Guest viewing is limited
  • Welcome to the DeeperBlue.com Forums, the largest online community dedicated to Freediving, Scuba Diving and Spearfishing. To gain full access to the DeeperBlue.com Forums you must register for a free account. As a registered member you will be able to:

    • Join over 44,280+ fellow diving enthusiasts from around the world on this forum
    • Participate in and browse from over 516,210+ posts.
    • Communicate privately with other divers from around the world.
    • Post your own photos or view from 7,441+ user submitted images.
    • All this and much more...

    You can gain access to all this absolutely free when you register for an account, so sign up today!

  • PLEASE NOTE: There will be forum downtime today (Thursday 13th May 2021) as we migrate to a new server and do some housekeeping!

The swimming ape theory

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
It can take a long time to get an up-to-date response or contact with relevant users.

Bernt

Well-Known Member
Jul 30, 2003
52
7
48
As I am new in this forum, I am unaware of this topic having been discussed previously. But the history of possible aquatic adaptions in our species should be of interest to fellow freedivers. Here is a brief account written in a rush without spellchecking, in my second language, so I hope you are forgiving :)

Some chimpanzees due to many possible scenarios (competition, fire, etc) left the african jungle and ventured out to the high grassed savannas. In contrast to life in the jungle where smaller bands were less audible and visible (and statistically less suspectible to contaigous disease), the savanna posed threat of a plethora of fast moving predators, so being aware of the surroundings became paramount. As our hairier ancestors like us primarily relied upon vision for danger detection, the individuals who could see over obstacles (ie tall grass) ran a lesser risk of ending up in a predators maw, as well as spotting prey. Hence our ancestors gradually rose to be walking on two limbs, and became specialist savanna hunters.

As hominids evolved they became increasingly less restricted to one environment. They moved between different environments to exploit the seasonal abundance of each.

Some groups of hominids lived near the coast at the same time as other groups lived inland, but coastal regions which included a savanna littoral and forested river valleys were the regions of greatest population density. Coastal hominids exploited sea foods as well as forest valley and savanna foods. They had a wider variety of foods than inland hominids, and less risk of seasonal dearth. They had a higher population density because the area needed by each group to obtain food was smaller and so they were closer together. Most hominid evolution seems to have occurred on the coast and included aquatic adaptations.

The most likely situation in which the complex hominid brain evolved was just such a complex region. A wide variety of food sources was exploited, requiring a wide variety of strategies, and providing the quantity and quality of nutrients necessary for brain growth (different fatty acids in particular).

Sir Alister *Hardy proposed the idea that hominids at some stage in their evolution were aquatic or semi-aquatic. It seemed to him that many of the differences between modern day humans and apes could be interpreted as aquatic adaptations.

Principal among these was a lack of body hair together with a layer of fat under the skin. Hair is useless for insulation in the sea in a larger mammal; a layer of sub-cutaneous fat is better. Hair impedes the free flow of water over the body; fat fills out the hollows and streamlines.

These features are found in humans and the larger aquatic mammals alike. It is argued that they developed in unrelated mammals through a process of convergent evolution.

Other possible aquatic adaptions freedivers in particular are keenly familiar with are the diving reflex, blood flow changes during anoxic conditions and increased pressure (out of the periphery), as well as the instinctive swimmin proficiency we may obsere in infants.

The study of mitochondrial DNA suggests that all humans alive today descended from a small group of people living in Africa perhaps as little as 100,000 years ago. Some recient findings suggest that they evolved on the coastline of East Africa, not the interior.

Floods and tsunamis may have been an important initial selection factor for swimming ability, most probably first influenced by individual differences in body fat (for thermoregulation and bouyancy). Gradually becoming more water proficient, and due to lack of sophisticated tools and techniques (like fishing poles), the hominids had to venture into the water and catch marine animals, hence some sort of spearfishing culture may have evolved. If these (both physiological and cultural adaptions) increased survival and thus reproduction over a long enough period of time(thousands of years), physiological adaptions to a marine environment probably occured.

If these marine hunters aquatic phenotype disposing genes were bred into and later dominated (had a higher adaptive value than other alleles) the gene pool of what would be known as homo sapiens, the adaptions would become universal human traits. Alternatively an evolutionary U-turn, with hominids moving onto the savanna, outcompeting their other previously isolated tribes found place

The "aquatic theory" has limited empirical evidence, and is viewed as "armchair speculization" by many evolutionary biologists and anthrophologists, but has gotten more attention in the latter years. Personally I find it compelling, but in lack of data. It is also in some areas not compatible with more conventional and better documented theories of hominoid evolution. Would be interesting to get a discussion going on the matter here, even if this is not an academic forum. And as a last note, please refrain from discussing the validity of evolutionary theory (bringing creationist beliefs and the like) as I (at least) would find that very uninteresting and besides the issue.
 

CEngelbrecht

Well-Known Member
Oct 31, 2002
618
97
118
44
I agitate for the Hardy thesis every once in a while in my local club. Usually people laugh a bit at it, but I suppose that's ok. One of the dive buddies though, one day renamed the Aquatic Ape 'the Beach Ape'. Using that term most people understand the Hardy thesis when you present it to them. Try to use that one, it goes so much easier. It's usually a good idea to present the guys with a vision of a girl in bikini (like cameron Diaz in Charlie's Angels 2, that worked for me the last time), then the theory makes sense right away!

Unfortunately, it's still a question of believe with the Hardy thesis, and that's very unscientific, ain't it? I'm a believer, so I'm fighting my subjectivity every time I talk about it.
 

CEngelbrecht

Well-Known Member
Oct 31, 2002
618
97
118
44
I agitate for the Hardy thesis every once in a while in my local club. Usually people laugh a bit at it, but I suppose that's ok. One of the dive buddies though, one day renamed the Aquatic Ape 'the Beach Ape'. Using that term most people understand the Hardy thesis when you present it to them. Try to use that one, it goes so much easier. It's usually a good idea to present the guys with a vision of a girl in bikini (like cameron Diaz in Charlie's Angels 2, that worked for me the last time), then the theory makes sense right away!

Unfortunately, it's still a question of believe with the Hardy thesis, and that's very unscientific, ain't it? I'm a believer, so I'm fighting my subjectivity every time I talk about it.
 

CEngelbrecht

Well-Known Member
Oct 31, 2002
618
97
118
44
I agitate for the Hardy thesis every once in a while in my local club. Usually people laugh a bit at it, but I suppose that's ok. One of the dive buddies though, one day renamed the Aquatic Ape 'the Beach Ape'. Using that term most people understand the Hardy thesis when you present it to them. Try to use that one, it goes so much easier. It's usually a good idea to present the guys with a vision of a girl in bikini (like cameron Diaz in Charlie's Angels 2, that worked for me the last time), then the theory makes sense right away!

Unfortunately, it's still a question of believe with the Hardy thesis, and that's very unscientific, ain't it? I'm a believer, so I'm fighting my subjectivity every time I talk about it.
 

unirdna

tropical wuss
Sep 16, 2002
1,016
220
153
47
Bernt,

I always enjoy discussion about evolutionary biology. Since I first read the 'wet-ape' :D theory, I've had many many problems. To me it seems way too much like the author is bending (embellishing :hmm) facts to fit the theory. I'd like to offer my own ideas, cultivated by the reading of Dawkins, Gould, Haldane, Darwin, and Wallace. Please note that my tone will always be subjective, and I am always addressing the argument (not the arguer ;) ).

I don't plan to use spellcheck either....hehehe.

Ted

"Some chimpanzees due to many possible scenarios (competition, fire, etc) left the african jungle and ventured out to the high grassed savannas."

- Fossil evidence has shown that chimps have undergone as much (if not more) change as humans. To say that humans evolved from chimps is no more accurate than saying chimps evolved from humans. One species bifucated into two lineages millions of years ago. Truth is that neither of those two species exist today....but their descendents (humans and chimps) do. Since neither modern humans nor modern chimps existed at the time of the split, it is impossible to say that one [modern species] came from the other. Better to say that both humans and chimps share a 'recent' common ancestor.

"As our hairier ancestors like us primarily relied upon vision for danger detection, the individuals who could see over obstacles (ie tall grass) ran a lesser risk of ending up in a predators maw, as well as spotting prey. Hence our ancestors gradually rose to be walking on two limbs, and became specialist savanna hunters."

- The upright posture humans have is most likely the result of bioengergetic economics. Bipedal locomotion is more energy efficient that quadrapedal. To live on the plains, and take advantage of spread-out food sources, one would need to waste as little energy as possible on travel.....as you point out here: "As hominids evolved they became increasingly less restricted to one environment. They moved between different environments to exploit the seasonal abundance of each."

"Some groups of hominids lived near the coast at the same time as other groups lived inland, but coastal regions which included a savanna littoral and forested river valleys were the regions of greatest population density. Coastal hominids exploited sea foods as well as forest valley and savanna foods. They had a wider variety of foods than inland hominids, and less risk of seasonal dearth. They had a higher population density because the area needed by each group to obtain food was smaller and so they were closer together. Most hominid evolution seems to have occurred on the coast and included aquatic adaptations."

- Generally, species that exploit numerous food sources (generalists) have less selection pressure to change than do those that exploit one food source (specialists). Additionally, dense, closely placed populations would inhibit genetic drift and allopatric speciation.

"The most likely situation in which the complex hominid brain evolved was just such a complex region. A wide variety of food sources was exploited, requiring a wide variety of strategies"

- This part seems plausible.

"...and providing the quantity and quality of nutrients necessary for brain growth (different fatty acids in particular)."

- This part has a snag....you can't put the cart before the horse. The wording suggests that the human body had a predispostion to become 'brainy'. And when the right nutrients were offered, it made it's move. This simply does not happen. Evolution does not look to the future. Adaptation is random, and natural selection selects those species that are best suited to survive in the present. There is no crystal ball.

"Principal among these was a lack of body hair together with a layer of fat under the skin. Hair is useless for insulation in the sea in a larger mammal; a layer of sub-cutaneous fat is better. Hair impedes the free flow of water over the body; fat fills out the hollows and streamlines. "

- This only applies to mammals that spend all or nearly all of their time in the water. Semi-aquatic mammals (otters, bears, certain rodents, etc) keep their hair for very good reasons. To assert that humans spent as much time in the water as seals is irrational.

"These features are found in humans and the larger aquatic mammals alike. It is argued that they developed in unrelated mammals through a process of convergent evolution."

- It is only considered 'convergent evolution' if the adaptation performs a similar function. In other words, you must ask yourself, "are the animals hairless for the same reason?" Humans sweat to keep cool. For this to work, the sweat must be in contact with the skin. If the sweat were to leak out to the hair, the body would not be eploited as the primary heat source for endothermic evaporation. This is why heavily-haired animals don't bother sweating. Instead they pant. Panting is not as efficient at removing body heat. Which begs the question, 'why would we need such an efficient heat-removal system?' - a plausible reason: the human ancestors are no longer living sedentary lives in the jungle. They are moving around more, they live in a warmer climate, and they are not shaded.

"Other possible aquatic adaptions freedivers in particular are keenly familiar with are the diving reflex, blood flow changes during anoxic conditions and increased pressure (out of the periphery), as well as the instinctive swimmin proficiency we may obsere in infants."

- Since these reflexes are also observed in many other terrestrial mammals (extensive evidence for numerous rodents), it is likely that is a very 'old' reflex, not a newly derived one for each species.

"The study of mitochondrial DNA suggests that all humans alive today descended from a small group of people living in Africa perhaps as little as 100,000 years ago. Some recient findings suggest that they evolved on the coastline of East Africa, not the interior."

- Mitochondrial Eve is a mathematical inevitability, since it is only passed on from mother to offspring (sorry guys, we are all mitochondrial dead-ends). I won't get into the formula (it's actually pretty simple), so in short....it had to come from somewhere. If it could be proven that a "Adam" Y-chromosome came from the same place, this theory might hold an ounce of water. Alas, crossing over of chromosomes would scatter the info so much, that no such analysis will ever yield positive results

"If these (both physiological and cultural adaptions) increased survival and thus reproduction over a long enough period of time(thousands of years), physiological adaptions to a marine environment probably occured."

- Truth is that once human culture got rolling, a good idea was worth waaaay more than a lucky, minuscule aquatically beneficial adaptation. An adaptation that made you a tiny bit quicker in the water wasn't nearly as good as an idea about a better technique or equipment design. That's not to say that all adaptations were obsolete in the presense of a culture. The tiny adaptation, such as the sickle-cell allele, that instantly started saving lives from malaria propogated with fury.


"The "aquatic theory" has limited empirical evidence, and is viewed as "armchair speculization" by many evolutionary biologists and anthrophologists, but has gotten more attention in the latter years. Personally I find it compelling, but in lack of data. It is also in some areas not compatible with more conventional and better documented theories of hominoid evolution. Would be interesting to get a discussion going on the matter here, even if this is not an academic forum. And as a last note, please refrain from discussing the validity of evolutionary theory (bringing creationist beliefs and the like) as I (at least) would find that very uninteresting and besides the issue."

- I agree fully! :D.
 
Last edited:

efattah

Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2001
3,294
487
173
Let's remember some other pieces of evidence:

- Humans love the beach & the water, and the beach (and tropical places with beaches) are the #1 vacation destination BY FAR
- Almost all other apes (except the probiscus monkey and one type of chimp) HATE the water
- Most apes cannot even control their breath
- No good explanation for the lack of fur & subcutaneous fat has been found. The explanation that man needed 'cool off' can't be right, because then so many running animals in hot places would have no fur.


Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
 

Bernt

Well-Known Member
Jul 30, 2003
52
7
48
"...and providing the quantity and quality of nutrients necessary for brain growth (different fatty acids in particular)."

"This part has a snag....you can't put the cart before the horse. The wording suggests that the human body had a predispostion to become 'brainy'. And when the right nutrients were offered, it made it's move. This simply does not happen. Evolution does not look to the future. Adaptation is random, and natural selection selects those species that are best suited to survive in the present. There is no crystal ball."

-I can not se why genes would need foresight here, which they clearly lack "even if they are biologically selfish:)". The combination of an ecology with nutrients supporting brain growth being selected for by demands of variable hunting strategies in a larger range of ecological niches (and possible social complexity due to population density) would only need genetic variation in the population(s) to lead to brain changes. The brains would not evolve as a result of nutritients, but as a result of selection pressure and lessened nutritional restrictions for brain growth. I agree my wording was imprecise though.

And regarding "mitochondrial eve", it is of course just and abstract figure, and as you say it must have come from someone somewhere (and that someone lived around 100.000 years ago). Since mitochondrial dna is always inherited, the calcualtions show we all have mdna from the same ancestor living around 100.000 years ago. The rest is as you say at the present largely untracable due to scattering caused by sexual repreduction. If only we were asexual reproducers...but then again that would be pretty dull :)

"It is only considered 'convergent evolution' if the adaptation performs a similar function."

-I concur. And this is an extremly important point. A related issue whic has given sociobiology in particular a bad image in many academic circles is the sloppy use of the term adaption. Adaptions must be carefully separated from by-products and random effects. What we label adaptions must have good evidence of functional organization, and when we have many possible candidate selection pressures and functions it is important to evaluate them all. As for bipedal locomotion there are many possible adaptive functions, two seeming more important than the others: Energy conservation and extended visual range. But here we may encounter the chicken and the egg problem. Was extended visual range the initial selective factor for bipedal locomotion, and did energy concervaton in locomotion follow after this (first as a byproduct) or vice verce? This is as I understand a major problem in evolutionary fields; testing of alternative adaptive hypotheses. Hardy's theory seems especially plagued by this problem.

"Truth is that once human culture got rolling, a good idea was worth waaaay more than a lucky, minuscule aquatically beneficial adaptation"

-This is in my opinion a common misconception. There are many theories of cultural evolution (memetics etc), but none assume cultural and biological evolution operating independent from eachother. In this instance, physiological adaptions may have made cultural adaptions (i.e. spearfishing) possible in the first place. The cultural adaptions could then have produced selective pressure for physiological adaptions to the demands posed by for example spearfishing culture. Evolution of the brain and culture should have occured in this way, culture seems to have pressed forth bigger brains. Researchers digress on the issue of cultural selection pressure being tool use (natural selection) or social (sexual selection) or a combination of the two.

And Eric makes a good point on other lines of evidence. The cool of hypothesis can not however be discounted simply from observing other fast moving animals (for example felines) not using the same system for cooling as we do. They encounter very different selection pressures as their behavioral and ecological niche is very different from ours. There is also the problem of blind design. Evolution builds on what has already been built, and can not start with a new blueprint and reengineer the organism. This is why we are not created "perfect" in the picture of god. I must admit it does not seem impossible for felines to gradually loose hair and build up subcutaneous fat to regulate heat differently :). There must be a tradeoff. Perhaps the felines have some use of fur (protection vs bites etc) which outweighs reduced thermoregulatory ability?

I find the water prefrence line interesting. This would be more in my field (as i am not an evolutionary biologist, but a clinical psychologist and researcher), and could qualify as some sort of cognitive (psychological) adaption (of course mediated by inherited changes in neural circuitry).

Our ability to control our breath as opposed to apes may be influenced by a well known trade off: The shape of our thyrnix (vocal apparatus) was gradually altered to allow complex language, but in this process we lost our ability to breathe and swallow at the same time. This may again have led to the increased breath control we obsere in humans. Thus increased breath control may not have been selected for by water submersion, but water submersive ability may be a byproduct (at least originally) of evolution of language ability.. Speculizing here :)
 

CEngelbrecht

Well-Known Member
Oct 31, 2002
618
97
118
44
It's not true that most apes hate water, the big-nosed ape of Indonesia can swim from island to island, if it has to. Also, the makaka of Japan dips into warm vulcanic lakes to survive the bitter cold winter in the Japanese mountains. But the human is by far the most aquatic among the primates.

To address some of Unirdna's points:

The basic theory about the early jungle-living chimp-form (man apes, called Pan) is that they developed into two fractions, when the Great Rift Valley, a mountaneous formation that goes down through all of Eastern Africa, started to form about 10-15 million years ago. The vast jungles started to disappear slowly as the mountains formed, turning much of the land into savannah. East of the Rift Valley the jungles disappeared entirely, west of the forests stayed and the Pan apes developed into the chimp and the gorilla of today. The traditional theory says that the hominids from lack of jungle developed into a savannah living form, the Hardy thesis says that they developed into a beach living form, fishing down to about 20-30 feet of water for shellfish.

Items and sub-theories out of the Aquatic Ape Theory (AAP):
* The aquatic apes gave birth to the young in or by the water and nursed them in the water for the beginning of their life. This is why human cups can't walk until they're about nine months old, when all other offspring on the savannah must walk minutes after its birth, otherwise it'll be eaten. When the human cups learn to walk, they shoo the water and doesn't return to it until an age of about 8-9 years old. Water births have become quite popular now adays, they give less problems for the mother, aparently.
* The lack of fur doesn't work on the Savannah unless you are very big (like the elephant or rhino). The use of fur in the water only works when you're very small (like the otter). The human size is in between.
* The lack of fur and presence of the fat layer speaks for the AAP. Also, the turn of the hairs on the human body is quite different from the rest of the Pan group. Each of you, look at your lower arm: The hairs turn slightly away from the elbow and to the outer side. On the chimp the hairs grow up towards the elbow. This is to indicate that the human hairs have turned to fit the swimming moves and the course of the water across the skin.
* No bigger animal stand upright on two at all times on the savannah. There is better energy economy in walking on all fours. Another primate, the babboon walks on all fours. Standing upright can be compared with the penguin that stand upright on land and is vertical in the water surface, exactly like the human swimmer.
* A small thing is the look of our nose: It has side walls, the chimp's nose is basically two holes into the scull. The side walls is to prevent sea water from entering the cranial cavities.
* The human has shorter fingers and toes and bigger palms than the other Pan apes, this again to suggest adaptation to swimming. Some of us are actually still born with webbed fingers or toes.
* This is the fun one: The human use of speech is to be an adaptation to water life, verbal communication is easier in water than facial expressions or body language. Also, before you can speak, you need to be able to control the breath flowing across the vocal cords consciously. The chimp cannot do this, scientists tried to teach two chimps to utter words, and they only managed four words poorly after some ten years of hard work. The chimp have vocal cords similar to ours, but the sounds it makes appear unconsciously like the crying of a human cup. Other chimps could learn 100's of signs for sign language. On another side, experiments have indicated that the dolphin may posess a verbal conscious language based on its 'whistling' (their clicks are used for sonar, their whistling perhaps for language). One dolphin was placed in tank A and another in tank B, none could see each other, but they could hear each other. The experiment was this: Dolphin A was shown how to push a plate to get a free fish, and this trick dolphin B learned to do with its own plate in tank B, without being shown it by anyone, but perhaps told by dolphin A from the other side of the high wall. So...we speak because we're aquatic, diving holding your breath also gives you the ability to control the breath flow across the vocal cords. (I can't see Disney flicks the same way anymore!)
* The use of tools came from opening shellfish with rocks, like the otter. Intelligence perhaps too comes from living in the water (again the dolphin is to match our intelligence), but it could also be provided from the other man apes, who are pretty intelligent on their own. Or both, perhaps. Intelligence gave us the discovery of fire and other technological moves, we could easier return to bigger land despite our physiological disadvantages to life on the savannah. Intelligence triggered culture which lead us to where we are today...a confused city ape, but still a swimming and diving ape if we can get away with it.

You think a chimp would spend a couple of thousand dollars for a long trip to a tropical island? Hell no, it would buy a ticket to a fabulous jungle, it would.

I'm a believer. The Hardy thesis makes much more sense than previous ideas (again, the girl in the bikini).

Chris Engelbrecht, Copenhagen
 

CEngelbrecht

Well-Known Member
Oct 31, 2002
618
97
118
44
I forgot one sub-theory that supports AAT, you might as well get it too:
* The standard human sexual conduct is belly-to-belly, where all other primates do it doggy-style (and all other savannah species). All dolphins and whales do it belly to belly. Aparently it's a better version in water. That we humans sometimes do it other styles than belly-to-belly is atributed to either culture or intelligent curiosity.

All of this I have from Elaine Morgan's book 'Homo Aquaticus'. If you can find I can recommend it.

Chris Engelbrecht, Copenhagen
 

unirdna

tropical wuss
Sep 16, 2002
1,016
220
153
47
Great discussion guys.

* I started typing responses, but found that I was on route to have a 4 page post :head. Since I don't think that any paradigm shifts will be made by my efforts :eek:, I've opted to use the time to go get some icecream with my sweatie. We all have different interpretations of the data, and that's a good thing. This will keep the information flowing in, and hopefully, bring new light to our past. A thought.... Do not believe one theory or another. Rather, tentatively accept the most plausible theory based on the factual evidence currently available, and (here's the part that make science so cool :) ) if you are steadfast on just one conclusion, be prepared to accept your humiliation when the efforts of our descendants yield data that makes that conclusion look like lunacy. I will be :D.

Now I'm off to get a double scoop of mint-brownie :p.

Regards,
Ted
 
Last edited:

efattah

Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2001
3,294
487
173
The problem in this discussion is that we are not all arguing over the same method of evolution.

I believe in a different, less common, newer theory of evolution.

Survival of the fittest MUST occur (that much is obvious), but I don't believe that survival of the fittest is the mechanism by which the most advanced evolutionary jumps occur. (Many other researchers also hold this view).

There are countless arguments which show that in order to get from state 1 to state 2, the state 1.5 is not favourable for survival. For example, a creature cannot go from walking to flying in a single random DNA mutation, and there is no reason to believe that some semblance of non-functional wings is in any way beneficial to survival, in the intermediate state between walking and flying.

Recent evidence also shows that evolution seems to occur in drastic jumps, as opposed to the extremely gradual process previously thought.

I don't think there is any one good theory which explains exactly how evolution does occur, even though survival of the fittest, in my opinion, cannot be enough. EVEN DARWIN said that survival of the fittest alone cannot be enough.

People have come up with very strange theories as to how evolution does occur. One theory used the 'many-wolds' theory of quantum mechanics, which is a method to explain the uncertainty principle. In the many worlds theory, there are an infinite number of DNA mutations which all take place (due to the uncertainty principle). Thus, an infinite number of worlds are created, one for each mutation. Then, in some of those worlds, the creature survives because the mutation was a good one. In other worlds, the creature dies. Now the theory states that there is some sort of trans-temporal communication which goes back through time to strengthen the probability of the favourable mutation. This may sound weird, and it probably isn't exactly correct, but it gives an idea of just one of the theories which try to explain the 'genius' in evolutionary jumps which skip right over intermediate states and seems often to find the perfect solution immediately. The probabilistic nature of the theory says that even with backwards-time reinforcement, there is chances of random/poor/unfavorable mutations which will result in death.


Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
 

unirdna

tropical wuss
Sep 16, 2002
1,016
220
153
47
I'm back from getting icecream.....

.....and I just can't let this one sit.

If this comes off as acerbic, I apologize. I am writing this as subjective as I can. There is no acrimony in my tone, I assure you. :)

The theory you are discussing was contrived by Niles Eldredge and the late Stephen Jay Gould in 1972. It is the theory of punctuated equilibrium (punk-eek). The strength of Punk-eek resides in the large, evolutionary 'leaps' that the fossil record depicts. I've read almost everything that Gould has published, including his many excellent essays in Scientific American. Basically, what he concludes is that there must be another mechanism besides natural selection at work to produce the swift evolutionary change he sees in the fossil record. His opponents (Gradualists - I confess I am one of them) have their own interpretation. The fossil record apprears punctuated for two main reasons. The first being the fact that the record is quite incomplete. Adjacent rock layers frequently differ by millions of years, animals must have 'hard parts' to fossilize, most aren't buried in the right conditions to become fossils, most that become fossils are destroyed by earth processes, and those that are lucky enough to survive to not have very good odds of being discovered. In short, we are doomed to a dataset with only specks of data. Kind of like trying to watch a movie, when all you get to see is every 100th second....very difficult to make sense of it all. The second argument against punk-eek is that evolution always has the potential to move at a speed worthy or being called 'puncuated equilibrim'. However, during periods of stability, almost all mutations are detrimental or fatal. It isn't until there is a period of instability that evolutionary 'gambling' pays off; in other words, during periods when niches are being created or destroyed. If mother nature wipes out 90% of the creatures on earth in a very short time, you can be sure to see the remaining 10% 'scrambing' to fill the vacant niches. Are these animals consciously trying to do this...of course not. Example: By whatever process, all of the large animals get wiped out. Now the selection pressure for smaller animals NOT to grow to larger sizes is no longer constrained by the predatory or competitive actions of the deceased larger animals. The ancestors of modern-day mammals have been around as long (actually a bit longer) than the dinosaurs. It is not a mystery why mammalian evoution didn't take off until those big reptiles were extinct....there were no niches to fill. If you were bigger than your constituents, you were easier prey (among other handicaps)

Regarding your comment about going from state 1 to state 2. I have seen dozens of these arguments and none of them held up. The most famous is the argument of the eye. An eye has so many parts....lens...cornea....retina....etc. What good would 5% of an eye possibly be to its owner. The answer is "A LOT". If the animal could simply perceive the difference between the presence or absence of light, it would have a huge advantage over its completely-blind counterparts. One light receptive cell could achieve this. More would be better. Curvature to the mass of cells would allow the animal to determine light directions......and so on. What good would small wings be? The evolution of flight appears to have come about in a variety of ways. Phyiological and fossil evidence suggests that bats evolved from tree-dwelling gliders and birds evolved from land-dwelling runners. And the argument is the same....what good is a pair of wings that can't get you off the ground? The answer is a pair that allow you to glide form one tree to another without having to climb down and back up. Or, if you live on the ground, wings that make you a little lighter, so when you flap em, you lighten your weight, giving you the ablility to increase your speed and lengthen your jumps. An animal being chased would surely benefit from some lift. The progression would be something like this (very abbreviated). [After the evolution of bipedal locomotion] These small 'lizards' would benefit from greater speed and increased maneurverability....thus scales to feathers. Mutations that extend feathers on the forlimbs (supplying lift = greater speed and leaping ability) would be selected for next.

About Darwin... He did say something like what you've posted in his closing statements of his famous book. These are the words of a true scientist who knew that there were obvious holes that needed filling. It should be to his credit that he said such a thing, but it is usually used as ammunition by his 'opponents'. Darwin was not admitting his theory was all wrong, he was simply stating that further research would be needed.

Finally regarding multi-dimensional evolution, I offer you Occam's Razor. Until it is proven that multi-dimensions exist, we should keep our theories devoted to the facts at hand. One proof at a time. And always remember that no matter how many ways of being 'alive' there may be, there are far more ways to be 'dead'.

Regards,
Ted
 
Last edited:

Bernt

Well-Known Member
Jul 30, 2003
52
7
48
Goulds theory of "punk-eek" as unirdna labels it for short is better recieved by the informed public than professional biologists. I was just going to reply with vision as an example, but unirdna beat me to it :). But Eric how is this relevant to the aquatic ape (or "beachmonkey :) Engels pub version) theory? Do you imagine our ancestors aquired aquatic capabilities rapidly and without intermediate steps? I predict punk-eek will meet the same fate as old school group selectionism has; it is now rejected by most, but perhaps it will be integrated in a moderized consistent form with adaptionism. In the latter years, multiple levels of selection is often used in evolutionary analysis, but with group selection often contributing a very minor role. I am too tempted to write page upon page on general issues on evolutionary theory (guess I have already :) ), but mobilizing my very limited self dicipline, I again petition a focus on the beachmonkey.
 

Bernt

Well-Known Member
Jul 30, 2003
52
7
48
I am happy I started this thread by the way. I have learned much already.
 

efattah

Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2001
3,294
487
173
I recall reading a recent article which explained that scientists had observed evolution actually happening in the lab, and it was not occurring gradually as thought....unfortunately I can't remember where I read that... One of the experiments involved a cactus, which suddenly began growing without any needles, in a single generation. The needles did not gradually decrease in size.

Given the magnitude of DNA mutations, it seems to me that the first step in sprouting wings would be 'buds' so tiny they would have no effect at all.

In my opinion, evolution by random mutations with survival of the fittest would take trillions upon trillions of years. It reminds me of the monkey with the typeriter; eventually the monkey jamming on the typeriter would come up with the great works of literature, at random. Except that it would take more time than the age of the universe.

Concerning Occam's Razor, I can't think of a single time it has worked. In every case, the universe turns out to be vastly more complicated than we could ever have imagined. Using Occam's razor, newton's laws of motion seemed perfect, until Einstein showed that things were vastly more complicated. Using Occam's razor, an atom with a hard nucleus and a hard electron orbiting it seemed perfect, until it was proven vastly too simple.

I remember Stephen Hawking, after failing to solve an important problem, admitted that he was using 'too simple a model of the universe.'

Likewise, random DNA mutations with survival of the fittest seems like the perfect, simple explanation, until it too will be proven to be vastly too simple.


Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
 

Jon

Dairyland diver
Supporter
Apr 7, 2001
4,080
473
188
54
Ted,

I'm glad you finally decided to join in on this.:D

Ted and I actually had a very similar conversation while driving to Pleasant lake last spring, to try and kill some fish who hadn't made it quite as high up the evolutionary ladder as we had. ;)

I brought up the naked-ape theory, but Ted blasted it away pretty quickly. He then went into debates between Gould, whom I have read, and another evolutionary biologist, who I hadn't read.

I know that its not probable, but I still like the "naked-ape" theory. I like it is because I much prefer the image of my ancestors skinny-dipping on the beach and eating sushi, over the notion that they ran sweating, and stinking, through the savanna being chased down by big house cats.
:crutch

Which ever way it turns out, they all still make a lot more sense than the "Garden+Apple" theory some of the homeschooler's are trying to force into the public schools.
:ban
 

unirdna

tropical wuss
Sep 16, 2002
1,016
220
153
47
Wings did not sprout from buds, of course. They are derived from the forelimbs. Bats actually still have their digits, and use them to climb and grasp.

The monkey at the typewriter metaphor is one of the most widespread 'arguments' against complex design being 'created' by natural selection. It propagates via the misunderstanding of the mechanism. Follow me here (I'll skew my numbers in favor of the oppositions): Say there are 100 keys on the keyboard. And there are 200 words per page (average of 10 keys per word) and 500 pages in the book the monkey has been commisioned to write. This means that there are one million correct strikes that must be made, at the chance of 1 in 100 for each strike. If the monkey were to hit one key per second, and the 'book' was analyzed once the 1,000,000 hits were completed (11.6 days) it would take more years than the universe has to offer (100 to the 1,000,000 power X 11.6 days per book) to get a perfect copy.
But now lets view this same metaphor as the process actually works. Each key stroke is a mutation. Natural selection judges each mutation at the time it occurs. So for any given key stroke (mutation), there is a 1/100 chance that it is a beneficial mutation. If the mutation is not beneficial, the organism dies, but the species does not die out. Rather it still works with all the correct mutations (key strokes) up til that point. Using this correct model of natural selection we are still faced with the monkey needing to make one million correct key strokes at 1/100 chance for each being 'correct'. Based on this model, it would take 3.15 years (11.5 days X 100seconds/correct keystroke) for the book to be completed....quite a difference.
My point isn't whether a monkey can type a novel, it is that the incorrect use of metaphor can make the possible seem quite impossible.

Occam's razor may not be the end-all solution to mysteries of the universe, but it keeps us on the right track. If we are all just going to start plucking theories out of the air, then none will have any more validity than the next, and we submit our quest for understanding to the supernatural.

Jon,
Thanks for the humor injection. You are the 'Han Solo' of this thread :D.

Ted
 
Last edited:

Bernt

Well-Known Member
Jul 30, 2003
52
7
48
The evolutionary algorithm is simple but when applied to real world problems, it soon turns horribly complex. It is only in brief discussions such as this where it is natural to write in basic short hand one may get the impression that adaptionism is simplistic. For those interested in the issue, I can reccomend the following books: The extended phenotype (r. dawkins) Counciousness explained (d. dennet) Evolution of cooperation (r. alexander) The cambridge dictionary of human evolution (various contr) Unto Others (Sober & Wilson). These books are in my opinion all mandatory readings to get a picture of what modern evolutionary theory really is about.
 

efattah

Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2001
3,294
487
173
Evolutionary theorists say that it takes millions of years for evolution to take place in a noticeable fashion. Yet, look at the different races of humanity. They have vast differences. However, according to the standard model of the 'age' of humanity, doesn't it say that we all originated from the same african species only 100,000 years ago (or even less)? So all the different races we see on the planet are the result of only 100,000 years of evolution (or 4000 generations?)

Correct me if I'm wrong. It seems to me that either:
A) Evolution takes millions of years, in which case the human race is millions of years old
OR
B) Evolution occurs very fast, and the human race is much younger

Yet it seems that the currently accepted theory is both that evolution takes millions of years, and the human race is young, which doesn't explain how the human race has evolved into different species in such a short time.

Further, I also don't believe that radiocarbon dating works at all, and almost all of evolutionary evidence is based on radio carbon dating. Radio carbon dating makes assumptions about the ancient atmosphere which are difficult to justify. Then, we find human skeletons fossilized in rocks which are supposed to be millions of years old (according to radio carbon dating). So, either the human race is millions of years old, or radio carbon dating is extremely inaccurate.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
 
DeeperBlue.com - The Worlds Largest Community Dedicated To Freediving, Scuba Diving and Spearfishing

ABOUT US

ISSN 1469-865X | Copyright © 1996 - 2021 deeperblue.net limited.

DeeperBlue.com is the World's Largest Community dedicated to Freediving, Scuba Diving, Spearfishing and Diving Travel.

We've been dedicated to bringing you the freshest news, features and discussions from around the underwater world since 1996.

ADVERT