Historical Development of the Theory of Evolution

According to the Encyclopedia of Biological Sciences, evolution has been a philosophical speculation since Empedocles (495-435 B.C.) and even before[1]. However, in the absence (at that time) of a reasonable hypothesis of a mechanism for evolution, he had not been able to convince many of his contemporaries.  Since then eight schools of thought have in turn attempted to explain how evolution actually occurred, (though some have run concurrently and some that died have experienced resurrections at later dates) So in an attempt to understand the evidence there is some advantage in looking first at each of these schools of evolutionary thought.




            Hippocrates (c 460 BC – c 470 BC), known as the father of medicine, suggested an explanation called pangenesis.  According to this idea, particles called pangenes, from each part of an organism’s body collect in the eggs or sperm and are then passed to the next generation.  If pangenesis were true, changes that occur in various parts of the body during an organism’s life could be passed on to the next generation.  The Greek philosopher Aristotle rejected this idea as simplistic saying that what is inherited is the potential to produce body features, rather than particles of the features themselves.[2]



Pangenesis proves incorrect on several counts.  The reproductive cells are not composed of particles from somatic (body) cells, and changes in somatic cells do not usually influence eggs and sperm.  This means that if you build a large body by weight lifting, your body does not transmit that information to your reproductive cells.  “This may seem like common sense today; but the pangenesis hypothesis and the idea that traits acquired during an individuals lifetime are passed on to offspring prevailed well into the nineteenth century”[3] 



            The first major effort to deal with the origin of species on an evolutionary basis was that of Lamarck (1744-1829). He proposed the gradual development of species from similar predecessors on the basis of four principles: That all organisms tend to increase in size; that new organs arise because of new needs, and because of the activities resulting from such needs; That use of an organ results in its further development, while disuse results in its degeneration; and finally; that changes produced by the action of these principles during the lifetime of an individual are inherited by its progeny (inheritance of aquired characters), so that the results are cummulative over long periods of time, thus resulting in the origin of species.[4]


Many High school & University texts use his example of a giraffe to illustrate his beliefs.  He said if a giraffe stretched its neck for leaves, a “nervous fluid” would flow into its neck and make it longer.  Its offspring would inherit the longer neck.  He also believed that organs which organisms ceased using, would shrink or atrophy.


Lamarck was unsuccessful, in gaining wide aceptance, partly because of the opposition of Cuvier, the most influential zoologist of the time, but more because attempts to verify his basic theses, especially the inheritance of acquired characters, gave discordant or equivocal results. 









       Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia says:

             “orthogenesis is a theory of organic evolution which assumes the occurrence of progressive change in

            living things along definite lines of development.


            In Fossil series it is always possible to see orderly progression or retrogression from form to form.              According to some evolutionists this type of evolution has taken place under the impulse of unknown

            controlling factors as a directive tendency.  Others point out that one result of evolution is certain to be

            an ancestral series which, if isolated, appears to be orthogenetic.


            Since every heritage must have certain potentialities, the evolution of any group must proceed along the

            lines made possible by these potentialities.  To this extent orthogenesis is an established principle.  No

            comprehensive theory of evolution, however, fails to admit the existence of other factors, at least in a

            directive capacity, and so orthogenesis is not to be regarded as an explanation of organic evolution.”


Creative Evolution

      Wikipedia explains:[5]

            Creative Evolution (French: L’Évolution créatrice) is a 1907 book by French philosopher Henri Bergson.  Its English translation appeared in 1911.  The book provides an alternative explanation for Darwin’s mechanism of evolution, suggesting that evolution is motivated by an élan vital, a “vital impetus” that can also be understood as humanity’s natural creative impulse.  The book was very popular in the early decades of the twentieth century, before the neo-Darwinian synthesis was developed.


Bergson also concluded that Darwinism had failed to explain why life:

            “Evolved in the direction of greater and greater complexity.  The earliest living things were simple in

            character and well adapted to their environments.  Why did the evolutionary process not stop at this

            stage?  Why did life continue to complicate itself “more and more dangerously”[6]


A major problem that Bergson unsuccessfully tried to deal with was explaining the origin of this vital force and demonstrating exactly how it functions to produce new life forms. Among the many other problems with the theory was the fact that it did not explain well why evolution took the route that it did instead of a chaotic path.[7]

Bergson’s theory was honoured with a Nobel prize because it appeared to a large number of scholars to be a plausible explanation for the source of genetic variety which natural selection could fine tune.  When it was discarded, those who put their faith in Bergson’s theory were forced to postulate another mechanism.[8]


Hopeful Monsters

      The hopeful monsters hypothesis is a biological theory which suggests that major evolutionary transformations have occurred in large leaps between species due to macromutations.[9]  Wikipedia continues:

            The German geneticist Richard Goldschmidt (1878-1958) was the first scientist to use the term “hopeful

            monster”.  Goldschmidt thought that small gradual changes could not bridge the hypothetical divide

            between microevolution and macroevolution.  In his book The Material Basis of Evolution (1940) he

            wrote “the change from species to species is not a change involving more and more additional atomistic

            changes, but a complete change of the primary pattern or reaction system into a new one, which

            afterwards may again produce intraspecific variation by microevolution. Goldschmidt believed the large

            changes in evolution were caused by macromutations (large mutations).  His ideas about

            macromutations became known as the hopeful monster hypothesis.


            According to Goldschmidt “biologists seem inclined to think that because they have not themselves

            seen a ‘large’ mutation, such a thing cannot be possible.  But such a mutation need only be an event of

            the most extraordinary rarity to provide the world with the important material for evolution”.


            Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) had attempted to update the ideas of Goldschmidt by redefining the

            concept of “hopeful monster” in a way that can be kept in the neo-Darwinian framework via an

            extension.  In an article titled The Return of Hopeful Monsters (1977) Gould argued that the recent

            discovery of regulatory genes offered new evidence which supported some of Goldschidt’s postulates

            and that small changes in the embryological “constraint systems” can produce large morphological

            transformation in the adult, and possibly macro-evolutionary pathways.


Many scientists rejected the hopeful monster hypothesis as genetics research seemed to show that large

            mutations would be lethal.[10]



       A very attractive webpage gives the following introduction to Panspermia.[11]

            Panspermia is a greek word that translates literally as “seeds everywhere”.  The panspermia hypothesis

            states that the “seeds” of life exist all over the Universe and can be propagated through space from one

            location to another.  Some believe that life on Earth may have originated through these “seeds”.


            Mechanisms for panspermia include the deflection of interstellar dust by solar radiation pressure and

            extremophile micro-organisms travelling through space within an asteroid, meteorite or comet.


            Panspermia does not provide an explanation for evolution or attempt [to] pinpoint the origin of life in

            the universe, but it does attempt to solve the mysteries of the origin of life on Earth and the transfer of

            life throughout the Universe.


    Another web page concludes:[12]

            What can be seen from the theory of Panspermia is that the evidence for both sides is strong.

             Experiments to study microorganisms in space are few, for example The Living Interplanetary Flight

            Experiment which aims to test whether microorganisms can survive in the harsh conditions of space.

            Since evidence for panspermia can only be effectively collected from Earth based experiments, only the

            hope that enough evidence can be collected to either prove or disprove the Theory of Panspermia will

            keep the debate going.


    Jeffery Bada, director of the NASA Specialised Centre of Research and Training in Exobiology at Scripps Institute for Oceanography, states that most meteorites would simply get too hot and would destroy most amino acids and organic material during entry to the earth’s atmosphere.  In this paper, the only way to get significant organic material to earth was through interplanetary dust particles (IDPs)[13].  Bada heated IDPs and found that during entry they can easily heat up to 1200 C, easily hot enough to destroy most organisc material.  Apparently the only amino acid that ever remained during Bada’s realistic simulations was glycine. Bada called this “bad news” if you were interested in originating life based on material from outer-space.[14]


Quantum Evolution


According to Wikipedia Quantum evolution is a component of George Gaylord Simpson's multi-tempoed theory of evolutionary change, proposed to explain the rapid emergence of higher taxonomic groups, as interpreted from the fossil record. According to Simpson, evolutionary rates differ from group to group and even among closely related lineages. These different rates of evolutionary change were designated by Simpson as horotelic (medium tempo), bradytelic (slow tempo), and tachytelic (rapid tempo). Quantum evolution differed from these styles of change in that it involved a drastic shift in the adaptive zones of certain classes of animals. The word "quantum" therefore refers to an "all-or-none reaction", where transitional forms are particularly unstable, and perished rapidly and completely. Although quantum evolution may happen at any taxonomic level [15], it plays a much larger role in "the origin of taxonomic units of relatively high rank, such as families, orders, and classes."[16]

According to Simpson16, quantum evolution relied heavily upon Sewall Wright’s theory of random genetic drift.  Simpson believed that major evolutionary transitions would arise when small populations—isolated and limited from gene flow—would fixate upon unusual gene combinations. This "inadaptive phase" (by genetic drift) would then (by natural selection) drive a deme population from one stable adaptive peak to another on the adaptive fitness landscape.  However, Simpson[17] wrote that it was still controversial:

"whether prospective adaptation as prelude to quantum evolution arises adaptively or inadaptively. It was concluded above that it usually arises adaptively . . . . The precise role of, say, genetic drift in this process thus is largely speculative at present. It may have an essential part or none. It surely is not involved in all cases of quantum evolution, but there is a strong possibility that it is often involved. If or when it is involved, it is an initiating mechanism. Drift can only rarely, and only for lower categories, have completed the transition to a new adaptive zone."


This preference for adaptive over inadaptive forces led Stephen Jay Gould[18] to call attention to the "hardening of the Modern Synthesis", a trend in the 1950s where adaptationism took precedence over the pluralism of mechanisms common in the 1930s and 40s.

Simpson[19] considered quantum evolution his crowning achievement, being "perhaps the most important outcome of [my] investigation, but also the most controversial and hypothetical."


It is revealing that Wikipedia also states[20] that this theory would only be useful if indeed there were evidence that some sort of adaptive mutation occurs - in other words, if there were experimental data showing that the classical model of random mutation is lacking, and that certain mutations are "preferred" (occur more frequently) because they confer a greater benefit to the organism. This is a controversial subject in and of itself; a plethora of papers have been published on the enigmatic phenomenon of adaptive mutation and the issue of their origin and mechanism remains unresolved. To date there is no such generally accepted mechanistic explanation of adaptive mutation.


Punctuated Equilibrium


According to Berkely University’s Evolution website[21], Punctuated equilibrium is an important but often-misinterpreted model of how evolutionary change happens. Punctuated equilibrium does not:

1.         Suggest that Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is wrong.

2.         Mean that the central conclusion of evolutionary theory, that life is old and

            organisms share a common ancestor, no longer holds.

3.         Negate previous work on how evolution by natural selection works.

4.         Imply that evolution only happens in rapid bursts.

Punctuated equilibrium predicts that a lot of evolutionary change takes place in short periods of time tied to speciation events. Here's an example of how the model works:

1.   Stasis: A population of molluscs is experiencing stasis, living, dying, and getting fossilized every few hundred thousand years. Little observable evolution seems to be occurring judging from these fossils.

2.   Isolation: A drop in sea level forms a lake and isolates a small number of molluscs from the rest of the population.

3.   Strong selection and rapid change: The small, isolated population experiences strong selection and rapid change because of the novel environment and small population size: The environment in the newly formed lake exerts new selection pressures on the isolated molluscs. Also, their small population size means that genetic drift influences their evolution. The isolated population undergoes rapid evolutionary change. This is based on the model of peripatric speciation.

4.   No preservation: No fossils representing transitional forms are preserved because of their relatively small population size, the rapid pace of change, and their isolated location.

5.   Reintroduction: Sea levels rise, reuniting the isolated molluscs with their sister lineage.

6.   Expansion and stasis: The isolated population expands into its past range. Larger population size and a stable environment make evolutionary change less likely. The formerly isolated branch of the mollusc lineage may out-compete their ancestral population, causing it to go extinct.

7.   Preservation: Larger population size and a larger range move us back to step 1: stasis with occasional fossil preservation.

This process would produce the following pattern in the fossil record:



Evolution appears to happen in sharp jumps associated with speciation events.

We observe similar patterns in the fossil records of many organisms. For example, the fossil records of certain foraminiferans (single-celled protists with shells) are consistent with a punctuated pattern.




However, it is also important to note that we observe examples of gradual, non-punctuated, evolution in the fossil record too. The question that needs answering is: what are the relative frequencies of punctuated and gradual change?


• Foraminiferan micrograph courtesy of the National Collection of Foraminifera © Smithsonian


• Foraminiferan graph after Malmgren, Berggren, and Lohmann (1983)


So Gould and Eldredge in this model have shown theoretical processes that could explain some of the data in the fossil record but they give no mechanism for the biological change itself, and they admit ”stability within species must be considered as a major evolutionary problem”[22]  They also admit that ‘Darwinian extrapolation cannot fully explain large-scale change in the history of life’ [23]. Gould had already stated that ‘The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary stages between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution.’[24] So objectively neither theory can provide any evidence for the evolution of more complex life forms from less complex forms.




Symbiogenesis[25]  a theory stating that many eukaryotic cell structures, including mitochondria, chloroplasts, and kinetic, or mitotic, centers (containing centrioles, blepharoplasts, and flagella), originate as a result of the prolonged symbiosis between eukaryotes and prokaryotes, for example, bacteria and blue-green algae. According to this theory, a mitochondrion is an endosymbiont that originates from a free-living aerobic bacterium that has penetrated an older anaerobic bacterium; as a result, the latter bacterium becomes aerobic.

The mitochondria present in the cells of all eukaryotes, especially those that are bacilliform, resemble certain bacteria in that they continually bend and twist. They are more similar to a whole prokaryotic organism than the other components of a eukaryotic cell, with the exception of chloroplasts. The latter, according to the theory of symbiogenesis, originate from blue-green algae, which, having become the endosymbionts of eukaryotic cells, lose their independence and adapt themselves to performing photosynthesis.

The founders of the theory of symbiogenesis included the Russian and Soviet scientists K. S. Merezhkovskii (1905, 1909), A. S. Famintsyn (1907), and B. M. Kozo-Polianskii (1924, 1937). The theory has recently been developed in research conducted by A. L. Takhtadzhian (1972), the American biologist L. Margules (Sagan) (1967, 1970), and the British biologist J. Bernal (1969)[26].

So if we have two organisms merging their information, or information being transferred from one species to another by viruses, we do not derive any new information, we only see a reshuffling of existing information.  Without new information we cannot have the development of new creatures, capable of new skill sets, or any kind of new ability.



Darwinism according to the Free Dictionary[27]  was a concept of evolution developed in the mid-19th century by Charles Robert Darwin. Darwin's meticulously documented observations led him to question the then current belief in special creation of each species. After years of studying and correlating the voluminous notes he had made as naturalist on H.M.S. Beagle, he was prompted by the submission (1858) of an almost identical theory by A. R.Wallace  to present his evidence for the descent of all life from a common ancestral origin; his monumental Origin of Species was published in 1859. Darwin observed (as had Malthus) that although all organisms tend to reproduce in a geometrically increasing ratio, the numbers of a given species remain more or less constant. From this he deduced that there is a continuing struggle for existence, for survival. He pointed out the existence of variationsdifferences among members of the same speciesand suggested that the variations that prove helpful to a plant or an animal in its struggle for existence better enable it to survive and reproduce. These favorable variations are thus transmitted to the offspring of the survivors and spread to the entire species over successive generations. This process he called the principle of natural selection (the expression "survival of the fittest" was later coined by Herbert Spencer). In the same way, sexual selection (factors influencing the choice of mates among animals) also plays a part. In developing his theory that the origin and diversification of species results from gradual accumulation of individual modifications, Darwin was greatly influenced by Sir Charles Lyell's treatment of the doctrine of uniformitarianism. Darwin's evidence for evolution rested on the data of comparative anatomy, especially the study of homologous structures in different species and of rudimentary (vestigial) organs; of the recapitulation of past racial history in individual embryonic development; of geographical distribution, extensively documented by Wallace; of the immense variety in forms of plants and animals (to the degree that often one species is not distinct from another); and, to a lesser degree, of paleontology. As originally formulated, Darwinism did not distinguish between acquired characteristics, which are not transmissible by heredity, and genetic variations, which are inheritable. Modern knowledge of heredityespecially the concept of mutation, which provides an explanation of how variations may arisehas supplemented and modified the theory, but in its basic outline Darwinism is now universally accepted by scientists.


This last sentence is just not true.  Macbeth, a Harvard trained lawyer who has made a study of Darwinian theory for many years has cited some prominent scientists who no longer accept Classical Darwinism or anything like it.  He summarises Prof. Hardin as saying “countless minds have perceived that Darwinism has failed[28].  A number of scientists I know see the weaknesses in Darwinian theory but stay with it hoping to find supporting evidence for it in the future.  Dr Eiseley is also of that view.[29]  Dr David Penny (lecturer in evolution) went a little further, saying he knew that one day they would find the evidence[30].  This means they admit to not having that evidence now.


Returning to Macbeth, he says[31]:

            The most important testimony comes from Professor Simpson, since he is generally regarded as the

            dean of modern evolutionists.  He takes great pride in the synthetic theory, which is the work of many

            hands, including those of Fisher, Ford, Wright, Sir Julian Huxley, Waddington, Dobzhansky, Mayr,

            Stebbins, and Simpson himself.  Clearly it is the ruling line of thought today.  Equally clearly, it is not

            the same thing as classical Darwinism.  Simpson is explicit: “The full-blown theory is quite different

            from Darwin’s and has drawn its materials from a variety of sources largely non-Darwinian.”


Macbeth adds on the next page:

            “Let the reader bear in mind, however, that the large and easy aspect of evolution – the fact that change has taken place and that species have appeared and disappeared – remains untouched even if classical Darwinism is put on the shelf.  We say Not Proven to Darwin’s suggestion as to how and why, but we do not return to fundamentalism.”  Note no reasons are given for not returning to a belief that an intelligent God created life’s major forms and that there has been some variation since that time.



More recently the term neo-Darwinism and other terms have been used to describe evolutionary theory, so as to avoid the increasing embarassment that new findings in palaeontology and molecular biology bring to the Darwinian model of Evolution.  One Dr of molecular biology (who does not accept creation as an explanation either) Michael Denton[32], concludes his book by saying:

            “The influence of evolutionary theory on fields far removed from biology is one of the most spectacular

            examples in history of how a highly speculative idea for which there is no really hard scientific evidence

            can come to fashion the thinking of a whole society and dominate the outlook of an age.  Considering its

            historical significance and the social and moral transformation it caused in western thought, one might

            have hoped that Darwinian theory was capable of a complete, comprehensive and entirely plausible

            explanation for all biological phenomena from the origin of life on through all its diverse

            manifestations up to, and including, the intellect of man. 


            That it is neither fully plausible, nor comprehensive, is deeply troubling.  One might have expected that

            a theory of such cardinal importance, a theory that literally changed the world, would have been

            something more than metaphysics, something more than myth.


            He concludes by saying: Ultimately the Darwinian theory of evolution is no more nor less than the great

            cosmogenic myth of the twentieth century”.


Most people consider evolution to be an indisputable fact.  So how do we account for statements by reputable scientists that call it a “fairy tale”.  For example Dr Lewis Bounoure, Director of the Zoological Museum and Director of Research at the National Centre for Scientific Research in France who declares “Evolution is a fairy tale for grownups.”[33]


“If evolution were an undeniable fact, how do we account for the thousands of scientists worldwide, creationists and non-creationists alike, who say the theory of evolution is false scientifically; indeed, that it has more conclusive evidence against it than any evidence ever offered for it? Many of these scientists have their PhDs in the “hard” sciences (biology, paleontology, genetics, biochemistry, and molecular biology.) from leading universities.”[34]


If you would like to contemplate or review some of the evidence these scientists use to refute biological evolution then click the link here.  

[1] Gray, P. 1961.  The Encyclopedia of Biological Sciences.  Reinhold Pub. N.Y.

[2] Campbell, N.A., Mitchell, L.G. & Reece, J.B. 1997.  Biology: Concepts and connections.

   Benjamin/Cummings Pub. Menlo Park, California.

[3] Ibid p. 150.

[4] Ibid.  p363.

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_Evolution_(book)

[6] Goudge, T. A. 1967. Henri Bergson in Encyclopedia of philosophy. Vol. 1. P.292. New York:


[7]  Bothamley, J. 2002.  Dictionary of Theories. Canton MI. Visible Ink Press.

[8] www.icr.org/article/creative-evolution-anti-darwin-theory-won-nobel/

[9] http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Hopeful_monster

[10] Bowler, P.J. 1989.  Evolution: The History of an Idea. P. 340. University of California Press.

[11] http://www.panspermia-theory.com/

[12] https://sites.google.com/site/evolutionarylifeorigins/theory-of-panspermia

[13] Basiuk, V.A.  & Douda, J. 1999.  Survivability of small Biomolecules during Extraterrestrial Delivery:

    Simulation experiments on Amino Acid Pyrlysis.  Planetary Space Science 47, 577-584.


[14] http://www.arn.org/docs2/news/ucsdoriginoflife062003.htm

[15] Simpson, G. G. (1953). The Major Features of Evolution New York: Columbia Univ. Press. p. 389.

[16] Simpson, G. G. (1944). Tempo and Mode in Evolution  Tempo and Mode in Evolution. New York: Columbia Univ. Press. p. 206.


[17] Simpson, G.G. (1953).  Ibid p. 390.

[18] Gould, S.J. (1980).  G.G. Simoson, Paleontology and the Modern Synthesis, in E. Mayr and W.B. Provine,

    eds The Evolutionary Synthesis. Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ. Press. Pp. 153-172.

[19] Simpson, G.G. (1944).  Ibid p. 206.

[20] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_evolution_(alternative)  downloaded 31.7.2014. 

[21] http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/VIIA1bPunctuated.shtml downloaded 31.7.2014.

[22] Gould, S. J. and Eldredge, N., 1993. Punctuated equilibrium comes of age. Nature, 366:223–227 (p. 223).

[23] Gould, S. J. and Eldredge, N., 1993. Punctuated equilibrium comes of age. Nature, 366:223–227 (p. 224).

[24] Gould, S.J., Is a new and general theory of evolution emerging? Paleobiology 6:119–130 (p.127), 1980.

[25] http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Symbiogenesis  downloaded 31.7.2014.

[26] The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


[27] http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Darwinism  downloaded 1.8.2014.

[28] Macbeth, N. 1971.  Darwin Retried: An appeal to Reason.  Boston. Gambit.  p. 136.

[29] Eiseley, L. 1958. The Immense Journey.  Vintage Books.    p. 119.

[30] Penny, D. 1983.  Introductory Lecture for Biogeography, Biosystematics & Evolution. 4th yr.

[31] Macbeth.  Ibid.  p. 137.

[32] Denton, M. 1986. Evolution: A Theory in Crisis.  Bethesda USA, Adler & Adler. p. 358.

[33] Rostand, J. 1963.  LaMonde et la Vie, p. 31 in V. Long, Evolution: A fairy Tale for Adults. Homiletic and Pastoral Review, (1978) 78: (7), 27-32.

[34] Ankerberg, J. & J. Weldon.  1998.  Darwin’s Leap of Faith.  Eugene, (Oregon). Harvest House. p.11.