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Darwinism

Darwinism, concept of evolution developed in the mid-19th cent. by Charles Robert Darwin. Darwin's meticulously documented observations led him to question the then current belief in special creation of each species. After years of studying and correlating the voluminous notes he had made as naturalist on H.M.S. Beagle, he was prompted by the submission (1858) of an almost identical theory by A. R. Wallace to present his evidence for the descent of all life from a common ancestral origin; his monumental Origin of Species was published in 1859. Darwin observed (as had Malthus) that although all organisms tend to reproduce in a geometrically increasing ratio, the numbers of a given species remain more or less constant. From this he deduced that there is a continuing struggle for existence, for survival. He pointed out the existence of variations—differences among members of the same species—and suggested that the variations that prove helpful to a plant or an animal in its struggle for existence better enable it to survive and reproduce. These favorable variations are thus transmitted to the offspring of the survivors and spread to the entire species over successive generations. This process he called the principle of natural selection (the expression "survival of the fittest" was later coined by Herbert Spencer). In the same way, sexual selection (factors influencing the choice of mates among animals) also plays a part. In developing his theory that the origin and diversification of species results from gradual accumulation of individual modifications, Darwin was greatly influenced by Sir Charles Lyell's treatment of the doctrine of uniformitarianism. Darwin's evidence for evolution rested on the data of comparative anatomy, especially the study of homologous structures in different species and of rudimentary (vestigial) organs; of the recapitulation of past racial history in individual embryonic development; of geographical distribution, extensively documented by Wallace; of the immense variety in forms of plants and animals (to the degree that often one species is not distinct from another); and, to a lesser degree, of paleontology. As originally formulated, Darwinism did not distinguish between acquired characteristics, which are not transmissible by heredity, and genetic variations, which are inheritable. Modern knowledge of heredity—especially the concept of mutation, which provides an explanation of how variations may arise—has supplemented and modified the theory, but in its basic outline Darwinism is now universally accepted by scientists.

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Darwinism

Darwinism, Social Darwinism Darwinism is the belief in the theory of evolution by means of natural selection, developed separately by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace, and subsequently popularized in Darwin's two great works on evolution: the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859) and the Descent of Man (1871). The original version of the theory proposed that, since population numbers remained stable whilst reproduction occurred at a higher than replacement rate, there must be some systematic selective mechanism involved in the process, by which certain individuals perished, while others survived. The mechanism advanced was that of ‘natural selection’, whereby those individuals better suited to their environment survived, whilst others who were less well adapted died. Over time this process would result in species formation. It was not until thirty or so years later that the actual mechanism of heredity—the individual gene—was widely recognized and incorporated into existing theory to inaugurate modern neo-Darwinism.

At the time of its writing, Darwin and Wallace's theory formed just one thread in an existing discourse about evolution more generally, which included the social evolutionism of Herbert Spencer. Many writers on society, influenced by Spencer, eagerly absorbed Darwin's ‘scientific’ theory into their own writings, and it was Spencer himself who coined the phrase (commonly attributed to Darwin) ‘the survival of the fittest’, to explain the historical development of societies. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, in the United States and Britain, there arose a movement based upon the incorporation of notions of survival of the fittest into social theory. The most well-known manifestation of this Social Darwinist movement was eugenics. In its most extreme manifestation, members of the Eugenic Society wrote pamphlets variously advocating the compulsory sterilization or incarceration of large subgroups of the population and selective breeding among the rest, in order to improve the genetic quality of the population as a whole. More recently, Darwinian theory has been a focus of controversy, for certain scientists are now convinced that the slow process of natural selection as Darwin proposed it is insufficient to account for species formation, which (they claim) must arise from some process that operates more rapidly. It is still the case, however, that the vast majority of practising biologists and genetic scientists remain committed neo-Darwinists. See also GUMPLOWICZ, LUDWIG; MILITARY AND MILITARISM.

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Darwinism

Darwinism The theory of evolution proposed by Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species (1859), which postulated that present-day species have evolved from simpler ancestral types by the process of natural selection acting on the variability found within populations. On the Origin of Species caused a furore when it was first published because it suggested that species are not immutable nor were they specially created – a view directly opposed to the doctrine of special creation. However, the wealth of evidence presented by Darwin gradually convinced most people and the only major unresolved problem was to explain how the variations in populations arose and were maintained from one generation to the next. This became clear with the rediscovery of Mendel's work on classical genetics in the 1900s and led to the present theory of neo-Darwinism.

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Darwinism

Darwinism the theory of the evolution of species by natural selection advanced by the English natural historian and geologist Charles Darwin (1809–82). Darwin was the naturalist on HMS Beagle for her voyage around the southern hemisphere (1831–6), during which he collected the material which became the basis for his ideas on natural selection. His works On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871) had a fundamental effect on our concepts of nature and humanity's place within it.

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Darwinism

Darwinism The theory of evolution by natural selection, often used incorrectly as a synonym for the theory of evolution itself (a concept that was described by Aristotle and debated in classical literature). The term ‘neo-Darwinism’ is often used to denote the ‘new synthesis’ (i.e. synthetic theory).

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Darwinism

Darwinism The theory of evolution by natural selection, often used incorrectly as a synonym for the theory of evolution itself. The term ‘neo-Darwinism’ is often used to denote the ‘new synthesis’ (i.e. synthetic theory).

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"Darwinism." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Darwinism

Darwinism

See Darwin, Charles; Evolution, Biological; Evolution, Human; Neo-Darwinism

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Darwinism

Darwinism See evolution

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