The discussion of Darwin’s theories was primarily conducted among the intelligentsia of the day because books were pretty expensive.
However, the fraction of people who figured that they could and should keep more or less up to date with what was happening in geology, in botany, in zoology, even in physics and mathematics was a much bigger fraction than it is today.
Science has gotten a lot more technical and specialized… and no one can really stay up with every field of research. Many of us hear about scientific claims, in fact a very large fraction of the population now knows, through electronic media, about Dolly the [cloned] sheep, about the human genome and about what’s going on in the latest finding with climate change.
However, the proportion of people that can evaluate new research and follow along with these ideas is quite small.
Are we looking to know – Who to rely on? Who is speaking the truth?
What do you want/need to know?