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“Fast evolution” affects everyone everywhere—provided we are not too particular about what we consider evolution

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Darwin’s finches/McGill

From ScienceDaily:

Rapid evolution of other species happens all around us all the time — and many of the most extreme examples are associated with human influences.

Consider three examples:

Commercial fishing. When fishing pressure is high, the fish evolve to reproduce when they are younger and smaller, and thus tend to have fewer, smaller offspring. This evolutionary change can, in turn, reduce fisheries yields and the sustainability.

But is this really a form of evolution? That is, are the changes irreversible? Will speciation occur in the affected population, so that the two new groups cannot interbreed with each other? Or, if the bottom fell out of the fish market, would everything be pretty much the same a couple of centuries from now?

Invasive species. The movement of species to new places in the world instigates evolution in those invasive species, which increases their rate of spread and impact on native species. Those native species can then sometimes evolve in response, potentially arresting the invader’s spread and mitigating its impact.

Again, are these irreversible changes leading to speciation?

Urbanization. The development of cities dramatically changes many aspects of the environment and, hence, can instigate evolution in a variety of species. As examples, plants evolve decreased seed dispersal to compensate for the expansion of uninhabitable pavement, animals evolve resistance to industrial and residential chemicals, and bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics. Paper. (copy of paper must be requested) – Kiyoko M. Gotanda, Andrew P. Hendry, and Erik Svensson. Human influences on evolution, and the ecological and societal consequences. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, December 2016 DOI: 10.17863/CAM.6418 More.

Do we have any reason to believe that if the city fell to ruins, the plants would not simply go back to their former habits?

Note: Darwin’s finches, pictured above, are in fact testimony to hybridization among closely related groups of birds, not of evolution—unless we think of evolution as a revolving door within otherwise fixed species. But that’s not how we are supposed to see it.

One can call any changes one likes “evolution”—but then one cannot turn around and say that one has demonstrated any particular thesis about it.

See also: Why are there so many “species”? Well, maybe there aren’t. In the current mess, how would we know?

and

Wayne Rossiter on teaching Darwin’s unquestionable truths

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6 Replies to ““Fast evolution” affects everyone everywhere—provided we are not too particular about what we consider evolution

  1. 1
    Rennie says:

    I had an online debate with an evolutionist once who described evolution as change. Any change. period.

    Whether the change was detrimental or positive. Whether it was lasting or not. It did not matter. Change and any change equals evolution. Even if the changes reverts the organism back to its original state.

    Its all evolution in action and there are billions of people falling for this deception.

  2. 2
    News says:

    Rennie, your discussion partner may be right. Heraclitus said as much, long long ago: All is flux. We can call all change “evolution” if we want.

    But what follows from that? What understanding of the mechanisms of evolution does it provide?

  3. 3

    Evolution isn’t free. It’s the inevitable outcome of a system that establishes semantic closure.

    Semantic closure only occurs when a system can produce a specification (description, symbolic memory) of itself among alternatives, and can successfully interpret that description. And it requires a code in order to have the informational capacity it needs to specify itself in a transcribable format.

    This is what is necessary to start the cell cycle. Evolution then (in the materialist’s sense of purely unguided heritable variation) is a natural consequence of the transcription and interpretation of symbolic memory.

    Thus, the design inference is already on the table. You cant describe the system without complimentary descriptions of the dynamic and symbolic aspects of the system. This has been known for half a century.

  4. 4
    asauber says:

    what we consider evolution

    Same issue with ‘climate’. Look at 33 years and think one thing. Look at 100 years and think something else. Go 1,000,000 if you like. The climate is everything weather related that has ever happened. Or it’s the latest anomalous snowstorm.

    Andrew

  5. 5
    Rennie says:

    @ News, the best i could do with the design denier was to illustrate the following analogy to him:

    You have an engine with no bearings, no drive shaft, no carburetor, no fuel line, no transmission. Just a basic engine.

    In order for this engine to evolve bearings that would be needed for the drive shaft to be functional etc etc…, the newly evolved bearings must have some sort of purpose for which natural selection can positively select the bearings for use by future populations.

    But how can natural selection select something that has no obvious use. No benefit to survival. An engine without bearings is just as useless as an engine with ONLY bearings.

    Anyways, suffice to say that the design denier did not understand this analogy. Maybe I did not explain it adequately.

  6. 6
    johnnyb says:

    One can call any changes one likes “evolution”—but then one cannot turn around and say that one has demonstrated any particular thesis about it.

    You have hit the nail on the head there, Denyse!

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