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[P]
The Great Apes: A Mini-Biography

By jd in Op-Ed
Sun Mar 27, 2005 at 09:29:24 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

Given the current debates of Biblical proportions (yes, you can groan now) and the discoveries over recent times, I thought I would expand a little on a recent diary entry and give you a biography on the Great Apes and the evolution of humanity, as it is currently known.


Since science stories tend to come from common pools, they're largely cut-and-pastes, so I've generally only given one source. Home pages and editorials generally give more information, but you can't be sure of the quality, so except in a few cases where I thought those were interesting, I've not given those at all.

First, a big of background. Evolution is not a linear process. There is no real fixed starting point. Further, any given point can die out, continue as it is, diverge in any number of other ways, etc. This makes tracing a path from start to finish extremely difficult. Furthermore, fossils are relatively rare. This means that finds are from random points in this gigantic tree. The conditions required tend to be fairly exacting, especially on land, so multiple generations that can be reliably linked are virtually non-existant.

It doesn't help matters that most fossils (with the possible exception of a recent T. Rex find) lack any organic component. This means that you're forced to work from the shapes of replicas made through geological processes. With no genetic material to test, classification of fossils is mostly done by shape, location and era. There is no guarantee, therefore, that groupings are always going to be valid. Groups, therefore, shift as new finds are made and old theories are shown to not make sense with the new data.

In the specific case of the Great Apes, the lineage has become much clearer as a result of recent finds. In essence, there was one common ancestor to all of the Great Apes. Over time, the Great Apes diverged and specialised according to the conditions around them. About a hundred million years ago, the common ancestor to Chimpanzees and Hominids diverged, somewhere in Africa. Hominids don't seem to have been terribly stable, as they diverged many times over a relatively short span of time, with multiple migrations into the outside world.

Chimpanzees show something quite fascinating about this process. Their DNA is very similar to that of humans. The difference is about 95%, with a margin of error of about 3%. There is no reason to assume Chimpanzees have the same DNA as the common ancestor and may well have mutated at the same rate. This would suggest that the common ancestor may have shared as much as 97.5% of their DNA with modern humans.

Given that the structural difference is high and the generic code is so close, it is self-evident that relatively small changes can make a very big difference.

About five hundred thousand years ago, before Neanderthals evolved, there were multiple groups of hominids living in Europe. It is unclear, at this point, whether these were different species of hominids, or the same but with different cultures. That is a very hot topic of debate. What is known is that they already had some exceptionally fine tools and were able to act in coordinated groups. (A recent find in England shows evidence of a group of hominids who attacked a prehistoric elephant - somewhere between two to three times the size of modern elephants - with nothing more than flint knives.)

Most of these lines died out. Nobody quite knows why, although there are plenty of theories - change in climate, change in population density, some species simply being smarter than others and therefore getting to the food first, etc. There is always another possibility, which is that not all of the other species died out. A very tiny hominid has been found where the brain imprint on the skull clearly shows that it is not even remotely close to homo sapien, as hominids go. These miniature hominids lived at least until 10,000 years ago - well into the timeframe of humans. Local legends suggest (but offer no proof of) them surviving as recent as 200 years ago.

This isn't the only intrigue. The largest of the Great Apes stood at between 9'-12' (about 3 meters, 20 cm +/- 40 cm). This is well within the range of the mythological Nephilim from the Old Testament (Torah). It is possible a fossil find sparked that legend. It is significantly less likely, but still possible, that Great Apes of that size survived long enough for humans to develop memories of them. There are simply not enough finds to be sure, and digging up large amounts of the Middle East right now would seem to be a Really Bad Idea.

  • Evidence exists for a new species of Great Ape, somewhere between Gorillas and Chimpanzees. This is significant - especially for those who believe extinct species may have survived. Great Apes are hardly invisible, so if one species can survive without science noticing, then so can others.
  • Gigantopithecus blacki - Not a recent find, but a fascinating piece of the Great Ape history, being the largest ape that ever lived.
  • Ardipithecus member, somewhere between A. ramidus and A. afarensis ("Lucy"). Until recently, the find called "Lucy" was the oldest known hominid that walked predominantly upright. What interested a lot of people was that "Lucy" was NOT a direct ancestor, showing that hominids have discovered walking multiple times in history.
  • Early humanoid cultures? - hints of multiple pre-Neanderthal cultures in Britain, 500,000 years ago
  • Pierolapithecus catalaunicus - a "missing link" between early primates and the Great Apes
  • The Guardian was another news source that covered the discovery of Pierolapithecus catalaunicus
  • Lufengpithecus chiangmuanensis - a "missing link" showing the oldest-known close relative of the Orang-Utang. This is probably what Pierolapithecus catalaunicus became, immediately prior to evolving into the Orang-Utang, which gives us a glimpse into how the Orang-Utang came into being.
  • The science behind the study of Lufengpithecus chiangmuanensis. Spectroscopy and synchrotron radiation are fascinating tools and this is an interesting use of them
  • Orang-Utangs have an amazingly sophisticated proto-culture, which indicates that early societies likely evolved before humans.
  • Sahelanthropus tchadensis - the earliest hominid known, at 7 million years old. The evidence is increasingly strong that hominids followed a great many paths. What is not clear is which path or paths modern humans are related to, or even if the distant (but direct) ancestors of humans are even amongst the species identified. Because scientists rely on shape, and because shape can evolve multiple times, it is hard to tell if or how two similar shapes are related.
  • Sahelanthropus tchadensis Homepage - now, if only they could travel back in time and set up a webcam...
  • Talkorigins has an excellent page and some good links for Sahelanthropus tchadensis
  • Homo floresiensis has been covered quite a bit, here and elsewhere, but if you're going to try for a complete picture, it would be stupid to miss this out
  • The Guardian's Editorial/Blog gives a more satirical look at the discovery of Homo floresiensis (though it's modern humans who get the short end!)

The sum of the above seems to be as follows:

  • The timespan for the evolution of humans from apes is much shorter than previously believed
  • The diversity (and scale) of hominid species is much greater than previously thought
  • The maximum number of Great Ape species alive at any one time peaked at about 100. The total number of Great Ape species is unknown but obviously much larger - this is based on known fossils, and estimating the age of a fossil by what it is around that we do know the age of. Since so few specimins fossilize, the peak number of species may get revised, although it seems fairly solid at this point
  • No good candidate for a direct ancestor of humans can be found (although some candidates have been ruled out such as Neanderthals). The opinion seems to be that evolution around that time was "messy". Modern humans may be a blend of different hominids, but there just isn't enough hard data to know for certain. The problem is, without genetic data, it is hard to know how "close" or "distant" any fossil find is from homo sapien or its predecessors.
  • What seems to be certain, though, is that the rate of change of a species is not fixed, but can vary quite wildly over relatively short timeframes. This suggests the environment impacts genetic material with all the subtlety of a sledge-hammer.
  • With the discovery of the "hobbit-like" humans, there is renewed interest in the possibility that folklore is based on far, far older cultural memories, perhaps running tens of thousands of years into the past. This would require that societies capable of preserving such memories have to be equally old
  • Creationists, as I expected, are getting increasingly upset with the fact that fossil finds are filling in the gaps well within the expected bounds, thus completing the "missing link" surprisingly well
  • Indications of either multiple hominid species OR multiple cultures within Britain about 500,000 years ago is creating a stir, as the indirect evidence builds some amazing possibilities, but the direct evidence for any of them remains elusive

To me, these are fascinating. They not only fill in some irritating gaps in human knowledge, but they also serve to create puzzles and intrigues that might never be solved. How many hominid species were there? How many hominid migrations from Africa were there? How much mixing was possible between them?

Then, there are mysteries which may well be solved but not always to our liking. The "hobbit-like" humanoids MAY have existed up until a few centuries ago. There are clues which suggest that, but nothing definite. Other hominids, therefore, may also have survived, but we've even less evidence of those. But it is possible. The legends may actually be based on factual observations, at some point in history. (But as verbal history can survive thousands of years, that doesn't mean any exist today. Again, though, they might.)

Of course, I'm going to finish this with an evil thought. Let's say that an early hominid species DOES exist, perhaps in America. Would we recognize it as essentially human and grant it rights on that basis, or would we treat it as merely a large monkey and throw it in a zoo? At what point does life have to be "human enough" to get decent treatment?

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Related Links
o Evidence exists
o Gigantopit hecus blacki
o Ardipithec us member
o Early humanoid cultures?
o Pierolapit hecus catalaunicus
o The Guardian
o Lufengpith ecus chiangmuanensis
o The science
o Orang-Utan gs
o Sahelanthr opus tchadensis
o Sahelanthr opus tchadensis Homepage
o Talkorigin s
o Homo floresiensis
o The Guardian's Editorial/Blog
o Also by jd


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The Great Apes: A Mini-Biography | 117 comments (105 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
Fun stuff. (3.00 / 3) (#2)
by Sairon on Thu Mar 24, 2005 at 09:12:56 PM EST

I like to think of the possible fiction that could result from these sorts of things. My wife and I agree that this could provide something to work with in the realm of evles, trolls and other mythic creatures. I have a friend with a strong theory on dragons along the same lines.

Jared

Very likely. (3.00 / 4) (#4)
by jd on Thu Mar 24, 2005 at 10:28:08 PM EST

Nobody is sure what the origin of the dragon legend is, but the Chinese Dragon may well be based on the observation of one or more giant creatures (living or fossil). European Dragons are interesting in that they actually do bear a remarkable resemblance to the Komodo Dragon. Except that European Dragons of myth could fly. :)

Elves, trolls, leprechauns and the many dozens of mythic people in the Irish "Book of Invasions" are very likely based on actual observations of either living hominids or their remains. Perhaps both. There is sufficient overlap in time and it would also explain one thing that has puzzled many scholars - the Celts have no creation myth. They're almost unique in this respect. The "Book Of Invasions" starts by assuming prior civilizations which humans only later got entangled with. Serious consideration should be given to the idea that the Celts had sufficient information to become convinced that earlier, human-like life really had existed and that humans were merely invading established territory.

Legends, such as "Big Foot" and the Yeti, may be pure legend. But as more than one of the links points out, it has been suggested that there may be some factual basis. Maybe some of these creatures survived into relatively modern times, or into actual modern times. They'd fit the descriptions, so they're valid candidates.

Sea monsters were once thought pure myth, until it was found that 40' giant squid were real. Since then, at least one other species of 40' giant squid has been found, a 40' octopus washed ashore in New Zealand, and indications exist that other giant creatures may exist in the depths.

I don't think we can rule out the possibility that legends of mysterious human-like creatures are based, not on pure fantasy or magic mushrooms, but on real observations of living hominids. One objection to this idea is that nobody has seen another hominid species in very recent times in any provable fashion. However, if verbal history is as old as humanity, the observations could have happened at any time in humanity's existance, which is well within the known timeframes for several of these creatures.

One last point. It's been discovered that organic material can survive fossilization. (A breaking story involving the breaking of a T. Rex bone.) It is possible that such material may be extractable from hominid fossils, too, with a much better chance of finding enough DNA to carry out research.

It is entirely possible, therefore, that within the lifetimes of K5 readers, we'll be able to see living, breathing representitives from the ancient past.

[ Parent ]

My friend's theory. (3.00 / 3) (#9)
by Sairon on Fri Mar 25, 2005 at 01:50:47 AM EST

A friend of mine necessarily had to do tremendous amounts of research into dinosaurs as he was building animatronic recreations for a museum that had to be as true as possible. In the process he came up with the following theory:

Small groups of flying dinosaurs could have survived into the modern era in the jungles of South America. If they were migratory, the forces that direct modern migration would most likely cause these creaures to migrate in the patterns, bringing them into northern Europe. If a couple of these beasts made it, and in their hunger snagged up a small pig or child... well, legends are born and a sainthood assured. I find it quite compelling as trivial theories go.

Jared

[ Parent ]

odd timing (none / 1) (#40)
by speek on Sun Mar 27, 2005 at 09:17:42 PM EST

I just watched Animal Planet's speculative piece about dragons and how every human culture has a dragon myth. They then made up all sorts of crap to explain how a fire-breathing, flying dragon could have evolved in the late Cretaceous, survived the K-T event via a marine branch, and then came back onto land afterward. Was fun and interesting, though I don't really see that a hydrogen bladder is really going to help enough to make a 900 lb creature fly with a 20-ft wingspan.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

hmmmm... (none / 0) (#41)
by Sairon on Sun Mar 27, 2005 at 10:30:34 PM EST

I don't watch television, so I don't have a refference to that. My friends idea involved much smaller, non-firebreathing animals, though.

Jared

[ Parent ]

When you consider... (none / 0) (#44)
by jd on Mon Mar 28, 2005 at 03:23:55 PM EST

...some of the species that have existed in recent times (the past 200 years), the idea of myth being based around some observations becomes very plausible indeed. (Actually, for an in-depth study of this idea, you want the essay "On Fairy Stories", to be found in the book "Tree and Leaf" by J. R. R. Tolkein, who studied the nature of stories to an incredible depth.)

Here are a few examples:

  • Moa - Giant ostrich-like bird. Maximum height 13'. Was hunted to extinction by the New Zealand Maoris.
  • Haast Eagle - The largest eagle to have ever lived, with an average wingspan of 12'. Believed extinct, but there are recurring reports in Canada of a bird of similar size.
  • Carribean Monk Seal - Extinct in 1954, but previously noted for an almost wolf-like appearance when in the water.

In the more-distant past, say 10,000 years ago, the land was full of strange creatures. A pygmy variety of Wooly Mammoth still roamed the land. Megalodon - the largest shark to ever live - was fading from the world, but was still around. Giant rats, the size of grizzly bears, roamed the more remote reaches of the world.

Any/all of these could have been the basis for legends.

Further back in history, mankind interacted with truly frightening creatures. Elephants twice the size of their modern descendents were hunted by small packs of hominids with nothing more than small hand-held flint knives. Full-sized wooly mammoths likely roamed the land. The further into inhospitable regions humans got, the more ferocious animals got. That is a reliable method of surviving.

This is not proof that humans retained an extensive verbal history. Such things are very hard to prove. Rather, it is proof that there is nothing in such legends that are wholly impossible to explain entirely by the natural history that humans had directly and repeatedly encountered.

We will never know, for a fact, what the origins of any given story are; never mind the history of all stories ever devised. However, the speculation can be interesting and illuminating in itself. You can learn a lot by playing with ideas, whether the original ideas are correct or not.

[ Parent ]

"Modern" myth and prehistoric fact (none / 1) (#37)
by crustacean on Sun Mar 27, 2005 at 07:46:53 PM EST

I have always been fascinated by the legends of the Thunderbird. Supposedly a giant, magical raptor; widely represented in the Native-American mythology of north america. While putting relatively little credence in recent reports of 'pterodactyls' and sightings of monstrous birds, I am impressed by the fossil discoveries of flight-capable birds with 14 and 25 foot wingspans (Teratornis merriami and Argentavis magnificens, respectively). The human capacity to transcend time with oral tradition is continually fascinating, but shouldn't be regarded as literal truth. In this way, we are all heirs to interactions with little people, gods, sasquatches, dragons, angels, thunderbirds and other 'monsters'.
Will take to the forest before the oil overlords annex Canada.
[ Parent ]
Those are intriguing, certainly (none / 0) (#46)
by jd on Mon Mar 28, 2005 at 03:33:29 PM EST

You might also want to take a look at the Haast Eagle. Although this was only known to exist in New Zealand, it would certainly have been capable of flying to the Americas, via the Polynesian islands.

The Haast Eagle is particularly interesting, as it is believed to have gone extinct within the past 200 years. Provided one or more such eagle flew to the Americas (an unproven idea), it would vastly reduce the timeframe required.

Indeed, were Polynesians to have traded with the Americas, a direct sighting would not be necessary. The stories would be heavily reinforced and "proven" by what the Polynesians reported about their own eagle.

[ Parent ]

"Modern" myth and prehistoric fact (none / 0) (#38)
by crustacean on Sun Mar 27, 2005 at 07:50:15 PM EST

I have always been fascinated by the legends of the Thunderbird. Supposedly a giant, magical raptor; widely represented in the Native-American mythology of north america. While putting relatively little credence in recent reports of 'pterodactyls' and sightings of monstrous birds, I am impressed by the fossil discoveries of flight-capable birds with 14 and 25 foot wingspans (Teratornis merriami and Argentavis magnificens, respectively). The human capacity to transcend time with oral tradition is continually fascinating, but shouldn't be regarded as literal truth. In this way, we are all heirs to interactions with little people, gods, sasquatches, dragons, angels, thunderbirds and other 'monsters'.

[ Parent ]
The HU-MAN-ZEE (none / 0) (#47)
by Cubics Rube on Mon Mar 28, 2005 at 04:41:15 PM EST

There are many different hybrid mammals possible. How about a hu-man-zee? A chimp has 48 chromasomes whereas a human has only 46, but then donkey+horse=mule ( or hinney ) and horses and mules have mismatched numbers of chromasomes. Seeing as chimp DNA is 95% similar to human DNA a humanzee would seem to be a distinct possibility, or maybe a chim-pan-man... Gives 'Jungle love' a whole new and twisted meaning...

[ Parent ]
Nobody has ever shown that to exist (none / 0) (#58)
by jd on Tue Mar 29, 2005 at 05:44:00 PM EST

There is no evidence for the "humanzee". As a hundred million years is a long time, I think it likely that such a combination is impossible. The genetics are simply too different.

I'm not sure the percent difference is enough to go on, as horses, donkeys, zebra, etc, are biologically much simpler. Maybe there is a maximum absolute difference in the DNA that will work.

The high proximity to humans does create known dangers, though. Many diseases (such as Ebola and Marburg) commonly cross between primates and at least some strains of AIDS originate with the Rhesus Monkey. (There are many strains of HIV, and it is possible that different strains have different origins. It would be reckless to assume they are all variants from a single, common form, until or unless research can establish that.)

It is known that genetic experiments involving trying to get animals to grow human organs have resulted in the organs containing a blend of human and non-human DNA. DNA blending, then, is clearly possible with a much wider range of genetic material. It is entirely possible you could induce by some mechanism the blending of chimp and human DNA. Gene therapy techniques would likely produce the most controlled results, as those permit the adding or substituting of DNA sequences in a living organism.

What the result would be, I don't know. And, frankly, I would be far more terrified by the prospect of deliberate DNA blending than by almost any other area of genetic research. Stem cell therapy (provided they can figure out how to reprogram adult stem cells to act and age like the most basic, generic stem cells) would seem to offer the ability to repair injuries involving cellular damage that would otherwise be impossible.

Gene therapy allows you to repair damaged genetic code, but it allows almost any other manipulation of genetics, too. Just find the gene sequence you want to replace and the gene sequence you want to replace it with, and attach it to the retrovirus used to embed the code into the DNA.

Such a mechanism would allow you to create just about any blend of animal you care to imagine, and (if you can devise the correct sequence for it) would allow you to synthesize any others you wanted.

[ Parent ]

Biologically 'simpler' (none / 0) (#65)
by Cubics Rube on Wed Mar 30, 2005 at 11:31:00 AM EST

Horses and donkeys have more chromosomes than humans... Not sure if their 'dna length' ( total number of base pairs ) is more, less or roughly the same as humans. Seeing as horses, donkeys, chimps, and humans all have mostly the same anatomy, ( eyes, nose, limbs, organs, etc ) I would be suprised if donkeys rated much different than humans on a level-of-biological-complexity scale.

[ Parent ]
Things I like about this article (2.60 / 5) (#6)
by nkyad on Thu Mar 24, 2005 at 11:21:42 PM EST

Besides being the most informative piece I've seen around here this week, it deals only with people long dead whose husbands and parents are also dead. A definite plus this days.

A recent find in England shows evidence of a group of hominids who attacked a prehistoric elephant - somewhere between two to three times the size of modern elephants - with nothing more than flint knives.
Obviously they were all dead. These ancient hominids were not very bright. Brave, but not very bright.

Creationists, as I expected, are getting increasingly upset with the fact that fossil finds are filling in the gaps well within the expected bounds, thus completing the "missing link" surprisingly well
Have you noticed the Creationists have been displaying their bottomless scientific ignorance again this week, this time misunderstanding a nice new genetic discovery? Anyway, anything that gets them increasingly upset cannot be bad, right?

Let's say that an early hominid species DOES exist, perhaps in America. Would we recognize it as essentially human and grant it rights on that basis, or would we treat it as merely a large monkey and throw it in a zoo? At what point does life have to be "human enough" to get decent treatment?
Wouldn't you think "it" would have a good winning chance if running for office?

Don't believe in anything you can't see, smell, touch or at the very least infer from a good particle accelerator run


ATTN nkyad: (1.00 / 3) (#32)
by esrever on Sun Mar 27, 2005 at 07:37:36 AM EST

I'm still waiting for your assistance so I can throw off the slavery of the media-sponsored superstition I have bought into.

Also, when are you going to start living up to your .sig?

Audit NTFS permissions on Windows
[ Parent ]

those that can, do; those that can't, zero [nt] (none / 0) (#51)
by esrever on Tue Mar 29, 2005 at 05:52:55 AM EST



Audit NTFS permissions on Windows
[ Parent ]
kinda disappointed (none / 1) (#8)
by khallow on Fri Mar 25, 2005 at 01:12:32 AM EST

There's some weaknesses with the article. For example, it doesn't say much about modern near relatives of humans. That is, Chimpanzees, Bonobos, and Gorillas. Also what's the deal with the Nephilim quote? From what I gather, a lot of stuff including unusually tall or well fed people or double-ugly extraterrestrials could have been Nephilim.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

If you believe in evolution... (1.04 / 23) (#11)
by esrever on Fri Mar 25, 2005 at 04:59:34 AM EST

You believe that a series of perhaps millions of random mutations created a non-physical code (a language) that is 3,000,000,000 letters long and inscribed it upon a molecule. This is the DNA moledule.

Audit NTFS permissions on Windows
You are getting really boring now (none / 1) (#12)
by eejit on Fri Mar 25, 2005 at 05:59:57 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Aha, the modbomber speaks! [nt] (none / 1) (#13)
by esrever on Fri Mar 25, 2005 at 06:43:30 AM EST



Audit NTFS permissions on Windows
[ Parent ]
On the other hand, (3.00 / 5) (#14)
by MrMikey on Fri Mar 25, 2005 at 10:20:03 AM EST

if you understand what evolutionary theory really says, you'll soon be able to tell the difference between legitmate questions and the sort of rubbish that somes out of the mouths of the ignorant and those who can't (or simply refuse to) distinguish between mythology and reality.

eserver, if you're going to go on and on about what's wrong with evolutionary theory, at least complain about the actual theory, as opposed to the straw men you've been fed. I mean, really... it isn't that hard to understand.

[ Parent ]

Let's see... (3.00 / 4) (#15)
by jd on Fri Mar 25, 2005 at 11:32:40 AM EST

The flu virus mutates about once every two hours. Because mutations that work will survive, and those that don't won't, you can get the "best of the best" of a million mutations in a mere 228 years.

That's in the present day. Three and a half billion years ago, the magnetic field was many times stronger and the lack of ozone meant the Earth was bathed in far harsher radiation. These would have raised the rate of change dramatically.

In terms of sheer probability, I'm much less surprised by the fact that three and a half billion years is sufficient for evolution to produce sophisticated and diverse lifeforms, than I am by the fact that it took anywhere near as long as that.

[ Parent ]

Best Own-Goal E-var!!!!111!1 (1.00 / 4) (#29)
by esrever on Sat Mar 26, 2005 at 08:23:39 PM EST

So it mutates every two hours, eh?  And it's still the flu virus, eh?  Hmmmmm, I'm not quite seeing the point you think you're making, here...

Audit NTFS permissions on Windows
[ Parent ]
uh (none / 0) (#35)
by Norkakn on Sun Mar 27, 2005 at 06:05:37 PM EST

you don't even seem to know what a virus is.

[ Parent ]
YFI (1.33 / 3) (#48)
by esrever on Mon Mar 28, 2005 at 10:48:13 PM EST

Here we are talking about something that isn't even alive that jd proposed as an example of evolution in action.

Good one.  I think it is you that don't know what you're talking about.

Audit NTFS permissions on Windows
[ Parent ]

Best own-goal ever! (none / 0) (#54)
by ghjm on Tue Mar 29, 2005 at 12:52:16 PM EST

Here's a real-world example of something that isn't alive, but has many characteristics similar to living things and has been shown experimentally to be capable of evolving into ever-more-successful forms.

What does that do to the argument that life couldn't arise out of non-life?

-Graham

[ Parent ]

Easy: (none / 0) (#56)
by esrever on Tue Mar 29, 2005 at 04:09:24 PM EST

The fact that in all of its millions of mutations it hasn't turned into anything more, nor less, than a virus.

Audit NTFS permissions on Windows
[ Parent ]
How do you know? (none / 0) (#117)
by ghjm on Mon Apr 18, 2005 at 10:48:34 AM EST

Did you observe the millions of mutations? Do you have evidence that none of the more complex forms that exist could possibly have arisen from a mutated virus?

-Graham

[ Parent ]

Easy: (none / 0) (#118)
by esrever on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 08:27:22 AM EST

Four words for you:
Survival Of The Fittest.

Audit NTFS permissions on Windows
[ Parent ]
Heh, awesome. (3.00 / 3) (#16)
by cburke on Fri Mar 25, 2005 at 12:00:34 PM EST

You know, if whatever brilliant person wrote up that webpage had any experience with genetic algorithms, they would have found that random chance can quite effectively improve solutions to problems, as long as your method of judging a good solution is adequate.  Sure, it might take millions of generations, but hey, fast processors (or a really old planet) make that not so much a problem.  Also, nature has a really great fitness function (survive and reproduce) that engenders all kinds of creative solutions.

Changes are random.  Which changes are kept are not.  Random walks are a basic method of numerical approximation techniques, and have a sound basis in math.  I trust math way more than I trust people who think ignorance is a solid basis for forming arguments.

[ Parent ]

Put another way... (3.00 / 2) (#17)
by jd on Fri Mar 25, 2005 at 12:56:15 PM EST

A million "generations" is a long time, if you measure sequentially AND assume a long gap between generations.

A million genetic "clock ticks" is no time at all, if you have a million clocks and they all tick once a second. (Or, in computing, once every billionth of a second.)

Strong lines will tend to merge (mutual attraction in anything more complex than a slug) so not only do the very best clocks survive, the very best components are combined - in addition to any mutation - with every generation.

Given that there are many, many strands of DNA in each cell, any of which can self-destruct if a mutation is harmful, and many, many cells in each body, every animal is itself conducting billions of genetic experiments.

You mention genetic algorithms. Imagine a genetic algorithm running on a Linux cluster with a few tens of millions of nodes. Now imagine having a few million clusters, each of which starts at different points and can trade patterns that look exceptionally good with other clusters, in addition to all the normal filtering out of "bad" lines.

Dawkin's Biomes demo program managed to produce excellent examples of evolution with a few steps. In the super-cluster given above, there's a few trillion nodes, each of which is applying similar methods to Dawkin's Biomes to produce better code.

If it takes more than a few days to produce damn-near perfect code via genetic algorithms, there's something wrong with the code and you should stop writing programs in LOGO.

[ Parent ]

Good way to put it. (none / 0) (#21)
by cburke on Fri Mar 25, 2005 at 03:46:41 PM EST

Given that there are many, many strands of DNA in each cell, any of which can self-destruct if a mutation is harmful, and many, many cells in each body, every animal is itself conducting billions of genetic experiments.

True, but keep in mind when saying this that the mutations only really matter if they are passed on to offspring (i.e. they exist in eggs/sperm).  At least as far as altering species; it is certainly conceivable (and with the recent evidence of mutation correction in plants, probable) that mutation in other parts of the bodies is regulated by inherited traits.  But from an evolutionary standpoint, what matters is the DNA in reproductive cells.

You know, I've considered writting something about genetic algorithms because they are interesting and because they actually provide a lot of insight into true evolution (not in practice but in principle).  Certainly from the standpoint of someone saying "how could [complicated thing X] arise randomly?" or "if it's survival of the fittest, why does [suboptimal feature X] exist?".  Both of which are forms of the even more fundamental question (that comes up often in GA as well) of "Why doesn't evolution work how I expect it to?"

[ Parent ]

Troll, rated as such (2.25 / 4) (#23)
by nkyad on Fri Mar 25, 2005 at 07:16:53 PM EST

Do whatever you want in your diary. In articles or comments to articles, trolling for your particular superstition, specially when related to the creationinst media-sponsored lies, gets a zero from me. I recommend that all other serious moderators follow suit.

Don't believe in anything you can't see, smell, touch or at the very least infer from a good particle accelerator run


[ Parent ]
A serious response (1.50 / 2) (#27)
by esrever on Sat Mar 26, 2005 at 08:21:19 PM EST

As you are clearly in possesion of information I am not, that renders my worldview nothing more than a 'superstition', perhaps you could clear this up for me, as it's been bothering me for a while now:

Could you please give me details of the scientific, replicable-in-a-lab experiment by which I can gain emperical, first-hand observation of the mechanism by which evolution occurs.

Thanks.

Alternately, a cite to an article detailing these steps in a respectable peer-reviewed scientific journal will do equally well.

Thanks.


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[ Parent ]

A serious response to your serious response (none / 1) (#33)
by Teuthida on Sun Mar 27, 2005 at 12:18:46 PM EST

Richard Lenski's large-scale experiment on e. Coli is an excellent reproducible demonstration of microevolution. Here is the publications list, there is an excellent more layman-oriented writeup here. If you want more such experiments, I recommend google.

This, I think, is sufficient to show the mechanism of evolution. Experimental evidence of actual speciation is very difficult to demonstrate because of the random nature of evolution. The closest example I can think of is Dobzhansky's discovery (in the lab) of a new incipient species of fruit fly.

[ Parent ]

Do not feed him (none / 0) (#36)
by nkyad on Sun Mar 27, 2005 at 06:49:47 PM EST

I refrained from answering because it is not worth arguing with him. He is not here to discuss science, he is here to troll for his God. I refuse to dignify such an useless activity. I don't know if he thinks trolling a weblog is some sort of missionary mission or if anyone will be converted by reading his words, but I don't care. In the end, he is just trolling.

Don't believe in anything you can't see, smell, touch or at the very least infer from a good particle accelerator run


[ Parent ]
Of course! (none / 0) (#43)
by esrever on Mon Mar 28, 2005 at 03:20:20 PM EST

Because anyone that questions the orthodoxy of your evolutionary theory and demands actual, scientific evidence is a Troll!  In fact, anyone that disagrees with your worldview in any way whatsoever must automatically be a Troll too!

What a fucking moron.

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[ Parent ]

Thank you, Sir (none / 0) (#45)
by esrever on Mon Mar 28, 2005 at 03:29:37 PM EST

However, I respectfully disagree, and raise the following issues for your consideration
  1. Their work has not been replicated
  2. This is microevolution, not macroevolution.  No amount of gene-shuffling is going to cause these flies to no longer be flies
  3. The particular change noted in this paper does not involve 'fitness' in any way whatsoever, and provides highly dubious 'benefits' for the flies in question (to whit; the flies are unable to determine that the fly they are breeding with will give sterile offspring, this would seem to indicate a serious backward step for the species in question)
Please note point 3 fully before continuing, as this is an important sticking point.  Regardless of whether points 1 and 2 resonate with you at all, point 3 should give you serious pause, as it is at odds with the cornerstone of evolutionary thought - it is not a change that will improve fitness and expand the general fly population.

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[ Parent ]
False dichotomy (none / 0) (#53)
by ghjm on Tue Mar 29, 2005 at 12:47:35 PM EST

The paper clearly confirms that an evolutionary process is at work. Nothing in evolutionary theory requires that every change is beneficial. If, as you say, the change observed here detracted from fitness, then as you say, the general fly population would decrease - showing a lack of survival of the unfit.

However, all of this is beside the point: Attacking evolutionary science is not a substitute for advancing a cause of your own. Suppose you were able to show that evolution is completely wrong, untenable, and impossible. That would mean we would need to start searching for another theory; it would NOT add an iota of new support to any competing theory.

I assume that you have a specific competing theory in mind, and if it is the one I'm thinking of, it has far less experimental support than evolution.

-Graham

[ Parent ]

There is no macro- vs micro- (none / 0) (#55)
by cburke on Tue Mar 29, 2005 at 02:47:00 PM EST

This is microevolution, not macroevolution.

Microevolution begets macroevolution, a distinction that is largely one of human classification, not biology.

You have a population with a mutation, and a population without.  Their mutual offspring are infertile.  Therefore, these two populations are genetically isolated, since mutations cannot pass from one population to another.  This is a classic definition of "species" (which again is more a matter of classification than of biology).

Once you have two genetically isolated populations that began from a single population, each continuing with independent microevolutionary paths, you are looking at macroevolution.

No amount of gene-shuffling is going to cause these flies to no longer be flies

If you accept "microevolution" and that physical traits are expressions of DNA, then this is clearly nonsense, unless you define every ancestor of a fly to be a fly.  Are you really denying that a change could take place that would make you not recognize the result as a fly?

The particular change noted in this paper does not involve 'fitness' in any way whatsoever,

Nor should you expect it to.  The changes themselves are essentially random, and have no inherent "goodness" or "badness".  Once the change occurs, it is natural selection (aka the ability to survive and reproduce in the environment it exists in) that decides whether or not the change is "good".

Please note point 3 fully before continuing, as this is an important sticking point.

It shouldn't be.  Nothing in evolutionary theory requires any particular mutation to be beneficial.  The whole point is that which mutations are beneficial are decided in the gauntlet of life.  Changes that are beneficial tend to help those with them survive and propagate and thus the change survives, and those that are detrimental tend to hinder and thus die out with the organisms that carry them.

Honestly: if you are at all math or computer-minded, I suggest you look into genetic algorithms.  While only metaphorically inspired by biological evolution, they effectively demonstrate many of the fundamental principles of biological evolution.  Of most relevance at this moment, they show how random changes combined with a non-random selection process can yield positive changes.

[ Parent ]

Oh? (none / 0) (#57)
by esrever on Tue Mar 29, 2005 at 05:25:50 PM EST

"""
Microevolution begets macroevolution
"""

Cite, please.  With reference to a respected, peer reviewed journal giving details of a replicable method to verify this.

...I'm only teasing; you and I both know you won't find such a thing, which is exactly what makes the entire rest of your comment moot.

People have been breeding dogs for thousands of years, and yet, physical difficulties aside, all dogs can still breed with all other dogs and produce offspring.  Yet if you were to dig up the bones of a miniature chihuahua and the bones of a great dane, would you perhaps think one was a precursor to the other?

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[ Parent ]

A step forward (none / 0) (#59)
by cburke on Tue Mar 29, 2005 at 07:24:02 PM EST

Cite, please.  With reference to a respected, peer reviewed journal giving details of a replicable method to verify this.

Um...  okay.   Admittedly replication would be difficult, but perhaps not impossible.

Out of curiosity, what part of populations of the same species that are genetically isolated (whether by mutation or by environment) undergoing continued mutations resulting in arbitrarily divergent populations do you find difficult to comprehend or believe?

The distinction and debate between macro and micro evolution is largely one created by the orthogeneticists and, of course, the creationists.  Biology doesn't care about arbitrary distinctions.

People have been breeding dogs for thousands of years, and yet, physical difficulties aside, all dogs can still breed with all other dogs and produce offspring.

And yet, in the lab, we have an example of flies which cannot (well, at least the male hybrids are non-fertile, which is halfway there -- certainly a population solely consisting of crossbreeds would be non-viable).  Once separate, there is no longer crossing of genes, and the two species will only diverge more over time.

Which is only part of why dogs are a very bad example.  Not being able to produce viable offspring with other dogs is an extremely undesireable outcome from a breeder's point of view.  Also, dog breeding is not the same as dog mutation.  Selecting existing genes between dogs isn't the same as creating new genes not seen in dog populations before.

At least you seem to have dropped that "important sticking point".  Progress.

[ Parent ]

Bingo! (none / 0) (#63)
by esrever on Tue Mar 29, 2005 at 10:27:33 PM EST

And here we are:
"""
Also, dog breeding is not the same as dog mutation.  Selecting existing genes between dogs isn't the same as creating new genes not seen in dog populations before.
"""

Exactly!  One is microevolution, the other is macroevolution.  Natural Selection only accounts for the expression of alleles that already exist, it doesn't account for the new ones.  For that we must invoke random (or as MrMikey would have it, kinda-maybe-nonrandom) errors in DNA copying, etc.

Dog breeding is a perfect case study, because what we have is effectively a genetically isolated gene pool (one purebred dog breed), which only breeds inside the pool (your theoretically new species that can't breed with anything else).  Also, in order to reduce 'inbreeding' (the expression of undesirable alleles), dog breeders ensure that they crossbreed inside the pool as widely as possible.  So why is it that you don't expect to see anything other than purebred dogs in exactly the same mould as their parents coming from a purebred dog?

If evolution was as prolific as it must be to account for the enormous biodiversity we see today, why is it that we have dog breeds stretching back thousands of years that are still, for all intents and purposes, Dogs?  Moreover, dogs that would have passed unnoticed in the streets as just another example of the breed thousands of years ago?  There's plenty of generations between then and now.  Plenty of time for a breed to diverge from the tree and form its own.  So why hasn't it?

Why is there not a single thing that can be pointed to as 'hey, look at that great adaptation, shame we can't breed that back in to the rest of our dog population now!'.

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[ Parent ]

Only thousands of years? (none / 0) (#64)
by cburke on Wed Mar 30, 2005 at 02:18:46 AM EST

Exactly!  One is microevolution, the other is macroevolution.  Natural Selection only accounts for the expression of alleles that already exist, it doesn't account for the new ones.  For that we must invoke random (or as MrMikey would have it, kinda-maybe-nonrandom) errors in DNA copying, etc.

I've always heard it argued by anti-evolution people that macroevolution meant at least speciation, so I'll admit this is a new one on me.  You realize that by drawing the line at "mutations giving rise to new features" you basically lower the bar to proving macroevolution to what has been demonstrated in bacteria for years.

Speciation is what we're talking about here.  Mutations (i.e. random changes in DNA) that give rise to entirely different species.

So why is it that you don't expect to see anything other than purebred dogs in exactly the same mould as their parents coming from a purebred dog?

If evolution was as prolific as it must be to account for the enormous biodiversity we see today, why is it that we have dog breeds stretching back thousands of years that are still, for all intents and purposes, Dogs?

Three reasons:  Thousands of years isn't very long on evolutionary scales; any mutation in any one population is likely to spread to others (whether breeders of purebloods wish it or not); and human-driven selective breeding strives toward certain traits but is not amenable to random mutation creating new traits.

Natural selection only asks that a trait survive.  For a species that has found a way to survive succesfully, most random changes are going to be detrimental.   For a species for whom existing forms have difficulty surviving in an environment, pressure can be much stronger.  Dogs have had relatively little selective pressure applied to them in the short years they've been with humans.  What pressure there has been has mostly come from breeders who were in general looking for specific traits.  That means random mutations, which would of course tend not to be in the desired direction in a ridiculously multi-dimensional space, wouldn't survive even if in the wild the trait may have succeeded.

Humans ask for a result and have a notion of how one should get there and judge a solution based on that.  Bigger, fluffier, better able to run chase badgers down their holes.  Breeds have been selected for specific traits, not random traits.  In this way, the creation of 'pureblood' lines that would naturally not breed an animal that deviated from the standards of the breed, is less likely to show the new traits like you expect.  

Whereas natural selection only asks for survival, and has no preconceived notions of how that should be done.  For much longer than selective breeding programs dogs have been selected by nature for their ability to live with humans.  They're good at that, and thus pressure for speciation is low.

Compare dogs with the explosion of mammal species that occured in the gap left by dinosaurs.  The changed environment completely altered environmental pressures, and in a short time (though still extremely long compared to the history of domesticated animals) a huge diversity in mammal species developed.  Tremendous environmental pressure forced tremendous changes.  Deviations from the norm were more likely to be successful, and there are nearly infinite ways to be successful.

Oh, I'm sorry.  How rude of me.  I've been doing all this talking, and I forgot to ask you how you explain the fossil record.  What about all the mammal species that didn't exist when giant reptiles were roaming around?

[ Parent ]

Mammals? (none / 0) (#85)
by esrever on Mon Apr 11, 2005 at 12:50:48 AM EST

Oh, you're referring to the tautologically self-validating circularity of dating rocks by the fossils in them and fossils by the rocks they're in?  

Tell you what, I'll answer your question if you will tell me what age potassium-argon dating gives for the new, stratified rock created by the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 (hint: it's not ~20 years...).

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[ Parent ]

Three answers to that one. (none / 0) (#66)
by jd on Thu Mar 31, 2005 at 12:00:09 PM EST

First, you need to be looking at hundreds of thousands of years. The mere couple of thousand years since the Roman Empire is absolutely nothing. Actually, a few million would be better.

Second, dogs are descended from wolves. You want to find me a wolf that looks like a French Poodle? Or even some combination of wolves, if you want to juggle genes? Good luck! Even in the tiny, insignificant time that humans have domesticated cannines, there is clear evidence of deviations which cannot be accounted for by examining the original genetic material.

Third, biodiversity has had three and a half BILLION years to take place. That is, 3,500,000 times longer than the "thousands of years" you are talking about. This is important. Let us say that it takes 100,000,000 years for a single divergence to occur. How many species could exist? Well, not 35. Rather, 2^35. Thirty two billion or so species. What about 10,000,000 years - probably a more realistic number? Then, you're looking at an absolute maximum of 2^350 species. That's a maximum, as I don't think there are that many atoms in the galaxy.

But at one change every 10,000,000 years, then after 2,000 years you would get 0.02% speciation, assuming it's even linear and doesn't "leap" from one region of stable states to another in the manner of chaotic systems or quantum mechanics. You can't tell a 0.02% variation by eye? And a casual glance, at that? Oh, my. I am astonished. I am so utterly underwhelmed by the lack of visually differentiation at such minute levels of change.

Look, I'm willing to consider a great many theories - even ones I think are far-fetched - if I can see that they solve some problem that other theories either don't or don't solve as well. In that respect, I am not exactly "conventional" or orthodox. The way I look at things, observations define outer limits for what can work. Anything inside of those limits may be true - the only things that absolutely can't be is the stuff outside of those limits.

By this line of thinking, it is for theorists to prove they are inside those limits and for observational scientists to refine what the limts are. This provides plenty of scope for many alternative explanations, plenty of scope for imagination to run wild, plenty of scope for beliefs, faith and science.

If you cannot fit your beliefs through the lightyear-wide barn door that is the scope allowed for by current understanding of genetics, it might not be that the scope is too narrow.

[ Parent ]

basic genetics 101: (none / 0) (#84)
by esrever on Mon Apr 11, 2005 at 12:43:04 AM EST

You are way off base if you seriously believe that it would take as many steps as you posit to get from a wolf to a poodle with selective breeding.

There are many examples available today that demonstrate that selective breeding can indeed produce an enormous amount of variety in a short space of time without ever having to invoke the magic of 'evolution'.  I'll let you do the googling yourself, but some examples that pop immediately to mind are the show dogs that usually have their tails docked - legislation was proposed to ban docking, so a breeder immediately set about breeding a strain of the dog that didn't grow long tails (he succeeded in only a handful of generations).  And the cattle rancher who retired and decided to just breed himself some 'small cows' to keep in his retirement (they're the size of a very small pony, or a very large dog).

There are plenty of replicatable examples of what can be achieved with selective breeding alone.  Where are your counter examples of replicatable verification of evolution?

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[ Parent ]

So, what's the difference (none / 0) (#91)
by MrMikey on Mon Apr 11, 2005 at 10:35:31 AM EST

Between breeders doing the selecting:
There are many examples available today that demonstrate that selective breeding can indeed produce an enormous amount of variety in a short space of time without ever having to invoke the magic of 'evolution'. I'll let you do the googling yourself, but some examples that pop immediately to mind are the show dogs that usually have their tails docked - legislation was proposed to ban docking, so a breeder immediately set about breeding a strain of the dog that didn't grow long tails (he succeeded in only a handful of generations). And the cattle rancher who retired and decided to just breed himself some 'small cows' to keep in his retirement (they're the size of a very small pony, or a very large dog).

and the environment (climate, predators, food availability, etc.) doing the selecting? If you can get that much variability when humans pick and choose which breed with which, then why not, over longer time scales, with the environment doing the picking?

[ Parent ]

*friendly smile* (none / 0) (#92)
by esrever on Mon Apr 11, 2005 at 05:49:22 PM EST

the difference is that all the necessary information to create those 'sub-breeds' was there at the start.  Nothing new has been created.  For evolutionary processes to turn bacteria into humans, however, new information must be added.

Allow me to speak plainly:
I firmly beleive that species show great variation over time with natural selection as the driving agent.
However:
This does not translate into the 'answer to the question of life' in terms of how all that information got here in the first place.

Do you see?  Natural selection and intra-species specialisation == well documented; however, the error that you and most other evolutionists commit is that you then attempt to parlay this into a general 'well, see, stuff changes'.  Which is a bogus position not supported by the evidence, except in the most circuitous, roundabout, and circumstantial way.  You must invariably fall back on the 'fossil record', which has flaws, unstated assumptions, and outright errors that you will never mention, admit to, or even possibly be aware of.

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[ Parent ]

Our area of disagreement becomes clearer... (none / 0) (#93)
by MrMikey on Mon Apr 11, 2005 at 07:01:21 PM EST

the difference is that all the necessary information to create those 'sub-breeds' was there at the start. Nothing new has been created. For evolutionary processes to turn bacteria into humans, however, new information must be added.

Dog breeding hasn't been happening very long. Evolutionary theory, and the evidence supporting it, is consistent with "bacteria into humans" taking a lot longer than the timescales associated with human dog breeding. You seem to be objecting to the idea that many little changes over a long period of time can lead to big changes. Also, new information can be added by several mechanisms... a section of DNA could be duplicated, changing the size of the genome, or a mutation in a "homeobox" gene could cause a change as drastic as a modified body plan. There is also evidence that the process of gene "translation" doesn't just code for proteins, but codes for changes in the way other DNA is interpreted.

In short, I don't think your "the information was always there" stance is supported by the evidence.

Allow me to speak plainly: I firmly beleive that species show great variation over time with natural selection as the driving agent.

OK... that certainly seems to be what the evidence to date indicates.

However: This does not translate into the 'answer to the question of life' in terms of how all that information got here in the first place.

And here we disagree. There are mechanisms that allow for "increased information" that don't require a Designer, and don't rely on the information "always having been there."

Do you see? Natural selection and intra-species specialisation == well documented; however, the error that you and most other evolutionists commit is that you then attempt to parlay this into a general 'well, see, stuff changes'. Which is a bogus position not supported by the evidence, except in the most circuitous, roundabout, and circumstantial way. You must invariably fall back on the 'fossil record', which has flaws, unstated assumptions, and outright errors that you will never mention, admit to, or even possibly be aware of.

So, how do you reconcile the fossil evidence with the pattern of twin nested hierarchy we observe, in both morphological and genetic terms, for life on this planet?

[ Parent ]

you conflate the issues again :( (none / 0) (#94)
by esrever on Mon Apr 11, 2005 at 07:23:46 PM EST

"""
You seem to be objecting to the idea that many little changes over a long period of time can lead to big changes.
"""

No, that is in fact exactly what I am agreeing with.  It is the nature of the changes that we disagree on.

You follow up by mentioning some possibities (ie, plausible scenarios), but these are far distant cousins to the verifiable, replicatable results I can achieve with selective breeding (and, QED, by natural selection).  I reiterate a comment made much earlier to someone else: if in 1000 years' time the bones of a miniature chihuahua were dug up in one country, and the bones of a great dane in another, do you believe that they would be correctly identified as belonging to the same species?

Finally, WRT to the fossil 'evidence' (which is a lot shakier than you seem to believe), please see this comment.

Cheers,

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[ Parent ]

Our semantics differ. (none / 0) (#97)
by MrMikey on Mon Apr 11, 2005 at 07:34:50 PM EST

You say "nature of the changes", and I say "big changes." We're both talking about changes that are quantitatively and qualitatively greater than those observed by dog breeders.

If the timescale needed for the sorts of changes you'd call "changes of nature" is much larger than, say, a few thousand years, is it even possible to present you with what you would consider to be "verifiable, replicatable results"?

And, as for geologic dating, are you saying that it's all hogwash? Are you suggesting that our planet is only a few thousand years old?

How do you think life came to be as we observe it today? Given the morphological and genetic evidence, what explanation makes sense to you?

[ Parent ]

geological dating (none / 0) (#101)
by esrever on Tue Apr 12, 2005 at 07:33:42 PM EST

I wouldn't go so far as to call it hogwash, but it is certainly built on very shaky foundations, and several assumptions that in some instances can be verified as being outright wrong (potassium-argon dating).

Certainly it is a house of cards that does not justify the confidence it seems to inspire in people.

Here's what I see:
"Evolution is valid because we see these layers of fossils in rocks that look kinda like the ones at the bottom are simpler.  And look!  If I make some assumptions and then test the rocks at the bottom, they look really old!  And look!  If I make some more assumptions, and test the rocks at the top, they look younger!  Evolution is true!"

"But what about these fossils over here that cross several strata that your tests say are millions of years apart?"

"Well, that's just an abberation, we know evolution is true, so I'm sure there's some reasonable explanation that we just haven't discovered yet!"

"OK, but what about these fossilised human footprints in a river bed that are in the same layer and river bed as these fossilised dino footprints?"

"Well, that's just.  Um.  Look!  Look at the crazy monkey!  We know that must just be an aberation, because the dinos died out 65 million years ago"

(sorry, the last response's just for kicks ;)

The whole thing doesn't stand up to serious scrutiny.  The whole base everything stands on is one big series of assumptions, plausible possibilities, and more assumptions.  When concrete evidence comes up (Mount St. Helens' new stratified rock showing up as millions of years old) that's just another "well, we're not sure, but I'm certain it'll be explained in a way congruent with current evolutionary theory at some point in the future..."

Talk about faith!

:)

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[ Parent ]

The genetic and morphological evidence (none / 0) (#102)
by MrMikey on Tue Apr 12, 2005 at 08:25:48 PM EST

still stands, even without the fossil record... which is nowhere near as shaky as you imply.

So, how old is it that you think the Earth actually is? How is it that you think life came to be as we see it today. Your thoughts?

[ Parent ]

what genetic evidence? (none / 0) (#109)
by esrever on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 12:55:18 AM EST

You mean the genetic evidence that strongly indicates that mitochondrial Eve lived 6000 years ago?

You mean the genetic evidence that plants can revert their DNA without any apparent good copy available?

You mean the genetic evidence that DNA should be long gone after 10,000 years, so any fossil with DNA in it is immediately suspect?

.....
Of course, we both know you weren't talking about that sort of evidence.  After all, those are just abberations, that I'm sure we'll explain at some mysterious point in the future in a manner that will be perfectly compatible with current evolutionary thinking.

No, what you're talking about is the fact that because all our DNA is so similar, and because we share such a significant portion of our DNA with other creatures, that this indicates that we are related.

I'll speak to you for a moment, programmer to programmer:  when you are working on a new genetic algorithm for one of your programmes (or, really, any part of one of your programmes); do you throw out everything you have done before, and make sure that every aspect of this programme is utterly different to the programme before?  No, of course you do not.  That would be ludicrous, not to mention the fact that inside the programming environment you are using, maybe there are only a finite number of ways to solve certain common problems.  So you code-share.  You do what any good programmer for the last 50 years has done and you re-use code.

Is it so surprising to posit that someone designing myriad animals to live in Earth's environment might 'code share' between them too?  I don't think it is at all...

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[ Parent ]

One more time... (none / 0) (#111)
by MrMikey on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 10:38:20 AM EST

You mean the genetic evidence that strongly indicates that mitochondrial Eve lived 6000 years ago?

What, if anything, is a Mitochondrial Eve?

You mean the genetic evidence that plants can revert their DNA without any apparent good copy available?

One very interesting case of one plant appearing to show this ability in about 10% of the cases does not magically make all the other evidence disappear.

You mean the genetic evidence that DNA should be long gone after 10,000 years, so any fossil with DNA in it is immediately suspect?

Sigh. Not that "bleeding bone" again... look, they found some tissue. They're examining it. They're surprised at its state of preservation, but haven't found intact DNA. No one is saying that this is proof that everything else we know about fossils and fossilization is suddenly wrong, no matter how much you wish otherwise, and no, that isn't because the Super Secret Scientist Cabal is suppressing the news.

Of course, we both know you weren't talking about that sort of evidence.

You're right... if I were, it would show that I didn't understand what the evidence meant.

After all, those are just abberations, that I'm sure we'll explain at some mysterious point in the future in a manner that will be perfectly compatible with current evolutionary thinking.

Yes... the "A Magical God did it all!" way of thinking makes so much more sense. Funny.

No, what you're talking about is the fact that because all our DNA is so similar, and because we share such a significant portion of our DNA with other creatures, that this indicates that we are related.

It isn't just the similarity... it's the pattern of similarities and differences.

I'll speak to you for a moment, programmer to programmer: when you are working on a new genetic algorithm for one of your programmes (or, really, any part of one of your programmes); do you throw out everything you have done before, and make sure that every aspect of this programme is utterly different to the programme before? No, of course you do not. That would be ludicrous, not to mention the fact that inside the programming environment you are using, maybe there are only a finite number of ways to solve certain common problems. So you code-share. You do what any good programmer for the last 50 years has done and you re-use code.

Yes... and if you look at, say, the "design" of the human body, you'd say that the "Designer" was not only lazy, but that they were absurdly lazy, as well as an incompetent engineer. You sure you want to go down that metaphorical road?

Is it so surprising to posit that someone designing myriad animals to live in Earth's environment might 'code share' between them too? I don't think it is at all...

It isn't implausible... it's just that there are alternative explanations that don't require creating theories that invoke the action of a Magical Supernatural Force (or Wee Green Blobbies from Alpha Centauri) that we otherwise have no evidence for, would give us even more unknowns that are even harder to answer, and that would have no explanatory or predictive power. I could assert that the "Great Unicorn" created the entire universe last Tuesday, complete with our memories as they are, photons in transit, and so on. This assertion is completely consistent with all evidence... and is completely worthless as a way of explaining how the Universe works. I think Creationism and "last Tuesdayism" are about as equally useful and well-supported... that is to say, not at all.

Creationism used to be the accepted scientific position. It got replaced by a better theory.

[ Parent ]

a few clarifications (none / 0) (#113)
by esrever on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 07:02:33 PM EST

WRT DNA;
no, I wasn't specifically referring to the dino bones (although they are interesting in their own right), but rather the more general case of ancient preserved specimens (like mosquitos, bees, etc) that are supposedly ancient and yet still have DNA samples present.

WRT patterns;
everything I said holds.

WRT the human body;
care to provide some concrete examples?  The human body is a fucking amazing piece of machinery that we haven't even come close to understanding yet.

WRT predictive power;
actually, the assumption of a reasonably young earth with created life does generate testable predictions when applied to the universe that we observe today.  For example, it seems reasonable that light must have moved faster in the past in order for our observations of remote galaxies to occur.  In every experiment to determine the speed of light done over the last 300 years up to 1960 each successive experiment showed up slowdowns from the previous which were outside the margins of error for the experiment.  Only once we moved our timesource off orbital time and onto atomic time does the speed of light suddenly stop slowing.  But at the same time, we have new experiments that show that atomic time is slowing WRT orbital time...  Things like galactic twist in spiral galaxies: these should be generally consistent regardless of how far away the galaxies are from us... Guess what, they are.  Etc, etc.  Theres plenty of stuff there, you just have to care enough to go looking.

WRT how the universe works;
here is the crux of the matter.  You seem to portray this as an epic struggle to control our understanding of 'how the universe works'.  I challenge this line of thinking; it is faulty.  In no way does the acceptance/belief/proof of a creator affect our ability to determine the mechanics of the universe and our physical reality.  You are creating a false dichotomy if you believe otherwise.

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[ Parent ]

A clarification... (none / 0) (#96)
by MrMikey on Mon Apr 11, 2005 at 07:27:03 PM EST

when we're talking about information, such as the information content of a DNA strand, we need to be clear as to which body of information theory we're using as a reference: Shannon's information theory or Kolmogorov-Chaitin information theory.

Shannon's information theory has to do with the transmission of information via some communications channel. In that case, noise present in that channel can't add information to the message. At best, it won't distort the message to the point that information is lost.

Kolmogorov-Chaitin information theory has to do with the information content of a string. The information content is a function of the randomness in it; if you have lots of redundancy, you have a low information content, and if you have little redundancy, you have a higher information content. So, a string of "random" characters - "asdofjsdfoifwoqgf" - has a higher information content than one with more redundancy - "aaabbbaaabbbaaabbb". So, in the K-C sense, noise can actually add information content, because it can reduce the redundancy inherent in the string.

So, if a DNA strand is imperfectly copied (i.e. noise is added), it's information can increase.

In short, mutation and recombination can result in increased information. You can see the same results when looking at the work done using evolutionary computation (e.g., genetic algorithms and genetic programming). You can actually evolve a program that is considerably more complex, and contains more information, than the "protocode" you started with.

[ Parent ]

That's not variety, because there is nothing new. (none / 0) (#95)
by jd on Mon Apr 11, 2005 at 07:24:36 PM EST

There's a very simple genetic sequence that controls the length of the tail. The Manx cat, for example, can have any number of lengths of tail, depending on how mangled that genetic sequence is. The more mangled the gene sequence, the shorter the tail. Eventually, there's no tail at all. After that, the backbone itself is deformed.

However, this begs an important question. How did the gene sequence get corrupted in the first place? Tailless cats haven't been around that long. Prior to the tailless cat, the corruption could not have existed.

Ergo, that change occured at a given point in time. You could not have Manx cats prior to that time, no matter how much breeding and selecting you did, because the sequences needed didn't exist. Only after such time could such cats exist.

Likewise, it is certain that if you collected every cannine species that existed, say, 5,000 years ago, you could not produce every cannine species that exists today. 5,000 years isn't long in evolutionary terms, but it's long enough (just) to introduce changes that could not have occured by mere farming techniques alone.

(I'm using 5,000 years because that is well within the time limit of Creationism, and therefore a time limit all parties can agree actually existed.)

Personally, I would have thought it more promising for a Creationist to argue over the plant experiments in the news recently, which showed apparent inheritance from the grandparent. This, at least, would create an interesting line of debate. Dogs and cats, although interesting creatures in themselves, actually do more to prove evolution than otherwise, merely because ancient texts and pictograms verify the fossil accounts which show that certain characteristics did not exist prior to a given date, which is an observation in favour of evolution, not creationism.

[ Parent ]

You are out of your depth (none / 0) (#98)
by esrever on Mon Apr 11, 2005 at 09:53:52 PM EST

Taillessness is found naturally in some dogs.

"""
Likewise, it is certain that if you collected every cannine species that existed, say, 5,000 years ago, you could not produce every cannine species that exists today.
"""

Actually it certain that I could, as this is exactly how we got to where we are today.

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[ Parent ]

Well, you don't seem to have read my post (none / 0) (#99)
by jd on Tue Apr 12, 2005 at 12:22:56 AM EST

So I'll try again. Tailless dogs may well occur naturally today, but did they occur naturally 5,000 years ago? Tailless cats, of the Manx variety for example, did not. Modern tailless cats are a product of a relatively recent genetic mutation, not a product of selective breeding.

Your argument is that we must be able to get all the cannines today from all the cannines back then because evolution does not occur, and therefore evolution does not occur, as we can get all the cannines today from all the cannines back then. This is called a circular argument. At least, by those kind enough to be polite.

I'm not interested in circular reasoning, because it isn't reasonable. You cannot use the basis of your argument as your conclusion. Well, you can, you just won't be taken seriously by anyone - including those who might otherwise support your argument.

I've laid down a simple test, with well-defined parameters. I say that genetic mutations over 5,000 years will be sufficient to create characteristics today that did not exist back then. These characteristics cannot be created by breeding, but only by the synthesis of new genetic code that did not exist prior to that time.

That's a very simple argument and it is very easily tested. All I need to do is demonstrate a single recognized breed that exists today which posesses some property - any property, it doesn't matter what - where that property cannot be synthesized by combining properties known to have existed 5,000 years ago in cannines.

If you had faith - true faith - that such a breed does not exist, you'd be more than happy for me to try. You'd be convinced I'd fail. Indeed, those of true, absolute, faith might even help. After all, the failure to find such a trait would validate their faith beyond anything any mere argument could do.

Ah, but you see, you didn't do that. You preferred to try to wrap yourself round in a circle, which really fools nobody, probably not even yourself. So, I will offer you a chance to redeem your faith and your beliefs. Genuinely help. Go out there and test my wild claim. If you are truly right, then you know within a reasonable time that this mysterious trait is nothing more than a phantom. An illusion, created by the delusions of an evolutionist.

But know this. If you do so, you must face the other possibility. That you are wrong. That such a trait DOES exist, that breeding alone cannot explain what is, what was, or what will be. Anyone can face those things which feel good to them. It takes guts to face your fears and the possibility of being wrong.

Is there a Creationist in the house with the courage of their convictions and the moral fortitude to take a look? People laugh at poor old Thomas for doubting, but the fact is, he did face those doubts, willingly, knowing he might lose what little he had left. I'm not asking anyone to face a test on that scale, all I'm talking about is one trait for one breed of dog. Is that too much to ask?

[ Parent ]

Oh good grief (none / 0) (#100)
by esrever on Tue Apr 12, 2005 at 12:40:37 AM EST

Lame, lame, lame.  Let's look in the mirror (I'll paraphrase for you):
"""
Evolution is how we got from being microbes to being humans.  Evolution doesn't deal with abiogenesis; we don't know or have any good theories about how we got those microbes/bactera/amoeba in the first place.  But we know we came from microbes/amoeba/bacteria, because evolution shows that we did.  And we know evolution is true, because we came from microbes/amoeba/bacteria.  Because evolution says we did.  Because ...
"""

Etc.

That's called a tautology.  Or, if you like, a 'circular argument'.

Now, to your main point.  Destroying a tail does not show we can create one.  The 'mutations' you place great faith in are the result of inbreeding in a narrow gene pool; they do not increase fitness (as you point out, skeletal deformities are a risk, etc).  And they don't introduce new information.  The expression of what is left may give the animal a somewhat new or differentiated appearance, but the machinery that created that animal is defective and less whole than the original.  There is no new information there.

Tell you what, let's take a different approach.  Perhaps you'd care to explain how it is that the maximum age of the moon is limited to 1.2 Billion years?

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[ Parent ]

Troll, rated as such [nt] (1.50 / 2) (#28)
by esrever on Sat Mar 26, 2005 at 08:22:19 PM EST



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[ Parent ]
A serious response (none / 1) (#34)
by Teuthida on Sun Mar 27, 2005 at 12:25:06 PM EST

What are your beliefs as to the origin of species? What makes your theory more plausible than the theory of evolution?

I'm not trying to be a dick, I'm just curious.

[ Parent ]

yeah so? (none / 1) (#42)
by neozeed on Mon Mar 28, 2005 at 11:27:12 AM EST

Whats wrong with DNA? Its tangable, I can point to it, and we have a basic understanding of how it works. Now show me this guy in the sky. Ive flow many times, and have not seen this 'god' person.

Im greatly disapointed.

-----------------------
Unless you're alive you can't play. And if you don't play, you don't get to be alive.
[ Parent ]

So where did it come from? I haven't seen that... (none / 0) (#49)
by esrever on Mon Mar 28, 2005 at 10:59:26 PM EST

...either.

What's your point?

I can't see the wind either, but I can see the effect of the wind.

Let's look at this another way:

  1. Assume evolution is possible, viable, and works
  2. Assume many, many 'evolution-friendly' worlds
  3. Assume intelligent life has arisen somewhere else
  4. Assume we prove it's possible to create life
  5. Congratulations, you've just proven it is theoretically possible that we are the artificial creation of another intelligent life form
Not that this is what I believe, I'm just fond of pointing out the inherent contradiction in the evolutionists' aversion to the idea of creation.  It smacks of theological objection rather than scientific impartiality.

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[ Parent ]
Occam's Razor (none / 0) (#68)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Tue Apr 05, 2005 at 03:01:30 AM EST

We've witnessed evolution in small steps, and we've determined that life has existed for billions of years.  Evolution of some sort certainly happened along the line, given the mutations that crop up and are selected in every generation.

The objection is that an intelligent designer is not necessary in this scheme, not that it's impossible.  When put in your terms, no self-respecting scientist would say it's not "theoretically possible".  But then again, all of us appearing spontaneously through the magic of the Sun God is also "theoretically possible".

[ Parent ]

Very true. (none / 0) (#70)
by jd on Wed Apr 06, 2005 at 02:38:41 PM EST

It would be more "correct" to express science in terms of probabilities, rather than certitudes. It would also be more "correct" to recognize that if A is true, then B is not necessarily false. There is scope for overlap.

Evolution does not preclude a God, nor does God preclude evolution. Now, the overlap is going to be smaller than either of them alone, because neither is a perfect subset of the other. However, an overlap does exist. (For the really pedantic, the existance of a God doesn't even preclude the possibility of said God sitting back and doing nothing. After all, if they created things right in the first place, there wouldn't be a whole lot for them to do!)

Occam's Razor can be stated in a number of different ways and can be used for a number of different purposes, but they basically come down to the same set of "rules of thumb":

  • A theory should be as simple as possible, but no simpler
  • The simpler theory is generally the more likely
  • It is generally more useful to start with the more likely theory and work your way down the list
  • If something that starts off looking less likely is true, you'll get to it faster by trying things in order than at random

Now, if you want to get really in-depth, the Quantum Mechanics model of the "Many World Theory" allows every possible Universe to exist simultaneously, which means that every theory that isn't logically impossible would end up being true somewhere, just maybe not here. The problem then changes from one of "is it true, in this specific case?" to "is it definitely not false, for all cases?"

[ Parent ]

-1, doesn't mention negroes (1.09 / 11) (#31)
by FreeBSD on Sat Mar 26, 2005 at 10:58:35 PM EST

More like africanus stupiditus.

Well, it's too late for editorial comments... (none / 1) (#39)
by onallama on Sun Mar 27, 2005 at 08:45:47 PM EST

...but here's one anyway.

"Chimpanzees show something quite fascinating about this process. Their DNA is very similar to that of humans. The difference is about 95%, with a margin of error of about 3%."

Um, if the difference is about 95%, then we only have about 5% in common -- hardly "very similar".

How did a piece with errors as obvious as this one get voted up?

Easy it pandered to the prejudices of the majority (none / 0) (#50)
by esrever on Tue Mar 29, 2005 at 05:50:21 AM EST

It's quite simple, really.

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[ Parent ]
As they say in Mefi (none / 0) (#62)
by nkyad on Tue Mar 29, 2005 at 09:44:56 PM EST

SchiavoFilter - it does not mention dying women in vegetative state.

Besides, you're not here to enlighten the text with your editorial comment in time. I did what I could and so did others. Care to point the other errors you spotted?

 

Don't believe in anything you can't see, smell, touch or at the very least infer from a good particle accelerator run


[ Parent ]
Prehistoric elephants... (none / 0) (#52)
by mikelist on Tue Mar 29, 2005 at 06:28:01 AM EST

...(A recent find in England shows evidence of a group of hominids who attacked a prehistoric elephant - somewhere between two to three times the size of modern elephants - with nothing more than flint knives.) I sure hope you are a troll.

Australian aborgines mox of sapiens & erectus? (none / 0) (#60)
by cryon on Tue Mar 29, 2005 at 09:01:21 PM EST

Are the Australian aborigines a mix of sapiens and erectus? Look at these photos and these photos Interesting....


HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

The Murrayians: Erectus-like Caucasoids (none / 0) (#61)
by cryon on Tue Mar 29, 2005 at 09:15:30 PM EST

Erectus-like Caucasoids in Australia...


HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

[ Parent ]

Materialistic Mythmaking (none / 0) (#67)
by sellison on Sat Apr 02, 2005 at 10:26:18 AM EST

disguised as science.

Humans have been around much longer than 'scientists' pretend, and these poor diseased apes are not our ancestors.

 

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush

Why are you here? (none / 0) (#69)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Tue Apr 05, 2005 at 03:22:22 AM EST

I really want to know.  Every discussion that touches on evolution, you're here, trying to debunk it.

You're battled, cajoled, ignored, and demonized.  I don't think you've ever convinced anyone, and you'll certainly never give up your point of view.  It's a draw.  Every time.  Without end.

If you're a troll, you've got a lot of patience with the same topic - I'd grow bored - or at least choose a new axe to grind.

So what's your motivation?

[ Parent ]

I'm not trying to convince the (none / 1) (#71)
by sellison on Thu Apr 07, 2005 at 09:30:16 AM EST

evolutionistas, you'll be convinced in due time, by your maker.

I'm trying to save impressionable minds from your pernicious cult, by pointing out that you are just another anti-Christian cult of 'true believers' with no more 'science' on your side than the Scientologists.

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush
[ Parent ]

What a coincidence... (none / 0) (#72)
by MrMikey on Thu Apr 07, 2005 at 11:51:40 AM EST

I'm trying to save impressionable minds from your pernicious cult, by pointing out that you are just another irrational cult of "true believers" with no more reason or evidence on your side than the Scientologists... not to mention the fact that there are many, many Christians who think you're wrong, too.

Small world, eh? Maybe we should put aside our differences and go beat up on Scientologists together!

:) Then again, I don't particularly want to beat up an anyone... not even you.

[ Parent ]

Can you admit to the following? (none / 0) (#73)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Thu Apr 07, 2005 at 04:11:19 PM EST

I'd like to establish some common ground.  We're working from different core beliefs (theism/atheism), but I'm sure it's there somewhere.

For instance, how much of evolution do you believe in?  "Micro-evolution" seems to be accepted.  The idea that random mutations happen in creatures and create differences within a species.  Longer ears, shorter tails, whatever.  Do you deny that this happens in the wild?

Do you deny speciation?  Or at least non-artificial speciation?  As posted downthread, an experiment in changing DNA in fruitflies created two "strains" that could not interbreed.  This would be the definition of speciation.  Do you object that it could happen in the wild?

Or is your objection not to the individual mechanisms of evolution, but that these changes could add up to the diversity we have today?

Changes between generations happens at some level.  I want to know at what point you draw the line, and why.

I really want to know, too.  So please do me a favour and engage me on this.  Defend your point of view as well.  I'm interested.

[ Parent ]

Microevolution is a decline in genetic (none / 0) (#75)
by sellison on Sat Apr 09, 2005 at 12:52:40 AM EST

information. Perhaps the most evident misinformation in textbooks is the suggestion that microevolution is a small-scale example of macroevolution.

The example used to support this is usually the story about the grey or black moths (Biston betularia) living on the bark of trees, the population adapting in colour to the colour of the bark -- darker in industrial, polluted environments, and lighter in cleaner ones.

The misinformation lies in concealing the fact that select, adapted populations are genetically poorer (fewer alleles) than the unselected natural populations from which they arose. We find the same in forest trees. In polluted environments, the surviving trees have fewer alleles than in non-polluted ones. Microevolution, formation of races, is a fact. Populations adapt to specific environments with the more successful alleles increasing in numbers and others declining in frequencies or disappearing altogether. Change can also occur due to accidental loss of alleles (genetic drift) in small isolated populations.

Both amount to decline in genetic information.

Macroevolution requires its increase.

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush
[ Parent ]

No natural process? (none / 0) (#76)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Sat Apr 09, 2005 at 12:42:51 PM EST

So you're saying there's no natural mutation that could increase the alleles in a population?

[ Parent ]
Of course (none / 0) (#77)
by sellison on Sun Apr 10, 2005 at 01:40:37 AM EST

it's simple thermodynamics 101.

Thus increases in information are evidence of Intelligent Design.

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush
[ Parent ]

So, when you have polyploidy (none / 0) (#78)
by MrMikey on Sun Apr 10, 2005 at 03:40:35 AM EST

or other transcription errors that increase the size of the genome, that doesn't result in an increase in alleles?

Also, since living things are open thermodynamically, how is an "increase in information" a violation of the 2nd Law?

[ Parent ]

Because they are not (none / 0) (#79)
by sellison on Sun Apr 10, 2005 at 11:48:20 AM EST

since living things are open thermodynamically,

If you put a drop of dye in a swimming pool, that's pretty open, but the molecules are going to diffuse out, not collect together. Systems tend to move into states of greater disorganization. The complex DNA molecules have a tendency to break down into less complex forms. Very hard, directed work is required to get even the simple parts to form in a particular order. Random processes just won't do it. Chemical synthesis is a very exact science. Living things make these chemicals because they carry intelligently designed programs which direct all the complicated machinery needed.

So an open system and energy doesn't solve the problem for the evolutionist, you need to have all this programmed machinery already there.

In fact, a number of scientists are now acknowledging this and admitting that there must be an undiscovered scientific law that caused simple molecules to organize themselves into life.

But they don't know how. Occam's Razor points to the Designer.

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush
[ Parent ]

But... (none / 0) (#80)
by MrMikey on Sun Apr 10, 2005 at 01:28:18 PM EST

If you can get amino acide formation without a designer, and peptide formation without a designer, and even the catalization of activated RNA nucleotides on clay substrates without a designer, then why not a chain of chemical reactions leading up to DNA without a designer? None of this does or would violate our understanding of chemistry or thermodynamics.

[ Parent ]
You can't make RNA (none / 0) (#82)
by sellison on Sun Apr 10, 2005 at 09:37:04 PM EST

without a designer.

It is far too complex and delicate a molecule to occur via random chance.

By the way, your other examples were experiments where the conditions were set up by intelligent designers, your logic does more to support intelligence than randomness.

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush
[ Parent ]

It seems that you can... (none / 0) (#83)
by MrMikey on Sun Apr 10, 2005 at 10:36:56 PM EST

You can't make RNA without a designer.

It is far too complex and delicate a molecule to occur via random chance.

It seems to me that RNA formation could happen without a designer. And yes, while the experimental conditions are man-made, they are not conditions that are so artificial in composition that they couldn't occur in nature.

By the way, your other examples were experiments where the conditions were set up by intelligent designers, your logic does more to support intelligence than randomness.

I didn't mention any specific experiements.

Amino acid formation has been observed under conditions that could have existed on the early Earth. Amino acids are also regularly observed in interstellar space. Likewise, the formation of a peptide bond between two amino acids (an example of a condensation reaction) only requires that two molecules join together via with the accompanying removal of a molecule of water. This reaction doesn't require a designer, either.

It seems to me that the statement "RNA formation can't happen without a designer" is, at best, premature. To say that something can't happen is a very strong statement, and requires correspondingly strong evidence. It's also hard to make such a statement when someone can show you a plausible way in which it could happen without a designer.

[ Parent ]

Check the date on your link [nt] (none / 0) (#87)
by esrever on Mon Apr 11, 2005 at 01:13:32 AM EST



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[ Parent ]
Not *everything* printed on 4/1 is a joke... (none / 0) (#89)
by MrMikey on Mon Apr 11, 2005 at 10:21:50 AM EST

Molecular Midwives Hold Clues to the Origin of Life

Atlanta (May 11, 2004) - Since Darwin proposed his theory of evolution, scientists the world over have been trying to understand just how the process started. How did the atoms and molecules that covered the Earth combine to form the very first life form? Researchers at Georgia Tech have discovered a crucial link in the early history of RNA, a molecule that many scientists believe was the first form of life on Earth. Adding a small molecule, dubbed a "molecular midwife," researchers increased the rate that DNA, a close cousin of RNA, forms in a chemical reaction 1,000 fold over a similar reaction lacking a midwife. The discovery is an important step in the effort to trace the evolution of life to the very beginning to the earliest self-replicating molecules. The results are reported in the April 2 edition of the German chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie.

I await your substantive response...

[ Parent ]

Easy (none / 0) (#103)
by sellison on Tue Apr 12, 2005 at 10:43:40 PM EST

Intelligent designer creates 'molecular midwife' in testtube: proof that intelligent action was necessary for life on Earth to begin.

More at 11...

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush
[ Parent ]

Logical fallacy (none / 0) (#106)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Wed Apr 13, 2005 at 03:08:23 PM EST

That would only be true if it were proven impossible for this "molecular midwife" to appear in nature.

At the moment, there's no way to tell.  Please be careful when throwing around the word "proof" - it has a very specific meaning.

[ Parent ]

You're right: (none / 0) (#107)
by esrever on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 12:33:43 AM EST

This is actually proof that creation of molecular midwives by an intelligent designer is possible.

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[ Parent ]
I've never said otherwise (none / 0) (#110)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 09:50:41 AM EST

I also admit the possibility of it being created by magic, since magic can do anything.  Or that God did it all 6000 years ago and put photons in-transit from stars millions of light years away.

But it's no more useful than saying that there's proof that quartz by an intelligent designer is possible, since we can create that in a lab.

[ Parent ]

Woah, there (none / 0) (#81)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Sun Apr 10, 2005 at 01:56:54 PM EST

Again, thanks for answering me.  Two things first off:

First of all, it's not against the 2nd law of thermodynamics.  There is a constant input of energy into the system from external sources.  If it weren't for that, then the whole system would collapse.  As long as there is an external source of energy, you simply cannot invoke the 2nd Law - it doesn't apply.

Second - the theory of evolution doesn't try to explain how the machinery got there in the first place.  You seem to be asking some "origins of life" questions about the basic machinery of the cell.  Evolutionary theory as we have it now doesn't explain how the machinery came into being (there are a number of theories, but no good solid answer yet).  But once the first single cells came into being (by whatever method) billions of years ago, evolution takes care of the rest.  I wouldn't mind engaging on that debate later, but for now I'd like to keep with evolution.
=======

Anyway, I'd like to go back to alleles, if I may.  As the grandparent post says, you can have an increase in genetic length due to transcription errors.  If this can result in new (although quite possibly useless for the moment) alleles, then isn't there the possibility of "macroevolution"?  And a resulting increase in complexity?

This increase isn't against any laws, by the way.  The increase in entropy in a life-form on earth is far outweighed by a massive decrease in entropy in the sun as it loses heat.

[ Parent ]

::rolleyes:: (none / 0) (#86)
by esrever on Mon Apr 11, 2005 at 01:10:53 AM EST

Sorry, but you are now guilty of a logical fallacy:
"""
But once the first single cells came into being (by whatever method) billions of years ago, evolution takes care of the rest.
"""

Really?  So you assume the validity of evolutionary theory based upon the fact that we have some single-celled organisms that we need to improve, and we need to invoke single-celled organims because evolution requires them to be relevant.

Nice.

How about 'we don't know how life got here, so as far as we can tell, it all arrived in one big flash of light and has been ticking along for the last million years with nothing but gene-shuffling taking place'.   That would be about as scientific.

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[ Parent ]

You misunderstand me (none / 0) (#88)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Mon Apr 11, 2005 at 09:55:16 AM EST

I'm not saying there's no explanation, just that evolutionary theory doesn't try to explain biogenesis.

The fossil record shows simpler lifeforms the longer we go back, and single-celled organisms at the beginning.  It seemed like a reasonable assumption that single-celled creatures were the first.  There's no logical fallacy in citing the fossil record.

Now can I get an answer on that increasing-alleles question?

[ Parent ]

It isn't that complicated... (none / 0) (#90)
by MrMikey on Mon Apr 11, 2005 at 10:31:36 AM EST

abiogenesis - "life from non-life" - the process(es) by which the first self-replicating entities arise

evolution - "change over time" - the process(es) by which the traits of the members of a population of imperfect replicators change over time

Evolution has been and is observed, and can also be inferred from the fossil, morphological and genetic record. The evidence supports the position that some of these changes occur over long time scales, longer than humans have been around, so the evidence is, by necessity, indirect.

Abiogenesis has not been observed, and there are no solid, supported theories as to how it occured, but there are hypotheses based on what we know about chemistry and physics.

Just because we don't know everything, it doesn't follow that we know nothing, and any half-baked idea (i.e. "it all arrived in one big flash of light" or "a Supernatural Being for which we otherwise have no evidence did it") is equivalent to the hypotheses biologists are working on. We also have enough evidence to discount ideas that are directly contradicted by that evidence (i.e. "it ... has been ticking along for the last million years with nothing but gene-shuffling taking place").

If it weren't for the fact that some Believers in some sects of some religions saw a conflict between their interpretations of their religious texts and the evidence, the number of people who claim "Evolution is wrong!" would be about the same number as claim "Quantum Mechanics is wrong!" or "Relativity is wrong!"... and with about the same credibility.

[ Parent ]

Way to dodge the issue (none / 1) (#104)
by sellison on Wed Apr 13, 2005 at 01:43:38 AM EST

typical of evolutionists.

"If we can't answer the question, it's not part of the topic...but we still get to call it 'science' and teach it to your children using your tax dollars...".

Come on, evolution is just another cult. Accept it, take a tax break, and open your own Church of Random Chance.

Just stop your prostelizing to our children in our 'public' schools!

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush
[ Parent ]

Don't take that tone. (none / 0) (#105)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Wed Apr 13, 2005 at 02:57:00 PM EST

typical of evolutionists.

I thought we were having a civilized conversation.

Personally, I don't like to get out of the realm of evolution (abiogenesis is outside that realm) when discussing it simply because it tends to spiral out of control.  If we could adequately explain abiogenesis to you, would you then ask us about the basic laws of chemistry?  If they're so perfect for life, doesn't that show that there's an intelligent designer?  Or "What caused the Big Bang"?  

Evolution has well-defined boundaries - the standard theory has never tried to answer these questions.  Evolution is bracketed in an unwritten "Assuming this, this, and this are true, then evolution is a very reasonable theory".  The "this, this, and this" are things like fossil records, genetic mutations, and age of the earth.

It's not a cop-out to start from single-celled organisms, since we have the fossil record to show that they were around a billion years ago.  That's why there's no need to explain it.  If you believe the fossil record is accurate, then we can both simply accept it as fact.

That's why I ask that we stay on topic.  A discussion can get way out of hand and get to just about any topic if we do.  And I wouldn't mind hearing your opinions on my arguments.  As I said - where do you draw the line in your rejection of evolution?  Do you not believe alleles can increase over time?  Or do you accept that evolution could have happened, but believe your theory is better?

[ Parent ]

The fossil record (none / 0) (#108)
by esrever on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 12:44:15 AM EST

Is about as trustworthy and accurate as something not particularly trustworthy and accurate.

I've covered this:
here
here

I do commend you, however, for acknowledging what no-one else on this board has; which is the myriad implicit unproven assumptions behind every statement of certainty in current evolutionary thought.

The thing is, that without your assumptions, you have less than nothing.  The only thing in evolutionary theory that gives the whole fiasco even passing credibility is the concept of 'natural selection', which, alone amongst all of evolution's unproven assumptions, at least has a chance of being empirically verified.

If you play a mind game and assume that natural selection is just another unverifiable assumption (like the 'fossil record', etc), then you are quickly forced to accept that evolutionary theory is built on nothing but cloud castles.

Audit NTFS permissions on Windows
[ Parent ]

A few anomolies do not disprove it. (none / 0) (#112)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 10:50:24 AM EST

I know you want to take me to the cleaners with that statement, so let me explain.

The vast majority (99.9%) of the fossil record is consistent with the current theories.  The problem is that 4 billion years is a long time for - excuse the phrase - "fucked up shit" to happen.  There's no reason the "human" footprints at the Pulaxy River can't be a mutant dinosaur.  There are creatures born all the time with malformed feet.  Unlikely?  Yes.  But over all of the time that we've had, and over all of the fossil records we have, it would be insane to think we wouldn't find a few items that don't fit due to very unlikely circumstances.

These anomolies aren't widespread.  There aren't any other human-sized prints alongside dino prints, and we have yet to discover human remains over a few thousand years old.  So there is no widespread "coexistence" of dinosaur and human fossil evidence.  This either means that Paluxy River is mutation or unknown species, or that God has a wicked sense of humour.  I prefer to believe the former.

You attack this thinking in one of your linked posts, but I really don't see where the problem is.  The numbers are so large as to practically guarantee records we can't explain with the limited knowledge we have of the time.  For every aberration, there are 10000 fossils that are exactly what would be expected.

As for "unproven assumptions" - they're unproven, but not unreasonable.  As I said in my other post - "proof" is a word that's taken quite seriously, and really can't be used for something like evolution.  However, most assumptions are along the lines of "the laws of physics and chemistry haven't changed recently".  They are not unreasonable.

that without your assumptions, you have less than nothing
We have "microevolution".  We have radiation causing random mutation.  We have natural selection (slow prey gets eaten), and unnatural selection (breeding dogs for speed).  We have explanations and examples of many of the mechanisms of evolution - seen on modern Earth.  Even without a fossil record, evolution has some pretty good legs to stand on.

And recently, we have genetic algorithms, which apply the principles of evolution to programming problems.  These have proven to be fast and robust ways of developing certain applications.  And without Darwin, there's a good chance we never would have come up with the idea.  We know that evolution can successfully come up with a complex solution to a problem without human intervention, once the ball is set rolling.

[ Parent ]

The comical antics you (none / 0) (#114)
by sellison on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 03:43:28 AM EST

evolution cultists display! The way you twist the evidence to fit your faith!

One example at Pulaxy River is an 'anomaly', yet you derive entire "pre-human" species from a few malformed bones.

The thing is, falsification. If Pulaxy River doesn't falsify evolution, than nothing can.

Wheras, wouldn't one object going faster than light falsify relativity?

Which is the point of the folks who point out that evolution is a religion, not a science.

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush
[ Parent ]

This is frustrating. (none / 0) (#115)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 11:48:22 AM EST

You haven't made a successful argument against a single one of my points!  This thread is going on ten-deep now, and you haven't successfully argued against anything?  You skipped out on my original question about the mechanisms of evolution.  You threw something out about the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, which has been a straw-man for years.  Stop using it that argument - it's a lie.

In my previous post I made a statistical argument.  What's your comeback?  Oh!  Hark at the silly Evolutionist!  He's being funny!  That is not an argument.

I gave a perfectly rational explanation for Pulaxy.  You didn't even understand it, or chose to ignore it.  There have been trillions of potential fossils throughout Earth's history.  Trillions.  If not quadrillions.  Only a tiny fraction of a fraction are preserved for us to see.

It's unlikely that a mutant dinosaur left those tracks.  But it's not one-in-a-quadrillion unlikely.  Add to that the fact that Creationists are actively searching for "falsification" of the fossil record, and the chance of finding something that looks off approaches 1:1.

Finding one example of an unlikely event does nothing to counter the fossil record.  There have been billions of unlikely events.

You want to falsify the current interpretation of the fossil record?  Show me modern animal fossils and dinosaur fossils regularly being found together.  You would have me believe that humans and dinosaurs lived alongside for years, and yet dinosaur remains cover the entire earth, whereas human remains from that period are represented by a single set of footprints in Texas.

=====
Finally:

"twist evidence to fit your faith" => "twist our theory to fit the evidence"  (science)

And the theory of relativity doesn't preclude anything going faster than light.  And even if it did, and a FTL particle were found, no one would consider throwing out the whole theory, since it has successfully predicted a number of phenomena.  Instead they would "twist their theory to fit the evidence".

[ Parent ]

Reason has no impact on the irrational. (none / 0) (#116)
by MrMikey on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 12:17:44 PM EST

If your worldview relies on "received wisdom", argument from authority, and the ability to only see those facets of reality that can be interpreted in such a way as to further support your worldview, while disgarding the rest, then no rational argument, no body of evidence, will sway you from your point of view.

This is where science has it all over religion... everything in science is provisional, and subject to alteration or rejection in the face of new evidence. Also, everything is continually subject to re-verification by multiple people using multiple techniques. It's no guarantee of perfection, by any means, but the fact that you and I are able to have this discussion speaks to science's demonstrated utility.

Some people can't accept the idea that a Supreme Alpha Male is simply not needed to explain reality, and no evidence of any kind will sway them. If it's any consolation, reality is what it is regardless of what any of us believe, and I'm confident that, sooner or later, humans will figure out the workings of that reality.

[ Parent ]

News Update (none / 0) (#74)
by jd on Thu Apr 07, 2005 at 05:55:09 PM EST

A recent find has shown that the supposed common ancestor between chimps and humans was, indeed, likely humanoid. There is now very string evidence it stood upright, its spinal column is more human in design than "ape-like", and computer reconstructions based on the skeleton do show a hominid, not a chimp.

In further news, discoveries of extremely old, worn-out skeletons are leading people to believe that special care was taken of the elderly almost two million years ago. This care would have included the donation of extremely soft food and water, as these could not have been fetched by the people concerned, nor could they have consumed anything else.

These discoveries fill in yet more of the "missing gaps" in our knowledge and do so in a way that fits the existing theories and existing models extremely well. They do not fit in the "diseased ape" category, unless you assume the disease took 500 million years to progress and did so in a perfectly definable, continuous manner, with each succeeding generation being able to do more than the last.

In which case, the disease you are referring to is called "evolution".

The Great Apes: A Mini-Biography | 117 comments (105 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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