Field of Science

Awesome talks on cellular evolution

While I'm busy and neglecting my blogging duties, have a look at these talks that someone sent me the night before a midterm (please don't do that! T_T): Evolutionary Perspectives on Mechanisms of Cellular Organisation
They are pretty awesome, although I have yet to look through all of them. But I did notice Lynch and just had to watch his talk on cell evolution:
Michael Lynch 2010 "What Would it Take to Make an Evolutionary Cell Biology?"
That talk makes me OMG SO VERY EXCITED!!!

Not only does Lynch practise a healthy dose of neutralism (the 'right' kind of evol biology, in my completely unbiased opinion...), he also seems to be very supportive of cellular evolutionary biology! =D His genome evolution stuff is pretty awesome, and I definitely recommend his 2007 PNAS The fraility of adaptive hypotheses for the origins of organismal complexity as a wonderful intro to proper evolutionary modeling -- that is, one involving drift and constructive neutral phenomena rather than dismissing them for the simplistic storytelling exercise that is adaptationism...

PS: Neutralism vs. Selectionism is a false dichotomy, btw -- selection and drift work in tandem, sometimes one stronger than the other in certain circumstances, but usually not for long. That's obviously more complicated than pure selectionism or pure neutralism (ie. people who deny selection, somehow...), which is why many people prefer to ignore one or the other. Usually drift. It's among the more poorly-taught concepts in intro biol classes, which is kind of scary. I'm an completely sick of people (esp. authors!!!) who apparently insist on subscribing to this false dichotomy, arguing over whether one entity or another is a product of selection or drift. How about BOTH? Grrrrr...

Been reading too much non-biological evolution literature. If it seemed like many biologists don't get evolution, it's about as bad or even worse in evolutionary phsychology, linguistics, etc. Of course, some non-biologists do get it. But not too many...

PPS: Google ad after I published this: "Darwinism is Not Science (And Neither is Intelligent Design) Discover a New Theory of Evolution" *facepalm*


  1. "Neutralism vs. Selectionism is a false dichotomy, btw"

    Quite right. I posted similar in response to Larry Moran's 1000th post on the topic. But even casting it that way is being 'stuck in an adaptationist mindset', apparently - seeing everything as a variation on adaptation, with neutrality being the bit that doesn't have any.

    I think, on either side, it is often a strawman argument. No-one is the polar opposite of whatever position you yourself happen to hold.

    Moran's with you on neutrality being the 'superior' default position, of course. Me, I like a bit of adaptationist storytelling.

  2. Cellular evolution - does that mean what I think it means? As in finally a bit of a break from the geneticists trying to steal the scene and an acceptance that lipids, proteins, and intracellular componants can all be selected for and play a part in adaptation? Awesome if so. :D

    I have so many of your protists to catch up on! I'm in my last week of project atm, so insanely busy trying to actually get some results...

  3. Yes, apparently, organisms aren't just DNA sequences on a computer screen! *shock*

    Slowly re-discovering that little detail. I wonder if one could carve out an awesome academic career simply reviving stuff from the 60's and 70's, the long gone days of actual biology...oh, did I say that outloud? Shit.

    Disclaimer: I love genomics and molecular biology and believe it has a LOT to offer for other fields. It's just that we humans are a little to obsessive at times, and neglect stuff...

    I've been too busy to blog lately, so not too many protists to catch up on. Hopefully not too disappointing... >_>

  4. Awesome talk!
    Great that he paid attention to the important issue that homology does not necessarily imply orthology (nice example of introns in plants and animals), since I have the feeling many molecular biologists seem to skip over this.

    Also made me realize that there's a lot of work to do in bridging disciplines. And I think there's a lot of knowledge out there waiting to be revived and framed into current-day perspective. Basically, that's good news for us right ;)?

  5. Cellular evolution - does that mean what I think it means? As in finally a bit of a break from the geneticists trying to steal the scene ...

    Yes, apparently, organisms aren't just DNA sequences on a computer screen! *shock*

    OTOH, "Nothing in Evolution makes sense except in light of Population Genetics" (Lynch, 2007). (To which I might add: "nothing in Population Genetics makes sense ..." ;0). )

    Joking - but I would like to see a bit more meat on this issue. A slow day in the blogosphere regularly brings out a rash of worshipful references to Spandrels and demolition of Dawkinsian stances, often from a pop-genetic standpoint. I don't doubt the importance of drift, but that "just-cos" story is on precisely equal footing with any given "just-so" story. Appeals to population size alone ignore the fact that populations are taken over by geometrical travel of genes, not by population-wide free association assisted by one of those little whirly magnet things. I'd certainly welcome moves to put a bit of the 'biology' back into 'evolutionary biology'.

  6. Allan, I and many other agree strongly with the need to put the organism back into evolutionary biology -- it seems that not only popgen people are the culprits here, but also molecular evolutionary biologists who seldom see life aside from a few strings of nucleic/amino acids.

    And yes, selection and drift act in tandem, a point that seems to be often missed. Personally, I favour more selectively neutral explanations, just because self-organisation and drift and such are lower-level explanations than selection, and thus preferrable if they work. But there are obviously cases that cannot be explained by drift alone (which, by the way, doesn't ever act completely in isolation of selecetion), and that's where you evoke selection-based mechanisms. In that order.

    It is good to discuss both approaches, but I get really pissed off by a complete dismissal of selection or drift, particularly the latter. Some loud evolutionary biologists, like Dawkins and Coyne, tend to utterly downplay the importance of neutral processes in their popularisations. And that I believe is misleading and wrong.


Markup Key:
- <b>bold</b> = bold
- <i>italic</i> = italic
- <a href="">FoS</a> = FoS