Why We Should Teach Evolution

My account of the big creationism conference will go up soon, but in the meantime you can tide yourself over with this op-ed from yesterday’s New York Times. Olivia Judson explains a few of the reasons it is important to teach evolution in science classes. I especially liked this:

The third reason to teach evolution is more philosophical. It concerns the development of an attitude toward evidence. In his book, “The Republican War on Science,” the journalist Chris Mooney argues persuasively that a contempt for scientific evidence — or indeed, evidence of any kind — has permeated the Bush administration’s policies, from climate change to sex education, from drilling for oil to the war in Iraq. A dismissal of evolution is an integral part of this general attitude.

Well said. Go read the whole thing.

Comments

  1. #1 John Landon
    August 13, 2008

    The current evolution education by Darwin-indoctrination may be one of the factors of public resistance/indifference.
    As to the impact on extinctions, the theory of Darwin is itself partly to blame.
    http://darwiniana.com/2008/08/13/judson-in-times-on-evolution/

  2. #2 John Farrell
    August 13, 2008

    I agree. Judson is a superb writer btw. But the bad faith in science encouraged by creationists is in its way more poisonous to society than their stupid claims.

  3. #3 baboo
    August 13, 2008

    Landon, I asked you this on the Mt. Improbable thread, and you didn’t answer:

    “If you don’t concede that your directionality implies a teleological process, then you have demonstrated nothing that contradicts Darwinism, either in its original or modern versions. And to say that no such process is implicit in your theories because you can’t know the “telos” by looking backwards is just silliness. It’s like saying evolutionary theories that don’t allow for a goal are wrong because it’s clear that there’s some sort of a goal being sought even though we don’t have any way of knowing what it is”

    You now say on your site:
    “Nature is obviously far more complex and doesn’t indulge in the kind of destructive processes indulged in by man, amplified by his false views of selectionist evolution, held in place by idiot biologists.”

    So here you are again talking about directionality in your usual oblique fashion. And still with no evidence except your conviction there’s a “telos” still out there in the celestial woodpile.

    Put up or shut up comes to mind.

  4. #4 BaldApe
    August 13, 2008

    I really liked that column myself.

    The next president should concern himself with exposing the lies of the current one, as well as undoing the politicization of science. My daughter has chronic Lyme disease, and the CDC denies, on the orders of the insurance companies, that there is any such thing. The members who made the decision almost all had major conflicts of interest.

    It’s not just about evolution- it’s about life and death.

  5. #5 John Landon
    August 13, 2008

    Questions of teleology are very tricky, and not solved by current scientific methodology. To discover a form of directionality in history in my sense does not imply either a conclusive teleological argument or its opposite, for the simple reason that in the ‘eonic model’, which shows drumbeat alternation, the ‘driver’ can change direction, or,as with the Axial Age, explore several opposite ‘directions’ at the same time, like multitasking. Now it might be arguable that this is teleological in a new and different sense, but the point is still that we must exercise caution and not jump to conclusions. My usage ceases to be a shared language, ‘teleology’.
    To say that we don’t know the ‘telos’ is crucial. Further, in my approach, an ‘evolution’ of freedom, the directional process is alternating in different modes, or degrees of freedom, there is a system, and the people who make it up. the two might show distinct conceptions of the direction thought to exist. Buy the text and follow it closely. Abstract discussions aren’t of much value.

  6. #6 Tyler DiPietro
    August 13, 2008

    The first reason given by Judson is the only one that should be necessary. Not teaching kids about evolution leaves them effectively illiterate in a very large area of science, and deliberately leaving kids illiterate in something as basic and vital as biology is an educational disgrace and travesty of justice. In a sane world we wouldn’t need any more justification than that.

  7. #7 baboo
    August 14, 2008

    Landon,
    As of now, you have what is at best an untested (and possibly untestable) hypothesis, yet you are nevertheless so sure that Darwinism is flawed that you are referring to adherents as “idiot biologists.”

    How’s that approach working for you?

    I guess in your mind, every book sold is some sort of validation, quality of readership notwithstanding.

  8. #8 Dan S.
    August 14, 2008

    [many following quoted bits from that silly Darwinia post Landon links to]

    As to the impact on extinctions, the theory of Darwin is itself partly to blame.

    Landon, have you considered how the theory of Newton is partly to blame for the ongoing tragedy of people committing suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge? By claiming that gravity is the driver of falling, Newtonists make such suicides look “natural” when in fact they are the result of depressed humans armed with a dangerous and simplistic pseudo-theory.

    Hmm. Well. Um . . . wait . . . .

    Ok, ok, but have you considered how the theories of Pasteur and Koch are partly to blame for the current public-heath care crisis? By claiming that germs are the driver of disease, Pasteurists-Kochists make illness look “natural”, when in fact they are the result of . . . .

    No, wait, that’s just too stupid to continue.

    Now, Landon, you might argue that this is just pointless mockery. But . . . well, it’s not like that Darwinia post offers anything else to respond to with this claim. I mean, it simply doesn’t support it with any evidence whatsoever. Granted, digging up (for example) some hypothetical old quote justifying extinction-causing acts via half-understood 19thC science would bring up tricky historical questions about the degree to which such ideological claims serve to drive – as opposed to rationalize – human actions, but at least it would be something.

    In fact, trying to think out the argument for you (off the top of my badly under-informed head, I have to add) what’s striking is how little such crude misunderstandings seems to have played into the last 15+ decades of anthropogenic extinctions. Take the extermination of the passenger pigeon, which seems to have been driven less by a Darwin-deranged populace and more by rural custom, sport hunting, market forces, transportation changes, land use patterns, and probably? density-dependent breeding behavior. Their passing was marked not by gleeful worship of destruction, but by shocked incomprehension, an insistence that they couldn’t be gone, that surely there must be some remaining out there – with ever-more tenuous reports of sightings in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin . . . Bolivia . . . Chile . . . even Russia – and ultimately helped fuel conservationist and preservationist sentiments.

    Meanwhile, the (often locally all-too-successful) attempt to exterminate predators large and small often was justified in terms that tended to lose any resemblance even to pseudoscience, ultimately devolving into bizarre moralistic rants about how wolves were “degenerate and unmoral . . . contemptible cowards . . . a black-hearted murderer and criminal” (that’s conservationist William T. Hornaday). In these cases we have, for sure, the loathing of stockman and sportsman for the competition, along with much murkier motives, but nothing that I can see of even mangled evolutionary theory. Indeed, predator eradication is the exact opposite of what some imagined simplistic-survival-of-fittest-ist would have wanted, especially combined with selection pressure from hunters focused on prize specimens.

    Ironically, while it turns out to be pretty tricky to pin extinction surges on old Chuckie (there’s a piece over at the ASA that argues with great feeling and limited accuracy that the extinction of the dodo was not a classic example of “Darwinism [sic] in action,” and that such a claim is a myth – but of course in terms of influence the dodo seems to have gone extinct over a century before Darwin was even born), numerous authors from the late 19th century, early 20th C, and on through to today have held up Darwin’s work and later modern evolutionary biology as evidence for the interconnectedness and kinship of all life, in order to defend animal welfare, animal rights, and environmentalism. Although again, tricky questions of causation.

    The current evolution education by Darwin-indoctrination may be one of the factors of public resistance/indifference.

    While I’m always happy to argue for better science education, it’s rather blazingly clear that the main issue here has less to do with classroom teaching and rather more to do with a very specific and limited brand of (blindly literalistic, fearful, and faithless) preaching. Yes, there are problems of pedagogy and communication that make it easier for the noisily frightened minority to influence (or at least avoid opposition from) a far less engaged middle, and yes, of course pro-science folks always need to do more.

    – But of course, a lot of that ties back into the constant & unending fear-fueled attempts to drive modern evolutionary bio out of the classroom, and undermine it anywhere that’s not fully possible. Indoctination? Ha! All across the country there’ll be teachers tactfully deciding to slide over that chapter as briefly as possible, or avoid it altogether after facing the latest round of parent complaints and administrators too worried (or worse) to provide any support. How many mini non-litigated Dovers never make the news?

    (Of course, this ends up being a worst-case kind of scenario, since the vacuum created by cursory or no discussion of actual evolutionary bio provides a dimly-lit space of misunderstandings and ignorance where Social Darwinism and other pseudoscientific pathologies can shelter and spread.)

    The problem is that the framework offered [modern evolutionary biology] is a misleading reductionist ideological that is imperialistic toward other subjects and throws their study out of whack.

    Sure. And the problem with the framework offered by Wegenerists is a misleading reductionist ideological [-?] that is imperialistic towards other subjects and throws their study out of whack. After all, if you teach kids about plate tectonics, they’ll probably grow up to be imperialists. Or something. We must fight for a Greater Laurasia!

    The claim, sight unseen, against deep time that natural selection is the mechanism of evolution

    And where is Judson claiming that natural selection is the mechanism of evolution?

    I suggested last year that the Metro division take over the Science division on evolution.

    Talk about a “contempt for scientific evidence”.

    You people bore me. Please a) become more interesting, or b) go away.

  9. #9 Jonathan Lubin
    August 14, 2008

    The op-ed was excellent. I wish it had been somewhat longer, though. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  10. #10 heddle
    August 15, 2008

    I thought the essay was a bit silly. Teach evolution in science class because it is the prevailing scientific explanation for the diversity of life, period. Adding justification related to partisan politics is superfluous. You should teach evolution independent of a Republican war on science. The two are not related. It makes no sense that when Bush is out of office, they’ll be one less reason to teach evolution.

  11. #11 baboo
    August 15, 2008

    That was one of the dumbest comments ever made here. Not devious or manipulative or even consistent with a minority view. Just plan dumb.

  12. #12 Jason Rosenhouse
    August 15, 2008

    Judson’s argument had nothing to do with the Bush administration specifically. It had to do instead with countering a sadly common societal attitude of which the Bush administration is one example.

  13. #13 D
    August 15, 2008

    I don’t think stressing the philosophical implications of evolution as Judson does is strategically wise. The most obvious one, after all, is a weakening of religious faith concomitant with this thirst for evidence thing she mentions. That’s great, and we should be upfront about that of course, but to use it as a selling point?

  14. #14 Leni
    August 16, 2008

    heddle wrote:

    You should teach evolution independent of a Republican war on science. The two are not related. It makes no sense that when Bush is out of office, they’ll be one less reason to teach evolution.

    I think you’re missing the point a bit.

    Judson wrote:

    Moreover, since the science classroom is where a contempt for evidence is often first encountered, it is also arguably where it first begins to be cultivated. A society where ideology is a substitute for evidence can go badly awry. (This is not to suggest that science is never distorted by the ideological left; it sometimes is, and the results are no better.)

    It’s pretty clear that she’s saying the anti-science position of the Bush administration is a symptom of a deeper cultural problem, not the problem itself. (I know Jason already pointed this out, but I thought a quote from Judson’s piece would make it more plain.)

  15. #15 fongooly
    August 17, 2008

    Leni, making things plain is not within your motherfucking capabilities.

  16. #16 Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth
    August 17, 2008

    One assumes what one should first show that there is design when there are only patterns. The weight of evidence is there is no teleology, contrary to Eugenie C.Scott. So, the atelic argument is then that there is no divine force behind natural selection or any other natural force [ their own bosses] .Then we have thus the presumption of naturalism that all causes and explanation. are efficient, necessary, primary and sufficient, being the sufficient reason, contrary to Leibnitz.
    One is merely obscurantist to invoke telos! And theology is the mere obscurantism that God, who wills what He wills means merely God did it, ever so unimformative!
    So, religion is merely another superstition!
    Google skeptic griggsy for expatiation on all these points. Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism. He might be wrong1

  17. #17 fongooly
    August 18, 2008

    Expatiate this.

  18. #18 Roberto Gonzalez-Plaza
    August 21, 2008

    I find Dr Judson’s comments kinda bewildering. Consider for example: “For instance…Human trophy hunting for bighorn rams has caused the population to evolve into one of smaller-horn rams. (All of which, incidentally, is in line with evolutionary predictions.)”…which evolutionary predictions ? that hunters cull big horn rams? that hunting is a form of selection and hence the population evolves..? or that samller horn horns are adapted to…hunting? I recall a perfectly decent scientist commenting that it seemed she never read the books she reviewed for Nature. Or at least one.

  19. #19 Roberto
    August 21, 2008

    my previous post is my dysgraphia, sorry
    “samller horn horns”=”smaller horn rams”

  20. #20 Dan S.
    August 21, 2008

    I find Dr Judson’s comments kinda bewildering.

    um . . . why? “Which evolutionary predictions?” In the specific example you mention (of the three she gives to illustrate one general idea, that “we are causing animals to evolve just by hunting them“), it’s your first and second suggestions (rather, they’re part of the same thing). Simple. Thanks to selection pressure by hunters, the population has evolved in a specific direction. Simple. I’m not sure what the difficulty is here.

  21. #21 Roberto
    August 21, 2008

    are you suggesting hunting with guns is one ‘selection pressure” in natural selection….?? the population doesnt have anywhere else to go but to small horns populations..simple….just the opposite if they were left alone… ??so we are not making them evolve, we are exterminating them. thus the idea remains bewildering it is not so simple, i think

  22. #22 Roberto
    August 22, 2008

    are you suggesting hunting with guns is one ‘selection pressure” in natural selection….?? the population doesnt have anywhere else to go but to small horns populations..simple….just the opposite if they were left alone… ??so we are not making them evolve, we are exterminating them. thus the idea remains bewildering it is not so simple, i think

  23. #23 tresmal
    August 22, 2008

    Roberto said:
    “are you suggesting hunting with guns is one ‘selection pressure” in natural selection….?? the population doesnt have anywhere else to go but to small horns populations..simple….just the opposite if they were left alone… ??so we are not making them evolve, we are exterminating them. thus the idea remains bewildering it is not so simple, i think”

    First of all they are not being exterminated. As game animals their population is more or less competently managed. Thus the population remains stable.

    Secondly, hunters are looking for trophies. This means larger horns. The fact that hunters are preferentially killing rams with larger horns puts those rams at a reproductive disadvantage relative to smaller horned rivals (you can’t mate when your head is hanging over someone’s fireplace.) Natural selection works on differences in reproductive success: rams with small horns don’t get killed by hunters therefore have more offspring than large horned rams taken as trophies.

  24. #24 Roberto
    August 23, 2008

    first, lets wait and see how they go. Maybe the gentle forces of the market will save them. It saved elephants [though all elephants went bonkers, except for the matriarchs]the tigers and the rhinos, which for a bargain price can be hunted by white guys. “Competently managed”?? like whom? like bison?. Let me remind you we are managing nothing here on earth: we are in survival mode.
    second : please understand the question: is hunting with guns part of the evolutionary landscape as ms Judson advertised in her column? I suggest is something akin to meteor impacts: everything goes up in smoke, literally. Western civilization wasnt part of the plot.

  25. #25 Dan S.
    August 25, 2008

    are you suggesting hunting with guns is one ‘selection pressure” in natural selection….??

    Yes. Why does this trouble you?

    the population doesnt have anywhere else to go but to small horns populations..simple….just the opposite if they were left alone…

    Ok . . .

    so we are not making them evolve, we are exterminating them

    But this completely fails to follow. We did come very close to exterminating them in the early 20th century – as happened with a number of other species, including bison – and in fact managed to wipe out one subspecies (and another remains endangered), but the population as a whole has recovered. Obviously and unhappily there are cases where overhunting, land use, etc. simply wipes species out, but it’s not across the board automatically inevitable. Or to put it another way, your claim that “hunting with guns . . . is something akin to meteor impacts” would suggest that white-tailed deer are on the verge of dino-stye utter extinction. Again, things were looking fairly grim for them, too, in the early 20th century, but, ah . . .not so much nowadays. Which is not to imply anything automatic or strictly market-based in either of these cases- there were intensive conservation efforts, legal regulation of hunting, huge changes in people’s attitudes thanks to cultural campaigns, more or less, major changes in land use, etc. – and esp. in the case of deer (like Canada geese) an ability to do quite well in certain kinds of human-altered environments that became quite plentiful. None of this is automatic or eternally fixed, of course, and there are many, many other species that would vanish almost overnight in these conditions.

  26. #26 Roberto
    August 26, 2008

    when guns come into the story, humankind decouples, to unknown extent, from “natural selection”, unless you claim that guns are an evolutionary “product”, and this is a real problem. Just imagine, for a sec, chimpos going into a stick killing spree. Human culture and some its products coevolve with their environments, but with their own trajectories. rockets for instance. how are they adaptive? to get out of here? {as compared to guns?]
    on the other hand, and i dont mean to be prickly here, white tail deer are an infestation in the northeast, at least. so are geese and crows and starlings elsewhere to name a few. so much for management. as andrew knoll argues, humankind is a geophysical force now. and before, but not of the same magnitude.

  27. #27 Leni
    August 26, 2008

    Roberto, I’m not sure what you mean by “humankind decouples”, but tool use is entirely natural. Guns are tools. Ergo natural selection by means of available tool use in predatory, tool-using species is entirely natural. Undoubtedly we act, for better or for worse, as an evolutionary pressure on other species.

    But just because it’s unpleasant, heartbreakingly tragic, or even just unmanageable doesn’t mean it’s “unnatural”. (This is not an excuse, by the way, to behave irresponsibly- especially given that we “know” better.)

    Rockets are also tools. What’s different about rockets is that they aren’t (probably) exacting much evolutionary pressure on large game species the way guns do. They could though, if we wanted them to. Or if rocket scientists were really as smart as they want us all to think they are :)

    And a word on culture: tool use often is a cultural adaptation. Their “trajectories” are different in that they don’t necessarily have an obvious genetic underpinning, but they are skills generally passed on from generation to generation, and as such are still generally considered heritable adaptations. Based on that I doubt “unnatural” is the best way to describe them.

  28. #28 fongooly
    August 27, 2008

    Leni’s preferred version of an unnatural tool user is a motherfucker.

  29. #29 Dan S.
    August 27, 2008

    fongooly, are you alright over there?

  30. #30 roberto
    August 27, 2008

    woaa….fongooly!!..aguanta agua marinero [hold the water sailor, or something like it] relly you ok??…Dan S.:I would like to remind you that Ms Judson asserts…”For instance, we are causing animals to evolve just by hunting them… Human trophy hunting for bighorn rams has caused the population to evolve into one of smaller-horn rams. (All of which, incidentally, is in line with evolutionary predictions.)” Well, this statement is wrong. We are not making big horns ‘to evolve”, we are culling big horned big horn rams, and leaving the small horned big horns. This is NOT evolution, it is something else. Regarding tools: the infinite genetic wisdom of philogeny is manifested in splendid industries, technologies and tools. Humans, insects and one could possibly argue, unicellular organisms, do. When use the term “natural selection’ I dont imply a binary opposite: there is not “unnatural selection, but when boloids or lava or volcanoes come into the picture, the evolutionary process starts anew from a new point, which is where it is left. This is natural but has nothing to do with the process itself. The same with guns, unless you want to claim that guns are selected for. You imply guns are adaptations. I think it fails to follow. Decoupling: I suggest that at one point humankind faced a bifurcation in its history-mostly in the mind- and as a result we are dragging evolution-biological- along, which seems to be at work, even faster, but we are doing something else too, and civilization as we know it[i meant it feticiously (is this a word?] is not part of it. We have no evidence tht science and technology will save us from a faustian bargain.

  31. #31 fongooly
    August 27, 2008

    Roberto, I’m OK. Leni’s decoupling remark simply reminded me of her favorite version of coupling.

  32. #32 Roberto
    August 27, 2008

    fongo: im glad you ok and friends with leni, or at least it seems. actually i was addressing lenis’ post.

  33. #33 fongo
    August 27, 2008

    Robo: I too took a facetious interest in the light-headed commentary.

  34. #34 Leni
    August 30, 2008

    Roberto:

    When use the term “natural selection’ I dont imply a binary opposite: there is not “unnatural selection, but when boloids or lava or volcanoes come into the picture, the evolutionary process starts anew from a new point, which is where it is left. This is natural but has nothing to do with the process itself. The same with guns, unless you want to claim that guns are selected for. You imply guns are adaptations. I think it fails to follow.

    Sorry if I misunderstood you on “unnatural” selection. And sorry for the long delay in response, if you are still reading.

    However, I am still not sure why you would say “selection for guns” is problematic given that 1) guns are tools, 2) tool use can be and is selected for in both the user and recipient species, and 3) that this particular tool use is part of the selective pressure placed on other species. At least from an evolutionary perspective. (I can clearly see why it would be problematic from a conservation perspective, of course.) I’m also not sure why you say it isn’t evolution when we put such pressure on other species, even to the point of extinction or bottlenecking.

    In a more general sense, it seemed to me as if you were attempting to make a distinction between “natural” and “artificial” selection pressures. You did say, if I remember right, that the culling of desirable game was “not evolution”. Setting aside the moral or conservation questions, I guess I’m just not sure how else we would characterize it from a biological perspective

    By the way, fongooly is not my friend. He’s a parasitic, vindictive troll who apparently has untreated mental illness. At this point, I will not engage him and do not read his comments, but please don’t mistake that for any friendliness on my part.

  35. #35 fongooly
    August 30, 2008

    Leni, you can’t help but read my comments, which, if vindictive, are justifiably so, considering you make no apologies for calling me a motherfucker. There can be no justification for calling anyone that based especially on reading some innocuous chatter that had nothing to do with you. The insult was not only gratuitous but infuriatingly arrogant.
    There are rules of civilized discourse which you violated in the most flagrant manner.
    Vindictive responses are obligatory since retaliation is one of the more necessary methods for discouraging future violations. And I do note that you have ceased to use vulgarity at all in recent days.
    Of course you will now respond with some such term of choice, just to prove my efforts were pointless – also proving that you do read these comments.

    And I might add that by your rather silly understanding of the matter, this modification of your behavior using the modern tool of internet blogging, is part of the evolutionary process.

  36. #36 Roberto
    August 31, 2008

    Leni, i am reading-so is fongo-thank you for comments, im still coffeeing up-PT, good points though ill be back later: but, you need to answer the question: are guns, or cars, or planes, or futbol, or tv selected for?/

  37. #37 Leni
    August 31, 2008

    I think I did answer that. But to clarify the point- it’s more like the function of the tool is selected for, rather than the specific tool.

    Some tools, like TVs or rockets, may not have a function or usage for which there is selection pressure. (Maybe they do- I don’t really know.) That doesn’t mean they can’t, though, just that they aren’t at this time.

    If not, they would simply be neutral with respect to natural selection at this time, but you would still need to carefully look at each one on a case by case basis in order to determine that. I’m not sure there’s any benefit from doing that here.

    To complicate things further, the specific tool use might be tangentially linked or secondary to some other behavior or trait that is selected for (or against).

  38. #38 fongo
    August 31, 2008

    Leni concedes that at bottom what she’s talking about is something that she really doesn’t know.

  39. #39 Roberto
    September 2, 2008

    let me remind you dear leni that my initial point was that Ms judson was wrong: hunting big horned big horn rams doesnt make the big horn population to evolve…this is not evolution… unless…and think hard about this, hunting, guns and the carhaart clothes the hunter wears are selected by evolutionary mechanisms. The right facts about evolution are different from “opinions” about what evolution is. Ms Judson doesnt advance any cause by making a wrong statement. Answer the question: is hunting with guns the big horned big horns an evolutionary process ?

  40. #40 Geoff
    September 16, 2008

    I realize it’s way too late to post to this thread, but I just have to say the original article that the post was about was wonderful. You can wait around a long time for an article like that to be written. It really helps.

    The insight I’d like to offer is that Christians know their Bibles in enough depth, and into enough detail, that if someone proposes a new doctrine or idea from it that isn’t really Biblical, they can spot it at a distance and not be fooled by it. Are we teaching biology in as great a depth as the Christians learn their Bible? Biologists need to acquire knowledge about the biosphere in enough detail (again) that when someone proposes a theory or idea not in line with the evidence that they are not taken in by it. Of course, no one can be totally prepared, and that is why we need research skills. But I don’t think we teach biology in that much detail (at least through H.S.) and we should. What is the evidence for evolution? We should be teaching that – the details – not even just the theory. That’s the real danger, is that the teachers may present it as a theory but not also teach the evidence.

  41. #41 Roberto
    January 7, 2009

    As the sensitive humanoid I am Im folowing up in my original comment: Judson was wrong..read
    http://www.newsweek.com/id/177709

  42. #42 Raymond Minton
    January 7, 2009

    A shorter version of why evolution should be taught: there are mounds of evidence to it’s credit, and not a shred of evidence that life on earth had as it’s cause anything mystical, magical, or supernatural. Even if flaws could be shown in evolution (and they can’t) supernaturalism doesn’t win by default.

  43. #43 Damian
    January 7, 2009

    Roberto said:

    As the sensitive humanoid I am Im folowing up in my original comment: Judson was wrong.

    Judson said:

    Human trophy hunting for bighorn rams has caused the population to evolve into one of smaller-horn rams. (All of which, incidentally, is in line with evolutionary predictions.)

    From the article that Roberto linked to:

    Selective hunting–picking out individuals with the best horns or antlers, or the largest piece of hide–works in reverse: the evolutionary loser is not the small and defenseless, but the biggest and best-equipped to win mates or fend off attackers.

    When hunting is severe enough to outstrip other threats to survival, the unsought, middling individuals make out better than the alpha animals, and the species changes. “Survival of the fittest” is still the rule, but the “fit” begin to look unlike what you might expect. And looks aren’t the only things changing: behavior adapts too, from how hunted animals act to how they reproduce. There’s nothing wrong with a species getting molded over time by new kinds of risk. But some experts believe problems arise when these changes make no evolutionary sense.

    Ram Mountain in Alberta, Canada, is home to a population of bighorn sheep, whose most vulnerable individuals are males with thick, curving horns that give them a regal, Princess Leia look. In the course of 30 years of study, biologist Marco Festa-Bianchet of the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec found a roughly 25 percent decline in the size of these horns, and both male and female sheep getting smaller. There’s no mystery on Ram Mountain: male sheep with big horns tend to be larger and produce larger offspring. During the fall rut, or breeding season, these alpha rams mate more than any other males, by winning fights or thwarting other males’ access to their ewes. Their success, however, is contingent upon their surviving the two-month hunting season just before the rut, and in a strange way, they’re competing against their horns. Around the age of 4, their horn size makes them legal game–several years before their reproductive peak. That means smaller-horned males get far more opportunity to mate.

    Unless I am missing something, Judson was bang on the money and you were wrong! I realize that it may be slightly counter-intuitive, but that is how evolution works (in some instances). Nature would normally select for the large-horned animals, but we are removing them from the gene pool. Therefore, most, if not all, animals will have smaller horns in the future. As long as we continue to provide a selection pressure, the species will have evolved smaller horns, which is the exact opposite of what would have happened if we were not killing the larger horned animals.

    This can be constituted as an evolutionary prediction because natural selection would normally favor the long-horned animals, but it makes sense that if we–humans–are killing those, the species would evolve in reverse. It is a logical conclusion that can be inferred from what we know about natural selection.

    I fail to see how you are so confused about this?

  44. #44 Caliban
    January 8, 2009

    Fongooly,

    You seem to be under the delusion that anyone cares what you have to say about anything here. Have a nice day!

  45. #45 Roberto
    January 8, 2009

    gawd!!! sos!!! hunting is NOT an evolutionary force..unless you claim that guns and hunting for trophiers are adaptative and confer reproductive advantages…..good lord…

  46. #46 Damian
    January 8, 2009

    Roberto said:

    gawd!!! sos!!! hunting is NOT an evolutionary force..unless you claim that guns and hunting for trophiers are adaptative and confer reproductive advantages…..good lord…

    Death is an evolutionary force, however, and hunting does constitute a selection pressure. The reproductive advantage is conferred to the smaller-horned animals. Hunting simply applies a different kind of selection pressure than natural selection, that’s all.

    Once again, I am struggling to understand how this is so difficult for you.

  47. #47 Roberto
    January 13, 2009

    i dont know why i even bother
    read more…
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/13/science/13fish.html?_r=1
    “the researchers also noted that the pattern of loss to human predation like hunting or harvesting is opposite to what occurs in nature or even in agriculture.”..and the read the freaking papers ..and tell ms judson…

  48. #48 roberto
    January 25, 2009

    i guess had enough…dont follow fads, be rational.and humble..

  49. #49 Damian
    January 25, 2009

    Roberto, how does that article help you? The fact that hunting leads to the opposite outcome (to nature or agriculture) is exactly what I have been saying:

    This can be constituted as an evolutionary prediction because natural selection would normally favor the long-horned animals, but it makes sense that if we–humans–are killing those, the species would evolve in reverse.

    But so what? It’s all still evolution! It doesn’t matter whether it is disease, old age, warfare/fighting, hunting, you name it — if animals with specific traits are dying, often before they have a chance to reproduce, and other animals (of the same species) with slightly different traits survive and reproduce, it is those animals that will pass on their genes, and the species will evolve in that direction.

    I honestly don’t know why you bother, either. You were/are wrong, and I cannot explain it any more clearly.

  50. #50 roberto
    January 26, 2009

    blind..blind..to the charms of judson? questionable lad…..evolution on reverse…what the hell is that?? read the papers..dont follow fashion..have a drink relax..dont hunt

  51. #51 Damian
    January 26, 2009

    blind..blind..to the charms of judson? questionable lad…..evolution on reverse…what the hell is that?? read the papers..dont follow fashion..have a drink relax..dont hunt

    roberto, I’m sorry, but you are doing a terrible job of explaining yourself. You keep posting these barely legible, badly strung together sentences, and expecting me to understand what the heck it is that you are on about! Clarity is a virtue, don’t you know?

    Anyway, perhaps saying, “the species would evolve in reverse”, is not the correct way to put it, but I couldn’t have been more clear, overall, whereas you have been anything but. What exactly is your problem with Judson’s article?

    I don’t know the women, and I have never read any of her books, so I don’t know why you believe that I am defending her for any other reason than her correctness on this matter.

    The reason for the death of these animals is only important in this case because it would not normally happen that way in nature. Therefore, it causes the animals to evolve in a different direction to what would normally be expected. And even I, a relative ignoramus (by comparison to those in the field), could have predicted that this would happen with the little that I know about evolution.

  52. #52 Roberto
    February 2, 2009

    “Therefore, it causes the animals to evolve in a different direction to what would normally be expected. And even I, a relative ignoramus (by comparison to those in the field), could have predicted that this would happen with the little that I know about evolution”??? you gotta be kiddin’

  53. #53 roberto-
    February 19, 2009

    From Nature Feb 12 2009 :Using a meta-analysis of previously published
    data, the authors compared the rates of
    phenotypic change in 40 populations subject to
    human harvesting with the rates seen in 20 systems
    that experienced selection from natural
    forces (for example, Darwin’s finches) and with
    the rates in 25 systems that experienced other
    human disturbance (for example, pollution).
    The human-harvested organisms included
    fish, ungulates, invertebrates and even plants,
    examples of these being respectively
    sockeye salmon, bighorn sheep,
    marine snails and gingseng.
    The recorded rates of change in
    harvested populations were astonishingly
    high, outpacing changes
    arising from natural agents by 300%
    and those from other anthropogenic causes by
    50%. The changes were both rapid and dramatic
    in magnitude: declines in morphological
    traits (such as body size) averaged about 20%,
    and shifts in life-history traits (such as reproductive
    age) averaged nearly 25%. Darimont
    et al. conclude with a thoughtful discussion
    about the effects of such changes on harvestable
    biomass, and whether populations will
    show a similarly swift return to previous trait
    distributions if recovery is a goal of resource
    management” you get it now???

  54. #54 roberto
    March 9, 2009

    im glad to everybody got it…actually the point is that ms judson doesnt know her science

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.