MadSci Network: Evolution

Re: Is the theory from Charles Darwin current for the evolutionliterature?

Date: Mon Aug 27 14:46:04 2001
Posted By: Andrew D. Brabban, Faculty, Biology, The Evergreen State College
Area of science: Evolution
ID: 992972848.Ev

A great question that needs some careful consideration to fully treat it 
with the repect and complexity that it requires. Here is a taste of the 
issues. This is really a history question, and to look at how science 
itself evolves and changes as new data become available.

Darwin: based his ideas on field observations. We must also remember 
however that although Darwin gets all the credit Alfred Russell Wallace had 
the same natural selection idea.
This link has some interesting material from the original Darwin, Lyell, 
Wallace, Malthus work.

All this work was done without knowledge of DNA remember. This is the 
1870's. What is most surprising is that at about the same time (give or 
take 10-15 years) Mendel was showing that something was passed from parent 
to offspring. But no one took notice of Mendel's work for another 40 years.

Today: We have taken Darwin's and Wallace's ideas and combined them with 
Mendel's work and the recent Genomic work of the modern era of molecular 
biology to create the what is termed Molecular Evolution. Darwin knew that 
"fit" was the secret but not how a parents ability to survive by "fitting" 
and surviving to reproduction led to the child also "fitting". Mendel knew 
parents gave information to their children. Today we now know all living 
entities contain DNA, DNA encodes proteins and ultimately all that is the 
organism (genotype), this genotype is acted on by  the environement to give 
us an interpretation of what the genes code (phenotype), and so it is your 
genes that are the "fitness". If your genes "fit" well to your lifestyle 
and environment (niche) you survive and your genes survive because you 

It is interesting philosophically if we disregard the spirit as 
scientically not proven, what survives death ? Well 1 thing, our genes. If 
we view life in this way, genes are the real life form and we are just 
vehicles for them to propagate and evolve.

Try reading a relatively old book. "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins. 
We are survival machines--robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the 
selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with 
astonishment. Though I have known it for years, I never seem to get fully 
used to it. -- Richard Dawkins. It is available at any good bookstore.

I hope this taste has answered your complex question to the degree you 
wanted and also made you think about the ideas of Richard Dawkins.

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