Essay Sample on The Nature of Scientific Knowledge
The way that science works is that it all starts with a theory or hypothesis that can be proven either correct or incorrect by testing their data and providing examples of that theory, but that wasn’t always the way. One of the most famous theories is the theory of evolution. The three main theories of evolution are Lamark’s, Wallace’s, and Darwin’s theories.
Lamark’s theory is the first well-known theory of evolution. Lamark believed animals can adapt to their environment over time just based on the desire to do so. This can be shown with this quote from Lamark, “The environment affects the shape and organization of animals, that is to say, that when the environment becomes very different, it produces in course of time corresponding modifications to the shape and organization of animals.” The example Lamark provides is the example of the giraffe and how he believes their forelegs grow and their neck grow based on their environment. (Lamark 1809) Now, we can dismiss this theory because Lamark didn’t look at the giraffe closely to examine this himself, but much like organisms, the nature of scientific knowledge itself has evolved, and this was acceptable for his time. While with Wallace and Darwin, they went on explorations to prove their hypothesis.
When you think of the theory of natural selection, you may think of Charles Darwin but it was actually Wallace who first proposed this idea. Wallace believed that there was a “struggle for existence” and that only the fittest could survive. Wallace critiqued Lamark’s theory by saying, “The giraffe did not quire its long neck by desiring to reach the foliage of the more lofty shrubs….” “...but because any varieties which occurred among its ancestors with a longer neck than usual at once secured a fresh range of pasture over the same ground as their shorter-neck companions, and on the first scarcity of food were thereby enabled to outlive them.” (Wallace 1858) This showed how Wallace’s theory differed drastically from Lamark’s and how he believed that organisms with undesirable traits would die and those with desirable traits would reproduce. Darwin and Wallace both shared the same general idea.
Wallace’s and Darwin’s theories are very similar as they shared the same ideas but there is one main difference; Darwin believed that the origin of species was a common ancestor while Wallace never really touched on the origin of species. Darwin explains this by saying “I presume, say that, after an unknown number of generations, some bird had given birth a woodpecker, and some plant to a mistletoe...” (Darwin 1859) Darwin explaining that a species didn’t just come out of nowhere, but they instead came from an ancestor over the course of the years. He explains his examples by saying that a woodpecker was once a generic bird but soon adapted to make its feet, tail, beak, and tongue to catch its prey under trees. (Darwin 1859) That is the main difference between Wallace and Darwin’s theory.
The three theories do have similarities but are distinguishable from each other. The similarities are that they all talk about adaptation and the environment. The difference is the role that they play in each theory. Besides that, how does this relate to the nature of scientific knowledge? Well, these theories show how the way that science works evolved. It went from Lamark’s Theory of Inheritance of Acquired Traits to Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection and science is going to continue to evolve and change. The way that science works now is not the way that it’ll be in the future.