Some thoughts on ecology, evolution and economics

Archive for 2012

What ecology does tell us

Ecology, like chemistry and physics, can be explained as the interaction of particles.  The particles in this case are individual plants and animals ( and I do include fungi and microbes ).  True, they do not look or act like billiard balls but they do have measurable properties that allow us to predict their behaviour… (read more)

What ecology does not tell us

I mentioned earlier that ecology is the science that looks at the sustainability of natural resources.  So far in this blog, I have mostly ignored ecology in favor of economics and evolution.  I mean to address that gap over the next couple of blog entries. Specifically, I want to give you a shorthand version of… (read more)

On sexual selection

The peacock’s tail presented a problem for Charles Darwin.  It clearly could not have arisen by natural selection. Its beauty, extravagance, and most of all, its impracticality seemed to argue against the gradual increase, generation after generation, of such a structure within a population. Darwin introduced a separate process, sexual selection, to explain the origin… (read more)

A Source Law for Fitness

Dr. Pangloss in Voltaire’s Candide is famous for seeing how everything fit perfectly together.  Everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds!  Most of us have more difficulty in seeing the relationships between living individuals and their environment.  This is especially true when many biological traits or environmental measures are involved. To… (read more)

Limits of natural selection

Natural selection describes how small variations in plants and animals lead to the remarkable fit between their traits and the environments they live in.  It does not, however, always work. The limits to natural selection receive less attention than the potential it has to explain all manner of adaptation and diversity.  I argue here that… (read more)

Consequences of Income Inequality

Income inequality can lead to several of the seven deadly sins.  Greed is a natural in a society where some people have much and many have little.  Unequal societies are also susceptible to Envy.  A particularly equal society can  bring about Sloth, the assumption that nothing  is really worth striving for. Today, I would like… (read more)

Sources of income inequality

One of the themes of last year’s Occupy protest was income inequality, focusing especially on how much wealth the top 1% of income earners controlled.  Income inequality has always been of interest in discussing what makes a fair society but economists also refer to income inequality when discussing what makes an efficient society.  An economy… (read more)

Consequences of biodiversity

Biodiversity is a great value for humans (see Sources of biodiversity).  Many would argue that it is even more important than that – that it is a key aspect of how ecosystems work. The logic for this is straightforward.  Species with similar body plans and lifestyles form a set of “spare parts” (often rather dramatically compared… (read more)

Sources of biodiversity

Biodiversity is one of life’s great perks.  Whether your interests run to gardening, woodworking, wine tasting, or hiking, the variety of life forms all around us enriches and sustains our lives as humans.  The variety in our diets, in the landscapes that surround us, in the medicines that heal us and in the works of… (read more)

Ecology, Economics and Evolution

The topics for this blog range in and out of what I am competent to talk about.  Yet the tale is no less fascinating for being told by a neophyte.  In particular, I propose to explore the fields of ecology, economics and evolution.  They have more in common than simple alliteration. The first two are… (read more)