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Jerry Coyne continues to be unhappy over David Quammen’s book on Carl Woese


The Tangled Tree Readers will remember science writer David Quammen’s new book, The Tangled Tree:A Radical New History of Life, a biography of Carl Woese, who first identified the Archaea (and doubted Darwinism).

They will also doubtless remember Darwinian evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, who does not life Tangled Tree, and…

Well, he still doesn’t like it and has been holding forth of late:

Most of the publicity about the book—to be sure, publicity pushed by Quammen himself—centers on HGT. It is, we’re told, something that radically overturns Darwin’s view of the “tree of life” and of evolution, and even revises our own view of “what it means to be human” (after all, we’re also told, a substantial part of our genome is dead, nonactive DNA from ancient retroviral infections).

Nevertheless, Quammen still promulgates his spiel widely, most recently in a National Geographic interview and, more invidiously, in the RadioLab interview below (click on screenshot). After all, the man has books to sell. But I wish he’d tone down his rhetoric.

Both Quammen and the show’s hosts (Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad) seem to promulgate the misconceptions about HGT, and I hope RadioLab isn’t becoming more uncritical. I can’t enact the emotional labor to dissect every error in this 30-minute show, but here are a few bizarre things to which I took exception: … Jerry Coyne, “RadioLab distorts some science” at Why Evolution is True

You may read further about his complaints at his blog.

The real issue, of course, is the way horizontal gene transfer turns Darwin’s fabled Tree of Life into confetti.

See also: Jerry Coyne minimizes the significance of horizontal gene transfer

At New York Times: Darwin skeptic Carl Woese “effectively founded a new branch of science”


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