|Back to Things
I can be reached at
"When on board HMS Beagle as naturalist, I was struck with certain facts in the distribution of the organic beings inhabiting South America, and in the geological relations of the present to the past inhabitants of that continent. These facts seemed to throw some light on the origin of species-that mystery of mysteries."
So many acrimonious words have been written on this subject in the past couple of centuries that one wonders if it shall ever pass into the "so-what?" category. I suppose that given the implications of this idea such animosity is to be expected, more so perhaps than the idea that the earth is not the center of the universe but only one planet circling a mid-sized star amid billions of such stars. This idea essentially dethrones man himself from being the center of creation and relegates him to one species amongst many in an apparently indifferent universe. Many are familiar to varying extents with the idea of biotic evolution, but fewer, I suspect, are that familiar with the idea of abiotic evolution--the evolution of matter itself from hydrogen gas.
We must remember that biological "evolution" does not mean progress in the sense of "betterment." It does not mean a progression towards complexity or increased mentation. Darwin simply meant that natural selection results in increasing adaptation to changing environments. A tapeworm would thus be just as well adapted to its environment as a more complex organism living in a much more challenging environment.
Darwin in fact rarely used the word and we must attribute the application of "evolution" to the description of Natural Selection to Herbert Spender with his idea of nature as undergoing a progressive change.
Definitions vary according to the source: the process by which different kinds of living organism are believed to have developed, especially by natural selection; a theory that the various types of animals and plants have their origin in other preexisting types and that the distinguishable differences are due to modifications in successive generations. All the definitions include change...change in the living organisms of Earth.
According to Biologists this change comes about by differential reproduction of variants in the population--Natural Selection. The Theory of Natural Selection as put forth by Darwin is very simple, and one may wonder as to all the fuss. The implications, of course, are stupendous. What does the theory say? One may word it in different ways:
1. There is a tremendous amount of variation in natural populations.
2. All natural populations have a great capacity for reproductive increase.
3. This reproductive potential is not realized.
4. The reason that these reproductive rates are not realized is because there is competition for limited
5. Those individuals that possess variations that help them in this competitive endeavor are the ones that have more offspring.
6. Thus these variations become predominant and change occurs over time.
This is the way that I state the theory in my own words. No matter how it is worded, the meaning is the same. Organisms have evolved through time...what an amazing and incredible story this is!
Tennyson describes the unforgiving aspects of nature thus:
From scarped cliff and quarried stone
She cries, "A thousand types are gone:
I care for nothing, all shall go."
Martin Schwarzschild's classic book: Structure and Evolution of the Stars
http://www.milky-way.com/gb/sevol.htm Good illustrations, written for the general audience
1. Arguments ended 4November2005 in a Pennsylvania trial to determine whether or not a school district has the right to teach Intelligent Design. A judge will now decide.
2. November 7, 2005 theKansas State Board of Education will vote on new academic standards that will encourage the teaching of Intelligent Design. Update: they voted it in. See Intelligent Design above.
3. The Creation Museum, espousing creationism (duh) is set to open near Cincinnati in 2007. I wonder about the source of funding for this $25 million structure--of course it must be privately funded. (eyebrow raise)