…and Creationists are Dead-Wrong
Even though we celebrate his birthday each year, we forget how much we have Charles Darwin to be grateful for. We celebrate his birthday because it’s the same day as Lincoln’s birthday. Lincoln, though great, was not as great as Darwin. Lincoln was only doing what the founders of America set in motion nearly 100 years earlier.
Darwin, on the other hand, truly made one small step for man, and one great leap for mankind. He did this by writing a book that changed the world. The changes that came on the heels of Darwin’s new ideas were no flash in the pan. The likes of natural selection and evolution were ideas that are here to stay. Darwin set in motion a thought process that some day will lead to everyone realizing Mohammed was not a prophet, Jesus was not the son of God, and Creationists are wrong.
Before Darwin’s work appeared, the great majority of naturalists, and almost without exception the whole literary and scientific world, held firmly to the belief that species were realities, and had not been derived from other species by any process accessible to us; the different species of crow and of violet were believed to have been always as distinct and separate as they are now, and to have originated by some totally unknown process so far removed from ordinary reproduction that it was usually spoken of as “special creation.” There was, then, no question of the origin of families, orders, and classes, because the very first sep of all, the “origin of species,” was believed to be an insoluble problem. But now this is all changed. The whole scientific and literary world, even the whole educated public, accepts, as a matter of common knowledge, the origin of species from other allied species by the ordinary process of natural birth. The idea of special creation or any altogether exceptional mode of production is absolutely extinct! Yet more: this is held also to apply to many higher groups as well as to the species of a genus, and not even Mr. Darwin’s severest critics venture to suggest that the primeval bird, reptile, or fish must have been “specially created.” And this vast, this totally unprecedented change in public opinion has been the result of the work of one man, and was brought about in the short space of twenty years! This is the answer to those who continue to maintain that the “origin of species” is not yet discovered; that there are still doubts and difficulties; that there are divergencies of structure so great that we cannot understand how they had their beginning. We may admit all this, just as we may admit that there are enormous difficulties in the way of a complete comprehension of the origin and nature of all the parts of the solar system and of the stellar universe. But we claim for Darwin that he is the Newton of natural history, and that, just so surely as that the discovery and demonstration by Newton of the law of gravitation established order in place of chaos and laid a sure foundation for all future study of starry heavens, so surely has Darwin, by his discovery of the laws of natural selection and his deominstration of the great principle of the preservation of useful variations in the struggle for life, not only thrown a flood of light on the process of development of the whole organic world, but also established a firm foundation for all future study of nature.
In order to show the view Darwin took of his own work, and what it was that he alone claimed to have done, the concuding passage of the introduction to the Origin of Species should be carefully considered. It is as follows:
“Although much remains obscure, and will long remain obscure, I can entertain no doubt, after the most deliberate and dispassionate judgment of which I am capable, that the view which most naturalists until recently entertained and which I formerly entertained–namely, that each species has been independently created–is erroneous. I am fully convinced that species are not immutable; but that those belonging to what are called the same genera are lineal descendants of some other and generally extinct species, in the same manner as the acknowledged varieties of any one species are the descendants of that species. Furthermore, I am convinced that Natural Selection has been the most important, but not the exclusive, means of modification.”
It should be especially noted that all which is here claimed is now almost universally admitted, while the criticisms of Darwin’s works refer almost exclusively to those numerous questions which, as he himself says, “will long remain obscure.”
-from Eugen Weber’s “The Western Tradition: From the Renaissance to the Atomic Age”