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New Findings Confirm Darwin's Theory — Evolution Not Random

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the water-also-wet dept.

Science 386

ScienceDaily is reporting a team of biologists has demonstrated that evolution is a deterministic process, rather than a random selection as some competing theories suggested. "When the researchers measured changes in 40 defined characteristics of the nematodes' sexual organs (including cell division patterns and the formation of specific cells), they found that most were uniform in direction, with the main mechanism for the development favoring a natural selection of successful traits, the researchers said."

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386 comments

Ah, but... (5, Funny)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102348)

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

Ah, but did this deterministic development mechanism evolve deterministically or randomly?

Re:Ah, but... (3, Insightful)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102406)

Is it 'deterministic' or 'random' that a positively charged object is attracted to a negatively charged object, or is it merely a consequence of the way things are?

Re:Ah, but... (1, Flamebait)

Mantaar (1139339) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102576)

Trying to argument by calling things "merely the way they are" is what I hate my Christian enemies for.

Re:Ah, but... (3, Insightful)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102682)

It is an unfortunate man who counts another as an enemy--the more you hate 'em, the more you risk becoming like 'em.

Referring to scientific facts in terms of 'faith' and 'belief' is rather an unfortunate choice of terminology. There's no need to believe in facts. There's no need to 'have faith' in random mutations--you can prove to yourself that such things happen, and thus have no need for 'faith'.

Re:Ah, but... (3, Insightful)

Mantaar (1139339) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103246)

It is an unfortunate man who counts another as an enemy--the more you hate 'em, the more you risk becoming like 'em.
There's a German Proverb that goes:
Die größten Kritiker der Elche waren früher selber welche
translates to: the greatest critics of the moose have been moose themselves in the past... (rhymes in German and is thus funny, sounds ridiculous in my translation)

I hope you understand my point. Been there, done that - not a hard liner, but a naïve child, ready to believe in something sound - then I turned away in disgust as my mind started liberating itself from all that Christian... propaganda?

I don't think I have a chance of becoming religious once again - and I think that you misunderstood my usage of 'enemy'. I don't hate them, but I must oppose them.

Re:Ah, but... (1)

WgT2 (591074) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102744)

...my Christian enemies...
Does that mean you have 'Christian friends'?

Re:Ah, but... (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103034)

Quite difficult to define relations on the Christian side, when love thy enemy is a rule with somewhat high priority. About the unbelievers' rules, well, can't say.

Re:Ah, but... (1)

Mantaar (1139339) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103166)

Yes it does. I must admit that my original comment was badly worded, but I mean it that way - not all Christians are complete retards, and I know some I really admire, but some of them, I know no better word than 'enemy' for them.

Re:Ah, but... (2, Insightful)

jgarra23 (1109651) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103234)


Trying to argument by calling things "merely the way they are" is what I hate my Christian enemies for.


All science comes from the idea that one does not know and uses a sound method to determine things. Until you know the process involved it is "the way things are". Things fell to the ground for centuries that's the way it was until we learned the force of gravity.

I don't know of any religion that accepts "that's the way things are", they all try to say "no it's not! This is the result of our doing something!!"

Try telling a Pentacostal that our existence is "just the way things are, no more no less" and let me know what kind of answer you get back.

BTW, I couldn't agree with you more on what infuriates me about them :)

Re:Ah, but... (1)

JackHoffman (1033824) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102802)

It is random, but the result is not evenly distributed.

Re:Ah, but... (1)

Apocryphos (1222870) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102418)

In case that's not a joke: Given the properties of life and the limitations of mutations per generation, how could species evolve any other way? So really your question is: Are the properties of life deterministic or random? It seems obvious that they are deterministic (on our planet anyway) in the same way evolution is.

Re:Ah, but... (2, Informative)

phatvw (996438) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102462)

Deterministic selection might be obvious. But can anyone offer an explanation how the very first instance of a successful trait comes about?
I have faith that the first instance of a long neck was due to one or more coincident random mutations.

Re:Ah, but... (5, Insightful)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102502)

This says nothing about the way in which a trait arise--merely that the selection process that determines which traits are likely to be passed on is not random.

Also, there's no reason to have faith in this. Leave faith to the religious folks--these are facts, which are true whether or not you 'believe' them.

Re:Ah, but... (4, Insightful)

shimage (954282) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102870)

Two points:

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

Re:Ah, but... (4, Funny)

WgT2 (591074) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102882)

Is the following a fact or faith?

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

Hint: ISATRAP

Re:Ah, but... (1)

Crazyscottie (947072) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102884)

"Facts and truth really don't have much to do with each other." --William Faulkner

Re:Ah, but... (5, Funny)

kemushi88 (1156073) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102932)

Facts have a known liberal bias.

Re:Ah, but... (1)

phatvw (996438) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102948)

My statement about faith in randomness has absolutely nothing to do with religion. I was actually trying to make a joke but it seems to have backfired. Does faith=troll on slashdot?

Re:Ah, but... (5, Insightful)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102964)

This is why I would like to have clarified why people seem to think that the concept of Creationism is even at odds with Evolution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re:Ah, but... (3, Informative)

yali (209015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103312)

Creationism and Evolution are not mutually exclusive.

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

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

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

Re:Ah, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22103014)

When will those religious wackos learn? Science is perfect, Science always gets it right.
And since these are Facts, it's not a matter of faith. Facts are 100% true. Science has never turned out to be wrong, you could even call It infallible.
And if the religious folks question our facts, they're morons. True, we assume the article, author, and the scientist who tested this are all correct and that the data has been interpreted properly, but that's acceptable- they're research papers. It's completely different from believing in a book like those damn religious nuts.

Religious folks out there- listen up.
  • You say God is never wrong; you mean Science is never wrong.
  • You believe your Ministers and Priests are 100% correct; but it's Scientists who are 100% correct.
  • You believe a collection of papers made into a book; We believe research papers. Big difference, since we're right and you're not.

Next thing you know, those morons will try to say we're just as radical as they are.
That we're not completely different tactically, albeit on opposite sides of the issue.
Then they'll spout some garbage about letting them live with their own beliefs! That they have the freedom to believe their religion if they want to- HA!
Poor fools, when will they realize we're helping them? That we only ridicule them and force science on them(I mean 'educate,' they're the ones who force their beliefs by quoting a book to us) because it's in their best interests.
If only they were mature like us, and didn't try to act superior and perfect.
--
And now I get modded down. But you get my point.

Re:Ah, but... (4, Interesting)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103106)

Yeah YHBT HAND ...

"If you thought that science was certain - well, that is just an error on your part."
  Richard Feynman

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."
    -- Albert Einstein

Re:Ah, but... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22103296)

Well... From a scientist who is also very religious...

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

Again, historically, we have shown that as humans, we aren't very good at understanding "fact" through science. We're much better at understanding approximations that are good enough for what we're trying to accomplish at that time. As we come up with different needs or as someone looks a bit further than their colleagues, we come up with better approximations. I see most of science as an exercise of faith quite as much as religion.

As was noted at a medical school. "Half of what we're going to teach you about medical science is false. We're just not sure which half yet."

I agree that facts are true regardless of what you believe. I just don't think that science is all about fact.

Re:Ah, but... (1)

mike2R (721965) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102578)

I don't think anyone is arguing that mutations are (or at least can be for the theory to hold) non-random - TFA only talking about selection. IOW nothing to see here... move along.

yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22102350)

it is determined by nature

In other news... (4, Insightful)

Aranykai (1053846) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102374)

The Theory of Evolution is once again mistaken for Natural Selection of Advantageous Traits.

Re:In other news... (2, Insightful)

SoupGuru (723634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102424)

Is there even a "Theory of Evolution"?

I thought in science there are facts and then there are theories to explain those facts. In other words, there is the fact that thing evolve and the theory of natural selection explains how they evolve. So not only are we confusing the terms evolution and natural selection, we're misapplying the term "theory".

Re:In other news... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22102636)

yes. Natural selection is the mechanism that determines what survives. The Theory of Evolution includes this, but also encompasses other factors including mutation and/or genetic drift which introduce the differing traits that are acted upon by natural selection.

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22102696)

No. You are misapplying the word fact here. Replace it with the word data and things become clearer.

Science operates on two levels, the concrete level of data, and abstractions of data (with explanatory and predictive value) called theory.

So, while we may call common ancestry a fact in general terms, it is not a piece of data, ergo it is a theoretical statement.

Evolution in and of it self means only change or progression so Darwin's theory should probably be called "evolution through natural selection".

Re:In other news... (4, Informative)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102702)

You are correct in describing facts and theories, but "evolution" can refer to both. This article explains it well I think - Evolution is a Fact and a Theory [talkorigins.org] .

Re:In other news... (1)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102426)

To be fair, they are related, and most laymen can't really tell the difference, given the extremely sad state of science reporting and whatnot.

Re:In other news... (1)

eepok (545733) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102612)

So what's the difference, then?

Re:In other news... (4, Informative)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102668)

The theory of evolution includes the theory of the selection of advantageous traits, plus methods for the acquisition of new traits, like mutation.

Re:In other news... (1)

eepok (545733) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102750)

Thank you kindly for that clarification. =)

Re:In other news... (4, Interesting)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102876)

Natural selection can be easily verified in a laboratory setting, with reproducible results. Keep nuking bacteria, and eventually you'll wind up with a population that is more resilient to the doses of radiation that you're giving them. We can also statistically observe which DNA sequences are advantageous/disadvantageous. The evidence for natural selection is extensive and largely unambiguous.

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

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

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

As always, further study on the matter should be pursued.

Re:In other news... (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102946)

but don't forget, if evolution was random, all creatures would have non-detrimental but non-advantageous neutral traits that they developed randomly. And logically those traits would severely outnumber the amount of advantageous traits. Instead, all creatures seem to have are advantageous traits and no neutral ones
I can't explain it but for humans it's not true for some reason. My family has genes where we don't grow all our wisdom teeth. Well how about that. 99.99% of other people don't have that gene but it doesn't really specifically help or not help me survive. Thus suggesting evolution is random. But then why don't other animals have random traits different than the rest that don't help or hurt its survival?

Re:In other news... (1)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103092)

This is not true.
There are many 'dead end' gene sequences that don't decode anything, or anything useful.
Or they just decode an eye or hair colour variation.

Re:In other news... (1)

milsoRgen (1016505) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103294)

There are many 'dead end' gene sequences that don't decode anything, or anything useful.
That we currently know of. That's not to say we might find a reason for all those seemingly benign DNA sequences in various species.

Re:In other news... (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103228)

if evolution was random, all creatures would have non-detrimental but non-advantageous neutral traits that they developed randomly
The genotype gets extremely small random changes, which won't necessarily affect the phenotype. And we do have lots of neutral mutations, but no one neutral mutation is very frequent partly because of Hardy Weinberg's principle [wikipedia.org] .

My family has genes where we don't grow all our wisdom teeth. Well how about that. 99.99% of other people don't have that gene but it doesn't really specifically help or not help me survive
Say one person has that weird teeth trait. That means an extremely small percentage of people (one in 7 billion) have it. The only way for that percentage to grow is for the trait to have some kind of advantage. Otherwise, people without the gene will multiply at the same rate as people with it, and the frequency remains constant.
That took a long time to think

Re:In other news... (1)

MyNymWasTaken (879908) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103000)

Evolution of the species is a fact - not a theory. The scientific theory commonly referred to as the "theory of evolution" is the theory of evolution through natural selection [of advantageous traits].

laymens terms? (1)

!eopard (981784) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103028)

I had understood (in extremely basic layman terms):

Natural selection is where you loose characteristics that are less able to compete. This is a loss of genetic information.

Evolution is where you gain genetic information through mutation. Natural Selection dictates whether those mutations survive to become dominant or a separate species.

If you have a better explanation I'd love to hear it though.

Re:In other news... (1)

binpajama (1213342) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103200)

In still other news, an exception to this process was found to occur in the neuronal wiring of ID proponents, where connections corresponding to increase in overall intelligence of the network were found to be strongly selected against.

Thus eliminating the usual trite rhetoric (3, Interesting)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102376)

Hopefully this will be an effective means of shutting up the old saw of "there's no way that 'simple random chance' could produce the creatures of today from the creatures of yesterday!" and all that other nonsense.

O'course, it'll probably be misquoted endlessly by the 'intelligent design' folks, given that--at least superficially--it could be seen to "endorse" the concept of a directed design, rather than being an inevitable consequence of the process.

Re:Thus eliminating the usual trite rhetoric (1)

EggyToast (858951) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102524)

Hopefully this will be an effective means of shutting up the old saw of "there's no way that 'simple random chance' could produce the creatures of today from the creatures of yesterday!"

What do you mean? They were right!

Re:Thus eliminating the usual trite rhetoric (1)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102540)

Yes, yes, I do get the joke--but I'd like to note that said argument is an offshoot of a misstatement of evolution as being "purely the result of random chance" and that any sort of 'direction' must necessarily be divinely inspired, rather than being a thermodynamic inevitability.

Re:Thus eliminating the usual trite rhetoric (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22103244)

Uh no, actually you're just a fucking idiot. Fortunately, you're a fucking idiot weighing in on the more reasonable side of an argument; unfortunately, you're doing the reasonable side a disservice with your mewling incompetence.

This won't shut up 'that old saw'. This proves 'that old saw'. Just because you're a fucking idiot doesn't mean bringing creationists and intelligent design up will excuse your blunder. Black isn't white, whether you believe in God or Darwin.

Re:Thus eliminating the usual trite rhetoric (2, Insightful)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102906)

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

Re:Thus eliminating the usual trite rhetoric (1)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103202)

Actually, this could be a double blow to the IDers. This finding not only shuts up the argument that ""there's no way that 'simple random chance' could produce the creatures of today," it also gives them something to make evolution more palatable to their religious beliefs. "If it's not random, god must have a hand in it." This in turn could destroy the movement to get intelligent design taught in the science classroom, but I may be hoping for too much.

God Recycles (3, Funny)

usul294 (1163169) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102394)

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

Re:God Recycles (4, Insightful)

tempest69 (572798) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102638)

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

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


Storm

Re:God Recycles (2, Insightful)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103262)

You really haven't ever bothered to consider the implications of the "creationist" theory, have you?

If the universe is the creation of a being that transcends time and space, then there's no tedium involved in the design process because there's no time involved in the design process. Any "recycling" of ideas would have occurred for other reasons. As to what those reasons might be, a more likely "creationist" interpretation would be that in realm where time and space have no meaning, how can we possibly figure out the whys and wherefores of things (traditionally, "God works in mysterious ways").

But... But... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22102402)

If evolution isn't random, then it must be through a predetermined pattern... ergo intelligent design is correct.
Repent! Repent!!!

Wait... what's different here? (4, Informative)

eepok (545733) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102422)

Hmm... I don't understand...

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

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

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

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

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

How is this different from the new findings?

Re:Wait... what's different here? (2, Informative)

AntiMotive (1221720) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102504)

Different? No. Adding to a mountain of supporting data obtained through scientific measures? Yes. /2my2cents

Re:Wait... what's different here? (1)

eepok (545733) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102522)

I see...

Re:Wait... what's different here? (2, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102562)

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

Re:Wait... what's different here? (1)

Alsee (515537) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102856)

The way I understood the article, observed mutations tended to be favorable to begin with... not sure though if that's simple misreporting on the part of the author

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

It sounds like the researchers were merely debunking some crackpot suggestion that maybe there's a 50% chance some species' necks will get longer over time and a 50% chance they will get shorter, that all such changes are unselected random walks, and that is it unselected random drift that giraffes have such long necks. Doh.

This article seriously falls into the "water is wet" category.

-

Re:Wait... what's different here? (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103238)

Alright.... sounds most plausible. I've re-read the article a few times, and indeed - the more I read it, the more it does sound like a screw-up on the part of the journalist. Thanks for the input.

Re:Wait... what's different here? (5, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102722)

I was confused, too. Here's the reference to the actual paper:
Karin Kiontke, Antoine Barrière, Irina Kolotuev, Benjamin Podbilewicz, Ralf Sommer, David H.A. Fitch, and Marie-Anne Félix Trends, Stasis, and Drift in the Evolution of Nematode Vulva Development [current-biology.com] Current Biology (November 2007), 17, p. 1925-1937.

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

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

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

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

Re:Wait... what's different here? (1)

eepok (545733) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103284)

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


That clears everything up.

Re:Wait... what's different here? (1)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102738)

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

Or perhaps not.... what I mean is that the trait may spread through the population, then speciation may occur through another method, such a geographical separation of a group (see Darwin's Finches). Or the trait may be so bad ass that it will spread through the whole population effectively leaving the entire species changed, but perhaps not different enough to call a new species.
On to the matter at hand, I do not believe you interpret the finding correctly. It was a verification that Natural Selection is what drives evolution and not A Competing Theory (which ID folk is only a theory BECAUSE IT IS FALSIFIABLE as just happened). By random mutation in the offspring we would expect to see a wide variety of mutations, the idea was that over time, these sorts of random mutations would move the overall population toward whatever mutations were effective vs. Natural Selection, which is what you describe and what was verified by these folks (and was what I learned in high school bio too).

Re:Wait... what's different here? (4, Interesting)

dasunt (249686) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102800)

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

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

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

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

Re:Wait... what's different here? (2, Insightful)

snaz555 (903274) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102866)

My rather layperson understanding is that the findings prove there are N-order effects in evolution. Given what we know about the complex interaction of genes and how they switch one and other off in complex networks, there are many layers of order where changes can occur, and conversely any one change could impart both, say, a bigger eye as well as a tendency to evolve say the skin in some direction. So you can have one immediately beneficial change, like a slightly tweaked eye, that takes hold quickly act to set up the species for other future directional changes -- or even 2-, 3-, or N-th order changes (like changes to the switching graph itself). Evolution also isn't centered around individual procreation. Clearly few ants or bees procreate, yet they are extremely successful as species. Evolution is about the success of the species, and can't be reduced to a 'fittest of the lineages' even in species where all or most individuals are genetically enabled to do so. Anyway, I'm sure a real geneticist or other professional in the field could really clue us in much better.

Re:Wait... what's different here? (2, Insightful)

Alsee (515537) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103260)

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

They were testing the alternate theory against standard theory.

From what I picked up in bio, it was known to work as such:
Assume Mutation
(1) If mutation not hindrance, animal likely to live and likely makes babies.
(2) If mutation is boon, animal more likely to live and more likely makes babies.
(3) If mutation is hindrance, animal less likely to live and less likely to make babies


Yeah. You described standard theory.

The alternate theory did not accept (1), (2), and (3). Instead it suggested:
(1) If mutation not hindrance, it's equally random what happens.
(2) If mutation is boon, it's equally random what happens.
(3) If mutation is hindrance, it's equally random what happens.

Basically some genius proposed an "alternate theory" that if you throw a ball in the air, it won't fall down. These valiant researchers threw some balls up in the air to test that alternate theory against the standard theory of gravity.

Major scientific results! The standard theory held up and the alternate was silly.

Major scientific results! Anti-evolutionists who think evolution is "merely random and undirected" and therefore impossible to explain life on earth.... those people can most charitably be described as "uninformed" or "misinformed". I will leave the less charitable descriptions to your imagination.

-

wateriswet (1)

mike2R (721965) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102448)

Seriously, I *promise* I tagged this wateriswet before I read the dept byline..

Capt. Obvious (1)

75th Trombone (581309) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102450)

from the water-also-wet dept.

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

Re:Capt. Obvious (1)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103174)

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

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

Am I missing something? (4, Interesting)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102500)

Somehow, I feel that this is indeed novel: as far as I understood it, evolution was taken to be the process by which RANDOM mutations are passed on based on how they affect survival and reproduction rates.

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

I'd say that's pretty new and spiffy. Did I miss something?

Re:Am I missing something? (1)

Derekloffin (741455) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102574)

Phrased like that, yeah, I think that would be rather novel and interesting, although I suppose it could be argued, it is still random, it's just skewed toward result X due to the current structure of the organism. We know, for instance, certain mutations are common causes of such things as cancer given a certain genetic make up. This could likely just be a more complex structural bias in the mutation patterns.

Re:Am I missing something? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102614)

But most mutations are not beneficial. The vast majority occur in non-coding junk DNA, and are neutral, at least in the short term.

Re:Am I missing something? (2, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102672)

But that's the point of the article - most mutations seem to be beneficial, according to their sets of criteria. This is what I think is new in the article.... though I'm also suspicious that the journalist might have simply misunderstood the scientist. Wouldn't be the first time.

Re:Am I missing something? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22102728)

AKA "change is good."

Re:Am I missing something? (2, Informative)

NonSequor (230139) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102706)

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

My understanding of natural selection is that it's more or less a random walk with drift toward a point determined by the nature of the selection pressures. Reading between the lines, I'm guessing that this new research shows that the drift term of the process is much larger than the error term, not that there is no error term.

The significance of this would be that if the error term were large enough, the process would be unlikely to converge to the point determined by the selective pressure.

Re:Am I missing something? (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102912)

From what I can tell, not only are they saying that the drift term is larger than the error term, but that the drift is not solely determined by the nature of the selection pressures. In other words, drift occurs before selection can impact the random walk. Yes/No?

Re:Am I missing something? (1)

flintknife (1211406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102748)

It is novel but they are really reaching to say that this implies that all evolution is not random. The study looked at nematode worm vaginas and found that they were more likely to mutate to develop traits already known to be successful than unsuccessful traits. Religious types are sure to fasten onto this as some kind of vindication of intelligent design. Keep in mind though that this is 1 body part in 1 really simple species. Unsuccessful mutations might be less likely because of a quirk of genetic development or the like. TFA doesn't give a lot of information, but drawing the conclusion that evolution is deterministic based on this study alone regardless of how strong their results are is really a stretch.

Re:Am I missing something? (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102752)

I read the article as talking about how traits are passed on - whether they are selected randomly or not. Yes, changes introduced by mutation would be random, but that's a different issue.

Re:Am I missing something? (2, Informative)

IdahoEv (195056) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102814)

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

Note: mutation is definitely not always random, either. Organisms have developed extensive systems for modifying and altering how much mutation they incur, and what part of the genome receives those mutations. Look up, for example, the bacterial SOS response, in which bacterial colonies under stress will suddenly amplify their own mutation rate in the hopes that one or more of their member cells will "find a solution" to whatever the current stress and continue to survive. In addition, all organisms protect more critical parts of their genome from mutation to some degree. Truly important things like the region coding for ribosomal RNA and protein subunits tend to get very few mutations, because having a fucked-up ribosome is a death sentence.

Evolution itself is subject to evolution, and has been crafted to be less than perfectly random.

previous findings confirmed, nazi crusaders going (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22102510)

DOWn. revolution still random. the king IS a fink. let yOUR conscience be yOUR guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. there are still some choices. if they do not suit you, consider the likely results of continuing to follow the corepirate nazi hypenosys story LIEn, whereas anything of relevance is replaced almost instantly with pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking propaganda or 'celebrity' trivia 'foam'. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on yOUR brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080108/ts_alt_afp/ushealthfrancemortality;_ylt=A9G_RngbRIVHsYAAfCas0NUE [yahoo.com]
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/opinion/31mon1.html?em&ex=1199336400&en=c4b5414371631707&ei=5087%0A [nytimes.com]

is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in. for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it? we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events.

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corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

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Misleading title (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22102554)

From the abstract of the original article: "We propose that developmental evolution is primarily governed by selection and/or selection-independent constraints, not stochastic processes such as drift in unconstrained phenotypic space."

The summary and title are misleading. http://www.current-biology.com/content/article/abstract?uid=PIIS0960982207021938 [current-biology.com]

Selection is deterministic, drift is random. This is really no news, other than for developmental question at hand, whether a variation observed can be explained through deterministic or stochastic process.

Re:Misleading title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22103050)

"Deterministic" and "stochastic" are being used in a funny sense in that abstract. What they seem to mean is that, given certain expectations about how much diversity that purely "random" (meaning unbiased) drift would generate, the range variation that they actually observe is much lower than that theoretical expecation, which means that the process is "deterministic" (meaning biased). This is borne out by this quote from the abstract:

We propose that developmental evolution is primarily governed by selection and/or selection-independent constraints, not stochastic processes such as drift in unconstrained phenotypic space.

Of course, their "deterministic" process certainly has random parameters; the point is that the random parameters do no derail the evolutionary process from certain "roads" in a much broader terrain.

I thought God... (0, Offtopic)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102572)

...not only plays dice, but sometimes throws them where we can't see?

Or Does God use the same random number generator that XP does?
I probably should have stopped after the first comment...

Most interesting (5, Funny)

strange dynamics (1219074) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102600)

I think the most interesting thing to come to light in this study is that scientists have identified fourty characteristics of nematode sexual organs.

Finally, there is an answer (3, Funny)

eclectro (227083) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102680)

That it is a deterministic process that will tell how much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood.

They might even be able to write a mathematical expression for it.

interesting career choice (5, Funny)

digitalderbs (718388) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102698)

measured changes in.. nematodes' sexual organs
and I thought my job sucked.

Re:interesting career choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22102796)

Is that legal?

Re:interesting career choice (1)

Poromenos1 (830658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103188)

Let me tell you, worm porn rules.

Also Interesting... (1)

Traiano (1044954) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102714)

This topic is as much news to Slashdot readers as "Linux Shown to be a Viable Operating System" and "RIAA Aggressively Pursuing Pirates".

Re:Also Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22103078)

What?!

The RIAA is suing pirates?

This is confused (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102762)

I can only presume whatever "journalist" who wrote that didn't understand what he was told.


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


The key to understanding evolution by natural selection is understanding how the process of natural selection creates an ordered progression of animals better adapted to their environment using random mutation as the engine.

The Recursive Nature of Life. (2)

TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102772)

It sounds to me that life has evolved to evolve.

Duh.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102848)

The reason it doesn't look random is because random mutations that aren't successful don't survive long enough in the first place, so of _COURSE_ the trend will always be towards more productive organisms.

Couldn't one interpret "deterministic evolution".. (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102954)

... with a sort of intelligent design?

meh (1)

ImTheDarkcyde (759406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22102974)

We still won't be seeing the "Law Of Evolution" anytime soon, though.

Umm - What was the alternative Theory? (1)

pugugly (152978) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103094)

Seriously, selection of unsuccessful traits?

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

What traits are selected for? Adaptive traits.

What are Adaptive Traits? Traits that are Selected for.

Not sure I've ever heard a good reason *why* that's not circular - [G]. Of course, I suppose it's circular reasoning that lost items are always in the last place I look too, but that doesn't make it logical for me to keep looking once I've found one - [G].

Pug

P.S. "Lameness Filter Encountered?" for using some ascii arrows for clarification? The Lameness filter is arguable pretty damn lame!

Of course they studied nematodes (3, Funny)

CleverDan (728966) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103098)

They are obviously creations of His Noodly Appendage

I don't believe a word of it (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22103116)

So-called "evolutionary science" fails to explain the existence of the Irish, a savage and warlike species of drunken wifebeaters.

In case anyone is interested (1)

EnsilZah (575600) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103170)

I've conducted an experiment today wherein several massive objects (1) were released in mid-air at which point they did indeed plummet to the ground in the general direction of the earth's center of mass thus confirming the theory of gravitation.
I am in the process of writing a paper right now and expect this advance in our understanding of the physical world to be prominently featured in the next issue of Nature.

(1) My damned keys

Looks like Jesus finally jumped the shark. (1)

xmuskrat (613243) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103240)

Lasted longer then Fonzie.

So... (1, Insightful)

zer0skill (940024) | more than 6 years ago | (#22103282)

So... That confirms there is no god? Or proves that we should teach Darwin in schools? Instead of the God Creation stuff?
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