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Evolution continues
December 31, 2002 2:52 PM   Subscribe

Evolution is a process that hasn't stopped just because humans now rule the planet. What will animals look like in 200,000 years? The Discovery Channel's Animal Planet asks experts to predict the future of life on Earth.
posted by hipnerd (38 comments total)

 
I just re-read the article. It's actually talking about 200,000,000 years. My mistake.
posted by hipnerd at 2:57 PM on December 31, 2002


My first reaction is to say that I think some of these are really farfetched, and outlandish.

Then I thought about the platypus.
posted by angry modem at 3:03 PM on December 31, 2002


People still believe in evolution???


huh.
posted by bradth27 at 3:04 PM on December 31, 2002


More interesting to me is the notions of what the _earth_ will look like in the future. Very cool!
posted by silusGROK at 3:10 PM on December 31, 2002


There was a book with a similar theme that was published in '98.
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:16 PM on December 31, 2002


Smart Dalek, the same guy (Dougal Dixon) co-wrote this show/book as well.
posted by kokogiak at 3:51 PM on December 31, 2002


what about everything having to evolve from cockroaches after we kill all, including ourselves? or silicon based nano-life taking over after experiments in nano-tech warfare get out of hand?

and i don't watch tv, but last night my disk died (actually, it worked this morning so i'm a bit confused) and i ended up surfing on tv. saw a show on what must have been this channel with some stupid chap trying to annoy crocodiles. kind of made me assume that anything they say is likely to be more entertainment than factual...
posted by andrew cooke at 3:57 PM on December 31, 2002


Koko, the chimeras in After Man are separate from what's envisioned
in the Animal Planet special. While not a prequel per se, the book offers
a seminal look at some of Dixon's ideas.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:18 PM on December 31, 2002


Yep SD, I was just mentioning it to give more credibility to the show (as in, they are working with some folks who have actually done credible work on this subject).
posted by kokogiak at 4:36 PM on December 31, 2002


Am I naive in finding the piece merely entertaining and fanciful, but not really logical in its evolutionary hypotheses, because no other species is shown to have established a civilization at any point in the 500 million years after we've left the planet in the (ha! right!) 21st century?
posted by WolfDaddy at 4:39 PM on December 31, 2002


My first reaction: I'd be surprised if there was life on Earth (nah, if there was an Earth at all) in 200,000,000 years. (Or 2,000 for that matter.)

Happy New Year!
posted by Fofer at 5:45 PM on December 31, 2002


oh, we probably couldn't kill all life on earth if we tried. and there is really no reason for selection to favor civilization that much, it's more a fluke. It is fanciful of course, no one could predict how so many things would interact to shape new species. But they are probably general directions life might go if the environment changed the way people think it will.
posted by rhyax at 6:02 PM on December 31, 2002


Does anyone happen to know a site/book with images of past and future geographies such as the ones found on that site? I've been interested in the subject, but I've yet to find information other than the prerequisite "Here's Godwanaland and Panagea".
posted by Kevs at 7:21 PM on December 31, 2002


Land-roving megasquids! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
posted by 4easypayments at 7:28 PM on December 31, 2002


Let us assume evolution is an existing, ongoing phenomenon.

Suppose that somewhere, a new kind of human is born, not necessarily superior or inferior, but just different enough to warrant a new latin name, say homo originalis for example.

If the differences aren't cosmetic, how does such an individual find others of the same species to mate with?
posted by titboy at 7:31 PM on December 31, 2002


how does such an individual find others of the same species to mate with?

It's not like a new species spontaneously evolves and then needs to find others of it's kind. It's slower than that, and it's just that as a trait provides for increased survival/reproduction, you get more of those, and they interbreed and continue to mutate until eventually they are different enough to be their own species.

See this for a simplified explanation.
posted by willnot at 8:21 PM on December 31, 2002


I for one welcome our new Land-roving megasquid overlords!
posted by jeribus at 8:38 PM on December 31, 2002


It's slower than that, and it's just that as a trait provides for increased survival/reproduction, you get more of those, and they interbreed and continue to mutate until eventually they are different enough to be their own species.

If only paleontology supported that theory! (It very much doesn't.) That's why Eldredge and Gould came up with "punk eek", aka punctuated equilibrium theory.
posted by gd779 at 11:03 PM on December 31, 2002


Sure it can weave and make fishing traps, but can the Babookari type "To be or not to be?"
posted by agentfresh at 11:46 PM on December 31, 2002


As a side note - everyone likes to talk about how man is some how dominate over nature... really though our only upper hand over nature is that we are able to transmit data via spoken and written language. Quite possibly we're the first species in the history of the universe to be able to do so. Other species have to rely upon their genes and natural selection to transmit data - we on the other hand can make cave paintings and web pages... it's quite unique as far as communication is concerned... :)
posted by wfrgms at 2:38 AM on January 1, 2003


Okay, this is probably the wrong place to ask, but does anyone know what is special about the mosquitos in the London Underground system?

All I know is that in the last 200 (ish) years they got into the tunnels and then evolved slightly. Any one any ideas how they are actually and different to normal mossies though?
posted by twine42 at 3:05 AM on January 1, 2003


Okay... I answered my own question...

A hundred years back Culex pipiens invaded the tunnels. It mutated into Culex molestus .

The main difference seems to be food type. But then the pics look pretty different and Molestus (great name) seems to exist world wide. Hmmm...
posted by twine42 at 3:14 AM on January 1, 2003


Punctuated Equilibria from the most excellent talk.origins archive's collection of FAQs about evolution.
posted by wobh at 6:00 AM on January 1, 2003


oh, we probably couldn't kill all life on earth if we tried.

yeah, i agree with that, after doomsday certainly some virus or bacteria would survive, and evolution would start again almost from nothing.

this has happened before, it maybe happened in human civilization: human history can be tracked just 8 or 10 thousand years from now. but the homo sapiens sapiens has inhabited earth as early as 250,000 years from now, and somewhat ‘intelligent’ hominids have lived in earth 3 to 4 million years from now.

how many human civilizations had established in earth since the first ‘community’ of homo sapiens sapiens in africa 250,000 years ago? certainly there must had been other civilizations before mesopotamians in that 240,000 years gap.
can someone explain that to me?
or that gap, was like an hibernation?
posted by trismegisto at 6:09 AM on January 1, 2003


trismegisto - sounds like Graham Hancock territory to me. He wrote "Fingernails.." oops, I mean "Fingerprints of the Gods." You don't have to buy all of his theories to wonder: "how did ancient civilizations accomplish engineering feats such as quarrying, precisely cutting, and moving 200 ton chunks of rock (in great numbers, too)?...and what of the Vedic references to Gods zooming around in aircraft? Why would gods need airplanes?"
posted by troutfishing at 6:20 AM on January 1, 2003


well trout, i don’t mean that… is just that i have always thought that if humans have existed so earlier it’s dumb to think that the socialization and culture just came out from nothing just 5,000 years ago.

how about the language?, a cultural feat that makes possible communication and the coherent expression of the thoughts; humans didn’t have a verbal language in that 240,000 year gap?… the capacity of talk of the larynx came from spontaneous generation? as the thoughts common to all homo sapiens sapiens like love, compassion, friendship, etc.?

if language and socialization may existed, so communities, and possibly civilizations…

i’m not talking about architectural marvels or rethorical religion, i’m talking about the origins of humankind, and humankind its itself a common group of humans who share a culture (a.k.a. civilization).
what makes you, in essence, different now in 2003 to a homo sapiens sapiens who lived 200,000 years ago?
posted by trismegisto at 7:11 AM on January 1, 2003


Punctuated Equilibria from the most excellent talk.origins archive's collection of FAQs about evolution.

Ahh! The first rule of Talk.Origins is, never cite it for anything. They're ideologues, they're intellectually dishonest and they can't be trusted. Pointing people to Talk.Origins is like citing the Skeptics Dictionary in a debate about Christian theology -- is shows that you're either unfamiliar with the subject at hand or a zealot yourself. (No offense intended, mind you, that's just my honest opinion.)
posted by gd779 at 7:14 AM on January 1, 2003


"it’s dumb to think that the socialization and culture just came out from nothing just 5,000 years ago"

Not really - knowledge is progressive... things are written down and then passed on (first on cave walls, then stone tablets eventually on web pages...) Just because we live in an accelerated age doesn't mean that we should marvel that it took SOOOO long for us to get to this point.

As far as geological history is concerned - man and civilization has arisen literally within the blink of an eye - so don't let your limited perspective (that of a human, living in the 21st century with an average life expectancy of 75 years or so) skew your view of our timeline.
posted by wfrgms at 7:49 AM on January 1, 2003


of course knowledge is progressive. but we don’t know nothing about that progress before the paints in caves, because, there’s not where this progress-to-knowledge started…

As far as geological history is concerned - man and civilization has arisen literally within the blink of an eye - so don't let your limited perspective (that of a human, living in the 21st century with an average life expectancy of 75 years or so) skew your view of our timeline.

wow! that completely changed my point of view.

…well, maybe that’s it. it took sooo long to knowledge and culture to develop in humans.
posted by trismegisto at 8:27 AM on January 1, 2003


gd779 I'm puzzled. They're intellectually dishonest? Why does someone being an idealogue (like who isn't?) apparently disqualify their opinions and assertions in your opinion? And why wouldn't one use the Skeptics Dictionary in a debate about Christianity. Surely if people are going to debate or discuss anything they should be able to draw on any source of knowledge they like. You're going to have to do better than that.

I'm certainly no expert but I have read some of Gould's popular articles on the subject and I thought the article on what punctuated equilibria is all about was quite good. Likewise with talk.origins archive generally. Between Evolutionary Theory and various interpretations of the Bible there's a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance out there. As far as I've been able to read of it the archive is a good place to read start reading about these issues where they come together head on.
posted by wobh at 9:56 AM on January 1, 2003


oh, i'm not so sure that we're

Quite possibly we're the first species in the history of the universe to be able to

transmit data via spoken and written language

written, possibly, but definitely not spoken / verbal. all animals communicate to some degree audibly

The best example I can come up with off the top of my head is that of the prairie dog. They utilize an elaborate system of calls to coordinate the security of their colonies, and not just of the "Hey Joe! Trouble!" variety. Their calls contain what appears to be a multi-element referential system, where the information content is comprised of the pitch of the call, duration, and time interval between sounds, and is specific enough to differentiate not only specific types of predator ("Hey! There's a wolf coming!"), but actually to refer to specific individuals themselves ("Hey! That bastard wolf that killed Jack and Sam the other day is back!"). In addition to this, tail wags, dances, and physical contact are also used for communication.

The old attempt at defining homo sap as the sole communicator is hardly relevant anymore, especially after the last 30 years of primatology and cog-sci research. Our claim to fame in the communication realm is not one of exclusivity, but of complexity -- even with a complex system of environmental reportage as possessed by the prairie dog, I doubt they've got a tail wag series that handle epistemological thought. That might be a good thing though, since you probably wouldn't hear any prairie dogs quoting Derrida or railing against the violence inherent in the system.
posted by badzen at 10:23 AM on January 1, 2003


how many human civilizations had established in earth since the first ‘community’ of homo sapiens sapiens in africa 250,000 years ago? certainly there must had been other civilizations before mesopotamians in that 240,000 years gap.
can someone explain that to me?
or that gap, was like an hibernation?


I think that it all depends on your definition of "civilization". The fertile crescent and Egypt get credit because of the use of mud brick and the arid environment has managed to preserve settlements. Post and beam structures are considerable harder to find. For example, megaliths and tombs in Britian reveal a stratified society, and extensive transcontinetal trade routes, basically all the economic features of "civilization" back to 3000BC, but because neolithic Britons did not leave large well preserved mudbrick cities they don't get much credit. The iceman Otzi revealed a suprising level of sophistication in clothing technology.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:51 PM on January 1, 2003


gd779:Ahh! The first rule of Talk.Origins is, never cite it for anything. They're ideologues, they're intellectually dishonest and they can't be trusted.

wobh:gd779 I'm puzzled.


Allow me to explain wobh. gd779 is an ideologue/intellectually dishonest/can't be trusted. Of course Talk.origins is an excellent site and a great resource, that was set up to combat a horribly ignorant idea: Creationism. gd779 doesn't see that b/c he is a self-styled agnostic on the merits of evolutionary theory. To anyone with even a passing familiarity with evolution, they will know this is akin to being an agnostic on the germ theory of disease, heliocentrism, or a non-flat earth. Of course, like all other evolution doubters, gd779's "skepticism" is a product of religious fundamentalism, not scientific evaluation.

I'd also like to point out the not unusual phenomenon of an evolutionary skeptic who nonetheless uses Stephen Jay Gould and his ideas about evolution as an attack on evolution. From what I've seen, Steven Jay Gould work is generally rejected by a majority of those in the field, as a burden to the science (filled with misrepresentations on the state of evolutionary theory) that often embolden Creationists, despite his many popular books. Punk ek. has a very unimpressive following.
posted by dgaicun at 3:03 PM on January 2, 2003


In my experience, people's individual opinions on issues go through three phases.

The first stage is clarity. You start out with a passing familiarity with the issue, and at that point it's blindingly obvious what is true.

The next stage occurs if and when you soberly study the evidence a bit deeper. At some point during that process, you begin to understand why there is a controversy. Sometimes, it turns out to be a difference in philosophical presuppositions. Sometimes it turns out to be a difference in judgment. If it's a difference in judgment, and if you're fair-minded about things, then you often wind up considering views that were previously anathema to you.

(This, incidentally, is what separates the ideologue from the intellectual. The intellectual is willing to take risks, and is open to the possibility that he or she is wrong. The ideologue doesn't care so much about truth, because he or she is emotionally driven rather than evidence driven on that issue. Which is why very smart, very informed people can be ideologues when certain topics come up.)

The third phase for the intellectual is one of renewed clarity. As you continue to study, you regain your clarity about the issue. Maybe you have switched positions, maybe you haven't, but either way you now see the subtleties of the issue.

dgaicun, here's my point: you don't know me, and you don't know how I think. You obviously don't know what I think about evolution. You presume to understand my views, but you're wrong.

As for punctuated equilibrium, I'm happy to discuss the issue with an informed, fair-minded individual. Though I don't know you, judging from your posts you are neither. I'll leave the discussion for another day.
posted by gd779 at 10:32 PM on January 2, 2003


For reference: my view of the Skeptics Annotated Bible.
posted by gd779 at 5:42 AM on January 3, 2003


dgaicun, here's my point: you don't know me, and you don't know how I think. You obviously don't know what I think about evolution.

You're correct, I don't know you, that's why I am forced to take your very own words at face value:

"first, some full disclosure; at this point in my life, I neither reject nor accept evolution. It's an open question for me"- gd779

It does seem a little strange that the only place you'll find these evolutionary agnostics is among the, shall we call them, religiously motivated.

I'm happy to discuss the issue with an informed, fair-minded individual. . . judging from your posts you are neither.

Only in the Twilight Zone has a psuedo-Creationist earned the right to call me uninformed or close-minded.

Here's an article by evolutionary journalist Robert Wright about why certain people with their spiritual blinders on are inclined to use Gould in a way that Gould never intended.
posted by dgaicun at 7:10 AM on January 3, 2003


That's an interesting description of stages of intellectual belief. I'd quibble with a few things about it (frex, is the "clarity" of the first stage really the same as the third? I'd call the first "enthusiasm" in keeping with the phrase "blindingly obvious") but it's good overall so I'll let it be.

You haven't demonstrated how the makers of the talk.origins archive intellectually dishonest. They state their purpose openly and stick to it. They're fair about with plenty of links to the other side. I haven't read anything that was mean spirited or any blanket dismissals without any discussion (as you did above).

So as far as I can tell it shouldn't matter what one's individual opinion or belief on evolution is. If you want a summary of the mainstream scientific response to all the issues typically brought up by counter-evolutionists, talk.origins.org is a good place to go. Some will have their beliefs reinforced, others will have them challenged.
posted by wobh at 7:21 AM on January 3, 2003


wobh: You're right, and I was wrong. Your comment prompted me to review the material in Talk.Origins again, and I have to admit that it seems reasonably fair and balanced, given that it is intended to persuade. I seem to recall running across a string of bad articles from them "way back when", but perhaps I was wrong about that. Anyway, I withdraw my earlier condemnation, as I can't seem to support it.
posted by gd779 at 7:58 AM on January 3, 2003


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