Category Archive: Theory of evolution

Jul 16 2007

Evolution-10: The debate over natural selection in Darwin’s own time

(Please see here for previous posts in this series.) In Darwin’s own time, there was a three-way dispute concerning the theory of evolution. Strange as it may sound these days in the US where so many question whether evolution even occurs at all, the idea that evolution had occurred and new species were being created …

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Jul 13 2007

Evolution-9: Early challenges to Darwin’s theory

(Please see here for previous posts in this series.) In an earlier post in this series, I listed the three stages involved in natural selection, each of which seemed to have seemingly small probabilities. In the previous post, I showed how because of the large numbers of organisms and long time scales involved, the first …

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Jul 11 2007

Evolution-8: The sufficiency of the mutation rate

(Please see here for previous posts in this series.) One of the challenges faced by Darwin was whether the rate at which mutations creating new favorable varieties would occur was sufficiently rapid for his purposes. Since during his time the laws of inheritance were not known and neither was the mathematics involved, advocates of natural …

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Jul 09 2007

Evolution-7: Genes, chromosomes, and DNA

(Please see here for previous posts in this series.) In order to understand how inheritance works and the mathematics involved, it may be helpful to have a quick summary of some basic facts about genetics (a little simplified), using the human genome for concreteness. All the genetic information in our bodies is found in the …

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Jul 05 2007

Evolution-6: The probabilities of natural selection

(Please go to ‘Categories’ and choose ‘Science’ to see the previous posts in this series.) There are three mathematical ideas that one needs to come to terms with in order to get the full flavor of how natural selection works. One is the rate at which favorable mutations occur in organisms. These do occur by …

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Jun 29 2007

Evolution-5: How probability intuition can lead us astray

(See part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.) One of life’s ironies is that the difficulty in understanding the mathematics of Darwin’s theory of natural selection may actually be caused by natural selection itself. As we saw earlier, natural selection does not try for maximum benefit but instead works on a ‘just good …

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Jun 27 2007

Evolution-4: Darwin gets an idea from Malthus

(See part 1, part 2, and part 3.) In Darwin’s travels to distant lands from 1831 to 1836 on the Beagle, the different climates and environmental conditions he encountered made him aware of the weakness of the existing theory of ‘special creation’, where god was assumed to have created creatures best suited for their environment. …

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Jun 25 2007

Evolution-3: Natural selection and the age of the Earth

(See part 1 and part 2.) It is clear that many people find it hard to accept Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. One reason is of course because it completely undermines the need to believe in a creator, making god superfluous when it comes to explaining the nature and diversity of life, and …

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Jun 21 2007

Evolution-2: The lack of evidence for perfect design

In the first post in this series, I showed with the example of a soap spray nozzle how natural design could come up with systems whose intricacy and complexity is such that it was superior to the efforts of intelligent human designers. But what about the argument that a god-like designer would be able to …

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Jun 19 2007

Evolution-1: The power of natural selection

We are rapidly approaching 2009, a year that marks a major scientific milestone that is going to be commemorated worldwide. It is both the 150th anniversary of the publication of the landmark book On the Origin of Species that outlined the theory of evolution by natural selection, and the 200th anniversary of the birth of …

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