Evolution 101- part 13: Peacocks and Perverts

Remember, normal text is copied from Evolution 101 by the Understanding Evolution team! (Celebrating Christmas by cursing the Virgin Mary since 1998) http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

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

What about fitness?

Hey! I did pushups AND sit ups yesterday. 12 of EACH!

Biologists use the word fitness to describe how good a particular genotype is at leaving offspring in the next generation relative to how good other genotypes are at it. So if brown beetles consistently leave more offspring than green beetles because of their color, you’d say that the brown beetles had a higher fitness.

 fitbeetles
The brown beetles have a greater fitness relative to the green beetles.

Of course, fitness is a relative thing. A genotype’s fitness depends on the environment in which the organism lives. The fittest genotype during an ice age, for example, is probably not the fittest genotype once the ice age is over.

To clarify- survival of the fittest ONLY MEANS survival of those who have statistically more offspring than others. And here you all were thinking fit means smart, or big, or strong. Nope. Remember, survival of the fittest is the mantra which, on this view, turned T Rex into Chickens.

Fitness is a handy concept because it lumps everything that matters to natural selection (survival, mate-finding, reproduction) into one idea. The fittest individual is not necessarily the strongest, fastest, or biggest.

I think Bill Gates already knows this.

A genotype’s fitness includes its ability to survive, find a mate, produce offspring — and ultimately leave its genes in the next generation.

 pengin    uglybug
 peacock Caring for your offspring (above left), and producing thousands of young — many of whom won’t survive (above right), and sporting fancy feathers that attract females (left) are a burden to the health and survival of the parent. These strategies do, however, increase fitness because they help the parents get more of their offspring into the next generation.

It might be tempting to think of natural selection acting exclusively on survival ability — but, as the concept of fitness shows, that’s only half the story. When natural selection acts on mate-finding and reproductive behavior, biologists call it sexual selection.

Yes, but these guys are perverts.  You should hear what these biologists say about Miley Cyrus. But I digress.

Consider the decrease in probability that comes with needing both genders to not only evolve together, but to evolve in the first place. The paragraph above is supposed to convince us that certain traits evolve because of mating- a female prefers long feathers, so the males evolve long feathers. But suppose a female prefers long feathers, and the males don’t have them. If she decides not to mate because they don’t have what she likes, the mutation which caused those feelings dies with her. On the other hand, if the males have long feathers but she doesn’t prefer them, she’ll mate with the short feathered brothers, and the long feather genes go away. The only way to get a peacock is if HE has fabulous plumage an SHE prefers it within the same generation and the same population. Also, there is the fact that the peacock, while the height of fashion, doesn’t seem to be adapted for self defense: “Even Charles Darwin thought natural selection could not account for peacocks’ tails or similar fantastic structures so prominent in courtship displays. On the contrary, elaborate appendages or tail feathers could easily get in the way when animals had to escape enemies . . Still, if elaborate plumage makes the birds more vulnerable to predators, why should evolution favor them?”—*R. Milner, Encyclopedia of Evolution (1990), pp. 402-404.

And even if we can do a Natural Selection Bait and Switch and pretend Natural selection somehow CREATES the fabu` plumage, that pales in comparison to the problem which arises when you try and figure out how asexual animals became sexual animals in the first place. When the first female evolved, whatever species she was, was the male already there waiting for her? And why would natural selection choose a complex two member system instead of the one member split like it had, on this view, for 99% of the history of life. You don’t see male and female bacteria, and supposedly THEY ruled the earth for 3 billion years.

Sexual selection (2 of 2)

It’s clear why sexual selection is so powerful when you consider what happens to the genes of an individual who lives to a ripe old age but never got to mate: no offspring means no genes in the next generation, which means that all those genes for living to a ripe old age don’t get passed on to anyone! That individual’s fitness is zero.

Non-smoker, jogs daily, lives to 105: Fitness is Zero. 600 lb crack addict who has six kids with different daddies and dies at 27: TOTALLY FIT! Maybe we need a different word. Calling that “Fit” seems a tad misleading.

Artificial selection

Long before Darwin and Wallace, farmers and breeders were using the idea of selection to cause major changes in the features of their plants and animals over the course of decades. Farmers and breeders allowed only the plants and animals with desirable characteristics to reproduce, causing the evolution of farm stock. This process is called artificial selection because people (instead of nature) select which organisms get to reproduce.

First off, why are we artificial? Shouldn’t this be called “intelligent selection”? I think if robots did this for us we could call it artificial selection. This finally makes accurate use of their weak sauce definition for evolution (Decent with Modification) but, it fails to understand what farmers are actually doing. They are SELECTING traits so that the next generation has those pre-existing traits and NOT others. This means a net LOSS of genetic information. No new information has been gained. This is like a magician tossing out all of the red cards. He’s more likely to get the black ACE card he wants, but he hasn’t made any new cards. If he tosses out all of the red cards, he may get a black Ace, but he’ll never get the Archduke of Clubs. Artificial selection is thinning the deck, or sometimes shuffling the deck, but it isn’t adding to the deck. What this proves is how much genetic variability (information) existed in the naturally occurring kinds so that breeders could make 400 varieties of dog from a starting wolf kind.  The breeding potential of the average poodle is arguably less.

As shown below, farmers have cultivated numerous popular crops from the wild mustard, by artificially selecting for certain attributes.

cabbage family

These common vegetables were cultivated from forms of wild mustard. This is evolution through artificial selection.

Consider the facts: We were able to produce a wide range of vegetables by selecting certain traits from a wild plant. This means the traits we selected were already there, and by selecting a phenotype, we were selecting NOT to pass other alleles to the next generation. This means each generation has LESS genetic information than the previous one, just as a strait flush or a full house each have less information than the original deck. This may be how you turn wild mustard into domestic cabbage, but it is not how you turn bacteria into wild mustard. Again, this is evolution in the same manner that our government is spending its way out of debt.

If I can highlight this point- in both natural and artificial selection, the end result is LESS genetic information than existed previously. Very simply then, when we look back in time, we see MORE genetic information and potential diversity than we do now. This is the exact OPPOSITE of what we expect to see if evolution were true, but it is exactly what we would expect to see if all living things were intelligently created by God according to their kind with the expectation that they (and we) would be fruitful and multiply. To put a finer point on it- natural and artificial selection are both great evidence in support of God’s act of creation as described in Genesis, AND great evidence against Darwinian Evolution.

 Have a Happy New Year, Everybody! And Join me next week/year for part 14.

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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