Did Darwin Develop the Theory of Evolution? Essay

Pages: 4 (1308 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Evolution


What was Wallace really talking about in his 1858 paper and was he convincing?

Darwin and Wallace 1858 papers:

Wallace's role in forming the evolutionary hypothesis

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Alfred Wallace has often been credited as a critical influence upon Charles Darwin in encouraging the naturalist to publish his theories on evolution: Wallace was working on his own theory of natural selection at the same time as Darwin, and had not Darwin feared being pre-empted by Wallace, he may not have been willing to share his twenty years' research with the world at the time that he did. Wallace's 1858 letters to Darwin, in which Wallace discussed his work are often cited as evidence that Wallace deserves credit as a 'co-founder' of the theory. However, there are certain critical differences between the two men's lines of thought. Wallace's different emphases and some of his errors in reasoning regarding evolution ultimately support the hypothesis that it is Darwin, not Wallace, who deserves the solitary credit for developing the concept of evolutionary theory. "In 1858, in Halmahera, Wallace wrote his essay on natural selection and posted it to Darwin…Darwin had been working on a similar theory for several years and now faced the prospect of being robbed of glory. [Darwin's friends] Lyell and Hooker arranged a reading for Wallace's paper and for a hastily written one by Darwin at the same meeting of the Linnean Society" (McKae 2013). But even had there not been that inspired 'save' by Lyell and Hooker, the lion's share of the credit must still belong to Wallace.

Essay on Did Darwin Develop the Theory of Evolution? Assignment

First and foremost is Darwin's emphasis that evolution is a mechanism that begins with the individual, although over time the effects of individual character are eventually felt in the larger population. In contrast, "Wallace apparently thought selection acted on groups or species" (Montgomery 2009). There is less emphasis between competitions between individuals (even individuals from the same species) for the same resources in Wallace. "Whether selection acted for 'the good of the group' or on individuals was debated for a long time" but today the widespread consensus is that Darwin was right and evolution begins as an individual process through mechanisms particular to the animal such as mutations and competition for mates (Montgomery 2009). Darwin did not believe that evolution supported a higher social purpose for 'the good' of a social organization, even though it might unintentionally have that result, for example, allowing moths with a particular type of coloring to survive in greater number because they could camouflage themselves from predators is beneficial for the species and thus results in a change in the dominant colors of moths in the area. But ultimately, this gives advantage to certain individuals that pass on their traits to their progeny, not 'for the good' of that species of moth.

The two men differed as well in their emphasis on sexual vs. natural selection. Darwin viewed sexual selection as the primary means of enacting changes on a generation by generation basis: most species reproduce sexually, which means that one pair of genes will combine with another parent's genes to form a new organism. Organisms compete for sexual partners via both combat and display: individuals who are superior at one (or both) will have an additional advantage over those who lack such talent and will be able to pass on their genetic materials to succeeding generations. Wallace, in contrast, "put more emphasis on the species meeting the demands of a change in their environment" (Montgomery 2009). He believed that species better adapted to the environment would live while others not as well adapted would die. However, this does not fully explain why some undesirable traits are passed on: some species with negative traits might still, through combat (violence) or display (seduction) triumph and pass on their prodigy. It is reproduction which really matters in natural selection, not being the 'fittest' to survive.

In other words, Wallace emphasized the concept of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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