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The theory of evolution from paper to the internet
The theory of evolution must ‘evolve’ with the transforming media forms around it to maintain its scientific and social relevance. In other words, it must shift from the conventional media forms such as journals, books and publications and move towards the ways of the internet. Even collective groups of scientists and evolutionists can be shifted from physical to online gatherings via the ways of the internet and its related technologies. The majority of internet users throughout the world see the net as simply an enormous link-up of the world’s computers, after all, this is the ‘universal answer’ people tend to give when asked “what is the internet?”. Although this common answer is a pretty accurate image, it would be more correct to describe the internet as a “global network of hardware and software which stores and transports information from a content provider to an end user” . This infrastructure allows any person who wishes to say anything, access to say it to the world.
Controversial topics are abundant on the World Wide Web, and this media form enables these topics to be discussed, investigated, or challenged.
Evolution is defined as being: “A gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form”.
Arguments for evolution include The Fossil Record, Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection, and Biological Evidence. Arguments against evolution include The Second Law of Thermodynamics, Things Never From Other Living Things, Complex Systems Never Evolve Bit by Bit, and then there are the Christian-derived theories such as Why are jellyfish fossils evidence against Evolution? .
The internet’s foundations can be traced back to its beginnings in the US military. In 1957 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) launched Sputnik, the first artificial earth satellite. In response, the United States formed the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) within the Department of Defence (DoD), to establish a U.S. lead in science and technology applicable to the military. The U.S. DoD was curious as to how it could maintain its command and control over its missiles and bombers, after a nuclear attack. The plan was to develop a military research network that could survive a nuclear strike, and which was decentralized so that if any cities in the U.S. were attacked, the military could still have control of nuclear arms for a counter-attack. This was the first step in the development of the internet, as we know it today.
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There are numerous ways of displaying information on the internet. Different information sources can include: “news sites, message boards, blogs [weblogs], press releases, subscription sites, analyst sites, on-line databases etc.”.
’Accessibility to global information on demand’ is the internet’s strongest point. According to Global Reach’s website, there are approximately 801.4 million people using the internet in the world. This means that there are 801.4 million people (approximately) who are able to access information on demand, when they want.
For a person wishing to find information on evolution, a simple Google™ search brings up approximately 80,300,000 pages . This sheer volume of information is completely unrivalled by the equivalent paper publications available for access by a person. And if you happen to be living in a relatively isolated population, wireless internet may be your only hope of finding any information at all on the topic.
These emerging applications have helped people shift from older methods of research to newer, more stimulating methods.
”The new generation has heard of the infinite resources of the net and the hundreds of communities established on-line. In the last several years the news media have been trumpeting the magical things that the Internet can do for our society. Tantalized by these reports, thousands of people unaffiliated with research institutions or the government are streaming onto the Internet to access these resources. This influx is causing a monumental change in the direction and the culture of the Internet”.
The writings in early scientific journals, diaries and books have brought us the works of philosophers, religious thinkers, and scientists throughout history whom have attempted to explain the history and variety of life on Earth. From these gathered texts scientists and historians have been able to follow the rise of modern science in Western Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. An early view, which was heavily backed, was that God had created every organism on Earth more or less as it now exists. This view was known as ‘creationism’. The beginnings of the modern evolutionary theory began to take shape in this time of escalating interest which was emerging from the studies of natural history and fossils.
”Early evolutionary theorists proposed that all of life on Earth evolved gradually from simple organisms. Their knowledge of science was incomplete, however, and their theories left too many questions unanswered. Most prominent scientists of the day remained convinced that the variety of life on Earth could only result from an act of divine creation”.
A more modernistic approach to evolution, still derived from a collaboration of ideas from journals, diaries and book sources, views the process as being:
”a change in the form and behaviour of organisms at all levels, from DNA sequences to macroscopic morphology and social behaviour, over many generations”.
The internet has simultaneously simplified, yet also expanded, the possibilities of the evolution debate. The most widely known debate on evolution would be the Wilberforce versus Huxley debate on the 30th of June, 1860. The debate derived from Charles Darwin’s recently (at the time) released Origin of Species. The highly controversial ideas on evolution spawned a meeting of the British Association. Seven hundred people showed up for the debate . The feelings in 1860 are still the same as those felt nowadays, “Believers resented what they perceived as Darwin's attempt to rule God out of creation. Many scientists resented inaccurate and closed-minded reactions from the religious community”.
That debate was 145 years ago, yet similar debates still continue, this time on the newer, more convenient front.
The evolution debate on the net is simple to construct, and more dynamic than the historical debate scenario of the past: People don’t have to physically be present at a singular specified location; information can be sourced online and presented in opposition to a comment during the debate; and, there are no confinements – such as the physical constraints of the building, or the inconvenience of travel – inhibiting audience size for the debate.
The online debate is far less ‘exclusive’. The debates of the past involved a generally scholarly audience, and usually took place behind closed doors. The modern internet approach is one of collectiveness and unification, i.e. it encourages people to become involved and it is not exclusive to certain people. A great example of this would be Science Forums and Debates whereby anybody can register on the website and debate in the site forums. ‘Evolution Exists’ was the subject of debate between two users. The two users interacted on a ‘post by post’ basis for a total of 7 posts each. During the debate each person was able to restructure or redirect their argument if they chose to do so. They are also able to add links to external information online to provide support to arguments.
Such flexibility in debating was not present prior to the internet movement.
Mewton, C. 2001, All You Need to Know About Music & the Internet Revolution, Sanctuary Publishing Limited, London, United Kingdom (pg 3).
Definition taken from Dictionary.com
Taken from christiananswers.net
Taken from firstRain Inc.
Taken from Global Reach
Taken from a Google™ search on ‘evolution’
Taken from Rosemary W. McNaughton’s article Culture Clash on the Internet
Greenway, T. et al. 2002, NATURE Encyclopedia, DK Publishing Inc. New York (pg 14)
Ridley, M. 2004, Evolution, Blackwell Publishing, Malden, USA (pg 4)
Figures obtained from Christian History Institute
Taken from Christian History Institute (as above)