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Lecture

ANT203 September 27.pdf


Department
Anthropology
Course Code
ANT203Y1
Professor
Xueda Song

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FILM: CHARLES DARWIN AND THE TREE OF LIFE
(see questions on Blackboard)
objections to Darwin's claim that humans and apes shared a common ancestors centered
around the biblical view of human superiority; the leaders of the church felt that such a
statement demoted God and contradicted the story of creation as told in the Bible
Life originated as simple forms, which became complex over time; some examples of
simple life forms that have been discovered in the fossil record:
Charnia, discovered by young Roger Mason in 1957 (a frond-like lifeform)
jellyfish in Australia
recall that life started with microscopic forms which were too delicate to become
fossilized
Darwin's belief that species are interconnected requires the existence of intermediate forms,
examples of which have been found:
Archaeopteryx was an intermediary between birds and reptiles (purchased by
Richard Owen)
still a living example of a bird which has claws as wings (h_____________)
the platypus is has reptilian and mammalian traits
however, at Darwin's time, the fossil record started abruptly with the Cambrian
Period (this remained the case until Mason's discovery in 1957)
Various technological advances helped to support Darwin's claims about the age of the
earth, making it older than the 17th cent. bishop's 4004 BC:
Victorian geologist pegged the earth's age at millions of years
50 years after publication of the Origin, Marie Curie's discovery of uranium and its
steady decay (radiation) paved the way for radiation dating
the result of these and later discoveries was an earth old enough for natural selection
to have taken place
Darwin attributed the existence of similar frogs in Europe/Africa and the Americas to their
floating across the ocean on vegetation, or crossing on land bridges. Modern geology and
plate tectonics have supported Darwin's explanation of the geographic distribution of
organisms (that they descended from a common ancestor but were split up do to
geographical changes) through different mechanisms:
1912: German geologist suggested that in the distant past, all continents formed a
huge supercontinent that drifted apart
1960s: able to map the sea floor in detail, which confirmed not only that a shift had
occurred, but also that the continents were still in the process of moving - therefore
amphibians originated on the supercontinent and then travelled across the face of the
earth as the pieces of the continent split and drifted apart
William Paley's Divine Watchmaker makes an analogy between a watch found on the
beach (clearly not the product of natural forces) and the human eye - both are complex and,
Paley thought, useless in their intermediary forms (i.e. a gear has no purpose just as a piece
of eye has none) - the eye could only work if it were complete in all its details, therefore it
must have been created in a single act by God.
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