Field of Science

Evolution highlights VIII

Olivia Judson in the New York Times on the ability to evolve in response to environmental change. Species can't always cope with changing environments, because they lack the standing genetic variation to enables them to adapt, They mostly go extinct before they can evolve in response.

Oren Hassan is an evolutionary psychologist, and those have a reputation for making up hypotheses to explain why this or that human trait is an adaptation. Hassan is no exception. Phrasing his hypothesis as a certainty, and not proposing a way to test it, or even mentioning that it should be tested to be science, he is telling just-so stories.
Hasson argues that crying enables human beings to create a semblance of helplessness while under attack and to convey a credible message of defenselessness. The Israeli zoologist explains that this state of being is created because tears obscure vision and prevent a person from fighting while he or she is crying. Tears prevent someone who is crying, Hasson contends, from effectively acting aggressively and sends the signal that someone who is crying has lowered his or her defenses.
Ask yourself how he knows. It's not that I couldn't imagine that his guess might be at least partly right - I have myself thought that crying is a signal (having children makes this rather clear, I think) - but merely saying so is not enough. It must be investigated to be science.

Nosson Slifkin is a Jewish Rabbi who had some books on science and the Torah banned by a group of ultra-orthodox Rabbis. Slifkin is totally pro-evolution, but the 29 Rabbis (good name for a rock-band) aren't. Read his story and learn about the views on evolution of that third Abrahamic religion that no one ever mentions when talking about creationism.


  1. Heh. I met Olivia. Had a beer with her. Somewhere in France.

  2. I know a lot of people are envious of you.


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