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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query "Evolution News and Views". Sort by date Show all posts

Friday, July 20, 2012

We Called Out IDiot Jonathan Wells, and He Folded

Carl Zimmer had the audacity to post something about the fusion of two ancestral chromosomes in primitive apes. The data is unequivocal. It shows why humans have one less chromosome than modern chimps [The Mystery of the Missing Chromosome (With A Special Guest Appearance from Facebook Creationists)].

Observations like this lend strong support to the idea that humans and chimps share a common ancestor. This doesn't sit well with the IDiots because they are in the midst of hyping their latest book, Science & Human Origins where they try to counter the overwhelming evidence that humans evolved.

So, what did they do? David Klinghoffer challenged Carl Zimmer to pop on over to Evolution News & Views (sic) and debate one of the authors. Carl refused, as would any sane person since that creationist blog is edited by IDiots and no comments are allowed. It would be embarrassing to have one's name on an article at Evolution News & Views [The Mystery of the Missing Chromosomes, Continued: An Update From Your Preening Blogger].

Here's what Carl said,
I thought the question I asked was pretty simple. I wasn’t asking to hold a Lincoln-Douglas debate. I just asked what the evidence was for one of the claims made by the creationists.

Now it seems that in order to get that answer, I can either buy a book–which apparently is based on no peer-reviewed research of the authors, but just cherry-picked quotes from a ten-year old paper–or I can donate my time to write several thousands words for free for a creationist web site.

Making this offer even richer is Klinghoffer’s ground rules about focusing “strictly on the ideas, not on the personalities.” Klinghoffer himself has used Evolution News & Views to call people pathetic, a worthless bully, cowards, illiterate, and “a tyranny of the unemployed” (referring to Wikipedia editors). In one piece he wrote for Evolution New and Views, Klinhoffer mocked a post by a science blogger as “preening and self-congratulatory.”

That blogger happened to be me.

I will answer Mr. Klinghoffer publicly: no thanks. I never asked for a debate, and your arbitrary decrees, such as a mysterious thousand-word cutoff (my blog post on the chromosomes alone clocked in at over 2,000 words) make it even less appealing. I am particularly opposed to web sites that do not allow readers to comment. That’s how I ended up on Facebook in the first place–because the Discovery Institute’s web sites do not permit commenting. You, on the other hand, are more than welcome to leave a comment on my blog. My comment policy is very lax: I only throw out commenters who curse uncontrollably, hawk their own wares, or can’t stay on topic after repeated warnings. We have a thriving, fascinating discussion here, one from which I regularly learn new things from my readers. You might too.
David Klinghoffer, being David Klinghoffer, responded with a blog posting on Evolution News & Views: We Called Out Darwinist Critic Carl Zimmer, and He Folded.

"Reasoning with a Lynch Mob"

This reminded me of an incident that took place last November. You might remember that I spent a great deal of time and effort reviewing Jonathan Wells' book, The Myth of Junk DNA (see The Myth of Junk DNA by Jonathan Wells). I invited Wells to discuss and debate the issue of junk DNA and my extensive criticism of his book.

Wells declined [Jonathan Wells Sends His Regrets]. Here's what he said ...
Oh, one last thing: “paulmc” referred to an online review of my book by University of Toronto professor Larry Moran—a review that “paulmc” called both extensive and thorough. Well, saturation bombing is extensive and thorough, too. Although “paulmc” admitted to not having read more than the Preface to The Myth of Junk DNA, I have read Mr. Moran’s review, which is so driven by confused thinking and malicious misrepresentations of my work—not to mention personal insults—that addressing it would be like trying to reason with a lynch mob.
Sort of makes you wonder, doesn't it? Do you think the IDiots really are interested in debating science or is it only on their own terms, on their own blog, with no comments, and moderated by their own kind?


Thursday, April 03, 2014

Vincent Torley apologizes and claims that he is not a liar

I was very upset when Vincent Torley suggested that I attributed all of the evolution of chimpanzees and humans to the fixation of nearly neutral alleles by random genetic drift. He tried to convince his audience that I was rejecting natural selection as a component of that evolution. I corrected him at: Breaking news: Creationist Vincent Torley lies and moves goalposts.

When he said, "Professor Moran’s view: 22.4 million neutral mutations were what made us human," I concluded that this was so ridiculous that it had to be a deliberate misrepresentation, i.e. a lie.

Later on in the post I admitted that there was another possibility, he may just be stupid and not a liar.

He has now posted an "update" on his original post: Can the neutral theory of evolution explain what makes us human?. Here's what he says ....

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Why the creationists love the 1980 Chicago meeting on macroevolution

A meeting on macroevolution was held at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago in October 1980. Normally these meetings would not attract much attention from the press but in this case there was an article published in Discover a month before the meeting took place that suggested something revolutionary was in the wind. Stephen Jay Gould discusses the episode in The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (pp. 981-986).

The article in Discover referred to "growing dissent from the prevailing view of Darwinism" and mentioned that there would be a meeting in Chicago. As a result of this article, a bunch of journalists turned up at the Chicago Macroevolution meeting expecting fireworks.

There was a lot of talk about punctuated equilibria at the Chicago meeting and how the ideas of Eldredge and Gould conflicted with the gradualism that was part of traditional Darwinian evolution. This is complicated stuff so it's no wonder that many journalists misinterpreted the discussion as support for the idea that evolution was being challenged as the creationists claimed.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

An accomodationist defends the science of the Pope in the journal Nature

I don't think scientific journals or scientific organizations should take a position on the conflict between science and religion but that doesn't mean they should stay away from the subject altogether. The journal Nature has just (July 28, 2015) published a defense of accomodationism written by David M. Lodge [Faith and science can find common ground]. Lodge describes himself as a "Protestant ecologist embedded for 30 years in a Roman Catholic university." The Catholic University is Notre Dame [see David M. Lodge].

His main argument is that the current Pope understands the science of the environment and has spoken out in favor of protecting the environment. David Lodge thinks this represents an accomomodation between science and religion.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Why the Right People Hate IDiots

 
Jonathan Wells (see photo) is one of the leading intelligent design creationists. (As we'll see, that says a lot about the intellectual vacuum that characterizes that cult.)

Wells is best known as the author of Icons of Evolution, a book that makes a virtue out of lying for Jesus (and for Reverend Sun Myung Moon). Almost everything that Wells writes about is demonstrably wrong but that never seems to stop him. He should be an embarrassment to the intelligent design creationist cult except that the members of that cult are all incapable of separating fact from fiction when it comes to science. I've posted previously about two of Well's most egregious falsehoods in Icons because we dissected them in a course I taught last semester [Peppered Moths and the Confused IDiots; Fossil Horses and Directed Evolution].

Recently (Feb. 29) Wells posted an article about the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria and claimed that the authors (Maurice et al. 2008) did not make use of evolution in their study [The Irrelevance of Darwinian Evolution to Antibiotic Resistance]. Here's what Wells said about the work from Dardel's lab.
Third, Dardel and his colleagues made their discovery using protein crystallography. They were not guided by Darwinian evolutionary theory; in fact, they had no need of that hypothesis.
When I first saw the Wells article I seriously wondered whether Jonathan Wells was mentally stable. It looks like he has become completely unhinged since the point of his article is so far from the truth that even a kindergarten student can recognize the lies. (Not surprisingly, the other intelligent design creationists were completely sucked into the lie.)

Ian Musgrave was the first one to hold his nose and post a rebuttal of the Wells article [How stupid do they think we are?]. Somebody had to do it—thanks Ian for doing the research. Your title says it all.

Now, here's the best part. The senior author of the study, Frederic Dardel, posted a comment on The Panda's Thumb website [Frederic Dardel comment]. Here's what Dardel said ...
As principal investigator of the study under discussion, I’d like to strongly support the view advocated this page. In fact, I was completely amazed to see how our work has been misrepresented by M. Wells.

Actually, we did indeed use darwinian evolution within this work (something unusual in structural biology). In order to obtain an enzyme with increased stability (a critical point for structural studies), we used selective pressure to obtain mutants of the enzyme. We selected for bateria with increased aminiglycoside resistance, by plating them on antibiotic containing medium. It turned out that some bacteria evolved such stabler enzymes variants which made this whole study possible !

Finally, I would not consider myself as a chemist, I got my PhD in molecular microbiology. It seems that M. Wells finds it easier to portray us as non-biologists, and hence implicitly as non-evolutionists.
Delicious. PZ Myers picked up on this and posted an article with the title Wells says something stupid again. Of course he did, that's why we call them IDiots.

Now, in light of this you might expect Jonathan Wells to apologize and admit he was wrong. Hands up all those who think he'll do the honorable thing.

WRONG! You guys just don't understand the creationist mentality. Here's how it works, quoting today's posting on Evolution News & Views [Being Hated by the Right People].
As Johnny Cash reputedly once said, “It’s good to know who hates you, and it’s good to be hated by the right people.”

Darwinist bloggers P. Z. Myers and Ian Musgrave hate me. In fact, Myers writes, “My animus for Jonathan Wells knows no bounds.” Well, at least he (unlike Musgrave) spells my name right.

The most recent outbursts by Myers and Musgrave were provoked by my February 29 blog on Evolution News & Views, in which I predicted that Darwinists would try to take credit for a recent French discovery regarding antibiotic resistance. And indeed they did.

In the course of claiming credit for Darwinism, Musgrave claims that I completely misrepresent evolution, molecular biology, genetics and history. Wow. At least I get points for comprehensiveness. As proof of my misrepresentations, Musgrave cites Wikipedia, which everyone involved in this controversy knows is about as balanced and reliable on this issue as P.Z. Myers’s Pharyngula or The National Center for Science Miseducation’s Panda’s Thumb.

....

The principal researcher in the French study disagrees, and wrote to Musgrave’s blog that "we did indeed use Darwinian evolution within this work (something unusual in structural biology). In order to obtain an enzyme with increased stability (a critical point for structural studies), we used selective pressure to obtain mutants of the enzyme."

So the researchers used artificial selection to good advantage. But artificial selection is not Darwinism. People were using artificial selection for centuries before Darwin came along, and they didn’t need Darwin to explain it to them. Darwin argued that an analogous process also operates in natural populations – and so it does. But he and his devoted followers went much further and claimed that it also explains the origin of new species, organs and body plans, which it doesn’t.
You just can't make this stuff up. Wells is an IDiot. I intensely dislike Wells and the lying tactics he uses to promote his cult of intelligent design creationism. I hope that puts me among the "right people."


[Photo Credit: Evolution News & Views]

Maurice, F., Broutin, I., Podglajen, I., Benas, P., Collatz, E. and Dardel, F. (2008) Enzyme structural plasticity and the emergence of broad-spectrum antibiotic resistance. EMBO Rep. 2008 Feb 22 [Epub ahead of print] [PubMed]

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Creationists list the top ten stories of 2016

Intelligent Design Creationists are still trying to promote their views. They consistently claim to have positive evidence of intelligent design and they consistently complain whenever we point out what they actually do; they attack evolution/science. Their main talking point relies on the fallacy known as "false dichotomy." They assume that by casting doubt on evolution/science they lend support to their religious viewpoint.

Each year, the IDiots on Evolution News & Views (sic) publish their top ten stories. The series is linked to a fund-raising campaign so it's safe to assume they think these stories advance their cause. Let's see how many of the top stories promote intelligent design and how many are just criticisms of evolution/science. That should be revealing ...

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Evolution Poll of Sandwalk Readers

 
The poles are closed and the results are in. Richard Dawkins is the clear winner (boo!).

The good news is that 87% (499/573) Sandwalk readers have legitimate scientific views of evolution (Dawkins + Gould + Futuyma). Only a small number of readers are creationists or proponents of theistic evolution.

The bad news is that most readers are split between three different views of evolution. Some people have asked me to explain these three views so here's a brief summary of how I distinguish between Dawkins, Gould, and Futuyma.

Richard Dawkins holds the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University (UK). In his first book, The Selfish Gene (1976), he promoted the idea that evolution can be viewed as a competition between genes. This concept was amplified in The Extended Phenotype (1982) where he also answered the main criticism of the selfish gene concept. Dawkins' most popular book was The Blind Watchmaker, first published in 1986. In that book he made the case for design by natural selection and attempted to dismiss, or minimize, all other mechanisms of evolution. The emphasis on the power of natural selection was expanded in Climbing Mt. Improbable (1996).

Dawkins is the leading exponent of adaptationism—or Ultra-Darwinism—the idea that everything interesting in evolution can be explained by adaptation. This is especially true of traits that give rise to visible phenotypes. Dawkins is not very interested in macroevolution and he dismisses punctuated equilibria and species sorting. He believes, along with most adaptationists, that macroevolution is just an extension of natural selection acting on populations. (See RichardDawkins,net for a complete list of books and articles.)

Stephen Jay Gould was Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard University from 1967 until his death in 2002.

He published Ontogeny and Phylogeny in 1977 where he made the case for a relationship between development and evolution. In The Mismeasure of Man (1981) he criticized biological determinism. Wonderful Life (1989) described the Burgess Shale fossils and explained Gould's ideas about the role of chance and contingency in evolution. In 2002, Gould published The Structure of Evolutionary Theory where he attempts to explain macroevolution, punctuated equilibria, and species sorting. These are part of Gould's hierarchical approach to evolutionary theory. Gould identifies himself as a pluralist—one who recognizes many different mechanisms of evolution that can give rise to important and interesting features. He tends to place much more emphasis on chance and accident in evolution than Dawkins.

Gould, along with Niles Eldredge, is famous for the concept of punctuated equilibrium. This is the idea that much of the change in the characteristics of species is concentrated in brief speciation (by cladogenesis) events.

Gould wrote a regular column for Natural History magazine and many of his articles have been collected in a series of anthologies: Ever Since Darwin, The Panda's Thumb, Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, The Flamingo's Smile, Bully for Brontosaurus, Eight Little Piggies, Dinosaur in a Haystack, Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms, The Lying Stones of Marrakech, and I Have Landed. Some of his essays and some of his scientific articles are widely cited. (For a complete list see SJG Archive.)


Douglas J. Futuyma is a Professor of Ecology & Evolution at the State University of New York at Stoney Brook. He is best known for his textbooks on evolution; Evolutionary Biology (1998) and Evolution (2005). His major research interests are evolutionary theory [see Hypotheses, Facts, and the Nature of Science] and the interactions of plants and insects [see Insect Pests: Resistance and Management].

Futuyma's view of evolution is different from that of Richard Dawkins because Futuyma is interested in random genetic drift and speciation. Futyuma is much more aware of population genetics than Dawkins or Gould and he (Futuyma) frequently refers to it in his books and papers. Unlike Gould, Futuyma is skeptical of punctuated equilibria and particularly species selection/sorting, although, ironically, he is credited with proposing the best explanation of the connection between cladogenesis and evolution.

You can check out some of Futuyma's ideas in this interview. In response to the question, "Is natural selection the only mechanism of evolution?", Futuyma replies,
No, certainly not. There cannot be evolution without genetic variation in the first place. So there must be mutation and often recombination to generate the different genotypes or the different versions of the genes, known as alleles, which then may or may not make a difference in the ability of an organism to survive and reproduce. You can’t have any evolutionary change whatever without mutation, and perhaps recombination, giving rise to genetic variation. But once you have genetic variation, there are basically two major possibilities:
First, there is simply no difference between the different genotypes or different genes in their impact on survival or reproduction, and in that case, you can have random changes of one versus the other type in a population or a species until eventually one replaces the other. That is an evolutionary change. It happens entirely by chance, by random fluctuations. That is what we call the process of genetic drift.

Genetic drift is very different from possibility number two, natural selection, which is a much more consistent, predictable, dependable change in the proportion of one gene vs. another, one genotype vs. another. Why? Simply because there is some consistent superiority, shall we way, of one genotype vs. another in some feature that affects its survival or some feature affecting its reproductive capabilities.
Neither Gould or Dawkins would respond in this way. Dawkins would admit to random genetic drift but downplay its importance. Gould would focus on higher mechanisms of evolution like species sorting.

Futuyma also thinks about the role of mutation in a different way than either Dawkins or Gould, especially Dawkins. While Dawkins is very much opposed to crediting mutations per se with any substantial influence on evolution, Futuyma is more sympathetic to a limited mutationism point of view. For example, when asked what would happen if the tape of life were re-played he says.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the same, because first of all, random processes are involved in the evolutionary process. For example, the origin of new mutations: a lot of evolution is dependent on particular mutational changes in genes that were very, very rare or unlikely, but that just happened at the right time, in the right species, in the right environment, but it need not happen that way. So, there’s this unpredictability.
This is very unlike Dawkins who is more inclined to think of evolution as design and strongly resists any attempt to sneak randomness into the equation. For the most part, Dawkins believes that all possible mutations will be available for selection so mutations can never determine the direction of evolution. Gould prefers to focus on developmental constraints as possible limits to the effectiveness of natural selection.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Understanding Michael Behe's edge of evolution

It's been about twenty years since Intelligent Design Creationism rose to prominence. Just last week the Center for Science and Culture celebrated it's 20th birthday [Twenty Years Ago Today, Did This Change the Evolution Debate Forever?]. In all that time, the best that ID proponents can come up with is some work by Michael Behe that attempts to discredit evolution.

The first book by Behe was Darwin's Black Box where he developed the notion of irreducible complexity. The definition of irreducible complexity has changed over the years but the basic idea is that some biological structures are very complex and the removal of any one part will render the complex nonfunctional. This presents an enormous problem for evolution, according to Behe, because all the presumptive intermediates will be nonfunctional.

The conclusion is that it's impossible to evolve an irreducibly complex structure. Evolutionary biologists have no problem accepting the existence of irreducibly complex structures. They see them all the time. What they object to is the idea that irreducibly complex structures cannot have arisen by evolution. Behe's conclusion has been shown to be false and he has admitted on multiple occasions that irreducibly complex structures can arise by purely natural means (evolution).

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Spin Begins

 
The misreporting of the evolution issue is one key reason for this site. Unfortunately, much of the news coverage has been sloppy, inaccurate, and in some cases, overtly biased. Evolution News & Views presents analysis of that coverage, as well as original reporting that accurately delivers information about the current state of the debate over Darwinian evolution.

Evolution News & Views
The Discovery Institute website has skirted around the obvious hypocrisy and attacked Dawkins and Myers. Bruce Chapman has posted an article on Evoluton News & Views about the expulsion of PZ Myers from a viewing of EXPELLED [Richard Dawkins, World’s Most Famous Darwinist, Stoops to Gate-crashing Expelled].
Amazingly, the best selling Oxford scientist/author Richard Dawkins also crashed a showing of Expelled in Minnesota last night and he not only was let in, but introduced at the end of the showing.

Dawkins apparently acknowledged that he had not been invited and did not have a ticket. A sophomoric side to his ideological campaign is thus revealed.

Dawkins, understandably is nervous about this film, among other reasons because Ben Stein has him on camera acknowledging that life on Earth may, indeed, have been intelligently designed, but that it had to have been accomplished by space aliens! This is hilarious, of course, because Dawkins is death on intelligent design. But it turns out that that view applies only if it includes the possibility that the designer might be God.

Myers, of course, relished being expelled from Expelled, but objective observers know that Myers is the most vociferous advocate of expelling Darwin critics from academia. Not from movie pre-screenings where he wasn’t invited, mind you, but from their jobs. Too bad the film doesn’t show (and I wish it had), his promotion of advice to attack teachers and professors who dare question Darwin’s theory. The whole point of Myers is that he is a take-no-prisoners, crusading atheist scientist who has made it his purpose in life to harass people who disagree with him. Dawkins turns out to be his buddy and mutual admirer.
Those of you who have been following the issue on the various blogs, and in newspaper articles, know full well that Dawkins did not "crash" the movie. People did not have to be invited and there were no tickets. Chapman and his friends must know this too. Therefore, he is lying.

I'm not surprised that most of the IDiots are behaving this way. What will surprise me is that all of them might behave like Bruce Chapman. I expect at least one prominent IDiot to admit that expelling PZ Myers was a mistake and to admit that he should have been allowed to see a movie that featured him.

Let's see if there's at least one IDiot with the guts to speak the truth. Bill Dembski is not going to be that person (suprise!) because he has just posted the Chapman piece on his blog [Discovery News Release on Richard Dawkins Crashing EXPELLED Screening]. I'm hoping that Denyse O'Leary will be the one with the gumption. Or maybe Michael Behe. I expect Jonathan Wells to weigh in with even more lies about the incident.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More Creationist Objections to Unguided Evolution

Maybe it's just my imagination, but I think I detect a change on Evolution News & View and on Uncommon Descent. For years these blogs have been attacking evolution without paying the least attention to what their opponents are saying. Lately, however, there seem to be some authors who are actually listening to their opponents and trying to address the main criticisms of the IDiot position.

Sometimes you even see articles that are close to being scientifically correct and I've even seen articles that recognize the existence of modern evolutionary theory (i.e. not Darwinism).

The good articles are still quite rare but I'm encouraged by the fact that they are listening.

The latest contribution is by Stephen A. Batzer, a contributor to Evolution News & Views since May 10, 2012. Batzer has a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering (see The Salem Conjecture). He's responding to an earlier post of mine where I attempted to explain to Casey Luskin why he was wrong about evolutionary theory [Is "Unguided" Part of Modern Evolutionary Theory?]. Recall that Luskin was saying that the "unguided" nature of evolution was a core part of the theory of Darwinian evolution.

Monday, August 25, 2014

David Klinghoffer recognizes the problems with authorities and quote mining

We all know the drill by now. Intelligent design Creationists attempt to discredit evolution and science by pointing out what they see as flaws in basic theory. They also spend a considerable amount of time attempting to discredit individual scientists using guilt by association or direct character assaults.

One of their favorite tricks is to lift quotations out of context and present them in a way that makes it look like famous scientists are supporting Intelligent Design Creationism—or, at least, supporting the idea that evolution is flawed.

The tactic is so widespread and despicable that it led to formation of The Quote Mine Project
Or, Lies, Damned Lies and Quote Mines
. That project ran out of steam about eight years ago because the authors just couldn't keep up with all the misinformation coming out of books, lectures, and articles from leading members of the Discovery Institute.

Stephen Meyer is a expert at this. Here are a couple of examples from his book Darwin's Doubt (2013).

Monday, August 01, 2011

Carnival of Evolution #38

Welcome to the carnival! This is one of the biggest Carnivals of Evolution we've ever had. It's an exciting and colorful parade of articles about evolution from the month of July 2011.

The last Carnival of Evolution was published on The Lessons of Evolution. For the next one (September 1, 2011) send your submissions to Carnival of Evolution. In case you don't know what a blog carnival is all about, here's a very informative FAQ: Blog Carnival: Frequently Asked Questions.

I hope you enjoy #38. I grouped all the submissions into several categories to make it easier for you to find something of interest. You really should try to scan everything even though this is a very, very, long posting. I think it's the biggest one ever on Sandwalk.



Before we begin, Virginia Hensley at AS DEGREE has some recommendations for us. Check them out if you have a tablet or a smart phone.
20 Incredibly Entertaining iPad Apps for Science Nuts
Science is often an essential part of your education and degree, but it doesn't have to be boring. Science can also be fun through the help of these amazing iPad apps. You'll learn while being entertained.
Engelbert Hudson at Environmental Science Masters suggest some twitter threads you might be interested in following.
33 Environmental Scientists Worth Following on Twitter
Social media is branching out to be more than just places to keep in touch with friends and family. They are great educational tools as well. These environmental scientists post great information on Twitter for those interested in finding out news about the field and other great information about environmental science.

Classification

Classification, or taxonomy, is an important part of understanding the history of life. One of my favorite blogs is Catalogue of Organisms by Christopher Taylor ("An inordinate fondness for systematics"). Here are some postings from last month.
The August History of Filter-Feeding Ostracods.
Today's post subject, the Cavellinidae, were a family of ostracods that were around from the Middle Silurian period to the Middle Triassic (Adamczak 2003a). And for those of you unfamiliar with ostracods: you lucky, lucky bastards. They're horrible.
Patterns on a Squill
The south of Africa is one of the world's centres for botanical diversity. Home to an abundance of the floristically wierd and wonderful, you might be surprised to know just how many of your favourite garden plants (assuming that you have favourite garden plants) originate from that part of the world: ...
The Claim-Jumpers and Grave-Robbers of Taxonomy
In a recent paper in Zootaxa (openly accessible), O'Hara (2011) has become the most recent of a number of authors to discuss one of the more irritating taxonomic developments of recent years: the rise of the serial homonym replacer. A taxonomic homonym, in case you aren't already familiar with the term, is when a new taxon is given a name previously assigned to a distinct taxon (usually because the later author is unaware of the earlier usage's existence). Because the various nomenclatural codes require that any name can refer to only a single taxon, the more recently named taxon would generally need to be re-christened if it is to be accepted into polite society.
The Overwhelming Diversity of Life
If there is one thing that most people fail to grasp about biodiversity, it would be that there's just so much of it. It's an understandable failing: I work with biodiversity on a daily basis, and even I find myself constantly startled and awed by this point. So huge are the numbers involved that it's almost counter-productive to simply report them. Humans seem to have a tendency to effectively just lump any number over a hundred or so as simply 'a lot'.
I'm also a fan of Botany Photo of the Day. It often has some interesting evolution stories. Here's a couple from last month.

Ephedra viridis
As the Gnetophyta have some characteristics that are found in one or the other of Pinophyta and Magnoliophyta, some hypotheses suggest the group is an evolutionary link between conifers and flowering plants.
Brighamia insignis
Currently, Brighamia insignis is only found on the island of Kauai, though in the past it was also present on Niihau. It has not been observed on Niihau since 1947, however. The island of Molokai is host to a related species, Brighamia rockii, whose flowers are white instead of yellow and whose seeds are smooth, not bumpy. Both species are adapted to grow on windy sea cliffs, as their thickened stems support them in strong winds and their roots can grow in rocky crevices.
Jennifer Frazer is a science writer with a special fondness for the weird things in biology. She blogs at The Artful Amoeba.

The Jellyfish that Conquered Land — and Australia.
Most people know jellyfish and their ilk — the cnidarians, of sea pen, anemone, coral, and man’o'war fame — live in water and (happily for us) stay pretty well confined to it. But as it turns out, that’s not entirely the case.

In 1935, in a fit of profound naïveté, the government of Queensland introduced the cane toad to Australia to control the insects devouring its sugar cane fields. The result was a biblical-scale plague of the noxious amphibians ...
It's important to have a good understanding of the relationship between various species since that's a reflection of the history of life. It's also important to have the right perspective on life and to avoid the intrinsic bias that we all share: namely, to overestimate the importance of our own species. Psi Wavefunction is an undergraduate with an interest in protists. He/she blogs at The Ocelloid and the first posting is a lesson for all of us addressing the age-old question, "What the heck is a protist?"
Welcome to The Ocelloid!.
Nearly everyone finds wonder in at least some aspects of natural diversity whether it lies in the appreciation of exotic plants, the variety of domesticated breeds or simply enjoying a day off from urban chaos. From colorful venomous frogs to fluffy pandas or the strange terror of deep sea fishes, we are all familiar with the iconic images of our biosphere’s diversity. But the greatest biodiversity lies in the unseen, a world so alien yet so pervasive around us. Microbes, not macrobes, comprise the overwhelming majority of the earth’s biosphere, in quantity, mass and variety. While bacterial microbes are quite familiar to the microbiologist and anyone keen on the study of diseases, much less commonly spoken of are the microbial eukaryotes (and related macroscopic offshoots that are neither plant, fungal nor animal) the protists:
cromercrox identifies as "a Celebrity Nutritionist" who blogs at The End of the Pier Show. This month's contribution to the Carnival of Evolution is a report on the Zoologiclal Society of London's meeting on cryptozoology.
One Of Our Sea Serpents Is Missing
The meeting asked the question – is cryptozoology a science or a pseudoscience? I suspect that most people would veer to the latter view. After all, cryptozoology tends to group with aliens as subjects likely to attract muesli. There is, however, a movement of scientific sympathy towards the study of unknown animals, given that it should be the business of scientists to study unknown things – a tendency with which I have much sympathy, which presumably explains why I was asked to chair the proceedings.


Fossils

Lot's of people blogged about Xiaotingia zhengi, the new bird-like fossil that resembles Archaeopteryx. The news is that the addition of Xiaotingia to the bird/dinosaur tree confirms the relationship between birds and dinosaurs and confirms the placement of Archaeopteryx as a cousin of modern birds rather than a direct ancestor. PZ Myers has a good description on his blog Pharyngula.
Xiaotingia zhengi
When Xiaotingia's data is tossed into the calculation, though, the results change. Xiaotingia doesn't cluster so tightly with birds; it's a more distant relative. However, Archaeopteryx shares enough significant features with Xiaotingia that they now cluster together, pulling Archaeopteryx out of the basal Aves and into a new classification. It says that Archaeopteryx is now a kind of second cousin, a little less closely related to the birds than previously thought.
The appendix and other vestigial organs aren't exactly "fossils" in the classic sense of the term but I had to put this next submission somewhere! Heather Scoville blogs at About.com Evolution and she addresses a question that's been around for decades—the intelligent design community is especially interested in the answer.
Appendix May Not Be Vestigial After All
Vestigial structures are compelling evidence for evolution. The appendix is usually the first structure we think of that has no function in humans. But is the appendix really vestigial? A research team at Duke University says the appendix just might do something besides get infected.
If you're interested in evolution how could you not be interested in The Cambrian Explosion Song from Kevin Zelnio.



Evolution in Action

Carl Zimmer is a science writer—a very good one. He links from his blog The Loom to an article he published in the July 25, 2011 edition of the New York Times.
The Evolution of New York: My new story for the New York Times
In tomorrow’s New York Times, I’ve got a story about evolutionary biologists who make New York their Galapagos Islands. Working on this story was great fun–I traipsed around Manhattan parks and medians, checking out mice and ants and salamanders. I spoke to other researchers who study plants, fish, and bacteria in and around the city. All of them observe evolution unfolding in what might seem like a very unnatural place. But after four billion years, nothing can stop evolution. Not even New York.
Jerry Coyne is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago. He's the author of Why Evolution Is true and he posts interesting articles about speciation and evolution (and other things) on his blog of the same name—only he insists that you don't call it a blog. (I ignore him.)
Adaptive Hybridization in Mice
One of the newer "expansions" of the modern synthetic theory of evolution is the idea that the genetic variation "used" by either natural selection or genetic drift can arise not just through mutations within a species, but also through hybridization with another species. Hybridization between different species usually yields maladaptive offspring, but occasionally a fertile hybrid can be the source of a new gene that can spread through a species that didn’t originally have it.
One of the most interesting debates in modern evolutionary biology is whether adaptation accounts for all (or most) visible change. The alternative is random genetic drift. This is a topic that interests Jerry Coyne.

The Spirit Bear
So, if the color gives an advantage at fishing and protection from being hunted, why aren’t all the bears in the area white? Even if black bears have an unknown countervailing advantage (like camouflage in the forest), that wouldn’t necessarily keep both color variants in the population: you’d expect the color conferring the highest net fitness to sweep through the population.

The relationship between plants and the microbes that infect them can get very complicated. It's often difficult to tell the difference between a symbiotic relationship and one that mostly benefits the infectious agent. Ford Denison posts at This Week in Evolution and last week he wrote about endocytes.
Beneficial infections?
Endophytes are microbes (often fungi) that infect plants without causing obvious disease. Some endophytes appear to benefit their plant hosts. How do they do this, and why? I will introduce these questions before discussing this week's paper,(Redman et al. 2011) which shows dramatic benefits to rice from particular endophytes.
Jeremy Yoder is a biologist whose specialty if the interaction between species. He has two contributions this month from his blog Denim and Tweed. The first one is about how two different mammals adapt to living at high altitudes.
Of mice and men, making a living in rarefied air
The fundamental problem at high altitude is to pull more oxygen from thinner air. Natural selection is good at solving problems, and it has multiple options for adapting a mammal to thinner air at high altitudes, to the extent that these traits are heritable.
The second article by Jeremy Yoder concerns symbiosis and how scientists can explain why some plants choose some bacteria and vice versa
Choosing your partner is only as helpful as the partners you have to choose from
When you need partners for some sort of cooperative activity—say, teammates for a game of kickball—you'd probably like to have a choice among several candidates. That lets you weigh considerations about kicking strength and running speed—and who promised to give you his dessert at lunch period—to build a winning team. However, if the other team captain snaps up the good players first, the fact that you have a choice among the others might not make much difference.
Sticklebacks (fish) also have to make choices and that's the subject of Emily Weigel's guest posting on the BEACON blog. (BEACON is an NSF (USA) Center for the Study of Evolution in Action.)

The Mating Game
What would a fish say if it could talk? How about, "Hey, baby. What’s your sign?" Male threespine sticklebacks court females in a constant game of flashy zig-zag dances and showing off with the hope that a female will respond favorably. Most of the time, to use the baseball analogy, the male strikes out; that is, the female swims hurriedly away, and the male must go sadly back to the nest alone tonight.

Who wants to get out in the wilderness and take DNA samples from grizzly bears? Kevin Zelnio (EvoECOLab) explains why anyone would want such a dangerous job.
The Reality and Utility of Bear Paternity Tests
The Bear DNA research, more formally known as the Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project – headed by Dr. Katherine Kendall of the United States Geologic Survey at Glacier Field Station in Montana, used wire traps and video surveillance cameras to capture hair from bears all over the Rockies. It is an ambitious and highly successful program. In its operation has identified nearly every individual bear in the area, estimated to be ~765.
David Winter tells us about his particular passion—which turns out to be pretty weird. It combines snails and bird poop. He sometimes blogs at Scientific American
Bird guts, not muddy feet, may help snails migrate overseas
When I'm not spending my time writing about the weird bugs I find in the garden, or even weirder creatures I just think the world ought to know about, I study land snails from Pacific Islands. That means every time I give I talk I spend the first couple of minutes convincing people that - along with colourful fish, tropic birds and beautiful Hibiscus - land snails are one of the characters tic creatures of Pacific ecosystems. Snails might seem like unlikely overseas travellers, but they've made it to the most isolated and the youngest islands.

Evolution of Behavior/Evolutionary Psychology

Becky Ward reviews a recent paper on the courtship behavior of golden-collared manakins. Becky blogs at It Takes 30. Watch the video.
Dance for Me
Ah, courtship. That crazy time when you’ll do almost anything to show off for your potential mate: drink too much, fight with rivals, play chicken with cars, and generally behave in ways that make you shudder in later life. The courtship rituals of suburbia are complex enough, but they pale in comparison to the behaviors some animals show.
Speaking of birds, have you ever wondered how birds manage to land on a swaying branch? It's a skill that's much like the skill of a baseball outfielder catching a fly ball, at least according to Alex Washoe at Birdland West.
Game Show Pigeons and Ball Playing Dogs
Over at Sciencewriter.org (possibly the coolest domain name ever), Davide Castelvecchi, who is a physical sciences and mathematics editor at Scientific American, has been stirring up controversy recently by revisiting what's known as "The Monty Hall Problem". If you're not familiar with it -- where have you been? It's been discussed over the years everywhere from hard science magazines to Car Talk.
Ford Denison looks at cooperation in human societies—what is the evolutionary advantage of such a behavior? He reviews two papers that address the issue. He blogs at This Week in Evolution.
Evolution of human cooperation
Two papers this week help explain why humans cooperate, even with nonrelatives. Cooperation with relatives (activities that tend to decrease one's own reproductive success, while increasing that of others likely to share many of one's genes) is predicted by "selfish gene" theory, as formalized in Hamilton's rule. I've assumed that cooperation with nonrelatives is a beneficial side-effect of behavioral genes that evolved when most of our neighbors were relatives, as is still the case in parts of the Amazon and West Virginia. But other explanations have been proposed.
Have you ever wondered why bats fly at night instead of during the day? Zen Faulkes (NeuroDojo) looks at a recent paper that tries to answer that question.
Bats marry the night
We know what Bruce Wayne picked as a “creature of the night”: a bat.

But why are bats so strongly nocturnal? Why don’t we see bats out flying around in the daytime (besides a few out on remote islands)? After all, most people can quickly think of one line of birds that is largely nocturnal.

If a bird had flown through Bruce Wayne’s window, we might have had a very different character in stately Wayne Manor.
We have two submissions from Eric Michael Johnson of The Primate Diaries. There are both book reviews with a good deal of editorial comment.
The Science of Sexism: Primate Behavior and the Culture of Sexual Coercion
Primatologists and evolutionary biologists have taken this question seriously and have developed some surprising conclusions that could inform our approach to this issue. Unlike Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer’s book A Natural History of Rape, a thesis that was criticized by scholars both in biology and gender studies, other evolutionary researchers have developed a much more balanced analysis. One example is from the recent edited volume Sexual Coercion in Primates and Humans by Martin Muller and Richard Wrangham.

Frans de Waal on Political Apes, Science Communication, and Building a Cooperative Society
“It’s the animal in us,” we often hear when we’ve been bad. But why not when we’re good? This is the question that has driven Frans de Waal for the past 30 years. From his pioneering research on alliance formation in Chimpanzee Politics, to reconciliation behavior in Peacemaking Among Primates and Good Natured, to the implications for human life and thought in Primates and Philosophers, de Waal has been seeking to understand the roots of moral behavior in the most political of animals. The theme of his newest book, The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society, is the culmination of his work to date and presents a synthesis of the factors that account for cooperative behavior in the natural world.
Let's not ignore the controversy surrounding evolutionary psychology. Jesse Bering is a research psychologist who blogs at Bering in Mind. Here's an old blog posting where he interviews a well-known evolutionary psychologist (Gordon Gallup) and asks the tough question.
Homophobia Phobia: Bad Science or Bad Science Comprehension?
BERING: Evolutionary biologists, but also non-specialists, casually deride evolutionary psychology as generating "just-so stories." Jon Wilkins, for example, of the Santa Fe Institute, reminds us that, "plausibility is NOT scientific proof." Likewise, Yoder layers his critique of your work with references to Brother Grimm​ fairy tales. Larry Moran of the University of Toronto, writes, "Why is it that respected evolutionary psychologists think these just-so stories are an important part of their discipline?"

How has this just-so-story rhetoric affected your research, and what, in your view, are the implications of this type of Gouldian-era language for the discipline as a whole?

GALLUP: Just as the title of my 1996 reply to John Archer implies, everything in science boils down to a matter of evidence. I have never taken the position that plausibility is a substitute for evidence. My 1995 paper along with my reply to Archer is based almost entirely on evidence. It is interesting how my critics tip-toe around the fact that my approach is based on a testable hypothesis, and how they go out of their way to side-step the fact that the data we’ve collected are consistent with the predictions. Whether it is politically incorrect or contrary to prevailing social dogma, is irrelevant. In science, knowing is preferable to not knowing. Minds are like parachutes, they only function when they’re open. If I were a homosexual, I’d want to know about these data.
Kate Clancy is an anthropologist at the University of Illinois. She blogs at Context and Variation where she focuses on "the evolution of human behavior and issues for women in science." Apparently, she's sometimes a bit skeptical of evolutionary psychology.
To save your marriage, hold the mayo… but only if you’re a lady
The data and findings are interesting (even though, controlling for divorce? Really? When studying marriage satisfaction?). The conclusions, however, are troubling. To put it another way: if you write an evolutionary psychology article but the only author you cite who even pretends to be evolutionary is David Buss, I’m probably going to blog about it.
Zen Faulkes is also a little skeptical about some of the evolutionary psychology papers that are being published. Read what he has to say on his blog NeuroDojo.
I will give you a reason to fear the night
I’m puzzled as to why the authors wanted to play up this strange evolutionary psychology angle to the story. Speculative "just so" stories of adaptation seem so insignificant in a project about humans getting attacked and eaten by lions.

Can evolutionary psychology walk the walk over walking?
Robert Kurzban recently defended evolutionary psychology by asking the rhetorical question:
"If you think that we can discover the function of fever, puking, and pooping at the base of a tree, why are other patterns of behavior not susceptible to a similar analysis?"
You can. But there are too many examples of evolutionary biology being applied to human behaviour in an offhanded and slipshod way. For an example, John Bradshaw described this research on the detection of sex from movement.
John Hawks has an appropriately named blog: john hawks weblog. He's mostly interested in human evolution but he approaches it from many different angles. Last month he addressed evolutionay psychology.
Adapting evolutionary psychology
I've written on evolutionary psychology at some length, often in a very critical way (for a good example, check out this post about David Buller's critical work and evolutionary psychologists' lame response). But the idea of niche construction irritates me a lot more than evolutionary psychology ever does.

So I'll take a critical view of the four suggestions put forward by Bolhuis and colleagues as ways to move evolutionary psychology forward: ...

Evo-Devo

PZ Myers studies the developmental biology of fish at the University of Minnesota in Morris. He's also very fond of cephalopods. PZ has a blog called Pharyngula—a name that reflects his interest in the developmental biology of vertebrates. You may have heard about his blog 'cause he writes awesome articles about evo-devo. He also writes about other things.
A Little cis Story

There is a bit of a debate going on about the relative importance of cis and trans mutations in evolution. Proponents of the cis perspective like to point out that cis mutations can be wonderfully subtle and specific; you can make a change in an enhancer and only modify the expression of the gene in one tissue, or even a small part of one tissue, while changing a trans factor causes changes in every tissue that uses that gene product. Also, most of the cis proponents are evo-devo people, scientists who study the small variations in timing and magnitude of gene expression that lead to differences in form, so of course the kinds of changes that affect the stuff we study must be the most important.
PZ Myers' second contribution was posted on Pharyngula and also on The Panda's Thumb. You're probably going to want to read this one when you see the title.
The greatest science paper ever published in the history of humankind
That's not hyperbole. I really mean it. How else could I react when I open up the latest issue of Bioessays, and see this: Cephalopod origin and evolution: A congruent picture emerging from fossils, development and molecules. Just from the title alone, I'm immediately launched into my happy place: sitting on a rocky beach on the Pacific Northwest coast, enjoying the sea breeze while the my wife serves me a big platter of bacon, and the cannula in my hypothalamus slowly drips a potent cocktail of cocain and ecstasy direct into my pleasure centers…and there's pie for dessert. It's like the authors know me and sat down to concoct a title where every word would push my buttons.
One way of testing the idea that small changes in regulatory pathways can lead to big changes in an organism is to experimentally manipulate a regulatory pathway to see if it can be "switched" to another type of pathway. Stephen Matheson at Quintessence of Dust tells us about a recent paper that does just that.
Evolution cheats, or how to get an old enzyme to do new tricks
Now, kinases tend to be pretty picky about who they stick phosphate onto, and this specificity is known to involve the business end of the kinase, called the active site. The active site is (generally) the part of the kinase that physically interacts with the target and transfers the phosphate. You might think that this interaction, between kinase and target, through the active site, would be by far the most important factor in determining the specificity of kinase function. But that's probably not the case.

Evolutionary Theory

Jerry Coyne is a bit skeptical about so-called revolutions in evolutionary theory. Personally, I think he throws the baby out with the bathwater but see what you think.

BBC Radio 4 tonight: a revolution in evolution? NOT
Over my whole career, but especially in the last half-dozen years or so, I’ve heard that neo-Darwinism (the modern theory of evolution) is either wrong, in a crisis, or about to undergo a profound Kuhnian paradigm shift. And it’s never happened. Neo-Darwinism gets expanded (things like the “neutral theory,” for example, were adopted and largely verified during my own career), but the basic paradigm of mutation, selection, drift, and speciation hasn’t much changed. New findings, like punctuated patterns that appear in the fossil record—patterns once foolishly touted by Gould & Co. as evidence that neo-Darwinism was “effectively dead”—eventually get folded into our current view of evolution, which expands and gets richer. Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini wrote a book claiming that natural selection was theoretically incoherent and not responsible for adaptation, but they were dead wrong.
Bjørn Østman is the fearless leader behind the Carnival of Evolution. He blogs at Pleiotropy and last month he addressed fitness landscapes—a perennial problem in evolutionary theory.
Using deleterious mutations to cross fitness valleys - as misunderstood by ID creationists
This research is part of my PhD thesis which I started in 2007, in part inspired by the creationist claim that deleterious mutations are only bad and prohibits evolution. My first objection was that they can of course exist on the line of descent as hitchhikers - deleterious mutations that go to fixation because they occur in close temporal proximity* to a beneficial mutation, so the combined effect is beneficial. Then I learned about epistasis - the interaction between mutations - which is ubiquitous and essential for non-trivial adaptation. Trivial adaptation is when evolution occurs by accumulating only beneficial mutations, as when a single fitness peak is ascended. But if the fitness landscape is rugged with many local peaks (as it necessarily always is in reality), then it is of great benefit to be able to climb down one peak and up another higher one.

More on high-dimensional fitness landscapes
In a post from a few days ago about a paper I just got published, John Wilkins asked how my work ties in with Gavrilets' stuff on high dimensional landscapes. Here's my answer:

In terms of the discussion about the strength of the metaphor of the fitness landscape, my view is that the people who argue that it's not useful or even misleading are wrong. Yes, some people may take the analogy with a geographic landscape too far.
When we think of evolutionary theory we often think of population genetics and simulations of allele frequency changes. But that's not all there is to evolution. There's a lot of work being done at the level of species and ecology and that's the subject of Nicolas Chaumont's contribution this month. He's a guest blogger at BEACON
Autonomous foraging, speciation and open-ended evolutionary experiments in 3D physically realistic worlds
Everybody I’ve talked to who is aware of Karl Sims’ work on the evolution of his 3D blocky creatures was impressed by the seemingly elaborate behavior they were capable of, despite their simple morphologies. The presentation of his results in 1994 was seen as a technical tour de force. Even by today’s standards, his work remains impressive. I was poised in the summer of 2000 to start a Master’s project at Sherbrooke University in Canada, with the goal of reproducing some of his results. This is how the EVO project has begun. Many students who underwent similar efforts to reproduce Sims’ work typically graduate and move on to a different project. Unlike them, I was fortunate to have Prof. Chris Adami as my Ph.D. adviser who saw how this program could be expanded to study Speciation, and other aspects of Evolutionary Biology.
Artificial intelligence doesn't really have much to do with evolutionary theory, or does it? Arend Hintze, a guest blogger at BEACON, tries to enlighten us.
BEACON Researchers at Work: Developing artificial intelligence
When I am asked what I do, I normally smile apologetically and say something like “Theoretical Biology” or “Computational Biology,” and with a wink of my eye “like biological evolution … only in the computer” followed by a hand waving gesture that looks like me typing. At least that is my way of coping with the problem of explaining what it is that gets me excited, and most people slowly nod their head and respond with an encouraging voice: “In the computer, I see!” and in most cases we change the topic.
Evolutionary theory is always exciting but you ain't seen nothing until you see natural selection as a poem by Kevin Zelnio at EvEcoLab: Agent of Selection.

Molecular Evolution/Genetics

There's a lot of debate these days about the organization of eukaryotic genomes. Is most of it junk or are there important functions hidden in that part of the genome that we haven't characterized? Anne Buchanan is one of the bloggers at the mermaid's tale and she analyzes recent papers on the transcription of the human genome.
Epistemology and genetics: does pervasive transcription happen?
Molecular genetics these days is by and large not hypothesis driven, but technology driven. There is no theory of what we should or must find in DNA. Indeed, there is hardly a rule that, when we look closely, is not routinely violated. Evolution assembles things in a haphazard, largely chance-driven way. Rather than testing a hypothesis, masses of data are collected in blanket coverage fashion, mined in the hopes that a meaning will somehow arise. That this is how much of genetics is now done is evident in this debate.
Ken Weiss also blogs at the mermaid's tale. He has an interesting perspective on what Mendelian genetics means in the genomic age.
Mendelian Inheritance: Basic Genetics or Basic Mistake? Part I: Part II: Part III: Part IV:Part V
Of course all of this is manifestly a Grand Illusion! Even a fertilized pea ovule does not have peas, wrinkled, green, or otherwise! Once the connection between a gene and a trait becomes less than 100%, or once many genes contribute information about a trait, we see how obviously Mendelian ideas were a badly misleading mistake. They were great for providing ways to set up experiments that isolated genetic effects and led to an understanding of genetic inheritance. But they were, from the beginning, very misleading about trait inheritance.

Suzanne Elvidge runs a blog alled Genome Engineering. She blogs extensively about molecular evolution and last month was no exception. She has four articles in this carnival of evolution.
More to the mammoth than meets the eye
The woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius – also known as the tundra mammoth) and the Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) lived in late Pleistocene North America. Most genetic studies have focused on the woolly mammoth, but research published in Genome Biology shows that the genome of the Columbian mammoth has some secrets to reveal.

Written in our genome
Much of human ancestry is written into our genes, and two papers this month have provided another glimpse into human evolution and dispersal around the globe.

Suzanne Elvidge wrote a new blog post: The impact of new genomes
The modern potato is genetically complex – the researchers predict 39,031 protein-coding genes – and it is polyploid, with four copies of every gene, having undergone two or more genome duplication events during evolution.

The genes of teeth
One of the key characteristics of mammals is that they have mammary glands that allow them to feed their young. These evolved from sweat glands and produce milk that contains casein micelles. This is a casein (milk protein) and calcium phosphate complex that maintains high levels of calcium phosphate, vital for the formation of teeth and bone.

David Winter blogs at The Atavism. Last month he discussed the origin of animals in a series of three postings. The last one was about molecular phylogeny.
Sunday Spinelessness – The first animals (molecular biology)
It’s time to wrap up this series of posts on the origin of animals. If you are just tuning in here, I’ve already decided that early fossils are utterly fascinating but really not much help to us and had a look at some modern organisms that might give us an idea about how the major steps towards multi-cellularity might have been achieved. Today, I’m going to zoom down another level, and see if molecular biology can tell us anything about the first animals.

History of Evolutionary Biology

You know a scientist is famous when their picture is on a postage stamp. The USA can't claim Charles Darwin but they've done the next best thing as Michael Barton reveals on his blog The Dispersal of Darwin.
New USPS American Scientist stamps feature Darwin supporter and botanist Asa Gray
Asa Gray? Hell yes!
"Asa Gray, one of the first professional botanists in the United States, advanced the specialized field of plant geography and became the principal American advocate of evolutionary theory in the mid-nineteenth century."
Here's a few New articles about Darwin and evolution or related from William Bell at The Dispersal of Darwin.

jared h wants you to know about free education opportunities. This is from his blog RICH AS CHOCOLATE. (He forgot to say caveat emptor but maybe that doesn't apply to free things. )
Free College Education from Elite Colleges
Learn about history and evolution from some of the nation's most elite colleges. This article details how you can listen to lectures from every department at college like MIT, Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and more. All for free.
Ken Cable asks whether Herbert Spenser was a Lamarckian on his blog Kele's Science Blog. He also discusses Lamarckian and Darwinian interpretations of how ant castes work through Spencer and Weismann.
Wait. What? Herbert Spencer was a Lamarckian?
While reading Peter J. Bowler’s The Eclipse of Darwinism, I was surprised to find out that the “social Darwinist”* Herbert Spencer was actually more Lamarckian than Darwinian. He apparently expressed Lamarckian views prior to the 1859 publication of The Origin of Species, and while he accepted Darwinian explanations and the theory of natural selection, Spencer believed Lamarckism – defined (here) as the inheritance of acquired characteristics through use/disuse – was the more important of the two theories.

Ants and Their Castes in the Spencer-Weismann Controversy
As discussed in my last post, Herbert Spencer was a Lamarckian who believed in "inheritance of acquired characteristics" and thought natural selection was "inadequate" for explaining how organisms have evolved. August Weismann contested this; he was known as an "ultra-Darwinian" who believed natural selection explained all biological traits and thought Lamarckism was dead wrong.

Evolution vs Religion

Most of you are aware of the conflict between evolution and religion. It takes many forms ranging all the way from total rejection of evolution (and all of science) to attempts to make evolution and religion compatible. The BioLogos Forum is actively engaged in this struggle and their latest attempt is A Leap of Truth: Evolutionary Creation. Watch the video to see how a number of scientists, theologians, and philosophers deal with the issue of making Christianity and evolution compatible. Then read what Jerry Coyne has to say about all this: Making religious virtues from scientific necessities.

This topic wouldn't be complete without a reference to the Doonesbury cartoon that came out this month: Doonesbury: Sunday July 10, 2011 (Click to embiggen.)


Evolutionary Humor

I promised you a new category for this carnival and here it is. It's a collection of funny things people say about evolution. Most of them are written by creationists. Enjoy.




Toronto Caribana photo credit: CTV News