Darwinism is most commonly used in reference to Charles Darwin's biological research, but in effect has taken on a terminology life of its own. Darwin postulated in his On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, that all species evolve through transmutation into the life forms in which they currently exist. The term Darwinism was coined in 1860 by Thomas Henry Huxley as a generalization in discussing the various data surrounding the concept of evolution, which was loudly refuted by religious creationists. The controversy exists contemporarily in many locations globally.
Darwinism is largely associated with the concept of the "survival of the fittest," or natural selection, and has social applications as well as biological. The whole of Darwinism is actually a group of concepts and self-logical assumptions that constitute the concept of natural biological law, regardless of the level of the species' existence. Though the research and theory are simply based in the simplest of creatures, many creationists use the theory as a target of attack as though it is an advancement of atheism. Darwin was merely an observational scientist.
The result has been a concept of Social Darwinism, which highlights the positive comparisons between Darwin's studies and their application to sociology. The culmination of the theory is that humans actually evolved from apes, with some significant assumptions. Social Darwinists use the natural selection theory to describe differences between individuals of society, claiming largely that the principles did not work on "civilized people" who had apparently evolved to their superior capacity, the assumption being that those individuals who were still struggling in life were inferior. Darwinism is a comprehensive set of scientific paradigms. Many individuals have referred to Darwin's theory in part, but few have included the complete set of theories.
The first paradigm of Darwinism is that the planet is not cyclical or constant, nor was it recently created. It consistently changes in natural response through cause and effect. Secondly, every organism evolved from an ancestor and, more important philosophically, all species evolved from one originating source. In addition, species have the capacity to multiply or split into separate species of the same order. Darwin termed this as "budding." Probably the most significant paradigm of the theory is that all changes occur very gradually over many centuries of time. The "budding" process is not always prolific enough to add new species in each successive reproductive generation, but the phenomena occur over long spans of time.
Darwin believed that all living things evolved from one thing and that useful traits are passed on from generation to generation until, over time, an entirely new species is formed. Darwin's theory called for a huge number of intermediate skeletons; yet as the evidence of paleontology piles up, the "intermediate varieties" are simply not in evidence. He wrote:
… [T]he number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, [must] be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graded organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.
Darwin died assured that as paleontology progressed, the intermediate (evolving) forms of various fossils would be discovered. Instead, the reverse has happened. Over and over, species seem to spring into existence without any previous evolutionary types. Not only that, but many species now documented exhibit stability for thousands and even millions of years.
Darwinism is not one set of constant principles. It is effectively a set of research programs that have been modified several times during the 20th century by the scientists who conducted on-going research until 1980. In light of the continuing advances in modern science the general acceptance among most scientists is that Darwinism as a valid theory has lost its credibility.