Useless Evolution

first_imgMost people think of evolution producing useful traits.  But isn’t it also supposed to get rid of useless ones?  Science Daily reported work by researchers trying to figure that out.    The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina sponsored a team seeking to explore the removal of useless traits by natural selection – termed “relaxed selection” in the literature.  “Numerous cases of trait loss illustrate that evolution isn’t necessarily progressive, said one co-author of the study published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution.  Another co-author added, “It seems that not all the same evolutionary rules are followed when you’re losing a trait as when you’re gaining it.”    The closest thing to a law or principle they found is that traits tend to get lost faster if they cost more.  “The biggest reason why a trait goes away quickly is because it’s costly,” that same co-author said.  As an example, they cited blind cave creatures whose eyes deteriorate in the dark.  Presumably it requires too much metabolic energy to maintain eyesight.    The article was too short to say how they measure cost, or whether exceptions to the rule had been found.  Presumably it is easier to lose genetic information than gain it – raising doubts about whether natural selection theory applied to one has anything to do with the other.  The cover of the journal shows a cartoon of a herd of zebras standing at a safe distance from a relaxed lion sipping lemonade with an iPod headset on.Once again, evolutionary theory shows its inherent plasticity.  It can explain opposite things (see “Evolution Goes Forward, Backward and Sideways,” 12/19/2007).  Every law in evolutionary biology is subjective and riddled with exceptions (see 09/15/2008).  Biologists moan over the fact that their evolutionary theories do not have the regularities of physics 08/22/2005).  This should raise real questions whether evolutionary biology, which tries to reconstruct an unobservable history, deserves the status it gets in science.  Maybe it should be classed under Divination (03/14/2003 and 01/25/2008 commentaries).(Visited 16 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

In West Bengal, a peaceful election is held – by sex workers

first_imgElections in West Bengal are invariably a violent affair. But in this election, the eight candidates contesting sat in a row holding the symbols allotted to them, laughing and joking with each other.This unique election, held on Wednesday in city’s Salt Lake area, was restricted to the community of sex workers who cast their votes to elect the office bearers of Durbar Mahila Samanaway Committee (DMSC), the largest sex workers’ collective in the country with 50,000 members.Smarajit Jana, an advisor of the DMSC who oversaw the elections, said the process started in June with elections to the 45 branch committees spread across West Bengal. On Wednesday, the 180 elected representatives from the 45 branch committees gathered at a community hall in Salt Lake to elect the office-bearers . There are a strict set of guidelines for holding the polls and observers were appointed to ensure that the process was free and fair. Only those who declared themselves as “sex workers” could contest and vote in the elections. “We have been not allowed to access our mobile phones. We cannot talk to any of the voters, not even wave or smile to them,” said Bishakha Laskar, contesting for the post of the president of DMSC. Ms. Laskar’s election symbol was a ladder. Other contenders for the post were allotted symbols like the telephone and sun. Three set of ballot papers were printed for the voters to decide the top three office-bearers of the DMSC.Mamata Mukherjee, an office-bearer at the Chetla branch of DMSC, said she was a first-time voter. “There is not much difference between voting in this election and in the general election. The only difference is that there is no violence or fear here,” she said. Others involved in the process said the elections had been free and fair and without any violence. Banshi Badan Chattopadhyay, a retired school teacher, functioned as one of three observers in the poll process. “We are checking for false voters and ensuring that everything goes on as per rules,” Mr. Chattopadhyay said.Explaining the need for holding such polls, Dr. Jana said that the election not only empowered the women but also helped the office-bearers relate to the problems of fellow sex workers.Shortly after the end of the polling, Bishakha Laskar was elected as the president of DMSC, Kajal Bose as secretary and Abeda Bibi as it treasurer.last_img read more