History of evolutionism
The history of evolutionism is indeed a long history but one that starts with not only the official theory itself merely, but rather naturalism and the philosophical thinking that even pre-dates that. It can be traced to the deviation of God or some other supernatural force being the sole cause of the creation of the universe.
The Ionian School of Philosophy
It can be seen within this school of philosophy dating from the sixth century B.C. (600 B.C.) that Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes actually began the history of philosophy in Greece. Aristotle takes notice and dubs them "physiologists," that is "students of nature." Their ultimate conclusion or philosophy was that life originated from primitive substance and that all matter formed came from it.
This group of philosophers came later in the fifth century B.C. It includes Heraclitus Empedocles, and Anaxagoras who just like the earlier Ionians were deeply moved by questions of the existence and origin of nature and the universe. They essentially saw a difference between the primitive substance and the matter that was formed from it.
Overall they tend to think and seek explanations of phenomena in terms of matter and physical forces rather than just results from actions of gods.
Before the theory of evolution was fully developed, there were several ideas put forth on the origin of life. The idea of comparative anatomy didn't come about until the late sixteenth century, when all ideas of anatomy came from the Roman physician Galen.
In 1666, a shark was caught off the coast of Livorno, Italy. It was immediately sent to Niels Stenson (aka Nicholaus Steno) for study. He found that the shark teeth looked remarkably similar to what was called "tongue stones," stones that had been around since ancient times. He still didn't know how the teeth became lodged in the rock. He then proposed the theory of superposition which taught that all minerals and stones were once fluid, and then the particles settled out and created horizontal layers, with younger ones forming over older ones.
In the 1700s, a naturalist by the name of Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon proposed that a comet struck the sun and the ensuing debris formed balls of molten rock. The molten rock cooled down into all the planets that we see today. Buffon was one of the first naturalists to accept a non-biblical view of the earth's history. Another fact to further the evolution thought process was that Buffon thought that this process took about 70,000 years, which was more than any naturalist of that day would even think of.
In 1801, the now famous Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed an early version of evolution with many of his own theories. One of those theories was the theory of transmission of acquired characteristics. This theory proposed that if the parent acquired any characteristics, such as playing an instrument, the information would be passed to the offspring. Lamarck was rejected by the naturalists of his day, and died of poverty and of obscurity in 1829.
One of the most important advances to the theory of evolution happened in the early 1800s when geologist Charles Lyell proposed that the canyons and rock formations that we see today eroded over millions of years by uniform processes. This theory is now called uniformitarianism and is still accepted in the geologic community.
In the 1850s, Gregor Mendel conducted many experiments with peas. He took 22 different varieties of peas and interbred the smooth and the wrinkled ones. He found that the next generation was all smooth but if he carried the sequence on, one-fourth of the next generation would be wrinkled. He also discovered two types of alleles, one member of a pair or series of genes that occupy a specific position on a specific chromosome, dominant and recessive.
The next big jump came in 1859 when Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of the Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Darwin, along with Alfred Russel Wallace, developed the theory of natural selection.
Shortly after Darwin published The Origin of Species, Thomas Huxley and Eugene Dubois discussed human origins. The first human fossil was discovered in 1857, and the founder claimed that it came from some recent barbarian. Huxley thought otherwise, and proposed evolution from apes. Wallace discredited the theory and thought that the only way that humans could have been formed was by divine intervention. In the years that followed, human evolution came to be accepted as fact.
1900 to Present
In the 1920s, scientists proposed that mutations only changed a small portion of an organisms genetic information and they developed the theory of population genetics. Population genetics showed that natural selection could produce evolutionary change without the help of imaginary Lamarckian forces.
Ornithologist Ernst Mayr in New Guinea was inspired by Darwin's book and set about discovering new species of birds and mapping out their ranges. He then discovered speciation. If a population of animals is separated by some force for a period of time, the genetics of both groups change and if they are reunited they will not be able to interbreed.
The evolutionary theory has been around for a long time and has undergone many changes, but it tries to undermine the beauty of God's creation through an unstable and truly unscientific means.
- Overview of Darwinism and its History (9.5MB) seminar by Phillip E. Johnson. Summer 2004 at the Northwest Theologic Seminary.
- The History of Evolutionary Thought Understanding Evolution by U.C. Berkeley
- History of Evolutionary Thought by Nearctica