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The Role of Natural Selection in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

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The term Natural Selection was composed by Charles Darwin in the nineteenth century. It was the result of evolution which began through the creation of a variety of different species which have evolved and developed over time. Species adapted through their characteristics and reproduced, passing their genes on to spread to others and enhance their species. As it has been known as a connotation with Natural Selection, the term “survival of the fittest” closely relates to the idea of the selection process. It is due to our inheritance and our dominance and superiority to other species to survive that enabled some to be the best. All species, must fight to survive so they can pass their genes on through reproduction. Much of this topic is what I will be discussing throughout this essay. I will discuss the constitutions surrounding Darwin’s theory of Evolution and to what extent Natural Selection plays a role of importance in establishing this process.

The importance of Natural Selection plays a role in determining our way of life and how we should behave. It involves much of the nature and nurture debate about what we inherit and how we adapt to our surroundings for examples. As we are born, we grow and develop so therefore Natural Selection is a gradual process which calculates over time. In some ways we cannot escape it and some would argue that we don’t have much choice over it. As I have addressed, the event of Evolution was the beginning of Natural Selection. However, much of the concept of Adaptation and terms surrounding this are the explanation of Natural Selection. Mainly because we were formed through this process so we have made ourselves or were born with idealistic attributes for assistance of survival and to compete as part of a species.

There are three types of Adaptation which Godrey devised. These are: Explanatory Adaptationism, Empirical Adaptationism and Methodological Adaptationism. Darwin’s ideas were much accepted by biologists after the release of his book, “On the Origin of Species” in 1859 in which he gained acceptance by them as it supported scientific knowledge. The theory of Natural Selection was co-created by Darwin and Wallace who encouraged the writings of this book. This term is based on the way organisms are specified in a way that closely resides the environment they live in. An example of this would be a polar bear being created with fur and most always cultivate in extreme cold climates in countries such as Antarctica. Natural Selection solves this query and we are all selected to be made in a certain way and be put in such an environment which we adapt to. The notion of Natural Selection is present everywhere so it is powerful.

The term Adaptation is actually is a key part of Natural Selection. It is based on the attributes which assist survival for the organism. The way it is constructed, formed and its behaviour constitutes whether it is fit for survival in its environment. Furthermore, as it evolves over time, the traits which it develops are an important point to Adaptation. Adaptive is not the same as Adaptation, it more about how well you can adapt to these surroundings with its current fitness. As Stephen J Gould discourages this, he coins the term Exaptation which suggests that fitness of groups of species wasn’t originally selected for Natural Selection despite being favourable for selection. They have parts of their anatomy which were created for different functions. For example, according to Gould, a bird’s feathers being initially regarded as a characteristic for insulating purposes rather than to use to fly. “What the example of the feathers thus shows us, is that exaptation is by no means an isolated shift, as it is both preceded and followed by adaption, nor is it a one-off event, as post-exaptation adaptation may to lead to subsequent exaptation.” Certain attributes doesn’t always imply that they are part of evolution- a developing process simply because they seem fitter as they could actually be known for various functions.

Most ideas surrounding Adaptationism derive from the concerns relating to philosophy. The reason for species and our selective process could be due to intelligent design. Darwin’s ideas are similar to William Paley’s watch analogy. The concept of “telos” meaning end or purpose implies that we are made for a reason and have a designer rather than a selection process. This amounts to a supernatural creator which in terms of philosophical views would be God. The complexity of the universe can be supported by science. However, “this more controversial idea is the claim that apparent design has special status as a biological phenomenon. A crucial point here is that selection can have this kind of central importance even if it is rare.” The article about Adaptation as referenced, discusses views relating to whether through adaptation does Natural Selection cause much of the effects involved in the world. Instead Natural Selection is to outstand this idea and hold much greater importance. The constraints of it will be discussed further on in this essay.

Much of the concept of Telos brings us to question whether Evolution is teleological. It is known that an organic world came about inorganically using the term “ex nihilio” meaning creation was made from literally nothing. However through atoms and neurons etc we are built up into matter to form organic materials. Mammals came about through non mammalian ancestors so nothing has been discovered through a natural kind. For Evolution to work we need three aspects; variation, reproduction and inheritability. Darwin based his theory at first on the fixity of species but then changed his argument towards Transmutation, also known as Evolution. The Malthusian Lens is based on the struggle for existence which signifies limited resources thus favourable variations spread through breeding to stay alive. Individuals of each species must all be different otherwise if we were all equal, then evolution wouldn’t work. Darwin used survival of the fitter after adopting it from Spencer. We all must possess a distinction between us as there must be a struggle for existence according to Malthus. Therefore, according to Spencer, there must be a fight for existence. This concept was developed by Spencer who agreed that there must be “survival of the fitter” which meant that the stronger, better genes would live on. His main views consisted of sociobiological progress. For him “all species tended towards a population equilibrium in which the ability of the individual to survive and the less there was need for reproduction. For the human species, Spencer diagnosed a temporary imbalance, the power of reproduction being greater than was required given the advances achieved in social individuation.” The struggle for existence, based on social terms will imply the demands of society becoming an issue. There won’t be enough for everyone and the growing population would eventually decrease and die out. The ones which survive will be the physically better individuals- the better genes.

According to Darwin, we are becoming involved in a progressing, developing process which is axiological. Things seem to be getting better What Darwin calls a “warm little pond” is where all species started. For humans to develop from that to think up a theory such as Evolution is remarkable. However, he believes that we cannot forget our origins but there are certain types of progress. There isn’t a telos and our life is developed through the demands of the environment which we are a part of. This is because it enacts a struggle for survival so we must develop.

Julian Huxley presents a criticism to the notion of “a man is higher than a worm”. Just because a man has the ability to think and is above most in the chain of being, man still possesses similar traits to other species. For example, an octopus’ eye is identical to a human eye. It contains a retina, lens and cornea meaning species can intercept characteristics and aren’t as different as we think. Huxley deciphers between complexities between races. We are all as species adapted to a particular environment according to him, so we can’t conclude to man being the better race when an animal is better adapted to their surroundings. Their complexities aren’t as such complex than another species as complexities in themselves are complex. Furthermore, Huxley argues that there isn’t a case for better genes surviving longer. The simple organisms have remained in existence and continue to survive. Darwin extends his view to suggest that evolution is a process which is slow moving and we must progress by taking small steps. We need to know something is changing in order for us to notice this. Otherwise, it would eliminate our perspective if everything was in a constant flux.

As I briefly mentioned before, Gould plays an important role in Natural Selection. He believed that it was important but not the most significant feature of Evolution. He devised the Punctuated Equilibrium theory which arised a challenge to Darwin’s Evolution theory. It asserts the idea that evolution isn’t consistent and that it goes through uncertain changes. Written with Niles Eldrege, Evolution is going through various patterns and interruptions. It implies that a new species may originate in an environment where it must adapt to the change. It sparks issues to how adaption works especially if a species were to migrate to a different environment where it would have to adapt to a new place. According to the fossil records, there isn’t a particular modification as there is no continuous effect of evolution. Instead there is periods of stability. Gould thinks any signs of progress in nature are “really the random motion away from simple beginnings, not directed impetus towards inherently advantageous complexity.” We all have complexities in certain ways but we all can’t allow ourselves to learn the same way or be born with identical traits meaning we will all become extinct. Morris creates an argument based upon this idea stating that the complexity of our brains are convergent as they keep reappearing which implies developments according to him. Some species share similar traits which are distinct between vertebrates and non-vertebrates. This is a case of convergent evolution. The independent evolution of similar traits and ancestral conditions which are frequently related closely where several species respond to similar challenges. Morris agrees that this convergence is possible in terms of biologically as we see these forms reappearing.

In addition to this, Lewontin accompanies Gould in their analogy of Spandrels. It is alleged that the beauty of the spandrels in a gothic cathedral is created for aesthetic purposes but it is believed by Gould that they are built to support the roofs of the building. This analogy asserts the notion that Natural Selection isn’t as significant as it is described and that adaptations are everything. Traits require different functions and evolution can allow less constraints as developments of a specie’s characteristics can evolve for another purpose. As I discussed prior to this in this essay, this is mainly discussing Gould’s ex adaptive traits in species such as believing about feathers for insulation rather than flying. According to Darwin, traits must be good to ensure survival. Good teeth must work for their purpose so for cutting in this instance. If it doesn’t do what it is supposed to do then it is a malfunction.

The last point which I would like to discuss is the ancestral behaviour between the sexes. This touches on Social Darwinism, from this particular perspective, we can apply Natural Selection to human affairs. Men and women behave differently in terms of societal opinions. According to Bateman, there is no equality between men and women. This is because men are able to reproduce much more. This is different to women as they only have the ability to release a few hundred eggs in their lifetime and aren’t always fertile. Bateman’s idea is mainly the success rate in females is much lower than males. As females have larger gametes, they need spend more in investing in a child while men don’t. He discusses the concept of parental investment suggesting that females more time and males less as they can freely let their sperm impregnate any woman. “In terms of Bateman’s Principle in relation to parental investment it suggests that anisogamy leads to higher male potential reproductive rates. Therefore, often a male will gain more by mating with a new female thus exacerbating male-male competition over the few sexually receptive females available at any given time.” This is limited options for the woman as they have no choice over parental investment. In society before, men were known to work and provide food and look after their wife while she looked after the children. In terms of the Malthusian theory, this way a way women were to survive and breed with another man who she knew would be able to look after her and her children.

On the other hand, in today’s society there are more adaptive changes. Most people breed with the people they find desirable and pass on good genes. Due to social mobility, men in this society tend to cheat and can leave the woman which will leave her with the struggle for survival, hence why women have more parental investment than the male. Evolutionary psychology teaches us to learn about the behaviour patterns of individuals and how our brain makes us adapt in certain ways. According to socio-biology, we all have a nature to act with our mind and brain which is a biological complexity. It is similar to the human eye or the heart and requires functions. To conclude, I have discussed a few ideas about Natural Selection and how it plays an important role to the creation of Evolution. I think that it is particularly as we must adapt to survive and it is more logical idea. In terms of Gould’s argument, he does ensure that Natural Selection is significant however argues that some adaptations require a much slow, uncertain process rather than gradual to determine how species are adapted to certain environments. I would also agree with Dawkin’s Selfish Gene theory about Natural Selection implying towards survival of the fittest genes rather than the organism’s survival.

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