Saturday, October 4, 2014

My Year of Darwin 10/4/2014: Nice summary of natural selection

 Charles Darwin

"It may be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life. We see nothing of these slow changes in progress, until the hand of time has marked the long lapse of ages, and then so imperfect is our view into long past geological ages, that we only see that the forms of life are now different from what they formerly where." Charles Darwin, Origin of Species 1st edition (on Kindle)

I decided to go back to the 1st edition and it happens to be free on Kindle. I very much like this paragraph. What it lacks in specifics it makes up in telling us that natural selection works throughout the ages, 24-hours/day, and all aspects of the organisms.

I find, though, that life can present two interesting situations. So much of life keeps us on a knife's edge - a small mutation or change means death. On the other hand, features of organisms that would appear to be critical are not. Some examples: a single mutation in some mitochondrial genes causes death yet birds with severely deformed bills live. The local news just showed a three-legged mangy coyote that was killed. 

I like the fact that Darwin points to biotic and abiotic forces - though he called them organic and inorganic. 

I also like the fact that he points to the expected gaps in the fossil record. He spends a chapter on explaining these gaps so I'll wait until I get to that chapter. 

Rainy day. Going to Lowe's to pick out some carpet. Two dogs have done their damage over the years and throw in some spilled coffee. 

Will be trying to wrap up revisions on a manuscript, grade a biostats exam, prepare a lecture, write up the agenda for a university meeting, etc. Should be fun. 

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