Validating a Just-So Story: How the Lizard Got Its Horns

first_imgAs if smarting from criticisms that evolutionists trade in stories instead of evidence, Utah State biologists Kevin Young and Edmund Brodie, Jr and son decided to test an instance of natural selection.  Their subject was the horned lizard of the southwestern United States, the misnamed “horny toad” kids like to catch. Many descriptions of evolutionary adaptations are criticized as “just-so stories” that are based more on intuition than on direct tests of adaptive hypotheses.  The elaborate crowns of horns possessed by many species of horned lizards (genus Phrynosoma) are classic examples of intuitively adaptive features that lack direct tests of function.  The bony horns that give horned lizards their name are presumed to function as a defense against predators (Fig. 1B).  Here we present data from the wild showing that natural selection by loggerhead shrikes favors longer horns (fig. S1) in the flat-tailed horned lizard (Phrynosoma mcalli).So, replete with charts, photographs, equations and scientific names, the trio have pulled off a rare achievement: connecting the selective agent (a loggerhead shrike) to the selected effect (the length of the lizard’s horns).  They showed that lizards with longer horns don’t get attacked by the predatory bird.  Their concluding statement, however, seems to disparage prior work:Modern methods for analyzing natural selection have increased our understanding of which traits experience selection.  These methods, however, typically cannot identify agents of selection or reveal the functional relations that result in natural selection.  Even most classic data sets demonstrating selection in the wild, including Bumpus’s sparrows and Lande and Arnold’s pentatomid bugs, did not reveal the agents responsible for the observed patterns of survival.  Our results present a rare opportunity to link the statistical form of selection to an identifiable agent, in this case predation by shrikes.  Our study does not show that other agents and forms of selection do not play a role in the evolution of horn size, but clearly illustrates that defense against shrike predation is one factor driving the radical elongation of horns in some species of horned lizards.Their paper was published in the April 2 issue of Science.1  Though not a just-so story in their opinion, they whimsically gave their paper a Kipling-esque title: “How the Horned Lizard Got Its Horns.”    The summary in Science Now adds that the horns on the living lizards were less than a millimeter longer, on average, than those of the dead ones.1Kevin V. Young,1 Edmund D. Brodie, Jr.,1 Edmund D. Brodie, III, “How the Horned Lizard Got Its Horns,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5667, 65, 2 April 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1094790] (published online April 1).Well, very nice.  I’m sure father and son and buddy had fun out there in the desert and learned a lot.  This is certainly better empirical research than the typical Darwin Party fare, weaving tales out of pure imagination.  Too bad it’s irrelevant.    Like the study on peppered mice (see 04/18/2003 entry), this research really doesn’t do much to help prop up Charlie.  Creationists freely admit that existing traits can be emphasized by predation or diet, including finch beaks and fur color.  Even Answers in Genesis has no problem with natural selection at this level.  This paper does nothing to explain how the lucky lizard got horns in the first place, or a head, or running legs, or breathing lungs, circulating blood, seeing eyes, hearing ears, sexual organs, or factories of molecular machines in every cell of its body.    Researchers who think these kinds of microevolutionary studies support Darwinism commit the fallacy of extrapolation.  They think that if they just add up a large number of little stories about microevolution, they will all add up to macroevolution, and prove that humans had bacteria ancestors.  But like a pendulum on a clock, a lot of little movements do not necessarily add up to vast distances.    Furthermore, this admirable field work, which must have required a lot of time and effort, raises as many questions as it attempts to answer: why aren’t all the horns long enough on all the lizards by now to prevent all shrike attacks?  Have they connected the acquired characteristics to the gametes and to developmental pathways, to prevent accusations of Lamarckism?  Are the genes for horns subject to pleiotropy or balancing selection?  Do the longer horns cause disadvantages to the lizards?  What other defense mechanisms are at work, like camouflage, better eyesight, faster legs or bad taste?  Perhaps you can think of more.   The point is, there is just some circumstantial evidence here, with plenty of wiggle room for just-so storytelling, and the relationship, which is probably valid, does nothing to explain the origin of the lizard and the origin of the bird.  The mere sorting of existing information is not what Charlie set out to explain.  The big just-so story is still that.  Swabbing the deck doesn’t make the ship float.    Science Now contains a Freudian slip that reveals the bad storytelling habit of Darwinians: “Any armchair Darwinist could tell you the lizards’ horns probably evolved to protect it from predators.”  Telling a story with your arms on the recliner was supposed to go out with Aristotle.  Get out there and prove it.(Visited 180 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

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A New Encyclopedia Article on Ductless Minisplits

first_imgWith each passing month, GBA’s library of articles and blogs gets deeper. For example, we recently added a new article on Ductless Minisplit Heat Pumps to the GBA Encyclopedia.Ductless minisplits differ from conventional air-source heat pumps in several ways: first of all, they are extremely efficient, in part because of the use of inverter-driven compressors. Secondly, many of these units can operate efficiently at very low outdoor temperatures.Since a compact home with high levels of insulation can be heated and cooled with just one or two ductless minsplit units, this type of heating system is very affordable.The new article answers dozens of questions, including:What’s the difference between a ductless minisplit system and a conventional air-source heat pump system?Can the outdoor unit of a ductless minisplit system handle several indoor units?Why are ductless minisplit systems particularly appropriate for renovation work?Why are designers of energy-efficient homes showing an increased interest in ductless minisplit systems? Subscribe to GBA to enjoy all of the benefits of GBA Pro membershipWhile some of the articles in the Encyclopedia — for example, the article on Green Mechanical Systems — are available to all readers, others (including the new article on Ductless Minisplit Heat Pumps) are available only to GBA Pro members.To enjoy all of the benefits of GBA Pro membership, subscribe to GBA Pro today or try our 14-day free trial.last_img read more

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Drugs in Indian sport takes centrestage as athlete Sunita Rani tests positive

first_imgSplitting image: Sunita Rani’s home in Sunam, Punjab, will be her only refuge as her athletics career comes to a sudden stopSuddenly, she has turned invisible. The pocket-sized girl with the pretty face and the shy manner of small-town India has disappeared into the thick smog of public disgrace.Around her,Splitting image: Sunita Rani’s home in Sunam, Punjab, will be her only refuge as her athletics career comes to a sudden stopSuddenly, she has turned invisible. The pocket-sized girl with the pretty face and the shy manner of small-town India has disappeared into the thick smog of public disgrace.Around her name, there is activity and a loud, angry buzz. Rules, regulations, strictures and scientific name-calling. But she herself, Sunita Rani, distance runner and yet another child of broken sporting promises, cannot be found.Her brother Shinder Pal and her cousin Ashok Goel travel to newspaper offices with thick pharmaceutical tracts and trawl the Internet looking for the history of appeals against doping bans. Sports administrators have their hands full of Asian Games medallists whom they’re shepherding into the limelight, trying in vain to take the attention away from the most prominent case of doping in Indian sport.But the lady herself has vanished. Like her timings and her achievements in Busan – a gold and a bronze and an Asian Games record. Rani has turned into a symbol to be deconstructed, a cause to be embraced, a statistic to be frowned at, everything but what she was a week ago – the most talented, natural athlete to emerge out of India since the retirement of P.T. Usha.Two positive tests for a steroid called nandrolone after her 1,500m and 5,000m races in Busan have taken care of that. In the cynical and jaded world of international athletics, guilt or innocence hardly matters – all that does is perception. In the official Asian Games bulletin, when the news of Rani’s positive dope test was reported, the paragraph that followed recorded surprise at how a country with no “tradition” in athletics had won a heap of track and field medals in Busan. “We now know how,” it pronounced.advertisementHeading the only contingent that produced the only positive dope tests in Busan (a Lebanese bodybuilder refused a drugs test and was stripped of his medals) has prevented Indian officials from discussing glasshouses and stones.IOA President Suresh Kalmadi promised “exemplary punishment” and IOA Secretary General Randhir Singh said protests could have been entertained on a single positive dope test but not two. The use of performance-enhancing drugs in Indian sport – particularly in athletics and weightlifting – is such a poorly kept secret that Rani’s case is being treated by many who went to Busan as just “bad luck”.What has vanished along with Rani are facts, a clear sequence of events, leaving two large questions:How could an athlete who cleared dope-control procedures in Delhi on the eve of the Indian contingent’s departure for Busan test positive for high levels of nandrolone (16 nanograms in the first and 10 nanograms in the second as against permissible limits of 5 nanograms) less than 10 days later?Why would a distance runner use nandrolone, a steroid commonly used by athletes who need explosive power, i.e. sprinters and throwers?Typical of Indian sport, the possible explanations are neither savoury nor straightforward. Just before a major event, the dope-control centre run by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) at the Nehru Stadium in Delhi is turned into a damage-control centre. Four athletes picked for the Bangkok Asian Games in 1998 could not leave with the rest of their team because their tests had turned up positive. Damage not dope control: The SAI’s controversial laboratory in DelhiInstead of being told to return home, they spent a couple of days trying to wash their systems clean of drugs before leaving for Bangkok. One of that quartet died of a heart attack two years later at the age of 32.The SAI laboratory is not accredited by the IOC and is no more than a convenient shield for athletes: if they test positive they can blame it on faulty procedures and a “phatichar” lab. There is another bonus: in official IOC labs, the results and identities of all the positive tests are immediately sent to international bodies which can then take action. Ensuring that there is nothing official about the lab keeps the people who run any organised doping programme in a comfort zone.Except when from time to time, one manages to get away. “There is a possibility that Sunita’s sample may have been switched during the tests in Delhi before departure,” says one athletics official, a plausible explanation for why it showed up positive in Busan, but there is still no explaining the nandrolone. Unless it has all been a horrible mistake, medication dished out by accident to a quiet, introverted girl who a fellow runner said “had blind belief in her coach”. Cruelly enough, Rani is already familiar with medical accidents: a groin injury in early 2000 was treated by Ukrainian sports doctor Yuri Boyko by giving her steroid shots directly into the area, a dangerous and unorthodox method of treatment. Rani missed out on the Sydney Olympics as she could not recover in time from the injury and the rough treatment. advertisementNow, again, in what looked like the finest hour in her career, she was beaten by her own body. Officials say no medication of any kind was given to Rani in Busan; according to AAFI Secretary General Lalit Bhanot even her request for a headache pill was turned down by her coach Renu Kohli.But a curious scene was played out during her press conference after the 1,500m win. Team doctor Jawahar Jain placed his briefcase in front of the athlete, so reporters could not see what he handed her. This with a Korean volunteer from the dope-control committee watching.The teary-eyed athlete herself said at the time it was a tablet for menstrual cramps, others allege it was a masking agent for the test that was to follow. Whatever else it was not, it was shoddy and unprofessional. Bhanot now says that the Indian delegation, informed of a prospective problem before Rani’s 5000m race, asked her to withdraw. The athlete said she had nothing to hide, ran and won a bronze. In 24 hours, the world as she understood it collapsed.In the past, Rani’s family has worked the system well. When her injury prevented her from competing in Sydney, she was able to travel to Australia as a special delegate; two years later she was awarded the Padma Shri, even as the case of 1998 double Asian gold medallist Jyotirmoyee Sikdar was turned down. Few will speak for her today though Adille Sumariwala, AAFI committee member, says, “I will fight to ensure that she gets a fair chance.”Bhanot says otherwise,”The AAFI as an organisation cannot fight for any athlete found positive. Sunita has to fight her own case now.” The experience of those who have gone before is not encouraging.The IOC modified anti-doping code of 1999 applies to “all athletes, coaches, instructors, officials, and to all medical staff working with athletes”. Sunita Rani is no longer just an athlete caught for a doping offence. She is Indian athletics itself standing in the dock and declared guilty.- with Labonita Ghosh and Arun Ramlast_img read more

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Unmukt shines as India U-19 beat Aus, lift World Cup for the 3rd time

first_imgIndia win by 6 wickets and are the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup Champions, the Indian players rush onto the field and they are very much excited and so are the fans. Chand is draped with the Indian flag, who has played an excellent knock. Score | PhotosUnmukt Chand led from the front with a magnificent hundred as India Under-19 lifted their third World Cup title after beating formidable defending champions Australia by six wickets in the final in Townsville on Sunday. This was India U-19s first triumph after Mohammed Kaif and Virat Kohli led their respective teams to victory in 2000 and 2008 editions respectively.Courtesy a magnificent unbeaten 111 by Unmukt and his unbroken partnership of 130 runs with glovesman Smit Patel, India overhauled a competitive target of 226 on a bouncy strip with 14 balls to spare.It was one of the best centuries one could have witnessed at the junior level as Unmukt hit seven fours and as many as six sixes during his 130-ball knock.He completed his century with a six over extra cover off Alex Gregory but the celebrations were very muted. The skipper knew that the job was only half done.Once Smit, who hit an effective 62, slog-swept off-spinner Ashton Turner towards deep mid-wicket for a four a number of Indian supporters rushed to the ground along to celebrate with the team.Though four wickets were lost in the chase, it never looked like an uphill task for the Indians, who were subdued in the middle overs but accelerated towards the end to get to the target with ease.advertisementAfter Prashant Chopra was out chasing a delivery down leg side of Mark Steketee without troubling the scorers, Unmukt and in-form batsman Baba Aparajith (33) took the attack to the opposition.Sandeep Sharma (L) and captain Unmukt Chand celebrate the wicket of James Peirson. (Photo courtesy ICC)The duo added 73 runs for the second wicket playing the Aussie pace trio of Steketee, Joel Paris and Gurinder Sandhu with ease.Unmukt, especially, was phenomenal in the closing stages hitting a couple of glorious sixes off Sandhu’s bowling.The first was over long-off while second looked even more spectacular as he presented a full face of the bat with a nice follow through.Aparajith on the other hand hit a nice hook shot off Paris and some lovely cover drives that pierced the field.However, Sandhu had the last laugh when he forced Aparajith to drive on the up and was brilliantly caught by Ashton Turner at short cover.The Tamil Nadu all-rounder scored 33 off 38 balls with five hits to the fence. Hanuma Vihari (4) and Vijay Zol (1) didn’t score much but some damage was done by the number of deliveries that were consumed in the process.Zol’s discomfort against the moving deliveries also frustrated Unmukt who didn’t get much of the strike. The Indian captain finally completed his half century in 68 deliveries.Zol’s agony ended as he edged one off Paris to wicketkeeper Jimmy Peirson. The Bowling Powerplay proved to be useful for the hosts as they conceded only 11 runs in the five overs.At 97 for four, Smit Patel joined Unmukt and the circumstances were difficult. The boundaries dried up and so did the singles.It was Smit, who hit fine straight drives as India got their first boundary after 44 deliveries.Slowly, the two resurrected the innings with singles and twos. There were the occasional boundaries but only a few compared to the flurry of fours that Unmukt and Aparajith hit in first 15 overs.Earlier, India frittered away the early advantage as defending champions Australia recovered from a shaky start to post a competitive 225 for 8.Electing to field after winning the toss Indians had the Aussies on the mat at 38 for 4 before host skipper William Bosisto (87 not out) rebuilt the innings with the help of some notable contributions down the order from Tavis Head (37) and Ashton Turner.Colts ‘veteran’ Sandeep Sharma who got four for 54 was the most successful bowler.Both teams named the same XIs that had got them through the knockouts. While Australia, aiming for a fourth title, entered the final undefeated, India had lost one game in the first group stage to the West Indies.last_img read more

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Bike Crash Kills Ravens’ Walker

first_imgBALTIMORE — Baltimore Ravens cornerback Tray Walker, who played one season in the NFL, died March 18 of injuries from a dirt bike crash in Miami.His godmother confirmed the 23-year-old Walker’s death, according to the Ravens.Walker was riding a Honda dirt bike with no lights and wearing dark clothing when he collided with a Ford Escape on the night of March 17, Miami-Dade Police said. He had been in Jackson Memorial Hospital in critical condition.A fourth-round 2015 draft pick, Walker played in eight games last season, mostly on special teams.Ravens coach John Harbaugh wrote a heart-felt letter to his players before Walker died. Later, in a statement, Harbaugh said, “Tray was a young man with a good and kind heart. He was humble and loved everything about being part of the Ravens’ team. He loved his teammates — the practice and the preparation — and that showed every day. … I’ll never forget that smile.”General Manager Ozzie Newsome, who drafted Walker, said, “Tray was one of the most humble persons we brought in for a pre-draft visit. That was striking. After we drafted him, he and his family were so excited to receive the call that he was about to become a Raven. It was one of the calls I will always remember. There was such joy for Tray and his family.”Walker made only one tackle with Baltimore, but he made a lasting impression on those around him.“Tray was a young man who was full of energy and promise,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “This is very hard to wrap my head around, and I am devastated.”Walker played high school football at Miami Northwestern High School before enjoying a four-year career with Texas Southern. He was second-team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference in 2014.“Tray had a hard shell,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said, “but once you broke through that, you found a person who was learning how to become a man and was so eager to be a great person and professional. I am heartbroken for his family.”Walker’s death was felt throughout the organization, all the way to the top.“We have two sons not too much older than Tray, and we can’t imagine how much his family is suffering,” team owner Steve Bisciotti said. “This is so sad. The right words are hard to find at a time like this. As much as we can comfort Tray’s mom and the rest of his family, we will.”(DAVID GINSBURG, AP Sports Writer)TweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more

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Lewandowski wants Bayern exit confirms agent

first_imgRobert Lewandowski’s agent has confirmed reports that his client has told Bayern Munich that he wishes to leave the clubThe Poland international has been strongly linked with a move to Real Madrid over the course of this season with Chelsea and Manchester United also believed to be monitoring his situation in Munich.Lewandowski appointed Pini Zahavi as his agent earlier this year, which only intensified the rumours surrounding his future.Zahavi is known throughout the world of football for having famously brokered the €222m world record deal that saw Neymar leave Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain last summer and it is believed that Lewandowski hired him in order to negotiate the terms for a deal with Real.The 29-year-old became the Bundesliga’s top scorer for the third consecutive season as Bayern won their sixth successive league title, but he has yet to win the Champions League in his career.harry maguire, manchester UnitedMaguire says United need to build on today’s win George Patchias – September 14, 2019 Harry Maguire wants his United teammates to build on the victory over Leicester City.During the summer, Harry Maguire was referred to as the ultimate…Zahavi feels that Lewandowski has achieved everything that is possible at Bayern and revealed that the Pole wants a new challenge.“Robert feels he needs a change and a new challenge in his career,” Zahavi told Bild, via Bavarianfootballworks.“The managers of Bayern know about it.”In his four years at Bayern, Lewandowski has scored 151 goals in 195 games in all competitions.last_img read more

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Mina Everton a great opportunity

first_imgLatest Everton signing Yerry Mina says he now has the opportunity to grasp a ‘great opportunity’ following his €30.2m transfer from Barcelona.The Colombian star and center-back signed a deal at Goodison Park and it will last until 2023. Mina also confirmed that he couldn’t resist the temptation of playing football in the Premier League.“I’ve watched the Premier League for a long time and it’s the best in the world, so this is a great opportunity for me and I’m looking forward to competing here,” Mina told Everton TV as quoted in Football Espana.Premier LeaguePremier League Betting: Match-day 5 Stuart Heath – September 14, 2019 Going into the Premier League’s match-day five with a gap already beginning to form at the top of the league. We will take a…“I know all about the Everton players and I’m looking forward to playing with my new team.“I’ve spoken to the Coach a lot and know his passion for the club and determination to be a success. I’m also determined to do my best for Everton.”At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Mina scored three goals for Colombia, all coming from headers off corner kicks. Mina did not play in Colombia’s opening 2–1 loss with Japan but started at centre back in each of Colombia’s remaining matches.last_img read more

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Report Antonio Candreva could still leave Inter Milan

first_imgKeita Balde joined Inter Milan from AS Monaco today on a €5 million loan deal. Initial reports suggested that Inter Milan wanted to use Antonio Candreva in the deal.Even though the Keita loan deal does not include Antonio Candreva at all, but there is a high probability that the Italian winger could still leave according to Calcio Mercato.Antonio Candreva will not be included of Inter Milan’s squad for the UEFA Champions League; prompting him to decide that now is the right time to leave.Romelu Lukaku, Serie A, Inter MilanCapello calls Lukaku “a modern striker” Manuel R. Medina – September 14, 2019 The former Italian manager believes Romelu Lukaku is perfectly suited for Antonio Conte’s Internazionale Milan in the Serie A.Monaco and Inter Milan are understood to be in communication about the transfer of Antonio Candreva, yet Inter Milan will only consider a ‘top offer’ for the deal to go through.Having performed well in the pre-season, Candreva initially wanted to remain at Inter Milan but, it seems his time is finally up at Inter, and the French league is calling.Antonio Candreva has made 74 appearances for Inter Milan and has scored 6 goals.last_img read more

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David Silva returns to training

first_imgManchester City midfielder David Silva is back in training after two weeks out with a hamstring problem.The Spaniard hasn’t played since Manchester City lost away to Chelsea on 8 December but returned to first-team training at the CFA this week and could be back on time to face Leicester City on boxing day.Silva, 32, has played 20 games this season, scoring eight goals.“He’s one of the best players I’ve trained,” Pep Guardiola told the club’s official website about Silva.“I’ve had a lot at Barca and Bayern but he’s on that list.Premier LeaguePremier League Betting: Match-day 5 Stuart Heath – September 14, 2019 Going into the Premier League’s match-day five with a gap already beginning to form at the top of the league. We will take a…“I love players who make a step forward in the bad moments and say: ‘OK I’m here guys’.”City head to the King Power Stadium second in the Premier League table, four points adrift of leaders Liverpool.Manchester will be hoping to win the match and earn all three points before the next match at home.last_img read more

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