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Taming the silver fox, taming ourselves…? Oh, please…


Many decades ago, in the former Soviet Union, some geneticists set out to produce tame foxes by systematically choosing the most human-adaptable foxes in each generation. They succeeded and a minor theory holds that that’s how human beings tamed animals generally. A change in fox chromosome 15 since been isolated: “thought to be linked to memory and learning”. The foxes even follow a human gaze the way a dog or cat would.

Sounds about right. But then the story gets strange:

To this day, no study has taught us more about domestication, the very process responsible for our pets and farm animals (and crop plants), than Belyaev’s fox experiment. The research, in conjunction with the human fossil record, even led anthropologist Richard Wrangham and others to argue that humans self-domesticated themselves by choosing the behaviorally tamest mates and groupmates, and that over the last 30,000 years, this has led to changes in our body and facial characteristics, stress hormones levels, and other traits.

The fox experiment has shed light not only on domestication but on the entire process of evolution itself. Before this experiment, the notion that natural selection based on behavior, and only behavior, could influence what an organism looks like, how often it reproduces, which hormones it produces, and how smart it is was the stuff of stories.Lee Dugatkin, “he Fox in the Time Machine” at Undark

First, as a commenter points out, with respect to the foxes, “This is NOT “evolution”! This IS Intelligent Design of a species.”

We can certainly call it evolution if we agree that intelligent design is one form of evolution. Breeding an animal for generations so as to be able to live with humans is, of course, a classic in intelligent design.

Adam and Eve, Albrecht Dürer (German, Nuremberg 1471â  1528 Nuremberg), Engraving
Adam and Eve/Albrecht Dürer , 1504

Now, as to the second part, that we humans “tamed ourselves” over the generations, on the face of it, it fails a logical test. Who decided that that was a good idea? Who created the benchmark? Why? Why didn’t the bonobos do it?

Such farout claims, advanced as “science,” remind me (O’Leary for News) of a passage in the Book of Genesis. Adam and Eve have eaten the forbidden fruit and then run off to hide. The Lord calls them and Adam answers:

“I heard Your voice in the garden,” he replied, “and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” “Who told you that you were naked?” asked the LORD God. “Have you eaten of the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” Gen 3:10–12

Yes, that’s the point. How did Adam know he was naked? Something must have generated the idea. It was certainly not an outcome of his mere existence. Nor is human culture and the resulting domestication of animals the outcome of mere existence.

Evolution theory of this speculative type often includes good stories like the one about the foxes. What you won’t get from it is much critical thinking, such as that commenter offered.

Recently, Undark came up on our screen about something else. See: Inference Review did NOT set out to make a fool of cosmologist Adam Becker. It’s not a job that needs doing, the editors say. (Becker had launched a vulgar attack on Inference Review at Undark, for publishing alternative points of view.)

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ET I believe you and I are saying the same thing aka the same difference :) and in regards to your mind comment, they currently do. Emergence is the magic (ether) that makes the mind come true. I can tolerate emergence though, far more then the epiphenomenal illusion of our mind, (the illusion that means everything, yet does nothing and has no impact but somehow evolved, the illusion that tricks our selves into believing we exist, again has no impact :/) or everything is conscious when there are sooooooo many examples of things that should be conscious (especially in our body) but they are not and show no signs there of AaronS1978
I, too, await a theory of minds from the mindless via blind and mindless processes. My bet would be the word "emergence" plays a huge role. Perhaps even as prevalent as Charles Darwin's use of the word "chance" in "On the Origins of Species...". The alleged theory of evolution is really about how nature can allegedly direct chance events by a differential accumulation and culling of those events over generations. It is strange how chance is so much a part of our opponent's ideas and yet they get all testy when people try to use probability theory to check them. They don't even realize if they had something else to assess, evidence and science, then no one would use probability theory to assess their arguments. ET
ET at 4 and Aaron above - as we all know - what's overlooked is that the human breeders have a purpose that is irrelevant to survival in nature. They want an animal that gets on well in a human environment AND contributes to human well-being. That usually means forcing the genome in some way. Does it work? Well, look at all the money people in the developed world spend on cats. Do they spend that kind of money on weasels? (Maybe some money, to get rid of them.) But now cats... there are numerous veterinary hospitals dedicated to cats in a world where humans often don;t have care. None of this - interesting as it is to some (like me) has anything to do with Darwinian natural selection and it makes no contribution to explaining the origin of the human mind. News
AaronS1978- It is evolution, as in a (forced) change in allele frequency over time within a population. The problem is they use it as an example to extrapolate that macroevolution can happen given enough time/ generations. The think that if we can produce this change then nature can produce the diversity of life cuz nature had the time. ET
By the way they tried to say this is proof of evolution because a behavioral trait can be bred for therefore it is possible that natural selection would’ve selected that trait to survive just because of circumstances It is not proof of evolution per se just the possibility of it And it would be proof of natural selection through breeding and behavior This absolutely does not explain why the behavior existed in the first place or why it ended up being successful in the first place and why it was valued by everything else that existed before it That is completely unexplained and it makes no sense because too much stuff would’ve had to of fallen in place at the right time and at the right moment because not only would the mutation for the positive trait had to have come into existence but the mutation for valuing the positive trait also would’ve had to of come into existence either before or at the exact same time AaronS1978
The re-re-return of genetic determinism, and we domesticated ourselves. Excellent so we’re the only species in the existence of whatever, to domesticate ourselves even though every other species requires breeding and training. I wonder if they took into account that every single generation that they bred for the last 60 years was also in complete captivity. Animals, wild or domestic will become friendly to you if they learn that you’re not dangerous. I mean would the fox actually even Consider us friendly if it was out in the wild with the same genes? In the video, There was a comment, about how important it was at that moment for that fox to bond with you when it’s afraid. It learns that we are friendly. And apparently the gene that’s responsible for this is one that is directly linked to memory and learning. The fox does not have a specific “let’s be friendly to human gene”. Where the hell did that come from if it did when it never had it before. Furthermore I read the entire Nautilis article “Is The Age Of The Gene Finally Over“ Were a theory that the cell uses the gene and not the other way around. Just curious cells are the morphology in a way shape of the living organism. The results of this experiment can also be very well explained by that just as easily as it can be explained by a specific gene that influences it. Because if any trait can be zeroed in on, then all twins should be identical in behavior regardless. This also kind of explains how twins have similar epigenetic responses which are not linked to genetics but they do have the same cells. At least in the video the Russian scientist did mention that we would not be able to breed mice that could wag their tails and that it was only an influence and not a determinant. AaronS1978
The "theory" can't even account for the existence of foxes. ET

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