Darwin’s Evolutionary Theory: Contributions & Shortcomings

Darwin's  1837 "Tree of Life" sketch from his notebooks (Stanford University)

Darwin’s 1837 “Tree of Life” sketch from his notebooks (Stanford University)

Biological evolution occurs when a population evolves physical changes that allow it to better survive and reproduce in its environment. It’s discovery was first published by Charles Darwin’s in 1859 in his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859 (later re-published as The Origin of Species). Darwin’s called his theory “descent with modification” through the process of “natural selection.”  He believed that environmental pressures–nature–selected for the most advantageous traits in living things much in the same way as domestic animals were selectively bred for desirable traits using “artificial selection.” Continue reading

Keeping it together: Why some societies & cultures cohere & some persist

Why do some social groups or societies persist for generations and others disappear in only a few generations? How is the integration and coherence of a society developed and maintained? Benedict, Gluckman, Barth, and Wilson all believed in specific mechanisms that sustained traditional values and societies over time. In this paper I will compare and contrast the various explanations for cultural coherence and longevity put forth by Ruth Benedict, Max Gluckman, Fredrik Barth and David Sloan Wilson. Continue reading

Genetic, geographic & cultural factors that cause sickle-cell anemia

It is important to note that even genetic diseases are caused by multiple social, environmental and biological factors. This is particularly true in the case of sickle-cell anemia, a genetically inherited blood disorder usually found in people with West African ancestry (PBS 2001).  The following paper will summarize the genetic, geographic and cultural factors that contribute to the incidence of sickle-cell anemia and why this disease is called a “balanced polymorphism”. Continue reading