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Posted on October 5th, 2012, by

Darwin’s evolutionary theory and Piaget’s developmental psychology are considered relevant by some researchers. However, at first it is necessary to present these theories in order to find this relevance.

Very few of us know that that Darwin did not discover evolutionary theory himself but collected a lot of evidence supporting this theory and also developed a mechanism which described the process of evolution. In reality, the theory of evolution originates from the ancient Greece and was studied and developed by many scholars during the human history.Ā  Darwin’s theory of natural selection is a part of more general evolution theory. Important part of his work consist of the arguments, he gives against the prominent theories of the past.

Piaget was a biologist being famous as a founder of the developmental psychology. He states that babies are born with special schemes, which he calls “reflexes”¯. In human beings these reflexes are quickly transformed in the constructed schemes in the process of adaptation to the environment. This adaptation is realized with the help of these schemes ”“ mental organizations. “This adaptation is driven by a biological drive to obtain balance between schemes and the environment (equilibration)”¯ (Bruner, 38). There could be two process in the process of adaptation: assimilation and accommodation. People adapt to different situations in different ways. When mental organizations ”“ schemes ”“ become more complex, they are called structures. Accommodation presumes getting something new from the environment due to changing of cognitive structures. Assimilation presumes transformation of the environment, so that it is accepted by cognitive structures. These two processes are used simultaneously during our life.

Piaget defined four stages in the process of cognitive development. The first stage is called Sensorimotor stage or Infancy. At this stage infants develop due to motor activities without the usage of language. Physical development gives them a possibility to develop new intellectual abilities. The second stage is called Pre-operational stage or Toddler and Early Childhood. At this stage children develop memory and imagination. Children start perceiving symbols though their thinking is still non-logical. In this period egocentric thinking prevails. The third stage is called concrete operating stage or elementary and early adolescence stage. Children learn to refer symbols to concrete objects: “In this stage (characterized by 7 types of conservation: number, length, liquid, mass, weight, area, volume), intelligence is demonstrated through logical and systematic manipulation of symbols related to concrete objects”¯ (Piaget, 81). The fourth stage is called formal operating stage or adolescence and adulthood stage. Behavior at this stage is characterized by the ability to use symbols related to abstract notions.

There could be noticed return to egocentric thought at this stage.

Darwin devoted his theory to the investigation of the origin of species, while Piaget investigated the origin of mind. Darwin explored different forms of life trying to find their origin and its possible explanation. Piaget, in his turn, worked on different form of mental activity investigating this phenomenon among different forms of life but with a great accent on human beings. To sum up, both Darwin’s theory and developmental psychology are aimed on investigation of human beings analyzing them from different perspectives

Darwin’s evolutionary theory and developmental psychology on the first sight are connected from the revolutionary point of view, however, modern researches prove that their relations are more complicated. “When one looks at Darwin’s long-term impact on developmental psychology, it turns out that his promissory note has been much more ambiguous than that of other genealogical giants in the field. To complicate matters, one detects a lack of clarity as well as some ambivalence on the part of many developmentalists about Darwin’s ultimate significance for their field”¯ (Charlesworth, 1). It is interesting to note that both Darwin’s theory and developmental theory appeared at the same period of time and in the same historical context. Darwin was interested in this branch of psychology ”“ he investigated periods of children’s development, however, there is no evidence of it in his works. Still, some evidence can be find: “it appears that he used information on children to support his idea that many early behaviors were innate in the sense that they were phylogenetic adaptations of animal ancestors of humans. Their presence in children (in his eyes) confirmed the existence of an unbroken lineage between humans and these ancestors”¯ (Charlesworth, 2). This aspect show how developmental psychology influenced Darwin.

In order to understand how Darwin influenced developmental psychology, it is necessary to correlate Darwin’s theory and Lamark’s principles. Lamarck developed a theory of the mutability of species through the use and the action of environment. He stated that spices change over time, climbing the ladder of life. He regarded the evolution as a progress from more simple forms to more complex ones.

Darwin never totally rejected Lamarck’s theory. He found it incomplete, though. Darwin agreed Lamarck’s ideas of progress and evolutions of the living creatures. He also agreed that the purpose of these changes could be the better adapting to the environment. Darwin took Lamarck’s idea of the development of organisms from simpler to more complicated forms and created his own theory of evolution in contrast to Lamarck’s doctrine of growth of adapted complexity. Darwin argued Lamarck’s reasons of spices mutability conditioned by the need to meet the changes of the surrounding.

In his On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection Darwin gave convincing arguments against Lamarck’s theory. “It is very difficult to decide how far changed conditions, such as of climate, food, etc., have acted in a definite manner. There is reason to believe that in the course of time the effects have been greater than can be proved by clear evidence.”¯ (Darwin, The Origin of Species, p. 139). Darwin didn’t agree with Lamarck’s that heritable adaptation was a result of natural influence on the organism. He also argued Lamarck’s ideas of predetermined character of evolution. Though Lamarck’s theory was a constructive one, he couldn’t completely get read of providential tendencies of Paley. So he states that everything good acquired by the organism during its life is represented in their descendants through reproduction. This concept got the name the inheritance of acquired characters and we mostly remember Lamarck for this theory.

Darwin disapproves Lamrack’s theory. He proved that not all the changes are adopted by the descendants. Darwin stated that adaptation characteristics change naturally, without any influence from above. Putting forward his arguments, he made the last step away from the wise creator, putting all the responsibilities to nature. He disagrees Lamarck’s theory that heritable adaptations result the way surrounding influences the organism. He saw these changes as accidental and purposeless variations. He stressed on the meaning of evolution, in contrast to creationist approach. Darwin didn’t agree with Lamarck’s theory that changes once acquired by the individual are passed to all generations. He stated that genes are not changed but the most appropriate individuals are selected by nature to survive and reproduce and this gradually changes the characteristics of the whole spice. In order to support his thesis, Darwin gives examples, facts of natural history, contrasts and comparisons. Darwin’s language is unique and very exact at the same time. Sometimes he uses satire and irony to make his writings more lively and interesting. He creates picturesque combinations and bright images to make the readers understand his argument.

For each argument he uses a lot of proofs and evidence in order to support his thesis. Darwin did a big job collecting data, making studies and researches and preparing arguments in order to create his own concept of evolutionary theory. He skillfully used good experience of the other scientists who researched in this area and found their counterparts and proved them with his strong arguments.

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