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.