Home » Intelligent Design » Tuatara, the fastest (and perhaps slowest) evolving animal

Tuatara, the fastest (and perhaps slowest) evolving animal

Yet another missed prediction made by the chance & necessity theory of evolution. The Tuatara is one of the slowest evolving animals we know of – stable in form for tens of millions of years after it separated from early dinosaurs. The neo-Darwinian theory of evolution predicted that its rate of molecular (DNA) evolution would likewise be very slow. Many things about the Tuatara are slow. It grows very slowly, its metabolism is very slow, it thrives in cold (for a reptile) temperatures, it reproduces only once every 2 to 5 years, and doesn’t reach sexual maturity until 10 to 15 years of age. Yet when research was conducted into the rate its DNA changes it was found to be the among the fastest known among all vertebrates.

Tuatara, the fastest evolving animal

New DNA research has questioned previous notions about the evolution of the tuatara

In a study of New Zealand’s “living dinosaur” the tuatara, evolutionary biologist, and ancient DNA expert, Professor David Lambert and his team from the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution recovered DNA sequences from the bones of ancient tuatara, which are up to 8000 years old. They found that, although tuatara have remained largely physically unchanged over very long periods of evolution, they are evolving – at a DNA level – faster than any other animal yet examined. The research will be published in the March issue of Trends in Genetics.

“What we found is that the tuatara has the highest molecular evolutionary rate that anyone has measured,” Professor Lambert says.

The rate of evolution for Adélie penguins, which Professor Lambert and his team have studied in the Antarctic for many years, is slightly slower than that of the tuatara. The tuatara rate is significantly faster than for animals including the cave bear, lion, ox and horse.

“Of course we would have expected that the tuatara, which does everything slowly – they grow slowly, reproduce slowly and have a very slow metabolism – would have evolved slowly. In fact, at the DNA level, they evolve extremely quickly, which supports a hypothesis proposed by the evolutionary biologist Allan Wilson, who suggested that the rate of molecular evolution was uncoupled from the rate of morphological evolution.”

Allan Wilson was a pioneer of molecular evolution. His ideas were controversial when introduced 40 years ago, but this new research supports them.

Professor Lambert says the finding will be helpful in terms of future study and conservation of the tuatara, and the team now hopes to extend the work to look at the evolution of other animal species.

“We want to go on and measure the rate of molecular evolution for humans, as well as doing more work with moa and Antarctic fish to see if rates of DNA change are uncoupled in these species. There are human mummies in the Andes and some very good samples in Siberia where we have some collaborators, so we are hopeful we will be able to measure the rate of human evolution in these animals too.”

The tuatara, Sphendon punctatus, is found only in New Zealand and is the only surviving member of a distinct reptilian order Sphehodontia that lived alongside early dinosaurs and separated from other reptiles 200 million years ago in the Upper Triassic period.

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58 Responses to Tuatara, the fastest (and perhaps slowest) evolving animal

  1. Evolution is such a greate theory. It can never be disproven. No wonder so many scientist like Darwinism. It makes their jobs so much easier when they don’t have to explain the facts.

  2. Can someone help a new guy out?
    Does someone tell me what the fossil record actually shows, without being ideologically driven?

  3. “Evolution is such a greate theory. It can never be disproven. No wonder so many scientist like Darwinism. It makes their jobs so much easier when they don’t have to explain the facts.”

    On the contrary – like any other scientific field, the facts are precisely what do have to be explained. If scientists wanted an easy life they could just ignore facts. As this article shows, they don’t. The facts are the facts, and if necessary theories need to be modified (or even abandoned) where necessary to account for the facts). Every scientific theory is provisional, and is always csubject to change when new facts demand it.

  4. Continued from # 2

    I read an essay by Philip Johnson of ID fame. He said basically that the fossil reccord is pretty clear and that it is not what one would expect if Darwin’s theory were correct.

  5. It is hard to understand where this animal fits into the scheme of things. There is a cladogram in the Wikipedia page for it.

    In terms of evolution this cladogram showed five branches, tuatara, lizards, snakes, crocodiles and birds. Now a major themes of the Darwinists, almost a fundamental canon of their belief system is that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Yet this cladogram shows that birds and crocodiles had a common ancestor and there are no dinosaurs.

    This is a major problem for the Darwinists unless someone can explain it away. The reason is that birds are warm blooded, have a four chambered heart and an oxygen delivery system unique on the planet while crocodiles are cold blooded have a three chambered heart and a normal oxygen delivery system.

    Where do dinosaurs fit into this scheme since the tuatara and the dinosaurs roamed together. I am sure there must be many alternative schemes. I often wonder how these classifications get made and how much of them is speculation alone.

    By the way I am nearly finished the Jablonka and Lamb book recommended by Allen MacNeill and in it is a hypothesis that the development of a species in the embryo will produce identical phenotypes even though there will be numerous genetic changes that have taken place over time. Some of these genetic changes could be changing the organism in ways that are not physically noticeable but may affect its behavior and capabilities. A lot of this is speculative but it emphasized the persistence of phenotypes.

  6. clarence,

    you said

    “On the contrary – like any other scientific field, the facts are precisely what do have to be explained. If scientists wanted an easy life they could just ignore facts.”

    But they do ignore facts all the time. Especially when writing textbooks on biology and evolution. The facts falsify the Darwinian theory of evolution except when it is trivial as in micro-evolution yet they never acknowledge it.

  7. DaveScot, here is another intriguing link for ID discussion.
    “1st Rule of Evolution: Strive For Complexity” http://www.scienceagogo.com/ne....._sys.shtml

    This link is interesting, certainly something not predicted by neo-Darwinism, but in what way is ID a better explanation.

  8. Jerry, “Now a major themes of the Darwinists, almost a fundamental canon of their belief system is that birds evolved from dinosaurs.”

    Actually, there is a significant community that rejects the dinosaur to bird link. Their strongest evidence seems based on genetic drift theory, which seems to show from multiple dating channels that birds separated from dinosaurs much earlier than the dominant thory suggests.

  9. What does ID predict about the history and biology of the tuatara?

  10. DeepDesign, I think that what Philip Johnson is talking about are a few major phenomena in the rock record.

    One would expect, from the theory, that two species would separate, then slowly differentiate to become multiple species. At some point, the difference between the left side of the bush and the right would merit the title genus. It is not at all this way.

    The super-developments happen early and abruptly. There is much more evidence of the intermediates of most genuses than there is of the huge differences like the phila. In general animals appear according to the pattern of the philogenic tree: domain, kingdom, philum, class, etc. In general, classes and above leave virtually no evolutionary intermediates.

    There are other unexpected phenomena of the rock record, but that, to me is the most startling. It is, noteably, the natural prediction of front-loading.

  11. Deep Design — (Can) someone tell me what the fossil record actually shows, without being ideologically driven?

    That most of the major forms of complex life appeared almost simultaneously about 530 million years ago.

  12. “What does ID predict about the history and biology of the tuatara?”

    Probably nothing. But it might wonder why it didn’t diversify very much via Darwinian micro evolution processes. Maybe it did but the variation are all extinct. There were various sub species but essentially they all were very similar. We will not know for sure since all but two are extinct.

    I think one thing that flowed from Dave’s post is that there is fast DNA change but little phenotype changes in 200 million years. Of course one cannot say that past changes in the DNA were as fast as today.

  13. bfast,

    I know there are pockets of resistance to the dino to bird transition. But some of the stuff I read recently is really pushing the transition. It is to the point that they want the dinosaurs to have the unique oxygen system of the birds because they know such an evolutionary transition to it would be almost impossible. But then where does that leave all the other reptiles which are quite primitive and how did the dinosaurs get this oxygen distribution system.

  14. TRIBUNE 7

    Are you refering to just to the Cambrian Explosion? Or are there other major bursts of complexity also?

  15. Good link on Bird-Dinosaur Link by Casey Luskin.

    http://www.ideacenter.org/cont.....hp/id/1275

  16. SO taking the fossil record at face value. Without imagining transitional forms that didn’t fossilize.. as the Darwinists do.

    Then the fossil record offers no proof for Darwinian evolution?
    Do I have this right?

  17. DeepDesign, “Then the fossil record offers no proof for Darwinian evolution? Do I have this right?”

    “Proof” is a big word. I would say that there is reasonable fossil evidence of darwinian-level intermediates for many/most animals within any family. Darwinism above family in the phylogenic tree has little to no fossil support.

  18. Hi bFast,

    Now Dr. Dembski and Dr. Wells would not agree I don’t think.

    I listened to Dr. Wells’ interview on ID THE FUTURE, he comes across as very intelligent and knowelagable. He inspires more trust I think than someone like Richard Dawkins. Who comes across as a bit sketchy.

  19. Glad you posted this.

    So gone are the days when evolution is defined as “any change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool”?

    This is supposed to be main quip that darwisciples oftentimes resort to when defining evolution.

  20. I just want to know what they mean by “high molecular evolutionary rate.” It can’t be mutations, since there is no such thing at the molecular level. You need genes for that. So what are they referring to? These scientists are so blinded by evolutionary dogma that they are having trouble making the appropriate distinctions.

  21. Clarence:
    “The facts are the facts, and if necessary theories need to be modified (or even abandoned)…Every scientific theory is provisional, and is always csubject to change when new facts demand it.”

    But not so with neo-darwinian evolution. I thought it was the ‘cornerstone’ of biology. If a theory is modifiable to the point of being discarded, how then can we be sure it is foundational to begin with?

  22. “any change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool”

    This still works fine for a definition of evolution. There might be some changes in this definiton in the future because there is now a recognition that there are epigeneitic factors that get passed along during sexual reproduction along with the DNA.

    Not all changes in the DNA produce changes in alleles that affect phenotype. Actually phenotype means more than outward or inward appearance. There could be changes in enzymes or neurological processes. For example, the tuatara has some unusual behavioral and developmental processes.

    We are seeing a couple snapshots here not a movie playing out over time.

  23. congregate:
    “What does ID predict about the history and biology of the tuatara?”

    Not just restricted to the tuatora, but also extended to living systems in general (according to the article, scientists are going to do similar studies of humans and fish). A number of predictions could be made in alignment with IDT:

    That à la Behe style, there is a limit to molecular changes in how they may affect the morphology of the organism;

    That a change in the sequence of nucleotides on a DNA molecule offers a defective framework for studying evolution;

    That stasis, rather than constant change, is the rule rather than the exception.

    There are others, I am quite sure.

  24. jerry:
    “We are seeing a couple snapshots here not a movie playing out over time.”

    Point well taken.

  25. Peter:
    “Evolution is such a greate theory. It can never be disproven.”

    Yep. Like Dobzhansky said: “Nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution.”

    Like expecting “that the tuatara, which does everything slowly….at the DNA level, they evolve extremely quickly.” Yeah. So counter-counter-intuitive.

    I think the theory needs a battery change, because the light seems to be dimming.

  26. jerry (#13): “But then where does that leave all the other reptiles which are quite primitive and how did the dinosaurs get this oxygen distribution system.”

    I think Peter Ward has proposed a hypothesis where it originated in late Permian times and rapidly took over during the End-Permian mass extinction, when the atmospheric oxygen percentage drastically declined for many millions of years. This gave a strong selective advantage to the trait during that period and established the dominance of the dinosaurs. That is the hypothesis anyway. Of course this as usual assumes that such a complex innovation somehow came about in a Darwinian fashion in innumerable small steps.

  27. Clarence:

    “and if necessary theories need to be modified (or even abandoned) where necessary to account for the facts). Every scientific theory is provisional, and is always subject to change when new facts demand it.”

    Not so with evolution. Evolution is biologists only theory. It can not be discarded because if it were then they would have to consider the alternative which is some form of creation. That is impossible for Darwinists to accept because they are almost all athiests. That is why Darwinism can never be disproven by the current scientific status quo.

  28. 28

    Yet again, it seems like everywhere you look there is further evidence for some process of front-loaded evolution. Perhaps I am overstating it, but not by much I think.

  29. jpcollado writes,

    just want to know what they mean by “high molecular evolutionary rate.” It can’t be mutations, since there is no such thing at the molecular level. You need genes for that.

    A small correction, as this statement is wrong. Genes are made of molecules, and it is specific DNA molecules within genes that mutate.

  30. bFast:

    thank you for the interesting link about complexity. You comment:

    “certainly something not predicted by neo-Darwinism, but in what way is ID a better explanation?”

    I would try a couple of tentative answers:

    1) Has anyone ever observed what happens in successive versions of an operating system, let’s say Windows? Do they look simpler? And the same is true for any software. Sometimes (very rarely) the new software may be more stable or easier to use under some aspects, but it is always more complex.

    2) May be that, as I have suggested a few times, the driving force behind evolution is not at all survival, or competition. May be the true driving force is the need to express new functions of life, to do more things, to do them better. May be flight did not evolve “only” to find food in the air; may be there was the need, or the desire, to have flying living beings, and that desire was implemented. Design, after all, has many different motivations, but the expression of functionality, beauty, and the sheer pleasure of creativity are certainly among the most powerful.

  31. Is the actual fossil record as spotty and disconnected as ID guys say it is?

    It is really difficult to find unbiased answers.

  32. DeepDesign

    The fossil record is characterized by the sudden appearance of species with fully formed features characteristic of their species. This is followed by millions of years of no change followed by sudden disappearance from the fossil record. Stephen J. Gould, perhaps the most famous paleontologist of the 20th century, called this “the trade secret of paleontology”. Here’s a good site with many quotes on the subject from Gould’s magnum opus “The Structure of Evolutionary Theory”.

    Stasis in Fossil Record

  33. Dave,

    This is interesting and not at all what I learned in high school Biology class. No wonder the NAS is so worried about Ben Stein’s upcomming film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

    People might finally become aware that the actual fossil evidence does not support what they are being taught in school, on television and in National Geographic.

    I mean just think about all the terrible things that would occur if children were taught that there could actually be meaning and purpose in the universe.

  34. DeepDesign

    The so-called “overwhelming evidence” for “evolution” is in fact overwhelming evidence for common descent. There is virtually no evidence that chance & necessity played any role more significant than making small changes in species already fully formed.

    One should understand that there are two sub-fields of biology that need to be considered. The first and by far the most important is modern biology – the study of living tissue. This is where virtually all the practical discovery comes from. In the study of living tissue there is no doubt that all living things are deeply related to each other from the ground up starting with a virtually identical genetic code. Common descent is supported by this as we can see in different species commonalities in DNA. Many ID proponents will say this could also be common design but that makes little sense in light of useless bits of DNA like pseudogenes and retrovirus remants in similar (but not identical) states of disrepair consistently found in disparate species where the only reasonable explanation is the identifiable common bits of useless DNA were inherited from a common ancestor. If indeed it is common design rather than common descent the designer made new species out of old species and copied the useful with the useless, the good with the bad. In other words, if it is common design, it was still accomplished in a way that is indistinguishable from common descent. In any other area the same people who deny common descent would take this as incontrovertable evidence of common descent. Say two authors produce a work, one first then the other. They are so similar that the latter author is suspected of copying the earlier’s work. If the earlier work had mistakes in it (like speelling errers) and the errors were duplicated in the latter work any rational person would take this as incontrovertable evidence that the latter is a direct descendent of the former.

    Now, the other part of biology, which is practically useless in comparison to the study of living tissue, is historical biology. There are only two sources of empirical evidence for historical biology – observation of living species changing during recorded history and the fossil record. Observation of living species in historical times doesn’t support the idea that small changes accumulate into bigger changes. No one has observed a single instance in historical times of the creation of any novel cell type, tissue type, organ, or body plan. Very few examples of new species are recorded in historical times and of those few they are all just small changes that don’t amount to anything much more than two very similar populations that no longer interbreed. We can see in currently living organisms a huge range of cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans and we can see in the fossil record the same thing but what we can’t see is how these things came to exist. There is no evidence at all that gradualism (chance & necessity) can create this class of biological novelty.

  35. Thanks, Dave.

  36. DeepDesign

    What I fear is the public losing trust in science. Modern biology is the source of many great discoveries that serve to improve our lives. The great and lasting fraud in historical biology may give modern biology a terrible black eye once it’s exposed and modern biology doesn’t deserve it. We should therefore always be careful to discriminate between modern biology and historic biology. Unfortunately this is difficult to do when so many in the practice of modern biology blindly support their peers in historical biology. It’s going to backfire. The more detail that is uncovered by modern biology the less credible are the chance & necessity stories told by historical biologists. Nothing is going to stop modern biology from progressing and that progress will eventually undermine historical biology as it exists now to such an extent that the house of cards finally collapses. The real damage started happening in the past couple of decades when comparative genomics became a practical part of modern biology.

  37. DeepDesign,

    The interesting thing is that there are Darwinists who comment here and not one will ever dispute what Dave has said with any information to contradict it. There are even biologists and evolutionary biologists who comment here and are Darwinists and they also do not dispute Dave’s comments.

    Ask yourself why.

  38. Thanks again, Dave, do you have any ideas on who the designer(s) is?

    Hi Jerry, probably because they clampdown on creative thinking in their circles.

  39. 39

    off-topic:

    If anyone is interested in seeing exactly what is taught these days in biology courses (the actual classes) I stumbled upon a nicely compiled link of Berkley University courses, they can be viewed both in audio and video format.

    Click here

    I always find people (including myself who have no background in the biological sciences) question what exactly is being taught inside the classrooms.

  40. DeepDesign

    I can point to no empircal evidence of any specific designer or designers. The most I can do to characterize designer(s) is to say they must be capable of abstract planning (a mind capable of abstract thought), have some means of translating thought into reality, and some heavy duty expertise in biochemistry. The designer(s) must also have existed in causal proximity (time and space) to our planet in order to have effected the design. This could take the form of a one-time deposition of life on the planet where that initial population was designed to diversify as the environment permitted (usually called “front loading”) and tinkering designer(s) who come along at intervals to add new things. I prefer the former explanation as the more elegant and more congruent with Occam’s Razor but I’m not married to it. Outside biological intelligent design it sure looks to me like the entire universe was designed. The designer of life on earth and the designer of the universe need not be the same designer. A point that is made over and over in repudiation of biological ID is “Who designed the designer?” How the heck should I know? That’s like asking a materialist “Where did the material in materialism come from?” Anyone at least semi-literate in logic can invoke an infinite regression that eventually meets a brick wall at the edge of the observable universe. Maybe the material has always been here and maybe intelligent agency has always been here too.

  41. jpcollado writes:
    “just want to know what they mean by “high molecular evolutionary rate.” It can’t be mutations, since there is no such thing at the molecular level. You need genes for that.”

    Jack Krebs:
    “A small correction, as this statement is wrong. Genes are made of molecules, and it is specific DNA molecules within genes that mutate.

    Thank you Jack, I was careless here. What I really was referring to is the darwinian evolutionary process….there is no such thing at the molecular level…a point I tried to reiterate at post #23, viz., that a change in the sequence of nucleotides on a DNA molecule offers a defective framework for studying evolution.

  42. godslanguage,

    I have watched the evolution section of the biology course at Berkeley from 4 different instructors. For most you can also download an mp3 file of the lecture but it will have no slides to see. If you download while the course is being given all the pdf files that go with the lectures.

    Nothing they teach invalidates ID though they will take their pop shots at ID during some of the lectures. It is a good indicator of what is known and not known. I found Marty Slakin the best presenter and least biased, though of course he is a Darwinist. I almost feel you could have a good conversation with him even if he knew you supported ID.

  43. gpuccio:

    certainly something not predicted by neo-Darwinism, but in what way is ID a better explanation?

    - I think that the front-loading guys should love this find. This is a natural prediction of front-loading.
    - As far as seeing a parallel in technology goes, well, I see a definite pattern where new technologies are over-designed, later models are simpler. I’m not at all sure that a similar study of human technology would produce the same results. However, I think that the reason that new products are over-designed is inadequacy on the part of the designer, an inability to simplify. It would seem reasonable that a designer capable of producing biology would not have this kind of shortsightedness.

  44. bfast:

    You are right in the sense that a newly designed software is often badly designed, and becomes more efficient as it is refined. But my point was that basically new versions of a software, once stable, are always more complex than the older ones, not because they are overdesigned, but because the main motivation to new software implementation is simply to increase the functions. So, Operating Systems passed from 16 bits to 32 bits not just for the sake of novelty, but because the 32 bit systems could accommodate new functions. But 32 bit systems, with their new functions, are definitely more complex.

    My point is that complexity is a price which is paid to be able to express more and different functions. Complexity usually does not correlate well with stability and survival: on the contrary, it usually engenders increased weakness of the system and ipersensistivity to errors, and therefore requires further complex mechanisms of error prevention and control. That’s why the usual darwinian assumption, that complexity arises to improve survival, is in my opinion a complete misrepresentation. In my view, complexity arises because it is required to realize different definite goals of life, and then requires further adjustments to be compatible with survival.

    In other words, complexity is intrinsically linked to teleology.

  45. 45
    Timothy V Reeves

    This sort of subject is very thought provoking – it makes visit to UD worthwhile.

  46. gpuccio – what are these “goals of life” you mention?

    Sure, for humans lots of people will have lots of ideas (love your neighbors, get rich, all sorts, we can debate all year) but for the “lower” forms of life what goal other then survival do you think is being sought?

    And I understood the move from 16 to 32 and now 64 bits to be mainly about the amount of memory that can be addressed by the operating system, not to do with added functions as such (no doubt there are new functions added to deal with memory etc, but they are not the cause of the jump).

    And you say “then requires further adjustments to be compatible with survival”
    could you clarify? What do you mean by adjustments?

  47. f.blair:

    1) The goals of life: I apologize for being so short im my expression of the concept, indeed it was something I had already debated more extensively before. I mean that life, in my opinion, expresses gradually ever higher functions, organization, metabolism, interaction with the external world, movement, various degrees of consciousness and awareness, various degrees of action, various degrees of exploration, various degrees of reaction to experience (sensation, feeling, pleasure, pain) and so on, up to human beings, who are able of complex representation of the world, interaction with it, and modifications of it. All those things, for me, are goals of life, much more important than mere survival. Survival and reproduction are best implemented in bacteria and archea, there was no need of further complexity to improve on that.

    2) Operating systems: I am no computer engineer, but what I meant was that, passing from a 16 bit system to a 32 bit system, a lot of new functions were added (for instance, in Windows, true multitasking). I did not mean that they are strictly related to the bits of addressable memory, although some of them certainly are (I suppose that the use of longer file names is one of them). My point is that a really new version of a software ia written because there are things that the older version cannot do, and so the whole structure is re-written in a new and more complex way, to implement the new challenges. That’s exactly what we can observe in natural history, in regard to complexity.

    3) Adjustements: it’s simple, more complex software has more complex problems, especially, but not only, in the field of error management. Whoever has done some programming knows that very well. Without those complex ways of managing errors and new situations, a complex software meets a very early end. The same is true for living beings. The distinctive trait of the most complex beings is a very sophisticated error managing system, including complex immunological reactivity, DNA checkpoints and error correction, control of cellular apoptosis in the case of irreversible error, neurological integration and control, and so on.

  48. gpuccio said:

    3) Adjustements: it’s simple, more complex software has more complex problems, especially, but not only, in the field of error management. Whoever has done some programming knows that very well. Without those complex ways of managing errors and new situations, a complex software meets a very early end. The same is true for living beings. The distinctive trait of the most complex beings is a very sophisticated error managing system, including complex immunological reactivity, DNA checkpoints and error correction, control of cellular apoptosis in the case of irreversible error, neurological integration and control, and so on.

    And this is where the evidence becomes not only apparent but absolutely not up for debate, when it is clearly in favor of ID. Software that not only performs complex functions but has other functions which manage error detection, correction and overall management of the software is IMO the strongest possible case ID can make for the obvious fault tolerant mechanisms in biological systems. Based on that, we could say for x amount of specified complexity, y amount of error correction is needed for optimal or close to optimal performance else system crashes or unstable. Would you say thats a fair way to sum up the complexity to fault-tolerant ratio for the notably synonymous interactions of software and biological systems gpuccio?

  49. godslanguage:

    For me, it’s certainly a fair sum up. My points about error correction are vey simply derived from observation and a little practice with software programming and utilization, but maybe there is some more formal analysis of the issue in mathemathics and computer science.

    And I strongly agree with your point: “all” forms of meta-structures in information, in other words informational structures which manage and regulate and control lower levels of informatinal aggregations from a higher level, are incontrovertible evidence of design, even more than first level complexity, like protein structure or molecular machines.

    Error correction is a very good example of that, but there are many others, and especially transcription regulation, as I have tried many times to discuss on this blog.

  50. gpuccio – are you of the opinion then that self awareness would come to any living creature (or whatever you want to call the thing that makes humans different) given enough time?

    you said “I mean that life, in my opinion, expresses gradually ever higher functions” bacteria and archea, yet what stops bacteria and archea expressing, as you say, gradually ever higher functions, organization, metabolism, interaction with the external world etc? What’s the key difference?

    And if life’s goal is increasing complexity Is that life in general or only humans? If only humans, how do you know and on what do you base that? Can I expect dogs to start talking to me in 1000 years?

    You say simple survival and reproduction are best implemented via bacteria and archea but can those things implement the “goals” too?

    godslanguage you said “Based on that, we could say for x amount of specified complexity, y amount of error correction is needed for optimal or close to optimal performance else system crashes or unstable.”

    What units are x and y measured in?

  51. gpuccio – you said “Without those complex ways of managing errors and new situations, a complex software meets a very early end. The same is true for living beings.”

    Yes, the same is true for living beings. Yet new situations often bring death for the individual, despite any level of error management. Can’t error manage a boulder rolling over you. So to me it seems that if you have zero error management in a reproductive system that as soon as (if!) a mutation provided *any* level of error management it would rapidly become popular. So, if you accept that (and obviously the premise that *any* or *some* level of error management could arise naturally) is there a level of error management beyond which you would say *unambiguous design*? How clever is chance and time allowed to be?

  52. f.blair:

    1) My opinion is that life realizes various stages of expression, up to self-awareness, and that each successive stage is at a higher level of expression, and therefore complexity. From a design point of view, we can consider that ech new achievement is based on the results implemented in the previous, exactly as we can see in software development. Natural history is the gradual expression of the “software development” of life design.

    It’s not in the sense that any living creature, given enough time, would evolve of itself. Rather, it is the design of life which evolves “through” different living creatures. Living creatures are the expression of the evolving design, and not their cause.

    2) I agree with you that archea and bacteria already express many of the functions of life. In a sense, life contains just from the beginning the general plan of what it will express in the future. And yet, many basic principles of life are refined and made more powerful in more complex beings. Take movement, for example. It is already implemented in bacteria, but it certainly becomes more sophisticated and powerful in higher species. It expresses different specializations in fish, birds, mammals. Sensory organs express different ranges of sensibility, precision, dimensions, in different species. In a sense, it is as though the design of life is trying to exèplore all the various possibilities of experiencing the external world and reconstructing it in individual perception.
    The development of nervous systems, too, is a natural history of ever more complex computational, and other, functions, up to the extremely sophisticated brain of human beings, who certainlt express the highest potential of self-awareness and interpretation of the external world.
    So, I don’t think that life, as a global phenomenon, can be separated in categories. But it certainly expresses itself through different categories. But, again, the fundamentals of life are already present in prokaryotes, and go on recreating and differentiating themselves through the myriad of living beings, in higher and ever more complex forms.

    3) I certainly don’t except that “any” form of error management, or of any other form of higher regulation, can aride “naturally”, if you mean that in the sense of out of a design scenario. By the way, for me design is a perfectly “natural” component of reality. As I said before, even if the design scenario is already the only reasonable explanation even for the “first level” complexity (the effectors of the software, proteins and similar), that becomes even more strictly true for “second level” complexity, or meta-complexity (complexity which manages complexity): error management, regulation networks, immune systems, nervous systems. None of that could ever arise by “non designed” ways. All of them can definitely arise by designed ways. What you want to call “natural”, at this point, is only a question of ideology.

    Just to be even more clear, in my opinion chance and time may be many different things, but they certainly are not “clever”.

  53. gp “None of that could ever arise by “non designed” ways. All of them can definitely arise by designed ways. ”

    It seems to me valid to claim that they can arise via designed ways but I don’t see how you can claim it’s not possible for error correction mechanisms and the other things under discussion to arise without premeditated intelligent design. After all, you don’t have access to sufficient data to make that determination, nobody does, just like you can’t prove unicorns don’t really exist. We don’t know the laws of physics to the level required to make that statement. Yes, work by ID scientists has shown it’s improbable to the N’th degree, but as yet it’s not proven fact. So, just as Dawkins leaves the “it could be aliens” door open I think you have to leave the “it could be non-ID causes” door open, however small the gap, just to be fair?

  54. I know it’s terrible unfashionable to address the topic of the thread and all but…

    Why do you think a slow rate morphological evolution means we should predict a slow rate of neutral molecular evolution? If we get right down to the brass tacks of NDE its mutation creates variety selection means the ‘best’ of the variety survives. We’ve known for a long time that NS doesn’t usually move anywhere near it’s maximum speed (measured in the field) for any length of time, that is the rate limiting step in evolutionary change is not mutation – the creation of variation – but selective pressure, the need to change from what has been a winning formula for (at least in the case of the Tuatara) millions of years.

    This study just supports this idea, the mutation rate isn’t coupled to the rate of morphological change. So?

  55. f.blair:

    “It seems to me valid to claim that they can arise via designed ways but I don’t see how you can claim it’s not possible for error correction mechanisms and the other things under discussion to arise without premeditated intelligent design”

    My point is simply the general point of ID: we have essentially to kind of theories to explain biological information. The first are design based theories, which have all the potentiality to explain it. The second are non design based, mechanistic theories, essentially the various forms of neo-darwinism, which rely on some combination of chance and necessity (usually RV + NS), and strictly exclude design.
    The point of ID, and mine, is that at preent the best (probably the only) scientific approach to the problem of biological information is design based. All the others which have been proposed rely on a causal mechanism (RV + NS) which is both logically flawed and empirically unsupported: therefore, they should be rejected as scientific theories, or at least be considered a minor and rather weird approach, instead of being retained as revealed truth.

    “We don’t know the laws of physics to the level required to make that statement”.

    That’s not a problem. The statement, like any other scientific statement, is based on the laws of physics as we do know them, but it is obviously open to confrontation with any new law of physics which may be discovered, or simply proposed: that is the normal condition of any scientific theory (see next point). The fact is that at present no known law of physics, or proposed new one, gives any support to the darwinian theory.

    “Yes, work by ID scientists has shown it’s improbable to the N’th degree, but as yet it’s not proven fact.”

    Nor ever will be. Here is the usual epistemologic confusion. Theories are not facts, neither can they become facts. Moreover, facts cannot be proven They can only be correctly observed and reported.
    I have made that discussion many times. In brief:

    1) Facts are observable events. They are neither proven nor unproven. They just happen. we may have errors in the observation of facts, but that’s all.

    2) Theories are logical or mathematical inferences based on facts. They are never absolutely true (can always be challenged by new facts or new theories). They can, on the other hand, be effectively falsified (if facts definitely contradict them). Theories are never “proven”. They can, indeed, be “empirically falsified”, or they can be strongly supported by facts, but that’s all. No empirical scientific theory will ever be “proven” true: not gravitation theory, not quantum mechanics, not ID. But they are strongly supported theories. Darwinian evolution is not. Indeed, in my opinion, it is not only unsopported, but already falsified by facts, both logically and empirically.

    Regarding the N’th degree improbability, which you apparently accept, I would like to remark that it is, indeed, a falsification of darwinian theory. Why? Because darwinian theory is “based” on RV and NS. Random variation is an essential part of it, really the true engine which builds the new information. The important point is that a theory which relies heavily on random mechanisms “must” be supported by sound statistical reasoning, because randomness is exactly the mechanism invoked, and randomness can only be scientifically managed by statistical thought. Otherwise, the theory is not relying on chance, but on miracles. I have no problem with miracles, but that kind of things are usually called religions, and not scientific theories.
    In other words, a theory which heavily relies on randomness, and yet is statistically wholly unbelievable, is a living contradiction.

    “So, just as Dawkins leaves the “it could be aliens” door open I think you have to leave the “it could be non-ID causes” door open, however small the gap, just to be fair?”

    Really, I have no reason to be “fair” in that sense. By definition, I am always open not only to “it could be non-ID causes”, but to any other proposal, even unicorns. I have no prejudice. Obviously, the person who proposes a view had the duty to support it. Otherwise, I can listen to him as a form of education, but nothing more.
    I have, indeed, listened to darwinists with a lot of attention, and never found anything convincing in their approach. So, I think I am being very fair with them. I listen to them, and very openly express my ideas about what they say. I am always open to discuss any issue with them with total sincerity, provided there is at least a bit of correct attitude in the interlocutor. That’s fairness, for me. Just saying: “You could be right”, when I really don’t think that, can be only a form of courtesy or of political correcteness. While the first may be useful and deserved in some cases, I really hate the second.

  56. The authors of this study sequenced a short stretch of mitochondrial DNA from a set of extant and fossil specimens. They did not look at any of the nuclear genes that could have an effect on morphological appearance. Further studies on these nuclear genes might find a different rate of evolutionary change.

  57. It should be noted that the tuatara paper described a short segment of mitochondrial DNA that was sequenced in extant and fossil samples. The authors did not look at nuclear genes and they did not look at nuclear genes that might be expected to modify morphology. Further studies on such nuclear genes might produce a different result.

  58. [...] Tuatara, the fastest (and perhaps slowest) evolving animal |Yet another missed prediction made by the chance & necessity theory of evolution. The Tuatara is one of the slowest evolving animals we know of – stable in … The Tuatara is one of the slowest evolving animals we know of – stable in form for tens of millions of years after it separated from early dinosaurs. [...]

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