The History Channel ‘Evolves’…

| 74 Comments

Over the next few weeks, the History Channel is showing a fascinating series called “Evolve.” Here is the synopsis of the first episode, titled “Eyes”:

They are one of evolution’s most useful and prevalent inventions. Ninety five percent of living species are equipped with eyes and they exist in many different forms. Learn how the ancestors of jellyfish may have been the first to evolve light-sensitive cells. Discover how dinosaur’s evolved eyes that helped them become successful hunters. Finally, learn how primates evolved unique adaptations to their eyes that allowed them to better exploit their new habitat, and how the ability to see colors helped them find food. …

While there were a few minor bio-gaffes, for the most part the show was excellent. There was no hand-wringing over offending creationists; instead, the show stayed right on the science. It pointed out that eyes have evolved from scratch numerous times in the animal kingdom, but also that just a few ancient genes were involved in these separate processes. The explanation of why predators need eyes with overlapping coverage toward the front - to better locate hapless prey - was done well. Conversely, the eyes of rabbits, which are almost on opposite sides of the head, serve to give that creature 360-degree vision, a sure benefit for avoiding predators. And finally, humans look forward also, but probably not for predation, but rather navigating in the tree limbs. A good explanation for why primates needed color vision was given, also: the primates’ ability to see shades of red helped them find the red-orange nutritious young leaves in the tree canopy, thus avoiding wasting time on mature, green, and hard-to-digest leaves in the trees.

“Eyes” will be repeated, and other episodes are on their way, including “Guts” and “Jaws.” (check local schedules for air times):

Friday, August 01: Eyes

Saturday, August 02: Eyes

Tuesday, August 05: Guts, Eyes

Wednesday, August 06: Guts, Eyes

Sunday, August 10: Eyes, Guts

Monday, August 11: Guts

Tuesday, August 12: Jaws

Wednesday, August 13:Jaws

After being depressed by the History Channel’s apparent obsession with woo-woo topics like UFOs and Bigfoot, the new ‘Evolve’ series is an encouraging sign. Kudos, History Channel!

Blogosphere Reaction: Daily Kos PZ Myers

74 Comments

Conversely, the eyes of rabbits, which are almost on opposite sides of the head, serve to give that creature 360-degree vision, a sure benefit for avoiding predators.

It also helps them avoid pedestrians who just happen to walk by, without any intention of bothering the rabbit.

Henry J said:

Conversely, the eyes of rabbits, which are almost on opposite sides of the head, serve to give that creature 360-degree vision, a sure benefit for avoiding predators.

It also helps them avoid pedestrians who just happen to walk by, without any intention of bothering the rabbit.

Indeed! Reminds me of Casey Luskin’s sensibilities.

Cheers, Dave

Dave Thomas said:

Indeed! Reminds me of Casey Luskin’s sensibilities.

Sniping about Mr. Luskin always feels a bit unsporting, it may be entirely deserved but it’s just too easy. However, it requires no perceptiveness on my part to guarantee that within a few days, History Channel’s EVOLVE will get the attention of EVOLUTION NEWS & VIEWS and the result will be yet another in the long series of tiresome and entirely predictable critical essays by Mr. Luskin. (I just checked and nothing yet.)

Sort of reminds me of this house I walk past sometimes. There’s a terrier that lives there, it dashes out in a frenzy from its doggie door and runs up to the fence to yap wildly at me.

Did the show discuss the Nilsson-Pelger model? If it did we are certain to hear: IT WASN’T A COMPUTER SIMULATION! – even if the show didn’t say it was, and: IT DIDN’T DISCUSS THE EVOLUTION OF RODS & CONES!

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net

iml8 said:

Did the show discuss the Nilsson-Pelger model? If it did we are certain to hear: IT WASN’T A COMPUTER SIMULATION! – even if the show didn’t say it was, and: IT DIDN’T DISCUSS THE EVOLUTION OF RODS & CONES!

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net

I watched it last week. The show did not discuss the evolution of rods and cones. They started with light-sensing eye-spots on jellyfish, then jumped to the trilobite eye, and then onto the vertebrate eye (focusing on binocular vision as an advantage for predators, wide vision for prey-animals, color vision in primates, and night-vision in canines and felines). The program was mostly focused on talking about the very basics of “how the eye changed over the course of history”. It was pretty well-done overall, though a little more accuracy and detail might’ve been nice.

Jackelope King said:

I watched it last week. The show did not discuss the evolution of rods and cones.

Ah-HAH! Of course EVOLUTION NEWS & VIEWS will proclaim that this is the “fatal flaw” in the History Channel’s argument.

Jackalopes? You’re not from Wyoming, are you? I would suspect you’ve seen this – second row, right image:

http://www.vectorsite.net/gfxpxg_06.html

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/tadarwin.html

It was just the big, important bloggers who had an opinion of Evolved. Some of us inconsequential ones did too.

Tuesday August 05, Tuesday August 06, and Tuesday August 10, huh? Followed by Monday August 11. Something there looks a little fishy .…

Alex said:

Tuesday August 05, Tuesday August 06, and Tuesday August 10, huh? Followed by Monday August 11. Something there looks a little fishy .…

Thanks! Fixed it.

Cheers, Dave

I enjoyed watching last week’s episode. I think it did a really good job in being able to reach the average viewer. It was solid science, interesting material, not overwhelming, of course those with in depth knowledge of evolution mechanisms, would want more detail. This would most likely be more knowledge than the average viewer has or would want.

After being depressed by the History Channel’s apparent obsession with woo-woo topics like UFOs and Bigfoot, the new ‘Evolve’ series is an encouraging sign.

Yay!

I was an early fan of the History Channel, way back in the day, when the programming was all about good documentaries.

I too have been terribly dismayed of late by the sagging quality of their programming, which sometimes seems to consist entirely of ice trucking reruns and different flavors of vacuous UFO conspiracies and “hauntings” investigations, most of which consists of jumpy people insisting they “felt something”.

(I spend a fair amount of time in a prototype shop where I have a TV in the background that I tune to the news channels, till I get discouraged with the quality of the programming, then switch to History and Discovery till I get discouraged by the quality of the programming, then switch back to news till.…)

Eyes part one is merely a survey of eyes and vision. Not a convincing treatment of the evolution of vision.

We will see creationists jump all over this one in the usual way. They will claim “Evolution is the assumption scientists make.” and “they are showing us no transitional forms”. If I was an uninformed fundamentalist, this show would have not convinced me at all.

Pz had it right in his review. The DNA is the best evidence via Sean Carrol.

I was kind of hoping for something better, maybe the following shows will go into more depth.

paul

The History Channel has commercials. Therefore there are gaps. Therefore evolution is dis-proven. QED

Sniping about Mr. Luskin always feels a bit unsporting, it may be entirely deserved but it’s just too easy. However, it requires no perceptiveness on my part to guarantee that within a few days, History Channel’s EVOLVE will get the attention of EVOLUTION NEWS & VIEWS and the result will be yet another in the long series of tiresome and entirely predictable critical essays by Mr. Luskin. (I just checked and nothing yet.)

Still nothing on EVOLVE, but poor Casey is continuing to attack Carl Zimmer, http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/0[…]edium_a.html Poor guy just won’t learn from his mistakes.

IT DIDN’T DISCUSS THE EVOLUTION OF RODS & CONES!

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net

RODS + CONES + PYGMIES + DWARVES?

Sorry, I know that was off-topic. Couldn’t resist.

Dave Thomas Wrote:

While there were a few minor bio-gaffes, for the most part the show was excellent. There was no hand-wringing over offending creationists; instead, the show stayed right on the science.

I would not worry about offending creationists (which I define here as anti-evolution activists and their fans), but of giving the activists sound bites to take out of context. Things like “no designer would do it that way” or “X evolved and was not a result of intelligent design” are the obvious ones, but there are more subtle ones. Like it or not, everyone who writes about evolutionary biology must be on their toes expecting every word to be misrepresented by someone.

BTW is it true that “Ninety five percent of living species are equipped with eyes,” or do they just mean animal species?

paul fcd said:

If I was an uninformed fundamentalist, this show would have not convinced me at all.

Kind sir, I could demand proof that the Moon isn’t made of green cheese, and blow off arguments until hell froze over.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/tadarwin.html

Frank J,

Once again I must agree with you. I watched a History Channel special on dinosaurs last night and I was shocked to hear the use of the word “designed” several times. Professional scientists really should know better. Is the word “adapted” really so hard to pronounce? Maybe we should get some words woth fewer syllables.

David Stanton said:

I watched a History Channel special on dinosaurs last night and I was shocked to hear the use of the word “designed” several times. Professional scientists really should know better. Is the word “adapted” really so hard to pronounce?

I tend to be relaxed on the semantics issues since the Darwin-bashers are going to take their cheap shots no matter what happens, but the use of terminology like “designs” instead of “adaptations” or “structures” does get exasperating. “Come on people, that’s like saying HIT ME PLEASE!”

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/tadarwin.html

Just a tiny nitpick (from a botanist, but representing microbiologists and mycologists, too)…

Ninety five percent of living species are equipped with eyes…

Maybe that should be “animal species”.

Frank J said: BTW is it true that “Ninety five percent of living species are equipped with eyes,” or do they just mean animal species?

Well over 95% of plant species don’t have eyes.

Well over 95% of single-celled species don’t have eyes.

Maybe the previous sentence put it in the context of “animals.”

Ninety five percent of living species are equipped with eyes…

How many “species” are there anyway?

I seem to recall numbers for non-microscopic flora and fauna species quoted in the 5 to 10 million range, and that the vast majority of animal species, something like 90%, are variations of tropical beetles - which mostly have (or at some point had) eyes

So while I agree that the quotation might have been more specific and is likely meant to apply to macroscopic animals, ironically, depending on how many species of plants there are, it might not be totally out in left field. We might be talking half.

The Cambrian Explosion - Darwin’s Worst Nightmare

http://www.godtube.com/view_video.p[…]bbaa43da0427

Genetic Mutations and Molecular Information - Genetic Entropy

http://www.godtube.com/view_video.p[…]1230fe8053e1

Bornagain is a classic Darwinist. Obsessing left and right about what was keeping his obsessions’ idol up at night. Unfortunately for him, not many people care as deeply as he does about what Darwin feared.

So that’s at least two commandments he’s breaking, not to mention PT’s comment integrity policies nos. 1 & 4.

bornagain77 said:

The Cambrian Explosion - Darwin’s Worst Nightmare

http://www.godtube.com/view_video.p[…]bbaa43da0427

Genetic Mutations and Molecular Information - Genetic Entropy

http://www.godtube.com/view_video.p[…]1230fe8053e1

“The video owner has turned new comments off.”

What are you afraid of?

To the Admins:

Can we flush this moronic “Spammer for Jesus” please? This is the exact same garbage he posted last time.

David Fickett-Wilbar said:

bornagain77 spamming:

“The video owner has turned new comments off.”

What are you afraid of?

People with functioning brain cells that won’t swallow pious gobbledegook in one gulp without looking, of course.

Two common creationist foolish notions of science… Thanks for sharing my confused Christian friend. Of course the Cambrian explosion is hardly a Darwinian nightmare, at best it is a Creationist pipe dream. As far as genetic entropy is concerned, this shows more nonsense where creationists with just enough ability to do math, use it to misrepresent science.

bornagain77 said:

The Cambrian Explosion - Darwin’s Worst Nightmare

http://www.godtube.com/view_video.p[…]bbaa43da0427

Genetic Mutations and Molecular Information - Genetic Entropy

http://www.godtube.com/view_video.p[…]1230fe8053e1

PvM Wrote:

As far as genetic entropy is concerned, this shows more nonsense where creationists with just enough ability to do math, use it to misrepresent science.

This appears to be a new fad by the trolls here on Panda’s Thumb.

I would suggest that none of them can define “genetic information” or “genetic entropy”. And I would also suggest that none of them can explain the “Law of Genetic Entropy” and why there is such a “law”.

Nor can any of them explain what any of this has to do with science, evolution and the History Channel’s series.

PvM Wrote:

Of course the Cambrian explosion is hardly a Darwinian nightmare, at best it is a Creationist pipe dream.

While I have read a lot about the “peer review” process involved in Stephen Meyer’s 2004 publication., I have read relatively little of what I consider the key point of the whole fiasco. Here was a perfect opportunity for Meyer to propose a testable alternative for the origin of Cambrian phyla, and he completely avoids it. IIRC, he doesn’t even unequivocally state whether those phyla were results of independent origin of life events, let alone propose a mechanism (hypothetical e.g. “the designer assembled numerous semi-living biochemical systems approximating eukaryotic cells in various parts of the oceans using existing organic compounds…”). Politically it’s obvious why he didn’t do that. For one, the focus would be on radical differences between that and Behe’s proposal.

The way I would portray this to nonscientists who are impressed by ID sound bites but not hopelessly fundamentalist or otherwise anti-science is this: You can believe all you want that life is intelligently designed, but here are the ID architects themselves putting their best foot forward and saying between every line “however incomplete the Darwinian explanation may be, it’s still infinitely better than ours.”

Mike Elzinga said:

And I would also suggest that none of them can explain the “Law of Genetic Entropy” and why there is such a “law”.

Of course they can. It’s the classic “all mutations are bad” or “there ain’t no such thing as a constructive mutation” argument dressed up in fancy clothes. Any creation scientist back to Henry Morris could belabor this for as long as one could stand to listen.

It is true that, going back to the “research paper” on antibiotic resistance discussed here not long ago, the Darwin-bashers will admit that mutations can have positive effects … BUT overall the mutation made for more incompetent bacteria. SO THERE.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/tadarwin.html

The point I was trying to make (but apparently did not) is that the growth of a baby is far closer to an apparent violation of the second law than a mutation is.

Yeah, that there mutation is just a side effect of the normal reproductive process - it doesn’t use significantly more energy than making an accurate copy would have. Well, at least not for a point mutation; a copy or duplication might use slightly more than for an accurate copy.

Henry

Henry J said:

Yeah, that there mutation is just a side effect of the normal reproductive process - it doesn’t use significantly more energy than making an accurate copy would have. Well, at least not for a point mutation; a copy or duplication might use slightly more than for an accurate copy.

But now you are trying to consider entropy of the metabolism as opposed to - yes, what? The creationists won’t tell us.

A mutation can conceivably reduce energy consumption in metabolism, both when it occurs (failed DNA repair) and when it has an effect (say, stunted growth). And so also conceivably reduce entropy production compared to the normal process or non-mutated individual.

I’d say that metabolism is going to produce entropy, whether it mutates or not. If a particular mutation produces more entropy than it would have otherwise, I suppose that would mean the organism (if it lives) would use slightly more energy?

JJ said:

Stacy !!!

“Peaked” - have not heard that term since the 70’s !!!!

I believe I have just “dated” myself! ;-)

Henry J said:

I’d say that metabolism is going to produce entropy, whether it mutates or not. If a particular mutation produces more entropy than it would have otherwise, I suppose that would mean the organism (if it lives) would use slightly more energy?

Indeed this is a more sensible way to look at it. Any living organism is going to use energy, and in the process, increase entropy both within its own system, but in particular, in its environment (don’t forget that thermodynamics and entropy refer to energy, not the order or “information” contained in arrangements of matter).

And it is true that there are wide ranges of efficiencies in various animals. A number of years ago, Scientific American had an article entitled something like “The Efficiencies of Traveling Animals and Machines” (not the exact title, but close). It compared the number of kilocalories per kilogram per kilometer distance traveled among a variety of animals.

Man-on-a-bicycle was by far the most efficient. Shrews, hummingbirds, and other high metabolism animals rated the lowest. The major summarizing graph in that article contained many animals and a few examples of machines and humans connected to machines (such as the bicycle).

These days we are beginning to hear more about the “energy footprint” of humans (the amount of energy per person per unit of time). There are evidences that extreme wealth increases that footprint considerably, but extreme poverty also may be worse, since humans in extreme poverty have no means of increasing their efficiencies of using things and will tend to strip their environment bare because they have no choices.

It raises some interesting philosophical questions about just how much advanced evolution, that results in complex beings like humans, actually contributes to greater entropy overall. Elephants, humans, pigs, and many other animals have no intrinsic feedback systems that lead them toward automatic self-limiting of their numbers and self regulating of their energy and resource needs. It is simply a game of increasing and exploiting until external events step in to impose the cruelest of checks and balances.

It is another reminder of the fact that evolution is an unguided process of creativity leading to destruction unless the evolution of self-reflective intelligence finally begins to recognize how to do this efficiently and for the long haul (assuming that is “good”). And even then, it is questionable how much control over cataclysmic events such as meteors and super volcanoes such an evolved being would have.

I believe I have just “dated” myself! ;-)

That can be cheaper than dating somebody else… ;)

Henry J said:

I believe I have just “dated” myself! ;-)

That can be cheaper than dating somebody else… ;)

True! And I’m a cheap date too!!

Back OT … Don’t forget to watch ‘GUTS’ tonight on the History Channel’s ‘Evolve’ series.

Stacy S. said:

JJ said:

Stacy !!!

“Peaked” - have not heard that term since the 70’s !!!!

I believe I have just “dated” myself! ;-)

Trying to become your own grandpa the hard way?

Stanton said:

Stacy S. said:

JJ said:

Stacy !!!

“Peaked” - have not heard that term since the 70’s !!!!

I believe I have just “dated” myself! ;-)

Trying to become your own grandpa the hard way?

I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around that one Stanton! My brain hurts!!

Stanton said:

Trying to become your own grandpa the hard way?

My brain hurts!!

I am SO happy to see both Jurassic Fight Club (a bit over the top.…. but still cool) and Evolve (tres cool). I have to say, after annoying stuff like Ice Road Truckers and Axe Men or Axeman or whatever) it is really nice to see something about history again. Someone up top mentioned “woo woo” shows about UFOs and Monster Quest. I have seen only a little of it, but it beats the bejaggers out of Modern Marvels and that reality crap (Ice Road and Axe Guys). History = Before our time. Bring back the WWII stuff, even the Kennedy era stuff. Just enough with the tech and tough guys syndrom you’ve been indulging in lately. Good work on the dino stuff. Oh yeah.…. Evolve could be termed a tech or science show, but evolution is history beyond history, so I’m good with that. Yay. I would’nt mind seeing more ancient history and prehistory. Good work guys.

…it is really nice to see something about history again.

Amen.

I was reduced to yelling at my television the other day when I tuned to an episode of “Monster Quest” that purported to expose the phenomenon of giant “flying rods”, every example of which was clearly a close, out of focus bug flying past the lens.

Henry J said:

I’d say that metabolism is going to produce entropy, whether it mutates or not. If a particular mutation produces more entropy than it would have otherwise, I suppose that would mean the organism (if it lives) would use slightly more energy?

That is my thinking too.

Mike Elzinga said:

These days we are beginning to hear more about the “energy footprint” of humans (the amount of energy per person per unit of time).

Sure thing. My local newspaper had a web calculator for carbon footprint (which in some respects is much the same, by way of entropy as the matter of fact), and I came out slightly above the global target average that we need to keep AGW below 2 Celsius. (And thus only knock off 10 - 50 % of all species.)

It was my car “toy” that fouled it up. Imagine that.

Mike Elzinga said:

Elephants, humans, pigs, and many other animals have no intrinsic feedback systems that lead them toward automatic self-limiting of their numbers and self regulating of their energy and resource needs.

Hmm. Ecology isn’t often described on PT, but I assumed that social animals have just such limiting mechanisms like wolves, elephants, horses and some apes alpha male/female systems, or some herd ecologies would be more unbalanced than we observe.

Btw, I believe at least plants have such limiters by way of messenger chemicals or, say, forests would be less orderly.

Thread is now Closed

And a fine thread it was! Aside from the spittle of a single drive-by troll, the discussion was illuminating!

Thanks, Dave

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dave Thomas published on August 1, 2008 1:03 PM.

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