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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" 
Subject: RE: (urth) Liev's Postpostulate
Date: Thu, 23 May 2002 12:36:17 -0700

Roy C. Lackey wrote...

> Given time (it's been less than 200 years since the French 
> landing), and a new need to handle tools, the abos might
> well evolve other means of handling them. But, in terms of
> evolutionary time spans, the abos haven't had time to adapt,
> even if they needed to. 

Let's be a bit more quantitative about this ... 

"Evolutionary time" isn't really measured in hours, days, or 
years, but in a combination of generations, selection pressure, 
and rates of mutation, which can then be translated into a

Assuming the abos to be humans or human-descended, and to have
human generation times, 200 years is _at most_ about 15 generations 
... which would be insignificant even with high mutation rates and 
strong selection pressure. The only way you could expect anything 
significant in 15 gens would be if the favorable mutation(s) were 
already present in the population (which eliminates mutation rate
entirely as a factor) _and_ the selection pressure was simply 

Now, on the hypothesis, it is quite possible that genes for manual 
dexterity of the tool-using variety would not have been entirely 
extincted in the abos. In fact, there is no plausible reason to 
assume that they would have been: it's hard to imagine evolutionary 
pressures which would select _against_ manual dexterity. Then the 
best case to be made for actual extinction would be a complete lack 
of selection in either direction, combined with "neutral drift;" 
which only becomes plausible if we assume a very small population 
... not actually all that improbable on the face of it ... 

Similarly, if the "shovel test" shibboleth story is accepted as 
true and taken at face value, then there was in fact an overwhelming 
pressure -- use a shovel or die! --  favoring tool-using dexterity. 
(This would be a clear case of artificial selection...)

Making matters somewhat more complicated, we're also probably 
talking about several genes rather than one, and all of them would 
have to be coselected in order for tool-using dexterity to reappear 
in any significant way, which greatly adds to the most-probable 

(This discussion, by the way, entirely ignores the question of 
adaptationism, which -- pace and RIP Steven Jay Gould -- I would 
just as soon ignore.)

> Also, there is no evidence presented in the text of abos 
> actually being able to shapeshift. I suspect that if they
> really could morph into another shape that their genetic 
> makeup would be so different from that of humans as to make
> interbreeding impossible.

You'd think so, wouldn't you? But in a universe where you can
gain a person's memories by eating his brains, or her personality
by drinking her blood, well. Besides, if we can accept a crossing 
with cuproglobous Vulcans... well... It's probably best to just
assume that the abos _are_ human-descended. Probably from a colony 
planted during the Monarchal age, long before the New Sun came and 
created the continents we know today. 8*)



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