Assessing the Theory of Evolution Can evolution best describe the organism s fitness

How did we get here - A common question that has plagued and challenged mankind for generations. As the well known naturalist Charles Darwin would argue, organisms  descent with modifications from their ancestors to best suit their current environment, leading to a higher chance of survival and reproduction. Evolution remains to be the universally accepted theory in the scientific community when it comes to exploring the origins of the earth and mankind.  Although the theory was spawned from the works of Charles Darwin as summed in his book On the Origins of the Species, evolution would become influential in the different scientific disciplines such as biology.  Hence, evolution has become a basis when it comes to assessing the fitness of an organism, especially when it comes to determining its evolutionary trail.

However, many problems persist about Darwin s theory of evolution, and soon led to much heated debates in science.  These problems, interestingly, are also based on certain scientific studies.  Hence, evolution has been put into question in terms of its validity as a reference when it comes to evaluating an organism s fitness. This paper therefore examines these studies and find out whether evolution, albeit the challenges, still serve as an important platform in explaining the origins of the species.

What is Evolution


Ridley defines evolution as follows
Evolution means change, change in the form and behavior of organisms between generations  The forms of organisms, at all levels from DNA sequences to macroscopic morphology and social behavior, can be modified from those of their ancestors during evolution.  (4)

Evolution can be simply understood as a continuous process in which an organism and the generations of that organism to change and develop over time.  Hence, the successive generations of these organisms can retain the main species or other types may emerge depending on the factors that influence the evolutions such as environmental forces or genetic dysfunctions.  In any case, evolution presents a framework of study which aim to explain how these organisms come to be as a process, evolution strongly relies on genetics and heredity because these determine the traits of the organism.  Hence, these also serve as the reference when it comes to their fitness, especially in terms of how these organisms are able to survive and continue on based on the environmental and their inherent conditions.

Evolution examines these organisms based through the following outcomes adaptation, co-evolution, co-operation, speciation and extinction.  Basically, these show how organisms evolve.  In the context of adaptation, the organism can evolve should it be able to adapt to its changing environment.  In co-evolution and co-operation, the organism is able to survive through its ability to co-evolve with other organisms based on interaction and even conflict.  Hence, these two emphasizes the relational capability of the organism.  Speciation, on one hand, results from a divergence a specie may diverge from its parent with different traits, thus defining or giving way to a different kind of specimen.  Last but not the least, a specimen cannot evolve if its entire population goes through extinction, and extinction is caused by the occurrence of unusual events (Strickberger, 2000).

Evolution is therefore a fascinating theory because it looks at the species from a perspective that examines both its internal (genetic) and external (environmental) traits.  The processes involved in evolution thereby looks at how the organism comes into being, and because of this trail, evolution can also assess the possible future of the organism whether it will survive by preserving its specimen, or other specimens will diverge due to many factors like mutation and speciation, or the organisms can possibly go extinct due to possible environmental factors.

Debunking Evolution
In examining whether evolution is an appropriate context in order to evaluate the fitness of the organism, it is initially important to look at the debates that have aimed to discredit evolution.  Creationism has been evolution s longest  foe , but interestingly, scientific studies have had results that seem to further challenge the theory.  In any case, these arguments already present that evolution cannot measure fitness because, in itself, it is already a problematic theory.  Hence, this section of the paper touch on the two main lenses that could potentially debunk evolution.

Doubts Based on Recent Studies
In the past several years, many studies have focused on certain areas of evolutionary biology.  The biological development of organisms have led to examinations on the specimen s specific physiological and anatomical processes, and inevitably, results show certain factors that may potentially debunk evolution.

However, it should be noted that these studies do not directly debunk evolution, but rather, they create new areas of consideration.  As a result, evolution has been seen to be not without problems, especially in terms of how the theory have demonstrated certain inconsistencies and contradictions.

An example of this study was on the similarities in the non-coding of humans with other vertebrate groups.  Humans have been associated with primates due to their shared DNA similarities, but in this study by Bejerano, et al., it showed that humans shared non-coding DNA sequences with number of other vertebrates.  However, although the results can be regarded to be insignificant in terms of the degree of similarities, some evolution skeptics may find this as a clue that human evolution is far more complexed than earlier hypothesized.

Such studies have therefore raised the possibility that evolution is not as simplified as it had been this is to say that

Creationism vs Evolution
A classic means to challenge the validity of evolution can be seen in its common debate with creationism.  Fundamentalist-creationists debunk the theory altogether, especially as they see evolution as a potential threat in the belief in God.  However, this is not to say that that creationists have fully debunked evolution in fact, scientific creationism, neo-creationism, and intelligent design emerged from the tree of creationism which somehow shows that the belief system cannot just reject the scientific.

It should be understood that even though creation and evolution put two sources together, God and nature, against each other, in close inspection the debate is not really on who did what but more on the process.  According to Scott (73), the real debate is what really happened especially as these two views present different arguments as to what happens after.

Creationism suggests a static point of view when it comes to the events following creation this is to say that after humans were created, it would be up to them what happens next (Scott).  This idea also presents that humans have always been what they are now which basically shows that man has been man through and through.  Hence, such stasis basically shows that nothing really happened after the creation except mans take over of the earth.

On the contrary, it can be gathered from the evolutionary perspective that creation does not stop in the moment of creation.  Evolution suggests that what humans are now was based on an evolutionary trail of constant change.  Hence, the dynamic aspect of evolution shows that nature is not stable, and that man and other creatures are constantly evolving (Scott).  Evidences have so far pointed at the variation of the species, the genetic relationships, similarities and divergences among the different species, and the presence of certain biological and anatomical dysfunctions such as the case of mutations (Young  Strode).

Although some may argue that evolution has triumphed over creationism, the reason creationism has persisted is due to the fact that this theory fulfills a human reality the need for people to feel that there is something beyond them, such as the idea of God.  The religios and spiritual fulfillment that creationism brings thereby further highlight the shortcomings of evolution, in which some people may argue that evolution may present the scientific facts but it significantly falls short in creating significant impacts to mankind.

Natural Selection and Fitness of the Organism
The theory of natural selection, one of the two mechanisms of evolution, has been regarded as a means to determine the fitness of the organism.  The idea behind natural selection is that in order for specimens to survive, they should have substantial variations.  This is to say that organisms cannot have the same traits, otherwise they can easily go extinct.  This also goes to show that there needs to be some form of trait superiority which is heritable, thus, the off-spring will have chances of survival and continue the ancestry.

According to Ridley, natural selection only works when it meets the following conditions reproduction, heredity, variation in individual characters and variation in fitness (74).  Fitness, in the evolutionary context, is defined as  the average number of offspring left by an average number of population with some characters must be more likely to reproduce (i.e. have higher fitness) than others  (Ridley, 74).  Hence, based on this, fitness is a means to determine the success of the organism through its ability to survive and reproduce (Buller, 28).

In this case, how can an organism s fitness be assessed  Fitness can be seen in the organism s observable characteristics --- its behavior, morphology, physiological characteristics and development, all of which can be summed in its phenotype.  An organism s phenotype is the result of its genotype and the environment, although some formulas also consider the random variations.

An organism s fitness, according to the natural selection, can be therefore evaluated based on the following factors (Buller, 28)
The organism s environment which poses selection pressures.
The organism s ability to identify adaptive problems.
The organism s ability to resolve these adaptive problems.
The organism s ability to utilize its phenotype as a means to solve the adaptive problems.

However, Buller presents an important argument when it comes to the relationship of fitness with the theory of evolution (29)

For survival, in itself, means nothing in evolutionary terms ... What s important in evolution is whether one reproduces survival matters only insofar as it enables reproduction.  But the evolutionary significance of reproduction, in turn, lies in the fact that, in contributing offspring to that generation, one is transmitting (half of) one s genes to that generation and thereby affecting the gene and genotype frequencies in that generation.  Once we reconceive fitness as a measure of the ability to survive to reproduce, then, and recognize that reproduction is a matter of transmitting one s genes to the next generation, we can redefine  fitness  as a measure of an organism s expected genetic contribution to future generations .

Based on Buller s point, it can be gathered that the relationship between fitness and evolution lies in the degree of relevance of reproduction which is a central element in evolution.  The theory of natural selection presents a set of conditions which fulfills the evolutionary requirement that a specimen should be able to reproduce.  However, this magnifies the debate when it comes to certain specimens that meet the criteria of fitness yet that are unable to reproduce.  This thereby shows a shortcoming in evolution, and that is how the diversity and functionality of organisms do not end in their ability to reproduce.

Evolution Assessing the Organism s Fitness
The issue with evolution and fitness is that fitness can be present without necessarily having to meet the criteria of evolution this presents a relational conflict especially as natural selection is a mechanism of evolution, and natural selection is a means to determine fitness.  However, fitness, in that regard, does not have to fulfill the requirement of evolution.

True to the previous argument when it comes to evolution s shortcomings, such discussion already highlights how evolution still need further study to connect the dots especially when it comes to relating facts and realities.  For instance, a person who is not able to reproduce yet is fully fit may be hard to be considered as an evolutionary anomaly.  However the case, evolution remains to be the best means to evaluate fitness because it is the fundamental and other measures cannot yet contest the mechanism of evolution, yet further studies should explore findings that connect revolutionary factors that do not seem to make sense in an evolved society.


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