May 2008

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Comments

PalaeoBill

I know this is a very late response Scott. Sorry, I have been away.
I like the DNA article, it looks to be great science and a lateral approach at that. There could be a very large time gap between the hair loss (naked ape) and the wearing of clothing though. The appearence of body lice only show when clothing may have been adopted, not when homonids became naked.
Homonids lost their hair for a reason. My bullshit sensor is rung by any suggestion that having finally evolved the hairless body, homonids immediately felt the need to wear clothes.

Stomper

Peter:

Thanks for the patient, informative, and (above all) civil response to my queries. I read the links you provided, and it appears that speciation is exactly what I think it is.

I already saw the wiki article about the species problem, even before I posted. The Biological Species Concept appears to be the species concept most commonly used in discussions of evolution, because it is the most relevant.

Nothing you provided actually included direct evidence of speciation. I hope you did not misunderstand my questions as an "argument" for Intelligent Design (whatever that happens to mean at the moment). "Intelligent Design" is a matter of faith, not susceptible to proof or argument.

I am well aware that disproving some aspect of evolutionary theory does not therefore "prove" creationism. Besides, I'm not trying to prove or disprove anything here. "I don't have a dog in that fight." I'm just trying to understand the issues, without all the anger. Thanks for your response in kind.

I happen to have faith that science will eventually explain how modern life forms originated. That explanation may even be rooted in our current theory of evolution. However, the absence of objectively observed speciation would make me wonder how many, many more iterations the theory will have to undergo before it really gets the job done.


John:

Your tone was not nearly as polite as Peter's, but you were actually more helpful. Thanks for the citation to Nature.

As you might have guessed from the very basic quality of my questions, I am not a scientist, and I do not have a subscription. However, googling that citation led me to some other articles that described evidence of apparent speciation, including what appears to be a summary of the observations on which the article you cited are based.

For those interested, try this:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/speciation.html

I was glad to see the topic addressed, and there appear to be several concrete examples of observed speciation. I was worried when I thought no one could point me to these, but now I feel better.

You asked me, "Have you looked?" Um, yes, when I posted my inquiry here. Before that? No. I didn't know where to look, and I was confident that someone here could point me in the right direction, if the evidence was out there. Looks like my confidence was well-placed.

You said, "You recall incorrectly. Bacteria reproduce both asexually and sexually." I was willing to concede the point (been a long time since college), but one of the authors cited by Peter includes the assertion that some bacteria exchange genetic material, but they don't actually reproduce sexually.

I don't really care one way or the other, but either way I'm still confused about whether the Biological Species Concept is actually useful for discussing evolution at the bacterial level, at least as to the bacteria which definitely do not reproduce sexually.

And if we are not using the Biological Species Concept at this level, then what species concept should we use? Or is it a mistake to talk about bacterial evolution at all? Perhaps we should simply refer to the creation of new bacterial strains, rather than the evolution of new species?

Of course I need something deeper than the definition of "species" at dictionary.com. That's why I was asking for help with this indisputably convoluted topic. Sorry if my quest for information set off your defense mechanisms. Perhaps if scientists could relax and provide information, that would help to defuse some of the hostility.


Richard Simons:

Your last response is to bloodrage bob. The author of a post here is named below the post, not above it. You accused the wrong guy.

Common mistake. That's why I try to sign all my posts.

--Stomper

Tobin H

Full disclousure: I'm a goober in tan pants. After Labor Day, I become a goober in a white lab coat for nine months or so, and then go back to the tan pants.

I'd suggest a side trip into some of the things that people have thought based on DNA analyses over the last few years, using bats as a furry little poster-child. Over the last twenty years, using DNA evidence, bats have been considered the closest relatives of:

1. Hedgehogs
2. Cows
3. Cows & Cats & Rhinos
4. Rhinos
5. Monkeys

Ye molecular phylogeneticists, forgive my simplification, but that's about the long and short of it. It's certainly a more diverse list than their placement based on fossils, which in a similar time period has been:

1. Monkeys
2. Who the *@&%! knows? We give up.

In a five year period, you could have read about a DNA analysis in a prestigious journal, smacked your forehead, and declared: "of course! It's just so obvious! Bats are related to x!," x being any one of three major groups of mammals. Consensus leans toward hedgehogs recently, for those who are curious. Or horses. Pick One.

The point being that Newsweek coverage and machines that go 'ping!' doth not the truth maketh. Fossils are faint and familiar bullshit, molecular phylogenetics is new and convoluted bullshit, and other approaches (as of yet) are utter bullshit. The combination of molecular evidence with fossils does represent a quantum leap over the use of fossils alone, but we're still not out of the 'BetaMax' stage of DNA analyses yet. Don't sell the bike shop, Orville.

Richard Simons

Oops - sorry Dennis. I was reading the name at the top of a comment instead of the Bloodrage Bob at the bottom.

ronald richardson

Two things to note about that article, from someone in the field:
-the fact that it calls the Dmanisi skeletons "erectus" shows a pretty embarassing lack of knowledge...Dmanisis is homo ergaster; erectus probably has nothing to do with our evolutionary history (i.e. its not an ancestor)
-one if the article's main ways of questioning the fossil record is through tchadensis--was basically a distorted crumble of fragments in the ground, much worse than any of the currently referenced australopiths. Although the reconstructions make it appear to have a brow ridge, this could very easily be artefactual, and its also quite possible to be a reversal, since brow ridges change rapidly throughout human evolution, likely due to sexual selections.
Oh, and for the guy who wonders why there aren't any transitional fossils: there are tons; its a completely baseless claim made by creationists.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_transitional_fossils

Marcus Ranum

This is one of those cases where American popular culture gets it wrong. Just because Johnny Depp can act and look good doesn't mean his thoughts on the middle east are well-informed or worth considering carefully. Or, just because some cartoonist does moderately funny cartoons about office dysfunction doesn't mean his thoughts on the fossil record are worth paying attention to.

The great thing about science is that you can change it, simply by pointing out observable facts that contradict established theories. If you can advance your "bullshit" theory with some evidence that contradicts and re-writes our current understanding of the fossil record then you'll be a great scientist and not just a moderately funny cartoonist. But, uh, saying it sounds like "bullshit" isn't contradictory evidence. You've got some work to do.

Railboy

TJ
>>Speaking of straw men . . . my great-great-whatever couldn't have given birth to me - that would make her my mother. But, I know what you meant, even if you didn't.

That was my point. Your mother was the only individual who was genetically equipped to give birth to you, even though you & your g-g-g-grandmother are both members of the same species. Your g-g-g-grandmother's DNA couldn't have produced your DNA regardless of which male provided the other half.

You're thinking of the species barrier as some kind of inflexible, line-in-the-sand thing. It's not. As far as nature is concerned, there are only individuals that give birth to other individuals.

Here's an example of this idea in action: imagine a type of lizard (Z lizards) in Florida that can't produce fertile offspring with another type in California (A lizards). So you might think to call them different species of lizard. But as you travel across the continent, there are other lizards (B, C, D... X & Y Lizards) in adjacent habitats that CAN mate and produce fertile offspring. A-B, B-C, C-D...X-Y, Y-Z all work. A-Z, B-F, Q-Y don't.

So where do you draw the line? These situations exist, and any place you draw the species barrier is arbitrary.

See what I'm getting at?

Mark G.

Scott, I have a dozen of your Dilbert books. I really like them. I also have a biology PhD, and I have to say that your posts on science are as embarrassing as your cartoons are funny. Please, stick to what you know. If you do truly have an interest in the sciences, go back to college and get a decent education. This is just friendly advice from fan.

Please, no pithy replies. Just take time out to think.

Mark G.

Scott, to quote the cover of one of your books "When did ignorance become a point of view"? You're becoming a PHB, and that's really rather sad.


[You are my point. Thank you. -- Scott]

Richard Simons

Dennis, who originally said (under another name) that there is an absolute lack of transitional fossils, is now complaining that I only gave him two. One would have been enough to invalidate his claim, but I gave him one of the earliest and one of the most recently discovered examples. There are many others. Check out talkorigins.org/indexcc but new ones are being found all the time (an unnamed transitional form between reptiles and mammals was reported about 3 days ago).

Most biologists consider that all existing species are transitional forms unless they become extinct before they give rise to other species. Perhaps what you are thinking of is extant forms that are transitional between other current forms, such as silverfish, lemurs, liverworts and Priapus. The trouble is, although they may look similar to a common ancestor, they have had just as long to evolve as other species so may have changed in other respects.

Why have sharks not evolved sonar or propellers? How could they produce the sound needed for sonar? Primitive whales were already vocal so it would have been no problem for them. I suppose they could have developed an electrical system, like electric eels, but their sense of smell is so acute that a basic electrical system would be no advantage to them so it would not develop. As for propellers: no multicellular organism has rotating parts because there is no feasible way of getting nutrients and oxygen to the part to keep it alive and dead body parts could be irreparably damaged.

Dennis writes "the scientists who found tiktaalik, to use your own words, toodled out one fine day and 'found just what they had been looking for'."
I most certainly did not write that they had toodled out one fine day, but your comment illustrates why I recommend people to never trust anything said by a critic of evolution.

What I actually wrote was "Some paleontologists wanted to study intermediate forms between fish and amphibians so they figured out which rocks they should look in. They went to these rocks, dug around for a couple of years and found just what they had been looking for." And that is what happened.

Dennis finishes his last post with "usually evolutionists respond to my search for truth with screams & threats. not sure why. . ." Perhaps the answer has something to do with shifting goalposts and dishonest quoting.

Peter McGrath

Fossils are fossils. Mr. Adams' take on them appears to be the bullshit around here. Gametheory: an ant's nest would be much better.

[Relax. Take a pill. You'll be okay. -- Scott]

Dennis

I am a geophysicist what do you want to know about fosils? they exist! Facts are not subject to your bullshit detector. I am sorry, your bullshit detector is faulty, get a new one.

[Nice reading comprehension. -- Scott]

bloodrage bob

richard simons counters my "bullshit evolution because no transitional fossils" argument by pointing out the existence of archeo....somethingorotherxyz"; also tiktaalik.

millions of species lived & died on this old earth; presumably many more dead-end & transitional species, and all we can point to is *ONE*? or maybe 2??

not the strongest of arguments: the evidence isn't exactly what ya might call overwhelming.

questions:
1) why *haven't* we found more transitional fossils? they should be all over the place, right?
2) since transitional species presumably exist today, what species are considered to be transitional?
3) why haven't sharks evolved? wouldn't evolving sonar or a propeller make them even *better* predators? it's been...what?....300 million years since their last change. how come?
4) you mean to tell me that the scientists who found tiktaalik, to use your own words, toodled out one fine day and "found just what they had been looking for".....that doesn't set off the ol' bullshit alarm? as i understand it, science isn't usually anywhere near that convenient or tidy. and, living in vegas & being all cynical, i get real real suspicious when things like that happen.

many thanks for the genial post, mr. simons. usually evolutionists respond to my search for truth with screams & threats. not sure why.....

ory

I for one applaud your post.

There are so many well meaning evolutionary biologists that work very hard to create drugs and solve diseases. Instead of all that work, they could simply use your so finely honed BS meter.

You are a credit to scientists everywhere. You have demonstrated that decades of study no longer matters and all that needs to be done is have a strong gut feeling about something complicated. Or better yet, just ask you about it.

John Smith

Adam,
Please don't let sloppy analysis escape into your commentary. It erodes your credibility too quickly. You're worth better than that.

[Credibility? What blog have you been reading? -- Scott]

Rick

Leave it to an ignorant “popular writer” to write some bullshit after having read an article written by an ignorant confused popular writer.

[There's nothing in the post that you disagree with. That's the funny part. -- Scott]

John Sullivan

Hey Scott,

Here's a direct quote from the article you cited as saying fossils are bullshit.

"Fossils and tools testified to our ancestors' origins in Africa, the emergence of their ability to walk upright, the development of toolmaking and more."

This kind of supports evolution, just in case you were wondering.

And now a direct quote from Scott Adams "Duuuuh, I think my bullshit detector is broken".

smijer

[You need to work on your reading comprehension. -- Scott]

Or writing - step for should have been "if you have yet to understand well, then...".

Curious what you think I misread of yours. It just seems that, on this subject - maybe on others, I don't know - you have a tendency to go off half-cocked. It can happen when one gets too enamoured of their own critical thinking skills...

steve

"Why does a well-established scientific fact set off my usually-excellent bullshit filter like a five-alarm fire?"

Well, at a guess, because you have not spent 20 years studying the subject, perhaps?

"It’s the fossil record that has been bugging me the most. It looks like bullshit. Smells like bullshit. Tastes like bullshit. Why isn’t it bullshit? All those scientists can’t be wrong."

The thing is, that no, the fossil record isn't wrong, even if it smells like bullshit. The problem is that people like you who aren't trained and educated in science don't have the right bullshit filters. Very little of modern science passes the 'bullshit' test. Let me give an example. We use GPS systems to locate where we are, which relies on General Relativity, most of which most people would call 'bullshit' - space is curved, and time depends on height - how crazy does that sound? The PC you use to post your Wise Words depends on Quantum Mechanics, most of which most people would think is complete madness. The plain fact is that almost all modern science is hard to understand and mysterious, and seems like bullshit.

smijer

Mr. Adams,

An alogrithm.

1. Listen.
2. Think.
3. Understand.
4. If you understand well, go to 1, else,
5. Tell what you learned.

It's no fun for anyone when you skip straight to #5, no matter how infatuated you are with you own powers of bull-shit detection.

[You need to work on your reading comprehension. -- Scott]

ronald richardson

Hey Scott and friends, if you really believe human fossils are bullshit, then you should have fun reading a few wikipedia entries:
"Lucy"...Australopithecus Afarensis...dated to 3.3 million years ago...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australopithecus_afarensis
"Turkana Boy"...Homo Ergaster...dated to 1.6 million years ago...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkana_boy
"Heidelberg Man"...Homo Heidelbergensis...Dated to 500 thousand years ago...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_heidelbergensis

yutt

Err... maybe you should stick to making comics about people in cubicles. This is in no way remarkable, or even particularly surprising. You must have the most bizarrely rudimentary understanding of evolution, or even science.

A single MSNBC article and you exclaim, "I was right all along you fools!"

Fossils are "bullshit"? Lol. Fossils are fossils. All the other gibberish you're yammering about was of your own creation, not anything of modern evolutionary theory.

Dinosaurhunter

It is the failure on our part as scientists to communicate a simple and convincing version of evolutionary theory for popular consumption. Even our greatest popularizers like Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, and Stephen Gould are not popularly consumed because the general public is shy about reading science lit, or even non-fiction unless it's celebrity biographical. All our good "talking-points" like "survival of the fittest" and "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" are either tainted by the political incorrectness of social darwinism, too jargon based to be understood, or just incorrect enough to not be universally correct and applicable, and therefore open to rhetorical discredit.

A renaissance of edutainment is really what is needed if the general public is ever to trust or understand how fundamental the concept of evolution is to everything we understand about life on this planet. The sad fact is, if it weren't for biblical literalists campaigning to suppress reality, there would be no controversy and the general public wouldn't even consider distrusting or disputing what centuries of scientific inquiry has led to. People fantasize about going back in time all the time, but never try to attack or discredit Einstein, his theory of relativity, or physics professors when they find out that the math says it will never happen.

The Atheist Jew

The internet will be the death of Young Earth Creationists:
http://baconeatingatheistjew.blogspot.com/2007/03/young-earth-creationists-yecs-are.html

And thanks to Dilbert's Blog, anti-evolutionists will die too thanks to the internet. Those who show little to no understanding will be mocked off the internet or will have to actually buy a clue.

Kristine

Apparently evolution is more complex than imagined, and there were lots of ape-people varieties wandering around at the same time.

*Yawn* "As imagined" by whom? You, apparently. Well, that's news.

Go back to the cartoons.

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