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A Monkey's Uncle

Discussion of everything related to the Theory of Evolution.

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A Monkey's Uncle

Postby JDavidE » Sat Mar 10, 2007 9:39 pm

It has been reported recently that the time-difference between the chimpanzee and us splitting from a common ancestor is closer by a few million years than previously thought. Other apes, gorilla and the Orang, went their separate way several millions of years earlier still.

The chimpanzee is, we are told by those who delight in telling us such things, a very close cousin. We and the chimp have an astonishing number of genes in common. But I don’t believe that we are related in any way whatsoever. No, this is not an argument against Darwinian theory. I just think we have it wrong. I think we are being just a little too egocentric in our explanation and application of the theory.

In fact, I don’t think we are related to any of the creatures that we parade in progression in our timeline of life on earth. It is not us who evolve, that is the egocentric part. It is DNA that is favoured by evolution. The only life that persists on this planet is DNA. We and every other organism are simply the expression of DNA as it stands today. Nor do I believe that evolution (in terms of the theory) works from the primitive to the complex. That would make it a pyramid and we place ourselves smilingly at the apex thinking it doesn’t get any better than us.

If an organism can evolve then it must be capable of devolving as well, otherwise it simply paints itself into a corner to ultimately expire. There are many examples where this was the probable result when conditions changed and the existing DNA models couldn’t cope. And there are examples of devolution as well. There are shrimp, insects and fish living in dark caves that have simply gone blind where the same species elsewhere have eyes. It is explained away by a couple of theories: one being that an error occurs at the molecular level of the gene in replication. The error (read mutation) does not alter the expression of the gene so it is not favoured in any form of selection: hence it is neutral. Eventually it becomes statistically numerous and finally the only gene for that expression. In the case of the fish, it didn’t matter if they had vision because they couldn’t use it. Whether they now lack eyes because of the neutral gene theory (a little too convenient for my liking) or because there was some selective advantage/disadvantage to having eyes doesn’t matter. There is obviously a process.

I said that I don’t agree that evolution works from primitive to complex. If it did, then we should not have any primitive examples of DNA (or organisms if you aren’t ready to consider my argument) left on earth but we do. We have an overabundance of very primitive (non-complex) organisms and we also have very complex organisms. And it seems that darn near as far back as the fossil record allows us to go, we find a lot of organisms that are far from simple. I think we need to look at evolution as a lateral form of development rather than the upward concept we now hold. There isn’t much that is more primitive than a bacterium. However, it is possible that bacteria have simply reached their pinnacle of complexity. They may have painted themselves into a corner from which they cannot escape. However, since bacteria live anywhere they like, that they may be dead-ended doesn’t matter because to DNA, it still exists and that is all that is important. It is simply success or extinction and neither is important to the DNA so long as it still abounds.

The North American Passenger pigeon went extinct when the last one died, in captivity, in 1914. It went extinct basically because we made it happen. It was hunted ferociously because it seemed there was an endless supply (much like Cod a few years back) and no one thought it would matter. Apparently, according to accounts, the pigeons were so numerous that flocks would literally darken the sky with their passing and their passing sometimes took days. It is reported that barrels of Passenger pigeon tongues, and only the tongues, were sent back to England in shipload quantities. By the time any alarm bells began to ring, it was already too late. The Passenger pigeon only bred in huge flocks and there were none of those left anymore. The whole niche was collapsing. I don’t think we need to mourn their passing other than a sense of guilt over our part in their extinction. Can you imagine what they would have done to our crops and what would have happened if an avian flu had developed? Not to mention the damage to the trees in which they roosted and nested and the vermin they would have carried and the destruction caused by their droppings. However, they went extinct. They are no more. So surely there must have been some massive and therefore readily noticeable change as a result of this ecological disaster? Undoubtedly there was but nothing so serious that it made much of a stir. Life went on. It did not create a hole. Some things changed maybe for the worse and some things changed maybe for the better but it didn’t matter a bit either way to DNA. It was simply an unsuccessful line of endeavour and other organisms would make up the numbers.

While it is true that we were the trigger for the disaster that befell the Passenger pigeon, the fault must surely lie within its genes. Somehow, the genes coded only for breeding in vast flocks. So how did this come about? There are as many varieties of pigeons as there are niches to fill, so when did the Passenger pigeon develop this fatal flaw? Was it a strategy of a common ancestor and passed down to the Passenger pigeon like a hereditary curse but, fortunately, to no others? I can find nothing to support it in my limited research. So, if the Passenger pigeon developed the coding error down the track (much further for there wouldn’t have been the huge flocks necessary to trigger this behaviour otherwise) then it belies the notion that evolution follows a path ever upward, ‘new and improved’. Neutral gene theory must almost certainly be brought in to explain it and it implies that there must be more advantage for this process and less disadvantage, otherwise we should expect some method or other of self-correction of mutated genes.

I’m about to take you away from this line of argument but first let me implant the germ of an idea. I doubt that I can support it or even debate it with much persuasion. But let me slip gradually into the hot water by noting that you (and maybe that should be in capital letters like YOU) have teeth, bones, finger and toenails, hair, cilia and an assortment of soft tissue. None of these things have a great deal in common but they all started with one single cell loosely called a stem cell. Before that it was simply a haploid cell (only half of the genes necessary for life and patently useless on its own) until it could infect or be infected by its opposite half. Everything that you are from brain to buttocks from pinnae to patella is basically one organism built to a design by your DNA for the sole purpose of transporting DNA to find its opposite. It’s a huge investment. So there must be some distinct advantage for the DNA. It would be simpler to let pollen float on air or milt to swirl in ocean currents. The advantage is that a mobile organism can carry the DNA further to all parts of the planet and it can be selective in the quest for quality or desirable genetic matching. This allows for rapid change and, I suspect, changes of some magnitude in the gene codes. This doesn’t matter a bit to a toad or a gnu or even a chimpanzee and it wouldn’t matter to us except for an accident of chance that gave us the ability to ask questions. It matters only to DNA. That germ of an idea that I wanted to implant is this: I am strongly coming to the belief that there is only one single organism on this planet, one single entity, and that is the collective molecules of DNA.

The Selfish Gene theory suggests that not only do genes dictate our (I mean by this all sentient organisms) physical attributes but also our behaviour. According to the Selfish Gene theory, if it were possible for me to save only one of two people from a burning house, and one of those just happened to be my brother, then I would save my brother because he and I share more genes. It goes on to explain stotting antelope. The antelope that stots draws attention to it (and away from the rest of the herd) and was considered to be, therefore, an example of altruism. The theorists point out that the stotting antelope is also declaring it fit and healthy so as to give the predator second thoughts about chasing it down. The theorists also describe, statistically, what happens if all of the antelope become stotters or if none draw such attention. Extensions to the theory also explain away sectarian violence, crimes and even wars. One might suppose that since we have lost entire generations to war over thousands of years we would have expunged all those with such genetic predilection but that is clearly not the case. It can be done somehow, because the chimpanzees we claim as kin are capable of both behaviours. There is one group that goes out almost every afternoon to hunt for monkeys in a murderous pursuit and whose actions tend to display our own aggressiveness. There is another group (curiously a matriarchy) who do not hunt for meat and display an altogether more peaceable demeanour. But what if the theorists are wrong? I don’t mean the theory. That is well supported by the mathematics involved and even by some recorded evidence. What if none of it matters at all? What if we are the only ones concerned by it? And we are only concerned because we are capable of asking questions? What if it doesn’t matter because it is no loss whatsoever to DNA? Are you at all concerned by the follicle loss from a haircut or those fingernail parings? If, as I contend, DNA were simply one entity, one planet-engulfing organism then such things as wars and animal extinctions wouldn’t matter a whit.

Just drop the organisms and step over here for a moment. Let us suppose that an anthropologist decided to study a Model-T Ford and a current Cadillac (Yes, I know it’s absurd) to determine if they had a common ancestor. He would certainly note the similarities. They both had two headlights, four wheels, doors, a windshield, a dashboard, a steering wheel, a tail pipe, and pedals on the floor and they were configured much the same way. There would also be many differences such as a vastly improved braking system, a better driveshaft and differential and many changes to the motor. But clearly, while the Cadillac may not necessarily have evolved from the Model-T, they must have had a common ancestor. If you didn’t know better, and if it was being taught, say, as part of Biology 101, you would be obliged to accept this verdict.

Let’s talk about chimpanzees again. Chimps are smart. They are self-aware for they know what a mirror is and they have a good memory and are able to use deductive reasoning. They are also capable of sentence structure and of using a language and they can learn and do so rather readily. They don’t have a larynx so they can’t talk. They can be taught to communicate with sign language and to use computer based communicators. Moreover, they can teach other chimps to do so, although it is probably more accurate to say that the other chimps watch and learn. Chimps have been communicating with their handlers for at least a couple of decades but not once, that I am aware of, have they ever asked an embarrassing question. They have not once asked why they are being held captive or what effect global warming will have on the African chimp population or even, addressing the handler, who the heck are you? That’s because they are chimps. They are tool users and toolmakers. Rocks they used for cracking nuts have been found in ancient chimp campsites. Till then no one was sure if they used rocks to crack nuts because they had seen man doing it or if it was a skill they learned by themselves. Clearly, they have the ability to figure it all out for themselves. Just like us. And that is where the similarity ends, in my opinion. There is no evidence that chimps are capable of napping (shaping flints into tools) or of creating a tool from more than one element. Nor do they see obvious advantages to crafted items. Clay pottery has been an element of human culture almost as far back as we can trace. Even if chimps were able to create such pots (and I do not doubt they could if shown how) they would not instantly see that water could be carried for long distances or food items kept safe from predators. It should be a eureka moment. Human babies learn early on that they can carry more than one thing at a time if placed in a plastic bucket. Chimps are similar to humans only where the matching genes are turned on. We are two quite different automobiles, if you will allow me the metaphor.

There is a perception that caveman as we depict him was a brute of low intellect able only to grunt as a form of communication. We like to smugly believe that modern human is significantly more highly evolved. That perception is slowly changing as serious paleoanthropologists begin to craft a clearer picture of their attributes. It is self-evident that we have long had, if not always had, the ability to communicate with speech. It is also clear from the artefacts that we were highly skilled with tools and able to not only manufacture them but to design them. Needles show that we were able to tailor clothing rather than the common perception of a raggedy animal skin wrapped clumsily about our body. Coprolites show that we not only ate animal flesh but grains. This indicates that we either grew them or carried them with us. Cave paintings show that we were able to spend a lot of time engaged in activity other than hunting or to find food so we either had some good organisational skills or we were clever enough to store food in the good times. These were not skills that we learned in a scant few hundred years or even a few millennia. We could not have been able to do them if we were not equipped to do them. We have always been able, for example, to speak. If the larynx was a very recent development then we would have used some other method of communication. Drums can be used to convey complex messages and instructions. Sign languages can be used cross-culturally. One other thing we can do that chimps cannot, is whistle. There is one small group of people who use that ability to convey information over a distance that their voice cannot carry. Clearly we have the ability as well as a need to communicate complex thoughts. Chimpanzees do not and cannot and don’t even know there is a difference.

Modern human shared living space with Neanderthal. Whether we co-habited is not definitely known. Neanderthal was capable of either learning from us or we from them for certain burials were ritualised in a like manner. Or we simply thought along similar lines. It is also not known for sure if we interbred. There is no evidence to confirm or disprove it. However, since man is known to fornicate with almost anything that is animate (and many that aren’t) at the urging of his DNA, then it is likely it was tried if the opportunity arose. We have been able to extract some mitochondrial DNA from Neanderthal bones. The similarities in sequencing place us a long, long way from a common ancestor. We are as likely to be more closely related to the Galapagos tortoise. [That comment is intended to be flippant] The common ancestor to the chimpanzee and Neanderthal is even more distant than the chimp to us. I just don’t believe that evolution takes us along the path that curves upward. Nor do I believe that evolution places any pressure on an organism to do better, it is simply a consequence. And evolution can take us to a dangerous place of complacency. If the dodo could fly when humans arrived in Mauritius, then it might not be extinct today. However, it had no predators and no need to take flight and, either through neutral gene theory or some other mechanism of devolvement, it lost the ability to fly. We hunted it to extinction.

Accepted theory is that all mammals derived from a small shrew-like animal that existed at the time of the dinosaurs. When the dinosaurs vacated the countryside (for whatever theory you prefer) the shrew-like animal got to run rampant. Consensus says evolution kicked in and one line gave rise to Rodentia another line gave rise to Marsupialia and another line began to spew out apes and so forth. But those are just convenient classifications and there may not have been a more recent common ancestor than that original shrew-like animal. Our general perception of the event is that this animal simply gave rise to a series of others that went on to form the various Linnean (Carl Von Linné) orders and classes that we stuff the botanical and zoological organisms into today (even if they don’t fit). I appreciate that I am leaving myself wide-open here for a scathing attack. But just because it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it doesn’t follow that it simply has to be a duck. Look at how difficult it was to convince the learned know-it-all scientific community that there was such a thing as a monotreme. Two books in a library will contain many identical words and even sentences. It also doesn’t follow that both books must be written by the same author or even, if written by two different authors, that those authors had to be related.


The stranded human DNA contains a large quantity of junk DNA. That is not the same as discarded rubbish. It is simply DNA sequencing that is not, apparently, coded for anything. It isn’t turned on. And we don’t, as far as I know, even know how it gets turned on. But it sure would be interesting to connect a couple up and see what happens. I wanted to retrofit a piece of electronic equipment to my car. I went to see the people who sold the equipment to get some idea of how difficult (expensive) it would be to retrofit the item and how long would it take. The salesman said in effect that if I bought the item from them they would fit it free and they could do it while I hung about and had a cup of coffee. The dashboards in most cars these days have several snap-out panels to accept retrofitted devices. Some are equipped with mounting slots and all have access to the car’s wiring harness and even that is separately fused. So, in my case it was a simple matter of locating it, screwing it down and plugging it in. I suspect that is what junk DNA represents. All that is needed is the right piece of equipment to come along, and it is already pre-wired and ready to go. In fact, if we can find a way to turn the sequence on, it might just start pumping out the proteins and peptides to build the necessary piece of equipment all by itself. If you happen to be reading this and you happen to work in a lab and your face has just contorted with horror, yes I am being facetious and certainly do not advocate such fooling around, even if it were possible.

It is also likely that much of the junk DNA is the product of neutral gene theory or the product of a faulty (in terms of it not doing what the parent organism did) gene. We already know what happens when the body doesn’t produce certain hormones such as insulin and what happens when certain proteins are blocked or not suppressed. Much of the junk DNA may well be sequences that have been turned off, which has made us more like what we are today. The sequences may have suppressed hormones or produced hormones and these may have shaped our very existence. That may matter to us, as I doubt we would like too many changes, especially radical ones to our genome, but I doubt that it makes a particle of difference to DNA. I say again that DNA is one planet-engulfing organism.

People who study the early earth of billions of years ago tell us that it was simply not able to harbour life, as we know it. And many terra-like planets seem to remain that way. So, what happened here to give us the goldilocks effect? Not too warm not too cold but everything just right? We have already discovered that DNA is able to survive in some very inhospitable situations. Bacteria can live in boiling geysers. Shrimp can live in water so salty that it poisons everything else. Shrimp and bacteria can live next to deep ocean vents that should cook them and the pressure should squash them. There are insects and worms that live in solid ice and in water that should freeze them into oblivion. So, what are they doing there? They exist and their very existence is bringing about minute changes that burgeon and multiply into massive changes. DNA is making the planet more hospitable for it.

We are about to go planet hopping. We have speculated about terra-forming planets to make us more comfortable. I don’t think that’s necessary if we have enough time up our sleeve for I suspect if DNA infects another planet, it will make it not only hospitable for DNA but comfortable for all of its vessels as well.

I am not convinced that trying to find a common ancestor to explain all of us is anything other than pointless. Like Neanderthal, I don’t think the other early hominids are related to us. I think Australopithecus and the others (even though we name them, like Lucy) are simply different models that dead-ended and have nothing to do with us. And, even though the average chimp may be prettier than me, I still don’t think we are in any way related.
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Postby 45561 » Sat Mar 10, 2007 11:38 pm

I'm not quite sure that I follow your argument, but here are a couple of points:

- Yes, evolution does not go from simple to complex. There is, however, a general trend toward increasing complexity.

I'd cite hominids as an example, though I'm not sure if you'd believe me, so try instead parasites and hosts. Both (according to the Red Queen hypothesis) continually develop new attack and defense mechanism is response to each other. They exhibit more derived features (different to their ancestors). Complex? Depends on the individual example, but often yes.

- Informed people do not believe that cavemen were stupid. However, you have made assumptions. As evolution is not instantaneous, there was not suddenly a moment where we started chatting away. It is speculated (I can't provide evidence at the moment) that the language systems of the brain and the vocal organs were part of a feedback loop, developing together.
Sadly we cannot see many of the supposed evolutionary intermediates, they happen to be dead.

- To cover a number of points in your text, I ask you to remember that we evolved to deal with life yesterday, in response to the selective pressures on our parents. Passenger pigeons were successful until humans developed a taste for them, and that happened faster than they could evolve.
It's a case of what survived from before, which brings us neatly to DNA. Organisms are not DNA transporters. DNA is selected by successful replication, not by spreading out as you may be suggesting. And what do you define as its opposite?

I haven't covered these points in as much detail as I'd like, but this is a start. Others can cover the epigenetics.
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Postby JDavidE » Sun Mar 11, 2007 12:25 am

"...which brings us neatly to DNA. Organisms are not DNA transporters. DNA is selected by successful replication, not by spreading out as you may be suggesting. And what do you define as its opposite? "

I have no argument with the mechanics of evolution. That is pretty much self-evident. I do though have a problem with the theory. Lots of theory is wrong.

Until we understood about chorophyll and mitochondria just a few years back, there were several theories to account for the Autumnal change to the leaves of trees. The mechanics still worked. But the theory was absurd despite the weight of academic utterance and textbook doctrine.

My personal favourite is Phlogiston. Why did things burn and some not? The theory was the presence of a mysterious element called Phlogiston. If something had it, then it could burn the Phlogiston (that is why there was always some residue left in the form of ash) and if Phlogiston wasn't present, then it couldn't burn. The theory still actually works if you are prepared to accept that we just haven't been able to isolate Phlogiston as yet.

We now know that theory is wrong. But the mechanics worked just fine despite it.

Back to your comment. I think (maybe) that organisms are DNA transporters. And as for the opposite...well, just what we think today. If we are thinking incorrectly, that won't change the facts nor the mechanics of how it is achieved.

A bunch of years ago, a science fiction writer (maybe Asimov because he was a favourite of mine) wrote a story where some other world intelligence sent a probe to this planet to determine if life existed. When the data was collected and finally transmitted back to the waiting scientists, it turned out that the dominant life-form on the planet was the automobile and plans should be put into effect to attempt some sort of dialogue with them.

If the mechanics work just fine, then maybe we should stop trying to make things fit theory and start looking at alternate possibilities.
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Postby AstusAleator » Sun Mar 11, 2007 9:49 am

I could swear I've read this before word-for-word somewhere... but that could just be deja-vu.

Anyway,
You wander around a lot in your essay, and at times it's pretty hard to remember what your argument or your thesis is.
My understanding of your thesis is:

Organisms are ultimatlely expressions of DNA, and classifying them as seperate entities or establishing evolutionary timelines to determine their heredity creates a false paradigm for true scientific thinking.

Is this anywhere near what you're getting at?


Are you saying that humans and chimps are not "related" in the sense that they have a relatively recent common ancestor? If so, are you saying that there is no common ancestor, or that the existance of a common ancestor doesn't make us "related"?


As far as the complexity issue is concerned: Evolution has been demonstrated to result in greater complexity in certain cases(though complexity is a tricky thing to define concerning organisms). A simple example is polyploidy in plants. However, to say that evolution progresses in ANY direction is to imply that there is a purpose to the process of evolution, which there isn't. Still, considering how life must have (probably) evolved from an extremely simple proto-cell, even the most basic life on earth today is more complex than it's earliest ancestor. So, it's easy to define a trend, and say evolution tends to result in more complexity. Are there exceptions? Yes of course, plenty. This has been known for a long time.


I have an issue with your treatment of human-caused extinction. Yes, there have been species that have cause other species to go extinct before. Extinction is part of evolution, and natural ecological function on earth. You treat it as simply one form of DNA wiping out another, with little to no net effect.
There is a reason the passenger-pidgeon is the poster-child for conservation.
First: The mass-roosting and migration behavior is a very effective survival mechanism, as it decreases predation rates. This is, sadly, why humans were so fond of killing the birds, as it seemed to have little impact on the population. However, humans were capable of killing off the birds in far greater quantities, and by far more devious/insidious methods than any other natural predator. If we look to any of the most effective predators on earth, ever, we probably couldn't find one that could have wiped out the passenger pigeons as effectively or quickly as we did. In fact, predators rarely cause extinction. It's really not in the predators best interest to extirpate its source of food. Most commonly it is competition or change in environment that causes extinction.
Second: It exemplified humanity's attitude toward it's environment, as a limitless resource, designed specifically for human consumption. This trend in behavior, if left unchecked, could cause mass-extinctions globally, and eventually an almost complete loss of biodiversity. Ecology was still merely in its infancy, and there were few, if any people that cared enough to consider things such as migration routes, breeding grounds, or minimum viable populations. Even today, though, we wait until an animal is "endangered" and then "protect" it, rather than adjusting the way we live to fit with the natural world we live in.

So... hopefully, even in your context of DNA being the ultimate organism, you can see how the extinction of the passenger pigeon was not just a meaningless event. An entire genome of a species was wiped out, not because it was outcompeted, or its environment changed, or EVEN because of mass predation. It was wiped out because of the WHIM of another species. For the pleasure, if you will. The reason sportsmen shoot "clay-pidgeons" is because they already shot all the real passenger pidgeons. As far as I know, no other species has ever done that. No other species has ever wielded as much power as humans do, and it is our responsibility to not abuse that power.


Anyway, I think that ultimately, your idea that DNA is the one-true-organism is pretty much a moot point as long as it is the basic unit of all known living life. Perhaps it will become something to consider if we ever discover life (or life discovers us) that is based on something other than DNA.
Why not say since DNA is made of nucleotides that we're all just part of a big nucleotide organism. Or better yet, since nucleotides are made of atoms, we're all just a big atom organism. It really doesn't matter. What matters is that organisms, NOT DNA, are what interact with the environment and each-other, and thus any and all value judgements are based on those interactions, not the mute contributions of the underlying DNA.
What did the parasitic Candiru fish say when it finally found a host? - - "Urethra!!"
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Postby 45561 » Sun Mar 11, 2007 2:51 pm

JDavidE, a theory is based on fact but is not immutable. Theories aren't always perfect, and if contradictory evidence comes to light then you revise or scrap your theory. You still need to show evidence for scrapping the idea that Pan and Homo are related.

An interesting point - one naturalist stated that, on average, all living things are insects.
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Postby narrowstaircase » Sun Mar 11, 2007 11:01 pm

are you basing your entire theory on sociobiology's selfish gene theory?
"Oh wearisome Condition of Humanity! Borne under one law, to another bound: Vainley begot, and yet forbidden vanity, Created sicke, commanded to be sound: What meaneth nature by these diverse lawes? Passion and Reason, selfe-division cause."
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Postby Darby » Mon Mar 12, 2007 2:06 am

Old expression, many variants:

An individual is just a zygote's way to making another zygote.

This is yet another variant, substituting DNA. It's valid, but not intrinsically useful. Just labels.
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A Monkey's Uncle

Postby JDavidE » Tue Mar 13, 2007 3:29 am

Astus Aleator:
I could swear I've read this before word-for-word somewhere....
I posted the identical blog (apart from some sloppy grammar I discovered) in a couple of places including my own blog page.
I was hoping to get some reply; in particular a blistering paragraph or two that would tear my hypothesis to shreds. It’s lonely standing out here. If you are implying that someone else may be responsible for the outburst, I don’t think anyone with any reputation would like to own up to it or express it in such a scatty manner.

You wander around a lot in your essay, and at times it's pretty hard to remember what your argument or your thesis is
Sorry about that but I am not good at this. I tried to make it brief but had to keep going back to make another point.

My understanding of your thesis is:
Organisms are ultimatlely expressions of DNA, and classifying them as seperate entities or establishing evolutionary timelines to determine their heredity creates a false paradigm for true scientific thinking

Gee, I hope I didn’t say that. We can classify things till the cows come home as far as I’m concerned. Some people even have different sock drawers. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. Let me put it this way though and use another absurdity. Let’s suppose that contemporary climatology was based on the theory that the snorting of a mythical celestial dragon was responsible for tornadoes and cyclonic weather patterns. It would be pretty hard to refute and half the researchers would be looking for dragon poop (and probably finding some specimens that almost everyone agreed likely was) and the other half would be researching other weather phenomena that could be attributed to the bodily functions of the mythical dragon. Anyone trying to prove that simple heat exchange was the basis for all weather would likely get covered in some of that dragon poop. The apt expression from the computer world is: garbage in, garbage out. I just think we are looking in the wrong direction.

Are you saying that humans and chimps are not "related" in the sense that they have a relatively recent common ancestor?
Huh? I’m saying that humans and chimps are not necessarily related even if they do have a common ancestor, which I doubt. How do we know it was a common ancestor? DNA sequencing? I don’t think that proves a relationship other than we happen to have a lot of the same hardware. Let’s get silly again. You and 29 other people wander into a shop that sells electrical gadgets. All of you make several or many purchases from the trays lying about. By the time you have all finished shopping, it is dark outside. So, those who happen to have bought flashlights will turn them on. The rest will remain in the dark. If you compare purchases, you might discover that many people not only have the identical gadgets but that many may have most. Does that make you all related in the genetic sense? (Yes, I do appreciate that is woefully simplistic).

DNA, even in fairly simple organisms, has a lot of coding that is not ‘in use’. This just may be remnant or it may be dormant or it just may be a box full of one-time useful hardware. All that is needed (maybe) is some way to turn it back on.

However, to say that evolution progresses in ANY direction is to imply that there is a purpose to the process of evolution,
No it doesn’t. Grand Old Darwin should never have used the word evolution because everybody thinks it means it has to be better and stronger. We have got to get away from thinking that evolution always works upward. It simply means the differentiation or mutation from a parent organism. There are several examples of atavism, especially in the plant kingdom. To suggest that evolution doesn’t work laterally as well is fuzzy thinking. Picture an arid zone. Picture all of the plants growing there in the arid zone. They will have many, many features in common to enable them to capture water, retain water, reflect heat, redirect heat and to source nutrient in the soil (often by way of a symbiotic mycelium). Does this suppose that they all had a recent common ancestor? As for purpose, that supposes creationism and that is even stupider than my hypothesis that DNA is one single organism, and we are in the belly of the beast.

I have an issue with your treatment of human-caused extinction. Yes, there have been species that have cause other species to go extinct before. Extinction is part of evolution, [Really? Why should that be so? That presupposes grand design and is rather a wastefully stupid idea if it is.] and natural ecological function on earth. You treat it as simply one form of DNA wiping out another, with little to no net effect.

No I don’t. I do not suggest anywhere that one form of DNA wipes out another form. Firstly, DNA is DNA and doesn’t come in different guises or forms (or flavours). If DNA is the only life form (creature) on earth, which I contend, then the loss of an entire species (our terminology) is no more meaningful to DNA than the Autumnal loss of leaves to a tree.

The mass-roosting and migration behavior is a very effective survival mechanism, as it decreases predation rates. The underscore is mine.
Sorry, that is simply wrong. Having read your whole comment on conservation issues, I think it is probably safe to say that you are not a member of the NRA. Such behaviour does not decrease predation rates it only enhances the odds that the individual will not be eaten. In fact, where huge food sources are available, even seasonally, it simply increases the number of predators (who seem to know when and where) and the amount of predation. But it still is better odds for the individual than being the only bird in the tree when a hungry snake is slithering about.

Take, for example the seventeen-year cicada. The larval form stays in the ground attuned to some biological clock that has the alarm set for 17 circuits of the sun. When the alarm goes off, every larvae tunnels to the surface, emerges and heads for the nearest tree or high object. Predators have arrived, in advance, in great numbers and they gorge themselves. They eat and eat until each one swears they couldn’t hold another cicada nymph for at least seventeen years. They haven’t made a dent in the swath of nymphs. The sheer number of the insects simply overwhelms the predators. The cicada adults emerge from the pupae and take off to spend the night in an orgy of procreation. The females lay their eggs…and then every cicada dies. Isn’t that bizarre? If a misguided conservationist happened on the scene to find the entire forest floor carpeted several deep in dead adult cicadas, we might expect to hear some Chicken Little dialogue. The sky is not falling however. Nor was it falling when the Passenger pigeon got extincted by us (I just made that word up for the fun of it) in the space of a few hundred years. It should have been an ecological disaster. So why wasn’t it? It didn’t lead to global warming, or another interglacial and didn’t seem to have any appreciable impact at all. So why not? I think it only makes a difference to us because we can take notes. It wouldn’t matter a damn to a chimpanzee and I don’t think it matters to DNA either.

As for extinctions, I am really sorry to see it happen to any species, especially if it was caused or facilitated by us. Having said that, I am rather glad that velociraptor didn’t get to hang about.

It really doesn't matter. What matters is that organisms, NOT DNA, are what interact with the environment and each-other, and thus any and all value judgements are based on those interactions, not the mute contributions of the underlying DNA.
Mebbe so. And maybe a mythical dragon causes tornadoes.

Small note: I just reread everything here and some of my responses seem to be a little curt. They are not intended to be and I have absolutely no wish to belittle or deride. I am just trying to avoid pages of argument where a simple response should do it well enough. The whole purpose of the blog really was to get the con argument so I could refine my direction on the hypothesis.

45561:
…a theory is based on fact but is not immutable. Theories aren't always perfect, and if contradictory evidence comes to light then you revise or scrap your theory. You still need to show evidence for scrapping the idea that Pan and Homo are related.

Hmmm. Well, no I don’t. I simply don’t think the relationship exists in terms of we must have evolved from some fossilised look-alike. As for DNA sequencing tying us together, I don’t think we are adept enough yet to say anything other than (at best) likely.

A recent study into Polynesian ancestry using DNA sequencing made the rather startling discovery that the Polynesian was a descendant of Chinese origin. In fact, it went on, from memory, to suggest that it was from two Chinese areas, one being Hong Kong. (If that isn’t correct then ignore the reference). I simply took the research on board as an interesting fact and used it to tease a few of my Maori friends. The matter really isn’t worth pursuing but it suddenly struck me that there was a flaw somewhere in that contention. Captain James Cook took some natives from Tahiti with him on the rest of his voyage. They, or at least one of them, were able to converse with the Maori in New Zealand. Language has a way of changing rather rapidly in isolation. Both countries were basically isolated from the other. So, if the language hadn’t altered to a point where it was unintelligible, each to the other, then the separation hadn’t been of great duration. This supposes then that both Maori and Tahitian both came from a much larger population. And some of that larger population’s language should reflect some Chinese origin as well. Well, checking out instances of Polynesian culture across the Pacific, it doesn’t seem to. Nor do any of their art forms. So the only ‘proof’ seems to be a newly acquired art of DNA sequencing.

In either event it doesn’t matter. If we can tie a string from us to some tree dwelling ape wondering what to do with his opposable thumb, that is fine by me. It just is that you are going to have to really convince me you have it right. Not just suppose it’s right because it fits contemporary theory. And I reiterate; DNA couldn’t care less, not even about us. No more than you stop to consider the feelings of your automobile.

Narrowstaircase:
…are you basing your entire theory on sociobiology's selfish gene theory?
Firstly, it’s a little presumptuous to call mine a theory and, yes, I do subscribe to the selfish gene theory ever since I read Richard Dawkins’ book, The Selfish Gene, at Capricornia. I found I was nodding my head as I turned each page and muttering things like, ‘Of course, of course’ and ‘That’s obvious (now that you have pointed it out)’. Yet I do not believe I have used the argument to supplement mine other than in an illustrative way to make a point.

Nice username.

Darby:
Old expression, many variants:
An individual is just a zygote's way to making another zygote.
This is yet another variant, substituting DNA. It's valid, but not intrinsically useful. Just labels.

That seems a little cynical, Darby. I’m not trying to promote anything here. Perhaps you can expand on the ‘old expression, many variants’ with some examples so I can see if we are on the same page. As for the second line, it is basically incorrect. An individual (not to put too fine a point on it) can only provide a haploid cell, not a zygote.

It is kind of you to even suggest my argument is valid for I am far from convinced myself. Can you expound further as to why it may be valid?
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Postby Darby » Wed Mar 14, 2007 12:14 am

A chicken is an egg's way of making another egg.

You can pick at the particulars, but it doesn't alter the sayings. Or the basic concept behind them.

If you want to see all of biology as being driven by DNA competition, there's a hint of validity to it. But, as in much bad biology, including a lot of stuff that derives from Dawkins (who wasn't making anything like the sweeping simplification you're making here), it's just a bit of a much bigger picture.

As for some of your specific points, you are confusing analogies with homologies, rolling back taxonomic thought a couple of millenia. And even homologies, a much surer way to establish legitimate relationships, is limited, as is DNA correlations.

And it's not like all of that non-coding DNA are dormant codes. Coding DNA has particular features, and although there are some stretches like that, they often are recognizable as viral or plasmid codes, inactivated, or codes that are degraded. It's not an infinite grab-bag of possibilities that would allow a sponge to be a pear tree if only certain ones were expressed.

I've got to say, I may not completely understand the basic point you're trying to make here.
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Postby narrowstaircase » Wed Mar 14, 2007 3:46 am

the thoughts im expressing in this reply are based on the ideas of Pierre Tielhard de Chardin as well as the teachings of Australian biologist Jeremy Griffith. His work can be found on his organisation's website:

http://www.humancondition.info/index.html

JDavidE wrote:In fact, I don’t think we are related to any of the creatures that we parade in progression in our timeline of life on earth. It is not us who evolve, that is the egocentric part. It is DNA that is favoured by evolution. The only life that persists on this planet is DNA. We and every other organism are simply the expression of DNA as it stands today.


- It isn't simply DNA that is favoured by evolution, but certain arangements of DNA. DNA is an information processing mechanism. What is sorts is matter. and to what end does it sort? it sorts according to stability, certain arrangements that are found to be more stable persist.

- Again, we are expressions of certain arrangements of DNA, not simply DNA unto itself. Every living thing is an idea, a unique arrangement and it persisted because of its physical stability and its stability within an ecosystem. stability = order. The journey of Earth has always been towards more and more order.

JDavidE wrote:Nor do I believe that evolution (in terms of the theory) works from the primitive to the complex. That would make it a pyramid and we place ourselves smilingly at the apex thinking it doesn’t get any better than us.


- primitive to complex is not the transitional language i would use. i would say either simple -> complex, or primitive -> advanced. but anyway, the idea that is being communicated here is that of a building up of smaller units into larger units. The heirarchy of matter stands as: fundamental particle > simple nuclei > complex nuclei > atoms > molecules > compounds > virus-like organisms > single-celled organisms > multicellular organisms. my question here is, what is the alternative to a building up in evolution? A sudden appearance of multicellular organisms?

JDavidE wrote:If an organism can evolve then it must be capable of devolving as well, otherwise it simply paints itself into a corner to ultimately expire. There are many examples where this was the probable result when conditions changed and the existing DNA models couldn’t cope. And there are examples of devolution as well. There are shrimp, insects and fish living in dark caves that have simply gone blind where the same species elsewhere have eyes. It is explained away by a couple of theories: one being that an error occurs at the molecular level of the gene in replication. The error (read mutation) does not alter the expression of the gene so it is not favoured in any form of selection: hence it is neutral. Eventually it becomes statistically numerous and finally the only gene for that expression. In the case of the fish, it didn’t matter if they had vision because they couldn’t use it. Whether they now lack eyes because of the neutral gene theory (a little too convenient for my liking) or because there was some selective advantage/disadvantage to having eyes doesn’t matter. There is obviously a process.


- i dont know where you are going with this paragraph. i can just reinforce what i think you are saying.

- evolve and devolve are essentially the same things. except devolve has some irrelevant connotations associated with it. with your example, since the fish needed no eyes they evolved into this new form, but because the change includes a change that we would interpret as 'bad' it is now labeled 'devolution'. and these dead end changes occur in many species which obviously lowers its fitness if the environment were to change rapidly. in its current form it is fitted perfectly to its environment.

JDavidE wrote:I said that I don’t agree that evolution works from primitive to complex. If it did, then we should not have any primitive examples of DNA (or organisms if you aren’t ready to consider my argument) left on earth but we do.


- why not? who layed down the law on this assumption? why cant complex matter coexist with simple matter? infact this summises that laws of building-up can't exist with laws of breaking-down. We know they can, ie. second law of thermodynamics and its partner the second path to the second law of thermodynamics have been proven.

JDavidE wrote:We have an overabundance of very primitive (non-complex) organisms and we also have very complex organisms. And it seems that darn near as far back as the fossil record allows us to go, we find a lot of organisms that are far from simple.


-

JDavidE wrote:I think we need to look at evolution as a lateral form of development rather than the upward concept we now hold.


- the physical adaptations of animals correlate to their environment. it is irrelevant to say that one species is better than another because of its physiology when both are adapted perfectly to their own individual environments and niches. we know this. its also irrelevent to say that one species is better than another because of the complexity, or lack there of, of its physiology when both may support the same ecosystem yet at different levels. we know this. on this level of understanding i agree that life has spread and changed and covered earth in a wholey lateral way.

- this statement is also charged with non-purpose. it implies no direction in evolution. but there is one anatomical feature that has been steadily developing during the evolution of animals on earth. when single celled organisms first joined to become a community they needed to communicate and what developed was a rudimentary nervous system called a nerve net. over time parts of the nerve net have joined to form nerve chords and ganglia, never going backwards in this developement, always bigger and more centrated nervous systems, until you get to the mammals with their comparitively enormous brains. this is a uni-directional developement that is never admitted. why? the implications of larger more efficient brains are very important in developement such as more complex behaviour -> complex social structure. the next step in the heirarchy of matter. this is our upward march, this is why we are the pinnicle.

JDavidE wrote:There isn’t much that is more primitive than a bacterium. However, it is possible that bacteria have simply reached their pinnacle of complexity. They may have painted themselves into a corner from which they cannot escape. However, since bacteria live anywhere they like, that they may be dead-ended doesn’t matter because to DNA, it still exists and that is all that is important. It is simply success or extinction and neither is important to the DNA so long as it still abounds.


- so beacause DNA persists when one organism or species dies implies the meaning of life is for DNA to persist/survive?

JDavidE wrote:The North American Passenger pigeon went extinct when the last one died, in captivity, in 1914. It went extinct basically because we made it happen. It was hunted ferociously because it seemed there was an endless supply (much like Cod a few years back) and no one thought it would matter. Apparently, according to accounts, the pigeons were so numerous that flocks would literally darken the sky with their passing and their passing sometimes took days. It is reported that barrels of Passenger pigeon tongues, and only the tongues, were sent back to England in shipload quantities. By the time any alarm bells began to ring, it was already too late. The Passenger pigeon only bred in huge flocks and there were none of those left anymore. The whole niche was collapsing. I don’t think we need to mourn their passing other than a sense of guilt over our part in their extinction. Can you imagine what they would have done to our crops and what would have happened if an avian flu had developed? Not to mention the damage to the trees in which they roosted and nested and the vermin they would have carried and the destruction caused by their droppings. However, they went extinct. They are no more. So surely there must have been some massive and therefore readily noticeable change as a result of this ecological disaster? Undoubtedly there was but nothing so serious that it made much of a stir. Life went on. It did not create a hole. Some things changed maybe for the worse and some things changed maybe for the better but it didn’t matter a bit either way to DNA. It was simply an unsuccessful line of endeavour and other organisms would make up the numbers.


- and??

(i must admit that this part is very funny imo, you are giving DNA an emotive character, "DNA didnt care for the death of the species, for he persisted as he always will, for his own ends. mwahahah!!")

JDavidE wrote:While it is true that we were the trigger for the disaster that befell the Passenger pigeon, the fault must surely lie within its genes. Somehow, the genes coded only for breeding in vast flocks. So how did this come about? There are as many varieties of pigeons as there are niches to fill, so when did the Passenger pigeon develop this fatal flaw? Was it a strategy of a common ancestor and passed down to the Passenger pigeon like a hereditary curse but, fortunately, to no others? I can find nothing to support it in my limited research. So, if the Passenger pigeon developed the coding error down the track (much further for there wouldn’t have been the huge flocks necessary to trigger this behaviour otherwise) then it belies the notion that evolution follows a path ever upward, ‘new and improved’. Neutral gene theory must almost certainly be brought in to explain it and it implies that there must be more advantage for this process and less disadvantage, otherwise we should expect some method or other of self-correction of mutated genes.


- one thing you must know about life. life tries everything to know everything. what we see around us now are the arrangements of DNA, the unique ideas that have survived. some species are going down dead ends as we speak, others are at their end now, and still others are just blossoming from the tree of life. if we knew every unique organism that evolution has ever sprouted we would hardly have the space to record the tree of life.

JDavidE wrote:I’m about to take you away from this line of argument but first let me implant the germ of an idea. I doubt that I can support it or even debate it with much persuasion. But let me slip gradually into the hot water by noting that you (and maybe that should be in capital letters like YOU) have teeth, bones, finger and toenails, hair, cilia and an assortment of soft tissue. None of these things have a great deal in common but they all started with one single cell loosely called a stem cell. Before that it was simply a haploid cell (only half of the genes necessary for life and patently useless on its own) until it could infect or be infected by its opposite half. Everything that you are from brain to buttocks from pinnae to patella is basically one organism built to a design by your DNA for the sole purpose of transporting DNA to find its opposite.


- this is such a round-about conclusion based on conveniantly set up information. i can tackle this by actually telling you what the purpose of reproduction is.. firstly, the purpose of reproduciton is not a scheme by DNA. like ive said, DNA is a mechanism for ordering matter. once life has found a unique sequence of DNA that is stable/orderly ie. species, it works to further organise this unique sequence. how it does this is through sexual reproduction of individuals within the species. one half of the genetic sequence from two individuals come together to furhter order the information. what results are more individuals of the species that are slightly different and so their survival will depend on these differences. the offspring are experiments or 'life trying eveything to know everything'. certain arrangements of matter (individuals) wont survive because the arrangement is found not to be stable enough to persist. this is the point of reproduction, to find arrangements that are better suited than previous ones. which is why we dont just reproduce by fragmentation which would be far easier for this selfcontrived DNA you speak of.

JDavidE wrote:It’s a huge investment. So there must be some distinct advantage for the DNA. It would be simpler to let pollen float on air or milt to swirl in ocean currents. The advantage is that a mobile organism can carry the DNA further to all parts of the planet and it can be selective in the quest for quality or desirable genetic matching. This allows for rapid change and, I suspect, changes of some magnitude in the gene codes. This doesn’t matter a bit to a toad or a gnu or even a chimpanzee and it wouldn’t matter to us except for an accident of chance that gave us the ability to ask questions. It matters only to DNA. That germ of an idea that I wanted to implant is this: I am strongly coming to the belief that there is only one single organism on this planet, one single entity, and that is the collective molecules of DNA.


- if the only thing that mattered was the persistance of DNA then what we would find (or not find sisnce we wouldnt exist) is that only raw DNA existed. why would a DNA molecule want to traverse the globe within a lifetime? surely it has all the time in the world? why create unique carriers? why create such intricate/complex ecosystems? organisms are active within the ecosystem, changing it, why would DNA have changed earth to such a degree? the atmosphere? the soil? the water? why all these changes towards complexity when all it wants to do is exist? at the birth of life - of DNA - why not just keep all these environments the same?

- i find it a human low point to believe that we are an accident.

JDavidE wrote:The Selfish Gene theory suggests that not only do genes dictate our (I mean by this all sentient organisms) physical attributes but also our behaviour. According to the Selfish Gene theory, if it were possible for me to save only one of two people from a burning house, and one of those just happened to be my brother, then I would save my brother because he and I share more genes.


- what youve done here is set up a favourable argument. you know very well you have the choice to save both people, or at least try. ive already talked about selfishness and ultruism concerning humans and the differences between animals. maybe look it up.

JDavidE wrote:It goes on to explain stotting antelope. The antelope that stots draws attention to it (and away from the rest of the herd) and was considered to be, therefore, an example of altruism. The theorists point out that the stotting antelope is also declaring it fit and healthy so as to give the predator second thoughts about chasing it down. The theorists also describe, statistically, what happens if all of the antelope become stotters or if none draw such attention. Extensions to the theory also explain away sectarian violence, crimes and even wars. One might suppose that since we have lost entire generations to war over thousands of years we would have expunged all those with such genetic predilection but that is clearly not the case.


- the selfish gene theory is a squewed interpretation of human behaviour. the author ive cited in the beginning of this post (Jeremy Griffith) explains why in is writings. check it out.

JDavidE wrote:It can be done somehow, because the chimpanzees we claim as kin are capable of both behaviours. There is one group that goes out almost every afternoon to hunt for monkeys in a murderous pursuit and whose actions tend to display our own aggressiveness. There is another group (curiously a matriarchy) who do not hunt for meat and display an altogether more peaceable demeanour.


- bonobos have now been classified into their own species. extensive research is being done on bonobo behaviour and social organisation. have you read any research by naturalists? Dianne Fossey on gorrilas and Eugene Marais on baboons. ultruistic behaviour. social organisation. mate slection. plz read. if its bonobo behaviour you are wanting a biological explanation for read Jeremy Griffith. there is a clear and concise biological step by step process that occured which led to altruistic behaviour (not psuedo-ultruistic) in bonobos and humans. (why we dont actually act selflessly all the time is also covered in his books. psychological factors are included in our behaviour which you might want to think about.)

JDavidE wrote:But what if the theorists are wrong? I don’t mean the theory. That is well supported by the mathematics involved and even by some recorded evidence. What if none of it matters at all? What if we are the only ones concerned by it? And we are only concerned because we are capable of asking questions? What if it doesn’t matter because it is no loss whatsoever to DNA? Are you at all concerned by the follicle loss from a haircut or those fingernail parings? If, as I contend, DNA were simply one entity, one planet-engulfing organism then such things as wars and animal extinctions wouldn’t matter a whit.


- this is a case of psuedo-stupidity. not actually being stupid but pretending you are because its easier. what if im not that intelligent and am being duped by DNA molecules??!.... plz no

JDavidE wrote:Just drop the organisms and step over here for a moment. Let us suppose that an anthropologist decided to study a Model-T Ford and a current Cadillac (Yes, I know it’s absurd) to determine if they had a common ancestor. He would certainly note the similarities. They both had two headlights, four wheels, doors, a windshield, a dashboard, a steering wheel, a tail pipe, and pedals on the floor and they were configured much the same way. There would also be many differences such as a vastly improved braking system, a better driveshaft and differential and many changes to the motor. But clearly, while the Cadillac may not necessarily have evolved from the Model-T, they must have had a common ancestor. If you didn’t know better, and if it was being taught, say, as part of Biology 101, you would be obliged to accept this verdict.


-irrelevant

JDavidE wrote:Let’s talk about chimpanzees again. Chimps are smart. They are self-aware for they know what a mirror is and they have a good memory and are able to use deductive reasoning. They are also capable of sentence structure and of using a language and they can learn and do so rather readily. They don’t have a larynx so they can’t talk. They can be taught to communicate with sign language and to use computer based communicators. Moreover, they can teach other chimps to do so, although it is probably more accurate to say that the other chimps watch and learn. Chimps have been communicating with their handlers for at least a couple of decades but not once, that I am aware of, have they ever asked an embarrassing question. They have not once asked why they are being held captive or what effect global warming will have on the African chimp population or even, addressing the handler, who the heck are you? That’s because they are chimps. They are tool users and toolmakers. Rocks they used for cracking nuts have been found in ancient chimp campsites. Till then no one was sure if they used rocks to crack nuts because they had seen man doing it or if it was a skill they learned by themselves. Clearly, they have the ability to figure it all out for themselves. Just like us. And that is where the similarity ends, in my opinion. There is no evidence that chimps are capable of napping (shaping flints into tools) or of creating a tool from more than one element. Nor do they see obvious advantages to crafted items. Clay pottery has been an element of human culture almost as far back as we can trace. Even if chimps were able to create such pots (and I do not doubt they could if shown how) they would not instantly see that water could be carried for long distances or food items kept safe from predators. It should be a eureka moment. Human babies learn early on that they can carry more than one thing at a time if placed in a plastic bucket. Chimps are similar to humans only where the matching genes are turned on. We are two quite different automobiles, if you will allow me the metaphor.


- and?? yes we are different to chimps. you chose the right things to highlight our differences. This is an example of us not knowing everything, not an example of everything we've learnt about our animal heritage being wrong.

JDavidE wrote:There is a perception that caveman as we depict him was a brute of low intellect able only to grunt as a form of communication. We like to smugly believe that modern human is significantly more highly evolved. That perception is slowly changing as serious paleoanthropologists begin to craft a clearer picture of their attributes. It is self-evident that we have long had, if not always had, the ability to communicate with speech. It is also clear from the artefacts that we were highly skilled with tools and able to not only manufacture them but to design them. Needles show that we were able to tailor clothing rather than the common perception of a raggedy animal skin wrapped clumsily about our body. Coprolites show that we not only ate animal flesh but grains. This indicates that we either grew them or carried them with us. Cave paintings show that we were able to spend a lot of time engaged in activity other than hunting or to find food so we either had some good organisational skills or we were clever enough to store food in the good times. These were not skills that we learned in a scant few hundred years or even a few millennia. We could not have been able to do them if we were not equipped to do them.


- and?? these lengthy paragraphs aren't proving or disproving anything. so weve learnt and gained a clearer picture of the past?

JDavidE wrote:We have always been able, for example, to speak. If the larynx was a very recent development then we would have used some other method of communication.


- how do you know we have always been able to speak? What do you mean by always? what do you mean by speak - to form sentences/have language? or just to vocalise?

JDavidE wrote:If the larynx was a very recent development then we would have used some other method of communication. Drums can be used to convey complex messages and instructions. Sign languages can be used cross-culturally. One other thing we can do that chimps cannot, is whistle. There is one small group of people who use that ability to convey information over a distance that their voice cannot carry. Clearly we have the ability as well as a need to communicate complex thoughts. Chimpanzees do not and cannot and don’t even know there is a difference.


- indeed they dont. once again, and? youve pointed out every way chimpanzees are different from humans, we know this. we also know that there is genetic similarity between humans and chimpanzees that has been found and confirmed by scientists. its simply a case of finding out what led to us being so different. "i dont know" is a better conclusion for now than, "DNA is using organisms as shuttling devices" imo.

- why did we need complex modes of communication before consciousness? no other animal needs it, why would we have? we have the need to communicate complex thoughts now but why do you think we have always had this need? do you think we have always been conscious to the degree we are now?

JDavidE wrote:Modern human shared living space with Neanderthal. Whether we co-habited is not definitely known. Neanderthal was capable of either learning from us or we from them for certain burials were ritualised in a like manner. Or we simply thought along similar lines. It is also not known for sure if we interbred. There is no evidence to confirm or disprove it. However, since man is known to fornicate with almost anything that is animate (and many that aren’t) at the urging of his DNA, then it is likely it was tried if the opportunity arose.


- this is not fact. how do you know our current sexual preoccupancy is not because of other factors, such as psychological, since that is the main springboard for action in conscious creatures like ourselves?

JDavidE wrote:We have been able to extract some mitochondrial DNA from Neanderthal bones. The similarities in sequencing place us a long, long way from a common ancestor. We are as likely to be more closely related to the Galapagos tortoise. [That comment is intended to be flippant] .


- i would like to see the reference for this comment plz.

JDavidE wrote:The common ancestor to the chimpanzee and Neanderthal is even more distant than the chimp to us. I just don’t believe that evolution takes us along the path that curves upward. Nor do I believe that evolution places any pressure on an organism to do better, it is simply a consequence. And evolution can take us to a dangerous place of complacency. If the dodo could fly when humans arrived in Mauritius, then it might not be extinct today. However, it had no predators and no need to take flight and, either through neutral gene theory or some other mechanism of devolvement, it lost the ability to fly. We hunted it to extinction.


- the points in this para have been covered in previous paragraphs.

JDavidE wrote:Accepted theory is that all mammals derived from a small shrew-like animal that existed at the time of the dinosaurs. When the dinosaurs vacated the countryside (for whatever theory you prefer) the shrew-like animal got to run rampant. Consensus says evolution kicked in and one line gave rise to Rodentia another line gave rise to Marsupialia and another line began to spew out apes and so forth. But those are just convenient classifications and there may not have been a more recent common ancestor than that original shrew-like animal. Our general perception of the event is that this animal simply gave rise to a series of others that went on to form the various Linnean (Carl Von Linné) orders and classes that we stuff the botanical and zoological organisms into today (even if they don’t fit). I appreciate that I am leaving myself wide-open here for a scathing attack. But just because it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it doesn’t follow that it simply has to be a duck. Look at how difficult it was to convince the learned know-it-all scientific community that there was such a thing as a monotreme.


- i think you should take your own advice. what you have here is a new classification system that sheds no new knowledge. which is what people are trying to tell you. i can make one up too on levels higher or lower than that of DNA.

JDavidE wrote:Two books in a library will contain many identical words and even sentences. It also doesn’t follow that both books must be written by the same author or even, if written by two different authors, that those authors had to be related.


- irrelevant. bad analogy

JDavidE wrote:The stranded human DNA contains a large quantity of junk DNA. That is not the same as discarded rubbish. It is simply DNA sequencing that is not, apparently, coded for anything. It isn’t turned on. And we don’t, as far as I know, even know how it gets turned on. But it sure would be interesting to connect a couple up and see what happens. I wanted to retrofit a piece of electronic equipment to my car. I went to see the people who sold the equipment to get some idea of how difficult (expensive) it would be to retrofit the item and how long would it take. The salesman said in effect that if I bought the item from them they would fit it free and they could do it while I hung about and had a cup of coffee. The dashboards in most cars these days have several snap-out panels to accept retrofitted devices. Some are equipped with mounting slots and all have access to the car’s wiring harness and even that is separately fused. So, in my case it was a simple matter of locating it, screwing it down and plugging it in. I suspect that is what junk DNA represents. All that is needed is the right piece of equipment to come along, and it is already pre-wired and ready to go. In fact, if we can find a way to turn the sequence on, it might just start pumping out the proteins and peptides to build the necessary piece of equipment all by itself. If you happen to be reading this and you happen to work in a lab and your face has just contorted with horror, yes I am being facetious and certainly do not advocate such fooling around, even if it were possible.


- this information is nonconsequential in relation to your argument. im not sure if it has any truth involved since i dont know much about genes.

JDavidE wrote:It is also likely that much of the junk DNA is the product of neutral gene theory or the product of a faulty (in terms of it not doing what the parent organism did) gene. We already know what happens when the body doesn’t produce certain hormones such as insulin and what happens when certain proteins are blocked or not suppressed. Much of the junk DNA may well be sequences that have been turned off, which has made us more like what we are today. The sequences may have suppressed hormones or produced hormones and these may have shaped our very existence. That may matter to us, as I doubt we would like too many changes, especially radical ones to our genome, but I doubt that it makes a particle of difference to DNA. I say again that DNA is one planet-engulfing organism.


- again, conveniantly setup information as well as guessing, strung together.

JDavidE wrote:People who study the early earth of billions of years ago tell us that it was simply not able to harbour life, as we know it. And many terra-like planets seem to remain that way. So, what happened here to give us the goldilocks effect? Not too warm not too cold but everything just right? We have already discovered that DNA is able to survive in some very inhospitable situations. Bacteria can live in boiling geysers. Shrimp can live in water so salty that it poisons everything else. Shrimp and bacteria can live next to deep ocean vents that should cook them and the pressure should squash them. There are insects and worms that live in solid ice and in water that should freeze them into oblivion. So, what are they doing there? They exist and their very existence is bringing about minute changes that burgeon and multiply into massive changes. DNA is making the planet more hospitable for it.


- second path to the second law of thermodynamics, look it up.

JDavidE wrote:We are about to go planet hopping. We have speculated about terra-forming planets to make us more comfortable. I don’t think that’s necessary if we have enough time up our sleeve for I suspect if DNA infects another planet, it will make it not only hospitable for DNA but comfortable for all of its vessels as well.

I am not convinced that trying to find a common ancestor to explain all of us is anything other than pointless. Like Neanderthal, I don’t think the other early hominids are related to us. I think Australopithecus and the others (even though we name them, like Lucy) are simply different models that dead-ended and have nothing to do with us. And, even though the average chimp may be prettier than me, I still don’t think we are in any way related.


- i sincerely regret replying to this whole post.
- my friend likened this idea to scientology's believe that we are vessels for aliens.
- your thinking is so crippled in the line from question to solution my brain was about to ESPLODE.
- im sorry i lost my patience
- your analogies dont apply to your argument at all, revise them.
- why do you discard the small questions in favour of out-of-this-world all encompassing theories?
- if you ever write something like this up again plz save us the time and leave out all intellectual extravagances, present your argument succinctly, not drawn out.
- alot of the stuff you are saying leaves me asking where did he get that from? in places where you think the audience will ask this question for sure, leave a reference. or just do it all the time if you want.
- also alot of the information (almost all of it) you give provides no evidence to support your argument. like dead end developement in animal evolution. just because these species have become extinct and others have not doesnt mean DNA is using organisms as shuttling devices.
- also you points are based on points are based on points that are unsubstantiated. i can imagine this whole thing sprouting from the mind of someone reading about selfish gene theory...
Last edited by narrowstaircase on Wed Mar 14, 2007 5:28 am, edited 2 times in total.
"Oh wearisome Condition of Humanity! Borne under one law, to another bound: Vainley begot, and yet forbidden vanity, Created sicke, commanded to be sound: What meaneth nature by these diverse lawes? Passion and Reason, selfe-division cause."
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Re: A Monkey's Uncle

Postby narrowstaircase » Wed Mar 14, 2007 5:03 am

JDavidE wrote:My understanding of your thesis is:
Organisms are ultimatlely expressions of DNA, and classifying them as seperate entities or establishing evolutionary timelines to determine their heredity creates a false paradigm for true scientific thinking


Gee, I hope I didn’t say that. We can classify things till the cows come home as far as I’m concerned. Some people even have different sock drawers. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. Let me put it this way though and use another absurdity. Let’s suppose that contemporary climatology was based on the theory that the snorting of a mythical celestial dragon was responsible for tornadoes and cyclonic weather patterns. It would be pretty hard to refute and half the researchers would be looking for dragon poop (and probably finding some specimens that almost everyone agreed likely was) and the other half would be researching other weather phenomena that could be attributed to the bodily functions of the mythical dragon. Anyone trying to prove that simple heat exchange was the basis for all weather would likely get covered in some of that dragon poop. The apt expression from the computer world is: garbage in, garbage out. I just think we are looking in the wrong direction.


- that is exactly what you're saying, and including the dragon analogy reinforces this - new models of classification, yet no new knowledge or better understanding.


JDavidE wrote:Are you saying that humans and chimps are not "related" in the sense that they have a relatively recent common ancestor?
Huh? I’m saying that humans and chimps are not necessarily related even if they do have a common ancestor, which I doubt. How do we know it was a common ancestor? DNA sequencing? I don’t think that proves a relationship other than we happen to have a lot of the same hardware. Let’s get silly again. You and 29 other people wander into a shop that sells electrical gadgets. All of you make several or many purchases from the trays lying about. By the time you have all finished shopping, it is dark outside. So, those who happen to have bought flashlights will turn them on. The rest will remain in the dark. If you compare purchases, you might discover that many people not only have the identical gadgets but that many may have most. Does that make you all related in the genetic sense? (Yes, I do appreciate that is woefully simplistic)..


this analogy is entirely wrong, to rectify it, we are the collection of gadgets, not the people collecting them, so yes, we are all related since our parts are all from the same place.

JDavidE wrote:As for purpose, that supposes creationism and that is even stupider than my hypothesis that DNA is one single organism, and we are in the belly of the beast.


dude, creationism is looking pretty hawt right now.

JDavidE wrote:and natural ecological function on earth. You treat it as simply one form of DNA wiping out another, with little to no net effect. No I don’t. I do not suggest anywhere that one form of DNA wipes out another form. Firstly, DNA is DNA and doesn’t come in different guises or forms (or flavours). If DNA is the only life form (creature) on earth, which I contend, then the loss of an entire species (our terminology) is no more meaningful to DNA than the Autumnal loss of leaves to a tree.


the simple fact is that DNA does come in different forms. you dont want to accept that fact. guess waht we did to all strings of acid made from (A,T,G,C) nucleotides? we labelled them DNA. because they all fall under this classification doesnt mean they are all the same. they are unique.

JDavidE wrote:Take, for example the seventeen-year cicada. The larval form stays in the ground attuned to some biological clock that has the alarm set for 17 circuits of the sun. When the alarm goes off, every larvae tunnels to the surface, emerges and heads for the nearest tree or high object. Predators have arrived, in advance, in great numbers and they gorge themselves. They eat and eat until each one swears they couldn’t hold another cicada nymph for at least seventeen years. They haven’t made a dent in the swath of nymphs. The sheer number of the insects simply overwhelms the predators. The cicada adults emerge from the pupae and take off to spend the night in an orgy of procreation. The females lay their eggs…and then every cicada dies. Isn’t that bizarre? If a misguided conservationist happened on the scene to find the entire forest floor carpeted several deep in dead adult cicadas, we might expect to hear some Chicken Little dialogue. The sky is not falling however. Nor was it falling when the Passenger pigeon got extincted by us (I just made that word up for the fun of it) in the space of a few hundred years. It should have been an ecological disaster. So why wasn’t it? It didn’t lead to global warming, or another interglacial and didn’t seem to have any appreciable impact at all. So why not? I think it only makes a difference to us because we can take notes. It wouldn’t matter a damn to a chimpanzee and I don’t think it matters to DNA either.


- we already know that within an ecosystem there are species that are important for the functioning of that ecosystem, they are called key-stone species. we can make an inference on this observation of passenger pigeon extinction, the species was not a key-stone species.

JDavidE wrote:It really doesn't matter. What matters is that organisms, NOT DNA, are what interact with the environment and each-other, and thus any and all value judgements are based on those interactions, not the mute contributions of the underlying DNA.
Mebbe so. And maybe a mythical dragon causes tornadoes.


nice sidestep of a relevant point.

JDavidE wrote:45561:
…a theory is based on fact but is not immutable. Theories aren't always perfect, and if contradictory evidence comes to light then you revise or scrap your theory. You still need to show evidence for scrapping the idea that Pan and Homo are related.

Hmmm. Well, no I don’t. I simply don’t think the relationship exists in terms of we must have evolved from some fossilised look-alike. As for DNA sequencing tying us together, I don’t think we are adept enough yet to say anything other than (at best) likely.


to reiterate what 45561 said, you still need to show evidence for scrapping the idea that pan and homo are related...

JDavidE wrote:A recent study into Polynesian ancestry using DNA sequencing made the rather startling discovery that the Polynesian was a descendant of Chinese origin. In fact, it went on, from memory, to suggest that it was from two Chinese areas, one being Hong Kong. (If that isn’t correct then ignore the reference). I simply took the research on board as an interesting fact and used it to tease a few of my Maori friends. The matter really isn’t worth pursuing but it suddenly struck me that there was a flaw somewhere in that contention. Captain James Cook took some natives from Tahiti with him on the rest of his voyage. They, or at least one of them, were able to converse with the Maori in New Zealand. Language has a way of changing rather rapidly in isolation. Both countries were basically isolated from the other. So, if the language hadn’t altered to a point where it was unintelligible, each to the other, then the separation hadn’t been of great duration. This supposes then that both Maori and Tahitian both came from a much larger population. And some of that larger population’s language should reflect some Chinese origin as well. Well, checking out instances of Polynesian culture across the Pacific, it doesn’t seem to. Nor do any of their art forms. So the only ‘proof’ seems to be a newly acquired art of DNA sequencing.


science is a human endevour and when you slander it you disrespect the long line of people before us that devoted their lives to increasing human knowledge. if we cant trust ourselves within reason why dont we just stare at the ceiling and dribble on our chests all day. sure we should question everything, but all you are doing is slandering.


JDavidE wrote:In either event it doesn’t matter. If we can tie a string from us to some tree dwelling ape wondering what to do with his opposable thumb, that is fine by me. It just is that you are going to have to really convince me you have it right. Not just suppose it’s right because it fits contemporary theory. And I reiterate; DNA couldn’t care less, not even about us. No more than you stop to consider the feelings of your automobile.


DNA doesn't care. thats the thing. it cant. and the string you talk about isnt some feeble irrelevant guess work. its conclusions based on many observations over hundreds of years.

JDavidE wrote:Darby:
Old expression, many variants:
An individual is just a zygote's way to making another zygote.
This is yet another variant, substituting DNA. It's valid, but not intrinsically useful. Just labels.

That seems a little cynical, Darby. I’m not trying to promote anything here. Perhaps you can expand on the ‘old expression, many variants’ with some examples so I can see if we are on the same page. As for the second line, it is basically incorrect. An individual (not to put too fine a point on it) can only provide a haploid cell, not a zygote.

It is kind of you to even suggest my argument is valid for I am far from convinced myself. Can you expound further as to why it may be valid?


darby explains your idea perfectly. we are left with one last thing to consider, how to make a blind man see.
Last edited by narrowstaircase on Wed Mar 14, 2007 8:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Oh wearisome Condition of Humanity! Borne under one law, to another bound: Vainley begot, and yet forbidden vanity, Created sicke, commanded to be sound: What meaneth nature by these diverse lawes? Passion and Reason, selfe-division cause."
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Postby AstusAleator » Wed Mar 14, 2007 7:01 am

Well narrowstaircase has addressed a few points in response already, but I'll take my stab:


JDavidE wrote:My understanding of your thesis is:
Organisms are ultimatlely expressions of DNA, and classifying them as seperate entities or establishing evolutionary timelines to determine their heredity creates a false paradigm for true scientific thinking

Gee, I hope I didn’t say that. We can classify things till the cows come home as far as I’m concerned. Some people even have different sock drawers. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. Let me put it this way though and use another absurdity. Let’s suppose that contemporary climatology was based on the theory that the snorting of a mythical celestial dragon was responsible for tornadoes and cyclonic weather patterns. It would be pretty hard to refute and half the researchers would be looking for dragon poop (and probably finding some specimens that almost everyone agreed likely was) and the other half would be researching other weather phenomena that could be attributed to the bodily functions of the mythical dragon. Anyone trying to prove that simple heat exchange was the basis for all weather would likely get covered in some of that dragon poop. The apt expression from the computer world is: garbage in, garbage out. I just think we are looking in the wrong direction.


The problem with this analogy is that it is an analogy. The reality is much more complex. Observable patterns are science's greatest ally. In your analogy, anyone looking for patterns would have a hard time missing the correlation between temperature, season, and weather patterns, regardless of how much dragon poop they were or weren't finding. The evolutionary relationships that are part of current theory are based on decades of intense study and observation. That's not to say that they're correct, but from what we are able to observe, they make the most sense. And, unlike your dragon poop, there are plenty of people trying to refute evolution.
Anyway, what "direction" do you think we should look, to discern how evolution has occured, and is occuring?

JDavidE wrote:Are you saying that humans and chimps are not "related" in the sense that they have a relatively recent common ancestor?
Huh? I’m saying that humans and chimps are not necessarily related even if they do have a common ancestor, which I doubt. How do we know it was a common ancestor? DNA sequencing? I don’t think that proves a relationship other than we happen to have a lot of the same hardware. Let’s get silly again. You and 29 other people wander into a shop that sells electrical gadgets. All of you make several or many purchases from the trays lying about. By the time you have all finished shopping, it is dark outside. So, those who happen to have bought flashlights will turn them on. The rest will remain in the dark. If you compare purchases, you might discover that many people not only have the identical gadgets but that many may have most. Does that make you all related in the genetic sense? (Yes, I do appreciate that is woefully simplistic).


As far as analogies go, narrowstaircases version is more accurate. At least you acknowledge the simplicity of the example. If we see two species of finches, similar in almost every regard except the shape of their beaks, we can hypothesize that they share a recent common ancestor. The only other explanation i could think of is that every species on earth evolved independenty from its own original proto-cell. Or possibly, there was a common ancestor farther back than hypothesized, and the two species evolved in a parallel fashion. That still calls for a common ancestor though. Evolutionary theory (especially cladistics) generally follows the most parsimonious path (to weigh options, not discount them).


JDavidE wrote:However, to say that evolution progresses in ANY direction is to imply that there is a purpose to the process of evolution,
No it doesn’t. Grand Old Darwin should never have used the word evolution because everybody thinks it means it has to be better and stronger. We have got to get away from thinking that evolution always works upward. It simply means the differentiation or mutation from a parent organism. There are several examples of atavism, especially in the plant kingdom. To suggest that evolution doesn’t work laterally as well is fuzzy thinking. Picture an arid zone. Picture all of the plants growing there in the arid zone. They will have many, many features in common to enable them to capture water, retain water, reflect heat, redirect heat and to source nutrient in the soil (often by way of a symbiotic mycelium). Does this suppose that they all had a recent common ancestor? As for purpose, that supposes creationism and that is even stupider than my hypothesis that DNA is one single organism, and we are in the belly of the beast.


Actually I believe the association of "better, stronger" comes from post-darwin treatment of the word evolution. I could be wrong though. As far as "direction" is concerned, I think we misunderstood each other. It's common knowledge that evolution is not a linear progression (such as shown in charts of human evolution) but a branching, sprawling, haphazard phenomenon that is difficult to demonstrate visually. In fact, we really don't have any methods perfected for the visualization of evolutionary relationships. Cladistics is probably the closest, but even it has its flaws.
No, analogous features do not necessarily indicate organisms are closely related. For example, dolphins and sharks are not closely related, even though they both have dorsal fins. However, we can probably conclude that a dolphin and a shark are more closely related than a shark and a starfish.


JDavidE wrote:I have an issue with your treatment of human-caused extinction. Yes, there have been species that have cause other species to go extinct before. Extinction is part of evolution, [Really? Why should that be so? That presupposes grand design and is rather a wastefully stupid idea if it is.] and natural ecological function on earth. You treat it as simply one form of DNA wiping out another, with little to no net effect.

No I don’t. I do not suggest anywhere that one form of DNA wipes out another form. Firstly, DNA is DNA and doesn’t come in different guises or forms (or flavours). If DNA is the only life form (creature) on earth, which I contend, then the loss of an entire species (our terminology) is no more meaningful to DNA than the Autumnal loss of leaves to a tree.


While you can have adaptation and speciation without extinction, it is a fundamental aspect of evolution. If you can't understand this... ask yourself what would happen if no species ever went extinct. I am in no way indicating that there is a "grand design". It's just how things work.

I will sub-quote what you originally said about the pidgeons:
JDavidE wrote:Life went on. It did not create a hole. Some things changed maybe for the worse and some things changed maybe for the better but it didn’t matter a bit either way to DNA. It was simply an unsuccessful line of endeavour and other organisms would make up the numbers.


I think narrowstaircase dealt quite well with this portion. You're anthropomorphizing DNA, and at the same time, pidgeon-holing it as a catch-all entity, rather than what it really is. There are variations on DNA. Disagree? compare viral dna to bacterial, or bacterial to mitochondrial, or mitochondrial to nucleic mammal.


JDavidE wrote:The mass-roosting and migration behavior is a very effective survival mechanism, as it decreases predation rates. The underscore is mine.
Sorry, that is simply wrong. Having read your whole comment on conservation issues, I think it is probably safe to say that you are not a member of the NRA. Such behaviour does not decrease predation rates it only enhances the odds that the individual will not be eaten. In fact, where huge food sources are available, even seasonally, it simply increases the number of predators (who seem to know when and where) and the amount of predation. But it still is better odds for the individual than being the only bird in the tree when a hungry snake is slithering about.

[...cidada example]
The sky is not falling however. Nor was it falling when the Passenger pigeon got extincted by us (I just made that word up for the fun of it) in the space of a few hundred years. It should have been an ecological disaster. So why wasn’t it? It didn’t lead to global warming, or another interglacial and didn’t seem to have any appreciable impact at all. So why not? I think it only makes a difference to us because we can take notes. It wouldn’t matter a damn to a chimpanzee and I don’t think it matters to DNA either.


I'll take the high-road on your first comments, and not be mean. "predation rate" means the ratio of individuals killed by predators. Yes, more predators show up for these swarms, but the predator to prey ratio (and thus the predation rate) is still lower than if they were spread out over a large area and time. I think you probably just misunderstood me, since you mention the decreased chance of the individual being killed.

I'm not going to try to go into the ethics of conservation with you, as you obviously seem to have your mind made up (and no, i'm not in the NRA). However, I was talking to DNA the other day, and it was really pissed off about the pidgeon thing... yeah... Something about genocide. I dunno. Must be a cultural thing.


JDavidE wrote:It really doesn't matter. What matters is that organisms, NOT DNA, are what interact with the environment and each-other, and thus any and all value judgements are based on those interactions, not the mute contributions of the underlying DNA.
Mebbe so. And maybe a mythical dragon causes tornadoes.


try again.
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