85 years ago today John Scopes was indicted for violating the Butler Law – a law that made it illegal to teach evolution in Tennessee. The Scopes Trial, engineered by several parties to bring attention to both Dayton, Tennessee and the controversial anti-evolution laws, left a lasting mark on America’s legal system and the public perception of science. It was the bombastic firebrand H. L. Menken, one of the architects of the trial, that summerised best the spirit of the Monkey Trail:
The way to deal with superstition is not to be polite to it, but to tackle it with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous. Is it, perchance, cherished by persons who should know better? Then their folly should be brought out into the light of day, and exhibited there in all its hideousness until they flee from it, hiding their heads in shame.
Aftermath by H. L. Mencken
This is the first entry in Crowdsourcing ConGen. This entry is meant to be half of an Introduction which lays out the framework for what conservation genetics is, its philosophical basis in population genetics, and why it’s a meaningful method of inquiry for conservation. This first section is meant to outline foundational concepts in population genetics. It is not meant to be a detailed summery of population genetics, but needs to be accurate and clear.
Longtime readers know that I get really excited by clear (or not so clear) cases of convergent evolution. Pound for pound, convergence is the most persuasive evidence for the truth of evolution out there; different lineages finding novel paths to the same solution. While I mostly talk about convergences in morphology, genetic convergence is often even more fascinating. Enter the bizarre case of the serpent and the platypus.
The title of this post is followed by a question mark. That is because what follows is not a statement of fact but a puzzle that I have been mulling over in my head since a photograph was published early last year. I do fervently hope the authors of the paper will forgive me for not citing the picture directly, the full citation can be found at the end of this post. I do this only because I want to lead off with a mystery.