The Weasel Program

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Would this method work?

Yes, it would be faster.
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Yes, it would work, but it would be slower.
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Yes, but it would take longer than the universe has existed.
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No votes
No, it would not work at all.
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Total votes: 2

olavisjo
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The Weasel Program

Post #1

Post by olavisjo »

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In his book, The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins proposes a computer program to solve genetic problems with cumulative selection where the selection is based on a target phrase. He does say that this is a cheat, as evolution does not have a target or goal to achieve but it does demonstrate the power of cumulative selection.

The question for debate: Would this method of targeted evolution work faster or slower than the blind natural selection that originally created the target animal?

For example, could we evolve a chimp into a human faster than the common ancestor, of the two, evolved into a human with this method.
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Re: The Weasel Program

Post #2

Post by Divine Insight »

olavisjo wrote: The question for debate: Would this method of targeted evolution work faster or slower than the blind natural selection that originally created the target animal?
Absolutely. This is actually a form of "Genetic Engineering". The only restriction with this method seems to be that the genetic engineer must only working via selection of existing offspring rather than actually attempting to manipulate or add any external DNA.

In fact, this is the method that has actually been used by humans in both the breeding of livestock (and pets) as well as in the breeding of plants. Corn is certainly a prime example of this. It is highly unlikely that corn as we know it would have ever evolved by natural selection. Of if it did it would just be a fluke, because as you point out nature would have no "reason" to aim for that goal. But humans did have a reason. And this is why we currently have Corn.
olavisjo wrote: For example, could we evolve a chimp into a human faster than the common ancestor, of the two, evolved into a human with this method.

Again, doing this via only "unnatural selection" (like we did with corn) it could take a very long time. Especially with chimps because chimps have a pretty long procreation cycle.

What would need to be done is to breed a LOT of chimps, and then simply selecting from the offspring the ones that have characteristics that most closely match those of humans. Then breeding those together, and so on. Given enough time (which would no doubt be many decades or more likely centuries) we would necessarily end up with a species that is very much like a human since those are the traits we would have been selecting for.

In other words, we would have "caused" the outcome by "purposeful genetic selection". There can be no doubt that this would indeed work over a long enough period of time.

If we started such a program we might even be able to see some progressive changes in as little as a few decades. (i.e. obviously smarter Chimps). Because we would naturally be choosing to select the smartest chimps to always breed.

Only after they start to show signs of higher intelligence would we start choosing for body appearance, etc. We would eventually get "hairless" chimps that are totally bipedal etc.

As the experiment started reaching the "goal" we would actually be breeding very "human-like" chimps to even be more "perfectly human". In short, the program would end up being one where "humans" are being bred for even more "perfect humans".

Would they really be "humans"? I don't know. The answer to that from a genetic point of view would simply be to ask whether or not they can actually procreate or breed successfully with a human. And that would require that the DNA is so close as to be compatible enough to create a dependably reproduced offspring.

I would suggest that this would be highly unlikely. If we selectively bred Chimpanzees to become animals that look and think like human beings, they would probably still be quite incompatible in terms of breeding with humans. Because their DNA would ultimately be too different.

That would be my guess.

In other words, you can potentially have two totally different species of animals that exhibit the same external appearance (including intelligence and behavior) and yet have entirely different DNA instructions to build them. And therefore they could not just procreate together and expect to have viable offspring. So in that sense, even if we did "evolve" Chimps to be almost exactly like Humans in every observable way, they would still ultimately be different from humans on a DNA level.

But yes, I see no reason why chimps could not be selectively bred to end up looking and acting very much like humans to the point where they would be impossible to tell apart by simple observation.

They might even be on that course of evolution naturally.
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Re: The Weasel Program

Post #3

Post by Wootah »

olavisjo wrote: .
In his book, The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins proposes a computer program to solve genetic problems with cumulative selection where the selection is based on a target phrase. He does say that this is a cheat, as evolution does not have a target or goal to achieve but it does demonstrate the power of cumulative selection.

The question for debate: Would this method of targeted evolution work faster or slower than the blind natural selection that originally created the target animal?

For example, could we evolve a chimp into a human faster than the common ancestor, of the two, evolved into a human with this method.
Evolve or engineer?

If you can work out the environment humans evolve best in then put chimps in that environment constantly and it works then evolution is true. This would also then be a repeatable experiment. (So many provisos should be added....)

If you engineer smart monkeys all you show is how smart you are.

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Re: The Weasel Program

Post #4

Post by olavisjo »

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Wootah wrote: Evolve or engineer?

If you can work out the environment humans evolve best in then put chimps in that environment constantly and it works then evolution is true. This would also then be a repeatable experiment. (So many provisos should be added....)

If you engineer smart monkeys all you show is how smart you are.
I would call it evolve, since no direct gene tampering needs to occur.

The idea is to breed a very large band of chimpanzees, then look at the DNA and compare it to human DNA, then select only the ones who most closely resembles our human DNA. The environment they live in would be insignificant.
As the DNA of our band approaches human DNA, they should be able to reproduce with humans. Even though humans have one less chromosome, they should still be able to breed with the near human chimpanzee as the fused human chromosome is just the way information is organized and not actually a difference in the information carried on the chromosomes.

In Dawkins program, if you start with the letters...
  • They fool me to the top of m
And set your goal to...
  • Methinks it is like a weasel
You will get there in about 50 or so generations, so if you then change your target back to the letters that you started with it will go back to the original phrase in about the same 50 generations or so, but it will take a very different path to get beck to where it started.
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Nilloc James
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Post #5

Post by Nilloc James »

The main point dawkin's was illistrating is that small improvememts accumulate over time to generate something that appears very complex but is reducable to small logical steps.

Artificial selection (or sometimes called forced evolution in some labs) tends to be faster than natural selection because the breeder (person doing the selecting) tends to have total control over which organisms breed.

Imagine a hypothetical shepard: he wants black sheep, so he only allows black sheep in his herd to breed. Obviously the population is going to be black within very few generations. Under natural selection (assuming there is an advantage to being a dark sheep) there will still be a few light sheep that breed (unless the "white" phenotype is at a huge disadvantage). Thus it will take longer for the population to be all black (if it ever reaches all black).

That said, natural selection can be very quick as well. Imagine an island with rats. The island floods; only the rats that can swim survive: within a single generation the gene pool has changed drastically.

Id propose this way of thinking about it: selection is a seive. With artificial selection we can set the hole size very small. In natural selection the hole size varies - sometimds there will be large holes (weak selction) and sometimes there will be large holes (strong selection)

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