7 Comments

  • snorgatch
    snorgatch
    JUST GOT ACTUALLY-ED!
    Comments: 149

    Being a biologist, I find this episode especially annoying because it perpetuates a misconception about evolution that I’ve seen many times before, namely, that evolution has a direction.

    Evolution is a RESPONSE to environmental change. It’s not a road with a destination somewhere up ahead. Sure, you can trace a species’ evolution backward through time to see the path it traveled to get where it is now from some ancestral form, but species are not “on their way” to evolving into something else. They adapt to their current, local environments, and that is all. Natural selection chooses from among the countless variations provided by random genetic mutation those that work best HERE and NOW, not ones that MIGHT be useful a million years in the future.  It consistently baffles me how so many movies and TV shows can get such a simple idea so wrong.

    TNG tackled this same territory (and did an equally poor job of it) in the two-part episode, The Chase, where we find out that all the various humanoids in the ST universe actually share a common ancestry from an original proto-humanoid race that lived billions of years ago, and apparently programmed a message for its children into their DNA (which somehow survived billions of years of random mutations while their descendants went through all the evolutionary stages from single-cells to humanoids). The only way this could work is if there were two kinds of DNA: one that mutates, and one that doesn’t. But there aren’t two kinds of DNA, there’s only one, and any part of it can mutate at any time. Sure, some parts mutate less frequently than others, because they code for genes that make proteins that are vital to life, and when a cell gets a mutation in one of those genes, it usually dies and hence doesn’t pass that mutation on. Mutations that get passed on are usually in the vast amount of “junk DNA” we have that doesn’t code for anything important, so it is free to mutate as much as it pleases.

    And even if evolution DID work the way Star Trek thinks it does, individuals do not evolve–species do. The only thing that would happen to the individual named Tom Paris if you sped up his mutation rate is he’d develop super-cancer and die.

    This is, of course, quite apart from all the Warp 10 nonsense. I’ll leave that for a physicist to rip a new one.

     

    • Jon Protagonist
      Jon Protagonist
      Leader of the Decepticons
      Comments: 219

      Does it also annoy you that Pokemon go through “evolution” that is actually text-book metamorphosis?

      That always bugged me. In some cases, it’s literally a larval caterpillar becoming a chrysalis, then a butterfly …that’s metamorphosis, not evolution!

       

       

      • snorgatch
        snorgatch
        JUST GOT ACTUALLY-ED!
        Comments: 149

        Yeah, what happens with Pokemon is clearly metamorphosis, not evolution. A caterpillar has all the same genes for making wings, legs, antennae, and so forth that a butterfly has, it’s just not using them at that particular point in its life. When it enters its chrysalis stage, those genes get switched on and start making those body parts. So we can thank Pokemon for further misleading kids about how evolution works.

        The writers of ST seem to think that organisms are destined to go down certain paths and evolve into some predetermined form. That would require all the genes of those later forms to already be in us, for our cells to be packed full of genetic information we’re not using yet, keeping it warm for future generations, as it were. The problem is genes that aren’t being used for anything have a tendency to mutate. Natural selection normally screens out such mutations, but it can’t “see” genes that aren’t being used, so there’s nothing to stop them from mutating into meaningless garbage over the course of many generations.

        • Jon Protagonist
          Jon Protagonist
          Leader of the Decepticons
          Comments: 219

          Yeah, well said.

          Evolution is not a path that is arrived at by following instructions, it’s the opposite basically…it’s what happened to work better or worse over time, and that can be change if what used to be a positive trait under one condition becomes a liability if conditions change, like a new disease being introduced to an environment, or a new invasive species, or change in climate.

  • John Potts
    NewbieDotCom.Com
    Comments: 15

    Hey, quit laughing at your great-great-great-great grandchildren!

    Also, it was rather similar to SF Debris’ review of this episode (http://sfdebris.com/videos/startrek/v832.php), but that may follow from noticing the same problems. Or you might think of it as parallel evolution!

  • Lucy May
    NewbieDotCom.Com
    Comments: 7

    So this makes Janeway and Paris officially the worst parents in Star Trek history, right? Sure, other Star Trek characters have had to deal with overbearing, embarrassing, distant and/or borderline abusive parents, but I’m pretty sure abandoning your infant children in a swamp and never speaking of them again is the official low point.

  • happymel2
    happymel2
    Robert Cop
    Comments: 199

    I didn’t read the description of this video so the big reveal was even more hilarious to me.