The Evolution Of Elephants And The Origin Of Earth Philosophy Essay

For a long period of time now, man has always had one question on his mind: where am I from? or how come about being? This is a question several institutions have tried to answer., namely: the science world and the religious world. The world of science believes in evolution whereas the religious institutions believe in creation by a supernatural being. Both parties have tangible evidence to support their claims but they both lack a few things. The religious stand point I am taking is from Christianity, which claims that God created the world in six normal earth days with no time lapse in-between. The scientific view is that postulated by Charles Darwin that of ‘descent with change’ that is the progressive change of organisms in response to natural selection.

Charles Darwin, born in 1809, established the theory of evolution. He did this in a book titled On the Origin of Species. He came up with his idea after he visited the Galapagos Island where he saw very different kinds of species based on phenotype. He was shocked and decided to analyze it and came up with the book aforementioned. His theory was accepted into the science world as it was convincing.

Most of the theories were right and are still supported today even by creationists. The most important is these theories is that of natural selection. Which states that organisms with unfavourable phenotypes were eliminated leaving stronger ones with favourable phenotype to produce viable off springs.

The theory of evolution tries to make us believe that all living things originate from a particular source, that is to say that all complex forms of life today originate from the same source. According to Darwin, a simple cell that existed several billion years ago evolved to all the organisms we see today. He stated that evolution is based on natural selection which involves eradication of weaklings and survival of strong species that transfer the strong traits to off springs. According to Darwin, organisms develop traits to enable them keep up with the competition. They get bigger, form specialized structures and compete for survival. This changes they make to themselves is what gives room for evolution. He also states that it is a slow, sure and steady process running through millions of years. These form the theory of evolution that was formed by Darwin.

On the other hand there are the creationists who argue that the earth was created recently by God. The Christian creationists base their theories on Genesis chapters 1 and 2, where God states that he created the world in six days about 6000 years ago. Various factions of the creationist belief groups interpret the six days differently. Some look at it figuratively while others look at it literally. The former say that when God says a day it doesn’t necessarily mean twenty four hours whereas the latter say that it means twenty four earth hours. The issue of interpretation of God’s word is the basis for this argument. Others argue that a gap between the creation periods give room to any amount of years. Creationists also believe in a world wide flooding event during the days of Noah in the bible.

The choice of what to believe in is really difficult. One must weigh the truth against each other as most factions sound logical. The major arguments of creationists are that carbon dating techniques are inaccurate and that evolution cannot be proven. It is known that carbon dating techniques are based on the constancy of processes on earth, but creationists say that this is not always true as certain things can distort the constancy of the decay process. Such things include the supernatural power of God, the dipole moment of the earth’s magnetic field, sunspot activity, the Suess effect, possible nearby supernova explosions, and even ocean absorption.

About dinosaurs, evolutionist say that they existed before man before the K/T extinction whereas creationists say that if they existed at all, they existed with men. They say this because there was no death before Adam and Eve’s sin. Acceptance of extinction of dinosaurs before the creation of man would go against every Christian doctrine enacted by God as death only came in earth because of man’s sin, thus creationists believe that if actually dinosaurs existed they could have been eradicated in the flood of Noah’s time. Furthermore, creationists reject evolution because it claims a single origin of species whereas the bible makes it clear that God created the organisms separately with no one single organism as basic.

Evolutionists argue that the earth was not created by God but theologian William Paley refuted this argument with his example of finding a watch and a stone. He said that stone could have been there forever as it was natural and didn’t require special explanation. He looked at the watch on the other hand and stated that its complexity – springs, wires and other components – indicated a structural design and hence had a designer. He likened the watch to the eye and obviously showed that its complex structure could not just come about by random rearrangement but is the work of a creator.

The creationist agrees with natural selection as its effects are visible in our present day but says that organisms do not produce parts to keep up with competition, but use already present genes to create adaptation parts. They base this thought on the concept of gene regulation. They also claim that

Natural selection is based on genetic recombination and mutations. The evolutionist believes that all traits are caused by mutations but the creationist says that God controls mutation. Evolutionist see mutation induced natural selection as slow but creationists see it as fast as it is a result of God’s intelligent design rather than random errors in the genetic code.

Creationists and evolutionist look for flaws in the opposition faction in order to prove their point. One of this is when creationists state that carbon dating is false.

There are several people who have tried to prove evolution by fraudulent means for example Ernest Haeckel. He postulated that ‘ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’. This means that development repeats the evolutionary train of an organism. That is to say that if humans originated from fishes which evolved to amphibians and reptiles, human embryos should show this evolutionary trend during development. He did various test and came up with fake results backed up with fake experimental data and drawings. He was convicted for fraud over this matter.

There are many fundamental stages of evolution that are required before any life can exist. Primarily the cosmic evolution. This is the idea that space, time and energy ‘exploded’ from essentially nothing in a sudden ‘big bang’, the birth of our universe. The second stage is the stellar Evolution. As the big bang is said to have created only few atoms, hydrogen, helium and subatomic particles, these elements must have come together condensing into stars. The third stage is the chemical evolution. As just stated, only hydrogen and helium were produced in the big bang, thus the pressure and heat from the stars formed must have made these two gases evolve to all the known elements today. The fourth stage is the planetary evolution. The chemical elements contained in the ancient stars were ejected, possibly at the death of stellar life cycles, releasing great clouds of swirling compounds which formed finely-tuned solar systems. The fifth phase is the organic evolution. This phase can also be called spontaneous generation. The theory is that the earth started out as a molten mass of matter few billion years ago. It cooled off into solid dry rock and then it rained on the rocks for millions of years forming great oceans. The sixth phase is macro evolution. This is the evolution developed by Charles Darwin, which claims that all organisms share a common ancestor a relatively simple celled organism which evolved from inorganic matter. This theory tells us that about 3 billion years ago, single celled bacteria first evolved to cyanbacteria. The about 2.7 billion years ago, complex eukaryotes began to evolve. 2.2 billion years ago, blue green algae evolved from the complex eukaryotes. Then about 2.5 to 1.2 billion years ago, full eukaryotes became existence. Then burgees shale invertebrates evolved to primitive fish, then horse-tailed plants to amphibians to reptiles to the Jurassic era then dinosaurs came along. The next animal to evolve is the animal to be considered later, the elephant, after which came other mammals and man. There is the last kind of evolution, Micro evolution which has to do with changes within a species example changes within different kinds of dogs.

People who do not believe creation say they need tangible proof also those who do not believe evolution need tangible truth. Creationist base their belief on the supremacy of God, while evolutionist base their belief on fossil records, carbon dating and several other processes which are fallible.

In any case, the words of Alexander Pope in his ‘essay on man’ holds true.

“All nature is but art, unknown to thee;

All chance, direction which thou canst not see;

All discord, harmony not understood;

All partial evil, universal good;

And spite of pride, in erring reason’s spite,

One truth is clear: whatever is is right.”

Evolution is occurs over a very long period as stated earlier. A case study of evolution is that of elephants.The name elephant was coined from ‘elephas’ meaning ivory. It is important to note that elephants were the last mammals to evolve before man. Elephants are a special kind of animals. There are only two species: the African elephant and the Asian elephant. The first question that comes into your mind is why are there just two species as opposed to other animals that have hundreds of species. The answer is not farfetched. From evolution, it can be seen that the more specialized a species, the higher the tendencies of its extinction. It could be seen species of elephants destroyed during the K/T extinction (cretaceous -tertiary extinction) – the extinction that wiped out dinosaurs as a result of a meteorite landing on earth – were much specialized or lived individually. The probably were strict herbivores or carnivores or had not evolved long trunks to reach for food at higher heights, unlike present elephants that have evolved several modes of keeping up with competition like thick skin and long trunk and living in groups.

The evolution of elephants begun some 50 – 60 million years ago when a Condylartha, particularly the Phosphatherium, a small, pig-sized herbivore with long flexible nose, more of a pygmy hippopotamus than a prehistoric elephant, evolved into hoof bearing animals scientifically called Ungulata. The Phosphatherium were linked to elephants by their tooth structure. The elephant and Phosphatherium have tusks from incisors.

The Ungulata further split into five groups: the Eparctocyon( animals with cloven hooves or even toes), cete (whales and dolphins), Phenacodonta (horses, tapirs and rhinos), Meridungulata (an extinct species) and Paenungulata (super order – elephant ancestors). The Paenungulata is subdivided into subgroups hyracoidea (Hyraxes), Tethytheria (Proboscidea (elephants), Sirenia (sea cows, manatees and dugongs) and Desmostylia. The Tethytheria were at first land animals but went to the water becoming aquatic or semiaquatic. They became aquatic probably because of food as most of the earth was covered with swamps and lakes, with water plants that support Tethytheria species.

Recent study has shown that there is a close link between present day elephants and the aquatic Sirena(dugong and manatees). This supports the claim that some of their common ancestors were fully aquatic but returned to land. Even in this present time, especially during embryonic phases, elephants show traits they share with aquatic animals like manatees. Some of which include: testes in body close to kidneys, female sexual organs in body protected with a vestibule, hairless bodies with a thick layer of subcutaneous fat to insulate, breathing through nostrils so as to enable the animal open mouth and feed underwater, wrinkled skin in order to minimize dehydration, when not in water, nephostomes (a feature of aquatic vertebrates) in the mesonepheric kidneys at all stages of development.

The next step closer to the elephant is the Proboscidea referring to animals with trunk. This order includes over 300 species and is the immediate step the evolution of the elephants. It was described by C. Illigeer in 1881. It includes the Nuidotheriidae, Moeritheriidae, Barytheriidae, Deinotheriidae, Mammutidae (mastodons), Gomophotheriidae, Stegodontidae, and Elephantidae (elephants and mammoths fall here). The Elephantidae family was named by Gray in 1821. The elephant family developed 16 million years ago. A period known as the middle Miocene. Their ancestors were Primelephas. After this, the first mammoths appeared in Africa about 3 million years ago, and then 120000 years ago, they began migrating to northern Europe and got adapted to the cold climate. Meanwhile, in Africa, the mammoths developed into the Elephas genus and spread to Asia and Europe. This spread gives rise to the two predominant elephants present today, the Asian elephant and the African elephant.

In Africa, there are two predominant species. The Loxodonta cyclotis and the Loxodonta africana. The former spends it lifetime in the forest. They are the African forest elephants, whereas the latter lives in the African savannah.

There are a number of differences between the African elephant and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). The African elephant has large ears that function as heat exchangers in the African temperature, while the Asian elephant does not have large ears as the heat in the parts of Asia the habit do not have high temperatures. The African elephant has wrinkled skin and eats leaves while the Asian elephant has smooth skin and eats grasses. Furthermore, on a closer look, it can be seen that the highest point on the African elephant is on its shoulders while the highest point on the Asian elephant is on its back. In addition, the trunk end of the African elephant has two ‘fingers’ while the trunk end of the Asian elephant has only one ‘finger’. It is also noted that both male and female African elephants have tusks although the tusks of males are bigger, but in Asian elephants, females have a rudimentary or no tusk at all.

The dentition of the elephant is very much different from that of normal animals. It is called lophodont dentition because their teeth are huge and made up of a stack of enamel ridges that move forward in the mouth like a huge conveyor belt as others wear away.

Elephants are very wonderful. They move in groups and have been shown to have emotions. They are sorrowful at the death of another of their kind. Adult elephants are not predated on by any other animals because they move in groups.

In conclusion, elephants are a unique specie of animals. They are united and show many signs of interdependence. They are very interesting to study.

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