Remembering Charles Darwin on his 200th birthday on feb 12.
Charles Darwin , a British naturalist proposed the theory of evolution by natural selection explaining the origins of man . A revolutionary scientist whose theory shook the foundations of religion and remains a pillar of modern science .
What I found interesting these days about Darwin is, the many interpretations that stem from his theory .So many people like some biologists , creationists ,evolutionists ,eugenicists ,theologians ……they all use this theory , their own (mis)interpretation of it, to support their convictions , many of them appalling .
Oh i will give u an example there was one eminent critic who said “America’s moral decline is Darwin’s fault “,bit far fetched .
Theory of Natural selection :
Darwin’s theory of evolutionary selection holds that variation within species occurs randomly and that the survival or extinction of each organism is determined by that organism’s ability to adapt to its environment.
“The survival of fittest” , perhaps one of the most quoted and misquoted words.
to quote Darwin: “Can it, then, be thought improbable, seeing that variations useful to man have undoubtedly occurred, that other variations useful in some way to each being in the great and complex battle of life, should sometimes occur in the course of thousands of generations? If such do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive) that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind?
This preservation of favourable variations and the rejection of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection.”
Still i think there are gaps , first being the question of “origin of life ” and the gaps in evolution , existence of intermediate forms and the stasis . These are the major points that are driving scientists to find an alternative explanation .
Those gaps are also being used as a reason to promote “creationism” , “the intelligent design” .What got me interested in this topic was the book “The God Delusion ” by Richard Dawkins , can refer to it for further explanation on it .He uses lots of examples to blast the intelligent design concept , but the gaps do remain to be filled.
I have read a bit of 2 of his books – some of the excerpts –
from “The Descent of Man“:
-“It has often and confidently been asserted, that man’s origin can never be known: but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”
a very interesting observation from medical point of view – “Man is liable to receive from the lower animals, and to communicate to them, certain diseases as hydrophobia, variola, the glanders, &c.; and this fact proves the close similarity of their tissues and blood, both in minute structure and composition, far more plainly than does their comparison under the best microscope, or by the aid of the best chemical analysis.”- reasons why we use them for experiments .
Darwin uses the examples various diseases and similar developmental anomalies occurring in man and lower primates to explain the descent of man from them .
I wish i had time to read a lot more ….
Darwin’s natural selection is a picture suggestive of ” the tree of life” ,it explains evolution based on vertical transfer of genes, but according to latest research showing additional horizontal transfer of genes a new “web of life “concept has been proposed .
for further reading –
Galapogos – has some cool pics
Whatever the controversies , Charles Darwin is undoubtedly one of the greatest thinkers of mankind .