Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Erika's New and Hot, Week 8
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/22/science/22deep.html?_r=1&ref=science&oref=slogin "Mysteries to Behold in the Dark Down Deep: Seadevils and Species Unknown"
Everyone should check out these photos- the article is a review of a book that published all these amazing pictures of deep-sea creatures, organisms that could not previously be photographed (because of the difficulties of creating a camera that could withstand such pressure) and that disintegrated into shapeless blobs when exposed to air and released from their normal water pressure. They're just bizarre.
The photos reminded me of the conclusion of The Origin of Species- Darwin spends a fair amount of time recapitulating the arguments against evolution by natural selection, and he refutes many of them by reminding his readers of how little we know. We can't tell the difference between varieties and species irrefutably, we can't comprehend the amount of time evolution would take (or the age of the Earth physicists told Darwin), we don't have all the intermediate species available in the fossil record, and we can't know how many countless species have gone extinct without a record. Darwin draws his conclusions about evolution based on what he was able to observe, but he was very conscious of the fact that there was much more he never could observe or understand. That he presented a theory, supported by an enormous amount of facts, but refused to call it an absolute truth, speaks to his humility as a proper scientist. Because of his open-mindedness, Darwin's theory still fits with the new species being discovered, species built using familiar plans, but with new adaptations for their extreme environment. As he points out in the Origin, if every species were created individually, there would be little reason why in this new (deep-sea) environment creatures would resemble species nearby, but in very different environments, instead of being a truly distinct act of creation.