Hopeless Monsters

Carl Zimmer in his brilliant blog, The Loom:

How do new kinds of bodies evolve? It’s a question that obsesses many scientists today, as it has for decades. Yesterday, Olivia Judson, an evolutionary biologist and book author, published a blog post entitled “The Monster is Back, and It’s Hopeful,” in which she declared that these transitions can happen in sudden steps.

Screenhunter_18Even before I had finished reading Judson’s piece, I got an email from the prominent evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne grousing about it. Coyne, who teaches at the University of Chicago, is an expert on the genetics of adaptation as well as the origin of new species. He has written potent, eloquent attacks on creationism in places like the New Republic (pdf). Recently he has also begun to express skepticism about the grander claims for evolutionary developmental biology–“evo-devo” for short (see this pdf for more).

I thought it would be interesting to hear what Coyne had to say–at length. Since he does not (yet) have a blog of his own, I invited him to write a guest post for The Loom. He kindly sent in the following piece, which appears below the fold, entitled “Hopeless Monsters.” Please give Dr. Coyne a warm welcome to world of science blogging, and let him know what you think in the comment thread.

More here.