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Thread: Why did it take so long for a 'Darwin' to arrive on the scene?

  1. #1 Why did it take so long for a 'Darwin' to arrive on the scene? 
    Forum Freshman HB3l1's Avatar
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    What are your opinions about that? Does it have to do something with religious indoctrination or something entirely different?


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    Moderator Moderator Cogito Ergo Sum's Avatar
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    I am afraid I cannot follow.


    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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    Forum Freshman HB3l1's Avatar
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    Why did it take so long for a theory of evolution to appear, the idea of evolution itself is much easier to grasp then some other ideas given us by many geniuses,for instance mathematical idea given us by Newton two centuries earlier. I hope I am clearer now
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    Moderator Moderator Cogito Ergo Sum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HB3l1 View Post
    Why did it take so long for a theory of evolution to appear, the idea of evolution itself is much easier to grasp then some other ideas given us by many geniuses,for instance mathematical idea given us by Newton two centuries earlier. I hope I am clearer now

    I think it is wrong to assert that the theory of evolution appeared as soon as Darwin published his On the Origin of Species.
    Georges-Louis de Buffon, Alfred Wallace, Georges Cuvier, Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck, Charles Lyell and Gregor Mendel have all contributed to the theory of evolution.
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    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by HB3l1 View Post
    Why did it take so long for a theory of evolution to appear
    ?? It didn't. Darwin published in 1859. The first scientific discussions about how one form of animal changes into another happened around 50 BC. In 1735 Linnaeus defined the taxonomy we use now, a taxonomy that inherently acknowledges that some organisms descended from (and thus are closely related to) others. In 1751 Pierre Maupertuis wrote on the subjects of genetic inheritance, selection and gradual phylogenic change.

    Evolution was understood (albeit less completely) well before Darwin. Darwin was just the first one to propose a rigorous scientific definition backed with field observations.
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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    Darwin was just the first one to propose a rigorous scientific definition backed with field observations.
    Darwin and Wallace were ...
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    Forum Freshman HB3l1's Avatar
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    ?? It didn't. Darwin published in 1859. The first scientific discussions about how one form of animal changes into another happened around 50 BC. In 1735 Linnaeus defined the taxonomy we use now, a taxonomy that inherently acknowledges that some organisms descended from (and thus are closely related to) others. In 1751 Pierre Maupertuis wrote on the subjects of genetic inheritance, selection and gradual phylogenic change.

    Evolution was understood (albeit less completely) well before Darwin. Darwin was just the first one to propose a rigorous scientific definition backed with field observations.
    I did not know that, my ignorance is ridiculous . But the feeling when you learn something new is great, actually there are many thoughts about evolution many years ago, History of evolutionary thought - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia I had no idea that the old Greeks had many ideas about evolution.

    But Darwin was the first one to thoroughly describe human evolution? Or I am wrong with this conclusion?
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by HB3l1 View Post
    Why did it take so long for a theory of evolution to appear
    ?? It didn't. Darwin published in 1859. The first scientific discussions about how one form of animal changes into another happened around 50 BC. In 1735 Linnaeus defined the taxonomy we use now, a taxonomy that inherently acknowledges that some organisms descended from (and thus are closely related to) others. In 1751 Pierre Maupertuis wrote on the subjects of genetic inheritance, selection and gradual phylogenic change.

    Evolution was understood (albeit less completely) well before Darwin. Darwin was just the first one to propose a rigorous scientific definition backed with field observations.
    Don't think that's a fair representation...not even close.

    While there were others before Wallace and Darwin that might have recognized there was some changes with descent, that's the trivially easy part to figure out by anyone who breeds plants or animals. Observations in their own right do not make for a hypothesis, and certainly we shouldn't be considered a theory in the scientific sense. To be considered an hypothesis there must be both observations and an explanatory process based on reason and empirical evidence that's consistent with those observations.

    Lamarck provides the first attempt at an explanation for these simple observations--we might call it descent and modification by use and disuse.

    But Wallace and Darwin do the heavy lifting and recognize the important part about descent with modification by natural selection.
    --
    As for why it took so long several things needed to happen first.

    One some recognition and evidence of the incredible spans of time on our planet; this was provided by the budding field of geology. Darwin and Wallace were both familiar with Charles Lyell's works which put the age of the Earth at over 300 million years.
    Both Wallace and Darwin were also familiar with the population studies of Thomas Malthus--while Malthus focused on human population, it wasn't a far leap to apply the exponential growth from his model and reach the conclusion that every species had the reproductive potential for it's population to explode until all resources were consumed--the next question of course if this was the case, what regulates populations--leading to ideas about heritable adaptations, competition with other species and all the rest that we now call reproductive fitness. And of the empirical studies by both Wallace and Darwin of isolated communities where evolution had occurred and similar species could be compared for characteristics that seem best adaptations to their unique environments.

    I have occasionally considered whether religious delayed developing the theory by much. but at best it probably only accounts for a couple decades as scientist such as Darwin were reluctant to publish as he struggled with he own faith and harsh religious based criticism of other scientist of the period. To their credit Wallace's and Darwin's ideas were widely accepted in a single generation by other scientist--(too bad we can't say that for the general populations.)

    --
    Added to answer HBs question. Darwin generally avoided the subject of human evolution. Not sure why but it could have been a combination of his own faltering faith, fear of ridicule, or even more personal the reminder that his daughter (and he) had lost that fight for reproductive fitness when she died of disease.
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  10. #9  
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    Why did it take so long for a 'Darwin' to arrive on the scene?

    There are other strange delays in understanding besides that, for example germ theory and the practical method of preserving foods by heating in a sealed container, was unknown until the 1800's. I can't explain how humanity failed to notice these things for so long.

    I'm sure we could quibble that so-and-so great man before Louis Pasteur quietly researched such-and-such, but my question along with HB3l1's I think is why didn't these now common-sense understandings break earlier.
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  11. #10  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    evolution had been in the air for at least half a century in a fairly modern form - what Darwin and Wallace did was to provide it with a believable mechanism, which made accepting the concept of evolution as a valid one far easier for the self-respecting intellectual of the day
    until then theories of evolution had suffered from teleological implications and a lot of unsupported hand waving, which gave it a feel of being rather too close to pseudo-science
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  12. #11  
    Forum Sophomore Estheria Quintessimo's Avatar
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    Yeah the concept was known already. This can be noted by the fact Darwin used the knowledge of pigeon owners to explore his own thoughts about species changes, by breeding pigeons himself. Pigeon owners were well aware of the bio-mechanics involved but did not realise the significants. Ideas on how it all works can be found going back thousands of years.

    I guess where humans walk,... they have been wondering how it all works.

    Why did it take so long? ... The perfect time, opportunity, strength of will... and luck.

    Remember what happened to Galileo Galilei? I am sure religion was a big hold back. Afterall, for many centuries the ability to read and write (education) was common only for those of wealth. If you have an over all not educated populus, and an elite who first, would have no direct advantage from knowing this and second, no need for it to be known in order to control the masses,... then it is difficult to get your ideas spread.

    For Darwin, the time was right. The world was ever becomming more global, and it was much easier to get radical ideas finally be seen spread all across the globe.
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  13. #12  
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    There were many ideas about evolution before Darwin, read more about Plato and his contribution and ideas about evolution, but the Darwin was the first one to comprehensively research evolution and to provide evidences to support it, now one may wonder why 'Darwin' didn't appear earlier? I would like to quote Richard on this one, he mentioned it in one of his books.

    ''Perhaps minds were cowed by the sheer time it must take or great change to occur, by the mismatch between what we now call geological deep time and the lifespan and comprehension of the person trying to understand it.''

    But it could as well be like you said, overall religious indoctrination that held us back.
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