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Can the neutral theory of evolution explain what makes us human?


When it comes to explaining the origin of complexity, evolutionists are a house divided. Here’s what Professor Richard Dawkins has to say on the subject:

I have written many times that natural selection is NOT the only mechanism of evolution. I have said it is the only known mechanism of ADAPTIVE evolution. And I’ll say that again. Natural selection is the only known mechanism of adaptive evolution, meaning the evolution of complex adaptations carrying the illusion of design. If you have another candidate not involving selection, let’s hear it. (Source, November 26, 2011.)

Compare that with what Professor PZ Myers wrote recently, in two posts which are provocatively titled, The fundamental failure of the evolutionary psychology premise and Complexity is not usually the product of selection (December 10 and 11, 2012):

…[R]andom genetic drift, the variation in a population caused by sampling error, is far more significant than most people (including most evolutionary psychologists) assume.

Why? Because selection is blind to small differences. Chance dominates, unless the selection coefficient is relatively large.

What that means is that selection works best in large populations, while chance dominates in small populations…

What it also means is that in any population there will be a range of variation that is effectively invisible to selection, a range that will be rather narrow in an immense population of bacteria, but will be relatively wide in small populations…like, for instance, a large, slow-breeding population of Pleistocene primates. [PZ means humans, of course – VJT.]

I’ve been assured that this is a decent summary of evolutionary psychology by a credible source. If you understood what I wrote above, you’ll immediately see the problem.

1. Organs are complex functional adaptations, results of selection processes.
2. The brain is an organ.
3. Therefore, we can understand it in terms of the past, just as we do for every part of the body in humans and in all other life forms on earth.

First of all, let’s just dismiss that “complex” quantifier. It’s irrelevant and often not true…

[C]omplexity usually isn’t a product of selection, but primarily of chance.

I think if selection were always the rule, then we’d never have evolved beyond prokaryotes — all that fancy stuff eukaryotes added just gets in the way of the one true business of evolution, reproduction…

Even in something as specific as the physiological function of a biochemical pathway, adaptation isn’t the complete answer, and evolution relies on neutral or nearly neutral precursor events to produce greater functional complexity.

Professor Larry Moran, like PZ Myers, is a big fan of the nearly neutral theory of evolution, which states that “the fate of mutations with only slight positive or negative effect on fitness will depend on how population size affects the outcome.” (Myers explains the differences between the selection theory of evolution, the neutral theory and the nearly neutral theory here.)

Professor Moran’s view: 22.4 million neutral mutations were what made us human

In a recent post dated April 2, 2014, Professor Larry Moran clarifies his position:

At no time have I ever denied that natural selection plays a role in the evolution of humans. It would be ridiculous to do that…

The differences in the complexities of chimp and human brains are almost certainly due, in part, to adaptation and fixation of beneficial alleles by natural selection.

As I do not wish to be accused of intentionally misrepresenting Professor Moran’s views, I invite readers to peruse his latest post and judge its merits for themselves. I would also like to apologize for unintentionally misinterpreting his views on human evolution.

I would also remind Professor Moran that when two people whose views on a subject are poles apart try to enter into dialogue, mutual misunderstandings are bound to occur. Accusations of lying are therefore unhelpful.

I should add that since Professor Moran’s Sandwalk blog is just the click of a mouse button away, it would be senseless for me to try to intentionally misrepresent his views.

Finally, for the record, I do not regard evolutionary biologists as stupid, as Professor Moran seems to think. I’m quite sure that many of them are a lot more intelligent than I. What I do think is that they, like most human beings, are prone to ideological bias against viewpoints which they find profoundly uncongenial, and that in attempting to discredit these viewpoints, they are liable to be swayed by emotion rather than reason. Intelligent Design is a theory which tends to make hackles rise in scientific circles.

For Moran, the differences between humans and chimps can ultimately be explained by 22.4 million mutations being fixed in each of their genomes. Most of thee mutations (he believes) will be either neutral or nearly neutral. As he puts it:

The human and chimp genomes are 98.6% identical or 1.4% different. That difference amounts to 44.8 million base pairs distributed throughout the entire genome. If this difference is due to evolution then it means that 22.4 million mutations have become fixed in each lineage (humans and chimp) since they diverged about five million years ago.

When I expressed doubt in a recent post that an accumulation of minor mutations could account for the macroevolutionary transition leading to the emergence of human beings from a primate ancestor, Professor Moran reiterated his position:

I recently wrote up a little description of the differences between the human and chimpanzee/bonobo genomes showing that those differences are perfectly consistent with everything we know about mutation rates and the fixation of alleles in populations [Why are the human and chimpanzee/bonobo genomes so similar?]. In other words, I answered Vincent Torley’s question.

Now, I am no expert when it comes to mutations. But I do know something about human evolution – I’ve been studying it, on and off, since I was about eleven. So in today’s post, I’d like to explain some of the reasons why I don’t believe that neutral mutations (or nearly neutral ones) have a hope in Hades of accounting for the complexity of the human brain. And if it cannot account for the human brain, then a fortiori, neither can it account for the human mind. (As readers will be aware, I espouse a form of dualism: for an excellent account of why dualism is far more reasonable than materialism as an account of mind, see Professor David Oderberg’s articles, Hylemorphic Dualism and Concepts, Dualism, and The Human Intellect. Professor Oderberg is a highly respected philosopher who teaches at Reading University.)

How much time do we have?

In my previous post, I drew readers’ attention to a very strange implication of the neutral theory of evolution:

We are told that for a population of N organisms, it takes (4*Ne) generations for a mutation to get fixed in the population, where Ne is the effective size of the human population. For most of human history, the effective population size appears to have been around 10,000, even though the actual human population size is thought to have been considerably higher (350,000 from the Middle Pleistocene onwards, according to a 2008 article by Professor John Hawks). Four times 10,000 equals 40,000 generations, and if we use Professor Moran’s figure of 27.5 years per generation, that’s equivalent to 1,100,000 years ago.

Let me spell that out: if we take a typical mutation out of the 100-odd mutations which (according to the neutral theory of evolution) got fixed in the human population within the last generation (from 1987 to 2014), we will find that that mutation first appeared in the human lineage some 1,100,000 years ago.

Am I the only one who thinks this figure is absolutely extraordinary? And for that matter, doesn’t the notion of a mutation that takes one million years to fix sound a little suspicious?

Professor Moran’s barbed response was:

No, Vincent, you are not the only one who finds the basics of evolution “extraordinary” and “suspicious.” Just about everyone who posts on Uncommon Descent and Evolution News & Views is as ignorant as you.

I take, then, it that Moran accepts the figure of 1,100,000 years.

How recent changes gave rise to the brain of modern man

Now, I have argued, in a previous post titled, Who was Adam and when did he live? Twelve theses and a caveat, that true human beings likely emerged a little over a million years ago, with the appearance of Heidelberg man, the presumed ancestor of modern Homo sapiens, Neandertal man and Denisovan man. (Estimates for the date when Heidelberg man first appeared range from 600,000 to 1,300,000 years ago.) I pointed out that the human prefrontal cortex, which enables us to control our impulses for the sake of long-term goals, has not greatly changed since the appearance of Heidelberg man, who practiced monogamy and frequently sacrificed his life for the good of the tribe, when hunting (see here). That sounds pretty human to me. Of course, other writers have their own opinions regarding the cut-off point for the emergence of true human beings, but that’s my opinion.

What I’d like to point out, however, is that the brain of modern man was in many respects very different that of from his presumed ancestor, Heidelberg man. Benoit Dubreuil summarizes the differences between the two species in his article, Paleolithic public goods games: why human culture and cooperation did not evolve in one step (Biology and Philosophy 25:53–73):

The relative stability of the PFC [prefrontal cortex] during the last 500,000 years can be contrasted with changes in other brain areas. One of the most distinctive features of Homo sapiens’ cranium morphology is its overall more globular structure. This globularization of Homo sapiens’ cranium occurred between 300,[000] and 100,000 years ago and has been associated with the relative enlargement of the temporal and/or parietal lobes (Lieberman et al. 2002; Bruner et al. 2003; Bruner 2004, 2007; Lieberman 2008). (p. 67)

The temporoparietal cortex is certainly involved in many complex cognitive tasks. It plays a central role in attention shifting, perspective taking, episodic memory, and theory of mind (as mentioned in Section “The role of perspective taking”), as well as in complex categorization and semantic processing (that is where Wernicke’s area is located)…

I have argued elsewhere (Dubreuil 2008; Henshilwood and Dubreuil 2009) that a change in the attentional abilities underlying perspective taking and high-level theory of mind best explains the behavioral changes associated with modern Homo sapiens, including the evolution of symbolic and artistic components in material culture. (p. 68)

In other words, the temporoparietal cortex of the brain has undergone a startling degree of evolution, just within the last 100,000 to 300,000 years. This evolution of the brain has a lot to do with the explosion in human symbolic and artistic abilities, since the emergence of Homo sapiens.

In a recent paper, Somel et al. (2013) argue that human-specific cognitive abilities arose around 200,000 years ago, subsequent to the split between Neandertals and Homo sapiens, although they also acknowledge that “it is conceivable that Neanderthals and Denisovans also possessed certain types of human-like linguistic abilities.” They write:

With respect to the trajectory of human brain evolution, the existing data suggest two distinct phases: a long and gradual increase in brain size that was accompanied by cortical reorganization, followed by a more recent phase of region-specific developmental remodelling. This second phase, which led to the emergence of the cognitive traits that produced the human cultural explosion ~200,000 years ago, may have been driven by only a few mutations that affected the expression and/or primary structure of developmental regulators.
(Human brain evolution: transcripts, metabolites and their regulators by M. Somel, X. Liu, and P. Khaitovich, in (2013) Nature Reviews Neuroscience 14, 112–127, (February 2013), doi: 10.1038/nrn3372. The full version is available online.)

The authors also note that “among 23 genes harbouring amino acid changes at conserved positions that are human-specific and not shared with Denisovans, eight have roles in neural and synaptic development” (p. 119).

Readers will recall that one implication of the neutral and near-neutral theories of evolution espoused by Professors Myers and Moran was that new traits should have taken 1,100,000 years to get fixed in the human population, if they were the product of neutral (or near-neutral) mutations. But here we have a biological trait that shaped the course of human history, that did not exist prior to 300,000 years ago!

Heidelberg man was no dimwit

Now, I don’t want to overstate my case here. Heidelberg man was no dimwit: as I pointed out in my post on Heidelberg man, he was evidently capable of fishing, controlling fire, making complex tools using techniques that took hundreds of hours to learn, and hunting big game (a risky but rewarding activity) using stone-tipped spears. Heidelberg man also practiced compassion in a very human manner: individuals with severe physical and mental abnormalities were taken care of by their tribe for a period of several years. For my part, I believe that Heidelberg man did indeed possess language, and that he also possessed some degree of artistic ability. In their review of recent research, titled, On the antiquity of language: the reinterpretation of Neandertal linguistic capacities and its consequences (in Frontiers in Psychology, 4:397. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00397), Dan Dediu and Stephen Levinson argue that the Neandertals’ advanced cultural behavior, coupled with their vocal capacity to produce language, suggests that they actually used language. If both modern humans and Neandertals used language, then it’s reasonable to infer that their last common ancestor, Heidelberg man, did as well. And according to a 2011 paper, The First Appearance of Symmetry in the Human Lineage: where Perception meets Art (careful: large file!) by Dr. Derek Hodgson (in Symmetry, 2011, 3, 37-53; doi:10.3390/3010037), tools dating from 750,000 years ago, created either by Heidelberg man or late Homo erectus, have been unearthed in Africa. The design of these tools manifests a concern for three-dimensional symmetry on the part of their makers, which is a clear indication of artistic ability. (See also the discussion of the Master hand-axe here.)

Nevertheless, it seems that the features that distinguish Homo sapiens from his predecessors are of relatively recent origin, and the date of their emergence in the fossil record does not fit with the predictions of the neutral theory of evolution. Moreover, since these features were apparently responsible for an explosion in cultural creativity in human beings, they can hardly be describe as “neutral mutations.” If a trait that dramatically enhances creativity is not a beneficial mutation, then nothing is.

Earlier beneficial mutations that helped make us who we are

In their article, Evolution of the Brain in Humans – Paleoneurology (in The New Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, Springer, 2009, pp. 1326-1334), Holloway et al. chart the evolution of the human brain over the last four million years. They emphasize that the prefrontal lobe has changed very little in the past few hundred thousand years: “The only difference between Neandertal and modern human endocasts is that the former are larger and more flattened. Most importantly, the Neandertal prefrontal lobe does not appear more primitive.” I cited Dubreuil’s article above, arguing that the prefrontal cortex reached its modern form with the appearance of Heidelberg man (the presumed common ancestor of Neandertal man and modern man) and that it enabled our ancestors to control their impulses while pursuing long-term goals. Again, it is hard to see how this could be anything but a beneficial trait.

In their article, Holloway et al. chronicle two earlier events in the evolution of the human brain, which would also have clearly benefited our ancestors:

At least two important reorganizational events occurred rather early in hominid evolution, (i) a reduction in the relative volume of primary visual striate cortex (PVC, area 17 of Brodmann), which occurred early in australopithecine taxa, perhaps as early as 3.5 MYA [million years ago – VJT] and (ii) a configuration of Broca’s region (Brodmann areas 44, 45, and 47) that appears human-like rather than apelike by about 1.8 MYA. At roughly this same time, cerebral asymmetries, as discussed above, are clearly present in early Homo taxa, starting with KNM-ER 1470, Homo rudolfensis

Certainly, the second reorganizational pattern, involving Broca’s region, cerebral asymmetries of a modern human type and perhaps prefrontal lobe enlargement, strongly suggests selection operating on a more cohesive and cooperative social behavioral repertoire, with primitive language a clear possibility.

The authors go on to acknowledge, however, that “relative brain size was not yet at the modern human peak.”

In conclusion: there appear to have been at least four changes in the development of the human brain over the last few million years, which can only be described as beneficial. In addition, the most recent of these changes emerged and fixed itself within the human population far more quickly than allowed for by the neutral theory of evolution. The neutral theory of evolution thus appears to be woefully deficient, as an account of what makes us human.

I’d like to close with a short quote from the late John Maynard Keynes. “When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?”

RodW: Two points. Two predictions. Junk-DNA: what was the Darwinist position, and why? What was the ID position, and why? Larry Moran will still make the case for "junk-DNA," and yet, day-after-day new functions are being found for putative "junk-DNA." Tied into this first 'prediction' won by ID, is a second prediction: What determines morphology: 'genes' or 'non-genes'? ID 'predicted' that the locus of genetic information determining form would be found predominantly outside of the gene-coding area, and would likely end up being found in so-called "junk-DNA". The importance of miRNA and siRNA in modifying rates of protein production is now very strong, and these are found where? In the 'exons', you know, "junk-DNA." Head-to-head, Darwinism has lost every battle so far. And we are safe to assume that will continue into the future. Michael Behe has his "first rule of adaptive evolution," stating that most "adaptation" is the result of a "loss of function," and not a 'gain.' There's now a "rule" associated with the ID way of thinking. Will this 'rule' be confirmed time and time again (as it already has), or will it be overturned? According to ID, information 'gain' (in appreciable amounts) should only arise via intelligent mechanisms. You seem nice enough, Rod. And you seem to be objective. But I think you have an agenda, and that we will see it very shortly. PaV
Please, don’t be hard on me for my stupid questions. I’m a software developer who started to like this whole biology thing. Dionisio
Do most human cells have the same DNA in their nucleus? then how come there are different cell types by function and even morphology? if there DNA is the same, then what determines their differences? Looking forward to reading your comments. Thank y'all in advance. Dionisio
How much of the DNA does correspond to actual genes that code for proteins (yes, after splicing, cut&paste and all that)? What happens with the rest of the DNA? what is it for? Do the DNA and the other machines within the cell have to be setup in such a way so that it reacts to environmental signals in the right way in order to function and build as it does? How does that operate? How does it happen that the zygote goes through several iterations of symmetric cellular divisions until a point, then cells start dividing asymmetrically? What determines the cell fate in those cases? what determines their migration paths? the first few days they were all apparently equivalent, weren’t they? so what makes them turn into one or another type, and position themselves in this or that location? how does that work? what part of the DNA is involved in all that? are many parts of the DNA, beyond the genes, involved in a way or another in all that orchestration and choreography? Got more questions, but let’s pause at this for now. Looking forward to hearing your comments on this. Thank y’all in advance. Dionisio
1. Are there good reasons to think that there have been muutations/genes that have been positively selected in the human lineage or is this just evolutionists making stuff up?
I mean Yes. Mung
1. Are there good reasons to think that there have been muutations/genes that have been positively selected in the human lineage or is this just evolutionists making stuff up?
No. Mung
Joe said,
See also Why Is A Fly Not A Horse? Dr Sermonti is a geneticist. Jonathan Wells is a developmental biologist and he also disagrees with you.
I think the vast majority of biologists would agree with me that the genetic information ultimately determines the form of an organism ( with a few caveats) I'm not familiar with what Sermonti says on the matter. I only know his arguments that the leaf and stick-mimic insect fossil record was evidence against evolution. Was the quote that genes only influence form from Wells or Denton? In any case, if the major source of information on form is not genetic information where does it come from? Has this other form of information ever been demonstrated? How is it different from genetic information? RodW
I disagree about point 2. The genome does determine the type of organism. Theres no doubt about that.
Umm there isn't any evidence to support that claim.
To understand the challenge to the “superwatch” model by the erosion of the gene-centric view of nature, it is necessary to recall August Weismann’s seminal insight more than a century ago regarding the need for genetic determinants to specify organic form. As Weismann saw so clearly, in order to account for the unerring transmission through time with precise reduplication, for each generation of “complex contingent assemblages of matter” (superwatches), it is necessary to propose the existence of stable abstract genetic blueprints or programs in the genes- he called them “determinants”- sequestered safely in the germ plasm, away from the ever varying and destabilizing influences of the extra-genetic environment. Such carefully isolated determinants would theoretically be capable of reliably transmitting contingent order through time and specifying it reliably each generation. Thus, the modern “gene-centric” view of life was born, and with it the heroic twentieth century effort to identify Weismann’s determinants, supposed to be capable of reliably specifying in precise detail all the contingent order of the phenotype. Weismann was correct in this: the contingent view of form and indeed the entire mechanistic conception of life- the superwatch model- is critically dependent on showing that all or at least the vast majority of organic form is specified in precise detail in the genes. Yet by the late 1980s it was becoming obvious to most genetic researchers, including myself, since my own main research interest in the ‘80s and ‘90s was human genetics, that the heroic effort to find information specifying life’s order in the genes had failed. There was no longer the slightest justification for believing there exists anything in the genome remotely resembling a program capable of specifying in detail all the complex order of the phenotype. The emerging picture made it increasingly difficult to see genes as Weismann’s “unambiguous bearers of information” or view them as the sole source of the durability and stability of organic form. It is true that genes influence every aspect of development, but influencing something is not the same as determining it. Only a small fraction of all known genes, such as the developmental fate switching genes, can be imputed to have any sort of directing or controlling influence on form generation. From being “isolated directors” of a one-way game of life, genes are now considered to be interactive players in a dynamic two-way dance of almost unfathomable complexity, as described by Keller in The Century of The Gene- Michael Denton “An Anti-Darwinian Intellectual Journey”, Uncommon Dissent (2004), pages 171-2
See also Why Is A Fly Not A Horse? Dr Sermonti is a geneticist. Jonathan Wells is a developmental biologist and he also disagrees with you. Joe
Sal and Joe Thanks for replying so quickly Joe, I suppose there are things where their mere existence implies a specific cause. But in those cases one can still make predictions and one can be very sure those predictions will be born out. I disagree about point 2. The genome does determine the type of organism. Theres no doubt about that. All the new discoveries we hearing about in epigenetics etc. are just adding layers and dimensions of complexity to it. Sal. Havent' heard that about sharks. I have heard that pufferfish dont have a digestive stomach but they use their 'stomach' ( or what was a stomach) to inflate - as pufferfish are wont to do. An evolutionary prediction I would make would be this: even though the pufferfish dont use their stomach for digestion, genes assocatied with that function, such as pepsin, would still exist but would be nonfunctional or have much reduced function (unless they're used elsewhere in the body) On the other hand genes that might be necessary for the inflation reflex would show positive selection ( if such a thing is possible) An ID prediction would be that there would be no remnants of genes such as pepsin since a designer wouldnt make something that has no use and is broken anyway. There would also be no evidence of positive selection for any of the novel traits of pufferfish RodW
1. Are there good reasons to think that there have been muutations/genes that have been positively selected in the human lineage or is this just evolutionists making stuff up?
What do you mean positively selected, selected before they were functional or after they were functional. A heart is "positively" selected for after it exists otherwise you die, but it says zero about it being positively selected for before you have it. A Stanley Salthe observed, if you ask a biologists what traits are most likely to evolve, they'll say the ones under least selection. :shock: Are they just making it up? It looks that way. Example: Did the shark stomach that is now missing in sharks evolve via selection or neutral evolution? Here is the problem of logic. If an organ (like a stomach) is vital, then how can it evolve since the organism would be dead! The alternative then is to assume the organ is not vital so that it can evolve. But to the extent it is not vital, it then casts doubts that it was under any sort of selective pressure except via pure assumption (making it up as you say). You just have to assume it is not vital but just advantageous enough that it evolves. But then, why did it lose the stomach? It casts doubt that it was selectively favored in the first place! So yes, it sure looks like the narratives are just made up with no justification aside from maintaining the narrative. scordova
5. Finally, are there any predictions you can make about the structure of the human genome that would distinguish the evolutionary model from the ID model?
What is the unguidd evolutionary model? That stuff happens and if it happens to survive and reproduce it gets to do it again? Try running Dawkins' "weasel" program without the target sentence as a selection coefficient and see if you ever hit it. That would model unguided evolution. Joe
RodW, That humans and chimps exist is evidence for ID. What is it that makes a human a human and a chimp a chimp? Evolution doesn't say but hopes that whatevr it is can be explained by the genome and what emerges from its interactions with the rest of the cell and environment. If the genome doesn't determine the type of organism and evolution is about changes to the genome, what hope is there that evolution can account for the differences observed between chimps and humans? And there isn't anything that ays we are the sum of our genome. Joe
I have some questions for vjtorley, Mung,Axel, Joe, Querius, Sal or anyone else who cares to answer. Moran says that selection for a subset of mutations has been important in the evolution of human uniqueness. Overlaid on this are a huge number of neutral mutations in the numbers we would expect from present day observations on the rate of neutral mutations. Here are my questions: 1. Are there good reasons to think that there have been muutations/genes that have been positively selected in the human lineage or is this just evolutionists making stuff up? 2. If there are such genes can you give 1 or 2 or 3 examples? 3. What evidence is put forward to suggest these have been selected for? 4. If there are genes and there is evidence how would you interpret this evidence with the assumption of ID? 5. Finally, are there any predictions you can make about the structure of the human genome that would distinguish the evolutionary model from the ID model? In a way this should have been my first question since its the most important. Evolution and ID are such vastly different explanations there should be a huge number of predictions that should distinguish them. A predictions would take the form of: "if evolution is the better explanation we would expect to see X,Y and Z when we search for/analyse phenomena A, but if an intelligent designer created humans at a fixed point in time, or tweaked the lineage leading to humans we would expect to see 1,2 and 3 instead of X,Y and Z It should go without saying that general observations and things we already know the answer to dont count as 'predictions' RodW
A big red flag should come up, immediately the word, 'selection' appears. I said yesterday that selection necessarily predicates a mind. I should have cited the will, volition. Explaining how that could arise from inanimate matter seems even more inconceivable(!) than mind's emergence from matter. The will, itself, of course, is a function of the soul. Axel
OK Jacoby- How many mutations did it take to get from a quadraped/ knucklewalker to an upright biped? What genes or DNA sequences were involved? IOW how can we test the claim that chimps and humans shared a common ancestor? Joe
Question: Can NEUTRAL mutations account for the differences of structure of behavior of humans and chimps? Answer: The number of mutations between humans and chimps matches the number of mutations between humans and chimps.
Looking back at the article, the question was: Can NEUTRAL mutations account for the genetic differences between humans and chimps? The answer was: The number of differences between humans and chimps matches the number of differences we should expect given the known mutation rate and distance to the last common ancestor. JacobyShaddix
Mung, I got a chuckle out of how Moran uses the phrase "in other words." His "in other words" is to use words which mean nothing he claims, and then throw in the phrase "in other words" to magically alter the meaning of the entire phrase. Question: Can NEUTRAL mutations account for the differences of structure of behavior of humans and chimps? Answer: The number of mutations between humans and chimps matches the number of mutations between humans and chimps. In other words...I am Canadian, I can speak French if I want to. Or in other words, not only does Moran not understand the evolutionary problems, he doesn't even understand what in other words means. He has a long ways to go. phoodoo
Larry Moran:
I recently wrote up a little description of the differences between the human and chimpanzee/bonobo genomes showing that those differences are perfectly consistent with everything we know about mutation rates and the fixation of alleles in populations. In other words, I answered Vincent Torley’s question.
IOW, he did not answer Vincent Torley's question. Any simpleton should know better. A description is not an explanation. An assertion that the differences between A and B are perfectly consist with some theory about how differences might arise is not an explanation of what separates A and B, what distinguishes A and B, unless it reduces to the tautological (and thus non-explanatory) claim that the differences "explain" the differences. Only a moran doesn't understand the difference. Mung
Great article, vjtorley! It seems to me that the neutral theory of evolution is simply a mechanism for the hopeful monster theory. In other words, the "punctuations" in punctuated equilibrium are expressed only under environmental stress. Thus, the NTE explains the lack of intermediate forms and long periods of morphological stasis separated by massive die offs. As such, I can see the attraction of NTE for discouraged Darwinists. Considering the diversity of modern humans, I'm not sure that there's that much of a difference between us and Neanderthals, at least not in the scope of NTE. --------------------------- Now, for a little humor on the subject of Neanderthals on this auspicious day, I'd like to repost the following: Evidence for Unsuccessful Evolutionary Auto-Domestication of Ursus Spelaeus While definitive scientific understanding is currently incomplete, recent discoveries of cave bear remains (Ursus spelaeus) comprising the complete skeletons of an adult male, adult female, and a juvenile Ursus along with those of a pre-pubescent Neanderthal female (Homo neanderthalensis) seem to indicate the termination of a nascent evolutionary domestic mutualism. Near the tiny French village of Qui se Soucie, a cave that the locals laconically refer to as la Grotte was investigated. After removing several tons of contemporary detritus, researchers were able to disinter the previously described remains, along with a scattering of Neanderthal artifacts, both decorative and utilitarian. Ursine hibernation was indicated by three pear-shaped depressions in the cave floor. The remains of what appears to have been a wood fire was located within a half meter of the large end of the largest depression Evidence of an episode of vigorous activity in the cave included numerous claw marks on the cave walls as well as carbon deposits from one or more burning torches. Additional evidence of the Ursus as an opportunistic omnivore includes scarring and tooth indentations on the Neanderthal bones. The Neanderthal female, nicknamed "Goldilocks" by the researchers, apparently disturbed the hibernation of the bears by building a fire for additional warmth way too close to where the large, male Ursus was hibernating, and, as one researcher described it, "setting his caboose on fire." "Obviously, the domestication scenario rapidly destabilized into a fatal asymmetric commensalism," noted another researcher. Have a great April! ;-) -Q Querius
Q: Can the neutral theory of evolution explain what makes us human? A: No. Nor was it intended to do so. Mung

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