August 18, 2010

A reluctant revolutionary

Like some of history's best revolutionaries, Charles Darwin was a reluctant one. He disliked controversy and delayed publishing his main ideas for years until he was nudged into action when the younger scientist Alfred Russel Wallace came up independently with the idea of natural selection.

Although he was ignorant of contemporary developments in the science of heredity-- such as the experiments of Gregor Mendel--and grasped for an explanation of its mechanism, his key ideas of natural selection have stood the test of time. His later work on the similarity of emotions in humans and animals was also ahead of its time and has received significant backup from studies of human and animal brains as well as behavior.

It's another discouraging sign of the times that many Americans deny evolution, which is regarded by scientists as the unifying theory of biology. These are often the same people who deny the science of climate change. I could probably think of any number of snarky Darwinian comments about that but will spare the Gentle Reader.

JUST FINES. Massey Energy led the coal industry in fines and citations in the last quarter, the Charleston Gazette reports.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? Progressive billionaire George Soros' hedge fund just increased its ownership of Massey stock to 2.2 million shares.

MEDICINE CABINET BLUES. It looks like El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia is the most medicated in the country.

OUR FAMILY TREE. Mitochondrial DNA research suggests a common mother for humanity around 200,000 years ago.



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