Study Guide for First Test

In addition to the articles discussed below, be sure to pay attention to the text book discussion of the topic of evolution.  This would include the material included in the classroom powerpoint presentation.  You can link to it here.

Also, be sure you can answer questions from Chapter 1 of the text regarding the characteristics of living things, and human genealogy.

Testing Darwin, by Carl Zimmer.  2005.  Discover Magazine 26 (2):  28-35.

 After reading the article and participating in the class discussion, you should be able to:

  1. summarize how the computer simulation Avida simulates the evolutionary process.
  2. point out some of the advantages of computer modeling of evolution over relying on ‘traditional evidence’ such as fossils.
  3. explain the answers offered to some of the biggest questions of evolution:
    1. What good is half an eye?

                                                               i.      Is life today the result of evolution by natural selection?

                                                             ii.      What is the basis of the claim that “many evolutionary paths can produce the same complex organ?

                                                            iii.      What are the counter-arguments of the intelligent design community who insist that such structures are irreducibly complex?

    1. Why does a forest have more than one kind of plant?

                                                               i.      The tropical rain forest of Brazil hosts an incredible number of plants.  How does Avida explain this high biodiversity?  Why isn’t there just one plant, the best competitor?

    1. Why be nice?

                                                               i.      Under what circumstances could natural selection explain the presence of altruism among humans and other animals?

    1. Why sex?

                                                               i.      Why aren’t all organisms asexual?

    1. What does life on other planets look like?

                                                               i.      What if life on other planets evolved differently and doesn’t resemble earthly life at all?

    1. What will life on earth look like in the future?

Wong, Kate.  2005.  The Littlest Human.  Scientific American 292 (2):  56-65.

After reading the article and participating in the class discussion, you should be able to:

  1. summarize the findings on the island of Flores in Indonesia that are the basis for this article.
  2. explain the island effect.
  3. describe the characteristics that led the researchers to attribute the fossils to our genus, Homo, rather than another hominid group.
  4. summarize briefly the findings of researchers who are critical of the discoverer’s conclusion.
  5. give the number of hominids thought to be alive at the time of early Homo sapiens.

The Crafty Attacks on Evolution.  January 23, 2005.  The New York Times editorial page.

  1. summarize the editorial board's position on the teaching of evolution in public schools.  Do you agree or disagree.  (Be prepared to give arguments supporting your position.)
  2. comment on the phrase, "Evolution is only a theory."
  3. describe the position of the intelligent design proponents.
  4. defend your position about what should be taught in public schools about the topic of the origin of life.

Evolution Takes a Back Seat in US Classrooms, by Cornelia Dean.  The New York Times, Tuesday, February 1, 2005, Page F-1.

Although evolution is a topic covered in most biology textbooks, and tested for on achievement tests, curriculum standards, proficiency tests, and college entrance exams, it is not well covered in many schools and districts.  Summarize the reasons why many teachers are not covering this material.