September 28, 2012 | David F. Coppedge

Evolution Funnies

Sometimes Darwinians are funny.  They take themselves so seriously, applying natural selection to everything on earth except their own seriousness.

Charlie Green:  At New Scientist, Mark van Vugt and Vladas Griskevicius think a little applied Darwinism can turn us a different color.   “Let’s use evolution to turn us green,” they said.  People want to be green, but they are too stuck in their old ways.

Why? It may be time to trawl our deep evolutionary roots for some answers. Natural selection has endowed humans with a psychology best suited to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, which means that a large portion of human-inflicted ecological damage may well be caused, or seriously exacerbated, by innate tendencies to value self-interest, short-termism, relative status and social imitation, and by our ability to ignore novel threats.

What this implies, naturally, is that Vugt & Griskevicius themselves have innate tendencies for self-interest, such as getting paid to write articles claiming natural selection creates their own psychology. On what basis, therefore, could they appeal to reason, logic and morality to get us all to change our behavior, against the pressure of our evolutionary legacy?  Should we fight the very forces that so endowed us?  Apparently so.  They didn’t get the message that other Darwinians now think there’s no way old caveman genes can have any psychological influence on us now (8/20/2012, 2/16/2011).  They also apparently haven’t heard that the Easter Island myth of self-destruction is too simplistic (5/19/2010, #4).  Maybe all can agree that having some trees downtown is nice.

Gender neutrality in the Rabbit Hole:  Apparently feeling the “Red Queen Hypothesis” of Darwinism (8/13/2012, 2/25/2010 #3)  is discriminatory, evolutionists at the Max Planck Institute want to add a throne for the Red King.  You can read why in the MPI press release or on Science Daily.  The Red Queen’s slip is showing, however: by adding a Red King, the Darwinians state that the old matriarchy was “too simplistic.”  Lewis Carroll would be insulted at this suggestion of malice in Blunderland.

Spark in the forest:  Sparks and trees usually connote forest fires, but to Jeff Hecht at New Scientist, “Tall trees may have sparked [the] evolution of gliding.”  He divined natural selection’s spark in the mere existence of tall trees in southeast Asian rain forests.  The forests do contain a fair number of gliding animals – among them, lizards, geckos, flying squirrels, colugos and frogs, but how can trees cause gliding?  He quoted a researcher that ascribed thoughtful reflection to the inanimate processes of mutation and selection: “It makes more energy sense for a small animal to glide between trees than to climb all the way down one tree and then climb back up another.”  Sure, if Froggie thinks about it.  Whether that sense should be ascribed to chance or design is an interesting (but unasked) question.

They came from beneath:  Snakes alive, Darwinians have to change the textbooks again.  Snakes didn’t evolve in the ocean; they evolved underground, blind as bats.  “The results show that almost all groups of snakes arose from within a bizarre group of burrowing blind snakes called scolecophidians” is the new story, according to PhysOrg. “This finding implies that snakes ancestrally lived underground, and that the thousands of snake species living today on the surface evolved from these subterranean ancestors.”  Spooky.  Apparently Darwin was not kind enough to grant them legs again.  “Snakes have kept this same basic body shape as they have evolved to invade nearly every habitat on the planet – from rainforest canopies to deserts and even the oceans.”

Selective ancestry:  “Innate barometer in birds evolved from ancient fish sense organ,” announced PhysOrg confidently, describing how “the evolutionary remnant of an ancient sense organ found in sharks and sturgeons” emerged in birds to help them with altitude changes as they fly.  Surely, a barometer is a handy device to have in both environments.  It’s unclear, then, why a spiracle is present in alligators and tuataras, neither of which swim or fly.  Maybe it is “related to jaw movement,” they speculated.  “It is not clear why the PTO [paratympanic organ] was lost in the other amniote lineages – mammals, turtles, lizards and snakes – but the PTO’s function is likely to have been modified in birds for detecting air pressure during flight.”  It’s also not clear who the modifier was.

Blind test:  There’s nothing like an all-purpose explanation to help us understand everything.  New Scientist has a new story line: “Evolution could help explain the placebo effect.”  Here it is: our minds evolved a switch to turn our immune system on and off depending on the environment.  Seems to work for gerbils; it must work for us, too; but “our subconscious switch has not yet adapted to this,” we read.  And that, children, is why evolution fools us with sugar pills.

Still playing games:  After all these years (see 2/10/2004), some evolutionists are still goofing off on work time and calling it research.  They’re playing “Prisoner’s Dilemma” and “The Dictator’s Game” instead of locating the mutation for kindness.  Our natural inclination to help others, an article in Medical Xpress tells us, is really selfishness in disguise.  It has to be, since Darwinism is built on self-interest (8/15/2012).  Surprise!  When you are really trying to be “as rational or reflective as possible and submerging personal instincts,” you’re really a jerk, operated like a puppet by your selfish genes.  Whether test subjects in a contrived game reveal anything about true human nature, or some unobserved contingency in a cave hundreds of thousands of years ago, is not as interesting as keeping the game going.  Bystanders are apparently not blowing the whistle on these goof-offs.  “Fellow scientists said they were intrigued by the study, but said they wanted to see more research done before they accepted its conclusion.”  Good!  More games!  Everybody wins.

It’s odd that none of these won this year’s Ig Nobel Prizes that were announced last week (Sept 20).  The last prize for an evolution tale was in 2009, “Fetal Load and the Evolution of Lumbar Lordosis in Bipedal Hominins.”  That one was apparently too funny even for the Darwin-loving judges.

How long will the nonsense continue?   These are the ones who hold themselves up as paragons of scientific intelligence,  They silence any who use reason and evidence against them.  Outrage they will ignore; offensives they will quash.  They have few defenses, though, against laughter.  Use it.




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  • rockyway says:

    1. “Let’s use evolution to turn us green,” they said.
    – Gee; I thought the whole point of Darwinism was that evolution was using us. (What happened to the selfish gene idea? Richard is going to be very upset to find out ‘his’ idea has been abandoned.)

    2. “It may be time to trawl our deep evolutionary roots for some answers.
    – This is the promise of E. psychology (what Tallis calls Darwinitis) but the net always comes up empty. Man is not (even remotely) the caricature portrayed to students by the Dawrwinist elite. It’s becoming clear, even to atheists, that man exists in a realm beyond mindless animal behavior; that he lives in a realm of shared consciousness and culture and that his behavior cannot be explained in terms of instinctual grunts and twitches.

    3. ”…and by our ability to ignore novel threats.”
    – I can’t remember how many times I’ve read that E. gave man the ability to focus on novel threats. Wasn’t it our newly minted big brains that gave us the ability to avoid the clutches of the ever villainous sabre tooth tiger?

    What if human beings are not ‘evolved’ apes? Wouldn’t we see the same problems? and how would anyone know one scenario from the other? This is all just storytelling; with Darwin being expropriated to serve as political mouthpiece. (We might call this Darwin with a green nose)

    This green nose environmentalism should be negatively contrasted with biblical stewardship. Environmentalism gives nature (i.e. creation) equal rights to those of man, and aniamls and even plants are given the same ultimate moral significance. (Philosophical hacks like C. Sunstein want to deny human beings any special status; which of course being translated means the political elite will treat the masses like animals or even plants… mere resources for the State and its minions.)

    4. “The results show that almost all groups of snakes arose from within a bizarre group of burrowing blind snakes called scolecophidians…”
    – Relying on intuition, this strikes me as unlikely, as the opposite sounds more plausible. ie. sighted snakes lost function in a way similar to the ‘devolution’ of blind cave fish.

    In my (layman’s) opinion I think this ‘result’ shows us how useless molecular reconstructions are, and how fallacious they can be.

    5. ‘…our minds evolved a switch to turn our immune system on and off depending on the environment. Seems to work for gerbils; it must work for us, too…’
    – Our minds? I thought neuroscientists were inisting these days that we have no minds.

    It’s blatant equivocation to compare the placebo effect with environmentally provoked change in animals. (But maybe gerbils are more impressed by white coats and PHDs than we imagine.)

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