As we all know, natural automatically means good. Nothing in nature has ever hurt anyone, ever.
In the first part of my series deconstructing the term ‘natural’, I talk genetically modified organisms and domestication, and ask what is really natural, anyway?
Although some people may try to refute the theory of evolution, nobody can deny that natural selection occurs. We can demonstrate this quite easily within a single human lifetime, and humans have been inadvertently using natural selection to our own advantage for over 10,000 years. The processes I’m discussing, of course, are artificial selection and domestication.
When Darwin first began to think about evolution, one area of greatest interest to him was domesticated species, in particular the pigeon. The pigeon exists in around 300 of varieties, which have been selected for by pigeon fanciers for at least 5,000 years. The similarities between domestic pigeons and their wild counterparts are clear, however it seems that humans have, over many pigeon generations, been able to shape many aspects of their appearance including plumage colour and shape, body size, and beak shape. Other domesticated species such as dogs, cattle and even crop plants, have undergone significant changes in their appearance and internal anatomy since humans first began breeding them.
Across the next 10 articles, I present a few of the quirky examples of evolution that we can readily observe in nature. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but merely a set of stories which I feel illustrate well the power of evolution to create complexity, and how we can see evidence for natural selection by looking carefully at the idiosyncrasies it has produced.
The examples I provided in this series can be broadly categorised into a few themes; coevolution (Fig Wasps and Hawk Moths), evolutionary constraints on adaptation (Pandas, The Human Eye), convergent evolution (Birds and Bats), adaptive radiation (Galapagos Finches, Ring Species) and homology (DNA and the Pentadactyl Limb). And within each of these categories, there are numerous other stories I could have told to illustrate my point. But the point I am trying to illustrate is that evolution is a real phenomenon. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is one which explains the natural world around us in both a satisfying and verifiable way.
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