Darwin Would’ve Killed at SPORE

   By his own admission, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution cannot be perfectly observed through the fossil record, as geological strata doesn’t show a clear transition from one species into another. (Darwin, 2008, pg. 486-488) Some fossils present themselves in relative abundance, while others only exist as bits and pieces in a slim slice of rock. Spotty timescale notwithstanding, Darwin still believed his theory held weight, and he provided many reasons as to why. For example, he pointed to similar behaviors between “allied species”. Even in the face of an alternate environment, closely related species will retain the same basic instincts. Despite the fact that South America’s climate differs greatly from that of the British Isles, the thrush still “lines her nest with mud” (pg. 496). This holds true no matter what side of the ocean she lives on. Darwin also noted the bone structure of mammals, “being the same in the hand of a man, the wing of a bat, fin of the porpoise, and leg of the horse,—the same number of vertebrae forming the neck of the giraffe and of the elephant…” (pg. 499). As such, the preponderance of evidence suggests that all these organisms had been built off the framework of a single, shared ancestor.

   I personally find Mr. Darwin’s arguments quite compelling. Isolate the wing bones from the rest of a bat, and what you’re left with essentially looks like a human hand with spindly fingers. It does seem odd that organisms as different as humans and bats should share such a striking similarity if they were supposedly created independently.  But having been on the creationist side of things, I could see how some would dispute how this evidence is insufficient in proving evolution. Primarily, because it assumes that a divine creator would have created an entirely unique body structure in every animal. Perhaps, they might say, this omnipotent being saw the basic design of vertebrates to be perfectly fine as is, with no real need for innovation. Basically, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” (one might also argue that this demonstrates a lack of creativity on the deity’s part, but I’m not about to get into that). Of course, there are also those that argue for a creator while still advocating for evolution, saying that this deity simply set the process of evolution in motion and let nature have at it. The tricky thing about these arguments is that I can’t exactly prove nor disprove them. I may support the theory of evolution, but I still know that certain aspects of it are disputable and will remain disputable until the last star fizzles out. How on earth is a lowly human such as myself supposed to determine what an unseen entity sees fit for its creation, or if it even exists? My agnosticism might sound like I’m being fence sitter, but I don’t see it as fence sitting as I do an admission of ignorance. As we’ve learned, that’s really what science stands for. Whenever we find an answer to something, that answer in turn births a thousand more questions. Honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with this. Humans crave novelty. Without it, we risk boredom. If we can ask an endless amount of questions, then I’d say we’re actually in a pretty good spot as far as knowledge is concerned, so long as we don’t put a cap on our learning.

At the risk of sounding foolish,  can anybody tell me what Darwin means by “intermediate species”? I usually can figure out “old-timey” English, but this is stumping me.

Works Cited:

Darwin, C. (2008). Charles Darwin on the Origin of Species. New York, NY: Sterling.

4 thoughts on “Darwin Would’ve Killed at SPORE”

  1. The questions you raised about how Darwin’s evidence for his theories can also be applied to a divine creator is very interesting. A creationist perspective could certainly justify the points which Darwin made in his closing arguments, especially when considering it in addition to, rather than opposing, evolution. But as you said, this kind of conjecture is something which can never be proven nor disproven, and the more we attempt to solve the mysteries underlying life, the more questions will come from it. These questions may be inseparably relevant to the human condition, but they may also create destructive rifts which put humanity in a worse place than when we are blissfully ignorant.

  2. Nice post Rebecca! Darwin’s use of “intermediate species” is in reference to the species that show connection between two or more varied “final species” that we see today. In example, if a horse and a giraffe share a common ancestor, there must have been many species exhibiting the variations in characteristics between the two mammals. As the family tree of mammals expand, the distance between a horse and a giraffe grows, allowing us to see the two modern species today. Darwin addresses this because a main argument against his theory of natural selection latches on to the lack of evidence for intermediate species. If a horse and a giraffe evolve from the same ancestor, why do we fail to find fossils of a “horse with a very long neck”, or a “giraffe with a flowing mane and tail.” Obviously, these examples are extreme. An easier example to grasp may be one regarding species very closely related. If variations over time of sharks resulted in distinct species such as hammerheads and great whites, why do we find no record of the intermediate species that exhibits traits of both sharks? This is where Darwin explains the short span of existence of intermediate species, as well as the lack of a conclusive geological record.

  3. Rebecca, I love that you bring religion to this discussion. A lot of people will try and separate science from religion and vice versa. However, I believe that we need to look through both perspectives to answer these questions, such as evolution. I feel like that science can explain so much, but religion can answer the questions that science can’t answer. For example, religion can tell us how life got on Earth, but science can explain how life has changed and is related to each other.

  4. Hi everybody! Thank you all for the lovely comments. One thing I’ve noticed with my posts is that I will go a couple weeks without any feedback before receiving a flood of comments. I assume this is because my posts tend to be a bit lengthy (I am a writer so it should stand to reason that I like to write a lot). This is less of a complaint and more me appreciating whenever somebody does respond. A post I gave my thoughts on last week gave a response to everybody who commented, and I thought it’d be a good idea for me to do the same.

    Audrey, I find your comment on the “destructive rifts” created by inquiry to be quite interesting. I do agree that in some ways, ignorance is bliss. People in the modern age are more stressed than we’ve ever been in history. With the advent of advanced technology, we have forced ourselves to become as fast and efficient as our machines. This has taken a toll on our mental health because we were never designed to work at McDonald’s or in an office for an 8 hour stretch. In addition, our knowledge has allowed us to develop weapons capable of wiping out our entire species. At the same time, I think ignorance can be just as destructive. A majority of deaths throughout history can be attributed to illness, illness that could’ve been easily prevented if humans had understood how germs were transmitted. At the end of the day, knowledge is a give-and-take situation. In some ways, we are far better off for having it, while in other ways, we have made life harder.

    Conner, I appreciate you answering my question. If I’m not mistaken, what you’re saying is that Darwin’s concept of intermediate species is what we might refer to as “missing links”. Whales and hippos are believed to have evolved from the same ancestor, but as Darwin and you both illustrated, we don’t have a “whalepotamus” fossil that we can readily examine. We can only speculate based on the evidence presented in living whales and hippos and maybe some of their ancestors following the break off of this initial species.

    Diana, I think what you’re saying reflects a lot of what Prof. Riedy is trying to get at. We try to isolate science from religion, but to do so ignores the fact that religion encouraged the development of science in the first place. Sir Issac Newton was a brilliant physicist, but he conducted his work in an effort to understand how God designed the universe. As important as science is, I worry that we as a society have overemphasized it, especially in university and the workforce. At the risk of sounding like a bitter history major, the first thing I often hear from people who learn of my degree is either: “What kind of job can you get with that?” or the dreaded “Isn’t a humanities degree useless?” I’m not here to diss science. Truly I benefit a lot from it, and I love learning about how the universe works. But without ethics, religion, philosophy, music, the arts, etc., there wouldn’t be much of a point to science or living in general. Even if one feels that there is no “ultimate meaning” to life, they often times will still strive to create their own meaning, because humans are hardwired to seek some sort of purpose. The closest answer science can give us is a simple “survive long enough to reproduce”. Not exactly the most glamorous purpose by many people’s standards, and a good example of why science shouldn’t be all there is.

    Thank you all for your very insightful comments!

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