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brachiosteve

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  1. Sermon for today. 1 Corinthians 13:13 ‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’ 2D parables. I like parables (of which the title is not one) for numerous reasons. They use everyday or extreme tools, issues or people to make a specific or more general point about something; usually an everyday area of life or a failure we can think about, relate to and learn from. They can be used to directly point something out to someone, face to face, without any accusation or legal issues, as it is just a parable. If the hat fits… Jesus was able to cleverly do this to the Pharisees. In fact He went a huge step further in a 3D parable (i.e. words into action). 3D parables. In Matthew Ch 9 from verse 1, Jesus, when presented with a paralysed man, said to him, ‘your sins are forgiven’. The Pharisees said to themselves that He was a blasphemer, as only God can forgive sins. Consider the evidence of His claim. What could science bring to the table to show that a person’s sins are forgiven? Nothing. And yet Jesus was being condemned for it. For his blasphemous words. Knowing what the Pharisees were thinking (and He would later be condemned by those same teachers for healing on a Sabbath), He offered a less controversial order. One that anyone can say to anyone without any likelihood of condemnation or legal action. ‘Get up and walk home.’ And with that, he did so. And full evidence was thus provided, given that ONLY God can forgive sin or perform miracles. A blasphemous order without evidence that anyone could make vs a totally innocent order, demonstrating without doubt, that Jesus was or at least had the power or authority of God. ‘Get up and walk home’ is so innocent, so laughably unlikely as a serious/actionable order in the circumstances (of who He was speaking to). The only thing that changed it, was the action taken by the crippled man. The responsibility of Jesus’ order was now passed to the man. Is the man now guilty of something? If so, what? Walking? Who would blame or accuse him of anything for doing so, and what would that say of Jesus? But the resulting conclusion is now passed to the Pharisees to decide. A man was instantly healed by the words of a man called Jesus. As only God can perform or permit such an act, then Jesus is God, God is working through Him or He is acting upon God’s authority. This put the Pharisees in a very difficult situation. To reject or accuse or punish Jesus (or the crippled man), was to accuse and blaspheme God or blame the devil. To accept what Jesus just did was to commit to following or obeying and promoting and accepting Him. It is reminiscent of saying ‘Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone’ or saying to the decaying body, ‘Lazarus, come forth’. There are many great words in books, be they religious, mythological, legend, fantasy, fiction or non-fiction. The truth of the words is irrelevant, they are just great. One says, one does. I mention this incident, not just because it is one of my favourite in the Bible, but because of the comparison between the two things which Jesus offered. One was words and internal or spiritual, but of little use in real life. The other was totally practical and a real demonstration of intent and action. Hopefully, this will make sense later. Parable about parables. Not just for others or even us, they/some are for ME. There was even a parable, spoken by Jesus in the Bible, about a parable. Those pointing out a spec in someone’s eye when you have a log in your own eye. Some parables are missed entirely or are assumed to be about others, never ourselves. It is said that people who criticise a lot are often the ones who most deserve criticism and the criticisms they make, often reflect the same areas that they themselves lack. Religious pointlessness effigies? Many non-believers are very quick to criticise faith and prayer as pointless, non-existent and impractical tools, evading the issue and actual, practical solutions. Imagine walking past a homeless guy, begging for food and you stop and pray for him before walking off. Or a doctor praying for someone with potential cancer and not actually giving them a diagnosis or medical help or intervention. You could do both, but experience tells us that if in doubt, always at least do the practical action as a minimum. That is because that is the need and where the evidence lies in a solution, there and then. There are numerous tele-evangelists. E.g. Kenneth Copeland who is worth between $300,000,000 and $1,000,000,000 + thanks to donations for all he… does – if only we could emulate this and have something as good to offer!!! Many deny the Covid 19 virus or Autism, mental illnesses etc. and see and preach them as spirits from the devil and not real things. That, and how they can say this publicly (and legally) and have followers of millions and the implications this brings and the tax relief they are allowed is beyond me. But this is not an attack or criticism or challenge of any God. If anything, it is rather a lesson that non-theists can learn from religion/religious and other texts. Action, not words produce results. I remember watching Usain Bolt. Always so relaxed, smiling, toying with the audience and then effortlessly beating everyone to become the fastest known human ever over a short distance. Countless people admired him and kids wanted to be or emulate him. After all, we all saw how easy it was for him, right? No wonder he was admired. Roger Federer was asked if he was just pure talent. “100%”, he said. “I just relax, do nothing and eat cheeseburgers all day, then turn up and win.” When sarcasm brings perspective. The point, of course, is that behind all of the apparent relaxed skill or natural ability and progress, lies effort that is most likely greater than all of their competitors. If you saw the training, the grimaces, blood, sweat and tears, sacrifices, money, devotion and time involved over a long period, it would put the most stubborn people off. But that is all hidden behind the scenes. The actual game or race is the easy part, because all the work has been done in practise and training to prepare the way. They don’t just pray or hope or have faith that they will be good enough or win, no matter how religious, they know that they have to earn it, like anyone else. It is hard work, (more than their competitors) that is the fruit of the labours to win and get where they are. A non-theistic parable. Imagine a baby elephant struggling to get out of a muddy swamp, slowly drowning. A small child is trying to help, but it is hopeless, due to his meagre size. The elephant’s family call from afar. There are hundreds of 4x4 vehicles surrounding the swamp on the trail of a free safari. The passengers, clicking away, who joined because they love nature, are full of sorrow and words of comfort. ‘Call the police. Call the vets. Call a helicopter. Where is everybody? Somebody help.’ The safari guides operate the pulleys on the vehicle, but need volunteers to help pull it out. But everybody assumes or hopes someone else more qualified or rich or available will help. And finally, the baby elephant takes its last breath. And everybody cries, wondering at the utter waste of a life and what could have been. The parable’s parallel. Our project is struggling and needs your help. We are your free guides. We pay for your visit as tips are so few, and we are few and spread thinly, unable to operate all the strings to do what is needed and our heads are barely above water. Only one in 100 tourists who give us a tip (donate) or who volunteer, which is not sufficient. You are a tourist and we ask you to help in any practical way you can. Please ask for details. We ask very little, and if we don’t ask, we don’t get. We don’t want to be rude or intrude, but we need you to know where we are and what we need. We get many people, posting or sending comments about the Phylogeny Explorer Project. ‘What a great idea’, ‘when will it be ready?’, ‘Can I use it to do x now?’, ‘Keep up the good work’, ‘This is going to be amazing’, ‘Thanks for all the work’, ‘Can’t wait to use it as a teacher at school’, ‘The final nail in the Creationist coffin’, ‘Best wishes, hope it is ready soon’, ‘You have my full support’. And we try to respond to many of these comments, often because they don’t go to the Facebook group or Website where the answers can often be found, so it takes valuable time up. But if you have been following the analogy of faith, hope and love (and prayer), you will notice that people’s hopes and praise or interest don’t get a single thing done, don’t make an iota of progress and actually take time away to speak to them, with nothing in return. We are a very small team of volunteers and spread ourselves very widely and thinly over many areas, finding it hard to focus on any one area, so we sometimes can’t complete a task or only give a limited time. We totally rely upon the good will of volunteers and any donations we can get to pay for everyday expenses and to access specialist skills that we lack in out voluntary base. Our income is extremely small and some volunteers (on top of their work) are brunting the financial costs, which is unfair and sometimes this is in the hundreds or even thousands of £/$. Due to this lack of funding and not enough volunteers (many positions requiring no skills and little time), we can’t reach, as quickly as we would like, the point of being able to provide a publicly accessible project, due to this catch 22. Our workloads only increase and our donations, due to having little to physically/visually show to ask or tempt people to donate, are reducing and very limited. Catch 22’s. With a visually attractive MVP (minimum viable product) to show, we can justify reaching out a lot more for help, instead of relying on people to just act on faith that we will get there and their money is going to justify their giving to an invisible actuality. We need a visual, working model, up to date business plan, a press pack and a professional presentation with some key scientists on board. Whilst even some of these are catch 22’s, dependent on each other. Unless or until we get to this point, we can’t justify generating money or serious interest, sponsors, organisations and universities to join up. But without money (which these will help generate), we can’t reach the point to generate more serious money. We need security. Luck or hope is not enough. So, with well over 1000 members of the Facebook group and many thousands more who are aware of the project, be it through Aron Ra or elsewhere, we are asking you, if you really are supportive or like this project and appreciate the work we do and what it will offer, would you take a step of faith? You say you like the project. Well we can’t use or spend mere words, no matter how genuine. If only we could. If you really want to be a part or see progress or get recognition for your contribution(s) or be part of this team and project, we need your services or money, no matter how little. $1-$10 a month and/or a one-off donation would be amazing, especially if replicated by at least dozens of people (preferably a hundred or more), and help to motivate those of us who are taking one step forward and two steps back because we have to spend so much extra time budgeting our time, money and resources with the cheapest options, which are often slower options. Faster but slightly more expensive options can often get us to a point where money is generated a lot faster, so is more cost effective. But, like if you rent or need a mortgage, beggars can’t be choosers. The poor often pay more. If you can’t afford $1/month ($12/year), that is understandable for some and there are voluntary positions too. Alternatively you could let us know that you would really like to contribute a little money or time, but you can’t. This actionable effort taken to tell us is emotionally valuable to us and it takes away the unknown, i.e. are 99% of people who support us in word, really all unable or unwilling to afford £/$1 or an hour a week or is it just apathy or are members just joining one of hundreds of groups arbitrarily? We are looking for NEW people to help us, to share or replace the burden of others, with work or money. So many voluntary projects fall by the wayside, but I am not sure many are so potentially valuable and as educational as this one or have so much already done behind the scenes. The only way forward is with YOUR help. There is ONLY one way. The ONLY way to help us is to contact the project directly and we have the ONLY account where money goes into the project. No-one else and via nowhere else is this available. No person on the project or elsewhere takes money for this project. If anyone claims so or if you donate to anyone, thinking or believing or hoping or being told that any or all of the money goes to the project, it is untrue. If in doubt, contact Steve Owen or Jeroen Pill. We run the project. Other people, like Aron Ra and others who run Websites or patron’s do fund themselves for things, but this is not related in any way to this project. Any announcements or information about the project should also go exclusively through and/or be sanctioned by the project. Our practical needs. We want to reward those who help in some practical way and give them recognition. We see it on other sites and projects, but we don’t have the time, skills, resources or money to create this, which also takes time away from the project. But one volunteer, an hour a week could change this. We need about £200 per month, minimum to pay our ongoing costs. We would like an additional £100-£200 per month for other occasional costs or upgrades and we need at least £2,000 to pay for services that we do not have skills in within the project volunteers, using something like fiverr to make our media pack and a professional presentation, once the MVP is ready. We also want volunteers from non-skilled to developers, artists, marketing/branding folk, social media builders and mods, plus people who can help organise, manage and communicate on these things so others can focus on their areas. Let him who has ears, hear. Thank you for understanding and anything you can do to help and keep this alive. … but the greatest of these is charity. Faith and hope (and prayer and words) offer nothing to this project that we can use, unfortunately. If you like/support the project though, maybe this can translate into action. In some translations of the Bible (e.g. the KJV) 1 Corinthians Ch 13 doesn’t actually use the word, ‘love’ in this verse. It uses the word ‘charity’, which is the 3D translated version of a 2D word. It is love, ‘poured out’ or ‘in action’. Love is emotional, but charity is the actionable demonstration of it. Love is feeling sorry for someone who is hungry, telling your partner you’ll love them forever or liking the idea or work of a project. Charity is giving food or money to the hungry person, going out of your way to help, support and to regularly show your emotional claim to your partner or offering to help or donate in/to a project. It may be that some need coaxing from anonymity or just need a push and really would be willing and able to help, even in the smallest of ways. Obviously there are some who have chosen not to or really can’t afford a dollar/pound or an hour a week, but I am not convinced that such people are 99% of our group (which is the reality/statistics). You are free to choose not to help. You are free to choose who, if any project(s) or charity/ies you want to support. There is no shame in not having time, interest or money to help us. Our small current and diminishing list highlights very clearly where we are and I’d love to add YOU to that small, but hopefully growing and public list, if you are both willing and able, as the project success, progress and continuance, depends on YOU. Thanks.
  2. Sharing a few things on where we are. There are many other things that are happening in order to try to bring in income, volunteers, side projects and things that, once up and running will help support the project as a whole. Here is just an overview on the development side over the past year, plus a bit of an appeal. As the Phylogeny Explorer Project, we have lots of responsibilities. One of them is communicating with donors, volunteers (they are KEY) and everyday users. Much of the necessary housework is the part of the iceberg under the water that no-one thinks or cares about, and most is done by the same small group of people, taking valuable time away from the visible peak that we want to give to the public. Some volunteers are now having to increase their workload beyond anything I expect of a volunteer just to keep up. Communicating (on project matters) is something we have done very little of in months and we want to apologize for, and explain more on this, on behind the scenes development matters. One year back we closed down the old Explorer with around 65k species, but we never explained in detail why we did this. We still retain this database. We closed the old Explorer because it was crashing every hour. The previous database was selected years back. Not because it was the best option, but the best option for the paid person creating it (i.e. it was his favoured language and database using that language and the selection of such a person was done by people who are not specifically IT people). Those who later worked on it afterwards were left with what was there (on terms of the programme itself and no information about the progress and workings of it) and it was deemed better to work with what was there than start afresh, which loses time and may cost money and those around were used to that technology. The database manufacturer also promised many new features but which never actually came to fruition. It is also of note that we were building the tree manually, one by one. With import/export, copy/paste and the like, the amount of data and new technologies and added features we plan and want would likely overwhelm the old database. The new database is probably 1000 times more powerful. We are still limited to free or very cheap alternatives, due to a lack of funding, but the step up in cost to the next level, compared to the actual added features and benefits is not worth it. When it did, the system automatically restarted, but at a cost in skilled manpower doing these tasks instead of developing the database. The old Explorer could be offline for hours until someone restarted the system manually. This escalated to the point that even restarting was not always working and users were complaining. Other than for the very purpose of the testing process, bad customer experience cannot be allowed or overstated as a NO-NO. Delays may be annoying or frustrating, but it beats offering a poor service. A service that is available to a user is what we are offering, so if it is not at least satisfactory, it should not be made available. A bad reputation is almost impossible to claw back from. In that time before we closed the old Explorer. The old database was chosen because it was one of the most promising databases out there. But like many (especially free) internet stuff, it had set backs. It is between a graph database and an non-SQL database. It works but with too much data in it, it’s expensive and it can’t handle what we really want. We talked about designing a new database that could provide a lot more and hold even more information, way beyond just millions of clades. The old database was created from zero and built manually to 65k clades. The new developers can import 3.7 million clades in a few hours, transform the clades where needed and go to other sources to import even more. The first thought was using PostgreSQL. It’s a free database and it can do a lot. After some time we lost a developer, who pops in from time to time, but who wanted to spend more time supporting a huge ethical climate change development project and spend more time on his family. This impacted development, but we found a new lead developer and after sometime he and the dev team decided PostgreSQL is good… but we need better. There are databases call Graph databases. They are non-SQL databases. They handle information very differently than relational databases. The developers picked one that would meet all of the requirements. We installed this on our server and it ran. But we found issues with this database, too. It was not running like it should and it had other issues. After a deep dive into this, it became apparent that the database was not being maintained by the company owner as it should, having been recently bought out. Also, the written information/documentation available about it was old and not being kept updated. The term, beggars can’t be choosers here fits the bill. We have no budget for costly databases which are between hundreds and tens of thousands of pounds/dollars/Euros per month. So we have to spend a lot more time working on what we have and deciding what to use, with the future in mind, should we need to upgrade or move to something different but compatible. It can be likened to starting a new business. You can do it all alone or with associates and deal with all the unknown problems and obstacles along the way, which is risky and time-consuming. Or you can get professional help or buy a ready-made one, which reduces the risks, but costs money and will likely bring a return or completion so much faster, which in turn will bring in funds that you may never get working with nothing or starting from scratch or having little to show. A catch 22. Here you also see the curse of the internet. What seems like a good idea months back, even after time looking and comparing, things can bite you. Well this happened with this database, so back to the drawing board we went. But now we needed a solution really fast, but that would be stable, able to manage our quality and quantity needs, be as future proof as possible, and (limiting our options), free. We found ‘Virtuoso’. It is now running on our servers and developers like it. It has more features than the previous database with better protection etc. etc. The one person that knows most about this has a heavy workload at his work and a family to take care of, so the transfer will take some time. As the Phylogeny Explorer Project, we are very grateful for the money and time our donors/subscribers and volunteers give us, but we also know that family and work comes first for them. We don’t have funds for a paid-for database, and lots of other things which might help improve and speed things up. We are entirely voluntary and rely entirely on members and beyond and anyone who wants to see us succeed, and our meagre budget and limited staffing is now critical for us to maintain this from month to month, as volunteers are now chipping in financially. If possible, for practical purposes, reserve your thoughts, prayers, good will, love, hopes and dreams for your friends, family and future life. We can’t do anything with that, as much as we wish we could. Some of your money and/or some of your time/skills. ‘Those are our needs’. What’s going to happen next? Well we have an Beta test running. It depends on an API call to an external database. But the features you’ll see are what’s going to be in the new Explorer (with the millions of species we now have). In a few weeks we’re going to meet and decide if we are opening the Beta test for more people. If/when a decision is made we will let you know. The Beta test is a non-editable system, so you can’t alter anything and we will value some testers. Also the tree is not complete or in the fully correct order in the alfa test. We need more people practically on board to make this project a great success. Please watch for volunteering positions. Projects like this fail, primarily on two things: lack of volunteers and money (we always need both). Please, if you can help in any way, we urgently need donations/subscribers and volunteers. So you know and we are clear. Also, feel free to post or enquire or pm/dm admin anytime, especially if you can help. The ONLY place you can donate or subscribe to the project is HERE. There is nowhere else where a single dime goes to it, so please be aware of any fake requests. Even Aron Ra does not take/receive anything for the project. Donations/subscriptions to him or any of his work is for him, personally, other than for the Phylogeny Explorer Project, so if you want or expect anything or any part of a donation/subscription to come to the Phylogeny Explorer Project, it ONLY comes via HERE. To donate to the Phylogeny Explorer Project, please go to: https://donate.phylogenyexplorerproject.org/
  3. https://donate.phylogenyexplorerproject.org/
  4. PEP_Appeal.mp4
  5. Dear Anton. It has been a long time and I see that no-one has responded, so I'll give it a shot. ‘Extinct’ in biology means to no longer exist as a living representative. It could be a species hypothesis or other taxon hypothesis. So, dinosaurs still exist because a branch (aves) still lives. Pterosaurs are extinct to the best of our knowledge (meaning that the fourth independent branch of flight ceased to exist). The dodo (as a species representative) is extinct. The Thylacine is classed as extinct, but if we find a living example, it will be removed from that list. According to the IUCN Red list category, they uniquely use the term with some caveats. For example, extinct in the wild represents the fact that we have managed to preserve the example(s) by way of using zoos, insemination or similar artificial means that would otherwise mean it became extinct entirely. If an organism is bread back, such as attempts have been made with the quagga for example, then it gets more complex. Which leads to the other parts of the question. As far as we know, Neanderthals/Neandertals (whether you refer to the species or subspecies https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neanderthal), is extinct, though we have found that we (Homo sapiens sapiens) have reproduced with them, based on testing the DNA of many modern humans. Rumours (by scientists too) exist that suggest the hobbit (Homo florensiensis) in parts of Indonesia still exist, but no convincing support has been brought to bear. Regarding hybrids, it is a topic that particularly interests me and I spoke a little of this, regarding cladograms on the Facebook group. For example, the largest cat to have ever existed is the Liger, which is a male Lion/female tigress hybrid, (with that combination accounting for the growth from the female tigress) but most zoos do not support such cross breeding as it offers science little and creates genetic weaknesses. Hybrids have sometimes gone on to breed with standard species or even other hybrids, but this tends to push health boundaries. Almost all big cats can interbreed, including cross continent, e.g. jaguars with lions, tigers or leopards. Did you know that in the history of the world, only one example of an African/Asian elephant has ever existed? Born in Chester zoo, England, Motty (male) was born on 11th July 1978. He only survived a couple of weeks. See photo. Phylogenetic trees do not represent such examples as it has little interest to science and is complex to represent on the cladograms or dendrograms in current use. Another reason is the definition or interpretation of a species. A species is not something that actually exists. You can’t touch a species, you can only touch an individual organism. It is a concept or a hypothesis to demonstrate (and when attempted, always seems to fail or omit something at best). Like any other taxa which equally do not exist in reality. Systematics is a better word replacement for taxonomy. The purpose of examining organisms is to systematise them. Taxonomy pre-supposes things and restricts its use. I hope this answered your question(s).
  6. Ramble on evolutionary change – why some things seem to (a lot), and others don’t (much/atall). I like the expression, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ (but try telling a motor enthusiast that!). I have about 300 ring binders where I file things away, along with tens of thousands of clear pockets which I insert into them. When I bought the ring binders, I bought them in bulk. About 100 at the time. I wanted 4 ring clips instead of two, for extra security. I think 3 is popular in the US. A ring binder design is a bit like a mouse trap, pretty much as simple as it comes, so I was safe for future growth if I needed to add more. A couple of years passed by and I was full, so I ordered some more. And they no longer did that make in the same style. There were 4 major changes. To me - and I suppose anyone else who likes symmetry, when looking at several book cases full of all the same, white ring binders, having the same was important. The rings were now attached on the back of the binder instead of the spine (and they were, ‘D’ shaped, not, ‘O’ shaped). That meant that the rivets (viewed on the outside) were now not visible on the spine when placed on the shelf (next to the other ones that were visible). The clear display spine pocket which you place your written title file name in, on a piece of card, was now thinner and longer and lower down, losing symmetry with the others. There was now, no longer a clear display pocket on the front, to display an A4 sheet. And there was another alteration/update/change – maybe the size or white colour shade? Anyway, for someone with Autism who is a perfectionist and loves order and routine, this was really bad for me. And the point? Well just that evolutionary change comes in many shapes and sizes, and not all are visual. You’d be surprised at how complex some things can look, yet are relatively simple and not as, ‘advanced’ as other more simple things. There is an ant with a single chromosome, a deer with six. Some plants and protozoans have over 1000, lampreys have 174, hedgehogs have 88-90, whilst we usually have 46. Some species can interbreed with others with a dozen differences in the Chromosome count. So, evolutionary change or advancement is not always so clear. One wonders how finely honed things like sharks, crocs or brachiopods actually are. I don’t think they actually did nothing for so long. Those micro changes might be focussing on strengthening their resilience or adaptation to change or speeding up reactions, hardening body shell, adapting to a new diet or whatever, and very few might be morphologically noticeable, and it is especially difficult to know how much something has changed if the ancestors are long extinct and have left no genetic trace. The ring binder hypothesis of simplicity (like a mouse trap) is not as clear or simple or unchangeable as it might at first appear. There’s O ring vs D ring, back or spine mount, location/size of spine label, 2, 3 or 4 rings? A hole in the spine or not, material, colour, size, thickness? And there’s so many NEW types of ring binder available nowadays that we either didn’t think of, didn’t need or didn’t have the technology or material for then. So when we see, what we might assume is a very simple or perfectly adapted organism, for the organism itself, there is always room for improvement, no matter how small or meaningless it may seem to outsiders. And those simple things may open doors for additional things. Our own imagination, even with the benefit of speeding things up, using computer re-enactment, can’t predict or show all the combinations of possible solutions evolution can actually produce. Not sure if change is good or not. It may be good that something can adapt, and quickly. But it might be better if it was resilient enough not to have to, when things change, because of all the things happening when times were slow. Sort of like saving money when times are good, for when times are bad. One wonders how resilient WE actually are? Given our destructive nature, we’re probably not long for this world.
  7. Dear Anton. Great questions. I have been writing quite a long answer which may also be worth a wider readership given such interesting and relevant points, so pleaser bear with me, though anyone else is welcome to join in the response. Steve
  8. Hi Preternat. So, I’m just trying to establish a couple of things. By being a preternaturalist, do you mean that you consider us (humans) to be outside or above nature or outside of the rest of evolution or something? I’m not aware that, ‘mother nature’ planned/plans anything and so if evolution develops intelligence enough to manipulate or alter genes, then that is an extension of the natural, isn’t it? You also mention that you are an atheist, so can you explain or reconcile these or show where I have misunderstood you? You want to communicate evolution to a wider audience. Great. There is lots of stuff available on the internet for this and that’s what the Phylogeny Explorer Project will do, too. The Phylogeny Explorer Project itself is not involved in religion or politics, but there are threads in the forums of this site that you can explore things a little more off the beaten path. Do you have any specific questions? Feel free, if you haven’t already, to join the Facebook group.
  9. Hi friend. It might be worth posting this on the Facebook group for quicker and more largely read answer. Here is one genetic comparison, but it's not my area: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/a-Cladogram-based-on-308-bp-of-gray-wolf-C-lupus-dog-C-lupus-familiaris-coyote_fig4_226328915
  10. Hi BangerDan. Please feel free to join our Facebook group if you haven’t already. Yes, AronRa has produced an excellent set of videos on the systematic classification of life along our clade line. He is also the creator of the Phylogeny Explorer Project, which aims to be the most comprehensive system, mapping the evolution of life, visually. In the Linnaean rank system (remember the DKPCOFGS), these are attempts at comparing ranks across groups – like mammals and amphibians, without regard for timeframe comparison and as though all were created at the same time. Whilst some equate to clades, the nested hierarchy (clades) of life are the true, natural order of things. The clades we tend to use and focus on, whilst naturally occurring, are man-made representative junctions to show key or notable divergences. So, whilst the point at which a notochord is first recorded is significant (for us) in ordering or explaining things, it is (in nature) of no more or less significance than any new species or divergence. Whilst having more clades than the following, (there are well over 100) the Phylogeny Explorer Project is however still in pre-production. Alternatives and recommendations in the meantime are: Open Tree of life: https://tree.opentreeoflife.org/opentree/argus/opentree12.3@ott93302 Timetree: http://www.timetree.org/ Onezoom: https://www.onezoom.org/
  11. “New study, re-writes evolution.” How (or) would YOU present a highly technical, specialist article to the general populous? Your editor (who pays you) has deadlines and targets for time, costs, readership and competing rivals’ articles. This blog is in response to (yet) another article which supposedly re-writes the theory of (in this case, shark) evolution. It tries to highlight the problem of and reasons for such article headings, looks at and compares the results of changing them from the origi8nal and asks what, if anything, can or should be done given the circumstances. I owned a shop once and one customer said that it would be nice if we had wheel chair access toilets. We had wheelchair access and wheelchair access toilets were available very close by in a larger shop. The cost of putting them in was prohibitive too, meaning no such shop to use in the first place, thus defeating the object. By trying to offer more, I (and all) would have lost all. Many of the good quality newspapers are struggling right now with such low readership. On the other hand, the British red tops (which are far more popular and reflect the greater national readership population) do pretty well. I’m sure there is a direct correlation between the quality of journalism and the survivability of the press in the UK. Too few want pure quality. Some may recall the Sunday Sport newspaper post I posted some time ago, demonstrating the level it goes to for readership. And true, those wanting it are the driving force of the editor. Spin, exaggeration, scraping the barrel, lies are things that sell. Few want straight facts. And I believe that goes for many of us, here too. In fact I have posted original research here and had little response, but when posting articles (even) from the same said report, as edited in a more popular or simplified magazine or newspaper with graphics and a fancy tag line, it gets views… It also gets read! And it also gets criticised for exaggeration or a misguided title. But it gets read as opposed to not read. If you want a technical article published in a general, miscellaneous, non-academic daily/weekly/monthly, you have to make very significant changes to attract any interest. Yes, even Time magazine, National Geographic and Nature have succumbed to targeting with overly dramatic images or titles which can play into the hands of science deniers. Look at it from the publisher’s perspective – they have to sell, compete, pay staff and survive. Where does one draw the line? It is a difficult one, when one considers all aspects or places oneself in the position of an editor. How many of us subscribe to the journals which publish original work? Would you digest it, understand the words? If competing with an edition of Punch or Private eye, which do you go for? Are you privileged or rich enough to access these journals? Does or did anyone get psychological tiredness, perhaps at university? When you want to do something you enjoy and it not taxing, you are full of energy and up for it. When it comes to study, you suddenly feel really tired. I did and still do. Youtube is a great help and bridge/gap builder! There is similar discussion in Christian and Muslim circles about Holy books. Some traditionalists argue that only the original language should be used, as it is the word of God and should not be changed. But only those few who know those languages can access it, but it is argued that all should learn it). Or should it be translated into many languages and perhaps simplified or adjusted to, ‘meaning related’ context so that more can understand and access it, at the price of some meaning, clarity or eloquence (this is an aspect of hermeneutics). Here's an article (just made up) showing 4 different views and asking which one or style would YOU read or be attracted to, if any, perhaps if the subject matter interested you (which is another trick that journalists try to widen to get readership)?
  12. Hi Ross. I can't seem to find you on the Facebook group and we seem to have lost contact. Apologies if this is my fault. Please do get back in touch if you can.
  13. Hi Abe. Those are good questions. We had a live book club event on youtube on Saturday with Aron Ra about his book, ‘Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism’. Not sure if you knew or were there. On the first one. I will start by an examples to set the scene. If you take a scan of a foetus in the womb, then a photo of the new born baby and on through the person’s life until s/he dies, you have very different images and stages. A baby, a child, a teenager, an adult, a middle ager and an old person. We give them man-made names that we create for identification purposes, but they are still one, single person throughout. The genetic code is the same, from where we can know this. So whilst a foetus may have little morphological resemblance to the pensioner, we KNOW (can test and prove) that they are one and the same. And a photo of two foetuses or babies or people, no matter how alike they may appear, we can know that they are not the same, by the same (and other) method(s). If we found tree-like structure on another planet that looked identical to an oak tree on earth, then it is possible that it is more similar to a rock or an elephant, because by similarity we mean relatedness. The tree from another planet would actually not even be a part of the, ‘tree of life’, because it has no place in it, just like all the aliens in film and TV, despite their humanoid appearances and they would not be able to interbreed with humans or earth life. The whole genetic (or otherwise) structure would not correspond. And we also know that a dog, a hyena, a coyote, a fox, a wolf and a thylacine are different and why and how different, by the genes, which is really helpful when they look alike. In previous centuries, we did not have genetics, so morphology and physiology were key concepts in deciding classification. So, whilst a baby is different from an adult in many ways, in terms of relatedness or ancestry, they are one and the same. And the biological parents are the last generation and so on. With genealogy, we (think we) can trace our parents back for centuries or more, but technically, we can’t, because if any mother had an affair, or secretly adopted or records got mixed up, we would not have a true ancestry and from the first erroneous parent, all previous ones would be wrong. Evolution does not operate from parent to parent – this would be impossible to keep track. It works on a species or population level. This means that if an offspring is illegitimate or a parent has multiple partners and even if there is some hybridization with a different species, it doesn’t really matter, because we are only concerned with species (or things that can viably interbreed), and that is sufficient. Due to the fossil record and many other factors, we can establish relatedness beyond the limits of genetic sampling. So, it is not really possible to take a genetic sample for things that are millions of years old due to degradation of tissue. This is when morphology, fossil order and other known or determinable factors come into play and confirm (or otherwise) one another. So, how do we know that amphibians evolved from fish and reptiles from amphibians and creatures with internal skeletons from ones that had none? The forms can be traced in the fossil record. Whilst amphibians exist now, when amphibians first emerged, there were no reptiles. We can further trace the skeletal evolution which just so happens to exactly match the geological order. And when we test living amphibian and reptile genetic markers, it matches to that ancestry. We can therefore make predictions that if true, support this concept, and this has been done many times and is counted on when searching for fossils today. Tiktaalic was such a prediction and found what (described morphology) where (geography) and when (geologically) discovered. Now, we are descended from animals that do not have backbones or internal skeletons. These have a term called, ‘invertebrates’. This is a helpful term used to describe that group of animals, but it is not a term used in cladistics because it has no place. Like saying person A is male, person B is female and person C is tall. We can describe people in terms of sex, height, race or interests etc. but you can’t mix it up. So, whilst we are descended from animals that had no backbones (invertebrates) we are not invertebrates, because that mixes terminology. When only invertebrates existed, they were never called invertebrates any more that they were in-circus actors. Invertebrate is a hindsight term used to look back and mention a unifying similarity. They lacked back bones just as much as they lacked the ability to act in a circus (which some people and other animals do today). So, to a circus performer, all other life is an incircus act (invertebrate comparable). In order to talk about ancestry, we need to stick to the correct and same terminology, like for like. So, whilst many scientist will tell you that you are a fish, they are wrong, because a fish is not an actual clade. You are (in increasingly larger key clades, simultaneously) a human (Homo sapien sapien), a hominid, an anthropoid, a prosimian, a primate, a placental, a mammal and so on. So, you can simultaneously live in your house at the same time as your street, village, town, state, country, country, region, continent etc. It’s just a matter of how specific you want to be. To your neighbour, you live at number 45. To a Japanese pen-pal, you start off by saying you live in Europe (or wherever). It’s about perspective. So, as life is all related, we have closer and further removed relatives. We are closer related to other apes than to dogs and further removed from oak trees, but at some point, we are related and shared a common ancestor with everything and with a phylogenetic tree of life, you can find the point at which any two different species split off to form new species. It can be termed the law of monophyly. A true clade is monophyletic, meaning that it is a nested hierarchy containing all and only those species within a point (clade node) of divergence. In 10 million years time, our species may still be here or have died out, but our descendants, however different, will still and always be homo, apes, mammals etc. Our cladistics lineage remains and cannot be altered or5 grown out of. In fact, we evolved from a creature that evolved an anus before it evolved a mouth (where some creatures evolved the other way round). So, it would be phylogenetically true and fair to say, once an arsehole, always an arsehole! Regarding your second point. A clade is basically a speciation event. A species is a very difficult and argued about term which is confusing to science and the world at large, because it is used differently by well informed people. This is a whole lecture on its own. If we assume for arguments’ sake, that a species is a population of related organisms that can interbreed and have departed, genetically or geographically or behaviourally from other close relatives such that they no longer interbreed (even if they are still inter-fertile), then these are examples of speciation and would justify a new species/clade. So note, speciation takes time and is a population (not an individual) event. Search, ‘ring species’ for an example of observable speciation. Note also that one species never gives birth to another species or anything that is hardly any different to itself. This is what evolution predicts (to not do so would defy evolution). Imagine a gradient from red to blue. At any point, it is identical to its neighbour. You have to zoom out and compare distant places to see or notice the difference. I hope this helps. Thanks for your interest. There are many of us who have left fundamentalism and who were conned by Creationism. Do please joint our journey into supporting or providing a visual tree of all life, demonstrating the fact of evolution. Steve
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