Category Archives: genetics

My WaPo review of Carl Zimmer’s new book

I wrote a short-ish review of Carl Zimmer’s new book on heredity, She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity, for the Washington Post. It appeared online today and will be in the paper newspaper on Sunday. You can read it for free by clicking on the screenshot (and please do, so […]

The flimsy evidence that environmentally-induced “epigenetic” changes in DNA are transmitted between generations of humans

All of you have read on this site (most recently in my critique of a dire New York Review of Books article) about the buzz concerning “epigenetics”—in particular, about the idea that human DNA can be changed by our exposure to the environment, and the view that such DNA changes can be inherited across several generations.  […]

Another lousy article on epigenetics, this time in the New York Review of Books

I don’t know who the New York Review of Books is getting to vet its biology articles, but this one below (free access) is really confusing. One reason may be that the authors have no particular expertise in evolution. Israel Rosenfeld is an MD with training in neuroscience, while Edward Ziff is a professor at NYU […]

60 Minutes explains CRISPR, neglects important contributors

Not too long ago in the Washington Post, I reviewed (favorably) Jennifer Doudna’s new book on CRISPR, A Crack in Creation, which describes for a popular audience this amazing new method of genetic engineering, a method based on DNA and enzymes that bacteria use as their immune defense against viruses. The development of CRISPR, which […]

Geneticist David Reich responds to critics of his views on race

On March 23, I called your attention to paleoanthropologist David Reich’s op-ed in the New York Times, “How genetics is changing our understanding of ‘race’.” I thought the article was quite good, one of the few articles that takes a pretty objective and open-minded stand on “race”. It noted that conventionally named races are social […]

David Barash urges scientists to make human-chimp hybrids

Well, this is about as bad an idea I can imagine coming from a biologist, and its justification is equally poor.  The idea is to make human/chimp hybrids (“humanzees”), in the hope that their existence will convince people that Homo sapiens is not a separate, created entity, but is part of an evolutionary continuum not […]

A human chimera

Reader Tom Alves called my attention to the singer Taylor Muhl, a human chimera. Chimerism is the situation in which an individual results from the fusion of two early-stage fertilized eggs (zygotes), and thus has the genetic constitution of two separate individuals. This is a very rare condition: geneticists estimate that there are fewer than […]

BBC 4 broadcast on Rosalind Franklin

Reader Kevin called my attention to this BBC4 show on Rosalind Franklin. It won’t be available long, I think, so listen to the 43-minute program soon (click on the screenshot to go there). Besides moderator Melvyn Bragg, the participants include Patricia Fara  (physics, University of Cambridge), Jim Naismith (structural biology, University of Oxford) and Judith Howard […]

Mutant creatures of the air

From Matthew we get a tweet of an albino bat. It sure sticks out from the other bats, and I hope it will be okay. A rare and incredible find today. An albino cave myotis (Myotis velifer). A little white jewel standing out in the crowd. #Albinism #bats @BatConIntl — Winifred Frick (@FrickWinifred) February […]

A “parthenogenetic” crayfish reproduces without sex: is it a new species?

There must have been more than a dozen readers who sent me links to the article below by Carl Zimmer in the New York Times (thanks, all!). I skimmed it but was more interested in the published scientific papers about the marbled crayfish. This “species”, if you can call it that (see more below), is […]