I completely agree with Henry Gee’s review (below). I have a lot of respect for Brian Cox, but he is an astrophysicist not an evolutionary biologist and unfortunately this handsomely-produced documentary is worse than an empty vessel, it is a cracked one. “Exceptionalism” is scientifically nonsense, though valid in a more philosophical context. Claiming a species or phenomenon is “exceptional” begs the question of “why”. It is also unfalsifiable as it is reasonable to assume that other species like ours exist in the universe, but currently impossible to prove.
This is a very interesting article, but the core question is completely wrong-headed. There is no “why”. We just do. Evolution is as much about errors in the replication of DNA as anything else; some errors convey serendipitous advantages, others disadvantages. Some make no appreciable difference. Blood types fall into the latter category, having simply arisen as variations which had no impact on successful breeding or survival. Until the advent of blood transfusion techniques, blood type would seem to have had little if any consequence for an organism whatsoever.
In my blogging, I have often written on subjects or re-blogged articles concerned with religion. In GibberLog, I might be interested in how religion interacts with politics and policy on such matters as education. In BlatherLog, the concern will be the role of religion in history, or its engagement with the sphere of science (often again touching on how science is taught in schools). It is pretty common for me to play Devil’s Advocate when I blog, and it isn’t always clear whether I have a consistent position on anything at all. Partly this is deliberate, but partly it also reflects the fact that I am not an ideologue, and my genuinely held views are often inconsistent or hail from different parts of the philosophical spectrum. I think most people are like that, really. It is only academics and politicians who have to pick an ideology and stick to it come hell or high water (and often not even politicians!). Continue reading
Evolutionary biologists say crossbreeding between species is far more common than previously thought, making a nonsense of the idea of discrete evolutionary branches. The image of the “tree of life” demonstrating discrete evolutionary paths for separate species is an oversimplification.
Very interesting. But I must berate both The Guardian and the scientists involved for claiming that “Darwin was wrong” as a result. He is a figure of the 19th Century, for heaven’s sake, and the “tree of life” is as much metaphor as anything else. He isn’t wrong, his ideas have simply been developed on the back of more than a century of research – they have “evolved”, if you like. Stupid headlines like this simply hand ammo to Creationists and religious fundamentalists.