Chapter

Darwin's Embryological Theory of Progressive Evolution

in The Meaning of Evolution

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 1992 | ISBN: 9780226712024
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226712055 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226712055.003.0005
Darwin's Embryological Theory of Progressive Evolution

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This chapter focuses on the gradual, uniform development of Charles Darwin's embryological ideas and their role in his species theory. The principle of embryological and recapitulation model allowed Darwin to resolve the problem of accounting for the unity of type, the Cuvierian embranchments of design, that almost every leading naturalist of the time recognized in the animal kingdom. This problem hovered over Darwin's early efforts at constructing his theory of evolution, and his deferred resolution at the end of Origin of Species demonstrates its critical role in the formation of the theory. The principle of recapitualtion served as the aortic connection for three components of his early theory: the embryological model of evolution, the idea that the purpose of generation was progressive development, and the assumption of common descent. Even after formulating the law of natural selection, Darwin continued to pivot his theory of evolution around the principle of recapitulation.

Keywords: Charles Darwin; theory of evolution; Origin of Species; principle of recapitualtion; law of natural selection

Chapter.  21902 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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