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Why parasites are like car thieves

This is the first popular article I ever published – in a South African newspaper when I was doing my PhD. Written in 1996. It is a little dated as the arms race has moved on. But the evolutionary principles and the anti-theft principles remain sound.

The evolutionary war between animals and their parasites can teach us a lot about how to foil car thieves. But it is important to remember that no device, however ingenious, is foolproof forever – small victories are the best one can hope for.

I am amazed at the short-sightedness of motorists who claim to own the ultimate anti-theft device. A lesson from biology will show why an ultimate device is a fallacy.

Continue reading Why parasites are like car thieves

Threats to our only science of life: evolution and the battles over meaning

This article was based on a talk I gave at a symposium of the Royal Zoological Society of NSW in late 2008. The Society has never published the proceedings so I thought I would put the article out there for anyone who want to read it. It has not been peer-reviewed.

It is hard to imagine, in the first decade of the 21st Century, the sensation that the discovery of the gorilla caused in Victorian London. The first western accounts and formal description (based on a skull and partial skeleton) of a large new ‘indescribably fierce’ ape from West Africa introduced the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) to science. Public interest in this new ape was stoked both by astounding tales of the beast’s ferociousness and by an increasingly radicalised working class intent on overturning establishment views of human uniqueness and a divine social order Continue reading Threats to our only science of life: evolution and the battles over meaning