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Evolution and Natural Selection, Anthropologically. All cites from Lavenda and Schultz (2012): Anthropology: What Does it Mean to be Human?. Views of Natural World before evolution. Ideas from the Bible & Greek philosophy (LS:31) Greeks: enduring world Bible: Earth was young

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Evolution and natural selection anthropologically

Evolution and Natural Selection, Anthropologically

All cites from Lavenda and Schultz (2012): Anthropology: What Does it Mean to be Human?

Views of natural world before evolution
Views of Natural Worldbefore evolution

  • Ideas from the Bible & Greek philosophy (LS:31)

  • Greeks: enduring world

  • Bible: Earth was young

    • October 23, 4004 B.C. (36-37)

  • Shared Essentialism, unchanging world

    • species have essences, unchanged since creation (31)

      • “Cowness”

  • Great Chain of Being (LS:32)

New material evidence ls 33
New material evidence (LS:33)

  • Fossils of extinct species

    • Similar but different from existing

  • Catastrophism versus Uniformitarianism (33)

  • Revise essentialism

  • Species change over time

  • Older earth (LS:37)

New ideas
New ideas

  • Transformational Evolution, Lamarck (LS:35)

    • Panda’s “Thumb”

    • Giraffes

    • Use the thumb, stretch the neck, passed along

  • Mechanism of Natural Selection, Darwin

  • and Alfred Russel Wallace

    • Variation

    • Heredity

    • Differential reproduction

    • Competition for resources

Drastically over-simplified view of thoughts about evolution, circa 19th century


Evolution joined the “links” on the Great Chain of Being but did not change underlying idea


Natural selection then and now
Natural Selection evolution, circa 19then and now

  • After originally talking about “descent with modification,” Darwin borrows Spencer’s “survival of the fittest” phrase


  • No such thing as absolute fitness (LS:39)

  • Fitness in an always-changing environment

  • Adaptation & Exaptation (LS:39)

Genetics then and now
Genetics, then and now evolution, circa 19

  • At Darwin’s time, pangenesis or blended inheritance (LS:39)

  • Mendel

  • Genetics: disproves pangenesis

  • Inheritance preserves variation as individual units

  • Very complex, not just one gene/trait (41-49)

    • Latest research on importance of genetic switches

  • Genes just one part of developing organism

Niche construction ls 50 52
Niche Construction (LS:50-52) evolution, circa 19

Genes are dynamic in an environment

Organisms alter the environment

Beaver dams

Birds, rodents, algae

Human activity

Unintentional alterations

Those alterations can change conditions of selection for the next generation

Organisms move to different habitats (52)

Sexual selection
Sexual Selection evolution, circa 19

  • Sexual selection: people (and other creatures) choose mates

    • Blue eyes or red feathers are not necessarily indicators of fitness

  • Agency: Actions like moving, altering the environment, selecting mates can reshape evolutionary processes (LS:53)

  • Doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want or control consequences

Revisiting great chain of being
Revisiting evolution, circa 19GreatChain of Being

  • Evolution is not a march to the better and better

    • Within an environment, environment always changing and in dynamic interaction with organisms (LS:39)

    • Adaptive in one environment, maladaptive in others

    • Humans are not inevitable result or pinnacle (53)

  • Evolution doesn’t always “work”

    • 99.999% of once-existing species are extinct (53)

  • Not a path from simple  complex

    • Sometimes simpler is more adaptable to changes

Bacteria evolution, circa 19













Citrus fruits










Invitation evolution, circa 19

  • “The study of evolution in contemporary biology is very lively” (LS:53)

  • A method, not an answer

  • Invitation to

    • Debate, ongoing questions, understanding evidence

    • Not to a dogmatic cult

  • Accepting that debate doesn’t mean losing religion

    • But it may mean losing the dogmatic cult