An observation…



It is not a stretch to say that most people do not understand numbers in any way, shape, or form. One can observe this around themselves in so many forms.  This actually assists big business in keeping their profit margins lofty and preserves the belief that fundamentally people cannot understand what is behind numbers; it is “too hard to understand”. Gambling on a mere belief of what one perceives to be reality, is the basis of a very strange and terrifying world.


“If he’s alive he has everything in his power! Whose fault is it he doesn’t understand that” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot


But this isn’t just about the underlying notion of being innumerate.  It goes far beyond that.  It is by no mere chance that society has become this way.  It is by choice, which ultimately left a large imprint on the intangible.  After all, we do change to adapt to environment and not necessarily for the better.  This becomes apparent when just looking about us.


I came across this interesting thread.  Details are not necessarily pertinent.  More perhaps can be said in the principal…



Paedomorphism… Fugitive at large

A friend of mine asked me a question once concerning a scenario that was posed to him by his first evolutionary biology teacher. He asked me, “If a crime takes place and you get 20 people saying it happened one way, but you have 5 people saying it happened a different way, which of the two stories is most likely the correct one?” I replied, “Of course, the story with 20 people backing it”. With a smile, he responded, “Nope, wrong answer”. I was indeed shocked and perplexed about this, and started to wonder if my friend had even a minimum understanding of statistics. My friend went on to explain that 19 of the people saying that the crime had occurred a certain way had all heard their story from the 20th person. That person was the single source for their collective version of the events. The 5 people telling the other version had individually witnessed the event actually taking place. I immediately said,”But you didn’t tell me that part of it!” to which he responded, “And you!didn¹t ask”.Many of the different muscles affected by paedomorphism were mentioned in the post, *Velociraptor a Mesozoic kiwi? A look at the neoflightless hypothesis*(written by???) from the website, in such a way as to implythat such numerous muscles acted as individual witnesses identifying the perpetrator in our crime. The idea that different members of the crown clade of aves had lost flight independently of one another was also implied. This in turn was the foundation of an argument built with the central tenant that paedomorphism has exclusive rights for removing flight in volant animals.

The website also takes the stance that Greg Paul, being the lead proponent for the neoflightless nature of avepectorans, does not understand the importance of such an idea, stating such things as *However, Paul seems to drastically misunderstand the process by which flight is lost in birds.* Personally, I’m lead to believe that this is not a true representation of the facts. Though not saying that I know this to be certain, but, why not consider the possibility, that maybe, Paul simply does not view the selective pressures and end effects that go with the loss of flight as being the very same ones experienced by both basal dromaeosaurs and the later, more derived aves that ended up giving rise to the ratites???


Let’s take a closer look at the star witnesses to our crime.


If a bird becomes isolated on an island,, away from predators, its chances for survival are good, as long as it can obtain food. If this food can only be gathered by utilizing flight, then there is still a selective pressure for keeping the ability for flight. If, however, food can be adequately gathered in a manner that does not require the ability to fly, then flight could very well be lost. The question then becomes one of why; why is flight lost? It’s quite obvious that the enterprise of flight is an energy-consuming juggernaut. Look at it this way: If you have a car that does nothing but sit and look pretty in your driveway, but you are still forking out loads of cash for monthly payments and for insurance that you don’t even need since the car never leaves the driveway, then it’s quite obvious that you have placed yourself in a huge financial disadvantage. Just as you obviously don’t need the car you never drive, and would be better off without it, sometimes, for species! that fly, the *need* for flight no longer carries as much weight as it used too.


Alan Feduccia has said that paedomorphism could occur in a way that would bring about a selective event, resulting in hypertrophied limbs. This implies that paedomorphism stimulates these events after the fact. But of course, as it is with many things that Feduccia has said, this is logic turned on its head.


The chances of paedomorphism invoking selective events at a time in which it would be safe to do so, in a way that would not hinder a species ability to acquire food, escape predation, and successfully mate, boggles the mind.The paedomorphism that causes flight-lessness in modern birds is generally believed to be nothing but developmental retardation due to the decreased production of thyroxin via the thyroid, and as such it involves little in the way of gene modification. Essentially, it’s a path of least resistance for neoflightless development in animals from the crown clade aves and their more immediate ancestors. For what concerns us here, in its very nature,paedomorphism is telling you that it is only AFTER the selective pressures for flight have been lifted can it occur and not be detrimental to the organism’s survival. In short, if a species no longer needs to rely on flight as a mode of survival, and its various needs can be met via other means, paedomorphism can now do its thing.


Think about blind salamanders. Only after the salamander was able to carve out a niche in a cave was its eyesight selected against. I highly doubt that the salamanders first went blind and then thought to themselves, “Woo baby! Look at me! I’m blind! I guess now is a good time to go and find a cave.” It’s simple; arresting the development of faculties that are required for an animal’s survival is not an advantageous thing. It becomes a detrimental handicap without traits in place to stand in for it. It is likely that ratites started to develop terrestrial lifestyles while they still had the ability to fly, and as such, they were already selecting for hypertrophied limbs before the loss of flight took place. It was only after the fully terrestrial skills, physical strength, and other such elements had developed for effectively acquiring food and escaping danger,would the selective pressure for flight disappear. Once this occurred, the burden of taking care of those features that were involved in flight became a negative selective pressure. Since ratites evolved from animals that had most likely lost the ability to gather food or to fight off predators with their hands, the attenuation of the limbs would have been no great loss. In fact, it would have been beneficial after the fact due to the above-mentioned conditions. The energy once used for maintaining flightmechanics was freed-up and channeled in a manner that utilized it to improve their then current viable methods of a fully terrestrial existence.


That’s a good scenario for ratites. Unfortunately, what is good for ratites isn’t good for dromaeosaurs. Life isn’t about being in the kitchen baking cookies with Martha Stewart. There are no written recipes. There are no cookie cutters. Basal dromaeosaurs had forelimbs covered in great big beautiful asymmetrical feathers. But wouldn¹t ya know it? They still had well developed hands. Later dromaeosaurs also had large hands, as well as well-developed claws. It is not a stretch of the imagination to see that these hands were still being used in the process of defense and/or food acquisition.

This means that the selective pressures against extensive paedomorphic activity was still in place (this is not to say that a much more subtle amount of peadomorphism could have occurred). Such a thing would be absent in the later neornithines that no longer utilized their hands in such

It is as Paul has pointed out over and over again… Since basal dromaeosaurs were newly volant, their bodies wouldn’t have been adapted very far away from a flightless style of living. Therefore, they were genetically only a hop and skip away from being flightless the entire time.


I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea. -FD

To go wrong in one’s own way is better then to go right in someone else’s.



Author: mmartel

"If he's honest, he'll steal; if he's human, he'll murder; if he's faithful, he'll deceive. Being at a loss to resolve these questions, I am resolved to leave them without any resolution." I have so much to say to you that I am afraid I shall tell you nothing."

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