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History of Evolution.docx

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ANT 301
Chris Kirk

History of Evolution Monday, February 25, 2013 2:07 PM Scientific Knowledge is • Empirical: based on observation of the world around you (usually quantitative) o Based on observational and experimentation o Science o Engineering • Non-Empirical o Ethics o Morality o Law o Religion o Philosophy • Testable: Often, but not always, through experimentation (If something can not be tested, it is not science) • Analogies: o Evolution to Biology is like: • Gravitation: Physics • Plate Tectonics: Geology o Some confusion cause by use of the term "theory" as applied to evolution. Hypothesis: Theory Law Scientific theory: Well-established explanation of some part of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypothesis • Key Points  A scientific theory includes multiple parts  No amount of validation changes a multipart theory of law o Ex: Einstein's Theory of Relativity o Like relativity, evolution is a theory that: • Incorporates multiple facts (i.e., species change through time) • Predictions of the unifying • Bottom line: when you hear a scientist talking about a theory, it doesn't imply any reservations whether it is correct of not. What is evolution? • General: change through time • Biological: change in gene (allele) frequencies within a population from one generation to the next. ***** • Gene: small section of DNA that codes for a protein • Alleles: variants of the same gene • Important Notes: ***** o Population is the unit of evolutionary change (individuals don't evolve) o Genetic material must change for evolution to occur (ex: good nutrition NOT evolution) o Important point: We're all related •Two levels of studying evolution: o Microevolution • Short time frame (months, years) • Genetic changes within a species o Macroevolution • Long time frame (often millions of years) • Origin and extinction of species A very brief History of Evolutionary thought •Q: What did an educated European know about the natural world in 1492? o European thought during the middle ages: • Earth at center of universe (Ptolemy-140 A.D.) • Earth very young o James Ussher (1581-1656) • Archbishop of Armagh • Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College in Dublin • Primate of All Ireland • Earth created on Sunday October 23, 4004 BC • John Lightfoot: vice Chancellor of Cambridge said at 9am London Time o Plato "World of Ideals" • For everything, there is an ideal or perfect counterpart • If species based on a fixed "ideal type" how could they change through time? o Aristotle • How to classify living things?  "Scala Nature" • Ladder of nature • Organisms can be grouped on a linear scale from simple to complex (of course, humans above beasts and plants…) o People weren't dumb: they DID recognize that animals were well-suited for their specific lifestyle. • Explanation different than today's:  Teleology: the use of ultimate purpose or design as a means of explaining natural phenomena (think divine purpose…) o World young and at center of universe o Fixity of species (no evolution-everything based on a platonic "ideal" type) o Humans at top of scala naturae o Organisms successful at what they do, because that's how they were designed •When did things start to change? o Copernicus: responsible for saying that the earth rotated around the sun • Don’t just trust the word of some Greek who's been dated for 1500 years, go out and look for yourself • Hypothesis testing using empirical data o Galileo • Refined refracting telescope • Proved Copernicus was right and Ptolomy was wrong o So, the earth isn't at the center of the universe, but humans are still at the top of the scala naturae, right? o Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) • Swedish Natrualist • Founded modern taxonomy with System Naturae • Bionomical classification • Believed in teleological explanations of natural phenomena and fixity of species • Ironic Twist:  Used common attributes to group organisms  Grouped HUMANS with other primates in animal kingdom, profound shift in thinking about place of humans in nature. o Richard Owen (1804-1892) • English Comparative anatomist • Anti-evolutionist • Homology: Defined in 1843 as "the same organ in different animals under every variety or form and function." • Owen's explanation: there is a divinely-ordained archetype for living organisms (common anatomical plans for diff. groups) • But: pointed out basic similarities in anatomy in otherwise very different organisms. o Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788) • French aristocrat and naturalist • Historie Naturelle (1749-1804)  44 volume encyclopedia • One of the first prominent scientists to suggest that: • The earth > 6000 y.o • Species change over time • Noted anatomical similarity between humans and apes and discussed possibility of common ancestry (no mechanisms though) o Jean Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) • French naturalist born into poor aristocratic family • Philosophie Zoologique • Evolutionist • First to propose a coherent mechanism to explain HOW evolution might occur • Change through STRIVING • ACQUIRED CHARACTERISTICS passed on to offspring (results cumulative: EX giraffe's neck • Mechanism was wrong • BUT: said that stability of species is proportional to stability of the environment • Therefore, if the environment changes, then species have to change to survive • I.E., adaptation occurs over time in response to environmental change. o Georges Cuvier • French Paleontologist and Comparative Anatomist • Anti-evolutionist and vocal critic of Lamarck • Work with fossils from Paris Basin established extinction as a fact. • Explanation: Catastrophism • Provided further evidence that the earth was OLD o Charles Lyell (1779-1875) • Scottish Geologist • Didn't buy Cuvier's catastrophism. • UNIFORMITARIANISM • Same geological processes observable today also happened in past • Given enough time, small changes can have a large effect. • Inescapable conclusion: Earth very old. o Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) • English Clergyman, Economist and Natural Scientist • Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) • Compared European population growth with food production capacity: Unchecked pop. Growth faster. • Disease and other factors keep population in check • Observation that (if left unchecked) the population will tend to increase
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