Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Modern-Day Advantages with Technology

Jerry Coyne describes the importance of the studies conducted by John Wells of Cornell University though pages 24-25. His "ingenious study" of fossil corals increased the popularity of radiometric dating, which involves the idea that "the length of a day increases by about two seconds every 100,000 years." Knowing that they existed during the Devonian Period, about 380 million years ago, he claimed each year during the period would be about 31 days longer than a modern year (396 days). This also meant that each day was shorter by two hours. By comparing the "tidal" age against the "radiometric" age, he was able to determine there must have been around 400 days per year, which meant everyday was around 21.9 hours. In the time Darwin was studying the idea of evolution, no such methods and technology existed, so formulating promising ideas was very tedious and difficult. Today scientists have many more opportunities and accumulated knowledge and are able to make more advancements in this "theory."

Discuss the importance of technology to scientists and how it will affect their findings of the future. What are other methods have helped scientists so far? In fifty years, will everyone believe the idea of evolution...? Use evidence from the text to relate the conception of microevolution and present-day adaptations to a world dominated by humans and how these interactions will help support the theme of evolution in times to come.


  1. Hey Max, great question. By the way awesome shirt at project dance!

    As Coyne said on page 20 Paleontologists have worked, "...tirelessly to piece together the tangible historical evidence for evolution: the fossil record." Therefore, in order to prove evolution, one must first find evidence, such as the fossil record. Currently, "...we can estimate that we have fossil evidence of only 0.1 percent to 1 percent of all species - hardly a good sample of the history of life!" (Coyne, 22)

    Improvements in the technology necessary to find fossils, such as GPS systems; inclinometers to measure slope, angles, heights of objects, and all basic surveying functions; and glass and porcelain plates used to identify mineral types (http://www.geo-tools.com/) have made finding fossils easier.

    Because of these improvements I believe that there will be overwhelming evidence in the near future, and in fifty years more people will believe the idea of evolution. However, I cannot say that EVERYONE will believe the idea of evolution because there will always be people against it as it raises a religious and ethical issue that there perhaps wasn't no one divine creator.

    An example of the advancement in fossil discovery is the Tiktaalik roseae which we discussed in class (http://news.mongabay.com/2008/1107-morgan_fossil.html). This fossil is considered to be the missing link between fish and land animals. As we make more discoveries like this more and more people will be in favor of evolution as there will be more and more evidence.

  2. There are a variety of methods that scientists use to date fossils, and these methods range from usig common sense to utilizing complex technologies to more accurately calculate the age of a rock. The most simplistic method originally used by geologists is the idea of stratification - fossils found in "the deeper layers, or strata, must have been laid down before the shallower ones" (Coyne 23). A more complicated method of dating fossils involves using radioactive isotopes - scientists use an element with a known half-life, figure out the amount of radioisotope that existed when the rock formed, find out how much remains now, and use these to calculate the age of the rock (Coyne 23). When scientists use radiometric dating, they use a mass spectrometer to analyze the isotopes present in the material, both of the old material and of the new, decayed isotope. Using the known half-life of materials (for example, the half-life of carbon-14 is 6,000 years), scientists can compare how much of each type of isotope (the original isotope, known as the parent, and the decayed isotope, known as the daughter isotope) is present in the material. Using this information, highly accurate dating can be established for even very old objects (e-how.com). This technology and the creation of newer and more precise inventions will further improve our abilities to predict the ages of different fossils and we can therefore be even more accurate. With all this new evidence that would accurately describe the Earth as being billions of years old instead of only a few thousand years old, it will be very hard for some creationists to refute the evidence. However, as Ryan pointed out, people with extremely strong religious beliefs will deny radiometric dating to be a reliable technology and will stick to their own beliefs. In fact, some creationists even disregard radiometric dating as being reliable, saying that "all radiometric dating methods are based on assumptions about events that happened in the past. If the assumptions are accepted as true (as is typically done in the evolutionary dating processes), results can be biased toward a desired age. In the reported ages given in textbooks and other journals, these evolutionary assumptions have not been questioned, while results inconsistent with long ages have been censored. When the assumptions were evaluated and shown faulty, the results supported the biblical account of a global Flood and young earth. Christians should not be afraid of radiometric dating methods. Carbon-14 dating is really the friend of Christians, and it supports a young earth." The creationists will try to use any new technologies to support their own beliefs.


  3. I think an outstanding example of how modern technology and all the research and data we have collected over the years have helpeed scientists is how discovery of the Tiktaalik roseae was made. Neil Shubin, who devoted years to studying the evolution of lobe-finned fish into terrestrial vertebrates, was able to correctly predict the age of the sediment, the type of sediment, and the location of the sediment that the transitional form between lobe-finned fish and terrestrial vertebrates would be found. He was able to predict the age of the sediment by predicting that it would lie somewhere between 390 million years ago (no terrestrial vertebrates) and 360 million years ago (clear record of terrestrial vertebrates). These ages were likely determined by advances in technology to determine dates of fossils, such as Carbon-14 dating discussed above by Sara. He was able to determine that it would have to be in a freshwater sediment, rather than a marine sediment because of the research gathered that "late lobe-finned fish and early amphibians both lived in fresh water" (37). Both of these predictions, and countless samples taken previously from the site led him to Ellesmere Island, where he did find his precious Tiktaalik roseae.

    As for the question of if the theory of evolution will be universally accepted 50 years from now, I feel I can say, with pretty good certainty, that the answer is no. One reason I say this is that even wtih all of the discoveries and evidence supporting it, even with all of the phyisics equations based on it, and even with Newton's three laws about it, there are still people out there who do not believe in gravity. There are plenty of blongs (ex: http://www.newgrounds.com/bbs/topic/963858) of people voicing their disbelief and even a couple of Facebook groups (ex: http://www.facebook.com/pages/We-can-find-1000000-people-who-dont-believe-in-gravity-by-June/280709852660) devoted to bringing together people who don't believe in gravity. Even though there really isn't a very rational arguement aginst it, or any particular reason people don't agree with it, there are still people who don't agree with it. With the strong religious support against evolution, I'm sure there are many more than the 78 in the Facebook group voicing their disbelief in gravity. As history takes its course, there will still be countless numbers of people who are very strongly influenced by their religion so that they do not believe in the theory of evolution.

    Humans impact on evolution for year's to come will be very evident because of the impact we have had on our environment. Evolution is characterized by organisms adapting to their environment through natural selection of traits that make them more able to survive and reproduce. The effect that human activity has had on our environment is very apparent, just ask the EPA and Al Gore, and modern species will need to adapt to the rising temperatures and more polluted air that we have now and will have in the future.