Notes on Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

Last night, after the South Manchester Writers Workshop (14/11/17), we headed to the Dog and Partridge and got to talking about our projects. The subject turned to speaking – the author I was in discussion with was developing a talk on Evolutionary Theory – and how much time to allow. He expected to read at just under 200 words per minute – no interruptions. For a long time my speed has been around half that pace. It occurred to me to mention an interest in Darwin but the conversation moved to drinks, football on TV (England v Brazil) and finding some place to sit. The evening took a different course but when I got home – having missed the match on TV 😦  – I was prompted to check my Darwinian notes from way back.

Back before I wrote A Guide to First Contact, I took a look at Darwin’s Origin of the Species. I found a summary of his theory and, expecting to wade through impenetrable logic, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a clear but intriguing list. Later, when I began writing Guide, I thought it would be cool to include some points on human evolution. I realised it would be a good idea to check the science so I wouldn’t look stupid. So far so good.

What happened next is a puzzle. As I remember, I dug out the summary of Darwin’s Evolutionary Theory and made notes. That would have been sometime in either 2011 or 2012 – when I was writing Guide. Yet the file with the summary plus my notes is timestamped 23/10/2007. This can’t be right; those notes justified a plot thread in Guide; Guide wasn’t written until 2010/11; I didn’t even start writing until 2009. Either my memory is going or… or the timestamp is wrong. A puzzle for me.

Anyhow my notes came in handy. In due course I completed Guide, and published it in 2014. I still like the look of them and they are reproduced below, alongside a summary of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

1 Species have great fertility. They have more offspring than can grow to adulthood.
Varies in relation to environment niche factors
2 Populations remain roughly the same size, with small changes.
Only true where environment is in a period of stability but capped by the environmental niche factors
3 Food resources are limited, but are relatively stable over time.
See 2 above relevant in so far as they help to cap population
4 An implicit struggle for survival ensues.
True when populations reach a level constrained by the niche
5 In sexually reproducing species, generally no two individuals are identical.
6 Some of these variations directly impact the ability of an individual to survive in a given environment.
Truthiness test – seems commonsense but could be irrelevant – direct impact could be also be from learned abilities or just being in the right place at the right time
7 Much of this variation is inheritable.
…Genetic Theory – but little to no evidence that this is relevant
8 Individuals less suited to the environment are less likely to survive and less likely to reproduce, while individuals more suited to the environment are more likely to survive and more likely to reproduce.
True for ‘sports’ and ‘freaks’ but otherwise may be just a wee touch of truthiness here
9 The individuals that survive are most likely to leave their inheritable traits to future generations.
10 This slowly effected process results in populations that adapt to the environment over time, and ultimately, after interminable generations, the creations of new varieties, and ultimately, new species.
See 8 above


Environmental niche: one of the keys to understanding Guide 

Truthiness: over-emphasis

btw I read an extract from Lucky – chapter title: Chekrikheff – in South Manchester Writers

About Terence Park

Board games, US Comic books, SF Paperbacks, Vinyl records; I've plenty of them all. I write SF (the serious sort). I also do spreadsheets.
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