Hey! Here's, like, evolution-related entertainment in our neck of the woods!

Canadian rap artist, performance poet and actor Baba Brinkman is appearing as part of the Rogue Festival in Fresno this weekend:

6:00 PM, Friday, 2/27
4:45 PM Saturday, 2/28
2:45 PM Sunday, 3/1
9:30 PM Sunday, 3/1

It's a 50-minute show, rated PG-13 ('sexual references, mature subject matter, but NO SWEARING, he says"). Here's a PDF file describing the show.

All shows in the greater Fresno area are at Severance Art Studio (1401 N. Wishon Ave.)

The cost is $10.00

“The Rap Guide to Evolution” explores the history and current understanding of Darwin’s theory, combining remixes of popular rap songs with storytelling rap/poems that cover Natural Selection, Artificial Selection, Sexual Selection, Group Selection, Unity of Common Descent, and Evolutionary Psychology.

“The Rap Guide to Evolution” was developed with the support of the British Council, and its scientific advisors have vetted the entire script for both scientific and historical accuracy, making it a powerful teaching tool as well as a laugh-out-loud entertainment experience. The show also engages directly with challenging questions about cultural evolution, asking the audience to imagine themselves as the environment and the performer as an organism undergoing a form of live adaptation.

The show here is billed as the North American premiere! Wow! Fresno? Who woulda thunk it?



I have insomnia. I'm bored and it's 2:00 in the morning. Here are some claims from some individual named Do-While Jones, available here, supposedly about conclusions from a Scientific American article:

  • Darwin’s theory has been dramatically revised because Darwin got it mostly wrong.
This claim is misleading. Scientific knowledge has changed in the 150 years since the Origin was published, but the essentials of Darwin's theory have not been shown to be wrong. The main impact of the so-called 'modern synthesis' that emerged in the 1940's was to amplify, rather recast evolutionary theory. The central claim is robust: that populations today evolved from a common ancestor due in part to processes similar to those we observe in the present, such as natural selection, is well-established by multiple lines of evidence.
  • Furthermore, most of the aspects of evolution that are “true” today will be rejected in the future.
I don't see how anyone could know that.
  • There is no molecular proof that natural selection is responsible for all the life forms on Earth.
This is misleading. No one claims that natural selection is the sole process responsible for evolutionary diversification, and in fact when we invoke molecular evidence we do not describe it as definitive 'proof' of selection. The main observation we make is that some sections of the genome appear to be highly-conserved across many taxa. The degree and depth of conservation can be used to infer things about the natural history of the population we're studying.
  • Nobody knows how life could possibly invent complex traits.
This is false. We have many mechanisms identified that are sources of genetic variation, and there are exciting research programs that have identified potential candidates to explain the kind of genomic reorganization that facilitates speciation. We have quite a few 'how's', and we're busy testin them.
  • The story of human evolution is far from complete because there are only a handful of fossils, resulting in many different interpretations.
A handful of fossils? This is patently untrue. There are thousands of hominid specimens from the last 240,000 years, many of them from species other than H. sapiens. It is true that the number of older hominid fossils is rarer, but there are still quite a bit more than a handful, and more are being discovered all the time. The history of life is far from complete. So? That is why we are constantly looking for more evidence, see? And, while interpretations differ, no one who knows the fossil record denies that there a certain trends in hominid evolution over the last 7 million years: the cranial capacity goes up, the spine becomes more curved, the angle of the face becomes ever-more acute, the prominent brow and crest gradually are reduced, etc. There are no meaningful arguments about the general anatomical trends.
  • The future of human evolution is potentially disastrous if we try to accelerate evolution artificially.
So? This is a silly argument. The future of human evolution has all sort of potential, for bad or for good. Human beings have affected the evolution of other organisms for thousands of years: compare, for example, teosinte with maize. I don't see anyone arguing that corn-on-the-cob is a wicked consequence of accelerated evolution!
  • The foundation of pop evolutionary psychology is baseless speculation, resulting in four major fallacies which affect human attitudes toward morality.
There are debates within evolutionary biology about how best to apply our models to human behavior. This is nothing new: consider Desmond Morris's 'Naked Ape', or Robert Ardrey's 'African Genesis', for example. Such popularizations tend to exaggerate the most problematic features of the model, simply because they are sensational by nature. Evolutionary psychology is still a young field, and it is encouraging to see that it is being met with calls for greater rigor. That's a sign that it is beginning to move from pop biology to a robust scientific research program, capable of falsification.
  • Some computer programs and a few other things incorrectly called “evolution” are really useful, but they don’t really have anything to do with biological evolution.
The Scientific American article doesn't say that. The critic is seeing what they want to see, and they are seizing on the fact that all computer models contain idealizations that are biologically unrealistic in order to make it possible to obtain results in a reasonable amount of time. This is no different from introductory physics labs that ask you to imagine a frictionless surface to make the calculations easier.

  • Most importantly, we can’t tell any of our public school students these things because it might lead to Christianity!
Actually, it could just as easily lead to a variety of beliefs that I don't subscribe to. The real reason we don't tell students lies about the fossil record is--duh--because they are lies. Another big whopper is that we are attempting to prevent students from considering the claims of organized religion. Why would I, a Methodist, want to do that?

Look, it only took me about twenty minutes to grab this guy's text and rebut or recast (correctly) his misleading claims. What you've got here is another retired engineer making noises about science that they often clearly fail to understand. Hint, hint!