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Evolution and Extinction Essay

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    This essay will talk about evolution and extinction. Is there any relationship between them, according to the different ideas of evolution, extinction, is there any influence between each other, or anyone believe or reject their understanding and the reason of why, sometimes if you want to have a better understanding about something, you have to start researching about other things which are closely related to it.

    Time, place and people’s thoughts will be the reasons why they finally got these conclusions and assumptions, some of their concepts are credible, they’re still useful for today. But others not, even in the past time, some researchers already proved that ideas did not make any more sense, but it brings a very valuable reference and influence for the thinkers and researchers in the future.

    So, in this essay, I will try to conclude some important points, write some of my perspectives on this topic after the reading, and why I am interested in this topic.

    Firstly, what is evolution? And what is extinction? For evolution, it’s consisted of two aspects by Darwin’s theory, the first one is, diverse groups of animals evolve from one or a few common ancestors, another one is, the mechanism by which this evolution takes place is natural selection. For extinction, it held that species died out as a result of catastrophes by Cuvier’s theory, but interestingly, it contradicted by Darwin’s theory, he said, extinction was a routine side effect of evolution, or the revolutions on the surface of the earth. In my opinion, the research of evolution and extinction is a way to explore the Earth’s history, especially for biology, where our different kind of creatures come from? Why they will become like this? The more you want to know, the more that people have to dig in this area, and of course, to recover the lost piece of our history.

    People started doing research in this area from long times ago, like Charles Darwin, George Cuvier, Charles Lyell, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and many researchers, thinkers, scientists contributed to it, every thought and idea from them always had a huge influence in different area. George Cuvier, he was a French naturalist and zoologist, sometimes referred to as the ‘founding father of paleontology’. He arrived in Paris in 1795, there he gained for the first-time full exposure to the work of Xavier Bichat, whose redefinition of the idea of life was probably the largest single influence on Cuvier’s early work. Cuvier was faced for the first time with a movement in physiology and medicine that was engaged in the redefinition of the concept of fife. Cuvier borrowed from the work of Bichat those elements in it that were holistic and that involved abandonment of the search for a single force Vitale as a valid way of explaining the detailed phenomena of the life of an organism, and a breaking down of the idea of life into the harmony of different functions originating in the inner workings of organism. Correlations between functions rather than single functions in themselves, thus came to be preferentially studied as the basis for the order of nature. Cuvier also reproduced the confusions and ambiguities involved in Bichat’s work about the validity of experimentation, and the possibility of relating holistic ideas of life to specific investigatory inputs from physics and chemistry. Although it does increase the suggestive power of comparative anatomy, it does not increase the coherence of Cuvier’s work. In France, while the Linnaean nomenclature was widely adopted, the Linnaean methodology was strongly attacked because of the artificiality of the groups it produced and because of its inability to form acceptable higher groups. at the time of Cuvier’s arrival in Paris, zoology and anatomy were ripe for the conceptual reorientation that Cuvier gave them by the input of concepts taken partly from the previous debates and partly from current work in botany and physiology. And this is what we have known Cuvier mainly in relation to the influences he encountered in Paris.

    However, just like what we mentioned, not everyone agreed with someone’s ideas. Charles Lyell, he was a Scottish geologist who demonstrated the power of known natural causes in explaining Earth’s history. He is best known as the author of Principles of Geology. He read the Cuvier’s book which based on Cuvier’s researches on the Tertiary strata of the Paris Basin. But Lyell soon recognized that the succession of species through Tertiary strata, marking a series of extinctions and replacements, could be used as a natural chronometer for Tertiary time. He was, however, firmly opposed to Cuvier’s postulation of a succession of catastrophic mass extinctions separated by longer interludes of comparative quiescence. In his review, Lyell pointed out that the Massif Central had not experienced any Tertiary marine incursions, unlike the Paris Basin. Between Cuvier’s Tertiary faunas and those of the present, Lyell suggested, was a period in the history of life ‘over which the greatest obscurity still hangs’. However, the fauna had changed during this period, it could not have been by Cuvier-type revolutions: central France had evidently remained free from whatever physical changes had occurred in the lower-lying Paris Basin. Lyell foresaw a piecemeal replacement of species as they went extinct, due to no doubt to environmental causes. Also, Lyell was already obsessed with doubt about non-progressionism, he finally came to accept some form of evolution, adhered to the rest of his uniformitarianism, and have to abandon his anchor of his central vision, but never accepted natural selection theory by Darwin. All of the concepts was concluded by scientists, historians, thinkers, but they are all have the influence to each other, maybe one of them will be the inspiration for the future research, because of this, the answer which we can get for now will become more and more perfect than before, especially in this scientific society without any effects of different religions.

    We mentioned too much about “Darwin”, but who is “Darwin”? Charles Darwin, he was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. A famous researcher that I know, his ideas of evolution have influence so many people, and also, he was affected by other researchers like Cuvier, Lyell, Lamarck and so on that we mentioned above. His story is so interesting, how he got his own idea about evolution and how his mind got to change? From 1836 onward he began to move gradually toward the conviction, reached several years later, that there must be a close connection between the processes leading to extinction and to the formation of new species, and that in turn these events were related somehow to slow geological and environmental changes. It soon became evident to him that variations could not lead to the condition of perfect adaptation, a condition required on the design argument. Nor could variations be directed, as required by Lamarck, in a simple, progressively adaptive manner, a realization that led Darwin to conclude that although progress in terms of increase in complexity had occurred, progress itself could not be a necessary consequence of transmutation. It has not yet been determined at what point in his studies the idea of intra- and interspecific competition struck him as being of equal importance to the postulated effect of slow environmental or purely physical changes. The significance he attached to gradual geological changes and to his belief in the imperfection of adaptations is expressed in the 1838 notebook: ‘if animals became adapted to every minute change, they would not be fitted to the slow great changes really in progress.’ and Darwin’s use of the term ‘natural selection,’ something one might reasonably expect to appear in the fourth notebook or as an annotation or journal entry, if the impact of Malthus was as immediate and significant as many suppose, has not been documented before 1840, However, in his unpublished reading notes for Volume IV of the Transactions of the Horticultural Society, prepared in 1839, appears what may be Darwin’s first use of the term ‘selection’ in nature in a way that implies a form of natural selection.

    Darwin had made excellent progress toward his goal of explaining the facts of biogeography in a singularly original and natural way by the time he wrote the ‘Essay of 1844,’ even if he was not able to resolve all the problems that confronted him, especially the question of the real cause of variation. Incomplete as he himself apparently considered his account of the origin of species to be at this time, for not only did he choose not to publish his results, but he continued for many more years further meticulous studies of variation and distribution, he no doubts derived his greatest security from his own understanding that if the variation was unlimited and nondirected, and if the struggle for existence was intense, then the vast accumulation of facts on biogeography and paleontology could be explained by his newly formed theory of natural selection. Since Darwin had no direct evidence available from either observation or experiment to demonstrate conclusively that specific changes do occur in nature, his theory demanded an unprecedented marshaling of facts gleaned from virtually all branches of natural history and a great deal of intellectual boldness and creative imagination. His faith in, and strict adherence to, the doctrine of uniformitarianism played an essential role in his success. It appears almost certain that his decision to adopt the natural selection ‘model’ was based on his own detailed and painstaking studies in biogeography, which had extended over a number of years, rather than on the effect of any single idea or the influence of any specific individual.

    If we arrange in chronological order the various statements Darwin made about God, creation, design, plan, law, and so forth, there emerges a picture of consistent development in Darwin’s religious views from the orthodoxy of his youth to the agnosticism of his later years. Numerous sources attest that at the beginning of the Beagle voyage Darwin was more or less orthodox in religion and science alike. After he became a transmutationist early in 1837, he concluded that the doctrine of secondary causes must be extended even to the history of life and that after the first forms of life were created, there was no further need for divine intervention, except where man was concerned. Man’s body, he thought, was produced by the process of transmutation, but he believed for a time that man’s soul was ‘superadded.’ By mid-1838 he had become convinced that nothing, after the creation of life, was due to miracles. God works only through laws, which are capable of producing ‘every effect of every kind which surrounds us.’ The existence of man, the idea of God in man’s mind, and the harmony of the whole system were in his eyes prearranged goals of deterministic laws imposed by God. Such a conception excludes the miracles on which Christianity depends; but it is not possible to say whether Darwin’s loss of Christian faith, which occurred at about this same time, preceded and made possible his ‘materialism’ or was rather caused or hastened by it. In the weeks after his reading of Malthus, Darwin’s belief in a plan of creation gave way to the belief that God created matter and life and designed their laws, leaving the details, however, to the workings of chance. This remained his view until the 1860s.

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