Equating evolution with Charles Darwin ignores 150 years of discoveries, including most of what scientists understand about evolution. essay what darwin never knew
Mendel knew Darwin's work—his German copy of Origin was sprinkled with handwritten notes—but there's no evidence that Mendel realized that his units of inheritance carried the variation upon which Darwinian selection acted. "The interesting thing is that Mendel had both pieces of the puzzle in his hands, but he never put it together," says Michael Ruse, a historian and philosopher of science at Florida State University. "He never once said, 'Ah hah, I've got the answer to Darwin's problem.'" Mendel's discoveries remained obscure until after he died in 1884, and Darwin never knew of them. But what if he had? "If Darwin had read Mendel's papers, he might have picked up on it," Ruse says, "but I'm not sure it would have made much difference."
"What Darwin Never Knew" offers answers to riddles that Darwin couldn't explain. Breakthroughs in a brand-new science nicknamed "evo devo", are linking the enigmas of evolution to another of nature's great mysteries, the development of the embryo. NOVA takes viewers on a journey from the Galapagos Islands to the Arctic, and from the explosion of animal forms half a billion years ago to the research labs of today. Scientists are finally beginning to crack nature's biggest secrets at the genetic level. The results are confirming the brilliance of Darwin's insights while revealing clues to life's breathtaking diversity in ways the great naturalist could scarcely have imagined.