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Professor Jay Mager Speaks on Darwin to Western Civilization Students

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Professor Jay Mager of the ONU Biology Department spoke with Western Civilization students on Tuesday January 26 on the topic of “Charles Darwin’s Evolution Revolution.”

Mager began his exploration of the subject by telling students that evolution and natural selection should not be controversial because they happen every day. When an insect develops a tolerance to pesticides; that is an instance of the insect evolving through natural selection. Mager also told the students that as the son of a minister, he understood that the subject was one of concern to many people.

Mager then discussed the pre-Darwinian attempts to explain the biodiversity observed by early scientists including Jean-Baptiste Lamarck who argued for transmutation of species, and geologists who questioned the age of the earth posited in the Bible. They laid the foundation for Darwin's later work.

Charles Darwin was born into a privileged family, and originally considered medicine before deciding that fainting at the sight of blood would make that difficult, so he considered ordination, but what really engaged his interest was shooting birds and collecting specimens of biodiversity. This led him to accept a position as a naturalist on the 5 year voyage of the HMS Beagle, where he collected the information that would lead to his Origin of the Species in 1859, in which he argued that variations in animal species that increased their survival chances would be passed on to succeeding generations, thus making them more competitive.

He concluded by discussing the controversy that grew out of his work, discussing Thomas H. Huxley (aka. Darwin's Bulldog) who wore a monkey skull on a chain around his neck, and the famous Scopes Trial that addressed Tennessee prohibitions against teaching evolution in the public schools.