Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I love biology

I am on such a biology kick these days. I can't get enough of it. Pop gen was good today. Started talking about 2-locus models. They're cool and Mike Wade got so excited talking about dung beetle maternal effects norms of reaction. It was awesome.

Speciation class was also really good today. Prof. Rieseberg was out of town so Daniel Ortiz-Barrientos, one of Rieseberg's post docs, gave the lecture and led discussion. Daniel is a pretty big stud in the speciation field. He just returned from giving the keynote address at this year's Drosophila meeting, only the second (or 3rd?) evolutionary biologist to give the talk. I guess each year the conference asks for nominations for best dissertation related to Drosophila work and the winner gets to give the keynote address. I think that's actually a really cool idea. I'm not sure it would work in philosophy though.

Anyway, he kind of mentioned class should end 40 minutes early, so everybody quit talking at pretty much exactly 3:40 (class is over at 4:20). One of the other post docs that sits in on the class jumped up, stumbled through an empty chair, and walked out while everybody else was kinda sittin' around for a minute. Then we all left. It was funny.

But Daniel reviewed the Coyne and Orr chapter on reinforcement and gave us his opinions on things. I am really fascinated with reinforcement. I had never really learned much about it until this class (ignored it for my master's work because the yeast didn't have sex) and I'm realizing the interesting conceptual continuity it has with sympatric speciation and ecological character displacement. I don't know why I'm so fascinated with these things, but they just really intrigue me. The continuity with Darwin's thought...it's good stuff. This is actually a great example of a problem that Darwin posed and dealt with extensively that is still an issue in today's biology.

I'm always trying to think of ways to argue that the Darwinian revolution was actually a scientific revolution (a controversial position in today's HPS climate). One of the ways to do that, so says I, is to show that Darwin made a clear break (still need to work out what this is) with his contemporaries and that he established a coherent set of research problems that have influenced, nay, formed the conceptual foundation of modern evolutionary biology.

Sure, there's that whole genetics thing, but I'm not sure how much that matters. For instance, I argued that Darwin had the general idea of how hybrid sterility could evolve, the one that is pretty much accepted today as the Dobzhansky-Muller model. And it should be enough that this is still an issue today. Darwin invented this issue. I think I could also make the case that the problems Darwin posed about speciation are still hotly debated and that his own answers are strikingly similar to some modern ones, genetics notwithstanding.

Eh. Or not. I have to finish my qualifying paper.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Get over yourself.

Alex Paskalis