Darwin is so often thought of as the sponsor of ‘the Theory of Evolution’ that it is salutary to recall the full title of The Origin. It is The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; and to this is added a sub-title, which has since acquired a sinister ring: or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Darwin’s claim to originality does not lie in his having been the first to entertain the possibility of the evolution, as opposed to the special creation, of species. ‘The general hypothesis of the derivation of all present species from a small number, or perhaps a single pair, of original ancestors was propounded by the President of the Berlin Academy of Sciences, Maupertuis, in 1745 and 1751, and by the principal editor of the Encyclopédie, Diderot, in 1749 and 1754.’13 Nor was Darwin the first to introduce into a biological context the ideas of natural selection and of a struggle for existence. These can be found in Lucretius in the first century b.c., although he combines them with a notion of natural kinds detached from that of special creation — or indeed any creation by any genuinely personal agency. Lucretius describes how in the infancy of the earth it ‘put forth herbage and trees first, and in the next place created the generations of mortal creatures, arising in many kinds.…
KeywordsNatural Selection Natural Kind Original Ancestor Geometrical Ratio Special Creation
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