posted on Dec, 15 2012 @ 01:59 PM
My apologies if this may be in the wrong thread, as it is my first thread on ATS since coming back from a fair amount of time away. This post is not
about evolutionary conspiracy or stating that it is true, however, it has a lot to do with evolution and its profound effects on another aspect of our
lives today that is extremely popular, physical education and sport. Therefore, I felt it was best to post this here and not in psychology or another
possible forum. If it is deemed that this post is a better fit in another forum please move it there and let me know. Thank you.
Whether you agree with evolution or not is not the point of this post. The point of this post is to demonstrate how Darwin’s theory of evolution
started a domino effect that gave legitimacy to physical education and sport, enabling them to develop and rise in popularity. Without Darwin’s work
physical education and sport may not have been able to rise in popularity the way it has or at least not in such a fast and dramatic fashion as it
has. So, in my opinion, whether or not you agree with evolution if you love physical education and/or sport you have to partially thank Darwin for his
role in its rise to what we see it today.
I do know this is a long read spanning more than one post and some at the beginning may wonder when Darwin will pop up, however, Darwin’s theory of
evolution is the main point that holds my theory or perspective together in this post and does come up. So stick with the post and read through it
all. In the end, this is just my opinion mixed with a fair amount of research that I have conducted. I would love to hear any and all thoughts on what
I have brought up. Whether you agree with me or not I do hope that you enjoy.
The mind-body relationship has been a topic of discussion in cultures throughout history. As Mechikoff (201) states, “to a great extent, what we
know and how we teach is determined by our philosophy and corresponding position about the mind-body relationship, and this position is usually
determined by our culture” (p. 16). This discussion and the position cultures have taken on it have had a profound impact on physical education and
Prior to the 20th century, most cultures throughout history had maintained a dualistic position on the mind-body relationship. Dualism is “the
belief that mind and body are different kinds of substance that exist independently” (Kalat, 2009, p. 5). Thus, cultures who held dualistic
positions believed that the mind and body should be utilized for different purposes as they were separate not interacting or influencing one another.
This position held by cultures in the past had negative effects on physical education and sport. Since societies did not believe the mind and body
interacted with one another they valued intellectual education more than physical education and sport, which they saw useful only for labor and
military purposes. (Mechikoff, 2010)
Ancient Sumer (Iraq) was one culture that was very dualistic. The Sumerians looked to religion to explain what happened in life. Unlike gods and
kings, ordinary people were not valued, therefore the body was not valued either. For them, intellectual education had more value and organized sport
was utilized basically for military training only. Their religious and dualistic beliefs resulted in physical education and sporting programs being
nonexistent. (Mechikoff, 2010)
Western Europe during the Middle Ages, also known as the Dark Ages, was another very dualistic culture. During this period of time, Christianity began
to spread and the rise of the Roman Catholic Church occurred. The goals of the Church were to convert those of other religions and their view of the
body was negative describing it as a vehicle of sin. (Mechikoff, 2010) This highly negative view of the body led to the rise of ascetic dualism,
“the belief that the human body should be denied any kind of pleasure in order to purify the soul” (Mechikoff, p. 113). Due to the religious
differences and the dualistic position held by societies, physical education and sport had no value and was essentially eliminated from existence.
Another culture that held a dualistic position was New England in Colonial America. During most of the 1600’s, New England was under the influence
of Puritanism, which was very religious and dualistic. (Mechikoff, 2010) The Puritans “believed that play and games could be the ‘workshop’ of
the devil...[and] Puritan dogma argued that spiritual nourishment was provided for the soul while the body was made for work and prayer, and not
play” (Mechikoff, pp. 241-242). The mind was valued more than the body, therefore physical education and sport were not valued and were mostly
nonexistent. This is evident in the fact they had laws condemning physical education and sport that resulted in fines or imprisonment. (Mechikoff)
As one can see in the cultures of Ancient Sumer, Western Europe during the Middle Ages, and New England in the 1600’s, religion played a huge role
in the position these cultures took on the mind-body relationship. Their religious beliefs led to dualistic positions that had detrimental effects on
physical education and sport, as they were not valued, virtually wiping them away from existence in the lives of their citizens. However, things would
begin to change during the mid-1800’s to early-1900’s due to certain developments causing people to stop looking to religion to explain life and
instead turn to science. (Mechikoff, 2010)
During the mid-1800’s to early-1900’s psychology, like society, was turning to scientific answers to explain life. The field was transitioning
from being based on philosophy to science. The hope was if science could be valuable to society than psychology would become a field held in high
esteem. (Kornspan, 2007) Thus, “psychologists...often felt it was necessary to show how psychology could be applied, and, thus, was important to the
general society (as cited in Goodwin, 1999)” (Kornspan, p. 154). The biological sciences, specifically Darwin’s work, would be the breaking point
enabling physical education and sport to prove its value to society.
Work conducted in the biology was groundbreaking as people began to be “viewed as an organismic part of the social body...[and] Health was seen as a
balance between the organic systems of the body and those systems that set humans apart from other creatures...qualities associated with the human
mind” (Mechikoff, 2010, pp. 200-201). Monistic research into the mind-body relationship began, in terms of interaction and influencement, resulting
in evidence for ideas that the mind was a product of biology and exercise could produce character. (Mechikoff) “The impact of science on
nineteenth-century thought was profound...the epistemology of dualism was increasingly challenged by the epistemologies of science” (Mechikoff, p.