Saturday Science Links: December 6, 2014
Many of this week's science links happen at the wondrous intersection of mystery and discovery.
Evolution Basics: Darwin’s Early Observations on Biogeography
For Darwin, both of these observations (that oceanic islands lacked terrestrial mammals, and that endemic species on islands were most similar to a species on the closest mainland) had the same explanation: his hypothesis that endemic, oceanic species were the modified descendants of a colonizing species from the nearest continent.
Where are the Transitional Fossils?
A common argument leveled against the theory of evolution is that scientists have not been able to produce transitional fossils that show the change of one species into another. In this podcast, we address a common misconception about what transitional fossils actually are.
The Fossil Record
There are two opposite errors which need to be countered about the fossil record: 1) that it is so incomplete as to be of no value in interpreting patterns and trends in the history of life, and 2) that it is so good that we should expect a relatively complete record of the details of evolutionary transitions within all or most lineages.
Theory, Prediction and Converging Lines of Evidence, Part 3
One aspect of Christian anti-evolutionary materials that I find frustrating is that the broad sweep of evidence for evolution is avoided in favor of focusing in on specific, isolated details in an attempt to refute them individually.
Series: Evidences for Evolution (7 entries)
This technical series, co-written by Darrel Falk and David Kerk, looks into the evidence for evolution in order to dispel doubts that people may have about this well-supported theory. They look at three things specifically: the separate methods which reveal of the age of the earth, the unfolding history of whale evolution, and finally the common trends of heart development in vertebrates.
Series: Misconceptions About Evolution (2 entries)
This two-part series highlights some of the most common misconceptions about evolution and some helpful responses to them.
Series: New Limbs from Old Fins (7 entries)
Stephen Matheson presents common descent by evolution as the best explanation for the universal pattern found in tetrapod limbs. He discusses initially the evolution and development of limbs in specifically vertebrate tetrapods. He looks at the question of origins and further digs into amazing fossil discoveries. He then gives evidence of evolution from fish to tetrapods by discussing the similarities in the anatomy, development, and genetic systems associated with this amazingly common pattern in vertebrate appendages.
Series: The Cambrian "Explosion", Transitional Forms, and the Tree of Life (8 entries)
Many evolutionary critics have identified the Cambrian Explosion as a stumbling block to the theory of evolution, arguing that the “expected transitions between major invertebrate phyla are absent, and that the suddenness of their appearance in the fossil record demonstrates that evolutionary explanations are not viable.” Keith Miller argues that the Cambrian Explosion is not so problematic as these opponents claim after all.
Songs and Speciation
How many times have you heard someone ask the question: "Have scientists ever actually observed the formation of a new species?" In this PNAS article, Peter and Rosemary Grant actually demonstrate the key events in the formation of a new species as it occurred before their very eyes.
A Tale of Two Papers
Kenneth Miller tells a story of catching two students plagiarizing. It seemed quite clear that the two students had submitted the same papers, but the two argued it was merely by chance and that the fact that they were roommates explained why the papers seemed similar.
In The Bones
I am a fan of the blog "Jesus Creed." Recently it published an interesting post about the transition from fins to limbs as evidenced by fossils of an organism trapped in sediment 375 million years ago.