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WTF Evolution is Pretty Awesome

Man, Jake just suggested a site today, so I decided to suggest another one.  WTF Evolution is pretty funny, and good stuff.  Check it out!

“So I was thinking.”

“Great, evolution.”

“Nobody really needs eyeballs and limbs and all that, right? When you get down to it, all you really needto be alive is an opening for stuff to go in and an opening for stuff to come out.”

“Well, yeah, I guess so.”

“I might try making things that way for a few million years. ‘Sea cucumbers’ and the like.”

“Okay, but it’s not just going to be, like, a tube with a mouth and an anus, is it? That sounds a little crass.”

“What if I made it pink?”

“I don’t know…”

“Oh, and also, it’s going to breathe through the butt end.”

– WTF Evolution

Tabloid Thursday: Is the Easter Bunny Actually The Missing Link?


Tabloid Thursday!? We should call it Totally Legitimate Science Thursday! Weekly World News reported on Tuesday that new research indicates humans evolved from rabbits. They even have the sophisticated diagrams to prove it:

Actually, that third one kind of looks like a satyr. Could it be that the ancient Greeks had found proto-human rabbit-man fossils and created a mythological creature around what they didn’t understand? It wouldn’t have been the first time they made such a mistake.

"'Elephant'? Never heard of such a thing (since I live in Ancient Greece.) That, my good man, is clearly a cyclops skull. Also, why would I refer to my own time-period as 'Ancient'?"

But back to our present topic. It seems that there has been some very interesting research conducted by Sven Bjeen of the University of Amsterdam. (Don’t bother looking him up, his faculty page is suspiciously non-existent on the university’s website.) The “studies” show that proteins in hares are nearly identical to those in humans, suggesting a recent common ancestor. In fact, Dr. Peter VanderMan of Brussels University says that the work “indicates that man most likely evolved from an ancient rabbit rather than an ape or monkey.” He even speculated that the missing link probably wiggled its nose like modern bunnies. (Like Bjeen, VanderMan’s faculty page is nowhere to be found. No doubt these men are trying to keep a low profile to avoid hate mail from creationists and rabbitphobes.)

I eagerly await the discovery of the “missing link that moved by hoping and had a hairy pelt.” And luckily, I won’t have to wait long. Weekly World News says that scientists are “confident they will find the direct link by August of 2012.”

Finally, Someone Makes An Argument For Creationism That Just Makes Sense


Man, I wish someone would just finally explain how the Bible is right, and On The Origin of Species is wrong.

Thanks to CollegeHumor, Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, I can finally understand it.

Oh, and if you get a chance, check out Nick Offerman’s Woodshop.  He’ll make you a canoe.  Both Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman are on Children’s Hospital, as well, which is amazing.

Matt

By the way, can Kirk Cameron now shut up about it?  I’d really appreciate it.

Also by the way, evolution is real.

Another Day, Another Evolution Article that Misses the Point Entirely


As I am want to do, I was browsing io9, when I came across this article.

First off, super cool research.  If you are the kind of person who doesn’t click through links, here is the general statement.

There are three basic forms of life that we know today (keeping in mind that nobody agrees with each other ever on how to classify things, and whether life is in this or in that is an incredibly difficult question to even begin to answer.)

Bacteria, which is a small group of 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 organisms.  That is a five, followed by 30 zeros.  We don’t talk so much about bacteria on the podcast, because, as single celled organisms, they are a bit outside our purview   However, since they live inside of us, make us sick, and digest our food for us, animal life and bacterial life are intertwined.  As Wikipedia says, inside of you and on your skin, there are 10 times as many bacterial cells as human cells in your body.  Have fun sleeping after finding that out!

Archaea, which is the young upstart domain of life.  Actually, that isn’t true.  It was classified as bacteria for a while, but these cells seem to have a different history of evolution than bacteria.  They do not share all the same traits, and live in a different way than bacteria do.

Eukaryota, which is us.  And anything else that has membranes inside membranes in cells.  This is all animals.  We’re the big things that we see, but we only equal the Bacteria and Archaea in biomass. This is where Animal News: The Podcast usually deals.

However, these three “Domains” as they are called don’t seem to result from one another.  Sure, membranes are shared by all of them.  They all attempt to reproduce and out produce others.  They are all alive, for a lack of a more precise term.  They are all different though, and this seems to point to a weird conclusion.  That if we really want to find out what the first life on Earth was, there must be a common ancestor to all of these.  This is called LUCA (or Last Universal Common Ancestor) in the article.

The article says that researchers have theorized that the LUCA may have been an amorphous, huge blob, of independent cells that passed proteins from one cell to another, to the benefit of the colony.  This blob could have been planet sized, and would have been a gigantic communal organism.  Since this gigantic communal organism would have had the potential to evolve within itself, it would be a good candidate for LUCA, and the three domains would result from it.  It would have eventually been out-competed by it’s evolutionary offspring, dividing into the three domains we know today, and life on Earth would result in the diversity that we have today.

I like the theory.  I really do.  It’s interesting, it does the razor thing well, and it makes a case for a simple thing being the cause of enormous complexity, based on shared traits of the complexity.  Fascinating, probably completely impossible to prove, and it gives a good account of things.  However, shit gets wonky for me when one starts stating things like this.

All life on Earth is related, which means we all must share a single common evolutionary ancestor. And now it appears that this ancestor might have been a single, planet-spanning organism that lived in a time that predates the development of survival of the fittest.

That is bullshit.  First off, the assumption that this organism predates the development of survival of the fittest is an insane claim to make.  Each cell, as stated in the theory, would make proteins, and if they were successful proteins, they would spread far and wide.  That is essentially survival of the fittest, right there.  It’s not like the cells were electing to make some successful and some not.  If a protein that wasn’t successful was created, vast swaths of life would die there, and the protein would not be made any more, because it wouldn’t have been passed to the next group.  This is competition. This is survival of the fittest, within it’s own species.

Second, and this is what you’re tiptoeing around with the LUCA, is that we don’t know if it had actual competitors.  Perhaps it just out competed the other life that was around it, drove them to extinction, and other various forms of life were beaten by LUCA.  This theory doesn’t require that there is no other life around, just that LUCA’s descendants survived, and other life’s descendants didn’t.  This too is survival of the fittest.

Third, I don’t think that this was a “single” organism.  In fact, it sounds a lot like a “single” organism in the way that human beings are a “single” organism.  I don’t mean to imply that this things parts had sentience, or consciousness, but it seems a lot like it was competing with other things to destroy them, much the same way human beings do.  Out produce and out last, spread yourselves far and wide, have lots of babies, and murder the shit out of anything that gets in your way, including other groups of your own species.

Look, I don’t think I am smarter than the writer.  I don’t think I understand the science better than anyone else.  When I read the paper that was posted, I get confused, and I look up everything that I get confused about, but the statements made in this article are somewhat baseless, and moreover, are impossible to prove or disprove.

Evolution is one of the most powerful forces on Earth.  It’s simple, easy to understand, and directly shows the power of the world.  As we talked about in the last podcast, the case for it was made simply a hundred and fifty years ago, and everything that we find out strengthens the argument for it.  That strength is clear and easy, and we don’t need to inflate it.

Matt

PODCAST: Chuck Darwin, English Type Man, and His Boat, The Beagle


Chuck Darwin wrote a book.  We’ll tell you about the book, about evolution, about what we think and how we feel, and you will listen… if you know what is good for you.

Thanks for listening… or else!