Showing posts from November, 2006

Speeded up evolution can be predicted

Pressured by predators, lizards see rapid shift in natural selection

November 17, 2006 - CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -

Countering the widespread view of evolution as a process played out over the course of eons, evolutionary biologists have shown that natural selection can turn on a dime - within months- as a population's needs change. In a study of island lizards exposed to a new predator, the scientists found that natural selection dramatically changed direction over a very short time, within a single generation, favoring first longer and then shorter hind legs. The findings, by Jonathan B. Losos of Harvard University and colleagues, are detailed this week in the journal Science.Losos did much of the work before joining Harvard earlier this year from WashingtonUniversity in St. Louis.

"Because of its epochal scope, evolutionary biology is often caricatured as incompatible with controlled experimentation," says Losos, professor of organismic and evolutionary biology in Harvard's …

"My genes made me do it"

Psychiatric News November 3, 2006Volume 41, Number 21, page 12© 2006 American Psychiatric Association

Jury Still Out on Impact Of Genes on Trial Verdicts

Mark Moran

Americans should not be surprised to hear that claim made by criminal defendants as the genetics of behavior, especially antisocial behavior, are explored by science and popularized.

Paul Appelbaum, M.D., chair of APA's Council on Psychiatry and Law, told psychiatrists at APA's 58th Institute on Psychiatric Services last month that the findings of behavioral genetics—even such preliminary findings as have been made to date— are making their way into the American legal system.

He predicted, however, that genetic arguments are not likely to be successful in freeing defendants from guilt for their crimes, but may more likely be advanced in criminal cases as mitigating factors that should be taken into account in sentencing. Yet even there it remains to be seen how a genetic propensity will be viewed by juries and judges; …

Are you out of shape?


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Researchers may get some indication of how aggressively an angry person will react by measuring the size relationship between a person’s ears and other body parts, according to a new study.

Research showed that the farther certain paired body parts were from symmetry – if one ear, index finger or foot was bigger than another, for example – the more likely it is was that a person would show signs of aggression when provoked. The symmetry effects were different in men and women, however.

While the findings may seem strange, there is a plausible explanation, said Zeynep Benderlioglu, co-author of the study and a post-doctoral researcher at Ohio State University.

Deviations from symmetry are thought to reflect stressors during pregnancy – such as poor health, alcohol and tobacco use – that may affect development of the fetus in a variety of ways.

"Paired body parts are presumably controlled by s…

Guns, Genes, and Steel

Whistling Past the Graveyard
by John Derbyshire (Nov. 2006)
Reviewing Mark Steyn's new book, America Alone
. . . .

Ah, culture. Of course it’s not about race! Nothing is about race, because there is no such thing as race. (Repeat 100 times.) It’s about culture—the aether, the phlogiston, of current social-anthropological speculation, whose actual nature is mysterious, but whose explanatory power is infinite. You know, culture: those habits, folkways, beliefs, ways of thinking and behaving and connecting that arise from... pure chance! Or geography (see below). Or something... but definitely nothing to do with biology.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am sure Mark Steyn is sincere here. I am sure he believes this stuff about “culture.” Most educated people do. Most will continue to do so for a few more years, while the neuroscientists, geneticists, genomicists, anthropologists, paleontologists, and statistical sociologists sap away beneath them—until the ground gives way. (A professional ac…