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New Living Fossil Discovered in India

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the fugly dept.

Science 83

pyr0 writes "A new species of frog has been discovered in Southern India. This species dates back 130 million years ago, when portions of the supercontinent Gondwana broke away, and was long thought to have been extinct. Its closest relatives are known as 'Sooglossids' and are only found 3000km away on Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. The cool thing about this species? It's purple, and has what looks like a snout!"

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83 comments

IN CASE OF SLASHDOTTING (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7231603)

Old purple frog danced with dinosaurs
Last Updated Wed, 15 Oct 2003 13:52:39

BRUSSELS - A bright purple frog shaped like a donut with a pointy snout has been discovered in the mountains of southern India.

The seven-centimeter long amphibian hopped around the feet of dinosaurs. Researchers say the small-headed critter belongs to a new family of frogs thought to have disappeared millions of years ago.

Evolutionary biologist Franky Bossuyt of Free University of Brussels in Belgium and colleague S. D. Biju described the new species in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

The pair discovered the frog in the Western Ghats Mountains of India, one of eight biodiversity hotspots in the world home to unusual species.

Bossuyt says the frog's closest relatives are the Sooglossids, a small and close-knit collection of frogs found only in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.

The Seychelles and India are now separated by 3,000 kilometers of ocean. It's thought the two countries once formed part of a huge landmass which split millions of years ago.

The ancient super-continent of Gondwana included South America, Africa, India, Madagascar and the Seychelles, Australia and Antarctica.

Scientists estimated the frog family tree split about 230 million years ago. The discovery suggests this frog branched off 130 million years ago when Gondwana lost its eastern end.

In the mid 1800s, biologists described 29 families of frogs. Bossuyt and Biju have placed their frog in a new family, based on a DNA analysis.

In a commentary accompanying the study, astrobiologist Blair Hedges of Pennsylvania State University called the discovery "a once-in-a-century find."

Written by CBC News Online staff

You should be careful with your definition.. (1)

annisette (682090) | more than 10 years ago | (#7257588)

of a donut, after reading your first sentence I thought of a frog with a pointy snout and a hole in the middle, but alas after looking at the photo I see you ment a jelly (er,frog gut)filled donut. It may not seen like a big deal to you but think of the frog, now discovered, cataloged, probably have a number painted on it,s back and won't be able to get away to pee with out spotlights every where and people thinking he/she has a hole in his/her middle. So Mr./Ms CBS staff do not take your responsibility to your viewers/readers lightly, a donut is not just a donut! You have a lot(more) to learn before (you can confidently) entering the relm of /.

Utter nonsense (1)

keesh (202812) | more than 10 years ago | (#7231618)

Clearly, God put it there to test our faith.

Re:Utter nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7232464)

Are you referring to the post, or your reply?

Re:Utter nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7233270)

Your ass.

Re:Utter nonsense (1)

Tyreth (523822) | more than 10 years ago | (#7236015)

Huh? To test your faith in evolution - seeing as this animal remained near unchanged for 130 million years? I don't understand.

Guess what ? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7241400)

I wish you'd be dead !
Damn right, I'm back to finish you off, bitch.

Re:Utter nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7249328)

> I don't understand.

Then you must not be an American. This sort of drivel is taught to young churchgoers every Sunday all across the country.

Besides, doesn't *everybody* know the world was created in 4004BC?

Some Hindu God, I suppose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7237016)

It is in India, unlikely to be (a) Christian God.

There are many Christian Gods, A Lutheran God, a Catholic one, a Mormon one, etc. Dont even mention the Trinity Business!

Re:Some Hindu God, I suppose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7244550)

Interesting point, except the Bible describes the real God. The Catholics and Mormons disagree and have defined for themselves who God is (Catholics pray to Mary, Mormons consider Jesus to be a spirit brother of Satan).

Purple (1)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 10 years ago | (#7231657)

Wow, when they said a little purple frog with a tiny head and snout, they where NOT kidding. Funny looking little frog.

Now I'm wondering what kind of Croak it makes.

And they tested its DNA, and said it was a different breed of frogs, amazing.

Re:Purple (1)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 10 years ago | (#7231714)

Hence, Barneys ancestors revealed!

Re:Purple (1)

ForestGrump (644805) | more than 10 years ago | (#7238053)

budweiser

Moley (1)

jkcity (577735) | more than 10 years ago | (#7231735)

it kinda looks like a purple mole, I want one as a pet.

Re:Moley (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7235008)

All I can say is: Damn Straight!

That's gotta be the coolest animal I've ever seen, wonder how long until they're selling them in every petshop across the universe ;p

-- vranash

Re:Moley (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7237373)

I've never seen a purple mole.
I never hope to see one.
And people say, (just take a poll)
They'd rather see than be one.

I Feal Froggy (3, Funny)

lostindenver (53192) | more than 10 years ago | (#7231855)

I Feal Froggy, If i lick it will i see purple frogs?

Hmmmm (2, Insightful)

floydman (179924) | more than 10 years ago | (#7231906)

New Living Fossil Discovered in India!!

Praying Doesn't Help!!!

Very intersting /. day today.... i cant wait to know what else is comming up.

Re: Hmmmm (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#7239336)

New Living Fossil Discovered in India!!

Praying Doesn't Help!!!

Very intersting /. day today.... i cant wait to know what else is comming up.
Arnold elected governor of California!

Windows vulnerabilities fixed faster!

Rush does dope!

US taxpayers pay $1.75 to support each gallon of gasoline sold in Iraq!

It seems we've all been teleported to Bizarro World. I want to see the results of a study about praying to purple frogs...

Another Link (2, Informative)

pyr0 (120990) | more than 10 years ago | (#7232085)

I came across another link [discovery.com] since submitting the story. This one actually gives the name of this new species: Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis

The real question.... (1)

crapulent (598941) | more than 10 years ago | (#7232143)

But does it run linux?

I don't know, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7234717)

Imagine a beowulf cluster of these!!

Re:The real question.... (0)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 10 years ago | (#7234830)

I think yes, if you put it on the linux distro cd and kick its ass, well it may not run, but it would at least jump!

Does... (1)

Trikenstein (571493) | more than 10 years ago | (#7232258)

licking it give you hella buzz?

good thing they didn't find it in the U.S. (1)

BigChigger (551094) | more than 10 years ago | (#7232688)

else they would have declared it was deformed because of pollution and started sueing the crap out of everybody.

BC

Colors (1)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 10 years ago | (#7232848)

If a 130 million year old species of frog is so darn purple... wonder what other colors were around back then. Maybe a purple dinosaur isn't so far off. We always assume they were greenish. Hmmmm..

It would be interesting if they could find a 'purple' gene in that frog, and then look for the same gene elsewhere.. see what else might have been purple.

Re:Colors (1)

driftingwalrus (203255) | more than 10 years ago | (#7235022)

Small problem, most fossils are old enough that there is simply no DNA left to extract and test. Finding DNA in a 2,000 year old body is extraordinarily hard, let alone after millions of years.

Re:Colors (1)

Cunk (643486) | more than 10 years ago | (#7235089)

Maybe it WAS greenish 130 millions years ago and it only "recently" turned purple.

Had to say it.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7232918)

I for one welcome our purple snouted masters.

Hypno.... (1)

Trikenstein (571493) | more than 10 years ago | (#7233453)

Toad

Re:Hypno.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7236641)

All glory to the Hypno-Toad!

Re:Had to say it.... (1)

Tisephone (709174) | more than 10 years ago | (#7234054)

Overlords, buddy.

Sentence Structure (1)

Lafe (595258) | more than 10 years ago | (#7233192)

"Researchers say the small-headed critter belongs to a new family of frogs thought to have disappeared millions of years ago."

That sentence cracks me up. It's so new it disappeared millions of years ago! I know what they meant, but still...

frogs? no, I don't think so! (0)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 10 years ago | (#7234856)

words "purple" and "seven-centimeter long", when in one sentence, usually mean it should be filtered by the antispam filter.

Re: frogs? no, I don't think so! (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#7244858)


> words "purple" and "seven-centimeter long", when in one sentence, usually mean it should be filtered by the antispam filter.

7cm isn't big enough to be obscene.

I, for one.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7237024)

..welcome our purple amphibian overlords

Purple frogs (1)

Uplore (706578) | more than 10 years ago | (#7237149)

Purple frogs? Sounds like a character from a Dr Suess book to me.

clearly (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 10 years ago | (#7237192)

its moch frog.

so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

nadabu14 (694594) | more than 10 years ago | (#7237236)

so they're trying to tell me that this frog has been pretty much the same for all these millions of years, and meanwhile the earth has undergone all sorts of climate changes and most other species have radically evolved.

is it just me or do things like this make old-earth, macro-evolution theories harder to swallow? of course, i'm not sure how much an ugly purple thing like that helps out the intelligent-design theorists either. when are people gonna start to admit that we just really don't know much about how we (and that frog) got here.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

justaguy516 (712036) | more than 10 years ago | (#7237342)

Well, evolution is stochastic, and there is a probability that a species in its original condition will not need to respond to changes in the environment and can still survive. The fact that it occurs so infrequently (so few species of living fossils), helps out the theory. It helps to admit that we don't know, only if that leads to an open mind in looking for the solution. Otherwise, we should just stick with the best theory we have till someone comes up with one that is better. And evolution does have an answer for a lot of evolutionary riddles.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

nadabu14 (694594) | more than 10 years ago | (#7237441)

good point about the rarity of these "living fossils."

though i'm not so sure how i feel about "sticking with the best theory..." i suppose it depends on what you mean by that, but i got pretty fed up with the evolutionary dogma shoved down my throat in the public school system when i was growing up. so many things presented to me were obviously based on the assumptions of philosophical materialism (read: atheism). but worst of all, there was never another theory presented. i think that's poor policy. i'm definitely in favor of keeping the strongest theory in the mix, but not at the exclusion of competing ones.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

Quelain (256623) | more than 10 years ago | (#7237843)

There is no competing scientific theory.

If you're talking some religious bullshit, then where is your evidence for it? (There isn't any.)

Talking about 'strongest theory in the mix' is rather dishonest when the 'strength' of your favoured "theory" is nonexistent. Do you even know the definition of the word theory in science?

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

nadabu14 (694594) | more than 10 years ago | (#7243989)

ever heard of Michael Behe? how about William Dembski? look 'em up before you start blabbing on about there being no scientific contention with traditional evolutionary theory. ...but then again, you seem like you've made up your mind and can't take any opposition. so never mind about doing the research, go live in your happy little world and don't bother questioning the reality you've been taught.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

Quelain (256623) | more than 10 years ago | (#7245629)

Yes, I have heard of them, but a couple of cranks who write books doesn't make a scientific theory.

What research have they done? Where can I find their papers? How many biologists support their position?

Yes, I have made up my mind. 150 years of finding evidence and doing research is a fairly serious questioning of reality IMO. The fact is that this mountain of evidence and research points to evolution.

*You* are kidding yourself if you think you're being open minded by accepting the creationist dogma. You wouldn't happen to be a fundamentalist Christian would you? If so, why aren't you questioning the "reality" (fairy tale) *they* have been shoving down your throat?

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

nadabu14 (694594) | more than 10 years ago | (#7245829)

so you've heard those names, that's nice. can you tell me what they do for a living? have you read anything by them (either their books or papers)? do you typically write off people that challenge your beliefs as cranks when you know next to nothing about them?

oh, and congrats on the 150 years of successful research. you must be tired after all that. and even if i misunderstood and other people did all of that, your study and grasp of all that material is also worthy of congratulations!

seriously, don't throw authority arguments at me. i grew up with a bossy older sister. i don't take to authorities easily. stand on their shoulders if you like, but don't expect me to think you're any taller for it.

i don't accept anyone's dogma. never have. never will. i may agree with various people on various things, but not without weighing them out for myself. does that mean i'm never wrong? hell no. like anyone, i make mistakes all the time. but at least they're my mistakes.

if you'd use that thing on your shoulders more carefully, you might realize that being open minded has essentially nothing to do with what a person accepts as true or false. it is being willing to question what is put before you and seriously consider alternative possibilities.

oh, and i also don't take labels willingly. "ooh are you one of 'them'? *they* are such @#$! you have no credibility if you agree with anything *they* say..." sheesh, get a clue! that's the kinda shit that causes wars, hate crimes, and genocide.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

Quelain (256623) | more than 10 years ago | (#7246281)

Yes, I have read some of what they are passing off as science, and I can tell why they are wrong. You are just assuming that I know nothing about them or their views.

Yes, of course I was referring to the peer reviewed work done by thousands of scientists since Darwin published the Origin of Species.

This is not an argument from authority, I am not saying Darwin or Gould said such and such which agrees with my position. I'm saying that there is a mountain of evidence supporting evolution, and no evidence at all to support the ideas of Dembski and co. If you have some evidence which supports their position, you had better get on the phone to them real quick, because they have come up with nothing so far. They will be thrilled to hear from you.

There is the danger that you can be so open-minded that your brains fall out.

If someone can come up with an explanation which explains all the evidence better that the ToE, then I'm all for it. That's having an open mind.

Believing in something the face of contrary evidence is gullibility, not open-mindedness.

To get back to my original statement, can you tell me where I can find an alternative theory to evolution, which is well supported by the evidence collected by thousands of biologists, botanists, geologists, paleontologists and so on?

I enquired about your religious persuasion only because it seems that it is *only* fundamentalist religions that have a problem with evolution. I only asked because you are accusing me of unquestioning belief. How's that thing about motes and beams go again?

If you were honestly questioning evolution, and not just trying to hype up the scientific popularity of your creationsist viewpoint, I'd be happy to direct you to some critiques of Dembski and Behe's work.Why aren't you questioning what the creationists are telling you?

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

Bowling Moses (591924) | more than 10 years ago | (#7246183)

I've read articles by Behe and Dembski and was not favorably impressed. Behe and Dembski are not taken seriously by the scientific community for that matter either. For example, read Nature's review of Behe's "Darwin's Black Box" (Nature 1996, Volume 383, pages 227-228, available pay-only from them, but freely available here [world-of-dawkins.com] ). Another review that is available [ncseweb.org] online is from the National Center for Science Education--the premier science education body in the USA. Naturally, both it and Nature (and, well, science in general) are firmly in the evolutionists' camp. You've probably heard it before, but why not give talkorigins [talkorigins.org] a try? They have their own pages on Behe [talkorigins.org] and Dembski [talkorigins.org] as well.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7240556)

"though i'm not so sure how i feel about "sticking with the best theory..." i suppose it depends on what you mean by that, but i got pretty fed up with the evolutionary dogma shoved down my throat in the public school system when i was growing up."

From what you've posted to this story, I'd be willing to wager that you slept through whatever your school tried to teach you about evolution.

"so many things presented to me were obviously based on the assumptions of philosophical materialism (read: atheism)."

Ah, there's that new creationist party line. When the evidence doesn't support your views, deny the validity of supporting views with evidence!

"but worst of all, there was never another theory presented."

Heavens to Murgatroid! Did they skimp on alternatives theories about chemistry and physics too?

"i think that's poor policy. i'm definitely in favor of keeping the strongest theory in the mix, but not at the exclusion of competing ones."

What competing ones were those then? Raelism? Last Thursdayism?

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

nadabu14 (694594) | more than 10 years ago | (#7244159)

From what you've posted to this story, I'd be willing to wager that you slept through whatever your school tried to teach you about evolution. ok. how much? "Ah, there's that new creationist party line. When the evidence doesn't support your views, deny the validity of supporting views with evidence!" there's nothing new about philosophy and debates over the sum and substance of reality. in fact, those debates have been around a hellufa lot longer than the traditional evolutionary theories. as far as creationists using such arguments against evolution goes, they've done it from the start! if you'd pull your head out of your ass you'd see that the creationists finally started to get the hint this last decade and began to suplement those philosophical arguments for ...scientific ones! after all, it's become pretty evident that most diehard evolutionists don't give a rat's ass about philosophy and can't think outside the box (the material world). might as well try and speak their language... What competing [theories] were those then? Raelism? Last Thursdayism? and if you can't think of a major category of theories that compete with materialistic evolution, then clearly we don't share a common definition of "compete" and there's no use in arguing the point.

Douglas Adams said it best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7249651)

Here is a fabulous quote on this subject

"I don't accept the currently fashionable assertion that any view is automatically as worthy of respect as any equal and opposite view. My view is that the moon is made of rock. If someone says to me Well, you haven't been there, have you? You haven't seen it for yourself, so my view that it is made of Norwegian Beaver Cheese is equally valid -- then I can't even be bothered to argue. There is such a thing as the burden of proof, and in the case of god, as in the case of the composition of the moon, this has shifted radically. God used to be the best explanation we'd got, and we've now got vastly better ones. God is no longer an explanation of anything, but has instead become something that would itself need an insurmountable amount of explaining. So I don't think that being convinced that there is no god is as irrational or arrogant a point of view as belief that there is. I don't think the matter calls for even-handedness at all." -Douglas Adams

As he said, there IS such a thing as the burden of proof, and this points squarely at Natural Selection as the primary mechanism for how life came to be as it is, and is changing now. Here's another point, and that's: you aren't qualified to make judgements as to the validity of the evidence. If you want to criticize, get a Ph.D. in biology/geology. I don't understand quantum physics, and I find the concepts impossible to understand, and probably always will, but when my physics professor tells me something, I accept it, because he bloody well knows what he's talking about. He's the Ph.D in Nuclear Physics, and until I attain the same level of education as he has, I know I'm not entitled to question it at all.

Science reaches it's conclusions through a concensus of the most educated people on a subject, this is its' great strength.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7237383)

Maybe I'm just missing your sarcasm, but...

That's why this is news. It's pretty rare to find species that haven't evolved much. This particular frog's DNA just happened to be lucky enough to be able to survive (albeit in small numbers) all these millennia.

"Old-earth" and macro-evolution theories are not hard to swallow. They are scientifically verifiable and verified.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

nadabu14 (694594) | more than 10 years ago | (#7237478)

well, gosh, you've convinced me. those theories aren't hard to swallow, and macro-evolution and the age of the earth have been scientifically verified.

thank you for that stunning display of wit, logic, and evidence. how humble of you to post such brilliance anonymously!

now, don't hold back anymore! with this information, we could put the whole debate and all of its angles to rest. then we'll all go watch the World Series together in perfect harmony. beers all around! hurrah!

(when i'm sarcastic, you'll know! :)

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7240581)

"(when i'm sarcastic, you'll know! :)"

The question is whether you'll know when you're ignorant.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

Copid (137416) | more than 10 years ago | (#7241153)

Your comment about "the whole debate" is very telling. The fact is, there is no real debate among biologists. There's a lot of debate among lay people in the US, but that's no surprise. If quantum mechanics were as politically polarizing as evolution, we'd all be laughing at the half of the population of uneducated non-physicists who "don't believe" in quantum mechanics. For some reason, biology seems easy enough to everybody that even people with no more than a high school education feel qualified to laugh at scientists who devote years to studying this stuff. The fact is, the question was settled a long time ago among the experts. Their task now is not to prove that the theory makes sense (they have), but to convince people who don't want to spend the time actually studying the theories.

For some reason, this has proved a lot more difficult than it has with other things people don't understand (relativity, quantum mechanics, most of astronomy, geology, etc.). As far as I can tell, the only people who get as much flak from a bunch of know-nothings who never studied their subject beyond the high school level are economists. Let me give you and everybody else out here a hint: If you disagree with an entire branch of science, and you're only taken one or two classes in that field, you probably don't know what you're talking about. Maybe you have some uncommon insight that nobody else has had, but I doubt it.

If you want evidence, rather than waiting for it to fall in your lap on Slashdot, try http://www.talkorigins.org [talkorigins.org] . Use the search engine to search for answers to your questions. These people typically actually have a background in the stuff they write about, and can correct common misconceptions like the idea that a species not changing much is evidence against common descent. They'll even answer questions in the talk.origins newsgroup.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

Copid (137416) | more than 10 years ago | (#7241374)

Before people jump on me for mentioning economists, I'd like to clarify: Economists aren't natural scientists like the other people I mentioned. However, economists do deal with empirical data and come to conclusions that those unfamiliar with their field often disagree with--something very important when forming public policy, be it educational standards or economic policy.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

pyr0 (120990) | more than 10 years ago | (#7241768)

AMEN!! Just to add a point here, the same thing does happen to geology. Evolutionary theory is strongly linked to geology and the concept of the age of the Earth. Without the old Earth, evolution simply doesn't work. Numerous extremely carefully thought out and executed studies have shown over and over and over that the Earth is approximately 4.6 billion years old, yet you have common religious zealots refuting this, either through naming special cases where it doesn't always work (that can almost always be explained by a normal process that the creationists ignore), or by refuting the technique itself. It's sad that there are still people around that think like this.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

nadabu14 (694594) | more than 10 years ago | (#7244272)

why is it that everyone assumes that anyone who questions traditional evolutionary theory is either A. an idiot or B. a religious zealot or C. both?

i've spent more than my fair share of time on talkorigins.org and trueorigins.org and a bazillion other evolution, young-earth creation, old-earth creation, intelligent design, and whatnot websites. i've read plenty of books, been in plenty of debates, watched plenty of debates, and so on and so forth.

if don't you think there aren't both very smart people and very strong arguments on both sides, then frankly, you are either A. an idiot or B. ignorant or C. both!

and to save you the trouble of guessing, i am not an idiot. so according to popular (mis)conceptions, i am clearly a religious zealot to be so knowledgeable and yet still not willing to accept that evolution is a proven theory/fact/whatever-the-hell-term-you-like!

i suggest you folks take your 1920's stereotypes, unfounded assumptions, and miscellaneous pigeonholes and shove 'em.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

nadabu14 (694594) | more than 10 years ago | (#7244512)

actually, wait a minute. i take that back...

i *am* an idiot!

"All mankind is stupid, devoid of knowledge..."
-Jeremiah 51:17a (NASB)

heh. make of that whatever you will! but know that philosophers and scientists can be friends. you just can't be afraid to open your mind. trust me, it won't hurt ...much. :)

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

Copid (137416) | more than 10 years ago | (#7258290)

I don't want to probe too deeply into what appears to be a sensitive area for you, but the bottom line is this: If you think that the fact that there are species on Earth that haven't changed in a long time somehow presents a problem for evolutionary theory, you're clearly not as knowledgable about the topic as you're leading us to believe. There is obviously a gap in your understanding somewhere. Here is where I think you've gone wrong:

i've read plenty of books, been in plenty of debates, watched plenty of debates, and so on and so forth.

If you're reading the standard popular press type of books on evolution, you may be getting the impression that there's a lot more contention about the subject than there really is. The problem is that the people who can't get their work published in mainstream journals tend to prefer to write books and work with a more easily impressed audience. Hence the surprising ratio of pro-evolution to andi-evolution texts at Barnes and Noble. The same holds true for th Internet. I assure you that a quick look through journals that deal with biology will present you with a very different ratio.

Finally, live debates are about the worst place to look for good science. Lots of good scientists are terrible debaters and vice versa. Written format debates tend to be a little bit better, but only if they're refereed somehow (a rarity, although the talk.origins newsgroup appears to be making some progress in that area).

Perhaps this is just my 1920's stereotyping talking, but my guess is that you've never taken a college-level biology course, and if you have, it was no more than an intro class. A couple of semesters in real, major-track biology courses will teach you far more than reading evolution editorials online or popularized versions of papers that were rejected or never submitted to real scientific journals.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

nadabu14 (694594) | more than 10 years ago | (#7258422)

"I don't want to probe too deeply into what appears to be a sensitive area for you"

sensitive? no. excitable? yes. :)

"...you're clearly not as knowledgable about the topic as you're leading us to believe."

hmm. i think it'd be more accurate to say i'm clearly not as knowledgeable about the implications of such a discovery as i'd like to believe.

your point about books and internet versus biology journals is very interesting. definitely something that could be worth thinking about and looking into. though i must wonder just why it is anti-evolutionists (and related) types can't often (ever?) get published in those journals. no one is unbiased. objective editors are likely as much a myth as objective journalists.

as for the debates, i'm inclined to agree, though there is certainly something to be said for the ability to communicate well.

and yes, you've guessed quite well, i've not taken college-level biology. i was a comp sci major. indeed, i'd be a fool to claim i was "studied" in the natural sciences. if you haven't noticed from the tenor and topic of my responses, i'm not interested in debating the scientific details. i'm sure to be in over my head on those. my interests even in high school always lend themselves far more to philosophy and its cohorts. indeed, it is my lifelong interests therein that have driven my skepticism of evolution. well, that and the dogmatic way it was taught to me in high school. anytime i sense opposition voices being oppressed i get antsy. if nothing else, i think the evolutionists who fight to keep alternative teachings out of schools do a disservice to their cause. if they have truth, why be afraid to have it questioned?

anyway, thanks for the solid, thoughtful response. definitely an improvement on the "evolution is a fact, you're an idiot if you question it" usual fare. :)

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

Copid (137416) | more than 10 years ago | (#7258688)

hmm. i think it'd be more accurate to say i'm clearly not as knowledgeable about the implications of such a discovery as i'd like to believe.

Perhaps, but the root of that problem seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the evoutionary process. The idea that all species must evolve as if it's some law of physics is simply false. Populations that are not subject to selective pressures that favor changes will not change (much) over time. Some species of shark are classic examples of this. The general design of the classic "shark" shape has been the same for many millions of years. There are a number of interesting variations on it, but the general shape we see in the better known species is pretty darned solid. Why should selective pressures favor any changes at all when the current design works so well?

your point about books and internet versus biology journals is very interesting. definitely something that could be worth thinking about and looking into.

As a solid case, you referenced Dr. Michael Behe. He is a biochemist who has published his work. He is also a popular author who has published a number of works criticizing the theory evolution. For kicks, try to find any of his arguments on irrideducible complexity published in any refereed journals. You'll find that his published works outside the popular press have nothing to do with his anti-evolution stance. Dr. Behe has not produced a shred of new information worth publishing in that area. What he has done is taken the old information and put out his own analysis to a more credulous audience. It's a very different world when you have to justify every sentence to a bunch of folks who know as much as you do and whose job it is to find any possible weakness in your work.

though i must wonder just why it is anti-evolutionists (and related) types can't often (ever?) get published in those journals. no one is unbiased. objective editors are likely as much a myth as objective journalists.

There is a lively discussion on this going on on talk.origins right now. There have been similar debates in the past. By and large, the anti-evolution crowd doesn't submit anti-evolution work for publication. There aren't a lot of known cases where it has been submitted and rejected. People of the anti-evolution bent often do get published, though (see Dr. Behe)--just not their claims against evolution. Now here's where I start to get a bit talky...

The idea of bias in the scientific community is brought up all the time. Nothing wins you kook points faster than claiming a vast scientific conspiracy to keep you down. Of course, everybody has their biases, but science thrives on new ideas. You don't win Nobel Prizes for rehashing old ideas for a pat on the back. You're more likely to win one by tearing down old ideas and replacing them with new ones. The anti-evolution crowd has had 150 years to pull this off to no avail. Surely not every journal is that biased.

History is full of examples of people with new theories getting laughed at. Anti-evolution advocates love to bring this up when they're faced with overwhelming support for evolution. What they forget is that almost every one of those stories ends with the scientific establishment coming to its senses, correcting its mistake, and the theory changing. Those stories never end with, "And so he began publishing books for the uneducated masses, started a grassroots movement among people who hadn't studied the subject, and got it taught in public schools without being reviewed by the scientific community." Try to find an example of that one. It can't be done, but that's what's happening with so called "intelligent design" theory and other nonsense. Going around the goalie and the goal is not the same as scoring a goal. Skirting the scientifc dialogue does not make you a winner in this debate.

and yes, you've guessed quite well, i've not taken college-level biology. i was a comp sci major. indeed, i'd be a fool to claim i was "studied" in the natural sciences. if you haven't noticed from the tenor and topic of my responses, i'm not interested in debating the scientific details. i'm sure to be in over my head on those.

This is why some people get upset (although admittedly, lots of them are just know-it-all asses). It starts with a rather smug post on a theory being "hard to swallow" as though it's some sort of trick being fed to the unsuspecting masses. Rather than treating evolutionary theory as charlatanism, try to understand that there's 150 years' worth of scientific discourse behind it. Treating those ideas with flippant scorn without showing a complete understanding of them usually starts a firestorm like the ones that typically show up on /. Perhaps a better way of phrasing it would have been, "What ramifications does something like this have for evolutionary theory?" Assuming your conclusion, especially when you imply that you know something that the scientifc community does not, is not a good way to start a good-natured discussion. Try that on talk.origins, and you'll get a very similar response, even from people who are normally well-reasoned and polite. They've just seen it so many times that they're tired of hearing people who think that they're the first ones to spout off about irriducible complexity or so-called "living fossils." The trick is to avoid looking like you're playing the arrogance card unless you have some serious knowledge cards to back it up.To be fair, my background is in computer engineering and economics (hence the econ reference). At the same time, I do have enough grounding in biology to understand where evolutionary theory is coming from and why most aspects of it are logically inescapable.

[re: skepticism]well, that and the dogmatic way it was taught to me in high school.

Perhaps my high school experience was different, but basically everything taught in school is dogma. We teach students what we believe to be true and demonstrate it where possible. The idea that we should allow room for debate is noble, but it falls flat for a number of reasons. First is the paucity of competing theories. Nobody has come up with anything comparable and presented it to the scientific establishment. As I mentioned before, there are factions who would like to go around the review process and cut straight into school (kids are so much easier to convince than professional scientists), but I have found these groups to be largely idealogically motivated (read: religious objections to evolution) with no real interest in the equal treatment of ideas. If we want to treat all ideas fairly, NOBODY should get into high school textbooks without doing their time in the peer review salt mines.

More importantly, why do the "equal time" people only come out of the woodwork for evolution? Surely many other subjects have as many indirect observations and mind boggling conclusions as biology, but nobody makes a peep about it when science classes talk about all sorts of difficult to verify theories in other fields. Without so much as a nod to the rejected or untested alternatives, no less! So-called dogmatic teachings only seem to rankle people when they conflict with their own dogmas. I think that it's no coincidence that the only subjects in high school and middle school science that receive this type of attention are the ones that conflict with a young earth and separate, special creation of all living things by an intelligend designer. On top of that, many of the things that are decried as "dogma" are easily verifiable with a little bit of outside research. Radioactive decay rates and the consistency of the speed of light are two notable examples of "dogmatic assumptions" that are thoroughly justified in the literature but glazed over (for obvious reasons) when taught to the pre-college crowd.

anytime i sense opposition voices being oppressed i get antsy. if nothing else, i think the evolutionists who fight to keep alternative teachings out of schools do a disservice to their cause. if they have truth, why be afraid to have it questioned?

What you percieve as a reaction to feelings of vulnerability to a threat are most likely something else. Most of us are concerned with this sudden tendency to take science to the court of public opinion rather than doing science in a way that keeps people honest. The idea one can advance a religiously motiviated theory (it isn't for some, but it is demonstrably so for the vast majority), skip past the peer review process, and make use of a grassroots movement of the uneducated to push untried material into school is infuriating to many. Claiming persecution or a conspiracy to silence their ideas only serves to polarize the debate further and muddy the water, obscuring a very important truth: there's a movement afoot to move scientific debate from the graduate and professional level into a forum more conducive to charlatans and the politically motivated. If it happens and we turn sixteen year olds into the judges for scientific theory, we're all going to lose.

The people who think that the floor should be open for debate in high schools are the same people who seem to think that publishing their work and debating it with the professionals is a bad idea. People have most of their lives ahead of them when they graduate from high school. They have plenty of time to wrestle with these ideas once they have the academic tools to deal with them. We do a disservice to all when we present early scientific education as a "swim or sink" game of finding the true statement amid a cacophony of untested and contradictory ideas.

Sorry for the long post, but this "science of common sense" and "equal time for any old Joe" nonsense tends to get me riled up. Best of luck with your studies.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

nadabu14 (694594) | more than 10 years ago | (#7262497)

woah. you've got a lot of free time on your hands! wanna share some with me? :)

but i'll harp on a few points...

first, widespread bias != vast conspiracy. one is inevitable and the other is improbable. when you equate anti-evolutionist claims of bias in the scientific community with conspiracy, you misrepresent them. it's a illogical, inflammatory tactic, and one i've heard plenty of on both sides.

still, you've piqued my interest about the journal publishing subject even further with the statement that anti-evolutionists don't submit work on that topic. fascinating, if true!

my "harder to swallow" comment was not an accusation of trickery, but a claim of non-intuitiveness that came from me not using my brain well (as i've already admitted, so give it up already.)

as for dogmatic teaching of evolution in high schools, i speak largely of the fact that the debate (popular, not elite, though it may be) was stifled, and arrogantly so. further, in later years, i discovered that a number of examples and illustrations ("icons" as Jonathan Wells says) used to teach me were misleading or outright false. where was your peer review on those? i don't care how right you might be, when a teacher and textbooks teach like that, human (or at least my) instinct is to be skeptical of the subject. it's basic psychology.

other points:
i never said anything about "equal time." the dominant theories definitely deserve the most attention.

don't fool yourself. most evolutionists have there own ideologies and agendas. just like me and you. you're pretending to be unbiased again.

radioactive decay rates and constancy of the speed of light do not negate philo-theological questions on the nature and origin of the universe. see mature-creation or "apparent age" theories for intriguing ideas (which i'll admit, i tend to favor) on that. remember, philosophy and friends (ontology, epistomology, theology, etc.) necessarily underly and trump science.

by far the most complained about "dogmatic assumption" of evolutionists is--in my experience--philosophical materialism.

you continually portray anti-evolutionists as those uneducated in the subject (among other over-broad or unsubstantiated characterizations) that's going back to the stereotypes. i may not be well-educated therein, but i have friends who are and still see plenty of room for debate. your chances of convincing me otherwise in this forum are not good. though you are free to try, be aware that debating credentials and qualifications (authority) is often fruitless. if possible, stick to debating issues and ideas, not people.

you mark Behe as an anti-evolutionist. i believe this is only partly true. in my understanding, he is anti-abiogenesis, and holds to old-earth, aided-evolution.

ok, i really need to get to work. if you've got some more good feedback for me, i'd love to hear it, but i'm not sure i can spend more time responding.

if nothing else, thanks for turning me on to the issue of journal publications. :)

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

Copid (137416) | more than 10 years ago | (#7265418)

woah. you've got a lot of free time on your hands! wanna share some with me? :)

If only it were so. There are some things I regard as important, though. Attacks on good science on the basis of limited knowledge are one of the things I consider important, if for no other reason than they tend to muddy the water for people who may not know much about the subject at hand. Stuff like this perpetuates the myth that science has "agreed to disagree" on this subject when the reality is, consensus was reached long ago. Even though we're well off topic, I'm not averse to using Slashdot as a message board on random stuff. Burn karma, burn! ;-)

first, widespread bias != vast conspiracy. one is inevitable and the other is improbable. when you equate anti-evolutionist claims of bias in the scientific community with conspiracy, you misrepresent them. it's a illogical, inflammatory tactic, and one i've heard plenty of on both sides.

I suggest that you look into this more deeply. The major players I've seen in this game seem to prefer claiming that they don't bother submitting for publication because they anticipate widespread bias. What is illogical and inflammatory is blaming bias in a community of reviewers who usually go out of their way to be fair to opposing ideas. Bias may explain certain slants in the number of articles published in the past century, but it hardly explains the complete dearth of such articles for over a century. What is being claimed is nothing short of conspiracy proportions. People who credulously accept the claims of widespread bias as an explanation rather than asking questions like, "How many articles have you submitted? To whom did you submit them? What, exactly, was the reply?" don't help the cause at all. When you're rejected for publication, you get substantive responses back. Where are they? How did the biased reviewers hide their bias? Surely if the bias were as obvious as it would have to be for a slant of this magnitude, some would be apparent in the rejection letters?

I agree that every person has biases and those biases color everything he or she does, including review submissions to scholarly journals. However, that's why submissions go to several reviewers. That's why every effort is made to make the process transparent. It is largely the case that the people who complain the loudest about bias and distortion in scholarly journals are the people who have spent the least time attempting to get published or working as a reviewer. No process is perfect, but to say that the process is so fatally flawed that no serious alternative theories have been published for the past hundred years or more is appealing to conspiracy level behavior. Rather than choose to believe that the system that works so well for every other aspect of academia is that flawed, I tend to believe that if you can't get anything of significance published in a century or more, your ideas likely don't amount to a hill of beans.

still, you've piqued my interest about the journal publishing subject even further with the statement that anti-evolutionists don't submit work on that topic. fascinating, if true!

I strongly recommend popping over to talk.origins and joining that discussion (be sure to lurk for a while). There are several people who act as reviewers for major journals and quite a few whose livelihoods depend on getting published. The discussion has been very enlightening to lurkers like me. Better yet, email your favorite anti-evolution scientist and ask for his or her record on publication. What articles have been submitted in and out of that field? How many have been published? What were the responses, specifically? You may be very surprised at the responses.

my "harder to swallow" comment was not an accusation of trickery, but a claim of non-intuitiveness that came from me not using my brain well (as i've already admitted, so give it up already.)

You seem to want it both ways here. You can't go criticizing a theory without fully understanding what you're saying and expect not to be called on it. You're welcome to come to the discussion without a strong background in the material, but you do yourself a favor when you reserve judgment until you're comfortable with the facts. Like it or not, people who are critical of evolutionary theory are basically saying that they know better than 150 years' worth of scientists. I'm not saying that that necessarily means that they can't be right. However, when, in the next breath, they admit to not having done their due diligence in study time, it comes as an insult to the people who have. "I haven't studied this and I still see how your arguments are nonsensical," doesn't earn you a lot of leeway in the upcoming flame war. Expect to hear people say, "Yeah? So what the hell do you know?"

Remember, science is not simple common sense. If it were, we wouldn't have such a rigorous institution in place. Applying something even as useful as common sense can sometimes lead you down the wrong path unless you've spent the time to gather a lot of information. Common sense would dictate to most people that a recursive algorithm is the best way to implement a C program that finds the Nth number of the Fibonacci sequence. If you make that claim to a bunch of computer scientists and they ask, "Have you ever tried it and asked your program for the 5000th number?" they're simply pointing out that your common sense solution ignores something that some actual research and/or education would uncover.

as for dogmatic teaching of evolution in high schools, i speak largely of the fact that the debate (popular, not elite, though it may be) was stifled, and arrogantly so.

There are probably a few reasons for this. First, high school level teachers often aren't experts and are very uncomfortable when their authority is questioned. It's sad, but true. Second, evolutionary theory is the core of biology--a well established theory that has withstood the test of time as well as countless others. If it weren't (at least mostly) correct, most of biology would fall apart. Most people don't see the benefit in using up big chunks of valuable class time debating it. Like I said, there's plenty of time for debate once students have the facts (in fact, as a scientist, your entire life is devoted to validating, invalidating, and expanding what we believe to be true). There's a time to be in debate mode and a time to be in learning mode.

This is very similar to the idea that students should always learn new things through discovery and activities rather than lecture. The idea has some merit, but the man who taught me most of my math in college also said something like this this: "I don't put much stock in the idea that the best way to teach college students is putting them together in a room and waiting a few hours while they attempt to recreate what it has taken the collective genius of mankind centuries to produce. There's nothing passive or dishonorable about actively listening to and digesting a well-prepared lecture from somebody who has done the research for you." Everyone who lives past undergraduate studies has the opportunity to go head to head against the collective genius of mankind. Don't underestimate it while you're in high school, though.

further, in later years, i discovered that a number of examples and illustrations ("icons" as Jonathan Wells says) used to teach me were misleading or outright false.

Many examples used in high school are misleading or outright false. Much of the chemistry you learned in high school was, at best, misleading. You were taught all sorts of math without learning what mathematicians see as the true fundamentals (questioning even the most basic ideas of addition and subtraction). If you took an economics class, I assure you that what you learned was largely wrong or oversimplified. Students are frequently given simple examples or glossed-over explanations to get them understanding. Sometimes, once we've gone to college and learned what we were missing earlier on, we get angry about it. However, we usually learn enough to realize that the concepts were right even if the details were lacking. For better or for worse, we often sacrifice depth an accuracy for a quick, general understanding.

As for specific examples, you're probably referring to old mainstays like Miller-Urey or peppered moths. If you're hearing that those examples are useless, you're not hearing the whole story any more than you would be if you were told that they were the final details of the debate. Whether those and others were accurate examples is not a black and white question, especially when one asks oneself what was being illustrated. What is less debatable is whether they were useful as illustrations of possibilities and concepts. I submit that they certainly are.

where was your peer review on those?

Peer review doesn't guarantee that everything that comes out is right. It is, however, excellent at rejecting crap. I can guarantee that a good scholarly journal has a far lower concentration of crap than most non-fiction Internet sites. If your thinking is flawed, the flaws will very likely get flushed out in the peer review process. If you skip peer review because it's not a perfect process, I don't see how you're improving the situation at all. Going straight to press without having somebody critically examine your work is a fundamental sin if you're actually seeking the truth.

i don't care how right you might be, when a teacher and textbooks teach like that, human (or at least my) instinct is to be skeptical of the subject. it's basic psychology.

But only on the subject of evolution, it seems. I've seen very few math skeptics, even in classes where theorems aren't proved. Economics has some more non-believers, but still very few. Teaching is necessarily dogmatic on one scale or another--more so as the classes get more basic. And it doesn't get much more basic than high school biology. Perhaps this is untrue for you, but many of the more outspoken crusaders against dogma in the classroom seem only to be bothered by certain dogmas--those that interfere with their own agendas.

i never said anything about "equal time." the dominant theories definitely deserve the most attention.

And again, there is no competing scientific alternative. Sure, there's the touchy-feely "intelligent design" camp among others, but they all appeal to things outside the realm of science. When an idea comes up that fits within the purview of science, and when that idea has been debated and reviewed enough to be worth putting some stock in, I'm certain it will make its way into high schools. Until then, evolution is the best we've got, and nobody has even really proved that they deserve to be in the ring with it.

"Equal time" is espoused by many others, even if not by you. I'm glad that we agree that the idea is not a good one, but debates like this one put on a show for the public that implies to them that the anti-evolution position deserves a lot more time in the classroom than it has earned.

don't fool yourself. most evolutionists have there own ideologies and agendas. just like me and you. you're pretending to be unbiased again.

Everybody has an ideology and many people have an agenda. It's one of the perils of living in a world populated by people.

radioactive decay rates and constancy of the speed of light do not negate philo-theological questions on the nature and origin of the universe.

True, but they're often held up as examples of foolish, dogmatic assumptions. I'm merely pointing out that given even a little bit of investigation, people would find that they're well-founded assumptions that are based on evidence and a lot of research. Certainly a lot more research than was put in by people who claim that all radiometric dating is flawed because it relies on the "assumptions" of quantum mechanics. I don't ask that these people worship their local scientists... only that they give them some credit.

see mature-creation or "apparent age" theories for intriguing ideas (which i'll admit, i tend to favor) on that. remember, philosophy and friends (ontology, epistomology, theology, etc.) necessarily underly and trump science.

by far the most complained about "dogmatic assumption" of evolutionists is--in my experience--philosophical materialism.

This is where you and science diverge. Science is necessarily materialistic. This is, of course, at the expense of supernatural possibilities. However, science simply falls apart when you attempt to use it to test theories that are not materialistic. Intelligent design "theory" fails on this point. Why can't we do science with it? Because every observation is consistent with an intelligent creator. Your example of mature-creation is a classic one. How do we reconcile a universe that looks very old with one we believe is very young? A creator who created it in such a way as to defy our science, of course. If you allow that explanation into a science class, you're effectively throwing out science. Why do books fall when they're dropped? Gravity or faeries. Your call.

It would be the same as if we were to declare our inability to divide by zero a "dogmatic assumption" of mathematics. Maybe we can divide by zero. I'll grant that it's possible. However, doing so breaks all of our applied math and allows you to prove all sorts of crazy things. Applied mathematics has proved itself to be a very useful way of describing and interacting with the world around is, so I hardly think that the requirement not to divide by zero is costing the engineering field that much. Materialism and naturalistic explanations are the "no dividing by zero rule" of science. Not abiding by them breaks all of science. Non-materialistic explanations may have their place (and they may be right!), but they're beyond the limits of natural science and any attempts to reconcile the two will produce nothing but poor science and poor philosophy. Divide by zero if you want, but don't claim that civil engineers would do better if they allowed for the possibility.

you continually portray anti-evolutionists as those uneducated in the subject (among other over-broad or unsubstantiated characterizations) that's going back to the stereotypes.

No, I portray the people outside the biological science community (including myself) as uneducated in the subject. That's why I'm against skirting peer review in favor of Barnes and Noble. However, there is a (perhaps not so surprising) correlation between education in biology and acceptance of evolutionary theory. You can name a few big name anti-evolutionists who are biologists because they're famous. They're famous because 1) they skip peer review and publish only in the popular press, and 2), they're exceedingly rare. My characterization of the average evolution denier as somebody who is by no means well educated in the field is hardly unsubstantiated. If you look at surveys done (I'll try to dig some up) on the correlation between belief in evolutionary theory and education in biology/medicine, you find an incredible correlation. Even informally, read the talk.origins newsgroup and see what levels of background knowledge are represented on either side. There are exceptions, of course, but in my experience, claims against evolution are almost always accompanied by a statement that exposes a spectacular lack of education on the subject. It's not so much a stereotype as a fact of life. I'm sure that you can come up with similar examples in the area of computers. For example, people who blame every computer failure on "a virus" are largely uneducated in the workings of computers and software. That doesn't mean that they're stupid, but there is a strong correlation between the belief and a lack of formal education in computer programming. Nobody can be an expert on all things, but that doesn't stop a lot of armchair quarterbacks from spouting off.

i may not be well-educated therein, but i have friends who are and still see plenty of room for debate. your chances of convincing me otherwise in this forum are not good. though you are free to try, be aware that debating credentials and qualifications (authority) is often fruitless. if possible, stick to debating issues and ideas, not people.

Your debate advice is well taken, but the fact remains that the correlation is there and it is very strong. I'm not inclined to dismiss it after watching it in action for a number of years. It's also worth noting that I'm not simply engaging in a straight argument from authority. I've never said or implied that ideas are sacred because they come from on high, or that ideas are wrong because they come from the uneducated. Even so, ignore the source at your peril. Saying that there is huge debate on the subject when the vast majority true experts in the field agree is taking credential-blindness to absurd levels. The man on the street claiming to have been visited by angels may have been visited by angels, but don't count on it. My experience tells me that what that man has to say should be taken with a grain of salt unless he has some serious evidence.

Your friends who are well educated in biology would do well to publish some of their results. Striking down evolutionary theory with even one piece of seriously contradictory evidence would definitely earn them fame in the field. Otherwise, it's fine to grumble privately about your disagreement with the scientific community, but quite another to put your money where your mouth is and submit your ideas for scrutiny. Show us the evidence!

you mark Behe as an anti-evolutionist. i believe this is only partly true. in my understanding, he is anti-abiogenesis, and holds to old-earth, aided-evolution.

I mention Behe as the most famous and best respected example. I'm familiar with his views. Your understanding is basically correct. I wonder how many of the young-earth, no-evolution-ever-happens crowd realizes this when they cite him as their expert. An interesting note is that people frequently argue against evolution when really they're arguing against abiogenesis theories. They're two different areas. Certainly, they're linked in many ways, but evolutionary theory stands on its own without relying on one explanation of the origin of the first cells over another.

Regardless, Dr. Behe's choice to add a supernatural force into what is otherwise a materialistic investigation is his choice. It drops him out of the realm of pure science and into philosophy. There's nothing wrong with that as long as he doesn't try to claim that pure science bears his theories out. In fact, he may be right. I can't know for sure. There's no way of scientifically investigating it. :-)

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

nadabu14 (694594) | more than 10 years ago | (#7265911)

"You can't go criticizing a theory without fully understanding what you're saying and expect not to be called on it."

uh... i *was* called on it. repeatedly. even by you. it was the repetition that irked me.

"....Miller-Urey or peppered moths. If you're hearing that those examples are useless, you're not hearing the whole story"

i've heard this defense before. i'm not convinced. they just need to use better examples or at least acknowledge those are just "possibilities" and "teaching illustrations." of course, things like Haeckel's (sp?) drawings have got to go entirely. i saw those in high school.

"touchy-feely 'intelligent design' camp among others, but they all appeal to things outside the realm of science"

touchy-feely? uh. ok. anyway, here we start to come to the heart of the issue...

"Science is necessarily materialistic. This is, of course, at the expense of supernatural possibilities. However, science simply falls apart when you attempt to use it to test theories that are not materialistic. Intelligent design "theory" fails on this point."

and here we hit it smack on the nose. many modern scientists seem to believe that the assumption of materialism is necessary to science. without it, they say, the results are meaningless or can be interpreted to mean anything. materialism provides them with a uniformity and consistency from which to operate.

what fascinates me is that it used to be faith in an unchanging God who established and maintains order in the universe that provide assurance of uniformity and consistency for many scientists. to them, science was not necessarily materialistic, but rather, it was merely *focused* upon the material world.

given such a foundation, i (and intelligent design proponents) see no problem with deriving conclusions *from* the material world that pointed to something beyond it.

and how i wish i had more time for this diversion, to go into stuff like information theory, the nature of intelligence, agency and determinism, explanations for rationality and awareness in a material universe, and so much more. sigh. fun stuff to wrestle with. (and a bit more up my ally :)

basically, my point is that i don't believe philosophical materialism is the only valid foundation for useful and meaningful science.

i'm also thoroughly unconvinced that we are unable to logically and/or scientifically identify signs of intelligent behavior/design with confidence.

however, judging by the content and length of your responses so far, i don't anticipate that we can reach consensus on that in a time frame available to me. so that will have to wait for another day.

adieu.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

Lars Arvestad (5049) | more than 10 years ago | (#7239290)

I don't know what the linked-to story says, but the authors of the Nature paper says nothing like that. What they found was the when reconstructing an evolutionary tree based on molecular data, the new species had a lineages distinct from most other frogs and that its closest living relative is found on the Seychelles.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 10 years ago | (#7240153)

so they're trying to tell me that this frog has been pretty much the same for all these millions of years, and meanwhile the earth has undergone all sorts of climate changes and most other species have radically evolved. is it just me or do things like this make old-earth, macro-evolution theories harder to swallow?

It's just you, because you don't seem to understand evolution.

First: species don't evolve much. If a group of organisms belong to a species changes a great deal, they're not the same species anymore.

Second: there are many extant species that have changed very little over millions of years, that are either the same species, or a very closely related species, to organisms that lived millions of years ago. Roaches, horseshoe crabs, ginkgo trees, the famous coelacanth, wacky microorganisms like the Archaea...they found very workable solutions to the problem of staying alive in their environments. Not much need to change.

Third: while there have been large climate changes, they affect where different types of climates are found - not what types of climate exist. There have been swamps, deserts, oceans, polar regions, and jungles for millions of years - a critter that found a way to live in a swamp a million years ago has a pretty good shot a being able to live in a swap today.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7240487)

"so they're trying to tell me that this frog has been pretty much the same for all these millions of years, and meanwhile the earth has undergone all sorts of climate changes and most other species have radically evolved."

Completely unsurprising, and hardly the first such species we've found.

"is it just me or do things like this make old-earth, macro-evolution theories harder to swallow?"

It's just you.

(Though I can't help but pause in passing to wonder why you suppose a frog many millions of years old makes it harder to believe in an old earth...)

"of course, i'm not sure how much an ugly purple thing like that helps out the intelligent-design theorists either."

Nothing's going to help those losers, except the clueless fundamentalists who buy their books.

"when are people gonna start to admit that we just really don't know much about how we (and that frog) got here."

Never considered looking at evidence to figure that kind of thing out?

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

nadabu14 (694594) | more than 10 years ago | (#7244870)

> > is it just me or do things like this make > > old-earth, macro-evolution theories harder > > to swallow?" > > It's just you. drat. that's not good news. thanks for the heads up though! > (Though I can't help but pause in passing to > wonder why you suppose a frog many millions of > years old makes it harder to believe in an old > earth...)" i wonder why you wonder... don't pause long though, i doubt it's worth your time. > > of course, i'm not sure how much an ugly > > purple thing like that helps out the > > intelligent-design theorists either." > > Nothing's going to help those losers, except the > clueless fundamentalists who buy their books. ah, the insult. ever the friend of Anonymous Cowards and fools! "break out the ad hominems, boys! there's a dissenter in the ranks!" > > when are people gonna start to admit that > > we just really don't know much about how we > > (and that frog) got here." > > Never considered looking at evidence to figure > that kind of thing out? but that sounds like it'd take time and effort! it's so much easier to just say, "you're wrong, you ugly, bed-wetting moron!" of course, that wouldn't be nice.

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

nadabu14 (694594) | more than 10 years ago | (#7244890)

sigh. don't you just love it when you've got something totally witty and obnoxious to say but end up blowing the delivery and looking like a complete idiot?

i sure do!

Re:so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

young-earth (560521) | more than 10 years ago | (#7245843)

Indeed it is far from the only such species found. Consider the coelacanth, known for a time as the "lungfish". This blighter is still used as an index fossil for 70-140 million years old. Yet you can go catch one if you're good at really deep fishing off the coast of Africa.

Ummm .... yep that's right, it's still an index fossil. Find a rock with coelacanth bones in it, and you'll have "proven" that the rock is 70-140 million years old. Even if your neighbor is chowing down on a fresh-fried identical specimen.

Let's see your evidence for abiogenesis. Are you going to cite Miller-Urey????

30 seconds google (1)

Bowling Moses (591924) | more than 10 years ago | (#7246055)

Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

talkorigins [talkorigins.org] (one of many)

geology.about.com [about.com]

Depending on how recent the source and who you talk to, Coelacanth is a name belonging to either a genus or a family, not just one species. There are ~125 species identified from fossils alone, which are used as index fossils; this is not a problem since they are morphologically distinct from each other and the modern coelacanth species.

Abiogenesis has moved on in the 50 years since Miller-Urey. Might I suggest reading a recent article: "On the origins of cells: a hypothesis for the evolutionary transitions from abiotic geochemistry to chemoautotrophic prokaryotes, and from prokaryotes to nucleated cells," it can be found here [royalsoc.ac.uk] , just click journals, then Vol 358, January, then pg 59, freely available in .pdf or .svg format. I'd give the link there directly, but the Royal Society doesn't do that for some reason. Anyway, the article and the references contained therein might get one up to speed. A more tractable account of modern abiogenesis research is available on talkorigins' [talkorigins.org] own website as well.

Re:30 seconds google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7246202)

Oops, that's Philosophical Transactions, Biological Sciences after clicking on "journals."

Re:30 seconds google (1)

young-earth (560521) | more than 10 years ago | (#7246502)

I brought up Miller-Urey because that discredited experiment is still taught so widely that many folks here cite it as proof, since it's what they were taught was proof of evolution. It's nice to talk with someone who is beyond that.

That article at the Royal Society (at least from its abstract, the article is not freely available for a couple of years it looks like) makes the classic error that all of the prebiotic auto-replication theories do. The talkorigins summary is also a very good summary of an amazingly bad theory.

The key point that is never addressed in any papers I'm aware of is that in order to get to an accurately reproducing cell where natural selection could take over and exert an effect on reproduction, the fidelity of reproduction has to exceed any stochastic process by so many orders of magnitude. The fidelity cannot be absolute of course, or no mutations could occur. Yet simple probstat will show you that any non-deterministic reaction or process will tend toward the mean, toward increasing entropy. Until the RNA stage, there is no possible high-fidelity reproduction mechanism. And in the early earth (by current theories) there was not a superabuncdance of O2, hence there was not a strong ozone layer, and there was a lot of hard UV around. That alone would tend to break up any long chain molecules, if the temperature and other reactants didn't get in the way.

Yet the authors of this and other papers blithely talk about natural selection occuring in what amounts to small soap bubbles. How absurd - there is no equal fractionation of the reagents in the bubble when it buds, there is no accurate reproduction involved. Split a soap bubble up and you don't get inherited characteristics in the offspring, you get whatever happens to be around in that part of the bubble. There can no more be natural selection in that process than the easter bunny can be found in a mosque.

It's the height of folly to assume such a process as the papers you cite occurs. Yet to defend evolution, abiogenesis has fallen to this. Sad.

Re:30 seconds google (1)

Bowling Moses (591924) | more than 10 years ago | (#7250155)

" I brought up Miller-Urey because that discredited experiment is still taught so widely that many folks here cite it as proof, since it's what they were taught was proof of evolution. It's nice to talk with someone who is beyond that."

Miller-Urey is in textbooks, but it is not used as "proof" of evolution and never has been. Neither have I ever seen anyone here attempt to use it as "proof" of evolution. The experiment shows that it is possible for a very simple system resembling conditions found on a prebiotic earth to generate relatively complex molecules. This is how it has been treated in all of my old undergrad biology and biochemistry textbooks and I challenge you to find a recent textbook that does treat the Miller-Urey experiment as "proof" of evolution.

"That article at the Royal Society (at least from its abstract, the article is not freely available for a couple of years it looks like)"

I don't think my university has a site license, but I may be wrong. Try this [ingentaselect.com] link--it is to a .pdf of the article directly--warning it is fairly large.

"The key point that is never addressed in any papers I'm aware of is that in order to get to an accurately reproducing cell where natural selection could take over and exert an effect on reproduction..."

This is due to a misunderstanding on your part. Natural selection could act on something as simple as an imperfect self-replicating system that is subject to some environmental pressure to provide something for selection. A cell is not explicitly required.

"Yet simple probstat will show you that any non-deterministic reaction or process will tend toward the mean, toward increasing entropy."

Except that physics and chemistry are not random, they are deterministic. If I spark a mix of hydrogen and oxygen, we all know that we'll get water. A good work on self-ordering chemistry that is also topical to the issue of the orgin of life is "The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution" by Stuart A. Kauffman. Second, entropy can of course be overcome by adding additional energy to the system; this is how a freezer works.

"Until the RNA stage, there is no possible high-fidelity reproduction mechanism."

This is not true. Google "Cairns-Smith" or "Kauffman" with "self-replication" or read the talkorigins page I linked in my previous post and some of the references therein.

"And in the early earth (by current theories) there was not a superabuncdance of O2, hence there was not a strong ozone layer, and there was a lot of hard UV around. That alone would tend to break up any long chain molecules, if the temperature and other reactants didn't get in the way."

High levels of molecular oxygen in an atmosphere is thought to be indicative of life, and as such would not be present in any quantity on a prebiotic earth. Geologic evidence supports the notion that the earth started off with a reducing or at least non-oxidizing atmosphere, as the first evidence of an oxidizing atmosphere (such as iron oxide deposits) occur in rock no younger than about 2.5 billion years old. However, ozone is not the only compound that can block UV. For example, water is a good UV blocker, and the abstract of the paper I linked makes it clear that the author's view is that life arose in or around hydothermal vents, which is to say underwater (the first ocean is believed to have condensed ~4.4Gya). From the abstract: "The universal ancestor we infer was not a free-living cell, but rather was confined to the naturally chemiosmotic, FeS compartments within which the synthesis of its constituents occured. The first free-living cells are suggested to have been eubacterial and archaebacterial chemoautotrophs that emerged more than 3.8 Gyr ago from the inorganic confines." Which is to say that the authors view is that the first organisms had no lipid membrane--this came about later.

"It's the height of folly to assume such a process as the papers you cite occurs. Yet to defend evolution, abiogenesis has fallen to this. Sad."

Perhaps you should withhold judgement until you do more than just haphazardly skim the abstract of just one paper in an entire field of study.

Re:30 seconds google (1)

young-earth (560521) | more than 10 years ago | (#7250338)

That second link just gives
The requested document is freely available only to registered users with an online subscription to Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences
So I guess you are somewhere that gets past that.

Miller-Urey is used as proof, it was so taught to me at a high-prestige institution in an advanced (i.e., majors only, past pre-meds) organic chemistry seminar course.

Natural selection as in providing descent with modifications, a key part of progressive evolution, is only going to occur with fidelity in reproduction. Otherwise the traits for success will be lost in succeeding generations.

Indeed physics and chemistry are deterministic - they go where the Gibb's free energy dictate they go. Which is why polypeptides don't spontaneously form. Stochastic processes run toward releasing the most energy. Aside from chlorophyll, where does adding sunlight produce anything but decay? A freezer is an intelligently designed mechanism, of course it can direct heat flow in one direction against the energy and entropy gradients, that is not the point.

I have read far more on the topic than the abstract you mention, it's just typical of the work in the field (probably why you selected that one).

You seem to understand fundamentals of chemistry - work out the equilibrium constant of a moderate sized protein in an aqueous solution, given the energy of peptide bonds for a selection of amino acids. Figure it out to 150 or 200 proteins in the peptide. I could give you the answer but working it out yourself you may learn something significant.

Re:30 seconds google (1)

Bowling Moses (591924) | more than 10 years ago | (#7251099)

Pity you couldn't get that article; it was really a fun read with a truly massive bibliography. If you were taught that the Miller-Urey experiment was proof of evolution, then your organic chemistry teacher was either wrong or you misunderstood. At any rate, this is the only example I have ever heard of. Still, the challenge remains: find me a textbook which claims that Miller-Urey is proof of evolution.

"Indeed physics and chemistry are deterministic - they go where the Gibb's free energy dictate they go. Which is why polypeptides don't spontaneously form."

So if you know this, then why make a comment you know to be false, ie chemistry being non-deterministic? Besides, polypeptides do spontaneously form under certain conditions. There is nothing special about an organism or the enzymes and ribozymes it uses to make this happen. It's all still the same chemistry. On a closely related note, I just found this really neat article [santafe.edu] by Stuart Kauffman (okay, it's just an editorial blurb in Nature on the actual article, Nature vol 382 pg 525-528 (1996) sadly not available online or I'd link it) on a 32-amino acid polypeptide that can autocatalyse its own synthesis by accelerating the condensation of 15- and 17-amino acid fragments in solution. I wonder what's been found in the six years since that was published?

"Aside from chlorophyll, where does adding sunlight produce anything but decay?"

There is nothing special or unique about chlorophyll. You add light or energy of some kind to a system, you (may) get some change. For light, you may get degradation of a compound if it has a photolabile group, you may get isomerization about a chemical bond, or fluorescence, or a change of phase, or drive some anabolic reaction. Photochemistry's a hopping field of study: just google "light polymerization" for one example that's especially topical. I myself had no idea that there was so much out there, commercial light polymerizers and all!

"I have read far more on the topic than the abstract you mention, it's just typical of the work in the field (probably why you selected that one)."

Yet you've also been trying to use a number of old creationist chestnuts which suggests either the abiogenesis material you've read is badly out of date or is written solely by creationists. Spend an afternoon on the talkorigins abiogenesis pages--what have you got to lose?

"You seem to understand fundamentals of chemistry - work out the equilibrium constant of a moderate sized protein in an aqueous solution, given the energy of peptide bonds for a selection of amino acids. Figure it out to 150 or 200 proteins in the peptide. I could give you the answer but working it out yourself you may learn something significant. "

Well, I would like to think that I haven't wasted the last decade I've spent studying biochemistry and chemistry. But far from informative and speaking of creationist chestnuts, I suspect what you're asking me to do is one of the classics. You want me to sit down and calculate the odds of a peptide forming--a specific length, a specific sequence, from a pool of amino acids, at random. In the abiogenesis [talkorigins.org] link that I provided in my first post in this thread is ample description of why this argument is fallacious, right up at the top under the heading "Problems with the creationists' "it's so improbable" calculations."" You can't miss it--they even talk about the same 32-mer autocatalytic protein that I found just by googling around, and the page links to more examples of similar autocatalytic proteins! Wow. SunY looks really interesting.

Re: 30 seconds google (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#7251801)


> 30 seconds google

What makes you think an evolution denier would invest so much as 30 seconds looking for facts that might rattle his comfy beliefs?

If creationists were interested in facts, they wouldn't be creationists.

Re: so the frog's not evolving much, eh? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#7251849)


> Let's see your evidence for abiogenesis.

We know that the universe was once inhospitable to biological life, and we know that at least one corner of it now teems with biological life.

Ergo, life had a non-biological beginning at some point.

Notice that even creationists believe this: the only point in dispute is the mechanism.

> Are you going to cite Miller-Urey????

No, U-M is simply a demonstration that complex biological molecules can arise from simpler precursors. Since then we've even discovered that amino acids arise in deep space.

No one claims to know how abiogenesis happened, but there are some plausible ideas out there. A recent one (which I have only skimmed) can be found here [gla.ac.uk] .

And, as we must apparently remind you an infinite number of times, evolution and abiogenesis are separate topics. Evolution would happen even if your god created the original life forms, if he happened to use imperfect replicators in his design. (And since existing life forms do use imperfect replicators, you should be able to work out the implications on your own.)

living fossils are scary... (1)

0x12d3 (623370) | more than 10 years ago | (#7237524)

Just in time for Halloween. "Night of the living fossils"

who found who? (1)

bobba22 (566693) | more than 10 years ago | (#7238725)

If this frog has seen the continents split, dinosaurs come and go, the rise of the mammals and the evolution of mankind, are we really so arrogant to think that *we* have discovered *it*? I think that the frogs have deemed it time to contact their childish co-planetiods and impart their age-old wisdom to us. It is clear they are intellectually our superior as they have finally given up their game of hide and seek the clear victors. I find it a disgrace that my fellow /.ers are wanting them as pets and generally ridiculing them. We must take them seriously and listen to what they have to say! If they croak, we must follow.

Re:who found who? (1)

reptilian biotech (237193) | more than 10 years ago | (#7245914)

wow. If i had moderator access today, I would mod this up. kudos man.

The abstract and Nature link (1)

Lars Arvestad (5049) | more than 10 years ago | (#7239327)

With so many confused comments in this thread, I think it is appropriate to link to the actual Nature paper [nature.com] . I think this abstract page is readable by everyone, sorry if you need a subscription. In that case, I offer the abstract
About 96% of the more than 4,800 living anuran species belong to the Neobatrachia or advanced frogs. Because of the extremely poor representation of these animals in the Mesozoic fossil record, hypotheses on their early evolution have to rely largely on extant taxa. Here we report the discovery of a burrowing frog from India that is noticeably distinct from known taxa in all anuran families. Phylogenetic analyses of 2.8 kilobases of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA unambiguously designate this frog as the sister taxon of Sooglossidae, a family exclusively occurring on two granitic islands of the Seychelles archipelago. Furthermore, molecular clock analyses uncover the branch leading to both taxa as an ancient split in the crown-group Neobatrachia. Our discovery discloses a lineage that may have been more diverse on Indo-Madagascar in the Cretaceous period, but now only comprises four species on the Seychelles and a sole survivor in India. Because of its very distinct morphology and an inferred origin that is earlier than several neobatrachian families, we recognize this frog as a new family.

New Living Fossil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7247099)

New Living Fossil

How can a fossil be new? Or living?
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