Only in the light of evolution 3

Once again I am following a chapter in Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True.

There is a pattern within Life that can be seen on oceanic islands. Species which are present are often endemic – only found in that one location. The species common to continents, on the other hand, are often not present on these islands.

In 1703, Alexander Selkrik was part of a plundering group that sailed to the Juan Fernandez archipelago, a few hundred miles off the coast of Chile (pretentiously pronounced “chill-a” by people not from Chile who like to pretend they’re so full of culture). He was voluntarily marooned on one of the islands (Mas a Tierra). He remained there for over four years. He hunted goats and utilized other species introduced by earlier sailors. Little did Selkrik know, his island (now named Alejandro Selkrik Island) was full of these foreign species.

On the island are five species of birds, 126 species of plants, a fur seal, and various insects which are entirely unique to the location. Equally notably, there’s a lot missing from the island. There are no native amphibians, reptiles, or mammals. Islands throughout the world show this same pattern.

Creationism wholly fails to explain the distribution of species – biogeography. It is only in the light of evolution that any logically tenable solution is found. Species are spread across the globe in patterns which follow the movements of the continents. For instance, plants which have a clear common ancestor are explained by the fact that Earth once was composed of a supercontinent known as Gondwana. It split into several sections. This divided species which had already split from one another, causing more adaptation (or extinction). One must believe in tremendous coincidences to just wave this away. That is, the evidence (the biggest foe of the creationist) says plate tectonics caused the movement of the continents which corresponds perfectly to the distribution of species. There is no other plausible explanation.

When observing the world’s biogeography, it is obvious that Australia needs some explanation. Why is it dominated by marsupial mammals while lacking so much in placenta mammals? Better yet, why is the rest of the world lacking in marsupial animals (except for the Virginia opossum)? The answer is in evolution. The animals on Australia show their common ancestry with animals elsewhere by their Class: they are mammals, just as tamarins are mammals. However, they show their divergence and evolution with key differences. Notably, the birthing process and raising of young differs drastically.

Now here’s a prediction that all this makes. Marsupials are found as early as 80 million years ago. Interestingly, they are not found at this time in Australia, but instead North America. With their evolution, they spread to South America about 40 million years ago. About 10 million years later, they’re in Australia. This means there was a connection of land from South America to Australia. The evidence bears this out. Geologists know South America was connected to Antarctica. That in turn was connected to Australia – actually, it was more like a cobble of connection; these continents were all part of Gondwana, deep in the Southern Hemisphere. So, to get from South America to Australia, marsupials must have passed over what is now Antarctica. Prediction: There should be fossils dating between 30 and 40 million years in Antarctica.

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that, yes, there are marsupial fossils in Antarctica. And yes, they date from 35 to 40 million years in age. Again, a person has to believe in tremendous coincidence to reject this evidence. Geologists independently concluded that Gondwana existed and how it separated, and at roughly what times this all happened. Biologists then concluded that, if evolution is true, marsupial fossils must be presented in a particular location. They were right. Only in the light of evolution does this make sense.

Coyne goes on to explain islands, which I may address in the future. For now, I will leave the evidence at this point. The tremendously short attention span of people – creationists and rationalists alike – forces my hand.

Finally, a little victory

Creationist dentists Don McLeroy’s confirmation failed. He’s apparently still on the school board, damaging education as much as he possibly can, but he is no longer the chairman.

More interesting fossils than Ida

Ida is a new fossil discovery that has been horribly over-hyped. It is being called “the missing link”. Following sentences usually mention humans. In other words, some articles are crafty and don’t directly say this fossil is important to Homo sapiens. Others are less crafty. All of this non-sense plays right into the hands of the lying creationists (sorry to be redundant).

Darwinius masillae, otherwise known as Ida, is a tremendously well-preserved fossil that is a primate ancestor. As with most fossils, it was probably a relatively close cousin of one of our direct ancestors. (Note, “relatively close”. Of course, all fossils we find are eventually cousins of our ancestors, if they aren’t directly our ancestors.) How close is difficult to tell – forget saying it’s a direct ancestor. It is a member of the same suborder as humans (and apes and monkeys), haplorhine, but that doesn’t mean Ida wasn’t the last member of her particular population. It can tell us some interesting things, but it in no way independently confirms evolution. Science doesn’t work that way; theories are supported by a wide body of evidence. A single find can add a little weight to a theory, but doesn’t usually completely make a theory. (Notable, if this were found in the, say, Jurassic period, it would have been a find that actually spun evolution on its head – find me a part of creationism [or its coy, dishonest, lying cousin intelligent design] that can be falsified.)

So while interesting and not simply trivial, there are more important fossils out there than Ida. What’s more, there are more interesting fossils. (Guess which claim is the author’s opinion.) Here are some.

Lucy

Lucy

Maiacetus inuus

Maiacetus inuus

Schinderhannes bartelsi

Schinderhannes bartelsi

Tiktaalik

Tiktaalik

Bus campaign update

The atheist bus campaigns remain in full swing. Several major cities have ads running on their city buses now (with lawsuits pending where some places illegally discriminate). Discussion is being prompted and the apocalypse still hasn’t happened. Success.

Oh, and the latest ad:

In the Beginning, Man Created God

Andreas Moritz is a stupid, dangerous man

Andreas Moritz is some schmuck offering horrific medical advice about cancer. I’ve never heard so many wrong things about science outside the realm of creationism.

What makes 50% of the American population so prone to developing cancer, when the other half has no risk at all? Blaming the genes for that is but an excuse to cover up ignorance of the real causes. Besides, any good genetic researcher would tell you that such a belief is void of any logic and outright unscientific (as explained in the book).

Crackpot. He may want to define “good” in his description of genetic researchers. It sounds like he is confusing it with “horrible”. Cancer risk is often identified in three primary ways. In no order, there is environment. A smoker or frequent tanner have higher risk because they have carcinogens entering their bodies at higher rates than other people. Then there is familial history. A person with a history of cancer in the family needs to be more vigilant in seeking regular check-ups. This is based on nothing but genetics. Finally, oncologists specifically look at genes to determine whether or not someone has a high risk. BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes indicate a higher risk of cancer if inherited with mutations. This is common among Ashkenazi Jews. This is basically a repeat of point 2. But it’s good to repeat here because, well, cancer is caused by mutations in genes which cause unregulated cell growth which prevents apoptosis or prevents DNA repair.

Cancer has always been an extremely rare illness, except in industrialized nations during the past 40-50 years. Human genes have not significantly changed for thousands of years. Why would they change so drastically now, and suddenly decide to kill scores of people? The answer to this question is amazingly simple: Damaged or faulty genes do not kill anyone. Cancer does not kill a person afflicted with it! What kills a cancer patient is not the tumor, but the numerous reasons behind cell mutation and tumor growth. These root causes should be the focus of every cancer treatment, yet most oncologists typically ignore them. Constant conflicts, guilt and shame, for example, can easily paralyze the body’s most basic functions, and lead to the growth of a cancerous tumor.

Christ. Cancer really hasn’t been that rare throughout human history, but it is more common today. The reasons, however, are not because people are negative nancies. People live longer, are exposed to more carcinogens, and we just plain detect cancer more often than past generations could.

Copying errors are at root here. Moritz is claiming something which is bogus and unevidenced. He is saying a huge swath of the population dies because they are guilty. His ‘evidence’ seems to be anecdotal experience and personal perception. This guy is dangerous, if anything.

If cancer deaths were purely related to one’s emotional state, then it follows that people in Japan, France, and the U.S. must be more chipper than the rest of the world. No, it certainly isn’t about the availability of medical treatment. These people are just happy.

Cancer patients typically suffer from lack of self-respect or worthiness, and often have what I call an “unfinished business” in their life. Cancer can actually be a way of revealing the source of such inner conflict. Furthermore, cancer can help them come to terms with such a conflict, and even heal it altogether. The way to take out weeds is to pull them out along with their roots. This is how we must treat cancer; otherwise, it may recur eventually.

So I guess cancer is a good thing now. Quick! We’ve got to tell the hospitals. We need psychiatrists, not oncologists!

Oh, and children who have faulty genes that cause cancer? Nah. They just don’t have any self-respect. That’s common of children, right?

~~~

This is amazing. Does Moritz realize that 30% of all cancer deaths are due to smoking (or inhaling second hand smoke)? He must think smokers are negative nancies, too. It’s a good thing they’re getting cancer. Otherwise, they’d never find out what was spiritually wrong. I mean, why do we feel so off-put by the idea of cancer? It’s clearly just a method of discovering out innerselves. Or it’s a horrible disease that is caused by a copying error in one cell which is able, through many complex mechanisms, to replicate without ‘fear’ of death while avoiding the attacks of the immune system. I don’t know. I only have empirical evidence to back up my claims.

P.s. This guy is an awful writer, too.

Update: The comment section has become a bit disoriented since I transferred everything from one blog to another. All comments can be read properly here.

Life is beautiful

Thanks to the wonder that is LASIK, I can now see very well. I had the surgery done about 18 months ago when I had horrific vision. It brought me to 20/25 vision, which was a decrease from my contacts. Over time, my vision deteriorated a bit, which is normal, especially for someone as young as I am, and it got to 20/40. I decided to have it redone (at a reduced cost) recently. I am now at 20/15 vision. The difference is unbelievable. Everything I see is far more beautiful. The road as I drive is aesthetically pleasing right now. The details of trees are better than ever. Hell, retail stores looks great to me. I hate big box stores. They hate their employees; people are not their concern, just an expense. It’s no wonder so many support Republican causes. But if they’re going to be there, I’d rather be able to see them than not.

But what I’ve missed most of all, lightyears beyond everything else (quite literally), is the night sky. I arrived home last night. No one left the outside light on. The moon was hidden behind Earth’s shadow. I’m not in the middle of a city. The sky was intense. I stared deep into the Milky Way. Just a week ago I shied from doing this because I was so actively disappointed in the blurry edges of the stars. I could hardly identify planets anymore. Everything was dull. Now life feels fundamentally different. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to capture that deep feeling of physical spirituality. The night sky is where it’s at for me, but it’s been missing for some time now. Science has finally recaptured it for me. It turns out all that namby-bamby empirical evidence actually means something. Who knew.

Looking at the sky last night was stunning. There was pinpoint accuracy in the stars. Everything popped. I cannot wait to go back out.

Quintuplet Cluster

Quintuplet Cluster

That link

I posted a link earlier. Here it is again.

However, though researchers have been able to show how RNA’s component molecules, called ribonucleotides, could assemble into RNA, their many attempts to synthesize these ribonucleotides have failed. No matter how they combined the ingredients — a sugar, a phosphate, and one of four different nitrogenous molecules, or nucleobases — ribonucleotides just wouldn’t form.

Sutherland’s team took a different approach in what Harvard molecular biologist Jack Szostak called a “synthetic tour de force” in an accompanying commentary in Nature.

“By changing the way we mix the ingredients together, we managed to make ribonucleotides,” said Sutherland. “The chemistry works very effectively from simple precursors, and the conditions required are not distinct from what one might imagine took place on the early Earth.”

Like other would-be nucleotide synthesizers, Sutherland’s team included phosphate in their mix, but rather than adding it to sugars and nucleobases, they started with an array of even simpler molecules that were probably also in Earth’s primordial ooze.

They mixed the molecules in water, heated the solution, then allowed it to evaporate, leaving behind a residue of hybrid, half-sugar, half-nucleobase molecules. To this residue they again added water, heated it, allowed it evaporate, and then irradiated it.

At each stage of the cycle, the resulting molecules were more complex. At the final stage, Sutherland’s team added phosphate. “Remarkably, it transformed into the ribonucleotide!” said Sutherland.

According to Sutherland, these laboratory conditions resembled those of the life-originating “warm little pond” hypothesized by Charles Darwin if the pond “evaporated, got heated, and then it rained and the sun shone.”

I figured I’d have more to add to this, but I don’t. At best I suppose I should point out that this experiment shows that general principles can result in RNA: do such-and-such in a certain order and you’re on your way. That’s an oversimplification, but it makes comprehending the origins of life a bit easier.