What examples are there of recent human evolution
The 57-year-old American zoologist and geologist Stephen Jay Gould has been arousing both science and the public with such heretical views for several years. In this respect, his now published, generally understandable book about the latest findings in the theory of evolution does not contain anything completely new, but in its compactness it is tantamount to a bang, because Gould pushes humans and animals alike from the pedestal of evolution. They are nothing more than a small appendix on the dinosaur body of life, dispensable like the appendix in humans, with no further significance for the progress of evolution. Even man-made catastrophes such as an atomic winter, global warming or forced environmental pollution would only interrupt the progress of evolution, not stop it. Once we have disappeared, it starts all over again. After all, she has already suffered several major setbacks without life on earth having been extinguished.
Most people will not like this idea because it overturns everything that biology books and natural science museums have been teaching for decades. Ever since the story of creation disappeared under the bangs of Darwin's theory of evolution in the moth box of scientific fables, it has been recognized that life on earth has constantly improved. The ancestral chain of life ranges from primitive protozoa to mammals and humans. After that, the human being is the culmination and end point of development. Allegedly, the two basic principles of evolution, mutation and selection, i.e. genetic change and the selection of those who are better adapted, lead to this higher development. Apart from the fact that Darwin himself did not assume any direction for evolution, the argumentation does not in the least agree with reality, as Stephen Jay Gould shows with several examples.
It only appears at first glance that our present-day horse is the logical consequence of a consistent further development of earlier horse forms. As excavations and skeletal finds show, today's horse is nothing more than a tiny surviving branch of an extremely lush and overgrown developmental bush of horses, which flourished a few million years ago and had many more species than modern times have to offer. Only the powerful main shoots on this family tree have died out. There is no straight line from the dog-small, multi-toed Eohippus to the Arabian thoroughbred. The warhorse with which Europe conquered America emerged from a small, puny side path of horse development and only survived by chance. It's not even the end point of any of the main lines of horse development. Without human intervention, this last survivor of what was once a diverse tribal history would probably also have died out.
There is no ascending ladder in evolution. Mutation and selection lead to a better adaptation of a living organism to its current environmental conditions, but not necessarily to its higher development. The diversity is increasing and in all directions. Evolution corresponds to a bush that stretches in all directions, none of which is preferred. Nor is it at all true, as the old theories maintain, that the more highly developed species triumph in the struggle for survival and prevail over the more primitive forms worldwide. On the contrary, the history of the earth shows that in all catastrophes the simple forms of life remained victorious. The simpler, the more successful. The most widespread form of life on earth is also its simplest, smallest, oldest: the bacteria. Not only does it outnumber all other life forms by a billion, it has also conquered all areas of the earth, can be found in the eternal ice as well as in springs at 265 degrees Celsius on the deep sea floor, and lives in close symbiosis with all other living beings, often millions of them Bodies themselves - 10 percent of the human dry weight are bacteria - can even be traced in the earth's crust at a depth of several thousand meters. The bacteria only need a little water to live, not even the sun. The adaptability, the variety of shapes, the survival success of the bacteria is incomparable. Evolution has chosen it to be its most successful representative.
But why have numerous other forms of life formed next to it? Nothing but statistical probability, say Stephen Gould and other evolutionary researchers. If the bacteria are the simplest basic form of life, its starting point, there is only one direction for every development. New things have to become higher, more complicated, because on the other side there is only dead matter. In addition to numerous new forms of bacteria, genetic changes and selection inevitably also produce more complex forms of life. If they find an unoccupied niche in the environment, then they can survive, multiply and spread. However, their further development is again entirely dependent on chance. Evolution rolls the dice. Sometimes a more complex form of life emerges, sometimes a simpler one. There is no clear trend. There is nothing to indicate that evolution is proceeding in a purposeful manner. It fluctuates as chance fluctuates. It is more improbable that it produced humans in the process than a lottery hit. But even that occurs almost every week according to the statistical probability distribution. Not a very flattering performance for us. Man is not the crown of creation, rather this honor is due to the bacteria. However, according to the American paleontologist, we can boast of having set up an evolution of our own, that of our culture. Here we really see rapid and constant further development, because what has been acquired can be passed on in a targeted manner and is consciously incorporated into the culture. However, cultural evolution has also come to an end in several areas. There is no enhancement to Bach, Mozart, or Beethoven, at most something equivalent. And in sport, too, more and more limits are reached that can hardly be exceeded. Here is the only caveat to make Stephen Jay Gould's book. As a child of North America, the Havard professor is also an avid baseball fan. Numerous examples in his book refer to this boring sport, which is incomprehensible to us. Gould's attempts to explain statistical probabilities, which seem to contradict our everyday understanding, on the basis of the hit rates in baseball are tiresome for us and should have been gathered, if not deleted, at least. But that does not take the book out of its fundamental merit of providing overdue enlightenment. Compulsory reading for both teachers and students.
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