Freaks of Nature and Bridgeless Gaps

Readers from waaaay back may recall an event I helped out with a few years ago, bringing together scientists, philosophers, and our resident IDist to discuss evolution and intelligent design. One of the speakers was University of Iowa professor Mark Blumberg, a colleague in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Blumberg also happens to be a prolific author, and has just released his third book in 4 years: “Freaks of Nature: What Anomalies Tell us About Development and Evolution.”

As if that wasn’t enough (and all of this while maintaining a very active laboratory, serving as Editor-in-Chief of Behavioral Neuroscience, and as President of the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology–and presumably sleeping at some point), he’s also now getting his feet wet as a blogger, discussing the legacy of Richard Goldschmidt, and the “bridgeless gaps” between species–and between evolutionary biologists. Stop by and welcome him to the author side of the blogosphere (he’s been a reader for awhile), and look for a review of “Freaks of Nature” here at some point in the future.

Comments

  1. #1 Larry Fafarman
    December 4, 2008

    Co-evolution is a challenge to the “hopeful monster” hypothesis. A “hopeful monster” in the form of a pig with wings that suddenly appears anywhere in the world can fly immediately, whereas a “hopeful monster” in the form of bees or flowers that appear somewhere in the world without the corresponding co-dependent organism — bees or flowers — will not survive.

    I first became interested in co-evolution about three years ago. IMO of particular concern are (1) the co-evolution of obligate mutualism — i.e., total co-dependence between two different kinds of organisms, e.g., bees and flowering plants — and (2) the co-evolution of extremely complex parasitic relationships. In the co-evolution of obligate mutualism, unlike in evolutionary adaptation to widespread fixed physical features of the environment, e.g., air, land in its different forms (e.g., forests, plains, mountains, deserts), and water in its different forms (fresh, salt, and brackish), there may be nothing to adapt to because the corresponding co-dependent trait in the other organism is likely to be locally absent. The following factors are important:

    (1) The co-evolution of obligate mutualism presents a particular problem because this kind of co-evolution may require simultaneous changes in both kinds of organisms in the same geographical location. In the evolution of parasitism and commensalism, for example, change may be required in only one of the organisms.

    (2) Co-evolution is more difficult where the required change is one of kind rather than degree. For example, in buzz pollination, where the pollen is shaken loose by resonance from special vibrations of insects’ wings, the pollen is contained in tubes — it is not just a matter of the pollen adhering more strongly to the plant.

    (3) Often the two co-dependent organisms can interact only in large numbers, requiring that large numbers of both kinds of organisms suddenly appear in the same place at the same time.

    (4) Co-evolution is more difficult where the adaptations must be very complex and exact — e.g., orchids’ mimicry of female wasps’ sex pheromones. One particular species of orchid is pollinated by only
    one species of wasp.

    (5) Even where the co-evolution of obligate mutualism can be gradual, the gradual changes must exist in both kinds of organisms at the same time and place in order to be mutually reinforcing.

    (6) Extremely complex parasitic relationships — including multiple-host relationships — are also a big problem for co-evolution.

    (7) The problem of co-evolution is what I call a “non-ID” criticism of evolution — i.e., arguments against co-evolution do not necessarily depend on any of the traits involved being irreducibly complex. However, ID
    can be used in arguments against co-evolution — for example, whole sets of co-dependent traits may be irreducibly complex. For example, bees must not only be able to digest nectar, but must also be able
    to find the flowers. Bees are able to detect the ultraviolet light from flowers and perform a special “dance” which informs other bees where flowers are located.

    Co-evolution is covered in articles in the “Non-ID criticisms of
    evolution” post-label group on my blog (this post-label group is also listed in the sidebar of my blog’s home page) —

    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/search/label/Non-ID%20criticisms%20of%20evolution

  2. #2 chris
    December 5, 2008

    Darwin did not have the blessing of having electron microscopes that we have today. Darwin himself said “if it can be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possible have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down”. (Origin of Species) 1872 p. 154.
    What you see above is the nail in the coffin for the Darwinian evolutionary theory. A recent email from an evolutionist said ” I am asking you to not look around at all the different species now present, but for the fun of it go back to a time when a simple cell miscodes and starts a new direction.” There is a problem with this, you cannot back to when the cell was simple that time does not exist!! The cell from the very start has been complex and there simply is no evidence that ever shows a time when the cell was anything but complex!
    Life in all aspects of it, when properly studied reveals that there is simply nothing simple about life. From the tiniest cell (which by the way you are made up of billions of) to the complex galaxy and even further the universe in which we exist is absolutely, mind blowing, unfathomably complex!! How does this level of complexity arise by chance and left to itself. This the evolutionist simply do not have an answer for.

    http://www.icr.org/wisdom-of-God/

    Check out this website and realize that we are fearfully and wonderfully made… Psalm 139

  3. #3 W. Kevin Vicklund
    December 5, 2008

    Co-evolution is a challenge to the “hopeful monster” hypothesis. A “hopeful monster” in the form of a pig with wings that suddenly appears anywhere in the world can fly immediately, whereas a “hopeful monster” in the form of bees or flowers that appear somewhere in the world without the corresponding co-dependent organism — bees or flowers — will not survive.

    Larry is making a lot of unstated assumptions here. First, he is assuming that a “hopeful monster” in the form of a pig with functional wings presents a problem for evolution. While I agree that it almost certainly does, the reason I agree provides the counter to his second major assumption. The second major assumption is that the odds of a flying pig suddenly appearing are the same as the odds of a codependent trait appearing. He doesn’t provide any evidence this is the case, and there is no reason it should be the case.

    His error probably stems from the assumption that wings are a single new trait. From a genetic standpoint, it is exceedingly unlikely to be a single trait. It almost certainly would require dozens, perhaps hundreds or even thousands, of simultaneous genetic mutations, including deletions, insertions, SNPs, various epigenetic phenomena, etc. Though each individual mutation by itself may be quite likely, the odds of them all appearing simultaneously drops exponentially. That is why I agree that pigs with functional wings are extremely unlikely. But there is no reason to believe that a codependent trait requires more than one or two new mutations. Even if the odds that it appears in a favorable place are low, the combined probability of the codependent trait surviving are going to be many orders of magnitude higher than the probability of a flying pig suddenly appearing.

    The rest of Larry’s arguments are built on similar straw men. Larry simply assumes that the odds are in his favor, without ever bothering to check or even understand how the odds would begin to stack up. Just another ignorant creationist argument from improbability, and one that is older than I am, to boot.

  4. #4 W. Kevin Vicklund
    December 5, 2008

    Quickly addressing Larry’s numbered arguments:

    1) If it doesn’t require simultaneous changes, then it isn’t a problem.

    2) This is no more a problem for evolution than any change in kind. Also, what may appear to be a change in kind may actually be merely a series of changes in degree. In your example, if we start out with a plate, then add a depression to make a saucer, deepen it to make a bowl, extend the sides to make a glass, and then pinch the top to create a shaker, we have created the shape of the stamen in buzz pollination only by using changes in degree. It should be noted that all of these shapes can convey an advantage that doesn’t require buzz pollination. What they do require is increasingly more effort by the pollinator, leading up to vigorous stroking of the stamen in the shaker shape (though buzzing also works). Make the opening just a little bit smaller, and voila! buzz pollination required.

    3) This is not a problem if the new generation can survive on the old generation.

    4) This is not a problem if there is a progression simple and general to complex and specific. For example, there are orchids that use mimicry to attract wasps indiscriminately, and there are orchids that only attract a few species of wasps. In other words, there is a clear path towards increasing complexity.

    5) And once they are in the same time and place, they tend to continue to occur in the same time and place.

    6) Not particularly. Parasites need to leave their hosts, in order to survive the death of the host. Anything that increases their odds of getting back to the original host species is an advantage. Also, being parasitic requires less resources than being free-swimming and is thus advantageous. And it’s doubly advantageous if you can turn a predator into a host. And if the additional host isn’t required…

    As you can see, Larry’s arguments are all based on a house of cards. As it turns out, biologists have repeatedly demonstrated that his assumptions are not true. Evolutionary theory predicts that co-evolved species have evolved in a way so as to account for all these various potential pitfalls. The pattern observed in nature matches the pattern predicted by evolution. Co-evolution is not a problem for evolution, it is a confirmation of it.

  5. #5 Larry Fafarman
    December 6, 2008

    Kevin, you completely missed my points.

    (December 5, 2008 2:11 PM) —

    Larry is making a lot of unstated assumptions here. First, he is assuming that a “hopeful monster” in the form of a pig with functional wings presents a problem for evolution.

    The pig with wings was just a hypothetical example of an adaptation to a widespread fixed physical feature of the environment, the air, as opposed to an adaptation to another kind of organism.

    (December 5, 2008 3:57 PM) —

    Quickly addressing Larry’s numbered arguments:
    1) If it doesn’t require simultaneous changes, then it isn’t a problem.

    I am talking about obligate mutualism, where neither kind of organism can survive in the absence of the corresponding co-dependent trait(s) in the other kind of organism. And even where obligate mutualism can evolve gradually, the gradual changes must occur in both organisms at the same time and place to be mutually reinforcing.

    2) . .. Also, what may appear to be a change in kind may actually be merely a series of changes in degree.

    There is a big difference between (1) a higher degree of adhesion of pollen to the plant and (2) having the pollen contained in tubes. With greater adhesion of the pollen, the pollen could still stick to any insect that happens by — however, when the pollen is contained in tubes, it must be shaken loose by the resonance of special vibrations of insects’ wings (“buzz” pollination), and that vibration may require special wing muscles.

    3) . . . .This is not a problem if the new generation can survive on the old generation.

    I don’t see your point here. Some kinds of organisms can survive only in large numbers. For example, the final cause of the extinction of the passenger pigeon was that the bird could breed and survive only in very large flocks and so the few remaining birds could not re-establish the species.

    4) This is not a problem if there is a progression simple and general to complex and specific. For example, there are orchids that use mimicry to attract wasps indiscriminately, and there are orchids that only attract a few species of wasps. In other words, there is a clear path towards increasing complexity.

    Orchid-wasp relationships are discussed in the following post on my blog:

    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2007/07/x-rated-orchid.html

    5) And once they are in the same time and place, they tend to continue to occur in the same time and place.

    Your statement does not address the issue that I raised.

    6) Parasites need to leave their hosts, in order to survive the death of the host. Anything that increases their odds of getting back to the original host species is an advantage.

    Parasites can often survive the death of the host without leaving it. And the need to return to the original host species does not explain the evolution of multiple-host parasitic relationships.

    You don’t address my point #7 at all.

    As it turns out, biologists have repeatedly demonstrated that his assumptions are not true.

    Wrong — co-evolution is almost never discussed in debates about evolution.

  6. #6 PZ Myers
    December 6, 2008

    How amusing. I discussed co-evolution in my freshman biology course just a few weeks ago, as part of a rebuttal to the concept of irreducible complexity. But now Larry tells me these discussions don’t happen. Does that mean I can’t include it in the final exam?

  7. #7 Larry Fafarman
    December 7, 2008

    PZ missed my point #7, which I will repeat here:

    (7) The problem of co-evolution is what I call a “non-ID” criticism of evolution — i.e., arguments against co-evolution do not necessarily depend on any of the traits involved being irreducibly complex. However, ID can be used in arguments against co-evolution — for example, whole sets of co-dependent traits may be irreducibly complex. For example, bees must not only be able to digest nectar, but must also be able to find the flowers. Bees are able to detect the ultraviolet light from flowers and perform a special “dance” which informs other bees where flowers are located.

  8. #8 Heraclides
    December 9, 2008

    On topic: this reminds me of Leroi’s book Mutants in many ways.

    Off-topic:

    (Very quick comments as I’m too busy to explain myself fully.)

    Fafarman is the local IDists, as if you can’t tell ;-)

    Co-evolution has nothing to do with Tara’s starting post, Fafarman is just using an excuse to post something he wants to blather on about… Before he objects, the initial paragraph is a bizarre piece of illogic to base “relevance” on. Pigs that “fly immediately” is clearly fantasy, and latter portion is like Adams’ famous puddle.

    All the “points” Fafarman introduces have very basic inaccuracies, as is pretty typical of all IDists “arguments” I’ve seen. I haven’t time right now to run myself past them, but a common is that he inserts simultaneity into things that don’t need it, effectively insisting that something “must” happen that doesn’t have to. (Time scales are probably part of his fault.)

    Furthermore, like most IDists, Fafarman misprepresents the subject he is criticising, for example, “Wrong — co-evolution is almost never discussed in debates about evolution.” is simply wrong, its widely discussed.

  9. #9 Mark Blumberg
    December 9, 2008

    Regarding the “on topic” comment: Leroi’s book Mutants is a very fine book in many ways. But its resemblance to my book is largely superficial. Thus, despite a similar focus on anomalies, my aim was to use anomalies as a means to illustrate the epigenetic perspective of development and the flexibility that characterizes behavioral development, as well as the implications of these ideas for evolution.

  10. #10 Heraclides
    December 9, 2008

    Hi Mark,

    I guess any resemblence is in the covers rather than the focus of the text. Thanks for clarifying that your book is not an expansion, if you will, of a similar theme as Leroi’s to a range of species, but rather has a different point to make.

    I’m interested in epigenetics/development work myself, and keep an eye on neuroscience as an area to perhaps work in, in the future. I come from a molecular biology/genetics/computational biology background, so my focus and interests may be different to your own, though.

    Reading your description, I would be interested in reading your book, but that will have to wait until one of the local libraries purchases a copy as my budget is very limited!

    For what its worth, when Leroi’s book came out I had been considering writing a book myself using anomalies, but taking a different angle to yourself or Leroi. I’m not sure I could find time to ever do this (I don’t how you manage to!), as I have enough on my plate just trying to make ends meet.

    While I am writing, what do you think of Jaboblonka & Lamb’s Evolution in Four Dimensions? (Its a book I keep meaning look into, but haven’t found time yet to sound it out, never mind read it!)

  11. #11 Larry Fafarman
    December 10, 2008

    Heraclides said ( December 9, 2008 3:12 PM ) —

    Fafarman is the local IDists, as if you can’t tell

    As I explained, my discussion of co-evolution is a non-ID criticism of evolution — my arguments do not depend on any of the traits involved being irreducibly complex.

    Co-evolution has nothing to do with Tara’s starting post, Fafarman is just using an excuse to post something he wants to blather on about…

    Nonsense — my very first paragraph explains the relevance of co-evolution to the topic of the starting post —

    Co-evolution is a challenge to the “hopeful monster” hypothesis. A “hopeful monster” in the form of a pig with wings that suddenly appears anywhere in the world can fly immediately, whereas a “hopeful monster” in the form of bees or flowers that appear somewhere in the world without the corresponding co-dependent organism — bees or flowers — will not survive.

    Heraclides said,

    Before he objects, the initial paragraph is a bizarre piece of illogic to base “relevance” on. Pigs that “fly immediately” is clearly fantasy, and latter portion is like Adams’ famous puddle.

    The flying pig is just a hypothetical example of an adaptation to a widespread fixed physical feature of the environment, the air, as opposed to an adaptation to another kind of organism, often a locally non-existent “hopeful monster” of another type.

    I haven’t time right now to run myself past them, but a common is that he inserts simultaneity into things that don’t need it

    By the definition of “obligate mutualism,” simultaneity of the corresponding co-dependent traits of both kinds of organisms is going to be needed at some point. And as I pointed out, even where the evolution of obligate mutualism can be gradual, the gradual changes would have to exist at the same time and place to be mutually reinforcing.

    Furthermore, like most IDists, Fafarman misprepresents the subject he is criticising, for example, “Wrong — co-evolution is almost never discussed in debates about evolution.” is simply wrong, its widely discussed.

    Can you give an example of an Internet debate on co-evolution other than a debate that I initiated?

    Heraclides said ( December 9, 2008 5:11 PM ) —

    Reading your description, I would be interested in reading your book, but that will have to wait until one of the local libraries purchases a copy as my budget is very limited!

    What? Your budget is so limited that you can’t afford a single book? You can’t be serious.

    The author of the book has joined the discussion here. I am wondering if he has anything to say about my comments about co-evolution.

  12. #12 Mark Blumberg
    December 10, 2008

    Hi, Heraclides,

    I’d be interested in hearing more about what you would like to say about anomalies. I think this is a topic that remains to be fully explored. If you are able to read my book, I would be interested to know what you think.

    Regarding Jablonka and Lamb, I liked their book very much. They (and others) are trying to expand our concept of inheritance after its (in my opinion) unnecessary narrowing over the course of the last century. It also helps that their perspective, which I largely share, can now find support from a variety of sources. So I do recommend their book to you.

    Mark

  13. #13 Heraclides
    December 10, 2008

    Larry,

    I’m not really interested in “debating” with you, especially when your last remark to me is a troll comment, a feeble “McEnroe” personal attack directed at me. That said a quick comment:

    I suspected that your idea of “debate on co-evolution” was limited to the internet whereas Kevin, PZ myself, and others include science literature, classes and tea(coffee) chats, etc. After all, science debates are most likely to occur in science settings. But for all that, ‘google co-evolution blog’ reports “around 162,000″ hits and down on page twenty it is still reporting blogs…

  14. #14 Heraclides
    December 10, 2008

    Mark,

    I’ll have a look in the libraries later this week, it’s possible that they already have a copy. Hang on, let’s check the on-line catalogs… Seems the local libraries don’t have a copy yet. I’ll put in an order request for the public library next time I’m over that way. And give Christmas present hints! :-)

    My own interest in epigenetics in the chromatin-level control of gene expression and the various processes associated with that. There is a whole tangled jungle of issues to sort out–fun! I’ll get back to you: I have to get back to work. I work as an independent scientist/consultant. When I’m not working, no-one is paying…!

  15. #15 Larry Fafarman
    December 11, 2008

    Heraclides said,

    I’m not really interested in “debating” with you, especially when your last remark to me is a troll comment

    A “troll” comment? How is that?

    I suspected that your idea of “debate on co-evolution” was limited to the internet whereas Kevin, PZ myself, and others include science literature, classes and tea(coffee) chats, etc.

    “Limited to the Internet”? The Internet is huge.

    I have been following co-evolution a long time on the Internet and I have yet to see a debate about co-evolution other than a debate that I initiated.

  16. #16 Dave S.
    December 11, 2008

    Heraclides writes:

    I’m not really interested in “debating” with you, especially when your last remark to me is a troll comment, a feeble “McEnroe” personal attack directed at me.

    Wise course of action.

    Larry’s garbled understanding of co-evolution has been corrected several times already in the past. I have attempted myself to do so. Twice I think. It is a quite pointless waste of time, as he simply goes back to making the identical incorrect statements and starts over again.

  17. #17 nm
    December 11, 2008

    I remember learning about co-evolution in primary school. How’s that for never being discussed.

  18. #18 Larry Fafarman
    December 12, 2008

    Larry’s garbled understanding of co-evolution has been corrected several times already in the past.

    That’s just an idle boast.

    I have attempted myself to do so.

    You attempted but did not succeed.

    I remember learning about co-evolution in primary school. How’s that for never being discussed.

    I didn’t say never discussed — I said almost never debated. Most discussions of co-evolution describe it in very vague terms, e.g., “mutual evolutionary pressure,” or give examples of co-evolution that do not present big problems, e.g., some predator-prey and parasite-host relationships, “arms races,” and commensalism. Examples of co-evolution that present big problems are obligate mutualism in general, buzz pollination, orchids’ mimicry of female wasp sex pheromones, and complex parasitisms, including multiple-host parasitisms — all of these are discussed on my blog in the “Non-ID criticisms of evolution” post-label group of articles:

    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/search/label/Non-ID%20criticisms%20of%20evolution

  19. #19 W. Kevin Vicklund
    December 13, 2008

    The pig with wings was just a hypothetical example of an adaptation to a widespread fixed physical feature of the environment, the air, as opposed to an adaptation to another kind of organism.

    Riiight. The fact that “when pigs fly” is an expression that means something will never happen has nothing to do with your choice of examples.

    Of course, if Larry is just talking about generalities, he has failed to state why co-evolution is a problem. All he has said is that an adapatation requiring a widespread feature of the environment is more likely to be successful than an adaptation requiring a localized feature of the environment. (I should also point out that not all physical features are widespread and fixed in the environment, and that some features of organisms are widespread and fixed). Far from being a problem presented by co-evolution, it is a prediction of co-evolution. According to co-evolution, adaptations to widespread features of the environment should be more common and widespread than adaptations to localized features. (However, the amount of localized features may greatly outnumber the number of widespread features, skewing the ratios) Co-evolution presents a problem if and only if the observed pattern of adaptations does not match the pattern predicted. Larry has not even attempted to produce evidence that these patterns do not match up. Until he does, his claim that co-evolution is a problem for evolution is no different than claiming orbital mechanics are a problem for gravity.

    And since biologists have studied these patterns and found them to be consistent with the predictions, his claims are just as laughable.

  20. #20 Larry Fafarman
    December 13, 2008

    Kevin Vicklund said,

    All he has said is that an adapatation requiring a widespread feature of the environment is more likely to be successful than an adaptation requiring a localized feature of the environment.

    Air is everywhere all the time. The oceans, forests, mountains, deserts, plains, etc. cover very large areas and exist for very long periods of time. These widespread fixed physical features of the environment offer many opportunities for adaptation. In contrast, a “localized feature of the environment” in the form of a local mutation that is immediately fatal in the absence of a corresponding co-dependent mutation in another organism offers very little opportunity for adaptation by other organisms. And even where the co-evolution of obligate mutualism can be gradual, the gradual changes in both organisms must occur at the same time and place to be mutually reinforcing.

    My study of co-evolution has greatly enhanced my knowledge and understanding of interspecies relationships. I have learned about obligate mutualism, non-obligate mutualism, different kinds of predator-prey and parasite-host relationships, commensalism, symbiosis, buzz pollination, orchids’ mimicry of female wasp pheromones, etc.. Just dismissing co-evolution as “mutual evolutionary pressure between two different kinds of organisms” teaches one nothing. Darwinian dogmatism is the real science stopper.

  21. #21 Heraclides
    December 14, 2008

    Hi Mark,

    Sorry about the slow reply, distracted with that work thing…!

    I work as a computational biologist, with an interest in epigenetics and chromatin-level control of gene expression. I’m a bit of an old-timer I guess, so I like to read the larger biological stories the mechanisms I am looking at fall within. (I am at heart a biologist who happens to use computational techniques and tools rather than “wet” molecular biology experiments; it’s also why I prefer ‘computational biology’ over ‘bioinformatics': the two are different to me!) I have an interest in developmental disorders, especially those that might be considered “disabilities”, or molecular or genetic diseases, which I try to keep an eye out to see if there are research leads for me. Some of these are also neurological and quite a few have epigenetic/chromatin links. (I also have an amateur interest in neuroscience.) As a computational (molecular) biologist I can apply my interests to a lot of apparently unrelated things provided the underlying molecular mechanisms are related. My interest in “anomalies” is very amateur, at this stage anyway. I suspect it follows from developmental processes using some of the mechanisms I look at and hence when developmental process go awry I get interested. One trouble for me is that at least some of the classical anomalies seem to be a consequence of a physical disruption, rather than arising from distinct genetic or molecular epigenetic defects (aberrant DNA methylation, etc.), as you expect to see in classical genetic developmental disorders.

    I’m a little wary of people taking the term or concept of epigenetics too far. It seems to me that new trends sometimes induce something of a “pendulum effect”, swinging past the natural resting point that is, with the new thing getting applied over-eagerly at first until the fuss settles down a bit. (I’m not writing about your book in writing this: I haven’t read it yet and I don’t really know your own position.) DNA methylation, for example, has been known for a while, the newer thing is that it’s a more general mechanism than previously thought and it’s links to an array of molecular activities. It does have the potential to carry an “overlaid” message to that carried in the DNA sequence, one that can (potentially) be responsive to environmental effects. But you will know all this (!), so I’ll stop rattling on! :-)

    About my using an alias: I keep meaning to use my real name in some of these posts, but have sort-of stuck with the alias, which I originally started as something of an experiment.

  22. #22 Mark Blumberg
    December 14, 2008

    Hi, Heraclides,

    Thanks for the information. Regarding epigenetics, I agree with your wariness. For me, the “new” field of epigenetics is a special case of the older and broader concept of epigenesis. That is the perspective I have taken in my two previous books (Freaks of Nature & Basic Instinct). It is also the dominant perspective within my field of developmental psychobiology.

    Central to the concept of epigenesis is a deeper appreciation for what we mean by developmental experience. About 50 years ago, Daniel Lehrman got into a famous dispute with Konrad Lorenz over this issue, but alas many people are unaware of their dispute and its resolution. Importantly, Niko Tinbergen was convinced by Lehrman’s arguments and that is why he added ontogeny to his classification of four (previously three) biological causes. I cover these issues at length in Basic Instinct.

    Hope this clarifies my position.

    Mark

  23. #23 Heraclides
    December 14, 2008

    Basic Instinct is available at the public library and with luck I’ll remember to pick it up next time I’m over that way. In the meantime, I might try locate some review papers if I find time. (I’ve very little free time at the moment.)

    I’m vaguely aware of this discussion/debate being “overlooked”. I suspect its partly as it’s considered philosophical, rather than arising from evidence or observation.

  24. #24 W. Kevin Vicklund
    December 16, 2008

    Let me make some corrections for Larry, for the sakeof accuracy.

    Air is everywheremost but not all places these times. The oceans, forests, mountains, deserts, plains, etc. cover very large areas and exist for very long periods of time. These widespread fixed physical and organismal features of the environment offer many opportunities for adaptation. In contrast, a “localized feature of the environment” in the form of a local mutation that is immediately fatal in the absence of a corresponding co-dependent mutation in another organism or a rarely occuring physical feature offers very little opportunity for adaptation by other organisms.

    A forest is an organismal feature, not a physical feature. There is no correspondence between whether a feature is physical or organismal and whether a feature is widespread or localized. It should also be noted that widespread-localized is a spectrum. Evolution predicts that an adapatation requiring a widespread feature of the environment is more likely to be successful than an adaptation requiring a localized feature of the environment. The only way that this is a problem for evolution is if the observed pattern of adaptations is different than would be predicted pattern. Even rare occurences are expected to happen. Presenting anecdotes of what might be rare occurences does not demonstrate that the overall pattern is not what is predicted.

    And even where the co-evolution of obligate mutualism can be gradual, the gradual changes in both organisms must occur at the same time and place to be mutually reinforcing.

    They must be present at the same time and place to be mutually reinforcing, but that does not mean that they need to intitially appear at the same time and place in order to propagate independently. For example, species @ might have a certain trait, whereas species # has another trait. Both these traits are widespread in their respective populations, but do not effect the other species, and the range of the species overlaps considerably. Now a mutation in the trait for species @ produces a population A that can exploit the trait in species #. This being a beneficial mutation, population A begins to spread. At some later time, a mutation in the trait for species # allows a population 1 to exploit the original trait of species @ begins to spread. Later, the range of populations A and 1 begin to overlap, and both original populations get pushed out. Eventually, these two populations completely dominate an area. And then the process iterates, resulting in populations B and 2 replacing A and 1. Take a few more iterations, so that we now have populations E and 5. By this point, the two traits have become well-matched and represent the primary means of whatever the initial trait did. The loss of the old ways of doing things is neutral, or perhaps only mildly deleterious, and genetic drift manages to eliminate the alternate pathway that is no longer required. You now have two populations (F and 6) that have co-evolved to the point of obligate mutualism.

    Note that at no point in the above scenario did a mutation appear that required a trait of an organism that wasn’t already widespread in the environment. However, from the moment the two mutant populations overlapped, there was a chance that the next iteration could successfully begin, and this chance increases as the area of overlap grows.

    My study of co-evolution has greatly enhanced my knowledge and understanding of interspecies relationships. I have learned about obligate mutualism, non-obligate mutualism, different kinds of predator-prey and parasite-host relationships, commensalism, symbiosis, buzz pollination, orchids’ mimicry of female wasp pheromones, etc.. Just dismissing co-evolution as “mutual evolutionary pressure between two different kinds of organisms” teaches one nothing. Darwinian dogmatism is the real science stopper.

    Congratulations. Your knowledge of co-evolution is now as wide and thick as a postage stamp. You have gathered a few anecdotes and demonstrated that you know that scientists use certain terms to describe these anecdotes. What you have failed to do is learn any of the underlying biology, or how any of these anecdotes connect to the broad knowledge base collected by biologists over the past few centuries. Moreover, you have completely rejected learning even the most basic explanations of the theory you are rejecting. You look for an example that you think represents something that evolution can’t explain, and don’t even bother to find out whether your assumptions about why it is unexplainable are even true. On the other hand, when biologists encounter such apparent obstacles to evolution, they don’t simply dismiss it as “mutual evolutionary pressure between two different kinds of organisms.” They actually look at the underlying biology, try to determine the steps that would be needed to produce the structure, and compare it to varyingly related species. And when they do that, it turns out that they can say much more than “mutual evolutionary pressure between two different kinds of organisms” – though that phrase still serves as a catchall phrase describing the wonderfully complex sequence of events that occured.

  25. #25 W. Kevin Vicklund
    December 16, 2008

    There is a big difference between (1) a higher degree of adhesion of pollen to the plant and (2) having the pollen contained in tubes. With greater adhesion of the pollen, the pollen could still stick to any insect that happens by — however, when the pollen is contained in tubes, it must be shaken loose by the resonance of special vibrations of insects’ wings (“buzz” pollination), and that vibration may require special wing muscles.

    Larry is making a claim here without having done any basic research on what he is claiming. First, let me reiterate a point I made before: buzz pollination is not always required when mature pollen is contained in a tube. Simply rubbing the tube with the legs is sufficient for about 8% of the flowers that keep pollen in a tube. Also, buzz pollination is not technically necessary, it is just orders of magnitude for effecient. But to my main point:

    Larry claims that having pollen in a tube represents a change in kind. But he can’t make that claim unless he knows what it is a change from. As it turns out, the basic biology of pollen-bearing structures in flowering plants indicate that this is merely a change in degree, not a change in kind. The pollen-bearing structures, known as anthers, develop as tubes containing immature pollen. When the pollen matures, the anthers open at either a point (poricidal dehiscence) or a line (longitudinal dehiscence). The only structural difference is that a cell type is expressed at the point or line of opening. In fact, not only does the Solanum genus (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers) feature both types, there’s even a transitional structure that contains both features.

    As far as wasp sex pheromones being produced by flowers, it turns out that the specific example Larry is referring to is not as difficult as it seems. The specif chemical is made by taking two types of common biochemicals and running them through a two step process, both steps commonly found in organisms. The wasps don’t need the flowers (they feed on other flowers). So what likely happened? A flower, normally pollinated by wasps, accidentally hit the right combination of chemicals and processes to mimic a female wasp, resulting not only in an increased number of pollinating visits, but a higher fidelity rate (the wasps would be more likely to go to the same type of flower). Further mutations increased the allure, and the flower no longer had to offer the normal food reward.

    Another example is the Ophrys orchid genus. For that genus, there are many aromatic compounds that form a protective coating. It turns out that if the right proportion of 14 of these compounds is present, it mimics the sex pheromones of a local wasp genus (and each species has a different mix). Easy-peasy.

    And all of these facts were discovered because biologists weren’t satisfied with saying “it simply must have happened.”

  26. #26 Larry Fafarman
    December 17, 2008

    Kevin Vicklund said,

    A forest is an organismal feature, not a physical feature.

    Kevin, you can’t see the forest for the trees. My point was that the forests offer large opportunities for adaptation because the forests are permanent or semi-permanent and cover hundreds or thousands of square miles. OK, I will stop calling forests a “physical” feature of the environment, though in many ways they function the same as physical features of the environment so far as evolutionary adaptation is concerned. BTW, you neglected to point out that plains usually have grasses.

    They must be present at the same time and place to be mutually reinforcing, but that does not mean that they need to intitially appear at the same time and place in order to propagate independently.

    Wrong — if the traits are mutually co-dependent, then by definition they cannot propagate independently. They can’t even exist independently, let alone propagate independently. And even where two mutually reinforcing traits can propagate independently, their independent propagation will not be rapid because there is no mutual reinforcement.

    Note that at no point in the above scenario did a mutation appear that required a trait of an organism that wasn’t already widespread in the environment.

    Your scenario is so complicated that it could only be designed. So you are trading one kind of design for another.

    when biologists encounter such apparent obstacles to evolution, they don’t simply dismiss it as “mutual evolutionary pressure between two different kinds of organisms.”

    The problem is that they don’t see the apparent obstacles to co-evolution.

    They actually look at the underlying biology, try to determine the steps that would be needed to produce the structure, and compare it to varyingly related species.

    The examples of co-evolution that biologists investigate — mostly some parasite-host and predator-prey relationships — do not present the serious obstacles to co-evolution that are presented by obligate mutualism. For example, if a parasite, predator, host, or prey gains an advantage, the other species does not necessarily have to respond immediately and might never have to respond if the effect of the advantage is not fatal on the other species.

    First, let me reiterate a point I made before: buzz pollination is not always required when mature pollen is contained in a tube.

    Here is what Wikipedia says about buzz pollination:

    Sonication or buzz pollination is a technique used by some bees to release pollen which is more or less firmly held by the anthers, which makes pollination more efficient. The anther of buzz pollinated species of plants is typically tubular, with only an opening at one end, and the pollen is inside – smooth-grained and firmly attached. With self fertile plants such as tomato, wind may be sufficient to shake loose the pollen through pores in the anther and accomplish pollination. Visits by bees may also shake loose some pollen. However, the most efficient pollination is accomplished by a few species who specialize in sonication or buzz pollination.
    In order to release the pollen, bumblebees and some species of solitary bees are able to grab onto the flower and move their flight muscles rapidly, causing the flower and anthers to vibrate, dislodging pollen. This resonant vibration is called buzz pollination. The honeybee rarely performs buzz pollination. About 8% of the flowers of the world are primarily pollinated using buzz pollination.

    So buzzing the flowers might not be an absolute requirement, but it certainly helps.

    Larry claims that having pollen in a tube represents a change in kind. But he can’t make that claim unless he knows what it is a change from. As it turns out, the basic biology of pollen-bearing structures in flowering plants indicate that this is merely a change in degree, not a change in kind

    Wrong. As I said, it is not just a matter of the pollen adhering more strongly to the flower — that would be a change in degree. The pollen is contained in tubes in buzz pollination — that is a change in kind.

    As far as wasp sex pheromones being produced by flowers, it turns out that the specific example Larry is referring to is not as difficult as it seems. The specif chemical is made by taking two types of common biochemicals and running them through a two step process, both steps commonly found in organisms.

    It’s not that simple — the mimicry of the female wasp sex pheromones must be very specific. There is one species of orchid that is pollinated by only one species of wasp.

    The wasps don’t need the flowers (they feed on other flowers).

    Well, I don’t know exactly what the wasps feed on, but it is true that they don’t need the orchids. I never said that the wasps need the orchids.

    And all of these facts were discovered because biologists weren’t satisfied with saying “it simply must have happened.”

    I never said that research should stop when we can’t explain something.

    Kevin, you just argue with me for the sake of arguing. You repeatedly ignore points that I have already made. You are just a big bag of hot air.

  27. #27 Heraclides
    December 17, 2008

    Writing to the lurkers:

    The term ‘co-evolution’ does not say that two changes in related species happen simultaneously. It does not say that two species have to evolve in some kind of strange lock-step where each has to instantaneously make compensating changes at the same time. Co-evolved changes only appear as if they happened at the same time if you do a “before and after” comparison after a lot of time has past.

    The term ‘co-evolution’ is just a way of saying that one species evolved in response to changes in another, and vice versa. It is not some different kind of evolutionary process, it uses the same evolutionary processes as everything else does. It just describes how two species relate to eachother in terms of evolution, just as predator or prey does in terms of the food chain.

    Larry: Speaking for myself, while it’s not my blog and so I can’t make the call, but wouldn’t the correct thing to do be to have your parallel discussion on your own blog? Co-evolution hasn’t anything to do with introducing Mark’s book, after all.

    Mark: I’ll try get back to you after the holiday break, but I suspect this thread will get polluted by this side-show!

  28. #28 Larry Fafarman
    December 17, 2008

    Heraclides said (December 17, 2008 5:48 PM) —

    Writing to the lurkers:

    Why is your comment addressed to the lurkers? The discussion is with me, not the lurkers.

    The term ‘co-evolution’ does not say that two changes in related species happen simultaneously.

    What you think the term “co-evolution” says and what co-evolution actually requires may be two entirely different things.

    It does not say that two species have to evolve in some kind of strange lock-step where each has to instantaneously make compensating changes at the same time.

    If both of the corresponding traits in the two species are fatal in the absence of the corresponding trait in the other species, then the two species have to evolve in “some kind of strange lock-step.” In fact, if the two species can interact only in large numbers, then large numbers of both species with the corresponding co-dependent traits would have to suddenly appear at the same time and place. And even where the co-evolution of the mutualism can be gradual, the gradual changes would have to exist at the same time and place to be mutually reinforcing. If there is no mutual reinforcement, then the mutual relationship will not propagate rapidly.

    The term ‘co-evolution’ is just a way of saying that one species evolved in response to changes in another, and vice versa. It is not some different kind of evolutionary process, it uses the same evolutionary processes as everything else does.

    Wrong — as I already pointed out, there is a big difference between (1) evolutionary adaptation to widespread permanent features of the environment, e.g., the air, the oceans, mountains, plains, deserts, etc. and (2) adaptation to totally co-dependent traits in other organisms when the trait in each organism is fatal in the absence of the corresponding trait in the other organism. Co-evolution may require the sudden appearance of large numbers of two kinds of “hopeful monsters” at the same place at the same time.

    It just describes how two species relate to each other in terms of evolution, just as predator or prey does in terms of the food chain.

    I just finished describing why obligate mutualism is a big problem for co-evolution whereas predator-prey relationships are generally not.

    Larry: Speaking for myself, while it’s not my blog and so I can’t make the call, but wouldn’t the correct thing to do be to have your parallel discussion on your own blog? Co-evolution hasn’t anything to do with introducing Mark’s book, after all.

    Sigh. As I have already pointed out, my very first paragraph in this thread describes the intimate connection between co-evolution and Mark’s book:

    Co-evolution is a challenge to the “hopeful monster” hypothesis. A “hopeful monster” in the form of a pig with wings that suddenly appears anywhere in the world can fly immediately, whereas a “hopeful monster” in the form of bees or flowers that appear somewhere in the world without the corresponding co-dependent organism — bees or flowers — will not survive.

  29. #29 Heraclides
    December 19, 2008

    I wrote earlier that “I’m not really interested in “debating” with you, [...]“ That hasn’t changed, but I’m happy to help others. Good discussions, especially in science, are not centred about any one person: they are centred about the topic.

  30. #30 DB
    January 6, 2009

    there is a big difference between (1) evolutionary adaptation to widespread permanent features of the environment, e.g., the air, the oceans, mountains, plains, deserts, etc. and (2) adaptation to totally co-dependent traits in other organisms when the trait in each organism is fatal in the absence of the corresponding trait in the other organism.

    Yeah, so? How is this a problem for evolution?

  31. #31 Larry Fafarman
    January 7, 2009

    DB wrote,

    Yeah, so? How is this a problem for evolution?

    Where co-dependent traits in two different kinds of organisms are fatal when the corresponding trait is locally absent in the other organism, then mutations producing both traits must occur at the same time and place, i.e., two kinds of “hopeful monsters” must suddenly appear at the same time and place, and that is extremely unlikely. Furthermore, if the two kinds of hopeful monsters can interact only in large numbers, then both kinds of hopeful monsters must suddenly both appear in large numbers at the same time and place. And even where the development of co-dependence can be gradual, the gradual changes in both kinds of organisms must exist at the same time and place in order to be mutually reinforcing.

  32. #32 DB
    January 7, 2009

    Um, duh. So how is this a problem for evolution?

  33. #33 Larry Fafarman
    January 8, 2009

    Um, duh. So how is this a problem for evolution?

    Well, IMO it is fairly obvious. I don’t see how I can explain it better than I have already explained it.

    Also, some kinds of co-evolution are among the most complex and specific adaptations in biology, e.g.,

    (1) Pollination of orchids by means of mimicry of female wasps’ sex pheromones. The chemicals are very complex and the mimicry must be exact. There is a species of orchid that is pollinated by only one species of wasp.

    (2) Carl Zimmer, a popular-science writer specializing in parasitology, went so far as to use the term “reverse engineering” to describe some parasites’ adaptation to the nervous systems of their hosts. For example, caterpillars stay close to the pupae of a parasitic wasp and protect them by means of violent head swings. Multiple-host parasitisms are also a big problem for evolution.

    These special kinds of co-evolution are discussed in the “Non-ID criticisms of evolution” post-label group of articles on my blog (though the traits are so complex that they should be considered to be ID instead of non-ID) —

    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/search/label/Non-ID%20criticisms%20of%20evolution

  34. #34 DB
    January 8, 2009

    “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

    All you’ve done is tell us some predictions that evolution makes. I don’t see why a theory making predictions is a problem for that theory. I would consider it a problem for that theory if observations didn’t match predictions.

    Your posts boil down to “some traits should be significantly less likely to appear than other traits.” But for this to be a problem for evolution, you’d need to show that they appear more often than they should. Can you do that, or are you just blowing smoke up our asses?

  35. #35 Heraclides
    January 8, 2009

    DB:

    From earlier posts here and elsewhere, it is apparent that Larry ignores, or is ignorant of, how the argument for co-evolution actually goes on several levels. From my perspective, this makes it pointless “arguing” with him, not so much his incorrect “reading” of what co-evolution means, but his dogmatic insistence that his reading of it is right! It’s your call, of course, but my point is that I think you will find it will come to nothing because of this. Just a heads’ up.

  36. #36 W. Kevin Vicklund
    January 9, 2009

    Just as a heads up (since Larry gets paranoid about stuff like this):

    ScienceBlogs is upgrading its software at 1:00 EST this afternoon. This could take a day or two, so don’t panic if you can’t post. Since Larry hasn’t replied yet, it shouldn’t be presumed that he is dodging the issue until Monday or later. I may have a response then, too – I’ve been too busy with the holidays.

  37. #37 Larry Fafarman
    January 11, 2009

    DB said,

    All you’ve done is tell us some predictions that evolution makes.

    What? Are you talking to me? What predictions are those?

    Your posts boil down to “some traits should be significantly less likely to appear than other traits.”

    What? Where did I say or imply that?

    Heraclides said,

    DB:
    From earlier posts here and elsewhere, it is apparent that Larry ignores, or is ignorant of, how the argument for co-evolution actually goes on several levels.

    Your comment contains nothing but scoffing. I saw scoffing accurately described as follows:

    Scoffing–the scornful treatment of what is worthy–is based on an illusion whereby falsehood is made to look large and important and truth small and stupid, not by thorough and studied reason, but mere belittlement.

    http://merecomments.typepad.com/merecomments/2008/12/scoffing.html

    Kevin Vicklund said,

    Since Larry hasn’t replied yet, it shouldn’t be presumed that he is dodging the issue until Monday or later.

    There are no new issues to dodge.

  38. #38 Larry Fafarman
    January 11, 2009

    DB said,

    All you’ve done is tell us some predictions that evolution makes.

    What? Are you talking to me? What predictions are those?

    Your posts boil down to “some traits should be significantly less likely to appear than other traits.”

    What? Where did I say or imply that?

    Heraclides said,

    DB:
    From earlier posts here and elsewhere, it is apparent that Larry ignores, or is ignorant of, how the argument for co-evolution actually goes on several levels.

    Your comment contains nothing but scoffing. I saw scoffing accurately described as follows:

    Scoffing–the scornful treatment of what is worthy–is based on an illusion whereby falsehood is made to look large and important and truth small and stupid, not by thorough and studied reason, but mere belittlement.

    http://merecomments.typepad.com/merecomments/2008/12/scoffing.html

    Kevin Vicklund said,

    Since Larry hasn’t replied yet, it shouldn’t be presumed that he is dodging the issue until Monday or later.

    There are no new issues to dodge.

  39. #39 DB
    January 12, 2009

    What predictions are those? … Where did I say or imply that?

    Here’s an example:

    there is a big difference between (1) evolutionary adaptation to widespread permanent features of the environment, e.g., the air, the oceans, mountains, plains, deserts, etc. and (2) adaptation to totally co-dependent traits in other organisms when the trait in each organism is fatal in the absence of the corresponding trait in the other organism.

    There you claim there is a difference between two types of traits, but didn’t say what. Later, you explained what I assume you meant:

    Where co-dependent traits in two different kinds of organisms are fatal when the corresponding trait is locally absent in the other organism, then mutations producing both traits must occur at the same time and place, i.e., two kinds of “hopeful monsters” must suddenly appear at the same time and place, and that is extremely unlikely.

    That is a prediction of evolution. The prediction, as you admitted, is that one type of trait (precisely defined above) “should be significantly less likely to appear than” another trait (the adaptation to widespread features).

    Show us that a) those traits as precisely described above actually exist in Nature, and b) that they appear more often than evolution predicts, and you can claim that it is a problem for evolution. Until then, you are merely scoffing at evolution.

  40. #40 Larry Fafarman
    January 14, 2009
    there is a big difference between (1) evolutionary adaptation to widespread permanent features of the environment, e.g., the air, the oceans, mountains, plains, deserts, etc. and (2) adaptation to totally co-dependent traits in other organisms when the trait in each organism is fatal in the absence of the corresponding trait in the other organism.

    There you claim there is a difference between two types of traits, but didn’t say what.

    Sheeesh, I did say what the difference is. Some traits — e.g., wings for flying — are adaptations to widespread fixed physical features of the environment, whereas other traits — e.g., bees adaptations to flowers — are adaptations to other kinds of organisms.

    Where co-dependent traits in two different kinds of organisms are fatal when the corresponding trait is locally absent in the other organism, then mutations producing both traits must occur at the same time and place, i.e., two kinds of “hopeful monsters” must suddenly appear at the same time and place, and that is extremely unlikely.

    That is a prediction of evolution. The prediction, as you admitted, is that one type of trait (precisely defined above) “should be significantly less likely to appear than” another trait (the adaptation to widespread features).

    No, I didn’t say that one type of trait is significantly less likely to appear than the other — I said that one type of trait is significantly less likely to survive than the other. A trait that is an adaptation to a widespread fixed physical feature of the environment — e.g., wings for flying — is likely to survive, whereas a trait that is an adaptation to a corresponding trait in another organism and is fatal in the absence of that trait in the other organism is not going to survive if that corresponding trait in the other organism is locally absent.

  41. #41 Heraclides
    January 16, 2009

    Larry,

    I was writing to DB, not you. Regards “Your comment contains nothing but scoffing.”: no, it didn’t, and trying to change the tone of what I wrote will not make your (non) “understanding” of co-evolution right. Regards “[...] not by thorough and studied reason, [...]“: the reason I can see that you don’t understand it is because I have studied it.

    I have told you several times I am not interesting in “conversing” with you. Please do not direct further posts at me, thank you.

  42. #42 DB
    January 17, 2009

    Sheeesh, I did say what the difference is. Some traits — e.g., wings for flying — are adaptations to widespread fixed physical features of the environment, whereas other traits — e.g., bees adaptations to flowers — are adaptations to other kinds of organisms.

    So what is the difference?

    No, I didn’t say that one type of trait is significantly less likely to appear than the other — I said that one type of trait is significantly less likely to survive than the other.

    I meant appear as “is present”, not “first presence”. Survive is another way of saying what I meant. Sorry for confusing you.

    You gave an incomplete scenario. Let’s go through some of the different combos.

    A trait that is an adaptation to a widespread fixed physical feature of the environment is likely to survive;

    A trait that is an adaptation to a corresponding trait in another organism and is fatal in the absence of that trait in the other organism is not going to survive if that corresponding trait in the other organism is locally absent;

    A trait that is an adaptation to a physical feature of the environment and is fatal in the absence of that feature is not going to survive if that feature is locally absent:

    A trait that is an adaptation to a widespread fixed corresponding trait in another organism is likely to survive.

    So how is this a problem for evolution?

  43. #43 Larry Fafarman
    January 18, 2009

    Heraclides said,

    Larry,
    I was writing to DB, not you.

    You were not writing to me, but you were writing about me. Duh.

    Regards “[...] not by thorough and studied reason, [...]“: the reason I can see that you don’t understand it is because I have studied it.

    “Thorough and studied reason” refers to your comments — not what is hidden in your mind.

    Please do not direct further posts at me, thank you.

    Then no longer talk about me, thank you.

    DB said,

    A trait that is an adaptation to a physical feature of the environment and is fatal in the absence of that feature is not going to survive if that feature is locally absent:

    Now you are just being plain frivolous. The atmosphere, for example, is constantly everywhere and is always available for the adaptation of flying. Oceans, mountains, forests, plains, deserts, etc. cover very large areas and are permanent or semi-permanent and therefore offer a tremendous number of opportunities for adaptation. However, a mutation that is immediately fatal in the absence of a corresponding mutation in another kind of organism at the exact same time and place offers very little opportunity for adaptation. That was my point.

  44. #44 DB
    January 18, 2009

    The atmosphere, for example, is constantly everywhere and is always available for the adaptation of flying. Oceans, mountains, forests, plains, deserts, etc. cover very large areas and are permanent or semi-permanent and therefore offer a tremendous number of opportunities for adaptation. However, a mutation that is immediately fatal in the absence of a corresponding mutation in another kind of organism at the exact same time and place offers very little opportunity for adaptation. That was my point.

    In other words, we should find lots and lots of adaptations to widespread fixed features, and only a few adaptations requiring traits that aren’t widespread and fixed.

    So how is this a problem for evolution?

  45. #45 Larry Fafarman
    January 20, 2009

    In other words, we should find lots and lots of adaptations to widespread fixed features,

    And we do find lots and lots of adaptations to widespread fixed physical and quasi-physical features of the environment.

    . . . and only a few adaptations requiring traits that aren’t widespread and fixed.

    That is not worded correctly — that should be “few adaptations to traits that aren’t initially widespread and fixed” — i.e., adaptation to the co-dependent traits of obligate mutualism, particularly traits that are fatal in the absence of the corresponding co-dependent traits in other kinds of organisms. But on the contrary, we see lots and lots of such adaptations — and that is the problem.

    You are — or pretend to be — very slow to catch on. I have to carefully explain the same simple ideas over and over again. And people are always complaining that I ignore or don’t understand others’ replies.

  46. #46 DB
    January 20, 2009

    And we do find lots and lots of adaptations to widespread fixed physical and quasi-physical features of the environment.

    Glad we agree. Took you long enough to admit it.

    That is not worded correctly — that should be “few adaptations to traits that aren’t initially widespread and fixed” — i.e., adaptation to the co-dependent traits of obligate mutualism, particularly traits that are fatal in the absence of the corresponding co-dependent traits in other kinds of organisms. But on the contrary, we see lots and lots of such adaptations — and that is the problem.

    No, there aren’t. The number of adaptations of the first kind greatly outnumber (by several orders of magnitude) the number of adaptations of the second kind, just in the species that have adaptations of the second kind. The number of species that don’t have adaptations of the second kind greatly outnumber (again, by orders of magnitude) the species that do have the second kind. That’s why there isn’t a problem – this is exactly what we would expect to find if evolution were true.

    You are — or pretend to be — very slow to catch on. I have to carefully explain the same simple ideas over and over again. And people are always complaining that I ignore or don’t understand others’ replies.

    No, you weren’t explaining anything. You just kept repeating the same ideas over and over, even though I agreed with the logic, up to the point you started making unsupported and unstated claims, where I was challenging you to state and support those claims.

    But thanks for unwittingly admitting that you know so little about co-evolution that you don’t even know the relative frequency of obligate mutualism.

  47. #47 Larry Fafarman
    January 20, 2009

    The number of adaptations of the first kind greatly outnumber (by several orders of magnitude) the number of adaptations of the second kind, just in the species that have adaptations of the second kind. The number of species that don’t have adaptations of the second kind greatly outnumber (again, by orders of magnitude) the species that do have the second kind. That’s why there isn’t a problem – this is exactly what we would expect to find if evolution were true.

    The problem is not the relative numbers of the two kinds of adaptations — the problem is finding an explanation for the second kind of adaptation, and my previous discussions show that such an explanation is impossible or hard to find. Also, the co-evolution of extremely complex parasitic relationships is also a problem that I discussed above.

    But thanks for unwittingly admitting that you know so little about co-evolution that you don’t even know the relative frequency of obligate mutualism.

    I admitted nothing, you stupid ignoramus — the relative frequencies of the two kinds of adaptations are irrelevant to my arguments about co-evolution.

  48. #48 DB
    January 21, 2009

    I admitted nothing, you stupid ignoramus — the relative frequencies of the two kinds of adaptations are irrelevant to my arguments about co-evolution.

    Really?

    A “hopeful monster” in the form of a pig with wings that suddenly appears anywhere in the world can fly immediately, whereas a “hopeful monster” in the form of bees or flowers that appear somewhere in the world without the corresponding co-dependent organism — bees or flowers — will not survive.

    In the co-evolution of obligate mutualism, unlike in evolutionary adaptation to widespread fixed physical features of the environment, e.g., air, land in its different forms (e.g., forests, plains, mountains, deserts), and water in its different forms (fresh, salt, and brackish), there may be nothing to adapt to because the corresponding co-dependent trait in the other organism is likely to be locally absent.

    The pig with wings was just a hypothetical example of an adaptation to a widespread fixed physical feature of the environment, the air, as opposed to an adaptation to another kind of organism.

    The flying pig is just a hypothetical example of an adaptation to a widespread fixed physical feature of the environment, the air, as opposed to an adaptation to another kind of organism, often a locally non-existent “hopeful monster” of another type.

    Air is everywhere all the time. The oceans, forests, mountains, deserts, plains, etc. cover very large areas and exist for very long periods of time. These widespread fixed physical features of the environment offer many opportunities for adaptation. In contrast, a “localized feature of the environment” in the form of a local mutation that is immediately fatal in the absence of a corresponding co-dependent mutation in another organism offers very little opportunity for adaptation by other organisms.

    Wrong — as I already pointed out, there is a big difference between (1) evolutionary adaptation to widespread permanent features of the environment, e.g., the air, the oceans, mountains, plains, deserts, etc. and (2) adaptation to totally co-dependent traits in other organisms when the trait in each organism is fatal in the absence of the corresponding trait in the other organism.

    Sheeesh, I did say what the difference is. Some traits — e.g., wings for flying — are adaptations to widespread fixed physical features of the environment, whereas other traits — e.g., bees adaptations to flowers — are adaptations to other kinds of organisms.

    I said that one type of trait is significantly less likely to survive than the other. A trait that is an adaptation to a widespread fixed physical feature of the environment — e.g., wings for flying — is likely to survive, whereas a trait that is an adaptation to a corresponding trait in another organism and is fatal in the absence of that trait in the other organism is not going to survive if that corresponding trait in the other organism is locally absent.

    The atmosphere, for example, is constantly everywhere and is always available for the adaptation of flying. Oceans, mountains, forests, plains, deserts, etc. cover very large areas and are permanent or semi-permanent and therefore offer a tremendous number of opportunities for adaptation. However, a mutation that is immediately fatal in the absence of a corresponding mutation in another kind of organism at the exact same time and place offers very little opportunity for adaptation. That was my point.

    Funny, for someone who claims that the relative frequencies are irrelevant, you link the frequencies an awful lot, even going to the extreme of telling me that that was your point. Is it your point, or not?

    Ignoring your blatant lies for now:

    the problem is finding an explanation for the second kind of adaptation, and my previous discussions show that such an explanation is impossible or hard to find.

    No, you actually provided an explanation. You also scoffed at a bunch of others, but that’s beside the point. What you have not done is offer any evidence that the explanation you yourself provided is insufficient to explain what is found in Nature. This has been pointed out to you many times.

    The simple fact is, you simply don’t have enough knowledge to even know where to start looking for the evidence you would need to provide. That is not an insult by the way – everyone starts out that way. It’s the fact that you refuse to even look at any of the explanations or research regarding co-evolution that indicts you.

  49. #49 DB
    January 21, 2009

    If you were interested in finding explanations, which you obviously are not, here’s one: The evolution of obligate mutualism: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Title pretty much says it all; a host responding to parasitism can lead to obligate mutualism.

  50. #50 W. Kevin Vicklund
    January 21, 2009

    Wrong — if the traits are mutually co-dependent, then by definition they cannot propagate independently. They can’t even exist independently, let alone propagate independently.

    Wrong. Mutually do-dependent traits, by definition, are traits that do not function in the absence of each other. Non-functioning traits are quite capable of existing independently, and even propagating independently. See Kimura’s neutral theory.

    And even where two mutually reinforcing traits can propagate independently, their independent propagation will not be rapid because there is no mutual reinforcement.

    Yeah. So what? Larry has yet to demonstrate that this is a problem. Maybe it takes 100 years to propagate instead of 10 years. On timescales of millions of years, this is negligible.

    Your scenario is so complicated that it could only be designed. So you are trading one kind of design for another.

    Complexity is a hallmark of contingency, not design.

    The problem is that they don’t see the apparent obstacles to co-evolution.

    The problem for Larry is that they look at the apparent obstacles, ask themselves is there a way over or around these obstacles, and then go out and prove that these obstacles aren’t real.

    The examples of co-evolution that biologists investigate — mostly some parasite-host and predator-prey relationships — do not present the serious obstacles to co-evolution that are presented by obligate mutualism. For example, if a parasite, predator, host, or prey gains an advantage, the other species does not necessarily have to respond immediately and might never have to respond if the effect of the advantage is not fatal on the other species.

    Oddly enough, there are thousands of papers on obligate mutualism, a great many of them exploring the myriad ways it can evolve. For someone who claims to have studied the subject a lot, it is curious that you would be ignorant of all the work done in that area. Or are you lying.

    Oh, wait. Before banning me from your site, you forbade me from claiming you were ignorant on a subject. Therefor, I must reluctantly conclude that you are, in fact, lying.

    So buzzing the flowers might not be an absolute requirement, but it certainly helps.

    I’m pleased you agree.

    Wrong. As I said, it is not just a matter of the pollen adhering more strongly to the flower — that would be a change in degree. The pollen is contained in tubes in buzz pollination — that is a change in kind.

    Let me get this straight. Going from pollen contained in a tube to pollen contained in a tube is a change in kind? Hard to argue with logic like that – primarily because there is no logic in Larry’s claim. It’s like saying that an unpeeled banana is a change in kind from a peeled banana because it is a banana.

    The difference between regular flowers and buzz-pollinated flowers is that the pollen in the first is contained in a tube slit along the side, whereas the second is contained in a tube with a hole at one end.

    Also note I said nothing about adhesion. Pollen from buzz-pollination is usually less adhesive than normal pollen.

    As far as wasp sex pheromones being produced by flowers, it turns out that the specific example Larry is referring to is not as difficult as it seems. The specif chemical is made by taking two types of common biochemicals and running them through a two step process, both steps commonly found in organisms.

    It’s not that simple — the mimicry of the female wasp sex pheromones must be very specific. There is one species of orchid that is pollinated by only one species of wasp.

    It is, in fact, that simple. Two biochemicals run through a two-step process create the class of pheromone used by the female wasp. If you use the right two chemicals, you get a nearly 100% response rate from the male wasp. If you use two chemicals of the same class, you get a ~5% response rate. That’s sufficient for selection to start. Also, each* species in the orchid genus has a correspond species in the wasp genus, and the phylogenies line up, indicating that it evolved once and then diversified from there.

    *well, almost, there are a couple exceptions, as would be expected from evolution

    I never said that research should stop when we can’t explain something.

    No, you said that it does stop.

  51. #51 W. Kevin Vicklund
    January 21, 2009

    BTW, DB, nice takedown of Larry. I’ve been trying to get him to admit that false assertion for three years.

  52. #52 Larry Fafamran
    January 21, 2009

    Dunghill DB driveled,

    Funny, for someone who claims that the relative frequencies are irrelevant, you link the frequencies an awful lot, even going to the extreme of telling me that that was your point.

    What? I never said that was my point, bozo — I said that was not my point. I said that my point was that it is difficult or impossible to explain the second kind of adaptations. You have not addressed any of my arguments that you cited.

    Thanks for showing how many times I had to repeat the same argument, with you just repeating the same inane question, “how is this a problem for evolution?” So all I could do was just rephrase the question.

    If you were interested in finding explanations, which you obviously are not, here’s one:

    That was uncalled-for.

    Dunghill Kevin Vicklund driveled,

    BTW, DB, nice takedown of Larry.

    That was uncalled-for, too.

    I’m outa here — I’m not going to put up with that crap. You two lousy Darwinist trolls can go to hell. Good riddance.

  53. #53 mojoandy
    January 22, 2009

    Golf clap for DB and Kevin! That was sweet!

  54. #54 Larry Fafarman
    January 22, 2009

    That’s why they call that kind of stuff claptrap, you stupid dunghill.

  55. #55 W. Kevin Vicklund
    January 22, 2009

    I thought you’d picked up your marbles and went home, Larry. What happened, did you lose a few?

  56. #56 Larry Fafarman
    January 22, 2009

    I picked up my marbles so far as civil discussion is concerned, you disgusting dunghill. I am glad to return here to leave insults.

  57. #57 DB
    January 22, 2009

    You can dish it out, but can’t take it, eh?

  58. #58 Stu
    January 22, 2009

    I can almost hear the pitter-patter of Larry’s tiny feet stomping down the hallway in abject, impotent, pathetic rage.

    Argues like a five-year old, and swears like one, too.

    “Dunghill”?

    Really?

  59. #59 George Cauldron
    January 22, 2009

    I picked up my marbles so far as civil discussion is concerned, you disgusting dunghill

    Larry, we all know you haven’t had any marbles for decades.

  60. #60 David Harley
    January 22, 2009

    There are people here who ought to look up the standard definitions of “Internet troll” and then read their own posts a few times.

    http://kb.iu.edu/data/afhc.html

    What does any of the above have to do with the book in question, strictly speaking? Was the book not worth discussing in its own right, or is any excuse for riding hobbyhorses a good enough excuse?

    I was hoping for a serious discussion of the functions and limits of teratology, past and present, and got nothing but self-regarding rants and people willing to fuel the endless production of irrelevant material, at best.

    How about a hot debate on ingrowing toenails as an evolutionary adaptation? Even that would be more relevant.

    Thanks ever so.

  61. #61 DB
    January 22, 2009

    Hey, David, rather than being a troll, you could engage some of the points brought up and bring them around to the topic. Two suggested candidates:

    the change from normal pollination to buzz-pollination: it seems that the difference between the two is where the dehiscence(sp?) develops. Since this involves the location of a single cell type, it seems a perfect candidate for a ‘hopeful monster’

    orchid mimicry of wasp pheromones: again, it seems that a single fortuitous developmental change could bring this ‘hopeful monster’ into being

  62. #62 Larry Fafarman
    January 23, 2009

    DB barfed,

    You can dish it out, but can’t take it, eh?

    I can take it, you lousy troll. The problem is that an idiot who would make the following statement obviously has no interest in seriously considering anything that I say, so I would obviously be wasting my time in continuing the discussion here —

    If you were interested in finding explanations, which you obviously are not, here’s one:

  63. #63 angst
    January 23, 2009

    Sweeet! Thank you DB, Kevin.

  64. #64 mojoandy
    January 23, 2009

    Dunghill! Hee hee! What a cute temper tantrum!

    I think Larry came back to pick up all the toys he threw out of crib.

    Admit defeat, Larry. Come over to the dark side where we speculate, but then make positive predictions and try to falsify them. It feels goooood. Your parents don’t have to know.

  65. #65 Stu
    January 23, 2009

    Larry! Sweetie! If you keep this up, I’m putting you back in your car seat!

  66. #66 DB
    January 23, 2009

    Perhaps if you hadn’t made the following statement, I wouldn’t have concluded that you weren’t interested in seriously considering anything I had to say.

    Thanks for showing how many times I had to repeat the same argument, with you just repeating the same inane question, “how is this a problem for evolution?” So all I could do was just rephrase the question.

  67. #67 Larry Fafarman
    January 24, 2009

    DB drivieled,

    Perhaps if you hadn’t made the following statement, I wouldn’t have concluded that you weren’t interested in seriously considering anything I had to say.

    Thanks for showing how many times I had to repeat the same argument, with you just repeating the same inane question, “how is this a problem for evolution?” So all I could do was just rephrase the question.

    The difference between your statement and my statement is that mine is verifiable and true. You have no evidence to support your claim that I am obviously not interested in finding explanations. You are just a lousy, despicable troll.

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