Category Archives: evolution

100 years of Genetics, and my own contribution to the fête

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the journal Genetics, still the premier journal of genetical research in the world. I subscribed to it for decades until e-journals became common, and was proud to have published in it a few times (its peer review was notoriously tough). For the year 2016, the editors decided to reprint […]

12 Days of Evolution. #12: Does evolution have a point?

This is the last video in the series produced by PBS and “It’s Okay to Be Smart”. And this one seems fine to me, dispelling the myths of evolution as a progressive process and of humans as the pinnacle of evolution. As for the notion that we should feel good about all that, well, tell […]

12 Days of Evolution #11: Are we still evolving?

By far the most frequent issue I’m asked about when giving public lectures on evolution is this: “Are humans still evolving? If so, how? Where are we going?” The short answer is “Yes, we’re still evolving, but not in ways that excite most people.” And what answer you give depends on whether you’re talking about whether […]

12 Days of Evolution. #10: Why are there still monkeys?

This the tenth video in the PBS/”It’s Okay to be Smart” series—and that series can’t end too soon for me—is a response to that perennial creationist question, “If humans evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” The no-brainer response is decent, but it neglects the important part of the answer: both modern apes and modern humans […]

12 days of evolution. #9: Can evolution create new information?

One of the more sophisticated claims of creationists, especially used by advocates of intelligent design—I don’t think this term merits capitalization, for we don’t capitalize “creationism”, which is exactly what ID is—is that evolution “can’t create new information”, therefore, insofar as the process produces organisms doing novel things, God must have done it. This ninth short video […]

Why exaptation is an unnecessary term in the science of form

by Greg Mayer The most important finding of vertebrate comparative morphology and paleontology is that most of evolution is the gradual, adaptive, modification of pre-existing structures (or, better, pre-existing developmental programs, which result in the structures).  The point about pre-existing structures is very important– the history of evolution is to a great extent the history […]

The 12 days of evolution. #8: Evolution and thermodynamics

Here’s the Eighth Day of Creation, or rather, the eighth episode in the PBS/It’s Okay to be Smart series on “The Twelve Days of Evolution.” In effect, the episodes each aim to debunk one creationist misconception (or lie). In this case it’s the old claim that evolution violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Let’s review […]

The 12 days of evolution. #7: Why do males have nipples?

The seventh video in the 12-episode series produced by PBS/It’s Okay to be Smart (I’m putting them up in order) is about a question that always excited my undergraduate students: why do male mammals have nipples? One undergraduate whom I taught about two decades ago told me recently that he’d forgotten almost everything I taught in introductory […]

The 12 days of evolution. #6: The imperfection of evolution

Today’s video, part of the PBS/It’s Okay to Be Smart collaboration, highlights the “dumbness” of evolution: the fact that it has no foresight, and therefore devises solutions—I’m speaking metaphorically here—that are less perfect than an engineer could come up with de novo. One of the most famous jerry-rigged and imperfect “adaptations” is the mammalian recurrent […]

Special journal issue on women in evolutionary biology

The latest issue of Evolutionary Applications, a journal that’s new to me, has devoted its latest issue to “Women’s contributions to basic and applied evolutionary biology.” And it’s all open access, that is, FREE. It’s not really about women in evolutionary biology; rather, it highlights the research contributions of women in the field; so the articles, […]

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