Evolution and Literature

hayley reed's picture

Evolving without a Plan

Hayley Reed

Biology/English 223

February 16th, 2007

Evolving Without A Plan: A Critical Analysis of What Evolution Is 

rebeccafarber's picture

Human impact on evolution

Becky Farber

February 16, 2007

Paper #1

            Throughout the course of class discussion and Ernst Mayr’s What Evolution Is, we have explored the notion of evolution occurring by a series of random events and interactions. “Different genotypes within a single population may respond differently to the same change of the environment. The changes of the environment, likewise, are unpredictable” (Mayr, 277). Humans by chance evolved to this latest stage with somewhat of an ability to recognize the very process by which we came to exist. On the one hand, advancements in technology, matched with the dominant attitude and position of the human race, allow for intentional and increasing changes to be made to the evolutionary path. Yet intrinsic in human nature is the faculty to adjust the direction of evolution, and this can be done without knowledge of either evolution or technology. I argue that humans alter the process of evolution both deliberately and unintentionally. Our role as the most developed organism allots us the supposed authority and innate ability to modify the course of evolution and the future of development, not just for our own species, but for others as well.

LS's picture

Western Society: Do We Control Natural Selection?

Humans are taking an active role in evolution both biologically and socially, having the effect of altering natural selection, perhaps even halting it.  Evolution, as proposed by Darwin, is a combination of heritability, random variation of genes and natural selection; the later two which Darwin formulated.  Evolution involves the appearance of a trait due to a random genetic mutation which can be selected for and thrive in the environment, or which can be chosen against and accordingly eliminated.  However, in Western society we are effectively taking control of our evolution through new biological and medical discoveries that can, among other things, extend one’s life and prevent possible extinction from undesirable traits or illness.  In addition, survival and reproduction in our society no longer depend entirely on genes and biological traits.  Social traits are often able to override seemingly negative biological traits and allow for the reproduction of that individual and their genes.  When these biological and social selection traits are combined, individuals and genes often survive that would not have, had these safeguards been eliminated.  This has the effect of increasing these genes and traits in the population and allowing for a larger population.  There are many positive and negative side effects that will be associated with this control of traits, one of them being that the effects of natural selection are being overridden. 

Mariellyssa Wenk's picture

Evolution: Not Inevitable After All?

The theory of evolution is based on the concept of genetic variation and random mutation. Without the combination of different traits and genes it would be impossible for the world to exist as it does today with so many different populations, species, and environments.

In his book, What Evolution Is, Mayr writes, “evolution is inevitable” (5). However, humans have risen to a level of intelligence higher than that of any other organism, and have been able to manipulate nature into science. One of the most famous and recent debates in the science community is on the topic of cloning, and what people can achieve using it. Cloning was first viewed as something probable in 1997 when Scottish scientists produced the clone of a sheep, “Dolly,” the first clone of a mammal. Since then, the concept of cloning animals and humans has been debated in the media, the scientific community, receiving both applause and criticism.

llim's picture

Trial and Error: Humans as Evolutionary Mistakes

Lisa Lim
Story of Evolution/Evolution of Stories

Trial and Error: Or, Why Humans Are Evolutionary Mistakes

The theory of evolution is much like the process of evolution itself-in trying to reach a perfect state, it must first undergo numerous errors and changes. Biologically, evolution is the change of a population's traits from one generation to the next, a random system of trial and error in which the error, or less desirable trait, is slowly weeded out. Overtime, evolution leads to the birth of new species, each supposedly more advanced, more perfect, than the last and each capable of passing on their traits and thus, ensuring the survival of the genus. As of present day, it could be argued that evolution has found its goal in humans, who have risen as perhaps the most developed life form and who certainly have the most effect on nature, as well as on the survival of not only other species, but their own as well. However, if the goal of evolution is only to create a perfect alpha species capable of reproduction, then humans, in their current state, are certainly errors.

Tu-Anh Vu's picture

Viewing the Story of the Development of the Periodic Table as “Getting it Less Wrong”

Men possess an innate need to understand things.  For this to happen, the process of categorizing and explaining relationships are use.  The “loopy scientific method” is the core procedure in which men apply to categorize things.  Using this loopy scientific method assumes that the summary of observations receive after the experiment is done, is not a final answer.  Since new observations can appear that might refute the old observations thus one can call it “getting it less wrong.” This idea of “getting it less wrong” can be applicable to the field of Chemistry, in this case the Periodic Table.  Although Chemistry can be considered as a science branch that is relatively more concrete than Biology, due to the possibility that experiments can be perform under controlled environments in a laboratory to confirm summaries of observations, it is never-the-less theories and not facts.  In this paper, I will make an argument stating that the Periodic Table is a man-made product that follows the loopy scientific method, thus can be considered as something that is “getting it less wrong” compared to earlier tables.  One can also consider it as a specific view, out of many possible views, on the relationships of elements though it is the most useful.  With this in mind, the Periodic Table is not a scientific truth but a good and useful chart of observations. 

azambetti's picture

The Final Mass Extinction

With the human species in a full dominance swing over the world, is the world due for a mass extinction?  At the end of the Cretaceous period, 65 million years ago, an event occurred that would forever change organisms’ interactions amidst the earth’s biota.  For 160 million years, the dinosaurs played the same role that humans are staring in on the present earth.  The question is, when will this reign terminate?

The dinosaurs had 160 million years to completely diversify into over 330 species, and while the animal kingdom was able to radiate into thousands of different species, the one species that has taken control of nearly every ecosystem on this earth is the Homo sapiens.  The anatomically modern human has only been roaming the earth for 200,000 years.  Humans are so homogeneous that they all fit into one species that has very little variation at the chromosomal level.  Therefore, while allegedly, the intensely disparate dinosaurs needed an enormous asteroid to crash into the earth at the Yucatan Peninsula to inevitably end their reign over the earth’s ecosystems, what would need to happen for the same result to happen to an exceptionally homogenous group, whose parasitic relationships have affected every organism on this planet?

SarahMalayaSniezek's picture

Evolution and Intelligent Design in High Schools

Since its acceptance as the leading scientific theory of the origin of man, Darwinism (evolution) has been at odds with Creationism. Over the last century, American schools have gone back and forth between teaching one of the two theories, and at times even taught both. While Darwinism, in 1987, won a decisive battle with a supreme court ruling that outlawed the teaching of Creationism in public schools (it was ruled as a violation of the first amendment), in the last decade, non-Darwinist theories have been gaining support (1). Many argue that there are significant “gaps” in the theory of evolution that other competing theories, such as intelligent design, can explain. They feel that such theories should be taught in high school biology courses.

J Shafagh's picture

Evolution And Creationism In The Educational System

                  Education is the process of providing all facets of knowledge to students as a means of stimulating mental growth.  As such, it should not be an educator’s job to tell students what to think, rather, to encourage them to think and develop their own theories based on all of the presented information.  An example of a controversial subject with more than one possible theory of explanation is the origins of humans and the universe, of which the two most accepted explanations are creationism and evolution.  Although one of these explanations could be potentially less wrong than the other, as seen through many ongoing debates among science educators, religious leaders, parents, and school and government officials, both are still the most prevalent explanations for the story, and as such, should be taught in schools today.  And although I personally believe that the theory and observations explaining evolution are less wrong than those presented in favor of creationism, both should still be taught, as those who believe in creationism have their own evidence and belief in their version of the origin of human beings and life.  Thus, both evolution and creationism should and must be taught in the curriculum, provided that both the evidence supporting and disproving both theories are equally presented and left for the individual interpretations of the students.  In addition, all schools, regardless of their religious affiliations or their public or private nature should teach both topics in the classrooms, as both explanations should be presented and left for the students to interpret and understand.
                   In his book “What Evolution Is”, Ernst Mayr describes the modern thinking of human beings as being profoundly affected by evolutionary thinking, despite the fact that many still follow the creationist view.  As Mayr states, “I do not expect to convert this kind of reader [ creationist] but I want to show him or her how powerful the evidence is that induces the evolutionary biologists to disagree with the account presented in Genesis.”  According to Mayr, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence supporting evolution, such as: the fossil record, branching evolution and common descent (homologous and analogous structures), the study of embryology, vestigial structures, and the study of biogeography and molecular evidence, among others.  The aforementioned evidence is largely accredited to Charles Darwin, author of “On the Origin of Species,” which lays the foundations for the study of evolution today.  Darwin’s theory of common descent proposes that all groups of organisms have derived from an ancestral group, postulating that the progression of the simplest prokaryotic cells to more complex eukaryotes and more multicellular organisms is due to the phenomenon of evolution. 
                    On the other hand, creationists, including Christians, believe in the literal truth of the creation stories that are found in the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Scriptures, (3).  If creationists don’t refer to the book of Genesis, then the most popular alternative is to say they believe in “intelligent design” from a force that is commonly accepted to be God, for man was created in the image of God, and all of life itself was created by God (2). Some specific beliefs that fall under creationism are things like determinism, for “whatever human actions or decisions seem to indicate the operation of a free will, or a freedom of choice, can be shown, on closer inspection and analysis, to be based on unconscious determinism,” (4).  In other words, under creationism, things like free-will, determinism and essentialism do not exist.  Nevertheless, as stated above, all of creationism is merely based on the book of Genesis, which clearly does not surpass the overwhelming evidence supporting evolution. 
                      To refute the aforementioned ideas of creationism, Darwin developed new theories and concepts, such as population thinking, natural selection, chance, and the history in relation to time.  Darwin replaced essentialism with population thinking, explaining that species are composed of variable populations and individuals or organisms within each population are also variable in their nature.  Overall, populations change gradually through constant variations. Darwin was also able to refute the idea of determinism by explaining how the universe is ever evolving, over time.  Furthermore, his theory of Natural Selection revolutionized evolution by explaining that the available resources on earth are limited, creating competition, from which those individuals who are best equipped to adapt to their environments will survive and pass on their genes to their offspring.   Leading on this theory, evidence from the study of genes has also shown and explained the variation among human beings, as recombination has evolutionary importance for sexual reproduction.
                       Overall, educating students on the tenets behind these two theories is significant for it forces them to think critically about subject matter to formulate their own hypotheses and beliefs.  While I believe the story of creationism should still be taught, it has more or less stayed the same since its origins and does not have enough supporting evidence.  The theory of evolution, however, has itself evolved since its origins with Darwin, causing it to constantly generate new questions, theories and observations in addition to its already well established set of evidence.  Nevertheless, the aforementioned theories are still the most popular and accepted in today’s culture, and so therefore, they must be taught in the educational system. Furthermore, perhaps the only distinction that needs to be made is the time allotted to the study of each topic; because evolution has more evidence and subject-matter to cover than creationism, it should be more strongly emphasized in schools. While many other possible theories may exist, not all can be taught in schools, most importantly for the sake of time, and also because they may lack the practical applications that we see with evolution and creationist views in life today.  For example, we use evolutionary theories and thinking in our everyday life, like with the study of antibiotic resistance by pathogens, pesticide resistance in crops, controlling disease vectors, human epidemics, producing new crops with evolutionary genetics, and much more.  Evolutionary studies have also enriched the sciences in areas of developmental biology, the study of the human mind and consciousness, behavioral studies and so on.  Therefore, the study of evolution is a crucial and integral part of adolescent education.  Creationism has also been essential to life today, as it has given many individuals some values and foundations upon which they live their lives, a sense of spirituality, and an overall sense of richness of humanity.  It is a means of uniting people together under one cause and belief, and strengthens the sense of identity and culture in individuals.
                       Unfortunately, however, the aforementioned conflicts are calling for more evaluation of the separation of church and state, a long-standing issue of historical politics.  By making this a political issue, we may lose sight of the wonderful level of human curiosity (and the many possibilities of varying explanations for life’s phenomenon) and may fall prey to indoctrinating our students on certain concepts alone, especially at such a young age.  If only certain principles were taught, so as to make students integrated into particular cultures and society, we would lose the flavor and creativity that comes with having a diversity of viewpoints and beliefs.  Also, why exhaust ourselves in engaging in this cultural war pitting the conventional sciences against the evangelical faiths?  The ramifications of the dispute on education are remarkable and can be foreseen as causing many conflicts in the future.  Perhaps the future generations will develop a universal system of education, having reached a middle-ground in order to deal with such differences among educational systems.  Teaching students to be aware of all possible theories, time-effectively, will not only make them more educated, sophisticated and intellectual, but will help them make their own decisions and stimulate their own personal mental growth as well-rounded citizens.  Therefore, all schools should teach these same core theories of evolution and creativity so that all students have the same basic knowledge on the principle issues of interest among our nation, and as the US becomes a larger melting pot, these types of questions involving faith and religion will undoubtedly be broached in the near future.

ashi's picture

The Change of the Simple

The simplistic gives rise to the complex, which in turn gives rise to the simplistic, which then gives rise to the complex again, etc. This is something that will never change; the simple and complex are codependent—one cannot exist without the other. However, the forms of the simple and complex change with each cycle. They can never be exactly the same twice; however, they can manifest similar forms in the future which can also be defined as simple and complex. Everything which we are and will be is constantly changing based on time and influence, but to our minds and as a part of this cycle we perceive the cycle as linear and never changing because we do not wish to see before or beyond what we are. Even the smallest thing in our existence influences something in us and creates change. Change is inevitable but it comes in forms which are different each time.

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