In the quest to apprehend and elucidate the origin and development of species (including human beings), pundits, theorists, religionists, and other categories of people have postulated different theories and explanations. The theories could be broadly categorized into scientific and/or unscientific methods as suggested by Marks (2012).
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Apparently, one of the most controversial theories, which have significantly influenced the development of anthropology and other scientific disciplines, including biology, is the theory of evolution. The evolutionary theory is based on the proposition that all species on earth and their diversity are linked to evolution, which could be termed as the alteration or modification of hereditary traits of living things over consecutive generations (Ashraf & Sarfraz, 2016). Moreover, the theory suggests that all the species originated from a single-cell organism (Ashraf & Sarfraz, 2016).
It is worth noting that although the origin and key concepts of the evolutionary theory are credited to Charles Darwin, other scientists and anthropologists have played significant roles in its development.
This paper discusses the evolutionary theory where the key concepts, development, shortcomings are deliberated.
The Evolutionary Theory
Ashraf and Sarfraz (2016)assert that the evolutionary theory links the origin, development, and diversity of all living species on the earth to evolution. For the last 4 billion years, living species have been evolving from the original single-cell organism.
The Key Concepts of the Evolution Theory
The evolutionary theory relies heavily on Charles Darwin’s observations and their influences on the postulation of the theory of evolution and the concept of natural selection. In addition, the theory is based on fitness and adaptation. Further, researchers and experts who came after Darwin introduced and developed the concepts of micro-evolutionary and macro-evolutionary (Gray, 2013; Smocovitis, 2012).
The Origin of the Evolution Theory
The breakthrough in the conceptualization of the evolution theory could be associated with the creation of the scientific theory of evolution through natural selection by Charles Darwin in the mid-1800s (Ashraf & Sarfraz, 2016; Pontzer, 2017). As such, the theory of natural selection and Charles Darwin are the most famous aspects of the evolution theory. Essentially, the theory of evolution through natural selection proposes that species change from one form to another where weak traits are eliminated while strong traits survive. As such, species that perpetually produce offspring with weak traits are more likely to be extinct while the species that produce adaptive young ones survive (Marks, 2012).
It is imperative to note that research has credited evolution through natural selection for the survival of human beings (Cagan, et al. 2016). Nevertheless, pundits argue that the theory of evolution through natural selection as postulated by Darwin did not comprehensively address the issue of human evolution. Perhaps, Darwin was faced with challenges, including a lack of comprehensive knowledge and, therefore, he could not say much about the topic of human evolution by the mid-1800s (Smocovitis, 2012).
Development of the Evolution Theory
Charles Darwin considerably relied on observations and basic scientific skills in his work, especially in the creation of evolution through natural selection. As such, he could not comprehensively support his work, particularly due to a lack of knowledge on pertinent aspects such as genes and their roles in inheritance (Smocovitis, 2012).
Therefore, it is worth appreciating other individuals who played significant roles in providing for the concept heredity and consequently proof the natural selection with considerable evidence. It is worth noting that the work many pundits from different disciplines enhanced the development of the evolution theory. After Darwin’s breakthrough in the mid-1800s, researchers and experts came up with critical amendments to improve the evolution theory. In their endeavors to come up with a general theory, pundits and researchers paid critical attention to ensuring that there were consistencies with claims from different areas of study, including genetics, paleontology, and biology.
Notable developments in the evolution theory can be traced back to the early and mid-20th century. First, there was the postulation of the “evolutionary synthesis,” which was divided into microevolution and macroevolution (Smocovitis, 2012).
Second, scientific frameworks that supported Darwin’s selection, especially in populations in their natural settings were created (Smocovitis, 2012).
Key personalities in the development of the evolutionary theory in the 20th century
Arguably, Theodosius Dobzhansky made the most vital contributions to the development of the evolutionary theory. As such, many of the anthropologists and researchers that come after him relied heavily on his work (Smocovitis, 2012).
First among his immense contributions was his crucial participation in the creating of the argument that postulated the synthesis of genetics and natural selection and the related argument for the existence of microevolution and macroevolution (Smocovitis, 2012).
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Second, Dobzhansky was instrumental in the creation of the argument for the problematization of the concept of race, which was an integral aspect of the amalgamation of biological and anthropological models.
Sewall Wright was a close associate and a helper of Dobzhansky and he was key in the creation of theoretical frameworks that hypothesized that selection would work best in micro-populations. Moreover, the Hardy-Weinberg principle, which was his conception, was fundamental in the establishment of the maintenance of evolutionary equilibrium. He did this together with other researchers such as R. A. Fisher and J. B. S. Haldane, and Dobzhansky. Their findings were vital in the creation of frameworks that would work for non-lab samples (Smocovitis, 2012).
Other researchers include Julian Huxley, who legendarily introduced Teilhard de Chardin’s 1950 Phenomenon of Man, G. G. Simpson, who waxed metaphysical about the mechanistic and materialistic science, George Ledyard Stebbins who was vital in humanizing evolution (Smocovitis, 2012).
Evolution, Biology, and Anthropology
Although biology and anthropology have developed independently for a considerable time, the evolutionary theory played a vital role in bringing the two disciplines together. Pundits argue that biology, as the study of life, depends heavily on evolutionary concepts such as natural selection and heredity. On the other hand, evolution cannot be studied with the exclusion of key human elements such as culture and without regarding the critical place of man in the ecosystem, which is one of the fundamental elements of anthropology (Smocovitis, 2012).
Proofs of the Evolution Theory and Evidence of Evolution
Initially, in the mid-1800s, substantiating the claim of the evolutionary theory was faced with critical challenges, including lack of proper knowledge of critical pertinent concepts such as genetics. Nevertheless, it became easier to prove the theory, especially at the beginning of the 20th century.
As such, many scholars have carried out empirical studies, which have significantly elucidated and demonstrated aspects that prove the evolutionary theory.
Pontzer (2017) asserts that energetics could be used to illustrate how living organisms evolve. Energy acquisition and consumption are some of the fundamental functions carried out by organisms in their survival. As such, evolutionary concepts such as natural selection can be observed in living organisms, including human beings change from one generation to another.
Gray (2013) emphasizes that human sexuality could be viewed and elucidated from the evolutionary light. Sexuality is an essential aspect of human life and plays an important role in heredity. Moreover, the theory of natural selection is evident in search for mate where strong and attractive males are more likely to get females.
Ashraf and Sarfraz (2016) used a rather summarized and comprehensive approach to provide evidence of evolution where they listed them Biochemistry (DNA), bones and fossils, comparative anatomy and physiology, computer modeling, modern experiments, and developmental biology.
The Shortcomings of and/or the Challenges Facing the Evolutionary Theory
Although the evolutionary theory is somewhat evident with considerable levels of proof, it faces a number of challenges due to its shortcomings and other anthropological aspects such as religion and culture (Marks, 2012). The theory is either partially or wholly opposed, especially by creationists who believe that all species were created as opposed to evolving from a single cell organism. In addition, some pundits who argue that evolutionists propagate racism oppose the theory (Marks, 2012).
The evolutionary theory is one of the many descriptions put forward by pundits and theorists to describe and explain the origin and development of species on earth. The theory suggests that species evolve from one generation to another from common ancestry. The common ancestry is said to be a single-cell organism. Charles Darwin developed the key concept of evolutionary theory. Other experts including, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Sewall Wright, and others developed the theory from basic Darwin’s framework.
Apparently, the evolutionary theory has influenced other disciplines such as biology and anthropology. In addition, researchers have tried to put forward proof of the theory. Nevertheless, the theory is faced with challenges and opposition, especially from creationists.
Ashraf, Muhammad, Aqeel, and Sarfraz Maliha. 2016 Biology and Evolution of Life Science. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences 23(1):1-5.
Cagan, Alexander, Theunert Christoph, Laayouni Hafid, Santpere Gabriel, Pybus Marc, Casals Ferran, Prüfer Kay, Navarro Arcadi, Marques-Bonet Tomas, Bertranpetit Jaume, and Andrés Aida M. 2016 Natural Selection in the Great Apes. Molecular Biology and Evolution 33(12):3268- 3283.
Gray, Peter, B. 2013 Evolution and Human. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 57:94-118.
Marks, Jonathan. 2012 Why be Against Darwin? Creationism, Racism, and the Roots of Anthropology. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 55:95-104.
Pontzer, Herman. 2017 The Crown Joules: Energetics, Ecology, and Evolution in Human and Other Primates. Evol. Anthropol. 26:12-24.
Smocovitis, Vassiliki, Betty. 2012 Anthropology, the Evolutionary Synthesis, and the Prehistory of Biological Anthropology, 1927–1962. Current Anthropology 53(5):S108-S125.