Sunday, 25 August 2013

Jerry Coyne embarrasses himself over the issue of cultural evolution

Jerry Coyne offers a spirited defense of the modern synthesis in his recent article:

Famous physiologist embarrasses himself by claiming that the modern theory of evolution is in tatters

Unfortunately, Jerry embarrasses himself over the issue of cultural evolution, writing:

Geneticists now know the genetic basis of dozens of adaptive traits that differ between populations and species. All of them reside in the DNA. If non-genetic adaptive change was common, we would have found it.

Jerry, we did find it. It's culturally transmitted. Memes let humans inhabit Greenland, live underwater and in space. They let Mormons and Amish have five kids each and led to the modern population explosion. Non-DNA-based adaptive change is very common in human beings - and it is quite common in various other animals that exhibit cultural transmission - from chimpanzees to fruit flies. Jerry appears to be simply unaware of this important discovery - describing it instead as among:

superficial and meaningless parallels with natural selection’s winnowing of genetic variation
The modern synthesis is toast. It is Jerry's attempted defense of it which is an embarrassment. His position is straightforwardly factually mistaken.

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