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New Findings Confirm Darwin's Theory — Evolution Not Random 386

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the water-also-wet dept.
ScienceDaily is reporting a team of biologists has demonstrated that evolution is a deterministic process, rather than a random selection as some competing theories suggested. "When the researchers measured changes in 40 defined characteristics of the nematodes' sexual organs (including cell division patterns and the formation of specific cells), they found that most were uniform in direction, with the main mechanism for the development favoring a natural selection of successful traits, the researchers said."
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New Findings Confirm Darwin's Theory — Evolution Not Random

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  • Ah, but... (Score:5, Funny)

    by susano_otter (123650) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:12PM (#22102348) Homepage

    the main mechanism for the development favoring a natural selection of successful traits

    Ah, but did this deterministic development mechanism evolve deterministically or randomly?
    • Re:Ah, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by KublaiKhan (522918) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:17PM (#22102406) Homepage Journal
      Is it 'deterministic' or 'random' that a positively charged object is attracted to a negatively charged object, or is it merely a consequence of the way things are?
      • It is random, but the result is not evenly distributed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by phatvw (996438)
      Deterministic selection might be obvious. But can anyone offer an explanation how the very first instance of a successful trait comes about?
      I have faith that the first instance of a long neck was due to one or more coincident random mutations.
      • Re:Ah, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by KublaiKhan (522918) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:26PM (#22102502) Homepage Journal
        This says nothing about the way in which a trait arise--merely that the selection process that determines which traits are likely to be passed on is not random.

        Also, there's no reason to have faith in this. Leave faith to the religious folks--these are facts, which are true whether or not you 'believe' them.
        • Re:Ah, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by shimage (954282) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:55PM (#22102870)

          Two points:

          1. While it's good to verify things, you do realize that this proves nothing, right? It is merely in line with the one theory that we have for this sort of thing. It doesn't go anywhere near proving it. To prove that evolutionary selection is deterministic, you'd have to show that it was true for all cases, and that's a bit difficult. What this experiment shows is that for the species tested, traits considered, over the time analyzed, nothing abnormal was observed.
          2. There is no "competing theory", just Darwin's. There are those of us that believed that it the selection of traits was deterministic, and then there are ... creationists. Those that are in between don't make up a significant population in the scientific community. Also note that this study is irrelevant for the evolution/ID debate, since this is supposed to determine how evolution goes about, not whether it goes about.
          3. While I don't think that this experiment wasn't worth doing, I don't think it's news. It's like going out to measure the mass of a photon and discovering that it's less than you can measure (yes, I know this has been done; it wasn't very exciting). It doesn't break anything we thought was fine, and doesn't prove anything we didn't already know: it simply puts limits on how wrong our theory can possibly be.

        • by WgT2 (591074) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:56PM (#22102882) Journal

          Is the following a fact or faith?

          The Sun will rise tomorrow (whether over clouds or otherwise).
          What say ye?

          Hint: ISATRAP

          • by Feanturi (99866)
            It's faith because even though it has already happened in the past eleventy-billion times and everybody saw it, we still haven't seen it come up tomorrow, where there could possibly be some unforseen calamity happening that will prevent it. But I'm not going to lose any sleep over worrying about it.

            When tomorrow comes and the sun actually rises, then it'll be fact.
          • Re:Ah, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:43PM (#22103390)
            Ask me again tomorrow afternoon.
        • by kemushi88 (1156073) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:00PM (#22102932) Homepage
          Facts have a known liberal bias.
        • by phatvw (996438)
          My statement about faith in randomness has absolutely nothing to do with religion. I was actually trying to make a joke but it seems to have backfired. Does faith=troll on slashdot?
        • Re:Ah, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Adambomb (118938) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:02PM (#22102964) Journal
          This is why I would like to have clarified why people seem to think that the concept of Creationism is even at odds with Evolution.

          Personally, I would find it much less insulting as a deity if people realized I was an absolutely incredible systems programmer able to start a ball rolling with some precursor components and have all of earths current life unfold from them as planned. It would kind of belittle the effort to say He just snapped his fingers.

          I hear the rebuttal constantly that the words of mankind are unable to contain the meanings God would be trying to impart on the writers, and this type of complexity would be EXACTLY the kind of thing mankind would be unable to even conceptualize millennia ago.

          Creationism and Evolution are not mutually exclusive. The roots of creationism are simply unable to be tested or verified by humanity currently so it remains a leap of faith to believe that God designed the layout of dominos. We can't even say if there was a START to the universe, or whether it is some bizarre infinite system, or a finite-yet-recursive system or what.

          For the die hard ultra-fundamentalist AS WELL AS the hardcore ultra-atheistic, keep in mind that NOTHING can be known to be 100% accurate, maybe a bunch of nines of significance based on what we know but never 100%. Even the probability we determine based on what we know would be in the same boat (IE: see Newtonian mechanics, almost correct, 'works' depending on frame of reference).

          If we could, humanity would have no need for faith, as everything would simply be. Seeing as that would leave even less room in existence for free will, I'm definitely glad things are not that way (despite some things done in the name of faith or in the name of science).

          DISCLAIMER: I'm still one who prefers the random swerving to being a gear in a deterministic system, but that doesnt mean what i'd like the model of existence to look like is correct.
          • Re:Ah, but... (Score:4, Informative)

            by yali (209015) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:36PM (#22103312)

            Creationism and Evolution are not mutually exclusive.

            Yes they are, at least for the standard dictionary definition of creationism [reference.com]:

            creationism:
            1. the doctrine that matter and all things were created, substantially as they now exist, by an omnipotent Creator, and not gradually evolved or developed.
            2. the doctrine that the true story of the creation of the universe is as it is recounted in the Bible, esp. in the first chapter of Genesis.

            Keep in mind, "Creationism" != "Religious faith". There are plenty of people who believe in God and who accept the scientific theory of evolution. But they are not creationists.

            • Re:Ah, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

              by susano_otter (123650) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:42PM (#22103366) Homepage
              That's a bizarre definition of "creationism". It's been my experience, after decades of interacting with large numbers of creationists in various contexts, that the "creation-is-incompatible-with-evolution" types are but one small faction among many.

              You may want to reconsider reference.com as a reliable source of unbiased information on controversial subjects.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by LordLucless (582312)
              Firstly, a distinction should probably be made between the mechanism of evolution (living things adapt over time), the concept of abiogenesis (that life arose from non-living matter), and the terms (which I dislike) "macro"evolution and "micro"evolution - meaning respectively, that evolution is responsible for significant differences between organisms, and that evolution is only capable of making slight adjustments to existing organisms (and would be incapable of, say, evolving a single-celled organism into
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Well... From a scientist who is also very religious...

          If you think that science deals in facts, you're mistaken. Science is more a process of coming up with explanations for the observations that we have. For example, we see something, we come up with a theory and then set out to "prove" the theory correct. Unfortunately, we find historically, that the scientific proof of things is almost always flawed, as it was with newtonian physics, but is frequently good enough to get by. There are all sorts of stu
          • Re:Ah, but... (Score:4, Informative)

            by lgw (121541) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:39PM (#22103914) Journal

            If you think that science deals in facts, you're mistaken. Science is more a process of coming up with explanations for the observations that we have. For example, we see something, we come up with a theory and then set out to "prove" the theory correct. Unfortunately, we find historically, that the scientific proof of things is almost always flawed, as it was with newtonian physics, but is frequently good enough to get by.
            There is a fundamental misunderstanding here. Science never proves that a theory is "correct" -- theories never become facts -- science instead proves that a theory has useful predictive power. Newton's laws of motion remain "proven" on this basis: the engineering calculations needed to put a man on the moon, for example, were done with deliberate disregard for relativity, for Newton's laws had just as much useful predictive power after Einstein as before.

            A hypothesis doesn't get called a theory until it has demonstrated substantial predictive power, and so is almost never found to be "incorrect" later. Instead conditions are discovered under which the old theory doesn't make useful predictions, and the new theory is "more general", or accurate to more decimal places, etc.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bwalling (195998)

          these are facts, which are true whether or not you 'believe' them.

          Don't misrepresent what science is. Science is always changing its mind based on new findings. That's what it is supposed to do. This is our current understanding. It may be the true behavior of nature; it may only be the best explanation for what we currently know and we'll later discover something that provides a much better explanation. You shouldn't call something like this 'true' - you should simply say that it is the current explan

      • by mike2R (721965)
        I don't think anyone is arguing that mutations are (or at least can be for the theory to hold) non-random - TFA only talking about selection. IOW nothing to see here... move along.
    • by ImaLamer (260199) <john.lamarNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:46PM (#22103438) Homepage Journal
      A chicken and egg are lying in bed together. They are both smoking.

      The chicken leans over to the egg and says; "I guess we answered that question."
  • In other news... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aranykai (1053846) <slgonserNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:14PM (#22102374)
    The Theory of Evolution is once again mistaken for Natural Selection of Advantageous Traits.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SoupGuru (723634)
      Is there even a "Theory of Evolution"?

      I thought in science there are facts and then there are theories to explain those facts. In other words, there is the fact that thing evolve and the theory of natural selection explains how they evolve. So not only are we confusing the terms evolution and natural selection, we're misapplying the term "theory".
    • To be fair, they are related, and most laymen can't really tell the difference, given the extremely sad state of science reporting and whatnot.
    • by eepok (545733)
      So what's the difference, then?
      • Re:In other news... (Score:5, Informative)

        by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary @ y a hoo.com> on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:38PM (#22102668) Journal
        The theory of evolution includes the theory of the selection of advantageous traits, plus methods for the acquisition of new traits, like mutation.
      • Re:In other news... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by moosesocks (264553) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:55PM (#22102876) Homepage
        Natural selection can be easily verified in a laboratory setting, with reproducible results. Keep nuking bacteria, and eventually you'll wind up with a population that is more resilient to the doses of radiation that you're giving them. We can also statistically observe which DNA sequences are advantageous/disadvantageous. The evidence for natural selection is extensive and largely unambiguous.

        Evolution is part of the larger picture, and isn't really possible to test or reproduce, as it explains the consequences of natural selection. "Proving" evolution requires lots of indirect/consequential/incomplete evidence, and the extensive use of statistics (which helps indicate trends and correlations, but can't actually *prove* anything) to interpolate/extrapolate what evidence we have.

        It follows from logic that if species breed randomly, and the mutation doesn't greatly affect an organism's ability to reproduce, the short-term effects of natural selection won't propagate to the long-term, which leaves us with a paradoxical situation wherein Natural Selection is required for evolution to occur, but that the population dynamics associated with natural selection simultaneously prevent long-term evolution from occurring.

        The significance of this study is that we now have some evidence that the "species breed randomly" assumption might not necessarily have been a good one.

        As always, further study on the matter should be pursued.
    • Evolution of the species is a fact - not a theory. The scientific theory commonly referred to as the "theory of evolution" is the theory of evolution through natural selection [of advantageous traits].
    • by TopSpin (753) *

      In other news...
      Researchers develop revolutionary hair splitting device. "We have developed a technology that precisely subdivides a human hair up to 18 times lengthwise", said researchers at the Seymour Skinner Institute for Pedantry.

  • by KublaiKhan (522918) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:14PM (#22102376) Homepage Journal
    Hopefully this will be an effective means of shutting up the old saw of "there's no way that 'simple random chance' could produce the creatures of today from the creatures of yesterday!" and all that other nonsense.

    O'course, it'll probably be misquoted endlessly by the 'intelligent design' folks, given that--at least superficially--it could be seen to "endorse" the concept of a directed design, rather than being an inevitable consequence of the process.
    • by EggyToast (858951)
      Hopefully this will be an effective means of shutting up the old saw of "there's no way that 'simple random chance' could produce the creatures of today from the creatures of yesterday!"

      What do you mean? They were right!
      • Yes, yes, I do get the joke--but I'd like to note that said argument is an offshoot of a misstatement of evolution as being "purely the result of random chance" and that any sort of 'direction' must necessarily be divinely inspired, rather than being a thermodynamic inevitability.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I doubt this will change anyone's opinion of anything because this article doesn't appear to be saying much, just that mutations in a nematode's sex organs tend to be beneficial. Really, to claim that mutations in general have a trend to be helpful after only a single study of a single part of a single organism seems to be stretching it to me.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by dbIII (701233)
      They don't want a reason, they already have one.

      It's all too hard and the God ate their homework.

  • by usul294 (1163169) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:15PM (#22102394)
    Creationist Interpretation : "God came up with something he liked, so he repeated his design; I mean it must have taken awhile to design millions of organisms, He must have recycled ideas somewhere"
    • Re:God Recycles (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tempest69 (572798) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:36PM (#22102638) Journal

      Creationist Interpretation : "God came up with something he liked, so he repeated his design; I mean it must have taken awhile to design millions of organisms, He must have recycled ideas somewhere"

      Whats really intresting then is that while a whole bunch of stuff is recycled, the pattern makes a tree where recycling never seems to occur among plants-mammals-birds, so no four cycle breathing for mammals, no bird milk, no bat fruit.. really strange that with all the shortcuts that were taken, so much separation would be faithfully preserved.


      Storm

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by susano_otter (123650)
      You really haven't ever bothered to consider the implications of the "creationist" theory, have you?

      If the universe is the creation of a being that transcends time and space, then there's no tedium involved in the design process because there's no time involved in the design process. Any "recycling" of ideas would have occurred for other reasons. As to what those reasons might be, a more likely "creationist" interpretation would be that in realm where time and space have no meaning, how can we possibly figu
  • by eepok (545733) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:19PM (#22102422) Homepage
    Hmm... I don't understand...

    From what I picked up in bio, it was known to work as such:

    Assume Mutation
    (1) If mutation not hindrance, animal likely to live and likely makes babies.
    (2) If mutation is boon, animal more likely to live and more likely makes babies.
    (3) If mutation is hindrance, animal less likely to live and less likely to make babies

    From there, you consider whether or not the mutation is recessive/dominant which determines if the babies get the mutation (then referred to as a trait).

    Repeat many many times and you get a separation of a special line.

    The proper combination of factors being: mutation = beneficial, mutation dominant, mutated animals screw like proverbial rabbits.

    How is this different from the new findings?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by AntiMotive (1221720)
      Different? No. Adding to a mountain of supporting data obtained through scientific measures? Yes. /2my2cents
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NeutronCowboy (896098)
      The way I understood the article, observed mutations tended to be favorable to begin with. In other words, instead of the mutations being random, they are more likely to be favorable than unfavorable. So there seems to be some sort of mechanism that selects beneficial mutations BEFORE procreation or death kicks in. I'm not sure though if that's simple misreporting on the part of the author of the article.... wouldn't be the first time.
      • by Alsee (515537)
        The way I understood the article, observed mutations tended to be favorable to begin with... not sure though if that's simple misreporting on the part of the author

        The wording in the article rather bad and targeted at a low reading level, but I'm pretty sure that the trends they were talking about were were post-selection trends in the beneficial direction.

        It sounds like the researchers were merely debunking some crackpot suggestion that maybe there's a 50% chance some species' necks will get longer over ti
        • Alright.... sounds most plausible. I've re-read the article a few times, and indeed - the more I read it, the more it does sound like a screw-up on the part of the journalist. Thanks for the input.
      • by Eternauta3k (680157) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:36PM (#22103318) Homepage Journal

        So there seems to be some sort of mechanism that selects beneficial mutations BEFORE procreation or death kicks in
        You never see stuff like people with 2 alleles for sickle cell disease, because they don't make it to birth. Likewise, very bad mutations are selected against at a very early stage. However, mutations are random, there's no way for a cell to control where some cromosome will change.
    • by kebes (861706) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:42PM (#22102722) Journal
      I was confused, too. Here's the reference to the actual paper:
      Karin Kiontke, Antoine Barrière, Irina Kolotuev, Benjamin Podbilewicz, Ralf Sommer, David H.A. Fitch, and Marie-Anne Félix Trends, Stasis, and Drift in the Evolution of Nematode Vulva Development [current-biology.com] Current Biology (November 2007), 17, p. 1925-1937.

      TFA [sciencedaily.com] seems to be misrepresenting the research somewhat. They claim that there is a divide in evolutionary theory between "random inheritance" and "deterministic inheritance." However, the actual article is describing the difference between unbiased (stochastic) and biased (selected or constrained) evolution of variation. In both cases the usual random genetic variation with fitness selection would occur.

      The scientists are not claiming that evolution is deterministic or guided, but rather that there are strong selections and constraints that bias some variations to be more likely to appear than others. In their words:

      We propose that developmental evolution is primarily governed by selection and/or selection-independent constraints, not stochastic processes such as drift in unconstrained phenotypic space.
      As an example of a constraint, they mention "generative constraints" (i.e. fitness is selecting for a certain feature, and there are multiple ways of achieving that feature, but one's genetic heritage will bias one implementation over another). Their evidence for the drift in variations being generally "biased" is based on the occurrence (over generations) of various traits: for instance they observe fewer "reversals" (reappearance of traits that were previously common) than would be expected if the variability were entirely stochastic/random.

      This is, in any case, my understanding of the paper... but I'm a chemist/physicist, not a biologist! (So hopefully a biologist in the crowd will further explain this paper.) Overall, however, I think the article doesn't summarize the work properly, since they are suggesting that evolution is highly directed and deterministic, whereas the paper is instead analyzing the "degree of bias" that is inherent to the selection effects of evolution. For instance, the scientific paper doesn't claim that evolution can't produce non-advantageous mutations.
      • by eepok (545733)

        I think the article doesn't summarize the work properly, since they are suggesting that evolution is highly directed and deterministic, whereas the paper is instead analyzing the "degree of bias" that is inherent to the selection effects of evolution. For instance, the scientific paper doesn't claim that evolution can't produce non-advantageous mutations.


        That clears everything up.
    • by dasunt (249686) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:49PM (#22102800)

      I've always thought that the rate of mutation should be alterable as well.

      Depending on the creature, it may take more effort or less effort to ensure the integrity of its DNA. Some creatures can take massive doses of radiation and survive, some can survive massive exposures to what would be carcigenic in humans, etc.

      So shouldn't evolution heuristically arrive at a rate of mutation that is beneficial to a species?

      I thought this was obvious, but maybe I should write a paper on it. :p

      • by bckrispi (725257)
        IANAB, but I believe the frequency of mutation is directly tied to the frequency of reproduction.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by snaz555 (903274)
      My rather layperson understanding is that the findings prove there are N-order effects in evolution. Given what we know about the complex interaction of genes and how they switch one and other off in complex networks, there are many layers of order where changes can occur, and conversely any one change could impart both, say, a bigger eye as well as a tendency to evolve say the skin in some direction. So you can have one immediately beneficial change, like a slightly tweaked eye, that takes hold quickly a
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Alsee (515537)
      From the artcle:
      An opposing theory says evolution takes place through randomly inherited and not necessarily advantageous changes. Using the giraffe example, there would not be a common neck-lengthening trend; some would develop long necks, while others would develop short ones.

      They were testing the alternate theory against standard theory.

      From what I picked up in bio, it was known to work as such:
      Assume Mutation
      (1) If mutation not hindrance, animal likely to live and likely makes babies.
      (2) If mutation is
  • Seriously, I *promise* I tagged this wateriswet before I read the dept byline..
  • from the water-also-wet dept.

    Gee, if you have to give it such a disparaging department name, then why even bother posting the article in the first place? Unless you have a fetish for the creation/evolution wars, which we all know is the best thing about Slashdot....

    • by PhxBlue (562201)

      Unless you have a fetish for the creation/evolution wars, which we all know is the best thing about Slashdot....

      I take it you haven't witnessed the vi/emacs wars, then?

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:26PM (#22102500)
    Somehow, I feel that this is indeed novel: as far as I understood it, evolution was taken to be the process by which RANDOM mutations are passed on based on how they affect survival and reproduction rates.

    This seems to say that the mutations aren't random, but that they are biased into a specific direction - one that is more advantageous to begin with. As an example, this would indicate that instead of there being random variations of the length of the neck of the giraffe, the mutations tend, on average, to favor a longer neck to begin with.

    I'd say that's pretty new and spiffy. Did I miss something?
    • Phrased like that, yeah, I think that would be rather novel and interesting, although I suppose it could be argued, it is still random, it's just skewed toward result X due to the current structure of the organism. We know, for instance, certain mutations are common causes of such things as cancer given a certain genetic make up. This could likely just be a more complex structural bias in the mutation patterns.
    • But most mutations are not beneficial. The vast majority occur in non-coding junk DNA, and are neutral, at least in the short term.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by NeutronCowboy (896098)
        But that's the point of the article - most mutations seem to be beneficial, according to their sets of criteria. This is what I think is new in the article.... though I'm also suspicious that the journalist might have simply misunderstood the scientist. Wouldn't be the first time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by NonSequor (230139)
      The article makes it sound like this proves that natural selection isn't a stochastic process, but in a couple of places they contradict this. It wouldn't make sense for natural selection to be deterministic.

      My understanding of natural selection is that it's more or less a random walk with drift toward a point determined by the nature of the selection pressures. Reading between the lines, I'm guessing that this new research shows that the drift term of the process is much larger than the error term, not tha
      • From what I can tell, not only are they saying that the drift term is larger than the error term, but that the drift is not solely determined by the nature of the selection pressures. In other words, drift occurs before selection can impact the random walk. Yes/No?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by IdahoEv (195056)
      Mutation is partly random, but selection definitely is not. Genes and traits are selected for by their ability to pass themselves on to the next generation. That's a criterion, not "randomness".

      Note: mutation is definitely not always random, either. Organisms have developed extensive systems for modifying and altering how much mutation they incur, and what part of the genome receives those mutations. Look up, for example, the bacterial SOS response, in which bacterial colonies under stress will suddenly
  • by strange dynamics (1219074) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:34PM (#22102600)
    I think the most interesting thing to come to light in this study is that scientists have identified fourty characteristics of nematode sexual organs.
  • by eclectro (227083) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:39PM (#22102680)
    That it is a deterministic process that will tell how much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood.

    They might even be able to write a mathematical expression for it.
  • by digitalderbs (718388) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:41PM (#22102698)

    measured changes in.. nematodes' sexual organs
    and I thought my job sucked.
  • Link to cited paper (Score:4, Informative)

    by Larthallor (623891) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:41PM (#22102712)
    This is a link to the paper cited in the article:

    http://www.current-biology.com/content/article/fulltext?uid=PIIS0960982207021938 [current-biology.com]
  • I can only presume whatever "journalist" who wrote that didn't understand what he was told.

    Darwinian natural selection has an element of randomness in that "natural selection" promotes those randomly produced mutations that increase the animal's likelihood of survival. Every other theory I've heard of assumes a *more* deterministic process.

    The key to understanding evolution by natural selection is understanding how the process of natural selection creates an ordered progression of animals better adapted to

  • It sounds to me that life has evolved to evolve.
  • The reason it doesn't look random is because random mutations that aren't successful don't survive long enough in the first place, so of _COURSE_ the trend will always be towards more productive organisms.
  • Seriously, selection of unsuccessful traits?

    The blurb advertises alternative evolutionary theories, but I've never heard of any theory that didn't presume selection of superior adaptations. The only critique I've ever heard of that is the accusation of circular reasoning, i.e.

    What traits are selected for? Adaptive traits.

    What are Adaptive Traits? Traits that are Selected for.

    Not sure I've ever heard a good reason *why* that's not circular - [G]. Of course, I suppose it's circular reasoning that lost items a
  • by CleverDan (728966) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:16PM (#22103098)
    They are obviously creations of His Noodly Appendage
  • I've conducted an experiment today wherein several massive objects (1) were released in mid-air at which point they did indeed plummet to the ground in the general direction of the earth's center of mass thus confirming the theory of gravitation.
    I am in the process of writing a paper right now and expect this advance in our understanding of the physical world to be prominently featured in the next issue of Nature.

    (1) My damned keys
  • by feepness (543479) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:42PM (#22103382) Homepage
    Evolution is intelligently designed?
  • WTF? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr@nOspAm.mac.com> on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:11PM (#22103674) Journal
    Nobody ever said the selection was random, except for some pinhead creationists who didn't know what they were talking about. Mutations are random, and selection is the process by which those individuals with advantageous mutations survive while those with disadvantageous mutations do not.

    -jcr
  • by hung_himself (774451) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @02:30AM (#22105944)
    Wow, this is a triple convergence of a bad and confusing title, summary and article (which is a summary of the actual journal article) which is unusual even for slashdot.

    This really isn't about Darwinian evolution which involves random mutations and selection of the favorable ones. However, there are some characteristics which are neither advantageous or disadvantageous. There is a debate about how many characteristics are "neutral". For example, did large noses appear because they are advantageous (for warming air perhaps) or because they just worked out that way by chance. So the original paper asked this question about worm vulvas and found that nearly all the characteristics that they looked at did NOT arrive by chance but were selected for (i.e. were advantageous in some way).

    It is important to note both possible results would be consistent with Darwinian evolution. The only questions being addressed are the mechanism (does evolution go through mostly neutral phenotypes before a favorable phenotype is selected) and the extent that characteristics are neutral. For worm vulvas, it appears that the vulvas that form are biased towards the most favorable ones.
  • by Gastrolith (1223188) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @11:20AM (#22108632)
    The title of the post is misleading. This is not intended to be a confirmation of the modern evolutionary theory. This paper is about HOW actually evolution of certain aspects of the nematodes happen, not about whether evolution happens or not at all. The modern theory of evolution considers three different mechanisms in which evolution occur: * Natural selection (the only one described by Darwin), which consists in the differential reproduction of organisms (let's just say organisms, to keep it simple) determined by inheritable traits (adaptive traits. * Genetic drift, which consists in the "random" change in the frequency of a gene in a population. * Genetic flow, which consists in the transference of genes among populations. From the summary of the paper: "We propose that developmental evolution is primarily governed by selection and/or selection-independent constraints, not stochastic processes such as drift in unconstrained phenotypic space." Put simply, this paper says that natural selection is the prevailing mechanism in developmental evolution. Sorry about my bad English. Not a native speaker.

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