biology

Evolution Notes – Variation under Domestication (1 of 3)

References used: The Origin of Species (first edition) by Charles Darwin. Chapter 1.

border_collie_sheepdog_trial

Cultivated plants and animals generally show more variety as compared to species bred naturally. This is probably because of the fact that domestic plants and animals are raised in conditions that are not as uniform as the natural habitat of their ancestors. Variation in domestic animals and plants is observed to be a continuous and unceasing process. For example, wheat, which is a very old cultivated plant, continues to produce new varieties.

Claim: Conditions of life are not the direct and only cause of this variation

Evidence: Seedlings of the same fruit and offspring from the same litter can show be considerably different from each other even if both the offspring and parents are raised under exactly the same conditions. If the conditions of life were the only cause of variation in organisms, there would have been no variation among the offspring or even if there was variation, all the offspring should have varied in the same manner. This can be used as evidence of the fact that the laws of reproduction, growth and inheritance have a greater impact on the characteristics of an organism than do the conditions of life directly.

Claim: Correlation of growth. If an organism is selectively bred for a certain characteristic, other parts of the structure of that organism are also modified.

Evidence: Cats with blue eyes are always observed to be deaf. Hairless dogs have imperfect teeth. Long limbs are always accompanied by an elongated head. White sheep and pigs are differently affected by vegetable poisons as compared to their domestic counterparts.

Claim: As a general rule, every characteristic in an organism inherited.

Evidence: When in individuals exposed to the same conditions of life as the rest of the population, a very rare deviation such as albinism, for example, appears which is only found in one of several millions of individuals in a population, the same deviation is often also found in that individual’s offspring. By the laws of probability, one is compelled to attribute its reappearance in the offspring to the laws of inheritance.

 

Science Wars – Part 1

Warning: This is not an unbiased comparison. The writer hates Biology to the point of distorting information and statistical data in order to destroy the reputation of the field.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall; Which is the best natural science field of us all?

Let’s look at some of the potential candidates…

Note: descriptions taken from Wikipedia. Also, I intentionally left out Astronomy, Earth Science, Materials Science etc.

physics

Physics:  The study of the fundamental constituents of the universe, the forces and interactions they exert on one another, and the results produced by these interactions. In general, physics is regarded as the fundamental science, because all other natural sciences use and obey the principles and laws set down by the field. Physics relies heavily on mathematics as the logical framework for formulation and quantification of principles.

maths

Mathematics*: The abstract study of topics encompassing quantity, structure, space, change, and other properties; it has no generally accepted definition.

chemistry

Chemistry:  The scientific study of matter at the atomic and molecular scale. Chemistry deals primarily with collections of atoms, such as gases, molecules, crystals, and metals. The composition, statistical properties, transformations and reactions of these materials are studied. Chemistry also involves understanding the properties and interactions of individual atoms for use in larger-scale applications.

biology

Biology: This field encompasses a set of disciplines that examines phenomena related to living organisms. Biology is concerned with the characteristics, classification and behaviors of organisms, as well as how species were formed and their interactions with each other and the environment.

* Whether Mathematics is a science or not is debatable. But let’s include it anyway, for fun.

Note that my comparison isn’t particularly objective since I have an something like an unaccountable loathing for Biology, while I love Maths and Physics. So, before we start let’s consider some potential problems. How can these fields be compared? I don’t think it will be quite fair to compare them based on the amount of research papers published etc. But still, I think there are some fair factors we can use to compare them.

1- Purity

I found a nice comic strip on xkcd highlighting this issue:

As you can see, Biology loses big-time here. Although the situation is a bit exaggerated, Biology can in most cases be considered an application of Chemistry. You don’t believe me? Let’s look at some of the subdivisions of Biology. Molecular Biology? Applied Organic Chemistry. Ecology? Applied Useless Nonsense. Mathematics is perhaps the purest field of the lot here so I’ll give it a 10/10. Physics gets a 7/1o. Chemistry gets a 4. Biology gets a big fat zero (because I hate it, muhahaha!).

2- Arrogance

Chemists and Mathematicians may be a little snobbish, but Physicists take it to a whole new level. They literally define hubris. But I’ve never seen an arrogant Biologist. Perhaps a realization of the uselessness of their field has a humbling effect on them. Here’s another relatable comic strip I picked up from xkcd:

All in all, I give Physicists a 10/10. Maths and Chemistry both receive a 6. Biology gets a zero again (boo!).

To be continued…