Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why Darwin converted the crowd

By Randi Weiss

  It was Shaw's opinion that the main reason Darwin's ideas became so popular in society was because they were easy to understand. In other words, his ideas weren't overly scientific, his presentation wasn't overly academic, and his propositions were already commonplace. Shaw felt that almost all citizens are familiar with ideas of use/disuse through various professions (gardeners, breeders, etc.) and the witnessing of events such as the drowning of the weakest puppy in a littler. Therefore, everyday citizens aren't shocked at the principles of Darwin's theories. Shaw states, "Now if you are familiar with these three processes: the survival of the fittest, sexual selection, and variation leading to new kinds, there is nothing to puzzle you in Darwinism." That is a bold statement, and I respectfully disagree with the ease at which he transfers the principles of selection from plants and domestic animals to human beings.

  First, regardless of if someone has seen a pea pod (or something of the like) destroyed because of suboptimal genetic characteristics, it is not easy to apply the same principle to something so preciously regarded as a human life. Breeding for perfect traits in domestic animals and vegetation is a common practice and morally acceptable, whereas the idea of "breeding" within the human population is not at all morally acceptable. Human beings are much too proud to swallow such a humbling pill. From this perspective, it almost seems that exposure to the practice of breeders would actually make the idea of humans being naturally selected even harder to accept. Second, it seems that human beings somewhat resist the actions of natural selection within our own species. Where a kitten may be drowned by a breeder because of an undesired/disadvantageous trait such as a missing paw or mutated ear, exceptions will be made for those with similar characteristics in the human population. Institutions for mentally ill, prosthetics for missing limbs, and even spectacles are developments which essentially prevent the same degree of selection from occurring in human species.

  On a whole, humans do not consider human selection and breeding morally acceptable and essentially work to resist this form of selection. Therefore I believe that Shaw is incorrect in his assumption that Darwin converted the crowd because the population was already accustomed to selection and the concepts of use and disuse.

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