Why does life seem more Darwinian today?

Survival of the Fittest - the main theses of the theory of evolution

In the middle of the 19th century, most people believed that God created the earth in 4004 BC, along with all animals and plants. Their beauty, diversity and perfect adaptation to nature were considered evidence of the power of the Creator. Since the birth of our planet, no species has disappeared or been added.

Darwin's theory was a bestseller

Charles Robert Darwin pursued a different idea about the origin of earthly life. In his book with the opulent title "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life" Races in the Struggle for Life ”) he published them on November 24, 1859 for the first time.

The edition of 1250 copies was sold out on the first day. The book and numerous other exhibits are on display in the Natural History Museum in London.

First main thesis

The term "evolution" does not appear in the first edition. Yet that is exactly what lies behind Darwin's first main thesis. It states that nature developed gradually and was not created by God in one fell swoop.

Darwin backed this up with detailed scientific evidence gathered during his voyage on the HMS Beagle and after his return to England.

Other main theses

In his theory of the origin of species, Darwin also claims that all life on earth developed from different archetypes.

In this context, the naturalist puts forward two further main theses: first, species are constantly changing, and second, this change is a result of so-called natural selection, which Darwin calls "struggle for existence".

Development through natural selection

Darwin's idea behind natural selection is simple. All life strives to reproduce, but since there are only limited resources in every living space, not all organisms can do it. To increase the likelihood of survival, each species produces many offspring - more than necessary.

These offspring are all randomly endowed with slightly different traits. As a result, some individuals are better adapted to their environment than others, they survive and can reproduce.

In this way, the advantageous features are automatically implemented. Darwin calls this "Survival of the Fittest". By this he means "the best adapted survives" and not "the strongest".

Adaptation to the environment

The adaptations to the respective living conditions can be different within a species. On the Galapagos Islands, Darwin had observed that individual groups of a species, so-called populations, develop independently of one another if, for example, they live far away from one another.

Certain finch and turtle species, for example, had adapted individually to the conditions on each island and developed characteristic beak and shell shapes.

During such an adaptation process it can happen that the populations of a species diverge so far that they eventually become different species, i.e. can no longer reproduce with one another. Darwin also found examples of this in the Galapagos Islands.

The long way to go to publication

Despite the overwhelming evidence for his theory of evolution that he gathered in the course of his research life, Darwin was long unsure whether he should actually publish his research results.

More than 20 years after his return from the Beagle trip, he finally dared to do it. After reading it, some celebrated Darwin as a revolutionary in science. However, as predicted by Darwin himself, most of them scolded him as a heretic and atheist.

Basis of modern life sciences

Indeed, Darwin was not correct in all of his reasoning. The origin of life on earth, for example, was not clear to him and so the so-called primordial soup did not appear in his theory.

In addition, he did not trace all life on earth back to one origin, but believed that every large group of animals had its own starting point, i.e. that there had been numerous archetypes.

In addition, from today's point of view, his theory of heredity is not tenable. Yet no serious researcher questions the principles of his work. Charles Robert Darwin's theory of the origin of species has long since become the basis of modern life sciences.