Charles Darwin explains Natural Selection

Darwin worm

“Caricature of Darwin’s theory in the Punch almanac for 1882, published at the end of 1881 when Charles Darwin had recently published his last book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms.–Via Wikipedia.

After more than 150 years of its publication, Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species draws a lot of debate. More often than not these debates are unfortunate; many of them should not even exist, especially if we take into account that Darwin cleared many of its nuances in a few passages at the beginning of his now classic book. The following is a short passage that accounts for Darwin’s response to the remarks that were very common in regards to his theory; remarks that are still common today, and show an utter disregard to scientific literacy:

“This preservation of favourable individual differences and variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious, I have called Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest. Variations neither useful nor injurious would not be affected by natural selection, and would be left either a fluctuating element, as perhaps we see in certain polymorphic species, or would ultimately become fixed, owing to the nature of the organisms and the nature of the conditions.

Several writers have misapprehended or objected to the term Natural Selection. Some have even imagined that natural selection induces variability, whereas it implies only the preservation of such variations as arise and are beneficial to the being under its conditions of life. No one objects to agriculturists speaking of the potent effects of man’s selection; and in this case the individual differences given by nature, which man for some object selects, must of first necessity occur. Others have objected that the term selection implies conscious choice in the animals which become modified; and it has even been urged that,as plants have no volition, natural selection is not applicable to them! In the literal sense of the word, no doubt, natural selection is a false term; but whoever objected to chemists speaking of the elective affinities of the various elements?–and yet an acid cannot strictly be said to elect the base with which it in preference combines. It has been said that I speak of natural selection as an active power or Deity; but who objects to an author speaking of the attraction of gravity as as ruling the movements of the planets? Everyone knows what is meant and is implied by such metaphorical expressions; and they are almost necessary for brevity. So again it is difficult to avoid personifying the word Nature, only the aggregate  action and product of many natural laws, and by laws the sequence of events as ascertained by us. With a little familiarity such superficial objections will be forgotten.”–[Pages 94-95 of The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life]

Advertisements

34 thoughts on “Charles Darwin explains Natural Selection

  1. I know how it feels to hear people misuse or misunderstand words used in science. Sometimes they are taken literally, like the example of “natural selection” presented in this post. Other times, words are misinterpreted and loose their real scientific meaning. This may be due to lack of education; yet most of the time it’s just a result of ignorance. For example, probably the most misused scientific word has to be “theory.” Many people use it to point out an idea thought of at the moment, saying, “It’s just a theory.” But, as we know, a theory isn’t an just an idea; it’s a hypothesis that has been proven many times by various experiments. “Hypothesis” is another misused word; people use it to point out what they think could be “an educated guess,” not knowing that a hypothesis is an explanation that has been created through observation and can be tested.

    For other commonly misused words, please visit this post at livescience: http://www.livescience.com/28347-most-misused-science-words.html

    Like

  2. It is truly sad to think that because of ignorance or simply lack of interest, people tend to misunderstand Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection, which in fact is quite simple: Natural selection describes the way species adapt to their environment, making them more able to survive, reproduce, and evolve as the environment changes. I sincerely hope that as time progresses people will become more conscious about the mistake they make when misinterpreting this theory and will start to treat it with the seriousness it deserves.

    The following guide includes other common misconceptions about the process of Natural Selection, as well as examples that will hopefully help clear up any doubts you might have regarding this interesting theory: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIIE6Nonrandom.shtml

    Like

    • I’ve used the Berkeley guide myself. I agree with what you’ve said regarding Natural Selection. But keep in mind that the way people think is a very important part of who they are. The term ‘ideology’ begins to explain many of the reasons behind not accepting theories that explain the way nature works. It also has a lot to do with education, or lack there of.

      The following video, titled ‘Common Science Facts People Don’t Know’, might give you more information on the global status of science education, especially in the United States of America and the European Union:

      Like

  3. Instinctively, Darwin’s most famous theory makes sense. All of Darwin’s ecxeptional theories make sense in the world of Biology, and on top of that, work together in this world & daily life. The term ‘natural selection’ never actually meant something literal and this may be the cause to some skeptics’ doubts about Darwin’s credibility. Darwin didn’t just make it all up from thin air. He was careful, curious, intuitive, and extremely smart. ‘Natural selection’ was his most novel work, but, truth of the matter, it is very simple, & it is very simply summarized in this link: http://darwin200.christs.cam.ac.uk/pages/index.php?page_id=d3

    Like

  4. Darwin was a very clever scientist. When he got to the Galapagos Island he knew exactly what question to ask; “Where did such diversity come from?” This question led him to make one of the most significant discoveries in our history. His theory is very convincing, but it wan’t always like this. Darwin left his discoveries with a few missing links, as a result his conclusions weren’t widely accepted by the scientific community until many years after his works were published. Here’s a link with some information about the controversy that used to exist and some concerns that are still present today concerning Darwin’s theory of evolution: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/aqa/evolutiontheories/theoriesofevolutionrev2.shtml

    Like

  5. Charles Darwin is called the father of genetics for a reason. He did more experiments with greater outcomes than a lot of scientist in during time. He predicted genes without even knowing it and there is even a whole branch (genetics) resulting from all of his discoveries in modern science. In my opinion, it is ok if his definition of natural selection is misused by people. What I think is unacceptable, is how ignorant people can be towards his discoveries. He had the proves to back up his definition and discoveries about natural selection, there was no reason for people to not accepted it during his time. It is sad to see that even in the modern era, scientist are suffering like Darwin within the scientific community because their discoveries are not being well appreciated. I think that there are scientist that have found the cure for many incurable diseases, but have been rejected by the scientific community. When a few hundred years have passed from today, many of today’s scientist will be recognised for their discoveries just like Darwin.

    I found this game in the natural history museum website that makes natural selection a little bit more interesting. Also, this website has a lot of good information regarding Charles Darwin and natural selection. :

    http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/evolution/what-is-evolution/natural-selection-game/the-evolution-experience.html

    Like

  6. Darwin had to face great opposition from those with too narrow minds who were not willing to accept his controversial statements. In his book, The Origin of Species, he dedicates a chapter called Difficulties on Theory which exactly presents that. The difficulties that the public may have with his theory of descent with modification and his explanations. Charles Darwin addresses “Transitions. Absence or rarity of transitional varieties. Transitions in habits of life. Diversified habits in the same species. Species with habits widely different from those of their allies. Organs of extreme perfection. Means of transition. Cases of difficulty. Natura non facit saltum. Organs of small importance. Organs not in all cases absolutely perfect. The law of Unity of Type and of the Conditions of Existence embraced by the theory of Natural Selection” as said difficulties. He knew that people were going to be skeptic and was aware that he had to make his findings portrayed in a way that the public could understand.
    Here is a link of his book:
    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1228/1228-h/1228-h.htm#link2H_4_0008
    This link also explains the critics Darwin:
    http://www.biologyreference.com/Gr-Hi/History-of-Evolutionary-Thought.html

    Like

    • The Guttenberg Project is a great way to find classics, completely free. I suggest that you read The Origin of Species. Its a great read. And we need more people interested in Biology that have actually read on of the most important books ever written.

      Great finds, Alexandra.

      Like

  7. This may go beyond Darwin’s theory of evolution, but I believe that this Biology course branches out from the conventional book lessons. As we had spoken before, there is a great debate occurring, especially in our system which derives from the United States’ education system, of whether the origin of Earth should be viewed from a evolutionist or creationist point of view. An high number of people, about 47% of the United State’s population, believe that the Earth is about six thousand years old and that no animals derived from a common ancestor. There is even a creationist museum located in Kentucky, which features the tree of knowledge and children playing with dinosaurs. Evolutionist theories became more famous in the 1960’s, and yet there is still a great amount of doubt. No definite side should be chosen, for science is merely man’s perspective of what occurs in the world, while creationism is what a book written by man claims. As scientists however, we should keep our minds open to new ways of thinking.

    More information on this debate:
    http://www.livescience.com/43126-creationism-vs-evolution-6-big-battles.html

    Like

    • A proper discussion of the issues stated in your comment, Ariana, would require a whole semester of a course on the philosophy of science. But I’m glad the post has motivated your interest on this subject.

      Like

  8. I think that Charles Darwin’s theory really makes sense. Since he observed how organisms react to the environment and adapt it makes sense and I agree with his explanation. But this has brought many controversies because everyone has different point of view of evolution. I was reading about his theory and found this link that helped me understand more his process and was able to agree with him completely.
    http://anthro.palomar.edu/evolve/evolve_2.htm

    Like

    • A very interesting paragraph I’ve taken from your link, Nivia. And very relevant to our discussions about Mendelian genetics:

      Both Darwin and Wallace failed to understand an important aspect of natural selection. They realized that plant and animal populations are composed of individuals that vary from each other in physical form. They also understood that nature selects from the existing varieties those traits that are most suited to their environment. If natural selection were the only process occurring, each generation should have less variation until all members of a population are essentially identical, or clones of each other. That does not happen. Each new generation has new variations. Darwin was aware of this fact, but he did not understand what caused the variation. The first person to begin to grasp why this happens was an obscure Central European monk named Gregor Mendel click this icon to hear the name pronounced. Through plant breeding experiments carried out between 1856 and 1863, he discovered that there is a recombination of parental traits in offspring. Sadly, Darwin and most other 19th century biologists never knew of Mendel and his research. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that Mendel’s pioneer research into genetic inheritance was rediscovered. This was long after his death. He never received the public acclaim that was eventually showered on Darwin during his lifetime.

      Like

  9. Something really worrisome about society is our inability to tolerate views that our not our own, and then trying to impose our views upon others. I found an article that talked about a South Carolina state senator who wants to block the inclusion of natural selection in state schools. The article states that a committee had already approved this change, but fortunately there seems to be a subcommittee going back in to look into the subject. What’s most shocking about the article is a chart that shows different countries’ rate of acceptance of evolution, and seeing that the Unite States is second to last, with more than half the people believing evolution to be false. My biggest problem with this news is not the ignorance some people live in, it’s the imposition of their views on younger generations, instead of teaching different theories and letting them choose for themselves what they want to believe in. Something that pleasantly surprised me though was the number of people that DO believe in evolution in different countries, I never realized how many countries were more accepting of evolution compared to the U.S.
    http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2014/02/sc_state_senator_blocks_the_inclusion_of_natural_selection_in_school_science_standards.html

    Like

    • Recent studies revealed that 1 in 4 Americans believe that the Sun orbits Earth. This means that the current state of scientific literacy in USA is alarmingly poor. And politicians such as the SC senator are not helping.

      Like

  10. Charles Darwin made countless work about natural selection. Natural selection is the process whereby organisms better adapted to their environments tend to survive and produce more offspring. In the link below, I searched for Charles Darwin’s work and its contributions to science. It mentions his five theories over evolution, how does natural selection works, and many other things.

    http://darwin200.christs.cam.ac.uk/pages/index.php?page_id=d3

    Like

  11. FACT: Darwin’s five theories where; evolution, common descent, species multiply, gradualism, and natural selection. Natural selection was his most famous, it states that evolutionary change comes through the production of variation in each variation and differential survival of individuals.

    Like

  12. Natural selection is very simple but people misunderstand it. Natural selection is as simple as having organisms survive in a specific environment and hope they adapt fast enough so they can keep their species present. In this instant we are all the product of the successful process of natural selection and evolution. The mutation of genes is also a big part in evolution and natural selection.

    http://www.biology-online.org/2/10_natural_selection.htm

    Like

  13. It js very dissapointing to think that many scientist, which should all help each other seeing as they all have the same goal: to explain the still unexplainable, are ignorant and refuse to accept a theory because it’s not what they believe. They should take it into consideration, prove it themselves and if it doesn’t work out then they can reject it, but it is very sad that due to ignorance they wouldn’t accept a fellow scientists hard work.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/ocr_gateway/understanding_environment/natural_selectionrev2.shtml

    Like

  14. I find it amazing that Darwin had the courage to make public his theory at that time in history, considering that even in the 21st century there still exist people who criticize his finds and diminish his work as the prominent scientist he really was. Take this article for example which exposes some of the reasons why he is still hated by some:
    http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/12/bad-day-for-darwin-haters/?_php=true&_type=blogs&ref=science&_r=0

    Like

  15. There is many controversy when it comes to evolution even after many years from Darwins theory. Many religious leaders denounce this theory and say that there is a higher being which created things and changed them. When it comes to teaching this it took many years and is still a bit contoversal that it should be taught in school mostly in catholic schools but scientist see no controversy they believe that evolution is well supported by many changes in various species which comes down to natural selection and leading to the diversity and evoluted life seen today. Natural selection may seem as something imposible and hard to believe to many but how else can it be explained with facts and not with spiritual thoughts?
    Here is a video that explains natural selection in an easy way for those that still have doubts.

    Like

  16. Charles Darwin was an excellent scientist. It is sad that some people don’t understand what he has done. There are many misconceptions surrounding the theory of evolution and natural selection. Some people think that humans can’t really damage an ecosystem, because the animals will adapt to the changes. Other people think natural selection produces organisms that are perfectly adapted to their environments. And, people even think that natural selection gives organisms what they need, when what it actually does is that it helps the individuals that have survived a challenge because of a genetical variation reproduce, which will cause their species to evolve.

    Go to the following link to read about many other misconceptions surrounding evolution and natural selection:
    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/misconceptions_teacherfaq.php#b1

    Like

  17. Natural Selection for me is the most important thing for us today. It is what gives rises to different species of animals on Earth. If not for the variation in organ in’s genes then no other species would be created and when the environment changed the original species would die. Natural Selection is an on going process ins chi animals will keep dying and the “chosen” will survive and reproduce offspring that have a higher probability than its previos generation to survive. Natural Selection is the way species are created in our universe and if not for it then the world, the universe, EVERYTHING would a barran place since nothing would be able to exist in our changing environment.

    Like

  18. Natural selection is such a large part in the Theory of evolution,because it shows the progression that a species has made through the passing of genetics making it more fit to live in a certain environment, weather that has to do with because shape, beak size, camouflage abilities, etc. if you take two different species you will find that the derived from some kind of common ancestor but due to their differences of environments they have to adapt to survive or they would go extinct. Natural selection and evolution only makes sense because if was no evolution there would be know change so we has human beings may have never developed advanced language or even technology because if there is no evolution there is no way for a species to evolve, and if a species can’t evolve it dies off because it never gets any better.

    Like

  19. I personally think Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection makes sense and I don’t understand why so many people have misconceptions regarding his theory. Natural Selection is when a species adapts to its environment in order to be able to survive and maintain the species alive. This helps the species evolve successfully and change for the better, improving in many ways so it can keep up with its constantly changing environment.

    Here’s a a link to a Crash Course video that explains Natural Selection:

    Like

  20. It has occurred that people oppose to a new way of thinking because they are not open about new ideas. It depends on the type of person, of course, both open and close minded. But when you are taught something and someone objectifies it, you will usually continue believing on what you have been taught since the beginning. Other times, ideas are just simply misinterpreted by the reader or listener. It can be ignorance or just that the receiver lacks education or information on the topic. There are many scientific terms that have been misinterpreted over time, such as the creation of the world and the Theory of Evolution. It is usually objected by people who have a strong belief on an idea, or in many cases, religious people. Although these theories show proof and have been experimented on and investigated for years, some people will still objectify the idea. Nearly one-third of Americans today still do not believe in the Theory of Evolution (source: http://m.livescience.com/42251-politics-evolution-belief.html).

    Like

  21. It’s a shame individuals still cannot understand natural selection after about 150 years, even though the concept is quite simple. Through time, certain inheritable traits facilitate an individual’s ability to thrive and multiply, therefore an population’s genetic makeup can be altered eventually. Sometimes, after many, many years, an organisms genes can become so different that they end up being a completely different species than what their ancestors were. This video does a better job at explaining natural selection and Darwin’s observations than I do, and I highly recommend it.

    Like

  22. Charles Darwin’s work is extremely important when talking about evolution. He described the main concept in evolution, natural selection. Natural selection is basically the mechanism found in nature that creates variations in species to aid in their survival as a whole. It is impressive how he described the role of genes without having no previous knowledge about their existence. Even though he had no molecular evidence of what was happening his observations and experiments gave him the results necessary to form a correct hypothesis which was then approved as a theory. Darwin was definitely a scientist way ahead of his time. Fun fact, few people know that Darwin also conducted an experiment on psychological behavior. He argued that all humans, and even other animals, show emotion through remarkably similar behaviors. More on the experiment: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-evolution-of-emotion-charles-darwins-little-known-psychology-experiment/

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s