After studying medicine and preparing at Cambridge University for the ministry, Darwin became a naturalist. From 1831 to 1836 he studied the specimens he had collected while on a surveying expedition with the ship Beagle along the coast of South America.
In 1859 Darwin published The Origin of Species–perhaps the most important book of the century. He contended that "species have been modified during a long course of descent … chiefly through the normal selection of numerous successive, slight, favourable variations." Darwin’s evolutionary theory presented a major challenge to evangelicals. If there was no overseeing eye of Providence in creation, if in fact there was no creation at all but merely an evolution from simple to more complex forms of matter and energy, what was left of traditional Christian belief in a creating and sustaining God? If Darwin was right, how could the Bible be true?
He followed his first bombshell with a second in 1871, his Descent of Man applied the natural selection to human beings and reached the controversial conclusion that man’s ancestors were probably monkey-like animals.
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