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Smoking gun.

  1. Oct 11, 2005 #1
    I know zip about biology, but I know a little physics. Before Einstein's general theory of relativity challenged it, the prevailing scientific theory of gravitation was Newton's theory. In the minds of most physicists, the issue was resolved in favor of Einstein's theory as a result of an experiment involving an eclipse of the sun. It was the prototypical scientific revolution. Now my two questions:

    1. What was the prevailing scientific theory(s) that Darwin's theory of natural selection challenged?

    2. What experiment(s) resolved the issue in favor of Darwin's theory in the minds of most biologists?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 11, 2005 #2


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    Gold Member

    Before Darwin, prevailing views were creationism and Lamarckian evolution. Lamarck suggested that animals aquired carachteristics to suit their needs. If an animal lived at high altitude, their lungs would grow stronger and larger, and this characteristic would be passed on to its offspring.
    Darwin's book, "The Origin of Species" was the main body of evidence (along with Alfred Russel Wallace's work of the same period), and experiments involving cutting the tails off mice and seeing if their offspring aquired shorter tails provided evidence against Lamarckism. Gregor Mendel's pea plant research (conducted earlier, but not re-discovered until the early 20th centuary) provided evidence that characteristics were passed on to offspring.
  4. Oct 11, 2005 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    There apparently wasn't much before the theory we know today. As with all theories, Darwin was inspired by earlier work: Malthus's essay on human population operated on the same operating premise. Others around the same time considered the progressive nature of species change, but didn't offer good evidence or a good means by which it happened. But before scientists really started looking at it (remember, "science" didn't really exist until ~1600), Biblical creationism was pretty much it.

    An interesting link:

    Google: "evolution history"
  5. Oct 11, 2005 #4

    I checked out this site, and I was most intrigued by the final sentence:

    A statement like that hints that there is some experiment that would decide between Darwinism and Lamarckism. I intend to look into this further.
  6. Oct 11, 2005 #5
    Is natural selection considered to be a 'falsifiable' theory? If so, what experiment is considered to be capable of falsifying it?
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