Friday, February 06, 2009

Evolution Explains Taxonomy

Charles Darwin advanced many different arguments in support of his claim that life has evolved. One of the most potent arguments is that evolution explains the classification scheme proposed by Linnaeus and used by all naturalists in the early part of the nineteenth century.

The following passage is from the summary of Chapter 4: Natural Selection in Origin of Species.
It is a truly wonderful fact the wonder of which we are apt to overlook from familiarity that all animals and all plants throughout all time and space should be related to each other in group subordinate to group, in the manner which we everywhere behold namely, varieties of the same species most closely related together, species of the same genus less closely and unequally related together, forming sections and sub-genera, species of distinct genera much less closely related, and genera related in different degrees, forming sub-families, families, orders, sub-classes, and classes. The several subordinate groups in any class cannot be ranked in a single file, but seem rather to be clustered round points, and these round other points, and so on in almost endless cycles. On the view that each species has been independently created, I can see no explanation of this great fact in the classification of all organic beings; but, to the best of my judgment, it is explained through inheritance and the complex action of natural selection, entailing extinction and divergence of character, as we have seen illustrated in the diagram.

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