Darwin’s Descent of Man Foreshadowed Modern Scientific Theories

Darwin Evolution Concept

When Charles Darwin published Descent of Man 150 years ago, he launched scientific investigations on human origins and evolution. Last week, three leading scientists in different, but related disciplines published “Modern theories of human evolution foreshadowed by Darwin’s Descent of Man,” in Science, in which they identify three insights from Darwin’s opus on human evolution that modern science has reinforced.

“Working together was a challenge because of disciplinary boundaries and different perspectives, but we succeeded,” said Sergey Gavrilets, lead author and professor in the Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Mathematics at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Their goal with this review summary was to apply the framework of modern speciation theory to human origins and summarize recent research to highlight the fact that Darwin’s Descent of Man foreshadowed many recent scientific developments in the field.

They focused on the following three insights:

  1. We share many characteristics with our closest relatives, the anthropoid apes, which include genetic, developmental, physiological, morphological, cognitive, and psychological characteristics.
  2. Humans have a talent for high-level cooperation reinforced by morality and social norms.
  3. We have greatly expanded the social learning capacity that we see already in other primates.

“The paper’s insights have important implication for understanding behavior of modern humans and for developing policies to solve some of the most pressing problems our society faces,” Gavrilets said.

Gavrilets is director of the Center for the Dynamics of Social Complexity (DySoC) at UT, which promotes transdisciplinary research into the origins, evolution, and futures of human social complexity. This paper is one of the outcomes of activities from the Center. Other related outcomes include free online learning modules on cultural evolution and a series of online webinars about cultural evolution and human origins, which thousands of students and researchers worldwide have watched.

Reference: “Modern theories of human evolution foreshadowed by Darwin’s Descent of Man” by Peter J. Richerson, Sergey Gavrilets and Frans B. M. de Waal, 21 May 2021, Science.
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba3776

Co-authors are Peter Richerson, a cultural evolutionist with the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis, and Frans de Waal, a primatologist with Living Links, Yerks National Primate Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

The paper was sponsored by the UT National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis with an NSF award. Researchers also received support from the US Army Research Office, the Office of Naval Research, the John Templeton Foundation, and the NIH.

2 Comments on "Darwin’s Descent of Man Foreshadowed Modern Scientific Theories"

  1. The ironclad rule is: The guy on the right has to carry a stick!

  2. Babu G. Ranganathan | May 25, 2021 at 9:19 am | Reply

    Babu G. Ranganathan*
    (B.A. Bible/Biology)


    ONLY LIMITED EVOLUTION (micro-evolution or evolution within biological “kinds”) is genetically possible (such as the varieties of dogs, cats, horses, cows, etc.), but not macro-evolution, or evolution across biological “kinds,” (such as from sea sponge to human). All real evolution in nature is simply the expression, over time, of already existing genes or variations of already existing genes. For example, we have breeds of dogs today that we didn’t have a few hundred years ago. The genes for these breeds had always existed in the dog population but never had opportunity before to be expressed. Only limited evolution, variations of already existing genes and traits, is possible.

    The genes (chemical instructions or code) for a trait must first exist or otherwise the trait cannot come into existence. Genes instruct the body to build our tissues and organs. Nature is mindless and has no ability to design and program entirely new genes for entirely new traits.

    Evolutionists believe that, if given millions of years, accidents in the genetic code of species caused by the environment will generate entirely new code making evolution possible from one type of life to another. It’s much like believing that by randomly changing the sequence of letters in a romance novel, over millions of years, can turn the novel into a book on astronomy! Not to worry. We’ll address the issue of “Junk DNA” in a moment.

    WHAT ABOUT NATURAL SELECTION? Natural selection doesn’t produce biological traits or variations. It can only “select” from biological variations that are possible and which have survival value.

    HOW COULD SPECIES HAVE SURVIVED if their vital tissues, organs, reproductive systems, etc. were still evolving? A partially evolved trait or organ that is not complete and fully integrated and functioning from the start would be a liability to a species, not a survival asset. Plants and animals in the process of macro-evolution would be unfit for survival. For example, “if a leg of a reptile were to evolve (over supposedly millions of years) into a wing of a bird, it would become a bad leg long before it became a good wing” (Dr. Walt Brown, scientist and creationist). Survival of the fittest actually would have prevented evolution across biological kinds!

    NEW SPECIES BUT NOT NEW DNA: Although it’s been observed that new species have come into existence, they don’t carry any new genes. They’ve become new species only because they can’t be crossed back with the original parent stock for various biological reasons. A biological “kind” allows for new species but not new genes. Nature has no ability to invent new genes for new traits. Only limited variations and adaptations are possible in nature, and all strictly within a biological “kind” (i.e. varieties of dogs, cats, etc.).

    Dr. Randy J. Guliuzza’s extensive research points to a better explanation than natural selection for variation and adaptation in nature. Dr. Guliuzza explains that species have pre-engineered mechanisms that enable organisms to continuously track and respond to environmental changes with system elements that correspond to human-designed tracking systems. This model is called CET (continuous environmental tracking). His research strongly indicates that living things have been pre-engineered to produce the right adaptations and changes required to live in changing environments. It’s much like a car that’s been pre-engineered so that the head lights turn on automatically when day changes to night.

    What about genetic and biological similarities between species? Genetic information, like other forms of information, cannot happen by chance, so it is more logical to believe that genetic and biological similarities between all forms of life are due to a common Designer who designed similar functions for similar purposes. It doesn’t mean all forms of life are biologically related! Only genetic similarities within a natural species proves relationship because it’s only within a natural species that members can interbreed and reproduce.

    Many people have wrong ideas of how evolution is supposed to work. Physical traits and characteristics are determined and passed on by genes – not by what happens to our body parts. For example, if a woman were to lose her finger this wouldn’t affect how many fingers her baby will have. Changing the color and texture of your hair will not affect the color and texture of your children’s hair. So, even if an ape or ape-like creature’s muscles and bones changed so that it could walk upright it still would not be able to pass on this trait to its offspring. Only changes or mutations that occur in the genetic code of reproductive cells (i.e. sperm and egg) can be passed on to offspring.

    What about the new science of epigenetics? Epigenetics involves inheritable factors which can turn already-existing genes on, but epigenetics doesn’t create new genes.

    Most biological variations are from new combinations of already existing genes, not mutations. Mutations are accidents in the genetic code caused by nature (i.e. environmental radiation), are mostly harmful, and have no capability of producing greater complexity in the code. Even if a good accident occurred, for every good one there would be hundreds of harmful ones with the net result, over time, being harmful, even lethal, to the species. Even if a single mutation is not immediately harmful, the accumulation of mutations over time will be harmful to the species resulting in extinction. At very best, mutations only produce further variations within a natural species.

    All species of plants and animals in the fossil record are found complete, fully formed, and fully functional. This is powerful evidence that all species came into existence as complete and fully formed from the beginning. This is only possible by creation.

    God began with a perfect and harmonious creation. Even all the animals were vegetarian (Genesis 1:30) in the beginning and did not struggle for survival nor kill and devour each other. Macro-evolutionary theory does not begin with a perfect and harmonious creation as the Bible states. The Bible and macro-evolutionary theory cannot both be true.

    All the fossils that have been used to support human evolution have been found to be either hoaxes, non-human, or human, but not non-human and human (i.e. Neanderthal Man was discovered later to be fully human).

    There has never been unanimous agreement among evolutionary scientists on ANY fossil evidence that has been used to support human evolution over the many years, Including LUCY.

    The actual similarity between ape and human DNA is between 70-87% not 99.8% as commonly believed. The original research stating 99.8% similarity was based on ignoring contradicting evidence. Only a certain segment of DNA between apes and humans was compared, not the entire DNA genome.

    Also, so-called “Junk DNA” isn’t junk. Although these “non-coding” segments of DNA don’t code for proteins, they have recently been found to be vital in regulating gene expression (i.e. when, where, and how genes are expressed, so they’re not “junk”). Also, there is evidence that, in certain situations, they can code for protein.

    ARE FOSSILS REALLY MILLIONS OF YEARS OLD? (Internet article by author)

    Visit my latest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION (This site answers many arguments, both old and new, that have been used by evolutionists to support their theory)


    *I have given successful lectures (with question and answer period afterwards) defending creation before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities. I’ve been privileged to be recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis “Who’s Who in The East” for my writings on religion and science.

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