Saturday, May 8, 2010

Evolution 101

"Life will find a way." - Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park


Two stories in the news this week remind us of the power of evolution and the fact that life will fight hard to sustain itself and that, very often, it will "find a way." These stories are all about the ability of species to adapt to new circumstances.

First, Science Daily reports that the mosquito that carries yellow fever has developed a resistance to the widely used insect repellent DEET. They have lost the ability to sense the product and so are not repelled by it. Some scientists are now urging restricted use of this and other repellents so that other species of mosquitoes do not become resistant to them.

Secondly, a story in The New York Times detailed how "superweeds" are becoming resistant to the ubiquitous weed killer, Roundup. This herbicide is the number one chemical used in fighting weeds by farmers and by many gardeners around the country. It is not really surprising that weeds would be trying to find ways to defeat it. In many instances, they have.

The most elementary study of evolutionary biology will teach that species are constantly adapting to changes in their environment and that this ability to adapt is one of the driving forces behind evolution. Of course, a society which rejects the whole idea of evolution and, in many instances, refuses to even have its principles taught in schools might well be ignorant of that fact. But even some of those militantly ignorant must have seen Jurassic Park and must have heard the Jeff Goldblum character's famous quote. Yes, life (i.e. Nature) is powerful and it WILL find a way to sustain itself, even if it means withstanding whatever noxious and deadly chemicals we throw at it.

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