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More about evolutionary theory and its “apostles”

September 30, 2011

I do realise, working as I do for organised and powerful and wealthy C of E I am in no position to sneer about any apparent hierarchy is “atheism”. It may be, of course, that I am too stuck with the “old atheism”, but it does seem to have become a world of big names – and big money! Hence my use of “apostles” rather than “bishops”. Surely there are those who have established “churches” with agreed “creeds”, and as you suggest there are schisms within atheism producing new leaders and new orthodoxy!

Helpful to have a summary of the four evolutionary classes, and I would like to focus there for a bit. And please understand that what follows are genuine questions – these are things that my reading, which is admittedly not as wide as yours, has not helped me with.

One simple question is this:- if having a longer neck than the rest of the herbivores was of such an advantage to the giraffe that it was “selected”, why have no other species adopted the same “strategy”?

Secondly:- what about traits that may once have been advantageous, but are now possibly disadvantageous? The ability of the human race to produce large numbers of children was, in most theories I have read, an “advantage” that made the race/tribe/species more able to survive. It would seem that in some “civilised” nations this ability is seen as a disadvantage that must be curbed by law; it also seems possible that the scale of human reproduction is major contributor to disease, poverty, pressure on world resources, and therefore to war.

My third question is about that wonderful “tree of life” poster in the dining room, and to what extent “selection” has direction. The classic tree leads from simple to complex, whilst recognising that many of the simple life forms still exist, and indeed thrive. Huxley’s comment on beetles is brilliant, and the fact that (if I have got this right) the weight of krill in the oceans exceeds the weight of the human population of the planet, raises the question – what “driver” is there to move away from such a successful life form? Is our concept of “higher” life forms simply anthropocentric pride?

Oh, and another question arising from that observation. There seems to be an interesting trend observable in western society – to claim a close affinity – almost a kindred spirit – with some of the larger species – especially whales, dolphins and elephants. Again, is this simply an unthinking desire to make a rational pattern of otherwise random existence?

And my final question for this post. If all observable species are the result of random mutations contributing to selection of the “fittest”, what proportion of the current live species will turn out, in the long term, to be dead-end mutations that have no future? I’m not playing here, I mean it – it cannot be that somehow in 2011 all observable species have reached a stage of perfection through selection that all we have left as the fit ones. Where are all the half-way “trials” of new adaptations?

Thanks for the dig about hair! I don’t mind losing it – I do mind still having to pay the same amount for a hair-cut!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2011 11:52 am

    “One simple question is this:- if having a longer neck than the rest of the herbivores was of such an advantage to the giraffe that it was “selected”, why have no other species adopted the same “strategy”?”

    The simple answer is that other extinct animals do seem to have developed longer necks, e.g. Bohlinia. The more accurate answer is that we don’t know why giraffes developed long necks, was it to reach food, or was it driven by sexual selection?

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/09/giraffes-necks-for-food-or-necks-for-sex/

  2. October 1, 2011 12:26 pm

    “The ability of the human race to produce large numbers of children was, in most theories I have read, an “advantage” that made the race/tribe/species more able to survive. It would seem that in some “civilised” nations this ability is seen as a disadvantage that must be curbed by law; it also seems possible that the scale of human reproduction is major contributor to disease, poverty, pressure on world resources, and therefore to war.”

    The critical thing is to have more surviving children, and for those children to have more children and so on. Simply producing more babies is not necessarily advantageous.

    There’s an interesting hypothesis that humanity underwent a shift in phenotype towards investing more in children that itself triggered the industrial revolution. Further, mathematical modelling suggests this is a genuine possibility:

    http://www.gnxp.com/wp/2011/06/02/natural-selection-and-economic-growth/

  3. Phil crofts permalink
    October 12, 2011 11:04 am

    “what proportion of the current live species will turn out, in the long term, to be dead-end mutations that have no future?”

    Oh, all of them…

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