Category Archives: evolution

Terrible science reporting at the Guardian: woolly mammoth “on verge of resurrection”? I doubt it, and Matthew corrects it

George Church, a well known geneticist at Harvard, is renowned for his contributions to methods of sequencing DNA as well as of “bioengineering” DNA by changing it using the CRISPR technique, which he helped develop. CRISPR gives us the ability to precisely edit DNA, inserting individual nucleotides, bits of genes, or whole genes and groups of […]

Tweets from Darwin Day

I thought I was through with Darwin Day, but I’ve got Chuck on the brain.  It may seem odd for biologists to hold him in such esteem (creationists often say, mistakenly, that we worship him and find no flaws in his work), but the fact remains that, more than any other scientist, he got things right […]

Darwin’s only selfie

Darwin scholar John van Whye put this on Facebook: it’s Darwin’s only known depiction of himself. John’s notes: Darwin sketched himself as this little stick man on the island of St Helena in July 1836 as the Beagle was sailing home. The sketch represents the strong winds blowing up the sea cliffs while the air on […]

Darwin’s kids drew all over the manuscript of “The Origin” and his other works

Before we begin, let’s all recall the title of Darwin’s greatest work, in full: it was called On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, and it was published on November 24, 1859. (Remember the kerfuffle when Richard Dawkins was excoriated for not […]

New data on the religiosity of U.S. states and its correlation with accepting evolution

Back in 2013 I put up a post showing a negative correlation between the religiosity of American states and their acceptance of evolution, a relationship that also holds among European countries (see original post for figures). At that time, I had access to religiosity for only the 10 most and 10 least religious states in the U.S., but […]

My WaPo review of a new book on evolution and society

Here’s a new book by Randall Fuller, a professor of English at the University of Tulsa who has written on American literature and on the Civil War. He’s combined those two topics in his newest book (it came out January 14), whose thesis is that Darwin’s ideas on common ancestry helped fuel the abolitionist movement in […]

Directional asymmetry: how does it develop and how did it evolve? Part 3. Artificial selection for handedness

In the first part of this series, I discussed examples of asymmetry—both directional asymmetry (right-versus left-handedness) and  anti-symmetry (differences between sides, but in a random direction)—and raised the problem of how directional asymmetry, like the enlarged left tusk of the male narwhal or the higher left ear of the barn owl, could evolve. In other words, […]

Directional asymmetry: how does it develop and how did it evolve? Part 2. Mechanisms for generating handedness

I was going to make this discussion a two-part post, but after writing a bit of this post, I think I’ll divide it into three, as it would be too long. The last bit, on artificial selection for directional asymmetry, will be tomorrow. In my first post on this issue yesterday, I discussed the problem […]

Directional asymmetry: how does it develop and how did it evolve? Part 1.

This post began turning out longer than I intended, so I’m going to divide it in two, with the second part up tomorrow. When we consider major organs or features of animals, they can be bilaterally symmetrical, with the traits the same on both sides, or bilaterally asymmetrical, with differences between left and right. And there […]

Why is life the way it is? A talk by Nick Lane

by Matthew Cobb Nick Lane of University College London has just been awarded the Royal Society’s 2016 Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture, which “is awarded annually to the scientist or engineer whose expertise in communicating scientific ideas in lay terms is exemplary”. Nick is a brilliant writer of several books, including Life Ascending and, most recently […]