Evolution

Pure Pedantry

Category archives for Evolution

On Darwin’s Birthday

I don’t have much to say about the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth. I have always accepted the notion of evolution as a precondition to all other understanding in biology. Without evolution, all the patterns and apparent unity in life is rendered into incomprehensible gibberish. Darwin did much to facilitate our understanding of evolution, but…

Singing about Darwin

To celebrate the 200th Anniversary of Darwin’s birth, the NYTimes has a video of singing Darwin scholar, Richard Milner. Check it out.

Thomas Nagel on ID and Evolution

Philosopher Thomas Nagel, writing in the journal Philosophy and Public Affairs, criticizes the exclusion of Intelligent Design from science classes on the grounds that evolutionary science too rests on an assumption: the naturalistic assumption. He argues that both evolution based on natural selection and ID have untestable assumptions. Frankly, I think that Nagel is wrong…

Is our bacteria learning?

This is a cool story, but not for the reason the authors are attributing. Researchers at Princeton showed that bacteria can evolve to anticipate future environmental changes. Here is the coverage in Science: Researchers already know that microbes can mount simple responses to changes in their environment, such as acidity fluctuations, by altering their internal…

Expelled TV Ad

Wow. I just saw the Expelled TV ads start on CNN of all places.

Elephant testes signal an aquatic past?

As a research studying maternal behavior, I come across a lot of sex & reproduction research. As a (very) general rule of thumb, most small mammals are either sexually receptive or parentally responsive – your sex circuits remain on until you have offspring to tend to, at which point your parental circuit overrides your sex…

Don’t believe in evolution? Just look to the weeds in the sidewalk: Like other members of its family, Crepis sancta produces two types of seeds. Heavy seeds fall into the grass below the plant, whereas lighter seeds with feathery tails drift in the wind to new habitats. Ecologists have long known that plants in patchy…

I was distressed to read this at Wired because usually I feel like they are more on top of things. This is by Thomas Hayden: Even worse, those same cortexes that invented science can’t really embrace it. Science describes the world with numbers (ratio of circumference to diameter: pi) and abstractions (particles! waves! particles!). But…

There is a really cool paper in Current Biology about the how even an animal’s sensory apparatus adapt to their particular evolutionary niche. Greiner et al. looked at four closely-related species of ants from the genus Myrmecia. (As you can see from the picture, these ants are also huge.) These four species are all relatively…

The Evolution of Words

Erez Lieberman et al. at Harvard are looking at the rate of change in words to see if words evolve: Lieberman was struck by this idea when he learned that the ten most common verbs in English (be, have, do, go, say, can, will, see, take, get) are all irregular. Instead of their past tenses…