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Devolution: Dumping info can make life better, maybe

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Evolution News and Views

Provided you don’t ask for much:

Today, we often hear that these non-random mechanisms of evolution are consistent with Darwinian evolution (the Modern Synthesis). So, nothing has really changed after all!

Not so fast. Darwinian evolution (Darwinism) had better be consistent with all demonstrated mechanisms of change. Unlike horizontal gene transfer, it has proven difficult to witness, and proponents have relied largely on the assumption that it is “the only known theory that is in principle capable of explaining certain aspects of life.” What’s changed is that it can no longer be considered equivalent to “evolution.” It must compete with other known mechanisms.

Most of the time, when we think of evolution, we mean mechanisms for the growth of complex new information. After all, entropy (the tendency for disorder to increase over time) can satisfactorily explain loss of information. Yet, in the history of life, some forms survive while — or even by — losing information (devolution). Their history may tell us something useful too.

We all know devolution when we see it — a jar of pennies becomes a doorstop, a computer becomes a boat anchor, the XYZ volume of the Encyclopedia props up a too-short table leg.

But interest in devolution of life forms spiked with the recent discovery of giant viruses, which a 2014 editorial at The Scientist considered a possible fourth domain of life. More.

See also: Talk to the fossils: Let’s see what they say back for the rest of the series to date.

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As to:
In 2012, a Scientific American blog reported on a new study that argued humans are devolving so as to be dumber: "Homo (Sans) Sapiens: Is Dumb and Dumber Our Evolutionary Destiny?"
Besides intellect, there is also, contrary to the iconic cartoon showing man progressively evolving upwards, strong evidence, both genetic and fossil evidence, indicating that man is progressively becoming inferior compared to his forbears:
Human Genetic Variation Recent, Varies Among Populations - (Nov. 28, 2012) Excerpt: Nearly three-quarters of mutations in genes that code for proteins -- the workhorses of the cell -- occurred within the past 5,000 to 10,000 years,,, "One of the most interesting points is that Europeans have more new deleterious (potentially disease-causing) mutations than Africans,",,, "Having so many of these new variants can be partially explained by the population explosion in the European population. However, variation that occur in genes that are involved in Mendelian traits and in those that affect genes essential to the proper functioning of the cell tend to be much older." (A Mendelian trait is controlled by a single gene. Mutations in that gene can have devastating effects.) The amount variation or mutation identified in protein-coding genes (the exome) in this study is very different from what would have been seen 5,000 years ago,,, The report shows that "recent" events have a potent effect on the human genome. Eighty-six percent of the genetic variation or mutations that are expected to be harmful arose in European-Americans in the last five thousand years, said the researchers. The researchers used established bioinformatics techniques to calculate the age of more than a million changes in single base pairs (the A-T, C-G of the genetic code) that are part of the exome or protein-coding portion of the genomes (human genetic blueprint) of 6,515 people of both European-American and African-American decent.,,, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121128132259.htm Scientists Discover Proof That Humanity Is Getting Dumber, Smaller And Weaker By Michael Snyder, on April 29th, 2014 Excerpt: An earlier study by Cambridge University found that mankind is shrinking in size significantly. Experts say humans are past their peak and that modern-day people are 10 percent smaller and shorter than their hunter-gatherer ancestors. And if that’s not depressing enough, our brains are also smaller. The findings reverse perceived wisdom that humans have grown taller and larger, a belief which has grown from data on more recent physical development. The decline, said scientists, has happened over the past 10,000 years. http://thetruthwins.com/archives/scientists-discover-proof-that-humanity-is-getting-dumber-smaller-and-weaker Are brains shrinking to make us smarter? - February 2011 Excerpt: Human brains have shrunk over the past 30,000 years, http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-02-brains-smarter.html If Modern Humans Are So Smart, Why Are Our Brains Shrinking? - January 20, 2011 Excerpt: John Hawks is in the middle of explaining his research on human evolution when he drops a bombshell. Running down a list of changes that have occurred in our skeleton and skull since the Stone Age, the University of Wisconsin anthropologist nonchalantly adds, “And it’s also clear the brain has been shrinking.” “Shrinking?” I ask. “I thought it was getting larger.” The whole ascent-of-man thing.,,, He rattles off some dismaying numbers: Over the past 20,000 years, the average volume of the human male brain has decreased from 1,500 cubic centimeters to 1,350 cc, losing a chunk the size of a tennis ball. The female brain has shrunk by about the same proportion. “I’d call that major downsizing in an evolutionary eyeblink,” he says. “This happened in China, Europe, Africa—everywhere we look.” http://discovermagazine.com/2010/sep/25-modern-humans-smart-why-brain-shrinking Cro Magnon skull shows that our brains have shrunk - Mar 15, 2010 by Lisa Zyga Excerpt: Using new technology, researchers have produced a replica of the 28,000-year-old brain and found that it is about 15-20% larger than our brains. http://phys.org/news187877156.html Human face has shrunk over the past 10,000 years - November 2005 Excerpt: Human faces are shrinking by 1%-2% every 1,000 years. What’s more, we are growing less teeth. Ten thousand years ago everyone grew wisdom teeth but now only half of us get them, and other teeth like the lateral incisors have become much smaller. This is evolution in action." http://www.stonepages.com/news/archives/001604.html
of related note:
“Neanderthals are known for their large cranial capacity, which at 1600cc is larger on average than modern humans.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neanderthal#Anatomy
Here is an informative interview with geneticist Dr. John Sanford
Dr. John Sanford "Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome" 1/2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJ-4umGkgos

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