Category Archives: evolution

Is the appendix a vestigial organ?

One of the main mistakes creationists make is arguing that if a vestigial trait is actually used for something, then it is neither vestigial nor gives us evidence for evolution. (Such features testify to common ancestry.)  Both creationist claims are wrong. They rest on the false argument that if the appendix, for instance, actually has some […]

Science magazine’s piece on the Giant Templeton Evolution Grant, and my response

About two weeks ago I was interviewed by Elizabeth Pennisi, a reporter for Science magazine, about the big grant (about $8 million, it seems—I was apparently wrong in claiming $11 million in my previous article) that the John Templeton Foundation gave to a group of researchers to “rethink” the modern theory of evolution and come […]

The best interactive tree of life ever!

There’s a new, fractally constructed tree of life—with dates of the nodes—called OneZoom, and you must have a look at it. It was created by Dr. Yan Wong (who helped write The Ancestor’s Tale with Richard Dawkins) and Dr. James Rosindell; Luke Harmon contributed to the original idea.  The background and methods are explained on a […]

Some evidence that life may have originated at least 4.1 billion years ago

For some reason I missed this paper published last November in Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA by Elizabeth Bell et al. , and it doesn’t seem to have been given a lot of attention by the press. That may be because its conclusions are questionable, and based on a very small sample. But if they’re right, it’s a […]

Tiny foxes on the Channel Islands lack not only mass, but also genetic variation and fear of humans

On the Channel Islands, 12-70 miles (20-113 km) off the Pacific coast of southern California, live six subspecies of the Channel Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis), a dwarf species that is a close relative of the gray fox living on the mainland (U. cineroargenteus). Genetic data suggest that these foxes have been isolated from the mainland species for about 9000 […]

Don McLeroy responds to the evidence for whale evolution

The other day I put up a post showing a video by Jon Peters about the evidence for the evolution of whales. That’s one of the great stories of evolution, and is copiously documented with evidence from many areas: the fossil record, genetics, embryology, vestigial organs, and so on. (The reptile—>mammal transition is equally well […]

Rick Harrison died

I was shocked to learn this morning that Rick Harrison, an evolutionary biologist at Cornell, died at 70. He had been treated for a form of cancer a while back, but that was a long time ago, and I assumed he was okay. I’m not sure if that caused his very untimely death (he was a […]

Evidence for evolution: whales

After my CfI lecture in Portland, I met reader Jon Peters, who told me he’d made and videotaped an entire lecture on the evidence for evolution—using only whales and other cetaceans as examples. Some of the material is from WEIT, and I must have given permission for that, though I can’t recall. I may have […]

The newest tree of life: many new groups (all bacteria), some cryptic and enigmatic

We’ve known for a while that there are three great divisions in the tree of life: the Eukaryotes (organisms with “true” cells having a membrane-enclosed nucleus, organelles, and a cell membrane); Eubacteria (“true” bacteria); and Archaea (prokaryotes like Eubacteria, but with genes and biochemistry more closely related to those of Eukaryotes than to Eubacteria). Archaea […]

Templeton wastes $11 million in attempt to change evolutionary biology

For some time, a group of biologists have been promoting the idea that the Modern Synthetic Theory of Evolution (which they call “Standard Evolutionary Theory,” or SET) is incomplete in major ways, and needs a reboot. Their main contention is that the SET is too “gene-centric”, and ignores environmental factors—like non-genetic developmental plasticity, epigenetic modification,  and ‘niche […]

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