Thursday, May 12, 2005

Skell's list of things that can't be explained

PZ Myers got hit back in January by Skell's list of things that can't be explained by evolution.

  1. The Mars Rover
  2. Homo floresensis
  3. Human Cloning
  4. Ultracold condensate
  5. Junk DNA
  6. A pair of neutron stars
  7. Global extinctions
  8. Binding of water molecules
  9. Partnerships in treating health problems
If you look through the Evolution Project for research on Mars, you'll see that evolutionary thinking motivates much of Mars exploration.

You'll also find a lot on H. floresensis. We look for fossils or new species because evolutionary logic tells us they ought to be there. Macroecology tells us that large mammals on small islands ought to get smaller, and phylogenetic constraints tell us hominines can only get smaller so fast. Dumb example.

The techniques used to clone humans are built on research in sheep (remember Dolly?), cats, dogs, mice, as well as frogs and insects (which do their own thing.) The similarity of humans and sheep, etc. are based on common descent. That's evolution.

What the hell does ultracold condensate have to do with anything?

Junk DNA is a result of the random duplication and mutation of genes, the same process which generates new genes in a single gene family. That's how a lot of evolutionary novelty is generated. Oops.

Neutron stars? He wants to talk about neutron stars? How about the evolution of eyes to see them, and brains to create telescopes. Neutron stars my ass.

Global extinctions are a crying shame, and a sign of how tenuous fit between a species and its environment can be. Species are adapted to a particular environment, and when it changes, they aren't well enough designed to get around it.

If water molecules didn't bind the way they do, plants wouldn't work, and we'd all starve. Life has evolved to use water and all it's special features to its advantage.

I'm not sure what the partnerships in question are, but evolution is vital in controlling disease outbreaks, in managing genetic disease, and understanding how the body works so that surgeons can fix it. Our psychologist friends have explained how evolution plays into their work, and psychology has an important role in the social side of medical partnerships.

I hope the NAS puts him in his place.