Charles Darwin Didn’t Invent The Idea Of Evolution

“Darwinian man though well behaved, at best is only a monkey shaved!” —Arthur Sullivan

In A Nutshell

The popular view of Charles Darwin is as the guy who “invented” evolution. But while it’s true that his Origin of Species introduced the world to natural selection, the concept of evolution and evolutionary theories had been around for hundreds of years before he was born.

The Whole Bushel

Charles Darwin may well be the most controversial scientist who ever lived: His famous work on evolution, On the Origin of Species, sent Victorian Britain into a frenzy, and the fuss still hasn’t completely died down. But to claim that Darwin discovered evolution is like saying Einstein discovered physics: As a concept, evolution had already been around for centuries.

As far back as Ancient Greece, people were looking to throw out the idea that man had always existed. Nearly 500 years before the birth of Jesus, the philosopher Anaximander proposed that man had “evolved” from an earlier creature—possibly a fish—which had in turn “evolved” from the natural elements. Aristotle later crapped all over this absurd idea, but it never vanished completely. Fast-forward to the Islamic Golden Age and we find ninth-century scholar al-Jahiz writing these words:

“Animals engage in a struggle for existence, and for resources, to avoid being eaten, and to breed . . . Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming them into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to their offspring.”

From a modern perspective, that’s about as close to describing evolution as you can get. A century later, Muhammad al-Nakhshabi would develop these ideas by claiming man “has sprung from sentient creatures.” But it wasn’t just the ancients who were working on evolution. Darwin’s own grandfather, Erasmus, once asked:

“Would it be too bold to imagine, that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament . . . possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down those improvements by generation to its posterity.”

By the time Charles finally discovered the hidden mechanisms of evolution, people as diverse as Immanuel Kant and Lamarck (whose flawed theory has since been proved true in the case of roundworms) had all taken shots at making evolution scientifically acceptable—a far cry from the wasteland of Creationist belief we commonly imagine Darwin working in. Darwin’s genius was to build on all these disparate ideas and turn them into a brilliant, valid theory—not to completely develop the concept of evolution from scratch.

Show Me The Proof

The Guardian: Islam’s evolutionary legacy
Encyclopedia Britannica: Anaximander
Encyclopedia Britannica: Erasmus Darwin
io9: Lamarck’s bizarre theory of evolution may turn out to be right after all

  • IceBreaker

    Pretty much common knowledge, I am afraid.

    • Ray

      Than read another article.

      • inconspicuous detective

        do you go around defending all articles and lists from criticism? shut your damn trap dude. we can read and complain about anything we damn well please. go bitch on some other article (the one nobody is going to read that you wrote). and please, don’t speak again. it’s embarrassing.

        • Ray

          Did your mommy drop you on your head when you were born? I haven’t written any articles. You can whine like a little bitch anytime you want. As long as you know that you’re a little bitch.

          • inconspicuous detective

            wow. true to form you continue to embarrass yourself. and ho hum, you’re the one whining about those reading articles who don’t like them. wake up, idiot, and shut up.

          • Ray

            Does the baby need it’s diaper changed? Grow some balls so I can tell you apart from a girl and then reply.

          • inconspicuous detective

            i don’t know why i even bother. it’s like listverse became a hotbed of 15 – 17 year olds with know it all attitudes recently. don’t you have school to be in or something? i’m done talking to you kid.

          • Ray

            Aren’t you in high school little girl?

    • Ray

      Than read another article.

    • edzyl blane

      Yeah, Although this will stitch the common misconception that Darwin invented theory of Evolution.

  • inconspicuous detective

    what people tend to kinda forget about this time was that science itself was being taken seriously and people were very interested in what it had to offer. there wasn’t a creationist wasteland out there — in fact plenty of people believed that the more we knew about everything the closer they’d be to god, and so on. i’m not saying there was harmony or that a majority of people were comfortable with their worldview being skewered, but it was hardly the disparity between the sides that people think of it as today.

    • Logan Rieck

      Actually the ancient Greeks were still very superstitious and the fact that one or a few postulated it doesn’t mean it was accepted as fact for them, merely that they had noticed the natural phenomena which is wonderful.

      • inconspicuous detective

        you’re still speaking from a standpoint of “religion was big, science was not”. i’m not saying that there was no issue or that religion was less influential or accepted, but that the (making up statistics to demonstrate the point) 90% religious 10% science division of the world’s perspective is wrong. it was alot closer than that even if it wasn’t majority rational. keep in mind i’m referring to darwinian times not ancient greek history.

    • Hellsgift2u

      You forget of the ways of human emotions, war is buried deep in all nations soil. Do you think society will last and “evolve” past the human nature of violence? If so then you might want to study the “laws” of evolution, because they have no firm threoy as to why there is Hate and disintes for unnatural murder. We know of weapons of mass destruction already, and how one nation can start world wars.(fact)

      • inconspicuous detective

        what? sorry mate i’ve lost what you’re replying to…

        • Hellsgift2u

          Human ways lead to destruction….. Not saying bible thumpers aren’t doing the same.

  • Exiled Phoenix

    Religion binds the human species to live under the chains of its dogma. Scientific understanding breaks these chains so our species may advance.

    • Ray

      Stupid children like you are not an advancement.

      • Exiled Phoenix

        Ray, blind followers like you are always part of the problem. Solutions are for those that seek truth. Go back to keeping your head down in a book written by people…. like so many before and since.

        • Ray

          That comment is stupid on so many levels, lol. Every book is written by people you idiot. Do you read books written by monkeys? Don’t get their feces on your hands. At least you have the same intelligence level as a monkey.

          • Exiled Phoenix

            The Hominidae: known as great apes form a taxonomic family of primates, including four extant genera:

            chimpanzees (Pan) – 2 species
            gorillas (Gorilla) – 2 species
            humans (Homo) – 1 species
            orangutans (Pongo) – 2 species.

            So while all books are written by people, it isn’t a big deal.
            They were all written without a god.

          • Logan Rieck

            To be fair, you were the first to insult religion as a whole then Ray retorted back rather inappropriately.

          • Exiled Phoenix

            Of course I view religious zealots as an affront to the human species advancing.
            As for Ray, nothing but a bible thumping hopeful of god existing drone. Those people would have nothing left if their god is false like those that came before it.

          • Logan Rieck

            Christians are hypocrites, the lot of us, the Bible even condemns the man who says he hasn’t sinned as ignorant. How does God validate our disdain, the Bible teaches clearly that we must love each other and judge not, as you had pointed out, and these are the words of God Incarnate.

            I understand your resentment but even if someone insults you back for your insults you must need to try and not continue in insults, it is very unreasonable and illogical. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” as the Bible says.

          • Exiled Phoenix

            You seem to keep referencing your bible while asking me to see your point.
            You forget, I do not play by the rules of a book I used to use in college to roll a joint when I ran out of papers. Your books opinions mean nothing to me.

            When someone is nice and respectful to me, I show them the same courtesy because I choose to.
            When someone is rude, I can show the same disrespect without a care.

            People do not require a book to tell them to be kind. They just need to understand to shlw others the respect they are shown.

          • Ray

            Congratulations! You know the differences in the species you like to have sex with. The second half of your comment really shows how dumb you are.

          • Exiled Phoenix

            Oh I know them because I like to have sex with them? You really are nothing more than some simple bible thumper. See you in a crisis hugging your gun and family praying while the rest of us are gathering munitions to blow you out of your bunker. You people will make the best targets in a cataclysm.

          • Ray

            I just view YOU as a useless piece of shit. It doesn’t have anything to do with religion.

          • Exiled Phoenix

            lol, that amuses me.

          • Ray

            Good dumbass

          • Exiled Phoenix

            I like having you as a bitch following my posts…. then again people like you will never amount to anything more!

          • Ray

            A piece of shit like you will only end up amounting to the a fast food employee. I’ll help you with that, “Would you like fries with that?” Now repeat it and try to memorize it.

          • Exiled Phoenix

            Lol, you really are fun to toy with. People like me though… We don’t need to put people earning an honest living down like you.
            I bet it makes you feel good to put them down to make yourself feel better.
            When I place my order at a fast food joint, I at least have the courtesy of saying thank you.

            Your colors as a bigot are showing, lmfao, I knew you wouldn’t be anything more.

          • Ray

            Some people work at mcdonalds because they can’t find another job. You work at mcdonalds because you’re too stupid to do anything else. Lol, you’re more of a bigot than me.

          • Exiled Phoenix

            I happen to work as an attorney. But I worked at wendy’s during highschool to earn money for a car and save for college.
            Unlike you, there are those of us that don’t act like entitled little pricks.

          • Ray

            What did I claim to be entitled to? Do you just like to add key words to your stupid comments or do you have a point? If you’re really an attorney, you must be a poor one.

          • Hellsgift2u

            2 Timothy 2:23-24

            Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,

    • Hellsgift2u

      What chains have they broken? Haft answers only leave more questions. Questions for which they will search the stars for countless generations looking up in awe and amazement. Compare what you know vs what is not. Thats the only fairly tale there is, what you consider knowledge. For you no not where you came, or were you go.

      • Exiled Phoenix

        The lack of knowledge is not evidence of the existence for a god. It is evidence for a lack of knowledge.

        The shackles of religion want to bind humanity to believe in a god, to see this as an ever present thought.
        Much like the gods of the Egyptians, Greeks, Maya, Chinese. There is no difference other than the change of times. Religion is based on myth, and should be put into mythology.

        • Hellsgift2u

          I follow no religion. I force no ones hand apon the bible. As for the others, yes. But what I am saying is there are to many things we can never know. Why settle on a simple no? For you see everything around you is a miracle. If not? Then why stare into the stars and throw theory’s as facts. Our god spoke of these people thousands of years ago. You already know it started with energy, but there cannot be logic without understanding. So we know nothing but what is taugh and seen.

          • Blue

            What do you think we can never know? I ask this as a physicist and I will be happy to guide you to knowledge acquistion if you require actual education on these things you think we cannot ever know.

            Science is about observation and testing those observations, it is not about looking for any purpose as there clearly is not purpose, there is nothing setting a path only physical properties.

            Happy to help you here.

          • Hellsgift2u

            I got 3
            1. Knowledge itself is based on the laws we are bound by. How can a answer be giving if the laws must break to fit in theory?

          • Blue

            I am not sure I understand your point here. Laws do not change they are universal, no theory discounts any physical laws or break because of a theory.

            In fact the starting point of any theory is a physical law or proven fact of our universe. So for example the theory of relativity starts off from several laws such as the speed of light in a vacuum, the laws of thermodynamics, mass and energy laws etc.

            Basically laws can be refined by further scales of measurements, that is more precise measurements, but no theory breaks anything outside of those laws.

            Physical laws are distinguished from scientific theories by their simplicity.

            Scientific theories are generally more complex than laws; they have many component parts, and are more likely to be changed as the body of available experimental data and analysis develops. NOTE this part right here, they change, that does not mean they are discarded that means they are added too as more data is brought forth.

            This is because a physical law is a summary observation of strictly empirical matters, whereas a theory is a model that accounts for the observation, explains it, relates it to other observations, and makes testable predictions based upon it.

            Simply stated, while a law notes that something happens, a theory explains why and how something happens.

          • Hellsgift2u

            The physical laws are not the problem, it is when the laws of science break down when approach the creation of the universe theory, thank you for your corrections. And secondly. I’m not against the physical laws, I believe we are just bound in exile.

          • Blue

            The laws do not break down when you approach what you term creation. My guess is you are discussing cosmonogy here (look that word up). Basically you are making a connection of purpose where none exists to breach a gap between a creator and an uncaused cause.

            If I try to put this simply for you, there is no real problem here just a gap in our knowledge due to being able to observe something (in this case the Big Bang – more accurately the expansion of the universe from a singularity).

            This is where we currently have a gap in our knowledge, however it will eventually be filled as more observations and understanding is achieved. We already have a lot of competing hypotheses regarding the uncaused cause and again you have many physical laws supporting these hypotheses which as yet have not been confirmed (and may not for quite a while as the devices for measuring and experimenting are still some years away – although in development).

            Currently the limit of our observations leads us directly to the Planck time just a few milliseconds after the birth of our universe and it would be worth you going to look this up.

            The following are the current physics hypothesis and may be a little too deep, if required I will drill down a little deeper if need be on the uncaused cause for the inflation of the universe, each of these entails untested hypotheses as yet but most have a huge amount of background mathematics which fit their theoretical structures:

            1. Models including the Hartle–Hawking no-boundary condition in which the whole of space-time is finite; the Big Bang does represent the limit of time, but without the need for a singularity.

            2. Big Bang lattice model states that the Universe at the moment of the Big Bang consists of an infinite lattice of fermions which is smeared over the fundamental domain so it has both rotational, translational, and gauge symmetry. The symmetry is the largest symmetry possible and hence the lowest entropy of any state.

            3. Brane cosmology models in which inflation is due to the movement of branes in string theory; the pre-Big Bang model; the ekpyrotic model, in which the Big Bang is the result of a collision between branes; and the cyclic model, a variant of the ekpyrotic model in which collisions occur periodically In the latter model the Big Bang was preceded by a Big Crunch and the Universe endlessly cycles from one process to the other.

            4. Eternal inflation, in which universal inflation ends locally here and there in a random fashion, each end-point leading to a bubble universe expanding from its own big bang.

            Proposals in the last two categories see the Big Bang as an event in either a much larger and older Universe, or in a multiverse, which is where String Theory (or the branches brought together under M Theory) sits.

            You need to understand the current state of our understanding before discussing this with a physicist, I suggest you start at the physical laws of our universe and the cosmological principle and understand how that principle is defined as homogeneous and isotropic to get a grasp on our understanding and observations thus far.

            Then you need to understand stellar evolution to get a basic grasp of how we ended up here. That is how the first stars formed and produced the necessary heavier elements over subsequent stellar generations needed for our development and to produce the necessary structures to support and generate life.

            This then brings up a further question for all religions with an omnipotent God/creator who created the creator, you cant have it both ways. This is the fundamental logic problem with a deity based system, there has to be a creator for each creator, theoretical physics is trying to answer this very question using the various hypotheses above and others to basically show that there is no need for a creator as physics can and will answer these questions.

            This is really what you are discussing in general terms as we can observe very close to the Planck Time itself but just after and before is the area of theoretical physics at this time and which hypothesis best fits into what we can observe and can test empirically using our theories as I stated to you in previous replies.

            What I will say is that all of the models currently postulated show via their mathematical models that the four fundamental forces (strong, elctro-magnetic, weak, gravity) are presumed to have been unified into one force before the expansion phase. All matter, energy, space and time are presumed to have exploded outward from the original singularity (of course this is backed up by observing the inflation of the universe and reversing it to the singularity “Planck Time” or as close as we can get right now with our theories and observations).

            Nothing is known of this time period via observation as it is shrouded in the Microwave Background Radiation (MBR) and may never actually be observed so at this point in our quest for knowledge we use theoretical models and “play” with them until we can reach some sort of consensus backed up with the most likely model and maths supporting that model (note the word maths here as really this is the key at this stage until we develop experimentation that can let us observe these structures). I do believe over time we may break this quandary but we are far from that point at the moment although experimentation theoretical and physical will continue.

            If you want to know what I think is possible then I like the Ekpyrotic universe hypothesis for a collision of branes (look up membranes as it relates to cosmonogy) as this provides the necessary energy requirements for our universes structure and it also relies on the quantum states of matter which are a fundamental and intrinsic part of the observations we currently have and the theories surrounding them.

            Happy to help guide you if you have a thirst for understanding these deep concepts.

          • Hellsgift2u

            I agree, that we probably will never know. Which now brings up how this conversation got started. We have different views. But both are fighting for the glory of THE answer. But the mysteries to me is my answers are threw faith alone, your answers cannot be answered with this short time living. So in reality both answers cannot be known on earth. You are very knowledgable, I will give you that. Thanks for the info. O and there is something above the father, the holy sprit… So you might be on to something, something I KNOW we cannot comprehend. Hense the complexity of the vast nothingness that is without all but 2 purposes. Our differnces are only temporary, till death comes, which in itself is the only undisputed fact that cannot be challenged.

          • Hellsgift2u

            What is The smallest elementary particle? Beyond quarks and leptons till its one single particle.3. We cannot create life from nothing, but the answer excepted for life is from nothing? Jesus said any other answer besides his, was confussion. Many search for an answer to life and find only a “wake” of death while lookin up in amazement. Thanks for your courtesy.

          • Hellsgift2u

            The stars have a purpose, to be complex and ever changing. As stated. But the shocker is that your purpose here outweighs the stars…. Cause? You could/do love another body of life. Parents/kids ext.

    • Hellsgift2u

      Science has two major flaws. No matter how big or how small, in the depths of both are mysteries to the observers whom are held as idols.

      • Exiled Phoenix

        Religion has the flaw of forcing people to believe without evidence. The same of the ancient gods of Egypt, Greece, Mayans, no different, just accepted more during these times of human existence.

    • Logan Rieck

      It wasn’t necessary to bring religion into this at all, it just tends to strife and proclamations such as this would only influence the pettiest of minds.

      • Exiled Phoenix

        Evolution is the premise to discredit religion. It is the perfect place to bring two conflicting theories into contention.

        • Logan Rieck

          Actually, the largest Christian denomination, Catholicism, accepts evolution albeit theistically. I’m not quite sure on Islamic, Jewish, or other Christian denominations view it, though.

          It’s not that great big of a deal.

          • Exiled Phoenix

            In the 1950 encyclical Humani generis, Pope Pius XII confirmed that there is no intrinsic conflict between Christianity and the theory of evolution, provided that Christians believe that the individual soul is a direct creation by God and not the product of purely material forces.
            Evolution gives rise to consciousness, not a god.

          • Logan Rieck

            Souls are more than consciousness, though. It is Catholic understanding that all living animals have a soul but they are mortal compared to Man’s which is immortal.

            http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14153a.htm

            This is partly supported by Solomon’s work of Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verse 21: Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

            While man is given a rational soul it uses it according to its given faculties and isn’t just consciousness (as animals also have consciousness but at a substantially lower level than man) but the spiritual aspect of man given by God. You can’t equate consciousness with the soul in Catholic understanding.

            http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/do-animals-have-souls-like-human-beings

          • Exiled Phoenix

            The evolution of species would not negate evolution of consciousness.
            There remains no justification for a god, yet there is for evolution. One day we will give rise to artificial intelligence because nature gave rise to ours.

            While I support your right to your belief it doesn’t mean people have to stand idly by while your type spew such absent minded belief.

            There is no proof that you can offer for a belief in god other than faith.
            My faith rests in the knowledge the human species will cast this god aside as it has the rest of them that arose before. It is only a matter of time….

        • Bobs Whos Uncle

          Hmmm, this comment and many of your other comments have nothing to do with rational thinking or a scientific method. You present your arguments emotionally and in an insulting manner. I suspect you’re just a troll.
          Keep in mind that there’s many high level scientists that are religious. It may be that even further understanding of scientific principles let’s people realize how little they truly know and understand.

    • Errkism

      Agreed.

    • Novak Djokovic

      It’s so naive to bring these ReligionvsScience arguments every time. People who use their power of reason have a great place in Islam. For example, Al jahiz who discovered the process of natural selection as mentioned in this article, might surely followed a key rule in the Quran which says that “You should travel on earth and observe to see how creation began”. Unfortunately, a lot of the so called “Muslims” nowadays ignored this instruction, and got distracted by wars and the quest for political power as you see in TV.

    • Novak Djokovic

      Scientists have a great place in Islam. Using the power of reason and thinking is one of the main instructions in Quran. For example, in the context of the topic of this webpage, Quran tells us that if we want to know about how creation began, we must travel in the earth and observe.
      I think you heard about the Islamic Golden Age. The various Quranic injunctions and hadith, which place values on education and emphasize the importance of acquiring knowledge, played a vital role in influencing the Muslims of this age in their search for knowledge and the development of the body of science.
      It is during this time when we started using the modern scientific method thanks to Ibn al-Haytham. By the way, there’s a lot of Muslims scientists from this era who talked about evolution, for example I quote Ibn Kaldun in his book Almukaddimah:
      “One should then look at the world of creation. It started out from the minerals and progressed, in an ingenious, gradual manner, to plants and animals. The last stage of minerals is connected with the first stage of plants, such as herbs and seedless plants. The last stage of plants, such as palms and vines, is connected with the first stage of animals, such as snails and shellfish which have only the power of touch. The word “connection” with regard to these created things means that the last stage of each group is fully prepared to become the first stage of the next group.
      The animal world then widens, its species become numerous, and, in a gradual process of creation, it finally leads to man, who is able to think and to reflect. The higher stage of man is reached from the world of the monkeys, in which both sagacity and perception are found, but which has not reached the stage of actual reflection and thinking. At this point we come to the first stage of man after (the world of monkeys). This is as far as our (physical) observation extends.”

  • Ian Moone

    He may not have discovered evolution. But he did make it into a acceptable theory.

  • Blue

    No on “invented” the theory of evolution, it is a natural order that was and is being observed, it has always been there, using the word invented or discovered is vastly wrong terminology.

  • jb

    Theory of evolution has it’s origin in the belief in transmigration of the soul and karmic regeneration or degeneration.