Between them, Chambers and Darwin established how we think about how we evolved, and what it means.
Rosendale NY (PRWEB) May 24, 2012
"Vestiges..." published in 1844 was the first popular account of evolution. It was an immediate sensation; it did more to publicise evolution that Darwin's "Origin of Species" published 15 years later. "Vestiges..." sold more copies in its first 8 years than "Origins..." sold in its first 20 years, and "Vestiges..." continued to outsell "Origins..." up to the end of the 19th century.
Chambers introduced the concepts of creatures adapting to their environments, pre-adaptation, succession of geological strata over time along with the fossils contained in them, massive extinctions, homology, rudimentary organs, and recapitulation. He also tackled head on the issue of human evolution, tracing our origin to apes and monkeys. That humans had evolved had become widely known throughout Britain and America by the time Darwin published "Origins..."
Darwin's contributions included adding weight to Chambers' arguments; Chambers published "Vestiges..." anonymously, Darwin was a highly respected scientist. And professional scientists were more impressed by Darwin's proposed mechanism for how evolution worked than by Chambers' theory. But Darwin's theory of natural selection didn't win broad acceptance until the mid 20th century when it was combined with genetic mutation in the Modern Synthesis.
Does "Vestiges..." retain any value today? Chambers believed living creatures had all along been pre-adapted to be as complex and capable as humans, they just needed the right conditions to develop first fish, then reptiles and then mammals. For him all living creatures had wonderful potential. Darwin's natural selection suggested living creatures had no more potential than they needed to survive in their surroundings. Reading "Vestiges..." can help restore a sense of wonder at the world of nature.
The full review of "Vestiges..." is posted at takeondarwin.com. The Take On Darwin website is a collection of resources to help in coming up with new theories of evolution, neither Darwinist nor creationist. The publisher of the website is Shaun Johnston, author of the review.