Evolution of Thought
It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.
–Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species
I knew very little about and did not have much interest in evolution, systematics and biodiversity prior to the first week of this class. The knowledge I had about these topics came from introductory courses and what I was being told by my family. I soon discovered that I had a lot to learn.
I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. I completed my First Communion and Confirmation. I grew up being told that God created all that is around us. Everything seemed so cut and dry until I began studying evolution in school. It was hard for me to try and understand both points of view initially. However, through several courses and due to my interest in science, I eventually came to my own conclusion. This conclusion however, as I found out this week, was still incorrect. I thought what I believed in was evolution. I found out this week that what I thought was evolution was in fact progressionism.
Progressionism is the idea that life on Earth can be characterized by forward movement from lower to higher life forms. In the beginning of the first class we were asked to answer a few questions related to evolution and systematics. One of the questions asked what we thought the most highly evolved organism was. I had always believed that humans were the most complex and therefore the most highly evolved. It became very apparent how wrong my idea of evolution was when we were told that parasites are more complex than humans are, as a result of evolution. Parasites, despite their simple body plan, are incredibly complex because they use host organisms to complete their life cycles. Some parasites may have more than three different hosts. Parasites are also very specialized due to their loss of certain body structures over time. Some parasites lack a digestive tract, for instance. This marked the beginning of a new understanding of evolution for me. A better and new understanding of systematics and biodiversity was also established after the initial shock of learning that parasites are extremely complex and highly specialized organisms had passed. After reading the two articles found on e-res (Cracraft and Simpson, 1994 and Savage, 1995) and There’s a Hair In my Dirt: A Worms Story (1998), I have a new appreciation for the study of systematics and especially biodiversity.
The article Systematics and the Biodiversity Crisis explains the importance of systematics and biodiversity. In the article, Savage relates...