November 29, 2005
The Evolution of Charles Darwin
"A creationist when he visited the Galápagos Islands, the great naturalist grasped the full significance of the unique wildlife he found there only well after he had returned to London."
Frank J. Sulloway in Smithsonian Magazine:
Charles Darwin stepped into a treacherous world of sun-baked lava, spiny cactus and tangled brushwood in September 1835, when he reached the Galápagos Islands with fellow crew members of the HMS Beagle. The Beagle's captain, Robert FitzRoy, described the barren volcanic landscape as "a shore fit for Pandemonium." Darwin's five-week visit to these remarkable islands, when he was 26 years old, catalyzed the scientific revolution that now bears his name.
According to the well-established creationist theory of Darwin's day, the exquisite adaptations of many species—such as the hinges of the bivalve shell and the wings and plumes on seeds dispersed by air—were compelling evidence that a "designer" had created each species for its intended place in the economy of nature. Darwin had wholeheartedly accepted this theory, which was bolstered by the biblical account in Genesis, until his experiences in the Galápagos Islands began to undermine this way of thinking about the biological world.
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