On November 24, 1859, a modest 1,200 copies of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species were released by British publishing house John Murray.
A century and a half later, the book is considered one of the most influential and best-read scientific works of all time.
Darwin’s book hinged on the theory that humans and other living organisms evolve over a period of time through the process of natural selection. The book was based largely on findings from the scientist’s expedition to the Galapagos some 30 years prior.
“Natural selection is the idea that animal and plants can change. It has two principles two it. One is that we’re all different. Each human is slightly different. The second part of it is that we produce more offspring that can go onto reproduce”, says Charles Darwin’s great great grandson, Chris Darwin.
The assertions made in the book sent shockwaves through conventional society. Certain segments of the Church reacted angrily to the work, saying it stood in direct opposition to Genesis, the first chapter of the Bible.
“The world back then thought that things stayed as they were. Imagine the feeling of demotion when you have a book coming out and basically says we’re all part of this bedlam which is called the ‘natural world'”, says Mr Darwin.
The British scientist had anticipated his findings would cause controversy, and as such, held off on publishing the work for nearly three decades.
And he is still causing controversy now.
Though widely accepted in the scientific world, Darwin’s theory of evolution is still hotly debated in religious communities.
In the United States creationists, who believe that a supernatural diety made the universe and everything in it, argue their philosophies should be taught alongside evolution in schools.
Likewise, the intelligent design movement believes Darwin’s theory of evolution results in atheism and materialism, and instead seeks to promote non-scientific explanations on the basis of life.