Archive for Darwin

From Holling to Darwin to Gould

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Farming Human Pathogens book, HIV, Influenza with tags , , , , , , on June 26, 2009 by wallde

CS_HollingThis year marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th of the publication of The Origin of Species. Natural selection has had a fundamental impact on the way we view the evolution of pathogens and their geographies of spread. In Farming Human Pathogens we attempt to better wed Darwin’s contribution to more recent work on the dynamics of ecosystems.

Views of Evolution

Darwin was a gradualist who believed that selection on small variations conferred small improvements in fitness. He largely discounted the influence of climate and believed that the relationships between species of an ecosystem drove natural selection. However, in his time catastrophists were prominent, especially among the geologists, who believed that catastrophic events winnowed out species. As Stephen Jay Gould pointed out, Darwin’s advances came only by way of ignoring the data catastrophists had until then accumulated.

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Reverend, Save Thyself

Posted in Evolution with tags , , , on March 9, 2009 by Rob Wallace

The following letter to the editor was submitted in response to a previously printed letter.

To the Editor,

The Rev. Arnold Lemke published a letter (March 4, Star-Tribune, West Extra) ridiculing Darwinian science as a faith-based initiative. He argued recent science has disproved Darwin and his present-day adherents are left with little but their faith in the man’s ideas.

But the Reverend violated a core ethos of his calling: Thou shalt not bear false witness. He so mischaracterizes Darwin and the nature of science as to remind us all why churches no longer set school standards.

Contrary to the Reverend’s contention, there is considerable scientific evidence life emerged via abiogenesis. Stanley Miller devised lab experiments that recreated some of the basic abiotic conditions of early Earth, including an atmosphere of methane, hydrogen, ammonia and water. Miller showed that when exposed to an energy source such as ultraviolet radiation, these compounds could react to produce amino acids essential for the formation of living matter. Sidney Fox later demonstrated amino acids could spontaneously form small peptides, which in turn could form closed spherical membranes comparable to replicable cells.  Continue reading

The Origin of Specious

Posted in Evolution with tags , , , on February 22, 2009 by Rob Wallace

marx-eng3In a quickie interview for Mount Holyoke’s house organ on the occasion of Charles Darwin’s two hundredth birthday and the hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, biologist Stan Rachootin characterized the roots of the academic left’s hostility to Darwin this way,

Marx realized the close connection between Darwin’s thinking and capitalism. Therefore, Darwin had to be wrong. Engels, who was willing to read and use science, tried to argue that Darwin had a great deal of evidence beyond some ideas shared with Malthus and Adam Smith. But he could not budge his master.

Rachootin botches Marx’s reaction to Darwin. Badly.

Marx and Engels—the former in no way the latter’s “master,” an ad hominem attack on Rachootin’s part—reacted to the publication of the Origin of Species with something approaching glee. While contrary to an oft-repeated myth Marx never dedicated Capital to Darwin, he did write of his great appreciation of what he called Darwin’s “epoch-making work” and “the basis in natural history for our view.”

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