The dynamic world of nature
Published in GralsWelt special issue 21/2008
The private scholar
At the end of his great journey on the Beagle (Part 1, "Darwin's Journey to Knowledge") Charles Darwin landed in Falmouth (Cornwall) on October 2nd, 1836.
His life plan of becoming a country pastor had come to an end and he is now devoting himself entirely to nature research.
This second important epoch of his life began quite unspectacularly with the sorting of the finds collected on his trip and the publication of travel reports. The most important work was done in his head, invisible to the rest of the world.
Darwin is making a name for himself in scientific circles. In February 1838 he became secretary of the geological society and got in touch with important personalities.
In January 1839, the private scholar Charles Darwin married his cousin Emma Wedgewood from a rich dynasty of manufacturers. Darwin's own fortune and that of his wife allowed the young couple to buy a country estate in Downe, southeast of London, in 1842, where the young husband could devote himself entirely to his research.
Unfortunately, he gets health problems that force him to interrupt his work and take cures again and again. It is probably the result of an infection (sleeping sickness?) That he caught in South America.
According to some chroniclers, he is also plagued by a serious inner dichotomy: Outwardly the now well-known, respected scholar, in whose unspoken thoughts a heretical idea is growing ever more clearly that arouses the disgust of the Anglican Church and has to stamp him as an outsider.
Darwin's view of evolution
“At the sight of a densely overgrown embankment, covered with flowering plants of all kinds, with singing birds in the bushes, with swarming insects in the air, with crawling worms in the damp ground, to think that all these artificially constructed forms of life are so different among themselves and interdependent in such a complicated way, are brought about by laws which continue to work around us. These laws, taken in the broadest sense, are called: growth and reproduction; Heredity, inherent in reproduction; Variability due to indirect and direct effects of external living conditions and use or disuse; rapid increase to a degree leading to the struggle for existence and, as a consequence, to natural selection, which in turn causes divergence of character and the extinction of less perfect forms. So out of the struggle of nature, out of hunger and death, the solution of the highest problem that we are able to grasp immediately emerges, the creation of ever higher and more perfect animals. It is truly a magnificent view that the Creator has breathed the seeds of all life around us into only a few or only one form, and that as our planet circles around the strict laws of gravity, from such a simple beginning an endless series of ever more beautiful and perfect beings has developed and is still developing. " From "Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin. (3, p. 571).
For several years Darwin devoted himself to an apparently marginal zoological area, on which he published a four-part basic work from 1851 to 1854: a monograph on barnacles (cirripedia), which is still considered the standard work of barnacles research today. The cirripedia are small, fixed, often tiny lower crabs with 800 species, even today still stepchildren of marine biology. Barnacles and barnacles are one of them.
In his monograph on a strangely boring subject, Darwin, with persistent diligence and astonishing powers of observation, demonstrated in-depth knowledge of details and created a basic work that is still respected today. He shows the professional world that he is no longer an amateur, but a diligent researcher with a profound knowledge of zoology.
After all, this work contributed to the fact that on November 30, 1853 he was awarded a royal medal by the Royal Society for the most important scientific work of the year. Darwin is thus recognized as a scientist.
An important result of this hard work on a harmless, highly specialized group of animals was initially unspoken knowledge about the changes in species, which later came in useful for much more difficult tasks. So he discovered a sensation in the inconspicuous animals that not many other than him knew how to appreciate at the time: the males of one species are microscopic and live like parasites in the pockets of the much larger female. An evolutionist transitional form?
The worldview of the churches
The Christian Middle Ages offered a closed, geocentric view of the world in which people felt safe:
The whole world, the cosmos, the universe were created by God, from whose hand everything arose.
The globe rests in the center of the world. Around them the spheres of the seven walking stars (moon, Mercury, Venus, sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn), and finally the celestial bell, from which the Creator observes his work and, if necessary, intervenes in earthly processes: By miracles. In the interior of the earth, or also with the antipodes, the underworld, hell, was to be assumed.
This Bible-conforming picture of the cosmos seemed plausible and was generally accepted. Faith and science are not contradicting each other. Natural philosophy and religion were in agreement. Astrology and astronomy were the same science.
The age of the world could also be calculated from the Bible. The Anglican Church, whom Darwin once wanted to serve as country pastor, believed in a calculation by Archbishop James Ussher (1580-1621) that the beginning of creation on the night of October 23, 4004 BC. Dated.
With the "Copernican turn" came the heliocentric worldview of the modern age. The now moving earth was moved from the center of the world. The firm earthly position was lost. Giordano Bruno's (1548-1600) bold thesis of the infinite cosmos blew the celestial bell and degraded man's home to an insignificant speck of dust in space.
In Darwin's time, astronomers had long known the insane speed at which the earth rushed through space. Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel (1784-1846) provided the first proof of the unimaginable vastness of the universe in 1838 with distance measurements from fixed stars (suns). This modern astronomical view of the world shows a universe of unprecedented spatial size.
Darwin's theory of evolution - supported by many finds from palaeology and geology - now went beyond the time frame. It added an equally inconceivable temporal dimension to the unimaginable spatial dimensions of the universe and took away people's awareness of having been created directly by God.
For a second time in three centuries, most people's comprehension was overwhelmed. The feeling that "common sense" rebelled against the new and found allies in the churches.
How is life developing?
Since returning to England, Darwin has had one big question: How do new species arise?
His collection of material and his notes are getting longer and longer. There is also a “draft on the species question” in his desk. In the event of his sudden death, this sketch is to be published.
For many years Darwin made hardly any announcement about this; because he was well aware of the explosiveness of his thoughts: his wife, many of his friends, the Anglican Church, British society would condemn his “unchristian” ideas.
So he gathers mosaic stone after mosaic stone until a convincing picture emerges that no serious scientist can so easily dismiss.
In addition to his own collection, Darwin has a variety of scientists send samples to Darwin. He speaks to pet breeders, examines pigeons and rabbits to see what can be achieved by crossbreeding. If breeding resulted in such different breeds as the Miniature Spitz and Great Dane over the centuries, what can nature achieve over many millennia?
Darwin proves that plant seeds or spawns of amphibians can survive for weeks or even months in salt water. Ocean currents can carry these germs to uninhabited islands, where they grow and develop in suitable biotopes.
The Origin of Species
In May 1858, Darwin had a surprise. The natural resource collector broadcasts from the distant Moluccas Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) wrote a twenty-page manuscript with the request that Darwin examine it and forward it to a scientific society for publication. *
Darwin is shocked: Wallace describes in a short summary exactly the thoughts that Darwin himself has pursued for decades. But he has repeatedly refrained from publishing it. He wanted to finish a book on the subject in a few years at the earliest. And now?
Fair as Darwin is, he briefly describes his own ideas at a meeting of the Linnean Society, one of the oldest scientific organizations, and reads Wallace's manuscript. These fundamental findings are hardly taken into account and are drowned out in the abundance of conference contributions.
Darwin's selection theory:
If you follow Darwin, then all living beings have developed from the simplest of beginnings to today's diversity. To explain this development in life, simple assumptions that everyone can understand are sufficient:
· The individuals of a population are never exactly the same, there are always (minor) differences, the variations.
· Every living being produces more offspring than can find their place in its natural environment. A large proportion therefore cannot reach reproductive age.
· The best adapted, ie the “most suitable” individuals have the greatest chances of passing on their hereditary traits to offspring. Natural selection ensures that, above all, the life forms that are best adapted to their habitat reproduce, while those that are less suitable are eliminated. This is the much-quoted, not very happily translated “survival of the fittest” as “survival of the fittest”.
These amazingly simple assumptions brought about a fundamental change in the thinking of biologists in the 19th century. The new knowledge influenced world views and politics far beyond that, and even did not leave religions untouched. The success of Darwinism is due not least to the fact that it was another important step in the natural sciences to shake off paternalism from the churches.
Darwin is under pressure. He urgently needs to organize his extensive notes and bring out his epoch-making ideas in book form. In November 1859 the basic work finally appeared:
"About the origin of species through natural selection" (On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection). The first edition of 1250 copies is out of print immediately. Around 400 more editions in 29 languages followed by Darwin's death. Wallace has freely admitted that he would not have been able to produce such extensive, in-depth work himself.
Darwin does not yet dare to go into the descent of humans directly, but only suggests in one sentence that humans also belong to those living beings that have developed in the course of a long natural history.
He also wants to smooth the waves to be expected and says:
“I see no reason why the views expressed in this book (Origins of Species) should go against anyone's religious sentiments. It should be reassuring (since it shows how temporary such impressions are) to remember that the greatest discovery that man has ever made, namely the law of attraction or gravitation, was also attacked by LEIBNITZ because it was the undermine natural religion and deny that which is revealed. A famous writer and clergyman wrote to me that he had gradually come to see that it is just as sublime a conception of the deity to believe that it created only a few primordial types capable of self-development in other and necessary forms than that of them again and again had needed new acts of creation to fill in the gaps that had arisen through the operation of their own laws' " From "Origin of Species" (3, p. 561).
But the fuse is glowing, discussions will soon begin about the new scientific theory, which Darwin largely refrains from.
The next chapter of this Darwin series is dedicated to the sometimes heated disputes between Bible believers and naturalists about the development of living beings and the origin of man.
(1) Clark Ronald W., Charles Darwin, Fischer, Frankfurt, 1985.
(2) Darwin Charles, Die Fahrt der Beagle, marebuch, Hamburg, 2006.
(3) Darwin Charles, Origin of Species, Swiss Beard, Stuttgart, 1867.
(4) Hagl Siegfried, In Search of a New Worldview, publisher of the Grail Message Foundation, Stuttgart, 2002.
(5) Hagl Siegfried, The gap between science and truth, published by the Grail Message Foundation, Stuttgart 1986.
(6) Hagl Siegfried, If it wasn't a miracle, publisher of the Grail Message Foundation, Stuttgart, 2000.
(7) Junker Reinhard, Scherer Siegfried, Evolution, Weyel, Gießen, 1998
(8) Schmitz Siegfried, Hermes Handlexikon Charles Darwin, ECON, Düsseldorf, 1983.
(9) Schmitz Siegfried, Charles Darwin, dtv, Munich, 1982.