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Can Mass Extinction Lead to Something Better?

By       Message Thom Hartmann       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   3 comments

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Reprinted from Thom Hartmann Blog

From Climate Change - Time to Act is Now
Climate Change - Time to Act is Now
(Image by mariopiperni)
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Every day we hear more and more about the disasters that we face if we continue to rely on fossil fuels for our main energy sources.

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And while we used to hear about the warnings as dangers far off in the future -- now we know that the effects of climate change are happening today.

And that the effects are more extreme than we originally predicted even two or three years ago.

But what would happen in the worst case scenario -- what would happen if -- like Elizabeth Kolbert warns in her most recent book -- climate change caused mass extinctions across the planet Earth?

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According to new research -- it could actually accelerate evolution on Earth!

New research from the University of Texas at Austin used simulated robot brains that were programmed to improve at a task from one generation to the next.

In that way -- the robot brains were designed to evolve to be better at a specific task.

For the robots in the study -- the task was to walk on two legs.

After several robot "generations" -- a number of different robot behaviors had evolved to achieve the goal of walking.

But not all of those behaviors were useful to the goal of walking.

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So the researchers "killed" 90% of the robot populations to simulate a mass extinction.

And they found that the robot brain survivors began adapting and evolving much quicker than any groups had before the event.

Which makes a lot of sense according to modern evolutionary theory.

You see -- Charles Darwin described evolution as what happens when creatures mutate and adapt very slowly over generations of time to best adjust to their surroundings and their environment.

But he was looking at the Galapagos Islands -- which had been relatively unchanged for thousands of years -- and he most famously described evolution using the island's many finches as his example of what we call "divergent evolution."

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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War (more...)

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