John Avise has a paper upcoming in PNAS. Here’s part of the abstract:
Here, I highlight several outlandish features of the human genome that defy notions of ID by a caring cognitive agent. These range from de novo mutational glitches that collectively kill or maim countless individuals (including embryos and fetuses) to pervasive architectural flaws (including pseudogenes, parasitic mobile elements, and needlessly baroque regulatory pathways) that are endogenous in every human genome. Gross imperfection at the molecular level presents a conundrum for the traditional paradigms of natural theology as well as for recent assertions of ID, but it is consistent with the notion of nonsentient contrivance by evolutionary forces.
Article is here. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0914609107
Tomorrow’s Science will have a series of freely available papers on the Neanderthal genome. One claim is that that between 1% and 4% of the DNA of certain modern groups is attributable to hybridization between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. Carl Zimmer and John Hawks have more. Jerry Coyne has a handy-dandy guide to the paper here.
The original paper is here and the abstract reads:
Neandertals, the closest evolutionary relatives of present-day humans, lived in large parts of Europe and western Asia before disappearing 30,000 years ago. We present a draft sequence of the Neandertal genome composed of more than 4 billion nucleotides from three individuals. Comparisons of the Neandertal genome to the genomes of five present-day humans from different parts of the world identify a number of genomic regions that may have been affected by positive selection in ancestral modern humans, including genes involved in metabolism and in cognitive and skeletal development. We show that Neandertals shared more genetic variants with present-day humans in Eurasia than with present-day humans in sub-Saharan Africa, suggesting that gene flow from Neandertals into the ancestors of non-Africans occurred before the divergence of Eurasian groups from each other.
(image source – Stanford University)
Update (4/24): The Arizona Republic is reporting that a cat killed east of the Phoenix metro area may be an ocelot. If so, the specimen was a significant distance from the border. AZGFD statement is here.
Update (5/18): Cute though the above photo is, it’s not of the actual ocelot seen in Cochise County. Here is that photo.
Sixteen years in the desert Southwest and felt my first earthquake today. A magnitude 7.2 quake with an epicenter SW of Yuma. Sitting at home and had a sudden feeling akin to being on a boat. As Douglas Adams once said, it was unpleasantly like being drunk. More details of the actual quake here.
Accipitridae / Accipitrinae / Haliaeetus leucocephalus / Bald Eagle
Accipitridae / Accipitrinae / Milvus migrans / Black Kite
Accipitridae / Accipitrinae / Ictinia plumbea / Plumbeous Kite
Accipitridae / Accipitrinae / Ictinia mississippiensis / Mississippi Kite
Accipitridae / Accipitrinae / Harpagus bidentatus / Double-toothed Kite
Zeteticism, Shenton says, emphasises experience and reason over the ”trusting acceptance of dogma”
Sound like any other group we know?
Some more information here.
Accipitridae / Accipitrinae / Helicolestes hamatus / Slender-billed Kite
It’s the twentieth anniversary of the famous “pale blue dot” photo – Earth as seen from Voyager 1 while on the edge of our solar system (approximately 3,762,136,324 miles from home). Sagan’s words are always worth remembering:
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
Accipitridae / Accipitrinae / Rostrhamus sociabilis / Snail Kite
Monday’s class is an introduction to the logic of natural selection. As I usually do when presenting selection, I follow Ernst Mayr’s formulation of a series of facts and inferences from those facts. I then deal with some of the consequences of the idea and the prevalent misconceptions about evolution through natural selection. Some of the slides are going to be anything but self-evident, I’m afraid.
The next three lectures will be focused on the history of American anti-evolutionism and I will, of course, post those slides (starting on Wednesday).