John S. Wilkins posted Entry 2593 on September 16, 2006 09:20 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2587

The Macroevolution FAQ is now in version 2. The original FAQ was a bit light on for discussion, and I wanted to deal with some technical issues. It is not a comprehensive review of the concept, but of the meaning of the concept and a couple of philosophical issues it raises.

I originally did this because people were saying that “macroevolution” and “microevolution” were terms invented by creationists. This might have surprised the leading figures of 20thC evolutionary biology like Dobzhansky and Simpson, who used the terms all the time.

Then I got interested in the “macroevolution = microevolution” debate, which is both a scientific claim and a philosophical one. So now there’s philosophy in that FAQ, about reduction and where to draw the line.

My friend and occasional sparring partner Larry Moran thinks I am misrepresenting some aspects of the debate, so I encourage you to go to his essay on Macroevolution here for a corrective. It’s rather nice - I think he’s wrong and he thinks I’m wrong and we both think we can rationally convince the other. Academic optimism…

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Comment #130748

Posted by Henry J on September 16, 2006 9:40 PM (e)

The here gives me “404 not found”.

Comment #130763

Posted by RPM on September 16, 2006 10:04 PM (e)

Should be this.

Comment #130775

Posted by John Wilkins on September 16, 2006 10:34 PM (e)

Oops. Missed out on the identifier (http). Fixed now.

Comment #130802

Posted by Scott Hatfield on September 17, 2006 12:12 AM (e)

John: Thanks for taking the time to create this. A valuable resource.

However, if I may make a suggestion, it seems to me that there is a crying need to explicitly use Evo-Devo to address the claim, much beloved of creationists, that there is a qualitative difference between microevolution and macroevolution.

Sean Carroll’s book pretty much asserts that Evo-Devo has largely falsified this argument. PZ at Pharyngula has been giving readers like me a regular thrill with nuggets from this field, but what would be really helpful would be a succint summary of the evidence that Carroll and others consider compelling. This would not only complement the excellent work done here and at TalkOrigins, it would effectively close one of the last remaining holes in the popular account of evolution.

Thanks again for working for all of us who care about science education…Scott

Comment #130809

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on September 17, 2006 1:08 AM (e)

Good article. I think the creationist version of the micro/macro distinction traces back to the seventh-day adventist creationist Frank Lewis Marsh, and the usage – which equates exactly with the creationist definition of “created kind” in Genesis – has remained completely unchanged between traditional creationism, ID, and “critical analysis of evolution.”

Which gives me a chance to plug…

Matzke, Nicholas, and Gross, Paul (2006). “Analyzing Critical Analysis: The Fallback Antievolutionist Strategy.” Chapter 2 of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools. Scott, E., and Branch, G., eds., Beacon Press, pp. 28-56. http://www.beacon.org/productdetails.cfm?SKU=3278

…where, in the second half of the chapter, we trace the history from Marsh to the Kansas “critical analysis” science standards. We wrap it up by quoting Kansas Board of Education member Steve Abrahms, who defended the “critical analysis” standards by saying…

[T]hat is one of the reasons that we tried to further define evolution [in the Kansas standards]. We want to differentiate between the genetic capacity in each species genome that permits it to change with the environment as being different from changing to some other creature. In our science curriculum standards, we called this microevolution and macroevolution – changes within kinds and changing from one kind to another.

(From Abrahm’s opinion piece, ironically entitled “Science Standards Aren’t About Religion,” Wichita Eagle, November 15, 2005.)

There is a very important lesson here, which is that creationists are really using an entirely different language than the scientists, even though the words are often the same.

Comment #130812

Posted by Bob O'H on September 17, 2006 1:37 AM (e)

The current consensus among paleontologists is that large populations are buffered against evolutionary change by natural selection or genetic drift.

Huh? Shouldn’t there be “…a lack of…” before “…genetic drift”? (For those who don’t know, drift is evolutionary change, and large populations don’t drift)

Bob

Comment #130814

Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on September 17, 2006 1:56 AM (e)

Rein back on the Wonderland horses. Can all the king’s horses, men, and neo-darwinists, get Humpty Darwin together? I think I may have asked most of these before. Science needs switched-on people but it doesn’t need quasi-religious accoutrements.
1) You say it is indisputable fact that segmented worms, etc.,are in our ancestry. Does this categorical assertion exclude the possibility that this observed lineage could be explained without violating the laws of heredity - i.e., instead of insisting on blood ancestry, assume that these “ancestors” were part of a series of species transformations in which the individual species played no creative part and had no genetic links?
2) If the answer is Yes - ancestry means blood ancestry exclusive to other possibilities - name one real-life instance amongst higher life-forms in which one species has clearly changed, over time, to another. Do this without re-writing the terms so the terms give you the transformation. Define a species according to the common meaning - a reproductively isolated, self-contained unit as observed over prolonged time in the natural environment. If you have any doubts, go to a zoo and find what the man on the street understands by lion, tiger, etc., species.
3) Does the geologic record contain a continuum of distinct life-forms (which we might assume were species) or is it a continuum of development, without clear species? I.e., was there, in fact, a difference between EOHIPPUS and OROHIPPUS comparable, say, to the difference between lions and tigers, or are fossil species mere statistical labels, subdividing segments of a continuum?

4) Name all the great scientists you can, who didn’t believe in some sort of intelligent design. Name one, who obviously would have said that previous life-forms were our blood ancestors, there are no clear-cut species, and life unfolded merely as a product of purely random events.
5) Why do some disciplines have difficulty disentangling themselves from controversy over science and religion? Should this be a problem to straight science? Why do you suppose Young Earth Creationism has seemingly gained credibility of late?

We look forward to the macro-answers.

Comment #130817

Posted by Scott Hatfield on September 17, 2006 2:40 AM (e)

Philip:

For the record, I’m a believer.

With respect to the first point you made, the strong conservation of core processes in different animal phyla as revealed through ‘Evo-Devo’ over the last 20 years is pretty much confirmed, and represents an independent and largely unexpected confirmation of common descent. Read Sean Carroll’s “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” or Gerhart and Kirshner’s “The Plausibility of Life” for an up-to-date treatment accessible to laypeople.

With respect to your second point, observed instances of speciation are rare but exist. Go to the PNAS archives (they are free) and type “Dozhansky” and you’ll probably come across at least five articles on the case of D. paulistorum, a particularly well-knwon speciation event from the 1950’s. Or go read the speciation FAQ at talkorigins.

Your third point muddies the issue as to whether reproductive isolation can lead to new species. (It can, and does!) Genes don’t fossilize and the convention of assigning fossil specimens to this or that taxa was historically based on morphology alone. Molecular biology, however, is providing techniques for assessing the plausiblity of phylogenetic claims. The seemingly arbitrary aspects of taxonomic assignment in paleontology has always been much more constrained than it appears to laypeople; these days, it is highly constrained. No one in that field doubts that our models are incomplete, but that is not the same thing as saying we lack confidence in them.

Your fourth point is irrelevant. If we took a survey of all practicioners of Western medicine between 1600-1800, the vast majority would tell you that health was determined by the ‘humors’ of the body and that night air was bad for you, and that rotting food spontaneously generated maggots. Science doesn’t care about your beliefs, or mine, or those of Einstein or Newton.

Finally, the main reason some scientific disciplines run afoul of religion is that they present data which contradicts the literal understanding of the Bible, including the fact of an old Earth and an even more ancient universe. Again, properly speaking, science doesn’t care about belief. Christianity is afforded no privileges in that sphere and, to the degree that it makes claims which can be tested, is subject to the same skepticism. That includes YEC. Why do the numbers of YEC appear to be inching upward? My simple answer is that people who hold YEC as part of their beliefs also tend to have larger families, and they tend to indoctrinate their offspring rather than let them think for themselves.

Sincerely…Scott
(epigene13@hotmail.com)

Comment #130883

Posted by the pro from dover on September 17, 2006 8:52 AM (e)

Young Earth Creationism has not gained scientific credibility. It may be gaining popularity through the non-scientific means of marketing, political and legal manipulation, and fear-mongering from certain religious or metaphysical practitioners to effect thought control and unquestioned obediance in their followers who are led to believe that any contrary thoughts to the mandated dogma will lead to some form of eternal punishment regardless of the kind of life they or their children might lead. Scientific credibility comes from original research (experiments and observations) published in peer-reviewed journals over decades and centuries. Perhaps Philip, you secretly know where these peer-reviewed pieces of original research are published and you will share this information with an anxiously awaiting scientific community.

Comment #130959

Posted by fnxtr on September 17, 2006 2:30 PM (e)

I got an error message so my apologies for any multiple posts.

I have a vague memory of a proposed arthropod-to-insect variation, which Google just refreshed by adding the words “Ultrabithorax protein”. Wouldn’t this type of small genetic change, resulting in a vastly different body plan, blur the line between micro and macro? Has there been more work along this line since the Nature story? I think that was a couple/three years ago.

Comment #130962

Posted by Scott Hatfield on September 17, 2006 2:56 PM (e)

fnxtr:

There sure has. It seems that, if you know where to look, you can find things that are like Goldschmidt’s ‘hopeful monsters’ after all.
Type “threespine stickleback Millerton” into your web browser and you’ll get a lot of info on a recent case in my area that’s been studied by Stanford biologist David Kingsley. It’s a striking case!….Scott

Comment #130965

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on September 17, 2006 3:02 PM (e)

Approximately the worst arguments against macroevolution I’ve seen yet:
http://www.calvaryabq.org/services.asp?search=speaker&speaker=Dr.%20Paul%20Nelson

According to Nelson, development can’t evolve because embryo stages aren’t selected. Sea squirt tadpoles don’t have gametes…so they couldn’t evolve!

Comment #130969

Posted by Bob Hagen on September 17, 2006 3:37 PM (e)

John,
Even apart from creationist misuse, I feel strongly that the terms “macroevolution” and “microevolution” should be dropped. They carry too much historical baggage from their use in old controversies and don’t represent our current understanding of the subject. The danger with their continued use in works intended for students or laypeople is that they create a false impression that evolution occupies a linear gradient from micro- to macro-, and worse, that there is a neat boundary between them. After all, the failure of 18th and 19th century naturalists to find a clear distinction between “mere varieties” and “created kinds” was a significant part of Darwin’s evidence for common ancestry. (As an aside, I was fascinated to learn that the search continues in the fringes of contemporary creationism, as the pseudo-science of “baraminology.”)

Both essays (yours and Larry Moran’s) do an excellent job of reviewing the history of the terms for those who wish to understand how the modern science has developed. However, in Larry’s essay, “microevolution” could be replaced by the term “process” and macroevolution by “pattern” in most places where he uses them. The scientific controversy in the first half of the 20th century can be described more usefully as a debate over whether the processes of evolution–as they were understood by contemporary population geneticists–were sufficient to explain patterns of similarity and difference among living and fossil organisms. At the time, there were enormous gaps in that understanding, leaving much room for debate.

In the 30+ years since I took my first college courses in biology, knowledge of evolutionary processes and patterns has expanded tremendously. Advances in computing technology also have allowed development of sophisticated models of processes. It makes little sense to retain vague terminology when we can frame hypotheses in much more specific terms.

Comment #130989

Posted by John Wilkins on September 17, 2006 4:48 PM (e)

Bob Hagen: I tend to agree that the terms are contentious, but in my view the problem is not the terms themselves, but the notion of there being an objective *ranking* of taxonomic levels. I believe that, with Darwin, species are real (and so there can be a distinction between withn-species evolution and betwen-species evolution) but that the *rank* of species does not exist… how can that be?

The answer is that “species” is a term that applies when cladogenesis occurs (which we may or may not be able to identify), no matter what the “level of organisation” or whatever. In short, the macroevolutionary domain is when you can use homologies to draw a cladogram.

Now some may treat this as (what David Polly calls) Kladism, but for me it’s the only way to discuss evolving entities that might be large or small, complex or simple, well defined or vague.

Comment #130996

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 17, 2006 5:11 PM (e)

I think I may have asked most of these before.

And you’ve ignored the answers before.

Comment #130999

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 17, 2006 5:25 PM (e)

The current consensus among paleontologists is that large populations are buffered against evolutionary change by natural selection or genetic drift.

Huh? Shouldn’t there be “…a lack of…” before “…genetic drift”? (For those who don’t know, drift is evolutionary change, and large populations don’t drift)

“evolutionary change by … a lack of genetic drift” makes no sense. You’re apparently misparsing the sentence as “[buffered against evolutionary change] [by natural selection or genetic drift]”, whereas it should be read as “[buffered against] [evolutionary change by natural selection or genetic drift]”. As you say, large populations don’t drift – their largeness buffers them against it.

Comment #131064

Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on September 17, 2006 10:01 PM (e)

In his COMPENDIUM OF NATURAL PHILOSOPHY, John Wesley wrote, “there is a prodigious number of continued links between the most perfect man and the ape.” (Quote in the READER’S DIGEST’S GREAT LIVES, from one of Wesley’s books on natural history.) We know who Wesley was and when he lived. The religion of Wesley had nothing to do with apes or segmented worms and he enlisted neither for purposes of indoctrination. He was a factor in changing the world to a better place. But note, he didn’t say that reproductive isolation turned apes into men, of its own inherent power. The power to transform is ultimately beyond nature. Darwinism, taken to its extremity, by definition contradicts the concept of divine transforming power, attributing to the creature that which is only the property of the Creator. That doesn’t mean Darwinists can’t go to Heaven; at least it means their science is substandard. Fix up the science, and we won’t find ourselves talking about Heaven. You’ll probably all get there ahead of me, anyway.

So, we have observed a lion change to a tiger, DNA transformation, reproductive isolation, the whole box and dice, have we? Which publication documents this? Where are these answers we keep being told but which we keep ignoring? Don’t confuse the issue with hybridizing fish, Darwin’s inadequately classified finches, or yet with species that were on the brink of transformation when Man came along. Just because organisms show signs of transformation, and just because species transformed during geologic history, doesn’t mean you have seen and documented the great event. And the constant mutation of various microscopic organisms, whilst certainly pointing to something, does not give the full story of what happened at species transformation.

I think it was Huxley, amongst others, who said that we can only build upon observed facts.

Even Huxley, along with all the others, presumably would also have thought it a good idea to try to assimmilate the wisdom of those who have gone before. You have nothing to learn from the great biologists who went before? Their opinions count for nothing? It means nothing that they cautioned about jumping in where angels might hesitate? It is of no consequence that they tried to formulate a variety of thories to explain the observations of palaeontologists, some of which could have merit? You wish to stick with the concept of dogs giving birth to cats?

Could near-fanatical Neo-Darwinism be the best thing Young Earth Creationism has going for it?

Comment #131077

Posted by Andrew McClure on September 17, 2006 10:27 PM (e)

What?

Comment #131099

Posted by fnxtr on September 18, 2006 1:07 AM (e)

Heywood:

The power to transform is ultimately beyond nature. Darwinism, taken to its extremity, by definition contradicts the concept of divine transforming power, attributing to the creature that which is only the property of the Creator.

Prove it.

Comment #131122

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 18, 2006 4:02 AM (e)

The power to transform is ultimately beyond nature.

Heywood, you’re such a moron.

Comment #131198

Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on September 18, 2006 8:42 AM (e)

The technical proof that species cannot transform solely by the ability of nature is straightforward. The personal proof of it is another sphere. If a million dollars could buy it and I had the money I’d give it to you on the spot: it’s the field with hidden treasure that a man sells everthing to attain; the pearl of great value.

The dreary old technical proof may be approached as follows - there are other more rigid methods but try this. We know that the living cell is an information technology device which for current purposes we shall call a “computer”. Incidentally, they are now looking at the possibilities of wireless computers, and they are working at trying to make a “quantum” computer. DNA, RNA, immune systems, reproduction, etc.,are information systems with some likenesses to wireless and quantum computational devices. But all we need is the understanding that sophisticated information technology, which we may call a computer, defines the species. The real difference between a lion and a tiger is not outward shape; it is first and foremost the question of whether a lion and a tiger together can produce fertile offspring. That question involves information - sex cells, DNA, immune system, and what have you.
It is not incorrect to think of species as different models of a computer. For current purposes we shall think in terms of computer models.
We now go to an information technologist. We ask him to build a computer that is to change into a new model in response to environmental change. The difference between models is to be comparable to the difference between species - a fundamental difference in terms of information.
What will the programmer tell you?
He will tell you that for him not to have to physically interfere with the computer to get it to change to a new model, he will have to do at least one of two things: Signal the computer with new information; or Pre-program it so that a trigger (such as a change in environment) will release latent information carried within the computer itself. At the same time, to get the computer to transform according to environmental requirements, he will build in an information system so sophisticated that the central control is permenantly modified according to the pattern of the information fed to it, at transition. This is no mean task. (Additional to all this, of course, he has to build in the reproductive self-containment, the bar that stops one species successfully breeding with another.) Whichever way he sets up the overall system, he is obliged to either program the machine with latent information at the outset, or signal new information to it at the point of transition; or, most likely, some combination of both.
So we have external input of information, if species were evolved in a rational, empirical manner. The question of the source of information is no different to the question of the source of matter.
People of all persuasions have been able to live amicably without arguing over the source of matter, and the same can be true of the source of information.

Comment #131205

Posted by William E Emba on September 18, 2006 9:16 AM (e)

Scott Hatfield wrote:

It seems that, if you know where to look, you can find things that are like Goldschmidt’s ‘hopeful monsters’ after all. [example omitted]

See also the just announced discovery of Indonesian “walking sharks” at the BBC. The picture looks a lot like some of the fish to amphibian transitional form reconstructions we’ve all seen.

Comment #131207

Posted by Scott Hatfield on September 18, 2006 9:21 AM (e)

Philip:

Wesley, huh? Let me set you straight, Philip: I’m *not* a Neo-Darwinist. I’m a Methodist—but I also understand that the modern version of Darwin’s theory explains in a testable way more observations than any other model. *That’s* why it’s the reigning model in biology. If you want to see it revised or rejected, you will have to marshall more than objections: you will have to propose a testable model that does a better job of explaining those objections.

You’re not doing that. You’re trying, rather cleverly, to indemnify the model with meta-analysis. Unfortunately, your rhetoric (while well-written) eventually reveals you don’t really understand the science you’re criticizing. Dogs into cats? No evolutionary biologist claims this would happen in real-time; indeed, there are very good reasons from both genetics and evolution why that would *not* be a predicted outcome!

My advice: read Sean Carroll’s book. It’s up-to-the-minute, it’s accessible to laypeople and (if you’re really intellectually honest) you will see that it does offer an evolutionary account of how macroevolution occurs…Scott

Comment #131212

Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on September 18, 2006 9:50 AM (e)

The theory of louse origin that best explained the observed facts was spontaneous generation from dust. Then someone got a lense.

Comment #131217

Posted by fnxtr on September 18, 2006 10:15 AM (e)

Scott:
Thanks! “Look MA, no feet!”

(ignores Heywood’s tired troll)

fnxtr

Comment #131230

Posted by Michael Suttkus, II on September 18, 2006 10:51 AM (e)

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

The technical proof that species cannot transform solely by the ability of nature is straightforward.

That’s nice. Since nothing straightforward appeared at any point in your post, can I assume you decided not to give us a technical proof that species cannot transform (despite the fact that we have observed them transforming)?

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

The personal proof of it is another sphere. If a million dollars could buy it and I had the money I’d give it to you on the spot: it’s the field with hidden treasure that a man sells everthing to attain; the pearl of great value.

Personal proof? What’s a personal proof? Is it anything like alcoholic proof?

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

The dreary old technical proof may be approached as follows - there are other more rigid methods but try this.

No, please, how about something rigorous rather than an worthless argument by analogy logical error.

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

We know that the living cell is an information technology device which for current purposes we shall call a “computer”.

And why would we do such a thing? I can call a cat a canary, but there’s not a whole lot of point in doing so. Cells are not computers and aren’t much like computers at all. For one thing, computers don’t self-replicate (yet). Any analogy to evolution that doesn’t include imperfect self-replication and selection is utterly vapid and meaningless.

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

Incidentally, they are now looking at the possibilities of wireless computers, and they are working at trying to make a “quantum” computer.

You misspelled “irrelevantly”.

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

DNA, RNA, immune systems, reproduction, etc.,are information systems with some likenesses to wireless and quantum computational devices.

What kind of likeness? You through around “we’re going to call it a…” and “it’s like a…” but you never explain how they are alike or why it would be relevant.

A car is like a building! Cars are motile, so buildings are motile! The power of analogy is thus proven when the empire state building goes for a walk.

Now, anyone with an ounce of sense recognizes that the ways in which cars are like buildings (they have doors, living spaces for humans, are examples of technology, etc.) has no bearing on the motility of the item in question, so there is no basis for saying “A car is like a building, therefore they will have all the same properties”. If you want to demonstrate that buildings can walk or that species cannot transform by analogy with something else, you must demonstrate that there is a reason why that feature would be analogous between your compared items.

You have not even tried.

Further, the only information system present is the DNA. It’s analogous not to a computer, but to the program running in the computer. The underlying cellular machinery is more like the computer. Species can transform with a change in program and with no underlying change to the “computer” itself. Even here the analogy breaks down because the DNA maintains the cellular machinery and vice versa, while in a computer the existence of the program is largely independent of the existence of the hardware.

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

But all we need is the understanding that sophisticated information technology, which we may call a computer, defines the species.

Not at all. The program would define the species, the computer has been largely unchanged since the first Eukaryotes formed.

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

The real difference between a lion and a tiger is not outward shape; it is first and foremost the question of whether a lion and a tiger together can produce fertile offspring.

And they can, a certain part of the time. They’re an example of incipient speciation happening as we watch. They’re partially, but not completely, separate species.

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

That question involves information - sex cells, DNA, immune system, and what have you.

Do you have a clue what information is? Because you seem to bandy the word around without really understanding it. Gametes aren’t “information” in any way more meaningful than this paperweight on my desk or a pebble outside is. They all contain information, but aren’t information themselves. Furthermore, the presence of information doesn’t seem particularly meaningful. Everything has information and everything is still capable of changing. So?

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

It is not incorrect to think of species as different models of a computer. For current purposes we shall think in terms of computer models.

Another unsupported analogy. Cars are still like buildings, but buildings still can’t move.

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

We now go to an information technologist. We ask him to build a computer that is to change into a new model in response to environmental change.

Von Neumann machines that could do this have been proposed.

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

The difference between models is to be comparable to the difference between species - a fundamental difference in terms of information.

The difference between models is hardware, but a difference in information is software. Your analogy defeats your claim because adapting information (software) on computers to differing conditions is well known.

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

What will the programmer tell you?

This programmer tells you you’re utterly off the deep end and totally wrong. Did you talk with any programmers before declaring making this up?

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

He will tell you that for him not to have to physically interfere with the computer to get it to change to a new model, he will have to do at least one of two things: Signal the computer with new information; or Pre-program it so that a trigger (such as a change in environment) will release latent information carried within the computer itself.

A-life does none of these things, but still responds to the environment and changes the software. So, you’re still wrong.

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

At the same time, to get the computer to transform according to environmental requirements, he will build in an information system so sophisticated that the central control is permanently modified according to the pattern of the information fed to it, at transition. This is no mean task.

Or really relevant. A-life simulations applying Darwinian models to computer information have been known for over a decade. I’m sorry you haven’t kept up. Functional software can now be evolved without pre-building the different adaptations. Check out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_computation
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A-life

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

snip repetitious falsehoods

So we have external input of information, if species were evolved in a rational, empirical manner. The question of the source of information is no different to the question of the source of matter.

1. All things have information. All things experience change in that information, so clearly change isn’t impossible. What’s the source of this change? Physics has an answer: Environmental interaction. Where does the information in a mutation come from? The world. A radioactive particle has information (trajectory, velocity), which then interacts with your DNA changing the information of both in a zero-sum game. Selection drives random information shifts in directions useful to the species. But you seem to feel this is somehow unable to account for evolution. Nothing you’ve presented would suggest otherwise.

2. Species do not evolve in a rational manner. They evolve in a frankly stupid manner. If they didn’t, you would have been born with your testes in your abdomen (as a reptile has), then moved them down to your scrotum leaving a trail of badly patched damage behind them. It’s a stunningly stupid system, exactly what we expect from unguided evolution, not remotely what we’d expect from a half-way intelligent designer.

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

People of all persuasions have been able to live amicably without arguing over the source of matter, and the same can be true of the source of information.

Um, people of all persuasions have been killing each other for centuries over those questions.

Summing up:

1. Arguments by analogy are worthless to start with.
2. Computers are capable of doing what you say they cannot do, denuding your analogy of any value.
3. We have information sources, so even if computers couldn’t evolve and even if the analogy to life were valid, we’d still have no problems.

Why is it species can’t transform again?

Comment #131250

Posted by Alex Fairchild on September 18, 2006 12:09 PM (e)

Michael Suttkus,II wrote:

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

Incidentally, they are now looking at the possibilities of wireless computers, and they are working at trying to make a “quantum” computer.

You misspelled “irrelevantly”.

HAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Comment #131322

Posted by Michael Suttkus, II on September 18, 2006 3:28 PM (e)

Actually, I remember reading about a DNA based computer a while back. I don’t remember the details, but they used actual DNA molecules to solve a travelling salesman problem by running them through a selective process.

Comment #131353

Posted by William E Emba on September 18, 2006 6:07 PM (e)

Michael Suttkus, II wrote:

Actually, I remember reading about a DNA based computer a while back. I don’t remember the details, but they used actual DNA molecules to solve a travelling salesman problem by running them through a selective process.

“DNA computing” was invented by Leonard Adelman in the mid-90s. He used DNA to solve a small Hamiltonian path problem. It’s actually quite simple, almost trivial.

Basically, a vertex was associated with a unique DNA sequence and its complement. All vertices had the same sequence length. An edge was then a DNA sequence that consisted of two vertex sequences. Since each vertex was represented by two possible sequences, each edge was represented by four possible sequences. All possible edge sequences for a given graph were then mixed together. If a DNA sequence formed of the right length, it was then checked to see if it coded for a Hamiltonian path.

Much more sophisticated computation has been demonstrated in the mean time. DNA, along with “cell” and “membrane” computing, have reached the advanced textbook stage.

Comment #131498

Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on September 19, 2006 7:18 AM (e)

I’ve been away and it looks like too much proof got into the Suitcase.
Hey, Prof. Wilks, are ligons and tigons bigones when it comes to fertility? Hmm. Thought so. Wilks, by lack of response, tells me to look it up myself. No, its ligers and tigons. Or is it liters and biters? Hmm again. Litres, unit of volume. That’s not it. Hey, something here on lager. Interesting article here on bootleg. Wonder if it was in a suitcas? It says here that the DNA of large cats communicates with the animal’s foot by parcel post. Cheeters, though - now note this - cheeters go express post, so they are never last past the post. The things you learn! Oh, the things you learn!

Comment #131500

Posted by Michael Suttkus, II on September 19, 2006 7:32 AM (e)

….…..

No, I just can’t find any way of reading PBH’s latest post so it makes an ounce of sense. But since it did sorta ramble about liger/tigon fertility, I’ll throw in a few more links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liger#Fertility
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tigon#Fertility

Comment #131503

Posted by John Wilkins on September 19, 2006 8:11 AM (e)

Mr Heywood, your posts are incoherent. If you have a serious question to ask without insults or question begging, ask them. I will try to respond politely. Keep this up and I’ll disemvowel you.

Comment #131504

Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on September 19, 2006 8:20 AM (e)

The topic was macroevolution and microevolution. As far as I understand, the former refers to variation within a species, which has been utilized as selective breeding since Adam. Macroevolution refers to the unrolling of the actual species, the mechanisms of which are just beginning to be glimpsed. The interested person could for instance refer to www.creationtheory.com , which attempts to summarize the current situation. Microevolution (as I understand it) is a factor in macroevolution, although not the driving or transforming factor. Microevolutionary response to environment was somehow “programmed in” to DNA at the point of transition. It did not of itself drive the transition. Technology is just beginning to glimpse the processes involved.

Comment #131506

Posted by John Wilkins on September 19, 2006 8:28 AM (e)

Perhaps you need to read the FAQ. Neither of your “definitions” match what I have seen in the scientific and ancillary literature. And the “programming in” is a myth. We have witnessed, repeatedly, mutations arising and later being taken into service, and in any case what differentiates microevolution from macroevolution is that whatever processes underlie the macro, they include but are not limited to those of mutation and selection.

Most models of speciation (there are at least five, all of which are thought to occur in at least some cases) hold that natural selection, while it is the mechanism of adaptation, is not the (usual) mechanism of speciation, nor is it the mechanism of larger scale changes in large groups of species.

Comment #131507

Posted by Dano on September 19, 2006 8:31 AM (e)

Creationists embarrass themselves by picking and choosing what parts of science they wish to accept.

Evolution makes no claim towards creation. It never has nor implied so. Evolution merely recounts what has happened in earth’s history.

The answers regarding God and the events that led to the big bang are locked inside a great cosmic vault. Most unfortunately, the combination to which are locked inside the vault. We’ll never know those answers.

That leaves us with two choices. We can either join the fools that lean against the vault spinning myths and other tales or we can take the scientific approach and face facts as they lay. I find the revelations discovered by science to be more wondrous than any tale of myth or allegory.

Comment #131510

Posted by Michael Suttkus, II on September 19, 2006 8:39 AM (e)

Yes, creationists have invented their own misuses of the term “Macroevolution”, which means nothing at all similar to what it means when scientists use it.

You do know that we have seen new species evolve, right? Hundreds of them. In fact, the problem for YEC now is that we haven’t seen fast enough macroevolution, since they need extremely fast speciation to make the Ark myth an iota less idiotic.

And there’s no rational way to defend the idea that organisms have built-in repertoire to adapt to changes. We’ve watched Hawaiian fruit flies develop new mouthparts to deal with introduced citrus fruit. Did they have these genes sitting around for the whole history of the world, waiting for someone to introduce oranges? We’ve watched bacteria evolve to deal with chemicals that aren’t even found in nature. Were these adaptations built in from the beginning? For that matter, we can grow colonies from a single bacterium (one genetic stock) and watch them mutate to adapt to introduced environmental chemicals. There is no possible way this is a pre-existing genetic response. If it was, all of the bacteria would have survived instead of just a few with a lucky mutation.

There is no “creation theory”. There is only abject denial of reality.

Comment #131521

Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on September 19, 2006 9:26 AM (e)

The definition of species, commonly understood, passed down through Linnaeus from antiquity, stated clearly in my first post on this page - the criterion of obseved reproductive isolation over prolonged time under natural conditions. The things that Man can do - and cloning is significant here - actually can give a pointer to what happened at those exceptional moments in geologic time when species were transformed one to another. The genetic manipulation man can carry out will go close to actually simulating species transition. Amongst lower forms it could be argued that Man has engineered species transition.
If you wish to make nature the test-tube to prove the point, you don’t go and get a man to artificially engineer something approaching a transition, then say that this proves that nature causes transitions! Maybe you would be better off looking at what the man does to go close to causing the transition, and draw some conclusions therefrom, regarding what actually does happen at transition.
Crosses between lions and tigers, and indeed many such close species, if they did occur naturally, could not naturally succeed and arguably could not succeed over time, even with human intervention. For the purposes of a discussion about natural processes these crosses are infertile. Thinking people can go on and dissect all the other misinformation.
If you would like some questions to answer, you could try the ones put to you in the first post. Answer them in one swoop by explaining, blow-by-blow, what happens at speciation - and do it in the context of what is known, now, about the real unseen essence of a species.

Comment #131552

Posted by Michael Suttkus, II on September 19, 2006 1:17 PM (e)

PBH, please do yourself a favor and learn about something before pontificating on it.

PBH wrote:

The definition of species, commonly understood, passed down through Linnaeus from antiquity, stated clearly in my first post on this page - the criterion of obseved reproductive isolation over prolonged time under natural conditions.

The biological species concept was set in the 20th century. It isn’t remotely as old as Linneaus, much less antiquity.

PBH wrote:

The things that Man can do - and cloning is significant here - actually can give a pointer to what happened at those exceptional moments in geologic time when species were transformed one to another.

Not really. Speciation happens regularly, not at “exceptional moments in geological time”. Their transformation isn’t much like human engineering at all. It’s certainly not remotely like cloning, which creates identical genetic organisms, and is thus as far from speciation as you can possibly get and still be talking about replication.

PBH wrote:

The genetic manipulation man can carry out will go close to actually simulating species transition.

Will go close? You seem to think you’re precognative now. I’d agree… for a sufficiently literal reading of the term.

PBH wrote:

Amongst lower forms it could be argued that Man has engineered species transition.

It can? You keep saying things can be argued, but not arguing them. Are we just supposed to believe you?

No, man has never engineered a species transition found in nature (to my knowledge, I could be wrong). Certainly, the examples presented thus far are not human engineered. Even the ones in response to human action are not human engineered, or engineered at all.

PBH wrote:

If you wish to make nature the test-tube to prove the point, you don’t go and get a man to artificially engineer something approaching a transition, then say that this proves that nature causes transitions!

So, the conclusion of your argument depends solely on your own givens. That’s the definition of a circular argument. Congratulations: You’ve said nothing.

I haven’t once referred to anything human engineered.

PBH wrote:

Maybe you would be better off looking at what the man does to go close to causing the transition, and draw some conclusions therefrom, regarding what actually does happen at transition.

Maybe you would do better to actually learn some biology and quit wasting time with overwrought analogies.

PBH wrote:

Crosses between lions and tigers, and indeed many such close species, if they did occur naturally, could not naturally succeed and arguably could not succeed over time, even with human intervention.

Crosses like that are not speciation. That they are seperate, but can be crossed, shows that it is speciation in progress, but the crosses aren’t speciation. That the crosses don’t survive SHOWS speciation in action. It’s accumulation of genetic distance. You defeat your own claims.

PBH wrote:

For the purposes of a discussion about natural processes these crosses are infertile. Thinking people can go on and dissect all the other misinformation.

Yes, like I’m dissecting your misinformation.

PBH wrote:

If you would like some questions to answer, you could try the ones put to you in the first post.

Questions put to me in my first post? Huh? I asked me no questions.

PBH wrote:

Answer them in one swoop by explaining, blow-by-blow, what happens at speciation - and do it in the context of what is known, now, about the real unseen essence of a species.

Oh, go read about ring species, then explain to me how an extinction of the ring members in the middle of the cline could fail to result in speciation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_species

Comment #131568

Posted by steve s on September 19, 2006 2:42 PM (e)

Wow. I’d never heard of Ring Species. What an interesting situation.

Comment #131608

Posted by Anton Mates on September 19, 2006 4:27 PM (e)

A very nice article. A couple of minor suggestions:

The mutation rate per zygote which you give as 0.1-1.5 is, I believe, taken from Crow’s estimate for Drosophila in particular. Humans have a similar mutation rate per locus (as do most eukaryotes AFAIK) but their genome is much larger, so their mutation rates are higher, on the order of 100 new mutations per generation; Nachman & Crowell (Genetics, Sep. 2000) estimate 175.

When discussing Robertsonian translocation, you might make it explicit that (as mentioned on Pharyngula) humans with such a fusion can still interbreed with everybody else. You do say already that other species interbreed despite chromosome incompatibilities, but since Robertsonian translocation is precisely the change creationists are claiming would be impossible in human evolution, it deserves special attention.

Comment #131640

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 19, 2006 6:12 PM (e)

Dudes, Heywood is an incoherent nutball. You’re wasting your time on him.

Comment #131655

Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on September 19, 2006 7:12 PM (e)

The Ptolemnaic model of the solar system was simple by comparison.

Firstly, I congratulate Wilkins for not saying that Speciation is solved. Ptolemy and the myriad of others who made claims that advancing technology later modified, would say the same.

Nature has its tricks and surprises, but the common definition of ‘species’ is the most workable available. It has been around since Adam and the literature abounds in it. The man in the street understands the reproductive integrity of species. So did my palaeontology lecturer - the species question centres around reproductively discreet groupings (difficult to prove amongst fossils). The liger decoy actually proves the point. Don’t try to tell a zoo-keeper that if he runs the lions with the tigers they will breed into non-lions or tigers. ‘Species’ is yet another word that has fallen victim to ideaology, in some quarters.

If as you say, “programming in” is a myth, then how does the species adapt for change in environment? Do you understand that a species is essentially a numerically-based blueprint, utilizing a database of 4 (as do prospective quantum computers), married with life? Do you understand that nature is not mythical, and if a species adapts to something, that adaptation must be “written” somewhere, in a way that ultimately can be mathematically expressed? What is microevolution, if it isn’t the ability of some sort of an interactive information device to interact with the information feedback it is getting from its surroundings? And how could a species tranformation event - macroevolution - involve the specific changes called for by the environment, if information about the environment wasn’t “on the records” somewhere inside the organism? Who is talking up special supernatural interventionary acts here, and who is talking up empirical, measurable processes? Which approach to species origin suggests myth?

From all the information Neo-Darwinism has ever provided your correspondent, here is a rough consensus of its existing model of speciation:
When Species A needed to change to B - as evidenced by various microevolutionary changes in response to environment - a portion or perhaps just one or two members of the population got so different, they were a new species. This is evidenced by the fact that if you set up a zoo with expert veterinary staff you may artificially get some animal species to show signs of successfully re-uniting. It is also evidenced by rampant mutation amongst some micro-organisms and virulent adaptation amongst some groups of organisms such as fruit-fly. New species will easily arise if we a) change our terminology so that these mutations are new species, and/or b) get a man to engineer dramatic changes in an organism. This proves that this is how it happened.

I think Ptolemy did better than that.

Comment #131663

Posted by gwangung on September 19, 2006 7:57 PM (e)

Nature has its tricks and surprises, but the common definition of ‘species’ is the most workable available. It has been around since Adam and the literature abounds in it. The man in the street understands the reproductive integrity of species. So did my palaeontology lecturer - the species question centres around reproductively discreet groupings (difficult to prove amongst fossils). The liger decoy actually proves the point. Don’t try to tell a zoo-keeper that if he runs the lions with the tigers they will breed into non-lions or tigers. ‘Species’ is yet another word that has fallen victim to ideaology, in some quarters

Indeed it has. We can see the blood on your hands.

Now, would you actually go back and go and READ and UNDERSTAND what people have been telling you? “Ring species”, ahem? Stop trying to tell biologists that they don’t know what they’re talking about when you don’t know the first thing yourself.

“Ring species”, sir.

Comment #131669

Posted by fnxtr on September 19, 2006 8:12 PM (e)

(Eyes closed, arms folded, rocking back and forth)

donotfeedthetrollsdonotfeedthetrollsdonotfeedthetrollsdonotfeedthetrolls…

Comment #131673

Posted by Michael Suttkus, II on September 19, 2006 8:20 PM (e)

The Rev is always right.

PBH, if you can’t be bothered to read what’s been written and respond to it rather than around it, I can’t be bothered to write it to you to begin with.

Comment #131687

Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on September 19, 2006 9:24 PM (e)

If he’s always right, get him to explain ring species. I’m lost.

Comment #131693

Posted by Anton Mates on September 19, 2006 9:44 PM (e)

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

The liger decoy actually proves the point. Don’t try to tell a zoo-keeper that if he runs the lions with the tigers they will breed into non-lions or tigers.

How do you think we got tiger-lion hybrids in the first place? Do you think they had “expert veterinary staff” in the 1800s? And plenty of the modern hybrids have been bred entirely by accident. You house lions and tigers of opposite sexes in the same enclosure, sometimes they make adorable little baby hybrids. ‘Tis nature’s way.

(For that matter, A.A. Milne reported a few hybrids in the wild. Their rarity is probably due to the fact that, thanks to us, only a few hundred wild lions live anywhere near wild tigers.)

As for fertility–male hybrids of both parentages are apparently sterile, females are fertile. Gene flow between the populations is therefore quite possible.

I realize that I’ve said all this before, and pointed out that (for instance) wolves vs. coyotes hybridize like crazy in the wild, with hybrids fully fertile unto the nth generation, so that most of the modern wolves found in eastern North America have identifiable coyote DNA, but…what the heck.

Comment #131694

Posted by Sir_Toejam on September 19, 2006 9:53 PM (e)

It has been around since Adam

Adam who?

Adam West?

Comment #131706

Posted by stevearoni on September 19, 2006 10:27 PM (e)

Sigh; You can’t feed the trolls, but for the sake of the occasional drop-in reader it would do well to recap why this “programming” argument has been well-debunked

Heywood muses

if a species adapts to something, that adaptation must be “written” somewhere … how could a species tranformation event - macroevolution - involve the specific changes called for by the environment

No.

Species don’t invoke specific changes called for by the environment.

Nature does not have some pinpoint target that she’s shooting for. Nature owns a shotgun.

She constantly tries all kinds of possible mutations, all the time.

Most animals have lots of offspring because most of them will die young. Life sucks. The best ones live to breed. They hit the target better, and the process of natural selection keeps them.

Nature doesn’t have the ability to design anything, but it can sort stuff. Pebbles in a stream, for example. No intelligence is needed for a stream to sort pebbles from sand.

When Species A needed to change to B

Only when viewed from the present looking into the past. Nature could care less that Species A became B, C, or D. A was sub-optimal, some slightly better version survived better. nature could care less what Species A “needs”.

Sometimes A is optimized very well, and there is no pressure that drives change, see alligators and roaches, for example. Then the variants that look more like B die.

Nature is a mean sucker.

Comment #131709

Posted by Sir_Toejam on September 19, 2006 10:41 PM (e)

Nature is a mean sucker.

yeah, but she’s a total babe.

Comment #131729

Posted by John Wilkins on September 19, 2006 11:32 PM (e)

Hybridism is not only occasionaly, it’s almost common. Hybrids between species have been observed since Buffon’s day back in the late 18th century, and even before (but they didn’t always know what they were seeing, and often included fabulous cases such as the Chimera).

And Aristotle included hybridisation as a source of novel kinds of animals in the Historia Animalium, Bk VIII, sect 28:

Aristotle wrote:

It would appear that in that country [Libya, ie., Africa] animals of diverse species meet, on account of the rainless climate, at the watering-places, and there pair together; and that such pairs will often breed if they be nearly of the same size and have periods of gestation of the same length. For it is said that they are tamed down in their behaviour towards each other by extremity of thirst. And, by the way, unlike animals elsewhere, they require to drink more in wintertime than in summer: for they acquire the habit of not drinking in summer, owing to the circumstance that there is usually no water then; and the mice, if they drink, die. Elsewhere also bastard-animals are born to heterogeneous pairs; thus in Cyrene the wolf and the bitch will couple and breed; and the Laconian hound is a cross between the fox and the dog. They say that the Indian dog is a cross between the tiger and the bitch, not the first cross, but a cross in the third generation; for they say that the first cross is a savage creature. They take the bitch to a lonely spot and tie her up: if the tiger be in an amorous mood he will pair with her; if not he will eat her up, and this casualty is of frequent occurrence.

From that time until the end of the 19th, hybridisation was considered to be the major mode of speciation.

Comment #131731

Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on September 19, 2006 11:35 PM (e)

The question is not whether we do or do not have hybrids: these hybrids certainly tell us something. No-one would claim to know all there is to know about any species, and it may be that some “species” are really far end-members of other species. There are major challenges in some areas of classification. Linnaeus, Cuvier, Owen & co. recognized that. What is undeniable is the overwhelming fact that species, as special units, exist. Darwin recognized as much, and wrote it into the title of his most famous work. Aspects of his proposals appear to negate the title of his work, as was pointed out at the time and has been pointed out ever since.
There was a time when “experiment” was thought of as practical verification of whatever the experimenter thought should happen. It was easily proved that mice spontaneously generated from grain, that getting rid of bad blood healed the patient, and so on. It’s easy.
Those times have entirely passed by, have they?

Comment #131749

Posted by Andrew McClure on September 20, 2006 1:20 AM (e)

What is undeniable is the overwhelming fact that species, as special units, exist.

I deny this.

Comment #131760

Posted by Sir_Toejam on September 20, 2006 3:07 AM (e)

I deny this.

don’t you have to do that 3 times before the cock crows, or something?

otherwise the magic doesn’t work.

Comment #131770

Posted by Dean Morrison on September 20, 2006 5:02 AM (e)

John S. Wilkins in Talk Origins wrote:

Another way to state the difference is that macroevolution is between-species evolution of genes and microevolution is within-species evolution of genes.

- sorry but after reading Dawkins “The Extended Phenotype” I can’t quite look at that statement without raising an eyebrow.

In what sense to genes ‘evolve’? Surely they either survive, die, or mutate? (in which case they immediately become different genes) - and isn’t the ‘species’something of a human construct for convenience?

I know this doesn’t help when one is try to explain things to dumb creationists, but shouldn’t we aim for precision??

Comment #131771

Posted by John Wilkins on September 20, 2006 5:18 AM (e)

Dawkins is very gene-centric, and not at all concerned with taxonomic aspects of evolution, which is common among British evolutionists. For example, Maynard Smith followed his teacher Haldane in the view that species were merely conventional. But that is not the consensus among all evolutionary biologists. While there are species deniers, such as Ereshevsky, Pleijel and Cracraft, overall I think the consensus is that species are real things. What is not a consensus is that the rank of “species”, what Mayr called the “species category”, is a real rank. This can be understood if you take something else that is not a “real” kind of thing - say, “house” - and say that while particular houses are real things, there is no single type of thing that is a house.

Comment #131811

Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on September 20, 2006 8:20 AM (e)

Quote from NEW SCIENTIST, April this year: “To perform its biological functions, DNA has to carry out various manoeuvres, twisting, turning and docking with proteins at just the right place. No problem for a metre-long stringy molecule like DNA, one might think. Yet on the far smaller scale where the real action takes place - typically a few hundred bases - DNA is pretty rigid. And then there’s the mystery of how proteins meet up with just the right parts of the double helix. Biochemists have long suspected water molecules are important: concentrations of them around DNA appear to correlate with biological activity. It turns out that water undergoes radical changes as it approaches the surface of DNA. As the molecules draw near the double helix, the seething network of hydrogen bonds within bulk water becomes disrupted, and the motion of individual molecules becomes more and more sluggish. The latest research focuses on what happens around the “troughs” in the double helix formed by specific base pairs. It seems that water molecules linger longer and rotate more slowly around some base pairs than others. Suddenly that link between hydration levels and biological activity doesn’t seem so perplexing. After all, the base pairs on DNA are the building blocks of genes, and their sequence dictates the order in which amino acids are stitched together to make proteins. If water molecules linger longer around some base pairs than others, the level of hydration will mirror the sequence of base pairs…… .” Last time I quoted from this paper (WATER - THE QUANTUM ELIXIR) one contributor found it desirable to warn the tender contributors about junky publications in NEW SCIENTIST!

This is the Quantum Era. Science out there is actually beginning to see how organisms really work. The antiquated row-boat of what might be called remnant, Dawkins-style Darwinism has the Queen Mary of technological advance bearing down.

If the rowers could decide, between themselves, whether species really exist, genes really have meaning, dogs give birth to cats, and whether people such as Galileo, Newton & Einstein were completely dumb (not to mention fathers of biology, such as Linnaeus, Cuvier & Owen) they might make a show worthy of the imminent revolution.

The problem is, if all the scientists talk confusion, we get confused and potentially retrogressive policy.
Well, I’d rather be out swimming in some of that water. You nearly have to go out to sea to find any in Australia at the moment. They had to shut 2 lanes of the swimming pool the other day.

Comment #131839

Posted by Anton Mates on September 20, 2006 10:38 AM (e)

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

Last time I quoted from this paper (WATER - THE QUANTUM ELIXIR) one contributor found it desirable to warn the tender contributors about junky publications in NEW SCIENTIST!

And if you’d only heeded my warning, you wouldn’t still be quoting from an article that starts with Masaru Emoto’s “Water freezes into prettier crystals if you think nice thoughts at it” theory and ends with homeopathy. Think how much embarrassment you could have avoided.

Comment #131978

Posted by Henry J on September 20, 2006 9:49 PM (e)

Re “Think how much embarrassment you could have avoided.”

That doesn’t seem to be one of his goals?

Henry

Comment #131983

Posted by Your Competition on September 20, 2006 10:06 PM (e)

This hasn’t proved anything to me. This is simply an ignorantium elenchii, no content whatsoever! I’m noticing this as a general trend on this site.

Give me something intelligent to look at sometime….(yawn).

Comment #131985

Posted by Your Competition on September 20, 2006 10:07 PM (e)

This hasn’t proved anything to me. This is simply an ignorantium elenchii, no content whatsoever! I’m noticing this as a general trend on this site.

Give me something intelligent to look at sometime….(yawn).

Comment #131986

Posted by Your Competition on September 20, 2006 10:09 PM (e)

I came here looking for some intelligent answers to Macro Evolution or something.

Total disappointment.

Comment #131993

Posted by Your Competition on September 20, 2006 10:18 PM (e)

“Words are not the master of science; science is, or should be, the master of its words. But we can inquire how scientists use their words, and whether they use them consistently. And having done that, we can inquire whether others who are not scientists read too much into them, or use them in a totally different way.”
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/macroevolution.html#barriers

Why should it be? Are you willing to show me Science without words? Whats your reasoning here?

Are you also aware that Logos governs Science? Did you know that Science is a part of Logos, and to argue against Logos, you would have to argue against logic, words, reason, Science and etc. and so on to avoid this distinction?

Someone is not very informed here.

Next part to Talk Origins I’d like to address on this article:

“Antievolutionists try to make out that macroevolution is a tautology, the way they claim that natural selection is a tautology. The implication is that macroevolution cannot be tested and shown to be wrong, and therefore it is not science.” http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/macroevolution.html#barriers

Guess why? Perhaps because Darwin used the terms interchangeably. If you wish to debate that Darwin had nothing to do with Evolution (as I”ve had so many Evolutionists do in the past) I’d be willing to discuss the numerous Evolutionists who have agreed with him on the nature of the terms here. We have determined that linguistically, they are derived from the same concept, and therefore, when one’s tautological the other follows. Another problem with eliminating logic from the discussion.

I don’t know how many times I saw this article take quotes out of context. Half of the time, Talk Origin makes a chronic habitual problem with taking incomplete quotes from Creation Scientists…and for this reason, I have a hard time believing in anything they have to say. Please tell me Evolution has something better to offer than Talk Origins. This seriously makes me laugh.

I’ve concluded Evolution is no more than Ideology.

Good night :).

Comment #132006

Posted by Your Competition on September 20, 2006 10:33 PM (e)

When I came here, I thought I was going to get some intelligent responses. I mean, I had all of these guys from these other debate forums bragging on you guys. Where are these oh so incredibly intelligent arguments I’ve been hearing of?

Comment #132016

Posted by stevaroni on September 20, 2006 11:01 PM (e)

When I came here, I thought I was going to get some intelligent responses. I mean, I had all of these guys from these other debate forums bragging on you guys. Where are these oh so incredibly intelligent arguments I’ve been hearing of?

Pop!

SUmmumanabitch! I just got that irony meter fixed!

Comment #132058

Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on September 21, 2006 1:32 AM (e)

Hey I’m not a frequenter of T/O but I’d have said this page is fulfilling the purpose for which it was put here. 1) Some people actually admitted that neither they nor science know everything in relation to Origins. Here is ground on which science can advance. Small patch of ground, but refreshing. 2) The Provider resisted the temptation to censor arguments that he might not agree with. A tiny minority of other Providers haven’t even had that much Science or Democracy to their name. 3) There was a genuine effort to understand on the part of some contributors, without recourse to idealogical recrimination.
It is possible to divide between science and religion.
I’ve been censored at TalkOrigins and I’m effectively barred from most Evolution and indeed most “Science” publications, but the Competition over the road, if you know what I mean, ban me as well.
In defense of both “sides”: if something of the order of a dog naturally giving birth to a cat ever happened (i.e., failure of organisms to reproduce after their kind), you can tear up every Bible in existence and throw it in the trash can. On the other hand, if life wasn’t unrolled as though by the function of a spreading tree, you can tear up Science. Once people catch on that the fossil record is NOT a true ancestral or blood-relation sequence, and stop contradicting other people’s legitimate beliefs in the name of Science, the defensive reaction of retreat to YEC will relax.

Comment #132120

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 21, 2006 7:09 AM (e)

I came here looking for some intelligent answers to Macro Evolution or something.

Total disappointment.

Bye, then.

(waving as you charge off on your white horse)

Comment #132144

Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on September 21, 2006 7:51 AM (e)

That’s a relief. Lenny’s here after all. You had me worried.

Comment #132185

Posted by Anton Mates on September 21, 2006 10:03 AM (e)

Might as well try this once…

Your Competition wrote:

“Words are not the master of science; science is, or should be, the master of its words. But we can inquire how scientists use their words, and whether they use them consistently. And having done that, we can inquire whether others who are not scientists read too much into them, or use them in a totally different way.”
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/macroevolution.h…

Why should it be? Are you willing to show me Science without words? Whats your reasoning here?

Where in the above did Wilkins say science doesn’t involve words?

Are you also aware that Logos governs Science? Did you know that Science is a part of Logos, and to argue against Logos, you would have to argue against logic, words, reason, Science and etc. and so on to avoid this distinction?

Are you aware that the word “logos” has so many definitions as to make your statement above completely meaningless? Clarify, please.

“Antievolutionists try to make out that macroevolution is a tautology, the way they claim that natural selection is a tautology. The implication is that macroevolution cannot be tested and shown to be wrong, and therefore it is not science.” http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/macroevolution.h…

Guess why? Perhaps because Darwin used the terms interchangeably.

So…you’ve read neither the Macroevolution FAQ this thread is about, nor Darwin’s works, then?

If you had, you’d know that the word “Macroevolution” didn’t even exist until well after Darwin’s death. Darwin didn’t even use the word “evolution” until later editions of the Origin.

Finally, no, “evolution”–as used by Darwin or any modern biologist–is never interchangeable with “natural selection.” Evolution is the phenomenon of descent with modification over time; natural selection is a mechanism partially responsible for that phenomenon. Different things.

If you wish to debate that Darwin had nothing to do with Evolution (as I”ve had so many Evolutionists do in the past) I’d be willing to discuss the numerous Evolutionists who have agreed with him on the nature of the terms here. We have determined that linguistically, they are derived from the same concept, and therefore, when one’s tautological the other follows. Another problem with eliminating logic from the discussion.

Linguistic common descent = logical equivalence? Um, no. “All men are human” is a tautology; “all men are humane” is not.

Moreover, if evolutionary theory were tautological, its truth would be logically proven and all arguments against it could be automatically discounted as invalid. It would be as unquestionable as 2+2=4. Do you really think that’s the case?

Comment #132207

Posted by Erasmus on September 21, 2006 11:37 AM (e)

I think he meant ‘LEGOS’.

Comment #132222

Posted by gwangung on September 21, 2006 12:41 PM (e)

I’ve been censored at TalkOrigins and I’m effectively barred from most Evolution and indeed most “Science” publications,

Actually, no.

But keep wearing the “persecution garments” if it makes you feel better.

Comment #132229

Posted by Apple on September 21, 2006 1:10 PM (e)

Davison returns?

Comment #132447

Posted by Wayne Francis on September 22, 2006 12:16 AM (e)

Comment # 131521

Philip Bruce Heywood wrote:

Comment #131521
Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on September 19, 2006 09:26 AM (e)

Crosses between lions and tigers, and indeed many such close species, if they did occur naturally, could not naturally succeed and arguably could not succeed over time, even with human intervention. For the purposes of a discussion about natural processes these crosses are infertile. Thinking people can go on and dissect all the other misinformation….

This is not true on a few levels.
Speciation is a very gray area. If you draw a line and say it is the point where 2 species don’t produce fertile offspring then I can come up with numerous examples that make that seemingly black and white line into a nice shade of gray.

Many species can interbreed with closely related species in the wild without human intervention and produce fertile offspring. Some of these don’t interbreed normally because of social or geologic barriers. Good examples of this are zebras. There are 3 distinct species all can interbreed with each other with various levels of fertility and viability. Common horses and Przewalski Horses interbreed easily and are completely fertile.

Most of the great cats can interbreed. Female hybrids are normally fertile. Yes in the wild they probably wouldn’t but it does show they are still genetically compatible.

Nature shows that male hybrids are normally the first to go infertile but even this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Even so hybrids are a rare situation except in a few known situations most notably many ring species where you get no clear speciation line since each population can happily interbreed with neighbouring populations yet the further apart 2 populations are along the ring the less fertile and viable a hybrid would be.

Clearly this shows that speciation, like many things in biology, isn’t black and white but a continuous gradient between states. Its only creationists that try to draw a line in the sand and say there is only 2 states.

Another good example is genital gender, chromosomal gender, gender identity, and gender preference. Many people, mostly religious, will say being gay is wrong and it’s a choice. If you are born a man then you should be attracted to women. But this brings us to have to define what is a man or more broadly what determines the sex of an individual?
Is a person defined by chromosomes and XX means your female and XY means your male?
What about individuals that appear male and have XXY chromosomes.
Or what about the XX individual that has male genitles
What about the XY individual that doesn’t respond to testosterone and appears to be a female

Do you define it by genitals? Does it matter if they function properly? Can you be a human if you are neither male or female by definition placed down?

What about a male that is found to have the brain structure of a typical female or vice versa?

Then you got the area of gender preference. While it the first 2, genital gender/chromosomal gender, is understood on a biological footing and gender identity can sometimes be linked to brain structure the last is still not well understood in biological terms.

Basically it is another obvious gradient from white to black with many shades of grey and even more complexly many shades of colour. Only people with bad motivations would try to pigeon hole things and say there is only 2 states.

Comment #132525

Posted by Michael Suttkus, II on September 22, 2006 7:55 AM (e)

The interesting thing about the Przewalski’s horse is that it while it is completely interfertile with the domestic horse, it has a different number of chromosomes: 66 chromosomes in Przewalski’s horse versus 64 in the domestic horse. This disposes of the formerly common creationist claim that differing chromosome counts would make breeding impossible, so equally make speciation impossible. (It’s less common now as more and more creationists realize how much speciation they need to support the Ark nonsense.)

Comment #132526

Posted by Michael Suttkus, II on September 22, 2006 7:59 AM (e)

Of course, by claiming that there are shades of grey between genders, Wayne Francis undercuts the natural foundation of counting and distorts the natural origin of mathematics! HOW DARE HE ASSAULT MATH!

(Sorry, but that’s still funny. See the article before this one if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

Comment #132577

Posted by Stevaroni on September 22, 2006 11:43 AM (e)

The interesting thing about the Przewalski’s horse is that it while it is completely interfertile with the domestic horse, it has a different number of chromosomes: 66 chromosomes in Przewalski’s horse versus 64 in the domestic horse.

Whoah! now that’s completely cool!

Michael, ya gotta point me to more informtion on that one!

How dows it end up working? Do the offspring get 64 full chromosomes, with two half-chromosomes or something? do the missing 2 halves self-replicate? Do you end up with only 64?

Will Lassie get help to little Timmy in time?

Do tell.

Comment #132579

Posted by Henry J on September 22, 2006 12:02 PM (e)

Re “66 chromosomes in Przewalski’s horse versus 64 in the domestic horse.”

I’d guess that (66/2) + (64/2) = 65 would be the result? (Unless there’s other complications that affect it.)

Henry

Comment #132588

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 22, 2006 1:28 PM (e)

Wayne Francis’s #132447 above:

Several good points, dude! Thanks!

Not that anything will dent PBH’s shield of impenetrability…but at least I appreciated your thoughtful comments.

Comment #132847

Posted by Anton Mates on September 22, 2006 11:06 PM (e)

Your Competition wrote:

Words are not the master of science; science is, or should be, the master of its words.

Does this look familiar?

Lets see if Science can survive without words shall we?

C’mon, you’ve got Wilkins’ “Science should be the master of its words” right next to your “Science can survive without words.” Surely it’s obvious at this point that Wilkins’ statement does not imply yours–that the two are, in fact, contradictory? How could science master its words if it didn’t have any?

Wilkins is making a very simple and casual point–scientists are free to define their terms as they wish, and you shouldn’t criticize a theory by attacking one of its terms based on someone else’s definition. He’s not demanding that the scientific world undergo mass aphasia.

Logos is meaningless? Lets see, that would mean that your reasoning and discernment abilities are obviously not what you are showing here (at least I hope not, because if so, they are poor). You have now given my statement about logos logical meaning just by attempting to deny its meaning. Logos still prevails.

I said “logos” has many meanings, and you need to explain which one you’re using if you want your statement to be meaningful. You’re not doing very well so far, but I live in hope.

Comment #132853

Posted by Michael Suttkus, II on September 22, 2006 11:16 PM (e)

Here’s the wikipedia article on Prz. Horses:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Przewalski%27s_Horse

The offspring of a domestic and a Pzewalski’s horse will have 65 chromosomes, one of which will be unpaired.

There are some species of butterfly that make this feat look positively dull, where individuals of the same species can have between 17 and 44 chromosomes, with no fertility loss!

Comment #132915

Posted by Wayne Francis on September 23, 2006 3:25 AM (e)

Comment # 132577

Stevaroni wrote:

Comment #132577
Posted by Stevaroni on September 22, 2006 11:43 AM (e)
The interesting thing about the Przewalski’s horse is that it while it is completely interfertile with the domestic horse, it has a different number of chromosomes: 66 chromosomes in Przewalski’s horse versus 64 in the domestic horse.
Whoah! now that’s completely cool!
Michael, ya gotta point me to more informtion on that one!
How dows it end up working? Do the offspring get 64 full chromosomes, with two half-chromosomes or something? do the missing 2 halves self-replicate? Do you end up with only 64?
Will Lassie get help to little Timmy in time?
Do tell.

First generation tends to have 65 chromosomes and then from there it is dependent on what the other breed is. If a hybrid breeds with a common horse there is a 50% chance of having 65 and 50% chance of having 64. If its bread back with a Przewalski then it can skip back up to 66.

The 3 species of Zebras are even more interesting because there even more different.

Grevy’s have 46 chromosomes
Plains Zebra’s have 44 chromosomes
Mountain Zebra’s have 32 chromosomes

Hybrids are not as viable as Horse/Przewalski hybrids but then they aren’t always sterile either.

Bit more info
Przewalski have 66 chromosomes.
Horses have 64 chromosomes.
donkeys have 62 chromosomes.

Przewalski/Horse hybrid very viable and fertile.

Donkey/Horse hybrid (mule) less viable and rarely fertile.

Chromosome numbers really aren’t the key to viability/fertility of offspring but just one factor that we are still learning about.

Note: by viability I mean the chance that a fertilized embryo will actually be born alive.

Comment #132989

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 23, 2006 7:54 AM (e)

It would seem to me that it wouldn’t be simply the *number* of chromosomes that would make the difference, but whether the genes from each set would still be able to line up with each other. In humans and chimps, for instance, one of the chromosomes got broken into two, so they have different NUMBERS. But if the genes on the two broken halves could still line up together with their corresponding ones on the single chromosome, it would seem to not make any difference.

(Although, IIRC, one of the human sequences here is also inverted, which perhaps WOULD affect its ability to pair up the proper genes).

Yes?

Comment #132991

Posted by John Wilkins on September 23, 2006 8:02 AM (e)

As I understand it, Lenny, humans have a fused chromosome, from chromosomes 2 a and 2 b of the ancestral primate set.

Comment #133012

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 23, 2006 9:30 AM (e)

Doh!! See what happens when you don’t do some research and just go on hungover memory (ohhhh, my head — why do I keep doing this every single weekend?)

But my observation still applies — it’s not the number of chromosomes that matter, it’s how well the corresponding genes can line up with each other. Theoretically, it would seem, if one partner had one single enormous chromosome with all its genes lined up on it, and another partner had a zillion chromosomes, each consisting of just one gene, then each gene would still be able to find and pair with its corresponding bunkmate in the other partner, and reproduction would chug right along with no problem.

Yes?

Comment #133120

Posted by Richard Simons on September 23, 2006 3:21 PM (e)

Never mind whether lions and tigers can interbreed, for real macro-evolution consider Helacyton gartleri, a single-celled amoeboid organism originating from human tissue. Does anyone know how taxonomists handle it? My understanding of cladistics is that it should be considered a primate, but to me a primate has hair and can swing around in trees.

Comment #133256

Posted by Anton Mates on September 23, 2006 11:11 PM (e)

Richard Simons wrote:

Never mind whether lions and tigers can interbreed, for real macro-evolution consider Helacyton gartleri, a single-celled amoeboid organism originating from human tissue. Does anyone know how taxonomists handle it?

So far as I can see, they just try not to talk about it. :) (Not because it would make “Hominidae” a clade of hairy tree-swingers and petri-dish-frequenting ooze–that’d just make the cladists chortle–but just because it would be too damn difficult to make every cancer its very own new species.)

Sticker’s sarcoma is even worse, since it went from “adorable doggie” to “single-celled pathogen” in the wild, and is doing just fine since. God help systematics if it ends up diversifying….

Comment #133271

Posted by Anton Mates on September 23, 2006 11:31 PM (e)

'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank wrote:

But my observation still applies — it’s not the number of chromosomes that matter, it’s how well the corresponding genes can line up with each other. Theoretically, it would seem, if one partner had one single enormous chromosome with all its genes lined up on it, and another partner had a zillion chromosomes, each consisting of just one gene, then each gene would still be able to find and pair with its corresponding bunkmate in the other partner, and reproduction would chug right along with no problem.

I don’t think so. The Pharyngula post I mentioned sheds some light on this issue.

Basically, as I understand it, there’s no problem in the first hybrid generation because the kid has one copy of the giant chromosome, one copy each of the zillion little chromosomes, thus two copies of every gene, hooray. The problem is when the kid tries to reproduce, hir cells have to undergo meiosis, and they have no way to realize that the giant chromosome is actually the counterpart of all the little ones. So instead of lining up the way they should:

C C
C C
C
C C
C C

they all line up as single copies of separate chromosomes:

C
C
C
C
C

C
C

C
C

and then get haphazardly sorted into the daughter cells. It’s still possible for the gametes to come out okay, if they happen to have gotten only the giant chromosome or the entire set of tiny chromosomes, but most of the gametes will have either the giant + some tinies, thus too many copies of some genes, or an incomplete set of tinies without a giant, thus missing some genes.

Which doesn’t necessarily make the hybrid infertile, or even severely fertility-reduced. The vast majority of our fertilized eggs fail anyway, and given our long lives and gestation periods we can afford to fail for a few months before getting a functional gamete and producing a viable embryo. It’d probably be a much more serious problem for, say, a coral.

Comment #133440

Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on September 24, 2006 8:09 AM (e)

Well I’d better go. I have to tell the zoo - keeper to take down all the animal identification signs because they will lead future biology graduates astray. On the way I’ll tell the neighbour to get his horses out from among his cattle quick-time. Anything could happen, genetics-wise, if he doesn’t. Better buy some cat food, too. The bitch is due to pup, and all I saw was wildcats. Just when I thought I had things sorted out. Blast!

Comment #133511

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 24, 2006 1:25 PM (e)

Hey Heywood, please go blither somewhere else. The grownups are talking here.

Comment #133515

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 24, 2006 1:27 PM (e)

Basically, as I understand it, there’s no problem in the first hybrid generation because the kid has one copy of the giant chromosome, one copy each of the zillion little chromosomes, thus two copies of every gene, hooray. The problem is when the kid tries to reproduce, hir cells have to undergo meiosis, and they have no way to realize that the giant chromosome is actually the counterpart of all the little ones.

Ah, yes – I see what you’re saying. Does present some problems, huh.

Comment #135006

Posted by field on September 28, 2006 3:26 AM (e)

I am interested in the issue of human evolution. Clearly the human species did evolve and we can see stages in that evolution from ape to fully human.

But I wonder about the mechanisms invovled. If the mechanism is supposed to be random mutation plus natural selection is that credible?

Everything I have read about hominids suggests that
(a) their populations were v. small and (b) they tended to live in fairly isolated bands.

Given the small time frame here - 3-5 million years, is it credible that so many successful random mutations could have taken place during that time AND could then have successfully spread among hominids. You have to appreciate of course that man is a social animal. If person A has a successful random mutation i.e. that can be successfully passed on it doesn’t mean that would spread through the hominid population. For one thing person B could have an unsuccessful mutation which affect the efficiency of the small group and so cancel out person A’s advantage. You’d have to look at the average success of the group as a whole. For another a successful random mutation wouldn’t necessarily be a plus. Among the less pleasant of human traits is the “tall poppy” syndrome our tendency to gang up on anyone displaying skills. Someone who say showed ability to get more food might well become and object of envy and become the victim of group action.

Has anyone looked at the maths of all this? I wouldn’t claim to be able to understand it from that point of view. But it does seem that (a) hominids underwent rapid changes that require all sorts of co-ordinated changes in body chemistry (b) there weren’t a lot of them and © they tended to live in isolated groups.

Don’t these three factors require some response from orthodox neo-Darwinians? Are we sure that normal random mutation plus natural selection could
produce these changes over this timescale in such small populations? Especially since in the last 10,000 years, so scientists tell us, we have seen no significant changes in the human gene pool.

Comment #135012

Posted by Darth Robo on September 28, 2006 4:03 AM (e)

Field sez:

“Don’t these three factors require some response from orthodox neo-Darwinians?”

Gee, they probably haven’t even thought of it at all! Let’s tell every evolutionary biologist right now! They need to rethink the entire FIELD of human evolution!!! They might even recommend you for the Nobel prize or something!

Field, what the heck is an ‘orthodox neo-Darwinian’? Is that the same as being an orthodox donut?

Comment #135216

Posted by Henry J on September 28, 2006 3:35 PM (e)

Re “3-5 million years, “

What would be maybe 150k to 300k generations.

Average mutation rate for coding genes is (iirc) between 1.5 and 2.

That gives on the order of 225k to 600k coding gene mutations during that period. Sounds like rather a lot to me. (Unless I messed up the math or the data.)

(k = 1000)

Re “hominids underwent rapid changes that require all sorts of co-ordinated changes in body chemistry”

Why would it require a bunch of chemistry changes? I thought our functional chemistry was very similar to that of the other apes.

Henry

Comment #135237

Posted by stevaroni on September 28, 2006 4:44 PM (e)

Field wrote:

If the mechanism is supposed to be random mutation plus natural selection is that credible?

Why not? There’s not that much difference in the various primate genomes. Maybe a percent or two.

If you figure that Lucy and her kin were at about the halfway point back to a common ancestor, that’s 6 or 8 million years to make that much change.

And humans seem pretty sensitive to environmental selection pressures. Look at how much difference there is in some of the more isolated populations around the world. Compare the Aborigines with the Andeans, Zulu’s with the Inuit. And that’s only maybe 20,000 years of branching with some occasional mixback.

Run that change rate backwards 400 times longer, and it seems pretty plausible.

Comment #135262

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on September 28, 2006 6:09 PM (e)

Don’t these three factors require some response from orthodox neo-Darwinians?

Nope. But it does show that you haven’t the faintest clue what you are blithering about.

Are we sure that normal random mutation plus natural selection could
produce these changes over this timescale in such small populations?

Yep, I’m sure. What alternative mechanisms do *you* propose?

And who is “we”? You have a mouse in your pocket or something?

Especially since in the last 10,000 years, so scientists tell us, we have seen no significant changes in the human gene pool.

Wrong.

Comment #135287

Posted by Anton Mates on September 28, 2006 7:28 PM (e)

field wrote:

Everything I have read about hominids suggests that
(a) their populations were v. small and (b) they tended to live in fairly isolated bands.

Given the small time frame here - 3-5 million years, is it credible that so many successful random mutations could have taken place during that time AND could then have successfully spread among hominids.

Other people have addressed many of the ways in which, yes, it is credible; but I want to mention also that a small population makes it more credible that neutral random mutations could also have spread rapidly among the population. It’s a basic fact of population genetics that, the smaller the population, the stronger the genetic drift. Even slightly harmful mutations can go to fixation in a sufficiently small population, from chance alone.

You have to appreciate of course that man is a social animal. If person A has a successful random mutation i.e. that can be successfully passed on it doesn’t mean that would spread through the hominid population. For one thing person B could have an unsuccessful mutation which affect the efficiency of the small group and so cancel out person A’s advantage. You’d have to look at the average success of the group as a whole.

You neglect the effect of selection within the group. If A’s mutation improves her reproductive success, in later generations more of the group will carry that mutation, while B’s mutation will disappear as its carriers fail to reproduce. Unless genetic drift drives B’s mutation to fixation (very unlikely if it’s severely deleterious), eventually the group will enjoy the benefit of A’s mutation alone.

For another a successful random mutation wouldn’t necessarily be a plus. Among the less pleasant of human traits is the “tall poppy” syndrome our tendency to gang up on anyone displaying skills. Someone who say showed ability to get more food might well become and object of envy and become the victim of group action.

So far as I can see, “tall poppy syndrome” is a word for Australian envy directed toward social climbers–it hardly represents a universal sociological fact!

Virtually every known human society has a certain amount of division of labor–some make more tools than others, some hunt more, and so forth. And virtually every society rewards those who are good at what they do–including, for that matter, many nonhuman primate societies. (See, for instance, how hunting chimps use meat-sharing to gain social alies.) Are they sometimes the target of envy? Sure. But that just creates another activity to be good at–politics.

In short, the idea that a tribe of subsistence-level foragers is likely to kill/drive off one of their members because he brings them more food than usual–or defends them more ably from enemies/predators, or makes them better tools–isn’t very plausible.

Especially since in the last 10,000 years, so scientists tell us, we have seen no significant changes in the human gene pool.

Good gravy, there have been tons, and scientists tell us all about them. Lactose tolerance, for instance, and several of the blood-related mutations conferring malaria resistance.

Check out PLoS Biology article for an example of current research into recent human evolution.

Comment #135290

Posted by Steviepinhead on September 28, 2006 7:34 PM (e)

About the most that can be said for “tall poppy” syndrome is that the poppies in his Field’s are showing distinct signs of wilt.

Comment #136209

Posted by field on September 30, 2006 1:15 PM (e)

Henry seems to be getting close to answering my (layman’s) question whereas some of the other responses seem polemical rather than to the point.

Some follow up questions if you don’t mind:

1. Assuming say 500k mutations, how many are going to be “successful”, how many “neutral” and how many “negative”. Can we give an estimate? And with do the estimates match up to what we know about the difference in gene make up of humans and chimps?

2. Are coding mutations always passed on through the generations?

3. Why did so many seem to be to do with the brain?

Whilst you say no changes in body chemistry are required, I would dispute that. Or put it another way, for a gene mutation to be successful it either has to create a new chemical environment which does not harm the organism or must have no harmful effects on the existing chemical environment of the organism. I’m not a sceintist so find it hard to express this - but if say a gene mutation led to excessive build up of free radicals in cells, that would presumably be harmful. That’s what I was getting at. Every successful mutation has to avoid such harmful effects. The more complex the organism, the more difficult I would suggest it is for that to be achieved randomly.

If one reads about what goes on at the micro level in cells, it is all happening with such precision and speed that it does seem remarkable that so many mutations in such a complex mechanism could be successful on a random basis.

For those who ask what alternative I am peddling, my view is that other mechanisms in addition to random mutation and natural selection were invovled. These I would lable Interactive Evolution - which we know does exist: epigenetic inheritance being a well attested example. I think in ways we don’t yet fully understand things such as diet, brain chemistry and other factors were acting as feedback loops to create a sort of Lamarckian evolution that became incredibly rapid.

I freely admit I’m not a scientist. But I do know many scientists have over the years been sceptical on similar grounds.

I think Anton Mates misunderstood mt point about teh group. “Successful” mutatino A can only succeed if Group x survives. It won’t necessarily pass beyond the group. If Mutation B is dragging the group down (but not necessarily undermining the carrier’s ability to reproduce within the group), then mutation A will have no positive effect on group A’s
prospect of survival.

Average mutation rate for coding genes is (iirc) between 1.5 and 2.

That gives on the order of 225k to 600k coding gene mutations during that period. Sounds like rather a lot to me. (Unless I messed up the math or the data.)

(k = 1000)

Re “hominids underwent rapid changes that require all sorts of co-ordinated changes in body chemistry”

Why would it require a bunch of chemistry changes? I thought our functional chemistry was very similar to that of the other apes.

Henry

Comment #136239

Posted by stevaroni on September 30, 2006 3:38 PM (e)

Field Wrote;
Assuming say 500k mutations, how many are going to be “successful”, how many “neutral” and how many “negative”. Can we give an estimate?

Well, don’t forget that we’re at the tail end looking back. Just because there’s 500K mutations that we carry, it doesn’t mean that only 500K mutations occurred.

We’re talking maybe 300K generations here.

There were probably tens of trillions mutations overall in hominid history, and most were negative, because we’re an easy machine to break. So those zygotes/embryos/juveniles didn’t make it.

The latest guesses show that, for a variety of reasons, something like 40-60% of fertilized human eggs never make it to birth, and maybe a quarter of us have some reason we wouldn’t have made it to breeding age without the intervention of modern medicine. Even something as mundane as a bad infection could kill a sub-optimal individual, and being nearsighted could make you into lunch.

The weed-out rate for negative mutations is brutal.

So the real way to look at this number is to take the number of critical mutations that got us from there to here, and divide by 300K generations

Comment #140724

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on October 20, 2006 1:46 PM (e)

“I see the main problem to be not the concept of selection but rather the often abused and confused concept of random variation.

Even on UcD some can still be heard making the assertion that Darwinism offers no room for religion as it insists on randomness.”

Yes, but that description doesn’t follow, it is the strawman. Selection means that the process isn’t fully random. (“Shit happens, but shit is good for you.”) If some randomness is a problem, they should have trouble with physics as well. (“Fundamentally everything is built on shit happening. The difference is that in the classical regime you can really see that the shit flows downhill, as rivers.”)

Not forgetting selection besides easily observable variation must be fundamental when teaching. Fundies will never accept science anyway. If it isn’t randomness that is the strawman problem, it will be back to the fundamental problem that it isn’t created.

“Nevertheless, it should be easy to point out that random should not be confused with no purpose, as the latter one is a religious position.”

Right, if not confused with purpose. No purpose is the supportable scientific position AFAIK. For example, John Wilkins discuss adapted systems ( http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolphil/teleology.html ). It is another thing is that it is convenient to ascribe intelligent agents purposes. Aside from that ‘purpose’ is the religious position. What is the purpose of evolution?

Comment #141279

Posted by Anton Mates on October 22, 2006 6:51 PM (e)

Apologies for losing track of this thread last month….

field wrote:

Every successful mutation has to avoid such harmful effects. The more complex the organism, the more difficult I would suggest it is for that to be achieved randomly.

So far no one’s found any evidence supporting that suggestion, though, nor made a strong theoretical argument for why it would be the case.

If one reads about what goes on at the micro level in cells, it is all happening with such precision and speed that it does seem remarkable that so many mutations in such a complex mechanism could be successful on a random basis.

“Precision” is really not a word I’d use to describe cellular processes; on the contrary, they’re fuzzy and hazy and error-prone. Life is chemistry, after all, and chemistry is simply sloppy, large-scale physics. Moreover, we know that living organisms do just fine when they’re altered in millions of small ways, because many species’ genomes (including humans) have a ton of polymorphisms.

I think Anton Mates misunderstood mt point about teh group. “Successful” mutatino A can only succeed if Group x survives. It won’t necessarily pass beyond the group. If Mutation B is dragging the group down (but not necessarily undermining the carrier’s ability to reproduce within the group), then mutation A will have no positive effect on group A’s prospect of survival.

But mutations of type B would also drag down groups in which beneficial mutations don’t appear, so they wouldn’t really be relevant to the overall likelihood of beneficial mutations spreading throughout the species.

(Also, not only do mutations of type B appear a priori unlikely–a mutation which doesn’t damage its owners’ reproductive success, but does somehow drive its entire owner’s group to extinction?–but we know empirically that they can’t have occurred very often, since the human species hasn’t gone extinct.)