Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I couldn't resist picking up the latest copy of New Scientist, a magazine that can be irritatingly dogmatic about scientific matters. But any edition of this particular magazine that has a cover saying, Darwin was wrong needs to be checked out at the very least.
The article in question is actually entitled: Uprooting Darwin's Tree - the tree of life, that is, which, according to author Graham Lawton is no longer one of the iconic concepts of evolution but a figment of our imagination. I wait in hope for the day New Scientist proclaims evolution a figment of our imagination as well, but I may be waiting a while yet.
Let me quote the last couple of paragraphs of this article, which is fairly densely written in terms of DNA and RNA and genes and so on:
[Michael] Rose goes even further. "The tree of life is being politely buried, we all know that," he says. "What's less accepted is that our whole fundamental view of biology needs to change." Biology is vastly more complex than we thought, he says, and facing up to this complexity will be as scary as the conceptual upheavals physicists had to take on board in the early 20th century.
If he is right, the tree concept could become biology's equivalent of Newtonian mechanics: revolutionary and hugely successful in its time, but ultimately too simplistic to deal with the messy real world. "The tree of life was useful," says [Eric] Bapteste. "It helped us to understand that evolution was real. But now we know more about evolution, it's time to move on."

While checking out the address of New Scientist on the Web I discovered that they pretty much put everything in their magazines online - so I could have saved myself the NZ$8 that I just spent to buy the magazine - after all, I only wanted to see what they had to say about Darwin. But the magazine does have a number of other interesting articles and being able to read these online is a bonus.
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