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Re: The final rant (was primers)

This is my last post on the subject...

"Jaime A. Headden" wrote:

> The reason I separate human-dominated evolution is because it is, in every
> sense of the word, engineered. We are making concious descisions to select
> which breeding partners for which without any other factors than for
> behavioral or physical characteristics that are pleasing to "us," not
> neccessarily to the animals. 

> They are not forming natural populations, but
> we are making their groups and anatomy selective by preventing their
> breeding otherwise, or at least get unhappy when they do manage to select
> their own mates. Thus, this "evolution" is NOT in the same framework as
> non-human-interfered selection, aka "natural" selection.

Selective pressure is selective pressure, no matter what the source.
Selective breeding can tell us something about evolution in general, and
it can do so in a timeframe that allows for scientific observation. See
the Farm Fox experiment:


'Natural' selection often selects for traits that the individual animals
don't necessarily want consciously. Even if mammoths didn't want to
become smaller (if indeed they ever 'wanted' anything), they still did
on some islands (otherwise they wouldn't have survived into historic
times). Selective pressure is a bitch... you can't pick and choose which
pressures your evolution responds to and which it doesn't. You grab hold
of whatever works best with both hands and go along for the ride.

We're all at the whim of selective pressures, even our own. Human
behaviour resulted in the use of antibiotics. Some pathogens became
resistant to those drugs - they evolved in response to selective
pressure caused by humans. We unwittingly caused the evolution of 'super
bugs' that could potentially wipe us out if we eventually run out of
antibiotic variations. Humans didn't intentionally develop these
resistant pathogen strains, however the selective pressure was humanly
produced none-the-less. Are these pathogen strains therefore not
'natural'? They have, after all, simple responded to selective pressure
that was placed on them. I doubt the pathogens themselves really care
what the source of the selective pressure was.

> Human-driven selection is NOT natural, and its engineering makes it
> distinctive from what is natural. Thus, I use the dichotomy of artificial
> as a real boundary to selection, and that breeds of dogs, pigeons, cats,
> and lilies have no "real" selective advantage in nature unless allowed to
> interact genetically without human interference.

*sigh* It seems that unbiased observation IS a myth. Obviously you've
had the 'natural' verses 'human' dichotomy drummed into you from an
early age, and thus that preconceived concept shapes your viewpoint even
before the evidence is taken into consideration.

Humans ARE nature. A skyscraper is no different from a termite mount in
general terms. Both are built to protect members of the species from the
elements. Both have a degree of structure, with various parts performing
different functions. Both provide habitat for other species. The only
difference is that humans make a conscious decision to build - termites
are governed by hard-wired instinct. The way they get built may differ,
but the outcome is the pretty much the same. Diff'rent strokes for
diff'rent folks, as a great philosopher once said. Just one example of
the wonderful variety that life affords on this planet.

> Pugs arose not through symbiosis, but through selective breeding and,
> most recently, selective breeding programs, to keep their blood-lines
> pure, or to find particularly "pleasant" traits one would like one's
> family to possess. A shaggier coat? It can be done. Give me two
> generations, and your kids will have a shaggier pug. This is not
> symbiosis, as I see it. 

The symbiotic relationship is not between pugs and humans, but rather
humans and dogs as a species (and other domesticated species). Domestic
dogs are far more numerous than their wild ancestors. While humans
domesticated animals, the animals also domesticated humans. Both benefit
from the relationships. Life is all about continuation of the genome.
Domestication has made many species far more successful than they ever
would have been if they hadn't ridden on the coat-tails of a
particularly successful species of primate.

> I'm sure, however, that niche description is both
> right, and wrong, but pugs have no selective benefit to living with
> humans, since their continued breeding and family life is dependant on us
> and our whims, but still, there is that: niche advantage in living with
> humans ... it's just that it was wolves that made that selective
> advantage, and since then, all other breeds were entirely born within, so
> lacked "choice" or any allopatric availability.

No species evolves by choice. Whether the selective pressure for change
is produced by humans, climate, or competition with other species,
evolution (like sh*t) happens. No species cares what the source of the
selective pressure was - it simply responds to it in a way that
(hopefully) improves the chances for survival. Pugs get a regular supply
of food, fresh water, dependable shelter, and a health package to die
for (ironically). I'm guessing the average lifespan of a pug is longer
than that of a wild wolf. And as for their continued success relying on
humans: how is this symbiotic relationship any different from the orchid
that relies on wasps to pollenate it? Or how figs rely on fig wasps (and
vice versa)? Or how entire forests depend on fungus that grows about
their roots? Nature is full of symbiotic relationships that improve
survival chances; domestication is but one of them.

> "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)

Damn strait...


Dann Pigdon
GIS / Archaeologist         http://www.geocities.com/dannsdinosaurs
Melbourne, Australia        http://heretichides.ravencommunity.net/