Monday, July 14, 2014

Why all medical professionals need to study evolution

Jonathan Eisen
Blog post

Jonathan, great old post, which I'm "reblogging" here.  I'd say that not only medical professionals, but also members of the public at large would greatly benefit from a better understanding of evolution and phylogenomics.  In addition to your list, a better understanding of these would help us comprehend the challenges we are facing with the environment.

I would also say that, esthetically, an understanding of phylogeny can be a source of personal enjoyment.

My Dad was a forestry major and later, a professor of forestry.  Because of this, he knew many of the phylogenic names of the plants, animals and insects of the British Columbia and Alberta forests.  When I was old enough, he would take me tree seedling specimen collecting in the Coast Ranges of British Columbia and also in the Canadian Rockies.  He was a fast walker and as a girl, I could hardly keep up with him.  He could name off the phylogenic names of these tree seedlings and understood whole ecosystems . . . he would describe the watershed, precipitation, temperature and elevation zones for trees and grasslands.  To me, there seemed to be more meaning when you could see the whole picture of plants in a forest or grassland zone.

He loved bugs.  When we lived in Ghana, he trapped, collected and pinned hundreds of insects.  Many of them were huge, exotic and fantastically colored.

Another passion was growing colorful flowers.  Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) was a favourite.  He spent many summers collecting their seeds, trying to see how tall he could make them.  Other treasures were California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) and Clarkia.  Dahlias, too.

His father was the chief beef inspector for the government of Alberta for many years, so my Dad also knew a lot about livestock genetics.  I remember him taking me to agricultural fairs, including the Calgary Stampede.  Cows and pigs are quite interesting animals.

So . . . esthetically, as a way to appreciating plants and insects in the natural world, and even farm animals, it is tremendously enriching to understand phylogeny.

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