Evolutionary Perspective Malthus and Darwin

Thomas Robert Malthus, in his major work originally published in 1816, "Essay on the Principle of Population" (1968), projected a gloom and doom scenario for the human race in what he surmised to be a losing battle between population growth and an adequate food supply. Simply put, humans would multiply at a exponential rate (2, 4, 8, 16, etc.) while increasing food production only would occur at an arithmetic rate (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.). As a dire consequence, the human species would far outstrip its subsistence capacity, unless population growth was checked by such agents as famine and disease. We will have a closer look at the Malthusian doctrine later on, but for now it is important to note that it was Malthus who helped clarify for Charles Darwin a vexing problem he had regarding evolution. Darwin was searching for an understanding of how change would take place over time in a population, and in 1838 it was the writing of Malthus that led him to the notion of "struggle for existence," possibly due to limited food resources. Given that the reproductive potential of a population exceeded what appeared to him to be more or less stable population numbers, Darwin theorized that a selection process was operating to remove those individuals who were less able to successfully compete for restricted resources. He eventually published his theory of Natural Selection in 1859 (Darwin, 1892).

Malthus and Darwin established what to this day are considered to be natural "checks" that help to maintain or restore populations within the boundaries of resource availability. Resources, of course, come in many forms, not the least of which are an adequate food supply, mates, and a measure of secure habitat, or safe living environment. In terms of Darwinian evolution, then, population control was part and parcel of a natural process.

New Mothers Guide to Breast Feeding

New Mothers Guide to Breast Feeding

For many years, scientists have been playing out the ingredients that make breast milk the perfect food for babies. They've discovered to day over 200 close compounds to fight infection, help the immune system mature, aid in digestion, and support brain growth - nature made properties that science simply cannot copy. The important long term benefits of breast feeding include reduced risk of asthma, allergies, obesity, and some forms of childhood cancer. The more that scientists continue to learn, the better breast milk looks.

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