In the early 1900s, Thomas Hunt Morgan, Columbia University zoologist, was looking for an organism to test Charles Darwin’s theory in the laboratory. Morgan was critical of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. After learning of an easily-reproducible insect yielding hundreds of progeny every few weeks, Morgan thought that he had discovered a model by which to study evolution. Morgan was eventually awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for demonstrating that chromosomes act as the carriers of inheritance in 1936.
Of the lion’s share of laboratory research, Morgan’s fruit flies became one of the most popular study models of evolution. After surviving through an unknown number of laboratory experiments, however, fruit flies are still fruit flies. “We are due for a renaissance,” said Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, a biologist at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Missouri in an interview with Quanta Magazine science writer Emily Singer. “We have narrowed our focus to a handful of organisms that statistically are highly unlikely to encompass the gamut of biological activity on the planet.” The evolution industry is on a mission to find a new study model of evolution.
The mystery behind the superiority of bird eye sight over humans is now more mysterious than ever. Joe Corbo, staring into the eye of a chicken seven years ago, saw something startling carpeting the retina. Rather than randomly distributed color-sensitive cones, like in humans, Corbo observed a uniform distribution of the cones – a pattern previously unrecognized in birds.
Science writer, Natalie Wolchover, in A Bird’s-Eye View of Nature’s Hidden Order published in Quanta Magazine in July reported that while cones were remarkably uniform in distribution, the actual cone locations seemed haphazard. “The dots’ locations followed no discernible rule, yet never seemed too close or too far apart” – a strange mix of bird eye random regularity.
In the native land of Charles Darwin for the first time, the Royal Society is challenging evolution academia to develop a new theory of biological evolution. Recognized as the original science organization in western civilization, the society explains the problem with today’s most popular current theory: “Developments in evolutionary biology and adjacent fields have produced calls for revision of the standard theory of evolution, although the issues involved remain hotly contested.”
Increasingly, the standard theory of evolution has been challenged in the wake of the twentieth century genomic revolution. On center stage is the validity of random genetic mutations coupled with natural selection as the standard theory of biological evolution. The Royal Society’s radical referendum scheduled for this November in London is slated to revolutionize the current “hotly contested” and chaotic landscape of the evolution industry.
Britain’s peppered moth has long been an evolution icon. This month, a new genetic discovery renews the spotlight on the moth. “Researchers from the University of Liverpool,” reports ScienceDaily, “have identified and dated the genetic mutation that gave rise to the black form of the peppered moth, which spread rapidly during Britain’s industrial revolution. The new findings solve a crucial missing piece of the puzzle in this iconic textbook example of evolution by natural selection.”
Peppered moths are notable for their unique speckled range of colors from light, shades of gray, to nearly black. The dark moths are also known as melanics or carbonaria. ScienceDaily’s crucial missing piece evidence, the “jumping gene,” was published this month in the prestigious journal Nature. “From time to time,” however, according to Jerry Coyne, a University of Chicago evolution scientist, “evolutionists re-examine a classical experimental study and find, to their horror, that it is flawed.”
“The Brain defects caused by Zika virus ‘could set evolution back 2 million years’ scientists claim” was the leading story in the UKs Daily Mirror in February. Since then, the global spread of Zika virus, a previously known as a rare virus, continues as a leading headline story – for good reasons. As CNN reports, “This is the first time a mosquito has been found to cause congenital birth defects.”
The New England Journal of Medicine published the article entitled “Zika virus and Birth Defects — Reviewing the Evidence for Causality” on April 13, written by a team headed by Sonja Rasmussen at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to Rasmussen, “sufficient evidence has accumulated to infer a causal relationship between prenatal Zika virus infection and microcephaly and other severe brain anomalies.” Since Zika infections are associated with congenital defects, the Zika virus is set to test the holy grail of evolution – natural selection.
J. Craig Venter, best known for being the first to sequence the human genome in 2000, is recognized as one of the leading scientists of the 21st century. Ten years after his important accomplishment, Venter was credited for successfully recreating “the first synthetic species” in 2010 – named Mycoplasma laboratorium.
In his relentless pursuit to “understand the molecular and biological function of every gene in a cell,” Venter released the latest findings discovered in his genetics research laboratory in Southern California. The paper, entitled “Design and Synthesis of a Minimal Bacterial Genome,” was published on March 25, 2016 in the journal Science. The findings have emerged as a new genomic evolution nightmare for Craig Venter.
R2D2, short for Artoo-Detoo, is best known as the fictional robotic character in the Star Wars universe series created by George Lucas. Inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame in 2003, R2D2 has since been included in the Smithsonian Institution list of 101 Objects that Made America. R2D2 is the good guy; the favorite character of George Lucas – known for always saving the day at least once in every film.
In the realm of biology however, the R2d2 gene is a Darth Vader villain terrorizing Darwin’s once popular theory. R2d2’s newly recognized function was published on February 15 in a paper in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution by leading investigator Fernando Pardo-Manuel de Villena (pictured below), professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. With a stealthy title, “R2d2 drives selfish sweeps in the house mouse,” R2d2 disses Darwin with scientific evidence.
The theory of evolution comes with standard equipment that includes Charles Darwin’s concept of races. The complete title of his most popular book, The Origin of Species (1859), includes the phrase the “Preservation of Favoured Races.”
How “races” might relate to humans was clarified a few years later in Darwin’s The Descent of Man (1871). As Darwin explains, “The sole objective of this work is to consider… the value of the differences between the so-called races of man.” Racism has scarred the theory of evolution. The latest attempt to remove racism was published this month in the journal of Science by geneticist and leading author Michael Yudell of Drexel University, Philadelphia, in the paper entitled “Taking Race Out of Human Genetics.”
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The status of evolution as a science is verging closer to extinction following a work shop in Germany last month. The essence and definition of science was on center stage at this historical convening of the leading physicists and philosophers of science last month. The meeting convened in the Romanesque-style Ludwig Maximilian University lecture hall. Science writer Natalie Wolchover covered the story for Quanta Magazine entitled “A Fight for the Soul of Science” and later reprinted by on TheAtlantic.com entitled “Physicists and Philosophers Hold Peace Talks.”
The fundamentals of physics currently face a critical problem, explained Nobel laureate David Gross to the three-day work shop attendees – a watershed moment for science. Wolchover explained, “desperate times call for desperate measures.” Specifically, at stake is whether the new concepts in emerging in physics – specifically, the string and multiverse concepts – is true science or just a philosophy. The pivotal issue centers on whether empirical evidence is still required to establish a scientific theory. Since science standards apply across the spectrum of the natural sciences, the outcome also determines the evolution’s science status.
Natural selection, sometimes known as the opium of the evolutionary biologists, has long been envisioned as the driving mechanism of biological evolution. “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” by Charles Darwin was the first publication to popularize natural selection. In the words of twentieth century evolutionary biologist Niles Eldredge, “A century and a half ago, Charles Darwin offered the world a single, simple scientific explanation for the diversity of life on Earth: evolution by natural selection.”
Scientific evidence, however, continues to challenge the importance of natural selection in evolution. Eugenie Scott, recipient of the 2012 Richard Dawkins Award, in Evolution vs Creation (2013) hedges on the “single, simple” role of natural selection: “The main—but not the only—mechanism of biological evolution is natural selection” New evidence discovered in a human genetics study underscoring why, in the end, natural selection unfriends Darwin. Read the rest of this entry »