Author of "the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life"by Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
"To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances... could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree." --Darwin
On February twelfth, 1809, the same day of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, Susannah Darwin gave birth to Charles Darwin in Shrewsbury, England. The fifth son of Robert Waring Darwin grew up in a relatively wealthy family that stressed education and the arts. Charles Darwin’s grandparents were Erasmus Darwin, the famous scientist, and Josiah Wedgwood, the china and pottery maker. Darwin grew up in a Christian family and, for the early part of his life, professed his Christianity. In Darwin’s eighth year, his mother died, and he became a boarder at Shrewsbury Grammar School. After the death of their mother the young Darwin children were raised by their older sister.
When you look at all that Darwin did in his later life you would expect that as a boy he was a dedicated young scholar, right. Well to tell you the truth he wasn’t. He was described by many as rather lazy unless he was working with something that had to do with science. The first school that Darwin attended in his life was the Shrewsbury Grammar School, from which his father removed him 1825 at the age of sixteen. His father then sent him to the University of Edinburgh to study medicine, for every one expected Darwin to follow his father and become a doctor. Darwin himself originally planned to become a doctor like his father, but decided against medicine after witnessing several operations performed without anesthesia.
In 1827, two years after entering the University of Edinburgh, he dropped out and, under his fathers urging he entered the University of Cambridge, in preparation for becoming a clergyman of the Church of England. At Cambridge he proved a devout Christian and stated he did not “in the least doubt the strict and literal truth of every word of the Bible.” Here he met John Steven Henslow who helped him regain his interest in nature. In April of 1831, Darwin graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA in Theology, Euclid, and the Classics.
In the fall following his graduation, the government decided to send the H.M.S. Beagle to complete an unfinished survey of Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego and to help map out the shores of Chile and Peru. The voyage was supposed to last two years. Darwin volunteered his services without salary and offered to pay his own expenses on the condition that he was allowed to keep all the plants and animals he collected. With a recommendation from his friend and mentor John Henslow, Darwin was chosen to serve as naturalist for the exploration. The Beagle set sail from Devonport on December 27, 1831 and returned on October 2, 1836. Throughout the journey, Darwin shipped back to England crate loads of tropical plants, insects, flowers, spiders, shells and fossil animals. He was very popular with the crew and was given the name "Fly Catcher."
Before his voyage on the Beagle Darwin believed, like his mentor Henslow that the earth was rather young and that the changes that we see were created by natural catastrophes. However, Darwin read some books that helped him in developing his theory. Before the voyage, he read An Essay on the Principles of Population by Thomas Malthus. Malthus’ book stated that all individuals struggle against other individuals to obtain the necessities of life. On the voyage, he read works by Sir Charles Lyell. Lyell proved one on the first scientists to reject the Old Testament account of creation. Lyell believed that over many, many years, the same processes seen today could construct this world’s geological aspects. He summed up his theory by saying, “The present is the key to the past.” Some of Malthus and Lyell’s ideas led to Darwin’s theory of “natural selection”. His theory states that each generation inherits new genetic features from its parents. These new genetic features supposedly come from the competition for survival.
While voyaging on the Beagle Darwin encountered so many animals that were of the same species but each one had different characteristics that helped it to survive in its environment, this is where he got his idea of natural selection. This new idea of natural selection changed the way that Darwin viewed the world. After five years on the voyage, Darwin returned to England in 1836 and started recording ideas about the changeability of species in his Notebooks on the Transmutation of Species. By 1838, Darwin finished a sketch of a theory of evolution through natural selection.
In 1839, he married his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood. They soon moved to a small estate, Down House, outside of London. Emma gave birth to ten children, but three died in infancy. For a long time, Darwin held back publishing his ideas about evolution due to his wife who knew the devastating effect it would bring to the church. Finally, in 1859, he published The Origins of Species. It sold out on the first day of publication and went through six editions.
In November, 1859, Darwin published The Origin of Species in which he proposed his ideas of evolution. The first edition was sold out on the day of publication and by 1860 over five thousand copies had been sold. In this book Darwin explained his theories of evolution and natural selection. There was immediate support and controversy over his work. Darwin though instead of jumping into the very middle of the discussions going around about his book, he stood back and let others fight the battles for him. People celebrated Darwin’s life and believed that he escorted in a new age of science. He received the honors of being elected to the Royal Society in 1839 and elected to the French Academy of Sciences in 1878.
Darwin lived another twenty-two years after the book was published, but the major accomplishments of his life had been concluded. However, he continued to work with nature, observing earthworms, plants and anything else that seemed interesting. His work became the foundation of modern biology and established two new sciences- animal behavior and ecology. When asked what drove him on he answered, "From my early youth I have had the strongest desire to understand or explain whatever I observed and group all facts under some general laws..."
On April 19, 1882 Darwin died of a heart attack. His last words were, “I am not the least afraid to die.” said to his wife, Emma. The family wanted Darwin to be buried in his home, the village of Downe, according to his wishes. However, Parliament requested that he be buried in Westminster Abbey, a cemetery for Britain's kings, queens, and intellectual giants like Sir Isaac Newton and Michael Faraday. This was an indication of how far Darwin had come towards universal acceptance and respectability. Darwin's coffin lies next to Issac Newton which is only fitting because Darwin has been called "The Newton of Biology." Darwin was modest of his monumental achievements to the very end and said of himself shortly before his death,"With such moderate abilities as I possess, it is truly surprising that I should have influenced to a considerable extent the belief of scientific men on some important points."
A rumor started by the widow of Sir James Hope claimed that Darwin renounced his theories on his deathbed and reaccepted Christ as his savior. Darwin’s daughter, Henrietta, claimed that the rumor false. She stated that Mrs. Hope never even saw Darwin.
In "The Origin of Man" Chapter 6, Darwin returns to his absurd notion that the eye developed by natural selection. Despite the obvious Darwin writes "...when we bear in mind how small the number of all living forms must be in comparison with those which have become extinct, the difficulty ceases to be very great in believing that natural selection may have converted the simple apparatus of an optic nerve, coated with pigment and invested by transparent membrane, into an optical instrument as perfect as is possessed by any member of the articulate class."
When he was alive Charles Darwin stood about 5 feet, 11 1/2 inches tall and weighed, after his famous Beagle Voyage, 148 pounds (10.5 stone). Judging from older photographs, it is likely that he gained a bit of weight in his later years. He had dark brown hair, with a receding hairline on his forehead, and thick curly sideburns. His piercing blue-gray eyes were set off by large overhanging bushy eyebrows. In his elderly years his hairline receded a great deal, his face turned a healthy ruddy color (his complexion often gave people the mistaken impression that Darwin was in fine health!), and his forehead developed deep horizontal wrinkles. In January 1866 he grew a large flowing unkempt gray-white beard, perhaps to hide the ravages of health problems, or to prevent people from recognizing him. His plan worked, for while attending a meeting of the Royal Society on 27 April hardly anyone recognized him, even his closest friend, Joseph Hooker! This link is a link to some pictures of Charles Darwin:
Darwin may have died but his theories live on, and they will continue to live
on as long as man wants to believe that there is no God and that this amazing
world that we live in just happened by chance. As long as that is the case we
will always have Darwin’s theories of evolution and natural selection.
Christians who believe in the creation, however, rest assured that, “In
the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis
Bird, Randy M.A.."Darwin, Charles Robert" msn Learning and Research. 10/03/03.
"Charles Darwin" studyworld. 10/03/03.
Wile, Dr. Jay L, and Durnell, Marilyn F., Exploring Creation With Biology, pgs. 274 - 276