Evolution extinction News

Mass extinctions can accelerate evolution?

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biped robot/Joel Lehman

In robots.

From ScienceDaily:

A computer science team at The University of Texas at Austin has found that robots evolve more quickly and efficiently after a virtual mass extinction modeled after real-life disasters such as the one that killed off the dinosaurs. Beyond its implications for artificial intelligence, the research supports the idea that mass extinctions actually speed up evolution by unleashing new creativity in adaptations.

“Focused destruction can lead to surprising outcomes,” said Miikkulainen, a professor of computer science at UT Austin. “Sometimes you have to develop something that seems objectively worse in order to develop the tools you need to get better.”

In biology, mass extinctions are known for being highly destructive, erasing a lot of genetic material from the tree of life. But some evolutionary biologists hypothesize that extinction events actually accelerate evolution by promoting those lineages that are the most evolvable, meaning ones that can quickly create useful new features and abilities.

Miikkulainen and Lehman found that, at least with robots, this is the case. More.

So the idea seems to be that Darwinian evolution can work with mass destruction to create new information by a process of random mass elimination:

After hundreds of generations, a wide range of robotic behaviors had evolved to fill these niches, many of which were not directly useful for walking. Then the researchers randomly killed off the robots in 90 percent of the niches, mimicking a mass extinction.

After several such cycles of evolution and extinction, they discovered that the lineages that survived were the most evolvable and, therefore, had the greatest potential to produce new behaviors. Not only that, but overall, better solutions to the task of walking were evolved in simulations with mass extinctions, compared with simulations without them.

Nietzsche’s robot?

Might work for robots, but not sure how well it would work in nature. In nature, survivability depends, among other things, on an ecology. No doubt, many fit species were doomed because other less fit species were one of the supports of a then-collapsing ecology. Thoughts?

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37 Replies to “Mass extinctions can accelerate evolution?

  1. 1
    bb says:

    I think claiming mass extinction causes an increase in information is like claiming the destruction of libraries might cause an increase in classic literature.

  2. 2
    Zachriel says:

    bb: I think claiming mass extinction causes an increase in information is like claiming the destruction of libraries might cause an increase in classic literature.

    Information is ill-defined in this context. Extinction increases the rate of evolution. One reason is because organisms become highly specialized and adapted for their niches, so the overall ecosystem tends to change only slowly. Mass extinction favors generalists and rapid evolvers.

  3. 3
    bb says:

    I’m off to church Zachriel, and will reply later.

  4. 4
    ppolish says:

    All information is not created equal Bb. Consider the story of Noah and how it spread. Went viral. The story of Herb not so much.

  5. 5
    daveS says:

    This is consistent with the YEC account of what happened after the Great Flood, namely superfast microevolution over the last few thousand years:

    It is very likely that all the cats we see today (including lions, tigers, leopards, and your house cat) are grandchildren of the two cats that were on Noah’s ark.

  6. 6
    Mapou says:

    Meh. Pathetic little toy stuff.

    What they always forget to say is that you can accelerate evolution a trillion times and it will never get you anything more complex than simple toy-like entities. Consider that the number of particles in the visible universe is estimated to be 10^85, a very big number. But this number pales in comparison to the the size of the search space that is required to arrive at the human genome. It is greater than 4^(2 billion). The combinatorial explosion kills all stochastic search algorithms (e.g., RM+NS) dead.

    No computer simulation can come close to simulating anything more complex than pathetic little toy creatures like Lehman’s biped robots. This is not science, folks. This is a bunch of grown up nerds playing in their toy box. Every time they notice something different, they get excited and yell “Look Ma, we are simulating evolution.” Karl Popper was fond of saying that Darwinian evolution was a metaphysical research project. Popper was being kind. All Lehman has is a bunch of chicken shit little toys in a nerd sandbox.

    ahahaha…AHAHAHA…ahahaha…

  7. 7
    Mapou says:

    daveS @5,

    You love picking on YECs, don’t you? Why don’t you grow a pair and pick on someone your size? Until then, you’re just a wuss.

  8. 8
    Mapou says:

    I just realized that Lehman’s simulation is even more chicken shit than I thought. It did not create the robots from simple self-replicating cells. Lehman and his team are the intelligent designers who designed their little toys and want us to be amazed at what Darwinian evolution can do. They are the mighty designer gods of their own little toy world.

    If Darwinian evolution cannot possibly accomplish anything better than toy stuff, what can one say about abiogenesis? One can only burst out laughing.

    ahahaha…AHAHAHA…ahahaha…

  9. 9
    daveS says:

    Mapou,

    daveS @5,

    You love picking on YECs, don’t you? Why don’t you grow a pair and pick on someone your size? Until then, you’re just a wuss.

    Umm, did you even read my post? I said the result of the study was consistent with those YEC claims. Where I come from, YEC is way more popular than either ID or “Darwinism”, and I believe it should be criticized, but I’m not doing that here.

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: Paul Giem has a new video lecture up

    Convergent Evolution’s (falsification of Nested Hierarchies) 8-15-2015 by Paul Giem
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lC24KfcPOA

    last weeks video:

    Earth 2.0 – Why it Matters 8-8-2015 by Paul Giem
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_X1egafG5JE

  11. 11
    Mapou says:

    daveS @9,

    This has nothing to do with microevolution. The Darwinists are presenting this simulation study as evidence to support macroevolution.

    The main discussion topics of UD (evolution vs intelligent design) have little to do with what YECs believe. Anybody with a modicum of common sense and honesty knows that YECs are wrong and pathetically so. So why do you insist on dragging a dead horse to the battle?

  12. 12
    ppolish says:

    The results of the study are consistent with parts of Creationism & Evolutionism – like DaveS points out.

    Sure, they differ on timing. But what is time anyway? Some scientists argue it is an illusion. And it is a fact that “December 25” did not even exist as recently as when the Old Testsment was written.

  13. 13
    daveS says:

    Mapou,

    Anybody with a modicum of common sense and honesty knows that YECs are wrong and pathetically so. So why do you insist on dragging a dead horse to the battle?

    It’s hardly a dead horse, at least in my neck of the woods. I was just pointing out the irony in YECs and evos (very roughly) agreeing with the finding that extinctions can accelerate evolution, while perhaps quite a few old-Earthers here disagree.

  14. 14
    ChrisM says:

    This looks like a typical case of regurgitating a trivial fact in packaging that makes it look new and exciting.

    It’s long understood that Great Extinctions are followed by Great Radiations. It’s obvious that the beneficiaries are among the survivors. What they’ve done is construct a model in which the assumption is built in the ‘robots’ are always survivors.

    So it’s just empty

  15. 15
    bb says:

    Zach @2,

    1) “Extinction increases the rate of evolution.” – This is a post-hoc explanation to fit a presupposition. There is an alternative interpretation of the same evidence that says genetically robust representatives of kind (genus, family) spread over the earth and degenerated to eventually be locked into limited environments. Was every kind a generalist originally? I think this is a better explanation.

    2)”One reason is because organisms become highly specialized and adapted for their niches, so the overall ecosystem tends to change only slowly.” – Why are there so many species to fit a single niche without competition? i.e. Flies, bacteria, beetles, vultures, and many others all work to decompose the dead. Elephants, cattle, antelope, rhinos, etc seem to get along just fine and there is enough to sustain each population, though not without limit. Termites and ants battle it out, but neither are close to driving the other into extinction though they and many others occupy the same place. No giant lizards have evolved to replace the dinosaurs. No shark species has evolved to megalodon size to replace it. If there is room for multiple species in other niches, why not the place of large predator? Lions, leopards, hyena and cheetah may clash, but don’t replace each other.

    The YEC position posits that a single pair of a genetically robust kind can vary wildly over time, but never cross the line to another. This bears out with animal breeding. “Mass extinction favors generalists and rapid evolvers.” I agree with the “generalist” part of that statement and believe the kinds that Noah brought on the ark were generalists, able to fit many environments and ecosystems, with the information pre-loaded to make it possible. But information loss, genetic entropy, made them less able to continue over time. Like some dogs, i.e. coyotes and wolves, can live in multiple climates and adapt quite well. But genetically restricted varieties, like chihuahuas, not so. Raccoons can eat pretty much anything, probably like their ancestor, but giant pandas are limited to nutrition poor bamboo. This is probably due to damaging mutation similar to what we see with humans unable to tolerate gluten, which is in ancient staples like wheat.

  16. 16
    Zachriel says:

    bb: 1) “Extinction increases the rate of evolution.” – This is a post-hoc explanation to fit a presupposition.

    It’s supported by the mathematics of evolution, as well as by biological, molecular, and fossil evidence.

    bb: There is an alternative interpretation of the same evidence that says genetically robust representatives of kind (genus, family) spread over the earth and degenerated to eventually be locked into limited environments.

    That doesn’t explain patterns of radiation after extinction events or when a new niche becomes available.

    bb: i.e. Flies, bacteria, beetles, vultures, and many others all work to decompose the dead.

    They’re not the same niche.

    bb: Elephants, cattle, antelope, rhinos, etc seem to get along just fine and there is enough to sustain each population, though not without limit.

    Not the same niche.

    bb: Termites and ants battle it out, but neither are close to driving the other into extinction though they and many others occupy the same place.

    Not the same niche.

    bb: Lions, leopards, hyena and cheetah may clash, but don’t replace each other.

    Not the same niche.

  17. 17
    bb says:

    Zach: “It’s supported by the mathematics of evolution, as well as by biological, molecular, and fossil evidence.

    But why evolution exclusively? edit: Evolution doesn’t fit the pattern of genetic breakdown. The fact that we only observe loss empirically.

    Zach: “That doesn’t explain patterns of radiation after extinction events or when a new niche becomes available.

    Why not?

    Zach: “They’re not the same niche.

    You must have a subjective definition of niche. For instance, how do a carpenter ant and a termite not occupy the same niche? edit: Both are in my neighborhood and do the same thing. Both are the same threat to the lumber in my home.

  18. 18
    ppolish says:

    Where is the leopard niche? It’s where the leopard lives. Tautology.

  19. 19
    bb says:

    “Where is the leopard niche? It’s where the leopard lives.”

    …and the prey it eats. i.e. Gazelle, impala, etc… edit: The role it plays in controlling herd sizes.

  20. 20
    Tom Robbins says:

    More Rubbish from Schools dominated by Utopian thugs. How in the world could mass extinction, favor random mutation and selection? It’s like hitting the reset button on Evolution and they know it – if their theory held any water – but they are simply trying to answer critics that point out that, their type of evolution would have to happen over and over again taking HUGE amounts of time if you wipe the slate clean – what rubbish! They can play on their computers all day, but the empirical data says NO, reminds me very much of climate change and calling people who decent “deniers” – it seems we are just not smart enough to understand evolution – I propose we are not stupid enough to fall for a bedtime story for atheists.

  21. 21
    Virgil Cain says:

    It’s supported by the mathematics of evolution, as well as by biological, molecular, and fossil evidence.

    Liar. For one there isn’t any mathematics of evolution. For another there isn’t any biological, molecular or fossil evidence that supports evolutionism.

    Lions and cheetahs occupy the same niche. Obviously Zachriel is just an insipid troll.

    Why feed it?

  22. 22
    bb says:

    In my neighborhood owls, hawks, coyotes, mountain lion, domestic dogs & cats all eat local rodents: squirrel, rabbit, gopher, mouse, rat. Turkey vultures and California condor both clean up whatever remains afterward. If so many animals can occupy the same niches, who is to say when there is or isn’t a vacancy for evolution to fill?

  23. 23
    ppolish says:

    “How in the world could mass extinction, favor random mutation and selection?”

    So true Tom! There is a Design Rule driving this, a “go forth & multiply” on steroids. A motivation, a purpose. Not unguided or purposeless.

  24. 24
    Zachriel says:

    bb: Evolution doesn’t fit the pattern of genetic breakdown. The fact that we only observe loss empirically.

    That’s false. We can directly observe the evolution of new functions, as well as have strong evidence of adaptation over the history of life.

    bb: Why not?

    What you wrote is that there was a single radiation, then degeneration, but the historical record shows many examples of adaptive radiation, not only after mass extinctions, but also when new niches become available, such as island colonization.

    bb: You must have a subjective definition of niche.

    No. We use the standard ecological definition of niche, the relationship of an organism to its ecosystem.

    bb: For instance, how do a carpenter ant and a termite not occupy the same niche? edit: Both are in my neighborhood and do the same thing. Both are the same threat to the lumber in my home.

    For starters, carpenter ants don’t eat wood, but live in wood. Termites eat wood, but live in the ground.

    ppolish: Where is the leopard niche? It’s where the leopard lives. Tautology.

    Or a definition, which is a type of tautology. In any case, the niche includes not just the place, but the relationship of an organism to its ecosystem.

    bb: In my neighborhood owls, hawks, coyotes, mountain lion, domestic dogs & cats all eat local rodents: squirrel, rabbit, gopher, mouse, rat.

    Not the same niche. For instance most owls hunt at night, hawks during the day.

    It’s okay to not know much about biology, but it is probably not wise to reject expert opinion based on scant and often faulty knowledge of the subject.

  25. 25
    Virgil Cain says:

    We can directly observe the evolution of new functions,

    Evidence please.

  26. 26
    ppolish says:

    Zachriel, is it possible for a person’s thinking to get stuck in a niche? Maybe that’s why sabbaticals were invented:)

  27. 27
    Tim AJ says:

    What does the caraboo and and a leopard have in common? They are species pushed to extremes and destined for extinction. What do mice and bears have in common? They eat just about anything and live in a wide range of environments. Of course humans are the most diverse of all species. We might not have the best eye site, sense of smell, hearing, taste, sense of touch. But unlike the eagle we are not facing extinction. When are we going to get over this concept of the strongest and most extreme survive. Extinction doesn’t help survival or add to more species or a healthier environment; retaining and expanding abilities help avoid extinction.

  28. 28
    bb says:

    Zach @24

    Zach: “That’s false. We can directly observe the evolution of new functions, as well as have strong evidence of adaptation over the history of life.

    We do not directly observe the evolution of new functions. For instance Lenskis E. coli didn’t evolve a method to metabolize citrate. It existed as a backup system. As for evidence over history, anyone can place their interpretive framework over fossils post-hoc. Just because a mammal fossil has a hole in its skull doesn’t mean the hole was an air passage and the animal was an ancestor to a whale. Anyone can see the huge leap in that logic. Every supposed evolutionary line is riddled with such leaps.

    Zach: “What you wrote is that there was a single radiation, then degeneration, but the historical record shows many examples of adaptive radiation, not only after mass extinctions, but also when new niches become available, such as island colonization.

    I named a single radiation after Noah’s flood, but realize there were others. A radiation doesn’t necessarily only follow mass extinction. There is copious evidence that much of northern Russia, even Siberia, was once savanna. In addition to mammoths, we find many of the animals common to Africa: rhinos, big cats, etc… Climate changed, food grew scarce and there was a radiation. But it wasn’t a mass extinction. No catastrophic meteor impact or flood. See “Frozen in Time” by Michael Oard. Starting from the link you can read the entire book online by following the table of contents links under the “buy this book” section. Degeneration is consistent with each generation, whether during radiation or not. Darwin fantasized that natural selection rejects “that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good;…” Empirical observation shows that the bad is rarely rejected and, more than the good, (not that we’ve observed any) adds up and causes birth defects, genetic diseases, mutational meltdown, food intolerance, allergies… The evolutionary hypothesis doesn’t square with this reality or the limits breeders face.

    Zach: “For starters, carpenter ants don’t eat wood, but live in wood. Termites eat wood, but live in the ground.

    So what? Carpenter ants still chew wood and aid in its decomposition, like termites; composting dead trees into fertilizer. Same niche. You should see what they do to fallen pines in a forest. After a while, they are rendered dust piles by these ants.

    Zach: “Or a definition, which is a type of tautology. In any case, the niche includes not just the place, but the relationship of an organism to its ecosystem.

    Like lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena. All hunt the same prey, in the same locale.

    Zach: “Not the same niche. For instance most owls hunt at night, hawks during the day.

    Shell game. Time of day has nothing to do with the common prey populations that are impacted by all the animals I named in that comment. Whether they hunt in the day or night has nothing to do with the equal role hawks and owls share, as well as coyotes, mountain lions, domestic dogs & cats. They all share the same resources (except the domestics that hunt for fun) and niche, so answer my question. With so many animals sharing the same niche, who is to say whether a vacancy has or has not opened in an ecological system?

  29. 29
    Zachriel says:

    bb: Lenskis E. coli didn’t evolve a method to metabolize citrate.

    It evolved the ability to metabolize citrate in aerobic conditions, a function not normally found in E. coli, and often used to distinguish E. coli from other bacteria.

    Another simple example is the evolution of nylon-eating bacteria.

    bb: Degeneration is consistent with each generation, whether during radiation or not.

    Adaptive radiation is not consistent with degeneration.

    bb: So what?

    It means they’re not the same niche. They don’t live in the same place, and they don’t eat the same food. If there were only carpenter ants and no termites, then there would be an opportunity for a wood-eating insect.

    bb: Like lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena. All hunt the same prey, in the same locale.

    While there is certainly interspecific competition between lions and cheetahs, cheetahs avoid areas inhabited by lions and hyenas. See Durant, Living with the enemy: avoidance of hyenas and lions by cheetahs in the Serengeti, Behavioral Ecology 2000.

    bb: Time of day has nothing to do with the common prey populations that are impacted by all the animals I named in that comment.

    You have an overly simplified view of ecology. If there are only diurnal predators, then there is an opportunity for a nocturnal predator. They are different niches.

    bb: With so many animals sharing the same niche, who is to say whether a vacancy has or has not opened in an ecological system?

    Not sure your question. The original discussion was mass extinctions, such as the cosmic impact that ended the reign of dinosaurs. This obviously opened up niches in many parts of the ecosystem. Other radiations might occur when a bird or other organism first lands on a new island, or when ice caps retreat.

  30. 30
    Zachriel says:

    bb,

    Here’s a video (somewhat simplified) showing how species are interconnected in an ecosystem.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa5OBhXz-Q

  31. 31
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Zach

    It’s okay to not know much about biology, but it is probably not wise to reject expert opinion based on scant and often faulty knowledge of the subject.

    Yours is not an expert opinion. You indicate no qualifications in science.

  32. 32
    Zachriel says:

    Silver Asiatic: Yours is not an expert opinion.

    Never claimed any particular expertise. Then again, we’re not arguing that experts in biology are wrong, while also claiming that nocturnal owls and diurnal hawks occupy the same niche.

  33. 33
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Z

    Never claimed any particular expertise.

    The value of your opinions is noted.

    Then again, we’re not arguing that experts in biology are wrong …

    Experts in biology support ID. They are more credentialed than you are, and have more expertise than you do.

    You’re an anonymous guy offering non-expert opinions. So, I’ll accept them for what they are.

  34. 34
    Zachriel says:

    Silver Asiatic: The value of your opinions is noted.

    We generally support our claims, so you don’t have to rely upon mere opinion.

    “Most owls are nocturnal, actively hunting their prey only in darkness. Several types of owl, however, are crepuscular”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owl#Behavior

    Silver Asiatic: Experts in biology support ID.

    They are far outside the consensus view within the field; however, the question was whether owls and hawks occupy the same ecological niche.

  35. 35
    Virgil Cain says:

    niche:

    (ecology) (1) The specific area where an organism inhabits.

    (2) The role or function of an organism or species in an ecosystem.

    (3) The interrelationship of a species with all the biotic and abiotic factors affecting it.

    Looks like hawks and owls can occupy the same ecological niche and have different niches at the same time!

  36. 36
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel:

    The original discussion was mass extinctions, such as the cosmic impact that ended the reign of dinosaurs.

    If a cosmic impact ended the reign of the dinosaurs then we would expect to see dinosaur fossils in and just above the impact layer. We do NOT see that. The evidence contradicts your claim, again.

  37. 37
    wd400 says:

    Experts in biology support ID. They are more credentialed than you are, and have more expertise than you do.

    Do you really want to play that game?

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