A Book Startles the World
The book: The Origin of Species. “Next to the Bible,” said anthropologist Ashley Montagu, “no work has been quite as influential.”
The author: Charles Darwin, who at the time was called by some “the most dangerous man in England.”
The subject: The theory of evolution. Words and phrases such as “natural selection,” “survival of the fittest,” and “evolution” are now well established. But has the theory affected more than your language?
WITH its release in 1859, The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin, ignited a furious debate in scientific and religious circles.* The debate spilled over into economic and social spheres and even continues today, some 136 years later.
In A Story Outline of Evolution, C. W. Grimes wrote regarding Darwin’s Origin of Species: “No other book ever printed has aroused so much controversy among thinking people. No other subject within living memory has so challenged traditional beliefs, revolutionized the world of Nature, and moulded, congealed, and crystallized human thought as has that of Evolution.”
True, Darwin did not originate the theory of evolution; the concept can be traced back to ancient Greece. There were also several 18th-century forerunners of Darwin who paved the way for wide acceptance of The Origin of Species.
It was Darwin’s book, however, that became the basis of modern evolutionary thought. It startled, indeed shocked, the world, for his evolution theory sparked more than a revolution in biology. It struck like a storm at the very foundations of society—religion, science, politics, economics, social life, history, and view of the future.
How has the theory affected the world for more than a century now? How has it affected your life? Just what is its legacy? The following articles will examine these questions.
The complete title of Darwin’s book is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.