I don’t say it. Everyone does… How true it is, of course, is a matter of ideas and opinions, but I’ll say it as many others have said it before (most of which are much more qualified than I to do so): Charles Darwin wouldn’t have come up with the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection if he hadn’t visited the Galapagos Islands.
Now… it’s said. But is there any proof of it? I guess we can’t know what “could have been”… but there are arguments for such a statement to ring true. You have to envision Darwin’s development as a scholar and professional at the time he disembarked on San Cristóbal in 1835. You also have to take into account what was going on in the world of scientific thought as well. And then, you have to analyze the realities of the Galapagos Islands themselves. Once you do, you will probably be convinced that Darwin wouldn’t have come up with his groundbreaking theory had he not paid a visit to the Enchanted Isles!
First, Darwin: He was a young man, who had been set to study theology upon his return from the Beagle’s voyage. By the time he reached the Galapagos Islands, all he was trained to do was observe the “land” as a geologist. But he took notes on the animals. And the animals that he most was struck with were those in the Galapagos Islands. This becomes evident as he drafts his memoirs, many months after his journey was over.
Our second point, scientific thought at the time. There was a movement in science and religion that did put into question such a thing as “speciation”… but it was hardly something that Darwin was aware of when taking notes on site. Only after, does he actually begin to seek out other trains of thought that made sense with his findings on the Galapagos Islands. Perhaps his interest in religion did help spark controversy within his own mind when reviewing his scientific notes of the islands.
Finally, the Galapagos Islands themselves… What would later be termed “adaptive radiation” is so common and easy to observe in the Galapagos (with 13 Darwin’s Finches, 14 Giant Tortoises —now 10 —mockingbirds, lizards, iguanas, beetles, ants… even cacti, isolated between islands and from the mainland, making evolution much more evident there) that Darwin was notably struck by what he saw and created in him a newfound interest in natural history, biology and more…
In any case, what is for sure is that Charles Darwin and the Galapagos Islands are one of those historical one-of-a-kind coincidences that changed the world.