[The internet is down at the Kirksville Holiday Inn. The only other time this has happened to me was when I was in Russia. What this means is that posting may be light today. Fortunately Greg prepared a post on a recent talk he gave about evolution, which is below. JAC]
by Greg Mayer
Jerry has posted a couple of times in the last week or so on the “creationist shenanigans” at Georgia Southern University, where a professor is apparently openly proselytizing for his religion in classes on the history of science. One of the items the professor has produced is an online document titled “No evidence for evolution“. It’s actually a rather sad document– and not just because it’s a typically dishonest creationist exercise in quote-mining, which would have us believe that Jerry Coyne, George Gaylord Simpson, Jeff Levinton, Niles Eldredge, and Steve Gould, among others, can all be rallied to the cause of creationism. Nor is it because he mixes in quotes from the likes of Michael Denton and Francis Hitching, as though they had any authority at all. Nor is it even because of his schizophrenic view of Gould and Eldredge, who on the one hand he wields in support of creationism, but on the other he attacks (through quotes) because (gasp!) they are evolutionary paleontologists. No, it’s sad because it’s all so old. Other creationists did this decades ago– and, frankly, better. The quotes are almost all old ones– from the 1980’s and earlier (the latest quote I noted was 1997– the page is dated 2002). The reason it’s so sad is that not only does this guy know nothing about biology or paleontology, he’s not even a very good creationist– he apparently hasn’t kept up with developments in his own “discipline”!
Just a day or two after Jerry posted, my colleague Chris Noto informed me that a talk I had given at Darwin Day celebrations earlier this year was now available online. Entitled “The Evidence for Evolution”, it seemed like a happy coincidence, and so I share it with you here. (Note that the Parasaurolophus and sauropod behind me seem quite interested, the latter even bending his neck above and around me so he can read my notes on the podium! There was a human audience too, although, as usual, until a late attendee arrived, no one wanted to sit in the front seats.)
The talk was given at the Dinosaur Discovery Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as part of their Darwin Day events last February. It was based on the chapter I wrote for The Princeton Guide to Evolution, edited by my friend and colleague Jon Losos, which was officially published right about the time I gave the talk. The talk is about descent with modification per se, and not on the mechanisms of evolution (except insofar as the observation of current evolutionary changes allows us to see such mechanisms directly), and the main topics were the fossil record; transitional forms; comparative morphology, embryology and genetics; biogeography; and evolution in action. I would particularly draw attention to the example of observed speciation in Spartina in England (about 30:44). It’s an example of allopolyloid speciation (a new species arises by hybdidization with increase in the number of chromosome sets), which is common in plants (though not animals), and is expected to occur very rapidly, but it’s nice to have a case where humans observed the speciation event start to finish (1829-1892).
(The camera battery went dead for a bit, so there’s about 5 minutes of the biogeography section missing; the dead space was edited out with a “wave”– you’ll notice it.)
Mayer, G.C. 2014. The evidence for evolution. pp. 28-39 in J.B. Losos, ed., The Princeton Guide to Evolution, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.