Tag Archives: Charles Darwin

Elephants and Horses

In 1833, Darwin spent a fair amount of time on the East Coast of South America, including in the Pampas, where he had access to abundant fossil material. Here I’d like to examine his writings about some of the megafauna, including Toxodon, Mastodon, and horses, and his further considerations of biogeography and evolution.

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Rheas and the Birth of Evolutionary Theory

Everyone knows about Darwin’s Finches, of the Galapagos Islands. But of course, Darwin made observations of birds throughout his travels on The Beagle. Here, I present a number of passages from The Voyage that include some of these observations.

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Fossil Quadrupeds

Charles Darwin wrote a book called Geological Observations on South America. Since Fitzroy needed to carry out intensive and extensive coastal mapping in South America, and Darwin was, at heart, a geologist more than anything else (at least during the Beagle’s voyage), this meant that Darwin would become the world’s expert on South American geology. Much of The Voyage is about his expeditions and observations. Part of this, of course, was figuring out the paleontology of the region.
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Darwin Day Party

Thursday, February 12, 2009, 7 to 9 p.m.
Bell Museum Auditorium
$10/ free to museum members and University students

The speakers will present in the auditorium from 7 to 8 pm. Birthday cake and refreshments are served after the presentations.

Celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday! Part of a world wide celebration, the Twin Cities’ version is at The Bell Museum of Natural History this Thursday night. Join in the fun with cake, drinks and presentations by U of M scientists and educators. They will present funny, outrageous and controversial rapid-fire, media-rich presentations about Darwin and evolution. From the big bang to the human genome, hear the newest research and controversy on evolution and Darwin. The presenters are:

Keith Olive

Mark Decker

Sehoya Cotner

Greg Laden

Mark Borrello

Click here for more information about the Bell Museum

Click here to connect to these events on Facebook

Also Opening on February 12th: Frans Lanting Photographs: The University of Minnesota Bell Museum of Natural History is proud to host the North American premiere of this internationally acclaimed exhibit. LIFE: A Journey Through Time, interprets the evolution of life on Earth through photographer Frans Lanting. Lanting’s lyrical photos trace Earth’s history from the beginnings of primordial life to the ascent of mammals through otherworldly landscapes and breathtakingly intimate portraits of animals and plants engaged in million-year-old rituals. Many of the exhibit’s 62 photographs are matched with real animal, fossil, and plant specimens from the Bell Museum’s collection. Born in the Netherlands, Lanting serves on the National Council of the World Wildlife Fund and is a columnist for Outdoor Photographer and has received the BBC Wildlife Magazine’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award and the Sierra Club’s Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography.

Also Opening on February 12th: Lynn Fellman’s DNA Portraits: The expanding field of genographics uses genetic markers to trace the patterns of human migration from our common origin in Africa. Recent advances in genetic research has spurred Minneapolis artist Lynn Fellman’s imagination – she’s taken the science to an art form by combining maps, DNA sequence data, and colorful graphics to create stylized portraits as a way to visualize one’s deep ancestry. This exhibit features a sampling of her portraits, as well as a series of panels and banners that explain the science behind her art.

Bugs (Darwin)

When reading the Voyage, it is impossible to miss the observation that much of the time Darwin was engaged in adolescent boy behavior: Pulling the heads off insects, noting how long they would wiggle after cut in half, closely examining the ooze and guts, occupied much of his time. Obviously, careful observation and a strong stomach were not all that was required to think up Natural Selection and his other theories, or the Origin of Species would have been written dozens of times by dozens of grown up kids.
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Evolution vs. Creationism by Eugenie Scott, Second Edition

It’s out! Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction Second Edition is now available on line and in bookstores (or at least it is being shipped out as we speak).

This is the newly revamped edition of Genie Scott’s essential reference supporting the Evolutionist Perspective in the so called “debate” over creationism vs. evolution. The original version of this book was excellent, but this updated version is essential. There is quite a bit of new information in this volume reflecting the fact that quite a few things have happened since the publication of the prior edition.

Scott’s book provides both an overview of the basic evolutionary biology that is under attack by creationists and the creationist arguments themselves. The discussion of the creationist arguments and how to deal with them is especially important, as it is written from the perspective of a very experienced individual, and in in the most useful possible way for a teacher or school administrator.

From the press release:

What’s going on here? Why is the United States the only country where teaching evolution is so controversial? Why are scientists so sure that evolution is good science? Are people of faith truly unable to accept the central principle of modern biology? Is it really “fair” for creationism to be taught alongside evolution? What have the courts said? And will attacks on evolution ultimately undermine not only American education but American competitiveness?

These and many other questions are answered in the 2nd edition of Evolution vs. Creationism, Dr. Eugenie Scott’s lucid and comprehensive look at this ongoing debate. Dr. Scott, one of the leading promoters and defenders of teaching evolution in the schools, dissects these ever-changing efforts to undermine science education. Praised for its balance and comprehensiveness, the book places the issues in today’s headlines into historical, cultural, religious, educational, and scientific perspective as no other book does.

At some levels, the tactics used by creationists to force the teaching of religion in public schools are always the same, but pragmatically they change enough that one must always adjust the counter tactics. The revised edition of Evolution vs. Creationism is updated to take into account recent adjustments to the Intelligent Design strategy. Also, there are always new challenges, court decisions, and other legally relevant outcomes all across the country, and this new volume covers several things that have happened since the first edition.

Just as important are the resources outlined in the book are updated and expanded. If you are a school administrator, teacher, or parent with a child in a public school you need this book as a basic reference. A typical chapter may have legal cases and references for handy reference:

The book has a foreword by Judge John Jones, the federal judge who presided over the Dover case, which in turn is fully covered in Genie’s new book. One gets the impression that Judge Jones was just a little smitten with Genie. In fact, it is rather remarkable that he agreed to write this second foreword (the other is by Nils Eldgridge, by the way). Obviously, Genie Scott is capable of making things happen.

This book is essential for anyone involved in this debate.

Go get it now.

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i-ada6d6663e8e227a9c4a2ad6d417d7af-car15.jpgI am hosting The Giant’s Shoulders this month. Please get me your submissions by the 15th. Hint: Darwin’s birthday is this month. Hint: Darwin was a giant. Do Darwin!

Send submissions via the blog carnival submission thingie.

  • Berry Go Round #13: Winter-Tough is here, at Watching The World Wake Up.
  • The Carnival of the Blue #21 is here, at The Oyster’s Garter.
  • Brain Blogging, Forty-Third Edition is here, at Brain Blogger.
  • I and the Bird #93: The Compelling Nature of Birds is at Vickie Henderson’s place.
  • Grand Rounds 5(20) is at Not Totally Rad.
  • Festival of the Trees 32 is at Treeblog.
  • Mendel’s Garden, 28th Edition is here, at Quintessence of Dust.
  • Change of Shift: Welcome to The Fishbowl is at Digital Doorway.
  • The Accretionary Wedge #15: Pondering the geological future of Earth is at Clastic Detritus
  • Carnival of Evolution is Here and Here.
  • Gene Genie #43: Personal genomics, health and evolution is here.
  • Carnival of the Arid #1 is HERE at Coyote Crossing
  • History Carnival # 73 is here.
  • Have you visited Quiche Moraine?

Charles Darwin and the Rain Forest

i-483a35d54b9f564228dc98196d965c2f-rain_forest.jpgThe first time I read the following passage from The Voyage, I was reminded of my own first experience in a rain forest (in Zaire, not Congo). Evident in this passage is at least a glimmering of Darwin’s appreciation for the complexity of ecosystems. Darwin could be considered the first scientific ecologist.

But enough of my commentary … this passage very much stands on it’s own …
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