So You Think You Know: Evolution

Generally, when we learn the basics of a subject, we are learning only partial truths about that subject. Too often, those partial truths, when combined, can even create a kind of lie, leaving us either confused about a subject or entirely too sure that we understand something that is far more complex than we know. The trick is to recognize that most of what we know, unless it is something we specialize in, is a mixture of partial truths and misunderstandings.

Which is why I found this essay on evolution from PZ Myers to be so interesting. It broadened my understanding of evolution in ways that made me realize just how little I truly understand about the biology and processes involved. I don’t understand a whole lot more than I did (though I do understand a little more). More importantly, however, I am reminded of just how much I don’t know.

 

Stop thinking of mutations as unitary events that either get swiftly culled, because they’re deleterious, or get swiftly hauled into prominence by the uplifting crane of natural selection. Mutations are usually negligible changes that get tossed into the stewpot of the gene pool, where they simmer mostly unnoticed and invisible to selection. Look at human faces, for instance: they’re all different, and unless you’re looking at the extremes of beauty or ugliness, the variations simply don’t make much difference. Yet all those different faces really are the result of subtly different combinations of mutant forms of genes.

[From It’s more than genes, it’s networks and systems : Pharyngula]

 

The more you know, the more you grow, sure. But you have to know that you don’t know something before you can want to know more. To paraphrase The Doctor, it’s the people who are sure that they know all the answers that are the dangerous ones.

On this day..