March 7, 2005

PHYLOGENY RECAPITULATES EXOGENY (via Robert Schwartz):

Huge Space Clouds May Have Caused Mass Extinctions (Robert Roy Britt, 3/04/05, SPACE.com)

Giant space clouds of gas may have changed the climate or atmosphere on Earth and fueled mass extinctions millions of years ago, scientists said Thursday.

In one scenario, the solar system passed through a dense cloud of interstellar material, causing Earth to ice over. In the other, the solar system passed through less dense clouds that destroyed the planet's protective ozone layer, raising levels of harmful ultraviolet radiation.

The possibilities, based on modeling but not yet supported by solid evidence, were presented in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Mass extinctions have occurred in Earth's past. That much is clear, from the fossil record. But what cause them is less certain.


We've still plenty of years of arguing left, but the conclusion becomes inescapable that evolution is driven by force(s) outside of Nature (defined as the biosphere).

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 7, 2005 12:10 PM
Comments

Clouds of Gas, Asteroids plunging from outspace. All of these have the logical status of Deus ex Machina. Evolutionists seem to have no embarasment at conjuring them up. But hint that the story has a non pagan God, they march straight to Federal court and claim that you are imposing a religion.

Mais non, mes amis. the issue is not impossing a religion, it is which religion.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 7, 2005 12:52 PM

Anyone seen Maximum Overdrive?

Posted by: David Reeves at March 7, 2005 1:40 PM

Well, the story could certainly have a non-Judeo-Christian god ... or even a non-anthropomorphic god ... and still be monotheisitic.

Posted by: ghostcat at March 7, 2005 2:34 PM

Don't forget the supernova explosion a few thousand lightyears away whose radiation wipes out everything.

On the other hand, this explanation sounds like someone recently read Poul Anderson's Brain Wave. (Ignore the horrid blurb and go down to the reviews instead.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at March 7, 2005 2:42 PM

Fred Hoyle, whom OJ would have loved because he denied the Big Bang, wrote a science fiction novel:
The Black Cloud, in which the title character is an intelligent glactic cloud.

Be that as it may, my point is that these scientific just so stories (i.e. the one above not Hoyle's) demonstrate OJ's point. Evolution is not a theory, its a religion.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 7, 2005 3:02 PM

As long as we're discussing science fiction, I enjoyed Robert Sawyer's Calculating God, which I read after finding Orrin's review.

Posted by: jd watson at March 7, 2005 3:23 PM

jd -

OJ just liked the wordplay in the title. Typical.

Posted by: ghostcat at March 7, 2005 4:49 PM

Why would a dense cloud of interstellar material be considered 'a force outside of Nature'?

And what's with this backhanded attempt to suddenly define nature as being confined to 'the biosphere', which is really only a very small part of nature?

Or, on the other hand, if you want to define Nature with a capital n as the biosphere itself, what is all that remarkable about the notion that it is subject to influences outside it?

Posted by: creeper at March 7, 2005 5:01 PM

Creeper: there you go again, if you can entertain forces outside "the biosphere," you can not logically exclude Divine intervention in evolution. The theory only does what Dawkins wants it to do -- produce life as we know it without ANY INTERVENTION thereby justifying atheism -- if it opperates without intervention. The moment an evolutionist has to appeal to something outside the system (anything) he has given the game away.

If the system requires intervention, the only issue is the identity of the intervenor. Blind Luck, the Goddess Fortuna and the Tooth Fairy are all possible identities, but lets admit it, intellectually and spiritually unsatisfying.

OJ: Jump right in.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 7, 2005 5:51 PM

Robert:

The system doesn't require "intervention," but it would be silly to ignore material influences on the biosphere.

There is no fundamental difference between a volcano, huge meteor, dense interstellar clouds, perturbations in the Earth's orbit driving glaciation periods, or continental drift.

You may find them unsatisfying, but that is hardly a reason to suddenly invoke The Big Spook, especially on account of some specious definition of what constitutes Nature.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at March 7, 2005 6:06 PM

Just to get this straight, Robert, when I'm talking about "the biosphere", which Orrin dragged into this discussion, I'm referring to planet Earth and any other places where life exists and elements that sustain this, such as the Sun; for the time being, it refers solely to our solar system. For physical forces existing outside this biosphere to be capable of exerting an influence on life on Earth is a wholly unremarkable observation or speculation, as the case may be.

As for logically excluding divine intervention (if you happen to have a different explanation of interpretation of the term 'divine intervention' when it is presented in caps, please let me know; I'll stick to lower case otherwise), I don't logically exclude it. I certainly don't logically include it. To me, it is possible but unlikely, and is not the one-size-fits-all answer that its proponents believe it is.

"The moment an evolutionist has to appeal to something outside the system (anything) he has given the game away."

Since when is the 'system' defined as the outer edge of our atmosphere, or the confines of our own solar system? Nature encompasses galaxies upon galaxies; it doesn't magically end at the outer orbit of the farthest planet in our solar system, as Orrin would have it by dragging the concept of biosphere into this. He does love to conflate and confuse terms.

"If the system requires intervention, the only issue is the identity of the intervenor."

And if the requirement for the intervention is explained away some day, God ceases to exist? A dangerous proposition.

The solar system passing through a cloud of material is not an intervention, by the way; the only way to make it thus is to lay down artificial conceptual barriers that serve no purpose other than this argument.

Posted by: creeper at March 7, 2005 6:10 PM

Incidentally, Robert: how would you define the difference between God and the Tooth Fairy?

You find one intellectually and spiritually satisfying, but not the other. Why?

Posted by: creeper at March 7, 2005 6:13 PM

creeper:

Didn't we all believe in the Tooth Fairy until our Father revealed it was him?

Posted by: oj at March 7, 2005 7:42 PM

"And if the requirement for the intervention is explained away some day, God ceases to exist? A dangerous proposition."

No. The requirement for intervention in the otherwise smoothly working machinery of eveolution is not a feature of my theology it is a feature of evolutionary theory, and one that should embarass the evolutionists.

It is a requirement because it seems to be necessary to advance the plot and to keep the system from sinking into stasis. The mass extinctions are purely exogenous, they are not part of any evolutionary theory, and no mechanism inside any of the theories produces them.

The mass extinctions require a force that does not exist inside the theory of evolution. I do not deny that there are forces that are part of nature that are not part of the theory of evolution. But, finding one and draging it into the story of evolution ad hoc is intellectually equivalent to invoking poltergeists.


"The solar system passing through a cloud of material is not an intervention, by the way; the only way to make it thus is to lay down artificial conceptual barriers that serve no purpose other than this argument."

The theory of evolution is an artificial conceptual barrier, or perhaps construct would be a better term. But one man's contruct is another man's barrier. You can include gas clouds in the construct, but you are always vulnerable to the question: "How did that get there?" Furthermore, the more exogenous elements you include in the theory the more obvious it becomes that you are telling "Just So" stories. How did the gas cloud get there? How did the asteroid pick that time and place to hit?

"how would you define the difference between God and the Tooth Fairy? You find one intellectually and spiritually satisfying, but not the other. Why?"

Don't tell my kids, but I am the Tooth Fairy, or at least I was in this house. I am not God, nor do I pretend to be. Satisfaction is internal it derives from membership in a community, participation in a tradition and study of its teachings.

"All compounded beings become uncompounded, work out your salvation with diligence."

The solar system passing through a cloud of material is not an intervention, by the way; the only way to make it thus is to lay down artificial conceptual barriers that serve no purpose other than this argument.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 7, 2005 9:18 PM

”Didn't we all believe in the Tooth Fairy until our Father revealed it was him?”

Are you sure you mean Father with a capital ‘F’? If that is what you intended, are you saying that to you there is no difference between God and the Tooth Fairy? And that it is God who takes teeth from under children’s pillows and leaves them a reward?

If you meant just plain ‘father’ then you’re closer to what Robert is offering as well. So one is something children can believe in, the other something that people of all ages can believe in. Whether the latter will eventually be revealed as a hoax like the former remains to be seen.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 4:24 AM

Robert,

1. The theory of evolution does not rely solely on mass extinctions, and therefore does not 'require' them. In examining the fossil record, mass extinctions appear to be a part of the history of life, and appear to have had an impact on the evolution of life, in that some organisms were made extinct and others allowed to flourish. As such, mass extinctions may have had an accelerating effect on evolution, but again, the theory of evolution by no means solely relies on them.

2. "The mass extinctions require a force that does not exist inside the theory of evolution."

Where exactly does the theory of evolution claim to exclude the effects of any natural forces? If there is no such explixit exclusion of a natural force, then how can a natural force exist 'inside' or 'outside' the theory of evolution?

3. "How did the gas cloud get there? How did the asteroid pick that time and place to hit?"

In the process of attempting to chronicle ancient natural events that are perfectly plausible (asteroids do hit planets on occasion), in what way is the 'decision' of the asteroid in any way relevant? An asteroid hit when it hit; it had whatever effect it had. If it had happened a few millennia later, something else would have happened. But as it happened, what happened happened, resulting in who and where we are now.

"Satisfaction is internal it derives from membership in a community, participation in a tradition and study of its teachings."

Fair enough, though I do notice that what you list here applies easily to non-monotheistic religions, ancestral religions, and can even include atheists.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 5:56 AM

creeper:

No, by Tooth Fairy I meant Darwinism.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 7:38 AM

Ah. Well my apologies for not getting that right away. Funny how, if you want to posit that 'Tooth Fairy' = modern theory of evolution and 'Father' = God, it is so easy for people to see the opposite as being true:

Didn't we all believe in God (Tooth Fairy) until other explanations (modern theory of evolution et al.) became apparent?

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 8:43 AM

creeper:

Funny? It's the point.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 8:56 AM

Yet more surreality.

Climate change, caused by clouds of gas, itself causing mass extinction and speciation, would be a natural speciation event.

I've no idea why Orrin thinks this would support him rather than the darwinists.

In fact, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to see exactly how Orrin distinguishes himself from orthodox darwinism.

He doesn't say "it must have been God", which would make him an ID-er.

Posted by: Brit at March 8, 2005 9:06 AM

Brit:

Because it's not compatible with Darwinism, which consists of the following mostly false suppositions:

1. Evolution as such. This is the theory that the world is not constant or recently created nor perpetually cycling, but rather is steadily changing, and that organisms are transformed in time.

2. Common descent. This is the theory that every group of organisms descended from a common ancestor, and that all groups of organisms, including animals, plants, and microorganisms, ultimately go back to a single origin of life on earth.

3. Multiplication of species. This theory explains the origin of the enormous organic diversity. It postulates that species multiply, either by splitting into daughter species or by "budding", that is, by the establishment of geographically isloated founder populations that evolve into new species.

4. Gradualism. According to this theory, evolutionary change takes place through the gradual change of populations and not by the sudden (saltational) production of new individuals that represent a new type.

5. Natural selection. According to this theory, evolutionary change comes about throught the abundant production of genetic variation in every generation. The relatively few individuals who survive, owing to a particularly well-adapted combination of inheritable characters, give rise to the next generation.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 9:23 AM

Those are the compenents of Charles Darwin's writings, certainly

But if you talk about 'Darwinism', it really means Modern Synthesis. It has done since the 1930s.

At the very least, you need to add allopatric speciation, gene flow and genetic drift to your list.

Otherwise you're arguing purely against Darwin, not darwinism.

Posted by: Brit at March 8, 2005 9:34 AM

Fine. Genetic drift refutes Natural Selection. So let's add it.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 9:46 AM

Probably co-exists with it, rather than 'refuting' it (whatever that is supposed to mean).

Posted by: Brit at March 8, 2005 9:56 AM

"Funny? It's the point."

A rather obscurely made point, but no matter. The funny part was that the converse is no less true.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 10:23 AM
"But if you talk about 'Darwinism', it really means Modern Synthesis. It has done since the 1930s.

At the very least, you need to add allopatric speciation, gene flow and genetic drift to your list.

Otherwise you're arguing purely against Darwin, not darwinism."

Orrin is fond of blurring these lines.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 10:27 AM

"Because it's not compatible with Darwinism, which consists of the following mostly false suppositions"

Which one contains the supposition that this system is in no way susceptible to any outside influence, any natural force 'outside the biosphere'?

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 10:29 AM

creeper:

All of them.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 10:36 AM

creeper:

The converse has to be true.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 10:37 AM

"Climate change, caused by clouds of gas, itself causing mass extinction and speciation, would be a natural speciation event.

I've no idea why Orrin thinks this would support him rather than the darwinists. "

No idea, but it's probably akin to whatever makes him label the concepts above as 'mostly false suppositions' without offering backup.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 10:39 AM

Incidentally, Robert, are you Robert Schwartz the -

(a) San Francisco artist,
(b) cosmetic dentist in New York,
(c) professor in the Department of Ceramic Engineering in Missouri,
(d) associate dean for admissions at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law,
(e) physiatrist and spine specialist,
(f) film producer,
(g) philosophy professor at U of Penn,
(h) executive director of a juvenile law center,
(i) on-line opinion author (though I guess that includes all of us here, really),
(j) other (ie. past the first two pages of a google search),
(k) guy who'd prefer to remain anonymous?

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 10:45 AM

creeper/Brit:

If you guys don't even understand the theory you're defending, don't look to me for help.

The notion that even the modern synthesis is compatible with evolution being the product of periodic speciation events derived from without the planet is hilarious. But when you're going on faith then the facts always fit...

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 10:47 AM

"All of them."

??

In what way do any of these explicitly posit that they are immune to any natural force?

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 10:48 AM

"The converse has to be true."

Uh-huh. So we all believe in God until other explanations take over.

Fine by me.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 10:49 AM

"The notion that even the modern synthesis is compatible with evolution being the product of periodic speciation events derived from without the planet is hilarious."

How would this be incompatible?

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 10:52 AM

creeper:

Sometimes you do have to read past the first Google page to be informed, you know?

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 10:55 AM

Yeah, whatever, Orrin. I'm not that terribly interested in who Robert Schwartz is, more interested simply in what he has to say. And I did find the mix of people with that name amusing.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 11:07 AM

creeper:

I'll try this once:

For the five items delete the following:

1. "steadily changing" "transformed in time".

2. "origin of life on earth"

3. "establishment of geographically isloated founder populations that evolve into new species"

4. "Gradualism. According to this theory, evolutionary change takes place through the gradual change of populations and not by the sudden (saltational) production of new individuals that represent a new type."

5. "Natural selection. According to this theory, evolutionary change comes about throught the abundant production of genetic variation in every generation. The relatively few individuals who survive, owing to a particularly well-adapted combination of inheritable characters, give rise to the next generation."

Not much left, is there?

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 11:08 AM

I imagine most proposed theories suffer once you delete phrases and paragraphs willy-nilly. I don't see how this answers the question of where the theory of evolution explicitly excludes any natural forces of any kind, which is the sleight of hand you were attempting at the outset of this post.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 11:18 AM

This is nice.

When I said "I've no idea why Orrin thinks this would support him rather than the darwinists", I wasn't being entirely truthful.

I do have an idea. I think Orrin is only just beginning to grasp that darwinism isn't what he always thought it was.

He's realising that what he spends his time arguing against isn't darwinism. He's arguing ferociously against a theory that natural selection alone produces speciation.

But no darwinists that I know of hold that theory.

The reason we pointed Orrin towards Mayr was so that he might grasp that Modern Synthesis posits allopatric speciation. Sadly, Orrin got stuck on Mayr's intro.

For speciation, you need a speciation event which splits populations into further reproductively isolated populations. This doesn't have to come from outside the planet, as Orrin scoffs. It could be a mundane thing, like a river flooding. But environmental catastrophies caused by natural things from outside the planet would certainly qualify.

Once this split has occured, natural selection takes its course. Eventually, the populations might have diverged to the point that we can call them separate species.

Orrin already admits that natural selection effects changes in populations. By invoking speciation events too, he's a bona fide darwinist.

Welcome to the gang, Orrin.

Posted by: Brit at March 8, 2005 11:20 AM

creeper;

It only includes natural, but none of the forces causing it are.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 11:21 AM

Brit:

Yes, the point is it comes from outside the planet.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 11:23 AM

Outside the planet, no.

Outside the realm of the natural and in the realm of the supernatural - now that would be a point and a half.

But this ain't that.

Posted by: Brit at March 8, 2005 11:27 AM

Why is that the point?

Since when is natural confined to 'not outside the planet'?

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 11:27 AM

You do know what allopatric speciation means right?

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 11:38 AM

Allopatric speciation is specifically speciation by reproductive isolation due to geographic isolation.

Posted by: Brit at March 8, 2005 11:44 AM

Brit:

Precisely. So with isolation removed from the equation you've nothing left.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 11:48 AM

I'm left viz naazing? Agh no!

Who removed isolation?

Wait, I've still got sympatric speciation, or have you removed this too?

Posted by: Brit at March 8, 2005 11:58 AM

With the speciating mechanism coming from outside the environment you've nothing left of any form of modern evolutionary theory.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 12:03 PM

'Outside the environment?'

Show me where modern evolutionary theory draws a line between "originating in the planet" and "orginating off the planet" rather than between "natural" and "supernatural".

Posted by: Brit at March 8, 2005 12:08 PM

( Cue Orrin scuttling off to find some quote to blatantly misinterpret :) )

Posted by: Brit at March 8, 2005 12:11 PM

What on Earth do allopatric speciation and geographic isolation of different groups of organisms have to do with confining all this to natural forces originating not from outside the planet?

Allopatric speciation is not invalidated by the simultaneous existence of natural forces outside the solar system. Neither is the modern synthesis, by the way, not by a long shot.

You have yet to demonstrate where the modern theory explicitly excludes any natural forces originating from outside the solar system.

"With the speciating mechanism coming from outside the environment you've nothing left of any form of modern evolutionary theory."

When you say "the speciating mechanism" you imply that it is the only one. From what we know, it is simply a mechanism that may have impacted evolution in some way, by hindering one species and aiding another.

None of this impacts the validity of modern evolutionary theory, which explains the course of events with or without the cloud of gas or asteroid or whatever.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 12:14 PM

Brit,

"Show me where modern evolutionary theory draws a line between "originating in the planet" and "orginating off the planet" rather than between "natural" and "supernatural"."

I asked him that earlier on, and the result was the post at 11:08 a.m. above.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 12:19 PM

By definition a thing is not isolated and its evolution not a function of imagined isolation if the speciation event derives off planet--outside of the naturak environment--triggering global chjange.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 12:27 PM

"natural" pertains only to the biosphere.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 12:27 PM

Nonsense. Natural does not for some magical reason end at the limits of the biosphere, not by any dictionary definition I've ever seen. This is just another homemade Orrin definition.

The isolation in the context of allopatric speciation refers to reproductive isolation, meaning that members of the group are isolated from others and can only reproduce within their group, however small or large that may be. It has nothing to do with being 'isolated' from, say, radiation from outer space, or the rather crushing effect of an asteroid bearing down on them.

Can you really not defend your position without such blatant, transparent attempts to confuse and conflate terms?

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 1:07 PM

creeper: ignore that man over there.

If I had my druthers I would pick "(g) philosophy professor at U of Penn" but only if he were tenured, although I suspect that (b) cosmetic dentist in New York and (e) physiatrist and spine specialist are making the big bucks.

I tried to figure out who (f) film producer was but IMDB came up with 8 of us. No unfortunately that would leave us with (i) on-line opinion author (though I guess that includes all of us here, really). If I were (k) guy who'd prefer to remain anonymous, would I use my name or a handle like creeper?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 8, 2005 2:05 PM

creeper:

Great, then we agree.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 2:22 PM

"Great, then we agree."

What, on all the stuff we just disagreed about? Well I'm glad you came around.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 2:32 PM

Robert,

It's an interesting collection of occupations, fer sure.

If you were (k), you can pick any name you want for a handle. Including creeper or, well, Robert Schwartz, of course. It's not like they anyone checks your ID when you write a name in that box.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 2:36 PM

creeper:

That: "Natural does not for some magical reason end at the limits of the biosphere."

It nicely dispenses with the notion of Natural Selection.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 2:37 PM

"It nicely dispenses with the notion of Natural Selection."

How so?

I remember this kid I went to school with; he was always in trouble, and his motto was "deny everything": "What rock? What window? I wasn't near the place! I was out of town! You can't even prove I wasn't on holiday! I've never even thrown a rock! I don't know what a rock is! I didn't know glass could break! etc."

That's how your arguments tend to go when your positions are on such thin ice.

Trying to redefine 'natural', Orrin... really. Tsk tsk.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 2:48 PM

creeper:

No, I agree. "Natural" is everything that exists and Selection is done by something within that entirety. I doubt you'll find anyone who disagrees with evolution at that point, since you've now covered every theory I'm aware of.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 4:45 PM

Fine, "Natural" pertains to everything that exists, and is therefore not limited to the biosphere, so can we forget this silliness about how something 'outside' it is somehow supposed to deal the theory of evolution a blow of whatever magnitude?

"I doubt you'll find anyone who disagrees with evolution at that point, since you've now covered every theory I'm aware of."

I don't think you can credit me with coming up with Natural Selection, though I take it (your overly general description of it aside) that you're well aware of the specific aspects of it; I've posted them often enough.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 4:55 PM

No, could you do so again, because I have trouble believing they fit your new definition of Natural.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 5:04 PM

It does not cover every theory that you're aware of, since the term 'natural' does of course exclude one or two things, as Brit has astutely pointed out more than once earlier in this thread.

See for example this part of the Merriam-Webster definition:

8 a : occurring in conformity with the ordinary course of nature : not marvelous or supernatural
b : formulated by human reason alone rather than revelation

Obfuscation really does appear to be your favorite tactic. At least I find it difficult to believe that you genuinely do not understand the meanings of these words.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 5:21 PM

I don't have a new definition of Natural; I'm pretty much on board with Merriam Webster and the like, and there's nothing new about that.

As for natural selection, here it is again:

1. IF there are organisms that reproduce, and

2. IF offspring inherit traits from their progenitor(s), and

3. IF there is variability of traits, and

4. IF the environment cannot support all members of a growing population,

5. THEN those members of the population with less-adaptive traits (determined by the environment) will die out, and

6. THEN those members with more-adaptive traits (determined by the environment) will thrive

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 5:24 PM

Yup, you lost 3, 4, 5, & 6 when you posited that speciation could come from outside the environment.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 5:45 PM

creeper:

Yes, the difference is precisely definitional. we all took Darwinists at their word that by Nature they meant the environment of Earth. Now that you reveal Nature includes all of existence, including even thereby the supernatural, then the basis of disagreement between Darwinism, ID and Creation is gone.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 5:48 PM

Over roughly 35 million years, the Panama isthmus separated the Atlantic from the Pacific. Afterwards, the sea life significantly diverged.

All of which was entirely natural, even by OJ's astonishingly creative definition. Although no more astonishing, or inane, than when he termed that 35 million year event "catastrophic."

Creeper lost nothing. How else to explain that some species survived, yet others didn't?

And, try as I might, I just can't find where Darwinists ever said--"... at their word ..." must mean something, mustn't it?--Nature meant the environment of Earth.

Or, that extra-atmospheric influences couldn't affect that environment.

So, OJ, unless you can come up with a direct quote, I must assume you are just making it up.

Like Behe, you rest on intellectual chicanery.

Congratulations.


BTW, and completely off topic, but trying to figure out who the real Robert Schwartz might be reminded me of this.

Want to find a treasure trove of Harry Potter fan fiction?

Google "Harry Eager"

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at March 8, 2005 5:58 PM

"speciation could come from outside the environment"

What is that supposed to mean? How did, in all of this discussion, anyone talk about how 'speciation came from' anywhere?

A natural force from outside the immediate environment can of course have an impact on the survival chances of an organism. How can that not be clear? How can it be at least not plausible to you in a general sense?

And how does this have any impact whatsoever on 3, 4, 5 and 6? ("You can't prove I was in town when that window broke, I don't even know you could throw rocks etc." - just present a vague laundry list of outrageous denials, and by the time you get through the first one, denying everything at every step of the way, the principal is bound to be so exhausted he'll just let you off with a slap of the wrist - don't know if this tactic worked for you back in school, but you sure are fond of it now.)

"we all took Darwinists at their word that by Nature they meant the environment of Earth."

Please show where 'Darwinists' claimed that their theories were immune to any natural force in existence. Animals living in a valley - you want to define the valley as their environment - suddenly part of the valley gets flooded. Voila, an 'outside' influence that has had an impact on the evolution of life in the valley. It's part and parcel of the theory of evolution, Orrin, not some kind of new revelation that invalidates the theory.

Please show where the modern theory of evolution confines itself to the influences of only that which originates in the 'environment of Earth'. When the Earth passes through a meteor shower, are the meteors part of the 'environment of Earth'? Or aren't they? And where are these things excluded in the theory of evolution?

"Now that you reveal Nature includes all of existence, including even thereby the supernatural"

More obfuscation...

It was not me that 'revealed' that nature included all of existence, that was you. I said that nature did not end at the boundaries of our solar system, but also stated quite clearly and explicitly that it did (rather obviously) exclude the supernatural.

"then the basis of disagreement between Darwinism, ID and Creation is gone."

And since it isn't, it isn't.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 6:08 PM

"OJ, unless you can come up with a direct quote, I must assume you are just making it up."

I didn't know Orrin could do that...! Orrin wouldn't lie... would he?

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 6:12 PM

"Natural" pertains to everything that exists

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 04:55 PM

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 6:21 PM

Jeff:

1. Evolution as such. This is the theory that the world is not constant or recently created nor perpetually cycling, but rather is steadily changing, and that organisms are transformed in time.

2. Common descent. This is the theory that every group of organisms descended from a common ancestor, and that all groups of organisms, including animals, plants, and microorganisms, ultimately go back to a single origin of life on earth.

3. Multiplication of species. This theory explains the origin of the enormous organic diversity. It postulates that species multiply, either by splitting into daughter species or by "budding", that is, by the establishment of geographically isloated founder populations that evolve into new species.

4. Gradualism. According to this theory, evolutionary change takes place through the gradual change of populations and not by the sudden (saltational) production of new individuals that represent a new type.

5. Natural selection. According to this theory, evolutionary change comes about throught the abundant production of genetic variation in every generation. The relatively few individuals who survive, owing to a particularly well-adapted combination of inheritable characters, give rise to the next generation.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 6:22 PM

""Natural" pertains to everything that exists"

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 04:55 PM

" "Natural" is everything that exists"

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 04:45 PM

It does not cover every theory that you're aware of, since the term 'natural' does of course exclude one or two things, as Brit has astutely pointed out more than once earlier in this thread.

See for example this part of the Merriam-Webster definition:

8 a : occurring in conformity with the ordinary course of nature : not marvelous or supernatural

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 05:21 PM

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 6:31 PM

Orrin, re-posting that list is not a response to Jeff's question (nor to mine). It is a non-sequitur.

I assume that Jeff now assumes that you're short of an answer; I certainly do. I'd be delighted if you could prove me wrong, though. So:

And, try as I might, I just can't find where Darwinists ever said--"... at their word ..." must mean something, mustn't it?--Nature meant the environment of Earth.

Or, that extra-atmospheric influences couldn't affect that environment.

So, OJ, unless you can come up with a direct quote, I must assume you are just making it up.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 6:36 PM

creeper:

So you no longer believe Natural to include all of existence?

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 6:39 PM

creeper:

I'll try this thrice:

For the five items delete the following which depend entirely on defining Naturte as our own biosphere:

1. "steadily changing" "transformed in time".

2. "origin of life on earth"

3. "establishment of geographically isloated founder populations that evolve into new species"

4. "Gradualism. According to this theory, evolutionary change takes place through the gradual change of populations and not by the sudden (saltational) production of new individuals that represent a new type."

5. "Natural selection. According to this theory, evolutionary change comes about throught the abundant production of genetic variation in every generation. The relatively few individuals who survive, owing to a particularly well-adapted combination of inheritable characters, give rise to the next generation."

Not much left, is there?

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 6:40 PM

You can find the definition of 'natural' in any dictionary. It applies beyond the confines of our own solar system, and it specifically excludes the supernatural.

If you want to define, for the sake of this particular argument, 'all of existence' as including the supernatural, then no, of course I don't think that the word 'natural' encompasses 'all of existence', since by definition it excludes the supernatural. Which is why I have not made the claim that Natural is everything that exists. That was you.

It's really quite simple, Orrin. Go find a dictionary. Look up 'natural'. Check if the definition includes a certain proximity to planet Earth or certain parameters that limit it to our very own biosphere. Check if the definition excludes the supernatural.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 6:51 PM

"I'll try this thrice"

Obviously the various theories talk about Earth because that is our primary point of reference (and as far as concrete evidence of life forms goes, our only one). None of these theories, however, excludes outside influences. That's the claim you're making and can not back up.

A meteor coming at us from the depths of space and destroying a continent and leading, say, to the survival and thriving of a bunch of organisms that can eat dust is a possibility entirely compatible with those theories. According to you, however, that's supposed to be excluded, even though you can not point to any part of the theory to back this up.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 7:02 PM

creeper:

But Natural Selection has nothing to do with the dictionary definition of natural, anymore than with the dictionary definition of selection.

Or have you so anthropomorphized nature as to think that it chooses and has preferences for certain creatures?

Natural, in Darwinian terms means simply the environment, thus Jeff's emphasis on geography and isolation.

And Mayr for that matter:

"On the stubborn question of how species originate, Mayr proposed that when a population of organisms becomes separated from the main group by time or geography, they eventually evolve different traits and can no longer interbreed.

It's this isolation or separation that creates new species, said Mayr. The traits that evolve during the period of isolation are called "isolating mechanisms," and they discourage the two populations from interbreeding."

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/06/2/l_062_01.html

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 7:03 PM

"But Natural Selection has nothing to do with the dictionary definition of natural, anymore than with the dictionary definition of selection."

It's true that 'natural selection' as a term takes on a specialized meaning. However, taking the meanings of the words and the additional meaning that Darwin has attached to them via his proposed theories, he did not surreptitiously add 'supernatural' into the mix. Look at the reasoning of his natural selection - the point is that it is something that happens without supernatural influence. You can take it all on board and say "I still think that God did it, he just did it via this mechanism, that's all", and you are free to do that - but Darwin did not add that meaning to natural selection as he proposed it.

And neither the dictionary definition of natural nor its meaning in the context of natural selection features an 'inside' or 'outside' in a spatial sense.

"Natural, in Darwinian terms means simply the environment, thus Jeff's emphasis on geography and isolation."

It focuses on the environment and issues such as geography and isolation, but nowhere does it exclude outside influences. You can talk about allopatric speciation in neighboring 'isolated' valleys, for example, but if one of those valleys experiences a flash flood originating from outside the immediate environment on which an observer has been focusing, the theory itself has not been invalidated. Such events fall well within the theory of evolution.

I don't know what your point is with the Mayr quote. All it says is that allopatric speciation is viable. So what? I'm happy enough to take it on board; are you?

You're not seriously trying to play this off against the 'isolation' of, say, the solar system having some magical isolating shield around it, are you? I've already addressed this earlier in this thread as well. This clearly refers to reproductive isolation. It does not mean that the organisms in question need to be somehow immune to any and all natural forces that happen to originate from somewhere outside the valley.

Conflating terms as the last line of defence; not a good sign for your position, Orrin. Though maybe you can take it as a compliment that I think you're conflating the terms rather than confusing them - though it is a compliment to your intelligence, not your character.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 7:25 PM

creeper:

Ah, the hand-waving stage.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 7:55 PM

Ah, the evasive response.

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 8:06 PM

I'm sorry. I usually enjoy these exercises but at the point where you've acknowledged -- after hours of wingeing about how I'm not using the dictionary definition of Natural but the Darwinian -- that Darwinism does indeed have its own, and when you've worked yourself into a corner where you're claiming that even if speciation occurs only when the hyper-sentient beings of Alpha Centauri intervene it's still Darwinian because they're part of Nature, there just seems little left here for me.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 8:23 PM

The reason I 'whinge' about dictionary definitions is because you have a habit of making up definitions for words.

In any case, you're being purposely obtuse to the following points that have been made on this thread:

- the meaning of the word 'natural' does not imply any confinement to our solar system,
- the meaning of the word 'natural' excludes 'supernatural',
- even though the compound phrase 'natural selection' amounts to more than the meaning of the two words on their own (ever since Darwin used them to describe that particular theory by that name), its use as a compound phrase does not change the previously described two attributes of the word 'natural',
- the theory of evolution is open as to what natural forces can have an effect on the survival of a species; the salient point is merely whether a natural force does have an effect on the survival of a species - if it does have such an effect, there is no rule in place that says its spatial origin needs to be considered as to whether it 'counts'.

Incidentally, nobody here posited a situation in which speciation only occurred when 'the hyper-sentient beings of Alpha Centauri intervene'. All kinds of events can have an effect on evolution; it is obviously not limited to the hypothetical beings you describe, though their location would not somehow disqualify them according to the theory of evolution. If for some reason Alpha Centauri started emitting rays that blinded all organisms on Earth that weren't color blind, then obviously that would have an evolutionary impact on Earth. Yes, that would be fair game according to the theory of evolution.*

If all this means that there's 'little left here for you', well... your attempted sleight of hand (defining Nature as the biosphere) at the beginning of this post happened to be a non-starter. No biggie. It sounds to me like you're conceding all points with a bit of a sulk attached, but other readers can judge that for themselves.

* [Editor's note: Yes, that is the argument that Intelligent Design is both entirely possible and entirely consistent with Darwinism.]

Posted by: creeper at March 8, 2005 9:02 PM

Fair enough.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2005 9:11 PM

"Natural, in Darwinian terms means simply the environment, thus Jeff's emphasis on geography and isolation."

OJ:

You would do me the greatest favor by not according to my statements meanings which I most certainly didn not intend. My statement was contextually limited to asserting that purely terrestrial events can have the same effects as extra-terrestrial*, thereby rendering your definition of "Natural" as wholly specious.

And, regardless of your idiosyncratic definition of "Natural" you have been wholly silent on what it is that separates survivors from the extinct.

Creeper:

Full points. You are continually lucid, despite the ongoing noise jamming.

* [Editor's note: Yes, that is the argument that even if aliens have caused every speciation in natural history it is still Darwinism in these guys' book.]

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at March 8, 2005 10:45 PM

First: Creeper and Jeff, the sad thing is that Robert Schwartz is a fair enough reprentation of my real name. If I were picking a handle, it would have six letters tops cause I can't type.

Second: So that's what Harry has been doing. Arguing with OJ and you guys is about as creative as I get.

Third: OJ has for reasons best explained by him uterly rejected Natural Selection in both the Darwinian and Neo-Darwinian formulations. Of course he has also rejected Special Relativity and needs help with four function arithmetic.

I do not agree with OJ on these points. I can do four function arithmetic in my head and without machines, I accept that Special Relativity (which in misnomered and should be relabled as the theory of electromagnetic invariance) is well established and I do not argue the theory of Natural Selection as an explanation for at least some forms of speciation.

(An aside it would be easier if comments were numbered also some MT sites have lists of most recent comments on the main page)

Fourth: However, where I do agree with OJ is that many evolutionists, particularly Richard Dawkins and others of his stripe, claim that Natural selection can account for the history of life on this planet, and I think, they cannot do that logically or consitently nor can they exclude the operation of other forces which may or may not be natural within anybody's definition from shaping that history.

Natural Selection is far too limited to be able to account for histories, other than as just so stories. An example, how does Natural Selection account for the presence of Rabbits and Dogs on Austrailia? Another example, General Relativity can create on paper universes with histories that look like the Universe we see. Its not perfect, it cannot explain the transition from the singularity that it holds must lie at the origin of this Universe, into the expanded space-time we perceive. But its darn good after that.

Natural Selection does not require the changes in the complexity of life that we know are part of its history. Natural Selection cannot account for the transition from a pre-biotic dead world, probably sterilized by the collision that created the Moon in all its glory, to a biological world. For Natural Selection to operate, its subjects must be reproducing inherited characteristics, this is something that dead things do not do by definition.

Nor can Natural Selection exclude other forms of selection. Natural Selection cannot account for the cute little house sparrows that inhabit our back yard. If it cannot exclude human selection, it cannot exclude Divine Selection either and it provides no basis on which to detect if it has occured. Land bridges, colliding continents, asteroids and cosmic clouds are all "natural events" but to the extent that they influence the history of life on earth, they have nothing to do with natural selection.

To believe that Natural Selection is the only tool necessary to account for the history of life on earth is to engage in religious speculation, because the theory cannot do that without a million just so stories and 25 visits from the Tooth Fairy.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 8, 2005 11:59 PM

"Yes, that is the argument that even if aliens have caused every speciation in natural history it is still Darwinism in these guys' book."

In what way would it not be Darwinism, and why? Where do you see a limit being placed on the distance from which a factor impacting on survival is allowed to originate?

"Yes, that is the argument that Intelligent Design is both entirely possible and entirely consistent with Darwinism"

It wasn't really, but you can easily posit that the modern theory of evolution is valid as it stands and that it's because "God is making it happen". It also conveniently fills any existing gaps in our knowledge. We know this as the "God of the gaps".

Posted by: creeper at March 9, 2005 1:06 AM

Robert, you make some very good points, and thank you for at least arguing rationally. A few points occurred to me while reading your post.

1. I do not think that natural selection is sufficient to explain everything, and I don't remember that claim being made; merely that it is a valid mechanism.

2. Natural selection certainly does not explain the origin of life, and was never meant to. That point has been made numerous times on these boards.

3. Rabbits and dogs in Australia? AFAIK the rabbits were imported by man; not sure about the dogs. Natural selection doesn't seem to have a whole lot to do with that, other than as to how they developed from that point on.

4. "Land bridges, colliding continents, asteroids and cosmic clouds are all "natural events" but to the extent that they influence the history of life on earth, they have nothing to do with natural selection."

Except that they can of course impact the living environment of organisms, causing them to be reproductively isolated, or directly impacting on the survival chances of a group of organisms, thus favoring other traits to be developed. Natural events can not somehow be declared as being excluded from what can have an impact on an organism's chances of survival in its environment.

Posted by: creeper at March 9, 2005 1:20 AM

Robert:

It seems that you make a category error when it comes to 'Natural Selection' (as much as anything, your use of initial caps gives the game away).

No darwinist that I know of (this includes Dawkins, whom you cite), believes that natural selection alone accounts for evolution. Nor that natural selection is some kind of Purpose-driven Rule, asserting itself to the exclusion of other Rules.

Natural selection is just what happens when you get variation and inheritance among reproducing things in an environment.

Natural selection is perhaps the most important factor in evolution, but it is not sufficient on its own.

It is perfectly compatible with, as you put it " Land bridges, colliding continents, asteroids and cosmic clouds"

You say these "are all "natural events" but to the extent that they influence the history of life on earth, they have nothing to do with natural selection."

Of course they are related to natural selection. The course of natural selection will be affected by events like these.

If an asteriod strike changes the environment, the selection pressures on the populations left in that environment will be changed.

If an environmental disaster dramatically changes the geography of an area and splits a population into two or more smaller populations, then each might face different selective pressures, and natural selection will see them diverge over time.

If a disaster dramatically reduces the size of a population, then genetic drift might become more significant in the evolution of that population, and so on.

Posted by: Brit at March 9, 2005 5:43 AM

Brit/creeper:

I couldn't agree more with your analyses, which have the pleasing effect of subsuming ID, ufology and Creationism into Darwinism so that we need not argue the matter any longer. You guys get to call it what you want but we get the theory we want.

Posted by: oj at March 9, 2005 12:04 PM

Darwinism posits that aimless natural events and processes are sufficient to explain evolution.

ID posits that these processes are insufficient and that supernatural intervention is necessary.

If you agree with the former, not the latter, welcome to the darwinist club.

Posted by: Brit at March 9, 2005 1:06 PM

No, not at all. ID simply proposes that the natural events resemble and therefore may very well be designed, a point you've conceded by allowing for intervention in the process from without the environment, by aliens or whatever. I too am a darwinist.

Posted by: oj at March 9, 2005 1:27 PM

I've allowed intervention which is aimless and natural, yes. Thus the difference with ID, which requires intervention which is aimed and designed.

Posted by: Brit at March 9, 2005 1:48 PM

" ID simply proposes that the natural events resemble and therefore may very well be designed, a point you've conceded by allowing for intervention in the process from without the environment, by aliens or whatever."

Keep in mind that in this context, the 'whatever' that you're proposing specifically excludes the supernatural. It does however include the gas clouds etc. mentioned in the above article.

What's with this sudden obsession with ufology, by the way? Is it simply an attempt to obfuscate and steer away from this issue of asteroids and interstellar gas clouds, and this notion of needing to tack spatial boundaries on whatever environment is under discussion?

Posted by: creeper at March 9, 2005 1:59 PM

No, when you allowed for space aliens off planet intervening you conceded aimed and designed, though kept "natural"

Posted by: oj at March 9, 2005 2:01 PM

creeper:

Yes, just "natural." We're all straight on this now.

Posted by: oj at March 9, 2005 2:05 PM

Good. Just thought I'd make sure.

Posted by: creeper at March 9, 2005 2:23 PM

Robert:

Thanks for that very thoughtful post.

I don't have very much to add to what Creeper & Brit said, except to note that natural selection accounts only for extinction, not speciation.

It is also worth mentioning that if the environment was completely static, evolution would probably reach stasis. Therefore, things like continental drift (or meteors, or relatively nearby supernova, or intergalactic clouds) must be taken into account. But that doesn't mean they are somehow not "natural," or non-materialistic phenomena.

OJ:

Please do me the favor of not Editors noting my comments. It is bad enough when you self-inflict intellectual chicanery; doing it to others is over the top.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at March 9, 2005 3:29 PM

I think we are ove 100 now. Is that a record.

Jeff: "natural selection accounts only for extinction, not speciation."

Did you mean: natural selection accounts only for speciation, not extinction.

"It is also worth mentioning that if the environment was completely static, evolution would probably reach stasis. Therefore, things like continental drift (or meteors, or relatively nearby supernova, or intergalactic clouds) must be taken into account. But that doesn't mean they are somehow not "natural," or non-materialistic phenomena."

I agree with the first two sentences. And the third is also correct, but, and this is a big but, Timing is everything. If natural selection does not account for the history of life on earth as we know it, then either that history is (1) one dammed thing after another -- "A tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, Macbeth A5,S5,L28-30" or (2) the working out of some other process.

What that other process is and what drives it are open questions. Therefore the correct sticker for the biology text book would read:

The theory of evolution is not, and in its current state, cannot be, a complete account of the history of life on earth. There is not at present a theory, widley accepted among natural scientists, that would account for that history.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 9, 2005 5:34 PM

Jeff:

"natural selection accounts only for extinction, not speciation." Setting aside the obvious, that extinctions are generally man-made (intelligent design) or cataclysmic, how do things speciate?

Posted by: oj at March 9, 2005 6:07 PM

Robert:

Actually, I think the record is just over 200. Oddly, though, that thread might well have been when OJ got in a p***ing contest with some Moveon.org types over the meaning of the phrase "... won't be any ..."

Your second para says a lot, and is probably the crux of the matter. Fundamentally, if Evolutionary Theory is correct, then Natural History is the combination of stochastic (I think I am using these words correctly--your expertise is such that I won't fool you if I am not) events with natural selection.

Therefore, if one could rewind the tape to the origin of life and re-run it, similar events would take place, but their timing would be different. This means that all life we see is contingent, in that such a redo would produce different results. Stuff would happen, and natural selection would determine who did, and did not, survive that stuff.

The theologically exercised cannot abide that conclusion. As I have written elsewhere, there may well be a dialectical argument to be made that acknowledging such a thing would be Bad, regardless of its truth. But it would be best to conduct the discussion on those terms, rather than engage in all manner of intellectual contortions.

OJ:

Virtually all extinctions happened before humans showed up, and all kinds had nothing to do with cataclysmic events.

In case you have forgotten, the definition of cataclysm is:

catastrophe: a sudden violent change in the earth's surface

As just one of many examples, the Panama isthmus was none of those things, and led to a great many extinctions.

So, I shall not set aside the obvious, because you have perverted the terms of the debate.

Posted by: at March 9, 2005 8:55 PM

Anon:

Yes, the point is the catastrophes are sudden, disposing with the gradualism portion of Darwinism.

Posted by: oj at March 9, 2005 9:05 PM

Orrin,

"Yes, the point is the catastrophes are sudden, disposing with the gradualism portion of Darwinism."

Perhaps you misunderstood something here. The 'gradualism portion of Darwinism' refers to gradual change of populations, not of environments. It does not dictate that the environment needs to change either quickly or slowly.

Gradualism. According to this theory, evolutionary change takes place through the gradual change of populations and not by the sudden (saltational) production of new individuals that represent a new type.

Having a catastrophic change followed by gradual adaptation to survive in the changed environment is entirely within the realm of the theory.

Posted by: creeper at March 10, 2005 1:10 AM

As Jeff points out, it's just extinctions that occur and they follow catastrophic change and Man.

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2005 1:20 AM

I don't know what Jeff meant by that. The theory of natural selection accounts for both extinction and speciation, since it pertains to the changing of organisms over successive generations. Old replaced by new over time.

Posted by: creeper at March 10, 2005 2:41 AM

OJ:

Where did I 'allow for' aliens directing evolution?

That would invalidate darwinism, if true.

It might be true, just as supernatural intervention by God might be true, I can't disprove either.

But there's no evidence for either, so I'll stick with natural, undesigned darwinism.

Posted by: Brit at March 10, 2005 3:49 AM

Just one damned thing after another.

Is that science?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 10, 2005 3:56 AM

Robert:

Yes, I think you could put it that way.

Evolution is just a load of stuff happening.

Posted by: Brit at March 10, 2005 4:29 AM

"Where did I 'allow for' aliens directing evolution?"

In Orrin's eyes, it was probably when he introduced the hyper-sentient beings from Alpha Centauri for the sake of obfuscation and we did not refute the hypothetical existence of such beings.

Orrin,

The discussion was about the originating distance of physical factors affecting survival chances of organisms on Earth (on which for some reason you are trying to place limitations), not the aims, motivations or desires of speculative aliens on a distant planet, nor their capabilities regarding how to specifically alter the way life develops on our planet.

As for a response to the theory of such beings steering life on Earth, I'd say Brit's response three comments ago pretty much covers it.

Your attempt to steer this into ufology is entertaining, but was really nothing more than to deflect from the subject at hand.

Posted by: creeper at March 10, 2005 6:06 AM

"Actually, I think the record is just over 200."

There was one about two months ago that was in the neighborhood of 350. Something about free will, predictability of the universe etc. I'm not sure what the title was. Orrin, do you recall?

Posted by: creeper at March 10, 2005 6:23 AM

I just answer the e-mail when it comes....

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2005 7:51 AM

Who said anything about aims, etc. The post said:

"We've still plenty of years of arguing left, but the conclusion becomes inescapable that evolution is driven by force(s) outside of Nature (defined as the biosphere)."


You guys have acknowledged that in so many different ways here it seems pointless for you to still be bickering amongst yourselves, but have at...

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2005 7:53 AM

Brit:

You and your cronies have introduced extraterrestrial interventions repeatedly, here are a few by you:

"'Outside the environment?'

Show me where modern evolutionary theory draws a line between "originating in the planet" and "orginating off the planet" rather than between "natural" and "supernatural".

Posted by: Brit at March 8, 2005 12:08 PM "

"Natural selection is just what happens when you get variation and inheritance among reproducing things in an environment.

Natural selection is perhaps the most important factor in evolution, but it is not sufficient on its own.

It is perfectly compatible with, as you put it " Land bridges, colliding continents, asteroids and cosmic clouds"

You say these "are all "natural events" but to the extent that they influence the history of life on earth, they have nothing to do with natural selection."

Of course they are related to natural selection. The course of natural selection will be affected by events like these."

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2005 8:15 AM

creeper:

"I don't know what Jeff meant by that." Where should I send your membership card for the club?

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2005 8:17 AM

"We've still plenty of years of arguing left, but the conclusion becomes inescapable that evolution is driven by force(s) outside of Nature (defined as the biosphere)."

And that has what exactly to do with aliens directing evolution?

Orrin, you sure love to obfuscate. Or can you really not tell the difference between nature being not limited to a spatial perimeter of your own choosing and the assumption that we are subject to intelligent alien beings shaping us like farmers from outer space?

Your post was about trying to make hay of an arbitrary spatial limit to somehow exclude the influence of a hypothetical, non-intelligent, non-conscious physical phenomenon. Since that was an obvious non-starter, as you acknowledged, now you're trying to pretend that this is about UFOs and aliena. After all, from outside the confines of the solar system must equal extraterrestrial must equal "E.T. The Extraterrestrial"...

The list of supposedly related quotes from Brit that you cite are a complete and utter non-sequitur. There is not a single intervention among them, no more so than a rain drop hitting a leaf.

Posted by: creeper at March 10, 2005 8:56 AM

"Where should I send your membership card for the club?"

Frankly, it doesn't happen all that often; I think this is the first time.

Posted by: creeper at March 10, 2005 8:59 AM

creeper:

Comes from sharing so much of his confusion.

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2005 9:10 AM

What are the interstellar gas clouds?

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2005 9:11 AM

Orrin:

The trouble with treating your commenters as if they are fools, when they are not in fact fools, is that you look very foolish yourself.

Those quotes of mine are perfectly clear:

The line between darwinism and ID is the line between natural, unplanned, aimless events; and supernatural, aimed, directed intervention.

It is not your arbitrary, just-made-up-on-the-spot line between "within the planet" and "off the planet".

An asteriod strike, or any other natural event, IF it happened, and IF it caused a mass extinction, or changed the environment, would be compatible with darwinism. It would be an aimless, unplanned, meaningless event within the realm of the natural.

It would only be compatible with ID if you could show that the asteriod must have been meaningfully aimed at earth by supernatural powers intent on purposefully changing the course of evolution towards a particular direction.

You can't.

Posted by: Brit at March 10, 2005 9:15 AM

Brit:

No. You guys have made everything in the Universe "natural" so if Earth is just some big experiment being run by the Alpha Centaurans who bombard us with cosmic rays periodically to force speciation then that conforms perfectly well with Natural Selection/neo-Darwinism/whatever-you're-calling-it-today.

Indeed, the only thing you insist is supernatural is God, which helpfully makes clear the entiurely reactionary nature of your philosophy.

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2005 9:20 AM

No.

It's easy.

Darwinism posits that evolution happens by processes that are:
a) natural AND
b) aimless.

If it were shown that aliens were directing evolution, then (a) were the case, but (b) would not, so darwinism would be wrong.

For the record, I don't think aliens (if they exist, which I don't know), have anything to do with evolution. Ok?

Posted by: Brit at March 10, 2005 9:39 AM

Brit:

How would you tell whether it's aimless if you can't tell the source of the extraterrestrial influences, as you acknowledge you can't?

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2005 9:43 AM

How would you tell whether it's aimed if you can't tell the source of the supernatural influences?

Posted by: creeper at March 10, 2005 10:16 AM

creeper:

You can't. You're getting there....

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2005 10:26 AM

Evidence.

We assume as little as possible. If there's no evidence of direction, we don't assume there's any direction until we have some.

You're getting there...

Posted by: Brit at March 10, 2005 12:11 PM

Brit:

You assume lack of direction. Same coin, different side. Still just faith based.

You guys have gone way past there to the point where you're proving the skeptics' arguments. Now you just have to take your own word for it.

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2005 1:26 PM

"The line between darwinism and ID is the line between natural, unplanned, aimless events; and supernatural, aimed, directed intervention.

An asteriod strike, or any other natural event, IF it happened, and IF it caused a mass extinction, or changed the environment, would be compatible with darwinism. It would be an aimless, unplanned, meaningless event within the realm of the natural.

It would only be compatible with ID if you could show that the asteriod must have been meaningfully aimed at earth by supernatural powers intent on purposefully changing the course of evolution towards a particular direction.

You can't."

Brit: I thought we had agreed that natural selection the process that is Darwinism and that it could not account for the history of Life on Earth.

You then took the position that the history of Life on Earth was just one damned thing after another. I.E. that it has not process behind it that is driving it.

That is a position, but I havent the vaugest idea how you would begin to prove it.

OJ does not agree, and I find the view intellectually unsatifying. But OJ at least has some evidence in his favor. The history of life shows many signs of progressing in a direction towards the greater impounding of information (or order) and the concomitant decrease in entropy within the biosphere. Why this should be so if the process is purely stochastic is unclear to me.

To rephrase, OJ may not be able to convince you that the process behind the history of Life is Divine, but I do not see that anyone has succeded in showing that a enviroment that has gone from zero information to multiple yotta-bits thereof is purely the result of random events.

You can argue that natural selection impounds information, but natural selection is not the only thing involved in the history of life. There are events, such as extinctions, that destroy information. If all there is is randomness, then the null hypothesis must be that there is no information in the biosphere (all the pluses and minuses having netted out to zero).

The fact that there is lots of information in the biosphere and that the history of life has shown a general upward trend, leads me to belive that the null hypothesis must be rejected.

The most analogus process I can think of is the stock market, which is, as we all know, a sub-martingale driven by the growth of the underlying real economy. I see the data. It looks like there is an underlying process and it is not pure randomness.

I don't want to be coy. I don't agree with OJ on many points of creed, but I believe that the history of life is being driven by Providence. Is it the sort of explicit non naturalistic process that OJ believes or is it something more indirect. I do not know. I tend to believe that the metaphore I would use is the Cosmic Gamekeeper, not the Divine watchmaker, but that is nichts der forchung.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 10, 2005 1:41 PM

Robert:

According to darwinism, evolution has been driven by various observable natural processes and events, including natural selection.

Those processes are aimless. There was no goal in mind. There has been greater complexity over time, and there has been greater simplicity over time. Whales and dolphins evolved from sea creatures to land mammals and then became sea creatures again. There's no direction. Where we are now is an arbitrary position. Not the best possible world, not the worst, just the way it happens to have gone.

Complexity results from simplicity due to aimless processes all the time. Look at how diamonds are formed.

Posted by: Brit at March 10, 2005 3:41 PM

Brit:

"observable"?

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2005 3:53 PM

Everything in darwinism has stemmed from observing nature.

Darwinists do the field work.

IDers sit in armchairs and at computers looking for logical loopholes.

Posted by: Brit at March 10, 2005 6:01 PM

Broit;

Odd that they've never observed Darwinism then, no?

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2005 6:16 PM

"As Jeff points out, it's just extinctions that occur and they follow catastrophic change and Man."

As Jeff has pointed out previously, I most assuredly do not appreciate people putting words into my mouth.

What I pointed out was that OJ, in asserting asserted that extinctions are "... generally man-made (intelligent design) or cataclysmic ..." had grotesquely abused the meaning of the word cataclysm.

Continental drift, ice ages, lifting of mountain ranges etc all cause extinctions. All churn the environment. All result in new species. None are supernatural. None are "cataclysmic" in any sense of the term that anyone other than OJ would use.

That is what I meant.

And no one has observed the formation of a new continent, or the formation of a new language.

Yet we accept continental drift, and the Indo-European descent of English.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at March 10, 2005 8:39 PM

"natural selection accounts only for extinction, not speciation."


Posted by: Jeff Guinn at March 9, 2005 03:29 PM

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2005 8:44 PM

"Those processes are aimless. There was no goal in mind. There has been greater complexity over time, and there has been greater simplicity over time... Where we are now is an arbitrary position."

Maybe I did not make myself sufficiently clear. There is an objective measure of the order and chaos in a system. One way of measuring it is thermodynamically, i.e. measuring energy content and changes in entropy. Another, equivalent way of measuring it is by measuring the information content of the system in its natural unit "bits," (i.e., 1 or 0).

Each three unit code base of DNA encodes a tad more than 4 bits of information (it can specify one of ~20 amino acids) In turn the cellular mechanism can use that information to create proteins and synchronize their activity. This leads to the impounding of yet more information. In the human brain these mechanisms can encode more information by creating physical structures (still poorly understood) corresponding to sensory inputs and correlated outputs -- memories.

Step back look at the biosphere. It impounds an enormous amount of information. Billions of humans and billions more of other creatures, their respective genomes, their bodies, their memories.

Accepting, which OJ does not, but I do, that at some time in the past, perhaps right after the collision with a body the size of Mars that created the Moon in all its glory, the Earth was molten rock and completely sterile. The biosphere clearly has a lot more information in it now than it did then. Not only that, but it is also apparent that at successive stages of the history of life the biosphere has impounded more information, despite any setbacks because of catastrophes, than it did at the corresponding point in previous stages. A dolphin may be a sea creature like a shark, but it has a much higher information content.

Is this the result of purely random inputs. The only way of attacking this question that I can think of is to formulate a null hypothesis which is that the underlying process is random. Ask what kind of information content that would create, which I think (but cannot prove) should be zero. Then I can test the observed state of the system against the null hypothesis. Just eyeballing the situation, because I do not have the statistical tools to do the test. My guess is that, the null hypothesis ought to be rejected.

“Complexity results from simplicity due to aimless processes all the time. Look at how diamonds are formed.”

A diamond crystal like any other non-living natural thing, impounds very little information. It only takes a few bits to specify the seed (the options are very limited) and a few more to specify the number of units in the crystal. Far more information is destroyed in the process of its manufacture than is impounded in the crystal.


Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 11, 2005 1:52 AM

Robert:

You take an interesting and novel approach to the question, but ultimately your 'information' point is a red herring.

First, evolution is, as Jeff often points out, a 'recursive' system - the output of the previous generation is the input of the next. Each new generation is not randomly generated afresh.

This issue frequently centres on the 'monkey-typewriter' analogy. I'd invite you to look at a discussion we had about this on the Daily Duck, in an answer to an attack on the analogy by the ID-proponent Berlinksi.

Second, don't forget that as a system evolution is incredibly wasteful and inefficient: virtually every species that has ever lived is extinct.

Posted by: Brit at March 11, 2005 4:12 AM

Brit:

So now you're excluding the extraterretrial effects again? You guys have to make up your minds.

Posted by: oj at March 11, 2005 8:18 AM

Orrin,

"So now you're excluding the extraterretrial effects again?"

where did Brit do that?

Posted by: creeper at March 11, 2005 9:42 AM

"your 'information' point is a red herring"

"red herring -- Something that draws attention away from the central issue... The herring in this expression is red and strong-smelling from being preserved by smoking. The idiom alludes to the practice of dragging a smoked herring across a trail to mask a scent and throw off tracking dogs."

I don't think so. And if you thought so you would not have continued to discuss the issue. I was trying to respond to your claim that:

"There has been greater complexity over time, and there has been greater simplicity over time... Where we are now is an arbitrary position."

By discussing a an objective method by which complexity may be measured. I do not think that is a "red herring." I think it is the heart of the matter of whether natural selection can account for the history of life.

"First, evolution is, as Jeff often points out, a 'recursive' system - the output of the previous generation is the input of the next. Each new generation is not randomly generated afresh."

Actually, that is a feature of biological reproduction whether or not there is natural selection.

If I understood your argument correctly, evolution (the history of life) consists of natural selection plus random events, be they geological, astronomical or otherwise, but excluding any events caused by intelligence, terrestrial, extra-terrestrial or supernatural. Natural selection is offered as a process that is both recursive and progressive. It not only preserves information by biological reproduction, but impounds it by keeping successful variants and discarding the unsuccessful.

As I said previously, I accept this view of natural selection, OJ to the contrary notwithstanding. My problem with your theory is not with natural selection, but with the random events portion of your theory. There are no random events that are either recursive or progressive. They, together with the laws of thermodynamics, destroy impounded information. If that is all there is why isnt the history of life, a random walk around some attractor just north of 0. Why do we see the both the peaks and valleys of the quantity of impounded information at ever higher levels?

"This issue frequently centers on the 'monkey-typewriter' analogy. I'd invite you to look at a discussion we had about this on the Daily Duck, in an answer to an attack on the analogy by the ID-proponent Berlinksi."

I haven't read the Duck (no time) but Berlinsky is a smart guy. the monkey typewriter problem is that the outputs are random. The only way to discover non-random appearing strings in the random output is to read the stuff (or have some algorithm sort it and read the non rejects). This is the formal equivalent of the Maxwell's demon problem in thermodynamics. The demon has to acquire and use information about the molecules in order to sort them into hot and cold. The only way to impound information in either system is to apply intelligence, which is information plus energy. But this argument cannot help the evolutionist. Again we are back to the question of the rejection of the null hypothesis -- its all random.

"Second, don't forget that as a system evolution is incredibly wasteful and inefficient: virtually every species that has ever lived is extinct."

Ec 9:
[11] Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the men of skill; but time and chance happenth to them all.
[12] For man does not know his time. Like fish which are taken in an evil net, and like birds which are caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.

How can we forget that? If it were not for the flow of energy from the Sun (6,000K) into inter galactic space (2K) the planet would be a ball of ice and sterile. But waste is not the issue. New energy is super abundant. The issue is the residue, the impounded information, and whether its impoundment shows a underlying process. I am inclined to say that the null hypothesis of randomness should be rejected and that there is an underlying process.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 11, 2005 1:39 PM

Robert,

"There are no random events that are either recursive or progressive. They, together with the laws of thermodynamics, destroy impounded information. If that is all there is why isnt the history of life, a random walk around some attractor just north of 0. Why do we see the both the peaks and valleys of the quantity of impounded information at ever higher levels?"

Just taking a stab at this: Information is and has been created at very high levels, and whatever catastrophes there have been have not been able to counter that in full.

Not that such catastrophes are inconceivable, but the pattern so far appears to have been that in total they destroy less information than is being created.

Posted by: creeper at March 12, 2005 6:57 AM
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