Field of Science

Evolution highlights XVII

The age of the Earth (4,613,542 and eighteen days) is taught in high school physics classes, and not in biology classes. But, more students are willing to accept human evolution (taught in biology, if at all) if they accept that the Earth is billions of years old.
Using that information, they created a model that shows, for example, when a student's religious and political views are liberal, they are more likely to believe that the Earth is billions, rather than thousands, of years old and to know more about evolution. Conversely, students with conservative religious and political views are more inclined to think the Earth is much younger (20,000 years or less) and to know less about evolution.
The question is what the causal factor is. If it's knowing the age of the Earth before learning about evolution, then we have an answer. If it's something else, such as religious and political views, that cause belief in a young Earth and also in creationism, then making sure that students know the real age of the Earth will make no difference.

My old lab at UCSB has identified the gene involved in light sensivity in Hydra, which shares a last common ancestor with humans about 600 million years ago. Whatever the gene was used for that long ago (perhaps sensitivity to light), it is fair to say that the origins of vision dates that far back.
Oakley explained that there are many genes involved in vision, and that there is an ion channel gene responsible for starting the neural impulse of vision. This gene controls the entrance and exit of ions; i.e., it acts as a gateway.

The gene, called opsin, is present in vision among vertebrate animals, and is responsible for a different way of seeing than that of animals like flies. The vision of insects emerged later than the visual machinery found in hydra and vertebrate animals.
A new amphibian fossil skull has been described. It is dated at 300 million years ago (not quite as old as the famous 375 mllion year old Tiktaalik).
Fedexia striegeli was described on the basis of a remarkably well-preserved fossil skull. Unlike many other fossil finds, the fossil skull remained three-dimensional and did not suffer post-mortem crushing over time by the compaction of rock formations above it. The preservation of the skull is so precise that even the middle-ear bone, known as the stapes, remains perfectly intact and in its correct position, a very rare discovery in fossils.

Also noteworthy:

Flowering Plants May Be Considerably Older Than Previously Thought

ASU scientists narrow down origins of malaria

Phylogenetic Analysis of Mexican Cave Scorpions Suggests Adaptation to Caves Is Reversible

Small Dogs Originated in the Middle East, Genetic Study Finds

Scientists Discover 600 Million-Year-Old Origins of Vision

Drastic Musk Ox Population Decline 12,000 Years Ago Due to Climate, Not to Humans

Unselfish Molecules May Have Helped Give Birth to the Genetic Material of Life

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