John Maynard Smith (1 January 1920 – 19 April 2004)

John Maynard Smith (wiki), one of the most influential evolutionary biologists (geneticist) died on this day in 2004. He's regarded by many as one of the greatest and original evolutionary thinkers. And mostly known for his introduction and application of game theory (along with George Price) to the field of evolutionary biology. Also known for his theoretical [...]

When ideology trumps biology

Why Evolution Is True

If I was the late Andy Rooney, I’d say “You know what really bothers me? When science shows some facts about nature, and then someone rejects those facts because they’re inconvenient or uncomfortable for their ideology.”

Indeed, when people ignore such inconvenient truths, it not only makes their cause look bad, but can produce palpable harm. Case in point: the damage that the Russian charlatan-agronomist Lysenko did to Soviet agriculture under Stalin. Rejecting both natural selection and modern genetics, Lysenko made all sorts of wild promises about improving Soviet agriculture based on bogus treatment of plants that would supposedly change their genetics. It not only didn’t work, failing to relieve Russia of its chronic famines, but Lyesnko’s Stalin-supported resistance to modern (“Western”) genetics led to the imprisonment and even the execution of really good geneticists and agronomists like Niklolia Vavilov. The ideological embrace of an unevidenced but politically amenable view of science set back Russian…

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A Hero: W. D. Hamilton (1 August 1936 – 7 March 2000)

William Donald Hamilton (wiki) was one of the most influential evolutionary biologists who died on this day (March 7) in 2000.  He revolutionized the field with his 1964 papers The Genetical Evolution of Social Behaviour (links posted under the Publications section). But that was the beginning, he went on publishing very influential papers on broad range of subjects. W.D. [...]

The evolution of sexual dimorphism in humans: Part 2

Why Evolution Is True

In a post one week ago, “The ideological opposition to biological truth,” I argued that sexual dimorphism for body size (difference between men and women) in humans is most likely explained by sexual selection, and that it also reflects behavioral differences between males and females: males compete for females, and greater size and strength give males an advantage. That competition results from females—in many species, not just ours—being a “scarce” resource for males, since the number of males capable of breeding far exceeds the number of females who cannot breed because they’re tending offspring or in gestation. This disparity can be categorized in two ways:

  • The behavioral operational sex ratio: the ratio of sexually active males to fertilizable females at a given time. This is about 11.7 in humans!
  • The physiological operational sex ratio, the same ratio but for all individuals capable of reproducing (rather than those actually engaged…

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The ideological opposition to biological truth

Why Evolution Is True

One distressing characteristic of the Left, at least as far as science is concerned, is to let our ideology trump scientific data; that is, some of us ignore biological data when it’s inimical to our political preferences. This plays out in several ways: the insistence that race doesn’t exist (and before you accuse me of saying that races do exist, read about what I’ve written here before: the issue is complex), that there are no evolutionarily-based innate (e.g., genetically based) behavioral or psychological differences between ethnic groups, and that there are no such differences, either, between males and females within humans.

These claims are based not on biological data, but on ideological fears of the Left: if we admit of such differences, it could foster racism and sexism.  Thus. any group differences we do observe, whether they reside in psychology, physiology, or morphology, are to be explained on first principle as resulting from culture rather…

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Beyond Belief

The series of lectures/debates/talks at Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA. The program is called Beyond Belief and organised by The Science Network ( Moderated by Roger Bingham. Participating Scientists are from all different fields from physics to chemistry, biology, neuroscience, social sciences and philosophy. Some of the speakers touch on The Templeton Foundation.   Click on [...]