Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pigs, rats, and Christians are unable to understand natural selection.


"I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term Natural Selection"
-- Charles Darwin

"In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment."
-- Charles Darwin

"To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real."

-- Charles Darwin


But Natural Selection, as we shall hereafter see, is a power incessantly ready for action, and is immeasurably superior to man's feeble efforts, as the works of Nature are to those of Art.
-- Charles Darwin




When we no longer look at an organic being as a savage looks at a ship, as something wholly beyond his comprehension; when we regard every production of nature as one which has had a long history; when we contemplate every complex structure and instinct as the summing up of many contrivances, each useful to the possessor, in the same way as any great mechanical invention is the summing up of the labour, the experience, the reason, and even the blunders of numerous workmen; when we thus view each organic being, how far more interesting - I speak from experience - does the study of natural history become!


— Charles Darwin

Multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.


— Charles Darwin


Nothing is easier than to admit in words the truth of the universal struggle for life, or more difficult--at least I have found it so--than constantly to bear this conclusion in mind.






— Charles Darwin


natural selection: The nonrandom, differential reproduction of alleles from one generation to the next. This usually results from the carriers of some alleles being better able to survive or reproduce in their environments than the carriers of alternative alleles.

-- Jerry Coyne

allele: A particular form of a given gene produced by mutation. For example, there are three alleles at the protein-coding gene that produces our blood type: the A, B, and O alleles. All are mutant forms of a single gene that differ only slightly in their DNA sequence.
-- Jerry Coyne

Chance alone cannot explain the marvelous fit between individuals and their environment. And it doesn't. True, the raw materials for evolution--the variations between individuals--are indeed produced by chance mutations. These mutations occur willy-nilly, regardless of whether they are good or bad for the individual. But it is the filtering of that variation by natural selection that produces adaptations, and natural selection is manifestly not random. It is a powerful molding force, accumulating genes that have a greater chance of being passed on to others, and in so doing making individuals even better able to cope with their environment. It is, then, the unique combination of mutation and selection--chance and lawfulness--that tells us how organisms become adapted.
-- Jerry Coyne

National Geographic  Magazine defined natural selection at http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0411/feature1/fulltext.html: 

The gist of the concept is that small, random, heritable differences among individuals result in different chances of survival and reproduction—success for some, death without offspring for others—and that this natural culling leads to significant changes in shape, size, strength, armament, color, biochemistry, and behavior among the descendants. Excess population growth drives the competitive struggle. Because less successful competitors produce fewer surviving offspring, the useless or negative variations tend to disappear, whereas the useful variations tend to be perpetuated and gradually magnified throughout a population.

National Geographic also defined speciation:

Genetic changes sometimes accumulate within an isolated segment of a species, but not throughout the whole, as that isolated population adapts to its local conditions. Gradually it goes its own way, seizing a new ecological niche. At a certain point it becomes irreversibly distinct—that is, so different that its members can't interbreed with the rest. Two species now exist where formerly there was one. Darwin called that splitting-and-specializing phenomenon the "principle of divergence." It was an important part of his theory, explaining the overall diversity of life as well as the adaptation of individual species.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_selection
  
Natural selection is the gradual, non-random, process by which biological traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution.

Variation exists within all populations of organisms. This occurs partly because random mutations cause changes in the genome of an individual organism, and these mutations can be passed to offspring. Throughout the individuals’ lives, their genomes interact with their environments to cause variations in traits. (The environment of a genome includes the molecular biology in the cell, other cells, other individuals, populations, species, as well as the abiotic environment.) Individuals with certain variants of the trait may survive and reproduce more than individuals with other variants. Therefore the population evolves. Factors that affect reproductive success are also important, an issue that Charles Darwin developed in his ideas on sexual selection, for example.

Natural selection acts on the phenotype, or the observable characteristics of an organism, but the genetic (heritable) basis of any phenotype that gives a reproductive advantage will become more common in a population (see allele frequency). Over time, this process can result in populations that specialize for particular ecological niches and may eventually result in the emergence of new species. In other words, natural selection is an important process (though not the only process) by which evolution takes place within a population of organisms. As opposed to artificial selection, in which humans favour specific traits, in natural selection the environment acts as a sieve through which only certain variations can pass.

Natural selection is one of the cornerstones of modern biology. The term was introduced by Darwin in his influential 1859 book On the Origin of Species,[1] in which natural selection was described as analogous to artificial selection, a process by which animals and plants with traits considered desirable by human breeders are systematically favored for reproduction. The concept of natural selection was originally developed in the absence of a valid theory of heredity; at the time of Darwin's writing, nothing was known of modern genetics. The union of traditional Darwinian evolution with subsequent discoveries in classical and molecular genetics is termed the modern evolutionary synthesis. Natural selection remains the primary explanation for adaptive evolution.

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