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Is Horizontal Gene Transfer a Force for Evolution?

Two more genomes were published last week: the information libraries of two tiny microbes.  They are members of Micromonas, green algae less than two microns across.  The original paper and summary both bragged about how the genetic information is helping shed light on evolution, but did the data really contain any light?  If so, the […]

Natural Selection Studies Based on Bad Statistics

Hundreds of studies claiming to show natural selection may be wrong, say scientists from Penn State and Japan.  PhysOrg reported today that “several statistical methods commonly used by biologists to detect natural selection at the molecular level tend to produce incorrect results.”  Many studies of human evolution have relied on these flawed methods.  If the […]

More Functional Non-Coding DNA Found

Another finding undermines the concept of “junk DNA.”  A team of scientists in Massachusetts found over a thousand functional RNA transcripts from intergenic sequences.  These RNA transcripts, coming not from genes but from regions earlier thought to be non-functional, take part in diverse functions from stem cell pluripotency to HOX gene developmental processes to cell […]

Darwin Had Genetic Blinders

Darwin was a contemporary of Mendel, so why did he get inheritance wrong?  That question was addressed on Science Daily by Jonathan Howard of the University of Cologne, Germany.  His thesis is that Darwin had philosophical blinders on that prevented him from recognizing the significance of evidence before him.     “Why Didn’t Darwin Discover […]

Language Is Not a Simple Genetic Matter

It sounds so simple.  The title on an article in PhysOrg announced, in Kipling Just-So Story Format, “How gorilla gestures point to evolution of human language.”  Because gorillas have an extensive repertoire of over 100 gestures, human conversation was only a matter of evolutionary time.  Is this mere storytelling, or do such explanations have scientific […]

Disease Genes Play the Wrong Tune

How did disease originate?  It might seem that large changes in genes would be required to turn a benign cell into a pathogen, but an article on Science Daily says it might just be a good cell playing a bad tune.     Bacteria have more genes than they use at any one time.  What […]

What Mean These Observations?

Science news outlets report many interesting findings every week.  It’s not always clear, though, whether the conclusions drawn from them are warranted by the data.  Here are some recent cases: Jaws of steel:  A skull labeled Australopithecus robustus was studied for the force its jaws could generate.  Interpretation: “Early humans had jaws of steel.”  With […]

New Genetics Revolution Underway

The genetics of the 1950s was that DNA is the seat of all inheritance, and that genetic information traveled one way: from DNA to protein.  That “central dogma” has been changing after decades of further researchers.  Theories of epigenetics (inheritance not limited to DNA) have been gaining attention with increasing frequency.     Science Daily […]

Nature Struts Darwin Gems

Like a showcase of pearl-handled revolvers, an armory of evidences Nature calls “Darwin’s Gems” have been exhibited to warn creationists that Darwin Day will be defended next month with a show of force.  The authors, Henry Gee (former editor of Nature), Rory Howlett and Philip Campbell have made their 15 Evolutionary Gems freely available “and […]

Applying the Scientific Method to Prehistory

What could be more scientific than the scientific method?  A scientist observes an unexplained phenomenon.  He or she gathers data, analyzes it, proposes a hypothesis to explain it, and tests it.  The results are published in a peer-reviewed journal.  Mission accomplished, right?  Here are two papers on very different phenomena – one dealing with the […]

Unique “Orphan Genes” Are Widespread; Have No Evolutionary Explanation

We often hear about the similarities between genomes, but what about the differences?  There’s a growing realization that groups of animals have genetic orphans – genes that are unique to that line (see 01/02/2003).  These genes have no evolutionary homology or kinship to genes from other lineages.  How did they arise?  And what do they […]

Biological Complexity Continues to Astound

There’s more going on in your thinking apparatus than you think.  New scientific discoveries continue to unfold new layers of complexity and control.  Here are a few examples: Meta-code:  Your body has codes directing codes.  Geneticists were initially dismayed to find only 20,000 to 30,000 genes in the human genome.  “We were expecting that something […]

Plants Have Thermostats

Plants, being stuck in the ground, have few options when it gets hot.  They may not be able to move into the shade like animals, but they know how to cope.  They have a built-in thermostat that acts like a fire prevention department.  Science Daily tells the story.     Researchers at Michigan State identified […]

It’s Fun Seeing Evolution Falsified

“Mysterious Snippets Of DNA Withstand Eons Of Evolution” is the strange title of an article on Science Daily.  Gill Bejerano and Cory McLean from Stanford are wondering why large non-coding sections of DNA are very similar, or “ultraconserved,” from mice to man (see 08/18/2007).  Evolutionary theory would expect that non-functional genetic material would mutate more […]

How the Evolution Story Became Like Jellyfish

“How the [blank] got its [blank]” is the template for story titles imitating Rudyard Kipling’s Just-So Stories: i.e., How the Camel Got His Hump and How the Leopard Got His Spots.  Kipling wrote these as silly stories to entertain children, not to be taken seriously by scientists.  Knowing that creationists often criticize Darwinian explanations as […]
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