Friday, 31 August 2012

Galapagos Diary of Richard Dawkins

  • Richard Dawkins talks about Darwin and his visit to the Galapagos

On the deck of the Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Islands, Richard Dawkins takes a minute to talk about Darwin and his historic visit to the Galapagos Islands. This video was filmed on a cruise with the Center For Inquiry.

  • Distribution of Life: The Iguanas of Galapagos 

Richard Dawkins explains how the distribution of life on Earth's continents and islands is exactly as we should expect if life evolved, and exactly how we should not expect if it had been created.
"Both the marine and land iguanas of Galapagos resemble land iguanas found on the South American mainland, about 600 miles to the east. No doubt it was a freak accident that delivered them first to the newly formed volcanic islands of Galapagos. Thereafter, the fact that there were several different islands in the archipelago enabled them to diverge. The marine iguana, which is found nowhere but on Galapagos, presumably evolved on one island only at first, then later spread to the other islands, where they later diverged into all the different varieties that are now found.
This is a land iguana. It was land iguanas that first colonized the Galapagos Islands and then evolved separately into the modern land iguanas here and the marine iguanas, on the separate islands. The original colonizers would have been land iguanas that floated across, probably on maybe a fallen tree or something like that, perhaps in a hurricane. This has been known to happen in the West Indies, it's actually been recorded: Fallen trees in a very, very high wind, blown across from one island to another, bearing a great load of iguanas which then, immediately, as soon as the tree is blown ashore, rush out and start to colonize the new island. So it's actually been seen to happen on another species in another place, but it's pretty clear that something like that is what would have happened here.
If species were individually created to fit their environment, we should expect islands and continents to have the same animals and plants as similar islands and continents on the other side of the world. But this is exactly what we do NOT find. The distribution of animal and plant species over the islands and continents of the world follows exactly the pattern we should expect if they have evolved, and exactly the pattern we should not expect if they had been created."

  • Saddles and Domes: Evolution of the Giant Tortoises
Richard Dawkins explains how and why the Giant Tortoises of Galapagos evolved on each of the different islands. He shows how the different shell shapes evolved to help the tortoises adapt to environments on the different islands.

  • Vestigial Organs: The Wings of the Flightless Cormorant

Richard Dawkins explains how vestigial organs like the stubby wings of the Flightless Cormorant were one of Darwin's key arguments for Evolution.

  • Insurance Policy: Two Eggs, One Survivor

Richard Dawkins explains the related egg-laying habits of Nazca Boobies, Blue Footed Boobies and Gannetts. These evolved adaptations may seem cruel to us, but the genes for these varying insurance policies get passed on through the surviving chicks to future generations.

"In May 2007 Josh Timonen and I were among those who went to Galapagos with a large group from the Center for Inquiry. As we walked with the guided parties over the islands, Josh took every opportunity to film the wildlife. Occasionally he would turn the camera on me, and I would ad lib a few words about whatever animals we were looking at. These 'vignettes' were unscripted and unrehearsed, and there was no time for any "Take 2" repetitions, because the guided walk was moving on."
"For a zoologist, Galapagos is an enchanted, near-sacred place. Partly because Darwin so momentously walked those lava fields in the springtime of his genius. But, too, because we all can see, as if through Darwin's deep-set eyes, life's difference-engine at its simplest. Then there is the ingenuous tameness of the animals, pursuing their evolved business in pre-Fall innocence of the gawping, camera-snapping human traffic in their midst. Mortally threatened by commerce and cheap aviation fuel, how long will it last in its pristine fragility, this Eden of the scientific real world?"
 Richard Dawkins (Observer Diary)

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