Category Archives: evolution

Is natural selection making the Dutch taller?

A piece by Carl Zimmer in Thursday’s New York Times called my attention to a new paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B (reference and link to download below) by Gert Stulp et al. on the remarkable height of Dutch people and some evidence that natural selection (probably via sexual selection) is acting to promote […]

Mae-Wan Ho and Suzan Mazur: the blind leading the blind about evolution

Mae-Wan Ho is a scientist known, to me at least, for unproductive work: dissing GMOs and biotechnology and, especially, relentlessly attacking “neo-Darwinism”, the modern theory of evolution. Ho is also head of an unfortunately named organization; as Wikipedia notes: Ho is the director of the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS), an interest group that campaigns […]

Bill Nye explains evolution (badly) using emoji

It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of Bill Nye. He debates Ken Ham, he goes after GMO foods (apparently he will retract that opinion soon), and I dislike what I see as his grasping ambition to retain the fame he had as “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” I’ve also said that I never […]

How often do genes move between distantly related species?

Did you read Matthew’s post on the okapi yesterday? I hope so, because I’m worried, in view of the paucity of comments on science posts, that people are skipping them. Perhaps that just reflects the dearth of things that non-scientist readers have to say. I hope that’s the answer, for it takes about four or five times […]

Lunch with Dr. L.

I’m doing a bit of writing work at Harvard, and always make sure on these visits to reconnect with Dick Lewontin, my Ph.D. advisor, and perhaps the most famous evolutionary geneticist of the last generation. Although he’s retired, he still has space at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, and, at age 86, he’s in very good […]

The new family tree of birds (spot the nightjar!)

Last December 12, the journal Science included a paper by Erich Jarvis et al. (reference and free download below) that undertook an ambitious revision of the family tree of birds. Although I read it when it came out, I didn’t post about it as I simply didn’t have the time (it takes about 4 hours to read […]

A new and bizarre shape-shifting frog

Instead of going to church today, we can have our special Alain de Botton-Approved Religion Substitute by worshiping at the church of Our Lady of Natural History. There is in fact a wonderful new discovery about frogs, one described in a new paper in the Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society by Juan Guayasamin et al. […]

My review of “Evolving Ourselves” in WaPo

A while back I wrote a review of a new book by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans: Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation Are Changing Life on Earth. That review has just appeared in the Washington Post (free online at the link). For reasons that escape me, it’s in the “opinion” section, though perhaps the Post doesn’t have a […]

New paper shows that Nowak et al. were wrong: kin selection remains a valuable concept in evolutionary biology

In 2010 three authors—Martin Nowak, Corina Tarnita, and E. O. Wilson—published a paper in Nature (reference and link below) purporting to explain the evolution of eusociality in insects: the phenomenon whereby a colony contains different “castes” that perform different tasks, and at least one caste is sterile.  In bees, for example, there is usually a single fertile […]

Teaching evolution in Kentucky—with accommodationism

When I first gave a talk at the University of Kentucky in 2010 (could it really have been five years ago?), I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Krupa, a biologist and natural historian with wide interests, and with a reputation as an excellent teacher (see here for my visit to his lab). Krupa has now written […]


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