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Charles Darwin

By AlexanderJess Aug 29, 2013 1662 Words
Charles Darwin’s Work and discoveries, a Turning Point in History

“In the long history of man kind (animal kind too), those who learn to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed” (Darwin). This is a quote from Charles Darwin that refers to many things; science, social darwinism, and imperialism. Charles Darwin was an important scientist and naturalist that lived in the 19th century in England. Charles Darwin’s books, primarily “The Origin of the Species”, and his discoveries created a turning point in modern science. Darwin’s impact on conventional thought including, social darwinism, imperialism and racism was dramatic. His work changed many people’s religious, scientific and social beliefs.

Prior to Charles Darwin’s work and discoveries, including the voyage of the Beagle, there were different beliefs and other very influential scientists. Before his work, the common religious belief in Europe was the creation story from the book of Genesis. In the book of Genesis, it states that God created the world in 7 days. Creationism is the religious belief that the Earth and the universe were created by a supernatural being, most often referred to as God. This was the common belief in the 18th century. Most people believed that God created us the way we are today. Darwin came from a family of doctors and his dad wanted him to be a doctor. However he was influenced by two key people to become a scientist; Charles Lyell and Thomas Malthus. Charles Lyell was a British lawyer, but was famous for his book “The principles of Geology”. His book popularized James Hutton’s concepts of uniformism. Uniformism is the idea that how the earth was formed and the way it changes now is the same way it did so in the past. Another scientist who was very influential to Charles Darwin was Thomas Malthus. Malthus is mainly known for his theories on population. The six editions of his essay on the principle of population shows that sooner or later population gets struck by disease. These two scientists were very influential to Charles Darwin and without these key influences, Charles Darwin would have probably become a doctor and his impacts would have never changed common belief. Lastly, the voyage of the Beagle. The Beagle was a boat that carried scientist around the world. Charles Darwin began his voyage when the Beagle arrived in Plymouth England. The Beagle traveled to many places such as, Plymouth, Tenerife, Porto Praya, Salvador, Rio, Botogafe Bay, etc. But Darwin’s major discoveries occurred in the Galapagos Islands. “The Beagle” arrived in the Galapagos Islands on September 15, 1835. While in the Galapagos, Darwin found finches, but these finches didn’t look the same as the finches back in England. The ones from the Galapagos had long beaks, and the ones in England had short beaks. Darwin wondered why. He came to a conclusion that the long beaks were used to pick bugs and food from the ground. The short beaks were used to crack open seeds. The seeds in England were hard to crack so birds needed strong short beaks to get their food. The bugs that finches ate in the Galapagos were in the ground, so the needed long beaks to stick in the ground and grab the bugs. The question that then arose was, how did the finches get that way? Well, the reason they’re like that is because of two earlier concepts founded by other scientists; natural selection and evolution. Darwin had found evidence that supported the two theories of evolution and natural selection.

Charles Darwin’s books, primarily “The Origin of the Species”, and discoveries created a turning point in modern science. The Origin of the Species was published November 24, 1859; almost 15 years after the voyage of the Beagle began. The book included Darwin’s early discoveries and work. It is considered the foundation of modern biology because it demonstrates and describes how species evolve over time and how they adapt for the better. The two main concepts in the book are natural selection and evolution. Natural selection is the gradual process in which biological traits become common in a population, therefore helping the species adapt. “As natural selection acts by competition, it adapts the inhabitants of each country only in relation to the degree of perfection of their associates.” (Darwin, Origin of the Species). Essentially, this means that as natural selection occurs, a species adapts to perfect the way they interact in their environment. The theory of evolution suggests a species changes into a more complex form ( “It is not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent but it is the one most adaptable to change.” (Darwin, Origin of the Species). This quote means that the most evolved species will survive. Darwin’s book is a turning point in modern science.

By far, Charles Darwin’s three biggest impacts were social darwinism, imperialism and racism. The first impact was social darwinism. Social darwinism is the belief that superior groups outcompete inferior ones. It ties in with natural selection. In society we see this all the time, the stronger boxer will beat the weaker one. Superior vs. inferior. Social darwinists believe that the government should not interfere with human competition. Many western and European governments try to put in regulations to help those who are seen as inferior or disadvantaged. Some examples of this are welfare and affirmative action. But many social darwinists believe that people should be left to take care of themselves and that the strong will survive. For example, the work ethic in 19th century Europe was worse before Charles Darwin popularized and proved that harder working people will be more successful than people with a lower work ethic. This made people want to work harder to become more successful.

Darwin’s second impact was imperialism. Imperialism is the strong belief in yourself or country; it’s just like pride. This came from Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Natural selection says that superior beings should prosper. This was brought into society and was interpreted similarly. People believed that they were the superior being or that their nation was superior and that they should rule other nations because they are the best or the fittest nation. Darwin’s ideas justified the practice of imperialism. For example “in 19th century England, the English perceived through justification of Darwinism, that they were fit to be the Imperial Power of the world” ( “When civilized nations come into contact with barbarians, the struggle is short except where a deadly assistant gives aid to the native race… the grade of civilization seems to be a most important element in success in competing nations. The smartest will rule” (Darwin, Decent of Man p. 297). I agree with this because it’s explaining that when a civilized group comes into contact with a non-civilized group, the civilized will prosper and rule because they are smarter or stronger. The more evolved nation will rule. From the stronger nations perspective, imperialism is a good thing, its good to be proud of your country.

The final impact caused by Charles Darwin was racism. Racism is the discrimination of a specific race. In most places, racism was against blacks or Africans. Some people believed that Africans were not very civilized or evolved and they were considered the barbarians or a savage race. When imperialism began, everyone believed that they themselves were the superior beings and should rule the inferior beings. For example, “The greatest influence in the sudden development of racism in the 19th century Europe was the replacement of the Christian belief that “God created all people equal”, by "Darwinism". By suggesting that man had evolved from more primitive creatures, and that some races had evolved further than others, it provided racism with a scientific mask” (Yahya). In this case, because of racism, another problem arose which was slavery. Imperialism made people believe they should rule the blacks. But Darwin was actually against slavery. He did believe that blacks were a savage race because that were not as evolved, but he thought they should still be treated fairly.

Some of the changes that occurred after the turning point were belief in creation, racism and work ethic. The first change in my opinion was a good change. Before Charles Darwin’s book, the common belief was that the world was created by God through the creation story, but Charles Darwin changed many people’s beliefs. I choose to believe in creation and evolution because I believe that God created evolution. But in the 19th century, a lot of people thought Darwin’s theories of evolution were negative because it seemed blasphemous to believe in science. The second change was racism. After interpreting his definition of evolution and natural selection, many people believed that blacks were inferior and whites were superior. I personally believe we are all equal. The last impact is work ethic. After Darwin proved that the people who work hard will succeed, and those who do no will fail, then school and jobs became more of a priority. I think this is a positive change because now people work harder for their pay and deserve what they get in most cases.

Charles Darwin’s books, primarily “The Origin of the Species”, and his discoveries created a turning point in modern science. Darwin’s impact on conventional thought including, social darwinism, imperialism and racism was dramatic. His work changed many people’s religious, scientific and social beliefs. His extraordinary discoveries changed the world in many ways. “It's a mark of how extraordinary a step Darwin took on humanity's behalf that a principle that seems so straightforward and uncontroversial today – that random mutations would make some species better suited to their environments than others, and that those species would be more likely to breed – could have caused such extraordinary up heaval as recently as 1859. Still, that's what happened.” (

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