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From the Ted Talk by Alex Gendler: Myths and misconceptions about evolution

Unscramble the Blue Letters

Myths and misconceptions about eoluoivtn. Let's talk about evolution. You've probably heard that some ppoele consider it controversial, even though most scientists don't. But even if you aren't one of those people and you think you have a pretty good understanding of evolution, chances are you still believe some things about it that aren't entirely right, things like, "Evolution is organisms adapting to their environment." This was an eleriar, now discredited, theory of evolution. Almost 60 years before Darwin published his book, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed that creatures evolve by developing certain titars over their lifetimes and then passing those on to their offspring. For example, he thought that because giraffes spent their lives stretching to reach lvaees on higher branches, their children would be born with longer nkecs. But we know now that's not how genetic inheritance wkors. In fact, individual organisms don't evolve at all. Instead, random genetic mutations cause some giraffes to be born with longer necks, and that gives them a better chance to svruvie than the ones who weren't so lkucy, which binrgs us to "survival of the fittest". This makes it sound like evolution always favors the biggest, ssntroegt, or fastest creatures, which is not really the case. For one thing, evolutionary fitness is just a matter of how well-suited they are to their current eenonvminrt. If all the tall trees suddenly died out and only sroht grass was left, all those long-necked gfarifes would be at a dndigvsataae. Secondly, survival is not how evolution occurs, reproduction is. And the world if full of creatures like the male anglerfish, which is so small and ill-suited for survival at brith that it has to quickly find a mate before it dies. But at least we can say that if an organism dies without reproducing, it's evolutionarily uessels, right? Wrong! Remember, natural selection happens not at the organism level, but at the genetic level, and the same gene that exists in one organism will also exist in its relatives. So, a gene that makes an animal altruistically sacrifice itself to help the survival and future reproduction of its siblings or cousins, can become more weaiprdsed than one that is solely concerned with self-preservation. Anything that lets more copies of the gene pass on to the next generation will srvee its purpose, except elarooinvtuy purpose. One of the most difficult things to keep in mind about evolution is that when we say things like, "Genes want to make more cipoes of themselves," or even, "natural secltioen," we're actually using metaphors. A gene doesn't want anything, and there's no outside mechanism that selects which genes are best to preserve. All that happens is that random genetic mutations cause the organisms cayirrng them to behave or devloep in different ways. Some of those ways result in more copies of the mutated gene being passed on, and so forth. Nor is there any pinrmeedeetrd plan progressing towards an ideal form. It's not ideal for the human eye to have a blind spot where the optic nerve eixts the ritena, but that's how it depvoeled, starting from a simple photoreceptor cell. In rretopecst, it would have been much more advantageous for humans to crave nutrients and vitamins rather than just calories. But over the millenia,

Open Cloze

Myths and misconceptions about _________. Let's talk about evolution. You've probably heard that some ______ consider it controversial, even though most scientists don't. But even if you aren't one of those people and you think you have a pretty good understanding of evolution, chances are you still believe some things about it that aren't entirely right, things like, "Evolution is organisms adapting to their environment." This was an _______, now discredited, theory of evolution. Almost 60 years before Darwin published his book, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed that creatures evolve by developing certain ______ over their lifetimes and then passing those on to their offspring. For example, he thought that because giraffes spent their lives stretching to reach ______ on higher branches, their children would be born with longer _____. But we know now that's not how genetic inheritance _____. In fact, individual organisms don't evolve at all. Instead, random genetic mutations cause some giraffes to be born with longer necks, and that gives them a better chance to _______ than the ones who weren't so _____, which ______ us to "survival of the fittest". This makes it sound like evolution always favors the biggest, _________, or fastest creatures, which is not really the case. For one thing, evolutionary fitness is just a matter of how well-suited they are to their current ___________. If all the tall trees suddenly died out and only _____ grass was left, all those long-necked ________ would be at a ____________. Secondly, survival is not how evolution occurs, reproduction is. And the world if full of creatures like the male anglerfish, which is so small and ill-suited for survival at _____ that it has to quickly find a mate before it dies. But at least we can say that if an organism dies without reproducing, it's evolutionarily _______, right? Wrong! Remember, natural selection happens not at the organism level, but at the genetic level, and the same gene that exists in one organism will also exist in its relatives. So, a gene that makes an animal altruistically sacrifice itself to help the survival and future reproduction of its siblings or cousins, can become more __________ than one that is solely concerned with self-preservation. Anything that lets more copies of the gene pass on to the next generation will _____ its purpose, except ____________ purpose. One of the most difficult things to keep in mind about evolution is that when we say things like, "Genes want to make more ______ of themselves," or even, "natural _________," we're actually using metaphors. A gene doesn't want anything, and there's no outside mechanism that selects which genes are best to preserve. All that happens is that random genetic mutations cause the organisms ________ them to behave or _______ in different ways. Some of those ways result in more copies of the mutated gene being passed on, and so forth. Nor is there any _____________ plan progressing towards an ideal form. It's not ideal for the human eye to have a blind spot where the optic nerve _____ the ______, but that's how it _________, starting from a simple photoreceptor cell. In __________, it would have been much more advantageous for humans to crave nutrients and vitamins rather than just calories. But over the millenia,

Solution

  1. evolutionary
  2. traits
  3. retina
  4. develop
  5. necks
  6. widespread
  7. evolution
  8. earlier
  9. giraffes
  10. exits
  11. carrying
  12. disadvantage
  13. lucky
  14. brings
  15. developed
  16. useless
  17. copies
  18. survive
  19. selection
  20. predetermined
  21. strongest
  22. works
  23. retrospect
  24. environment
  25. people
  26. leaves
  27. serve
  28. short
  29. birth

Original Text

Myths and misconceptions about evolution. Let's talk about evolution. You've probably heard that some people consider it controversial, even though most scientists don't. But even if you aren't one of those people and you think you have a pretty good understanding of evolution, chances are you still believe some things about it that aren't entirely right, things like, "Evolution is organisms adapting to their environment." This was an earlier, now discredited, theory of evolution. Almost 60 years before Darwin published his book, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed that creatures evolve by developing certain traits over their lifetimes and then passing those on to their offspring. For example, he thought that because giraffes spent their lives stretching to reach leaves on higher branches, their children would be born with longer necks. But we know now that's not how genetic inheritance works. In fact, individual organisms don't evolve at all. Instead, random genetic mutations cause some giraffes to be born with longer necks, and that gives them a better chance to survive than the ones who weren't so lucky, which brings us to "survival of the fittest". This makes it sound like evolution always favors the biggest, strongest, or fastest creatures, which is not really the case. For one thing, evolutionary fitness is just a matter of how well-suited they are to their current environment. If all the tall trees suddenly died out and only short grass was left, all those long-necked giraffes would be at a disadvantage. Secondly, survival is not how evolution occurs, reproduction is. And the world if full of creatures like the male anglerfish, which is so small and ill-suited for survival at birth that it has to quickly find a mate before it dies. But at least we can say that if an organism dies without reproducing, it's evolutionarily useless, right? Wrong! Remember, natural selection happens not at the organism level, but at the genetic level, and the same gene that exists in one organism will also exist in its relatives. So, a gene that makes an animal altruistically sacrifice itself to help the survival and future reproduction of its siblings or cousins, can become more widespread than one that is solely concerned with self-preservation. Anything that lets more copies of the gene pass on to the next generation will serve its purpose, except evolutionary purpose. One of the most difficult things to keep in mind about evolution is that when we say things like, "Genes want to make more copies of themselves," or even, "natural selection," we're actually using metaphors. A gene doesn't want anything, and there's no outside mechanism that selects which genes are best to preserve. All that happens is that random genetic mutations cause the organisms carrying them to behave or develop in different ways. Some of those ways result in more copies of the mutated gene being passed on, and so forth. Nor is there any predetermined plan progressing towards an ideal form. It's not ideal for the human eye to have a blind spot where the optic nerve exits the retina, but that's how it developed, starting from a simple photoreceptor cell. In retrospect, it would have been much more advantageous for humans to crave nutrients and vitamins rather than just calories. But over the millenia,

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
random genetic 2
genetic mutations 2

ngrams of length 3

collocation frequency
random genetic mutations 2

Important Words

  1. adapting
  2. advantageous
  3. altruistically
  4. anglerfish
  5. animal
  6. behave
  7. biggest
  8. birth
  9. blind
  10. book
  11. born
  12. branches
  13. brings
  14. calories
  15. carrying
  16. case
  17. cell
  18. chance
  19. chances
  20. children
  21. concerned
  22. controversial
  23. copies
  24. cousins
  25. crave
  26. creatures
  27. current
  28. darwin
  29. develop
  30. developed
  31. developing
  32. died
  33. dies
  34. difficult
  35. disadvantage
  36. discredited
  37. earlier
  38. environment
  39. evolution
  40. evolutionarily
  41. evolutionary
  42. evolve
  43. exist
  44. exists
  45. exits
  46. eye
  47. fact
  48. fastest
  49. favors
  50. find
  51. fitness
  52. form
  53. full
  54. future
  55. gene
  56. generation
  57. genes
  58. genetic
  59. giraffes
  60. good
  61. grass
  62. heard
  63. higher
  64. human
  65. humans
  66. ideal
  67. individual
  68. inheritance
  69. lamarck
  70. leaves
  71. left
  72. lets
  73. level
  74. lifetimes
  75. lives
  76. longer
  77. lucky
  78. male
  79. mate
  80. matter
  81. mechanism
  82. metaphors
  83. millenia
  84. mind
  85. misconceptions
  86. mutated
  87. mutations
  88. myths
  89. natural
  90. necks
  91. nerve
  92. nutrients
  93. occurs
  94. offspring
  95. optic
  96. organism
  97. organisms
  98. pass
  99. passed
  100. passing
  101. people
  102. photoreceptor
  103. plan
  104. predetermined
  105. preserve
  106. pretty
  107. progressing
  108. proposed
  109. published
  110. purpose
  111. quickly
  112. random
  113. reach
  114. relatives
  115. remember
  116. reproducing
  117. reproduction
  118. result
  119. retina
  120. retrospect
  121. sacrifice
  122. scientists
  123. selection
  124. selects
  125. serve
  126. short
  127. siblings
  128. simple
  129. small
  130. solely
  131. sound
  132. spent
  133. spot
  134. starting
  135. stretching
  136. strongest
  137. suddenly
  138. survival
  139. survive
  140. talk
  141. tall
  142. theory
  143. thought
  144. traits
  145. trees
  146. understanding
  147. useless
  148. vitamins
  149. ways
  150. widespread
  151. works
  152. world
  153. years