quote:What on earth were you thinking when you produced a garish cover proclaiming that "Darwin was wrong" (24 January)?
First, it's false, and second, it's inflammatory. And, as you surely know, many readers will interpret the cover not as being about Darwin, the historical figure, but about evolution.
Nothing in the article showed that the concept of the tree of life is unsound; only that it is more complicated than was realised before the advent of molecular genetics. It is still true that all of life arose from "a few forms or... one", as Darwin concluded in The Origin of Species. It is still true that it diversified by descent with modification via natural selection and other factors.
Of course there's a tree; it's just more of a banyan than an oak at its single-celled-organism base. The problem of horizontal gene-transfer in most non-bacterial species is not serious enough to obscure the branches we find by sequencing their DNA.
The accompanying editorial makes it clear that you knew perfectly well that your cover was handing the creationists a golden opportunity to mislead school boards, students and the general public about the status of evolutionary biology. Indeed, within hours of publication members of the Texas State Board of Education were citing the article as evidence that teachers needed to teach creationist-inspired "weaknesses of evolution", claiming: "Darwin's tree of life is wrong".
You have made a lot of extra, unpleasant work for the scientists whose work you should be explaining to the general public. We all now have to try to correct all the misapprehensions your cover has engendered.
by Daniel Dennett, Medford, Massachusetts, US , Jerry Coyne, Chicago, Illinois, US , Richard Dawkins, Oxford, UK and Paul Myers, Morris, Minnesota, US
While the "tree of life" model has yet to be toppled, there is growing support for a web rather than a tree. As DNA sequencing becomes more common, more examples of horizontal gene transfer are being found in plants and animals. Plants - Jumping Genes Cross Plant Species Boundaries. PLoS Biol 4(1): e35 Animals - Massive Horizontal Gene Transfer in Bdelloid Rotifers Science vol. 320 no. 5880 pp. 1210 - 1213
This difference of form underlies the current disagreement on Panbiog-L http://groups.google.com/group/panbiog/ among Dr. Nelson (of Cladistic FAME) and other panbiogeographers (Craw,Heads,Henderson,Calvalcanti etc )and myself!
Here is my link to the site http://axiompanbiog.com/panbioglnks.aspx
Sincerely, Brad McFall Oh, yea, I show how to get a "web" from Darwin's "tree" here http://axiompanbiog.com/intro.aspx