werewolf, werewolves and lycans

9

Did Darwinian Theory Kill Off the Werewolf?

While science has never been an area of interest for me, living with two roommates that both study biology, chemistry, biotechnology and a wide assortment of other scientific fields has triggered my curiosity and lust for knowledge. That said, I have been spending a lot of time reading scientific journals, researching everything from evolution to genetics and more. While scanning older articles I came across one about werewolves, which I admit, caught me off guard. The article claimed that Charles Darwin killed the belief in werewolves. A good theory? Maybe.

You see, for much of recorded history, people have feared werewolves. History books are full of reported cases of “real” werewolfism, werewolf trials, countless legends, folktales and more. These creatures were once thought to be very real, hiding amongst normal people, waiting for their chance to attack the innocent. But Brian Regal, assistant professor for history of science, technology, and medicine at Kean University in Union, New Jersey, USA, argues that the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859 changed people’s focus from wolf-men to a different kind of monster – ape-men such as the Yeti, Bigfoot and Sasquatch.

Regal presented his thesis a few years back at the annual meeting of the British Society for the History of Science in Leicester, UK. He used period artwork to chart the ‘evolution’ of the werewolf into Bigfoot.

From the late 19th century onwards, stories of werewolf encounters tailed away significantly, says Regal. “The spread of the idea of evolution helped kill off the werewolf because a canid-human hybrid makes no sense from an evolutionary point of view,” he says. “The ape-human hybrid, however, is not only evolutionarily acceptable, it is the basis of human evolution.”

Regal later wrote a book about the topic titled Searching for Sasquatch: Crackpots, Eggheads, and Cryptozoology.

What do you guys think? Did Darwin really destroy the belief in werewolves? It is true that many search for the legendary Bigfoot, but at the same time, there are also those that continue to look for werewolves.

Personally, I don’t feel that it was Darwin alone. The belief in werewolves and other supernatural beings such as vampires came from a lack of knowledge. Hundreds of years ago people didn’t have the scientific and medical knowledge to explain many common illnesses and diseases, so they blamed in on the supernatural. That’s how many folktales were born, from a lack of information. Did Darwinian theory play a role in changing beliefs? Possibly, but he didn’t do it on his own.

– Moonlight

One of the writers for werewolves.com, as well as vampires.com.

Brian RegalCharles DarwinDarwinDarwinian Theorywerewolfwerewolf historyWerewolves

moonlight • April 4, 2011


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  • Silver Fox

    “Personally, I don’t feel that it was Darwin alone. The belief in werewolves and other supernatural beings such as vampires came from a lack of knowledge. Hundreds of years ago people didn’t have the scientific and medical knowledge to explain many common illnesses and diseases, so they blamed in on the supernatural. That’s how many folktales were born, from a lack of information. Did Darwinian theory play a role in changing beliefs? Possibly, but he didn’t do it on his own.”

    Darwin comes at a time when the Western World was ready for the age of exploration and all sorts of sciences were being embraced and new thoughts accepted.

    If a man is to be be “blamed for killing the werewolf” it would be Dr. Johann Weyer and others, some even in the Catholic Church such as Sabine Baring-Gould who put forth the ideas of mental illness may be involved.

    Certianly chasing after Sasquatch, Yeti, Bigfoot, Almas and Orang Pendaks plus other man-apes has stronger roots and basis of science and credibility to it.

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  • Ulric Helsing

    Maybe Darwin himself was a Werewolf hunter. He wanted his theory to be true, so he killed off every life-form that contradicted him. Hahaha!!!!!!

  • Scott

    For me werewolves have never been real pure fantasy, however I have always liked the idea of turning into animal to go into a more simple life. Darwin came at a time when people really began questioning what they were being told.

  • FSR

    I always thought bad werewolf movies, like Twilight and Red Riding Hood, were the reason werewolves were dying off.

  • Nani

    I don’t think it was Darwin at all. You have to remember that Darwin was part of a bigger scientific revolution. He only gave a name to the idea of natural selection (not evolution in general, people). As human society in general began thinking more scientifically, more and more of the older beliefs were cast aside as myth.

    However, you also have to remember that folk belief continues well into today in some areas (those of you who are also from semi-isolated communities know what I’m talking about). Faerie folklore is still very much alive in certain parts of Europe, and in France the legend of the loup garou continued well into the mid-20th century.

    So, I guess you could say that the writer of that essay was giving too much credit to Darwin and not enough credit to the rapidly-changing mindsets of the mid-to-late 19th Century (the Victorian Era/{insert the other names here} was a time of great change, after all). It wasn’t Darwin that ‘killed’ the beast so to speak–it was the movement he was a part of.

    • moonlight

      Very well said :)

      • Nani

        Thanks. ^_^;;

  • nannuck

    The werewolf has not died off. Simply forgotten. Backs were turned fear was lost. now they are nothing more than a joke portrayed as teen sex icons known for having abs…. the truth Is there is a world of the supernatural that few know exists the day will come when order Is restored..