24 episodes

An ongoing discussion of the writings and musings of Charles Darwin.

Discovering Darwin noreply@blogger.com (Sarah Bray)

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An ongoing discussion of the writings and musings of Charles Darwin.

    Season 4 Episode 8: Sexy time and selection

    Season 4 Episode 8: Sexy time and selection

      In this episode we dive into Chapter 8 from Darwin's Descent of Man. James incorrectly attributed this chapter to the end of Volume I of the two volume set but it is actually the first chapter of Volume II, which makes more sense given its dramatic shift in focus and topic. Sarah tried to get us to differentiate between adaptive traits that come about from sexual selection with those that come about from natural selection.   Photo from https://rollingharbour.com/2017/02/14/bluehead-wrasse-private-life-laid-bare/ We spent some time discussing the difference between sex-linked traits, like calico cat color,  and sexually selected traits like the giant antlers on the extinct Irish Elk.  James presented just a few hypothesis that have been proposed to explain female choice of traits and why those traits that females seem to prefer are often opposed by natural selection. It is hard to be a red male cardinal in the dead of winter. Sarah suggested interested listeners read The Evolution of Beauty by Richard O. Prum to learn how to differentiate the products of sexual and natural selection.  We had a robust discussion about sex and gender and what Darwin knew at the time and what he should have acknowledged about the lack of binary distinction in the sexes. Mark realized he misspoke when he said that the rate of disorders of sexual development are around 10%. Data suggests that it occurs more like  (1:2500–5000 live births) whereas gender dysphoria is reported to occur around 0.002-0.014%. The bluehead wrasse is a wonderful organism that challenges the simple-minded view that your sex is determined at birth.  https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-northern-ireland-45449128 Sarah also encouraged us to watch some Green Porno to learn more details about the sex lives of non-human animals. You can see it here The opening theme to Discovering Darwin is "May" by Jared C. Balogh. http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Balogh/Revitalized_Eyes/MAY  Interlude music is Alberta Hunter singing My handy man ain't handy no more from her Amtrak Blues album.

    Bonus Episode - Are Angels moral?

    Bonus Episode - Are Angels moral?

     image from:https://www.artsales.com/ARTistory/angelic_journey/index.html In this bonus episode we return to our conversation with our favorite ex-monk philosopher friend Dr. Jack Furlong where he discusses whether angels, as described in scripture, could actually be moral.  We then briefly discuss the Yale baby lab where clever behavioral experiments are done on human babies to see how early they exhibit cognitive decision making. We hope to be back in the studio to record a complete episode out soon. 

    Season 4 Episode 7: We are Many, We are One

    Season 4 Episode 7: We are Many, We are One

     In this episode we finally confront Chapter 7 of Descent of Man,  entitled On the Races of Man. In this  chapter Darwin discusses the races of humans and outlines the scientific arguments of the time that questioned if humans are more than one species.  These arguments, of course, were based upon racist European views of the people from the lands their countries had colonized. Race is a social construct, not a biological identity, and we discussed why that is the case in this episode.   https://angelicadass.com/photography/humanae/ James Wagner's daughter participated in this awesome art project and she is included in the images above. At one point we noted that Darwin reintroduced the idea of a range of varieties of organisms that can interbreed along a geographical range, but the ends of the ranges were reproductively isolated. We introduced that idea, often called a ring species, in Season 1 Episode 3, which can be found here. Sarah loves her ectoparasites and their evolution and discussed Darwin's 30 year obsession with that issue. Here is a link to a wonderful series of articles about Descent of Man and that obsession. The opening theme to Discovering Darwin is "May" by Jared C. Balogh. http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Balogh/Revitalized_Eyes/MAY  Interlude music is We are Many, We are One a song from Up With People, a group of musicians who "stage song and dance performances promoting themes such as religion, racial equality, and positive thinking." Our own Mark Jackson played trumpet with Up With People before pursuing his career in psychology.

    Season 4 Episode 6: Your Inner Sea Squirt

    Season 4 Episode 6: Your Inner Sea Squirt

    Mark, Sarah, and James discuss Chapter 6 of Charles Darwin's Descent of Man. In this chapter Darwin unequivocally declares humans evolved from ancestral primate stock and that event occurred in Africa. We discussed how prescient Darwin was in interpreting the biology and scant fossil record in determining human relationship in the evolutionary tree.  (Image credit: Nick Hobgood/Wikimedia Commons) We discussed at length this problematic paragraph: The great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, convinced by general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks incessantly occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies—between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridæ—between the elephant and in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus or Echidna, and other mammals. But all these breaks depend merely on the number of related forms which have become extinct. At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.After that awkward discussion we finished with the notion that our ancestor probably looked like a sea squirt.  Here is the episode that Sarah referenced on the economics of Darwin's voyage - it was called to Drawn a Bill The opening and closing theme to Discovering Darwin is "May" by Jared C. Balogh. 1st interlude music was Mr. Smith - Happy Dance. https://freemusicarchive.org/music/mr-smith 2nd Interlude music It's a long way to Amphioxus by Sam Hinton https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0egWbwErRQ

    Season 4 Episode 5: I am Jack's morality

    Season 4 Episode 5: I am Jack's morality

    In this episode we enlist a different Furlong, Dr. Jack Furlong, to help us untangle morality and determine if there really is such a thing as big M morality, as Sarah calls it.   Jack, after a very in depth explanation, says "No".  Jack invokes the classic Trolley thought experiment to illustrate why various historical positions on morality stumble when confronted with the scenario and asks which big M morality system should be employed when resolving the trolley dilemma. Jack also challenges the view that morality in humans is either unique or exceptional. We also discussed how morality may show up in non-human animals and Jack cleared up for James the proper term to use when referring to more than a single octopus.  We also discussed if an octopus would have morality. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/12/octopus-farming-unethical-and-threat-to-food-chain The opening and closing theme to Discovering Darwin is "May" by Jared C. Balogh. Interlude music ENCOMIUM by Evan Schaeffer Music Studios | https://soundcloud.com/evanschaeffer Music promoted by https://www.free-stock-music.com Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en_US The Cure - Close to You

    Season 4 Episode 4: Big M morality &c

    Season 4 Episode 4: Big M morality &c

    In Chapter 4 Darwin begins to sketch out his views on how complicated human behaviors, like sacrifice, empathy for others, and group defense would evolve when selection would favor us to act otherwise.Chapter 4 is entitled Comparison of the Mental Powers of Man and the Lower Animals - continued, but the short title at the top of the page is Moral Sense, which suggests what Darwin really thinks he is discussing. although he never clearly defines morality Mark shares with us a couple of definitions of morality and notes that Darwin hints at the idea that morality is actions that we feel we ought to do, not necessarily what we want to do. Later in the chapter Darwin entangles into the concept of morality ideas of choice, doing things that are not innate, and having a sense of what others expect of us, and us wanting to avoid disapprobation from our social group. We discussed altruistic and defensive behaviors exhibited in social animals and asked if those actions were actually moral. Here is an image of a baboon facing off a leopard to protect the baboon troop, is that action moral? James proposed of the idea that there is a set of morals that are independent of religion or culture but are based upon equality and fairness that all rationale people would agree upon. Sarah referred to this as capital M morality and rejected the notion. Mark stayed silent of the idea.... Chapter 5 is where Darwin outlines his view that groups selection could explain the shift for moral behaviors, those behaviors that benefit the group at the cost to the individual. Darwin noted that-  When two tribes of primeval man, living in the same country, came into competition, if (other circumstances being equal) the one tribe included a great number of courageous, sympathetic and faithful members, who were always ready to warn each other of danger, to aid and defend each other, this tribe would succeed better and conquer the other. Let it be borne in mind how all-important in the never-ceasing wars of savages, fidelity and courage must be. The advantage which disciplined soldiers have over undisciplined hordes follows chiefly from the confidence which each man feels in his comrades. Obedience, as Mr. Bagehot has well shewn, is of the highest value, for any form of government is better than none. Selfish and contentious people will not cohere, and without coherence nothing can be effected. A tribe rich in the above qualities would spread and be victorious over other tribes: but in the course of time it would, judging from all past history, be in its turn overcome by some other tribe still more highly endowed. Thus the social and moral qualities would tend slowly to advance and be diffused throughout the world. We discussed the strengths and weaknesses of group selection argument and also explored the conflicted tone Darwin used in these two Chapter. In these two chapters alone, Darwin used the term "savages" thirty-two times. In the entire text, Darwin used the term "savages" 187 times! We discussed what he meant by that term and considered modern alternative. In this episode Sarah, Mark, and James discuss Chapter 4 & 5 of Darwin's The Descent of Man.  Before we got started, James noted that Mark is the campus champion of Crokinole which he plays in his campus office on this board. Mark Jackson's office Crokinole championship arena The opening and closing theme to Discovering Darwin is "May" by Jared C. Balogh. Interlude music is Overthrow by Shaolin Dub

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