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Could humans grow beaks in another million years.., 
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Post Could humans grow beaks in another million years..,
if it advances the species?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/evol ... dicts.html

Or have we as a species stopped evolving?
if so, what evolutionary evidence is there for claiming that?



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Sat Jul 06, 2013 5:57 pm
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Post Re: Could humans grow beaks in another million years..,
I doubt that we've stopped evolving, and I don't think anyone can realistically speculate on the selection pressures that we might face a million or ten million years from now. I suppose we could genetically engineer changes to our physiology as the article suggests, but that sounds like a Frankenstenian experiment that would lead to unexpected consequences.

One argument I've heard is that we humans, by virtue of our big brains and capacity for language, can now change our environment to suit ourselves. As a species we have proven to be so well adapted to our environment that we've already achieved mastery over all other animals. It seems to me our real danger is that we are too successful for our own good. We may end up destroying our environment with chemicals and poisons or blow ourselves up with our vast arsenal of weapons. As such, we aren't nearly as advanced as we think we are. We are still a violent and primitive species with a lot of arrogance and hubris. And yet, our culture evolves at a much faster rate than biological evolution, and so we have the capacity to better understand the way our brains work to develop critical thinking methods so that we can learn to override our primitive instincts.


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Sat Jul 06, 2013 10:56 pm
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Post Re: Could humans grow beaks in another million years..,
ant wrote:
if it advances the species?


This is a good question by the way. What does advance the species mean?

We tend to think of ourselves as the pinnacle of creation. This is where the idea comes that God made us and infused our being with special purpose. But from an evolutionary perspective, we are just really quite good at surviving and procreating. And so is the cockroach. What makes us so special anyway?

We do have consciousness and self awareness so, as Sagan said, we are a way for the universe to know itself. That's pretty heady stuff, and that perhaps makes us pretty special. On the other hand, many of the critters on the earth are also pretty special.

We're so quick to make value judgments that a cat is better than a mouse and a mouse is better than an insect and an insect is better than a rock. And homo sapiens are always the pinnacle of creation. But we are obviously biased. This is speciesism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speciesism

It's interesting to look at the medieval concept of the Great Chain of Being which itself comes from early Greek philosophy. The assumption is that everything has its place. We do make value judgments and always humans are at the top. Above humans are angels and, of course, God. But we also used to assume that the nobleman was above the peasant and the male was always higher than the female on the Great Chain, assumptions that aren't so widely accepted any more.

http://faculty.up.edu/asarnow/GreatChainofBeing.htm

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Sun Jul 07, 2013 10:08 am
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Post Re: Could humans grow beaks in another million years..,
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We tend to think of ourselves as the pinnacle of creation. This is where the idea comes that God made us and infused our being with special purpose. But from an evolutionary perspective, we are just really quite good at surviving and procreating. And so is the cockroach. What makes us so special anyway?


I can not speak for "we" so I will speak for "me"
I actually do not feel we are the "pinnacle of creation."
Despite not being the pinnacle of creation, I think you know my take on this re "purpose"
Not being the pinnacle of the universe does not necessarily mean Creation does not have purpose ascribed to it.

When compared to a cockroach, I'd say that the cockroach does not have the ability to reflect on itself.
The cockroach does not seem to be capable of altruism either.
If you find either or both of these attributes special in any way, then the answer is clear.

But, yes, I agree; many critters that inhabit the earth are special in their own unique way. I'd say they ALL are.


The relationship between the hominid species and evolution is a curious one.
The development of consciousness seems to be a radical phenomena that arose from an evolutionary context that is based strictly on a physico-biological setting that conventional Darwinian thinking assumes as fact.

Why for instance has mathematical reasoning evolved the ability to develop abstract mathematics, non-commulative algebra, and profound theorems that describe and predict, sometimes years in advance, aspects of the natural realm? Conventional Darwinism would predict developments with obvious survival advantages, such as elementary arithmetic and basic geometry. It seems absurd to view advance mathematics has fortunate spin-offs of evolutionary survival necessity.
Why is Fermat's Last Theorem, or Gödel's incompleteness theorems necessary for hominid survival?

I'd say from a conventional Darwinian contextual perspective someone like Johnson would rather have the beak than Gödel's theorem in his utility survival belt.



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Mon Jul 08, 2013 12:33 pm
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Post Re: Could humans grow beaks in another million years..,
ant wrote:

Why for instance has mathematical reasoning evolved the ability to develop abstract mathematics, non-commulative algebra, and profound theorems that describe and predict, sometimes years in advance, aspects of the natural realm? Conventional Darwinism would predict developments with obvious survival advantages, such as elementary arithmetic and basic geometry. It seems absurd to view advance mathematics has fortunate spin-offs of evolutionary survival necessity.
Why is Fermat's Last Theorem, or Gödel's incompleteness theorems necessary for hominid survival?


It seems to me that the ability to do math is a function of a larger brain. I'm not sure mathematics specifically gave us a survival advantage, but a large brain gave us a grab bag of many useful abilities and some of them conferred survival advantages. To single out a particular mathematical theorem and ask how did this help our ancestors survive seems like putting the cart before the horse. Also, our brains evolved a predisposition towards language, but we still have to learn what words mean. That doesn't mean that it makes sense to see the human capacity to learn about 100,000 words helped us to survive, but generally our propensity towards linguistics probably conferred many advantages.

Part of our brain is devoted to running simulations, so we can imagine what will happen if we jump off a cliff and know that it wouldn't be a good idea to put it to the test. I would think this part of the brain helps us explore the largely theoretical world of mathematics as well. There are lots of happy accidents in evolution. Our nose gives us a handy place for our spectacles to rest, but that doesn't mean that's what the nose was "designed" for.

Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin coined the term "spandrel" as an evolutionary adaptation that is co-opted for other uses. I think it was Gould who speculated that religious belief might be a spandrel. Noam Chomsky has speculated that our propensity towards language is a spandrel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spandrel_%28biology%29


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Mon Jul 08, 2013 1:27 pm
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Post Re: Could humans grow beaks in another million years..,
Quote:
if it advances the species?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/evol ... dicts.html

Or have we as a species stopped evolving?
if so, what evolutionary evidence is there for claiming that?


I doubt we've stopped evolving. However, I don't agree with the post on the benefits of beaks vs teeth. The disparity is already resolved via technology. When we select a mate, there's a good chance that at least a portion of their dentistry is fabricated. We aren't selecting for an actual phenotype. I'm missing 8 teeth, a trait passed on by my father. Yet I have fake teeth. The mutation isn't selected against, because my wife had no idea.

Perhaps if civilization collapses, our phenotypes won't be faked up with makeup and plump-up.


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Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:49 pm
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Post Re: Could humans grow beaks in another million years..,
Quote:
It seems to me that the ability to do math is a function of a larger brain. I'm not sure mathematics specifically gave us a survival advantage, but a large brain gave us a grab bag of many useful abilities and some of them conferred survival advantages


It perhaps is a truism that a larger brain would connote expanded cognitive abilities. Considering there is ample evidence that the hominid brain has developed in size and complexity during historical epochs of evolution, however far into the future evolution will take us it is unclear if size will continue to be a determinant of intelligence.

A roach, without the need for a large brain and without the need for an understanding of the intelligibility of the natural world on par with our understanding continues to outpace us with its ability to evolve advantageous survival mechanisms. As a product of conventional Darwinism it develops only that which will increase its survival chances.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/ ... traps.html

Why does our grab bag include so many useless "abilities" for our survival? My ability to do non-commulative algebra is not necessary for me to survive in my current environment. Should I compare this mathematical ability to my body's appendix (it's there but useless)? Or will it serve its evolutionary purpose some where down the road?

Quote:
To single out a particular mathematical theorem and ask how did this help our ancestors survive seems like putting the cart before the horse.


And yet at the present moment we can not help to ask these questions. And we should not deny their validity (or are they invalid to you?) or brush them off as peculiarities. Why should we?
The ability to do advance mathematics seems to transcend our brute evolutionary survival needs in an enormous manner.
That is freakishly odd.

Quote:
There are lots of happy accidents in evolution.


Many, many advance mathematicians would beg to differ with you. Many mathematicians affirm belief in the existence of a mathematical realm that is a realm of discovery. Mandelbrot was not the designer of fractal sets, he discovered it. There are only a handful of men like Mandelbrot capable of advance mathematics. Indulging Mandelbrot, would you say that his "discovery" was a happy evolutionary accident?

Quote:
Our nose gives us a handy place for our spectacles to rest, but that doesn't mean that's what the nose was "designed" for.


Oh, please, Geo. We are not talking about noses here.

Let's say for the sake of the argument that we are not discovering mathematics, we are designing mathematics.
Might it be for the sake of hanging our intellectual hats on?
Another development of a type of language that happens to have enormous predictive explanatory power by sheer luck and or coincidence?

Interesting.



Mon Jul 08, 2013 6:23 pm
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Post Re: Could humans grow beaks in another million years..,
Quote:
It perhaps is a truism that a larger brain would connote expanded cognitive abilities. Considering there is ample evidence that the hominid brain has developed in size and complexity during historical epochs of evolution, however far into the future evolution will take us it is unclear if size will continue to be a determinant of intelligence.


It's anyone's guess what will happen to our brain size. I've heard of studies showing that it has shrunk over the last couple thousand years. But perhaps that's a passing fad, and in the technocratic future, traits will be selected for that require increased brain size.

Guessing the future is more an art than a science. Many science fiction books have hit the nail on the head when predicting the future. But I think that's due more to the sheer volume of ideas in the genre. Many would inevitably come close to the truth. In many sci-fi books I've read recently, humans are depicted as we are now, but with augmented intelligence and bionics.

Perhaps mathematical ability will be obsolete, if math processors are ever seemlessly merged into our brains.

We have the capacity to do nearly anything, working up towards godhood without ever needing a change to our genetic code. In every other species, the phenotypes it has are those defined by it's genetic code. In more complex species, even behavior is encoded which results in extended phenotypes. Such as a beaver dam or spider web. But those are limited and specialized. In humans, our phenotypic extensions are no longer defined by our genetic code. They are defined by the total catalogue of what we're able to create(including information).

In many sci-fi books, humans are depicted as modifying the genetic code, or even writing the code for an entirely new species, from scratch. Who's to say we won't eventually understand the code well enough to apply upgrades. If you live on the moon, you get a set of bigger lungs and the option for webbing between appendages so you can glide.


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Mon Jul 08, 2013 7:41 pm
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Post Re: Could humans grow beaks in another million years..,
"Who's to say we won't eventually understand the code well enough to apply upgrades."

If you can entertain this possibilty, then imagine yourself examining genetic code that had been altered or upgraded
Upon examination what evidence would you look for which would indicate beyond a reasonable doubt additive code was authored by an intelligent "Agent"?



Mon Jul 08, 2013 8:16 pm
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Post Re: Could humans grow beaks in another million years..,
ant wrote:
The ability to do advance mathematics seems to transcend our brute evolutionary survival needs in an enormous manner.
That is freakishly odd.

Quote:
There are lots of happy accidents in evolution.


Many, many advance mathematicians would beg to differ with you. Many mathematicians affirm belief in the existence of a mathematical realm that is a realm of discovery. Mandelbrot was not the designer of fractal sets, he discovered it. There are only a handful of men like Mandelbrot capable of advance mathematics. Indulging Mandelbrot, would you say that his "discovery" was a happy evolutionary accident?


This is beginning to resemble an argument of irreducible complexity, the notion that some biological systems are too complex to have evolved from simpler organisms. It also seems odd to single out mathematics when our brains (and brains of "lesser" critters) are capable of a multitude of complexities that seem to far surpass our "brute evolutionary survival needs." But even many brute life forms are capable of simple mathematics. Even sharks supposedly have an ability to count. So mathematical ability is probably more innate than we imagine from our lofty pedestal.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/artic ... y-to-count

We also discovered the ability to invent the telescope which enables us to see the cosmos in much greater detail than with the naked eye. Does that mean we evolved the ability to make telescopes?

Chimps have amazing short-term memory, better than humans.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTgeLEWr614


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Mon Jul 08, 2013 8:33 pm
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Post Re: Could humans grow beaks in another million years..,
ant wrote:
Upon examination what evidence would you look for which would indicate beyond a reasonable doubt additive code was authored by an intelligent "Agent"?


Beyond a reasonable doubt? I don't know of any evidence that would get us to that point. Proving a negative would be difficult I think. Is there any positive evidence for your hypothesis?

The best we could do I imagine is to find what parameters govern mutations. Find those parameters, then you have a full matrix of possible genetic changes and shifts. Take that and compare it to the difference between homo sapiens and the next nearest evolutionary relative. If there are differences that fall outside the matrix of possible genetic drift, then we would have to figure out why. When we get there, and if we struggle figuring out why, your hypothesis would be one of many considered.

Of course there would be other hypotheses, most of which would be naturalistic. How would we know the genetic modifications weren't the product of sentient aliens? Anyone who wants to believe the intelligence would be a god rather than an alien would scoff at the idea, of course. But how implausible do you think it is? I can foresee a possible future where our species modifies the genetic code of life on another planet to elevate one to sentience. What a gift. Or would it be a curse? Ignorance is bliss.

ant wrote:
If you can entertain this possibilty, then imagine yourself examining genetic code that had been altered or upgraded


I think it's inevitable that we'll understand our genetic code enough to modify it. We've already started, even though most attempts are shots in the dark at this point. The complexity of causal infrastructure will take many large computers to understand. The process from single cell to grown adult is all chemistry, from what we can tell. Chemistry is all math based. At some point we'll have a computer that can take any genetic code you throw at it and produce a model of the organism in a fraction of a second. An idealized version, of course. Actual development from code to lifeform involves unknown environmental variables. Think twins with different fingerprints due to variations of mechanical forces and nutrient allocation while in the womb.


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Post Re: Could humans grow beaks in another million years..,
We could never have an avian beak. The boat sailed on that a long time ago.

We could have a structure that superficially looks like a beak, the same way that an insect's bristles look like hair, but they would never be the same structure.

As to why we would evolve beaks...? i don't think so.

Thanks to our mastery of technology, i doubt very much the selective pressure is in place to push us in the direction of bigger or more powerful ingest structures. It was probably technology which allowed for the current degeneration of our mandibles, as fire breaks down the physical structure of our food allowing for weaker jaws to eat steak, which allows for smaller less robust jaw muscles, which allows for the slow expansion of our craniums and the removal of that bone ridge seen in other animals which anchors their powerful jaw muscles.

Now couple our mastery of fire and our ability to process foods there seems no reason to have more robust jaw structures, so i don't see how a beak would be benefitial. Especially as our REAL evolutionary advantage hinges on the sharing of ideas, and that is primarily fascilitated with language.

I don't doubt that our face structures might change, but i don't know what environmental pressures would influence it at this point.

Ant,
Really? You think i would favor a beak over mathematical reasoning? You must start feeling really itchy, wrestling with those straw men all day.


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Have you tried that? Looking for answers?
Or have you been content to be terrified of a thing you know nothing about?

Are you pushing your own short comings on us and safely hating them from a distance?

Is this the virtue of faith? To never change your mind: especially when you should?

Young Earth Creationists take offense at the idea that we have a common heritage with other animals. Why is being the descendant of a mud golem any better?

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Post Re: Could humans grow beaks in another million years..,
Quote:
Ant,
Really? You think i would favor a beak over mathematical reasoning? You must start feeling really itchy, wrestling with those straw men all day.


That's pretty cute. By what reasoning you are calling it a straman is beyond me.

My point about preferring a beak over mathematical reasoning that endows you with the ability to, say, measure the distance between two stars is to highlight the fact that within the context of Darwinian Evolution, a beak means more to the survival of the species than appreciating Mozart, or Shakespeare, or authoring a classical score, or performing an act of radical altruism to save the life of a total stranger.

If you are devoted to natural selection as an explanatory hypothesis for the complexity that is the hominid, then you must at least attempt to explain why it is that profound mathematical abilities are a product of natural selection's survival mechanisms.

Or did I overlook it?
Let me look while you try to make the elephant in the room disappear.



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Post Re: Could humans grow beaks in another million years..,
so you are claiming that you don't understand how the ability to understand the world and make connections about events could be even more benefitial to our survival than having a beak which can crack open nuts?

Mathematics, at it's root, is just understanding relationships. 2 is 1, twice. Over to my left is one chicken, to my right are two chickens. When i make a move to grab one, they will all run away. I have a better chance if i go after the two chickens.

ta-dah! mathematical reasoning is useful!

I think the real elephant in the room would be how you have contorted your brain to the point you think that someone like me would be making the argument that it would be better to have a beak which can open walnuts, rather than the kind of reasoning abilities that would allow you to make nut crackers... and telecommunications, and medicine, and agriculture.


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In the absence of God, I found Man.
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Have you tried that? Looking for answers?
Or have you been content to be terrified of a thing you know nothing about?

Are you pushing your own short comings on us and safely hating them from a distance?

Is this the virtue of faith? To never change your mind: especially when you should?

Young Earth Creationists take offense at the idea that we have a common heritage with other animals. Why is being the descendant of a mud golem any better?

Confidence being an expectation built on past experience, evidence and extrapolation to the future. Faith being an expectation held in defiance of past experience and evidence.


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Post Re: Could humans grow beaks in another million years..,
ant wrote:
. . . If you are devoted to natural selection as an explanatory hypothesis for the complexity that is the hominid, then you must at least attempt to explain why it is that profound mathematical abilities are a product of natural selection's survival mechanisms.

Or did I overlook it?
Let me look while you try to make the elephant in the room disappear.


Ant, really? What other theories are being put forth to explain the evolution and diversity of life on the planet earth? There are none. You are basically making the Intelligent Design argument of irreducible complexity—nothing more than a repackaged God of the Gaps. There is zero evidence to support an intelligent designer. You are just looking for gaps in our scientific knowledge and saying that there must be a God. That's not a theory. And it's certainly no "elephant in the room."

By the way these arguments have already been soundly refuted by—whoa!—actual scientists. Indeed there was a test case in the 2004 Dover school district trial challenging a public school district policy that required the teaching of intelligent design in the classroom (based on the concept of irreducible complexity). But as the trial made abundantly clear, there is no theory to teach, and the argument for irreducible complexity is only a negative argument against evolution.

Quote:
"As expert testimony revealed, the qualification on what is meant by "irreducible complexity" renders it meaningless as a criticism of evolution. (3:40 (Miller)). In fact, the theory of evolution proffers exaptation as a well-recognized, well-documented explanation for how systems with multiple parts could have evolved through natural means."

Quote:
"As irreducible complexity is only a negative argument against evolution, it is refutable and accordingly testable, unlike ID [Intelligent Design], by showing that there are intermediate structures with selectable functions that could have evolved into the allegedly irreducibly complex systems. (2:15-16 (Miller)).

Quote:
"We therefore find that Professor Behe’s claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large. (17:45-46 (Padian); 3:99 (Miller))


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreducible_complexity


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