Evolution: What if the idea was never communicated?

I’ve often wonder, what life would be without the knowledge of evolution? A person would simply have to step back 160 years to live in England. A country that believed the Earth was made in 7 days.

Charles Darwin challenged this view famously with his theory of evolution – a new and life changing scientific theory. It was a theory that wrecked havoc amongst many people who had believed in the literal word of the bible. Darwin himself struggled to come to terms with his finding (many believe that his hiatus between completing but not publishing his studies was due to the clash of his religious beliefs and scientific discoveries). What if he had not come to produce his findings?

The theory may now be fully attributed to another man Alfred Wallace. In writing to Charles Darwin for assistance in his own evolutionary theory, Wallace forced Darwin into publishing his ‘Origin of Species.’ If this had not occurred, the theory of evolution may never have been attributed solely and so popularly to Darwin.

The fact that evolution became so popular in England at the time could not just be put down to Darwin’s work. It can also be put down to the hard work and persistence of his friends such as Thomas Huxley who gave himself the nickname ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’. By publication, Darwin was too old and sick to successfully debate at full strength his incredible findings. Huxley, who in fact doubted Darwin’s original findings, was a man of action who spread the word of evolution throughout England via reviews of the book, newspaper articles and debating against and criticizing those who opposed Darwin. Without Huxley, the theory of evolution might not be so widespread. It may not have ever been so widely accepted.

The consequences of this theory not coming to power would have had enormous ramifications on biological studies for the past 150 years. Great communicators spread great (and sometimes not so great) science. Without them however, who knows what kind of world we would be living in now.

2 Responses to “Evolution: What if the idea was never communicated?”

  1. Jenny Martin says:

    Yes, you have to wonder how much of a role individual personalities have to play in the advancement of science. There are so many examples where particular people (or particular connections/ relationships between people) have played a major role in the communication of science. And time is a major player too – it seems safe to assume that Mendel could never have imagine the impact of his garden experiments.

    Do the internet and other forms of modern communication make is certain that science today is communicated broadly?

  2. Jack Scanlan says:

    Technically the Earth was made in 6 days, with the 7th for rest, but who am I to correct people on the basic tenants of Biblical young-Earth creationism? 😉

    Yes, science communication is an important field – scientists are often too busy doing the actual science to communicate it to the public directly. And GOOD science communication is important too, as there have been far too many times in the past where the communication of flawed research and invalid conclusions has resulted in the public picking up scientific inaccuracies. An annoyingly pervasive example was Andrew Wakefield’s paper on vaccines, which was run with by anti-vaccinationists as validation of their claims.