Nov 06 2012

Seeing with Touch

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56 Responses to “Seeing with Touch”

  1. Bronze Dogon 06 Nov 2012 at 11:10 am

    I start to wonder just how much diverse sensory input the human brain can handle. I recall an experiment where they blindfolded some people for months and taught them to read braille. They steadily improved, but after the blindfolds where removed, they started losing the skill pretty quickly. I think part of it was that they were using their visual cortex to read braille (visualizing the bumps, I suppose) but once they regained their vision, it ‘overpowered’ the connections used for reading braille.

  2. Steven Novellaon 06 Nov 2012 at 11:41 am

    Brain processing is finite, and not just theoretically limited but practically in everyday use. Psychologists see an effect called interference by which one task uses up resources that are then not available for other tasks, decreasing performance.

  3. DOYLEon 06 Nov 2012 at 12:05 pm

    This reminds me of a scale representation of the human brain called the
    cortical homunculus.It shows the exaggerated properties of the body as it relates to brain area.I Think it suggests that a great deal of the human brain has evolved and retained a primacy for sensory activity(plasticity).

  4. locutusbrgon 06 Nov 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Couple of questions
    1. Forget radioactive waste, is there research that supports enhancement of senses in cases of loss IE blindness = super smell. You know like your echolocation piece.
    2. Does the research plausibly support the opposite of your above comment where the brain has more resources and is able to suppor,t not just superior use, rather improved senses.
    Again knocking creationist ” how can new abilities evolve, because they would be of no use while in their incipient stages.”

    And Daredevil brings to mind a funny family guy quote that is related…

    Doctor: Mayor West, you have Lymphoma.
    Adam West: Oh My.
    Doctor: Probably from rolling around in that toxic waste. What in God’s name were you trying to prove?
    Adam West: I was trying to gain super powers.
    Doctor: Well that’s just silly.
    Adam West: Silly, yes…idiotic…yes

  5. Bronze Dogon 06 Nov 2012 at 2:06 pm

    @Steve:

    Yeah, just from experience, I know I’ve got limited resources to allocate. Driving takes up quite a lot for me, so I don’t even bother turning on my radio, since I won’t be able to listen to it in depth.

    I suppose another way to phrase my curiosity is that I wonder just how many senses we can maintain while retaining the ability to switch “modes.” If I had a web browser installed in my head that uses my visual cortex for the display, how much trouble would it be to keep both regular sight and web browsing as separate modes for it to operate in, and if maintaining both options would significantly degrade my ability when focused on one.

    Of course, a cyberpunk would probably offer to install extra processor cores and RAM to handle the extra load so I can do both at once in different parts of my enhanced brain.

  6. sonicon 07 Nov 2012 at 11:06 am

    Dr. N.-
    You seem to misunderstand the argument about how complex organs evolve.
    It is not an argument that evolution doesn’t or can’t occur– it is questioning that the changes are due to ‘random’ mutations.

    What good is 1/4 of an eye? one might ask.
    Of course one might ask- “What good is an eye at all?”
    The eye is worthless, of course. We need an optic nerve to go with it. And an eye and an optic nerve are worthless without the brain to interpret the data.

    Now you think it is amazing that an eye could evolve– but actually all three things (and no doubt others– like the eye socket on the skull)– have to come together.

    What are the odds if these changes are independent? (As they would be if mutations are random). I would guess the number is less than (one) over (the number of particles in the universe).

    It might be considered a miracle having happened once.
    But what do you call it when it has happened more than once?

    This is the problem of ‘convergent evolution’. And this is why many researchers are saying mutations are not random and this is what the ‘creationists’ are saying as well.
    The difference of opinion would be what is causing the lack of randomness– of course.

    Read more here–
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121025130922.htm

  7. Aardwarkon 07 Nov 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Sonic,

    Creationists (religious ones, at least) are claiming that Earth is less than 10 000 years old and that all living species were actually created by separate Divine Interventios in 7 days (7 x 24 hours). They also firmly believe that no evolution happens at all, so it’s hardly the same thing as merely recognizing that, at some point, there is non-randomness in evolutionary processes. Of course there is.

    The point of contention is exactly where does the non-randomness come from and how it is brought about. The ‘modern synthesis’ holds that gene mutations cannot be directed, but that does not mean that all organisms have the same potential to evolve in all possible directions within the morphospace.

    The original gradualistic notion, as proposed by Charles Darwin in ‘The Origin of Species’, that major evolutionary changes arise by slow accumulation of small improvements is no longer a widely accepted view among evolutionary biologists. Some four decades ago, the theory of ‘punctuated equilibrium’ was proposed. It addresses the way new features arise in evolution relatively rapidly (on geological timescale, nota bene – this has often been abused by Creationists to mean ‘instantly’), with long (often millions or even billions of years long) periods of stasis in between. According to this version of evolutionary theory, non-randomness may be partly explained by natural selection operating among stable species, and not just among individuals (multiple levels of selection). There is also room for a greater role of phenotypic plasticity, epigenetic inheritance of traits, complex feedbacks within the ecosystem, relationship of evolution and development (‘evo-devo’) and, of course, the importance of large system perturbations (mass extinctions). Oh yes, and all evolutionists also agree there are external constraints on successfuly evolving solutions. They just don’t agree how tight these constraints really are.

    I sincerely recommend ‘The Structure of Evolutionary Theory’ by Stephen Jay Gould for a detailed review of the topic. At least to all that are able to spare the time to read a very long book about a very ‘long argument’.

    My apologies for too many words. I just wished to make a simple point – no one seriously expects that the typewriter-monkey version of evolution is the real answer. The theory of evolution has gone far beyond such a notion, and it is now only quoted by its adversaries, and unfair ones at that.

    There is also another substantial point. Naked photoreceptor cells are, in structural terms, much less than 1/4 of an eye. Yet they are clearly useful to the animals that have just such photoreceptors as ‘crude’ eyes. And these eyes can complexify due to ongoing selection pressure for ‘better’ eyes.
    There is also the question of exaptation of traits (a structure originally evolved as adaptation for one purpose may later aquire a completely different function – see newer discussions about the evolution of feathers in dinosaurs, for example).

  8. BillyJoe7on 07 Nov 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Aardwark,

    Sonic is saying that mutations are directed.
    There is, of course, no evidence for this.
    It is, in effect, an argument from incredulity….

    sonic: ” I would guess the number is less than (one) over (the number of particles in the universe).”

    ….and a quaint interpretation of epigenetics.
    But he never seems to want to respond to the argument against this interpretation.
    At least not the few times I’ve responded to it on this blog.

    Good luck!

  9. Tim Johnsonon 07 Nov 2012 at 4:48 pm

    “The Beginner’s Guide to Echolocation” was just published a few weeks ago and is available on Amazon. This book serves to debunk a lot of the myths of human echolocation. Not only is it possible, but it doesn’t require any special talent or gift. Additionally, anyone can learn this skill, not just the blind. Fully-sighted people can learn this skill as well. The difficulty is in the lack of necessity for the skill which implies that it is not practiced 100% of one’s waking hours, whereas blind people are given the opportunity to train all the time.

    The book covers the mechanics and science of the subject and practical applications. It offers exercises and examples and teaches anyone how to experience the effects of echolocation for the very first time.

    Furthermore it provides detailed lessons for improving your sensitivity and calibrating your senses to different surfaces, objects and environments. Anyone interested in learning how to use “active human echolocation” or just curious about the subject should get this book!

    For more information check it out on Amazon & Kindle:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1478371080/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1478371080&linkCode=as2&tag=ti00-20

    For the blind community, there is an accessible copy at my website (audiobook coming soon): http://www.humanecholocation.com

  10. EOon 07 Nov 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Really an inspiring thing to think about, I always love to read about confirmations of our mind and body’s plasticity.

    I’ve often wondered about this sort of thing while learning a new skill, and in particular while studying foreign languages. In some ways certain skills, like listening in a foreign language, are totally related to asserting a kind of control over your senses. I’m not sure most folks think that way –usually we just think hearing is hearing– but when you are in that 1st year or so of intense study in a language, you realize moments in which you are totally stretching out and reconfiguring your senses to adapt and create some kind of new sense of reality.

    Of course thats a bit of stretching this research out, but…

    When you think of all the things humans may have to learn to do or live with if we leave this planet, this kind of research seems really promising. I for one would love to have access to to some robotic whiskers on Curiosity, if for nothing else than to get a sense of what the wind feels like there.

  11. sonicon 07 Nov 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Aardwark-
    Thank-you for the comments; your verbosity is excused– if you’ll tolerate mine…

    I am aware of Gould and his work.
    Certainly Gould argued for random mutations– from his book “Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin” he states-
    “Darwin’s revolution will be completed when we smash the pedestal of human arrogance and own the plain implications of life’s non-predictable non-directionality.”

    Now if you look at the article I linked to you will find the surprise that it appears that life has evolved in a predictable manner– with the same mutations leading to what is now termed ‘convergent’ evolution.

    Do you see how this is different from what Gould was talking about?

    You might be interested to know that in Richard Dawkins book “The Blind Watchmaker”, Dawkins claims that “… punctuated equilibrium lies firmly within the neo-Darwinian synthesis. It always has…”

    Anyway, my comment was about the argument of how complex organs evolve. I thought Dr. N. was giving a strawman version and I know he doesn’t like to do that, so I was hoping he would get the better version of the argument, which I hope I supplied.

    BillyJoe7-
    When did I say that mutations are directed?
    Did I mention by what?
    (I’m thinking perhaps I’ve had a great insight and forgotten it). :-)

  12. Aardwarkon 08 Nov 2012 at 3:23 am

    BillyJoe7,

    Thanks.

    Sonic,

    Our mutual tolerances having been exchanged, I see that we have narrowed down the area of disagreement to one key question. But it is the very question that governs the current (and possibly future) development of evolutionary theory – namely, what exactly are the operating principles that constrain evolution and how ‘tight’ are they? In other words, is the nature of evolutionary process such that it may allow predictions of its outcomes based on knowledge of the full set of the constraining factors? Or is there an intrinsic randomness (or, better said, a core of non-deterministic processes) that precludes reliable predictions even if all system parameters are to be known?

    Gould obviously favored the latter possibility, as seen from his treatment of the ‘rewinding the tape’ thought experiment. The camp of scientists advocating the former option is led by Simon Conway-Morris, who claims that evolutionary constraints are so tight that, if we ever find life elsewhere in the Universe, we will certainly find humanoids, or even humans.

    Personally, I am closer to Gould’s view in this matter, but I also see that the outlined possibilities are merely the opposing ends of a continuum. Since I tend to dislike sharp dichotomies in complex issues and prefer to think in terms of infinite number of nuanced possibilities, I would like to propose the term ‘less-than-randomness’, at least as a placeholder. It begs the question: How much less-than-random Evolution really is?

    There are two more points that we might discuss. The first – there is not just one ‘Neo-Darwinism’ but many widely differing neo-Darwinisms, depending on what exactly constitutes the ‘neo’ part and what exactly is retained from the original Darwinism. Of course, usually by Neo-Darwinism we mean the standard form of ‘modern synthesis’ – the one that Gould (ironically), among others, attacked as ‘over-hardened’.

    The second – What is the exact relationship of external constraints (recognized in evolutionary theory from the very beginning) and internal constraints (that have to do with how the information about traits is encoded and regulated at various levels?) For instance, we now know that crucial genes that regulate development and ‘body plan’ display a high level of homology in almost all multicellular animals. This was almost inconceivable in the light of original Darwinism and suggests that evolution of complex organs does not start from scratch every time, but co-opts and modifies existent ‘patterning modules’. Those modules could, in principle, allow the changes to be somewhat coordinated, while the gene mutations are still completely random – if a random mutation in gene a changes not merely the quality of trait A, but the way (unchanged) genes b, c,…, z are expressed and how they all work together to produce evolutionary novelty.

    Here is an interesting, if highly speculative, article about such ‘modular’ heritable complexes and their possible role in evolution. It may not be THE answer to the above question, I’m not yet jumping to subscribe completely to this train of thought, but I find it worth reading and recommending.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=pre-Darwinian%20pre-Mendelian

  13. sonicon 08 Nov 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Aardwark-
    The article you linked to is interesting.

    At this point it seems we would be wise to look to the evidence before getting into theory.
    I’ll give two recent papers that lead me to believe we just don’t know enough to be ‘finalizing’ any kind of theory at all–

    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/07/01/1004139107.short

    http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/rnabiology/article/18277/?nocache=1093064241

    If pseudo genes aren’t pseudo and epistasis is pervasive–
    Who was predicting that?

    First step in learning– realize that you don’t know. When it comes to how life actually evolves– the evidence is just coming in and it is surprising and I don’t know any theory that is predicting these findings.
    Seems the field is ripe for change.

  14. BillyJoe7on 08 Nov 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Sonic,

    “When did I say that mutations are directed?
    Did I mention by what?”

    I think I’ll just throw the questions back to you.
    Firstly, what do you mean by random?
    Secondly, by what mechanisms could mutations be non-random?
    Or are you just saying that they must be non-random because of the extreme unlikelihood -in your own mind- they mutations are random and still produce the complexity we see today.

  15. BillyJoe7on 08 Nov 2012 at 3:46 pm

    sonic,

    “At this point it seems we would be wise to look to the evidence before getting into theory.”

    Are you saying that this “new” evidence is not falling in line with present theory?
    Please explain exactly why you think the evidence requires a paradigm shift?

    “I’ll give two recent papers that lead me to believe we just don’t know enough to be ‘finalizing’ any kind of theory at all”

    I have read only the abstracts, but I get the drift.
    Explain how the evidence provided in these papers suggests that a paradigm shift in theory is required as opposed to being well and truly subsumed under the modern synthesis/neo-darwinism?

    “If pseudo genes aren’t pseudo and epistasis is pervasive–
    Who was predicting that?”

    Nobody was predicting that.
    But so what. Evolution is more complex than at first sight. Surprise, surprise.
    The point is that its all explained by random mutation and non-random selection.
    If you don’t think so, provide one example where this cannot be the underlying mechanism.

    “Seems the field is ripe for change.”

    You will simply have to do better than just stating that it is so.

  16. sonicon 09 Nov 2012 at 11:25 am

    BillyJoe7-
    I think you made untruthful statements about what I said. I really don’t recall saying that mutations are directed. Did I?
    Because otherwise, it seems like maybe you tried to make another think less of me by telling that person an untruth. Or should I say a lie?
    Do you see where I’m coming from?

    I attempted to give you an easy out with humor, but that seems to have failed.
    No acknowledgement of error, no apology for the detestable act, no explanation at all.

    So let me ask clearly– did you lie about me to another with the intention of making that person think less of me?

    Let’s get that out of the way before moving on– shall we?

  17. BillyJoe7on 09 Nov 2012 at 3:28 pm

    sonic,

    It is possible that I am mistaken, that’s all.

    The problem is that you never clearly state your case.
    However, here you appear to be saying that the accumulating evidence points towards a paradigm shift in thinking about evolution, but you won’t actually say what you think that paradigm shift consists of.
    The other problem is that you seem to talk the language of those who support directed mutation, who characteristically never seem to want to come right out and say so, but go on and on about what is wrong with the present theory, whilst never responding to explanations of how all their examples of what is wrong with the present theory have no effect on it whatsoever, except to show how complex evolutionary mechanisms actually are.

    If I am wrong about this, you could simply say so. Or you could state clearly what you think is wrong or incomplete about “random mutation and non-random selection” and what you think will replace or supplement it.

  18. Mlemaon 09 Nov 2012 at 4:31 pm

    why do we say non-random selection?
    And if selection is made by non-directed forces (nature), then how come it’s not random too?
    Isn’t it all either random or non-random?

    That is: nature is effecting it so it’s not random (that would be true for both mutation & selection) or, nature is just random, therefore it’s all random.

  19. BillyJoe7on 09 Nov 2012 at 11:57 pm

    Mlema,

    Just in case youre not joking:

    Random just means without favouring a particular result.

    A coin toss is random. The result is either heads or tails and neither is favoured above the other. Same with mutation. It is random because no particular mutation is favoured above any other mutation. This is not to say that some mutations are not more likely than others. The physical characteristics of the mutating agent and the physical characteristics of the objects in which the mutations could potentially occur ensure that some mutations are more likely than others. But, within these physical limitations, the outcome is random. Within these physical limitations, nothing directs that some mutations are favoured above any other mutations.

    Selection is not random because particular results are favoured. Mutations that make organisms less able to compete for food or sex within the particular environment in which they arise, are gradually replaced by organisms who do not have these mutations. Mutations that make organisms more able to compete for food and sex within the particular environment in which they arise, gradually replace organisms that do not have these mutations.

    (Please excuse any minor errors, these things are often difficult for me to state, though the meaning is clear in my head)

  20. Mlemaon 10 Nov 2012 at 8:38 pm

    everything is physical. Mutations are just changes that occur as a result of some physical force: chemical, thermal, electromagnetic, etc. These changes then persist for a short time, or, for a longer time. And that depends again on other physical forces. There’s no “selection” – it’s all random and depends upon whatever physical forces are in play at any given time.

    Otherwise you’re attributing some kind of force or consciousness to nature or to life. That is: the ability to favor, or select.

    perhaps just an unfortunate choice of words. However, I still don’t see why it’s “random mutation” and “non-random selection” It’s all either random or not depending on your philosophy. But certainly there’s no “selection” going on. Who or what would be doing the selecting?
    Or am I totally not getting something?

    That is very possible.
    :)

  21. BillyJoe7on 11 Nov 2012 at 3:01 am

    Mlema,

    “Or am I totally not getting something?”

    You asked a question and I gave you an answer but, instead of addressing my answer, you simply repeat your question.
    So, yes, you are totally not getting something.

    Hint: the word “selection” (or “favours”) is an anthropomorphisms, a short cut way of saying what I have said in more detail in my answer. The environment “selects” against most mutations and “selects” for some mutations.

    But this is so straightforward that I suspect you are trolling.

    Cheers!

  22. sonicon 11 Nov 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Mlema-
    The idea that selection is random is basically what Gould was advocating in his book “Full House:…” that I mentioned earlier.

    Douglas Futuyma says it this way–
    “Simply put, natural selection is a consistent difference in survival and reproduction between different genotypes, or even different genes, in what we could call reproductive success.”
    http://www.actionbioscience.org/evolution/futuyma.html

    That is to say that natural selection is really the observation that some members of a species reproduce more than others. (Slightly oversimplified- I give you that, but basically accurate).

    The person who has done the most study of actual living populations in this regard is Joel Kingsolver.
    Two papers of interest-
    Kingsolver, J. G.,H. E. Hoekstra, J. M. Hoekstra, D. Berrigan, S. N. Vignieri, C. E.
    Hill, A. Hoang, P. Gibert, P. Beerli. 2001. The strength of phenotypic selection in
    natural populations. The American Naturalist 157:245-261.

    (This paper is very technical. But the conclusion is that reproduction is what moves evolution– not longevity.)

    And here-
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110307142240.htm

    (This is an article about the actual paper– in this we learn that ‘size matters’. Who knew? :-)
    Oh, and there is a nice picture of a Flamingo to go with it. )

  23. sonicon 11 Nov 2012 at 12:28 pm

    BillyJoe7-
    This has gone off-topic. Allow me to close-
    I suggested that mutations are not random. I linked to an article that explictly states they are “far from random” and explains exactly what is meant and why it is possible to know this now when it wasn’t before.
    I have nothing to add or subtract.

    Now here this— It appears this topic is a very emotional one for you. Perhaps the notion that mutations are random is a cornerstone of your personal philosophy/ religion/ world view and I can understand that you might resent me for suggesting otherwise.

    Please understand– I’m looking at the evidence– new evidence that was not available in the past– and the evidence indicates what it indicates.
    It isn’t me that wrote the article “Far form Random…” about mutations, it was the guys at Science Daily. And this is based on the study of insects that was done.
    I am not a member of the team that did the work on the insect genomes nor am I a writer for science daily.

    In my estimation this paper is just one of many that says that mutations are not random and I believe this finding will be reproduced in other forms– both in terms of the existing genomes (like the study I linked to) and in experimental situations.

    It is possible that this situation will cause you emotional discomfort.

    I have no interest in causing you any emotional discomfort.
    Yet I find this work interesting and I think it is important.
    It is for this reason that I suspect you might be better off if you ignore my future comments.

    Bon voyage!

  24. BillyJoe7on 11 Nov 2012 at 3:48 pm

    sonic,

    How on Earth could I be emotionally attached to random mutation!

    I suspect that this is just an easy way for you to avoid answering the questions I’ve asked.
    It’s just easy to link to articles that supposedly explain what you seem unable to explain yourself and which do not actually say what you think they say.
    Nowhere in that article does it say that mutations are non-random.
    If you think so please post the relevant quote.

    The fact is there is no evidence that mutation is not random. Constrained by the laws of physics, yes, but not non-random by the definition of random that I have given.
    But your refusal to answer these questions once again is noted. You have refused to even give your definition of random – surely something quite basic to a duscussion of whether or not mutations are non-random. You haven’t even bothered to say whether or not you agree with the definition I have given.

    So excuse me if I think you have nothing to back up your claim – oh, I’m sorry, what you claim someone else has claimed!

  25. BillyJoe7on 11 Nov 2012 at 4:06 pm

    sonic,

    Are we even reading the same article:

    “http://www.actionbioscience.org/evolution/futuyma.html”

    Summary: random mutation and non-random selection.
    Where does he say anything different.
    He specifically endorses Darwin’s “dangerous idea”.

  26. Mlemaon 12 Nov 2012 at 9:40 pm

    we draw a line between living and non-living that we’re allowed to move according to our scientific discoveries. We accept that there are both random and non-random aspects of evolution. If we just move the line to include genetic mutation along with the rest of evolution there’s no anxiety about admitting that it’s not completely random. Perhaps we need to go back down the tree to find where non-random first came from random.

    So, I’m sorry BillyJoe for aggravating you. That wasn’t my intent. But let me ask you: do you think “survival” would be a better word than “selection” in the evolutionary equation? (I’m really asking you what you think)

    Also, if you disagree with what the scientists in the Science daily article are saying:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121025130922.htm

    maybe you could say why? or link to some paper or article that refutes what they’re saying?
    thanks

  27. BillyJoe7on 12 Nov 2012 at 11:03 pm

    Mlema,

    “We accept that there are both random and non-random aspects of evolution.”

    Yes, mutation is random, and selection is non-random.

    “If we just move the line to include genetic mutation along with the rest of evolution there’s no anxiety about admitting that it’s not completely random.”

    You can’t just move that line, you need evidence to move that line, and it’s not there.
    Mutation is constrained by physical law but, within those constraints, it is random.
    If you disagree, show me one clear example of where mutation is non-random

    “So, I’m sorry BillyJoe for aggravating you.”

    Are you sure you are not related to sonic.
    He seems to think he upsets me as well.

    “But let me ask you: do you think “survival” would be a better word than “selection” in the evolutionary equation?”

    Selection is fine, but it is not random as explained in my previous response.

    “Also, if you disagree with what the scientists in the Science daily article are saying:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121025130922.htm
    maybe you could say why?”

    I don’t disagree with what these scientists are saying.
    I disagree with sonic’s interpretation of what they are saying.

  28. Mlemaon 12 Nov 2012 at 11:41 pm

    “Mutation is constrained by physical law but, within those constraints, it is random.
    If you disagree, show me one clear example of where mutation is non-random”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121025130922.htm
    “…knowledge of a species’ genes — and how certain external conditions affect the proteins encoded by those genes — could be used to determine a predictable evolutionary pattern driven by outside factors.”

    “…The researchers found that the genes of cardenolide-resistant insects incorporated various mutations that allowed it to resist the toxin. During the evolutionary timeframe examined, the sodium-potassium pump of insects feeding on dogbane and milkweed underwent 33 mutations at sites known to affect sensitivity to cardenolides. These mutations often involved similar or identical amino-acid changes that reduced susceptibility to the toxin. On the other hand, the sodium-potassium pump mutated just once in insects that do not feed on these plants.”

    predictable = non-random

    the environment affects “selection” – it also affects how genes change – why is that a heresy?

  29. BillyJoe7on 13 Nov 2012 at 6:11 am

    Mlema,

    You have yet to point out to me where the authors say that mutation is non-random.
    If that was the whole point of their article, don’t you think they would have stated that explicitly?
    What they say is that evolution is less than random, not that mutation is non-random.
    Big difference.

    The paragraph you have selected from the article is the only one that gets close to supporting sonic’s interpretation of what the article is saying so congratulations for selecting it. But, even here, the authors refrain from saying that this demonstrates non-random mutation.
    Why do you think that is?

    “predictable = non-random”

    Toss a coin five hundred times and I predict that you will toss roughly two hundred and fifty heads and two hundred and fifty tails. But each coin toss is random as to whether you throw a head or a tail.

    “the environment affects “selection” – it also affects how genes change – why is that a heresy?”

    It isn’t.
    Genes mutate randomly.
    The environment selects the mutations that are favourable.

  30. Mlemaon 13 Nov 2012 at 4:05 pm

    BillyJoe I picked the paragraph above because I didn’t want to copy the whole article. But here are some more excerpts. Maybe you could read the whole article and make a comment on the research and what the scientists are saying about it. That would be greatly appreciated since I’m trying to understand why you say they’re not saying what I think they’re saying.
    thanks BillyJoe

    “Evolution, often perceived as a series of random changes, might in fact be driven by a simple and repeated genetic solution to an environmental pressure that a broad range of species happen to share…”

    “…knowledge of a species’ genes — and how certain external conditions affect the proteins encoded by those genes — could be used to determine a predictable evolutionary pattern driven by outside factors…”

    “‘Is evolution predictable? To a surprising extent the answer is yes…’”

    “Fourteen of these species have evolved a nearly identical characteristic due to one external influence…”

    “…Though separated by 300 million years of evolution, these diverse insects — which include beetles, butterflies and aphids — experienced changes to a key protein…”

    “They used these sequences to predict how the sodium-potassium pump would be encoded in each of the species’ genes based on cardenolide exposure.”

    “Scientists using similar techniques could trace protein changes in a species’ DNA to understand how many diverse organisms evolved as a result of environmental factors”

    “‘The finding of parallel evolution in not two, but numerous herbivorous insects increases the significance of the study because such frequent parallelism is extremely unlikely to have happened simply by chance,…’”

    “‘The fact that many of these solutions are used over and over again by completely unrelated species suggests that the evolutionary path is repeatable and predictable.’”

  31. BillyJoe7on 13 Nov 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Mlema,

    I can’t help but think you are trolling but anyway here is my take:

    “Evolution, often perceived as a series of random changes, might in fact be driven by a simple and repeated genetic solution to an environmental pressure that a broad range of species happen to share…”

    Evolution is random mutation and non-random natural selection.
    The so called “good tricks” are part of the modern synthesis.
    Why shouldn’t organisms that have similar gene sequences evolve similar solutions to similar environmental changes.

    “…knowledge of a species’ genes — and how certain external conditions affect the proteins encoded by those genes — could be used to determine a predictable evolutionary pattern driven by outside factors…”

    Exactly. What’s so mysterious about that. Where’s the problem with that.
    How is that contra the modern synthesis.

    “‘Is evolution predictable? To a surprising extent the answer is yes…’”

    Good tricks. Convergent evolution. They are all subsumed within the modern synthesis. No problem.

    “Fourteen of these species have evolved a nearly identical characteristic due to one external influence…”

    Convergent evolution. Part of the modern synthesis. No problem.

    “…Though separated by 300 million years of evolution, these diverse insects — which include beetles, butterflies and aphids — experienced changes to a key protein…”

    Yes, apparently the environments of these insects have not changed sufficiently over 300 million years for there not to be any similar sequences within their genomes. Are you surprised, considering the similarity in the genomes of all primates for example.

    “They used these sequences to predict how the sodium-potassium pump would be encoded in each of the species’ genes based on cardenolide exposure.”

    Similar gene sequences and similar environmental exposure results in similar characteristics being selected. Are you surprised.

    “Scientists using similar techniques could trace protein changes in a species’ DNA to understand how many diverse organisms evolved as a result of environmental factors”

    Similar gene sequences and similar environmental exposure results in similar characteristics being selected. No mystery.

    “‘The finding of parallel evolution in not two, but numerous herbivorous insects increases the significance of the study because such frequent parallelism is extremely unlikely to have happened simply by chance,…’”

    Not by chance as already explained. Random mutation within the constraints of the mutagen and the genome in which the mutation occurs. Then, non random natural selection acting on these random mutations. They have perhaps demonstrated that there are more physical constraints than previously thought.

    “‘The fact that many of these solutions are used over and over again by completely unrelated species suggests that the evolutionary path is repeatable and predictable.’”

    No species are unrelated to any other species.

    ———————————————-

    So, Mlema….

    Point out to me where the authors specifically say that mutation is non-random.
    You can’t do it can you, because they have made no such statement.
    If that was the whole point of the article, don’t you think there would be an explicit statement that this is so.

    If you think mutations are non-random, what is the mechanism. Certainly the authors don’t offer one, otherwise point it out. What mechanism could possibly cause non-random mutation. In your own words, not a cut and paste, to show that you actually understand what is being said.

  32. Mlemaon 14 Nov 2012 at 12:27 am

    From what I can understand of what you’re saying, you don’t agree with the scientists that the species they studied were unrelated enough to conclude that the same number and kind of mutations happening in all of them in response to a particular environmental element means that those mutations were unlikely to have happened by chance.

    am I understanding you correctly?

  33. BillyJoe7on 14 Nov 2012 at 5:09 am

    Okay, I’m calling troll.
    Your questions are endless and to no purpose.
    Try answering just one of mine and I might think it worth continuing.

    This one:
    Wheredo the authors say that mutations are non-random?

    Bonus question:
    By what possible mechanism could mutations be non-random?

  34. ccbowerson 14 Nov 2012 at 10:12 am

    “From what I can understand of what you’re saying, you don’t agree with the scientists that the species they studied were unrelated enough to conclude that the same number and kind of mutations happening in all of them in response to a particular environmental element means that those mutations were unlikely to have happened by chance.”

    There seems to be a misunderstanding (or miscommunication) : the mutations that occur at any given time are random, but the ones that persist are not random for at least 2 reasons: 1. similar selective pressures 2. there are some shared evolutionary constraints.

  35. BillyJoe7on 14 Nov 2012 at 2:39 pm

    ccbowers,

    I think it’s more that they are reading something into it that is just not there.

    Neither sonic nor mlema have been able to quote the authors saying that mutation is non-random. Because they don’t say that. They are saying that evolution is non-random. No problem. Evolution is random mutation and non-random selection so evolution is non-random. Nothing new here.

    Sonic handles this by accusing me of lying and stomping off. If mutation is non-random, then it must be directed or purposeful and therefore evolution is teleological. I can’t see any other way. if sonic disagrees, then he could simply provide a mechanism by which mutation is non-random but still not directed or purposeful. He can’t. In the past he has simply stopped posting when challenged. This time he stomped off accusing me of lying. But, if it walks like a quack, talks like a quack, and ducks like a quack…

    Mlema handles this by ignoring my question, ignoring my numerous answers to his endless questions and asking yet another question.

  36. Mlemaon 14 Nov 2012 at 4:45 pm

    if mutation is completely random we’re unable to predict how various organisms will adapt to introduced environmental elements – because