Category Archives: evolution

The New Republic publishes my critique of two Edge answers about evolution

The New Republic has published my critique of Roger Highfield and Kevin Kelly’s answers to this years’ Edge question, a critique that I published here yesterday. It’s now over at the TNR as  “Which scientific idea should be retired? Believe it or not, some people’s answer is ‘evolution’.“

Fertility signals in ants, bees and wasps have deep common origins

by Matthew Cobb One of the big problems that worried Darwin in his theory of evolution by natural selection was what he called ‘the example of neuter insects’ – social insects such as ants, wasps and bees—groups in which most of the members of a colony are female, and yet do not reproduce and are […]

Your Inner Fly: Fighting dipterans share genes with you and me

Introductory note by JAC: Matthew has produced a terrific post here, and I hope people will read it. The results of this scientific analysis are amazing and the genetic tools required to produce them are breathtaking—tools I couldn’t have imagined were possible when I was a graduate student. If I had one hope for 2014, […]

Tiktaalik had hind limbs!

by Greg Mayer In a paper in press in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Neil Shubin, Ted Daeschler, and the late Farish Jenkins describe the pelvis and partial hind limb of Tiktaalik roseae, the lobe-finned fish from the Canadian high arctic that they discovered in 2004 and described in Nature in 2006. […]

Pew Poll: American evolution-acceptance holds steady, partisan divide widens

UPDATE by JAC: Dan Kahan of the Cultural Cognition Project of Yale Law School has further analyzed this survey and finds some problems with it: some data are missing in both the summary and the full report, and this makes it impossible to determine whether the pro-creationist tendencies of Republicans reflects a shift in ideology […]

Is morality innate? A debate in the NYT book review

UPDATE/CORRECTION: I’ve heard via email from Paul Bloom, who sent me a correction that I requested permission to post.  Having gotten permission, I’m putting Bloom’s email below, and apologize if I misrepresented his argument (I was more or less riffing on a review of a book I hadn’t read—but will). I enjoyed your discussion of […]

The outgroup for multicellular animals: ctenophores

Ctenophores, or comb jellies, are a phylum of animals whose relative position in the Great Tree of Life—along with the other metazoan (multicellular) animal phyla of Cnidaria (jellyfish, corals sea anemones), Porifera (sponges)  Placozoa (a single species resembling a multicellular amoeba, which forms its own bizarre phylum), and Bilateria (all the other animals we know, […]

Good news for secularism: Part II. Belief in the supernatural declines in U.S., acceptance of evolution rises

This is a post about a poll, but it’s a very interesting poll, both because it shows the high level of superstition in the U.S. and also shows that that superstition—which includes religious belief—is steadily declining.  Do read the results if you have time. According to a new Harris Poll (2250 U.S. adults surveyed this […]

New date on first domesticated cats: ca. 5300 years ago—and in China

Several readers sent me a link to or news report about a new paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Yaowu Hu and colleagues (reference and link at bottom).  The paper reports the discovery of cat remains associated with a 5200-5500-year-old human settlement in east-central China. Since the earliest domesticated cats from […]

Why John Scopes wasn’t a racist, and other lessons from the “Monkey Trial”

This is a lesson in the history of biology—not from me, but for me. A while back I visited John Scopes’s grave in Paducah, Kentucky and praised him, saying that I would have liked to shake his hand (I discovered that he didn’t die until I was 20). Well, that statement and the picture of […]


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