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Lady of the lake, version #938

Friday, May 17, 2013

The red queen and the court jester


I finished a really interesting book last week, Michael Shermer's Why Darwin Matters. Written in 2007, the book clinically and dispassionately takes the precepts of creationism and intelligent design and pretty much lays them to waste.

I first got acquainted with Shermer when I was judging the Fallbrook Film Festival and previewed Stephen Auerbach's movie Bicycle Dreams. At that time he was a long distance bicycle racer racing across the United States in the R.A.M..

Shermer was raised a devout evangelical christian and creationist. At some point he had an intellectual epiphany and changed his worldview. Now the editor and publisher of Skeptic Magazine, he took a trip to the Galapagos in 2004 with a cohort to retrace Darwin's steps. The book recounts some of the things he learns about evolution and natural selection on this trip.

I don't have the book in front of me at the moment and would like to revisit it for a future post but it is full of good scientific information that I will share at some point soon. He gives an insider's look at the intelligent design movement and explores and explains Darwinism, neo Darwinism, symbiogenesis and other similar evolutionary hypothesis in layman's terms.

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I was reading something about evolution yesterday and heard about the conflict of the Red Queen and the Court Jester for the first time. What are you talking about, you may ask? My kind of metaphor.

The Red Queen is a concept developed in 1973 by Leigh Van Valen that maintains that evolutionary developments and counter-developments cause co-evolving species to mutually adapt. This is referred to as biotic adaptation.

The Court Jester hypothesis, championed by Berkeley Professor Anthony Barnosky in 1999, maintains that such changes in evolutionary speciation are better explained by abiotic forces, like climate or meteor strikes, some kind of outside of the box, wild card event.
"[W]hether this march of morphology and species compositions through time, so well documented not only for mammals but throughout the fossil record, is more strongly influenced by interactions among species (Red Queen hypotheses), or by random perturbations to the physical environment such as climate change, tectonic events, or even bolide impacts that change the ground rules for the biota (Court Jester hypotheses). . . . A class of alternative ideas, here termed Court Jester hypotheses, share the basic tenet that changes in the physical environment rather than biotic interactions themselves are the initiators of major changes in organisms and ecosystems. . . . Court Jester hypotheses imply that events random in respect to the biota occasionally change the rules on the biotic playing field. Accelerated biotic response (relative to background rates) is the result." Anthony Barnosky - 2001
I look forward to having Shermer's book in hand and sharing it with you.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

There you go again with your jibber-jabbar about evolution and creation. Seems to me you need to adapt to life. Some of us enjoy the cards we were dealt with. So please! quit all this whining. You seem like an intelligent person who is confused about his identity on the globe.

Sanoguy said...

Anonymous is certainly not very curious about this world of ours!!! Some might say that anonymous has his / her head buried in a dark place!!

Anonymous said...

This seems to be more a post about two schools of thought regarding how life has developed and which influence, from within our system or without, has had more impact. We are still being astonished by what we can now perceive both in our micro and macrocosm. To remain fascinated with the wonders of life and to continue to inquire is the way to realization both scientifically and religiously. That is to truly enjoy the depth of the cards we've been dealt. Robert can kvetch with the best of them, that is true. He is always ready to put his cards on the table. I assume this is partly why you read this blog. If something seems too whiny for you, or scientific language is "jibber-jabber" to you, there are other things to enjoy on this site. Personally, I really enjoy the breadth of content, its refreshing. But not all of it. And I think it's important for you to express your opinion as well. I just want to chime in to say i enjoy the arc of this endeavor of yours, Robert, from the scientific to the scatological. And I find your complaining mutually cathartic. But that's me.

Shine on, you crazy diamond!

- Dave in Japan

Blue Heron said...

jibber jabber anon, consider not being such a reactive asshole. The pot stirs itself.