On Natural Selection

Some people seem to be having problems with natural selection and how it can lead to the huge diversity of life on Earth.  I thought I would explain this as I did to my students.  This is a basic primer on natural selection, not a comprehensive explanation.

Charles Darwin came up with the idea of natural selection after his trip on HMS Beagle and observations of artificial selection.  Breeders of domestic livestock had known for a long time (centuries probably) that by breeding their best individual animals together, they tended to get more really good individuals.  That’s selection.

What is natural selection?

In the simplest terms, natural selection says that organisms that are more for fit for their environment tend to preferentially survive and pass their traits to their offspring. 

This is a simple concept.  If you have two lion cubs, one of which is large and strong, the other of which was born with a mangled leg, then, in a natural environment, the large, strong lion cub with be much more likely to survive.  The cub with the bad leg probably will not survive to reproductive age, much less be able to fight for and mate with a female. 

The gene that caused his mangled leg will not continue.  While the genes for size and strength will continue on in the offspring of the large, strong cub.

That’s it.  That’s all there is to it.

Now, if the environment changes, then the traits that are important change.  If you have an ice age, suddenly woolly mammoths are better able to survive than hairless mammoths.  Once the ice age ends, and global warming kicks in, then hairless elephants are better able to survive than heavily coated woolly mammoths.

Natural selection cannot work in a vacuum.  In fact, you might think of the environment to be analogous to the breeder of domestic animals.

Genes and Natural Selection

At this point, we should remember that genes carry the information needed to construct a protein.  An allele is a variant of a gene.  Some alleles are dominant over other alleles.

It is important to realize that natural selection does not, and cannot, act on what genes (alleles) are in the organism.  Natural selection can only act on how the organism looks (the phenotype).  This is why and how, sometimes harmful alleles get a free ride.

Let’s say that an organism has a gene for muscles.  There are two alleles one for ‘Lots-o-muscles’ (we’ll call this ‘L’) and one for ‘little-bit-o-muscles’ (we’ll call this ‘l’).   Now ‘L’ is dominant to ‘l’.  So if an organism has the genotype LL or Ll, then it has lots-o-muscles.  Only if the organism has a genotype of ll does it have a little-bit-o-muscles.

As far as the environment is concerned, LL is no different from Ll.  Both genotypes produce the same phenotype (lots-o-muscles).  Only ll is effectively different. 

Now, if we have two organisms a male with Ll and a female with Ll, then we should remember than 25% of their offspring will be ll (little-bit-o-muscles) and 50% will be Ll.  In the organisms current environment, lots-o-muscles is a good thing and they dominate the individuals. 

But if something happens in the environment, something where the energy needed to maintain lots-o-muscles is no longer available, then those guys with ll (little-bit-o-muscles) will be more fit than the lots-o-muscles individuals.  Those organisms will then tend to survive and the dominant allele will rapidly become a minority in the gene pool of the organism.

Natural Selection and Diversity

But how can simple changes in the gene pool, which are usually changes in the percentage of each allele, result in the massive diversity around us?

Remember that fitness is not a fixed concept.  If fitness was fixed and didn’t change, then all the organisms alive would be approaching a fixed point.  Everything that was less fit would die and everything on Earth would be tending to be exactly alike.

There are what we call, niches, areas of specialization if you will.  Just like our society has carpenters, and plumbers, and firemen, and programmers, and teachers.  The natural world has lots of ways for organisms to make a living.  Some will photosynthesize, some eat the ones that photosynthesize, some eat those, etc.  What you end up with is an ‘arms’ race between the species doing the eating and the species being eaten.

Take a look at cheetahs and Thomson’s gazelles.

Cheeta chasing Thompson's gazelle

Cheetahs tend to catch the slower gazelles.  Why chase a fast one when you can chase a slow one.  So, in classic fashion* the gazelles that are faster will tend to survive and breed offspring that are also faster.

Cheetahs have to be fast to catch the faster generation of gazelles, so only the fastest cheetahs tend to breed.  Which, in turn, means cheetahs that are faster.  Repeat over a few million years and you get what we have now.

But what if, there was a significant mutation in a cheetah line that resulted in the ability to catch a new source of food?  Well, the currently living cheetahs wouldn’t be competing with the new line, so they would continue on as always, but now we have this new line of cheetahs diverging.  What is fit for this new line has changed, it’s different from the speedy cheetahs.  Maybe it’s based on smaller size and being able to survive on rabbits and mice rather than gazelles.  Maybe they are better ambush hunters than runners, slightly stronger maybe, or no scent.  The possibilities are endless.

But the new line slowly changes over time to be less and less like the ‘normal’ cheetah that we think of.  Until the point we look at them and say, ‘That’s not a cheetah.  I don’t know what it is, but it’s not a cheetah.”

A creationist might say, “That’s a just-so story.  It’s not real.  It’s made up.”

Except it’s not…

Go ahead, explain to me that these two organisms are the same species without invoking the intermediates.

You see, dogs are the greatest example of selection.  The fact that it’s mostly artificial selection rather than natural selection has exactly nothing to do with anything.  The fact is that the species Canis familaris has such a massive amount of diversity, that for all intents and purposes they are different species.

Looking at the extremes, take any small, toy, or miniature breed, and try to breed it with a large, working, or Shepard breed and see what happens.  There is no way that the two individuals in the picture could mate.  Even they could physically get together, there is almost no way for the offspring to come to term.  Even if they did, they would probably not be viable for long as a mix of two such disparate organisms.

Dogs are well on their way to becoming different species.  In fact some might suggest (humorously) that it should be done for the same reasons I mention above.

But the point is natural selection and diversity of species.  Dogs actually exhibit a wider range of morphology than all other carnivora species combined.

Please keep in mind that all classification is purely human based.  There are no constraints on what is and what isn’t a species except for what we think. 

Dogs represent a cline.  That is individual small groups can interbreed, but the extremes cannot.  Like this:

A –> B –> C –> D –> E –> F –> G

A and B can interbreed and F and G can interbreed.  But A and G cannot for whatever reason (size, season, physical location, etc).

The extremes, if the middle wasn’t present, would be easily identifiable as different species.  Go ahead, without using any intermediates, tell me how the two dogs in the picture are the same species.  Keep in mind that, even different species can, occasionally, interbreed and make viable offspring (Ligers and Tions, for example).

Now, the big problem is that we don’t have all the intermediates for all the species we know of.  The fossil record isn’t 100% complete.  It can’t be.  I guarantee that there are species that existed in the past that we will never, ever realize even existed.  It’s the nature of fossilization.

But just because we can’t find those intermediates doesn’t mean that we don’t know they existed.  Look back at dogs.  We don’t invoke a designer for the difference between them.  We know that humans engaged in selective breeding.  We didn’t change the genes of one great Dane to create a poodles. 

It’s nothing but breeding and selection.  Which is where the creationist argument fails.  Yes, humans were involved.  But all humans did was SELECT, we did not do anything else.  So, if you have a natural mechanism for selection (and we do), you don’t need an artificial mechanism for creating species.

So you see, natural selection can result in the huge diversity of life around us.

___________________________________________

*The old joke is “When being chased by a tiger, you don’t have to run fastest.  You just have to run faster than your slowest friend.”

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38 Responses to On Natural Selection

  1. Joe G says:

    Unfortunately for you there isn’t any evidence to support the claim that natural selection (a result) can result in the diversity of life.

  2. ogremkv says:

    Unfortunately for you, as usual, you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Be patient grasshopper. It will soon become very clear.

  3. Joe G says:

    Unfortunately for you I know more than you do.

  4. ogremkv says:

    That’s it? That’s all you’ve got. Heck, I half expect you to say “neiner, neiner, neiner”.

    Whatever. If you have something useful to say, I’ll approve it. I only approved this comment to be snarky. When you have a detailed explanation that explains the diversity of life, then I’ll be willing to post it.

    Of course, in that post you’ll have to explain why intelligence is required for design OR explain why, since intelligence it not requried for design (remember the termites), that evolution isn’t the designer.

  5. Joe G says:

    Well the fact that nature would eliminate the diversity of dogs- that is if dogs were left to themselves- supports what I said.

    As for evolution being the designer, what does that even mean? What type of evolution- Intelligent Design Evolution? Yup that could be the designer. Front-loaded evolution- another possiblity. But there isn’t any evidence supporting the claim that blind, undirected processes can design anything.

    As for the termites- as I said they are designing agencies and fit the ID definition of intelligence.

  6. ogremkv says:

    Well the fact that nature would eliminate the diversity of dogs- that is if dogs were left to themselves- supports what I said.

    Blatant assertion. Prove this statement. Provide peer-reviewed support for this statement. Provide any evidence that this statement reflects reality instead of your fantasy. What experiments have shown this to be the case? Why?

    As for evolution being the designer, what does that even mean?

    It means, that you cannot tell the difference between a genome, gene, protein, or anything else that was designed, evolved or random. This is critical. YOU CAN’T DO IT.

    There is nothing in the notion of “intelligent design” that insists on intelligence. If we can show that design can arise by non-intelligent means (and we have), then you can’t know if the designer was intelligent or not.

    In other words, unless ID undertakes a significant research plan on finding the designer, then there is nothing that constrains the designer to being actually intelligent.

    Yes, you did say that as ID defines the term, termites are intelligent. So, if termintes can design, then what else can design? Why does the designing entity have to be ‘intelligent’ (as the rest of the world uses the word, not ID’s definition whatever that is)?

    Frontloading is about the funniest thing I’ve ever heard of. Although, I guess it’s at least consistent with ID. The problem, of course, is that in all the experiments that we’ve seen, we can’t see front loading.

    Just take a look at Lenski’s work. http://myxo.css.msu.edu/ecoli/

    All of the information is available on-line, please show us where the frontloaded gene for citrate utilization is in the precursor organisms.

    Interestingly, if the ability to utilize citrate was, indeed, frontloaded into the organisms genome, then ALL samples in this experiment should have developed the ability to use citrate. Yet only one lineage has, in spite of all the lines being held in the same environmental conditions.

    So, there’s you work for the day Joe.
    1) cite your sources and show that they are correct that nature eliminates diversity
    2) show exactly where the front-loaded gene in E. coli is that allows citrate production.

    Note that frontloading is NOT the same thing as a similar concept in Biology. That is, populations can only use what they have. Dogs have fur, not feathers. Feathers appeared much after the divergence of mammals from reptiles. Therefore, dogs have no way of getting feathers, the genetic precursors for feathers just aren’t present in dogs. That’s why, in spite of creationist demands, you can’t breed a dog with feathers.

  7. Tomato Addict says:

    > As for evolution being the designer, what does that even mean?

    It is putting a hypothesis on how design might occur, offering a mechanism, and plugging one of those gaping holes in the not-a-theory of ID.

  8. Joe G says:

    Well the fact that nature would eliminate the diversity of dogs- that is if dogs were left to themselves- supports what I said.

    Blatant assertion.

    Actually it is a fact and taught in biology classes. It was even on National Geographics “Life After People” . Gee Ogre dogs will just start making it with whatever other dog is around. They don’t care about “breed”.

    See the wikipedia article on the show Aftermath: Population Zero

    Up until now I didn’t know anyone doubted it. Yet here you are.

    If we can show that design can arise by non-intelligent means (and we have), then you can’t know if the designer was intelligent or not.

    What design has been shown to arise by non-intelligent means?

    Yes, you did say that as ID defines the term, termites are intelligent. So, if termintes can design, then what else can design?

    What does that have to do with anything?

    Frontloading is about the funniest thing I’ve ever heard of.

    Your position is the funniest.

    Just take a look at Lenski’s work

    I have. It pretty much kills your theory as it demonstrates serious limitations.

  9. Joe G says:

    As for evolution being the designer, what does that even mean?

    It means, that you cannot tell the difference between a genome, gene, protein, or anything else that was designed, evolved or random.

    There isn’t any evidence that a gene can arise at random. There isn’t any evidence that a genome can arise at random and there isn’t any evidence that a protein can arise at random.

  10. ogremkv says:

    Wait… I have to catch my breath. Your source for this is a National Geographic special on the speculation about what would happen to life on this planet if humans suddenly went away?

    I’m sorry, but that has got to be the funniest thing ever. That’s even better than your claim that termites are intelligent agents.

    What design has been shown by non-intelligent means?!?!??!? Oh, wait, I forgot, you still think termites are intelligent agents. So, if termites are intelligent agents, then I guess the design of their mounds that takes into account potential floods, solar warming, wind speeds and patterns would be an example of intelligent design… if termites were intelligent agents.

    You might have read Lenski’s work, but I’m fairly certain you didn’t understand it. So, I’ll ask this again of you (remember the question that you conviently left OFF of this reply?):

    The genomes are online, show please show us where, in the original organism’s genome the frontloaded information for citrate metabolism is. After that, please explain why only one lineage of bacteria can still use citrate and all the others cannot. What changed? If the designer slipped in their and changed something, then we ought to be able to see what it was… but we don’t. We see a steady progression of simple changes that result in the metabolism of citrate. So much for that.

  11. ogremkv says:

    OMG Joe, you got one right.

    It doesn’t change anything though. If you can’t tell the difference between something that’s designed and one that’s totally random, how do you expect to tell the difference between one that’s designed and one that’s evolved (or shall we say, designed by mutation and natural selection)?

    You can’t so where does that leave ID? Nowhere. It’s utterly useless.

  12. Joe G says:

    Termites are designing agencies. That is just a fact.

    And again what examples of non-intelligent design do you have?

    Lenski demonstrated exactly what Creationists have been claiming- YECs! And he isn’t the first to observe citrate digestion. Also it just “evolved” a way of egtting the citrate inside. The digestion machinery was there already.

    What you don’t understand is “evolution” is not being debated. My guess is you have some fixation on ID and Creation claiming no changes happens at all.

    As for the dogs, well it changes everything. It shoots your diversity example all to hell.

    And again we can tell the difference betweem something that was designed and something that nature, operating freely, can produce. People make a living on doing just that.

    Also even if ID didn’t exist you still couldn’t produce positive evidence for your position. Talk about useless…

  13. Joe G says:

    1) cite your sources and show that they are correct that nature eliminates diversity

    That is what natural selection is all about- elimination. Do you get more or less variation out if you eliminate from the variation being put in?

    2) show exactly where the front-loaded gene in E. coli is that allows citrate production

    ID doesn’t explain everything and this change was trivial. It just allowed the citrate to get through the membrane. The machinery for using it was already in place. Also this had been observed before- it isn’t a new discovery.

    That said you don’t need a front-loaded gene. Just a program to allow a response to an environmental cue.

  14. ogremkv says:

    No Joe, you said that termites are “Intelligent Agents” That’s a big difference from “Designing Agents”. Wind and water are ‘designing agents’ for rock structures. Do you deny this?

    You’re right again Joe, this must be a record for you. “Evolution is not being debated”. It’s all about ID. And there is nothing to debate as you and yours refuse to even try to defend it. You are strictly attacking evolution on a blog post about evolution. ID has nothing to do here.

    You might want to read my article about ‘evidence’ again Joe. I’m providing it. You aren’t.

    Re Lenski: OK Joe, provide the cite for the person that observed citrate metabolism in E. coli before Lenski. I’ll wait while you ignore this simple thing you claimed. BTW: If your claim doesn’t involve E. coli then your are arguing a strawman… again.

  15. ogremkv says:

    Yes, Joe, if you eliminate an organism you reduce the diversity… of course, when that organism was born the diversity increased by the same amount. If the organism lives and has offspring, then the diversity of that organism remains, even after its death.

    You really don’t have a clue about what evolution even is do you? Don’t answer that, I know you will apply some snark back at me.

    I’m still waiting for that cite about the dogs. I’m afraid a nat geo video won’t quite cut it.

    You brought up frontloading Joe. I want you to defend the comments you make. You started it, I want you to explain it Joe. It’s OK, I know you can’t, but I will continue to remind you that you can’t.

    Hey Eugen, this is the quality of the pro-ID arguments. Tell me, which side has the better arguments?

  16. Joe G says:

    No Joe, you said that termites are “Intelligent Agents” That’s a big difference from “Designing Agents”. Wind and water are ‘designing agents’ for rock structures. Do you deny this?

    Termites can manipulate their envornment for a purpose.

    Wind and rain are very, very limited in what tehy can “design”. Again cause and effect relationships. We know what wind and rain can produce.

    You’re right again Joe, this must be a record for you. “Evolution is not being debated”. It’s all about ID.

    ID is not anti-evolution. You don’t know anything about ID- that is the problem.

    And there is nothing to debate as you and yours refuse to even try to defend it. You are strictly attacking evolution on a blog post about evolution.

    I have more than defended ID. And I don’t attack evolution. I attack the blind watchmaker as having sole dominion over all evolutionary processes.

    You might want to read my article about ‘evidence’ again Joe. I’m providing it. You aren’t.

    What evidence have you provided? And you just dismissed the evidence I provided. I will take my case to a panel of moderators. I will ante up thousands of dollars against you.

    Re Lenski: OK Joe, provide the cite for the person that observed citrate metabolism in E. coli before Lenski.

    Hall, B.G. 1982. Chromosomal mutation for citrate utilization by Escherichia coli K-12. J. Bacteriol. 151:269-273.

    Pos, K.M., Dimroth, P., and Bott, M. 1998. The Escherichia coli citrate carrier CitT: a member of a novel eubacterial transporter family related to the 2-oxoglutarate/malate translocator from spinach chloroplasts. J. Bacteriol. 180:4160-4165

    You lose, again.

  17. Joe G says:

    Yes, Joe, if you eliminate an organism you reduce the diversity… of course, when that organism was born the diversity increased by the same amount. If the organism lives and has offspring, then the diversity of that organism remains, even after its death.

    What I am saying isn’t in doubt. Natural selection is an eliminative process. If you have two variants of bacteria and anti-biotics wipes one out you have 1/2 the diversity you started with.

    I’m still waiting for that cite about the dogs. I’m afraid a nat geo video won’t quite cut it.

    They employ real scientists and then there is that other reference I provided. And as far as I know you are the only person who thinks otherwise. Perhaps you should try to get a paper published showing the whole rest of the world is wrong and all the evidence is also wrong.

    Good luck.

    You brought up frontloading Joe.

    In response to YOUR nonsense about evolution being a designer. Do try to follow along.

  18. Joe G says:

    You deleted my reference on dogs?

    evolution and the curious case of the dog:

    A good example of what happens to dogs when people are taken out of the picture can be found in Russia’s capital city. Feral dogs have been running around Moscow for at least 150 years. These aren’t just lost pets that band together – these dogs been on their own for awhile, and indeed, any poor, abandoned domesticated canine will meet an unfortunate fate at the hands of these territorial streetwalkers. Moscow’s dogs have lost traits like spotted coloration, wagging tails and friendliness that distinguish domesticated dogs from wolves – but they haven’t become them. The struggle to survive is tough for a stray, and only an estimated 3% ever breed. This strong selective pressure has led them to evolve into four distinct behavioral types, according to biologist Andrei Poyarkov who has studied the dogs for the past 30 years. There are guard dogs, who follow around security personnel, treating them as the alpha leaders of their packs. Others, called scavengers, have evolved completely different behaviors, preferring to roam the city for garbage instead of interacting with people. The most wolf-like dogs are referred to as wild dogs, and they hunt whatever they can find including cats and mice.

  19. ogremkv says:

    No Joe, this is the first time you posted it. Interesting, evolution in action. You might want to read up on the domesticated foxes and how they became more like dogs in morphology.

  20. ogremkv says:

    Whatever, you still haven’t given any evidence that what you said about frontloading or the detrimental effects of natural selection. Apparently you don’t know that organisms produce more offspring than merely replacement.

  21. ogremkv says:

    Dembski says ID is anti-evolution. He invented the modern concept. You have not defended ID. You haven’t said ANYTHING about ID. I have challenged you to provide evidence to support ID, you refuse to.

    I think we’re done. I tire of explaining reality to you.

    I’ll tell you what, if you can find one person to post on my blog that says you know what you are talking about, you can come back. Until then, go away.

    If anyone thinks this isn’t fair, let me know and we’ll discuss it.

  22. Lou FCD says:

    lol, we were just yesterday discussing sharks eating fish vs. sharks eating us humans in one of my classes, and why the shark might preferentially eat small fish rather than us big humans, or us slow humans rather than fast fish (he tends to use the royal ‘we’). I told my instructor the shark wouldn’t eat me in either scenario (it was of course the set up), and he asked if I could swim faster than the fish. It was too easy. “I don’t have to swim faster than the fish, I just have to swim faster than *you*!” buh dum ching

    P.S. lol JoeTARD

  23. Eugen says:

    Was there a need for “tard” ? Is that how fights start? What is tard anyway?

  24. ogremkv says:

    “Tard” is “The Argument Regarding Design”. It is also a highly derogatory comment regarding one’s opponent.

    I’d like to point out that PRIOR TO Lou’s comment about Tard on this blog, Joe has undertaken a stalking campaign against me, including publishing information that I would have preferred remain private and stating publicly that I am a liar and an idiot and initiating a campaign to make sure that my employers are aware of this “fact”.

    Needless to say that Joe is no longer welcome here. If anyone would like to verify this themselves, you can visit his blog linked in his comments.

    Eugen, I would honestly like to ask you: What do you think of Joe’s ‘arguments’? (being an outsider to our history and unfamiliar with Joe other than what you have read here)

  25. Eugen says:

    I did see “tard” used before but never bothered finding out what it meant.
    I will make sure to stay out of personal fights. I’ve seen some before and in the beginning these fights looked amusing but later , as they go on I figured it’s serious.

    That takes fun out of these discussions. It’s much more fun to have a polite conversation even with disagreement.
    It’s a Canadian tradition to agree to disagree and then go out for beer. While drinking we pick something favorite to bash like a bad hockey team and carry on.

    I would rather not say much on the topic for couple of days or until there is calm. I would be careful around NS because it’s a basic part of explanation for evolution. Let me just tell NS appears to have only functionality of a passive filter.

  26. ogremkv says:

    So what if NS is a passive filter?

  27. Eugen says:

    “So what if NS is a passive filter?”

    Nothing. I’m not arguing against NS. It’s just simple explanation of it’s function in evolution.
    There is also need for an active source and that is RM. Active source is producing constant but small variation in group of organisms and NS acts as a passive filter on the spectrum of variations. Without this RM+NS, active source +passive filter species wouldn’t last one small climate change let alone 10 mil. years on average.

    I hate biology, just dealing with basic concepts. I think above is correct , no?

  28. ogremkv says:

    I think you’ve got it exactly. I would only add that there are things other than random mutation that do affect a genome (crossing over, drift, etc).

    I would also add that random mutation, may not be that random. Many organisms and systems (notably bacteria and the human immune system), when stressed, shift into a high mutation mode. This will help the system or organisms offspring find a survivable or useful change in a short amount of time.

  29. Eugen says:

    That all makes sense to me. I just wonder if this system is creative enough to develop major features like the body plans.

    I know you’ll say yes. Understandably so, when you consider my alternative: Saint John manipulating DNA with nano tweezers. 🙂 (I hope I don’t go to hell for this.)

  30. ogremkv says:

    I would say yes. However, we will never know. The evidence (see the post on evidence for common descent) points in that direction.

    Read up on Hox genes. These are genes that end up making massive changes to body plans.

  31. Eugen says:

    OK, I ‘ll print out something on Hox genes and be back.

  32. Eugen says:

    Ogre

    I read on Hox genes yesterday and then tried to “coerce” my colleagues to read it ,too. Of course it never happened as I expected. Unfortunately, most people in my field do not like biology (including me). Anyway, biology or not operation of Hox genes looks awfully close to sequential controls used in modern automation programming. I could probably go on for a while but I dont’ think you would accept that possibility.
    There is something I didn’t understand clearly. Do all segments of fruit fly start developing at the same time or head develops first,than body..etc

  33. OgreMkV says:

    Hey Eugen,

    Work decided I should actually… well… work today. A quick google search turned up these lecture notes: http://www.bio.unc.edu/Courses/2010Spring/Biol205section7/DB7notesposted.pdf

    Might help you out. I would also suggest you read: Endless Forms Most Beautiful by Sean Carroll (http://www.amazon.com/Endless-Forms-Most-Beautiful-Science/dp/0393327795/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1302020926&sr=1-9) This is the popular book on evolutionary developmental biology. I haven’t finished it, but the first few chapters covers what’s going on and an epically detailed developmental sequence of the fruit fly (and by extension, everything else). It’s not an easy read, but it’s good.

  34. Eugen says:

    http://www.bio.unc.edu/Courses/2010Spring/Biol205section7/DB7notesposted.pdf

    Oh boy, so many biological terms in the link but I’ll give it a try.

    On a quick scan I noticed: ” In one of the most bizarre mysteries in modern genetics, the order of the
    homeotic genes on the chromosome matches the order of the embryonic regions
    that they specify, from anterior to posterior”

    This is like a bizzaro puzzle from The DaVinci Code.

    Another thing I read is that Hox genes are conserved over time and across species. That reminds me of codon table which I read is conserved the same way.

    This suggests there are core systems in the operation of the cell which must be conserved. If these core systems are common to all, it leads to interpretation of common descent (or common design).

  35. ogremkv says:

    yeah, this stuff gets pretty thick. But then again, how often are things really as simple as some would have you believe?

    As far as the Hox genes being evidence for common descent and common design. Well… you see common descent predicted that things would be like that almost from the beginning (Darwin’s single illustration in his book). Common design (ID proponents) say that it is evidence of common design, but not having extremely conserved systems would also be evidence of design. Do you follow?

    Basically, anything can be considered evidence for design, if that’s the case, then how can we distinguish it from non-design?

    For common descent, that similarity of genetic code, of the function of hox genes are pieces of evidence that support it. Look at something like insulin, which in organisms that one would consider closely related to humans (apes) is very similar. Yet, as you go farther away from humans on the tree of life, you get more and more differences in the insulin molecule. That’s something that common descent predicted as well. Design does not, or if it does, then it also predicts the opposite.

    What I’m trying to do here, is show you that science, while not having all the answers at least has the proponderence of the evidence. ID, while claiming to have all the answers, has none of the evidence.

  36. Eugen says:

    “Common design (ID proponents) say that it is evidence of common design, but not having extremely conserved systems would also be evidence of design. Do you follow?”

    I usually think ” how would I do this?”. In this case : if I had to design system everything would be modular and reusable , be it hardware or software. It is simply a good design and engineering practice.

    You seem to be more experienced in these talks so you ‘ve probably seen all types of ID arguments.

  37. ogremkv says:

    Well, that’s part of the problem. ID proponents always say that humans design complicated stuff, so other complicated stuff must be designed. On the other hand, when pointed to nearly fatal design flaws, they say that it’s either A) not designed or B) the designer isn’t us.

    If you are really interested in whether biological things are designed, then I would ask you, why can’t a non-intelligent system design something.

    You should be familiar with genetic algorithms. I can point to several systems and products designed by genetic algorithms that either could not have been designed by an intelligent human or something that is better than any human has ever been able to design.

    Regardless of whether an intelligent agent designed the algorithm, the structure itself was designed by a non-intelligent agent (and it couldn’t have the code for the designed thing already built in, since the designer has yet to be able to match it in terms of functionality).

    So, the question is, if you think it could be design, then I can agree with you… with evolution being the designer.

  38. Eugen says:

    I tell you what’s funny. I ended up being accidental (and only one for most of the time) ID defender on markf’s blog when UD dumped me. I was bluffing sometimes because I’m not familiar with all the issues especially re. evolution,religion,philosophy. What was I even thinking?!

    I could possibly argue here within my limited scope on whether cell is an automated system, how did it become such or maybe dissect some processes within.
    OTOH, I don’t feel like defending ID again for the reasons above.

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