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Who Should Be Listening to Scientists?

“Stop Listening to Scientists?” is an unusual title for a letter to Science.1  In a commentary last week prompted by the recent scandals regarding climate change, Kevin Robert Gurney (Purdue) made a shocking exclamation: don’t listen to scientists.  Here’s how he began. As a climate scientist and a contributing author to the Intergovernmental Panel on […]

For His Birthday, Darwin Gets a Scrambled Arthropod Tree

If Darwin lost his tree last year (01/22/2009), it would seem any corrections or rearrangements would be academic.  Nevertheless, eight evolutionary biologists at Duke University tried rearranging one of the biggest branches on Darwin’s tree of common ancestry – the highly diverse group known as arthropods (animals with jointed appendages).  Arthropods comprise the largest number […]

More Surprises for Darwin

It’s not uncommon for theories to have to deal with anomalies, but Darwinism sure seems to get more than its share.  Here are some recent examples. Fossils lie:  Fossils preserve unmistakable clues about past life, right?  Not so fast.  Nature reported that “Non-random decay of chordate characters causes bias in fossil interpretation.”1  The way early […]

Dinosaurs Evolved from Birds

Birds evolved from dinosaurs, we are often told.  That’s backwards, reply some scientists at Oregon State University.  According to PhysOrg, the recently-published bi-plane model study of Microraptor gui (01/29/2010) demonstrates that theropod dinosaurs did not sprout wings and fly; instead, they became flightless after their bird ancestors came down from the trees.     Their […]

The Evolution of Religion – or Vice Versa?

A Harvard professor has evolutionized religion again.  Marc Hauser, the one who trains his little boy to adore Darwin (07/03/2007) and wrote a book on how natural selection created morality (10/27/2006), is now saying that religion is a by-product of our evolution.  “These findings suggest that religion evolved from pre-existing cognitive functions,” he wrote in […]

Small Hobbit Brain Means Little

Central in the debate whether Homo floresiensis (nicknamed hobbits) were human is the matter of their small brains.  Could diminutive human-like skeletons really be human with such small skulls? (cf. 03/04/2005).     Scientists at the University of Cambridge conducted a detailed analysis of brain size vs. body size for a number of primates.  They […]

Building a Cell: Staggering Complexity

“The living cell is a self-organizing, self-replicating, environmentally responsive machine of staggering complexity.”  Thus began a special section on “Building a Cell” in Nature last week.1  The section with five papers explores what is known about gene regulation, cell organization and signalling.  It’s an opportunity, as well, to see what scientists think about what they […]

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 […]

Woese Slays Darwin

The king is dead!  Long live the king!  Such were the oxymoronic cries of olden times when royal succession took place.  Has Charles Darwin been dethroned?  One would think so, after reading Mark Buchanan’s article, “Horizontal and vertical: the evolution of evolution” in New Scientist.  Buchanan sets the stage: Just suppose that Darwin’s ideas were […]

Barefoot Is Better

Who do we wear shoes?  It seems obvious; we expect that they help us avoid injuries and provide comfort.  Maybe we should think of the injuries we are getting by wearing them.     The image of the barefoot person is usually of someone poor, deprived, lower-class, hick, unclean, redneck or something else unattractive.  Shoes […]

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 […]

Aliens Invade Science News

What are aliens doing in science news reports?  There is no evidence they even exist.  That has not hindered some scientists from speculating.  BBC News reporters Pallab Ghosh headlined an entry “Astronomers hopeful of detecting extra-terrestrial life,” and adorned it with a Hollywood-style alien corpse.  The article highlighted the optimism of Lord Rees, the president […]

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 […]
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