Stupid Design – Evolution really screwed us over! *Evolution #2*

Originally posted on Steemit: https://steemit.com/science/@mobbs/stupid-design-evolution-really-screwed-us-over-evolution-2SourceSo in the first part of this series, we took a look at convergent evolution – the process by which two or more separate species develop the same traits despite being geographically separated and isolated for millions of years.

This is, in itself, a demonstration of how brilliant evolution can be; eyes are so complex and specifically formed, yet they developed on SEVEN separate occasions.

Only birds have wings… EXCEPT BATS

Only reptiles have scal – PANGOLIN


SourceSometimes, a great idea is worth hanging on to, and mother nature knows that. But mother nature can also be quite moronic at times, and that’s where we start off; stupid design.

Stupid Design

People naturally look at animals and see the success of billions of years… ok, most smart people. And they’d be right. They’re alive today, or had survived for millions of years, because they evolved in a way that was perfectly adapted to their environment. When that environment changes too rapidly, well, that’s when things typically die off.

But there are some things that don’t seem like ‘adaptations’ at all, but managed to sneak through the evolutionary cracks and survive in animals even to this day.

Giraffe

Perhaps most famously, Richard Dawkins set out to hammer this point home through a dead giraffe.

What he demonstrates is that, given a slow enough process, badly designed elements of an animal can get through without substantial consequence.

In the example of the giraffe (For those of you who cannot watch the video), there is a nerve called the recurrent laryngeal nerve which goes from the brain to the larynx, but rather than taking a direct route of about 2 inches, it takes a huge detour straight down to the heart, U-turning back up and into the larynx, for a journey totaling 4.6 metres!

This inefficient process is a historical legacy going all the way back to fish, in the pre-neck ages. As necks got longer, the nerve subtly got stretched out with no real consequence. You can even see less extreme results in us humans and other animals – even dinosaurs:



SourceThere’s no better place to say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

But sometimes, it IS broken, and life has just has to deal with it

Giraffe 2

Also, ever wonder what it feels like to be born, only to be welcomed with a 5-foot plummet to the ground? Welcome to the life of a baby giraffe. These guys have to sort themselves out, seriously.

Human Stomachs

You know, our stomachs can’t digest the main component in plant matter – Cellulose. Typically, it’s bacteria that does all the breaking down, and cows, for example, have no problem with this. But we don’t have that bacteria at all.

Sea mammals

You’d think, given they spend 100% of their time in the water, they’d learn how to extract air through some kind of… I duno, gill system. This is what convergent evolution was invented for! But no, moving the nose to the top of the head and massively increasing lung capacity should be a sufficient workaround.


It really looks like a nose when you see it close up…
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Human feet

26…That’s how many bones in the human foot. 26 moving parts for a rigid body part. Of course, this is another historical legacy from when our apey ancestors needed flexible feet to swing around and and grab stuff, but now, those 26 bones gift us with:

‘ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, and broken ankles’ – Jeremy DeSilva of Boston University


Ridiculous
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The eye

As imperfect as they are perfect. As Claire Ainsworth and Michael Le Page in New Scientist Put it:

’Their light-sensing structure, the retina, is wired up back-to-front, with the light-sensitive cells behind the nerves and blood vessels that support it. Not only does light have to pass through this layer first, obscuring the image, but the nerves and blood vessels have to dive through the retina, creating a blind spot in each eye.’

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Looking back at Part 1 of this series, I showed how the Octopus evolved eyes separately from us, but in the exact same way. They see like we do and the same genes were involved in its development.

However, they got it right. They didn’t have the same evolutionary path as us vertebrates.


Spot the difference
SourceNew Scientist continues:

‘when eyes first evolved in the ancestors of modern vertebrates, the retina arose from an in folding of the developing brain, and the cells that could form light receptors happened to end up on the inside of this fold.’

Having said that, new research supposes a decent reason why.

There’s a whole range of issues with the delicacy and disease-prone eye of a human, but we ain’t got time for that.

All of these are problematic and annoying, but we can just put up and shut up, right? Well… not always.

Fatal Design

If I ask you, you’ll probably start thinking about babies and birth. Correct! What a terrible design. Being bipedal has had a lot of advantages for us, and having a big brain has also had a lot of advantages. But put them together and what’s the solution?

Birth Canal

A narrow birth canal that can actually squeeze and potentially crush a baby’s skull, making it otherwise impossible to birth naturally. Without modern surgery, people just had to deal with it via death.


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Pharynx

The pharynx shouldn’t even exist at all. This is the passage that allows food to pass through. It’s also the passage that allows AIR to pass through. How efficient, putting them both together! Sure, it dramatically increases the chances of choking, something we all do at least a few times in any given lifetime, but hey!


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Oxygen

Speaking of breathing, how is it that we haven’t actually figured out how to do it?

The human breathing reflex happens due to the detection of carbon dioxide. Think about it. Our breathing reflex is NOT something that comes about directly from the absence of oxygen, the stuff that makes us not die. This indirect way of doing things means that in higher altitudes, humans basically suffocate without even noticing due to the lack of oxygen in the thinned air. Since there is not an abundance of carbon dioxide either, the human body can’t regulate its own breathing.

Wisdom Teeth

If you only have one argument against God, this is the one.
Not only are wisdom teeth vestigial – totally useless – but they are downright painful, and before medicine, ensuing infections could often lead to death. All for a couple of teeth you don’t even need.


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Hyena Clitoris

Prepare your imaginations. During Hyena pregnancy, the mother provides a high level of hormones to strengthen the babies within. Unfortunately, these androgens damage ovaries and make it difficult for those children to conceive when they grow up.

What’s worse, is that the clitoris, which also serves as the birth canal in Hyenas, grows up to 7 inches, protruding like a penis from her body.


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“Imagine giving birth through a penis,” said study co-author Kay Holekamp of Michigan State University

Errr, no thanks.

The consequence of this is that the tiny shaft – barely an inch in diameter – is ripped apart during birth, providing hyenas with a particularly high death rate in pregnant mothers.

The brain

The mother of all f**k ups. I mean, it’s wonderful and all, but there’s a phenomenal amount of inbuilt imperfections that are simply inexcusable. Wisdom teeth, for example. You can blame big brains for those.

Mental conditions are so rife in the human brain that we need a giant, 947 page book, the DSM-5 just to remember them all.

Many of these ‘disorders’ which lead us to shortened lives, suicides, homicides and more were actually evolutionarily advantageous back in the day, but our rapid change in lifestyle and culture made them a hindrance.

Bi-polar disorder, for example, is considered a mental tool that would have had a couple of advantages. First, mood swings would align with seasons and light, in the same kind of way bears hibernate or other creatures change their persona rapidly.

Second, bipolar disorder in women could have been advantageous for procreation, being more ‘manic when it’s summer time and convenient to get busy. This is backed up by the fact that bi-polar disorder is most prevalent in women of reproductive age.

Others include:
• OCD, which served as a psychological immune system
• ADHD was a great tool of innovation
• Dyslexia was a side-effect of a creative, problem-solving mind (only made a hindrance since the invention of writing)
• Austism, which served as a kind of survival superpower back in the hunter-gatherer days, working solo rather than in social groups.
• Stress, another wonderful survival skill now used to make us sick and die more easily.

So there you have it. A small sample of a huge, tangled mess we all put up with; humans AND animals. Next time you look in the mirror, admiring your own perfection, think again.

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Perspectives on Evolution.

Not our descendant.

Not our descendant.

I was talking to somebody last night who showed me quite a bit of ignorance when it came to evolution. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with ignorance in most cases, including this one. It doesn’t imply a lack of intelligence or anything like that. All it means is that she hasn’t spend hours upon hours of her life slogging through Wikipedia and YouTube videos, and reading occasional Dawkins books as I have. The problem is when people deny the evidence before them. In this conversation nobody was guilty of that so I don’t need to discuss it.

The interesting part of the conversation was her perspective. Not only was it a creative one, but it was her own and one from angles largely untouched by those obsessed with facts and truth, such as myself. I can debunk ideas as impossible… to an extent – I’m not even a fraction of an expert – but in a way it makes me think ‘why bother?’. Sometimes, facts are not sufficient, knowledge is not suitable.

One of her ideas was that although evolution is believable, human evolution is different and harder to accept – there is too much missing between the ape and the human. I gather this is referring to ‘sentience’. And yes, this is a massive hurdle nobody has yet to cross. There are thousands of books dedicated to Consciousness, all of which conclude with ‘I dunno’.

But, like most frontiers in science, they are eventually broken through and become the norm. Evolution is one example. At one point this idea was taboo and those who supported it were heathen or plain crazy. But over time people just have to accept it when the evidence is shown to be so overwhelming.

Germans and Americans are currently mapping the entire network system of the brain. American’s are mapping it out in all its intricate detail, and Germans are making a detailed model. This I believe will lead to a giant leap in the understandings of consciousness, some years down the line, but who knows.

Myth: we only use 10% of our brains. What would happen if we could unlock the other 90%?.

Nothing. We use all of our brain, it’s just that we don’t use all of it simultaneously. Some parts are used for shopping, other parts are used for figuring out a maths problem, and others are used for deciding whether or not you’re a raging homosexual.

Another idea of hers was that humans did not even come from earth but were simply deposited here from a previous race of humans, or perhaps a far superior civilisation.

This one I think is great. Not only because it’s quite magical in its creativity, but that there may even be truth to it.

The chances are somewhat high that we are in fact martians. It is not uncommon when big space rocks hit planets, and the impact forces planetary rocks into space. Those rocks will go on an indefinite course until they hit something else, such as Earth. We already have rocks proven to be from Mars. Scientists are also certain that water used to run free on Mars. If, at some point before Earth was life sustainable, microbes from mars were blown into space, and landed on Earth, it could have seeded the planet in order to evolve into us.

There are already many examples of microbial life that can survive the harsh, air-less conditions of space for extended periods, so perhaps we are in fact travelers from the red planet.

This doesn’t defy evolution, however, and in fact, Dawkins is practically certain that the way evolution occurred on Earth is probably consistent throughout the Universe (at least, our universe). Of course this leads to an infinite number of combinations to create an explosion of different creatures, but by and large, life will consist of the same basic ingredients.

This belief is for a few reasons. One that Neil DeGrasse Tyson points out is that the most abundant elements in the Universe are: Helium, Hydrogen, Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen and various others. Hydrogen and Helium make up the majority of that.
Humans are made from: Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Carbon and various others.

Coincidence?

Not only that, but water is the most abundant compound in the Universe (Hydrogen and Oxygen combined), and our entire ecosystem happens to rely entirely on… water.

If we find life, it is very, very likely it will be carbon-based, and water reliant. Carbon is by far the most flexible element in the universe, allowing humans as well as diamonds to form.

So who knows, perhaps we are from Mars, perhaps we came here on a passing comet originating light years away, having picked up tiny specks of life on the way.

Myth: Humans descend from chimps/monkeys.

No, Humans descend from a chimp/monkey-like creature that existed long before chimps/monkeys and humans did, and has since died out. If you picture this chimp/monkey as the trunk of a tree, humans, chimps and monkeys are three separate branches higher up. at no point did we come from one another.

Gravity is a fact, Mars is a fact, Evolution is a fact. I’m grateful for science popularisers such as NDTyson, Dawkins, Kaku, Krauss, Nye and so on, and I think at some point the world will follow the inevitable trend of enlightenment thanks to these people, but for now, we still have to deal with people burning Nepalese women alive for witchcraft, something that will kickstart my next post – http://www.outsideonline.com/news-from-the-field/Nepal-Woman-Accused-of-Witchcraft-Burned-Alive.html