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Discussion in 'Speaker's Corner' started by jsmoke, Jun 24, 2017.

  1. jsmoke


    Joined: Jun 17, 2012

    Posts: 7,063

    h4rmonys thread on Turkey banning certain aspect of Evolution in their schools got me thinking about the topic.

    My knowledge is pretty slim as it's not something I was particulary interested in, I know the basics but I'm sure you could go into the biology, bio chemistry, fossils, etc etc pretty extensively.

    So the main argument is that of survival of the most adaptable, for example a giraffes neck is the length it is due to it streching for food over hundreds of years sort of thing. So our genes and physical attributes change to adapt to our evironment.

    Also there is natural selection, which sounds like a kind of survival of the fittest idea, or survival of the vainest however you look at it.

    So can somebody run me through the main arugments and why it's apparently such a sound theory?
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2017
  2. Caged


    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 23,097

  3. Liquiduk

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Nov 19, 2010

    Posts: 1,680

    Location: London

    There once was a man named Mendel, who fiddled with some peas and made the whole idea on life tremble.
  4. Amp34


    Joined: Jul 25, 2005

    Posts: 28,594

    Location: Canada

  5. Meridian

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 11,810

    Location: Vvardenfell

    No, that's Lamarckian inheritance, which is wrong. So wrong Stalin believed in it. Acquired characteristics are NOT inherited, only inherited ones are.

    The natural selection bit is the right one. The ancestors for giraffes were born with different length necks. The ones with longer necks had a slight advantage reaching food that other animals could not get to, so were more successful than the ones with shorter necks. The long-necked versions were more likely to live long enough to reproduce (no food source is without competition). They handed on the gene for longer necks to their offspring. These in turn had a range of neck lengths, but a range slightly longer than their parents. Each generation selected for the longest neck, until we arrived at giraffes. But note: a) there's always a limit, and giraffes are pretty much there. They can't get any taller with their current body shape. b) at any time they could go extinct if the ecological environment changes more rapidly than their advantage. For example, if all the tall trees died, then they would have to compete for the low vegetation with other animals, and they are too clumsy for that.

    That's the summary version. I'm sure people who know a lot more than me about it will chime in. As will some crackpots.
  6. jsmoke


    Joined: Jun 17, 2012

    Posts: 7,063

    I guess that's why I was never interested in it as it always comes across as childish logic, you could probably come up with a hundred basic arguments as to why the giraffes have not already been wiped out, or why you never find any evidence of giraffes with such extended necks that they just keel over like a crane and die. As far as I remember Richard Dawkings when asked where the origins of life came from he said something like, 'we may come from a random soup of amino acids, somewhere, at some time...'.

    And did he not admit that if there were no life forms in any other planet in the universe then the likelihood of there being a God is basically off the charts. I can look up the quotes or videos if you like, while back.

    So these arguments could go on and on, bit like the hidden variable theorem in maths, just keep on coming up with reasons as to why something is, or appears to be the way it is.
  7. h4rm0ny


    Joined: Jun 25, 2011

    Posts: 5,475

    Location: Yorkshire and proud of it!

    Try Steve Jones's "Almost Like A Whale" rather than On The Origin of Species. The latter is of course good and of great historical interest, but the former is basically Darwin's book re-written in modern form and openly meant to be. You'll find it a lot less dry.

    What do you think is childish about the idea that proto-giraffes with longer necks were more successful and outbred those without? Why would a giraffe evolve to have necks so long they "keel over and die". I genuinely cannot follow your logic here.

    The idea that if there are no lifeforms anywhere else in the universe then it is evidence for a creator God is interesting and intriguing but how could you know whether there are no lifeforms anywhere else or not? Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Absence. Not with a universe as vast as the one we inhabit. And as Ellie Arroway's dad said: "If it is just us, it seems an awful waste of Space." ;)

    Well any argument can go on and on, but if not evolution what's your theory for the variety of life on our planet and the extensive fossil record showing that life changing over time?
  8. ayeok


    Joined: Jun 24, 2017

    Posts: 11

    Richard Dawkins has a brilliant book (one of many) but 'The Greatest Show on Earth' is a really well put together step by step build up which explains Evolution so well. I've got the audio book version on my phone and have listened to it many times just for the pleasure of following the explanation - it really is a work of art in itself.
  9. Cern


    Joined: Jul 3, 2008

    Posts: 3,167

    Location: London

    Evolutionary changes are usually incremental and so you aren't going to get a situation where some giraffes develop ridiculously long necks and just topple over. The disadvantages from approaching that situation would become apparent in the gene pool and giraffes with a better balance between neck length and body shape would be more likely to survive.

    Everything in nature tends to find its niche, which is why so many organisms tend to rely on each other in some way (i.e. ecosystems). Organisms will adapt to changes in climate and habitat, but only if those changes aren't too rapid. Which is why human activity is having such a devastating impact on the planet.

    As for life on other planets, we might eventually be able to search other star systems relatively 'local' to us. But beyond that it's hugely unlikely we'll be able to travel the distances involved to reach even the furthest parts of our own galaxy, let alone other galaxies. Even if we could somehow discover how to travel at the speed of light, the distances involved are still ridiculous. So, we're never going to be able to say definitively how much life there is or isn't out there.

    My own view is that it's typical of human arrogance and narcissism to believe we're the only advanced lifeforms in the universe and that Earth is the only planet with life. It's only a few hundred years ago that we thought the Sun revolved around the Earth, or still do in parts of Oklahoma :) However, even if we assume the universe is literally teeming with life, it still doesn't mean there's much likelihood of any of it coming into contact with each other because of the distances involved.
  10. Rilot


    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 19,429

    Location: Wargrave, UK

    The thing is, evolution has been observed happening within a human lifespan.
    Before the early 1800s the Peppered Moth was mainly grey with a few black spots. There were occasionally a few that had a genetic mutation that caused them to be completely black. In the north of england where factories were chucking out black soot which covered everything, the black moths started to become more widespead due to them being hard to see when sitting on black or dark walls. By the end of the 1800s 95% of peppered moths in the manchester area were black. The black mutation had been selected for. After the area cleaned up in the late 1950s the black walls started to disappear and so did the black moths. The grey coloured ones were now selected for due to their ability to hide. These days we are back to most of them being white with a very few black ones due to mutation.
  11. Tefal

    Capo Crimine

    Joined: Jun 30, 2007

    Posts: 66,441

    Location: Wales

    evolution has nothing to do with abiogenisis though.

    one question though, you can today go and drink a pint of milk. a few thousand years ago this would have likley killed you though causing chronic dihorrea.

    we have adapted to have lactase in our systems well beyond the age we should.

    and now the average size of women's hips is decreasing, because C sections are allowing narrow hipped women to pass on their genes.

    both of these are through the survivors, not a planned change simply that if you weren't lucky you died, both interestingly due to human changes to our environment and the "rules" of survival.
  12. mid_gen


    Joined: Dec 20, 2004

    Posts: 8,279

    Location: Düsseldorf

    Evolution at this stage is not a theory, it's a well proven explanation for how species diverge and develop.

    Dawkin's lighter books are a good explanation. River Out Of Eden is a good intro. Then dive into the heavier stuff with The Selfish Gene then The Extended Phenotype.
  13. PlacidCasual


    Joined: May 13, 2003

    Posts: 5,748

    Correct me if I'm being wrong or overly pedantic. A hypothesis is an idea of how something takes place based on evidence but lacks predictive value and may or may not be true. A theory is a hypothesis which has predictive value. Neither may constitute the "truth" and the "truth" may be unknowable.

    For instance Newtons Theory of Gravity was useful predictively until we found anomalies, Einstein's Theory is a better fit but is also has problems but both have predictive value. The truth may be or is something completely different.

    Evolution is a good theory because we have strong evidence can see it in action and can make predictions on the basis of it, it is also overwhelmingly most likely to be true.

    Another more controversial example might be global warming. Global warming is a hypothesis with evidence but poor useful or testable predictive value. The theory of CO2 insulation on which part of the global warming hypothesis is based is utterly sound testable and can be used predictively.

    I apologise if I'm wrong in the above and would genuinely like to hear a better description. But I think that understanding the scientific method and what some of these terms mean philosophically at least is really important and I'm not convinced schools teach this adequately.

    @mid-gen "whoops I've just realised I've disagreed with you in two threads simultaneously, my apologies it's not personal I hope I've responded in both politely enough that that is clear"
  14. mid_gen


    Joined: Dec 20, 2004

    Posts: 8,279

    Location: Düsseldorf

    The problem comes from religious conservatives abusing the term 'theory' to pretend that anything they disagree with is fiction (bizarre coming from them, but hey ho).

    There comes a point with our understanding of the universe where the explanations we have are so well supported by evidence, and so lacking in any credible alternative explanation that we can park them and say with some confidence that they are correct.

    Obviously, being science and not religious dogma, if evidence does arise to disprove the explanation, it will be re-evaluated. But at present there is no credible alternative to evolution, and huge, long-standing amounts of evidence to support it. You can see the 'River Out Of Eden' with your own eyes with a table covered in agar, some bacteria and anti-biotics.

    Here it is "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life"....demonstrated in one short video

  15. Zethor


    Joined: Nov 13, 2013

    Posts: 4,294

    The theory of evolution is one of the 'strongest' theories in science. Much stronger and accurate in predictions than, say, the theory of gravity or even general relativity. It explains the process flawlessly, with no exceptions, no contradictions.

    If there's one thing we can be absolutely sure of, regarding the Universe around us, it's evolution.
  16. D.P.


    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 29,965

    One of the problems is the general public doesn't understand what a scientific theory is. Theory means something else in science compared to general language.

    A scientific theory can best be described as soemthign like "A fact" or "the explanation for how this works". It is basically impossible for it to be wrong at a whole scale, it can only be refined. It isn't an idea or a proposition.

    when the lay person talks about a theory, they actually man they have a hypothesis. A hypothesis is just an idea about how something might work, and you collect evidence to try and support your hypothesis. But it takes a lot more before a hypothesis can become a theory.

    When people Say evolution is "only a theory" it just makes them look retarded. That I like saying t is only a theory that the world is round.
  17. jsmoke


    Joined: Jun 17, 2012

    Posts: 7,063

    Some interesting stuff here. Tefal you don't know milk would kill people thousands of years ago, look at the Romans, they were possibly stronger and healthier than the average person today. I'll need to search for a video debunking Evolution as it's an academic study. But, does this so called idea really go against creationism. I mean your branching into the area of luck/chance and if so why are we still here, why haven't we all spawned in mutants or the Universe collapsed in on itself. You could come up with a million other examples but...
  18. Cern


    Joined: Jul 3, 2008

    Posts: 3,167

    Location: London

    You can't "debunk" evolution. In the same way you can't debunk gravity. It's a fact that can be irrefutably proven.

    There's no luck with evolution, at least not as we usually use the term. Yes there's chance and randomness at the macro scale, but when you 'zoom out' and look at the bigger picture, everything happens for a reason and is found to be observing rules. So, the Universe isn't just going to suddenly collapse in on itself or something totally random spawn, because that sort of 'luck' isn't obeying the rules.
  19. stewski


    Joined: Nov 12, 2015

    Posts: 4,014

    Some of the poorest thinking imaginable interspersed with a sprinkling of I'll find a video,but please continue this is hilarious!
  20. Stretch


    Joined: Feb 14, 2004

    Posts: 11,283

    Location: Cambridge

    "Theory" in the scientific sense means proven.