Uggh – Robert Krulwich blogs about butterflies as hybrids resurrecting BS from Williamson

Oh for the love of …

Was browsing Twitter when I saw this:

So I had to check it out.  First I clicked on the link to my blog since I didi not know what post this was referencing.  Uh oh.  It was a post entitled “Just grand -Donald Williamson published more crap on larval “evolution” – this time in one of the #OMICS journals

Then with dread I clicked on the link to NPR and found a blog post from none other than Robert Krulwich: Are Butterflies Two Different Animals in One? The Death And Resurrection Theory : Krulwich Wonders… : NPR.  In it Krulwich references some book by Bernd Heinrich which itself discusses the theory (if you can call it that) that butterfly and moth metamorphosis represents the death of one organism and the “resurrection” of another.  And furthermore that this is due to a past hybridization event between two species where somehow the genomes merged and the organisms maintained distinct lives linked by the metamorphosis stage.

The problem with this?  Well, a lot of it comes from the ridiculous papers of Donald Williamson, which have been shown quite clearly to be bogus.  Yes, as Krulwich notes, this theory of two species in one “startles” but so does the theory that humans closest relatives are dolphins because they are smarter than chimps.  As does the theory that bacteria are in fact little planets of their own orbiting around animals attracted to them by microgravity.  A theory being startling is a good thing only if the theory is not complete unadulterated crap.[View the story “Robert Krulwich at NPRScience botches discussion of bogus hybridization story” on Storify]

Author: Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis

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