So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Ethnicity. that of my father and his father before him
Location Altadena, CA
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The Link To Zanzibar's Past
This is my page in the beloved art community that my sister got me into:
Extra points for people who know what Samarinda is.
The Phases of the Moon Module
The Tree and the Telephone Pole
I Do Not Know Their Names
Today I am Young
A Night Poem
Siren of the Sea
If I Were a Dragon
To the Dreamers Leave the Sky
The Honor of the Oyster
Return From San Diego
A Late Summer's Night
Of Dragons and Men
The Edge of the World
The Snake's Terror
Metaphysics and the Middaymoon
Of Adventures in Foreign Lands
The Rogue Wave: The Unedited Version
Adventures in the PRC
Voyage of Discovery
Drinking the Blood of Goats
Ticket for a Phantom Bus
Os peixes nadam o mar
Three Villages Far Away
The River Weser
Children I Should Have Kidnapped, Part I
Let's Get You Out of Those Clothes
If Underwear Could Speak
Croc Hunter/Combat Wombat
Only My Favorite Baseball Player EVER
Aw, Larry Walker, how I loved thee.
M: Science and Exploration
T: Cook a nice dinner
Th: Parties, movies, dinners
F: Picnics, the Louvre
S: Read books, go for walks, PARKOUR
Su: Philosophy, Religion
The Reading List
This list starts Summer 2006
A Crocodile on the Sandbank
Tales of the Alhambra (in progress)
Dark Lord of Derkholm
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The Lost Years of Merlin
Harry Potter a l'ecole des sorciers (in progress)
Atlas Shrugged (in progress)
A Long Way Gone (story of a boy soldier in Sierra Leone- met the author! w00t!)
The Eye of the World: Book One of the Wheel of Time
From Magma to Tephra (in progress)
Lady Chatterley's Lover
Harry Potter 7
The No. 1 Lady's Detective Agency
Introduction to Planetary Volcanism
A Child Called "It"
Is Multi-Culturalism Bad for Women?
Americans in Southeast Asia: Roots of Commitment (in progress)
What's So Great About Christianity?
Aeolian Dust and Dust Deposits
The City of Ember
The People of Sparks
When I was in Cuba, I was a German Shepard
The Golden Compass
Clan of the Cave Bear
The 9/11 Commission Report (2nd time through, graphic novel format this time, ip)
The Incredible Shrinking Man
The Elves of Cintra
The Gypsy Morph
Animorphs #23: The Pretender
Animorphs #25: The Extreme
Animorphs #26: The Attack
A Journey to the Center of the Earth
A Great and Terrible Beauty
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
To Sir, With Love
Alice in Wonderland
Through the Looking Glass
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
The Hunger Games
Shadows and Strongholds
The Jungle Book
Beatrice and Virgil
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
No One Ever Told Us We Were Defeated
The Name of the Wind
Tao Te Ching
What Paul Meant
Lao Tzu and Taoism
Sand and Sandstones
Lost Christianites: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
The Science of God
Great Contemporaries, by Winston Churchill
City of Bones
Around the World in 80 Days, by Jules Verne
Stranger in a Strange Land
The Old Man and the Sea
Flowers for Algernon
Au Bonheur des Ogres
The Road to Serfdom
De La Terre à la Lune (ip)
In the Light of What We Know
Devil in the White City
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
How to Be a Good Wife
A Mote in God's Eye
want to read: Last Hunger Games Book, Honeybee Democracy, The Bell Jar
The Problem with Evolutionary Theory
Saturday. 9.29.07 7:23 am
The Theory of Evolution is quite robust in the sense that natural selection is seen to take place on fairly short time scales among bacteria and slightly longer timescales among British moths and the like. However, when one ponders the implications of the theory of evolution, it is hard not to disagree with the opinions of the "Neodarwinists", who believe that all the variety in life today has been brought about by the process of natural selection alone. This is because natural selection is in itself a somewhat destructive process, weeding most mutants out of a population and leaving those who by random chance or Fate have developed a trait which makes them more fit. Organisms aren't, however, going to randomly develop a fully-formed wing. Such an appendage would require quite a lot of random mutations over a long period of time. So would a smaller but perhaps even more profound change such as a feather. However, the troubling thing about such an innovation is the fact that the wing itself would be of no evolutionary advantage to the creature until it enabled flight. You could imagine a stunted wing which allowed short hops from branch to branch as an evolutionary advantage, much like the skin flap of a flying squirrel, but still the advantages of a stunted wing which requires modification of a working foreleg structure would almost certainly be selected against.
The reason I am talking about this is because a famous scientist, Lynn Margulis, came to speak at our weekly geosciences talk the Thursday before last. She is famous mostly for being the one who suggested that various organelles of the cell (chloroplasts, mitochondria) were actually formerly independent organisms, and were incorporated into the cells of other organisms as a result of a close symbiosis, when two organisms work together closely for the benefit of both (when two organisms live and work closely together for the benefit of only one, this is called parasitism, and it's often to the detriment of the other). In keeping with this theory, Dr. Margulis also believes that most of what has driven evolution forward is the incorporation of other organisms' genomes (mostly viral and bacterial) into larger organisms, with the wholesale adoption of their characteristics. Naturally, this is a much easier way to make sudden changes than if all of the innovation necessary for a major change had to be created by a random series of mutations. Instead, an organism can in a sense "try out" a new set of genes while living in symbiosis with another. If there is a good fit and both benefit from the living arrangement, the larger organism can begin facilitating the reproduction of the smaller one (or the smaller one can just attach its reproduction process to that of the larger) and slowly over time they can become one organism.
Dr. Margulis explains this with a series of examples. First she shows a video of a bacterium that is motile because of a large number of cilia. Some are short, energetic cilia and others are long, whip-like cilia. She then reveals that each of these cilia is an organism by itself, with the short cilia being a part of one species and the long cilia a part of another. All of these organisms work together to make the larger cell motile. This is a clear example of the type of symbiosis that could eventually lead to a more complex organism. She goes on to describe a kind of fly that functions well with a certain type of bacteria to help it digest its food. The bacteria's genome is not part of the fly's genome, but it when it lays its eggs the fly secretes a juice over them at the same time which is concentrated in this bacteria. When the new flies emerge from the eggs, they ingest the slime and the bacteria colonize immediately. Thus the flies are never without the needed bacteria to properly digest their food. A more extreme example of this is when they were examining the chromosome of another organism and they discovered that what appeared to be the end of the chromosome was in fact a complete bacterial genome attached to the chromosome. Thus it appears as if the bacteria joined its genome to the end of its host's chromosome, and thus when the host replicated, the bacteria replicated as well, taking advantage of the host's infrastructure. This is similar to viruses who use host cell infrastructure as a factory for making new viruses, except in this case the replication process is non-invasive.
This theory could explain somewhat complex evolutionary leaps, like the evolution of eyes. While it seems far-fetched that an organism could randomly mutate in a way that would make one part of it sensitive to light, it is fairly reasonable that a small, light-sensitive bacterium could exist, which would provide an advantage to a larger organism should it work cooperatively with it.
This theory has been gaining some ground since the 1980s, when people began to find other complete bacterial genomes hidden within larger organism genomes, but the idea that this kind of process is what drives evolution is still largely rejected by the community as a whole. Curiously, the reason for some of their inertia may be tied to issues completely unrelated to science at all. That is, the community preceives itself to be under attack from various religious groups, who say that natural selection cannot sufficiently explain the variation in life today. Scientists have responded to these groups with what can only be described as a mix of disdain, exasperation, and more recently, rancor. Because of their intellectual disdain for the people who are asking the questions, and the agenda driving the questioners, the scientists have formed a united front against them which strives to discredit the questions instead of answering them.
The truth is, natural selection the way we define it now is not a panacea for all the problems in evolutionary science. The way the scientific community blindly and pugnaciously defends their Neodarwinist canon is not so very different from the behavior of some of the religious groups they are arguing with. If the scientific community wants my respect, they must adhere to their own self-stated principles and remain an open, questioning group which is never satisfied to defend doctrines but strives always to test and reformulate them into something more correct. But to say "remain" suggests that they have ever been that way, which they never have been. Starting before Copernicus and encompassing Galileo, Keplar, Alfred Wegener and the Theory of Plate Tectonics, and almost every other great breakthrough in the history of science, the innovators have had to face down the immovability and intolerance of the scientific community. So maybe the neodarwinists aren't so new.
Dr. Margulis' theory may not be correct. The real answer may lie somewhere between that of the neodarwinists and the proponents of symbiosis-driven evolution, or it could be something different completely (I think the wing, for example, requires innovation in evolutionary thinking to explain). But to throw that statement out there and leave it like that is the biggest evasion of all. We must continue to challenge and test different ideas, continue to pursue end-member hypotheses until we discover exactly what it means to say that the real answer is "a combination of the two".
And until the scientific community starts doing that in earnest, they will continue to piss me off.
I yield the floor to Ranor.
Recommended by 6 Members
I am by no means a scientist, but I understand that in order for us to gain even a rudimentary understanding of our world and how it works, we all need to be open to new lines of thought. To do otherwise is to stagnate, and stagnation ultimately leads to a slow kind of death. Okay, perhaps not a literal death, but rigidity of thought puts a choke hold on imagination (yes, there is imagination in science -- as absurd as some might think that concept is), and it is our imagination that fires our thoughts -- that lets us dream of what might be.
This is just my thought, but I think we're in a bit of a cultural down-swing... and though I think it's a bit inaccurate a term -- we're kind of in a modern dark age. *sigh*
» Noacat on 2007-09-29 04:52:49
Yeah, seriously. Even the ones with moustaches and beards look like chicks.
So... we're just a bunch of different organisms? Like a portugese man of war?
» randomjunk on 2007-09-29 10:16:29
What you said! If the motto is "question everything" then everything, indeed, must be questioned and thereby answered. Otherwise the scientific method makes no advancement!
R:C - Yeah, I think you would like Moby Dick, it's really interesting so far.
» jinyu on 2007-09-30 02:14:52
Perhaps the best example of this theory is Voltron.
» dave on 2007-10-08 03:07:37
"The way the scientific community blindly and pugnaciously defends their Neodarwinist canon is not so very different from the behavior of some of the religious groups they are arguing with."
» middaymoon on 2007-10-09 06:30:51
Can I suggest that you download and read some of these scientific online books to consider another perspective about evolution? (check out, in particular, In Six Days and Refuting Evolution)
The "missing" link is found below:
» papaphysix on 2007-10-12 10:00:56
There will always be flaws in the theory of evolution as known science today ain't sophisticated enough to prove that much.
However, I rather stick to this rather than believing in a magical old man who created earth in 6days around 6000years ago.
Good piece of writing btw.
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