Student Question

Was Darwin the first person to present evidence that organisms have evolved and an explanation for how evolution happens?

I can't remember the answer to "James Hutton and Charles Lyell described how changes in landforms can cause species to evolve rapidly. true or false?" either. :/ Can someone help me with these two questions? I would really appreciate your time to help me. Thanks in advance :)

Expert Answers

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Actually, Jean Baptiste Lamarck's work was a great influence on Charles Darwin regarding the idea that living things evolved or changed over time. In 1809, he published his theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Although his theory was incorrect, he was one of the first scientists to propose an explanation of how life changed over time. One of his concepts was Use and Disuse--if an organism used a body part more, it would develop and get passed down to its offspring and if it didn't use a body part, it would wither. Through selective use or disuse of organs, living things acquired or lost certain traits.  He believed that acquired traits could be inherited by offspring. Therefore, he explained the increased height of giraffes over eons was because of stretching their necks to reach leaves on trees and  passing down a longer neck to each subsequent generation. Although Darwin was born the year Lamarck's theory was published, this work definitely influenced his ideas about the evolution of living things.

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Alfred Wallace (1823 - 1913) was a contemporary of Charles Darwin's (1809 - 1882) and had written extensively about evolution, actually having coined the phrase "survival of the fittest."  His earlier research agreed with much of which Darwin had been working on.

Interestingly, when Wallace wrote to Darwin regarding his findings, Darwin immediately sought the advice of fellow scientist Charles Lyell (1797-1875) who was a geologist who popularized James Hutton's (1726-1797) theory of uniformitarianism, or that the Earth was subject to very slow but long lasting processes that altered the geology of the planet. (The answer to your true/false is false.  Speices evolve slowly like the altering landmasses.)

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