Evolutionary Thinking Through Time

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Evolutionary Thinking Was Not Unique To Darwin’s Time.


Charles Darwin was not the first to come up with an idea of evolution. Evolutionary thinking was not unique to Darwin’s time. By the time On The Origin Of Species: By Means Of Natural Selection was first published in 1859. Evolution was a common concept.


Natural SelectionEvolution is any change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations across successive generations, leading to diversity in every level of biological organisation. It includes species, individual organisms, DNA and protein molecules, using both existing species and the fossil record. Evolution is the study of universal common ancestors’ origin on Earth 3.7 billion years ago that leads to an explanation of all life on Earth. Another common misconception is that Charles Darwin first proposed evolution. This is a fallacy.

Evolutionary thinking is far back as 611-547 B.C., ancient Greek philosopher, Anaxiamander hypothesized that:

“In the beginning there was a fishlike creature with scales that arose in and lived in the world oceans. As some of these advanced, they moved onto land, shed their scaly coverings and became the first humans.”

The Roman philosopher Lucretius (99-55 B.C.) was the first to realise that all living things were related and that they had changed over time. In his book, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), Lucretius wrote:

“Wherefore, again, again, how merited is that adopted name of Earth -the Mother!

Since she herself begat the human race; and at one well-nigh fixed time brought forth each breast that ranges raving round about upon the mighty mountains and all birds aerial with many a varied shape.

But, lo, because her bearing years must end, she ceased, like to a woman worn by eld.

For lapsing aeons change the nature of the whole wide world, and all things needs must take one status after other, nor aught persists forever like itself.

All things depart; Nature she changeth all, compelleth all
to transformation.”

Aristotle, (384 BC – 322 BC) developed his Scala Naturae, or Ladder of Life to explain his idea of the advancement of living things, from inanimate matter to plants. then animals and finally man.

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon in the middle to late 1700s proposed that species could change.

Erasmus Darwin, A British physician and poet in the late 1700s, proposed that life had changed over time. His poem titled, Origin of Society. Includes:

“Hence without parent by spontaneous birth

Rise the first specks of animated Earth;

Nature’s womb the plant or insect swims,

And buds or breathes, with microscopic limbs.

ORGANIC LIFE beneath the shoreless waves

Was born and nurs’d in Ocean’s pearly caves.

First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,

Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;

These, as successive generations bloom.

New powers acquire, and larger limbs assume;

Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,

And breathing realms of fin, and feet, and wing.”

William Smith (1769-1839), developed the Principle of Biological Succession by stating:

“Each period of Earth history, has its own unique assemblages of fossils.”

Distinctly Human: An Evolutionary Journey.

Evolution: Work In progress.

Jean Baptiste de Lamarck, developed one of the first theories on how species changed. Lamarck, in 1809,concluded that organisms of higher complexity had evolved from pre-existing, less complex organisms.

It is not a mere coincidence that Erasmus Darwin shares the same surname as Charles Darwin. Erasmus Darwin was Charles Darwin’s grandfather and certainly influenced Charles’s thinking, probably throughout his entire life.

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