Genetics

Pharyngula

Category archives for Genetics

Forever disappointed

I always have unwarrantedly high expectations of creationists. I know that there are some flamingly ignorant nutjobs out there, all your Hams and Hovindses and Luskins, but lurking in my mind is always this suspicion that somewhere there has to be one or two biologically competent ideologues on their side of the fence. And I…

Vertebrates are modified segmented worms; that is, their body plan is made up of sequentially repeated units, most apparent in skeletal structures like the vertebrae. Arthropods are also modified segmented worms. Look at a larval fly, for instance, and you can see they are made up of rings stacked together. So here’s a simple and…

A while back, I told you all about this small piece of the biochemistry of the fly eye — the pathways that make the brown and red pigments that color the eye. I left it with a question: if even my abbreviated summary revealed considerable complexity, how could this pathway evolve? Changing anything produces a…

Good news! The gorilla genome sequence was published in Nature last week, and adds to our body of knowledge about primate evolution. Here’s the abstract: Gorillas are humans’ closest living relatives after chimpanzees, and are of comparable importance for the study of human origins and evolution. Here we present the assembly and analysis of a…

I was going to talk about a cool recent paper that described the evolution of novelties by way of modifying modular gene networks, but I started scribbling it up and realized that I was constantly backtracking to explain some fundamental concepts, so I stopped. I was concerned because one of the most common sources of…

I’ve been guilty of teaching bean-bag genetics this semester. Bean-bag genetics treats individuals as a bag of irrelevant shape containing a collection of alleles (the “beans”) that are sorted and disseminated by the rules of Mendel, and at its worst, assigns one trait to one allele; it’s highly unrealistic. In my defense, it was necessary…

A little cis story

I found a recent paper in Nature fascinating, but why is hard to describe — you need to understand a fair amount of general molecular biology and development to see what’s interesting about it. So those of you who already do may be a little bored with this explanation, because I’ve got to build it…

Inbreeding is bad. It increases the frequency of homozygosity for deleterious traits. There’s this little thing called pleiotropy. Selection is a powerful tool, but traits can have multiple effects, and extreme selection for peculiarities can have unpleasant side effects — you may think a pug’s curly tail is adorable, but it comes with all kinds…

Osama bin Laden disproves Darwin!

Oh, yeah…didn’t you know it was a crack team of Darwinist commandos who took out bin Laden, all to protect our secrets? David Klinghoffer doesn’t go quite that far, but he does demonstrate just how insane the gang at the Discovery Institute have gotten. After all, he does claim that Obama delayed the raid on…

I’ve been giving talks at scientific meetings on educational outreach — I’ve been telling the attendees that they ought to start blogs or in other ways make more of an effort to educate the public. I mentioned one successful result the other day, but we need more. I give multiple reasons for scientists to do…