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Mind Control and Magic

richardshagrin

These stories seem similar to me. The hero (or occasionally a heroine) may have too much power or control over other characters for the story to be interesting. Stories about Superman need super villains to provide reasonable conflict. This is not a big problem for short, mostly stroke, stories but for the longer story or series I like the author needs to follow a very fine line between Tarzan, capable of anything as lord of the jungle, and the character before having mind control, magical powers, or lamps with a genie who will provide unlimited wishes. Real people may not be as interesting as ones with power, but based on what most authors know, its easier to write about ordinary SOL readers or high school students than Kings and Emperors. Even without mind control or mastery of magic, there are some stories/characters that seem to never fail. They might get a million dollar wound, or even lose part of a leg, but there is no challenge they can't overcome in the next chapter, or at least a chapter before the story ends. Of course this ability to overcome may be the climax of the story, and often these are interesting to read.

I think one of the reasons I like Naked in School stories and the Swarm Cycle is that the characters are not all powerful, certain to control whatever they survey. Sometimes making it through the week, or to the pickup makes as satisfactory a story as conquering Earth, or the entire universe. I use a 5o ton crane to suspend disbelief, and mostly it does the job pretty well. There are some mind control and magic stories where the cable breaks under the strain.

aubie56

Superman-type stories can be great fun to read and write if you just keep the right attitude. Specifically, how would a single hero/heroine save the Earth from invading aliens except as a superhero?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@aubie56

An ordinary man who's a biological warfare scientist comes up with a new virus that affects the aliens. Dang, Hollywood has done that one!

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


An ordinary man who's a biological warfare scientist comes up with a new virus that affects the aliens. Dang, Hollywood has done that one!


Yes they have, and it bugs the hell out of me. It's problematic for suspension of disbelief because it's too implausible. We are nowhere near the point where we can reliably engineer a virus with 100% predictability of effects on human biology, now you want to throw alien biology at it and expect it to be both highly contagious and highly lethal without decades to study said alien biology?

The movie Independence Day was a great story until they got to the end and had the human's win by having a human hack an alien computer network to shut down the alien's shields.

Pissed me off an ruined the story line. The only thing that saves the movie is that it's a TBU effects movie and you don't expect a great story in a TBU movie.

PS TBU=Things Blowing Up

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Don't need to engineer one from scratch, just try out what we have and then boost one that seems to work well. From history we have the examples of what small pox did to the natives of the Americas who didn't have any immunity to it, and they weren't trying to do any harm then.

Heck, if I was in charge of such a task I'd have the crews work up a strong form of everything we know that we can stuff in a single package and throw the mix at them in the opes something works. Or toss a new bio-weapon at them every day until one does work.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


Don't need to engineer one from scratch, just try out what we have and then boost one that seems to work well.


The end of War of the Worlds where the aliens fell prey to and Earth virus by mere happenstance is plausible.

Even what you are suggesting should require years if not decades of effort and at least several failed attempts. As a solution to an alien invasion that will be over with humans being wiped out in a matter of days or weeks, it is a highly implausible solution.

docholladay

@Dominions Son

Even the common cold genre of virus could be potentially deadly to an alien species with no natural immunity or defenses developed. The measles and chicken pox virus was as deadly as small pox to natives with no natural immunity or resistance to them. All those germs mankind has built up natural resistances to, the aliens would not have the same resistances.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@docholladay


Even the common cold genre of virus could be potentially deadly to an alien species with no natural immunity or defenses developed.


True, but that is happenstance not something deliberately engineered to affect the aliens.

However, even that is problematic in a modern sense. It assumes two highly improbable conditions.

1. That the alien's biochemistry is similar enough to our own to be infected at all by Earth bound viruses.

2. That an alien race capable of interstellar travel would not already be aware of such risk and/ or would fail to take the appropriate precautions, such as operating in environment suits or environmentally sealed vehicles.

Edited to add:

Make that three highly improbable conditions.

3. That an alien race capable of interstellar travel would not have equally advanced medical technology and wouldn't be capable of treating themselves for infection by our diseases and / or capable of developing vaccines faster than we can throw new engineered viruses at them.

Replies:   Joesephus
jimh67

Actually, biological warfare is how the aliens will get rid of us. The Independance Day approach is like trying to kill cockroaches with a shotgun instead of insecticide.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@jimh67

What I said applies to the aliens trying to use bio-warfare on us as much as it does to us trying to use it on them.

It's impractical and far more inefficient than then a military blow everything up invasion without years spent studying our bio-chemistry.

Even human on human, engineered chemical and biological warfare have never proven to be as effective as they are claimed to be on a theoretical basis.

Take for example the use of Sarin gas by the Syrian government against internal rebels a few years ago prior to the whole ISIS mess.

In theory a couple of pounds of Sarin gas would be enough to kill everyone in New York City. Syria dropped half a ton of it on a few 10s of thousands of rebels and created less than a thousand casualties.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
El_Sol

To get back to the original post...

Mind control does not require a 'supervillain' as it functions best in a character-driven or situation-driven story.

Mind control als has a two-faced aspect of victim-centric or controller-centric. In the victim-centric model, the controller is the conflict.

The controller-centric model is free to explore the loss of control/power that the controller goes through when he acquires power -- this is internal conflict.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

The engineering may be as simple as just breeding a lot, or quickly breeding a stronger strain. And the time frame you take to do it will be part of the authors choice to use.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

True, but Sarin is one of the gases that requires a certain level of concentration which is hard to obtain in an open environment, which is why those who use it tend to do so in enclosed areas like buildings and vehicles. Out in the open the gas quickly becomes to thin to do anything, also it isn't selective. There are other gases readily available that are effective in open environments, the Mustard gas from WW1 being a well known option. Iraq used some gases against Iran during their little fight in the 1980s - still tonnes of the chemicals for that stuff unaccounted for.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

The engineering may be as simple as just breeding a lot, or quickly breeding a stronger strain. And the time frame you take to do it will be part of the authors choice to use.


Any time frame less than several years would be implausible.

Replies:   Dominions Son
El_Sol

But that is why they have been abducting people for so long.

Dominions Son

@Dominions Son

There are other gases readily available that are effective in open environments, the Mustard gas from WW1 being a well known option.


You simply have no idea how much mustard gas had to be used to be that effective. It's actually liquid at room temperature and puddles of it were left on the ground, which froze over winter and soldiers lost feet because they stepped on the frozen puddles in the spring when the ice began to thin.

Simply put, all the available evidence from actual field use put chemical weapons less efficient than conventional weapons. Nerve toxins like Sarin were developed because Mustard gas and it's ilk are actually rather expensive money wise compared to conventional weapons at the quantities that had to be used.

They were looking for something that could produce mass casualties without having to be used by the ton. The effort was an abysmal failure.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

The end of War of the Worlds where the aliens fell prey to and Earth virus by mere happenstance is plausible.

Just to jump in here mid-fight but, "War of the Worlds" didn't conclude with scientists 'inventing' a plague to wipe out the martians. Instead, they fell victim to common human viruses they had no immunity to. It was more a statement to the unpredictability of progress than anything else, suggesting that military might doesn't guarantee victory. In that, I think it was a tremendous conclusion.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

ust to jump in here mid-fight but, "War of the Worlds" didn't conclude with scientists 'inventing' a plague to wipe out the martians. Instead, they fell victim to common human viruses they had no immunity to.


I believe that is exactly what I said.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

RichardShargin, getting back to your original point, your Mind Control stories feature the infamous 'everyman' discovering secret abilities. There have been volumes written about the few basic story types, and this is a classic (Star Wars, the Odyssey, etc.).

One thing that makes this type of story work is that they have no clue how to utilize their power. They have to figure it out and master it before they can wield it correctly, the entire time the bad guys are closing in on them. In that case, the resolution isn't so much a surprise, as it's been coming the entire story. Everyone (but the main character himself) knows they have the ability to defeat the bad guys (which explains why they're so desperate to wipe them out). The only question is, will they figure out what they're doing before it's too late.

Those stories are really more about contrast: naive innocent vs. experts, native skill vs. experience, hard work equaling the playing field, young boy to warrior. As such, it provides plenty of surprises, contrasts, twists and turnarounds.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I believe that is exactly what I said.

Sorry, DS. I read the first three or four unread comments and felt forced to reply before reaching your comment.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Sorry, DS. I read the first three or four unread comments and felt forced to reply before reaching your comment.


???

Apology accepted, but the accompanying explanation makes no sense. You replied to and quoted my comment.

pj
Updated:

Small quibble.

It's not that Aliens would be felled by a virus common to us but UNKNOWN to them; It's that the virus* would have been FORGOTTEN by them.

Any culture advanced enough to use FTL Interstellar travel would have eradicated disease via nano-biotics, long before.

Just as we will.

But don't think for a minute that they would necessarily still be using the nano's.

Watch the movie 'Idiocracy'. We can see that coming, as well.

* Not to mention our common digestive tract bacteria, to which they might be fatally allergic.

Replies:   Dominion's Son
Dominion's Son

@pj

It's not that Aliens would be felled by a virus common to us but UNKNOWN to them; It's that the virus* would have been FORGOTTEN by them.


It's absurd to think that any alien race would know about any virus that exists on Earth.

You ignore the improbability that they would have bio-chemistry close enough to our own to even be affected by our diseases.

Any culture advanced enough to use FTL Interstellar travel would have eradicated disease via nano-biotics, long before.


Impossible. Diseases evolve over time just like everything else.

But don't think for a minute that they would necessarily still be using the nano's.


Assuming that they can even be affected by alien diseases, a race with interstellar travel would constantly be encountering new ones, so your suggestion that they would ever stop using a nano-biotic if they develop one is absurd on it's own.

Replies:   pj  tppm  Crumbly Writer
pj

@Dominion's Son

Well whatever...
I made my case by pointing out 'Idiocracy', the movie.

You can believe what you want. I just offered an opinion, unlikely as you may think it is.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@pj

I made my case by pointing out 'Idiocracy', the movie.


No, you didn't. Do you really think it's even remotely plausible that an alien race that goes down the Idiocracy route would be capable of maintaining interstellar travel?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
pj

Yes, by hobbling their AI. Hopefully I dont have to explain THAT. You either get it or you dont, you are allowed to disagree and you do.
That's my last word.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

The ability to use a technology does not automatically imply the ability to maintain or repair said technology. On a related issue there have been a number of cases of certain illnesses that were thought to be wiped out re-emerging in some countries because the people no longer take precautions against them.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

The ability to use a technology does not automatically imply the ability to maintain or repair said technology.


True, but the lack of the ability to maintain it does imply the lack of the ability to create more of that type of technology. Once you are in that state, the technology will inevitably be lost to attrition.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

True, but the lack of the ability to maintain it does imply the lack of the ability to create more of that type of technology. Once you are in that state, the technology will inevitably be lost to attrition.


Depends on how well developed the technology is! In some of Isaac Asimov's stories he has societies where they've lost the ability to maintain or create technology, but before that happened the technology reached a stage where it maintained itself. Thus you can have computer run interstellar ships that work of voice commands and fix themselves, but the crews can't fix anything the automated systems can't fix.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

In some of Isaac Asimov's stories he has societies where they've lost the ability to maintain or create technology, but before that happened the technology reached a stage where it maintained itself


You would still loose ships over time to severe accidents that result in total loss, with no means to replace the ships.

Such a situation might last for centuries, but the technology will eventually be lost. In the long term, no other outcome is possible, unless you posit sentient machines that can make more of themselves. In which case, you are completely outside of the Idiocracy scenario.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

You would still loose ships over time to severe accidents that result in total loss, with no means to replace the ships.


True, but it could take many centuries over many generations. That's providing they didn't get self-repairing automated spaceship factories operating before the breakdown in knowledge.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

That's providing they didn't get self-repairing automated spaceship factories operating before the breakdown in knowledge.


Nope, that might extend the decay from centuries to millennia, but it won't stop it. There will be events catastrophic enough to cause the loss of factories.

The only way for such a scenario to sustain indefinitely is to have sentient self replicating machines, but then you don't end up with an Idiocracy, you end up with machine rule and a machine civilization.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

To be perfectly honest, I find Idiocracy itself to be highly implausible.

Who is keeping the power grid running?

Who is manufacturing the goods in the giant box store?

It can't be the people on display in the movie.

To be perfectly honest, I think in a real Idiocracy scenario, we would be back to stone age within 2 generations.

tppm
Updated:

@Dominion's Son


It's absurd to think that any alien race would know about any virus that exists on Earth.


I can just see it, the common cold and measles and small pox and Ebola, etc have no effect on them, but they're wiped out by, dutch elm disease.

BTW I agree with you, if Terran diseases effected them at all, they would most likely not have any immensities to the specific diseases that have evolved on Earth, having evolved separately, think smallpox and native Americans, and so be effected by them immediately, though it might not be obvious immediately, and even so by random chance a few of them would be immune, so it, or more likely they, wouldn't wipe them out completely. OTOH, if their biology is completely different, as would seem most likely, no Terran disease would effect them, but they would get no nutrition, and might be poisoned by any plant or animal they might try to eat. Note, that would only apply to biological entities, minerals and chemicals they would have in common and would, or should, know the effects of.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominion's Son

Assuming that they can even be affected by alien diseases, a race with interstellar travel would constantly be encountering new ones, so your suggestion that they would ever stop using a nano-biotic if they develop one is absurd on it's own.

D.S., the story was about a Martian invasion, so it wasn't about experienced space travelers, but about neighboring states invading those near them, and how they often don't plan on how their actions will play out. (Technically, I've always believed it was directed at government organizations being badly focused and irresponsible.)

The theme, or moral, of the story was that the best laid plans often go astray for very simple reasons that were unanticipated. As the old saying goes, 'few military strategies survive the initial battle' (I'm paraphrasing, since I can't remember the original saying).

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

the story was about a Martian invasion, so it wasn't about experienced space travelers, but about neighboring states invading those near them, and how they often don't plan on how their actions will play out.


Which is why the ploy works for War of the Worlds, but wouldn't work for a more modern story involving interstellar travel.

Dominions Son

@tppm

but they would get no nutrition, and might be poisoned by any plant or animal they might try to eat.


True, but you would expect them to be prepared for that as well.

Dominions Son

@tppm

I agree with you, if Terran diseases effected them at all, they would most likely not have any immensities to the specific diseases that have evolved on Earth, having evolved separately, think smallpox and native Americans, and so be effected by them immediately


Actually, I don't quite agree with this. I think any alien race that could get here over interstellar distances would be aware of the possibility of that and have in place appropriate bio-hazard protocols.

Crumbly Writer

@tppm

if their biology is completely different, as would seem most likely, no Terran disease would effect them

That may be, but then, chances are, exposure to anything, especially any living thing, would expose them to anaphylactic shock! Death is death, whether it's due to a virus or an auto-immune response!

Replies:   Dominions Son
pj
Updated:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.[1]

Assuming any species would install similar safeguards, note that there's a good chance their egos might not foresee the chance that their AI might choose to allow that species to simply die out by benign neglect.

- go figure: My current story, Alt World, relates to that.

OTOH, Those beings are too self-centered and lazy to bother conquering other worlds.

richardshagrin

@pj

is the parenthetical one at the end of the third law a footnote? If so, what does it say? Sometimes the escape hatches are in the footnotes.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

'few military strategies survive the initial battle' (I'm paraphrasing, since I can't remember the original saying).


No Plan survives contact with the enemy is the version I'm most familiar with.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

No Plan survives contact with the enemy is the version I'm most familiar with.


I've also seen: The first casualty in any battle is the plan.

Dominions Son

@pj

Assuming any species would install similar safeguards, note that there's a good chance their egos might not foresee the chance that their AI might choose to allow that species to simply die out by benign neglect.


There is also the issue of the flaw in the three laws of robotics raised by Asimov himself in I Robot.

Specifically, what happens when the robots decide that the biggest threat to humans is humans?

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


That may be, but then, chances are, exposure to anything, especially any living thing, would expose them to anaphylactic shock!


Again, it seems highly implausible to me that any alien race that could get here across interstellar differences would not understand and implement basic bio-hazard protocols to protect against that sort of risk.

Edited

aubie56

DS, I think you left out a "not" in there somewhere.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@aubie56

You're right, I did.

richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

Somewhere I heard the first casualty in war is the truth.

The major communist newspapers were Isvestia (Information in Russian) and Pravda (truth). There was a saying there is no Isvestia in Pravda and no Pravda in Isvestia. Reporting government statements particularly in wartime has those problems.

richardshagrin
Updated:

@Dominions Son

sorry, hitting enter seem to cause an echo.

To continue my ill-judged diatribe, and again citation required, Somewhere I read there have been only 2 years man has been on this planet where there has not been a war somewhere.

Again from my confused brain comes the song tag, "They're rioting in Africa..."

Thank Bing for the lyrics from the Kingston Trio
They're rioting in Africa, they're starving in Spain.
There's hurricanes in Florida, and Texas needs rain.
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch.
And I don't like anybody very much!

But we can be tranquil, and thankful, and proud,
For mans' been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud.
And we know for certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off, and we will all be blown away.

They're rioting in Africa, there's strife in Iran.
What nature doesn't do to us, will be done by our fellow man

pj

Look, I'm sorry but what exactly is your point? The thread title seems appropriate -even though I dont agree they are the same - but I would like to know why it matters. There are different levels and motives used in both magic and mind control.
In your last post, are you lamenting? Mid-thread, it brings to mind that some seem to think that 'the Other' is somehow more 'super-human' and wise.
Not even the animal kingdom is free of tribal feudalism, despite what many say.
So why do you think an interstellar alien specie is free of what we have seen as the weird vagaries of intelligence?
It's pure Hubris to believe that we have advanced through knowledge and communication. That Hubris leads to ignoring history. And thus repeating the same mistakes over and over.
"If I were Superman I would...."
Using magic or mind control to gloss over the mistakes leads to more unexpected results down the road.

But that is what makes it fun.

And the same applies to the 'Other', even if they are from the other side of Andromeda.

blacksash
Updated:

Don't know if it's OT but looks like I'm the only one concerned.

I had a discussion once with an angry (female?) writer about plausibility of near superhero characters in erotic stories. You know the kind of stories where the guy become a martial art master overnight and generally has a bunch of too good to be true experiences with the opposite sex.

She had a point I thought but at the same time was missing where that came from which IMO is the Stan Lee & Jack Kirby legacy of superheroes with super problems. Of course that would have been a really nerd thing to say and I settled for a list of possible plots of the particular specie of superhero of interest that's the sex god.

Sex god overall usually good for a while but boring in the long run.

Sex god with shortcomings, anger issues or paranoid threats good for the female character to nurse him back in shape while he's busy saving the world.

Sex god with a dark past, good for a nice revenge story.

And so on. Sorry for the rant

Replies:   tppm  El_Sol
tppm

@blacksash

Sex God who's brilliant and apparently caring in bed, but a total misogynistic ass the rest of the time.

Replies:   blacksash
blacksash

@tppm

and the overall abusive guy with submissive women falling over him for more abuse...

Perv Otaku

War of the Worlds is realistic enough because the issue of one group of guys going to another place where another group of guys live, and one of them has a real problem with some disease that is only a minor nuisance for the other one, is a common historical event here on earth.

Most alien races in scifi are just allegories for this or that human culture, after all.

Yes, in truth viruses from one species aren't likely to be able to affect a species from another planet. But that kind of accuracy would be boring.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
El_Sol

@blacksash

'Too good to be true' is the point of 'erotica'.

It is a superhero story, so right off the bat throw 'true' out the window. Then a superhero in the world of true would either be destroyed or WORSHIPPED and have a 'too good to be true' sex life better than the sex life we imagine movie stars and athletes to have.

I accept the overnight criticism but not the too good to be true sex life one.

Replies:   blacksash
blacksash

@El_Sol

Must be that english is not my language but I was relating the criticism of an erotica writer on sol and not my own. But that's a moot point as I was interested in superheroism as a literaly device vs mind control and magic as a poor surrogate flamish debate 😁

Crumbly Writer

@Perv Otaku

Yes, in truth viruses from one species aren't likely to be able to affect a species from another planet. But that kind of accuracy would be boring.

I've always wondered how DNA developed/evolved. How do ALL animals have a master control manual but no key to understand what each switch controls. Each cell just knows what some future evolutionary change will mean.

I've long thought that there's some intuitive logic to it, and that maybe all advanced beings develop a mechanism which follows the logic of each DNA switch. Of course, that's completely unsupported by any science, but it's what I like to believe.

(By the way, that's not an 'intelligent designer' theory, but an 'underlying mathematics' principle.)

Replies:   tppm  Perv Otaku
tppm
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

It's random chance. We mostly don't see the changes that are actively harmful, because they don't survive (two requirements, don't kill the carrier too soon, and get passed on to the next generation), but some of the ones that aren't too harmful but aren't particularly helpful either stick around as recessives or facilitate traits that have no effect on survival, e.g. hair, eye, and skin color. Occasionally one of those recessives turns out to be helpful as the environment changes, for example being hetrozygous for sickle cell trait helping prevent sleeping sickness.

Perv Otaku

@Crumbly Writer

I've always wondered how DNA developed/evolved. How do ALL animals have a master control manual but no key to understand what each switch controls. Each cell just knows what some future evolutionary change will mean.

I've long thought that there's some intuitive logic to it, and that maybe all advanced beings develop a mechanism which follows the logic of each DNA switch. Of course, that's completely unsupported by any science, but it's what I like to believe.

(By the way, that's not an 'intelligent designer' theory, but an 'underlying mathematics' principle.)


Evolution is trial and error writ large. Some changes occur due to random mutations, the helpful ones survive and reproduce better, the harmful ones survive and reproduce worse. Most of it though plays on variations. Members of a species are never exactly the same, some are a little taller, some run a little faster, some have darker coloring, etc. If being taller is better than being shorter, the average height will creep upwards, maybe only by an inch or two every dozen generations, until a few thousand years later you have a giraffe.

The genes are only half the story, the environment is the other. If the herd spreads to a new area with a different climate, or the climate changes in the current area (and by climate I don't just mean the weather, it includes food, predators, etc.) then the old advantageous traits may not still apply, while other traits become newly advantageous. Extinctions happen when the climate changes too quickly for generational changes to keep up.

How DNA first developed is an entirely different question, and almost entirely speculative compared to the relatively simple evolution/natural selection stuff. The development of two genders and sexual reproduction is similarly so. The advantages are obvious but how things got there from the previous, simpler way of doing things is a big mystery.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Perv Otaku


Some changes occur due to random mutations, the helpful ones survive and reproduce better, the harmful ones survive and reproduce worse. Most of it though plays on variations.


What is interesting is the people who try to shove Darwin's Theory down everyone's throat, regardless of if they're interested or not, never do manage to explain how those mutations occur despite the fact DNA is very robust and resistant to mutations in general.

Darwin has a perfect explanation of why mutation (a) will survive better than mutation (b) and why mutation (c) is even better in some environments, but he never says how they came about to be tested out in high enough numbers to make a test possible.

There is a theory that some mutations are due to in vitro changes caused by solar radiation during solar storms and / or may the mother being close to a strong source of radiation during the early stages of pregnancy. But the major proponents of it admit they can't account for as many as appears to have happened over the aeons. They have names for what they see as the causes, and give them types, but the discussion on the underlying causes are all full of comments with the words may or could and much of the tests to prove the theories require levels of interference higher than what they admit are likely in the field. Thus we still have a lot more to investigate and learn about this field of science.

edit to fix typos

madnige

@Ernest Bywater

how those mutations occur despite the fact DNA is very robust and resistant to mutations in general


Pretty simple, for sexual reproduction. The generation of the gametes containing half-sets of chromosomes is meiosis, and an early phase of this pairs up the matching chromosomes then splits and rejoins them to shuffle the genetic material (so each of the resulting pair contains bits of each of the originals). If this split happens in the coding region for a gene, there's a good chance that the coding after the rejoin won't match either of the parent chromosomes - a mutation. Thus, not only does sexual reproduction allow rapid selection of beneficial mutations, it also generates them. Most split-and-recombine will happen in junk DNA, or between regions which are identical, so the mutations still won't be common, but much more common than for asexual reproduction.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@madnige

Thus, not only does sexual reproduction allow rapid selection of beneficial mutations,


That doesn't match what i was taught at school, and I accept they probably know more about it now. However, going from some of the readily available research material summarized at wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutation

Quote

In biology, a mutation is a permanent change of the nucleotide sequence of the genome of an organism, virus, or extrachromosomal DNA or other genetic elements. Mutations result from damage to DNA which is not repaired or to RNA genomes (typically caused by radiation or chemical mutagens), errors in the process of replication, or from the insertion or deletion of segments of DNA by mobile genetic elements. ....

....Causes

Four classes of mutations are (1) spontaneous mutations (molecular decay), (2) mutations due to error prone replication bypass of naturally occurring DNA damage (also called error prone translesion synthesis), (3) errors introduced during DNA repair, and (4) induced mutations caused by mutagens. Scientists may also deliberately introduce mutant sequences through DNA manipulation for the sake of scientific experimentation.

end quote

For all they define what went wrong, but for most they don't state why it went wrong. The only ones they give a fairly full explanation of are induced mutations. But statements like "A base is changed by the repositioning of a hydrogen atom, altering the hydrogen bonding pattern of that base, resulting in incorrect base pairing during replication." In this case they may as well say magic moved a hydrogen atom, because they sure don't know why it moved - just that it moved. They speak of repair damage and naturally occurring DNA damage - but not why they occur naturally.

However, that moves away from the thrust of Darwin's Theory of Evolution (a theory still, after all these years - and very a very solid theory at that) tells us why mutation A survives in environment (1) better than mutations B or C. But DToE does not address mutation causes at all.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Ernest Bywater

Darwin is a city in Northern Australia where there isn't much to do, so they decided to mutate and evolve. Its a theory.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  Grant
Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

Darwin is a city in Northern Australia where there isn't much to do, so they decided to mutate and evolve. Its a theory.


Actually, some decades back Cyclone Tracey came along and blew it away, and the few left got flown out in the following days.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclone_Tracy

Grant

@richardshagrin

Darwin is a city in Northern Australia where there isn't much to do, so they decided to mutate and evolve.

More a case of drink & stay drunk. Or stoned. Or both.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin
Updated:

@Grant

Getting drunk on alcoholic beverages or stoned on drugs may affect their chromosomes and thus when reproducing cause mutation? Or maybe its the bright sunshine and hot weather that causes changes. One reason natural selection favors dark skin in hot sunny places and white (or pink) skin in Northern climates like Scandinavia. And blonde hair.

Skin color may give natural advantages to light colored skin when it is hard to get enough sunshine to give you sufficient vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. When you get plenty of sun there is no advantage to looking European, and problems with sunburn our darker skined relatives escape. Given enough time, more than languages evolve.

Perv Otaku

@Ernest Bywater

What is interesting is the people who try to shove Darwin's Theory down everyone's throat, regardless of if they're interested or not, never do manage to explain how those mutations occur despite the fact DNA is very robust and resistant to mutations in general.


That's not really all that true. DNA replication is amazingly complex and despite steps that are meant to ensure accurate copies, errors happen all the time.

As for Darwin, I think people conflate his work with a lot of things that came afterwards. He's became a figurehead for all things evolution, but all he really did was observe that animal species appear to be a product of their environment and also appear to, over great periods of time, change and even branch out into distinct species from one common lineage. I doubt he said much about the mechanism of this, DNA hadn't even been discovered when he wrote his famous book, though people would have been familiar with the idea of inherited traits, children resembling parents and such.

Understanding DNA as we do now, it is clear that sexual reproduction is a much faster and more effective adaptation mechanism than mutation, as it guarantees that all offspring will not be identical to the parents, rather than the once-in-a-while aspect of mutations.

Quite naturally the further back you go in evolution, the more speculative things become, because there are no fossils to study. A proper scientist admits that such things are mostly educated guesswork.

Replies:   tppm  Ernest Bywater
tppm

@Perv Otaku

I doubt he said much about the mechanism of this, DNA hadn't even been discovered when he wrote his famous book, though people would have been familiar with the idea of inherited traits, children resembling parents and such.


Not to mention thousands of years of animal and plant breeding for specific traits.

Darwin's major contribution was that he said it happened in nature (NATURAL selection) as well as in husbandry and horticulture (artificial selection).

Ernest Bywater

@Perv Otaku

As for Darwin, I think people conflate his work with a lot of things that came afterwards. He's became a figurehead for all things evolution, but all he really did was observe that animal species appear to be a product of their environment and also appear to, over great periods of time, change and even branch out into distinct species from one common lineage.


And that is exactly the point I was making. But for over a century some people having claiming that's all there is to evolution.

As to species change, there is a very real difference between mutation and normal variation. As it was explained to me, many years ago and I've not seen anything to say it's wrong, the DNA coding has multiple options available for each gene choice from each parent and things get shuffled around during the reproduction process. If all the options available in the entire human DNA pool were listed, and there were no mutations, then that list of options would stay the same; all that varies is which group of sub-sets are dominant in each person.

However, a mutation is where something in the DNA is altered to create something that's not on the list of available options, and thus adds a new one to the list. Sometimes these are viable, sometimes not; sometimes these will pass on to later generations, sometimes not. But they're always something that wasn't on the list prior to what caused the mutation.

Today the scientists can cause a mutation by various means and say these must be what has caused past mutations. They're probably right, but can't prove it was definitely that way. The scientist can also analyze the DNA etc and say certain types of natural mutation can occur, as is shown in the article I linked to before.

However, the sort of ongoing mutations they can point to as naturally occurring or environmental occurring in the past are all small in comparison to some of those we know had to have happened due to the fossil records we have. In many cases it could well be what we see are cases where hundreds or thousands of mutations occurring between the the samples. But that doesn't explain the major difference we see in some examples that were contemporaries of the same general line in the same environments, like the Neanderthals and their hominid neighbours.

I don't pretend to have all the answers, but get pissed off when someone claims they do and have no evidence to back up all their claims.

richardshagrin

@Ernest Bywater

You probably aren't a happy camper when political campaigns start. There are lots of candidates claiming they have all the answers and very little evidence to back up their claims.

Replies:   madnige
madnige

@richardshagrin

claiming they have all the answers and very little evidence to back up their claims.


How do you tell if a politician is lying?
-Check to see if their mouth is moving!

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@madnige

That is not always true. Sometimes they are singing or brushing their teeth.

Perv Otaku

@Ernest Bywater

I don't pretend to have all the answers, but get pissed off when someone claims they do and have no evidence to back up all their claims.


The main thing about evolutionary science is that specific individual examples may be fuzzy on the details, especially when dealing with changes that happened before humans even existed, but there's a preponderance of evidence to support the general notion.

The other problem is most people don't really have a complete grasp on science in general or particular parts of science specifically. Real scientists know that any theories not involving controllable lab experiments generally have a bunch of holes and are constantly being revised. Most laypeople are under the impression that anything said by any scientist ever is infallible.

So you may get people trying to defend evolution without really knowing what they are talking about.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

There is a theory that some mutations are due to in vitro changes caused by solar radiation during solar storms and my the mother being close to a strong source of radiation during the early stages of pregnancy.

They've noted, following major extinction events, that there's an explosion of new species. As you say, mutation rates have also been shown to increase with heightened sunlight exposure (less tree cover due to plant die-offs?). In either case, there's something which triggers increases in mutations. When things are 'normal', the only mutations you notice are carcinogenic. During times when everything is dying anyway, you get more positive mutations.

Replies:   Wheezer  remarcsd
Wheezer

@Crumbly Writer

You have to remember that when evolutionary scientists talk about an "explosion" of new species, they are talking in geological time, not time as we humans perceive it. Mammals did not suddenly fill the earth in a few years. It took several million years. That's short when measured against the age of the earth, but still not exactly "suddenly" as describing the process as an explosion. It took 65 million years for us to evolve to this point after the dinosaurs were wiped out. It took around three million years for Homo Sapiens to evolve from our ape-like ancestors to our current status.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Wheezer

I suspect evolution isn't done with homo sap, Now the internet is here, we can have e volution, like e mail.

Replies:   Wheezer  Crumbly Writer
Wheezer
Updated:

@richardshagrin

:D Far from done! We are the latest, not the last. (hopefully!)

Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

I suspect evolution isn't done with homo sap, Now the internet is here, we can have e volution, like e mail.

Ha-ha! Funny you should suggest that, as one of my future stories, "Singularity", is about that very topic, one individual jump-starting human evolution (or at least attempting to).

By the way, one would hope that evolution works a little better (in the long run) than email!

remarcsd

@Crumbly Writer

IANA scientist, but I would have thought that the mutation rate stayed the same after an extinction event, but there would be a lot more uncontested niches to occupy, with fewer predators thus leading to the surge in speciation.

richardshagrin

@remarcsd

I think I understand what speciation is, but its not a word I hear everyday. Not any day, until today. Should we discuss speciation speculation?

Joesephus

@Dominions Son

It worked for Robert A. Heinlein in his book "Puppet Masters." Do I think alien capable of reaching Earth would have advanced medicine? Sure, but dealing with alien junk will be a problem because it's ALIEN!

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Joesephus

Sure, but dealing with alien junk will be a problem because it's ALIEN!


Earth diseases work on us because they are based on the same basic bio-chemistry.

If the alien junk is that alien it's implausible that it could affect us at all. The same thing works in reverse for earth diseases affecting the aliens.

The issue isn't just advanced medicine. Assuming that the aliens can be effected by diseases from other worlds, any race with any significant experience in interstellar travel would be aware of this and would have established bio-hazard protocols to avoid exposure. Environment suits to avoid bio-contamination don't necessarily require advanced medicine.

sejintenej
Updated:

@remarcsd


IANA scientist but I would have thought that the mutation rate stayed the same after an extinction event, but there would be a lot more uncontested niches to occupy, with fewer predators thus leading to the surge in speciation.


IANA scientist either but I beg to differ. "Define "the present rate". In my lifetime I have seen human changes such as body size (an increase in height as one clear example - when I was young a 6 foot man was a giant, now they are commonplace - my father-in-law's father was 4 foot 10 according to his army records). I put that down to availability of food and improved medicine.

Humans are mutating all the time. With the coming of horses then carts then machines then electronics we are losing the inate physical strength which our ancestors developed. I see in the old folks a memory store far beyond that of many younger persons. Some (I heard this from Theosophists) reckon that although we acknowledge five senses (smell, taste, sight, hearing, feel) there are perhaps as many as fifteen such as time (bodyclock), direction (that little lump of iron just above the nose), the sense of potential danger etc. which we are losing but which our hunting ancestors needed. Our bodies are adapting to different foods but perhaps too slowly leading to diabetes B etc.

Add to that the nature of the extinction event - did it let off radiation? After the nuclear tests on Christmas Island; fifty years later it was found that the surviving wildlife had changed, often becoming gigantic compared to their earlier norms. Ergo I suggest that mutation WILL CONTINUE and probably accelerate

Dominion's Son

@sejintenej

Add to that the nature of the extinction event - did it let off radiation? After the nuclear tests on Christmas Island; fifty years later it was found that the surviving wildlife had changed, often becoming gigantic compared to their earlier norms. Ergo I suggest that mutation WILL CONTINUE and probably accelerate


That may be more attributable to a change it the survival rate of mutations as opposed to a change in the rate of mutation itself.

Ernest Bywater

@sejintenej

when I was young a 6 foot man was a giant


a part of that can be attributed to better food access while growing up, poor nutrition while growing stunts growth a bit. There's a point when about 2 to 4 years old when you should be at half your final height, I know people who were assessed as being over six feet at that age, but poor parents and poor quality food saw them being several inches shorter than they were estimated at - their family doctor put it down to poor nutrition between 8 and 14 years.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Ernest Bywater

Exactly what is poor nutrition? Not enough food/calories is one thing. Not enough or not the right vitamins (Scurvy, anyone, without vitamin C) might be poor nutrition. A diet of pizza, carbonated soft drinks and perhaps beer, and low end fast food hamburgers seems to be a lot of teenagers diet, at least once they escape the family dining room where they are required to eat at least one vegetable, some of the time. We are still getting our share of tall kids. Maybe its the preservatives and hormones in foods?

How do you make a hormone? Tell her you don't have any money. You can lead a whore to money but you can't make her think. I can remember more bad jokes sitting here keyboarding than when in conversation. I remember when it was called typing.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@richardshagrin

A diet of pizza,.......seems to be a lot of teenagers diet, ....once they escape the family dining room where they are required to eat at least one vegetable, some of the time. We are still getting our share of tall kids. Maybe its the preservatives and hormones in foods?

Joking? Saw an article about some woman who had just had a new £35,000 (perhaps USD 50,000) kitchen installed. She admitted that she had never had a meal at home and couldn't cook!

Yes, I also suspect additives and preservatives°° are having deleterious effects. I try to avoid any preprepared foods but even raw farmed fish could be loaded with hormones..

°° a preservatif is a condom - thought you might like to know.

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