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Correcting Misperceptions About Evolution

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the lost-cause dept.

Education 838

Beagle writes "The science of evolution is often misunderstood by the public and a session at the recent AAAS meeting in Boston covered three frequently misapprehended topics in evolutionary history, the Cambrian explosion, origin of tetrapods, and evolution of human ancestors, as well as the origin of life. The final speaker, Martin Storksdieck of the Institute for Learning Innovation, covered how to communicate the data to a public that 'has such a hard time accepting what science is discovering.' His view: 'while most of the attention has focused on childhood education, we really should be going after the parents. Everyone is a lifelong learner, Storksdieck said, but once people leave school, that learning becomes a voluntary matter that's largely driven by individual taste.'"

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1,2,3... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22584838)

Flame on!

Origin of life ?! (4, Insightful)

bytesex (112972) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584846)

Is the origin of life really a part of the theory of evolution ? I thought it was the origin of species. The origin of life, to me, seems more like a discrete (soapy, fatty) chemical process that doesn't have a lot in common with the process of evolution. Why convolute the two ?

Re:Origin of life ?! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22584874)

So I guess its a good thing that it doesn't say that in the summary then.

RTFA (5, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584892)

(Yeah, yeah, I know... no one RTFAs on /..)

They discuss that, and agree with you. The reason is that in the eyes of the public, the two are regularly conflated, especially by religious hacks trying to dispute evolution. So, they discuss the relationship and lack thereof (they're not completely unrelated, actually), and also discuss why they're talking about both.

The short answer is that they were trying to summarize the current state of scientific knowledge as relates to a particular political and religious debate, and both evolution and the origin of life are part of that debate.

Re:Origin of life ?! (5, Informative)

Nasajin (967925) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584918)

The article does actually detail that Darwin's theory of evolution doesn't cover the origin of life. What the article details is that DNA's survival can be explained through natural selection.

He started by noting that simply defining life is as much of a philosophical question as a biological one. He settled on the following: "a self replicating system capable of Darwinian evolution," and focused on getting from naturally forming chemicals to that point. To do so, Ellington developed three different themes.

Re:Origin of life ?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585080)

Exactly. Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species' didn't even cover how speciation occurred, much less how life originated! Evolutionary theory has obviously advanced significantly since then and we now have a strong grasp about how evolution and other factors affect speciation. The origin of life is still a different field. It is often brought into discussion by creationists so that they can try to 'prove' that the theory of evolution is incomplete.

Re:Origin of life ?! (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585456)

I'm not so sure that it is brought in to prove evolution isn't true rather because some people claim evolution proves creation and genesis isn't true. Obviously, certain parts of creation support certain parts of evolution, the problems are where one attempt to discredit the other.

Re: Origin of life ?! (5, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585440)

The article does actually detail that Darwin's theory of evolution doesn't cover the origin of life.
What's interesting is that the fact that evolution is happening doesn't depend on whether the first life forms were created by abiogenesis, aliens, or even God.

Re: Origin of life ?! (-1, Flamebait)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585546)

And some poor hypocrites believe that God made life evolve in to humans deliberately.

Naturally they are rejected by both their religion and science. :)

Re:Origin of life ?! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22584954)

If you could count, you'd have seen that the summary agrees with you:

covered three frequently misapprehended topics in evolutionary history, (1) the Cambrian explosion, (2) origin of tetrapods, and (3) evolution of human ancestors, as well as the origin of life.

Re:Origin of life ?! (3, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585038)

correct. abiogenesis deals with the origin of life its self, evolution governs everything thereafter.

Why convolute the two ?
through ignorance or through malice. In the latter case it's used as the wedge [wedge document that is] to try to confuse the layman into thinking that evolution is by definition atheistic in nature. it doesn't in of its self explicitly exclude the idea of a god, it has nothng to say on the matter, it merely allows for disbelief, that is to say that the watchmaker is not required to form new species including humans and that is enough reason for people to outright ignore/willfully misunderstand the evidence in favor of evolutionary theory.

Re:Origin of life ?! (1, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585104)

Well, article aside, there is no different between "living" and "non-living", apart from semantics, so there should logically be no distinction between life evolving and life forming past a very early stage.

Re:Origin of life ?! (1)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585280)

there is no different between "living" and "non-living", apart from semantics

Huh? Explain, please.

Re:Origin of life ?! (3, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585428)

There is nothing mystical about life, it's just chemical processes and structured molecules. The difference is that there is organization to the molecules such that the molecules appear to self-replicate. Of course, they don't "self-replicate", a double helix of nucleotides has no concept of self, so cannot have any intent to replicate anything. It's just a biochemical machine which chemically builds another chain. It so happens that the machine (unreiably) copies itself. If it didn't, it couldn't build a living organism. It has to be unreliable, in order to move forward, in order to have got to the point of being replicating inthe first place.

Origin of life was by evolution (4, Informative)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585106)

Life must have originated by a generalized and initially weaker version of the evolutionary process.

Essentially, in

a. certain intermediate-free-energy thermodynamic regimes (regimes in which common
elements and molecules can co-exist in all three of solid,liquid, and gaseous phases so that rigid and semi-rigid
structure can be combined with constrained energy flows),
and with

b. the right soup of lots of different common and chemically combinable elements trapped together in a gravity well,

you get the preconditions for randomly occurring structural and process experiments.

Some of these randomly occurring but probable-due-to-the-regime-and-the-ingredients experiments
end up making structural and process fragments that alter/interact with/use their environment in such a way as to
incrementally, or in some cases dramatically, increase the probability of a similar structure or process
fragment recurring nearby in time and space to the first one. This is already a positive feedback loop.
Eventually, by chance, some cluster of these self-probability-improving structure+processes, a cluster
most likely made of smaller self-made-more-probable structure-process fragments, reaches a threshold
at which its robustness leads to a probability of 1 of structure and process like that existing in the general
area.
Pattern self-preserving functionality transcends pattern occurrence improbability.

Call it stochastic evolution transforming into classical evolution.

Call it the origin of life if you like.

Re:Origin of life ?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585188)

Is the origin of life really a part of the theory of evolution ? I thought it was the origin of species. The origin of life, to me, seems more like a discrete (soapy, fatty) chemical process that doesn't have a lot in common with the process of evolution. Why convolute the two ?
This is the AAAS we're talking about -- an incredibly diverse organization.

Some of the AAAS does great things. Some of it is devoted to researching parapsychology [wikipedia.org] (i.e. ESP, telepathy, etc.) You shouldn't expect that everything coming out of the AAAS will make sense.

Re:Origin of life ?! (1)

horatiocain (1199485) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585232)

The two are distinct, but conservatives reject the entire package because not only does the acceptance of evolution lead to the possibility of life arising from molecules but also because they misunderstand both in the same way. Humans will eventually get over this, probably in steps. Maybe the same way we had to acknowledge a round earth before we could accept the planet revolving around the sun.

Re:Origin of life ?! (0)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585474)

Well, the big question might be why would Humans actually need to get over it?

It would seem that the only ones who need to know this stuff might be the people working with it. And even then, they don't need to discount other accountings, they just need to know which one to use with which process. So again, I have to ask why would we need to push this on everyone outside the context of science?

Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (2, Insightful)

MacDork (560499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584872)

Everyone is a lifelong learner, Storksdieck said, but once people leave school, that learning becomes a voluntary matter that's largely driven by individual taste.

Some people aren't learning.... They simply take whatever their political party happens to push and parrot it. Take intelligent design or global warming for instance.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (5, Funny)

thefekete (1080115) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584928)

"Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that." - George Carlin

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (4, Funny)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585190)

Ah yes, George Carlin. One day you'll learn the difference between median and mean.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (4, Informative)

sethawoolley (1005201) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585246)

Ah yes, George Carlin. One day you'll learn the difference between median and mean.
Mean ("sum over count" average), median ("middle" average), and mode ("the most" average) are all different types of averages. He was using the median in his joke, which, yes, is an average. You can only criticize Carlin for being not specific enough, not for being wrong.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (5, Funny)

linest (157204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585258)

Ah yes, George Carlin. One day you'll learn the difference between median and mean.


And after that, could we review the difference between comedians and mathematicians?

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585270)

Is it that he didn't know the difference, that he assumed intelligence had a normal distribution, or that he realized that the word "average" is ambiguous and can refer to the mean, median, or mode?

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (3, Informative)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585312)

I think he just knew that the average person in his audience had only heard of the word average, not the others.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585446)

Yes, once you realize that the majority of people have below average intelligence, so many things explain themselves.

* Of course when intelligence is measured in IQ median and mean are forced to be the same.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (1)

eggnoglatte (1047660) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585272)

"Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that." - George Carlin
Nice, except it isn't necessarily true. Half the people are more stupid (WTF is "stupider" anyways) than the MEDIAN, not the AVERAGE (i.e. mean). I guess that puts George Carlin in the wrong half.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (4, Informative)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585336)

Median and mean are both a type of average. So no, he was not wrong, just not specific enough for some tastes. And anyway, assuming that intelligence has a normal distribution, median and mean are the same.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (1)

Alsee (515537) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585320)

Hell, I think about how *I* am a superstitious irrational ignorant retarded herd animal controlled by pre-programmed instinct and habit...
and I despair that virtually 100% of the population is stupider than that.

-

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (1, Insightful)

sethawoolley (1005201) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584982)

Everyone is a lifelong learner, Storksdieck said, but once people leave school, that learning becomes a voluntary matter that's largely driven by individual taste.

Some people aren't learning.... They simply take whatever their political party happens to push and parrot it. Take intelligent design or global warming for instance.

Except in the case of global warming, where the scientific climatologist community has a consensus as strong as evolutionary theory is to the scientific biological community.

Considering that the anti-global-warming campaign is a purely political and corporate-interest maneuver, looks like you're going to have to eat your own words.

That's too bad, because you almost had a point.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585060)

Until you posted i assumed he meant parroting ID and GW-disbelievers. Either way this has the makings of an awesome thread. GW, ID AND the republican party in one thread. Let the bashing begin.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (0, Flamebait)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585078)

Except that there really isn't that much diffrent between evolutionary theory and intelligent design. People seem to equate intelligent design with pure creationism and it all happend in 6 days and the 7th day god rested. Only real diffrence is that evolutionary theory suggests that everything is completely random and the best pops out as successful. Intelligent design just says that a god pushed the specis to be successful and it wasn't completely random. Backed by the evidence that there is no clear path of evolution between species and the fact that you can't breed a cat from dogs no matter how many cat like features you breed into the dogs.

For people that belive in a god this seems pretty fair and in the end wont mess with tracking the origins and evolution of creatures on earth.

I'm an athiest, but I don't hate people that belive in god. I do think it was pure natural selection and there was no other worldly assistance. But in the end the pure philosphical idea that it happend by chance or by intervention doesn't really matter to the science or data.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585110)

ID is controversial because of the implications of its evidence, rather than the significant weight of its evidence. ID proponents believe science should be conducted objectively, without regard to the implications of its findings. This is particularly necessary in origins science because of its historical (and thus very subjective) nature, and because it is a science that unavoidably impacts religion.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (1, Funny)

Alsee (515537) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585396)

ID is controversial because of the implications of its evidence

Uhhhhh.... but ID doesn't have any evidence at all.

Hmmmm, I intended to disagree with you and mock you, but now that I think about it realize I you were actually sort of right. ID is indeed extremely controversial exactly because of the implication of it not having any evidence.

-

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (0)

sethawoolley (1005201) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585422)

ID is controversial because of the implications of its evidence, rather than the significant weight of its evidence. ID proponents believe science should be conducted objectively, without regard to the implications of its findings. This is particularly necessary in origins science because of its historical (and thus very subjective) nature, and because it is a science that unavoidably impacts religion.
That's interesting. Back in 1870, the same could be said about evolution.

How the tables have turned on it! All the new evidence for intelligent design is turning the tables on the status quo and the paradigm of the modern synthesis: take that Darwin!

I'm glad I can be so modern as to be on the Intelligent Design bandwagon, woohoo!

I just wonder what'll happen in another hundred years when we finally realize the earth is flat, based on the evidence. I mean, just step outside and look around you, the earth is clearly flat!

I, for one, love being ahead of the times, and welcome these new advances in science.

*crosses arms contently*

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (5, Informative)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585134)

Wrong. Scientists don't leave the basis of evolutionary theory to random chance "luck." There are hypotheses and theories to explain how and why the genetic changes happen, and experiments to back them up. Copying errors, environmental factors, etc. There is WAY more to it than just "it was random chance."

Whereas there is no suggested mechanism for a god intervening, let alone a suggested mechanism of a god itself.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585180)

Intelligent Design is an intellectual movement that includes a scientific research program for investigating intelligent causes and that challenges naturalistic explanations of origins which currently drive science education and research.

Positive evidence of design in living systems consists of the semantic, meaningful or functional nature of biological information, the lack of any known law that can explain the sequence of symbols that carry the "messages," and statistical and experimental evidence that tends to rule out chance as a plausible explanation. Other evidence challenges the adequacy of natural or material causes to explain both the origin and diversity of life.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585256)

Nice job of cutting and pasting. The website you just cut and paste that from makes this vague assertion but doesn't back it up with any citations of published works, evidence, anything.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585334)

Well, how can a crackpot hypothesis make citations? :-)

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585392)

It's called circular refrence and is used a lot to establish facts. Get a few like Hypothesises together then start to form a theory and base the evidence on refrences to the others. They'll get more and more evidence as each generates more refrences. Eventually they'll all have credibility. Hence global warming.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585420)

Uh, no. Hypotheses being referred to by other hypotheses does not make the initial hypotheses turn into evidence. Science requires EVIDENCE for evidence. Someone pulling BS out of his ass does not become more credible when others base their BS on his BS. That kind of mutually self-supporting (yes I know that sounds like an oxymoron) system works for google pagerank and circlejerks, not for science.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585324)

Which reinforces religions role in the world. Used to explain the unknown until a better explination is found.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (2, Informative)

siddesu (698447) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585254)

on the contrary, there is significant difference between the two. the evolution theory (especially in the context of modern genetic research) provides a plausible, conceptually simple, statistically and exprimentally testable theory of how species evolve.

the ID "theory" does nothing of the sort. the only "innovation" it has over the overtly religious stories is the simple substitution of "god" with "intelligent designer". still, it does not explain why an "intelligent designer" is necessary, nor does it provide a fact (or a reason) that would point to the existence of such.

in other words, it performs the act known on teh internets as "epic fail".

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (1)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585354)

Only real diffrence is that evolutionary theory suggests that everything is completely random and the best pops out as successful

Actually, it doesn't. That's just what uninformed people think. Read, e.g., Rupert Riedl [google.de] to get an idea of how far the theory has come since.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (1, Insightful)

MacDork (560499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585172)

Some people aren't learning.... They simply take whatever their political party happens to push and parrot it. Take intelligent design or global warming for instance.

Except in the case of global warming, where the scientific climatologist community has a consensus as strong as evolutionary theory is to the scientific biological community.

Considering that the anti-global-warming campaign is a purely political and corporate-interest maneuver, looks like you're going to have to eat your own words.

That's too bad, because you almost had a point.

Actually, it appears you just made my point for me... (^_^)

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (2, Insightful)

sethawoolley (1005201) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585252)

Actually, it appears you just made my point for me... (^_^)

Circular reasoning. Try to to address the facts next time.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (1)

hereschenes (813329) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585036)

Some people aren't learning.... They simply take whatever their political party happens to push and parrot it. Take intelligent design or global warming for instance.

Or Slashdot, for instance.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585098)

and some people are thick skulled cynics who never stop complaining.
Anyway, this article was disappointed. I haven't even heard of the first two. I was hoping they'd try to explain multi-mutation dependent animals like the moquitos and how codependent opposite gender traits evolved simultaneously. But I guess they're conveniently ignoring those as usual.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585206)

It's not a lecture on evolution in general, just common misconceptions.

Re:Not everyone is a lifelong learner... (5, Interesting)

mmarlett (520340) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585124)

The problem is not that people do not learn, it is that people learn how to reinforce their prejudice. That is, as a species we tend to gather information that reinforces our fears. My mother in law will forever fixate on anything that proves her theory that leaving the house in general is a bad idea. Information to the contrary -- statistics about airline safety, for example -- will be disregarded. Anecdotes about blonde women raped and murdered in the Caribbean will be referenced on a daily basis.

As soon as we learn a model for the world, we want to actively support that model. We emotionally invest. Few of us have the capacity to re-examine that model constantly. Sometimes, overwhelming evidence will cause a sea change in certain groups' world view, but generally we like to stick to our own.

Some people have a world view that includes a just and active Christian God with a book that explains the way the world works; any evidence to the contrary is dismissed out of hand and any evidence to support it is grabbed on to no matter how irrational. Some (a few) people are just the opposite: they would dismiss any evidence of a deity and hold fast to any seeming contradiction in dogma, no matter how badly translated. I'm in the later group, and I dismiss out of hand anything anyone says about the existence of any god. I'm prejudiced that way, for better or worse.

But simply trying to explain things to the parents will probably not make any great inroads in society. Perhaps, but probably not. More likely, you'll get a group of 10 people pissed off and they'll have nothing better to do than to repeatedly call your boss/underwriter until you are forced to go sell hot dogs on the street for simply suggesting that we should all get along and that no one should be nailed to anything for it. I'm just saying.

"Everyone is a lifelong learner" (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584878)

You would think that he would have learned that 90% of people aren't.

Re:"Everyone is a lifelong learner" (1)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585126)

No, everyone is a lifelong learner, it's just 90% of people learn at a rate of sqrt(-1) facts and infinite advertising jingles a minute.

Re:"Everyone is a lifelong learner" (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585184)

Most people learn some things along the way, whether it's about the latest court case involving some celebrity or how once you infect your PC with a virus for the 20th time maybe you shouldn't open those attachments after all.
The problem is not so much with learning but with thinking. What large majority of people call "thinking" has nothing to do with rational analysis of the facts. Instead, it is a process of feeling around for a consensus opinion of the majority, or some authority, political or otherwise, without even being aware that that's what they are doing. If that opinion fits with their personal interests then it's that much easier to acquire. Take religion in ex-communist countries for example, before communism (almost everybody is religious), during (almost nobody is religious) and after (almost everybody is religious again). You think that has anything at all to do with knowing anything about religion. Filling their brains with new knowledge doesn't make that much difference because they wouldn't know how to use it anyway.

FA lame (0, Flamebait)

shlashdot (689477) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584914)

"and many of the major adaptations we view as designed for a specific lifestyle actually originated as an adaptation for something else entirely."

Not worth reading past that I'm afraid.

Those that can...do. (0, Flamebait)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584938)

Those that can't...teach.

"Everyone is a lifelong learner", Storksdieck said, "but once people leave school, that learning becomes a voluntary matter that's largely driven by individual taste."

Thank Bhudda for lifelong learning driven by individual taste.

Re:Those that can...do. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585194)

Thank Bhudda for lifelong learning driven by individual taste.
Hallelujah.

teach me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22584960)

So, I was never that interested in evolution back in college... just didn't seem like it would have that much of a practical effect on my life.

Who wants to educate me about this stuff? Bonus internets if you can do it in under five hundred words.

Ma Nature is a wasteful parent? (4, Interesting)

shanen (462549) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584970)

From the summary there's no sign that the article says anything about what I regard as the largest misperception--but that might just be simple par for the /. course. On the other hand, if you take the time to read and consider the article carefully, then anything you post about it will be moot, because the EAS (Effective Attention Span) of /. is around 40 minutes. Ergo...

Ma Nature just doesn't care about the waste. Of course the anthropomorphism just obscures things more, but the basic thing about natural evolution is that anything goes--but almost all of the changes lead directly to death. Ma Nature's approach results in vast numbers of tiny variations of the same basic forms that are all scrabbling for survival in a tiny niche. She isn't betting on the existence of a benevolent mutation. She just doesn't care.

Lately I was thinking that one of the weirdest aspects is that things worked out so that every one of us humans is a unique permutation. It would be 2^46 possibilities if you just started with one set of distinct genes from the chromosomes of a single mother and father, but there are so many variations for each of the genes that the actual number of potential human beings is vastly larger than that. Insofar as our genes contribute anything to the situation, each of us could be uniquely suited for some niche on earth. Talk about over-engineering?

Of course the likelihood that we'd ever find such perfect niches is pretty much negligible--but again Ma Nature doesn't care. If we wipe ourselves out in our frustration, she'll just start over again with the surviving cockroaches. So have a nice day.

Re:Ma Nature is a wasteful parent? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585102)

I'm no biologist, but it's funny that by "not caring", nature can potentially evolve new and useful stuff.

Take by analogy a genetic algorithm to find some solution to a problem. Combining only the best solutions will make you fall into a local minimum and stay there. You have to keep some of the worse solutions in your set of candidates to break out of it. Similarly in real life, creatures with undesirable traits still survive and breed -- and I'm sure that that, even if simply by sheer coincidence and only in a small number of cases, leads to ultimately desirable traits in some circumstances.

Not engineered! (1)

HetMes (1074585) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585480)

Genetic variation is an induced property. It is easier to achieve, since less error correction is needed; it makes the species less vulnerable to f.i. viral attacks; and it encourages evolution thanks to much more frequent 'prototyping'. Hence species with slightly different genes for each member are more likely to succeed in the long run.

I ran into this with my roommate yesterday (4, Interesting)

skavenger (1219006) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585002)

He demanded that I support the relationship of Neanderthals with other homo genus members (not even arguing the sapien angle) with fossil evidence of Neanderthals in Africa and only conceded error so far as to say that Neanderthals are as related to homo sapiens as snakes are related to worms. This is an otherwise intelligent person who believes he understands evolution and science fairly well. Apparently he attended a lecture a few years ago on the Lucy find and somehow mutated that lecture into his current understanding. How can you engage with people like this in a productive way without being insulting? TFA addresses the basic misunderstanding and urges for consistently rejecting these sorts of positions, but is that even my priority at this point? Everything about the thought process he's using to arrive at his conclusions is flawed, but his insistence that he knows what he's talking about makes it impossible to discuss anything he might disagree with meaningfully.

Plus, he's an aspiring breeder.

Re:I ran into this with my roommate yesterday (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585142)

That's "sapiens". With an S. It's Latin. It's the root of the word "sapient". But more importantly, it ends in an S. As these type of Latin agentive suffixes in the nominative case generally do.

Sorry, it just makes me cringe when I hear people talk about the "Homo sapien" [sic].

Re:I ran into this with my roommate yesterday (1)

statemachine (840641) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585262)

He demanded that I support the relationship of Neanderthals with other homo genus members... ...he attended a lecture a few years ago on the Lucy find... ...his insistence that he knows what he's talking about makes it impossible...

You're complaining? If only the rest of the people were that clueful.

(Did I miss some type of joke here?)

Re:I ran into this with my roommate yesterday (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585294)

So you really think the motivations behind his disagreement with evolution are intellectual ones?

Re:I ran into this with my roommate yesterday (1)

statemachine (840641) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585432)

I understood that part. I just wish more people would try to at least be as informed.

GOD will GET you for that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585034)



God'll getcho for dat !!

HE is YOUR judge, jury, and EXECUTIONER !!

Don't RTFA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585046)

Everyone who does is stuck in an infinite "Next Page" loop. This weeds them out of the gene pool, and only those that don't RTFA will survive.

How About Focus on Evolution? (5, Insightful)

ilikepi314 (1217898) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585050)

Seriously. I went to a lecture series on evolution, and was rather disappointed upon leaving.

The speakers spent most of their time discussing why Intelligent Design is wrong, and getting into semi-religion-bashing. I heard nothing about any of the things that the summary to this article mentions, for instance, which was actually something I wanted to know more about. I'm not very familiar with all of the specific evidence myself (I'm not a biologist).

Now look -- as a scientist, I can completely respect and agree with the fact that ID is not science, for a multitude of reasons. But look at it from the point of view of someone "new" to science that was curious -- they showed up to an event, hoping to learn more about what evolution is and understand the "debate", and all they heard was how Creationism is wrong and how we need to fight religious groups and educate the people about the truth. "Educate with what?", that person will ask. "They haven't given any proof yet, and just seem to talk about how much they hate religion when they get together.". THAT is what the average person sees, and it doesn't really make scientists look good, and gives ammunition to the people that spread misinformation about evolution. Will that person ever go back to an evolution talk in order for us to clear up misconceptions? Probably not; forever, that person will now think "Wow, Evolutionists are crazy, I'm not going to that again.".

There's other issues of course, but the public image of an evolution scientist right now needs to be cleaned up before many will even bother to listen.

Re:How About Focus on Evolution? (0, Troll)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585234)

I agree. When media whores like Dawkins can't go five minutes without rambling something about how science disproves all religions in their entirety and that people who still believe in those them are the cause of everything from war to famine to bad breath, its no wonder the public and science aren't mixing so well, especially in this field. I happen to be a religious person, and I consider myself educated in science fairly well, but when I see books like 'The God Delusion,' I've gotta wonder how a religious person not versed in science would react to that. Not well, I'm guessing. Then when I read people's comments on Slashdot about how Christians (or whoever) are teh stupid for believing in the 'invisible man in the sky,' as many so eloquently put it, I wonder how many of them parrot that crap to people they meet offline, because being an asshole tends to be counterproductive. They make scientists look bad, they make atheists look bad.

The problem, IMO, is that some people see it as an us-them situation. They see themselves, then they see scientists as arrogant know-it-alls. That doesn't just affect evolutionary science, it affects all ares of science. Defusing that would be a start, but first everyone has to grow up, chill out, and (in the case of assholes) shut up, especially with the whole anti-religious shtick.

Re:How About Focus on Evolution? (3, Insightful)

HazyRigby (992421) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585388)

The problem, IMO, is that some people see it as an us-them situation.

Actually, it is an us-versus-them situation.

On the one hand, you have people who believe that everything--laws, beliefs, what have you--should be based on logic and reason. On the other hand, you have folks who, while not necessarily opposed to logic or denying its usefulness, decree that sometimes the decisions should be placed in the hands of a (by all descriptions) wishy-washy, temperamental, and angry deity. A deity who may or may not have our best interests at heart, mind you.

I find these two world views to be at odds. I'm not suggesting that you personally are one of the "legislate religion" crowd. But they certainly do exist, especially in the States. How do you argue with a line of reasoning that stops at "God says so"? You can't. That's why I find the idea of trying to educate the public (at least, the 75 percent or so of the public who happen to be religious) about evolution almost laughable. What point is there in explaining that natural selection is about as non-random as you can get to a person who believes that only sentience creates order? Why would you try to get across the idea of common descent to someone who insists upon believing that snakes can talk, that a man housed every species of animal on one boat, or that a dead man came back to life to appease his father (who was also himself)?

I'm sorry in that I don't mean to insult you (or anyone else). But I just simply don't see the point in trying to get the holy rollers to grasp scientific concepts. Will it make them less likely to try to legislate against scientific progress? I doubt it.

Re:How About Focus on Evolution? (2, Interesting)

some old guy (674482) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585528)

It's a pity that the discussion is almost always framed as a dichotomy. Nearly everyone forgets, or is unaware, that there is an older, more accomodating, and intellectually honest way of viewing things. There are still people around the world, not entirely of Indo-European ancestry, who hold that the universe is a perfectly natural phenominon and that the "supernatural" is merely those portions of the natural that are difficult to observe and explain. They maintain that Fate or Providence is merely the natural outcome of complex cause and effect relationships. They see that co-existing dimensions of reality and higher-order beings are only knowable through improved techniques applied with involved direct observation, much like Schroedinger's cat. They understand that science and spirit are not mutually exclusive. They have more in common metaphysically with Pythagoras and Einstein than with Moses or Descarte. They're called pagans.

Re:How About Focus on Evolution? (3, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585286)

You have a point, the actual science behind evolution isn't reaching people who are interested as well as it should be. thee's a lot of very interesting things being done that just don't make it into lectures very often outside of the occasional college lecture in the biology dept. like how chromosome 2 was formed from the fusion of two chromosomes which we found vestigial telomeres, which telomeres are normally found on the ends of chromosomes, in this case we found them buried in the chromosome as well as a second although vestigial centromere which is found only in chromosome fusion events. the subtelomeric duplications are located at base pairs 114,455,823-114,455,838 from the article in nature. which is located here: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v434/n7034/full/nature03466.html [nature.com] as well as the wikipedia article on chromosome 2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromosome_2_(human) [wikipedia.org] this explains why humans have 46 chromosome while the primates in general have 48. the chromosomes were not lost, two chomosomes fused into one, since each chromosome is paired, it went from 4=>2 [48-4+2=46]

Re:How About Focus on Readability? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585356)

Fewer clauses! Start sentences with uppercase!

you went to the wrong lecture (2, Insightful)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585304)

Try to learn more. When i learned about evolution, i heard nothing about intelligent design (neither pro nor contra).
It isn't the scientists fault that ID reared its head in the USA and they got to 'defend' their theory.

Lets clear some misconceptions. (4, Insightful)

tempest69 (572798) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585442)

The initial concept was that man was able to change the traits of livestock and pets through selective breeding, or manual selection.. and that the forces of nature may be doing the same, creating multiple species of iguana, as we do dogs.

This has some big consequences.. that recursion would mean that whatever was a common ancestor would need a common ancestor,, all the way down. and perhaps plants and animals are fundamentally different arising from different organisms, and a few trunks might appear for bugs, fungus, and bacteria..

By choosing traits carefully, a phylogeny was developed, which related animals to each-other.. strangely this worked really well.

Anyway, evolution predicts that there is a tree structure, and that endpoints dont cross over.. so mammals dont get 4 chambered lungs like birds, but might still have some egg laying abilities like reptiles. Not should we see the octopus eye structure in humans. or bug armor on birds. Armadillos will have armor from keratin like a rhino horn, or fingernails.

Anyway, once molecular biology and sequencing came out, it solidly backed the theory.. Phylogeny people have been re-mapping the tree, bacteria took some serious adjustment, larger organism less so.

Now there is a push to generate "ancestral genomes" so that we have an idea of what the predecessor organisms were capable of... and where some of the novel enzymes popped into being. So enzymes which appear to be adaptation from our last ice age might be related in some way to survival of the cold, or eating rodents without GI distress. But with some timing, and some idea of the climate, the flora, and fauna some good guesses can be made as to why a subtle change might have happened.

So evolution theory may help in figuring out why humans stopped making vitamin C, and rats never need a vitamin C pill or fruit in their lifetime.

Or it can confirm things that we might already have guessed.. that humans make less stomach acid during pregnancy might be an evolutionary adaption to morning sickness.. because most pregnant women don't seem to have chronic bulimia problems, ie rotten teeth, esophagus ulcers, which would occur at higher acid concentrations. anyway, once they find the control mechanism I'm betting that it'll point to roughly the time when we started bipedalism.

Yes evolution is science, it does matter, knowing the history of automobiles lets us understand why tempered glass isnt appropriate for a windshield. Knowing the path that our ancestors evolved with lets us know what we should watch out for when we start tinkering.

Storm Storm

Re: How About Focus on Evolution? (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585532)

The speakers spent most of their time discussing why Intelligent Design is wrong, and getting into semi-religion-bashing.
Unfortunately, science his come under a concerted religious/political attack, and scientists can't just sit back and ignore it anymore.

(Not that that invalidates your points. Scientists need to find a middle ground.)

Won't this harm more than help? (1)

dafrazzman (1246706) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585084)

I don't see why anybody not in this field would care at all. The only use I've seen of evolution in relation to the population at large is to convince everybody that all religions are wrong. I don't see any point in trying to "educate" people about a topic that does not affect them in any way, especially if that topic is going to cause more trouble than good.

Scope of the Problem (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585092)

I'm a middle school science teacher. This week and a lovely well-spoken ....... youngster came up to me and asked to be excused any time that I referred to evolution in class.
This sort of thing come up quite often http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/02/aaas-teachers-a.php#74240 [xrl.us]

Re:Scope of the Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585288)

That's very informative. BTW, what were that kid's parents thinking?

Going after the parents is a mistake (4, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585096)

Three reasons:

- No, not everyone is a lifelong learner. That's the ideal not the reality. Just look at how hard it is for some older people to pick up computers after 40.

- The religion that's indoctrinated them has done so since birth. You're going to ear bash them for an hour or two and expect them to change their lifelong beliefs? You'll only create resentment.

- You have a much better chance at reaching the parents through the children. However if you only reach the children, it simply won't be an issue in 40 years.

Limit going after the parents to insisting that science is taught in science classes and religion is not.

Re:Going after the parents is a mistake (1)

adisakp (705706) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585210)

- The religion that's indoctrinated them has done so since birth. You're going to ear bash them for an hour or two and expect them to change their lifelong beliefs? You'll only create resentment.

- You have a much better chance at reaching the parents through the children. However if you only reach the children, it simply won't be an issue in 40 years.


This is why the Creationists want to teach Intelligent Design to children. To get to them through repeated indoctrination and brainwashing so they won't question their beliefs as adults. Teaching evolution to children frightens them because it might mean they grow up as adults who don't believe in a Creationist God.

Re:Going after the parents is a mistake (0, Troll)

Simon26 (1247718) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585476)

Excuse me? One speaker in the article blatantly states "Humans evolved, period." This is a bold and (imho) arrogant statement considering that the origin of species and the origin of life are both fields of forensic science. Not in technical terms but in terms of; nobody here was at the scene and all that remains is some artifacts that we can investigate. Now, I was raised in a creationist home, but was also put through school and watched many documenataries where evolutionary thought is force fed. Having said that, at least I have considered both. If I was not brought up in a creationist home, then when am I given the chance to consider creationism? Many of the facts and arguments for creationism are dismissed outright, without investigating the evidence. Having said that, how many of you have read the bible? Many dismiss it as a "moral" book that should not be referenced in the scientific realm. However, many of the statements in this book have scientific implications. Therefore they should be investigated for validity, not just within the context of Evolution, origin of species, origin of life etc, but in the context of all evidence available to us. The public realm ridicules creationism because the general thought is that it is out-moded. The source of this ridicule is from the same people who have not truely investigated the statements put forward by creationists. The bible has strong historical evidence behind it and once again if statements within this book have scientific implications, then I beleive they should be given the time of day. Presently they are not. After all, there is a large resistance to evolution, mainly from creationists but also from others. Even though it is being force fed to kids in school, many still choose to dismiss evolution. This alone is reason enough to not dismiss alternatives outright, but atleast give them the time of day.

Re:Going after the parents is a mistake (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585268)

You are a lifelong learner but it gets harder to learn bigger things as you get older. Smaller things will always fit but large changes can overwhelm you.

Pluto (3, Insightful)

PMuse (320639) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585130)

Getting people to change their opinions, beliefs, or conclusions is just difficult all over. For example, a group of smart -- really smart (I mean two-plus-standard-deviations-out-of-the-global-mean and scientifically-trained smart) -- people recently debated [wikipedia.org] how to define a planet.

They and their fathers had grown up thinking that Pluto was a planet because of mankind's relative inexperience at astronomy. Recently, mankind learned facts [wikipedia.org] that required rethinking of what "planet" meant so that when the term was used, everyone knew what it did and didn't mean.

Remember how easy and sensible that debate was? When it was "over", the definition had as many footnotes [wikipedia.org] as principles.

And those were scientists. Heaven help us when we have to reteach anything to the general public.

Re: Pluto (3, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585468)

Getting people to change their opinions, beliefs, or conclusions is just difficult all over.
To a big extent it's a Catch-22 situation. The vast majority of anti-evolution arguments are based on misconceptions of what the facts are and/or what the theory says. But you can't educate the deniers on these matters, because they believe those flawed arguments prove the whole thing is wrong, and won't listen long enough to be corrected. (And try to prevent the next generation from listening, too.)

most damaging image in the history of evolution (1)

Sumadartson (965043) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585160)

You know which one it is, you've seen it in libraries, books, this thing called the internet, etc. It's even the first hit on GIS if you look for evolution. Why is it so bad? It suggests a linear, goal oriented version of evolution, where newer species replace older species. In it's worst case, this becomes "If folks came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys around?".

The modern view of evolution should be an image more like a tree, with many branches starting at the root. Most species will be extinct by now, but a few them will still be around.

In addition, the only thing random about evolution is mutation, which creates variation within a population.

Finally, as someone else said as well, origin of life != evolution. Nice going for that article.

Where is this evidence? (0, Troll)

swansontec (953822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585236)

The first item was simply that humans have evolved, period. The evidence is so overwhelming that Relethford feels that any remaining argument is simply between two religious perspectives on that fact; science has moved on.

I keep hearing statements like this from evolutionists. Now, I personally accept the Creation hypothesis, not because of blind religious belief, but because I believe the physical supports it. The question is not whether evolution is possible (given enough time and luck, anything is possible), but whether it actually happened. I think that the physical facts, such as the massive quantities of rapidly-buried fossils, the Grand Canyon, the mitochondrial DNA studies performed at Berkeley in 1987 [1], and the existence of comets (to name a few) are better explained by the Creation and Global Flood hypothesis than the Evolutionary theory. If the evidence actually supports the Evolutionary theory as many scientists claim, I would like to see the facts. Surely, nobody is expected to believe evolution simply "because science said so." Where can I find this conclusive physical evidence? Evidence that is only compatible with an evolutionary origin of the universe? Does anybody know of some good books on the subject?

[1] Rebecca L. Cann et al., "Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution," Nature, Vol 325, 1 January 1987, pp. 31-36

Also see Ann Gibbons, "Calibrating the Mitochondrial Clock," Science, Vol. 297, 2 January 1998, p. 29 for evidence that our common female ancestor lived approximately 6500 years ago. I'm not making this stuff up; the sources cited are evolutionists.

Re: Where is this evidence? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585502)

Where can I find this conclusive physical evidence? Evidence that is only compatible with an evolutionary origin of the universe? Does anybody know of some good books on the subject?
a) Start with a freshman biology textbook. Or visit talkorigins.org [talkorigins.org] if you don't want to dive in that deep. [*]

b) Biological evolution has nothing to do with the origin of the universe.

[*] Notice that some of talkorigin.org's features are not up to date, because it got haxored and the maintainer hasn't had the time to harden the interactive features.

Yeah ok.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585278)

How could bands of self-absorbed, intellect snob atheists shouting "HA HA HA HA! YOUR GOD DOES NOT EXIST!" possibly cause any kind of public confusion and division?

-1 Troll here we come!

Re:Yeah ok.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585338)

"How could bands of self-absorbed, intellect snob atheists "

I need not be self-absorbed nor even an intellectual to demand you show me some form of evidence for your desert cult - excuse me, religion's - claims of answers to the Great Questions.

Sadly, simply intimidating me no longer works as I am protected by civil society (read: separation of church and state / further reading: Paris commune and hence 'communists') and you cannot simply lock me up for pointing out the world is round.

Interesting responses to the article (0, Troll)

snowful (1231472) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585454)

I read most of the posts in this thread. I counted only two instances of posters referring to evolution as a theory. It appears as if most of you, dare I say, regard the Theory of Evolution as the word of...God.

Re:Interesting responses to the article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585504)

It appears as though you're one of those ID-backing faggots.

What's wrong with that? (1)

bronney (638318) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585482)

"but once people leave school, that learning becomes a voluntary matter that's largely driven by individual taste."

What's wrong with having education voluntary and driven by your own taste? Is that what makes us interesting individuals and not some Gattaca?

The Evolutionist Evangelicals ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585498)

The Evolutionist Evangelicals !

I'm still waiting for... (1)

DoChEx (558465) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585542)

I'm still waiting for the fundamentalists realize that the laws of physical dictate evolution as they must follow the same laws that govern the universe. Therefore whatever created the laws of physicals has also created the evolutionary process. God and evolution can co-exist; it's just Genesis's literal interpretation and evolution that are at odds.
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