Showing posts with label Evolution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Evolution. Show all posts

Monday, July 10, 2017

We didn't evolve from apes?

I'm not going to touch on arguments pro and con regarding evolution or creationism in this article. This is simply a criticism of a particular ploy used when some engage in those arguments.  It's common to hear a proponent for evolution to say the following when in a discussion with a creationist:
Humans didn't evolve from apes.  We evolved from a common ancestor with apes.
But this statement is disingenuous. The truth is that we did evolve from an early ape species which diversified over time into five great apes species and sixteen ape species, namely Bonobos, Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Orangutans, Humans and various Gibbons.  Sure, it's true we didn't evolve from Chimpanzees, but we did evolve from an ape species from which all other modern ape species also evolved.

Ape skeletons

I guess the claim of not evolving from apes came out of the desire to side step or disrupt creationists' arguments driven by their misconceptions about evolution.  If a creationist says "evolution says we evolved from apes", then it's an easy comeback to say "no it doesn't, actually."  But, in truth, yes, evolution does indeed say we evolved from an ape species, and this is backed up by modern discoveries.  There's no need dance around this by splitting hairs on what is meant by the word "ape".
  • Is a wolf a canine?  Yes.  Is a fox a canine? Yes.  Did wolves and foxes evolve from a common canine species? Yes.  Then wolves and foxes evolved from canines.
This example is just to drive the point home.  Canines and apes (all mammals, reptiles and amphibians, actually) all evolved from common tetrapod ancestor species that first lived on land about 400 million years ago. Yes, we are all tetrapods that evolved from a common tetrapod ancestor species.  In the larger scope, we evolved from tetrapods!  Just as more immediately, we evolved from apes.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Notion of Creation is not a theory, and scientific theories aren't proposed notions

Bible based knowledge does not lead to new scientific knowledge.  People used to think the Bible was useful to learn about nature.  They did try to use it as a guide to make new discoveries.  However, over time, scientists started finding out that the Bible just gets so much wrong.    The Bible literally has almost every major point wrong about the universe, from its description of Earth as a flat world with a tent over head to its description of rabbits as cud chewers. The value of the Bible is it's a general moral guide taken in the context within the times each portion was originally written/re-written. Taking it for more than that is truly grasping as straws.  People discovered the hard way that the Bible was not a good starting point to learn about nature. That's why the practice of referring to the Bible as a source for science was stopped over time.
So, to that point, Creationism based on the Bible isn't a theory. It is a failed notion. A theory isn't just a proposal. It is a proven working model of the Universe with a lot of peer reviewed data, from which accurate predictions can be made. To extend this further, those predictions often create new areas of exploration and further growth of knowledge, directly leading to new technologies, either in the exploration of the theory or as a result of knowledge learned from the theory. Last major invention spurred by Bible belief was the telescope, and use of that technology disproved that belief; the creator being forced to recant his statements about reality and live under house arrest for the remainder of his life.

On the other hand, Darwin didn't create the Theory of Evolution, he proposed the core concepts based on his observations. Evolution was born out of the peer review process with much more independently collected data. Evolution wasn't a theory until there was a massive amount of data and extraneous amount of analysis of that data, from which the natural model was molded.

Why is Creationism not a theory? Because it doesn't have one iota of this. The supporters want a magical shortcut, using circular arguments and cherrypicked research of other people's works in the form of anecdotes and impressive looking fake equations. No actual proven predictions come from Creationsm nor from its child contrivance called Intelligent Design. Creationism is the end of knowledge, not its birth. That is why is it not a theory and it is not science. Now, that said, the challenge is always there for Creationism supporters to objectively collect data and test hypotheses. Even if they don't prove their hypotheses, at least new knowledge would come from that. This process has yet to be undertaken by Creationist (and Intelligent Design believers), or if it has, results have been hidden.

Examples of observations that would grow knowledge along the Creationist track:
  • Find DNA in mammals that cannot be traced back to a common ancestor or introduced by some other natural process.
  • Show completely distinct lifeforms with no ancestry at all. 
  • Find data that offers new evidence to reinterpret apparent evolution in our own species, from malaria resistance to lactose persistence.
  • Additionally, find data that better explains why pre-agricultural humans did not have cavities and modern humans with no cavities is almost unheard of? (Hint, that has been very well explained with a recent study of mouth-dwelling bacteria and their evolution to adapt to our changing diets, along with our own evolution for such too.)
These examples cannot be explained with anecdotes.  Hard evidence has to be presented from scientific studies using the Scientific Method.  Research doesn't count for this.  New evidence has be presented.  That evidence must be collected and peer reviewed.  Until that happens, Creation Notion can never be put on equal footing with any Scientific Theory, especially the Theory of Evolution.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Cavity causing bacteria, your days are numbered!

Gotta love the 21st Century! Now we know how cavity causing bacteria evolved and we can use that information against them!


Friday, May 21, 2010

Bode's Law

Bode's Law, or Titus-Bode Law, is a now refuted law governing planet location with our Solar System. It presumes a relationship between all of the planets in their distances from the Sun.

Formulation

The Law relates the semi-major axis, a, of each planet outward from the sun in units such that the Earth's semi-major axis = 10, with

a = n + 4
where n = 0, 3, 6, 12, 24, 48 ..., with each value of n > 3 twice the previous value. The resulting values can be divided by 10 to convert them into astronomical units (AU), which would result in the expression

a = 0.4 + 0.3 · 2 m
for m = , 0, 1, 2,...[1]

For the outer planets, each planet is 'predicted' to be roughly twice as far away from the Sun as the next inner object.

Origin

It's name comes from the fact that it was promoted by Johann Elert Bode when in 1768, he wrote the second edition of his astronomical compendium Anleitung zur Kenntniss des gestirnten Himmels, which states the following.
Let the distance from the Sun to Saturn be taken as 100, then Mercury is separated by 4 such parts from the Sun. Venus is 4+3=7. The Earth 4+6=10. Mars 4+12=16. Now comes a gap in this so orderly progression. After Mars there follows a space of 4+24=28 parts, in which no planet has yet been seen. Can one believe that the Founder of the universe had left this space empty? Certainly not. From here we come to the distance of Jupiter by 4+48=52 parts, and finally to that of Saturn by 4+96=100 parts.

History

At the time, Saturn was the farthest known planet. Bode's Law gained credibility when Uranus and then Ceres where discovered. These bodies happened to fall in line with predictions made by the formula. However, this Law become refuted when Neptune was discovered at a location from the Sun that was no where near its predicted location.

Also, to further refute Bode's Law is the fact that other systems exist in our Solar System which do not follow its formula. Although the moons around Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus do follow some sort of pattern, they do not follow Bode's Law; nor do they share patterns with each other.

Status

The discovery of Pluto and more recently other Kuiper Belt objects have proven Bode's Law to be false. It appears that Bode's Law was a misguided attempt to explain an observation that did not have enough data. Given what is known now, it seems that perhaps there is some sort of rule that applies to naturally formed orbiting body systems, but there is no formula that can predict the arraignment of such. Perhaps Bode's Law can be useful in the future, not to predict planet placement in other extrasolar systems, but maybe to point us in the direction to understand planet formation and resonance. We can see there is some sort of resonance. We can also see that a particular resonance is not shared between different systems, and only applies in a limited fashion. It is not useful for anything else. Although it really cannot be called pseudo-science, since it was based on observation and did make some predictions that panned out, it is really not useful science today. Further complicating the issue is that the definition of planet has changed. Ceres and Pluto are no longer considered planets. This means that any use of Bode's Law in the context of what is now known can be called pseudo-science.


Planet Distances from the Sun (from Wikipedia.org)

Mercury factor: 0
Bode’s Law: 0.4, Actual: 0.39

Venus factor: 1
Bode’s Law: 0.7, Actual: 0.72

Earth factor: 2
Bode’s Law: 1.0, Actual: 1.0

Mars factor: 4
Bode’s Law: 1.6, Actual: 1.52

Ceres factor: 8
Bode’s Law: 2.8, Actual: 2.77

Jupiter factor: 16
Bode’s Law: 5.2, Actual: 5.2

Saturn factor: 32
Bode’s Law: 10, Actual: 9.54

Uranus factor: 64
Bode’s Law: 19.6, Actual: 19.2

Neptune factor: 128
Bode’s Law: 38.8, Actual: 30.06

Pluto factor: 256
Bode’s Law: 77.2, Actual: 39.44

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Are Aliens Really Alien?

A question I've asked myself is that what if the beings we call aliens (visitors from other planets) are really not aliens at all, but inhabitants of our own planet. There are several ways for this to be true. The idea of ultraterrestrials and metaterrestrials is not new. However, there , is one more possibility that seems just as likely from a particular perspective.

There is a possibility that we are being visited by beings from the future. This is based on two assumptions. First, the human species will continue to evolve throughout time. Second, time travel is a technology that we will eventually obtain. If these two assumptions are true, then the most likely source of "alien" encounters is actually future evolved human-descended visitors that come back in time to observe their primitive past. They would come back to study us or to see us out of curiosity.

This would be that two major class of visitations would occur: site-seeing and scientific, or tourists and scientists. Almost on a lark to describe this possibility, I coined the term Future Evolved Terrestrial Tourists and Scientists (FETTS).

This would mean that some beings either come back to observe ancients times much in the same way we visit the pyramids or other ancients sites. In fact, there are stories that every president of the U.S. in modern times has seen U.F.O.'s at some point in their life. President Carter himself is even on the record as being a person who has seen one.

This also means that some other beings comes back to experiment on their primitive ancestors, much in the same way that we modern humans experiment on great apes, including climps.

This explanation is actually more likely than others if time travel proves to be easier than space travel. According to current understanding of the Universe, there is no reason as to why time travel shouldn't be allowed; though General Relativity does demonstrate that faster-than-light travel impossible. With this fact, assuming visitations from beyond are real, it seems most likely that these visitations are from our own world.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Predictions of Evolution of Alien Life

Evolution of life on other worlds is seeming more likely as human knowledge of the Universe expands. David Zeigler has recently proposed eleven Evolution Predictions of what abilities or traits will evolve on other worlds, conditions allowing. The predictions are that some lifeforms will be the following:
  • Water dependent and carbon based.
  • Chemosynthetic (chemical based energy synthesis) or photosynthetic (light energy synthesis).
  • Heterotrophic and predators of heterotrophs (food chain of lifeforms).
  • Passively or actively mobile to seek out optimum conditions. As such, body plans will evolve something similar to what we would identify as a head, with arrays of sensory organs.
  • Sessile (non-mobile or anchored in place).
  • Powered flight (birds, some insects, bats, pterosaurs), or at least directed gliding (flying squirrel, flying fish).
  • Parasites, which on Earth account for over 65% of the total number of species.
  • Genes will be selfish, and natural selection will spawn adaption to the environment.
  • Will have senses, especially sight, sound, touch, heat detection, etc.
  • Motile, organisms will have natural attraction and repulsion to stimuli.
  • Large bodies of water will foster a wide variety of lifeforms, which may independently evolution similar adaptions.
The list seems a little incomplete and maybe not well organized. It is a good starting point in the discussion of what we can expect to find on other worlds. It can help us in knowing where to look, as well. Perhaps this list is formed from human prejudice. However, with only Earth as our example, this (at least for the time being) seems to be a fair set of predictions.

Source: Skeptic Vol. 14 No. 2, 2008 - Predicting Evolution


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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Possible types of Alien Lifeforms (Part 5: Blue Plants?)

It has been sited by physicists that while photosynthesis on Earth generally involves green plants, a variety of plants of alternative colors may also utilize photosynthesis. The other colors might be preferred in places that receive a different mix of solar radiation than that received on Earth.

Plants on Earth are green because they contain chlorophyll. The chlorophyll is green because it absorbs mainly blue and red light in order to produce food for the plant via photosynthesis, while reflecting the green light frequency.

Scientists at NASA point out that if the stars for other planets were in a different state than our sun and if the light frequency that reached the planets' surface was different, then the plants would have also evolved a different type of photosynthetic pigment (other than chlorophyll). This pigment would be dedicated towards the different light frequencies received by the planet. This would cause plants to appear a different color from green, such as red and yellow.

According to recent studies, no photosynthetic plants would be blue-colored. This is because blue light provides some of the highest photosynthetic yields in the light spectrum. It is important for blue light to be absorbed rather than reflected. This is based on the physical quality of different frequencies of light produced by known types of stars.

One terrestrial example of energy conversion based on something other than ordinary light involves radiotrophic fungi that convert high energy gamma rays into useful energy using the melanin. (In most organisms melanin is used to protect the organism against ultraviolet and solar radiation.) Even still, ordinarily fungi derive their energy from decomposing other biomass, rather than by converting radiation into energy for itself.

It could even be possible for photosynthesis to occur using infrared light. In such an environment, plants may actually appear black.

It is fascinating to image the variations of life that are possible, even if life is based on the same fundamentals as our own.

Reference: Wikipedia article; Wikinews article; NASA - NASA Predicts Non-Green Plants on Other Planets; Dadachova, E; Bryan RA, Huang X, Moadel T, Schweitzer AD, et al. (2007). "Ionizing Radiation Changes the Electronic Properties of Melanin and Enhances the Growth of Melanized Fungi". PLoS ONE 2 (5): e457. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000457; Candace Lombardi "NASA: Plants on other planets not green". CNET, April 11, 2007; Julie Steenhuysen "New hue: Plants on other planets may be yellow, red". Reuters, April 11, 2007; Ker Than "Colorful Worlds: Plants on Other Planets Might Not Be Green". Space.com, April 11, 2007; “The Color of Plants on Other Worlds” by Nancy K. Kiang, Scientific American April 2008

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Possible types of Alien Lifeforms (Part 4: Silicon Life)

A popular Sci-Fi topic is alternative forms of life. A common idea is that life could be based on silicon instead of carbon.

The idea is based on the fact that silicon has valence number of four. This means that silicon atoms can be arranged in rings and in long chains that may be useful to create structures upon which biological molecules could be built. However, there are many drawbacks that must be overcome for life to efficiently use silicon as its basis.

Silicon based lifeforms would not have organic molecules used within Terran life. DNA would not be the basis for such life. However, the silicon based molecules may not be stable without an added level of complexity because silicon has a larger atomic radius and mass than carbon. It also has more difficulty forming stable molecules, particularly where water is present.

Even still, it is a possibility. For some reason, many Sci-Fi depictions show silicon based life as being rocklike in appearance. I'm not sure where this idea comes from. It's a bit like assuming carbon based lifeforms look like a lump of coal. I have a feeling that if we do discover silicon based lifeforms, they may resemble us more than many expect.

Reference: Wikipedia article and “Are Aliens Among Us?” by Paul Davies, Scientific American December 2007

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Possible types of Alien Lifeforms (Part 3: Arsenic Life)


What if the basic molecules of life where completely different? Life on Earth needs water, carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and phosphorous. This last one is of particular interest.

Phosphorous is not particularly abundant on Earth. Yet Terran life needs the element. A similar element that could replace phosphorous is arsenic. Of course, arsenic is poisonous to us. This is because it is so similar to phosphorous. It may be possible that life could have evolved on other worlds to use arsenic instead of phosphorous. This is because arsenic can do everything that phosphorous does (in the way of structural bonding and energy storage). It could also be used to drive metabolism. On such a world, phosphorous would be the poison because it would interfere with those functions, much as arsenic interferes with the functions of phosphorous in life on Earth.

Is it possible for lifeforms to be poisonous to each other because of their basic chemistry? Would it be dangerous for arsenic based lifeforms and phosphorous-based lifeforms to simply touch each other or even to life in the same space?

References: “Are Aliens Among Us?” by Paul Davies, Scientific American December 2007

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Possible type of Alien Lifeforms (Part 2: Exotic Amino Acids)


For the most part, life on Earth uses the same set of nucleotides (amino acids) to form the basis of their DNA. In all, almost all known life uses 20 particular amino acids. These are often classified by their bases as A (adenine), C (cytosine), G (guanine) and T (thymine). These are the basic building blocks of DNA. They are also used to build proteins. Of course, from a certain point of view, DNA is just a really long protein.

How DNA uses these amino acids is described by Paul Davies in his article Are Aliens among Us? published in Scientific American, Dec 2007. He states, "The genetic code is based on triplets of nucleotides, with different triplets spelling out the names of different amino acids. The sequence of triples in a gene dictates the sequence of amino acids that must be strung together to build a particular protein."

Alien lifeforms may use exotic amino acids that are far different than the ones used by life on Earth. It is possible that the set of amino acids we use may not even appear on other worlds. Evidence by scientific study suggests that there are many other forms of amino acids that may be useful (or at least available) for other types of life. Evidence of exotic amino acids on other worlds has come from meteorites. Also, others have been synthesized in the lab.

Other lifeforms from other worlds may be completely different from us while still using the same basic DNA structure we use. A question remains, would life formed by exotic amino acids be all that much different than Terran life in appearance? Would the exotic amino acids lead life to evolve along completely different paths that we as yet have not conceived?

Reference: “Are Aliens Among Us?” by Paul Davies, Scientific American December 2007

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