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The Controversy About Evolution

Updated on June 17, 2012

When in 1859, Charles Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, he fundamentally changed the way in which biologists understand the natural world. As well as explaining how all species of living things came into being and making sense of the fossil record, his ideas have provided a theoretical foundation for all the life sciences. Why then, more than 150 years later, is evolution still controversial?

HMS Beagle
HMS Beagle
Charles Darwin actual cabin in the HMS Beagle
Charles Darwin actual cabin in the HMS Beagle
British Scholar Thomas Albert Malthus
British Scholar Thomas Albert Malthus

At the time of Darwin's life changing five-year journey to the coast of South America onboard HMS Beagle, the idea of evolution had already been posited. However, an enthusiastic observer and collector, and a keen student of both Geology and Biology, Darwin pieced together a wealth of information on his travels that fresh impetus for evolution by suggesting a mechanism that drove it. It was the writings of British scholar Thomas Robert Malthus on the subject of human population growth and the "struggle for existence" that prompted Darwin to suggest that a process of "natural selection" led to the evolution of new species.


At the heart of the theory of Evolution is the idea that there is a certain level of genetic variation between generations within a species, and that some variations will be positively affect the individual's ability to survive and reproduce. As a result, the number of individuals having this variation will tend to increase at the expense of those that do not. Overtime, this leads to the development of a new species. Scientists are still investigating the details of the process of evolution, but the scientific community is virtually unanimous in agreeing that this indeed the way in which life on this planet has come to be the way it is. However, there are several aspects of this argument that various groups have been unwilling to accept over the decades.

Charles Darwin himself perceived that his means humans are simply a form of animal and came into existence in just the same way as other animals by evolving according to natural laws. He expanded upon these ideas in The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex in which he suggested we evolved from ancestos we share wit the apes. Many find this uncomfortable ,a thought that strikes against a sense of being special; but for many of those who believe we were created in the image of God,it is quite unacceptable.

"To use the Bible to support an irrational and an archaic concept of static and undeveloping creation, is not only to misunderstand the meaning of the Book of G


For Christians who maintain that the Bible contains the literal truth, there are other problems. The book of Genesis says that Earth and the Heavens, and all other things within them, were created in six days and some "Creationists" insist that this should be taken literally ,a view that is clearly opposed to evolution.

The processes of evolution are generally extremely slow, and the theory requires that life must have existed on Earth for hundreds of millions of years. Geological studies and the fossil record bear this out, but there are those who, basing their reasoning on the genealogies found in the Bible, calim that Earth cannot be more than 10,000 years old.

These views ,based on a literal reading of the Bible, are clearly not scientific , but they don't claim to be .There is a school of thought, however, that asserts that some aspects of the universe - including the complexity and diversity of life- can only be explained by invoking "intelligent design". To support their case, and justify their demands that Creationism be taught in schools, proponents put forward evidence that they claim is scientific ,a claim that the scientific community utterly rejects.

Evolution remains controversial for various religious groups that insist upon a literal interpretations of certain divine creation stories. Many are also unwilling to accept that, rather than being the pinnacle of created order, humankind is merely the temporary outcome of undirected process.

Creation of Light by Gustave Dore
Creation of Light by Gustave Dore


  • Charles Darwin not only demonstrated that evolution had taken place but also put forward a theory of how this occured
  • Creationist who maintain that the Bible gives a literal account of how life on Earth came into existence can only do by ignoring the wealth of geological, paleontological and biological evidence to the contrary.
  • Science and Religion are not always opposed on the issue of evolution.There are plenty of scientists with strong religious beliefs,and on the flipside of the coin there are those religious people who view creation stories as allegories and myths,and are able to accept the body of evidence that life on this planet has evolved.


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