The Pillars of Darwinism
This month marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species . The evolutionary theory he presented in that great book rests on two pillars: the idea of descent with modification, and the idea of natural selection. amp#160;
Darwin believed that present-day organisms are descendants of much simpler ancestors: they are the products of unbroken lines of heredity that stretch back to the origin of life. Today, we have a mass of evidence, ranging from studies of ancient fossils to the latest discoveries of molecular biology, that supports this theory.amp#160;
Darwin, however, did not invent the idea of descent with modification. Fifty years earlier, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck had suggested that living things are products of a long historical process of transformation. But the evolutionary mechanisms he proposed, which included the inheritance of characteristics induced by the environment, never found favor.amp#160;
We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.
To continue reading, subscribe now.
Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.
Already have an account or want to create one? Log in