Thank Goodness the NCSE Is Wrong: Fitness Costs Are Important to Evolutionary Microbiology

The evolution of antibiotic resistance is typically the result of small changes allowing for survival in a microbe or other organism under special circumstances where the organism faces extremely strong selection pressure due to the presence of some antibiotic drug. In other cases, it is the result of the transfer of pre-existing antibiotic resistance genes from one microbe to another, and the selection of such microbes in an environment containing antibiotics. Even in the first example, evolution does not produce a truly new function. In fact the change produced often makes the microbe less fit when the antibiotic is removed–it reproduces slower than it did before it was changed. This effect is widely recognized, and is called the fitness cost Read More ›

Proliferation of Academic Freedom Bills Is Darwin Lobby’s Worst Nightmare

The recent front page New York Times article on academic freedom legislation offers a stark reminder that the intelligentsia is very worried about the prospect of teachers gaining academic freedom, as a bill presently in the Kentucky legislature would allow, “to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner, including but not limited to the study of evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” From 2008-2009, 12 academic freedom bills were submitted into state legislatures, including Florida, Alabama (2), South Carolina (2), Missouri (2), Michigan, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Iowa, and New Mexico. Now in 2010, there are 3 bills already, including bills in Kentucky, Missouri, and Mississippi. The Kentucky bill contains an excellent Read More ›

Did Dallas Morning News Endorsement Backfire and Sink Pro-Darwin Candidate?

In the Texas Republican Party primary this week, voters in one part of the state narrowly rejected pro-teach-the-controversy State Board of Education member Don McLeroy. At the same time, voters in another part of the state (Dallas) dumped anti-teach-the-controversy Board member Geraldine Miller in favor of a candidate who has expressed support for teaching the strengths and weaknesses of evolution. The most interesting thing about incumbent Geraldine Miller’s remarkable defeat by newcomer George Clayton is the unintentional role the pro-Darwin Dallas Morning News may have played in her downfall.

Testing the Orchard Model and the NCSE’s Claims of “Nested Patterns” Supporting a “Tree of Life”

In my previous post responding to the National Center for Science Education’s (NCSE) attacks on Explore Evolution‘s treatment of biogeography, I explained that there are many examples where there is inconsistency between evolutionary expectations of biogeography and plate tectonics. The NCSE is thus wrong to have claimed that “The consistency of these sorts of nested patterns cannot be explained without reference to common descent. The creationist ‘orchard’ is scientifically meaningless, since it makes no predictions.” * The classical “universal common descent” view is contrasted with the orchard model at below: The NCSE’s claim is perplexing because, as noted, the NCSE also claimed that “continuity [between biogeographic and evolutionary patterns] is what would be expected of a pattern of common descent, Read More ›

Sea Monkeys Are the Tip of the Iceberg: More Biogeographical Conundrums for Neo-Darwinism

In my previous post responding to the National Center for Science Education, I observed that the origin of South American monkeys (platyrrhines) is a striking example of a discontinuity between evolution and biogeography. As I observed at the end of that post, which was adapted from “The NCSE’s Biogeographic Conundrums: A Defense of Explore Evolution‘s Treatment of Biogeography“: the NCSE was not quite accurate when claiming that “By comparing macroevolutionary patterns between different groups, we find that the same patterns repeat. This strongly suggests that the same forces drove the diversification of those different groups.” The truth is that whenever oceanic “sweepstakes” dispersal is required, we find an exception to expected neo-Darwinian rules of biogeography. And as will be seen Read More ›