Richard Dawkins: Insurance Policy: Two Eggs, One Survivor


[waves crashing] [birds squawking] -These are Nazca boobies, related to
the blue-footed boobies, and boobies are in turn
related to Gannets, which we have in Britain. Brian Nelson
showed in Gannets that they always lay
just one egg. But rather puzzlingly,
if he added an extra egg, they were often able
to rear the chick. The Gannets
are a bit of a mystery. Why, if they are capable
of rearing two chicks, don’t they? One of the virtues
of true science is that we admit it when we don’t understand
something, and it stimulates us
to do more work. Maybe the Gannets
evolved their one-egg habit during a time
when food was less plentiful, and they haven’t yet
caught up with present-day conditions. Now, these Nazca boobies
always lay two eggs, but the second chick
always dies, and I suppose
we should see the second chick from a Darwinian point of view
as a kind of insurance against the possibility
of the first one dying. The elder chick hatches about five days before
the younger one. If the elder chick
is still alive, it promptly kills
the younger one. The parent makes no effort
to restrain the murderer or assist the victim. But if the elder chick
happens to be dead before the younger one
arrives, the younger one
serves as the insurance policy. Blue-footed boobies
achieve a similar insurance in an interestingly
different way. The elder sibling
doesn’t kill the younger one, but it gets first go at all the food
the parents bring. The younger chick
therefore starves to death, unless the elder one
happens to be dead, or unless its a bumper year, and there’s enough food
for both. This is more a subtle kind of insurance policy, because the parents occasionally manage
to rear two chicks. Bringing two chicks
into the world so that one may die
seems horribly cruel to us, but natural selection
has no pity. The genes that implement
this callous insurance policy get passed down
through the generations in the bodies
of the surviving chicks, usually the elder one,
sometimes the younger one. But what does a creationist
make of it? Is the creator
a cruel monster, or is he just incompetent?

100 comments

@richardaberdeen "any moron who has studied even rudimentary ideas of science and philosophy already knows that"

Knows exactly what? If you are talking about what Dawkins are at his core that would much more have to do with knowledge about him than anything else.

@richardaberdeen "If you want to believe in bullshit"

What bullshit is that I believe? I would really like to know what it is and how you know I believe in it, especially seeing as I have been rather careful not to say what I believe in!

@richardaberdeen "but don't pretend around me that you understand even the most rudimentary of concepts regarding philosophy, science, logical and/or reason."

Wow, another absurd and brash statement with very limited support (if there even is any). This reminds me of what you said about you having studied more science than what I could even imagine existed… Do you actually believe yourself?

I have studied logic, philosophy and science and my grades in those subjects have been excellent.

@richardaberdeen You know, your arguments gets an even greater flair of the good old classic Ad Hominem fallacy for every post you make.

Do you see me making dead certain claims about your beliefs, education and understanding of science/philosophy/logic? Do you know why? Because I can't possibly know for sure! Unless you know what schools I have studied in, what my grades are and have an understanding that goes beyond a few days of commenting making claims of that character is downright stupid

So is everyone who believes in god. you are basing your argument off of an a priori. which in philosophy means you are using logic with out your senses. but when you go outside of that a priori argument it is logical to not believe in god.

how is he a liar? how do you know? do you look up the evidence? acording to your other postswhat you read is one book by anthony flew. and where does that get you? science is all around us weather you decide to like it or not. and im pretty sure i trust a professor from OXFORD rather than some guy who wrote an all knowing book that ive never heard about.

no he is a 6.99999 out of 7 atheist moron. if you actually listen to what he says. he was making a point about how sure he is about being no god. note he leaves about .000001 of a chance there is a god. and im sure that the probability of life starting in the ocean compared to a little wetness is a huge difference. and why do you pick your mom and dad to "trust"? why not your best friends parents? same concept. and im pretending to believe in science as much as you pretend to believe in god

dawkins did ask questions and speculated god all the time, and there is evidence for evolution. do you know what the evolutionary process of natural selection is? please tell me cause i dont think you do. and if there is no evidence for science, then where is the evidence for god? What kind of evidence are you looking for when it comes to proving evolution? why do you believe god exists? where is your 100% evidence that god exists? please answer these questions for me.

@richardaberdeen are you a SCIENTIST richard?? Where did you study? What makes you feel you are a scientist, you clearly haven't even read dawkins work , have you read any scientits works.what are your qualifications ?

you didnt answer one of my questions. if you dont even know what you are arguing against then why are you arguing? and your right about one thing and that is there is no such thing as a completed species, but thats part of evolution. we are constantly evolving. what do you consider yourself? a human. now back a million years ago it probably was homoerectus or however you spell it. and where is "overwhelming evidece of deliberate design"? tell me.

we are evolving from one completed organism that was in the water source that we talked about. it evolved to live in its environment so yes we are evolving from one completed species. we only give names to the transitional forms that we find. that constant change is called adapting. which is an evolutionary process. and no you still have not told me the process of natural selection. if you tell me that i will believe you do know what your talking about.

is there conclusive evidence that god exists? and if so what? i feel like a broken record player here. instead of dodging the question by saying how smart you think you are why dont you prove it to me by telling me the process of natural selection. i dont care where you got your information i just wanna know where the evidence for god is and what the process of natural selection is. I know what it is and you can read it in darwins book. or even a legnthy article.

tell me why you are not a liar and dawkins is? is it dawkins is deliberatly lying to us? why would he want to lie about something like that? what would he get out of making that kind of lie? no there no conclusive evidence. but there is no real conclusive evidence that god exists or that the sun is 100,000 earths, they are just theories and at least gives us a logical explination for our being rather than some guy up in the sky who created us.

you still have to give me one actually good reason to believe that god exists, richard dawkins is actually a liar and you still have to tell me the process of natural selection. people who are reading this can clearly see you are dodging my questions and you are tying to look smart by say you read legnthy articles. no one gives a shit how much you read we wanna know how much you actually know. pleas answer my questions i will state them one more time.

what is the process of natural selection?
what conclusive evidence do you have for the existance of god?
How are you not as much of a liar as richard dawkins when you make the same conclusions about god that he makes about evolution?

if you wanna look smart to me you would answer these questions

ive decided that they some are smart people but they are blind by the times they grew up in. and congradulations you have managed to once again not answer any of my questions smart guy. at least you were able to come up with a couple of quotes from some other people but have little to do with this argument. and like 4 of the 20 people listed were as smart/ smarter than dawkins. i dont know why you are making fun of him for doing a documentary on birds but it shows how immature you are.

and since you have to believe in something you cant see anyway, why not accept the possibility of evolution? oh yeah you obviously know nothing about it considering you cant even answer a simple question about evolution. sorry dude, you dug yourself not a hole but a grave. since you are not able to answer 3 supposivly simple questions, i find you incredibly stupid. guess all that Britannica didnt help you too much. read a text book, stay open minded to ideas. thats all dawkins wants.

ok this is my last statement. apes are just as modern as we are. we didnt truely come from apes (but we are apes). and my question wasnt about the term evolution i was asking about the process of natural selection. do you know what it is. so no you didnt answer. you are once again dodging the question. if you read the origin of species then you should know. so please if your not going to say it then dont try and reply.

we are part of the primape family right? then yes we are apes. and humans are a subspecies of apes. thank you now you have finally told be the basic knowledge you need to know for the process of natural selection. congrats it took you about 25 posts to tell me a sentence. now you have 2 questions to go. maybe another 20 posts should get you the other 2 questions. this argument will never be solved because you are so closed minded by blind faith that you dont even see how rediculous you sound

so im just gonna leave one last statement for good. richard dawkins is not out to get us and lie about something like that, that is really stupid to even think about. all richard wants is people to accept evolution as a legit theory as people find god as a legit theory. somehow you have been able to dodge questions, try to make yourself seem smart without proving it, and also make yourself come off as a complete ass. so congrats the only reason im done is because you are too closed minded.

@richardaberdeen that is an absolut lie and shows your ignorance. please look into the fuzed chromozones, the coccyx, the appendix , the hair on the embryo , the mbryo formations , the bone structure ( number of bones that are of course equal) the Dna geneology, the HOMIND fossils of leakey , the evolution of the cannine teeth etc etc etc..rad some fucking book richard and stop making WRONG STATEMENTS

@richardaberdeen For astart ADDRESS teh Fuzed chromozone evidnce …then address the coccyx, the HOMINDI fossils , the cannine teth fossil record and how about the embryo similarities. richard you keep amiking stupid fucking statements that mean fuck all because they are not backed up or in any way offer a rebuttal o the evidnce there is. NAME YOUR EVIDNCE for an alternative or have another look at the real evidnce in the fossil/dna record. We ARE APES, FACT

@richardaberdeen Name your alternative , and name your reason for tossing it out…that means actually addressing and refuting the case for evolution.YOU HAVE NOT DONe THAT YET..i.e Why are the chromozones FUZED ? Why are the cannine teeth moving through the fosil records, why the hominid links..why the DNA geneology…why the DNA similarity? Why the coccyx, why the ape hair , why the similar bone structure …What could possibly be the other explanation? please name it and offer evidnce

@GreatGrumbledook Aggressive?

How was that video in any way aggressive?

Or prehaps more to the point, when has RD ever been aggressive in his critique of religion?

@GreatGrumbledook I think you're using aggressive in the loosest possible form here, prehaps the word you're lookning for is "persistent".

He's never claimed to know the truth in the same way jehova's wittnesses claim to know it, effectively making him an agnostic atheist, nor does he seek out people with differing opinions in the hope of converting them.

All he does is question religion and call it out on the plethora of logical inconsistencies it presents in a precise and calm manner.

@GreatGrumbledook Certainly he believes in truth, who doesn't? My point was simply that he never claims to know it with absolute certainty like some religious people do.

Also; how can you criticise his efforts to promote reason and understanding over
blind faith?

The way I see it RD is the very definition of a nice and harmless person.

@GreatGrumbledook If all you can come up with is some long winded quote
by Nietzche as opposed to clearly and concisely stating your argument yourself then I have no intrerest in further discussing this with you.

If I'm interpreting Nietzsche correctly here he seems to argue that science cannot stand on its own, that it needs some sort of absolute ground on which to stand (I suppose one that is supernatural?).

I do understand what you're getting at with this…

… scientists cannot make absolute statements of truth in the sense that you refer to truth but I fail to see why that would make critisising religion wrong.

Even if we cannot make absolute statements of truth we can sure as hell try to get as close as possible to the truth in order to better our understanding of the universe, something that science has been extremely successful in doing over the last hundred years.

Just because we cannot make absolute statements of truth should that stop us from trying to get at the truth in whatever way we can?

No, of course not.

To me saying that critisising religion is wrong because we cannot be certain of the truth is like saying that treating a diabetes patient with insulin is wrong because we cannot be certain that the insulin will help.

Even though we do not possess the ability to discern absolute truth we can asses the probability of things…

… for example it is probable that treating a patient with diabetes with insulin is going to be beneficial to his health and it is not probable that the earth is 6000 years old and was created by a wizard, this based on what can be observed.

If you for some reason feel that you need to know the absolute truth before you can act on something then you're never going to get anywhere.

Life ultimately comes down to what is probable and what is not.

@GreatGrumbledook I get that you want to appear cultured and refined but really, trying to channel some 19th century poet just makes you come of as a pretentious twat and makes it harder for me to discern what the hell you're talking about (especially since you clearly have yet to master the basics of the english language), but I digress.

@GreatGrumbledook but more to the point; Would you argue that one cannot make the claim that certain things are more likely to be true than others?

Science does not need absolute truth to function, nor does Richard Dawkins need absolute truth to assert that religion is highly unlikely to be false.

@GreatGrumbledook I never claimed to be in full command of the english language myself, I simply pointed out that your errors stand out oh so much more clearly when you express yourself in the way that you do.

You are clearly dodging the question, can we or can we not determine someting to be more likely to be true than an other?

If the answer is no then you might aswell pray to Zeus to cure your illness instead of seeking a physician, something that I'm sure you would not do, right?

@GreatGrumbledook Right, it has become painfully obvious that you are either:

1. A clever and very patient troll.
or
2. Insane.

If 1 then I applaud you for your efforts, very good work, A+.

If 2 then I urge you to seek help… from a doctor, preferably one who has no qualms about prescribing you very strong medication for your mental condition.

@GreatGrumbledook Whatever you say psycho, I'll think of you when I hear the news that some bitter old philosophy professor shot-up a high school before turning the gun on himself, I'll think of you.

Shit, I hope this isn't what drives you to do it, I'd feel terrible ;_;

@GreatGrumbledook Dunderheaded coxcomb, oh snap!

Also what is this raving and ranting about economics? Are you somehow under the impression that the current economical crisis is a punishment from the gods?

Because if so then all I have so say is widdly scuds followed by HERP DERP.

@GreatGrumbledook Well, Mr Spengler (who sounds like a bit of a nazi) and your gods can suck it, long and hard.

I wonder if there is any genetic difference between the first egg and the second. Would the second chick survivors be more or less likely to lay second eggs?

@calamagrostis88 There is genetic difference, just like there is between you and your older or younger siblings (assuming you have them). Second chick survivors would have the same likelihood of laying two eggs as the first chick survivors.
The primary difference between chick 1 and chick 2 is developmental, the older chick is, well, older. It's more developed, and therefore a better competitor than the younger, weaker chick.

@WonderDuds Right, I guess there is no mechanism that would allow for specific traits to be passed down to only the first or second chick, for both the recombination of genes would be random, and they would both grow up to be adults that are more likely to lay two eggs rather than one or three.

@8yankee That's great…………But how does your comment directly relate to this video other than Richard Dawkins is in it.

@spockck yeah but it said "two eggs, one survivor" in the opening title sequence… I mean, it's not that much of a stretch…

@spockck well, yeah, there were boobies in the 2g1c video too… and everybody who ever watched it is a boobie… except me, i have boobies

I used to be a naturalist/guide in the Galapagos, and I'd show people close-ups of these seabirds several times each week. Dawkins calls the white birds "Nazca" boobies (Sula granti), but in actuality they are "masked" boobies (Sula dactylatra). Everything else is accurate, however.

14 hour days for weeks on end, that's why. 🙂 So I took a break, got my divemaster license, then when I tried to return in a more part-time role, it turned out they'd changed the guide hiring policies to exclude most foreigners. I couldn't get back!

But yeah, the job was mostly terrific!

See watch?v=4Dr3fCv1cJ0 if you're interested in what the job was like.

Yup, that's me in the video segments. 🙂

It's true that most people don't realize how many cool things there are to see in the Galapagos. But be aware that not everyone sees all the great things there on every trip–some things are seasonal, some are luck. But spend 1-2 weeks there and you're bound to see most of it.

Well, it depends on a number of factors, including what you value seeing most. My favorite for a combination of nice warm weather and the opportunity to see some of the most impressive animals would be probably April or May, I think.

"Is the creator a cruel monster or is he just incompetent?"
He could have a lot more respect if he didn't make stupid statements like this… You would think such a smart guy would not resort to such a petty false dichotomy.

As a scientist, such dichotomy is foolish. There are many more possibilities.

You want possibilities? Perhaps the creator didn't want a perfect world. Perhaps the creator set an imperfect world in motion and no longer intervenes in the randomness that takes place. Perhaps the creator of this particular planet is imperfect (aliens?). Perhaps there is meaning for certain adaptations that we have yet to discover. etc…

Yet he had two negative possibilities making an empty point…

So wait, these birds actually keep their own number under control? Instead of letting a predator keep they numbers down they just let one of the birds starve — intresting.

Well all those examples require there to be any sign of a creator, & if we can explain it perfectly with Evolution & it fits with observation & what we know about the world, then we don't need to input a creator. It's just excess to the understanding of the subject & such a creator can't be proven after all, meaning you can't know, now THAT is an empty point.

Very interesting video. To use these facts to make an argument against a creator is a bit of a stretch and a bit narrow minded.
Relax I'm not saying that professor Dawkins is narrow minded, he's brilliant, he's just a little too enthusiastic about attacking religion.

Back to the original point… Do you then agree that the statement the host made was pointless and uncalled for? That is where I was getting to.

If he wants to challenge other lines of thought, he should certainly know not to use a major fallacy to do it. It simply crushes credibility.

What fallacy? You're calling it that because you believe in god, but you're not proving anything other than that you're biased.
It wasn't pointless, but I did feel it seemed slightly out of place. But then again, since religion is so prevalent, how could it be. I think rather we're fooling ourselves if we think these two subjects don't collide when we study nature. & In that sense, perhaps both you & I shouldn't be so surprised that it is being questioned even in this context.

Actually, I am only pointing out his bias by his use of false dichotomy, the fallacy I am pointing out. He wouldn't make such a lazy observation in science, so why does he do so for religion?

Really, it would have been more fitting if that was his original intention (to disprove religion), but why would he waste his time disproving something he doesn't believe in when he can just stick with what is observed like scientists are supposed to?

It just stood out as unnecessary and not thought out.

But it's not a false dichotomy? If the christian or Muslim gods exist, they are said to be the creators of everything, & so they HAD to create these moronic & senselessly violent & disgusting ways of nature too. I think in those terms, it's quite thought out actually, simply condensed into a brief & slightly surprising comment. Why waste time disproving religions that have horrible effects on democracies all over the world? umm… I think that's obvious?

if there was a creator he would be cruel and incompetent just to keep up with the rules of evolution ,that is why religious absurdity can not take us to any where.

I am not trying to defend creationism here, but the last comment he makes. Is the creator a horrible monster or is he incompetent… are these the only possible two answers? As a scientists shouldn't you loom at every possibility ? If the creator did truly create all that there is, wouldnt the creator need to know how the genes works that the creator created (again assuming that the creator did create everything) could the creator not have also created the insurance policy?

Perhaps it's because they don't have the necessary resources to raise two chicks. Like everything else, it's always good to have a backup plan. It's no wonder they are still around today.

dear Dr
When you cannot explain some natural phenomenon, it's not necessary to put the blame on the creator …
it's just seems so stupid and ridicule from you to thinking that this creator who made all of thoses complicated naturels phenomenons and all of this monster space is finally just incompetent !!

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