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eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Original Post - Jan 1, 2013 - 12:41pm PT
First of all this is NOT a thread about whether evolution is true or not. The starting point for this thread is it is. That being said, there are lots of interesting issues within this very big topic that are controversial and thought-provoking. It's clear to me that there are lots of very bright STers with a range of scientific backgrounds that could make this fun. Here are three topics that I've been interested in for several years.

1. Are humans still evolving? I mean significantly. Are we going to continue evolving bigger brains for instance. Since natural selection requires some sort of selection pressure, typically involving either a significant culling or isolation of a population, is this likely in a world of 7 billion where people move (and procreate) freely across the planet?

2. Is group selection, as advocated most notably by the evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson, a viable process for explaining things like altruism or can this be explained entirely by selection at the organism or gene level?

3. What is the likelihood that the emergence of life on a planet will lead to intelligent life given 100s of millions or billions of years of evolution to work with.

My short opinions are (1) No. (2) No. (3) Low. I could be wrong on all three.
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Jan 1, 2013 - 12:58pm PT
1) yes, because I don't think it can, stop. Esp with a population and number of variables as high as what we have.

-but it's hard to tell from the inside what the pressures are that are pushing evolution and what mutations are being favored. Probably something like immunity to an upcoming plague. Or nimble texting fingers, or other hand eye coordination factor.

2) need more data

3) low but inevitable, eventually.
darkmagus

Mountain climber
San Diego, CA
Jan 1, 2013 - 12:59pm PT
1. Yes, I think our current "form" has only existed for a relatively short period of time. I think there are some things that have changed even over that short period (like average human height). Maybe different genes are turned on by different/changing factors in the organism's environment.

2. Maybe this is in the domain of something else, like memetics? Although I do think certain aspects of human behavior are fairly "hard-wired" In cases.

3. I also think low. But I would change it to "low-to-medium" if I knew that there were many more potential life-harboring planets verified to exist and were stable over long periods. I always have the feeling that if we could access a "god's eye view" of all life in the universe, we might be very surprised at how much of it there is.
Phantom X

Trad climber
Honeycomb Hideout
Jan 1, 2013 - 01:02pm PT
Please pass the bananas. Happy New Year!
John Butler

Social climber
SLC, Utah
Jan 1, 2013 - 01:06pm PT
4. Social media leads to devolution. :-)
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2013 - 01:14pm PT
I hope the whole idea of three topics doesn't make this too messy...

Jaybro, with respect to 1), obviously the processes behind evolution have not changed, and clearly genetic drift will always occur, but for something significant like bigger brains you need something like smart people preferentially procreating with other smart people AND out-procreating the rest of the population. I just don't see it. In fact the large population would tend to inhibit rather than advance evolution.


moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 1, 2013 - 01:20pm PT
1. Because of human intervention (good medicine, more food), evolution is NOT "survival of the fittest". The weak survive and add to the gene pool resulting in the increased number of genetic defects. So, yes, we are evolving. The positive effects, like taller and stroner, smarter could be because of cultural advances and epigenetics, which is temporary.

2. Not sure, both?

3. There are trilions of planets, inteligence is a given.
mcreel

climber
Barcelona
Jan 1, 2013 - 01:22pm PT
Here's an article that discusses the relationship between population growth and selection:

http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2011/05/human-hyper-evolution-have-mutations-changed-the-course-of-history.html

A quote:
"Five thousand years is such a small sliver of time -- it's 100 to 200 generations ago. That's how long it's been since some of these genes originated, and today they are in 30 or 40 percent of people because they've had such an advantage. It's like 'invasion of the body snatchers.'"
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2013 - 01:28pm PT
Great article, McCreel! I think I have to change my answer to 1.

I just read an old Scientific American article on topic 3 about SETI. The original proponents, largely physicist predicted that the probablity would be close to 100%. Evolutionary biologists then chimed in and suggested that this was a complete misunderstanding by the physicists on how evolution really works. There's nothing particularly inevitable about it.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 1, 2013 - 01:31pm PT
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution

1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_evolution#Recent_and_current_human_evolution

2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociobiology
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_anthropology

3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_human_intelligence
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavioral_modernity
mongrel

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Jan 1, 2013 - 02:05pm PT
Moosedrool is right on the money.
1. Yes, unquestionably evolving, but perhaps not how you are thinking. Evolution is just change in frequencies of genetic variations that code for phenotypic (observable) traits. It's directional to the extent that those traits result in the leaving of greater numbers of offspring in future generations whether through getting more food, avoiding getting eaten, or just having more offspring that survive (and then getting eaten). Sharp eyesight once conferred an advantage in survival; now, not so much. So the genetic combinations that produce it are less prevalent than they used to be: voila, evolution; although most people would probably consider it to be de-volution. Larger brain/greater intelligence/stuff like that no longer confers a consistent survivorship or procreative advantage; on the contrary. So, I'd say we're definitely evolving but in the direction of what I personally judge to be less desirable characteristics, both physical and social, rather than more desirable ones. But it's all just the value judgment of anyone's individual personal context.
2. Probably both things are going on; maybe in different proportion in different species.
3. Intelligence is initially going to be an advantage in just about any evolving ecosystem, so without any doubt whatsoever, given the huge number of likely life-supporting planets, there's something we'd label as intelligent life out there. The real question is, do we think it exists on Earth? Depends on how you define it.
Jingy

climber
Somewhere out there
Jan 1, 2013 - 02:08pm PT
Let's try this one at a time:

1. Are humans still evolving? I mean significantly. Are we going to continue evolving bigger brains for instance. Since natural selection requires some sort of environmental pressure, typically involving either a significant culling or isolation of a population, is this likely in a world of 7 billion where people move (and procreate) freely across the planet?

 Yes, we don't have a choice in the matter. Given an unlimited amount of time in the future, the only thing that will stop human race is the human race itself. Calling something progress when it poisons the wells will ultimately end everything.

2. Is group selection, as advocated most notably by the evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson, a viable process for explaining things like altruism or can this be explained entirely by selection at the organism or gene level?

 Not sure of the correlation,group selection vs. altruism vs. individual/gene. Too much question for me.

3. What is the likelihood that the emergence of life on a planet will lead to intelligent life given 100s of millions or billions of years of evolution to work with.

 This, I think, depends on what is considered "intelligence". Looking back on recent history (within 100 years) we can ask were they really intelligent? With all that has been discovered by some human beings in the last 100 years can we say that anyone from 100 years ago held anything that we can point at as intelligence? I say no, and for this reason I say our growth, understanding, and knowledge will continue to climb as long as those who refuse to think don't stop the learning by society. But, given the last 100 years of progress with regard to knowledge about the world we live in, those who would stifle knowledge and learning, will not be able to stop the dissemination of future knowledge yet to be found, no matter how hard they try.

eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2013 - 02:22pm PT
Clearly, topic 1 would seem to have a "correct" answer, and I got it wrong. What really interests me about that one is whether we are continuing to evolve to be smarter, bigger-brained hominids. Seems that many people just assume that this is true as if there is something inevitable about it. My take has always been you need selection pressure for that to happen, and the current conditions just don't support that. I think it's going to be technology-aided processes that will accomplish this in the future.

With respect to 2, this is a little more estoric than the other two, and required reading would be something like The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins and The Social Conquest of Earth by E.O. Wilson. The consensus, I believe, is that group selection just doesn't work, but it definitely is a controversial subject in the field and really interesting from the standpoint of how morality came about.
Ken M

Mountain climber
Los Angeles, Ca
Jan 1, 2013 - 02:24pm PT
1. Evolution is alive and well in the human species, and operating to full effect.

evidence:

continuing breaking of athletic records--production of exceptional "tip of the iceberg" individuals

continuing lengthening of AVERAGE lifespan--production of better average "stock"

continuing identification of those who in past would have been discarded as misfits or disabled and would have been discarded, but are now seen as genius--Einstein, Hawking, Temple Grandin.

Also of note: you can't pass genetics on, if you die. One of Einstein's kids died of diptheria, a vaccine preventable disease that we almost never see anymore, and another, who was considere SMARTER than his dad, was institutionalized with schizophrenia and basically destroyed by the treatments of the time...which would not happen now. He almost certainly would be able to live a nearly normal life, and utilize his genius, and pass his genes on. (two Einstein grandchildren do live in Los Angeles, one is a doctor)
zBrown

Ice climber
chingadero de chula vista
Jan 1, 2013 - 02:30pm PT
here's more on the possible emergence of life ...

this discovery is profound in that one of the worlds, a "super-Earth" designated Tau Ceti "e" -- may be sitting inside the star's so-called habitable zone.



http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=2031364&msg=2031364#msg2031364
Ken M

Mountain climber
Los Angeles, Ca
Jan 1, 2013 - 02:35pm PT
I take issue with the concept of "smarter, bigger brained"

I don't neccessarily think one needs a bigger brain to be a smarter human.

I actually know Hawking, and he doesn't have a remarkably large head!

I think this might be something far more subtle than that.
jstan

climber
Jan 1, 2013 - 02:40pm PT
Excellent idea for a thread.

1. Are humans still evolving?
Come back in 100,000 years for the answer. We, of course, imagine that evolution will result in larger brains, because that is what we would like to think. The brain already consumes a reported 20% of our energy budget. If we get another ice age the gains from brain size will have to be quite large to compete with the increased demand on energy budget due to climate. I am of course assuming reality TV will be only a minor blip and will soon cease to exist.

A video I recently posted of Michio Kaku has a fairly specific comment on this topic.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK0Y9j_CGgM

2. Is group selection, as advocated…
If you have not seen it, I would recommend Ramachandran’s TED talk on mirror neurons. He has data on these neurons and suggests the brain is proactively hard wired to promote the ability of homo sapiens to work in concert. And it has bearing on altruism. The data supporting this purported ability of humans to cooperate is, unfortunately, becoming quite spotty of late.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZw3lxyuhEU

The new branch of science known as Evolutionary Psychology seems very interesting as it carries the field away from the extensive anecdotal studies popularized by Freud and moves in new directions. Below is an extended discussion between Prof. Buss and Richard Dawkins.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0pwKzTRG5E

3. What is the likelihood that the emergence of life on a planet will lead to intelligent life given 100s of millions or billions of years of evolution to work with.

Lawrence Krauss has considered the energy limitation on information in the universe and feels life itself must needs cease to exist. No form of life will have billions of years in which to pursue anything. Sorry to bring this up on a climbing site but hey. You got to tell it like it is. There will be no 5. 10^20.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Cnj8MIQ0HY


Now that I have gotten this off my chest I need to go read Ed’s links.

Edit:
As regards brain size and "intelligence", a wonderfully ill-defined term, look up Ramachandran's talk on how the regions of the brain are interconnected specifically to facilitate metaphorical thinking.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jan 1, 2013 - 02:49pm PT
Any dispassionate perusal of human evolution must conclude that the primary
survival strategy is the ability to sign welfare checks and have 8 children.
Jingy

climber
Somewhere out there
Jan 1, 2013 - 02:51pm PT
I don't neccessarily think one needs a bigger brain to be a smarter human.

 considering we supposedly only use 10-15% of our current brains… I have to ask: Does size matter?
go-B

climber
Hebrews 1:3
Jan 1, 2013 - 02:51pm PT
The Missing Universe Museum
http://missinguniversemuseum.com/index.html

photo not found
Missing photo ID#281718
Jingy

climber
Somewhere out there
Jan 1, 2013 - 02:54pm PT
^^^^ These are the type of "let's limit knowledge and understanding" type folks I was talking about ^^^^
Norton

Social climber
the Wastelands
Jan 1, 2013 - 03:00pm PT
eeyonkee,

wasn't it the other day that you commented that if we could take a newborn from as far ago as 50,000 years or so, and transplant that infant to today, that it would have the same intelligence, learning capacity, as we humans have?

that evolutionarily speaking we would have to go back much further in time to perhaps find homo sapiens of significant difference?
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2013 - 03:03pm PT
continuing breaking of athletic records--production of exceptional "tip of the iceberg" individuals

continuing lengthening of AVERAGE lifespan--production of better average "stock"

continuing identification of those who in past would have been discarded as misfits or disabled and would have been discarded, but are now seen as genius--Einstein, Hawking, Temple Grandin.

Ken, I would argue that none of these are evidence for continuing human evolution. The first could easily be explained by sheer numbers, better nutrition, and better training techniques. The second by better nutrition and education. The third by education and "civilization" of society.

Don't get hung up on the bigger brain = smarter. Although there is clearly a correlation (when normalized for body mass) I just mean genetic-based greater intelligence.

Norton - I referred to 5,000 years, but it might as well have been 50,000, although now I'm not so sure that 50,000 years wouldn't be long enough to show some clear (average) differences.
Norton

Social climber
the Wastelands
Jan 1, 2013 - 03:09pm PT


from wiki:
In the context of human evolution, human vestigiality involves those characters (such as organs or behaviors) occurring in the human species that are considered vestigial—in other words having lost all or most of their original function through evolution. Although structures usually called "vestigial" often appear functionless, a vestigial structure may retain lesser functions or develop minor new ones.[1] In some cases, structures once identified as vestigal simply had an unrecognized function.[2]

The examples of human vestigiality are numerous, including the anatomical (such as the human appendix, tailbone, wisdom teeth, and inside corner of the eye), the behavioral (goose bumps and palmar grasp reflex), sensory (decreased olfaction), and molecular (junk DNA). Many human characteristics are also vestigial in other primates and related animals.

photo not found
Missing photo ID#281721

NOT photoshopped

eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2013 - 03:15pm PT
Cool!
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 1, 2013 - 03:20pm PT
Eeyonkee, the direction of human evolution is clearly visible. The people that have the highest number of children dictate that course.

VERY IMPORTANT (Wikipedia)

In biology, and specifically genetics, epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence – hence the name epi- (Greek: επί- over, above, outer) -genetics. It refers to functionally relevant modifications to the genome that do not involve a change in the nucleotide sequence. Examples of such modifications are DNA methylation and histone modification, both of which serve to regulate gene expression without altering the underlying DNA sequence. These changes may remain through cell divisions for the remainder of the cell's life and may also last for multiple generations. However, there is no change in the underlying DNA sequence of the organism;[1] instead, non-genetic factors cause the organism's genes to behave (or "express themselves") differently.[2] There are objections to the use of the term epigenetic to describe chemical modification of histone since it remains unknown whether or not these modifications are heritable.[3]
One example of epigenetic changes in eukaryotic biology is the process of cellular differentiation. During morphogenesis, totipotent stem cells become the various pluripotent cell lines of the embryo, which in turn become fully differentiated cells. In other words, a single fertilized egg cell – the zygote – changes into the many cell types including neurons, muscle cells, epithelium, endothelium of blood vessels, etc. as it continues to divide. It does so by activating some genes while inhibiting others.[4]
In 2011, it was demonstrated that the methylation of mRNA has a critical role in human energy homeostasis. The obesity associated FTO gene is shown to be able to demethylate N6-methyladenosine in RNA. This opened the related field of RNA epigenetics.[5][6]

Edit: It is unclear for how many generations epigenetics are passed. But it is the fastest mode of pseudo evolution.
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Jan 1, 2013 - 03:26pm PT
The problem with #1 is that we want to see it as something positive. Like bigger brains, or somehow that we're getting "better," and that's not how it works. We're probably evolving to be more tolerant of pollution and sun exposure, higher temperatures etc, possibly at the expense of what we think of as 'good' qualities.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 1, 2013 - 03:27pm PT
go-B, I am not sure what you are trying to say...
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 1, 2013 - 03:33pm PT
Are we evolving smarter genes? Sure, but those people would have to breed faster than others to tip the evolution their way.
monolith

climber
albany,ca
Jan 1, 2013 - 03:34pm PT
Please don't let Gobee turn this into an evolution vs anti-evolution thread.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2013 - 03:46pm PT
Jaybro, you're preaching to the choir with respect to evolution having no "goals". I get that. My point is, even for, say, tolerance to sun, there has to be some differential survival or occurrence rate for the "good" genes to proliferate in a population. Those with the gene have to either survive more or have more babies. I suppose in third world countries with high populations, this sort of thing is likely still happening. In first world countries, it's not so clear (at least to me).
Norton

Social climber
the Wastelands
Jan 1, 2013 - 03:51pm PT
gobee is simply pointing out that deceases such as leprosy can be instantly cured if one just happens to have Jesus show up, take pity, and take care of business.

The problem arises when a leper's path does not cross Jesus's in time for the cure
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 1, 2013 - 04:06pm PT
I think I need to explain my points on evolution.

GENETICALLY driven evolution:
A random mutation in the offspring's DNA (change in the DNA sequence) that gives an advantage to the offspring.

EPIGENETICALLY driven evolution:
The parent develops skills that modify her/his gene expression (no change in the DNA sequence). This skill can be passed to the offspring.

So, the difference between those two:

GENETICALLY driven evolution is random.

EPIGENETICALLY driven evolution is through improving your skills.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2013 - 04:35pm PT
GENETICALLY driven evolution is random.

Come on, this isn't true. The mutations themselves are random but natural selection is certainly not.

I've go to bone up on epigenetics. I understand the overall concept, but not certain mechanisms and its relative contribution to evolution.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 1, 2013 - 04:45pm PT
1. Our expression (genetic and epigenetic) and that of our symbionts and endogenic viral load is subject to continual environmental and ecological pressure - whether we're still evolving is not even a question. But I would posit that focusing on, or attempting to point to, behavioral or physical traits which have social currency in our society are largely misguided as most of those [inherent] attributes and capabilities were [fully] expressed in modern humans tens of thousands of years ago. I would similarly be largely skeptical of any too-direct a linkage between behavior and epigenetics.

2. We are no less "social" than ants and I suspect that's due to trade-offs associated with the energy budget of our brain and more to do with the evolution of very early primates in general as opposed anything to do with modern hominids.

3. We exist so 'intelligence' is undoubtably 'common' as sknott relative to the total number of planets in life-hospitable galaxies.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 1, 2013 - 04:58pm PT
I'll focus on # 1 from a biological anthropology point of view.

Of course human evolution is ongoing and there is every reason to think, based solely on numbers, that Europe and America will have little to do with the final direction of the human race. Our future as a species is being determined in Asia, home of over 50% of us. Later, as the population of Africa continues to grow, they will contribute more also. Europe and North America together are only about 6% of the world's total population

Secondly, as has been pointed out, our values cause many less than physically and mentally optimum people to survive and reproduce, thus weakening the biological fitness of the developed societies. Further, we choose to preserve life at all costs at both ends of the human lifespan at the expense of those of reproductive age.

Thirdly, many of our best nourished, healthiest and educated (presumably smarter) people are failing to reproduce or do so only in minimal numbers.

And finally, we have created such comfortable and clean environments that we have reduced much selective pressure. The teeming masses living in the megacities of the world, especially in Asia, are being heavily selected for certain traits, including widespread resistance to both waterborne and airborne microbes, and heavy chemical and particulate pollution of the atmosphere. Those who survive the slums of these cities are definitely superior biological specimens who reproduce more than our pampered citizens.

As for evolution of intelligence, the obstacles that citizens of crowded developing societies face just to survive, demand much more quick and flexible thinking than our spoiled existence which has the luxury to sit around and debate whether evolution even exists or not.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 1, 2013 - 05:08pm PT
Come on, this isn't true. The mutations themselves are random but natural selection is certainly not.

Of course. Just wanted to show the difference between those two.

The most obvious implication of epigenetics is the speed of this type of evolution. And it is a directional evolution. As opposed to the mutation driven evolution.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 1, 2013 - 05:16pm PT
And finally, we have created such comfortable and clean environments that we have reduced much selective pressure.

Jan, I believe this is a mistake and one of human-centric social biases. There is no such thing as a "clean and comfortable" environment - there are only 'different' environments with more or less 'novel' attributes. From a microbial perspective, mega slums represent an active competitive environment whereas our "clean and comfortable" environment may be far better suited to the evolution of 'superbugs' given the hostile agents used to achieve these environments. Our first world environments may in fact be be evolutionary 'accelerants'. Similarly, habitat destruction unbalances 'stable' ecologies creating other highly novel incubators.

If a superbug emerges from either our 'clean' environment or a destabilized habitat then it's unlikely mega slum dwellers will be well-suited to survive either other than as more a mutational fluke of pure numbers.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2013 - 05:31pm PT
Ok, I see where you are coming from, Moosedrool. Great post, Jan. I'm with you. But let's just say that all of Asia and Africa were first world countries, with concomitant very low infant mortality and high life expectancy. Would your answer be the same?

With respect to 3, remember, the setup is the emergence of life on one planet and the liklihood of intelligent life (say, capable of technology)emerging on that planet. I'm not asking about the odds of intelligent life in the universe as a whole, which I would put at extremely high.

Sharks have evolved very little in the last 200 million years. Why? Because they haven't needed to. Evolution doesn't do it's magic just because. And there's certainly no reason to believe that given enough time that sharks would involve intelligence on par with humans.

Healje, (respectfully) the premise that because we are here means that the answer to 3 is high seems faulty to me. It smacks of the creationist premise that because the universe is just right for humans that it must have been designed for them.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 1, 2013 - 05:35pm PT
healeyje-

I'm not sure I understand what you mean. However, if our current sanitary environment makes us more susceptible to superbugs emanating from other continents, and we die off in great numbers, isn't the final effect of that to reduce our role in ongoing evolution even further?

And yes you're right about "clean and comfortable" being an example of social bias. But really, have you ever tried to live in one of those societies? I am always made aware of what a biological weakling I am compared to my Indian and Nepalese friends.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 1, 2013 - 05:39pm PT
eeyonkee: Healyje, (respectfully) the premise that because we are here means that the answer to 3 is high seems faulty to me. It smacks of the creationist premise that because the universe is just right for humans that it must have been designed for them.
Naw, I just think that we exist means intelligence is inevitable in some percentage of galaxies which become hospitable to life.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 1, 2013 - 05:43pm PT
eeyonkee-

That's a very interesting question and one that's hard for me to imagine given the present state of the world and dwindling resources. For hypothetical purposes however, assuming that all the world becomes as developed and hygienic as ourselves, then yes, the biological fitness of the entire human race would become less than that of our ancestors.

Likewise, if all the elites of the world fail to reproduce, the same effect will be achieved. There are indications of this already happening in parts of Asia as the Japanese and Korean governments are now giving child allowance to encourage reproduction and Singapore has gone so far as to promote social events between highly educated professionals in the hope of increasing marriage and reproduction of those classes.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 1, 2013 - 05:47pm PT
Jan: I'm not sure I understand what you mean. However, if our current sanitary environment makes us more susceptible to superbugs emanating from other continents, and we die off in great numbers, isn't the final effect of that to reduce our role in ongoing evolution even further?

It works both ways, our superbugs will kill more slum dwellers and a novel pathogen jumping species out of the blue from a destabilized habitat may be equally lethal to both high rise and megaslum dwellers - it's more a question of how novel the microbe is to our exposure to it.

And yes you're right about "clean and comfortable" being an example of social bias. But really, have you ever tried to live in one of those societies?

Yes, and always deathly ill on first exposure as well. Cruise ships are a good example of why there is no such thing as "clean and comfortable" environments despite our social images of them.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 1, 2013 - 05:52pm PT
it's more a question of how novel the microbe is to our exposure to it.

Agreed, (and really good point about cruise ships!) but it still seems to me that people whose immune systems are frequently challenged will have a better chance than those whose systems produce allergies as false alarms because they have so little else to respond to.

And I'm wondering if the decimation of the Native American populations wasn't an example of both - superbugs they had no previous exposure to and possibly weakened immune systems from living in sparsely populated, microbially challanged environments?
elcap-pics

Big Wall climber
Crestline CA
Jan 1, 2013 - 06:01pm PT
I think we will screw our earth up and kill ourselves off long before evolutionaly pressure will demonstrate measurable results. Our present population is not sustanable for another 500 years and maybe much less than 500 years. But the good news is that I will have lived at the very best time to be alive and will be gone before the "Crunch". Yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!
WBraun

climber
Jan 1, 2013 - 06:06pm PT
I think we will screw our earth up and kill ourselves off long before evolutionary pressure will demonstrate measurable results.


Will not happen.

The built in over ride will prevent it.

Mankind is not the ultimate controller of the planet/universe as the so called modern eduction is projecting.

Mankind is too stupid to run the planet.

There's an ultimate plan in place regardless what all the mental speculators are projecting.

That ultimate plan is perfectly carried out in the same fashion the seasons perfectly eternally change ......
crunch

Social climber
CO
Jan 1, 2013 - 06:08pm PT
But the good news is that I will have lived at the very best time to be alive and will be gone before the "Crunch". Yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!

Too late; I'm here already....
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 1, 2013 - 06:13pm PT
Great thread. All of these are wonderful topics. Very stimulating.

(Best way to keep it on track, largely done so far, is to not feed the trolls. Just a reminder for thread wellbeing.)

Hope to contribute some later. This talk about epigenetics, gene pools, genetic drift, gene pool strengths as a function of human values, micro vs macro, individual vs group, etc. is encouraging esp coming from climbers!

Make Dawkins proud!

.....

Ken, how is it you know Hawking and have spent time with Dawkins and Wilson. Let's hear it! :)
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 1, 2013 - 06:16pm PT
And I'm wondering if the decimation of the Native American populations wasn't an example of both - superbugs they had no previous exposure to and possibly weakened immune systems from living in sparsely populated, microbially challanged environments?

I think that is a closer parallel to your 'megaslum' scenario of a 'dirty' (ag-based humans and animals in close proximity) and dense-population pathogen wreaking havoc on a [sparse] 'clean' population.
Roadie

Trad climber
Bishop, Ca
Jan 1, 2013 - 06:26pm PT
Nice thread.

We’re still evolving, for sure. We are getting dumber and fatter, at least in the first world. If you give a non-culturally bias IQ test to a representative population from most remaining hunter gather peoples, the average is about 110. Evolution fails to work in our favor when people aren’t allowed to eliminate themselves from the gene pool- before breeding. People living longer means that medical technology has evolved, not people. People riding their bikes faster, hitting more home runs and climbing 5.17 means better nutrition and better drugs…

Question two seems a bit poorly worded. Altruism…, it seems to me, is a product of cultural evolution, not genetic. Both are important for sure but shouldn’t be confused. Social evolution= history, physical evolution= genetics. History is a stationary bicycle disguised as a bulldozer, evolution is exactly the opposite. I read that somewhere, can’t remember where but I liked it.

I like question three. It would be ridiculous to hold too strongly to any one opinion given our pathetically small sample of one. That being said, for every planet with life (obviously there are scads) I’d like to think about 5% of those planets develop intelligent life, that’s not to say we’d recognize it as such…
Roadie

Trad climber
Bishop, Ca
Jan 1, 2013 - 06:34pm PT
Oh yeah,for those of you who still haven't read: Jared Dimond's Guns Germs and Steel, get on it. Thats only slightly off topic.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2013 - 06:45pm PT
Question 2, as I indicated earlier, requires a little more background reading for most people. It's actually a pretty big and controversial subject among evolutionary biologists. Altruism, is at first blush, not easily explained by classical evolution. Richard Dawkins (building on others' work) presented compelling evidence that altruism in humans is the result of 'selfish' genes. Briefly, since you share 50% of your genes with your siblings and parents, it would be beneficial to your gene legacy if you were to sacrifice yourself for say, three of your siblings. E.O. Wilson, too, suggested that altruism has a genetic basis, but he conceived of a separate level of selection, one at the group level rather then organismic or gene level. Dawkins would claim that group selection requires some mysterious agent that is simply not needed to explain the genetic basis for altruism. This is a super-simplified explanation.
Roadie

Trad climber
Bishop, Ca
Jan 1, 2013 - 06:56pm PT
Thanks E,
Maybe I’m still too hung over for question 2. I think I read one of Dawson’s books (wasn‘t he the ‘THERE‘S NO GOD AND IF YOU THINK SO YOU‘RE A MORON’ guy). I remained unimpressed. Just so angry… And doing such a bad job of trying to prove a negative…
Never the less, I’m standing by my original statement- altruism=cultural…
Norton

Social climber
the Wastelands
Jan 1, 2013 - 07:01pm PT
I read one of Dawson’s books (wasn‘t he the ‘THERE‘S NO GOD AND IF YOU THINK SO YOU‘RE A MORON’ guy

maybe, but Richard Dawkins book The God Dulusion

or Christopher Hitchens book God Is Not Great

may be more what you are referring to
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Jan 1, 2013 - 07:08pm PT
does altruism explain morality? If by your example a "selfish gene" supports helping others but only as far as your siblings, does it also support ambivalence or even hostility toward those outside "the family" - those of no recognizable material worth, as it were. In group / out group. If the selfish gene is the root cause of altruism, has it "evolved" only so far as to provide benefit to the select few - those that can return the favor? I hope not.

Yes - a very good thread, possibly for the sole reason of avoiding dogma. Unfortunately as Gobe has shown, some people take exception to the entire concept of evolution because.....

OK forget it - I won't go there

eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2013 - 07:19pm PT
Dawkins is known by the general public more for his anti-religion writings, but he is a well-respected zoologist and evolutionary biologist who authored some very seminal books in the field. I've read at least 10, including his most famous book, The Selfish Gene.

Altruism really is the basis for morality from a genetic standpoint. I really didn't explain the whole selfish gene thing very well. I'm not on top of it enough to summarize in a paragraph or two. For one thing, one should probably throw out the term 'selfish' in a summary explanation, as it is more likely to obfuscate rather than shed light on the subject. I'm hoping somebody who is on top of this will chime in.
Ken M

Mountain climber
Los Angeles, Ca
Jan 1, 2013 - 07:48pm PT
Ken, how is it you know Hawking and have spent time with Dawkins and Wilson. Let's hear it! :)

My graduate work was in genetics at Davis, and I studied with two of the giants of evolution of the last century, Stebbins and Dobzhansky. Just having known them opens doors, much less having worked with them.

I had communicated with Dawkins, who'd read stuff I'd written, and when he came to town to lecture at UCLA a few months ago, we got together to talk for awhile over coffee. A privilege.

It turns out Hawking is a fan of magic, and so am I. When I heard that, I arranged through intermediaries to have him invited to the Magic Castle, a private club for magicians in Los Angeles where I sometimes go, for a private show. To my astonishment, he accepted, and he and his entourage came and had dinner and a great time. I had a chance to talk with him, but it was only for a brief time.

By the way, Stebbins was a climber, and put up first ascents in the Sierra!

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

Dobzhansky's work was instrumental in spreading the idea that it is through mutations in genes that natural selection takes place.

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

Don't know Wilson personally, didn't mean to imply I did.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 1, 2013 - 08:27pm PT
I remember (vaguely) an article on cooperation. The researchers used game theory and computer simulation. The result seemed to implicate that cooperation wins. I think it is closely related to altruism, which would suggests its genetic origin.
cintune

climber
The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
Jan 1, 2013 - 08:28pm PT
Interesting article here that brings this on topic, somewhat:

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2012/12/31/did-human-ancestors-walk-up-trees-video/

MH2

climber
Jan 1, 2013 - 08:28pm PT
Of course humans are evolving. Unless we prevent mutation and selection. As long as we are here. Which may not be for much longer.

Michio Kaku said, "100% of Ph. D. candidates in my system are foreign-born."

So what is his system?

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

and why does this video come up after his?








edit:

It occurs to me that in the brain of Google or whoever is watching over us that Michio Kaku + Boobs = Nerd. Our technology is what needs to evolve now.


moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 1, 2013 - 08:45pm PT
As for subject #3, it probably depends for how long and how fast organisms evolve. It took on Earth 500,000 years(?) to produce intelligence. Maybe intelligence is not inevitable but highly probable if given enough time?
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 1, 2013 - 08:57pm PT
I too would like to hear more about epigenetics and altruism genes.

Certainly the question of whether altruism is genetic or cultural is an interesting one. Considering the densely populated cooperative societies of East Asia and the individualistic and fragmented nature of America gives food for thought. We know that Chinese looking at a group photo scan everyone in the photo and surmise their relationship to each other while Americans tend to focus on one or two individuals with unusual characteristics (perceived interest or dominance) instead. In the social sciences we assume that is the result of culture.

I would love to hear an argument from the gene point of view. Or perhaps they are symbiotic? Individuals who stood out in dense agricultural populations had a greater chance of being rejected, persecuted, or annihilated in these societies by the power structures, and their genes over 6,000 years of history were gradually eliminated? An epigenetics example?

We know from DNA studies that in southern China (south of the Yangtze River), most of the men are northern Han Chinese while most of the women are southern, non Han Chinese. Therefore competitive pressures (and no doubt outright annihilation) altered the gene pool of a large population of non Han males. Human males in most places of the world must have been subjected to this type of selection many times over. Another case of epigenetics?

And what does this say of the relative fitness of men and women? The surviving males should be stronger, able to run faster, and smarter than the women? Or more likely this has contributed to men having more flight or fight reactions and women more accomodation oriented survival strategies with intelligence exhibeted in different ways?

Norton

Social climber
the Wastelands
Jan 1, 2013 - 09:11pm PT
As for subject #3, it probably depends for how long and how fast organisms evolve. It took on Earth 500,000 years(?) to produce intelligence. Maybe intelligence is not inevitable but highly probable if given enough time?


moose, what do you mean by 500,000 years?

that our primate ancestors exhibited a higher intelligence about that many years ago?

or that from the beginning of the earth to some point and 500K to what?
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jan 1, 2013 - 09:17pm PT
Life on Earth began at least 3.5 billion years ago.

Depending on how you define intelligence, our lineage began about 2 million years ago and really got going about 50,000 years ago.

So it took almost 3.5 billion years to achieve intelligence if you define it as the first microwave oven or first species in space or whatever wha wha you want to use.

Yes, we are still evolving. Modern medicine does affect this, and would make a good discussion topic on its own.

The real kicker here is that very soon we will be genetically engineering ourselves. We can do it with corn, we can do it with mice, and there is no reason that we can't do it with people.

It is inevitable that we will jump beyond slow natural selection and engineer ourselves. If there is a shortcut, it will be used. The potential advantage of engineering ourselves is actually a conscious and deliberate way to control our evolutoun. Mice with tinkered DNA are being used in all sorts of experiments and drug trial experiments.
The benefits of genetic engineering will be fast and efficient. I leave the moral implications up to the reader.

A paper just came out that showed a genetic predisposition for some of the things that we call "morals," such as altruism. Altruism surprised me.

I think that it is very difficult for an intelligent creature like ourselves to evolve. It doesn't really provide a reproductive advantage for the long haul. Man is facing all sorts of self inflicted environmental and population problems already. If we don't make it, bacteria certainly will.

As far as the beginning of life, from my discussions with others who work in the field of evolution, life appears to have only begun once on this planet. That begs the question of why life hasn't begun many times, given that it happened early on the Earth and the planet is ideal for life of our chemistry.

Their is the universal genome which implies that all life comes from a single common ancestor.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 1, 2013 - 09:23pm PT
Jan, I am not sure how advanced the epigenetics research is. It is relatively new. You are looking for DNA modifications and then interpretation.

DNA mutations, on the other hand are easy to track these days.

When it comes to cultural differences, they seem to arise from traditions rather than from epigenetics. If you raise a Chinese baby in the USA, would she/he retain some of the Chinese cultural traces?

Epigenetics is implied in intelligence and emotions, but cultural behavior? I would say no.

Edit: Sorry for that 500,000 blunder. 3,500,000,000 it is :) I blame oxycodone.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 1, 2013 - 09:29pm PT
Good question and neat experiment that could easily be performed on Chinese Americans by showing them group photos at different ages.

Eye movement can be easily measured, no matter what the person perceives they are doing. If genetic, very young Chinese children would look all around the photo and then focus on individuals as they grew up and were more acculturated to American ways.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 1, 2013 - 09:46pm PT
http://hplusmagazine.com/2012/01/31/the-molecular-biology-of-compassion/
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 1, 2013 - 10:05pm PT
Very good article Healyje. I think we need to start testing DNA of our political candidates. Half joking.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 1, 2013 - 10:29pm PT
It's cool to see this thread developing.

I'll try to contribute when I've got something to "tweet." No particular rush, right? It's nice that eeyonkee started it so we have it now - for when the interest or inspiration comes.

Ken, that's neat! You probably know, RD is living it up in Antartica now.


P.S. Eeyonkee, I think your questions and descriptions were well posed, I think you hit many of the ongoing issues very well and expressed them validly and accurately. How refreshing around here! :)


P.SS. Ken, I must've unconsciously confabulated, lol, regarding Wilson - when I should've said Hitchens, eh? Lucky dog! :)
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Jan 1, 2013 - 11:10pm PT
I think this altruism instinct is an interesting concept. I don't mean to hijack your thread but I'd say that altruism or the limits to altruism is at the root of our continued success, and I assume that evolution will have something to do with it. I wonder if our physical influence upon the world is outpacing our ability to care. Seeing how it probably won't effect us as much as our kids, that caring requires an effort of altruism on our part to change our behavior for their benefit. Even if we "want to" you really have to mean it to make sacrifices or take risks that would only help some future generation.

So - If there is a selfish gene that for various reason gets "switched on" resulting in altruism for the purpose of self preservation or species perpetuation, presumably it does so against an army of other forces, cultural or otherwise. Has the Altruist/selfish gene evolved to this point and will it evolve more in the face of greater need?

Global warming for instance. Assuming that AGW really becomes overwhelmingly factually undeniable at some point (stifling a laugh) one would assume that a great majority of first worlders would belly up and accept sacrifices and take risk for the benefit of their future generations, even if the plight of those bloody third worlders don't quite rate. Sounds like more than just a thrown altruism switch is required, especially when our altruism tends to run out of gas at the notion of extending it to other tribes. I'd say the prevailing attitude is to circle the wagons and watch the less fortunate go the way of the dodo.

I tend to think that if there is an altruistic switch that gets triggered by a selfish gene, its got an uphill battle in our not so gloriously evolved intellect, which is probably why they had to invent religion in the first place.
WBraun

climber
Jan 1, 2013 - 11:50pm PT
There's no selfish gene.

You guys are dreaming and stuck in body consciousness.

Selfishness is rooted in body consciousness.

This is body mine, the extension of the body is mine, family, country, all extensions from the bodily concept.

But we are not the body but humanity as one whole and simultaneously with difference and individuality.

My country, your country, mine, mine this, and mine that, my religion, your religion, all create selfishness.

All due to poor consciousness of oneness, materialism, and body consciousness.

Such a simple thing to understand and see .......

BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jan 1, 2013 - 11:57pm PT
The paper I read said that this gene was also found in primates other than humans. Many animals work together as groups. Some animals mate for life, and somehow most animals know not to have sex with their brood or offspring.

I'm serious with the genetic engineering aspect. It isn't a part of my field, but I read a paper that was in the PNAS that included mice who were engineered without H1 hystamine receptors.

I'll do a little googling on the matter, but if you think about it, since we are still tribal and war with each other for no good reason. A genetic improvement in strength, intelligence, absence of hereditary disease and the like, and then kept it to yourself, within a generation you would be ruling the rest of the human race who were just a tiny bit slower in acquiring these methods.

The first group to do this will dominate. Go watch the idea in the movie Gattica. That film covers much of this, including actual genetic descrimination.

The time is rapidly approaching when we will be able to create our own evolutionary fate.

BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jan 2, 2013 - 12:05am PT
Hold the door. Read these two articles. Kind of mind blowing.

http://www.supertopo.com/inc/postreply.php?topic_id=2031418&tn=60

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

The second, about Synthia, is where a totally artificial genome was inserted into a bacteria with all normal DNA removed.

This science is kind of like the Atomic Bomb. If we don't do it, somebody else will, and if they do, they are gonna kick our ass.

Not the best of intentions, but so are many ideas of what to do with raw science.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Jan 2, 2013 - 12:27am PT
There's no selfish gene.

OK, just for the sake of argument I'll grant you that one. There is no selfish gene.

Do you (in your humble opinion that is) believe that there are such things as genes at all?

If so what purpose do they serve? Do they ever cause a person to grow freckles for instance?

an innate artistic ability? How did the Grinch acquire such lovely green skin and yellow eyes?

why exactly do some birds kick thier siblings out of the nest? Are they obsessively body conscious and incapable of looking beyond the confines of the material?


I mean, you seem to know a lot. Whats the deal?


How about this - If just for the sake of argument I were to provide to you conclusive proof that such a gene existed and was wholly responsible for selfish behavior would you in light of this new information be able to reevaluate your understanding of the situation?

Yes, I realize my construct is purely material but I assume you spend at least some of your time there.
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jan 2, 2013 - 12:37am PT
Our future as a species is being determined in Asia, home of over 50% of us.

The peoples of Africa are more genetically diverse than those of the rest of the world, combined. This suggests that they may be better able to adapt to whatever environmental challenges we create for ourselves.

As for the questions, I'm not a geneticist, but will make some guesses.

1. Are humans still evolving?

No reason they shouldn't be, and hybrid vigour from interbreeding of previously separated populations may lead to interesting results. I don't know that we can evolve to have larger brains, or that that would be an advantage. Can human females give birth to children with larger brains, and survive? Alternatively, if the brains grow further after birth, would an additionally prolonged adolescence be beneficial? Perhaps the brain can evolve in other ways, of course.. Anyway, we're surely still evolving, it's just a quesion of how.

2. Is group selection, as advocated most notably by the evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson, a viable process for explaining things like altruism or can this be explained entirely by selection at the organism or gene level?

If we can select some people out of SuperTopo, or at least just ignore them, that may demonstrate this hypothesis.

3. What is the likelihood that the emergence of life on a planet will lead to intelligent life given 100s of millions or billions of years of evolution to work with.

I'm not sure that humans are intelligent or civilized yet. After 4.53 billion years, give or take, we like to believe we are. My guess is that unicellular life is fairly common in the universe, but that it rarely evolves to more complex forms, let alone intelligence.

On a related note:

Eventually the US government will feel pressured into a rover/return mission to Mars, perhaps followed by a human flight. It will be a response to a possible Chinese manned Moon flight, and if the current series of increasingly sophisticated probes (and a rover/return) lead to the conclusion that Mars once had a real atmosphere and surface liquids for any length of time (almost certain), and that there is sufficient liquid water in the interior that life might still exist there.

If we get to the point of detecting oxygen atmospheres in planets orbiting other stars, we'll have a real challenge figuring out what to do.
MH2

climber
Jan 2, 2013 - 12:53am PT
//The first group to do this will dominate. Go watch the idea in the movie Gattica. That film covers much of this, including actual genetic descrimination.

The time is rapidly approaching when we will be able to create our own evolutionary fate.
//


Science fiction can be viewed as a form of contingency planning. Robert Heinlein is one among several authors to speculate on our evolutionary future, for example in Beyond This Horizon (serialized in 1942) and Assignment in Eternity (1941-49).


It's hard enough to come up with a zombie plan, never mind a superman plan.
WBraun

climber
Jan 2, 2013 - 01:08am PT
Bruce

Genes DNA etc etc are all there.

I don't discount gross material nature at all.

That's impossible to do.

It's a bonafide fact.

For hypothesis and theoretical sakes you can make any argument, assertion or whatever.

You can spend innumerable life times searching after the answers to those and continually suffer birth death disease and old age in an endless cycle.

Although western materialistic science and western Christianity discounts reincarnation the fact remains that it is factual truth.

If you study material nature you can easily see it.

But the goal is not to reincarnate ........

Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Jan 2, 2013 - 01:16am PT
I'm not saying what you say is untrue because I can't, however if it is true why don't we see it?

unless genetics is a form of reincarnation, but I think that would be at odds with the classic understanding
WBraun

climber
Jan 2, 2013 - 01:23am PT
why don't we see it

We ...

It should be you don't see it.

Just as the average tourist can not see the route on El Cap but you can.

In the same way one must train up to get the knowledge to "see".

One doesn't become knowledgeable even on the material platform without extensive training in education in schools and Universities.

Even a mechanic needs to train up.

You get the idea.

One problem is there are many cheaters.

And we've all been cheated, some of us for many life times ......

Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Jan 2, 2013 - 01:27am PT
I hate to be the cynic in the room but I get the feeling you're about to sell me something.....


about the we.... by we I meant myself but also a gazillion others, many of which spend a life of studious study looking for just such phenomena. Again, call me a cynic but I'll easily admit to being a tourist in this case which is why I look for a guide to show me. You're the one who said I / we can see it (evidence of reincarnation) easily in the material but it appears it is only easy to a sellect few.

Perhaps I've been cheated once too many but show me the money


WBraun

climber
Jan 2, 2013 - 01:31am PT
Remain a cynic.

Also remain on guard.

Never blindly accept anything.

Don't worry you are always free to choose.

I'm not selling anything ......
Ben Emery

Trad climber
Australia via Bay Area via Australia...
Jan 2, 2013 - 01:31am PT
Interesting thread, thanks for starting it.

In terms of whether people are still evolving; maybe.

Some evolutionary theory suggests a model where most species are fairly static for most of their history, punctuated by rapid ("rapid" being a relative term here) changes that form the steps between species. I don't think we've changed greatly as a species in the past 100 thousand years (happy to be corrected)?

I'm sure there will be modest drift in the human species over time, but at least at the moment I can't see a strong survival/breeding advantage in being intelligent, for example, so I'm not sure we're evolving further in that direction any time soon. Likewise, I can't see any evolutionary advantage to being able to complete a 100m sprint in record time (unless there is data out there suggesting Olympic medalists have 10 offspring on average).

If the species or an ancestral species survives long term (not a given), I suspect our next major stage of evolution will have to wait until a crisis or major event causes either a bottleneck in the population or a strong selection process (e.g., an isolated population in space, or a global famine reducing us to a handful of individuals).

BASE104's ponderings over whether human evolution will be an active/directed process via genetic engineering is an interesting one.

Brave new world indeed.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Jan 2, 2013 - 01:54am PT
well I'm off to bed. Nice chatting with you.

Remain a cynic.


I'm not sure if you meant this in a dismissive manner but you'll have to forgive me for suspecting it. It is pretty common after all for many who imagine themselves on a higher spiritual plane busying themselves with greater thoughts to act like that. That may not be you but if it were, you wouldn't be the first.

Cynical is not by definition an attribute that is negative. I could just as easily have said doubtful and justifiably so. I will point out that if I am cynical at the lack of physical evidence to support your position, what exactly are you so cynical about?
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 2, 2013 - 07:04am PT
Good responses, and thanks for the links! Base, I'm completely with you that the future of "evolution" of humans will likely be based on self-engineering and technology. It will simply be so much faster than natural selection. Seems to me that two other ways for significant change would be one or more major pandemics, in which, as MH and others have pointed out, the great genetic diversity in Africa would likely come into play. Another, suggested to me by a friend, would be if we survive long enough to become a space-faring species. A small group of people who become separated from the rest of humanity for long stretches of time would almost certainly start evolving faster, since there could be no remixing of genes with the mass of humans on the planet.

Turns out Werner, the idea of cheaters is a big one with respect to the second question. The foundation of Dawkin's problem with group selection is that cheaters would ruin it before it ever really got going.

To anyone interested in the genetic basis for altruism/empathy I would highly suggest reading 'The Selfish Gene'. For all of the ideas it packs, it's short and a relatively easy read. If you're not already familiar with some of the ideas, you'll come away looking at this subject in a completely different way.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 2, 2013 - 08:02am PT
Regarding Ander's comments:

The peoples of Africa are more genetically diverse than those of the rest of the world, combined. This suggests that they may be better able to adapt to whatever environmental challenges we create for ourselves.

Maybe we can say that Asia will determine the future of the human race based on sheer numbers if all goes well, and Africa with its greater genetic diversity will save us if we face a catastrophe? For sure, between them with diversity and numbers, they have the best chance.

I don't know that we can evolve to have larger brains, or that that would be an advantage. Can human females give birth to children with larger brains, and survive?

We could indeed give birth to babies with larger brains if those brains were added to the top of the head. One theory about the extinction of the neanderthals who had around 300 cubic centimeters more brain than modern Homo sapiens, is that their large brain caused many maternal deaths due to the fact that it was stacked in the back, making for a head that was very wide coming down the birth canal. Homo sapiens by contrast, had a smaller brain and stacked on top resulting in a high forehead compared to neanderthal and less width in the birth canal.

Alternatively, if the brains grow further after birth, would an additionally prolonged adolescence be beneficial?

I think this has already happened for cultural reasons and why not? If we now live to 80 instead of 50, why shouldn't we lengthen the period of childhood and adolescence with its great potential for novelty and learning?
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 2, 2013 - 09:21am PT
this is a stoopid thread. we had an interesting discussion going on donini's ignorance thread, but yonkers here has co-opted all the evolution true believers away from that. now donini's thread is dying a predictable death.

these are not interesting questions, yonkers.

1. of course humans continue to evolve. do you even understand the premise of standard, government-issue evolution? but the big problem is the direction of evolution. women are not getting prettier, they're getting fatter.

2. altruism is merely a concept contained in the wishful thinking of the researcher. it's the most subjective thing imaginable. i'm being objective about that.

3. you should go back and study GI evolution again. if you get your dates right, you might begin to ask some "interesting" questions.

sheesh, can't believe this: "given hundreds of millions or billions of years". here's the time line, buster:

12 billion ybp (years before present, so's you don't get confused by the birth of jesus), big bang happens.

5-6 billion ybp, our solar system confabulates; prior to that we had the evolution of quasars, protogalaxies and a bunch of astrophysical stuff it wouldn't hurt you to study up on. don't overlook the role of supernovas and the triple alpha process, which produces the element carbon, and which caused fred hoyle to stop being an atheist.

2.75 billion ybp we have amino acids, zapped in the tidepools by lightning, beginning to replicate the little link-ups they naturally form just lying around. eventually this "evolves" into dna, we get cells, probably viruses first, then fancier stuff. life remains unicelled for more than another billion years, but then the little buggers start building alliances (aka organisms), and, alas, they start eating each other as well. this is so sad, when you think about its implications for our future right now (because we are continuing to evolve).

so these klunky kritters keep on cooking and then comes the cambrian explosion. wowee. somewhere, deep in that dna, lies the propensity to experiment. it all gets on the fast track. vertebrates evolve out of a dumb-looking cambrian thing that happens to have a spinelike structure just to keep it swimming. from this come the great dinosaurs, then the great mammals, then the great humans. hooray for us!

the great humans started anthropoidizing outa fellow primates around 6 million ybp. i think the latest on homo sapiens (humans who can act like saps) puts our breakaway from other anthropoids at around a million years. don't think fellow primates are not intelligent. don't think ungulates are not intelligent. don't think dinosaurs were not intelligent. they were probably pretty in their way too, but not in the way of certain contemporaneous human females. (there's a whole thread on supertopo currently devoted to the latter, which is probably dying out. it makes me so sad that i have quit posting on it.)

the above dates are subject to immediate and possibly drastic revision based on next month's issue of the british magazine nature.

i see werner has come over here. i think he's running from me. i'm determined to figure out whether he's a sourpuss or not.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 2, 2013 - 10:02am PT
Yes, it was an interesting discussion, Mr. Bird, but eventually it turned into usual ST name calling and trolling. Some people find it disgusting and want to have an adult conversation. I found this little article on arguing. Many valid points!

How to Argue on the Internet Without Becoming a Troll

Jesse Nivens

It's September of an election year, and people are drawing lines, taking stands, and proclaiming their political beliefs. Even the lurkers, who brag that they "never post political stuff on Facebook" find their trigger fingers twitching over the "share" button. The internet is a battlefield, and you simply can't get around online without being drawn into a shootout from time to time. When that happens, these tips will keep you knocking down opponents without losing your cool or becoming a troll.
Don't Use Metaphors
If you find yourself typing out the words, "It's kinda like if…" then stop immediately and delete what you've written. The silence of your non-response is going to carry much more weight than your argument. Metaphors—comparing the situation you're debating to a different situation—are the cyanide of online arguments.

What's wrong with metaphors?
Metaphors are a teaching method and work wonderfully when your audience is on your side. When someone is on your side, they mentally find the comparison points and use them to enrich their understanding of what you're saying. When they're against you, they focus solely on the differences between your case and the example case. As soon as they do, you're no longer debating about the original point. A second debate thread has been created, and now you're debating whether or not your point is comparable to X. Getting back to your original argument is nearly impossible.

Additionally, metaphors can easily offend. Remember that on the internet, people are desperate to take anything personally. Once they do, the debate will be completely derailed and centered around whether or not you think they're a dog, child, Hitler, or whatever other foolish thing you compared them to.

Look at these two statements and determine which one is stronger:

"What you're doing is kinda like asking me to come pick you up when your car is out of gas, and then complaining about how long it took me to show up."

"What you're doing is selfish."

Don't Post Links
Only a few of the links you post in a regular, friendly conversation with all parties in agreement actually get clicked and read by your audience. If someone's ass is completely chapped over your opinion, imagine how much less they're going to care about which blog posts have moved you.

People don't involve themselves in online arguments because they want to click around and "read more internet." They've been doing that already, and they've finally read enough to form an opinion. They're ready to test it out by fighting over it, and that's how you got involved. They're not going to read the link.

Do Post an Occasional Quote
An occasional quote from an intelligent person is great for bringing in a bit of ammunition, especially when they say it better than you can. But keep it short. If your opponent sees a quote mark followed by a pile of sentences, they're just going to skip it. Be careful about quoting people who are themselves debatable. If you're quoting Ayn Rand or Karl Marx, be prepared to start a new debate about Ayn Rand or Karl Marx.

Deal With Petty Insults Effectively
Did they call you an idiot, or a child, or a Nazi? Good, that means you've almost won. At this point, you have two choices: Deliver the finishing blow or get upset about their insult. There are two typical responses to being insulted, both bad:

Flipping shit: Petty insults persist as a strategy because sometimes people get trolled by them, and when they do, the ensuing firestorm makes everyone look bad. The offender knows they have lost, so they take one last chance of bringing the winner down to a tie. Don't fall for it.

Describing at length why you're not what they said you were: Have you ever noticed that when you're truly sick, and you call in to work, you just groan out that "I'm really sick." But when "sick" means your buddies want you to head to the beach, you find yourself on the phone describing the exact times you vomited last night and this morning, the consistency and make-up of your bowel movements, and how you've never felt quite like this before? That's because truth often needs no explaining.

If you're not an idiot, simply say you're not. When you get insulted, start by destroying any real arguments they made in their comment, then briefly deny the insult and patronize them for it: "And I'm not an idiot, don't talk to me like that."

Don't Ask Questions
You should never ask someone a question in a debate. When you do, you are ceding the podium to them and welcoming them onstage. Your question allows them to discuss their arguments from basically any angle they want as long as they loosely use your question as a point of departure.

Just like with metaphors, both the allure and the problem of questioning is that we are trying to be our opponent's teacher. We feel they are ignorant (and they are, dammit!) and we want to educate them. But if you've ever been in an 8th grade biology class with a substitute teacher, you know that a defiant and uninterested student cannot be taught. Any question the teacher asks them will be flipped into something sarcastic or off-topic. Questions don't work, but they can be outsmarted and defeated by superior wit and skillful retorts.

Never say, "Don't you think you're being a little hypocritical after what you did last week?" They won't say yes. Instead, turn your question into a statement, "After what you did last week, this is completely hypocritical."

Don't Be Led By Questions
Any question someone asks you in a debate is a trap: They want to position themselves as the teacher (authoritative and wise) and you as the student (subservient and inexperienced). Often, they want you to state their point for them, or at least introduce it. At the very least, they are using you to help finish their sentences. If you allow this to happen, you unwittingly become an accomplice to their point, making it much more difficult to argue against.

Just say, "I'm listening if you want to make a point: there's no need to frame it as a question."

Don't Use Annoying Buzz Phrases
Telling someone to "stop drinking the kool-aid," or calling people "sheeple" doesn't do anything to increase your legitimacy. It just makes it sound like you've copied your arguments from a radical pundit on AM radio or cable news. Also, don't call people "folks." Folks is an irritating word used by the elite in politics, business, and media to sound humble and connected. The reality is you sound like a jackass, and imitating jackasses is no way to win.

Any buzz phrase can easily be stated in a much more convincing fashion. Instead of telling someone to "stop drinking the kool-aid," say something like, "You're just repeating the stumping points of [political party]. They haven't been able to back them with convincing evidence, and neither have you."

Do a Quick Structure Check
Since an online post is usually just a quick statement, rather than being a researched, outlined and revised research article, it's often the case that someone will start writing hesitantly and gradually work their way up into a strong point. Before you post, look and see if your first few sentences were just a warm up. Can they be cut? Also check to see if you started with a conclusion, then figured out a good way to explain it. In that case, your first few sentences might work best at the end. Check for dangling arguments that are off point (and could start a second debate thread) along with removing metaphors and questions.

Jesse Nivens was a varsity (though never a master) debater in high school. He is currently a designer, game developer, writer, and self-proclaimed expert of internet argumentation living in Springfield, Missouri. Follow @jessenivens on Twitter.
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 2, 2013 - 10:13am PT
moosedrool, stop drooling. i am not a troll, and i have never been. learn the difference between discussing and arguing. then start discussing here by telling me why you think eeyonk's questions are interesting, which i still contend they are not. a discussion has a thread. an argument consists of people clobbering each other with points of view which are inflexible. there is no thread running through an argument. it just reaches loggerheads.

my problem with this thread is that we had a good one going on donini's post and it knocked all the wind out of the sails there with three questions which i think are absolutely inane, and which exhibit little or no knowledge of the sophisticated contemporary debate on evolution.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 2, 2013 - 10:49am PT
Mr. Bird, the Donini's thread is on a different subject, it is a political thread. It is not Eeyonkee's fault that the other thread is dying.
Never called you a troll, btw.

Back to the topic.
If anybody still has any doubts whether we are still evolving:

An article by Jessica Hullinger

1. We Drink Milk


Historically, the gene that regulated a human’s ability to digest lactose shut down as they were weaned off of their mother’s breast milk. But when we began domesticating cows, sheep and goats, being able to drink milk became a nutritionally advantageous quality, and people with the genetic mutation that allowed them to digest lactose were better able to propagate their genes.

A 2006 study suggests this tolerance for lactose was still developing as early as 3,000 years ago in East Africa. That genetic mutation for digesting milk is now carried by more than 95 percent of Northern European descendants.

2. We’re Losing Our Wisdom Teeth


Our ancestors had much bigger jaws than we do, which helped them chew a tough diet of roots, nuts and leaves. And what meat they ate they tore apart with their teeth, all of which led to worn down chompers that needed replacing. Enter the wisdom teeth: A third set of molars is believed to be the evolutionary answer to accomodate our ancestors’ eating habits.

Today, we have utensils to cut our food. Our meals are softer and easier to chew, and our jaws are much smaller as a result, which is why wisdom teeth are often impacted when they come in — there just isn’t room for them. Like the appendix, wisdom teeth have become vestigial organs. One estimate says 35 percent of the population is born without wisdom teeth, and some say they will disappear altogether.

3. We’re Resisting Diseases


Doctor image via Shutterstock

In 2007, a group of researchers looking for signs of recent evolution uncovered 1,800 genes that have only become prevalent in humans in the last 40,000 years, many of which are devoted to fighting infectious diseases like malaria. More than a dozen new genetic variants for fighting malaria are spreading rapidly among Africans. Another study found that natural selection has favored city-dwellers. Living in cities has produced a genetic variant that allows us to be more resistant to diseases like tuberculosis and leprosy. “This seems to be an elegant example of evolution in action,” says Dr. Ian Barnes from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway. “It flags up the importance of a very recent aspect of our evolution as a species, the development of cities as a selective force.”

4. Our Brains Are Shrinking


Brain scan image via Shutterstock

While we may like to believe our big brains make us smarter than the rest of the animal world, our brains have actually been shrinking over the last 30,000 years. The average volume of the human brain has decreased from 1,500 cubic centimeters to 1,350 cubic centimeters, which is equivalent to a chunk the size of a tennis ball.

There are several different conclusions as to why this is: One group of researchers suspects our shrinking brains mean we are in fact getting dumber. Historically, brain size decreased as societies became larger and more complex, suggesting that the safety net of modern society negated the correlation between intelligence and survival. But another, more encouraging theory says our brains are shrinking not because we’re getting dumber, but because smaller brains are more efficient. This theory suggests that, as they shrink, our brains are being rewired to work faster but take up less room. There’s also a theory that smaller brains are an evolutionary advantage because they make us less aggressive beings, allowing us to work together to solve problems, rather than tear each other to shreds.

5. We Have Blue Eyes


Blue eyes image via Shutterstock

Originally, we all had brown eyes. But about 10,000 years ago, someone who lived near the Black Sea developed a genetic mutation that turned brown eyes blue. While the reason blue eyes have persisted remains a bit of a mystery, one theory is that they act as a sort of paternity test. “There is strong evolutionary pressure for a man not to invest his paternal resources in another man’s child,” says the lead author of a study on the development of our baby blues. Because it is virtually impossible for two blue-eyed mates to create a brown-eyed baby, our blue-eyed male ancestors may have sought out blue-eyed mates as a way of ensuring fidelity. This would partially explain why, in a recent study, blue-eyed men rated blue-eyed women as more attractive compared to brown-eyed women, whereas females and brown-eyed men expressed no preference.

Edit: Of course the interesting question remains: how much different are humans going to be in 1,000 or 10,000 years? With and without gene engineering.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 2, 2013 - 10:52am PT
At least you got the time lines right, Tony.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Jan 2, 2013 - 10:53am PT
Homo sapiens evolving? That sorta implies a new species dunnit? At what point do homo-nOObs start to supersede?

Will homo sapiens allow the next species to evolve?

DMT
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 2, 2013 - 11:15am PT
DMT, we already have a new species, they are called "businessmen". Maybe lawyers too. (Although they still can interbreed with us).
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Jan 2, 2013 - 11:41am PT
Best thread of 2013!
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 2, 2013 - 11:54am PT
"species" is a relative term, without precise scientific definition, something every genetic engineer knows.

donini posting a political topic? i beg to differ. he would never do such a thing.

moosedrool, i'm serious about this suggestion. stop dumping. true, you're not the only person who dumps, but if you want to ratchet up the tenor of the discussion a bit, put all this important information in your own words, if you can. if you're not familiar enough with the material to do that, maybe you should read it a little more closely yourself. these threads get impossible when the "argument" just becomes a battle of mouse fingers cut-and-paste. digest it. put it in your own words. and keep it short.

i don't mind commenting on your choice of an academic debate maven to lecture us on the use of metaphor. having wasted four years of high school, when i could have been seriously misbehaving, bamboozled by a pushy nun to squander my quality time on her debate team, i'll tell you an important lesson i learned about "debate" as it's conducted in the u.s.a. it's a great training ground for the development of argumentative lawyers who can slither like skinny reptiles from one side to another. it sure isn't a place to foster discussion, which is a much friendlier thing, a place where people compare notes, have a little respect for each other, and attempt to arrive at a new position, if it's possible. debate results in clobbering each other with warring positions, and it's further abused by the kind of dumping we get here. back on the debate team, if you had a quote, that proved everything. the idiot with the most quotes wins. no one did much critical thinking about whether the quote, usually lifted from time magazine, was worth a rat's rear end.
Borut

Mountain climber
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Jan 2, 2013 - 12:07pm PT
Hello
I myself had a pair of rambo evolutions LOL - I know, off topic...
This subject is too tough for me.

In fact I'd like to share some of Keith's posts filed under 'evolution' : http://dedicatedtothegame.com/category/evolution/
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 2, 2013 - 12:11pm PT
Dumping Mr. Bird? There were two quotations. Nothing here is really original. We shape our views based on the work of other people. I don't pretend to present anything original. Just my understanding of this world, valid or not.
WBraun

climber
Jan 2, 2013 - 12:13pm PT
Nothing here is really original. We shape our views based on the work of other people.

Yes, completely true.

Everything is already there .......
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 2, 2013 - 12:19pm PT
so--we shape our views based on the work of other people. should i gather, then, that anyone with something original to offer--in 2013 a.d., of course--is being pretentious?

seems like you've got werner on your side, moose, which is no mean accomplishment. i wonder what it was like--what year would that have been, werner, along about 537,646 b.c.?--when someone actually thought an original thought. maybe it never happened.
WBraun

climber
Jan 2, 2013 - 12:26pm PT
When someone discovers something "new" that new was already there.

Even so called original thought.

All thoughts come out of the supreme universal consciousness .......

There is always a reference point.

Even the gross materialists have their reference point for example .....

NIST
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 2, 2013 - 12:27pm PT
Again,
Nothing here is really original

as on ST.

Edit: But this thread is not about you or me, so lets stop here, OK?

Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Jan 2, 2013 - 12:49pm PT
"species" is a relative term, without precise scientific definition, something every genetic engineer knows.

It all comes down to definition??? YOU DON'T SAY???!!!111

That's why I phrased it in the form of a question, Dr Science.

DMT
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Jan 2, 2013 - 01:00pm PT
Greg
Here's an interesting article in the new issue of Orion. . .





MH2

climber
Jan 2, 2013 - 01:01pm PT
Everything was already here 5 billion years ago. And 13+ billion years ago. It remains of interest just how the parts rearrange now and then.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 2, 2013 - 01:07pm PT
Looks like a good one, Steve. As far as Tony goes, I think somebody needs a hug...
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 2, 2013 - 04:34pm PT
i get my share of hugs, eeyonkee, but rarely on supertopo.

i was interested to learn recently that francis crick was quite amenable to the idea of panspermia, and that he also, reportedly, gained his great insight into dna during a time of experimentation with hallucinogenic drugs in the 1950s, before they became illegal.
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Jan 2, 2013 - 04:42pm PT
http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/01/02/fossil-older-than-oxygen-on-earth-found-in-australia

Cool!
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 2, 2013 - 08:12pm PT
Why don't you read all the posts Dr. F. :)

#1 is settled. We are still evolving but the direction is not clear.
#2 Altruism is in our genes, although expression levels vary.
#3 No consensus.

About right, Eeyonkee?

Other development: Mr. Bird tried to scare me, but I was very brave! hehehe
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 2, 2013 - 08:34pm PT
Altruism works in groups of people, like tribalism

True, but it is not the point.

Pleas read:

http://hplusmagazine.com/2012/01/31/the-molecular-biology-of-compassion/

Edit: #3 something like this: If life develops on a planet, what is the chance it will evolve intelligence.
Fletcher

Trad climber
The great state of advaita
Jan 2, 2013 - 09:36pm PT
Looks like an interesting discussion but I just don't have the time to immerse myself in this one. However, this caught my eye:

Don't Use Metaphors
If you find yourself typing out the words, "It's kinda like if…" then stop immediately and delete what you've written... Metaphors—comparing the situation you're debating to a different situation—are the cyanide of online arguments.

Italics are mine.

Seems like those decrying metaphor can't avoid using them! Humans can't go a minute, literally, without using a metaphor. See what I mean? :-)

I just listened to a podcast that explained this in detail: Lexicon Alley:

Fiscal cliff is a flawed but brilliant metaphor

If you're a language nerd, it's a good podcast. Bob Garfield is smart and articulate enough to just overcome his grumpy old man syndrome. Barely. :-)

Eric
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Jan 2, 2013 - 10:01pm PT
here's an interesting little video, mostly to do with triggering dopamine / the pursuit of pleasure.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2012/12/21/inside-your-brain-new-world.html



Mentioned in the context of how such a stimulus system was up to now an important evolutionary survival impulse, was the thought that our environment has changed so radically and so quickly that perhaps such an impulse is now working against our evolutionary interests. In other words our world has changed too quickly for this particular trait to genetically evolve toward something more beneficial.

Interesting in context of our ability / impulse for altruism. I wonder if our altruism is up to the needs of our current environment. It is to a very great degree extended only to our small tribes, no doubt pretty useful 100 years ago but maybe not so useful in a truly global "economy."
Timid TopRope

Social climber
'used to be Paradise, CA
Jan 2, 2013 - 11:15pm PT
Moosedrool's quotation by Jesse Nivens, "How to argue on the internet without becoming a troll" should be required reading for ST. Although practicing Nevin's advice would probably drive down readership and posting as many come here for content but stay for the flame-a-thons.

In the coming centuries, evolution will probably take a back seat to global warming as the majority of species will be unable to keep up with the exponential shift of climate change. Species that can evolve relatively quickly will rule the roost and usher in a floral-biotic change unheralded since the last big die-off.

All hail our heirs and masters of adaptability..........the cockroach.
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 3, 2013 - 12:06pm PT
i'm not lending my voice to a consensus on altruism. altruism is something the researcher wants to see. he's getting a grant from someone somewhere who wants him to find it.

"did he who made the lamb make thee?"

the second law of thermodynamics
the second law of thermodynamics
Credit: Tony Bird

wish i could find the quote, i thought from desert solitaire, but i can't. seems like abbey suggests, as the lion pounces on the zebra at the end of a short, intense chase, that "love" is somehow involved in the whole thing. wishful thinking from someone still, essentially, mickeymouse christian at heart?
kaholatingtong

Trad climber
Nevada City
Jan 3, 2013 - 01:28pm PT
interesting topic. i do not have much to add here being that i studied literature in college. i can however say that
based on what they tried to teach me in college, using the word "like" makes it, by definition, not a metaphor.

If you find yourself typing out the words, "It's kinda like if…" then stop immediately and delete what you've written... Metaphors—comparing the situation you're debating to a different situation—are the cyanide of online arguments.

carry on.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jan 3, 2013 - 05:59pm PT
Many antipsychotic drugs that are used on schizophrenics are dopmamine antagonists. Meaning too much dopamine makes you psychotic. Many illegal drugs are dopamine agonists, meaning they provide a flood of dopamine. Too much Cocaine produces psychosis, so the balance of Dopamine theory holds up in that case. Brain chemistry is immensely complicated. Some of the drugs blockade the H1 hystamine receptors, which causes severe weight gain. There are some terrific papers on this.

The role of each receptor is actually poorly understood. Some of the drugs have been found, after the fact, to hit the adrenergic receptors while others hit certain Serotonin receptors. Again, many of the older antipsychotics do indeed block dopamine.

There is a long period of trial and error to find the correct drug to treat each individual's particular problem.

So..in this case, William Blake's position that excess is a good thing doesn't hold up as far as sanity is concerned.
BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Jan 3, 2013 - 06:21pm PT


Let's talk, first of all, about the basic principles of science since we're dealing with foundational things. Science deals with a matrix when we're talking about natural science. We're talking about the way things are in a material universe, there is a matrix of things. You have to have matter, you have to have force, you have to have energy, you have to have space and you have to have time. That is...that is Herbert Spencer's great achievement, he died in 1903, he said, "Everything in the universe can be deposited in one of these categories...time, force, action, space and matter." Force and action comprising energy. There has to be time, there has to be energy which is force and action, there has to be space, and there has to be matter. And by the way, those five things which he defined in that order are all in Genesis 1, "In the beginning...that's time...God...that's force...created...that's action...the heavens...that's space...and the earth...that's matter." The matrix is in Genesis 1:1, that is a profound scientific statement. The universe in essence is a...is a matrix of space, time, matter, and energy. And all of it has to be existing at the same conflux. It all has to come together or none of it exists. One cannot exist without the other. The entire continuum must have existed simultaneously from the beginning. That is why you find it all in Genesis 1:1, it all had to be there. Science says it has to be there and Scripture says it is there.

Now once the matrix comes into instantaneous simultaneous existence, its processes then are designed to operate in an orderly fashion, going forward. All the different phenomena within the matrix of nature and life are sustained by the forces that exist in that matrix. Time goes on, space goes on, energy goes on, matter goes on. It is all instantaneously and simultaneously coming into existence, it is then not only brought into existence by some external force and source, but it is then kept in prefect balance and function by that same power. It is sustained by the same force that brought it into existence. But everything that God made was made in six days. And it says in Genesis 2:2, "God ended His work which He had made." God stopped making anything. If you know science, you understand that that is scientifically accurate, nothing is being created, nothing is coming into existence, nothing has since creation, day six, and God's cessation of His work. The complete cessation of creative activity has been, by the way, in advertently recognized by modern science and they call it the law, the first law of thermodynamics and the first law of thermodynamics is called the conservation of mass and energy...the conservation of mass and energy. This is THE most and universal and certain of all scientific principles. Science has shown and verified that there is nothing being created in the known universe today. Things are doing what they do but not coming into existence newly. There is nothing new in the universe. In fact, the Bible tells us this in the most unaffected, the most simple, the most direct ways without ever defending itself as if its made some statement contrary to fact.



For example, in the words that come to us in the ninth chapter of Nehemiah, "In praise to God, in blessing to God," we read in Nehemiah 9:6, "Thou alone art the Lord, Thou hast made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their hosts, the earth and all that is in them, the seas and all that is in them. Thou dost give life to all of them." You made it all, everything that exists in the heaven and the earth and the seas, everything that lives, you made it all. That is an affirmation of God's completed and ended creation. Everything that is You made, and You made it all in those six days of creation.

I think it's in Isaiah, there are a lot of Scriptures that we could look up but there is another one, I think it's in Isaiah...yes, chapter 40 verse 26, "Lift up your eyes and see who has created these stars, the one who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name, not one of them is missing." Nothing comes into existence and nothing goes out of existence. This is the law, the first law of thermodynamics, the law of the conservation of mass and energy. Nothing is being created, nothing is going out of existence. And this is exactly what the Bible says in the most unaffected way and without any scientific pretension. For example, Ecclesiastes 1:9, "That which has been is that which will be and that which has been done is that which will be done and there is nothing new under the sun." In the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, verse 14, "I know that everything God does will remain forever." There is nothing to add to it, there is nothing to take from it. It is God so...it is God who has so worked it, that which is has been already, that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by. This is the continuum of the creative reality, spontaneous generation, new creation doesn't happen. What perpetuates the creation is the conservation of mass and energy. And every organism that is a living organism has the seed of life within itself to reproduce itself.

Now there's a second law of thermodynamics and science has labeled this law, and the second law of thermodynamics is this...nothing new is being created, nothing is being destroyed, that is in the sense the first law. The second law is, however, all things are tending toward increasing disorder. This is the second law of thermodynamics. Energy is running down. It is losing its capacity to perform its work. There is increasing disorder. That means that slowly but observably the processes that God set in motion are winding down. We're heading toward the death of this creation. Now they don't have an explanation for that and it's a very hard thing to come up with an evolutionary view that everything is getting more complex, more intelligent and better while at the same time they can show scientifically that energy is dissipating and everything is tending toward chaos and disorder. All energy is running down and heading toward being incapable of performing its function.



Now God didn't make the world that way. God did not make the world that way. In fact, when God finished His creation, Genesis 1:31, He looked at it all and said, "It's...what?...it's very good." How do we explain what's happened? The Bible is the only place you can go for an explanation. Science has no explanation for the second law of thermodynamics. It has no explanation for the first law. Why is it that everything came into existence in a matrix at one time and continues in that same matrix? Why is it that if this is all a matter of chance, coincidence and randomness that that's not happening again and again and again and again? Why is it that it has come into existence in such a matrix of complexity and sustained itself in that matrix of complexity? That, in fact, is what drove Einstein crazy, if you would call him crazy, because he couldn't figure out the power was that held everything together. And how then do you explain this slow death? What is the reason for that? Only the Bible explains the matrix, the power of God is the invisible power that holds it all together and sustains it. And only the Bible explains why it's all tending toward disorder and death and the explanation comes in Genesis 3, it is the Fall and God curses creation. God curses creation. You read Genesis 3, man is cursed, woman is cursed. Sin enters into the world, the land is cursed, the ground is cursed. You have to till and work by the sweat of your brow to get something out of the land and fight all the cursed elements, the thorns, the weeds. And man has to fight against the weakness of his own body and his weariness and illness and disease because death enters the world and women have pain in childbearing. The ground is cursed. The whole creation is cursed. Read Romans 8:20 to 22. In Romans 8:20 to 22 the whole creation groans under the weight of the curse.

Science has no explanation for the first law of thermodynamics which they are glad to label but cannot explain how the complex matrix can come into existence in a moment, which all of which is required for anything to exist out of nothing. They cannot explain that nor can they explain how it holds itself together because there's no way to find the power that holds it together scientifically, nor can they explain the principle of disintegration and disorder in the second law of thermodynamics. The Bible explains both perfectly.

The Bible also explains that the second law of thermodynamics without calling it that is working its way down to an end, and the end must come and it will come, only it won't die a slow death, it will die an immediate death, as I just read you, when the Lord Jesus destroys this cursed universe and establishes a new heaven and a new earth. And in the new heaven and the new earth, there will be a different matrix. There will be a different matrix. There will be no time, there will be no space, there will be the energy of eternal life. It will be a completely different matrix and there will be no second law of thermodynamics. There will be no death, no sickness, no sorrow, no dying, no decay, no unrighteousness, no trouble, to pain, no destruction, and so forth and so forth.

So, you see, when you talk about science at the very basic level, it is only the Bible that gives you any sensible understanding for the way things really are. And we would expect that the one who made things the way they are, knows the way they are, and tells us the truth about the way they are. I stand so firmly before you as somebody who is not a scientist, by any stretch of the imagination, to say to you that I have read as extensively as I can read in science, particularly in those many, many months when I was going through Genesis chapters 1, 2 and 3, trying to understand science, true science, comparison to Scripture, and I have yet to find and I am supported by Christian scientists all over the country and all over the world who study far more in depth and more diligently than I who back up the fact that there has never ben any...any scientific discovery that is in true fact the way it really is that contradicts the biblical record...never...never.
___

The message has been around forever!! It just takes aHeightened conscienseness ,
and a Willing Soul to transpire Gods Spirit into communication.

Jus Inhale'in
BB
rectorsquid

climber
Lake Tahoe
Jan 3, 2013 - 06:27pm PT
I think that we are evolving. Environmental factors still affect who lives and who dies. We like to think that doctors keep every baby alive and that anyone who is an idiot or a genius can have kids but it is a bit egocentric to think that we are somehow above survival of the fittest.

But what is fit? Maybe money through inheritance is fit. Maybe good looks and no brains are fit. Evolution is a subtle thing and what is happening to us now in every way is part of the process.

We need to ignore everything affecting people that happens after they are past the child bearing age but even that is changing.

It's a shame that we won't ever be around to see how it turns out. We might become flesh eating monsters or we might become balls of intelligent life.

Dave
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 3, 2013 - 06:27pm PT
Base, the two known variants of the dopamine receptor gene are DRD2 A1 and DRD2 A2. In the USA, about 30% of the population carries the A1 gene. This gene expresses about 40% less D2 dopamine receptors than the A2 variant. Less receptors means less dopamine uptake, means unhappiness. This sub population is prone to addictions, such as alcohol, or climbing! Some researchers postulate that the A2 variant evolved from the A1.
rectorsquid

climber
Lake Tahoe
Jan 3, 2013 - 06:31pm PT
As for altruism, I think that it is genetic. Survival of a species is more important than survival of an individual when it comes to natural selection. Sacrificial behavior that saves a large number of others that have similar altruistic genetics will mean the altruism genes get passed on and flourish.

"You must be like the wolf pack, not the six-pack."

Dave
WBraun

climber
Jan 3, 2013 - 06:33pm PT
The Bible is the only place you can go for an explanation.

Are you sure ......
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 4, 2013 - 04:29am PT
I just read Donald's recommended articles on neanderthal and a couple of others on the same page - very interesting. I think we have to be careful of conclusions based on one human pelvis and one newborn head however as neanderthal provides one of the best examples in the literature of bad conclusions based on a sample of one. Marcelin Boule wrote three volumes on the first type specimen, describing it as "stooped and beetle browed", without ever noticing that it was an old and extremely arthritic specimen.

That said, what I found most interesting was the notion that neanderthals brain grew to maturity at about the same rate as other great apes whereas the human brain grows slower and thus has a longer learning period and time for more neurons to connect. This could well be what distinguishes Homo sapiens from all the others and explain the explosion in culture about 60,000 years ago.

The other interesting recent finding that explained a lot to me was the discovery that neanderthals went through a population bottleneck before Homo sapiens arrived. According to these new findings, although they were numerous at one time, there were few of them and rather inbred by the time Homo sapiens arrived. The event that precipitated their decline in numbers was probably the advent of an ice age or perhaps an epidemic.

We have never found signs of great battles between the two so have always wondered why neanderthals became extinct. If they were few in number and inbred, this would have caused genetic defects, still born births and high infant mortality, which makes their demise more understandable. It also means the one new born head specimen we have, also might not be representative.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 4, 2013 - 05:42am PT
SciAm July, 2011 / Douglas Fox: The Limits of Intelligence

And a podcast by the author on the subject as well:

Podcast: How Physics Limits Intelligence

Summary: Summary

Human intelligence may be close to its evolutionary limit. Various lines of research suggest that most of the tweaks that could make us smarter would hit limits set by the laws of physics.

Brain size, for instance, helps up to a point but carries diminishing returns: brains become energy-hungry and slow. Better “wiring” across the brain also would consume energy and take up a disproportionate amount of space.

Making wires thinner would hit thermodynamic limitations similar to those that affect transistors in computer chips: communication would get noisy.

Humans, however, might still achieve higher intelligence collectively. And technology, from writing to the Internet, enables us to expand our mind outside the confines of our body.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Jan 4, 2013 - 05:46am PT
"You must be like the wolf pack, not the six-pack."

"If you do not learn to master your rage....your rage will become your master. That's what you were gonna say, right?"

Falls into favorite family flix folder!




when the Lord Jesus destroys this cursed universe and establishes a new heaven and a new earth. And in the new heaven and the new earth, there will be a different matrix.
That's not really working for me, that Jesus has to come and destroy dad's perfect creation in order to make it better. You'd think these all powerful creators of universes could get it right the first time, or they weren't as perfect and all knowing as they/we like to think. And if they're so all knowing and all powerful, why can't they show up and improve it a little without destroying it? It's so all or nothing with these God types.....
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 4, 2013 - 06:13am PT
Yeah, "cursed universe" says it all with regard to just how f*#ked up religion can get this side of human sacrifice.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Jan 4, 2013 - 06:19am PT
"Love this house you built dad, it's bigger and better than anyone has ever built one. Comfy too. But there's this annoying little mosquito buzzing around, I've decided to name him Satan. You see dad, unfortunately you weren't able to do away with this Satan bug, so...surely you won't mind if I burn the house down and build an even better one, right?

This time though, no Satan bug."
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Jan 4, 2013 - 08:11am PT
fascinating article about the possible link of crime and lead in the environment. The hypothesis is that decreasing incarceration rates may be linked to a clean up of toxic lead contamination in certain environments.


http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline


Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 4, 2013 - 09:09am PT
i hope you include war in your definition of human sacrifice, healyje, because that's what it is.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Jan 4, 2013 - 09:17am PT
1. Are humans still evolving?

Of course, all species are always in the process of evolution at all times. But you have to understand that the process of genetic replication and repair is also evolving to become more accurate and sophisticated, at least in higher species.

2. Is group selection...

Altruism may be a combination of genetic programming and social programming... Depending on your definition of altruism. You can define altruism as a conscious choice. In that case, it's purely social conditioning.

Watch this video of a leopard killing a monkey, but then caring the dead monkey's infant as if it was its own child. Is this altruism or genetics?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqklTPCRLGI

3. What is the likelihood...

Astronomers are finding hundreds of planets like earth in the universe. The likliehood of life on other planets is very high.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 4, 2013 - 07:24pm PT
SLR: But you have to understand that the process of genetic replication and repair is also evolving to become more accurate and sophisticated, at least in higher species.

Do you have any links to support this assertion? I'd be interested to see them if that's so. Lots of 'lower' species have sophisticated and accurate genetic repair capabilities, much less so in 'higher' species.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 4, 2013 - 07:26pm PT
On the brain size front:

Scientists breed big-brained guppies to demonstrate evolution's trade-offs
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Jan 4, 2013 - 07:41pm PT
i hope you include war in your definition of human sacrifice, healyje, because that's what it is.

Depends on at least a couple of obvious things tony

1) which war?

2) do you define sacrifice as accepting personal loss for a greater ideal / purpose or as HaHa! Sucker! thanks for your noble sacrifice for our cause..... dumbsh#t.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 4, 2013 - 08:46pm PT
So nerds and geeks have more children?
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Jan 4, 2013 - 08:49pm PT
BWA HA hahahaaa!!!
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jan 4, 2013 - 09:21pm PT
Hey Moosedrool,

I left next door to a famous biologist. He has been working with all sorts of psychoactive drugs, mainly hallucinogens. He got a big grant and had a huge number of them assayed for which receptor they hit. He knows all of the receptor sites, such as you mentioned.

He worked with hallucinogens, because with those, they generally hit one or two receptors really hard, like a spotlight. He can correlate them with behaviour and experience. So it is more or less a way to see what each receptor does. Pretty fascinating.

If you like, PM me and I will hook you up with him. He has a lot of unpublished material that he might let you read. Some of it is amazing, because all of these pschotropic legal drugs have also been assayed.

Even though the drug companies state the mechanism of action is unknown, that is not accurate. They know which receptors get hit, but they don't know why they work. Also, some drugs work with some people and others don't. You can have ten people with the same psychiatric diagnosis and sometimes this person needs this one and that person needs another. Point being, mental illness is very complicated.

Those drugs are also not to be taken lightly. It is a bad idea to go see your family doc, say you are depressed, and have him put you on a drug. Your brain will adjust to this drug and it changes the entire chemistry sometimes. When you stop the drug, you get sick.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jan 4, 2013 - 09:33pm PT
BB, you posted all of this matrix stuff on another thread. I can't understand it. Why don't you get your hands dirty and talk about biology and chemistry.

The core of H.L. Menkin's social philosophy was rather simple. He believed that it is the nature of the human species to reject what is true but unpleasant, and to embrace what is obviously false but comforting.

Galileo said,

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect, has intended for us to forego their use.

I see this in your posts, and it is really kind of sad to watch.

You post a convoluted mess describing the world in odd terms while choosing to ignore simple science that has stood up to a hundred years of scrutiny, as well as being consistent with many other theories discovered later.

Why don't you just come out and say it? It isn't like we will like you less or anything. It won't make you look any less intelligent. It just means that you are uncomfortable with things that conflict with your faith. That's fine. Dr. F is the only one that will rag on you, and this ain't his thread.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Jan 4, 2013 - 09:37pm PT
I'm with base on this one blue blocker. I can't understand a word you're saying.

Know what I'm sayin'?


As far as I can tell you are living proof that faith and science are incompatible
MH2

climber
Jan 4, 2013 - 10:59pm PT
So nerds and geeks have more children?


Not if you are a nerd/geek guppy. For them it's the opposite.


(Nice story, healyje)
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 5, 2013 - 12:35am PT
Hey Base, thank you for the offer. I am just a biochemist with too much time in my hands, so I read all kinds of publications. I am afraid that your friend is too much ahead of me to have a meaningful conversation.

As the evolution goes, I vote for a human-computer hybrid, then a complete transfer of a human mind into a computer. The artificial intelligence is pretty close. Of course, if we survive long enough. And I don’t think that nuclear wars are the biggest threat. We have global warming, overpopulation, pandemics, depleting resources, supervolcanos, asteroids, and who knows what else to wary about. So it is very likely that most of humanity will be will be wiped out at some point. Then, it depends whether the remaining population can carry on. Maybe that is the cure for our problems?
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Jan 5, 2013 - 12:45am PT
A very interesting radio series on cbc radio right now. It is about risk, risk management..... essentially everything we do in life.

There is two parts. both are very cool and worth listening to but part two is really neat in how risk is managed politically and by personality.



http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/Ideas/ID/2277544951/


http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/Ideas/ID/2277746244/
Ken M

Mountain climber
Los Angeles, Ca
Jan 5, 2013 - 01:18am PT
BB, when you take a quote from somebody else, you should provide a citation that you are doing that, and not give the impression that those are your words.

http://www.gty.org/resources/print/sermons/90-326
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 5, 2013 - 01:48am PT
God was obviously incredibly bored on the eighth day...

Rock climbing fish (go to 3:45)...

Jim Clipper

climber
from: forests to tree farms
Jan 5, 2013 - 01:57am PT
Gotcha covered for #1 and #2

Credit: Jim Clipper

now, back on topic

Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 5, 2013 - 09:29am PT
bruce, we used to go to an elderly, world-traveling accountant to have our taxes done. this guy had a collection of formidable, scary-looking weapons from a certain south sea island on his wall, but he had an interesting story to go along with them.

this particular tribe, he said, when there was a dispute with the tribe next door, would arm themselves to the teeth, as would their enemy du jour. they would square off against each other, fiercely engaging in battle--to the point where someone drew first blood. then the battle was called off, and the dispute settled in favor of the blood-drawing tribe while the "victim" got patched up and everyone went home.

"now i ask you," our accountant said, "who is more civilized, them or us?"

war is essentially a ritual activity, as with every religion. healyje had a not very negative experience in the military, so he closes his eyes to this aspect of humanity, while fretting about the ridiculousness of religion and human sacrifice. as an aside, catholics "celebrate" human sacrifice every day and eat the body of their "victim". they use these very words. their sterilized ritual embodies the identical myth, if you can even call it a myth.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 6, 2013 - 08:07am PT
healyje had a not very negative experience in the military
On exactly what basis would you come to that brilliant conclusion?
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 6, 2013 - 10:13am PT
In thinking about topic one a little more, I'm basically sticking with my original answer but with a little clarification. First off, I'll bet that evolution has been slowing down in humans during the last 5,000 years ago or so. Why? Because death is the engine of natural selection and, through time, humans survival rates have increased. I think Jan hit it on the head. Most of the significant evolving right now is going on in Africa and Asia, where third world living conditions keep the "culling rate" high.

That link of McCreel's early on indicating that there are strong signs of very recent evolution is perfectly consistent with my thinking on this subject. The life expectancy and low infant mortality rates that we see now in the first world are a very recent phenomenon. To the extent that the whole world could have them, I think classical evolution would come to a near screeching halt in the human race. What would continue to happen is that our genetic diversity would continue to increase. And this is always a good thing as an insurance against future culling events.

Of course there is still sexual selection, which doesn't require death for new genes to proliferate. But even more than that, technology will alter the equation. Some technologies will undoubtedly be selection pressures thesmselves. So, yes, I believe humans will ultimately evolve significantly. But it won't be because of "classical evolution".
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 6, 2013 - 10:17am PT
healyje, seems like the last time the subject came up you had been spending your time writing press releases for the navy based on the usual prevarications from your surfer pad in hawaii, fighting off maitai-armed wahinis, no? sorry if i got the wrong impression. tell us about the gore you dipped with and i'll tell you a few war stories of my own.

yonkers, i read in arctic dreams, which i think had some pretty good scientific reporting, that the polar bear has evolved from the grizzly bear since the last ice age, over about 10,000 years. among the remarkable adaptations are its webbed feet, and hair which, even though it appears white, directs light and heat into the bear's body rather than reflecting it away. pretty sophisticated optic fiber there.

if you don't think evolution can happen fast, just look at all the breeds of canis familiaris--all members of the same "species".

if you think "natural selection" is the only important thing in evolution, you need to get a bit more sophisticated than charles darwin's 19th-century thinking. life has a built-in propensity to experiment, and it can experiment wildly and rapidly. none of the gene-splicing idiots tampering with it have the beginning of an appreciation of that.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 6, 2013 - 10:41am PT
Tony, I'm well aware that there are two parts to evolution. The first part is all about random mutations leading to new, heritable traits. Basically, if the mutation doesn't kill you before you have a child or two, it gets into the breeding population. That's why large, long-breeding populations will have a lot of genetic diversity.

But it takes a selection pressure (or isolation of a population) to allow these new genes to proliferate over and above their competitors. It's a zero sum game, afterall with respect to each individual. The only way a whole population moves in some novel direction is through selection pressure.

By the way, you are missing the point entirely when you refer to evolution in polar bears and such. I've said nothing about not believing that evolution can be fast. My POINT is that, with humans, our civization is responsible for the slowing down of evolution. Except that we will utlimately, vastly speed it up.
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 6, 2013 - 10:48am PT
i think you've got it wrong, yonkers. the experimentation takes place in the reproductive cells themselves, not, somehow, throughout the body of an individual, then going into the reproductive cells. there are too many cells in the body of a grizzly bear for it to get the beginnings of webbed feet. as the species moves into a polar environment--or as the polar environment develops--the hunting of seals becomes something important. i don't think you know how the experimentation takes place, which is my point. the scientific fairy tale we get is that a gene gets zapped from a cosmic ray from outer space. might as well have some divinity making mudpies and breathing life into them.

this is borne out by the standard teaching i got on the subject at the university. the development of sexuality resulted in very rapid evolution because of the combinant factor. offspring became the shake of two dice, not the "daughtering" of existing individuals. the experimentation takes place in the gonads. and the fact that it seems to be so well directed ought to be a clue. how come we get grizzly bears "experimenting" with webbed feet, instead of green feathers like a quetzal? a lot of people will suggest "intelligent design," but i don't think they've got it right either. but if random cosmic rays were the "agent", we'd have a lot more green feathers on grizzly bears.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 6, 2013 - 11:55am PT
TB, just curious, are you clear on the distinction and relationship between genotype and phenotype? or how about the role of repair mechanisms in replication and transcription even to the extent that these repair enzymatic performances are regulated themselves by natural selection? or how about simply gene regulation? there are whole courses in colleges now covering just this subject. Your posts suggest you are out of your league here, but maybe it's more your writing style than your experiences in the field.


Eeyonkee, nice to see you're reading Better Angels. It is a hopeful message. (Esp against such a historical backdrop of barbaric savagery.)

.....

As far as interesting evolutionary topics go, one of mine is yours and others I think - the largely unpredictable interplay between cultural evo and bio-genetic evo. Cultural evolution is such a powerful force on the species - it's created mind-blowing change to our environs, it's wed us to tech of every sort and made us dependent on it to such an overwhelming extent it's bound to steer if not careen the gene pool into brand new unprecedented territory - and pretty quickly, relatively speaking, I would think, thanks to entropy always at work - and certainly piquing my interest and concern - along some directions not a few of us, given our values, would probably judge weaker and disappointing rather than stronger and encouraging.

As a hint to this, no longer are poor eyesight or hernias being selected against, let alone conditions like autism. No longer are the slow or lazy being selected against. No longer are cheaters or freeloaders being selected against. Seems to me if these characteristics ever are selected against again esp to the extent they were in the past (leading to robustness), it's going to have to wait another (less environmentally friendly) era or epoch. It's quite a predicament. About all I'm confident about in this regard is that in the end, or rather, at the end of each of the cyclic eras or epochs to come, one way or another it sorts out.

On the hopeful side, our cultural evolution has led to a vast amount of knowledge about ourselves in the universe (which hopefully intelligent beings, communities and such far in the future will be able to employ); also to a vast amount of different kinds of freedoms as well as abilities esp for the current generations and also us climbers. :)

.....

Lately, I've been contemplating / cultivating an alternative lifeskill as part of living-in-the-now strategy: the ability to not dwell on things in the abysmal depths of evolutionary theory, evolutionary psych or even general thought - esp those that point to unresolvable life predicaments (just as a long long time ago I learned it was an ability, a lifeskill, to not dwell on our death or our mortality) -In the interest of continued health and wellbeing.

Or maybe I'm just getting old. :)


An "allelic" expression...
"Evolutionary output is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose."
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 6, 2013 - 12:06pm PT
gene-splicing idiots... the scientific fairy tale we get is that a gene gets zapped from a cosmic ray.... we get grizzly bears "experimenting" with webbed feet, instead of green feathers like a quetzal?

It seems to me if life experience in science education were more like life experience in climbing with respect to a show of skills being readily observable where the rubber meets the rock (for better or worse, at the risk of reputation if not life) all the talk - the talking it up- wouldn't be so unreserved.

.....

if you think "natural selection" is the only important thing in evolution, you need to get a bit more sophisticated than charles darwin's 19th-century thinking

It's the only "important" (EDIT: push or pressure or) creative force identified that leads to an accumulated buildup of complex functionality in living systems that yields ongoing (EDIT: adaptation) adaptability. This isn't just the claim of 19th century, it's the modern claim of the 21st century as well as taught in modern evolution courses in all the world's top colleges and universities.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 8, 2013 - 04:38am PT
Kepler survey analysis pegs an extrapolated number of earth-size planets in the Milkyway at '17 billion'. About twenty percent of galaxies are large spirals like the Milkyway which would be about 100 billion of such galaxies. Do the math of 17bn * 100bn and you get like 1.7 sextillion.

From that you can pick some percentage you think might be in hospitable galaxies, in a star's habitable zone and have water, that have life, and then intelligent life. Even if you came up with one form of intelligent life per galaxy that's still a lot. The problem is that's still a ridiculously sparse distribution of intelligent life - far too sparse for there to ever have been, or for there ever to be, contact between them or UFOs here.

Even if you decided there were a million planets with intelligent life in the Milkyway, at a 100 lightyears across (light year = 6 trillion miles), those are still unbelievable distances such that for there to be any contact you'd be talking time travel or some other real trick up your sleeve to accomplish it. That makes the idea of even a single UFO contact outlandishly implausible, let alone the idea of Earth as a regular 'hub' for alien visits the UFO crowd would have you believe.
Borut

Mountain climber
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Jan 8, 2013 - 06:02am PT
I like the idea that birds are dinosaurs
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 8, 2013 - 06:40am PT
It's the only "important" creative force identified that leads to an accumulated buildup of complex functionality in living systems that yields ongoing adaptability. This isn't just the claim of 19th century, it's the modern claim of the 21st century as well as taught in modern evolution courses in all the world's top colleges and universities.


Good post HFCS.

Evolution is one of those subjects that has a very few, disarmingly simple concepts. Yet, it does require a lot of thinking about the interplay of those concepts to really understand it. I've been reading books about it (purely an avocation) for years and still get new insights.
Borut

Mountain climber
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Jan 8, 2013 - 07:57am PT
so true...

conservatives evolve against their will
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 8, 2013 - 09:28am PT
huckfuss is talking gobbledygook, riley, and so are you. hucky and i get along fine when he sticks to dr. F's threads, where i fear to tread.

i believe i brought up the triple alpha process earlier in this discussion. funny how none of you science brains picked up on that.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 8, 2013 - 11:12am PT
It occurs to me:

Calling natural selection a "force" was probably more colloquial than scientific on my part. Forgive me, you scientific language purists. :)


From such simple beginnings such magificence and spectacle. That is evolution. (Not to mention climbing.) To think that last night's BCS championship game, for instance, in all its detail including the blowout, was an evolutionary product billions of years in the making; or an example of what hydrogen atoms do given enough time banging about - that's pretty damn astonishing.

So incredible some of us "just above average apes" find it impossible to believe. Gobble gobble. :)

.....

As an aside to Healyje's post, and as another topic of interest (to a few?), sometimes I've wondered about the gene pools of other ETI's in the galaxy. (Assuming they exist in the first place.) For instance do they show more or less variation than ours. If the variation of gene pools of 100 of our closest ETIs were plotted out on a distribution curve, where would we stack up in the pile? And sometimes I think that the very variation that led to our evolution, incl our evolutionary robustness, might also turn out, in the end, to be our undoing. How ironic that would be.

Sometimes one can be honest to a fault. (So they say. Game theory, too.) Could our species, either already or at some point down the line, and esp, because we all have to share the same arena, court or field (that being this one and only planet), be diverse to a fault?

Imagine the "Hirogens" (ripped from Star Trek) as an ETI. Imagine that their variation or diversity both in their gene pool and on their planet in their history never became an existential threat because they had not one but two sibling planets to spread out to - providing them benefits unavailable to us H. sapiens, eg.., dozens to hundreds of extra generations in cultural evo to get their act together.

"Life's a crap shoot."
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 8, 2013 - 12:52pm PT
Tony B.’s take on evolution:

as the species [grizzlies] moves into a polar environment--or as the polar environment develops--the hunting of seals becomes something important. i don't think you know how the experimentation takes place, which is my point.


HFCS responded:

TB, just curious, are you clear on the distinction and relationship between genotype and phenotype?

It is funny that you both can be right, to some extent. Phenotype coud actually speed up the evolution of webbed feet in grizzlies. We can safely assume that the webbed feet are the result of a genetic mutation(s), so HFCS is right. But the environmental factors could direct and speed up this evolution, because phenotypes can be inherited, so Tony B. is also right. (Of course the rest of Tony B.’s post is pure nonsense).

It is extremely important to understand the concept of epigenetics and its role in evolution. I posted some info on epigenetics before, but it got ignored. I will try again.

This article is fairly easy to understand and it is a MUST read if we want to have any meaningful discussion on evolution.

http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1033&context=bin_facpub

Some excerpts:

It is well known (Hartl and Clark 2007) that new advantageous mutations appearing in a population face an immediate evolutionary hurdle, in that they start at a very low frequency (depending on the population size) and can easily be lost by genetic drift. If, however, the new heritable variant is causally dependent on high-frequency (possibly environmentally induced) epigenetic variation, the novel phenotype may appear at a nonnegligible frequency from the onset, which would facilitate the role of natural selection in overcoming stochastic loss.
The scenario sketched above is consistent with West-Eberhard’s (2003) suggestion that sometimes genes are “followers” rather than initiators of evolutionary change, meaning that they stabilize phenotypic changes that are started by epigenetic or developmental processes. Indeed, epigenetic inheritance systems could provide a reasonable mechanistic link between West-Eberhard’s interesting but rather speculative suggestions about the role of developmental plasticity in evolution on one hand, and standard population genetic models of evolutionary change on the other.


The potential importance of epigenetic effects can be explored by either manipulating the level of epigenetic effects (e.g., through the use of a demethylating agent such as 5-azacytidine [5-azaC] or endocrine-disrupting chemicals) or by exposing organisms to extreme environments that may trigger epigenetic changes that alter the phenotype of individuals with the same genotype. By growing the progeny of genetically identical individuals that have been exposed to different treatments in a common environment, a study can identify the contribution of heritable sources of phenotypic variation that are not based on DNA sequences. For example, methylation patterns and associated changes in early versus late flowering that resulted from 5-aza-C treatments of Linum usitatissimum persisted
not only throughout the lifetime of the individual but also in lines that were five to nine generations beyond the treatment generation (Fieldes et al. 2005)Crews and colleagues (2007)showed that rat females exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals preferred unexposed males up to three generations after exposure. External temperature has been shown to change methylation patterns, which induce early flowering time in Triticum (Sherman and Talbert 2002) and Arabidopsis(Burn et al. 1993). Offspring of individuals exposed to these kinds of different treatments can then be grown in common environments to identify whether some of these environmentally induced differences are heritable and stable (Bossdorf et al. 2008, Johannes et al. 2008).
WBraun

climber
Jan 8, 2013 - 12:58pm PT
This guy wrote the Origin of the Species

No he didn't.

He wrote the "Theory" of the Origin of the Species.

Get your facts straight.

You're a terrible scientist .......
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 8, 2013 - 02:19pm PT
re: epigenetics, etc.

Way earlier I was going to comment on epigenetics, then I remembered lessons learned from going deep on subjects here which amounts to mixed company. (Here I'm recalling a thread of mine a few years back on electricity and electrocution by battery.) If I've learned anything from this site, it is that you can't go too deeply on a subject (unfortunately) without the thread's contents careening off uncontrollably, unmeaningfully.

I don't think we're equipped here in mixed company to adequately distinguish epigenetics from epigenesis, etc.. that would lead on to any meaningful discussion. Could be wrong, though.

Examples:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenesis_%28biology%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetic_Theory


P.S.

Moreover...
I could only imagine how much MORE difficult it would be for ME to discuss these complex mechanisms in mixed company if English were not my first language!

Moose,

Is this right?
Czterech nukleotydów DNA są adeninę, tyminę, guaninę i cytozynę.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 8, 2013 - 02:56pm PT
You got it.

After almost 20 years in the USA and I still find it difficult to translate my thoughts to English.

Is this right?
Czterech nukleotydów DNA są adeninę, tyminę, guaninę i cytozynę.

Almost right. DNA zawiera cztery nokleotydy: adeninę, tyminę, guaninę i cytozynę.

How do you know Polish?

I also realize that it is difficult to have a meaningful conversation on technical subjects on ST. And I am not a teacher either. That's why I tried to stay away from those discussions. But I am at home, my wife is at work, and I am bored. I have already posted all my climbing material, which is very limited since I am a noob.

It is a very different discussion from that I usually have with my colleagues, but, perhaps, more fun.

I don't like to insult people, but sometimes I just want to quote Wolfgang Pauli, “it is not even wrong”.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 8, 2013 - 03:31pm PT
Don't know Polish. I wish!

You mentioned in some gun discussion you were Polish. I used google translator. Which apparently was not entirely correct, that's AI for you, lol.

.....

I've mentioned this terrific episode of Star Trek Voyager in past posts at least a couple of times. Distant Origin. Has anybody seen it? Storyline is intelligent. A terrific speculation. Not to mention some high human-voth drama in deep space. It's all about evolution. Ties right in with this thread: interesting topics of evolution. Check it out when you get the time...

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

Yeah, it IS available at the The Pirate Bay. :)
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jan 8, 2013 - 03:53pm PT
Hypothesis: 1. a proposition made as a basis for reasoning, without the assumption of its truth. 2 a supposition made as a starting point for further investigation from known facts.

Theory: 1. a supposition or system of ideas explaining something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the particul things to be explained.

Source: Canadian Oxford Dictionary.

Let's try to use these words correctly, eh?

Darwin's "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life", usually known as "On the Origin of Species" was perhaps both theory and hypothesis, in that there was considerable evidence for what Darwin proposed, and little to the contrary, but the underlying mechanism wasn't really understood until the discovery of DNA.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 8, 2013 - 04:35pm PT
Yeah, so take THAT WBraun!

I need to study epigenetics. It is currently a big hole in my understanding of evolution. Here's the thing, though. If the logic and evidence pans out, I'll be only too willing to change my views on the topic and will be perfectly fine knowing that my former worldview got some things wrong. Eyes wide open.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 8, 2013 - 04:46pm PT
I think I may have found what Werner is talking about. In going through my library, I see a book my Charles T. Darwin, called 'The theory of the Origin of Species'. Turns out that Charles T. Darwin was to scientific books what Weird Al Yangevich was to pop music. Easy mistake to make.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 8, 2013 - 04:58pm PT
lol

Nobody needs to study epigenetics. Just some basic understanding is sufficient :)

The theory of evolution is correct, but there are still debates on the mechanisms by which our genes evolve. Epigeneticaly driven evolution neatly explains why we adapt so fast to changing environments. The old school evolution driven exclusively by random mutations couldn't explain that phenomenon.

Please read the article if you can.

http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1033&context=bin_facpub
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 8, 2013 - 05:35pm PT
Right on, Riley!

One down, 1000 more to go :)
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 8, 2013 - 05:42pm PT
Sure.

I meant that one person has read it (you) :) I wish for more.
Cosmiccragsman

Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
Jan 8, 2013 - 06:03pm PT


photo not found
Missing photo ID#156168
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 8, 2013 - 06:23pm PT
yonker's last reference seems to assert that mere random mutation makes no sense, and living organisms have a built-in propensity to experiment and adapt. quod erat demonstrandum?

of course we must hunt for chemical mechanisms. we gather experts from wide spectrums. rarely can they communicate, but the declaration of the verge of a breakthrough comes right from the boilerplate used by every respectable journal in academia. thinking on the subject is about to be revolutionized. breathtaking. riley can't wait to tell the first nearby female. but not so fast:

At this time in the science of epigenetics, the relevance of heritable epigenetic effects for the ecology and evolution of most organisms is still highly speculative.

well, maybe there's progress here after all. they're using the S-word, right out in front of god and the department chair.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 8, 2013 - 06:34pm PT
lol Riley. Sorry for a Polish joke. I will try to keep the number of recommended articles under 100, deal?


WBraun

climber
Jan 8, 2013 - 06:43pm PT
epigenetics

When you eat certain foods they will turn off the genes that prevent cancer.

This is one reason (although not even the main reason) vegetarian diets is stressed over meat eating.

And ..... while eating the proper foods will turn on genes that fight/prevent cancer.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 8, 2013 - 06:54pm PT
You guys seem pretty smart here, so I have a question:

Qt Can being born from a once, twice, thrice-used womb contribute to being gay? Yeah, you read it right: Can being born from a used uterus cause you to be gay?

Ain't that a crazy question?!
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Jan 8, 2013 - 07:05pm PT
Yup. And not being an expert on the use and maintenance of the uterus I'm afraid I can't help you.


Ain't gay neither. I'm really not much use here. I'll go back to abusing tourists.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 8, 2013 - 07:09pm PT
Could Scientists Have Found A Gay Switch? (revolving around testosterone sensitivity from the opposite parent)
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 8, 2013 - 07:12pm PT
An interesting thought Herr Braun. Easily testable too. Different diet can change ones gene expression. Some of them can be beneficial in fighting cancer.

HFCS, a used uterus can still bring happiness to many.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 8, 2013 - 07:14pm PT
Probably more like a different diet encourages a different mix of gut flora which in turn plays a strong role in how the immune system expresses.

The epigenetic effects of butyrate: potential therapeutic implications for clinical practice

Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid derived from the microbial fermentation of dietary fibers in the colon. In the last decade, multiple beneficial effects of butyrate at intestinal and extraintestinal level have been demonstrated. The mechanisms of action of butyrate are different and many of these involve an epigenetic regulation of gene expression through the inhibition of histone deacetylase. There is a growing interest in butyrate because its impact on epigenetic mechanisms will lead to more specific and efficacious therapeutic strategies for the prevention and treatment of different diseases ranging from genetic/metabolic conditions to neurological degenerative disorders. This review is focused on recent data regarding the epigenetic effects of butyrate with potential clinical implications in human medicine.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 8, 2013 - 07:34pm PT
Healyje, that's epigenetics as well. don't you think? That's what epigenetics does, it regulates which genes are expressed and which are suppressed. Whether it is influenced by gut flora or some other factor is irrelevant.

Thank you for posting some interesting material.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 8, 2013 - 07:48pm PT
Yeah, and I suspect Butyrate is just the tip of an commensual / immunological iceberg.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 8, 2013 - 09:18pm PT
That's right Riley. But we need to remember that because epigeneticaly driven changes are reversible and short termed if not reinforced. It won't change our genes, just their expression. Epigeneticaly driven evolution alone doesn’t produce new species, for that you need a genetic mutation. It is postulated that when both meet, evolution accelerates.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 9, 2013 - 12:07am PT
I am impressed that people on this thread actually read technical papers, and I know it is not easy when the subject is outside ones area of expertise. Unfortunately, I also know that most people don’t want to read, and/or can’t comprehend, technical writing. How can we explain science to them? There are some very good magazines such as Scientific American, Discover, or even Popular Science. They are good TV programs and there is the Internet. There is no excuse to be ignorant.
People use medications that were made by genetic manipulations but they don’t believe that evolution is driven by changes to our genome. People don’t believe in relativity, but they use GPS’s every day. Some distrust science so much that they would buy a “health” supplement just because it was advertised as “discovered by a single mom”. Sad.

Sorry for the rant. It belongs to “America the Ignorant…”, I guess.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 9, 2013 - 12:36am PT
don't overlook the role of supernovas and the triple alpha process, which produces the element carbon, and which caused fred hoyle to stop being an atheist.

actually, not... as far as I know, Fred was an atheist for life.

Tony, what do you know about the triple-alpha process? other than what you have read others write about it. This is not the first place you've posted it as an example of one of your points. I'm just not sure what that point is...
cowpoke

climber
Jan 9, 2013 - 07:24am PT
Re: I wonder if the "end of history illusion" (that psychologist Daniel Gilbert has demonstrated) biases our interpretations of data relevant to the question "1. Are humans still evolving?"

Gilbert's empirical focus has been on personal "ends of history," but seems plausible (to me) that it could extend to our perceptions and interpretations of evidence on collective "ends of history."

The latest paper on this phenomena was just published last week in Science.

abstract: "We measured the personalities, values, and preferences of more than 19,000 people who ranged in age from 18 to 68 and asked them to report how much they had changed in the past decade and/or to predict how much they would change in the next decade. Young people, middle-aged people, and older people all believed they had changed a lot in the past but would change relatively little in the future. People, it seems, regard the present as a watershed moment at which they have finally become the person they will be for the rest of their lives. This “end of history illusion” had practical consequences, leading people to overpay for future opportunities to indulge their current preferences."

link to the full paper: http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~dtg/Quoidbach%20et%20al%202013.pdf
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 11, 2013 - 05:46pm PT
re: interesting topics of evolution

The evolution of the ability of parasites to manipulate their host’s behavior in an adaptive way is one of the most fascinating areas of organismal biology.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=4E5vUUtSWT4

In almost no case do we know how they do it.

Is it mind control?

.....

Here's the hypothesis: We sneeze when we have the cold or flu because the virus makes us - it knows the buttons to push. This manipulation of our behavior helps to propagate the virus. Eerie!

Another: We are extra horny when we have an STD. Outrageous, isn't it?!

Damn bugs.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 11, 2013 - 06:01pm PT
Mermithid worm - ultrasuckage.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 11, 2013 - 06:12pm PT
We are extra horny when we have an STD.

People with tuberculosis are extra horny too. Our genes try to propagate before we die.
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 11, 2013 - 06:22pm PT
triple-alpha seems to be an interesting turn in the road of evolution. i was kinda hoping you'd talk about it a little, ed.

the point i've heard made was that when fred hoyle came to understand its implications, he declared, "the universe is a put-up job," and thereafter seemed to back away from his staunch atheism. of course, i can't begin to appreciate the technical aspects, other than that it's supposedly the way carbon is produced in the fusion reactions of a supernova, and carbon, the key element of life, only happens due to some very fine and improbable balance of forces or events.

for those who don't know fred hoyle, he's the cambridge astronomer "credited" with coining the term "big bang", which he at first said he suggested as a joke, but i think he eventually decided to take credit for it, since it became such a durable idea. he was noted for his atheism, prior to the triple alpha business, and, from what i've heard, a general disdain for biologists. :-)

i guess we have different impressions of hoyle's beliefs, ed. i'll have to go digging to find where i read all this. might have been in one of simon conway-morris's books--he's a cambridger and seems to have likewise taken a step back from atheism in his philosophy of evolution.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 11, 2013 - 10:15pm PT
about Fred's beliefs... he was an iconoclastic personality... it didn't matter what the dogma was, he attacked it. I think that was his point about evolution (and about cosmology, etc...) and an important demonstration that you might come to the point of "disbelief" without some other "belief" to replace it, in other words, you might just say you don't know, which is not the same thing as saying that anything goes.


do you really want to talk about triple-alpha?
it seems to have an over inflated interpretation.

Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 12, 2013 - 09:23am PT
hoyle was certainly a personality--probably worth getting a good biography on him--any recommendations?

his take on evolution seems to be that he finds too much serendipity to ascribe it solely to "random", multiplied by an infinity of time. perhaps his remark about the triple alpha was made in passing, but it does seem to indicate some "special treatment" for carbon. the nice thing about your posts, ed, is that they're made in your own words, far more educative than the barrage of dumps and links we usually get on here. i'm still carrying around what you had to say about dimensionality.

hoyle offered a remarkable metaphor anent "random" evolution. he said it would be the equivalent of a tornado hitting a junkyard and leaving a 747 behind. he seemed to have become a proponent of panspermia, an idea which was also attractive to francis crick. and some have called him the atheist of intelligent design.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 12, 2013 - 10:08am PT
Clearly Hoyle didn't really understand evolution as that famous metaphor shows a complete misunderstanding of it. Only the first part of evolution is random. There is nothing random about the second part, the part where natural selection comes in to play. It is unpredictable, but anything but random. Sheesh, Darwin understood that in the 1850s!
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Jan 12, 2013 - 10:28am PT
This Hoyle fellow sounds like a contemporary of Fred Singer, noted climatologist who applied the concept of serendipity and opportunism in his studies, and I believe he even used the metaphor of the hurricane hitting a garbage dump. Look him up and keep it coming Tony. Fascinating stuff.
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 12, 2013 - 10:31am PT
it's refreshing to have a polish fellow telling the rest of the world how dumb it is.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 12, 2013 - 12:37pm PT
Hear, hear, for "extra horny" after fifty.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 12, 2013 - 12:59pm PT
ok, so about this "calculation" of the likelihood of something happening...
here's an exercise for the readers, don't dwell too deeply yet into its meaning....

how would you calculate the likelihood of the state of the universe in the next second?

hint: Google says the age of the universe is roughly 4x10¹⁷ seconds
Jingy

climber
Somewhere out there
Jan 12, 2013 - 01:31pm PT
Not sure if I mentioned this before, but found this Dogma Debate to be informative and liberating:

http://www.spreaker.com/user/smalleyandhyso/30_evolution_explained

Download and play or just play from the page…. Fully explained, from single celled micros to multi-celled all the way to almost modern dude.

This is a podcast featuring Rachel Brown that answers many "Christian questions" as posed by a ridiculous Christian website, I'm sure gobe has it bookmarked


You can thank me later
Wade Icey

Trad climber
www.alohashirtrescue.com
Jan 12, 2013 - 02:12pm PT
excellent thread. I have nothing to contribute so will refrain from posting further, except for this

I like the idea that birds are dinosaurs


me too

photo not found
Missing photo ID#229184


please continue....
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 12, 2013 - 03:00pm PT
Tony B. are you OK?

it's refreshing to have a polish fellow telling the rest of the world how dumb it is

Edit: I hope you are joking.

eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 12, 2013 - 03:37pm PT
So was that polish line referring to ME, TB? You're starting to wub me the wong way...
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 12, 2013 - 03:41pm PT
"Sarge...who says I'm dumb?"
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 12, 2013 - 04:02pm PT
Back to evolution.

It is interesting how Lamarc’s ideas have resurfaced with the advance of epigenetics. Was Lamarc right and Darwin wrong? Can we evolve by “willing” it? Well, kind off.
Epigenetics elegantly explains how an organism can adapt so quickly to the new environment. We understand which chemical modifications to chromatin, DNA and RNA influence gene expression, which in turn modify our bodies and minds. What is still unclear is the mechanism by which epigenetics changes nucleotides that lead to genetically changed individuals and new species. One of the candidates is deamination of cytosine which would lead to its transformation to thymine. Environmental pressures can suppress expression a gene by methylation of cytosine (among others). Methylation of cytosine can then lead to its transformation to thymine. Scientists put a lot of work into finding other factors, but it is all quite new and needs more work.

The growing consensus among evolutionists is that environmental factors can accelerate evolution, which, of course, is some vindication for Lamarc.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 12, 2013 - 04:15pm PT
It is interesting how Lamarc’s ideas have resurfaced with the advance of epigenetics... which, of course, is some vindication for Lamarc.

Hold your horses...

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/more-puffery-about-epigenetics-and-my-usual-role-as-go-to-curmudgeon/

"Well, a lot of far-fetched stuff has the theoretical potential to revolutionize the study of evolutionary biology, including the possibility that the DNA of any species is transcribed only when there’s a plant within 100 miles."
Jerry Coyne

"This superb article by Jerry Coyne deserves the very widest attention."
Richard Dawkins

How timely...

"Although I’m a skeptic, and seen as a diehard supporter of neo-Darwinism, I think that an objective observer would agree that that that current paradigm is working pretty well. I haven’t yet heard the guns and shouts of revolutionaries on the horizon."
Jerry Coyne, 12 jan 2013



Maybe this is too boring, esp for a saturday, eh? Back to boobs? :)
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 12, 2013 - 04:36pm PT
Been thinking the same thing, moosedrool. Poor Lamarc. Epigenetics is a bit of a game changer.

A book I've read that had a big influence on my thinking about the evolution of humans is 'Eco Homo', by Noel T. Boaz. The book explains that very large changes in brain size took place in hominids over the Pleistocene, which was a time of extreme climate change (four ice ages along with the in-between times). The author argues that the relationship is causal, that rapid climate change provided the enviromental pressure that ultimately led to rapid evolution in hominids. I'd always assumed that the environmetal pressure worked by a combination of there being phenotypic solutions to the environmental pressure (duh!) and the greater killing off of individuals allowing the "solution" genes to show their mettle and become dominant in the population. Seems like epigenetics probably played a role in speeding up the whole process.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 12, 2013 - 04:47pm PT
Yes, I know.

That is why I always look into the mechanisms on a molecular level. In my previous post I explained one of the possible mechanisms. There is more and more evidence that epigenetics plays a big role in evolution.

In a few years it should be all sorted out. My bet is on epigenetics.


Edit: It looks like I am taking Tony's side ;)

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 13, 2013 - 02:11pm PT
some interesting reporting on criticism of Darwinian Psychology...

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/opinion/sunday/darwin-was-wrong-about-dating.html
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 13, 2013 - 02:16pm PT
Yeah, just read that in the paper today. He couldn't possibly get everything right:)

Seems I read that he was also wrong about "what women want".
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 13, 2013 - 02:48pm PT
Epigenetics primer
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 13, 2013 - 07:05pm PT
Healyje, nice overview. Thanks.

Epigenetics has yet to establish the hard connection between adaptation and evolution of new species. By “hard connection” I mean the specific molecular interactions. Here is the problem. Epigenetics operates only on an existing genome. Epigenetically driven changes can be passed on the next generations but they can easily be lost as well. Epigenetics won’t change your DNA sequence. It can promote expression and suppression of various genes, but it won’t make a beak in place of your mouth. Evolution of species, on the other hand needs GENETIC modifications, which means your DNA sequence has to change. There are many studies that show the soft connections between the two, but since they are soft, alternative explanations could be offered.
There are a few plausible theories that attempt to find those hard connections. They are highly technical and difficult to understand for lay people. Since I have only a limited knowledge of molecular genetics I can’t understand those articles entirely. They look plausible to me, but some conclusions are too subtle for me to fully appreciate them. Try this article:

http://www.lifescientist.com.au/article/346915/feature_epigenetics_key_human_evolution/?
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 14, 2013 - 07:53am PT
yonkers, i've apologized elsewhere for confabulating your ideas with moosedrool's, and likewise your personae along with them, but i see i should apologize further. the problem really lies in your choice of monnikers. i know a little bit about moose, somewhat less about donkeys, even less about a.a. milne, which i have perhaps mistakenly presumed to be behind this "eeyonkee" business. maybe it's your real last name, i dunno. certainly doesn't sound polish. i'm guessing, maybe, choctaw? to add to the confusion, moosedrool now seems to be telling us he's italian.

at the risk of drifting this important discussion, wiki offers the following quote from the author of winnie the pooh:

The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief—call it what you will—than any book ever written; it has emptied more churches than all the counter-attractions of cinema, motor bicycle and golf course.[

i'll bet norton agrees with that.
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 14, 2013 - 08:01am PT
why, ed, dabbling in evolutionary psychology. there's a couple of profs at UCSB, married to each other, no less, who purport to champion this insightful approach to our caveman swiss army knife, the human mind. personally, i think that sex itself is one of the greatest arguments for the existence of god. a tantric guru i know calls it "the gift of the creator".
stich

Trad climber
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Jan 14, 2013 - 08:08am PT
Seems I read that he was also wrong about "what women want".

Not that hard to be wrong about.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 14, 2013 - 11:47am PT
reading broadly = dabbling ?
really Tony, by now you've got to realize I try to read a lot... even though I'm just a simple high energy physicist...
...maybe if I had concentrated more narrowly I would have made a bigger contribution to my chosen field.

oh well
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 14, 2013 - 07:20pm PT
re: epigenetics & "epigenetics"

Fresh off the press...
http://www.wiringthebrain.com/2013/01/the-trouble-with-epigenetics-part-2.html

Wiring the Brain, 2013
Be there are be square, lol!



The trouble with "epigenetics."
http://www.wiringthebrain.com/2013/01/the-trouble-with-epigenetics-part-1.html

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Goes great with: "faith," "god," "spirit," "spirituality," also "free will," "determinism," also "socialism," also "epigenetics." Enjoy. :)
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 14, 2013 - 08:02pm PT
Yes, a phenotype can arise independently from genetic/epigenetic factors and thus can’t be inherited.
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 14, 2013 - 08:29pm PT
the evolutionary psychologists have come up with a great explanation for the battle of the sexes. men and women have differing interests, due to the very nature of gender, for forwarding their personal genes into spacetime. because men can potentially have an almost unlimited number of offspring, they tend to be promiscuous. women, on the other hand, produce one sex cell per month. if they become impregnated, it'll take nine months to produce a child, followed by weaning. most women don't want to bang 'em out once a year, in spite of the papal imperative. so more is not better for a woman. they tend to be choosy. their best strategy for long-term gene forwarding is to find a quality partner who will shelter and provide so's the progeny can be successful.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 14, 2013 - 11:59pm PT
how do you know if that seemingly reasonable scenario isn't just a retelling of the ways things are, Tony?

got data?

healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 15, 2013 - 05:02am PT
...is to find a partner who will shelter and provide so's the progeny can be successful.

Well, sure that's half of the story, but from a biological perspective, once so settled, the female reproductive track is designed to then promiscuously and opportunistically seek out a higher quality sperm when the occasion arises. Quite extra-biblical.

Rate of molecular evolution of the seminal protein gene SEMG2 correlates with levels of female promiscuity

Postcopulatory sperm competition is a key aspect of sexual selection and is believed to drive the rapid evolution of both reproductive physiology and reproduction-related genes. It is well-established that mating behavior determines the intensity of sperm competition, with polyandry (i.e., female promiscuity) leading to fiercer sperm competition than monandry. Studies in mammals, particularly primates, showed that, owing to greater sperm competition, polyandrous taxa generally have physiological traits that make them better adapted for fertilization than monandrous species, including bigger testes, larger seminal vesicles, higher sperm counts, richer mitochondrial loading in sperm and more prominent semen coagulation. Here, we show that the degree of polyandry can also impact the dynamics of molecular evolution. Specifically, we show that the evolution of SEMG2, the gene encoding semenogelin II, a main structural component of semen coagulum, is accelerated in polyandrous primates relative to monandrous primates. Our study showcases the intimate relationship between sexual selection and the molecular evolution of reproductive genes.
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 15, 2013 - 08:42am PT
i think healyje's citation could bear a bit of analysis. female promiscuity would be off the chart at a hollywood party attended by an important producer, but nonexistent in certain remote mormon communities. of course, interpretation of raw data in the latter venue could easily be influenced by researcher bias.

ed, i'm not sure what you're trying to say. "the way things are" is the definition of truth, from old greeks like parmenides. "retelling"--that's what happens with folk tales. they are never retold in quite the same way, but the process always involves a human mind glomming onto an old idea. i can't remember which thread we discussed it on, but i believe werner was alleging rather vehemently, even for him, that the entire business of a new idea is illusory.

evolutionary psychology isn't my thing, by the way, just something i've read about and found interesting. i met a certain ucsb prof at the last gordon party and somehow we got around to discussing this and he got very interested. it was in a different department at his university and he had never heard about it. ucsb and ucla seem to have a study group devoted to the subject which holds occasional symposia. my request to attend one a couple years ago went into the electronic equivalent of a round file, so i've paid less attention to their schtick. this husband-and-wife team, i'm sure, would be able to provide you data to warm your scientific heart, but i also suspect that many of their ideas found genesis in pillow talk.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 15, 2013 - 10:04am PT
TB: i think healyje's citation could bear a bit of analysis. female promiscuity would be off the chart at a hollywood party attended by an important producer, but nonexistent in certain remote mormon communities. of course, interpretation of raw data in the latter venue could easily be influenced by researcher bias.

Assertions of polyandry have nothing to do with sociology or psychology, but rather everything to the evolution of the human male and [particularly] female reproduction system relative to sperm competition.
cowpoke

climber
Jan 15, 2013 - 10:27am PT
For one of the better critiques of evolutionary psychology and, in turn, replies to that critique (and the reply to the replies), see Lickliter & Honeycutt's 2003 Psych Bull paper; it is, in many respects, the precursor to the empirical line of work getting attention in the NY Times article on dating and Darwin.

Here is the google scholar page with links to the pdf's: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=lickliter+evolutionary+psychology+&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C22&as_sdtp=

the heart of the matter (p. 829):
A developmental dynamics perspective allows researchers to abandon popular yet misleading metaphorical references to gene
action (e.g., genes as the storehouse of information or programs for development, genes as the overseers or regulators of development) in favor of characterizing gene activity as a molecular, intracellular event (Johnston & Edwards, 2002). Such an approach emphasizes the unpacking of the mechanics of developmental processes and would include (as first steps) coordinated interdisciplinary efforts to (a) systematically identify individual DNA sequences and their associated products, (b) determine the nongenetic factors involved in constructing and regulating the structure and function of the these products, (c) trace these products and their influence across the various levels of organization that make up the individual organism, and (d) determine how previous developmental outcomes and current experiences influence these processes in ecologically meaningful contexts (see Wagner, Chiu, & Laubichler, 2000, for a similar evo-devo view). The psychological sciences have much to offer in this effort, particularly to explain how previous developmental outcomes and current experiences influence these biological processes in specific contexts.

Viewing genes as reciprocal partners in the developmental processes underlying phenotypic traits and characters requires a shift
in the way the “environment” is typically characterized in discussions of both development and evolution. From a developmental
dynamics framework, the environment cannot be reduced to “supportive conditions” or to an abstract “poser of problems” that must be solved—both common perspectives within contemporary evolutionary psychology. Rather, the specific physical, biological, and social environments within which the individual organism develops are recognized to be inseparable parts of the developmental system. Hence, the organism and its environment are best characterized as codefining (Turvey & Shaw, 1995), and evolution can be seen to result from a dialectical interaction between organisms and environments through ontogeny (Levins & Lewontin, 1985). Attempts to rigidly dichotomize the contributions of the organism and its environment to development or evolution typically lead to the need to invoke other troubling and unnecessary dichotomies, including the nondevelopmental phylogenetic–ontogenetic causal framework reviewed in previous sections and widely embraced by evolutionary psychologists. Whereas such dichotomies have allowed evolutionary psychologists to virtually ignore developmental dynamics in their accounts of human development and behavior (by arguing that they are interested in phylogenetic rather than ontogenetic questions), we argue that evolutionary and developmental frameworks do not provide fundamentally different ways of explaining behavior. Rather, developmental processes are fundamental both to individual development and to evolutionary change.

Instead of asking reductionistic questions about the genetic basis of human development and behavior, a developmental dynamics
approach is interested in what are the contributions of the various components and levels of the organism–environment system and their interactions to phenotypic outcome. This empirically based unpacking of the mechanics of developmental processes requires going beyond the notion of the causal powers of the gene and focusing on the broader relational principles that govern and constrain development and evolution.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 15, 2013 - 11:19am PT
cowpoke,

So what did you glean from the above post?
cowpoke

climber
Jan 15, 2013 - 11:22am PT
^^which one?
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 15, 2013 - 11:23am PT
Any of them. Give me your own sense of it. Thanks.
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 15, 2013 - 11:25am PT
corn spirit, i'm the only guy authorized to complain about that. everyone else on supertopo takes the dumps from their friends as positive proof of everything they want to believe.
cowpoke

climber
Jan 15, 2013 - 11:34am PT
high fructose, my last post was primarily in response to the comments on using evolutionary psychology-ish approaches to understanding mating and dating behavior's such as Tony does here:
the evolutionary psychologists have come up with a great explanation for the battle of the sexes. men and women have differing interests, due to the very nature of gender, for forwarding their personal genes into spacetime. because men can potentially have an almost unlimited number of offspring, they tend to be promiscuous. women, on the other hand, produce one sex cell per month. if they become impregnated, it'll take nine months to produce a child, followed by weaning. most women don't want to bang 'em out once a year, in spite of the papal imperative. so more is not better for a woman. they tend to be choosy. their best strategy for long-term gene forwarding is to find a quality partner who will shelter and provide so's the progeny can be successful.
rather than responding directly to these type comments, I hope to add a consideration for critiques of the assumptions implicit in evolutionary psych (jumps taken, in part, because the discipline has the fundamental limit of having no fossil records of human behavior = sophisticated and informed speculation, but speculation nonetheless), more generally, and such statements, more specifically...in particular, the difficulty in disentangling evolutionary pressures and genotype from the dynamic interplay described by Linkliter and colleagues.
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Jan 15, 2013 - 11:38am PT
thanks for disentangling that, cowpoke. it's all perfectly clear now.
cowpoke

climber
Jan 15, 2013 - 12:20pm PT
OK, I'm being cryptic, primarily because my post was only intended to be background reading for anyone interested -- take it or leave it material -- and I was not intending to respond to any individual comments in the discussion. In connecting anything I post with "dumps from their friends as positive proof of everything they want to believe" you have both overestimated the extent to which I have friends here and the extent to which anyone takes my posts as proof of anything, let alone read my posts. That would take social capital, and I have none, here.

But, you've adequately baited me into a bit more, and I am persuaded by the ideas in the article to which I referred. So, let me take a shot at greater clarity by linking the article to one of your posts. To get there, you'll have to let me quote a bit more of the source and your comments, however.

Relevant (i.e., consistent with the author's argument on limits to evo psych) to the NY Times piece that was posted and in response to what I think you are arguing when you wrote things such as
due to the very nature of gender, for forwarding their personal genes into spacetime.

and
their best strategy for long-term gene forwarding is to find a quality partner who will shelter and provide so's the progeny can be successful.
I think Lickliter & Honeycutt are right on target when stating:
Like Mayr, most evolutionary psychologists argue for the heuristic value of the conceptual decoupling of proximate (ontogenetic)
and evolutionary (phylogenetic) levels of explanation (see Buss, 1999; Crawford, 1998; Daly & Wilson, 1978; Gaulin &
McBurney, 2002). Furthermore, most assume that evolutionary factors are somehow ontologically prior to and more fundamental
than proximate factors in directing phenotypic outcomes. This viewpoint is evident in nearly all current evolutionary accounts of
human behavior and development (but see Bjorklund & Pellegrini, 2002, for a well-developed exception). Lickliter and Berry (1990) termed this dichotomous conceptual framework the phylogeny fallacy. The phylogeny fallacy is based on the assumptions (a) that phylogeny and ontogeny are alternative processes by which information is made available to the developing individual and (b) that specification for an organism’s phenotype can exist independently and in advance of its real-time developmental processes (see also Ingold, 2001; Oyama, 1985). This framework is based (often implicitly) on a strong form of genetic predeterminism and ignores or downplays the fundamental role of developmental processes in the realization of all phenotypic characters or traits.

Ed, can correct me if wrong, but it seems to me that his question of "how do you know if that seemingly reasonable scenario isn't just a retelling of the ways things are, Tony?" is a concise way of asking you to consider the same fallacy that Linkliter is calling to your attention. To me your comments read as if you are making an assumption of selective pressure primacy in your explanation of human mating behavior. To do so, is problematic.

edit: in re-reading my post, I realized that to correctly use the "let alone" phrase, I should have written: "the extent to which anyone reads my posts, let alone takes my posts as proof of anything."
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 17, 2013 - 02:18pm PT
re: evolutionary ecology

Guinea worm symbiosis is an interesting evolution. It seems it is about to be eradicated once and for all.



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



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4kQWvUv_Ns

Parasites are another meaning to the "we are survival machines" idea.



So your foot feels like it's on fire - submerge it in this water.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 18, 2013 - 01:37am PT
Ed, can correct me if wrong, ...
you answer is better than my question, but yes, while it seems easy to make up some hypothesis regarding the origins of behavior it is more difficult to actually pin it on some bit of the genetic material.

The NYTimes came to the rescue today, though, Study Discovers DNA That Tells Mice How to Construct Their Homes
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/science/mouse-study-discovers-dna-that-controls-behavior.html

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v493/n7432/full/nature11816.html

Discrete genetic modules are responsible for complex burrow evolution in Peromyscus mice

Jesse N. Weber, Brant K. Peterson & Hopi E. Hoekstra

Relative to morphological traits, we know little about how genetics influence the evolution of complex behavioural differences in nature. It is unclear how the environment influences natural variation in heritable behaviour, and whether complex behavioural differences evolve through few genetic changes, each affecting many aspects of behaviour, or through the accumulation of several genetic changes that, when combined, give rise to behavioural complexity. Here we show that in nature, oldfield mice (Peromyscus polionotus) build complex burrows with long entrance and escape tunnels, and that burrow length is consistent across populations, although burrow depth varies with soil composition. This burrow architecture is in contrast with the small, simple burrows of its sister species, deer mice (P. maniculatus). When investigated under laboratory conditions, both species recapitulate their natural burrowing behaviour. Genetic crosses between the two species reveal that the derived burrows of oldfield mice are dominant and evolved through the addition of multiple genetic changes. In burrows built by first-generation backcross mice, entrance-tunnel length and the presence of an escape tunnel can be uncoupled, suggesting that these traits are modular. Quantitative trait locus analysis also indicates that tunnel length segregates as a complex trait, affected by at least three independent genetic regions, whereas the presence of an escape tunnel is associated with only a single locus. Together, these results suggest that complex behaviours—in this case, a classic ‘extended phenotype’—can evolve through multiple genetic changes each affecting distinct behaviour modules.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 18, 2013 - 05:35am PT
Assertions of polyandry have nothing to do with sociology or psychology, but rather everything to the evolution of the human male and [particularly] female reproduction system relative to sperm competition.


I think you are confusing terms here. Perhaps in an attempt to be politically correct and gender sensitive you are using the term polyandry instead of female promiscuity? Or perhaps biology uses the terms differently than anthropologists do? Either way it illustrates some of the complexities of sociobiological theory and the effect of socio-cultural decisions on human gene selection and evolution.

Polyandry as used by anthropologists is a type of marriage - multiple husbands, the mirror opposite of polygyny - multiple wives. Like all forms of marriage it can be co-related with subsistence type and mutual obligations - a long ways from a Hollywood party. Some 70% of the world's societies and probably an even larger percentage of males prefer polygyny. Polyandry by contrast is favored by less than 1% of societies and who knows how many women if they were to think about it and speak frankly?

Polyandry is primarily associated with marginal environments and the need to limit population. Traditionally it has been practiced by Eskimos, very high altitude mountain people, a few desert and island people, and some military societies where male mortality is high. The most widely practiced form is the marriage of 2 or 3 brothers to one wife. Three brothers sharing a wife will produce 1/3 as many children as would occur if each had his own. If practiced generation after generation, it causes the quality of the farm land to be increased through concentrated male labor and the number of mouths to fee to remain the same.

Fraternal polyandry in particular will limit the variety of male genes passed on, especially in a society that also has a large number of both male and female monastics. Since it is most widely practiced in areas of Tibetan cultural influence, it may even have been a factor in their rapid adaptation to extreme cold and altitude.

Polygyny will of course foster the genetic predominance of some men over others, and cousin marriage (1/3 of the world's recorded societies prefer to marry cousins) will have another effect. Brother sister matings definitely concentrate genes as the Inca and Hawaiian royalty as well as the Pharoahs and their successors the Ptolemys, demonstrated. Never underestimate human ability to manipulate nature under the guise of something else which is defined by culture.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 18, 2013 - 06:46am PT
Jan: Or perhaps biology uses the terms differently than anthropologists do?

Yes, it's more a PC thing in biology.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 18, 2013 - 07:55am PT
I appreciate the effort! It's hard for all of us to get it right, whatever that eventually turns out to be.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 18, 2013 - 09:16am PT
I gotta say, I love the animal studies. Both that last post by Ed and the last two or so by HFCS are the types of discoveries, grounded in the natural world, that I've always found so interesting about this subject. Dawkins, a zoologist, gives dozens of cool examples of animal behaviour in his various books. As HFCS noted, he is a big proponent that the organism is just a short-term host for genes, whose digital information can last 100s of millions of years.

On the other hand, I'm finding those epigenetic papers a little technical and hard to wrap my head around. If that was my introduction to this subject, I don't think that I would have the passion for it that I do. Having sad that, I'm determined to slog my way through this.
cowpoke

climber
Jan 18, 2013 - 09:53am PT
I think some of the more interesting new stuff on bidirectional gene-environment relations is the work on mind body interventions for health problems. There is a ton of randomized trial evidence now for a variety of interventions (and a variety of health problems): see, for example: http://www.jabfm.org/content/16/2/131.full

from the abstract:
there is considerable evidence of efficacy for several mind-body therapies in the treatment of coronary artery disease (eg, cardiac rehabilitation), headaches, insomnia, incontinence, chronic low back pain, disease and treatment-related symptoms of cancer, and improving postsurgical outcomes.


And, relevant to this discussion, many now believe that one important mechanism are the positive consequences of meditation, prayer, etc. on gene expression.

See, for example: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2818254/

We propose that clinical symptoms may be modified by mind-body therapies through several interrelated mechanisms, including: (a) activation of specific EHN structures, resulting in functional cortical (and subcortical) reorganization and improved interhemispheric balance; (b) more efficient cortical modulation of limbic and brainstem homeostatic centers and enhanced peripheral-central integration of information, expressed at the periphery as a change in autonomic (sympathovagal) balance and immune (pro-inflammatory cytokine profile) function; (c) re-patterning of primary interoceptive and higher-order homeostatic representations, resulting in more adaptive long-term psychophysiological responses as well as reduced expression of adverse symptoms; and (d) modulation of the epigenetic regulators (e.g., growth factors, hormones, histone function, DNA methylation) that can mediate cellular responses to environmental stress. In this way, mind-body therapies ameliorate symptoms via influence at multiple levels, from gene expression (cellular level) to the interaction of cortical brain regions that mediate systemic responses to internal and external challenges, including stress.
bookworm

Social climber
Falls Church, VA
Jan 18, 2013 - 10:30am PT
i can only speak to #1, and my answer is NO!

1) our obsession with germs is weakening our immune systems, which means we'll die at a faster rate than we reproduce...

2) which leads us to our culturally-induced slowing birth rate, which weakens the gene pool

3) technology also means more of a level playing field for the less intelligent, which weakens the gene pool

4) technology is making us dumber; we're losing basic survival skills
cowpoke

climber
Jan 18, 2013 - 10:38am PT
For those interested, more generally, in the relevance of epigentic processes for human behavior and development, there is a very nice 2005 Psych Bull review of epigentic inheritance: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic225800.files/epigenetic.pdf

Because Psych Bull is the top review journal in psychology, it is written for a generalist audience. Another reason I really like it is because the author generously cites Gilbert Gottlieb's theoretical work (IMO, Gottlieb is responsible for ending the nature/nuture debate among psychologists, by introducing epigenetic principles to the field.).

abstract:
Currently, behavioral development is thought to result from the interplay among genetic inheritance, congenital
characteristics, cultural contexts, and parental practices as they directly impact the individual. Evolutionary ecology points to another contributor, epigenetic inheritance, the transmission to offspring of parental phenotypic responses to environmental challenges—even when the young do not experience the challenges themselves. Genetic inheritance is not altered, gene expression is. Organismic pathways for such transmission
exist. Maternal stress during the latter half of a daughter’s gestation may affect not only the daughter’s but also grand-offspring’s physical growth. The author argues that temperamental variation may be influenced in the same way. Implications for theory and research design are presented along with testable predictions.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 18, 2013 - 11:16am PT
So far, my take is that epigenetics is not likely to have played a significant role in the long-term evolution of hominids (or anything else). Lamarck really was wrong and Darwin was right. Epigenetics is a sideshow.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 18, 2013 - 12:12pm PT
eeyonkee,
I'm finding those epigenetic papers a little technical and hard to wrap my head around. If that was my introduction to this subject, I don't think that I would have the passion for it that I do.

Agree, no doubt today's wealth of animal stories (studies) esp in terms of biology, evolution, ecology, synergy, anatomy and physiology are fascinating. On a personal note, certainly they contributed (over very many years now) to my own private modeling for how life works and for how the world works.

Regarding epigenetics, I get what you're saying. It is technical. Very. I took graduate level courses in biochemistry and molecular biology (core disciplines concerning epigenetics) and got As in them on a stiff curve. That was 25 years ago. But if I took these same courses today in the same institution and on the same curve without prep, I'd get solid F's. That to me illustrates how technical these fields are. And how advanced the play is. (Which ain't very appreciated by many, it seems.) Certainly 'Use it or lose it'applies. It sucks that this is so. So it's clear to me I can't get too involved in "epigenetics" or other leading edge efforts, let alone the controversies, let alone the subtle ones. I’m just not qualified given today's state of the art. Besides, other interests are vying for attention too, and regards posting here, who would be the audience? :)


Gotta say though, it is nice to have that basic edu (and those many years of serious study) behind me that allows me to question, to make some sense of the arguments going on today, and to check the social media bs once in awhile. As of course you know, there's a great shocking amount of it out there - esp in the mixed company known as the American public.


I agree about the passion part. I'm glad I experienced Dawkins (also the Great Sagan) when I did. It was nice to experience SG, TEP, TBW (and the Great's works) in the same years I worked in bioengineering and life sciences. I'll always be grateful for the way these men via their books and their art of explaining helped pulled together my own life experiences in science and engineering and nature into a coherent framework that has served as support for my own "practice" in the art of living. (Sure beats the stuffing out of the old bronze-aged one, don't it?)

By the way, regarding knowledge and expertise, oh what I'd give to have your 12 years or so experience in software engineering. :) I just think it would be one more great knowledge system to have in my brain right now with everything going on in today's world. Though an EE long ago, I'm just blown away - pretty much every day now - by the evolution of today's software systems. Astonishes me every time I think about it - how far it's come.

.....

Another interesting topic of evolution I think concerns our motivation systems (or interest systems) as we age. Many are inclined to think our innate interest or motivation declines with age more or less because of an accumulating buildup of "been there, done that." I mean, how many times do you want to hike the same mountain. 10x. 100x. It's only natural for interest to wane afer so many "rinse and repeat" cycles. "Law of Diminishing Returns." In part, this is probably true.

However I suspect there might be something more to it.

In evolutionary context. Mother Nature is smart, never ceasing to impress. I suspect there's a good chance our waning interest in things (or waning motivation to do) as we age is wired in or programmed (not unlike graying or thinning hair or wrinkling) to evince the balance, the very balance, we see in the population, the social group, the species, across individuals. Part of evolutionary strategy: if you're past reproductive age, you don't warrant upkeep. In the end this leads to the evolutionary robustness evolutionists talk about and also the majesties of Mother Nature that impress us all everywhere.

It's a harsh concept, otherwise, harsh fact of life. Can be. Especially for those of us participating, that is, for those of us getting older every day, lol. But then again it's all utterly fascinating as well. The consolation prize, I guess.

"you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking"
MH2

climber
Jan 18, 2013 - 02:15pm PT
Part of evolutionary strategy: if you're past reproductive age, you don't warrant upkeep.


It might be said more like this:

Once you are past an age where you make a difference to the reproductive prospects of your offspring then there is no selection for traits which would extend your life span.


There is good evidence, I believe, that at least in hunter/gatherer settings grandmothers contribute to nutritional support for their grandchildren, and maybe grandfathers do also, but there was speculation that this could be part of why women live longer than men. They contribute more in old age to the likelihood their genes will prosper.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 18, 2013 - 02:30pm PT
All good points. I see what you're saying.

Grandpa and grandpa... as extended phenotypes.

Another speculation, a harsh one: Elders are not so indispensible - as extended phenotypes - to the community (leading to stability and fitness) as they once were. Relatively speaking. Because now we - oops, I mean the gene pool, has books, let alone computers and internet clouds, to store (the stories of) our past. (re: Memory as an extended phenotype conferring fitness.)

.....

For fun, let me revise (not post in such egregious shorthand):

Part of evolutionary strategy: insofar as you pass reproductive age, your genes and their expression (and by extension, you) in the face of entropy aren't so necessary to "the reproductive prospects of your offspring" and so thus get less upkeep. :)




Actually, all this material leads me to think I should re-read basic evolutionary theory along with Dawkins books now that I'm in my 50s, not 30s. More than a little rusty.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 18, 2013 - 03:01pm PT
Cawpoke, thank you for the article. It is well worth reading.

Eeyonkee, I don’t agree that epigenetics is insignificant in the long term evolution of humans. Even though epigenetic inheritance is short lived it can help survive a positive mutation. From the article that Cawpoke posted:

the plasticity of the phenotype has again become recognized as a neglected—and probably key— element in the evolution of species (e.g., West-Eberhard, 2003). As Jablonca and Lamb (1995) pointed out, if selection— differential reproductive success— could occur only after the appearance of a novel mutation, as the process is traditionally envisioned, there is a high probability that the “hopeful monster” would be an isolate and therefore unlikely to reproduce. However, if there were existing genetic variation within a population that conferred different potentials to react to novel environmental conditions, there would be a pool of individuals varying in responsiveness—a condition favorable for selection to act on those best prepared to meet the exigencies of the situation.

Epigenetic effects can also increase the rate of mutation by for example exposing a gene to mutagens.
The complexity of expressing a single gene is enormous. Epigenetics sits right in the middle of it. It is hard to imagine it wouldn't effect genetic mutations.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 18, 2013 - 03:06pm PT
The prevalence of cancer in people beyond their active reproduction age is a good example of Mother Nature not caring about them (us). It seems like only yesterday that me and Mother Nature were tight. Now, I'm an afterthought.

"Thought I'd something more to say..."

moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 18, 2013 - 03:11pm PT
It seems like only yesterday that me and Mother Nature were tight. Now, I'm an afer thought.

Yep, sometimes I feel like I am past my expiration date ;/

I don't even possess the wisdom to pass onto the next generation anymore.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 18, 2013 - 03:31pm PT
No worries, it's now in books. ;)


And, of course, in cyberspace... the ultimate extended phenotype. Right?

.....

The sun is the same in a relative way, but we're older.

And shorter of breath...
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 18, 2013 - 03:44pm PT
BTW, I meant afterthought. So then I got to thinking, I wonder how many children Ghengis Khan had after the age of, say, 55? I'm guessing, a lot (I'll look up whether he lived that long later). Hopefully I can do something with this factoid if it turns out to be what I think. I know. I'll try an offwidth harder than any I've tried to date (oh wait, been down that route already). Hmmm, that leaves either:
1)impregnating as many women as I can as fast as I can, or
2) something else, something I'm missing...

Cyberspace is a great example of an extended phenotype.
cowpoke

climber
Jan 18, 2013 - 07:53pm PT
Another study that is indirectly relevant to the OP question on altruism was published recently in Psych Science, the field's top empirical journal. It doesn't speak directly to questions of the evolution of altruism, but I think some will find it interesting nonetheless because it deals with altruism following an extraordinary event: huge earthquake in China.

Here is a link to the American Psych Society (the org for which the journal is their flagship) coverage of the article: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/were-only-human/unshakable-humanity-altruism-and-disaster.html

the paper is still "in press" but I will update once published, if there is interest.

for those who don't like to click, a big part of the story is:
Altruism is considered a hallmark of the human species’ success, and it’s a well-documented developmental milestone. Kids start off highly selfish and remain that way through preschool, but at about age six they start to become a bit more generous. This pattern, however, has only been studied in relatively affluent kids living in relatively peaceful circumstances. It’s entirely unknown if children would continue to act altruistically in the face of adversity. Will the precocious altruism of childhood survive severe tribulation, or will kids revert back to their earlier self-centeredness? The Sichuan earthquake provided a natural “stress test” to examine the strength of youthful generosity.

Before the earthquake hit, the scientists had given 6- and 9-year-old a version of what’s called the Dictator Game—considered the gold standard for measuring altruism in the lab. Working individually with a researcher, each child is allowed to select stickers to keep. But then afterward, they are asked if they would like to give some of their own stickers to an anonymous classmate who is not playing the game—and therefore has no stickers. The children make their donations in a sealed envelope, so they believe that nobody knows how much, if anything, they are giving away.

But the scientists do know, and this group of kids fit the normal pattern. That is, 6- and 9-year-olds were not significantly different in their altruistic giving in the time before the earthquake. Then, one month after the earthquake, the scientists gave the same test to another, similar group of 6- and 9-year-olds. (They couldn’t follow up with the same children, because they could not locate many of them.) They wanted to see if the normal development of altruism was affected by the disaster experience, in either age group.

And it was, in an interesting way. The 9-year-olds actually gave much more—they were more generous—after the earthquake than before. The experience appeared to solidify and indeed enhance their altruism. But the younger kids gave significantly less than before the quake. The immediate effect of the disaster was to make the 6-year-olds more selfish. Put another way, their new-found altruism did not survive the earthquake.
...
Three years after the earthquake, the kids’ altruistic giving returned to pre-quake levels, suggesting that the earlier changes were an acute response to the immediate aftermath of the disaster. In other words, the younger children opted for self-preservation in a crisis, suggesting that their emerging generosity is still fragile—but this reaction was not long-lasting. The altruism of the older children was apparently robust enough to withstand the challenge of adversity. Importantly, empathy for other victims was the pathway to generous action.
MH2

climber
Jan 18, 2013 - 08:58pm PT
So then I got to thinking, I wonder how many children Ghengis Khan had after the age of, say, 55?



Yeah, there is that idea that he had a lot of descendants. I was pretty sure that a couple of my Polish work colleagues had some of his genes but wondered where the scientists got hold of the Ghengis Khan DNA. Apparently the evidence is less direct but still compelling.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/02/0214_030214_genghis.html
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 19, 2013 - 04:21am PT
Algae with behavior (cheating, cooperation)...

High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 19, 2013 - 11:10am PT
Interesting topic?

In the pleistocene, cheaters were banished from the group. Alone, facing the wild, this often meant a pretty quick death. Sometimes the cheater's offspring were banished too.

Harsh, yes, but it was an effective gene-trait honing mechanism - selecting against lying, for instance, and selecting for truthfulness.

In comparison, in this user-friendly, incl cheater-friendly, liar-friendly, modern environment (and wide-open civilization) that we've created for ourselves, there are no serious checks relatively speaking on what evolutionary game theory calls defectors (aka, cheaters, liars, deceivers).

In short, the cheating genes of cheaters are permitted (by our civilized nature) to multiply unchecked.

Is this a concern?

.....

Is this yet another example where it seems... We are damned if we do and damned if we don't?

And if so, how do we work this idea or principle into a narrative, esp an inspiring, empowering narrative - for our playbook of living in the modern age?

Or, is there just no escape: You can put something of a civilizing cover over it for awhile (cf: lipstick on a pig) but below, underneath, the "born to lose" entropy runs strong as ever.

.....

Life strategy: Don't concern yourself with the next millenium. Don't concern yourself with the next continent over. It's all just way too complicated, unpredictable, and uncontrollable. So just enjoy the power of now. :)
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 19, 2013 - 01:05pm PT
it's weird to read this thread, in particular given the time scale of evolution which is very long, not something done in a generation.

For instance, the thought that the chimpanzees' and humans' common ancestor dates back roughly 10 million years, representing perhaps 100,000 generations of which we commonly experience 3 or maybe 4... and that our current social situation, large populations living in large groups, has happened only very recently, perhaps in the last 10,000 years (of order 1000 generations?) would seem to put in context the action of an individual in a group, that is, evolution takes place over long time periods.

How you reconcile that with individual behavior and come up with some "reasonable story" of the effects of evolution is beyond me. How to discern the fitness landscape, separate from our own cultural dispositions, is truly a difficult task.

As an aside, a funny thing happened on Friday when I was reviewing "negative binomial distributions" see, e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_binomial_distribution for entirely different, work related issues.

see the section there on Polygyny in African societies

convergent evolved thoughts?
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 19, 2013 - 01:14pm PT
Ed, have you read The Selfish Gene or The Extended Phenotype? If so, what was your impression of these? Any thoughts? e.g., Thumbs up or thumbs down?

.....


Aside, will Wikivoyage (just launched)...

http://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Main_Page

...eventually cover rock climbing sites and routes? and eventually compete with supertopo.com? Oh, my. :)

Rick Steves, Europe Through the Back Door, better watch out, lol.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 19, 2013 - 01:18pm PT
HFCS - no I haven't, probably should... I'm sure Debbie has some good popular books hanging 'round here from/for her classes...

healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 19, 2013 - 01:22pm PT
Altruistic slime molds

High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 19, 2013 - 03:55pm PT
Part of the disconnect - that's always been some of my interest - is that most people, even probably most self-defined evolutionists (believers or supporters of evolution) don't see (1) evolution as mechanistic and causal deterministic through and through and (2) impulses or inclinations (like altruism, or competitivity or tendency to cheat) as evolutionary products evolved over a long evolutionary history.

What does being an evolutionist mean?

Imo, being a full-on evolutionist means (a) understanding that evolution is fully mechanistic, (b) understanding that all mental faculties and tendencies (and not just sexual orientation or sexual drive, ie., lust), and not just spleens and hearts and eye and skin color, are evolutionary output.

Unfortunately, I don't see a voting majority in America coming around to this full-on standing, or stance in belief, for a long long time if ever.

But on a positive note I do see a lot more young people coming around to basic evolutionary theory - even if they haven't worked out most of its implications for a brand new view of life and the world.

.....

re: Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

I could've mentioned this book, too, as helping to pull together my basic thinking in an evolutionary naturalistic framework.

From wiki...

"Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is a thrilling saga that starts with the origin of the Earth. It shows with humor and drama that many of our key traits — self-awareness, technology, family ties, submission to authority, hatred for those a little different from ourselves, reason, and ethics — are rooted in the deep past, and illuminated by our kinship with other animals.

"Sagan and Druyan conduct a breathtaking journey through space and time, zeroing in on critical turning points in evolutionary history, and tracing the origins of sex, altruism, violence, rape, and dominance. Their book culminates in a stunningly original examination of the connection between primate and human traits. Astonishing in scope, brilliant in its insights, and an absolutely compelling read, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is a triumph of popular science."



SoFA certainly contributed to my own tectonic shift in thinking in my 20s and 30s, my later formative years.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 19, 2013 - 04:24pm PT
...at least we can conclude that slime molds are probably not Republican.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 19, 2013 - 06:55pm PT
Ed's reference from Wiki on binomials and African polygyny is interesting to me because of the different vocabulary used to describe a familiar subject. What strikes me most about it however, is that it is descriptive but not explanatory.

Here's from a popular anthropology tutorial on kinship and marriage.
http://www.umanitoba.ca/faculties/arts/anthropology/tutor/marriage/polygyny.html

Demographic theory suggests that polygyny may occur because of a surplus of women that results from a high incidence of male warfare. However, polygyny occurs in many situations of relatively balanced gender ratios or even, as in the case of the Yanomamo, where males outnumber females. Accordingly, some men accumulate two or more wives only at the expense of others who never marry, or, much more usually, marry at a later age than women do. As such, the society becomes divided between young bachelors, who may remain single into their thirties and older polygynists. This arrangement may occur informally or may become a marked feature of the social structure. For example, in some South African societies, such as the Zulu, all young men in their twenties were organized into military “age regiments” and were not allowed to marry until their term of service ended. As we have already suggested, differences in marital age are also created by bride wealth requirements.

The social division between polygynists and bachelors points to another prevalent theory of polygyny, which is based on social stratification. In societies where men are not distinguished by differences in access to productive resources, such as land and capital, status distinctions are mainly attained and expressed through direct control over people. This goal is most obviously acheived through incorporating many women into one’s domestic group and expanding it by fathering a large number of children. A stratificational theory of polygyny also accounts for its greater incidence in comparison to polyandry, since men tend to occupy higher statuses than women in the majority of societies.


From a strictly biological interpretation, I believe one would argue that dominant men who also happen to be lucky and survive warfare early in life, seek to maximize their genes through polygyny, status being only secondary?

Then again, it seems from the woman's point of view that while the smart old boy's club invented these institutions, subsequent generations of men got so entangled in maintaining status, the original point was lost on all of the participants.

And couldn't this be said for any human institution including religion?
cowpoke

climber
Jan 20, 2013 - 04:00pm PT
OK, here is a silly thing bugging me about the algae news release. I find it strange that in the science daily press release for the "cheating" algae the authors use a comparison to group behaviors like schools of fish. This is a poor analogy, IMO, because unlike the authors suggest in the release, it is not necessary that all algae in the group release the toxin (such as they say is required of schools of fish...side question: is it true that there are no individual fish who benefit from the school by swimming close enough, without fully participating in the school?). For these algae to be successful, as a group, it is only necessary that there is a critical mass of participants. Indeed, isn't the critical mass notion precisely why they observe "free riders?" My opinion on this sales strategy is not critiquing the study, per se; I'm just thrown (and being nitpicky) by the authors' interpretations of why they think the study is important. (Another side note: I am totally in favor of scientists publicizing their work. And, to do so well, you have to have a good story to sell the consumer. In this case, I would think a better story would have been to focus on the fact that in many group behaviors it is critical mass that is important, not 100% buy in.)
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 22, 2013 - 03:33pm PT
Interesting topics? How about this one...

A Harvard geneticist has raised eyebrows by declaring that scientists could make a Neanderthal clone baby if they had an "extremely adventurous female human" as a surrogate.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/harvard-prof-neanderthal-clones-experts-doubt/story?id=18275611

But experts say that safety and ethical hang-ups mean the first Neanderthal birth in 30,000 years is probably fiction, too.

What ethical hang-ups?
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jan 22, 2013 - 03:53pm PT
Carl Woese, evolutionary biologist of note, has died at 84.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 22, 2013 - 04:07pm PT
What ethical hangups ?

Bringing back one Neanderthal? What are you going to do, make a pet out of the poor thing?

They survived several ice ages, kept handicapped people alive and buried their children with flowers, so we know they were intelligent and sensitive. No doubt one neanderthal would feel lonely and probably have an inferiority complex because it was different than others and may or may not have the capacity to communicate with language. While keeping Washoe, the last Indian of his tribe at the U of California anthropology museum was interesting for western scientists, he led a very lonely life and he was a homo sapiens.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 22, 2013 - 04:09pm PT
How about this one:

New Life-Forms, No DNA Required Artificial

organisms based on man-made molecules could thrive and evolve

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/2961024/posts
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 22, 2013 - 08:25pm PT
Bringing back one Neanderthal? What are you going to do, make a pet out of the poor thing?

What, Jan, don't you think the benefits would far, far, far outweigh the risks?
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 22, 2013 - 08:55pm PT
As far as I know, nobody cloned a human yet. Most people see it either too risky or unethical. It will probably happen in the future, but I don't think a neanderthal will ever be cloned. That would be something similar to Nazis' experiments on humans. Neanderthals are our ancestors but would they be able to adapt to our modern world? What if not? Would you keep him/her in a cage? Scientific curiosity can't justify it.

High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 22, 2013 - 10:11pm PT
As we mature in our thinking about evolution and genetics...



...we will learn to distinguish between responsible eugenics and irresponsible eugenics.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 22, 2013 - 11:09pm PT
Oh sure...the Boobs thread gets deleted and now my thread gets a few hits. Come to think of it, wonder what the whole story on the evolution of boobs is. Is their currect, glorious expression primarily the result of sexual or "natural" selection?
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 23, 2013 - 12:59am PT
but I don't think a neanderthal will ever be cloned. That would be something similar to Nazis' experiments on humans.

On what do you base the first assertion?

It is my belief in our humanity (naïve? maybe).

The Nazi comparison is absurd on the face of it.

Nazis experimented on humans for the benefit of many. I don’t see a difference between their philosophy and experimental cloning of a Neanderthal.

Neanderthals are our ancestors

That is only partially true.

Semantics.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Jan 23, 2013 - 09:20am PT
Is their currect, glorious expression primarily the result of sexual or "natural" selection?

Surgical, I'd say.

DMR
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Jan 23, 2013 - 09:27am PT
Hellyeah let's clone an extinct primate species I mean, think of the benefit!!! (lol)



Here's the Program Director



Think of the benefits, people!

DMT
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 23, 2013 - 10:00am PT
Serious students of evolution should check out this review of Thomas Nagel's latest book in the NYR.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/feb/07/awaiting-new-darwin/


From Allen Orr, the book reviewer,
"a scientific education is, to a considerable extent, an exercise in taming the authority of one’s intuition."

Ain't that the truth.

.....

Thomas Nagel,
The existence of consciousness seems to imply that the physical description of the universe, in spite of its richness and explanatory power, is only part of the truth,

So it "seems" to him. Perhaps this is why Nagel ended up a philosopher instead of a engineer, a bioengineer. (??)

In my (science and engineering-driven) view (shared by others) the existence of consciousness does NOT imply that the physical description of the universe is only part of the truth.

And in the very next sentence, Nagel adds...
[The existence of consciousness seems to imply that] the natural order is far less austere than it would be if physics and chemistry accounted for everything.


My view is, Nagel needs to expand his view beyond physics and chemistry to biology and bioengineering (in other words, to the sciences of how parts and systems interrelate and function synergistically to yield, in the end, useful functionality - not unlike computers, electronics and the internet.

In short, Nagel needs to think less like the ol' time philosopher and more like a computer-literate, information theory-savvy systems analyst or engineer.

What cowboy, even library scholar or librarian, 100 years ago could've conceived that 10,000 books would in the next century be rendered on a piece of plastic or sand? Or that a Go-Pro could render the day's climb start to finish - in HD no less - on same? All ultimately on a basis of physics, of course; and in between on a basis of parts, systems and synergy.

It's not "just" physics and chemistry. It's physics and chemistry and systems (of parts and wholes and interconnects) evolved over millions of years, extant only because their traits (features if not functions) confer existability.

T Nagel needs to either retire or go back to school.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 23, 2013 - 01:49pm PT
Another interesting topic: the evolution of hormonal mechanisms in cooperation strategies.

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/280/1755/20122765.abstract.html?cpetoc

I know I've suspected it a long time now. And, btw, strangely, an image that always seems to come to mind when I think about this subject: seeing a male giraffe giving oral sex to another (a female I presumed) at a zoo some 20 years ago.

I'd bet for every one we know a little something about, there are 50 others we know nothing about. We are sacks of biochemistry, not just molecular biology, evolved into stable structures over billions of years. So says evolutionary biology!

.....

eeyonkee, I've always been more into legs, ass and hips than boobs. I consider it a strength. :)
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 23, 2013 - 03:34pm PT
Oxitocin is old news.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2183953/Oxytocin-Nose-happiness-Doctors-discover-nasal-spray-stop-couples-having-heated-arguments.html

I've always been more into legs, ass and hips than boobs

You probably carry an anti-boob mutation. Nothing serious, but think about your offspring :)
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 26, 2013 - 07:18pm PT
eeyonkee, here's a short video of Steven Pinker, "Better Angels," you might like.

http://vimeo.com/58059626

Steven Pinker's the man.



Tag: Interesting Topics of Evolution / Cultural Evolution / A History of Violence

.....

Oxitocin is old news.

Oxytocin is just one of many many players, as I'm sure you know, in the endocrine control system of bodies and behavior.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 26, 2013 - 07:50pm PT
eeyonkee, here's a short video of Steven Pinker, "Better Angels," you might like.

Can I watch it too?


oops, I already did.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 26, 2013 - 08:31pm PT
Nice find, HFCS. I don't know who I like best, Steven Pinker or Richard Dawkins. They are both such great writers and thinkers. I've been reading three of Pinker's books over the last couple of months. The other two being "The Blank Slate" and "How the Mind Works". Just started reading two of Dawkin's books again, "River out of Eden" and "The Blind Watchmaker". Reading any of these books makes you feel smart.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 28, 2013 - 10:15pm PT
re: Interesting topics

There seems to be a robust (but somewhat hushed) debate over just how long (5 generations or 50 or 500) it will take to "dumb down" to the proverbial dodo bird equivalent or eyeless salamander now that we've made our environment from sea o shining sea a relatively soft place to fall - and, of course, to reproduce - thanks to medicine, social welfare, modern law and democracies, etc..

In other words, just how long will it take the forces of entropy to dull the gene pool - first, enough to notice, and later, enough to cause problems - in the absence of Nature Past's red in tooth and claw honing pressures.

Of course the evolved features likely affected in our case won't be wings (dodo bird or galapagos cormorant) as much as physical prowess (speed, musculature) and brains. Eyes, too.

Needless to say, I'd be more concerned with this implication of evolutionary theory and genetics (maybe even eugenics) and technology and ethics if I were going to be around 500 years from now. I won't be.

Nonetheless it's interesting I think to think about.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 28, 2013 - 10:20pm PT
It's not "just" physics and chemistry.

that's right, it is only physics... which describes everything else.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 28, 2013 - 10:24pm PT
that's right, it is only physics...

You need to change your perspective, my man.

Your recent ice climbing experience, for instance, wasn't "just" physics or "only" physics. To name just one other item, it was also actin and myosin filaments interacting in a metabolic matrix. This needs to be appreciated, too.

Along with other so-called "levels of explanation" or "levels of operation."

That was the point, Mr High Energy Physics man.
part-time communist

Mountain climber
Jan 28, 2013 - 10:25pm PT
needs to think less like the ol' time philosopher and more like a computer-literate, information theory-savvy systems analyst or engineer.


that's why we have analytic philosophy. The dominant branch of philosophy these days.
part-time communist

Mountain climber
Jan 28, 2013 - 10:33pm PT
Has anyone seen this article? I thought it was amusing. I saw it when someone posted it on facebook a while back

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/4575024/Youll-have-smaller-brains-more-wrinkles-and-fewer-teeth.html


I would say its safe to say that technological advancement, at an advanced enough level, will allow us to shape our own fate with the ability to tinker with genetics.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 28, 2013 - 10:43pm PT
Yeah, note your qualifier there...

at an advanced enough level

We can hope. ;)
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 28, 2013 - 10:54pm PT
I think that troll on p2 of High on Boulder bit me...

you seemed to take the bait HFCS, and rather quickly... oh, do you ever post on climbing threads? or started a climbing thread? I forget...
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 28, 2013 - 11:04pm PT
lol! :)
cowpoke

climber
Jan 29, 2013 - 09:34am PT
Steven Pinker's the man.
He likes the Red Sox, at least.

He is brilliant man and a fabulous writer, but I would urge those reading him to apply some skepticism concerning his framing and extensions of the science. For public intellectuals, in general, there is a temptation to exaggerate and oversimplify. And, while Pinker is rightly adored for his contributions and his tremendously positive impact on psychological science, he has been accused of this behavior. I think fairly so. He is, no doubt, not the only offender, but I do empathize with those who find frustrating his playing up of controversy and his skipping over some of the nuance of what we don't understand and why we don't understand it. And, I should point out these criticisms are the same type of criticisms being leveled more generally at speculations among evolutionary psychologists and are directly relevant to my (and Ed's) earlier posts in this thread responding to those using evolutionary theory to interpret contemporary observed behaviors (e.g., in mating).

Here, for example, is a review from Science (297.5590, Sept. 27, 2002) of The Blank Slate by Patrick Bateson, Emeritus Professor of Ethology at Cambridge:

The Blank Slate The Modern-Denial of Human Nature

by Steven Pinker

Viking, New York, 2002. 527 pp. $27.95. ISBN 0-670-03151-8.

Is it really the case that, as Steven Pinker claims in The Blank Slate, the biological underpinning of human behavior is denied by most people? Almost daily we are told about genes for maternal behavior, promiscuity, homosexuality, language, and much else. Certainly, the simplistic idea of a straightforward pathway from gene to behavior has had its severe critics (quite properly, in my view): genes code for proteins, not behavior. However, the center of that academic debate is not about whether genes influence behavior but rather how they do so. Pinker is concerned with a very different debate between the natural and the social sciences. He argues that the social sciences are dominated by a belief that all of each individual's characteristics are generated by that person's experience. This looks like a caricature to me, one used to sustain yet another round of the tedious and increasingly irrelevant nature-nurture debate. It is all too easy to pour scorn on stupid arguments or on those people suffering from cultural lag, and Pinker should have resisted this temptation. He undoubtedly writes well and is able to express complex ideas in ways that make them intelligible to lay people. Yet too frequently he overstates his case.

Pinker bases his charge against the naive social scientist on three strands of current scientific inquiry: cognitive psychology, behavior genetics, and evolutionary psychology. The cognitive psychologists have uncovered rules that underlie and generate highly complex behavior. No quarrel with that. But to argue that the rules are, therefore, the basis of "real" human nature is to miss a crucial point. Chess has clear rules, which can be explained to a child. Yet, the interest and the richness of the game lie in what can be generated by those rules.

Behavioral genetics has established beyond all reasonable doubt that many individual differences in behavior can be attributed to genetic differences. However, the notion that the variability in behavior can be partitioned into genetic and environmental components is utterly misleading. Doing so ignores the rich and crucial interplay between the developing individual and his or her social and physical world. The estimates of heritability, with which Pinker seems completely comfortable, depend on the population of individuals and the range of environments sampled. Worse, the effects of a particular set of genes depend critically on the environment in which they are expressed, while the effects of a particular sort of environment depend on the individual's genes. Finally, heritability estimates say nothing about the ways in which genes and environment contribute to the biological and psychological processes of development. Walking on two legs is a fundamental property of being human, and it is one of the more obvious biological differences between humans and other great apes such as chimpanzees or gorillas. Although it depends heavily on genes, it has a heritability of zero because human variability in this respect depends on the vagaries of the environment. Pinker appears to miss the irony that the dependence of high heritibilities on human diversity conflicts with conclusions from the other modern subject he draws on for his attack on the social scientists--the evidence for human universals derived from the work by evolutionary psychologists.

Like many biologists, I regard proposals about the evolution and current utility of behavior as helpful in making sense of behavior. But it does not follow that all examples of present-day behaviors that clearly benefit the individual in the modern world are products of evolution. The combination of oral linguistic ability and manual dexterity, both of which are doubtless derived from past evolutionary pressures, generated written language in several parts of the world in the last 6000 years. IT is not at all likely that the different forms of written language are adaptive in the sense of having been shaped by Darwinian evolution. Moreover, proposals about past evolutionary pressures or current utility must leave open the question of how the behavior develops. Whether or not an individual's development involves some "instruction" from a normally stable feature of the environment, or whether it would be changed by altering the prevailing social and physical environment, cannot be deduced from even the most plausible evolutionary or functional argument.

Part of the problem is that Pinker is so vague in his use of the term instinct, on which much of his conception of human nature depends. Apart from its colloquial uses, the term instinct has at least nine scientific meanings: present at birth (or at a particular stage of development), not learned, developed before it can be used, unchanged once developed, shared by all members of the species (or at least of the same sex and age), organized into a distinct behavioral system (such as foraging), served by a distinct neural module, adapted during evolution, and differences among individuals that are due to their possession of different genes. One use does not necessarily imply another even though people often assume, without evidence, that it does. Behavior that has probably been shaped by Darwinian evolution and appears, ready-formed, without opportunities for learning may be changed in form and the circumstances of expression by subsequent experience. The human smile is a good example. This matters because what Pinker happily calls human nature is in reality individual nature and depends critically on the circumstances of that person's life.

Where do these shortcomings in the argument leave Pinker's thesis about human nature? In poor shape in my view. Saloon-bar assertions do not lead to the balanced discussion that should be generated on a topic as important as this one, and they do a disservice to the really powerful biological arguments that can be deployed. Furthermore, the misplaced combative style delays the honest synthesis Pinker professes he wants so much. I fear that The Blank Slate will become a happy hunting ground for the social scientists already predisposed to be skeptical about evolutionary thinking and that the wretched unnecessary debate over human nature is due for yet another silly round.

two edits: I failed to mention the title of the book review, The Corpse of a Wearisome Debate, and I should have correctly identified the author as Sir Patrick Bateson.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 29, 2013 - 09:57am PT
Not sure of your point here.

No doubt the fields relating to evolution theory and its implications for humanity have been full of controversy and debate going back decades and decades now.

Indeed, it's Steven Pinker's artful handling of the subjects, the controversies, and the particular PUSH FORWARD he reps for esp through the rolling hills of bullshit (btw, not unlike Dawkins') that explains his popularity and following.

The whole shebang is steeped in history, and the latter in controversy. Curious how long you've been following along. My attention to Dawkins, Stevens, and evolutionary theory and its implications vis a vis culture goes back 30 years now. Even the recent history, something like a soap opera, is full of story, drama.

.....

Speaking of culture and change, here's a kid making a name for himself...
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zack-kopplin/science-funding-obama_b_2545952.html

.....

To this day, one of the clearest, most information-rich dialogs I've heard from Steven Pinker is starts here...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17nI3Bxtzeo

The interviewer, Robert Wright, is no slouch either.

.....

EDIT re: Patrick Bateson
http://www.edge.org/q2008/q08_8.html#bateson
cowpoke

climber
Jan 29, 2013 - 10:30am PT
High Fructose Corn Spirit wrote:
Not sure of your point here.

No doubt the fields relating to evolution theory and its implications for humanity have been full of controversy and debate going back decades and decades now.

Indeed, it's Steven Pinker's artful handling of the subjects, the controversies, and the particular PUSH FORWARD he reps for esp through the rolling hills of bullshit (btw, not unlike Dawkins') explains his following.

I agree, you are missing the point of my post and the book review. The title of the book review (although stated more harshly than I would have) nearly says it all. No reasonable person denies that there used to be a debate. The critique of Pinker's public intellectual work centers around the extent to which there still is a debate among scholars, and the extent to which we can (or cannot, to be more precise) make inferences about the evolution of innate behavior from sources such as behavioral genetic studies of heritability (i.e., proportion of variance explained by genes for observed behaviors using, for example, twin and adoption studies) and the extent to which a behavior is functionally adaptive to contemporary environmental constraints and opportunities.

High Fructose Corn Spirit wrote:
The whole shebang is steeped in history, and the latter in controversy. Curious how long you've been following along. My attention to Dawkins, Stevens, and evolutionary theory and its implications vis a vis culture goes back 30 years now. Even the recent history, something like a soap opera, is full of story.

Props for "following along" much longer than I have. 30 years ago, I was worried about: (a) passing 9th grade earth science by the skin of my teeth, (b) pimples, (c) girls, and (d) trying to play guitar just like Pete Townsend...albeit rarely in that order.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Jan 29, 2013 - 10:43am PT
Saloon-bar assertions

What? you mean like what goes on here 9 times out of ten?

Say it aint so!

edit: in retrospect and lest I be accused of just another saloon bar assertion, I refer to ST in general not so much this thread, which seems generally pretty well thought out and damn interesting and hardly drunk at all (excepting friday nights). Which perhaps explains why I usually just listen and keep my mouth shut. Anyway, I just loved that saloon -bar thing

Carry on!
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 29, 2013 - 12:52pm PT
A perfect example of how the public can get evolutionary theory and even memes wrong...

is illustrated in yesterday's interview of Alex Honnold by Joe Rogan when Joe starts talking about fear of spiders, instincts, etc. and expresses his thoughts on it. He's close but off, no cigar. Meanwhile, Alex struck me as being fully in the know on both genes and memes.

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/28885845

Spider fear and memes start about 45 minute mark.

As an aside: worthy interview, lots of good stuff.
scuffy b

climber
heading slowly NNW
Jan 29, 2013 - 01:13pm PT
I recall watching a couple of little kids being taught to fear spiders,
by their slightly older siblings and cousins. Up to that point, the poor
tykes thought spiders were pretty interesting.
cowpoke

climber
Jan 29, 2013 - 02:09pm PT
High Fructose Corn Spirit:
[quote]EDIT re: Patrick Bateson
http://www.edge.org/q2008/q08_8.html#bateson[/quote]

As your link indicates: Patrick Bateson is, like his good friend Richard Dawkins, an atheist. Did you post this because you see it as relevant to his critique of Pinker?

Regardless, it is interesting that via the link you have connected the thread back to Dawkins. Despite having tremendous respect for Dawkins and his work and agreeing with 95% of the propositions that Dawkins has laid out in his work (and despite both men reporting that they are friends), Bateson remains an ardent critic of the remaining 5% related to the role of environment in evolution. And, here, I would agree that there remains thoughtful, on-going disagreement (unlike the antiquated nature-nurture debate that Bateson accuses Pinker of relying on to provoke readers).

While given your expertise and long time studying these matters, HFCS, you must be intimately familiar with the disagreements between Dawkins and Bateson much more than am I, others here may be interested in a summary of the disagreement (from Bateson's point of view) in the book celebrating Dawkins and the 30th anniversary of The Selfish Gene: Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think

The conclusion of Bateson’s chapter provides a summary of his critique (pp. 174-175):

"Darwinian evolution operates on characters that have developed within a particular set of conditions. If those conditions are stable for many generations then the evolutionary changes that matter will arise in the way that Richard has so clearly and carefully described. Apparent design is produced, even when it is at the end of the long and complicated process of development. But the environment does not cease to be important for evolution just because it remains constant. Change the environment and the outcome of an individual’s development may be utterly different. Indeed, if an individual does not inherit its parents’ environment along with their genes and other transmittable factors, it may not be well adapted to the conditions in which it now finds itself. But the altered environmental conditions may throw up variation that was previously hidden and from that may spring new lines of evolution. Active choice and active control by the organism together with its own adaptability may all be important additional drivers of evolutionary change. These possibilities do not conflict with the ideas about the evolution of apparent design, which Richard describes so well, but they can explain why sudden changes in direction can and obviously did occur over the long span of biological evolution."

On the topic of critiquing and questioning important details within the paradigm-shifting arguments and ideas of great minds like Pinker and Dawkins, I say "hear, hear!" to Bateson's conclusion in his chapter celebrating and honoring Dawkins in Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think (p.174)

"It is comforting to be praised, and Richard certainly deserves heaps of praise. Even so, constructive criticism should also be seen as flattery and may be more stimulating...Just because I admire the clarity and brilliance of his writing, I think it is appropriate to identify where Richard might have led others astray by the very gifts that have made him justifiably famous."
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 30, 2013 - 11:59am PT
Cowpoke, in your quote there, I don't think Dawkins would disagree with any of it. Not regarding hidden variation, for instance, or active control, etc.

I linked to Bateson there because I was led to his edge essay in the process of reviewing who he was.

Nice to see you're poking around in these matters. :)
.....

Speaking of radically altered environmental conditions: Adapt or be marginalized.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html?smid=tw-NYTimesFriedman&seid=auto&_r=0

How to adapt? It will require more individual initiative. We know that it will be vital to have more of the “right” education than less, that you will need to develop skills that are complementary to technology rather than ones that can be easily replaced by it...
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 31, 2013 - 02:27pm PT
This is an asteroid hunter appreciation post.



http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/sciencefair/2013/01/29/asteroid-flyby-february/1875121/

Thanks for your help in keeping our progressive evolution (aka Ascent of Man) on track.

Two earth diameters away is a pretty close shave, I'd say. Recall Meteor Crater in Az.

.....

re: individual selection vs group selection

Ouch! Jerry Coyne comes down hard on my other hero: E.O. Wilson...

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/
31jan2013 entry
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Feb 5, 2013 - 01:30am PT
here are some thought provoking articles that may be interesting to this thread:

The new biology: beyond the Modern Synthesis

Michael R Rose and Todd H Oakley
http://www.biology-direct.com/content/pdf/1745-6150-2-30.pdf

DO WE NEED AN EXTENDED EVOLUTIONARY SYNTHESIS?

Massimo Pigliucci
http://www.nespolo.cl/LECTURAS/Clase%200_Pigliucci%202007-Evolution-EES%207pp.pdf

Developmental plasticity and the origin of species differences

Mary Jane West-Eberhard
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1131862/
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Feb 5, 2013 - 05:31am PT
I'm not sure which social scientists Pinker had in mind unless it was sociologists since they are the only social science without a biological component. Anthropology and psychology expend as much as half their field on studying the biological, while economics has done a lot of research into consumers and the impact of advertising, aethetics in store displays, and use of space in relation to sales and in conjunction with neurobiologists on exactly what areas of the brain are reward centers and what activates them in regard to sales. I think this was true in 2002 although even more so today. Coincidentally, sociology which was once the most popular social science is now the one with the fewest students.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Feb 5, 2013 - 10:01am PT
Rethinking the Theoretical Foundation of Sociobiology
David Sloan Wilson and Edward O. Wilson

http://mechanism.ucsd.edu/teaching/philbio/readings/wilson-wilson.rethinking%20sociobiology.inpress.pdf
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Feb 9, 2013 - 02:14pm PT
Why we are still here and the Neanderthals aren't.

http://live.wsj.com/video/why-we-outlasted-the-neanderthal/DEDF09ED-71E8-4DAF-8131-C30D86FC9150.html?mod=WSJ_article_outbrain&obref=obnetwork#!DEDF09ED-71E8-4DAF-8131-C30D86FC9150
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 9, 2013 - 07:08pm PT
Sheesh, there's been some good posts since I last contributed (been going through a voluntary reduction in time spent on ST). Cowpoke, you blow me away. Loved that critique of Pinker's, The Blank Slate. Of the three books that I have read of his, the chapter on parenting in this book is the one I remember best, and the one that I thought flew in the face of conventional thinking. His thesis was that, based on evidence from twin studies and the like, 50% of what makes you you is genetic but, of the other 50%, only 0 to 10 percent could be correlated with your family. He speculates that who you hang with (peers) might account for a big part of that remaining 50%.

In light of the findings from epigenetics, I could conceive that big portion of that 50% is epigenetic-related. The evidence for the lack of nearly any parental/family influence strikes me as probably wrong, but only in that personal incredulity way that can often steer you wrong.

I'm still reading Ed's links, including the one by the Wilsons. I've read a lot more of Dawkins, who has no respect for group selection. I've only read onebook by E.O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of the Earth. I must admit of having a "fancy" about group selection. I need to study this more.

Glad you could join the conversation, Scuffy!
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Feb 9, 2013 - 08:55pm PT
Matthew Gregg, twitter follower of Bill Nye
What is the newest discovery in science that you find the most interesting?

Bill Nye,
Our emotions are a result of evolution. Spooky but empowering. Another detail of how we all came to be as we are.
MH2

climber
Feb 9, 2013 - 09:02pm PT
Also consider reading what Richard Lewontin has to say. I see he appears in one of cowpoke's references. The only book of his I have read was It Ain't Necessarily So: The Dream of the Human Genome and Other Illusions. It seemed a good antidote to the tendency to invest too much explanatory power in DNA.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Feb 9, 2013 - 10:39pm PT
The notion that emotions or any other form of psychology being totally seperate from natural selection is flat out false. It is the old Nature vs. Nurture argument, but as things have moved along in my lifetime, Nature has a far larger impact than was thought. I'm just saying that the role of evolution in psychology, sociology, behaviour, etc. is far stronger than was thought 30 years ago.

Evolution isn't really my bag, but I'm lucky to have this guy as my next door neighbor:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_S._Ray

We have had some really good discussions.

My contribution to any topic on evolution is limited to the evidence of it in the rock record. The rock record agrees with Darwinian evolution completely. I'm not aware of anything in the fossil record that conflicts completely with Darwinian evolution except a couple of things that are odd, but not game killers.

The best way to improve a human will probably not be through cloning. Follow the tracks of a company like Monsanto, who is raking in money by selling genetically modified seeds. If I remember my genetics at all, hybrid seeds lose their recessive traits in one or a small few generations, and since Monsanto holds the patents on certain alterations, they bring in the bucks.

Again, if there was not somebody somewhere trying this, I would be surprised.

My guess is that within 100 years, if we survive the many perils we have created for ourselves, human embryos will be big business. You don't have to have much imagination to see the inevitability. There is a strong desire to have high quality children, and if there isn't a local market for this, some military will certainly do it. Remember, the strong survive.

Either that will happen or the opposite will happen. Smart people have fewer children than stupid people!! :) Just go rent the movie Idiocracy

I think Darwinian evolution is winding down for Humans. We will have the technology in our hands to evolve much faster in the future. We can already do crazy things with rodents. I read a really cool PNAS paper on genetically engineered "knockout mice" that had no histamine receptors. It was a drug trial, and evidently this is fairly common.

I can see all sorts of wild possibilities. One thing is sure. Morality will have no real affect on whether this will happen. If it CAN happen, it WILL happen. Technology that provides any sort of real use will be used.

I can imagine a genetic arms race. It is just a matter of when.

Look at a country like North Korea. They are so batshit crazy that they are probably elbows deep in trying to breed super soldiers or whatever.

If we were in the middle of WWII right now, you can bet your ass that we would be doing this just to survive.

High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Feb 9, 2013 - 10:46pm PT
Good interesting stuff there.
moosedrool

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Feb 10, 2013 - 01:02am PT
Those with good eye are inclined to fall into deep well.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Feb 10, 2013 - 02:02am PT
Base, this is the sort of hybridization that falls apart in the next generation if attempt is made to breed them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F1_hybrid
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Feb 10, 2013 - 09:47am PT
Here's an amazing piece of both evolution and photography.


Transparent Ants from India drinking colored sugar water.
Transparent Ants from India drinking colored sugar water.
Credit: Dr. Mohammed Babu, Mysore, India.

Dr. Mohamed Babu of Mysore India noticed that some of the ants on his kitchen floor turned white after drinking milk. Realizing that they were transparent, he got an idea for a set of photos by spreading droplets of sweet colored water on white plastic in the garden. The ants preferred green and yellow then red with blue coming in last of all.

I wonder if the ants noticed that they changed color? If so, one could imagine humans influencing evolution by feeding only some ants the preferred colors.

And of course, only humans have the brain capacity to dream up such useful projects.
cowpoke

climber
Feb 11, 2013 - 05:46pm PT
the chapter on parenting in this book is the one I remember best, and the one that I thought flew in the face of conventional thinking. His thesis was that, based on evidence from twin studies and the like, 50% of what makes you you is genetic but, of the other 50%, only 0 to 10 percent could be correlated with your family. He speculates that who you hang with (peers) might account for a big part of that remaining 50%.
eeyonkee, this was first proposed by Judith Rich Harris based on the behavioral genetics data, but it has fallen under scrutiny because of the increasing documenting of gene-environment interactions in human development (based on ideas originally proposed by Sandra Scarr, who argued that much of the variation in parenting is functionally equivalent within enriched environments). The classic empirical example is the work of Erik Turkheiver (behavior genetists at UVA), who demonstrated that the heritability of intelligence is moderated by poverty. In affluent families, about 0-20% of the variance in intelligence is due to home environment and other shared environments (and most of the variation is explained by genetics), but in the context of poverty 0-20% of variance in intelligence is explained by genetics and the rest is explained by environments like the home. Why would this be? Most believe it is because in the context of socioeconomic deprivation, parenting really matters (e.g., the value of having a good parent is magnified by facing danger and disadvantage), but in the context of abundant resources most variation in parenting is functionally equivalent.
go-B

climber
Hebrews 1:3
Feb 11, 2013 - 08:45pm PT
That's cool Jan,
photo not found
Missing photo ID#289240
see these every year!
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Feb 12, 2013 - 09:44am PT
It's Darwin Day.

Darwin Day is a global celebration of science and reason held on or around Feb. 12, the birthday anniversary of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin.

Evolve. :)
cowpoke

climber
Feb 12, 2013 - 10:22am PT
As an addition to my previous post, it might be interesting, to some of you, to see the data on the moderating effects of SES for the heritability of intelligence. The following figure is taken from Socioeconomic Status Modifies Heritability of IQ in Young Children Turkheimer, Haley, Waldron, D'Onofrio & Gottesman (2003), Psychological Science, Vol. 14, pp. 623-628. Underneath the figure, I explain the meaning of the letters A, C, and E for those not familiar with heritability analyses of behavioral genetic data.
moderating effects of SES for heritability of IQ (low SES is at th...
moderating effects of SES for heritability of IQ (low SES is at the far left hand of horizontal axis and high SES at the far right hand of horizontal axis)
Credit: cowpoke
In this figure, A is the portion of IQ explained by genetics, C is the portion of IQ explained by "shared environments" (i.e., environments that twins in the same family share such as their home environment and parenting that is common to the two twins), and E is the portion of variance explained by non-shared environments (this is where environmental experiences that are unique to individuals within families fall, things like experiences with peers; technically, however, it is the error term in the model, which means anything not explained by genetics and shared environment).
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 13, 2013 - 09:31pm PT
In affluent families, about 0-20% of the variance in intelligence is due to home environment and other shared environments (and most of the variation is explained by genetics), but in the context of poverty 0-20% of variance in intelligence is explained by genetics and the rest is explained by environments like the home. Why would this be? Most believe it is because in the context of socioeconomic deprivation, parenting really matters (e.g., the value of having a good parent is magnified by facing danger and disadvantage), but in the context of abundant resources most variation in parenting is functionally equivalent.


Interesting as hell. As a software developer, I see this kind of thing thing all of the time. The "thing" being that if you didn't include a particular variable, in this case relative socioeconomic deprivation, you would miss a big part of the real world that you are trying to model.

This might be a good metaphor for group selection. Perhaps in certain species, say ants, some variable has exceeded a threshold and group selection IS the dominant selection pressure. In most other species, that variable does not reach the threshold required for group selection to succeed. Presumeably, below that threshold. the cheaters overwhelm the slight advantage that group altruism affords. With respect to my original topic number 2, I'd still have to go with selection at the gene level (Dawkins) over selection at the group level (the Wilsons) in humans.

With respect to epigenetics in its broadest sense, I'm beginning to suspect that it might play a big part in distinguishing you from your identical twin. The only other option you have is "the environment" based on the math behind the twin studies. It's not hard for me to see that this could be true and, at the same time, for epigenetics to play only a small role in the evolution of humans.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Feb 14, 2013 - 07:21pm PT
re: favorite stories, films, documentaries concerning evolution

A few I can think of...

(1) Distant Origin, Star Trek Voyager (still!)
(2) Creation (2009)
(3) Planet of the Apes
(4) The Chase, Star Trek Next Generation
(5) Darwin's Darkest Hour
(6) Jurassic Park

.....

My impression is that natural selection works across all levels, most potently at the replicator level; and then on up.

.....

Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Feb 15, 2013 - 05:37am PT
I've posted this synopsis on the God vs Science thread also since most of our arguments there boil down to the question of consciousness. In any case, a study of Einstein's brain It certainly makes it look to me like Genetics was all important. What we can't answer is whether all of those unusual characteristics would have gone to waste if Einstein had grown up in a deprived background.


The brain of celebrated physicist Albert Einstein has been a subject of much research and speculation. It was removed within seven and a half hours of his death. The brain has attracted attention because of Einstein's reputation for being one of the foremost geniuses of the 20th century, and apparent regularities or irregularities in the brain have been used to support various ideas about correlations in neuroanatomy with general or mathematical intelligence. Scientific studies have suggested that regions involved in speech and language are smaller, while regions involved with numerical and spatial processing are larger. [Einstein's inferior parietal lobe (which is responsible for mathematical thought, visuospatial cognition, and imagery of movement) was 15% larger than average.] Other studies have suggested an increased number of glial cells in Einstein's brain.[1]

Harvey had reported that Einstein had no parietal operculum in either hemisphere.,[8] but this finding has been disputed.[9] Photographs of the brain show an enlarged Sylvian fissure. In 1999, further analysis by a team at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada revealed that his parietal operculum region in the inferior frontal gyrus in the frontal lobe of the brain was vacant. Also absent was part of a bordering region called the lateral sulcus (Sylvian fissure). Researchers at McMaster University speculated that the vacancy may have enabled neurons in this part of his brain to communicate better.

Einstein himself claimed that he thought visually rather than verbally.

A study, "The cerebral cortex of Albert Einstein: a description and preliminary analysis of unpublished photographs",[9] was published on November 16, 2012, in the journal Brain. Dean Falk, an evolutionary anthropologist at Florida State University, led the study - which analysed 14 recently discovered photographs - and described the brain: "Although the overall size and asymmetrical shape of Einstein’s brain were normal, the prefrontal, somatosensory, primary motor, parietal, temporal and occipital cortices were extraordinary."[13]

Preserving the brains of geniuses was not a new phenomenon—another brain to be preserved and discussed in a similar manner was that of the German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss almost a hundred years earlier. His brain was studied by Rudolf Wagner who found its weight to be 1,492 grams and the cerebral area equal to 219,588 square millimeters.[14] Also found were highly developed convolutions, which was suggested as the explanation of his genius.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Feb 17, 2013 - 12:05pm PT
This morning's adorable squeaking sound...


http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=cBkWhkAZ9ds

.....

The Evolutionary Epic in two minutes....



http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MrqqD_Tsy4Q
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Feb 25, 2013 - 05:05pm PT
re: directed evolution
re: the National Medal of Technology and Innovation

Could isobutanol created by 'directed evolution' solve the worldwide oil crisis?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/25/directed-evolution-frances-arnold_n_2743308.html?utm_hp_ref=talk-nerdy-to-me&ncid=edlinkusaolp00000008
cowpoke

climber
Mar 18, 2013 - 09:33am PT
An interesting article in the last issue of Child Development that is relevant to the discussions of epigenetics: Epigenetic Vestiges of Early Developmental Adversity: Childhood Stress Exposure and DNA Methylation in Adolescence (Essex et al., 2013; Volume 84, Pages 58–75)

Abstract: "Fifteen-year-old adolescents (N= 109) in a longitudinal study of child development were recruited to examine differences in DNA methylation in relation to parent reports of adversity during the adolescents’ infancy and preschool periods. Microarray technology applied to 28,000 cytosine–guanine dinucleotide sites within DNA derived from buccal epithelial cells showed differential methylation among adolescents whose parents reported high levels of stress during their children’s early lives. Maternal stressors in infancy and paternal stressors in the preschool years were most strongly predictive of differential methylation, and the patterning of such epige- netic marks varied by children’s gender. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first report of prospective associations between adversities in early childhood and the epigenetic conformation of adolescents’ genomic DNA."

From the discussion section of the paper (pp. 69-70):
"Taken together, these findings offer novel evidence for a biological embedding of early experience, or more specifically, the temporally remote correlates of early adverse experiences on the human epigenome and its regulatory role in the expression of specific genes, including genes that guide neurodevelopment. Both relative increases and decreases in promoter region methylation were detected in the genomes of adolescents whose par-
ents had reported significant adversity in past years. Although DNA methylation is generally associated with a down-regulation in gene expression, the epigenetic control of differential transcription is almost certainly far more complex and involves a broad and diverse array of chromatin modifications (see, e.g., Mehler, 2008). As a consequence, discerning a coherent and functional ‘‘meaning’’ of the reported findings lies beyond the present state of epigenetic science. We note, however, that to our knowledge these data constitute only the second report of altered DNA methylation in buccal epithelial cells associated with environmental exposure, following a recent study that reported DNA methylation marks in such cells from 5-year-old children associated with maternal smoking during the intrauterine period (Breton et al., 2009).

Importantly, our findings may be correctly viewed as an instantiation of ‘‘gene–environment interplay’’ and the capacity for experience and genomic variation—allelic or epigenetic—to conjointly influence salient developmental endpoints (Gilbert & Epel, 2009; Rutter, Moffitt, & Caspi, 2006). One variety of such interplay is the moderation of early experiential effects by single nucleotide polymorphisms within genes affecting key neural circuitry and neurotransmission pathways (Caspi et al., 2002). The most broadly recognized examples of epigenetic regulatory processes are those described within the caregiving behavior of the mother rat and within the dietary influences on coat color in mice. Studies by Meaney, Szyf, and colleagues (Meaney & Szyf, 2005; Weaver, Cervoni, et al., 2004) have shown how phenotypic differences in the reactivity of the HPA system arise from the mother rat’s licking and grooming behavior in her pups’ first several postnatal days. Such behavior changes reactivity phenotypes by demethylating the binding site for transcription factor Egr1 in the enhancer region of the pups’ GR gene. Waterland and Jirtle (2003) supplemented the diets of pregnant, viable yellow Agouti mice with methyl-donors, such as folate, choline, and betaine, and created dramatic differences in offspring coat color. Pups of mothers fed methyl-donor supplements had increased methylation of the Agouti allele that guides yellow fur development, resulting in suppressed gene expression and phenotypic reversion to a brown coat color."
bc

climber
Prescott, AZ
Mar 18, 2013 - 10:16am PT
I got a chance to see the famous Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) fossil at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, CA. Worth a quick visit if you're in the area. It'll be there until April 28th.
Lucy fossil
Lucy fossil
Credit: bc
Lucy reconstruction
Lucy reconstruction
Credit: bc

Edit: There's a lot of other cool stuff to see at this museum. You might want to give yourself about 3 hours or so.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Mar 18, 2013 - 11:33am PT
Recently we got a surprise about the evolution of Homo sapiens when a South Carolina African American man's DNA was found to have a common ancestor with other Homo sapiens, much further back than anticipated.

Homo sapiens as a distinct species only goes back 200,000 years and we only left Africa 50-60,000 years ago according to all previous DNA studies. However, this man's DNA showed his most recent common ancestor was 340,000 years ago. It was then discovered that there were 7 others from Cameroon.

All this is interesting because it means that this branch of the family tree departed during the time of Homo erectus or one of his direct descendants that we don't know about yet. Obviously these descendants mixed with generations of Homo sapiens in subsequent years, but some of the old Y-DNA remains.

So far now, we have discovered that Homo erectus evolved into neanderthal in Europe, denosovan in central Asia, floresiensis in Indonesia, Homo sapiens in East Africa and now the ancestor of the small group in Cameroon. The family tree was quite diverse.

This recent finding also establishes that there was a whole lot more cross species mating going on than we had previously imagined. Today about 2-3 % of Europeans have some neanderthal DNA and 6% of some north Asians have denisovan. And now from Africa more indications.
Phantom X

Trad climber
Honeycomb Hideout
Mar 18, 2013 - 12:19pm PT
Did you say Cameroon? Your up Grug.
Jeremy Ross

Gym climber
Mar 18, 2013 - 01:01pm PT
That's an interesting abstract and discussion, cowpoke. I can't access the paper via google....any chance you could post the methods and possibly the results sections? Pretty please...DNA regulation and differential gene expression have always fascinated me.



-JR
cowpoke

climber
Mar 18, 2013 - 01:40pm PT
JR,
I have access to the pdf via my university, but for some reason it is not a version that can be saved (and it is a pain to cut and paste because the text is in narrow columns in the pub). I'd bet the first author would gladly email a reprint of the pdf, however. From the author note: Marilyn J. Essex, Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, 6001 Research Park Boulevard, Madison, WI 53719. Electronic mail may be sent to mjessex@wisc.edu
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Mar 18, 2013 - 01:52pm PT
Hmm, the bottom of the US socioeconomic level is far more affluent than the middle class in most parts of the world. I wonder what you'd see in places that have refugee camps and starving people?
Jeremy Ross

Gym climber
Mar 18, 2013 - 01:56pm PT
Thanks, Cowpoke. I understand it's a pain in the ass to copy/paste. I'll email the author.



-JR
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Potemkin Village
Jul 8, 2013 - 02:33pm PT
re: "sneaky f*#ker" strategy
re: how "wising up" in evolutionary theory might benefit you

http://blogs.smh.com.au/lifestyle/allmenareliars/archives/2007/02/sneaky_f*#ker_t.html

http://www.newstatesman.com/society/2011/05/males-social-sex-idea-alpha

"The late John Maynard Smith took red deer as an example of where things go wrong. While the powerful males are busy rutting, many of the females slope off to have sex with the less macho males of the herd (Maynard Smith labelled them the "**sneaky f*#kers**").

Not to be missed...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1SX4KYpelQ

Do you know any sneaky f*#kers?
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 8, 2013 - 03:56pm PT
Candyman...

High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Potemkin Village
Nov 1, 2013 - 11:04pm PT
Student Questioner: "I wanted to know if (1) you thought the society we are creating slows (undermines) the process of natural selection and (2) if you think that is a good or bad thing for our species."

Richard Dawkins: "To the extent that people are born who would not have been born under natural wild conditions, to the extent that medical science enables people to grow up and reproduce, to that extent genes are being put into the gene pool which would have been removed by natural selection in a wild state. I think that's pretty much inevitable. I don't think it's a bad thing. I like doctors, I like hospitals. I like the fact that, for children, it's quite difficult to die young nowadays and therefore if you want to reproduce you probably can. There was a time in the 1920s and 1930s when everybody was very worried about the dysgenic effects of modern medicine. I think it's something that we live with, and I am, on balance, happy to live with it. I would not like to live in a world in which children were dying of diseases which could be cured, so I'm not in favor of worrying about the dysgenic effects of modern medicine."

Michael Shermer Richard Dawkins Interview
An Appetite for Wonder, Cal Tech 2013

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQ0cRIrOOiA

..

High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Potemkin Village
Nov 3, 2013 - 11:10am PT
re: dysgenic effects on gene pool resulting from use of technology

Is there now something of a race between ever increasing dysgenic effects and ever improving technology?

Audience Question: This is on the interplay between technology and evolution. Do you think our adaptability or survivability are at risk from our use of technology? What do you think of technology that may some day entrap us? like by permitting bad genes in increasing numbers of people. How do we reverse that or deal with that? Is there any alternative?

Richard Dawkins: Medical science is allowing bad genes to propagate in the population. Yes it is. But on balance, I don't deplore it. I think it's worth it. In the case of eyesight and eyeglasses, as long as we have the technology to go on making glasses, it will probably be okay. It's true that if that were wiped out then that would be serious. Imagine getting rid of spectacles. Anybody over the age of about 45 would no longer be able to read. They wouldn't be able to play a part in civilized life. So we do indeed depend on technology. But it's getting better. I was talking only yesterday to an eye surgeon who was telling me about the wonderful techniques of using laser surgery to reshape the cornea so you don't need eyeglasses at all. We are getting better at those sorts of things. So technology is at present keeping up with the dysgenic effects of modern medicine.

..

In my view this is going to be one of the gravest problems future generations are going to face.

Damn you Second Law of Thermodynamics.

..

Cruel Scenario: Fossil fuels crash. Energy-dependent high technologies collapse. Finely-tuned complex societies collapse. Natural Selection hits gene pool with vengeance.
Paul Martzen

Trad climber
Fresno
Nov 3, 2013 - 04:44pm PT
The thing about evolution and natural selection is that you don't know ahead of time, which genes will be most beneficial in the future. Some dimwit with bad eyesight might have the only gene that allows human survival of some future virus or germ.

Was there not a link earlier in this thread to studies indicating that increased population was accelerating human evolution/human variation? More population survival means more potential for genetic variation.
moosedrool

climber
Stair climber, lost, far away from Poland
Nov 3, 2013 - 06:29pm PT
I wish I had wings

and gills

and a tail











and money!

:)
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Potemkin Village
Nov 4, 2013 - 07:51pm PT
On the evolution of tenacity in mice...



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QM6MNw7i6Ng

.....

Paul,

yeah, as you know, evolution of extremely large populations esp with a lot of variation to begin with (e.g., our anthropic one) would present with countless aspects, many being adaptive.



Still, the plight of dysgenic effects, due to rising of technology and the undermining of natural selection in ever softening climates, is real.
WBraun

climber
Nov 4, 2013 - 07:53pm PT
God is the original gene ......
Paul Martzen

Trad climber
Fresno
Nov 5, 2013 - 03:35am PT
Hey Fructos,
That is a very persistent mouse in that video.

Which dysgenic effects do you think are real? I have not studied this at all, but a quick search seems to show mostly speculation. I see that Richard Lynn documents that childbirth rates are lower for highly intelligent people as compared to criminals and low intelligent populations.

This may be, and it may have social repercussions, but my question is, what genetic issues does this raise? How is this genetically harmful? Myself, I don't see the problem from a long term genetic aspect. Perhaps you can elaborate your thoughts on this.

Your cartoon points out that many people are becoming fatter as our TVs get skinnier, but you don't think this is a genetic issue do you? In a sense, it is a genetic issue with the TVs, since they are fundamentally changed from the older TVs, but the fat guy is just eating too much.

Are there any multigenerational studies of some animal, or plant population where providing a too easy environment leads to genetic changes that endangers the long term survival of that population?
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
U.N. Ambassador, Crackistan
Nov 5, 2013 - 09:22am PT
Farah Fawcet?



No, hermano. The future will not be so... monochrome. The future will be darker.



DMT

High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Potemkin Village
Nov 6, 2013 - 10:04am PT
Hey, I loved Logan's Run. A couple years ago, last time I watched, I googled the brunette, was happy to see she's aged well. If you have the dvd, York gives an excellent commentary of the film, btw.

...

Paul, interspersing that cartoon in the text was probably confusing, sorry. Cartoon was just funny. Regarding dysgenic effects, I used the term because Dawkins used it - so i'm not sure how google-worthy or precise it is or how often it's used by evolutionary scholars in e theory. There might be a better term, or terms, out there to describe the process or phenom. I think it's also used to counterpoint "eugenic." I think it's interesting what is deemed eugenic or dysgenic depends on pov. If it could talk, the ancestor of the eyeless cave salamander might say its progeny suffered "dysgenic effects" when they lost their eyes eking out existence in darkness. However, on the other hand, the progeny might not agree as the eyes in darkness weren't needed; they might counter with the argument, "We're not dysgenic at all, just more streamlined and efficient now!" lol.

Same with dodo bird. Its gene pool got soft in the flight department in the absence of selection pressure for flight (predators). (Same with the extinct solitaire, too, apparently.)



In our case, the human case, poor eyesight to hernias, eg, to perhaps autism associated disorders, might be examples.

In any case, I liked Dawkins' reply - it was certainly thought-provoking - that the interplay between easy softer environment, natural selection and technology was inevitable, is inevitable, in addition to unpredictable, something we have to live with, on balance a good thing (at least for us), and not really something to worry about on those grounds. A day at a time, or a generation at a time, and do your best and hope for the best. Much like our situation with global warming, I guess.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Potemkin Village
Nov 6, 2013 - 10:13am PT
What I gathered from Dawkins, at least - Why worry about those things you can't change.

Everything's alright.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkje4FiH9Qc

Till it isn't. ;)
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Potemkin Village
Nov 6, 2013 - 07:35pm PT
For the benefit of fellow evolutionary secular progressives, here's one more totally awesome Joe Rogan Sam Harris interview...



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHBfB7usIcU

Joe Rogan,
"I've watched a lot of your videos on line, I've enjoyed every one of them, and I liken some of those debates you get into with those old Gracie in Action videos... For martial arts it's really brilliant stuff to watch cause until the Gracies came along nobody really knew that there was one guy out there that could just sort of manhandle people like that - strangle them and choke them - that there was one martial art that was so superior when it came to grappling situations, you'd almost feel bad for the guy getting strangled but not really. That's how I feel when I watch a lot of your debates."
"Well that's very high praise but I can tell you it's not as satisfying in the debate format as it is on the mat. Because no one ever taps. It's like you're fighting an army of zombies - they've lost but they can't be forced to admit that they've lost." (-Sam Harris)

lol


Gracie Jiu-Jitsu In Action
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8jvy8XBsQk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kurwgdIcVIQ
Paul Martzen

Trad climber
Fresno
Nov 7, 2013 - 01:25pm PT
I don't see any evidence for the idea of Dysgenisis or for the idea that humans have stopped evolving. I do read speculation, assertions and assumptions that humans have stopped evolving and that technology is making us less fit for future survival.

On the very first page of this thread was a link to an article with evidence that human evolution is accelerating.
http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2011/05/human-hyper-evolution-have-mutations-changed-the-course-of-history.html

An excerpt below from that article.

Population growth is making all of this change occur much faster, Hawks says, giving a tribute to Charles Darwin. When Darwin wrote in Origin of the Species about challenges in animal breeding, he always emphasized that herd size "is of the highest importance for success" because large populations have more genetic variation, Hawks says.

The parallel to humans is obvious: The human population has grown from a few million people 10,000 years ago to about 200 million people at A.D. 0, to 600 million people in the year 1700, to more than 6.5 billion today. Prior to these times, the population was so small for so long that positive selection occurred at a glacial pace, Hawks says.

"What's really amazing about humans," Hawks continued, "that is not true with most other species, is that for a long time we were just a little ape species in one corner of Africa, and weren't genetically sampling anything like the potential we have now."

"Five thousand years is such a small sliver of time -- it's 100 to 200 generations ago. That's how long it's been since some of these genes originated, and today they are in 30 or 40 percent of people because they've had such an advantage. It's like 'invasion of the body snatchers.'"

HFCS - The cartoon with the fat guy and the skinny TV was funny. The mouse video was entertaining. However, your statement that,
Still, the plight of dysgenic effects, due to rising of technology and the undermining of natural selection in ever softening climates, is real.
Is an assertion presented as fact, but without any supporting evidence.

It is okay to speculate and have assumptions but lets try to be clear when they are speculation and assumptions.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Potemkin Village
Nov 8, 2013 - 10:34am PT
Is an assertion presented as fact, but without any supporting evidence.

Paul, sure there is some assumption or speculation with these types of posts, but still I'm not sure where the confusion or disagreement, to the extent it exists, is.

When I think about the dodo bird (losing flight capability: dysgenic effect) or eyeless cave salamander (losing visual acuity if not eyesight entirely: dysgenic effect) or sea mammal (losing limb dexterity for mvt on land: dysgenic effect) or inguinal hernia patient and his progeny (losing let's call it abdominal wall integrity; dysgenic effect due to surgeon and repair technology) - and here I'll speculate - countless thousands of other examples large to small, macro to micro, anatomical to physiological, across species' gene pools, in phenotypes, phenotypic effects, etc., I have in mind entropy effects (increasing disorder) in the absence or reduction of selection pressure. This is just basic evolutionary theory. Right?

That said, remember I did point out above that what's "eugenic" or "dysgenic" is in the eye of the beholder. Right?

Regarding what's real or factual: The effect or phenomenon (dysgenic?) of flightless cormorants is real. Right? Or the phenom or effect (dysgenic?) of fearlessness of many Galapagos species - that's factual or real. Right? Given the arrival of Man to these islands a couple centuries back, I think many would opine or judge today that the relative defenselessness of the fauna - the cormorant flightlessness, eg, or blue footed booby defenselessness or fearlessness, the genotypes and phenotypes (structures) leading to these - to be "dysgenic." Curious if you don't agree assuming your interest is the preservation (esp the autonomous carefree preservation) of these critters.

I don't know if you had a chance to catch the Dawkins Shermer sitdown at Cal Tech interview I linked to above. I really haven't said anything different on these last couple pages, or anything more, than what was brought up in there.

There are growing eugenic efforts, eg, eugenic companies, around the world today. Just yesterday morning, in fact, on CBS This Morning, Charlie and Nora interviewed the founder of 23 and Me. In the future, there is little doubt (but sure, we could call it assuming or speculating) these eugenic efforts will increase; and they will play a greater role insofar as needed to offset dysgenic effects. Arguably all the more reason to learn about them today - and their associated processes - the mechanics if you will - across the citizenry so in the future there won't be such a mindless, reflexive, knee jerk reaction to them or their remedies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQ0cRIrOOiA

http://www.23andme.com/

...

FM, very funny!

Thanks to the link to the Sam Harris piece. Missed that one. Will try to read it later today. I like the analogies or comparisons between the bullshit in martial arts and bullshit in religions. People are wising up. Some of them.

...

re: evolution of belief


I appreciate your tolerance of religion. I too had a sense of tolerance of religion for the most part. That tolerance began to die on 9/11/01. As the succeeding years have pasted and the Christian fundamentalist such as Bachman, Santorum, Perry, Barton, and Cruz began sounding more like the Taliban than Americans I decided the hell with it. Religion does not deserve to continue much less be tolerated. BS has to be called out and refuted.

YTube commenter, at above link.

Evolution's under way. People are coming around.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Potemkin Village
Nov 14, 2013 - 12:03pm PT
David Christian at TED...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqc9zX04DXs

was on Steven Colbert this week talking about his Big History project...

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/430408/november-12-2013/david-christian

Entropy. Second Law of Thermo. Evolution. Reality vs. Perception of Reality. Reality vs. Representation of Reality. The Scientific Story. Meaning of Life.

.....

Fort,

Alas, a lot of folks didn't grow up with physics, chemistry and evolutionary history as a basis of biology - particularly long enough to imprint on them - so it's pretty easy to see WHY they don't view the world around them including their own lives in this context.

Internet and social media (Big History to Cosmos 2014, etc.) are changing everything though.



For many it's less to do with facts now, I think, and more to do with attitude.

Not that anyone asked but I'd say the meaning of life, or purpose of life, is to eat, survive, reproduce... and, above these basics, for Man, to actualize, to do, and by all means try to get in some fun along the way. :)
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Potemkin Village
Nov 14, 2013 - 08:38pm PT
re: our mechanistic nature

I have acquired an increasing sneaking suspicion that our mellowing, saddening and such with age is every bit as programmed in our makeup - by evolution and genetics - as (a) our reaching puberty and its effects or (b) other temporal hallmarks (graying, menopause, e.g.). Like clockwork. Though we like to think it's imparted by education, experience, wisdom or rational thought. Or due to breakdown, or breakdowns. But I'd bet, in large part, it is effect or output of clockwork laid down over eons by evolution and mediated in real time by genetic metabolism. All part of the Grand Balance (of dynamic equilibria) we can see operating across nature, human nature and general nature. Can't prove it though.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Potemkin Village
Dec 5, 2013 - 01:07pm PT
7 Reasons Why It's Easier for Humans to Believe in God Than Evolution

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/11/seven-evolutionary-reasons-people-deny-evolution

I like Chris Mooney. These are seven good reasons. Another is just as basic, I think.

(8) Lack of life experience in nature investigation or lack of life experience in science.

Just as not everyone has a passion for rock climbing, not everyone has a passion for nature investigation or a passion for science.



Something we have to live with, I guess.
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