Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Jumping Giraffe?

The controversial idea of WILL has come up in readings and has been discussed extensively in class. We first encountered this idea when reading Samuel Butler's scorching essay against Darwin "The Deadlock in Darwinism". In this essay Butler attempted to disprove Darwin's theory by claiming that he had simply borrowed and re-worked previous ideas from others. One of these "others" was Lamarck whose work on evolution lay in the claim that perhaps giraffes had gained their long necks from generations of the most cunning giraffes stretching their necks to get at the highest branches while the less cunning ones died off. This idea of acquired characteristics being passed on to future offspring as well as the idea willing one's physical body to change were picked up by Bernard Shaw and fully explored in his play "Back to Methuselah". Shaw is a lover of Lamarck and a proponent of what he calls "Creative Evolution", or the idea that sheer will alone can allow for adaptive physical changes. When one first encounters these claims they may seem laughable, but when put in terms of how we think about the world, don't these things make sense? How often are we told to believe in ourselves and positive things will happen? Or why do some people claim that determination and WILL-POWER are what helped them achieve a major goal? Great feats of strength in both the mind and the body are constantly used as evidence of the power of will. So did those giraffes maybe jump to gain those longer necks? Sure; if we claim to have the will power why can't they?

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