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10 Worst Evolutionary Designs

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the everyone-makes-mistakes dept.

It's funny.  Laugh. 232

JamJam writes "Besides my beer gut, which I'm sure has some purpose, Wired is running a story on the 10 Worst Evolutionary Designs. Ranging from baby giraffes being dropped 5-foot during birth to Goliath bird-eating spiders that practically explode when they fall from trees."

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Old (5, Insightful)

hyperion2010 (1587241) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017225)

This was posted 2 weeks ago, it was stupid then and is stupid now. Also, go back to digg with your lists kthxby.

Re:Old (5, Insightful)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017345)

This was posted 2 weeks ago, it was stupid then and is stupid now. Also, go back to digg with your lists kthxby.

I second that emotion. The most notable thing about the list is that it shows a possibly-unhealthy level of interest in non-human reproduction on the part of the author -- five out of the ten, including "slug genitalia" and "hyena clitoris". Mr. Wolman should either get into a college-level comparative anatomy class, or into therapy.

And lists aren't such a bad thing, in and of themselves. I've gotten addicted to the Cracked Mazagine (sic) [cracked.com] lists of things like "The 6 Most Badass Murder Weapons in the Animal Kingdom". Compare those with the Wired.com list, and you can't help but wonder if Cracked already saw this list... and stamped it "REJECTED".

Re:Old (4, Interesting)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018935)

MY thoughts precisely. It is REALLY hard to make a list of bad evolution using SUCCESSFUL examples. Regardless of the weirdness of the design, it WORKS over the other designs that were submitted over the eons.

Humans (5, Informative)

Kittenman (971447) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017235)

1) Knees

2) Windpipe close to channel to stomach - choking hazard

3) Walking upright leads to distended colon, piles, etc

4) As my wife says, playground close to a sewage works

And first post, BTW...

Re:Humans (1)

Neanderthal Ninny (1153369) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017659)

Yes. playground close to sewage, however, cleanliness is close to godliness in this case.

Re:Humans (5, Informative)

Bertie (87778) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017731)

Ah, but...

The design of our breathing/eating apparatus may be a choking hazard, but it gives us the ability to do a neat trick that no other animal can: speak.

Ever noticed how babies can feed and breathe at the same time, but you can't? This is because of the shape of their vocal tract, which is more like an animal's than yours at that point. Babies need to get a lot of food down their necks as quickly as possible, because they're busy growing. Speaking can wait.

After a few months, things start to move around - the larynx drops, the back of the throat curves round into a right-angle, and all of a sudden they have to choose between eating and breathing. But the reshaped vocal tract allows them to form configurations of the speech organs which weren't previously possible, and so they learn to speak.

Re:Humans (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017787)

This amply demonstrates the key fact of evolution. It does not produce optimized designs, but rather compromises. While humans are far more likely to die from choking than darned near any other vertebrate out there, this major survival disadvantage is offset by the advantages of being able to produce a wide variety of sounds. All that counts at the end of the day is whether any evolved feature can in some way positively effect reproductive success.

Re:Humans (2, Insightful)

paylett (553168) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018227)

This is something that I've always found hard to understand with the argument for evolution. Surely the natural selection process would strongly bias against any traits that result in the animal being killed off in the first few minutes. (And likewise a strong bias towards traits that improve birth mortality rates). Yet we see so many instances of "poor design" in the birth process. Four in this article alone.

If natural selection does such a "poor" job of refining the birthing mechanism when there is a clear correlation between some new (good or bad) trait and the likelihood of that trait being propagated to future generations, then how can we reasonably expect that it is also responsible for highly refined systems where there is a much lower correlation between the new trait and the likelihood of producing offspring. (For example, in esoteric features of the imune system, or the brain - the new trait may only even come into play in certain situations during the animals life, and therefore only has any selective power in the specific animals for which it occurs ... unlike traits relating to birth which are immediately tested for all creatures)

If evolution is about compromise, then the most obvious compromises would favour succesful birth. If birth is unsuccesful than other traits don't even get a chance to be tested.

Re:Humans (3, Informative)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018441)

1) Don't listen to some article writer at Wired to learn what is or is not a bad birth process. Several of the ones he mentioned seem silly until you know more about them, then they make sense. Other things that continue to seem silly may do so because we just haven't figured them out yet. Similarly, lots of irreducible complexity arguments that originally seemed convincing have famously fallen to new insights.

2) Evolution doesn't produce "perfection" or even necessarily approach it. Evolution is an optimization process. It can certainly get stuck in local minima.

Re:Humans (1)

joeyblades (785896) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018641)

I may be reading between the lines here, but it sounds like you're saying that you have doubts about evolution because you perceive poor design? Making a slight leap of faith, I'm going to assume that you favor a designed-by-God explanation for life as we know it?

So if you perceive poor design, what does that say about the designer? Maybe, instead, there is an error in your assessment of what makes a good design? Whether you think these traits have evolved or were created by God (or both), it is pointless to argue that they make no sense. We can only ask, why do they make sense?

Re:Humans (2, Informative)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018685)

It's cost/benefits. Imagine an animal. Now tweak it slightly. That tweak may increase the incidence of some sorts of death and decrease the incidence of other sorts of death. Does the one outweigh the other? If so, over time, there will be more and more animals with that tweak.

That's evolution in a nutshell.

Evolution means that if a change that makes humans 10% smarter and therefore much more successful hunters and therefore less likely to starve but means a 4% increased infant mortality then that change will spread throughout the population.

Remember that it is not about individuals...it is about populations. Look at how the human mind and body works and breaks down and tells me if it looks like something designed to be optimal, or something randomly created that balances efficiencies and deficiencies to maximize broad statistical success of reproduction. In which worldview does cancer make sense?

Re:Humans (1)

Locklin (1074657) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017907)

Exhibit A: The Dolphin.

Sure, the human vocal tract is a modification of that of a primate for controlled speech, but it's little more than a bad hack. There are much better ways to do it (if one was to "design" such a system)

Re:Humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018043)

If you wanted to eat and breathe at the same time, the obvious solution is to do so with two separate tubes. If you absolutely must have them touch so that you can breathe through your mouth, you should at least have the tube for air on top so that gravity can do the work for you. The whole thing reeks of design that wasn't completely spec'd up front. I bet the customer looked at the prototype and decided what they really wanted was to have the nose in the middle of the face rather than under the chin.

Re:Humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018315)

it gives us the ability to do a neat trick that no other animal can: speak.

Plenty of birds can speak better than a lot of humans I know.

Ever noticed how babies can feed and breathe at the same time, but you can't?

Yes I can, it's called Circular Breathing. Pretty much anybody can do it if you spend some time working at it.

Re:Humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018699)

What, so you can't imagine an arrangement that allows both speech and "seperate food/air holes"? Sure, evolution tends to reuse things like this but we're talking imperfections and this is certainly one, even if it's one that made the change from animal noises to speech easier.

Re:Humans (4, Insightful)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017759)

3) Walking upright leads to distended colon, piles, etc

It also allows us to use our hands better, for things like wielding weapons against animals that would kill us otherwise.

Re:Humans (1)

Locklin (1074657) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017935)

I think that's the point. It may allow for free hands, but it's a shitty way of accomplishing that. Virtually every insect on earth can walk and have free limbs at the same time.

Re:Humans (2, Insightful)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018143)

And can't wield weapons, thank DEITY$!!

Re:Humans (2, Insightful)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018547)

But our reptilian ancestors had only four limbs each, and having two new limbs wasn't going to happen.

Re:Humans (1)

madsenj37 (612413) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018311)

It also allows use to expend less energy than is we used all 4 limbs for movement like our our primate friends.

Re:Humans (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018589)

I've read that the only land animal that can outrun humans over an entire day is the kangaroo, which also uses bipedal locomotion.

Re:Humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018853)

I can think of a far better application for my hand

Re:Humans (1, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018015)

4) As my wife says, playground close to a sewage works

That's usually the voters at work actually. Parks require large plots of land and are very expensive most places besides flood planes and near sewage treatment plants where property values are very low. And so that's where you find 95% of parks because no one would vote for a park if the price went up tenfold by a change of venue.

Re:Humans (1)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018071)

Without getting into too much detail with #4, note that urine at least functions as an antibacterial agent: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=297400 [nih.gov]

As for the other part, well, I'm pretty sure that for most of our evolutionary past, we tended to die long before incontinence would set in...

Clearly... (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017243)

Clearly, no intelligence was involved in these designs. I guess that solves it.

Re:Clearly... (1)

Kligat (1244968) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017395)

{
state_entry
      { if (funny animal feature like platupus);
llBloviate "godhasasenseofhumor"
      else
llBloviate "godmadeitsobeautifully"
      xor
llBloviate "itmustbethedevilswork"}
}

Can you still get modded up if you write your post as if it were a programming language even if you have no clue what what programming language you just made up?

re: programming language (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017619)

first prove it is a real programming language, i.e. turing complete.

I'm sure I'll be modded "off topic" for this one.

My first impression is that your language isn't since there is no way to loop.

Re: programming language (1)

tacarat (696339) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017687)

It's still in the Alpha and Omega stage.

Recursion implies looping (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018663)

first prove it is a real programming language, i.e. turing complete.

Many actual programming languages in wide use are not Turing-complete because they lack the means to address an unbounded processing memory. But they are LBA-complete [wikipedia.org] (processing size proportional to input size), which is all that matters in practice.

My first impression is that your language isn't since there is no way to loop.

If there is recursion, there is looping.

Re:Recursion implies looping (1)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018947)

If there is recursion, there is a means to address an unbounded processing memory, unless the recursion is explicitly restricted in some way (as it is in the case of LBA which is equivalent to context-sensitive grammar).

Spartan Giraffes (4, Interesting)

Knave75 (894961) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017269)

Perhaps the great fall is a way to cull the weak giraffes. Those that do not survive the 5 foot drop would never have been successful in the wild. Ditto for the slow-evolving shark siblings. If your brother eats you in the womb and you do not adequately defend yourself, then you simply did not deserve to live.

Seriously though, evolution does not provide traits that are advantageous, it simply removes those that are disadvantageous, relative to other traits. That is a subtle but important difference. Eating your brothers and sisters in-utero sounds pretty gross, but unless it hurts the reproductive rate of those who carry that gene, there is no reason to weed it out.

Re:Spartan Giraffes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017443)

> Those that do not survive the 5 foot drop would never have been successful in the wild.

I think surviving that fall and not breaking anything has more to do with luck than with a genuine measure of health and skill. Which is okay if you hate unlucky giraffes (blame the victim!), but rather silly otherwise.

Re:Spartan Giraffes (3, Insightful)

tool462 (677306) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017531)

Exactly. The only way I can think of to even start to consider a "worst evolutionary design" would have to be in terms of adaptability. I.e., how sensitive is the life form to small changes in its environment? Even that is full of problems though, as "best" and "worst" are measured only relative to the current environment. Any stable population could be considered the best solution for its environment--at least a local maximum, if not global.

As a side note, this thread is also why you should never invite a pedant to a party. We have the capability of sucking the joy out of nearly any conversation.

Re:Spartan Giraffes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017867)

There are few, if any, stable populations. In fact most populations fluctuate wildly, for varying reasons. Often these fluctuations have a definite cause (like predators), but if you see a species in isolation they will seem quite random.

And guess what ? Sometimes these populations hit zero, just by accident. That's another species extinct. For every species of large animals alive, there are over 5000 extinct species.

There are several thousand species of humans, but only 5 surviving species. And when we say 5 surviving species, we really mean 1 that has any significant numbers, 4 down to their last members.

Of course that's the "endgame" of evolution : a singular species that conquers at least the earth, possibly the galaxy. The only way this can possibly be avoided is that there are different, and exactly equal, global optima in the fitness function (which is mostly about efficiency), something which is more unlikely than flying pigs bringing presents to the astronauts on the ISS on Christmas eve.

So that's one things socialists' eugenics theories were right about : in the end, there can be only one species. Whether that'll be humans is, of course, another question. Seems unlikely if you ask me.

Re:Spartan Giraffes (1)

Zapo_Verde (1406221) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018515)

There are several thousand species of humans, but only 5 surviving species. And when we say 5 surviving species, we really mean 1 that has any significant numbers, 4 down to their last members.

According to wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_(genus)) there is only one species of humans remaining, Homo Sapiens. The last species of humans besides homo sapiens died out about 12,000 years ago.

Re:Spartan Giraffes (2, Insightful)

tieTYT (989034) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017627)

Seriously though, evolution does not provide traits that are advantageous, it simply removes those that are disadvantageous

Um, source? If this were true, wouldn't we still be single celled organisms right now?

Re:Spartan Giraffes (5, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017765)

"...evolution does not provide traits that are advantageous, ..."
Yes it does.

"it simply removes those that are disadvantageous"
That would assume you ahve all traits at the 'beginning'.

New traits can develop from new mutations.

You seem to be a little too Lamarkian.

Re:Spartan Giraffes (2, Interesting)

samurphy21 (193736) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018197)

I think perhaps we all have a difference of symantics between "evolution", "mutation", and "natural selection".

natural selection will select those most fit for survival within a species, thereby weeding out those with undesirable traits in relation to the rest.

mutation provides the grist of the natural selection mill, giving it new material to select from.

Evolution is the overall process of species adapting genetically and eventually forming new and more numerous species.

Thats how I view it, but IANAEB.

Re:Spartan Giraffes (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018621)

Darwin's theory explains how evolution occurs due to mutation and natural selection. Mutation is a core part of the theory.

Re:Spartan Giraffes (5, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018199)

"...evolution does not provide traits that are advantageous, ..."
Yes it does.

Possibly more correct to say that evolution continuously offers random features which may or may not be advantageous, and the features which are detrimental to its survival tend to be removed from the gene pool.

OP is correct in saying that evolution in itself doesn't provide anything specifically helpful. It does encourage traits that happen to be beneficial though. Evolution is not the process of trying improvements, that's what heterosexual reproduction is for. The purpose of evolution is to improve on the survival of the accidentally better designs.

There are an insane number of good examples, but I'll toss out a good one now. Sickle Cell Anemia. Sucks if you have it, has a variety of nasty side effects and no visible benefit. Except if you live in say, Nicaragua, and are exposed to malaria-bearing mosquitoes all the time. Something about the cell shape defies the virus, SCA sufferers are immune to malaria. So the SCA expression there is very very high because although it grants a disadvantage, it also grants an advantage. Interesting thing about SCA is you only need one gene to have immunity, and require both to get the nasty side effects. But it's advantageous enough to be kept.

Re:Spartan Giraffes (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018633)

Certain traits may cause other creatures with other traits that previously weren't detrimental to die out due to competition. That seems to be "advantageous".

Re:Spartan Giraffes (1)

apoc.famine (621563) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018207)

Two comments:
 
Why the FUCK is idle showing up on my main page again? I killed it for good reason the first time.
 
Secondly, RE: Evolution, they apparently missed the big job of of hyena clitorises - it allows the female to be in complete control of mating. In hyena circles, the males are inferior, and have to be on good terms to pass on their genes. It's a genetic chastity belt.

Re:Spartan Giraffes (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018137)

There are a couple animals in the wild that birth several young at a time, and the siblings kill or eat each other until at the end of the rearing there's only one left. (the strongest) I think they were both birds iirc. Anyone happen to know what critters I'm thinking of?

Re:Spartan Giraffes (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018161)

Same thing for the spiders: the sure footed ones pass their genes on, while those less sure footed explode on the ground.

Re:Spartan Giraffes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018495)

the fall of a baby giraffe is much like the spanking the doctor gave you. teh shock to the system that makes your system start working.

Re:Spartan Giraffes (1)

Ren.Tamek (898017) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018873)

Perhaps the great fall is a way to cull the weak giraffes. Those that do not survive the 5 foot drop would never have been successful in the wild.

A common fallacy on the subject of evolution is that every trait that an animal has is in some way good or useful for an animal, but this is just not the case, and this is a perfect example to illustrate why.

Being tall is advantageous for many reasons, one of which is browsing leaves on tall trees. The distance between the womb of a tall animal and the ground is going to be a long way as a consequence of this, but it confers no obvious advantage, it is just a fact of the situation. Ungulates are well known for having tough newborns, and most species can walk only a few hours after birth, so it is quite likely that they were predisposed by their ancestry to having the genes to deal with the problem.

Design? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017277)

There is no design or creator, it is merely the outcome of enviromental factors. Silly Title

Hit And Miss! (1)

capandjudy (979543) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017283)

Clearly evolution is a hit and/or miss process. This just illustrates this principal.

Re:Hit And Miss! (2, Funny)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017845)

Sometimes spelling is that way, too.

Another worst design. (5, Funny)

kurt555gs (309278) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017301)

The Pontiac Aztec. God they were ugly.

Re:Another worst design. (1)

josteos (455905) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017735)

Sadly, it's why I stopped watching Dark Angel. It was the Car-Car Binks of Post-Apocalyptic Seattle.

Re:Another worst design. (4, Funny)

RockWolf (806901) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018039)

The Pontiac Aztec. God they were ugly.

Must've been evolution, because there sure wasn't a lot of intelligent design that went into that one...

Re:Another worst design. (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018153)

You mean the Pontiac Ass-Tech?

Cowboy Neal!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017317)

I think this needs to be a poll.

platypus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017353)

They forgot platypus.

Gut bacteria (1)

bar-agent (698856) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017383)

That's a good point -- why don't we have cellulose-digesting gut bacteria? And why can't we just pop a pill and add them?

Re:Gut bacteria (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017557)

The bacteria that produce cellulase to digest cellulose don't live very long in a carnivores stomach.

I'm not entirely sure why. I was going to say the ph was wrong, but that can vary dramatically for cows depending on their feed.
Perhaps our other enzymes break down the bacteria?

Re:Gut bacteria (3, Informative)

jonored (862908) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017625)

The apparatus to ferment cellulose into digestibles internally is rather large and high-maintainence. There's the multiple 'stomachs' before the main one where the bacteria breed, the cow routinely vomits up some to mechanically reprocess, and occasionally when venting becomes blocked for any reason a cow dies becuase their lungs were crushed by the expanding gasses in their stomach. termites get away with a lot because of being small. Additionally, there was that study that indicated that developments in the human intellect were associated with us starting to use cooking as an external digestion method - might not be the best thing for us in particular to add digesting some of the hardest foodstuff to use when we already diverted that energy to brainpower. And if we use cows properly we get the best of both worlds anyways - fueling ourselves off of cellulose with only the effort of keeping a few cows to eat. Of course, we don't, and use them as an inefficient step between stuff we /can/ eat and us, but that's another issue.

Re:Gut bacteria (1)

Bertie (87778) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017763)

There's more than one approach to breaking down cellulose. Rabbits have a rather less sophisticated apparatus than the cow, packing a single stomach chamber and a big appendix full of helpful bacteria.

I suppose we could have developed something like this. The catch is that breaking down cellulose by this method requires two passes through the digestive tract, so we'd have to eat our own shit.

I dunno about you, but I'm happy enough doing without.

Re:Gut bacteria (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017931)

What about rabbits? They are much smaller than cows and have a simpler digestive system (no regurgitation or multiple stomachs) and still seem to do ok.

Re:Gut bacteria (1)

tacarat (696339) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017711)

I did my homework, but got hungry on the way over.

Re:Gut bacteria (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017737)

Because a grass diet is a full time commitment.

Ruminants teeth grow for their whole lives. Ours don't, so they would not last very long.

Re:Gut bacteria (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018089)

Why do we need to digest cellulose? There are plenty of plants that we can eat, and cellulose provides an important function in that it provides enough bulk to push feces out regularily, so that the hamburger you ate 2 months ago isn't still rotting inside your gut.

Re:Gut bacteria (1)

emandres (857332) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018125)

As to the possible nutritional benefits of cellulose, I don't know, but I do know that I'm pretty glad for the "auxiliary" functions it plays in my digestive system. If you all of a sudden start digesting cellulose, prepare for some of the worst constipation you and your gastroenterologist have ever seen. Not to mention the fact that to get rid of the cellulose munching bacteria you would have to go through a horrible GI tract cleansing regimen.

If it's stupid but it works, it isn't stupid (4, Insightful)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017385)

"If it's stupid but it works, it isn't stupid" - that also applied to evolutionary designs.

Also, some of these 'design issues' might in truth be advantages. For example, sea mammals can swim through oxygen-depleted dead waters just fine - they don't depend on dissolved oxygen.

Exploding Spider (1)

dunezone (899268) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017483)

I have heard of these giant spiders breaking apart like glass but yet to see any documented footage of it happening.

Re:Exploding Spider (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017715)

Found a pic of the result of one of these
"explodes" [flickr.com]

It has a purpose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017491)

"Besides my beer gut, which I'm sure has some purpose,"

It's an evolutionary adaptation to keep the sun and rain off your feet.

Re:It has a purpose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017661)

and ensure that other, more suitable candidates, get picked during the mating season (friday night in the bar), thus weeding out the undesirable traits.

Re:It has a purpose (2, Funny)

tacarat (696339) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017729)

Genitalia camouflage.

Not Design! (2, Insightful)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017523)

The scientific community has enough to worry about with the term "design"... we should use these examples as proof that there is no design! Although they are logically not the best example of how to propagate a species, we should not confuse evolution with design.

Re:Not Design! (4, Insightful)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018103)

Not to mention the fact that people shouldn't confuse evolution for "perfection". We're choosing an arbitrary point in time (now) to draw a line in the sand, claiming organisms should be perfectly adapted at this point. Wrong.

Re:Not Design! (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018647)

Not to mention that Evolution is an algorithm that very much suffers from local maxima. Even given infinite time, creatures might not become perfectly adapted.

Re:Not Design! (1)

twostix (1277166) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018365)

It's funny, the hanger ons to the scientific community have worked *so hard* to diminish the idea of god in the common man and replace it with their utopian ideal of a purely "science" based society - where "science is anything that furthers their ideal no matter how shakey or psuedo.

And replace it they have, with the outcome being lists like these where the average person just replaces the word "god" with "evolution" and "nature" but doesn't replace the belief system behind it (some invisible force consciously "designing" the world).

Unintended consequences for the win.

Re:Not Design! (2, Insightful)

arminw (717974) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018599)

....we should not confuse evolution with design....

That is right, evolution is random, but design is purposeful.

engineering principles (2, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017583)

It doesn't matter if it's stupid or looks ugly, so long as it gets the job done.

In any evolutionary system, provided the species with the "mistakes" survives to maturity in sufficient numbers to maintain the population, it's a success.

Maybe the real stupid evolutionary "designs" belong to all the thousands of species that have been too inflexible to survive and have become extinct.

Worst? (1)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017589)

How can having a kangaroo crawl into a protective area (where prey cannot pick them off easily) be considered poor design? Are they forgetting our dingos are partial to a bit of baby?

Re:Worst? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017781)

Because a good design would have given them lasers.

Yeah, lame article that seems to be written by someone who doesn't grok the fact that evolution isn't a process that gives us the ultimate species based on our preconceptions of what is stupid.
And somethings are just chance or an evolutionary byproduct.

Re:Worst? (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018645)

How can having a kangaroo crawl into a protective area (where prey cannot pick them off easily) be considered poor design?

That would be because of the "epic crawl" part. Have you never seen this on the Discovery Channel or something? The pupa is this tiny slug-like thing, maybe a centimeter long, and it needs to crawl halfway up its mothers' front side and then back down into the pocket. The mother kangaroo is there licking a trail into her own fur to make it a liittle bit easier for the poor thing. Not just really weird, kinda risky on the newborn.

Re:Worst? (1)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018689)

How can having a kangaroo crawl into a protective area (where prey cannot pick them off easily) be considered poor design?

That would be because of the "epic crawl" part. Have you never seen this on the Discovery Channel or something? The pupa is this tiny slug-like thing, maybe a centimeter long, and it needs to crawl halfway up its mothers' front side and then back down into the pocket. The mother kangaroo is there licking a trail into her own fur to make it a liittle bit easier for the poor thing. Not just really weird, kinda risky on the newborn.

Clearly I have been too busy playing knifey spoony. Jesus.

Mostly bad examples (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017657)

A few have merit but most are pointless. Here's one of the best.

1 Sea mammal blowhole. Any animal that spends appreciable time in the ocean should be able to extract oxygen from water via gills. Enlarging the lungs and moving a nostril to the back of the head is a poor work-around.

I take it they don't know much about biology. Mammals don't have gills because in part they aren't able to extract enough oxygen from water for mammal brains. The nose holes shifted and merged to make feeding more efficient because most whales feed on plankton and krill. It allows for a head down posture which is better for feeding. The author seems to have limited knowledge of the subject it was more personal observations and not much fact. A more interesting point with baby giraffes would be is the distance dropped a limiting factor on giraffe heights? Would they have longer legs if it wasn't because of baby deaths from a greater height?

Re:Mostly bad examples (1)

tacarat (696339) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017749)

If time wasn't an issue, I wonder if taking a bunch of gill breathers and a oxygen enriched tank would produce something smarter. How would their societies evolve and what tools might come about. I think it's fairly obvious fire wouldn't be discovered for a good long while :P

Smarter than you think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017699)

I have long been a reader of the New Scientist magazine. This is a STRONGLY anti-creationist publication. I have long been amazed at reading article after article praising the intelligence and magnificent designing abilities of evolution. So it would seem that this article from Wired has it all wrong. Just because it may look to them to be a bad design, maybe evolution is cleverer than they think and there are very good reasons for doing it this way.

omg print slashdot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017829)

OMG, it has come to this? I read this in my HARD COPY of Wired magazine two days ago! What gives? Slashdot used to be the website to break news... now it is following a magazine mailed out several days ago! Yikes...

Purpose of the beer gut (4, Insightful)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017841)

Storing fat is a useful way of surviving famine or food shortages. Unfortunately the stored fat always makes the male less athletic, less able to fight, hunt, evade, etc. Storing extra fat on the gut/love handle area is probably the best compromise for athletic purposes - lowest center of gravity possible without adding excess weight to the legs (which have to change direction rapidly).

The worst places to store fat in large quantities are at the extremities such as fingers, toes, hands, feet, forearms, calves and the head, because of the reduction to athletic performance.

Ass, thighs and chest aren't as great as the mid-section but aren't terrible. These areas are where women usually store their fat because if they stored it on their gut men can't tell if they are are pregnant or not.

Re:Purpose of the beer gut (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017929)

Is that a beer keg in your tummy or are you just happy to see me?

Re:Purpose of the beer gut (1)

FiveDozenWhales (1360717) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018029)

Also, conspicuously visible fat is historically a great way of saying, "Hey, look at me! I'm so successful that I can eat TONS of food!"
Not so true these days, though...

Re:Purpose of the beer gut (1)

UltimApe (991552) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018449)

There is also a strong push that identifies the fat in the butt as an alternative to the tail... (tails are typically used as counter balance)

going along with our loss of hair along our body, leading to beater heat disapation.

You don't have to outrun the lion, just your friend... and be sure you can run far enough away that they can't track you.

It's fun, but don't draw conclusions from it. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29017865)

Oh isn't this a great parlour game! Did you know that the retina is backwards, which is why we have a blind spot? How horrible, how inefficient!

These types of things are all very fun to discuss. But please oh PLEASE do not draw any inferences from them. They don't mean ANYTHING, from a philosophical or theological perspective.

(Example) The vagus nerve in giraffe's neck is as long and ungainly as it is because of the way it develops in the fetus. To make it more efficient in the adult would require a change in the course of fetal development. And depending on how you change the course of fetal development, other things need to change, too. This is a very large and complex system of interconnected dependencies. To look at one isolated phenotypic feature and say, "Hey, I could have designed that better!" bespeaks of a total lack of knowledge about what all is involved in development.

I will say for the record that I believe in evolution, not intelligent design. But whenever I heard people "on my side" using examples like this as "evidence" for NOT intelligent design it frustrates me. You have absolutely no idea the entire bredth of changes -- on every level, from genetics to protein synthesis to overall development -- that would be required to make whatever "inefficient design" work better. It isn't as simple as looking at the adult and saying "this nerve should go here, instead!"

So, that's my little rant. Examples like these are fun. They're entertaining. They're cute.

They are "evidence" of absolutely nothing.

Re:It's fun, but don't draw conclusions from it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018327)

I thought we had a blind spot because there aren't any receptors where the optic nerve enters the retina. And how is the retina backwards? Forgive me, IANAB. I know that light is projected onto the retina much in the same way that it is through a camera so that it is "backwards" but the brain does a pretty good job of sorting that all out. Don't you think? Heck, it even does a pretty darn good job at filling in our blind spots! How long did it take to even figure out that blind spot was there? And if you needed to have a blind spot, why not put it off center and out of the fovea so it doesn't interfere with the vast majority of visual processing?

In conclusion, I support your point but not the way you introduce it.

design! (4, Informative)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#29017895)

There are so many bad "designs". baby butterflies dying because they can't get out of the cocoon. Reasonable from an evolutionary perspective, but what designer would want to kill baby butterflies.

Or what about pain that will never go away. What is the purpose of have a burn victim still feel pain days after the injury. Or lifelong back pain. What kind of design relishes in making organisms suffer for no apparent reason?

Then of course there is sex. From a procreation point of view, one would the process to be as simple as possible, not a few to several minutes of interaction. One could have designed us so the interaction was separate from reproduction. That way we could couple as needed, to have orgasms, but then make babies only when it was useful. The combination of the two is obvious trickery, and it says something about the design.

Re:design! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018385)

What sort of designer would produce something in large quantities with less than perfect quality, test the productions for errors, and recycle those that don't meet/exceed expectations? Hmm...

From a procreation point of view, one would want the process to be simple enough for the population to grow but not so simple that the population grows out of control. You can only support so many babies at a time, let alone people. It's not until relatively recently that the distinction between coupling and baby making has been made. It seems pretty efficient to me to incorporate the coupling and emotional aspects with the actual production of offspring.

the human foot (2, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018135)

the human foot is the stupidest most ugliest thing. the shape is completely pointless, the whole 5 wiggling toes thing is absurd and useless. to say toes help us grip and balance is to argue from the starting assumption that the human foot its the best design, which it obviously isn't. a truly intelligent design would be something like pan from greek legend: hooves. now a hoof is smart

and the foot is also the most accessible argument against intelligent design in your rhetorical toolbox. i mean come on, look at your damn foot: how can you look at a human foot and NOT see that it was once a monkey hand for gripping trees coopted into the need to walk instead, and that this "foot" is a relatively "new" development in our monkey lineage?

next time you're confronted with an intelligent design moron, take off your shoe, resist throwing it at them, and show them your foot

On the other hand, there is pure genius. (2, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018295)

For those that want to look at nature, there's plenty of male chauvinism to go around for bitter old men to look at. One example of pure chauvinistic genius is one animal, and I think its the giraffe, whose schlong goes and mashes up whatever giraffe baby might already be in there, just to make sure that he knocks up the lady giraffe with his own seed. Then, there's the lion, who, after killing off a rival, causes the lady to spontaneously miscarry, and she then mates with him to carry his seed.

Not evolutionary design .... (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018429)

It's not really evolutionary design, it's evolutionary results.

Evolution doesn't sit down at the drawing board and try to figure out how to give birth to a giraffe. This is the end result of bazillions of little experiments that ended up with the rather comic/disturbing notion of a baby giraffe falling that far.

I'm sure to an advanced species, our mating habits, genitals, mode of breathing, and whatnot look hilarious. :-P

Cheers

Re:Not evolutionary design .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018725)

...
I'm sure to an advanced species, our mating habits, genitals ... look hilarious. :-P

Speak for yourself, I would classify mine more in the "impressive" category.

Hella Dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018507)

This is a really fucking stupid list, even for slashdot.

The worst evolutionary design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29018739)

Gentlemen. I present to you the Platypus.

Evolution != Superior (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#29018849)

I think there is odd concept that Evolution produces the most efficient methods should be reduced. Evolution creates good enough, not perfect creatures. As well during the process better designs have failed for lesser designs as temporary conditions create such a situation. Sure good designs hold a better chance but like probability you can still get whipped out.

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