Evolution? 'It's not only a theory. It is a historical
fact, evident and provable.' (1 of 2)
(Top Posts - Science - 012509)

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January 23, 2009
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His [David Attenborough's] next documentary for
BBC1, Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life, trans-
mitting on February 1, will look at one of the over-
arching themes of his career: evolution.

Darwin showed how all life is related. Attenborough
feels that people need reminding that his discoveries
aren't just a matter of opinion.

"The proof comes from fossils, geographical distri-
bution, genetics," he says. "Since Darwin propounded
[his theory] we have dealt with every one of the objec-
tions there have been. That's what this programme is
about: showing the evidence. What really gets me
down is when people say, 'It's only a theory that we
are related to apes.' It's not only a theory. It is a his-
torical fact, evident and provable."


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Follow-ups: Links/excerpts to some helful information
regarding evolution's past/present/future, science, and
how the scientific method is a superior methodology
when it comes to open-minded search for verity:
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Frequently Asked Questions About Evolution
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340 aspects of the christian bible that don't
jive with science and history, the first 58 of
which are in Genesis
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... one species of animal you may be
interested in, that being homo sapiens,
here's a fascinating book regarding evolu-
tion in the past 10,000 years.

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The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civil-
ization Accelerated Human Evolution
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Resistance to malaria. Blue eyes. Lactose
tolerance. What do all of these traits have
in common? Every one of them has emerged
in the last 10,000 years.

Scientists have long believed that the "great
leap forward" that occurred some 40,000 to
50,000 years ago in Europe marked end of
significant biological evolution in humans.

In this stunningly original account of our
evolutionary history, top scholars Gregory
Cochran and Henry Harpending reject this
conventional wisdom and reveal that the
human species has undergone a storm of
genetic change much more recently.

Human evolution in fact accelerated after
civilization arose, they contend, and these
ongoing changes have played a pivotal role
in human history.

They argue that biology explains the expan-
sion of the Indo-Europeans, the European
conquest of the Americas, and European
Jews' rise to intellectual prominence.

In each of these cases, the key was recent
genetic change: adult milk tolerance in the
early Indo-Europeans that allowed for a
new way of life, increased disease resist-
ance among the Europeans settling Amer-
ica, and new versions of neurological genes
among European Jews.

Ranging across subjects as diverse as human
domestication, Neanderthal hybridization,
and IQ tests, Cochran and Harpending's anal-
ysis demonstrates convincingly that human
genetics have changed and can continue to
change much more rapidly than scientists
have previously believed.

A provocative and fascinating new look at
human evolution that turns conventional wis-
dom on its head, The 10,000 Year Explosion
reveals the ongoing interplay between culture
and biology in the making of the human race.

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Details Of Evolutionary Transition From
Fish To Land Animals Revealed
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ScienceDaily (Oct. 15, 2008) - New research
has provided the first detailed look at the internal
head skeleton of Tiktaalik roseae, the 375-mil-
lion-year-old fossil animal that represents an
important intermediate step in the evolutionary
transition from fish to animals that walked on

A predator, up to nine feet long, with sharp teeth,
a crocodile-like head and a flattened body, Tiktaa-
lik's anatomy and way of life straddle the divide
between fish and land-living animals. First des-
cribed in 2006, and quickly dubbed the "fishapod,"
it had fish-like features such as a primitive jaw,
fins and scales, as well as a skull, neck, ribs and
parts of the limbs that are similar to tetrapods,
four-legged animals.

The initial 2006 report did not describe the inter-
nal anatomy of the head, because those parts of
the fossil were buried in rock. In the October 16,
2008, issue of Nature, the researchers describe
this region and show how Tiktaalik was gaining
structures that could allow it to support itself on
solid ground and breathe air.

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Image: A new study of Tiktaalik roseae (middle),
a 375-million-year-old transitional fossil, high-
lights an intermediate step between the condition
in fish like Eusthenopteron (bottom) and that in
early limbed forms like Acanthostega (top).
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Excerpt: Like Archaeopteryx, Microraptor provides
important evidence about the evolutionary relationship
between birds and dinosaurs.

Excerpt: Archaeopteryx plays an important role not
only in the study of the origin of birds but in the study
of dinosaurs. The first complete specimen of Archaeop-
teryx was announced in 1861, only two years after
Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species,
and it became a key piece of evidence in the debate
over evolution. Over the years, nine more fossils of
Archaeopteryx have surfaced.

Bird evolution
Excerpt: There is significant evidence that birds evolved
from theropod dinosaurs, specifically, that birds are
members of Maniraptora, a group of theropods which
includes dromaeosaurs and oviraptorids, among others.
As more non-avian theropods that are closely related to
birds are discovered, the formerly clear distinction be-
tween non-birds and birds becomes less so. Recent dis-
coveries in northeast China (Liaoning Province), dem-
onstrating that many small theropod dinosaurs had fea-
thers, contribute to this ambiguity.

Origin of birds
Excerpt: The origin of birds has been a contentious topic
within evolutionary biology for many years, but more
recently a scientific consensus has emerged which holds
that birds are a group of theropod dinosaurs that evolved
during the Mesozoic Era.

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Super-Predators: Humans Force Rapid Evolution
of Animals

By Robert Roy Britt, Editorial Director

posted: 12 January 2009
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Acting as super-predators, humans are forcing changes
to body size and reproductive abilities in some species
300 percent faster than would occur naturally, a new
study finds.

Hunting and fishing by individual sportsmen as well
as large-scale commercial fishing are also outpacing
other human influences, such as pollution, in effects
on the animal kingdom.


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Human evolution

Timeline of human evolution

Dawn of Man: The Story of Human
Evolution, by Robin McKie
"Dawn of Man, which accompanies a BBC television
series, tells the story of human evolution, warts and
all, over the last 4 million years or so. From a shared
ancestor with the higher apes, an upright, walking
ape-human in Africa, McKie takes our story through
the Ice Age to domination by modern humans."

The Complete World of Human Evolution
"Human domination of the earth is now so complete
that it is easy to forget how recently our role in the
history of the planet began: the earliest apes evolved
around twenty million years ago, yet Homo sapiens
has existed for a mere 150,000 years. In the inter-
vening period, many species of early ape and human
have lived and died out, leaving behind the fossilized
remains that have helped to make the detailed picture
of our evolution revealed here."

The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species
of Extinct Humans
"... Paleontological and anatomical data for each species
were combined with anthropological and climatological
research to produce this volume, covering 22 species
and 7 million years. ... As paleoanthropologist Ian Tatter-
sall points out in his introduction to this marvelous new
book on our ancestors, we Homo sapiens find ourselves
in the unusual situation of being alone on the planet as
the sole surviving hominid. For most of the history of the
hominid lineage, the world was home to coexisting pre-
humans and humans. ..."

"human evolution"

O - r - i - g - i - n - s / E - v - o - l - u - t - i - o - n
(Top Posts - Science - 081703)

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[follow-up/reply to an evolution skeptic and a fan of
ancient religions which imagine a particular god as
a creator / controller regarding naturalistic matters]

The evidence for evolution is strong. The
evidence for God is non-existent.

You fail to understand evolution. A desire
to live forever (and the fear of not continuing
to live when you die) seems to be the driving
force behind your God theory. An obvious
glaring weakness in your God theory is the
overwhelming lack of evidence that your
God (or any God, for that matter) actually
exists outside of human imagination.

Put another way, imagining a God exists
does not a God create, it simply reveals
the ability of creatures to pass down myths
and act as if they reflect reality when, point
in fact, they reflect nothing more than human
imagination -and- the way in which human
imagination (especially when the seduction
of pleasant immortality -and- the threats of
eternal death or eternal torment are tied to
belief in a supposedly all-powerful being)
can be passed down from parents and others
to the vulnerable and receptive minds of chil-

Many other things are passed down, but none
more imaginary than magic beings supposedly
doing magic things and formalizing that belief
in a sanctioned protected manner to such a
degree that it has become deeply entrenched
(in many contradictory forms) in most human
cultures around the world.

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Primate Culture Is Just A Stone's Throw
Away From Human Evolution, Study Finds
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ScienceDaily (Jan. 15, 2009) - For 30 years,
scientists have been studying stone-handling
behavior in several troops of Japanese macaques
to catch a unique glimpse of primate culture.
By watching these monkeys acquire and main-
tain behavioral traditions from generation to
generation, the scientists have gained insight
into the cultural evolution of humans.


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Human evolution, the future, the following
writer projects that by 2050, some humans
will have become so advanced that it will, in
essence, mark the arrival of a new species,
far superior to the defective one that has
resulted from billions of years of naturalistic
processes (however, keep in mind that the
following is just one of many possibilities,
and all it takes is one very bad day, either as
a result of human act -or- a result of natural-
istic disaster) to destroy the chances that the
following will transpire:

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The Future of Humans
written by David Tow
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Complete article:

By 2020 the early prediction and prevention of
most human diseases including cancer and neuro-
degenerative pathologies such as Alzheimer's and
Parkinson's will be achieved.

Personal genome information will be readily and
cheaply available, encoded in chip form as well
as stored on the internet for instant medical access;
enabling enhanced diagnosis and treatment of in-
herited and environmental diseases, by drugs and
dosages based on individual metabolism and aller-

Molecular engineers will also apply the process
of evolution to the production of custom-built
proteins with the capability of correcting genetic
diseases including haemophilia, muscular dystro-
phy and sickle cell anaemia; as well as improving
the body's immune response to diseases such as
malaria and dengue fever.

Other medical advances which will revolutionise
the quality and longevity of human life will in-
clude- stem cell technology to replace and grow
new organs, smart implants to deliver drugs and
instruct cells to make specific hormones such as
insulin, self replicating nano-scale robots to per-
form  micro surgery and tiny biological fuel cells
capable of producing electricity from glucose in
the bloodstream.

The quest for human perfection will be applied
to the very beginning of life- allowing embryo
screening for defective chromosomes and genes
that cause a range of developmental disorders
and diseases. This will also provide the oppor-
tunity to select for desired physical character-
istics as well as eliminating undesirable ones.
These developments will increase the average
human lifespan by 30 percent over the next 20

By 2030 the rapidly changing human social and
technological environment will accelerate the
evolutionary process. Changes in cognitive skills
driven by future computer-cyber interaction, to-
gether with increased mixing of human traits and
immune responses in a globalised world, will
create new challenges for the human genome.

This combination will drive human evolution
into fast forward and possibly  chaotic mode.

To cope with an era of hyper-change, smart drugs
or cognitive enhancers will be used in conjunction
with brain-computer interfaces to facilitate direct
transference of information and knowledge-en-
hancing learning, decision-making and creative
skills. Humans will increasingly work in cooper-
ative groups, exchanging and absorbing informa-
tion and sharing virtual and augmented realities
in local and global networks.

Support will also be provided by self-learning
adaptive robots, assisting in the implementation
of complex tasks in both living and workplace

The symbiosis of humans and autonomous robots
will continue into the far future blurring the nature
of human boundaries and creating the first true
humanoids. This symbiosis will be enhanced by
advances in synthetic biology- not only correcting
genetic deficiencies but achieving specific varia-
tions in human behaviour, cognitive capacity, meta-
bolism and disease resistance by creating new gen-
etic forms.

By 2040 humans will be enclosed by a people-cen-
tric sensory web- tracking individual and group
movement and behaviour via embedded, ubiquitous
sensors and micro processors. The sensory web will
be part of the wider web, connected to the range of
human artifacts and infrastructure- clothing, living
and work spaces, vehicles, buildings and urban envir-
onments. This environment will create automatic his-
tories- recording all personal experiences from pre-
birth to death.

The impact of this increasingly dense sensory sur-
round on humans, coupled to the intelligent web, is
unknown; except that the young mind in particular
will try to adapt to its new environment, including
abstract virtual realities, in accordance with evolu-
tionary theory- dramatically affecting future social
behaviour and development.

The fast forward evolution of human cognitive capa-
city amplified by advanced artificial intelligence and
the billions of cooperative minds seamlessly linked
through the power of the web will mark a massive
advance in human problem-solving and knowledge
generation capability..

By 2050 the impact of cyberspace on the evolution
of the brain is likely to be extremely significant. Chil-
dren will be neurally rewired as the interactive internet
becomes an invisible part of their lives. From this per-
iod onwards humans will spend most of their lives in
cyberspace as human and computer intelligence are
seamlessly co-joined.

During this time the Web 5.0 will emerge as a global
sentient intelligent network of networks, incorporating
combined artificial and human intelligence- eventually
creating a form of global consciousness. (ref Future
Web / Future Media )

Genetic mutation will still occur but it will no longer
be the physically fittest who survive. The combination
of modern medicine, sentient intelligent technology
and a virtual cyber reality will ensure that only the
fittest minds will inherit the cosmos.

The children of 2050 will be the first generation to
truly experience a world in which virtual realities will
match the real-world realities of today. The immersive
cyber-future threshold has just been reached.

A new species begins to emerge.

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Evolution: 24 myths and misconceptions
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If you think you understand it, you don't
know nearly enough about it


Darwin presented compelling evidence for
evolution in On the Origin and, since his
time, the case has become overwhelming.
Countless fossil discoveries allow us to
trace the evolution of today's organisms
from earlier forms.

DNA sequencing has confirmed beyond
any doubt that all living creatures share
a common origin.

Innumerable examples of evolution in
action can be seen all around us, from the
pollution-matching peppered moth to fast-
changing viruses such as HIV and H5N1
bird flu.

Evolution is as firmly established a scien-
tific fact as the roundness of the Earth.

And yet despite an ever-growing mountain
of evidence, most people around the world
are not taught the truth about evolution, if
they are taught about it at all. Even in the
UK, the birthplace of Darwin with an edu-
cated and increasingly secular population,
one recent poll suggests less than half the
population accepts evolution.

For those who have never had the oppor-
tunity to find out about biology or science,
claims made by those who believe in super-
natural alternatives to evolutionary theory
can appear convincing. Meanwhile, even
among those who accept evolution, mis-
conceptions abound.

Most of us are happy to admit that we do
not understand, say, string theory in physics,
yet we are all convinced we understand evo-
lution. In fact, as biologists are discovering,
its consequences can be stranger than we
ever imagined. Evolution must be the best-
known yet worst-understood of all scienti-
fic theories.

So here is New Scientist's guide to some of
the most common myths and misconceptions
about evolution.

Shared misconceptions:

Everything is an adaptation produced by natural

Natural selection is the only means of evolution

Natural selection leads to ever-greater complexity

Evolution produces creatures perfectly adapted to their environment

Evolution always promotes the survival of species

It doesn't matter if people do not understand evolution

"Survival of the fittest" justifies "everyone for themselves"

Evolution is limitlessly creative

Evolution cannot explain traits such as homosexuality

Creationism provides a coherent alternative to evolution

Creationist myths:

Evolution must be wrong because the Bible is inerrant

Accepting evolution undermines morality

Evolutionary theory leads to racism and genocide

Religion and evolution are incompatible

Half a wing is no use to anyone

Evolutionary science is not predictive

Evolution cannot be disproved so is not science

Evolution is just so unlikely to produce complex life forms

Evolution is an entirely random process

Mutations can only destroy information, not create it

Darwin is the ultimate authority on evolution

The bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex

Yet more creationist misconceptions

Evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics

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Index to Creationist Claims

A sample (excerpt) that applies to one of the
topics discussed in this thread yesterday (see
the full index for further details on other claims
and refutations):

Claim CB141:

DNA and chromosome counts differ widely
between different organisms. This dissimilarity
contradicts the similarity we expect from com-
mon descent. Chromosome counts should be
either the same because the different forms of
life descended from a common ancestor ... or
more complex as organisms get more complex

Neither is the case. For example, humans have
46 chromosomes, some ferns have 512, and
some gulls have 12.



   1. Chromosome counts are poor indications of
similarity; they can vary widely within a single
genus or even a single species. The plant genus
Clarkia, for example, has species with chromo-
some counts of n = 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 14, 17, 18,
and 26 (Lewis 1993). Chromosome counts in the
house mouse species (Mus domesticus) range from
2n = 22 to 40 (Nachman et al. 1994).

      Chromosomes can split or join with little effect
on the genes themselves. One human chromosome,
for example, is very similar to two chimpanzee
chromosomes laid end to end; it likely formed from
the joining of two chromosomes (Yunis and Prakash
1982). Because the genes can still align, a change in
chromosome number does not prevent reproduction.

Chromosome counts can also change through poly-
ploidy, where the entire genome is duplicated. Poly-
ploidy, in fact, is a common mechanism of speciation
in plants.

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Recent articles evidential in the evolution of

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February 4, 2009

Oldest fossil evidence for animals found
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The oldest fossilized evidence of animals has
been unearthed in Oman and reveals that tiny
sea sponges were abundant 635 million years
ago, long before most of the planet's other
major animal groups evolved, according to
a new analysis.

This early life hardly looked like us, but some
of the so-called demosponges can be sizable
today. Demosponges still make up 90 percent
of all sponges on Earth and 100 percent of Earth's
largest sponges, including barrel sponges, which
can be larger than an old-style phone booth.


Now that there is evidence of animals going back
to 635 million years ago, it is worth asking if future
research will find evidence of animal fossils going
back even further. Love doubts the date will get
much earlier than a glaciation event called the Stur-
tian, 720 million years ago, which caused big
changes in ocean chemistry.

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February 4, 2009

Ancient snake was as long as a bus

Reptile slithered about South America's
rainforests 60 million years ago
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A colossal snake about the length of a school
bus slithered about South America's rainforests
some 60 million years ago, according to an
analysis of the skeletal remains of what is now
considered the largest snake ever identified.

"It's the biggest snake the world has ever known."
 ... "The snake's body was so wide that if it were
moving down the hall and decided to come into
my office to eat me, it would literally have to
squeeze through the door."

Fossils of the extinct snake species, now called
Titanoboa cerrejonensis, were discovered in the
Cerrejon Coal Mine in northern Colombia.

From the fossilized vertebrae, the researchers con-
servatively estimate the snake weighed about 2,500
pounds and measured nearly 43 feet nose to tail tip.

The giant reptile was a boine snake, a type of non-
venomous constrictor that includes anacondas and
boas. In the same fossil rainforest, the researchers
also found giant sea turtles and crocodile relatives.

In fact, while alive, the snake likely gorged on its
crocodilian neighbors.


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February 4, 2009

'Seuss-like' sea creatures found
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A newly identified species of carnivorous sea
squirt lurks in the deep sea off Australia, where
it traps and devours meaty prey swimming past.

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Image: A new species of sea squirt was discov-
ered in the deep sea off Australia. The creature
traps nearby fish in a manner similar to a Venus
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The transparent organism is triggered to feed when
a fish or other swimming snack touches the sea
squirt. Similar to what happens in a Venus flytrap,
the funnel-shaped section of the squirt's body traps
and collapses around prey.

Sea squirts are considered tunicates, a type of marine
organism with a rubbery outer covering called a tunic.
The animal typically feeds by pushing water in and
out of tiny tubes, filtering out bacteria and algae and
other bits of food.


In addition to surveying the life that exists in the area's
deep sea, researchers hope to use the corals there to
shed light on climate changes over the past 100,000
years or so.


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February 5, 2009

Texas creationist takes evolution quotes
out of context
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Texas Board of Education ... chairman Don McElroy,
a dentist with no training at all in a relevant field of
science. He did not look these up himself, of course,
he just cribbed them from creationist material. That
material, as always, is highly dishonest. A few examples.

McElroy's quote. This is from Ernst Mayr's book
What Evolution Is:

    "The earliest fossil prokaryotes (3.5 billion years ago)
were cyanobacteria ... [which] are morphologically [body
type] indistinguishable from [the] still living species and
nearly all of the them can be placed in modern genera."
Page 47

Now the full quote in context:

"The earliest fossil prokaryotes (3.5 billion years ago)
were cyanobacteria (see Fig. 3.1). What is most remark-
able about the cyanobacteria is their morphological stasis.
About a third of the early fossil species of prokaryotes
are morphologically indistinguishable from still living
species and nearly all of them can be placed in modern
genera. There are a number of possible reasons for this
constancy. They reproduce asexually, they have very large
populations, and they are able to live under highly variable
and often extreme environmental conditions. All this may
favor stability."


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Key Insights Into How New Species Emerge
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ScienceDaily (Feb. 6, 2009) - A team of researchers
are reporting the ongoing emergence of a new species
of fruit fly--and the sequential development of a new
species of wasp--in the February 6 issue of the journal

Jeff Feder, a University of Notre Dame biologist, and
his colleagues say the introduction of apples to America
almost 400 years ago ultimately may have changed the
behavior of a fruit fly, leading to its modification and
the subsequent modification of a parasitic wasp that
feeds on it.

- - -
A female apple maggot fly, Rhagoletis pomonella, im-
plants an egg into an apple. Wasps that attack the flies
and eat their larvae appear to be changing on a genetic
level in the same way that the flies themselves appear
to be changing genetically.
- - -

The result is a chain reaction of biodiversity where the
modification of one species triggers the sequential mod-
ification of a second, dependent species. The National
Science Foundation supports the research.

"It's a nice demonstration of how the initial speciation
of one organism opens up an opportunity for another
species in the ecosystem to speciate in kind. Biodiver-
sity in essence is the source for new biodiversity."

For almost 250 years after the introduction of apples to
North America, insects referred to as hawthorn flies,
Rhagoletis pomonella, continued to meet on the small,
red fruit of hawthorn trees to mate and lay eggs. Then,
in the mid-1800s, some of these "hawthorn flies" began
to mate and lay eggs on apples instead. ... the flies at-
tracted to apples eventually became genetically differ-
entiated from the flies attracted to hawthorns, and so
did the wasps that live on the flies' larvae.

The genetic distinctions mainly show up as gene fre-
quency differences between the flies and their associated
wasp populations rather than fixed, all or none, differ-
ences. This is consistent with the process by which new
biological species arise.


"What is startling is how fast populations can ecologically
adapt to new habitats and begin to evolve into different
species in front of our eyes," he said.

Feder says the research is important because it provides
insights into solving Darwin's mystery of the origins of
new species. "Clues can be found right before us as we
sit on our deck chairs barbecuing and drinking pop. All
we have to do is open our eyes and we can see new life
forms coming into being in that scraggly old apple tree in
our backyard."


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