Today, no one really cares about Darwin’s opinion and here ‘s why.
Ancient civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans and Chinese, knew about the concept of evolution but is was not until Lamarck gave a lecture at the French Natural History Museum in 1800 that it was brought out from under church prohibition and to public attention.
Charles Darwin was born 9 years later across the channel in England. By 1837 when he was 28, he had spent years on voyages observing, collecting and cataloging species and was bitten by a bug that gave him Chargas disease. His observations on these voyages led him to first speculate privately in his notes that one species may evolve from another which would make him a heretic in the eyes of the church.
From those early notes, it was to be another 20 years of work and study before his book was half written. He was always sick, his daughter had died and he was reluctant to publish anyway. He wife was devout and his conclusions denied a supernatural explanation. In 1858 he received a paper from Alfred Wallace, explaining his evolution conclusions from his own studies. This was the prompt he needed and although his baby son had just died, he forwarded Wallace’s paper to his publishers who in the absence of getting a decision from the distraught Darwin and unable to contact Wallace, decided on a joint public presentation of both papers on the concept of Natural Selection.
It took Darwin another 18 months to condense his life’s work into a book-size publication called ‘On the Origin of Species’ which sold out the first day, in November 1859. To avoid flack from the religious, he made little reference to mankind, although the implication was obvious. He didn’t use the word ‘evolution’ until he published ‘The Descent of Man’ twelve years later. At that point, he finally added it to the 6th latest iteration of his first big book, ‘On the Origin of Species’
He was working, studying, writing and publishing up to his death in 1882 when he died of coronary heart disease, aged 73.
Perversely, at the time of his death Darwin had never heard of “The Theory of Evolution” although his work was indeed an explanation of how a complex system works, which is the correct use of the word ‘theory’ in the scientific sense, just as music theory is an explanation of how music is laid out in notes and quavers etc.
By this time, his work and the work of Wallace has been picked to pieces by other scientists eager to demonstrate that while the facts and observations were probably correct, would they come to the same conclusions? To show the level of their respect, he was not buried in his local church yard as he expected, but in Westminster Abby, a privilege granted to very few.
The advent of modern technology to investigate and demonstrate evolution has found little in Darwin or Wallace’s conclusion to correct, a fact that in itself is amazing. Today, the concept of evolution has been demonstrated to the utmost degree across dozens of utterly different scientific disciplines and only a very small percentage of the population, the least educated and the most desperately religious, cling to the idea that we were especially created.
Like most people, Darwin had doubts, he was under pressure to conform and did not want to risk financial support, so his self-doubt is understandable. His doubts, his opinions at different times during his life do not change the accuracy of his observations. That’s why no one really cares what he thought or about his opinion.
He was right about the conclusions he drew from the facts he observed. It’s a pity that Wallace did not get equal credit for drawing the same conclusions.