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FUNDAMENTALS OF DARWINISM

Author: Alexander Paramonov

Editor's Note: Our research on the booklist we are preparing at hand has led us sometimes at vistas of unexpected dimension. In this case we are referring to a sort of an antiquarian work, rather than to a scientific work, per se. The findings we are going to present in this preview should have little importance with regard to the history and development of the biological science in Bulgaria. These are just some offshoots and authors in the field of "natural history of man" that we find of relative interest to be presented to the public. The time period covered is strictly retained to the first half of the 20th century and the material referred to is ostensibly developed as a "non-technical" presentation. This conditionality is real and factual, while strictly it should be regarded as "a breed apart" from the academic or university science with its representatives in the face of Prof. M. Popov, Prof. S. Konsulov, etc. So, let us try to pick out this literature and try to sort it in a manner suitable for our narrative. Firstly, there are some titles that come out directly from the period after World War I and reflect the state of biology from that time, albeit with some slight admixture from esoteric sciences. These are mainly translations from French and German authors - i.e., works written at the end of 19th century and before the Great War - but principally still actual and attractive for the general reader of the 1920s and 1930s. We have included here books from Abbe Moreux, Wilhelm Bolsche and Edward Clodd. /N.B., the narrative is in Bulgarian and the names of the authors could be transcribed different from their original language/. Secondly, there come out a great variety of titles from Russian authors that were extremely prolific after the period of Socialist Revolution in 1917. The thematic unity of this sort of literature is best exemplified by their adherence to the new socialist science - i.e., within the premises of such celebrities as Acad. Alexander Oparin - but principally written in a leisurely and popular manner which was easily accessible to the general reader. The attachment to the Soviet scientific thought is evident with works from K. Berkova, V. Lunkevich, S. Chulok and M. Illin. /N.B., the narrative is in Bulgarian and the names of the authors could be transcribed different from their original language/. Thirdly, The book from author A. Paramonov - which was published in 1947 - subsequently, could be classified as mid-term literature and combines features from both above categories. Moreover, it belongs to a separate item of writings that were approved by the Ministry of Education for the purposes of high school teaching in 8-11 grade system. We shall reiterate to this theme in another review from our bulletin.

 

Obviously, there are at least two issues at large that troubled evolutionist thought at the beginning of the 20th century. We mentioned, already, some representative groups that treat various concepts of "natural history" in scientific and allied works from that time. Here is more elaboration on the topic.

Creationism Theory: Today, most people so readily accept the general idea of evolution that they do not understand the excitement and controversy that surrounded Natural Historians only a century ago. The calamity was stirred by early paleontologists and their enthusiastic digging in the earth for fossils and other evidence. When they related the bones they found to geologic strata and put life on earth into a time frame of hundreds of millions of years, their findings evoked intense public reaction. Their conclusions about the evolution of life were not compatible with a literal interpretation of the biblical myth of creation or with Archbishop James Ussher's date of 4004 B. C. for that event. Implicit from these studies was an acceptance of the processes of evolution, yet as late as year 1925 and some high school teachers in the U.S.A. were tried and convicted for teaching the evolution theory in defiance of the State Law.

For more than a half-century after the publication in 1859 of The Origin of Species with its implication that man descended from an ape, the search for fossils or the "missing link" was fruitless. Numerous discoveries have shown that there is no simple "missing link", but rather a series of "missing chains" that are slowly being pieced together, ditto.

Neo-Darwinism Theory: A further height or raising the bar to unlimited dimension was developed by the proponents of so-called Modern Darwinism  and their extreme representative Academician Alexander Oparin from the U.S.S.R. Further, A. Oparin outlined a way in which basic organic chemicals might form into microscopic localized systems - possible precursors of cells - from which primitive living things could develop. He cited the work done by de Jong on "coacervates" and other experimental studies, including his own, into organic chemicals which, in solution, may spontaneously form droplets and layers. Oparin suggested that different types of microscopic systems might have formed in the Earth's primordial ocean and, subsequently, been subject to a selection process leading eventually to life.

The Miller-Urey experiment (or Urey-Miller experiment) was an experiment that simulated hypothetical conditions present on the early Earth and tested for the occurrence of chemical evolution. Specifically, the experiment tested Oparin and Haldane's hypothesis that conditions on the primitive Earth favored chemical reactions that synthesized organic compound from inorganic precursors. The experiment is considered to be the classic experiment on the "origin of life". It was conducted in year 1953 by Stanley L. Miller and Harold C. Urey at the University of Chicago.

The rest of the story with Neo-Darwinism is a bit blurred and misty. For instance, they recognized that a cell consists of two main parts, the nucleus and the cytoplasm; further, the nucleus is differentiated into a nucleolus and chromosomes, the latter consisting of tiny particles, the genes. However, what they couldn't find or synthesize were the elementary structural units of the gene /i.e., the nucleoproteins extremely rich in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)/. Clearly, this was the finale of their never ending story, ditto.

 


Addendum № 1: This is an excerpt from a letter written by Charles Darwin in year 1871, where he expressed similar thoughts on the "origin of life". It is taken from the Collected Works of Charles Darwin /edited by G. Hardin/ and was reproduced in the INTRODUCTION from Sergey Morgulis' translation of "A. I. Oparin. The Origin of Life. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1938".

 

ANONYMOUS

by Charles Darwin

It is often said that all the conditions for the first production of a living organism are now present, which could ever have been present. But if (and oh!, what a big if) we could conceive in some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, etc., present, that a protein compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the present day, such matter would be instantly devoured or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed.

 

 


Addendum № 2: This second excerpt is from the book of evolutionist R. L. Carson, who in the later phases of her carrier moved on a Neo-Darwinism positions with staunch ecological perspective. The material is called THE GREY BEGINNINGS and is from "R. L. Carson. The Sea Around Us /Chapter III - The Grey Beginnings/. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1951, with renewed editions 1961, 1979, 1989".

 

THE GREY BEGINNINGS

by Rachel Carson

"And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep" - from Genesis.

Beginnings are apt to be shadowy, and so it is with the beginnings of that great mother of life the sea. Many people have debated how and when the earth got its ocean, and it is not surprising that their explanations do not always agree. For the plain and inescapable truth is that no one was there to see, and in the absence of eyewitness accounts there is bound to be a certain amount of disagreement. So if I tell here the story of how the young planet Earth acquired an ocean, it must be a story pieced together from many sources and containing whole chapters the details of which we can only imagine. The story is founded on the testimony of the earth’s most ancient rocks, which were young when the earth was young; on other evidence written on the face of the earth’s satellite, the moon; and on hints contained in the history of the sun and the whole universe of star-filled space. For although no man was there to witness this cosmic birth, the stars and the moon and the rocks were there, and, indeed, had much to do with the fact that there is an ocean.

The events of which I write must have occurred somewhat more than 2 billion years ago. As nearly as science can tell that is the approximate age of the earth, and the ocean must be very nearly as old. It is possible now to discover the age of the rocks that compose the crust of the earth by measuring the rate of decay of the radioactive materials they contain. The oldest rocks found anywhere on earth — in Manitoba —a re about 2.3 billion years old. Allowing 100 million years or so for the cooling of the earth’s materials to form a rocky crust, we arrive at the supposition that the tempestuous and violent events connected with our planet’s birth occurred nearly 2.5 billion years ago. But this is only a minimum estimate, for rocks indicating an even greater age may be found at any time.

The new earth, freshly torn from its parent sun, was a ball of whirling gases, intensely hot, rushing through the black spaces of the universe on a path and at a speed controlled by immense forces. Gradually the ball of flaming gases cooled. The gases began to liquefy, and Earth became a molten mass. The materials of this mass eventually became sorted out in a definite pattern: the heaviest in the center, the less heavy surrounding them, and the least heavy forming the outer rim. This is the pattern which persists today — a central sphere of molten iron, very nearly as hot as it was 2 billion years ago, an intermediate sphere of semi-plastic basalt, and a hard outer shell, relatively quite thin and composed of solid basalt and granite.

The outer shell of the young earth must have been a good many millions of years changing from the liquid to the solid state, and it is believed that, before this change was completed, an event of the greatest importance took place — the formation of the moon. The next time you stand on a beach at night, watching the moon’s bright path across the water, and conscious of the moon drawn tides, remember that the moon itself may have been born of a great tidal wave of earthly substance, torn off into space. And remember that if the moon was formed in this fashion, the event may have had much to do with shaping the ocean basins and the continents as we know them.

There were tides in the new earth, long before there was an ocean. In response to the pull of the sun the molten liquids of the earth’s whole surface rose in tides that rolled unhindered around the globe and only gradually slackened and diminished as the earthly shell cooled, congealed, and hardened. Those who believe that the moon is a child of earth say that during an early stage of the earth’s development something happened that caused this rolling, viscid tide to gather speed and momentum and to rise to unimaginable heights. Apparently the force that created these greatest tides the earth has ever known was the force of resonance, for at this time the period of the solar tides had come to approach, then equal, the period of the free oscillation of the liquid earth. And so every sun tide was given increased momentum by the push of the earth’s oscillation, and each of the twice-daily tides was larger than the one before it. Physicists have calculated that, after 500 years of such monstrous, steadily increasing tides, those on the side toward the sun became too high for stability, and a great wave was torn away and hurled into space. But immediately, of course, the newly created satellite became subject to physical laws that sent it spinning in an orbit of its own about the earth. This is what we call the moon.

There are reasons for believing that this event took place after the earth’s crust had become slightly hardened, instead of during its partly liquid state. There is to this day a great scar on the surface of the globe. This scar or depression holds the Pacific Ocean. According to some geophysicists, the floor of the Pacific is composed of basalt, the substance of the earth’s middle layer, while all other oceans are floored with a thin layer of granite, which makes up most of the earth’s outer layer. We immediately wonder what became of the Pacific’s granite covering and the most convenient assumption is that it was torn away when the moon was formed. There is supporting evidence. The mean density of the moon is much less than that of the earth (3.3 compared with 5.5), suggesting that the moon took away none of the earth’s heavy iron core, but that it is composed only of the granite and some of the basalt of the outer layers.

The birth of the moon probably helped shape other regions of the world ocean besides the Pacific. When part of the crust was torn away, strains must have been set up in the remaining granite envelope. Perhaps the granite mass cracked open on the side opposite the moon scar. Perhaps, as the earth spun on its axis and rushed on its orbit through space, the cracks widened and the masses of granite began to drift apart, moving over a tarry, slowly hardening layer of basalt. Gradually the outer portions of the basalt layer became solid and the wandering continents came to rest, frozen into place with oceans between them. In spite of theories to the contrary, the weight of geologic evidence seems to be that the locations of the major ocean basins and the major continental land masses are today much the same as they have been since a very early period of the earth’s history.

But this is to anticipate the story, for when the moon was born there was no ocean. The gradually cooling earth was enveloped in heavy layers of cloud, which contained much of the water of the new planet. For a long time its surface was so hot that no moisture could fall without immediately being reconverted to steam. This dense, perpetually renewed cloud covering must have been thick enough that no rays of sunlight could penetrate it. And so the rough outlines of the continents and the empty ocean basins were sculptured out of the surface of the earth in darkness, in a Stygian world of heated rock and swirling clouds and gloom.

As soon as the earth’s crust cooled enough, the rains began to fall. Never have there been such rains since that time. They fell continuously, day and night, days passing into months, into years, into centuries. They poured into the waiting ocean basins, or, falling upon the continental masses, drained away to become sea.

That primeval ocean, growing in bulk as the rains slowly filled its basins, must have been only faintly salt. But the falling rains were the symbol of the dissolution of the continents. From the moment the rains began to fall, the lands began to be worn away and carried to the sea. It is an endless, inexorable process that has never stopped — the dissolving of the rocks, the leaching out of their contained minerals, the carrying of the rock fragments and dissolved minerals to the ocean. And over the eons of time, the sea has grown ever more bitter with the salt of the continents.

In what manner the sea produced the mysterious and wonderful stuff called protoplasm we cannot say. In its warm, dimly lit waters the unknown conditions of temperature and pressure and saltiness must have been the critical ones for the creation of life from non-life. At any rate they produced the result that neither the alchemists with their crucibles nor modern scientists in their laboratories have been able to achieve.

Before the first living cell was created, there may have been many trials and failures. It seems probable that, within the warm saltiness of the primeval sea, certain organic substances were fashioned from carbon dioxide, sulphur, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. Perhaps these were transition steps from which the complex molecules of protoplasm arose — molecules that somehow acquired the ability to reproduce themselves and begin the endless stream of life. But at present no one is wise enough to be sure.

Those first living things may have been simple microorganisms rather like some of the bacteria we know today — mysterious borderline forms that were not quite plants, not quite animals, barely over the intangible line that separates the non-living from the living. It is doubtful that this first life possessed the substance chlorophyll, with which plants in sunlight transform lifeless chemicals into the living stuff of their tissues. Little sunshine could enter their dim world, penetrating the cloud banks from which fell the endless rains. Probably the sea’s first children lived on the organic substances then present in the ocean waters, or, like the iron and sulphur bacteria that exist today, lived directly on inorganic food.

All the while the cloud cover was thinning, the darkness of the nights alternated with palely illumined days, and finally the sun for the first time shone through upon the sea. By this time some of the living things that floated in the sea must have developed the magic of chlorophyll. Now they were able to take the carbon dioxide of the air and the water of the sea and of these elements, in sunlight, build the organic substances they needed. So the first true plants came into being.

Another group of organisms, lacking the chlorophyll but needing organic food, found they could make a way of life for themselves by devouring the plants. So the first animals arose, and from that day to this, every animal in the world has followed the habit it learned in the ancient seas and depends, directly or through complex food chains, on the plants for food and life.

As the years passed, and the centuries, and the millions of years, the stream of life grew more and more complex. From simple, one-celled creatures, others that were aggregations of specialized cells arose, and then creatures with organs for feeding, digesting, breathing, reproducing. Sponges grew on the rocky bottom of the sea’s edge and coral animals built their habitations in warm, clear waters. Jellyfish swam and drifted in the sea. Worms evolved, and starfish, and hard-shelled creatures with many-jointed legs, the arthropods. The plants, too, progressed, from the microscopic algae to branched and curiously fruiting seaweeds that swayed with the tides and were plucked from the coastal rocks by the surf and cast adrift.

During all this time the continents had no life. There was little to induce living things to come ashore, forsaking their all-providing, all-embracing mother sea. The lands must have been bleak and hostile beyond the power of words to describe. Imagine a whole continent of naked rock, across which no covering mantle of green had been drawn — a continent without soil, for there were no land plants to aid in its formation and bind it to the rocks with their roots. Imagine a land of stone, a silent land, except for the sound of the rains and winds that swept across it. For there was no living voice, and no living thing moved over the surface of the rocks.

Meanwhile, the gradual cooling of the planet, which had first given the earth its hard granite crust, was progressing into its deeper layers; and as the interior slowly cooled and contracted, it drew away from the outer shell. This shell, accommodating itself to the shrinking sphere within it, fell into folds and wrinkles — the earth’s first mountain ranges.

Geologists tell us that there must have been at least two periods of mountain building (often called “revolutions”) in that dim period, so long ago that the rocks have no record of it, so long ago that the mountains themselves have long since been worn away. Then there came a third great period of upheaval and readjustment of the earth’s crust, about a billion years ago, but of all its majestic mountains the only reminders today are the Laurentian hills of eastern Canada, and a great shield of granite over the flat country around Hudson Bay.

The epochs of mountain building only served to speed up the processes of erosion by which the continents were worn down and their crumbling rock and contained minerals returned to the sea. The uplifted masses of the mountains were prey to the bitter cold of the upper atmosphere and under the attacks of frost and snow and ice the rocks cracked and crumbled away. The rains beat with greater violence upon the slopes of the hills and carried away the substance of the mountains in torrential streams. There was still no plant covering to modify and resist the power of the rains.

And in the sea, life continued to evolve. The earliest forms have left no fossils by which we can identify them. Probably they were soft-bodied, with no hard parts that could be preserved. Then, too, the rock layers formed in those early days have since been so altered by enormous heat and pressure, under the folding of the earth’s crust, that any fossils they might have contained would have been destroyed.

For the past 500 million years, however, the rocks have preserved the fossil record. By the dawn of the Cambrian period, when the history of living things was first inscribed on rock pages, life in the sea had progressed so far that all the main groups of backboneless or invertebrate animals had been developed. But there were no animals with backbones, no insects or spiders, and still no plant or animal had been evolved that was capable of venturing on to the forbidding land. So for more than three-fourths of geologic time the continents were desolate and uninhabited, while the sea prepared the life that was later to invade them and make them habitable. Meanwhile, with violent trembling of the earth and with the fire and smoke of roaring volcanoes, mountains rose and wore away, glaciers moved to and fro over the earth, and the sea crept over the continents and again receded.

It was not until Silurian time, some 350 million years ago, that the first pioneer of land life crept out on the shore. It was an arthropod, one of the great tribe that later produced crabs and lobsters and insects. It must have been something like a modern Scorpion, but, unlike some of its descendants, it never wholly severed the ties that united it to the sea. It lived a strange life, half-terrestrial, half-aquatic, something like that of the ghost crabs that speed along the beaches today, now and then dashing into the surf to moisten their gills.

Fish, tapered of body and stream-molded by the press of running waters, were evolving in Silurian rivers. In times of drought, in the drying pools and lagoons, the shortage of oxygen forced them to develop swim bladders for the storage of air. One form that possessed an air-breathing lung was able to survive the dry period by burying itself in mud, leaving a passage to the surface through which it breathed.

It is very doubtful that the animals alone would have succeeded in colonizing the land, for only the plants had the power to bring about the first amelioration of its harsh conditions. They helped make soil of the crumbling rocks, they held back the soil from the rains that would have swept it away, and little by little they softened and subdued the bare rock, the lifeless desert. We know very little about the first land plants, but they must have been closely related to some of the larger seaweeds that had learned to live in the coastal shallows, developing strengthened stems and grasping, root-like holdfasts to resist the drag and pull of the waves. Perhaps it was in some coastal lowlands, periodcally drained and flooded, that some such plants found it possible to survive, though separated from the sea. This also seems to have taken place in the Silurian period.

The mountains that had been thrown up by the Laurentian revolution gradually wore away, and as the sediments were washed from their summits and deposited on the lowlands, great areas of the continents sank under the load. The seas crept out of their basins and spread over the lands. Life fared well and was exceedingly abundant in those shallow, sunlit seas. But with the later retreat of the ocean water into the deeper basins, many creatures must have been left stranded in shallow, landlocked bays. Some of these animals found means to survive on land. The lakes, the shores of the rivers, and the coastal swamps of those days were the testing grounds in which plants and animals either became adapted to the new conditions or perished.

As the lands rose and the seas receded, a strange fishlike creature emerged on the land, and over the thousands of years its fins became legs, and instead of gills it developed lungs. In the Devonian sandstone this first amphibian left its footprint.

On land and sea the stream of life poured on. New forms evolved; some old ones declined and disappeared. On land the mosses and the ferns and the seed plants developed. The reptiles for a time dominated the earth, gigantic, grotesque, and terrifying. Birds learned to live and move in the ocean of air. The first small mammals lurked inconspicuously in hidden crannies of the earth as though in fear of the reptiles.

When they went ashore the animals that took up a land life carried with them part of the sea in their bodies, a heritage which they passed on to their children and which even today links each land animal with its origin in the ancient sea. Fish, amphibian, and reptile, warm-blooded bird and mammal — each of us carries in our veins a salty stream in which the elements sodium, potassium, and calcium are combined in almost the same proportions as in sea water. This is our inheritance from the day untold millions of years ago, when a remote ancestor, having progressed from the one-celled to the many-celled stage, first developed a circulatory system in which the fluid was merely the water of the sea. In the same way, our lime-hardened skeletons are a heritage from the calcium-rich ocean of Cambrian time. Even the protoplasm that streams within each cell of our bodies has the chemical structure impressed upon all living matter when the first simple creatures were brought forth in the ancient sea. And as life itself began in the sea, so each of us begins his individual life in a miniature ocean within his mother’s womb, and in the stages of his embryonic development repeats the steps by which his race evolved, from gill-breathing inhabitants of a water world to creatures able to live on land.

Some of the land animals later returned to the ocean. After perhaps 50 million years of land life, a number of reptiles entered the sea about 170 million years ago, in the Triassic period. They were huge and formidable creatures. Some had oar-like limbs by which they rowed through the water; some were web-footed, with long, serpentine necks. These grotesque monsters disappeared millions of years ago, but we remember them when we come upon a large sea turtle swimming many miles at sea, its barnacle-encrusted shell eloquent of its marine life. Much later, perhaps no more than 50 million years ago, some of the mammals, too, abandoned a land life for the ocean. Their descendants are the sea lions, seals, sea elephants, and whales of today.

Among the land mammals there was a race of creatures that took to an arboreal existence. Their hands underwent remarkabledevelopment, becoming skilled in manipulating and examining objects, and along with this skill came a superior brain power that compensated for what these comparatively small mammals lacked in strength. At last, perhaps somewhere in the vast interior of Asia, they descended from the trees and became again terrestrial. The past million years have seen their transformation into beings with the body and brain of man.

Eventually man, too, found his way back to the sea. Standing on its shores, he must have looked out upon it with wonder and curiosity, compounded with an unconscious recognition of his lineage. He could not physically re-enter the ocean as the seals and whales had done. But over the centuries, with all the skill and ingenuity and reasoning powers of his mind, he has sought to explore and investigate even its most remote parts, so that he might re-enter it mentally and imaginatively.

He built boats to venture out on its surface. Later he found ways to descend to the shallow parts of its floor, carrying with him the air that, as a land mammal long unaccustomed to aquatic life, he needed to breathe. Moving in fascination over the deep sea he could not enter, he found ways to probe its depths, he let down nets to capture its life, he invented mechanical eyes and ears that could re-create for his senses a world long lost, but a world that, in the deepest part of his subconscious mind, he had never wholly forgotten.

And yet he has returned to his mother sea only on her own terms. He cannot control or change the ocean as, in his brief tenancy of earth, he has subdued and plundered the continents. In the artificial world of his cities and towns, he often forgets the true nature of his planet and the long vistas of its history, in which the existence of the race of men has occupied a mere moment of time. The sense of all these things comes to him most clearly in the course of a long ocean voyage, when he watches day after day the receding rim of the horizon, ridged and furrowed by waves; when at night he becomes aware of the earth’s rotation as the stars pass overhead; or when, alone in this world of water and sky, he feels the loneliness of his earth in space. And then, as never on land, he knows the truth that his world is a water world, a planet dominated by its covering mantle of ocean, in which the continents are but transient intrusions of land above the surface of the all-encircling sea.

 

 


Addendum № 3: Here is some links on the translated authors mentioned above,

Abbe Moreux

http://www.archive.org/details/afterdeath00moreuoft

Wilhelm Bolsche

http://www.copyrightexpired.com/Heinrich_Harder/index.html

Edward Clodd

http://www.archive.org/details/primitiveman00cloduoft

 

 

Copyright © 2006 by the author.