Evolution

Pharyngula

Category archives for Evolution

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…

H. erectus…doodler

Also, master of molluscan anatomy, and clever tool user. This paper, Homo erectus at Trinil on Java used shells for tool production and engraving, by Joordens et al. tells an interesting story from some mundane artifacts made half a million years ago. What the investigators have is a jumble of clam shells, found in the…

Locusts

Everyone I know is raving about this short, speculative video about the future of space exploration. Wanderers – a short film by Erik Wernquist from Erik Wernquist on Vimeo. I’m not so enthused; I even find the words of Carl Sagan troubling. It’s lovely and all, but…

When did insects evolve?

Just consult the chart. Be sure to click on the image to see it at a better resolution! This is from a paper that looked at the molecular phylogenies, and worked out estimated branch times. I like it. I want it on my wall. Insects are the most speciose group of animals, but the phylogenetic…

Creationists are much vested in the idea of “suddenly” — they love the idea of inserting the fingersnap of God into every abrupt transition. This is why they are infatuated with the Big Bang and the Cambrian Explosion, and why they flirted with the idea of renaming “Intelligent Design” to “Sudden Origins” theory. If something…

VESTIGIAL: Learn what it means!

Vestigial organs are relics, reduced in function or even completely losing a function. Finding a novel function, or an expanded secondary function, does not make such organs non-vestigial. The appendix in humans, for instance, is a vestigial organ, despite all the insistence by creationists and less-informed scientists that finding expanded local elements of the immune…

JBS Haldane is said to have responded to a question about how evolution could be disproved by saying, “A Precambrian rabbit”. What was meant by this, of course, is any substantial discovery that greatly disrupted the evidence for the chronological pattern of descent observed in Earth’s life. That pattern of descent is one of the…