Evolution

Pharyngula

Category archives for Evolution

A defense of ENCODE?

Dan Graur has snarled at the authors of a paper defending ENCODE. How could I then resist? I read the offending paper, and I have to say something that will weaken my own reputation as a snarling attack dog myself: it does make a few good points. But it’s mostly using some valid criticisms to…

Aegirocassis benmoulae

Anomalocaris has always been one of my favorite Cambrian animals — it was so weird, and it was also the top predator of the age, making it the equivalent of T. rex. The anomalocarids were also a diverse and successful group, so wouldn’t you know it…it also had a distant filter-feeding cousin in the Ordovician.…

Junk DNA must be…fractal ballast!

I’ve now read two novel attempts to explain the existence of junk DNA. To a lot of people, the very idea of junk DNA is offensive: whatever process built us, whether divine fiat or the razor-sharp honing of natural selection, must be powerful, omnipotent or nearly so, and incapable of tolerating any noise or sloppiness,…

Death to Dollo’s Law!

Hint for science journalists: if the hook to get readers to pay attention to your story is to warn them to sit down because a 19th century “law” of evolution has been shown to be wrong, you’re going to irritate scientists, who will then write rude blog posts sneering at your writing. That’s the case…

Lewontin & Ohta win the Crafoord Prize

The The Crafoord Prize in Biosciences has been announced. For those who don’t know, this is a very prestigious award, comparable to the Nobel prize, only not as well known. The categories are specifically designed to complement the Nobel. This year’s winners are Richard Lewontin and Tomoko Ohta, and it’s about time. Lewontin has been…

Why do we die?

I finally got around to finishing Greta Christina’s Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God. It’s good! This book is the sort of thing atheism needs more of: an acknowledgment that the phenomena most important to human beings can be addressed effectively without imagining fantastic supernatural creatures. Atheists have this reputation…

A primer in eyes

Michael Land was one of those people who totally warped my brain. I’ve been interested in science since I was a kid, but I’m embarrassed to say that I never heard a whisper about evolution in the public schools I attended. Although I read about it avidly, I came out of high school and charged…

The genetic load problem

Dan Graur has written a good summary of genetic load. It’s an important concept in population genetics, and everyone should be familiar with it…and this is a nice 2½ page summary with only a little math in it. I’ll try to summarize the summary in two paragraphs and even less math … but you should…

Bafflingly hyperbolic

Oh, look. The creationists have been routed, and the problem of the origin of life has been solved. Would you like to learn about the brilliant new science that has creationists and the Christian right terrified? The Christian right’s obsessive hatred of Darwin is a wonder to behold, but it could someday be rivaled by…

Let’s slap ENCODE around some more

Since we still have someone arguing poorly for the virtues of the ENCODE project, I thought it might be worthwhile to go straight to the source and and cite an ENCODE project paper, Defining functional DNA elements in the human genome. It is a bizarre thing that actually makes the case for rejecting the idea…