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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Location: Surreality, Have Fun Will Travel, Past Midnight before a Workday

Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.



Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Extended Phenotype - Constraints on "Perfection"

Now comes the pleasurable cramming of fun-reading before the true cramming once school starts. I'm happy to say that, after initially requiring a steep learning hike, Richard Dawkins' prose has led me back to level ground. I can only hope to become as superb a writer (on anything) as Dawkins is on the mechanisms of evolution.

One of the flaws in Ann Coulter's arguments in Godless is the fact that she believes that mutations arise already labeled neutral, beneficial, or non-beneficial, as if God had willed it so. Mutations do not arise in a vacuum, however, and any mutation is potentially any of these. When one says that a mutation (or adaptation) is beneficial, this must be taken in context with the vehicle's (organism's) genetic structure, environment, the existence of predators and competitors, the potential costs of this benefit as opposed to other benefits that could have evolved instead, etc. That a mutation carries an advantage in its particular context does not mean that the resulting adaptation is perfect, or that "things came together in perfect harmony" (as I often hear people say), or that the adaptation would even be considered adequate given fewer external constraints!

"It is simply meaningless to speak of an absolute, context-free, phenotypic effect of a given gene."
--Dawkins

6 Constraints on "Perfection," or 6 Objections to Naive Adaptationism

-Time lags--the animal observed is "out of date," built under the influence of genes selected in an earlier era under different conditions. (The "lag load")

-Historic constraints--natural selection, having no foresight, modifies existing structures for new uses, leading in many cases to an obviously suboptimal formation, which nevertheless carries an advantage over no such formation at all.

Two species can respond to the "same selective forces in slightly different ways." --Lewontin

-Available genetic variation--"No matter how strong a potential selection pressure may be, no evolution will result unless there is genetic variation for it to work on."

-Constraints of Costs and Materials--adaptive organization is a "tangle of compromises."

-Imperfections at one level due to selection at another--again, natural selection has no foresight.

-Mistakes due to environmental unpredictability or "malevolence"--adaptation to conditions is statistical in terms of success; moment-by-moment changes in an environment can trip up even the most successful animal. Moreover, manipulation of one animal by another can exploit the victims abilities, which in this context become disadvantages. The "loser" of this arms race may develop the ability to resist such manipulation; may find the manipulation beneficial to itself as well or may shape it to be such; or may actually go extinct, which does not necessarily benefit the aggressor.

TO BE CONTINUED

4 Comments:

Blogger Pope Bandar bin Turtle said...

Hi Kristine!

I enjoyed your comments at Pharyngula. Nice prose. Scienceblogs is rapidly becoming my favorite non-political (well, acutally, it is political!) blog. I have a computer science & software development background, but I, like many others, have fuzzy knowledge when it comes to evolution & the ID arguments, & their site has been an excellent resource. Plus the snark, oh the snark!

Checkin' your profile, I then see you're an Aimee Mann fan! (Which raises the question of why Magnolia isn't on your list of favorite movies, but ...)

I've been a big fan ever since Everything's Different Now, & I saw her in multiple concerts in the Seattle/Portland area when she started to tour again after that.

I also saw several of her Accoustic Vaudeville tour performances with hubbie Michael Penn & assorted stand-up comedians, & those were the bestest concerts I've ever been to!

I also have a bootleg videotape I made of her concert at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle last year!

I'm currently living in Amsterdam, & put together a video of this year's Gay Pride celebration.

For your listening & viewing pleasure, I present my video of The Amsterdam Gay Pride August 2006 Festival!

Link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HovO5siDatw

[Blogger kept prefixing itself in my anchor hyperlink, so I just left a text link!]

Tot ziens!

August 31, 2006 3:53 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Hey, Pope Bandar bin Turtle, thanks for stopping by!

I haven't even seen Magnolia, I admit. I have only one Aimee Mann CD. Must update profile...

Scienceblogs understands me, at least. ("Well, if you must know, Pharyngula makes me laugh.") Oh, the snark! I live for the snark.

Thank you for the video. I admit shamefacedly that I still have dial-up, and must watch streaming videos away from home! Bad, Kristine, bad. Can't view my own links.

Amsterdam is definitely a travel destination for us.

August 31, 2006 5:19 PM  
Anonymous الفيسبوك said...

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October 18, 2010 12:10 PM  
Anonymous information link said...

So much creativity here that no one understands a single idea. I like both Dawkins and Darwin by the way.

October 08, 2012 1:39 PM  

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