May I ask the STUPEDST question ever?

Paddy the second
Posts: 14
Joined: 2008-02-08
User is offlineOffline
May I ask the STUPEDST question ever?

Hi all, I'm new to this site and here is my question.

 Hold your breath...

 

What is evolution?

 

Lol, I'm smarter than that Eye-wink I've read a lot of books and several on evolution, science, philosophy etc. But in the real-life I find it hard to have a debate about evolution, since I never really found a solid and undisputable defenition of evolution.

Most times I get lost in "a change over time" and all that, after wich I lose track of my own reasoning when talking (or thinking) about the processes that are involved and how they relate to each other...

 Recently a friend tipped me this site and I hope you guys/girls can help me out, giving me this defenition as a point of reference in further research and debate?


Tarpan
Special Agent
Posts: 26
Joined: 2006-06-06
User is offlineOffline
Evolution is change in the

Evolution is change in the gene pool from generation to generation.


Brian37
atheistSuperfan
Brian37's picture
Posts: 13545
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
Tarpan wrote: Evolution is

Tarpan wrote:
Evolution is change in the gene pool from generation to generation.

It is actually more than that, although the end result is genes changing and getting passed down.

1. Genes

2. Environment

3. Luck vs skill or a combo of both

Ultimatly evolution is about the ability to adapt and those are the main factors. All come into play and no one are an absolute garuntee.

It isn't "genes" alone, otherwise the doh doh bird wouldnt have gone extinct. Envirionment is a factor too. The doh doh bird went extinct because it did not produce enough offspring to compinsate for humans hunting it. Cockroaches however, will most likely outlive the human species because of their ability to burroh and insulate and produce ofspring.

We(the human species) most likely do one of three things.

 

1.|Kill each other off(nuclear war), which I still hold out hope that we cant be that stupid as a species.

2. Overproduce untill the environment cannot susstain the population(polution and desease and climate change)

3.Or a meteor or comet will hit us.  

The mistake people make about "evolution" is that they assume that it seeks perfection and it is not that way at all. Evolution is about contuing the gene pool any way you can, be it envirmental advantage, good genes, safty in numbers, producing the most offspring.

99% of known life on earth is now extinct. Only 1 percent, from the bacteria to the aligator to plant life, is still alive today. 

I hope that give syou a better perspective. 


"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37


Paddy the second
Posts: 14
Joined: 2008-02-08
User is offlineOffline
Thanks for the answers so

Thanks for the answers so far Smiling

 

However I fear that some lose end are still somewhere here.

 

Evolution has indeed to do with genetics, there is, what I shall call "natural variation" (like brown, black, red or blonde hair) and there is mutations wich sometimes do and sometimes don't have an effect on the survival of an organism or species.

 

I've seen examples of all sorts of mutations and there are many types of mutations wich all have a different potentiallity for change. As there are various ways in wich they can be caused and (afterwards)selected.

 

I have seen many examples of mutations and variations and tests and all that and every bit I read or see proves another small or big part of the puzzle, but I sometimes appear to lose the big picture when focussing on the details.

You know what I mean?


stuntgibbon
Moderator
stuntgibbon's picture
Posts: 699
Joined: 2007-05-17
User is offlineOffline

deludedgod
Rational VIP!ScientistDeluded God
deludedgod's picture
Posts: 3221
Joined: 2007-01-28
User is offlineOffline
The etymological roots of

The etymological roots of evolution come from evolvres, in Latin, meaning "to roll out". Today, it simply means change. Presumably, you are referring to biological evolution, also called organic evolution. Evolution in this sense refers to the change in frequency of genes down a lineage. Evolution is not concerned with ontogeny, the development of an individual organism. Organisms do not evolve by themselves. What is occuring is descent with modification, where the variations in any population have selective pressure against them, pressure which is dictated by the environment, which results in the alteration of gene frequencies through a lineage. In this regard, evolution is determinstic, in that the process is not guided by luck or chance.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

Books about atheism


Yellow_Number_Five
atheistRRS Core MemberScientist
Yellow_Number_Five's picture
Posts: 1390
Joined: 2006-02-12
User is offlineOffline
At its basest, considering

At its basest, considering you are speaking of genetic evoluition, it is simply change in allelic frequencies over time. No phenotypic change is required.

I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world. - Richard Dawkins

Atheist Books, purchases on Amazon support the Rational Response Squad server.


Paddy the second
Posts: 14
Joined: 2008-02-08
User is offlineOffline
  Again, thanks for the

 

Again, thanks for the answers and the link. Smiling

 This is a quote from ToO:

 

" "In the broadest sense, evolution is merely change, and so is all-pervasive; galaxies, languages, and political systems all evolve. Biological evolution ... is change in the properties of populations of organisms that transcend the lifetime of a single individual. The ontogeny of an individual is not considered evolution; individual organisms do not evolve. The changes in populations that are considered evolutionary are those that are inheritable via the genetic material from one generation to the next. Biological evolution may be slight or substantial; it embraces everything from slight changes in the proportion of different alleles within a population (such as those determining blood types) to the successive alterations that led from the earliest protoorganism to snails, bees, giraffes, and dandelions."
- Douglas J. Futuyma in Evolutionary Biology, Sinauer Associates 1986

It is important to note that biological evolution refers to populations and not to individuals and that the changes must be passed on to the next generation. In practice this means that,

Evolution is a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations. "
I think that the start, where political system evolution and biological evolution were seperated was one importaint one.
Using the word "evolution" when talking about political systems was indeed confusing, since political systems evolve under guidence and evaluation of (more or less) intelligent people, wich of cource, is not the same as random change.
There are, however, a few questions if you don't mind, for deludegod interpreds evolution to be (almost) determenistic and NOT the result of chance and luck (but probably excludes intelligent guidence also). Yet Yellow points out that there is no change in phenotype required.
The two of you may not be directly contradicting, but I do feel a little tention here, since if it is deterministic (the enviroment forces a species to evolve), how can an enviroment force (not cause, but really force) a genetic mutation if the result is that there is no change in the phenotype?


A semi-related question is, that following this line of thought, it may be suggested that the frequency and/or intensity (and maybe even the efficentcy) of mutations rises when a species is endangered?
It's clear to me that a species wich is challenged will SHOW more (beneficial) mutations, but it's hard to see more mutations being caused, but maybe this is just my poor understanding again Sad


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
I'm still not completely

I'm still not completely sure I understand what you don't understand, but maybe this will help.

Evolution, specifically, is the changes in genes that you and others have mentioned.  In a metaphorical vacuum, all it is is imperfect replication combined with random change combined with 'intentional' change -- i.e. sexual reproduction.

What most people think of when they think of evolution is a much broader concept, including ecology.  Species do not exist or evolve in a vacuum.  There is the environment to contend with, but more than that, there are predators, parasites, and members of one's own species.

The 'direction' that we can see in evolution is a result of a very large number of outside influences acting with evolution to create the appearance of progress.  In short, all life is an appendage to genes, which are trying to make copies of themselves.  As obstacles to this copying change, so do the appendages.

Does this help at all?

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Paddy the second
Posts: 14
Joined: 2008-02-08
User is offlineOffline
Well, sometimes I don't

Well, sometimes I don't know if I know what I don't understand Wink

 This sure helps, in the sence that this is what I read a lot.

 

But like I said in the first post: after this I get lost in the details, for than I start looking at wich (micro-biological) processes are involved in mutations and what do they actually do on the small scale.

 

The most commen seems to be the so-called "point-mutation" wich is basically nothing else, other than erasing, adding or changing a single gene (or allel) in a DNA-string.

Like a computerprogramm with 1's and 0's and than changing that 1 by one.

 

Often it's easy to see how what change was made and how it affected the phenotype (or not). But when I start working on the results of such point-mutations I see that most have no effect; no change what soever on the phenotype. Well, how than can natural selection take place?

Most of the other effects are harmfull and natural selection works against this mutation.

In very few cases this point mutation not only has an effect on the phenotype AND is beneficial. However, in most (if not all) cases the result on the phenotype may be beneficial, but on the microscale it may be that a (no longer usefull, or even stand-in-the-way) gene is made inoperable.

 

So is it my lack of immagination, am I completeley wrong informed or do other types of mutation occur wich do have the potential of increasing the amount of functional genes, or changes gene A in such a way that it can execute an other (new) function without losing it's previous function before the new function is operative (since if you "lose track" of a gene half-way, than natural selection will not be able to select).

 

I hope you understand what I'm asking for, I didn't really use scientific language here, but I've got the creepy feeling that when this is solved, the whole evolution-picture will be clearly visable in my mind Smiling


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
Quote: Often it's easy to

Quote:
Often it's easy to see how what change was made and how it affected the phenotype (or not). But when I start working on the results of such point-mutations I see that most have no effect; no change what soever on the phenotype. Well, how than can natural selection take place?

Yes.  Most changes are neutral.  Of the remainder, most are bad.  Only a small percentage are beneficial.

Natural selection still takes place through very big numbers.  As you probably know, out of approximately 100 mutations per generation, only one will have any particularly noticable effect, but run that percentage through a population of ten billion, and suddenly you get a lot of changes in just one generation.  Then, consider that the bacteria in your stomach will go through more generations before you die than all the generations that man has seen since our beginning.

Also, realize that most of the changes you see in species are the result of sexual recombination, which is a much more dynamic and directed system.

Quote:
Most of the other effects are harmfull and natural selection works against this mutation.

Yes.  You should read THIS ESSAY.  It explains how sex defeats this tendency.

 

Quote:
So is it my lack of immagination, am I completeley wrong informed or do other types of mutation occur wich do have the potential of increasing the amount of functional genes, or changes gene A in such a way that it can execute an other (new) function without losing it's previous function before the new function is operative (since if you "lose track" of a gene half-way, than natural selection will not be able to select).

I think what you're doing is mentally putting mutation in a box, as if it exists in a vacuum.  Intraspecies competition and sexual selection/recombination play a huge role in not only DNA repair, but beneficial adaptations.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Paddy the second
Posts: 14
Joined: 2008-02-08
User is offlineOffline
Again I'll begin with a

Again I'll begin with a thanks, the essay looks very informative and I'll be the first to check on it when I want to know something more about sex and genetics.

 

However the problem isn't in the fact that harmfull mutations happen, but in the nature of the usefull mutations themselves.

 

I think you are right pointing out that I mentally put mutations in a box as if in it exists in a vacuum, but that has two reasons.

First of all I'm sort of a control freak Sticking out tongue I wan't to be there every step on the way.

Secondly because I think that for some reason it does happen in a vacuum.

Let me explain what I mean: the genes mutate and often have some sort of effect on the phenotype (I'm talking explicitly about mutations, not about variation, for you first need something to make variations with). This is a one-directional road, going from genes to phenotype.

 

Turning the other way is impossible for multi-celled organisms (there is, as far as I know, some promesing research going on with bacteria, but that mechanism wouldn't work on other forms of life).

Conclusion, genes will have to "mutate themselves" and the only way I can see that happening is in a vacuum.

 

Yes, natural selection occurs, but only AFTER there has been a mutation. You can't select something that isn't there.

 

It's like looking at a monitor: I can see red, green and blue bars, very very small. Than all the sudden I look back and I see what the hack I'm doing.

The missing information is of cource how light works and how my eyes interprid the incoming light.

 

It's the same for me still I fear: I see the small mutations and I hear scientists who say that this leads to (is) evolution, but I can't connect the dots somehow. :S


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
Have you read any

Have you read any Dawkins?

I'm trying to remember which book it's in, but in either the Blind Watchmaker or Climbing Mount Improbable, he traces the evolution of the eye, literally back to single celled organisms which, through a perfectly plausible random mutation, become slightly sensitive to light.

I guess maybe I'm still having a hard time seeing where the disconnect is for you.  I mean, we don't have a solid theory for the very first evolution -- the jump from inorganic to organic -- but once you hit the level of a protein, you're just dealing with a LOT of really, really small changes.  Consider how many billions and billions of microorganisms there are, and how fast they mutate and adapt.  

If you haven't, I'd highly suggest reading The Blind Watchmaker and Climbing Mount Improbable.  It's evolution for non-scientists, and it's very, very well written.

If your problem is understanding abiogenesis, I'm not your man.  Maybe deludedgod could explain the current theories in more detail.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Paddy the second
Posts: 14
Joined: 2008-02-08
User is offlineOffline
Well, I am reading

Well, I am reading "unweaving the rainbow" at the moment... Though I'll probably have no choice but to read eighter of those books you mentioned, I do prefer books wich are written for scientists.

On an other post I read the following analogy, it's about taking one step forward each time and in the end climbing mnt. Everest.

However, given the nature of the beneficial mutations, I sometimes wonder if it's going in the right direction, given that so many, if not all, of the point-mutations destroy a no-longer usefull gene.

like the first mammels wouldn't have had white hair, yet the polar bear does have white hair. Just one small example I can think of right now, but that means that on the genetic level it lost the pigment-generating gene(s).

Beneficial? Halleluja! But also a loss. I've read several other examples also...

 


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
Quote: I sometimes wonder

Quote:
I sometimes wonder if it's going in the right direction, given that so many, if not all, of the point-mutations destroy a no-longer usefull gene.

It sure sounds as if you are making an anthropomorphic statement here. There is no 'right' direction in evolution.

While I'm advocating books, have you read The Red Queen, by Matt Ridley? It deals with sexual reproduction, so doesn't directly address what I think you're asking, but you seem desperately to want to put point mutations in a box, excluding ecology (and anything else, for that matter) from the picture.

The answer (sic!) to the question of how/why evolution produced what we see in the world is not a single answer. We must consider not only the math of mutations, but the environment in which the math takes place. You know of Muller's Rachet, right? It's the principle that says that all things being equal, bad mutations ought to overwhelm good mutations, grinding evolution to essentially a halt. Scientists fought for decades over what principle would get them out of the predicament. As it turns out, they weren't considering the possibility of several dynamics, and the vast amounts of time in which these dynamics could all begin to work.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Paddy the second
Posts: 14
Joined: 2008-02-08
User is offlineOffline
Oke, so "the" answer is

Oke, so "the" answer is time? Like give it a few million years and it ought to have happened?

 

That sounds a bit more reasonable, but can you show me (a book/website with) some calculations? That would really help Smiling


Healyhatman
Healyhatman's picture
Posts: 5
Joined: 2008-01-30
User is offlineOffline
I like to say, evolution is

I like to say, evolution is descent with modification - the nonrandom natural selection of randomly occurring genetic mutations. Which I totally stole from evolutionary biologists a lot smarter than I am. 

What you need to make sure creationists know is that evolution IS NOT a theory explaining the origin of LIFE, it is a theory explaining the origin of SPECIES. There's a subtle yet rather important distinction there I think. 

I could be wrong about everything I just said though... But I don't think so Smiling 

It's YOUR Hell, YOU burn in it.
http://healyhatman.blogspot.com/