July 23, 2006 | David F. Coppedge

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week Judges Swamped

What can editors do when too many entries come in a week?  Print them all, and let the public decide:

  • Fear Factor:  Ker Than, proposing in LiveScience that fear of snakes led to the rise of humans: “To avoid becoming snake food, early mammals had to develop ways to detect and avoid the reptiles before they could strike.  Some animals evolved better snake sniffers, while others developed immunities to serpent venom when it evolved.  Early primates developed a better eye for color, detail and movement and the ability to see in three dimensions – traits that are important for detecting threats at close range.  Humans are descended from those same primates.”  How eagles and mongooses overcame their fear of snakes without becoming philosophers was not explained.  What did a Cornell scientist think of this new idea?  “It strikes me as a very special piece of scholarship and I think it’s going to provoke a lot of thought.
  • No Problemo:  Eors Szathmary, in Science: “The uniqueness of language raises special problems.  Some see this as a fundamental impediment to a successful Darwinian approach.  I disagree.  Uniqueness presents special methodological challenges, but we should bear in mind that the origin of the eukaryotic cell, as one example, was also unique in the sense that all eukaryotes today share the same common ancestor.  This did not prohibit us from insights into the origin of, say, mitochondria….”
  • Necessity our Mother:  Dolezal et al. in Science: “In creating mitochondria some 2 billion years ago, the first eukaryotes needed to establish protein import machinery in the membranes of what was a bacterial endosymbiont.  Some of the preexisting protein translocation apparatus of the endosymbiont appears to have been commandeered, including molecular chaperones, the signal peptidase, and some components of the protein-targeting machinery.”
  • If It Ain’t Broke:  From Berkeley Lab: “The molecular machinery that starts the process by which a biological cell divides into two identical daughter cells apparently worked so well early on that evolution has conserved it across the eons in all forms of life on Earth.
  • Bells & Whistles:  Eva Nogales, on Science Daily: “The specialization of DNA replication initiators took place a long time ago, separating them from other members of the AAA+ superfamily of proteins while maintaining an identity among themselves that reflects the importance of the replication process.  Through the millions of years, evolution has added bells and whistles around this highly conserved central engine.
  • Abracadabra:  Bowmaker and Hunt, in Current Biology 7/11/2006, explaining how the sudden appearance of all four opsin genes is not a problem for evolution: “By applying estimates of the rate of gene divergence, it is suggested that the appearance of the four classes occurred very early in vertebrate evolution, about 450 million years ago.  This is close to the time of one of the major steps in vertebrate evolution, the appearance of jaws…. Animals have evolved their visual sensitivity to match aspects of their photic environment, and it is likely that the primary adaptive selective pressure is the spectral range and intensity of daylight.

Now you know why the NCSE needs a “Faith Project Director” (07/22/2006 entry, last bullet).  Whatever is needed in the presumed emergence of everything appears on cue, fully formed, by evolution.  Shine sunlight, and eyes appear.  Bring on a snake, and the human brain and binocular vision appear.  Machinery, codes, complex organs, bells and whistles – you name it – there’s nothing that Darwinian faith cannot imagine emerging by unguided processes of selection.  You should be ashamed, o ye creationists of little faith.

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Categories: Dumb Ideas

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