August 5, 2004

SPEED? HOW ABOUT CAUSE?

Study Suggests Humans Can Speed Evolution (David Terraso, August 4, 2004, The Georgia Institute of Technology)

It’s no secret that life in the 21st century moves at a rapid pace. Human inventions such as the Internet, mobile phones and fiber optic cable have increased the speed of communication, making it possible for someone to be virtually in two places at once. But can humans speed up the rate of one of nature’s most basic and slowest processes, evolution? A study by J. Todd Streelman, new assistant professor of biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that humans may have sped up the evolutionary clock for one species of fish.
Cynotilapia afra

Human activity may be inducing Cynotilapia afra to evolve at an explosive rate.
300 dpi = 2.2MB

Cichlid fish are well known to biologists for their rapid rate of evolution. While it takes many animals thousands of years to form new species, the cichlids of Africa’s Lake Malawi are estimated to have formed 1,000 new species in only 500,000 years, lightning speed in evolutionary terms. In the 1960s a fish exporter may have unwittingly set the stage for an evolutionary explosion when he introduced individuals of the species Cynotilapia afra to Mitande Point on the lake’s Thumbi West Island. As of 1983, the species hadn’t budged from Mitande Point. But when Streelman, then at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, and colleagues went to the island in 2001, they found the fish had evolved into two genetically distinct varieties in less than 20 years. The study appears in the August 13 edition of Molecular Ecology.

“This is a great example of human-induced evolution in action,” said Streelman. “It adds to a growing list of cases, including introduced salmon, flies and plants, where human disturbance has set the stage for contemporary evolution on scales we’ve not witnessed before.”


Who ever would have dreamed the evolution requires intelligent intervention?

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 5, 2004 1:31 PM
Comments

You haven't insulted soccer for a while now.

What's up?

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at August 5, 2004 1:34 PM

According to the article, the two varieties are genetically different, but not separate species yet. It also says that speciation could occur in as little as 20 years (if speciation is even possible). If that does occur, then Darwinism would have been proved, no?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 5, 2004 1:51 PM

Ali:

Sorry, I've been away for a few days. Let me see what I can find.

Posted by: oj at August 5, 2004 1:55 PM

Robert:

No, intelligent design would be proved. But speciation won't occur.

Posted by: oj at August 5, 2004 1:56 PM

You believe "intelligent design" is throwing some fish in a lake, and seeing what happens ?

How does that differ from any other random event ?

Plenty of plant species have been introduced to foreign locations by animals; are said beasties attempting to direct evolution ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 5, 2004 2:08 PM

Michael:

It's called breeding. It's what Darwin observed and then postulated might occur without intelligent intervention, apparently wrongly.

Posted by: oj at August 5, 2004 2:13 PM

Orrin knows he's wrong, but he won't admit it. Can't.

Complete speciation has been observed in Hawaiian picture-wing fruit flies in less than 20 years. The isolating event -- the next-to-last step in any speciation -- was the eruption of a volcano.

Untouched by human hands.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 5, 2004 4:31 PM

Darnnit Harry, there you go again.

Clouding the issue with facts.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 5, 2004 5:04 PM

The went from fruit flies to fruit flies--amazing....

Posted by: oj at August 5, 2004 5:56 PM

I'll bet there's been a little pressure on the population of fishes as humans took out the tasty ones over the years, too...

And evolution in finches, out on those fabled Galapagos Islands, has been seen to occur in a few years. That's like three generations.

Posted by: John at August 5, 2004 6:58 PM

Some finches have bigger beaks than others--they're all finches.

Posted by: oj at August 5, 2004 7:30 PM

OJ:

How many species were there at the dawn of human history?

How many extinctions since?

How many are there now?

Absent precise answers to those questions, your claim of no speciations in human history is just so much blatheration, leaving aside for the moment the complete irrelevance of that claim to the truth value of Evolution.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 6, 2004 7:26 AM

No one questions speciation--it just seems certain by now that Darwinism can't produce it.

Posted by: oj at August 6, 2004 8:04 AM

OJ:

You have used the alleged absence of observed speciation over the course of human history as evidence against Darwinism. When both antecedent and logic founder, the conclusion is likely to follow.

Concept alert: Darwinism never specified how variation happened (DNA being unknown at the time). The processes Darwin described govern which presented variations succeed and, virtually always, ultimately fail.

If you are going to tar Darwinism, it would help to choose the proper brush.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 6, 2004 11:56 AM

Jeff:

I didn't follow any of that. Speciation doesn't occur through breeding manipulated by humans or br nature as Darwin proposed. We'll discover what does cause it at some point, whether intervention by intelligent beings or gamma rays or something--I'm agnostic in that regard.

Posted by: oj at August 6, 2004 1:22 PM

We do know what causes it.

And it can be observed to happen in an afternoon, without intelligent or any other kind of intervention. In plants. Polyploidy.

This has been observed since the 1890s, so it isn't exactly breaking news. The mechanism wasn't understood at first, of course, but when it was, it turned out to be Darwinian.

The only way to attack Darwinism is to do what Orrin does, deny the evidence. That is the Christian way. It didn't work with astronomy and it doesn't work with biology, either.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 6, 2004 2:37 PM

OJ:

You seem to miss a fundamental point: natural history is recursive; Darwinism explains which organisms get another go at the recursion machine. Darwinism is completely silent on how variation (the other half of recursion) occurs.

In fact, it matters not to Darwinism whether the source of genetic variation is some deus ex machina, or random mishaps in far from deterministic molecular forces, only that the variation exists.

But once the variations, whatever their source, get put into play, the comb filter of evolution goes to work. That is Darwinism. In fact, Darwinism could just as easily, and possibly more accurately, be termed Extinction of Species.

You clearly are not agnostic. If Darwin is right in that there is no goal dictating how long species exist before extinction, and DNA mutates wholly through stochastic processes, then evolution is well and truly without a goal.

If you wish to contradict that, then you are left with arguing that Darwinism doesn't explain the extinction of species, or that DNA replication isn't subject to the whim of pure chance.

This may well do some violence to your worldview, but it doesn't seem likely that natural history was put in place to conform to your particular requirements.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 6, 2004 9:33 PM

I didn't follow much of that, but if you're saying that Darwinism can't account for variation and speciation but is merely a suggestion that some variations take and some don't then I agree.

Posted by: oj at August 6, 2004 11:11 PM

OJ:

There are two elements to a recursive system: variation and inheritance.

Darwinism explains which variations get another chance to be the source material for inheritance and variation. The comb filter reference is simply a way of saying Darwinism selects which variations become extinct.

Darwinism does not cause variation (that was Lamarck); the source of variation was a black box to Darwin, and to a certain, but much smaller, extent still is.

If you want to argue for ID, it lies in what is left of that black box; you are arguing for the God of gaps.

Harry has used the term "Modern Synthesis" in referring to evolution. By that he means the combination of a materialistic explanation for the source of variation, which is to say, species, and a materialistic explanation of the variations that remain to reproduce--Darwinism.

So when you say Darwinism is simply wrong, you are aiming at the wrong target. Unless, of course, you want to make the case the Darwinism does not explain extinctions.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 7, 2004 10:17 AM

Okay. That's obviously wrong. Extinction seems to have nothing to do with variation, inheritance and selection. It's a function of random events and forces, like the introduction of Man into the environment or an asteroid collision.

Posted by: oj at August 7, 2004 10:30 AM

OJ:

There are two elements to a recursive system: variation and inheritance.

Darwinism explains which variations get another chance to be the source material for inheritance and variation. The comb filter reference is simply a way of saying Darwinism selects which variations become extinct.

Darwinism does not cause variation (that was Lamarck); the source of variation was a black box to Darwin, and to a certain, but much smaller, extent still is.

If you want to argue for ID, it lies in what is left of that black box; you are arguing for the God of gaps.

Harry has used the term "Modern Synthesis" in referring to evolution. By that he means the combination of a materialistic explanation for the source of variation, which is to say, species, and a materialistic explanation of the variations that remain to reproduce--Darwinism.

So when you say Darwinism is simply wrong, you are aiming at the wrong target. Unless, of course, you want to make the case the Darwinism does not explain extinctions.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 7, 2004 10:38 AM

OJ:

How wrong? Variations are heritable. Some variations work better, or worse, than others, and over time become more, or less, prevalent as the result of competition within species, among species, and against the physical environment. In order to say that is "obviously wrong," you need to point to which element(s) of that statement are wrong.

Prior to Origin of Species, conventional wisdom was Bishop Usher and species each a perfect, unchanging consequence of God's direct creation.

Since Darwin, natural history is continuously changing due to competition and blind, materialistic, stochastic processes.

You had better put some teeth in "obviously wrong."

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 7, 2004 10:49 AM

The part about some working better and some not and the fitter surviving. Survival seems far more accidental in Nature than Darwin hoped it would prove.

Posted by: oj at August 7, 2004 2:05 PM

OJ:

Darwin had no way of knowing about global natural catastrophes.

That doesn't make him wrong, only incomplete.

And the survivors still coped more successfully with whatever raw circumstance wrought.

Darwin pointed the way to a non-teleogical, materialistic, recursive explanation of natural history.

So far as I can tell, none of your cogent objections disagree with this.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 7, 2004 2:12 PM

No, it's entirely teleological. It had to end wiuth the world as he saw it. Thus something had to drive it--he chose fitness which turns out quite wrong.

Posted by: oj at August 7, 2004 2:20 PM

"It had to end wiuth the world as he saw it."

Why?

NPR had a piece on last week about the Olympic forest, where logging was ended in deference to the Spotted Owl.

Unfortunately, the spotted owl is more endangered than ever. As it turns out, the cause is the Barred Owl, which is increasingly encroaching on the Spotted Owl's territory.

If that isn't a case of fitness with an end point as the Extinction of a Species, then what is it?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 8, 2004 9:03 AM

You're right--there isn't any. Your perfect case is an example of intelligent design.

Posted by: oj at August 8, 2004 9:16 AM

What's intelligent about it?

Is all Creation the result of intelligence?

If so, why did flowering plants come in so late? Or us?

Was the design less intelligent without us? How much less?

Darwin certainly had to end with the world he was in. Where else?

But his theory states that that will not be the end state of creation, so if he had wanted to invent a system to yield England in 1860, he failed on his own terms.

Only those were not his terms.

Anyhow, Darwinism cannot be simply wrong. If wrong at all, complexly so.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 8, 2004 3:40 PM

Yes, so it's teleological and the fact that there's been no evolution since demonstrates this.

Posted by: oj at August 8, 2004 4:22 PM

"there's been no evolution since demonstrates this."

Prove it.

As I have mentioned before, and you have avoided dealing with, there has been no evolution if, and only if, the number of species at, say Darwin's time, is precisely the same as now.

And the only way to demonstrate there have been no new species in the interval, it is necessary to demonstrate the difference between the net of species then minus extinctions since equals the number of species now.

Unless you can fill in the numbers, you have descended to making empty assertions.

Just like Mr. Moore.

Your arguments against evolution all to closely resemble Monty Python's argument clinic: your position is the automatic gainsaying of anything the other side says.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 8, 2004 8:06 PM

Our capacity to exterminate species says nothing about the capacity of new ones to evolve via mere Darwinism.

Posted by: oj at August 8, 2004 8:27 PM

See--you completely whiffed.

Let's make it simple, and pretend there have been no extinctions for whatever cause.

How many species then, how many now.

Precision counts.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 9, 2004 7:08 AM

There are many less and no new.

Posted by: oj at August 9, 2004 7:57 AM

OJ:

Not good enough. No one knows how many species there were, or are. The range of estimates varies by hundreds of thousands.

So to definitively state there are no new ones is the height of hubris.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 9, 2004 8:33 PM

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