08.05.2016

What We’re Reading

It’s pretty much all evolution, all the time, this week. Pokémon, humans, creationists, even our understanding of the past—everything evolves.

  • Darwinian Natural Selection is at Work in “Pokémon Sun” and “Moon,” Inverse, August 1, 2016 — Right on the heels of Stephanie Keep’s blog about Pokémon’s misleading use of “evolution” this week, it seems that “…the game’s developers have been brushing up on their Darwin.” Two new versions of the game, coming soon, seem to reflect a fairly good understanding of adaptive radiation. 
  • Humans Never Stopped Evolving, New Scientist, August 2016 — “New evidence of how the human genome has changed over the last several thousand years points to a series of massive critical evolutionary changes, setting some aspects of our biology clearly apart from that of our forebears,” explains John Hawks. “And we are no doubt continuing to evolve today.”
  • The World’s Top Predators are Dining from Dwindling Menus, National Geographic Not Exactly Rocket Science, August 2, 2016 — It should make complete intuitive sense that to save a predator, you must also save its prey. Now, thanks to a couple of ecologists, we have data to back up that claim. Of the 31 largest predators, 24 are in dramatic decline and a huge part of their problem is that their prey, too, are in decline. The researchers’ conclusion: To save those at the top, we are going to have to work to save the entire ecosystem.
  • Creationists Evolve “New” Arguments to Explain Genetic Diversity, The Panda's Thumb, August 2, 2016 — David MacMillan is bemused by a young-earth creationist’s attempt to explain post-Flood diversification which “goes through a bunch of tangentially related topics, making a bunch of fact statements that are usually not entirely wrong, and then declares victory.”
  • Kimura & Crow: Infinite Alleles, Genes to Genomes (a blog from the Genetics Society of America), August 3, 2016 — Cristy Gelling tells the story of the partnership of Motoo Kimura and James F. Crow, leading eventually to “Kimura’s later development of ‘neutral theory,’ in which he argued that most variation at the molecular level is the result of random genetic drift of neutral mutations, as opposed to natural selection of beneficial ones.”
  • Geomythology: Can Geologists Relate Ancient Stories of Great Floods to Real Events?, The Conversation, August 4, 2016 — An ancient text describes a massive flood, and a hero whose response to the catastrophe earned him a mandate from heaven. Sound familiar? No, it's not Noah and the flood described in Genesis, it’s Emperor Xu and a massive flood of the Yellow River in China around 1900 B.C.E. The emerging field of geomythology can’t prove Emperor Xu's divine mandate, but it can find clear evidence of an actual flood that happened 4,000 years ago. Importantly, explaining that evidence doesn't require throwing evolution, geology, paleontology, and archeology under the bus.

photo credit: By Ma Lin - National Palace Museum, Taipei, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7102774