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Author Topic:   Evolution by Definition
Phat
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Posts: 11328
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 1 of 74 (450758)
01-23-2008 3:40 PM


I want to start this topic in order to discuss what specifically is meant by the term, evolution.

Does evolution have a narrow definition or a broad definition?

Is there a consensus among most scientists as to what this term means? Why is there even a debate over what evolution is and is not?

The Dictionary defines evolution as:

Change in the genetic composition of a population during successive generations, as a result of natural selection acting on the genetic variation among individuals, and resulting in the development of new species.

Personally, I don't understand much of science myself, although I am becoming better able to appreciate arguments and debates on a surface level while not understanding the complexities of them.


Replies to this message:
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Message 2 of 74 (450765)
01-23-2008 4:07 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 3799 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 3 of 74 (450793)
01-23-2008 8:26 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Phat
01-23-2008 3:40 PM


The definition you provided is pretty much the standard one. Wording may vary, emphasis may vary, and the definition leaves out a lot of details. And therein lies the rub: the devil is in the details. The deeper you go, the more detail is revealed, and that is where discussion, argument and disagreement arise - among scientists, at any rate.

Why is there even a debate over what evolution is and is not?

There isn't. Not among biologists (and ALL of the life sciences disciplines). Only those who, for whatever reason, dislike the non-scientific implications - or at least what they see as the implications - argue over what it is and is not. Most of the threads on this board are geared to correcting - sometimes with a hammer - misconceptions by non-biologists. And in-house over the details.


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Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by Cold Foreign Object, posted 01-24-2008 3:40 PM Quetzal has responded
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Rrhain
Member
Posts: 6349
From: San Diego, CA, USA
Joined: 05-03-2003


Message 4 of 74 (450808)
01-24-2008 1:24 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Phat
01-23-2008 3:40 PM


The problem is that evolution is such a large concept that it can't be defined in a pithy, one-sentence toss-off without doing it a grave disservice. The definition you provide focuses on natural selection, but that ignores all other selective factors such as sexual selection and all non-selective factors such as neutral drift.

The pithy definition I've heard is that evolution is the shifting of allele frequencies in a population over time. This definition, however, doesn't say anything about where new alleles come from, if at all, how they arrive if they do, and what happens to current ones that exist. Now in some sense, evolution doesn't care. Just as we don't want to restrict ourselves to natural selection, we don't want to necessarily restrict ourselves to mutation...especially since that depends upon a definition of "mutation." Is infection "mutation"? There's a good reason to say yes, but I can understand why one might want to make a distinction between genetic material coming in from external organisms and genetic material being altered inside the individual organism.

Note, this is not unique to evolution. Gravitational theory is not nearly sufficiently summed up by F = Gm1m2/r2. That doesn't explain where gravity comes from (which we still don't know), if it can be manipulated, etc. There's a reason that people write volumes upon volumes on the subjects of gravity and of evolution. They can't be reduced without losing something in the process.


Rrhain

Thank you for your submission to Science. Your paper was reviewed by a jury of seventh graders so that they could look for balance and to allow them to make up their own minds. We are sorry to say that they found your paper "bogus," specifically describing the section on the laboratory work "boring." We regret that we will be unable to publish your work at this time.
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Cold Foreign Object 
Suspended Member (Idle past 975 days)
Posts: 3417
Joined: 11-21-2003


Message 5 of 74 (450887)
01-24-2008 3:40 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Quetzal
01-23-2008 8:26 PM


As a simple truism, "evolution" can be defined as "slow change inferred by observation" - do you agree Quetzal?

Ray


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Quetzal
Member (Idle past 3799 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 6 of 74 (450889)
01-24-2008 4:01 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Cold Foreign Object
01-24-2008 3:40 PM


As a simple truism, "evolution" can be defined as "slow change inferred by observation" - do you agree Quetzal?

With reference to biological evolution, the answer to your question is "no".


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Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 625 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 7 of 74 (453969)
02-04-2008 10:18 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Phat
01-23-2008 3:40 PM


quote:
Change in the genetic composition of a population during successive generations, as a result of natural selection acting on the genetic variation among individuals, and resulting in the development of new species.

This definition is a little problematic, because evolution and natural selection are not completely linked concepts. Natural selection typically refers to the difference in survival capacity between phenotypes (or, outward characteristics). Sexual selection, one possible alternative method of evolution, refers to the difference in reproductive success between phenotypes. Additionally, mutation and other random and quasi-random factors can cause evolutionary changes. Intermixing of once-separated populations can also alter the genomes of the net generation.

So, evolution is, as the simplest and most commonly used definition states, "descent with modification." Natural selection is one (probably the most common) mechanism by which evolution can occur.


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tesla
Member (Idle past 1984 days)
Posts: 1198
Joined: 12-22-2007


Message 8 of 74 (453972)
02-04-2008 10:55 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Blue Jay
02-04-2008 10:18 PM


ill "try"
ill try to define this elusive creature evolution:

evolution: the biological changes in living things.

it seems a nice basic definition. so i feel it is true. since even plants evolve. but there is more to the story, and further definitions needs to be sought.

so hmm. what can cause these biological changes?

environmental changes.
choice in mateing.
choice in habits.
mutations.
disease/microbes (or whatever i mean by that lol i think you know.)

all living things are subject to these things, and over time all things adapt and change by these things.

but wait..doesn't non living things evolve? doesn't the stars have an evolution?

would it be wrong then to say that since stars change in timely manners based on environmental changes, that it could be considered evolution?

so then lets see:

evolution: the changes in the universe of all things in it, by way of adaption, based on the conditions that it exists.

aha..now this would seem to encompass it in totality, but then..how can we further define it without writing a book? many things evolve by different methods, because thew conditions are so variable!

what a strange and wonderful universe!

i must admit, i cannot further define evolution. it is beyond my ability.


keep your mind from this way of enquiry, for never will you show that not-being is
~parmenides
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Taz
Member (Idle past 1218 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 9 of 74 (453979)
02-05-2008 1:04 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by tesla
02-04-2008 10:55 PM


Re: ill "try"
tesla writes:

evolution: the biological changes in living things.


Technically, no. Specific living things don't evolve. The smallest unit that could evolve is a population.

but wait..doesn't non living things evolve? doesn't the stars have an evolution?

Stellar evolution is directional. Biological evolution is not.

evolution: the changes in the universe of all things in it, by way of adaption, based on the conditions that it exists.

No.

i must admit, i cannot further define evolution. it is beyond my ability.

The word "evolution" is thrown around way too much, me thinks. People go and see the movie 'Underworld: Evolution' and they think they should get a phd on biological evolution.

Even writers of the Star Trek series have it totally wrong. In one of the episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise, the ship encounters a planet where two sentient species have survived the "evolutionary process". One of them is technologically advance enough to travel to other star systems while the other still in their stone age. But wait, there's a catch. "Evolution" has decided that the technologically advance species must go in order for there to be room for the stone age species to grow. So, this whole race is dying. Doctor Flox, being a genius that he is, finds a cure for this genetic disease. But he convinces Captain Archer not to give the cure to the dying race because "Evolution" has made a choice and "who are we to question it?" So, the Enterprise leaves orbit with the cure leaving behind 2 billion dying people.

What kind of moron wrote that story? The bastard must have thought evolution is some kind of deity.

/end rant


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Trixie
Member (Idle past 1633 days)
Posts: 1011
From: Edinburgh
Joined: 01-03-2004


Message 10 of 74 (454001)
02-05-2008 6:14 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by tesla
02-04-2008 10:55 PM


Re: ill "try"
i must admit, i cannot further define evolution. it is beyond my ability.

You've yet to start defining it! You're opening brainstorm

evolution: the biological changes in living things

is so loose that it would include changes in blood sugar levels, antibody response to infection, getting goosebumps when you're cold and getting pregnant! Do you really mean that you consider these examples to be evolution? It's as bad as Behe's definition of science which takes in Astrology.

Given that this is obviously so much marsh gas, the causes of your "biological changes" are irrelevant, since you're using tem to list the causes of something that isn't evolution.

If you read around a bit on the intrnet, you may gather enough information to refine your definition, however, bear in mind that

so i feel it is true

doesn't really cut the mustard.

I think what Phat had in mind is what science defines as evolution.

Leave out the stars - that sort of evolution has an entirely different meaning and, as such, has an entirely different definition. You're trying to define the word not the concept.


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tesla
Member (Idle past 1984 days)
Posts: 1198
Joined: 12-22-2007


Message 11 of 74 (454039)
02-05-2008 9:52 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Taz
02-05-2008 1:04 AM


Re: ill "try"
i thought the question was, what is the TRUE definition of evolution.

do stars evolve?
has the earth evolved?
man has evolved?
the ocean currents have evolved?
the universe has evolved?

if it evolves..isn't it evolution?

evolution then would encompass more than the biological sense in a "true" definition.

a digression based on this observation:

the same elements that make up the earth and universe are present in the make up of biological things, and the same forces (strong force etc) are holding together these elements in biological things, as it holds things together in non biological things.

the term "alive" is applied only to the biological things, because of the complexity of the environments that the elements exist in.

ie: if you take biological ,material and examine its base composition, what is found? carbon..i dunno the rest. carbon based i do know.

now, the arrangement of the carbons and other elements work together in a complex fashion, therefore, it is "alive"

under this observation, the laws that apply to non living things, apply to living things. but must be scrutinized by individual environments (conditions).

so to say evolution of biological things is the most common understanding of the word evolution not a lie, but that a true definition of evolution would be attributed to things that "evolve"

Edited by tesla, : the=then

Edited by tesla, : No reason given.


keep your mind from this way of enquiry, for never will you show that not-being is
~parmenides
This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 12 of 74 (454040)
02-05-2008 10:11 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by tesla
02-04-2008 10:55 PM


Re: ill "try"
so hmm. what can cause these biological changes?

environmental changes.
choice in mateing.
choice in habits.
mutations.
disease/microbes (or whatever i mean by that lol i think you know.)

all living things are subject to these things, and over time all things adapt and change by these things.

You shouldn't make absolute statements like this. When you say that it is all living thing, then you only need one example of a living thing that is not subject to those things to refutue your statement. You should say most, and then not base your arguments on absolutes.

Plants can have no choice in their mate nor their habitat and so can some animals like sponges or coral.

would it be wrong then to say that since stars change in timely manners based on environmental changes, that it could be considered evolution?

In the vaguest sense, evolution is just change over time. Seeing as it is pointless to have a whole thread devoted to that, it seems that Phat is talking about defining biological evolution.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 8 by tesla, posted 02-04-2008 10:55 PM tesla has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 13 by tesla, posted 02-05-2008 10:18 AM New Cat's Eye has responded

  
tesla
Member (Idle past 1984 days)
Posts: 1198
Joined: 12-22-2007


Message 13 of 74 (454041)
02-05-2008 10:18 AM
Reply to: Message 12 by New Cat's Eye
02-05-2008 10:11 AM


Re: ill "try"
you are quoting points that led to a conclusion, when it is the conclusion that is relevant to debate.


keep your mind from this way of enquiry, for never will you show that not-being is
~parmenides
This message is a reply to:
 Message 12 by New Cat's Eye, posted 02-05-2008 10:11 AM New Cat's Eye has responded

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New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 14 of 74 (454045)
02-05-2008 10:33 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by tesla
02-05-2008 10:18 AM


Re: ill "try"
you are quoting points that led to a conclusion

You mean premises?

when it is the conclusion that is relevant to debate.

If I show that your premises are false, then so is your conclusion.

That's how debating works.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by tesla, posted 02-05-2008 10:18 AM tesla has responded

Replies to this message:
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tesla
Member (Idle past 1984 days)
Posts: 1198
Joined: 12-22-2007


Message 15 of 74 (454127)
02-05-2008 5:19 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by New Cat's Eye
02-05-2008 10:33 AM


Re: ill "try"
If I show that your premises are false, then so is your conclusion.

That's how debating works.

it does for a sophist. i am not a sophist. i debate for the truth.

if you are debating points that lead to a conclusion that made the points irrelevant, you have redefined the object of the debate.

ie: a cup is a cup value 4

2+2=4.

a sophist says its ceramic not a cup.

ceramic is value 3.

2+2=3 (false)

so then ceramic has to be defined before you can go back to the initial item of scrutiny, "cup".

in this case, i had already came to conclusion that my earlier argument was irrelevant by conclusion in mind of the object (evolution).


keep your mind from this way of enquiry, for never will you show that not-being is
~parmenides
This message is a reply to:
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