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Author: Subject: Evolution-try again

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  posted on 8/12/2004 at 10:31 AM
There was a section in one of my paleobiology lectures called 'historical contingency' and it basically asks the question, 'if evolution could be rewound and started again would animals turn out the same?' So i was sondering what evolutionary differences people would like to see in animals? I for one would like to see the male sexual organs looking slightly more attractive than a 'the last chicken on the shelf'. What d'you think?

 

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  posted on 8/12/2004 at 11:06 AM
what exactly does the last chicken on the shelf look like?

 

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  posted on 8/12/2004 at 11:37 AM
Like male genitalia... I was thinking that they should be more colourful. And should definately be in a less vulnerable position, maybe with a retractable shell or something.

 

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  posted on 8/12/2004 at 03:27 PM
I don't believe in evolutionary determinism (the idea that you described in which "rewinding" an organism would eventually and inevitably lead to the same developments in their progeny). I suscribe to the theory of punctuated equilibrium as described by Gould and others. This being so, if I wanted to see an evolutional development, I would simply subject the organism and its progeny to conditions in which the desired trait is a selective advantage. Or I'd just breed for it the way they do with dogs and suchlike. Unfortunately, as neat as many cosmetic changes might seem, they often come with a lot of genetic baggage and once the novelty wears off, you end up with an organism with hips that tend to go out or a malocclusion that condemns your organism to a life of eating nothing but porridge and sticky buns.

Since you brought up chickens and genitalia in the same breath, why don't you just opt for a cloaca? Takes care of your vulnerability problem, but makes the handing out of appropriately coloured cigars at birth a bit of a head scratcher. "Congratulations... it's a... baby... thing."

~M.

 

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  posted on 8/12/2004 at 07:08 PM
quote:
maybe with a retractable shell or something.


*busts a gut laughing* now THAT was funny. Although it could be quite useful.


[Edited on 29/5/2005 by pale-face]

 

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  posted on 8/12/2004 at 09:06 PM
While, initially, the idea of brightly-coloured genitalia on men sounds like a kitschy idea, I think I'd probably do one of two things:

(1) Breed men like bettas for pretty and exotic genital colour
or
(2) Grow really bored with all the bright blues, greens, and pinks as I wish for their penises to blend in better with the rest of the skin tones on their bodies.

On the subject of humans becoming like chickens and having a cloaca, it unfortunately already happens on rare occasions to humans.
http://www.emedicine.com/ped/byname/cloacal-malformations.htm
Which leads me to wonder where in evolution (step forward or backward) the idea of a cloaca actually is.

 

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  posted on 8/12/2004 at 10:48 PM
quote:
...Which leads me to wonder where in evolution (step forward or backward) the idea of a cloaca actually is.


Your question is still linear and deterministic. Nothing in nature is "forward" or "backward"... it just is .

~M.

 

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  posted on 9/12/2004 at 08:50 PM
If there were to be an evolution I would like to see happen in humans today would be to have, instead of bones, a series of fluid filled bladders. No more broken bones! i think i got that idea from a tv show... o well. i still like it.

 

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  posted on 9/12/2004 at 09:56 PM
The character was Kif from the television show Futurama . If you fluid-filled bladders in lieu of bones, you would have decreased mobility and rather than looking at six weeks in a cast, any decent knock could cause fatal internal hemorrhaging.

~M.

 

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  posted on 10/12/2004 at 09:10 AM
We are how we are and we evolved into what we are because of our environments and lifestyles. I do not find a need for change in anything, nor do I think it possible.

As for the fluid filled bladders instead of bones, I have to agree with Mono. How the fuck do you move, and a busted bladder of fluid in the body is not a good thing. Heck of bruising eh?

 

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  posted on 10/12/2004 at 09:43 AM
hell, in evolution anything's possible, given the right environments and materials. Look at giraffes, Wouldn't have seen that one coming.

Thinking about it i was wonderng how birds could have evolved... Why did their DNA suddenly decide it was necessary for them to fly to survive? And think how shitty the intermediate stages must have been... They'd have stubby feathery limbs, no use as arms and equally useless for aerial exploits. Must've been tough times.

By the by, many geologists/palaeontologists think punctuated equilibrium is just an illusion caused by gaps in the fossil record. Maybe with some erosional overprinting just to confuse matters. Like pseudo extinctions and lazarus taxa. Phyletic gradualism is the model preached by most men of the rock. We like our lines to be straight, thank you very much.

[Edited on 10/12/2004 by nostalgiaforinfinity]

 

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  posted on 10/12/2004 at 02:10 PM
Darwin himself was the first to use "gaps in the fossil record" to apologetically explain the absence of intermediate forms, but it is far more likely that they simply never existed in the first place. A determinsit needs intermediate forms because they view evolution as a continual and gradual process towards a divinely inspired goal, but this turns evolution into nothing more than very patient creationism. Punctuated equilibrium, on the other hand, explains why the crocodile hasn't evolved a second in the past ten million years while organisms around it have changed drastically or disappeared altogether. It is because evolution happens fairly quickly when it happens at all.

Very simply, intermediate forms don't make any sense and I don't know of any real academics who still believe in them. As NFI already illustrated, an intermediate form between a flightless organism and a flying bird would place that organism into a selective disadvantage until "birdhood" was achieved. If selective environmental pressures guide evolution, then no evolution would be possible at all under these circumstances. How advantageous is it to be half an angler fish or to almost, but not quite, have a prehensile tail? These forms would go extinct under the tenets of phyletic gradualism before they were "finished". Nature does not produce neat and tidy lines for the benefit of paleontologists; Nature produces shapr and rapid changes for the benefit of the organisms under her auspices.

~M

 

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  posted on 10/12/2004 at 02:52 PM
Isn't it more likely that evolution is explained by the cohesion of both models? it iis naive to believe that intermediate stages of morphology have never existed. Obviously the changes would have to be very rapid, in the geological blink of an eye, to avoid dead ending, but it is hard to believe that a terrestrial dinosaur lay an egg which then hatched into a fully fledged, feathered aerial dinosaur. Sparsity in the fossil record of intermediate forms could easily be explained by relatively rapid evolution if it needs explanation at all. The FR currently consists of 250,00 species. There are around 2 million known species in the world today (although a lot of these are insects and we dont like insects) so really the FR is more gap than record and such intermediate forms would be easily lost. Of course such rapid changes would appear as stepwise functions and so punctuated equilibrium can provide a useful model for macro evolution, changes in body plan etc but should not be regarded as 'complete'. On the other hand micro evolution is very obviously an example of phyletuc gradualism, there are plenty of examples of this, hominid evolution would probably be cited as the most obvious but the list iis endless (very long anyway).

 

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  posted on 10/12/2004 at 03:02 PM
P.s Geologists, by their very nature, are not 'real academics'. We just enjoy runting about the countryside hammering at the odd rock, so you'll have to excuse my poor debating skills. Also i loathed palaeobiology, so I don't know why I'm bothering with this at all. Interesting though...

 

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  posted on 10/12/2004 at 07:14 PM
quote:
any decent knock could cause fatal internal hemorrhaging.



good call mono. i didnt really think if that.

 

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  posted on 10/12/2004 at 07:19 PM
quote:

Your question is still linear and deterministic. Nothing in nature is "forward" or "backward"... it just is

quote:
Punctuated equilibrium, on the other hand, explains why the crocodile hasn't evolved a second in the past ten million years while organisms around it have changed drastically or disappeared altogether. It is because evolution happens fairly quickly when it happens at all.

quote:
Nature does not produce neat and tidy lines for the benefit of paleontologists; Nature produces shapr and rapid changes for the benefit of the organisms under her auspices.



I, for the most part, subscribe to the same theory. What I was trying to point out with the cloaca situation is that at some point some person (or group of people) might have needed a cloaca for a certain type of living condition. So when it was no longer needed, did it then turn into a recessive gene that could pop out at a later time or was it simply a defective/mutated gene that caused a freak occurance for no reason. I realize I used the term step rather than implying a leap or quick occurance, but that is actually what I was getting at. I don't subscribe the the "in between" type steps of evolution. They are unnecessary and don't serve any real purpose in my opinion. I do think some changes are less openly obvious than others, but nonetheless they are a leap rather than an in between stage of any sort.

 

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tried before." ~Mae West




 

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  posted on 11/12/2004 at 11:53 AM
With regards to the intermediate stages problem, could it not be that a dominant strain mutation such as, for example vestigial fleshy flaps between arms and body became gradually more prolific but had, at the time, no significant advantages or disadvantages until some strains of the mutation allowed ruidmentary gliding which could be an advantage and it developed from there?
With regards to crocs, change seems to be unneccesary in this case. The only ever significant threat to them has been mankind and we have unfortunately happened far too fast for an evolutionary step to become useful in many cases. They have had no real natural predators for millennia and while others around them may have needed to change there has never been a change significantly advantageous enough to create a distinct new genus.

 

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  posted on 11/12/2004 at 06:57 PM
Wolf's Note: Writing this for the third fucking time. I am getting damned sick of writing and writing and then losing everything because the fucking site decides I am no longer logged in...

 

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  posted on 11/12/2004 at 07:02 PM
NFI: " Isn't it more likely that evolution is explained by the cohesion of both models? "

Actually, it is not only more likely, it is necessary for that to be the case. I very harshly (and unfairly) downplayed the rôle of phyletic gradualism because it leads to more misunderstandings about evolution than it clears up, even though it is a chief mechanism of it. We could devote more memory than this site has to offer dispelling myths and misunderstandings regarding evolution, even though it is really not a particularly difficult concept. While most people grasp the most basic of the basics, they miss the larger picture so badly that "evolution" as it is understood by the Great Unwashed is no more a product of scientific thought than creationsism. The theory of evolution is one of the best case studies for a little knowledge being a dangerous thing.

Now... I'll submit this part before retyping the whole thing in one sitting. *fingers crossed... you fucking bastard of a site*

~M.

 

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  posted on 11/12/2004 at 07:06 PM
I should also add (as I did three fucking times earlier) that while I acknowledge that phyletic gradualism does and must occur, I must mainatain that the net effect of micro changes upon a population over time is nil as long as environmental factors remain stable. All other things being equal, a representative of Homo sapiens sapiens who lay in a peat bog for three thousand years is genetically identical to the guy standing next to you waiting for the bus to arrive.

*submitting again before moving on to the next part...*

 

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