As mentioned in my last post, I’m currently in a graduate anthropology program. I’ve had a lot of concepts, systems of thought, statistics &etc. thrown at me over the past month and a half. Having read a lot of Richard Dawkins in the past (which reinforced my decision to purse anthropological study), I am familiar with a lot of the content insofar but I wouldn’t say I really knew the content. I can say, though, that at this point I’m really filling in my existing knowledge with a lot of detail.
I’ve been reading Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth: Evidence for Evolution on and off for less than a year. Normally, I’d speed through one of his books in a manner akin to starvation. With this one, however, there’s more technical detail, and I find that I’ve been taking my time getting through it… obviously.
I just picked it back up today after a few months of not reading from it, and I must say that I am more in awe of evolution than I was before. It’s not like drinking of glass of water; learning about this stuff isn’t quenching my thirst–it’s like drinking salt water.
Take, for example, this chapter on common ancestry. For anyone reading this who owns the book (or if you plan to purchase it), I’m referring to the chapter called “The Tree of Cousinship.” Basically, Dawkins says that, although certain species may seem more similar than others, all species can be traced back to a common ancestor, and if you go far enough back far enough in the fossil record you can identify these common ancestors. What’s more, the very nature of our genetic makeup, though the phenotypic genes may vary across species, shows that we all came from a single organism–namely, the presence and utility of DNA as being tantamount to all living things suggests a singular origin among anything that has or uses DNA. At such a large scale, isn’t that incredible?
On page 329 of The Greatest Show, you can see precisely how all life is related to one another and how each “twig” of the tree of life is connected by smaller branches, then larger and to the trunk and roots. I’m referring to the exquisite Hillis plot (pictured). Humans are located at approximately 10 o’clock on the circle. In addition to Homo sapiens, there are 2,999 other species around the circle. It really puts into perspective that, while species are different, everything came from the same place.
Anywho, that’s all for now. I just wanted to call attention to one of the world’s most controversial facts. Isn’t evolution beautiful?