BILL #2: “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” by Sean Carroll

| 11 Comments

Bill&Ted2Crop.jpgThe second BILL is an entertaining and accessible introduction to evolution, with a focus on Mr. Darwin himself.

BILL the second is “Endless Forms Most Beautiful,” by Sean Carroll. (Not the cosmologist or the biologist formerly in Joe Thornton’s lab and currently at Harvard, but the evo-devo thinker who is Vice President for Science Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute [HHMI].) Carroll’s talk is the first in a four-part series on evolution, the 2005 Holiday Lectures sponsored by HHMI. The Holiday Lectures are probably an exaptation of The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures that gave us our inaugural BILL.

Here are some things to look for and think about:

  • An extensive historical account of Darwin’s thought, including some questions about the reactions of his family.
  • An emphasis on the fossil record.
  • A very interesting choice of an experimental study to illustrate natural selection: coat color in pocket mice. Why interesting? It’s the work of Hopi Hoekstra, coauthor of a harsh critique of evo-devo that started a quaint little scientific dustup. (The article and dustup were a couple years after the lecture. More at Pharyngula.)
  • Some simple math to show the reasonableness of evolutionary change over actual time scales.
  • Good questions from the audience, about how the mutations got there in the first place and whether the changes are a “coincidence.”

The lecture begins and ends with comments by Tom Cech. If you just want Carroll’s talk, start at about 4:00, and skip to 6:50 if you don’t want the intro video on Carroll’s background. And there’s a transcript here.


11 Comments

Can we make it manditory for this video to be shown in every middle school in the country?

I saw this video a couple of years ago, and enjoyed it so much I watched it twice. Then later I went and bought his book by the same name, and liked that so I picked The Making of the Fittest, which I think is even better. The sections on the mutations in the opsin gene were fascinating and should be part of every first year biology class as examples of how new information can be derived from mutations. –dan

Nice presentation, with excellent choices for examples.

I particularly liked the background on Darwin as a person. I wish that my teachers could have taken the time when I was young to drive home the point that the 19th century scientists were real, often quite interesting people.

I knew when I was in grade school that I wanted a scientific career … it was too interesting to consider anything else (except, perhaps, music). Even so, my image of scientists was driven largely by movies and SF stories, as it probably is for the general public. Darwin, Boltzmann, Gibbs, Clausius, Carnot … all real people struggling with real-life problems and living in a time that most of us really don’t understand.

I’ve seen this before and I thought it was outstanding. It should be part of every kid’s education.

Very nice presentation, as were all of the videos in this series. I especially liked the part where he explains how Darwin reacted to the letter from Wallace. The way that the situation was handled speaks volumes for the integrity of both men. Scientists today would do well to follow their example of honesty and civility.

Karen S. said:

I’ve seen this before and I thought it was outstanding. It should be part of every kid’s education.

Am in absolute agreement, Karen S. Ours might be a hope bordering on fantasy, but it is one I wish for every child in public or private school here in the United States.

AMEN. Evolution is greatly determined on conclusions of ideas from geology about time and life. This teacher makes a creationist point. In fact when i bring it up evolutionists they run away or reduce its importance. If a biological theory must make its case on a foreign subject , geology claims, then there is a window of chance here the biology theory is wrong and is not well supported by its own subject. I think this should be shown to every class in America too. They would see evolution is not based on the study and testing of biological processes but , greatly or almost, non biological processes.

I don’t know if the audience was persuaded by the teacher however as far as editing went the audience din’t look like the demographics that in opinion or passion reject evolution etc.

A creationist teacher would do better and be more interesting. I await the rebuttal.

Robert Byers the Idiot said:

A creationist teacher would do better and be more interesting. I await the rebuttal.

Why do you say that a creationist would do better and be more interesting? All creationist teachers forcefeed lies to their students, teaching them that science is wrong and evil because it contradicts a literal reading of the English translation of the Bible.

apokryltaros said:

All creationist teachers forcefeed lies to their students, teaching them that science is wrong and evil because it contradicts a literal reading of the English translation of the Bible.

No, no–it’s only a literal reading of the PARTS that they WANT to be literal. For the other, embarrassing parts… well, it’s better if the kiddies never know about them.

Has anyone ever heard of a modern-day fundamentalist or evangelical denomination that DEMANDS that by, say, age 14, all members have read the ENTIRE Bible, cover to cover–and tests them on it to be sure? If it’s the Divine Word of God, why on Earth wouldn’t they do that?

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This page contains a single entry by Steve Matheson published on August 10, 2011 12:18 PM.

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