Beauty, sexual selection, and meditation

I recently finished the audiobook of “Why Buddhism is True” by Robert Wright. I also recently started reading “The Evolution of Beauty” by Richard Prum, and I think there are ideas in the latter that could inform the former. Of course, when one, as Wright does, writes a book that includes arguments about natural selection, a fuller discourse on evolution helps.

In this case, I noticed that Wright discussed natural selection to the neglect of other evolutionary forces. Continue reading

Thoughts on reading the Introduction to “The Structure and Confirmation of Evolutionary Theory” by Elisabeth A. Lloyd


Lloyd describes J. J. C. Smart’s opinion that biologists use statistics only to do significance testing on experimental data and not to extract trends and create generalizable models of underlying fundamental processes as scientists in other disciplines (notably physics and chemistry) do.

In my experience of learning statistics and talking with others about statistics, this is not an entirely unfair accusation. The only statistics I learned during my undergraduate studies in biology were related to basic significance testing (e.g. t-tests and chi-squared tests) and how to formulate hypotheses testable by these methods. It wasn’t until after completing my masters degree that I have started to learn in depth, through self-motivated study, about linear modeling, how that relates to principles of experimental design and power analysis, and how to generalize responsibly. Continue reading

Why is showering bad for our skin bacteria? (evolutionary questions)

After reading Alanna Collen’s 2015 book 10% Human: how your body’s microbes hold the key to health and happiness, I have become interested in, among other topics featured in the book, the work of the AOBiome company. Collen mentions this company in the context of aspects of our modern lifestyle which may be detrimental to the beneficial microbes that live on and in us. In this particular case, it is the practice of showering every day with body soap and deodorant that may be disproportionately displacing certain types of bacteria that process ammonia and help control the bacteria responsible for giving us body odor. AOBiome proposes that by replenishing these ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOBs) on our skin, we can reduce or eliminate the need for deodorants and showers. We can also replenish them through contact with soil or untreated (an unpolluted) water, according to Collen. I have read up on AOBiome a bit, and their scientific logic seems sound and is backed up by pilot studies they have done (see end for links). However, I have some questions about the evolutionary biology side of things: Continue reading