BILL #5: “What Darwin Did and Didn’t Know” by Hopi Hoekstra

| 13 Comments

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The fifth BILL is a lively and entertaining look into modern research in evolutionary biology, presented by Hopi Hoekstra of Harvard University. Professor Hoekstra’s lab explores evolutionary mechanisms at multiple levels, moving seamlessly between the field (more precisely, the beach) and the lab.

BILL the fifth is “What Darwin Did and Didn’t Know: the Ultimate and Proximate Causes of Evolutionary Change”, a lecture by Hopi Hoekstra presented at the Darwin/Chicago 2009 conference. It’s a .mov file, which you watch streaming or download.

Hoekstra’s lecture is a superb and approachable introduction to the key questions in evolutionary genetics, and contains some fascinating surprises. Her lab website is a treat, too, with great images and access to numerous publications, including review articles.

As usual, tips and comments are below the fold. Recommendations for future BILLs should be sent to the BILL czar (BILL at pandasthumb dot org) or can be left in the comments.

  • A striking opening anecdote about Darwin’s last publication, gene flow, and the double helix. I did not know that.
  • “In this DNA text, you find support for almost everything that Darwin posited.”
  • Introducing “the hunt for genes that matter.”
  • Exploring the genetic basis of phenotypic diversity. She contrasts her approach with that of evo-devo, noting that it is “complementary.”
  • “It ain’t genetics if you don’t do a cross.”
  • Introducing a two-part view of adaptation.
  • Transition to an overview of her lab’s work, in the field and the lab, on coloration.
  • Mice “shown here in their slightly flattened form.”
  • Francis Sumner’s work in/around the 1920’s on coat color variation in mice; he thought it was Lamarckian then changed his mind. Huzzah!
  • Multiple subspecies of beach mice, some made of modeling clay.
  • Nice overview of gene mapping and QTL.
  • Experimental analysis of influence of mutations on coat color and pigment.
  • Discussion of changes in gene expression during development. Wait, isn’t she one of those mean critics of evo-devo?
  • Back to natural populations, comparing Atlantic to Pacific subspecies. No spoilers.
  • Woolly mammoths! In different colors!
  • Closing discussion of the big questions in evolutionary genetics.

13 Comments

This is a very nice talk; and it is accessible to high school students in AP Biology.

Just by coincidence, there is a clueless “news item” over on Unimaginably Dense.

I guess they have never heard of predation or natural selection over there.

Duh, slight correction. There are always clueless “news items” over at UD.

I meant a clueless news item related to this talk.

The first comment over there is worth a look.

Steve Matheson said:

The first comment over there is worth a look.

Hee hee; now that’s funny!

Steve Matheson said:

The first comment over there is worth a look.

doesn’t work, huh?

All I can do is quote someone far wiser than I, “And yet, it moves.”

Mike Elzinga said:

Just by coincidence, there is a clueless “news item” over on Unimaginably Dense.

I guess they have never heard of predation or natural selection over there.

You will have to explain this to me. I agree with the clueless news item: epigenetics is way overhyped and probably, because epigenetic changes are not stable, has little importance for evolution. What does that have to do with predation or natural selection?

John Harshman said:

Mike Elzinga said:

Just by coincidence, there is a clueless “news item” over on Unimaginably Dense.

I guess they have never heard of predation or natural selection over there.

You will have to explain this to me. I agree with the clueless news item: epigenetics is way overhyped and probably, because epigenetic changes are not stable, has little importance for evolution. What does that have to do with predation or natural selection?

Oh; I was just thinking back to Darwin, who didn’t know about the causes of variation. Nevertheless, he recognized that variation, whatever its cause, along with natural selection produced evolution; predation being one of the mechanisms of selection.

And even if the causes for change are unstable, if selection is swift and harsh as appears to be the case with these mice, evolution can still occur. Evolution doesn’t have to proceed in any particular direction as long as it succeeds.

The video stopped for me at the 8 minute mark for some reason.

Anyways she keep saying evolution this and that but i saw no evidence for conclusions. Just new information was added into the already accepted presumptions. In fact her saying genetics was found to be bigger in its ability to change things in the mice is saying nothing. Mapping genes proves nothing. All that is being said is that PRESUMING the evolutionary origin of mice colours THEN there is more data that more genes are at work.

Robert Byers said:

The video stopped for me at the 8 minute mark for some reason.

Anyways she keep saying evolution this and that but i saw no evidence for conclusions. Just new information was added into the already accepted presumptions. In fact her saying genetics was found to be bigger in its ability to change things in the mice is saying nothing. Mapping genes proves nothing. All that is being said is that PRESUMING the evolutionary origin of mice colours THEN there is more data that more genes are at work.

I saw the whole thing. It’s just another evolutionary sermon that it all came about by random chance without any proof.

Mike Elzinga said:

Just by coincidence, there is a clueless “news item” over on Unimaginably Dense.

I guess they have never heard of predation or natural selection over there.

Well, we have heard of information in DNA which in unexplainable without reference to intelligence. Lamarck proposed evolution occurred without any information; epigenetics is just neo-Lamarkianism. They try to dodge the information problem which Dembski used to prove Darwinism is a lie. Now we wee on the evolutionist site science daily that the quest for information-free evolution is another dead end!

The Jumbuck said:

Now we wee on the evolutionist site …

And poo occasionally, too.

The adults are really tired of cleaning up your childish messes.

The Jumbuck said:

Mike Elzinga said:

Just by coincidence, there is a clueless “news item” over on Unimaginably Dense.

I guess they have never heard of predation or natural selection over there.

Well, we have heard of information in DNA which in unexplainable without reference to intelligence.

Actually, ‘information’ in DNA is quite explainable without reference to intelligence - it is a result of the filtering action of selection. Variants arise, but some are better at enabling the critter they reside in to live long enough to reproduce than others.

The more effective variants tend to become more common in a population, while deleterious sequences tend to go extinct. Thus, a genome gains ‘information’ by accumulating variants that work well. The end result after hundreds or thousands of generations - sequences with much ‘information’ about how to survive in the environment the critter lived in.

Lamarck proposed evolution occurred without any information; epigenetics is just neo-Lamarkianism.

Not really. Epigenetics is just another layer of genetic regulation.

They try to dodge the information problem which Dembski used to prove Darwinism is a lie.

The ‘information problem’ exists only in Dembski’s fetid imagination, given the fact that his whinings and bellowings have been shown false or vacuous years ago.

Now we wee on the evolutionist site science daily that the quest for information-free evolution is another dead end!

Rather ‘interesting’ ‘interpretation’ there …

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steve Matheson published on September 21, 2011 8:04 AM.

Phyloseminar: “Accurate reconstruction of insertion-deletion histories by statistical phylogenetics” was the previous entry in this blog.

Non sequitur takes on the “controversy” is the next entry in this blog.

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