Tag Archives | Evolution

Modern Human Evolution: Is It Working Against Us?

i-8c66c4d51330345ea25f9764619ec10e-human-evolutionIn the vein of discussion recently on disinfo regarding how politically correct (or morally obligative) it is to address a person’s stupidity, Nicholas Wade writes a challenging and frank article for Time.com to promote his book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes Race and Human History.

…Racism and discrimination are wrong as a matter of principle, not of science. That said, it is hard to see anything in the new understanding of race that gives ammunition to racists. The reverse is the case. Exploration of the genome has shown that all humans, whatever their race, share the same set of genes. Each gene exists in a variety of alternative forms known as alleles, so one might suppose that races have distinguishing alleles, but even this is not the case. A few alleles have highly skewed distributions but these do not suffice to explain the difference between races. The difference between races seems to rest on the subtle matter of relative allele frequencies.

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Should We Listen For Messages From Our Future Selves?

PIC: Robert Fogliardi (CC)

PIC: Robert Fogliardi (CC)

[BEEEEEEP] “Hi! We’re busy devolving into morlock-like vault-dwelling nocturnal predators deep beneath the post-apocalyptic hellscape of future Earth, but if you leave us a message, we’ll grunt and hoot in an inchoate mix of rage, envy and hunger.”

The basic principle behind the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is that we’re better off hearing from extraterrestrial intelligence than we are not hearing from extraterrestrial intelligence, but—even assuming we don’t catastrophically screw up first contact (and we may)—we have no guarantee that the alien civilization we reach will share any of our history, values, or priorities.
But there’s one alien civilization we can count on to share at least some traits in common with us: the Earth of the future. And having learned of Cambridge physicist Luke Butcher’s discovery this week that Casimir energy may be able to keep a wormhole open long enough to send photons back in time, I have one question: why the heck would we want to do that?

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Beliefs In Ghosts And Gods Might Be Based In Early Evolution Of Brain

Caveman_8

PIC: PD

The Nature Spirits told me to share this with you.

Notions of gods arise in all human societies, from all powerful and all-knowing deities to simple forest spirits. A recent method of examining religious thought and behaviour links their ubiquity and the similarity of our beliefs to the ways in which human mental processes were adapted for survival in prehistoric times. It rests on a couple of observations about human psychology. First, when an event happens, we tend to assume that a living thing caused it. In other words, we assume agency behind that event. If you think of the sorts of events that might have happened in prehistoric times, it’s easy to see why a bias towards agency would be useful. A rustling of a bush or the snapping of a twig could be due to wind. But far better to assume it’s a lion and run away.

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Humans Evolving Faster According to Expert

Sometimes it doesn’t seem that way…071210_evolution_hmed2p.hmedium

Humans are evolving at an increasing rate, thanks to medical advances and a larger population, Pobiner said at the “Future Is Here,” a two-day conference celebrating the future of humans, the planet, life beyond Earth and deep space, hosted by Smithsonian Magazine. But just as humans are continuing to evolve, human parasites are evolving, too.

“I invite you to look into the eyes of our ancient relatives,” Pobiner said. “Why did most human ancestors go extinct, while homo sapiens survived? The answer has a lot to do with human brains.” [Top 10 Mysteries of the First Humans]

The human brain represents only about 2 percent of the body’s weight, but consumes 20 percent of its energy. The biggest evolutionary changes have occurred in the neocortex, the brain’s outer wrapping that processes abstract thinking, long-term planning, empathy and language, Pobiner said.

via Human Evolution ‘Definitely Not’ Over, Expert Says | LiveScience.… Read the rest

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Will Humans Evolve Into Hermaphrodites?

PIC: Webridge (CC)

PIC: Webridge (CC)

Scientists have uncovered evidence of Y chromosome degeneration in plant life. Will we, too, evolve to become a species of hermaphrodites?

TORONTO, ON – In many species, the possession of X and Y chromosomes determines whether an individual develops into a male or female. In humans, for example, individuals who inherit their father’s Y chromosome become male (XY), and individuals who inherit their father’s X chromosome become female (XX).

This system of sex determination has evolved independently multiple times and a striking feature of its evolution is that Y chromosomes have degenerated genetically, losing many genes over time. What is not well understood, however, is what happens to the Y chromosome during the earliest stages of this evolution, or the time scales over which degeneration occurs.

Now, University of Toronto (U of T) researchers have found a way to shed light on the early stages of degeneration, by investigating the process in plants.

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Building Alien Worlds – A Paper on the Neuropsychological and Evolutionary Implications of DMT

Pic: Terpsichore (CC)

Pic: Terpsichore (CC)

Fellow disinfo psychonauts might find this of interest… Researcher and DMT-Nexus member Andrew R. Gallimore, PhD., has published a new paper on DMT in the Journal of Scientific Exploration. It is currently being hosted on The Nexian news site, and is free for viewing/download. The role that DMT and its tryptamine relatives- such as 5-meo-dmt and bufotenine -play in the nervous system, and its evolution, is far from fully understood. Hopefully works like this could help shed some much needed light on the subject:

Abstract—Arguably the most remarkable property of the human brain is its ability to construct the world that appears to consciousness. The brain is capable of building worlds during waking life, but also in the complete absence of extrinsic sensory data, entirely from intrinsic thalamocortical activity, as during dreaming. DMT, an extraordinary psychedelic, perturbs brain activity such that indescribably bizarre and apparently alien worlds are built. This property of DMT continues to defy explanation.

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Missouri Republicans Propose Bill Requiring Parental Consent For Children To Learn Evolution

schoolVia Talking Points Memo, enabling parents to send their children to school without worry that they will be subjected to science:

A Missouri lawmaker has proposed what ranks among the most anti-evolution legislation in recent years, which would require schools to notify parents if “the theory of evolution by natural selection” was being taught at their child’s school and give them the opportunity to opt out of the class.

The bill had its first public hearing Thursday after being introduced in late January. State Rep. Rick Brattin (R), who sponsored the bill, told a local TV station last week that teaching only evolution in school was “indoctrination.”

The bill is one of several anti-evolution proposals that have already appeared in statehouses across the country. But Brattin’s bill appears to be the only one, and perhaps the first, that would mandate parental notification that their children were being taught evolution in school.

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Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham: The Debate

bill-nye-ken-ham-debateOn Tuesday night, Bill Nye the Science Guy debated Ken Ham (founder and head of Answers in Genesis) at Ham’s Creation Museum in Kentucky for a lively debate which centered around the following question: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” The debate was moderated by Tom Foreman (CNN) and he kept a tight leash on the evening, making sure that both Nye and Ham had equal time to comment and respond. They each gave a five-minute opening statement, followed by a half-hour presentation (each), then time for rebuttals, and ended the evening with quite a few questions from the audience.

Some scientists are annoyed with Nye for giving Ham what they consider to be unnecessary publicity and a platform from which to espouse his unique beliefs. While I understand these concerns, I have a slightly different take: as someone who was raised by young-earthers (I actually met Ham at a creationist conference in upstate New York when I was a kid…yes, that was our family vacation that year!) I am really hoping that parents of similarly-minded households the world over will sit their kids down and force them to watch this debate or that said kids will find their way to it on their own, because it may in fact be the first time in their young lives when evolution will be presented to them in a way that is logical, balanced, and non-biased.… Read the rest

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Scientists Discover Fossil of Four-Legged Nightmare CrocoFish

Scientists think that they may have uncovered a vital evolutionary link between ocean-dwelling fish and their land-dwelling descendents in the form of Tiktaalik roseae. By the description, I think it’ll make a fine candidate for the SyFy monster movie of the week.

Scientists investigated fossils of a 375-million-year-old fish known as Tiktaalik roseae, discovered in 2004 in northern Canada’s Ellesmere Island. Possessing a broad flat head and sharp teeth, Tiktaalik resembled a cross between a fish and a crocodile, growing to a length of 9 feet (2.7 meters) as it hunted for prey in shallow freshwater.

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