Category Archives: human evolution

Popular press wildly overblows “gene for humanity”

I’m about to describe one of the worst examples of science journalism I’ve seen in ages. It is a lesson on how the popular press overblows interesting scientific findings into world-shaking discoveries. miRNAs, or “microRNAs”, are small molecules of RNA, produced by the DNA, that have recently been discovered to play an important role in […]

Third unanswered question about evolution for BBC Focus

Here is the third and last “unanswered question about evolutionary biology” that I discussed in a short BBC Focus essay.  (#1 is here and #2 here). I’m putting this up because the second and third questions appear only in the print version. How much of our behavior reflects our evolutionary past? What does it mean […]

The peopling of the Americas

by Greg Mayer The Americas were the last continents to be inhabited, and there has long been controversy about how and when it occurred. There is a general consensus that the earliest Americans arrived from northeastern Asia in the late Quaternary, but the exact peoples involved, the routes taken, when they arrived, and the modes […]

The most children produced by human females versus males

I give my undergraduate evolution class this example of the differences in reproductive potential between human males and females—a difference seen in many animal species, and one that’s certainly the physiological basis for sexual selection and sexual dimorphism (the difference in appearance or behavior between males and females of a species). I found these data […]

Did human social behavior evolve via group selection? E. O. Wilson defends that view in the NYT

Here’s one last (I hope) post on the brouhaha about the evolution of social behavior that I’ve covered over the last year or so. I think E. O. Wilson must be feeling a bit beleaguered about the criticism he’s endured for his relentless advocacy of group selection.  Not only was he an author of the […]

Fire in the hole: earliest evidence of human cooking.

You may be familiar with Harvard anthropologist Richard Wrangham’s book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made us Human, in which he posits all sorts of features of modern humans, including not only morphology (teeth and brain size), but also sociality, intersexual relationships, division of labor, and other forms of behavior were impelled by the discovery that […]

Free DVD on human evolution

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) is making available a free DVD of its holiday lectures on human evolution, “Bones, Stones, and Genes: The Origin of Modern Humans,” featuring talks by three noted scientists. I’ve posted on this before, but the DVD has just become available.  So if you haven’t ordered it, now’s the time […]

More on genes and geography: diagnosing your ancestry from your DNA

When discussing the question of human races yesterday, I wondered if anyone had ever tried to diagnose an individual based on his/her complement of genes (“genotype”), and said that I was unaware of any such attempt.  Clearly I haven’t been keeping up with the human-genetics literature, because several people called my attention to a paper […]

Are there human races?

UPDATE:  I’ve received an email from a researcher who points out that two of my statements are either misleading or incorrect in view of more recent work. Here’s the email and links: In your interesting blog article “Are there human races?”, you write:”As has been known for a while, DNA and other genetic analyses have […]

Free evolution DVD

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) is giving away a free DVD of its 2011 Holiday Lectures, which this year were on “Bones, stones and genes: the origin of modern humans.” The lecturers are good, solid scientists: John Shea, Sara Tischkoff, and Tim White. You can get the DVD, available in April, by filling in […]


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