The Very Spring and Root

An engineer's adventures in education (and other musings).

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JellyBiologist Turns One!

Congratulations to Rebecca over at JellyBiologist on the first anniversary of her blog! Over the last year she has been dutifully posting all about the weird and wonderful world of jellyfish and other beautifully alien sea life. Her content is interesting and accessible — she is a true warrior for public scientific literacy.

You should definitely go over there and take a look at the picture of the Jelly Fish cake she has posted. Om nom. Oh yes, and read about marine biology.

Jedi/ninja lizard. This is amazing control of one’s own center of gravity. I love how the the lizard contorts to allow the mouth to take the straight line, shortest path from rest to food, despite the requirement to completely change body orientation. Point A —> Point B (lunch).


Just really cool.

This is sooo visually fascinating. I’m not really very knowledgeable about biology, but I did always enjoy dissection day and getting see firsthand what the insides were all about. There’s something very sterile and academic about a formaldehyde-soaked frog cut open wide though… seeing this photo on the other hand is simply beautiful.

Nature is so cool guys.


The wild and wonderful glass frog

Nakkula, M.J., & Toshalis, E. (2006).  Understanding youth.  Adolescent development for educators.  Cambridge, MA:  Harvard Education Press.  Chapter 7 (Racial identity development)

Scientifically, there is no such thing as “race.” As many biologists and geneticists have pointed out, including the late Stephen Jay Gould [2], there exists as much genetic diversity within any racial group as there is within the human population as a whole. There is no biologically sustainable reason for establishing “races” as distinct subgroups within the human species, which is why Omi and Winant call racial categories “patently absurd reductions of human variation.” [3] That there are unique bodily features (skin color, hair texture, shape of eyes, etc) distributed according to regional ancestral origin supports nothing “racial” except for an appreciation for the ways our species adapted to specific environments over hundreds of thousands of years.

Culturally, socio-politically, economically, yes. Biologically, no. NO. In other words, we choose to do this to ourselves, which means of course that we can choose differently within our own spheres of influence.

Review of “Why Evolution Is True”

Why Evolution Is TrueWhy Evolution Is True by Jerry A. Coyne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Clear, understandable, irrefutable. I have long believed in evolution by natural selection in the same sense that I believe nearly all scientific explanations. That is, I am inclined to trust scientists in their own field of expertise, even if I don’t fully understand the particulars, so long as the overall principle makes sense. Just as I wouldn’t expect a psychologist to tell me how I do or do not know how to design a propulsion system, I would certainly not presume to second-guess her evaluation of the pilot’s mental condition upon landing though I know little about the details of clinical flight psychology.

Now, finally, I understand the concrete evidence and solid reasoning that makes evolution by natural selection one of the most well-established and rigorously proven scientific theories we have. I am not a biologist, nor do I keep up with the field on a regular basis, yet Jerry Coyne was able to very clearly make his points without loss of either specificity or generality, and they were conveyed in a manner which satisfied my engineer-brain’s desire for rigor and logic.

I did think that Coyne’s defense of Darwinian evolution could have been accomplished quite successfully without the occasional barbs directed at creationists. Today’s culture wars being what they are, I can understand the reasoning for putting such offhand snipes in the book, but to me the argument stands on its own and needs no such undue provocation. To his credit, Coyne does make sure to point out at several points in the book that evolution explains the origin of species, including our own, not the origin of life. Further, he refutes the claim that acceptance of evolution by natural selection means a rejection of morality, God, spirituality, or human meaning. He is also frank about where the unsolved mysteries are, and what particular details and consequences of evolution remain subjects of open research.

All in all, a fantastic read and among the best works of scientific writing for the masses that I have come across. I recommend it for anyone looking to learn more about a scientific fact that has been unfortunately politicized and demonized by those who interpret their worldview to be threatened.

View all my reviews

Why Evolution is True”

Why Evolution Is True by Jerry A. Coyne I’ve just started reading: Why Evolution Is True by Jerry A. Coyne and so far it’s excellent. I was surprised to encounter even in the first chapter things I didin’t know. It’s interesting how politicized science, like evolution and climate change for example, lend themselves to having everyone on all sides believing that they know more than they do.