Evolution in Action


Evolution is nature’s mechanism for modifying a species over time to suit the local environment. 

There is no evidence to indicate that anything else is in play, although the thing works so well that there is a temptation to look for the Supreme Being in its design. 

I believe that evolution, social evolution, has given us an inclination to see God in the world around us.

See last Sundays post, 


 Regardless of where the thing came from, it has resulted in a dazzling array of creatures, each individual unique and uniquely suited to its local environment, occupying its own niche in the world. 

Some are generalist, spread across the globe, such as seagulls or grasshoppers. Others are so specialized that they can only eat one food, from one particular tree, tightly bound to the tree and its success, like Koala bears. 

Some species of ants and their host trees are so dependent on each other that the trees only defense against insects are the ants, to whom it provides, deliberately, food and shelter. They cannot survive without each other. 

How does it work?? If you remember your high school biology, sexual reproduction, as opposed to cloning, results in a 50/50 contribution of genes from each parent. The randomness of this process gives each individual a unique package, to the level quoted on the CSI shows of one in some tens of millions. 

While the fate of each individual is somewhat random, the big picture says that the individual with a superior “package” is more likely to breed and pass along the traits that helped it survive. Then, evolution is done with the individual, except for the inherited inclination to nurture their offspring.

Most bird species pair off, because couples improve the chances of survival of the chicks. Wild herbivores form herds to accomplish the same result. 

There are two important ideas that get missed in casual consideration of the topic. 

In order to pass on genes, survival until reproduction is complete is the only evolutionary consideration. What happens after conception is irrelevant. In many lower orders, the parents die or move on, never having any contact with their offspring. Reptilian mothers may guard their nests, but generally this behavior is restricted to warm blooded animals. Once you’ve had your kids, evolution is done with you. 

Scary as the thought is, a welfare mom, with 7 kids, poorly educated and in poor health who go on to be the same as her, is an evolutionary success, when compared to a hard working, independent couple who have two healthy, well educated kids who emulate their parents. Quantity, not quality, wins the day. 

Somehow, that is wrong. Somehow, against all logic, the future belongs to the irresponsible, unproductive losers. But, then, evolution is not about individuals. 

Professor Bob

13 Responses to “Evolution in Action”

  1. Fenris Badwulf Says:

    Ooooh, Professor Bob …

    you are on the verge of reinventing social darwinism.

    Currently, our fast breeding welfare moms breed votes for the political parties (non-conservative to be sure) that give them a few handouts, and also harvest the support of the more higher paid apparatichiks who hand out the handouts. Have you been in a high school lately, or a welfare office? Go look in the lunch room where the non-conservative election materials lie in piles, waiting for the next election. The socialist social services sector workers are like those ants who have a symbiotic relationship with a tree. The SSS depend on the government money, and work hard to keep it flowing.

    Alas, this specialization makes them vulnerable to predictable change. War, Plague, or … economic collapse … will change the forest and their trees will be gone. As for the drones, the baby mommas, well, it will be up to the successor species to decide what to do with them. Perhaps soap.

  2. SteveB Says:

    Never understood this kind of anthropomorphizing when it comes to evolution:

    Evolution is nature’s mechanism for modifying a species over time to suit the local environment.

    You should be capitalizing Nature in this sentence, as your are treating is as a proper noun. Nature, in “her” wisdom, “uses” evolution to “modify” species based on her perception of their needs relative to their environment?

    Nature is truly a maginifcent engineer, designer and programmer! Wait…I thought this stuff was all random and unguided by anything but happenstance? Selection by reduction and elimination, not by optimized adaptation.

    Also, sentient trees?

    to whom it provides, deliberately,

    How does a tree “deliberately” provide food and shelter to ants. Are you suggesting that it is “aware” of its ant protectors, and conciously makes “efforts” to ensure that they are well-provided for? Where does TreeBeard fall in all this? Or the Forestalls?

    I often challenge evolutionists to defend their viewpoints without resulting to anthropomorphic language. Species cannot “adapt themselves” to the environment, unless they can somehow perceive changes in their environment and then encode changes into their DNA based on this input. To date, no mechanism for such a step has been identified.

    If an environmental variable changes enough to result in attrition of a species, only those members who, by whatever random mutation have those traits necessary to survive already resident in their DNA will prevail.

    For pure evolution to work, Nature cannot “adapt” a species to survive…it will survive merely by the luck of the draw.

    Or it isn’t evolution.

  3. Professor Bob Says:

    OK, substitute “the bioshere” for “nature”. You quote things that are not in the article. (her) Why do you presume ” optimized adaption.??” Each individual in each generation is uniquely different. The best adapted survive.
    The ants are adapted to the tree and defend their home as all ants do. The thorns of the tree are hollow and there are glands which secrete nectar, providing the ants with food and shelter. The term is symbiosis and it is deliberate as opposed to random.
    You clearly enjoy “challlenging evolutionists” and happily try to win the debate without paying attention to the actual material presented. You clearly have not read the blog carefully.
    Prof Bob

  4. SteveB Says:

    Well, if you read MY reply a little more closely, you’ll see that my challenge was to the semantics with which you present your argument, not the quantifiables. I have no doubt that there is a mutually beneficial symbiosis between tree and ant.

    You seem, at least to me, to quite clearly state that the tree deliberately (your word) provided for the ants to help ensure its protection from other bugs. Of course I know that was not your intent, but that was what you communicated by anthropomorphizing. “Deliberate” implies, to me, intentionality.

    My point is that “each individual unique and uniquely suited to its local environment” results not from “Nature” or the biosphere or any other appropriately vague avatar influencing the genetic makeup of a species, but rather, that those forms of life, or variations within the genus which are incompatible with the environment simply die off. Leaving those who are “uniquely suited” behind to care are blissfully oblvious. Thus they become optimized to their enviornment through the loss of competing, yet uncompetitive sub-strains.

    The conterpoint to this is that the two species have become so finely tuned that they are unable to adapt any further to changes, and so are now limited. This would tend to suggest a process which actually inhibits genetic innovation and thus speciation.

    I can adapt to my surroundings. If it is cold, I put on a coat. If it is hot, I drink extra water and change to flip flops and hawaiian shirts. If an animal’s primary food supply suddenly becomes available, it must find something else to eat. Only those within the species that can already metabolize the new food source will survive. The others will die off. Thus, no NEW information is introduced into the DNA, but rather, merely utilization of that which was already there, if dormant. This is optimization, not evolution. Survival of the fittest merely optimizes an existing genus, it cannot account for the introduction of a NEW species.

    So, in essence, I actually agree with most of what you state, but disagree with the methods whereby it is accomplished. I see a passive/reactive process rather than a proactive/influencing one.

    Although I would propose that the continued proliferation of the genus “welfarus appalingus IS a result of an external influence, not mere evolution. Socialism and the New Deal helped artificially preserve such life where in a strict “jungle rules” environment, their bones would be bleaching in the sun. So in some respects, external meddling did more harm than good.

  5. SteveB Says:

    Uh, that should be “primary food supply suddenly becomes UNavailable

  6. SteveB Says:

    For example, rather than saying “Evolution is nature’s mechanism for modifying…”

    I suggest something like, “Evolution results in species becoming adapted…”

    True, the former has a more lyrical, prosaic feel, but is ultimately deligitimizes the argument. IMHO.

  7. Professor Bob Says:

    Steve B

    It would appear that you have some obtuse point to make. To refere to the bioshere as a ” vague avatar” demonstrats a lack of intellectual rigor. To presume that your own ability to adapt to your environment has anything to do with evolution is mistaken. Evolution, in a classical, biological sense, takes place in large populations over many, many generation. Perhaps you have taken a more contemporary definition here, as in “intelectual evolution.”
    A debate about semantics is not in my interest, nor is it productive in mitchieville. If you agree with most of what I say, but don’t like the way I said it or perhaps the meaning of the words I select, that is your priviledge. Contact The Mayor of Mitchieville if you wish to post your own opinion, rather than attempt to poke holes in what someone else has said

  8. dinosaur Says:

    “Well, if you read MY reply a little more closely, you’ll see that my challenge was to the semantics with which you present your argument, not the quantifiables. I have no doubt that there is a mutually beneficial symbiosis between tree and ant.”

    Mayor I think there’s only one thing to be done with the person who wrote this, and usually I do support free speech but I think in this case SteveB needs to be shot, immediately.

    Where’s some tylenol….

  9. Professor Bob Says:

    Evolution, in a Darwinian sense, is neither a thing or an event, but a process, that takes place over many generations, at a glacial, impercepable speed. When dealing with, say a bacteria, where generations are measured in minutes, bacteria can evolve antibiotic resistance in the course of days or weeks, but in terms of generations, the number would be hunderds. Humamity, at 20 years per generation, require tens of thousands of years to show real evolution.
    If we speak of the “evolution” of an idea or thing, we are using a different definition of the word.

  10. SteveB Says:

    rather than attempt to poke holes in what someone else has said

    Uh, thought that’s what blog comments were for. My bad.

    Honestly not trying to be a grammar nazi or anything. I simply think that it “demonstrats a lack of intellectual rigor” to suggest causality or intentionality where none can exist. If it was not your intent to suggest an actual external influence in adaptation, then I was simply suggesting that a more appropriate choice of terminilogy would remove that implication and not detract from your argument.

    Clearly not my place, so I shall refrain in the future.

    Although, I still don’t get how a tree deliberately provides for the ants, but hey. Not germane to your central point, yes?

    I would suggest that Humanity evolves so slowly because we are masters at shaping our environment, rather than being shaped by it. Therefore, far more variant strains persist, rather than die out, resulting in a broader pool of “survivor” traits that are better able to weather changes, and thus, are not “driven” to change.

    I will be quiet now. Wouldn’t want Dino’s head to explode.

  11. Professor Bob Says:

    I fail to see what causuality you perceive in what I have written. That other environmentalist have created the notion that nature is proactive is out of my control and I cannot answer for them.
    What the tree does is not random. The food and shelter are appropriate to the ants it hosts. Select another word that means non-random.
    The ability to shape our environment is a trait we have evolved. If being better shapers is a survival skill, we will evolve in that direction.
    Prof Bob

  12. Professor Bob Says:

    Thank you, dinosaur,
    I was getting the sense that folks thought what he was posting was a comment on the correctness and legitimacy of the idea, based on the words used, rather than a comment on my skills as an author. Thank you for taking the time to read what was said and comment.

    Prof Bob.

  13. SteveB Says:

    Select another word that means non-random.

    I can’t, and still have it qualify as Darwinian evolution. If it is non-random, than it has a determining force/factor. Some sort of order which predetermines a specific response.

    Which is not random. Which suggest an external determing force. I posit that you cannot have order without an external organizing force. Laws of physics, entropy and all that. A tree has NO WAY OF KNOWING the ant even exists. Therefore, if it provides a beneficial environment, it is only because the first ants stumbled upon it, found it beneficial, and stayed. Not because the tree and the ant had any interaction. Not becuse the tree developed the sap to attract ants to protect from predators. This would require either independent sentience, or external design.

    Many such disucssion avoid this contradiction by anthropomorphiziong Nature or the bugs or Evolution. Saying “Nature caused…” Which was my point.

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