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When Charles Darwin published his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, he convinced most of the scientific community that new species arise through descent through modification in a branching pattern of divergence from common ancestors, but while most scientists accepted that natural selection is a valid and empirically testable hypothesis, Darwin's view that it is the primary mechanism of evolution was rejected by some.
At that time the specific evolutionary mechanism which Darwin provided of natural selection was actively disputed by scientists in favour of alternative theories such as Lamarckism and orthogenesis.
Since then creationists have developed more nuanced objections to evolution, alleging variously that it is unscientific, infringes on creationists' religious freedoms, or that the acceptance of evolution is a religious stance.
One of the main sources of confusion and ambiguity in the creation–evolution debate is the definition of evolution itself.
This occurred relatively early, as medieval madrasahs taught the ideas of Al-Jahiz, a Muslim scholar from the 9th century, who proposed concepts similar to natural selection.Darwin's gradualistic account was also opposed by saltationism and catastrophism.Lord Kelvin led scientific opposition to gradualism on the basis of his thermodynamic calculations that the Earth was between 24 and 400 million years old, and own views favoured a version of theistic evolution accelerated by divine guidance.Evolution was at first opposed among the scientific community, notably by Georges Cuvier, and religious grounds.The idea that laws control nature and society gained vast popular audiences with George Combe's The Constitution of Man of 1828 and the anonymous Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation of 1844.
In Britain, while publication of The Descent of Man by Darwin in 1871 reinvigorated debate from the previous decade, Sir Henry Chadwick notes a steady acceptance of evolution "among more educated Christians" between 18.