Pharyngula

Evolve: Eyes

The warm-up act for this program was a dinosaur program called “Jurassic Fight Club”, which was loaded with CGI and lots of gratuitous razzle-dazzle — but I thought it was a hoot. It also had enthusiasatic scientists talking about how they figured out what had happened (although it does bug me that they treated some speculative stuff in the narrative as if it were factual). Most of the show was taken up with glitzy animations, but it was balanced with at least some discussion of the process of science, so I’ll give it a thumbs up.

Now to settle in for the story of the evolution of eyes…


Oooh: “the sparks of evolution are tiny, random changes called mutations”. I’m pleased that it jumps right in without compromise. It also promptly pushes the timeline back to 600 million years, and describes work done on jellyfish eyes. They show some very cool behavioral studies of how jellies respond to different wavelengths of light, illustrating why even simple animals would find light-sensing organs beneficial.

Teaser before the first commercial: trilobites. It looks they’re trying for a chronological approach.


The commercials are really annoying: Kinoki foot pad quackery and bigfoot. Bleh.


Now we get a quick summary of the Cambrian explosion — I saw an anomalocaris swim by. The first fossil eyes are from the Cambrian; compound eyes on arthropods. Modern insects are shown, explained as not descendants of trilobites, but probably share the same genes Good acknowledgment of the successful utility of dragonfly eyes.

Dang. Too little time spent on invertebrates — they’re already switching gears to focus on vertebrates.


Pikaia! Cool. Kinda nice that they’re setting up the vertebrate eye as an icon of evolution, and a kind of machine — good dig at ID. There’s also a nice simple animation of how an eye patch could form an eye cup, then an eye with a lens.

Yeah, they already leap into those sexy, glitzy dinosaurs. A little more time should be spent on those unsexy hagfish and lampreys, more interesting as transitional forms, but OK, most people wouldn’t find them as interesting as I would. They show Kent Stevens (UO! Yay!) work on identifying visual fields from dinosaur fossils, and discuss binocularity.

T. rex makes for good visuals, but is it really the best animal for discussing the evolution of vertebrate eyes? The innovations were all in place before the dinosaurs came on the scene!

Next lead-in: we’re about to learn about mammals and night vision.


Primitive mammals were largely nocturnal. So what are the special adaptations in the mammalian eye for night vision? Lots of isolated eyes in jars; the answer from comparative anatomy is that the size of the cornea is important. Cool: tarsiers have eyes that are bigger than their brains.

Another strategy: the tapetum, a reflective layer at the back of the eye. Nifty dissection of a big cat’s eye to show the structure.

Looks like the last 15 minutes of the program will be about human vision…


We lucky humans have color vision. Mammals radiated into numerous niches after the great extinction at the K/T boundary, and primates moved into the trees. Why did natural selection favor improved color vision in primates? Monkeys are shown to favor the youngest, tenderest leaves…which have color differences from old leaves.

Primates also have binocularity for better depth perception, an adaptation for living in trees. This gives them a narrower field of view, unfortunately. Birds of prey targeted these animals with limited vision, which made group living more advantageous for primates. They suggest that this would promote more social behavior and intelligence.


Summary: Not bad. The title is a bit of a misnomer, though, since only a little bit of it was about the evolution of eyes. A program more true to its title would have spent much more time on invertebrates, would have said more about the molecular underpinnings of vision, and would have concentrated on hagfish, lampreys, and teleosts among the vertebrates.

I know…dinosaurs and people are much more popular creatures, so the show compromised on the science for the sake of visual appeal. That’s an unfortunate reality of the conventions of TV programming, but it would have been nice to see them break out of that straitjacket, especially since the early part of the show on jellyfish was arresting and cool, showing that it can be done.

It was unabashedly pro-evolution, too, not giving a second to the silly stories we get from creationists. That’s a real plus, too.

Comments

  1. #1 SC
    July 29, 2008

    I don’t get THC. I’m looking forward to this. Thanks.

  2. #2 Lee Picton
    July 29, 2008

    So far, so good. It looks like real science.

  3. #3 scooter
    July 29, 2008

    plenty of squid so far

  4. #4 Rheinhard
    July 29, 2008

    Oh yeah, when I saw squid mentioned among the eye-specialized organisms, coupled with the cute mini-squid picture, I thought “Oh PZ’s gonna be lovin’ this!”

  5. #5 Anonymous
    July 29, 2008

    I’m watching, too. So far so good!

  6. #6 ryanm
    July 29, 2008

    Science. It works, bitches.

  7. #7 Jason Sexton
    July 29, 2008

    Sitting here watching it with my 8 year old daughter. She loves science and thought the green light purple light with the Bell Jellyfish was really cool.

  8. #8 Amplexus
    July 29, 2008

    Did those dinosaurs really have waddels like chickens or is that some darwinist lie :)

  9. #9 jfatz
    July 29, 2008

    Watching this in HD while babysitting the nephew and tracking your liveblog on the ol’ iPhone is quite amusing. ^_^

  10. #10 Cletus
    July 29, 2008

    They totally misinterpreted that Jellyfish’s reaction to light. Either that, or I don’t know my Lazer Floyd.

  11. #11 Jason Sexton
    July 29, 2008

    You know man and dinosaur existed together. They have 1 fossil that proves it with out a doubt. LOL.

  12. #12 jfatz
    July 29, 2008

    I’m sure glad we evolved a lot of cool technology!

  13. #13 scooter
    July 29, 2008

    Trilobites had the first contact lenses.

  14. #14 BT Murtagh
    July 29, 2008

    I was concerned after watching a few minutes of “Jurassic Fight Club” – I guess I’m a bit harsher than PZ, I clicked off with a shudder after I’d verified my setup was recording properly. The “Evolve: Eyes” looks much, much better to me. Pretty cinematography, but the science seems to be front and center. Good viewing! (Intentional.)

  15. #15 Jason Sexton
    July 29, 2008

    PZ – Was sick this weekend and missed the lunch at the Cucumber. When will you be back in the twin cities for a get together? My daughter was mad at me.

  16. #16 Jason Sexton
    July 29, 2008

    Love the Caveman Commercial. ROFLMAO

  17. #17 simian
    July 29, 2008

    I just turned this on about seven minutes ago. So far, I’m happy with what I’m seeing. I hope my co-worker who loves to beat the eye to death in his pro-creation argument is watching. Of course it’s not really HIS argument, he’s just parroting what notable IDiots have told him in their propaganda.

  18. #18 Damian with an a
    July 29, 2008

    We have The History Channel in the UK, but this isn’t being shown over here at the moment, as far as I’m aware.

    I did watch a decent program about the conflict surrounding Homo neanderthalensis, today. I’ll be honest, if I’d have been around 40 odd thousand years ago, I would have.

  19. #19 chrisD
    July 29, 2008

    I wanted to stab my well-evolved eyes out during the caveman commercial. -.-

  20. #20 scooter
    July 29, 2008

    Caveman scores a hottie

  21. #21 andrew
    July 29, 2008

    ooo nice a refutation to the ID claim that the eye is IC

  22. #22 The Ridger
    July 29, 2008

    Commercials must be more or less local – we didn’t get Kinoki or bigfoot, either one. Did get the caveman/History, of course.

  23. #23 chancelikely
    July 29, 2008

    Tyrannosaurs with frickin’ laser beams for eyes!

  24. #24 simian
    July 29, 2008

    The thing about soft tissue not being preserved reminds me of something interesting: Scientists Get Rare Look at Dinosaur Soft Tissue

  25. #25 scooter
    July 29, 2008

    bah,
    t-rex was likely a scavenger, not predator.
    He’s just an attention whore, like Paris Hilton

  26. #26 brad
    July 29, 2008

    Interesting, it seems after this program is program about Noah’s flood.

  27. #27 megan
    July 29, 2008

    Still don’t understand why this is on the history channel though…

  28. #28 andrew
    July 29, 2008

    i dont like how they keep saying things like “Trex evolved eyes to be a better predator” (something to that effect). it seems like theyre giving the impression that the animal has control over how they evolve

  29. #29 Dreadneck
    July 29, 2008

    When are they going to get to the evolution of the Jesus Eye?? You know – the one that lets religious people ‘see’ God. LOL

  30. #30 The Ridger
    July 29, 2008

    Spoke too soon … just saw the bigfoot commercial.

  31. #31 Jason Sexton
    July 29, 2008

    They’ll get to the jesus eye, right after they show big foot.

  32. #32 ellindsey
    July 29, 2008

    How long until the Discovery Institute releases a statement attempting to refute everything in this special?

  33. #33 Orlor
    July 29, 2008

    Anyone notice the shots of the alligators attacking came from the BBC series “Planet Earth”?

  34. #34 chrisD
    July 29, 2008

    brad @ 26

    Yeah, you know they just HAVE to give both theories an equal amount of time. Or maybe they scheduled it as a juxtaposition to the evolution-based program to show how ridiculous the flood story really is. But I’m still going to go with the notion that the HC didn’t want to alienate the folks who butter their bread.

  35. #35 Rol
    July 29, 2008

    There was a Gieco commercial that was long and hilarious. Caveman was giving a tour of a museum and the people were like, “Hey, those cavemen look like you, did you have to club your stuff like they did?” He was like, “No, I do my shopping at an organic foods store, but you should be thanking these guys. They invented INVENTING, because of them, you are wearing clothes right now.”

    Then some chick thanks him because she didn’t know that and they all leave. He and her flirt on their way out.

  36. #36 Big City
    July 29, 2008

    Where the hell did the dinosaurs come from? It didn’t show anything leading up to them.

  37. #37 ryanm
    July 29, 2008

    It’s really sad that a commercial for MonsterQuest followed that segment. Oh, well, the History Channel. bleh.

  38. #38 WithoutSol
    July 29, 2008

    This is like an awesome viewing party. Thx for watching with us P.Z.!

  39. #39 Amplexus
    July 29, 2008

    If its the flood documentary i’ve seen before it’s not actually about the flood myth but about a Mediterranean sea tsunami

  40. #40 SC
    July 29, 2008

    I wonder if that funny eclipse/eye dude from the other day is watching…

  41. #41 megan
    July 29, 2008

    wow, and the history channel’s website for ‘evolve’ includes an ad to buy the movie 10,000 B.C. in their store; they should be embarrassed.

  42. #42 simian
    July 29, 2008

    Megan, obviously you haven’t seen THC’s other series “The Universe.” At least this series takes place in the last three billion years! I agree with your point… “history” generally refers to the last 10,000 years of (agricultural revolution and post-agricultural revolution) HUMAN history. Still, I appreciate that the channel is broaden its scope to include prehistory.

  43. #43 Jason Sexton
    July 29, 2008

    But then they screw up and mention biblical cryptozoological stuff to keep the IDiots watching.

  44. #44 Aerik
    July 29, 2008

    There’s no nice way to say it. When I first heard about jelly fish eyes, it was fucking awesome.

    So we’ve got the evolution of mammalian eyes, jelly fish eyes, squid eyes…

    Can’t wait for dembski, davescot, and luskin to start a pissing match over this special, eh?

  45. #45 Dreadneck
    July 29, 2008

    Interesting bit about the tarsier(sp?). It’s eyes are too large for its eye sockets and need extra connective tissue to keep them from falling out. Doesn’t exactly speak in favor of ID.

  46. #46 samu
    July 29, 2008

    So far I’m really liking it. Other than a few minor nitpicks, I don’t have serious objections.

  47. #47 Jason Sexton
    July 29, 2008

    @ 45, That’s why god developed Duct Tape. Fixes anything. LOL

  48. #48 Bert Chadick
    July 29, 2008

    Lemurs! Cute Cute Cute!

  49. #49 Orlor
    July 29, 2008

    Could’ve done without the eye surgery pieces. Yuck!

    Those ads that keep popping up at the bottom of the screen piss me off. They take up a quarter of the screen!

  50. #50 Sean
    July 29, 2008

    Wheres the cephalopod eye!

  51. #51 ryanm
    July 29, 2008

    Those tarsirs are just too damn cute with their oversized eyes. Supercool explanation of the evolution of eye-shine

  52. #52 Jfatz
    July 29, 2008

    Mmm… Guts.

  53. #53 simian
    July 29, 2008

    Oh boy, GUTS! Can’t effing wait for next week. That is going to be such a good episode, I can already tell. Just had to get this one out of the way first for the IDiots.

    Seems like they ought to go into depth on hawk eyes…

  54. #54 mikebok
    July 29, 2008

    Was there at least a quick flash of a mantis shrimp at some point?

  55. #55 Jason Sexton
    July 29, 2008

    Can’t wait for next week. Who’s ordering the pizza?

  56. #56 Dreadneck
    July 29, 2008

    Interesting link between binocular vision in primates and the evolution of group living! Never occurred to me before that not having eyes in the back of your head – figuratively speaking – could necessitate the need for living in groups for mutual defense. Neat!

  57. #57 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 29, 2008

    I like it so far but one nitpick..

    The phrasing that makes it sound like the adaptations are choices of the animal under discussion is a bit annoying.

    Looking forward to guts next week.

  58. #58 jfatz
    July 29, 2008

    You know… It’s not very scientific, but almost all the animals shown are SO FRIGGIN CUTE!

  59. #59 Tatarize
    July 29, 2008

    I’m still going to chalk this up to the observer effect. I think they yanked it a bit back because P.Z. commented on it and reworked it to not be an absolute farce. The History Channel is an absolute nightmare to watch. The most traumatic hour I’ve had in years was when I watched Discovery Kids and was blown away with something feeding that crap to kids. I’m talking Atlantian Power Crystals are to blame for the Bermuda Triangle by sucking people into alternate dimensions. You’d be better off having a pedophile babysit your kids than the TV if it’s tuned to that channel. It was so very very bad.

    Oh, and the reason “History” begins about 6000 years ago in the mideast is because that’s where the Bible was set. When people started to realize there’s no history there they simply scrapped the whole Eden, flood, bible part of the story and replaced it with the civilization that actually were there. In reality there are some amazing civilizations all over the world even 15k years ago.

  60. #60 samu
    July 29, 2008

    Very interesting. I really liked it. Two thumbs up :)

  61. #61 chancelikely
    July 29, 2008

    Jeez… from evolution to a Noah’s Flood program that calls water an element. Kind of a drop-off in quality there, History Channel.

  62. #62 Marc Anderson
    July 29, 2008

    Well done!

    The Noah’s Flood program started immediately afterward. Hopefully the pro-science programming continues…

  63. #63 DavidH
    July 29, 2008

    An hour well spent. Good stuff.

  64. #64 Sir Jebbington
    July 29, 2008

    OH MY JEBBLES DID YOU SEE THAT BUNNY

    Now we wait for Guts.

  65. #65 Steve
    July 29, 2008

    Sometimes I wish I didn’t know most of that stuff so I could relearn it and relive that amazement again.

  66. #66 WithoutSol
    July 29, 2008

    Great show especially from a network that brought you “Modern Marvels: Pig”.

    When I was younger I would call the History Channel “The Hitler Channel” because every time I saw my dad watching it the subject would almost always be WWII… Germany in particular. I like this change.

  67. #67 megan
    July 29, 2008

    Simian – yeah, i actually don’t have a TV, so I’ve been out of touch with THC for a few years. And I’m cool with human evolution and prehistory, but it does seem like that should be the focus of these shows, not just the last 5 minutes. Still, if the Discovery Channel isn’t going to do it right, I guess someone ought to.

  68. #68 simian
    July 29, 2008

    Tatarize… what are you qualifying as civilizations? Which are you referring to? I mean to ask in a non-confrontational way, if it’s not clear.

  69. #69 Sean
    July 29, 2008

    Dont worry everyone they are only talking about LOCAL floods. Even when i was a fundy i rolled my eyes when they talked about local floods.

  70. #70 WithoutSol
    July 29, 2008

    Now for some bible-era stuff to assuage the creationists with wild speculation…

  71. #71 Bert Chadick
    July 29, 2008

    Four stars!
    I think my favorite line when they referred to the ancestor of the apes as a “monkey like animal”. A fine point I know, but is what I will call our ancestors in arguments with my creotard relatives from now on.

  72. #72 Kerry Maxwell
    July 29, 2008

    You’d be better off having a pedophile babysit your kids than the TV if it’s tuned to that channel. It was so very very bad.

    Sorry, but I’d much prefer my kids watching programs about Atlantis, The Bermuda Triangle, Unicorns, etc, than getting buggered by Uncle Ernie.

    Oh, and Hooray Evolve: Eyes!

  73. #73 PZ Myers
    July 29, 2008

    I’ll give the program a thumbs up, but yeesh, the commercials. They just had one for homeopathic joint pain relief for dogs. Please.

  74. #74 simian
    July 29, 2008

    I wish I were a mega-rich, mega-powerful media mogul with the power to fund a suite of broadcast and cable channels featuring 24-hour, commercial-free highly entertaining AND properly educational science and humanities programming. Since I’m not, I guess I can take a little comfort in the fact that The History Channel managed to avoid royally fuc*!ng this show up.

  75. #75 ndt
    July 29, 2008

    I don’t get THC. I’m looking forward to this. Thanks.

    Posted by: SC | July 29, 2008 10:01 PM

    I get quite a lot of THC, but this is neither the time nor the place to discuss it.

    I thought the program was very good, almost, but not quite, PBS or BBC quality. I’m looking forward to “Guts” next week, but I think I’ll make sure to eat ahead of time.

  76. #76 Graculus
    July 29, 2008

    History Channel is hit and miss, but up here they throw in some interesting stuff.. earlier today they had a documentary on François Villon.

  77. #77 Matt
    July 29, 2008

    History Channel’s been having some really great shows lately, like this Evolve one, and The Universe. They also had a good “How Life Began” and “How the Earth was Formed” couple of one-offs. Then they have like, 9 straight hours of UFOs and Bigfoot. It seems like the man running the channel has split personality disorder. That being said, it really seems like the History Channel is usurping the science shows from the Discovery (Read: Deadliest Catch) Channel. Well, Discovery still has Mythbusters, but that’s about it nowadays. Go History Channel!

  78. #78 simian
    July 29, 2008

    PZ, must be the local programming again – I didn’t get the homeopathy ad. Was it for “Dr. Frank’s Pain Spray”? I have been fuming over that ever since I saw it months ago on CNN. That’s a perfect example of how homeopathic medicine can contribute to suffering. Those pets need REAL veterinary care, not a twenty-dollar bottle of water! I’ve been meaning to write a good post tearing that snake-oil apart…

  79. #79 Bert Chadick
    July 29, 2008

    Does anyone here remember back when PBS would produce this sort of series? Now it’s all bushy bearded frauds, Tupak Shakra, and Feng Shui. Sigh……

  80. #80 Amanda
    July 29, 2008

    I tried live-blogging this, too. It’s a lot harder to do than I thought!

    I was actually impressed. I mean, after seeing that Jurassic Fight Club commercial, I didn’t expect much. I was pleasantly surprised.

    I’m really glad they included so much research. Sometimes it helps to understand how we know what we know…I think programs like this often ignore that.

  81. #81 megan
    July 29, 2008

    Simian – you might like the archaeology channel, which is a website with short, well done, educational programming about archaeology.

    http://www.archaeologychannel.org

  82. #82 ndt
    July 29, 2008

    By the way, “Miracle Planet” is on Science channel right now; it’s a pretty good episode.

  83. #83 Crazyharp81602
    July 29, 2008

    Awesome dinosaur program! The fight scenes were tremendous!

  84. #84 Jeremy
    July 29, 2008

    Megan@27:

    I initially found it odd that the History Channel started showing a number of things outside the realm of recorded human history (How Life Began, How the Earth Was Made, The Universe, Evolve, etc.). I realize that it’s still “history”, so it can be considered appropriate.

    I think the bigger issue, though, is due to the Discovery channels moving away from science-oriented programming to “reality” shows. TLC is especially bad for this now. It’s sort of left a gap to fill, and the History Channel has made an attempt to do so.

    THC still has some “reality” shows of their own (Ice Road Truckers, Ax Men) but they mix it up with actual history (Battle 360, Modern Marvels) and now science-oriented shows. It’s a pretty good mix, now I just wish they’d ditch the pseudoscientific crap (Monster Quest, UFO Hunters).

  85. #85 IBY
    July 29, 2008

    Darn, I missed it because I really wanted to watch the final two episodes of “When We Left Earth.” I only caught a glimpse or two during commercials.

  86. #86 IBY
    July 29, 2008

    @jeremy
    All the sciency stuff has been moved to the Science Channel. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have any variety, and most of the time, it is “Modern Marvels” or “How it is Made.”

  87. #87 JD
    July 29, 2008

    bah,
    t-rex was likely a scavenger, not predator.

    Predators, with very few if any exceptions, are also scavengers. Pretty much every predatory animal from sharks to eagles to lions to grizzly bears scavenge.

    It’s extremely unlikely t-rex was only scavenger. It’s too bad one wasn’t around so that I could put that hypothesis to the test with those who say they weren’t killer predators.

  88. #88 paul fcd
    July 29, 2008

    I’m watching it now. Basically a survey of eye anatomy, and how some animals see.

    Not a good explanation of eye evolution at all, but what would you expect from the History Channel?

  89. #89 Michael
    July 29, 2008

    The Flood program is not bad. I watched it earlier today. They say that hundreds of mythologies have a flood story. Researchers use the mythology stories to triangulate a possible impact of a comet in the Indian ocean. They found a possible crater.

    In conclusion: They do not support anything close to a literal biblical account. They treat it as a mythology with a source in a real event. Christianity gets no special treatment.

  90. #90 Dreadneck
    July 29, 2008

    @70 – Actually, I can’t see the Mega Disasters episode on ‘Noah’s Great Flood’ doing much to assuage the creationists. It’s not supporting the biblical account of the flood, but rather looking for evidence of a natural disaster that could have given rise to the myth we know as Noah’s Flood.

  91. #91 Pareto
    July 29, 2008

    Who/what did they cite when talking about the advantageousness of living in groups for primates? I’ve never heard that before but it’s intriguing.

  92. #92 Dreadneck
    July 29, 2008

    @91 – They cited pressure placed on primates due to predation by raptors. Primates developing binocular vision came with the cost of not being able to see what was sneaking up on them from behind. They postulated that group living was advantageous in that several sets of eyes looking in many directions allowed for warning of an approaching predator, thus increasing the likelihood of survival for members of the group.

  93. #93 Jeremy
    July 29, 2008

    IBY@86:

    Thanks for the heads-up. I don’t have the satellite package with the Science Channel. I just know that Discovery and TLC have been massively disappointing in the last few years (the few exceptions being major shows like “Planet Earth”). At the same time, THC is getting a lot better.

    JD@87:

    I agree, predators are generally opportunistic, and won’t pass up an easy meal.

    It doesn’t make sense to me that a t-rex, with a massive body, long legs, a large head, binocular vision, and foot-long teeth would exclusively subsist on carrion. It’s built like a killing machine.

  94. #94 Autumn
    July 30, 2008

    To defend the Discovery Channel, the When We Left Earth mini-series was very cool (I know that it was probably not produced by TDC, but showing it was a good move). No new information, but watching HD films of shuttle launches was just awe-inspiring.

  95. #95 Dreadneck
    July 30, 2008

    @94 – If you want ‘awe inspiring’ try watching film of a shuttle launch in an omnivision theater. The screen is parabolic and takes up your entire field of vision, the seats are set so that your feet are above the head of the person in front of you so that nothing impedes your field of vision, and they use a 12,000 watt sound system. It’s mind blowing! Omnivision films can fool the senses so well they are known for inducing motion sickness in some viewers.

  96. #96 ElfPirateMonarch
    July 30, 2008

    After watching this my one conclusion is that if they wanted to be really thorough the show would have probably had to be 2 hours long. Considering the time constraints a potentially long term series has in this regard its probably forgivable that they bypassed a great deal of the more wonky science for “cool” stuff like dinosaurs. I mean honestly, if this series gets one kid or parent to look at science in general and evolutionary biology in particular as cool that will help inspire a new generation of scientists. Honestly, as much as the fundies are insane, science needs to start fighting their propaganda with facts that are more appealing to the masses; it does you no good to be right if no one believes you (just ask Cassandra)

  97. #97 Chris Tucker
    July 30, 2008

    Who needs cable or satellite TV if you have a fast DSL line?

    BitTorrent is your friend. As is a decent BitTorrent client. (google if you have no idea what I’m talking about.)

  98. #98 Paula Helm Murray
    July 30, 2008

    The kinoki foot pad commercals bug the hell out of me too. It’s so full of woo that it’s intolerable.

  99. #99 BobC
    July 30, 2008

    I watched Evolve. This afternoon I watched How The Earth Was Made on the History channel, which also talked about evolution a little bit. I learned quite a bit from both shows. I’m looking forward to the next 12 Tuesday nights.

    I wonder if any creationists watched Evolve. I doubt it. They don’t seem too interested in educating themselves.

  100. #100 Alan Conwell
    July 30, 2008

    Sean et al: I also thought “where are the cephalopod eyes” throughout?

    I agree with PZ; the producers had to “sex it up” to appeal (as they think necessary) to the audience … perhaps.

    Yes, Orlor, I also noticed the alligator attack from “Planet Earth”.

    If nothing else, this show got my son to agree to try to read “Making of the Fittest”. His take on my objections (really, I thought more omissions that would have made the story so much better by SHOWING the known steps in evolution to develop primate tri-color vision, right from chapters in Carroll’s book; it was called “Evolve”, wasn’t it?). He thinks that an intelligent novice has no chance understanding that book without the other reading I’ve done. I disagreed; I think this is a book that is easily understood (one can skip some of the technical details without loss), and that it is one of the wonderful books that should be required reading before someone objects to evolution. (And no, I’m pushing for Sean’s book for any gain, he’s just become a personal hero of mine, kinda like PZ and RD!).

  101. #101 Monado
    July 30, 2008

    I keep hoping they’ll go beyond mammalcentricity and explain why turtles have better colour vision than we do and some shrimps have the best colour vision of all.

  102. #102 Amplexus
    July 30, 2008

    Interesting fact about eyes from my favorite order of organisms.

    When I was a kid I raised frogs and toads for fun/knowledge. The order of anurans i’ve inspected use their eyes for a strange and novel purpose:

    Get this…. Frog and toads SWALLOW WITH THEIR EYES.

    They use their blinking set of muscles to use the physical orb of the eye to cram food down their throats. The eye pushes the food back. That’s a real microcosm of evolution: dual uses, retrofitting, and repurposing structures for alternate uses. As PZ said “flap those gills and fly”

    There’s also an extinct species of freefrog that expanded on it’s webbed features to to extent that it’s legs and arms were connected with webbing(like a bat.)Scientist think that based on its extremely light skeleton it may have been able to jump and glide really, really far.

    There are still some extant flying treefrog species but they aren’t quite as impressive, they just have really webbed hands.

    Now if you show’ed me a frog with wings, feathers, and a four chambered heart I might rethink evolution. But again and again we see that these features evolved many times.

  103. #103 Tz'unun
    July 30, 2008

    Dang! I missed a lot of the early parts (the Bell Jelly was way cool, though). I’ll try to catch it in reruns, but it looks like this episode could easily have taken up two hours (with more invertebrates and non-mammalian vertebrates, please!).

    Maybe I missed a critical segment, but did the narration imply that color vision was a primate innovation? Maybe they didn’t have time to go into how polychromatic vision evolved independently in different evolutionary lines, but at least they could have owned up to the presence (and frequent superiority) of color perception in other taxa.

  104. #104 BobC
    July 30, 2008

    Alan Conwell (#100):

    it is one of the wonderful books that should be required reading before someone objects to evolution.

    I recently finished reading Carroll’s book. I agree creationists should read it, but they won’t read it for the same reason they didn’t watch Evolved. They are not interested in anything that conflicts with their fantasy world.

    The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution by Sean B. Carroll

  105. #105 WithoutSol
    July 30, 2008

    #90- I stand Corrected.

  106. #106 Jeremy
    July 30, 2008

    Amplexus@102:

    When I first dissected a frog, I was intrigued that they had no diaphragm separating the thoracic and abdominal cavities. I looked into it and learned they force air into their lungs from their buccal cavities.

    “Swallowing with eye muscles” is similarly interesting. It’s fascinating how different organisms can have unique methods for achieving a given function. If IDiots could grasp this, they’d see how these mechanisms can only come about through evolution. If they were intelligently designed, you’d think everything would have the “best” method for a given task.

    As I believe Dawkins points out, it’s not necessary to have the “best” method, just one that “works”.

  107. #107 Christopher
    July 30, 2008

    Straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket straitjacket! Not “Straightjacket.”

  108. #108 HeinzP
    July 30, 2008

    #90
    I agree. I’ve seen this episode before. I think it’s a History channel plot to lure in the religious people and covertly blast them with science. They may have something here.:-)

    As for the show Evolve, I’d give it an 8.5 out of ten. The show could have easily been an hour longer. I would have liked to see a little more science myself.

  109. #109 OJ
    July 30, 2008

    Pro-evolution, anti-ID, and interesting. I’m pretty sure that the scientist who was dissecting the eyes was gay too.

    Most excellent!

  110. #110 Thomas Huxley
    July 30, 2008

    Jeremy @ #84,

    As a bona fide historian with a scientific bent, I’m all for giving credit where it’s due, but really. This isn’t history. It’s pre-history, and actually it’s science. That’s okay, and given THC’s recent spectacular forays into outright woo this is definitely an improvement. And, it’s not The Continuing Story of the Ice Road Truckers or the god-awful Axe-Men. This is history? C’mon!

    But neither is The Universe or this recent program on evolution. It’s SCIENCE. Again, not that this is bad, given some of the dreadful alternatives, but it’s THE HISTORY CHANNEL — you now, conflict, politics, dead people, stuff like that. I no longer subscribe to THC for the very simple reason that there’s almost no history available on their service any more.

  111. #111 Jeremy
    July 30, 2008

    Huxley@110:

    Technically, I think it’s a mistake to consider “history” to be only “recorded human history”. I mean, we have “geologic history”, “evolutionary history”, “planetary history”, etc. I think “history” includes all “past events”. Because of this, I can understand THC’s foray into science, especially when it deals with past events, and especially since other channels are neglecting science.

    As a history enthusiast, I can also understand your dismay at their lack of historical programming. I got into THC about 15 years ago, when all they showed was “history”. Ideally, these channels would turn the clock back to the mid-90′s, when the Discovery and Learning channels showed science, the History Channel showed history, and everything was right in the world.

    The dumbing-down of these channels often leads me to watching lectures on the Research Channel. At least we still have things like “Planet Earth” on TDC once in a while, and stuff like “Evolve” on THC. If it wasn’t for the science content THC is creating to fill TDC/TLC’s void, it would probably be all “Ice Road Truckers”/”Ax Men”/woowoo stuff all the time.

  112. #112 Pareto
    July 30, 2008

    For the primate group advantage bit, I meant, what paper or article or researcher did they cite? Sorry I wasn’t clear.

  113. #113 Ichthyic
    July 30, 2008

    meh, it was alright. I rather thought the “large charismatic megafauna” angle was played up too much.

    actually, I more enjoyed the hour-long episode on the discovery channel that looked at tagging, sampling, and aging studies on the Greenland shark.

    real science, in the field. I think it was actually an episode of Mike Rowe’s “Dirty Jobs”, of all things.

  114. #114 Dave Godfrey
    July 30, 2008

    I think one reason why the BBC has such a good reputation for producing science programmes is that it has always been involved with The Open University and have produced thousands of hours of degree-level science, maths, and arts programs.

    I remember growing up in the 80s and 90s when the kids were at school BBC2 and Channel 4 (a somewhat schizophrenic commercially funded station responsible for both Time Team and Big Brother) you’d have dedicated primary schools programmes. After normal schedules shut down for the night you’d get 6-8 hours of the Open University.

    Sadly this seems to have been replaced by shows about selling your house, flogging junk in your attic, and at night BBC News 24. (Better than Fox I understand, but not as good as “Biology 234″)

  115. #115 Kevin Folta
    July 30, 2008

    The story didn’t start at the beginning. Jellyfish are cool, but what about Euglena and Chlamydomonas? Both of these are single celled and use light to dictate directional swimming. Both have photosensory pigments that alter behavior and ancestral forms must have preceded jellyfish!

  116. #116 amph
    July 30, 2008

    Thanks Christopher @ 107, for your insightful comment.
    Now go take a shower.

  117. #117 Julie K
    July 30, 2008

    I usually try to catch these sorts of things on DVD rather on the first run ever since I saw what Discovery channel does to shows like Planet Earth. I can deal with commercials but I hate choppy editing, content cuts, and narrator changes. This doesn’t sound so bad so hopefully I can catch a re-run.

    A little off topic, but Creation Magazine must be really low on funds (or just sleazy and despicable) since they are apparently searching image hosting sites like Pbase for free pictures. They contacted me about a photo of a marine iguana I took while on vacation in the Galapagos and wanted to use it on the cover. For free. Now, that’s just tacky for any circulation that has any sort of money at all to offer only credit and not payment. But the biggest horror was the idea of having my name anywhere associated with that magazine. *shudder* I turned them down immediately and feel like I need a bath.

  118. #118 craig
    July 30, 2008

    Just read “Trilobite!” a couple weeks ago, and learned a lot about trilobite eyes. Phacops Rana, which I find at my local creek, had the coolest eyes.

  119. #119 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
    July 30, 2008

    Glad to see Kent Steven’s work (based on this study in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology) on air. Unfortunately, they implied that the evolution towards greater binocularity occurred within Tyrannosaurus rex, rather than the stepwise increase in binocular overlap independently arising in different theropod lineages.

    While JFC definitely has the superior CGI for restoration of fossil animals, I’d would have loved there to have been more clean technical graphics that Evolve used (for instance, in showing the changes from a light sensitive spot to a vertebrate camera eye).

    @scooter (#25): I recently had a chapter published (reviewed
    here
    in the blogosphere) that critically evaluates the “obligate scavenger” hypothesis for T. rex. Long story short: the evidence proposed so far to reject active predation for the big guy is itself rejected, but barring direct field observations of the living animals it is impossible to determine whether a majority or a minority of the food of was scavenged for an given species, season, growth stage, etc.

  120. #120 Matt Penfold
    July 30, 2008

    The BBC are making a whole series of programs, for both TV and radio, starting later this year (I think) to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Origins.

    One of the programs is to be a special by David Attenborough that will look at the mass of scientific evidence for evolution. If the BBC put the resources into it that they did for the “Life” series it could be good.

  121. #121 Orac
    July 30, 2008

    I’ll give the program a thumbs up, but yeesh, the commercials. They just had one for homeopathic joint pain relief for dogs. Please.

    Out of curiosity, were these local ads, or on the History Channel itself? (I missed the show.)

    In any case, the disconnect between the science of the show and the pseudoscience of the ads sounds jarring. It’s also odd that companies selling pseudoscience would buy advertising time for a TV show that’s pro-evolution. People who are pro-evolution tend to be more of a scientific mindset and less likely to be interested in such nonsense.

  122. #122 Brandonazz
    July 30, 2008

    Being as the evolution of the human eye is one of the more apparently complex evolutionary processes, I give them two thumbs up in advance.

  123. #123 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 30, 2008

    Out of curiosity, were these local ads, or on the History Channel itself? (I missed the show.)

    It was history channel garbage unfortunately.

  124. #124 Benjamin Franklin
    July 30, 2008

    I enjoyed the show. I give it a solid A.

    PZ says-

    Summary: Not bad.

    Sheesh! What a tough grader!

    Pros-
    -Solid info
    -Good science (I have yet to see any comments in refutation)
    -No discernable woo (see above)
    -Mentioned squid
    -Nice to show actual experimentation
    -Clean presentation
    -Refuted ID

    Con-
    -Commercials (well, it is commercial TV)
    -Too short (again, arbitrary commercial TV restraints)
    -Some of the talking heads (Chris, IIRC, seemed to lack a certain,
    je ne sais quoi, gravitas? Not that I’m one to judge, I have the perfect face for radio. Maybe if he had a beard.)

    I’m looking forward to the remaining shows in the series.
    Do you have the “guts” to live blog it again, punks? Well, do ya?

  125. #125 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
    July 30, 2008

    @Orac,

    That is great to hear! I really really hope that they re-release the old 1978 Voyage of Charles Darwin: a multipart costume drama version of his life experiences, including plenty of location filming (Tierra del Fuego, Galapagos, etc.)

    There were educational copies of this released on Umatic (a videotape format that predated VHS or Betamax…), but I think that there were some legal problems and so there aren’t commercially available versions around. I would love to see that again: draw in some of the Masterpiece Theatre audience. :-)

  126. #126 ZacharySmith
    July 30, 2008

    The History Channel is very hit & miss, to put it mildly. “UFO Hunters” & “Monster Quest” are absolute disasters. And I have no idea what “Ice Road Truckers” or “Axe Men” are doing on that channel.

    On the other hand, every now & then they do a reasonably good job, such as with “The Universe”. “Evolve” wasn’t bad at all. I do wish they would have spent a bit more time on the molecular/chemical apsects of vision, but I guess that sort of thing is best left for “Nova”. But I give them props for not giving any quarter to religious IDiocy.

    I think the History Channel should stick to what they seem to do best – “The Universe”, “Evolve” (so far, so good) and Nazis.

  127. #127 Howard
    July 30, 2008

    In my opinion, they pushed rather too hard on the binocular vision -> vulnerability to raptors; group living as protection from raptors -> pressure for higher intelligence bit during the monkey/ape bit… the little voice in my mind kept jumping up shouting ‘prairie dogs’ continually.

    I don’t know what degree of binocularity their vision has, but they certainly exist in a state of group living as protection from raptors.

    Not to say I didn’t like it, though there was certainly a lot missing.

    No mention of insects with color vision in the ultraviolet, no mention of the backwards retina in chordates vs. the forwards retina in sophisticated cephalopods (odd… firefox’s spelling checker doesn’t like that word, wants me to change it to cephalic to one of several other brain size related words).

    Further, after starting with raptors, they went through night-vision development without ever mentioning avian night-vision.

    Still, at least that bad 95% quote from the description came through correctly in the show.

    Howard

  128. #128 Paul Lundgren
    July 30, 2008

    One wonders what Casey Luskin will say about this. Anyone who has an award named after himself must surely haz a eckxpurt uhpinyin.

  129. #129 Lee Picton
    July 30, 2008

    Oh, looky! Over 125 comments and no fundIDiots “weighing” in. As if they could……

  130. #130 azqaz
    July 30, 2008

    For the people who are commenting about the wording of the script, I sympathize. Several times there were statements along the lines of “The evolved eyes to allow it to better.” This comes across as them implying that there is intent or control over the evolutionary process, but I doubt this is a fault of the scientifically minded subject experts so much as the screenwriters have had it beaten into their heads that you NEVER, EVER, use the passive voice when writing narrative. Even when the process is a passive process they have trouble overcoming this Pavlovian aversion.

  131. #131 Klaus
    July 30, 2008

    Cool summary. I wish I could see this show.I agree with your comment about dinosaurs and people, they are actually boring. Jellyfish, athropods, all this squirmy creatures of old are much more interesting!

    And it’s kind of sad that you have to say that having no creation stuff in it is a plus. I hope that in that respect american culture will never get a hold in Europe (totally neutral in most other fields ;).

  132. #132 Dave Godfrey
    July 30, 2008

    One of the first things I do when using a new version of Word is turn off the passive voice rule, otherwise I found everything was underlined in green. (That and the “That/Which” substitution that/which it could never make its mind up about).

  133. #133 Alex H
    July 30, 2008

    Good show, crappy commercials…..now I know why my daughters bunny can see me coming from every angle when she lets her run around the house and I have to put her back in the hutch before she pees and poops in her favorite spots…silly rabbit. 360 degree vision…sweet.

  134. #134 Bob Vaiden
    July 30, 2008

    Not a bad program, but I shuddered at the comment about the Cambrian “explosion”, and the statement of “no life, or practically no life” (something like that) before the Cambrian.

    I’m not claiming that things didn’t really “take off” in the Cambrian, but there were complex and fairly large critters in the Ediacaran Period; a less complex, less diverse fauna than the Cambrian, but NOT an insignificant fauna. A lot of creationists jump on statements like that (“life just appeared at the Cambrian Exploson!”)

  135. #135 Richard Hendricks
    July 30, 2008

    They are now accepting pre-orders for the DVD:

    http://store.aetv.com/html/product/index.jhtml?id=133540

    It’s only $25 for the whole set, apparently on sale. With the good reviews of the first episode, I am going to buy it as an inoculation for my son; living in Tx I think we could use all the woo-cinations we can get!

  136. #136 Joe V.
    July 30, 2008

    T. rex is a terrible example for the evolution of eyes. Everyone knows its vision was based on movement, which made it very difficult to catch Sam Neill…

  137. #137 jj
    July 30, 2008

    T. rex is a terrible example for the evolution of eyes. Everyone knows its vision was based on movement, which made it very difficult to catch Sam Neill…

    Yes, just another reminder of how stupid (apart from the visual effects) that film was. Given the exceptional length of its rostrum and its large olfactory lobes, even a blind T. rex would have homed in on those “stinky” humans in mere seconds. The same lack of knowledge of basic behavioral ecology is also displayed when the raptors apparently weren’t allowed to use one of their most important primary senses to find the kids in the kitchen. If Spielberg had owned or had any experience with a dog perhaps those parts of the film could’ve been at least half-assed believable.

  138. #138 Glen Davidson
    July 30, 2008

    For commercial TV, that was really good. I still think that evolution which was better documented than eye evolution is would have been better for the first in the series, but whatever, it was good.

    The most annoying part was that they try to make our color vision out to be spectacularly wonderful, as if seeing red were unusual for vertebrates. No, it’s fairly unusual for mammals. It is thought that the common ancestor of mammals and birds had four-color vision, and mammals lost two of the four.

    Birds still have four-color vision (I presume, but don’t know, that (other?) reptiles do too), however, seeing “two different colors of green.” Primates re-evolved to differentiate reds from green, it is true, but we’re not the peak of vision in any way (unless you count the brain to process signals from the eyes). Not only does their eagle see with 3X the resolution (no, not “magnification” as they said at one point) that we do, it sees with one more color than we do.

    The implication that we somehow (with our old world money and ape relatives (and some few new world monkeys)) have the best color vision seemed to be the one place where anthropocentrism really distorted the picture they were presenting.

    But OK, it was still a good program–and the series will likely have more lasting impact than the wretched excesses of Expelled ever did.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  139. #139 Glen Davidson
    July 30, 2008

    It is thought that the common ancestor of mammals and birds had four-color vision, and mammals lost two of the four.

    Oh, and just to clarify–and what I also thought would have been interesting to bring up in that episode–mammals are thought to have reduced down to two colors because they were nocturnal animals (at least the ancestors of current mammals were). Color vision doesn’t work well in dim light, hence the four colors of mammals’ ancestors dwindled to two.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  140. #140 Ferin
    July 30, 2008

    …tarsiers have eyes that are bigger than their brains…

    I know some people like that.

  141. #141 azqaz
    July 30, 2008

    Oops. That will teach me to always use the preview button. My previous post should read “The (name of animal) evolved better eyes to allow it to better (name of action).” Apparently the blog software didn’t like my bounding characters the first time. :(

  142. #142 Karley
    July 30, 2008

    RANT

    I thought Jurassic Fight Club was good for a CGI dinosaur fest, which is a genre I’m not particularly fond of. The animators of these shows always make the “animals” too noisy, too spastic, too badly acted/animated.

    The dinosaur on the Evolve special was just atrocious. It had a horse’s head for Jebus’s sake.

    I’d much prefer 2-D animation. Does anyone remember the PBS series “The Dinosaurs”? Those had awesome animated segments with Herrerasaurus, Stegosaurus, etc. I hope it comes out on DVD one day, and I wish I hadn’t sold my VHS copies!

    Also- who do I have to fellate to mandate feathered dromeaosaurs on TV? I saw a JFC preview of what looked like (I may be mistaken) scaly dromeaosaurs scampering about and I was AAAUGH!

  143. #143 Sili
    July 30, 2008

    Damn. Tarsiers are freaky. I had to look up what they are, but I still don’t like them.

  144. #144 ndt
    July 30, 2008

    I agree with the others you said there was way too much material for a one hour (or 46 minutes without commercials) program. I wish they had split it into two parts or put supplemental videos and material on their web site.

  145. #145 Sman
    July 30, 2008

    Anyone else catch that the show was discussing Cambrian trilobites, but showing, mostly, Ordovician and Devonian “bugs”?

    Someone wrote that T. rex is the attention whore of the dinos. I submit that Phacops sp. is the attention whore of the trilobites.

  146. #146 thwaite
    July 30, 2008

    @91,112: I didn’t see the program, but the advantages of group living for primates are a mainstream topic in anthro and ethology and such (in Japan it’s the focus of almost all primatology). In the west, the cognitive enhancements due to primate group living are strongly argued by Nicholas Humphrey, Frans De Waal and other primatologists (wikipedia has bios and links for these names, and its ‘primatology’ article has others).

    @92, the ‘many eyes’ advantage is a very general advantage accruing to any social species merely from herding, a logic initially described by W.D. Hamilton as ‘Geometry For the Selfish Herd

  147. #147 Glen Davidson
    July 30, 2008

    I wouldn’t have minded if they had mentioned the obvious lack of eye design occasionally (after all, they brought up the claim of eye design at the beginning). For instance, why not point out that the tarsier’s eyes are so huge partly because they lack the the tapetum lucidum? The “common designer” who is credited for similarities in tarsier and cat anatomy ought to have been intelligent enough to use a common design in tarsier eyes–and wasn’t.

    Oh, and while this is nit-picking, light doesn’t have twice the chance to hit the retina due to the tapetum. There are losses, of course, and a well-placed “nearly” would have made the statement more accurate.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  148. #148 Tz'unun
    July 30, 2008

    Thomas @ #119: I agree on the graphics. They could also have used them in place of the preserved eyeballs, which I had to look at while eating dinner.

    ZacharySmith @ #126: I suspect that History runs MQ, Axe Men, etc. for the same reasons that SciFi runs pro wrestling and Ghost Hunters, Arts & Entertainment runs various true crime programs, and The Learning Channel currently seems overrun with shows about weddings, families, and tattoo parlors. At least the overlap in content among cable channels gives us more potential for science programming in any given time slot.

    Howard @ #127:

    In my opinion, they pushed rather too hard on the binocular vision -> vulnerability to raptors; group living as protection from raptors -> pressure for higher intelligence bit during the monkey/ape bit… the little voice in my mind kept jumping up shouting ‘prairie dogs’ continually.

    Maybe I’m missing your point, but terrestrial grazers such as PDs are already pretty vulnerable to predation without binocular vision (which I wouldn’t expect to be particularly advantageous to them anyway). In any case, sociality appears to have made PDs pretty smart little buggers, based on recent revelations about prairie dog cognition and “language.”

    Glen @ #138: Actually, birds don’t just see green better than we do. Peak wavelength receptivity of avian visual pigments is more evenly distributed than in humans, and the “extra” cone detects near-UV. Our three cone types are maximally receptive at about 424, 530, and 560 nm, while the four cones of birds peak at 370, 445, 508, and 565 nm (Goldsmith 2002).

  149. #149 ndt
    July 30, 2008

    In any case, sociality appears to have made PDs pretty smart little buggers, based on recent revelations about prairie dog cognition and “language.”

    Posted by: Tz’unun | July 30, 2008 2:16 PM

    Dude, don’t post fascinating papers like that when I’m trying to get work done!

  150. #150 thwaite
    July 30, 2008

    sociality appears to have made PDs pretty smart little buggers

    And other critters such as ground squirrels – at least one group (UC Davis) has been studying their communication and sociality since the 1970′s. An overview of many taxa from rodents to primates by a graduate of that program who worked mostly with marmots: Evolution of Functionally Referential Alarm Communication: multiple adaptations; multiple constraints — for this paper Blumstein emphasizes constraints but it’s still pretty interesting.

  151. #151 ndt
    July 30, 2008

    Hm, 150 comments and no creationists or ID supporters? Funny how one posted on the earlier article announcing the show, but not on the article actually discussing the show.

  152. #152 Steve_C
    July 30, 2008

    What more do they have than… “NUH UHHHH”

  153. #153 ZacharySmith
    July 30, 2008

    Tz’unun (#148):

    I read recently that “Ice Road Truckers” is History Channel’s highest rated series. Ugghh. I guess you have to so some pandering in order to pay the bills. With the success of Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch”, it was just a matter of time before copy-cats emerged.

    Great stuff on prairie dogs & bird vision, by the way.

  154. #154 Casey Luskin Awardee
    July 30, 2008

    Ferin says…tasiers have eyes bigger then their brains… “Iknow some people like that”. Me too. Dumpski. Even his adams apple is bigger then his brain.

  155. #155 Dan Phelps
    July 30, 2008

    “Evolve” was certainly an A minus for the History Channel; far better than any science show on there for a long time. And it was a billion times better than the pseudoscience they usually put on about aliens building ancient Egypt, Atlantis, and the bigfoot crap.

    I really didn’t like “Jurassic Fight Club”. I really tried, but they put in too much fantasy at the end of the show. They had some really good information and interviews with some of the vertebrate paleontologists involved in the find as well as some very speculative stuff. Then they had some guy named “Dinosaur George” (is he a paleontologist? I’ve never heard of him before) describing the fantasy CGI dino fight as if there was evidence for it and as if the audience was too dumb to understand what the computer animated dinosaurs were doing. That ruined it for me and I ended up falling asleep for about 10 minutes during the impassioned fantasy description of the dinosaur fight near the end of the show. I missed the first few minutes of “Evolve” because of this.

  156. #156 travc
    July 30, 2008

    Thanks for the very good summary…

    Vision is one place were I don’t really begrudge folks for being too primate-centric. Though almost all of the really nifty (and somewhat exceptional) stuff is neuro, not in the actual eyes. It is a great example of evolution ‘hacking’ on a system to improve it… especially since most of the improved capabilities exist in other less ‘hackish’ forms from lineages which were not constrained by relatively crappy (evolutionarily ‘neglected’) mammal eyes.

  157. #157 travc
    July 30, 2008

    Correction: That last “mammal eyes” should be “mammal vision”.

  158. #158 arensb
    July 30, 2008

    What Christopher @ #107 said.

    A straitjacket isn’t straight, it’s confining. Like the Straits of Gibraltar or the Bering Straits.

    Sorry to say this, PZ, but this is costing you Elitist Bastard cred.

  159. #159 JoeB
    July 31, 2008

    The most jarring note for me was the discussion of purple light and jellyfish. Purple? Surely she meant violet, I thought. She actually said that it was near the ultraviolet part of the spectrum!
    Purple is not a spectral color. My physics students would often describe a violet spectral line as purple, but they weren’t scientists experimenting with the effects of different colors of light on organisms.
    Purple is violet light with an admixture of a little red. That could be the sort of light they were using, but I doubt it.

  160. #160 Thanny
    July 31, 2008

    One small annoying bit was when they showed, very briefly, a view through compound lenses, with multiple separate images – the classic, and quite wrong, “what’s it like to see like a fly” image. They got it right when describing dragon fly eyes, but I really wish they had hammered home the point that compound eyes don’t create thousands of tiny images, but a single low-resolution one.

  161. #161 steve_1
    July 31, 2008

    I recorded the show and finally got to watch it last night. I thought it was great. I’m currently reading Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale and the two went quite well together.

  162. #162 Pteradactyl
    July 31, 2008

    Wonderous work of fictional blogs presented. It seems most of those blogs actually believe mutations have a beneficial pattern as opposed to the detriments they bring as scientific observations verify and then they call the speculations “science” and the observations that confirm ID unscientific. Evolution is no more scientific than the notion that each one of us has wings or gills to accomodate our survival since we supposedly had them before our lungs. Oh well, it takes intelligent thought to accept intelligent design I suppose. The evolution Bible bangers love their religion, truth be ……. just as these blogs and this show proves. Preach away. You live in a fairy tale with no sense of reality and a devastating despise of anything evidencial to PROVE evolution. Please don’t rant with more speculation and imaginary ideas as science just because it makes sense to you without an established premise of fact. Fact – mutations do harm to their species and to themselves. That’s a fact, not fiction. Mutations do not preserve anything or anyone in the realm of scientific observation. Sure bacteria change, but that’s all that changes. And they don’t change any more than we do to become immune.

  163. #163 BlueMako
    July 31, 2008

    Yes, just another reminder of how stupid (apart from the visual effects) that film was. Given the exceptional length of its rostrum and its large olfactory lobes, even a blind T. rex would have homed in on those “stinky” humans in mere seconds. The same lack of knowledge of basic behavioral ecology is also displayed when the raptors apparently weren’t allowed to use one of their most important primary senses to find the kids in the kitchen. If Spielberg had owned or had any experience with a dog perhaps those parts of the film could’ve been at least half-assed believable.

    iirc, both those sequences happened pretty much the same way in the book, which would make it Crichton’s error more than Spielberg’s…

  164. #164 ToBeHonest
    August 1, 2008

    TV show called “Evolve”
    The ‘scientist’ on this show actually said:
    Early primates begin to congregate to survive from being preyed upon by birds. Because they began congregating, their brains grew bigger because they had to remember who all the congregants were. This is how our brain ‘evolved’ and got bigger. Hilarious !

    Sure explains why we still have very similar primates so far behind in the ‘evolutionary’ path of advancement today.

    A 1 celled egg begins replicating, creating billions of new cells, each with application specific purpose,
    ( such as neurons, in a Na+ and S+ ionic solution for electrical signal conduction – in a nervous system structure )
    blood vessels, heart, digestive, teeth, eyes, bones, flesh, blood, hydrochloric acid, mucous, and on, within months,
    self-constructed, self-regulated, self-healing. Taken for granted because it’s common. Miraculous? Yes

    what exactly instructs the orchestration of all of this? The DNA? The DNA where? in the original cell?
    Does it configure cell replication 1,006,432 to transform itself into a muscle cell?
    Or does the DNA passed to this cell know that it’s purpose is to become part of the muscle fiber in digit number 2?

  165. #165 ToBeHonest
    August 1, 2008

    cjckjaw (15 minutes ago)

    i can’t directly quote the show as i haven’t seen it but u seem to be misunderstanding the fundamental basis for the theory of evolution which is natural selection. Early primates with inadequate brains died off over thousands of generations as they could not survive. The primates with larger brains as a result of genetic mutations become more abundant as they could survive. The process of the human brain took place of thousands of generations. This is how our brain “evolved”(key word).

    Me:
    But all the other creatures with small brains survived. Got it. Makes perfect sense.

    Except humans with small brains.
    How big are ANT brains? They congregate in mobs!

  166. #166 ToBeHonest
    August 1, 2008

    “u seem to be misunderstanding the fundamental basis for the theory of evolution which is natural selection. Early primates with inadequate brains died off over thousands of generations as they could not survive. The primates with larger brains as a result of genetic mutations become more abundant as they could survive. The process of the human brain took place of thousands of generations. This is how our brain “evolved”(key word).”

    Is that why squirrels are still running around out back?

  167. #167 ToBeHonest
    August 1, 2008

    A 1 celled egg begins replicating, creating billions of new cells, each with application specific purpose,
    ( such as neurons, in a Na+ and K+ ionic solution for electrical signal conduction – in a nervous system structure )
    blood vessels, heart, digestive, teeth, eyes, bones, flesh, blood, hydrochloric acid, mucous, and on, within months,
    self-constructed, self-regulated, self-healing. Taken for granted because it’s common. Miraculous? Yes

  168. #168 Nick Gotts
    August 1, 2008

    A 1 celled egg begins replicating, creating billions of new cells… Taken for granted because it’s common. Miraculous? Yes – ToBeDishonest

    Miraculous – no. Increasingly, though by no means completely, understood. Do you really belief “God” is poking his celestial finger into every developing embryo?

    what exactly instructs the orchestration of all of this? The DNA? The DNA where? in the original cell?
    Yes, in conjunction with other components of the cell.

    Does it configure cell replication 1,006,432 to transform itself into a muscle cell? No. As development proceeds, chemical gradients arise which allow cells to sense where in the body they are.
    Or does the DNA passed to this cell know that it’s purpose is to become part of the muscle fiber in digit number 2? In a sense, although of course it has no need to know the overall body plan, only which proteins it must (and must not) produce. This is determined by epigenetic markers on the cell’s DNA, and interactions with nearby cells.

    There is no “evolutionary path of advancement”. Natural selection adapts populations of organisms to the specific circumstance they live in. With regard to the evolution of brain size, the optimum size of brain depends on what the animal needs to do with it – a brain is costly to build and run. That’s why some animals have evolved large brains, and others small ones.

    Try consulting some undergraduate textbooks on development and evolution as a starting point for further detail. Note that I’m not a biologist, let alone an expert in evolution or development – I’ve just taken the trouble to educate myself a little. You could do the same, but I’m sure you’re determined to remain ignorant.

  169. #169 ToBeHonest
    August 1, 2008

    I know. I’m just so ignorant. I need to believe what I’m told. That we evolved from squirrel like creatures.

    I’m not sure what we were before then, maybe mice.

    We might find a fully constructed prehistoric crawexlyafizixfish someday to prove when we landed.

  170. #170 Casey Luskin Awardee
    August 1, 2008

    to be stupid- Read Neil Shubin’s “Your Inner Fish”.

  171. #171 CJO
    August 1, 2008

    Try consulting some undergraduate textbooks

    Hell, this one hasn’t even got past the “why are there still monkeys?” stage of childish denial. A better recommendation would be to consult AiG’s list of arguments so stupid even creationists should know better.

  172. #172 ToBeHonest
    August 1, 2008

    “There is an easy way to settle this actually, although it will take some time, and that is the emergence of artificial consciousness.”

    It’s nice to have all my onboard sensory devices
    ( connected ).

    Helps with the full surround effect and ambiance.

    Wouldn’t it be a nightmare without any of them?

    And to think…that’s ultimately what you all are alluding to.
    Back to the day when we had no eyes.
    No ears. No Smell. No Taste. Numb.

    Which came first?
    Or did they all emerge in unison, like they do now.

    Who is ignorant?

  173. #173 ToBeHonest
    August 1, 2008

    A more informative view of the eye, far
    superior than what this politically correct
    little show name Evolve offered to inform you of:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEEH7EltJew

    Perhaps your allegiances to fraud should be
    further analyzed.

  174. #174 Dan
    August 2, 2008

    ToBeHonest wrote:

    I need to believe what I’m told. That we evolved from squirrel like creatures.

    This is a thread about the History Channel program “Evolve: Eyes”, so you are off topic.

    If you want to start a blog about your own misconceptions concerning evolution, five of which are in the above two sentences, you’ll have to go elsewhere.

    But you’ll find most of them already discussed here:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html

  175. #175 Frank B
    August 2, 2008


    Steve_1 Said:

    Sure bacteria change, but that’s all that changes. And they don’t change any more than we do to become immune.

    Does anyone else see the self contradiction in this statement? Steve, you had better check with your fellow anti-evolutionists, the ones who admit to microevolution. They know that fruitflies change, and that domestic breeding programs work.

    Well, Steve, I am glad you didn’t try to refute eye evolution, because that is a bit over your head. Stick with something simple like “no benefical mutations”. But don’t expect to get anywhere, because even fellow IDers know it is wrong.

  176. #176 ToBeHonest
    August 4, 2008

    I suppose tear ducts and a lifetime supply of tears just beneficially mutated into action, along with eyelids.

    Yes, this show was highly superficial in the complexity of the eye. It showed minimal knowledge. Minimal.

  177. #177 ToBeHonest
    August 5, 2008

    Simple Question:

    Tell us what it is that knows when to start the heart beating in an chicken egg. The heart itself?

    Is there some chemical setpoint for a chicken?

    Stupid question?

    Perplexing question?

    100′s of years of observation, we still have no answer?

  178. #178 prof weird
    August 5, 2008

    ToBeABlitheringIdiot opines :

    “There is an easy way to settle this actually, although it will take some time, and that is the emergence of artificial consciousness.”
    It’s nice to have all my onboard sensory devices
    ( connected ).
    Helps with the full surround effect and ambiance.
    Wouldn’t it be a nightmare without any of them?
    And to think…that’s ultimately what you all are alluding to.
    Back to the day when we had no eyes.
    No ears. No Smell. No Taste. Numb.

    Even protists and bacteria can detect things about their environment, so at no point would any sane or rational person claim life was ‘numb’.

    Even jellyfish and hydras have neural nets for frell’s sake !

    Which came first?

    Taste and smell are ancient abilities, so they’d most likely be the earliest.

    Hearing is sensing pressure variations (a tactile ability), so it might be next in line, with sight being a rather late addition (relatively speaking, of course).

    Or did they all emerge in unison, like they do now.

    The evidence that they arise in unison now is what again ?

    Who is ignorant?

    You of course, given that ‘GODDESIGNERDIDIT 1!!!!!1!!1!!’ does not represent knowledge or understanding of any sort.

    I suppose tear ducts and a lifetime supply of tears just beneficially mutated into action, along with eyelids.

    There are critters alive today that don’t have eyelids, and tears are a GLANDULAR SECRETION – they are produced by the body. Do you actually ‘think’ that every tear you will ever cry is already stored in your tear ducts ?!?!?!

    Yes, this show was highly superficial in the complexity of the eye. It showed minimal knowledge. Minimal.

    And it was STILL light years beyond your feeble comprehension.

    ‘Superficial’ in what way ? Didn’t praise the Magical Sky Pixie enough ?

    Simple Question:

    Tell us what it is that knows when to start the heart beating in an chicken egg. The heart itself?

    Pretty much, given that beating is a property of cardiac cells – if you were to grow them on a dish, they would beat in unison.

    Is there some chemical setpoint for a chicken?

    Development, cell:cell interactions and alterations of protein expression.

    Stupid question?

    Only the way you asked it.

    Perplexing question?

    Yes – which goads scientists into trying to FIGURE IT OUT, rather than sit on their rumps gibbering about Magical Sky Pixies, Gods, “Intelligent” Designers

    100′s of years of observation, we still have no answer?

    If we had an answer, could you understand it, or ACCEPT it ?

    Or would you just continue to blither on as if ‘an unknowable being somehow DIDIT !!!!’ qualifies as a valid or useful response ?

  179. #179 ToBeHonest
    August 5, 2008

    Hopefully you’re pleased with your answers. I’m not sure where I mentioned Magical Sky Pixies, Gods, “Intelligent” Designers anywhere in my posts.

    I do however resist falling for the fraud you’ve bought into.

  180. #180 ToBeHonest
    August 5, 2008

    Are protists and bacteria happy?

  181. #181 ToBeHonest
    August 6, 2008

    Can a heart restart itself if artificially stopped?

    According to you: Yes.

  182. #182 ToBeHonest
    August 6, 2008

    At what point in it’s development cycle did
    the Archaeopteryx embryo’s heart start beating?
    What culmination of events triggers this to occur? A biochemical setpoint? Interesting.

    Lucky genetic mutation I guess. That heart sure developed nicely.

  183. #183 ToBeHonest
    August 6, 2008

    The heart was probably a pinhole heart at one time… or a patch of over-active cardiac cells that decided to ‘congregate’ together, and dance to the rhythm of the beat.
    It was beneficial and went forth to procreate.

  184. #184 ToBeHonest
    August 6, 2008

    Maybe you all should sit back for a moment, and listen to the streaming ribbon harmonics
    of Alex Zivojinovich’s guitarwork in Rush’s Limelight
    and conceptualize the electronics flow through the manipulating amplification circuitry from the magnetic flux variations sourced by the metal strings across magnets and the sound reproduction circuitry and transducers, and then get back to us on how we evolved from a primitive nutrient pump millions of years ago.

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