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03 September 2008



I would love to be a student in your class, it seems to be very entertaining on many grounds! Finally, maybe "culture wars" is the best way to provide students with a good understanding of science(s)...

Moreover, I'd be very curious to hear about "A less facile explanation would require us to explain how common position within bodies and possible similarities in development, including perhaps similar genes being expressed to control development, of humans, chimpanzees, and birds lead to a hypothesis of homology", because I've been wondering for some time how I would teach anything related to this if I had to... (and further acknowledging the complication that shared genes involved into producing non-homological organs during development are also sometimes known to students).


Laurent--I try not to become immersed in culture wars in my classes, but those conflicts at times provide important insights on the distinctiveness of scientific reasoning and the particular value of scientific knowledge.

A less facile explanation of the need for homology arguments, the history of reasoning about homology, and the criteria we use to make hypotheses of homology was the stuff of my lecture.

As part of that, I do talk about the application of gene expression in formulating hypotheses of homology and introduce the problems associated with it. For example, I introduce the role of the agamous gene in carpel specification in Arabidopsis and the expectation that an orthologous gene would specify carpels in other flowering plants . . . and yet we find that the agamous orthologue in Antirrhinum does not specify carpel development; instead it is a paralogue of agamous that plays that role.

I think it is important to consider statements of homology to be hypotheses, to evaluate their strength based on supporting data, and to see their value in how they help us to understand diversity.


Hum... Someday I'll have to dive into developmental genes for flowers. I left my record somewhere during the end of the 90's, i.e. not that far from the beginning... At that time it was all about Arabidopsis, but I've seen there are many things investigating the evolution of these genes now.


Thanks for this - great article. I particularly like "Creationists think they have THE answer from the beginning, whereas a scientist has only a question in the beginning." - I may paraphrase that and put it on my website - it perfectly sums up the opposing stances of religion and science.

Thanks !


Tony Sidaway

Only one thing amazes me than the sheer awfulness of the Conservapedia article: the excellent use you have put it to as a teaching aid.

I wouldn't put it past Andy Schlafly, the owner of Conservapedia, to sue you for copyright infringement. That would be the icing on the cake.

You may not be aware of his recent spat with Richard Lenski, which has reached the point where Schlafly is writing to PNAS alleging, amongst other things, that Lenski is contravening NSF policy. PNAS did not publish the letter.


Martin Brazeau

Oh balls! That Conservapaedia statement is completely false! Homology is a pre-Darwinian concept.

On a different note, here's a question I've been asking colleagues: why is gene expression so significant in the determination of homology?


"Why would anyone make such an enormous assumption about homology and evolution based on a ‘claim’?"

You must be new to Conservapedia. :^}

Midnight Rambler

This probably isn't a result of it, but one of the amusing things about Conservapedia is that some of its editors are nuts who genuinely believe this stuff, but a significant portion are trolls who post silly things to make the Schlaflyites look stupid.

The best part is that no one, including the true believers, can tell the difference (c.f. Poe's Law). This leads to endless fights in some of the talk pages and frequent bans of users.


I love Conservapedia. It's vapid, reality-free outlook gave rise to one of my favourite moments on one of the scienceblogs.

Was it "The Questionable Authority"--let me see ...

Ah, yes.

Comment #5:I'm having tremendous fun. I edited the article on Atheism to point out that it leads to pedophilia and bestiality. I checked back an hour later expecting my edit to be gone, but no: they didn't remove it, they added citations.

Posted by: Steevl


Ah, my links got stripped out:



I really enjoyed the article and I agree with "Metro": Conservapedia is real fun! You get to see how stupid ignorant people are desperately trying to formulate something they think is an argument, but in reality it is not even close...

You can learn a lot from Conservapedia: how NOT to debate, how NOT to construct arguments etc...


A friend of mine is quite conservative politically. He got banned from Conservapedia because he isn't a Young Earth Creationist. It's an all or nothing deal with the owner of Conservapedia, Andy Schafly.

D. P. W

I still am not seeing what your huge point is. You don't think God could create the creatures he created to evolve. It says in the Bible that he created the animals in days. But, it also says in the Bible that a thousand years is a blink of an eye to Him. Therefore, a day in the beginning of Genesis could be hundreds of millions of years. Also, when it comes to bones being similar in bats, horses, humans, etc., couldn't he intend them have the same bones. Also, I notice you are very cruel to Creationists, calling them ignorant, stupid, etc. I think that many of you are being ignorant and prejudice. You probably don't realize that God's creation and Homology CAN exist at the same time. You probably just didn't study the Bible, so you wouldn't know. Also, I can just about predict that many of you will be so upset by these comments that you will immediately rush to the conclusion that I am just a stupid creationist, but I have been Valedictorian many times and am ALWAYS the top of the class. I also happen to be a philosopher, so don't be cruel. I just want you to think.

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