Dec 072013
 

I’ve just read an excerpt from the book “The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution” by Henry Gee regarding the misunderstanding and misuse of the word “evolution” as it applies to natural selection or descent with modification, and the different way that the word is used outside of biology.

I enjoyed how Gee provided a brief history of the word “evolution” and of the people who employed that term. And this is an important explanation; I’ve always felt unease at how the media’s usage of the word is different to the biological concept but used in a way that suggests that there was no difference. For example, a new product that is “an evolutionary improvement on the previous product range”; it implies goal-oriented improvement. In biology, evolutionary change is not goal-oriented, and it does not always result in an improvement to the health of an organism but change can make the organism more likely to survive to reproduce in an altered environment; the example given in the book on sickle-cell anaemia is classic.

Based on what I’ve read so far, the book is easy to read and has a certain humour that I rather enjoyed; I am encouraged to buy the book. I also think that this book may become a good companion to the popular evolution books “Why evolution is true” by Jerry Coyne, and “The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution” by Richard Dawkins.

The excerpt is freely available as a PDF at NCSE’s website:

The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution

I’m about to purchase the eBook version of the book and will post a fuller review once finished.

Dire David Dobbs

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Dec 062013
 

First I read this…

…then this…

…and then, finally, this…

Oh dear. It seems that David Dobbs has done his reputation no good.

Oct 062013
 

The Dymaxion map or Fuller map is a pretty cool projection for mapping the world. It helps to see the world from a different perspective, both figuratively and literally! I’m hoping to use such a projection for a couple of projects I have in mind.

In the meantime, see the Fuller map (from Wikipedia) in action here regarding human migration and you get a sense of how early homo sapiens must have seen the world. The map is missing Antarctica but that’s not important to the human migration story. I suppose the biggest weakness is that it “breaks” the Polynesian story through the Pacific.

Map-of-human-migrations

The Wikipedia entry that details the map is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map-of-human-migrations.jpg

World map of human migrations, with the North Pole at center. Africa, harboring the start of the migration, is at the top left and South America at the far right. Migration patterns are based on studies of mitochondrial (matrilinear) DNA. Dashed lines are hypothetical migrations.

Numbers represent thousand years before present.

The blue line represents area covered in ice or tundra during the last great ice age.

The letters are the mitochondrial DNA haplogroups (pure motherly lineages); Haplogroups can be used to define genetic populations and are often geographically oriented. For example, the following are common divisions for mtDNA haplogroups:

  • African: L, L1, L2, L3

  • Near Eastern: J, N

  • Southern European: J, K

  • General European: H, V

  • Northern European: T, U, X

  • Asian: A, B, C, D, E, F, G (note: M is composed of C, D, E, and G)

  • Native American: A, B, C, D, and sometimes X

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2013

Sep 102013
 

Over the years I’ve come across the work done by Eugenie C. Scott and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), and I’ve posted some articles on her work. I remember quite clearly when she was awarded the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Science in 2010. Earlier this year, Scott announced that she would retire by the end of the year.

NCSE’s executive director Eugenie C. Scott announced on May 6, 2013, that she was planning to retire by the end of the year, after more than twenty-six years at NCSE’s helm. “It’s a good time to retire, with our new climate change initiative off to a strong start and with the staff energized and excited by the new challenges ahead,” she commented. “The person who replaces me will find a strong staff, a strong set of programs, and a strong board of directors.”

During Scott’s time at NCSE, she was honored with no fewer than eight honorary degrees as well as the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Science, the inaugural Stephen Jay Gould Prize from the Society for the Study of Evolution, the Public Service Award from the National Science Board, and the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“It’s not going to be easy to fill the shoes of someone who has done so much to make NCSE into the respected and admired organization it is,” remarked Brian Alters, the president of NCSE’s board of directors. “We look forward with working with Genie to find the best possible successor.” A job announcement is now available; members and friends of NCSE are encouraged to spread the word that what Scott once described as “the best job in the world” will soon be open.

Science Insider (May 6, 2013) reported on the announcement, quoting Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University as saying of Scott, “She’s incomparable, irreplaceable, and indispensable,” and Sean B. Carroll of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as saying, “The entire scientific community, legions of teachers, and millions of students owe her a great debt for her dedication and passionate advocacy. She has established a remarkable legacy at NCSE.”

She’s done a good job at the NCSE, and I’d like to thank her for that work there and for her lectures.

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2013

Jan 042013
 

A presentation by Jerry Coyne, author of “Why evolution is true”, explaining why religion is not compatible with science:

Jerry Coyne on the Odd Couple: Why Science and Religion Shouldn’t Cohabit

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2013

Oct 212012
 

Oh dear. Paul Broun is a US Congressman and is also a member of the House of Representative’s Committee on Science And Technology. At the Sportsman’s Banquet at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Georgia, he describes himself as a scientist and declares that the Earth is young. He’s a Christian, and I would call him a Young Earth Creationist.

Rep. Broun: Evolution, Embryology, Big Bang Theory Are “Lies Straight From The Pit Of Hell”

The problem, of course, is that science shows that Broun’s conjectures and conclusions are wrong. But he’s playing to the gallery. He panders to them. The scary thing is if he believes in that drivel.

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2012

May 082012
 

Mike Aus briefly describes his journey from being a Christian (Protestant) minister to someone who has rejected religions, influenced by evolution through Natural Selection and the works of Richard Dawkins:

His closing words:

I have traded Mount Calvary for Mount Improbable, and life is now a far more interesting journey. And I also now understand why so many evangelical Christians are hostile to evolution. They too, know that evolution impacts everything, and as more and more people come to see the beauty and power of Darwin’s insights, they know that humanity will inevitably leave religion behind. – Mike Aus

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2012