Charles Robert Darwin
In 1859 when Charles Darwin published his book "The Origin of Species", it caused much controversy between the scientific and religious worlds. It caused many people to question their belief in the teaching of the Bible. The strongly held belief that the Bible was the literal truth clashed with the Darwin theory. Some people rejected and scorned Darwin while others tried to reevaluate their beliefs. Darwin theorized that species evolved from other species. The belief that God directly created man seemed unlikely to mix with Darwin's theory.
Charles Robert Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England February 12, 1809. He had his preliminary schooling at Shrewsbury. Robert Darwin, his father was a physician, his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, was also a scientist. Darwin's father wanted him and his brother to follow into the medical field. He was then sent in 1825 to the University of Edinburgh where he entered a distinguished program for medicine. He did not like the program, so he transferred to Cambridge University. From 1828 to 1831 he Cambridge to prepared for the ministry. Sciences were not included in his University studies so he had no training in that area. Personal contacts with scientists gave him an informal science education. After Cambridge he became a naturalist on a government sponsored map making trip. Darwin collected data and specimens during this five year trip. It was during the trip that he also developed the first ideas about species evolving. His main research was done while he spent time on the Galapagos Islands studying the tortoises and birds that lived on the islands. He noticed a difference between one species of tortoise on one side of the islands and different adaptations on tortoises on the other side of the island. After the trip he married and moved to Down, England where he lived the rest of his life. Darwin did research and corresponded his home. He had gained respect in the field of Natural Science from his research made during the trip. During that trip he gathered evidence that the species was mutable. As a student he had accepted fundamentalist beliefs. As time passed he was deeply impressed by Charles Lyell's theory that natural change occurred gradually in species. From his studies Darwin developed his Natural Selection Theory, which he announced in 1858. In 1859 his book "The Origin of the Species by Natural Selection", was published. The book advanced the theory and caused controversy. He wrote several other books during his lifetime but none were as significant as "Origin of the Species." Darwin died after many years of chronic illness in his home in Down, England on April 19, 1882.
The theory of evolution is not contradicted by the Catholic Church today. The Church does not look at the Bible as literal truth. The Church encourages the study of science. In response to the controversy caused by Darwinism and questions about the Bible, Pope Leo the XII started a commission to apply new methods of archaeology and linguistics to biblical study. This study which went on for many years now helps the Church to understand and accept how evolution can be a scientific fact and God can still have created man. The theory of evolution is scientific, although there is still debate about the theory, a religious belief does not have to be the deciding factor for a Catholic. The Church encourages Catholics to study and examine scientific possibilities without fear of contradicting their faith.
Because I am a Catholic and a student I am able to understand both points of view, religious and scientific. But because I was not raised very religiously, and more scientifically inclined, I am able to clearly see the scientific significance in Darwin s theory. Darwin's theory encouraged a great deal of biological research. This research was meant to prove or disprove his theory. In the end much of the research furthered our knowledge of biology. This theory explained that species well adapted to their particular living space developed from an accumulation of adaptations. The science of Genetics which is so important today was able to explain these adaptations. I also understand that change had to occur in the way the church looked at creation for this growth in knowledge to be accepted. I know that it was probably difficult for the Church to suddenly give up something that they thought was right for so long, especially because when the theory of evolution was presented it was such a new and abstract idea. But eventually the Church and the most of the Christian society realized the belief in God did not have to be rejected because of a change in our thought about creation.
Charles Darwin's curiosity and research about the world around him helped him to develop his theory. Darwin took many chances, because he placed his name on the line. He went against the Bible's teachings and for some people it that was hard to prove wrong. Our society has accepted Darwin and his beliefs and will forever be immortalized in our scientific efforts from this point in history forward. Charles Darwin was truly one of the great minds of science, and we shall forever be blessed with the knowledge he has given to us.