evolution2



INTRODUCTION


Theories explaining biological evolution have been bandied about since
the ancient Greeks, but it was not until the Enlightment of the 18th
century that widespread acceptance and development of this theory emerged.
In the mid 19th century english naturalist Charles Darwin - who has been
called the "father of evolution" - conceived of the most comprehensive
findings about organic evolution ever1. Today many of his principles still
entail modern interpretation of evolution.
I\'ve assessed and interpreted the basis of Darwin\'s theories on
evolution, incorporating a number of other factors concerning evolutionary
theory in the process. Criticism of Darwin\'s conclusions abounds somewhat
more than has been paid tribute to, however Darwin\'s findings marked a
revolution of thought and social upheaval unprecedented in Western
consciousness challenging not only the scientific community, but the
prominent religious institution as well. Another revolution in science of
a lesser nature was also spawned by Darwin, namely the remarkable
simplicity with which his major work The Origin of the Species was written
- straightforward English, anyone capable of a logical argument could
follow it - also unprecedented in the scientific community (compare this to
Isaac Newton\'s horribly complex work taking the scientific community years
to interpret2).
Evolutionary and revolutionary in more than one sense of each word.
Every theory mentioned in the following reading, in fact falls back to
Darwinism.
DARWINIAN THEORY OF BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTION


Modern conception of species and the idea of organic evolution had
been part of Western consciousness since the mid-17th century (a la John
Ray)3, but wide-range acceptance of this idea, beyond the bounds of the
scientific community, did not arise until Darwin published his findings in
19584. Darwin first developed his theory of biological evolution in 1938,
following his five-year circumglobal voyage in the southern tropics (as a
naturalist) on the H.M.S. Beagle, and perusal of one Thomas Malthus\' An
Essay on the Principle of Population which proposed that environmental
factors, such as famine and disease limited human population growth5. This
had direct bearing on Darwin\'s theory of natural selection, furnishing him
with an enhanced conceptualization of the "survival of the fittest" - the
competition among individuals of the same species for limited resources -
the "missing piece" to his puzzle6. For fear of contradicting his father\'s
beliefs, Darwin did not publish his findings until he was virtually forced
after Alfred Wallace sent him a short paper almost identical to his own
extensive works on the theory of evolution. The two men presented a joint
paper to the Linnaean Society in 1958 - Darwin published a much larger work
("a mere abstract of my material") Origin of the Species a year later, a
source of undue controversy and opposition (from pious Christians)7, but
remarkable development for evolutionary theory.
Their findings basically stated that populations of organisms and
individuals of a species were varied: some individuals were more capable of
obtaining mates, food and other means of sustenance, consequently producing
more offspring than less capable individuals. Their offspring would retain
some of these characteristics, hence a disproportionate representation of
successive individuals in future generations. Therefore future generations
would tend have those characteristics of more accommodating individuals8.
This is the basis of Darwin\'s theory of natural selection: those
individuals incapable of adapting to change are eliminated in future
generations, "selected against". Darwin observed that animals tended to
produce more offspring than were necessary to replace themselves, leading
to the logical conclusion that eventually the earth would no longer be able
to support an expanding population. As a result of increasing population
however, war, famine and pestilence also increase proportionately,
generally maintaining comparatively stable population9.
Twelve years later, Darwin published a two-volume work entitled The
Descent of Man, applying his basic theory to like comparison between the
evolutionary nature of man and animals and how this related to socio-
political development man and his perception of life. "It is through the
blind and aimless progress of natural selection that man has advance to his
present level in love, memory, attention, curiosity, imitation, reason, etc.
as well as progress in "knowledge morals and religion"10. Here is where
originated the classic idea of the evolution of man from ape, specifically
where he contended that Africa was the cradle of civilization. This work
also met with opposition but because of the impact of his "revolutionary"
initial work this opposition was comparatively muted11.
A summary of the critical issues of Darwin\'s theory might be abridged
into six concise point as follows: 1 Variation among individuals of a
species does not indicate deficient copies of an ideal prototype as
suggested by the
platonic notion of Eidos. The reverse is true: variation is integral
to the