November 22, 2002
From Wolf to Dog, Yes, but When?
(NICHOLAS WADE, November 22, 2002, NY Times)
Three studies in today's issue of Science shed light on the questions of when, where and how dogs were first domesticated from wolves. One suggests that a few wolves, perhaps from the same population somewhere in east Asia, are the mothers of almost all dogs alive today. [...]
Wolves, though very smart, are much less adept than dogs at following human cues, suggesting that dogs may have been selected for this ability.
So were dogs' ancestors selected for tameability or trainability? Dr. Ray Coppinger, a dog behavior expert at Hampshire College, believes that neither is the case. Wolves domesticated themselves, Dr. Coppinger argues in a recent book, "Dogs," written with his wife, Lorna Coppinger. Wolves, which are scavengers as well as hunters, would have hung around the campsite for scraps, and those that learned to be less afraid of people survived and flourished, in his view.
"It was natural selection — the dogs did it, not people," Dr. Coppinger said. "The trouble with the theory that people domesticated dogs is that it requires thousands of dogs, just as Belyaev used thousands of foxes."
From the half-tamed, camp-following wolves, he believes, people may then have adopted some cubs into the household and found that they could be trained.
Hunter-gatherer peoples often bring back baby wild animals and keep them as pets until they become unmanageable. Dr. James Serpell, an expert on dog behavior at the University of Pennsylvania, believes that this is a more likely explanation of dog domestication than that people adopted scavengers. The particular population of East Asian wolves identified by Dr. Savolainen's genetic studies, Dr. Serpell suggests, might have had some special feature that made them easier to train.
Okay, here's one obvious question this raises: how greatly do today's wolves vary from these progenitors of dogs? Believers in evolution are fond of the idea that we may be in a period of near stasis, when changes within a species, never mind speciation, particularly of large (easily observable) animals, has paused at least for the moment. This helpfully explains why we've never seen an animal change in any significant way, let alone evolve, in recorded human history.
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 22, 2002 4:17 PM
Orrin, please go study darwinism. Your caricatures of what it says are not fun to read.
I know of no evolutionist who has said we are in some sort of statis of change among large animals. The statement is absurd in the context of darwinism, which regards 15,000 years as less than an eyeblink.
For example, the estimated rate of founder species reaching the Hawaiian islands has been estimated for various groups of plants and animals, and the frequency ranges from tens of thousands of years between events to about a million for some of the less mobile families to infinity for things like amphibians.
Anyhow, as long as gene flow is maintained, which is the case with wolves, little evolution is expected, other than extinctions, which, in fact, have been constantly observed among wolves.
Given that "recorded human history" isn't more than a few thousand years long, and that the sorts of recordkeeping about the details of animals that would be necessary to determine such changes are a far more recent invention, it comes as no surprise whatsoever that we've never "seen" an animal change significantly - we don't have the old data points to compare with, in sufficient detail to have anything to compare.
General evolutionary theory doesn't, last I checked, hold that evolution sufficient to be observable from the kind of evidence we have would normally take place over the span of three or four thousand years (and the sorts of data we have about animals from 3,000 years ago are such that we'd proably only be able to tell if they grew an extra leg...)
Note further that making poodles is the result of directed breeding efforts aimed at making, well, poodles. A directed effort would be expected to work much faster than natural selection, if only because the mechanism is more specific and the directed-breeding animals are being fed well and taken care of (and are thus far less likely to die without breeding).
I suspect, regarding your last paragraph, that that very effect has happened. One imagines that wolves are more afraid of people now than they were 15,000 years ago. If so, that's "evolution" right there - it's just not "obvious".
Wolves? How about sharks? They have not evolved for what, 15 million years. Why not? Because they are perfectly adapted. How do we know they are perfectly adapted? They have not evolved for 15 millions years. What don't you understand about this, Orrin?
Wow, Darwin? Got to blow the dust off that book.
Well "the species slide" has more problems than that. As one species offshoots to another species there is the biological capability of an unlimited number of transition species.
If change is a constant in living things, logic would dictate there should be more "transition species" (species of animal with small, barely noticeable genetic changes, marking a direction away from the "base species") than "base species".
Its a toughie, no doubt about it.
How DARE you question Darwin?
Seriously question, why are animal offspring with genetic descrepencies (or changes) weaker and die off more easily than normally genetic offspring. If the change species was truly a "mover and a shaker" he couldn't be weak like what is expected to sprout special change.
Logic does not suggest innumerable intergradations,
Craig. Characters are inherited discretely, not as an average value.
We hav now wandered off into Lamarckism. What wolves learn from being in contact with humans cannot be inherited genetically, though it can be taught, and as social animals, with wolves it probably will be.
But put those wolves on a biggish island with no people for a generation or three, and likely the learning would stop being transmitted.
There's no point contributing to this debate since Mr Judd isn't going to change his views no matter how much scientific evidence is provided.
I don't believe evolution precludes the existence or role of a Creator.
I have to work for twenty six of the next 48 hours. Please don't wreck my fun.
"Character[istic]s are inherited discretely, not as an average value."
So the factors could likely be infinite? Like any combination of conditions? The illusion is that we aren't changing because the time increment of change is so vast?
The manifold of possiblities is static while the potential is dynamic? How does unity work like that?
It is disappointing to see someone as obviously intelligent as Orrin Judd close his eyes to the truth because it conflicts with his beliefs. One of the hallmarks of intelligence is supposed to be the ability to look at the evidence and, based on it, change ones' beliefs.
This is also part of the silliness that allows the left to paint religious conservatives as back woods hicks who can't count past 22 without unzipping their flies. (22, not 20 because they probably have 6 toes).
Fact is, evolution is an extremely slow process.
For an example, let's think about the evolution of the elephant from some small animal and let's just focus on size.
Let's say that an elephant is 6 meters tall and that our proto-elephant started at 1 meter. How long does it take for that evolution to happen? Well, millions of years. Just to make life easy, let's assume 5 million years. So how large would the change be in 5,000 years of recorded history? Well, 5 meters/ 1,000 = 5mm.
Orrin, do you really think that historical records are good enough (or that natural history study was good enough 5,000 years ago) for anyone to detect a half centimeter (fifth of an inch) change in the average size of an animal?
What is really interesting is the cases where evolutionary traits have moved in fast forward, which is what makes dogs so interesting.
Dogs have been subjected to enormous evolutionary pressures by humans (far more than wild wolves who only interact with humans occasionally) and changes in that species (and the beginnings of speciation within it) have moved incredibly fast. In fact, speciation is already happening within the dog species. Try breeding a chihuahua with a Siberian husky and see what happens - it can't happen without human assistance.
How long will it take before even artificial insemination no longer works because the genomes have diverged too far? No one knows. But it's a good bet that in a few thousand more years there will be more than one species of dog.
Elephants getting bigger isn't evolution. Humans have gotten bigger but we're still homo sapiens. And we've, of course, observed our increase in size.
Not that this adds anything to the discussion, but when my dog snacks on the contents of the kitty litter box is there an evolutionary reason?
Everything any species ever does has to confer some survival benefit. Supposedly.
There actually is a good candidate for a mutation that was working its way through H. sap. but has now been stopped in its tracks. Some people are born with fewer than 32 teeth (ok, all people are born with fewer than 32 teeth, but you know what I mean), with the deficit being fewer wisdom teeth. Prior to modern medicine, this mutation conveyed a clear advantage, as people with fewer wisdom teeth were less likely to die during puberty of infection caused by impacted wisdom teeth. Now, of course, it makes no difference at all and the mutation has been stopped in its tracks.
It will interest no one to learn that the Brothers both have all their wisdom teeth, though sadly they've not conferred any.
Two errors on your part. First, evolutionary theory does not say that every characteristic of an organism conveys an advantage. Every thing is relative so it just has to not be as bad as the alternatives.
Second, the article you cite talks only about human
evolution, and not even for all of them, but only for those living in Western society. I think that even you must admit that that's a very special case and not generally applicable to all speciies.
Orrin, if you want to be taken seriously on this
subject, you are going to have to stop taking
your talking points from the Guardian. Here is
your reading assignment: Mayr, "History of
Right up your alley, all philosophy. Covers what
It's 600 pages, though. You've got a lot to
But you accept that evolution can stop? Can gravity and other supposedly natural forces also simply cease to affect us?
You miss the point entirely. Darwinism replaced something specious. Soon something will replace the equally dubious Darwinism. Your hubris lies in believing that our ancestors were dupes but that we've figured it out. I admire the faith with which you cling to your "science", but it differs little from the kind of faith you dismiss in the religious.
You're not dumb. Read the book and get back
When you put size changes together with a bunch of other changes together eventually you get a new species.
For example, consider the various types of elephant... African and Asian. These are multiple closely related species.
What are the differences? Size, color, ear shape... I could go on.
No throw in the mammoth. Well, even bigger and hairier... and again a different species.
Just for example, a pygmy proto-elephant a meter high and one of today's elephants are different species - they cannot successfully mate... the equipment does not align.
"You miss the point entirely. Darwinism replaced something specious. Soon something will replace the equally dubious Darwinism. Your hubris lies in believing that our ancestors were dupes but that we've figured it out. I admire the faith with which you cling to your 'science', but it differs little from the kind of faith you dismiss in the religious."
Some new theory may replace (the modern version of) Darwin the way Einstein's theory of gravity replaced Newton's. However Einstein reduces to Newton at low speeds and small masses. Likewise the new theory of biology will have to adequately explain the facts we know, e.g. that all the species we know are descended, with modification, from a common ancestor.
"But you accept that evolution can stop? Can gravity and other supposedly natural forces also simply cease to affect us? "
A rock can stop rolling downhill if it gets into even a small depression; that doesn't mean gravity has ceased to affect it.
A book I'd recommend is Blueprints
, by Edey and Johanson. A nice summary of the science starting with Linnaeus.
But they're still elephants. There's been no fundamental change of the type was required to happen thousand?, tens of thousands? of times since much crawled from the sea in order to get from one celled organisms to elephants. We all know you can isolate an animal and breed it until it can't mate with others in the strain it originally came from, but that's not true mutation and speciation of the kind that Darwinism speaks of.
Exactly, so how can evolution have ceased to affect us?
Who says evolution has stopped?
I've never heard anyone who knows anything about the subject make any such silly claim.
Selective pressures have changed due to our ability to control our environment, but they clearly remain.
For example, there are clearly strong selective pressures to evolve resistance to HIV, whether that means to avoid risky behavior, to become immune to the virus, or just to be able to live with the virus.
There is strong evidence that this has happened in the past - there are bits and pieces of retrovirus DNA in the human genome that no longer even exist as independent viruses but that we pass to our children genetically. These have been linked to cancers when they are able to express themselves.
There are also new pressures to have more children and earlier children since constraints that existed in the past (the need to invest in keeping a smaller number of children alive rather than having many that all die) are less strong.
There is also pressure for us to become the kinds of people who believe in religions that promote large families (ie. Orthodox Judaism and Catholicism).
I wonder what Orrin Judd thinks of the idea of humans evolving to become more religious?
You want to see evolution in action culture bacteria in a slightly hostile environment or with a novel food source.
Plastics which did not exist in nature are now food for adapted bacteria.
The greater the number of generations per unit time the faster the adaptation.
It is all the interaction of DNA with the environment. Just because it is imperceptable in some cases does not mean it is not happening.
The study of DNA will destroy anti-Darwinism. It is just that it will take 40 years until the current crop of anti-Darwinists die off. Evolution of culture in action.