Evolution Anthropologically

Evolution Anthropologically

This is the comment page for Lavenda & Schultz module 1, “Anthropology, Science, and Storytelling” (21-29) and Lavenda & Schultz chapter 2, “Why is Evolution Important to Anthropologists?” (31-58) as part of the Hartwick College Introduction to Anthropology 2017 course.

One thing you might think about: You have surely been taught ideas of evolution before. What is different about how evolution is taught anthropologically?


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  • Taylor Manzelli

    What I was taught about evolution was pretty straightforward- a species starts off as being simple, and over time, it changes and adapts to what it needs and doesn’t need, according to its environment, and eventually it may or may not turn out to be a complex, evolved species. However, after reading these sections, my understanding of evolution and natural selection has changed drastically. Considering that I didn’t know that multiple theories of evolution existed, I found transformational evolution to be interesting because it seems unrealistic for a species to survive under the circumstances that all individuals would adapt in different ways. The question posed, “what would prevent different individuals from transforming themselves in different directions?” and its answer “Lamarck expected a changing environment to affect all individuals of the same species in the same way, leading to identical responses in terms of use and disuse,” explain my questioning of the unrealistic quality of the theory (38). Darwin’s theory is much more practical, accepted, and widely known. As it was stated, “he borrowed a phrase coined by sociologist Herbert Spencer and described the outcome of the struggle for existence as “survival of the fittest,”” in terms of natural selection, this is primarily how I view evolution, the survival of the fittest (40). If a species cannot adapt in time or in a well-enough manner to compete with other species, then it is inevitable that it will die out. My prior knowledge of evolution and natural selection have expanded greatly from these sections.

    • Good quotes and selections. It is interesting that Darwin borrowed Spencer’s phrasing to talk about “survival of the fittest” although as discussed in class some people believe that it was a mistake to make such an analogy and posit a kind of absolute fitness. For some recent thoughts on this see Evolution as Pachinko History.

  • jessica Meyers

    Module one looks into the differences between storytelling and science when it come to anthropology Page 23 compares assumptions and evidence. “Assumptions are basic, unquestioned understandings about the way the world works” as opposed to evidence which “refers to what we can see when we examine a particular part of the world with great care.” These two terms are just two of the many that delve into different ways to look into anthropology. Science and myths are also very different ways of looking into anthropology. I happened to enjoy chapter on evolution and how many different theories anthropology takes into consideration. “evolutionary theory is testable, unidentified, and fruitful scientific theory. These theories assert that living organisms can change over time and give rise to new kinds of organisms (32). My personal favorite theory is darwinism and the idea of survival of the fittest (33-34). Natural selection is a process that always sparked my attention. Darwin believed that only the strongest most well suited individuals would survive and sooner or late the weak would die out (38). This, in my opinion, is the best way to view evolution as a whole.

    • Good on the idea of scientific theories as “testable, unified, and fruitful” (LS:32; although be careful of spelling, you’ve said “unidentified”). On natural selection, may want to also consider potential issues with trying to define absolute fitness. For some recent thoughts on this see Evolution as Pachinko History.

  • Terrill Davis

    I find it quite interesting that all my life, I knew God as being the creator of all things, but then when I read the scientific and non scientific explanations on page 21, it says, “The sun created the animals and the plants. To each one he assigned the place he should live.” This contradicts everything that my parents taught me as a child. After reading page 33, I started to realize that the way scientist begin to see the evolution of humans is by digging up their fossils and comparing it to the current human remains. Darwin came up with the explanation that the various Galapagos species resembled one another closely due to the change of space (pg.33). Natural selection was something that sticks with me. Through Darwin’s research, both men concluded independently that similar species must descend from a common ancestor(pg.38). This stuck with me because it is fascinating that an heritable trait of a population could change over time.

    • Good quotes and ideas. Be careful on the first one as this is simply an examination of another creation story which Lavenda & Schultz are using to distinguish the anthropological use of “myth” but also the need for scientific stories to be subject to evidence and scrutiny.

  • Devon C. Weldin

    Most people have a general sense of evolution and what it is. Im sure that all of us have at some point throughout high school learned something about Charles Darwin and his theories of evolution in the ways that nature would kind of sort out those who belong and those who do not through natural selection; survival of the fittest. But I definitely had no idea of how many theories there actually were and how different they all may be. That Anthropologists had been collecting data and material on evolution for years. That evolution had been an idea created long before the existence of Charles Darwin, and that the greek philosophers who had the original thoughts had given light to modern theorists ideas and allowed for them to study evolution more clearly.
    More recent anthropologist studies of evolution vary in numerous ways. Like that of Lamarck, who believed that “once a natural kind had come into existence, it had the capacity to evolve over time into increasingly complex(or perfect) forms.”(LS:37) Lamarck’s theorie was one of my favorites to read about and one that made the most sense to me, especially after reading the blog “A Mermaid’s Tale”. In this blog i was able to read about how random evolution could be, But Lamarck explained it simply, that when things are used frequently in an organism, much like a muscle, they will get stronger with use. But once you stop working on that muscle or organ, it becomes weaker over time. Through generation and years of not using or not needing something, organisms have the ability to get rid of it. I think this is part of where the randomness comes from, because if we are unaware that we are not using something or that another organism has an ability that it rarely ever uses and goes unnoticed, then how would we know when we or they totally get rid of that organ or muscle.

    • Good work, and nice reference back to The Mermaid’s Tale which is very helpful for pondering these issues. I would be careful not to overly depend on Lamarck, as such ideas were superseded by Darwinian mechanisms.

  • Alice Spina

    When I went to high school, I learned about only creationism and evolution. Though it doesn’t necessarily surprise me that there are so many theories regarding how we got to be where we are today, it does surprise me that many explanations are regarded as myths. In the first module on pages 21 and 22, a scientific and a non scientific explanation are provided as examples of how the universe as a whole came to be. The story from the Desana is very creative and specific to their people because only they believe in Sun Father. It is almost unreal how “[t]he Sun created the Universe with the power of his yellow light and gave it light and stability.” (21) On the other hand, the highly scientific explanation describes the creation of the universe. To me, because I am very unfamiliar with physics, it sounds almost as unreal, or even more so, than the myth of the Desana. The beginning of the passage starts as: “At the start of the lepton era the universe is one ten-thousandth of a second old, the temperature is 1 trillion Kelvin (10^12 K) and each cubic centimeter of the cosmic quantum soup weighs about a thousand tons.”
    After reading both of these explanations, I thought that the one that sounds more scientific would be accepted as the truth. On page 22 however, it calls both of them myths, at least in Anthropological terms. The word “myth” is an interesting choice to me because it puts both of these explanations on the same level, making one side of the story no better than the other, which I believe that Anthropology is all about. As far as these myths go, both of them have the “ability to make life meaningful for those who accept them[,]” (22) which I think is beautiful. Though evolution is less of a myth and more of a theory, I believe that the same concept applies: if believing in evolution (or not) makes your life more meaningful, then by all means, believe in it. It doesn’t make what you believe in right or what anyone else believes in wrong until we are actually able to prove something.

    • Nice work here with the anthropological definition of a myth. However, it is important to keep in mind that Lavenda & Schultz go on to say that in order for a story (or myth) to be accepted as a scientific story, it must be subject to evidence and testable. In this respect, evolutionary theory is extremely important and “evolutionary hypotheses are highly testable in a number of ways” (LS:32).

  • Sydney Robert

    The difference, I would say, between how I was taught evolution before, and now how I am anthropologically, is that I wasn’t really taught evolution in high school. Sure, I had heard about the evolution from monkeys to humans, however, I was never really taught about this theory in depth. Furthermore, teachers in high school might fear repercussions for teaching evolution because of the idea of God creating everything versus evolution from monkey to man. Clearly, there are many things that can’t be talked about in high school, religion and beliefs being one of them. So the difference I would say would be the fact that it is even talked about for me. Learning about the many different theories of evolution is, therefore, very different to me. Levenda and Schultz touched on the theory of “the sun” creating the world (pg 21), the sun clearly representing a God. Next, the alien’s theory was touched on, that they came to help with advancements (pg. 26). Next theory spoken about was Lamarck, who believed in passing along inherited traits, such as giraffes stretching their necks to reach leaves would be passed on to offspring (pg 37). Another example of a theory talked about was Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace speaking of natural selection, variation, and competition for resources (pg. 37). All of these theories spoken about anthropologically were new from what I was taught before.

    • Good work detailing some of the ideas around evolutionary theory. We should be careful to note though that some of these are untestable stories and thus cannot be considered theories in the scientific sense. Other ideas are hypotheses that have been falsified. Evolutionary theory is a powerful framework that has been successfully tested: it should be taught in high school!

  • Victoria Subik

    Being a biology major we have learned all about evolution
    and how it is the process over time. From high school we have had the theory of
    Darwinism pounded into our heads and the story with the comparing of the
    finches on the Galapagos Islands, and the idea of survival of the fittest (33-34). The text here went into more depth of natural selection and how Darwin believed that only the strongest most suited individuals would survive and sooner or later the weak would die out (38). It also talked about the theory of variational evolution one of Darwin’s theories of evolution, which assumes that variant members of a species respond differently to environmental challenges. Meaning that those variants that are more successful survive and reproduce more offspring, and inherit the traits that made their parents fit (39). This as a
    whole is a good way to view evolution.

    From reading this text I learned more about evolution and the theory about it in more depth than in any of my biology classes, which surprised me because I never really thought of anthropology in the sense of it being a science. It surprised me how anthropology is similar to biology in certain ways when dealing with evolution and the theories behind it. The text went into more detail about the theories behind evolution, such as transformational
    evolution. Also known as Lamarckian evolution, “Where each individual member of
    the species transforms itself to meet the challenges of a changed environment throughout
    the laws and disuse and the inheritance of the acquired characters” (37). I enjoyed
    this chapter and learning more about evolution and the many different theories
    of anthropology and evolution.

    • Good work with the text. In comparison to biology courses, I would say that anthropology tends to deal more with the social context and history as described in “science studies” (see LS:27-28).

  • Stephen Junjulas

    Throughout high school we learned a few different ways on what evolution was, but the didn’t go into as much depth as how evolution is taught anthropologically. I went to a public high school so they typically stayed away from evolution because teachers couldn’t teach certain things due to people having different religions and different beliefs on how humans actually evolved. Of course we learned about the evolutionary theory (pg. 32), and we learned about darwinism and natural selection (pgs. 38-39) a countless number of times. There were certain things about evolution taught anthropologically that I haven’t learned about before. For example, I have never learned about catastrophism, which is the notion that natural disasters such as floods are responsible for the extinction of some natural kinds. (pg. 35). The major difference in the way I learned evolution and the way it is taught anthropologically is probably the fact that there are certain things that are taught anthropologically that I haven’t heard of before because high school teachers either weren’t allowed to teach it or they neglected to. There are so many more theories taught anthropologically, and some of them I’ve never heard of before.

    • Edra C.

      I was in the same position as Stephen in high school, where I went to a public school that was only able to teach us the bare minimum on evolution due to people’s different religious backgrounds. I learned the basics on Darwin’s theories, but never went into much detail. We learned the basics on natural selection and common ancestry, but did not go deeply into the topics (LS: 38-39). It was interesting to read and learn more on these topics in the book, but I also learned about other theories that were not mentioned in my biology class. One example of this was variational evolution, which “depends on what Ernst Mayr (1982) calls ‘population thinking’-that is, seeing the populations that make up a species as composed of biological individuals whose differences from one another are genuine and important,” (LS:39). Which was interesting because I had never heard about evolution put in this way, that talks about how differences between people are important. I also learned about “survival of the fittest” in my biology class, and we went more into detail on it than the other theories that we covered. What else that was interesting is that I only learned about Darwin, I don’t recall hearing about Lamarck much, if at all in my class. To me it is interesting because this is the first class on anthropology that I have taken and it is going more in-depth on evolution in the first week than I have learned in any biology classes I have taken.

      • Good work here distinguishing “variational evolution” (LS:39) from Lamark’s transformational evolution. Although ideas of evolution pre-dated Darwin, Darwin’s explanation of the mechanisms were extremely important and superseded these earlier ideas.

    • Anthropology probably spends more time on the social and historical context of science. However, it is strange that a theory as powerful & important as evolution is not taught more in depth in high school.

  • Patrick Skidgell

    I remember being taught the bare minimum about evolution in high school, the only things I remember was them showing me the monkey evolution to human picture and how some animals, such as the giraffe had evolved with longer necks in order to reach the high leaves on a tree. For my post class blog, I would like to add on to what Devon Weldin was talking about in that I found the Lamarckian evolution or transformational evolution to be the most interesting thing that I read. He proposed a law which explained his theory of evolution. First he said “an organ is strengthened by use and weakend by disuse” (pg 37). This concept not only relates to our body but to evolution. If a species never uses a certain part of their body, maybe generations from now they will evolve without that certain part.

    • Good quote, but do remember that Lamarck’s earlier ideas of evolution were interesting but superseded by Darwin (LS:38-41).

  • Gina G

    I’ve taken a lot of Biology classes throughout my years in high school and we learned about the process of Evolution and Darwin’s theory’s of Evolution. Natural Selection for Darwin is “survival of the fittest” which we learn a lot about in biology.(LS:38) The thing is the anthropologist changed my view about the “survival of the fittest” with species because they believe that “individual members of a species are identical to one another because they share the same essence: it makes no difference which or how many of them survive or reproduce.” (LS:40) What they are trying to say is that there is no such thing as absolute fitness(LS:41) because if the species all come from the same place it doesn’t matter who survives it just matters if the species itself survives. But some people actually agreed with Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” like Lamarck’s transformational evolution, “Where each individual member of the species transforms itself to meet the challenges of a changed environment throughout the laws and disuse and the inheritance of the acquired characters” (37). This shows us that species had to change there always according to the environment if they were willing to survive. There are many different ways to look at evolution so you could go more the anthropologist way or the Biologist way, some could even choose the more religious way but in the end it’s your choice.

    • Paige Restivo

      I totally agree with you Gina throughout High School and even in college since I am a Biology major you will only learn about Darwin’s theories of Natural Selection and Evolution but i would never hear the names of Lamarck who is actually the father of evolution and his ideas of a transformational evolution which states “Where each individual member of the species transforms itself to meet the challenges of a changed environment throughout the laws and disuse and the inheritance of the acquired characters” (37). As well as Alfred Russell Wallace and his ideas that were similar to Darwin’s theories. I first heard of Alfred Russell Wallace in my Freshman year in college and then again during j-term this school year. The survival of the fittest statement that everyone goes to when evolution is brought up is part of evolution but it is not at the same time. The “survival of the fittest” statement is more part of the theory of Natural Selection than Evolution itself. The clause is a part of 5 major statements of the theory of Natural Selection and organisms need to survive to reproduce. The main purpose of evolution and Natural selection is the ability to reproduce. The lecture on evolution opened my eyes as well on the different aspects of evolution especially its role in anthropology. The “survival of the fittest” clause that is different between biology and anthropology is the belief of “individual members of a species are identical to one another because they share the same essence: it makes no difference which or how many of them survive or reproduce.” (LS:40) What they are trying to say is that there is no such thing as absolute fitness(LS:41). This is related to the common ancestor clause of evolution because everything comes from a common ancestor so there shouldn’t be any differences within that species. What they missed is the change over time aspect that the traits of the species that survive to reproduce are passed on to their offspring. That part I feel doesn’t get looked upon unless you are learning about it in Biology and not in Anthropology.

      • Good work summarizing how Darwin challenged Lamarck’s ideas, but in turn has developed since then. As mentioned in class, the graphic on p.55 of Lavenda & Schultz (taken from evolutionary theorists Massimo Pigliucci & Gerd Muller) depicts developments in evolutionary thought.

    • Very nice quotes at the beginning. Important to keep in mind thought that the Lamarckian ideas were eventually disproved and superseded by the Darwinian concepts. In turn, the idea of “absolute fitness” has been challenged. Although of course one can choose among various stories, in order to keep telling a scientific story it is important to provide testable evidence. In that sense, your quote is correct: “there is no such thing as ‘absolute’ fitness” (LS:41).

  • Cameron J. Conrad

    Joining in on what everyone else is talking about and what we learned today in class is that most of us were taught basically evolution has everything to do with survival of the fittest and not really adaptation. When you bring in the conversation that we had when you talked about the giraffes and how as an adaptation they started growing longer necks and were able to over time stretch their necks out more then previous generations were able to and that didn’t have much to do with survival of the fittest but more to do with them adjusting to their environment. Which brings us to LS:41 where they talked about how there is no such thing as absolute fitness and how Lamarck I think it was who said who species and things evolve to try and become perfect and perfect what they are and not so much survival of the fittest. If I want to add to this we can say how Darwin and his birds he had found that the different kinds of birds had to really do to their environment and stuff ya now.

    • Joey

      Going off what Cameron said I always believed in “survival of the fittest” method. After learning through LS:41 we understand that evolution is not about that but instead it is about adaptation. In class you gave us the example of how the horses feet has adapted over time which shows how an animal has adapted over time. Another aspect that i thought was interesting was that 99.999% of once existing species are extinct. this shows how just about everything has been unable to adapt and change throughout time. The one main difference between what I’ve learned about Evolution and how we have talked about it anthropologically is that “survival of the fittest” does not really exist in all environments. What i mean by that is a species in one environment may be more adaptable than another but if you take them out of that environment they may not be able to adapt. So, the term “survival of the fittest” is a very broad way to think about Evolution.

      • Good point here and elaboration on the difficulties with defining fitness in an absolute sense, or outside of a changing environment. The quote about extinction is from Richard Lewontin: “Of all the species that have ever existed 99.999% are extinct” (in LS:55).

      • Corrie Fenn

        This was really hard for me to choose who to reply to and what to say because I completely agree on a lot of what people said about evolution and there are many different ways to go about this topic. Joey’s statement about “survival of the fittest” definitely stuck out to me. I agree with how this does not always work in every environment, but I also think it depends on the person/animal like if they are easy at adapting to things and the environment. It makes me think about how not everything or everyone is going to be able to the same thing the same way. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses. Sometimes people are more talented say in sports and/or more athletic than others. Not everyone is built the same way either. I do believe that if you set your mind to it and work hard enough towards something like a skill that you want to have it could happen for you. I also think that it has to do with our genes and the way we are brought up by our parents. If you were to put someone who has never picked up a basketball and throw them in a game you could probably tell which person that was and that they had no idea what they were doing. After a while the person might be able to catch on to what is happening. All it takes is practice and although they may not be a pro basketball player they might be able to atleast know the general overall rules of how the game works. I think many of us do not realize the qualities we have that make us unique and different. I feel that with evolution comes change in everything considering the usual factors of talking and the color of our skin, but also in our learning abilities, behavior towards others and ourselves, and the qualities we have to survive.

        “For anthropologist, myths are stories that recount how various aspects of the world came to be the way they are. The power of myths comes from their ability to make life meaningful for those who accept them” (LS: 22). When it comes to anthropologists and evolution there are many different views or opinions of how the world was created. I find I like the mystery to how everything was created and how things work. Sometimes myths are not as bad as we think because they makes us think and help us determine our own beliefs. I know for myself that I find it interesting to see the different views and opinions of how the world was created because it helps constantly change my views as well as helping me shape my own beliefs. Sometimes it’s better to be ignorant like a child and not have all the answers to the questions because then it ruins the mystery of it all. I’m not saying I do not like to know things, I just feel that there are certain questions that are sometimes better off unknown.

        • Good quote on the power of myths, but also important to point out how a scientific story must have support of evidence and subject to scrutiny of debate.

    • Some potentially good thoughts but may need to spell out better what you are describing. A direct quote from the text may help to sort out who was saying what.

  • Judy Dianis

    This is my first time taking any sort of anthropology class. In the past I have briefly learned about Darwin’s theory and natural selection. Learning more about evolution anthropologically it is different because there are so many more theories. Different than evolution taught in school, anthropologically taught evolution teaches how God is the creator of Earth and creationism (LS:21). Those things were not allowed to be taught in high school because of the religious factor. What also differs is how Darwin’s theory gets proved wrong. There is no such thing as “absolute fitness” (LS:41). There is no way to prove absolute fitness, it is always changing with the environment. Lamark introduced the idea of transformational evolution (LS:37). His idea of passing along traits that get formed to survive in an environment, such as the stretching of a giraffe’s neck. Russell Wallace paired up with Darwin to extent on his theory of natural selection. Their theory was about variation, heredity, differential reproduction, and competition for resources. Anthropologically taught evolution also involves the great chain of being (LS: 34). It links to the idea that God created everything and it all had its place and order on Earth. I think that learning about evolution now brings about more theories to think about, and further goes into detail about the parts of evolution.

    • Hailey Beddig

      I agree with what Judy had said about learning about evolution and relating it to Darwin’s theory and natural selection. During grade school we were taught about Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest” and the ones who are more adapted to their environment will survive. But, evolution taught anthropologically puts a different meaning to the word evolution, The Desana (Tukano) people had once stated “the sun created all of this when he had the yellow intention-when he caused the power of his yellow light to penetrate, in order to form the world from it” (LS:21). This meaning they believed the sun had created everything on earth when the “The Big Bang Theory: occurred years ago. The American work had then stated “The universe consists of a mixture of approximately equal numbers of photons, electrons, electron neutrinos, and some other particles” which is the more scientific side of how the universe was made (LS: 22). Coming off of what Judy had said about Lamarck was that he was trying to preserve the traditional view of harmonious living world but ended up going with was he was trying to defend (pg. 37). One example was the panda’s “thumb”. The panda had wrist bones but then they were forced to use their fore paws because of the environment changes (Pg. 38). The great chain of being is another evolutionary theory that states God had created everything and not the sun. I believe that the more studies that are done on evolution then more theories will be discovered.

      • Good work with some of these earlier ideas about evolution, but do want to be careful to differentiate what became accepted and tested as a scientific theory in relationship to these earlier ideas.

    • Good, but may want to go back to class notes and the textbook to make sure you have the timeline in place. In some ways the underlying idea of the “Great Chain of Being” does get taken up in early evolutionary thought, as “survival of the fittest” ideas tended to join the “links” of the chain. However, modern evolutionary thought tends to place much less emphasis on such ideas of directionality (see LS:54-55).

  • Cj Alesandrini

    I have never taken an anthropology class or anything remotely close before, and with only one year of biology as a freshman in high school, my knowledge is solely based off Charles Darwin’s ideas on survival of the fittest and natural selection (LS:38). Most biologists would agree that there is no “absolute fitness” (LS:41) which is where Darwin’s theory goes wrong for most people. What we learned in class yesterday on the evolution of the evolutionary theory, I found very interesting. Charles Darwin originally talked about “descent with modification” and later changed this to “survival of the fittest” which contradicts himself, during the time of Darwin, genetics were blended in inheritance (LS:42) we now know that genetics are very complex and not just one specific gene or trait is inherited. I believe that the theory of evolution is a great idea, with logical solutions to how we as humans got here, but there are some loose strings in a few different parts of the theory and eventually the more time studied, the more realistic theories will be discovered.

    • Good, although it may help to concentrate on a particular point and bring that out more. A longer quote from the text and elaboration may help, or responding to one of the comments already made by a classmate.

  • Liam D. Kane

    Before this course evolution had always been a brief topic of discussion in many science courses. Looking at evolution through an anthropological lens has challenged some of the theories and ideas that I have learned from high school. Charles Darwin’s theory on natural selection or “survival of the fittest” has always been taught as the stronger, alpha males/females will survive and the feeble ones will have no chance to exist. Anthropology has taught us that those who survive have adapted to their environments and endured struggle and success. “Absolute fitness” (LS 41) that Darwin talks about cannot be proven true due to the different environments across the globe. For example, someone who considers them self “absolutely fit” at swimming would be foolish to challenge someone who is “absolutely fit” at climbing trees and vice versa. Environments change and to become a survivalist you must grow and adapt with the surroundings. Another idea that anthropology has challenged was the debate on the creation of the world. One of the commonly accepted ideas about our creation is that God created the Earth and humans in seven days. In this course, the Desana people believed the sun created the Earth when it had the “yellow intention” (LS 21). While both beliefs may be true/false, this anthropological lens has challenged me to critique some of the common theories and beliefs I had once accepted.

    • Good summary of some of the challenges to earlier ideas. However, it is important to note that these chapters are more about anthropologists summarizing the ideas of evolutionary theory: the idea of “absolute fitness” was already challenged by biologists and evolutionary theorists. Similarly the Desana creation story was included to provide an example of one of many creation stories that in anthropological analysis would qualify as “myths.”

  • Zach Simmonds

    Throughout my years of learning I have been taught the two main ideas behind evolution, Darwin’s survival of the fittest and the creation theory. The lesson usually taught was Darwin’s comparison of birds in the Galapagos (33-34) where he noted that the strongest physical traits of the birds survived and the others all but vanished. The text reaffirmed this lesson by discussing how Darwin thought only the strongest individuals would survive and the others would die out, eventually creating a genetically dominant species (38). However, the most interesting part of the chapter was the book delving deeper into Darwin’s theory of variational evolution. This idea states that different members of species respond differently to different environments (39). Personally, I feel that environment determines much about specific animals and humans and how they came to be, so I was happy to see that my view had been taken into account.

    As I read this chapter I was impressed with all the differing theories and ideas anthropologists had pertaining evolution. This was the best explanation of a slew of evolutional theories that I have read. That in its self was surprising because I had never thought that Anthropologist’s paid attention to evolution, I thought that it was all about bones and how people were, not where they came from. I think further understanding the evolution aspect of many different species will allow for better understanding of how we came to be and why humans are the way they are. Finally one new theory I learned was called the transformational theory. This is a process where the species “transforms” itself to better satisfy the challenges that the environment throws at them. They cope with these environmental challenges by using pre-existing traits and laws that are understood about the particular environment (37). All in all this chapter was very thought inspiring as it pushed me to further my basic knowledge of evolution and how the process occured.

    • A nice thoughtful post, but Important to keep in mind that the Lamarckian ideas were eventually disproved and superseded by the Darwinian concepts.

  • Melissa Sperry

    In all of the science classes that I have taken, when I learned about evolution it was always about Charles Darwin’s idea of natural selection and survival of the fittest. We always learned about Darwin believing that similar species all came from one common ancestor (39). I was lead to believe that Darwin was the first one with any ideas about evolution. It was not until reading this chapter that I realized that there were a lot of ideas about evolution before him. For example, Lamarck was the first one to really get the notion that a species is capable of changing over time to fit their environment (37). I find it surprising that we are never taught anything about him, but instead just Charles Darwin in science classes. It really makes me wonder what other things were left out and disregarded. It is very interesting that an anthropology class is the first place that I have ever heard of any of this. I guess I just never understood what all anthropology covered.

    • Good, although it may help to concentrate on a particular point and bring that out more. A direct quote from the text and elaboration may help, or responding to one of the comments already made by a classmate.

  • Justin

    I have never really taken many science classes even in high school the courses the sciences I took were more chemistry or Physics. I would say because of this I never really learned much about the whole theory of evolution or Darwinism. Though as far as anthropology goes I find the way that anthropologists use the word “Myth”. In the text they say “For anthropologists, myths are stories that recount how various aspects of the world came to be the way they are. The power of myths comes from their ability to make life meaningful for those who accept them.”(22) I find that interesting because in a way anthropologists are essentially saying that they accept anyones beliefs of the world even though one is scientifically proven and another is a religious belief. The beliefs depend on the individual as to one the scientific approach is a myth and to another the religious one is a myth. I found that interesting because i believe that in other science fields they would actually just dismiss the Desana story while anthropology says it depends on the individual.

    • It is true that in the anthropological sense of the word “myth” we can classify different stories as myth. However, as discussed in class it is important that we can indeed dismiss other stories as not scientific if they do not conform to evidence and testable hypotheses.

  • Kyle Kessler

    What I learned about evolution is the monkey to man progression and Charles Darwins theory. I remember talking about survival of the fittest and natural selection. The strongest will make more copies of them and live on. There is a lot more ideas that i did not know about evolution like Transformational evolution. Lamarck talked about how organism will adapt to become better suited to their environment (37). One example is a giraffes neck. It evolved over time to get the leaves at the top of the tree. I was never taught this in high school.

    • A bit more elaboration could help here: concentrate on a particular point to bring it out more. You could use a direct quote from the text and develop it, or respond to one of the comments already made by a classmate.

  • Jessi-Lee Grant

    Before this class I had never heard of the terms catastrophism or uniformitarianism. During this class i learned that catastrophism refers to the notion that natural disasters, like earthquakes, are responsible for the extinction of natural kinds like dinosaurs. This on the other hand is different from the other term. I learned that uniformitarianism refers to natures overall harmonious integration as evidence from Gods handiwork. These theories of sorts are newer ideas. ( page number- 35 module 1)

    • This is an interesting section of the text, but do keep in mind that these are pre-Darwinian ideas that were the beginning of changes in views about the natural world. Lavenda and Schultz include them to give us a sense of the history and context of scientific debate, but they were eventually superseded by more robust explanations of evolutionary theory.

  • Brittanie R. Latour

    In module 1: Anthropology, Science, and Storytelling (pg 21-29), I found the different stories of scientific theories very interesting. Especially the story from the Amazon where the “sun created the universe” because growing up I was mostly taught that the world was created by god, or I was also taught that the world started through evolution, going back to the image of monkey to man. The second story in the beginning of the module is also interesting because it focuses more one the scientific side of the creation of the universe. It states things like “The universe consists of a mixture of approximately equal numbers of photons, electrons, electron neutrinos, muons, muon neutrinos…”, basically bringing more science into how the universe was created. It is interesting to see the variations in beliefs and reasoning’s based on local in the world or culture.

    • Since this is a post-class comment, it would help to develop this point as a “reply” to one of several classmates who discussed these issues. This might allow for more dialogue and to move the point in new directions.

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