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Losing Sight of Progress - Comments

Tom Coward's Avatar Comment 1 by Tom Coward

Hitch does it again! Yet another interesting take on a point of fact that has been 'seen' before many times, but now shows another facet.

Mon, 21 Jul 2008 19:24:00 UTC | #204302

Roland_F's Avatar Comment 2 by Roland_F

The entire evolution tree is teeming with 'stupid design' so why is an eye 'designed' from an almighty creator backwards and then disabled for creatures living in darkness.
But of course God moves in mysterious ways.

And the end of the solar system when the sun blows up as a red giant, the accelerating expansion of the universe and the utter waste of nearly the entire universe to create extremely small pockets of environments suitable for life all doesn't make any sense for an almighty creator.
But theist will have still some excused up their sleeves and promise eternal salvation even from the heat death of the universe , you only have to following their specific cult and give power and influence to their priests and even the end of planet earth is no problem for the faithful.

Mon, 21 Jul 2008 19:42:00 UTC | #204304

Fire1974's Avatar Comment 3 by Fire1974

It's amazing how you can show these salamanders to creationists and they will still persist in their indignant foolishness.

You'd think THEY were the ones with the useless ocular cavities!

Or perhaps it's their cranial cavities that are vestigial?

Mon, 21 Jul 2008 20:11:00 UTC | #204312

belacaleb's Avatar Comment 4 by belacaleb

I wonder here why we would consider vestigialism to be a "backwards progression"? Seems to me that it's another case of selection according to environmental change...When an organism doesn't need to see, it's energy can be used better elsewhere in the organism so those using less energy to support an unnecessary eye mechanism thrive a little better and so evolve that way. Trying to rely on eye-sight in a dark environment could be a bane as well etc...ciao

Mon, 21 Jul 2008 20:20:00 UTC | #204315

Roland_F's Avatar Comment 5 by Roland_F

4. Comment #215424 by belacaleb : I wonder here why we would consider vestigialism to be a "backwards progression"?

Of course the energy saving of not investing into useless eyes in the dark is a selection advantage, otherwise it would not be the path of evolution.
The point is here against the all-knowing perfect designer/creator, who creates a rudimentary eye instead no eye at all when there is no need for an eye.

Mon, 21 Jul 2008 21:20:00 UTC | #204323

King of NH's Avatar Comment 6 by King of NH

The mistaken view of 'backward' evolution does disprove the hand of god, but explaining the error also helps those who are eager to understand evolution see it for what it truely is - unguided with no goal. Humans are not an apex of evolution, but a unique roll of dice, and as Einstein argued, god couldn't have rolled them (I know I am misquoting Einstein with that). The next step in human evolution could resemble Lucy, as today it seems the stupid people breed in much larger numbers than smart ones.

Another example of 'reverse' evolution is the domestic dog. While it evolved further along the timeline than it's wild ancestor, it has less strength, stamina, and intelligence. New research points to these adaptations beginning before becoming fully domesticated, making it evolution by natural selection, a selecting for dogs more able to mingle with humans, and then live with humans (in other words, unlike most domesticates, dogs and humans domesticated one another, so to speak, for mutual benefit). Evolution can Select for a dumming down when that is part of the genetic package that best suits the needs of the species.

Mon, 21 Jul 2008 21:27:00 UTC | #204324

Roy_H's Avatar Comment 7 by Roy_H

There are dozens of examples of "backwards progression" e.g. flightless birds.Why would a god create a bird with useless wings?

Mon, 21 Jul 2008 21:32:00 UTC | #204326

debaser71's Avatar Comment 8 by debaser71

It's "explained" by creationists because salamaders, even blind cave dwelling ones, are still salamanders. They are of the same "kind". "We don't see salamanders turning into bats!"

Mon, 21 Jul 2008 22:07:00 UTC | #204330

SteveN's Avatar Comment 9 by SteveN

Ronald_F wrote in post #5:

Of course the energy saving of not investing into useless eyes in the dark is a selection advantage, otherwise it would not be the path of evolution.


This is undoubtedly true, but an even stronger driving force is probably the fact that the eye is particularly susceptible to injury and infection.

Mon, 21 Jul 2008 22:08:00 UTC | #204331

Roel's Avatar Comment 10 by Roel

4. Comment #215424 by belacaleb : I wonder here why we would consider vestigialism to be a "backwards progression"?

Why would we consider evolution to be progression in the first place? Progression is a value judgement, not a scientific concept. Only conscious, intelligent beings judge. Nature doesn't.

Mon, 21 Jul 2008 22:24:00 UTC | #204334

nalfeshnee's Avatar Comment 11 by nalfeshnee


This is undoubtedly true, but an even stronger driving force is probably the fact that the eye is particularly susceptible to injury and infection.


Thank you! I had often struggled to see how the selection pressure of "not investing resources in a useless appendage" could really produce such a drastic reduction in an organ - even allowing for long time scales.

But bring in the picture of fully-eyed salamanders bumping into things in the dark and then dying horribly as their (useless) eyes become infected and the selection pressure ramps up quite considerably.

Mon, 21 Jul 2008 22:53:00 UTC | #204339

beanson's Avatar Comment 12 by beanson

re the last paragraph of Hitchens' article

I don't see that the question "why is there something rather than nothing" is a theistic one at all actually (certainly not in it's interesting form).

It seems to me one of the most humanly baffling things there is to ponder and if one wants a purely non-theistic numinous thrill one should muse upon it like a Zen monk would a koan

Mon, 21 Jul 2008 23:11:00 UTC | #204340

bluecastle's Avatar Comment 13 by bluecastle

And what about the appendix (blind gut). What is it good for? Does anybody know of some benefits?
And the intervertebral disc is really a weak point, doesn't look like intelligent design. Hope this will evolve in the next million years to something more reliable

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 00:39:00 UTC | #204363

ridelo's Avatar Comment 14 by ridelo

The getting rid of eyesight will have been a very gradual process. Gradually they would rely on other capabilities to find their way and food in ever darker caverns. It would be interesting to investigate what they use for that. But I suppose that is already been done. Somebody knows about that?

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 00:47:00 UTC | #204368

Szymanowski's Avatar Comment 15 by Szymanowski

This isn't macroevolution, it's adaptation


:D

The salamanders haven't given birth to eagles, they're still salamanders!!!!1111one!

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 01:09:00 UTC | #204372

j.mills's Avatar Comment 16 by j.mills

Limerick Summary News Service!

That the cave salamander is blind
Shows the merciful turn of God's mind,
For who'd want to see
Creepy-crawlies for tea?
Keeping Sal in the dark is so kind!

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 01:29:00 UTC | #204377

nickthelight's Avatar Comment 17 by nickthelight

I had thought along similar lines after watching Planet Earth. However I thought it so blindingly obvious (no pun intended) that it was not worth stating.

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 01:47:00 UTC | #204384

Apathy personified's Avatar Comment 18 by Apathy personified

During an 'animated' discussion of religion and god last night, i came up with a vague new definition.

god - 'The limit on imagination that humans create'

Existence is far more interesting than it would be if there was a 'magic hermaphrodite sky elf'.

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 01:58:00 UTC | #204388

ridelo's Avatar Comment 19 by ridelo

nickthelight:

Reading the text on your avatar is impossible and I'm dying to know what Tintin says.

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 01:59:00 UTC | #204390

DamnDirtyApe's Avatar Comment 20 by DamnDirtyApe

1 to the long list of Short snappy comebacks...

'So how do you explain the eye then? How'd that come about?'

'I'll go one better. Why are there blind cave salamanders that have eye sockets but no eyes?'

'aah god must have punished the salamanders like he did the snakes!'

... I still think there are people we are never going to convince. They are basically mad.

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 02:02:00 UTC | #204391

Sconnor's Avatar Comment 21 by Sconnor

"To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree."

Of course, this quote is always taken out of context. Darwin was making a rhetorical comment, saying, yes this is odd, but indeed, it happened and then concludes with the rest of the quote, how it's possible for light-sensitive cells could become eyes over time.

"When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certain the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, should not be considered as subversive of the theory. How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light, hardly concerns us more than how life itself originated; but I may remark that, as some of the lowest organisms in which nerves cannot be detected, are capable of perceiving light, it does not seem impossible that certain sensitive elements in their sarcode should become aggregated and developed into nerves, endowed with this special sensibility." --Darwin

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 02:09:00 UTC | #204395

Jamie V's Avatar Comment 22 by Jamie V

I'm always pleased to see a new article by Christopher Hitchens, and this one doesn't disappoint.

Whoever benefits from this inquiry, it cannot possibly be Coulter or her patrons at the creationist Discovery Institute. The most they can do is to intone that "the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." Whereas the likelihood that the post-ocular blindness of underground salamanders is another aspect of evolution by natural selection seems, when you think about it at all, so overwhelmingly probable as to constitute a near certainty.


I'm not so naive as to think that hardcore creationists won't disagree, but if one looks at the above article dispassionately on the whole issue of evolution versus design, surely this point is CONCLUSIVE in favour of evolution.

Existence is far more interesting than it would be if there was a 'magic hermaphrodite sky elf'


I am proud to associate myself 100% with this comment.

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 02:35:00 UTC | #204405

Hellene's Avatar Comment 23 by Hellene

Tadpoles.

It's all there.

Egg, gills, legs, lungs.

From "Fish" to "walking" animal.

I point that out to the YEC's and say;

"there's your transitional species, right under your nose"!

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 02:39:00 UTC | #204409

Vaal's Avatar Comment 24 by Vaal

Hellene

Not to mention the overwhelming fossil evidence of transitional species of the Homo genus. Several trees of Australopithecus, Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, Homo Neanderthalis, Archaic Homo Sapiens etc etc..

17. Comment #215494 by nickthelight

I had thought along similar lines after watching Planet Earth. However I thought it so blindingly obvious (no pun intended) that it was not worth stating

Totally agree. Evolution doesn't go backwards or forwards, it fits itself best to the environment it finds itself in. In NZ birds became flightless, as they had no natural predators. Flying is expensive, so why have it, if not necessary. The flightless birds in NZ were very successful (until the advent of man), and the flightless Moa grew to 12 foot tall. Man, I would have LOVED to have seen a Moa. What a tragedy they were hunted to extinction, and so recently. It makes me nash my teeth in frustration!

EDIT: I hope future generations will not be equally as angry when they say "WHY did we not do more to stop this massive extinction event we are responsible for"

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 02:52:00 UTC | #204416

Fanusi Khiyal's Avatar Comment 25 by Fanusi Khiyal

Nice bitchslap of Ann Coulter by the Hitch *grins* Admitedly, this is like hunting dairy cows with a high powered rifle and scope, but it's still fun.

As regards evolutionary progress, I do agree with Richard Dawkins that there is a kind of progress, a tendency towards ever greater complexity, total. That is, once cyanobacteria produced Oxygen as a waste product, the basis for oxygen-breathers was laid. The deaths of plants created the topsoil from which new forms could grow. They also provide a new niche for grazers, who in turn provided a niche for predators, and all of them are niches for diseases and parasites, and these are food in turn - and so the structure schaukles upward.

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 02:58:00 UTC | #204418

bachfiend's Avatar Comment 26 by bachfiend

I regard vision to be more easily explained than olfaction. Humans, after all, only have three types of colour receptor cones and one type of photoreceptor rod, whereas there are about 1000 different smell receptors (comprising 3% of the genome, most of which are inactivated, explaining partly why humans have such a puny sense of smell). Dolphins and whales have no sense of smell; they still have the genes, but all have mutated and none are active (which would be expected from the evolutionary history of cetaceans). Vision and olfaction (amongst other functions) rely on a G-protein coupled receptor, which is just a way of getting information across a cell membrane (in these cases) to generate an electrical stimulus along a nerve ending to the brain. The different sorts of receptors would just arise through duplication of the original gene followed by mutations. Presumably eucaryotes have simpler versions (after all, even bacteria need to "know" what's happening in its enviroment too).

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 03:04:00 UTC | #204421

AdrianB's Avatar Comment 27 by AdrianB

Comment #215519 by Hellene

Tadpoles.

It's all there.

Egg, gills, legs, lungs.

From "Fish" to "walking" animal.

I point that out to the YEC's and say;

"there's your transitional species, right under your nose"!
Agreed.

Watch an animated sequence of the fetal development of an embryo from fertilization through pregnancy to birth. And then watch an animated sequence of the evolutionary development of a species of animal.

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=5Q55z6EsL8M&feature=related

Quite frankly, I find little difference except time. In fact the very idea of fetal development would be much harder to believe if it wasn't for the fact that we can observe it.


.

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 03:45:00 UTC | #204432

jaytee_555's Avatar Comment 28 by jaytee_555

Like 'nickthelight' (see comment 250494), I was rather surprised that someone as well-informed as Hitch had not previously known about this.

I've always thought the existence of cave dwelling blind salamanders (and shrimps, fish, etc) was one of the more obvious demonstrations of the fact of evolution. That some animals changed their modus operandi, and began to make their living in total darkness and stopped wasting their resources on redundant eyes, is an easy-to-grasp concept. Indeed I have used this example in many conversations with creationists for over 50 years. More recently, I have used it with good effect in discussing evolution with my grandkids.

I'm quite surprised that such a basic concept has only recently occured to Hitchins.

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 04:43:00 UTC | #204441

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 29 by Dhamma

I just skimmed it through, so I'll re-read it soon.

I just wondered if it's not supposed to be in the "featured"-section? I thought everything from the Four Horsemen were to go in that section.

Or maybe they found Hitchens to be a little too overwhelmed for no good reason?

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 04:45:00 UTC | #204442

KRKBAB's Avatar Comment 30 by KRKBAB

The very first thing that struck me was- How is this a revelation to Hitchens? Yes, I know, literature is his thing, but even I don't find the eye socket salamanders to be surprising NEW evidence. Very strange, almost as if Hitch is losing his wit. Alzheimers? Lets hope not. I think the illusion that humans are progressing in their evolution towards perfection is simply because we are slowly adapting (perfecting, if you will) to our environment that hasn't changed all that much in 3 or 4 million years. No?

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 05:03:00 UTC | #204449