Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Critical of Darwin

From what I understand, this is where we are to post thoughts and commentaries on what we have read and what we are taking from the course at present. In that regard, I have come across some things in Darwin’s Origin of Species that as of my current reading of the book (I will admit I have not completed it yet), I cannot quite come to terms with.

In Darwin’s first chapter on the “Selection by Man” he states that “One of the most remarkable features in our domesticated races is that we see in them adaptation, not indeed to the animal’s or plant’ own good, but to man’s use or fancy” (Darwin, 19). I take this to mean that species that have varied in ways that are beneficial to man are the ones that are in essence, used up by them. Although this does not refer to selective breeding necessarily, it brings about the same principle that the choices of man determine the outcome of the variance of species (as the chapter is called – Selection By Man). However, from an Evolution standpoint, this does not make sense to me as Survival of the Fittest pertains to those species that acquire the traits necessary to live through dire climates/circumstances. It is those butterflies that blend in to their surroundings that persevered over those that stood out and thus got devoured correct? Therefore, wouldn’t it remain that those species that did not pose a benefit to man would be the ones that lived on? While this thought is preliminary and not fully articulated with knowledge of Darwin’s complete Origin, it seems to me to contradict what he is proposing, that Survival of the Fittest is the answer to our current state. Those animals or plants that benefitted mankind would be the first to die out, and those that posed no assistance to humankind would be the ones that prospered.

Yet I am aware that Darwin accounts for any perceivable discrepancies within his writing as he concludes this chapter with; “Over all these causes of Change I am convinced that the accumulative action of Selection, whether applied methodically [my emphasis] and more quickly, or unconsciously and more slowly, but more efficiently, is by far the predominant Power” (28).

Comprehensively, Darwin does very well in setting the groundwork for his argument. He acknowledges that he himself must come to terms with what would come to be known as Darwinism. When he first began examining pigeons, he “felt fully as much difficulty in believing that they could ever have descended from a common parent, as any naturalist could in coming to a similar conclusion in regard to the many species of finches, or other large groups of birds, in nature” (18). While being honest with his readership, he still is able to bring the audience to a place where they can accept his statement that “thus, the forms of life throughout the universe become divided into groups subordinate to groups” (38).

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