Not how evolution works, no

Professor Gerard Karsenty, of Columbia University, said: “The notion that bone mediates the stress response is totally novel, as is the notion that the adrenal glands do not mediate the stress response.

“This verifies the concept that bone was invented in part as a tool to fight acute danger.”

He added: “If you think of bone as something that evolved to protect the organism from danger – the skull protects the brain from trauma, the skeleton allows vertebrates to escape predators, and even the bones in the ear alert us to approaching danger – the hormonal functions of osteocalcin begin to make sense.”

Bone didn’t evolve to do anything at all. That it evolved through random mutation then provided the benefits which are being spoken of.

Yes, yes, I know, he’s a professor and an expert and all that. But I simply don’t trust such who cannot even get the basics right. After all, we do have an example of a know nothing professor to marvel at…….

25 thoughts on “Not how evolution works, no”

  1. That was my first thought too, Julia.

    The language this chap uses is suspect. So I’ll be suspicious of his conclusions I think

  2. The language this chap uses is suspect


    I think it’s universally acknowledged that bone wasn’t “invented” as such and this chap is in all likelihood using language in an attempt to be accessible or relevant or whatever it is one has to be in order not to be seen to be talking down to one’s audience or excessively technical.

    Of course it’s self-defeating and makes the man look like a chump.

  3. I am sure the professor is well aware that mutations are not purposeful – as a short hand, feathered wings evolved (let us say ) initially to prevent falls glide or help you run up a tree – will do.
    What he is getting at here is that because evolution is imperfect ( see wiring of eye backwards et al) a feature may retain characteristics of its earlier function which may deepen understanding of the feature
    The bones of bats wing did not evolve “to” grip things , but the fact they are elongated fingers and not arms may reveal much about their current function and history
    The early arrival of the immune system pre dating almost any evolution may tell us why its operation is at times what seems a poor fit for the organism it is protecting

    You are being picky
    I notice you like evolution , I wonder if this is also part of the whole markets red in tooth and claw thing

  4. I suspect the published paper has a whole slew of really clever technical terms in order to get right into the detail.

    I also suspect the Professor was explaining in a conversational manner and trying to make himself understood to the layperson.

    I’d be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt on this occasion.

  5. A bit unfair to compare him with Murphy Tom.

    Karsenty is a Prof at an elite University, ranked in the top 20 worldwide.

    Murphy is a part-time, temporary appointee at an institution that formerly specialised in (I imagine), the likes of pottery, knitting and training in how to scramble eggs and which few in real world academia will know exists.

  6. see wiring of eye backwards et al

    You’re showing your ignorance again Newms.

    It isn’t an evolutionary mistake or legacy. There’s a reason it is that way.

    It provides greater peripheral vision for one.

    If you want more reasons, look it up.

  7. “This is the advantage that mutation Z on allele FUT gives…”

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Yes we know already. Get over it and stop your pendantry Tim.

  8. “I notice you like evolution…”

    Yes, in the same way that we ‘like’ gravity.

    The former generally selects for better… solutions to current (but ever-changing) circumstances.

    The latter keeps one’s feet firmly on the ground.

    You should try both. You might like them too.

  9. I’m not an evolutionary biologist, but taking the words at face value, ISTM the Prof has got it the wrong way round. If a bone arises (albeit in minute increments) by mutation and that confers a slight advantage, it is less likely to be lost. What does not happen (as I understand it) is that the some mechanism or other looks for a solution to a perceived problem and starts developing bone (or an eye, etc) to gain an advantage.

    If that is not what the Prof. meant, then he has still failed, as that is how it comes across.

  10. Chernyy_Drakon

    Just something I read in Richard Dawkins somewhere , what do I know , but it seemed quite convincing .
    Generally the imperfection of an adapted outcome as it can only go forwards ( so to speak ) has to be right doesn`t it . Otherwsie animals would have wheels or helium flotation chambers so they can fly and Kangaroos would have evolved into deers

  11. Kangaroos *are*, ecologically, deer. They fill the niche that deer fill in other ecologies, grassland grazers.

    Interestingly, in contrast to other grazers, they don’t fart methane, but convert it internally to another food source.

  12. Bone arose in late-Cambrian freshwater proto-fish.

    Calcium was hard to get in freshwater. The proto-fish stored calcium phosphate in their bodies. Eventually, muscles attached to it.

    In evolutionary terms, bone is a calcium store. Bone problems in older people might be the body retrieving some of that calcium for other use.

  13. Newmania: the vertebrate eye is *NOT* wired “backwards”.. The whole setup where the neural interconnections lie on top of the receptor cells in a separate layer happens to allow a huge amount of flexibility in wiring, giving rise to a greater adaptabilty. There’s currently 5 different neural networks that we know of in that layer, using the same set of receptors…
    The eye is not a simple camera. It’s a very complicated camera featuring a shed-ton of neural firmware doing a lot of the grunt work when it comes to what we call “vision”.
    Please do take your creationist myths with you.

    As for the article: Muscles work on calcium. Osteocalcin plays a major role in calcium homeostasis, and as such how well your muscles work. During fight-or-flight a significant amount of calcium gets dumped into your blood to make sure your muscles can Go Like The Wind without bothering with the usual recycling/recuperation pathways.
    ( and seize up or do all manner of wonky things in the aftermath…)
    The dear professor found the nitro switch, and got things ass-backwards in thinking an emergency button is a prime cause.

  14. Kangaroos *are*, ecologically, deer. They fill the niche that deer fill in other ecologies, grassland grazers.

    That us my point . They are plying the same trade but they look like giant rabbits and this is because they started form a different place ie with a marsupial pouch
    Its just an example of how evolution does not tend to perfection it just blindly chooses the best mutations from where you start
    So the history of an evolved feature is retained in some ways in its present state and if we correctly understand its early evolution it may inform understanding of the the way it acts now.

  15. It’s surprising how many people reckon they understand evolution don’t understand evolution. It proceeds in very small increments. So whatever advantage it’s ultimately selected for is unlikely to be the advantage in earlier stages. The evolutionary advantage may have changed repeatedly. Each change opening up a new opportunity for evolutionary advantage. Birds seem to have feathers because some dinosaur found an advantage in slightly fluffier scales. Maybe it helped regulate body temperature. Them being an advantage in a flying animal is a long way down the line. An intermediary advantage may have been their utility on courtship displays. There’s plenty of animals achieved flying without feathers.
    The prof’s mistake is trying to connect bone structure development with some sort of stress control mediation. Both will have started out as an adaptation to something else. (Gamecock gives a strong suggestion why bone evolved) So there’s no reason for the two to be connected other than pure luck

  16. Newmania: the vertebrate eye is *NOT* wired “backwards”..

    Well it is, isn`t it .If I had a camera , I would be unlikely to put the workings in front of the lens and then create complex processing to work around it
    Now you seem to be implying they were shoved to the front by some adaptive pressure but seems quite unlikely to me on the face of it ……

    and if it is a myth .. it certainly isn’t a creationist myth, it started as an argument against design

  17. *sigh* the imaging bit in the eye is, last time I checked, well behind the lens….
    And last time I checked half a millimeter of neural mat is ( next to) transparent, as opposed to the same thickness of silicon…

    And yes.. adaptive pressure caused the ancillary networks tying the individual receptors together to evolve on top of them for us. The evolutionairy differences in the development of vision between chordates, molluscs and insects is pretty well understood.
    Our very early ancestors had their receptors buried in their carapace. There was no *room* to grow anything below the receptors. ( and nothing in the way of “brains” as we have them to do some fancy imagery..)
    There was, however, plenty on top to play around in. And with anything evolution, especially in “primitive” organisms: If it can be tried, it *will* be tried.. And it obviously worked: we exist and still use that particular approach.
    Later these vision patches curved inwards, giving rise to the organs we call “eyes” . With , indeed, the “firmware” on top of the receptors.

    Molluscs, by contrast, have always had their eyes in their squishy bits, and a more distributed approach to neural networks. So they could internalise things, giving rise to, for instance, the eye of the octopus, where that layer is *behind* the receptors, even though the eye itself *looks* practically the same, despite us not sharing a single shred of evolution in that department. We parted ways when Everybody was still trying to figure out how many body axes were practical. *That* far back…

    Although really the principle and difference is much more clear in the eye of the humble snail, where the nerve knot doing the grunt work is sat right behind the eye in the eyestalk….

  18. Actually, insects at that stage faced the same problem as us, sharing much of the same basic build and armor approach, even though the execution was different. (chitin instead of keratin, for starters, and they never got the hang of reinforcing that with calcium..)
    *Their* solution was not to use a single large patch and tie the receptors together, but to copy/paste many small receptor patches and tie them together inside, giving rise to the compound eye.

    Same technical challenge, different approach. Obviously a valid one, given that they still use it happily today.

  19. Pendanticism gawn mad I tell you.

    It’s perfectly common in yer sciences to chat away about this wants that to happen, and so on, as just a metaphorical lingo that quickens a discussion. Nobody takes it literally.

    You get the formalities right in your papers. It’s a pity that papers tend also to be full of pompous, clumsy verbiage, but that’s a different complaint.

  20. Aha, an obit in today’s Times provides a perfect example.

    ‘Everything that we do, including breathing, eating, thinking and moving, is dependent on protein molecules. “These are wonderful structures,” Chris Dobson said, explaining that proteins “fold up” to bring together the chemical groupings that cause them to function properly. However, sometimes the proteins “misfold” and start to clump together, “which is not what biology intended at all”. This is what causes diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and type 2 diabetes.’

  21. Once upon a time, long long ago, the primordial soup produced several life forms, some…

    Some had no skeleton eg worms
    Some had an exoskeleton
    Some had an endoskeleton

    Endoskeleton allowed more flexible evolution and is current winner

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