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At Nature: Evolutionary trees can’t reveal speciation and extinction rates

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New paper poses a serious challenge to the schoolroom Darwin industry:

Scientists often want to make inferences about what the biological past was like, and how that past gave rise to the present, because doing so allows them to understand the processes that drive evolution. But, writing in Nature, Louca and Pennell1 challenge a major aspect of that enterprise…

Even worse for those who want to use the rates of speciation and extinction to study evolution, the possible alternative scenarios of time-varying speciation and extinction rates that are consistent with the deterministic lineage-through-time model often differ qualitatively. For example, the authors show that a phylogeny of approximately 80,000 species of seed plant is equally well described by speciation and extinction rates that both gradually increase through time or that both gradually decrease through time. …

Mark Pagel, “Evolutionary trees can’t reveal speciation and extinction rates” at Nature

Paper. (paywall)

You know, one day, the study of evolution might be interesting, like the study of history. Prying the Darwin lobby and its propaganda loose from positions of power is a necessary first step.

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