Alfred Russell Wallace
The article summarizes the life of Wallace and his desire to invest in understanding the theory of evolution. Nearly all his entire life is dedicated to collecting different organisms, which form his basis for understanding the differences in these organisms. Wallace indirectly contributes to the theory of evolution, which was linked to the natural selection of the organisms by Charles Darwin.
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The idea of evolution as defined by the differences in characteristics that were inherited by the organisms within generations. These characteristics would change within time as new generations were ushered in. Natural selection, on the other hand, involved the development of new characteristics by organisms based on the suitability of the characteristics into the environment on which the organisms were living (Quammen 9). These characteristics would enable the organisms to be comfortable with the environment in which they are living.
Wallace was able to identify that short-necked giraffes had been replaced by long-necked giraffes due to the demand of the environment for long-necked giraffes. Wallace also contributed much in prompting Charles Darwin to publish his book, The origin of species. Wallace traveled to many places during his study work. These places include the Amazon River, which is located in South America and the Malay Archipelago. The great work done by Wallace led to the development of what is known as the Wallace line that divides Archipelago into two parts.
The eastern part represented organisms of the Australian origin while the western organisms represented organisms of the Asian descent. Wallace is referred to as the father of biogeography. Wallace was concerned with the study of the distribution of the different types of organisms within a certain geographic locality within a certain geographic time frame. This study basically borrowed ideas from field of geography, evolution and geology. Wallace hypothesis was to demonstrate how natural selection was contributing to the development of new species through the development of many characteristics that would fit the environment. Despite his great work in the theory of natural selection, Wallace was also a great activist who was concerned with conservation of the environment.
Wallace was one of the scientists who raised the issue of negative impacts on the environment due to human activities. Wallace was inspired by other scientists and he decided to travel in different areas to do his research work. Wallace first travelled to the Amazon River where he collected insects and other animal species. He intentionally collected these organisms in order to sell them to the collectors in the United Kingdom. Wallace continued to live in Rio Negro where he collected information about the people, their language and also information on the animals and plants that were found in the region. Wallace decided to go back to United Kingdom after four years in Amazon.
During his journey, the ship catches fire and the specimens which he had collected got lost. All he was able to save was a diary and few sketches. Wallace and the rest of the crew were picked by a ship travelling from Cuba and which took them to London.
Wallace then spent eight years In Malay Archipelago which currently comprises of Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. During this period Wallace was able to collect insects, bird skins and mammal pelts many of which were not known by the scientist. One of the best known species of organism was Wallace’s flying frog (Quammen 8). During this time Wallace was able to think about evolution and this made him to send an article to Darwin which was published together with Darwin’s theory description. Wallace wrote an article on the distribution of monkey species in the upper Amazon Basin. He described their location on the three sides of the river. The publishing of his accounts formed one of the most important book that was involved in scientific exploration and understanding.
Wallace finally returned to England in 1862 where he visited Charles Darwin. He wrote articles such as, The Malay Archipelago, and together with Charles Darwin they formed the basis of theory of evolution. Wallace also published other books such as: Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, On Miracles and Modern Spiritualism, The Geographical Distribution of Animals, Tropical Nature, Other Essays, Island Life, Land Nationalisation, Bad Times: an Essay on the Present Depression of Trade, The Revolt of Democracy and Is Mars Habitable? Wallace lost most of his funds through bad investments and finally he got married and by 1869 he had a wife and two children.
Charles Darwin was also another scientist who contributed greatly to his theory of evolution. His discoveries greatly supported the theory of evolution and natural selection. Just like Wallace, Darwin was also a naturalist. Darwin took a voyage that lasted for five years; his discoveries mainly relied on geology and collection of the organisms (Quammen 4).
Darwin was able to write many notes while on the ship of which most involved invertebrates that live in water. Darwin had a good background of geology based on the concepts that he had acquired after reading a book by Charles Lyell known as, Principles of Geology. The first stop of Charles Darwin was at St. Jago
The second destination of Charles Darwin was in Brazil where he got interested in the tropical forest. After exploring, Darwin was able to discover fossils of great animals that had vanished. This invoked a great thought to Charles on how the extinction of the organisms could be related to the climatic changes. Darwin was able to observe many differences between animals inhabiting different locations. Darwin was able to recognize that differences in the shells of the tortoises indicated the region where they came from.
There was also a great difference between the Marsupials rat kangaroos in Australia and also extinction of aborigines in the European settlements. Due to his observations, Darwin was able to develop the thought of the origin of the species on his way back. Darwin was also concerned with the information about transmutation. Due to his research, Darwin had also developed a great framework through which he could be able to argue about natural selection. In this, he investigated that organisms were not fixed and he spent a lot of work publishing reports and documents concerned with the collections he made in Beagle.
The great boost in Darwin’s work occurred when Wallace sent a paper to him trying to explain natural selection. Darwin main work was exposed when he wrote a book known as the origin of species. This book indicated that organisms develop as a result of natural selection over the period. However, it is worth to note that the ideas brought out in the book received a lot of criticism from some individuals. This is because it was opposed to the believes of many people especially the Christians. Scientists have also played a major role in criticizing the ideas of Charles Darwin. The following are the ideas that have been brought forward by the scientists and that oppose the idea of natural evolution.
Phenotypically acquired characteristics cannot be genetically transferred to the offspring
Scientists argue that phenotipic characteristics cannot be transferred to the off springs. This is because these characteristics do not affect the genes that are main contributors of the variation. Phenotipic characteristics are developed in order to adapt the organism to the environment in which it lives.
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Existence of the primitive forms of the species
Existence of the primitive forms also goes a long way to disapprove the theory of evolution. It is based on the fact that if evolution is still in progress, then the primitive forms of the organisms should not exist because they would have developed into the present form.
Contradiction with the scientific discovery
Most of the observations made by Darwin contradict with the scientific discoveries that have been made. Population genetics show that harmful mutations occur but accumulation of this mutations do not produce any new genetic information that would support evolution.
The theory of creation has gone a great way to challenge the theory of evolution. Christians believe that the world and all that is within it were created by a supernatural being. To the bible believing individuals, the theory of evolution is doomed impractical.
Through these articles, I have learnt the great work that was done by the earlier scientists in support of their theories. The scientists had to travel long distances to collect the evidence. Wallace for example travelled into different places and collected different organism species. I have also been able to learn about different ideas that dispute the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin.
Quammen, David Alfred Russel Wallace charted a great dividing line in the living world—and found his own route to the theory of evolution. 2010. Web.
Quammen, David. Darwin’s First Clue: He was inspired by fossils of armadillos and sloths. 2010. Web.