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Jens Christian Clausen (1967), refers to Linnaeus' theory as a "forgotten evolutionary theory [that] antedates Darwin's by nearly 100 years", and reports that he was a pioneer in doing experiments about hybridization.

Later observations by Protestant botanists Carl Friedrich von Gärtner (1772-1850) and Joseph Gottlieb Kölreuter (1733-1806) denied the immutability of species, which the Bible never teaches. Kölreuter used the term "transmutation of species" to refer to species which have experienced biological changes through hybridization, although they both were inclined to believe that hybrids would revert to the parental forms by a general law of reversion, and therefore, would not be responsible for the introduction of new species. Later, in a number of experiments carried out between 1856 and 1863, the Augustinian friar Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), aligning himself with the "new doctrine of special creation" proposed by Linnaeus, concluded that new species of plants could indeed arise, although limitedly and retaining their own stability.

Georges Cuvier's analysis of fossils and discovery of extinction disrupted static views of nature in the early 19th century, confirming geology as showing a historical sequence of life. British natural theology, which sought examples of adaptation to show design by a benevolent Creator, adopted catastrophism to show earlier organisms being replaced in a series of creations by new organisms better adapted to a changed environment. Charles Lyell (1797-1875) also saw adaptation to changing environments as a sign of a benevolent Creator, but his uniformitarianism envisaged continuing extinctions and replacements. As seen in correspondence between Lyell and John Herschel, scientists were looking for creation by laws rather than by miraculous interventions. In continental Europe, the idealism of philosophers including Lorenz Oken (1779-1851) developed a Naturphilosophie in which patterns of development from archetypes were a purposeful divine plan aimed at forming humanity. These scientists rejected transmutation of species as materialist. radicalism threatening the established hierarchies of society. The idealist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), a persistent opponent of transmutation, saw mankind as the goal of a sequence of creations, but his concepts were the first to be adapted[by whom?] into a scheme of theistic evolutionism. In Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation published in 1844, its anonymous author (Robert Chambers) set out goal-centred progressive development as the Creator's divine plan, programmed to unfold without direct intervention or miracles. The book became a best-seller and popularised the idea of transmutation in a designed "law of progression". The scientific establishment strongly attacked Vestiges at the time, but later more sophisticated theistic evolutionists followed the same approach of looking for patterns of development as evidence of design.

The comparative anatomist Richard Owen (1804-1892), a prominent figure in the Victorian era scientific establishment, opposed transmutation throughout his life. When formulating homology he adapted idealist philosophy to reconcile natural theology with development, unifying nature as divergence from an underlying form in a process demonstrating design. His conclusion to his On the Nature of Limbs of 1849 suggested that divine laws could have controlled the development of life, but he did not expand this idea after objections from his conservative patrons. Others supported the idea of development by law, including the botanist Hewett Watson (1804-1881) and the Reverend Baden Powell (1796-1860), who wrote in 1855 that such laws better illustrated the powers of the Creator. In 1858 Owen in his speech as President of the British Association said that in "continuous operation of Creative power" through geological time, new species of animals appeared in a "successive and continuous fashion" through birth from their antecedents by a Creative law rather than through slow transmutation.

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