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Important Evolutionists Before Darwin

Important predecessors of Darwin included his own grandfather Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829). Lamarck’s scheme in particular was very influential (not least on Darwin), but he failed to perceive:

  1. the importance of extinction. In his scheme species sometimes became transformed into other species on an (inevitable) ladder of progress, but Lamarck rejected the notion of widespread extinction.

  2. that heritable characteristics are not, typically, acquired during an individual’s organism’s life. The son of a bad-tempered tennis star might possibly inherit a predisposition to bad temper, but would not inherit the expanded racket-forearm a tennis pro develops after years of play.

Strangely, evolutionary ideas were more popular with the lay public than with the scientific establishment. ‘Those who were best informed about biology, and especially about classification and morphology, upheld most strongly...the constancy of species.’Mayr, E, (1964) Introduction to Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: A facsimile of the First Edition (Cambridge, Ma.:Harvard University Press, 1964) ixThe furthest most scientists would go towards evolution was Richard Owen’s view that closely related creatures were different implementations of a single divinely-given archetype. The conventional belief remained that plant and animal species were more or less fixed in the form in which they had been created.

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate and Dr. Michael Robert Negus
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos  (T&T Clark, 1999)

Evolutionary Biology and Theology

Index - God, Humanity and the Cosmos, 1999 T&T Clark

Important Evolutionists Before Darwin

Related Book Topics:

Influences on Darwin
Darwin’s Evolutionary Scheme
Darwin and the Term ‘Evolution’
Darwin’s Challenge to Theological Positions
Some Recent Debates About Evolution
From Darwinism to Neo-Darwinism
Punctuated Equilibrium and Radical Contingency
Self-Organisation and the Development of Complexity
The Rhetoric of Darwinism
Evolution as a Science of the Unrepeatable Past
The Evolution of Hominids
The Neanderthals
The Paradox of the Development of Modern Humans
Religious Responses to the Science of Human Evolution
Humans as Made in the Image of God
The Doctrine of the Fall
The Science of Sociobiology Critiques the Truth-Claims of Religion
Evolution and Theology


Dr. Michael Robert Negus and Dr. Christopher Southgate in God, Humanity and the Cosmos. Published by T&T Clark.

See also:

Charles Darwin
DNA Double-Helix
Purpose and Design
Does God Act?
Where did we Come From?
Books on Biology, Genetics and Theology