The Big Questions

The controversial nature of Darwin's views were immediately noted upon publication of The Origin. Darwin was aware that his theory of selection would trouble those who believed that all species were created in a single origin. He argued:

"He who believes that each being has been created as we now see it, must occasionally have felt surprise when he has met with an animal having habits and structure not at all in agreement. What can be plainer than that the webbed feet of ducks and geese are formed for swimming? Yet there are upland geese with webbed feet which rarely or never go near the water..." (p. 185 The Origin of Species, 1859)

Some religious figures of the time supported the conservative perspective: the world was very young, all life had been created by a creator in the biblical 7 days, and Humans were unique from other animals. As discovery and collecting took place it became evident to many that there was a greater variety of life than previously understood. Comparative studies and embryology were discovering similarities among all animals including humans.

Many religious figures believed that the fact that God created the world and everything in it was not up for debate, but Darwin's book pushed this discussion out into the churches and parlors of England. Many saw the foundations of Christian faith being questioned inappropriately. As The Origin was perceived as being against divine design, it seemed imperative to show why it must be wrong. These arguments ranged from completely denying evolution based on the strict authority of the written bible to accepting evolution as part of a new understanding of the Creator's greater plan.