Before Darwin, geologists and others felt rather positive that the record of life held by the layers of successively deposited rock went from simple to complicated. In the deepest and therefore oldest layers were the simple things, shellfish and corals, and only the simple forms of life. In higher sedimentary layers they found the terrible lizards...dinosaurs, and essentially no mammals. the larger and more complicated mammals appeared in the more recently deposited layers and were even found in layers that had not completely hardened into rock. The question for these scientists was not whether evolution ocurred, for that was fairly obvious, but how the heck it happened.
Darwin and others did not believe there was any question whatsoever about evolution. Essentially all scientists of any standing whatsoever accepted evoution, but they had not come to any agreement as to the driving force or forces behind it. How did life change from a few more simple species to many, far more complicated forms of life? Charles Darwin's great achievement was not the discovery of evolution, as many believe. Evolution is a fact and was accepted as such even then. Evolution, simply stated, is the fact that the fossil record goes from simple life to complicated life over time. Darwin's great scientific and literary work is titled, "On the Origin of Species."
He figured out the basics of how evolution takes place and laid out an essentially unassailable argument with evidence and documentation that still stand today no matter what you hear or read. In the time since Darwin's epic work, thousands of scientists have added pieces of the puzzle to form a more complete picture of this process but no one has presented a single peer reviewed bit of work contradicting Darwin's explanation of speciation.
But there have been interesting additions to Darwin's theory of slow change over generations with each succeeding generation's offspring who are slightly different from their parents undergoing a filtering process sometimes called the "survival of the fittest."
Here is some history and a new idea or two explaining some of the gaps that Darwin left for us to figure out.
There are parallels in darwin's quest for his ideas acceptance and the global warming debate going on today. While Darwin's concepts faced opposition from the most brain dead of all power based constituencies, the global warming concept faces opposition from a wealthy conglomerate of energy mega corporations who are concurrently squelching scientific debate and funding opposition research. Here's a bit of info for you...A study of peer reviewed scientific papers published on climate change found that 99% of the conclusions agreed that global warming was occurring and that human activity was contributing. Only 1% found otherwise.
So that's 99 to 1 in scientific journals accepting human caused global warming. For Darwinian evolution there's a 400 to 1 ratio among scientists agreeing with his theory of speciation with the ratio becoming essentially unanimous when the scientists are limited to biologists and paleontologists and geologists.
But you'd never know it from reading the newspaper, eh?