Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or are a new assistant professor), you are surely aware by now that Darwin’s 200th birthday is this week. However, unless you’re a certified blog-crawler, you may not be aware of Blogging the Origin. In honor of Darwin’s bicentennial birthday, John Whitfield (a freelance science writer and author of In the Beat of a Heart, a must read for those of us with a weakness for metabolic ecology) has been blogging his way through each chapter of On the Origin of Species. It is quite a treat to read – it is both insightful and funny….and much quicker than trying to reread the original in time for Darwin’s big day. Whitfield both summarizes Darwin and puts him in a modern context. Here are a couple of excerpts for you to whet your appetite:
From Chapter 1:
And, as evidence of ancient artificial selection, he mentions that “from passages in Genesis, it is clear that the colour of domestic animals was at that early period attended to.”
From Chapter 2 (how can you not love something that quotes one of my favorite people):
More useful in such cases is the phylogenetic species concept — a species is a group of populations that shares a common ancestor, and is distinct from any other similar group. Although, again, seeing as we all share a common ancestor sooner or later, it’s tricky to know where you draw the line between groups. The microbial ecologist Jessica Green once pointed out to me that microbiologists typically put two cells in the same species if their ribosomal DNA is 97% identical. Applying the same criterion to primates, she says, and you’d be sharing a species with the ring-tailed lemur.
From Chapter 14 (not to ruin the ending for anyone):
This relentless piling, sorting and re-arranging of evidence can make Darwin seem a little OCD, like an intellectual version of Wall-E. But he also knows that beneath all the case studies, there’s a logical core to evolution by natural selection, even if he can’t put it in an equation.
So roll on over and check it out! I promise you won’t be disappointed*
*from the legal department of weecology: this is in no way a legally binding guarantee and does not imbue the reader with any legal rights such as refunds, exchanges, or restitution for lost wages for time spent reading said blog. The reader does have the right to leave nasty comments, however, if they did not enjoy reading Blogging the Origin – though the author thinks if you don’t enjoy reading Blogging the Origin it just indicates something is deeply wrong with you.