Dinesh

Dinesh

Posted on 06/11/2013


Photo taken on February 15, 2013


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Darwin's dangerous idea


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Cognitive study of Autumn colors

Cognitive study of Autumn colors

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Dinesh
Dinesh
Suppose someone marveling at the brilliant autumn foliage in New England asks why the maple leaves are so vividly colored in October. Isn’t this adaptationism run amok? Shades of Dr. Pangloss! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candide The leaves are the colors they are simply because once the summer energy-harvest season is over, the chlorophyll vanishes from the leaves, and the residual molecules have reflective properties that happen to determine the bright colors – as explanation at the level of chemistry or physics, not biological purpose. But wait. Although this may have been the only explanation that was true uptil now, today it is true that human beings so prize the autumn foliate (it brings million of tourist dollars to northern New England each years) that they protect the trees that are brightest in autumn. You can be sure that if you are a tree competing for life in New England, there is now a selective advantage to having bright autumn foliage. It may be tiny, and in the long run it may never amount to much (In a long run, there may be no trees at all in New England, for one reason or another), but this is how all adaptation get their start, after all, so fortuitous effects that get opportunistically pricked up by selective forces in the environment. And of course there is also an adaptationist explanation for why right angles predominate in manufactured goods, and why symmetry predominates in organic limb manufacturing. These may become utterly fixed traditions, which would be almost impossible to dislodge by innovation, but the reasons why these are the traditions are not hard to find or controversial. ~ Page 248
4 years ago.