Like many universities, Lee University has a non-major’s course for liberal arts students. The course typically includes a potpourri of topics: logical thinking, scientific notation, linear functions, estimation, and probability. At Lee, we have found a way to conclude the course that applies these varied topics to an issue designed to engage student interest and promote critical thinking. We have developed a series of three lessons on “The Mathematics of Evolution.” The first lesson is on radiometric dating. The second lesson is on the origin and progression of life. And the third lesson deals with the nature of the DNA genetic code. In this presentation we will provide examples from each lesson, as time permits. In so doing, we will address the following questions:
1. What are the dangers in sampling data over a short period of time (say 100 years) and extrapolating this over a much longer period (say a million years)?
2. What is the probability that a “simple” life form was produced by a series of random actions and how long might this be expected to take?
3. What is the probability that a “lower” life form evolved into a “higher” life form through a sequence of random mutations?
4. What does the poly-functional nature of the DNA code say about the long-term viability of species? Are we evolving upward or devolving downward?
Lay, Steven R., "The Mathematics of Evolution" (2015). ACMS Conference Proceedings 2015. 12.
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