FALL, 2002

Evolution, "betterness" (or not), "human nature", dinosaurs, vaccines ... and eggs

Name:  Diana Fernandez
Subject:  movement
Date:  2002-10-01 15:36:32
Message Id:  3074
The lab this week got me to thinking how our everyday actions are dictated by the laws of science. For example the amount of movment of tiny beads in this weeks lab, were moving a certain amount in regards to scale. I wonder how humans are effected by movment in nature.
Name:  Diana La Femina
Subject:  Posting
Date:  2002-10-01 18:56:38
Message Id:  3078
So here I am, doing a regular check of the forum to help me procrastinate from writing my French paper...and what do I see? Hardly anyone's posted so far. I know I'm guilty of it too, mainly because I've been so tired. I seriously don't think it's sleep deprivation either, I get a good amount of sleep. I think it's the stress. It causes an unending cycle. When you're stressed your body needs more sleep, but you can't get more sleep cause of all the things that are causing you stress. The solution? I say we all become hermits on a mountain somewhere...well, that's what I want to do right now. I guess we really should just ride the tide till it all passes.
Name:  Anastasia Michals
Subject:  Confusion
Date:  2002-10-01 23:54:50
Message Id:  3080
I am still a little confused on the whole "better" subject. I don't understand how some species are not "better" than others. I mean, a dog could potentially outlive some bacteria, so why is it not considered better than the bacteria? It managed to survive better in its environment so why isn't it considered better? And when we say better, what do we really mean? Is better more efficient? Also I think that this is important when comparing things and talking about biology. Doesn't this play a role in our classifications of species? I think many of us classify species according to how simple or complex they may be. We also seem to deem the more complex species "better" than the simpler ones. Why is this bad? Maybe someone could help me out a little.
Name:  Sarah Tan
Date:  2002-10-03 14:23:56
Message Id:  3101
Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one who has had the forum simply slip my mind until this late in the week. The web paper caused enough grief for me that I wanted to take a break from bio for a few days. Having said that, I didn't have any real inspiration for a post, so I went again to the NY Times website and found an article about a new theory of language development in children. This is almost a perfect way that biology actually relates to my major, linguistics. Even though I'm not quite so interested in language acquisition, I always think it's interesting to keep up on the newest studies and so-called "truths."

There's been a heated disucssion for the past four decades or so between the two main camps of linguists, one of which insists that children acquire language as they grow and the brain picks it up, and the other of which insists that the basics of language (universal grammar) are hardwired into the brains of children at birth, and all they need to do is figure out which specific rules apply for the particular language they are immersed in. Both sides are convinced that they are right, but as far as I know, there hasn't been clear evidence that either is right or wrong. In a situation like this, my preferred method is simply to watch both sides argue while not being sucked into either one and wait another few decades for a new "truth" to emerge.

Name:  Adrienne Wardy
Subject:  Evolution
Date:  2002-10-03 23:39:59
Message Id:  3109
I've been thinking about the idea that humans didn't evolve in a clearly sequential order. Maybe this is a crazy idea, but doesn't that mean there could be slightly different types of humans around right now? It might be possible that there some humans who have slightly bigger brains than others. After all, life is a series of changes. Humans may be changing as we speak. Just a thought....What do other people think of this?
Name:  Margaret Hoyt
Subject:  God
Date:  2002-10-04 01:30:27
Message Id:  3113
After our discussions on evolution, I've been musing over the Biblical Creation aspect. I never really directly compared the two or thought to myself, which one makes more sense. In high school, we skirted the issue as not to ignite a controversey - leaving everyone a little less educated on the development behind the human species.

When Prof. Grobstein mentioned that anywhere from 80- 95% of the living organisms died 65 million years ago, I thought to myself, when did Adam and Eve exist? Were they before the dinosaurs? Did they come later? How do people really link science and religion? I think my particular hang up isn't religion per se, but the Biblical teachings. I think religion is the aknowledgement and reverence of some higher form of being. The Bible itself has a lot of stories that science has been able to help prove, or in some cases, disprove.

In all of this musing, I find myself coming back to something we learned in the first week of class (or maybe the second), that Science doesn't have a monopoly on truth - they find what they believe is accurate and possibly true to the best of their knowledge. The faithful do that as well. To believers everywhere, they can believe in the Bible or Qu'ran or Torah or any spiritual text and accept it as truth. There are few concrete answers for me; I must find some sort of blanace between science and faith myself.

Name:  Maggie
Username:  mscottwe
Subject:  Bilingual children must be geniuses
Date:  2002-10-04 08:49:38
Message Id:  3116
Sarah was talking about language, which reminded me about something that has interested me for awhile. Last year I talked many of my friends who were raised bilingually, but none of them could help me. How do children who are raised bilingually distinguish one language from the other? I have heard of instances where one parent will only ever speak to the child in, say, French, and the other parent will only ever speak in English. So the child then knows the difference between their mother's language and their father's language. But what happens if the child overhears one of the parents speaking the 'wrong' language to someone else? Or to each other? A couple of my friends weren't raised that way anyhow, everyone just spoke both languages. Maybe at home it is fine to mix Chinese and Spanish together, but what happens when the child goes to school and speaks in Spanish to her Chinese teachers? Or speaks in both? How does the child know, even if she has a definitive line between the two languages, which language to speak outside of the house? I'm thinking this sounds like a good paper topic...
Name:  roseanne moriyama
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  extinction
Date:  2002-10-04 16:23:03
Message Id:  3123
i still think of times when these gigantic animals were roaming the earth, and suddenly 80=90% of all organisms alive disappear. I heard that meteorites that could wipe out most of the world's existance come periodically, and the next one is expected to come soon. i dont know how soon, but thats what i remember reading somewhere. if, at this moment, 80-90% of the organisms on the planet were extinguished, what would those 80-90% be? and what would the surviving 10-20% be? i'm assuming human beings would be 'one of the 80-90%' that would die? just curious- so could we say that the organisms that survive as 'better' than those organisms that couldn't? whats the deal?
Name:  kathryn bailey
Date:  2002-10-05 12:17:35
Message Id:  3131
I thought Adrienne's comment that since humans don't evolve in a clearly sequential order, there is the possiblitly that different types of humans exist right now, was interesting. I don't know for sure, but I doubt that humans have exactly the same brain size. In that case, I wonder what the range of human brain size is. Where do scientists collect data to measure brain size? Do they measure human brains from different regions or ethnicities? I can also see how this topic could lead to extreme prejudice .... it might lead some people to say, "this group has bigger brains than that group, therefore the first group must be "better" (whatever "better" means). If significant differences in brain size do exist, I hope that the scientific community would use caution when revealing their data in order to avoid such a close-minded attitude.
Name:  Laura Bang!
Subject:  Random ramblings...
Date:  2002-10-05 13:16:37
Message Id:  3132

     Wow, the forum is pretty quiet this week. I'm guessing that people are drained from the web paper and other midterm stuff....


     I thought that what we talked about on Friday was very interesting -- about how everything, living or not, is made up of atoms, which aren't alive. So why are we alive? I don't understand why we are alive and, say, a rock isn't alive. What determines what gets to be alive since it's not the atoms? I also find it interesting that carbon is such a large part of being alive, and yet there's so little carbon in the universe. Where did all the carbon come from? And why did it just come to Earth? Why was Earth the only planet to be blessed with life? What if some carbon explosion had occurred on another planet as well as Earth -- how would our lives be different if one of our neighboring planets harbored as diverse a life system as Earth's? But that didn't happen, and I am really curious as to why -- why is Earth the only planet to bear life?

     Just something to think about...

Name:  Will Carroll
Subject:  more better
Date:  2002-10-05 14:24:40
Message Id:  3133
The idea of a better organism is still alive, and it's one of the things I'm most interested in or at least have the most to talk about so here I go again. Anastasia raised some good points in her questions. The one that I don't have a very good response to is the one about life span. I suppose that longer living organism could be considered better, but it depends on their purpose. I think in the big bio picture life span has no relevance to an organism, just as long as the organism can reproduce. Anastasia also said that the dog survived better in its environment than the bacteria, but I don't see how that's the case. They live in completely different environments and have different ways of excelling in those environments. A dog certainly doesn't belong in my intestine, whereas the E. coli in there are doing a wonderful job. There's really no way to compare different species who live in various environments and who perform various functions. This addresses the issue of complexity. There are many environments where complexity is not beneficial, such as for E. coli. If E. coli were to become complex, their size would expand (complexity requires differentiated cells, and many of them) and would no longer fit in my intestine and therefore be unable to perform their function in their environment. Then Kathryn raised an interesting quetion about brain size. I think it's much easier (and actually possible) to say some humans are better if their brain is bigger. Humans all have the same function in pretty much the same environment. If I remember correctly, Mongol is a derogative term used for people with pronounced foreheads and other distinguishing characteristics, stemming from the Mongolians of Genghis Khan fame. This is one group of different humans that relates to the idea that has been brought up this week in forum. Interesting stuff. And I think race is an obvious difference that may not be similar to brain size as a different breed of human, but that's because skin color is something that's more necessary to adapt in humans' various environment, whereas brain size doesn't need to vary much throughout the world.
Name:  Elizabeth Damore
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Potato
Date:  2002-10-05 14:28:35
Message Id:  3134
I can't answer any of Laura's questions, but they are similar to thoughts I've had about the nature of life and wondering how we distinguish between alive and...not. I've found that not only do I make those distinctions between living and non-living matter, but also among certain forms of life. For example, even though I know that a potato is alive, I have a hard time thinking of it in the same way I think of animals. This may be because animals are more animated than plants. Or maybe it's the lack of (discernable) interaction betweeen potatos or other plants.
Name:  heidi
Subject:  evolution and it's whereabouts
Date:  2002-10-05 23:52:24
Message Id:  3141
I have two thoughts to add to this week's forum. One goes back to the idea of evolution as raised by Will, and the other has to do with carbon atoms and Laura's point.
I was thinking about evolution and remembered that Prof. Grobstein was talking about how it changes toward greater complexity. Does this mean that we are changing as we live? It would of course be a minimal and insignificant change. What I'm trying to say is does the change occur in each new born child? How are they different from the parents? It's interesting though to think about evolution and what it means looking at each one of us in relation to our parents and grand parents and even people that lived centuries ago. Would their skull be shaped differently from ours? After what time period can one see the change in structure?
The other issue I wanted to comment on was Laura's suggestion about carbon and life. It made me think. Why is the earth the only planet blessed with life? Is it...? I like to think that it's not.
Name:  stephanie lane
Subject:  Steven Pinker
Date:  2002-10-06 08:25:24
Message Id:  3143
In the Thurs, Oct. 3 edition of USA Today's 'Life' section was an article about Steven Pinker,a psychologist and an MIT researcher who said that,

"The emotions and drives and ways of thinking and learning that are uniform across the human species are part of our inheritance."

Essentially, Pinker has reason to believe that humans, like many other animals, are born with human instincts which make us prone to certain behaviors. For example: waging war, boys being violent, belief in a higher being, gossip, girls playing with dolls, marriage, and even that men wanting multiple sex partners is innate because males who were most promiscuous historically had the greatest number of offspring. Most of our behaviors occurr not becuase we pick them up somewhere but because we are born with them, genetically. In other words, the "blank slate" idea is being tried here.

The idea that certain behaviors are, genetically, part of human nature, and that we even have a 'human nature,' is extremely interesting to me. I've always assumed that humans have changed themselves and their environment so dramatically that any kind of human nature wouldn't be able to exist. We've been going over the fact in class that humans have evolved so much and changed so much in such a short amount of time. And I mean, I've heard of dog and other animal instincts but attributed their existence to the fact that they haven't changed that much over time(relative to humans). But maybe, as humans, we really haven't changed that much either? It's certainly something to think about.

Name:  Mer
Date:  2002-10-06 10:30:53
Message Id:  3144
Ok, so I have read through the forum, and while there are some interesting debates going on, especially about whether or not one form of life is "better" than the other, I am very disturbed by the quote in Stephanie's post. To say that, "emotions are a part of our inheritance," makes no sense to me.

Animals (including humans) rely on natural instinct to protect themselves. Wild animals do not rationalize thier instinct; they follow it because that is what it is there for. Humans are still "wild" animals, no matter how much we try to "civilize" ourselves.

I think that humans have changed enormously over the span of our exhistence, especially when compared to other organisms. The ability to think on a "higher" level is one of the main characterstics that separate humans from other animals.

In the past five hundred years, the different philosophies by which people live have changes - it was once thought that black women were inferior to white people; women are just gaining (and in some cases still fighting for) thier rights of equality. If we assume that these philosophies are (even) in part because of our "natural instinct," by changing these philosophies over time, we are actually going against out instinct.

Name:  Jodie
Subject:  dinosaurs
Date:  2002-10-06 10:47:50
Message Id:  3145
Has anyone ever wondered why so many of us were OBSESSED with dinosaurs when we were little? I used to know almost every name of every dinosaur, and now I can only remember tyrannasaurus rex. A lot of people I know were obsessed with dinosaurs even before Jurassic Park was made into a movie...was anyone else?

So, since my dinosaur obsession was when I was younger, like perhaps second or third grade younger, there wasn't the huge database of the internet available for research. (I did, however, have this great book that had a cassette with it.) I searched for dinosaurs at first site to come up is A look at this site...and I quote, "Zoom Dinosaurs is a comprehensive on-line hypertext book about dinosaurs. It is designed for students of all ages and levels of comprehension. It has an easy-to-use structure that allows readers to start at a basic level on each topic, and then to progress to much more advanced information as desired, simply by clicking on links." That's pretty cool.

There was always this one dinosaur I liked the best. It had thumbs or digits closely resembling thumbs. I really have no idea what the name of this dinosaur was. Please, allow me to do some research...all right, now I remember. The dinosaur of the week (apparently) is the Iguanodon. "Iguanodon was a dinosaur that had a horny, toothless beak and tightly-packed cheek teeth. On each hand, Iguanodon had four fingers plus a conical thumb spike on each hand (that was perpendicular to the other fingers). The thumb spikes may have been used for defense or in obtaining food; it ranged from 2 to 6 inches long. Iguanodon had a flat, stiff tail and three-toed hind feet with hoof-like claws. Its legs were much larger than its arms. Iguanodon averaged about 30 feet long (9.3 m), 16 feet tall (5 m), 9 ft (2.7 m) tall at the hips, and may have weighed 4 to 5 tons." (thanks

Basically I wanted to make the point that dinosaurs are intersting, and I was curious about the fact that so many of us read about and know about dinosaurs as children but then forget all about them when we get older.
Name:  Heather
Username:  hprice
Subject:  Hmmmm...
Date:  2002-10-06 11:15:21
Message Id:  3146
Well, when it comes to the whole issue of "better" I don't have any really firm convictions, so for this forum, I'm staying as fas away as possible, thank you very much.

But I was looking around the webpaper and saw a couple interesting ones. The one that really caught my eye was Christine's paper on trepedation (sorry if I spelled that wrong), it was really interesting. The idea that anyone would drill a hole in their head just for a "high" is absolutely insane! ick. I can understand people doing it thousands of years ago, because they did a lot of things that would make a modern doctor cry, but the idea of people doing it today is just messed up!

Name:  Brie Farley
Subject:  pro erdman eggs
Date:  2002-10-06 11:47:48
Message Id:  3148
I wonder how many of you have just returned from (or are on the way to) brunch. Did you have your fair share of eggs??? As a member of the crew team, I am a frequent face in the dining halls during breakfast. If you ask the team what the number one food is in Erdman, you will hear a resounding "EGGS!" Looking out for the well being of myself and my team, I decided that instead of continuing to debate about who's not better and what they're made of, I'd find out if all the eggs the crew team consumes is a good thing.
I consulted an article on the web, at This site is pro-egg. ''The egg has been unfairly blamed as a bad food and as the reason why seemingly everybody has high cholesterol,'' said Elizabeth Ward, nutrition counselor at the Harvard Community Health Plan in Boston. ''Somehow people don't worry as much about eating ice cream or slathering cheese on a burger, but there is huge concern about a teeny-tiny egg.'' I think this point is valid. I have actually seen people eating ice cream at Sunday brunch in Erdman, glaring at the eggs like they are the enemy.
''The egg is the gold standard,'' said Gail Frank, professor of nutrition at California State University-Long Beach. The white is nature's highest-quality protein, she says: It has a complete set of essential amino acids for the body. The yolk has all other nutrients, along with about 6 grams of fat."
My concern about eggs primarily stems from a belief that if you eat eggs, you'll have high cholesterol. However, the article points out that this is not the case. According to this article, a review of previous studies over the last 28 years showed that dietary cholesterol has a minimal effect on blood cholesterol levels. It was concluded that consumption of dietary cholesterol is associated with only about 20 percent of any increase in blood serum totals and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is the kind that clogs arteries.
What does it all mean? Go eat your eggs! That daily omelet bar is a great addition to Erdman, and will keep you healthy! However, the article concludes with an important statement. "It may be less the number of eggs in a diet and more the method of preparation." You must be wary about how you consume your eggs. If you make an omelet, use a lot of butter, throw in two handfuls of cheese, some bacon bits, a little ham, and smother ketchup all over it, your additives may outweigh all of the pure benefits of the egg. If this is your favorite breakfast, you might want to wean yourself off of whole eggs, and switch to egg whites to attempt to balance the saturated fat content of your meal! Just be smart about it, and if you need ideas about egg preparations, ask the women in Erdman- especially the 20 sweaty rowers who couldn't be more excited about eggs!
Name:  Kate Amlin
Subject:  evolution
Date:  2002-10-06 11:51:07
Message Id:  3149
Looking at some of the previous posts this week and remembering the pictures of brain sizes for various animals that we saw in class on Friday -- I think it is important to keep in mind that "bigger" does not mean better. Yes, humans do have large brains in comparison to their bodies. But are we really the "most intelligent" living organisms? All evidence to prove this would seem rather biased since humans seem to be the only animals that research the subject. In addition, the link between larger brains and smarter humans has not been established. If we can not definitively qualify that more intelligent individuals have larger brains then why do we assert that having a large brain is preferable?
Name:  Katie
Subject:  Game of Life
Date:  2002-10-06 12:00:07
Message Id:  3150
So I am really interested in the Game of Life that we looked at on Friday. The "assembly rules" are arbitrary, but I assume it would still yeild some sort of order even with different rules.
But I guess my random question now is that Game of Life reached a certain point when it didn't change any more. It reached that "perfect" stage or complete point. So is that how life is proceeding now? Is there a time when the process of life and trying out new things will stop because it has found that final order? That would be assuming that there is a final order to reach...So where exactly is this all going and what will we become? I sometimes wonder if our quest into science is just to figure out the answers to these questions, not really to understand what is here right now, but to peer into the future and quell our fears of the unknown and what is coming and how it will all change...
Name:  Chelsea
Subject:  Human Evolution
Date:  2002-10-06 15:59:26
Message Id:  3156
Talking about evolution makes me wonder about human evolution in the future and the impact of modern medicine, etc. on "survival of the fittest" (though obviously it's much better to make it so that more people can survive, this issue still seems like an interesting thing to think about in a speculative sense). Actually, in many ways you could make the argument that what conditions humans need to be adapted to has simply changed -- with modern medicine in some sense being one of the resources of our current environment.
Name:  Laura Silvius
Subject:  The Game of Life
Date:  2002-10-06 17:30:33
Message Id:  3162
I noticed Katie's comment on how life would reach the "perfect" stage, and I'm just thinking, how is this perfect? In the Game of Life that we were all so amused by on Friday, Life would reach an equilibrium with the environment to where life was sustained and everything was just peachy, but I think we all know that Life is not just peachy. There's a hole in the ozone layer. Landfills are overflowing. Pollution is simply absurd. We are using up all of the earth's natural resources faster than the earth can produce them, we use and abuse until there's nothing left and then we move. How is this an equilibrium? No other living creature on earth abuses what the world has to offer in this manner. There's a line to this affect in 'The Matrix' (I had to watch it for a class - really!), that the only other organism on the planet that acts like this is a virus. Does this point have some validity, or am I just silly?

Don't be afraid to go with the silly option - it's what I'm leaning towards myself.

See you all in class tomorrow!

Name:  diana dimuro
Subject:  Smallpox Vaccine
Date:  2002-10-06 20:46:03
Message Id:  3175
Sorry for the delay, I'm a little slow to the forum this week. I wanted to talk a bit about an article I read in the NY times today that has to do with releasing a smallpox vaccine to the general public in the future.

Many of the top public health officials stated today that they were in favor of releasing a smallpox vaccine to the general public but not until it is administered to up to 10 million health care workers, and after the vaccine is licensed for general use. This is not likely to happen until 2004. The idea behind this is to first start offering the vaccine to health care and emergency workers facing the greatest risk of handling a smallpox case. Under one plan, health officials would start by offering vaccinations to about 500,000 workers who would be most at risk of encountering any smallpox cases in hospitals. Another option would be to consider expanding the 500,000 vaccinations to all the nation's estimated 10 million health care and emergency workers.

A panel, known as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, rejected a proposal to offer smallpox vaccinations to the general public. It recommended limiting vaccinations to health care and emergency workers who were likely to be "first responders" to a bioterror attack. The panel's chairman estimated 15,000 people would be inoculated. A series of meetings were then begun with state health officials, doctors and hospital executives. Those meetings led them to decide that they should present president Bush with options to expand vaccinations to all health professionals and law enforcement people, and eventually to all Americans who want the vaccine.

At a news conference, officials also announced that one million doses of smallpox vaccine will be provided to the military.The government halted routine vaccinations in 1972 as the disease was being errased from the world. But the terrorism attacks last year and the possibility that Iraq or other hostile nations might have the virus have caused health officials to consider a new battle against the disease.

When the vaccine was used, "life-threatening complications" occurred at a rate of 15 per million among those who received their first smallpox vaccination, and the number included about one to two deaths. The vaccine can also cause many non-life-threatening complications such as blindness.
Thirty to 50 million Americans might be disqualified from getting the vaccine because their immune systems have been weakened by cancer, AIDS or other diseases, or because they have two common skin conditions, eczema and atopic dermatitis, which increase the risk of complications.

Although it will be a very long time before a vaccination for the general public will be approved or even begin being tested or distributed, there may be a smallpox vaccine for health care workers in the not too distant future. My questions for the forum then is if there are still so many risks associated with the vaccine, won't giving it to health care workers increase the risk of it being given to patients? What if the vaccine causes mass illness or problems among a huge percentage of health care workers? Then this will also decrease the amount of healthy working health care workers. It's pretty scary to think of the risks involved. I am in favor of preventing health and emergency care workers from the risks of contracting smallpox but it seems like there is still much research to be done before distributing the vaccine to them should be considered, let alone to the general public.

Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  AIDS vaccine?
Date:  2002-10-06 21:25:19
Message Id:  3177
Michele Doughty

Speaking of vaccines, I read an article called "AIDS and the profit factor" ( that discusses pharmaceutical companies that have developed anti-retroviral drugs to help keep HIV/AIDS sufferers alive. The price is discounted for developing countries by 90% of what they charge in the U.S. Essentially, these companies charge developed countries at profitable rates in order to provide the drugs to developing countries at discounted or exact production cost. Is this fair to HIV/AIDS patients in developed countries such as the U.S. and Europe? Aren't they assuming that these patients have the money to afford the drugs at expensive rates?

Various developing countries such as India and Brazil have fought to provide these antiretroviral drugs for free by creating generic brands that are cheaper to make. For instance, in Brazil there are 100,000 people with HIV or AIDS who receive antiretroviral drugs free of charge. Some pharmecuetical companies have recently sued developing countries on their decisions to import generic drugs to create their own generics at cheaper rates.

The debate is complicated as pharmaceutical companies (non-generic type) argue that they, unlike generic companies, invest money into research and development. GlaxoSmithKline says it spends 13-14 percent of its profits on research and development each year. They are one of two major pharmaceutical companies with a vaccine for AIDS in the clinic. They argue that without any profits, they will be unable to continue research and development for the real solution to the problem. Is it fair to charge patients in developed countries more for drugs in order for them to be provided for free/cheaper for patients in developing countries? Should generic companies be closed since they do not do research for the real solution of the disease? Can we really put a price on the value of life or death?

| Biology 103 | Course Forum Area | Biology | Serendip Home |

Send us your comments at Serendip

© by Serendip 1994- - Last Modified: Wednesday, 02-May-2018 10:53:18 CDT