Thursday, March 29, 2012

Interesting video and paper from Nature

From the Nature video feed:
A few million years ago, our ancestors stopped climbing trees and started walking upright, on two feet. To work out how and when this happened, researchers look for fossils -- and recently they found a surprising set of foot bones in Ethiopia. The foot is about 3.4 million years old, making it roughly the same age as 'Lucy' and her species, Australopithecus afarensis. But while Lucy's species had feet much like modern humans, the new foot has an opposable big toe, like a chimp. So do the foot bones represent a new species of hominin? Watch the video and decide.

Read the original research paper:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The ‘Annie Hypothesis’: Did the Death of His Daughter Cause Darwin to ‘Give up Christianity’?

The paper that I wrote with John van Wyhe on what we call "the Annie Hypothesis" is now out here:

Here is the abstract:
This article examines one of the most widely believed episodes in the life of Charles Darwin, that the death of his daughter Annie in 1851 caused the end of Darwin's belief in Christianity, and according to some versions, ended his attendance of church on Sundays. This hypothesis, it is argued, is commonly treated as a straightforward true account of Darwin's life, yet there is little or no supporting evidence. Furthermore, we argue, there is sufficient evidence that Darwin's loss of faith occurred before Annie's death.

During peer review, the paper was criticised for mixing history with historiography and for being overly positivist, but what can you expect of a scientist! We are all positivists!

Sadly, the paper is not open access: if anyone wants a copy but cannot access it, please email me (

Allow me to thank John van Wyhe for beating the paper into shape and nursing it through to publication!

Other previous posts on this topic: