Evolution 101- part 8: Here Come the Beetles!

Remember, normal text is copied from Evolution 101 by the Understanding Evolution team! (aka: Evo-Event Staff) http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

BOLD font is me, Rent A Friend 2000, being Bold.

Descent with modification

We’ve defined evolution as descent with modification from a common ancestor, but exactly what has been modified? Evolution only occurs when there is a change in gene frequency within a population over time. These genetic differences are heritable and can be passed on to the next generation — which is what really matters in evolution: long term change.

They’ve got the last part right- long term change is what matters, but their definition is still paper thin and an inch tall. A Change in Gene Frequency is not good enough. It needs to be an INCREASE in genetic information, not merely a change in the frequency of genetic information which is already there. This is like saying “I know where this candybar originated! I can prove that this chocolate bar used to be a gum recipe because I found a label on one that says, “Now 20% bigger!”” Which is delicious but nonsensical. Also, I know America has forgotten this, but CHANGE can mean decay, or other forms of getting worse. If enough of the right genes go away, the species dies. Extinction is not evolution, even if they do appear on the same page of your glossary.

Compare these two examples of change in beetle populations. Which one is an example of evolution?

1. Beetles on a diet
Imagine a year or two of drought in which there are few plants that these beetles can eat.
 beetles1
All the beetles have the same chances of survival and reproduction, but because of food restrictions, the beetles in the population are a little smaller than the preceding generation of beetles.  beetles2
I’m gonna say no. A skinny John Lennon is still just John Lennon.   2. Beetles of a different color
Most of the beetles in the population (say 90%) have the genes for bright green coloration and a few of them (10%) have a gene that makes them more brown.
 beetles3
Some number of generations later, things have changed: brown beetles are more common than they used to be and make up 70% of the population.  beetles4

Which example illustrates descent with modification — a change in gene frequency over time?

I don’t know how they fail to see that these are two different questions. Yes, there is decent (As we’re told some generations have passed) but there is no modification! The original population had green and brown beetles, and now the present generation has green and brown beetles. Nothing has been modified. Is it me? Is this harder to see than I think it is? Because to me, green and brown beetles giving rise to green and brown beetles seems like a non-event.

As for change in gene frequency, certainly it seems that has occurred, but what of it? The point of evolution is not to tell us how many people bought a new product, but where the product came from in the first place. Evolution is not about marketing, it’s about engineering. The process by which a majority go from green to brown can never tell us why there are beetles in the first place, or even why they are green or brown in the first place. This bit is no better than a straw man or a smoke screen. How about a little fire, scare crow? See, because there’s smoke, and a straw man… never mind.

The difference in weight in example 1 came about because of environmental influences — the low food supply — not because of a change in the frequency of genes.

Just wait- in a second they will try and tell you that getting stepped on IS a cause of evolutionary change. Am I amiss in suggesting that getting stepped on is an environmental influence which, it could be argued, is not as big a player in the development of new life forms as food supply? At this point is just seems like they’re being sloppy.

Therefore, example 1 is not evolution. Because the small body size in this population was not genetically determined, this generation of small-bodied beetles will produce beetles that will grow to normal size if they have a normal food supply.

The changing color in example 2 is definitely evolution: these two generations of the same population are genetically different. But how did it happen?

This is simply false. They had the genes for green and brown in generation 1, and the final generation also has the genes for green and brown. They are not GENETICALLY different, they are STATISTICALLY different. A careless pedestrian could step on a bunch of brown ones and the population would ‘evolve’ back to where it started. No new information has been gained, no new features or behaviors exist. They’ve no more evolved than if most of them decided to start wearing fedoras. Which would be pretty awesome.

Join me next week for part 9.

Rentafriend2000@hotmail.com

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About rentafriend2000
Rocking my 40's with a heart full of love and muffins, science and technology. Jesus loves me and wants me to totally rock! And I am here to help.

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