Biological Anthropology Study Set 1
Quiz 1 :
Introduction to Evolutionary Fact and Theory
The general notion of natural selection, according the Charles Darwin, rest in the fact that organic variations arise from existing traits of individuals in a population, which are passed onto offspring. The ability to pass on physical traits onto offspring is dependent upon the success of reproduction. In turn, the ability to reproduce is based upon how fit individuals are in a given environment. In Judeo-Christian beliefs, the Bible and the book of Genesis states that God created the heavens and the earth in 7 days. In the book of Genesis, God created all living things on the earth, including humans in God's own image, resting on the 7 th day. There are a few differences between the notion of natural selection and its explanation of organic variations, as it compares to the origin stories of the book of Genesis: • The explanation of organic variations by way of natural selection emphasizes the evolutionary process as gradual changes over time. Species evolve and adapt to environmental pressures, in time, to develop into evolved species that are better adapted to survive those environmental pressures. In the Judeo-Christian belief, there is no gradual change as everything that exists in the world, was created exactly as it is now-all within a fixed time of 6 days (with God resting on the 7 th day), according to the bible. • The vast majority of people in the 18 th and 19 th century were culturally inclined to believe in the teachings of the bible, thereby embracing its literal translations. The idea of the world and all its living things being created within 7 days was a socially accepted norm. Natural selection and the theory of evolution went against this social norm. Although both explanations of natural selection and the book of Genesis are conceptually different, they do not have to be mutually exclusive. If one infers that the book of Genesis and the origin stories are not literal but that of moral and philosophical comments, and if one can comprehend that evolution and natural selection is a process of life changing over time, both concepts do not have to be mutually exclusive of one another.
In the 19 th -century era when Darwin's On the Origin of Species was published, the culture of society embraced the literal word of the bible and thus, believed that God created the world all within 7 days. Society did not see a need to challenge the notion of creation and thus, Darwin's idea of evolution was unwelcome and received unpopular public response. Prior to Darwin's On the Origin of Species , other individuals' thoughts regarding evolution and the diversity of life were supported by religious and spiritual beliefs. For example, the father of taxonomy, Carl von Linne, or Carolus Linnaeus, wanted to understand God's wisdom by studying his creation. Thus, Linnaeus developed a system of classification and the grouping of organisms with like anatomical structures. He believed that all life forms were functional and were a result of God's creation. George-Louis Leclerc, Comte du Buffon also believed that God's hand initiated the creation of life and that there was a dynamic relationship between organisms and their environment. What made Darwin's On the Origin of Species even more unpopular was the fact that his theory of evolution was both nonreligious and nonspiritual, while others like Linnaeus and Buffon were explaining evolution or the function of life from both religious and spiritual perspectives. The religious and spiritual perspectives of Linnaeus and Buffon catered to the cultural role religion had upon society, while Darwin's perspective was counter to such societal norms. Currently, the theory and fact of evolution is still widely debatable and is the subject of strong public responses. There are members in the public who still have issues with the theory and fact of evolution because the idea contradicts the word of the bible and therefore, shows that God did not create the world within 7 days. The problem resides in the fact that if an individual believes in God, the theory of evolution is wrong, and if another individual believes in evolution, then that individual lacks faith and religious beliefs.
Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck was the first who clearly explained the theory of evolution. Lamarck was a believer that species changed in response to a changing environment and thus, must adapt to survive. He explained that the process of evolution contained three components, including the organisms will to change, the inheritance of acquired characteristics and the law of use and disuse. In Lamarck's theory, environmental pressures challenge the organisms to "will" internal fluids and forces into action. As a result, organs would appear, develop and function in response to environmental pressures, while organs that were no longer used would be reabsorbed into the body. Lamarck theorized that these organic changes, which result from environmental pressures, occurred within the lifetime of the organism. Lamarck's theory of evolution, that an organism was able to "will" itself to change in response to environmental pressures, was a reasonable scientific conclusion at the time. It was reasonable because his theory of evolution was made from mere observations. The disciplines and tools unavailable to Lamarck in the late 18 th -century, though available in present-day, such as genetics, microscopes and the development of the scientific method, limited his ability to construct hypotheses and made his observations acceptable and his theory of evolution reasonable. The educational standards of the United States allows current day individuals to understand that genetic traits are passed from generation to generation, not from our cells' ability to "will" fluids and develop organs, but from DNA and the relationship of dominant and recessive genes. In addition, current education teaches that environmental pressures, which impact genetic development via natural selection, occur through time and not within a single lifetime of an organism or species. Basic knowledge such as genetics was not available to Lamarck and limited his ability to construct hypotheses. If Lamarck had such basic genetic knowledge, along with standard tools such as a microscope, in addition to a working knowledge of the scientific method, he would hypothesize and develop a theory much differently than his theory that organisms have the ability to "will" its fluids and develop organs as a result of environmental stresses.