16 thoughts on “Darwin, Wallace, and evolution

  1. Princeton biologists’ evolutionary work on finches awarded

    by Carly Rothman/The Star-Ledger

    Friday June 19, 2009, 3:01 AM

    PRINCETON — Together, they spent more than 35 years tracking “Darwin’s finches” in the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador.

    Together, they taught at Princeton University, published groundbreaking research on evolutionary theory, and received honors including the Darwin Medal from the Royal Society of London.

    Today, biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant together will mark another major achievement: The husband-and-wife team has been awarded the Kyoto Prize, an international award presented by the Inamori Foundation of Japan.

    The program, founded 25 years ago by entrepreneur, businessman and philanthropist Kazuo Inamori, honors outstanding contributions in advanced technology, basic sciences and arts and philosophy. The Grants are this year’s honorees in the Basic Science category.

    “It is Dr. Inamori’s belief that our society’s future can be assured only when there is a balance between technological development and the advancement of the human spirit,” said Jay Scovie, the North American liaison for the Inamori Foundation, explaining the Grants were selected both for their “enormous” scientific contributions and “the selfless dedication, the commitment, and the willingness to make significant personal sacrifice for the sake of their science.”

    Through their painstaking study of the beak size and shape of 14 finch varieties, mainly on the Daphne Major island, the Grants have substantiated and expanded the theories of Charles Darwin, examining the mechanisms by which species evolve in response to environmental changes and yielding insights on how natural selection takes place.

    “Peter and Rosemary Grant have been the leaders in showing how evolution works — how small changes can lead to big ones,” said John Bonner, the George M. Moffett Professor Emeritus of Biology at Princeton University, in a statement released by the school.

    The Grants could not be quoted for this story because the prize’s organizers required news of the award be held until the couple was alerted early this morning.

    “Honors for the Grants are extremely well-deserved … they have revolutionized our view of evolution, providing dramatic evidence of evolution at work,” Simon Levin, the George M. Moffett Professor of Biology at Princeton University, wrote in an e-mail.

    Levin was the 2005 Kyoto Prize winner in the basic science category for his work in environmental science. Also in 2005, Princeton alumnus George Heilmeir, who invented liquid crystal display technology, won the prize for advanced technology, according to a statement from the university.

    After graduating from the University of Cambridge and earning his doctorate at the University of British Columbia, Peter Grant served on the faculties of the University of Michigan and McGill University, according to the university’s statement. He came to Princeton in 1985, chairing the newly created Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology between 1990 and 1991. He is currently the Class of 1877 Professor Emeritus of Zoology.

    Rosemary Grant graduated from Edinburgh University and earned her doctorate from Uppsala University in Sweden, meanwhile working as a research associate at several institutions, according to the statement. She joined Princeton University in 1985 as a research staff member, becoming a senior research scholar in 1997. She retired last year after many years as a lecturer.

    Both Grants are fellows of the Royal Societies of London and Canada. The authors of several books, the Grants were the subject of a 1994 Pulitzer Prize winner, “The Beak of the Finch.”

    The winner in each category will receive a prize of 50 million yen, or about $500,000. The Grants will be invited to receive their award in Kyoto in November.


  2. Posted by: “bigraccoon” bigraccoon@earthlink.net redwoodsaurus
    Sun Jul 12, 2009 3:27 pm (PDT)

    Texas Governor Perry Picks Creationist To Run State Education Board


    Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has chosen Gail Lowe, an outspoken creationist, to run the state’s Board of Education.

    It was actually the less controversial choice. Cynthia Dunbar, reportedly under consideration for the post, believed government should be guided by a “biblical litmus test” and thought public education was a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion.” (She home-schooled her own children.) She has also endorsed conspiracy theories suggesting President Obama is not a natural-born citizen.

    Lowe, on the other hand, thinks evolution should be taught and “kids ought to be able to hold religious beliefs and still study science without any conflict.” But in 2008, she took the position that “biology textbooks which do not teach both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of the theory of evolution must be rejected by the board.” She has voted against new textbooks that do not contain those “weaknesses.” She is a newspaper editor, not a teacher.

    Lowe will replace Don McLeroy, another self-described creationist and dentist whose reappointment was blocked by Democrats. He had been chairman of the board since 2007 and will remain a member.


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