Interesting Topics on Evolution


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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

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.

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.

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?


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).

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

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.

Mountain climber
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Jan 2, 2013 - 12:07pm PT
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' :

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.

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

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.

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 .....


Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 2, 2013 - 12:27pm PT
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.


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


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.

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

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.

Social climber
So Cal
Jan 2, 2013 - 04:42pm PT

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