Origins of the sexes: isogamy and anisogamy

Sex didn’t always involve males and females. I know it still isn’t always between males and females, but that’s not what I mean. I mean that there was a time when sex was happening, but there were no males and females. Sex existed before males and females, and many species are still doing it without them.

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Out on a limb. Way out.

Last week, I commented on Cornelius Hunter’s claim that the acquisition of antibiotic resistance by bacteria is not an example of evolution. This claim doesn’t just put him at odds with evolutionary biologists, though. It puts him at odds with many of his fellows at the Discovery Institute.

It puts him at odds with David Klinghoffer:

“Antibiotic-resistant bacteria demonstrate evolution by breaking stuff…”

even though Klinghoffer is apparently a fan of the post in which Dr. Hunter claimed the opposite:

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So which is it, Mr. Klinghoffer? Is it “not evolution,” (as Dr. Hunter says) or is it “evolution by breaking stuff” (as you say)? It can’t be both.

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Answers to “Ideological Turing Test”

tl;dr: definitions 3, 5, 7, and 9 are among the answers Barry Arrington says ”…demonstrate no more than a superficial understanding of, and a contempt for, ID”; all the others are from advocates of intelligent design.

I include my own deleted answer (#5) among those Arrington dismisses, since Arrington must have seen it before he made his ‘superficial and contemptuous’ comment.

No one got them all right, for example various commenters thought that answers from Michael Behe, vjtorley, Stephen Meyer, and intelligentdesign.org were from critics of intelligent design. And that, of course, is the point. Arrington dismisses as superficial and contemptuous definitions that are pretty much the same as those offered by fellows of the Discovery Institute. In fact (and I’m surprised no one pointed this out), two of them ARE the same: #2, from the Discovery Institute website intelligentdesign.org, is word for word identical to #7, one of the answers Arrington says is wrong. So according to Arrington, the Discovery Institute’s own definition of intelligent design fails his test. I’d love to point that out, but of course I’ve been banned.

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A fair “Ideological Turing Test”

Barry Arrington wants to pretend that critics of intelligent design don’t understand intelligent design, and so he set up an “Ideological Turing Test,” a challenge to correctly define an opponent’s position:

So, here is my challenge to our opponents: Do you understand ID well enough to pass the Ideological Turing Test? If you think you do, prove it by giving a one paragraph summary of ID in the comments below.

The problem is that Arrington himself is the judge, and he has a pretty good idea which of his readers are critics of intelligent design:

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As Fordgreen points out,

It’s an interesting exercise, but shouldn’t the responses be anonymous for this to work correctly? Isn’t that how a real Turing test would be conducted?

So let’s give it a try. Arrington says that the answers given by critics of intelligent design”…demonstrate no more than a superficial understanding of, and a contempt for, ID.” See if you can distinguish which of the following definitions of intelligent design are superficial and contemptuous straw men and which are the real definitions given by advocates of intelligent design. I suggest really trying it; write down your guesses, or post them in the comments (honor system here, no googling or visiting Arrington’s post, please). I’ll post the answers tomorrow.

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You can’t meet Barry Arrington’s challenge, because he won’t let you

Barry Arrington posed a challenge to critics of intelligent design:

So, here is my challenge to our opponents: Do you understand ID well enough to pass the Ideological Turing Test? If you think you do, prove it by giving a one paragraph summary of ID in the comments below.

The “Ideological Turing Test” to which he refers is attributed to Bryan Caplan:

The Ideological Turing Test is a concept invented by Bryan Caplan to test whether a political or ideological partisan correctly understands the arguments of his or her intellectual adversaries. The partisan is invited to answer questions or write an essay posing as his opposite number; if neutral judges cannot tell the difference between the partisan’s answers and the answers of the opposite number, the candidate is judged to correctly understand the opposing side. [link in the original]

As I’ve mentioned before, I try to present my opponents’ arguments honestly, so I felt pretty up to the challenge:

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Screenshot from http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/ideological-turing-test/ at 1:04 pm EST.

Either Arrington doesn’t want his narrative spoiled, or he doesn’t want to be reminded of what he’s said in the past, because he deleted my comment:

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What is a (Volvox) species?

Hisayoshi Nozaki and colleagues have just described some Volvox samples from two lakes and a pond in Japan.

Figure 1A from Nozaki et al. 2016. Volvox sp. Sagami asexual spheroid with daughter colonies (d).

Figure 1A from Nozaki et al. 2016. Volvox sp. Sagami asexual spheroid with daughter colonies (d).

The newly collected strains have a lot in common with another recently described species, Volvox ferrisii, but there are some important differences as well:

…it could be clearly distinguished from all previously described monoecious species of Volvox sect. Volvox by its small number of eggs or zygotes (5–25) in sexual spheroids, with short acute spines (up to 3 μm long) on the zygote walls and elongated anterior somatic cells in asexual spheroids.

In spite of these differences, Nozaki and colleagues stop short of calling the newly collected strains a new species. Why?

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It’s not evolution, just adaptation

…”evolve” is not the correct term. The microbes adapted. – Cornelius Hunter

We heard several accusations during the recent Presidential campaign that one or the other candidate, or an interviewer, had taken a quote out of context. Of course, every quote is taken out of context. That’s what a quote is; otherwise it’s just the whole speech, or interview, or whatever. The important question is whether or not it’s taken out of context in a way that changes its meaning.

One thing I don’t do, and never have done, on this blog is intentionally misrepresent other people’s positions.  The quote above, from a recent post by Cornelius Hunter on Evolution News and Views, means just what it says. He really is arguing that microbial adaptation observed in Lenski-style experiments is not evolution.

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Initiation of cell division in Chlamydomonas

Deborah Shelton and colleagues have published a new article arguing that the reigning model of cell division initiation in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii needs to be revised [full disclosure: Dr. Shelton and I were labmates in Rick Michod’s lab at the University of Arizona]. The evolution of multicellularity almost certainly involved changes in cell cycle regulation; for example, there is good evidence that changes to the cell cycle regulator retinoblastoma were involved in the initial transition to multicellular life in the volvocine algae. So understanding cell cycle regulation is vital for understanding the evolution of multicellularity.

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