Tag Archives: Darwin

Reflections on Darwin’s Origin of Species

The The Origin Of Species by Charles Darwin was published over 150 years go. At the time, several different alternative theories of the origin and history of life were being discussed in the West. Some of these theories were theological. Theological ideas included a literal translation of the bible, with the flora, the fauna, and humans created in three separate but related creation events on a freshly made earth just a few thousand years ago. Another theological idea had an Abrahamic God’s hand involved in the history of life but in ways we were not likely to understand until after death. Still another idea, championed by the influential Louis Agassiz, had several God-made origins each representing a different combination of habitat, ecology, climate, and human race. Ice ages would periodically wipe everything out and then God would replace the bits, much like how a gamer re-creates a simulated landscape after system crashes or save failures in SimCity (See Reef Madness: Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and the Meaning of Coral for an excellent overview of this and related issues). Maybe the gamer does it a little differently each time, and maybe god did that too. Non theological ideas were emerging at the time as well including some like Darwin’s, but Darwin refocused and created de novo several of the key models that are part of Evolutionary Theory today, and it was Darwin and Wallace who advanced the specific theory of Natural Selection. These evolutionary ideas rested within a broader panoply of evolutionary ideas, some of which have faded away, others incorporated, others waiting to be reconsidered.
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Charles Darwin, Geologist

Everyone knows that Darwin was a biologist, and in many ways he was the first prominent modern biologist. Though Darwin scholars know this, many people do not realize that he was also a geologist. Really, he was mainly a geologist on the day he stepped foot on The Beagle for his famous five year tour. This is especially true if we count his work on coral reefs as a geological study, even though coral reefs are a biological phenomenon. After all, the standing model for coral reef formation at the time came from the field of Geology.

To exemplify this, I’ve put together a list of several of Darwin’s print publications with their publication dates:

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Seattle-ites: Strawberry Theatre Workshop does Darwin

Click Here to get tickets while they last!

Here’s a review: ‘Inherit the Wind’ airs current creationism debate

Last month Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a top candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, remarked, “Evolution is just a theory out there.” He also claimed Texas schools teach both evolution and creationism.

Perry was mistaken: In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled public teaching of Bible-based creationism (or “intelligent design”) unconstitutional.

The creationism vs. evolution in schools debate has reared back into our national political dialogue, which may be reason enough to revive “Inherit the Wind,” a 1955 play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.

We don’t see many revivals of this sturdy courtroom drama…

Read the rest here

MSNBC: Time to retire Buchanan (an open letter)

Dear MSNBC,

I know it is appropriate to have a range of opinions among the talking heads representing a news agency, and MSNBC certainly does have a range. Pat Buchanan, regular commentator on two or three MSNBC news shows, probably serves at the most conservative individual in the MSNBC panoply.

But he has to go now.
Continue reading MSNBC: Time to retire Buchanan (an open letter)

Why didn’t Darwin discover Mendel’s laws?

ResearchBlogging.orgPerhaps we are all subject to falling into the trap of what I call the Hydraulic Theory of Everything. If you eat more you will be bigger, if you eat less you will be smaller. Emotional states are the continuously varying outcome of different levels of a set of hormones, forming “happy” or “stressy” or “angry” cocktails. Your brain is a vessel into which life pours various elixirs. Too much of one thing, and there will not be enough room for something else. Even political arguments are hydraulic. The ‘balanced’ middle view between two arguments is like the mixture of contrasting primary colors on a pallet.
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The Giants’ Shoulders # 8

“The Giants’ Shoulders” is a monthly science blogging event, in which authors are invited to submit posts on “classic” scientific papers. Information about the carnival can be found here.

The last Giants’ was hosted at The Questionable Authority, here. The next issue will be hosted at The Evilutionary Biologist: All Science, All The Time, which resided here.

Continue reading The Giants’ Shoulders # 8

Darwin’s Birthday Gallup Poll on “Belief in Evolution”

The Gallup Poll is not surprising in any of its results but it is, of course, alarming and interesting. Here’s a summary.

On the eve of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, a new Gallup Poll shows that only 39% of Americans say they “believe in the theory of evolution,” while a quarter say they do not believe in the theory, and another 36% don’t have an opinion either way. These attitudes are strongly related to education and, to an even greater degree, religiosity.

The data:
Believe in evolution 39%
Do not believe in evolutoin 25%
No opinon either way 36%

Not surprisingly, education level has a strong effect on tresponse. Have a look at this graph:

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The good news:

Younger Americans, who are less likely to be religious than those who are older, are also more likely to believe in evolution. Still, just about half of those aged 18 to 34 say they believe in evolution.

Well, not great news, but good news.

In answer to the question “Can you tell me with which scientific theory Charles Darwin is associated?” only a little over half knew. That was asked before all the other questions. And, knowing or not knowing the answer to that question went way way up with higher education levels, not surprisingly.

The poll reporters conclude:

As Darwin is being lauded as one of the most important scientists in history on the 200th anniversary of his birth (on Feb. 12, 1809), it is perhaps dismaying to scientists who study and respect his work to see that well less than half of Americans today say they believe in the theory of evolution, and that just 55% can associate the man with his theory.

… Americans who have lower levels of formal education are significantly less likely than others to be able to identity Darwin with his theory, and to have an opinion on it either way. Still, the evidence is clear that even to this day, Americans’ religious beliefs are a significant predictor of their attitudes toward Darwin’s theory….

h/t: Stranger Fruit