Archive for November, 2007

Darwin’s Finches

November 21, 2007

Last night I went to Evolution of Darwin’s Finches, a lecture by Rosemary and Peter Grant. Luckily I got to the lecture hall a little early, because the place completely filled up. Even the aisles were filled. There was a nice article about the lecture in the Georgia Straight (notice the comments are about God), but I think the popularity of the speakers, was simply a result of 35 years of work. The room was filled with birders, and biologist, academics both institutional and independent, students, teachers, children, teenagers and the very, very, old. I’m guessing the majority in the room were academics of some sort. This couple has got to be a kind of role model for anyone interested in this branch of science.

I’ve been reading Darwin’s Dangerous Idea. I’m working a number of ideas into some sort of theory for a project I’m proposing. The Grant’s work seems interesting. It’s interesting because it’s real hands-on science. The theory of evolution , I don’t know, but right now I’ve got a feeling it’s important in all its complexity to any theory of social change. The problem with any theory of social change is the theory of social stasis, which might be analogous to the confrontation between the theorists of evolution and the believers in God’s creation. (This is a little of what I’m talking about.) What I’ve just written sort of explains why I haven’t been writing lately.

The Grants observed evolution through natural selection. Changes in the environment (changes in weather patterns and the resulting changes in plant based food sources) produced measurable differences in beak and body sizes in the islands’ finch populations. And after 35 years of observing the birds behaviour, they could see the “cultural” differenced that grew up around inherited adaptation.