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The Theory of Evolution Glossary (Terms F to Z)


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Particles of heredity postulated by Darwin, conceptual predecessors to the genes.
The unit of inheritance. The molecular (DNA) code, or instructions, for the production of a protein molecule. The protein may be involved in the structure of a cell or may be involved in the regulation of other _____(s), switching them on or off.
The random accumulation or depletion of specific genes (alleles) in a population of organisms.
Genetic Drift
Evolutionary theorists who believe that evolutionary change of organisms happens slowly and by small increments. Richard Dawkins. Stephen Jay Gould.
When a diploid organism, one having two sets of chromosomes, has two different alleles (sets of DNA code) for the same gene.
When a diploid organism, one having two sets of chromosomes, has the same allele (set of DNA code) for the same gene.
The crossing of two individuals of different species or varieties. Offspring of two different species are usually sterile.
Animals without a backbone.
French for "leave it alone." Adam Smith.
Describes a system in which the result of any external action is always proportional, and thus always precisely predictable.
Change at the species level. Evolution that produces new species.
The philosopy claiming that everything in the universe is produced out of matter and obedient to the observable laws of physics and chemistry. Leaves no room for a "spirit world."
Entities postulated by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, 'the selfish game,' to be the intellectual equivalent of genes, social constructions that are self-perpetuating and subject to selection for their survivability. Ex. cultural institutions such as c
A change in organisms below the species level, producing physical change within organisms of a species.
Changeable, as in species.
Initially used to mean rapid change exhibited by organisms within a single generation.
The driving force behind change in organisms and species described by Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace.
Natural Selection
The re-evaluation and reconfirmation of Darwin's theory in the first half of the twentieth century.
New Synthesis
The development of an organism from fertilization through embryonic growth and adulthood.
The material basis of heredity hypothesized by Hugo de Vries in 1889. Forerunner to the gene.
Describes the simplest scientific explanation for a phenomenon.
Natural reproduction by cloning. Reproduction of the offspring that are genetically identical to the (female) parent.
The physical expression of a genome; the observable shape and behavior of an organism as coded for by its particular set of genes.
Evolution of organic types, species, races, classes.
The condition of multiple copies of genomes--genes and chromosomes--in the cell of one organism.
Describes a soft system of scientific inquiry, where the facts are uncertain, social values of participants are considered, and complexity is acknowledged.
Post-Normal Science
Written in 1687 by Sir Isaac Newton explaining the laws of physics and gravity. This work set the standard for scientific writing and was an intellectual progenitor of 'The Origin of Species.'
The theory that species evolution (macroevolution) occurs in fits and starts. Niles Eldredge, Sephen Jay Gould
Punctuated Equilibrium
Genes (alleles) that are not expressed when in the presence of dominant genes (alleles).
Evolutionary theorists who believe that species evolve suddenly, by jumps. Darwin did not believe that evolution proceeded this way, and instead that "nature does not make jumps."
The organization of nature in a hierarchical, linear fashion, from the least perfect atom of matter to the epitome of perfaction--man.
Scala Naturae
A theory of Darwin's time stating that every species was created specifically for its place and time.
Special Creation
The development of new species from old species. In a word, the problem that Darwin set out to solve: How were new species derived from old species?
(An evolutionary biologist asked to define this will laugh.) A reproductively isolated community occupying a specific niche in nature.
The generation of living forms from nonliving material.
Spontaneous Generation
The phrase coined by Herbert Spencer to describe Darwin's theory and accepted by Darwin only after much internal debate.
Survival of the Fittest
The theory for species evolution due to altered reproduction by a small group within a larger population.
Sympatric Speciation
The belief that everything, in particular every species, was created in special act by God.
A framework of working principles used to test and establish explanations for related phenomena.
To change into another nature, condition, form, or substance.
The attraction exhibited by an organism. Plants exhibit ______ to the sun, turning their leaves to face it.
The theory of formation of the physical Earth based on mundane events-- events experiened within human lifetimes, like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, storms. The theoretical opposite to catastrophism.
A literary device using a known and observed phenomenon to illustrate that a mechanism exists for a phenomenon in question.
Vera Causa
The book by Adam Smith published in 1776 describing markets as self-regulating entities.
'Wealth of Nations'
The use of reflected X rays to reveal the shape of molecules. Used by Watson and Crick to deduce the shape of DNA.
X-Ray Crystallography

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