If you haven’t already, check out a podcast featuring an interview with Sean B. Carroll over at the WSST Lab Table blog. I’ve been bad an haven’t had a chance to read either of his books yet (shameful, I know), but I’ve definitely been impressed with everything I’ve seen from him so far (i.e. a chapter on “fossil genes” in Natural History magazine last October). The interview goes over his books (and why you should definitely pick them up ASAP), icefish blood, the popular vs scientific understanding of DNA, the importance of evolution in the classroom, the scientific vacuity that exists in America today amongst the public and government officials, potential economic ramifications of denying evolution, and much more. It’s not the most exciting interview I’ve ever heard, but it’s definitely worth the 1/2 hour I spent listening.
One of the most interesting points one of the hosts brings up is very relevant and important to the discussion of evolution; animals do not choose to adapt a certain way. To take the hosts example, a walking stick was not once some other bug that thought “Hey, it’d be advantagous if I looked like a stick” and designed itself to develop adaptations to camoflage itself. This is the standard explanation I remember from grade school, and even last night one of my professors here at Rutgers attempted to explain the mimicry of Monarch butterflies by Viceroy butterflies by suggesting the Viceroys chose to change, almost like they were in on the “secret” that Monarchs taste terrible to birds. Now, it’s easy to explain how such mimicry comes about via natural selection (elimination of most Viceroys that don’t naturally have a variation that makes them look like Monarchs), but for some reason so many teachers mess up when it comes to how adaptations arise, almost as if evolution doesn’t apply.
Hat-tip to the Panda’s Thumb for the story