Why is Charles Darwin important? If you compare scientific study before and after Darwin, you will see how he changed the landscape for everyone, not just intellectuals. Back in the 1830s, scientists believed in the melding of religion and science, which made the idea of evolution or natural selection quite improbable. Instead, it was believed that all species were created as they were seen today, and the idea of evolution was dismissed as foolishness.
Charles Darwin drew upon tentative theories that had been put forth by various scientists, such as the idea that the earth was changing over time and the layers of the earth showed evidence that pieces of the earth were shifting and changing. He added to those theories as he sailed with the survey ship, the HMS Beagle. Many of these theories were supported by his discoveries of layers of fossils showing evidence of pieces of land that were once under sea level, and now were above sea level. Most impressive to Darwin were the Andes Mountains, which he theorized were actually in the process of rising.
The Continuing Controversies Regarding Darwin
While collecting fossils and specimens of plants and animals from Africa, South America and Australia, Darwin found evidence that certain species had indeed evolved to adapt to their changing environments. This shook popular theory and is still controversial in some religious circles today. Many aspects of the famous Charles Darwin theory of natural selection are still disputed today, leading to intensive research and exploration of layers of geology, fossils and comparative studies between species as seen today and fossils believed to be related to these species. Scientists have gone to great lengths to categorize, describe and record traits of species, which are compared to fossils of earlier creatures as links between changing species are theorized.
When Darwin found similar species in contrary environments, especially similar species that lived in Europe and South America, for example, each adapted to their own environmental challenges, this ran contrary to the church's view that God had created each creature exactly as it should be to exist where it lived. Instead, Darwin theorized that characteristics were passed on by the theory of survival of the fittest or natural selection, meaning that unhelpful characteristics would be bred out of a species and favorable characteristics would survive because the animals exhibiting those characteristics would survive.
However, Darwin's work isn't limited to his efforts regarding evolution. Darwin also laid the foundation for much research about genetics as he explored pollination, cross-pollination, mutations of genes and changes related to environmental issues.
When discussing Charles Darwin and his accomplishments, it is important to remember that his achievements are not limited to his work on the theory of evolution by natural selection.