Tag Archives: evolution

Science of Anime: Getter Rays

Getter Robo is full of things that defy the laws of physics, but it’s not really the physics that we’ll be looking into today. It’s the implications the title robot’s power source has for biology that concerns us.

Getter Rays are called the energy of evolution. (As is Spiral Power from Gurren Lagann, in direct homage to Getter.) They are said to be what originally wiped out the dinosaurs on the surface, and are still harmful to the reptilians of the Dinosaur Empire. Most of the other things they do don’t really have anything to do with evolution at all.

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Thermodynamics and creationism

 One of the more scientific-sounding anti-evolution arguments is that evolution violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics. (This tends to be reinforced by the false idea that a scientific “law” automatically ‘outranks’ a “theory”.) To understand this argument, the first thing we have to ask is, what is the Second Law?

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Evolution, dogs, and drugs

For the basics of evolution, read this first.

The idea of a world with life as we know it that doesn’t evolve is not plausible. The fact that all life on Earth appears to be descended from a common ancestor is a fact that we know about how life evolved, not a part of the definition of the process itself. Even if some god created a world full of already-complex life, it would still then, given that mutations exist, take a specific effort on the creator’s part to prevent evolution by natural selection from occurring after that.

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Basics of evolution

 It has come to my attention recently that I might have readers who are unfamiliar with evolution, so I’ve decided to start a series of posts on the topic. And at the risk of being too basic, I’m going to start with the basics. (This is a slightly modified re-posting of something I said on a message board some time ago. The other posts in the series will be original.)

“Evolution”, in this sense, refers to the fact that species change over time. The “theory of evolution” refers to the accepted explanation of this fact, which has itself evolved over time starting from Charles Darwin’s original version. The theory is that some traits make individuals more likely to survive than others (this is called natural selection) or more likely to reproduce (sexual selection), and that these traits become more common while traits having the opposite effect become less common.

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“The World of Chance” and crocoducks

Years ago I read a piece of fiction called “The World of Chance”; apparently what I read was just a part of a longer novel, and I don’t remember all the details of the part I did read, but the basic concept was that a man starts to wish there was no God after some tragedy that he blames God for, and he gets his wish. But the “world without god” described makes no sense…and I mean that literally. It is “the world of chance”, meaning it is a world where impossible things are just as likely to happen as anything else. (And the impossible things are, by chance, all bad in order to promote the author’s view that a world without God would be horrible. Though, also by chance, the world was not completely uninhabitable for humans despite the fact that the vast majority of potential worlds would be, so it actually, unintentionally demonstrated something completely different.) In other words, it is a world defined not by the lack of a deity, but by the lack of physical laws.

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Pokebiology: words with too many meanings.

Okay, I love Pokemon, but one thing I’ve always wished that the series hadn’t done was use the word “evolution” to refer to something that’s, you know, not what that word normally means in other contexts. Jen McCreight has an excellent post on her blog that goes into more detail about evolution and metamorphosis in Pokemon.

What you normally think of when someone says “Pokemon evolution” is really metamorphosis. Which is kind of obvious, considering in most Pokemon games the first Pokemon that you see evolve will be a bug type whose evolution is based on metamorphosis in real insects, like a caterpillar/cocoon/butterfly. Other times, Pokemon based on animals that mature gradually will suddenly evolve instead, but then, Pokemon based on mammals come from eggs too, so it’s just a similar deviation from reality. Pokemon aren’t actually evolutionary (in the real-life biology sense) relatives of the real-life creatures they’re based on (which don’t seem to exist in the Pokemon world anyway), so that’s fine. Either way, it’s still often something like a lion cub becoming an adult lion.

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