65: A Catalogue of Disappointments

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Can a movie featuring aliens, dinosaurs, spaceships, one of the main actors from Star Wars, and a giant asteroid about to crash into the planet be bad? Sadly, yes. The movie 65 manages to take what could a been another Godzilla or Kong: Skull Island. instead, it’s a watered-down Jurassic Park. Severely diluted. I love scifi and fantasy. I’ve been reading it since the mid-1950s when I got my first Tom Swift jr book. I read Jules Verne at age … click below for more!

Musings on Viruses and Evolution

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One has to wonder how creationists can maintain their beliefs during a pandemic where the virus is clearly evolving to improve its ability to infect people and avoid immune system responses. It’s like watching Darwin in action every day. What sort of cognitive dissonance is necessary to believe in creationism while reading the headlines about COVID variants emerging all over the world? Or maybe they don’t read the news to avoid being confronted by such inconvenient truths. Although viruses evolve … click below for more!

Natural selection simplified

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I was startled by the simplicity of the forumla. Stephen Jay Gould, the late eminent paleontologist, biologist and historian of science, summed up Darwin’s basic theory of natural selection so eloquently and so succinctly that it rocked me back on my heels. It was something even a diehard creationist could understand (assuming he or she wanted to try…) First there are three basic facts Gould states about life and living creatures: All organisms produce more offspring than can possibly survive; … click below for more!

Neanderthals: a love story

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Squat, hairy, broad shoulders, a big nose, beetle-browed with a low forehead. As Blind Willie McTell wrote in his classic song, Statesboro Blues, “I know ain’t good lookin’, but I swear I’m some sweet woman’s angel child.” That line might have been written for early Neanderthal cousins. First described as dim-witted and brutish, our more recent assessment of them is far less critical, especially of their tool-making and culture. But even the most complimentary of modern descriptions still make them … click below for more!

Evolutionary Dead-Ends

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Some people seem genetically inclined – perhaps I should write doomed? – to believe in nonsense: believe in conspiracy theories, in myths, legends, superstitions and supernatural, in magic, in pseudoscience and pseudomedicine. Nothing – no amount of fact, truth, education, reason or contrary evidence will change their minds. The harder you try to correct them, the more firmly they believe. Watch, if you can, this painfully dim woman trying to dismiss paleontology and evolution as she blunders through Chicago’s Field Museum … click below for more!

Gangs of Feathered T-Rex

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Imagine, if you will, an early morning scene in the late Cretaceous. The air is quiet as the day warms. At the edge of a large forest a plain of ferns ripples in the light breeze (grass would not evolve for another 20 or so million years). Under the canopy of the ancient beeches and maples, there is movement. Nothing fast, just a hint. A flash of mottled colour against the background. A glint of light off an eye. A soft … click below for more!

Confused Science

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In his book, The World in Six Songs, Daniel Levitin posutlates the ability to make or participate in music may have conferred an evolutionary advantage to early humans. It’s a reasonable hypothesis based on both archeological and anthropological evidence. And some paleontological finds, too. We know from remains of bone flutes and other instruments, that humans made music at least 40,000 years ago. What that music was like, what role it played in primitive culture and society, what ceremonial or bonding purposes it … click below for more!

Seeing evolution in action

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The pop-science notion is that evolution takes a long time. Millennia, many millennia; even millions of years. But is that always true? Can one actually see and measure evolution in action? Can it happen in such a short time as to be recorded? Peter and Rosemary Grant say they have. And it’s the subject of a new book they co-authored based on their research. Their story was reported in the April 23 issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly. It’s a terrific … click below for more!

American belief in evolution is growing: poll

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A new Harris poll released this month shows that Americans apparently are losing their belief in miracles and gaining it in science. The recent poll showed that American belief in evolution had risen to 47% from its previous poll level of 42%, in 2005. True, it’s not an overwhelming increase, and it’s still less than half the population, but it is an improvement. Belief in creationism dropped 3% during that time, to 36%. Good news, of course, but don’t break out … click below for more!

Survival of the Fittest

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Charles Darwin has long been associated with the phrase, “survival of the fittest.” For a century and a half people have used it to refer to their understanding of his explanation of how species evolved. But it wasn’t his. And it has obscured the understanding of Darwin’s own theory. It came from a contemporary, Herbert Spencer. Spencer was a contemporary of Darwin – an English polymath:  philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, sociologist, economist liberal political theorist, utilitarian – and, by some accounts, an early … click below for more!

The Cosmic Origins of Life

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Here’s one to confound the creationist crowd: life may have begun as a result of organic molecules resulting from impacts by comets or meteorites. No supernatural foundation, no invisible hand guiding the process. Just random crashes, a little physics, some chemistry, a while lot of time, and voila: life. But wait, there’s more… How did these molecules go from static organic molecules to self-reproducing you ask? Ah, therein lies another tale… that of enzymes, the little engines of life. More … click below for more!

The colonization of land by life pushed back in time

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A recent story on Science Daily made me stop and read with fascination. It’s about the discovery of fossils that showed life colonized land more than two billion years ago. That’s a shocker, because all indicators are that the Earth was a hostile place, land was barren, and life was a lot simpler. But apparently we underestimated the ability and tenacity of life. This gives us hope that life may exist on other planets or moons. Mars, at least its … click below for more!

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