Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Strongest Evidence for Evolution

Normally I wouldn't blog about something I see in the comedy section on google video or youtube.... but in this case I have to make an exception.

The reason this video is significant, aside from the obvious, is because it clearly highlights the process of Natural Selection. That cow shouldn't be breeding. And luckily for the rest of his species, his own clumsiness helps ensure that he will not be breeding.

Natural Selection is the primary mechanism of evolution, and the evidence for it is overwhelming and not even really disputed anymore. The creationists shift their arguments to the time scale of the process. They say it takes too long for new mutations or traits to be entered into the process.

For example, consider this. The first primate who gained the use of an opposable thumb would have been so successful that he would have spread his new genetic trait throughout his entire species in a very short period of time. But still, a creationist might say it takes a longer time than I'm suggesting, because I have no proof of how long the process would actually take. But the key is that I don't need to know how long it would take.

Yes, proof can be a tough thing to come by sometimes. I'm sure any neocon will tell you that. But sometimes the proof that is missing is not the same kind of proof that is required, and nor is it the only kind. For example, you do not need to prove that the sun is round to prove that the earth revolves around it. And, curiously, once you prove the earth does revolve around the sun, you have proven indirectly that that sun is round. That's the great thing about science (and truth).

I dont know how long it takes for one new trait, like an opposable thumb, to filter through an entire species. But luckily it does not matter. Because I DO know that such a strong trait would lead to new abilities, and those new abilities would cause rapid selection of other traits. The ability to hold and use a weapon or tool for example. And from there comes the selection of many more traits: the ability to detect motion well, the ability to imagine what would make a good weapon or tool, the ability to sketch, etc etc. All of these traits would have already existed, but they might not have been very large factors in evolution. Now with the introduction of just one new trait, the opposable thumb, those other traits can begin entering the natural selection process and producing new results.

The whole process snowballs (ie, the ability to pick up and throw snowballs, thus allowing the snowball-loving children to pressure their parents to move to higher latitudes... I'm joking, but this too makes sense in a way, doesn't it? Sorry, I'm still reeling from that cow video). And that's how you end up with a new species in a short amount of time.

If one could chart evolution, one would see a series of rapidly occuring natural selection events (spikes) interspersed between long periods of relative inactivity and evolutionary stagnation. The opposable thumb is one of those traits that would produce a spike on the evolutionary chart. One of many such traits. They are the keys to understanding evolution.