The Prevolution of Evolution: Life Marches In

first_imgThere’s a new word preceding the E word evolution.  Two Harvard scientists have made up a new word, prevolution, to describe a supposed stage before replication when natural selection was helping evolution evolve.  What does prevolution act on?  Simple, silly: prelife.    Martin Nowak and Hisashi Ohtsuki titled their paper in PNAS, “Prevolutionary dynamics and the origin of evolution.”1  By defining life in terms of evolution, they set the stage for a continuous process of evolution from chemicals to man, with information just appearing along the way.  Their abstract makes it all sound very straightforward.Life is that which replicates and evolves.  The origin of life is also the origin of evolution.  A fundamental question is when do chemical kinetics become evolutionary dynamics?  Here, we formulate a general mathematical theory for the origin of evolution.  All known life on earth is based on biological polymers, which act as information carriers and catalysts.  Therefore, any theory for the origin of life must address the emergence of such a system.  We describe prelife as an alphabet of active monomers that form random polymers.  Prelife is a generative system that can produce information.  Prevolutionary dynamics have selection and mutation, but no replication.  Life marches in with the ability of replication: Polymers act as templates for their own reproduction.  Prelife is a scaffold that builds life.  Yet, there is competition between life and prelife.  There is a phase transition: If the effective replication rate exceeds a critical value, then life outcompetes prelife.  Replication is not a prerequisite for selection, but instead, there can be selection for replication.  Mutation leads to an error threshold between life and prelife.So life just marches in like the saints.  It builds scaffolds.  It crystallizes like ice out of water.  What’s the problem?  Their mathematics show it must be so.    It remains to be seen whether other scientists who have sweated over the origin of life will buy their definitions and descriptions.  A look inside their paper shows the usual math and graphs.  Mathematical derivations, however, often rely on initial conditions that are assumed.  What are they assuming?  Here’s where the word crops up:We assume, for simplicity, that all sequences grow in one direction.At first, we assume that the active monomers are in a steady state.For “supersymmetric” prelife, we assume that a0 = a1 = alpha/2, and ai = a for all other i.Let us now assume that some sequences can act as a templates for replication.Fig. 3 shows the competition between life (replication) and prelife.  We assume a random prelife landscape where the ai values are taken from a uniform distribution between 0 and 1.  All sequences of length n = 6 have the ability to replicate.All fundamental equations of evolutionary and ecological dynamics assume replication, but here, we have explored the dynamical properties of a system before replication and the emergence of replication.Is the scheme rigged to achieve the result?  “Traditionally, one thinks of natural selection as choosing between different replicators,” they said; indeed, replication has usually been understood as a prerequisite for natural selection.  Nowak and Ohtsuki offer a different approach.  “In the present theory, however, we encounter natural selection before replication.”  How?  Because they envision information carriers competing for resources in the chemical soup.  By inventing a concept of prelife, they can have natural selection occurring “within prelife and between life and prelife.”  In this way, natural selection “is not a consequence of replication, but instead natural selection leads to replication.”  This inverted scenario requires some unpacking.    First of all, what do they mean by information?  They defined “prelife” as “an alphabet of active monomers that form random polymers.”  No information so far.  But then they said, “Prelife is a generative system that can produce information.”  Let’s follow their use of that word (information) in the paper.  The paper began by admitting that “Evolution needs a generative system that can produce unlimited information.  Evolution needs populations of information carriers.”  But did they ever define what they mean by information?  It appears they include too much in their picture: “we can define a prebiotic chemistry that can produce any binary string and thereby generate, in principle, unlimited information and diversity,” they said.  “We call such a system prelife and the associated dynamics prevolution (Fig. 1).”  It is doubtful that most theorists would consider the set of all possible random strings as information.  By lowering the standard of information, they have helped themselves to “information carriers” that can compete on a stage of “prevolution” of “prelife.”    How plausible is this?  It appears they have indiscriminately considered any polymer that “outcompetes” the others (by being more abundant) to be a contender leading to life.  What if, however, the leading polymer – even if it can replicate – tends toward clumps that precipitate on the seafloor, till all available resources are used up?  It would seem that one cannot assume that all sequences of building blocks are equally pregnant with life possibilities.  Abundant replicators can lead to a dead end.  At some point the leading polymer in the race for life has to contain functional information.  The set of polymers capable of acting as templates of their own replication, furthermore, seems much smaller than the set of all polymers.    Their model is highly theoretical.  They made no claims what the polymers are made of.  Are the molecules made of RNA, DNA, PNA, or TNA?  Are they one-handed?  Math notwithstanding, models must at some point come to grips with real chemicals in a real solvent in a real environment.  It is to be expected that real molecules will be much more intransigent than hypothetical ones.  Their conclusion makes it clear that their scheme works only on a chalkboard:We have proposed a mathematical theory for studying the origin of evolution.  Our aim was to formulate the simplest possible population dynamics that can produce information and complexity.  We began with a “binary soup” where activated monomers form random polymers (binary strings) of any length (Fig. 1).  Selection emerges in prelife, if some sequences grow faster than others (Fig. 2).  Replication marks the transition from prelife to life, from prevolution to evolution.  Prelife allows a continuous origin of life.  There is also competition between life and prelife.  Life is selected over prelife only if the replication rate is greater than a certain threshold (Fig. 3).  Mutation during replication leads to an error threshold between life and prelife. Life can emerge only if the mutation rate is less than a critical value that is proportional to the inverse of the sequence length (Fig. 4).  All fundamental equations of evolutionary and ecological dynamics assume replication, but here, we have explored the dynamical properties of a system before replication and the emergence of replication.1.  Martin A. Nowak and Hisashi Ohtsuki, “Prevolutionary dynamics and the origin of evolution.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Published online before print September 12, 2008, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0806714105.Have you ever in your life come across a more bold, bald collection of highfalutin nonsense than this?  You can’t just make up words and assume what needs to be proved in an argument.  You can’t just help yourself to concepts foreign to your worldview and manipulate them mathematically to guarantee the outcome you want.  If we were to follow their example, we could prove anything.  Let’s demonstrate the evolution of gnomes, for example.PreGnome Dynamics and the Origin of Garden GnomesGnomes are beings that inhabit gardens and hide under toadstools.  Here, we formulate a general mathematical theory for the origin of gnome.  All known gnomes are made of terracotta and are found in gardens.  Therefore, any theory for the origin of gnomes must address the emergence of such a system.  We describe pregnome as an alphabet of terracotta ostracons that form random shapes.  Pregnome is a generative system that can produce gnome parts.  Pregnome dynamics have selection and mutation, but no replication.  Gnomeness marches in with the ability of replication; Ostracons act as templates for their own replication.  Pregnomeness is a scaffold that builds gnomes.You get the idea.  When you weren’t looking, they snuck in design concepts like information, competition, error, scaffolds, templates and information carriers.  Well, of course!  With a hole that big in the intransigent walls of chemistry, no wonder life just marches in (09/04/2008).    The flaws in this exercise are legion.  They envisioned polymers as simple as binary digits (1’s and 0’s) that somehow can be “activated” and join up into chains.  They claimed that any random string of binary digits carries information.  They claimed that life is merely something that replicates and evolves.  Well, fire does that.  It replicates rapidly.  It evolves, too.  Feed it some different elements and it will turn all kinds of colors.  It adapts to the environment.  According to their definition, it must be alive.  In this land of made-up words, we can call an oil spill prefire.  They considered anything that outnumbers something else as having been “selected” without any consideration of whether it can do anything, like breathe or eat or move or write sonnets.  According to their definition, natural selection selects bubbles in soapy water, and favors ice over dew on your windshield when the temperature drops.    Here is your tax money at work.  This paper was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.  Japanese people will be honored to know that funding also came from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.  Those interested in the interaction between science and religion will also get a warm feeling in their hearts to learn that this bit of secularist, materialist, mechanistic propaganda was supported by the John Templeton Foundation.  We hope the atheists at Nature will give the Foundation a pass this time (08/28/2008).(Visited 79 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Understanding the benefits of health reimbursement arrangements

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest It’s no secret that a spotlight has been on our country’s healthcare system for some time now — and a bright one at that. Health insurance options and expenditures are a real concern for agribusiness owners and it’s hard to know what options will best fit the needs of your operation. Rest assured there are options; some that can even put money back your pocket.Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) are based upon Section 105 of the Internal Revenue Code. These particular arraignments allow farmers who qualify to deduct 100% of family medical cost against the farm income. In turn, the taxpayer saves federal, state and FICA taxes for family medical costs (typically a 35% savings).This is done by declaring medical expenses as business expenses, not as Schedule A itemized personal deductions, which are often limited or lost. What’s the catch here you ask? Whether they file as sole proprietor or an LLC, farmers must have a spouse who is employed by their business, at least on a part-time basis. More and more farmers are putting their spouse on the payroll in order to take advantage of HRAs.A Section 4 105 Plan allows a qualified farmer to benefit by deducting 100% of:Health Insurance and dental insurance premiums for eligible employee(s) and family. This also includes qualified long-term care insurance.Uninsured (out of pocket) medical, dental and vision care expenses for eligible employee(s) and family.Chiropractic, medical supplies, contact lenses, hearing aids, Medicare Part A, Medicare Supplemental, optical/vision, and cancer insurance premiums for eligible employee(s).Let’s take a look at scenario that would qualify: Joe owns and runs a farm. His wife, Jane, helps in the fields and takes care of some financial records and administrative functions for the farming business. Because Jane is already a service to the farm operation, Joe makes her a true employee and begins providing her with compensation. They are now eligible for HRAs.Joe compensates Jane a total of $14,000 per year in the following way:1. Reimbursement for family health premiums:  $7,0002. Reimbursements for uninsured medical expenses:  $5,0003. W-2 Cash Wages:  $2,000TOTAL$14,000 By allowing for a 100% federal, state and FICA tax deduction of the $12,000 of reimbursed expenses, Joe would receive $4,200 in actual tax dollar savings by taking advantage of a Section 105 Plan. (Note: the tax savings is assuming rates of 15% federal, 5% state and 15% FICA taxes=35% savings).It’s important to note that farmers who file as C corporations don’t need to abide by the spouse/employee method. The corporation is viewed as the employer in this case and the owner is an employee as long as the employee is receiving scheduled pay. Also note farm entities and sole proprietors with two or more employees may not be eligible for this special deduction because at the two or more employee threshold the new Affordable Health Care Act rules require certain “essential health benefits” (group insurance) and the Section 105 HRA rules may not apply. If you have two or more employees, we advise you consult your accountant for other potential health care solutions.AgriPlanNOW and BizPlanNOW is a couple of the HRAs you may have heard about. HRAs like these aren’t too confused with actual insurance plans. These are reimbursement programs that you must enroll in and there are annual fees, but the savings they provide far outweigh the upfront costs. Once enrolled, you will work with your insurance provider and tax professional to lower your out-of-pocket costs. Because you’re medical costs are now classified as business expenses you will see your deductions increase and tax savings will be the result. Savings will of course vary, but the average is around $5,000 per year.Once you submit an application for an HRA and you are enrolled, then it becomes vital to keep receipts and all records of medical expenses and health insurance premiums as well as payroll transactions. All this information will need to be reviewed and submitted at year-end by your tax professional. A CPA with experience in working with agribusiness professionals can assist you with proper record keeping and of course the tax reporting piece of the puzzle. Brian E. Ravencraft, CPA, CGMA is a Principal with Holbrook & Manter, CPAs. Brian has been with Holbrook & Manter since 1995, primarily focusing on the areas of Tax Consulting and Management Advisory Services within several firm service areas, focusing on agri-business and closely held businesses and their owners.  Holbrook & Manter is a professional services firm founded in 1919 and we are unique in that we offer the resources of a large firm without compromising the focused and responsive personal attention that each client deserves.last_img read more

Mobile-Only Magic: How Instagram Just Killed What Makes It Special

first_imgWell, that’s it folks. It’s all over. Instagram has come to the web – and not just via static web profiles like the company introduced last year.No, Instagram is on the webnow. It’s a full blown web-based social network with a companion app. Forgive me while I totally freak out for a minute over here.This is what I’ve been afraid of. For Instagram, The Rules Were DifferentInstagram is special. It’s why we Instagram acolytes almost start a holy war every time Facebook so much as looks at its billion-dollar acquisition. But what makes Instagram so different? The app has a lot going for it, sure. The interface is lovely, with both social networking and social discovery built right in. But that’s not it.The thing that makes Instagram special is that – until today – it was a social network with no web presence. There’s an inestimable charm to how Instagram feels walled-off in its mobile-only realm.  You just don’t interact with Instagram on desktop. The rules are different. It’s like when the power goes out and you have to play board games. And it’s really, really fun.  A Comprehensive Guide to a Content Audit Guide to Performing Bulk Email Verification Facebook is Becoming Less Personal and More Pro… Tags:#Instagram#mobile photography#photography#social#social networks The Dos and Don’ts of Brand Awareness Videos taylor hatmaker Related Posts Mobile-Only: The Final Frontier Of PlayLook at how (and why) we love to hate Facebook. As a social network, Facebook is woven into the fabric of our workday lives – namely we use it on on our desktop computers when we’re supposed to be doing something else entirely. That fact makes a site like Facebook feel less like play and more like a professional tic. A social network with a ubiquitous presence across platforms becomes something we shove into every micromoment of the workday – and most of those happen while we’re zoning out sitting at a desk.Instagram wasn’t like that – it was serendipitous and social and creative in turns. But that may have all just changed. Now, in every inbox lull and pre-meeting chunk of lagtime, we’ll open a new tab and feel the tug – why not just check Instagram? The Unbearable Lightness Of InstagramThere’s a heaviness to all of this attentional straying. It’s the dopamine surge that lures us back to places like the Facebook News Feed, even though we know that little pleasure spike in our brain is as empty as it is ephemeral. Then we’re back to the unshakeable guilt of what we were abandoned when we wandered off the trail. Mobile is monomaniacal — even with Android’s multitasking and iOS’s relatively nascent notification center and fast app switching, we pick a portal and enter into it. But on a computer, we partition our screen off into hostile factions warring for our attention – and we never seem to be on the winning side. But on mobile, choosing to open Instagram is just that: a choice and not a tic. Instagram is meant to be us at play, capturing the world and parceling it back out to our friends who are out there doing just the same. For Instagram, mobile is more than just a platform. It’s a mindset.Sure, Instagram’s web feed will boost engagement and provide new opportunities for monetization and so on. But it could prove to be a major paradigm shift for the kind of unconditional positive regard that the company has enjoyed to date. We’ll soon be wallowing in our newly compounded web ennui, scrolling back through our web feeds to remember what the good ol’ days were like, way back when Instagram was still fun. Remember?last_img read more