These days, Darwin is a household name, and his Theory of Evolution is widely taught at schools. But things were very different 150 years ago. When he first presented his ideas about evolution, they were considered revolutionary, and Darwin himself was accused of heresy. In June 1860, the newly-opened Oxford University Museum of Natural History hosted one of the most famous debates ever held. It was the ‘great debate’ between Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, and Thomas Huxley, the biologist and writer. The two men became embroiled in a furious argument about Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection and the questions it raised about religious belief and man’s place in the natural world.
The prevailing belief at the time of Darwin’s birth was that species in the natural world were not linked in a single "family tree." They were unconnected, unrelated and had remained unchanged since the moment of their creation.Most significantly, it was widely held that people were not part of the natural world; they were above and outside it.
Charles Darwin is an iconic figure, whose influence has been compared to that of Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Throughout history few, if any, scientists have come up with theories as illuminating as Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection. Thanks to it, a great leap forward was achieved in understanding humanity's place in the natural order.
Although Charles Darwin never visited China, Darwinism was the first great Western theory to make an impact here. From 1895 until at least 1921, when Marxism gained a formal foothold, it was the dominant Western "ism" influencing Chinese politics and thought. Simple yet profound, Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection remains fresh and vital, two centuries after his birth. Moreover, his insights and conclusions continue to make an impact not only in scientific circles, but also in the fields of religion and politics, economics and the arts.