The Origin of Species: 156th Anniversary

The Origin of Species: 156 Years of Controversy

The title page of the original 1859 edition of The Origin of Species

The title page of the original 1859 edition

On November 24, 1859, Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species (as it’s commonly known). Its publication marks an important point in the development of the biological sciences.

Despite all the decades of scientific discoveries that have occurred since The Origin of Species was published, Darwin’s work remains controversial. The scientific community and many laypeople accept evolution as a scientific theory, which is basically a collection of facts. Regardless, there are still those who criticize it as “just a theory.” The basis for this is often religious or philosophical.

Creationism, the belief that the universe and life were created by a divine being, is still dominant amongst some communities. What’s challenging about accepting evolution as fact is that it’s difficult (though not impossible) to see. The most astounding results of evolutionary change occurred over great periods—millions, if not billions, of years. It’s not easy for the human mind to register this concept, considering that most of us are limited to less than a hundred years of life.

Great Books Change Individuals and Societies Alike

Charles Darwin, circa 1854, author of The Origin of Species

Charles Darwin, circa 1854

Regardless of whether or not people accept evolution as fact, it’s difficult to deny the impact that Darwin’s Origin of Species had on the world. Controversial in his day, and controversial to this day, the book is responsible for generating many ideas and counterarguments. Darwin based his book on his reflections on what he observed in the natural world. He saw it as a means to share his knowledge with anyone willing to read it.

Even if you haven’t read The Origin of Species, you likely know at least a bit of what’s laid out in the text, if not a bit of what others have revealed about evolution since. The main contemporary controversy is that some think evolutionary theory should not be taught in schools. Others think creationism should be taught alongside it as an alternative theory. On the other hand, most scientific professionals know that evolution is an important aspect of modern biology and are unwilling to give creationism any scientific credence, as it’s basically a metaphysical concept. Despite this divide (or perhaps because of it), the controversies show no sign of settling down anytime soon.

All things considered, The Origin of Species is a prime example of a book whose publication changed the world.

Leave a Reply