27 February 2006

Evolutionary Genetics - Introduction

[A] curious aspect of the theory of evolution is that everybody thinks he understands it.
-Jacques Monod

I enjoy my job. I love getting out into the field to do research. I love studying populations of organisms. I think that the questions that I look at are interesting, and that a lot of the answers are pretty cool.

The problem is that it's hard to explain to people exactly what it is that I do. In part, that's because evolution is really a lot more complicated a field than most people realize. The popular view of evolution is more or less that Darwin figured out that species evolve through natural selection, and that's that. People with more background than average in evolution understand that there are other things that come into play, too, like genetic drift.

It is accurate to say that evolution and drift cause species to diverge. In the same sense, it's accurate to say that World War I started because some lunatic Serb blew an Archduke away. In both cases, the explanation only just begins to touch on what is really going on.

I'm still just getting started as far as blogging is concerned, and I'm just getting started in my career as a scientist. I'm probably going to want to talk about my work a lot over the coming years. To make things easier to follow, I'm going to start a series of posts that will outline in as simple terms as I can manage the basics of evolutionary genetics. I'm hoping to make those posts a weekly feature on this blog. The first real post in the series will appear next Monday.

I've got some ideas for topics, but I'm also willing to take suggestions. Feel free to add them to the comments of this post.
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