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Source: (consider it) Thread: The Death of Darwinism
Louise
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# 30

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quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Oldham:
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
Intelligent Design has demonstrated the flimsy intellectual foundations of many Darwinist pretensions ...

With respect, I think that this claim is still unsubstantiated (despite page 10 of this thread havign been reached).
Given that huge tracts of this thread consist of people pointing out the deficiencies of 'intelligent design', I await with baited breath Faithful Sheepdog's, no doubt forthcoming and exciting reply in which he quotes all these arguments and explains wherein they are lacking.


L.

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Rex Monday

None but a blockhead
# 2569

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:


I think you’re being very optimistic here on the willingness of some influential parts of the scientific community to acknowledge that there are other frames of reference apart from the scientific one. It is well documented that some scientists argue that there are no other frames of reference having any truthful reality.


This is philosophy, not science. Unless you're prepared to embark on a discusion of what 'truthful reality' is -- and one dead horse at a time is my limit -- you should accept that science works in the frame of reference which it claims for itself, that of a testable, objective reality conforming to repeatable, observable laws. There may be others, but you won't find science dealing with them. If you want to say scientific ideas of evolution are wrong because they don't explain things in science's own terms, then you have a scientific argument on your hands. If you say science is wrong because it does not involve God, then fine - but unless you can show how this makes for bad science, it's not a scientific argument.

quote:


It is one thing to look for a naturalistic scientific explanation following the known laws of science. Having found such a putative explanation, it is then an easy extrapolation to say that the naturalistic explanation makes any other explanation unnecessary (including a theistic one). From there it is but a short step to say dogmatically that the scientific explanation is the only one that has reality.


It's certainly the only one you need to worry about from a scientific viewpoint. Where creation scientists screw up is in saying that their objections to science are themselves scientific.

Explanations do not *have* reality. They are *about* reality. There is a difference, and science is always concerned with finding the explanation that seems closest to the business in hand. Creation scientists do not play this game: ipso facto they are not scientists.

quote:


I would argue that any theory based on random, undetermined, and unspecified mutations is in danger of being interpreted in that fashion. There are certainly numerous Darwinists who have made that interpretation, and who have used the weight of scientific credentials to gain a hearing for their metaphysical views.


Lots of people use a lot of things to form metaphysical views. It does not reflect on the scientific accuracy of those things. Who do you know who accounts the metaphysical views of scientists (who are as prone to dodgy spiritual metafarts as anyone) of more weight because they are scientists - as opposed to plumbers, or TV presenters, or merely charismatic (with a small C) people who have the gift of persuasion?
quote:

The reason for the growth of the Intelligent Design Movement is not just the embarrassing antics of the young earth brigade. Intelligent Design has demonstrated the flimsy intellectual foundations of many Darwinist pretensions, whilst simultaneously documenting the strong political hold that the Darwinists exercise, especially in North America. This is well documented at the Access Research Network site.

Simply not true. ID has singularly failed to demonstrate *anything* beyond wishful thinking. It has no legitimacy among mainstream scientists, and no constituency outside certain categories of religious believers. Most people who support it cannot describe its scientific rationale, let alone defend it.

R

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I am largely against organised religion, which is why I am so fond of the C of E.

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Originally posted by Rex Monday:
'Darwinism', as I think you understand it (as *far* as I think you understand it) has nothing to say about purpose. What Darwin sought to explain was what he observed: how it came to be that way is something else again. I don't think you are adequately representing the current state of evolutionary understanding. Until you can correctly identify what's actually going on, I don't think you've got much chance of framing a coherent critique.

Rex, many of your comments have been discussed further up the thread. I would also remind you that I do not subscribe to young earth creation science. Please take your patronising stereotypes elsewhere.

Your comment about purpose in Darwinism is begging the question. There are many (especially in America, it seems) who say that the scientific theory explicitly excludes any sense of purpose in the Universe. Mutations occur randomly and those that are beneficial are selected passively through environmental pressure alone.

So Darwinism can certainly be interpreted to be consistent with philosophical naturalism, a most reassuring conclusion for atheists, but troubling for believers. The key question is whether that is an essential philosophical corollary to the scientific theory, or whether such naturalism is an import being read in illegitimately – eisegesis rather than exegesis.

There is no doubt that the perceived linkage between scientific Darwinism and philosophical naturalism has been the driving force behind much of the writing emanating from the Intelligent Design fraternity. They expect to find purpose in nature and to describe it scientifically when they do so. They are quite open about their metaphysical presuppositions. Would that the Darwinists were equally open.

Neil

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"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

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Rex Monday

None but a blockhead
# 2569

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
quote:
Originally posted by Rex Monday:
'Darwinism', as I think you understand it (as *far* as I think you understand it) has nothing to say about purpose. What Darwin sought to explain was what he observed: how it came to be that way is something else again. I don't think you are adequately representing the current state of evolutionary understanding. Until you can correctly identify what's actually going on, I don't think you've got much chance of framing a coherent critique.

Rex, many of your comments have been discussed further up the thread.


Indeed, but I was labouring under the misapprehension that you hadn't read the earlier parts of the thread. As you have, perhaps you might care to comment on the very many comments addressed to you but which remain unanswered.

quote:

I would also remind you that I do not subscribe to young earth creation science. Please take your patronising stereotypes elsewhere.


Perhaps you could point out where I said that you did. I do hope your aversion to stereotypes continues.

quote:


Your comment about purpose in Darwinism is begging the question. There are many (especially in America, it seems) who say that the scientific theory explicitly excludes any sense of purpose in the Universe. Mutations occur randomly and those that are beneficial are selected passively through environmental pressure alone.


As you are sufficiently well versed in what mainstream science says about this matter to critique it, you will no doubt know that the way in which mutations occur and become speciation events is a matter for no little debate. Are you quoting a deliberately simplistic version for dramatic effect?

quote:


So Darwinism can certainly be interpreted to be consistent with philosophical naturalism, a most reassuring conclusion for atheists, but troubling for believers.


Most believers I know are untroubled by this, and given that the atheists I know have never ever said that evolution is evidence for a lack of a god I don't know what reassurance you think they get. I'm sure that some on both sides do think as you state, but surely it's extremely patronising to cast it as a universal truth.

quote:


The key question is whether that is an essential philosophical corollary to the scientific theory, or whether such naturalism is an import being read in illegitimately – eisegesis rather than exegesis.


That key question is badly formed. Perhaps a better question is whether evolutionary biology and theology in general have any link of more import than, say, solid state physics and theology. There are *some* theologies that are grossly insulted by evolutionary biology, but then there are some theologies that are grossly insulted by almost any fact you care to unearth. The Apostolic Catholics believed that the End Times would come about before the last of their appointed elders would die. The gross fact that the last of their apostles died before the End Times kicked off was such an insult to their theology that it did not survive.

Inasmuch as theology in general is the study of God, then it is best served through science by the dispassionate study of nature to the best of our abilities.

quote:


There is no doubt that the perceived linkage between scientific Darwinism and philosophical naturalism has been the driving force behind much of the writing emanating from the Intelligent Design fraternity.


It's also the driving force behind much of the nonsense emanating from the Discovery Institute, Islamic fundamentalists and others of that kidney.

quote:


They expect to find purpose in nature and to describe it scientifically when they do so. They are quite open about their metaphysical presuppositions. Would that the Darwinists were equally open.


Yes, but what they find is not convincing - any more than the stuff from the YECs is convincing.

What matters in science is results. Metaphysics don't enter into it. Why bring them up? The philosophy inherent in the scientific method is statement enough. It doesn't need endless repetition.

quote:

Neil

R

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I am largely against organised religion, which is why I am so fond of the C of E.

Posts: 514 | From: Gin Lane | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Louise
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# 30

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quote:
There are *some* theologies that are grossly insulted by evolutionary biology, but then there are some theologies that are grossly insulted by almost any fact you care to unearth. The Apostolic Catholics believed that the End Times would come about before the last of their appointed elders would die. The gross fact that the last of their apostles died before the End Times kicked off was such an insult to their theology that it did not survive.

Much though I hate to correct my dear betrothed, I think you'll find that they were the Catholic Apostolic Church and that in fact their theology survived the passing of the last apostle in 1901 by quite some time - their sacramental ministry didn't cease until their last priest died in 1971.

However that doesn't affect your underlying point as sure enough when the last priest died that reality did, more or less, do for them - although I'm sure there are still a tiny handful of Catholic Apostolic believers around. (There was also a German branch of the denomination which decided to appoint some more Apostles and they are still going - but I digress)

cheers,
L.

PS. If anyone else is interested in the Catholic Apostolics - please let me know by PM as I find them fascinating and wouldn't mind comparing notes.

[ 09. June 2004, 22:25: Message edited by: Louise ]

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Rex Monday

None but a blockhead
# 2569

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quote:
Originally posted by Louise:
Much though I hate to correct my dear betrothed...

Ah, I know Scottish rhetoric when I see it!

Mea culpa. I shall pick examples I can check properly next time.

R

--------------------
I am largely against organised religion, which is why I am so fond of the C of E.

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Glenn Oldham
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# 47

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
There are many (especially in America, it seems) who say that the scientific theory explicitly excludes any sense of purpose in the Universe. Mutations occur randomly and those that are beneficial are selected passively through environmental pressure alone.

And, of course there are those who suggest that given the physical and chemical structure of matter that in a universe like ours evolution by random mutation and natural selection will, in all probability, lead to intelligent life eventually somewhere in that universe and that this was the way God accomplished (part of) God's purpose.

Why Christian's rush to intelligent design creationism is a puzzle to me.

--------------------
This entire doctrine is worthless except as a subject of dispute. (G. C. Lichtenberg 1742-1799 Aphorism 60 in notebook J of The Waste Books)

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Glenn Oldham said:
And, of course there are those who suggest that given the physical and chemical structure of matter that in a universe like ours evolution by random mutation and natural selection will, in all probability, lead to intelligent life eventually somewhere in that universe and that this was the way God accomplished (part of) God's purpose.

Why Christians rush to intelligent design creationism is a puzzle to me.

It is no accident that I have similar thinking to my namesake on the earlier part of this thread (Neil Robbie) – we are both civil engineers by training. As a non-biological specialist some of the debate is technically way over my head. However, the concept of an engineered system is immediately familiar.

The idea of biological machines has especially appealed to me, particularly the notion of irreducible complexity. I am also no stranger to the concept of design as a science – I even had lectures on the subject at university. So the Intelligent Design fraternity is speaking a scientific language that finds a ready resonance with me.

quote:
Callan said:
<snip>
The case against Dawkins hinges on the point where he illegitimately shifts his ground from scientific arguments to the realm of metaphysics. When he argues, as he does in the Blind Watchmaker, that God cannot exist because he must have evolved by natural selection it is legitimate to point out that the God of the Christian tradition is an entirely different entity to any that could conceivably have evolved in that way. What then ensues is a debate as to whether such an entity exists. If one retorts instead, that natural selection did not happen or did not happen to the extent that Darwinists claim, then Dawkins is quite justified in retorting: "Ah, but it did!".
<snip>

Scientific reconstruction of the past is a very different kettle of fish compared to scientific understanding of the present. The scientific aim to discover a testable, objective reality conforming to repeatable, observable laws is fine for the present, but it becomes problematic for the past, and much more difficult for the far distant past.

By definition the past is neither repeatable nor observable, so we must reply on observation and deduction from the present using whatever clues are available. The present we can observe; the past we must reconstruct. Already we have lost much of the precision associated with science, not to mention the ability to run repeatable experiments.

Earlier on this thread Alan Cresswell linked to some interesting hominid skull fossils. These are the raw scientific data, clearly representing ancient life-forms of some kind. However, when it is declared that these fossils show the ape-to-human evolutionary transformation, we are in a questionable area of interpretation.

How do you know that each skull is a remote biological descendant of the earlier one, and that we - modern humans - are remote descendants of any particular fossil? Is it possible to do any form of DNA testing on fossils? Were they even all located in the same geographical area? There is already an assumption operating, and the raw fossil evidence is interpreted within a Darwinian framework.

I am aware that “natural selection” is responsible for moths getting darker, finch beaks getting longer, and bacteria acquiring resistance. Has anybody demonstrated that “natural selection” has the creative power to make the massive physiological changes necessary in the particles-to-people theory?

I have read the (highly technical) paper on Observed Instances of Speciation at the Talk Origins website. So far I see pansies remaining pansies, and fruit flies remaining fruit flies, albeit losing the ability to interbreed.

Given the dogmatism emanating from parts of that site, I would expect to see much better examples of speciation. It simply won’t do to point to small observable changes and say that they clearly demonstrate the validity of the whole Darwinian story. There is a massive piece of extrapolation taking place here on the basis of very limited data.

Darwinism was described by the French botanist Gavaudan as an “ingenious romance” (quoted in Hayward’s book). I think I agree.

Neil

--------------------
"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

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Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
Earlier on this thread Alan Cresswell linked to some interesting hominid skull fossils. These are the raw scientific data, clearly representing ancient life-forms of some kind. However, when it is declared that these fossils show the ape-to-human evolutionary transformation, we are in a questionable area of interpretation.

Yes, the fossils are raw data. But, the challenge is to find some explanation for that data - sticking them in a museum for people to admire uninterpreted isn't science. Now, the data we have in regard to these fossils is (broadly speaking for brevity) that we have a number of fossilised skulls showing different features. Each skull has an associated age and location where it was found. The earliest skulls were all found in approximately the same area in Africa.

So, what options do we have?

Well, we can start with the classic Creationist position that God created all things according to their immutable 'kind', and what we have are a collection of different varients on human much as we have different varients of dogs that are still the same species. Now, we have to ask the question "what happened to all the other varients?" as they clearly are not currently in existance? And, related to that, why were only a small number of those varients fossilised at any one time - if all those varients existed at the same time, why was fossilisation so distinctly non-random? The obvious answer is that not all varients lived at the same time, that some appeared later in time after others had died out just as many species of dog had not yet been bred a thousand years ago, and many breeds from a thousand years ago are now very rare if not extinct. This leaves very big questions of why that would be.

Alternatively we can say that there was a progression of changes in features over time, with (for example) a tend towards larger brain capacity. Now "progression of changes in features over time" is evolution. This is a fact derived from the fossils that is pretty damn close to being as basic as the existance of the fossils themselves.

Of course, you then move on to a discussion of how that evolution occured and what powered it. I see two basic camps. 1) Each species was specifically created by God to live in a particular environment or 2) Each species is an adaptation on earlier species in response to changing environments. Darwinism and neo-Darwinism are basically the second option.

--------------------
Don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.

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Glenn Oldham
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# 47

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
These are the raw scientific data, clearly representing ancient life-forms of some kind. However, when it is declared that these fossils show the ape-to-human evolutionary transformation, we are in a questionable area of interpretation.

How do you know that each skull is a remote biological descendant of the earlier one, and that we - modern humans - are remote descendants of any particular fossil? Is it possible to do any form of DNA testing on fossils? Were they even all located in the same geographical area? There is already an assumption operating, and the raw fossil evidence is interpreted within a Darwinian framework.

I am aware that “natural selection” is responsible for moths getting darker, finch beaks getting longer, and bacteria acquiring resistance. Has anybody demonstrated that “natural selection” has the creative power to make the massive physiological changes necessary in the particles-to-people theory?

I have read the (highly technical) paper on Observed Instances of Speciation at the Talk Origins website. So far I see pansies remaining pansies, and fruit flies remaining fruit flies, albeit losing the ability to interbreed.

Given the dogmatism emanating from parts of that site, I would expect to see much better examples of speciation. It simply won’t do to point to small observable changes and say that they clearly demonstrate the validity of the whole Darwinian story. There is a massive piece of extrapolation taking place here on the basis of very limited data.

Darwinism was described by the French botanist Gavaudan as an “ingenious romance” (quoted in Hayward’s book). I think I agree.

I am rather baffled by your post, Neil, you cite several observations all of which are consistent with evolution and then you describe evolution as an “ingenious romance”. Where was the argument supposed to be in this?

Speciation happens. No evolutionist expects to live long enough to see genera evolve, though if he or she did there would doubtless be creationists still around to say ‘ah yes but they are all really the same kind’.

The fact that we have no present day observations that can show new genera, families, orders forming does not mean that there is no evidence for common ancestry. The case for evolution is a cumulative one, not one that consists of a single knockout argument. So, to pull in another strand of evidence, why are there so many similarities between species that only really make sense if they have common descent? Why do all mammals have seven neck vertebrae (whales and giraffes alike) and why do all vertebrates have such similar limb structure (the pentadactyl limb)? Why does the giraffe’s laryngeal nerve take a route down from the brain to near the heart and then up to the larynx? That nerve always takes that route in all vertebrates but in the giraffe it means the nerve is 5 metres longer than it needs to be to get from the brain to the larynx. There are no design reasons for all these kinds of similarity, but since the theory of evolution argues that adaptations build on what is already there then these kinds of similarity make sense.

Why are the chromosomes of chimps and humans so similar, why are their DNA sequences so similar and why are the amino acid sequences of their proteins so similar? They do not need to be. There is no clear reason whatsoever why the haemoglobin of chimps needs to be as similar as it is to the haemoglobin of humans. There are a wide range of amino acid sequences for haemoglobins - why do chimp sequences match humans more than lions? Or sloths? Or goats? There are no known design reasons for these similarities. Once again, however, the theory of common descent explains these similarities and a host of comparable ones in all sorts of species.

Christians are, surely, familiar with cumulative case arguments – they use them to argue for the truth of Christianity.

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Glenn Oldham
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# 47

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Sorry to double post but it looks as if the chapter that Neil refers to is online at Biologists who reject Darwinism by Alan Hayward so we can have a look for ourselves.

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This entire doctrine is worthless except as a subject of dispute. (G. C. Lichtenberg 1742-1799 Aphorism 60 in notebook J of The Waste Books)

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Rex Monday

None but a blockhead
# 2569

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
quote:
Glenn Oldham said:
And, of course there are those who suggest that given the physical and chemical structure of matter that in a universe like ours evolution by random mutation and natural selection will, in all probability, lead to intelligent life eventually somewhere in that universe and that this was the way God accomplished (part of) God's purpose.

Why Christians rush to intelligent design creationism is a puzzle to me.

It is no accident that I have similar thinking to my namesake on the earlier part of this thread (Neil Robbie) – we are both civil engineers by training. As a non-biological specialist some of the debate is technically way over my head. However, the concept of an engineered system is immediately familiar.


Indeed. I can't find the study right now, but engineers are significantly over-represented in creationist demographics compared to those of other groups of Christians.

quote:


The idea of biological machines has especially appealed to me, particularly the notion of irreducible complexity. I am also no stranger to the concept of design as a science – I even had lectures on the subject at university. So the Intelligent Design fraternity is speaking a scientific language that finds a ready resonance with me.


One of the pitfalls that linguistic translators are taught to notice are 'faux amis' or false friends, more technically called deceptive cognates. These are words in one language that look very similar to words in another, but in fact mean something substantially different to their apparent namesakes. How might you guard against something similar happening here, with your familiarity with sentient engineering making you prone to seeing an engineering explanation with a sentient engineer for biological systems?

quote:

quote:
Callan said:
<snip>
The case against Dawkins hinges on the point where he illegitimately shifts his ground from scientific arguments to the realm of metaphysics. When he argues, as he does in the Blind Watchmaker, that God cannot exist because he must have evolved by natural selection it is legitimate to point out that the God of the Christian tradition is an entirely different entity to any that could conceivably have evolved in that way. What then ensues is a debate as to whether such an entity exists. If one retorts instead, that natural selection did not happen or did not happen to the extent that Darwinists claim, then Dawkins is quite justified in retorting: "Ah, but it did!".
<snip>

Scientific reconstruction of the past is a very different kettle of fish compared to scientific understanding of the present. The scientific aim to discover a testable, objective reality conforming to repeatable, observable laws is fine for the present, but it becomes problematic for the past, and much more difficult for the far distant past.

By definition the past is neither repeatable nor observable, so we must reply on observation and deduction from the present using whatever clues are available. The present we can observe; the past we must reconstruct. Already we have lost much of the precision associated with science, not to mention the ability to run repeatable experiments.


Sadly, that's not true. Astronomers spend all their time observing the past directly (let's ignore the fact that technically so we all do). Fortunately, the things astronomers observe directly touch on the basic mechanisms and laws of physics - so we can immediately tell that in the past, things behaved as they do now, at least on various interesting and useful physical levels. So, whatever mechanisms created the stuff we find around us are the selfsame mechanisms we can touch and experiment on right now.

The past is accessible and analysable, predictions about what we can find out can be made and tested. Good thing, really, otherwise courts couldn't operate and historians, geologists and oil companies would have a thin time of it.

quote:


Earlier on this thread Alan Cresswell linked to some interesting hominid skull fossils. These are the raw scientific data, clearly representing ancient life-forms of some kind. However, when it is declared that these fossils show the ape-to-human evolutionary transformation, we are in a questionable area of interpretation.

How do you know that each skull is a remote biological descendant of the earlier one, and that we - modern humans - are remote descendants of any particular fossil? Is it possible to do any form of DNA testing on fossils? Were they even all located in the same geographical area? There is already an assumption operating, and the raw fossil evidence is interpreted within a Darwinian framework.


I think you misunderstand. Indeed, it isn't generally possible to say that we are descendents of any particular fossil - you may be aware of the continued discussion about whether we are or are not in some way descended from Neanderthal Man. Furthermore, evolutionary theory doesn't say that this should be generally proveable nor that it matters that much (although it's obviously of great interest to find one's family).

What you can say from the collection of fossil hominid skulls is that there has been a set of features evolving over time, and that we share some of those features. Whether a particular skull is an ancestor of Homo Sapiens or whether it shares a common ancestor with us, is frequently very hard to tell - although one of these two is true.

What we have is a consistent pattern of changes in structure over time, which is very strong proof indeed in favour of evolution. To deny it, you must either show that the skulls don't show the features or that the proposed sequence is incorrect. True, there is an element of tautology here, in that evolution is so widely assumed that the change in features are used to help create the sequence, but that's merely because there is so much evidence from elsewhere that this is a correct approach. Some of the sequencing from microscopic prehistoric sea creatures is staggeringly detailed and complete over very long stretches of time, because here we have such good and complete fossil records - find me a creationist micropaleontologist, and I will be truly impressed.

There are other dating methods used, and they bolster this approach -- were they not to do so, then it would be an interesting start to proving evolution false.

quote:


I am aware that “natural selection” is responsible for moths getting darker, finch beaks getting longer, and bacteria acquiring resistance. Has anybody demonstrated that “natural selection” has the creative power to make the massive physiological changes necessary in the particles-to-people theory?


The whole world demonstrates this! The question is rather, is there any demonstrable (or even conceivable) limitation on variability that would prevent such changes? What might be the limiting mechanism? Is a lungfish enough like a fish to be a possible modification? Is an amphibian enough like a lungfish to be a possible modification? Is a lizard like an amphiban, ditto? So why can a lizard not be descended from a fish?

Creationists are fond of quoting 'goo to you' as an example of how evolution cannot possibly work because the change is just too big. But that's not how evolution is thought to work - many small changes over time will do it. You may never find a pound on the pavement, but pick up enough pennies...

quote:


I have read the (highly technical) paper on Observed Instances of Speciation at the Talk Origins website. So far I see pansies remaining pansies, and fruit flies remaining fruit flies, albeit losing the ability to interbreed.

Given the dogmatism emanating from parts of that site, I would expect to see much better examples of speciation. It simply won’t do to point to small observable changes and say that they clearly demonstrate the validity of the whole Darwinian story. There is a massive piece of extrapolation taking place here on the basis of very limited data.


But no! There are enormous amounts of data. You've already said that sufficient levels of mutation occur even in the short term to cause population divergeance to the point where interbreeding cannot occur. We see this in the fossil record too. However, the fossil record does what our quotidian observations cannot, it extends over much larger stretches of time. We see sequences of species diverging and becoming very different -- once they cannot interbreed, this is what you'd expect over time -- and this happens consistently and in agreement with multiple independent methods of dating.

In fact, if we did observe gross speciation events occuring 'in real time', which is what you seem to be complaining is missing, then it would be strong evidence that our concepts of evolution are badly flawed. Frogs don't turn into dogs: evolution merely says that at some very distant point in the past, frogs and dogs had a common ancestor.

quote:


Darwinism was described by the French botanist Gavaudan as an “ingenious romance” (quoted in Hayward’s book). I think I agree.

Neil


I agree too, up to a point - a lot of evolutionary science is ingenious romance. A criticism frequently levelled at evolutionary biologists is that they spend their time writing Just So stories. Which they do, but to see this as a weakness in evolution is to fundamentally misunderstand it.

The truth is that, just like any science, various theories are advanced that seem to fit the facts and people spend their time inventing these ideas and digging out ways to test them. Evolutionary biology defines the sort of Just So stories that can be written and sets the limits of the plausible. Evolution itself is as well proven a scientific fact as any we have: the details and the implications are what the science is all about.

Creation science falls well outside the plausible space. There is simply no scientific evidence for it, and predictions that would seem logical -- such as huge numbers of very different animals appearing simultaneously in the fossil record -- are so clearly at odds to what we find that no creation scientist can make them.

R

--------------------
I am largely against organised religion, which is why I am so fond of the C of E.

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mr cheesy
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# 3330

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quote:
Originally posted by Rex Monday:

I think you misunderstand. Indeed, it isn't generally possible to say that we are descendents of any particular fossil - you may be aware of the continued discussion about whether we are or are not in some way descended from Neanderthal Man. Furthermore, evolutionary theory doesn't say that this should be generally proveable nor that it matters that much (although it's obviously of great interest to find one's family).

What you can say from the collection of fossil hominid skulls is that there has been a set of features evolving over time, and that we share some of those features. Whether a particular skull is an ancestor of Homo Sapiens or whether it shares a common ancestor with us, is frequently very hard to tell - although one of these two is true.

What we have is a consistent pattern of changes in structure over time, which is very strong proof indeed in favour of evolution. To deny it, you must either show that the skulls don't show the features or that the proposed sequence is incorrect. True, there is an element of tautology here, in that evolution is so widely assumed that the change in features are used to help create the sequence, but that's merely because there is so much evidence from elsewhere that this is a correct approach. Some of the sequencing from microscopic prehistoric sea creatures is staggeringly detailed and complete over very long stretches of time, because here we have such good and complete fossil records - find me a creationist micropaleontologist, and I will be truly impressed.

Sorry, first an evolutionist cannot appeal to concepts of features that could be constructed sequentially over time - but at the same tell engineers to mind-their-own-business when told it cannot physically be done. I would think engineers are at least as well qualified as biologists to make this assessment.

Second, you are now falling into the Dawkins this-happened-because-I-said-it-did trap. Let us wake up and smell the coffee here. How many huminoid fossils are there in existance? Answer - not many, of the oldest at least. What circumstances would encourage fossilisation? I would postulate that people with mental illness, sickness or other infirmity are more likely to find themselves in situations suitable for fossilisation than fully fit members of the community. Morein, I would not be surprised if the huminoid 'adaptions' found in the fossils are also found within the normal variation of the species (think of the 'elephant' man for example - would he not have been considered another species if his fossil had been found in isolation?).

I suggest to you that there is, therefore, at least the potential for major errors to exist within human evolution.

Prehistoric sea creatures are not relevant to questions of human evolution. Trilobites, for example, were around from the cambrian with relatively minor variations for millions of years. What does this show? If you look for evidence [both within the fossil record and in nature as a whole] you will inevitably find whatever you are looking for. This is not to say that evolutionary theory is wrong just that some of you guys need to be a whole lot more circumspect and less defensive about it.

And before any creationist thinks of pming me, read my previous comments.

C

--------------------
arse

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Rex Monday

None but a blockhead
# 2569

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quote:
Originally posted by Cheesy*:
Sorry, first an evolutionist cannot appeal to concepts of features that could be constructed sequentially over time - but at the same tell engineers to mind-their-own-business when told it cannot physically be done. I would think engineers are at least as well qualified as biologists to make this assessment.


Nobody, biologist or engineer, is qualified to make that assessment unless they can follow it up with a 'because...' that stands scrutiny.

Behe says that there are biological systems that could not have evolved because there is no way they could exist in a part-functioning or incomplete state - and thus nothing they could have evolved from. They are irreducably complex, in his term, because they have multiple necessary components, removal of any one of which causes the system to cease to function.

Unfortunately for him, the mechanisms he's chosen to exemplify this theory have plausible evolutionary pathways - evolution can indeed produce 'irreducably complex' systems. All that's necessary is a system that was merely beneficial in the past becoming essential through modification. Further beneficial mechanisms can then come about that depend on the first one, and if one of those new beneficial mechanisms also becomes essential you have two essential connected components that nonetheless evolved independently and at different times.

quote:

Second, you are now falling into the Dawkins this-happened-because-I-said-it-did trap. Let us wake up and smell the coffee here. How many huminoid fossils are there in existance? Answer - not many, of the oldest at least. What circumstances would encourage fossilisation? I would postulate that people with mental illness, sickness or other infirmity are more likely to find themselves in situations suitable for fossilisation than fully fit members of the community. Morein, I would not be surprised if the huminoid 'adaptions' found in the fossils are also found within the normal variation of the species (think of the 'elephant' man for example - would he not have been considered another species if his fossil had been found in isolation?).


Well, these are all possibilities - but in the absence of statistically significant numbers of fossils, you have to apply what we know of probability. In a population of hominids, how many mutants are there? How many survive any length of time? Compare that to the number of typical examples: in Victorian England, there was one Joseph Merrick for how many millions of more typical homo sapiens?

Also, the features of the hominid skulls seem to fit a number of patterns of development - jaw structures, occipital bones, even the structure of the brain as revealed by the inside of the skulls. It's not as if there are so many random features that are shuffled around by the evolutionary biologists to make a pleasing picture.

quote:

I suggest to you that there is, therefore, at least the potential for major errors to exist within human evolution.


Absolutely. It just doesn't seem very likely on the evidence we have, and nobody's come up with a better explanation that fits.

quote:


Prehistoric sea creatures are not relevant to questions of human evolution. Trilobites, for example, were around from the cambrian with relatively minor variations for millions of years. What does this show? If you look for evidence [both within the fossil record and in nature as a whole] you will inevitably find whatever you are looking for. This is not to say that evolutionary theory is wrong just that some of you guys need to be a whole lot more circumspect and less defensive about it.


You can find very many different strands of evolution, including families of animals that remain substantially unchanged for many millions of years, and including quite dramatic changes in much smaller periods. It's not a question of 'finding whatever you're looking for' - something which is patently false, as there's nothing there that supports creationism - but having a huge encylopedia of past events that may help inform our understanding of biology as a whole.

Everything is connected, everything is useful: the one rule is that there won't be anything in the fossil record that contradicts something else. If that apparently happens, we know that our understanding is wrong.

quote:


And before any creationist thinks of pming me, read my previous comments.

C

R

--------------------
I am largely against organised religion, which is why I am so fond of the C of E.

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Faithful Sheepdog
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# 2305

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quote:
Rex Monday said:
Indeed. I can't find the study right now, but engineers are significantly over-represented in creationist demographics compared to those of other groups of Christians.

I’m sure you’re well aware that the word creationist has a slippery and occasionally very pejorative meaning. Despite that it is peppered all over your posts. To remove any misunderstanding I suggest that you define your terms more accurately or use a different word. I prefer to stay well away from it unless the meaning is clearly defined in the context.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
One of the pitfalls that linguistic translators are taught to notice are 'faux amis' or false friends, more technically called deceptive cognates. These are words in one language that look very similar to words in another, but in fact mean something substantially different to their apparent namesakes. How might you guard against something similar happening here, with your familiarity with sentient engineering making you prone to seeing an engineering explanation with a sentient engineer for biological systems?

A “false friend” is an incorrect deduction from prior knowledge of one language concerning a similar-looking word in a text of another language. In such a case there is a prior assumption that the text is meaningful. However, the specific deduction on the word’s meaning is incorrect.

The error is in the detail, not in the overall principle. The text is meaningful, but not in the way that you thought. Simon and Garfunkel said it all 30 years ago, “A man sees what he wants to see, and disregards the rest”.

Concerning biological machines, the same laws of physics and chemistry apply to both biologists and engineers, in a way that they do not to linguists. Deductive reasoning from these basic laws is a fundamental part of natural science. However, I think the difference between engineers and Darwinists is the starting point in what is perceived to be already known.

Darwinists “know” that a Darwinian mechanism can create complex, information-rich systems, whereas engineers “know” that machines and engineered systems don’t happen by accident – they require intelligence and information – or as Dembski would put it, complexity and specification.

The genetic engineering going on is a good example that some biologists can think like engineers. However, the challenge to Darwinists is to demonstrate scientifically that “natural selection” can indeed create new, complex, information-rich systems, rather than taking it as a given.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
Sadly, that's not true. Astronomers spend all their time observing the past directly (let's ignore the fact that technically so we all do). Fortunately, the things astronomers observe directly touch on the basic mechanisms and laws of physics - so we can immediately tell that in the past, things behaved as they do now, at least on various interesting and useful physical levels. So, whatever mechanisms created the stuff we find around us are the selfsame mechanisms we can touch and experiment on right now.

The past is accessible and analysable, predictions about what we can find out can be made and tested. Good thing, really, otherwise courts couldn't operate and historians, geologists and oil companies would have a thin time of it.

No, I can’t agree here with your conclusions regarding the earth’s past. Powerful telescopes can tell what is happening on the far side of the cosmos umpteen million years ago, but they cannot tell us anything specific at all about life-forms in the earth’s distant past. Despite our evident knowledge of geology and fossils, our access to the earth’s biological past remains partial and incomplete, and barring time travel, is always likely to be so.

The telescopic observations can demonstrate that the basic laws of physics and chemistry were the same in times past in the far reaches of the cosmos, thus giving us the principle of uniformitarianism. However, until such powerful telescopes can witness the development of life in the far past in other parts of the cosmos, we are none the wiser about the specific mechanisms for the development of life on earth. We still have to extrapolate from the earth’s present.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
What we have is a consistent pattern of changes in structure over time, which is very strong proof indeed in favour of evolution. To deny it, you must either show that the skulls don't show the features or that the proposed sequence is incorrect. True, there is an element of tautology here, in that evolution is so widely assumed that the change in features are used to help create the sequence, but that's merely because there is so much evidence from elsewhere that this is a correct approach. Some of the sequencing from microscopic prehistoric sea creatures is staggeringly detailed and complete over very long stretches of time, because here we have such good and complete fossil records - find me a creationist micropaleontologist, and I will be truly impressed.

The pattern of changes may be consistent with an assumed evolutionary schema, but your comment on tautology is quite correct. People are more or less assuming that which they wish to prove. I do not disagree with the fact that life-forms in times past were very different – what schoolboy was not fascinated with dinosaurs? (And when he grew up, Raquel Welch, but I digress. [Smile] ) It is the route to the life-forms of the present that must be demonstrated, not just assumed.

Micropaleontology is definitely not my speciality, although if the fossil record here is totally consistent with classical Darwinism it is not something I have previously come across in my reading. Gould moved to a “punctuated equilibrium” model in order to try and match the fossil record more closely, whilst still remaining within the Darwinist camp.

Even if you are correct on the evolutionary history of micro-organisms, it is still an extrapolation to apply that to hominid life-forms – we are very different to bacteria!

quote:
Rex Monday said:
Creationists are fond of quoting 'goo to you' as an example of how evolution cannot possibly work because the change is just too big. But that's not how evolution is thought to work - many small changes over time will do it. You may never find a pound on the pavement, but pick up enough pennies...

Yet another careless use of the word “creationist”; a slippery elision into “evolution” on a thread about Darwinism; and an ad hominem caricature as well. [Frown] Hayward’s book is full of references to explicit scientific evolutionists who do not accept a Darwinian model.

You may indeed find a penny on the pavement, but the assumption in your argument is that you will continue to find more pennies, whilst simultaneously never losing any already collected, until your pound is complete. Your penny is only a simple analogy, so I won’t push it too far, but my fundamental point about extrapolation remains.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
In fact, if we did observe gross speciation events occurring 'in real time', which is what you seem to be complaining is missing, then it would be strong evidence that our concepts of evolution are badly flawed. Frogs don't turn into dogs: evolution merely says that at some very distant point in the past, frogs and dogs had a common ancestor.

Engineers do accelerated ageing tests on their products all the time. Can biologists not do the same on their theories? I take your point about frogs not becoming dogs, but fruit flies can be bred at great speed. I want to see fruit flies becoming something that is demonstrably not a fruit fly via a Darwinian mechanism.

I admire the way you have turned the absence of present day evidence for gross speciation events into evidence for the correctness of Darwinism. I’m afraid I see such absence as a major flaw in Darwinism. As a theory it would appear to be neither testable nor observable nor repeatable, and certainly not falsifiable, rendering its scientific credentials suspect in my eyes.

Neil

--------------------
"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

Posts: 1097 | From: Scotland | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Glenn Oldham
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# 47

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Neil,
May I ask in what way Intelligent Design explains the genetic relationships between species, the homologies in structure (such as the pentadactyl limb) and the fossil record?

--------------------
This entire doctrine is worthless except as a subject of dispute. (G. C. Lichtenberg 1742-1799 Aphorism 60 in notebook J of The Waste Books)

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Faithful Sheepdog
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# 2305

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quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Oldham:
Neil,
May I ask in what way Intelligent Design explains the genetic relationships between species, the homologies in structure (such as the pentadactyl limb) and the fossil record?

Glenn, you're welcome to ask, but I don't guarantee to be able to answer. [Smile] For a start, I don't have the specialist knowledge of animal biology and physiology that you have displayed in your posts. I have to approach this subject through a non-specialist route.

I will give some more thought and come back tomorrow if health permits. In the meantime there is a huge amount of information at the Access Research Network Website.

With respect to Cheesy's comments above on hominid fossils, one piece of research I would like to see is the present-day natural variation in hominid skulls (if such research doesn't already exist). I suspect that the natural variation will be found to be surprisingly large. That information may result in different assessments for some of the hominid skull fossils.

Neil

--------------------
"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

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Rex Monday

None but a blockhead
# 2569

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
quote:
Rex Monday said:
Indeed. I can't find the study right now, but engineers are significantly over-represented in creationist demographics compared to those of other groups of Christians.

I’m sure you’re well aware that the word creationist has a slippery and occasionally very pejorative meaning. Despite that it is peppered all over your posts. To remove any misunderstanding I suggest that you define your terms more accurately or use a different word. I prefer to stay well away from it unless the meaning is clearly defined in the context.


Creationists: people who believe that God directly created different kinds of living things. And in that sense, I'm going to carry on using the word. Could you define 'Darwinism'?

quote:


A “false friend” is an incorrect deduction from prior knowledge of one language concerning a similar-looking word in a text of another language.


That's what I just said!

quote:


<more reiteration snipped>

Concerning biological machines, the same laws of physics and chemistry apply to both biologists and engineers, in a way that they do not to linguists.


I was using the faux amis example as an analogy. I appreciate that creationists are uncomfortable around analogy: I'll try to avoid them in future if they cause you problems.

quote:


Deductive reasoning from these basic laws is a fundamental part of natural science. However, I think the difference between engineers and Darwinists is the starting point in what is perceived to be already known.

Darwinists “know” that a Darwinian mechanism can create complex, information-rich systems, whereas engineers “know” that machines and engineered systems don’t happen by accident – they require intelligence and information – or as Dembski would put it, complexity and specification.


How does an engineer "know" that evolutionary systems can't generate 'complexity and specification'? Are these the same engineers who are exploring genetic and evolutionary algorithms to generate and refine complex systems?

Most engineers that I know - and in the course of what may most kindly be described as my career, I've met many - seem perfectly happy with the idea that evolutionary processes are more than powerful enough to explain biological systems. What knowledge do you have that they lack?

To reiterate my original point, which you have ignored: how do you know that your consideration of biology as cognate with engineering isn't leading you to falsely adduce the existence of sentience behind the former? How would you *check*? You are an engineer, so you know the dangers of assumption.

quote:


The genetic engineering going on is a good example that some biologists can think like engineers.


And evolutionary algorithms and design work is a good example that some engineers can think like biologists. So?

quote:


However, the challenge to Darwinists is to demonstrate scientifically that “natural selection” can indeed create new, complex, information-rich systems, rather than taking it as a given.


If you could define "complex, information-rich" systems, you might perhaps be able to advance that argument. Can you? But even then you have the whole business arse around face - the challenge is to explain the natural systems around us, a task where evolutionary biology is at least ten light years ahead of creationists, ID'ers and other apologists.

How would *you* explain nested hierarchies, genetic and morphological correspondence between species, the ordered fossil records, and so on? So far, all you've got is bald statements that things are too complicated to be explained by evolutionary biology. The evolutionary biologists have enough data to choke a mutant star goat.

Argument through incredulity cuts no ice. Argument through data, experiment and observation is much better.


quote:


<reiteration snipped>

However, until such powerful telescopes can witness the development of life in the far past in other parts of the cosmos, we are none the wiser about the specific mechanisms for the development of life on earth. We still have to extrapolate from the earth’s present.


Which is what I said. I don't understand your point here - and why do you think that 'witnessing the development of life in other parts of the cosmos' will be the same as the development of life on earth? It might be. It might be totally different. Why does this matter?

quote:


<more reiterations snipped>

It is the route to the life-forms of the present that must be demonstrated, not just assumed.


They're not assumed. There is massive genetic and other evidence as has been tirelessly demonstrated here and elsewhere. Making bald statements does nothing to counter them.

quote:


Micropaleontology is definitely not my speciality, although if the fossil record here is totally consistent with classical Darwinism it is not something I have previously come across in my reading. Gould moved to a “punctuated equilibrium” model in order to try and match the fossil record more closely, whilst still remaining within the Darwinist camp.

Even if you are correct on the evolutionary history of micro-organisms, it is still an extrapolation to apply that to hominid life-forms – we are very different to bacteria!


What of those differences affect the principles of evolution? Last time I looked, we had a very great deal in common with micro-organisms. Think about that next time you catch a cold.

quote:


Yet another careless use of the word “creationist”; a slippery elision into “evolution” on a thread about Darwinism; and an ad hominem caricature as well. [Frown] Hayward’s book is full of references to explicit scientific evolutionists who do not accept a Darwinian model.


I take great care over my choice of words, and I got the 'goo to you' phrase from a creationist website. It didn't seem so different from 'particles to people', and I note that once again you have entirely avoided addressing the substantive point I was making.

As for Darwinism versus evolutionary biology, as I've said I consider Darwinism an imprecise term and evolutionary biology as a better term for current mainstream thinking. You'll notice, if you care to notice, that I have not used Darwinism subsequent to that statement. If you care to define what it is about Darwinism you object to and how that differs from mainstream evolutionary biology, then we'll see.

quote:


You may indeed find a penny on the pavement, but the assumption in your argument is that you will continue to find more pennies, whilst simultaneously never losing any already collected, until your pound is complete. Your penny is only a simple analogy, so I won’t push it too far, but my fundamental point about extrapolation remains.


You have yet to make any fundamental point about extrapolation. You have said it is inappropriate to apply to complex biological systems, you have said that it is inappropriate to apply it to hominids, but you have not in any way advanced the argument.

I and others have repeatedly asked you what you think the limits to extrapolation are in your view and why: if you were to answer that, then you might perhaps begin to approach the outskirts of construction of such a point.

quote:


Engineers do accelerated ageing tests on their products all the time. Can biologists not do the same on their theories? I take your point about frogs not becoming dogs, but fruit flies can be bred at great speed. I want to see fruit flies becoming something that is demonstrably not a fruit fly via a Darwinian mechanism.


Why? Where does evolutionary theory say that this is what we should observe with our current state of systemic modelling or practical experimentation? You have created a straw fruit fly and are tilting at it with the lance of incredulity (that's a mixed metaphor, by the way. Don't panic).

quote:



I admire the way you have turned the absence of present day evidence for gross speciation events into evidence for the correctness of Darwinism. I’m afraid I see such absence as a major flaw in Darwinism. As a theory it would appear to be neither testable nor observable nor repeatable, and certainly not falsifiable, rendering its scientific credentials suspect in my eyes.


As I have repeatedly and explicitly said in this very thread, there are PLENTY of ways to falsify evolutionary biological theory. The fact that you choose to ignore these, or flippantly dismiss them as being beneath your intelligence, or just say "But it isn't so" doesn't really affect this fact.

You should try and find some evidence for your position.


quote:

Neil

R

--------------------
I am largely against organised religion, which is why I am so fond of the C of E.

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Glenn Oldham
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# 47

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Oldham:
Neil,
May I ask in what way Intelligent Design explains the genetic relationships between species, the homologies in structure (such as the pentadactyl limb) and the fossil record?

Glenn, you're welcome to ask, but I don't guarantee to be able to answer. [Smile] For a start, I don't have the specialist knowledge of animal biology and physiology that you have displayed in your posts. I have to approach this subject through a non-specialist route.

I will give some more thought and come back tomorrow if health permits. In the meantime there is a huge amount of information at the Access Research Network Website.

Thanks for the link, Neil.

Since homology is such a strong pointer to common descent and against intelligent design I went straight to Homologies.

But this is an extraordinarily poor response to the question of homologies. As Darwin asked, why design a bat wing and a bat leg from the same basic bone structure (one bone, then two, then the carpals/tarsals etc along to the five fingers/toes). What is going on here? If you are making a wing, there are better ways to do it.

With common descent it makes perfect sense, but from the intelligent design point of view it rests with the whim of the designer.

--------------------
This entire doctrine is worthless except as a subject of dispute. (G. C. Lichtenberg 1742-1799 Aphorism 60 in notebook J of The Waste Books)

Posts: 910 | From: London, England | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Faithful Sheepdog
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# 2305

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quote:
Originally posted by Rex Monday:
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
quote:
Rex Monday said:
Indeed. I can't find the study right now, but engineers are significantly over-represented in creationist demographics compared to those of other groups of Christians.

I’m sure you’re well aware that the word creationist has a slippery and occasionally very pejorative meaning. Despite that it is peppered all over your posts. To remove any misunderstanding I suggest that you define your terms more accurately or use a different word. I prefer to stay well away from it unless the meaning is clearly defined in the context.


Creationists: people who believe that God directly created different kinds of living things. And in that sense, I'm going to carry on using the word.
In common Christian and Ship parlance creationist refers to young earth creationism. It is certainly not a neutral description, being heavily coloured with negative overtones and presuppositions.

I have a lot of sympathy with what is called old earth creationism, or sometimes ancient creationism, but none at all for the young earth position - but then you knew that already.

Since I consider that we have not achieved mutual respect, we have nothing further to discuss. I wish you well in your upcoming marriage.

Neil

--------------------
"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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# 76

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Oldham:
Neil,
May I ask in what way Intelligent Design explains the genetic relationships between species, the homologies in structure (such as the pentadactyl limb) and the fossil record?

Glenn, you're welcome to ask, but I don't guarantee to be able to answer. [Smile] For a start, I don't have the specialist knowledge of animal biology and physiology that you have displayed in your posts. I have to approach this subject through a non-specialist route.

I will give some more thought and come back tomorrow if health permits. In the meantime there is a huge amount of information at the Access Research Network Website.

With respect to Cheesy's comments above on hominid fossils, one piece of research I would like to see is the present-day natural variation in hominid skulls (if such research doesn't already exist). I suspect that the natural variation will be found to be surprisingly large. That information may result in different assessments for some of the hominid skull fossils.

Neil

Let me get this straight- you're not a specialist, but you wonder whether the people who are have thought of someting blindingly obvious that you have?
Posts: 17938 | From: Chesterfield | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
ken
Ship's Roundhead
# 2460

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
How do you know that each skull is a remote biological descendant of the earlier one, and that we - modern humans - are remote descendants of any particular fossil?

You don't know that. In fact you can be pretty sure that that isn't the case, as the vast majority of organisms die leaving no descendants.

This is one of the times when sloppy language used by popularists rebounds on science - there are loads of people who seem to think that somewhere in Africa we are digging up our ancestors.

We aren't - or we almost certainly aren't. At best we might be difgfing up individuals from the same species as our ancestors, bur frankly even that is very unliekly for anything more than a mere million or so years old.

These days taxonomists treat fossils not as the ancestors of living creatures (or each other) but as evidence of end-points on the tree of life.

If you think about it the same is tru for extant organisms - we can never see the complete ancestry and relationships of even a living wild organism. All we have is some evidence of its characters. We may have more evidence than for fossils (though not always - there are some commonly found extinct species better known than many rare extant species)

quote:

Is it possible to do any form of DNA testing on fossils?

Yes, sometimes, on comparitively recent fossils, but that is not really a large part of how palaeontology is done.


quote:

Were they even all located in the same geographical area?

This is exactly the sort of question that palaentologists and taxonomists ask all the time.

quote:

I am aware that ?natural selection? is responsible for moths getting darker, finch beaks getting longer, and bacteria acquiring resistance. Has anybody demonstrated that ?natural selection? has the creative power to make the massive physiological changes necessary in the particles-to-people theory?

This is going to sound patronising - but think of the scale of the thing. The amount of time available. The numbers of organisms involved.

Biological numbers are big. Much bigger than the ones engineers and so on deal with.

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Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

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ken
Ship's Roundhead
# 2460

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
fruit flies can be bred at great speed. I want to see fruit flies becoming something that is demonstrably not a fruit fly via a Darwinian mechanism.

Scale again.

If you can supply us with some kind of quantitative question - i.e. tell us how much different it has to be from a fruit fly in order for you not to count it as a fruit fly - than I could estimate how long it would take. That would be an intersting excercise.

I assume you don't just speciation, because we can see that going on sometimes.

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Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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# 76

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Sorry to appear to pile on, but Sheepdog's last post did rather chime with this link - http://www.thespoof.com/news/spoof.cfm?headline=s5i4540 - that someone sent me.

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Might as well ask the bloody cat.

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
originally posted by Glenn Oldham
Neil,
May I ask in what way Intelligent Design explains the genetic relationships between species, the homologies in structure (such as the pentadactyl limb) and the fossil record?

Glenn, I’ve now done a bit more research into your question. On the subject of giraffe necks you’ll find a very brief and simple article here (scroll down to see the article). It does however scotch a few myths about giraffes based on field observations.

With respect to the issue of DNA sequences, I understand that chimpanzees and humans are 99% identical in terms of DNA. In view of the massive behavioural, psychological and intellectual differences between chimps and humans, this DNA similarity does not necessarily carry much weight in establishing where chimps and humans came from in the first place.

What it does indicate to me is the crucial part played by that other 1% DNA, indicative perhaps of a highly non-linear relationship between DNA and species. As an example of another wildly non-linear process, just contemplate what a 1% change across all your hard disk files would do to your computer. I guarantee that it would ruin your whole day. [Smile]

On the specific subject of homology there are two articles at the ARN website by Wells and Nelson that will be of interest:

The first article, entitled "Homology: A Concept in Crisis", is fairly technical. The argument is that in some cases apparently homologous features are controlled by different gene sets, contrary to what one would expect; in other cases the homologous structures are not seen in embryonic form, but develop later on through very different developmental routes; in yet other cases homologous structures in embryos go on to develop quite differently in the mature animal.

Observe, incidentally, how the Darwinist Ernst Mayr defines homology in 1982:
quote:

A feature in two or more taxa is homologous when it is derived from the same (or a corresponding) feature of their common ancestor.

In his definition Mayr starts with common descent as a given, whereas it was observations that gave us the concept of homology in the first place. So, is the cart before the horse? Wells and Nelson argue that these observations are very misleading.

The second article, entitled “Is Common Descent an Axiom of Biology”, is longer and much more technical. This paper mentions the pentadactyl limb issue that you cite. Here is a quote on the issue of common descent:
quote:

…try the following thought experiment. Assume the truth of common descent, and then attempt to construct an empirical argument against it. No imaginable evidence one might bring to bear, however striking – e.g., organisms for which no transitional stages seem possible, multiple genetic codes – will be able to overturn the theory. If there really was a common ancestor, then all discontinuities between organisms are only apparent, the artifacts of an incomplete history. An ideally fine-grained history would reveal the begetting relations by which all organisms have descended from the common ancestor.

With respect to the Intelligent Design movement and the fossil record generally, I can only speak as an interested and sympathetic observer. There is no dispute of the basic facts of palaeontology, nor of the age of the earth.

In many ways ID is simply an umbrella term for those scientists who consider that Darwinism is an utterly failed scientific hypothesis, routed in a naturalistic philosophy rather than true observational facts. IDists consider that life is scientifically unexplainable without the admission of a philosophical teleology. A methodological naturalism that gives us the wrong answer is of no use.

From what I can see, many IDists do accept evolution in the broadest sense of the word, meaning that the ancestors of present day life-forms were very different in times past. Even the Darwinian holy grail of universal common descent is admitted by some, such as Behe, whereas others repudiate it.

However, all deny that the Darwinian mechanism of random mutation and natural selection alone has the creative power to form the complex biological structures around us. That is why I have commented on the imprecise language of some posters regarding “evolution” and “Darwinism”. The difference is crucial.

For further information, in addition to the discussions at the Access Research Network site, I can recommend the ISCID (International Society for Complexity, Information and Design) website and their discussion forums.

Although associated with the ID community, these forums display various scientific points of view, including those who repudiate Darwinism whilst subscribing to other scientific evolutionary models, and those who do not consider themselves part of the ID fraternity. There are even a few Darwinists posting. As far as I can see, the forums are heavily monitored to ensure that discussions remain strictly scientific. Enjoy and learn.

Neil

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"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

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ken
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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:

With respect to the issue of DNA sequences, I understand that chimpanzees and humans are 99% identical in terms of DNA. In view of the massive behavioural, psychological and intellectual differences between chimps and humans, this DNA similarity does not necessarily carry much weight in establishing where chimps and humans came from in the first place.

Whyever not? Chimps aren't exactly the same as us, but they are more like us than either of is is like any other species. Chimps are more like humans than either is like gorillas.

It shows the sort of nesting you'd expect.

quote:

The argument is that in some cases apparently homologous features are controlled by different gene sets, contrary to what one would expect;

And when we find them we will know they aren't strictly homologous.

quote:

in other cases the homologous structures are not seen in embryonic form, but develop later on through very different developmental routes;

These are fascinating - the best known is probably the fore- and hind- limbs of tetrapods. Sorry, arms and legs. They are not truly homologous, being descended from different structures in the ancestral fish, but have come to resemble each other strongly. They also seem to have come under the developmental control of some of the same gene cascades (though we don't know the full details of this yet)

The obviously anatomically not-at-all-homologous vertebrate & insect eyes are also controled in development by some of the same genes. (there is a very deep homology between vertebrates and insects but we are turned round - compared with them we are lying on our backs and speaking through our arses)


quote:

in yet other cases homologous structures in embryos go on to develop quite differently in the mature animal.

Yes, and its very interesting, but hardly relevant to this discussion.

quote:

Observe, incidentally, how the Darwinist Ernst Mayr defines homology in 1982:
quote:

A feature in two or more taxa is homologous when it is derived from the same (or a corresponding) feature of their common ancestor.

In his definition Mayr starts with common descent as a given, whereas it was observations that gave us the concept of homology in the first place. So, is the cart before the horse? Wells and Nelson argue that these observations are very misleading.

They are wrong. I think they fundamentally misunderstand the way inference and evidence work in biology.

It's not like a mathematical proof, with a chain of inference from axiom to theorem. A biological theory is a vast database of inter-connected and supporting opservations and hypotheses.

Natural history, not natural philosphy.

quote:

With respect to the Intelligent Design movement and the fossil record generally, I can only speak as an interested and sympathetic observer. There is no dispute of the basic facts of palaeontology, nor of the age of the earth.

Of course. Whch is why it can be discussed rationally, unlike the obscurantist nonsense of YEC.

quote:

In many ways ID is simply an umbrella term for those scientists who consider that Darwinism is an utterly failed scientific hypothesis,

though I've never seen any of them explain why they say this.

quote:

routed in a naturalistic philosophy rather than true observational facts.

I genuinly am not sure quite what you mean by this

quote:
IDists consider that life is scientifically unexplainable without the admission of a philosophical teleology.

So basically it boils down to "biology is too hard to do"?

quote:

However, all deny that the Darwinian mechanism of random mutation and natural selection alone has the creative power to form the complex biological structures around us.

This is the part that I have not yet seen explained. Let's have some numbers!

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Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

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Glenn Oldham
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# 47

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
On the subject of giraffe necks you’ll find a very brief and simple article here (scroll down to see the article). It does however scotch a few myths about giraffes based on field observations.

The article does not appear to touch on the question that I raised about the neck of the giraffe which is "Why does the giraffe’s laryngeal nerve take a route down from the brain to near the heart and then up to the larynx? That nerve always takes that route in all vertebrates but in the giraffe it means the nerve is 5 metres longer than it needs to be to get from the brain to the larynx [because the giraffe has such a long neck]. There are no design reasons for all these kinds of similarity, but since the theory of evolution argues that adaptations build on what is already there then these kinds of similarity make sense."

Perhaps one of the other articles you pointed out may have something to say on this kind of question. I shall read them.

quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
In many ways ID is simply an umbrella term for those scientists who consider that Darwinism is an utterly failed scientific hypothesis, routed in a naturalistic philosophy rather than true observational facts. IDists consider that life is scientifically unexplainable without the admission of a philosophical teleology. A methodological naturalism that gives us the wrong answer is of no use.

From what I can see, many IDists do accept evolution in the broadest sense of the word, meaning that the ancestors of present day life-forms were very different in times past. Even the Darwinian holy grail of universal common descent is admitted by some, such as Behe, whereas others repudiate it.

However, all deny that the Darwinian mechanism of random mutation and natural selection alone has the creative power to form the complex biological structures around us. That is why I have commented on the imprecise language of some posters regarding “evolution” and “Darwinism”. The difference is crucial.

So far it does seem to me that the ID movement is simply anti-darwinian and has no remotely detailed alternate theory of the observations that neo-darwinian evolution seeks to explain. The appeal to 'intelligent design' is unaccompanied by any explanation of how that worked. The appeal to the idea that natural selection cannot generate 'complex specified information' is unaccompanied by any explicit theory about how the intelligent designer put the information in, and when he/she/it did so, and in what stages. Indeed at one extreme one can envisage a theory of ID which justs says that at every point where darwinism postulates favourable mutation just substitute the intelligent designer altering the DNA.

BUt no-one really says much about these things as far as I am aware (I would be pleased to be corrected). This is a shame because there is much critical comment possible about how ID might be seen to fit with the observations. For example, the suggestion that the information needed for the bacterial flagellum was present from the beginning and then got switched on later is untenable because if it is not used and expressed then it cannot be preserved by natural selection. The information would be gradually corrupted by mutation, but because there would be no difference in the survival rate of a bacteria with a bad set of genes for a not-yet-used-flagellum and one with a good set for a not-yet-used-flagellum. So we would, at the very least have to postualte that if this is how it worked the intelligent designer inserts and preserves until needed the information for new structures. All very odd, frankly.

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mr cheesy
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# 3330

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Pollen. Given that there is an optimum shape for maximum flight, why have there so much variation in patterning [yes I am only refering to the shape of wind-blown pollen]? The only useful thing it seems to provide is a mechanism for us to identify the species [Biased]

Bee orchids. Anyone care to explain the evolution of those? Would an orchid that was a bit more like a bee be better adapted than one that wasn't? I mean I can see the advantage of having a dirty great bee sitting on your archegonium (not sure if that is the correct word btw) compared to not having one, but explain how an intermediate might be more fit.

Thanks.

C

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arse

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Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

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quote:
Originally posted by Cheesy*:
Pollen. Given that there is an optimum shape for maximum flight, why have there so much variation in patterning [yes I am only refering to the shape of wind-blown pollen]? The only useful thing it seems to provide is a mechanism for us to identify the species [Biased]

I guess that for most plants pollen doesn't need to be carried the maximum possible distance, far enough to be pretty certain of finding another plant to pollinate would be good enough. Without the need for maximum distance, there'd be no selection pressure between random differences in pattern. Do the patterns influence ability of pollen to interact with flowers? ie: does the difference in patterns between different species limit cross-pollinisation? Because if that was the case then that in itself provides a mecahnism for differentiation of patterns between species as cross-pollinated plants are usually sterile.

quote:
Bee orchids. Anyone care to explain the evolution of those? Would an orchid that was a bit more like a bee be better adapted than one that wasn't? I mean I can see the advantage of having a dirty great bee sitting on your archegonium (not sure if that is the correct word btw) compared to not having one, but explain how an intermediate might be more fit.
Assuming that the bees were already principal pollinators of the orchids, and were slightly more attracted to vaguely bee-shaped flowers than to less bee-shaped flowers then that results in greater pollination of intermediate vaguely bee-shaped orchids.

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Don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.

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mousethief

Ship's Thieving Rodent
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Comforting to know that Darwinism is still alive and in optimal health. Keep it up, guys.

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This is the last sig I'll ever write for you...

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mr cheesy
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# 3330

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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
quote:
Originally posted by Cheesy*:
Pollen. Given that there is an optimum shape for maximum flight, why have there so much variation in patterning [yes I am only refering to the shape of wind-blown pollen]? The only useful thing it seems to provide is a mechanism for us to identify the species [Biased]

I guess that for most plants pollen doesn't need to be carried the maximum possible distance, far enough to be pretty certain of finding another plant to pollinate would be good enough. Without the need for maximum distance, there'd be no selection pressure between random differences in pattern. Do the patterns influence ability of pollen to interact with flowers? ie: does the difference in patterns between different species limit cross-pollinisation? Because if that was the case then that in itself provides a mecahnism for differentiation of patterns between species as cross-pollinated plants are usually sterile.

Mmm... true, although does this explains the extent of the patterning (which is considerable). I do not see how it could be related to aerodynamics at all, though I admit a limited understanding of it. The patterning is not entirely related to the shape of the pollen, which one would assume was related to the aerodynamics.

quote:

quote:
Bee orchids. Anyone care to explain the evolution of those? Would an orchid that was a bit more like a bee be better adapted than one that wasn't? I mean I can see the advantage of having a dirty great bee sitting on your archegonium (not sure if that is the correct word btw) compared to not having one, but explain how an intermediate might be more fit.
Assuming that the bees were already principal pollinators of the orchids, and were slightly more attracted to vaguely bee-shaped flowers than to less bee-shaped flowers then that results in greater pollination of intermediate vaguely bee-shaped orchids.
ok... but would they be slightly more attracted to vaugely bee shaped plants - assuming that the change is bone-crushingly gradual..?

[crap code]
C

[ 16. June 2004, 06:23: Message edited by: Cheesy* ]

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arse

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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I suspect the answer to that, given the rather imprecise nature of bees' eyes, is "yes, definitely". Since each cell of the eye is either stimulated or not, they are not all that good at precise shapes.

It's a bit like the way crows will mob herons, mistaking them for birds of prey (well, Bill Oddie said so yesterday - amazing what you watch when the bloody football's on). Siamese Fighting Fish can be made to attack a cardboard cutout if it has extensions similar to the species' fins, although the reaction is stronger the more lifelike the cutout is.

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Might as well ask the bloody cat.

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ken
Ship's Roundhead
# 2460

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quote:
Originally posted by Cheesy*:
[QB] Pollen. Given that there is an optimum shape for maximum flight, why have there so much variation in patterning [yes I am only refering to the shape of wind-blown pollen]? The only useful thing it seems to provide is a mechanism for us to identify the species [Biased]

Why assume that the patterning is to enable long flights?

Anyway, for things as small as most pollen grains the shape has very little influence on flight. (Reynold's number & all that)

I suspect that if there is any function to the patterns it is not about flight-time.

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Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

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ken
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Herons are predators, as both crows and Bill know. They will eat eggs - though they might have trouble getting them from a crows nest. Herons and crows might also compete for carrion.

Anyway crows like them to know who is boss. I have seen with my own eyes a pair of crows driving a golden eagle away from a ledge they wanted to perch on.

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Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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# 76

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I've posted this over on Fundyweb, but it applies here as well.

"Retirement

This is it.

The end.

I am no more going to debate this issue with you lot.

There's no point. I've got far more important fish to fry and things to sort out.

There were only ever two good reasons for debating this:

One, so that people didn't think this rubbish was compulsory. But I think there is a strong enough theistic evolutionist presence on the web so that people don't think that they have to adopt YEC nonsense to find God.

Two, to try to get YECs to see sense. Well, I've long since realised that most of them have no desire to, and are quite happy to see me wear myself out trying to reason with them. Well, no more. If you are happy in your ignorance, then stay there. I just don't care any more.

So. That's it. I doubt I'll be posting on CF much at all now, since this was my main reason for coming here.

It's time to leave this virtual reality.

See you back in the real world.

Karl, Liberal Backslider, Contender for Sanity and retired 20th Level YEC Slayer"

Let me know if you catch me at it again anywhere.

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Might as well ask the bloody cat.

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ken
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quote:
Originally posted by Karl: Liberal Backslider:
One, so that people didn't think this rubbish was compulsory. But I think there is a strong enough theistic evolutionist presence on the web so that people don't think that they have to adopt YEC nonsense to find God.

Hey, Karl, you are supposed to cast your burdens upon Jesus.

Not on me [Eek!]

Though I agree with you about the reasons. I just don't want people to think that YEC crap is normal.

(not that what Ian has been crossposting here is really quite the same thing as YEC - the site he linked to has got Simon Conway Morris & Frank Tipler on it)

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Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

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Alaric the Goth
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# 511

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quote:
... I've got far more important fish to fry ....


Which day would these be created on? [Razz]

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'Angels and demons dancing in my head,
Lunatics and monsters underneath my bed' ('Totem', Rush)

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HenryT

Canadian Anglican
# 3722

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
...
What it does indicate to me is the crucial part played by that other 1% DNA, indicative perhaps of a highly non-linear relationship between DNA and species. ...

Which is substantial a neo-Darwinian position. The non-linear nature of the impact of some DNA changes explains, for example, the spontanous occurence of the nylon-waste eating bacterium.

(No doubt the identical mutation occurred millions of times. But until it occurred in the presence of the compound that could be profitably metabolised, it was simply a lethal mutation, not an adaptive one.)

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"Perhaps an invincible attachment to the dearest rights of man may, in these refined, enlightened days, be deemed old-fashioned" P. Henry, 1788

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Glenn Oldham
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# 47

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quote:
Originally posted by Karl: Liberal Backslider:
I've posted this over on Fundyweb, but it applies here as well.

"Retirement

This is it.

The end.

I am no more going to debate this issue with you lot.

There's no point. I've got far more important fish to fry and things to sort out.
...
Let me know if you catch me at it again anywhere.

[Overused]
Farewell, Karl, and thank you for all your time and effort on this topic, and other CF ones, which I know can be tediously exhausting. Bravo. You deserve a long service medal.

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This entire doctrine is worthless except as a subject of dispute. (G. C. Lichtenberg 1742-1799 Aphorism 60 in notebook J of The Waste Books)

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Oldham:
Farewell, Karl, and thank you for all your time and effort on this topic, and other CF ones, which I know can be tediously exhausting. Bravo. You deserve a long service medal.

In honour of Karl's retirement I spent some time the other evening on the strongly pro-Darwinist Talk Origins website. The beautiful natural arch on the home page links in to my post below.

Earlier on this thread I used the phrase “complex, information-rich systems”. I’ll try and elucidate what I meant by that with reference to my own technical speciality, which is as a civil engineer specialising in the structural integrity and safety aspects of nuclear installations. By structure, here I mean load-bearing structure, with load as in gravity, wind, specialist machinery, earthquake, accidental impact, or whatever.

In structural engineering there are two basic types of structural form: the tower (as in a tall chimney; a radio mast; a multi-storey building) and the bridge (whether in tiny form, such as a floor joist in your house, or on the huge scale of a major road bridge, or even in the form of an arch – the key point is that it spans a gap).

I will illustrate both of these forms as they occur naturally in geological processes. The important point to note up front is that these load-bearing structures have been produced by the natural forces of wind and wave erosion which are clearly undirected by any purposeful intent that we can discern. At the atomic level this erosion process is governed by simple laws of physics and chemistry.

Here is the tower: a natural occurring sea stack in the north of Scotland, called the Old Man of Hoy.

Here is the bridge: a naturally occurring sea-arch in Dorset on the south coast of England, called Durdle Door.

My approach to information theory as an engineer is quite basic: I measure it simply by how much paper the project requires, in the form of survey dimensions, construction drawings, material schedules, substantiating calculations, temporary works etc., in order to build a full size replica.

My response as a civil engineer for both the Old Man of Hoy and Durdle Door is that I would need relatively little information. A handful of geometrical dimensions and some basic properties of the rock would suffice, in order to match the loadbearing behaviour. Of course I would have to build in concrete, since hot liquid rock techniques are not very advanced. [Smile] A concrete structure would also erode away more quickly than the natural rock, but that’s an issue of durability, not strength.

Now compare that to a comprehensively engineered structure, such as the high-rise structure that we have all seen as it was destroyed, the late lamented Twin Towers in New York. I have been to a technical presentation on that collapse. The outline of the aircraft relative to the floor layout is much bigger than you think - the video footage is very misleading. These aircraft were huge, and fully loaded with fuel, so fire damage caused the eventual collapse.

The engineering information content on that project was many orders of magnitude greater than would be necessary for the Old Man of Hoy. Huge numbers of small components, some identical, but many with small but vital changes, were needed; precision engineered connections that wouldn’t work if they were out of tolerance; a sophisticated shell structure that remained standing for over an hour despite the impact of a huge aircraft for which it was never designed; and of course, the Twin Towers were hollow, occupied by people on numerous floors.

It all adds up to an engineered system with an impressive amount of specific and complex information, especially in comparison to the Old Man of Hoy. For further evidence, see here. Are these formations natural? Of course not. The conclusion I come to is that geological processes and the natural forces of wind and wave cannot create information-rich engineering structures out of rock.

So far I have been talking about geology, not biology. However, since “geological processes and the natural forces of wind and wave” boil down to the basic laws of physics and chemistry, I remain very sceptical that natural processes alone can create biological systems of considerably greater engineering complexity than the Twin Towers. The informational content in living things has to come from somewhere. For this reason I am very sympathetic to the outlook of the Intelligent Design fraternity.

Neil

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"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

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mr cheesy
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# 3330

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
So far I have been talking about geology, not biology. However, since “geological processes and the natural forces of wind and wave” boil down to the basic laws of physics and chemistry, I remain very sceptical that natural processes alone can create biological systems of considerably greater engineering complexity than the Twin Towers. The informational content in living things has to come from somewhere. For this reason I am very sympathetic to the outlook of the Intelligent Design fraternity.

Neil

Sorry FS, I fail to see what relevance erosion has to biology. Maybe you should stick to engineering.

C

[ 18. June 2004, 15:23: Message edited by: Cheesy* ]

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arse

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ken
Ship's Roundhead
# 2460

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
I remain very sceptical that natural processes alone can create biological systems of considerably greater engineering complexity than the Twin Towers. The informational content in living things has to come from somewhere.

So its the argument from incredulity?

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Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

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Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
The informational content in living things has to come from somewhere.

Why does it have to? Why can't information come from nothing? It certainly doesn't appear fully formed, information is constantly being added in infinitesimally small amounts - add long periods of time and you get as much information content as you need, all without any inexplicable leaps in information quantity or any irreducibly complex systems.

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Don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.

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Glenn Oldham
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# 47

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
So far I have been talking about geology, not biology. However, since “geological processes and the natural forces of wind and wave” boil down to the basic laws of physics and chemistry, I remain very sceptical that natural processes alone can create biological systems of considerably greater engineering complexity than the Twin Towers. The informational content in living things has to come from somewhere. For this reason I am very sympathetic to the outlook of the Intelligent Design fraternity.

But your reason is unclear, Neil. What has this to do with Darwinian evolution? You make no mention at all of the central process that results in the accumulation of information by organisms, namely that of natural selection. The geological features that you refer to are not systems that replicate themselves.

The use of the term ‘information’ in the context of biology is fraught with potential misunderstanding and ambiguity. But it is a popular term, and there is some sense to it, so the first thing to say is if one is going to insist on that term then natural selection is the means whereby organisms accumulate new information.

As an example let’s start with a population of organisms. These organisms have a particular gene which has the information in it that, in effect, says: 'make this protein in this way (call it way A)' and that protein results in the organism having a particular quality – say that it can absorb oxygen into its bloodstream.

As a result of random mutation this particular gene of a member of this population changes. The information in this version of the gene now says, (as a result of purely random change): 'make this protein in this other way (call it way B)'
In this particular case the change happens to be advantageous to this particular type of organism in this particular environment. Perhaps it means that the bloodstream is able to absorb even more oxygen than by way A and that this enables the organism to move faster, or for longer.

The organism that now possesses this version of the gene is then relatively more successful than its fellows in reproducing successfully. It passes this advantageous gene on to its offspring. With time and successive generations the more advantageous version of the gene increases in the proportion of the population that have it, because its possessors breed more successfully than those that do not.

Eventually the great majority of the population have this gene and the traits that it confers or improves.

The organisms in the population in this example began with information that said 'make the protein in way A' and wound up with the information 'make the protein in way B' which, in this organism in this environment is better information than the earlier information. The genetic make up of this organism has (to speak metaphorically) learned that way B is better than way A.

That, in a rather over simple way, is how random mutation plus natural selection plus replication provides information to the evolving organism.

What needs to be added to this is things like gene duplications followed by advantageous mutations leading to new functions for one of the copies (as discussed in earlier posts on about page 10 of this thread).

The question that is often asked about Darwinian evolution is ‘where does the new information come from?’ It comes from a random event like a mutation which acts rather like a random guess or trial and selection weeds out the bad guesses and reveals them to be ‘errors’ as far as increased reproductive success goes. Trial and error where successes are preserved can accumulate a great deal of information over time.

PS
I am drafting a response on the papers on homology, Neil. But pressure of other work is delaying it.

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Rex Monday

None but a blockhead
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An interesting aside: NASA is using evolutionary principles to design spacecraft antenna. Seems nobody told these engineers that such things are impossible.

"The software started with random antenna designs and through the evolutionary process, refined them. The computer system took about 10 hours to complete the initial antenna design process. "We told the computer program what performance the antenna should have, and the computer simulated evolution, keeping the best antenna designs that approached what we asked for. Eventually, it zeroed in on something that met the desired specifications for the mission," Lohn said.

...

"The software also may invent designs that no human designer would ever think of," Lohn asserted. In addition, the software also can plan devices that are smaller, lighter, consume less power, are stronger and more robust among many other things - characteristics that spaceflight requires, according to Lohn. "

http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=14394

So here we have a solid demonstration that randomness applied through a selection process -- explicitly modelled on Darwinian ideas -- can indeed 'create information', however you define information. It may even be able to design things that no human would come up with: I know the IDers 'argument through incredulity' is no good anyway, but this further underlines its weakness.

R

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I am largely against organised religion, which is why I am so fond of the C of E.

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Glenn Oldham
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# 47

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quote:
Originally posted by Rex Monday:
An interesting aside: NASA is using evolutionary principles to design spacecraft antenna. Seems nobody told these engineers that such things are impossible.

Excellent example Rex. But let us prepare ourselves for some supporters of Intelligent Design to say; 'ah yes but the program was made by an intelligent person!' This response misses the point entirely, of course, in that the outcome was not predicted, nor specified, nor designed, by any intelligence whatsoever. The model parallels natural selection superbly.
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mr cheesy
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# 3330

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:


My approach to information theory as an engineer is quite basic: I measure it simply by how much paper the project requires, in the form of survey dimensions, construction drawings, material schedules, substantiating calculations, temporary works etc., in order to build a full size replica.

My response as a civil engineer for both the Old Man of Hoy and Durdle Door is that I would need relatively little information. A handful of geometrical dimensions and some basic properties of the rock would suffice, in order to match the loadbearing behaviour. Of course I would have to build in concrete, since hot liquid rock techniques are not very advanced. [Smile] A concrete structure would also erode away more quickly than the natural rock, but that’s an issue of durability, not strength.

Now compare that to a comprehensively engineered structure, such as the high-rise structure that we have all seen as it was destroyed, the late lamented Twin Towers in New York. I have been to a technical presentation on that collapse. The outline of the aircraft relative to the floor layout is much bigger than you think - the video footage is very misleading. These aircraft were huge, and fully loaded with fuel, so fire damage caused the eventual collapse.

The engineering information content on that project was many orders of magnitude greater than would be necessary for the Old Man of Hoy.

FS, I have been trying to understand this post over the weekend. My conclusion is that I know as much about engineering as you appear to know about biology and geology.

I don't really understand how you can compare a complex human built system and suggest that it is more complex than a geological feature simply on the basis that you can replicate it. An Old Man of Hoy made of concrete is not the same thing, and does not approach the same complexity in terms of its geology or biology.

As a proper comparison, maybe you should consider the complexities of starting with a bed of layered sedimentary rock and work out the pressures needed to create a stack with only a few million years of wave action to use.

Further, in contrast to you, I would consider the geological feature to be extremely information rich. Soil, the top metre of material above the rock layer, is in itself the most complex system known to man (not that I have an interest or anything [Biased] ) - and something which we are only starting to understand. Add to that the many things that the geologists would be able to find interesting about the stack, data from botanists and zoologists, geographers and the other multitude of relevant disciplines and the amount of information is mind boggling.

What does this prove? Nothing really. There is no engineering project that could even approach the complexity of millions of years of erosion and deposition. Unless you are called Slatibartfast, of course.

C

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arse

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HenryT

Canadian Anglican
# 3722

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
...The informational content in living things has to come from somewhere. For this reason I am very sympathetic to the outlook of the Intelligent Design fraternity....

Evolution is a filter for producing signal out of noise. The innovations happen randomly ("noise") and the useful ones ("signal") are conserved.

(This is why the entropy of signal is negative in Shannon's formulation, IIRC.)

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"Perhaps an invincible attachment to the dearest rights of man may, in these refined, enlightened days, be deemed old-fashioned" P. Henry, 1788

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Rex Monday

None but a blockhead
# 2569

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quote:
Originally posted by Henry Troup:
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
...The informational content in living things has to come from somewhere. For this reason I am very sympathetic to the outlook of the Intelligent Design fraternity....

Evolution is a filter for producing signal out of noise. The innovations happen randomly ("noise") and the useful ones ("signal") are conserved.

(This is why the entropy of signal is negative in Shannon's formulation, IIRC.)

That's a good way of looking at it.

Anyone who's programmed an analogue musical synthesiser will know two ways to produce a coherent tone - either start with an oscillator, or filter down white (ie, random by definition) noise. The results can be identical, even though the initial source of the signal is wildly different.

This can even happen entirely naturally - if you swim through a tunnel connected to the sea (I've done this on Gozo, where there's a long tunnel through the cliffs connecting an inland sea to the outside) you can hear the sound of the waves change dramatically as you go through. The tunnel forms a natural audio filter which cuts down certain frequencies present in the white (ish) noise of the waves. The noise within the tunnel is certainly more ordered than that outside: this effect and others related to it is used in geophysics and oceanography, and also in medicine to determine the state of your personal pipes.

R

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I am largely against organised religion, which is why I am so fond of the C of E.

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Glenn Oldham said:
The organisms in the population in this example began with information that said 'make the protein in way A' and wound up with the information 'make the protein in way B' which, in this organism in this environment is better information than the earlier information. The genetic make up of this organism has (to speak metaphorically) learned that way B is better than way A.

That, in a rather over simple way, is how random mutation plus natural selection plus replication provides information to the evolving organism.

This tallies with what I understand of Darwinism. I have no problem with this mechanism for small changes. It is when these small changes are extrapolated into the huge evolutionary changes necessary for all the diverse genera that I get all twitchy. [Smile] My reading of the evidence from artificial selection and animal breeding is that there is a distinct boundary limit beyond which no further change is possible.

Here is a fuller description of the modern neo-Darwinist synthesis at the Talk Origins site. I am particularly interested in the phrase (my emphasis):
quote:

It (i.e. the modern theory of the mechanism of evolution) recognizes several mechanisms of evolution in addition to natural selection. One of these, random genetic drift, may be as important as natural selection.

Is random genetic drift a scientific speculation being intensively researched at the moment? Do we not know for certain?

The Talk Origins site mentioned that, in both humans and chimpanzees, the same gene has been switched off, so that we cannot manufacture vitamin C ourselves. We need to acquire it in our diet, as do chimps. That could be evidence for common descent, or it could be that both changes occurred independently.

One thing I would note is that there is an important difference between increasing the information and changing the information. The genetic information which makes protein B in the improved model does not contain more information than that which makes protein A. It is simply a different but grammatically acceptable variation in the existing gene. A 1.4MB floppy disk can contain all sorts of different information, but not more than 1.4MB.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
An interesting aside: NASA is using evolutionary principles to design spacecraft antenna. Seems nobody told these engineers that such things are impossible.

This was an interesting link, but unfortunately it did not give me enough technical information to assess exactly what software algorithms and design techniques are being used. As a user of specialist technical software myself, I think the quoted phrase:
quote:

"The software also may invent designs that no human designer would ever think of,"

needs to be taken with a large pinch of salesman’s salt. I was certainly smiling at that point. Artificial intelligence on this scale is a long way off, if ever.

What the software is probably doing is extensive optimisation of some trial designs following miscellaneous rules and deterministic theories for the subsequent technical performance of a given design. In my opinion this software is inventing nothing. All technical information, design algorithms and theoretical understandings are programmed in from the start.

What the software can do is to consider millions of possible options in a short space of time. It is not dissimilar to those computers that can play chess and beat a grand master. The computer has to be told the rules beforehand. We can then exploit the massive calculation power that it offers – and beat the grand master with a computer. But who invented chess in the first place?

For a similar computational approach I can recommend the section in The Blind Watchmaker where Richard Dawkins describes his various computer simulations, using the phrase Methinks It Is Like A Weasel, and then his fascinating geometrical shapes called biomorphs. The intelligent application of small incremental steps can certainly construct very complex shapes and systems.

However, Dawkins seems unaware that he is modelling a situation with substantial inbuilt constraints on where it may end up. In effect he assigns a creative intelligence to the power of natural selection – it knows where it is going. I do not consider that his computer models reflect the natural environment at all, which is random and uncontrolled.

quote:
Cheesy said:
FS, I have been trying to understand this post over the weekend. My conclusion is that I know as much about engineering as you appear to know about biology and geology.

I tried to keep the specialist technical content of my post to a minimum, but I’m sorry for the confusion. I’ll try and explain a bit more.

Firstly, I moved into the area of geology because I have no problem at all acknowledging that geological processes similar to those that we observe today have been going on for 4.6 billion years. The laws of physics, chemistry and geology are well understood. My basic question is just how good a structural engineer is undirected and unintelligent geological action.

In my full size engineering model of The Old Man of Hoy, I was not considering the soil ecosystem, nor whatever flora and fauna may be present. There is certainly information there, but very little pertaining to a loadbearing engineering structure. I am focussing on information relevant to structural strength, such as overall size, cross-sectional shape, rock stratum depth, precise rock type, the location of geological joints, etc. All these features could be modelled, even in concrete.

The engineering system I was considering is the loadbearing aspect of a tower structure – a vertical cantilever in technical terms. I was imagining a huge finger at the top of the tower trying to push the thing over, just like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. What are its strength, stiffness and vibrational properties? How does it respond when Al Quaeda fly a jet into it? How hard does the finger have to push before Orkney loses a famous landmark? [Smile]

These loadbearing aspects could certainly be matched in a full size concrete model. If you prefer, and you give me lots of dynamite and large mechanical breakers, I could sculpt a full-size model out of the nearest cliff. It would take me a lot longer to do that than constructing in concrete, but the time needed would still be a lot shorter than the time natural erosion has taken.

As an aside, if anyone has any interesting links to interesting geological formations, I would be happy to comment on them from a structural engineering perspective.
quote:

Henry Troup said:
Evolution is a filter for producing signal out of noise. The innovations happen randomly ("noise") and the useful ones ("signal") are conserved.

A narrow bandwidth filter on white noise will produce an approximately sinusoidal signal. True white noise contains no information, since it is random and uncorrelated.

If one is looking for a certain frequency, then one can construct the filter accordingly. That is intelligent design. However, as far as I can see, Darwinian natural selection gives us a random filter based on environmental pressure. Only very occasionally, as in Glenn Oldham’s protein A and B example above, does it strike gold.

Part of the problem here is an accurate technical definition of what we mean by information in an engineering system, or indeed a biological one. Since the word is used in common parlance in loose ways it is easy to come unstuck here. A single musical note contains no information in a technical sense, any more than a single note makes music.

For a scientific definition, information needs to be observable, measurable and quantifiable, in just the same way that a file on a hard disk has a specific size and content encoded into the magnetic particles of the disk. I believe that parts of the ID fraternity have produced some relevant mathematical models about information, but I have no further details.

quote:
Karl: Liberal Backslider said:
But I think there is a strong enough theistic evolutionist presence on the web so that people don't think that they have to adopt YEC nonsense to find God.

I have been doing some research on other scientific models of evolution that have been proposed apart from neo-Darwinism. These seem to be based on saltation, i.e. explicit leaps, rather than a pure gradualism as per Dawkins and classical Darwinism, or a modified gradualism as per Gould and punctuated equilibrium. I will try to post more on this in due course.

Neil

--------------------
"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

Posts: 1097 | From: Scotland | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged



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