Tag Archives: evolution

My interview with Benny Peiser about polar bears, evolution and Arctic controversies

While I was in London, ahead of my House of Lords lecture on June 11, 2014 (“Healthy Polar Bears, Less Than Healthy Science)*, I had a chat with Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

Healthy Polar Bears Less Than Healthy Science GWPF interview screencap June 11 2014

Have a listen here: An Interview with Dr Susan Crockford on polar bears, evolution and Arctic controversies.

I’ve been traveling for a month but I am finally home — tired and jet-lagged after a journey that took me two-thirds of the way around the world and back. More on my experiences as my energy for blogging returns.

*I shouldn’t have to point this out but I will: I was not paid for this lecture, nor for the airfare to London (I was passing through town anyway). As the timing of the lecture required an overnight stay, GWPF did pick up the tab for a hotel room and dinner, as hosting organizations for such events do as a matter of course.

Evolution by geneticists again: yet another date for when polar bears arose

The latest addition to the never-ending story of when-and-why polar bear evolution took place according to geneticists (Liu et al. 2014 — the 8th such paper in less than 4 years, if you can believe it) is getting way, way more media attention than it deserves.

Lui et al. 2014 figure provided in the abstract.

Liu et al. 2014 figure provided in the abstract.

This multi-member research team used a new data set (mostly Scandinavian brown bears and Greenland polar bears, for a change) to add not much of anything new on the evolutionary insight front except yet another estimate of when polar bears came to be.1

However, the real focus of the paper is the description of their finding of a few genetic differences between brown bears and polar bears that they identified. They found a few genes in polar bears were different than brown bears and made a boat load of assumptions about what these might mean.

Their discovery was not accompanied by any attempt to demonstrate that the changes in gene architecture they found also involved a change in the function of the genes or were associated with different effects on bear physiology. If a changed gene cannot be shown to act differently or to have a demonstrated new physiological effect on the animal in question, the changes themselves mean next to nothing – especially for evolution!

That’s my take – see what you think. It looks long but a lot of it is quotes.
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