On June 30, 1860, more than 700 “melon-eating crowds” gathered at the newly completed Oxford Museum in England, preparing to watch a scientific “group rack”. One of the leaders of the two sides is the Bishop of Oxford Wilberforce, and the other is the biologist Huxley. The theme of the debate is whether to support the theory of evolution.
Now we can’t fully restore every detail of the controversy. However, from the memories of the parties and the researches of the parties, the hot atmosphere on the venue can still be felt.
Shi Jun, an associate professor at Anhui University of Science and Technology, gave a more detailed account of the controversy in his book “Actually You Don’t Understand the Theory of Evolution”. In his view, this famous Oxford debate in the history of science unveiled the first act of the battle between evolution and creationism. Since then, the gunpowder and scientific wisdom debates surrounding the theory of evolution have been unacceptable.
1 Smoke of gunpowder
The gunpowder of the debate actually began to diffuse as early as the publication of “Origin of Species”.
In November 1859, Darwin’s “Origin of Species” was published. Darwin expressed two themes in his book. One is that species are constantly changing, slowly adapting to the environment, and changes can be inherited; the other is that nature makes choices about species and the survival of the fittest. He used the theory of “biological evolution” to falsify the theory of independent creation of species, and used “the common ancestor of all things” to challenge creationism, the dominant religious creed at the time.
Such a subversive theory has won the support of some biologists and has also attracted a lot of criticism, especially in the philosophical and religious circles. They regarded the theory of evolution as a “crude philosophy” and a “dirty gospel”, and compared Darwin who had entered a mission school to a “devil priest” or even “the most dangerous man in Europe.” Under heavy pressure, the Cambridge University Library banned the book from borrowing. The conflict is inevitable.
On June 27, 1860, the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science was held in Oxford. On the second day of the conference, at the plant and animal forum, Huxley, the proponent of evolution, and Owen, the opponent, debated whether the brains of gorillas are very different from those of humans.
On June 30th, the real drama began. Bishop Wilberforce began to violently attack Darwin’s theory of evolution. He said that the theory of species evolution is only a “pure hypothesis based on the boldest hypothesis,” which is fundamentally incomprehensible. Wild pigeons are always wild pigeons, and domestic chickens will not turn into phoenixes.
Huxley, on the other hand, refuted the biological knowledge expounded by Bishop Wilberforce from a professional perspective, pointing out that the “Origin of Species” enumerated a large number of facts. He told the audience that although this theory needs further improvement, it is by far the best explanation for the species problem. He firmly believed that the research method adopted by Darwin was in line with scientific logic, that is, discovering a large number of facts through observation and experiment, reasoning on the basis of facts and drawing conclusions, and then comparing the conclusions with the facts observed in nature to test this. The correctness of a theory responds to the accusations made by Bishop Wilberforce against Darwin’s research methods.
The debate did not clearly distinguish the winners and losers, but it introduced Darwin’s theory of evolution to more people, and at the same time prompted people to think about more questions: Since animals have evolved, what about humans? Is it true that human beings are not handmade products that God has a soft spot for? Where should the self-righteous humans take the top spot in the biological world?
This time, it was the turn of the theory of evolution to quarrel with each other. Regarding sexual selection, altruism and selfishness, groups and individuals, genes and behaviors, life explosions and mass extinctions, gradual changes and jumps, and so on, every topic is a battlefield. In Shi Jun’s view, these controversies are harsh and mean, but they are full of wisdom. What ultimately brings is the progress of science and the improvement of human self-awareness.
2 The more you argue, the more you know
When asked why he was particularly interested in the debates in the development of the theory of evolution, Shi Jun said that this was related to the environment in which he initially wrote on the Tianya Forum.
More than ten years ago, out of the need for lectures and the simple enthusiasm of popularizing the spirit of science, Shi Jun began to publish popular science articles on the theory of evolution on the Tianya Forum. In that open online environment, netizens with different attitudes towards evolution have expressed their opinions and argued fiercely, especially on the topic of whether people evolved from monkeys or not. Everyone quarreled enthusiastically under the posts.
”At that time I realized that the original development and dissemination of scientific knowledge largely revolved around controversy.” Shi Jun said, as the mastery of literature becomes more comprehensive, this view becomes clearer and clearer. ——Many scientific theories will face more or less resistance when they are just put forward, but the resistance encountered by the theory of evolution is unprecedentedly strong because it stands on the opposite of religion. Despite the great resistance, the theory of evolution has been able to stand tall in the process of controversy with all parties, and even gets stronger with each passing day. This fully demonstrates the power of science and the inherent resilience of the theory of evolution.
For example, the debate on the theory of sexual selection. For example, Shi Jun said that the theory of sexual selection is an evolutionary theory second only to natural selection proposed by Darwin. Its value in the field of evolution is comparable to that of natural selection. It can fully explain the gender phenomenon of animals, and even be used to explain the human society. Many manifestations. But at that time, Darwin was seriously misunderstood and even completely rejected by the scientific community because of the theory of sexual selection. Darwin insisted on his point of view. Before he died, he still believed that his explanation of sexual selection was scientific, and later generations would give him a fair conclusion.
”It wasn’t until more than 100 years after the death of Darwin that the scientific community began to re-examine the theory of sexual selection, and finally came to a positive conclusion. The theory of sexual selection has been fully updated at present, and even theories of sexual selection 2.0 and 3.0 have come out. The overall framework does not exceed Darwin’s basic logic, which shows Darwin’s deep understanding in this field. As recognized by the Western scientific community, they are rediscovering Darwin.” Shi Jun said.
”The process of understanding the controversy is actually the process of understanding the core viewpoints of the theory of evolution. A comprehensive interpretation of the content of the controversy can also answer readers’ inner doubts from all angles.” Shi Jun said that this is the reason why he presents a large number of controversies in the book. .
Of course, these controversies have also increased the readability of the book, and some netizens commented that this popular science work is “better-looking than a novel.”
3 Search up and down
From the French biologist Lamarck who first sounded the horn to the mystery, to Darwin who really pulled the trigger and shot the key, to Wallace, Huxley, Gould, Dawkins, Wilson… “Actually “You Don’t Understand the Theory of Evolution” shows the long and tortuous process of the development of the theory of evolution.
”Many people ignore this.” Shi Jun said, “People are accustomed to treating scientific theories as the product of a flash of genius scientist, but that is not in line with the logic of scientific development. Breaking through inherent cognition requires tremendous effort. Even genius scientists, such as Einstein, have gone through many detours in their scientific exploration. Twists and errors are the normal state of scientific development, and it is because of full of twists and turns that scientific knowledge is precious. I I hope that readers can understand this basic fact from the development process of the theory of evolution. The road of scientific development is long and long, and it needs to be searched from above and below.”
For Shi Jun, popular science writing is also a process of searching from above and below. Over the past ten years, he has continued to reflect and sum up his experience, and his language style has changed from the initial forced funny and colloquial to more relaxed and concise, and he pays more attention to the rigor and “hard core” of the content. He is also a prolific science creator. In addition to “In fact, you don’t understand the theory of evolution”, he has successively published “Crazy Human Evolution History”, “A Brief History of Love: Gender Game in the History of Human Evolution”, and “The Color of Life: Why We” “No Green Hair” and many other works.
In these works, what remains unchanged is the core of the theory of evolution. In Shi Jun’s view, the theory of evolution is not a simple scientific theory, but an inexhaustible treasure. “It can be used to understand many biological and human phenomena, even social and cultural phenomena, many of which need to be further sorted and excavated. Therefore, all my popular science works revolve around the evolution of biology and humans.” Shi Jun said, “I will adhere to the orthodox theory of evolution as the writing principle, try not to entrain private goods, and strive to show the value and application of the theory of evolution. Let readers unknowingly get the nourishment of science is the ultimate goal I pursue.”