Darwin 1809 - 1882 (73)

Animals, whom we have made our slaves, we do not like to consider our equal.


On the Origin
of Species

“One general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.”

Charles Darwin (February 12, 1809 - April 19, 1882) was an English naturalist and geologist, founder of the theory of evolution. He was the fifth child of a wealthy doctor, his mother died when he was 8 years old. In 1825 he went to Edinburgh to study medicine but he soon gave up because he could not stand the blood. In 1827 after his father's admonitions he started to study in Cambridge for becoming a priest, but he was not interested in theology and spent most of his time observing animals, particularly birds and fish and collecting beetles. A professor of botany research recognized his persistent spirit and invited him to participate as a naturalist in an expedition. They launched in December 1831 and for five years traveled the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos Islands and Latin America frantically collecting natural specimens, fossils, geologic materials. They studied animals that had never met before, coming into contact with unfamiliar cultures and indigenous. Darwin kept detailed diary, his gained experiences were the basis for writing later “The origin of species”. At that time people believed that species are divine creation that remained unchanged from the beginning of the world with minor variations over the centuries. Darwin observed similarities between species and was led to the theory of natural selection, that all species come from common ancestors and have been developed over time to survive through continuous adaptation to the demands of the environment, and that the struggle for survival creates branching species. As he wrote: “The direct result of the war of nature, which is externalized by famine and death, is the most wonderful event that can capture our imagination. There is true greatness in this way of looking at life, with a variety of forces the Creator has endowed, initially in a small number of forms, or even only one form. So while our planet obeys the fixed law of attraction, and still rotates, an infinite number of beautiful and wondrous forms, originating from a simple form, never stopped growing and will continue to grow unceasingly and eternally”.

He returned to England in 1836 and was already a known geologist in scientific circles. By 1839 he had advanced the theory that shared only with close friends but did not dare to publish it, knowing the reactions will cause in church’s circles. Twenty years later, having gathered all the evidence he sought, with his health broken and the visible risk of other sciences to publish a similar theory, Darwin published his monumental work "The Origin of Species", causing crowd reaction to the establishment era and offering a brand new look to the origin and evolution of man. Darwin himself had received a religious upbringing and it was a blow his faith the finding that species change and evolve over time, without the need of a divine power, without care, without a goal. “After the trip I had become agnostic, unable to reconcile the violence and misery that had seen with the idea of a creator God”. A phenomenon that had puzzled him was a particular kind of wasp that could paralyze a kind of caterpillar maintaining it alive for feeding with fresh meat its babies. The caterpillar is fully conscious and aware of what is happening but cannot react, just waiting to be eaten, completely paralyzed. How can a benevolent God, Darwin wondered, impose such suffering to any of his creatures?

Since 1838 Darwin was thinking about the wedding, he had even written a list of pros and cons, he wrote as an advantage that he would have a friend in old age better than a dog and as a disadvantage that it is a terrible waste of time and money. He married in the end, his cousin, in 1839. They had ten children of whom three died at a very young age. The fact that some children were sickly and weak and 3 died, made him think of the possibility that the cause is the relationship he had with his wife. From these thoughts he developed the theory of genetic crossover. The last years of his life, although he was very frail and haggard, he produced two very important works: "The origin of man and sexual selection" in 1871 and "The expression of emotions in man and animals in 1872." In the first Darwin puts monkey and man at the same pedigree, while in the second argued that human psychology is a continuation of animal behavior and develops the view -which later will affect the evolutionary psychology- that the human mind is a result of natural and sexual selection. He died of a second heart attack in 1882 in Dawn, a small English town in which he had moved in 1842, seeking for a better climate for his faltering health.