Thursday, September 23, 2010

Darwin: How His Rhetoric Takes Away From His Point

As pointed out by Doctor Stephen Ogden, Charles Darwin is very extremely entrenched in his viewpoint that there is nothing else besides natural selection. This type of thought is very problematic from a scientific point of view. Scientific discovery is supposed to be about presenting facts and backing them up with different empirical and observational data. Unfortunately in Darwin’s Origin of Species (2009), he strays away from settling on facts and heavily focuses on rhetoric to bolster his argument. It is understood, once again as stated by Dr. Ogden, that Darwin is writing in at a time when this book would have been read more as a novel and not necessarily as a scholarly text as it is used today. However, to me this is not a satisfactory response to the problem with the way the book is presented. As an example Darwin states:
But we may go further than this; for as new forms are continually and slowly being produced, unless we believe that the number of specific forms goes on perpetually and almost indefinitely increasing, numbers inevitably must become extinct (Darwin, 2009, p. 105).
The issue that I take with this line is that it implies that there can only be one type of life form that lives in an area, feeds on a specific substance, and is victorious in living. A simple observation would surely show that this is not the case. Darwin uses sexual selection to explain the differences in appearance between males and females, saying that males are brightly colored to try and attract the female’s interest. However, this is a type of variation within the species that does not seem to go away. Ducks, for example, are very different depending on their gender. Females have dull boring colors whereas males are marked with green markings that help them, allegedly, attract the females. However in Darwin’s theory, would not one of these two traits have to be selected over time? Wouldn’t either the markings of the male have to transfer to the females, or the dull colors of the female be transferred to the male as a selective trait? The end point is that it is not necessarily what Darwin presented from a factual state that is important in his writing, but instead the way he presented it. Part of this is that he continually talks about how the weak will die and the strong will live (Darwin, 2009, p. 220). Once again with birds that fly in a “V” formation, the two birds on the end of the flock will dive down if another is going down. This shows that species will take care of each other and not necessarily worry about the strongest, biggest, and fastest because they want to take care of each other. To conclude if it is ingrained into your mind that natural selection is the only solution, the only plausible explanation for varying traits in species, then it is a lot harder to look at the other side of the coin to consider that despite this slow genetic process there are still variations within the group.

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