In case you missed it (really, where’ve you been?), today is the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. This year is also the 150th anniversary of the publication of his most famous book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.
The scientific status of evolution by natural selection is solid and the evidence is overwhelming. A quick Web of Science search on ‘natural selection’ comes back with over 8,000 results. However, the public status of evolution by natural selection remains weak. CNN sums it up…
“The most recent Gallup poll on the issue, conducted in May, found that only 14 percent of Americans believe that humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. Forty-four percent believe that God created human beings almost overnight within the past 10,000 years, and another 36 percent believe that God guided humans' evolution from animals over a much longer period of time.”
That 44% is most disturbing to me, although dinos at the nativity would make an awesome Xmas blockbuster.
I think this number is mostly based on misunderstanding of science compounded by a misunderstanding of the evidence for evolution by natural selection. So, how do you decrease that number? Who should be doing it? Should we bother? Personally, I’ve encountered people who are stubborn in their beliefs and shut down any conversation before it starts. This sort of thing frustrates me and results in me not wanting to deal with the issue. I can do my science, go along my way and leave well enough alone. What good does that do?
I don’t really have any good answers today except for thinking that my involvement with public education about evolution could extend past arguing with drunks in bars.... I mean, I should do more to communicate science in general in addition to my usual focus on my own research. If as Dobzhansky said, "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution," then any of us even remotely tied to biology should have a good understanding of the subject of evolution. Luckily, we’ll be celebrating Darwin and his big book all year so I have time to post more in depth about various aspects of this issue.
Most of my readers (the few I have, thanks for stopping by, by the way!) are scientists (and my mom) so I don’t want to beat a dead…finch, I guess. If you feel particularly yea or nay about my posting more detailed posts on this- please let me know in the comments!
Either way, happy birthday, Charles!
My postdoc research is pretty far removed from anything I’ve done before. It is really exciting, but also really difficult. I have no background in the actual work and am trying to read as much as possible and talk to as many people to get my head around it all. It doesn’t help that I am working somewhat backwards. I was given last years’ data and a plan for me to write it up before my field season starts. It is hard to understand data that I didn’t collect. Last week I had to ask someone exactly what the numbers in the dataset actually were*. The data itself isn’t the best either. Bah.
Given that I don’t know squat, I’ve been feeling like very much the impostor lately. In the past, I’ve dealt with general feelings of not (ever) being good enough. I never really thought I ‘fooled’ anybody to progress in my career or worried about being ‘exposed’ but certainly dismiss my accomplishments.
What is different is that I can’t help but feel like an impostor because of other peoples’ assumptions about me. Since day one, others in the department have taken for granted that I am an expert in this area and technique. This assumption combined with my extreme lack of knowledge is not a good mix. Any question I ask is met with, ‘Well you know some random tiny detail about math…blah blah blah.’ The slightly furrowed brows or pauses when I answer ‘uhhh, what’s that again?’ are starting to get to me. It is like I finally DID get exposed as an imposter when I never, ever claimed to be an expert in this area in the first place!
What bugs me most is that playing so much catch up in my new area has sucked me into this hole of self doubt in my older work. My dissertation chapters have sat for a month. I’ve read them over, had others read them over and gotten the go ahead from my PhD advisor but I’m just not sure they are submission quality anymore. No real reason why.
I’m not sure how to shake myself out of it but I'm going to just try to continue making progress with continued reading, working towards small goals in the research each day, continuing to ask the questions I need to – no matter how basic, and finally get that research seminar in the department done soon so these peeps know what my background really is!
*In my defense, we present data at a percentage. There are values that are over 100 and less than 0. Hence, my confusion.
The rules are as follows:
- Put the logo of the award (above) on your blog if you can make it work with your format.
- Link to the person from whom you received the award.
- Nominate seven or more blogs. (Or less, if you please).
- Put the links of those blogs on your blog.
- Leave a message on their blogs to tell them.
a) Put your MP3 player, iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle
b) For each question (capitalised), press the next button to get your answer.
c) YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER HOW SILLY IT SOUNDS
d) Tag at least 5 people
e) Everyone tagged has to do the same thing (no they don't, actually)
f) Have Fun! (Step f is not required)
1. IF SOMEONE SAYS 'ARE YOU OKAY' YOU SAY?
The Sound of Fear (Eels)
2. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF?
Simple Things (Belle & Sebastian)
3. WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL?
Souvenirs (Architecture in Helsinki)
4. HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY?
Don't Let me Down (Beatles)
5. WHAT IS YOUR LIFE'S PURPOSE?
Everybody's Talking at Me (Harry Nilsson, although it really comes up at Track 11 on a mix)
6. WHAT'S YOUR MOTTO?
Punch and Judy (Elliott Smith)
7. WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU?
In My Place (Coldplay)
8. WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?
I Was Meant for the Stage (The Decemberists)
9. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN?
Slow Down (Bowerbirds)
10. WHAT IS 2 + 2?
Time After Time (cover from Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack by Sparkle Horse)
11. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND?
Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits (Magnetic Fields)
12. WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?
Prisstina (Sleater Kinney)
'Cause she'll leave those dull lads behind
Yeah that girl is ahead of her time'
13. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
Nachtwort (Albert Magelsdorff)
14. WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
Sail to the Moon (Brush the Cobwebs Out of the Sky) Radiohead
15. WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING?
Crush in the Ghetto (Jolie Holland)
16. WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?
Tears of Joy (Robert Randolf and the Family Band)
17. WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST?
Now Mary (White Stripes)
18. WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST FEAR?
19. WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET?
Six White Horses (Johnny Cash)
20. WHAT DO YOU WANT RIGHT NOW?
My Tiger My Heart (Boy Least Likely To)
I don't have to want them- Grackle and our tiny tigers are currently with me in Postdoc City!
21. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?
Bees (Animal Collective)
They are all really busy...
22. WHAT WILL YOU POST THIS AS?
And I Remember Every Kiss (Jens Lekman)