Saturday, May 17, 2008

"Your Inner Fish" a Bit on Neil Shubin's Book


Has anyone caught an interview with this paleontologist, Neil Shubin?
I was listening to him this past week on Minnesota Public Radio, as he discussed his work digging around in the Arctic Circle, collecting fossils of fish evolving with fingers and necks. It's freaking fascinating stuff!

I love it, as a woman who reveres science, and so deeply enjoys the
literal and figurative applications to my human and spiritual self.

Literally: If we all evolved from fish, what must our lung capacities

Figuratively: What abilities to dive deeply, and immerse ourselves in
oceanic atmospheres do we possess?
How are our inner fishes really great for sustaining us in these
turbulent, and ever-changing waters of life?

Here's a passage from the Newsweek article that cracks me up with
info and Shubin's humor:

"Your Inner Fish," Shubin explains how a range of medical conditions, from hiccups to heart disease, are the byproducts of our clunky evolution. "The extraordinary disconnect between our past and our human present means that our bodies fall apart in certain predictable ways," he says. "Our circulatory systems are a good example. They were designed for activity, but we now have the lifestyles of spuds."

Here's the link to the Newsweek article. Check it out if you have time!



Marian Borgmann Ingwersen said...

You should take a vertebrate zoology class Melissa … or a comparative anatomy/physiology course. It’s all fascinating. I always like looking at the parts that we share with animals that showed up earlier in the evolutionary history of vertebrates and comparing their form and function. Our appendix, for example, is a vestigial cecum. A cecum is a blind alleyway off the gut. Its function is to digest the indigestible. In fish, the ceca (most have several) do a lot of digesting … in us, it just gets stuff caught in it once in a while, gets infected and causes us problems. We’d be better off without it. But why does it persist? (because it doesn’t kill off people before they pass it on to their offspring).

As far as lung capacity, as you well know … most fish don’t have lungs but some do. Lungs came and went in different groups of fishes to deal with the environment of the times. We still have the gill slits of our fish ancestors in early fetal development.

Evolution bothers some religions. For whatever reason, the Catholics have embraced it along with such widely accepted principles as the Big Bang. I think the whole Galileo “episode” left the scholars of the Church a bit more philosophical in their approach towards science as not something to be fought against, but something to be embraced and understood. After all (my classic question to the skeptics), why would God endow us with a brain to conceive of scientific principles and then expect us to ignore them?

A few of my Freshmen students who took Biology Concepts and Zoology … would write to me on my final evaluations something like “evolution is a theory … you teach it like it’s a fact” or “I don’t believe in evolution and she expects me to use it to answer questions … this isn’t fair”. But, then … there would be the breakthroughs … “I had no idea what evolution really was until I took this class ” or “I didn’t believe in evolution before I took this class … now it’s so obvious to me that I wonder what I was thinking”.

I like to think that every student I ever taught, at the least, left understanding what evolution really is. I would tell them it’s important to understand it even if you don’t want to accept it and that because this is a biology course, you have to be able to apply the concepts inherent to it. I also wanted to impress on them that saying you “believe” or “don’t’ believe” in evolution is the wrong way to phrase the issue. That’s like saying you don’t believe in photosynthesis or gravity. You should say “I don’t believe evolution explains the existence and diversity of life” or something like that. If they are going to criticize something, they should at least be able to make statements that make sense. Cheers!


Marian Borgmann Ingwersen, Ph.D.
Director, Wesleyan Honors Academy
Nebraska Wesleyan University
5000 Saint Paul Avenue
Lincoln, NE 68504
(402) 465-2415

Sr. Rafael Tilton said...

Sister Marya Grathwold is writing a book out in the Big Horn Mountains where people come to make rosaries of the rocks from the successive layers of all the stages of paleontology, commemorating the gift that we humans received from each of those earlier stages.
I like the thought of before the creation of the world, before God said "let their be light," there was this understanding that Jesus would have within His body to consecrate and make holy all the elements and all the stages of all the eons of evolution; that, as center of all the universe and as end of all creation, all creativity would both come from Him and come back to Him, and that through Him and with Him and in Him, all the glory of all those eons and ages is brought unto One. It's an awesome thought, don't you think? St. Bonaventure says that Christ is the center of each and every and all the sciences.

Peace and All good
Sr. Rafael