For years, Scientists such as Richard Dawkins have heralded Darwin’s theory of evolution as the single most significant breakthrough in scientific evolutionary thinking.
Today, however, it seems perspective on the way life came about is beginning to take a huge shift. At least in some large circles.
An experiment conducted by Swedish scientists on the evolutionary behaviour of chickens is one just example leading empirical science towards an alternative viewpoint on natural selection.
The experiment manipulated lighting inside a henhouse to make the chickens stressed by confusing them over night and day (which discombobulated the chickens entirely). Not surprisingly, the chooks capacity for learning after the experiment decreased significantly.
The chickens were then moved to a stress free environment, where they hatched and raised chicks. Interestingly, despite being raised in a stress free environment, the chicks displayed a decreased ability to perform tasks on the whole, compared with other chicks. Further tests revealed the adult chickens had passed the stress on to their offspring genetically.
It would seem, therefore, rather than genes mutating towards those having the best capacity for survival (survival of the fittest), environmental conditions play a bigger part in offspring determinant than previously thought.
Another study (which was of course Swedish) confirmed this. In rural parts of Sweden, foods available to a child varied from one year to the next (due to climactic conditions). One single period of extreme overeating, researchers discovered, could cause a person’s offspring to die on average 32 years earlier than if food had been administered steadily over a long period.
In short, these studies have found that lifestyle appears to have a direct influence over heredity.
Opponents of Darwin’s theory of evolution, such as American philosopher Jerry Fodor, believe that people should not assume that natural selection is “evidently simple and exhaustively true”. Funnily enough, Darwin never claimed it was, in fact he went to his grave saying he had been misinterpreted.
Although, with organisations such as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster implying that it is a “response to the Intelligent Design movement” or a “defence of science”, pro-Darwinians can probably relax for a little longer, and take solace in some pasta.