Free Essay

Darwin's Origin

In: Science

Submitted By sineadk611
Words 1114
Pages 5
Q1: Darwin's Origin consisted of two parts. The first described observations in support of common descent, the second a mechanism to explain how it was the case. Provide examples of the observations Darwin used (1 page).

‘On the origin of species by means of natural selection : or, The preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life’ by Charles Darwin (1860) was the first book to put forward the scientific theory that populations evolve over a period of generations by the process of natural selection. The first part of the book described observations in support of common descent.

One such observation is that of the homologous structures possessed by a wide variety of animals. Darwin used the fact that lizards, bats, whales, birds, frogs cats and even humans all contain a pent dactyl limb to support his theory that all life is descended from one common ancestor. As he says himself , “What can be more curious than that the hand of a man, formed for grasping, that of a mole for digging, the leg of the horse, the paddle of the porpoise, and the wing of the bat, should all be constructed on the same pattern, and should include the same bones, in the same relative positions?”(Darwin 1860)

Another observation of common descent from the first part of Darwin’s book is that of convergence of form. This is the presence of similar biological traits in members of different species. Darwin illustrated this using the example of the finches. He observed a variety of forms encountered in related species that converge upon forms in unrelated species adapted to similar environments( Dr John Finarelli 2012).

The similarity in embryology between members of different species is another example of an observation used by Darwin to support the theory of common descent. Detours seen in embryonic development - e.g. gill clefts in tetrapod (including human) embryos – are consequences of shared evolutionary history ( De Beer, G. 1958). Darwin argued that the remarkable differences which occur during development are evidence of evolutionary history.

The presence of rudimentary or vestigial organs in the body of certain organisms was proposed by Darwin as another example of evidence of common descent. Rudimentary organs can often be detected in the embryo, but are lost later during development (e.g., teeth in the upper jaws of embryos of whales and ruminants) (David H.A. Fitch 1997). Vestigial structures point to an ancestor that possessed a functional version of the structure, such as the appendix of a human or eye-spots on a blind cray-fish.

Many organisms possess imperfect bodily structures and in the first part of ‘The Origin Of Species’, Darwin used this observation as yet another example of his theory of common descent. He argued that the fact that these structures are imperfect in the modern day anatomy of the organism suggests evolution from a similar organism to which the structure was more suited. “What you have is evidence that a system evolved from a starting point, optimizing what it had to begin with.”( Dr John Finarelli 2012)


• de Beer, G. (1958), DARWIN'S VIEWS ON THE RELATIONS BETWEEN EMBRYOLOGY AND EVOLUTION. Journal of the Linnean Society of London, Botany, 56: 15–23. doi: 10.1111/j.1095-8339.1958.tb01704.

• Dr John Finarelli 2012, lecture at UCD on 4/11/2012 at 14.00

• Darwin, C. (1860), On the origin of species by means of natural selection : or, The preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. London:Murray.

• David H.A. Fitch, 1997. Darwins Evidence: Rudimentary Organs. Available at; (accessed 11/11/2012)

Q2: Provide a description of Darwin's mechanism (1 page). Provide as much detail and give examples as needed.

The theory of natural selection is the mechanism used by Darwin to describe evolutionary change. Natural selection is the process “by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved.” (Darwin, 1860). There are four preconditions to the theory of natural selection; individual members of a species are different from one another, variation is inheritable, there is excess reproduction and finally there is a struggle for existence( Scott and Maume, 2007).

The fact that individual members of a species are different from one another is known as variation. This is critical to the theory of natural selection as it allows for some organisms to be better suited to their environment than others of the same species, thus allowing for ‘survival of the fittest’. “These individual differences are highly important for us, as they afford materials for Natural Selection to accumulate”.( Darwin, 1860)

Darwin’s proposal that variation is inheritable was a major break-through at the time. He proposed that traits, and in particular favourable traits, are passed down from generation to generation, leading to evolution.

One of the core ideas of natural selection is that there is excess reproduction, i.e. that there are more organisms than there is resources to support them. This aspect of Darwin’s mechanism was heavily influenced by Thomas Malthus, who proposed that organisms reproduce at a geometric rate, whereas food supply grows linearly and so ecosystems cannot support all potential offspring. “population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical progression of such a nature as to double itself every twenty-five years.” (Malthus ,1798).

Darwin’s observation that there is a struggle for existence is closely linked to the precondition that there is excess reproduction in nature. In any population, more offspring are born than can survive to reproduce. This struggle for existence is due to limited resources in the environment .With this comes competition which leads to Individuals varying in form and behaviour to benefit as much as they can from the limited resource. Much of this variation is heritable.( Dr John Finarelli, 2012). The link between competition and excess reproduction is best explained by Darwin himself : “Owing to this struggle for life, any variation, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if be in any degree profitable to an individual of any species, in its infinitely complex relations to other organic beings and to external nature, will tend to the preservation of that individual, and will generally be inherited by its offspring”.


• Darwin, C. (1860), On the origin of species by means of natural selection : or, The preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. London:Murray

• Maume, K. and Scott S. (2007). New Senior Biology. Dublin: Folens

• Malthus, T.(1798) An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it Affects the Future improvement of Society with Remarks on the Speculation of Mr.Goodwin, M. Condorcet, and Other Writers. London: Printed for J. Johnson, in S t. Paul's Church-Yard.

Similar Documents

Premium Essay


... when Darwin published his book The Theory of Origin he gave us one of the most widely accepted theories on how life developed on earth. His findings changed science forever and still has lasting effects today. Verlyn Klinkenborg New York Times essay Darwin at 200: The Ongoing Force of His Unconventional Idea illustrates many of the reasons why Darwin was such an important and revolutionary person. Charles Darwin’s essay Natural Selection was ahead of its time when it was published in the 19th century. Darwin discussed animals and the traits that are passed on from generation to generation. Through his observations Charles Darwin came to the conclusion that animals compete for resources and that the animal with the most desirable trait will be more likely to survive and pass on their genes. He also stated that because of this, it helps explain all of the variation within each different species of living things. Darwin also discussed that his theory of Natural Selection doesn’t only apply to animals but also to plants. He observed that only plants that had the best ways to distribute their pollen would be able to reproduce. Charles Darwin’s ideas still live on over 150 years after his publication of The Origins of Species. In Verlyn Klinkenborg New York Times essay Darwin at 200: The Ongoing Force of His Unconventional Idea he discussed how revolutionary Darwin’s observations were. Klnikenborg wrote about how much of Darwin’s life he spent gathering evidence and testing......

Words: 661 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Charles Darwin on Darwinism

...Charles Darwin One of the most famous names in science and in the economy today, is Charles Darwin. Darwin is best known for his contributions in science; his famous theory of evolution. He also contributed to the market and command economy with his belief, "survival of the fittest." Charles Darwin's contribution to science has been a very controversial one. He stated that each generation will improve adaptively over the preceding generations, and this gradual and continuous process is the source of the evolution of species. Natural selection is only part of Darwin's theory. He also introduced the concept that all related organisms are descended from common ancestors. His theory was first announced in 1858 in a paper. Darwin's complete theory was published in 1859, in On the Origin of Species. This book is often referred to as "the book that shook the world. The Origin sold out on the first day of publication and subsequently went through six editions. Charles Darwin also contributed to the Market economy with his belief "survival of the fittest." In a free enterprise system, it is believed that the best will survive while the less efficient will collapse if the market is allowed to work without government interference. In a market economy, since the government has very little control of the businesses, the companies must work their hardest and come out with good products that will outsell the ones of their competition. Social Darwinism basically means that the......

Words: 326 - Pages: 2

Premium Essay

Hum 102

...of changes in the political, social, scientific, theological and cultural spheres throughout Europe. Darwin's newly elaborated evolutionary idea was the pivot for social Darwinism, a theory based on the gradual movement of the species toward greater self-awareness and strength. Shaw described this process in his play Man and Superman. Freud also utilized the concept in his libido theory. Horney interpreted the process as a psychic response to the intense societal pressures to succeed. A linkage of interdependence and progression of these ideas emerges as the world continues to evolve. What allowed dance forms such as ballet to develop at this time? Ballet is a formalized form of dance with its origins in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th and 16th centuries. It quickly spread to the French court of Catherine de' Medici where it was developed even further. In the late 17th century Louis XIV founded the Académie Royale de Musique (the Paris Opera) within which emerged the first professional theatrical ballet company, the Paris Opera Ballet. Discuss the significance of Darwin and Darwinian theory on modern scientific thought. In short, it is horribly antiquated. If you read "Origin" you will see that Darwin fully expected someone to find the transitional fossil record linking man with beast. That has not and will not happened. Moreover, if you research Darwin's life, he disputed his own theory before he passed away. Finally, scientists today, while......

Words: 297 - Pages: 2

Premium Essay

Other Topics

...Darwin's Theory Of Evolution - A Theory in Crisis You are here: Science >> Darwin's Theory Of Evolution Darwin's Theory of Evolution - The Premise Darwin's Theory of Evolution is the widely held notion that all life is related and has descended from a common ancestor: the birds and the bananas, the fishes and the flowers -- all related. Darwin's general theory presumes the development of life from non-life and stresses a purely naturalistic (undirected) "descent with modification". That is, complex creatures evolve from more simplistic ancestors naturally over time. In a nutshell, as random genetic mutations occur within an organism's genetic code, the beneficial mutations are preserved because they aid survival -- a process known as "natural selection." These beneficial mutations are passed on to the next generation. Over time, beneficial mutations accumulate and the result is an entirely different organism (not just a variation of the original, but an entirely different creature). Darwin's Theory of Evolution - Natural Selection While Darwin's Theory of Evolution is a relatively young archetype, the evolutionary worldview itself is as old as antiquity. Ancient Greek philosophers such as Anaximander postulated the development of life from non-life and the evolutionary descent of man from animal. Charles Darwin simply brought something new to the old philosophy -- a plausible mechanism called "natural selection." Natural selection acts to preserve...

Words: 876 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

Analyse Wilde’s Presentation of Friendship and Love Affairs in the Picture of Dorian Gray, Showing Which Relationships and Love Affairs Had the Greatest Impact on Your Understanding of the Novel.

...How are the thoughts and feelings presented in the extract from Origin of the Species? Compare to War of the Worlds. The extract from Darwin’s Origin of Species – ‘Recapitulation and Conclusion’ – presents Darwin’s final ideas of Natural Selection and to convince and challenge the scientific community, as well as the general population due to the religious controversy. Similarly to Darwin’s extract, the novel ‘The War of the Worlds’ by H. G. Wells also challenges traditional thinking and presents ideas of Natural Selection. However, indicates a sense of fear and shock at the rate of changing opinions which are presented through language, structure and form. Both the extract and the novel present ideas of change in the fields of science and religion. Darwin presents the idea that science is much more powerful than originally thought. Although, does not dismiss religion, therefore creating a balanced argument, which makes his theologies more accepted by the readers. ‘…not as special creations, but lineal the descendants…’ This quote is representative of Darwin’s controversial ideas as he is disagreeing with past assumptions by suggesting a limit to God’s power – ‘not as special creations...’, highlighting that man or God has...

Words: 769 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

Darwin's Influence on Discrimination

...Darwin’s Influence on Discrimination Many regard Charles Darwin as the Father of Evolution, a scientific breakthrough that is considered one of the greatest accomplishments in science. Little does the general public consider the social effects that his contributions made on racism, as well as sexism, not only in his lifetime, but also for the generations following his research. His recognition in one area of study automatically made him a voice that echoed for centuries against women’s suffrage, pro-slavery, and influenced Hitler’s ideology. Apart from his genetic research and theories of evolution, Darwin was not afraid to compare the human race to that of other animals. This analogy caused a lot of the discrimination that he blatantly labeled as scientific fact. In the Descent of Man, “Darwin noted that the inheritance of special tastes and habits, general intelligence, courage, good and bad temper, and so on is evident in dogs and other domestic animals, and that the same pattern is seen in almost every human family” (Paul, 226). Darwin was not afraid to make non-scientific comparisons between the human race and other animals. Although many of Darwin’s findings are scientifically rational, and others simply deny his theories because of their religious faiths, it is difficult to ignore the consequences of his “Origins of Species” or “The Descent of Man” writings. Although Darwin wrote that all men shared a common descent, he used societal observations...

Words: 2044 - Pages: 9

Free Essay

Social Darwinism

...Darwinism The social theory or ideology of Social Darwinism, which was prominent during the late 1800s, was a source of both controversy and conflict in Victorian Society and other nations, where imperialists, capitalists and colonialists manipulated Social Darwinism to justify horrific acts of genocide and cultural destruction. Upon the publication of Darwin’s revolutionary theory of evolution, The Origin of Species, uproar was caused in Victorian Society at the notion that humans were related to apes, to animals, which was unthinkable at the time largely because it contravened prevailing religious beliefs. This upheaval was the very beginning of a new age of political thinking and sociological ideas. Society was very quickly divided into those who applied Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection to society and philosophy, and those who opposed the idea, maintaining that Darwin’s theories should not be applied to Homo sapiens…us and that these theories contradicted the most fundamental of moral beliefs and principles. Hence, Social Darwinism was born in all its controversy. However, despite the controversial nature of Darwin’s theories, science and its trends were held in high esteem in Victorian England. Through this, fraudulent governments and individuals motivated by greed for wealth and power were able to justify their actions by manipulating Social Darwinism to fit their purpose, claiming that if science said so, then it must be so. However, Social Darwinism was not......

Words: 2671 - Pages: 11

Free Essay

Environmental Biology

...Kelsey Williams Professor Reiner March 29, 2016 BIOL-108 Island Biogeography Lab Write-Up Purpose of lab: Calculating how many species were migrating to different islands Hypotheses: The main factors are island size and distance from the island. We hypothesized that islands close to a source area should have a higher number of species than islands further from the source area for islands of equivalent areas. Larger islands should have more species than smaller islands for islands located at similar distances from the source area. Data table—compiled with other groups* Table 1: Island Biogeography Lab Data (fill this in) | Close (2m) | Middle (3m) | Far (4m) | Small (0.25 m2) | 1 | 3 | NA | Medium (.5m2) | 10 | 10 | 6 | Large (1.0 m2) | 15 | 16 | 16 | Graph for ONE simulation—for YOUR GROUPDATA---include title, label axes, write legend (i.e.-medium island at 3M supports 12 species) Legend: The linear trend lines did not intersect. Therefore, data is not available. Questions Based on your data and personal observations, answer the following questions. 1. Does your data support the basic theory of island biogeography? Explain why or why not. * When increasing the island size, the data supports the basic theory of island biogeography. With regards to the distance factor, the data does not support this theory because there is not a steady increase of distance; the distance measurements are very scattered. 2. How does......

Words: 731 - Pages: 3

Free Essay

Evolution of Finches

...Evolution of Finches on Darwin and Wallace Islands INTRODUCTION The Evolution Lab simulates environmental situations to determine effects on evolution over periods of time. This lab experiments with the evolution of finches on two different islands over 100, 200, and 300 years. By manipulating parameters that influence natural selection, the effects that natural selection have on the evolution process can be studied. HYPOTHESES • The size of the island will influence the population. • The amount of precipitation will influence beak size. • The larger the clutch the higher the population over time MATERIALS The materials needed for this experiment consist of a computer and access to the Evolution Lab on the University of Phoenix student website. In the Evolution Lab there are two islands, Darwin Island and Wallace Island. There are seven variables that can be changed to run many different experiments on both islands. The variables are beak size, variance of beak size, heritability, clutch size, island size, population, and precipitation. MATERIALS AND METHODS The Evolution Lab provides many variables. The user can change the following: beak size, variance of beak size in the population, heritability of the mid parent beak size, clutch size, island size, population of the finches to start the experiment, and precipitation on the island as it affects the hardness of seeds.. All of the numerous combinations of variables, set for two different islands......

Words: 1686 - Pages: 7

Premium Essay


...proven, by then it becomes a scientific law, but the theory of evolution never went pass that bar. It never made it to that level, because there might never be a scientific way of proving that everything is evolved (unless of course, someone ages for millions of years and lived to tell the story, but that's not the case, and definitely not the point). The point is, the theory of evolution is generally accepted scientifically and religiously, it's the Darwinian theory that is still in the grey area, despite existing for almost two centuries. Modern readers often misunderstand the meaning of the title of Darwin's book. They take the origin of species to mean the origin of life. Then it is pointed out that Darwin 'failed' to throw light on the origin of life. Others seem to think that his book is called The origin of THE species , aimed at human beings. But this was not Darwin's aim. Darwin argued that species—that is the different kinds of organisms in the world —come not from multiple unique creation events on each island or particular place—but instead that species are the modified descendants of earlier forms. Darwin demonstrated that the origination of...

Words: 439 - Pages: 2

Premium Essay


...In the early 19th century, the Theory of Evolution was being formed in the minds of many scientists but it was first given voice by Charles Darwin in his Origin of Species. He proposed that a process called natural selection acts on random variation within a species to cause only the most fit of that species to survive and leave fertile offspring. Natural Selection is a process that chooses specific individuals based on their characteristics, by allowing them to survive and multiply, less suited individuals die out. Over time, only a certain amount of organisms most suited to their environment survive, and organisms become more and more specialized. Darwin's theory was failing at the time of its broadcast as being an excellent explanation for the diversity of living things on our planet. Generally, the only opposition to the Theory of Evolution came from religious circles who believed that the world was created in six days and all the animals and plants were created exactly as we see them. While many scientists in the public stuck to their beliefs, this theory did not have much support from the scientific world. After all there was very little evidence for such a creation, and there was enough evidence for the evolution. However, in more recent times other challenges to the Theory of Evolution have surfaced. During Darwin's life, there was a great deal that science did not know, could not know about the inner workings and...

Words: 523 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Is Evolution True

...features because of their adaptation to new environments (Merriam-Webster, 2013). There are different perspectives concerning the origin of evolution and depending on an individual’s particular belief he may agree or disagree with the various viewpoints in existence today. This paper will cover the various viewpoints concerning evolution to include philosophical, theological, and sociological reflections. It will also cover the scientific process of evolution showing my agreement or disagreement with the process. What is Evolution? Organisms or species go through many hereditary changes over an extended period of time (Coyne, 2009). This means that one generation will be different from the other as they continue to evolve through changes in their genetic composition as they adapt to their environment (Coyne, 2009). Another belief concerning evolution is the concept of gradualism, which believes that a change in a species takes place after many generations have evolved, such as the development of birds from reptiles (Coyne, 2009). Speciation, yet another evolutionary concept, has the belief that although species share common traits they are all unique (Coyne, 2009). This means, even though species may have a common ancestor somewhere in their development the genes divided to create another species (Coyne, 2009). The common ancestor, the fourth concept of Darwin’s theory of evolution, is the other side of speciation (Coyne, 2009). It believes that genetic traits in organisms......

Words: 3111 - Pages: 13

Premium Essay

History of Evolution the word is more often used to refer to Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. This theory is sometimes crudely referred to as the theory of "survival of the fittest." It was proposed by Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species in 1859 and, independently, by Alfred Wallace in 1858—although Wallace, unlike Darwin, said the human soul is not the product of evolution. Greek and medieval references to "evolution" use it as a descriptive term for a state of nature, in which everything in nature has a certain order or purpose. This is a teleological view of nature. For example, Aristotle classified all living organisms hierarchically in his great scala naturae or Great Chain of Being, with plants at the bottom, moving through lesser animals, and on to humans at the pinnacle of creation, each becoming progressively more perfect in form. It was the medieval philosophers, such as Augustine, who began to incorporate teleological views of nature with religion: God is the designer of all creatures, and everything has a purpose and a place as ordained by Him. In current times, to some, the terms "evolution" and "God" may look like unlikely bed fellows (see the discussion on teleology). This is due primarily to today's rejection by biologists of a teleological view of evolution in favor of a more mechanistic one. The process of rejection is commonly considered to have begun with Descartes and to have culminated in Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural......

Words: 4509 - Pages: 19

Premium Essay

Comparing Darwin and Alfred Russel her biography of Darwin, she describes the similarities in the life experiences of Darwin and Wallace that led them to independently arrive at the theory of natural selection. Both Wallace and Darwin were inspired by the readings such as Charles Lyell and Thomas Malthus. Browne notes that, “Even so, the parallels between Darwin’s and Wallace’s ideas are no less remarkable for their cultural symmetry. Their similarities are further demonstrated by them sharing similar geographical exploration and travel experiences and their mutual appreciations of their marvels of nature and overwhelming desire to comprehend them…” (Browne 2010: 357). The two theorists examined the concepts of natural selection independently until its publication. By the 1958, Darwin had already developed his idea on natural selection but had not published it as he was still collecting more evidence. After his previous research had been destroyed in his journey back to England from Brazilian Amazon, Wallace resumed his research on natural selection while at Archipelago which was marked by his famous “letter to Darwin” that contained an essay discussing a theory very similar to Darwin’s. The situation was very challenging as these two theorists had been independently studying the same topic with almost similar outcomes. These events led to...

Words: 2334 - Pages: 10

Premium Essay


...Analysis of an Ideologue Template |Introductory Information | |Ideologue’s Name |Charles Darwin-France | |Birth-Death Years |February 12, 1809 – April 19, 1882 (Hustad, 2016) | |Picture of Ideologue: Find a |[pic] | |digital photo of the | | |individual and paste it here.| | |Most Noted For | ...

Words: 1358 - Pages: 6