Pre-Darwin Origin Theories

So I was reading an article on Charles Darwin today on Boston.com, which included the line:

And at first I thought, well, duh. It seemed to be similar to saying Jesus was raised non-Christian.

But then I started wondering – prior to Darwin, was everyone basically a creationist of some sort or another? Or was there some other theory? Or did the idea of evolution kind of exist already, maybe in a nascent form, and Darwin just came along and codified and expanded on it?

I don’t want to turn this into an evolution vs. creationism debate – just wondering about schools of thought on the origin of life pre-Darwin.

Lamarck was a pre-darwinistic evolutionist.
Another theory was that of the multiple creations: the idea that God had made several creations before the one starring Adam. But all these earlier creations had all gone bad, so God erased them in huge floods. These earlier cretions explained the weird dragonlike skeletons that were found in the ground, the later fossils.

You might enjoy googling Lamarckism.
Several of Gould’s essays discuss theories predating Darwin.

Damn those lowlanders! :wink:

Sometimes referred to as Catastrophism.

Interestingly, Charles Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus developed an early theory of evolution in his *Zoonomia, or, The Laws of Organic Life *(1794-1796), predating Lamark by more than a decade.

From Zoonomia:

Note that Erasmus believed that a “First Cause” had created the Earth and its organisms, but that life had evolved since then.

Prior to the publication of The Origin of Species many scientists believed that the earth had existed for millions of years, and that organisms had changed over time. The evidence for this was strong in the geological and fossil records. The problem was that no one had yet come up with a convincing mechanism for evolution to take place. Charles Darwin’s major advance was identifying natural selection as that mechanism.

I don’t know how prevalent this was in biology, but for a long time, the prevailing scientific notion was that the Universe had just always existed, without an origin.

Spontaneous generation was another early explanation for how at least some organisms came in to being, relying upon neither evolution nor creation (in the “Special Creation” sense, anyway).

Yeah, spontaneous generation. People didn’t really understand what life was. So you had non-living rocks, and then you had dirt, which was sorta-alive. And things just started growing in the dirt. They didn’t understand bacteria or soil fungi or microorganisms or microscopic eggs and spores. So worms and bugs could just sort of crawl out of the dirt somehow, and there was some sort of universal desire for perfection in all matter.

Nowadays we have a hard time understanding how anyone could believe animals could be spontaneously generated from mud, because we know just how complicated even a bacteria is. But without microscopes how could you tell the difference between mud and a mass of bacteria?

Once again, **Colibri **is first across the finish line. :slight_smile:

Although I’ve read about this in most books on evolution, one thing struck my just now as puzzling. Did any of these hypothesis extend to human beings? If so, why did Darwin seemingly start the whole controversy from scratch with his publication of *Origin *and Descent?