst we’re not aware it’s happening. Everything is therefore an illusion, our sense of self and beliefs or not are no longer of our deliberate choosing.

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Darwin – Evolution – PBS – (115 minutes)

 

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Darwin – The Voyage that Shook the World – (55 minutes)

 

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Darwin's Struggle - The Evolution of 'The Origin of Species' – BBC – (60 minutes)

 

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Darwin – What Darwin Never Knew – PBS - NOVA– (115 minutes)

 

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Did Darwin Kill God – BBC – (60 minutes)

 

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