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Everything posted by brachiosteve

  1. brachiosteve


    Hi Kevin. You are not restricted to just one question. All data we use is sourced and/or researched manually from a range of resources by volunteer teams of project scientists and enthusiasts alike, with editorial/Quality controls. Having said that, we shall be utilising more sites as well as larger public access ones and technology to import them to our tree. We are always looking for volunteers in a range of positions, including scientists and phylogenetic data analysts to help sort and resolve clade relationships, which is just one of many factors that will make us unique. We are happy to link and promote other good resources and/or collaborate in various ways. We intend to produce an accurate, quality programme which will be peer reviewed where possible (or noted where not and why). The programme is largely off line whilst we complete a new database, which we will then transfer and import data and a new set of information, so with user testing, it may be offline to the public for a while longer. Are you such a potential volunteer, Kevin and/or are you coming from a different perspective?
  2. brachiosteve


    Hi Kevin. I’m not sure I see this as a rude question, but questions are all about motives, and I would ask it in a different way if I were just curious about who is involved. As it stands, there are so many different ways to answer this (which I am happy to elaborate on), so to save some time, I will let you explain your question a bit more, and then I will hopefully be able to answer it.
  3. We are happy to add anything we have missed, and we have some plants. Completely forgot about that group. What is it again, animalia? We'll investigate and if we find any, we'll add them. Just joking, Mr E. Great question, seriously! If you are not a member of our Facebook group, The Phylogeny Explorer Development, then may I encourage you to do so. There's a catalogue of interesting stuff over the years you can see. This very question was asked on 6th January this year, entitled, 'What is an animal?' In a nutshell, it comes down to a few factors. The difference between traditional hierarchical systematic taxonomy vs clades and phylogenetic definitions. It also concerns what name is used. Sometimes a name is replaced for a range of reasons, e.g. one term doesn’t really cover a specific group or due to new discoveries, names are no longer relevant. The term Animalia and Metazoa are often used synonymously or interchangeably, but technically one group is slightly larger, encompassing some additional species. A good example that is more well known, is chordates and vertebrates. You can simultaneously be both an ape, monkey, primate and mammal for example. We are also fish, but not phylogenetically, as no such group exists, it’s a catch-all convenient name. A bit like the American group, ‘fish and wildlife service’ (very ambiguous) or the term, ‘invertebrate'. It is apples and oranges, confusing terms. We use the term, Metazoa on the project and focus more on monophyletic clades, but we will be sure to explain (e.g. within the Metazoan node or close to it) several other terms that are of similar rank and groupings. Whilst the project has widened and developed over time, the primary purpose of the project, (as the founder, Aron Ra set out and this has not changed), is to lay out a comprehensive, visual evolutionary tree as determined by relationship and time between taxa, thus showing how life, in as far as we can show/know, has come to be. This involves a lot of complex and varied science and mathematics and research band investigation. As more information comes to light, we will amend, where needed, (and some of these early relationships in pre-history are open to interpretation, but the jigsaw puzzle is clear enough to determine that it is a picture of a scenic landscape rather than a portrait, for example. The facts of evolutionary descent with modification through natural selection is not in dispute, in fact this is the main purpose of the project, to demonstrate this for the first time on a single page, which has no escape route. Previously, it has only been possible to demonstrate this in snapshots through metaphorical microscopes or telescopes.
  4. I was in the military, on guard duty in the jungles of Central America one night. I remember observing, under the yellow tinge of a sodium light, a female praying mantis and its young (or smaller partner?). I spent a while watching them and how such a complex set of decisions (about eating, moving, interacting, protecting, sleeping, mating, defence etc.) were held in such a tiny brain. They would only live for a year, at most, (from being born – no idea how old these were) and I wondered if they were happy or would have a life worth living and how much longer it would have to live. My questions were abruptly answered. My colleague crept up, sprayed them with insect repellent, and laughed. The struggles that these creatures had gone through in their shortened life and the nonsense-icle, purposeless ending, with no justice, karma or follow up to look forward to or face, for them or him. There are numerous other examples that are equally relatable. A youth, rampaging through a flowerbed and pulling them up, feeling proud that s/he has impressed her/his mates, with total disregard for the effort required to create it and no consideration to the defencelessness of his target or the weak, pathetic lack of discipline for her/his actions or thoughtlessness for the consequences or re-creation task. The one I think of, is Galileo Galilei and the Catholic church. The father of modern science needs wide shoulders, to bear all of us who can but stand on them in admiration. And he worked 400 years ago. His solitary achievements, inventions, discoveries and work made him the hero he is, and yet a brute picked him up, incapacitated him and stuck him in prison/confinement for his Copernican supporting enlightenments, prevented him from speaking out, and he died there. One wonders what the church achieved during this incarceration compared to what Galileo would have, alone, if he were free, or what it achieved in his lifetime, worldwide compared to what that one man achieved. The discoveries that followed, because of him, have led to other scientists saving millions of lives and so much more. The Jesuits were supposed to lead the world in scientific enquiry and astronomy, and they did this to this great astronomer. I think something happened about 2000 years ago like this, according to legend. The Catholic church has made attempts to apologise and erect a statue, which was put on hold. In the museum of Galileo in Italy, there is a relic on display for all to see, from the Pope (for which it is but a short distance) up. A reminder of the past. Galileo’s middle finger! Isn’t that ironic. I want to encourage all those who read this, make the most of your life, and be inspired by the many founding fathers of science who mostly achieved so much in such a short time, alone under difficult conditions in ancient times. Don’t waste a year, month, week, day, not even an hour. It is so precious. If need be, get an organiser, manage your time, reward your efforts and move quickly on from failures or disappointments. Prioritise, focus on what’s important and frequently think about what would happen if you left sooner that you expected and what your legacy might be. Will others be provided for or have to sort through a lot of stuff? Don’t have regrets – sort them, put them to rest or make a mass apology and move on. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
  5. Motivated by our valued member, Charles Cameron from a recent post on a huge, man sized leaf discovery. Palm leaves can grow to 20m though! To my knowledge, there is no site or authority, one can go or be directed to, that logs or registers new species. What usually happens, is that dedicated databases of taxa, like the Reptile database for example, keep a look out in the literature and in related news articles. There is no obligation for anyone to register anything anywhere. So, amateur naturalists and professional researchers alike, who come across something, which is or may be new, might not know or be focused or interested (or have no time to log) something new, and any reference may be incidental in their writing. That means, anyone looking to find new species to keep their records up to date, will sometimes have no way of knowing that a new species was discovered, because the research (and its title and key word search) will not indicate this. I, myself fell victim to this. I discovered a snake in the Americas. It was venomous, and possibly the most venomous on the continent. I took photos, checked with the local Audubon society and the local zoo, and assumed that specialists may be interested in it and recognise it. Unfortunately (but thanks to the rigours of scientific scrutiny), I did not know the etiquette of what was required to prove my finding to science. I left the continent without the ability to bring it back home. Years passed, and when I went to the Natural history museum in London, the difficulty was explained to me. Possible digital editing, how was it known that it was not found elsewhere, imported or a pet or where the photos were taken? If it was a holotype, maybe it was a mutant etc. In fact, there may well be many mistaken species, and sometimes they get spotted. If we went through museum collections with a fine tooth comb, we would also find many new species, and in fact that is what some people do. You could do it yourself if you show good reason and intent, as there are simply not enough people/time to do it. There are regulations for uncovering fossils and minerals, buried treasure and archaeological findings, with regard to declaring them or handing them over. In the UK, it is illegal to even go and, ‘observe’ smooth snakes, due to their scarcity. I propose, especially in our current, climatic situation, that there should be legislation or even just an agreed voluntary protocol, to have to submit any findings, be it after a casual walk in the park, a big dig or a field research project, that anything relating to potential new identifications be referred to a specific source. And I propose that source be the Phylogeny Explorer Project, or one of 2 or three options, but have a shared link to ensure it reaches all of the key, international databases, if/when a new species is officially identified. It seems crazy that there is no such process in place, but if you look at the laws and penalties for things like animal cruelty, chemical pollution and other biological or environmental crimes, one begins to see how, only one species really matters. https://news.mongabay.com/2019/11/amazon-tree-giant-leaves-coccoloba-gigantifolia-new-species-brazil/?fbclid=IwAR2P2sb_wjQDcGBmXdP3eJ-YBjsQe40IbU5YtlKiWL1Ux--sUrbv3hqsU_M
  6. This is in support of/response/addition to a Facebook post, where I asked if chickens can fly or not. It's not black and white as it depends on definitions, but it’s a great example of an inherited trait being lost or artificially designed, under our noses. At what point is a species classed as having or not having trait/attribute y? On our Explorer, the clade nodes are visually represented by whether they are extinct or not, by way of the extinct symbol. In the past, some volunteer enthusiasts had not fully understood some of the rules of annotating cladograms, and resulted in us having to go back and re-check this error, which is ongoing but in hand. This was a learning curve, and taught us to ensure that we produce proper documentation, training, QC, designated roles and appropriately qualified or experienced personnel to monitor this. The rule is, on extinction, (as a negative) that only if every example within that clade, fits, can the whole clade be annotated as such. So, dinosaurs (because birds form a part of this clade) must be left open as being extant, NOT just the bird part. And further, ALL clades higher, that encompass dinosaurs, must also be left open as extant, right back to the root. Only the subordinate clades which have no examples remaining, can be annotated at its root node. There are no other examples of dinosaurs left, so if all birds died out tomorrow, dinosaurs could be said to be, and annotated, extinct. The term, ‘Dinosaur’ is being used in the cladistics sense. But, if we were to apply the positive attribute of flight (true flight – unassisted by gravity, wind or other body or external source) to chickens, then if any, single example still flies, it (the clade root) does not get a tick unless all fly. The same logic/implication would mean that flight needs to be ticked in all higher clades back to the root, but clearly, flight had not evolved then. So, what happens, is at the onset of flight, flight can be ticked. Flight is not a cladistics term, it is/can be, a part of what makes up the collective defining attributes. So, whilst all descendants of birds, remain birds (and also whatever new clades/derivatives they evolve into), flight is something that can change. So, any bird which cannot fly, can be ticked as a non-flier, individually, but to compare extinct, flight and other things is not entirely fair comparables. I would be inclined to say that chickens can fly, only IF there is a verified, extant example and we may need to ask about whether wild and domestic ones are included or how far back we go. The internet seems to show that there are examples, under the limits I presented above, (but many dubious ones, too, with nothing that has yet convinced me, but feel free to post/link), but I’d like to see more concrete evidence. Perhaps surprisingly, I have never seen evidence that a hippo (the, ‘river’ horse!) can actually swim, despite some extensive searching and videos, from zoos and in the wild. But swimming may need defining. I would also point out that the record distance for a chicken flying, is under 100m. Flying fish can travel much further and for much longer, through the air by distance. How does 45 seconds, horizontally sound! Is this potentially flight? So just bear that in mind, and, like my own discovery and photographic evidence of a new species of highly venomous snake, photo’s may not tell the whole story or provide enough evidence, (see the blog on the Website entitled, ‘The sacrosanct nature of verification’ or note what, ‘Trigger’ would like you to think in this attached video, that he shows proof. And there is a philosophical reflection of, ‘the ship of Theseus’ problem which you may like to search for. It’s always good to learn something new, especially if you’ve done ten impossible things before breakfast.
  7. Does evolution include any/every biological change or advancement? For example, genes can be transferred directly (including horizontally) across evolutionary branches, bi-passing the standard, more well-known/popular method. We (human beings) are fundamentally composed of different organisms, many are species in themselves, and we probably contain less eukaryote than eukaryote. Does hybridisation count as evolution? Laboratory or artificial interference – does that count? If so, where is it on the tree? If not, why not? Sometimes, something comes about – an invention or discovery, that transforms or exponentially speeds up events, and sometimes it is beyond our predictions or control. New, exciting possibilities came about with the advent of the wheel, mechanical transport, mechanical flight, telecommunications, video, computers and genetics. All of these advancements occurred, ‘naturally’ (i.e. here is a lifeless planet within a relatively closed system, see what happens). Therefore, should we use the term, ‘artificial’, because everything is, what it is, ‘natural’? That we have evolved to be able to utilise physical, chemical and biological material to do advanced things, or even turn things inside out or radically change things, is still, fundamentally natural, isn’t it? Is a venomous creature, ‘cheating’, because it transforms past norms with a new technique? Opposable primate thumbs or tool using; the ability to speak, create weapons of mass destruction (or mass medical healing devices)? Human events and actions on the planet, from industry, expansion of habitation, destroying natural habitats, controlling vermin, increasing populations of pretty species (or pets), or selecting types of plants or preferring certain human traits or looks. All of this is natural evolution (unless one is suggesting it is un/supernatural or required outside/intelligent interference?). It is evolution, adapting, using what it has within the technology it knows. Why is a monkey that prefers one type of fruit, (and so forcing a potential change in species and in the environment) being any different than humans doing the same, using its ability, choices and technology? If the phylogenetic tree turns out not to be a tree, or a very deformed one or more like a bush or coral reef or other simile, then who are we to argue? It doesn’t conform to our needs, we adapt to what it is. If, in the distant future, it turns in on itself as we genetically engineer it, then we must adapt the tree accordingly, we can’t just say that it doesn’t count or it is artificial or false. If we were able to create an octopus/scorpion hybrid (or any other form by whatever means), then would this need to be shown on the tree, somehow? Whether a ‘natural’, exceptional (or so called, ‘artificial’) event causes change, they are all technically, ‘natural’ aren’t they? Exceptional events like the ice age, transporting between land masses, large, survivable genetic abnormalities and so forth, are all beyond the standard, but all have contributed to evolution, so shouldn’t it be reflected on the tree? Why is the human brain and what it is capable of producing, any more artificial or unacceptable, and not be a valid tree addition/benefit, any more than biological locomotion, the exoskeleton, photosynthesis, air breathing or endothermy? In the attached BBC video short on trnshumanism, the issue is highlighted, as we see (yet again), another issue that c will be controversial. Many controversies have been and gone. Some dropped and some adapted naturally, or under strong opposition. Examples include, women exposing ankles in swimming costumes, men with long hair/skirts, women with short hair/trousers, contraception, abortion, artificial insemination/test tube babies, credit/swipe/chip and pin cards, pet implant chips etc. Punk rockers seem to have been and gone. ORLAN is a French example of an extreme artist, who subjects herself to things for art’s sake, including undergoing surgery, live, without anaesthetic and undergoing facial body extensions. I remember when Boy George hit the pop scene in the 1980s, I spoke to people at the time, saying that he would be a pivotal figure in people’s sexuality becoming more acceptable, by the way he normalised it. Today, (likewise) members of the Royal family have been outspoken about mental health, which in turn has normalised it and ensured it not to be the stigma it once was. Hopefully, medical attention, priority and funding will reflect or equal this old elephant in the room. In many parts of the world, for many of these controversial issues, it will be a long, slow struggle. Like many things in life, there is a struggle/cost – physical, personal, emotional, psychological, cultural, religious or societal, in enabling change. If any of the things in this attached BBC video seem odd or radical or unpalatable, they are well explained by the people being interviewed. Our perspective is current, moulded by our surroundings and perhaps should be considered by the benefits or the future. Like a digger is to a spade, for digging holes, with the advent of Homo sapiens on the scene/tree, evolution will (and surely has) increase(d) exponentially, maybe putting the extinction of the dinosaurs and the rise of mammals in the shade, by comparison in a new, ‘age of man’. Please feel free to comment, here, on the Facebook group or in a Forum. I have no monopoly on knowledge, accuracy, opinion or the truth, and welcome anyone who disagrees or wants to correct or share a similar or different view. This is food for thought, nothing more. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-scotland-49908957/transhumanism-how-far-would-you-go-for-a-body-upgrade
  8. Some places are dangerous to live. Australia has 100 venomous snakes, plus dangerous spiders, cone snails, blue ringed octopus, jellyfish, sharks, crocodiles, sting rays, stonefish, scorpions and centipedes, many of which can be life threatening. It’s even got a venomous mammal that is dangerous (and the female lays eggs and the male has multiple penis heads). So you’d expect a pretty high human body count… right? Before proceeding, consider this. Just ONE snake species, in ONE other country, kills 10,000 people per YEAR. Well in the DECADE between 2000 and 2010, there were 254 people killed by animals in Australia. That’s like, 25 people per year (where most of the top 20 most venomous snakes live). But if we break that down, it is even more surprising: · 77 were from horses and ponies (mainly riding or on the roads). · 33 were from cows, cattle, bulls, bovine (16 in traffic accidents, the rest by piercing, crushing or other). · 27 were from dogs (mostly in attacks and mostly on children or the elderly). · 18 were by kangaroos, (mostly on roads, causing accidents). · 16 were by bees. · 16 were by sharks (Steve Irwin was one victim). · 14 were by snakes. (And the world’s most venomous snake hasn’t killed anyone!). · 9 were by crocodiles · 5 were by emus (all in vehicle accidents) · 39 (combined) for fish, sheep, goats, camels, cats and jellyfish. · There were none by octopus, platypus, spiders, scorpions or centipedes. Almost three-quarters of victims were male and most of the deaths occurred either on public roads, in the home and on farms. Call it luck, good medicines and accessibility, good education/awareness, money, personal/national wealth or whatever, but other well developed countries share these (Australian kind of) statistics. Like Europe and the USA. We are talking handfuls of deaths. Go to the poor, less developed parts of the world, in Africa, the Americas and Asia, and it is terrible, with SE Asia and Sub Saharan Africa being the worst. People dying there aren’t in handfuls, but hundreds of thousands per year. Each human being is precious and mourned, painfully, just as you would mourn. This is a preventable epidemic. In Britain, if one person dies by an animal, it is front page news. In India, dozens die daily, but in rural villages, far from prying eyes or national/international interest, where many people are significantly less valued than others. That’s a crisis, and an unfair distribution of wealth and help and focus. This is too far down our list of priorities, surely. But our planet’s future may trump this, but let’s do both, and more. As the Phylogeny Explorer Project develops over time, there will be so much we can do with it from so many angles. With species genomes, geographical distribution, species counts, mapping new and extinct species, knowing which ones are venomous or at risk etc. But, like the world needs to assess its priorities, so must the project and focus on the primary, academic tasks in hand. Tree building.
  9. Mosquitos are the biggest people killers in the animal kingdom, with more deaths than all other creatures combined. Primates are the second largest by the way. There was a documentary on the difficulty in getting drugs/vaccines/medicines to far away, hard to reach, inhospitable poor places where people were dying, and governments had no money. In one scene, in Africa, the problem of money, logistics, distribution and transportation had seemed to have been overcome… Was that a coke being consumed, deep in a jungle? It seems that in their desperation to share their wonderful products, at a profit of course, no expense was spared in reaching the inner-most sanctums of human habitation. Message to Coca-cola. “If you ever find a spare few bucks and would like some real humanitarian publicity (and incidentally save a lot of lives), have a word/team up with a few governments/pharmaceuticals, and save a little space for some medicines on board those ships, planes and trucks that so welcomely manage to reach so many nooks and crannies around the poor places on earth. Of course, you could ignore this and wait for a huge, public petition to shame you into doing something, or explain why it really isn’t possible.” If coca cola can do it, and as they clearly do, then medicines can reach them the same way. Is it perhaps a problem of priorities? Coke vs medicine. Profit versus humanitarianism. Taste vs life. Anyone fancy sending a letter or starting a campaign?
  10. In 1988 in the jungles of Belize, I discovered a new species of snake. It may have been the most venomous on the continent. But no such animal has reference to, or exhibits my name in any literature. The fact that I may indeed have discovered it and that it may be genuinely new to science, is not relevant without certain criteria, and very strict criteria at that. When I was a theology student, I was very keen to, ‘more formally’ investigate miracles, and specifically, healing miracles. I had been a convert to such possibilities, (that they exist), and I had attended hundreds of healing meetings, plus crusades in Britain, Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australia, taken testimonies in writing, as well as having prayed for people who asked for healings. During all of this time, I was wholly convinced by, supportive of and sympathetic to, the view that healing and other miracles actually occur today. I laid out my methodology for examining the validity of healings, and I hit a brick wall. My professors were not happy. They were very happy for me to use literature as reference material, but not to investigate things, directly, myself. As it was a key belief and part of the community I studied with, and healings were a daily part of everyday life, and the principal had previously been a medical doctor, I found this odd. The problem seemed to boil down to me interviewing and requesting confirmatory medical records. Even though it was entirely voluntary and I had safeguarding procedures and no direct access to records, only what a person chose to show me. It was not a problem to do a similar investigation for ancestry investigations into people’s genealogy, or indeed other similarly or potentially private matters. In fact, it was ironic that when testifying about healings, (e.g. in churches or on the doorsteps), that a congregation were so often told about what the doctors said and what their records said, yet rarely were such things ever brought in. This would save anyone having to take them at their word. But to challenge or ask them to produce it was to challenge their honesty and integrity. It was the elephant in the room, the king has got no clothes, and the key missing factor in the whole verification system, that would save so much time over time-consuming testimony. It was as though a human patients’ voice or testimony was trying to speak more loudly or authoritatively than the horse/doctor’s mouth, which was interestingly, never actually available. The source/evidence was not available. To a scientist, historian or any researcher, this must seem crazy. The source is often all that is of interest or relevance. Whatever else is being said or done, is meaningless, without a basis from which to form or justify it. It is the complete opposite way round. Yet there is no reason why it needs to be, as the source is exactly the same sort of thing that any researcher can easily find and use to determine the answers. I could have possibly used an example from other areas, but this was a noteworthy, personal, experiential example. It incidentally says nothing about God, religion or miracles (or the validity or otherwise of them) or the people involved, other than to point to the fact that there are people out there, who do not understand the value or point of verification or have double standards or who’s motives are poor. There are many people and groups of all kinds, religious and otherwise, who hold to different standards when it suits. This ranges. Consider how strict you might like to consider evidence of one’s guilt in a crime versus one’s enemy; your account of an incident before the video evidence is known or shown, to how/if you might like to change it afterwards; whether we should properly test the strength of a rope prior to your bungie jump vs checking your flat earth or non-moon landing theory with equal rigour. We have biases for various reasons. Suffice to say, that in my experience, mentioned, there seemed less than complete confidence in the medical evidence or doubt as to the conclusions compared to the testimony. This became an obstacle for me. Instead of me moving away, I was more intrigued to get to the truth, and this conflict moved me from being an assistant pastor, into another direction, of teaching, and a new concept of understanding life and purpose. Which is another story. I went to a presentation by herpetologist, professor (and TV personality) Mark O’Shea on (no surprise), snakes. It was a wonderful presentation which focussed on the hard work a researcher does behind the scenes, which result in those research papers that gather dust and occasionally or very rarely, get browsed – and then just the abstract! Things that are not headline news or dramatic science revelations, but which hold up the fundamental principles of good science, research, methodology. We probably don’t remember the director or producer of most films. Or the writer. Or the costume designer, or the stunt people. We don’t tend to recall the engineer, designer or builders of most buildings, but we know the star of a film and the name of a famous building or who owns it (as it is in big lights at the top). Mark had doubts over the validity of several species of snake in certain countries or islands, and much of his investigations were not unlike any undertaken by a historian. Species accounts based on just one or a few isolated individuals, to him, sometimes warranted further investigation, based on the evidence. In a nutshell, he painstakingly found, in one case for example, that there was an unlisted ship that had arrived on an island from another location (which did have that species living there) and it coincided with an observation soon after. He also traced all individual sightings, world-wide, showing another layer of information and eventually, it became very clear, that the snake had arrived, inadvertently, by an unlisted ship, which he uncovered, which explained the odd and geographically isolated discovery. He had no grudge to bear against anyone – in fact the events happened long ago, it just happened to be in a location in which he was studying other species. Like vertebrates, such is the hidden, unappreciated but vital backbone in this case, of science. This is a professor, a world renowned herpetologist, in his own time, going through library records and speaking to locals about transportation events, to uncover a mystery that will not be appreciated or even known by virtually anyone. 32 years ago, I didn’t know how to go about getting a possible new species identified or recognised or what is required. This was before the internet and my local source was the out of town, rural zoo and the Audubon society in the local city. Such was technology, I even had to book phone calls 2 weeks in advance from where I was, and I had no international directory. All local species were listed, and mine, albeit similar to two others, was not there, according to the description given, e.g. number/type of markings etc. I photographed it and trusted that at some time in the future, the truth/identity would be found. Years later, I went to see someone at the natural history museum in London, and found that there were some pretty stiff criteria for having a new species confirmed and that that part of the world had been pretty well researched in the meantime. For example, how could I demonstrate where the photo was taken, where (or when) the snake was found, if it was not a pet or imported, if it was not a deformed, known species? What genetic evidence was there and how could that be linked to this specimen? Where is this specimen now? Isolated species are less preferred, too. My ignorance was natural, I was no scientist and I believed in miracles and that the earth was less than 10,000 years old, but I make no judgements as to whether any of these were factors in my failure to have officially identified a new species, whether it was a new species or not. I should thank science for my failure to identify a new species. For its rigorous requirements. Science has to take the good with the bad, the rough with the smooth. It is just as important to miss a genuine find, because it lacked sufficient evidence, as to not wrongly verify a false find. I had no false motive; I didn’t bring a dodgy or false or wrongly labelled species into possible existence. I just didn’t meet the criteria or cut the mustard. There are many species out there that have been missed or didn’t cut the mustard, (waiting for another day), and there are very few wrongly identified species. Thanks to rigour. How much more should the same criteria (or more) be used/applied for matters that are so much bigger, more serious, widespread, life changing and potentially surpass lifetimes and affect and transform lives? Consider why such painstaking requirements are imposed or needed to find something, which is so relatively trivial and out of sight or interest to most, and which usually has no bias or rival or false motive involved. It is simply to find the truth/facts. And the deeper/wider we look, and more critical we are, the better. There is nothing to hide and generally, no reason for anyone to prevent investigations, if unbiased truth be the motive. I appeal to any other sphere of life or topic area that falls into the realm of our tangible/testable dimension, of which the validity is potentially verifiable. Many things are much bigger, more important, life changing, serious and apply to more people, often with life-changing implications. We apply strong verification processes to history, geography, archaeology, all sciences, genealogy, meetings, diary events, finances and accounts of who lived where and when, and so forth; and we all understand and accept and do not take it personally, to be so invasive, thorough and non-reliant upon mere testimony. Truth and fact, if genuinely and independently sought, have nothing to fear. Only doubt, pre-conceptions, bias, closed minds and motives have anything to fear or hide. And these are the very reason they need such scrutiny. If something is testable, e.g. it is something that occurs in our dimension and is recognised by science or a means of empirical testing, it should be open to testing, without question or interference. If something is not testable, it is untestable and belongs outside of the realms of verification and therefore nothing can be concluded about it. So, hat’s off and raise your glasses to the often boring, laborious, out of sight, mostly forgotten and hidden efforts that form the basis and push the boundaries to what we know to be true. In any area of scrutiny, why would anyone want anything less?
  11. Posts on the Facebook group about reputations, animal names, and wasps in particular caused this ramble, but you might get something, somewhere, from it, whoever you are. And there’s a one question quiz at the end. Vampire bats, vampire squid, Tyrannosaurus rex, devil fish, devil’s coach horse, hellbender, spiny lumpsucker, satanic leaf-tailed gecko and countless local names for, ‘evil’ creatures. Reputations are for a reason, if not always good or justified reasons or they are merely subjective or experiential. In the time of P.T. Barnum/the age of freaks and curiosities, not to mention what the competitive press liked (extremes, no boring, middle/grey areas). Things and names, sizes, weights and looks were often exaggerated for effect and related magazines, societies, TV programmes and stories were, in response, popularised in society. The very story of John Merrick’s mother, being scared by an elephant, for example. Things like ghosts, aliens, UFOs, crypto-zoology, the paranormal, psychics, mediums, conspiracy and pseudo-science etc. became much more interesting to people. Many countries to this day, still have their own stories and beliefs and many are clearly untrue. But most, I suggest, not without some origin/sprinkle of truth or reason behind it. In some African countries, some snakes are believed to fly and roll down hills by holding their tales in their mouths, forming a circle and moving downhill at speed. Others lie in wait to attack you. There are snakes and lizards which glide, and I can imagine how people (even today) would believe or write such stories and I can also imagine the sort of experience that might make one write or believe it. And a bit of godly (or evil) magic or curse thrown in, can always add a bit of the supernatural to spice up boring laws of nature. It is perhaps surprising how the ancient Hindu stories of how Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) separated from India and how geological and other work between the land masses are not permitted, directly as a result of the stories told, despite modern technology explaining things. A fear of breaking tradition or interpreting religious myths literally and not upsetting people (or god(s)!) is strongly embedded, even in very academic people, where belief supersedes knowledge. To most people, I suspect wasps are those irritating, flying, venomous creatures that make an annoying noise, and live purely to disrupt picnics and ice cream eaters in the sunshine, and then occasionally sting us when we won’t submit or share our sweet wares. Few people know or care for the benefits they produce, which would cause a disproportionate aphid population and a cascade of other problems. Better the devil you know! Wasps, sawflies, ants and bees come from the order, Hymenoptera (with ants, wasps and bees forming the clade, Apocrita). Ants tend to more resemble wasps and also have a poor reputation – large numbers, many sting, bite and/or fly. So why don’t bees have such a hard time? Cuter? Honey providers? Many will die if they are forced to sting – which is sad. Well not all bees (or wasps, ants or sawflies) fit our stereotypes. There are, after all, 20,000 species of bee alone, and we have a dedicated team, led and built by bee keepers, working on this particular area of the Explorer. Hi Brendhan and Corrie! Back to wasps. The sterile female workers live for 11-22 days, the fertile male drones for a bit longer and the fertile queen, (who can voluntarily choose the sex of her eggs! – called haplodiploidy) lives about a year. Spheksophobia is the fear of wasps. For identification, male wasps (drones) don’t have stings and they have more abdomen (gaster) segments and large, curved antennae. Their wings beat 150-250+ times per second and they inhabit the globe, barring the poles. Wasps are omnivorous, don’t store or make honey and make their nests from paper (chewed up bark). Bees do make and store honey, build from wax and just drink nectar and pollen. The executioner wasp is top of Coyote Peterson’s (wild wilderness) most painful stings of any insect, topping the warrior wasp, tarantula hawk wasp and even the bullet ant (of Shmidt’s pain list). Wasp stings tend to be alkaline, so vinegar can help. Wasp behaviour changes in summer, as the food source moves from sugar to protein. There are 100,000 known species of wasp, and most are parasitic and most insect pests will tend to have at least one species of wasp feeding upon, or laying eggs inside it. There’s an obvious reason the Worldwide Fund for Nature (previously the WWF) has a panda as a logo and not a rare wasp, centipede or spider. [Grace Slick – of Jefferson airplane/starship and the great society and the classic solo album, ‘Dreams’ wrote a beautiful song about the, and called, ‘Panda’ – check it out.] Humans are quite the opposite of wasps in many ways, e.g. we start wars, create terror groups, kill other people and other animals for pleasure, we like to rid the world of good, rare and useful creatures by destroying their habitats, using them for slave labour, clothing, ornaments, trophies, rugs, souvenirs, baiting, experimentation, torture, hunting, import/trade, circus/street shows or killing/eating them en-masse – especially the veggie/non-meat eating animals. And it is us that put the reputations on all of these innocent animals in the first place. That puts some perspective on it, too. Surprisingly, wasps do have predators, but nothing specific, e.g. nothing specifically or exclusively hunts wasps. These include other insects and inverts, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals, with some smaller mammals (rodents and carnivores like mustelids) willing to attack a nest for the larvae. Bats will commonly eat adult wasps, too. If we turn to the sea, there is an aquatic equivalent to wasps which match them for the most painful sting of all animals – box jellyfish, which is actually called a sea, ‘wasp’!). There are places with such population densities, that it is impossible (for a person) to go swimming. There is only one animal to my knowledge, that is known to eat both of the so called, ‘time and space’ wasters of land and sea, jellyfish and wasps. What is it?
  12. We obtained it from others or even from ourselves, one way or another we have morality else this world would look different. I don't think morality can be measured because it something else for everybody. That said we know right from wrong we do not random kill people or rape people except does who does and are punished for it. So you think there is morality and it is individual. So, whatever an individual decides or thinks is good or bad, is their morality. Wow, that would make a nice law – I’m in. Wouldn’t bode well for any society though. I think it would soon realise how bad that is and bring in laws, guidelines, a social contract and… oh, that’s already been done. You may be playing into the hands/lair of the OP here, by saying that we know right from wrong, unless you really believe this. If you do, you must therefore declare your source and authority by which you judge this. And it needs to be universal – all times, all places, or you are moving the goalposts and making it subjective or arbitrary. Why would people want to randomly go round killing or raping people, or do you think it is just the punishment which stops them? We cheat and lie and think bad things all day; why do we have to reach a certain level of, ‘badness/evil’ to claim the tag of immoral/evolutionary throwbacks? In spite of humans and the rest of the animal kingdom, largely being pretty, ‘moral/well behaved’ (if rape and murder are the factor and if we ignore killing to eat meat). The cartoon, ‘Taz’ (the Tasmanian devil) depicts a really evil personality, as do many horror films. Even the devil is depicted as cunning and doing nice things. Why stop at murder or rape? Why not continuously torture babies all day/night long for fun? Well maybe people don’t want to do this. Maybe people don’t go round thinking in terms or right and wrong, and so do their own thing, without thinking about this. Perhaps people like stealing from the rich to give to the poor, or eating ice cream and, ‘selfishly’ (or selflessly?!) sharing it in order to share a conversation. Hitler was supposedly a good person in private. If we evolved naturally, then there is no purpose to the universe, other than whatever one chooses to give it, which is in effect, arbitrary. The concept of right and wrong, good and evil are therefore not recognised. They are more a religious invention in this sense. A secularist might rather look at thinks on a sliding scale of preference, desirability, usefulness, benefit, happiness, painlessness (and the antonyms to these). I recommend Kant and Bentham/Mill (or summaries on youtube or reading) on universality (the categorical imperative) vs utility (the greatest good for the greatest number and measuring different qualities – e.g. is going to the opera of higher quality than going to the pub?). And the is/ought transition/contention of Hume. 500 years ago was in the time of slavery and raping the slaves or even kill them, as society we grew and saw that we could not threat people like that anymore. So people changed not overnight but year over year until we saw them as equals. In some countries this is still an issue but the majority of people will call does countries out for it to change. WelI, I hope you don’t speak for societies then or now or in general, even thousands of years before. It is a few despots who are power hungry that make the news, who do such things. We still have people, whether ill or whatever, who reach such heights, but has it EVER actually been so in any society, represented by the people, anywhere? Consider Plato’s, ‘ring of gyges. Who is right and who is wrong that is where the majority comes in if the majority says its wrong then its deemed wrong. A better question was to ask what if the majority does not see a crime in to killing someone, like its completely normal to do. This is utilitarianism. Let’s all pick on the kid with ginger hair – who’s in? What would the minority do then that thinks killing is wrong. Hide, suffer, fight back (and suffer) or join in. Don't forget that killing in beliefs are the norm it seems, but could that be that the books are old and written in a time that killing and rape was normal. Even religious books, which seem to be the most extreme literature ever written, get fed up of murder and rape. God restricts it to just the occasional genocide and zaps a few others, but mostly, he lets folk live and places legal restrictions on when you can kill or rape people. But the concept of evolutionary traits or Godly instruction suggest routinely going round killing and raping for fun is alien. I refute that such crimes were ever normal, in any society, anywhere at any time amongst any species. If religious books from the past are written now the authors would have gotten so much anger over them that they would go into hiding. Isn’t it ironic then, that Salman Rushdie, in challenging the very texts that you believe people would go into hiding for writing today, went intro hiding! His latest book is, ‘Buddha’s a fat bastard’. Not really. So if rape permitted in the religious sense should the world not react and say no more. But here is the problem if its religious then people look the other way saying its there believe we can't say anything about it because its religion. You see it in most countries if religion is in play laws that we have as society do not count because insert some lame excuse. It is sometimes difficult to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Neuro-typicals struggle to understand neuro-diverse people (and vice-versa). Christians see Muslims from the negative view that Christians learn about them, instead of from the horse’s mouth. Mainstream Christians universally reject so called, ‘cults, like JWs, Mormons etc.), even if they have no knowledge. Christians reject non-believers for reasons they are largely taught, rather than think for themselves. And non-believers often do not sufficiently (or at all), consider the arguments and related implications of theists. IF there is a personal God, who largely represents/authored a divine Holy book(s), then those who understand/follow/accept/believe this, are RIGHT to do so. They are right to support and trey to enforce the thinks written there-in. There is no point in arguing that something YOU/I (an insignificant nobody) find offensive, is offensive, when they KNOW it is not, because it comes from a higher/ultimate authority. And so they proselytise to share the TRUTH and make the world a better place. Because YOU/I don’t approve is of no relevance. God know best. So, there is little point in arguing about an issue based on morality/opinion, because God always wins. You have to attack the source – does this god exist? Is this Holy book credible? What is the evidence? If their response is to threaten with the terrible consequences (Pascals wager), then one deals with this fallacy. God and a moral code in a book that say kill x or rape x, but even does that are religious are not doing that what it says in the book. That is not from God but human to human because if it came from God people that are religious would still do what the book says. Having been a committed believer for many years, I have seen both sides and have experienced that one can be taught/convinced by something and believe it is a conscience thing from God. I still feel guilty about some things, which were only presented to me as a believer, and yet there is no reason to be. Are the animals on this planet successful by what standard are we measuring we as humans have done so much in the little time we are here on this planet. Compared to other species on this planet if something would happen we are the only species on this planet that at thee moment can try to remove the planet from peril. No other species came even close into doing this, is it good to be the dominant species yes good for the planet no. I have argued the exact opposite inn much of this. We are the least intelligent, the least benefit, the shortest likely species to live and then die out, we do not adapt well and will likely (continue to) destroy the earth totally, not benefit it, and all other species. More species are dying out due to our existence. What benefit is a human brain that can/chooses to create a bomb and commits genocide and earth destruction with it, even if we cured cancer or helped a few stranded cats in trees? We measure intelligence wrongly or if rightly, it is not a good measure of success, certainly in evolutionary terms, concerning future development, progression and survival. With great power comes great responsibility.
  13. To Weare Borg: “Because humans have a moral” Do we? Based on what? Where did/do we obtain it? How do we measure it or to what can we compare it or go to for authority or arbitration and why do so many differ? “and we do not live in the dark ages anymore we know that killing humans and rape is wrong.” So killing and rape was fine 500 years ago and we didn't know it was wrong? “If all animals would know the same reasoning” What if people’s or animal's reasoning are different? Who is right or is everything subjective or decided by a vote or current society or religious belief or greed or selfishness or altruism or individual circumstances or philosophy? If I want to hurt you, and you don’t want me to hurt you, who’s decision is used or where do we go to find out? Now or at any time or place? “i think we would see the same results as by humans. If we had another species (but can do the same reasoning as us etc.) on this planet that was like us but completely different in appearance would we then still consider it rape and murder.” Are humans different from any other animal or higher/sentient/suffering one? If to force sex or kill is the same across species, then this is something several species did and do. Lions killing other animals and making them suffer just so they can eat it, is done by humans all the time, nd most humans kill/murder intelligent, sentient, suffering animals to eat them when they don’t need to. And murder is worse than rape. Very few animals rape, or need to or want to. Humans tend to do it (in spite of evolution not advocating it specifically) but can be punished for it. Is human rape wrong? Legally, yes, in SOME countries/circumstances. Which is another way of saying, no, in many countries/circumstances. The countries where rape is permitted tend to be religiously controlled. Is human rape wrong, morally/ethically? Again, it varies, but on the same religious/non-religious divide. Is human rape wrong, universally? Well clearly not, if you happen to be religious at least. I know of no law or non-religious country or reason that justifies rape, so if anything, rape is only looked down upon badly, by non-religious people, universally. And yet despite this, those same non-religious people do not have an authority to right/wrong. Strange that, isn’t it? “What if only we can believe in a God but the other species can’t or have no idea of the concept but do not rape or murder, what then.” Well believe or not believe, many believers would argue that God instilled a moral code in us, coding us with what is right and wrong. Which begs the question as to why we vary so much. But most animals do not rape or murder unless it is a food or defence matter. “Its now easy to say because God or is it, where does morality come from then or did we as humans evolve and grew up in all does years. Would we as humans do better if there was another dominant species on this planet.” I think evolution naturally factors in the continuation of life. Many animals have lifelong partners and do not stray or cheat, though some might (as per humans). There are gay animals, deformed animals, animals of indeterminate sexual gender, animals which don’t make any other animal suffer by killing or raping them, e.g. vegetarians. I think if we were to take the moral code of most non-human animals and compare it to ours, especially that of religious people (of ANY religion or denomination), I’d go with the general animal kingdom as being far superior an d successful. Our species is doomed to extinction, and exclusively goes around torturing strangers of its own species in war, and will bring about the destruction of most living species in a very short time.
  14. ‎Lauren Woods‎ to Reasons for Jesus · I’ll just leave this here.... Can I ask you what you believe makes rape or murder wrong in the first place? In the animal kingdom it is common practice for animals to have sexual intercourse without the females consent, often times, the male and female fight prior to the male overpowering her and mating with her. And it’s often done to younger females as soon as they come into heat. And of course we know that animals often fight to the death or kill over territory or out of hunger. So if we are just evolved animals then wouldn’t rape and murder be considered part of the natural order of humans sexual reproduction survival instincts and natural selection? Where does the moral idea that rape and murder is wrong come from if there is no God to give it to us?
  15. Hi Mr Jay Bobman. This looks likme an excellent and recent source. Most appreciated. Do you know if the Newick or other file format itself isa available? You would be most welcome to be a team player on the project if it suits you. Are you a termite buff or a biology buff or did you just happen upon this or us? Thanks! Steve
  16. brachiosteve

    We are Borg

    All, without exception, really beautiful creations, Jeroen. There are certain colours I love, like very deep blue, aquamarine, turquoise, emerald green certain purple/pinks and burgundy. In fact Indian sari's represent many of these. I remember being mesmerised by copper sulphate solution and crystals in chemistry at school. I was like a fly being attracted to street lamps. I used to have a, 'lucky' blue marble that I carried around and looked at. I know a lot of Autistic people have heightened scensory issues. Not sure if that's what it is with me. Does anyone else have anything similar - experiences or artwork to share? Sounds like another club?!
  17. I would imagine that this project will be the first to answer the pinneaple/person question with any degree of accuracy. If this is not a satisfactory answer, then while such recipients are waiting, they could spend their time either: locating their own 1000 year old ancestors (and understanding that any failure is not in the fact that one does not exist/have an ancestor, butr rather that it is too specific/hard to individually find her/him. Or they could trry some original research of their own to find something notable, to replace mere unscientic efforts of failing to dismiss current, peer reviewed knowledge. Challenge. Find ONE peer reviewed article, anywherer, on anything, at any time, that favours Young earth creation and rejects evolution/long periods of time. Don't buy the conspiracy theory that pro-evolution scientists dominate and conspire not to allow such proposals. There is a process and it is transparent.
  18. Hi Don. Creation/evolution is a bit of a specialism of mine, having once been a Creationist/teacher. The Ark Encounter was my idea, if you are familiar with it. In a fairly recent debate between Aron Ra and Kent Hovind, it was encouraging that Mr Hovind accepted that both elephants and pine trees were eukaryotes. Unless Dr Hovind is ignorant or just being nice, this is a total acknowledgement of evolutionary ancestry of all life, and he will soon be able to trace this precise ancestry on our tree. The debate method, as a way for education, is a poor one, and usually favours a Creationist, and unless there are very specific key rules involved, it just fuels the idea of poor /anti-science and becomes a personality contest. An outstanding book in my view, and one which also captures the deceipt and methodologies involved, with a surprisingly insight into where the mind of a Creationist lies, is Aron Ra's, 'Foundational falsehoods of Creationism'. It's in youtube, book or audio form and should be on top of anyone's list if getting involved, but is also a wonderfgul introduction to life and earth science and evolution. It is being proposed as the first book in line to discuss at the project's new book club, and if we decide on this book, I will get Aron tpo attend. You are invited, Don. Let me know if you want any links or further help. Steve
  19. Hi Don. The concept of ancestry is one of relationship and phylogeny, which (by/like the question implies), assumes evolution and so an answer can potentially be sought, though the further back in time we go, especially at some junctures, it can be tricky, for various reasons, but this question is precisely a key one which you will be able to find with this programme. When I say tricky, I in no way mean that the whole concept could be wrong or major, distinct alternatives are open to consideration. By way of example or comparison, it is like a child walking home from school and being seen by multiple CCTV cameras, which can track people’s whereabouts in terms of time and location. There may be some specific points along the way where there were no cameras or some obscuring took place, but the route and times are not in dispute, merely what may have occurred, if anything different, at these specific points. The gaps are natural, explainable and expected ones. Are you an enquiring creationist? If so, or my advice for those who are, is to analyse how anyone can see and trace this lineage (with no pre-conceptions) and examine how life is or is not interrelated., and consider that, if anyone thinks not, how such results are shown as they are, and what other explanation can possibly result from them and the statistical improbability of such occurring. To give an indication of an answer to your question, we share a Eukaryotic ancestor which in turn stemmed from an Archean one, but it would not be possible to tell you what species, but please note that this is not a failure, any more than asking you to name the individual from 1000 years ago, from whom you descended. I am not sure as to the reason or motive for the question, so I am not sure how helpful my answer is, though Steve
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