Where is Darwin 200 years later?
The theory of evolution is perceived by many people, particularly but not only in the United States, as a controversial theory not yet fully demonstrated. Yet, that living organisms, including humans, have evolved from ancestors who were very different from them is beyond reasonable doubt, confirmed by at least as much evidence as any other widely accepted scientific theory. I argue that Darwin’s contribution to science goes much beyond the theory of evolution in itself. The theory of natural selection explains the adaptations of organisms, their ‘design’. The ‘Copernican Revolution’ brought the phenomena of the physical universe into the realm of science: explanations by natural causes that can be tested by observation and experiment. However, the scientific revolution that occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries had left the living world out of scientific explanations, because organisms seemingly show that they are ‘designed,’ and thus call for an intentional designer. It was Darwin’s greatest contribution to science, to demonstrate that the adaptations of organisms, their apparent ‘design’, can be explained by natural processes governed by natural laws. At that point, science came into maturity, because all natural phenomena in the universe, living as well as nonliving, could be investigated scientifically, and explained as matter in motion governed by natural laws.
Volume 101, 2022
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