"Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake up and become aware. It does not teach, it points." ~D.T. Suzuki

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Evolution or Darwin with Modification?

In Honor of

Charles Robert Darwin’s
Birthday February 12, 1809


The Publication Of
"On The Origin Species
by Means of Natural Selection"


In respect of the man and in honor of his birthday and the publication of the book on his theory… he did not call his theory, the theory of evolution. The title of his work is, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. I don’t have problem using the word evolution is if it is being meant as the historical evidence of change over time. I use it in this way myself. You may think this is nit-picking, but sometimes the words we use distort people’s perception in unintended ways. By the way, I do have an issue with the way the phrase “Survival of the Fittest” is used by some people. But that’s a whole other post in itself. I’ll leave that for another time.

The only place where Darwin uses the word “evolved” is in the last word of the last sentence of the last paragraph of the last chapter in The Origin Of Species. He knew the word, but clearly didn't use it for his theory. The word evolution, defines an unfolding, a directional development. Yet, Darwin never suggested there was a direction (or evolution) toward perfection or an ideal design. He only observed inherited change in the individuals of populations, over several generations. Explaining this process of change in populations and species over time,
Darwin's own words were "Descent With Modification".

In fact, these words embody Darwin's insight more accurately than the popular word evolution. Darwin's theory postulates that there is no direction for change except that determined by the favorability or un-favorability brought on by the conditions and circumstances in nature. That the selection is natural, not chosen and as Darwin noted, over time nature is always changing. Nature, the conditions in which you live determines success or failure for a form of life. To be preserved to go on into the future or perish. The changing conditions in nature drives the changes in the all the forms of life we see. So, these may be better words to keep this in mind and avoid misunderstanding what he meant.
Darwin did not publish On The Origins of Species for many years. It is speculation as to why. However what is clear was that it took courage. In his time and society, especially with him to have studied Theology in his younger days, he must have know what reaction to expect when implications of what he was saying where known publicly. Courage to stand fast to the facts and evidence that led to his insight and the conviction (in the sense of a belief, held as proven) that led him to publish. He is to be admired as much for this, as the results of his work.

In his day, and with the available science,Darwin may not have been quite able to nail down the actual process of inheritance. He was pretty close in his guess that some "gemule" is passed on by both parents to the offspring. Although, it clear that even without the benefit of genetics, he did appear to have a powerful notion of the how inherited modifications of the descendants leads to diversity and speciation by a natural selection. A clear explanation for the variety seen in natural history. What is also clear... His, was an insight that has greatly advanced our understanding of life.

In the meantime… Cheers Mr. Darwin ! Happy birthday to you and thanks for publishing your great book. Your work and courage are still inspiring many people and much valuable scientific research.

© 2012 MU-Peter Shimon

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