Evolutionary Biology

Category archives for Evolutionary Biology

Humans appear to have a reasonable amount of diversity in their sexual orientations, in what is often referred to as “gender” and in adult behavior generally. When convenient, people will point to “genes” as the “cause” of any particular subset of th is diversity (or all of it). When convenient, people will point to “culture”…

Behaviors are not caused by genes. There is not a gene that causes you to be good, or to be bad, or to be smart, or good at accounting, or to like bananas. There are, however, drives. “Drives” is a nicely vague term that we can all understand the meaning of. Thirst and hunger are…

I heard it said recently that “Evolution” and “Origin of life” are two separate issues. I know that this is a falsehood, and I’ll discuss in a moment how and why it is not true. But first, I checked around with a few people that I know and love, and found out that some of…

Welcome to the Thirty Sixth Carnival of Evolution. The world of blog carnivals is in a state of flux and uncertainty these days, with the distinct possibility of a mass extinction just around the corner. One of the oldest, longest running, and most important carnivals, I and the Bird, issued its last issue only a…

These are the kinds of books you get if you are either a scientists studying bird migration and related issues, or a very serious bird geek. The first two can be obtained at very low prices used, but the third will set you back at least 50 bucks US$ if you want a used copy.…

Falsehoods: Human Universals

There are human universals. There, I said it. Now give me about a half hour to explain why this is both correct and a Falsehood. But first, some background and definition.

It is difficult to imagine how point mutations, a large number of which are neutral, a certain number of which are deleterious, and a tiny number of which are fitness-enhancing, can add up to the sorts of evolutionary diversity and adaptive elegance we see in real life. However, there are only two possible explanations for…

A discussion of misconceptions in evolution … about missing links, or great chains of being, or teleology (the idea that evolution is goal-directed) has got to be the most fun you can have with your pants on. Pursuant to this, let’s sharpen and clarify our evolutionary theory mojo by considering the concept of “mosaic evolution”…

In his highly readable book, One Long Argument, Ernst Mayr breaks down the body of thought often referred to as “Darwin’s Theory” into five separate and distinct theories, the second of which being “common descent.” Darwin’s second evolutionary theory (second by Mayr’s count, not Darwin’s) is really a hypothesis that could be worded this way:…

Human infants require more care than they should, if we form our expectations based on closely related species (apes, and more generally, Old World simian primates). It has been said that humans are born three months early. This is not accurate. It was thought that our body size predicted a 12 month gestation, and some…