Darwin's General Summary And Conclusions Of The Descent Of Man And Selection In Relation To Sex

1621 words - 6 pages

Darwin's General Summary and Conclusions of the Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex In the "General Summary and Conclusions" of The Descent of Man, and
Selection in Relation to Sex, Charles Darwin argues that man is not
the work of a separate act of creation. Rather, he believes that
humans evolved from a lower being to what we are today. Darwin looks
at the "whole organic world" [i] when finding evidence to support his
argument, using the evolution of plants and animals to illustrate his
points. Darwin claims that natural selection and sexual selection are
two modes of evolution and explains both in detail. However, Darwin
does not just cover science; he also looks at how social behavior
affects evolution and sexual selection. In this way, non-epistemic
values have a great influence on Darwin's theories.

Darwin's main argument is that "man is descended from some less highly
organized form"[ii]. As evidence for his claim, Darwin looks at the
similarity between the features of humans and other animals during
embryonic development. He finds that there are "innumerable points of
structure and constitution" [iii] that are similar. Anyone who
disagrees with him would be forced to conclude, "man is the
co-descendent with other mammals of a common progenitor"[iv].

He also explains the differences between natural selection and sexual
selection, as well as how sexual selection is important to evolution.
First, natural selection depends on how well an organism can adapt to
its environment. If it doesn't have the means to survive in its
environment, then eventually that species will die out and the species
able to adapt will survive. In contrast, sexual selection was first
used to explain how particular physical features of certain animals
came about, when they appeared to have no practical function. Darwin
realized that those features were probably there to attract the
opposite sex for mating since many of them only appeared once the
animal had reached maturity and only during mating season. As
organisms become more complex, more factors need to be considered in
choosing a mate. For humans, wealth, rank, and mental qualities come
into consideration. He also warns that humans should refrain from
choosing someone with mental or physical inferiorities. Even though
humans are at the "very summit of the organic scale," [v] humans can
further improve their condition through the struggle for existence.

Darwin's ideas deal not only with science and animals, but also with
the social and mental conditions of humans. It is on this topic that
the influence of Victorian culture and values is most evident. First,
Darwin tries to explain how humans gained intellect and morality
through...

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