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Cataclysm and Evolution

cr88's picture

 In Professor Grobstein's class, we discussed whether the fact that the fossil record seems to suggest that evolutionary change occurred not slowly over an extremely long period of time but in rapid bursts invalidated Darwin's theory of evolution. In particular, we discussed the Cambrian Explosion, the as yet unexplained appearance of many diverse forms of multicellular life forms in the fossil record. While it is hard to imagine what may have provoked evolutionary cataclysms such as this, I do not personally believe that such singular events contradict Darwin's theory of evolution. Darwin's theory holds after all that evolutionary development is an organism's response to its environment; were this environment to be rapidly transformed for whatever reason, it is not hard to imagine that new organisms would result. What I think is harder for us to accept is that we don't know could have caused such a paradigm shift in the evolutionary history of life nor can we easily imagine what might have done so. I think one of the temptations of Darwin's theory is to use it to supplant religious narratives and to extrapolate from Darwin's observed principles the idea of an overarching order guided by some sort of rhyme and reason when in reality no such order exists. 


mgz24's picture

The value of a traditional view

 I don't think that we were necessarily saying that the idea of punctuated equilibrium is the form of evolution that occurs in all instances.  Currently both the theory of punctuated equilibrium and the theory of gradualism are accepted as how evolution works.  There is proof for both theories differing based on the organism.  

Going in a sort of different direction, I have noticed in the last couple of weeks there has been a lot of talk about how because of the new way we are looking at evolution we must throw out everything we've learned in past classes about evolution, because those views are no longer valid.  I want to counter this idea.  I don't think it's necessary to completely let go of anything you've ever learned about evolution because that information is still valid.  The way we learn about evolution in our biology classes is a widely accepted view of evolution, and if we were to have never had that basis we would not be having the discussions that we are now having, which maybe suggests that our knowledge of evolution is also evolving in order to fir what we're studying.  I say this because I am also currently learning about evolution in a biology course, and in that course we are learning a much more "standard" view of evolution.  I think it would be naive to think that the way that we are talking about evolution is the only way.  But rather it is one of many different views one can have on the subject.

Sarah Schnellbacher's picture

Evaluating Darwinism vs Theory of Evolution

I agree that we can't throw out information we have learned in other courses. In a scientific sense modern information is actually much more poignant than focusing only on what was understood during the Victorian Era. If we are choosing to read Darwin as a contemporary individual, then it is necessary to disregard our current knowledge of genetics, radiometric dating techniques, etc. as these sources were unavailable to Victorians, but if we are trying to focus on the Theory of Evolution rather than just Darwinism, we should employ the use of modern day support for the theory. I think that our professors are imploring us to consider how Darwinism and Theory of Evolution differ rather than asking us to ignore all of our current knowledge as it pertains to Evolution. In the Victorian Era these two terms may have been synonymous; however, today they have diverged into two separate ideas from Darwin's On the Origin of Species.


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