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Go to: Dear E. O. Wilson: Please retire or stick to ants

superatheist's Avatar Jump to comment 28 by superatheist

"selection usually takes place at the level of the individual or the gene" sure but not just at these two levels. It has to also happen at the level of the genome, in the context of genetic networks. I am sort of disappointed in this attempt to explain these natural phenomena, as I have written before on Prof.Coyne's website, natural selection doesn't have to explain everything about an organism. One of the issues that group election tries to explain is adoption. Some primates, birds and insects adopt totally unrelated individuals, that can't possibly increase the altruist's fitness. I suspect it is a by-product of being social, so this debate seems to me to ignore very good explanations and argue based on adaptationist assumptions.

Sun, 22 Apr 2012 12:08:04 UTC | #936446

Go to: Dawkins & Krauss Discussion from ASU 4 Feb

superatheist's Avatar Jump to comment 122 by superatheist

Comment 101 by Chomolungma :

Regarding Prof Krauss' answer to the woman's question about declining intelligence, does Prof Krauss really believe that an individual's intelligence has no relation to level of educational achievement or that there is no genetic component to this? Even if society is not perfectly meritocratic, someone who is naturally intelligent will be more likely to attain higher qualifications than someone who is not, all other things being equal. Therefore if educational level is inversely correlated with fertility then it follows that over time the population will become on average less naturally intelligent (i.e. ignoring the Flynn Effect, which is environmental), unless there are other influences selecting in the opposite direction to balance it out. This is true even if the correlations are weak. I don't know how you could deny this unless you don't believe that intelligence has a genetic component, don't believe that educational achievement is related to intelligence, or don't believe that natural selection applies to humans. I can understand people being wary of endorsing eugenics and so on as an antidote to such a trend, but denying that such trends even exist just seems like political correctness.

However you want to define intelligence in order to claim that it has a genetic component, you have to name the genes that make it? if you consider eyesight as a part of intelligent behaviour, then Pax genes are intelligence genes. Intelligence is not a trait that natural selection can act upon, why? because no one agrees on a definition for it, no one has shown what genes play a role in it, and how come "intelligent" people have these genes as appose to less intelligent people. Finally, Alfred Wallace didn't have an eduction, but he was a great scientist - to say the least-. Formal eduction is not an indication of anything really meaningful, in the context of knowledge. Acquiring knowledge - in my opinion - is passion for it, not having a three letter word before one's name.

Thu, 23 Feb 2012 05:44:02 UTC | #920931

Go to: Let's Talk About Evolution

superatheist's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by superatheist

I am a bit surprised that they didn't use the definition that Darwin used to define evolution; descent with modification. Changes in frequencies of genes is a population genetics definition, not the developmental one; changes in developmental pathways - which happen by genomic changes. Thirdly, evolution is not just about surviving, it is also about randomness at the genotypic and phenotypic level, and it is about the affect of organisms on natural selection. That is why darwin's definition was so accurate!

Tue, 22 Nov 2011 03:47:21 UTC | #892186

Go to: "The Stroke of Luck that Led to Life on Earth Exists Elsewhere in the Universe" --Richard Dawkins

superatheist's Avatar Jump to comment 37 by superatheist

“That is a misunderstanding of NS, superatheist. The chaos only applies within any one generation. In the end, there are enough generations that the randomising effects of "luck" are integrated out in the allele population count, and the "best" allele usually wins in the end, in spite of drift. Drift is usually only seen to dominate for example. between two populations that have been isolated from each other, but under similar external condidtions. Eg, one island splits into two, and a single population of land animals is thus split - they become different in some arbitrary manner by drift. However, whenever adaptation is occurring, this is enabled only by NS - drift only produces a "randomly random" set of alleles of the various genes involved. Only NS can provide the coordination to produce complex adaptations. Eyes are not some oddball exception in being due to NS. You may be confused by looking only at individual genes instead of gene teams that are necessary to the phenotype in nearly all traits.”

Things to say about this: 1- First of all I am not talking about the process of selection that is obviously - from the title - NOT chaotic, I am talking about the direction of adaptive evolution. I mentioned an example earlier but I will explain it again: because the environment that the organism adapts to is unpredictable; changes in the concentration of chemicals due to accidents for example or the introduction of new predators, these changes can’t be predicted by studying the CURRENT or the past affect of the environment on the organism. “We are rarely in the business of prediction in [adaptive] evolution” Steven Rose.

2- Secondly,No body is arguing from a population genetics perspective, I study evo-devo at my university - population genetics is correct, but there is more to a phenotype than its structural genes. You missed what I meant with your eye example. The octopus has an eye that is very good, a bit better than ours, but some worms have very primitive eyes, why is that? how come didn’t they evolve “the best eye”?, well because the best eyes depend upon the conditions in which the organism lives. So there is no DIRECTION to the over all evolution of the eye in living organisms, acquiring an eye depends on the environment at which the organism lives- and the evolutionary history of course.

“Only if either the populatuion is statistically small, or the time-frame is so long that "random" events such as asteroid strikes, which derail the previous course, have to be taken into account. No-one who argues that NS is not random would disagree that evolution as a whole is unpredictable in the face of such events. You also have to allow for the unpredictability of mutations, which are not regarded as being selection itself, even though they are obviously an essential part of evolution. In short, your position is that EVOLUTION is "random" or "chaotic", but that is a different matter from saying that selection itself is inherently random or chaotic. It is the intervention of random events that makes it seem so. Otherwise, the amazing adaptations apparent in any rainforest ecosystem would not even be possible.”

I don’t disagree with this, but you missed my point, I mean direction not process.

“Yet another point, superatheist, is that, if you are concerned only with the time variation of gene alleles, then evolution certainly does appear very chaotic, as you say. However, if you look also at phenotypic evolution, you notice that there is some "method in its madness" - the "chaos" isn't that chaotic after all, even if there isn't complete predictability, due to various random elements in the process, including the randomness of mutations.”

No I am not just concerned with the allele frequencies. Your point about the evolution at the phenotypic level is true in the context of the evolution of evolvability and some other cases - and finally your points about mutations are correct, but you also forgot that the relationship between phenotype and genotype is not as simple as; a phenotype is produced by a genotype and that is all. In developmental biology we learn that: the Genome - as a whole - and the environment and developmental noise - chaos - are co-determinants of the organism.

The last thing I want to challenge is this:” Only NS can provide the coordination to produce complex adaptations”. Wrong, natural selection is not THE ONLY thing that produces adaptations. We have to understand that evolution is also run by not just NS or Random Drift, it is also run by Niche Construction. The environment that is supposed to selection the individuals in a population is PARTIALLY determined by the organism, so NS is not THE ONLY - because it is controlled partially by the phenotype.

Tue, 02 Aug 2011 19:38:15 UTC | #857111

Go to: "The Stroke of Luck that Led to Life on Earth Exists Elsewhere in the Universe" --Richard Dawkins

superatheist's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by superatheist

On what basis are you making that assumption? Our sample size is 1. How can you say it's unlikely that intelligent life wouldn't arise again if we rewound the tape and played it forward again? We're the only life that we know of. If we found multiple risings of life on separate planets that were truly unique, and found no intelligent life on any of them, you might then be able to say that intelligent life is unlikely to happen again if given the chance.

On what basis? on the basis of evolutionary biology. Most of evolution - as I said earlier and Prof.Dawkins explained - is chaotic. If we rewind the tape of old world monkeys evolution we might not end up with humans - when we play it forward.

Secondly, the rest of your sentence assumes that the origin and evolution of life on earth somehow leads to intelligent humans and of course it doesn't. If early mammals didn't survive the comet impact - by accident, there will be no old world monkeys in the first place.

Mon, 01 Aug 2011 17:26:40 UTC | #856669

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