The genius of Charles Darwin

By the time that an animal had reached, after numberless generations, the deepest recesses, disuse will on this view have more or less perfectly obliterated its eyes, and natural selection will often have affected other changes, such as an increase in the length of antennae or palpi, as compensation for blindness.

The above quote comes from On the Origin of Species. It is just one of the numerous instances where Charles Darwin, on the basis of his theory, makes a wonderful prediction that comes true so many years after the fact. In this case, his prediction has been shown to be true over and over; species which have gone millions of years in the dark lose their eyesight again and again. We see this especially in many species of cave fish, but it isn’t limited to the oceans:

With a leg span of only six centimetres and a body size of around twelve millimetres, the spider Sinopoda scurion is certainly not one of the largest representatives of the huntsman spiders, which include more than 1100 species. However, it is the first of its kind in the world without any eyes.

“I found the spider in a cave in Laos, around 100 kilometres away from the famous Xe Bang Fai cave,” reports Peter Jäger, head of the arachnology section at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt. “We already knew of spiders of this genus from other caves, but they always had eyes and complete pigmentation. Sinopoda scurion is the first huntsman spider without eyes.”

One prediction the theory of evolution allows us to make today that Darwin couldn’t make in his lifetime is that the genes for vision in these now-blind species should exist but be broken. If they do not exist, then either there is some really funky timeline and divergence activity (that is, these are old lineages that evolved before their sighted brethren) and we should see a lot of other genetic differences or evolution just isn’t true. Neither one of those options is very likely, of course. What we observe instead is that, indeed, the genes for vision are a broken, jumbled mess. That isn’t the case yet for the above spider because, as far as I know, no such studies have been carried out, but it is the case wherever else these sort of species have had their genes analyzed.

One point I think that needs to be made sure with Darwin’s quote here is this: Natural selection is unlikely to be the only factor in the disappearance of eyes among these species*. In fact, it could have little to nothing to do with the process at all. Vision in the dark is a useless thing, so natural selection may obliterate it for the sake of saving energy or preventing potential injury to a sensitive body part, but I believe it is much more likely that it simply did nothing. It neither selected for nor against vision. As a result of the lack of positive selection, mutation and genetic drift took over and vision in these species simply faded away.

*I really have two points here. First is the one I just made in the above paragraph. Second is the fact that Darwin was referencing natural selection in regard to it creating some compensation for blindness, not in regard to it directionally causing the blindness.


Panoramic view of Mars

Well, this is just neat.

Go on. Click it. It’s interactive and all that jazz.

The asshole principal everyone loves

Remember that asshole dad from a few months ago? He tried to teach his daughter the value of a dollar by idiotically destroying wealth with a bullet through a laptop before telling everyone on the Internet that the child he supposedly loves is lazy and ungrateful – then he told her she needs to get a job. (Who wouldn’t want to hire her now, amirite?) I presume once the camera was off he attempted to show her the need for hard work by having his maid clean up his mess. It was all pretty pathetic, illogical, counter-productive, and was little more than a display of immaturity from someone who is having a hard time dealing with being a parent in the first place. Yet everyone loved it. There’s something about saying “fuck you” to young people that gives people their jollies. I presume some of it is frustration, some of it jealousy, some of it arrogance, but who knows. People love being dicks when dealing with youth. Just read what Northland College principal John Tapene said:

It starts out okay – there’s plenty to do and there’s value in acquiring skills and basic work experience – but it goes downhill quickly. It’s true that no town owes its teen population any entertainment (though it is probably in its interest), and parents aren’t obligated to provide their kids with fun (though the goods ones will play sports and games and activities with their children), but then we get into some horseshit. How is it that no ones owes teenagers anything yet they owe the world everything they can provide? “Sit down, shut the fuck up, do what I say, and like it. And if you dissent at all, then fuck you more, you fucking cry baby!” That doesn’t even begin to make sense.

I think the point Tapene wanted to make was that people as past their prime as he is don’t have the same great potential teenagers do. He wanted to inspire. The only problem is that he couldn’t resist insulting his audience by being a general dick. It’s sort of like what I did in the first sentence of this paragraph where I took a dig at Tapene for his age. The difference is that I’m not trying to inspire him.

But, hey, maybe there’s more to this story. Tapene weighs in further:

However, the tragic truth is that, who is going to teach the young person to cook, to start a lawn mower, to study productively, to wash windows and so on. Instead we adults prefer to push them to one side and tell them to ‘entertain themselves’.

Not only is he a bit of an asshole, he’s an incoherent asshole. “Get out there and find something to do, kids! We don’t owe you shit! By the way, my fellow adults, don’t we owe them something?” Surely there’s an explanation for this overt contradiction? Perhaps:

I think this statement speaks not so much of a youth issue but a call for adult role models to stand up, to teach, lead and demonstrate, to live and lead radically a life fueled by a kingdom vision. Where we all use our talents and time to bring heaven to earth, to partner in God’s mission of the restoration of His creation unto Himself.

Oh. He’s a Christian. That doesn’t explain the assholery, but I at least understand the lack of consistency.

I really wish people would stop spreading these shitty memes.