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John Hawks gives a very decent presentation on rapid evolution. Very much worth watching, and this field of study should yield some highly interesting results in the years to come.

 

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I agree that this is a very interesting talk.  I was quite surprised by the idea that instead of the existing population adopting agricultural, they were replaced by a new population  that brought agriculture with them.  Another interesting point was the spread of lactase tolerant and lactase intolerant populations over 5-8 thousand years.

The human-chimp divergence discussion was confusing.  He seemed to be saying that the differences were small compared to what might have been expected.

An article in New Scientist (http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028061.300-why-evolution-is...) which I have in print upstairs somewhere tells of stickleback fish that over a period of a few decades have adapted between fresh and salt water environments (and back again.)  When in salt water, they need heavy scales for armor but this is a disadvantage in the fresh water environment.  As their environment changes, they quickly evolve to heavy or light scales as required. The authors interpretation is that instead of the gene controlling this feature, they are actually a reflection of it.

The article gives other examples as well which I will hopefully dig out and update this thread with soon.

As with many other areas in life, we tend to interpret evidence within the context of our belief system.  A medical doctor will discount the health improvements arising from a raw, healthy diet but ascribe full credit to drugs or vaccines for any health improvement noted after beginning treatment.  Contemporary physicians and scientists will detect bacteria in an open wound and say that it's "infected" and requiring antibiotics to kill the infection.  A natural hygienists will see it as part of the body's cleanup mechanism and leave it intelligently alone to complete the job it was sent there for.

I suspect that this is true about genetics as well.  John Hawks gives the game away when he says that several genes can influence color pigmentation.  It's obviously so complicated that they should readily admit that they are decades away from actually knowing enough about genetics to even consider playing with it.  By all means observe but fiddling with the DNA of any living entity is playing with fire and is almost guaranteed to get us burned.

Thanks for the link and your thoughts.

 

As for fiddling with things, that's more or less what we've been doing all the way, beginning with the first guys ~2.5 mya who noticed you could get usable sharp tools by breaking certain stones in a particular way. Experiment and see what happens - that's been pretty much our modus operandi, though I agree that we now have tools that allow us to learn without needing to break all the eggs. Once we get enough computing power, we'll be able to simulate almost anything and won't need to do everything IRL. N doubt they'll be experimenting with DNA and genetic manipulation anyway, it's too well underway to stop it.

 

I like John Hawks' presentations, not sure when he's fully accurate and when not but he's a good presentator. He has a lecture series on evolution which I greatly enjoyed listening to.

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