Middle Age

Evolution has given humans a huge advantage over most other animals David Bainbridge As a 42-year-old man born in England, I can expect to live for about another 38 years. In other words, I can no longer claim to be young. I am, without doubt, middle-aged. To some people that is a depressing realization. We … Continue reading

Originality of the species

A frenzied desire to be first inspired Darwin and Einstein to bursts of creativity. Like writers and artists, scientists strive to have their names attached to a work of brilliance, but any breakthrough depends on the efforts of countless predecessors. Ian McEwan reflects on originality and collaboration Ian McEwan Wallace’s 20 pages, so it seemed … Continue reading

Runner’s High

In the last century something unexpected happened: humans became sedentary. We traded in our active lifestyles for a more immobile existence. But these were not the conditions under which we evolved. David Raichlen from the University of Arizona, USA, explains that our hunter-gatherer predecessors were long-distance endurance athletes. ‘Aerobic activity has played a role in … Continue reading

Evolutionary Mystery of Female Orgasm

David Barash Believe it or not, there may be a connection between the mating behavior of grizzly bears and the evolution of the human female orgasm … In his poem “Of the progress of the soul,” John Donne once eloquently described a young lady he admired (one Elizabeth Drury), by observing that “Her pure, and … Continue reading

Ostrich Penis Clears Up Evolutionary Mystery

Overlooked bird organ is similar to, but separate from, that of reptiles and mammals. By Adam Marcus of Nature magazine A long-running question about how the largest species of birds achieve erect penises seems to have been settled. In a study published this week in the Journal of Zoology, researchers report that male ostriches and … Continue reading

Get Ready for a New Human Species

Now that we can rewrite the code of life, Darwinian evolution can’t stop us, says investor Juan Enriquez. Emily Singer The ability to engineer life is going to spark a revolution that will dwarf the industrial and digital revolutions, says Juan Enriquez, a writer, investor, and managing director of Excel Venture Management. Thanks to new … Continue reading

Evolve

A case for modernization as the road to salvation Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus SOMETIME AROUND 2014, Italy will complete construction of seventy-eight mobile floodgates aimed at protecting Venice’s three inlets from the rising tides of the Adriatic Sea. The massive doors—twenty meters by thirty meters, and five meters thick—will, most of the time, lie … Continue reading

Evolution and Intelligent Design

Philippe Starck We — you and me, mankind — come from mud. About four billion years ago, an explosive cocktail of bacteria and organisms, sparked into life and began to divide. Life began. There were tiny organisms, stupid bacteria that did not even know how to fuck, but somehow reproduced anyway. Then there were fish. … Continue reading

Don’t believe everything you think

Tell me the truth, lizard – am I deceiving myself? The human capacity for self-deception knows no bounds, but why do we do it? According to biologist Robert Trivers the simple answer is that it helps us have more children. He told Graham Lawton about the evolutionary benefits of lying Graham Lawton  Psychologists been interested … Continue reading

Upright and Hairless Make Better Long-Distance Hunters

If an early human wanted to chase down prey, it really helped to be upright and to lose the overheating body hair. Karen Hopkin reports “Stand up straight! And do something about that hair!” Annoying? Sure. But such parental advice may have made humans what we are today. Because our upright stance, and relative lack … Continue reading

Could simple anger have taught people to cooperate?

While re­search­ers don’t agree on how hu­mans first de­vel­oped the ex­cep­tion­al lev­el of coop­era­t­ion they show in to­day’s so­ci­eties, a few bas­ic ideas are of­ten ban­died about the sci­en­tif­ic lit­er­a­ture. A new study is chal­leng­ing one of the lead­ing the­o­ries, though, to re­place it with a sim­pler no­tion: hu­mans learn­ed to coop­erate be­cause they did­n’t … Continue reading

Breeding with Neanderthals helped humans go global

Michael Marshall WHEN the first modern humans left Africa they were ill-equipped to cope with unfamiliar diseases. But by interbreeding with the local hominins, it seems they picked up genes that protected them and helped them eventually spread across the planet. The publication of the Neanderthal genome last year offered proof that Homo sapiens bred … Continue reading

Are the wild horses of the American west native?

Bob Holmes THE wild horses of the American west should be considered a native species as fully deserving of protection as elk or antelope, even though they are the descendants of domestic livestock introduced by European settlers. Or so claim animal rights groups. In a case before a US federal court they are arguing that … Continue reading

Evolution: Darwin’s city

David Sloan Wilson is using the lens of evolution to understand life in the struggling city of Binghamton, New York. Next, he wants to improve it. Emma Marris Download a PDF of this article David Sloan Wilson is holding a white ceramic dog dish and making the rounds at the Lost Dog Café in Binghamton, … Continue reading

Foodies vs. Darwin

How Meat Eaters Ignore Science Cooking and savoring animals used to be acceptable—but then came evolution, genetics, and the study of non-human thought James McWilliams "No age has ever been more solicitous to animals, more curious and caring," writes Matthew Scully in Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to … Continue reading

Standing Up to Fight

Does It Explain Why We Walk Upright and Why Women Like Tall Men? A University of Utah study shows that men hit harder when they stand on two legs than when they are on all fours, and when hitting downward rather than upward, giving tall, upright males a fighting advantage. This may help explain why … Continue reading

Fermenting fruit did not lead to alcohol gene

Wendy Zukerman IT’S the longest period of abstinence on record. Vertebrates gained the genes used to metabolise ethanol 310 million years before flowering plants started producing significant amounts of the intoxicating stuff. The gene for alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) – a protein that breaks down ethanol – was originally thought to have evolved in humans in … Continue reading

Where does good come from?

Harvard’s Edward O. Wilson tries to upend biology, again By Leon Neyfakh On a recent Monday afternoon, the distinguished Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson was at his home in Lexington, talking on the phone about the knocks he’s been taking lately from the scientific community, and paraphrasing Arthur Schopenhauer to explain his current standing in … Continue reading

Death Anxiety Shapes Views on Evolution

New research suggests people reject evolutionary theory because, as a way to think about life and death, it doesn’t provide the emotional solace we seek. By Tom Jacobs Researchers find that people reject the theory of evolution because it doesn’t provide a sense of meaning in the face of absolute mortality. However, one study suggests … Continue reading

‘Religion? Reality Has a Grander Magic of its Own’

Interview with Scientist Richard Dawkins  AFP A sculpture by the British artist Damien Hirst. Is evolution a fact? Evolution is fact. That, at least, is what evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins argues, making his case in his new book "The Greatest Show on Earth," which has just been published in German. SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke with Dawkins … Continue reading

Evolution Abroad

Creationism Evolves in Science Classrooms around the Globe Education experts suggest that in some cultural contexts one way to encourage acceptance of evolution is by not shunning religious beliefs By Katherine Harmon  TEACHING THEORY: In some schools across the world, separating belief from scientific reasoning can be a difficult assignment. Image: ISTOCKPHOTO/BARTCO As the familiar … Continue reading

Evolution isn’t easy, even in Galapagos

By Karen James  175 years and a few months ago, a landing party rowed into this little bay. Their ship, a small, storm-weathered British sloop was anchored in the distance. As they approached the shore, a lanky, suntanned, salt-encrusted 26-year-old stepped out with a splash and clambered up onto a jumble of broken basalt. Charles … Continue reading

Getting a Leg Up on Evolution–the Comic Book Version

A graphic tour of how we humans came to be, through the eyes of space aliens Bloort and Prince Floorsh By Jay Hosler, Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon  Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt of the graphic book, "Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth" (Hill and Wang, 2011). It was written by noted … Continue reading

Evolution Still Struggling in Public Schools

By Lisa Grossman Despite 80 years of court battles ousting creationism from public classrooms, most public high school biology teachers are not strong advocates for evolution. While vocal advocates of intelligent design and similar non-scientific alternatives to evolution are a minority, more than half the teachers in a nationwide poll avoided taking a strong stance … Continue reading

Richard Owen: the greatest scientist you’ve never heard of

He founded the Natural History Museum, named the dinosaurs and taught Queen Victoria’s children – so why has no one heard of Richard Owen, asks Karolyn Shindler . Richard Owen, the first Superintendent of the Natural History Museum. Darwin?s supporters insinuated that Owen was anti-evolutionist. Photo: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS By Karolyn Shindler In 1861, William Gladstone, … Continue reading

Breaking our link to the "March of Progress"

By Brian Switek It never fails. Whenever scientists announce the discovery of a hitherto unknown fossil species intermediate between two already known forms there is always one newspaper or magazine which calls it a "missing link". Score another point for evolutionary science—another gap in the fossil record has been filled in. I hate the phrase … Continue reading

Island orangs descend from small group

Bornean apes went through a genetic bottleneck during ancient glaciation Susan Milius  Mure Wipfli Orangutans on the island of Borneo descend from a relatively small number of ancestors who apparently squeezed through a rough patch about 176,000 years ago, according to the broadest genetic analysis to date of their species. The genetic data suggest an … Continue reading

New Explanation for the Origin of High Species Diversity in Amazon

An international team of scientists, including a leading evolutionary biologist from the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, have reset the agenda for future research in the highly diverse Amazon region by showing that the extraordinary diversity found there is much older than generally thought. The study shows that Amazonian diversity has evolved as by-product … Continue reading

Evolution by Religious Selection: Mexican Cavefish Develop Resistance to Toxin

A centuries-old religious ceremony of an indigenous people in southern Mexico has led to small evolutionary changes in a local species of fish, according to researchers from Texas A&M University. Since before the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the New World, the Zoque people of southern Mexico would venture each year during the Easter season … Continue reading

New Statistical Model Moves Human Evolution Back Three Million Year

Evolutionary divergence of humans and chimpanzees likely occurred some 8 million years ago rather than the 5 million year estimate widely accepted by scientists, a new statistical model suggests. The revised estimate of when the human species parted ways from its closest primate relatives should enable scientists to better interpret the history of human evolution, … Continue reading

The chaos theory of evolution

Keith Bennett  Forget finding the laws of evolution. The history of life is just one damn thing after another IN 1856, geologist Charles Lyell wrote to Charles Darwin with a question about fossils. Puzzled by types of mollusc that abruptly disappeared from the British fossil record, apparently in response to a glaciation, only to reappear … Continue reading

Cool Evolution Trick: Platinum Turns Baby Snails into Slugs

By Rachel Ehrenberg, Science News Evolution doesn’t have to operate at a snail’s pace, even for snails. In experiments designed to simulate the evolutionary transition that produced slugs, researchers exposed baby snails to the metal platinum, causing the animals to develop without external shells. The research illustrates how a big leap on the evolutionary path … Continue reading

Brains or brawn – which was best?

by Anil Ananthaswamy  When the going got tough in prehistoric East Africa, some of humanity’s closest relatives went for bigger jaws, rather than bigger brains. Big mistake By some 30 million years ago, the primate upstarts had come to dominate the canopies of the once more lush tropical rainforests. For one particular group, this was … Continue reading

GEORGE C. WILLIAMS

He was a beautiful man. —Robert Trivers GEORGE C. WILLIAMS (1926-2010) Niles Eldredge: I remember the English evolutionary geneticist John Maynard Smith remarking to me that he was astonished to find out that George Williams wasn’t in our National Academy. Williams finally got elected in 1993. When I visited him in Stony Brook in the … Continue reading

George C. Williams (1926-2010)

By Michael Ruse George Williams is dead.  He was one of a group of biologists who completely changed the nature of evolutionary theory in the past half century.  Englishmen William Hamilton and John Maynard Smith.  Americans George Williams, Robert Trivers, and Edward O. Wilson.  Working in a somewhat different way and very much more publicly, … Continue reading

Take the Evolution Challenge

To gain real knowledge of humanity, every field needs to drink from the "cup" of evolutionary theory. photo: Leonard McCombe By David Sloan Wilson It has become my passion to expand evolutionary theory beyond the biological sciences to include all things human. Many people are puzzled about why this is necessary. After all, an enormous … Continue reading

Our Neandertal Brethren

Genome sequencing has revealed our common humanity By Michael Shermer According to the late Harvard University biologist Ernst W. Mayr, the greatest evolutionary theorist since Charles Darwin, “species are groups of actually or potentially interbreeding natural populations which are reproductively isolated from other such groups.” Reproductive isolation is the key to understanding how new species … Continue reading