Why doesn't ecological instability rapidly wipe out lots of important species?

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Offline Martin J Sallberg

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While simple computer simulations appeared to support the Gaia hypothesis (self-stabilizing ecosystems), adding more complexity to the simulations did not support the theory at all. But scaling up to the even greater complexity of real life, that instability should lead to wiping out of lots of species all the time. Just like if every species in existence was recently arrived and invasive. This shows that evolution must be driven by something that cannot be explained by maximization of the amount of offspring.

But what is it? I have read about even amoebas and slime molds learning from their mistakes. Can that be the solution to the problem?
« Last Edit: 13/05/2013 16:47:26 by chris »

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Offline JimBob

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please define "Quickly"  days years meillenia??
The mind is like a parachute. It works best when open.  -- A. Einstein

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Offline JimBob

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This  is a math question, not a question on evolutionary science.
The mind is like a parachute. It works best when open.  -- A. Einstein

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Offline damocles

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This is a widely recognised problem with computer simulations. If you attempt to make a computer simulation more complex, eventually you will come to a point where chaos will reign. This does not mean that chaos will reign in the real system -- rather it points to a problem with the stability of modelling as you try to incorporate more complexity into the model. It is essentially a matter of tractability.

A case in point is with the modelling of photochemical smog. Unfortunately I no longer can find a reference to it, but there was an article that reported an attempt to simulate a "smog box" experiment with about 200 chemical processes taken into account. The authors found that the concentration of one species that they input was not matching the concentration they had used at short times. Further investigation showed that a radical explosion was occurring in the first few seconds. This does not mean that smoggy air is likely to explode, but rather that their attempt to simulate its behaviour had become critically unstable.
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Offline CliffordK

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No doubt there have been many hard learned lessons in nature.  Any organism that eats all of its food will DIE.

One thing I have wondered is why few plants are good at absorbing Nitrogen from the air.  Yet, perhaps absorbing too much nitrogen could seriously destabilize the whole planet. 

It is quite possible that there are many planets like Earth scattered around the Universe.  One might say that Earth succeeded to the point that humans evolved.  But, many planets might have failed, and human-like organisms would never have had a chance to evolve.

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Offline damocles

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from CliffordK:
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One thing I have wondered is why few plants are good at absorbing Nitrogen from the air.  Yet, perhaps absorbing too much nitrogen could seriously destabilize the whole planet.

There is a much simpler reason -- no energy is available for the process! Any plant that wants to convert atmospheric nitrogen into protein is facing an uphill battle on an energy scale for little return. Therefore it is only in a very few cases that plants have entered symbiotic arrangements with microörganisms where the plant provides the energy while the microörganism provides the protein.

The best known of these symbiotic arrangements involves microörganisms that live in nodules on the roots of legumes. Grain protein contains few residues of arginine or lysine, while pulse protein (peas, beans, & lentils) contains these residues in abundance, and the plants even make a bit of cyanide (which should be soaked off before use).
« Last Edit: 28/04/2013 22:57:55 by damocles »
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Offline damocles

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This question is one perplexing current research. A good (but heavy) review can be found at
http://www.santafe.edu/media/workingpapers/04-07-021.pdf
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Offline yor_on

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Yes, that sounds plausible Martin. Life needs being adaptive, and that should counteract chaos. But it must also be a question of the timescale something has to adapt on. As JimBob pointed out, nature uses millenia, and centuries, but decades I don't really expect to be enough for this adaptability, and then years? We have spores driven by the winds, held inside clouds, and inside birds stomachs. So there is all sorts of mechanisms for transporting them though? I think we will find out, at some time in the future, if it was.
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Offline CliffordK

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Of course, Humans may be the exception to the rule.
Eventually eating all the food on the planet till we starve.
And, using all the resources till there is nothing left.
And, of course, the only species that can do this on land, in the oceans, and from the arctic to the equator.

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Offline Martin J Sallberg

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By "wiping out lots of important species quickly" I mean at the same timescales as implanted cats on islands wiped out small burrowing flightless birds there. And the kind of adaptation I am referring to is qualitatively different from anything that selfish gene-style reproductive success evolution can possibly produce. Life must learn to stop overproducing offspring before stocks terminally collapse. So I am really talking about learning from mistakes, learning in the sense of active self-change, and not differential reproductive success style change over generations. Even amoebas have been shown to learn from their mistakes, and any form of associative learning inevitably produces foresight (if you associate something with something else, you of course anticipate one when the other is present).

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Offline yor_on

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You are going out from a human preconception there, based on what we refer to as IQ :)

Earth doesn't use IQ, instead it use just what you refer to as 'over population, and that is imprinted in all genes existing. Why else would people feel so 'attacked' when suggesting we could limit our population on a voluntary basis? we blame that on all sorts of things but deep down I expect it to be a genetic imperative.

Earth does not see us as the 'kings and queens' of this planet, and do not deem us as 'irreplaceables' either. She use another time scale than humans, and have still time left to try some other way.
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Offline Martin J Sallberg

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You are going out from a human preconception there, based on what we refer to as IQ :)

Earth doesn't use IQ, instead it use just what you refer to as 'over population, and that is imprinted in all genes existing. Why else would people feel so 'attacked' when suggesting we could limit our population on a voluntary basis? we blame that on all sorts of things but deep down I expect it to be a genetic imperative.

Earth does not see us as the 'kings and queens' of this planet, and do not deem us as 'irreplaceables' either. She use another time scale than humans, and have still time left to try some other way.

I was not talking about IQ tests. I was talking about the fact that all associative learning inevitably creates some form of foresight, and that learning from mistakes have even been documented in amoebas.

If life was driven by selfish genes, we would all be dead from intergenomic conflict between cellular nuclei and mitochondria. Cellular nuclei and mitochondria are not closely related, so why are there no intergenomic conflict between them within our cells?

Simple unmotivated bans always create resistance. Population management is by no means unique in that regard. See my thread "Poisonous justification" under "Medicine".

And the whole main point of what I was saying is that the destroyers (be it humans or whatever) not only wipe themselves out, they also wipe others out, and that includes a great risk of wiping out many ecosystemically important key species. And I never claimed that there was any unified "mind of Nature", i do not even believe in such a thing. What I claimed was (and is) that living organisms learn from their mistakes in a way qualitatively different from anything achievable by "selfish genes" and that just such learning from mistakes plays an important role in decreasing the frequency of serious ecological collapses. I never even claimed or thought that it was infallable. It obviously is not. But if it did not exist at all, the frequency of mass extinction events would have been impossibly high and no life would have been able to survive.

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Offline yor_on

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I think one have to differ life from Nature. Life is based on surviving, but Earth itself is just a platform for it. Life will adapt, if we in it contain all living organisms, oxygen based or otherwise. I think Earth adapt to what circumstances defining it, but it does not put any special value to any of its life forms, including fauna. so yeah, I should really stop referring to Earth as 'she' :)

One might want to think of life as a 'competition for survival', not by the fittest, but by the most adaptive. And there we're one of those species that know pretty well how to adapt. The problem is that instead of adapting we've made the last two three centuries more into some sort of terraforming, not planned either, as I see it. It's just a result of personal greed and the idea of infinite resources. And we're receiving the pay back, starting about now. I don't expect genes to change by such though, that would demand some sort of reasoning and logic I don't expect them to have. Although I think that we, as conscious logic humans, can change our ways, that is if we want too? And no genetic imperatives can stop it, if there is will or need, enough.

That's what I mean by IQ.
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Offline yor_on

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And life is also a chaotic expression to me, open ended reacting to inputs, species growing and declining depending on other species, and all sorts of things really, like access to water,  the climate and local weather, humans moving in terraforming landscapes for their use, etc. Tricky thing humans :)

It's all non linear, to me at last. And the way it balance up is dynamically, although you can find more static balances too, as on some isolated island. Genes want to live one might say :) So they make sure we reproduce.
=

Hmm? Are you discussing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Selfish_Gene ?
Don't know if it is 'selfish' to want to live? If it is, sure, all genes are selfish. But that I would call a archetype, human made. Genes have a way of finding new adaptions though, and there what climate Earth has will play a role for what adaption that works. It's give and take sort of, as I see it. But I think it's not as fast as a human time scale, today that is. We think in decades I would say, practically seen, although I suspect we would like to think that we're planning for centuries :) Or millenniums.
=

But it depends, think there are two competing ideas there. One that speaks of sudden genetic diversification, adapting 'on a whim' sort of, using some studies, relative the the slower definition of evolution we have historically. Maybe both can exist side by side?
« Last Edit: 29/04/2013 21:06:00 by yor_on »
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Offline Martin J Sallberg

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Granted, an *isolated* DNA molecule cannot think. However, DNA molecules in living beings (as opposed to in some laboratories) are not isolated. They are integrated parts of organisms. There are lots of enzymes involved in processing DNA. This means that DNA is not protected from change caused by learning from mistakes. Life is not made up of one chief molecule and its servants at all. It is an interconnected thing. The whole division into "intrinsic value" and "instrumental value" is a purely cultural construct.

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Offline yor_on

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Yes, that's true, saw a piece some time ago writing about 'intelligent microbes'? I think it was? Accentuating your way of reasoning there. It depends on what you find to be a 'intelligent behavior'. But to me all those are effects of evolution, not individually made choices. If we define a mistake as something detrimental to living, then all genes learn from their mistakes. Because the ones not surviving shouldn't be there to reproduce, alternatively only exist in a dormant position, just for that possible need. It's a little like war stories, the only stories you ever will hear is from those surviving, and their story's has to be biased :) just due to their surviving it.
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Offline yor_on

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Sorry, it was bacterias.
http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=39253.0

still, same type of reasoning. You could also state that 'life' itself seems intelligent, from such a reasoning, and to draw it a step further, assume that if it all is a pattern evolving in time, then state that the pattern indeed shows a 'intelligence'. But intelligence is in fact our definition, proudly social as well as hopefully logical, with evolution being the one more appropriate for life, as it seems to me?
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Offline CliffordK

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One thing that occurs is that many plants and animals have a narrow niche where they can survive.  And there is always something to fill in any niche that is opened up. 

So, consider the koala.  If it ate all of the eucalyptus plants, it would not just move onto another food source, it would die off until the plants recovered. 

Yet, if you tried to feed a polar bear the same eucalyptus plants, it would starve.  And, of course, various plants are adapted to different environments.

Humans are perhaps the biggest exception to the rule.  We live EVERYWHERE.  And, if a certain crop doesn't suit us, we tear it out and plant what we like better.

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Offline Martin J Sallberg

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There is evidence that microbes have changed their behavior in response to individual experience, as well as flexible problem solving. and once again, assuming that a hardwired reproduction maximizer was even possible, it would have had time to terminally kill its food stocks off BEFORE starving to death itself. And if all life was that way, all ecosystems would have collapsed into total mass extinction in a very short period of time.

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Offline yor_on

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Martin, you're making me curious. Can you link your evidence so I can see what you're talking about?
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Offline Martin J Sallberg

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Martin, you're making me curious. Can you link your evidence so I can see what you're talking about?

Yes, there is "Amoebas Anticipate Climate Change" (on Physics News Update's archive), showing that something that can functionally only be described as learning to predict the future, actually "evolved" in a single generation, without cell divisions. Sorry I could not find an URL link, but it is googleable.

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Offline damocles

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Facts:
(1) Models that attempt to simulate real ecosystems are unstable.
(2) 2-dimensional models (predator/prey) are quite stable and account well for observations.

Possible explanations:
(1) Additional factors are operating in the real systems (like the one that the OP suggested).
(2) Something is going wrong with the modelling when the number of dimensions is increased.

Against  explanation (1): it would appear to involve new science that would not be comfortable fitting into the body of existing knowledge.
In favour of explanation (2): although there is an implication of instability and chaos, there remains the possibility of the system finding a steady state:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attractor

Similar things -- models of systems that are stable in a few dimensions becoming unstable when the number of dimensions is increased -- are found and recognised in other areas of science.
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Offline Martin J Sallberg

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The fact that introduced species often do seriously upset ecosystems in ways that causes extinctions proves that "flaws in the computer simulations" are not an adequate explanation. And if the theory of flawed computer simulations is taken seriously, it is the same as supporting the Gaia hypothesis, and are you really willing to do that? I doubt so. Furthermore, the whole gene-centered theory of how life behaves predicts that there should be "intergenomic conflict" between the cellular nuclei and the mitochondria in our cells, and a three-side standoff with chloroplasts in plant cells (cellular nuclei, mitochondria and chloroplasts all have their own genomes and are not closely related at all). So why are there no such conflicts?

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Offline yor_on

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Stupid of me. Don't know why I forgot that one Damocles? You're perfectly right, and that one needs to be included, although it somehow makes us (life) out as a expression of some possible constants, aka Feigenbaum. at least when it comes to population pressures. But I think there exist some formulas for describing it from chaos? Think I read about some Australian example, or if it was New Zealand? In where they had some population disappearing, and what was possible to do about it, or not possible would probably be the correcter, ahem, definition.

As for "the fact that introduced species often do seriously upset ecosystems in ways that causes extinctions proves that "flaws in the computer simulations" are not an adequate explanation." Martin. I would say that if you define it from chaos mathematics you will get effects not easily foreseen, but still explainable from it.
« Last Edit: 02/05/2013 19:05:02 by yor_on »
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Offline yor_on

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But I will also need to look your link up Martin :)
And hopefully see what you're thinking of there.
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Offline yor_on

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Not sure what it proves Martin? That amoebas are capable of learning? Isn't that what i would call adaption? And so a evolution? What it states may be that you can see simple organisms adapt at short time scales though?

" A new experiment demonstrated that amoebas slow their motion in synchronization with periodic hostile changes in their environment.  The amoebas even displayed anticipation to the periodically appearing unfavorable conditions. This meant that they even slowed down when the adverse condition was to be expected to appear even it did not occur.  A new experiment demonstrated that amoebas slow their motion in synchronization with periodic hostile changes in their environment. The amoebas even displayed anticipation to the periodically appearing unfavorable conditions. This meant that they even slowed down when the adverse condition was to be expected to appear even it did not occur.A team of scientists from Hokkaido University  and the ATR Wave Engineering Laboratories in Japan  cultured the single celled slime mold Physarum polycephalum (a member of the amoeba clan) in a bed of oat flakes on an agar media.

Every ten minutes the air was made slightly cooler and drier, which had the effect of slowing the movement of the amoebas.Then more favorable air would be restored and the motion continued as before. After several cycles, the amoebas slowed down their motion even when the hostile conditions were not applied. Later still, when the organisms have been tricked into anticipating impending climate change several times, they stop from slowing without an actual change in conditions. One of the researchers, Toshiyuki Nakagaki from Hokkaido (nakagaki@es.hokudai.ac.jp), cautions that amoebas do not have a brain and that this is not an example of classic “Pavlovian” conditioned response behavior. Nevertheless, it might represent more evidence for a primitive sensitivity or intelligence, based on the dynamic behavior of the tubular structures deployed by the amoeba.  (Saigusa et al., Physical Review Letters, 11 January 2008 ).  Source: American Institute of Physics."

If fits right in with the complicated behavior we had in those bacterias to me though, seems we have different mechanisms for evolution, don't know how to check for chemical and genes differing in the population after the experiment though? Because if you could prove a change there then I would call it a 'mutation' through a changing environment I think. But there is one thing more, and that is what information they already have inscribed. Because if 'nature' meet such occasions before, then I think it should become easier for them to adapt, than if there was nothing similar ever happening to amoebas before, all as I see it?
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Offline yor_on

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This might throw some light on possible relations.

"Biologists have been estimating the size of genomes for decades. In 1971, for example, researchers reported that a species of Italian bat, Miniopterus, has a genome half the size of the human genome. Similarly, the genome of Muntiacus, a species of Asian barking deer, was estimated at about 70 percent of that of humans. As reported this week, the human genome contains about 3 billion chemical units of DNA, or base pairs.

In the animal kingdom, the relationship between genome size and evolutionary status is not clear. One of the largest genomes belongs to a very small creature, Amoeba dubia. This protozoan genome has 670 billion units of DNA, or base pairs. The genome of a cousin, Amoeba proteus, has a mere 290 billion base pairs, making it 100 times larger than the human genome. " http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/articles/02_01/Sizing_genomes.shtml

You might think of it this way. We have a evolution through simple small organisms to complex large ones. but the amount of genes they have may be a result of different climates and ways of life, amoebas have been here for a very long time as I understands it, and maybe the idea of dormant genes awakening may play a part in it? Or you could see the genes that are active as a 'synthesis' of all those dormant ones too, meaning that they already were 'ready' for a change, and so able to react on it?
==

what i mean is that it might be possible to see the amount of genes as 'information' defining 'rules'. Those rules will behave 'intelligently'  to us, but they are not the same as us humans using our mind consciously. We could all decide today to throw our car keys away, amoebas can not, We can also decide to limit our population today, through freely deciding one kid per person, ameobas might do the same due to environment, but not before it was there.

Thinking about it, the worst thing I might say about us then would be that we are closer to amoebas than previously thought :) That is, if we don't start doing something positive about our environment inside the closest decades. Because, every year will count for more, as it accelerates, as I think.

But it's still nice news, as it mean that Nature will be able to adapt, given time. The problem there is just how much time complex organisms will need, migrating etc. We have a accelerating global warming, combined with a increasing CO2 man made, each year. I don't mean that it is 'the end' of anything, but we will see species disappear, due to our ignorance, and greed.
« Last Edit: 02/05/2013 20:17:11 by yor_on »
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Offline damocles

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I am absolutely not a biologist. I thought I was seeing a pattern that I recognised from similar cases in the physical sciences -- smog simulations, and weather/climate models.
The fact that introduced species often do seriously upset ecosystems in ways that causes extinctions proves that "flaws in the computer simulations" are not an adequate explanation.

I do not see how or why this is the case. "flaws in the computer simulations" are not intended as a catch all explanation, especially not if the ecosystem undergoes some basic change.

Quote
And if the theory of flawed computer simulations is taken seriously, it is the same as supporting the Gaia hypothesis, and are you really willing to do that? I doubt so.
You will need to lead me by the hand here. What does all this have to do with the Gaia hypothesis?

Quote
Furthermore, the whole gene-centered theory of how life behaves predicts that there should be "intergenomic conflict" between the cellular nuclei and the mitochondria in our cells, and a three-side standoff with chloroplasts in plant cells (cellular nuclei, mitochondria and chloroplasts all have their own genomes and are not closely related at all). So why are there no such conflicts?

How are the cellular nuclei and the mitochondria and the chloroplasts supposed to attack one another?
Is there perhaps a symbiotic arrangement that benefits all parties?
Are not the mitochondria essentially "hitching a ride" on the operations of the cellular nuclei, which should not matter as long as they do not interfere?
Is there not a model for the interaction of parasites, which have an interest in weakening but not killing the host animal?
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Offline yor_on

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There is one thing more, RNA (micro RNA) and DNA seems to have a very complex relationship as I gather. A lot of new 'patents' in genetics are no more that copying natural designs, and then restricting a description of how it is thought to work. I'm very tired of the American way of 'patenting' nature myself. All a question of unbridled greed. I suspect one could say that most of our inventions are no more than copying, although we present it as if we 'invented' it instead. That behavior goes very well with the way we mishandled our resources naturally, the sort of hubris typical for human greed I would say. Yeah, I know, I'm not very nice in my outlook of us all here, feel free to prove me wrong. And I don't think that hubris to be isolated to industrialized countries, it exist everywhere, in different disguises.

http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at/en/infoservice/current-issues/presseinformation/presseinfo2013/press-release-04-19-2013-a-surprising-new-function-for-small-rnas-in-evolution/
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Offline Martin J Sallberg

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The "Amoebas Anticipate Climate Change" link can be googled. Relevance is achieved by googling with quotation marks for the exact phrase.

The point about the amoebas is that they learned to adapt to the cycle within their lifetime, without cell divisions and thus without the conventional form of evolution. They learned a specific cycle. Have you ever heard of 10 minute cycles being predominant in "nature"? They sure have faced lots of different kinds of cycles in "nature", so specific adaptation to certain types of cycles theough natural selection cannot explain it.

The point about mitochondria, chloroplasts and cellular nuclei is that they are not closely related, but yet cooperate without "intergenomic conflict". Yes, they depend on each other, but so do organisms in an ecosystem. So "selfish replicators" cannot be the reason for destruction of ecosystems. This shows that anti-ecological selfishness is all a faliure of communication, sometimes combined with justification poisoning.

And the reason why I mentioned the Gaia hypothesis is because the computer simulations about collapsing ecosystems is what is considered to have falsified Gaia.
« Last Edit: 03/05/2013 15:09:36 by Martin J Sallberg »

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Offline yor_on

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Are you telling me that this quote is incorrect Martin?
Then present me the paper involved instead.

I will read it with interest.
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Offline damocles

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OK Martin, I can see now that you have used sloppy logic regarding Gaia.

The original proposition can be expressed
If A then B
not B
therefore not A
(A perfectly valid syllogism)

However when you reverse it:
If A then B
B
therefore A
the logic becomes invalid.

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Offline damocles

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The whole point about symbiotic arrangements is that there has to be "something in it" for each party. Dismissing it by saying that an ecosystem is dependent on similar arrangements is a bit of a cop out:
• Regarding an ecosystem as an organism is a little like taking a gestalt view of the situation (reminiscent of Gaia?).
• There is no advantage for any "prey" organism to co-operate with its predator, as can readily be seen in the enormous variety of mechanisms that prey organisms use to hide from/confuse/distract their predators.
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Offline CliffordK

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A model is only as good as the design and the input to the model.

One of the important parts of our environment are niches.

Each species has become optimized for a particular niche.  Some plants like dry soil, some plants like moist soil.  Some tolerate dry summers, some don't.  Cold winters?  Lack of freezing? 

Then you have the herbivores.  If they eat all their food supply, they die off.  If there is excess food, they flourish. 

And, the carnivores.  Some are good at hunting large game.  Some hunt small game.  Some in forests, some in meadows and plains. 

Perhaps one important part of an ecological niche is a way to preserve oneself at times of stress.  Some desert plants can survive as dormant seeds for decades, waiting for the next big rainfall. 

Now, the models may be absolutely correct.  If two species share the exact same niche, then it may be common for the one to become slightly favored over the other and out compete the other.  In this case, the lesser species will have to either find its own niche, or be driven to extinction.

There likely are a couple of forms of evolution.  In some cases, all members of a species or subspecies will interbreed, and the species as a whole will drift towards the strongest and fittest. 

If, however, there is a mutation such as chromosomes splitting or merging, then there may be no interbreeding, and a new species would originate.  If the new species out competes the old species, then all members of the old may eventually die off.

I.E.  we have horses, but no 3-toed-horses.

Due to predator/prey feedback, some predators, in particular severely limit their offspring, often to one viable baby per year, or perhaps even less. 

Throw humans in the mix, and we stir up the niches.  Take the best for ourselves.  We over-hunt, so that species that were adapted to slow reproductive cycles suffer.   Some species adapt.  There are many suburban deer that may consider flower gardens a delicacy.  Other species fare poorly.


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Offline CliffordK

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• There is no advantage for any "prey" organism to co-operate with its predator, as can readily be seen in the enormous variety of mechanisms that prey organisms use to hide from/confuse/distract their predators.

Perhaps no overt cooperation between predators and prey.  But they do function together.  The predators may help remove the diseased animals from a herd, and in that way help protect the whole herd.  And, of course, also pushing constant evolution towards the "fittest", or at least pushing evolution away from the unfit.

The predators are also an important part to keep the prey from overpopulation, and thus destroying their own survival niche, with more prey bringing better predator survival, and less prey bringing less predator survival, neither destroying their whole niche.

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Offline Martin J Sallberg

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Adding predators to "manage the herbivore population" does not solve the problem, it just moves it. Predators are just as likely to overkill their prey as herbivores are to overkill plants. This is an example as good as any showing that it takes something absolutely qualitatively different from anything explainable by "genetic self-interest" to avert very rapid mass extinction, humans or no humans.

And even considered that it is possible for herbivores to provide carnivores with nutrition without dying themselves? I think of eggs, milk, blood, etc. The carnivore could then fertilize the herbivore's food with dung. Arrangements where plants provide for herbivores without being killed is also concievable. Those would, if they were common, have been macroscopic equivalents of the cellular nuclei/mitochondria/chloroplast arrangement. The point is that what causes ecosystems to conflict is faliure of communication and not "fundamental interest". Communication over short distances is easier. Did you know that dying from new diseases "immunological naivity" is generally due to immunological overreaction and not the germ itself?

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Offline yor_on

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I like the idea of genes meaning rules myself. That transforms it into something that you can treat mathematically. And the type of mathematics you will need for treating it (life and competition) is non linear, which makes it chaos mathematics. And there you will find a lot of surprises, as 'mystical attractors', as well as hidden constants (Feigenbaum for example). It's one of the main things we believe in, that each time you get a amount of something interacting, it should be possible to find a mathematical description of it. The problem is that you have a lot of interactions, too many to treat distinctly, also making small initial differences into major as the complexity builds up. But there are constants existing in those chaotic behaviors too, and if there are you can be assured that the pattern evolving is treatable and logical. But I wish you could simplify what you mean Martin, because I lose myself reading you, not being sure what ideas you argue for?

That we can't explain how life co-exist?
Or that we can't explain what leads to species extinction?
Or is it something more to it? Intelligent design?
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Offline yor_on

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I don't know if selfish genes are the right description either, if it is solely that you are disputing? I would say it is a game of probability, related to what environment presented, genes becoming 'rules' adapting to it. More like emerging patterns than 'one to one' relations, even though those too must be present. All as a guess..
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Offline Martin J Sallberg

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I am arguing that since organisms would have time to eat their food stocks to extinction before starving to death themselves, some form of learning from mistakes qualitatively different from hardwiring by natural selection is necessary to explain why it does not lead to incessant mass extinction that wipes all life out. The learning from mistakes and the emergent foresight that follows from it does only involve emergent processes based on conventional chemical reactions, not anything like "souls", "deities" or anything like that.

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Offline yor_on

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Don't know if it always can be assumed to have been a competition myself? We had very simple organisms in the beginning getting their nutrition from nature itself, what did they 'compete' with? Then climate change, as well as the organisms mutates, creating different (sub? New?) species. And suddenly you have upped the complexity to one where they might need to compete for some food source. And that's where kismet and genetics starts to play a role for the balance. Also one need to remember that mutations won't stop in either case, so if one species are more prepared than the other it should force the other to adapt in some other way, meaning that those that won't adapt will die out. It should fast become very complicated, the more species you introduce. As for all organisms coming from the same start I agree, and neither do I think that humans have some special place reserved in nature. Not from geological time processes and from the view of a earth 'creating' or at least allowing emergent life forms.
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Offline Martin J Sallberg

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Don't know if it always can be assumed to have been a competition myself? We had very simple organisms in the beginning getting their nutrition from nature itself, what did they 'compete' with? Then climate change, as well as the organisms mutates, creating different (sub? New?) species. And suddenly you have upped the complexity to one where they might need to compete for some food source. And that's where kismet and genetics starts to play a role for the balance. Also one need to remember that mutations won't stop in either case, so if one species are more prepared than the other it should force the other to adapt in some other way, meaning that those that won't adapt will die out. It should fast become very complicated, the more species you introduce. As for all organisms coming from the same start I agree, and neither do I think that humans have some special place reserved in nature. Not from geological time processes and from the view of a earth 'creating' or at least allowing emergent life forms.

But why are not food stocks being incessantly eaten into mass extinction today? Lots of animals have much time to eat what little food they can find before starving to death. Think of snakes, crocodiles, camels, and so on. That means that simple collapses of consumer populations cannot prevent an incessant mass extinction that should make the history of life (barring a possible early peroid with little competition, as you mentioned) very short. The problem is what happens after that possible non-competetive period.

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Offline yor_on

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To me then Martin :)

Think of life as a game, the game fast becomes complex as its proportions grow. But it has rules, initial rules as genes RNA etc, those are internal. Then it has other rules, some of them falling out of the complexity, so becoming 'theoretical' although extremely real, as social rules. People kill themselves because they do not fit those rules, so they are, as 'real' as can be. But the game have rules, and we follow them, one way or another, until we die. You kill and eat until you're not hungry, most carnivorous species do, although you have exceptions to it. But all of those rules I expect to have been created under a evolution, assuming that genes want to live. To kill of your food is contra productive, so those species either are extinct, have changed their ways, or live in a situation where food sources are able to reproduce in numbers greater than the predators ability to cover a given territory and kill. To me it must be a balance, although dynamic and non-linear, meaning that you always will find room for surprises. A non linear system can break down, it can oscillate between 'extremes', it can also 'settle down' into a semi stable situation that on human time scales will be perceived as 'stable'. Take a look at http://library.thinkquest.org/3493/frames/chaos.html

If there is rules to evolution, then there are at least two sets. One initial, aka genes etc, the other coming after as a result of theoretical frameworks, aka social. As I think. And if there are rules, then we have mathematics for describing how they behave, but the mathematics we use must build on our understanding of what the rules are, so chaos mathematics that describe it best are a 'new invention' to us, mostly created as far as I can see under the last forty, or so, years. A lot of the tools we use today are fairly new I think, but people somehow seem to assume that they always have been there, and so use old descriptions alongside those new tools, making it all into confusion.
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Offline yor_on

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What you can ask yourself from a description as this is whether humans are following those rules or are becoming a exception to them. How much food do a store throw away each week in a industrialized country, relative a undeveloped? And will either of them fit a situation in where you went out just to feed yourself, and family? It may sound silly but Earth isn't based on us throwing away resources, even if renewable.
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Offline Martin J Sallberg

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No, reproductive success formulas cannot explain avoiding to wipe food stocks out. Blind natural selection would always favor those that reproduced the most viable and fertile offspring, leading to killing of food stocks under the principle of having time to exterminate before starving to death oneself. Chaos simulations have the unjust advantage of not necessarily having to take reproduction into account. So there must be something qualitatively different from reproductive evolution directing at least behavioral evolution (and, as shown in "DNA sequence variation and methylation in an arsenic tolerant earthworm population" by Mark Hodson, it applies to biochemical evolution too, that big change in at most 170 years cannot be explained by random mutations and natural selection).

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Offline cheryl j

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Well, actually 99% of species that ever existed are extinct.

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Offline damocles

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From Martin J Sallberg:
Quote
While simple computer simulations appeared to support the Gaia hypothesis (self-stabilizing ecosystems), adding more complexity to the simulations did not support the theory at all.

So, Martin, you would agree that simple models get the story right, yet most of your subsequent posts say that

Quote
I am arguing that since organisms would have time to eat their food stocks to extinction before starving to death themselves, some form of learning from mistakes qualitatively different from hardwiring by natural selection is necessary to explain why it does not lead to incessant mass extinction that wipes all life out.

This really is not self-evident. Plants are continually growing. Herbivores do not have infinite appetites so a small population can be supported on the growth of the plants. Carnivores restrict the size of herbivore populations without wiping out the herbivores.
Why? Because the population of carnivores is restricted by the availability of food. But carnivores do not "wipe themselves out" because of the luck of the hunt.

What model are you using to state your view with such certainty?

(By the way I can see the force of your argument about the learning of amoebae).
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Offline CliffordK

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I agree with Damocles and others.  A lot will depend on the model.  If one chooses the right parameters.
  • Food Source Availability.
  • Resilience to over predation (both plants and animals).
  • Ability to "hide"
  • Multi-tier predators
  • etc.

A mouse will eat grain.
A lion won't hunt mice.
But, the lion might hunt whatever hunts the mice. 
So, a bountiful harvest of grains will mean lots of mice, which means more small cats, dogs, eagles, etc.
Which then means more climax predators.  Each keeping the next in check.  And, in turn, limiting one will limit them all.

I've thought a bit about games like "Empire" where the goal is global conquest.  Or, in Linux, there is a simple galactic game called Konquest.  A "draw" doesn't occur.  At some point, someone will conquer everything. 

However, "nature" has far more levels of complexity and checks in balances.  And, since not all is equal, somehow it all became stable.  At least until Man started shaking up the pot.  Even so, eventually a new equilibrium would occur, even without our intervention.

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Offline Martin J Sallberg

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From Martin J Sallberg:
Quote
While simple computer simulations appeared to support the Gaia hypothesis (self-stabilizing ecosystems), adding more complexity to the simulations did not support the theory at all.

So, Martin, you would agree that simple models get the story right, yet most of your subsequent posts say that

Quote
I am arguing that since organisms would have time to eat their food stocks to extinction before starving to death themselves, some form of learning from mistakes qualitatively different from hardwiring by natural selection is necessary to explain why it does not lead to incessant mass extinction that wipes all life out.

This really is not self-evident. Plants are continually growing. Herbivores do not have infinite appetites so a small population can be supported on the growth of the plants. Carnivores restrict the size of herbivore populations without wiping out the herbivores.
Why? Because the population of carnivores is restricted by the availability of food. But carnivores do not "wipe themselves out" because of the luck of the hunt.

What model are you using to state your view with such certainty?

(By the way I can see the force of your argument about the learning of amoebae).

Now you are conflating the empirical observation with the prediction of the theory. Yes, there is obviously empirical evidence that eating does not result in an incessant mass extinction that cuts the history of life on Earth very short (barring brand new abiogenesis). However, the theory of reproductive success-driven evolution still predicts that it should happen. If theories could be defended by saying that "the theory does not make prediction x because prediction x is empirically false" then the theory of a lumniferous aether would have been defended by saying that "well, there are no annual changes in the speed of light in different directions, and therefore the theory of a lumniferous aether does not predict that such changes should happen".

The theory of maximized reproduction predicts that animals should reproduce maximally during periods of abundant food, growing in population. It is when food stocks dwindle that the fact that they have time to exterminate their food before starving to death themselves comes in. Then the theory of maximized reproduction predicts that their then too large populations should eat their food into extinction.

The simple computer models does not take fat deposits into account, thus ignoring the fact that starving to death takes significant amounts of time.
« Last Edit: 09/05/2013 16:25:34 by Martin J Sallberg »

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Offline damocles

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From Martin J Sallberg:
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Now you are conflating the empirical observation with the prediction of the theory.
I most certainly am not, Martin. I am pointing out why your later statement is not self-evident because at least one model of ecosystems would have it otherwise.
Quote
The simple computer models does not take fat deposits into account, thus ignoring the fact that starving to death takes significant amounts of time.
This is indeed interesting, because what if the stress of the hunt, which would start when the herbivore population started to dwindle and less successful individual predators started burning their fat reserves, turned off the reproductive imperative? This makes sense in terms of the fact that reproduction uses extra energy reserves, and it makes empirical sense in terms of the fact that predator populations are larger than they "ought to be" and the absence of excessive corpses of predators.
Please note that I am not suggesting that this is "the answer". Rather I am pointing out why you cannot take your view of the situation as self-evident.
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Offline Martin J Sallberg

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From Martin J Sallberg:
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Now you are conflating the empirical observation with the prediction of the theory.
I most certainly am not, Martin. I am pointing out why your later statement is not self-evident because at least one model of ecosystems would have it otherwise.
Quote
The simple computer models does not take fat deposits into account, thus ignoring the fact that starving to death takes significant amounts of time.
This is indeed interesting, because what if the stress of the hunt, which would start when the herbivore population started to dwindle and less successful individual predators started burning their fat reserves, turned off the reproductive imperative? This makes sense in terms of the fact that reproduction uses extra energy reserves, and it makes empirical sense in terms of the fact that predator populations are larger than they "ought to be" and the absence of excessive corpses of predators.
Please note that I am not suggesting that this is "the answer". Rather I am pointing out why you cannot take your view of the situation as self-evident.

Any energy-saving in starving eaters would just worsen the situation by slowing down their starving to death, giving them even more time to eat their dwindling food stocks into extinction. The too large population would have came from the reproduction in the previous time of plenty, which is not altered by decreased or even stopped reproduction during the starvation. If you starve, you eat what you get, so even if your appetite is decreased during starvation it is still bigger than the dwindled food supply. And that is all what it takes to show that the whole maximum reproduction model of evolution (as opposed to qualitatively non-Malthusian evolution theories) inevitably predicts that mass extinction should not be possible to postpone for even a decade. But, and this is an important point, that the theory predicts it does not mean that it is true. The mismatch between prediction and evidence means that the theory is wrong. The versions of evolutionary theory that are based on maximization of reproduction are thus wrong. There is lots of evidence that evolution has happened and is happening, but it must evidently be in non-Malthusian forms.