34% of Americans Still Don’t Believe Him!

I really liked Darwin’s use of different bird species to explain natural selection. He muses on the variances in birds, like why do upland geese who rarely swim have webbed feet? He writes  “each species [is] constantly trying to increase in number with natural selection, always ready to adapt the slowly varying descendants of each,” (Darwin, pg 493). Descent with modification was a new idea, but it was able to explain the specializations of animals of the same species living in different parts of the world. Darwin didn’t have a lot to support his argument because of the “imperfect” fossil record, and he was also claiming that the world was much much older than people believed, which went against the popular religious beliefs at the time. Near the end of the chapter, Darwin writes “I look with confidence to the future, to young and rising naturalists, who will be able to view both sides of the question with impartiality,” (Darwin, pg 503) because he clearly knew his ideas of evolution were radical.   

Darwin recognizing and unpacking the arguments against his theory first and foremost before providing evidence for his argument was very effective. Validating the “other side” to some degree allowed him to expound on why his theory of evolution was more realistic than creationism. I thought that his example of selective breeding in domesticated animals was a very good way to put his ideas in to layperson’s terms. Though not selective breeding on the farm isn’t exactly how nature has evolved, it’s an excellent example. After presenting this idea, he was able to build a case for successive changes in generations of species in terms that people could understand.

Darwin, Charles. On the Origin of Species. (United Kingdom: 1859)

1 thought on “34% of Americans Still Don’t Believe Him!”

  1. Hi Anna! The one thing I find most intriguing about Darwin’s quote on future generations accepting his theory is that he was absolutely right. Well, based on your title, partially right, but still. Young people are generally more accepting of new ideas than their predecessors, which of course makes them more receptive to concepts like evolution (not to say being older automatically makes you stuck in your ways). I also have to wonder if the psychology of “teenage rebellion” has anything to do with it (funny enough, I’m sure there’s an evolutionary explanation for why teenagers defy their parents). The other aspect of his writings which fascinates me actually has little to do with his theory. You mention that Darwin puts his concept of in layperson’s term, which almost certainly made his texts easier for his peers to understand. What is most impressive to me is that he wrote this in the mid-1800s, and yet modern readers can still grasp what he’s saying and engage with it. If you’ve read any Victorian-era literature, you know that authors of that time period can be a challenge to read simply because the vocabulary and sentence structure are different than what we’re used to (I love Edgar Allen Poe, but I need a dictionary on hand before I read anything of his). For that reason, I must give Mr. Darwin a lot of credit for writing in a manner that has so far surpassed the ages, and hopefully will continue to.

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