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The Human Body as an Evolutionary Patchwork - Comments

Logicel's Avatar Comment 1 by Logicel

A superb lecture from a working scientist. Walker comes across as a very creative, hardworking, and gentle guy, and this demeanor enabled me to really listen to what he was describing. His presentation was simply charming, especially his use of football yard lines to peg various stages of evolutionary development. His responses to the audience's questions showed his immense knowledge and experience, and his willingness to share what he knows in a friendly and non-threatening manner.

Listen and you will learn why testes are on the outside and men have nipples. I found his opinion that we are Homo Erectus to be a blast of fresh air: populations of our species died out like Homo Erectus, but not our species. He thinks that naming so many hominid species was a little too energetic. Occam's razor, anyone?

Wed, 11 Apr 2007 03:22:00 UTC | #28698

pholt's Avatar Comment 2 by pholt

The audio of these Princeton lectures are also available as podcasts here:

http://www.princeton.edu/WebMedia/podcasts/

The Alan Walker lecture is:

The Human Body as an Evolutionary Patchwork

Wed, 11 Apr 2007 04:37:00 UTC | #28713

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 3 by Cook@Tahiti

I highly recommend the Peter Ward lectures on 9th, 10th and 11 January 2007 - The Undesigned Universe

http://www.princeton.edu/WebMedia/lectures/

They're very interesting, covering a variety of disciplines: astronomy, cosmology, geology, climatology, biology, etc.

It's quite sobering to realise how many factors have to be right for life on Earth to have developed: the sun has to be right mass and metallicity, the position has to be right in the habitable zone in the galaxy, the solar system has to have a Jupiter to protect from asteroids but still shepherd comets in to supply water, the presence and size of the moon for rotational stability, the low eccentricity of the orbit, the iron core to generate magnetic fields to protect from radiation, the carbon cycle that regulates temperature, the narrow time windows between catastrophic events, etc, etc.

It makes one very pessimistic about the density of extraterrestrial intelligence throughout the universe - it might be very low... perhaps just one or two civilisations per galaxy, and these wouldn't even be simultaneous.

Despite this, Peter Ward presents the findings with humour and an absence of waffle.

Wed, 11 Apr 2007 05:24:00 UTC | #28721

Fishpeddler's Avatar Comment 4 by Fishpeddler

Damn you atheists for suggesting that my body is an evolutionary patchwork. God created me out of whole cloth in the image of a monkey. Er... wait a second! Now you've got me all confused! Damn your devilish tricks!

[In all seriousness, these are great links. Thanks]

Wed, 11 Apr 2007 08:35:00 UTC | #28761

CDG's Avatar Comment 5 by CDG

Rtambree, thanks for the link. I will check it out. It is mind boggling how many factors are needed for intelligent life to form. I doubt it to even be 1 or two per galaxy. We may be the only intelligent life ever to form in our universe. And if you take the Dial theory and apply it to the other potential universes in the multi-verse that too does not bold well for life to form.

What if we are the only life species over eternity to have evolved in the multiverse with intelligence? It could be - and that is sobering to think how lucky we are.

Wed, 11 Apr 2007 08:41:00 UTC | #28762

Seti's Avatar Comment 6 by Seti

And even more sobering to think how incapable we seem to be of living together and protecting this one beautiful jewel of a planet.

Wed, 11 Apr 2007 09:55:00 UTC | #28776

CDG's Avatar Comment 7 by CDG

Seti, well said. In time I hope our species will contemplate and then embrace the wonderment of our universe as replacement to their God worship. Its so much more interesting than the boring Gods they have come up with. And its reality. I really can't see how its even a close call.

Wed, 11 Apr 2007 11:45:00 UTC | #28780

RickM's Avatar Comment 8 by RickM

I went to the Princeton site; there are lots of interesting lectures.

Just finished watching "The Undesigned Universe: Part 1: Designs on Life" by Peter Ward. Well worth watching (1:30). See:

http://www.princeton.edu/WebMedia/lectures/

Wed, 11 Apr 2007 15:03:00 UTC | #28799

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 9 by Cook@Tahiti

8. Comment #31226 by RickM

Glad you're enjoying the Peter Ward lectures. They're some of the best around this year so far. Isn't the internet a great 'TV station'? - in one weekend you can be in Boston, Princeton, San Diego, London and New York.

It beats re-runs of Friends.

Wed, 11 Apr 2007 15:07:00 UTC | #28801

jamesstephenbrown's Avatar Comment 10 by jamesstephenbrown

Did it occur to anyone else that if, as Professor Walker says, having visible whites made the target of our attacks more aware of our intentions; that this would be an evolutionary disadvantage?

This seemed like an out of place lapse in the brilliant professor's logic. Surely the evolution of eye-whites would be more to do with better aiding co-operative and communicative endeavours rather than warning enemies of our intentions.

Wed, 11 Apr 2007 15:57:00 UTC | #28811

Logicel's Avatar Comment 11 by Logicel

I interpreted Walker to mean that the co-hunters, the other hunting members of the same tribe, needed to be able to see where the spear was being thrown, so they, themselves, would not become the target accidentally. And in that way, the eye whites did serve a co-operative and communicative purpose in lieu of shouting, "You mother, get out of the f'cking way!!!" Perhaps Cheney lacks eye whites, and that is why the lawyer whom he shot in the face could not identify he was Cheney's target?

Wed, 11 Apr 2007 16:10:00 UTC | #28816

MarcKeys's Avatar Comment 12 by MarcKeys

"The audio of these Princeton lectures are also available as podcasts here:

http://www.princeton.edu/WebMedia/podcasts/"

Very Nice link mate cheers!

Wed, 11 Apr 2007 17:14:00 UTC | #28828

dthuleen's Avatar Comment 13 by dthuleen

Thanks so much for this link. There are a great number of fascinating lectures on the Princeton site; I'm thrilled to know about it!

Wed, 11 Apr 2007 18:54:00 UTC | #28840

Veronique's Avatar Comment 14 by Veronique

Try reading Paul Davies The Goldilocks Enigma; why is the universe just right for life? published late last year.

Interesting book and some theses.

I love the way we are a patchwork. What a great expression. I also really like that the mitochondria are passed on through each generation totally unchanged. Matrilineal advantage. Makes tracking everything much easier.

What a great lecturer. Easy, gently funny and packs a big punch.

I, too, am going to listen to Peter Ward. The Princeton site looks terrific. Lots of 'stuff'. I love 'stuff'.

Logicel, I also took the whites of the eyes to be co-operative and careful rather than any other way. We needed to know when danger was about and that we wouldn't have abreactions in our own group. Could have (and probably did) disastrous results.

Cheney - no whites. A considered opinion!!:)

Cheers
V

Thu, 12 Apr 2007 00:34:00 UTC | #28877

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 15 by Cook@Tahiti

Webcasts.

If you like the Princeton webcast page, I recommended MIT World, Dana Centre, Boston WGBH Forum, UCTV, SLAC webcasts, Caltech webcasts, JPL von Karman lecture series, the Royal Society archives, Rice University, Research Channel, UC Berkeley Events & Courses, National Institutes of Health, etc.

This site won't let me post all the links (it detects multiple URLs as spam) but they can be easily Googled.

There are also a multitude of good podcast sites: Infidel Guy, Skepticality, Nature podcast, Scientific American, New Scientist, Science Friday (NPR), the ABC's Science Show and Late Night Live, BBC Radio 4, CBC's Quirks & Quarks. Kavli Institute, Planetary Radio, Teaching Company Courses, The Modern Scholar courses, etc.

Thu, 12 Apr 2007 00:59:00 UTC | #28885

RickM's Avatar Comment 16 by RickM

Rtambree,

Thanks, that's quite a list.

Thu, 12 Apr 2007 09:05:00 UTC | #28961

wendelin's Avatar Comment 17 by wendelin

I've just had the equivalent of - there's no other word for it - a religious experience. Listening to this man, I want to go back to school to study evolutionary biology. I wonder if he knows how inspiring he is?

I also want to make Creationists sit through this lecture - the ones who are literate enough to understand it. I'm going to point out to them every instance of Dr. Walker saying "This is controversial", "This isn't proven", "There's debate about this", "This is a very preliminary conclusion"... and that shining golden moment when he said: "This is true despite what I've previously written; I was wrong before."

The breathtaking rigour in the evidentiary process used in all science would knock the socks off those ignorant hicks.

Thu, 12 Apr 2007 15:20:00 UTC | #28997

diamat1's Avatar Comment 18 by diamat1


Glad you're enjoying the Peter Ward lectures. They're some of the best around this year so far. Isn't the internet a great 'TV station'? - in one weekend you can be in Boston, Princeton, San Diego, London and New York.


I strongly agree. But, can anyone suggest to me a way of downloading and saving these real or windows media video files? (I'm OK with the audio files)
I find that I can appreciate these lectures better when watched from a saved file - our broadband in NZ is just so bad that streaming video is hopeless.

Fri, 13 Apr 2007 16:32:00 UTC | #29226

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 19 by Cook@Tahiti

18. Comment #31662 by diamat1

>But, can anyone suggest to me a way of downloading

Use the program HiDownload off Streamingstar. Just Google for it. This works reasonably well. Sometimes URLs are hidden and you need URL Helper to get the cloaked URLs and paste them into HiDownload. StreamDown is another program but HiDownload is easier IMHO. Realmedia can be better than Windows Media Player files off the Princeton sites (you have a choice) because you can fast-forward in Realplayer.

Fri, 13 Apr 2007 17:19:00 UTC | #29228

diamat1's Avatar Comment 20 by diamat1

19. Comment #31664 by Rtambree

Many thanks for that. Will look into it.

Sat, 14 Apr 2007 12:45:00 UTC | #29393

chamber's Avatar Comment 21 by chamber

Listen and you will learn why testes are on the outside and men have nipples. I found his opinion that we are Homo Erectus to be a blast of fresh air:

I have something more serious to think. I guess the testes and nipples are not on my worry list. By the way my friend is for working for a Japanese robot company. He wants to build a robot exactly like us, human beings. But he couldn't figure out the first thing? How will he move the robot? We have all flesh and body parts but we can move them with our soul? Our body is like a dress for our soul. So how can find a soul for his human like robot?

Sun, 15 Apr 2007 02:45:00 UTC | #29516

jamesstephenbrown's Avatar Comment 22 by jamesstephenbrown

"I interpreted Walker to mean that the co-hunters, the other hunting members of the same tribe, needed to be able to see where the spear was being thrown, so they, themselves, would not become the target accidentally"

Though I think this might be a fairly charitable reading of Walker, I agree, this would make sense - as long as it is for cooperation. He was however, talking about conflict with other hominoids without eye-whites, so I'm still suspect about his logic.

Mon, 16 Apr 2007 12:08:00 UTC | #29816

magetoo's Avatar Comment 23 by magetoo

jamesstephenbrown:

Did it occur to anyone else that if, as Professor Walker says, having visible whites made the target of our attacks more aware of our intentions; that this would be an evolutionary disadvantage?
What occurred to me was that it would be an example of selfish genes. They don't care about your ability to kill your competitor, they "care" about having more copies of themselves running around.

Although I think the cooperation theory works much, much better.

Excellent lecture by the way. Too bad the camera was fixed on the slides all the time - but I suppose it's hard to mess up completely that way.

And I'd just like to mention that MPlayer, which is available for Unix as well as Windows systems can save all sorts of streams as well. (It's what I use when I have to do that.)

Tue, 17 Apr 2007 18:48:00 UTC | #30178