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Scientists Divine Deep Time in Dead Fish

Scientific experiments can certainly take on a wide variety of methods, from recreating the atmosphere of Titan to testing a drug on a genetic disease.  But if educators want to encourage students to become scientists, they had best keep silent about “some very unpleasant experiments” at the University of Leicester reported by the BBC News.  […]

Incredible Creatures that Support Evolution?

Paleontologists and biologists continue to uncover animals past and present that exhibit amazing diversity. Some of them are so weird and unexpected, they are almost unbelievable. Usually, the news media are quick to tally up points for Darwin by explaining to lay people how they shed light on evolution. But in the “discovery” stage of […]

Convergence: Explanation or Rescue Device?

The news media are telling us that bats and dolphins both hit on the same genetic pathway to evolve echolocation – even though they are on vastly different evolutionary lineages and use echolocation differently (one in air, one in water).  Since it is inconceivable that a putative shrew-like common ancestor of these very different animals […]

Chimps Produce Movie

The BBC is going to air a movie made by chimpanzees.  (Note: This is not a Planet of the Apes remake.)  A primatologist working on her PhD gave some chimps at the Edinburgh zoo a “Chimpcam,” a camcorder in a “chimp-proof” box, to see what they would come up with.  “Despite the fact that the […]

Evolutionary Biogeography Requires Imagination

Biogeography – the study of the distribution of species – has been an important part of evolutionary theory, and has often been used as evidence for evolution.  Some recent findings about plants and animals should give scientists caution about trying to divine too much evolutionary history from locations of present-day organisms and fossils.     […]

Dogs for Darwin

Science Daily shamelessly announced, “‘Survival of the Cutest’ Proves Darwin Right.”     Chris Klingenberg and Abby Drake, who published a study on mammal skull shapes in American Naturalist on dog breeds, said, “This study illustrates the power of Darwinian selection with so much variation produced in such a short period of time.  The evidence […]

Specious Theories Obey the Law of Inertia

Last March, scientists publishing in Geology falsified the so-called “Permian Extinction,” calling it a “non-event.” (see 03/09/2009).  Not only was there no smoking gun of a catastrophe in the rocks, the scientists said that the “claims of rapid vertebrate recovery… also must be called into question.”  Our commentary at the time wondered how long it […]

Arctic Tern Maintains World Record Title

The arctic tern makes a marathoner look like a wimp.  This little bird has been confirmed as the migratory bird with the longest route, flying annually from pole to pole.  A team of international scientists obtained the results by using an implanted geolocator on several birds, and tracking their actual path.  The story is told […]

What Value Do Evolutionary Explanations Provide?

We want value for our science dollars.  We know artists are into self-expression, but scientists need to offer more than just artistic prose: they are supposed to be in the knowledge generation business.  So we expect to gain one of two things from their scientific explanations.  One, we would like to gain practical knowledge that […]

To Advance Technology, Make Like Nature

Scientists and engineers continue to find the most elegant solutions to practical problems by looking at plants and animals.  Here are a few of the recent examples. Wet computing:  Cells and brains do a superior job of complex processing, so why are our current computers singing how dry I am?  Not for much longer.  Science […]

Flying Fossils Found

A population of insects called “living fossils” has been located in Australia.  These tiny insects, called ancient greenling damselflies, have no living relatives.  Their closest relatives disappeared from the fossil record 250 to 300 million years ago in the geological column, according to The Age and Heidelberg Leader.  The wingspan of the insects is only […]

Tiktaalik Demoted to Has-Been

The highly-publicized tetrapod missing link or “fish-a-pod” that made headlines in 2006 (05/03/2006) has been dethroned by new findings in Poland.  Trackways said to be 18 million years older than Tiktaalik, showing digits and alternating steps, were announced today in Nature.1  The authors said, “They force a radical reassessment of the timing, ecology and environmental […]

Robot Designers Strive to Match Animals

Engineers feel great satisfaction when their robots can match just some of the feats of animals.  What does that say about the design of the animals? It’s a bird, it’s a plane:  The first “hummingbird robot” was unveiled by Japanese researcher Hiroshi Liu (Chiba University) in a press release published by PhysOrg.  The hand-sized device […]

Evidence for Evolution, or for Uncontroversial Variation?

Science papers and articles often announce promising new evidence for evolution.  To distinguish Darwinian evolution from creation, though, requires evidence of a certain magnitude.  The staunchest Biblical creationist allows for a great deal of variation within kinds.  When evidences for evolution are announced, do they rise to the level of change Darwin theorized – like […]

In Brains, Size Is Not All that Matters

Two recent science articles indicate that scientists should be careful before inferring intelligence from brain size (picture).  PhysOrg reported on work to uncover the genetic basis of microcephaly – reduced brain size in humans.  “The cerebral cortex in particular has undergone a dramatic increase in surface area during the course of primate evolution,” the article […]
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