Selected Pete

And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

An exotic evolution? Not Really

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An exotic evolution – washingtonpost.com Highlights – MSNBC.com

Warning – Junk Science level: Red!

This cute little article couches a lot of absolute junk science as it clouds and mixes the terms evolution and natural selection interchangeably as the explanation for the successful thriving of said black-coated squirrels. When it really comes down to it though, there just does not appear to be any evidence of evolution here (though a source of the piece giddily claims it is happening right before our eyes). This silly article implies that these squirrels are suddenly morphing and changing into ….Bill Moyers, or maybe growing skateboards on their feet to help them navigate NYC streets.

“It shows the spread of a gene within a population,” said Richard W. Thorington Jr., a Smithsonian Institution researcher working on a book that includes a history of the District’s black squirrels. “That is evolutionary change before your eyes.”

The best definitions/characteristics I could come up with for natural selection indicate the following (hat tip to Arthur S Lodge):

—A tautology: the fittest individuals in a population (defined as those which leave the most offspring) will leave the most offspring (Waddington).
—Anything tending to promote systematic, heritable change in a population from one generation to the next (Simpson).
—What selection actually, directly favors is effectiveness of reproduction. That is almost a tautology, because we define natural selection as differential reproduction (Simpson).

What this really boils down to folks, is that these squirrels arrived here on a boat a very long time ago, and they are tough little buggers. They survived, and they are thriving now, and that’s pretty much…that. To be an example of evolution, well, these squirrels would have to actually evolve something.

Now, if they were suddenly starting to grow or exhibit any Bill Moyers-ish traits (such as a southern drawl and the propensity to use words like erudite or pantheon, or, for instance their tails began to change ever so slightly into say..a sail (for catching the wind, you see) or maybe even a bunker busting bomb (to destroy other extremist squirrels) then – boy howdy – then we would have ourselves a gen-you-wine case of evolution on our hands.

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Written by selectedpete

May 19, 2005 at 4:12 pm

Posted in selectedpete

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