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Natural Selection

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NEWS
November 9, 1986
We should ponder the fact that Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species, probably the most influential of all theories (though now under challenge), asserts that the survival of types is dependent upon traits that avoid influences that threaten their extinction. In the light of current announcements of the catastrophic spread of AIDS, is there not an implication that far in the future there will be a tendency toward the extinction of promiscuous and drug-addicted people? Leon S. Rhodes Bryn Athyn.
LIVING
August 11, 1997 | By Faye Flam, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Life is good for Pennsylvania State University physicist Lee Smolin. He's thought of a way to explain why the laws of nature are what they are - why electricity, gravity and the other forces are set just right to organize the universe into planets, stars and galaxies, as opposed to, say, a vast swarm of dust grains or inert rocks. He also has a theory to explain the origin of life, but he says he wants to do some more checking before he goes public with it. "I have an optimistic sense," says Smolin, 42, from one of his New York haunts, a Brazilian cafe in SoHo, near his part-time home in Brooklyn.
NEWS
September 8, 2000 | By Faye Flam, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
The apparent tendency for people to play fair and demand a fair deal from others - even at a cost - has long baffled economists and other social scientists. But researchers who took a different approach say they have found a way that natural selection could have bred a kind of fairness instinct into the human race. Not that Darwin's evolution offers a straightforward answer to the puzzle. "Natural selection generally prefers the strategy of keeping everything to yourself," said Martin Nowak, a theoretical biologist at Princeton University's Institute for Advanced Study, lead author of the paper in today's issue of the journal Science.
NEWS
September 16, 2010
George C. Williams, 83, an evolutionary biologist who helped shape modern theories of natural selection, died last Wednesday at his home in South Setauket on Long Island, near Stony Brook University, where he taught for 30 years. The cause was Parkinson's disease, said his wife, Doris Williams. Mr. Williams played a leading role in establishing the now-prevailing, though not unanimous, view among evolutionary biologists that natural selection works at the level of the gene and the individual and not for the benefit of the group or species.
NEWS
April 29, 2012
1. c. Earth, not the sun, moves. 2. j. Theory of natural selection. 3. d. General relativity. 4. e. Law of falling bodies. 5. g. Planetary orbits are elliptical. 6. a. Classification of species. 7. i. Some genes can "jump. " 8. h. Rules of heredity. 9. f. Laws of motion. 10. b. DNA is a double helix.
ENTERTAINMENT
June 27, 2010
By Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 264 pp. $26. Reviewed by John Horgan I wanted to like What Darwin Got Wrong by philosopher Jerry Fodor and cognitive scientist Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini. I had several reasons. I love the spectacle of scientific dogmas - even ones to which I cleave - getting whacked by intellectual tough guys like Fodor. I've enjoyed Fodor's sardonic essays over the years, especially his skewerings of the much-hyped field of evolutionary psychology, which purports to explain everything we think and do in Darwinian terms.
NEWS
May 13, 2003 | By Douglas J. Keating INQUIRER THEATER CRITIC
Like Beckett's tramps in Waiting for Godot, the two women in Natural Selection inhabit their own little world, doing pretty much the same thing day in and day out. Myrtle and Avis, the 40ish characters of Theatre Exile's world premiere presented in Walnut Street Theatre's Studio 5, busy themselves in a small room by putting lids on bottoms to form small, square cardboard boxes. Their employer is a mysterious "they," and there are no visible signs of supervision; the pair's workday is controlled by a buzzer that periodically indicates their breaks.
NEWS
October 20, 1996 | By Faye Flam, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Scientists have a reputation for butting up against religious beliefs and explaining away miracles, but few are more outspoken in dismissing the role of God than British zoologist Richard Dawkins. Like an apostle for Charles Darwin, Dawkins, 55, is taking his message about evolution to the people through lectures, television appearances and five books that have propelled him - at least in England - to the popularity of a Carl Sagan. His literary flair, caustic wit, irreverence and out-on-a-limb positions have won him a following.
NEWS
May 2, 2011 | By Faye Flam, Inquirer Staff Writer
Darwinism is more often associated with the liberal left than the conservative right, but it's moved a long way across the political spectrum from Darwin's day, when it was embraced by advocates of free-market economics, colonialism, and similar ideas today associated with the right. Apparently, Darwinism is still sometimes invoked in arguments for economic conservatism. It's reflected in a recent e-mail I received from a reader: "Maybe you should write about the current reversing of evolution by humans, using technology.
ENTERTAINMENT
February 12, 2010 | By Carrie Rickey INQUIRER MOVIE CRITIC
Creation marks Paul Bettany's second go-round as a 19th-century naturalist in a movie from screenwriter John Collee. In Master and Commander, Bettany was the proto-Darwin whose findings about how animals use camouflage to elude predators had immediate application during the Napoleonic Wars. In Creation, he is Darwin himself, decades pregnant with the research for his seminal On the Origin of Species, but too hopeless to deliver the manuscript. Does Darwin have prepartum depression because he fears the laws of natural selection he has so carefully documented will challenge the laws of God?
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ENTERTAINMENT
April 25, 2015 | By Wendy Rosenfield, For The Inquirer
  The devised theater troupe Rude Mechanicals hails from Austin, Texas, but with Now Now Oh Now , it continues integrating itself into Philly's theater ecosystem. This production marks its third Philly Fringe visit (this time as a guest in the new FringeArts building), and among the show's cast is Dito Van Reigersberg, a founding member of the Pig Iron Theatre Company and no stranger to "devised" (i.e., collaboratively created) work. The casting is an interesting choice, drawing on the show's own themes.
NEWS
December 23, 2012
Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False By Thomas Nagel Oxford University Press. 130 pp. $24.95 Reviewed by Frank Wilson Philosopher Thomas Nagel admits that he has a "cosmic authority problem. " In his book The Last Word (1997), he writes: "I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope there is no God!
NEWS
April 29, 2012
1. c. Earth, not the sun, moves. 2. j. Theory of natural selection. 3. d. General relativity. 4. e. Law of falling bodies. 5. g. Planetary orbits are elliptical. 6. a. Classification of species. 7. i. Some genes can "jump. " 8. h. Rules of heredity. 9. f. Laws of motion. 10. b. DNA is a double helix.
NEWS
April 23, 2012 | By Faye Flam, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Blurring the lines between life and inanimate matter, biologists announced Friday that they'd created six different chemical alternatives to DNA and coaxed them to undergo evolution. A description of these code-carrying molecules, called XNAs, was published in the journal Science. The work bolsters a prevailing hypothesis that life as we know it evolved from simpler life forms, no longer here, and those evolved from something simpler. There may be no moment when the first life emerged, but instead an evolutionary process by which chemicals that most of us would consider non-life gradually gave rise to living cells through natural selection.
NEWS
February 6, 2012 | By Faye Flam, Inquirer Columnist
Timing is everything, and if there was ever a scientist whose legacy was tarnished by bad timing, it was Jean Baptiste Lamarck. The French naturalist lived from 1744 to 1829 - and published his own evolutionary theory decades before Darwin's theory went public in 1859. In the popular imagination, those who've heard of Lamarck tend to associate him with a wrongheaded version of evolution in which giraffes can grant their offspring longer necks by reaching for high leaves. Historians say this unfair portrayal was engineered by Lamarck's enemies.
NEWS
January 2, 2012 | By Faye Flam, Inquirer Columnist
It's a common misconception that evolution is a matter of faith, because it happens too slowly to observe. Here's the way one reader sees it: "I don't see any fish walking around, nor do I see any other creature in mid-evolving mode. . . . Simply stated, both creationism and evolution should be taught as competing theories; both are not provable, and both cannot be duplicated in a lab. " But evolution does happen in the lab, in real time, and it's bad news for us because such rapid evolution allows organisms that can kill us by evading drugs, vaccines, and our own immune systems.
NEWS
October 24, 2011 | By Faye Flam, Inquirer Columnist
To some creationists, Darwin was not only wrong but poisonous - his evolutionary theory, they say, directly influenced Hitler's genocidal ideology. Historian Richard Weikart appeared in the anti-evolution film Expelled, promoting this alleged Darwin-Hitler link. Weikart has written extensively on this, arguing that Darwinian evolution destroyed Judeo-Christian morality, especially the notion of reverence for life. Weikart does not try to push the idea that this invalidates evolution as a scientific idea.
NEWS
October 17, 2011 | By Faye Flam, Inquirer Columnist
One recurring theme in reader questions, especially from creationists, is that Darwinian evolution can't explain big changes - the invention of fur or feathers, kidneys or brains. These readers don't see how such innovation could possibly come about through random spelling errors in DNA, no matter how many millions of years they had to accumulate. ". . . the concept of 'descent with modification' cannot generate more complex systems . . . the old adage that if you give 1,000 monkeys 1,000 years to randomly type we could get the works of Shakespeare is false.
NEWS
August 22, 2011 | By Faye Flam, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Welcome to the first official Planet of the Apes brain-twisting evolution quiz. After four months and change, I've covered a lot of territory, from inbred royals to endangered frogs to the evolution views of Miss USA contestants. This superhard quiz is "open-book," so feel free to refer to my blog ( http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/evolution ) 1. What did Judge John E. Jones rule at the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial in Dover, Pa.? a)
NEWS
July 4, 2011 | By Faye Flam, Inquirer Staff Writer
A cancer is sweeping through the population of Tasmanian devils, plaguing these small, carnivorous marsupials with tumors on their noses, eyes, and mouths. The tumors kill these creatures in months by interfering with their ability to see, smell, or eat. But this is no ordinary story of animal vs. cancer. The Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD) is a rare instance of a transmissible cancer, making this an evolutionary battle for survival between the devils and a line of mutated cells that has taken on a life of its own. In 15 years, the cancer has wiped out 70 percent of the population.
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