Evolution-related art

I’d have another contest about this, but a) it’s too easy and b) I have to ration my book supply.  Still, you’ll look really smart if you explain why I’m just now putting this photo on this website, giving the relevant referents.  No prize except a warm handshake.

20 Comments

  1. Malus
    Posted November 28, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Because that “animal” in the middle is a creature that did not evolve in this world but maybe in the world of fairy tales of the bible (it has an extra pair of legs)?

  2. DavidW
    Posted November 28, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    It’s the part of a church at the intersection of arches which is an architectural necessity but which turned into some of the most beautiful art.

    It’s a metaphor for outcomes of evolution which look like they were designed, but in fact are accidental by-products of other systems

  3. Yakaru
    Posted November 28, 2009 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Dan Dennett complained about Gould using some artistic term for the triangular bit in between two arches. Gould used the term wrongly as an analogy for something or other to do with evolution which Dennett disagreed with anyway. If anyone knows what I am talking about they should win some kind of prize, regardless of whether or not it has anything to do with the picture.

    • newenglandbob
      Posted November 28, 2009 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      Spandrels: one of Gould’s big mistakes.

      • Onychomys
        Posted November 28, 2009 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

        If using the wrong terminology in his analogies is a big mistake, I’d hate to know what you’d call, say, Dennett’s moronic insistence on strict adaptation-lism. I mean, that’d be like Nazi-loving or something.

      • Slim
        Posted November 29, 2009 at 7:34 am | Permalink

        Gould was a Marxist! He often slipped in historical and artistic metaphors (and baseball of course) into his writing. He was very influenced by his left leaning Marxism views and they polluted his science without a doubt. That’s what Marxism does and worse. Spandrel’s are a mistake, no one really takes punctuated equilibrium seriously (and it was way over hyped to begin with and his insistence on anti-gradualism poisoned many minds at Harvard).

        Gould has been revealed as a scientific joke of sorts (largely due to his political bias influencing his science – literally doing what he pretended to rail against).

        His NOMA is a travesty and as his second to last book, is actually his coda. Outlined his out of touch view of science and of religion.

        NOMA is a blessing for the simple fact that like the other thread I’m chatting on about Islam, it woke up a segment of the secular left of the threats of political correctness that to often defines them.

        Does much more need to be said than the modern Intelligent Design movement quotes Gould often as a compatriot.

        I may stick around this blog! 🙂

    • Invigilator
      Posted November 29, 2009 at 6:02 am | Permalink

      Properly known as pendentives. A spandrel is indeed the trianguar bit between two arches, but the pendentives shown (and the base of Gould’s metaphor) are the three-dimensional curved triangles needed to marry a round dome to a rectangular space.

  4. Veronica Abbass
    Posted November 28, 2009 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    The central motif looks similar to a stained-glass rose window that Francis Collins compares to ‘”looking down the barrel” of DNA’s double helix.’ See
    scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/07/biological_pareidolia.php

  5. HP
    Posted November 28, 2009 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    The word that Yakura is looking for is “spandrel,” but I’ve no idea if that is what the prize is about.

  6. HP
    Posted November 28, 2009 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Yakaru. Yakaru. My apologies.

  7. newenglandbob
    Posted November 28, 2009 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    My old eyes can see little on that dark picture.

  8. Steve
    Posted November 28, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Those damn adaptionists, can’t they see the spandrels or are they pendentives.

    I don’t know I’m confused.

    • Yakaru
      Posted November 28, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      Spandrels. That’s the word I was looking for. I knew it wasn’t spaniels.

  9. John D Stackpole
    Posted November 28, 2009 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    I thought it rather looked like PZ riding the dinosaur at the Creation Museum.

  10. bueller007
    Posted November 28, 2009 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Clearly this is St. Mark’s Basilica.

    • bueller007
      Posted November 28, 2009 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

      As to why you’re just posting it now, I’m not sure. The 30th anniversary of the publication was in September. I assume it’s because you’ve just arrived there now.

  11. Posted November 29, 2009 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    These are the spandrels of S. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. Gould and Lewontin, in a famous article (http://ethomas.web.wesleyan.edu/wescourses/2004s/ees227/01/spandrels.html) used this architectural feature as a biological metaphor.
    They (wrongly) assumed that the spandrels didn’t have any function, and argued that their placement was only constrained by the surrounding arches. So that the central navata (“church space”), that has 4 arches, has also 4 spandrels. Then artists co-opted or exaptated the spandrels, placing the symbolic images of the four evangelists so that, now, they seem to have a function, an “adaptation”.
    Gould and Lewontin use this example to expose the supposed “panglossian paradox” attributed to (straw man) “adaptationists”: that every biological trait have to have a survival/reproductive value (adaptation), and possibly the same, ever since the very beginning of its evolution.
    They propose instead that some traits may not have any survival/reproductive value (spandrels) but they may be by-products of other traits. Spandrels can then be exaptated for another function giving the “historical illusion” of being “evolved for” a certain function.
    Now, while philosophically appealing to relativists and postmodernists, the spandrel concept is nearly unapplicable in evolutionary and historical reconstruction: it is just a “…or it could be anything else!” story that one may attach to ANY biological trait.

    PS: “Why Evolution is True” is a VERY good book! 😉

  12. Posted November 29, 2009 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    I rather liked Dennett’s spandrel takedown in “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea”.

    But this reminds me that I should visit Venice again.

  13. MadScientist
    Posted November 29, 2009 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    Like newenglandbob, I can’t see much. 😦

  14. Posted November 29, 2009 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    A spandrel! Clearly showing a dinosaur living in historic times, with a man riding it no less! And the dinosaur has thin legs, which shows a loss of information! In this subtle way, Jerry Coyne lets us know that evolution is not true, and that we should all go to church.


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