Theory of evolution

“THE AFFINITIES of all the beings of the same class have
sometimes been represented by a great tree. I believe this simile
largely speaks the truth. The green and budding twigs may
represent existing species; and those produced during each former
year may represent the long succession of extinct species . . . The
limbs divided into great branches, and these into lesser and lesser
branches, were themselves once, when the tree was small, budding
twigs; and this connexion of the former and present buds by
ramifying branches may well represent the classification of all
extinct and living species in groups subordinate to groups . . . From
the first growth of the tree, many a limb and branch has decayed
and dropped off, and these lost branches of various sizes may
represent those whole orders, families, and genera which have now
no living representatives, and which are known to us only from
having been found in a fossil state . . . As buds give rise by growth
to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all
a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the
Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust
of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and
beautiful ramifications” (Darwin, 1859).
The theory of evolution, formalized by Charles Darwin,
is as much theory as is the theory of gravity, or the
theory of relativity. Unlike theories of physics, biological
theories, and especially evolution, have been argued
long and hard in socio-political arenas. Even today,
evolution is not often taught in primary schools.

However, evolution is the binding force of all biological
research. It is the unifying theme. In paleontology,
evolution gives workers a powerful way to organize the
remains of past life and better understand the one
history of life. The history of thought about evolution in
general and paleontological contributions specifically
are often useful to the workers of today. Science, like any iterative process, draws
heavily from its history.

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