Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

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Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#1  Postby Spearthrower » Oct 11, 2012 12:41 pm

Following some discussion on the Coursera thread, it was suggested that we should open a thread to pool information and have a platform for discussion on the topics for the courses RatSkep members have enrolled in.

This course is called Introduction to Genetics & Evolution. It's offered by Duke University - the professor is Mohammed Noor.

https://www.coursera.org/course/geneticsevolution

It started on October 10th, but people can still sign up for it.

The syllabus is:

Evidence for evolution
Introduction to basic genetics
Recombination and genetic mapping simple traits
Complications to genetic mapping
Genes vs. environment
Basic population genetics and Hardy-Weinberg
Gene flow, differentiation, inbreeding
Natural selection and genetic drift
Molecular evolution
Evolutionary applications and misapplications
Adaptive behaviors and species formation


No prior knowledge is required - Jerry Coyne's "Why Evolution Is True" is recommend reading.

Please note that this thread is for discussion of the course material and questions arising from it: it's not a platform for Creationist anti-scientific screeds - please point those at the Creationism subforum.
Last edited by Spearthrower on Oct 11, 2012 12:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#2  Postby Spearthrower » Oct 11, 2012 12:54 pm

First week done - very general, and I would imagine of no great challenge to the comprehension level of anyone who's spent any time at this forum! :) It really does highlight the value of the contributions of forum members that an expert topic is so well presented by some of the people here.

One thing of interest is the poll at the end of the first video -


"Holes" in Evolution
Are there "holes" in the evidence for evolution?

Yes. (1379 Responses) 38%
No. (1390 Responses) 38%
Uncertain. (816 Responses) 22%
I don't understand the question. (86 Responses)


Personally, I find that very interesting. On one level, it's interesting to see that many people who have voluntarily signed up for the course actually don't accept evolutionary theory to some degree - this suggests a degree of open-mindedness and recognition that they are not in possession of sufficient knowledge so they opt to study it. On another level, it's boggling that people can have such a poor comprehension of science that they think that a foundational underpinning of modern Biology is not well supported by evidence.

Of course, some people might have been addressing the question in terms of the specific video - it didn't offer evidence for some of the concepts they might be considering - like the 'molecules to man' notions that plague public exposure to a manufactured controversy.
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Coursera - Introduction to Genetics and Evolution

#3  Postby Garm » Oct 11, 2012 12:55 pm

Spearthrower wrote:
HughMcB wrote:
Spearthrower wrote:It'll be grand if we can all share our experiences - might encourage others to get involved too!

Let's start a thread up when the course opens! :cheers:

Fo' shizzle.

It's started - anyone want to open a thread on it? I'd say it should be kept in Education, and any Creationist bollockery should be kept out of it.


At your service. :book:

I signed up for this course as the subject of evolution fascinates me to no end. Unfortunately, I used to be a lazy student who was good at languages and not at science. That resulted in me ditching all sciences classes and taking languages and economics. In the past ten years, I've read so much about evolution through forums like RatSkep, that I took up a highschool biology course, since I knew absolutely nothing about the subject and, to my shame, about basic biology.

Fast forward to now: haven't finished my home course yet (am halfway), but thankfully covered enough ground to understand what professor Noor is talking about. Also purchased Jerry Coyne's book - a great read. I watched the first four video's last night and plan on watching the Jerry Coyne interview tonight. From the top of my head, some things I learnt through these first few video's are:

[*] The difference between evolution and natural selection - the distinction is much more clear to me now.
[*] The existence of non-functional olfactory receptor genes in humans (I had to google olfactory receptors as I'd never heard the term before).
[*] The evolution of the laryngeal nerve bit was interesting, as were the parts about the peppered moth and evolution of anti-biotic resistance.

That's my noob perspective. What are others' experiences?

EDIT: There's already a thread about it HERE.
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#4  Postby Garm » Oct 11, 2012 12:59 pm

Apologies, I see I started a thread about this 15 minutes too late. I'll ask a mod to delete or merge.
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#5  Postby Spearthrower » Oct 11, 2012 1:03 pm

Garm wrote:Apologies, I see I started a thread about this 15 minutes too late. I'll ask a mod to delete or merge.



Sorry, that's my fault really for telling someone else to start a thread rather than removing my digit from my rectum.
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#6  Postby Evolving » Oct 11, 2012 1:07 pm

Re "holes": it's not a very well-put question, though, is it?

If you take it as meaning "is there insufficient evidence to accept evolution as such", then of course the correct answer is "no".

If you take it as meaning "do we at this present time lack sufficient evidence to know exactly which organism evolved from which other organism and in what order", then surely there are "holes" in that sense, just as there are in cosmology, quantum physics and all sorts of other areas of science. (How boring science would be if there weren't any holes! Odd word to use, though.)

Anyway, it looked like a very interesting course, and made me wish I had time to do it!
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#7  Postby Garm » Oct 11, 2012 1:09 pm

Spearthrower wrote:Of course, some people might have been addressing the question in terms of the specific video - it didn't offer evidence for some of the concepts they might be considering - like the 'molecules to man' notions that plague public exposure to a manufactured controversy.

I was one of the people who answered 'Yes'. In hindsight, I should have said 'I don't understand the question', because it was unclear to me what they meant by 'holes'. I don't for a second question the validity of the (Theory of) Evolution, I was just thinking about things like the fossil record, which is practically impossible to ever get a complete picture of since organisms simply don't easily fossilize. I wasn't thinking of holes you could drive a bus through that make the entire concept of evolution questionable.

Maybe that's also how others have interpreted the question, and why the Yes-people are so numerous.
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#8  Postby Spearthrower » Oct 11, 2012 1:17 pm

Evolving wrote:
If you take it as meaning "do we at this present time lack sufficient evidence to know exactly which organism evolved from which other organism and in what order", then surely there are "holes" in that sense, ...


Yeah, I was considering that... but then again, if someone had sufficient awareness of these facts, then they'd presumably see that it wouldn't lead to answering the question in the affirmative. Or perhaps I am just miscalibrated in my assumptions.
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#9  Postby Spearthrower » Oct 11, 2012 1:20 pm

Garm wrote:
Spearthrower wrote:Of course, some people might have been addressing the question in terms of the specific video - it didn't offer evidence for some of the concepts they might be considering - like the 'molecules to man' notions that plague public exposure to a manufactured controversy.

I was one of the people who answered 'Yes'. In hindsight, I should have said 'I don't understand the question', because it was unclear to me what they meant by 'holes'. I don't for a second question the validity of the (Theory of) Evolution, I was just thinking about things like the fossil record, which is practically impossible to ever get a complete picture of since organisms simply don't easily fossilize. I wasn't thinking of holes you could drive a bus through that make the entire concept of evolution questionable.

Maybe that's also how others have interpreted the question, and why the Yes-people are so numerous.



Thanks - I did sort of have a vague notion of this in my mind when I started writing my post above, then promptly forgot to write it.

The way I would read 'holes in the evidence' is that the evidence is insufficient to account for X, or that there are things which X doesn't account for.

So yeah, maybe just not a well phrased question.
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#10  Postby Spearthrower » Oct 11, 2012 1:22 pm

As a quick stimulus question then....

If fossilization simply did not occur - would we not be justified in considering the ToE to be validated?
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#11  Postby Garm » Oct 11, 2012 1:29 pm

Spearthrower wrote:As a quick stimulus question then....

If fossilization simply did not occur - would we not be justified in considering the ToE to be validated?

Thanks - as a noob on this subject, I appreciate the odd test question. :)

Well, since we are able to observe change in populations of organisms happening now (Noor's example of anti-biotic resistance springs to mind), that alone seems like very strong evidence for evolution. Evidence in the fossil record just makes it more robust, showing us how life has evolved in the past.
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#12  Postby Evolving » Oct 11, 2012 1:31 pm

Also the overwhelming evidence in DNA, as well as the diverging development following geographical separation (e.g. Africa from S. America).
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#13  Postby Spearthrower » Oct 11, 2012 1:40 pm

Garm wrote:
Spearthrower wrote:As a quick stimulus question then....

If fossilization simply did not occur - would we not be justified in considering the ToE to be validated?


Thanks - as a noob on this subject, I appreciate the odd test question. :)

Well, since we are able to observe change in populations of organisms happening now (Noor's example of anti-biotic resistance springs to mind), that alone seems like very strong evidence for evolution. Evidence in the fossil record just makes it more robust, showing us how life has evolved in the past.


Indeed; not only is there plenty of evidence of evolution occurring now in the natural world, but we can very precisely observe it in the lab as in Lenski's on-going e-coli experiment.

Biogeography, as was mentioned in one of the vids (and as Evolving mentioned), presents another angle of evidence that might have lead us to alight on the hypothesis, even if fossilization were impossible. The discovery of DNA surely would have done so even if Darwin hadn't drawn this idea from his observations of extant populations.

One of the key things that this first week's course seems to want to impress is the diversity of evidence that supports the theory and fact of evolution. Understandable in the climate of anti-scientific scepticism.
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#14  Postby Animavore » Oct 11, 2012 4:38 pm

I haven't looked at the vid yet, probably shouldn't be here :ask:

Won't get a chance 'til Saturday.
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#15  Postby ElDiablo » Oct 12, 2012 9:19 pm

:popcorn:
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#16  Postby ElDiablo » Oct 13, 2012 3:35 am

I too think that the holes question can be interpreted in different ways. When I think of holes, I think about gaps in material evidence or knowledge. If he had worded the question "is the evidence for evolution sound?", I would answer yes.
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#17  Postby byofrcs » Oct 13, 2012 1:17 pm

Just signed up. Have to quickly catch up. No revealing secrets about Genetics/ToE like how it's all a Mason/Opus Dei conspiracy.
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#18  Postby Spearthrower » Oct 13, 2012 7:08 pm

byofrcs wrote:Just signed up. Have to quickly catch up. No revealing secrets about Genetics/ToE like how it's all a Mason/Opus Dei conspiracy.


It's alright - it's only the first week! :)

None of the Truth yet - that'll come out later once they've got us all indoctrinated.
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#19  Postby ElDiablo » Oct 14, 2012 1:15 am

Went through the first course. I found it a very good overview for me. I particularly liked the Retrodictions section.
Also, one falsification I don't remember reading in other material is: adaptations in one species that are good only for a second species. Good stuff so far.

Thanks Spearthrower.
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Re: Introduction to Genetics & Evolution

#20  Postby Animavore » Oct 14, 2012 1:01 pm

The first week is very basic for me. To be honest I was dicking around on the net while listening to it at the same time.

Looking forward to week two and getting into genetics which is my weakest area of evolutionary theory. :cheers:
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