The Single Aim

Evolutionary biologist Leslie Orgel’s second rule of biology states that “evolution is smarter than you are.” Evolution and its mechanisms can explain much of the seemingly boundless complexity and organization evident in biological ecosystems. As I discussed in my last essay, biological evolution with its objective function of survival and reproduction driven by the processes… Continue reading The Single Aim

Problem of the Criterion

In the 1930s, the evolutionary biologist, Sewall Wright, developed the concept of the fitness (adaptive) landscape as a visualization of evolution. The fitness landscape, conceived as a topographic map that resembles a mountain range with peaks and valleys, described different phenotypes of an organism that can vary over a continuous range of genotypes. The vertical… Continue reading Problem of the Criterion

Culture Clash

William Faulkner wrote, “all human behavior is unpredictable, and considering man’s frailty...and the ramshackle universe he functions in, it’s all irrational.” Despite this claim, scientists from disciplines ranging from economics and mathematics to anthropology and psychology have laboriously attempted to uncover patterns within the morass. Game theory is one such approach that starts with the… Continue reading Culture Clash

Similarities in Dissimilars

The name Homo sapiens was applied by the 18th-century taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus in 1758. Sapien - the wise - suggests that the defining attribute of our species is a distinct and unparalleled cognition. We think differently from all other animals, and we are able to share those thoughts with one another in ways that are… Continue reading Similarities in Dissimilars

I err, therefore I am

When talking about the human mental capabilities, in The Symbolic Species, Terrence Deacon stated that “biologically, we are just another ape. Mentally, we are new phylum of organism.”  This wondrous and unfathomably complex organ - the brain -  has enabled us to become the most dominant species of the planet. With a unique capacity to… Continue reading I err, therefore I am

The Zombie Zone

The term circadian is derived from Latin to mean “about a day.” Organisms ranging from single-cell organisms and plants to sea slugs and humans demonstrate circadian rhythms near twenty-hour patterns. In humans, numerous physiological and behavioral processes demonstrate circadian rhythms but the sleep-wake rhythm is one of the most important and observable cyclical rhythms.  The… Continue reading The Zombie Zone

😴💤

The 20th-century evolutionary biologist, Theodosius Dobzhansky, said, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” From the perspective of evolution and its twin fitness functions of survival and reproduction, sleep is a seemingly difficult phenomenon to make sense of and explain. When we are asleep, we cannot gather food, socialize, find a… Continue reading 😴💤

The dose makes the poison…

Stress is defined “as a process of altered biochemical homeostasis produced by psychological, physiological, or environmental stressors.” Etymologically, the word is derived from Latin, meaning “tight, compressed, drawn together.” Conceptually, it can be found in the physical sciences as early as the 17th century. In physics, Hooke’s law (F = -kX)  states that the strain… Continue reading The dose makes the poison…

Hormesis

The rise in modern human life expectancy is one of the crowning achievements of the scientific revolution. Throughout the world, life expectancy has increased exponentially over the last two hundred years directly due to technologies such as refrigeration, sewage, clean water, fertilizers, indoor living, antibiotics, and vaccinations. Through these technologies, we began to insulate ourselves… Continue reading Hormesis

Only Entropy Comes Easy

Approximately five hundred years ago, the North African polymath, Ibn-Khaldun, observed that “the goal of civilization is sedentary culture and luxury. When civilization reaches that goal, it turns towards corruption and starts being senile, as happens in the natural life of living beings.” The analogous natural history of socially constructed civilizations and the biologically constructed… Continue reading Only Entropy Comes Easy

Nature, red in tooth and claw

In Wealth of Nations first published in 1776, Adam Smith stated that “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them… Continue reading Nature, red in tooth and claw

Carrots & Sticks

In my last essay, I not only described the historical underpinnings of the model of homo economicus but also described it as a foundational element of modern economic theory. Homo economicus is the smallest unit of analysis in economic theory and is characterized as a solitary agent, calculating in his utility, solely driven by competition,… Continue reading Carrots & Sticks

Fisheries, forests, & emergency care

In my last essay, I made the case that emergency care in the United States is better classified as a common rather than a public good. Due to the passage of the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA), emergency care became non-excludable and because it is resource constrained, it is rival. Patients are streaming… Continue reading Fisheries, forests, & emergency care

Tragedy of the ED Commons

In his landmark article, Tragedy of Commons (1968), Garrett Hardin asks, “Is ours a finite world? [If so], a finite world can only support a finite population.” In Hardin’s parable, a single group of herders shares a common pasture. The pasture is large enough to support many animals, but not infinitely many. Rationally, each herdsman… Continue reading Tragedy of the ED Commons

Super Ants

The biologist, Nigel Franks, wrote, “the solitary ant is behaviorally one of the least sophisticated animals imaginable...if 100 army ants are placed on a flat surface, they will walk around in ever decreasing circles until they die of exhaustion...yet put half a million of them together, and the group as a whole becomes what some… Continue reading Super Ants