Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Survey of CoE readers - results

34 people took the survey of CoE readers (31 completed it). Here are the results:

1. For how long have you known about Carnival of Evolution?
Since the beginning (August, 2008): 38.2%
Since sometime in 2009: 32.3%
Since sometime in 2010: 35.5%

2. How often do you read Carnival of Evolution?
Every month/edition: 44.1%
About every other edition: 32.4%
Less than every third edition: 8.8%
This is my first time: 14.7%

3. On average how many posts featured in the Carnival do you click through to read on the authoring blog?
0: 2.9%
1: 5.9%
2: 17.6%
3: 32.4%
4: 11.8%
5: 17.6%
6: 5.9%
More than 6: 0.0%
All: 5.9%

4. How often do you contribute blog-posts to Carnival of Evolution?
Never (I don't blog): 32.4%
Never (I don't write about evolution): 2.9%
Never (other reason): 11.8%
Every month: 11.8%
Other: 11.8% (most answers were every other or every third edition)

5. Is evolutionary biology your main interest in science?
Yes: 50.0%
No: 50.0%

6. What is your highest level of education?
High school degree: 5.9%
College degree: 14.7%
Master's degree: 35.3%
PhD degree: 32.4%
Something else: 11.8% (all four getting degrees)

7. Do you work in science?
Yes: 61.8%
No: 38.2%

8. Do you believe in evolution?
Yes: 91.2%
No: 5.9%
Unsure: 2.9%

Why/why not?
1. Evidence
2. "believe in" ?? that's mighty weird wording!
3. Biology is kinda pointless without it...
4. But you should rephrase "Do you accept evolution?"
5. However, Evolution is NOT a matter of belief. It is a matter of fact. Poor phrasing of the question on your part.
6. Evolution is a fact.
7. "Believe in" is a dymb way to put it. I accept evolution.
8. Because of all the mountains of evidence!
10. Really - I ACCEPT evolution. One should not use 'believe' in this context!
11. Best explains mountains of evidence.

★ ★ ★

Thanks to all who took the survey. Also to those whose pet peeve is that one should not say 'believe in evolution'. To those of you: You need to look up what 'believe' means. It does not only refer to a faith-like belief, but can be a belief grounded in evidence, such as "I believe that E. coli have evolved an ability to metabolize citrate" or "I believe whales evolved from land animals". To believe irrespective of evidence - on faith - is only one meaning. Don't let the 'believers' distort the meaning of the word 'believe', please.

Merriam-Webster | Cambridge | Urban | Encarta | Newbury House

Friday, October 1, 2010

Carnival of Evolution #28 - Featuring Sandwalk

to the 28th edition of Carnival of Evolution! This time the carnival has returned home. Not since the first edition back in August 2008 has an edition been posted here. That is cause for celebration, so let's do that with a little survey. I am curious who reads Carnival of Evolution, so please spend the next two minutes tops taking this brief survey about yourself and CoE. Results will then be posted here for the bemusement of all.

And now we'll try something new. As previously mentioned, I thought it might be glorious to feature a single blog that features outstanding posts about evolution. Today, that blog is Sandwalk, by Larry Moran.

Larry got his PhD from Princeton University in 1974, and is now a professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Toronto. He is co-author of two textbooks in biochemistry. His research interest are molecular evolution and evolutionary theory, which he studies using heat shock genes in various organisms. And he blogs a lot about evolution.

For example, he has blogged about our relationship with Charlemagne: Our Ancestor Charlemagne: Taller than Average?, Are You a Descendant of Charlemagne?, and My Family and Other Emperors.

Other recent posts about evolution are Mutations and Complex Adaptations, about Michael Lynch's research on molecular evolution, and On the Origin of the Double Membrane in Mitochondria and Chloroplasts. Larry also has a profile on Research Blogging, which is a collection of posts on peer-reviewed articles.

Sandwalk has also featured a series of posts by Arlin Stoltzfus. The series of six posts is an "introduction to the history of evolutionary theory and the concept of mutationism. There are many ways in which the so-called "Modern" Synthesis has to be revised and extended. One of them is to reinstate the concept of mutationism which was purged from evolutionary theory in the 1940s. If you want to understand why this is important then these articles are the place to start," in Larry's words. You can start with the last post in the series on the Mutationism Myth.

Larry also blogs extensively about creationism: Stephen Meyer Explains Modern Evolution, Four Nails Exposed, The Parting of the Red Sea: Science vs. God, and On Describing IDiots as Creationists, to mention just a few.

But Larry is not alone. There are lots of blogs about evolution, and the very aim of this carnival is of course to highlight those for the benefit of all. And in this edition posts from a total of 19 blogs are included. Enjoy!

Byte Size Biology Iddo Friedberg thinks we should credit viruses a lot more when it comes to evolution. In Life serves viruses, we learn that viruses are imbedded in the genomes of most/all other genomes in all three domains of life. The post is about a recent paper in PLoS Biology, Genomic Fossils Calibrate the Long-Term Evolution of Hepadnaviruses.

Punctuated Equilibrium GrrlScientist blogs about the same story in Fossil virus leaves evolutionary footprints in songbird DNA, suggests new ways to predict pandemics, and elaborates the point that the viruses were found to be much older than previously thought, pushing back their origin from 6000 years ago to 19 million years ago (which must be particularly disappointing for the Young Earth Creationists).

360 Degree Skeptic Andrew Bernardin discusses male mating strategies, slimeballs vs. good guys. The Logic of Objectifying Females.

Beasts in a Populous City Olivia V. Ambrogio fails to convince a creationist in the zoo that evolution is true. Beasts in a Populous City: Creationism at the Zoo (or, How I Missed Seeing the Gorilla Outdoor Pavilion).

Kind of Curious John reviews a book, The Invention of Air, and discusses how oxygen influenced life on Earth, in The Evolution of Air.

Tripbase Every month CoE gets spammed with submissions from blogs that exist to promote some business, and they are almost always lists with 50 this or 15 that that has nothing at all to do with evolution. They are never included here, but for once I will make an exception, because Katie Sorene's post on 10 Evolution Exhibits that will Blow Your Mind is actually very good. Nine of these natural history museums are places that I really want to visit. The last, not so much. Take a look to see what I am talking about.

PLoS Blogs Network Eric Michael Johnson discusses a paper on confirmation bias in psychological tests with human subjects, in Reflections on the WEIRD Evolution of Human Psychology. This has ramifications from the discipline that is always under attack from practitioners of evolutionary biology: evolutionary psychology. Here, however, EP is shown to also have problems that have nothing to do with biology. In summary, American undergraduate students so commonly used as test-subjects, are highly unrepresentative of the human species.

The Atavism David Winter discusses a paper on mating behavior in a marine snail, Sunday Spinelessness - Throwing pesky males off the scent. As with many other species where males produce many more sperm than females produce eggs, it is an advantage for the males to mate with as many females as possible. The females, however, don't gain anything from copulating with more than a handful, typically, and in these marine snails, the mating behavior of the males is quite aggressive, and are therefore dangerous to the females. The females counter by smelling like males, making males accidentally copulate with other males.

Kele's Science Blog Kele Cable has two posts on how to think about Evolutionary Theory as a Theory of Forces and Drift as Biology's First Law.

NeuroDojo Zen Faulkes tells us that in wolf spiders, eating large meals is heritable: NeuroDojo: Eat ‘til you can’t eat no more: Evolution of the pig-out. Such gluttonous spiders do better than normal spiders in the wild with no predator birds, but worse than the wild spiders when predators are around.

The Online Laboratory of Kevin Zelnio Kevin Z discusses some papers on Evolution and Costs of Firefly Lights. Novel gains of light production appear more rare than losses, not to anyone's surprise, I would think.

Teenage Atheist Raithie explains how stupid evolution is once in a while. In Unintelligent Design: Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve, we learn why mammals are so badly designed, and how that is in fact evidence of evolution.

Down the Cellar Graves writes about a paper on Elephant fish diversification via rapidly evolving electrical signals. In elephantfish it appears that rapid speciation is driven first and foremost by rapid signal evolution, and also that the signaling trait is under sexual selection only, rather than natural selection.

Pleiotropy Bjørn Østman wonders how a crackpot got a manuscript published in a supposedly serious peer-reviewed journal, with drawings of developmental processes, claiming that they have something to do with evolution: Pivar's pure fantasy published. And in memory of the life of an evolutionary biologist who died recently, George Williams on pleiotropy, on the importance of pleiotropy (i.e., when a gene affects more than one trait) in evolution.

Why Evolution Is True Jerry Coyne explains his own recent paper in Science, A test of the snowball theory for the rate of evolution of hybrid incompatibilities, about a test of the "snowball theory" using Drosophila: Our new Science paper.

Denim and Tweed Jeremy Yoder presents his take on a recent Nature article by Martin Nowak, Corina Tarnita, and E.O. Wilson that has made quite a splash among evolutionary biologists: The evolution of eusociality. Their idea is that eusociality does not need kin selection to evolve, and that kin selection and inclusive fitness anyway don't explain many cases of eusociliaty. Contrary to what a good number of people have claimed, the paper does too present an alternative model. In New cooperation theory has major Mommy issues, Jeremy argues that if Nowak et alia are right, then eusociality isn't a good explanation for coorporation, since eusociality would be more like enslavement. (If one wants to be up to date on the latest of evolutionary theory, this paper is a definite must-read.) Prominent biologists are adamant that the three authors are on the wrong track, e.g. Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins (Dawkins has been hostile towards group selection for decades).

It Takes 30 Another biologist who attacked the paper by Nowak et al. is Stuart West. Just a week prior to the Nowak paper, West is co-author on another Nature paper, Promiscuity and the evolutionary transition to complex societies, that uses phylogenetic analysis of birds to show that kin selection and low promiscuity explains cooperative behavior. And in To help or not to help?, Becky Ward explains the paper. She also has a post about a paper on the evolution of cooperation in microbes, Trade balances in microbial communities.

Lab Rat SE Gould's sister writes about Guest Post - Survival of the fittest? and takes issue with the phrase 'survival of the fittest' - coined by Herbert Spencer, but used by Darwin in the fifth edition of The Origin from 1869 [wiki]. The paper explores the reason why some members in a microbial population confer antibiotic resistance to members who do not. Altruism, or just a side-effect of metabolism?

We've reached our only friend, then end. Next edition is scheduled to be hosted by Iddo Friedberg, assistant professor at the Microbiology and Computer Science departments at Miami University, Ohio, on Byte Size Biology. Submit your posts about evolution using this form, and don't forget to take the survey for CoE readers, if you haven't already.