Darwin

Not surprising, Darwin’s writing is quite dense and syntactically complex. Why he felt the need to lump so many clauses in between commas instead of using a few more periods is beyond me. His editor should have slapped him, if he had an editor.

Darwin seems to firmly believe that domestication is a man-driven as opposed to an animal-driven or mutualistic process. He repeatedly refers to the whims and decisions of breeders in deciding which existing variations to exploit and which direction, either consciously or unconsciously, to take an animal during the domestication process. He doesn’t seem to acknowledge the potential for the animal to benefit from the process, and even if it does, Darwin implies this would be merely a side effect and not a direct effect. Ultimately, I agree with this logic, because man is ultimately deciding which variations to exploit and which animals to let reproduce. Any benefit to the domesticated animal may simply be a consequence of the necessity to have health animals in order to use them. Basically, the animals thrive because we need them to thrive for us to thrive. This doesn’t take away from our dependence on animals, such as the cow, for resources. The bond between man and domesticated animal may only be mutualistic in the sense that we need many of the resources they provide.

At the same time, Darwin may be a bit naive in this interpretation of domestication. We do depend on domesticated animals, and as time progresses and they become more intertwined with human populations, they often become integral to a civilization’s successful function. Darwin appears to have ignored this.

 

 

 

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3 Responses to Darwin

  1. I pretty much agree with Darwin as well. It might be cynical and pessimistic, but I think human beings are a pretty selfish race. It’s not necessarily a bad quality- we’re biologically programmed to do whatever it takes to ensure our own survival. Very few species have truly altruistic qualities, the only thing that sets us apart from other animals doing whatever it takes to survive is that we’re better at it most of the time. Some might say this gives us a responsibility to care for the well-being of the earth, but I don’t think our higher intelligence and capabilities automatically forces us to bear that burden. Rather, we should care for the environment and animals because we do feel the bond you were talking about. It’s in our species’ best interest as well.

  2. I think it’s important to acknowledge the time period in which the book was written and not hold Darwin’s ignorance of the theories of mutual domestication pathways we’ve examined as a lack of insight or bad judgement on his part. Considering what he was starting with in terms of evolutionary theory his ideas are remarkably perceptive. We have about 150 years or so on him and far greater advances in all sorts of technology from DNA sequencing to finding fossils with ground penetrating radar. I know that we all know this already, but it’s easy to forget that kind of stuff when criticizing earlier theories. It’s kind of like learning about ancient explanations for why the sun rose and set each day. Sure they sounds ridiculous now, but at the time they seemed to make perfect sense in the worldview of those who held those beliefs.

  3. I think Kelly makes an important point here — We need to always take an author in context. And by Victorian era standards, Darwin was a revolutionary! By developing theories of change by natural and artificial selection (evolution / domestication), he made the advances in scientific thinking we take for granted now possible.

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