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HISTORICAL CONTEXT FOR EVOLUTIONARY THEORY

1) Plato (427-347 B.C): IDEALISM/ESSENTIALISM

-believed in 2 coexisting worlds: an ideal, eternal and real world


and an illusionary, imperfect world

-variations in plant and animal species were merely imperfect


representatives of ideal forms

-opposed evolution

2) Aristotle (384-322 B.C):

-Plato’s student

-opposed evolution

-in his view, species were fixed and were already createddid not
evolve

***Religious beliefs said that all organisms were created during a


single week by a Creator and that they remained unchanged over
the course of time  Earth was only a few thousand years old

-“the ladder of being”


3) Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778): TAXONOMY

-Swedish botanist

-naming and classifying organisms

-adopted a system for grouping species into categories and


ranking the categories into hierarchy

Kingdom Phylum Class Order


FamilyGroupSpecies

(King Philip Came Over From Germany Swimming)

-believed that species were permanent

-developed classification to only reveal God’s plan

-though admitted that environmental differences might have


affected species, but still believed in Genesis

4) Georges Cuvier (1769-1832): CATASTROPHISM

-French, opponent of evolution

-developed paleontology (study of fossils)

-found that each of the layers or strata, of rocks is


characterized by a unique group of fossil species and that the
deeper (older) stratum, the more dissimilar the plant and
animal life are from modern life

-recognized that extinction of species was a fairly a common


occurrence  new species appeared and others disappeared
over the course of millions of years

-speculated that each boundary of strata corresponded in time


to a catastrophe (eg. flood, disease, drought) that destroyed
many of the species living there at a time. New species
migrated into the area from nearby unaffected area
-did not accept the notion of new species arising after each
catastrophe

5) James Hutton (1726-1797): GRADUALISM

-Scottish geologist

-gradualism= principle that profound change is the cumulative


product of slow, continuous processes

-competed with Cuvier

-proposed that it was possible to explain the various land forms


by looking at mechanisms currently operating in the world
Earth’s geological features were in a slow, continuous cycle of
change

Eg. the slow action of rivers eroding through rocks eventually


forms canyons

7) Charles Lyell (1797-1875): UNIFORMITARIANISM

-Scottish geologist

-Uniformitarianism=theory that geological processes are uniform


and have operated at the same rates in the past as they do today
 their rates and effects must balance out through time

Eg. processes that build mountains are eventually balanced by


the erosion of moutains

**If geological change results from slow, gradual processes rather


than sudden events, then the Earth must be much older than
6000 years old as indicated by many theologians on the basis of
biblical inference

-slow, subtle processes happening over a long period of time


could result in substantial changes
7) Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829): THE INHERITANCE
OF ACQUIRED CHARACTERISTICS

-believed that evolution was driven by an innate tendency


towards increasing complexity  perfection

ie. as organisms attained perfection, they became better and


better adapted to their environment

-2 principles:

a) Use and Disuse: the parts of the body that were needed to
cope with the environment became larger and stronger and those
that were not used became deteriorated

b) Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics:

-modifications an organism acquired during its lifetime could be


passed along ot its offspring

Eg. the long neck of Giraffe evolved gradually as the cumulative


product of a great many generations of ancestors stretching even
higher

**No evidence that acquired characteristics can be inherited

Eg. Large biceps that you acquired cannot be passed on to your


children

-although in error, Lamarck deserves credit for proposing that


evolution is the best explanation for both the fossil record and the
extant diversity of life