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Evolution Explained

Evolution began the moment some random molecule had the ability to replicate itself. Evolution progressed whenever a mistake (a mutation) during replication created a new molecule that was at least as successful at getting copies of itself into the future. Evolution thus requires that the evolving entity possess both a means of reproduction and a means of mutation. For example, a complex object such as the proverbial “Swiss watch lying in the desert” could not have evolved because it has no means of reproduction and no means of mutation.

Although more than 99% of mutations are not successful, given enough time, the replicating molecules evolved into proto-DNA, and later evolved into cells, and later into flatworms before evolving into species that specialized into male and female roles.

Most mutations died out quickly because mutations were both common and random and thus unlikely to be beneficial. It only seems like mutations occurred when they were needed because when a need arose, sometimes one of the many random mutations that were already occurring was useful.

Some of the most obvious evidence that evolution happened is the discovery of DNA, the growing fossil record, the increasing complexity and variety of species over billions of years, the early hominid fossils, and the age of the earth and the universe.

None of this was known at the time of Darwin, so he is not a great source of expertise on evolution, but one compelling argument that that even Darwin knew about was the metamorphosis of embryos, which transition through the previous evolutionary stages of that species. Mammalian embryos start off with some characteristics of fish embryos, then some of those characteristics are absorbed as those genes that we have retained since the time we were fish are deactivated in the embryo. Then some amphibian embryo characteristics appear and are absorbed, then some reptilian embryo characteristics appear and are absorbed, and in whales, some earlier embryonic characteristics appear and are absorbed, such as teeth and hind limbs. Humans even have fur that appears at 6 months gestation, and then is reabsorbed at 8 months. Such embryonic metamorphosis is exactly what one would expect to result from evolution.  In 1860, embryonic metamorphosis was the strongest evidence for evolution, and it was enough to convince most scientists.

Not every useless animal gene is deactivated or reabsorbed. Some humans retain the same gene that lets animals wiggle their ears.

Another major evidence of evolution is that human design is hard to explain as the product of an omnipotent omniscient designer, but is easy to explain as the product evolution. One such example is the laryngeal nerve. In fish, it loops around the aorta, which is a pretty direct path to the throat, and in every other animal it also loops down around the aorta and back up to the throat–even in giraffes! Evolution has made some use of this fact. For example, your voice can be affected by a respiratory infection that warns you and those with whom you share many genes, and whom might infect, that you might be contagious. However, any benefits could be achieved if the laryngeal nerve first went directly to the throat, and then proceeded directly to the chest, but evolution usually builds on what is already there.

If evolution usually builds on what is already there, then how does it create radically different species. First, what appears to be a radically different species is often not so different. For example, whales are mostly just a land creature whose parts have moved around and changed in size. Second, mutations can be far more radical than a different protein in one allele.

Let’s first consider the more usual path of evolution of new species.

One species does not mutate directly into another. Mutations are usually very small, and thus the offspring of a species will mutate over a very long time until some of them are different enough that they start living separately and reproducing less with the earlier versions. Eventually, they would no longer see themselves as the same species and would not try to reproduce with each other, but they could, and their offspring would still be fertile – like grizzly bears and polar bears. They would then be evolving independently, and after enough generations had passed, their hybrid offspring would not be fertile – like when a horse and a donkey produce a mule. Eventually, after more independent evolution, their hybrid offspring would not be able to survive birth, and eventually, their evolution would diverge until the sperm of one species could no longer fertilize the egg of the other.

Evolution is not always so smooth and gradual. For example, extreme environmental changes can happen abruptly, and thus extreme genetic mutations that would have been irrelevant or harmful before, might actually be useful in the new environment. Ice Ages, meteor strikes, magnetic pole flips, solar micronovae, and super volcanoes are examples of extreme environmental changes. These can create new challenges and remove old challenges. For example, whales could not have evolved from a land mammal until environmental changes killed off the reptilian super predators in the oceans.

Although whales became possible due to extreme environmental changes killing off some predators and shrinking others, whales themselves are a product of gradual evolution filling a new niche. Whales are just mammals whose preexisting mammalian features have each evolved to adapt to the new niche.

As of 2010, a good candidate for the earliest transitional whale species was the wolf-like creature Pakicetus, who lived 52 million years ago. It had simpler teeth like a whale and ears like a whale, but there were not yet any whales, so if you had see one at that time, it would have been impossible to predict that it would evolve into a whale, and that it was thus a transitional species, which is an important example of how we are surrounded by transitional species right now and we have no way of knowing which ones they are because we don’t know what they will become.

Whales have been well adapted to their new environment for about 40 million years, and for about 12 million years before that, transitional species were not so well adapted and were thus less successful, fewer in number, possibly in only one location, and perhaps most importantly, each such transitional species would not have been around very long as whale evolution was progressing relatively rapidly until it began to stabilize 40 million years ago. We would therefore not find very many fossils of transitional whale species, and those may only be in one location.

We have transitional whale fossils that were all found starting around 1990 because scientists hypothesized that transitional species would have begun to evolve in a certain kind of coastal environment between 60 million and 30 million years ago. Scientists also deduced from plate tectonics where they would find such an environment at that time that was still accessible today, and that is where they found transitional whale species. Isn’t that a far more elegant and complete example of the scientific method than what most scientists do?

A big question most people intuit is how extreme mutation can happen, and how sudden can it be. Whales are extreme evolution, but they are not a different number of chromosomes for example, and they took at least 12 million years to evolve. So how do even more extreme changes happen that are not just extreme changes in existing physical features, and how suddenly can they happen?

One example of extreme and sudden mutations is when a microorganism such as a bacteria or a virus merges its DNA with ours. Another example is when an entire microorganism, such as mitochondria, becomes a part of us. Another form of sudden evolution is an increase in mutation inducing radiation, such as when the earth enters a part of the galaxy in which we are more exposed to cosmic rays, or when there is a solar eruption. Radiation and (probably other factors) can cause many kinds of large mutations, such has an extra chromosome, a missing chromosome, and double chromosomes. Other kinds of large mutations are a missing, damaged, or duplicated genes. Such mutations are almost always catastrophic and either prevent fertilization, or prevent birth, or prevent successful reproduction by that individual, but sometimes, such a mutation is useful. Sometimes such rapid and extreme mutation was successful only in an environment that had also undergone rapid and extreme change. Such rapid evolution would probably look as if a new species had suddenly appeared in the fossil record without transition.

When trying to understand evolution after DNA, it is often helpful to think of genes (snippets of DNA) as the replicating organisms, and to think of ourselves as their outer layer of mobile thinking armor, which they evolved in order to get as many copies of themselves into future generations as possible.

For example, if a gene mutated and made its carrier more likely to create children (e.g. better looking), who were themselves more likely to create children, etc., etc., then each generation would have more copies of that version of the gene than the previous generation until it was the only version in existence. Likewise, if a gene mutated and made its carrier less likely to create children (e.g. homosexual), then that mutation would die out.

Human behavior is the product of those genes that have caused our ancestors to get them into every generation to date, so we act a lot like those ancestors (e.g. cavemen). Most of those genes existed before we were human, so we also act much like animals too.

Although we are the product of more than one billion years of evolution, we are also the product of more than one hundred thousand years of human evolution, and we instinctively know that in the last few thousand years, we have evolved something quite special …. The Soul of Humanity.

Jim
 

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 12 comments
Archer Garrett - November 23, 2012

We have been endowed with a soul by our Creator.

In the most condense form, you'll say it's ignorant to take God on faith, but aren't you taking the evolution of a soul on faith? In essence, isn't the evolution of a soul your "religion"?

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Jim - November 23, 2012

The Soul of Humanity is a theory that I have created to explain what I have observed in my lifetime. I don't see a soul as an actual thing. It is just a convenient term for the core of what is best about humans. By writing about it, I/we can use it as a guide.

It is not dogma. I will probably change it as I learn more and think about it more.

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Archer Garrett - November 24, 2012

Of course it's intangible.

My comment still stands.

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Jim - December 1, 2012

Don't you want to accept the Soul of Humanity? Isn't The Soul of Humanity a healthier and more positive theory than any religion? Isn't it more compatible with human nature than any religion?

To equate the Soul of Humanity with religion without further qualification is disingenuous. Not only is it healthier, more positive, and more compatible with human nature, but is also a scientific theory. Unlike religion, it is falsifiable. For example, we could test for the presence of these traits in humans.

The fact that I and others can change it if the evidence changes, is again different than religion, which cannot change. Whereas, religion is based on ancient texts, the Soul of Humanity is based on science.

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Anonymous - December 16, 2012

Molecules dont fuck. its that simple. Why not? Because they cant. Otherwise the beach, with a whole lot of molecules bumping and grinding, would be JAM PACKED full of new life forms. Its a theory made up back in the day by the Greeks, then refined by Darwin and his freemason buddies. Why did they bring back the old Greek idea? Because evolution opens the door to Might makes Right. Or should I say Reich?

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Jim - December 16, 2012

DNA molecules do not reproduce with other DNA molecules, rather a DNA molecule makes a copy of itself. The first random molecule that could replicate itself was the beginning of evolution.

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RocketMan - December 31, 2012

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RocketMan - December 31, 2012

The academic community likes to point to the well known experiment of dropping random chemicals into a primordial "soup" and observing their spontaneous organization into amino acids. I'd like to state that I do, in some evolving degree (no pun intended), see the theory of evolution as senseful. With that said, the theory has its limitations; the first being that, yes, chemicals do spontaneously organize into amino acids but there has NEVER been observable data that suggests that these amino acids spontaneously organize into proteins which are the building blocks of DNA. Evolution purists, which I believe are being less than open minded, always use the argument that enough time has not been allotted to the experiment due to realistic limitations. However, the fact remains that amino acids are yet to be observed as organizing into proteins and if one is keen on basing their belief system on observable data then I think some serious reconciliation is in order…

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Jim - January 6, 2013

I do not know of any experiment that has created a replicating molecule under natural conditions, but depending on the context, that is usually irrelevant. For example, given all the other evidence, evolution has infinitely more reproducible results than any other theory. It is more falsifiable and thus more scientific than all other theories, and yet, it has not actually been falsified. Therefore, evolution is by far the best explanation we have.

On the other hand, evolution is a high level theory and thus not as falsifiable, and thus not as scientific as it might seem. For example, aliens could visit and claim that they kicked off evolution and helped it along at different points. That would not actually falsify evolution because we have no way to know whether the aliens were correct.

If several fossils of modern humans were found in different locations and ALL dating technologies dated them to 10 million years ago, then I would say that would falsify the current theory of human evolution – even though we share 98.5% DNA with Bonobo chimps, but that still wouldn't falsify evolution – just human evolution, and maybe just the current version of human evolution. Given such an event, I would then say that humans must have evolved elsewhere in the galaxy, and thus the whole theory of evolution would be hard to falsify because it is not just one specific theory. It is more of an explanation that ties together many more specific theories.

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Jim - January 6, 2013

The limitations of experiments to create replicating molecules under natural conditions have not only been performed with too limited time, but they also could not possibly have been performed in all possible natural conditions. Then again, I could always say that no matter how long and how varied the experiments might be, which thus means that the absence of results does not falsify anything other than to prove that the given conditions and time were not sufficient.

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Anonymous - January 20, 2015

You need to look into Lloyd Pye and LA Marzulli. Until you can explain the pyramids all over the planet, the Egyptian hieroglyphs in North America, or the megaliths like outside of Cusco, Peru, then you shouldn't be so confident and rethink your theory.

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Jim - January 20, 2015

How does any of that contradict evolution? Are you saying that evolution may have had help from aliens, or that evolution may have produced everything except humans?

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