Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Letter from the Canadian Society of Ecology and Evolution to Minister Ashfield and PM Harper

My former supervisor, Dr. Jeffrey Hutchings, current President for the Canadian Society of Ecology and Evolution (of which I am a member) sent the following letter to Keith Ashfield, and distributed copies to all members of the CSEE.  I post the letter below so that my Canadian friends can see the concerns that leading Canadian scientists have about the state of science and our biological resources under the Harper government.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Natural Selection - Chapter 4 in the Origin of Species

So far in our tour of the Origin we have seen that pre-Darwinian scientists defined species as distinct entities created by God, and varieties as deviations from the species-type, such deviations occurring due to natural means.  Darwin, in part by observing the human-caused production of domestic organisms argued that varieties evolve within a species, and as they become more distinct they in turn become new species.  There is, therefore, nothing directly divine about the production of species (although God could still be operating behind the scenes, directing the evolution of species).  In chapter three, Darwin argued that organisms produce more offspring than can possibly survive.  Through some mechanism unknown to Darwin, these offspring differ from one another by a small degree; those individuals that have beneficial variations will outcompete those that do not, and will be more likely to survive and pass on their traits to their offspring.  This is the foundation of natural selection.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Evolution and the Churches of Christ

It has been an interesting few months for my particular flavour of Christianity, the Restoration Movement (also known as the Stone-Campbell Movement).  The Restoration Movement began in America (and is indeed more popular in America than in Canada) in the early 1800s as two separate movements, one led by Barton Stone and the other by the father and son team of Thomas and Alexander Campbell, both of whom sought to bring the church back to its New Testament roots (hence 'restoration').  It emerged within the context of the Second Great Awakening at Cane Ridge.  Justice and equality were important virtues for Restoration Movement followers - the Campbells began their work in response to the exclusivity within their Presbyterian churches, in which the poor and outcast were not allowed to participate in communion.  From this simple beginning the Restoration Movement churches - Churches of Christ (independent), Churches of Christ (a cappella) and the denominational Disciples of Christ - were founded.  The independent and a cappella churches are considered to be non-denominational, their slogan being 'we are Christians only, but we are not the only Christians.'