ChicagoDarwin2009

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There are two parallel sessions going on here at the Chicago Darwin meetings, so I can only attend half…and I’m focusing on the biology sessions. There’s a whole ‘nother track of philosophy and history talks that I’ve been neglecting! Science Life is hitting up those, as is Skip Evans of Wisconsin Citizens for Science.

How do we distinguish bacterial species? Cohan shows us some nice diagrams of phenotypic and molecular clusters, and they show groups separated by gaps — therefore, species. Unfortunately the species defined thereby are big and contain considerable diversity within them. Darwin defined species as divergent forms between which one finds morphological gaps. Mayr: cohesive set…

Oops, missed the first part of this talk due to the distractions of Lunch. Walked in as he was talking about tree vs. ladder thinking (people have a hard time conceptualizing trees) and history as a chronicle — barebones description of events — or a narrative — events linked by causal explanations. It took a…

How do different varieties become species? Darwin credited selection. What are the details of this process? Speciation is a booming topic in the science literature, with 25,000 titles last year. Need to define a species to begin. Uses Mayr’s biological species concept, which focuses on the importance of reproductive isolating factors. Darwin on speciation: recommends…

How do we explain the diversity of species in the world? The core process is speciation, a splitting of a lineage into two divergent lines that at the end, cannot interbreed. What do we know about speciation in Darwin’s finches? They evolved from a common ancestor in 2-3 million years into 14 different species, filling…

I have wireless access in the lecture hall today, so I’m going to try liveblogging these talks. This may get choppy! What it will lack in editing will be compensated for by more timely and regular updates. I hope. At least I’ll be able to dump something to the site every 40-60 minutes. He summarizes…

Whoa. This was a data-rich talk, and my ability to transcribe it was over-whelmed by all the stuff Hauser was tossing out. Unfortunately, I think the talk also suffered from excess and a lack of a good overview of the material. But it was thought-provoking anyway. One of the themes was how people resolve moral…

Are we having a good time?

Yes. Yes we are. (Photo by August Berkshire; if you squint, you might notice Ron Numbers caught in the background between me and Neil Shubin, too.)

Ron Numbers gave a brief history of creationism, reminding us that perhaps a majority of the people in the world reject Darwin, and he also emphasized a few facts in that history that many would find surprising. There was no organized opposition to evolution until the 1920s, when it was marshalled by William Jennings Bryan,…

It was a fine evening here in Chicago, with all these superstars of evolutionary biology in attendance. It was also an information-dense evening — I tried to keep up on my little laptop, but I know I missed a lot. Fortunately, I’m not alone: Rob Mitchum and Jeremy Manier were also covering the event, and…