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"From amoeba to man": a common and wrong conception of evolution

The basis of evolutionary change according to Darwin is the random hereditary differences in traits that exist between the individuals of each species in nature, as well as the changes occurring in the environment. The concept of "randomness", a key concept in understanding Darwinian theory, is often misunderstood

The denial of evolution - the example of the statue of the three monkeys. Photo: shutterstock
The denial of evolution - the example of the statue of the three monkeys. Photo: shutterstock

By Yosef Neuman, "Galileo" magazine
The article was published on the Hidaan website on September 14, 2007

"Australopithecus Boisy, even if he himself was removed from the chain of evolution on its way to the great goal of the creation of man..." "Friendly Fire", A.B. Joshua

According to the creation story in Genesis, all species of plants and animals, as well as man, were created by God several thousand years ago, and have not changed since then. In 1642, Dr. John Lightfoot, the vice-president of Cambridge University, determined that man was created at nine in the morning, on October 23, in 4004 BC.

The belief in the constancy of the sexes relied not only on the Holy Scriptures, but also on the writings of Aristotle, which, after their rediscovery in the early Middle Ages, were integrated into the Christian faith and greatly influenced Western thought. Aristotle, who was also a biologist, relied on the well-known fact that in the reproduction process, the offspring of each biological species retain the characteristics of the parents' species, as do their offspring, and God forbid.

From Aristotle, the Western world also inherited the system of sorting the animal world, a classification according to the degree of perfection. At the bottom stand the plants, and above them the animals, in ascending order:
The sponges, the insects, the fish, the reptiles, the birds, the mammals and at the top of the ladder - man (Christianity placed above him the angels and above them God). This order was called the "scale of nature" (Scala naturae), a linear, continuous, and perfect chain (the great chain of being).
Another obstacle to the concept of the possibility that one biological species will change into another species stemmed from Aristotle's essentialist conception (originating from Plato's theory of ideals), which dominated Western thought, according to which there are distinct natural kinds in the world, with a unique essence, without the possibility of a gradual transition between them . One of Darwin's greatest achievements was replacing essentialism with population thinking. The biological species is no longer an ideal "type", whose individuals are identical copies, but a population of individuals with different characteristics.

Progressive evolution

A flyer describing the theme park based on the story of Noah's Ark being built in Kentucky. PR photo
A flyer describing the theme park based on the story of Noah's Ark being built in Kentucky. PR photo

Various discoveries in modern times, starting from the beginning of the 18th century, began to undermine the traditional view. The universe is no longer perceived as static, but as changing or developing, albeit at a slow and imperceptible pace in human life. This change in perception was largely based on geological findings, which led researchers to estimate that the age of the earth is much older than a few thousand years.

In these studies, fossils of species very different from the living biological species were discovered, a fact that contradicted the story of creation, whether it was explained as a result of extinction or whether it was explained as a result of the change of species. Extinction was contrary to the traditional approach of maintaining a harmonious balance in nature. How can one see the world as perfect, if so many species have been exterminated in it? Some tried to justify this by claiming that the Creator conducted repeated experiments in creation and destruction (it was also suggested that the species were destroyed in Noah's flood).

The first evolutionists of the beginning of the 19th century saw the process of evolution as a progressive process, the purpose of which is the appearance of man. Those who did not give up the role of the creator stated that although the species were not all created at the same time (as described in the book of Genesis), the evolutionary process itself is directed by God. There is also a version in Jewish thought, according to which the evolutionary process is the work of God, as evidenced by the words of Rabbi Harayah Kook.

A poster revealing the truth about creationism
A poster revealing the truth about creationism

Rabbi Kook writes about these things in "Agrot Hara'a" (Ha Egret Tsa): "Even if it became clear to us that the order of creation was in the way of the development of the species, there is also no contradiction... because the foundation of everything is what we teach in the world, Everything is God's work, and the means are many or few... and sometimes we say by way of skipping 'and God created'... just as we say 'So Solomon will build', and we do not say that Solomon commanded the ministers and the ministers to those below them... because it is a well-known way..."*

Other thinkers explained the idea of ​​evolutionary progress as the result of the action of unidentified internal forces.

The term "evolution", to describe the transition from one species to another in the 19th century, is derived from the word to evolve, i.e. to unfold (like the unrolling of a scroll). The process of embryonic development was used as a model, which is a regular process of progress through fixed and successive stages, from the fertilized egg cell to the adult organism, which is its end and purpose.

According to the reformationist version, which dominated in the 18th century, in the embryo the organism of the next generation is folded in a miniature form, and therefore the process of embryonic development is nothing but its gradual growth (like retirement). According to the performanceist view, in the reduced embryo there is an even smaller embryo of the next generation, and God forbid. From this, and from the religious belief, it follows that in the germ in the body of our mother Eve were folded all generations of humanity to be born!

In analogy to the process of embryonic development, the evolutionists argued that the history of life, as revealed in fossils in the various layers, occurred in a certain order, from simple to complex: from invertebrates to fish, to reptiles, to mammals, to man.

The idea of ​​progress - progress - was one of the common ideas during the Enlightenment in the 18th century. This idea was related to the achievements of the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, to the discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and others. The idea of ​​progress expressed man's belief in his ability to explain phenomena that were not understood in the past, predict future phenomena and even control the forces of nature. These achievements were interpreted as evidence that humanity is progressing, and that progress will continue in all fields. for an idea

Progress was related to historicism: the claim that it is possible to discover the laws by which the future can be predicted, not only in natural phenomena, but also in human society. Thinkers such as August Comte, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Karl Marx supported this claim. The idea of ​​progress influenced and integrated into the idea of ​​biological evolution, of the change of species.

Herbert Spencer stated that there is a cosmic law of evolution and progress, which manifests itself in a change from the simple and homogeneous to the complex and heterogeneous. Progress is universal: in the universe, in the world of organisms, in the development of the individual organism (from the fertilized egg cell to the adult creature), in history and also in human consciousness. Spencer's great influence, and the widespread belief in progress, led to the misidentification of biological evolution with progress even after Darwin (who did not support this idea), and is quite prevalent to this day.

The first naturalist who conceived the idea of ​​the evolution of species and proposed a mechanism for its existence was the Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Lamarck converted Aristotle's static "scale of nature" into a dynamic concept, of change over time, caused by the action of two factors.

A marine snail that lives at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. Photo: Andre Warne, Swedish Museum of Natural History
A marine snail that lives at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. Photo: Andre Warne, Swedish Museum of Natural History

The one factor is progress and a gradual increase in complexity under the influence of an "internal force": from the formation of life (in spontaneous creation), to the appearance of simple creatures that become more and more complex and perfect, until the appearance of man; This process, according to Lamarck's method, is not affected by environmental factors. The other factor is a gradual adaptation to the environment, as a result of using or not using the various organs of the organism according to its needs. These gradual changes are inherited from generation to generation, getting stronger, and over time they can cause a certain biological species to change into another species*.

* The idea of ​​inheritance of acquired traits was very prevalent in Lamarck's time (and Darwin needed it too). Nevertheless, he is associated, unjustly, precisely with the name of Lamarck. The inheritance of acquired traits was ruled out after the mechanism of heredity was recognized, and after the involvement of DNA in shaping the organism's traits was discovered. Nevertheless, support for this idea continues almost to this day, and many refuse to accept the fact that the activity of the organism during its life does not affect the characteristics of its offspring. Among the prominent proponents of this view were Bernard Shaw and Arthur Koestler.
An evolutionary view of progress is also prevalent among anthropologists and sociologists who have placed the human races in a hierarchical system, in which the "primitive" races are an early stage in the process of the emergence of the white man. As one of the English thinkers expressed it: "Evolution took place from the ape to the ape-man, through the Irishman, to the British gentleman!"

A 19th century cartoon depicting Darwin as a monkey
A 19th century cartoon depicting Darwin as a monkey

Darwinian evolution

Darwin's revolutionary contribution in his book "The Origin of Species", published in 1859, was not in the idea of ​​the evolution of the biological species per se (although he provided a series of important and convincing evidence from various fields for the operation of the evolutionary process), but in his proposal that the mechanism that drives the process is a naturalistic mechanism (or materialistic), without reliance on the Creator or any unidentified forces. As a result of the operation of this naturalistic mechanism, a picture of the history of life was also obtained, which is completely different from the picture proposed by the evolutionists who preceded Darwin, and who supported evolutionary progress.

Darwin concluded from an abundance of evidence, from various fields, that all species of living beings, including man, evolved in a slow and continuous process from previous biological species. (It is important to note that a slow and continuous process does not mean a constant rate. The question of whether the process of evolution occurs continuously or in "jumps" in short periods, on a geological scale, has sparked many debates between geologists and paleontologists in recent years.) In most days, the common origin and continuity won For research confirmation, with the discovery of the universality of the genetic code. The continuity of the evolutionary process means that each stage of evolution is a change of the existing or an addition to it.

The basis of evolutionary change according to Darwin is the random hereditary differences in traits that exist between the individuals of each species in nature, as well as the changes that occur in the environment (including rare changes that have fatal consequences, such as extreme changes in climate). The concept of "randomness", a key concept in understanding Darwinian theory, is often misunderstood. A random process is a process that is not aimed at any goal.
The statement that a certain event is random is a statement that refers to our knowledge, which means that according to our understanding the probability of the event's existence is unknown, and therefore cannot be predicted (in particular, wonder arises in the face of events whose occurrence seems to us to have a very small probability). Some characterize a random process as a point of intersection between two chains of causality. It is important to emphasize that a random process does not occur without a reason, and there is no deviation from the laws of nature.

The raw material of the evolution process is random changes in the genes - the mutations (actually only the mutations that occur in the gametes, or in the cells from which gametes will be formed). There is no intentional connection between the type of mutation and the type of change it generates in the organism's properties. The mutations occur as a result of various environmental effects and due to the lack of absolute precision in DNA replication in the reproduction process.
The great majority of mutations decrease the biological fitness (which is a measure of cultural success) of the organism, and only a tiny minority increase it; But this minority is a condition for the existence of evolution. In this context, it is important to note that the relevant unit for the appearance of the "beneficial" mutation is the population, which is a group of organisms of the same biological species living in a certain area. In each generation, the natural clarification process operates (again), and selects the details that are more adapted to the environment.

The evolution of the crustaceans. Exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada. From Wikipedia
The evolution of the crustaceans. Exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada. From Wikipedia

Evolution is not random

Biological evolution is not random. Along with the random processes, there is an intentional factor - the natural clarification that creates the adaptations, which are the compatibility between the organism and the environmental conditions and its way of life. In addition to the natural selection process, there is a sexual selection process in animals, which is directly related to the competition for obtaining daughters/partners in the reproduction process.

Natural selection and conjugal selection are the only directed processes in evolution. Natural clarification is not "omnipotent", that is, it cannot bring about any result, but operates within the framework of various constraints: the chemical composition of the organism, mechanical limitations (such as a load) as well as the inertia of the ontogenetic process (ontogenesis is the process of development of the organism during its life. Ontogenesis consists of a series of fixed successive stages; any change, especially in the early stages, may result in the total destruction of the organism).

The existence of these constraints explains, among other things, the existence of some basic patterns in the world of organisms (bauplan). bauplan is a term indicating that the organism is an integrative system of structural and functional features. In the world of organisms there is a limited number of basic patterns. In the process of evolution, can one pattern become another pattern? For example, can a dinosaur change into a bird in the process of evolution? The answer is yes. Can a dinosaur change into a mammal? The answer is no.

The same constraints also explain the phenomenon of parallel evolution (convergence), meaning the appearance of similar forms of organisms that have no direct evolutionary relationship between them. An example of parallel evolution is animals that live in different areas, and are very similar to each other. The best known example is of two large groups of mammals: the marsupials and the placental mammals. Here we have very similar types, even though the two groups evolved on different continents independently for about 50 million years.

phenomenon of extinction

In addition to all these, there are also phenomena of extinction that have nothing to do with the operation of natural clarification. A famous example is the impact of the meteorite on the earth about 60 million years ago, which will be discussed later in the context of the emergence of man. Also, many studies point to the fact that changes occur in the DNA that do not (as far as is known) have an effect on the organism's properties.

The natural clarification is due to the fact that the natural reproduction capacity of organisms exceeds the carrying capacity of the environment. The result is a "war of existence" between the individuals, in which the individuals that are better adapted to the environmental conditions and lifestyle survive and reproduce at a faster rate, while the others become extinct (or reproduce at a slower rate).

In the process of natural clarification, there is no clarifying being, rather it is a mechanistic and "blind" mechanism, with no vision of the future. The process of natural clarification is an inevitable result of the existence of variability (differences between individuals), heredity and "war of existence". The natural clarification process is a cumulative process. All biological species, including the human species, developed in this way. This insight negates the traditional separation, insofar as it concerns origin, between man and other living creatures.

Thanks to heredity, the individuals that survive and have the greater fitness (reproductive success) pass their traits on to their offspring, and God forbid. Over the generations and under the influence of other factors, such as geographical or ecological isolation, as well as as a result of the migration of certain individuals of the biological species to a new environment, there has been over time a change of species and the splitting of species, and more comprehensive genera, families and systematic units are created.

Rejection of a purposive view

The Darwinian theory of evolution rejects the purposive view, of a process necessarily progressing from simple creatures to man. (In fact, if we choose a purposive approach, then since more than 99.9% of the biological species that have ever lived on the face of the earth are extinct, it can be argued that the purpose of every species is to become extinct!) According to Darwin, the process of evolution does not have any predetermined direction . The process is "open" and "opportunistic" within the various constraints and environmental conditions.

An adequate description of the history of life on earth (the phylogeny) is a "tree", not a "ladder" with man at the top. The "tree" keeps branching repeatedly, in an irregular manner, and the human species, Homo sapiens, is at one end of the branches (the tree model is also appropriate because a tree can have dead branches).

Each branch changes in the process of adaptation and specialization, and no branch represents a path aimed at any goal. The Darwinian theory denies the analogy to the development of the embryo. Unlike the development of the individual, which is based on the existence of a genetic "program", in the "ancestral" creature there was no instruction for the appearance of man, or any other creature.

Is the history of life a progression?

Is the history of life a form of progress?* If the only directing force in evolution is natural clarification and marital clarification, which lead to the formation of adaptations, why after the bacteria (which were created about 3.8 billion years ago) were eucalyptuses, elephants and humans also created? The bacteria are adapted to their environment no less than the elephants to their environment.

The general answer is: natural clarification + time + changing conditions (within the constraints described earlier). This combination created over thousands of millions of years the enormous diversity of the world of living creatures. We do not know, and there is no need to assume that there are any additional factors that acted in the process. Of course, it is impossible to prove that there is no other influential factor or factors, just as it is impossible to prove that ghosts or witches do not exist; It is impossible to prove a negative statement.

It is appropriate to mention here the theory of Stuart Kauffman (Kauffman) and his colleagues, of the formation of order spontaneously in complex dynamic systems. Kaufman and his colleagues suggest that there is another factor in the organization of the biological world, in addition to natural clarification. In their opinion, order can be created thanks to the basic properties of matter in certain situations, and thanks to principles of organization, and this is the basis on which natural inquiry works. This approach is a theoretical approach that looks for similarities between the organization of physical, biological and social systems.

Stages of crucial importance in the increase in complexity of living beings during evolution are the "invasion" of certain bacteria into other cells, which created a partnership (symbiosis) between them. The invading bacteria became intracellular organelles of two types - mitochondria and chloroplasts (and see: Dr. Dror Bar-Nir, "On bacteria and life in the presence of oxygen", "Galileo" 103).

The appearance of these organelles made a decisive contribution to the formation of the eukaryotic cell, which is the structural unit of multicellular organisms. Pioneering and revolutionary research in this field was conducted by researcher Lynn Margulis. And finally, the Israeli biologist Eva Jablonka (Jablonka) conducted innovative studies regarding the importance of epigenetic information transfer (not through genes) but through other cellular structures in the process of ontogenesis (individual development). Transferring information in this way probably also contributed to the evolutionary process.

Imaging of Australopithecus. Illustration: shutterstock
Imaging of Australopithecus. Illustration: shutterstock

an irreversible process
The evolutionary process is irreversible, and irreversibility is one of the factors responsible for the directionality of the evolutionary "branches": a sequence of random changes, which improve adaptations and enable different specializations in the way of life. John Maynard Smith and Szathmary, in their book The Origin of Life, describe the "major transitions" that occurred during evolution.

In these changes, the method of preserving information and the method of transferring it from generation to generation was of great importance, which became more and more complex: DNA molecules; Chromosomes within a nucleus; systems of social organization; And in man - symbolic language and cultural inheritance (in addition to genetic inheritance).
The paleontologists, the fossil researchers, found different trends in evolution. John Bonner's studies indicated an increase in body size, an increase in the degree of differentiation and an increase in complexity; on more efficient use of energy, receiving information from the environment and processing it, and more efficient modes of culture; and on the increase in complexity of the most complex creatures in each group over time. The famous paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson described the fundamental difference between trends and laws. The different trends characterize limited periods only; They stopped and even changed their direction, according to the changes in the environmental conditions.

Another factor responsible for the trend of increasing complexity throughout evolution is ecological expansion. The first organisms lived, most likely, in a limited area of ​​muddy lagoons. From there they spread to the open oceans, and only after many millions of years, they also inhabited the continents.

This spread is related to the increase in the number of species in a feedback action - certain species cause ecological changes that allow the existence of other species. The emission of oxygen by photosynthetic bacteria allowed the appearance of the aerobic organisms (which need free oxygen). The appearance of plants allowed the appearance of plant-eating animals, and then, the appearance of other animals that feed on them.
It is agreed that in an overall view, in the process of evolution, the level of complexity of organisms (which can be defined according to the number of different parts of which the organism is built and their degree of differentiation) has increased in many "branches" (biologist Daniel McShea, among others, dealt with this issue).

Decrease in complexity

At the same time, there are also phenomena of a decrease in complexity and degeneration, such as in parasites. The increase in complexity is particularly noticeable in the early stages of evolution, when comparing the first unicellular organisms with those that evolved from them later, and with the features of multicellular organisms.

The first living creatures that appeared on Earth about 3.8 billion years ago were single-celled creatures (bacteria) without a nucleus and without intracellular structures, the prokaryotes. About 2 billion years later, much more complex single-celled creatures appeared, with a nucleus and intracellular structures (as a result of the mentioned process of symbiosis between prokaryotes). These complex single cells are called eukaryotes. From single-celled eukaryotes, all multicellular creatures, including plants and animals, evolved.

A trivial explanation for the increase in complexity is the fact that the first creatures created on the face of the earth were simple (minimal complexity), and therefore any change that inevitably led to an increase in complexity - as noted by the scientist and author of popular science books Stephen J. Gould (Gould) in his book "A Full Hand ". Regarding developed organisms belonging to different groups (such as plants and fungi), we do not have a measure to compare their degrees of complexity.

The important British biologist Julian Huxley distinguished between specific improvements, which adapt certain groups of organisms to a unique way of life, in a narrow ecological niche, and between general improvements, which in his opinion are progress. Usually, the improvement process ends in stabilization, and in many cases - in extinction. In many groups of organisms, adaptation prevents adaptability to changing conditions. Most improvements in evolution are unique improvements.

However, when there is an improvement in a central function, and a biological mechanism is created that has an innovation on a large scale, such as a new way of feeding, a new organization of the organism (such as the formation of the multicellular creature) or a "revolutionary" phenomenon such as consciousness (mind), there is Huxley, because of progress. According to this index, man excels in high adaptability, which allows him to exist in a very wide range of environments.

This is not the opinion of John Barton Sanderson Haldane: "The change from monkey to man is likely to be seen as a change for the worse in the eyes of the monkey. A monkey is certainly a satisfying animal. But it is possible that he (Adam) will not be seen as an improvement even in the eyes of an angel. Compared to a monkey, which is a creature whose way of life is quite improved, modern man will appear to be a rational type only to a partial extent and therefore a rather damaged creature"*.

One of the factors that interrupts the existence of trends (continuous and continuous change over a long period of time) in evolution is extinction. In the history of life, many large-scale extinctions have occurred. Steven J. Gold holds that in the perspective of long periods, it is not the fittest who survive, but the lucky ones. "If extinction can wipe out 90% of all species, this means that entire groups become extinct due to bad luck"*.

Extinction makes any evolutionary "achievement" transient. Gould attaches great importance to the factor of chance in evolution; If the evolution process had started from the beginning, the probability that the same creatures would have been created a second time is zero. 65 million years ago a meteorite hit the earth and caused a mass extinction.

"From our human point of view, this injury is one of the most important events on earth. If this collision had not happened, the largest mammals alive today would have resembled the rat-like creatures that ran around 65 million years ago trying to avoid being prey for the dinosaurs." This event is, according to a person of faith, evidence of the intervention of supreme providence, as evidenced by this quote: "Of course, a believing Jew sees such 'luck' as a clear sign of the activity of God's providence...".

Ernst Mayr, one of the greatest evolutionary researchers, wrote in his last book (in his nineties): "There is no evidence that in the history of life there is a universal trend towards progress. When there is progress, it is nothing but a by-product of changes that are the result of the operation of natural clarification".

The theories that tried to contradict Darwin

In the second half of the 19th century, various anti-Darwinian theories were published, which tried to prove that there is an intelligent creator and that this is not a meaningless mechanical process


Even after the publication of "The Origin of Species", there were many researchers who opposed Darwin, and the idea that the only factor directing evolution is natural (and sexual) clarification; And the support for the idea of ​​progressive evolution and for theories based on the action of various, unidentified internal forces that drove the process continued.


The well-known German biologist Ernst Haeckel, who saw himself as a Darwinist, created a model of a sort of compromise - a tree with a central trunk rising towards man, and secondary side branches of lesser importance.

In the second half of the 19th century, various anti-Darwinian theories were published. One of the theories about evolution driven by an "internal force" is the theory of life cycles. Alpheus Hyatt argued that evolutionary lineages, like individuals, have a cycle of youth, maturity, old age, and death (as a species). The setting and the sunset are programmed within the history of each and every species.

The stag's antlers led to its extinction

Another theory that was quite popular among biologists at this time (and later) is orthogenesis, which is based on the action of an internal force: certain traits, from the moment they are created, are once again unstoppable, and they inevitably lead to extinction by virtue of an ever-increasing design inferiority. A famous example is the extinction of the giant antlered Irish stag.

According to this theory, the elk's antlers continued to grow until they became a heavy burden, eventually leading to the extinction of the elk. Today it is commonly believed that this is a wrong interpretation; Extinction is the fate of most species, usually because they fail to adapt quickly enough to the changing conditions of the climate or competition, and there is no reason to exclude from this the Irish deer, with its large horns (Steven J. Gould wrote about this subject in his well-known book "Since being Darwin").

the directed force

One of the modern representatives, born in the 20th century, of the concept of evolution as a process progressing towards a goal was the paleontologist and the French Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin (de-Chardin Teilhard). His book The Phenomenon of Man (1955) was a great success with the general public, perhaps because of its optimistic tone, which was unusual at the time of its publication.

In De Chardin's opinion, the biblical story of creation describes the purpose of creation, although not the exact course of events. According to his view (which was influenced by both Spencer and the Israeli philosopher Samuel Hugo Bergson), progress is inherent in the universe, and is a process that occurs in stages. Each stage is embodied in a higher level of organization compared to the previous stage. In the first stage, the "directing force" acted on the inorganic world; After the appearance of living beings, on the organic world; And after the appearance of man - on the human spirit, according to de Chardin's nomenclature - on the noosphere (from the Greek nous, consciousness). The process of evolution will end at the "Omega point", identified with the Christian Jesus.
Tillard de Chardin's arguments are not scientific, and are full of baseless speculation, mysticism and theology. Most modern evolutionary biologists disapprove of him, and even disparage his views, with the exception of Julian Huxley, who wrote a sympathetic introduction to the English translation of his book. Shmuel Hugo Bergman also wrote a sympathetic article about his thought. The great geneticist Theodisio-Theodore Dobzhansky, who was a believing Christian, does indeed praise de Chardin, but points out that: "It is clear that these were the inspired words of a mystic, and did not infer from scientific data...". A fatal criticism of de Chardin's book was written by biologist and Nobel laureate in immunology Peter Medawar.

There is no intelligent plannerAnother supporter of the idea of ​​progress in evolution was the renowned Jewish-French philosopher Henri Bergson, who had considerable influence in wide circles (thanks to his general philosophical thought). His important book in this field, "Creative Evolution", was published in French in 1907. Bergson claimed that in nature no harmonious plan is realized, and that there is no hope of discovering the hand of an intelligent planner in the formation of any biological species.
The history of life is progress, but in an irregular way, because of the constant tension that exists between the creative life force, élan vital, and the inert inert matter on which it acts in the creation of living things. The life force is what causes life forms to rise to higher and higher levels, and ultimately manifests itself in the emergence of consciousness. Similar "evolutionist" ideas are also common nowadays in popular culture, and are integrated into a variety of New Age spiritualist teachings.

The origin of man and his mental qualities

The assumption that man is outside the fence of nature was shared by different philosophers such as Aristotle, Descartes and Kant. Today we have no doubt that the human species, Homo sapiens, was created, like all biological species, in the process of evolution. This statement does not negate the fact that a person has unique qualities, and especially developed and unique cognitive skills.

This uniqueness indeed inspires wonder, and science must deal with the drama, mysticism and romance that surround it. Similar to any biological species, the evolution of man is the result of a combination of random events, which occurred at a certain time in a certain place, and which operated within the framework of the known evolutionary processes. At the same time, we should not ignore the great differences that exist between us and the species closest to us, the chimpanzees. Among other things, we write books about them and not them about us!

In Darwin's time, the "missing link" between ape and man was considered a troubling problem. Since his death, fossils of many species have been discovered, and continue to be discovered - according to one version, their number is at least seventeen (!) species that lived in the past and became extinct, and they fill the "gap" between us and the chimpanzees.
Most likely the common ancestor of us and chimpanzees (the species closest to us in terms of evolution) lived 6-7 million years ago in Africa. Among the ancient species discovered, from which the human species evolved (after millions of years and various branches), there is a species called Australopithecus afarensis.
This species was distinguished by being upright and walking on two feet (the most famous fossil of this species is "Lucy"). This change was the result of coming down from the trees and moving to life in the open savannas - a change in lifestyle that resulted from climatic changes that occurred in this area. Erecting extended the field of vision of this species and allowed for more effective defense against predators.
Walking on two versus walking on four is not necessarily "progress", but should be seen as an alternative. The straightening was accompanied by considerable anatomical changes, which allowed the hands to be freed to use tools, and then to create tools. The manipulative ability and the ability to coordinate over time shaped the human world and culture. Australopithecus afarensis had a small brain (similar to that of the apes), and according to the evidence did not use tools. The first species discovered that used tools (Homo habilis) appeared about 2 million years ago.

The space between us and the chimpanzees - the result of extinction

The various species of hominids (species belonging to the human family) that have been discovered since Darwin should not be seen as the "missing link" that led to man, but species that lived in their own right, some of them for long periods. Among them were species closer to man and other species less close. All these species are extinct. The large "gap" that exists between us and the chimpanzees is a result of extinction.

The fact that these species have no living descendants today is the result of ecological factors, competition between species and other factors. If one of these species had survived, the "gap" between us and the chimpanzees would not have been so great. In the words of Robert Foley: "If a living individual belonging to the species Australopithecus afarensis, one of our evolutionary 'ancestors' (or more correctly our 'cousins') were discovered in some remote area of ​​Africa, we would be in a dilemma, whether to send him to school Or to the zoo"*.

Human ancestors were, most likely, relatively weak and defenseless creatures. Their adaptation processes did not occur in the way of the development of unique talents, such as great physical strength, the ability to run fast or particularly sharp senses. Their adaptation occurred through developed cognitive ability: learning and memory capacity, developing effective communication, inventiveness and cooperation.

One of the indicators of cognitive ability is the volume of the brain, which is related to the volume of the skull. When comparing the volume of the skull of different species, after the human ancestors separated from the apes, a dramatic increase in brain volume is found, from a volume of about 450 cc in Australopithecus afarensis to about 1,400 in Homo sapiens. The accepted opinion today is that this increase in brain size, and at the same time an increase in intelligence, was an adaptation to intense social life and social competition. According to the formulation of the English biologist Richard Dawkins.

Evolution is a meaningless mechanistic process

The intellectual capacity, the ability to abstract and the mathematical thinking of man (and especially of some people!) still inspire wonder. It is interesting to note that Alfred Russell Wallace (Wallace), who devised the theory of evolution through natural inquiry independently of Darwin and at the same time, disagreed with Darwin regarding the origin of the higher mental qualities of man. He agreed with him that physical traits did develop through the process of natural inquiry, but claimed that traits such as abstract thinking or an aesthetic sense were the result of the intervention of a higher power.

A similar conclusion (probably from a religious point of departure) is reached by the Israeli historian and philosopher of science Menachem Fish, who wrote: "What may testify to the reality and power of God, that is, to an intelligence that is supposed to be the initiator and responsible for the known physical and organic reality, is this (a) the existence of the complex complex ... and (b) the fact that we apparently have a wonderful intellectual capacity to learn and know it - this complex (of the laws of nature...)*.
Gould rules out these possibilities, and also explains the appearance of higher mental qualities within the framework of evolutionary theory. In his explanation, there is an additional "role" for randomness.
"Natural selection can build an organ 'for' a specific function... but this 'purpose' does not necessarily determine the full capabilities of the organ... our large minds could have been created in the first place for... essential skills for gathering food, for socializing... but these skills do not exhaust the limits of the ability of This complex machine (the brain). Fortunately, these limits contain, among other things, the ability to write, between a shopping list (which we can all pull off under our hands) and between a large-scale epic (which only a few of us will actually be able to put together)."

* Gold, J.S. Panda's toe. Translated by Amos Carmel. Dvir Publishing, 1990 (the English original, 1980). p. 54.

* The evolutionary process, which is a mechanistic process without meaning, created a creature with a symbolic language, awareness and self-awareness, with a strong subjective feeling, capable of acting according to judgment and free choice and searching for meaning.

Joseph Neumann who passed away in April 2017 He was a professor (emeritus) of biology and philosophy at Tel Aviv University. His book "The Permitted Man" - The Evolution of Consciousness" is related to the topic of the article.

The article was re-edited on 4/5/2018

8 תגובות

  1. The Riddle of God.. We will never tire of dealing with this question.
    I don't think the human ancestors were weak creatures.
    I also think that if the tail fur and a few other things had survived, we would have had a high advantage.
    But assuming we had both gorilla muscles and brains, our energy expenditure was so high that only a diet of 7,000 calories a day would sustain us. Which would have caused us to destroy our environment, or each individual human would have needed a huge living space. Which was the reason that we could not act in cooperation with each other.
    Therefore in my opinion the development of the brain caused evolution to weaken us as individuals. Higher survivability would destroy the environment that supports us. Higher physical ability, became redundant with the developed creativity and communication.

  2. gift,

    "How come there aren't any talking monkeys? No monkey sings, no monkey goes to work'

    Actually there is, man belongs according to all definitions to the family of apes (hominids) so yes there is such an ape.

  3. If man came from the monkey we should see monkeys in different types of different developments. How come there is no talking monkey? No monkey sings, no monkey goes to work. Not a single monkey has evolved even a little bit from the other monkeys we see in zoos and jungles, how is it that there is not a single monkey in the world that has evolved in even the smallest way and does things that humans do? At least he would slowly develop and learn to say one or two words. Like the African and Indian tribes, who were born into a primitive world and closed to the outside world but they develop, speak their language, build, create, perform rituals, show that they are human. But this doesn't happen to monkeys either.. How can it be that man evolved from the monkey and there is no monkey who is in a state of advanced learning like man? Ovulation? development? Mm.. there is an absurdity here.. how we evolved from a species that has not developed itself for millions of years. It kind of makes me start to believe that there is a god who caused all this

  4. I am troubled by the question of time.
    According to the article, the common ancestor between us and chimps lived for 6 million years.
    Let's assume that the time passing from generation to generation is 20 years, then within 300,000 generations a pre-chimpanzee creature becomes a human.
    Intuitively, this seems like a crazy rate to me.
    What is the accepted theory about the rate of change of evolution?

  5. Age –
    We come across many cases where separation between continents caused a very different development of life on them. For example Australia, where the marsupials (such as the kangaroo) mainly developed - compared to the rest of the world where the placental mammals dominate.
    Viruses are indeed capable of transferring DNA segments between species, but these DNA segments are usually very small and can only lead to disruption of the host's DNA (because they get stuck inside larger DNA segments and disrupt the instructions encoded in them). Anyway, I find it hard to think of viruses and bacteria flying across the winds in sufficient numbers to compare life on all the continents on Earth. And as I already mentioned, the facts show that Australia is evolutionarily different from the rest of the world. Even the creatures living on the Galapagos Islands, which are separated from each other by a thin strip of water, show that there is a difference between them - partly due to their isolation from each other.

    What's new -
    1. It must be remembered that evolution does not provide the best solutions. Although it is not a random process, it is still a process that takes into account many factors. By the same token, you might ask why humans don't have eagle eyes, cheetah legs, and tails to balance them while running on twos. The answer is that evolution works through natural selection, but is based on random mutations and a process of perfecting the mutations. It is possible that if a person had been born with better eyesight, natural selection would have promoted the continuation of his genes.
    Similarly, if a seal had been born that would have preferred to give birth in the sea, it is possible that natural selection would have encouraged it. Maybe not. A simple possible explanation is that seals live in much colder areas than seahorses. It's hard for me to think of an unfortunate child who would want to be born into freezing water.

    2. Evolution is a way of describing a gradual change, and in the case of whales it is a change that happened to their body and was supported by natural selection. This dorsal fin may have formed from a type of hump that evolved on the mammal's back, or a skin/fat/muscle fold.

  6. A response to age, if reason is common to all living beings, as you say, then how is it that this article was written by man and not by a chimpanzee, for example.
    Do not talk nonsense.

  7. Questions about evolution
    1. Seals did not go through an evolutionary stage of calving and giving birth in the sea, to confirm this, a female seahorse does give birth in a river.
    It seems that the seals are more vulnerable on land during the calving season
    Despite their great adaptation to the sea, why didn't evolution bring their spawning to the sea?
    2. How does evolution explain the development of the dorsal fin of whales? (The ancestors of the whales who lived on land did not have a dorsal fin, so this organ was created from nothing)

  8. The intellectual ability that is attributed only to man is fundamentally wrong.
    The intellectual ability exists in all existing creatures.
    And the influence of reason on the process of evolution and the relations between species places reason as of utmost importance as a factor that directs changes created at the DNA level.

    Viruses and bacteria transfer DNA segments between species so that areas that were thought to be geographically isolated such as Australia and different islands. In fact, they were never disconnected.
    And similar properties found in different creatures were passed on in a different way by viruses and bacteria.

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