Cameron University student Jeffrey Sanders, a sophomore biology major from Lawton, was among the winners of the Darwin 2009 Essay Contest sponsored by the University of Oklahoma. Sanders was among university students across Oklahoma who entered a 500-word essay explaining why Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, described as ‘the most important idea to occur to the human mind,' remains so important today. When published in 1859, Darwin's theory caused a revolution in science and society; it is still a highly debated topic in scientific and cultural circles today.
Essays were judged on originality and quality of writing. Sander's essay, "Darwin and Sprinting," explores the impact of Darwin's theory on contemporary biology and medical advances.
"Darwin and Sprinting" by Jeffrey Sanders
In the same light of survival and death, evolutionary change can provoke the waxing and waning of a species. Relative to the external environment, homegrown change in human-beings may blossom as a boosted immune system or other perceivably improved physical features; however, parasitic progression is an ever-blooming poison. Charles Darwin essentially unearthed reasons for microbial resilience, inadvertently providing a base for biomedical research. Despite advancements, though, buds of influenza and HIV continue to spread. Therefore, change and decay remain unavoidable, but human calculations are improving at a pace fast enough to, within limits, prolong withering.
The idea of adaptation is a critical piece of understanding in biomedicine. Bacteria have proven to be "champions of evolution" (Arias and Murray, 2009) due to their high rate of biological change conducive to resistance. Different strains of resistance towards different anti-bacterial chemicals provide clues as to the direction in which medical trials should move. In applying Darwin's principles to research, the efficacy of the production of bacterial countermeasures increases. Unfortunately, this increase in efficacy alone is not enough to provide an upper hand; it is only a minimum requirement of survival.
A woman of royalty once contested that "it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place" (Carroll, 1871) (Red Queen Hypothesis). Darwin himself acknowledged that there are other conceivable means of selection outside of natural selection; hence, it is reasonable to conclude that his theories could be expanded. The aforementioned hypothesis fuels ideas including sexual selection and "evolutionary arms races", both of which stem from natural selection. Technology enables humanity to produce vaccines to viruses at increasing rates, and the drive that precedes this production is largely tied to the Red Queen's threat.
In its entirety, the problem between bacteria and humans can be interpreted with Darwin's concepts as a relationship between co-evolving species. Luckily for humans, the mutation in bacteria DNA strands is fairly simple to follow in relation to more complex organisms. Bearing in mind that larger life forms often take months to yield offspring, one can see that the natural selection process in antibiotic-resistant viruses such as HIV and influenza is comparatively quick. While this makes it easier to track and predict mutations, it also makes it difficult to keep up with the constant unveiling of "defence [sic] mechanisms [enabling the viruses'] survival" (Menday, 2009).
Had the mechanics of natural selection not been determined, today's mortality rates due to infectious diseases would be profoundly greater. Indeed, mankind is pushing its known applied sciences to their limits; yet, Darwin's arsenal of information is only enough for civilization to hold its own against opposition. Even so, the foregoing biological conflict isn't yet lost. Though humanity is currently keeping in the same place, perhaps further exploration of Darwin's ideas will provide the means for society "to run twice as fast" as it is currently able.
November 19, 2009