Speedy evolution saves blue moon butterflies
Eye blinkingly fast
Researchers on the island of Samoa have witnessed evolution in action, as the population of male "Blue Moon" butterflies has returned from the brink of extinction. The researchers, from Berkeley University, put the resurgence of the species down to an evolutionary arms race, in which the butterflies' latest weapon is a gene that fights off a parasite.
The male 'Blue moon' butterfly. Image credit: Sylvain Charlat.
Six years ago, the male Blue Moon butterflies made up just one per cent of the species. The cause was a parasitic bacteria, Wolbachia. The bacteria is passed down by the mother and selectively kills male butterflies before they have a chance to hatch.
But despite continued infection with the bacteria, the males of the species are now back at 40 per cent of the total population.
The key lies in a gene that holds the bacteria in check. The gene is so successful that it spread throughout the entire population of butterflies within 10 generations - over the course of a year, according to the paper published in the 13 July edition of Science.
"To my knowledge, this is the fastest evolutionary change that has ever been observed," said Sylvain Charlat, lead author of the study and a post-doctoral researcher with joint appointments at the University of California, Berkeley, and University College London.
"This study shows that when a population experiences very intense selective pressures, such as an extremely skewed sex ratio, evolution can happen very fast."
The team is not certain of the origins of the saviour gene. It could have emerged through random mutation, or it could have been introduced into the population by a migrating butterfly.
"Regardless of which of the two sources of the suppressor gene is correct, natural selection is the next step. The suppressor gene allows infected females to produce males, these males will mate with many, many females, and the suppressor gene will therefore be in more and more individuals over generations," said Charlat.
The researchers say the discovery illustrates how quickly a species can respond to an evolutionary pressure and, more generally, how important parasites might be as an evolutionary force. ®
Mithra(s) and Jesus
I can't resist replying to Pete's claim that the Jesus 'myth' was copied from the pagan Mithra 'myth'. Let me set out differences between Mithra(s)/ Mithraism and Jesus/ Christianity, as follows:
Mithraism was a new religion founded in the 1st century BC that borrowed the name of a Persian god to make it sound exotic.
Christianity sprang from monotheistic Judaism in the 1st Century AD.
Mithra(s) the god was born from a hollow egg-shaped rock.
Jesus was born of a virgin.
Mithraism maintained strict secrecy about its teachings and practices.
Christianity, except when locally forced into hiding from persecution, was an open society.
Mithraism excluded female devotees.
Christianity was open equally to men and women.
Mithraism's temples were natural caves or artificial tunnels.
Early Christians met mostly in peoples' homes.
Mithraism is thought to have produced no literature. Its beliefs can only be deduced today from temple icons and artifacts.
Christianity produced the New Testament and patristic writings.
Mithraism's icon, found in every Mithraic temple, is of a man slaying a bull.
Christianity has never been identified with bull iconography.
Mithraism's icon, as interpreted by modern scholars, is an astronomical star map illustrating the signs of the zodiac.
Christianity has never been associated with astrology.
The 'X' appearing in Mithraic iconography is a sign borrowed from Platonism.
The 'X' in Christian iconography is a sign of the cross.
For more information on Mithraism read "The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries" by David Ulansey.
For more information of Christianity read the New Testament.
When Pliny the Younger, AD 61-112, the governor of Bithynia, wrote to Emperor Trajan to explain beliefs and practices of the early Christians his description matches beliefs and practices of various modern Christian denominations. It doesn't in any way relate to the beliefs and practices of Mithraism. The Christians about whom Pliny wrote belonged to a society whose members faced lions in the Roman Colosseum. They faced death gladly because they wouldn't burn incense to the emperor's statue. Mithraism's devotees would have had no qualms about doing that.
In conclusion, if there is a link between Mithraism and Christianity it can be established only with the various gnostic sects that sprang up from the 2nd century AD. A number of popular so-called scholarly books, e.g. Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code", have been written to promote gnosticism as authentic Christianity. Authors of such 'scholarly' works must either be ignorant of history or intellectually dishonest. I leave your contributors to judge.
From my observation of (and lengthy debates with) those who subscribe to the notion that the Earth was created only a few thousand years ago, their sole argument against evolution is that the Earth has not been around long enough for speciation to occur.
They are generally quite prepared to accept natural selection and adaptation within a species (and loudly proclaim that it is not "evolution") but "speciation" could not have occurred as "the Earth has only been in existence a few thousand years".
It is vitally important for them to claim this as they know that if the Earth had been around for as long as science claims, then there has been plenty of time for speciation to have occurred.
So, they trot out psuedo-science about the changing speed of light to account for the "apparent age" of distant stars being greater than their "true age of merely a few thousand years" and jump on the "carbon dating is inaccurate" bandwagon to "prove" the scientists are way off in their dating processes.
I have actually been told that "God deliberately altered the speed of light to allow the light of distant stars to get here in only a few thousand years".
So apparently God has deliberately mucked about with things such as fossil records, Carbon-14 decay rates, the speed of light to make the Earth (and the universe around it) appear far older than it really is...
Who is it that is supposed to be "The Prince of Lies"?
They also tend to loudly proclaim that evolutionists cannot conclusively point to the fossil record and demonstrate the exact link between apes and humans etc, ergo evolution is "unprovable". They loudly shout down any explanations to the effect that the fossil record is incomplete due to adverse conditions as "copping out".
Where are the fossil records to support their claims that humans and dinosaurs co-exisated a few thousand years ago? Where are the Jurassic human fossils?
At least there is an observable trend in the fossil record (incomplete though it may be) to support the evolutionist take. There is no evidence at all in the fossil record of humans and dinosaurs cohabiting to support the absurd claims of the Recent Creation crowd.
Surely, if it a "cop out" to claim that a fossil record spanning MILLIONS OF YEARS is bound to be incomplete, there must be complete fossil records of humans living amongst the dinosaurs a mere few THOUSAND years ago (or did "God" deliberately destroy all the human fossils as part of his huge deception to make the universe and the Earth seem much older than they really are?)
So: pseudo science, convoluted explanations of changing constants, spurious attempts to discredit any scientific method at odds with their worldview and a lot of loud shouting of "COP OUT" in the hopes that people will be too busy defending their own stance to realise that there is absolutely no evidence for the Recent Creation idea.
They know full well that the only way they can cling to their beliefs is to convince everyone that the world is far too young for speciation to occur - I often wonder who they are trying hardest to convince...
Me, or themselves....
Blue Moonshine - 5
Pete's scatter-gun approach raises too many issues for me to address them all. So, let me settle for the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Jesus 'myth'.
Because Abraham originated from Ur of the Chaldees sometime around 1800 BC, and would no doubt have been well acquainted with Mesopotamian flood narratives, it is a nonsense to suggest that ancient Hebrews only discovered their existence during the exile in the 6th century BC. It is equally nonsensical to imagine that Christians are so unaware of them that they have failed to apply serious scholarship to the relationship between these accounts and the Genesis narrative.
No serious scholar questions the age of Babylonian cuniform script on stone or clay tablets. And none would doubt that the Gilgamesh and Ziusudra epics of the flood predate the Noahic narrative in its present form in the Book of Genesis. It is likely that all of these derived their basic facts from more primitive sources. Scholars generally regard the least embellished record as the one nearest to the source of an historical event. If that is true, the Noahic account, being by far the least embellished record of the three, should be the most reliable. There are enough similarities in the three accounts to indicate that they refer to a real event in history. There are enough differences between the Noahic account and the others to indicate that the former didn't copy the latter, merely changing names of the participants. Moreover, the Gilgamesh and Ziusudra epics, while interesting in themselves, contain absurdities which do not appear in the Noahic account.
By comparing Jesus with Mithras and Dionysus Pete indulges once more in sloppy scholarship. Ascribing myth to large swathes of the Christian Gospels was a favourite ploy of German liberal scholars from Schliemacher to, more recently, Bultmann. They realized that generations, even centuries, of elapsed time was needed for myth to build up. Consequently, they repositioned the Gospels, Pauline epistles, etc., to dates well into the 2nd century AD. Of course the original apostles and their contemporaries were dead by then, so New Testament documents bearing their names as authors must have been written, in their judgment, by others who invented miracles, etc., to immortalize Jesus. Calling these documents "pious frauds", the way was opened for liberal scholars to daub as myth any part of them with which they disagreed.
One of the most famous liberal scholars of recent times was John A Robinson. As Bishop of Woolwich he wrote a way-out book in the 1960's called "Honest to God" that placed him in an even more extreme position than most theologians of the German liberal school. It caused quite a stir. But after retiring as bishop he decided to revisit the dating of New Testament documents for, as he later admitted, "a bit of a joke". What he discovered astonished him. Almost all must have been written within 30 years of the death of Jesus, leaving no time for myth to evolve. His discovery, along with the works of a new breed of conservative evangelical New Testament scholars, have put paid once and for all to the "Jesus myth" gravy train. Why has nobody told Pete?
By the way, can Pete name those medieval Christians who wasted time arguing about "the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin"? This hoary story has been told ad nauseam. It is a secular myth.