Ancient Assassin Flies Found in Amber

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An extinct species of assassin fly that lived during the age of the dinosaurs has been discovered inside a translucent tomb of amber.

A male and a female of the newfound species, now called Burmapogon bruckschi, were preserved in pieces of Burmese amber from Myanmar's Hukawng Valley. The specimens measure less than an inch (2.5 centimeters) in length and are about 100 million years old, researchers say. 

B. bruckschi joins more than 7,500 species of assassin flies that are alive today. The insects get their name from their precise and gruesome way of killing: After a mid-flight ambush, assassin flies stab their prey's exoskeleton and inject digestive juices so that they can suck out the liquefied insides like a milkshake, leaving an empty hull behind. 

But apparently, these two tiny predators weren't immune to oozing droplets of resin. Insects can become trapped in amber when they are engulfed in resin flowing from trees. Hardened amber droplets can thus provide rare snapshots of prehistoric life — and some of them are surprisingly rich scenes, like a spider attacking a wasp caught in its web.

Previously, the history of assassin flies had been recorded only in limestone fossils. The amber-encased B. bruckschi specimens provide a rare 3D view of the ancient creatures' bodies.

Written By: Megan Gannon
continue to source article at livescience.com

42 COMMENTS

  1. What a wonderful way to prove that evolution is a fact.

    There it is, before your very eyes! How old do you think it might be? Six thousand years you say? I’m awfully sorry, but you’re somewhat mistaken! No prizes for you today.

    Added to which, Amber is a beautiful natural material for jewelry, especially if a specimen like this is used.

    On my first trip to Morocco I was under instructions from a friend to bring some back for his wife, and a guide led me to a house in an Atlas Mountains village, the name of which I can’t recall, where a guy had a fifty gallon oil drum full of amber beads.

    On a slightly different tack, my London flat had a marble fire place in the front room, in the mantle piece of which was the distinct trace of a fossil of a huge Hornet like creature, about three inches long, with a similar wing span.

    • In reply to #1 by Stafford Gordon:

      What a wonderful way to prove that evolution is a fact.

      There’s nothing in this article that refers to evolution, as far as I can see; neither is there an explanation from the researchers as to how they know the specimen is 100 million years old.

      All I see is a description of the insects themselves and how they get trapped and preserved in amber and, therefore, probably is not the best example of an article for you to use as ammunition against creationists – who haven’t even commented on this article yet, as yours is the first.

      The FACT, therefore, is that these insects have been trapped in amber – the rest is interpretation! This does not PROVE anything except that the insects were trapped in amber.

      • In reply to #2 by Lonevoice:

        In reply to #1 by Stafford Gordon:

        What a wonderful way to prove that evolution is a fact.

        There’s nothing in this article that refers to evolution, as far as I can see; neither is there an explanation from the researchers as to how they know the specimen is 100 million years old.

        So they made it up? Or is it possible that a full account of their research methods did not fit into a popular article on science? The researchers clearly said about a hundred million years, so what is your point? No explanation here so not to be trusted?

        It looks like amber but how do they know?

        • In reply to #3 by phil rimmer:

          In reply to #2 by Lonevoice:

          so what is your point? No explanation here so not to be trusted?

          No, my point was that it was unwarranted for Stafford Gordon to use this article as “a wonderful way to prove that evolution is a fact” and also as a jibe against creationists because:

          (a) no creationists had posted a comment on this article before Stafford Gordon’s argumentative post #1, and

          (b) there is no reference to evolution, creation or any biblical chronology in the article itself and therefore does not ‘prove’ (or, by inference, disprove) what he has claimed it does.

          I’m not saying the researchers made up the figure of 100 million years without reason – and I’m quite happy to accept that a full account of their research methods would not fit into a popular science article.

          What I am saying is that Stafford Gordon has read evolution into the article when it’s not referred to in the text then used it tangentially to grind his axe and take a swipe at people who believe the Bible – also not referred to in the article. That’s all.

          Why is criticising Christian belief the first thing that comes to his mind when reading an article about dead flies? This speaks volumes about attitudes.

          That said, I wish I had a mantelpiece with a fossilised hornet in it; especially as marble so rarely contains fossils, so it was truly rare. To have one in my living room would be great! Jealous :). It would never happen these days where manufacturers use crushed marble.

          • In reply to #4 by Lonevoice:

            In reply to #3 by phil rimmer:

            In reply to #2 by Lonevoice:

            so what is your point? No explanation here so not to be trusted?

            No, my point was that it was unwarranted for Stafford Gordon to use this article as “a wonderful way to prove that evolution is a fact” and also as a jibe against creationism.

            Why should he not make a jibe against YEC? This is where you come to do that.

            You had no point you care to defend about 100m years, then?

            We do not need an invitation to rail against the active and meddlesome ways of YECers. We should indeed rail against it at every available opportunity. Their active if witless poisoning of their own and other children’s minds make them an ever present political target worthy of accumulating all the inoculation we can muster. Creationism is not a quiet and private thing but a monied and active proselytising movement even now harming the progress of a number of countries.

            Arguments against fossils have sometimes included the fact that not a trace of the original materials remains. They appear as sculptures perhaps placed for some godly amusement.

            This is an astonishing smack in the eye for any who would so explain away fossils from deep time (100m years say). Here is the real material. It will certainly capture some child’s imagination and bring the reality of deep time to life for them. It is precisely on this site promoting reason and science that these astonishing objects should be so celebrated.

            Finally…

            “an article about dead flies”

            This speaks volumes about attitudes.

          • In reply to #5 by phil rimmer:

            In reply to #4 by Lonevoice:

            We do not need an invitation to rail against the active and meddlesome ways of YECers

            That’s true enough – I’m still a bit puzzled, though, why an article about dead flies should incite such rage against Christians specifically who, as I said, were not even mentioned in the article.

            Regarding the 100m years – I purposely avoided commenting on this because I do not have all facts and figures at my fingertips to make any critical judgment about the dating methods that have been used in this instance. I stand by what I said in #2, however, that the the only cast-iron knowable FACT is that these insects have been trapped in amber – the rest is interpretation.”

            While it would be unrealistic to expect any magazine article to include ALL of the research data that goes into the published results, it is true to say that, generally, the assumptions and extrapolations that underlie the results are not presented to the public. Sure, anyone who is interested could easily find an internet article that explains the methods, but the majority won’t bother. And, in the same way as I have seen ‘creationists’ criticised for their ‘uncritical thinking’, so too the general public will just accept what they are told without realising that they have not been given enough information to assess whether or not these millions of years are fair. Such deep time dates are presented as fact, often without qualification, yet no-one has actually sat and watched for millions of years to know whether the assumptions and extrapolations that underlie the calculations are ACTUALLY correct. Of course, I accept the counter to this that no-one has sat and watched for six thousand years to say they’re not. But doesn’t that make it an easy argument to win either way?

            Then along comes a YEC and queries the underlying assumptions and they’re called meddlesome.

            You have referred to the science and reason on this site. While there is much science, I sometimes wonder about the amount of ‘reason’ when there is such an explosion of emotional vitriol against people who hold a different view from that which prevails here.

            YECs are not a new phenomenon, by the way: Adam was one! (Sorry. Couldn’t resist that. I hope you can see the humour!)

            Have a good day.

          • In reply to #7 by Lonevoice:

            You have referred to the science and reason on this site. While there is much science, I sometimes wonder about the amount of ‘reason’ when there is such an explosion of emotional vitriol against people who hold a different view from that which prevails here.

            Amen ;-)

          • In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #7 by Lonevoice:

            You have referred to the science and reason on this site. While there is much science, I sometimes wonder about the amount of ‘reason’ when there is such an explosion of emotional vitriol against people who hold a different view from that which prevails here.

            Amen ;-)

            What thoroughly gobsmacks me is that a “somewhat mistaken!” when referring to YECs should EVER be so broadly interpreted interpreted as “rage against Christians”.

            This is a willful disregard of the specific, a mischief-making taking of offense and the broadening a rhetorical strategy employed by far too many.

          • In reply to #7 by Lonevoice:

            In reply to #5 by phil rimmer:

            In reply to #4 by Lonevoice:

            why an article about dead flies should incite such rage against Christians

            and

            How old do you think it might be? Six thousand years you say? I’m awfully sorry, but you’re somewhat mistaken!

            It’s that exclamation mark, isn’t it? Lets see if we can get Stafford to apologise for it.

            Stafford?

          • In reply to #7 by Lonevoice:

            In reply to #5 by phil rimmer:

            In reply to #4 by Lonevoice:

            We do not need an invitation to rail against the active and meddlesome ways of YECers

            That’s true enough – I’m still a bit puzzled, though, why an article about dead flies should incite such rage against Christians specifically who, as I…

            We are all at liberty to have our own religion, or none, as the case may be, but we cannot have our own science.

            What makes science the wonderful collective enterprise that it is is that it’s falsifiable; always vulnerable to being disproved. Indeed, that’s what scientists relish about it.

            The best possible hypothesis remains true only until it is disproved. And if and when that happens there is no trying to hang on to it because you like it; it’s over, and things move on.

            “Not many people know that.”

          • In reply to #7 by Lonevoice:

            rage against Christians

            What a bore. Let’s discuss Rage Against the Machine, instead.

          • In reply to #4 by Lonevoice:

            creationists haven’t commented yet…

            Non-starter; comes from years of observation, esp. YECs. Been there, done that, exercise in futility.

            “Jibes” are born from frustration over the SOS, played over and over (ad nausem), like a weary record whose needle is stuck in the groove.

      • In reply to #2 by Lonevoice:

        In reply to #1 by Stafford Gordon:

        What a wonderful way to prove that evolution is a fact.

        There’s nothing in this article that refers to evolution, as far as I can see; neither is there an explanation from the researchers as to how they know the specimen is 100 million years old.

        All I see is a…

        If you’d like to scroll down through the source article, you’ll find various links to information about how age is determined.

        It’s not necessary to be a scientist to learn about and enjoy how science works; and it does work.

  2. I think the first prerequisite of engaging in a discourse about anything is having made at least some effort to find out something about the subject under discussion.

    So it irritates me in the extreme when contributors to this forum have manifestly not made any effort to do so, but feel free to criticize scientific findings with alacrity.

    Nowadays it is inexcusable to be completely scientifically illiterate; in fact I think it probably takes quite a bit of effort to maintain that state of affairs.

    We’re not permitted to tout or advertise here, but there are such establishments as book shops, and a fairly well known and popular system known as the internet, which has among its delights “things” known as Google and Wikipedia.

    So, although I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that all are most welcome to visit here and engage, it would be nice if they didn’t arrive at the party without bringing anything to it.

    I’m pretty certain that this little outburst is going to earn me a flea in my ear, but so what! So duck!

  3. Why not point out more little nuggets that chap the creationists’ worldview? snippets from the article:

    “lived during the age of the dinosaurs “

    “are about 100 million years old”

    “rare snapshots of prehistoric life”

    “the ecology of the Cretaceous Period,”

    “the evolutionary history of a family of flies that has withstood the test of time for millions of years,”

    “The fossils of these ancient flies “

    And perhaps a link to the actual publisher of the paper: (April 21) edition of the journal American Museum Novitates @

    http://digitallibrary.amnh.org/dspace/handle/2246/9

    Stafford, it is kind of like masturbation without climax. “You whacking off? — NO, just whacking”

    What I mean is EVERYTHING flies in the face of these folks’ worldview. Except of course the First or second Genesis account (they typically adhere to one and discount the other as if….) My favorite are the ones that dismiss Leviticus as “Old Testament” and “I” only subscribe to the New Testament because I am christian… Oh, but I am a creationist and am against gays (both old testament lessons)… Oh, Bullshit and hate? Well, that about whacks it all he way off, huh?

    Anyway, keep whacking, it makes for good discourse, even if lonevoice has to be every idiot on the planet’s lawyer.

    • In reply to #14 by crookedshoes:

      Why not point out more little nuggets that chap the creationists’ worldview? snippets from the article:

      “lived during the age of the dinosaurs “

      “are about 100 million years old”

      “rare snapshots of prehistoric life”

      “the ecology of the Cretaceous Period,”

      “the evolutionary history of a family…

      Yes, the beauty of science is that it provides a reliable window on nature’s past and where we fit in to it all.

      The irony is that Lonevoice is among the majority, who are missing it all, and substituting silly, insipid made up nonsense.

      So sitting back and sighing is certainly out of the question; redoubled whacking is called for, because superstition is a very dangerous beast.

      I mean, come on, here is this insect, which has been perfectly preserved, “verily”, for one hundred thousand years, albeit a tiny fraction of evolutionary time, and the fact is poo pooed out of hand; it’s unconscionable!

      There is no alternative but to keep whacking on!

  4. Sorry for gate-crashing your party again. I don’t mean to be a pain in the neck; but you know me – I just can’t help it! :) It’s not that I don’t bring anything to the party – it’s just that most of the guests don’t like what I bring.

    Anyway, in my earlier posts I simply questioned the relevance of making verbal comments against Christian believers on the back of this particular article. I don’t think I said anything that was untrue and I freely admit to not having all the data to hand to launch any detailed critique of the dating method itself – and I did not do so.

    I’m still not convinced, however, that this particular article about the Assassin Flies proves evolution is fact, as Stafford said in his first comment. Even after all these millions of years, flies are still flies – and this particular article does not say otherwise. Creationists have no problem with observable change, adaptation and speciation; but flies remaining flies does not prove anything about different orders and families of creatures arising from a common ancestor.

    Referring to the matter crookedshoes raised in #14 about the apparent contradiction of Christians accepting the creation account in Genesis while rejecting Leviticus as Old Testament: I hope I can clarify a little bit. The issue is with the Old Testament Laws and the requirement to keep them as part of the agreement between God and the Jewish people. For the Christian, however, Jesus’ willing sacrifice is enough to fulfil any obligations to cover our ‘sins’ once and for all. The creation account, however, is not a Law that has to be obeyed; it’s the Biblical account of how we got here, which carries right through to the end of the New Testament. I hope this helps show that there is not the contradiction you suggested.

    (. . . and there aren’t two Genesis accounts of creation; there is only one. Chapter 2 zooms in on the events of Day Six: so between chapters 1 and 2, Day Six gets two bites of the cherry, so to speak. This “mentioning then repeating and zooming in” is a common Hebrew literary style and appears in a number of other places in the Old Testament. Not all scholars see it this way, but it makes sense to me and removes the apparent contradiction that people sometimes see.)

    Great party.

    • In reply to #16 by Lonevoice:

      Anyway, in my earlier posts I simply questioned the relevance of making verbal comments against Christian believers on the back of this particular article.

      No gate crashing at all. The only problem for me is you imputed malice and that is just plain unfair. You did not just “simply question”.

      • In reply to #18 by phil rimmer:

        I concede that the word ‘rage’ was too strong in the context. However, I still think that the particular article did not need to prompt and immediate comment about creationists when there was no comment about (or from) such in the original article. My point was about relevance. You’re right; I didn’t simply question – I explained why I was questioning. Seems to have stirred up something of a fossilised hornet’s nest!

        I often think that blogging/emailing can carry a tone that creates reactions in readers that may not have been intended. I’m not immune from these, myself. I bet that if we were to meet, it would all be much more cordial – even if we disagree on particulars.

        (I’m still jealous of Stafford’s mantelpiece)

        • In reply to #22 by Lonevoice:

          In reply to #18 by phil rimmer:

          I concede that the word ‘rage’ was too strong in the context.

          I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your concession. This is how conversations can spiral out of control. I have no problem with robust comments (I wish that the mods would allow more) but the imputation of devaluing emotional states when there is not direct evidence for them should lead us to the default assumption of a person attempting to speak reasonably.

          Mind reading should be left at the door or engaged in as part of formal questioning.

          Carry on!

          However, I still think that the particular article did not need to prompt and immediate comment about creationists when there was no comment about (or from) such in the original article.

    • In reply to #16 by Lonevoice:

      I’m still not convinced, however, that this particular article about the Assassin Flies proves evolution is fact, as Stafford said in his first comment. Even after all these millions of years, flies are still flies – and this particular article does not say otherwise.

      Flies are “still flies”, is simply a statement of ignorance of insect evolution, which is observable in laboratories today, and is patchily recorded in fossil remains of earlier ancestors over millions of years. It is an argument based on ignorance and incredulity. This particular specimen is , of course only a small part of the big picture.

      Creationists have no problem with observable change, adaptation and speciation; but flies remaining flies does not prove anything about different orders and families of creatures arising from a common ancestor.

      That is the illustration of an ignorance of genetics and the subject in general.

      “I’m ignorant and uneducated in this subject, THEREFORE the specialist biologists are wrong!” is a very poor argument which is simply asserted ignorance based on a lack of study and understanding.

      As for attempts to discredit the numerous cross corroborations of radiometric dating techniques, they are on a par with “proofs” of a flat Earth, denigrating “globalist geographers”! – Comically incompetent!!

      Gross incompetents posing as expert scientific authorities, deserve ridicule!

      • In reply to #19 by Alan4discussion: Flies are “still flies”, is simply a statement of ignorance of insect evolution*

        Sorry to sound like the young boy in the Emperor’s New Clothes story, but saying “flies are still flies” is not a statement of ignorance, but a statement of the patently obvious. The insects in the artcle are stated as being 100 million years old, and if I read the article correctly, 7500 species of Assassin Flies are alive today. In that context, the statement that ‘flies are still flies’ is not off the wall. Would you please point me to examples of “insect evolution that is observable in laboratories today” to support your implied statement that flies are NOT still flies?

        (Alan, I can assure you that I am not being deliberately obtuse here, just in case you think I am – I genuinely would like to see observable evidence that these flies have evolved from (or into) some other creature. Don’t forget that speciation is accepted in creationist circles and differentiating between the extinct species in the article and the species alive today does not support macro-evolution.)

        And “As for attempts to discredit the numerous cross corroborations of radiometric dating techniques” – I did no such thing in my post.

        • In reply to #23 by Lonevoice:

          In reply to #19 by Alan4discussion: Flies are “still flies”, is simply a statement of ignorance of insect evolution*

          Sorry to sound like the young boy in the Emperor’s New Clothes story, but saying “flies are still flies” is not a statement of ignorance, but a statement of the patently obvious.

          It’s a bit like saying “Cars are still cars” when looking at the diversity of vehicle types and the evolution of the car since Cugnot’s steam-powered car – The automobile as we know it was not invented in a single day by a single inventor. The history of the automobile reflects an evolution that took place worldwide. It is estimated that over 100,000 patents created the modern automobile. What is patently obvious is the lack of understanding of the present diversity of vehicles, and evolved developments – which can simply be described as ignorance of the subject.

          The insects in the article are stated as being 100 million years old, and if I read the article correctly, 7500 species of Assassin Flies are alive today. In that context, the statement that ‘flies are still flies’ is not off the wall. Would you please point me to examples of “insect evolution that is observable in laboratories today” to support your implied statement that flies are NOT still flies?

          The 7,500 hundred species is in its-self an indication of the thousands of mutations required to produce this diversity.

          Would you please point me to examples of “insect evolution that is observable in laboratories today”

          Would you understand a technical paper on Drosophila? http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pgen.1002729

          The evolution of bacteria is quicker and can show many generations in a human lifetime.

          E. coli long-term evolution experiment

          (Alan, I can assure you that I am not being deliberately obtuse here, just in case you think I am – I genuinely would like to see observable evidence that these flies have evolved from (or into) some other creature.

          Embryology is a good guide to evolution in any creature. Start with the egg, then the caterpillar, chrysalis and adult. They vary in different genera and species of insect, but show the evolutionary development stages. All insects are descended from shrimp-like marine ancestors.

          Mandibulata includes all arthropods that have chewing mouthparts (mandibles): crustacea, myriapods, and insects. Early in the Paleozoic Era, the mandibulate lineage divided into at least one group that continued a marine lifestyle (the crustacea), and another group that adopted a terrestrial lifestyle. This terrestrial lineage, which encompasses all present-day myriapods and insects, is known as the superclass Atelocerata, a taxon first described by Heymons in 1901. – http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/course/ent425/text02/arthropods.html

          Don’t forget that speciation is accepted in creationist circles and differentiating between the extinct species in the article and the species alive today does not support macro-evolution.)

          The division between “micro” and “macro” evolution is a figment of creationist imagination. It has no scientific basis, and is not recognised as a division by any reputable scientific bodies. It is like living in the present recognising seconds and minutes, but denying hours, days, years and centuries are “time”!

          Evolution is a continuous process, but only fast reproducing species (see E. coli link) can be observed directly in a human life-span. The rest of Cladistics must be calculated from genetics, observations of related species, genera, orders etc. embryology, and fossils.

          • In reply to #26 by Alan4discussion:

            Thanks for the links. I will look at them.

            I would just say (and this is not meant to be argumentative in any negative, critical or dismissive way), that I’m not quite with you on the cars analogy. Cars have not evolved through undirected natural processes: each change has been designed by a person or persons with intelligence and who has conceived of a desired outcome before the design process began.

            I could say that ‘cars are still cars’, even though modern ones are very different from the early ones. However, they have not changed into aeroplanes. Now, when one looks at how the engines on these two types of machines, one could see that they are built (and therefore, work) in similar ways – therefore there is a relationship between them. However, a car is not a plane, but the use of similar design features to drive them is evident.I won’t stretch the analogy any further: I think you can see where I going with this. So, as I said, I’m not being dismissive: I just see it differently.

            Anyway, I will look at the papers you attached links for. Thank you for sending them.

            Lonevoice

          • In reply to #29 by Lonevoice:

            In reply to #26 by Alan4discussion:

            I would just say (and this is not meant to be argumentative in any negative, critical or dismissive way), that I’m not quite with you on the cars analogy. Cars have not evolved through undirected natural processes: each change has been designed by a person or persons with intelligence and who has conceived of a desired outcome before the design process began.

            For many components this is simply not so. Many of the devices were invented for other purposes and then SELECTED or modified for use in cars.

            Like Natural Selection, components which work in the competitive real world are selected for a variety of uses.

            Even the example I gave of the first steam car, was assembled from components which had been developed for other devices, and then adopted or modified. (Horse-drawn carriages, static steam engines, gears, paint, mirrors, seats, doors). Nobody sat down and designed a whole car from scratch! They all used components and adopted or modified them.

            The early planes were essentially hybrids between cars, sail boats, and kites. – Again the selecting, adopting, and modification of components for new functions.

          • In reply to #31 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #29 by Lonevoice:

            In reply to #26 by Alan4discussion:

            I would just say (and this is not meant to be argumentative in any negative, critical or dismissive way), that I’m not quite with you on the cars analogy. Cars have not evolved through undirected natural processes: each change has b…

            Nicely put.

        • In reply to #23 by Lonevoice:

          In reply to #19 by Alan4discussion: Flies are “still flies”, is simply a statement of ignorance of insect evolution*

          Sorry to sound like the young boy in the Emperor’s New Clothes story, but saying “flies are still flies” is not a statement of ignorance, but a statement of the patently obvious.

          One of the problems I find with debates with (particularly YEC) evolution deniers, is that their knowledge of the anatomy of organisms is so poor that talking about diversity in evolutionary developments draws a blank in their minds because, “it is “patently obvious*” that “a fly is a fly” and “an insect is an insect” and “a shrimp is a shrimp” – without actually looking at the details which would show evolutionary changes and variations!

          These subjects have been studied in great detail by vast numbers of highly talented biologists, who have worked out the relationships between the families, sub-families, tribes, genera and species. – correcting any mistakes which are discovered, or adjusting the closeness of classified relationships in the light of new discoveries as time goes on, – but to the creationist in denial, none of this is studied or understood! – It just happened by magic so they know all the answers – without studying the questions!
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asilidae#Systematics

        • Hey Lonevoice,
          What is a species?

          BTW, are all bacteria “still bacteria”? Because there are Archaebacteria and Eubacteria. The weird thing about my question is that the two groups of bacteria are farther apart genetically and evolutionarily than you are from a pine tree. BUT THEY ARE ALL JUST BACTERIA, RIGHT???

          This, from the PNAS:
          http://www.pnas.org/content/86/23/9355.full.pdf

          (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA
          Vol. 86, pp. 9355-9359, December 1989
          Evolution
          Evolutionary relationship of archaebacteria, eubacteria, and
          eukaryotes inferred from phylogenetic trees of duplicated genes)

          In reply to #23 by Lonevoice:

          In reply to #19 by Alan4discussion: Flies are “still flies”, is simply a statement of ignorance of insect evolution*

          Sorry to sound like the young boy in the Emperor’s New Clothes story, but saying “flies are still flies” is not a statement of ignorance, but a statement of the patently obvious. The…

          • In reply to #28 by crookedshoes:

            Hey Lonevoice,
            What is a species?

            BTW, are all bacteria “still bacteria”? Because there are Archaebacteria and Eubacteria. The weird thing about my question is that the two groups of bacteria are farther apart genetically and evolutionarily than you are from a pine tree. BUT THEY ARE ALL JUST BA…

            Thank you for referring to the paper: I will look in due course.

            Lonevoice

          • No problem, the paper is dry and from 1989, but it has some good science in it.

            I do not think you are being “dismissive” as you worry in your post to Alan4. However, “seeing it differently” in many cases means “seeing it WRONG”. This is one of them.

            There are plenty of things we can agree to “see differently”. Scientific facts are “the correct answers” and “seeing them differently” means you are wrong.

            It is very very strange to me that people (now generalizing, not aimed at lonevoice at all) love to measure what “smart” is and love to talk about “IQ” and intellect and the like. But, when it comes to what “smart” actually means, they conveniently forget and dismiss “smart” by labeling. For example, every FOX news junkie that simply dismisses “all college professors” as “liberal” and then think that this gives them license to ignore the experts.

            Listen, “smart” means GETTING THE RIGHT FUCKING ANSWERS ON TESTS AND THINGS. You measure “smart” with tests. The folks that are Professors are SMART, and piled on top of that, they are educated and informed regarding their field of pursuit.

            Back to lonevoice. I know that you too are “smart”. But part of being smart is knowing who to ask when confronted with material and/or observations that you, yourself do not understand. The people here are “smart” and many of us educated in the exact field (myself included) in which you are making beginner mistakes. But, instead of learning and assimilating new information, you choose to think that (because you have been told all your life that you are “smart”) your own conclusions that are based on wrong foundations are, in fact, correct ones.

            If the world depended on you to offset an impending catastrophe regarding disease or pests or over population or famine…etc… anything Biological, the world would be fucked because instead of looking into nature for the actual way shit works, you are hell bent on being “right” instead of being correct.

            In reply to #30 by Lonevoice:

            In reply to #28 by crookedshoes:

            Hey Lonevoice,
            What is a species?

            BTW, are all bacteria “still bacteria”? Because there are Archaebacteria and Eubacteria. The weird thing about my question is that the two groups of bacteria are farther apart genetically and evolutionarily than you are from a pi…

          • In reply to #34 by crookedshoes:

            How do you define ‘fact’ and ‘correct’, as used in your post #34?

            And what if someone memorised text so they could answer all the questions in a test, yet did not understand what they were reading, would they be considered smart? (Actors do this often when they play technical roles: they learn the lines and get them right, but could they be relied on to save the world?)

            On the basis that not all educated, qualified Professors would agree on all points, I would like to ensure I fully understand what you’ re seeking to say.

            I’m not saying this to completely discount what you have said, but your comments seem very black and white, but I can see other shades around the edges.

            Thanks for taking the time to post – although I was disappointed with some of the language. This is really important to you, isn’t it?

            Lonevoice.

          • In reply to #35 by Lonevoice:

            In reply to #34 by crookedshoes:

            And what if someone memorised text so they could answer all the questions in a test, yet did not understand what they were reading, would they be considered smart?

            Smart is using knowledge to solve problems and predict outcomes. What kind of tests where you ever given?

          • In reply to #35 by Lonevoice:

            In reply to #34 by crookedshoes:

            How do you define ‘fact’ and ‘correct’, as used in your post #34?

            In science facts are properties of reality which are consistently confirmed in numerous independent repeat tests to a very high level of probability.

            eg. If you walk on air without physical assistance, out of a 15th floor window, it is correct and a fact that you will fall to the ground. This an underlying property gravity which is independent of anyone’s interpretation understanding or biased personal opinion of the words used to describe this.

            And what if someone memorised text so they could answer all the questions in a test, yet did not understand what they were reading, would they be considered smart?

            This is the YEC problem. People memorise YEC books on science, without understanding that those who wrote the books had memorised words and contrived stories, which have no physical connection to objectively researched physical reality. It is also the reason why there are a very few YEC “scientists”, who have ticked boxes on exam papers to gain scientific qualifications, before renouncing scientific methods and using their qualifications as a scientific badge of “authority” for their denial of scientific methods they described to gain those qualifications.

            The contrived notion of “micro-evolution” as an isolated feature detached from the overall process, is an example of the babbling of copied words, by people who have no understanding of the physical process. It is simply a verbal device to try to separate the easy to prove observable features which will refute their claims, from the on-going process through deep-time which gives the big-picture they want to deny.

            Without understanding the diversity of insect structures, organs and their functions, it is impossible to understand the examples of step-by-step evolutionary changes from common ancestors to the range of related species.

            Put simply, I someone does not know what a mandible is, they will have no concept of how its uses vary in the vast range different species, and how these relate to the evolutionary development.

            That is why YECs comically quote contrasting isolated examples of highly evolved features of organisms as “evidence against their evolution”. They also have an obsession with “transitional fossil species” as if these were the only evidence of biological evolution.
            There are millions of “transitional species” and observable transitions within species.
            The absence of a few, because fossils have been destroyed by nature, or have not yet been discovered, is of no consequence to the big-picture. There is plenty of evidence in the morphology and genetics of present-day living matter.

            As I pointed out earlier, for those for whom an insect is just an insect and “a crab is just a crab” (having stuck a word label on a vague notion or a particular photograph), the evolved development of the diverse organs, metabolisms and features, is a magical mystery!

            It is like the flat-Earthist who denies the physics, maths, and astronomical evidence, to hold on to a circular argument, which starts with unshakable “faith” in a pre-assumed conclusion.

          • In reply to #35 by Lonevoice:

            In reply to #34 by crookedshoes:

            How do you define ‘fact’ and ‘correct’, as used in your post #34?

            And what if someone memorised text so they could answer all the questions in a test, yet did not understand what they were reading, would they be considered smart? (Actors do this often when they pla…

            I’d like to come back in here if I may.

            There are lots of scientifically tried and tested ways of determining time span, which are based on verifiable universal constants, and which overlap; they include Dendrochronology, Varves, Coral reefs, sedimentary rocks and igneous rocks.

            First the humble tree ring. It provides a record of time to an accuracy of precisely one year, but can only tell the story back as far as about 12,000 years.

            At the other end of the wide range of materials used for dating is Igneous rock.Unlike sedimentary rock which forms over hundreds or thousands of millions of years, Igneous forms suddenly from cooling magma or lava and has all its elements set in an instant.

            Two of these elements, are potassium 40 and argon 40; at the moment of solidification, the rock contains 100% potassium 40 and no argon 40. And the former decays at a constant, verifiable rate to the latter.

            Physics tells us that the half life of potassium 40 is 1.26 billion years. So after that amount of time the ratio between the two elements is 50-50, and the age of the rock can be determined by the rate of decay which has occurred from the former to the latter element.

            However, unlike tree rings, this method has an error of about 1% either way; which over evolutionary time scales of tens or hundreds of millions years doesn’t matter too much.

            Geology tells us the age of the Earth’s sedimentary layers, which all occurred in the same order the world over.

            So, if a piece of igneous rock is found embedded within a given layer of sedimentary rock in the vicinity of a fossil or any other specimen, the three scientific disciplines of physics, geology and biology can put their metaphorical heads together, and figure out its age.

            Even a fly; especially if it’s entombed in Amber!

            And then, of course, there’s genetic analysis.

            Check it all out.

            I’m going to have a cup of tea.

          • Sorry for my abrasive ways. It IS very important to me and very cool of you to notice and comment. However, I am one of those type A+ personalities that can get into overdrive about someone parking in my parking spot!!! So, your intuition is accurate!

            As for “black and white” and edges. I am often an “edge” person myself. I see edges in lots and lots of situations. Interpretation is part of the way we interact with the world and there is plenty of room for it. We, however, shouldn’t be wasting time arguing over a fact. This font i am typing in is black. Wanna fight over that? No? Because it is a fact. Same with the science you are disputing. There is plenty in science to fight over. This is not one of those things.

            When ideas and hypotheses are “young” there may be disagreement among the folks who study within the discipline. An example would be Duesberg and Blattener going back and forth regarding HIV as the cause of AIDS in the early 1990′s. Duesberg was (is?) a really respected virologist whose contributions were integral to our understanding of the Rous Sarcoma Virus. He was (is?) a monster intellect.

            Anyway, He and Blattner had a very public disagreement (with rebuttals published in successive issues of Nature). The articles were very directly titled. “HIV does not cause AIDS” then “YES IT DOES” then “NO IT DOESN”T” etc… I kid about the titles.

            Anyway, Duesberg was wrong. 25 years later, there is little debate.

            Same with evolution. When a hypothesis, it was scrutinized and argued over by all the folks who studied it. 150 years later, it is no longer a hypothesis because it has been shown to be correct. The only folks arguing over it are the ones who don’t know a damn thing about it (or science in general). The evolution “world tour”was heated and contentious for decades. Each advance in molecular techniques as well as genetics and embryology put the hypothesis on trial. And it has always been demonstrated as correct. Because it IS. It is “all over but the shouting” and the only ones shouting have a god agenda.

            Today, there is really no aversion to evolution within the Biologically educated. If there is a “beef” it is about a tiny tiny point that “outsiders” don’t really understand. There is consensus among the scholars, and we have moved on to using the ideas to solve problems. It works.

            As for memorizing lines and getting stuff right. You hit the nail on the head. That is EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE DOING. You don’t understand, you strive to (which is admirable) but, you’ve memorized the lines. No go out and forge an understanding.

            I’d like you to know that in deference to you I kept foul language out of this post and tried to drain any heat from my language. This is because I respect you and enjoy speaking with you and want it to continue.

            In reply to #35 by Lonevoice:

            In reply to #34 by crookedshoes:

            How do you define ‘fact’ and ‘correct’, as used in your post #34?

            And what if someone memorised text so they could answer all the questions in a test, yet did not understand what they were reading, would they be considered smart? (Actors do this often when they pla…

          • In reply to #39 by crookedshoes:

            Thank you for your comments. I cannot disagree with anything you said in your last post. I too enjoy these discussions, albeit I am accutely aware that I’m in the company of people who know vastly more technical detail that I do – and I freely admit that. With that in mind, I can appreciate why the less informed will be an irritation if they appear to (or actually do) question or doubt the work of people who are experts in their respective fields.

            So why do I bother? Good question – I’m glad you asked!

            The answer is probably too long and “off-topic” to expand on here, but even with all the extensive, detailed, meticulous study that goes on, there still seems to be a degree of perception that provides a foundation for interpreting the scientific findings. In a silly way, it’s a bit like a mother-in-law who will never accept that her son-in-law can do anything right, and it’s not that she sets out to deliberately undermine everything he does or turn people against him: it’s just that she simply cannot see things any other way because of her starting point. It’s not that he doesn’t do anything right, it’s just that she has so built a pattern of thinking that it governs how she interprets everything she sees. So, for someone who believes there is no Creator, all evidence must be have a natural explanation. For the person who does believe in a Creator, explanations can be either natural or supernatural.

            Again, I want to stress that this silly picture of the critical mother-in-law is not intended to belittle the fine minds who do astounding scientific work (and it’s not personal testimony, either – just in case you were wondering): but – and I can’t stress the respect enough – they are still human: and humans seem to have a way of promoting their own agenda, whether they know it or not. It’s not just those with a God agenda who have an agenda; we see it in all walks of life.

            In a similar way, the converse is true. I have seen many comments on this site that speak very harshly against religious people in general, Christians in particular and YECs especially. Now, for the reasons given above, I can fully understand why the latter cause such irritation, but often, comments made on the RDFRS site about the Christian faith and what it teaches have actually been inaccurate in many of the posts I have read and responded to. As a comparison, one could refer to scholars who have studied the Biblical languages, it’s grammar, structure, usage – and the historical customs of biblical peoples – by their studies, they are clearly not uneducated. Therefore, when I read comments that mis-represent the Christian faith and its teachings, I feel a little like the technically skilled people on this site who feel angry at people who make inaccurate statements about science, and will naturally wish to respond. I’m grateful to the Moderators who have allowed me to say what I’ve said in the past – even though it usually provokes a fiery response. Still, it’s better than being eaten by lions in the Colosseum.

            Christian faith is usually a very important thing to people who hold it and it can be painful when it is held up to ridicule in an arena such as this, as if another person’s most treasured possession if fair game for mockery. Some of the reasons for my faith will not be shared here for this very reason – but it does not mean I’m an unthinking, mindless clone – a charge which so easily trips off the keyboard in some people’s posts on this site and directed at the generalised masses.

            Everyone has a story and everyone is precious.

            Best regards,

            Lonevoice

          • Lonevoice,
            Over the next two weeks i will be teaching a two part series of lessons on our senses and how fallible they are.Week one centers on taste. I will be talking about taste buds, supertasters, non-tasters, giving kids chemicals that genetically some can taste and others cannot. Then i will have them eat a miracle berry (Synsepalum dulcificum). It contains a glycoprotein called miraculin that alters your sense of taste and causes you to perceive all bitter flavors as very very sweet. We will dye our tongues blue and count our taste buds per square inch.

            The following week we will do the same thing with our sense of sight and get even more confused about what we “see” and the illusion of color as well as the brain’s impossible calculations of what the world looks like. And, what the world actually IS.

            All this to underscore why we have to do appropriate science. Senses are infinitely fallible, proof is not.

            So, how does this tie into our discussion? Well, here goes.

            I’d like to propose for the utility of discussion, two types of respect. respect is the type I am obligated to give you and your religious beliefs. I respect you and respect your religious beliefs. In the US, our constitutional obligation is to respect one another. My wife is religious and she loves and cherishes it and I respect her religious ways. You have a right to that respect. (I have a right to your respect as well, the right to NO religion).

            Now that we respect one another, it seems that you need an additional layer; you need my RESPECT. And, well that type of RESPECT is not obliged; nor given. It is earned. The respect I have for you does not necessarily translate to RESPECT. I RESPECT my wife’s religion because it is a force for good in her life. I’d like to think that I RESPECT yours as well for the same reasons.

            However, if your adherence to your need for religion (or the religion itself) makes your senses blur or become distorted, I am obliged to tell you and NOT obliged to RESPECT you. Again, respect? yes. RESPECT? no.

            So, the same constitution (and it’s amendments) that generates our respect for one another generates other things as well. Like, the right to privacy, the right to pursuit of happiness, “all men are created equal”, even (yes) the right to bear arms, vote, the right to not be illegally searched… It grants the president certain powers and creates the other branches of gov’t and gives them powers as well.

            So, when I notice that a person is hiding under the very document that makes us bound to respect one another, and they are using that umbrella to usurp other peoples rights (like homosexuals for example), I may have to respect your religion but I will never RESPECT it one bit if it is in the practice of blindly hurting others because of the sensory changes that you’ve afflicted yourself with.

            So, when religion (like my wife’s — and I sense, yours) is a force of good in a person’s life and is contained and kept from infringing on others’ rights, well then (even if I poo poo it) it is healthy.

            However, when brandished to gain power or control and allowed to oppress others (ANY others), well then I have to speak up.

            Separation of church and state, human rights, and the right to pursue happiness and NOT hide the truths of the natural world are all being trampled by many religious folks. That is what is railed against.

            In reply to #41 by Lonevoice:

            In reply to #39 by crookedshoes:

            Thank you for your comments. I cannot disagree with anything you said in your last post. I too enjoy these discussions, albeit I am accutely aware that I’m in the company of people who know vastly more technical detail that I do – and I freely admit that. With that…

  5. Perhaps these flies don’t prove that evolution is a fact.. but they provide evidence for that view. The very fact that they are 100 million years old, rather torpedoes the Bible and its 6018 year old universe. The fact that this species is now extinct but that there are still some 7,500 other varieties of assassin flies alive today also provides evidence that “evolution is a fact”.

    In today’s Daily Telegraph (UK), there is a plea from some prominent people for atheists to be “more tolerant” of those of faith. Why ? Why should the religious be allowed to get away with spouting nonsense, especially when their nonsense is harmful to real knowledge ?

    As for Lonevoice’s reference to Jesus’ “sacrifice”, it strikes me as completely ridiculous that God sacrificed his son to himself, and then brought him back to life again, “on the third day”. A hideous concept by any standard.

    OK Mods, no more on that, I promise ! Time to put on my party hat and join in the fun !

  6. I had absolutely no trouble locating the original research study and downloading its PDF file for free. The discussion about aging the specimen is on page 2 of the PDF, or the very first paragraph of the Material and Methods section. Some whiners really need to get a life. Perhaps, they should email the principle researcher, Dokiw, and quibble with him. But, I suspect that his delete button would come in handy.

  7. Lonevoice:

    “Natural selection and evolution are also modes of understanding.” Peter Atkins, in “On Being”. Oxford University Press.

    Atkins also says in his slim, witty and excellent volume: “Organisms are intrinsically bizarre conglomerations of peculiar ingredients, a serendipitously accumulated junkyard of the symbiotic. Whole organs have been assembled by what is often termed Nature’s elegant simplicity but which in fact is her unconscious skill in cobbling together what ever is at hand.”

    Or as the Nobel Prize winning geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky said: “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

    Understanding that, and being able to comprehend the almost unimaginably vast time scales needed in order for it to happen, is essential in understanding evolution by means of natural selection.

    It also helps if we come to terms with the simple, salient, incontrovertible fact, that we only evolved as a species by chance.

    I can fully understand why some people find that last deeply upsetting and frightening, but for me, it puts everything into perspective.

    Although I must say that if I can, I do try not to think about it too much!

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