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Duplicity Vs. Singularity of Mammals Organs

Duplicity Vs. Singularity of Mammals Organs


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Are there known evolutionary reasons why mammals contain 2 of some organs (such as lungs and kidneys) and only 1 of some (such as liver)?


It's just how we evolved. At some point in the past, a distant ancestor of ours had two lungs, two kidneys, one liver etc.( maybe then there was a pretty good reason for this). We evolved following that pattern and now we ourselves have two lungs, two kidneys, one liver etc.

Snakes, for example, have just one functional lung because their elongated form doesn't cope well with having two full-grown lungs. Humans on the other hand have a body shape that works very well with two lungs, so we didn't have to sacrifice one lung.

There are other examples of different organ distribution, like the octopus which has 3 hearts. Usually the more different the internal symmetry, the more distant the common ancestor.


Whole genome sequencing

Whole genome sequencing (WGS), also known as full genome sequencing, complete genome sequencing, or entire genome sequencing, is the process of determining the entirety, or nearly the entirety, of the DNA sequence of an organism's genome at a single time. [2] This entails sequencing all of an organism's chromosomal DNA as well as DNA contained in the mitochondria and, for plants, in the chloroplast.

Whole genome sequencing has largely been used as a research tool, but was being introduced to clinics in 2014. [3] [4] [5] In the future of personalized medicine, whole genome sequence data may be an important tool to guide therapeutic intervention. [6] The tool of gene sequencing at SNP level is also used to pinpoint functional variants from association studies and improve the knowledge available to researchers interested in evolutionary biology, and hence may lay the foundation for predicting disease susceptibility and drug response.

Whole genome sequencing should not be confused with DNA profiling, which only determines the likelihood that genetic material came from a particular individual or group, and does not contain additional information on genetic relationships, origin or susceptibility to specific diseases. [7] In addition, whole genome sequencing should not be confused with methods that sequence specific subsets of the genome - such methods include whole exome sequencing (1-2% of the genome) or SNP genotyping (<0.1% of the genome). As of 2017 there were no complete genomes for any mammals, including humans. Between 4% to 9% of the human genome, mostly satellite DNA, had not been sequenced. [8]


Extended criticality, phase spaces and enablement in biology

This paper analyzes, in terms of critical transitions, the phase spaces of biological dynamics. The phase space is the space where the scientific description and determination of a phenomenon is given. We argue that one major aspect of biological evolution is the continual change of the pertinent phase space and the unpredictability of these changes. This analysis will be based on the theoretical symmetries in biology and on their critical instability along evolution.

Our hypothesis deeply modifies the tools and concepts used in physical theorizing, when adapted to biology. In particular, we argue that causality has to be understood differently, and we discuss two notions to do so: differential causality and enablement. In this context constraints play a key role: on one side, they restrict possibilities, on the other, they enable biological systems to integrate changing constraints in their organization, by correlated variations, in un-prestatable ways. This corresponds to the formation of new phenotypes and organisms.


What Is It That Makes Humans Unique?

If an extraterrestrial civilization were to observe and study our planet from an objective perspective, there is no doubt that among the millions of species on Earth, homo sapiens stands out. This species sits on top of the food chain, has extended its habitats to the entire planet, and in recent centuries, experienced an explosion of technological, societal, and artistic advancements.

It’s remarkable how far we’ve come in what is a short period of time from an evolutionary perspective. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has a superb analogy to highlight this fact: Stretch your arms out to represent the span of the history of life on Earth, from the origins of life to where we are today. With this scale, the whole history of our species is represented by the thickness of one fingernail clipping. All of recorded human history is represented by the dust from one light stroke of a nail file.

One can’t help but wonder: how did our species get so far? 99.9 percent of all the species that have ever lived on Earth are now extinct. Not only have we survived, we have also seen intellectual and technological progress beyond any other form of life.

So, what is it that makes us unique?

What’s Not Unique

In his intellectually stimulating book, Human Purpose and Transhuman Potential, Ted Chu points out that many differences between us and other mammals are differences of degree. In other words, many of our seemingly unique traits are just exaggerated versions of traits that are already identified in other mammals and animals.

For instance, chimps kiss, laugh, lie, have in-group politics and show goal-directed action. Ants, wolves, and dolphins all have social traits. Many primates are self-aware. Elephants cry. Capuchin monkeys have forms of monetary exchange, and so on. These are just a few examples, but the point is that many of our behaviors are actually much more advanced versions of innate “animal instincts.”

What Is Unique

In his book, Chu identifies three “revolutionary” traits that make us unique. Naturally, there is a decent amount of debate on this topic, but many other biologists and scientists agree with him.

Symbolic abstract thinking: Very simply, this is our ability to think about objects, principles, and ideas that are not physically present. It gives us the ability for complex language. This is supported by a lowered larynx (which allows for a wider variety of sounds than all other animals) and brain structures for complex language.

But this trait not only gives us the ability to communicate symbolically, it also allows us to think symbolically, by allowing us to represent all kinds of symbols (including physical and social relationships) in our minds, independent of their presence in the physical world. As a result, internal associations of novel kinds become possible.

In Chu’s words, as a consequence of this “our mind acquires the ability to imagine, to reason, to choose among various motives, and to evaluate alternative plans to actions.” Symbolic abstract thinking has a crucial role to play in allowing us as individuals—and as a species—to be imaginative and solve complex problems.

Structure building: The ability to build physical and social structures, in addition to mental models. An extension of this ability is our capacity to share these structures or models with other members of our society—a critical component of cultural transmission.

Instead of relying on procreation to pass them on, memes (a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices) can be transmitted much faster than genes, through writing, speech, gestures, or rituals. They allow for cumulative knowledge and experiences that can serve as a powerful force throughout human progress.

Many of the structures we’ve built have also been used to expand our mental models beyond our biology. According to philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers’ theory of “the extended mind,” we use technology to expand the boundaries of the human mind beyond our skulls. We use tools like machine learning to enhance our cognitive skills or powerful telescopes to enhance our visual reach. Technology has become a part of our exoskeleton, allowing us to push beyond our limitations.

Higher consciousness: The very fact that we as human beings can write and read articles like this one and contemplate the unique nature of our mental abilities is awe-inspiring.

Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran said it best: “Here is this three-pound mass of jelly you can hold in the palm of your hand…it can contemplate the meaning of infinity, and it can contemplate itself contemplating the meaning of infinity.”

Such self-reflective consciousness or “meta-wondering” boosts our ability for self-transformation, both as individuals and as a species. It contributes to our abilities for self-monitoring, self-recognition and self-identification.

Where Does This Leave Us?

Our revolutionary traits stand out even more when we take a cosmic perspective. Everything in our world, including us, is made up of stardust, clumps of matter that originated in the crucibles of stars.

We are not only in the universe, but the universe is also within us. Our brains, as an extension of the universe, are now being used to understand themselves. That is why Carl Sagan has famously said “we are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” We are the only living being on Earth that can do this.

We know these are uniquely human traits. But as Chu points out, they also represent untapped potential. Some of us possess higher consciousness than others. The question that we now have to ask ourselves is, how do we cultivate higher consciousness, structural building, and symbolic abstract thinking among the masses?


6 Replies to &ldquo Astonishing duplicity continues around Haeckel’s embryos &rdquo

There are any number of events in History that share the same problem: it’s easier to teach the largely false versions in order to foster continuity than to spend the entire semester trying to explain that the USS Maine blew up from a faulty design (um, some genius located the main battery magazines right next to the furnaces for the boilers…) rather than some weird Spanish plot.
So I assume Haeckel’s stuff will still be appearing in “science” books 50 years from now. The only thing we can do is to make sure that our own children not about the fakery and WHY it was done.

Aaah…. the Enlightenment must have passed you by, then, News. (cough)(cough)

Fraudulent evidence and imaginary ‘just so stories’ are all that Darwinists have ever had:

“Icons of Evolution” – video playlist – video
http://www.youtube.com/playlis. 94E1D66A08

Jonathan Wells Presents Zombie Science at National Book Launch – video – 2017
https://youtu.be/I2UHLPVHjug?list=PLR8eQzfCOiS1rO4HiEiRBLalzTx-TaKYC&t=79

Zombie Science: More Icons of Evolution by Paul Giem – video playlist – 2018
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbQ1MVkUFzo&list=PLHDSWJBW3DNWmWZXX6eoBVnAjcO7JMN0X

EVOLUTIONARY JUST-SO STORIES
Excerpt: . The term “just-so story” was popularized by Rudyard Kipling’s 1902 book by that title which contained fictional stories for children. Kipling says the camel got his hump as a punishment for refusing to work, the leopard’s spots were painted on him by an Ethiopian, and the kangaroo got its powerful hind legs after being chased all day by a dingo.
Kipling’s just-so stories are as scientific as the Darwinian accounts of how the amoeba became a man.
Lacking real scientific evidence for their theory, evolutionists have used the just-so story to great effect. Backed by impressive scientific credentials, the Darwinian just-so story has the aura of respectability.
Biologist Michael Behe observes:
“Some evolutionary biologists–like Richard Dawkins–have fertile imaginations. Given a starting point, they almost always can spin a story to get to any biological structure you wish” (Michael Behe – Darwin’s Black Box).
http://www.wayoflife.org/datab. ories.html

“… another common misuse of evolutionary ideas: namely, the idea that some trait must have evolved merely because we can imagine a scenario under which possession of that trait would have been advantageous to fitness… Such forays into evolutionary explanation amount ultimately to storytelling… it is not enough to construct a story about how the trait might have evolved in response to a given selection pressure rather, one must provide some sort of evidence that it really did so evolve. This is a very tall order.…”
— Austin L. Hughes, The Folly of Scientism – The New Atlantis, Fall 2012
http://www.thenewatlantis.com/. -scientism

Sociobiology: The Art of Story Telling – Stephen Jay Gould – 1978 – New Scientist
Excerpt: Rudyard Kipling asked how the leopard got its spots, the rhino its wrinkled skin. He called his answers “Just So stories”. When evolutionists study individual adaptations, when they try to explain form and behaviour by reconstructing history and assessing current utility, they also tell just so stories – and the agent is natural selection.
Virtuosity in invention replaces testability as the criterion for acceptance.
https://books.google.com/books?id=tRj7EyRFVqYC&pg=PA530

As to embryological development in particular. Embryological development is far more problematic for Darwinists, as the OP makes abundantly clear, than they are ever willing to honestly admit in public. Besides the fraudulent drawings,,

Icons of Evolution 10th Anniversary: Haeckel’s (Bogus) Embryos – January 2011 – video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAC807DAXzY

There is no highly conserved embryonic stage in the vertebrates: – Richardson MK – 1997
Excerpt: Contrary to recent claims that all vertebrate embryos pass through a stage when they are the same size, we find a greater than 10-fold variation in greatest length at the tailbud stage. Our survey seriously undermines the credibility of Haeckel’s drawings,
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9278154

Besides the fraudulent drawings, we now have several other lines of evidence clearly demonstrating that embryological development is vastly different between species, Vastly different between even supposedly closely related species. As Michael Denton states, “In some ways the egg cell, blastula, and gastrula stages in the different vertebrate classes are so dissimilar that, where it not for the close resemblance in the basic body plan of all adult vertebrates, it seems unlikely that they would have been classed as belonging to the same phylum.”

“The earliest events leading from the first division of the egg cell to the blastula stage in amphibians, reptiles and mammals are illustrated in figure 5.4. Even to the untrained zoologist it is obvious that neither the blastula itself, nor the sequence of events that lead to its formation, is identical in any of the vertebrate classes shown. The differences become even more striking in the next major phase of in embryo formation – gastrulation. This involves a complex sequence of cell movements whereby the cells of the blastula rearrange themselves, eventually resulting in the transformation of the blastula into the intricate folded form of the early embryo, or gastrula, which consists of three basic germ cell layers: the ectoderm, which gives rise to the skin and the nervous system the mesoderm, which gives rise to muscle and skeletal tissues and the endoderm, which gives rise to the lining of the alimentary tract as well as to the liver and pancreas. In some ways the egg cell, blastula, and gastrula stages in the different vertebrate classes are so dissimilar that, where it not for the close resemblance in the basic body plan of all adult vertebrates, it seems unlikely that they would have been classed as belonging to the same phylum. There is no question that, because of the great dissimilarity of the early stages of embryogenesis in the different vertebrate classes, organs and structures considered homologous in adult vertebrates cannot be traced back to homologous cells or regions in the earliest stages of embryogenesis. In other words, homologous structures are arrived at by different routes.”
Michael Denton – Evolution: A Theory in Crisis – pg 145-146

Moreover, as the following paper points out, “most alternative splicing events differ widely between even closely related species. “The alternative splicing patterns are very different even between humans and chimpanzees,”

Evolution by Splicing – Comparing gene transcripts from different species reveals surprising splicing diversity. – Ruth Williams – December 20, 2012
Excerpt: A major question in vertebrate evolutionary biology is “how do physical and behavioral differences arise if we have a very similar set of genes to that of the mouse, chicken, or frog?”.
A commonly discussed mechanism was variable levels of gene expression, but both Blencowe and Chris Burge. found that gene expression is relatively conserved among species.
On the other hand, the papers show that most alternative splicing events differ widely between even closely related species. “The alternative splicing patterns are very different even between humans and chimpanzees,” said Blencowe.
http://www.the-scientist.com/. plicing%2F

Moreover, as the following papers point out, “Alternative splicing can produce variant proteins and expression patterns as different as the products of different genes”, and “Alternatively spliced isoforms of proteins,, behave as if encoded by distinct genes rather than as minor variants of each other., As many as 100,000 distinct isoform transcripts could be produced from the 20,000 human protein-coding genes (Pan et al., 2008), collectively leading to perhaps over a million distinct polypeptides”.

Frequent Alternative Splicing of Human Genes – 1999
Excerpt: Alternative splicing can produce variant proteins and expression patterns as different as the products of different genes.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm. PMC310997/

Widespread Expansion of Protein Interaction Capabilities by Alternative Splicing – 2016
In Brief
Alternatively spliced isoforms of proteins exhibit strikingly different interaction profiles and thus, in the context of global interactome networks, appear to behave as if encoded by distinct genes rather than as minor variants of each other.
Page 806 excerpt: As many as 100,000 distinct isoform transcripts could be produced from the 20,000 human protein-coding genes (Pan et al., 2008), collectively leading to perhaps over a million distinct polypeptides obtained by post-translational modification of products of all possible transcript isoforms (Smith and Kelleher, 2013).
http://iakouchevalab.ucsd.edu/. M_2016.pdf

That is simply crushing to any ‘gene-centric’ (i.e. ‘selfish gene’) view that Darwinists may try to invoke to support their belief in common descent.

Besides embryological development being vastly different between even supposedly closely related species, the particular biological form that any given species may take is not amenable to the reductive materialistic explanations of Darwinian evolution.

The failure of reductive materialism to be able to explain the basic form of any particular organism occurs at a very low level. Much lower than DNA itself.

In the following article entitled ‘Quantum physics problem proved unsolvable: Gödel and Turing enter quantum physics’, which studied the derivation of macroscopic properties from a complete microscopic description, the researchers remark that even a perfect and complete description of the microscopic properties of a material is not enough to predict its macroscopic behaviour. The researchers further commented that their findings challenge the reductionists’ point of view, as the insurmountable difficulty lies precisely in the derivation of macroscopic properties from a microscopic description.”

Quantum physics problem proved unsolvable: Gödel and Turing enter quantum physics – December 9, 2015
Excerpt: A mathematical problem underlying fundamental questions in particle and quantum physics is provably unsolvable.
It is the first major problem in physics for which such a fundamental limitation could be proven. The findings are important because they show that even a perfect and complete description of the microscopic properties of a material is not enough to predict its macroscopic behaviour.
“We knew about the possibility of problems that are undecidable in principle since the works of Turing and Gödel in the 1930s,” added Co-author Professor Michael Wolf from Technical University of Munich. “So far, however, this only concerned the very abstract corners of theoretical computer science and mathematical logic. No one had seriously contemplated this as a possibility right in the heart of theoretical physics before. But our results change this picture. From a more philosophical perspective, they also challenge the reductionists’ point of view, as the insurmountable difficulty lies precisely in the derivation of macroscopic properties from a microscopic description.”
http://phys.org/news/2015-12-q. godel.html

Since reductive materialistic explanations are a nonstarter for explaining how any organism might achieve its basic form, then that leaves a fairly big unanswered question before us. “Just how do organisms achieve their basis form?” A very big clue, via quantum information theory, as to how an organism actually achieves its basic biological form is touched upon in the following video at the 27:15 minute mark:

How Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness Correlate (27:15 minute mark – how quantum information theory relates to molecular biology)
https://youtu.be/4f0hL3Nrdas?t=1635

It is not an answer that Darwinian atheists will appreciate one bit:

Psalm 139:13
For you created my inmost being you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Have these people forgotten that even Stephen Jay Gould wrote an article in Natural History magazine (“Abscheulich! (Atrocious). Haeckel’s distortions did not help Darwin.”, March 2000, p. 42 ff) debunking Haeckel’s drawings?? Quoting Gould:

“To cut to the quick of this drama: Haeckel had exaggerated the similarities by idealizations and omissions. He also, in some cases–in a procedure that can only be called fraudulent–simply copied the same figure over and over again.”

Can these poor desperate souls let go of this fraudster fool Haeckel??

P.S. For those who think themselves erudite in blaming US biologists for influencing Germany and Hitler in the ways of evolution (that always seemed like a stretch to me–and blatant America-bashing), catch another quote from Stephen Jay Gould–from the same article (and remembering that Haeckel was German):

“Haeckel’s forceful, eminently comprehensible, if not always accurate, books appeared in all major languages and surely exerted more influence than the works of any other scientist, including Darwin and Huxley (by Huxley’s own frank admission), in convincing people throughout the world about the validity of evolution.”

As the illustration itself notes these are not Haeckel’s drawings but those of Romane a very talented biologist who extended Darwinian theory into fields like psychology, and who believed Darwin totally.
Is it possible to get some of Haeckel’s drawings?


Evolution’s Worst Mistake? How About External Testicles?

E volution is a work in progress, so it’s hardly surprising that some of the features it has built into the human body are still far from optimal. And of all those features, one of the hardest to explain is also one of the most conspicuous: external testicles.

WHAT I LEFT OUT is a recurring feature in which book authors are invited to share anecdotes and narratives that, for whatever reason, did not make it into their final manuscripts. In this installment, Nathan H. Lents shares a story that was left out of “Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, From Pointless Bones to Broken Genes,” published this month by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

From an evolutionary standpoint, after all, testicles are the most important thing about a man — without them, he wouldn’t exist at all. And there they are, just sitting out in the open. Exposed. Vulnerable. What kind of design is this?

Of course, there is an explanation. Human sperm cells develop better at a slightly lower temperature than the rest of our body seems to prefer. Humans aren’t alone in this respect: Most male mammals have testicles that migrate through the inguinal canal during gestation or infancy and eventually take up residence outside the abdominal cavity, suspended in a temperature-sensitive adjustable hammock. This allows the sperm cells to develop at the temperature that’s just right.

But is it really just right? Only if you accept that the ideal temperature is a special fixed property of the universe, like Planck’s constant or the speed of light in a vacuum. Evolution could have simply tweaked the parameters of sperm development so the ideal temperature of its enzymatic and cellular processes was the same as the rest of the body’s processes. Hematopoiesis, the creation of new blood cells, is a close parallel of sperm development in terms of the tissue architecture and cellular events involved, yet bone marrow doesn’t grow outside our body. Nor do ovaries, for that matter.

The fact is that there is no good reason that sperm development has to work best at lower temperatures. It’s just a fluke, an example of poor design. If nature had an intelligent designer, he or she would have a lot to answer for. But since natural selection and other evolutionary forces are the true designers of our bodies, there is no one to question about this. We must interrogate ourselves: Why are we like this?

The so-called “argument from poor design” goes back to Darwin himself. Prior to evolutionary theory, most people, scientists included, considered the world and everything in it to be the flawless creation of a perfect God. Of course, the rampant imperfections we can all easily spot called out for explanation and usually invoked a response along the lines of a “fall from grace” or some other such hand-waving. Now that we know that evolution is the creative force of life, we can be free from the expectation of perfection.

But we’re not. Far too often we repeat refrains like “Well, it must do something important or natural selection would have eliminated it,” or “Living things are perfectly suited for their habitats,” or “Evolution doesn’t tolerate inefficiency.” We haven’t really moved on from the creationist mindset that expects to see perfection in nature.

The reality is that evolution is aimless, natural selection is clumsy, and there’s no such thing as being perfectly adapted. Our bodies are a mishmash of compromises forged in different eras and by survival forces very different from the ones we now face. Evolution can work only with the bodies that we have, as they are, and can achieve “progress” only through the slightest tweaks and tugs. Even more frustrating, the selective forces themselves are constantly changing due to the dynamic nature of environments and ecosystems.

External testicles are just such an example. There are competing theories on how this strange quirk came about. Perhaps the testicles were escaping the newly warming abdomen of early mammals. There are other, more esoteric hypotheses as well, none of them perfectly satisfying, all of them potentially contributing a kernel of truth. In the end, it doesn’t really make sense, but, well, there they are.

In addition to the obvious danger of designing such important organs without any protection or even padding, external testicles introduce additional problems for mammals. One in four men will develop a hernia in their groin, 10 times the rate of women, precisely because of a weakness in the abdominal wall left from the migration of the testicles out of the abdomen. Surgical repair is relatively straightforward, but surgery is a relatively new invention in the history of our species. While only a small percentage of these hernias become life-threatening, given how common they are, hernias have killed untold millions over the ages.

The interesting evolutionary questions don’t end with the origin of external testicles. How they got there is one question what has happened since they got there is another, and we can actually get some answers to that question. While lots of physical variation is selectively neutral, there is reason to believe that conspicuous testicles served additional purposes for their bearers. Perhaps there was a sexual selective advantage in advertising testicles prominently, especially in creatures for whom sperm competition is important. If you got ’em, flaunt ’em.

While humans have relatively modest testicles, our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, harbor comparatively enormous ones, around three times the size of ours even though our overall body weight is similar. What does this tell us? Perhaps the large testicles indicate that male chimpanzees engage in sperm competition, in which the males who create and deposit the most sperm are rewarded with the most offspring. But sperm competition would exist only if the chimps, particularly the females, have sex with multiple partners. In a monogamous arrangement, there would be no advantage in having big testicles and lots of sperm.

And biologists have noticed that when choosing male sexual partners, female chimps prefer those with large testicles. Why? If we assume that testicle size is at least partially controlled by genetics, the female’s reproductive choices influence the traits of the children she will bear, including their genitals. If she chooses a mate with big balls, her sons will have big balls, and if big balls help him have more offspring, she’ll get more grandchildren. It is therefore in her reproductive interest to pursue attractive mates, because they’ll lead to attractive children, and that will boost her genetic legacy. This is known as the “sexy son” hypothesis.

O f course , human testicles are just one glaring example of the quirks that demonstrate how imperfect evolution can be. No sane engineer would design a body withsuch a bent back, weak knees, and nasal sinuses that have to drain upward. We fail at synthesizing basic vitamins, our immune cells frequently attack our own bodies, and our DNA is mostly gobbledygook. This is not good design.

While the flaws themselves demonstrate the random, haphazard way that evolution works, even more interesting are the backstories of each flaw. We don’t make vitamin C because a primate ancestor already had plenty of it served up right there in its environment. Our sinuses are a mess because evolution smooshed the snouts of monkeys into a more flattened face than other mammals — and then, for reasons we don’t fully understand, humans developed still flatter and smaller faces.

These are not simply obscure academic issues. Our inability to make vitamin C caused the death of millions of our forebears from scurvy. Poor drainage in our meandering sinuses causes frequent and painful infections. We are evolved to survive and reproduce, but not necessarily to be healthy, comfortable, or happy.

Even our powerful minds, supposedly our crowning achievement, are anything but perfect. The biggest threats we now face are purely of our making. Because evolution does not make long-term plans, neither do we: We jump to conclusions, think only of the short term, ignore evidence we don’t like, and fear and despise those who are different from us. And unlike external testicles, which are merely inconvenient, these are flaws that could one day prove fatal to our imperfect species.

Nathan H. Lents is professor of biology and director of the Macaulay Honors College at John Jay College, part of the City University of New York. He maintains the Human Evolution Blog, writes for Psychology Today, and hosts the podcast “This World of Humans.” Besides his new book, he is the author of “Not So Different: Finding Human Nature in Animals.”


Is "A Life Worth Living" a "Good Life" for Other Animals?

Is "A life worth living" a "good life?"

The purpose of this brief essay is to discuss two phrases that are used in discussions of nonhuman animal (animal) welfare. Many people write about giving animals a "good life" and by this they mean that we should try as hard as we can to do all we can to have individuals live as free from pain and suffering as possible, given what supposedly needs to be done with and to them. Of course, a "good life" is not necessarily truly anything of the sort, however, it can be used as a "feel good" phrase to say something like, "We're doing all we can to improve their compromised lives because we have to use them."

Another phrase, namely, "A life worth living," is popping up more and more and it seems like this is a more ambiguous and less restrictive way to justify how we treat other animals in any number of venues ranging from factory farms to laboratories to zoos.

"Food animals" and "research animals": Does "killing them softly" provide "A life worth living?"

Let me give two examples, one from the animal-industrial food complex and one from laboratories, where we can read about giving animals "A life worth living." Billions of animals are used annually for human food, despite the fact that there are numerous injustices in this practice. In an essay by Jennifer Demeritt called "See No Evil: Temple Grandin Designs Around Animals’ Needs" we read, "'Until gestation crates are banned by law in the U.S.,' says Grandin, 'what's going to drive a lot of things in the future is the customer. Young people are getting more concerned about where their food comes from.' That puts pressure on food producers to adopt more humane practices. And that leads to the ultimate goal for animals, in Grandin’s eyes, 'A life worth living.'” (my emphasis) Dr. Grandin is known for her work to make the lives of factory produced animals more humane and has been "killing them softly at slaughterhouses for 30 years." Indeed, to be fair, her work possibly makes "better" the lives of a very few of the millions upon millions of "food animals," but their "better life" is not necessarily "A life worth living" nor a "good life," and millions upon millions of these sentient beings still deeply suffer on the way to our plates. I expect they wouldn't choose to do it again -- to relive the same life they had before being processed and killed -- if they were given the choice, a point aptly made in a comment on this essay.

Another example of the use of the phrase "A life worth living" can be found in Dr. David Mellor's recent and comprehensive essay called "Updating Animal Welfare Thinking: Moving beyond the “Five Freedoms” towards “A Life Worth Living”. Both Drs. Grandin and Mellor, iconic animal welfarists, recognize that animals have emotional lives, that they can suffer deeply, and that if we continue to use them for food and in research we need to recognize this well-supported fact and do as much as we can to alleviate the pain and suffering as they are used and then killed "in the name of food" or "in the name of science."

Dr. Grandin continues her work and has not called for an end to factory farming, a move that allows her to continue her work despite the fact that millions of animals experience extreme abuse from the time they are born until the time they die. Dr. Mellor writes "negative experiences of thirst, hunger, discomfort and pain, and others identified subsequently, including breathlessness, nausea, dizziness, debility, weakness and sickness, can never be eliminated, merely temporarily neutralised." He also writes,

"Animal welfare management should aim to reduce the intensity of survival-critical negative affects to tolerable levels that nevertheless still elicit the required behaviours, and should also provide opportunities for animals to behave in ways they find rewarding, noting that poor management of survival-critical affects reduces animals’ motivation to utilize such rewarding opportunities. This biologically more accurate understanding provides support for reviewing the adequacy of provisions in current codes of welfare or practice in order to ensure that animals are given greater opportunities to experience positive welfare states. The purpose is to help animals to have lives worth living, which is not possible when the predominant focus of such codes is on survival-critical measures." (my emphasis)

Cutting through the chase, Dr. Mellor rightly recognizes that negative experiences cannot be eliminated, so we need to do the best we can so that we can continue on with the research. This is similar to trying to improve the lives of factory food animals while keeping the industry alive and kicking.

What's "A life worth living?"

This question could easily result in numerous long essays and books, and that is not my intention here. Rather, I'd like people to weigh in on what the phrase "A life worth living" means and how it compares to giving an individual a "good life." Of course, these are relative terms in a number of different ways. First, some people claim they're giving individuals a "better life" because they're improving, say, housing conditions, that are supposedly more humane and allow for more movement. However, having a "better life" does not mean that the individuals are moving on to a "good life," just a supposedly better one. Second, there is a good deal of speciesism here. One example of speciesistic thinking centers on the fact that what we call a "good life" or "A life worth living" for a nonhuman is invariably one of lower quality than for a human. Indeed, this is among the reasons why nonhumans are used in situations where humans are not.

Would you do it to your dog? A double standard

Another example of speciesism is located among the nonhumans themselves. We apply a double standard in that we don't typically use the same measures for assessing quality of life for our companion animals (pets) as we do, for example, for "food animals" or "research animals." Most people work hard to give the animals with whom they share their homes the best life they can, a good life and a life worth living. In an essay I wrote called "What's a Good Life for an Old Dog?" I used the phrase "a good life," and I feel that Inuk, the dog about whom I wrote, also had "A life worth living."

Many people are surprised, and a few taken back, when I ask, "Would you do it to your dog" when I refer to the ways in which other animals are used and brutally abused in different venues. However, this is a useful question for getting a motivated discussion going because when talking about mammals, we all share the same neuroanatomy and neurochemicals that play a role in individuals' emotional lives. A dog is no more sentient than, for example, a cow, pig, or mouse or rat. All of these and other mammals can suffer deep and prolonged pain (please see "Do 'Smarter' Dogs Really Suffer More than 'Dumber" Mice?'"). So, why allow cows, pigs, mice, rats, and other mammals to be treated in ways in which we would not allow our companion animals to be treated?

Another sort of discrimination, though it is not truly speciesism, is that laboratory dogs, for example, are used and abused in ways in which we would never allow our companion dogs at home to be treated. We also need to expand our moral circle because research has shown that birds, fish, and other animals also experience a broad array of emotions.

The phrase "A life worth living" cheapens the lives of other animals

As I was writing this essay I came across an essay called "Government planning to repeal animal welfare codes" in which we read, "Conservative ministers are planning to repeal an array of official guidance on animal welfare standards, starting with a move to put the code on chicken-farming into the hands of the poultry industry." As my friend Betty Moss notes, this is like the fox guarding the hen house. This move will allow those in the poultry industry to claim that the chickens are having "A life worth living," but surely it is not a "good life." It's what the humans decide is "A life worth living" so that the chickens can continue to be used and abused for food.

My take is that the phrase "A life worth living" cheapens the lives of the animals to whom it is applied, and it lowers the criteria we would use to claim that an animal is enjoying a "good life." However, both phrases are problematic, and, of course, we decide what "A life worth living" is and what a "good life" is, and neither results in stopping the use of animals and ultimately harming and killing them for human ends.

The science of animal well-being: Moving toward a more compassionate moral framework

I feel uneasy about the use of the phrase "A life worth living." Dr. Mellor's essay nicely spells out my concerns -- we need to improve the lives of the animals and give individuals "A life worth living" so we can continue to use them and so that they do what we ask of them when we subject them to this or that situation. This is rather condescending and dishonorable and fosters the welfare paradigm in which billions of other animals are used and abused for human ends. Surely we can do much better than this.

In a forthcoming book, Jessica Pierce and I argue that animal protection needs an animal-centered “science of animal well-being.” We suggest that following the principles of the rapidly growing international field called “compassionate conservation,” namely, “First do no harm” and “the life of every individual matters,” provides a promising and workable blueprint for the much-needed and long overdue shift from welfarism to a more compassionate moral framework. Please stay tuned for more on these ideas.


Pseudogenes are useless relics?

Until 2003, scientists had assumed that all pseudogenes (thought to be non-functional copies of genes) were produced through errors in DNA copying or mutation. It was thought that none of these sequences had any function. They were the "perfect" proof for the validity of evolutionary theory. However, in 2003, the first study was published showing that a pseudogene was required, and that the deletion of this gene was lethal. Obviously, this pseudogene had function. The abstract from a commentary in issue of Nature in which the study was published indicated:

"' Sequence of DNA that are very similar to normal genes but that has been altered so they are not expressed. Pseudogenes ' are produced from functional Functional and physical units of heredity passed from parent to offspring. Genes are pieces of DNA, and most genes contain the information for making a specific protein. genes during evolution, and are thought to be simply molecular fossils. The unexpected discovery of a biological function for one A sequence of DNA that is very similar to a normal gene but that has been altered so it is not expressed. pseudogene challenges that popular belief." 17

Since this first study, many other studies have found that pseudogenes exhibit functional activity, including gene expression, gene regulation, and generation of genetic diversity. 18 Recent work shows that up to 50% of pseudogenes in some genomes appear to be transcriptionally active (RNA is produced from the pseudogene DNA). 19 A large study (over 350 investigators), comprehensively examining 1% of the human genome, estimated that at least 19% of all pseudogenes are transcribed. 20

Related Resources

Reasons To Believe's third in a series of books proposing a testable creation model takes on the origin and design of the universe. Previous books, Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off and Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man, examined the origin of life on earth and the origin of mankind, respectively. Creation As Science develops a biblical creation model and compares the predictions of this model compared to a naturalistic model, young earth creationism, and theistic evolution. This biblical creation model is divided into four main areas, the origin of the universe, the origin of the Solar System, the history of life on earth, and the origin and history of mankind.

Darwin's Black Box author Michael Behe takes on the limits of evolution through an examination of specific genetic examples. Behe finds that mutation and natural selection is capable of generating trivial examples of evolutionary change. Although he concludes that descent with modification has occurred throughout biological history, the molecular devices found throughout nature cannot be accounted for through natural selection and mutation. Behe's book claims to develop a framework for testing intelligent design by defining the principles by which Darwinian evolution can be distinguished from design.


Concluding Remarks: On the “Singularity” of Nerve Cells and its Ontogenesis

During the past ten years, the neurosciences have evolved in a rapid and progressive manner, which can be compared to the development of molecular biology in the 1950s. Molecular biology arose from the convergence of biochemistry and genetics. Neurosciences acquired recently a new identity through the convergence of electrophysiology and biochemistry, anatomy and immunology, genetic engineering and phamacology, physics and behavioral sciences. The 20th century began with a revolution in understanding of matter, it will end, hopefully, with a comparable revolution in understanding of the brain through that of the functional properties of the neuron and of the neuronal networks. The description of the nerve cells and of their mutual relationships has been investigated in the past by two distinct although complementary approaches. “Histological” techniques led to the description of neuronal morphology and of the local distribution of some biochemical and antigenic markers. “Microphysiological” techniques, thanks to the use of juxta- or intracellular electrodes, have defined the functional modalities of individually recorded cells.


How can reprogramming be developed into a therapeutic or research tool?

Minimally, reprogramming should be used to help identify what affects the aged state of cells. By comparing old cells with reprogrammed cells from the same patient, it might be possible to identify sets of epigenetic changes that occur with age, and specifically target and revert them to recover cellular health. To do this, scientists have taken old skin cells, reprogrammed them into young embryonic-like cells, and then turned these cells into skin cells. The final product is a young skin cell, which can be directly compared with old skin cells from the same patient. By analyzing the differences, it might be possible to understand what changes could be reversed to only reset age.

The ideal reprogramming therapy would be a method that resets cellular age without fully reverting the cell to an embryonic-like state. While this currently hasn’t been found, epigenetic drugs such as Remodelin have been shown to influence DNA packing, and similar strategies using CRISPR to affect epigenetics could be used to search for targets that reverse aging but don’t cause reversion to an embryonic-like state.

One futuristic application of reprogramming would be to develop new organs from a patient’s old cells, which if grown in a lab or model organism, would be identical to the patient’s organs but younger. These new organs could then be transplanted back into the patient to replace their old or damaged tissue.

Although reprogramming’s effect on aging is still too mysterious to be directly transferred into a therapy, it is the only method known to truly reverse age on a cellular level, and the insights it reveals may one day lead to more radical therapeutic treatments.

Gabriel Filsinger is a 3 rd year graduate student in the Systems Biology program at Harvard University.


Watch the video: Characteristic of mammalsChapter 5 (May 2022).


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