Real World Graduation, Question 66: Charles Darwin

RealWorldGraduation_Question_66_CharlesDarwin   <– PDF

Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) was an English “naturalist”, that is, a scientist who studies nature and the workings of nature. He is highly regarded as an honest, patient worker who sifted through the facts available to him, testing various hypotheses per the scientific method, until he obtained some measure of consistency that allowed him to propose theories.  His most famous theories have been combined under a general concept of “the theory of evolution”.   He presented his work on “evolution” in two books, The Origin of the Species By Means of Natural Selection (1859) and The Descent of Man and Selection In Relation to Sex (1871).  Consider the following passages from Charles Darwin’s original work; the portions in square brackets are explanatory notes that I have added.

“As species have generally diverged in character during their long course of descent and modification, we can understand why it is that the more ancient forms, or early progenitors of each group, so often occupy a position in some degree intermediate between existing groups. Recent forms are generally looked upon as being, on the whole, higher in the scale of organization than ancient forms; and they must be higher in so far as the later and more improved forms have conquered the older and less improved forms in the struggle for life; they have also generally had their organs more specialized for different functions.  This fact is perfectly compatible with numerous beings still retaining simple and but little improved structures, fitted for simple conditions of life; it is likewise compatible with some forms having retrograded in organization, by having at each stage of descent better fitted for new and degraded habits of life.” [1]

“The similar framework of bones in the hand of a man, wing of a bat, fin of a porpoise, and leg of the horse, — the same number of vertebrae forming the neck of the giraffe and of the elephant, — and innumerable other such facts, at once explain themselves on the theory of descent with slow and slight successive modifications. …  On the principle of successive variations not always supervening at an early age, and being inherited at a corresponding not early period of life, we clearly see why the embryos of mammals, birds, reptiles, and fishes should be so closely similar, and so unlike the adult forms.” [2]

“Throughout whole classes various structures are formed on the same pattern, and at a very early age the embryos closely resemble each other. Therefore I cannot doubt that the theory of descent with modifications embraces all the members of the same great class or kingdom.  I believe that animals are descended from at most only four or five progenitors [ancestors], and plants from an equal or lesser number.” [3]

[Note: Apparently “class” and “kingdom” in this context are synonymous, and refer to mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, and insects. I have inferred this from two sources.  The first is a glossary in The Origin of the Species, in which “mammalia” are called the “highest class of animals”. The second is a section in Chapter 21 of The Descent of Man (paragraph 19) in which Darwin states: “In the several great classes of the animal kingdom,–in mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes, insects, and even crustaceans…”] 

“The main conclusion here arrived at, and now held by many naturalists who are well competent to form a sound judgment is that man is descended from some less highly organized form. The grounds upon which this conclusion rests will never be shaken, for the close similarity between man and the lower animals in embryonic development, as well as in innumerable points of structure and constitution, both of high and of the most trifling importance,–the rudiments which he retains, and the abnormal reversions to which he is occasionally liable, — are facts which cannot be disputed.” [4]

From the preceding statements, which is most likely within the kingdom of mammals, considered over the entire course of earth’s history?

a) That birds are descended from dinosaurs

b) That humans are descended from monkeys

c) That monkeys are descended from tigers

d) That elephants are descended from rabbits

e) That cats are descended from dogs

[1]     Charles Darwin, The Origin of the Species By Means of Natural Selection, Chapter 15 “Recapitulation and Conclusion”, paragraph 30.

[2]     Charles Darwin, The Origin of the Species By Means of Natural Selection, Chapter 15 “Recapitulation and Conclusion”, paragraph 35.

[3]     Charles Darwin, The Origin of the Species By Means of Natural Selection, Chapter 15 “Recapitulation and Conclusion”, paragraph 46.

[4]     Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection In Relation to Sex, Chapter 21 “General Summary and Conclusion”, paragraph 2

(The answer is on p. 3 of the PDF.)

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Real World Graduation, Question 65: Mattress Warranties

RealWorldGraduation_Question_65_MattressWarranties   <– PDF

Joe is at a furniture store to buy a mattress. He tested them all out by lying on them briefly.  He found four mattresses that were comfortable, they are all priced about the same, and all are made by known manufacturers of good reputation.  The only real difference between them is the nature of the manufacturer’s warranty.  He can buy a warranty on Mattress A that consists of a one-year warranty against workmanship flaws; it costs $21.00.   He can buy a warranty on Mattress B that offers a three-year warranty against workmanship flaws which also includes replacement of any broken springs; it costs $74.00.  The manufacturer of Mattress C offers a lifetime warranty against workmanship defects plus a warranty against tears in the fabric and replacement of springs; it costs $91.00.  The manufacturer of Mattress D offers a lifetime warranty on all problems and defects except if the mattress is used for commercial purposes (does not apply to Joe, since he will use his at home); the Mattress D warranty costs $125.00.  Which is the best warranty to buy?

a) Mattress A, because it is the cheapest.

b) Mattress B, because it lasts three years, and most problems occur between one and three years, so is better than Mattress A’s warranty.

c) Mattress C, because it is for the life of the mattress and covers the most common mattress problems

d) Mattress D, because it covers everything for life, and for the few dollars more, offers the best overall protection

e) In general, it won’t matter which one he gets, because there are a wide variety of problems with mattresses. The important thing is to get at least the protection offered by Mattress A, but the other ones are worth considering.


(The answer is on p. 2 of the PDF.)

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RealWorldGraduation_Question_64_EconomicConsequences   <– PDF

A local neighborhood gang threw a party, and in the course of having a good time, smashed 1000 beer bottles all over a residential street. The gang members all left the area before the cops showed up, and none were arrested or charged.  The beer had been purchased at a local store, the gang members all paid a deposit to the store on the beer bottles that they subsequently broke.  No matter what you think about parties, or beer, or about gangs in general, consider this action in the economic sense.  In what economic sense did the gang members indirectly perform the most useful economic service?

a) The store that was paid the deposit on the beer bottles gets to keep the deposit paid by the gang members.

b) It is possible that some people will make money when they are paid to clean up the broken beer bottles.

c) Broken beer bottles are a true sign of urban life, and will probably increase the partying type of tourism in that area.

d) Some people will run over the beer bottles and get flat tires, which have to be replaced, which will cause those who manufacture, sell, and install tires will earn money.

e) Some combination of a) and d).

(The answer is on p. 2 of the PDF.)

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Real World Graduation, Question 63: Impeachment

RealWorldGraduation_Question_63_Impeachment   <– PDF

State legislatures have a power to impeach (convict) a state Governor and to remove him from office. Suppose a Governor of a state has been implicated in a wide variety of corrupt activities, and federal investigators have videotapes, emails, and wiretapped phone calls in which the Governor is observed engaging in numerous criminal conspiracies to commit fraud and bribery.  The evidence is provided to the state legislature by the investigating authorities.  The Governor refuses to resign his office.  How soon will the state legislature impeach the Governor and remove him from office?

a) Within a few hours

b) Within a few days

c) Within a few weeks

d) Within a few months

e) As soon as possible, consistent with the procedures called out in the state constitution.

(The answer is on p. 2 of the PDF.)

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