The Evolution of Darwin's Theory

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), February 8, 2009 | Go to article overview

The Evolution of Darwin's Theory


Byline: John Donovan For The Register-Guard

What do the sciences of chemistry, physics, geology, astronomy, biology, paleontology, anthropology and sociology all have in common?

Not only are these diverse fields in broad and detailed agreement with Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, many scientific explanations from these eight disciplines are fundamental to our knowledge of the facts of evolutionary change over time.

For example, astronomy underlies our understanding of the formation of the Earth. Physics provides radiometric and isotopic data for geological timelines and climatic cycles. Geology is the "bedrock" of the evolution of the continents, oceans and atmosphere. And paleontology overwhelms us with an abundance of fossil evidence reconstructing the history of life.

Biology continues to generate an ever-expanding body of molecular, genetic and population data that has only confirmed, in the words of noted evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky, that "nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution." And insights from anthropology and sociology are helping us understand the intersection between our animal heritage, psychological and social behavior, and our human culture.

In fact, when at various historic moments scientific claims have been found to be in disagreement with Darwin's revolutionary insight, it's the theory of evolution that has held the day as scientific evidence accumulated.

Darwin's early insights were amazing especially because while he could observe the implications of his theory, he had no idea of the actual mechanisms of evolution. Today, scientists have a vastly more detailed biochemical understanding of exactly how species change and diverge, not only through natural selection but through other mechanisms such as genetic drift and gene transfer between species.

Thursday is Charles Darwin's 200th birthday, and 2009 brings the 150th anniversary of the publication of his opus "On the Origin of Species." Thus it seems worthwhile to reflect on the significance and impact this man and his theory have had on the sciences, on modern society, and on our view of ourselves on this planet.

For one thing, it's not only the sciences that have benefited from the power of Darwinian explanations. Most of modern medicine and public health would not be possible without an understanding of evolution.

Even the field of engineering has been affected by the principles of the "nonrandom selection of randomly varying characteristics." Today, engineers routinely use evolutionary methods to calculate optimum wing shapes for fuel efficiency and combustion chambers for maximum rocket thrust.

And even the "dismal science" of economics is now making use of insights from human evolutionary psychology to understand why investors do not always make rational choices based on their own enlightened self-interest, but instead sometimes behave more like panicked herd animals.

But from a national and political perspective, why is evolution important today? Because evolution provides a powerful framework for investigating the planet on which we live.

Without evolution, the astonishing variety and diversity of the natural world is merely a collection of random and disconnected facts. Add evolution, and all of a sudden patterns emerge everywhere. Understanding not only becomes possible, but those insights are constantly used by scientists, doctors and engineers - and, today, increasingly by farmers and public health officials.

Evolution is immediately relevant here and now. It is not just an abstract subject that deals with the age of the planet, or how a fish first flopped onto a riverbank to lay its eggs away from predators.

The increasing effect humankind is having on our planet through habitat loss, pollution and climate change not only concerns frogs, ocean coral and weather patterns. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Evolution of Darwin's Theory
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.