Matthew Cobb has kindly scanned a page from today’s paper issue of the Guardian Review—stuff that doesn’t appear online. There are three items of interest below (click to enlarge page):
1. An unfunny cartoon on the relationship between science and faith
2. A letter from Dr. David Hay of Aberdeen on James Wood’s Guardian Piece about the clash between atheism and religious fundamentalism (I think the piece Hay is referring to is not “God, Interrupted,” which appeared in the New Yorker in 2001, but an August 27 piece called “The New Atheism“; more on that piece tomorrow). Hay defends the “more nuanced” (read: “accommodationist”) view of the debate, and asserts that “recent empirical investigations in genetics and neurophysiology” support the idea that religious and spiritual awareness evolved as a product of natural selection acting on our ancestors. I’m not aware of that research, and doubt that it says what Hay claims.
3. Most interesting to me, in view of the debate about the importance of epigenetics in evolution, is a letter from my friends and colleagues Deborah and Brian Charlesworth (professors at Edinburgh) about Peter Forbes’ defense of epigenetics in the Guardian, a piece that I wrote about in detail two weeks ago. The Charlesworths, I’m pleased to see, agree that the epigenetics “revolution” is highly overblown, arguing that epigenetic marks on genes are themselves genetically controlled, that there’s little evidence that inherited epigenetic marks have been of much importance in evolution, and that the whole idea hardly overturns our notions of the importance of “conventional” genetics.