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The Evolution Theory








The evolution or development theory declares the universe as it now
exists to be the result of a long series of changes which were so far
related to each other as to form a series of growths analogous to the
evolving of the parts of a growing organism. Herbert Spencer defines
evolution as a progress from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, from
general to special, from the simple to the complex elements of life, and
it is believed that this process can be traced in the formation of
worlds in space, in the multiplication of types and species among
animals and plants, in the origin and changes of languages and
literature and the arts, and also in all the changes of human
institutions and society. Asserting the general fact of progress in
nature, the evolution theory shows that the method of this progress has
been (1) by the multiplication of organs and functions; (2) according to
a defined unity of plan, although with (3) intervention of transitional
forms, and (4) with modifications dependent upon surrounding conditions.
Ancient writers occasionally seemed to have a glimmering knowledge of
the fact of progress in nature, but as a theory evolution belongs to
the enlightenment of the nineteenth century. Leibnitz, in the latter
part of the seventeenth century first uttered the opinion that the earth
was once in a fluid condition and Kant about the middle of the
eighteenth century, definitely propounded the nebular hypothesis, which
was enlarged as a theory by the Herschels. The first writer to suggest
the transmutation of species among animals was Buffon, about 1750, and
other writers followed out the idea. The eccentric Lord Monboddo was the
first to suggest the possible descent of man from the ape, about 1774.
In 1813 Dr. W. C. Wells first proposed to apply the principle of natural
selection to the natural history of man, and in 1822 Professor Herbert
first asserted the probable transmutation of species of plants. In 1844
a book appeared called Vestiges of Creation, which, though evidently
not written by a scientific student, yet attracted great attention by
its bold and ingenious theories. The authorship of this book was never
revealed until after the death of Robert Chambers, a few years since, it
became known that this publisher, whom no one would ever have suspected
of holding such heterodox theories, had actually written it. But the two
great apostles of the evolution theory were Charles Darwin and Herbert
Spencer. The latter began his great work, the First Principles of
Philosophy, showing the application of evolution in the facts of life,
in 1852. In 1859 appeared Darwin's Origin of Species. The hypothesis
of the latter was that different species originated in spontaneous
variation, and the survival of the fittest through natural selection and
the struggle for existence. This theory was further elaborated and
applied by Spencer, Darwin, Huxley, and other writers in Europe and
America, and though to-day by no means all the ideas upheld by these
early advocates of the theory are still accepted, evolution as a
principle is now acknowledged by nearly all scientists. It is taken to
be an established fact in nature, a valid induction from man's knowledge
of natural order.





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