Tag Archives: Darwin

NASA’s new organism, the meaning of life, and Darwin’s Second Theory

ResearchBlogging.orgIn his highly readable book, One Long Argument, Ernst Mayr breaks down the body of thought often referred to as “Darwin’s Theory” into five separate and distinct theories, the second of which being “common descent.” Darwin’s second evolutionary theory (second by Mayr’s count, not Darwin’s) is really a hypothesis that could be worded this way:

All life on earth descended from a single, original, primordial form that arose eons ago.

The evidence in favor of this hypothesis is strong, but the test of the hypothesis … the means of disproving it, which is, after all, the point of stating it to begin with … is difficult to define, but like pornography to a judge, one would know it when one sees it.
Continue reading NASA’s new organism, the meaning of life, and Darwin’s Second Theory

Darwin and Wallace 1858

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Darwin and Wallace, chillin’
Let’s talk about Darwin and Wallace’s joint presentation on Natural Selection in 1858.

It is not usually the case that I write a blog post for a carnival. I usually just write for the blog, then now and then sit down and figure out which posts should go to with carnivals. That is not the case with this post.

Some time ago I thought, while writing a Peer Reviewed Research post, that it would be interesting to write up older papers, classics, or more recent papers that were of great interest for one reason or another but maybe a few years old. Just around that time, this idea of a classic carnival … a carnival of classic science papers … came around (details here and here), and I thought that was a very cool idea.

I have a plan to write a couple of different series of posts, one with Bob Trivers’ papers (see this for a taste), which will come along very easily, as I have taught a course based primarily on his work. Another would be on papers regarding Race and Racism. Again, this would draw heavily on my course on Race and Gender. A third stream of posts may come from the Bioanthropology tutorial I taught at Harvard. That was some years ago, so even the ‘current’ papers from that effort may now be classics (Tim Caro’s work with hyenas springs instantly to mind). Thinking about that approach led me to consider the first paper I usually assigned in that tutorial, and in fact, ‘the’ first paper in the field of evolutionary biology (perhaps, depending on your perspective).

That paper, I thought, is what this post should be about. Darwin and Wallace’s first composite paper on Natural Selection.

The only question remains: How many other people are going to do the same thing? Probably scads of them. So, I’ll have to make this a little different…..

Continue reading Darwin and Wallace 1858

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.
Continue reading Why didn’t Darwin discover Mendel’s laws?

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

Larry Moran Reread The Origin

It’s been a great pleasure to read the Origin of Specie … I had forgotten how clever Darwin was and how he carefully weighs his arguments for evolution.

I had also fallen prey to several myths about the book. For example, I didn’t realize that Origin of Species is all about speciation and the difference between species and varieties.

Go read all about it. Very much worth a look.

Darwin Year Panel Discussion, Sunday in the Twin Cities

Feb 15 – Darwin Year Panel Discussion Featuring Myers, Laden, Moore, Cotner and Phillips

2009 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origins of Species. In honor of this, we have assembled a distinguished panel of scientists to give us their thoughts on evolution, creationism, and Darwin. The panelists are: PZ Myers, Randy Moore, Greg Laden, Sehoya Cotner, and Jane Phillips.

The discussion will be moderated by Lynn Fellman. Lynn is a frequent science interviewer on our Atheists Talk radio program. She is also an independent artist and designer (FellmanStudio.com) who incorporates science into her work.

This event is free and open to the public.

Location:
Rondo Community Outreach Library
461 N Dale St
Saint Paul, MN 55103
651-266-7400

Minnesota Atheists Feburary Membership Meeting

February 15, 2009

1:00-1:15 p.m. – Social time.
1:15-1:45 p.m. – MNA business meeting, including annual elections.
1:45-2:00 p.m. – Social time.
2:00-3:00 p.m. – Panel discussion.
3:00-3:30 p.m. – Social time.
4:00 p.m. – Dinner at a nearby restaurant.


Mn Atheist Web Site

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