September 30, 2015

There are 6 species of great apes alive today, so why is there only one species of human?

"Our own species appeared around 200,000 years ago, at a time when several others existed. Yet today, only we remain." Why?
For the first 100,000 years of our existence, modern humans behaved much like Neanderthals. then something changed. Our tools became more complex, around the time when we started developing symbolic artefacts.... For tens of thousands of years, before we developed these abilities, modern humans and other hominins were fairly evenly matched.... Any other species could have taken our place....

138 comments:

tim in vermont said...

Back before the ice ages began, there were 38 species of great apes. That's when the planet was significantly warmer than it has been in 5 million years. When it was the temp, 38C, I think, however they measure that, that is has been for the vast majority of the planet's history.

But we are all gonna die!

As far as your first question, we hunted them down and killed them, or interbred and co-opted them.

FWBuff said...

"Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'” Gen. 1:26

iowan2 said...

Ummm, Darwin? The question answers itself.

Big Mike said...

Some mathematician a few decades ago discovered that if one species of genus homo could outcompete the others by as little as 7% then the other species would flat disappear within a startlingly short number of generations.

Birkel said...

If my grandmother had wheels she'd be a bicycle.

surfed said...

We killed them. It's the one thing that man does really well - killing other men. It's our calling card. We will probably get better at it still. There is room for improvement of the skill.

Tibore said...

Fitness. That's the word the article is grasping at.

It is fascinating to see that just knowing the broad strokes of the process doesn't reveal much if anything about the journey. Which is what the article is all about: The fact that the path the hominin lines took to result in homo sapiens is unknown. It's a given that the single species of human is the result of evolution, but how that came to be is just not clear or even blurry but recognizable yet. That'll be an exciting and worthy investigation in and of itself. Who knows what'll be discovered by digging into it?

eric said...

Do these guys get degrees in storytelling before they go out and make these discoveries?

Birkel said...

Whatever is left, if sentient and with a developed language, would right the same article eventually.

Michael K said...

Read "Clan of the Cave Bear." It's all there.

eric said...

Blogger iowan2 said...
Ummm, Darwin? The question answers itself.


It's like global warming. Everything proves it true.

William said...

Homo habilis tasted better than Homo sapiens, especially in its more evolved barbecue phase.

Tibore said...

"Big Mike said...
Some mathematician a few decades ago discovered that if one species of genus homo could outcompete the others by as little as 7% then the other species would flat disappear within a startlingly short number of generations."


Cool. I don't know whether that actually reflects what happened in hominin evolution or not, but it's still interesting to see another argument that it doesn't take much for success to built upon itself and have large results over time. I wouldn't be surprised if even smaller differences could, over a large enough timescale, produce the same result.

tim in vermont said...

I think something like the "Anthropic Principle" states that the winner gets to perceive these kinds of puzzles.

buwaya said...

" It's a given that the single species of human is the result of evolution, but how that came to be is just not clear or even blurry but recognizable yet."

It is, like all these things, the result of an enormously large number of random events, a subset of which, still an enormously large number, could, on their own, have made for a greatly different outcome. Such as a Neanderthal world, or no sapient hominids, or anything.

God loads the dice.

Ann Althouse said...

To say Darwin is only to state that you know there is an answer but you don't know what exactly it is.

Why are there 6 species of great apes but only one of humans? Why were there multiple species of humans in the past, but only one now? To say the fittest survived is not to identify the elements of fitness and how they played out and when and what other factors were involved (e.g., the climate).

Tibore said...

"William said...
Homo habilis tasted better than Homo sapiens, especially in its more evolved barbecue phase."


I have a hypothesis I believe is testable: That the oldest "profession" indeed has nothing to do with sex, but instead has to do with groups of cooks arguing over the best wood to smoke meat with.

I'm tellin' ya, folks, there's legitimate research to be done there. Now if I can just convince some evolutionary anthropologists to agree with me... :D

Tibore said...

"Ann Althouse said...
To say Darwin is only to state that you know there is an answer but you don't know what exactly it is."


Saying "evolution" (because the field has long gotten past the point where a single name defines it) is to state the framework within which you'll find the answer. "Fitness" would be the foundation the answer will be built on. Further research would indeed be needed to identify what's involved, the interaction between all the factors, and how everything played out.

Captain Ned said...

Domestication of the dog gave us our competitive edge.

tim in vermont said...

Is it just me, or is Althouse thinking like a girl today?

gerry said...

Homo sexuali bred themselves out of existence. But they had very beautifully decorated caves.

gerry said...

Oh, and we are all, ultimately, African.

Scott said...

When did you start thinking like a girl, Tim?

Gahrie said...

First of all, it is not established that there is only one species of human. If we were willing to use the same metrics on humans that we use on other animals, we would probably recognize at least three species of humans today. (at the very least three sub-species) There are at least three distinct genetic populations of humans.

Secondly, much of the answer lies in the ability of humans to spread to, and adapt to different environments. The great apes are all geographically isolated from one another. Look at what happened when the great cats were allowed/ forced to live together in the U.S.. All of a sudden you had Ligers and Tigons which never occur in the wild.

tim in vermont said...

Show me where I have, Scott.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I would say the reason there is only one species of human is travel.

Separate species require geographic separation, otherwise they will interbreed if possible, converging into a single species ( which happened with at least 3 types of humans ) or they will compete with each other in the same ecological niche. If competing, even the slightest fitness advantage will come to dominate over sufficient generations.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

tim in vermont said...

Show me where I have, Scott.

You said

Is it just me, or is Althouse thinking like a girl today?

That can be humorously misinterpreted as Is it just me thinking like a girl today, or...

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Why are there 6 species of great apes but only one of humans? Why were there multiple species of humans in the past, but only one now?

I'm going to take a wild guess, cause homo sapien were more aggressive than the other species?

I remember seeing a documentary not so long ago about homo sapien wiping out neanderthals. Usually in a documentary like that they costume the humans to look like woodland hippies. Lots of beads and wearing badly fitting furs.

In this documentary they wanted them to look evil so they had their faces painted and they were wearing leather, like a bad guy in a Mad Max movie. It was actually pretty cool.

Fernandinande said...

Neandertals threw like girls, so had to hunt with close-up spear jabs rather than less-dangerous spear throws.

Human brain uses a lot of calories so Meat, Cooked Foods Needed for Early Human Brain

Ron Winkleheimer said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toBWYvtobH0

Check it out at 1:08 on for the scary Cro Magnons.

James Pawlak said...

The other apes lack "Spirit" or S"Soul".

jr565 said...

Maybe because there has only been one human race. And because the great apes are each their own respective race?

tim in vermont said...

That can be humorously misinterpreted as Is it just me thinking like a girl today, or..

LOL, well played sir.

Fernandinande said...

Gahrie said...
First of all, it is not established that there is only one species of human. If we were willing to use the same metrics on humans that we use on other animals, we would probably recognize at least three species of humans today. (at the very least three sub-species) There are at least three distinct genetic populations of humans.


Human "races" would be called sub-species for any other organism.

The most genetically distinct group of humans are probably bushmen/pygmies: "There is more genetic distance between the Bushmen and Bantu than there is between Bantu and Koreans."

jr565 said...

Unless we want to say what we consider race (Asian, black, Caucasian, etc) are in fact variations of human's race. In which case, what happened was, they mingled and interbred.

Paul Snively said...

One thing I have always greatly respected about 2001: A Space Odyssey, the movie: the opening has the monolith somehow change the hominin's thinking so a bone becomes a means of transitioning to an omnivorous diet (no PC vegetarian BS for Kubrick), but the first thing the hominins do with it is kill their rivals for the limited watering hole.

There's no such thing as a tool that isn't also a weapon.

The rest of the film then makes the point that further evolution consists of rising above such zero-sum thinking, and ultimately overcoming the fear of our own mortality completely. But before that can happen, we have to become tool users and survive, and that implies killing those who would have no qualms about killing us. As others have pointed out, homo sapiens sapiens is frighteningly good at this.

madAsHell said...

As far as your first question, we hunted them down and killed them, or interbred and co-opted them.

....and to think Islam has only been with us for 1300 years!

Fen said...

Why are there 6 species of great apes but only one of humans?

Meh. I'm beginning to think there is not just one species of human.

But ssssshhh. We have to pretend there are no significant differences...

Fen said...

"we hunted them down and killed them, or interbred and co-opted them."

I seem to recall reading something recently that said the study on interbreeding was pulled due to some kind of scientific fraud. Will see if I can find it again.

MayBee said...

I thought we read a while ago that some percentage of the population has some Neanderthal in us.

And I agree with the others. Are we certain there is only one species of human?

jr565 said...

"For the first 100,000 years of our existence, modern humans behaved much like Neanderthals. then something changed. Our tools became more complex, around the time when we started developing symbolic artefacts.... For tens of thousands of years, before we developed these abilities, modern humans and other hominins were fairly evenly matched.... Any other species could have taken our place...."

My guess, we could always make tools. We just got better at making them.

Qwinn said...

If they could interbreed and produce fertile offspring, then they were by definition the same species.

Or is this another word that has been redefined in service to the Narrative? Hard to keep up.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

"There are 6 species of great apes alive today, so why is there only one species of human?"

The "so" in that sentence is a problem. A huge percentage of life on Earth lives underwater, so why do humans breathe air? There are 0 species of [insert favored extinct megafauna] alive today, so why were there 10 in the past?

Ann Althouse said...To say Darwin is only to state that you know there is an answer but you don't know what exactly it is.

That's true only for certain understandings of "an answer," though. It's an answer to say that an uncountable number of particular circumstances over a particular time led to a particular outcome. Some of those circumstances were sufficient and some were necessary for the outcome, but it's not really possible to give a meaningful (or at least a meaningfully precise) answer if you're asking for a list of the things that caused the result. "Evolutionary pressures" will have to do.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Paul Snively said...

There's no such thing as a tool that isn't also a weapon.

I don't think Garage Mahal really counts as a weapon.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

MayBee said... Are we certain there is only one species of human?

Biology usually defines species as the group that can breed with one another but not with others--so the species limit is those you can successfully breed with. The word species is also used to mean groups that are similar, but that usage doesn't usually say anything about breeding capabilities.
If you're using species in the biological sense, we're pretty certain there's only one species of human now.

Freeman Hunt said...

Booyah, les autres!

#winning

MayBee said...

If you're using species in the biological sense, we're pretty certain there's only one species of human now.

Ah, duh (me). Of course.

MadisonMan said...

I think it's pretty obvious why. Scaroth (a Jagaroth) killed the competing species off so as to improve his chances of finding his way back to his exploding self 400 million years ago.

Freeman Hunt said...

We were smarter and more social, therefore funnier. Women like men who make them laugh, thus reproductive success.

Tibore said...

"jr565 said...

My guess, we could always make tools. We just got better at making them."


You know, there's been the faintest glimmer of a hypothesis in my mind that it wasn't simply that homo sapiens were better at making tools. It's also that they (well, we) were more imaginative at applying them and conceptually abstracting from their use.

Problem is, as a layman I just don't know anywhere near enough about paleoanthropology to know how to go about testing that hypothesis. Plus, I read articles on how sophisticated some Neanderthal art and tools were and I begin to wonder if I'm on the wrong track with that.

Tibore said...

" Freeman Hunt said...
We were smarter and more social, therefore funnier. Women like men who make them laugh, thus reproductive success."


I don't know what you're talking about. Women have laughed at me plenty of times, and I've never gotten laid afterwards. ;) :D

Freeman Hunt said...

Does a woman want to reproduce with a boring, artless guy or a funny guy who made a lion man statue? The answer is obvious.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Freeman Hunt said...

Women like men who make them laugh, thus reproductive success.

I don't know about that. An awful lot of women laugh at me, and it has not led to much reproductive success.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Tibore-

Great minds think alike. Apparently, so do ours.

Hagar said...

Species are not that strictly defined. The definition is just populations that do not normally interbreed. Thus it depends on what you consider "normally" to mean, and whether you are a "lumper" or a "splitter," and how "lumping" or "splitting" will fit into your political agenda.

Thus the Rio Grande minnow is considered a different species than the Pecos River minnow, though the only difference is a slightly different coloration due to the different colors of the water.
However, when the moths in London changed from black to grey-white after the City outlawed coal fires so that the trees where the moths lived no longer was covered with soot, this was hailed as a great example of evolution, but no reason to change specie classification.

Drago said...

"Why are there 6 species of great apes but only one of humans? Why were there multiple species of humans in the past, but only one now?"

White privilege.

Duh.

tim in vermont said...

If they could interbreed and produce fertile offspring, then they were by definition the same species.

Definitions change all the time. Lions, tigers: ligers. Polar bears, brown bears, broler bears (OK, I made up that name)

Political definitions of what comprises a "species" is as old as taxonomy, I suspect.

eric said...

The species limit.... Those you can successfully breed with.

Mix that with a common ancestor and you get some pretty solid story telling.

Gahrie said...

If they could interbreed and produce fertile offspring, then they were by definition the same species.

Some ligers and tigons can breed, but tigers and lions are still separate species.

Peter said...

So much speculation from such a sparse fossil record, all rolled into a "science says" story ... leaves me skeptical that one can have much confidence in these theories of species extinction.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

eric said...

The species limit.... Those you can successfully breed with.

Mix that with a common ancestor and you get some pretty solid story telling.



I could tell you some stories about our family reunions...

C Stanley said...

Isn't the premise of the question wrong? Humans ARE one of the species of Great Apes.

Unknown said...

My genetic testing says I have unusually high amounts of Neanderthal In me

Hagar said...

My ex-wife says that about me without any testing.

Smilin' Jack said...

"Our own species appeared around 200,000 years ago, at a time when several others existed. Yet today, only we remain." Why?

Anyone who's seen "One Million Years B.C." knows the answer to that. Those other species realized they could never produce anything like Racquel Welch, so they just gave up.

jr565 said...

Hagar wrote:

However, when the moths in London changed from black to grey-white after the City outlawed coal fires so that the trees where the moths lived no longer was covered with soot, this was hailed as a great example of evolution, but no reason to change specie classification."

But was it an example of evolution in action? Did the moths actually change or was it due to predatory patterns of birds. When the soot was on the trees, certain moths have an inherent advantage in that they are not seen as well by birds or those animals that would eat them. Thus the birds kill off the ones that they can see. leaving the darker ones to be the majority. When the pollution levels change it then changes which moths the predators hunt first. And thus the darker ones no longer have the advantage. But that did not mean that moths changed from light to dark and then back.

Michael Manerus in evolution in action wrote ""My view of the rise and fall of the melanic form of the peppered moth is that differential bird predation in more or less polluted regions, together with migration, are primarily responsible, almost to the exclusion of other factors." (p. 155).

If that were so then the environment changed, not the moth.

Matt said...

Wait a minute, a conservative blog is commenting about the existence of evolution and the earth being older than 4000 years old? Wow. What next, immunizing children is okay and global warming is actually happening?

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Hagar said...However, when the moths in London changed from black to grey-white

Careful...

traditionalguy said...

When you talk great apes you are in monkey land.

But the human species that made war best is the winner, and war is a brain power game. Ginghess Khan was the best.

Then we have the Dutch and Franks from behind the glaciers of Norge as a close second.


Today we have a WWF match coming up between Trump the Dutch Dude and Putin the Terrible Tartar.

Gahrie said...

Wait a minute, a conservative blog

If you think this is a Conservative blog, you need to get out more.

This is a liberal blog that allows Conservatives to comment freely, which is exceedingly rare, so I understand your confusion.

Alex said...

Probably because homo sapiens and H. Neanderthal competed for the same food. H. Sapiens won the food source and H. Neadnerthal died out. The other great apes subsist on different food.

tim in vermont said...

Wow Matt. Did your mother leave the computer on?

Gahrie said...

What next, immunizing children is okay

By the way, it is wackos on the Left who are anti-vaccination, not Conservatives.

Bruce Hayden said...

"There are 6 species of great apes alive today, so why is there only one species of human?"

This is a false premise. The problem is that there are really seven species of great apes, and we are one of them. The only reason that people can argue that we are not, is that we are the ones doing the classifications. From an evolutionary/genetic point of view, it would probably be closer to say that there are two species of gorillas, two of baboons, and three of chimpanzees (except that chimps may be better described as belonging to genus "homo", since we named ourselves, before we named them). We humans appear to have diverged from the other two chimp species maybe 7 1/2 million years, and the chimps (including us) from gorillas maybe 10 million years ago, and baboons a bit before that. Which means that from an evolutionary/genetic point of view, the other chimp species are closer to us than they are to gorillas and baboons.

That isn't, of course, what the authors are really arguing here, but rather that we (homo sapiens) have managed to kill off our closest relatives. Or, they were just evolutionary dead ends (mostly - because several of our sister "homo" species managed to breed back into our homo sapiens line, including, interestingly, the Neanderthals). One theory that I have seen that doesn't seem to have been mentioned above in regards to the Neanderthals is that they died out about the time that we were inventing agriculture, and that agriculture allowed a much denser population than did pure hunting. And, the denser population would likely result in the ability of weaker humans to beat their stronger cousins through our larger numbers. And, yes, we have seen that continuously since then, with hunter/gatherers being forced out by population pressure of more agrarian societies.

The Godfather said...

"Our own species appeared around 200,000 years ago, at a time when several others existed. Yet today, only we remain."

If the Neanderthals had survived and the Homo Saps gone extinct, we (Neanderthals) would be making the same observation.

Fen said...

Matt said: Wow. What next, immunizing children is okay?

Wow, not only are you a bigot, you're an ignorant one.

The anti-vax crowd is mostly left wing. In fact, I believe a white house advisor said you could identify their communities by sticking a pin in every Whole Foods on a map.

clint said...

Define "species".

If the six species of great apes had airplanes and could travel the world, would they just be considered six "races" of great ape, or are they really genetically incompatible?

A quick google search suggests they indeed could interbreed.

So the answer is: there are six species of great apes because they lack the human ability to travel great distances.

Phil said...

"groups of cooks arguing over the best wood to smoke meat with"

Pecan. You're welcome.

chuck said...

Georgy Gause's law of competitive exclusion. He published a nice study of competition between two species of crayfish and proposed a mathematical model that fit the result. Basically, when two species come into competition for an ecological niche, only one survives. Note that Wikipedia misses the work based on crayfish, but that, along with a study of predator prey interaction, was published in a book that I read way back when.

befinne said...

This question isn't serious. Species adapt to their environments or die, and humans are so intelligent that they adapt to anything from deserts to rain forests to the Arctic. We're the first and only species to overcome the law of survival of the fittest.

Hagar said...

That is how evolution works; those who are more exposed to danger die sooner and eventually die out.
So the population changed from black to white.

Scott Rothfus said...

MadisonMan, I saw what you did there. Doctor Who forever!!

Laslo Spatula said...

Freeman Hunt said...
"Does a woman want to reproduce with a boring, artless guy or a funny guy who made a lion man statue? The answer is obvious"

So many women have wanted Little Laslos.

Hence anal sex.

And blow-jobs.

And bukkake.

I think you get it.

I am Laslo.

Rusty said...

. Are we certain there is only one species of human?

My clan is decended from bears.

Matt said...

Gahrie & Fen

Regarding anti-vaxers, note the GOP debate proved that some big name individuals running for the White House are wary of vaccinations. Trump is clearly anti-vaccine [he mentioned the rise of autism], Carson said Trump would make a good doctor and let Trump slide, Paul said vaccines should be spread out over a long period of time because... America and freedom. I'll grant you Jenny McCarthy is probably a Democrat. But she's not running for office.

With regards to evolution, a Pew Research poll from 2014 showed 43% of Republicans believed in evolution while 67% of Democrats believe in evolution. This is consistent with other polling. So, okay, 43% is better than none. But it is no secret that conservatives tend to be wary of evolution vs. creationism.

BN said...

"Does a woman want to reproduce with a boring, artless guy or a funny guy who made a lion man statue?"

I don't know. Let's ask that great artistic comedian Ghengis Khan.

Gahrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gahrie said...

Trump is not a Republican or a Conservative.....he's just running in the Republican primary.

Paul is at best a reluctant Republican, and certainly not a Conservative.

Evolution is a theory, not a fact. It is currently our best explanation, but some forms of creationism have definitely not been ruled out.

It is the need to deny the obvious facts of science on the Left that is the problem.

A fetus is clearly a human life.

Climate change is obviously primarily caused by the sun.

Overpopulation is not a problem. We are no where near the carrying capacity of Earth.

rcocean said...

"This is a false premise. The problem is that there are really seven species of great apes, and we are one of them."

No we're not. The whole "we're cousins of the Apes" is incorrect and obsolete.

Basil said...

In order for Darwin to be true there would have to have been millions and millions of randomly deselected species and subspecies which preceded every current species. An unbelievably large fossil record which simply does not exist. There is no Darwinian explanation for the very small fossil record.

eric said...

Blogger rcocean said...
"This is a false premise. The problem is that there are really seven species of great apes, and we are one of them."

No we're not. The whole "we're cousins of the Apes" is incorrect and obsolete.


Not too long ago, I had a co-worker ask me, "Are we descended from the apes?"

He said it in a mocking, condescending way, because he is atheist and knows I am Christian.

I said, of course we aren't descended from monkeys or apes. And he laughed and shook his head and looked around the room at other co-workers and said something like, "See? Facts make no difference to him." or something along those lines.

Then I said, "You need to catch up. You're a few decades behind the times. Your side believes in a common ancestor, not that we're descended from apes." and he says, "What's a common ancestor?"

I said, "Google it and get back to me."

He apologized about 30 minutes later, but pointed out I don't believe in a common ancestor either.

Lucien said...

You could probably make up lots of stories. Pretend there were two species that interbred: one had larger skulls and the other smaller. The females of the small-skulled species had pelvises adapted to deliver small-skulled babies. A lot of them died in childbirth after breeding with big-skulled males. Not so so the other females. (It's just a story.)

Drago said...

Basil: "In order for Darwin to be true there would have to have been millions and millions of randomly deselected species and subspecies which preceded every current species. An unbelievably large fossil record which simply does not exist. There is no Darwinian explanation for the very small fossil record."



"The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persist as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils ….We fancy ourselves as the only true students of life's history, yet to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study." - Stephen J. Gould - "Evolution's Erratic Pace," Natural History, vol. 86 (May 1987), p. 14.

There has been no substantive change in this "trade secret" since 1987 either.

Of course, by not quoting every single thing Stephen J. Gould has written or said in his entire life the quote I provided above represents a "heavily edited" "lie".

Drago said...

Matt: "But it is no secret that conservatives tend to be wary of evolution vs. creationism."

LOL

"...wary of evolution vs. creationism."

What are you, twelve?

Char Char Binks said...

I know an atheist who doesn't believe in evolution because there's only one species of human. That doesn't make any sense. Why are there six fox genera, and only one house cat species? Why are there three goose genera, and twelve tern genera? Why are there four puffin species, and only two beaver species? There's no upper limit for number of species, but there's is a lower limit for any surviving species, or any other taxonomic category, and that is one.

Fen said...

Matt: With regards to evolution, a Pew Research poll from 2014 showed -

Polling data...

Which would be irrelevant even if it wasn't rigged, as 70% of the public doesn't understand what the theory of evolution is (see what I did there...)

And I suspect that you are just like them - you don't really understand the science behind it, you just like to say "evolution!" because it makes you feel superior to "those rubes over there" that you hate so much. Same reason you promote Global Warming without having the faintest idea what the actual science says...

I believe in evolution, by the way.

But for our entertainment, why don't you explain what evolution means to you? I'm sure it will be easy for you, since you are all sciencey and shit. But I'm betting you don't really know, and will have to google it....

chuck said...

@Drago Stephen J. Gould was also selling a product, punctuated equilibria. The observation was not new with him and the debate is still underway.

n.n said...

There may not be only one humanoid species. In fact, the presence of a mimic species would explain the concerted effort to advocate normalization of dysfunctional orientations and behaviors. Including, but not limited to, the voluntary genocide and exploitation of human young under a pro-choice quasi-religious cult. There is no other credible theory to explain the popular adoption of orientations and behaviors antithetical to evolutionary fitness.

Freeman Hunt said...

The question isn't "Why so few hominids?" The question is "Why so many apes?" Chimps, for example, are terrible.

Joe said...

Imagination and the ability to transfer knowledge through generations.

gadfly said...

One human species - and we're all made out of ticky-tacky:

And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there's doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

Original Mike said...

"But was it an example of evolution in action? Did the moths actually change or was it due to predatory patterns of birds. When the soot was on the trees, certain moths have an inherent advantage in that they are not seen as well by birds or those animals that would eat them. Thus the birds kill off the ones that they can see. leaving the darker ones to be the majority. When the pollution levels change it then changes which moths the predators hunt first. And thus the darker ones no longer have the advantage. But that did not mean that moths changed from light to dark and then back."

You really don't understand evolutionary theory.

Laura said...

The answer most likely lies in a vast creationist decomposition conspiracy. That, or unlikely, random, and rarely repeated preservations leave much more room for conjecture than scientific method.

Maybe all the purple people eaters are molecular now or microbes are racist. Too girly?

Bruce Hayden said...

Not sure why Rcocean thinks that we are not great apes, etc. Is your argument biblical? Do you have some citations? Links?

I did a bit more research trying to see where you were coming from, and failed. Scientific consensus still seems to be that we are closest to the two species of chimps, then gorillas, and then orangutans. We do have one fewer pair of chromosomes than the other great apes, but that is explained by merging (and a swap or so) two chromosomes for our chromosome two. Still, I don't see, from the sequenced genomes, how you can construct a taxonomy where chimps, gorillas, and orangutans are in one group (here, the Great Apes), and we, humans, are not.

jr565 said...

Original Mike wrote:
You really don't understand evolutionary theory.

If you say so. Reread the quote, and then look where it came from. The author is not exactly anti evolution.

jr565 said...

Original Mike,
Just because evolution believers cite something as an example of evolution, doesn't make it so.Those pushing evolution are just like those pushing climate science which PROVES that the earth is warming and its caused by carbon emissions.
You may be right, but are your conclusions observable or based on conjecture? You don't get to have your conclusions assumed to be absolute simply because you assert them.

I understand it fine. those pushing the moth story cited evolution when what was occurring really wasn't an example.
Someone above cited the moths and said "However, when the moths in London changed from black to grey-white after the City outlawed coal fires so that the trees where the moths lived no longer was covered with soot, this was hailed as a great example of evolution, but no reason to change specie classification."

But did the moths actually CHANGE from white to black? Right there there's a problem with your premise. It is not an accurate one. If the moths didn't in fact CHANGE from black to white, its not an example of evolution. Maybe micro evolution. You could make an argument about survival of the fittest and adaptaton or predatory patterns, but that's not what was being suggested. and no one would question that some animals will thrive in certain environments over others.

The peppered moth stayed a peppered moth. And there is little evidence that the peppered moth made any changes at all based on environment. No, what changed was due to environment, one moth was more visible or thrived because it had an inherent advantage.
the peppered moth story provides evidence for changes of frequencies of different types within a population, but does not show that large scale evolution occurred.
And was based on experiments that were based on faulty assumptions. For example, subsequent observations of moths show that they prefer to settle in areas of the tree higher than those used by Kettlewelll when he came up with his findings. He also released them at the wrong time of day. And released too many at once. etc. The conclusions drawn then weren't even based on an accurate study of moths to begin with.

It was subsequently shown that the frequency of moths was due to the predatory pattern of birds, who see in ultraviolet light. If they see the white moth better in the polluted environment, that becomes it's food. therefore the black moth which isn't eaten as readily becomes more prevalent. No changes occurred in the moth population that would make a white moth change colors due to change in his environment.
And if it didn't, why would you use it as an example that proves evolution?

jr565 said...

there is micro evolution and macro evolution. The thing at issue with those that don't believe in evolution, is macro evolution. if you can show natural selection it doesn't prove macro evolution just because they are both part of evolutionary theory. Most people are not going to to question the premise that nature runs on survival of the fittest.

The problem with the moths is that there were always light and dark moths. The only thing that was changed was the number. Yes, the dark moths thrived, but that had nothing to do with any changes in the moth.

If white rhinos are valued for their horns, it leads to more poaching of rhinos. If more rhinos are poached, they get killed off in greater numbers. They are at an inherent disadvantage. True, but what does that say about the rhino in evolutionary terms?
The rhino is not changing, or even adapting. If the argument is animals that are hunted more tend to die out in greater numbers, great. but no one would argue otherwise. that's common sensical. How has the white rhino CHANGED?

jr565 said...

Natural selection can only "select" from biological variations that are available and which have value in helping animals survive. what biological variations can be naturally produced or are possible? That's the argument. Those pushing evolution seem to want to suggest that because natural selection exists it also proves that macro evolution exists.
Darwin assumed that any variation was possible and assumed macro evolution. Because he didn't understand that variations are determined by genetics.

DavidD said...

I love how the media use examples of micro evolution as proof of macro evolution--or how society uses the word "evolution" in completely nonsensical contexts, as in "My views on gay marriage have evolved."

"Oh, look, that shark has evolved due to changes in its environment caused by global warming." A two-fer!

But it's still just another shark.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I certainly can't prove evolution happens. However, evolution rests on three concepts: heritablity, mutation, and natural selection. All of these are proven to happen. Given those, plus a fuck-load of time, evolution would logically follow. Unless there is something stopping it. Something that prevents mutations from happening randomly, or something that prevents survival of the fittest. Something that science has never observed.

Todd said...

Basil said...
In order for Darwin to be true there would have to have been millions and millions of randomly deselected species and subspecies which preceded every current species. An unbelievably large fossil record which simply does not exist. There is no Darwinian explanation for the very small fossil record.

9/30/15, 7:50 PM


There is a LOT of guesswork that goes on in archaeology. Fellow digs in the dirt, finds a smiggin of bone, carbon dates it and WHAM extrapolates an entire creature out of it.

That one bone fragment is then used to validate an entire species of animal. This is in part because fossils are so rare. Takes a lot of happenstance to create one and then additional happenstance to find one, and yet more happenstance to properly place it in context.

Imagine trying to construct an entire car out of a old hub-cap and then extrapolate that into an entire theory of the automobile and what they all looked like and how they worked. THAT is archaeology.

The reality is it is little bits of evidence piled up with many other little bits of evidence with them rarely finding the big picture.

Even when they do make a big find like that entire mastodon frozen in the ice or that entire "primitive man" found frozen in the ice, that one sample is then used to describe the entire population. How would you like it if 2000 years from now, the entire 20th century was defined by archaeologist uncovering the body of a crack whore? That is what archaeology is.

Now I do believe in the theory of evolution. I believe that environmental pressures have a influence on the dominant traits of species and that generally, those traits that improve the survival of a species are selected (over time) over those that do not.

It is all still just a theory though...

Roger Sweeny said...

Qwinn,

There are many different definitions of "species." John Wilkins counted 27 and wrote two scholarly books about them, Species: A History of the Idea (2009, University of California Press) and Defining Species: A Sourcebook from Antiquity to Today (2009, Peter Lang Publishing). The wikipedia article on "species" mentions many different species concepts. And Wilkins had an interesting article in theguardian, "How Many Species Concepts are There?" http://www.theguardian.com/science/punctuated-equilibrium/2010/oct/20/3

It is part of the folklore of biology that there are "lumpers" ("These are all one species.") and "splitters" ("These are at least two species.").

Of course, politics affects people's attitudes. When it comes to preservation, biologists tend to be splitters ("These are two genetically distinct populations."). When it comes to humans, they are almost unanimously lumpers ("We are all one species.").

Roger Sweeny said...

from the article: "But when Europe began experiencing rapid climate change, some researchers argue, the Neanderthals may have struggled."

OMG Someone tell Rush.

Roger Sweeny said...

Wait a minute, a conservative blog is commenting about the existence of evolution and the earth being older than 4000 years old? Wow. What next, immunizing children is okay and global warming is actually happening?

I don't know which is less reality-based, the idea that this is a conservative blog or that not immunizing children and denying that global warming is actually happening are defining features of conservatives.

Roger Sweeny said...

jr565,

In regard to the peppered moth, the environment changed causing the population of moths to change. In particular, there was a greater percentage of dark forms when there was a lot of pollution and a smaller proportion when there wasn't.

Using a definition of evolution as "a change in the relative frequency of genes in a population," this was evolution. However, it was not what most people think of as evolution. It was not the creation of a new species.

Roger Sweeny said...

Bruce Hayden,

I think you mean orang-utans, not baboons.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The peppered moth example shows both natural selection and heritablity, but not mutation*, thus not an example of evolution.


*as far as we know. Of course it is possible that a mutation effecting pigmentation happened at the same time, but there is no reason to expect that such a mutation did occur.

Roger Sweeny said...

Natural selection can only "select" from biological variations that are available and which have value in helping animals survive. what biological variations can be naturally produced or are possible? That's the argument.

That is absolutely true. Many people who don't believe in "macro-evolution" make what Richard Dawkins derided as the "argument from personal incredulity"--I can't imagine it; therefore it can't have happened.

Until recently, biologists who believe in macro-evolution couldn't do too much more than make the argument that Ignorance is Bliss does: "I certainly can't prove evolution happens. However, evolution rests on three concepts: heritablity, mutation, and natural selection. All of these are proven to happen. Given those, plus a fuck-load of time, evolution would logically follow."

But biologists now know a lot more about how genes work and how genetic changes can cause changes in an organism. One early, well-written popularization is Sean Carroll's Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo (2006). A more recent book that I found interesting was Andreas Wagner's Arrival of the Fittest: Solving Evolution's Greatest Puzzle (2014). That "greatest puzzle" is basically your question, "what biological variations can be naturally produced or are possible?"

DavidD said...

@Roger,

It's interesting that Dawkins derides people who don't believe in macro evolution as arguing from personal incredulity when that was exactly Darwin's argument for why God could not possibly have created so many distinct species of finches; Darwinian evolution is predicated on a lack of imagination on Darwin's part.

Drago said...

chuck: "@Drago Stephen J. Gould was also selling a product, punctuated equilibria."

That was the only think I liked about him. Academic turned "entrepreneur".

Bruce Hayden said...

Roger - but that doesn't end the debate. Problem is that we are the end theoretical result of billions of mutations. We can see single mutations in operation, and know the probability of such happening. But we have large gaps in the genetic record that would require dozens, if not hundreds, of mutations. We know the frequency of mutation and serial mutations, and us, as an end result are statistically possible, but apparently barely so. Could a divine being have pushed things along a bit? It cannot be discounted yet, and might be more statistically probable. We just don't know yet, and those probabilities continue to evolve - for example it appears that our rate of mutation is maybe double that predicted a couple of years ago. (Interestingly, it appears that 3/4 of our mutations come from male sperm, instead of female eggs in humans. This apparently goes to 7/8 for our chimp relatives, probably due to their larger testes).

jr565 said...

Here's a reason I have a problem with (macro) evolution. The theory that we evolved from dolphins.
http://io9.com/5899331/humans-could-have-evolved-from-dolphins
There is literally zero evidence that the hypothesis makes any sense. And if you actually look at the individual assertions that the evolutionary biologist assumes to be true its based on pure conjecture, that doesn't even correspond to how adaptation works in the world. They ascribe almost magical properties to adaptation to explain evolutionary changes, which realistically couldn't and wouldn't happen

jr565 said...

"Roger - but that doesn't end the debate. Problem is that we are the end theoretical result of billions of mutations. We can see single mutations in operation, and know the probability of such happening. But we have large gaps in the genetic record that would require dozens, if not hundreds, of mutations"
Not hundreds, millions. The argument is that elephant like creatures became manatees. They lost their front legs and got flippers. Just the move from legs to flippers requires almost astronomical amount of changes. Similarly to go from a lung structure that breathes oxygen to one that can survive under water. The animal would have had to had all those changes simultaneously, over and over over thousands of generations. And each time still be able to survive in the environment, which according to those pushing the theory is actually changing. if a land borne creature is not living in water, why would it start changing and evolving to move to water? Can animals even do that?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Can animals even do that?

No. Animals cannot evolve. If you don't understand that then you do not understand the theory of evolution.

Roger Sweeny said...

jr565,

Did you read that article you cited? Contrary to the headline, it isn't about a theory that humans evolved from dolphins but about a theory that humans evolved from "aquatic apes." It gives a number of reasons why the theory might be true but concludes:

The most compelling argument against the Aquatic Ape is a lack of evidence. Where are the intermediary stages of this Aquatic Ape? Where are the bones embedded in sea shores with shells? Where are the teeth? ... But no bones have been uncovered. ...
In the end, this lack of fossil evidence is why the Aquatic Ape theory isn't generally pursued by the scientific community at large.

Roger Sweeny said...

Just the move from legs to flippers requires almost astronomical amount of changes.

No, it does not. Bodies are not built like buildings. A relatively small number of genetic changes can have large impacts.

Freeman Hunt said...

A friend and I once discussed how fun it would be to make fake anti-evolution videos. The best idea was to explain that, "According to the theory of evolution, you can put this sack of garbage outside and in a million years, a dog will leap out of it. [Cartoon sack of garbage shown with flies around it. Time quickly counts to 1,000,000 years as bag slumps and decays slightly. At 1,000,000, happy dog bursts out. Narrator switches to incredulous voice.] Now do you really believe that?"

Freeman Hunt said...

"Evolution says your great great great great great great great great grandmother slept with an ape. An ape! Do you really believe that about your own grandma? Of course not! Evolution's not just wrong; it's vulgar and insulting!"

Original Mike said...

Freeman, please stop giving jr more crazy ideas.

Roger Sweeny said...

No. Animals cannot evolve.

But Pokemon do.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzZqxkkUHLc

The Bear said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Bear said...

A number of people are really close to the truth here but either lack the imagination (or have too much class) to spell it out. Remember that - whole homo sapiens' gift of symbology allowing them to communicate thingy? Its called imagination. The other species didn't "die out" or were slaughtered.

As we can see looking around at our modern culture the answer is as plain as day ... and we are as obsessed with it now as we were from the beginning. These other subspecies hadn't had time and separation enough to evolve sufficiently differentiated DNA ...

And male homo sapiens have proved time and time again ... they will screw anything that isn't sealed shut - be it a knothole in a tree, sheep, or that furry neighbor with the sloped forehead.

Gad ... people just seem to ignore the obvious.

Harold said...

"The definition is just populations that do not normally interbreed."

NORMALLY? kind of a key word in that definition. Using that definition, it could very easily be argued that there are multiple human species, at least 3 major ones.

While black-white marriages are becoming more common in the USA, they do not NORMALLY occur. The number of Asian-Black marriages in Japan and China probably don't need the fingers of both hands to count. They most definitely do not NORMALLY occur.

tim in vermont said...

I used to like to argue with creationists. Not anymore. How many times can you argue with somebody who makes up restricted conditions, assigns numbers to them arbitrarily, then tells you that the odds of this or that happening are impossible?

It's pointless. Let them believe what they want.

tim in vermont said...

I guess my only problem with teaching creationism in schools is that it encourages students to indulge in faulty logic.

Roger Sweeny said...

tim in vermont,

Macro-evolution (as the creationists call it) is literally an incredible theory, hard to believe. (It is also a cruel and inefficient process, which seems out of place in a benevolent universe. That's one of the major themes of Jason Rosenhouse's Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line (Oxford UP, 2012). Rosenhouse is an atheist and "evolutionist" but an honest and sympathetic one. Have you read the book? I thought it was exceptionally good.)

Lots of creationists just want to understand the world (and want it to be good).

mikeyes said...

Ann,

Why don't you ask John Hawks that question? He is in walking distance and he knows who you are.

Rusty said...

The Bear said...


Brother!