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  • Back to index of Evolution: Origins of Life, V. 1.1
  • Evolution: Origins of Life

    Edition 1.1

    Chapter 2: Selective Breeding and Domestic Organisms

    By Punkerslut

    Start Date: June 1, 2004
    Finish Date: August 1, 2004

    Section I: Selective Breeding

         One of the primary arguments against the theory of Evolution is the claim that the process of Natural Selection has never produced a new species. I have often heard, "Evolution has never been observed to cause extinction or new species." However, this claim is false, and any person would be able to see this, even if they had only a slight education of the expansive field of breeding. For thousands of years, mankind has been breeding and rearing domestic animals and crops. Typically, farmers or ranchers will breed those animals which are best outfitted for the harvesting purposes. As an example, a corn farmer will plant 100 crops, and once these crops are each equipped with seeds and the farmer is read to plant again, he will take 100 seeds from the tallest corn stalk, and plant them again. According to the laws of inheritance, these 100 new corn plants will be tall, and according to the laws of variation, these 100 new corn plants will also vary in height. Once the corn farmer has done this process for several years, an entirely new species of corn would have developed. This process is known as Selective Breeding. To quote Charles Darwin, "The key is man's power of accumulative selection: nature gives successive variations; man adds them up in certain directions useful to him. In this sense he may be said to have made for himself useful breeds." [*1]

         A great deal of our modern fruits and vegetables are often new species related to an older, inedible model. The pear, for example, was described by authors thousands of years ago as a fruit of inferior, inedible quality, but today it is sold by every grocery store. [*2] Wheat, as well, has been domesticated by mankind over the process of thousands of years. [*3] It is not difficult to find an improvement in the beauty of flowers, when we compare today's flowers to drawings of flowers from decades or centuries ago. [*4] Domesticated dogs rarely ever attack sheep or other domesticated animals, as this is seen in the instance of Sheep Dogs particularly, but when foreigners take undomesticated puppies from the natives of Tierra Del Fuego, the instinct to attack livestock and even humans. [*5] There remains little doubt among naturalists today that domesticated rabbits are descendants of wild rabbits [*6] To quote Charles Darwin, "In the case of strongly marked races of some other domesticated species, there is presumptive or even strong evidence, that all are descended from a single wild stock." [*7] In Britain, it was once shown that over the course of several years, the cattle have increased in weight and maturity, a beneficial factor to those who are in the slaughter business. [*8] Bakewell and Collins are also known for modifying their cattle through the process of Natural Selection. [*9] When two flocks of Leicester sheep were kept, one by Mr. Buckley and one by Mr. Burgess, after some time, an observer remarked that the sheep, "have been purely bred from the original stock of Mr. Bakewell for upwards of fifty years. There is not a suspicion existing in the mind of any one at all acquainted with the subject, that the owner of either of them has deviated in any one instance from the pure blood of Mr. Bakewell's flock, and yet the difference between the sheep possessed by these two gentlemen is so great that they have the appearance of being quite different varieties." [*10] To quote Darwin, "...to assert that we could not breed our cart- and race-horses, long and short-horned cattle, and poultry of various breeds, and esculent vegetables, for an unlimited number of generations, would be opposed to all experience." [*11] A quote by Charles Darwin...

    In practice, a fancier is, for instance, struck by a pigeon having a slightly shorter beak; another fancier is struck by a pigeon having a rather longer beak; and on the acknowledged principle that "fanciers do not and will not admire a medium standard, but like extremes," they both go on (as has actually occurred with the sub-breeds of the tumbler-pigeon) choosing and breeding from birds with longer and longer beaks, or with shorter and shorter beaks. Again, we may suppose that at an early period of history, the men of one nation or district required swifter horses, whilst those of another required stronger and bulkier horses. The early differences would be very slight; but, in the course of time from the continued selection of swifter horses in the one case, and of stronger ones in the other, the differences would become greater, and would be noted as forming two sub-breeds. Ultimately, after the lapse of centuries, these sub-breeds would become converted into two well-established and distinct breeds. As the differences became greater, the inferior animals with intermediate characters, being neither swift nor very strong, would not have been used for, breeding, and will thus have tended to disappear. [*12]

         Several decades after the death of Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud writes, "...the breeding of domesticated animals flourishes." [*13] Thomas Malthus, a reverend of the 1700's, would describe what was very much common knowledge of that era, "Were it of consequence to improve pinks and carnations, though we could have no hope of raising them as large as cabbages, we might undoubtedly expect, by successive efforts, to obtain more beautiful specimens than we at present possess." [*14] In a longer section, he writes...

    I am told that it is a maxim among the improvers of cattle that you may breed to any degree of nicety you please, and they found this maxim upon another, which is that some of the offspring will possess the desirable qualities of the parents in a greater degree. In the famous Leicestershire breed of sheep, the object is to procure them with small heads and small legs. Proceeding upon these breeding maxims, it is evident that we might go on till the heads and legs were evanescent quantities, but this is so palpable an absurdity that we may be quite sure that the premises are not just and that there really is a limit, though we cannot see it or say exactly where it is. In this case, the point of the greatest degree of improvement, or the smallest size of the head and legs, may be said to be undefined, but this is very different from unlimited, or from indefinite, in Mr Condorcet's acceptation of the term. Though I may not be able in the present instance to mark the limit at which further improvement will stop, I can very easily mention a point at which it will not arrive. I should not scruple to assert that were the breeding to continue for ever, the head and legs of these sheep would never be so small as the head and legs of a rat. [*15]

         I again state, that the process of Selective Breeding must be admitted as a great evidence on behalf of the theory of Evolution. If organisms can change dramatically, into different races, species, or families, under the hand of mankind, then why is it so difficult to believe that it cannot happen in a natural state of things? The processes of Selective Breeding and Evolution are nearly identical, with the solitary difference being that the first happens with a human guide, while the second with nature as a guide. Thomas Henry Huxley describes the process of Selective Breeding as it occurs in the domestic dog...

    ...there are some dogs very much smaller than others; indeed, the variation is so enormous that probably the smallest dog would be about the size of the head of the largest; there are very great variations in the structural forms not only of the skeleton but also in the shape of the skull, and in the proportions of the face and the disposition of the teeth.

    The Pointer, the Retriever, Bulldog, and the Terrier, differ very greatly, and yet there is every reason to believe that every one of these races has arisen from the same source... [*16]

         With all of this evidence considered, I feel that there should be no doubt that Selective Breeding is an active form of Evolution, but simply under the hand of mankind.

    Section II: Conclusion

         The process of Evolution, when in the hands of man, has been clearly observed to create new species of organisms. Natural Selection, though, with wild organisms, seems to be much more thorough and accurate than civilization. Whereas humans will judge an organism and choose which to breed, nature -- or at least, the laws that govern the physical Universe -- will kill those organisms which are not fit for survival or capable of breeding. As far as the theory of Evolution explaining the Origin of the Species as they exist today, it would seem adequate with the evidence that can be attributed to Selective Breeding. However, while the processes of Evolution can be shown to be adequate, as in the case of Selective Breeding, is there any direct evidence that natural Evolution is responsible for the creation of organisms as they exist today? I shall proceed to answer this question in the following chapters.



    *1. Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin, 1859, Sixth Edition, chapter 1.
    *2. Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin, 1859, Sixth Edition, chapter 1.
    *3. Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin, 1859, Sixth Edition, chapter 1.
    *4. Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin, 1859, Sixth Edition, chapter 1.
    *5. Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin, 1859, Sixth Edition, chapter 8.
    *6. Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin, 1859, Sixth Edition, chapter 1.
    *7. Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin, 1859, Sixth Edition, chapter 1.
    *8. Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin, 1859, Sixth Edition, chapter 1.
    *9. Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin, 1859, Sixth Edition, chapter 1.
    *10. Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin, 1859, Sixth Edition, chapter 1.
    *11. Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin, 1859, Sixth Edition, chapter 1.
    *12. Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin, 1859, Sixth Edition, chapter 4.
    *13. "Civilization and Its Discontents," by Sigmund Freud, 1930. Published by W.W. Norton & Company, translated and edited by James Strachey (copyright 1961), with a biographical introduction by Peter Gay. Chapter 3, page 45.
    *14. "An Essay on the Principle of Population," by Thomas Malthus, Chapter 14, 1798.
    *15. "An Essay on the Principle of Population," by Thomas Malthus, Chapter 9, 1798.
    *16. "The Perpetuation of Living Beings, Hereditary Transmission and Variation," by Thomas Henry Huxley.

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