Erasmus Darwin (Zoonomia, 17 94), though a zealous evolutionist, can hardly be said to have made any real advance on his predecessors; and, notwithstanding the fact that Goethe had the advantage of a wide knowledge of morphological facts, and a true insight into their signification, while he threw all the power of a great poet into the expression of his conceptions, it may be questioned whether he supplied the doctrine of evolution with a firmer scientific basis than it already possessed.
Herder was thus an evolutionist, but an evolutionist still under the influence of Rousseau.
That is to say, in tracing back the later acquisitions of civilization to impulses which are as old as the dawn of primitive culture, he did not, as the modern evolutionist does, lay stress on the superiority of the later to the earlier stages of human development, but rather became enamoured of the simplicity and spontaneity of those early impulses which, since they are the oldest, easily come to look like the most real and precious.
The Ideen shows us that Herder is an evolutionist after the manner of Leibnitz, and not after that of more modern evolutionists.
He was a strenuous advocate of ecclesiastical control in elementary education, and an opponent of the new school of higher biblical criticism, though so far an evolutionist as to believe in growth and development as applied to the history of nations.