On the Origin of Science Writers.

My job as a scientist and professor is to conduct new research in my areas of expertise (genomics and evolution) and to teach science to university students about major concepts in biology. I also feel that it is very important to share my excitement and knowledge about science with a wider audience, which is […]

Overselling segmentation.

This story appeared on Science Daily, based on a press release from CNRS in France:

Segmentation Is the Secret Behind the Extraordinary Diversification of Animals

ScienceDaily (July 27, 2010) — Segmentation, the repetition of identical anatomical units, seems to be the secret behind the diversity and longevity of the largest and most common animal […]

Primitive frogs and phylogenetic fallacies.

As I have explained in various blog posts and in this paper, it is a fallacy to assume that any one character found in a so-called “primitive” species alive today was also found in the ancestral species. All living species are modern species, and “primitive” vs. “derived” refers to characters, not whole species.

Anyway, […]

Major misconceptions about evolution.

Jonathan Eisen has pointed out some rather significant misinterpretation of evolutionary relationships in a recent New York Times article. Of course, misconceptions about evolutionary trees, the evolution of complex organs, the mechanism of natural selection, and even the nature of the terms “fact” and “theory” are rampant.

I have tried to tackle these in […]

What gives, eScience News?

A recent article on Knight Science Journalism Tracker warned against taking sites like Science Daily as “news” services, since they really just echo institution press releases. However, in some cases it’s worse than just repetition.

Here’s an example.

From the University of Utah:

Tibetans Evolved Genes to Live at High Elevations

Obviously, a […]

Zimmer, YAGS, agreed.

Go read Carl Zimmer’s post “Yet-Another-Genome Syndrome” for an example of a science writer who truly gets it. Go. Right now. And add YAGS to your dictionary, along with DAP.

Evolutionary theory is totally overthrown. Again.

Sigh. More nonsense from the British press to pile on top of the infamous “Darwin Was Wrong” cover of New Scientist. This time from the Guardian.

Why everything you’ve been told about evolution is wrong by Oliver “Don’t Know Much Biology” Burkeman.

(Oh, and it’s because of epigenetics.)

My favourite defence of the article […]

Polar bears and climate change: shock and awe.

Over the top? Necessary and effective? You decide.

Polar Bear from Plane Stupid on Vimeo.

Hat tip: The Z-Letter

Darwin caricatures.

Darwin’s views are often misrepresented to the point of caricature, as we all know, but there have also been plenty of examples of literal caricature of Darwin in the popular media. I recently gave some talks about evolutionary imagery, which included popular press cartoons from the 1800s that had a common theme of caricaturing […]


From the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology comes a press release describing a paper in Nature about bacterial evolution…

Bacteria Expect the Unexpected Organisms ensure the survival of their species by genetically adapting to the environment. If environmental conditions change too rapidly, the extinction of a species may be the consequence. A strategy […]