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Ahahaha. Seriously though, I'm super happy that today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, being a lover and student of the life sciences my whole life. He is the creator of modern biology and the various schools of thought that have sprung forth. Note: if you believe the earth was literally created in 6000 years and that man was made from a fistful of clay in God's hands, then we don't really have much to say to each other. You won't enjoy this post, in other words. :)

Some things that might be of interest to you: Darwin did NOT coin the phrase "survival of the fittest." That was something coined by some upper-class rapscallions that wanted to justify their behaviors. "We're rich because we deserve it due to our superior genes, blah blah." That concept is called "Social Darwinism" which is NOT a branch of science, nor is it anything to do ultimately with the studies Darwin wrote about. Add in the crap about races and women being genetically inferior, etc. to that social Darwinism branch and toss it out the window - it has nothing to do with the man. (And Darwin isn't Evolution, he just fathered the theory. Darwinism is revering the man, not a branch of the Life Sciences.)

Without Darwin being a punk-ass kid who lazed about in his backyard catching rats and noticing how different some looked from others, his wily teen years where he doodled pictures of different birds, and his intense adult years traveling around the world and ending up in the Galapagos, we wouldn't have Gregor Mendel and his amazing peas, which of course was the founding of genetics. Without Darwin we wouldn't have molecular biology, molecular chemistry, zoology, anthropology, on and on.

What's amazing about evolution is that it's not an unprovable theory. We have currently some single-celled organisms that have taken a bacteria that killed off a separate group of this organism, and have integrated it into their development. The bacteria now photosynthesize sunlight into food for the organism. We can see it! And guess what? That's how OUR bodies' cells developed mitochondria many eons ago. It's just amazing. We've figured out through the mapping genomes that the set of instructions in DNA for birds, fish, and humans to form limbs are IDENTICAL. There's an evolutionary development that created an additional step that tells the body to make arms, or fins, or wings. And an even finer-tuned set of instructions in fish to locate the fins laterally or in a dorsal placement. But it all came from the same source. Necessity and environment caused random changes that were favorable, and as a result, were the ones that stayed.

What's also amazing about Darwin is that he wrote a book on his own, without any backing, any foundation supporting him, a book that was so compelling that people all over the world read it. A scientific book, heavy on theory and terminology, and it was the DaVinci Code of its day. That is astounding! He clearly didn't know everything, but what scientist does? The mark of a genius is someone that recognizes a truth and is able to express that truth that not only makes sense to people, but paves the way for new truths to be found.

In my opinion, his discovery that we all came from a single source doesn't take away any specialness from the individual, it magnifies it. How unique that you didn't just come from some bored deity throwing clay around, but through the course of billions of years, of trial and error, of entire species trying to make a go of it and being wiped out while others thrived. You are here right now, reading this and understanding it. Breathing, walking, thinking. You, my friend, are the product of millions upon millions of years of work. Pretty cool stuff.

I remember my courses on genetics and the moment it hit me: it is AMAZING that we are here. I was looking at one of the first pictures of a complete strand of DNA in one of my textbooks, my professor was talking about the "police force" of proteins that travel up and down each and every link in the DNA chain, looking for mistakes. This chain, wrapped like an old fashioned phone cord, which was then wrapped again, then wrapped a third time, which is what forms a chromosome. This twisted, gnarled ball of yarn that would unzip thousands of times in various places never getting tangled, and it would do this hundreds of times a day in order to make muscle cells. To send out hormones to react to stimulus. To lengthen bone. To fight disease. To make new life. This microscopic wad of chemicals that developed and gives us our unique faces, fingerprints, our similar needs to bond and group together... And that's just humans, there are millions of other species that perform similar tasks.

I sat in class not paying attention to anything else in our lecture. After class my professor put her hand on my arm and asked if I was okay. I said, "It's amazing that we're here. And that we work." She beamed back at me and agreed. And it's not just amazing that we're here, but that we're all here, everything living on our planet, unique in some ways, but essentially kin down to our core. In case you haven't picked up on it, I love science.

I listened to a pediatric anthropologist speak yesterday (another profession courtesy of Mr. Darwin opening the doors) about ADHD and how that was a desirable trait back when we were hunter/gatherers. It was necessary to be easily distracted, you see. Someone being distracted by a rustling in the bushes would save everyone's lives. Now that our society has "evolved" into something beyond the basic needs for survival, it's now being considered an undesirable trait. How neat it would be to be able to see another 5000 years in the future and see what traits are preferred over others.

Oooh, last thing, and I'll clam up, I was reading an article on the platypus earlier, and how they've sequenced its complete DNA strand. The platypus has the "blueprints" for both amphibious and mammalian creatures, which was suspected. Meaning, scientists thought that SOME characteristics of both would be present, but not all characteristics. And it turns out ALL the characteristics are there, just that some are suppressed. Once the platypus lays an egg, the milk production proteins activate, something that isn't inherent in amphibious creatures. There's just a bunch of unused baggage hanging out in their DNA sequence, you see. But the COOLEST thing is how the platypus developed their venom gene. Freaking cool. How'd you like one of those sinking their spurs into you? Then laying an egg and slapping you upside the head with its beaver tail. Crazy.

[ETA] Because I just had my mind blown AGAIN. Tasmanian Devils, right? They're being wiped out by a disease? Turns out it's not a disease. IT'S CANCER. Cancer that evolved into a communicable disease. And if that doesn't get your jaw to drop, I don't know what will. My husband and I have long held a theory that cancer is caused by a virus, and that might just support that theory. MAN I LOVE SCIENCE!

I heard some half-wit on a talk radio program say that evolution is clearly not true because there aren't any half-man/half-ape walking around with a briefcase. What's awesome is that with that remark, he completely supported evolutionary theory. [do you catch how? *g*] And he showed that he has the kind of characteristics that should be knocked off our DNA.

In conclusion, help someone you know evolve today. Or you know, talk them into taking a hit for the team. Hahahaha. How fitting that I got this comment to the Twilight/Sparkle posts. "Also, almost none of these pictures are accurate." It's like she means this picture or this picture isn't 100% accurate, what??! Say it ain't so!! :D

[ETA to shut up some pedants] 1. The Origin of the Species was published in 1859. Gregor Mendel and his peas, heaven forbid I type a random stream of conscious post in anything but an academic-level manner, didn't finish COLLECTING DATA until 1863, and he didn't publish his findings until 1865. And he slipped into obscurity due to his status in the Catholic Church (and the Catholic Church's not wanting his research known) until almost 2 decades after his death, meaning 1900. So which came first? Darwin. Also? This was a squee post on a personal journal, not Scientific America, so PLEASE. Sit a few plays out, would ya? Can you tell that type of online behavior irritates the shit out of me?


( 61 comments — Leave a comment )
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Feb. 12th, 2009 05:09 pm (UTC)
Awesome "why science rocks" post.

Do you mind if I link? *G*
Feb. 12th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC)
Not at all! I'm just about to edit it, as I meant to put something in there linking to the platypus study. :) Be ready in two minutes, max.
Feb. 12th, 2009 05:15 pm (UTC)
I have had to turn the radio off three times in the past twenty-four hours because NPR and the BBC have somehow fallen under the misaprehension that Darwin's bicentenary is the perfect time to give an audience to creationist hoo-hahs. Which means in the daytime I was deprived of audio cues to change activity (ADHD coping strategies are where one finds them) and left with the whine of tinnitus when I was trying to sleep.

I have a better strategy today; I got myself the complete Slings and Arrows for Valentines day, and I will watch that instead if they let the idiots blather on again today.

Julia, it was the guy with the whiny voice saying "I LOVE science, but evolution is pseudoscience" that got me out of my warm bed to silence the Beeb at 2:30am
Feb. 12th, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC)
Oh for Pete's sake, spare me the creationists ire, you know? Mostly because they don't understand evolutionary theory one, and two, they always refer to it as Darwinism. Pseudoscience?? Bwah ha ha! No, please tell me about your magical person that created the universe, and all the scientific data to back THAT up! *eyeroll*
... - aubrem - Feb. 13th, 2009 04:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
... - stoney321 - Feb. 13th, 2009 04:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
... - aubrem - Feb. 13th, 2009 05:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 12th, 2009 05:21 pm (UTC)
Well, drat, Darwin Day was celebrated last weekend at The Texas memorial Museum!

I thought platypuses use the venom in their feet. Is this is some Wiki nonsense I've picked up and believed to be fact? Thank goodness I haven't dropped this lie at a cocktail party lately.
Feb. 12th, 2009 05:23 pm (UTC)
Whoops! They didn't catch his actual birthday, then? Or maybe they didn't want to overlap with Lincolns birthday?

They do have venom in their feet - I forgot to mention that, I just tacked that on to this post. It's HOW it developed that was such a mystery. Science is cool.
... - brunettepet - Feb. 12th, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
... - stoney321 - Feb. 12th, 2009 05:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 12th, 2009 05:21 pm (UTC)
I heard some half-wit on a talk radio program say that evolution is clearly not true because there aren't any half-man/half-ape walking around with a briefcase.

He has obviously not been looking hard enough because there are some funny-lookin' people in this world.

Feb. 12th, 2009 05:23 pm (UTC)
Hahahahaha! Don't forget to tip your waiters, and our comedian will be here all week! :D
Feb. 12th, 2009 05:24 pm (UTC)
This is really cool. I was never a huge science person - largely because of how much it blows my mind and how overwhelmed I can get by it, but it is awesome. That's fascinating about the platypus.

And no, really? None of the pictures are accurate? That's CRAZY TALK.
Feb. 12th, 2009 05:26 pm (UTC)
It's always been science for me. I could get lost in theory for hours. LOVE IT. But I can see why a lot of people don't - something needs to press upon your interests before you can succumb to complete nerdery such as myself. Hahahaha.

I KNOW! Those pictures are... fake? HUH?!
Feb. 12th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
It really is amazing that we even exist at all with how complex our bodies are. I think everyone who learns enough about science has a moment like you had in that biology class. The complexity of life is simply astounding. We are a mass of organic cells comprised of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium, magnesium and other elements working together in many, many complex systems to run as one coherent being. Compared to that, everything else just seems kind of shallow to me.

Happy Darwin Day.
Feb. 12th, 2009 06:15 pm (UTC)
*beams at you* My courses on genetics and microbiology (which my degree was) still resonate with me - the life sciences are my absolute favorite course of study.

Happy Darwin Day to you, and you icon deserves a monetary reward of some sort, hahaha.
... - roflcopter_down - Feb. 12th, 2009 07:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 12th, 2009 06:06 pm (UTC)
I love science. I don't *get* it all the time, but there is nothing more fascinating than the utter, amazing wonder of how DNA works, or how suns form, or how...*anything*.

Creationists terrify me at a basic level, because they have no intellectual curiosity, and they pass that passivity on to their children. Breeding a whole new branch of brain-dead herd creatures.

Happy Darwin's Birthday!
Feb. 12th, 2009 06:17 pm (UTC)
Oh, I don't think there are but a handful of people that "get it" all the time, you know? But that's the fun - always learning, or, dare I say, evolving? :D

I don't understand anyone that doesn't have that (which is for me) intrinsic curiosity in the world around us. That alone is enough to keep any person busy and growing for the rest of their lives!

Happy Darwin Day to YOU!
Feb. 12th, 2009 06:07 pm (UTC)
Those pictures really are real! Just like the Bible!

Feb. 12th, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC)
hahahaha to the Ralphie Wiggums quotes
EXACTLY! I mean, who would make up a story about a man living inside a fish for three days, and for what purpose!? TRUFAX, ALL OF IT.
Feb. 12th, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC)
I had a similar moment of focused amazement that we're here at all in a college biology class which was focused on genetic diseases. I mean, first of all there are the billions and billions of things that had to happen to make humans. Plus there are all of the things our bodies have to do right each and every day so that we can get born and continue living. Then there are the millions and millions of ways that something can so easily go wrong internally. Add that to the dangers posed by environment and it truly seems miraculous to me that there are even 10 people alive, let alone billions. (And, for me, it makes things like how one looks or how much one weighs or whether a person drives an expensive car completely and totally irrelevant - that stuff is truly insignificant in comparison to the simple fact that one is even alive.)

For myself, all of those little things marching on and on, all that trial and error adding up the details of existence millennia after millennia, makes for a kind of God that's far more immense and amazing than the kind a creationist imagines. I've always found that to be hilariously ironic, how it seems religion actually works to make God small.
Feb. 12th, 2009 06:23 pm (UTC)
Excellent point on creationists making their world and that who rules it smaller by not keeping their minds open. It's so frustrating to me.
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 12th, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC)
Wait, it wasn't? I'm so cornfused!

ahaha, I just wached the ending to "Planet of the Apes" and am cracking up at the over acting. And now I have the Planet of the APes musical, starring Troy McClure replaying in my head: "I hate you all from Chimpan A to Chimpan Z..."
Feb. 12th, 2009 06:50 pm (UTC)
Well... happy Darwin Day.
But since the guy and his theory have been haunting me in school for the last weeks, I refuse to evolve today. :) Though the whole thing is pretty cool, and I find it utterly fascinating, being the always awed scientist I am. I agree 100% to all of what you've written, especially the amazed "I LOVE SCIENCE" outbursts!
Feb. 12th, 2009 07:09 pm (UTC)
happy Darwin Day to you, too! Okay, okay, as long as you're in a constant state of learning, I'll give you an "I don't have to evolve today" pass for free.

... - zhyvae - Feb. 12th, 2009 07:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 12th, 2009 06:57 pm (UTC)

Terrific post. The whole "intelligent design" argument seriously boggles my mind. It's disturbing to me how many children are being raised to believe that women were created from Adam's rib.

I've heard the theory that cancer comes from a virus before. I can't remember where I read it, but I remember thinking 'Huh?' at the suggestion. It seemed so radical at the time - it still does - but it seems to be getting more traction. It's fascinating that this is happening to Tasmanian Devils, and exciting at the same time. Who knows what this development could mean for the treatment of cancer in humans?
Feb. 12th, 2009 07:11 pm (UTC)
Oh my gosh, my first day in my Anatomy class in high school, my professor asked us to raise our hands if we believed that men have one less rib than women and HALF the class raised their hands. He sighed and said we had a lot of work to do.

There's so much we don't know about viruses, and it's interesting to note that a lot of cancer research uses virus research to find new answers, and vice versa. They kind of operate (on a macro scale) in the same fashion.
... - gabzilla - Feb. 12th, 2009 10:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 12th, 2009 07:05 pm (UTC)
Indeed, happy 200th, Chuck! Great post.

And having spent far too much time reading creationist nonsense lately which basically seems to add up to "Why would anyone want to know stuff?", I just feel like quoting ol' Beardface himself:

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”
Feb. 12th, 2009 07:14 pm (UTC)
OY, save your brain from all the creationist mumbo jumbo. It seems more fitting for those who subscribe to a deity-theory leave room for not being able to comprehend the vast mind of their god, thereby leaving room for scientific theory, you know?

Ooh, here's another quote, one that is the impetus for "Planet of the Apes," no really!

At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace the savage races throughout the world.
... - beer_good_foamy - Feb. 12th, 2009 07:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
... - stoney321 - Feb. 12th, 2009 07:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 12th, 2009 07:07 pm (UTC)
Without Darwin being a punk-ass kid who lazed about in his backyard catching rats and noticing how different some looked from others, his wily teen years where he doodled pictures of different birds, and his intense adult years traveling around the world and ending up in the Galapagos, we wouldn't have Gregor Mendel and his amazing beans, which of course was the founding of genetics. Without Darwin we wouldn't have molecular biology, molecular chemistry, zoology, anthropology, on and on.

Really, one of the most basic necessities for the advancement of science is a whole bunch of really bored rich kids...
Feb. 12th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
Man, ain't that the truth! Mostly it's the bored kids, or the ones that get in all the trouble while growing up. Hello, there, Albert Einstein! :D
... - deird1 - Feb. 12th, 2009 08:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 12th, 2009 07:09 pm (UTC)
But, but...your Sparkle pictures aren't all 100% real? *blinks* I had no idea. /smartass-ery.

You know what really confuses me about people like that? The fact that they would be offended by mockery that they willingly submitted themselves to.
Feb. 12th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
I refuse to believe that my sparkle pictures are anything but National Geographic-level photo-documentary of the Cullenseses, so there.

And hahahaha - they TOTALLY willingly submitted themselves to it! I did appreciate her "Thank you for reading this" at the end of her comment. Aww, so sweet, bless.
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Are You Actually

Reading this? I'm just curious. Because that's really detail-oriented of you. Feel free to stop reading. But you can see that there's more here, so are you going to keep reading? Really? That's pretty dedicated. I'm impressed. No, really. I'm not being sarcastic, why do you get like that? See, this is the problem I have with your mother - yes. YES. I'm going there. It's time we put all of our cards on the table.

I love you, why are you doing this? After all we've been through? You don't have to be like this. You know, still reading. You could be baking a pie. And then sharing it with me.

Time Wot It Is

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