2013

In his review of Steve Jones’ “The Serpent’s Promise” (Good book, unnecessary book, 27 April), Steven Shapin says that “Galileo argued that the Bible was to be read allegorically”. Though this does not represent my personal view, I quote from a vicar’s sermon in a play, “The Origin of Modesty”, that I wrote in 1997:                                                                                We should not imagine that the Genesis story is a verbatim account of the literal word of God. It is a metaphorical, symbolic representation of a process which would not be scientifically understood for over three millennia. The number of things that Moses got right is far more striking than the things he misrepresented. The order of events during the six days of creation is in general accord with the evidence of science, and a proper interpretation of the Hebrew word for 'day' to mean a period of time, rather than literally 24 hours, allows evolution to be the mechanism by which those events occurred. The account of Adam being made out of the dust and having life breathed into him is in accord with the scientific knowledge that living organisms are made from non-living inorganic matter. The formation of Eve from the rib of Adam is a symbolic representation of the known fact that all the chemical information that is needed to make an organism of any species is contained in every cell of any male of that species. It has always been a logical necessity that there must theoretically be a couple who were our most recent common ancestors. The Adam and Eve story can be seen as a symbolic depiction of that couple.                                                                                    Hugh Dower

Whether or not Marlene Zuk mentions it in her book (The milk of humankind, 27 April). Peter Forbes does not mention the findings of epigenetics in this account of how homo sapiens has speedily adapted itself to farming. Many evolutionary commentators, including Robert Winston, have argued that diet has played an important part in evolution, without acknowledging (or perhaps realising) that such a view is flat Lamarckism, which is what epigenetics has for the last two decades been showing to be a reality that neo-Darwinists need to acknowledge.                                                     Hugh Dower

One thing Peter Forbes does not mention (again) in his review of Lieberman’s book on evolution and diet (Why children should chew gum, 19 October) is the essentially Lamarckian contention (borne out by epigenetics) that our ancestors’ ingestion of Omega fatty acids and iodine (abundant in a seafood diet) caused their rapid increase in brain size. It has never been more true to say that we are what our ancestors ate.                                                                                                     Also, with Lamarckian inheritance, human evolution has certainly not ceased, but with neo-Darwinian inheritance, logic dictates that (for the species as a whole) it has (because there is no longer any significant natural culling). The coming climate change apocalypse, or the next ice age, might change all that.                                                                                             Hugh Dower

Comments: See the Essay "Aquatic Ape Theory" and 2015 Extra for an article about Climate Change.

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