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Science

Still More Evidence for Evolution 1482

Posted by michael
from the theocratic-republic-of-kansas dept.
Uche writes: "Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have uncovered the first genetic evidence that explains how large-scale alterations to body plans were accomplished during the early evolution of animals."
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Still More Evidence for Evolution

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  • When we finaly evolve into apes. Hollywood doesn't lie, right?
  • by condour75 (452029) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @03:39AM (#2966014) Homepage
    they had me at hello...
  • Control genes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by joonasl (527630) <joonas.lyytinen@i[ ]fi ['ki.' in gap]> on Thursday February 07, 2002 @03:42AM (#2966020) Homepage
    The biologist have known about these regulatory genes for years, so that is not the big news here. The big news is that they could pinpoint the mutaution that turned one kind of animal into an other.

    This fits nicely with Stephen J. Goulds theory of "stasis" evolution, in where when environment is more or less stable animals don't seem to evolve at all for millions of years but when there is drastic changes in the environment the animals evolve very quickly (in geological timeframe). The fact that the mechanism for inducing quick and major changes in the animals physiology in short time supports this theory.

    • Radical change (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bob_Robertson (454888)
      Another reason to consider the "Humans Are No Longer Evolving" as bogus. Humans, in this particular environment, are in the process of homoginiznig the gene pool, sure.

      But when the environment radically changes, such as when people are finally allowed to spread into space, there will be -- In fact there MUST BE -- adaptation to the new environment in order to thrive. Imagine the stress of giving birth to a female who had bone loss due to long-term zero-G. Only people with lower bone loss, or lower birth stress, would be able to give birth.

      Technology helps aleviate the need to evolve, as anyone who is alive and would without tech be dead can attest. I don't believe this will stop the process, it just becomes another factor.

      OpenSource'ing the Human Genom would be wonderful too. Imagine finally being able to fix the idiocy of the human eye, for example. To pull the connector to a sensor grid out through the front, and then compensate for the blind spot through software, is definately in need of fixing. This becomes evolution, the creation of destiny.

      Bring it on!

      Bob-

  • by flockofseagulls (48580) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @03:46AM (#2966029) Homepage
    Evolution is accepted as fact by scientists and thinking people. It is no more or less a theory than physics or astronomy.

    Many details of evolution are not understood, particularly the genetic mechanisms. This new discovery helps answer some of those questions, but it doesn't make evolution any more "real" than it already is. It's possible we haven't discovered every moon or even every planet in our solar system, but that doesn't mean the sun may actually revolve around the earth after all. We're pretty sure we haven't found all of the subatomic particles, and we still don't agree on what makes gravity, but physics is still secure and we don't expect the Red Sea to part on its own.

    Accepting Creationism means tossing out all of established science. Creationism is the adversary of all science, not just Darwinian evolution.
    • In science there is no fact. Any scientific theory is still theory, and you can only disprove something. Evidence towards is the counterbalance, and readily accepted in mainstream science as poular science. It took 200 years for anyone to start believing darwin, and his theory is quite simple and makes 'sense'. Genetics and environment working in conjunction, influencing each other, random mutations selected out, hey presto, new species.
      • It took 200 years for anyone to start believing darwin

        Not quite. Fact: Charles Darwin was born in 1809. The Origin of Species was first published in 1859. People started believing it right away. By 1925 the matter was already in U.S. Courts (the Scopes "Monkey Trial").

        It's also not true that scientific method only allows for disproving a theory. Duplicating an experiment or obtaining corroborating evidence bolsters a theory.
    • I agree.

      Stipulative Definitions (or) formerly: jargon.

      Scientist: Law == invariant relationship between cause and effect. (final version)
      Layman: Law == another $100 on taxes

      Scientist: Theory == proven, widely accepted principle or explaination (release 1.0)
      Layman: Theory == weak explanation

      Scientist: Hypothesis == working theory, subject to revision (beta version of a theory)
      Layman: Hypothesis == Theory

      Scientest: Conjecture == guess (alpha version of theory)
      Layman: Conjecture == ??

      In science, everything must be questioned.

      "Marge, I agree with you -- in theory. In theory, communism works. In theory." -Homer Simpson
    • Really, what scientific property makes Creationism comparable to a scientific theory, evolution? You are feedining the nonscientific minds by taking it seriously. Evolution is a well established scientific theory, we don't need more evidence for it as long as there is no other scientific theory contradicts with evolution and explains the evidence accumulated so far just as well as evolution. There is no such theory at the moment; there might be one in the future, but I doubt it will contradict ourcurrent understanding of evolution in a big way. It will probably be something like we discover our understaning of evolution is wrong on details, not on fundementals, like the case with relativility and Newtonian mechanics. This has been the case for almost all well-established scientific ideas. They never turned out to be completly incorrect, just wrong on details.

      Wake up US people, you are just helping the superstition by making comparisons between a logical, scientific theory and a superstition. They are not even apples and oranges, they are apples and fiends.

      • "we don't need more evidence for it as long as there is no other scientific theory contradicts with evolution"

        "We don't NEED more evidence"???!!!

        That depends on what you goals are, I guess. If you are looking to justify your beliefs, then I can understand why you wouldn't see the need for any more evidence. If you are actually interested in understanding the universe, then you will need all the "extra" evidence you can get. Even though their have been hundreds of prior scientists to do so, physicists still do experiments to determine (and verify past measurments of) such fundamental constants as the speed of light or the universal gravitational constant. They don't need the evidence to justify their pet theory. They need the evidence to improve their model of the universe. Similarlly, biologists need more evidence. They don't need it to disprove another theory that contradicts the present one... but they need it to FIND that next theory. Science isn't about resting on your laurels (or more likely, somebody elses hard earned laurels) and bragging to the world that evolution (or whatever) is right and they are wrong and daring them to prove different. It is about a large scale, organized, search for a better understanding of how things work.

        "They never turned out to be completly incorrect, just wrong on details."

        Yeah, that spontaneous generation theory was just a little wrong on the details. And luminiferous ether... that was almost spot on, wasn't it. It is certainly not possible for some modern theory like superstring theory to be compeletly incorrect. Get off your (*^&^%& "high horse". I am not championing creationism; but the idea that we don't need new evidence for scientific theories and that science is just about pinning down the details with no more room for radical new developments is a stupid and dangerous view to be propogating.
    • Creationism is the adversary of all science

      The good news is, I agree with you. The bad news is, my agreement doesn't mean what you think it does. I am a fervent practicing Christian. Creationism is the belief that the first two chapters of Genesis, which contain two seperate and conflicting creation accounts, are a comprehensive accounting of the beginning of everything.

      My problems with creationism are primarily religious in nature, and while I'll extend an open offer to explain it further, suffice it to say that these reasons have to do with misuse of the scripture itself. It is comparable to one trying to use the Mona Lisa as wallpaper. Finding it to be lacking sufficient size for the task, and believing that its use as wallpaper is of dire importance, the frustrated decorator proceeds to separate the threads of the canvas in an absurd attempt to spread the painting enough to cover the walls. What you wind up with is a destroyed painting, and a lot of discordant threads glued to your walls.

      I know that is a bizzare analogy, and it's intended to be. It features a great work of art shredded by an attempt to misuse it, and a purpose so divergent from common sense as to defy any concept of mental health. There are several things very wrong with the situation described in the analogy. The work is of great value. Genesis is of great value as an expression of truth. Although one might take my analogy to mean that Genesis is simply a work of art, I hold it to be transcendent to art. The attempt to force the painting to function as wallpaper seems a ghastly perversion of its actual worth. To expect Genesis to serve as a comprehensive description of creation, when that expectation is fundamentally denied by the book itself, is a ghastly perversion of its actual worth.

      This means that while it is ridiculous to purport that Genesis is a comprehensive work of explanation, it is equally ridiculous to dismiss it because it can't be used as wallpaper, or to make the claim that those who appreciate the Mona Lisa oppose wall coverings.

      So consider well when you foist the banner of the latest discovery, believing it to be the death knell of religion, that there might be somebody like me who can look through his telescope at the Galilean moons, and laugh that someone was once imprisoned by the church for doing so.

  • Explain a lot but... (Score:4, Informative)

    by quantaman (517394) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @03:52AM (#2966046)
    The article only refers to the repressor genes, (i.e. 6 legs instead of 12). But the creature still has to go through the slow process of developing legs itself in order for the gene to have some effect. It also doesn't explain how appendages like for instance wings on that fruit fly came along. They would have to start somewhere and I can't see how wings could be useful in any but their mature form. They wouldn't be needed to slow an insects fall(as they are small enoguh not to be hurt) and I can't see a pair of fans growing the muscle control and speed necessary to flight. What steered the evolution of the fruit flies to lead them to functioning wings?
  • by stud9920 (236753) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @03:55AM (#2966054)
    • Flat earth theory might prove wrong
    • The moon : not made of cheese
    • Cure for tuberculosis found
    • Horseless charriots : a liberal myth
    • Copernic says earth around sun, not otherwise
  • by PingXao (153057) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @03:58AM (#2966062)
    Creationists have always struck me as being strident and inflexible. I believe in evolution. I also believe in creation to the extent that some higher being at one point installed the last "spark plug", if you will, in order to give humans that certain something extra that separates us from mere beasts. I really do hold that both beliefs can coexist in harmony. There are two passages from the linked article that trouble me, however, being scientifically disposed and all that.

    The achievement is a landmark in evolutionary biology, not only because it shows how new animal body plans could arise from a simple genetic mutation, but because it effectively answers a major criticism creationists had long leveled against evolution--the absence of a genetic mechanism that could permit animals to introduce radical new body designs.


    and this one...

    The UCSD team's demonstration of how a mutation in the Ubx gene and changes in the corresponding Ubx protein can lead to such a major change in body design undercuts a primary argument creationists have used against the theory of evolution in debates and biology textbooks.


    Doesn't it seem that these scientists are going out of their way to discredit creationists? While the real bible-toting creationists constantly rail about the godlessness of science and the inherent evil they see in the theory of evolution, I always thought that the scientific view would be to let the results of solid research speak for themselves. A thinking person would be able to decide for himself what to make of the whole debate. These two paragraphs really disturb me. They clearly desire not only to further the study of evolutionary processes, but also to denigrate those who hold onto the creationist point of view for dear life (no pun intended). This seems to be way too over the top for my liking. Is it necessary to drag down opposing viewpoints while making your own best case? It's almost as though they actually see the by-the-book creationists as a threat to their cherished beliefs. Certainly, creationists feel that way about what science has shown us since the days of Darwin. Is it necessary to stoop to the same tactics?
    • Re:Troubling (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Space cowboy (13680)
      I think it's a retrenchment. Up until recently, science had (mostly) ignored creationism as "just another freak religion".

      There have been several calls over the last year in the scientific press to attempt to get scientists to take the "propogation of science" throughout the population more seriously, and this includes point out where challengers (such as creationism) fall short of the mark.

      I remember also several articles in New Scientist and Scientific American trying to motivate scientists to "spread the word" against creationism. Perhaps it's just a response to that.

      Simon
    • Re:Troubling (Score:4, Insightful)

      by squaretorus (459130) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @05:38AM (#2966310) Homepage Journal
      I also believe in creation to the extent that some higher being at one point installed the last "spark plug", if you will, in order to give humans that certain something extra that separates us from mere beasts.

      For many of us 'creationist-bashers' its exactly this type of comment that gets us pissed off. 'Mere beasts'!!! 'Spark Plug'!!! WTF

      I won't scream 'show me the evidence!' I won't scream 'when your dead your dead - deal with it!'

      I'll simply say stop being so damn arrogant. We're just a lucky lump of carbon and water that happens to be able to use tools and stuff - big wow!

      Plenty more where we came from I'll bet.
    • Re:Troubling (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @05:47AM (#2966326)


      > I also believe in creation to the extent that some higher being at one point installed the last "spark plug", if you will, in order to give humans that certain something extra that separates us from mere beasts.

      Your delusions arise from the false assumption that we are separate from 'mere' beasts. The more we learn about the other apes, the more we realize that all the "humans only" stuff is merely a difference in degree of ability, not some great unbridgeable gap.

    • Re:Troubling (Score:5, Insightful)

      by armb (5151) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @06:07AM (#2966358) Homepage
      > Doesn't it seem that these scientists are going out of their way to discredit creationists?

      Since creationists (I'm not counting just the belief that humans have a divine something as creationism) are going out of their way to discredit science, is that too unreasonable? The difference is that the scientists do it using the results of solid research, and the creationists do it by bullshit and lies. So it isn't really stooping to the same level.

      This isn't really "more evidence for evolution" and more than gravity wave detectors are supposed to give us "more evidence for gravity" to refute flat-earthers. This is evidence about more detail of how evolution happens.
    • Re:Troubling (Score:5, Informative)

      by Spoing (152917) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @08:20AM (#2966690) Homepage
      ...I believe in evolution. I also believe in creation ...

      Belief? I don't believe in evolution -- I wouldn't know how to do such a thing. Belief never comes into it.

      The preponderance of the evidence leads me to an obvious conclusion -- changes in individual living things occur from generation to generation. Enough time and changes occur, and you have this thing called evolution. In some ancient businesses, it's just called breeding.

      If that evidence wasn't there, I'd conclude differently...but not necessarily that a spirit or deity was the necessary other choice.

      • Re:Troubling (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kwil (53679)
        Bullshit. Belief always comes into it, unless you happen to have run all the tests yourself. Case in point, you believe that this "evidence" about evolution that you've heard is true and correct.

        Creationists, on the other hand, believe it is misinterpreted, wrong, or outright lies.

        Sooner or later, evolution, like *every* scientific theory, falls back to a set of core beliefs. For a long time, a core belief was everything was newtonian, and there was scads of evidence to prove it. Until we started getting the evidence that there was something more.

        Please remember that it is still called "Evolutionary Theory", and that 99% of what science has proven, science has later proven to be wrong.

        Does this make it any less true? Maybe not.. but to say belief never comes into it is simply not being critical enough -- which is the exact same mistake that people claim Creationists are making.
  • Dear God (Score:4, Funny)

    by beej (82035) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @04:02AM (#2966072) Homepage Journal
    Thank you, O Lord, for creating these wonderful genes which allow macroevolution to take place.
    • The tendency to relocate the act of creation just before the first-proposed-event is called the doctrine of the God of the Gaps. Wherever we don't know something, some religious thinkers will stick God in as a place-keeper.
  • by JamieF (16832) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @04:09AM (#2966084) Homepage
    ./configure --with-booklungs --with-antennae --no-fishybits \
    --legs=6 --enable-experimental-wing-thingies
    make critter
    ./critter -buz
  • by chfleming (556136) <chfleming AT home DOT com> on Thursday February 07, 2002 @04:12AM (#2966092)
    Just happened like a week or two ago.

    The creationists mostly lied the whole time.

    1) They misaplied the 2nd law of thermodynamics very poorly by treating a race of species as a closed system. A few chemist and myself (a physics major) were very upset at these outright lies.

    2) They denied the existence of any transitional fossils, and basically said that scientists were arranging bones and fossils how they wanted to see them.

    3) They made false accusations against radioactive dating that haven't applied sense the birth of the field.

    4) And finally they had to make up for logical loop holes by stating that early man was far superior to present man, and that in the begining all species existed at once, including the dinosaurs.

    5) In all of the debate, they only had one true argument, and it was a bad argument at that. Guess what that argument was? "Positive" mutations haven't been reproduced or observed in the laboratory, therefore they do not exist, therefore evolution is false. And this article is about just that.

    Before the debate, I thought it would be interesting to see why someone would believe in creation. Afterwards I was a bit depressed. I had no idea how far a person would go to decieve themself and perpetuate a lie. I felf very sorry for the young teenagers that came with their church group. They were being raised by liars.

    One of the debaters agrugment was based on the very results that this article brings up. I know if he saw this now, it would not change his opinion one bit. He has no reason, he creates what ever psuedo reason needed to calm the conflict between his arogant soul and his mind. I bet he doesn't even know that his words are lies.

    Any way, I thought I would share this with you people. I don't know what can be learned from this, but anyway, good luck in this sad and ignorant world maya.
    • "Positive" Mutations (Score:3, Informative)

      by krmt (91422)
      In all of the debate, they only had one true argument, and it was a bad argument at that. Guess what that argument was? "Positive" mutations haven't been reproduced or observed in the laboratory, therefore they do not exist, therefore evolution is false. And this article is about just that.

      This isn't true at all really. Granted, we might never have zapped an E.coli with enough UV light to make it grow arms, but we've certaintly gotten plenty of positive function out of mutations in labs.

      For instance, there is a well known tool in microbiology known as the "Temperature-Sensitive Mutant". A good way to get one of these is to zap it with UV or some other mutagen to induce a random point mutation (change in one nucleotide). This could alter the gene product just enough to make it non-functional at high temperatures, making the organism more sensitive to the environment than it was in the wild type form. This new sensitivity is a gain in function for the organism. It might not be beneficial, but it is a demonstrable gain of ability for the organism.

      Another example would be oncogenes, which aren't always active, but can be activated via mutations, causing cancer.

      There's some foddder for your next debate. Remember, a positive gain in function may wind up killing the organism, which is one reason why evolution takes so long. But random mutations certaintly have been shown to have an affect beyond deletion of the gene.
    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @05:53AM (#2966337)


      > The creationists mostly lied the whole time.

      I've never been to a creationist debate, but from what I've read about them their SOP involves -

      • Pack the audience with True Believers (sometimes by bussing, though that probably wouldn't be necessary at a university).
      • Use their clock time to throw out scores of false claims, each of which would take the scientists several minutes to refute.
      The net result is the appearance of having won. And of course that's all their striving for, since the movement is political rather than scientific.

      • by osgeek (239988) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @02:06PM (#2968704) Homepage Journal
        I don't disagree with the basics of your statements. The Creationist's argument is mostly emotional, so he uses the tactics of throwing out numerous nice-sounding but false claims, in the hope of staying ahead of a rigorous analysis of those claims.

        However, it's ironic that you still have this in your sig:

        The court ruled it legal to fuck the voters by running out the clock, and demonstrated how to do it.

        A rigorous analysis has shown that in some ways of counting votes, Bush won. In some ways of counting votes, Gore won. From a more neutral perspective, the Florida Supreme Sourt screwed up by not taking control of the process when they had the opportunity to create the perception of an honest vote count. Instead, they allowed numerous abuses by the counting methods of Democrat operatives to go unchallenged. So, the US Supreme Court kept them from allowing a legally conducted election to be overthrown by questionable vote-counting methods.

        In the end, it was just a power struggle between two political parties, and had nothing to do with the voters getting "fucked".

        Viewing it in some slanted light isn't about facts, it's about religion.

        Being Scientific often means forgetting the fact that you have a horse in the race for a bit, and instead evaluating the evidence from a neutral perspective. It's the reason why Science has brought us so far in the past few hundred years, whereas Religion accomplished nothing of the sort in the hundred thousand years before the Scientific Method was even postulated.
    • I felf very sorry for the young teenagers that came with their church group.

      I was one of those teenagers. Not in the debate you are describing, but one held at Colorado State University back around 1980. The debate was very useful in that I came away from it suitably impressed by the clear victory of the biology professor who was debating the creationist Duane Gish.
      Before the debate, I thought it would be interesting to see why someone would believe in creation. Afterwards I was a bit depressed. I had no idea how far a person would go to decieve themself and perpetuate a lie.

      After the debate that I attended, I began reading outside of the narrow list of 'scientists' my church and parochial school presented me with. It didn't take me long to learn the difference between evidence and belief.
      I don't know what can be learned from this...

      I think it proves very well the point John Stuart Mill made in On Liberty: any idea should be debated. If it's not true, it will be exposed; if it is, it will be strengthened.

    • by bannerman (60282) <bannerman@rocketmail.com> on Thursday February 07, 2002 @12:43PM (#2968088)
      "He has no reason, he creates what ever pseudo reason needed to calm the conflict between his arrogant soul and his mind. I bet he doesn't even know that his words are lies."
      That's exactly the way I feel about things when I hear/see/read pro-evolution debates. I'm not one of the most educated scientist in the world (high school was the extent of my interest in biology) but I like to think that I can understand things when they're laid out in front of me. I have never talked to someone who understands evolutionary theory and walked away without feeling like they just avoided issues and made false blanket statements in a defensive effort to avoid questioning what they believe so religiously. Still more common is the tendancy to belittle anyone who thinks differently. I don't express myself very well with words, but you have nicely summed up my feelings. As a non-scientific type, I'm not qualified to my basis for believing in creation is the incredible balance and beauty of our ecosystem. Where I live I get rain, hail, snow and even some sun. I can even snowboard one weekend and surf the next. When I consider the almost infinite complexity of myself and my environment and the perfect balance with which we interact, I see a creation. Not random chaos. Ever watch Discovery channel? "It's a miracle that this could ever have evolved". Yes, I agree. Perhaps you should consider the possibility that you are the one believing the things that you were taught as a child rather than the truth.
      • If you're sincerely interested in learning more about the details that you feel some have glossed over, you should visit theTalk Origins [slashdot.org] web site to learn more of the scientific fact that is Evolution.

        Ever watch Discovery channel? "It's a miracle that this could ever have evolved".

        As human beings, we find it much easier to associate human or human-like motivations and motivators behind phenomenon that we don't understand.

        Early man thought that the Sun, the Moon, and the weather were all guided mysteriously by some creature(s) that they called god(s). The reason they did so is because the Human brain seeks to stereotype complex things into simple ideas. Since early man had no hope of understanding meteorology, instead, he formulated a Wind God that made the wind blow.

        Now, thanks to the Scientific method, we understand many of the natural forces behind our physical world. Time and again, Scientist have shown that there are no gods behind the physical phenomena that we once did not understand, causing religion to retreat into an ever-shrinking corner clinging to the god(s) that's surely hiding in man's ignorance.

        So, yes: it's easy to watch the Discovery Channel, and think, "Wow, I don't understand it. It must be a miracle from God." However, God's track record for actually having done anything that the ancients thought he(they) did is a big fat goose egg. The challenge is for you to surpass your natural wish to stereotype the unknown as "God did it", and instead acknowledge things that are unknown as having any number of causes.

        When faced with an unknown cause, apply Occam's Razor: That is, the simplest solution is most often the correct one, and should be the one assumed when nothing contradictory is known.

        By thinking "God did it", you've added to the complexity of the problem, not reduced it. I mean, who created God? Must have been a SUPER GOD! But who created the SUPER GOD? I know, you'll say: Well, God has always been. It's his nature.

        Maybe that's the Universe's nature as well.
      • by John Whitley (6067) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @08:33PM (#2971303) Homepage
        When I consider the almost infinite complexity of myself and my environment and the perfect balance with which we interact, I see a creation. Not random chaos.

        Yes, and your being a "non-scientific type" clearly shows. Because you cannot explain it, it must be "magical". You have demonstrated that you do not understand even the most basic principles of the scientific method with an incredible attack of intellectual subterfuge. To wit: your error of assuming that an idea with scientific support exists on an equal footing of any random competing idea.

        I also note that you (as are many, including "scientific types") are stuck in the fallacy of centralized thinking. I.e. that there must have been a central cause, maybe even a Who behind all that order that you perceive.

        If you like nature programs, then you should particularly watch Attenborough's Trials of Life series. Note the segment on South American termite colonies. (Likely in the episode on "homebuilding", IIRC.) Realize that the hive as a whole is an incredibly complex entity. The aboveground portion of the hive is oriented with respect to the sun's path to control temperature within the hive. Such hives have heatsink fins as part of a natural cooling system underneath. On and on, everything points to the hive as one giant organism. Addressing a single termite as a "creature" is like addressing one of your neighbor's red blood cells as a "creature". From a collection of relatively simple elements (the termites) a complex order arises. Yet no one or collection of termites "plan" the construction of the hive as would a human architect.

        Your perception of "chaos" is an illusion. It has become a convenient excuse to hide the fact that your mind cannot wholly encompass all that you experience. Just accept that all the answers won't ever be available, and work up from there. Humans have made the same mistake since the dawn of our history: to write off the unexplained with a comforting blanket of fiction. Comfort doesn't make it true.

        In the end, the scientific method gets real results that are readily experienced. Wishful thinking does not.
    • I'm with you Bud. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DG (989)
      One of the things that continues to astound and sadden me about humanity in general is this whole "Creation vs Evolution" debate.

      I mean, the evidence for evolution is just so prevelant and overpowering that I cannot understand how any reasonable human being with any powers of reason could deny it.

      I mean, I cannot understand why its even a topic of debate.

      It seems that the majority of Creationists represent the damnible human facility towards self-delusion in the face of fact because it contradicts their world-view.

      The sole exception I grant to the "Creationists-Lite" who believe that their Diety kicked off the Big Bang and then let things progress from there unassisted. While I find the idea a little goofy, I give them that the concept cannot be disproven, and at least it doesn't require them to invent or ignore established fact.

      But the mudslingers and other cognitive dissentors I just do not understand. :( :(

      DG
  • Bleh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crisco (4669) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @04:13AM (#2966097) Homepage
    Evolutionist: Aha! The smoking gun!

    Creationist: It was designed that way.

    Seriously though, that article seemed a little light on details. It appears that there are two articles [nature.com] on the Nature site.

    • Evolutionist: Aha! The smoking rubble of my OS!

      Microsoft tech support: That is the designed behavoiur.

      ---
      If Darwin was right, something more stable and adaptable would prevail.

      But with enough dollars, creationism will be the winner. You do know that B.G. invented the internet, right? And open source? :)

      AYB.

  • So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JoeShmoe (90109) <askjoeshmoe@hotmail.com> on Thursday February 07, 2002 @04:21AM (#2966122)
    Many years in the future, a bunch of scientists manage to contact God.

    "God," they go on to say, "we no longer need you. Anything you can do, we can do. We know now how everything works."

    "Is that so?" God responds. "Well, in that case, how about a contest? You create a man, and I'll create a man and we'll see which turns out better."

    "Agreed," the scientists repond.

    "But," God continues, "you'll have to do it like I did and create a man from the dirt."

    "Not a problem," the scientists chortle, knowing enough to be able to resequence basic elements into complex structures like DNA. So, in unison, the scientists get out their beakers, bend down, and scoop up some dirt.

    "Whoa, whoa, whoa," God says. "You get your own dirt."

    My point? Evolution is a non issue. The real debate is in the origin of the framework by which everything evolves. Scientists playing with DNA can make pretty much anything happen. But they still can't create matter with a thought.

    - JoeShmoe

    .
    • So what indeed (Score:5, Insightful)

      by krmt (91422) <`therefrmhere' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Thursday February 07, 2002 @04:42AM (#2966164) Homepage
      Unfortunately, while the scientists presuppose the existence of matter in your argument, you presuppose the existence of a God that can create that matter. No one wins this argument, like any other of this sort.
    • Moving goalposts (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Spoing (152917)
      All you're saying is the same argument that has been offered up for centuries. Each time we learn more and find out what fictions have been pushed as facts, the religious move the goalposts back and deny that a point has been scored.

      In children, this attitude is cute and interesting. In philosophers, it's part of the trade. In adults making a reasoned argument, it's ingenuous and artificial.

      Please snap out of it.

  • It's a shame (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CatherineCornelius (543166) <tonysidaway@gmail.com> on Thursday February 07, 2002 @04:49AM (#2966184) Journal
    "The achievement is a landmark in evolutionary biology, not only because it shows how new animal body plans could arise from a simple genetic mutation, but because it effectively answers a major criticism creationists had long leveled against evolution--the absence of a genetic mechanism that could permit animals to introduce radical new body designs. "

    It's a shame that UCSD found it necessary to refer to the creationist bugbear. Creationism has been dead and buried for well over a century except in the USA, where it lives on as a political movement impervious to scientific discussion. Scientists should deny it the courtesy of appearing to take it seriously.

  • This is science?!?!? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by j2gEEk (467944) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @06:23AM (#2966398)
    I just wanted to provide a link to the graphic used to illustrate what these scientists claim to have discovered.

    http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/graphics/images/mchox2. jp g

    Do they purport that this genetic switch creates the numerous organs required to allow flight, including a complete set of wings, as well as creating the numerous changes in the brain to allow flight to be controlled? Does it create the numerous changes to the articulation of nearly every visible limb on the illustrated insect's body? If not, isn't this illustration sophism at it's very worst?

    Hey slashdotters! Try looking at this article half as critically as you would a press release from Microsoft.
  • by bani (467531) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @06:38AM (#2966426)
    ... so that we can give our kids the needed tools to spot, analyze, and tear apart ALL intellectual fraud and pseudoscience.

    Along those same lines, I would expect to teach:

    o) geocentricism, "the moon landings hoax/nasa big lie", "mars face", etc. in astronomy
    o) flat earth in geography
    o) "free energy", "100mpg carburetor" in physics
    o) "breast enlargement pills","penis enlargement pills" in sex ed :-)
    o) all the current all-natural/herbal/psychic/magical/religious "cures" in the "health food"/"alternative medicine"/"complimentary medicine" industry.

    etc etc etc.

    Most of the effort in current teaching methods seems to be emphasis on teaching existing theories, and little to no effort is given on how to dissect and examine "alternative" claims for validity.
  • by rlp (11898) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @07:30AM (#2966566)
    In all of the debate, they only had one true argument, and it was a bad argument at that. Guess what that argument was? "Positive" mutations haven't been reproduced or observed in the laboratory, therefore they do not exist, therefore evolution is false. And this article is about just that.

    What about antibiotic resistant bacteria? A relatively quick case of evolution in action. Obviously not a positive mutation from our viewpoint - but a positive one from the organism's viewpoint.
  • by rlp (11898) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @07:41AM (#2966603)
    Found an article that nicely describes antibiotic resistance and evolution:

    From the FDA Web site The Rise of Antibiotic Resistant Infections [fda.gov]:

    The increased prevalence of antibiotic resistance is an outcome of evolution. Any population of organisms, bacteria included, naturally includes variants with unusual traits--in this case, the ability to withstand an antibiotic's attack on a microbe. When a person takes an antibiotic, the drug kills the defenseless bacteria, leaving behind--or "selecting," in biological terms--those that can resist it. These renegade bacteria then multiply, increasing their numbers a millionfold in a day, becoming the predominant microorganism.
  • by liet-kynes (155553) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @09:19AM (#2966871)
    My friends and I have been batting this one around, maybe you can help. It concerns how one gets from a primordial soup full of replicators (see 'The Selfish Gene', by Richard Dawkins) to something like a cell, way before anything like a regulator gene.

    Every environment can be thought of as presenting a utility function to the organisms that inhabit that environment. Dawkins gives an example of the following utility function:

    Try to see if a population of organisms can "discover" the line of poetry "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper." You'll note that there are 29 possible choices for each letter (26 letters + commas + periods + spaces). And in the above string, there are a total of 62 characters. So, to present the power of evolutionary theory, Dawkins imagines a population of agents randomly initialized to 62 characters. One of these might be:

    "jkdzcn43asdf lkjasdfhaokjshfla ksdhfoiuykjahs, asdasd. sdfsdf."

    you can imagine that each agent reproduces unequally based upon how well it does given the utility function -- in this case, the utility function returns an integer from 0 to 62, where 0 indicates no letters match and 62 represents a perfect match for the entire sentence. Each generation is exposed to mutation in the Dawkins example, though one could easily add crossover (which implies sexual reproduction) and inversion. The code is roughly:

    1) initialize X agents in a population to random strings of length 62
    2) write a function where each agent reproduces unequally based upon how well it optimizes the utility function given above. This choice matters, but not a lot. For our purposes, imagine that every organism below some threshold X has a 10% chance per time period of dying outright. And every organism above this threshold has a 10% chance of replicating.
    3) After step 2 (which represents one tick on the clock), expose each organism to genetic operators. Mutation is simple: pick a % chance Y (where Y is small; if it is too large, you lose information too quickly) for each character in an agent (or gene if you prefer) to mutate to a random character. Thus, if Y is equal to .5%, you go through each of the 62 characters / genes in an agent, roll the dice, and if it comes up .5% or less, you mutate that character.
    4) repeat steps 2 and 3 until you see equilibration of your population.
    After a bit, it should be obvious to you that most of your agents will approach the correct sentence, whatever their starting values. Further, not all of the organisms in a population will ever be at the "right" outcome, given mutation in step 3.

    So what does this tell us? Simple math helps out. To optimize the utility function above is simple, and we know this because we can compute the number of steps it would take to optimize it. Couple of points:

    1) the function Dawkins uses (outlined above) is separable. No character / gene depends upon any other character / gene to determine the utility of its expression. This is huge. Think about it until you get a smile on your face. For real organisms, this is NOT the case (i.e., genes are non-separable). This is why evaluating the results of the genome project is ugly. If we had, for example, one gene acting alone to determine intelligence, it would be easy to detect / modify. Sadly, multiple genes acting in concert determine intelligence, and modifying one gene in the set changes the value for the entire set.

    2) The number of steps needed to optimize the above function is 29 * 62 = 1798, which is an extraordinarily TINY search space.

    3) If the characters / genes were non-separable, as they are in real organisms, things are quite different. Worst case is completely non-separable -- i.e., every character depends upon the value of every other character for evaluation under the utility function. In this case, you have 29^62 (where the '^' represents the exponent function). Obviously, this is a freaking HUGE number. Even low levels of non-separability (e.g., pairs of genes that depend upon each other to produce a trait) generate huge search spaces.

    The fraud of Dawkins is thus simple. He proposes a set of operators that
    define his theory of evolution -- unequal reproduction, crossover, mutation,
    and inversion, and illustrates their efficacy (i.e., the "success" of the
    theory) on a simple toy problem. The ugliness, however, is that solving
    separable problems, which is the class of utility functions Dawkins uses
    to "test" his theory, is trivial. Everything / anything works well on them,
    and there is no real way for any given theory to fail on this class of
    utility functions. The other, more interesting class, which has the
    property of being an analog to REAL ORGANISMS WITH REAL GENES is when the
    utility functions are non-separable, and the theory / set of operators
    Dawkins proposes has NO success searching the spaces induced by this type of
    utility function.

    It is as if I set up a craps game, you come to play, and the rules are, I
    win all double sixes and you win everything else. You commence to roll
    double sixes until I have all the money in the world. I assert that the
    dice are not loaded.

    The dice for complex life are loaded somehow, or we don't understand the
    mechanisms of genetics. The existence of these regulator genes simply begs
    the question.

    None of this, of course, displaces evolution as the best fit for the
    available evidence.

    Karl
  • Animals DON'T evolve (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DrSkwid (118965) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @10:12AM (#2967108) Homepage Journal
    the early evolution of animals.

    animals are the expressions of genes

    gene's evolve, animals don't
  • by wberry (549228) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @01:23PM (#2968383) Homepage

    Bias Disclosure: I am a Christian and Biblical Creationist.

    The article opener claims that this finding can explain how sea creatures could evolve into insects. That isn't what it explains at all.

    ... the scientists show how mutations in regulatory genes that guide the embryonic development of crustaceans and fruit flies allowed aquatic crustacean-like arthropods, with limbs on every segment of their bodies, to evolve 400 million years ago into a radically different body plan: the terrestrial six-legged insects.

    So they change a key gene or two and the shrimp lose some legs. SO WHAT? As useful as this may prove to be for gene therapy and all, this does not explain away the Creationists' argument!

    To my knowledge, no evolutionist claims that insects were the first land animals. An animal that can survive in a marine environment just cannot migrate to land, no matter how many legs it has.

    To explain away the Creationists' argument, not only does a candidate mechanism such as this have to be found, but there must be a detailed explanation of which changes occurred, to which species, in what order, and how the resulting creatures could survive in either land or water.

    The evolutionists still have a lot of work to do. If a shrimp loses legs and gills, and absorbs oxygen through the skin, can it still survive in water long enough to go ashore?

    Whenever I get in a discussion with evolutionist types, they often respond with an attitude of over-skepticism. Stuff like, "I won't even consider this belief system without absolute proof!" Are those same people now criticizing Creationists for not bowing before this non-proof?

    Now as for myself, I have very little knowledge of Biology (just high school level), but I'm no dummy. I know all about the black and white moths, and the drug-resistant bacteria, and the Galapagos finches, and all that. No one I know, Creationists included, doubts that variations occur over time. But I for one reserve the right to doubt an idea like evolution, that if true would completely invalidate my world-view, without more evidence than we currently have.

    NOTE: I did not say that I have no doubts about Creationism. I have quite a few, not the least of which is the "Starlight & Time" problem. But that's another topic.

    My point in summary: Lots of you Slashdot types love the stance of universal skepticism, but everybody believes something they can't prove. Evolution may be yours, or atheism, or astrology, but Creationism is mine.

    • Excuse us scientists for only being able to get pieces of a 5-6 billion year-old puzzle. We're really doing the best we can. Here goes.

      So they change a key gene or two and the shrimp lose some legs. SO WHAT? As useful as this may prove to be for gene therapy
      and all, this does not explain away the Creationists' argument!


      First, I don't see how making an animal lose a pair of limbs helps for gene therapy. That aside, nobody's claiming that this is the final piece of evidence, only that it's another nail in the creationist coffin. A common argument of theirs has been that entire organs & limbs can't simply appear or disappear through simple genetic changes. Well, genetically, scientists have made that happen, and showed that on that score creationists are wrong.

      An animal that can survive in a marine environment
      just cannot migrate to land, no matter how many legs it has.

      Walruses. Penguins. Hermit crabs. Mudskippers. Etc. I know they're evolved (oops), but these are all animals that in their daily lives, apparently, do the impossible. With all these animals doing it every day, is it so impossible to believe that it might have happened at some point in the past, with or without legs? And who said legs were a requirement to move to land?

      To explain away the Creationists' argument, not only does a candidate mechanism such as this have to be found, but there must be a
      detailed explanation of which changes occurred, to which species, in what order, and how the resulting creatures could survive in
      either land or water.


      Glad to get down to brass tacks with you. The mechanism is natural selection, which we're constantly seeking to describe more thoroughly in our work. We're also seeking all the factual evidence we can to mount atop the mountains of it we already have. While it's difficult to reach through the millenia of the fossil record, we're working on it, based on facts, as we go along.

      Now I'd like to require the same factual rigor of you. Please provide factual proof of a God's existence and his influence in placing living things on this planet. I want a candidate mechanism and a detailed explanation of what changes occurred and how. Again, we'd like facts and not bible quotations please.

      The evolutionists still have a lot of work to do. If a shrimp loses legs and gills, and absorbs oxygen through the skin, can it still survive
      in water long enough to go ashore?


      This comment is pointless, as there's no reason a shrimp would have to either lose legs or gills to come ashore. There are gilled fish that can survive for a time ashore as well as gill-less marine mammals, as are there many legless and multilegged animals that can do so.

      Are those same people now criticizing Creationists for not bowing before this
      non-proof?


      The difference is that our evidence is based on a preponderance of facts, developed through repeatable experiment, and leading us in a direction toward a theory that has withstood almost 150 years of scientific scrutiny, despite concerted effort from your camp. Yours is based on mythology, as written by a group of middle-eastern tribesmen under Roman rule between 100 & 500AD. Again, the extraordinary claim that we were placed here by a God requires the extraordinary proof of being provided evidence of God's existence and his influence in worldly affairs.

      I have very little knowledge of Biology

      This is possibly the most needless statement I've read on Slashdot ever. Congratulations.

      I for one reserve the right to doubt an idea like evolution, that if true would completely invalidate
      my world-view, without more evidence than we currently have.


      We all have the right to persist in a comforting delusion, despite the facts. It's when creationists push for that delusion to be the basis of other's lives through law and forced creationist teaching in public schools that I get indignant.

      Lots of you Slashdot types love the stance of universal skepticism, but everybody believes something they
      can't prove. Evolution may be yours, or atheism, or astrology, but Creationism is mine.


      Ah, yes. You forgot to say "I'm OK, you're OK".

  • Theoligy and science (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Natedog (11943) on Thursday February 07, 2002 @03:43PM (#2969391)
    Just my $.02 that's likely to get lost in the /. noise:

    First, just so everyone knows where I'm comming from, I was raised a creationist. And in the past I've been a devote creationist that would try to "debate" with others to promote my point of view -- thinking that if you believed in evolution you were an atheist. However, as I have matured (a little bit, not much), I can say that my own beliefs have evolved.

    I don't understand anymore this animosity that Christians and Evolutionist have between each other -- this fierce compitition. When I read the Genesis account (first few chapters) and get all the imagery out of my head that I was raised with (the presuppositions so to speak) I see a very general story that is not intended to be a science text book. I think details are purposely omitted because the point of the book is not for us to know exactly how everything came into being, but to understand that a supernatural being created it and the relationship that we have to this being.

    Christians that are threatened by evolution don't have a true concept of the omnipotence of an all powerfull God (or Yahweh, Jehovah, Cosmic Spirit, or whatever name you attach). Think about it, if you had unlimited processing power and data, you could drop thousands of pieces of paper from a plane at 10K feet and know exactly where each paper would land. Moreover, now assume that you can control all of the variables (wind speed/direction, ordering of papers, turbulance, etc) -- then you would be able to cause each of these papers to land where you wish them to land. Now, back up to the Big Band (or whatever started the Universe). Assuming that all energy and matter that exists in the universe today was involved in the Big Bang (to my knowlege science has not found any exceptions to the law of conservation of energy and matter). Now lets assume there's an all powerful being that causes this Bang and sets up all the variables to Its liking. This being, in theory, could then foreordain the entire universe as we know it today in a single instance at the time of the Big Bang. To the Creationist, all of this appears to be the work of God, Its creation. However, to the Evolutionist, all of this appears to be the work of chance (just a question for thought, but is anything really random? Or do we just label events as random when they become too computationally complex?). Add to this that God is outside of time (exists in all of time at all instances at once) and you realize that there's more the the Genesis account than meets the eye! I guess what I'm saying is that I don't think that science and the Bible are mutually exclusive.

    Now, on the flip side, I don't understand why some scientists are so bent on disproving the Bible and slamming Christians -- almost a fear of Judeo-Christian beliefs (well...maybe I do, there have been and still are some pretty crummy people that call themselves Christans). The Bible was written by over 40 authors from 3 continents and from various backgrounds (kings, prophets, common folk, political prisioners, etc) and it was written over a span of 1500 years! What a wealth of knowlege and wisdom it contains. Some claim that it contains a meta-narrative of a God trying to reconcile a relationship with mankind. If nothing else it contains history and 1500 years of culture and living experiance. How you choose to read it is where faith comes into the picture. It's just a shame that there are all of these debates about the Bible and Science, but very few people actually read the Bible (including Christians) even though it is classic literature and a great read once you understand the context/culture/timeline in which it was written.
  • Wow.

    All of this creationism hot air. But on Slashdot? Isn't this a technodweeb's paradise? A science geek's home?

    Whenever a debate on evolution springs up on the net, does some appointed sentinel of the far right ring the clarion call of Christian Fundamentalism and call forth a vanguard of babbling halfwits running to the scene of the crime to proclaim The Truth?

    I'm really sorry. Mod me troll, mod me flamebait. I know it is no good to throw a pail of water on the idea of commentary on a website devoted to comments. But this is Slashdot, isn't it? We believe in science and tech here, no?

    Look, some guidelines for non-creationists, as I see it, for whatever it is worth:

    Don't talk to them.

    PLEASE! Don't take the bait! They only relate babbling pits of tomfoolery to your mind. You can not reason with them! Every pound of logical heft you hurl in their direction will be replied with immediately by 10 pounds of so much clangityclank of the brain that you will only be left dumbfounded by the psychology of it all. The point is to not engage them. Because engaging them will not allow their ideas to die the ignoble historical death their ideas deserve. The dustbin of history must not be disturbed, as it is already disturbed enough as it is. The more you try to persuade them to reason, the more you breathe life into a sinking ship. Your pleas for reason will only be replied with with flim flam.

    They mean well, and that is their problem. But they can't get their brains past a bad idea. They must justify it, by any means possible. So the harder and harder you blow against them, the harder they hold their cloak of belief. Stop blowing, let time and solitude relax their grips on their insanity.

    I hear some primitive tribespeople fear having their pictures taken because they think the camera steals a bit of their soul. So if they don't see a camera, they don't get excited. And when their backwards beliefs are not challenged, they live peaceful, harmless lives. In other words, don't show creationists cameras. Get it?

    After all, Al Qaeda is nothing more than a Muslim Fundamentalist backlash against the "decadent West." New ideas are dangerous. Progress is disturbing to some people. Some do not accept new, and better ideas. They instead cling to old, crazy ones and get very defensive about it. They frame it in absolutes, that evolution goes against God, for example. Evolution does not go against God. Science is not allied against religion. Any forward-thinking religious person can incorporate evolution into their world-view without evolution challenging their beliefs. It will, in fact, enrich their understanding of the world, deepen the mystery of life by making more clear the complexity of it all, and therefore, eventually, reaffirm their belief in God. But all of this assumes an open mind. Unfortunately, there are a lot of closed ones.

    Don't show creationists cameras!

    Leave them to their strange ways. Left in peaceful backwards isolation, they will eventually go the way of the Dodo, no irony intended. Right now their numbers are too large and the voraciousness of their passion too disturbing in the USA to be considered harmless. They are quite harmful, to the education and intelligence of all of our children. Give it time, many years, and they will fade away into history. Someday, decades from now, creationism will sound almost cute and harmless, like we laugh at the Spanish Inquisition in Monty Python skits.

    Until then, they are just a massive pain in the ass. Please, ignore them! Here on Slashdot, and in the rest of your life. Your intentions are good in trying to challenge them in honest debate, but please, just walk away from them. There is no winning, just lots of hot air for you to inhale. ;-P

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