[Georges LeClerc (1707-1788) proposed a mechanism for calculating the
age of the Earth using molten spheres of iron and measuring cooling
times, after which he proposed that the Earth was at least 75,000 years
old and perhaps as old as three million years.
Some students may feel that we should not focus on the past, and
that our thoughts should be trained on new knowledge and invention,
rather than antiquated ideas. What these students do not understand is
the importance of the old ideas in shaping our current understanding of
the world around us, and that an outright dismissal of past theories
simply because they have been rejected by new evidence may limit our
understanding of current theories.
There is value of learning about hypotheses that were once espoused
to explain an observed phenomenon, but that have now been long
disproved and invalidated. Darwin‘s theory of natural selection as the
mechanism for evolution is all too often taught in a vacuum in high school
biology classrooms, as if this brilliant naturalist developed a groundbreaking
theory on natural order which had never before been
contemplated in any form. It is only by learning about the gradual
development of evolutionary theory, and the role of some religious
individuals in shaping this theory, that students may come to see the
logic and power behind Darwin‘s relatively simple ideas.
Many of the contributions upon which Darwin built his ideas came
from scientists who were staunch creationists themselves. These
scientists believed that all organisms on Earth had been placed here
through ―special creation,‖ by God, because there was little evidence at
the time to support evolution. LeClerc also perceived that species were
not fixed and could change over time; he even proposed that closely
related species, such as the horse and donkey, had developed from a
common ancestor and had been modified by different climactic
conditions. Yet, LeClerc was a devout Christian creationist and devoted
much of his writing to the debunking of evolutionary ideas. Despite their
commitments to religion, LeClerc and Linnaeus both gave Darwin crucial
raw material to work with—their ideas concerning the similarities between
related species and possible connections with common ancestors cried
out for a reasonable explanation.
For centuries before Darwin, data that challenged the biblical account
of creation was surfacing in many fields of research. As explorers began
to study the forces that shape the Earth, such as mountain building and
volcanic eruptions, accounts from scripture and assertions that the Earth
was very young began to be called into question. Uniformitarian
geologists such as Charles Lyell felt that the only reason mountains and
other features of the Earth‘s terrain had been built the way they had was
because of long, gradual processes that shaped these structures. There
was no way, he felt, that the Earth could be several thousand years old
as asserted in the Bible. In addition, the discovery of new plants,
animals, and fossils as explorers travelled to uncharted regions of the
world aroused suspicion about the paucity of animal and plant ―kinds‖ in
the Bible. Improvements in scientists‘ abilities to estimate the age of the
Earth and the relative ages of fossils also pushed people to question old
1. Taking into account all that was argued by the author, the main idea of this
passage is that:
A. religious scientists before Darwin greatly influenced his formation of
the theory of natural selection.
B. similarities between species of plants and animals were too great to
ignore as people attempted to explain relationships in nature.
C. Darwin relied on a great deal of information from those who lived
before him as he formed his well-known conclusions about the
mechanisms of evolution.
D. old ideas should not be dismissed simply because they are old and
E. There is no connection between old ideas and new ones
2. If the author were teaching a class on evolution in a university in the Unites
States, the passage suggests that the class would spend a significant amount
of time discussing:
A. the origins of Darwin‘s theory of natural selection.
B. details of Darwin‘s theory of natural selection.
C. the Biblical account of creation.
D. taxonomy and classification and their importance in Darwin‘s ideas.
E. the future of evolution
3. The author‘s discussion of Darwin‘s theory in paragraph 3 of the passage
A. Darwin does not deserve the credit he is given for his ideas on
B. Darwin‘s theories should be presented in the context within which they
were originally conceived.
C. Darwin‘s ideas would be properly devalued if people knew the religious
background from which his ideas stemmed.
D. Darwin‘s ideas are simple enough that he didn‘t need much help in
E. Darwin‘s ideas have no place in modern theories of evolution
4. According to the passage, the idea that mountains and other structures take
a great deal of time to form was an idea championed by:
E. modern scientists
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