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Free «Hedonism and Evolutionary Theory» Essay Sample

The theory of evolution explains that varieties of organisms and species are the product of natural selection. Too often the ideas of evolution and selection are confused and treated as if they were the same. When natural selection acts for a long time on a population there may be accumulated a significant series of changes in the members of a population. Those changes, collectively called evolution, are caused by natural selection. (Mayr 2002). A cause and its effects are never the same thing. In fact, some changes are independent of selection. Such changes, for example, those called genetic drift, are also considered to be part of evolution. But for the moment let us consider only the changes resulting from natural selection. Without exception, in his six tests of natural selection Darwin was looking for evolutionary changes--the long-term effects of selection. He was right in saying the changes should be observable. But as critics admit he was looking at phenomena that had already occurred rather than at phenomena that were occurring as the result of an experiment (Smith and Szathmary 1998).

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In order to explain behavior in evolution theory, it is important to speak about changes and adaptations processes. Such changes depend on the interactions of several factors in addition to selection. They include mutation, migration of subpopulations or other populations into and out of a population, the size of a population, and breeding patterns. Also, these interactions are played out on the stage provided by the environment--itself complex and often unpredictable. It is no wonder then that Darwin did not specify new phenomena as tests for natural selection. Looking at specific, already familiar problems was really the only alternative he had and he used it well. However, that must also mean that the burden of the testing is now fully on our shoulders. However, it must be understood that what researchers test is the theory of natural selection and not evolution. Individuals test the cause, not its effect. There will be instances when people will use a kind of short cut to say that evolution explains certain facts of embryology, physiology, or behavior. That kind of discussion really means that through natural selection certain changes have accumulated and such evolutionary changes can account for what people observe in the development or function of certain organisms. Therefore, natural selection is still invoked as the causal agent to explain the diversity of form and function, even though individuals consider selection from the perspective of its result, namely, evolution (Smith and Dawkins 2008).

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The evolution theory and behaviors are explained by the fact that all species may reproduce to the extent that overpopulation results. Many observations from our everyday experience support this. For instance, it is possible to look at the number of seeds a single plant produces year after year. Critics question what is happening to the human population right now? Perhaps the most dramatic example of reproductive potential is seen in bacteria. Some prokaryotes can reproduce once every twenty minutes. Despite the potential for overproduction of their kind, species remain rather constant in population size over a period of time. The society is running into severe problems because of the increase in the human population. In general, people observe that for the vast majority of species, their population sizes remain relatively constant. Heritable variations that benefit the organism in the struggle for survival will be preserved. In the evolution theory, organisms that win the struggle for survival do not win by chance; they are selected (Smith and Dawkins 2008). They have some feature that gives them an advantage, however slight, in exploiting their environment to maintain and reproduce themselves and at least some of their variations. So viewed it can be seen that these selected forms will tend to produce more progeny than those in the population not having the advantage or advantages in question. This means differential reproduction will occur. In this way, members of the species will change slightly over time as more organisms carry the new beneficial or selectively advantageous character. And the process can occur again and again (Smith and Szathmary 1998).

Hedonism is an ethical theory of pleasure and ultimate good. Effectiveness for hedonism theory is explained by the fact that hedonism affirms that all moral action is to be judged by the amount of pleasure enjoyed by the individual or the group. Pleasure and pain are the most conspicuous and universal elements in all experience. (i) They are positive and real concomitants of behavior (Britten, 2008). People cannot be sure that the mind has conceived and persuaded us to adopt a given course of conduct; nor can we be sure that our private will has equipped us with the energy to perform a specific task. Every action terminates either in pleasure or pain, the cases of indifferent feeling being negligible. If it be pleasure, then critics conclude that the deed is good; if it be pain, critics make the opposite judgment. The reality of the feeling and its test of moral worth are both clear to the mind. Furthermore (ii), critics are sustained in this opinion by the universality of the feeling. It is not confined to a single era in a man's life nor to any privileged race or class nor to a definite level in the development of social character. Here is a note to which every human being can make response-the child or the instructed adult, the savage or the citizen of the cultured state. The loss of pleasure, that is, the intrusion of pain, brings a determinate protest without effort on our part, often against our wish. The shrill cry of the infant, the blanched face or knitted brow of the man, bear eloquent witness to the momentary painfulness of feeling. On the other hand, the flashing eye, the luminous features of the face, reveal the elation of sensibility which individuals call pleasure. It is futile to seek a more subtle test of goodness. The strained dialectics of the theorist are out of place (Flocker, 2004). Nature has provided the one certain criterion for moral values. Still pleasure lends itself to objective calculation. A person can tell with precision whether people enjoy the opera or the Spanish bullfight, whether people prefer the exhilaration of wine or the steady hand of abstinence. A person can contrast the pleasing extravagances of youth with the calm satisfactions of middle life. It is obvious that violence is not the true measure of enjoyment; the computation must be made from another angle. Not intensity but amount would seem to be the practical standard; this gives us an honest result. Researchers figure out duty as accurately as a problem in mathematics, Feeling is the one human value so it satisfies completely the requirements of a scientific explanation (Britten, 2008).

Effectiveness of hedonism is that it can be used as the valid theory of conduct. In this theory, the State is a necessary instrument for the curbing of natural instincts which, if left to themselves, might do serious damage to my individual interests (Britten, 2008). The common customs of society with their hypocritical sophistries need not be observed if they conflict with my private desires. The one irresistible imperative is the cry of passion. Now the motions of sensation are continuous; hence, there are alternations of pleasure and pain--nothing stable, nothing sure--if people confine their attention to physical feeling. Good must lie beyond the functions of body; it must reside in the perceptions of the mind. Thus only can it acquire the calm and repose that come with the disregard of fluctuating affections. Thus only can people enter into a state of mind which enables the sage to endure physical tortures of a most excruciating sort, which teaches him to despise the hatreds and competitions of common society, and which makes the arts of the tyrant and the sensualist repugnant to his finer feelings. The pains of body being annulled, delight becomes positive in character, fed by the streams of philosophic reflection and cheered by the growing remoteness of insinuating pains (Flocker, 2004). The hard rule of necessity is applied in every decision; feeling and reasoned argument are excluded. What are the facts? They seem to fall into two classes. The first includes the actual deeds of mankind. It is the hope of moralists to order a society where nothing but virtue abounds. For hedonists, the hope is vain. Certain vicious habits are essential to character; it is only when people think that they might impair the total strength of the man that individuals insist on their removal.


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