The Carnival of Evolution: Eclectic September edition

CoE LogoStep right up ladies and gentlemen, here for one month only under the big top is the one, the only, the carnival of evolution. For your delectable delight we have a range of articles, covering everything from bacterial evolution to Neanderthal hearing to T. rex‘s eating habits.

As someone who spends a lot of time focusing on human evolution it can be rather easy to get tunnel vision and miss all of this excellent writing on non-evoanth subjects. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being given a taste of the world outside my field. I only wish there were some way to get people to send me these stories every month.

But before I start trying to contract out my science reading, I better get round to the reason we’re all here. So without much further ado: Welcome to the September edition of the Carnival of Evolution!

Joachim sent in Ecology & Evolution Footnotes: Predecessors of Darwin and Wallace, a fascinating discussion of pre-Darwinian ideas of change over time that can be found over at the Mousetrap.

Joachim also submitted another post on the history of evolution, this time from Jerry Coyne’s top notch blog “Why Evolution Is True.” This one explains how Darwin did not cheat Wallace out of his rightful place in history

Burlington house, where Darwin and Wallace presented their ideas to the world

In other Wallacian news is a post from Why Evolution is True about how Wallace and Darwin were more than happy to share credit. It’s called Darwin and Wallace at Burlington House and was submitted by Michael Barton 

Bradly Alicea sends in a post more about the nature of science than it’s history, describing Four reasons why evolutionary theory might not add value to economics which can be found over at Evolving Economics.

Greg Laden sends us another post about the nature of science (specifically evolution) with a post about how reproductive success at fitness aren’t necessarily the same things. These are terms us evolution peeps use all the time, so it’s interesting to see how they definitions are much more nuanced than people Reproductive success and fitness are not the same thing and can be found over at Greg Laden’s blog (imaginative title).

Bjørn Østman, the mastermind behind the Carnival of Evolution, submitted an interesting piece on how bacterial evolution is witnessed during experiments, and how the creationist adage of “they’re still bacteria” doesn’t hold any water. It’s called Experimental Evolution And The False Solace of “They’re Still Bacteria” and was posted at The Loom.

Continuing along the creationist bent, Sam Hardman presents Coelacanths are not living fossils trashing yet another creationist talking point. Turns out they’ve been evolving just like everything else! Who would’ve thought the creationists would be wrong about something? This post can be found at Ecologica

Michael Barton sent in another critique of creationsim, this time addressing a bit of quote mining going on in the new intelligent design book Darwin’s doubt. The post is called Stephen Meyer: workin’ in the quote mines and can be found at The Panda’s Thumb.

A modern Coelacanth, chilling out and not contradicting evolution in any way

Anne Buchanan sends in a recent repost of a rather excellent blog on creationism. Except this time it’s about how a large bit of the creation controversy may be being manufactured by the pro-evolution side. It’s well worth reading. The post is called The recreation of creationism; a sporting event and can be found at eco-devo-evo (who have far too many hyphens for me to figure out how to capitalise it properly).

Luckily there’s more to evolution than bashing creationists, so we’ve got a set of interesting articles with a more positive spin.

Kathy Orlinsky explains why  T. rex wasn’t just a scavenger. It’s nice to know my childhood hero has been returned to the top of the food chain, where it should be. This was posted at The Stochastic Scientist.

Bjørn Østman submitted Cleaning up toxic waste: directed evolution vs. designed machines an great post about how evolving bacteria to clean up heavy metals is much better than trying to design the organisms from scratch; once again proving the old biologist parable: “evolution is smarter than you.”  This post can be found at Lab Rat.

Bradly Alicea sent in another post about the relationship between evolution and design, this time with evolution helping our designs rather than rendering them obsolete. The Biomimicry Manual: what can the Bombardier beetle teach us about fuel injection?  posted at Inhabitat.

Bradly Alicea presents a post about 3 recent papers from PLoS about evolutionary models. It’s caled Evolutionary Models from the Reading Queue and can be found at the Synthetic Daisies blog.

A graph showing just how big genomes can get

As complex as humans are, we have a relatively small genome. Bjørn Østman sends in a fascinating post that ponders whether those species with a bigger genome are helped or hindered by it. It’s called What is the survival advantage of a larger genome? and is located at Keats at his Telescope.

Benjamin Haller sends us a blog post from eco-evo evo-eco (I think they’re just trying to one-up EvoAnth with extra evos there) talking about his first published research paper. It’s called Evolutionary branching in complex landscapes. I think Congratulations are in order!

And because I can’t escape from it, we also have a smattering of posts dealing with human evolution. They’re just as eclectic as the rest of them, dealing with topics from language to mitochondrial eve.

Bradly Alicea sent in several

Submissions from others include Pushing back the origins of language posted at The Stochastic Scientist and submitted by Kathy Orlinsky. An interesting little post about how early language may have developed in the human lineage, showing that Neanderthals could speak after all.

Anne Buchanan sends in a post discussing recent research into Why we have pubic hair. Don’t like, we’ve all thought about this at one point or another. This can be found at Evo-devo-evo, who clearly aren’t afraid to ask questions that make me snigger like a teenager.

And being a bit selfish, I’d like to use this opportunity to pimp my post discussing the question of Did language evolve to help us gossip?

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of evolution using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

24 thoughts on “The Carnival of Evolution: Eclectic September edition

  1. Pingback: The Carnival of Evolution: Eclectic September e...

  2. Whoah! This is an awesome list. I really like Joachim’s predecessors of Wallace and Darwin, Bradly Alicea’s submission on economics, and models from the reading queue! It is also great to see that Ben Haller is a reader, he is a former member of the evolutionary game theory reading group and was a joy to interact with while he was at McGill!

    I need to join this underground community of evolutionary article sharing! Thank you for mentioning it!

      • It looks awesome! I will try to get involved this weekend. Do I understand correctly in that this sort of “summary post” rotates between a number of blogs every month? I definitely wouldn’t mind hosting that on egtheory occasionally. How many other blogs are involved, do you know?

        • It goes to whoever volunteers, there’s no schedule. Unless I volunteer again, for example, it won’t be coming back to evoanth. This based it difficult to day just how many people are involved, but almost everyone you can think of is. Phyrangila is hosting either this months or next months and Greg laden sent in several submissions for mine

  3. Pingback: Carnival of Evolution, september. | Seeds Aside

  4. g

    :i think i have a very strong evidence for god

    a) we know that a self replicate robot that made from dna need a designer

    b) the ape is a more complex then self replicate robot with dna

    a+b= the ape need a designer

    according to evolution and abigenesis , a car can evolve in a close room, beacuse a human can evolve in a close room and make a car

    ?what is your opinion

    yours sincerely,

    • There are two main issues with your reasoning.

      First, complexity isn’t a reliable way of inferring design because there are many unguided processes that can result in complex things. The giants causeway is complex and geometric, but was produced by a volcano.

      The second problem is that it creates an infinite regress. Things that design other things are generally complex in their own right, so by your logic must also have been designed.

      In other words, is not an omnipotent, omnipresent creator necessarily more complex than His creation? So if complexity indicates design, who designed God?

    • גיל,

      You deduce that self-replicating robots must have a designer from the fact that self-replicating robots as we know them happen to have designers. That’s a logical fallacy. Somewhere in the galaxy, there might be self-replicating robots that do, in fact, not have a designer. Richard Dawkins, by the way, thought that the Earth is this place in the universe. Remember his famous “lumbering robots” quote.

  5. hi again. you said:

    “The giants causeway is complex and geometric, but was produced by a volcano.”-

    how can we compare a complexity of this with complexity of robot?

    “The second problem is that it creates an infinite regress. Things that design other things are generally complex in their own right, so by your logic must also have been designed. “-

    not if they internal/

    • I could get a large chunk of rock and chip away at it until it resembled the geometric shapes at the giants causeway. Then I’d have two things, both equally complex yet one was designed but the other was not. Doesn’t this show that complexity alone is not enough to identify design?

      Similarly, the fact you have to try and exclude God from the rule of complex = designed shows that it isn’t a rule.

      • ” Then I’d have two things, both equally complex yet one was designed but the other was not. Doesn’t this show that complexity alone is not enough to identify design?”-

        not realy because there is a chance that giants causeway evolve naturally. so we dont need to sat it design. but again- if we find a robot, then we know for shure that it design by intellegent.

        “Similarly, the fact you have to try and exclude God from the rule of complex = designed shows that it isn’t a rule.”-

        again- if god have no start, then he dont need a designer. simple logic.

        • That still leaves us with two causeway pillars, one I recreated and one that naturally occurred. They’re both of equal complexity, yet one was designed. How can we tell which one was?

          The God thing just shows that additional criteria (such as having a beginning) are needed to figure out if something is designed. Again, this shows complexity alone is not a good way of inferring design.

          • “yet one was designed. How can we tell which one was?”-

            we dont. but again- if we will see a robot or a watch- we know for shure that its a product of desgin.

            “The God thing just shows that additional criteria (such as having a beginning) are needed to figure out if something is designed. Again, this shows complexity alone is not a good way of inferring design.”-

            add the complexity the begining criteia.

            lesta say that we leave on nature a self replicat material. is that material can evolve into a robot after bilions of years?

  6. “They’re both of equal complexity, yet one was designed. How can we tell which one was?”-

    we cant. but we can tell what kind of object are design for shure.

    “The God thing just shows that additional criteria (such as having a beginning) are needed to figure out if something is designed. Again, this shows complexity alone is not a good way of inferring design”-

    yep. we just need to add the complexity a begining.

    • No, we could tell which pillar was created by humans because we don’t use complexity as the defining characteristic of design! It’s an approach only taken by people who want to go “oooo complexity, therefore God.” Because using complexity alone suffers from this key problem: natural processes can often mimic complex things.

      • d, we could tell which pillar was created by humans because we don’t use complexity ”

        how?

        if you have 2 animals. 1 is made by intellegent and one by nature. how can you tell who is design?

        • To tell the two pillars apart we would simply make predictions about what should/shouldn’t be there and test for them. For example, we can perform microwear analysis to examine if the pillar was made with tools. Identifying those microscopic traces of tool use would be pretty strong evidence the pillar was created.

          Similarly with animals we look for things should/shouldn’t be there. For example, it’s an old saying that “a thousand chimps at typewriters would eventually produce the works of Shakespeare.” In reality the odds of that occurring are basically mathematically impossible. So finding the works of Shakespeare (or some other text) encoded in the DNA of an organism would be proof it was designed.

          In fact, when scientists create bacteria that’s what they use to distinguish their creations from naturally occurring organisms. They embed poetry, the names of the scientists involved etc. into the genome, so that it can be identified as created at a later date.

  7. hi again.

    you said:

    ” For example, it’s an old saying that “a thousand chimps at typewriters would eventually produce the works of Shakespeare.” In reality the odds of that occurring are basically mathematically impossible. So finding the works of Shakespeare (or some other text) encoded in the DNA of an organism would be proof it was designed. “-

    acctually even a functional gene is like to find this. for example: according to this paper we can get functional protein one in every 10^60 mutations:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15321723

    again- there is no step wise to a digital watch into mp3 ot any other system. so a system cannt evolve step wise.

    • I’ve dealt with that paper of yours elsewhere. To recap, the paper implies we only get one new functional gene in 10^60 mutations. However, these results aren’t really applicable to the real world for two key reasons.

      1. The author only considered a gene “functional” if it retained the function of its ancestor. If it accrued some new function, that would be missed. Most proteins have one that is very similar, so the odds of a gene changing so it codes for that other protein is not insignificant.

      2. This is the most important one: he wasn’t using natural genes. Rather, he created unique variants that would be particularly vulnerable to being rendered non-functional by mutation.

      When these two factors are accounted for the odds of a new functional gene arising increases dramatically, from 1 x 10^60 to 1 x10^10. Although that may seem like a large number to you or me, it isn’t really. The average pond, for example, contains 1 x 10^12 bacteria. Thus the odds that many of them will develop functional genes approaches certainty.

      • hi again adam. lets consider your points. lets say that the number of functional sequences is about like the nuber of atoms in the universe(somthing like 10^70)*the number of grain of sands on earth(about 10^20) its still give us a chance of one in 10^30 for a short 100 aa protein. its still a lot.

          • we can have a good idea about the number. what is the number of fucntional 2 parts systems that an intellegent human can make? if the proteins evolve without any designer. then the number of functional systems cant be more them intellegent designer.

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