Theories Of Evolution: The Paradox Of Anthropocentrism

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The Paradox of Anthropocentrism In the simplest possible definition, the word evolution is understood as change over time. The notion of evolution, however, more complicated than just the meaning of the word. Conceptually, evolution has dichotomized exceptionally clearly. To the scientific community, evolution is a clear reference to the work and theories completed by Charles Darwin throughout the span of his lifetime, and the modern day knowledge of the process in which organisms develop specific desirable traits in response to altered environments. However, evolution 's third definition draws the line between scientific and non-scientific understandings. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines evolution as "a process of continuous change …show more content…
When Darwin wrote about evolution, he spoke specifically of descent of modification, through the process of natural selection. The theory of evolution states that for natural selection to occur within a species, several factors must be applied. Firstly, in a given population, more organisms must be born than can survive. Secondly, in the population, there must be variety in the traits found in individual organisms. Thirdly, these traits must be heritable, and can be passed down from the parent organisms to the offspring. Lastly, the population must only have access to limited resources in the environment, causing them to compete with each other for the resources. When these four factors occur in the natural world simultaneously, natural selection occurs as the organisms with the traits most useful for survival and mate selection inevitably have the highest rates of survival. The traits that helped the organisms survive will pass on to their offspring, and the organisms with less beneficial traits will not produce as many offspring. After multiple generations of this process of differential reproduction occurring, the population will have modified so that the desirable trait is found in most of the organisms. This development of preferential traits having high representation in each new generation is the basis of Darwin 's theory …show more content…
In his book A Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, Stephen Jay Gould discusses the progression of man as the paradigm of this dichotomy. The progression of man the most common image associated with evolution; where a linear sequence portrays an ape gradually developing into modern man. Yet, Gould argues that this assessment of evolution is deeply flawed, and that evolution can be best represented by non-linear imagery. Instead of a ladder leading straight from apes to humans, a bush that branches outwards with each modification in species variety would better depict how evolution works (Gould 15). Egocentrism has created a belief that evolution focuses on man exclusively. If a bush illustrated evolution, then the emphasis of evolution would be on variety, and not on progress. Gould accentuates that evolution at its core should reflect species with large amounts of variation, rather than reflecting modern species as more advanced than their ancestors (Gould 16). The author states that the reasoning behind this flawed interpretation that discounts variety in evolution as "because we try to extract a single line of advance from the true topology of copious branching. In this misguided effort, we are inevitably drawn to bushes so near the brink of total annihilation that they retain only one surviving twig. We then view this twig as the acme of upward achievement,

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