How positive is science about human evolution?

Sort of related to this, just read a review of Mukherjee’s book, “The Gene: An Intimate History” and will be putting it on my short list to read. Review is here:

That book is not endorsed by scientists. Many of us think he gets major things wrong. Please do not consider it authoritative or accurate.

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Thanks for the input. What do you think of his first book about cancer?

I read through the comments on the review, they give a pretty good overview of the critics view, but still appears to be a good book for the lay audience who do not really grasp or care about the arguments about the finer points.

So regarding The Gene, this is a very good and accurate review:

Given how horribly wrong he gets thing in this book, I am doubtful about his book on cancer. I cannot comment specifically on it though.

One thing that strikes me about this is how poor public treatments of biology often are. Biology is a challenging subject, but the public people claiming to explain often so severely dumb it down that it ends up just being wrong. I’m not sure the best way deal with this.

We could never know. Evolution is fluid, in that, even if they discover something that refutes evolutionary models. They just include, rewrite, no recant and create a new evolutionary model :slight_smile:

We could never know. Evolution is fluid, meaning even if they discover something that refutes evolutionary models. They just include, rewrite, no recant and create a new evolutionary model :slight_smile:

Pretty much. That is what science does, attempts to integrate new information to provide a better understanding of what is happening without clinging to erroneous ideas. Contrast that with some YEC adherents, who instead do the opposite: they ignore, distort, and misrepresent information that does not fit their narrow interpretation.
You hit the nail on the head, and I suspect most here agree with you.

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“better understanding”? My friend, the “science” you are referring to is nothing but assumption and conjecture based on nothing but biased presupposition that quickly eliminates the supernatural in order to promote the natural, but in reality is even more supernatural in it’s origin :slight_smile:

A pretty good description of YEC “science” I agree. I would have more respect for Ken Ham were he to say the flood was a combination of miracles, than I do for his attempt to explain it in a materialistic and pseudo-scientific way.


The multiple cases of Ring Species … where the terminal ends of a unified population are essentially incompatible with each other … is the PERFECT PROOF from Science that Evolution is real:

  1. continuity between the sub-groups proves they are all part of a “common ancestry”.

  2. the incompatibility of the terminal ends proves two groups from a common ancestry CAN become two different species.

Frankly, it’s CASE CLOSED.

I read the Emperor of All Maladies, and as far as I could tell, it was a good account. It has more to do with the history of approaches to cancer therapy (and the politics) than the research oriented ideas about how cancer originates and new targeted approaches that prevail today. I’m not an oncologist - my closest approach was two years in med school during the '70s, and I spent the last 10 years of my career working on a human tumor suppressor, which gave me impetus to read the cancer research literature.

I think the clinical practice of oncology in the past was pretty far removed from the research world of today. He did a pretty good job on the history of the former (it’s shocking now how primitive were the early ideas in chemotherapy.) It’s certainly not a book about how to be an oncologist today or to understand current ideas about cancer.

I read “Emperor of all Maladies” also and found it fascinating. Mukherjee is a cancer physician and researcher, and is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a staff cancer physician at the CU/NYU Presbytarian Hospital. So as far as cancer goes he really knows his stuff. PBS did a multi-part series on this book and it was very well done.

I don’t want to read his book on genes.

He appears to be an excellent writer with both scientific and medical training. That is great.

The science and history in “gene,” however, is very problematic. The repeats several major misconceptions and is nearly revisionism in history. In particular, he has had to publicly retract his claims about epigenetics (one of the big fad words of the last 5 years). ← @aleo

Yes, these are Moran and Coyne links, but their scientific critiques are 100% correct in this case.

Courtesy of The New Yorker screws up big time with science: researchers criticize the Mukherjee piece on epigenetics – Why Evolution Is True

Here are some of the critiques of his New Yorker article…

Wally Gilbert, Nobel Laureate, biochemist and molecular biologist, Harvard University (retired).

The New Yorker article is so wildly wrong that it defies rational analysis. Too much of the “epigenetic” discussion is wishful thinking seeking Lamarckian effects, and ignoring the role of sequence specific regulatory proteins and genes. (as well as sequence specific RNA molecules).

Sidney Altman, Sterling Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and Chemistry at Yale University, Nobel Laureate:

I am not aware that there is such a thing as an epigenetic code. It is unfortunate to inflict this article, without proper scientific review, on the audience of The New Yorker.

Tom Maniatis, Isidore Edelman Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York:

Remarkable that his article made it through the New Yorker editorial review, and was apparently not vetted by unbiased scientific experts. A real setback for the accurate communication of science to the readership of the New Yorker.

Richard Mann, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University Medical School:

It is really sad and embarrassing that something as awful as this appeared in such a respected magazine, and by a (formerly) respected author. Ugh

John Greally, Professor, Depts. of Medicine, Genetics, and Pediatrics; Director, Center for Epigenomics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine:

It really is a horribly damaging piece.

Oliver Hobert, Professor of Biological Sciences, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institure, Columbia University:

A truly painful read. But funny to see the Yamanaka experiment described as proof for something that it disproves. Sad that the author lets himself be fooled by people who really should know better and that he propagates what is an intellectually dishonest perspective of the problem of gene regulation.

Of course. That’s why I said I didn’t want to read it. He should stick to what he’s good at.