The theory of evolution developed by (among others) Charles Darwin in 'The Origin Of Species' (first published 1859).

The theory states (put very simply) that the organisms living today are the result of a design process, evolution, where life forms compete for resources in order to survive and procreate and, in the end, ensure the survival of the genes, a concept first conceived by Gregor Mendel. The competition ensures that only the best (fittest) designs survive, and the process can as such be referred to as natural selection.

There has been much controversy about this idea that challenges the traditional view that mankind is created by a God, but Darwinism has become one of the basic building blocks of modern science, and even Charles Darwin himself was hesitant about publishing his work.

Darwinism has also been misused and misunderstood and used as justification for elitism, racism, the state as an organism and thus providing an incentive for aggression and incorporation of neighbouring states (e.g. Germany during the early 20th century).

Traditional Darwinism has often focused on the individual or group as the unit of selection. Modern Darwinism, neodarwinism has mainly focused on the gene as the unit of selection, mainly through the work of Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene, 2nd ed. 1989), and John Maynard Smith and many others.

Daniel Dennett's book, Darwin's Dangerous Idea discusses the consequence of the theory on our beliefs and world view and provides a theory of design space.

Darwin never claimed credit for "survival of the fittest" as a theory. He borrowed that phrase from Herbet Spencer {who he credited with it... cited it nicely, too}

Darwin's theories showcase the work of many previous scientists and philosophers. {Such as Aristotle} He cites them in his work, 2. He's good at that.

Also... Origin of Species {Actually... Published in 1861. Footnote in my copy. It was a paper delivered at a conference in 1859} didn't really have a lot to say about what we think of as evolution. His book, Descent of Man, has all the stuff that the creationists hate. Like the man/ape link. {Oh yeah.. he says nothing about us evolving from apes/monkeys.. just that we share a common ancestor}

Darwinism was the first real, damaging stab at God in the modern era. It was one thing to attribute geology to plate tectonics or plants & trees to cells - but it was quite another to fully explain the diversity of life, which had often been invoked as proof of God's glory, as being a logical procession of organisms responding to their environment. This was truly blasphemy, and Charles Darwin, who had considered joining the clergy in his youth, knew it. Of course, Darwinism was not a clean cut through God; some of the gristle remained attached by its inability to explain what might have started the cellular pageant. But God's involvement, if any, had ended several billion years ago, somewhat reviving the hopes of Deists (God-as-Watchmaker). Unfortunately the Deist Church has trouble justifying its own existence and so did not flourish.

Darwinism was adopted early on by large colonial powers. It was a way of assuaging their nagging guilt over the torture, murder and slavery of virtually the entire continents of North America, South America, Australia and Africa. "We are able to subjugate countless million savages", thinks the Imperial mind, "therefore it is only natural and scientific that we continue to do so". Imagine the ripple effect an idea like this would have as it spread throughout Europe. Any person who wished to persecute or kill would suddenly have ample justification, and worse make them more committed to their cause. Eliminating scientifically-proven inferior races and cultures became a sort of White Man's Burden in his flawless pursuit of scientific ideal.

It's no surprise that it took two Globe-spanning wars of unimaginably violent nature to close out Imperialist Darwinism for good - flawless justification for savage acts is a hard thing to abandon. As a result, most Post-WWII dictatorships took the "Our people love me, why else would I win twelve consecutive elections" route of self-deception. Or for Communist countries, "We are not a party; we are the government, and the people nominate and elect who they wish free of partisan thinking". Fidel Castro in particular goes this route. Ironically, this turns communist party hierarchies into institutions very closely resembling corporations, where upward mobility depends on proven loyalty; and making it to the top means being the consummate "company man" and having a healthy taste for treachery.

The Scientific Revolution gave people the ability to be atheists by giving them proof, in a sense, that what is around them is not God's creation. Before, it was a risky crapshoot; renouncing God was a dicey proposition in ye olde Village, and no-one could have any certainty whatsoever that the World was not just some omnipotent whim. "Well why is the sky blue?" a Medieval learned man would ask a skeptic. "I don't know either; nobody knows. That's because it's God's creation." Done, ipso facto. Said skeptic would also be burned alive for good measure; a "wholesome physick" for apostasy.

Nowadays, the burden of proof is reversed; Organized Religion had better produce some scientific basis soon, otherwise it is doomed. Not everywhere, of course; 11th century Islam had far more scientific curiosity than it does now, but that's what happens when you believe your holy book is, literally, the words of God as spoken directly. It seems to make significant religious amendment or modification difficult, leaving orthodoxer-than-thou interpretation the only means for someone to become an authority. Any beautiful defense of a tract of elegantly written criticisms could be quickly dismissed with a sarcastic comment from the Imam such as "great, well you know what, God wrote the Koran. Who the fuck are you? End of discussion." And, like a Catholic atoning with hail marys, the Imam might crunch the numbers and conclude that 1 violent death, 4 rapes (immediate family) and twelve (12) beatings would constitute the necessary atonement for blasphemy. *sigh* God's will be done.

Dar"win*ism (?), n. Biol.

The theory or doctrines put forth by Darwin. See above.

Huxley.

 

© Webster 1913.

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