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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…

Mary’s Monday Metazoan: Spongy

Sometimes, people email me with good questions. Here’s one. When I was a kid, my own visualization of evolution was Lamarckism. But I didn’t know it. In reading Dawkins and others, I know it doesn’t exist. But it seems this article is claiming it does to some extent. Can you comment? I’m curious as to…

Islamists have brain leeches!

Susan Blackmore always lectures entertainingly — really, if you get a chance to hear her, you should — so I can guess how surprised she was when students claimed offense and walked out on her talk. They were religiously indoctrinated, and simply shut down their brains when the word “evolution” came up, and when she…

Why do cavefish lose their eyes?

It’s another Dawkins question! Why do cave-dwellers lose their eyes? They’re useless, but are they harmful? Costly to make? Or eroded by rain of uncorrected mutations? I thought I’d already addressed this in a blog post long ago, but I searched, and I didn’t — it was my inaugural column in sadly defunct Seed magazine,…

Ophelia has summarized a series of science questions Richard Dawkins asked on Twitter. Hey, I thought, I have answers to lots of these — he probably does, too — so I thought I’d address one of them. Maybe I can take a stab at some of the others another time. I like this one, anyway:…

We know a lot about the sexy bits of male cephalopods — ask about hectocotyl arms and spermatophores sometime — but would you be surprised to learn that we don’t know much at all about squid ladybits? Of course you wouldn’t.

How we got here

It’s been 25 years since Gould’s Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History crystallized the debate over the importance of contingency in evolution, most famously illustrated by his metaphor of “replaying the tape of life”. If we could roll back the history of life on earth and restart it in the pre-Cambrian,…

I like this hypothesis

But we have to be clear that it is only a hypothesis at this point. I was reading about domestication syndrome (DS) — selecting animals for domestication has a whole collection of secondary traits that come along for the ride, in addition to tameness. We are selecting for animals that tolerate the presence of humans,…