Michael Ruse On Charles Darwin: Evolution Is No Monkey Business

Michael Ruse
Michael Ruse

British biologist Charles Darwin (1809–1882) laid the foundations of the theory of evolution and transformed the way we think about the natural world. Few books have influenced the human thought more than his On the Origin of Species. Published in 1859, it expounded his theory of natural selection, shocking society and revolutionizing science.

A professor at Florida State University, Michael Ruse specializes in the Philosophy of Biology, with the particular attention on Darwin. He is the author of numerous works, including Darwinism and its Discontents (2006), The Evolution-Creation Struggle (2005), and many others.

Q: How did Darwin first come to accept evolution and which kinds of evidence most influenced his views?

A: He accepted evolution about March 1837. Clearly a number of things were important, but the geographical distributions of the organisms he had seen in the Galapagos were very important. Empirical evidence was not the only thing, however. By this time he had become a deist—God works through unbroken law—and he knew about evolution from his grandfather, from Lyell who discussed Lamarck, and from Robert Grant when he was a student at Edinburgh. So it was as much a metaphysical shift as a scientific one.

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