The 17th century saw a remarkable advance in scientific knowledge. Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo destroyed the old notion that the earth was the centre of the universe and showed that the universe was incredibly larger than ever imagined. These discoveries posed a serious challenge to biblical authority and to the religious authorities. In consequence, the Bible came to be seen as authoritative on matters of faith and morals, but no longer authoritative on matters of science.
Isaac Newton’s discovery of universal gravitation explained the behaviour both of objects here on earth and of objects in the heavens. It promoted a world view in which the natural universe is controlled by laws of nature. This, in turn, suggested a theology in which God created the universe, set it in motion controlled by natural law, and retired from the scene.
The new awareness of the explanatory power of universal natural law also produced a growing scepticism about such religious staples as miracles and about books, such as the Bible, that reported them. Whereas the Age of Faith found its truths in religious tradition, the Age of Reason found its truths in observable natural phenomena and individual human reason.
The first suggestion that all organisms may have had a common ancestor and diverged through random variation and natural selection was made in 1745 by the French mathematician and scientist Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis (1698-1759) in his work “Vénus physique”.
In 1790, Immanuel Kant, in his book “Kritik der Urtheilskraft”, states that the analogy of animal forms implies a common original type and thus a common parent.
Charles Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, hypothesized in 1795 that all warm-blooded animals were descended from a single “living filament.
In 1859, Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” was published. The views about common descent expressed therein vary between suggesting that there was a single “first creature” to allowing that there may have been more than one.