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August 21, 2008

Thinking about the Unthinkable

If we understand that the generic term evolution, quite apart from its Darwinian implications, can be understood as any progressive directional change in whatever entity is being considered, we can also understand that Darwin’s theory has undergone its own evolution since it was first published in 1859.

Evolution, as biological theory, didn’t spring fully formed from the mind of Darwin. Rather, it began with an insight gleaned during a short stopover in the Galapagos and quickly became a lifelong obsession he pursued in academic publications, discussions with others, and further detailed observations, particularly on the process of selection by domestic breeders.

Darwin’s first published report in 1859 consisted of observations suggesting that some sort of selection process, working over very long intervals had been modifying the structure of modern animals. However, it would take the independent work of Gregor Mendel to discover the physical mechanism by which that was happening. Genetic theory, which began with Mendel, was later fleshed out in much greater detail when the molecular structure of DNA was elucidated, a step that quickly led to both both cloning and genetic engineering; even as creationists began trying to impede those investigations politically for what they insist are God’s reasons, and the medical industry has launched its own pusuit of a perceived therapeutic bonanza for what it insists are humanitarian reasons.

From a simplified historical perspective, the process of accelerated scientific development that began in the late Fifteenth Century, although owing much to important Asian and Middle Eastern roots, was largely a European phenomenon. Advances in navigation and weaponry were exploited almost immediately by voyages of disccovery and plunder from the Atlantic maritime nations of Portugal and Spain. Portuguese explorers hugging the East Coast of Africa, eventually reached India and Japan, but were ultimately unable to protect their early holdings from the Dutch, and later, the British. By sponsoring Genoese explorer Columbus, Spain went in a different direction and opened a hitherto undiscovered “New World” to aggressive European colonization, an event that would that not only dramatically change the course of history, but also plant the seeds of post colonial resentment flowering so violently today in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Those developments all suggest that our emotions are critical determinants of our behavior; however that’s an idea that’s currently rejected so uniformly and emphatically that it leads me to suggest that our very reluctance to admit it (denial) is playing a key role in our present dilemma.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at August 21, 2008 05:46 PM