Scientists at Stanford discovered something I don't understand. Then a writer simplified it for the Internet, making it worse. Then I read about it and my brain added a few misconceptions, as usual. That's how I roll. Anyway, now I am left with this question: Is this a big deal or a little deal?


This story didn't exactly set the media on fire, which leads me to believe it is a small matter, potentially adding a detail to the Theory of Evolution.

But perhaps it is the first solid evidence of my theory that spacetime is like a huge donut, or Mobious strip if you like, and future scientists will find a way for humanity to survive the black hole that devours the universe. They create the physical equivalent of a computer program that is so small it is unaffected by the forces that crush the universe. Over a few billion years, the program chugs along, guiding evolution to produce humans once again, thus we are all reborn. And since the universe is deterministic, it happens the same way every time.

Or not.

My only question today is whether this discovery might lead to a big change in the generally accepted Theory of Evolution. 

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Nov 13, 2008
This self correcting mechanism in the mitochondria or energy producing part of the cell is itself an evolutionary characteristic. Organisms without it failed when subjected to the stress of other changes. Nothing more can nor should be extrapolated from this. If they find such mechanisms in higher order functions of the cell, it may be time to get excited.
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Nov 13, 2008
I think the article it's a little misleading. It's not a Big Deal or anything like that. It's a little deal. A cute deal, but still. I think the best sentence is this:
"In other words, organisms are evolving ways to evolve better."

So it's not a big deal. That makes perfect sense, actually. If a gene evolves something that protects it, or makes it evolve a little better, then of COURSE it will have a much higher probability of "still being around". So that's why it's "still around".

Just one more "piece of the puzzle" in the grand scheme of things.

So let me just point out something interesting. It's only for reasonable people (so ID-fundies, stop reading).

"What they are saying is that evolution is not entirely random, as Darwin believed,"
it says.
The fact that evolution randomly gave a way for living things to evolve better is part of evolution. So is this still 'random'?

Imagine an insect that develops a protein that it releases during its lifetime to modify it's own gametes, for example, and then its children change color. So this insect, if it sees during its lifetime that things are green (so the insect decides to live in a jungle for some reason - maybe there's more food), it's children are going to be green.
But if it sees mostly yellow and brown (the insect is living on a desert maybe), it's children are going to be born yellow and brown.

Now, this is a perfectly reasonable evolutionary thing to develop. I don't know if something has developed it or not, but I would think no, since I just came up with it. But you could believe it, right? It is an evolutionarily stable strategy (this is why I don't want stupid intelligent design "people" to read this... they can't possibly understand what I'm saying, they'll say the fact that not every evolutionarily stable strategy exists proves the existence of a creator or something stupid like that)

Now, we humans may as well in the near future be able to modify our children's genes in any way we want. Will that still be evolution?
Well, I mean, evolution did give us brains to think and come up ways to adapt. If taking our gene reproduction into our own hands. So if we modify our genes to become better... well, that's kind of part of it, isn't it?

I don't know, I just thought it was an interesting thing to consider. I say it's the same. We evolved to the point of being able to control where we evolve now... that's still a triumph for evolution.
Nov 13, 2008
Very interesting. I'm reading that researchers have found intelligent protiens that help maintain the original design of an organism. Voila, proof of intelligent design, which is why the liberal news media hasn't said a peep about it.
On a related note, I'd like just one example of the creation of a new species via "evolution". Take the history of the world and divide by the number of species on the planet and there should be a new one every four months or so. It shouldn't be that hard to find an example. Even better, I'd like to see the creation of a new genus.
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Nov 13, 2008
Appendix to "donut universe" (5D black hole) post.

Nov 13, 2008
From what I'm reading on the article, what the scientist have "discovered" is as much we DON'T evolve, as why we DO.

They found that there there is a system that corrects mistakes and ensures that the overall system works as intended, not as changes to the system are going to make it.

We get exposed to mutagenic effects all the time. Cancer is essentially a mutation where reproductive growth for the cells ignores the normal feedback. Usually that "other" system destroys these cells anyway, and the growth turns out benign. Or cancer goes into spontaneous remission.

Sometimes the "evolution" takes hold, killing the person. And maybe, every few thousand years, the "evolution" isn't fatal, and just happens to occur in the seed material (instead of just the host's body), and so gets passed down to all future generations.

That's one of the reasons evolution takes so long, you see. It isn't enough for YOU to mutate and grow wings. Your sperm or eggs have to mutate to produce a child that will grow wings. And that's a pretty big change to pack into a single cell. Especially with the "governor" that the scientists "discovered" watching for errors.
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Nov 13, 2008
It is quite likely that we live in a donut shaped universe. Furthermore, it even might be just a tiny black hole in another universe.

Nov 13, 2008
I am still stuck on this sentence:
"And since the universe is deterministic, it happens the same way every time."

If evolution is a random process, the universe has to be non-deterministic. If the universe is deterministic, then evolution is not a random process.. Or, something like that.

Either way, the article is very interesting, and I think it is a big deal. Evolution must be proceeding in jumps. That is why there is no missing like between man and the ape. The damned ape jumped into being a man, just like the universe jumped into being.

The universe is a jumpy place. Computer program? Get serious, Scott!

Nov 13, 2008
I saw a show where someone was discussing how the universe was mostly empty space, and that much of the universe that should exist (as predicted by mathematics) can't be seen, or may not actually exist.

The person (a mathematician) postulated that perhaps rather that the universe following mathematical rules, it was the mathematics that actually made up the universe. That is, all that seems to be physically, is simply our intelligence attempting to interpret complex mathematical formulas.

Or, another way of thinking about it: nothing exists, we are simply the program.
Nov 13, 2008
Evolution verses Creationism is a never ending argument. They will be debated clear to the end when our universe is sucked into the big black hole in the middle of the Milky Way and the Milky Way is absorbed into some nearby even larger black hole. I do not understand the science behind it all as I am still trying to figure out why krptonite really messes up Superman.

Nov 13, 2008
The brilliant author Greg Bear wrote a book with very similar, but more progressive, ideas on evolution. Called Darwin's Radio, it is a great read.

If you wish to read it, don't get it confused with it's sequel, Darwin's Children. It's also a good book, but it's a sequel :)
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Nov 13, 2008
"My only question today is whether this discovery might lead to a big change in the generally accepted Theory of Evolution."

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Nov 13, 2008
I think this is a neat discovery, but the article seems to make really broad claims about evolution. Break down the article a little better, I say.

The researchers discovered a peculiarity with the electron transport chain, which are in our cell mitochondria. If you swap up the way the the transport chain worked, it wouldn't simply "kill" that chain, but it would cause it to realign itself to working order again. Neat. That means we have a really sturdy electron transport chain.

Did they discover anything about reorganizing mutations within DNA? No. This just means that when exposed to adversity, the mitochondria (maybe the chloroplast, too) has the ability to repair itself. The construction of the electron transport chain has nothing to do with what the DNA looks like.

In fact, there are only a handful of different types of mitochondrial DNA ("mitochondrial Eve"). This might explain why mitochondrial DNA doesn't ever tend to change: it doesn't need to. But even that is a lofty claim.

Now, if we're looking at evolution on a gene level, a discovery that would fit this author's claim would be one where proteins correct genetic defects.

I don't think this article's claims are backed by the discovery.
Nov 13, 2008

Why would he leave his beliefs at home, anymore than a scientist who believes in evolution would? If one believes that God is the creator of the universe, but is still looking for the exact mechanics of how it was accomplished, why would his beliefs neccesarily get in the way for his search for truth? I have seen at least as many rediculous contortions of logic in the defense of evolution as I have seen in the defense of creationism. I would give more credence to a scientist who stated that he didn't know if God exists, than the many who state unequivocally that he doesn't, and mock anyone who disagrees.
I personally don't believe that the world is 6000-10,000 years old, but I have seen many evolutionists resolve every inconvenient hole in their theory with a few more zeros. What's the difference? Both are attempting to defend their own beliefs with conclsions that are anything but scientific.
Nov 13, 2008
They have, for a long time, known about protiens which correct flaws in DNA. These protiens perform specific functions and help prevent skin cancer, among other things. Our cells also have RNA mechanisms which detect foregin RNA trying to invade our genome or co-opt cellular machinery. These all evolved to protect cells from unwanted mutation and DNA-tinkering. This discovery is not likely to revolutionize anything we don't already know, however cellular/molecular biology is still a really cool field.
Nov 13, 2008
Little deal, judging by the comments left by biologists on the article...
Nov 13, 2008
The language used in the article says the proteins are always moving toward "improved fitness." But what they also say is that the proteins act to correct any imbalances.

The article makes it sound like the proteins are guiding the body towards some improvement, some super power.

My reading is that they're simply correcting what they "think" are imbalances. This sounds more like the proteins are actually inhibiting the mutations from having an effect, ergo they're slowing down potential evolution.

This may or may not lead to more fitness. It's pretty easy to think of a situation (rapid change in environment: climate, food sources, whatever) where changes would benefit a species - and these proteins would be very non-beneficial. A species that had a super version of this protein would *never* change, and would be an evolutionary dead end.

Think of the common household cat. Their skin heals very quickly. That seems great. Except it also means they're prone to getting abscesses - not so great. Maybe other forms of cats had some super-proteins that sped up skin healing even faster - which we might deem "better" - but in the long run it lead to their death b/c they continually abscessed...

I think this new finding, while interesting, changes nothing.
Nov 13, 2008
Nigelgomm says:

Ambiguous use of "Believe" there. The rational (aka scientific) approach is to observe the evidence and arrive at a conclusion - "present understanding based on available evidence" would be a better term. Belief systems tend to start with a conclusion then look for supporting (and ignore contradictory) evidence

I completely agree. But from my position as one of the 'crazies', please explain the difference between these 2 scientists: One believes there is a God, conducts an experiment, and records his findings. The other believes there is no God, conducts an experiment, and records his findings. Why is one any more biased than the other? If either one has weak character, he will allow his preconcieved ideas to affect his conclusion. If he has stong character, he won't. So the conventional wisdom that believing scientists are biased is a negative judgement of their character as a group, rather than a rational observation. In short, it is bigotry.
Nov 13, 2008
Wow...were you drunk when you thought up your theory? It's certainly plausible, but if you consider theories as far-reaching as that it's only one in a billion, and seems pretty unlikely. But what fun!

As far as the media's perception, I think you give the meda too much credit. The only reason the LHC got so much coverage is that it might have meant the end of the world. Do you really think most people care about discoveries of theoretical particles when they really want to know why they were just fired or how best to pick up women? The media needs simple headlines to get attention, and this takes too much explaining; even a smart individual like yourself isn't sure whether it even matters.

But my first question is, can I consciously act in such a fashion as to take advantage of these proteins? For example, if I lift weights to become stronger, do these proteins help boost my muscle mass, adrenaline, or metabolism? If I play videogames, read, and analyze everything, do these proteins aid the forming of new neural pathways? My sense is no: they only target genetic code that leads to degradation with age, inability to function due to unusual recombination, or inability to duplicate itself for future reproduction purposes. Although maybe I'm wrong.

Which leads to my second question: are the changes effected by these proteins carried on to the offspring? If so, that would imply evolution on an individual-to-offspring basis, which would in turn imply that the offspring could be born stronger/smarter/faster/with-improved-features than either of its parents were born, and would mean evolution is working constantly, though on so small a scale we can't perceive it. If not, it would imply at most that an individual would evolve as he/she grows, and would have absolutely no impact on evolution from parent to offspring, and so would be more "self-help" than "theory of evolution".

The point is, they just haven't fleshed out their discovery enough for anybody to know what it means.
Nov 13, 2008
I've had my doubts that evolution works in purely random fashion. Take horns for one, why are they only on the head? With very few exceptions, It seems that evolution keeps putting them on the heads of things. If this was random, you'd think you'd see horns randomly showing up on random body parts and it not working out. In general you never see useful random mutations, they are usually in fact quite horrific and makes the animal not work quite right.
Nov 13, 2008
Little to no deal.

Headline is very misleading... This doesn't change the theory of evolution in any way.

DNA/enzyme/organ/organism with self correcting traits would be a better fit (last long enough to make more) then DNA/enzyme/organ/organism without self correcting traits.

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