Evolution, Then and Now

OLLI GSC Manchester -- short URL: http://is.gd/EvolutionImplications

Darwin's "great idea" was not obvious when he proposed it in 1859 - the then current science just didn't match up

So we will look at what the world looked like in 1850, and then the explosion of discoveries in the 20th & 21st centuries

Leonora: 22 years delighting kids with programs at Hollis's Beaver Brook nature area. BS in Natural Science, MS in Science Education

Jim: ex-computer geek and current futurist, Recent RISE/OLLI courses listed at http://is.gd/STEM4all

2 Week course outline

  1. Then - the world as Darwin knew it
    1. Linnaeus/Taxonomy, specie and evolution (Lamarck)
    2. Geology and the age of the earth
    3. Darwin is for the birds (Finches to be exact)
    4. Inheritance & Mendel
  2. Now - 20th century discoveries
    1. Radio activity/carbon dating
    2. Plate Tectonics
    3. DNA - from double helix to ancestry research
    4. Epigenetics
    5. Humanity 2.0

5 week Course Outline - Implications of Evolution

Darwin's "great idea" outraged many, like Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, at the Scopes Monkey Trial and even in today's legislative bodies and curriculum planners. But, what is the science involved?

This course will use labs, discussion, videos, and our imaginations as we look toward the future.

Some considerations will be genetics, DNA, what is a species, factors in natural selection, and Darwinian vs Lamarckian evolution.

    1. The nature of Science and people
    2. What is science? Class definitions; The "scientific method"
    3. The nature of people to organize things and tell stories
      1. Linnaeus, sorting and taxonomy, a Lab
    4. Darwin's finches and clipbirds, Labs
    5. What is specie? Class definitions
    6. What is evolution? Class definition and the definitions of others, incl. Lamarck (Blackmore)
    7. Darwin: what makes him special?
    8. What Darwin had to assume
    9. Age of the earth: time to evolve, dating, Usher (Sunday, 23 Oct. 4004 BC)
      1. Lyle: Stratigraphy( rock layers)
      2. Lord Kelvin and geothermal dating
      3. Wegener and Plate tectonics, -- "Music Video" or explainatory video
      4. Radiometric dating techniques
    10. The stuff of life: Primordial soup
    11. What is a fossil: rocks imitating life; missing links; -------------- 100 ft timeline Lab
    12. Extinctions and new species - heretical ideas; catastrophism;
    13. Clipbirds 2, calories & reproduction lab and history chart
    14. What is life? Genetics
    15. Mendel defines genes and how traits get passed to new generations: dominate, recessive, and quantitative.
    16. Karotype: species genetic makeup; You as a "specie",
    17. a simple phenotypes lab; Dinosaur game=evolution
    18. DNA, Crick and Watson, bases, alleles, genes, regulators,; Duplication, innovation(mutations) selection; DNA as digital information yields-accuracy of reproduction;
    19. Base pairs mutation and Chimp-human DNA comparison Labs
    20. Climbing Mt. Improbable (Dawkins): intermediate forms and independently evolved forms
    21. Punctuated Equilibrium vs gradual change
    22. 2% advantage in a population of 500 becomes ubiquitous over time (gradualism)
    23. What is the diagnostic distinction between species? Example: Greenish Warblers
  1. Epigenetics
    1. Beyond the genome Histones and Tags (link to University of Utah vido)
    2. Intro info http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/epigenetics/
    3. Methyl groups and diet http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/epigenetics/nutrition/
    4. PBS "Ghost in Our Genes" -- Nova NOW segment
    5. and the Hank Green video (goes deeper, with different style)
    6. Try Folding your own RNA: EteRNA a "game" at CMU
  2. So What?
    1. What would you like? What would you like for your grand kids?
    2. Garrison Keilor's Lake Woebegone (where all the kids are above average); eugenics historicaly and looking forward
    3. 2012 stem cells into germ cells opens the door for clones, "non-traditional" genetic offspring
    4. Lamarck (revisited), epigenesis, conscious control
    5. Is there a "direction" -- is Progress part of the Darwinian story?
    6. Is evolution still happening? Drug resistant diseases (TB, HIV, MRSA); Pesticide resistant insects;
    7. Adam and Eve and the family of man.(Y-Chromosome, mitochondrial mutations)
    8. Will our children be different? TED video.
    9. 23andMe awarded patent on gamete cell selection (Sept. 2013)
    10. CRISPR/CAS and Gene Drive to change species (2016) TED video
    11. Evolution of non-biological things: memes, temes, universe, stars
    12. Vernor Vinge suggests "corporations" as evolutionary entities, compares to bacteria


Some resources you may want to consider can get the thinking cap operational even before we start classes

The Original Books & pointers

PBS/BBC Documentaries and related educational materials:

YouTube, TED, Kahn Academy, Great Courses and other information sources

The Controversy - Evolution vs Creationism -- (Not covered in this course)

  • Darwin himself was hesitant in releasing his document, being aware of the controversy that would ensue from the implicit evolution of humans, and required time frame.
  • In 1860 this emerged as the Wilburforce/Huxley debate see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1860_Oxford_evolution_debate
  • This surfaced in the U.S in the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scopes_Trial which is fictionalized in the play/movie Inherit the Wind
  • Note that Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution -- the trial being created for "show" more than practical constitutional/legal analysis
  • The US Supreme court ruled in 1968, in Epperson v. Arkansas that Evolution could not be prohibited, and against "Creation Science" in 1987, in Edwards v. Aguilard
  • and more recently (2005) the district court found the same objections to the teaching of Intelligent Design in Dover PA
  • Pope John Paul Paul II told the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1996 that “new scientific knowledge has led us to the conclusion that the theory of evolution is no longer a mere hypothesis.” per Father George V. Coyne, director of the Vatican Observatory
  • "In the Beginning": The Creationist Controversy", a two-part documentary on the creation-evolution debate, was first broadcast over PBS in May 1995. Randall Balmer, Professor, Barnard College,Department of Religion Faculty, Columbia University
  • Bill Nye's message "Creationism is not Suitable for Children" (2.31 min) -- Or the 2 hour 45 minute debate with Ken Ham at the Creation Museum