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Back in June, I could not make it to Idea City in Canada,
meeting that chose "ideas having sex as its slogan". But I
recorded a talk by Skype and here it is.
I have a piece in today's Times newspaper on extinction of
species. Here it is, with added links:
The suitably named Dr Boris Worm, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, led
the team that this week estimated the number of species on the planet
at 8.7 million, plus or minus 1.3 million. That sounds about right.
We human beings have described almost all the mammals, birds,
butterflies and other conspicuous creatures, but new beetles,
wasps, moths, flies and worms abound in every acre of tropical
Some patterns are clear. Most species are on land; marine life,
though just as abundant, is slightly less diverse. Most are in the
humid tropics; the rest of the globe is an ecological footnote to
the rainforest. Most are animals - though plants, fungi and
microbes vastly outweigh us beasts, they tend to come in fewer
kinds, perhaps because plants hybridise and bacteria swap genes,
blurring the boundaries of species. Most are insects: spiders/mites
and molluscs take silver and bronze, but if Planet Earth had a
mascot, it would be a ground beetle.
Latest Mind and Matter column from the Wall Street Journal:
Evolutionists long ago abandoned the idea that natural selection
can promote only selfish behavior. In the right circumstances,
animals-including human beings-evolve the instinct to be nice (or
acquire habits of niceness through cultural evolution). This
happens within families but also within groups, where social
solidarity promotes the success of the group at the expense of
My latest Mind and Matter column in the Wall
Hardly any subject in science has been so politically fraught as
the heritability of intelligence. For more than a century, since
Francis Galton first started speculating about the similarities of
twins, nature-nurture was a war with a stalemated front and
intelligence was its Verdun-the most hotly contested and costly
What limits the size of a peacock's tail, the weight of a deer's
antlers or the virtuosity of a songbird's song? Driven inexorably
by the competition to attract mates, these features of animals
ought to get ever more elaborate. There was even once a theory-now
discredited-that the famously gigantic antlers of the Irish elk
became so unwieldy that they caused its extinction. Yet sexual
ornaments do not get ever bigger.
Here is a piece I just published in the Spectator.
Johnny Berliner made this charming little calypso account of genes
and what they are made of. It's concise and precise as well as
nice. (Calypso rhyming is catching)
h/t Mark Stevenson.
Mind and Matter column for the Wall Street Journal: