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The New Science of Evolutionary Forecasting

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the partly-hairy-with-a-chance-of-eyeballs dept.

Science 63

An anonymous reader writes "Scientists may not be able to predict what life will be like 100 million years from now, but they may be able to make short-term forecasts for the next few months or years. And if they're making predictions about viruses or other health threats, they might be able to save some lives in the process. "Biologists have found cases in which evolution has, in effect, run the same experiment several times over. And in some cases the results of those natural experiments have turned out very similar each time. In other words, evolution has been predictable. One of the most striking cases of repeated evolution has occurred in the Caribbean. ... Each time lizards colonized an island, they evolved into many of the same forms. On each island, some lizards adapted to living high in trees, evolving pads on their feet for gripping surfaces, along with long legs and a stocky body. Other lizards adapted to life among the thin branches lower down on the trees, evolving short legs that help them hug their narrow perches. Still other lizards adapted to living in grass and shrubs, evolving long tails and slender trunks. On island after island, the same kinds of lizards have evolved."

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Great, here it comes... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47483217)

Al Gore on line 1, Fox News on every other line.

I didn't read TFA (1)

shadowrat (1069614) | about 5 months ago | (#47483231)

TFS makes me think that it's an article about covergent evolution. That's not exactly news. The kiwi looks like a mouse. water dragons look like iguanas. animals look like the role they fill in the ecosystem.

Re:I didn't read TFA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47483275)

I am the NIGGER GUY here to deliver your daily NIGGER. NIGGERS! There. I said it. You should say it too. When the sky does not fall you can start asking why it was ever such a big fucking deal.

Re:I didn't read TFA (3, Interesting)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | about 5 months ago | (#47483331)

The thing is, they're filling the same roles in the same ecosystems. Suppose trees were square on one island, or very sticky on another, or very short and smooth, or poisonous, or covered in ants. In these cases the lizards would have evolved very different forms.

Re:I didn't read TFA (3, Insightful)

Lazere (2809091) | about 5 months ago | (#47483463)

That's the point. When they know certain conditions, they can predict, with some level of accuracy, what evolutions will take place.

Re:I didn't read TFA (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 5 months ago | (#47484619)

That's the point. When they know certain conditions, they can predict, with some level of accuracy, what evolutions will take place.

I'm just curious as to how they overcame the more unpredictable factors such as random mutations (e.g. a cosmic ray bumps some life form's DNA a little, causing a benefit, etc.), or did they just count that as statistical noise, or...?

Re:I didn't read TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47511119)

I'm just curious as to how they overcame the more unpredictable factors such as random mutations

What do you mean? This isn't some kind of "in X years, the lizards will develop longer legs" forecasting. It's more of a "in this environment, having longer legs advantageous. So we expect that longer legs will be selected for" forecasting.

Re:I didn't read TFA (1)

HiThere (15173) | about 5 months ago | (#47487029)

That's only the case when there are a limited number of ways to adapt successfully to a changed condition. What this seems to show is that there are is not a limited number of ways, at least a preferred number of ways. Which means that the mutations necessary to adapt to them don't occur at random.

There are a couple of ways this could be done, but the reasoning isn't straightforwards. OTOH, if you instead can say "Well, the last time this situation occurred, that was the response", and make a correct prediction based on that, then you don't need the underlying reasoning to make it work. Historical observation suffices.

Re:I didn't read TFA (2)

rossdee (243626) | about 5 months ago | (#47483355)

"The kiwi looks like a mouse"

But it doesn't have a scroll wheel

"water dragons look like iguanas"

Are they from Harry Potter, LOTR, or Anne McCaffreys books?

Re:I didn't read TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47487419)

your retarded

Re:I didn't read TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47488211)

*your're*

Re:I didn't read TFA (1)

shadowrat (1069614) | about 5 months ago | (#47489965)

water dragons (Physignathus cocincinus) are a lizard found in southeat asia. They are omnivorous and fill roughly the same role there that iguanas fill in south america. They share a lot of physical traits, and to the untrained eye are often confused for each other (though with a little experience, it's easy to tell them apart)

Re:I didn't read TFA (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 5 months ago | (#47483357)

The difference, of course, is in demonstrating the predictive value of evolution, in a measurable and falsifiable way. Before, we could make pretty reliable predictions about unknown past events, which is good enough to be science, but sciences' main draw is in its utility in being able to understand how things will happen under any given circumstance.

Not Quite the Same (4, Informative)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 5 months ago | (#47483413)

It does not appear to be quite the same thing as convergent evolution (but I'm a physicist not a biologist!). My understanding of covergent evolutions is that it is when two wildly different evolutionary paths end up with the same solution to a problem e.g. an octopus eye and a human eye are functionally very similar even though our last common ancestor certainly had nothing like it.

This is rather the claim that evolution is reproducible in the short term i.e. if you put the same strain of bacteria in the same conditions they will evolve in the exact same way and not find different evolutionary paths to the same goal. This means that evolution becomes predictable and you can then predict with some degree of accuracy how a virus, bacteria or cell will evolve. This has obvious applications for disease control and perhaps cancer too.

Re:Not Quite the Same (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 5 months ago | (#47483953)

But it is the same forces in play. The limitations of the physics (and thus chemistry and thus biology) that drive structure and function of DNA, protein, etc limit the possible ways that nature can create ways to solve evolutionary problems. So whether it is a photon sensing system or pads on lizard, given the toolkit that nature (yeah, I'm anthropomorphizing a bit, sorry) has, it uses it in a similar fashion to get to a desired end result.

Re:Not Quite the Same (1)

outlander (140799) | about 5 months ago | (#47484555)

Also not an evolutionary biologist, but I think you're on the right track. I don't know whether a given environment will favor a specific set of mutations (e.g., the exact same path each time), but assuming a constant environment, the organisms that result will probably be similarly adapted to the environment. It's kind of a cool idea because at a molecular-genetic level, there are probably something like functions (vs individual lines of code) which interact and can be documented at some sort of macro level, which combine in more or less predictable ways ('predictable' being a gross oversimplification of the molecular complexity involved).

Ah, I need to go read some genetics textbooks. The evolutionary biologists have a lot of this stuff mapped already - look at what they know about HOX genes. So.cool.

Re:Not Quite the Same (1)

Livius (318358) | about 5 months ago | (#47486221)

Evolution will favour adaptation. In some cases, there may only be one straighforward path to an adaptive solution, but there will sometimes be surprises.

Re:Not Quite the Same (1)

Artifakt (700173) | about 5 months ago | (#47487803)

I'm thinking this is also about what we consider "alike" or "the same" Just a few days ago, I came across a report of a new (to me) member of the Burgess shale fossils, a relative of Anomalocaris. Basically, Anomalocaris was a two meter long killer shrimp with spiky grabbers and rasping plate teeth. It was the biggest thing in the ocean, the equivalent of a whale compared to the typial creatures of the time. This particular relative was a very large sized ( for the era) filter feeder, believed to be evolved from the Anomalocaris parent line about 25 million years later. If we agree that a 2 meter long swimmer that was fifty times the mass of just about everything else was the rough equivalent of a whale, it looks like that 'whale' eventually gave rise to several varieties of both predatory and filter feeding descendants. The question is, "What does "same" mean in this context?" - Anomalocaris must have been a living nightmare, like a T-Rex or a Great White, to the creatures of its era, but it would be a prey species in the modern seas. Hell, typical tuna would probably take them down routinely, let alone modern sharks. So does it make sense to say we now know of two cases where predatory whale-likes evolved into more varieties of whale-likes and some of those became filter feeders? Can we predict that large predators in the seas will give rise to large filter feeders in general? Is there, in fact. a lesson to be drawn in such cases? Or are humans, so good at seeing patterns we often see them where they don't exist, doing that thing we do sometimes?

Re:Not Quite the Same (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 5 months ago | (#47487837)

I'm thinking this is also about what we consider "alike" or "the same"

Sort of but I'm thinking that it is more about the process vs. result. Convergent evolution is about the end results: there appear to be only a certain number of basic eye designs which work and so evolution tends to converge on one of these solutions no matter where it starts. This result is talking about the fact that given the same starting point and the same environment identical organisms will evolve in the same way i.e. there are not just stable solutions which you arrive at but stable paths along which you travel to get there.

Anyway this is definitely the most interesting bioscience result I've seen in a while so I'll have to quiz my biological colleagues about it when I get the chance!

Re:I didn't read TFA (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 5 months ago | (#47483573)

Perhaps not necessarily. Lenski's E. coli long-term evolution experiment has demonstrated that some evolutionary steps can be "pre-conditioned". That's what *I* thought immediately of when I saw the summary: that given a current state of a species, it might be possible to predict the likeliest changes to expect.

tl;dr nature is BORING (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47483237)

It's just one big machine and unless you have a natural, arbitrary interest in machines, you're going to be disappointed in life.

Re:tl;dr nature is BORING (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 5 months ago | (#47483341)

Luckily all you have to do to fix your pointlessly nihilistic philosophical problems is kill yourself. Poof no more boredom with the intricate mechanisms of reality. All done.

The rest of us can keep pushing that boulder up the hill for whatever reasons happen suit us, no matter how absurd.

Re:tl;dr nature is BORING (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47483819)

The rest of us can keep pushing that boulder up the hill for whatever reasons happen suit us, no matter how absurd.

I just love Syphilis illusions. Keep up the good work!

Re:tl;dr nature is BORING (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 5 months ago | (#47483971)

Syphilis.

Close. No cigar.

Re:tl;dr nature is BORING (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47484083)

Syphilis.

Close. No cigar.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar...

Re:tl;dr nature is BORING (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 5 months ago | (#47484217)

A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but you mean amother.

Re:tl;dr nature is BORING (1)

Artifakt (700173) | about 5 months ago | (#47487823)

illusions / allusions
Another "no cigar" in the same sentence. One AC will die of ennui induced suicide, but the other will at least avoid lung cancer.

Re:tl;dr nature is BORING (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47484231)

It's no illusion. You really have it.

Re:tl;dr nature is BORING (1)

outlander (140799) | about 5 months ago | (#47484563)

Sisyphus.

Syphilis is between shit and sympathy in the dictionary....

Re:tl;dr nature is BORING (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47487429)

No it's not. Idiot.

Metaphysics CYA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47483379)

From TFA:

"But the question is: What's the overall picture?" Losos asked. "Are we cherry-picking the examples that work against him, or are we going to find that most of life is deterministic? No one is going to say Gould is completely wrong. But they're not going to say he's completely right either."

Largely because although nobody can discuss evolution for more than 5 sentences without "slipping" and implying teleology (overall purpose) in the concepts they use, acknowledging that implication is unacceptable to the scientific orthodoxy, for reasons that by now are obvious.

Re:Metaphysics CYA (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 5 months ago | (#47483403)

How the hell does any of that imply any sort of teleological argument? There's not even the vaguest hint of design in a word of it.

Re:Metaphysics CYA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47483443)

Please provide a -very specific- working definition of the word "deterministic".

Re:Metaphysics CYA (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 5 months ago | (#47483655)

Determinism is the philosophical position that for every event, including human action, there exist conditions that could cause no other event. Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

It's the simple assertion of effect derives from cause. This bears absolutely no relationship to teleological philosophical arguments, which construe reality itself to be purpose driven. Outright unrelated concepts. You need to educate yourself.

Re:Metaphysics CYA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47483725)

"You need to educate yourself."

No, I don't.

Explain the origination of these "conditions", and what determines them.

Re:Metaphysics CYA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47483925)

You think humans have any way of knowing whether or not there was an uncaused cause, or an infinite regress? Or something else entirely?

The simple observation that effects have causes is not, in and of itself, sufficient to provide an answer for the origins.

*ANY* answer is made up. Honesty and humility demand that scientists, theologians, and philosophers all admit that they simply don't know, and have no way to know.

Re:Metaphysics CYA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47483959)

Fine, but back to my original point, using the word "deterministic" and handwaving the issue of what is doing the "determining" is obfuscation, not clarification, and if we wanted to parse it down further, using it as such is likely demonstrably formally invalid.

So, again, reject teleology if you must, just be aware you cannot speak about evolution without your own mouth betraying you within 60 seconds or so.

Re:Metaphysics CYA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47484191)

Nobody is hand-waving.

What is doing the determining? The effects are. The effects determine the causes. That's it. The process is mechanical; the laws of physics power it. This is an observation.

Metaphysical speculation about whether the laws of physics are actually driven by a conscious being or whatever is entirely outside the scope of science. We observe, we see determinism at work in the process of evolution, and we run with that.

An honest "I don't know" is not hand-waving. It is not the job of a biologist to tell you whether or not God exists, nor should the theories with which they operate say anything about such metaphysical speculations (and they are speculations, not observations).

Nothing in this is self-betrayal. The theory of evolution is a sound theory given the observations. Your insistence that it is somehow self-contradictory is based entirely on your own forgone conclusions about reality, not on anything within the theory itself.

Re:Metaphysics CYA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47484651)

"The effects are. The effects determine the causes. That's it."

Well, that's just circular. You cannot ultimately ascertain whether a system is deterministic, or not, without addressing the full chain of causes. That local cause X determines effect Y simply doesn't have bearing. It's trivially true and irrelevant to using the concept as meaning what it says.

"The process is mechanical; the laws of physics power it. This is an observation."

Again, you by admission have only a subset of he causal chain here. Insufficient to address whether or not something is deterministic. One may well say that if I drop a ball off a building, it falling is deterministic. Fine, that has nothing to do with determining if the system as such is deterministic. Is it deterministic that a ball will drop off building X today? You have no idea, regardless of how thoroughly versed in gravity you may be.

"An honest 'I don't know' is not hand-waving."

I submit an honest 'I don't know' is precisely what is not happening in the scope of the TFA, and rarely ever happens. "Science" here is effectively "the verbal rendering of our scientific egos," not science.

"...nor should the theories with which they operate say anything about such metaphysical speculations..."

Thanks for your speculations. I don't agree. If a cause is theoretically determinable, determining it should be pursued, whether or not you consider the proposed construct "speculative" or not. It's done a thousand times a day by hard physics in contemplating which of the (as yet indeterminate) Interpretations of QM is the correct one. It's entirely "speculative" now. It's still science. It has no differentation in this respect from other hypotheses (yes, you can indeed have a hypothesis you cannot test, let's not digress into that particular canard) from ones you'd like to exclude because of your worldview bias.

"Nothing in this is self-betrayal."

Sure it is. You're using terms as if rock-solid science that on the most cursory inquiry you can't justify scientifically. To be fair, though, I don't consider this primarily your fault, you use the terms without consideration, because you don't want to consider the validity of how you are using them, and most others don't want you to either, or encourage you to, for the exact same reasons. You already know what your reasons are, correct? What you -must- exclude a priori? You agree with the others you want to handwave thorough analysis for the exact same feelings about what you don't want to talk about?

"...forgone conclusions about reality, not on anything within the theory itself."

Hardly. I'm simply suggesting that if you are going to present a model of how you say something is, be able to do so systematically throughout, or don't do it at all.

Re:Metaphysics CYA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47486539)

What you are saying doesn't even make sense.

We are observing, and modeling based on our observations. The inability to provide provable answers to every possible question does not preclude the option to build useful and predictive models based on what can be and has been observed. There is no reason why deterministic models should provide a definitive answer to the question of the origin of the universe, as that is not their purpose.

I am a fool. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47486789)

I just re-read my post. I said it backwards. I honestly can't believe I did that.

I meant to say "What is doing the determining? The causes are. The causes determine the effects." And I got that exactly backwards.

I think I am officially senile now.

Re:Metaphysics CYA (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 5 months ago | (#47484681)

Yeah, I'm going to back out of this debate and call you a moron, instead. You've just made it very clear that you have a stupid position and that relatively simple definitions have no bearing on how you interpret words.

This is a "shouting at graffiti" situation.

Convergent and Recurrent Evolution shows this (1)

deathcloset (626704) | about 5 months ago | (#47483385)

I think that convergent evolution would be a very high-level example of how the results of selection can be predictable and are in fact repeated, even if the actual underlying mechanisms and specific genes involved in the convergent adaption in different species differ, the results are the same. Recurrent evolution also seems to support the "non-random" or "predictable" nature of evolution. In other words, if you put a square organism in a round environment, we know that its successful decedents will have rounded edges.

Re:Convergent and Recurrent Evolution shows this (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 5 months ago | (#47483437)

The difference here is that they're trying to frame convergent evolution in a more falsifiable way, by asserting particular predictions of convergent evolution as measurable hypotheses.

so star trek wasn't so silly... (1)

airdrummer (547536) | about 5 months ago | (#47483505)

and the universe is filled with english-speaking humanoids;-)

Re:Convergent and Recurrent Evolution shows this (1)

HiThere (15173) | about 5 months ago | (#47487057)

No. Convergent evolution deals with appearance or function, not with genetics, details of implementation, etc.

The classic example of convergent evolution is the icthyosaur and the dolphin. Both have LOTS of similarities in form and shape. The details of their function are different, but you need to look fairly closlely to see that. E.g. the Icthyosaur had huge eyes where the dolphin has sonar. The two animals have the axis of their tails at right angles to each other, etc. But you can trace the axis of the dolphin's tail back to the galloping gait of it's terrestrial ancestor, while the icthyosaur had a side to side movement, similar to that of a fish, because it's ancestor didn't gallop, but had a much more lizardish gait (and thus was more similar to a fish).

Basically what convergent evolution tells us is that function follows form, and vice versa.

What would be really interesting is if they could show that the tree climbing lizards on the various islands had adapted to climbing trees by activating the same genes. I don't expect that, but if it could be shown it would be evidence for a higher order of evolution, sometimes called "the evolution of evolveability". Nobody has yet shown that it exists, but it hasn't been proven theoretically impossible.

Seeds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47483399)

the results of those natural experiments have turned out very similar each time

Well, if you're going to pick the same seeds to rand() every single time...

Prediction is very difficult... (2)

NikeHerc (694644) | about 5 months ago | (#47483533)

Niels Bohr famously said, "Prediction is very difficult, especially of the future." I think he was on target, even factoring in possible facetiousness.

But Does It Scale (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 5 months ago | (#47483661)

On island after island, the same kinds of lizards have evolved.

Sure, in close islands with identical ecosystems. But if this hypothesis scales universally.... why don't we have kangaroos or elephants in the Americas?

Re:But Does It Scale (1)

Crayon Kid (700279) | about 5 months ago | (#47483753)

They don't like hanging upside down.

Re:But Does It Scale (1)

Artifakt (700173) | about 5 months ago | (#47487839)

We don't like the elepahants hanging upside down from our trees either. Why do you think we made the giant sloths stay on the ground? Walking under a low hanging elephant? Not advisable.

Re:But Does It Scale (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 5 months ago | (#47484377)

Sure, in close islands with identical ecosystems. But if this hypothesis scales universally.... why don't we have kangaroos or elephants in the Americas?

Not enough scaling. We're just talking about lizards turning into other lizards. There's nothing like an elephant that could turn into one on the same kind of time scale. Genes can't do just anything, only some possible outcomes are valid, and there was nothing which could turn into those things during that time. Also, different pressures. In the lizards-on-islands example, the pressures faced by the lizards are similar, down to respective environments, predators, etc.

Re:But Does It Scale (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 5 months ago | (#47484387)

No, the point was if they knew what the conditions were like they may be able to predict short term changes based on being able to reproduce the same results multiple times in a identical ecosystem. Not that kangaroos and elephants would evolve in a place different from their natural habitat...

Re:But Does It Scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47485795)

You had mammoths during the ice age and Dromiciops gliroides currently in Chile and Argentina. Lets say that all of the other mammals died a horrible death and give it a 100 million years. Lets also dry up the whole continent, leading to a significant distance between waterholes. Behold, an American kangaroo!
The idea sounds like a diffusion theory for life. Life evolves to use every energy source in a particular ecosystem, with the need of maximizing energy input driving specialization with the limit of available supply (competition) driving generalization.

Re:But Does It Scale (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 5 months ago | (#47485949)

why don't we have kangaroos or elephants in the Americas?

We ate them?

Happens to humans: Look at your hands! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47483677)

Look at your hands. Mine have long slender thin fingers adapted to fine dexterity tasks. I come from a line of watchmakers and jewelers. In the modern age, my hands are well suited for typing or working with fine circuitry.

Now look at a farmer's hands. Or a basketball player's hands. You could fit several of my fingers in the space of just one of theirs.

I suppose my genetic heritage also relates to why I'm so nearsighted. I can see very well, much better than average, close up. But without glasses, I'm practical blind after a few meters.

Seems like they are characterizing the sensitivity (1)

Crashmarik (635988) | about 5 months ago | (#47483769)

of biological systems to mutation more than anything else. Without mutation you will just see the permutations of the existing genome try to fill the ecological space with those best suited to particular niches taking up residence there. The lizards for example the best suited fro tree climbing/feeding take up residence in the trees and breed new generations with an ever more narrow slice of the original colonizers genome.

The beneficial mutations that introduce new genes are were you get changes and would seem to be nearly impossible to predict in detail. You could hypothesize that a bacterial would eventually mutate to utilize an available food source, if not in any great detail the exact method.

The rest just seems to be usual determinism. Does it really take that much to predict that if you breed horse in pens with 3 foot ceilings and keep them in them all the time, in a few generations you are going to get short horses ?

Re:Seems like they are characterizing the sensitiv (1)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | about 5 months ago | (#47483873)

Does it really take that much to predict that if you breed horse in pens with 3 foot ceilings and keep them in them all the time, in a few generations you are going to get short horses ?

Only if the tall horses are unable to breed in that environment. You might get tall horses that have sex laying down.

This is called agriculture (1)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | about 5 months ago | (#47483851)

Apply selective pressures to the plants you grow, seeding the ones you want for durability, taste, color...lather, rinse repeat.

The real challenge would be to predict what natural selective pressures might exist in any given environment - even if you're looking at a constant geography, anything from weather, or even other life forms, can provide unpredictable selective pressures that will nix your prediction.

To quote Jurassic Park (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47484327)

Life will find a way.

I for one welcome our... (1)

scorp1us (235526) | about 5 months ago | (#47484873)

new-boss-same-as-the-old-boss overlords!

(That's the forecast anyway)

selection of existing variation, not new mutations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47486167)

There's a difference to remember between fresh mutation, versus natural selection from available variation in the gene pool already.

The latter explains most of what we see: sometime in the past, in some peculiar conditions
(a generations-long severe drought or volcanic/asteroid winter -- when generations could be a year or a few, time for a useful gene to have a lot of grandchildren so it's widespread).

In such a case some genes were very useful and they were widespread as long as they were valuable. But genes rarely (ever?) go away entirely.

Those extreme conditions went away -- and the genes since then persisted at low levels in the population. The next time those same conditions happen again, whichever animals/plants happen to be still carrying those old genes are more successful.

Predicting the future (1)

lazy genes (741633) | about 5 months ago | (#47487161)

The only missing variable may be that human intelligence is relative to the size of the population. It may explain why we have no empathy towards this planet. The impossible situations that we face today may someday be solved as long as we keep increasing the population. Otherwise, we are surely doomed.
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