Jerry Coyne

Jerry Coyne, who teaches at the University of Chicago, is writing a book on the origin of species.

A recent Radio Four programme had a distinguished retired geneticist, who is also a devout Christian, pondering the virgin birth. Jesus, it turned out, is something of a biological conundrum. As a male, he must have carried a Y-chromosome, which can be transmitted only by the father’s sperm, yet apparently he had no corporeal father. Where, then, did his Y-chromosome come from? The...

As I write, machines around the world are chewing up human chromosomes and spitting out the raw DNA sequence at an astounding rate of 5 billion bases a year. The four nucleotides that make up the sequence of DNA – adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine – are represented by their initial letters, A, G, C, T. If we take each of these as equivalent to a letter of the alphabet, the machines are producing text roughly as long as 18 copies of The Origin of Species a day. By the time you read this, the project will be nearly done, though it may take another year to align the bits of sequence and fill in the gaps.

Jerry Fodor makes the striking claim that evolutionary biologists are abandoning natural selection as the principal, or even an important, cause of evolutionary change, and that ‘it’s not out of the question that a scientific revolution – no less than a major revision of evolutionary theory – is in the offing’ (LRB, 18 October). This is news to us, and, we believe, will...

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