Essay 1 - Joe Pucci October 2 2008 Hist 2870-Evolution...

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Joe Pucci October 2, 2008 Hist 2870-Evolution Essay #1 Introduction The nineteenth century saw many groundbreaking studies and attempts to explain the origin of life on Earth. Truly, the most influential work in this area of study was done by Charles Darwin. After a five year hiatus on the Galapagos Islands, the once religious Darwin completely changed his views on the origin of life. Beginning with The Origin of Species , he chronicled many of his observations on the islands. He also developed the theory of evolution by natural selection. His work was met with much skepticism. One major area of this skepticism is that Origin of Species did not explain the evolution of humans. Prompted to meet the challenges to his work, Darwin published another work, entitled The Descent of Man . In this account, he outlines and attempts to prove the theory that humans descended from a form of lower life, guided by the process of natural selection due to the struggle for existence. This work was also met with much skepticism. However, it can be said that his work was extremely convincing in explaining the “descent of man,” especially given the time in which it was written. It does an excellent job of relating the theories presented in Origin of Species to the evolution of humans. The goal of this essay will be to clarify some of Darwin’s points, and show that it truly was a convincing work. As only five of the chapters truly explain some arguments, those will be the only ones addressed. 1
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Chapter 1 In his first chapter, Darwin introduces some of his reasoning as to why humans descend from some lower form of life. He starts with the body structure of man. He then moves to similarities in embryonic development. Finally, he provides evidence of rudimentary structures in humans that are similar in animals. All of these points do their job of supporting Darwin’s theory that humans do descend from lower forms of life. Darwin begins by comparing our anatomy to that of lower life forms: “All the bones in (man’s) skeleton can be compared with corresponding bones in a monkey, bat, or deal. So it is with his muscles, nerves, blood-vessels, and internal viscera.” (784) He then continues by providing examples of behavior that is very similar between humans and other mammalian forms. For example, after describing how monkeys have the same after-effects of consuming alcohol (apparent hangover, inability to drink same kind of alcohol again), Darwin concludes: “These trifling facts prove how similar the nerves of taste must be in monkeys and man, and how similarly their whole nervous system is affected: (785) Both of these examples are used to show the similarities between man and lower forms of life. Darwin does this to show that if these other animals are bound by the laws of natural selection and evolution, and we are similar to them, then we are also bound by these same laws. Darwin continues in his first chapter by comparing the embryonic development of
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This note was uploaded on 01/17/2009 for the course HIST 2870 taught by Professor Macneill during the Fall '07 term at Cornell.

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Essay 1 - Joe Pucci October 2 2008 Hist 2870-Evolution...

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