Category: Evolution

Molecular Phylogenetics: A New Way to Tell the Story of Evolution

The new science of molecular phylogenetics tells the story of evolution with no need to consult the fossil record. It has produced some surprises, including a whole new domain of life, the archaea.

/ November 13, 2018

Human Flaws Demonstrate Evolution, Not Intelligent Design

The human body is clearly not the product of an intelligent designer. Its many flaws tell the fascinating story of evolution's accidents and constraints.

/ November 6, 2018

Prove the scientific consensus and win a prize: A time-dishonored PR ploy used by cranks, quacks, and pseudoscientists (Robert F. Kennedy Jr. edition)

Last week, antivaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. teamed up with Robert De Niro to issue a challenge to provide one scientific study that proves thimerosal in vaccines is safe, with a cash prize of $100,000. They thus joined a long line of antivaxers, creationists, and climate science denialists offering money to "prove" the scientific consensus. Science doesn't work that way.

/ February 20, 2017

Vaginal Seeding. Ew. That’s nuts. Hmmm, interesting.

Sometimes a headline will cause me to run through a series of reactions in rapid sequence. For example “Mothers facing C-sections look to vaginal ‘seeding’ to boost their babies’ health”: Early studies show that swabbing a mother’s vagina and transferring it to her baby’s mouth, eyes and skin may stimulate microbiome development similarly to babies born naturally – and protect it from...

/ May 13, 2016

No, Purell Does Not Breed Super-Anything

Recently, I was sitting in a meeting and reached for the dispenser of Purell hand sanitizer sitting on the conference room table. A colleague of mine gave a small, rueful shake of her head to the person on her other side. Apparently I had erred. I asked what was the matter, and got a brief answer to the effect of “because superbugs.”...

/ November 28, 2015

Selective pressures on alternative medicine

(Editor’s note: I was away at Skepticon over the weekend, where I gave a talk entitled “The Central Dogma of Alternative Medicine”. (When the talk’s up on YouTube, I’ll provide a link, of course.) Because of all the fun and travel delays I didn’t get a chance to turn my slides and notes into a blog post yet. Also, I’m on vacation...

/ November 24, 2014

“Atavistic oncology” revisited: Dr. Frank Arguello responds

Three weeks ago, I wrote about a cancer treatment promoted by Dr. Frank Arguello that I deemed to be quackery, launching into one of my usual discussions based in science (and with a touch of snark) regarding why. Dr. Arguello, it appears, is not very happy about what I wrote. So he responded. He also sent e-mails complaining to my cancer center...

/ August 18, 2014

Antibiotics vs. the Microbiome

In 1850, one in four American babies died before their first birthday, and people of all ages died of bacterial infections that could have been successfully treated today with antibiotics. Unfortunately, treatments that have effects usually have side effects, and we are seeing problems due to the overuse of antibiotics. They are given to people with viral infections for which they are...

/ August 12, 2014

Depression Re-examined: A New Way to Look at an Old Puzzle

Depression affects approximately 10% of Americans. It can be fatal; I found estimates of suicide rates ranging from 2-15% of patients with major depression. When it doesn’t kill, it impairs functioning and can make life almost unbearably miserable. It is a frustrating condition because there is no lab test to diagnose it, no good explanation of its cause, and the treatments are...

/ February 25, 2014

Animal rights activism: Petitions aren’t science

Those who hold positions contrary to what science tells us frequently challenge defenders of science to a "debate," seemingly believing that all truth can be arrived at by staged debates. Such debates are almost alway biased toward the person defending pseudoscience and rarely fruitful. In a public forum, rhetoric frequently trumps science. If a scientist accepting such a challenge is not a...

/ February 3, 2014