Footnotes: "Natural Selection: Constantly Testing"

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by Michael Zimmerman

1 In his 2010 book, Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain, first published by Pantheon, Damasio discusses the evolutionary forces that gave rise to brains in humans and how increasing complexity led to the development of the mind or consciousness and self-awareness.

2 Bell, Thomas, “Anniversary Meeting,” May 24, 1859, Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society, Vol. IV. London: Longman, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, and Williams and Norgate, 1860. Page viii. Available online here.

3 In fact, Darwin wanted to show that his ideas on evolution arose from predecessors. He added a preface to the third edition of On the Origins of Species, partly entitled “An Historical Sketch,” that lists 30 people who had published evolutionary ideas prior to him. To learn more about Darwin’s evolutionary predecessors, see Darwin’s Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution by Rebecca Stott, published earlier this year by Spiegel & Grau.

4 Barash went on to say, “Natural selection is a rigorous and relentless pruner, eliminating any expenditure of energy or time that doesn’t provide a fitness payoff (which is to say, enhanced reproductive success) that makes up for its cost. In short, there are no free lunches. Evolution does not produce frills, fanciness, or finery for its own sake - rather, only if such traits give their possessors some sort of reproductive advantage.” Both quotations are from Barash’s Homo Mysterious: Evolutionary Puzzles of Human Nature, published by Oxford University Press earlier this year.

5 The exhibit can be viewed online here. The exhibit’s title comes from the last line of On the Origin of Species: “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.”

6 During the first half of 2012, anti-evolution or pro-creationism bills were introduced into numerous state legislatures. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman made quite a stir when, during his run for the 2012 Republican nomination for president, he tweeted that he accepted that evolution was a scientific fact. He was, after all, the only Republican candidate to accept the scientific view of the history of life.

7 Creationism has entered public discourse around the globe. There have been recent moves in England, for example, to promote intelligent design in schools and museums. The Deputy Minister of Education in Poland, Miroslaw Orzechowski, stated that evolution is a “lie” in 2006. Even more forcefully, in 2004, Ljiljana Colic, then Minister for Education and Sport in Serbia, ordered schools to suspend the teaching of evolution unless creationism was similarly introduced.

8 The claim that most Christians accept evolutionary theory has been documented by Joel W. Martin in his book The Prism and the Rainbow, published by The Johns Hopkins University Press in 2010. Additionally, the organization that I founded, The Clergy Letter Project, has collected signatures from more than 13,000 ordained members of the clergy in the United States on letters promoting the teaching of evolution in public school science classrooms and laboratories. For doctrinal statements from a variety of religions in support of evolution, see Voices for Evolution, third edition, edited by Carrie Sager and published by the National Center for Science Education in 2008.

9 The most vocal creationist group in the world is Answers in Genesis. A search for Adolph Hitler on its website turns up 169 hits with articles such as “Darwin’s Impact — The Bloodstained Legacy of Evolution,” “Hitler and Evolution,” and “Darwinism and the Nazi Race Holocaust.” Creationists also cite social Darwinism as a reason to attack evolution. For instance, a statement published on its website on April 22, 2008, declares: “Social Darwinism is not a perversion of the principles of Darwinian evolution. On the contrary, it is taking them to their natural, logical conclusion. Further, if there were no connection to evolution then why is it called social Darwinism?” Among my earlier writings on some of these issues is “Why Evolution Is the Organizing Principle for Biology” from the spring 2009 edition of this magazine.

10 This quotation is from Trial and Error: The American Controversy over Creation and Evolution, by Edward J. Larson, and published in 1985 by Oxford University Press. Larson extends this argument by claiming that “stopping the spread of evolutionary belief seemed vital to Bryan for maintaining the spirit of progressivism.”

11 The Dawkins’ quotation is from an interview with the Austrian publication Die Presse in 2005. Available online here.

12 This quotation is from Barash’s book Homo Mysterious cited above.

13 This quotation is from Daniel Dennett’s book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life, published by Simon & Schuster in 1995.

14 This quotation is from Sam Kean’s book The Violinist’s Thumb, and Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius as Written by Our Genetic Code, published earlier this year by Little, Brown and Company.

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