By Chet Yarbrough
Narrated by Bill DeWees
In 1831, Charles Darwin sailed on the HMS Beagle to begin a 5 year voyage that revolutionized the world of geology and natural science. The question is–does Darwin make a monkey out of me?
Relatively few people have actually read “On the Origin of Species” but all have been affected by its’ writing. Surprisingly, this book is highly readable and understandable; particularly in Bill DeWees’ narrative presentation. The surprise of the book is that so many scientists of that time had accumulated evidence that supported Darwin’s finding without recognizing the evidences’ revolutionary importance.
Interestingly Darwin never flatly states that man descended from monkeys. He methodically accumulates world-wide samples of organic material and systematically explains how he and other scientists of his day concluded that there are inheritable characteristics in organic life. The earth shattering conclusion that Darwin drew from his and others work is that life on earth evolved from a single source through what he termed natural selection. That conclusion shakes the foundations of the church. It carries the same force that Galileo and Copernicus’s had with their concept of earth as only one of several planets revolving around the sun.
Copernicus’s book is entered into the church’s forbidden books in 1611; not to be removed until 1835 (four years after Darwin’s Beagle expedition). Galileo is threatened by an inquisition in 1614, has his book put on the forbidden list, and is actually indicted by Pope Urban VIII for heresy in 1632. Galileo is convicted in 1633 and put under house arrest until his death in 1642.
In contrast, Darwin, though attacked by the church and clergy, escapes the same fate because religious influence and control of science had diminished and scientists like Wallace accepted the concept of species evolution while still believing in divine creation; even though it did not fit the original concept of Adam and Eve.
After Copernicus, Galileo, and Darwin, man and earth were no longer the center of the universe. After Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”, the concept of creation was turned upside down.
Darwin’s book is a wide ranging examination of earth’s geology and how species were disseminated throughout the world by various means. Darwin recounts the ice age and shifting tectonic plates that created land bridges allowing species dispersion. Darwin explains how birds and fish carry seeds to different continents and how these seeds modified their life cycles by environmental accommodation. Darwin concludes that all organic life drives for survival but often disappears because of failure to adapt or because of another species competition that either directly attacks existing specie or interrupts the cycle of life that supports the competing specie.
One wonders if man’s path is headed for extinction or expansion. With falling birth rates of post industrial nations, the raw material for evolution diminishes. Maybe the Catholic church is right in the long run; maybe not.