Archive for the ‘Darwin’ Category

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Lumpers, Splitters and Noah’s Ark

19 August, 2010

One of my father’s frequent pithy comments, one of his stock phrases, was, “The world is made up of two kinds of people:  lumpers and splitters.”  And palaeontologists are no exception.  Actually, they may be the definition of lumpers and splitters.

Scientists in almost every discipline are, whether they choose to admit it or not, are natural splitters.  Every (well, almost every) budding palaeontologist is a splitter.  Why?  What better way to get one’s name noticed, to get that elusive grant or, even better, teaching position, than to have your very own genus chalked up on your wall of fame?  This means, of course, that species are sometimes described based upon flimsy evidence.  One of the most famous was Apatosaurus/Brontosaurus.  Othniel Marsh, one of the true giants of early palaeontology, described Apatosaurus ajax based on a very incomplete fossil in 1877.  Then, two years later, he described Brontosaurus excelsus  based on six skeletons and part of a skull.  A quarter century later, the species, which had been split, was lumped back together by Elmer Riggs.  Of course, Brontosaurus is such a beautiful name that we continue to use it, though it is a junior synonym. Read the rest of this entry ?

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My Evening Commute and a Big Bird

30 August, 2009

I really must complement the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.  I commute on I-81 and, despite the replacement of no less than 6 bridges between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, plus some other bridge work, the only major delays I have experienced have been the idiots who speed in the work areas and create accidents.  The traffic is sometimes slow, but the major backups are rare.  The lower speeds (frequently 35 to 45 miles an hour) does let me watch bumper stickers. Read the rest of this entry ?

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SEX!

22 July, 2009

By this time, most of you (at the very least, the six regular readers I have) should know that I am a naturalist.  Which means, of course, that I do not by into the Genesis version of the creation of the world, the universe, life, or the myriad species inhabiting our earth.  And I view evolution as an established fact (it is only called a theory because we do not yet (and probably will never) know all of the exact details regarding every event). 

One of the reasons that I found evolution rather boring in the science classes I took was a neglect of sex.  Read the rest of this entry ?

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Cherry Picking

24 March, 2009

As I follow discussions on various blogs, I have noticed a certain, shall we say,  tendency among certain conservatives (Christian and Republican, religious and political) to cherry pick.  Yes, I know I am covering quite a few people with a very large blanket, but, bear with me.  I think it is a valid blanket statement.

This cherry picking can be seen on many levels.heigh-ho-cherry-oh Read the rest of this entry ?

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Happy Birthday, Liberators of the World!

12 February, 2009

Happy 200th birthday to two of the greatest liberators of the world.

Abraham Lincoln, born 12 April, 1809, with the signing the Emancipation Proclamation following the Battle of Antietam, freed those held in chattel slavery (initially within the areas in rebellion, but later expanded to all slaves) and began the process of healing the ‘original sin’  of our nation’s birth.  We have not, either here in America, or in the world at large, achieved equal rights for all, but it will happen.  Someday.

Charles Darwin, born 12 April, 1809, with the publication in 1859 of  The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, gave biology, medicine, zoology, paleaontology and botany an essential tool for making sense out of the world.  And his theory has been able to absorb genetics, the discovery of DNA and RNA, and all other developments within modern natural sciences without losing the essential  rightness of Darwin’s original theory.  Not all Americans nor all citizens of the earth recognize Darwin’s theory, but all have, through better medical care, benefited.

Thank you both.