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10 Worst Evolutionary Designs 232

Posted by samzenpus
from the everyone-makes-mistakes dept.
JamJam writes "Besides my beer gut, which I'm sure has some purpose, Wired is running a story on the 10 Worst Evolutionary Designs. Ranging from baby giraffes being dropped 5-foot during birth to Goliath bird-eating spiders that practically explode when they fall from trees."

*

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10 Worst Evolutionary Designs

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  • Old (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hyperion2010 (1587241) on Monday August 10, 2009 @06:41PM (#29017225)

    This was posted 2 weeks ago, it was stupid then and is stupid now. Also, go back to digg with your lists kthxby.

    • Re:Old (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Monday August 10, 2009 @06:50PM (#29017345) Homepage Journal

      This was posted 2 weeks ago, it was stupid then and is stupid now. Also, go back to digg with your lists kthxby.

      I second that emotion. The most notable thing about the list is that it shows a possibly-unhealthy level of interest in non-human reproduction on the part of the author -- five out of the ten, including "slug genitalia" and "hyena clitoris". Mr. Wolman should either get into a college-level comparative anatomy class, or into therapy.

      And lists aren't such a bad thing, in and of themselves. I've gotten addicted to the Cracked Mazagine (sic) [cracked.com] lists of things like "The 6 Most Badass Murder Weapons in the Animal Kingdom". Compare those with the Wired.com list, and you can't help but wonder if Cracked already saw this list... and stamped it "REJECTED".

    • Re:Old (Score:5, Interesting)

      by spire3661 (1038968) on Monday August 10, 2009 @10:31PM (#29018935) Journal
      MY thoughts precisely. It is REALLY hard to make a list of bad evolution using SUCCESSFUL examples. Regardless of the weirdness of the design, it WORKS over the other designs that were submitted over the eons.
    • by nietsch (112711)

      Indeed. The list virus has dumbed down at least half of the internet, reviewing a stupid list would take things to an even lower level. Lists suck, write original content.

  • Humans (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kittenman (971447) on Monday August 10, 2009 @06:41PM (#29017235)
    1) Knees

    2) Windpipe close to channel to stomach - choking hazard

    3) Walking upright leads to distended colon, piles, etc

    4) As my wife says, playground close to a sewage works

    And first post, BTW...

    • Yes. playground close to sewage, however, cleanliness is close to godliness in this case.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        If you want to go that way, how about humanity and the lack of a self cleaning butt. Intelligent design, WTF, if humanity was so intelligent you reckoned by now they would have figured a way of genetically engineering a self cleaning backend.

        Most poorly physically designed monkey on the planet. If some of them, mind you only minority, didn't have brains they would be of any use at all and likely be extinct by now from some random butt infection.

    • Re:Humans (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bertie (87778) on Monday August 10, 2009 @07:30PM (#29017731)

      Ah, but...

      The design of our breathing/eating apparatus may be a choking hazard, but it gives us the ability to do a neat trick that no other animal can: speak.

      Ever noticed how babies can feed and breathe at the same time, but you can't? This is because of the shape of their vocal tract, which is more like an animal's than yours at that point. Babies need to get a lot of food down their necks as quickly as possible, because they're busy growing. Speaking can wait.

      After a few months, things start to move around - the larynx drops, the back of the throat curves round into a right-angle, and all of a sudden they have to choose between eating and breathing. But the reshaped vocal tract allows them to form configurations of the speech organs which weren't previously possible, and so they learn to speak.

      • This amply demonstrates the key fact of evolution. It does not produce optimized designs, but rather compromises. While humans are far more likely to die from choking than darned near any other vertebrate out there, this major survival disadvantage is offset by the advantages of being able to produce a wide variety of sounds. All that counts at the end of the day is whether any evolved feature can in some way positively effect reproductive success.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by paylett (553168)

          This is something that I've always found hard to understand with the argument for evolution. Surely the natural selection process would strongly bias against any traits that result in the animal being killed off in the first few minutes. (And likewise a strong bias towards traits that improve birth mortality rates). Yet we see so many instances of "poor design" in the birth process. Four in this article alone.

          If natural selection does such a "poor" job of refining the birthing mechanism when there is a c

          • Re:Humans (Score:4, Informative)

            by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday August 10, 2009 @09:08PM (#29018441)

            1) Don't listen to some article writer at Wired to learn what is or is not a bad birth process. Several of the ones he mentioned seem silly until you know more about them, then they make sense. Other things that continue to seem silly may do so because we just haven't figured them out yet. Similarly, lots of irreducible complexity arguments that originally seemed convincing have famously fallen to new insights.

            2) Evolution doesn't produce "perfection" or even necessarily approach it. Evolution is an optimization process. It can certainly get stuck in local minima.

          • I may be reading between the lines here, but it sounds like you're saying that you have doubts about evolution because you perceive poor design? Making a slight leap of faith, I'm going to assume that you favor a designed-by-God explanation for life as we know it?

            So if you perceive poor design, what does that say about the designer? Maybe, instead, there is an error in your assessment of what makes a good design? Whether you think these traits have evolved or were created by God (or both), it is pointless

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Kral_Blbec (1201285)
              He isnt saying poor design. He is saying there are a whole lot of traits that would have had/have zero reproductive advantage, yet are clearly evident in modern animals.
              I tend to agree. My example is the elephant. The first animals (presumably like a pig) had a short nose. Some random member of the species gets born with a slightly longer nose. Not much mind you, because they cant have very much variation in only one generation, so this nose is barely noticeable to be longer, yet it has so much reproducti
              • Re:Humans (Score:4, Interesting)

                by joeyblades (785896) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @01:32AM (#29019897)

                Your examples are only confounding because

                1. You don't have enough information to comprehend the selective advantages
                2. You make assumptions about the limits of evolution
                3. It makes you uncomfortable within your belief system

                Just because you can't think of a reproductive advantage, doesn't mean there isn't / wasn't one. The details of the selective pressures that drove most evolutionary changes are lost to unrecorded history.

                You assume that snouts can only evolve 0.2cm in a single generation but, perhaps they can, with the right mutation, lengthen 20cm within one generation.

                You assume that blow holes moved fractions of centimeters per eon from some other uncertain location, but perhaps they simply erupted from the back of the existing breathing apparatus in one evolutionary jump.

                To be sure, the evolutionary evidence for most dramatic body plan changes seems to support the slow and incremental, but there is evidence that evolution can take dramatic steps in shorter periods of time.

                Just because an idea makes you feel uncomfortable, doesn't mean you should reject it. Most great steps in human thought were initially rejected as untenable because they challenged the existing belief systems.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Capsaicin (412918)

                He isnt saying poor design. He is saying there are a whole lot of traits that would have had/have zero reproductive advantage, yet are clearly evident in modern animals.

                The problem here the whole notion of "reproductive advantage" which gets evolution arse-end round. Rather we should be looking for reproductive disadvantages. The real question is "will this change increase the chances of the animal dying before it has had a change to reproduce."

                My example is the elephant. The first animals (presumably

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by holmstar (1388267)

                How does their breathing tract move from their mouth, to another orifice?

                It didn't! Most animals breath mostly through their noses, not their mouths. The nostrils of the proto-dolphins migrated from the tip of the nose to the top of the head, presumably because being able to breathe while keeping your head level/pointed downward has a survival benefit... easier to see enemies/food/whatever swimming through the water, probably.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by ucblockhead (63650)

            It's cost/benefits. Imagine an animal. Now tweak it slightly. That tweak may increase the incidence of some sorts of death and decrease the incidence of other sorts of death. Does the one outweigh the other? If so, over time, there will be more and more animals with that tweak.

            That's evolution in a nutshell.

            Evolution means that if a change that makes humans 10% smarter and therefore much more successful hunters and therefore less likely to starve but means a 4% increased infant mortality then that chan

            • by timeOday (582209)

              In which worldview does cancer make sense?

              In the worldview of the individual cells that make up your body, evolving traits allowing them to multiply rapidly and without limit, instead of being subservient to the big population of cells (your body) in which they live. In the short term, greed is a supreme evolutionary strategy.

          • Re:Humans (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Fujisawa Sensei (207127) on Monday August 10, 2009 @11:11PM (#29019175) Journal

            This is something that I've always found hard to understand with the argument for evolution. Surely the natural selection process would strongly bias against any traits that result in the animal being killed off in the first few minutes. (And likewise a strong bias towards traits that improve birth mortality rates). Yet we see so many instances of "poor design" in the birth process. Four in this article alone.

            If natural selection does such a "poor" job of refining the birthing mechanism when there is a clear correlation between some new (good or bad) trait and the likelihood of that trait being propagated to future generations, then how can we reasonably expect that it is also responsible for highly refined systems where there is a much lower correlation between the new trait and the likelihood of producing offspring. (For example, in esoteric features of the imune system, or the brain - the new trait may only even come into play in certain situations during the animals life, and therefore only has any selective power in the specific animals for which it occurs ... unlike traits relating to birth which are immediately tested for all creatures)

            If evolution is about compromise, then the most obvious compromises would favour succesful birth. If birth is unsuccesful than other traits don't even get a chance to be tested.

            Considering the following.

            Evolution is flawed, makes sense because its an ongoing process.

            Creatures are flawed, through the deliberate act of the creator. That makes the creator either a dipshit, or an asshole.

            Take your choice.

          • Re:Humans (Score:4, Interesting)

            by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @02:01AM (#29020049) Journal

            You're thinking from an engineer's point of view, but evolution simply does not work like that. Evolution is, at its core, the concept of differential reproduction. Very few traits are absolutely beneficial, and even if they were, the environment can change quickly. In fact optimization can be downright bad for a species. Species that are too tightly bound to specific environments can be thrown into serious trouble when environmental change happens.

            If environments were static, maybe you could reach a permanent equilibrium, but environments are not. There are constant pressures on populations, and that makes optimization pretty much impossible.

            Evolution is really a statistical science. An trait's survival isn't so much a yes-no, but more a trend. Think of human birth. Yes, it's true, we're born far more prematurely than most mammals, and even at that, passage through the birth canal can lead to death in both the infant and mother. But the survival advantages of having a large brain are so great that the trade-off of higher infant and mother mortality rates is more than offset. You also have to consider that traits don't exist in isolation. Yes, it would be better if the birth canal were widened so that passage of the infant were easier, or maybe even allowing a longer gestation period to permit the birth of more mature offspring, but now you would start intruding on pelvic size, and that means severe disabilities as far as mobility. Since bipedalism also confers substantial benefits on our species, it means there is a physical limit on how large the pelvic area can get before females would no longer be effectively upright. Thus you have two competing traits, and what you ultimately get is the trade-off, that women can still walk, although the center of gravity is different, a sacrifice to some degree of mobility and strength.

      • by Locklin (1074657)

        Exhibit A: The Dolphin.

        Sure, the human vocal tract is a modification of that of a primate for controlled speech, but it's little more than a bad hack. There are much better ways to do it (if one was to "design" such a system)

    • Re:Humans (Score:5, Insightful)

      by colinrichardday (768814) <colin.day.6@hotmail.com> on Monday August 10, 2009 @07:34PM (#29017759)

      3) Walking upright leads to distended colon, piles, etc

      It also allows us to use our hands better, for things like wielding weapons against animals that would kill us otherwise.

      • by Locklin (1074657)

        I think that's the point. It may allow for free hands, but it's a shitty way of accomplishing that. Virtually every insect on earth can walk and have free limbs at the same time.

      • by madsenj37 (612413)
        It also allows use to expend less energy than is we used all 4 limbs for movement like our our primate friends.
        • I've read that the only land animal that can outrun humans over an entire day is the kangaroo, which also uses bipedal locomotion.

          • I've read that the only land animal that can outrun humans over an entire day is the kangaroo, which also uses bipedal locomotion.

            How do you define "out run" a human? Average speed? Total distance? Regardless, several large breed dogs can cover more distance at a much higher average speed than a person. Especially ones that were bred for such things, like a Malamute or a Husky. These types of dogs can easily cover 30+ miles in a day while pulling a sled in the snow. A horse can cover easily cover 30 miles on rough terrain, and Arabians and other types of endurance horses can cover 100 mile in a continuous 24 hour period. As far as I

            • by Dahamma (304068)

              How do you define "out run" a human? Average speed? Total distance?

              Um. You do realize these are effectively the same over a period of time (like 24 hours?)

              In case not... how about an elementary school example...

              4mph (ave) * 24 hours = 96 miles
              96 miles / 24 hours = 4mph

              Amazing stuff, eh? ;)

              Just to be fair on the rest of your comment... looked it up and the human record for 100 miles is 11:30, while for a horse (with rider!) is about 7 hours. Then again, a human has also run 188 miles in 24 hours. Not sayi

            • According to this, people have done 152 miles in under 30 hours (record: 20:25:00)

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spartathlon [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by v1 (525388)

      4) As my wife says, playground close to a sewage works

      That's usually the voters at work actually. Parks require large plots of land and are very expensive most places besides flood planes and near sewage treatment plants where property values are very low. And so that's where you find 95% of parks because no one would vote for a park if the price went up tenfold by a change of venue.

    • by retchdog (1319261)

      Without getting into too much detail with #4, note that urine at least functions as an antibacterial agent: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=297400 [nih.gov]

      As for the other part, well, I'm pretty sure that for most of our evolutionary past, we tended to die long before incontinence would set in...

  • Clearly, no intelligence was involved in these designs. I guess that solves it.
    • by Kligat (1244968)

      {
      state_entry
            { if (funny animal feature like platupus);
      llBloviate "godhasasenseofhumor"
            else
      llBloviate "godmadeitsobeautifully"
            xor
      llBloviate "itmustbethedevilswork"}
      }

      Can you still get modded up if you write your post as if it were a programming language even if you have no clue what what programming language you just made up?

      • first prove it is a real programming language, i.e. turing complete.

        I'm sure I'll be modded "off topic" for this one.

        My first impression is that your language isn't since there is no way to loop.

        • first prove it is a real programming language, i.e. turing complete.

          Many actual programming languages in wide use are not Turing-complete because they lack the means to address an unbounded processing memory. But they are LBA-complete [wikipedia.org] (processing size proportional to input size), which is all that matters in practice.

          My first impression is that your language isn't since there is no way to loop.

          If there is recursion, there is looping.

          • by retchdog (1319261)

            If there is recursion, there is a means to address an unbounded processing memory, unless the recursion is explicitly restricted in some way (as it is in the case of LBA which is equivalent to context-sensitive grammar).

          • by plopez (54068)

            damn nerd. We're quibling over definitions of "real" but I'll give the the LBA. Still no sign of recursion though which, IIRC is logically equivalent to loops.

  • Spartan Giraffes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Knave75 (894961) on Monday August 10, 2009 @06:45PM (#29017269)
    Perhaps the great fall is a way to cull the weak giraffes. Those that do not survive the 5 foot drop would never have been successful in the wild. Ditto for the slow-evolving shark siblings. If your brother eats you in the womb and you do not adequately defend yourself, then you simply did not deserve to live.

    Seriously though, evolution does not provide traits that are advantageous, it simply removes those that are disadvantageous, relative to other traits. That is a subtle but important difference. Eating your brothers and sisters in-utero sounds pretty gross, but unless it hurts the reproductive rate of those who carry that gene, there is no reason to weed it out.
    • by tool462 (677306) on Monday August 10, 2009 @07:09PM (#29017531)

      Exactly. The only way I can think of to even start to consider a "worst evolutionary design" would have to be in terms of adaptability. I.e., how sensitive is the life form to small changes in its environment? Even that is full of problems though, as "best" and "worst" are measured only relative to the current environment. Any stable population could be considered the best solution for its environment--at least a local maximum, if not global.

      As a side note, this thread is also why you should never invite a pedant to a party. We have the capability of sucking the joy out of nearly any conversation.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tieTYT (989034)

      Seriously though, evolution does not provide traits that are advantageous, it simply removes those that are disadvantageous

      Um, source? If this were true, wouldn't we still be single celled organisms right now?

    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Monday August 10, 2009 @07:34PM (#29017765) Homepage Journal

      "...evolution does not provide traits that are advantageous, ..."
      Yes it does.

      "it simply removes those that are disadvantageous"
      That would assume you ahve all traits at the 'beginning'.

      New traits can develop from new mutations.

      You seem to be a little too Lamarkian.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by samurphy21 (193736)

        I think perhaps we all have a difference of symantics between "evolution", "mutation", and "natural selection".

        natural selection will select those most fit for survival within a species, thereby weeding out those with undesirable traits in relation to the rest.

        mutation provides the grist of the natural selection mill, giving it new material to select from.

        Evolution is the overall process of species adapting genetically and eventually forming new and more numerous species.

        Thats how I view it, but IANAEB.

        • Darwin's theory explains how evolution occurs due to mutation and natural selection. Mutation is a core part of the theory.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by skine (1524819)
            Yes, but what GP was specifying was that evolution, mutation and natural selection are not the same thing at all. It's similar to how hydrogen and oxygen atoms are essential parts of a water molecule, but it's crucial not to just lump the three together as being one in the same.
      • Re:Spartan Giraffes (Score:5, Interesting)

        by v1 (525388) on Monday August 10, 2009 @08:30PM (#29018199) Homepage Journal

        "...evolution does not provide traits that are advantageous, ..."
        Yes it does.

        Possibly more correct to say that evolution continuously offers random features which may or may not be advantageous, and the features which are detrimental to its survival tend to be removed from the gene pool.

        OP is correct in saying that evolution in itself doesn't provide anything specifically helpful. It does encourage traits that happen to be beneficial though. Evolution is not the process of trying improvements, that's what heterosexual reproduction is for. The purpose of evolution is to improve on the survival of the accidentally better designs.

        There are an insane number of good examples, but I'll toss out a good one now. Sickle Cell Anemia. Sucks if you have it, has a variety of nasty side effects and no visible benefit. Except if you live in say, Nicaragua, and are exposed to malaria-bearing mosquitoes all the time. Something about the cell shape defies the virus, SCA sufferers are immune to malaria. So the SCA expression there is very very high because although it grants a disadvantage, it also grants an advantage. Interesting thing about SCA is you only need one gene to have immunity, and require both to get the nasty side effects. But it's advantageous enough to be kept.

        • Certain traits may cause other creatures with other traits that previously weren't detrimental to die out due to competition. That seems to be "advantageous".

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Potor (658520)
          How can you talk about evolution having a purpose? That implies design.
      • Two comments:
         
        Why the FUCK is idle showing up on my main page again? I killed it for good reason the first time.
         
        Secondly, RE: Evolution, they apparently missed the big job of of hyena clitorises - it allows the female to be in complete control of mating. In hyena circles, the males are inferior, and have to be on good terms to pass on their genes. It's a genetic chastity belt.

    • by v1 (525388)

      There are a couple animals in the wild that birth several young at a time, and the siblings kill or eat each other until at the end of the rearing there's only one left. (the strongest) I think they were both birds iirc. Anyone happen to know what critters I'm thinking of?

    • by nizo (81281) *

      Same thing for the spiders: the sure footed ones pass their genes on, while those less sure footed explode on the ground.

    • by timeOday (582209)

      Perhaps the great fall is a way to cull the weak giraffes.

      Sure, maybe [wikipedia.org].

  • by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs@ovi. c o m> on Monday August 10, 2009 @06:47PM (#29017301) Homepage

    The Pontiac Aztec. God they were ugly.

  • That's a good point -- why don't we have cellulose-digesting gut bacteria? And why can't we just pop a pill and add them?

    • Re:Gut bacteria (Score:4, Informative)

      by jonored (862908) on Monday August 10, 2009 @07:21PM (#29017625)
      The apparatus to ferment cellulose into digestibles internally is rather large and high-maintainence. There's the multiple 'stomachs' before the main one where the bacteria breed, the cow routinely vomits up some to mechanically reprocess, and occasionally when venting becomes blocked for any reason a cow dies becuase their lungs were crushed by the expanding gasses in their stomach. termites get away with a lot because of being small. Additionally, there was that study that indicated that developments in the human intellect were associated with us starting to use cooking as an external digestion method - might not be the best thing for us in particular to add digesting some of the hardest foodstuff to use when we already diverted that energy to brainpower. And if we use cows properly we get the best of both worlds anyways - fueling ourselves off of cellulose with only the effort of keeping a few cows to eat. Of course, we don't, and use them as an inefficient step between stuff we /can/ eat and us, but that's another issue.
      • by Bertie (87778)

        There's more than one approach to breaking down cellulose. Rabbits have a rather less sophisticated apparatus than the cow, packing a single stomach chamber and a big appendix full of helpful bacteria.

        I suppose we could have developed something like this. The catch is that breaking down cellulose by this method requires two passes through the digestive tract, so we'd have to eat our own shit.

        I dunno about you, but I'm happy enough doing without.

    • by emandres (857332)
      As to the possible nutritional benefits of cellulose, I don't know, but I do know that I'm pretty glad for the "auxiliary" functions it plays in my digestive system. If you all of a sudden start digesting cellulose, prepare for some of the worst constipation you and your gastroenterologist have ever seen. Not to mention the fact that to get rid of the cellulose munching bacteria you would have to go through a horrible GI tract cleansing regimen.
  • by Cyberax (705495) on Monday August 10, 2009 @06:53PM (#29017385)

    "If it's stupid but it works, it isn't stupid" - that also applied to evolutionary designs.

    Also, some of these 'design issues' might in truth be advantages. For example, sea mammals can swim through oxygen-depleted dead waters just fine - they don't depend on dissolved oxygen.

  • I have heard of these giant spiders breaking apart like glass but yet to see any documented footage of it happening.
    • by hedwards (940851)
      Despite what the article says, it isn't a bad design. The goliath bird-eating spider is very close to the limit for size on a creature with an exoskeleton. Exoskeletons tend to get weaker the larger the body and at a point just a bit bigger than this creature the exoskeleton is no longer able to handle it.

      And yes, it does happen, a drop of pretty much any tarantula, even from waist level is going to prove to be fatal. I'm not sure how this is a bad design since we'd probably be killed falling out of a ta
  • Not Design! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TrippTDF (513419) <hiland&gmail,com> on Monday August 10, 2009 @07:09PM (#29017523)
    The scientific community has enough to worry about with the term "design"... we should use these examples as proof that there is no design! Although they are logically not the best example of how to propagate a species, we should not confuse evolution with design.
    • Re:Not Design! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sleeponthemic (1253494) on Monday August 10, 2009 @08:15PM (#29018103) Homepage
      Not to mention the fact that people shouldn't confuse evolution for "perfection". We're choosing an arbitrary point in time (now) to draw a line in the sand, claiming organisms should be perfectly adapted at this point. Wrong.
      • Not to mention that Evolution is an algorithm that very much suffers from local maxima. Even given infinite time, creatures might not become perfectly adapted.

    • by twostix (1277166)

      It's funny, the hanger ons to the scientific community have worked *so hard* to diminish the idea of god in the common man and replace it with their utopian ideal of a purely "science" based society - where "science is anything that furthers their ideal no matter how shakey or psuedo.

      And replace it they have, with the outcome being lists like these where the average person just replaces the word "god" with "evolution" and "nature" but doesn't replace the belief system behind it (some invisible force conscio

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by arminw (717974)

      ....we should not confuse evolution with design....

      That is right, evolution is random, but design is purposeful.

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Monday August 10, 2009 @07:16PM (#29017583)
    It doesn't matter if it's stupid or looks ugly, so long as it gets the job done.

    In any evolutionary system, provided the species with the "mistakes" survives to maturity in sufficient numbers to maintain the population, it's a success.

    Maybe the real stupid evolutionary "designs" belong to all the thousands of species that have been too inflexible to survive and have become extinct.

  • How can having a kangaroo crawl into a protective area (where prey cannot pick them off easily) be considered poor design? Are they forgetting our dingos are partial to a bit of baby?
    • by geekoid (135745)

      Because a good design would have given them lasers.

      Yeah, lame article that seems to be written by someone who doesn't grok the fact that evolution isn't a process that gives us the ultimate species based on our preconceptions of what is stupid.
      And somethings are just chance or an evolutionary byproduct.

    • by FooAtWFU (699187)

      How can having a kangaroo crawl into a protective area (where prey cannot pick them off easily) be considered poor design?

      That would be because of the "epic crawl" part. Have you never seen this on the Discovery Channel or something? The pupa is this tiny slug-like thing, maybe a centimeter long, and it needs to crawl halfway up its mothers' front side and then back down into the pocket. The mother kangaroo is there licking a trail into her own fur to make it a liittle bit easier for the poor thing. Not ju

      • How can having a kangaroo crawl into a protective area (where prey cannot pick them off easily) be considered poor design?

        That would be because of the "epic crawl" part. Have you never seen this on the Discovery Channel or something? The pupa is this tiny slug-like thing, maybe a centimeter long, and it needs to crawl halfway up its mothers' front side and then back down into the pocket. The mother kangaroo is there licking a trail into her own fur to make it a liittle bit easier for the poor thing. Not just really weird, kinda risky on the newborn.

        Clearly I have been too busy playing knifey spoony. Jesus.

  • by turing_m (1030530) on Monday August 10, 2009 @07:43PM (#29017841)

    Storing fat is a useful way of surviving famine or food shortages. Unfortunately the stored fat always makes the male less athletic, less able to fight, hunt, evade, etc. Storing extra fat on the gut/love handle area is probably the best compromise for athletic purposes - lowest center of gravity possible without adding excess weight to the legs (which have to change direction rapidly).

    The worst places to store fat in large quantities are at the extremities such as fingers, toes, hands, feet, forearms, calves and the head, because of the reduction to athletic performance.

    Ass, thighs and chest aren't as great as the mid-section but aren't terrible. These areas are where women usually store their fat because if they stored it on their gut men can't tell if they are are pregnant or not.

    • Also, conspicuously visible fat is historically a great way of saying, "Hey, look at me! I'm so successful that I can eat TONS of food!"
      Not so true these days, though...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 10, 2009 @07:45PM (#29017865)

    Oh isn't this a great parlour game! Did you know that the retina is backwards, which is why we have a blind spot? How horrible, how inefficient!

    These types of things are all very fun to discuss. But please oh PLEASE do not draw any inferences from them. They don't mean ANYTHING, from a philosophical or theological perspective.

    (Example) The vagus nerve in giraffe's neck is as long and ungainly as it is because of the way it develops in the fetus. To make it more efficient in the adult would require a change in the course of fetal development. And depending on how you change the course of fetal development, other things need to change, too. This is a very large and complex system of interconnected dependencies. To look at one isolated phenotypic feature and say, "Hey, I could have designed that better!" bespeaks of a total lack of knowledge about what all is involved in development.

    I will say for the record that I believe in evolution, not intelligent design. But whenever I heard people "on my side" using examples like this as "evidence" for NOT intelligent design it frustrates me. You have absolutely no idea the entire bredth of changes -- on every level, from genetics to protein synthesis to overall development -- that would be required to make whatever "inefficient design" work better. It isn't as simple as looking at the adult and saying "this nerve should go here, instead!"

    So, that's my little rant. Examples like these are fun. They're entertaining. They're cute.

    They are "evidence" of absolutely nothing.

  • design! (Score:5, Informative)

    by fermion (181285) on Monday August 10, 2009 @07:49PM (#29017895) Homepage Journal
    There are so many bad "designs". baby butterflies dying because they can't get out of the cocoon. Reasonable from an evolutionary perspective, but what designer would want to kill baby butterflies.

    Or what about pain that will never go away. What is the purpose of have a burn victim still feel pain days after the injury. Or lifelong back pain. What kind of design relishes in making organisms suffer for no apparent reason?

    Then of course there is sex. From a procreation point of view, one would the process to be as simple as possible, not a few to several minutes of interaction. One could have designed us so the interaction was separate from reproduction. That way we could couple as needed, to have orgasms, but then make babies only when it was useful. The combination of the two is obvious trickery, and it says something about the design.

  • the human foot is the stupidest most ugliest thing. the shape is completely pointless, the whole 5 wiggling toes thing is absurd and useless. to say toes help us grip and balance is to argue from the starting assumption that the human foot its the best design, which it obviously isn't. a truly intelligent design would be something like pan from greek legend: hooves. now a hoof is smart

    and the foot is also the most accessible argument against intelligent design in your rhetorical toolbox. i mean come on, look at your damn foot: how can you look at a human foot and NOT see that it was once a monkey hand for gripping trees coopted into the need to walk instead, and that this "foot" is a relatively "new" development in our monkey lineage?

    next time you're confronted with an intelligent design moron, take off your shoe, resist throwing it at them, and show them your foot

  • For those that want to look at nature, there's plenty of male chauvinism to go around for bitter old men to look at. One example of pure chauvinistic genius is one animal, and I think its the giraffe, whose schlong goes and mashes up whatever giraffe baby might already be in there, just to make sure that he knocks up the lady giraffe with his own seed. Then, there's the lion, who, after killing off a rival, causes the lady to spontaneously miscarry, and she then mates with him to carry his seed.

    • by bhiestand (157373)

      Not to mention the fruit fly, which has a scoop-shaped penis. Its penis scoops sperm out of the female fly, so he can replace it with his own, thus increasing the odds that the babies will be his.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Monday August 10, 2009 @09:07PM (#29018429) Homepage

    It's not really evolutionary design, it's evolutionary results.

    Evolution doesn't sit down at the drawing board and try to figure out how to give birth to a giraffe. This is the end result of bazillions of little experiments that ended up with the rather comic/disturbing notion of a baby giraffe falling that far.

    I'm sure to an advanced species, our mating habits, genitals, mode of breathing, and whatnot look hilarious. :-P

    Cheers

    • Yours is the first comment in this discussion ive read that even mentioned the large scale trial and error aspect of evolution
  • I think there is odd concept that Evolution produces the most efficient methods should be reduced. Evolution creates good enough, not perfect creatures. As well during the process better designs have failed for lesser designs as temporary conditions create such a situation. Sure good designs hold a better chance but like probability you can still get whipped out.

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @12:17AM (#29019497) Homepage
    Evolution is a process, not an end goal. The creatures described here are not 'completed', but are instead a work in progress. Also note, many of the 'issues' have secret advantages. For example a whale can dive deeper than most fish can swim because of the huge lungs that go with the blow hole instead of the gills that are more limited.
  • 5 Goliath bird-eating spider exoskeleton. This giant spider can climb trees to hunt very mobile prey. Yet it has a shell so fragile it practically explodes when it falls? Well, at least it can produce silk to make a sail. Oh, wait -- it can't!

    If such a population-limiting feature on this monstrosity is not mercy shown to us by the Almighty Lord, what is it??

  • There is no such thing as evolutionary design. Evolution is a natural process that happens over time, guided in its process by the indeterminable events and environments that it may encounter. Evolution is the end result of all of the minor adaptions that have happened over time.

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