Category Archives: genetics

Jack the Ripper identified?

The paper below is getting a lot of publicity, and its conclusion, that Jack the Ripper—the long unidentified British serial killer—was really a 23-year-old Polish barber named Aaron Kosminski, is being trumpeted in all the media. After all, the Ripper, who killed five women in 1888 in a particularly gory manner, has long fascinated the […]

The evolution of “irreducibly complex” antifreeze proteins in a polar fish (and a fish-slap at Behe)

A new paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows how a functional protein (an antifreeze protein in the blood of an Arctic fish) can be assembled out of scraps of genome that have no function at all. Moreover, the protein doesn’t become functional—e.g., being secreted into the fish blood to keep it […]

Scientists scrutinize just two examples in Behe’s new book; find them deeply misleading

Here’s a post by biologists Nathan Lents and Arthur Hunt (Hunt’s name isn’t under the title), examining just two cases touted by Michael Behe as showing “de-evolution” in Behe’s new ID book Darwin Devolves: The New Science about DNA That Challenges Evolution. The cases involve the loss of fur pigment and changes in fat metabolism in polar bears, […]

At last: a fruit host of wild Drosophila melanogaster

We’ve probably learned more about genetics from the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster than from any other organism, and now we’re using the species to learn about development and gene expression.  I used the species, and several of its relatives in its 9-species subgroup, to study speciation, for the generation time is short (about 12 days at […]

What were the first animals?

by Matthew Cobb I’ve just finished making a BBC World Service radio programme about the first animals. Anyone, anywhere in the world, can listen to it (it’s only 28 minutes long!) – you just have to register with the BBC (free, rapid and cost- and spam-free). Click on the pic to go to the BBC […]

The Left eats its own: The New Yorker criticizes Elizabeth Warren for checking her ancestry, asserts that idea of biological differences among people is “pernicious”

The more I read the New Yorker, the more I realize two things. First, it’s rapidly become a sophisticated version of HuffPo, a liberal magazine marinated in Authoritarian Leftism. That became palpably clear when the editor, David Remnick, who was scheduled to interview Steve Bannon onstage at this month’s New Yorker Festival, disinvited Bannon. (Several […]

Elizabeth Warren is “native American”—or is she?

Well, she has at least one Native American ancestor some ways back. But I wouldn’t exactly say that makes her a “Native American”—any more than nearly all American blacks are “white” because most of them have at least some white ancestors. I believe the average African-American has 20% of their genes from whites.) At this […]

RadioLab distorts some science

There’s been a lot of publicity about David Quammen’s new book, The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life, which tells the story of the discovery of a new domain of life, the Archaea, the discovery that chloroplasts and mitochondria are the remnants of anciently absorbed microbes, and, most novel, the recent discovery of […]

Errors in forensic DNA testing are still pervasive: false matches and wonky statistics

About twenty years ago I spent a good deal of my time testifying for the defense in criminal cases involving DNA evidence. These were trials in which the prosecution claimed that the defendant’s DNA profile had been found to match crime-scene samples (these involve blood or sperm analysis), and in which the prosecution presented “match […]

Guess the dads!

These young men both had famous fathers, and their fathers played in the same band. Guess who they are. The answer is here, and it isn’t hard. If you guessed correctly, it shows, as I used to demonstrate to my class, that the variation among people in their facial features has substantial heritability: that is, […]