Evolution in The New York Times


A treat in the Science Times section of the June 26, 2007, issue of The New York Times: a suite of articles devoted to evolution. Evolutionary developmental biology is a central theme. Carol Kaesuk Yoon writes, "Just coming into its own as a science, evo-devo is the combined study of evolution and development, the process by which a nubbin of a fertilized egg transforms into a full-fledged adult. And what these scientists are finding is that development, a process that has for more than half a century been largely ignored in the study of evolution, appears to have been one of the major forces shaping the history of life on earth." Also on the evo-devo front, NCSE Supporter Sean B. Carroll discusses evo-devo in a video, and is also taking questions from the newspaper's readers, while Douglas F. Erwin ponders whether evo-devo amounts to a paradigm shift for biology.

Carl Zimmer discusses evolutionary experimentation using microbes, such as Richard E. Lenski's pioneering work with E. coli; in the eighteen years and 40,000 generations of Lenski's work, Zimmer writes, "the bacteria have changed significantly. For one thing, they are bigger -- twice as big on average as their common ancestor. They are also far better at reproducing in these flasks, dividing 70 percent faster than their ancestor. These changes have emerged through spontaneous mutations and natural selection, and Dr. Lenski and his colleagues have been able to watch them unfold." On his blog The Loom, Zimmer notes that "these experiments are also meaningful to bio-engineers who manipulate microbes to churn out useful molecules like insulin or ethanol."

Human evolution is also covered, with John Noble Wilford explaining "The Human Family Tree Has Become a Bush With Many Branches," emphasizing the convergence of molecular and morphological approaches to paleoanthropology, and Nicholas Wade explaining "Humans Have Spread Globally, and Evolved Locally," emphasizing research on recent natural selection in humans. And under the rubric Basics, Natalie Angier writes about parasitism -- "an evolutionary force to be reckoned with, a source of nearly bottomless cunning and breathtaking bio-inventiveness" -- and Cornelia Dean examines what implications evolutionary biology and cognitive neuroscience might be thought to have for the idea of the soul, quoting theologians John F. Haught and Nancey Murphy as well as NCSE Supporter Kenneth R. Miller in the process.