Welcome Atheism > Biographies > Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

(1809 - 1882)

 


Biography of George Charles Darwin:

English naturalist, born in a family of doctors. After he had renounced his studies of medicine, Charles Darwin went to the University of Cambridge to be a Anglican priest. But, in 1831, he started a long journey of five years around world, in South America and in the Pacific Islands, as naturalist on the research ship "Beagle". During this period, he collected an enormous quantity of biological and geological observations. The natural phenomena he noted (distribution of fossils) persuaded him that the only creation cannot explain them and that animal and plant species are not immutable.

Established in London, Charles Darwin published the account of his journey, "Voyage of the Beagle" (1839), and started to exploit the mass of data he brought back from it. In 1843, he settled definitively in Downe, in the still of the London country, to keep on with his research. He took an interest in Malthus and in the practices of selection used by the stockbreeders.

By analogy with the artificial selection, Charles Darwin discovered the mechanism of the natural selection. The individuals of a species who are the best adapted to their environment survive, reproduce; the others disappear. That way, only the variations that are useful for species are transmitted by an individual to its descendants. These new characteristics become thus gradually dominant. Consequently species are not fixed, as it was until then believed in coherence with the Bible. The main point of the Darwinís theory is exposed in "Origins of Species" (1859), in which the general evolution and the principles of selection are described, and in "The Descent of Man" (1871). It is necessary to specify that only the modern genetics, which developed starting from work of Mendel (1822-1884), has validated the theory of Darwin and has explained the transmission modes of the hereditary characters.

Karl Marx (1818-1883) was one of the first philosophers to become aware of the importance of the Darwinís works. According to Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), Charles Darwin inflicted a deep narcissistic wound on man by showing that he is neither a Godís creature, nor the elected species of nature, but only the fruit of a long evolution in the animal kingdom. The theory of evolution destroyed the argument of purpose, of the divine will, according to which the beauty of world and the perfection of the living organisms show proof of the Creatorís existence.

In addition to his theory about evolution and selection, Charles Darwin produced a scientific work of the highest importance. Christian in his youth, Charles Darwin evolved gradually to deism, then towards agnosticism at the end of his life.
Bibliography: Voyage of the Beagle (1839), The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs (1842), A Monograph of the Fossil Pedunculated Cirripeds of Great Britain (1851-1854), On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859), The Descent of Man (1871), The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872), The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants (1875), Insectivorous Plants (1875), Autobiography (written in 1876, published in 1888).

Quotes of Charles Darwin



Welcome atheism     Biographies     Top of the page