Evolution and Classification: Reformation of Cladism by Mark Ridley

By Mark Ridley

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After spending two years in South America and then returning home for two years, he left in 1854 for the Malay Archipelago. He lived there for eight 41 42 EVOLUTION: THE BASICS years and gathered over 125,000 specimens. In organizing them he pioneered the study of the geographical distribution of plants and animals, which later provided crucial evidence to advance his theory of evolution by natural selection. Wallace noticed a division within the flora and fauna of the Australasian islands, which followed a line of demarcation that today is still known as the Wallace Line.

Both men encouraged him to pursue a career in science. Sedgwick took him on a geological excursion in Wales in 1831 that provided him with excellent training for his later work. Even after the publication of The Origin and his later biological work Darwin always considered himself first and foremost a geologist. Darwin initially accepted Sedgwick’s view of earth history that the earth had been shaped by a series of catastrophic episodes, events that had no counterpart in the present day. He would soon change his mind.

Rather, controversy is the mark of a healthy scientific theory and in this regard evolution is exceedingly healthy, continuing to generate new and exciting insights about the natural world. FURTHER READING Bowler, P. (2009) Evolution: The History of an Idea, Berkeley: University of California Press. Brooke, J. H. (1991) Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Miller, K. (2007) Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution, New York: Harper Perennial.

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