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Most people think that Charles Darwin‘s big contribution was the Theory of Evolution.  That all life evolved from single cell organisms.  Or maybe the idea of Natural Selection.  Nope.

In Darwin’s day, genetics was unheard of.  It took Gregor Mendel to come up with the foundations of genetics with his article on peas.  Mendel’s work wasn’t even recognized as significant until the 20th century.  Darwin published On the Origin of the Species in 1859.  Darwin knew nothing about genetics.

Darwin penned the concept of Natural Selection in the introduction to his book, “On the Origin of Species.”

…is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good…

Reading his intro charitably, biologists have come up with the understanding that Natural Selection is a process that results in organisms producing more non-sterile descendants.  Organisms must reach a level of maturity before they can reproduce.  There are natural survival filters all along the way to reaching maturity that weed out the unfit.  However, Natural Selection doesn’t produce change in populations continuously.  We see lots of stable populations all the time.

Darwin found that populations of finches changed when those finches were put in a new environment (the Galapagos Islands).  Those changes were morphological, not reproductive per se.  Hence, invoking Natural Selection to explain finch variation is an error.  Darwin screwed up.  At least, if we accept the reading of Darwin’s theory that biologists have come up with, we must arrive at that conclusion.

Darwin came up with ideas previously published by Alfred Russel Wallace in On the Law Which Has Regulated the Introduction of New Species in 1855.  So Darwin wasn’t even first in that regard.

So what was Darwin’s big contribution, if it wasn’t to put the stake in the heart of Huxley’s Fixity of the Species, Natural Selection, or Evolution?

Was it merely that his name was used to popularize extant theories?