Thursday, April 15, 2010

Darwinism vs. Social Darwinism

Darwinism is what is known as the commonly accepted modern theory of evolution. The term was not coined by Darwin himself, but it represents the idea that evolution is the summation of adaptations proven to be advantageous to survival through natural selection. Synonymous with the term Darwinism is the concept of "survival of the fittest". Starting in the late 1800's the idea of Social Darwinism surfaced which promoted this same "survival of the fittest" among people. To what degree are the two terms alike? To what degree are they different? Is Social Darwinism an accurate example of how the strongest people in society survive, specifically in the late 1800's? If it is not, explain how possible arguments that could be made by creationists in reference to Social Darwinism are invalid in the argument of evolution.

Do you think you're special?

It's easy to see human's as a prevailing species on earth. We build sky scrapers, we can destroy the entire planet on a whim, surviving and reproducing usually aren't our chief motivators. Does that make us special? Coyne asks "does our existence have any purpose or meaning that distinguishes us from other creatures?" and adds "If humans are just one of many outcomes of natural selection, maybe we aren't so special after all" (xvii).

I do not intend for this to be an open, theological forum. My challenge is this:
Based on what we know about the different theories of evolution, how would each view point feel about the above question? What aspects of human anatomy, fossil record, and sociology would affect these views. Please compare Creationism, Intelligent Design, and forms of Darwinian evolution.

Then, BRIEFLY share your own views on man's place in the universe.


On page 125 Coyne talks about the breeding that humans have done of the domestic dog in relation to evolution by selection. The dogs all come from ancestors of other animals that were not forced to live in captivity and when they were evolved into the dogs that we know today. These include around 150 breeds of dogs that were created due to human action. "Breeders have virtually sculpted these dogs to their liking..." (126). Was this human influence on dog evolution harmful to the ancestors that they came from? Should the breeding of dogs for things like the shade and thickness of their coats be allowed even though it may cause health problems and interferes with natural selection? Discuss the effect that this evolution by selection has on the process of natural selection and give other examples of evolution by selection. How do wild dog breeds and domestic dog breeds differ and relate to each other? Contrast and compare artificial selection versus natural selection.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Native groups to oceanic islands

On page 104, Coyne has a chart of native groups in oceanic islands and groups that are usually missing. Plants, birds, and insects are in the native group and land mammals, reptiles, amphibians and freshwater fish are in the missing category. Coyne explains that this is because the native species can colonize the oceanic island trhough long-distance dispersal. What are some examples of species that have been found on oceanic islands that would fit into the missing group? How did they get there? How are they able to sustain their population?

Rapid microevolution in nature

As Coyne stated on pg. 132, humans want to see a natural population meet a natural challenge, and they want to see the population evolve to meet it before their eyes. They want to see it occur without human interferrence and not in bacteria, but in "higher" plants and animals. Since humans have no control in this, it has to be nearly impossible to observe this, yet we have. A finch in the Galapagos Islands was observed to have evolved to a 10 % larger beak size in one generation after a drought made them find nutrution in larger and harder seeds than normal. Coyne states that this is "far larger than anything we see in the fossil record" (134). What other examples exist of microevolution, not man-made, that has been observed in nature in a very short period of time? Also, why is it that there is no past evidence of evolution occuring so quickly (as in one generation)? Could it be that the selective pressures are increasing? What could this mean for future evolution?

Is medicine bad?

The medical field creates a large amount of jobs for the general public. These jobs help the economy flourish, but what about the human species? Because of new medicine keeping people alive when they should have died out, and allowing them to reproduce, what problems does this pose on the evolution of the human race? This may be a very cynical view of medicine, but ultimately for evolution to work natural selection must occur - the ones not fit for survival must die out - and progress can be made. Another problem within medicine is the constant "arms race" between the doctors and pathogens. What methods/practices of medicine could eliminate or severely limit the ability of viruses and bacteria to mutate into stronger organisms. Also, due to medicine increasing lifespans and overall age, what are some potential implications overpopulation may have on the long term health of society and the Earth itself? Are there even any benefits overpopulation may have?

The Importance of Communication

We use language in our everyday lives to ask for something, exchange opinions, and learn about different ideas. Language is obviously very important, but why did it evolve in the first place? Better yet, why do we have so many languages instead of simply one? Wouldn’t it be easier to communicate with all different people without this language barrier? In addition to broaden the subject, in the Campbell Biology book we read about how different organisms communicate. One of creatures was the honeybee, which dances in order to exchange information with its hive about the location of food. The honeybees don’t simply point a direction, but they also give the distance of the food with their extravagant “waggle dance”. What are other ways organisms communicate that don’t use speech like we do? Give an example and, if possible, the reason it may have evolved.