Creationism vs Evolution: Through The Eyes of Jay Gould


It has been over 100 years since English naturalist Charles Darwin first
told the world his revolutionary concept about how livings things develop.
Evolution through natural selection and adaptation was the basis of his argument
as it remains to this day a debated subject by many. Across this nation, a
"return" to "traditional" values has also brought the return of age old debated
topics. One issue that truly separates Americans is the issue of creation
versus evolution. Since the 19th century, this divisive topic has been debated
in school boards and state capitols across America. In many instances religious
fundamentalists won the day by having banned the instruction or even the mention
of "ungodly" evolutionary thinking in schools. With today’s social and political
climate, this question is back with greater force than ever. This is why this
subject is more important now than ever. In Jay Gould’s book The Panda’s Thumb,
an overview of and an argument for Charles Darwin’s evolutionary thinking is
conducted with flowing thoughts and ideas. This essay titled "Natural Selection
and the Human Brain: Darwin vs. Wallace" takes a look directly at two hard
fought battles between evolutionists and creationists. Using sexual selection
and the origins of human intellect as his proponents, Gould argues his opinion
in the favor of evolutionary thought.
In this essay titled "Natural Selection and The Human Brain: Darwin vs.
Wallace," Gould tells about the contest between Darwin and another prominent
scientist named Alfred Wallace over two important subjects. These topics, one
being sexual selection and the other about the origins of the human brain and
intellect were debated by men who generally held the same views on evolution.
However on these two subjects, Wallace chose to differ as he described it as his
"special heresy" (53). The first of these two areas of debate between the two
men was the question of "sexual selection." Darwin theorized that there laid
two types of sexual selection. First a competition between males for access to
females and second the choice "exercised by females themselves" (51). In this,
Darwin attributed racial differences among modern human beings to sexual
selection "based upon different criteria of beauty that arose among various
peoples" (51). Wallace, however, disputed the suggestion of female choice. He
believed that animals were highly evolved and beautiful works of art, not
allowing the suggestion of male competition to enter his mind. The debate of
sexual selection was but a mere precursor to a much more famous and important
question . . . the question of the origins of the human mind. Gould’s
discussion of the origins of the human mind is one that he in which he vocalizes
his own opinions and feelings in a much more critical manner. Gould begins the
topic of human origins by briefly criticizing Wallace for his different views on
this subject. Wallace believed that human intellect and morality were unique
and could not be the product of natural selection. Wallace suggested that "some
higher power" (53) must have "intervened to construct this latest and greatest
of organic innovations." Gould sharply chastises Wallace for "simple cowardice,
for inability to transcend the constraints of culture and traditional views of
human uniqueness, and for inconsistency in advocating natural selection so
strongly" (53). The argument that human intelligence was divine along with the
belief that all people of all races have the same capacity of intellect, but are
limited only by their culture was at the heart of Wallace’s opinions. Gould
rebuts Wallace by going into Darwin’s "subtler view." Gould writes that our
brains may have "originated ‘for’ some set of necessary skills . . . but these
skills do not exhaust the limits of what such a complex machine can do" (57).
Gould ends by describing Wallace’s thinking as having direct ties with
creationist thought. A school of thought that Gould obviously portrays as wrong
throughout his essay. Throughout The Panda’s Thumb, Gould tells us about the
debate between Darwin and Wallace over sexual selection and the origins of human
intellect. Throughout his essay Gould gives vivid accounts of the different
views expressed by the two men as he analyzes the validity of each. He makes a
clear opinion and backs up his claim. In this, Gould sufficiently argues his
points that he makes. As a writer, Gould tells his opinion through clear and
precise words in a style that anyone could grasp immediately. To make his point
unmistakable, Gould gives direct and continuous analysis, commentary, and
criticism as he digs deeper into his subjects. Gould’s style of writing is not
only appropriate, but is favorable for