a201-11f-05-ElephantsAndEpistemology

Populations that do not interbreed are normally

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populations that do not interbreed are normally considered separate species
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Intro to Biological Anthro F 2011 / Owen: Elephants and epistemology p. 3 - they are free to evolve in different directions, becoming ever more different from each other - so we could actually be observing the appearance of a new species (we’ll define these terms next time) - some populations of tusked elephants may remain - and other populations will have lost their tusks entirely - and they may well not interbreed - giving us a world with two separate species of elephants, each free to evolve off in its own direction - and this is not a little, short-lived bird like the finches on the Galapagos Islands, but a big, long-lived mammal like us - this kind of drastic, rapid evolution, due to severe and lasting environmental change such as a newly introduced threat or resource, probably played a part in the evolution of many species, including our own… - as the apparent “punctuated equilibrium” of the fossil record indicates - Next time, we will consider macroevolution: the creation of different kinds of organisms -- that is, the "Origin of Species" that Darwin wrote about - Now, let's take a slight detour to think about epistemology - epistemology : how you know what you know - There are two general ways of knowing something - One way to know things is by accepting authority - for example, memorizing what the professor says because he or she supposedly knows what is correct - Another way is to be convinced by evidence and/or an argument - for example, to really understand what Darwin meant with his three postulates, and to be convinced that the only logical conclusion is that if they really occur, then evolution has to happen - Accepting authority is the easiest way to know something - but it leaves you unable to explain or defend your beliefs, much less convince anyone else - it does not lead you to really understand things - and it leaves you vulnerable to accepting things that are not true - Understanding why a claim is convincing is better - it means that you understand the idea and its context - it means that you can defend your belief if someone challenges it - it means that you are protecting yourself from believing things that might not be true - of course, you are depending on your own intelligence and reasoning to do so - so you might make mistakes - but would you rather depend on someone else?
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