Evolution demands speciation:
This has been called the “Year of Darwin.”  Pardon me while I gripe for a bit.  Darwin has been touted as the man who discovered evolution.  Yet in his own foreword to a later edition of Origin of Species he quotes Aristotle explaining evolution far more clearly, accurately and concisely than Darwin ever did.  Aristotle said evolution was the result of chance variation and selection.  Darwin never got there.  He only got as far as variation and selection. 

Lamark, who is generally accused of having believed only in the inheretance of acquaired characteristics, I now learn, actully wrote a book about evolution fifty years before Darwin did and got it right in essence.  And Darwin only bothered to publish because a man who trusted him let him know that he, Wallace, was about to publish the idea. 

All I am left with is a nasty old man who liked to eat pidgeons.  Well it’s not his fault he lived to be old.  And eating pigions is only a guess; Origin is mostly a memoir of pidgeon husbandry.  As for being nasty, I see it this way.  Darwin offered nothing new about evolution; that was already on the books.  What he did was alow himself to be a pawn in an attack by a man named Huxley on the Church of England, who had problems with evolution.  Well science is no more the business of religion than religion is the business of science.  It was a pointless squabble. 

In Origin of Species, there is one, L, sentence on origin of species.  Among the few occasions when Darwin could tear himself away from his pigeons, he said (if memory serves), “As for the origin of species, it is happenstance, because hybrid infertility never did any species any good.”  Most of the rest of the non-pigeon passsages involved pointing out (and this time he was dead right) there is no such thing as a species.  It is an arbitrary definition.  Species blend one into the other over time with no bolt of lighting to announce that a new one has appeared.  All right, on that one I have to give him credit.  He was ahead of the modern accepted understanding. 

And in his single pertinent sentence, he did mangage to recognize that chance plays a part in the way things change.

And I have as little patience with people who simply don’t believe that evoution happens.  “Evolution” just means “change.”  Don’t think things change?  There is not a single religion I can think of that says things have never changed.  So you are all alone with neither science nor religeon to help you make sense of life, nor your own experience either. 

Back in the bad old days before we became politically born again, I was a child in Gainesville, Florida.  The sudents paid a fee for a cultural enrichment program.  But they had no say in what the contents of that progarm should be.  Then at last it was decided that the students knew better what the were ignorant of than anybody else did, so they should choose just how they would be enriched.  From that point forward, the program consisted of popular bands.  But before that, we would have concerts, broadway musicals, hypnotists, chamber music from behind the iron curtain, poets, actors to portray great artists and so forth. 

One of those intrisically evil events (I’m into sarcasm as well as bile, in case you hadn’t noticed.) was a slide show by Roger Tory Peterson who wrote the best field guide to American birds.  One slide was a view across a parking lot into the Grand Canyon.  In the middle distance was a man sitting on a bench.  Peterson said, “You notice that man.  He’s a geologist.  While we are looking at a big hole, he is seeing a billion years.  He’s weeping.”

So go see the hole.  It’s very moving.  And, unless I am more than usually decieved, you can go down it a mile deep.  Along the way there are fossiles in the rock.  They are mostly from the time of trilobites.  Of all those fossiles, not one represents an animal now alive.  Things change.  Life changes.  That is fact if there ever was one. 

As a child I was not taught evolution.  I was not taught religion in the schools either.  And in college, a friend confided in me that the best minds had come from schools where they had been taught both religion and science.  One could reason better after having learned about God and about evolution.  I thought then that this was not a big deal.  Evolution?  I figured that one out in the third grade.  The teacher had left lying about a book that simply described the fossile record.  It didn’t take the brightest kid to figure out what the underlying mechanism was.

On the other hand, learning about religion means learning about what people have thought about life in the past.  There are thousands of years of imbedded experience and reflection.  You aren’t going to pull that wisdom out of the air any more than a bunch of undergraduates are going to invite in the best string quartet in the world. 

If it also saves your immortal soul, that’s not my business.  Someone once pointed out that every religion says every other religion is wrong (which, by the way, is not true) so almost all of them are wrong.  They can’t all be right, but they might all be wrong.

So grab a scienfic journal.  Every one of them is crammed with articles saying that what we knew before was wrong or incomplete this way or that.  There is a thirty year half life to any scientific idea before it is replaced.  Scientists can’t all be right.  But they just might all be wrong. 

You will have to use your own judgement about things.

Among the most durable scientific theories is evolution.  I don’t see it going away any time soon.

But let’s go back to that sentence by Darwin.  “As for the origin of species, it is happenstance, because hybrid infertility never did any species any good.”  That sentence is just dumb.

Consider two species, not cat and dog but “cag” and “dat.”  These are fictional animals.  The cag cannot undergo speciation, but the dat undergoes speciation predictably and fairly quickly.  Otherwise the two are identical.  Now we turn them loose in equal numbers with little competition in a large and varied environment.  Both thrive and both become widespread.  There are many species of dat but only the one cag.  And the dats have been evolving each to exploit a different niche.  The cag has evolved but in the absense of speciation can only perfect itself for a general average of niches.  It cannot compete with the specialized dat in any niche.  The cag will go extinct.  So yes, Mr. Darwin, speciation does accomplsih something.  Evolution will favor speciation.  It will favor it every time.  It requires speciation.  Darwin should have understood that.  Anybody should understand that. 

So in my next article, when I follow the logic out farther, don’t try to wiggle off the hook.  Speciation is inevitable and is not expected to be very long delayed.

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