Okay, so if you've been a follower here for a while, you probably have heard me rant here or there about the poor science in a book. And honestly, there are few things that turn me off from a book more than some crummy science. I frustrates the bejebers out of me. Okay, okay, I know most writers don't have a graduate degree in whatever topic they're writing about, and there is some allowance for suspended belief, but still. Blatant disregard for how things work? GRRR! So, yeah, I was thinking, "wait, I do have one of those advanced degrees in science!" (For whatever it's worth--and I'll be honest, it's not a whole lot.) But, maybe a fun little segment on Sundays that talks about something science related with a writerly bent. Who knows, maybe it'll be useful. Maybe not. We'll see.
Have any particular topics you'd like me to cover? Shout it out in the comments and I'll either post one (if I know enough about it) or I'll use my network to come up with a post!
So, today, I thought I'd touch on what we're going to go over this week in my class (this might happen a lot...). And what might that be? Oh, just the introduction to Darwin and Natural Selection. Yay! Some of my favorite topics :) (Avert your eyes if you don't like this kind of stuff, or read on and realize how it really works!)
|Darwin. The man. The Legend.|
Where to start? There's so much! Darwin wrote ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES in 1859, after sitting on his research for decades. It wasn't until Alfred Russell Wallace contacted him, noting that he had similar conclusions, that Darwin got off his butt and published. (I'll admit, I have a penchant for all the crazy personal stories that go on behind the scenes for some of these theories--they are so interesting! Wallace is a totally interesting character.)
Darwin's theory of Natural Selection is based on three basic principles that all have to be functioning for it to work:
- Over Reproduction.
- A species will reproduce exponentially. Their resources won't (like food). Eventually a species will hit the limit for their habitat, and unless they're able to come up with another source, there will individuals who don't survive. This creates competition.
- When environmental crunch time comes, there will be some individuals who do better than other because of some trait they carry. They will be the ones who survive over those who don't carry whatever trait it is. There has to be some variation, or those who survive will just be due to chance, and then no long-term changes will occur.
- Or inheritable. Nothing that is non-heritable is going to work--so a trait that someone picks up during their lifetime will not be passed along (unless it's epigenetic...). No Lamarkian evolution here (or the inheritance of acquired characteristics, which really doesn't work)!
So, in a lot of writings, the thing that I see messed up the most is point #3. The trait that is passed down must be genetic (unless it's behavioral, and then it's a whole other ball of wax). All three points have to come into play if Natural Selection is going to work.
One last point on this massive post: Natural Selection is NOT the same thing as Evolution. Many people mess this up, because they are totally related, but NS is a form of evolution, but they are not equivalent. Evolution is simple change over time. It can occur through NS, or through a variety of other means, like sexual selection (a very interesting concept!). But they are not the same. Good thing to keep in mind!
So, what do you think? Helpful? Other things you'd like me to elaborate on? Shout it out in the comments!