Today is #DarwinDay, which not only celebrates Charles Darwin’s birthday in 1809 of February 12, but also recognizes him for his extraordinary studies of specimens discovered around the globe that led him to formulate his Theory of Evolution, which explained his views on the process of what he called Natural Selection.
As a naturalist, biologist, and geologist, Darwin would come to change the world. Fascinated by the number and variety of fossils around the globe, and of species with their great diversity, he set out on a five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle to sail around around the world and study life in all of its forms.
From his travels, Darwin concluded that species survived through a process called Natural Selection. This became his Theory of Evolution, which teaches us that life has to adapt, or evolve, to meet the changing requirements of natural environment in order to survive, otherwise life that fails to evolve and reproduce, dies off. He also declared that humans are kin to all lifeforms and species that exist on Earth – a statement both aggrandizing and humbling – for, however distant, absolutely everything on this planet is connected.
Through his observations and studies of birds, plants, and fossils, Darwin saw similarities among species globally, with variations based on specific locations, and this led him to believe that the species we know today have gradually evolved from common ancestors. While his theories were originally rejected by the science of his day, it came to be seen as incontrovertible fact as more and more data was collected and more species were discovered. DNA research pushed Darwin’s theories even further, as scientists began to discover connections between species in the very genes that composed them.
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and the process of Natural Selection later became known simply as “Darwinism”, which the science community today uses to help explain that it is impossible not to see that some species originated from other species, and that even mankind itself has a shared ancestor with primates.
To celebrate Darwin Day, study evolution and familiarize yourself with the concept of Natural Selection. It’s an often misunderstood concept, with people mistaking “Survival of the Fittest” for “Survival of the Best”, all the while failing to grasp that “fittest” is for a certain set of circumstances. The heart of the matter is that if a member of a species survives to pass on its genes, then those genes are the ones that survive to shape the new species. Eventually, with enough beneficial mutations, it can go on to become an entirely new species suited for its environment.