Dictionary of Theories, Laws, and Concepts in Psychology

By Jon E. Roeckelein | Go to book overview
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DARWIN’S EVOLUTION THEORY/EVOLUTION, THEORY/LAWS OF. = Darwinism. = biological evolution, doctrine of. The English naturalists Charles Robert Darwin (1809–1882) and Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) independently formulated the basic tenets of the theory of evolution, which was first publicly presented in 1858 at a meeting of the Linnaean Society (named in honor of the Swedish botanist and taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus, 1707–1778). Darwin (1859) firmly established the theory of organic evolution known as Darwinism, and his name is better known than Wallace’s today in connection with the origination of evolutionary theory. However, both men were exceptionally modest concerning ‘‘ownership’’ of the theory, and they first published summaries of their ideas simultaneously in 1858 (Harris & Levey, 1975). At first, Wallace held that human evolution could be explained by his and Darwin’s theory, but he later departed from Darwin on this point, believing instead that a guiding spiritual force was necessary to account for the human soul. Wallace also considered ‘‘sexual selection’’ to be less important in evolution than did Darwin, holding that (unlike Darwin) it had no role in the evolution of human intellect (Thain & Hickman, 1995). The theory of evolution states that all naturally occurring populations are gradually and constantly changing as a result of natural selection that operates on individual organisms and varies according to their biological fitness. According to the theory, the process of evolution led to an enormous diversity in animal and plant forms where one of these lines evolved into hominids and, eventually, into humans. The implication of this biological theory for the discipline of psychology was that the human mind and behavior were as subject to natural law as was animal behavior. Darwin viewed mental processes in humans and animals as products of evolution and a proper subject for scientific investigation. Darwin recognized that the evolutionary process was characterized by constant divergence and diversification where it could be likened to an enormously elaborate branching tree with living species rep-

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