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Evolution Glossary


This glossary will help you understand terms used is discussing the evolution and its opponents. It is intended only for a lay audience. For scientific rigour, you will have to look elsewhere. The intent here is to explain these concepts in as simple a way as possible. Please submit additional terms. This is just a start.


The following index is sorted alphabetically in columns, like a phone book.
chromosome clade creationism
egg evolution
intelligent design
meiosis mitosis
punctuated evolution
saultation sexual selection sperm
utilitarian selection

The Glossary

I need to do some more work on this ensuring I have everything about DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) strands correct.

A group of species that all had a common ancestor.
A pair of DNA molecules, long chains of nucleosides, wrapped around each other in a double helix. The nucleosides encoded characteristics of the individual. A chromosome, even though it can be seen though a microscope contains a mere two molecules.
A literal belief in a creation myth from the iron age for which there is no evidence and plenty of evindence to refute it. Oddly most Americans prefer it to the evolutionary explanation. It explains and predicts nothing. It basically says God did it. End of story.
A polymer of 4 possible base pair nucleosides. Normally it coils into long chain helix. It wraps itself around a matching, but not identical strand of DNA to form a chromosome, the aggregates of genes.
A single cell from the mother. It contains half the normal amount of genetic material of the mother’s other cells. It has only one strand of DNA per chromosome rather than two. The material it gets is a random sprinkling form either of her two strands of DNA in each chromosome.
An explanation for how various species and variation came be when natural selection played the rôle of plant or animal breeder giving the edge in breeding success to animals more capable of survival and breeding. The process is extremely slow and ponderous, but because it has been operating for billions of years, has had plenty of time to produces some spectacular results. It is not a theory in the sense of a hunch. It is an observable fact. It is used every day in plant and animal breeding, agriculture, wildlife management etc.
A group of nucleoside pairs on a DNA strand in a chromosome that control some characteristic of the invidual. When a new individual is born it gets half the genetic material from the mother and half from the father.
intelligent design
It has been described as creationism in a tuxedo. Christians discovered their theological arguments were not getting anywhere. So they repackage them avoiding mentioning the god Jehovah by name. It is the same old, same old. By keeping Jehovah out of it, they hope to subvert the US constitution by getting this claptrap taught to children masquerading as science. This dirty trick seems to be working.
A special type of cell division that goes in in the ovaries of females and testes of males where cells divide in two, where each daughter cell gets only half a complement of DNA. They each get a random sampling of half the parent DNA.
Ordinary cell division when each daughter cell ends up with a complete copy of the organism’s DNA and a full complement of chromosomes.
The basic building blocks of the DNA polymer chain helix. They are often abbreviated to singled letters: A = adenine, C = cytosine, G = guanine and T = thymine. Various combinations of these building blocks from genes. You might poetically think of these as 4-letter alphabet and genes are the words in the book of life.
punctuated evolution
The observation that the pace of evolution is not constant. It tends to pick up after mass extinction events.
Derived from the Latin word to jump. The extreme form is called creationism, where entire creatures spring into being completely formed. A weaker form would be when a complex part such as as eye suddenly appeared as a freak macro-mutation going from eyeless to fully sighted in one leap. Creationists often use saultation as a straw man, pretending that is describes Darwinism, when it much better fits their own hypothesis.
sexual selection
The tendency of creatures more appealing to the opposite sex to reproduce more successfully than those not so appealing. Female attraction to long-tailed males creates a selection that increases the frequency of long tailed males and also the frequency of females who prefer long tails, in a positive feedback loop. Sexual selection competes with utilitarian selection.
A single cell from the father, like the egg, contains half the normal amount of genetic material of the father’s other cells. It has only one strand of DNA per chromosome rather than two. The material it gets is a random sprinkling form either of his two strands of DNA in each chromosome.
utilitarian selection
The tendency of creatures better adapted to finding food and avoiding predators to prosper and reproduce relative to those not so adapted. c.f. sexual selection.

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