Natural Selection, lion eating a birdScience 

Natural selection, how one discovery revolutionized the entire world

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Natural selection, although a fact of life that has been well accepted within modern science and society, was once one of the most divisive topics in the world. After Charles Darwin first theorized the existence of a natural selection, whereby only the strong within different species survive to propagate only the best genes throughout the population, there was an uproar in the scientific and theological communities.

Darwin was the first to pioneer the idea of natural selection based evolution, a theory he developed his journey on the HMS Beagle over 200 years ago. The voyage, which took him around the world discovering its’ widespread diversity and different species, culminated with his stop in the Galapagos Islands off of South America, where the naturalist witnessed what he would later describe as natural selection.

Darwin's finches by Gould
Darwin’s finches by John Gould

Unbeknownst to most of the other crewmen on board the Beagle, the different finches that abounded on the scattered island group reflected evolutionary traits that ensured the survival of each sub-species on the different islands. Each finch had different physical and genetic properties that suggested that the environmental factor of those islands had led them to adapt to those specific conditions.

This led to Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection. He believed that prior to the speciation of those birds, there was one true ancestor that populated the islands, but that over time, they evolved to adapt to those surrounding. This would mean that only the best adapted birds would survive on each island, and that they would then pass on those favourable genes to their offspring, and so on until a complete evolutionary change led each island within the Galapagos to have its’ own species of finch.

Darwin's Tree of Life 1837 First sketch from his notebook
Darwin’s Tree of Life 1837; First sketch from his notebook; author: Charles Darwin

Upon observing and theorizing this, Darwin then created what would be the first ever evolutionary tree. Based off of his travels, he then looked into the ability of plants and animals to disperse across the world, and how different families and species seemingly changed within different environmental factors. Eventually, Darwin was able to draw together a coherent theory for which he could find sufficient evidence that showed that natural selection was indeed present within the natural world, and involved all living creatures within the animal kingdom – including us.

Revolutionary for its’ time, the theory drew a mix of criticism and applause, with scientists divided as to whether or not his observations were indeed correct, as his findings would suggest that we were descended from primates – a point of contention the church was not keen to let go. However as the years went past and further scientific discoveries were made, the theory of evolution became accepted worldwide.

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