Saturday, February 07, 2009

National Geographic: What Darwin Didn't Know

 
The main article in the February issue of National Geographic is by science writer Matt Ridley and it's title is Modern Darwins. Here's a quick summary of the article.

Charles Darwin didn't know about DNA so he wasn't aware of the power of molecular evolution and he didn't know that we could trace ancestry by comparing sequences.

Darwin didn't know that we would be able to identify and isolate the genes responsible for natural selection.

Darwin's greatest idea was that natural selection is largely responsible for the variety of traits one sees among related species. Now, in the beak of the finch and the fur of the mouse, we can actually see the hand of natural selection at work, molding and modifying the DNA of genes and their expression to adapt the organism to its particular circumstances.
So Darwin was right about the idea that natural selection is the mechanism that generates most traits among related species.

Darwin thought that evolution was slow but we now know that it can occur very quickly.

Darwin didn't know about the FOXP2 gene.

Darwin was right about sexual selection.

Darwin didn't know that his blue eyes were due to a mutation in the OCA2 gene but he would be happy to know that the trait probably spread by sexual selection.

Darwin didn't know about genetic switches and he didn't know that changes in gene expression could explain the "humiliating surprise" that we have the same number of genes as a mouse.

Darwin didn't know about Tiktaalik, a transitional fossil that show how fish evolved into amphibians.

Darwin's biggest mistake was his messy ideas about genetics. He didn't know about Mendel and particulate inheritance.

That's about it. Apparently Darwin knew about everything else.


10 comments :

  1. Matt Ridley is more "failed banker" than "science writer"...

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  2. Have you seen FOrbes on Darwin:
    http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/05/darwin-evolution-debate-opinions-darwin09_0205_hana_alberts_land.html

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  3. Cool, maybe he can tell me where I left my keys :-/

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  4. Peter:
    He would if he could but he won't 'cos he's dead. :)

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  5. Peter, I always leave a tag with my name & address on my keys. That way, if I lose them, whoever finds them will know where to return them to ;)

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  6. I also make sure my keys mention the building and room number for my office. I like to make things runs smoothly, including burglary.

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  7. -----> Joke

    -O
    _|_ <--- John S. Wilkins
    ./\.

    ReplyDelete
  8. You surely don't think that joke was that difficult do you? Also, I need a capital O as my abdomen.

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  9. Darwin didn't know about genetic switches and he didn't know that changes in gene expression could explain the "humiliating surprise" that we have the same number of genes as a mouse.


    So I guess (using your template):

    Larry believes that the Deflated Ego Problem is a real scientific problem. Larry proposes that explanation number (1/2/5 and even 7) will account for the fact that we have too few genes.

    Those explanations can account for differences in gene expression.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hmmmmm....

    http://us2.harunyahya.com/Detail/T/EDCRFV/productId/3373/NATIONAL_GEOGRAPHIC_S_DARWIN_ERROR

    ReplyDelete