Results tagged “evolution” from onegoodmove

Howard Stern - Evolution and Creationism

This is kind of hilarious. Like often happens on Youtube, I got to this video via the related links. I didn't expect Stern to be so vocal about this.

Daniel Dennett: The Design Fallacy

Seeds, Nuts, and Red Crossbills

I was reminded of the squirrel, when I received an email from my birder friend David. I think you'll find what he says interesting.

He writes:

Last weekend I spent two days camping with my lads in southern Idaho. I went up to see the newly described form of the Red crossbill, the so-called South-hills crossbills, Loxia (curvirostra) sinesciuris, which is found only in two mountain ranges south and southeast of Twin Falls. The birds were easy to find, especially in the morning, and I got good views of their enlarged bills (not longer, but thicker, almost like the Parrot crossbills of Europe). They called and sang all around us, delightful even over the roar of the seemingly hundreds of ATVs there. Note that the photo found on most websites of this (sub)species shows a white patch behind the eye, which is NOT characteristic of the (sub)species, but is an anomaly of the one photographed individual bird. South Hills crossbills have become more differentiated than most other Red crossbill types in North America, and are excellent candidates for splitting out (though the AOU rejected splitting them this spring on a technicality).

You might want to check out the fascinating story of the South Hills Crossbill, which has recently been discovered in southern Idaho. To sum it up, Lodgepole pines are generally locked in an evolutionary arms race with Red squirrels (the very critters at your feeder), so they have evolved round cones that are hard for squirrels to bite down on (try biting on a tennis ball). However, in two low mountain ranges in southern Idaho (the Albion Mts and the South Hills), the squirrels are not present. So the Lodgepole pines there don't have to "worry" about their seeds being eaten by adorable varmints and have no selection toward round, ball-like cones. But Red crossbills, a "species" (probably many species actually, they are finding) found in the coniferous forests of North America and Eurasia, are highly nomadic and sometimes pass through the area. So THEY became the main consumer of Lodgepole pine seeds and thus created a different evolutionary pressure on that species. A new variety of pine thus evolved, altered by natural selection to have armored seeds in a manner that crossbills find difficult. It turns out, crossbills have bills very attuned to particular types of cones (Douglas fir, Montezuma pine, other pines, different firs & spruces...) and because the shape of the bill is so critical to obtaining food, the different varieties of crossbills don't seem to interbreed (thus the Red crossbill may actually represent up to 10 "cryptic" species in North America alone, hiding in plain sight. So, back to the South Hills: With the new types of cones, a new niche opened up for the crossbills passing through that area (types 2, 4, and 5, I believe), and some began to evolve larger bills to access the new, more elongated but armored cones found in these mountains. They became resident (since they became best fitted to these particular pines) and the new arms race was on. Now, both the crossbills and the pines are separate subspecies (at least).

So, now a new issue arises: Global Warming. It turns out that Lodgepole pines have evolved to take advantage of the nutrient bonanza and open sunshine created by forest fires. Their cones remain shut to hold onto the seeds locked within until the intense heat of a forest fire opens them up to release the seeds to start a new generation, phoenix-like, in the sun-lit ash. Some cones remain shut for over twenty years, it seems. Because the new cones are so tough to open, the South Hills crossbills are forced to eat seeds from cones which are several years old, after they start loosening enough to be pried open and after a nasty layer of protective resin has worn off. A researcher I had the happy fortune to encounter there last weekend (the patiently informative Julie Hart, who was a delight), said the crossbills generally go after the cones that are seven years old. However, with global warming, the cones are opening sooner, before the resin has worn off, and thus often dropping the seeds before the crossbills can get to them. It may not be entirely coincidental that the crossbill population has crashed in recent years (though bird populations relying on a specialized food source often fluctuate in cycles naturally--think snowy owls and lemmings). Some researchers have also predicted that the unique subspecies of Lodgepole pines, and the associated ecosystem, found in southern Idaho may become extinct by the end of this century (though I myself, with no credentials to back me up, find it improbable unless things get really bad--the pines appeared to be found over several hundred feet of altitude). It would be tragic if this dance, which has shaped two species into unique forms found nowhere else in the world, were to come to an untimely end because of some apes' unwillingness to change their lifestyles just a wee bit.

Isn't that a fascinating series of cause-and-effects? It's amazing the sorts of complex dramas that act themselves out before our unseeing eyes. Everything is so inter-related. What a planet!

The best place to see these birds is the Diamondfield Jack Recreation Area right on the main road into the South Hills. Conveniently, that is a campground with bathrooms.

Richard Dawkins Demonstrates Laryngeal Nerve of the Giraffe

(tip to Pedantsareus)

Can Monkeys Talk

Links With Your Coffee - Tuesday


If it turns out to be true should I rename my daily links to "Improved Cognitive Function With Your Coffee."

via Butterfiles and Wheels

It may true that I link to nearly every post Jerry Coyne makes. I have no intention of stopping because I think the quality of what he posts is that consistently good. You can continue to click through or you could make him a regular stop on your perusal of the internet like I do.

They wouldn't want to use something like GMOs to increase production, no they'll just use more of others resources.

The independent Research Centre OPERA* presented today (Tuesday 11th May 2010) in Brussels, a new research report that warns that the European Union must encourage agricultural innovation and productivity increases to avoid charges of territorial "land grabbing".

Authors of the study are Professor Harald von Witzke of the Humboldt University of Berlin and Steffen Noleppa of agripol - network for policy advice. The research details the development of EU agricultural trade between 1999 and 2008 and quantifies the substantial acreage cultivated in other countries to fulfil Europe's demand for food, animal feed and biofuels. It shows that in 2007/2008 almost 35 million hectares of land beyond European borders was used for the benefit of Europeans, with the EU the world.s largest importer of agricultural products.

Only 57% of Americans and 36% of Europeans are aware that ordinary tomatoes contain genes.(Hallman et al. 2003,Gaskell,Allum and Stares 2003

And other Limey expressions.

Links With Your Coffee - Sunday


I tend to read things about quantum physics and stuff like that — I don’t have a background in it, I try to understand it, I grapple with it. I don’t read for entertainment, I can’t see the purpose of that. Science is such an interesting area. It’s so fascinating to have lived in a period when religion has taken the thrashing it deserves. Not that it has entirely; we still have a few religions knocking around, doing exactly what they’ve done through the ages — which is f* up everything.

If you’ve been reading the evolution websites, you’ll know about the very nice paper in this week’s Nature by Douglas Theobald. (You may remember Theobald as the author of one of the greatest creationism-refuting websites of all: 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution: The Scientific Case for Common Descent. If you haven’t seen it, you should). In the new paper, Theobald makes a few conservative assumptions to show that the probability that all living species descend from a universal common ancestor is infinitely higher than any other hypothesis, including those of multiple origins of the kingdoms (Bacteria, Eukarya, and Archaea) or of rampant horizontal gene transfer betweeen species that would, by mixing genomes, make life look as though it had a single origin when it didn’t.

A REPORT by the National Research Council last monthgave ammunition to both sides in the debate over the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. More than 80 percent of the corn, soybeans and cotton grown in the United States is genetically engineered, and the report details the "long and impressive list of benefits" that has come from these crops, including improved soil quality, reduced erosion and reduced insecticide use.

It also confirmed predictions that widespread cultivation of these crops would lead to the emergence of weeds resistant to a commonly used herbicide, glyphosate (marketed by Monsanto as Roundup). Predictably, both sides have done what they do best when it comes to genetically engineered crops: they've argued over the findings.

Lost in the din is the potential role this technology could play in the poorest regions of the world -- areas that will bear the brunt of climate change and the difficult growing conditions it will bring. Indeed, buried deep in the council's report is an appeal to apply genetic engineering to a greater number of crops, and for a greater diversity of purposes.

  • Genetically Engineered Purple Tomatos Could Fight Cancer

    Using a gene from a snapdragon flower, researchers have created a purple tomato rich in antioxidants, and a new study has shown that cancer-prone mice that were fed the altered tomatoes had significantly longer lifespans than those that dined on regular tomatoes. The tomatoes’ purple hue was a side effect of the type of antioxidants produced, called anthocyanins

Why GE Shouldn't be Excluded From Organic Farming

Ten bad reasons why GE is incompatible with Organic

One can understand an issue on an intellectual level but still not be able to share that understanding. It is particularly difficult on questions of science. You can be an expert in one field, even a related field, and be ignorant of the fine points of another. My background in science is limited and so I try to be more careful than I am on other topics I'm more familar with. I'm lucky that there are so many bright individuals who visit the blog, since they keep me on my toes.

They say you really know a subject when you can explain it to others. I've fallen down on that front, in part because my understanding has come recently, and also because I haven't been successfull in making the distinction between GE as a method and its use by big agri-business. But I view the topic as an important one and worthy of discussion so I've tried to educate myself and give it a try. I've argued that we don't need to throw the baby (GE) out with the bathwater (Corporatism). But that GE can and should thrive outside of the Monsanto world. In fact it does, but the Monsanto connection gets the ink while the other is ignored.

Back in the sixties when I attended the University of Utah the John Birch Society was strong and there was a book going around that the young conservatives on campus were promoting called 'None Dare Call it Treason' If you ran across one of the conservatives, they would say all you need to do is read this book and you'll understand.

Since that day whenever someone says just read this book, or just read this article and you'll understand I recall that time, and remind myself of the need to be skeptical. I've recently recommended a couple of books
Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food and Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist's View of Genetically Modified Food both of which I believe to be well written by people qualified to write on the subject, but it behooves one to be skeptical, because until you read something and verify that it is both logically sound and that the evidence is good, you need to remain skeptical. The article I've linked to is one I believe to be both logically sound and fact based. I encourage you to read it. I especially ask you to read the final section on transgenics because it is there where I think the true difference of opinion exists. The article may not change your mind, but you will understand better the sorts of arguments that have lead me to my current position on GMO's

If you decide to read the article perhaps you'd be kind enough to post a comment listing the points you agree with and those you dont and give your reasons. Ask yourself, are you challenging just the facts, or do you find the argument logically flawed.

I'll continue to post interesting links on the subject but my obession in posting about it on the blog, you'll be happy to hear is waning, at least I think it is.

Alabama Political Attack Ad Mocks Evolution

Allow me to paraphrase: Bradley Byrne claims to be an ignorant yokul like you and me but really he is one of them book learning types that doesn't believe in the talkin' snake.

Alabama needs some help if this ad actually works.

Links With Your Coffee - Saturday

  • Ethical and Practical Issues of GMOs (the must read link of the day)

    I'm surprised how many opponents of GMOs fail to make arguments based on reliable evidence but instead resort to a noun and a verb and Monsanto.

  • punisher_skull.jpgThe Moral Life of Babies (The Punisher)
    Not long ago, a team of researchers watched a 1-year-old boy take justice into his own hands. The boy had just seen a puppet show in which one puppet played with a ball while interacting with two other puppets. The center puppet would slide the ball to the puppet on the right, who would pass it back. And the center puppet would slide the ball to the puppet on the left . . . who would run away with it. Then the two puppets on the ends were brought down from the stage and set before the toddler. Each was placed next to a pile of treats. At this point, the toddler was asked to take a treat away from one puppet. Like most children in this situation, the boy took it from the pile of the “naughty” one. But this punishment wasn’t enough — he then leaned over and smacked the puppet in the head.
  • Just Call it a Tussle
  • Close encounters of the weird kind: Quick guide to the Neandertal genome
  • Nine Questions, Nine Answers
    This is not an easy blog to write. Doctors Novella and Gorski want the entries to be formal, academic, referenced, with a minimum of snark. For the most part I comply. But sometimes. Sometimes. It is hard, so hard, not to spiral into sarcastic diatribes over the writings that pass for information on the interwebs. How should one respond to profound ignorance and misinformation? I wish, sometimes, that I could be an irascible computer as well. What brings on this particular bit of angst is a bit of whimsy on the Internet called “9 Questions That Stump Every Pro-Vaccine Advocate and Their Claims.” by David Mihalovic, ND. Mr. Mihalovic identifies himself as “a naturopathic medical doctor who specializes in vaccine research.” However, just where the research is published is uncertain as his name yields no publications on Pubmed. BTW. I specialize in beer research. Same credentials.

The Improbability Pump

The Link

Imagine for a moment that a large proportion of Americans--let's say half--rejected the "germ theory" of infectious disease. Maladies like swine flu, malaria and AIDS aren't caused by micro-organisms, they claim, but by the displeasure of gods, whom they propitiate by praying, consulting shamans and sacrificing goats. Now, you'd surely find this a national disgrace, for those people would be utterly, unequivocally wrong. Although it's called germ theory, the idea that infections are spread by small creatures is also a fact, supported by mountains of evidence. You don't get malaria unless you carry a specific protozoan parasite. We know how it causes the disease, and we see that when you kill it with drugs, the disease goes away. How, we'd ask, could people ignore all this evidence in favor of baseless superstition?

But that's fiction, right? Well, not entirely, for it applies precisely to another "theory" that is also a fact: the theory of evolution. Over the past quarter-century, poll after poll has revealed that nearly half of all Americans flatly reject evolution, many clinging to the ancient superstition that the earth was created only 6,000 years ago, complete with all existing species. But as Richard Dawkins shows in his splendid new book, The Greatest Show on Earth, the theory of evolution is supported by at least as much evidence as is the germ theory of disease--heaps of it, and from many areas of biology. So why is it contemptible to reject germ theory but socially acceptable to reject evolutionary theory?

One answer is religion. Unlike germ theory, the idea of evolution strikes at the heart of human ego, suggesting that we were not the special object of God's attention but were made by the same blind and mindless process of natural selection that also built ferns, fish and rabbits. Another answer is ignorance: most Americans are simply unaware of the multifarious evidence that makes evolution more than "just a theory," and don't even realize that a scientific theory is far more than idle speculation. . .

Evolution or Cultism

(tip to Josh)

Dawkins vs. Creationists

Part One

Part Two

There are more, but I simply can't force myself to watch.

(tip to Josh)

Special Investigation - Evolution

Based on a debate between Kent Hovind and Dr. Finch who believes in evolution.

Symphony of Science

CNN's Connecter of the Day: Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins: One Fact to Refute Creationism

Dawkins O'Reilly

Richard Dawkins

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Richard Dawkins
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMichael Moore

The Greatest Show On Earth

The Greatest Show on Earth
Guardian Review
If Thomas Henry Huxley was famously "Darwin's bulldog", then Richard Dawkins is probably best described as "Darwin's pit bull". He gets his teeth into an argument, locks on and shakes it until submission is the only option. There's a certain glee when he admits to being "the devil's disciple" or the high priest of "ultradarwinism", and his admission has an undeniably macho swagger about it. Real men (and women) take the toughest line on natural selection. Suffering and pain in nature and humanity are merely there to service the genes. Anything else is "Sentimental, human nonsense. Natural selection is all futile." There is something bracing about belonging to this most astringent and clear-sighted set. Deluded theists! Wishy-washy agnostics! Welcome to the Fight Club. One is reminded of lines by Dawkins's favourite poet, WB Yeats: "Cast a cold eye / On life, on death. / Horseman, pass by."