Re: NANFA-L-- two interesting articles

Subject: Re: NANFA-L-- two interesting articles
From: Todd D. Crail (tcrail at UTNet.UToledo.Edu)
Date: Wed Oct 20 2004 - 11:55:21 CDT

----- Original Message -----
From: <dlmcneely at>
> Wow, I said "Peter J. Gould"!!!! This modern hero's correct name was of
course Stephen J. Gould.

I'm sure you made Peter Unmack's day however :)

----- Original Message -----
From: "Irate Mormon" <archimedes at>
> It
> really drove home the point that biology is not a hard science, with
> and repeatable results.

Yeah. It's not as "easy" as examining the bonds of atoms etc. But...
That's biology's appeal to me. If there's one irrefutable idea in the whole
cornucopia that is "biology"... It's "now that it's here, irregardless of
HOW it got here... life WILL find a way, and the "way" is ever fascinating"

Most of what I could even add at this moment has been laid out by Peter or
Dave, but as usual, I'm not going to let that distract me from putting in my
2 cents....

We also have to remember that biology has the right to "change its mind", so
to speak, and that the genetics aren't totally driving the ship. It
certainly has a huge role (like I can't just grow wings) to form the basis
of any success (success = the organism passes on its genes)... But the
success itself can have multiple preliminary designs, "strategies" we lazily
refer to them, which in turn can influence the genetics.

In essence, it puts the genetics in a position where a change could give an
advantage, setting up the stage for "different" to matter.

Marginal habitats for species are a great way to look at this concept as a
concrete object. For example, lets think of something with a wide
distribution, like an orangethroat darter. The conditions the species faces
here in Toledo (the northeastern edge of the distribution) are completely
different than say, some over in Oklahoma (southwestern edge of the
distribution). The specimens in either place are essentially pushing the
edges of what it is to be an orangethroat darter. I think you can see that
over time, there's going to be different factors making selections among the
collective gene pool of the specimens in either location. I'm sure Dr. Ceas
can give us ample information about what they're finding in these different
clades of E. spectabile they continue to rightfully split.

But more to what I would like to get at... _Why_ are they pushing the edges?

And so... More often than not, and in my limited understanding of genetics,
I think competition for space is really the drive of speciation. The "hard
coded" genetics reflect what was "suitable" at any point in time, based on
the circumstances of that point. I've never really been able to embrace
"mutations driving speciation". I see circumstance allowing mutations to
become functional.

And none of this "better" or "improved" rubbish. There's no direction,
those words have inherit perspective, which if I've learned one thing...
When doing science, you need to be as aware of your perspective bias as much
as possible. There's also no "choose" as is usually the lazy choice of
words to describe species' evolutionary process. I think some of these ideas
pervade the public psyche's conception of what "evolution" is, I know it
threw me for the longest time. Perhaps it's time for Biology to clean up
its act a little bit and come across with a sharp non-conflicting vocabulary
for what we are understanding on at least the surface.

However, on the topic of "Beginnings" and "Endings"... Even my scientific,
wholy agnostic mind can not fully conceptualize what has been proposed in
science as the "beginning". At this point, with the information we do have,
it still falls into the "faith" category for me. And as far as I'm
concerned, anyone who vehemently tries to sway you one way or the other is
being domagtic, and that's the kind of stuff we'd like to avoid on the list.
Besides, what's here _right now_ in biology is so vastly interesting and
lacking in true understanding... Who has time to throw rocks at each other?
Not me :)

The Muddy Maumee Madness, Toledo, OH
It's never too late to have a happy childhood.

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: Fri Dec 31 2004 - 11:27:50 CST