He also thought that the oceans condensed out of the steamy atmosphere that surrounded the primeval Earth. Today the prevailing theory is that rocky planets such as the Earth form via the coalescence of dust particles in the disk that surrounded the young star the sun in the Earth's case , followed by the formation of planetesimals, which then further merge together.
There is strong observational evidence suggesting that most of the Earth's surface water was delivered to Earth via asteroid and perhaps also comet impacts. Next, Churchill demonstrates a familiarity with the idea that plate tectonics continental drift was responsible for the generation of mountain chains. I found this to be quite remarkable in itself, since even the geophysics community accepted the theory of plate tectonics continental drift was originally suggested in only in the late s.
- Winston Churchill’s Thoughts on Evolution;
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After these preliminaries, Churchill arrives at the main topic of life on Earth. Here he starts with the correct and important observation, "how life came into being is still a complete mystery. Churchill mentions the possibility of panspermia —the idea that life on Earth originated from some precursors of life that were present in outer space. This theory was, in fact, favored by the astrophysicists Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe summarized, for instance, in Wickramasinghe's article in More to Explore , below. Churchill does acknowledge, however, that this "merely pushes the problem one stage further back.
All of this, he realizes, could not work without a reliable energy source. So to the very basic ingredients, he is quick to add "the most important of the lot—sunshine. In the next stage, Churchill starts to discuss evolution proper, and it is there in particular where he shows a modern understanding of all the concepts involved.
Darwinian evolution is based on and characterized by four pillars, and those are supported by one grand mechanism in the More to Explore for example, see the annotated Darwin book and also Jerry Coyne's book for clear explanations. Those four pillars are: evolution, gradualism, common descent and speciation. Evolution encapsulates the idea that species are not immutable.
The species we see today didn't always exist. In fact, most species that existed in the past have become extinct. Today we see only the species that have evolved from those. Gradualism expresses a concept that Darwin adopted from his geologist friends. In the same way that the sun, the wind, the rain, and geological processes slowly shape the surface of the Earth, evolution works slowly. It can take many thousands of generations for one species to evolve into another. Common descent means that even the enormous diversity of species we see today on the order of ten million all started from one life form.
Finally, speciation refers to branching, when one species bifurcates into two different species. Since at every such branching node the number of species is doubled, this accounts for the rich variety we see today. The one fundamental mechanism on which all of this picture relies is natural selection. Churchill demonstrates a remarkable comprehension of all of these concepts. In fact, we know that already at age 22, while stationed with the British army in India, he read Darwin's masterpiece On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.
Churchill writes, "very early, no doubt, modifications of the simplest bacteria appeared, from which rudimentary microbic organisms developed, able to feed upon the plants or their decaying remnants," to which he immediately adds, "this was probably the earliest bifurcation in the great tree of life, separating the plants from animals. For instance, he notes perceptively that "the problem of how life evolved from what we in our arrogance call 'lower' to higher forms is very much simpler than the question of how it first formed. He then elucidates that if a certain characteristic confers on its bearers an advantage in terms of, say, coping with the environment and in terms of producing offspring, then after many generations the entire population would shift toward that characteristic.
Churchill recognized that it is difficult to prove that the early stages of evolution indeed took place: "Direct evidence, of course, we have none. For it is only creatures with hard, bony shells or skeletons whose traces in fossil form remain. After a brief discussion of how locomotion may have produced a difference between fore and aft in animals but not mentioning the fact that the Earth's gravity probably produced the difference between up and down , Churchill discusses a few possible branching events, an important one being between snail-like creatures with external shells, and those species which developed backbones.
Just like a veteran scientist, throughout this description Churchill repeatedly emphasizes the crucial importance of observational and experimental evidence, noting that "though, of course, we cannot trace every step in the record of the rocks … many of these stages of development can be followed in amazing detail. We Humans Are Nothing Special. Perhaps the most fascinating part in Churchill's essay is his treatment of the appearance of humans. The key point is that he fully accepts the fact that like every other life form, humans are simply a natural product of Darwinian evolution.
I'll be honest, I don't feel the acting was as good as other reviews says it was. Not that I did not love watching Brian Cox do his thang on the big screen but I was not as impressed. It felt like I was watching a play as Cox performance seem heighten like he was on the stage, especially compared to the other actors around him who did not have the same gusto.
Of course, I could be missing something. I know who Churchill is but I don't know any personal details of which the movie seems to have a lot as it refers to relationships between him and his wife played by Miranda Richardson. For all I know Churchill was that type of guy. Explore popular and recently added TV series available to stream now with Prime Video. Start your free trial. Find showtimes, watch trailers, browse photos, track your Watchlist and rate your favorite movies and TV shows on your phone or tablet!
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