How Darwin's Theory Has Impacted the Society

Published: 2021-06-23
1844 words
7 pages
16 min to read
George Washington University
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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The theory of evolution by Darwin or rather Darwinism entails that view that life emanates from a common ancestor. In other words, birds, fishes, and flowers all have a common ancestry. The theory assumes that the beginning of life comes from the non-life in regards to "descent with modification" which is undirected (Francis 19). In other words, complex beings develop from simple beings within time. The genetic mutation takes place in the genetic code of a being by which the significant mutations are maintained as they assist in survival through a process referred to as natural selection. Through natural selection, the significant mutations are passed from one generation to the next. With time, the significant mutations gather such that they give rise to a new organism. The organism differs completely from the original rather than exhibiting variations of the first one (Francis 21). From an analytical perspective, the theory of evolution has brought about both positive and negative implications in the society.

Review of the Theory

It is important to note that Darwins concept of evolution was already in existent. Philosophers of ancient time, with a good example being Anaximander, presented the idea of being emanating from none-life in addition to man developing from an animal. Charles Darwin is perceived to contribute new ideas to the ideology, natural selection (Fodor & Piattelli-Palmarini 58). The concept of natural selection purposes to preserve and gather beneficial genetic mutations. For example, if the genetic code of an organism mutated such that it developed wings and gained the ability to fly, its offspring would acquire the skill and pass it to the next generation. The members of the species that were weak or rather had features that were less beneficial would die with time and leave behind the superior members. Natural selection can, therefore, be described as the maintenance of useful functions that allowed species to survive adequately in the ecosystem. The concept can be compared to domestic breeding whereby people who engage in breeding when it comes to domestic animals select certain animals to breed. The breeders analyze traits that are undesirable and then eliminate them after some time. Natural selection comes into perspective as it does away with species that are weak gradually (Fodor & Piattelli-Palmarini 60).

The theory can be viewed to entail a slow, gradual process that employs natural selection whereby animals with successive variations survive, and the weak become extinct with time. In his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, Charles Darwin stated, Natural selection acts only by taking advantage of slight successive variations; she can never take a great and sudden leap but must advance by short and sure, though slow steps."..If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down, (Darwin 162)The complex organ, in this case, is viewed to be irreducible in the sense that it contains various parts which are significant and allow a system to operate. Also, if a single part is absent, the whole system will not operate, and hence every part is significant (Darwin 162). Using a more practical example to illustrate a system that exhibits irreducible complexity, a car contains various parts that allow it to move that include clutches, brakes, accelerator, engine, wheels, steering wheel, and the whole body. Therefore, if one of the parts fails to operate, then the car will not move. The car then becomes an irreducible complex.

Societal Impact of Darwins Theory

The theory is perceived to have a significant impact on modern science. The recent understanding of Darwinism is characterized with revision and addition in the concept of evolution. The concept of natural selection has resulted in numerous breakthroughs in regards to computer science and medicine. In regards to the impact that Darwinism has on society, Mayr explains that the concept of natural selection had had a significant impact in explaining the final cause (Mayr). In the article, Darwin's Influence on Modern Thought, he explains that Darwin brought about a different section in life science that is referred to as evolutionary biology. He highlights the nonconstancy among species as one of his major contributions or rather the current understanding of evolution. He also highlights the view regarding branching evolution whereby all species pertaining living organisms emanate from a common ancestor. He asserts, Darwin further noted that evolution must be gradual, with no major breaks or discontinuities. Finally, he reasoned that the mechanism of evolution was natural selection, (Mayr).

The view regarding natural selection is considered to be an advancement in the philosophy associated with the development of man. It has had a significant impact in explaining the aspects associated with adaptive and directional changes. It is viewed to be a simple concept as it involves the exclusion of weak individuals rather than involving complex laws such as the laws of physics. It puts into perspective the concept of survival of the fittest whereby the fit are bound to survive while the weaklings vanish gradually (Mayr). Its ability in explaining the final causes makes it significant in understanding the forces in teleology and how the end is achieved especially since nothing is predetermined. Mayr explains that a diverse population is a must for natural selection to function adequately. It can be viewed as a two-way process that entails the availability of a large population whereby individuals who are inferior are eliminated. He states, By adopting natural selection, Darwin settled the several-thousand year- old argument among philosophers over chance or necessity. Change on the Earth is the result of both, the first step being dominated by randomness, the second by necessity, (Mayr).

The ideas from Darwin are perceived to have contributed in the shifts of thinking. In other words, the nature of thought in a person 100 years ago is different from the thoughts of a person in the 21st century. The shift in thought can be attributed to the advances in technology by which man has engaged in various activities that have boosted his intellectual. Darwinism brought about various ideas that contrasted the views concerning teleology, physicalism, and determinism that had been earlier suggested by various scientists. The theory opposes the view present in typology. Before the theory, diversity was analyzed in regards to instability and invariance or rather topology. Diversity comprised of limited aspects that made a class. The organisms in each class were viewed to be similar and constant and that the distinctively differed from other classes of species. However, variation tends to be nonessential in the sense that it puts into perspective differences (Mayr).

Typology presents an ambiguous view regarding human races. In a more practical analysis, typology distinguishes races whereby Africans become completely different from Caucasians which in return brings about racism. However, variation brings about acknowledging other differences through the concept of population thinking that was introduced by Darwin. In population thinking, all classes of species including man make part of a population that has unique and different beings. In other words, each being is unique and not similar in any way. The view is that populations differ through statistical variations and not through essence. It can be viewed that through the rejection of constancy, Darwin introduced the aspect of history into the scientific school of thought such that new approaches were used in making interpretations in science (Mayr).

However, the concept of social Darwinism has been applied significantly in bolstering arguments regarding racism and hence negatively impacting the society. The theory is considered not to make contributions when it comes to moral issues and hence might be misapplied severally (Hodgson & Knudsen 65). In the later years, the concept of social Darwinism was employed as a strategy of promoting racism against individuals from inferior ethnical backgrounds. During the beginning of the 1900s, individuals from the majority groups highly discriminated people from the lower classes and the African Americans. Social Darwinism comes into perspective as it scientifically explained the reasons for the discrimination and the hatred of people from other races. The tussle found among classes provided the Europeans with the view that races that were superior had more power than the inferior. The belief made the European community develop expansionist ideas such that they fully have control over the weak powers (Hodgson & Knudsen 65). Therefore, imperialism entailed both acquisition of territories and the fulfillment of ones obligation when approaching individuals from the inferior races. Being European was described as being white and wealthy in addition to providing the inferior races a view of civilization in regards to the burden of the white man when associating with individuals from other races. In synopsis, social Darwinism provided new power to imperialism in the sense that it justified treating people from other races differently as a result of the natural differences. It can be viewed as a concept of Darwinism that bolstered the arguments regarding racism (Hodgson & Knudsen 65).

The theory has impacted the society in regards to religious views. At first, the theory was considered to contradict with religious beliefs. Many Christians, by 1859, took the Bible literally and hence found the concepts in the evolution theory, not in line with their beliefs. For them, the world was created in six days by God and hence wouldnt accommodate any view that contradicted with their beliefs (Mizzoni 280). However, in the early 1900s, most Christians did not take the story of creation literally and hence no longer a threat to their beliefs. However, in the United States, the development of fundamentalism continued the debate between evolution and religion. The fundamentalists wanted the restoration of what they described as the truths found in the Christian religion. From their perspective, a large number of Christians had the will to get rid of such doctrines with the view that the Bible lacked errors. The fundamentalists presented the view that evolution assisted in weakening the society with the assertion that it brought down the moral foundation. The views by Darwin contradicted with the concept of creation with the objective of replacing the theories in religion regarding the creation of man with the evolution theory. The theory challenged the beliefs affiliated to traditions and culture. It can be perceived that Darwin wanted people to open their mind to new ideas instead of aligning to what has been presented to them without any form of critical thinking. This explains why, after most people began embracing new perspectives on their present knowledge, viewed the fundamentalists as ignorant when opposing the theory of evolution. By the 60s, scientists had plenty of evidence to authenticate the evolution theory and hence to make it hard for the antievolutionary views to gain support (Mizzoni 280).

The theory has impacted the society regarding adequately understanding the concept of evolution. It was a result of Darwins ideas on evolution that sparked in other scientists later in the twentieth century (Endean). During the twentieth century, works from James Watson, Rosalind Franklin, and Francis Crick through their research on the features of the DNA contribute greatly in comprehending th...

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