Sample Research Proposal On Evolution Research Proposal
Background to the Problem
The ongoing dispute about the origins of the planet and every living and non-living thing in it has had a long history. In this dispute, we have the theories of evolution on the one hand and creationism on the other. In this research, we try to propose a study that investigates the different facets of the evolutionary theories and also that of creationism to shed light on some of the most common and perhaps longest controversies in an area where there is an overlapping of numerous fields such as philosophy, theology, biology, and other areas of science. The objective of this research is not to add to the confusion that surrounds the creationism vs. evolution conundrum but to present the facts, theories, concepts, and principles that may be used to support such and give the decision to the readers as to what to believe, or whether to believe in both, which is similar to what policy makers have done for the past hundreds of years since the discovery of grounded theories about evolution.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study is to provide a timeline of some of the most prominent evolutionary theories that led to the contemporary knowledge about evolution starting from the earliest down to the most recently acknowledged ones and also to present some of the key arguments behind the controversy between creationism and evolution. This study shall be of great use for students who are engaged in a course about evolutionary biology, creationism, and even philosophy, instructors, and the members of the academic community, specifically, the other researchers.
This paper shall also prove to be a perfect starting point for an individual who aims to know more about the most prominent theories of evolution because contrary to what most people know, there are theories about or theories that pertain to evolution aside from the one that emerged as a result of Charles Darwin’s work, specifically, the theory of evolution; and to check the arguments that are presented on the other side which is creationism. This paper basically covers these theories.
Goals and Objectives
The goal of this research is to collect information about the different theories about evolution that served as the guiding points of philosophers and evolutionary biologists and led to the discovery and creation of the more modern or contemporary ones, and compare it with those that pertain to and or support creationism.
In order to accomplish the main research goal, the authors of the research plans to collect information on evolutionary theories and creationism from books, academic journals, research databases, and the internet. Because this is a topic that has been studied for the span of thousands, if not millions, of years, there will be no restriction that will be applied to the sources’ data of publication. Also, in order to preserve the overall reliability of the paper, only literatures from credible sources will be considered. The research question will then be addressed and answered using the pool of information gathered about evolution and creationism.
Evolution is a rather complex topic contrary to what a lot of people may suggest. In a nutshell, evolution can be defined as the significant and observable changes that certain biological populations or a community of species experience over the course of generations. It is also believed by proponents of some of the most prominent theories of evolution that it is this phenomenon that gives rise to the diversity of species and the different levels of biological organization that experts in this discipline can observe today.
Based on the general theory of evolution, all life forms or organisms on earth originated from single specie or what they call a universal ancestor (i.e. the last universal ancestor) which is believed to have lived some 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago. Between the time billions of years ago up to now, a lot of species have allegedly undergone the process of extinction and evolution, which basically explains why there are some species that have started to exist some millions of years ago but still continue to do so now, albeit in a much altered state or with a much altered set of characteristics. Another way to look at this is that it can also explain why there are certain organisms and or species that share the same set of traits or characteristics as in the case of how modern humans are compared to primates and other organisms based on their similarities in terms of anatomic structure, and even the functions of some of their body parts. The objective of this paper is to discuss the different evolutionary theories based on how they were seek, inquired upon, and presented in books, academic journals, and other forms of literatures (i.e. internet, and even the mainstream media).
There are a lot of things that the term “evolution” may pertain to. There is the theory of evolution that has been authored by famous evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin, for example. In this paper, however, the author pertains to “evolutionary biology” whenever the term “evolution” is used. In the first chapter of Futuyma’s book about evolutionary biology , he discussed that evolutionary biology does not really focus on the mutations and genetic, physical, and physiologic changes that a certain species or group of species undergo through time; and that it instead revolves around the discovery of hidden potentialities and changes that have occurred that affected the species, over a certain period of time. In a more specific manner, he defined biological evolution as the process wherein there is a change in the characteristics of certain groups of organisms over many generations, over a certain period time, which within the context of evolutionary science can be as short as a century (or even shorter) and as long as several billions of years.
In various parts of the Futuyma’s book, he also debunked some common misconceptions about evolution. In the first few chapters of the book, for example, Futuyma drew a clear line between the principles of ontogeny and evolution. He showed how ontogeny and evolutionary biology can be two different things. Ontogeny, for instance, does not equate to evolution because it merely pertains to the morphogenesis or changes in the organization and development of often a single organism that usually occurs from the time of fertilization up to the point of maturation, or in some cases, even death—because there are certain researchers who study ontogeny who describe ontogeny as the study of an organism’s morphogenesis throughout the entirety of that organism’s lifespan. Futuyma clearly stated that ontogeny is not evolution because evolution covers not only the changes or morphogenesis that occurs in a single organism but in an entire population of organisms as evidenced by his statements suggesting that individual organisms do not evolve because only entire populations of organisms are capable of doing so through the process of descent with modification—a mechanism which essentially describes the process of evolution .
Any form of change that can be observed throughout the entire population of a certain set of species that gets carried on or passed from one generation to the next and the succeeding ones can, based on the definition of evolutionary biology, be considered as an evolutionary process because they are backed by the genetic changes that often dictate the permanence of changes or the carrying over of a certain change to the succeeding generations of the same species.
Charles Darwin, one of the most prominent persons in the field of evolutionary biology, was the one who revolutionized the prevailing view of the world, especially, in the West, about evolution, which at the time has been largely based on the ideas of Plato and Aristotle.
Plato, the renowned Greek philosopher, for example, allegedly touched on the topic of evolution in some of his works. He argued that idea or form (of an organism) is real and that everything else that remains aside from these two characteristics should serve as a reflection of reality and everything that contributed to it such as the changes, and etc. Plato further argued that the real world is a world full of nothing but ideas and that what can be observed in the world can be explained by ideas because these observations are nothing but imitations of those ideas. An organism’s structure, on the other hand, can be understood by watching how such structures function. Now, when it comes to the question about the mechanism or phenomena that brought about the significant changes and differences in the structure and function of certain organisms, Plato argued that they are caused by accidental imperfections . This idea that addresses the question about the mechanism or phenomena that may explain why there are groups of organisms that appear, function, and behave the same is backed by the evolutionary theory of Essentialism. Some of the critics of this theory would even say that it cannot be considered as an evolutionary theory because by suggesting that morphogenetic changes are mere accidental imperfections essentially violates some of the basic foundations of the theory of evolution .
Aristotle, being Plato’s brightest student, emerged as one of the followers of the theory of essentialism. He further developed this theory and added that species have fixed rather than varying properties; and that during the last stage of an organism’s development, or in the case of humans, their adult forms, can be used to explain the changes that occur when the same specie was in its immature form as supported by the concept of teleology. Teleology is a concept in evolutionary biology that explains that and how the advanced stages of development can be used as an indicator or influences the earlier stages.
The theory of essentialism got further developed. One prominent derivative of this theory is the principle of plenitude. Basically, the principle of plenitude suggests that all possible kinds of things that exist in the planet are already in the planet and that nothing more can be added, only discovered . In a way, this principle is fundamentally anti-revolutionary because it does not provide a room for the discovery of changes but promotes a rigid perception about evolution, if at all. This is why most evolutionary theorists did not refer to it in itself but in combination with other theories such as one of Aristotle’s most popular concepts which is the concept of the Great Chain of Being.
Basically, this concept suggests that there is a chain of creation that starts from God which then progresses down to angels, demons or fallen or renegade angels, the stars and other celestial bodies such as the moon, kings, princes, lords and nobles, common men, the wild and free animals, the domesticated animals, the plants and trees, precious stones and metals, and lastly, the minerals of the earth . In the middle ages, it is believed that to somehow come up with a theory that support evolution or the process of descent with modification, people mixed certain principles and concepts and one of the product of which was the combination of the principle of plenitude and the concept of the great chain of being.
The resulting theory was not specifically named but it suggested that a there exists a continuous chain coming from the inanimate world of non-living things or matter such as the earth, rocks, and stones, going into the animate world of man up to the realms of God and his angels and fallen angels; and that this continuous chain cannot be broken because it would counteract the will of God.
Perhaps the most revolutionary of all evolutionary theories was Darwin’s Evolutionary Theory. This theory is based on two main theses: descent with modification and natural selection. The former basically explains that both living and extinct species have descended from one or several earlier forms of life (i.e. an ancestor) without any interruption and that the resulting organism is a product of the changes accumulated over great expanses of time—which explains why the organism then significantly looks different from its predecessors. The second thesis, the theory of natural selection suggests that there was a struggle for existence as supported by the first three facts he presented in his work and that some organisms are better designed and equipped to survive, reproduce, and thrive despite their struggle for existence as supported by the fourth and fifth facts he described in his work .
What makes this evolutionary theory revolutionary is the fact that it enabled evolutionary theorists to break away from the old theories about evolution that they majority of them found to be obsolete, if not contradicting and groundless . Darwin, through his theory of evolution and natural selection offered a more rational concept about how organisms in the planet came to be and how some of such organisms got so similar and unique at the same time.
Now, onto the other side of the conundrum: creationism. The creation versus evolution controversy is one of the longest lasting (i.e. recurring) political, cultural, theological and even scientific disputes about the standardization of ideas about the origin of the planet and the organisms that live in it . In a nutshell, creationism suggests that the universe, the solar system, the earth including all the life forms within it originated from various acts of divine creation —which unfortunately is unexplainable by any branch of science as humans know it. Majority of the arguments and propositions of this theory’s proponents are theological in nature; and most of which also could not simply be explained by any principles or quantifying mechanisms available even today.
Creationism particularly flourished during the early and medieval times. In the works of Jewish Philosopher Philo of Alexandria, for example, although the term creationism is believed to be non-existent during that period, he argued that although it was said in the bible that God completed the creation of the planet and everything in it in just six days, it should be thought that that was not the end of the creation as he believed that God still continues on creating and acting on his creation simultaneously, which effectively made the book of Genesis figurative or even allegorical in nature .
When it comes to the number of theories and arguments that can be used against each other, it would certainly seem that the proponents of creationism are greatly outnumbered as they only have the Abrahamic accounts of creation which is one of the pillars of creation science to back their arguments and under current conditions, majority of the phenomena that occurred in such accounts cannot be explained by any form of science. However, despite the situation showing how relatively outgunned the creationists are in the apparently ongoing dispute, creationism still continues to be an important subject matter in schools and other facets of public education.
Bynum, W. (1975). The Great Chain of Being after forty years: An Appraisal. History of Science.
Caldeira, A., Araujo, E., & Carvalho, G. (2011). Brazilian Teachers' Conceptions about Creationism and Evolution.
Connell, W. (2011). The eternity of the world and renaissance historical thought. California Italian Studies.
Darwin, C. (1859). On the origins of species by means of natural selection. London, Murray.
Darwin, C., & Bynum, W. (2009). The origin of species by means of natural selection: or, the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life. AL Burt.
Futuyma, D. (2013). Evolution, 3rd Edition. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, Massachusetts.
Gould, S. (1987). Is a new and general theory of evolution emerging. Self-Organizing Systems.
Hall, B. (2003). Descent with modification: the unity underlying homology and homoplasy as seen through an analysis of development and evolution. Biological Reviews.
Hintikka, J. (1966). Aristotelian Infinity. The Philosophical Review.
Jackson, E. (2012). The faith dynamic in creationism and evolutionary theory.
Nee, S. (2005). The Great Chain of Being. Nature.
Sober, E. (1980). Evolution, Population Thinking, and Essentialism. Philosophy of Science.
Tipler, F. (1981). A Brief history of the Extraterrestrial Intelligence Concept. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Winsor, M. (2006). Linnaeus' Biology was not Essentialist. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Wyhe, J., & Rookmaaker, K. (2012). A New Theory to Explain the Receipt of Wallace's Ternate Essay by Darwin in 1858. Wiley Online Library.