It's the weekend, no contractors on site, nothing to distract me. It's the rainy season, bicycling is less than attractive even though the scenery is spectacular. Gratuitous hiking on soggy slopes would be exceptionally stupid. So, here I sits brain buzzing with thoughts of the glacially slow processes of geological change as it happens before my very eyes. Oh, did I forget to mention the enchanting (Natural, Historical, and Genocidal History all rolled into one) vista on the upper Rogue I visited yesterday, a topic for another time, I think.
Many in my extended family pray for me because I am one of those demon scientists, and very much in need of saving, even if I am a lost cause. I, on the other hand, am struck dumb by the fact that none of these worthies is able to grasp the notion that evolution is the result of ordinary everyday physical processes. Physical processes that emerge from a Quantum Mechanical realm which is, by its very nature, Stochastic.
Okay, okay all ready, maybe that is a bit too much to grasp in one setting. But, at least, I could expect a little effort on their side of the table. Isn't it reasonable that the anti-science crowd should contain a few members capable of a modicum of insight, creativity, wonder, et cetera. Why do they all have to be so pedantic with repartee never getting beyond spiraling down the drain of stale medieval logic long discredited by the cognoscenti.
A few days ago I spotted an ant exploring my vanity. The usual response is to set out Terro Ant Bait trays. They contain liquid poison that simulates food. The first ant takes a bit back to the colony leaving a trail indicating the source of "food". Subsequent foragers enhance the "food is here" trail. The poison is slow enough acting that the colony as a whole dies before enough foragers have died out to stop the stream of poison from reaching the nest.
I started thinking, "What if a mutation generated a strain of ants that not only tolerated this poison, they thrived on it." Would we even notice the change? I am thinking maybe not. The ants would consume the "food", stop following that trail, and find food elsewhere. Some, might say evolution provides beneficial mutations like this to help the ants survive rather than making it harder to survive by making them more sensitive to the poison. After all isn't it obvious that being more sensitive to the poison is a bad thing for the ants?
For those unencumbered by the thought process: Obviously, ants would be better off if they were more, rather than less, tolerant of the poison. "Au contraire, piston-puss", thinking about the process suggests a better solution. If the ants were more sensitive to the poison to the point that the original forager died before getting to the nest, then the rest of the foragers would be less likely to stream toward the poison. Us, human observers would mistakenly think the poison has done its work and not think to modify it to become effective again.
Expecting evolutionary processes to follow some a priori reasoning is unreasonable.
Ah, what the hell, I'm taking a walk up Roxy Ann Peak, the weather be damned. My hiking boots need a workout!