Human evolution theory utilizing concepts of neoteny & female sexual selection
An etiology of neuropsychological disorders such as autism and dyslexia, and the origin of left handedness.

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Cuvier

Cuvier: bibliographical excerpts


"Without detracting from Cuvier's genius we may point out that by the time he was ready to turn the unity of plan which existed in the living world into a method for probing the past, several things had occured: (1) Attention, particularly on the continent, was shifting from shells to bones. News of American remains of huge bones were beginning to sift back to the Old World and, in some instances, the bones themselves had been exhibited in Europe. (2) Smith's discoveries of a stratigraphic sequence in fossils, along with the obviously growing age of the world, heightened public interest as to what forms of land life might have existed contemporaneously along with rather monotonously uniform invertibrate marine fossils. (3) The continually expanding geographical information upon other world areas now made it still hidden in unknown portions of the globe. Extinction, at last, was a reality. The past life of the earth, therefore, might offer marvels no living eye had beheld. (4) The rock formations of the Paris Basin were being quarried extensively in the days of the First Empire. There were strata interspersed with others containing fresh water forms, as well as later deposits containing numerous land animals of great size. An anonymous contemporary writer spoke in a awed tone of perished species and the mystery of how new species originated. "The mind is lost," he philosophized mournfully, "amid uncertain lights and gigantic images that pass before it." (Eiseley, L (1958) Darwin’s Centry. Anchor Books: New York p. 83-4)

"The animals within a type form no ascending series for two reasons based on a common premise. The premise is Cuvier's greatest insight: the shapes of organs are adapted to their function, not arrayed in ideal series. First, a series established by the differing states of one organ will not hold for other organs. Organs are patterned to their function; a sequence in locomotion will not parallel one in feeding. Second, it is doubtful that animals within a type can be arrayed meaningfully by stages of development in a single organ. Functions come is clusters (swimming, running, flying), not sequences. Differing forms of an organ are variants about a central theme, not rungs of ladders." (Gould, S.J. (1977) Ontegeny and Phylogeny. Cambridge: Belknap Press. p. 57)

"Such a division of the animal kingdom broke down the sense of an absolute heirarchy inherited from the old chain of being. Naturalists might feel instinctively that some animals are more highly organized than others, but this was not a trustworthy guide in classification. Just because we ourselves are vertebrates does not permit us to assume that all invertebrates are to be treated as inferior types. A vertebrate is not necessarily superior to a mollusk, merely different -- and the differences are so fundamental that it may be meaningless to rank one above the other. Cuvier was suspicious even of the attempt to rank classes within the vertebrate type, and he regarded fishes and mammals as simply different kinds of vertebrate adapted to different habitats. It was many decades before the majority of naturalists could bring themselves to accept this complete breakdown of the old hierarchical viewpoint. but the implications for the rise of evolution theory was enormous. It no longer would be possible to think in terms of a linear progress through the animal kingdom; each group would have to be pictured as a separate branch in a treelike process of development. Did the basic similarity of all species within a type indicate that all had descended from a common ancestral form? Cuvier resisted this interpretation and argued against the possibility of one species transforming itself into another. He saw each species as a particular variant of the type, exploiting a unique set of harmonious relationships between parts of the body adapted to its own characteristic lifestyle. Bodily interactions were balanced so delicately that any significant change would upset the system and render the animal inviable. The ability of the environment to produce well-marked varieties within a species was limited by the necessity of preventing any significant disturbance of the basic pattern on which the species is modeled. Cuvier thus presented the fixity of species as a pragmatic consequence of his concern for the complexity of living things, and his writings only rarely expressed his faith in a supernatural Designer. In Britain, however, the greater public concern that science should not be seen to undermine religion ensured that Cuvier's followers there would seize upon his views as an explicit confirmation of the traditional argument from design. (Bowler PJ (1984) Evolution, The HIstory of an Idea. Univ of California Press: Berkeley pp. 107-108 )

"In order to perform his feats of identification and restoration Cuvier proceeded upon a principle that today might be labled organismic or holistic. He regarded organs, in fact all anatomical structures, as so intimately related to the life of the entire creature that no part can be fitted to perform a certain function without the modification of other related parts. Thus even a footprint may tell us a good deal about the structure of an animal of which we possess no other trace at all, or by a feather we may go to infer many things about a bird simply because of known correlations of structure in all birds." (Eiseley, L (1958) Darwin’s Centry. Anchor Books: New York p. 86)

"Cuvier broke with this conception by simple expedient of demonstrating anatomically that certain broad groups represented such divergent anatomical organization that they could not be fitted into a single unilineal ascending system. Instead, he conceived of four great groups: the Vertebrates, the Mollusca, the Articulata, and the Radiata. The last has suffered the most alteration by later work but, in essentials, he greatly improved the taxonomical classification of animals and showed, even though he did not realize its evolutionary implications, that there were many stairways of life rather than one. The molluscan plan of organs and of adaptations could never be fitted successfully into a vertebrate sequence. Perhaps it was this sharp realization of distinct worlds of organization that caused him to reject evolution as savoring of the old Scale of Being whose clumsy morphology he detested." (Eiseley, L (1958) Darwin’s Centry. Anchor Books: New York p. 87)

"Combining this view [succession of catastrophes explaining the fossil record) with the results of his own palaeontological and zoological researches, and striving to understand clearly the whole course of the evolution of Creation, Cuvier arrived at the hypothesis usually called the Theory of Cataclysms or Catastrophes, or the Doctrine of Violent Upheavals. According to it several revolutions occurred on our earth at certain times, suddenly destroying every living inhabitant; and at the end of each of these catastrophes an entirely new creation of organisms took place. But as the latter cannot be conceived as having been effected wholly by natural means, we must suppose, in explanation, that the Creator supernaturally interfered in the natural course of things. ... " (Haeckel, E (1897) The Evolution of Man: A Popular Exposition of the Principle Points of Human Ontogeny and Phylogeny, vols. 1 and 2: Appleton, New York p. 77-78)

"He recognized clearly that the younger alluvial deposits contained creatures more similar to those of the present than strata representing more remote ages. He felt that the rocks revealed a gradual advance in the complexity of life through the several "revolutions" of the planet." (Eiseley, L (1958) Darwin’s Centry. Anchor Books: New York p. 88)

"Cuvier's rejection of transmutation is all the more interesting because of his contributions to paleontology, which produced the first outline of the history of life based on solid evidence. The techniques of comparative anatomy were ideally suited to reconstruction of fossils, where often only an incomplete skeleton was found. Using his experience gained with living animals, the anatomist could study fossil bones and visualize how they must have fitted together in the whole animal. From this he could attempt to reconstruct the outward appearance of the original form. Cuvier soon applied himself to the study of fossil bones in this way and became the acknowledged authority in the field. His collected papers (1812a) became the foundation of modern vertebrate paleontology." (Bowler PJ (1984) Evolution, The HIstory of an Idea. Univ of California Press: Berkeley pp. 107-108 )

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