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Scientifimical Discussiamerations Threadxxx
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Madhatte
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 11:09 am    Post subject: Scientifimical Discussiamerations Threadxxx Reply with quote

Gimme a bit to construct this thing--it's gonna be a bit of work to shuffle this stuff around and I'm too dense to figure out how to abuse my moderator powers to actually move things, so it's gonna have to be cut-and-paste.

NEVER FEAR

We will have a good thread soon enough. Watch this space, or something.
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I could teach you to how file a washer to make it worth a nickel but if you really want to make big bucks just take a penny and drill a hole in it and it becomes a washer and is worth a dime. -- Art Martin, Old-Time Logger
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Madhatte
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 11:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The discussion begins innocently, with a couple of gems from CrushFearSynth:

CrushFearSynth wrote:
Devolving is not a real concept. Nothing ever actually devolves, it just evolves in a different direction, even if that direction is "backwards". Another example: decceleration. Not real. An object(being anything) in motion does not deccelerate, it accelerates in the opposite direction. Both concepts are hardline science facts. Or should I say "facts"?


and

CrushFearSynth wrote:
I should also point out there is no concrete evidence Dodo's had functioning wings to begin with. 'Hatte can explain this better than I, but basically, an advantage does not evolve if it does not meet environmental neccessity. Evolution does not look into the future and create something because it might help. Evolution happens solely based on trial and error. If something is hurting a species, it will eventually develop a means of defense, or die out. Once an environment has been satisfactorily adapted, evolution halts(or slows to a creep).


Ashlad retorted:

Ashlad wrote:
Off-topic: I don't agree. Opposite concepts, or variations on concepts get their own words as those words become useful. In certain contexts, like in physics where positive and negative values of acceleration are used as variations on a single scale, the word decelerate is confusing and unnecessary. In normal conversation or writing in which physics is not under discussion, the word can be useful.


To which I replied:

madhatte wrote:
Ah, evolution. You just had to go there, didn't you? I promise you, this is not the place for a discussion of this magnitude. I will, however, endeavor to unburden you all of a misconception or two.

1) Evolution is a mechanical and subtractive process. It is not a theory. Applied to creation it is, true. However, as far as demonstrable, mechanical, reproducible process, it is unarguable that evolution occurs. You can cause it to occur in the laboratory in less than a week by culturing strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That it is subtractive means that it goes like a game of "musical chairs" -- at the end of the cycle, whoever doesn't have a niche for reproduction, and for its offspring to survive to reproductive maturity, is lost.

2) Evolution does not "go" in any specific direction. The bacteria example mentioned above is not an exception to this rule because the environment those experimental cultures are subjected to is not a natural one -- only one variable is considered in their process of Natural Selection.

3) In addition to the above statements, evolution cannot go backwards--"de-evolution" is impossible. This is because of the subtractive nature of evolution. If a trait is lost in a population, that is due to that trait being somehow unnecessary and irrelevant; as a result, individuals who express that trait less strongly show a tendency to be better suited for reproductive fitness. Three examples: the tiny vestigial forearms of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, the flightless wings of dodos and penguins, and the "fingers" hidden inside the flippers of whales, seals, and other sea mammals. These are said to be "derived" traits--that is, peculiar to a species or small group of specise. This is in opposition to "ancestral traits", which are the overarching traits that lump the large groups together -- i.e. birds have feathers, fish have scales, mammals have hair, etc. Uniqueness is generally derived.

4) Evolution does not happen at any particular speed. It is an outmoded but commonly-held misconception that evolution only happens over millions of years. There are many modern examples of species evolving within a very few generations -- Google "peppered moth" for an industrial-age example. Evolution happens when some pressure forces a large portion of a population to fail to reach reproductive maturity. There are two possible results: the species adapts and overcomes, or it becomes extinct (or at least insignificant) and another species rapidly fills its niche, adopting its food sources and habit as its own.

5) Evolution doesn't necessarily happen in only one place. There are many examples, especially in the plant kingdom, where unique adaptations arose in response to specific climatic pressures that are identical in species that have no common ancestry. This is called convergent evolution. Examples include such pairings as cacti in the new world and old-world succulents. Both share the fleshy leaf structure and C4 metabolism of desert plants but have no common ancestor in the relevant past. By "relevant" I mean at the taxonomic level of Class or below.

This is by no means an exhaustive discussion of evolution. Ask specific questions and I will give specific answers. As luck would have it, I am especially hot on this stuff right now due to my studies this quarter. If you are interested in the idea of "common ancestry", Google "cladistics" or "cladogram". That's the hot area of research right now. Also give a look at "PhyloCode", an extension of the same logic. I am no fan of the PhyloCode, but we can talk about that later.


Crush had a few questions:

CrushFearSynth wrote:
Quote:
If a trait is lost in a population, that is due to that trait being somehow unnecessary and irrelevant

That was what I attempted to point out. However, I was taught that traits are never lost due to disuse or even irrelevancy. Traits are only bred out if they have a counterproductive effect on the species in a given circumstance. Example: Blacks evolved their pigment as protection from the sun. The addition does not harm them in other climates, therefore they keep that trait. Asians(oriental) evolved slanted eyes to protect from the cold, but keep that feature for the same reason. 'Hatte: edumacate me.(perhaps a new thread is called for...)
Quote:
Evolution does not happen at any particular speed

Depends on the situation. But I think you covered that in your examples.
Quote:
Evolution does not "go" in any specific direction

We were speaking metaphorically and you know it! Pthlblll! Besides, it does go in a specific direction - the one it needs to go in.
Quote:
Opposite concepts, or variations on concepts get their own words as those words become useful

Yeah, the whole fluidity of language thing. I think I was referring more to the ideas behind the words. Devolve does serve a function in speech since the idea is simple and easily understood, even though the idea it describes does not exist in reality.


So did Mishlai:

Mishlai wrote:
I've always thought of evolution as having another process:

One where random mutations occur that are not necessarily useful. The population eventually contains member that have the mutation, and members that do not. One day a subtractive process may choose between the two, but there has to be a point where a difference is there for no good reason.

I'm particularly interested in the development of completely new abilities. Like legs, for example. I guess that a snake, for example, might develop and odd nub, and pass it on. Maybe one day a snake is born with a nub long enough to touch the ground, or perhaps just develops muscle control of the thing and uses it to push off of rocks. I guess it gains an advantage and the slow process of turning the nub into something truly useful begins.

These are all just my uneducated assumptions though, and I'm curious to hear hatte weigh in on them. I get peppered moth style subtractive evolution, it's the transistion from less complex to more complex species (forgive me if that's the wrong taxy term, I can't keep track of that gorram tree) that I find to be fascinating.

Actually, while we're at it do you think you could summarize the various levels of taxy for us? Species, Genus, Class, Favorite TV Show, etc.?


So now we have a summary, a place to start, and a handful of burning Questions.
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We are going to have to stick a pin in a map, set fire to something and carry on until the earth looks flat! -- RandyMac

I could teach you to how file a washer to make it worth a nickel but if you really want to make big bucks just take a penny and drill a hole in it and it becomes a washer and is worth a dime. -- Art Martin, Old-Time Logger
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CrushFearSynth
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 12:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The opposite concept stuff Ash and I were talking about wasn't in regard to science, actually. We were discussing the evolution of language, American English specifically. But no matter, carry on, oh captain, my captain.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 12:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's okay. A discussion of language and its relationship with science can fit in, too. Variety is the spice of your demise, my curry eating goth friend.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So: on to answering questions.

CrushFearSynth wrote:
However, I was taught that traits are never lost due to disuse or even irrelevancy. Traits are only bred out if they have a counterproductive effect on the species in a given circumstance.


One very important thing to consider is that "breeding" and "evolution" are NOT the same thing. Breeding is something humans do to showcase desirable traits. If anything, this is an example of "Un-Natural Selection". Often "Purebred" animals have a higher incidence of inherited diseases -- say, Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds -- because often the "desirable" traits these creatures are bred for are recessive, as are the deleterious ones. A German Shepherd could never revert to wolfhood as-is -- it would take a few generations of interbreeding with other populations to mask those recessive traits, which would have the effect of destroying generations of careful breeding by AKC psychopaths.

Again, I stress that evolution is a subtractive process, and can only be understood by looking back at its results. You can't look forward and predict its direction. Even in the case of creatures whose phylogeny is well-understood, the evolutionary ladder from simple single-celled organisms to modern complex creatures is full of holes, "missing links", if you will. This is my major beef with cladistics and PhyloCode reasoning -- the assumption of a common ancestor between two organisms without the fossil record to prove the existance of this common ancestor is a huge step backward, to pre-Darwinian "Chain-Of-Life" reasoning, couched in high-tech verbage and backed up with gene-sequencing techniques and procedures. I quote myself from a paper I wrote on the subject just recently:

madhatte wrote:
I posed a question in last week’s discussion: “how different is it, philosophically, to say ‘This gel electrophoresis plate looks more like this one than that one’ than it is to say ‘This plant looks more like this one than that one’”? My question still stands.


Next issue -- Crush dropped this zinger:

CrushFearSynth wrote:
Besides, it does go in a specific direction - the one it needs to go in.


NO! BAD CRUSH! Evolution can't look forward. I thought we had already established that? There is no "needs to". There is no "higher power" guiding the process. It is simply a matter of reproducing, and thus passing your genetic information on to the next generation, or not. Traits, population, species are lost ONLY when they are unable to close that loop. Pressures such as climate change, predation, disease, competition, and a million others take that decision out of the hands of the individual, and thus the population. There is no grand plan.

Next, Mish brought up a very good point:

Mishlai wrote:
One where random mutations occur that are not necessarily useful.


Mutation is one of the four ways that new genetic material is introduced into a population. The other three are recombination, where a ribosomal transcription error conspires to introduce new traits; migration, where populations interbreeed with other populations, sharing new genetic material amongst themselves; there is a fourth which currently eludes me. Forgive. It's been over a decade since I studied evolution.

Regardless, the majority of these introductions of new genetic material are essentialy random in nature. There is some argument, though, about the use of the word "random", suggesting that "accidental" or "undirected" may be more appropriate. The vast majority of these addition events are either uneventful or deleterious. That majority is so overwhelming, in fact, that it approaches 100%.

However, occasionally a chance event results in the introduction of a trait that, over time, proves to have improved the survival rate, and therefore reproductive fitness, of an organism or population. This is how nature balances the simplifying effect of evolution's predominately subtractive mechanics.

Mish brought up a classic example next:

Mishlai wrote:
I'm particularly interested in the development of completely new abilities. Like legs, for example. I guess that a snake, for example, might develop and odd nub, and pass it on.


This is actually a perfect example of the subtractive nature of evolution. Snakes are reptiles, right? Most reptiles have legs, right? Would you believe that snakes used to have legs, too? Yep, there are still vestigial structures in the skeletal structure of modern snakes that point to their earlier legged form. Leglessness is a derived characteristic. It is highly unlikely, therefore, that snakes will ever get around to evolving them back. Legless, they occupy a successful niche. There's no benefit to giving that up and competing with lizards or mammals for food and other resources.

Finally, Mish asks a question that I bet you all were wondering about:

Mishlai wrote:
Actually, while we're at it do you think you could summarize the various levels of taxy for us? Species, Genus, Class, Favorite TV Show, etc.?


From the top (i.e. broadest) to bottom (i.e. narrowest):

Kingdom
Phylum (Division to plant geeks)
Class
Order
Family
Genus
Species

There is some noise about putting a taxonomic level above Kingdom, but it is only useful in certain applications. There are also sub-taxa within the major taxonomic heirarchy: Sub-Families, Sub-Species, Tribes, Varieties, even cultivars. The big seven above, though, do a pretty good job of describing most life.
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We are going to have to stick a pin in a map, set fire to something and carry on until the earth looks flat! -- RandyMac

I could teach you to how file a washer to make it worth a nickel but if you really want to make big bucks just take a penny and drill a hole in it and it becomes a washer and is worth a dime. -- Art Martin, Old-Time Logger
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CrushFearSynth
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 12:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
"breeding" and "evolution" are NOT the same thing

Evolution only happens through breeding. You're talking about manipulated breeding. I'm talking about good ol' fashioned getting it on and spawning. If a trait is counterproductive to survival, eventually it will be subtracted or the species will collapse(depending on the tenacity of whatever circumstances threaten it...evolution by complex organisms needs time to manifest).
Quote:
NO! BAD CRUSH!

Listen here you....you...tree scientist! There's an oxymoron for you. Seriously though, you always misunderstand me when I make that statement. Either a species adapts and lives, or doesn't and dies, and evolution obviously stops for that organism. Hence, it always goes in the direction it needs to or it fails. No forward thinking about it.
Quote:
Evolution does not look into the future and create something because it might help
See? I already agreed with you preemptively.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 12:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

CrushFearSynth wrote:
direction it needs to or it fails


Even simpler: it fails or it doesn't. It is not directed in any way except by chance.

Also, official scientifimical talkin' distinguishes between "Breeding" and "Reproduction" by the presence or abscence of human intervention.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 12:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stupid semantics. You win this round, Denderphile.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 12:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey, science is a very precise language. It's not semantic at all. It keeps things from getting confusing.

Also, given the Greek root "Dendros", meaning "tree", that would be "dendrophile".

Mneh.
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We are going to have to stick a pin in a map, set fire to something and carry on until the earth looks flat! -- RandyMac

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 1:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah. It's just the ideas that keep changing. Given that math pretty much is the language of science, and that it can be used to prove or disprove damn near anything on anyone's agenda, I'd say that's not confusing at all. Not one bit.
Quote:
Dendros

All you are accomplishing is further fueling my hatred for the natural kingdom. I want this world to look like Blade Runner.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

But Crush, where will you get all the black leather for your new world's goth image if there are no cows? Synthetic's not the same.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pleather =/= Love
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Blade Runner is nowhere near goth. Cybernoir. Get it straight, bitch. I happen to be a very proud rivethead. No goth bones here, my boy. Ok, so I still listen to Sisters of Mercy and Christian Death and Bauhaus and London After Midnight and The Last Dance and The Shroud and Faith and the Muse and Fields of the Nephilim......I still prefer Das Ich and Feindflug and Wumpscut and Front 242 and Skinny Puppy and Terminal Choice and Plastic Assault and The Retrosic and Amduscia and Hocico and E-Craft and Frontline Assembly and Funker Vogt and Suicide Commando and Tactical Sekt much more.
Quote:
Synthetic's not the same

Suits me.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 2:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jeebus, kids, I start a new therad to stop off-topicness, and on its FIRST DAY it reels off-topic like the thread from whence it was spawned. HAVE YOU NO SHAME?
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We are going to have to stick a pin in a map, set fire to something and carry on until the earth looks flat! -- RandyMac

I could teach you to how file a washer to make it worth a nickel but if you really want to make big bucks just take a penny and drill a hole in it and it becomes a washer and is worth a dime. -- Art Martin, Old-Time Logger
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Pleather =/= Love

He who lives in a glass house....
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
HAVE YOU NO SHAME?


I read that in the monotone of Terry Pratchett's Death, and NO.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 6:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, so if snakes are reptiles that evolved away from having legs, rather than the other way around, what hypothesis is out there for the introduction of legs to the planet?

Did a fish find it useful to make short excursions into very shallow water by pushing on the sand with it's fins? Did this fish develop, over generations, fins that were more for "against ground" propulsion than "through water" propulsion.

Or you could apply it to the shift from gills to lungs. Are there fossile records for any of these major evolutionary advances? Can anyone say, look kids, this is what we believe to be the first mammal? Can they also point to what is used to be?

For that matter, there must have been some quasi mammal. If you assume that mammals came from reptiles, or perhaps even amphibeans, they must have at some point developed:

fur
eggless birth (or eggs that hatch first and get laid later)
temperature control (beyond fur - sweating, shivering, panting)

Clearly these things didn't happen all at once. So there must have been, at some point, something like the platypus, or other intermediaries. A lizard with fur and eggs and cold blood. Whatever.

I'm dying to hear cool stories of evolution. Do we have any?
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 6:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's what cladistics is all about.

Gimme a bit, I'm out of my element here with animals. I can explain plants way better. Still, lemme poke around a bit and see what I come up with.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 7:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fish that grew feet. Just watch that music video, again. You know the one.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 10:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow. I got bored about two sentences into you quoting yourself, 'hatte....
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