January 25, 2009

Hello. Thank you for visiting my blog. I am a Scientist and a Medical Student, and I care passionately about the truth, be it regarding the nature of our Universe, or about claims that are made by individuals within other fields outside of Science. Reaching truths requires making observations, attempting to explain them, gathering evidence to support those explanations, and finally, constantly questioning and modifying explanations to incorporate new findings.

The nature of this methodology is central to the Scientific Method, which is the best and only way to provide explanations for the workings of our Universe. There have of course been other attempts to explain how our Universe works, but Science has been the only field of enquiry which does justice to the elegance and grandeur that this Universe possesses, and it is for this reason that I as a Scientist feel so priviliged to be able to ask important questions and obtain awe-inspiring answers. The Scientific Method is what I would call Rational Thinking, and can be applied to anything. Thus, we can use this method to analyse the truth value of practices such as Religion, Astrology, Paranormal activities, etc. Equally, we may use the method to revisit older ideas and modify them according to new evidences, or debunk myths which may have no truth value whatsoever. In this blog, I hope to be able to use Rational Thinking to discuss ideas both in and out of science.

My main field of interest is Evolutionary Biology; I study Evolution at a molecular and genomic level, and am also interested in Ethology. Evolution provides the grand explanation for the complexity and nature of life, and allows us to correctly infer events from the past, as well as make many predictions for future discoveries. Through this blog, I also seek to discuss and explore Evolutionary Biology in more detail.

Evolution was first formally and correctly described by Charles Darwin, in 1859, in his ingenious book, On The Origin Of Species By Natural Selection. Evolution is supported by evidence from many fields, both inside and outside of Biology, and it is these massive amounts of mutually supporting evidence which have established Evolution the be a fact. Independent enquiries and investigations in different fields all point towards the same conclusions, and these include studies of Genetics, Morphology, Biochemistry, Phylogenetics, Geology, Geography, Paleontology, Comparative Anatomy, Physiology, Physics, Mathematics, and many more.

The Theory of Evolution describes how Evolution occurs. The Modern Evolutionary Synthesis is currently accepted by most Evolutionary Biologists to be the best explanation for the mechanism of Evolution, which incorporates Darwinian Natural Selection with Mendelian Genetics.

Darwinian Natural Selection describes how organisms change over time through a process of descent with modification, by a passive process in which those individuals who survive and reproduce will pass down to their offspring the traits which helped them to do so, whilst individuals with traits that did not help them to survive and reproduce would die out without passing them down. Charles Darwin described Natural Selection in On The Origin Of Species By Natural Selection:

“The preservation of favourable variations and the rejection of injurious variations, I call natural selection.”

Mendelian Genetics is the study of heredity and variation of traits, and was first observed and described by Gregor Mendel. Traits are inherited as discrete units rather than in a continuous form, and we now call these inherited units Genes. Genes are segments of DNA, and are the instructions that build and regulate our bodies, as well as those of every other living organism on Earth.

Thus, the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis states that Evolution occurs by Natural Selection acting on variations produced by Genes, and forms the basis for the study of Evolutionary Biology. In future blogs, I will discuss some of the evidence itself for Evolution and it’s mechanisms. I will also discuss evidence which discredits the arguments made by Intelligent Design and Creationism advocates, who refuse to accept the fact of Evolution, based on misunderstood and misconceived arguments, as well as personal incredulity’s.


3 Responses to “Welcome!”

  1. heardofgod said

    “The preservation of favourable variations and the rejection of injurious variations, I call natural selection.”

    I call it a fairytale.

    Huh. So tell me, how do traits know they weren’t that helpful. I know of a woman who was born with no arms and she has better “handwriting” than me; She drives better than me; she does many things better than me. That’s not exactly “rational”. Why would her genes think that her posterity should have arms if she was fine without them? I think you know as well as I do that the blueprint is always the same and that mutations change the outcome not the blueprint. I can say that because her children were born with arms.

    Again, animals that have even an 1/8 of an inch longer teeth don’t get that much more meat off the bones of a carcass than its previous “model”. where is the “rational thought” in that? Longer teeth don’t develop because mom and dad were deprived one ounce of meet for every ten pounds of meat.

    One more thing, if for millions of years a particular creature had neither a forearm nor a wing, how does that agree with the idea of traits improving for the sake of viability and how do genes get together and put together a long term plan to reshape the appendages to do something it has no idea works especially when mom and dad survived just fine with what they had? That is not “rational thought”.

    I would say the scientific method is what I would call “observation”. If it can be observed then it can’t be denied. You’ve chosen “rational thinking” because it is rational to you that something occurred even though there is no observable evidence that evolution can and has occurred. So “rational thinking” is relative and therefore philosophy. Philosophy is almost by definition, unobservable. You have only chosen the term “rational thinking” instead of “observation” because scientific evidence for evolution is basically an oxymoron and you wanted to get over that uncomfortable position and still sound qualified.

    I guess, to modify the original question, I would ask, If something survived and lived out its years having a posterity, why in the world do you think the genes would decide to change? And go ahead and give me the rational version because I’m with you, I don’t believe it can be observed either.

    There again the zeitgeist of our time is “stand with the bigger group who is pointing and laughing at the rest”. No one wants to be laughed at and is usually quick to lose their morals and values for a piece of the pie. Next thing you know, authority is the truth instead of truth being the authority.

    Oh well,

    Keep the dream alive,

  2. dawkinsrottweiler said

    Unfortunately Sam, you are very ignorant and clearly haven’t done your homework before commenting. However, this blog is there to clarify misconceptions and any strange ideas one may have about Evolution. I must admit, your’s have been possibly the strangest of arguments I have ever encountered!

    1. Traits that aren’t helpful are traits that do not help the individual to survive and reproduce. That is what we mean by ‘helpful’. If a trait has a negative effect on an individual’s survival or reproduction, then clearly that individual will not survive to pass on that trait!

    2. Your comment about the blueprint staying the same but mutations changing the outcome are a perfect example of you having no idea what you are talking about! The blueprints for bodies are genes, and genes undergo mutations! Therefore, if you have a mutation, it will change the blueprint too!

    3. Genes, and Natural Selection for that matter, are BLIND. They have no forsight. If you had read my post properly, you would have noticed the key word describing the process: PASSIVE; in other words, whatever surivives and reproduces will be found in future generations; whatever does not survive or reproduce will NOT be found in future generations.

    4. Traits do not change in response to the environment; traits change by random mutations, and if these newly developed traits provide an advantage for the organism to survive or reproduce, then that mutation will spread and become fixed within a population.

    5. Once again, you bring up the point about genes ‘deciding’ to change, as if they are conscious entities; they are not, and they only change during errors in replication (which always occur because replication is not perfect), or through changes induced by external environmental sources, such as chemical mutagens, radiation, etc.

    6. Evolution HAS been observed, but you clearly have ignored the evidence as I have already provided a clear example on Darwin’s Cat’s blog, but you have remained ignorant of it because you are afraid of the truth. I suggest that you read up a textbook about Genetics and Evolution before making embarrasingly ignorant comments!

  3. dalyness said

    Sam, the ignorance of basic evolutionary science here is incredible, in an age where information is so easily accessible.

    You call natural selection a fairytale? Concisely then, which part of natural selection in the context of Darwinist theory, (who wrote about it..) do you disagree with? I am very interested to find out.

    If I might be so bold as to agree with DR and ask you to read a scientific text on the matter and get back here with some constructive feedback on genetics and evolution instead of anaologies which are, forgive me, embarassing..

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