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Re: Say Hello To Occam's Bulldozer

Original Message by Stephan Pickering
Friday, 6. December 2002 13:30 

> [...] which survived the K/T extinction
> events (not event; the bollide impact did not "kill
> off" all of the dinosaurs).

But most of them. And lots of everything else.

> But...there is data from which one can
> make guesses (sauropods, like giraffe, probably used
> necks for both combat and mating rituals among females
> and males;

Not that I could in any way falsify this. But if the choice is between using 
the neck or the tail for this, I'd prefer the latter.

BTW, Crichton only looked at diplodocids. Most other sauropods that are known 
well enough have much shorter, lighter tails, irrespective of neck length.

> For
> example, "natural selection" is scientifically
> meaningless: like Isaac Asimov's "hyperspace", it was
> a buzzword in the absence of evidence... i.e.,
> "natural selection" does not exist:

Firstly, I doubt the word hyperspace is Asimov's invention; anyway, it's used 
a lot to refer to "spaces" with more than 3 dimensions or the representations 
of mathematical models with more than 3 variables. (Such as ecospace, 

Secondly, as I understand or perhaps misunderstand it, natural selection 
cannot help but exist, because it's a tautology: Those that have more 
offspring have more offspring. Therefore the majority of the next generation 
will have descended from those that had more offspring. Those that have, for 
inheritable reasons, less offspring that survives into reproductive age are, 
as the expression is, selected against.

> Kris, you are a mensch!

I do hope he's a human... er... nowadays lots of German words are showing up, 
via Yiddish, in English, but with modified meanings that I usually don't 
understand. What do you mean by Mensch?

(I think I've understood Spiel*, which means game in German, but in rare 
cases also ballade or even (musical) play, because the verb, spielen, means 
play, including to play a musical instrument... but that basically was it. I 
have no idea where the schm- prefix comes from, "phyla schmyla", and so on. 
Someone please help me.)

* Sp and st are in most cases pronounced shp and sht. Therefore various sch 
creeping in.

> *******************************************************
> --- MariusRomanus@aol.com wrote:
> > I think the time is right to introduce all of you to
> > the concept of "Occam's Bulldozer"......

A very good idea. Your example is IMHO suboptimal, though. :-)

> > Yes... It does seem to be a really good idea
> > that simple feathers evolved first [...] However...
> > Homeotics don't play that type of game peoples.

Looks like they do, almost. That recent Nature paper by Yu et al. messed 
around with gene expression to find out just that.

> > Evolutionary "stages" are not
> > viewing themselves as part of a series. They are
> > just looking for more immediate reproductive
> > success.

Of course, of course. Has been forgotten very often. Doesn't contradict the 

> > It is a fools game to play "Lets guess what
> > variations in homeotic gene expression can do!".

Fully correct. "Let's _try_ what variations in homeotic gene expression can 
do!" is not, however. This is a scientist's game. (OK, OK. Not that there 
weren't some foolish scientists. :-) )

> > If we think about skulls and trends... The number
> > one trend seems to have been a reduction in
> > complexity... Not an increase.

Yeah. And? Bad news for those who believed in progress in evolution and 
equated more skull bones with progress. I doubt anyone ever did both, however.