Skepticism

Skepchick Quickies – Weekend Edition, 12.13

Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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22 Comments

  1. Movies that Ruined Evolution:
    I agree with his premise, but a couple of those are B-movies that are so old and poorly written (like the Creature from the Blue Lagoon) that no one can possible take them seriously. (Actually, there’s damn little that comes out of Hollywood that should be taken seriously, but I digress.) They are the equivalent of mental bubble gum and should be viewed as such.

    I thought that “Jurassic Park” was pretty good overall, and Michael Crichton tried to “paper over” the obvious plot and science flaws as best he could. Some of that “papering over” had to be left out because it wouldn’t translate to film well and there were practical considerations like the film’s length and the audience’s attention span.

    Remember, these are science-FICTION movies, and as such we must allow for what we can generously call “poetic license” to a certain extent. There are good reasons why MST3K existed – because there are so few really good hard science-fiction movies out there and so many terrible ones.

  2. “When you look at it in this way, Expelled is just the latest in a long line of films that distort the theory of evolution to make a buck.”

    The same argument could be made about any scientific principle in many typical movies:
    – undead people
    – time travel
    – the funky things that happen to characters due to “radiation”
    – any movie ever about ghosts, ancient newly-awoken ginormous animals, etc.

    So why single out evolution other than it’s “vogue” right now? Movies are movies. Anyone who goes to them to learn (other than well-made, unbiased documentaries) has some serious problems with education.

  3. @QuestionAuthority:

    Wasn’t the Creature from the Blue Lagoon, Brooke Shields or Milla? Nothing wrong with evolution in EITHER case.

    @Kimbo Jones:
    Radiation is soooo 1960’s. Who can forget the hilarious hijnx on that little island of castaways when the box of radioactive seeds washed ashore?

    These days its all gene therapy and gene splicing ala the new Spiderman movies that have replaced radioactivity…

  4. Pfft, giving up sex for the internet? I doubt that’s the case, considering a rather large proportion of the internet is sex graphics, sex fanfic, second life sex, etc. It’s just avoiding the sitcky bits.

    There is no escaping rule #34.

  5. @Kimbo: And of course the crucial diff with Expelled is that it’s a documentary. It claims to be factual.

    On another topic, I shook my head when I read that a journalist agreed not mention Xenu when writing about $cientology. The Xenu myth is central to the cult. Without Xenu murdering all those space aliens 75 million years ago, we wouldn’t have all those body thetans to worry about today.

  6. For the internet one: I totally picked internet over cable when my roommate moved out to be in love. I guess she picked sex over the internet. But, thanks to the internet more people are having sex with themselves than ever before. So I think this one is a wash.

  7. Boo!!! to the man who says these movies ruined evolution. Jurassic Park didn’t even have evolution in it. “but it has genetics in it so it counts” fuck that, evolution is so much more than just genetics. Also it had dinosaurs in it so it ruled, Helllooooo.

  8. I think the real reason women evolved going through menopause is so that there would be some less-fertile females around for old men to bond to and have sex with, so the old men would not be fighting (to the death) with young men for the most fertile females.

    Having older people around was a good thing, provided they could gather food for themselves plus a little more. They were the only repository of knowledge until the advent of writing which was only a few thousand years ago.

    Groups where there were females not worth fighting to the death over (because they were not fertile) did better than groups where every female was fertile until she died in childbirth.

  9. There may not actually be a reason menopause exists of course. If there is a fitness cost to having extra ova (and since they take up space and resources I assume there is) then it may may just be that the number women have is large enough. Menopause may just be a byproduct.

  10. Aw, I loved ‘The Descent’. I thought it was one of the best horror films in the last decade, a genre that has lost its way over that period … Based on the criteria presented in the article, I would argue that are equally if not more extreme examples of films that offend actual principles of evolution for which evolution is a major plot element – e.g., the entire X-Men series, ‘Altered States’, off the top of my head.

  11. @Cola: I think that ignores the interesting bit about the mechanisms that are involved. Of course evolution doesn’t have a goal in mind, but did menopause evolve because it somehow helped to pass on more genes or is it just one of those things that happened because it’s linked to other genes? So does it have a “purpose” (fitness) or not – and how do we sort that out? That is an interesting question for evolution aficionados about almost any biological aspect of any species.

  12. One thing to remember is that we only achieved our current life spans recently, and I suspect women carry enough eggs to last the much shorter historical life span. Historically very few women would live long enough to hit menopause.

  13. When you are comparing ‘average’ lifespans between populations you should also keep in mind that most of the difference is being driven by infant mortality rates. We have had huge increases in infant survival in modern times and a rather less dramatic increase in survival of the elderly. So if you happened to survive childbirth there is a good chance you would have lived long enough to help raise your grandchildren.

    Having said that – I was a student of some Anthropology professors who were looking into the Grandmother Hypothesis in the late 90’s and their data didn’t support it. I thought that was too bad because it’s a really great idea.

  14. @whiskeyjack42: It’s been awhile since I studyed any anthropolgy, but I believe you’re thinking of the increased infant survival driving the population upward.

    I don’t remember average survival rates being longer that mid 30’s , if it was even that long. Especially in pre-historic times. But I’m willing to be corrected.

  15. I looked at http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005140.html and noted that for 10 year old (past infant mortality) non-white females in 1900 the life expectancy was only 53 (43+10) which falls inside the age of menopause. Since this is based on US data I think it is fair to assume that this is still probably better than the world average at the time and almost certainly better than the world average for the past million years.

    Given that data and assuming that (as I learned in middle school biology) women are born with all the eggs they will ever have (or do they develop soon after?) there would be little evolutionary pressure to ‘waste’ resources on increasing the supply of eggs in a developing female ovary as few of those additional eggs would likely be used.

    It would be interesting to see if (the?) menopause were to occur in domestic or captive wild animals whose life expectancy is increased significantly. But would would the increase need to be in absolute or relative terms anyhow?

    PS I agree with Cola that the construction of the telegraph headline implies that evolution has direction or goals and should have been worded differently.

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