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Episode 2 (April 16th, 2014)
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4/17/2014 at 11:11:21 AM GMT
Posts: 41
Episode 2 (April 16th, 2014)
This topic is devoted to episode 2 of Neil Shubin's "Your Inner Fish."

Last edited Thursday, April 17, 2014
4/17/2014 at 11:44:59 AM GMT
Posts: 41
Chimps and humans BOTH indignant to learn of common ancestry with rodent
Neil Shubin continues to in Episode 2: "Your Inner Reptile" to highlight major transitions and his involvement in some of the fossil finds.  

He covered the amniotic sac as a key innovation to keep our reptile ancestors' eggs from drying out.  Later animals giving live birth had no need for the yolk because they were connect and nourished by the umbilical chord.  See slide 21 here for the molecular basis of some of this evidence -- the vitellogenin pseudogene, i.e., the egg yolk protein (or one of them) that exists in humans but is no longer functional.  Neils episode 2 connected the dots for me on that one with amazing graphics.

It was interesting to learn that they think our hair is linked to the whiskers of nocturnal reptile-like mammals.  

Of course, chimps and gorillas would probably also be almost as indignant as humans to learn of common ancestry with those rodent-like creatures.  ;-o)

I'm still looking, and hopefully it will be in the 3rd and final episode, for what I found to be one of the most interesting stories at the end of his book --  why we hiccup.   Maybe I missed it in the first episode.  But, I won't give it away if it is coming up.

4/20/2014 at 2:11:18 AM GMT
Posts: 141
Like Keith, I'm enjoying the series and learning quite a bit. The graphics are done well and at a level where they enhance the message rather than detract from it. That little reptile seems so lifelike as it moves around!

The key phrase that caught my attention in this episode was used on several occasions. I would need a transcript to quote it accurately but a paraphrase should get the point across. Neil said " keep the egg moist, amphibians would return to the water, but ancient reptiles developed an amniotic sac..." and on another occasion " keep the skin moist and pliable our ancestor developed glands and follicles..."

In other words, teleological language kept creeping in this time. This is not unusual in discussions by evolutionary biologists. The interesting question is, what does it mean. Walter Thorson has argued that such widespread use of teleological language (not just by biologists, but by physicists, chemists, etc.) is an indication that there is something beyond mere physics and chemistry that is going on. But it seems to me that such language is more of an anthropomorphism. We use it because we can relate to it and can understand it better, not in the sense that there really is inherent teleology. If one pins down an evolutionary biologist who uses such language, they will be quick to say that they do not mean a real purpose or intent, but that it is a shorthand for the outcome of contingent events. Nevertheless, it is intriguing.

Did any of the rest of you notice this language? What do you think of it? I think it is a misleading statement that shortcuts the actual random processes that are going on.

4/22/2014 at 12:03:00 AM GMT
Posts: 21
Yep, Randy, teleological language always creeps in, but as Christians, I don't think it should bother us. We have a reason to think that it makes sense. Personally, I'm inclined to think it's naive to try to make science out it, but I think God achieved His creative purposes in some way, however mysterious. (If nothing else, we get some good cartoons - I'm thinking Gary Larsen's fish contemplating crawling onto land to retrieve his baseball.) Seriously, again I'll recommend Jon Garvey's blog - I probably don't agree with Jon at every level, but he is thinking pretty seriously about this business, I think.
Jon's reflecting today on the somewhat similar, somewhat different perspectives of Conway-Morris and Behe. (Full disclosure - I sent him the Conway-Morris link, which I need to read again myself.)

5/23/2014 at 1:12:42 AM GMT
Posts: 5
If you want to see long-timer and life-long evolutionary biologist's view of teleology, I direct you to "Two Kinds of Teleological Thinking - One Wrong; the Other Right" on my blog: It's too long to post here, hence the link. Carlos F. A. Pinkham

6/10/2014 at 3:21:38 AM GMT
Posts: 6
teleological language by Shubin and others
Randy, you notice the phrasing in the formula "to adapt to stress X, species Y developed adaptation Z"   which is interesting, and I see your point. It would be more correct to state it as "adaptation Z was selected in response to stress X and provided species Y a way to survive in a new environment"  right?  That also sounds teleological. There is the term "was selected" but a moment's reflection reveals that of course nobody is actually doing the selection. It is quite impersonal. "Nature"  is selecting.  I have a feeling that will not be any more palatable to folks who want God's hand doing the selecting. Sorry I have not kept up with these good conversations!