The point of it was that you actually CAN go back in time
When you start a post off with faulty foundation...it is hard to continue...because it is based upon error.
We can NOT go back in time.
Lee, I will try to say this with respect and devoid of emotion. This here is a classic example of you misinterpreting entirely what is being said. You take it LITERALLY, even though it is clear to everyone but you that Tonedog means this figuratively to demonstrate how modern scientists bypass that obstacle to nevertheless obtain valuable and moreover valid data from our past. This is very obvious. He continued to explain this in detail but you chose to cut that part out. Your stubbornness and ignorance in those cases of literal and misconstrued interpretation can be frustrating to continue a discussion. It is what makes your argumentation annoying at times. This isn't meant as a personal insult at all, it just illustrates how your discussion style is perceived on the other end. You don't win an argument, you just frustrate people until they give up talking to a robot. We still are convinced that your position is NOT representing the truth (in those specific instances, not in general), and it is most certainly not because we are unwilling to learn. It is because stubborn ignorance in repeating the same mantra doesn't equate to a truly convincing point in discussion. This I would assume is why Tonedog drew parallels to debating a creationist. Those debates go in circles as well and never lead anywhere, not because creationists don't have a legitimate leg to stand on next to science, but because they seem immune against logic and reason. Instead they stubbornly adhere to their obscure views. Nevermind that the catholic pope himself has irrevocably declared that evolution can not be considered a theory any longer but that it is indisputable scientific fact. I am not sure if your debating strategy is intentional or inherent, i.e. whether you're not aware of how your discussion style is perceived. Either way, I am certainly aware that none of what I just wrote may reach you without being entirely misinterpreted (probably into personal attack, even though it is far from it). Well, maybe others can follow my attempt at an explanation. Or hey, maybe Tonedog and I are completely dillusional and just get easily frustrated by the ever present truth, who really knows, right?
Having said that, I seem to spot some agreement between our two positions. I think you stated that you do not object to the idea that man didn't crawl into caves and removed wolf pups but that dogs somehow self-evolved into generic village dogs and offered themselves for a symbiotic relationship. So far we'd be all in agreement. Then you continue to argue that after this it was man that took the initiative and masterminded various niches for working dogs and shaped them into feasible tools. Much like dogs are bred to certain tasks today. We on the other hand are arguing that all those niches were already predetermined by the repertoire that wolves offered to begin with. Each niche is a small subset of all skills in a wolf. We continue to argue that village dogs "offered" something that they already had at their disposal to please humans (in exchange for being tolerated and maybe even passively protected from the wild - by living in humans' close proximity).
Some dogs started to join humans on their routes to hunting grounds, some even attempted to help in the hunt; they participated based on what they had to offer descending from wolves. And it turns out they were good at it, because wolves happen to have many skills that to this day are foreign to man. And if you ask yourself now, why village dogs would go through such lengths to offer their services to humans, that would be another incredible skill from wolves, making dogs phenomenal social animals that are able to coordinate a task (i.e. hunting in packs) with their peers (in this case humans) without being explicitly told what to do. Their instincts make them "know" intuitively how to hunt. We are further arguing that thousands of years ago it was very similar in animal herding .... or livestock protection for that matter. (This is where I pointed out that LGDs are only one branch of working dogs, others being early hunters, early herders etc). Much like village dogs that voluntarily accompanied humans in the hunt (see primitive tribes in Papua New Guinea) were tolerated and here and there took the initiative when they felt they could help out their humans, some village dogs voluntarily accompanied tribes on their nomadic routes to seasonal pastures for herbivorous animals and later livestock. They followed the humans because it was advantageous for their very survival, and they were still merely tolerated, nothing more.
To this day nomadic tribes are accompanied by dogs, nobody there is a dedicated breeder, in fact nobody gives a damn which dog copulates with which dog. And even if they did give a damn, in a nomadic lifestyle it is virtually impossible to control breeding. This is a fact that holds true today, it is a fact of nomadic life that undoubtedly held true thousands of years ago. It would actually be absurd to think that thousands of years ago nomadic tribes actively bred dogs, whereas it proves virtually impossible for today's nomads to achieve that task. This is why [u]some[/u] aspects and observations in todays nomadic cultures can be reliably extrapolated to the past. While you may dismiss such methods as speculative, these inferential methods are well accepted in the scientific community; [u]especially[/u] if they can be confirmed by a plethora of evidence from many other disciplines (i.e. archaeological artifacts, cross-cultural similarities, population genetics).
Proto-LGDs developed over time as they once again applied what they had at their disposal from the varied repertoire of the wolf. Now HERE is probably where all the friction happens. You seem to think (correct me if I am wrong) that because humans intervened when some dogs showed undesired behavior (i.e. attacking livestock), it would cease to be natural selection and instead become artificial selection. You also imply that there was intentional breeding on behalf of humans (best performer gets to procreate). Now, I will agree with you that humans would have removed the occasional odd apple. But what I am saying to you is that this was rarely the case in actuality because the dogs were born into this life and throughout their puppy hood they could observe beneficial behavior over time. Even today LGDs in their early youth aren't always what you'd expect them to be, they nibble on animals, chase them etc. They grow out of it by mimicking successful adults. Some do anyway. What we are arguing is that the vast majority of non-performers dies by the hand of nature. Humans don't give a crap what happens to their dogs, they are busy surviving themselves. Moreover, there's really no need to take action. The predatory livestock killing canines have been decimated aeons ago, during the adaption phase to the niche of village dogs. In fact, they evolved away from it as they sought the proximity of humans to begin with (see Balyaev et al). And as for simply non-performing dogs, they get lost, they get into accidents, they get trampled to death by cattle, they get killed by wolves. Statistically speaking, they don't reach a respectable age (for example to procreate) because of the harshness of this particular life, so humans don't have to worry about them too much. AND lastly, non-performers don't get extra scraps.
Here is probably where you shout "AHAA!!". Well, in a way you are right, humans will prefer to give extra left-overs to those dogs that deserved it. In this way it wouldn't be natural selection in its purest form, there is a tiny bias. My point is that this is still far from artificial selection, as it does not determine which dog will breed. Moreover, feeding doesn't happen as we know it. Nobody gets the bowls out and feeds each dog canned food. These dogs first and foremost supplied themselves with going through trash, hunting vermin and scavenging on dead animals. Their diet was mostly opportunistic. In fact, in some nomadic cultures and to a degree in transhumance, it still is that way. The very infrequent "reward" from benevolent individuals does exist, but most nomads really disregarded dogs altogether. Most importantly however, these dogs breed as they please, it is virtually impossible to control procreation on a nomadic journey. And all the adversities that nature throws at them represents the dominant selective regime. And in nomadic and semi-nomadic lifestyles that remains a cruel fact to this day.
Nevertheless, dogs had a much better chance of survival with the humans than on their own. To this day getting lost during transhumance translates into a dogs sure death. Nobody goes out to find "Timmy"; if a dog get's lost, tough luck. We continue to fight over whether this is truly "natural" selection, or whether it is already "artifical" selection. Regardless of what I believe personally, it is merely a fight over semantics, because neither of the two is ever really pure (with the exception of controlled lab experiments perhaps). I call it predominantly natural selection, whereas you draw the line at any human interference, regardless of how miniscule. I will not argue this any longer. But what should be apparent to everyone is that even your insistence that it must be artificial selection nevertheless is a far cry from intentional breeding. There simply aren't any dedicated nomadic LGD breeders. Throwing an occasional bone to a dog that did a good job that day is a far cry from a masterminded plan with systematic breeding or strategy, as it happens today in the modern world. A dog that is rewarded with extra "food" for positive behavior may not be much different in its essence (speaking from a selection stand point) than a wolf in the wild that is rewarded with meat for skillful hunting. Both are proving successful in their respective niches. Positive behavior leads to increased resources. Sure, one is voluntary by nature, whereas we can safely assume that the prey didn't volunteer its own ribs to the wolf. But both instances fundamentally solely play a role of disparity in resource allocation. An animal better suited to a particular niche will have an advantage of obtaining resources. Before you state that this is why it must be artificial selection by definition, please keep in mind that this source of resources only represents a minor fraction of a dogs diet. Moreover, it is not being used as a strategic breeding tool. The nomads don't intend to shift the odds of genetic procreation towards performers to obtain better offspring downstream. Nomads didn't have much to spare (if any), they still don't. (Again, we can safely assume that this wasn't any different thousands of years ago).
I assert again, that the major factors in the early evolution of LGDs are predominantly of natural selection. Not purely, not entirely free of bias, but fundamentally determined by nature. A new niche is filled by dogs that attempt to survive in that given niche. While humans were the reason that this niche opened up, they didn't mastermind it. (They didn't even know what a niche is) A selective regime consisting of exhaustion, combat, disease, climate, limited resources etc consistently prunes the population to create a canine working type that humans at the time had no clue about. None of this was masterminded by anyone. They didn't even really care, nor do some of them care today.
If you insist that what I have described above is qualitatively the same as your own breeding programme, then there isn't much left to talk anymore. If you insist that I misrepresented the ways nomadic tribes and cultures of transhumance live, then you are challenging what world reknown biologists and anthropologists have observed throughout the world. It would be your antiquated world view against theirs (and mine).