Evolving Thoughts

Evolution, culture, philosophy and chocolate! John Wilkins' continuing struggle to come to terms with impermanence... "Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto" - Terence

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Using paleontology and molecular clocks

This image from Myers' post about vaginal evolution in mammals intrigued me enormously. It has two trees with the same topology but using "hard" data - the fossil record - for the black version and "soft" data - molecular clock estimates - for the red.

I imagine a cone of decreasing probability from the paleontological record back to the molecular point, so that the likelihood that the lineage existed within that range decreases (actually, it would decrease to the lower of the error interval of the molecular date). Time erases information - it's a fact of history. We don't know within a strong confidence interval when many evolutionary events took place - at best we know that they took place. I think there is something deep about the philosophy of history in this.

Just thought I'd share.