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Survival of the Origins

Hilary McGowan's picture
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            Biological Evolution. These two words stand upon a pedestal, gracing society, science, and culture with its spectacular view. Perhaps like any magnificent statue, every angle that it is viewed at perceives it to be a little different. A little harsher on one side and a bit flatter and more sterile on the other. Up on top sits Charles Darwin, dangling his legs from the morphed idea that is evolution. Perhaps he is not seen the same way as when his book, “The Origin of Species” was first published and made its way into mainstream society, but the few lines on his face have not deterred his importance in the least regard. Although Darwin may have not been the one person to come up with the idea of survival of the fittest, he certainly stands out in history for his meticulous notes and ideas on scientific thought and sociological feelings for all of the World and humanity. Now, ideas such as evolution surely are disturbing- like discovering a secret of our past that we have no control over. Is this still a secret that needs to be discussed quietly by some and shouted out on street corners to others? Are we even still in the process of evolution when we can’t see it immediately happening? This covert knowledge of finding out that people are the result of trial and error frightens some, but Darwin believed it to be a truly inspiring and amazing system.

            Larger events that make up the Universe are too large to even begin to comprehend, yet still evolution takes into account the entire idea of life. Darwin may not of explicitly written about the origins of life, where, when, and what exactly the world was made up of at the time, but the evidence he draws from the clues of living organisms was enough for him to make an elementary drawing of life’s history. Like a scientific god resembling Sherlock Holmes covered in dirt and ink from writing in a journal, Darwin and evolution almost seems to have become phenomenon that we take for granted in our present course.


Even though evolution is usually counted on as “fact” in most books, theories, and people’s minds, the design of natural selection is often misplaced and misunderstood as justifications for behavior. Making an excuse for murdering or mistreating other organisms by simply explaining that you are surviving and beating out others seems like it could get us into more trouble than it could help us. Evolution as a whole is about the random happenstances that have resulted in the eventual creation of organisms and traits that are more effective than others. Not the idea that one species can wipe out another in a decade and say that, “they have won the game.” I don’t believe that Darwin intended biological evolution to be seen as a game, more as an observed process of the world slowly being able to develop around itself in a balance of give and take.


We want to survive- that’s a given answer- but often the idea of our ancestors surviving from chance places some sort of fear into our heats. I wonder what Darwin would have thought about that, winking at us from atop his tower. His often apologetic tone in his book, “The Origin of Species,” seems to say that he would have been disappointed to have seen such negative uproar for his theories, yet he was still audacious enough to name his book with such a startling title of knowledge. The origin of life beginning from the smallest little microorganism now to the city-constructing and machine-building humans is certainly a concept that no one can truly consume in one dose. In fact, an entire lifetime will not allow for a complete understanding of life. When we are still discovering the magnificent patterns of life and proving others out, we can hope that we will never really be able to discover everything there is to know about the origin of life.


            Shall we keep the secret of the story of life’s origins, or can we begin to accept that perhaps evolution is only an idea of life. Following the origins of the all the species that have ever graced this earth and all the developments that have taken place since the beginning of life is unimaginable, we cannot see evolution happen directly before our eyes. We can see it from the paths that history has laid for us, and follow the evidence around it. Science consistently proves Mr. Darwin to be correct in his idea of life gradually developing from mistakes to create more life that is perhaps more successful at surviving in a particular area. There is nothing wrong with assuming that the rest of life will follow this pattern, but there is a problem with thinking that we can discover all there is to know about the theories of life- for we are the assumed by-products of this so called evolution. Even Darwin up there, cheekily waving to us humans below.


Paul Grobstein's picture

evolution and the understanding of it

"we are the assumed by-products of this so called evolution. Even Darwin up there, cheekily waving to us humans below."

We are all, Darwin included, a by-product ... a creation of a process? One that we purport to describe? Can a process actually give rise to a product that can understand the process that give rise to it? What characteristics would such a process have to have to achieve that, or any approximation to it?