Wow, Darwin isn’t as nearly stuffy as I thought he’d be. I’m thoroughly impressed with his candor toward the reader, and his commentary and prediction regarding potential reader outrage or disagreement. He still sounds like an academic (read: big words), but the reading was slightly less of a bore than I dreaded.
So I may be interpreting this wrong, but it seems that Darwin uses animal domestication and artificial selection as a guidebook for grouping and categorizing natural genetic differences. On page 264 he writes:
“Organic beings in a state of nature present some varieties, – that their organization is in some slight degree plastic; granting that many animals and plants have varied greatly under domestication, and that man by his power of selection has gone on accumulating such variations until he has made strong marked and firmly inherited races; granting all this, how, it may be asked, have species arisen in a state of nature?”
So domestication can, from a certain viewpoint, be considered natural selection on steroids…right? Darwin’s use of the domestication blueprint aims to discover the signs of similar ancestry between species; fair enough. But we can’t really take the comparison any further, can we? Because the goals of natural and artificial selection can vary wildly. Nature (and if this is wrong, please skewer me for it; I’m not actually referencing a source for this) seems to focus solely on the survival of a species or organism, while humanity’s aims for domestication can vary wildly. So shouldn’t an organism’s current state of domestication also vary wildly than if we had otherwise tampered with it?
This was alluded to in post from last week as well. The question here I think is – how plastic are animals? What are the variables? With enough time, can you completely change a creature’s composition? For example, with enough time and tampering, could we theoretically go from horse to fish? And how much of this will we actually find in nature? Darwin seems to be on a line of thought (although he disregards it in favor of species classification) that says nature will never have the breadth of change that domestication does. The parameters aren’t set. There seems to be a need for ‘total manipulation,’ a requisite for every variable to point in the proper direction to elicit truly drastic changes. This makes sense to me when we compare it to the paleo readings, and the discovery of evolution having varying rates of speed. Hell, this reminds of the chaos theory discussion that permeates Jurassic Park. My math major is showing, but to me, it all comes down to variables.
My conclusion – domestication provides such a greater species variety and difference than nature because the variables are controlled. It’s like psychological reinforcement, strict selection of desirable domesticate traits ‘reinforces’ natural selection (you can tell me that’s a stupid analogy). The better we control the variables, the greater the differences between domesticates and natural creatures, and the more careful we have to be with classifying the two by the same template. Especially if we forget about a certain reproductive amphibian variable that allows dinosaurs to breed and then kill us all.