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Evolution and Man

  • Ronald Singer (a1)

The whole of modern biology has been called ‘ a commentary on the Origin of Species ’ (Charles Singer, 1949). In a sense this is true. Following the endeavours to trace the natural histories of the various living organisms, attempts are still in progress to determine the modes, patterns and directive forces of evolution. The end of the 19th and the first quarter of the 20th centuries were characterized by morphological studies in comparative anatomy, the rise of geology and the birth of genetics. The second quarter of this century has witnessed a phenomenal expansion in technical advances leading to critical appraisals of previous concepts and to maturation of new, revolutionary theories based upon seemingly disconnected disciplines-experimental embryology, genetics, physkal anthropology, palaeontology and geology. One of the unacclaimed causes of the correlation of knowledge is the post-war mastery of air travel. The spectacular rise of the ' basic ' biological sciences due to emergent industrial and atomic competitive needs in an era of socio-economic enlightenment is another factor giving rise to the pursuit of such knowledge. In a general sense this is the end of a Darwinian ' cycle ' ; the favourable socio-political situation of the 19th century formed the ' overture ' to the Darwinian theory. Act One saw the development, championing and triumphs of the intellectual interpretations of ' Darwinists '. In Act Two the weaknesses and the vital issues of the application of the theory to various living forms and particularly to Homo sapims were exposed, mainly through the clashes of ' neo-Darwinists ' and ' neo-Lamarckists '. This led to Act Three in which the various sciences (and especially genetics), competing to illustrate and develop alternative theories of evolution, blossomed out, particularly in their search for the mechanisms of the evolutionary processes. In the final scene of this Act the socio-political situation once again formed an important background as the diverse disciplines combine tq unify concepts, and, in fact, to prove evolution.

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