May 25, 2005

IRREDUCIBLY IDENTICAL:

DEVOLUTION: Why intelligent design isn’t. (H. ALLEN ORR, 2005-05-30, The New Yorker)

First of all, intelligent design is not what people often assume it is. For one thing, I.D. is not Biblical literalism. Unlike earlier generations of creationists—the so-called Young Earthers and scientific creationists—proponents of intelligent design do not believe that the universe was created in six days, that Earth is ten thousand years old, or that the fossil record was deposited during Noah’s flood. (Indeed, they shun the label “creationism” altogether.) Nor does I.D. flatly reject evolution: adherents freely admit that some evolutionary change occurred during the history of life on Earth. Although the movement is loosely allied with, and heavily funded by, various conservative Christian groups—and although I.D. plainly maintains that life was created—it is generally silent about the identity of the creator.

The movement’s main positive claim is that there are things in the world, most notably life, that cannot be accounted for by known natural causes and show features that, in any other context, we would attribute to intelligence. Living organisms are too complex to be explained by any natural—or, more precisely, by any mindless—process. Instead, the design inherent in organisms can be accounted for only by invoking a designer, and one who is very, very smart.

All of which puts I.D. squarely at odds with Darwin. Darwin’s theory of evolution was meant to show how the fantastically complex features of organisms—eyes, beaks, brains—could arise without the intervention of a designing mind. According to Darwinism, evolution largely reflects the combined action of random mutation and natural selection. A random mutation in an organism, like a random change in any finely tuned machine, is almost always bad. That’s why you don’t, screwdriver in hand, make arbitrary changes to the insides of your television. But, once in a great while, a random mutation in the DNA that makes up an organism’s genes slightly improves the function of some organ and thus the survival of the organism. In a species whose eye amounts to nothing more than a primitive patch of light-sensitive cells, a mutation that causes this patch to fold into a cup shape might have a survival advantage. While the old type of organism can tell only if the lights are on, the new type can detect the direction of any source of light or shadow. Since shadows sometimes mean predators, that can be valuable information. The new, improved type of organism will, therefore, be more common in the next generation. That’s natural selection. Repeated over billions of years, this process of incremental improvement should allow for the gradual emergence of organisms that are exquisitely adapted to their environments and that look for all the world as though they were designed. By 1870, about a decade after “The Origin of Species” was published, nearly all biologists agreed that life had evolved, and by 1940 or so most agreed that natural selection was a key force driving this evolution.

Advocates of intelligent design point to two developments that in their view undermine Darwinism. The first is the molecular revolution in biology. Beginning in the nineteen-fifties, molecular biologists revealed a staggering and unsuspected degree of complexity within the cells that make up all life. This complexity, I.D.’s defenders argue, lies beyond the abilities of Darwinism to explain. Second, they claim that new mathematical findings cast doubt on the power of natural selection. Selection may play a role in evolution, but it cannot accomplish what biologists suppose it can. [...]

Michael J. Behe, a professor of biological sciences at Lehigh University (and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute), is a biochemist who writes technical papers on the structure of DNA. He is the most prominent of the small circle of scientists working on intelligent design, and his arguments are by far the best known. His book “Darwin’s Black Box” (1996) was a surprise best-seller and was named by National Review as one of the hundred best nonfiction books of the twentieth century. (A little calibration may be useful here; “The Starr Report” also made the list.)

Not surprisingly, Behe’s doubts about Darwinism begin with biochemistry. Fifty years ago, he says, any biologist could tell stories like the one about the eye’s evolution. But such stories, Behe notes, invariably began with cells, whose own evolutionary origins were essentially left unexplained. This was harmless enough as long as cells weren’t qualitatively more complex than the larger, more visible aspects of the eye. Yet when biochemists began to dissect the inner workings of the cell, what they found floored them. A cell is packed full of exceedingly complex structures—hundreds of microscopic machines, each performing a specific job. The “Give me a cell and I’ll give you an eye” story told by Darwinists, he says, began to seem suspect: starting with a cell was starting ninety per cent of the way to the finish line.

Behe’s main claim is that cells are complex not just in degree but in kind. Cells contain structures that are “irreducibly complex.” This means that if you remove any single part from such a structure, the structure no longer functions. Behe offers a simple, nonbiological example of an irreducibly complex object: the mousetrap. A mousetrap has several parts—platform, spring, catch, hammer, and hold-down bar—and all of them have to be in place for the trap to work. If you remove the spring from a mousetrap, it isn’t slightly worse at killing mice; it doesn’t kill them at all. So, too, with the bacterial flagellum, Behe argues. This flagellum is a tiny propeller attached to the back of some bacteria. Spinning at more than twenty thousand r.p.m.s, it motors the bacterium through its aquatic world. The flagellum comprises roughly thirty different proteins, all precisely arranged, and if any one of them is removed the flagellum stops spinning.

In “Darwin’s Black Box,” Behe maintained that irreducible complexity presents Darwinism with “unbridgeable chasms.” How, after all, could a gradual process of incremental improvement build something like a flagellum, which needs all its parts in order to work? Scientists, he argued, must face up to the fact that “many biochemical systems cannot be built by natural selection working on mutations.” In the end, Behe concluded that irreducibly complex cells arise the same way as irreducibly complex mousetraps—someone designs them. As he put it in a recent Times Op-Ed piece: “If it looks, walks, and quacks like a duck, then, absent compelling evidence to the contrary, we have warrant to conclude it’s a duck. Design should not be overlooked simply because it’s so obvious.” In “Darwin’s Black Box,” Behe speculated that the designer might have assembled the first cell, essentially solving the problem of irreducible complexity, after which evolution might well have proceeded by more or less conventional means. Under Behe’s brand of creationism, you might still be an ape that evolved on the African savanna; it’s just that your cells harbor micro-machines engineered by an unnamed intelligence some four billion years ago.

But Behe’s principal argument soon ran into trouble. As biologists pointed out, there are several different ways that Darwinian evolution can build irreducibly complex systems. In one, elaborate structures may evolve for one reason and then get co-opted for some entirely different, irreducibly complex function. Who says those thirty flagellar proteins weren’t present in bacteria long before bacteria sported flagella? They may have been performing other jobs in the cell and only later got drafted into flagellum-building. Indeed, there’s now strong evidence that several flagellar proteins once played roles in a type of molecular pump found in the membranes of bacterial cells.

Behe doesn’t consider this sort of “indirect” path to irreducible complexity—in which parts perform one function and then switch to another—terribly plausible. And he essentially rules out the alternative possibility of a direct Darwinian path: a path, that is, in which Darwinism builds an irreducibly complex structure while selecting all along for the same biological function. But biologists have shown that direct paths to irreducible complexity are possible, too. Suppose a part gets added to a system merely because the part improves the system’s performance; the part is not, at this stage, essential for function. But, because subsequent evolution builds on this addition, a part that was at first just advantageous might become essential. As this process is repeated through evolutionary time, more and more parts that were once merely beneficial become necessary. This idea was first set forth by H. J. Muller, the Nobel Prize-winning geneticist, in 1939, but it’s a familiar process in the development of human technologies. We add new parts like global-positioning systems to cars not because they’re necessary but because they’re nice. But no one would be surprised if, in fifty years, computers that rely on G.P.S. actually drove our cars. At that point, G.P.S. would no longer be an attractive option; it would be an essential piece of automotive technology. It’s important to see that this process is thoroughly Darwinian: each change might well be small and each represents an improvement.

Design theorists have made some concessions to these criticisms. Behe has confessed to “sloppy prose” and said he hadn’t meant to imply that irreducibly complex systems “by definition” cannot evolve gradually. “I quite agree that my argument against Darwinism does not add up to a logical proof,” he says—though he continues to believe that Darwinian paths to irreducible complexity are exceedingly unlikely. Behe and his followers now emphasize that, while irreducibly complex systems can in principle evolve, biologists can’t reconstruct in convincing detail just how any such system did evolve.

What counts as a sufficiently detailed historical narrative, though, is altogether subjective. Biologists actually know a great deal about the evolution of biochemical systems, irreducibly complex or not. It’s significant, for instance, that the proteins that typically make up the parts of these systems are often similar to one another. (Blood clotting—another of Behe’s examples of irreducible complexity—involves at least twenty proteins, several of which are similar, and all of which are needed to make clots, to localize or remove clots, or to prevent the runaway clotting of all blood.) And biologists understand why these proteins are so similar. Each gene in an organism’s genome encodes a particular protein. Occasionally, the stretch of DNA that makes up a particular gene will get accidentally copied, yielding a genome that includes two versions of the gene. Over many generations, one version of the gene will often keep its original function while the other one slowly changes by mutation and natural selection, picking up a new, though usually related, function. This process of “gene duplication” has given rise to entire families of proteins that have similar functions; they often act in the same biochemical pathway or sit in the same cellular structure. There’s no doubt that gene duplication plays an extremely important role in the evolution of biological complexity.

It’s true that when you confront biologists with a particular complex structure like the flagellum they sometimes have a hard time saying which part appeared before which other parts. But then it can be hard, with any complex historical process, to reconstruct the exact order in which events occurred, especially when, as in evolution, the addition of new parts encourages the modification of old ones. When you’re looking at a bustling urban street, for example, you probably can’t tell which shop went into business first. This is partly because many businesses now depend on each other and partly because new shops trigger changes in old ones (the new sushi place draws twenty-somethings who demand wireless Internet at the café next door). But it would be a little rash to conclude that all the shops must have begun business on the same day or that some Unseen Urban Planner had carefully determined just which business went where.

The other leading theorist of the new creationism, William A. Dembski, holds a Ph.D. in mathematics, another in philosophy, and a master of divinity in theology. He has been a research professor in the conceptual foundations of science at Baylor University, and was recently appointed to the new Center for Science and Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. (He is a longtime senior fellow at the Discovery Institute as well.) Dembski publishes at a staggering pace. His books—including “The Design Inference,” “Intelligent Design,” “No Free Lunch,” and “The Design Revolution”—are generally well written and packed with provocative ideas.

According to Dembski, a complex object must be the result of intelligence if it was the product neither of chance nor of necessity. The novel “Moby Dick,” for example, didn’t arise by chance (Melville didn’t scribble random letters), and it wasn’t the necessary consequence of a physical law (unlike, say, the fall of an apple). It was, instead, the result of Melville’s intelligence. Dembski argues that there is a reliable way to recognize such products of intelligence in the natural world. We can conclude that an object was intelligently designed, he says, if it shows “specified complexity”—complexity that matches an “independently given pattern.” The sequence of letters “jkxvcjudoplvm” is certainly complex: if you randomly type thirteen letters, you are very unlikely to arrive at this particular sequence. But it isn’t specified: it doesn’t match any independently given sequence of letters. If, on the other hand, I ask you for the first sentence of “Moby Dick” and you type the letters “callmeishmael,” you have produced something that is both complex and specified. The sequence you typed is unlikely to arise by chance alone, and it matches an independent target sequence (the one written by Melville). Dembski argues that specified complexity, when expressed mathematically, provides an unmistakable signature of intelligence. Things like “callmeishmael,” he points out, just don’t arise in the real world without acts of intelligence. If organisms show specified complexity, therefore, we can conclude that they are the handiwork of an intelligent agent.

For Dembski, it’s telling that the sophisticated machines we find in organisms match up in astonishingly precise ways with recognizable human technologies. The eye, for example, has a familiar, cameralike design, with recognizable parts—a pinhole opening for light, a lens, and a surface on which to project an image—all arranged just as a human engineer would arrange them. And the flagellum has a motor design, one that features recognizable O-rings, a rotor, and a drive shaft. Specified complexity, he says, is there for all to see.

Dembski’s second major claim is that certain mathematical results cast doubt on Darwinism at the most basic conceptual level. In 2002, he focussed on so-called No Free Lunch, or N.F.L., theorems, which were derived in the late nineties by the physicists David H. Wolpert and William G. Macready. These theorems relate to the efficiency of different “search algorithms.” Consider a search for high ground on some unfamiliar, hilly terrain. You’re on foot and it’s a moonless night; you’ve got two hours to reach the highest place you can. How to proceed? One sensible search algorithm might say, “Walk uphill in the steepest possible direction; if no direction uphill is available, take a couple of steps to the left and try again.” This algorithm insures that you’re generally moving upward. Another search algorithm—a so-called blind search algorithm—might say, “Walk in a random direction.” This would sometimes take you uphill but sometimes down. Roughly, the N.F.L. theorems prove the surprising fact that, averaged over all possible terrains, no search algorithm is better than any other. In some landscapes, moving uphill gets you to higher ground in the allotted time, while in other landscapes moving randomly does, but on average neither outperforms the other.

Now, Darwinism can be thought of as a search algorithm. Given a problem—adapting to a new disease, for instance—a population uses the Darwinian algorithm of random mutation plus natural selection to search for a solution (in this case, disease resistance). But, according to Dembski, the N.F.L. theorems prove that this Darwinian algorithm is no better than any other when confronting all possible problems. It follows that, over all, Darwinism is no better than blind search, a process of utterly random change unaided by any guiding force like natural selection. Since we don’t expect blind change to build elaborate machines showing an exquisite coördination of parts, we have no right to expect Darwinism to do so, either. Attempts to sidestep this problem by, say, carefully constraining the class of challenges faced by organisms inevitably involve sneaking in the very kind of order that we’re trying to explain—something Dembski calls the displacement problem. In the end, he argues, the N.F.L. theorems and the displacement problem mean that there’s only one plausible source for the design we find in organisms: intelligence. Although Dembski is somewhat noncommittal, he seems to favor a design theory in which an intelligent agent programmed design into early life, or even into the early universe. This design then unfolded through the long course of evolutionary time, as microbes slowly morphed into man. [...]

The most serious problem in Dembski’s account involves specified complexity. Organisms aren’t trying to match any “independently given pattern”: evolution has no goal, and the history of life isn’t trying to get anywhere. If building a sophisticated structure like an eye increases the number of children produced, evolution may well build an eye. But if destroying a sophisticated structure like the eye increases the number of children produced, evolution will just as happily destroy the eye. Species of fish and crustaceans that have moved into the total darkness of caves, where eyes are both unnecessary and costly, often have degenerate eyes, or eyes that begin to form only to be covered by skin—crazy contraptions that no intelligent agent would design. Despite all the loose talk about design and machines, organisms aren’t striving to realize some engineer’s blueprint; they’re striving (if they can be said to strive at all) only to have more offspring than the next fellow.


We're as skeptical of I.D. as of Darwinism, but what's entertaining about these criticisms is that they require mere acceptance of the notion that that Darwinism is true -- "evolution has no goal" -- and are stated in terms of Darwinism as an anthropomorphic intelligence, for instance "evolution will just as happily destroy the eye." It nicely demonstrates that there's ultimately no real difference between Darwinists and Designers except for which mechanism they choose to believe in.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 25, 2005 12:22 PM
Comments

"We're as skeptical of I.D."

What's to be skeptical about? There's nothing there.

Posted by: creeper at May 25, 2005 6:11 PM

I found these arguments for ID quite weak. For Behe, the article itself rips his "irreducible complexity" argument apart while the idea that the cell is more complex than higher organisms is straight forward Darwinism, as the cell has been evolving for much longer than multi-cellular creatures.

As for Dembski, his argument that an eye is like a camera demonstrates his lack of knowledge of at least one of those. The human eye, for instance, is done backwards with the information processing layer between the photosensors and the light source. No intelligent designer would do that, as it has costs but no benefits. That's beside the fact that the features mentioned for organic devices are driven by the underlying physics and are therefore required, not specified.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at May 25, 2005 8:08 PM

AOG:

Of course they're weak. What's revealing is the rebuttals are weaker.

Posted by: oj at May 25, 2005 8:14 PM

creeper:

The intelligent design is obvious, but theories about how it occurred are as silly as the Natural Selection nonsense.

Posted by: oj at May 25, 2005 8:21 PM

Yeah, that's why whales have hip bones. They were intelligently designed.

Give up guys, science is not going to slap it's collective forhead and realise a supernatural entity made all the animals as described in an ancient Jewish holy book.

Posted by: Amos at May 25, 2005 8:52 PM

AOG:

"No intelligent designer would have done that as it has costs but no benefits."

Wouldn't that mean natural selection couldn't explain it either?

Posted by: Peter B at May 25, 2005 8:55 PM

"super natural" entity is a lot easier for me to go along with than spontaneous creation of life. but hey, you keep cheking them rocks, i think one moved a little while you were expounding on "science".

am i the only one reminded of the monty python sketch where someone is trying to hypnotize a brick ?

Posted by: cjm at May 25, 2005 9:06 PM

Yeah and you keep checking the sky for God's email.

The spiritual is a realm of human experience outside reason, but observable natural phenomena fall within the preserve of science. Natural selection as a theory will be replaced when a more accurate scientific theory emerges, it will not be replaced by "God did it".

I know the idea of a benevolent diety ordering human affairs is alot easier for you to go along with. That dosn't make it true, it certainly dosn't make it science. Jesus does not make your toaster or computer work, and whatever the ultimatly unknowable nature of God, he she or it does not arbitarily make things occure with magic.

Grow up.

Posted by: Amos at May 25, 2005 10:01 PM

The whole argument is idiotic. "Evolution is the mechanism by which God created life" is really all anyone needs to know on the subject. Likewise, "The Big Bang is the mechanism by which God created the Universe."

Noel Erinjeri

Posted by: Noel Erinjeri at May 25, 2005 11:06 PM

Peter;

No. The overriding themes of evolution are better and good enough. If you talk of intelligent designs, there are good and bad designs. But for evolution, the only valid judgements are purely comparitive - Is it better than the existing alternatives? Is it good enough to not screw up the overall function of the organism? The human eye design passes these tests, but if I were considering it as a designed system, I'd mock the designer for throwing things together rather than doing a real design.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at May 25, 2005 11:16 PM

AOG:

Yes, but that's just imaginary--there's no evidence that Nature gives a fig between the various designs.

Posted by: oj at May 25, 2005 11:19 PM

AOG:

Aren't you a designer/engineer? Is it your impression that most designs are optimal?

Posted by: oj at May 25, 2005 11:20 PM

"The intelligent design is obvious, but theories about how it occurred are as silly as the Natural Selection nonsense."

I wasn't aware that the ID crowd had any theories about how it occurred.

Like I said, there's nothing there.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 12:44 AM

Sure, it's the same as Natural Selection only substitute Intellgent Designer(s).

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 12:47 AM

very few (human produced) designs are optimal, and not that many are really even "good enough". sometimes a single individual can bring a clean, elegant design to fruition, but usually something is shipped as soon as is feasibly possible. over time a successful product will be modified to compensate for the poor initial design, and maybe a completely new design/version will be produced (speciation ?).

aog: maybe i am misreading your analysis, but isn't the "information processing" layer behind the photo-sensors ?

the really slick part of the eye is the sublime sensitivity of the rods and cones, theoretically capable of perceiving a single photon.

Posted by: cjm at May 26, 2005 12:50 AM

ID only proposes that a designer must have existed and AFAIK does not propose any theories about the nature of the designer (at least not officially) and certainly offers no notions as to how the designer did what it did.

Zip.

It's just: "I don't know how this phenomenon can be explained, so it must have been some speculative entity. End of thought."

And in that way, it is very different from the theory of evolution.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 12:55 AM

If it is too complex for evolution, to assume it is intelligent design is illogical. What created that which designed it? The designer must be even more complex. Which poses the question of what created the more complex designer. To say that the designer just exists is no more logical than saying that evolution just exists.

Posted by: at May 26, 2005 3:14 AM

"To say that the designer just exists is no more logical than saying that evolution just exists."

If it comes from an argument of design, it is actually less logical, since it relies on an internal contradiction.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 4:56 AM

cjm,

"isn't the "information processing" layer behind the photo-sensors ?"

No. It's a peculiar detail indeed - you can find more info here - http://www.trueorigin.org/retinaDOTasp - or do a google on 'inverted retina'.

(Replace 'DOT' accordingly - I got a 'questionable content' error with the full URL.)

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 5:02 AM

AOG:

I suppose you could also say no designer would omit to put a couple of eyes in the back of our heads as well or use more durable stuff to build us. I think I see your point about design, presumptuous as it is, but surely there is a conceptual problem here for natural evolutionists. They seem to have no trouble saying that natural selection results in things which are by definition "better" or "fitter", but the only (and I do mean only) things the honest ones use to substantiate that is the fact of survival. They are happy to second guess a designer on the quality of the design, even though the purpose and objective of the design would be completely unknown and unknowable. But although the objective or direction of natural selection is "known" or postulated within the theory, an infinite number of false-starts and mis-directions are explained away through random mutation--natural evolution's all-purpose garbage pail.

The point I'm trying clumsily to get at is that there can be no meaning to the process of natural selection without doing the same thing critics of ID do--i.e. asking why things didn't happen or didn't evolve in a "fitter" way. If evolutionists lean on random mutation and non-teleology to avoid that dilemna, then surely there is no way they can refute the proposition that nature selects for destruction and extinction and that survival is a freaky anomaly caused by harmful mutations.

Posted by: Peter B at May 26, 2005 5:14 AM

creeper:

No, that's hopw it's identical.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 7:13 AM

Anonymous:

No more logical is precisely the point. But why wouldn't the designer have a Creator? We design and we do.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 7:17 AM

OJ: You're just going to have to live with the fact that neither side will seriously consider your "It's Creators all the way down" theory.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 26, 2005 8:06 AM

"No, that's hopw it's identical."

I presume that was in response to my post at 04:56 AM.

If so, then what is the internal contradiction on which the theory of evolution relies?

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 8:35 AM

"But why wouldn't the designer have a Creator? We design and we do."

And who created the creator's creator, and so on?

If "we were created by God" is supposed to be an answer to the question of the origin of life, this circular argument fails to answer it.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 8:38 AM

creeper:

Who cares who Created God? It's an interesting question to ponder, but has no bearing on our own existence and obligations.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 8:41 AM

Darwinism's problems are myriad, starting with the failure of the theory to explain how life originates and ending with the failure of anything to speciate in reality. As a rationalmatter though it is hoist upon the circularity of the idea that whatever survives survived because it had superior survivabilty.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 8:43 AM

"It's an interesting question to ponder, but has no bearing on our own existence and obligations."

The same, I suppose, goes for: Who cares where life came from? Who cares whether God exists?

But if the argument is that life and intelligence can not have sprung out of nothing, but must have been designed, then the question of where that designer (be it a deity or an alien) came from is certainly relevant. And that's where the internal contradiction lies: Once you answer that that entity either sprang into existence or that the argument for some reason doesn't apply to him, then on a conceptual level it also doesn't apply to life and intelligence in the first place. Obviously it is possible for intelligence at some point to emerge from non-intelligence, whether here on Earth or at the beginning of either the deity or the alien.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 8:49 AM

"Darwinism's problems are myriad, starting with the failure of the theory to explain how life originates and ending with the failure of anything to speciate in reality."

The origin of life simply does not fall under the theory of evolution, but under abiogenesis. There are several plausible explanations for the origin of life as it is, though it is not certain which of these is the right one. These facts have no impact on the validity of the theory of evolution, however.

Plenty of speciation has occurred in reality; perhaps not in the absurd timeframes in which you would like to see them, but that doesn't make it not so.

"As a rationalmatter though it is hoist upon the circularity of the idea that whatever survives survived because it had superior survivabilty."

This is not the crux of the matter - it is a simple and obvious truth that stands not on its own, but as part of a larger argument (though not much larger) that beneficial variations will survive and propagate in greater numbers (and thus be 'held' as a basis for future variations). Once you see this as a recursive process over a long time, it makes variation and increasing complexity possible.

The fact that a part of this argument is blindingly obvious is hardly to its discredit.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 8:57 AM

creeper:

We do. It's the only question that matters.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 9:16 AM

Why do some things survive? Because they have better survivability. How do you know that? They survived.

It's a perfect circle, which is its attraction, but not science.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 9:18 AM

It's only a small part of the argument, it is not invalid, and you harp on it because you want to avoid dealing with the implications of some variations surviving and propagating in larger numbers than other variations, making morphological change and increasing complexity possible over time and successive generations.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 9:22 AM

"We do. It's the only question that matters."

Which one? I find them both somewhat interesting, but then I also find the question "Who created the creator?" interesting when someone tries to argue that we can't exist without a creator/designer.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 9:26 AM

creeper:

It's the whole argument and its circularity makes it undisprovable, thereby fostering the religious faith aspect but making it useless as science.

That things don't vary much nor the varieties that do exist fail to survive in any significant manner is simply an interesting fact.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 10:18 AM

David:

Everyone accepts it, we just don''t like having to consider it.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 10:30 AM

If you think "What survives, survives" is the whole argument of the theory of evolution, then do you think all mathematics stops at "2+2=4"?

You're purposefully ignoring not just most of the argument, but also vast chunks of science.

The fact that "what survives, survives" is obvious doesn't make it wrong - and it is only the first part of the natural selection argument.

What survives, survives and propagates in greater numbers, hence enabling increased variation and complexity over successive generations.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 10:39 AM

"Everyone accepts it, we just don''t like having to consider it."

I don't accept it. It's nonsense. I thought you were kidding when you proposed it.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 10:59 AM

creeper:

Yes, 2 + 2 =4 is merely an assertion and only true within a closed system of logic with narrowly defined rules. Unlike Darwinism it's useful though.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 11:02 AM

creeper:

Sure you do--you think something precedes the Big Bang, no? Or do you think our Universe is unique and the only thing that's ever existed?

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 11:04 AM

"Unlike Darwinism it's useful though"

Not if you stop at 2+2=4.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 11:09 AM

Peter:

ID posits that eveything is like it is because a designer deliberately made it so. It is therefore open to the query: "so why do such a half-assed job? Why not make things better?" And of course, "Why the extraordinary slaughter (in terms of the extinction of 99% of all the species that ever lived)."

Natural selection doesn't have to answer these questions, but it can. The are no pressures to attain some objective 'perfection' or move in any particular direction. The direction is arbitrary.

The only pressures are: 'is it sufficient to suvive (and reproduce)?' and 'Does it convey an advantage, however small, over rival members of the species, in the likelihood of being able to reproduce'.

So half-assed is what you end up getting. Thus the astonishing failure rate, and all the rubbish like cancer, appendicitis and ...piles.

Posted by: Brit at May 26, 2005 11:10 AM

Well put, Brit.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 11:13 AM

Brit:

Not everything. Design is only needed at certain broad points.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 11:13 AM

"Not everything. Design is only needed at certain broad points."

And the rest of the time it evolves?

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 11:15 AM

I consider it likely that something preceded the Big Bang. I don't consider it likely that there has always been intelligent life in the Universe, least of all during the couple of seconds after the Big Bang.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 11:18 AM

So OJ, you are saying that natural selection is sufficient to explain evolution (other than these 'broad points', of course)?

Posted by: Brit at May 26, 2005 11:18 AM

OJ: Don't feel bad. Nobody accepts my completely seamless, all-encompassing and powerfully explanatory "G-d as author" metaphor, either.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 26, 2005 11:25 AM

David:

Most do--in the Beginning was the Word.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 11:48 AM

Brit:

It suffices to explain the rather narrow variution within species, which is what Darwin had observed farmers producing.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 11:50 AM

creeper:

Yes, intervention comes at speciation points and morphological changes. The designer(s) appear rather indifferent to variation within species and forms.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 11:51 AM

Then you're but a whisker away, OJ.

That whisker is realising what a species is. The key word is 'population.'

Posted by: Brit at May 26, 2005 12:00 PM

Brit:

Yes, it'd population that disproves survival. They all survive until something intervenes--either intelligence (humans) or something from without the biosphere (not Nature).

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 12:09 PM

No - a change in climate would do the trick.

And what is this strange obsession of yours with the biosphere as some kind of limit? You never really explained that.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 12:14 PM

All else is by definition supernatural.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 12:19 PM

All else is by definition supernatural.

The word you're looking for is 'nature', not 'biosphere'. Nature doesn't stop at the limits of our atmosphere.

biosphere, n.

1. The part of the earth and its atmosphere in which living organisms exist or that is capable of supporting life.
2. The living organisms and their environment composing the biosphere.


Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 12:25 PM

creeper:

Sure it does, but I reduced it to biosphere for you. same difference.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 12:33 PM

"All else is by definition supernatural."

This "all else" is nature, not just our planet. By your definition, the moon would be supernatural. And that ain't the case: the moon is part of the natural world.

supernatural, adj.

1. Of or relating to existence outside the natural world.
2. Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces.
3. Of or relating to a deity.
4. Of or relating to the immediate exercise of divine power; miraculous.
5. Of or relating to the miraculous.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 12:47 PM

"They all survive until something intervenes--either intelligence (humans) or something from without the biosphere (not Nature)."

... or nature.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 12:49 PM

"Yes, intervention comes at speciation points and morphological changes."

So at which point in this do you think the designer(s) swooped in and weaved their magic? To accomplish what?

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 12:56 PM

Yes, outside the biosphere is supernatural.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 1:04 PM

The only intervention required would be at the point where mammals were created.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 1:08 PM

Yes, it's the impossibility of telling which of the three but insisting on one that makes Darwinism a belief.

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

the moon is supernatural.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 1:11 PM

Brit:

Finally an honest man. The direction is arbitrary. So, mutations can lead to survival or extinction or stasis or anything in between. No way of predicitng and no guarantee that it might not change course abruptly from whichever way it was headed. Stuff all over the place headed every which way. Have I got it?

So, why do evolutionists continue to talk about natural selection as if it were some special and distinct process and component to the theory? Why do they persist in leaving the public and kids in school with the impression that there is some sort of materialist life-force driving it and working around all those useless random mutations? Whence the silly just-so stories and trade-offs? Why not its mirror concept, natural extinction, which as you point out is much more frequent? And why call it a "theory" at all, when it appears to be nothing more than a categorization of outcomes?

(BTW--Congrats on the soccer win. Something similar happened with our hockey team. All tied at the end, so they fipped a coin and we won! Ecstasy and pandemonium when it came up tails, because we knew then we were the best!)

Posted by: Peter B at May 26, 2005 1:33 PM

Mr. Judd;

Yes, I'm a designer by trade. Most designs are far from optimal, which accounts for the massive rate of failure, particularly in my area, computer software. Are you suggesting that there might be a host of Designers, futzing with species in some sort of competition? Further, much bad design is caused by the rush to market. Would Designers operating on multi-million year time scales suffer from a similar problem?

As for your other point, that "Nature doesn't give a fig between different designs", Nature does in fact distinguish between different designs. At a minimum, non-functional designs don't persist as long as functional ones.

Peter B;

Perhaps I should send you my doctoral thesis which was all about design and which touched heavily upon "design archaeology". It turns out that frequently, for the types of things I design, that the designers themselves don't know or have forgotten why certain features are present in the final design. To answer such "why" questions, one can try to reconstruct such information either teleologically or phenomenonilogically, i.e. "what did he mean" vs "what did he do". Both are useful, depending on the use you have for the information. So it can be useful to consider evolutionary history in a teleological way, even if that's not what really happened. Evolutionary theory is a tool to do this kind of "paradigm structuring" of paleontological data. Though OJ mocks "just-so" stories, such things are quite useful constructs for subsequent designers trying to understand and modifying an existing system (part of my thesis work was building tools to construct such stories for software designs for exactly that purpose).

P.S. I think what is frequently lost in the "better" / "fitter" arguments is that such properties are partial orderings and strongly context dependent, whereas most people speak of it as if it were a total ordering and context free. As you note, the only true judgement of fitness is survival. That doesn't mean we can't create heuristics or design principles to anticipate such judgements.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at May 26, 2005 2:03 PM

aog: do you see the parallels between dna and s/w ? with genes being patterns ?

i tend to leave old code in (commented out) so there is a record of what was tried and why it was changed, so i don't start going in circles.

just the other day i was thinking it is beneficial to approach a new area "naively" so that you really know (like a baby who has touched a hot stove) why things are done the way they are.

do you think oj is a mapper or a packer ? :)

Posted by: cjm at May 26, 2005 2:29 PM

AOG:

Thank-you, but you seem to be talking about design. I'm not trying to defend ID, nor even questionning that all those evolutionary changes occurred. I'm simply trying to argue that the notion of natural selection as a theory or process or tendency or whatever has no meaning when you: a)start with the assumption all mutations are random and unguided; and b) insist the process is non-teleological. It's just a descriptive history that says some species beat the odds and some didn't. No?

BTW, I opened those links of yours in high hopes they would improve my understanding. Frightened myself terribly. :-)

Posted by: Peter B at May 26, 2005 2:53 PM

"Yes, it's the impossibility of telling which of the three but insisting on one that makes Darwinism a belief."

Um, all three are part of the natural world.

"the moon is supernatural."

Are we talking about that chunk of rock that's orbiting the Earth? Or are you talking about something else that goes by the name of 'moon'?

If it's the chunk of rock, what makes you think it's supernatural?

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 3:11 PM

It's not part of Nature.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 3:26 PM

AOG:

Yes, there are by definition billions of designers. But, even more to the point, you're dealing in designs of rudimentary things, not universes.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 3:31 PM

"So, mutations can lead to survival or extinction or stasis or anything in between. No way of predicitng and no guarantee that it might not change course abruptly from whichever way it was headed. Stuff all over the place headed every which way. Have I got it?"

Not at all. Though the mutations at each generation are random, the direction of the change over successive generations is toward increased fitness. That is not arbitrary.

Natural selection is not an active force that pushes mutations in the right direction, whatever that may be. It is simply the logical consequence of reiterating a process in which successive generations mutate in small random variations; those to whom this represents an advantage in surviving and reproducing will do so in greater numbers, and hence beneficial variations/mutations (strictly depending on the context) can be 'held' and built upon.

If, say, a longer tail happens to be beneficial for a certain organism, and the organism reproduces, say, ten random variations, of which some have shorter tails and some longer, then those with longer tails will survive and reproduce in higher proportion, passing on the trait of the longer tail. At the next generation, the organism already has a slightly longer tail, and again produces offspring with ten random variations, some with shorter tails and some longer. Again, those with longer tails will survive and reproduce in larger proportions, for as long as this represents a survival advantage in the context. Reiterate a few thousand times.

Having said that, this creature can have this superbly optimal tail, but find itself extinct because of a climate change or a predator who figures out that these animals are really easy to catch if you just step on their tail.

The process is not teleological, since no entity has decided in advance how 'fit' is defined (it is wholly dependent on environmental factors), or what the organism in question is supposed to look like in the end.

"It's just a descriptive history that says some species beat the odds and some didn't. No?"

Not quite. It does allow for a naturalistic explanation of how organisms can become increasingly complex over time.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 4:00 PM

"It's not part of Nature."

And what is the definition that you have invented for 'Nature'?

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 4:04 PM

If, say, a longer tail happens to be beneficial for a certain organism, and the organism reproduces, say, ten random variations, of which some have shorter tails and some longer, then those with longer tails will survive and reproduce in higher proportion, passing on the trait of the longer tail. At the next generation, the organism already has a slightly longer tail, and again produces offspring with ten random variations, some with shorter tails and some longer. Again, those with longer tails will survive and reproduce in larger proportions, for as long as this represents a survival advantage in the context. Reiterate a few thousand times?.

Whoa. Not only are you "holding" the mutation, you are holding everything around it so that the context in which the the longer tail can be said to be beneficial or not stays the same for (as you never tire of telling us) huge swaths of time and thousands of generations. Same climate, same food to hunt, same predators, same little icky things causing disease, etc. But of course it doesn't work that way by definition. Everything is mutating willy-nilly, climate is changing, predator and food populations are in a constant state of flux and even disappearing and popping up out of nowhere. How the heck could a long tail be said to be beneficial over so many generations such as to support these mutations going in the same direction?

Posted by: Peter B at May 26, 2005 4:28 PM

Peter,

It was a simplified example for argument's sake, but you may have glossed over this bit: "Again, those with longer tails will survive and reproduce in larger proportions, for as long as this represents a survival advantage in the context."

Sometimes the environment changes rapidly, sometimes it is relatively stable for a very long time. If the environment and survival pressures are relatively constant for, say, 100 generations, then natural selection can certainly have an impact on an organism over the course of those generations, especially in a relatively small population.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 4:40 PM

You should be real careful about getting science reporting from the New Yorker.

I noticed, for example, that ID is 'loosely allied' with 'conservative Christian groups.'

The correct description would be 'joined at the hip.'

And that Dembski publishes at a 'staggering pace.'

The correct description would be 'one peer-reviewed paper in mathematics in his whole life.'

Posted by: Harry Eagar at May 26, 2005 4:42 PM

creeper:

The standard one that Darwin used: "The world of living things and the outdoors"

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 4:46 PM

Harry:

Geez, I'd think you'd be more worried about comparing Evolution to putting GPS in cars...

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 4:55 PM

You of all people clinging to Darwin, that's a good one. :-)

So if it's not living or to be found outdoors, it's supernatural? You might have missed these other parts of the definition of 'nature':

1. The material world and its phenomena.

2. The forces and processes that produce and control all the phenomena of the material world.

No, Orrin, the moon is not supernatural. It is part of the material world.

Posted by: creeper at May 26, 2005 5:02 PM

We were discussing Nature, not the material world. Include the whole material world and you've lost the argument already.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 5:11 PM

evolution doesn't always lead to greater fitness, it can just as easily leaad to lesser fitness, especially in closed populations. something that lead to ever greater fitness would imply...intelligence :)

Posted by: cjm at May 26, 2005 5:39 PM

Hey Harry:

As a lawyer, I can tell you that, once someone makes an allegation of fraud or bad faith, a good lawyer can make the choice of orange or grapefruit juice for breakfast appear highly suspicious and fraught with underhanded motives. We've got a good debate going here and you've read a lot of books. Join it, and drop the sneer.

Posted by: Peter B at May 26, 2005 5:59 PM

You don't have a good debate going here. Lawyerly arguments have no place in a scientific debate.

I take Orrin's refusal to engage evolution on its own terms as a concession that he cannot find any real flaws in it. My role, having driven him to that position, it so remind lurkers that he is not complaining about veritable darwinism but his weird mutation of it.


Robert Pennock, ed., "Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics" is a good place to start. It includes original articles by Behe, Dembski, Johnson etc.


[Editor's note: We're not sure where Harry came up with this heroic self-congratiulatory bit about his overwhelming defense of Darwinism, but you can just refer to the one post on our agreed arbiter of Darwinism, Ernst Mayr, to see that he's never managed to get past the notion that it's a mere philosophy. It's revealing though that Darwinists can never withstand legal-style debate--it's a purely rational theory and fails the test of reasoned discussion. As a matter of science you need no more than Mayr's disavowal.]

Posted by: Harry Eagar at May 26, 2005 6:26 PM

"Lawyerly arguments have no place in a scientific debate"

Thus speaketh the voice of AUTHORITY.

Harry, you remind me of a quip about the human condition I heard many years ago: "In the end, we all become the thing we hate the most."

Posted by: Peter B at May 26, 2005 6:59 PM

creeper;

then why do tail lengths vary?

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 7:14 PM

harry is the scratch in the record.

Posted by: cjm at May 26, 2005 7:15 PM

Let me rephrase that, Peter.

If you go to the library and pull down a whole shelfful of real debates among real scientists, you will not find any lawyerly arguments. (If, to take a topical example, you pull down Tanis Edis, 'Why Intelligent Design Fails,' you will see Behe demolished, but the arguments are not lawyerly.

Orrin, continues to misrepresent Mayr and ignore the observations and assertions of biologists.

You'd think that if darwinism were so vulnerable, he'd just punch right at it. He doesn't. I conclude it's because he cannot. QED.

There was a noticeable change in tone in his posts, though, once a few of us who actually knew some biology started visiting.

The arguments from ignorance had worked well enough with the ignorant, I guess. Old habits are hard to break, especially for traditionalists.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at May 26, 2005 8:39 PM

Harry:

What are you talking about? It's wrong from the word go--nothing speciates not changes in any significant way morphologically. Darwinism made an astute observation that just as farmers could breed a variety of pigs or cows Nature itself might be able to produce variety too. It does but just as Man hasn't produced speciation neither has Nature, something else seems to be required, an intervention from without the system.

Darwinists have been so troubled by this reality that they've perpetrated a series of frauds and, if we're charitable, overstated some observations: Darwin's finches, Haeckel's embryos, Piltdown Man, peppered moths, archaeopteryx, fruit flies, hobbits, etc. They've periodically juiced the theory when it was dying but seem out of tricks. They've still never produced an actual instance of Evolution.

As for Mayr, it hardly seems necessary to drag the poor man out of the crypt again, but he stated over and over that unlike the physical sciences Evolution is a historical science and a philosophy. It happens to have been the one that you and he believe in. More power to you. But it's not science as we use the term in other fields.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 8:53 PM

The funniest thing about Edis on I.D. is that he insists that the design has to be done by God or else the theory wouldn't be proposed but then complains that when people write about I.D. they're so vague about who or what the intelligence is and what the design might be that they're hard to refute, therby supporting the theory, though not his strawman version of it.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 9:08 PM

harry you un-magnificent b*****d, if dariwn is science, then please use it to make a prediction.
tell me when a new species will appear or when an existing species will disappear. use it in any way at all. short of that, STFU.

Posted by: cjm at May 26, 2005 9:31 PM

Peter B;

No, I claim that one can extract useful information out of the fossil record and biological data by using evolutionary theory, even though things are the result of random processes. Ask anyone who does simulations for a living. When you create a "just-so" story, it can teach you something about how the organism works, even if that's not how it got that way. It's a conceptual framing that helps extract higher level information from the raw data. I'm not sure if that's "meaning" or not.

I think evolutionary theory is accurate as well, but that's not required for it to be useful anymore than Ptolemy's epicycles. If OJ's postulated better, truer theory comes along then we might abandon current evolutionary theory the way Copernican astronomy obviated Ptolemy's, but that hasn't happened yet.

cjm;

Google "conversationbuilder" if you want some more information or drop me an e-mail.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at May 26, 2005 9:51 PM

AOG:

I don't postulate a better theory, nor is one required--it's sufficient that we know the current one to be wrong.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 10:59 PM

"We were discussing Nature, not the material world."

"Nature" with a capital N is a term whose definition you invented for whatever reason, and it appears to be "nature" minus whatever you find inconvenient. "The world of living things and the outdoors" is indeed part of the definition of "nature" (which is a real word with commonly understood and agreed meanings), but it is not the only part:

nature, n.

1. The material world and its phenomena.

2. The forces and processes that produce and control all the phenomena of the material world: the laws of nature.

3. The world of living things and the outdoors: the beauties of nature.

4. A primitive state of existence, untouched and uninfluenced by civilization or artificiality: couldn't tolerate city life anymore and went back to nature.

5. Theology. Humankind's natural state as distinguished from the state of grace.

6. A kind or sort: confidences of a personal nature.

7. The essential characteristics and qualities of a person or thing: She was only strong and sweet and in her nature when she was really deep in trouble (Gertrude Stein).

8. The fundamental character or disposition of a person; temperament: Strange natures made a brotherhood of ill (Percy Bysshe Shelley).

9. The natural or real aspect of a person, place, or thing. See Synonyms at disposition.

10. The processes and functions of the body.

"Include the whole material world and you've lost the argument already."

How so? Which part of the material world do I need to exclude?

It's pretty clear that it is you who for reasons that are utterly unclear finds it necessary to carve chunks out of definitions and make a mockery of the meaning of words. The supernatural is not anything beyond the limits of our atmosphere:

supernatural, adj.

1. Of or relating to existence outside the natural world.
2. Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces.
3. Of or relating to a deity.
4. Of or relating to the immediate exercise of divine power; miraculous.
5. Of or relating to the miraculous.

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 12:53 AM

"then why do tail lengths vary?"

On individual species of the same generation, due to variability of traits. Between different species or variations within species, because the trait had a different survival values for the different species.

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 12:57 AM

In other words: tail length doesn't matter.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 1:05 AM

To whom?

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 1:06 AM

Yes, for Darwinism though it has to be #3, or else all may be Intelligent Design.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 1:07 AM

"Yes, for Darwinism though it has to be #3, or else all may be Intelligent Design."

First of all, how so?

Second, there is absolutely no need for Darwinism to impose an arbitrary limit to "nature", though for some reason you find it necessary to make this claim to make an argument of your own, though it is as yet unclear what that argument is supposed to be. Apparently you make up a definition about Nature ending with our atmosphere so you can then claim that Darwinism relies on "something outside of Nature" (meaning outside our atmosphere), which you can then (ludicrously) re-define as the "supernatural".

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 1:13 AM

The theory of evolution functions quite well in the context of the entire material world, and does not require the arbitrary exclusion of some part of it.

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 1:18 AM

"As for Mayr, it hardly seems necessary to drag the poor man out of the crypt again, but he stated over and over that unlike the physical sciences Evolution is a historical science and a philosophy."

While I'm glad to see you've come around to admitting that Mayr called evolutionary biology a science, I think there is yet another misunderstanding at play here: Mayr did not call evolutionary biology a philosophy. He talked about the "philosophy of biology" in the context of "philosophy of science", talking about the philosophical underpinnings of how biology (and evolutionary biology) can be investigated and verified, which is not the same as equating philosophy and biology altogether.

Mayr saw evolutionary biology as a historical science, but restricting itself to physical events, mostly in the past.

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 1:54 AM

Peter:

Think simple. Think obvious. There's no secrets or tricks to it.

Mutation is random. But selection is non-random.

Why is selection non-random? Because it is determined by:

a) what is consistent with survival in the environment (at least, survival long enough to reproduce similar offspring).

b) whether it conveys any kind of advantage, a greater likelihood of reproducing, over other members of the population.

So selection is not entirely random in the way that mutation is. It has determining factors. But, as you say, the environment is in flux. It has no determined direction. A whole load of stuff just happens: climate, terrain, continental drift, dumb luck, migration etc.

It's direction is arbitrary, and natural selection goes with it. Natural selection goes wherever the wind blows.

There's nothing in the theory of natural selection that says that where we are now is special, other than that it's the place we happened to end up.

So to your other points.

"Why do evolutionists continue to talk about natural selection as if it where some distinct process and component to the theory....(and)...why call it a theory at all, when it is just a categorisation of outcomes?"

They don't. Natural selection is just the thing that happens when you have reproduction, mutation and inheritabiility. You can see it in all sorts of things and you can run computer programs to demonstrate it.

What evolutionists say is: "our theory is that evolution in biology happens by natural selection."

(Actually, they think it happens by this plus other things now - modern synthesis - but that's besides this point)

Next: "Why do they persist in leaving the public and kids in school with the impression that there is some sort of life-force driving it and working around all those useless random mutations?"

Well, they don't do this deliberately, is all I can say. There are lots of reasons, I expect. Bad explanation? An unwillingness on behalf of the public and the kids to actually bother to understand it? Or an inherent difficulty in understanding non-teleological explanations. All of the above probably. I happen to think that humans naturally incline to assuming things must have a deliberate cause, perhaps because humans deliberately cause things all the time.

Next: "Why not its mirror content, natural extinction?"

Extinction is part of the study of evolution. There's plenty of literature about it. Maybe it's less interesting than survival for most?

Next: "Whence the silly just-so stories and trade-offs?"

The starting point in evolutionary science is observation of the natural world. It is not a purely rational science to be conducted in one's study. We see things are as they are, and often how they used to be. Evolutionary scientists then they to have their best guess as to why this is the case. They then look to see if the evidence supports it. If not, chuck it out. If yes, keep it as the best explanation for now. Science always has and always will do this. You dont always get all the answers springing fully formed out of nowhere. You have to take a few punts, and work backwards

Incidentally, you mostly only get to see the wackier guesses because they get picked up by the mainstream press and Orrin reports them in an attempt to ridicule evolutionary science.

(Finally, thanks re: Liverpool's historic triumph. We were under no illusions, unlike the coin-tossers though...We know we weren't the best. Makes it all the sweeter.)

Posted by: Brit at May 27, 2005 4:54 AM

Orrin,

"you can just refer to the one post on our agreed arbiter of Darwinism, Ernst Mayr, to see that he's never managed to get past the notion that it's a mere philosophy."

The link didn't work for me, but I'm assuming it was to the earlier "R.I.P., Dr. Mayr" thread. You seem to have an ongoing misunderstanding of "the philosophy of biology" amounting to a classification of biology (or even evolutionary biology) as a philosophy - certainly all the quotes that you've referred to are along those lines.

The difference can best be explained like this:

Science is a project whose goal is to obtain knowledge of the natural world. The philosophy of science is a discipline that deals with the system of science itself. It examines sciences structure, components, techniques, assumptions, limitations, and so forth.

This distinction is clear in Mayr's comments:

These four insights served as the foundation for Darwin's founding of a new branch of the philosophy of science, a philosophy of biology. Despite the passing of a century before this new branch of philosophy fully developed, its eventual form is based on Darwinian concepts.

and:

Steve Mirsky: And the philosophical basis for physics versus biology is what you examine in the book?

EM: [...] I show that biology is as serious, honest, legitimate a science as the physical sciences. All the occult stuff that used to be mixed in with philosophy of biology, like vitalism and teleology Kant after all, when he wanted to describe biology, he put it all on teleology, just to give an example all this sort of funny business I show is out. Biology has exactly the same hard-nosed basis as the physical sciences, consisting of the natural laws.

When Mayr uses the phrase "philosophy of biology", he is by no means dismissing biology as science, nor is he claiming that biology is a philosophy, but that there is a philosophy of biology just as there is a philosophy of science.

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 5:12 AM

Brit:

OK, but then doesn't the argument about whether it all happened naturally or not come down to the central critique some ID'ers make--mathematical probability (about which I am completely unqualified to argue, so don't bother)? The "god of the gaps" argument does nothing for me, but surely natural evolutionists can be called to account by those who try to crunch the numbers and opine on the probability or plausibility of this or that evolved characterisitc occuring over huge swaths of time through selection in the face of so much random genetic and environmental flux all around? Should we be looking to mathematicians and not biologists for the final word?

Moving to the political, you are swallowing a just-so story of your own if you think evolution is being promulgated honestly by diffident, open-minded scientists in the face of a lazy public and ungrateful snotty-nosed kids. One needs spend only an hour in a grade school science class to see that evolution is taught A) as a complete, substantiated package that explains all, including speciation and all human development; and b) as a force which, overall, leads inexorably in an improving direction. It undergirds the progressive mindset and most scientists strike me as quite happy to keep its conceptual difficulties, gaps and inadequacies under wraps, particularly the notion that it isn't going anywhere in particular. Some, like Gould, have tried to confront these honestly, but there are more Dawkins' than Goulds out there. Have you ever tried to confront a scientist with a challenge to his/her authority or the usefulness of his/her research? Most go into Harry-mode pretty quickly.

You know, I think you guys were a lot better off in the good old days when you hung your hats entirely on natural and sexual selection. When you threw in random mutation while trying to keep the full philosophical and psychological implications of natural selection alive, you started chasing your tails. Or, I suppose, you could improve your case by redefining the modern synthesis to include random mutation, genetic drift, natural selection and natural extinction. I'm assuming that isn't done because the cause might lose a few fans and funding sources.

Posted by: Peter B at May 27, 2005 6:39 AM

Peter:

I can't understand your first paragraph other than as a classic logical mishap. What we have now is an unlikely or as likely as a multitidude of other possible outcomes which didn't come out. A bit like the lottery numbers, or any particular sequence of heads and tails in a 1000 coin-tosses.

The odds were infinitely remote of this combination coming up, but there it is! A miracle? Hardly. Somthing had to come up. One of the millions of combinations had to appear. After the event, the chances of the winning combination being the winning combination is 1 in 1.

The second paragraph rather smacks of paranoia, I think. But each to their own opinion.

The third shows you haven't read a lot about evolution. Random mutation and extinction aren't afterthoughts - all part of the picture.

Posted by: Brit at May 27, 2005 6:59 AM

Sigh. You mean I won the trifecta of evolution critics? Illogic, paranoia and ignorance, and all in one post? Wait 'til I tell Mom about this!

Posted by: Peter B at May 27, 2005 7:16 AM

A science which he repeatedly makes clear is not a physical science with laws and the possibility of proof by experimentation and observation, but rather takes existing facts and offers a philosophical narrative of how they might have occurred. It was a good try but y'all got it wrong.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 7:21 AM

"I suppose, you could improve your case by redefining the modern synthesis to include random mutation, genetic drift, natural selection and natural extinction."

Peter, unless I'm misunderstanding you here, isn't natural extinction at least partly included in natural selection as the flipside that fails to propagate?

Or did you mean something else by natural extinction? Doesn't seem to me like it needs to be added to the theory of evolution, as it's already at least implicitly included.

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 7:57 AM

There's no such thing as natural extinction--it's Man or catastrophe.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 8:02 AM

Peter:

OJ can do it in a sentence. You've a way to go yet....

Posted by: Brit at May 27, 2005 8:06 AM

"A science which he repeatedly makes clear is not a physical science with laws and the possibility of proof by experimentation and observation, but rather takes existing facts and offers a philosophical narrative of how they might have occurred."

He also did not say that it offers a "philosophical narrative", but a historical narrative.

Of course our theories are based on something solid, which are concepts. If you go through the theories of evolutionary biology you find that they are all based on concepts such as natural selection, competition, the struggle for existence, female choice, male dominance, etc. There are hundreds of such concepts. In fact, ecology consists almost entirely of such basic concepts. Once again you can ask, how do you know they're true? The answer is that you can know this only provisionally by continuous testing and you have to go back to historical narratives and other non-physicalist methods to determine whether your concept and the consequences that arise from it can be confirmed.
Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 8:09 AM

I thought we had long ago killed natural selection dead. There ain't no such thing, which is why Darwinism is trivial -- not wrong, just uninteresting. If there really were a process through which random mutation resulted in a "direction of the change over successive generations is toward increased fitness", that would be great.

As for outside the biosphere: The Moon, which is not actually a moon, but more of a co-planet, is a bad example. I'm enamored of the theory that the Moon is largely responsible, perhaps even a but-for cause, of life on Earth, both because it collided with Earth, leaving us with more heavy metals than planets seem to otherwise have, and because of its tidal pull churning the oceans and giving us odd weather patterns.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 27, 2005 8:21 AM

was collided

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 8:30 AM

AOG:

I can see how the argument that natural evolution should be accepted pragmatically as a starting point (because there is no other/better natural theory) can be defended as an opening working hypothesis for active scientific inquiry, but it is hardly an authoritative argument for submitting to the logic or philosophy of evolution or, even worse, calling it fact.

creeper:

No, I'm saying that on your own terms, as you have defined natural evolution, there is no reason whatsoever why survival should occur other than by happenstance and that extinction is just as likely. Of course, if I can get you to admit that, as I believe Brit has, I will then point out that it is blindingly obvious that every organism from cells to species will desperately struggle to survive if threatened. Got any theories why?

Posted by: Peter B at May 27, 2005 8:31 AM

"I thought we had long ago killed natural selection dead."

Where?

"there is no reason whatsoever why survival should occur other than by happenstance and that extinction is just as likely"

I'm afraid I don't get you here. If there are a number of variations, some fitter, some less fit (meaning some have characteristics more conducive to survival, some less), then why should survival still be random? Why would the chances of survival not be skewed toward the fitter organisms?

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 8:49 AM

"As for outside the biosphere: The Moon, which is not actually a moon, but more of a co-planet, is a bad example. I'm enamored of the theory that the Moon is largely responsible, perhaps even a but-for cause, of life on Earth, both because it collided with Earth, leaving us with more heavy metals than planets seem to otherwise have, and because of its tidal pull churning the oceans and giving us odd weather patterns."

I think we can agree, at any rate, that the Moon is part of the material world.

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 8:51 AM

creeper:

because there's no such thing as fit and fitter.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 9:12 AM

creeper:

we can agree that all the planets are part of the material world and that some may host intelligent life. Were they conducting an experiment on Earth it would be impossible for us to differentiate their intervention in evolution from that of God or Nature or some other force. make Nature the entire material world and there's nothing left of Natural Selection.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 9:14 AM

David:

Well, you think we killed natural selection dead. I've no idea why you do.

It's the most important factor in evolution, because it alters allele frequency in a population.

Posted by: Brit at May 27, 2005 9:51 AM

Brit:

Yes, that does present you with a problem.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 10:09 AM

Orrin has frequently claimed to disprove Evolution by noting we haven't observed any speciations.

That begs the question: should we have been able to do so?

Let's start with some simplifying assumptions:

--Life started 2.5 billion years ago
--There are 10 million species today
--The species existing today represent 1% of all species that ever existed (ie., 1 billion)
--The philogenetic tree is topologically identical to a binary tree. That is, if any instance of speciation is the result of a contiguous population becoming two distinct populations.
--Speciation is stepwise (that is, at each tick of the clock, every existing species becomes two different species)
--Ignore extinctions

What is the minimum speciation interval that produce at least 1 billion species?

Answer: each species becoming two once every 71.4 million years; that rate, BTW, produces 4.3 billion species.

Now, let's take extinction into account.

First, some simplifying assumptions:
--At the last major extinction 65 million years ago, there were 10 million species.
--99% became extinct, leaving 100,000 species

What speciation rate is required to recover to 10m million today?

Answer: each species becoming two once every 8 million years.

In other words, arguing that Evolution conclusively fails because we haven't observed a speciation sometime during human history is pretty silly, because the odds of such a thing happening during the observation period is vanishingly small.

Perhaps, then, we shall hear no more of this red herring.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at May 27, 2005 10:16 AM

Jeff:

Yes, we just happen to be in a stasis period where the end that Darwinism began with is unchanging.

Every species is perfect in this best of all possible worlds. And, not coincidentally, Man is at the top of the Chain! How self-flattering a faith...

But lest I seem petty, congratulations on your admission that there's been no speciation in at least human history nor any realistic possibility of any in the future.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 10:22 AM

creeper:

Yes, it's a nonphysical science of philosophical concepts that tries to describe how history occurred, just like Marxism.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 10:30 AM

OJ:

????

You made an implicit assertion regarding rate. That assertion is false.

Your use of the terms "stasis", "perfect", "top of the Chain" are perfect non-sequitors.

Concluding that there has been no speciation in human history is both irrelevant and ridiculous, and serves to highlight innumeracy nearly beyond comprehension. (NB: the odds are roughly .04% that such a thing has occurred; much, much smaller that we could observe it)

What you need to admit is that given the time involved, Evolution can both completely explain the number of species, and that the speciation rate is such that it is extremely unlikely we could have possibly observed such a thing.

And, therefore, stop throwing up that red herring, because it amounts to a self-inflicted wound.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at May 27, 2005 11:31 AM

Jeff:

You are confounding the argument that speciation didn't occur because we didn't observe it with the observation that it is unproven. Not the same thing.

Posted by: Peter B at May 27, 2005 11:55 AM

i can use newton's laws to predict planetary motion and other useful things. the laws of chemistry permit me to do many useful things. what can i use darwinism for ? when one of his proponent's here can actually use darwinism for anything, anything at all, then i will gladly accept it as science. otherwise its just arguing how many species can fit on the head of a pin. science is the search for truth; what are the darwinists searching for ?

Posted by: cjm at May 27, 2005 12:06 PM

Jeff:

The rate, as you acknowledge, is 0. No amount of time x 0 = greater than 0

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 12:25 PM

cjm:

A way out from under morality.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 12:39 PM

CJM:

What can you use plate tectonics for?

OJ:

You can't possibly be that innumerate.

The rate is one daughter species per species per 8 million years. Not only is that rate not zero, it is so far from zero as to produce an increase from 100,000 to 12,800,000 in 65 million years.

Until you can understand even simple mathematical arguments, perhaps you should refrain from making them--you just end up looking silly.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at May 27, 2005 12:51 PM

Jeff:

You just acknowledged that speciation has never been observed and isn't likely to be, so the rate is 0. The rest is wishful thinking, or faith.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 1:06 PM

Brit & creeper: Because we've agreed that nature is not red in tooth and claw, and thus survival is not an indicia of fitness, other than the tautological, and uninteresting, survival = fitness. If survival = fitness, then there can't be a long-term bias in favor of increased fitness. Finally, all the other stuff that's happening -- asteroids or antibiotics -- swamps whatever small effect natural selection would otherwise have.

All of this is separate from the essential problem of considering "natural selection" a process. Mutations happen. Very rarely, a mutation will be expressed, compatible with survival and spread throughout the genome. Entirely separately, stuff happens that kills off individuals. To describe these separate events as a process is to bring to a mass of stuff happening the human propensity to find patterns in any set of facts, regardless of whether those facts are related -- the same propensity that drives us to religions.

Which brings us back to our old friend, teleology. Darwinism (the theory imposed on the facts) is teleological because it can't but end up with us.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 27, 2005 1:37 PM

OJ:

Your conclusion is so absolutely nonsensical as to make yourself appear a fool.

You have insisted Evolution requires us to observed speciation in progress. That is, as I have demonstrated, patent nonsense.

As for your concluding the rate is zero, you seem to be utterly at sea at distinguishing between rate and quantity.

David:

Again, your use of teleology seems unusually strained. Just for the moment, take Evolution as stipulated--it then is a process that has existed as long as life, irrespective of whether any organism with enough mental horsepower to conceive the explanation exists.

Also, nature doesn't have to red in tooth and claw for natural selection to function. Courtesy of plate tectonics, all parcels of the Earth's surface have transited essentially all climatic zones. Even in the complete absence of any competitive struggle to survive, those climatic changes would have wiped out virtually all terrestrial life absent recursion and variation.

In other words, even if Natural Selection were found to be wholly wrong, that doesn't mean there isn't a naturalistic explanation for evolution.

Or that such explanation is teleological. Otherwise, your use of the term is trivial: all explanations are teleological because none existed prior to humans making them.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at May 27, 2005 3:14 PM

"Darwinism (the theory imposed on the facts) is teleological because it can't but end up with us."

Whatever theory we wish to pick to explain what got us to be here has to end up with us, out of pure necessity.

That does not mean that we were the goal that was picked out at the beginning of whatever process we speculate about.

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 3:36 PM

"If survival = fitness, then there can't be a long-term bias in favor of increased fitness."

I'm afraid I don't follow: If fitness = possessing characteristics necessary to survive and reproduce, then this necessitates a long-term bias in favor of increased fitness, commensurate to survival pressure, ie. the bias is more pronounced when survival pressure is stronger, less so when it is now.

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 4:01 PM

My apologies, the last word in my previous comment should have read "not", not "now".

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 4:09 PM

"A way out from under morality."

I feel no need to escape from morality, and I wonder what exactly you make of the term when you so freely discard honesty.

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 4:11 PM

"Yes, it's a nonphysical science of philosophical concepts that tries to describe how history occurred, just like Marxism."

That whole science vs. philosophy of science distinction is really throwing you for a loop, huh?

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 4:30 PM

cjm, particulate inheritance.

I could list dozens and a professional biologist could name hundreds, but particulate inheritance is the biggie.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at May 27, 2005 4:33 PM

"Every species is perfect in this best of all possible worlds. And, not coincidentally, Man is at the top of the Chain! How self-flattering a faith..."

The theory of evolution is an attempt to explain how what is here today came to be. Hardly surprising that its conclusion as to where this would result in in the present day is, no, wait for it: what is here today.

That in itself is not self-flattering, nor is it even teleological, as some would have it. For us to assume that we are the end and pinnacle of creation is to presume that we will develop no further from this point on. Or, as some would have it, to presume the Rapture.

I'm not in either of those camps.

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 4:37 PM

creeper: Exactly. All theorizing is teleological.

Jeff: I don't deny evolution. I deny that evolution is interesting and/or profound. I deny fitness and that there is any natural process that creates new generations more fit than past generations. I deny that nature "selects" because I deny that nature has a personality or free will. A bunch of stuff happened and here we are. What is interesting is where we're going, not where we've been. Remember Cohen's Rule: History is bad; the more you have the worse off you are. That applies to natural history, too.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 27, 2005 4:40 PM

creeper: Which is more fit: T. Rex or h. sap.?

Posted by: David Cohen at May 27, 2005 4:43 PM

"Yes, that does present you with a problem."

So where do any of youns think natural selection was ever killed dead?

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 4:48 PM

Harry:

That's genetics and has nothing to do with Evolution. Indeed, the signal fact about the development of genetics was that it didn't need Darwinism.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 4:51 PM

David,

You serious? Still insisting on an absolute definition of fitness?

"T Rex" and "h. sap." lived in different worlds.

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 4:55 PM

creeper:

The philosophy of science tells us why people at given times believed various things that we now see to be absurd. Darwinism was just a "science" peculiar to its Smithian moment.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 4:59 PM

Jeff:

If the quantity is zero the rate is zero.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 5:05 PM

Orrin,

"If the quantity is zero the rate is zero."

Exactly.

And since the quantity is not zero, the rate is not zero. That's where you went wrong, and that was Jeff's point.

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 5:09 PM

No, creeper, my point is that there is no "fitness". If there were, and if evolution resulted in increased fitness, than h. sap. would necessarily be more fit than T. Rex. As we agree that we're not, we must agree that evolution doesn't result in increased fitness.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 27, 2005 5:11 PM

He acknowledged the quantity is zero.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 5:13 PM

OJ: It's so simple. We have species because we have evolution, and we have evolution because we have species. What more proof do you need. It's seamless, I tell you. Seamless.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 27, 2005 5:15 PM

"He acknowledged the quantity is zero."

Jeff said:

each species becoming two once every 71.4 million years; that rate, BTW, produces 4.3 billion species.

...

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 5:16 PM

creeper:

No, zero observed instances of speciation via Natural selection. No one quarrels with evolution, just Evolution.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 5:21 PM

David:

Does make it hard to discuss it rationally with them when they're trapped in their perfect big shiny bubble.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 5:23 PM

"No, creeper, my point is that there is no "fitness". If there were, and if evolution resulted in increased fitness, than h. sap. would necessarily be more fit than T. Rex. As we agree that we're not, we must agree that evolution doesn't result in increased fitness."

David, of any of the defenders of the anti-evolutionist crowd around here I would pick you to be the least likely to be willfully ignorant. By a long shot, actually. But what to make of this?

Homo Sapiens and Tyrannosaurus Rex live/d in different worlds. At one point, the environment was such that T. Rex was the top dog. Fast forward millions of years, he's a goner and it's mammals all over the place.

Start a nuclear war tomorrow and millions of years from now some descendants of cockroaches or whatever will be the dominant species. There is no way to tell whether T. Rex or H. Sap or C. Roach are "fitter" - they all were/are/will be in different worlds and sets of circumstances.

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 5:39 PM

Orrin,

"No, zero observed instances of speciation via Natural selection"

All you're doing here is running away from Jeff's question:

Orrin has frequently claimed to disprove Evolution by noting we haven't observed any speciations.

That begs the question: should we have been able to do so?

Let's start with some simplifying assumptions:

--Life started 2.5 billion years ago
--There are 10 million species today
--The species existing today represent 1% of all species that ever existed (ie., 1 billion)
--The philogenetic tree is topologically identical to a binary tree. That is, if any instance of speciation is the result of a contiguous population becoming two distinct populations.
--Speciation is stepwise (that is, at each tick of the clock, every existing species becomes two different species)
--Ignore extinctions

What is the minimum speciation interval that produce at least 1 billion species?

Answer: each species becoming two once every 71.4 million years; that rate, BTW, produces 4.3 billion species.

Now, let's take extinction into account.

First, some simplifying assumptions:
--At the last major extinction 65 million years ago, there were 10 million species.
--99% became extinct, leaving 100,000 species

What speciation rate is required to recover to 10m million today?

Answer: each species becoming two once every 8 million years.

In other words, arguing that Evolution conclusively fails because we haven't observed a speciation sometime during human history is pretty silly, because the odds of such a thing happening during the observation period is vanishingly small.

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 5:47 PM

creeper:

Yes, so you and Jeff start, as you must, from zero instances of speciation by Natural Selection. The rest is faith.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 5:52 PM

David, of any of the defenders of the anti-evolutionist crowd around here I would pick you to be the least likely to be willfully ignorant.

Hey, Mr. Smartypants Cohen, how did you get to be the darling of the darwinist tag team? I must say I was darn insulted creeper thought you are smarter than me, but then I saw the word "wilfilly" and realized he just thought you were more honest. I feel a lot better now.

Posted by: Peter B at May 27, 2005 6:03 PM

"Darwinism was just a "science" peculiar to its Smithian moment."

Your hero Mayr was pretty happy with biology and evolutionary biology being a science in its present state, and was quite enthusiastic about its future to boot:

Molecular biology indeed made some magnificent contributions to our understanding of evolutionsuch as that the material of inheritance is nucleic acid rather than proteins and that the genetic code is the same for all organisms from the bacteria up, indicating a single origin of lifebut it did not touch the basic Darwinian framework. Perhaps the greatest contribution made by molecular biology was that it gave a new lease on life to developmental biology, which for several decades had been virtually dormant. One could refer to the last 50 years as the era of nucleic acids. But DNA only gives information and instructions; the real work in development is done by proteins. I foresee that the next 50 years will be more and more an era of the proteins.
Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 6:19 PM

Orrin,

"Yes, so you and Jeff start, as you must, from zero instances of speciation by Natural Selection. The rest is faith."

Are there instances of speciation? Of any kind, by whatever method?

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 6:25 PM

No. Why would there be?

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 6:36 PM

creeper:

Yes, Mayr was quite blunt about Darwinism being a philosophy, but his chosen philosophy. That kind of honesty is rare. Then again, he was smarter than his followers. It's unlikely they grasp what he was saying...

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 6:54 PM

"No. Why would there be?"

Perhaps the difference between "the fact of evolution" and "the theory of evolution" still eludes you. "The fact of evolution" does not mean that "the theory of evolution" is such a certainty as to be a fact. They are two different things. For you not to understand that there would be speciation by whatever mechanism is to deny the fact of evolution, and that is a mighty peculiar position, one that I think you'll have a hard time backing up in any way, unless you want to deny that dinosaurs ever existed, and deny the entire fossil record for that matter. You're welcome to make that claim, though. Don't let me stop you.

"Mayr was quite blunt about Darwinism being a philosophy"

Not in any way that he expressed. Least of all bluntly. He talked about the philosophy of science and the philosophy of biology, but he was always quite clear that both biology and evolutionary biology (a subset of biology) are a science, not a philosophy.

There is no quote of his to the contrary, as I'm fairly sure you're aware of at this point.

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 7:36 PM

Orrin,

In this part of an earlier comment of mine (quoting Jeff), you chose to add this highlight:

"In other words, arguing that Evolution conclusively fails because we haven't observed a speciation sometime during human history is pretty silly, because the odds of such a thing happening during the observation period is vanishingly small."

Did you read the bit after it?

"In other words, arguing that Evolution conclusively fails because we haven't observed a speciation sometime during human history is pretty silly, because the odds of such a thing happening during the observation period is vanishingly small."

Posted by: creeper at May 27, 2005 7:57 PM

creeper:

it's, of course, bizarre to postulate that every species has been in a unique period of stasis for these 10,000 years, but I chose to simply accept your concession that species has been static. That's the whole ballgame. After that we move out of the realm of science.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 8:05 PM

Peter: It's just the old soft-soap. I'd like to say that it's recognition of my vastly superior intellect but ... hmm, hold on ... yes, it's recognition of my vastly superior intellect.

Although, it's a little odd that someone of my undoubted, not to say vastly superior, intellect can't communicate the simple fact that I'm not anti-evolution. I'm also finding it embarrassingly difficult to reconcile these two statements: Though the mutations at each generation are random, the direction of the change over successive generations is toward increased fitness with There is no way to tell whether T. Rex or H. Sap or C. Roach are "fitter" - they all were/are/will be in different worlds and sets of circumstances. All I keep hearing is that evolution is random and not teleological, although because natural selection selects for fitness, fitness is ever-increasing, but fitness over tens of millions of years can't be compared and certainly can't be said to have increased and is completely dependent upon the environment, which is not in any way concerned with the fitness of living organisms, changes randomly and certainly is not teleological.

After that, "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" is child's play.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 27, 2005 8:12 PM

You'd think they'd be more disbelieving that the PHD in Biology and the Pulmonologist are skeptics than the lawyers. No one with a Socratically trained mind can take their arguments seriously, but they think that science requires them.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 8:20 PM

There obviously was speciation. There equally obviously isn't anymore. We're ignorant as to how or why it occurred, though each has a faith to answer for it.

Read the quotes. Better yet, read The Growth of Biological Thought, in which he discusses at length how scientific theories are the product of ideology.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2005 8:38 PM

"it's, of course, bizarre to postulate that every species has been in a unique period of stasis for these 10,000 years, but I chose to simply accept your concession that species has been static."

Given the time scales involved, as Jeff demonstrated earlier on, that's not bizarre at all, nor is it unique. Evolution via natural selection slows down when there is little survival pressure, as well as in large populations.

"You'd think they'd be more disbelieving that the PHD in Biology and the Pulmonologist are skeptics than the lawyers."

There are a lot more PhDs in biology who subscribe to the theory of evolution than who don't.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 1:29 AM

"I'm also finding it embarrassingly difficult to reconcile these two statements: Though the mutations at each generation are random, the direction of the change over successive generations is toward increased fitness with There is no way to tell whether T. Rex or H. Sap or C. Roach are "fitter" - they all were/are/will be in different worlds and sets of circumstances."

There is no contradiction there at all, David. Each of those organisms competed with other organisms under whatever survival pressures were prevalent in their lifetime. They were, are or (in the speculative example of a post-nuclear cockroach) will be fit in their context. There just happens to be no way to pluck them out of that context and try to compare their relative fitness.

As for the rest of your confusion, it seems that for the most part you're leaving the environment and its resulting survival pressures out of the equation. T. Rex evolved to a position at the top of the food chain, but when the environment changed rapidly, he was toast because he couldn't adapt quickly enough.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 1:48 AM

creeper:

And we're in a magic moment where there's no survival pressure on any species over a period of ten thousand plus years, though oddly we're extincting plenty of species. I shouldn't have said bizarre, but hilarious.

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2005 8:17 AM

I have no idea why you're so hung up on ten thousand years - that's a pretty dang short time in evolutionary terms, as Jeff has also demonstrated earlier in this thread. It's like saying somebody can't run a marathon because you've never seen them run ten miles in 5 seconds.

You simply wouldn't expect to see speciation the way you define it in a timespan that short. You would, however, expect to see smaller examples of evolution in areas where population is low and survival pressures high, such as the finches on the Galapagos islands.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 9:43 AM

Incidentally, Orrin, what beef specifically does your PhD brother have with the theory of evolution?

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 9:49 AM

That's just human history.

No, it's like saying a stone can't run a marathon because it's never been observed running and tests demonstrate it can't.

Yes, the failure of even the most isolated species to evolve demonstrates that the theory is dubious. The failure of anything to suggests it's just wrong.

The insistence it's still right in the face of the contrary evidence is faith-based.

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2005 9:51 AM

"oddly we're extincting plenty of species"

Man, horse, cow, dog, pig, cat, bird, fish, bug... nope, all the species are still here.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 9:54 AM

The same as every rational person--it doesn't work in reality, only in Darwinist heads.

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2005 9:56 AM

"That's just human history."

That doesn't really change the fact that it's very little time in evolutionary terms.

"No, it's like saying a stone can't run a marathon because it's never been observed running and tests demonstrate it can't.

To come to that conclusion you'd have to deny microevolution. So how do tests demonstrate microevolution is impossible?

"Yes, the failure of even the most isolated species to evolve demonstrates that the theory is dubious."

And since the finches did not fail to evolve it shows the theory is not dubious.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 10:01 AM

You're right--I should have said "species"

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2005 10:03 AM

"The same as every rational person--it doesn't work in reality, only in Darwinist heads."

I was wondering what problem he had with it specifically. Oh well, maybe he'll stop by and tell us.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 10:03 AM

"You're right--I should have said "species""

Where?

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 10:05 AM

very little time in evolutionary terms.

This magic moment...

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2005 10:06 AM

I take it then you have no real arguments to bring to the table on this one. "The runner can't do ten miles in five seconds, so he can't run ten miles ever."

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 10:12 AM

No, the "runner" has never run. Your marathon entry is a thalidimide baby.

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2005 10:15 AM

Where was man at the time of the dinosaurs?

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 10:32 AM

He hadn't been Created yet.

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2005 10:36 AM

When was he Created?

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 10:41 AM

4 million years ago.

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2005 10:45 AM

From what?

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 11:10 AM

Was Australopithecus created in the image of God?

And how did Australopithecus develop into Homo sapiens?

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 11:12 AM

All the same species.

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2005 11:16 AM

i can use plate tectonics to choose where i live; for example, not on the coast of indonesia. i can also use it to predict the positions of the continents over time. see ? science isn't so hard to reconize, you got it in one! as for your misplaced faith in the great god zardoz, i mean, darwin, i have this little saying for you (let's call it eagar's law):

the strongest lemming, drowns the furthest out

Posted by: cjm at May 28, 2005 11:23 AM

"No, the "runner" has never run."

Incidentally, the runner has run plenty of times. But to this point nobody has claimed he can run ten miles in five seconds (with the exception of this strawman that you are proposing), and his ability to run doesn't hinge on that feat.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 11:23 AM

creeper:

Great fun, but you are missing the whole point of the objection, which is you can't get here from there with the tools you provide. As David, (with his vastly superior intellect) showed eloquently, it is logically offensive to say that a natural, purposeless process that is comprised entirely of an infinite number of random (i.e. non-repeating and directionless) events can turn into a cumulative building process with a mission. It really doesn't matter what the fossil record is consistent with or what jolly voyages the continents took. The objection won't go away because the explanation will still offend reason. There has to be something else, natural or otherwise.

For starters, I was hoping you would tackle the question of what is impelling organisms to survive and propagate. Darwinism won't work without that impulse, but I see nothing in darwinism that explains why that should be or whence cometh the survival imperative.

Posted by: Peter B at May 28, 2005 11:24 AM

cjm,

You seem to have an ongoing confusion as to what science's ability to predict means in the context of a historical science.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 11:26 AM

creeper, you don't seem to recognize that it is you who are the one claiming 10 miles can be run in 5 seconds. however, i *can* run 10 miles in 5 seconds, if you let me define either "10", "mile", "5", or "seconds". why is it so hard to admit that your "theory" is no more provable than the other theory, and that both side are faith based ? it's the need to elevate yourself over us ignorant fools that is driving your argument, not science.

Posted by: cjm at May 28, 2005 11:28 AM

ahhhh, i see, "historical science"; you're right, i was confused because i assumed we were talking about darwinism as a science. mixing history with science is like mixing sand with eggs -- you don't get food or concrete. but hey, you go girl...

Posted by: cjm at May 28, 2005 11:35 AM

Peter,

The objection seems to me to be based on the misunderstanding that random variations at each generation carry on into equally random chances of reproduction (survival and propagation). They don't.

I'm not sure how many other ways I can paraphrase this, but I'll give it another go:

Given a scenario in which survival pressures remain relatively constant over a number of generations (say an Ice Age, for example), some variations will be more advantageous in survival, and some less. More fur could be a bonus, for example, or thicker skin, or layers of fat or whatever. So among the variations among offspring, those with such characteristics would, on average, survive and propagate in larger numbers. This would lead to a population that on average would have those beneficial characteristics. Of their varied offspring some would once again have less beneficial characteristics, and some more. Again, those with more beneficial characteristics will survive and propagate in larger numbers. Over time, you would have organisms with significantly more fur, thicker skin, or whatever - the consequences of reiterating the process, but not starting from the same starting point each time, but instead having already taken a small step toward the fitter variation.

Unless the environment changes rapidly and repeatedly, this allows for a non-random direction over the course of multiple generations, and for as long as those characteristics represents an advantage, this process will continue. (Even if the environment remains constant, the advantages of more fur, thicker skin etc. may well reach a limit.)

Eventually, of course, the environment will change (the end of an Ice Age, for example) or other organisms may migrate into the area and compete with the organism, at which point other characteristics will become more important to survival.

"For starters, I was hoping you would tackle the question of what is impelling organisms to survive and propagate."

I didn't realize the question had been asked. What impels organisms to survive and propagate? I would think that an impulse to survive and propagate would give one a significant advantage when competing with other organisms that have no impulse to survive or propagate.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 11:46 AM

creeper:

Every theory ever devised is true so long as you begin with "given". Darwinism is not a science because it can't derive the givens.

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2005 11:50 AM

cjm,

If by "the other side" you mean biblical literalism, it is clearly contradicted by the physical evidence. The Earth is not 4004 years old, for example. If you mean Intelligent Design, it's not a theory, not in the sense in which scientists use the term. So far it just amounts to a few objections to the theory of evolution, no more. That doesn't mean that it may not some day become a theory, but it has a long way to go yet.

If you think historical sciences (and evolutionary biology is not the only one) are not sciences, then you are indeed confused. FYI, the way a historical science predicts is that it predicts future findings. On that account, it is falsifiable (by, say, finding evidence of modern man living at the same time as dinosaurs) but has so far not been falsified.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 11:54 AM

"Every theory ever devised is true so long as you begin with "given". Darwinism is not a science because it can't derive the givens."

You'll note that I wasn't positing a theory, but setting up a hypothetical scenario to illustrate a point.

And no, not every theory that starts with "given" is true.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 11:56 AM

creeper:

When did the stone run?

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2005 11:56 AM

enter the strawman; not one person here, except for yourself, has mentioned biblical literalism.

creeper, would you mind telling me your political disposition ?

Posted by: cjm at May 28, 2005 12:00 PM

What stone? That was your one.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 12:01 PM

"enter the strawman; not one person here, except for yourself, has mentioned biblical literalism."

It wasn't a strawman since you weren't specific and I offered two options, quickly discarding the biblical literalism one. If I wanted to use it as a strawman, I would have focused on it to the exclusion of the more likely alternative.

It hadn't been mentioned explicitly, I guess, but Orrin's been hinting in that direction when he said he's as skeptical of ID as he is of Darwinism.

My political disposition has absolutely nothing to do with this debate, which is why I'm going to continue to leave it out of it.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 12:05 PM

Darwinism is just a political disposition

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2005 12:07 PM

Darwinism is so many things in your dictionary, Orrin.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 12:13 PM

But it all boils down to the same thing, anger at God.

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2005 12:16 PM

Anger at God? For what?

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 12:20 PM

What impels organisms to survive and propagate? I would think that an impulse to survive and propagate would give one a significant advantage when competing with other organisms that have no impulse to survive or propagate.

Now I understand exactly how Charlie Brown felt when Lucy pulled the football. creeper, that is the mother of all tautologies.

Posted by: Peter B at May 28, 2005 12:21 PM

Peter,

Yes, it is stunningly obvious, isn't it?

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 12:28 PM

"That which has more will to survive has a better chance of surviving" is not a tautology, btw.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 12:29 PM

" the impulse to survive derives from the effort to avoid extinction" most certainly is.

Posted by: Peter B at May 28, 2005 12:44 PM

creeper, what your political persuassion is wasn't really the point of my question -- your willingness to reveal it was. there is information in the absence of an answer.

Posted by: cjm at May 28, 2005 1:09 PM

The tautology comes when you say that the survivors had greater will.

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2005 1:31 PM

Peter,

" the impulse to survive derives from the effort to avoid extinction" most certainly is.

Sure sounds like a tautology to me. I'd advise you not to try to use it in an argument.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 3:07 PM

"creeper, what your political persuassion is wasn't really the point of my question -- your willingness to reveal it was. there is information in the absence of an answer."

It was and remains irrelevant. I don't quiz people on their voting patterns either.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 3:09 PM

"The tautology comes when you say that the survivors had greater will."

Hmm... First, I don't see how that would make it a tautology. And second, I didn't say that.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 3:12 PM

if you're a leftist, and i believe that you are, then its pointless to have any kind of discussion with you. still, you have (inadvertently) served a useful function on this thread, so it hasn't been a waste of time. but further indulgence of your delusional mind state is pretty pointless, so its adieu to you, comrade :)

Posted by: cjm at May 28, 2005 3:41 PM

cjm,

If you're not interested in discussing an issue on its merits, and you've just now made it crystal clear that you are not, then adios to you too. You must have a real hoot on the Yahoo message boards. My political inclination may well not be what you think it is, but it remains irrelevant to this discussion, as does yours and anyone else's.

Your McCarthyesque approach is by far the weakest and most bizarre I've ever seen on the subject of the evolution/creation debate.

Posted by: creeper at May 28, 2005 4:31 PM

what ever

Posted by: cjm at May 28, 2005 5:35 PM

Of course it's what he thinks it is--why else would you choose that faith?

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2005 6:21 PM

"All the same species."

It's possible, though still a matter of some debate, whether Australopithecus and Homo sapiens form a single, though rather broad, species. Professor Henneberg of the University of Adelaide is one of the few scientists, if not the only one, proclaiming this. For the sake of argument, let's say he's right and they do fall under the same species.

What he is not claiming is that there has been no development between Australopithecus and Homo sapiens.

Prof Henneberg found that the fossils show clear evidence of evolution, with substantial increases in both skull sizes and body-weight. However, he also found that the fossils show no evidence of being anything other than a single species which had grown bigger and smarter over time.[...]

"All hominims appear to be a single gradually evolving lineage containing only one species at each point in time."

Which brings me back to my question:

Was Australopithecus created in the image of God? And how did Australopithecus develop into Homo sapiens?

Posted by: creeper at May 29, 2005 1:40 PM

No, we weren't in His Image until He made us capable of moral choices.

Posted by: oj at May 29, 2005 1:58 PM

Okay, so he Created us twice, then. Once 4 million years ago, and once in His Image when He made us capable of moral choices. When would the second instance have occurred?

And how did Australopithecus develop into Homo sapiens?

Posted by: creeper at May 29, 2005 2:17 PM

he = He

Posted by: creeper at May 29, 2005 2:19 PM

Didn't develop.

Posted by: oj at May 29, 2005 2:21 PM

The only scientist that is willing to place Australopithecus and Homo sapiens in the same species maintains that they did develop.

"Grew bigger and smarter over time". From Australopithecus on.

Developed.

Posted by: creeper at May 29, 2005 3:00 PM

The Japanese got bigger when we boosted their caloric intake after WWII. Not even the most virulent Applied-Darwinist says they weren't previously human.

Posted by: oj at May 29, 2005 4:17 PM

Australopithecus had a cranial capacity of around 500 cc, as compared to Homo erectus, around 1000 cc, and Homo sapiens, around 1350 cc.

Like I said, the only scientist speculating that these are all the same species said quite clearly that it was a species that developed over time.

Is your answer to how Australopithecus developed into modern man "calories"?

Posted by: creeper at May 29, 2005 11:59 PM

Didn't develop.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2005 12:11 AM

A change in cranial capacity from 500cc to 1350cc = "didn't develop". Okey dokey.

Willful ignorance and baseless denial at its finest.

Posted by: creeper at May 30, 2005 12:38 AM

The Chihuahua and the Mastiff are just dogs.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2005 12:45 AM

You want to change the subject, fine: so where was the Chihuahua at the time of the dinosaurs?

Posted by: creeper at May 30, 2005 1:01 AM

It's the same subject. Some dogs have big heads. Some have little heads. They're all still just dogs.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2005 1:04 AM

What you are so eager to shove under the carpet is that there is a clear progression over time from Australopithecus via Homo erectus to Homo sapiens.

They may all be "humans" in the broadest sense, just as a Chihuahua and a Mastiff are dogs in the broadest sense, but they are clearly different. If, for example, you had Chihuahuas 4 million years ago, then some intermediate stages, then Mastiffs today, you'd ask yourself what caused that progression over time.

So what made the progression from Australopithecus to Homo sapiens possible? Why did the human brain's cranial capacity almost triple over the last 4 million years?

Posted by: creeper at May 30, 2005 1:16 AM

progression?

Done denying teleology?

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2005 7:35 AM

I was using it in the sense of "a series with a definite pattern of advance", which does not necessitate a goal decided on at the outset, ie. teleology.

Done changing the subject?

Why did the human brain's cranial capacity almost triple over the last 4 million years?

Posted by: creeper at May 30, 2005 8:31 AM

"advance"

Just can't help it, huh?

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2005 8:41 AM

Neither progression nor advance necessitate that the direction was decided at the outset, but you just can't help but tack on "toward a goal that was decided on at the outset, hence it's teleological".

Posted by: creeper at May 30, 2005 8:55 AM

direction?

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2005 9:23 AM

Precisely. You immediately tacked on "toward a goal that was decided on at the outset, hence it's teleological", didn't you?

Directions can be perceived in hindsight, too.

Posted by: creeper at May 30, 2005 9:39 AM

Once you reach your destination?

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2005 9:51 AM

From whatever your current perspective happens to be.

So: Why did the human brain's cranial capacity almost triple over the last 4 million years?

Posted by: creeper at May 30, 2005 10:24 AM

Nutrition

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2005 10:30 AM

Is there a scientific study to support this assertion, or did you just make it up?

Posted by: creeper at May 30, 2005 10:59 AM

Ever been on the USS Constitution?

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2005 12:51 PM

All righty then, so you did make it up.

Posted by: creeper at May 30, 2005 1:20 PM

Ever been on the USS Constitution?

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2005 3:43 PM

I take it then that there is no scientific study to support your assertion, and that you did make it up.

"Ever been on the USS Constitution?"

No, though I did enjoy Master & Commander, both book and movie. Would like to see the USS Constitution though; big ships are cool.

Posted by: creeper at May 30, 2005 8:02 PM

Ah, that's the point--it's tiny. You can't even stand below decks.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2005 8:35 PM

LOL! I almost spilled my coffee all over the keyboard on that one. I think I'm beginning to grasp what you said about this being an intentional humor blog.

A fun little diversion. So I guess you don't have an answer as to why human cranial capacity almost tripled over the course of 4 million years, but you will arbitrarily and with no basis exclude the theory of evolution as an explanation, of course.

Posted by: creeper at May 31, 2005 1:07 AM

We're getting bigger.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2005 7:10 AM

OJ:

Ever been on a modern sailing yacht?

Can't stand below decks on them, either.

And the reasons have darn little to do with human height.

What was your point?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at May 31, 2005 7:10 AM

If you go to houses built for the upper class in the 18th, 19th century, they've got like 20 foot ceilings. Those people must have been huge! How did they fit them into those little ships?

Wow, Orrin, I thought you were kidding. You are, aren't you?

"We're getting bigger."

Or they design ships with different priorities in mind than condos. Something about trying to fit as many people on board while still having a structure that doesn't just flip over in the water.

Posted by: creeper at May 31, 2005 8:56 AM

No, we're just getting bigger.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2005 9:08 AM

How did cranial capacity change from the 19th century to today?

Posted by: creeper at May 31, 2005 9:39 AM

OJ:

Scarcely (somewhere between 5 an 10%), and certainly not to the degree of the cranial capacities cited--300%.

And not at all, if comparing current sailing vessel design against the USS Constitution. Perhaps unlike you, I have been on both.

Creeper:

Note OJs disingenuous treatment of the rate v. likelihood of observation argument, where he cites 10,000 years as the baseline.

150 years is more like it, since it is only since then that people have been looking for such a thing.

Note also that, following OJ's argument, sunsets do not exist. 150 years is to 65 million years as 1.6 seconds is to one day.

However, looking out the door for 1.6 seconds is extremely unlikely to happen at the moment of sunset. Hence, according to OJ, sunsets do not exist. Nor does day, if the observation was at night, or vice versa if during the day.

A shred of intellectual honesty would compel admitting that using the absence of rare occurrence over a brief period is extremely unsuited as an argument for concluding the phenomena does not exist at all.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at May 31, 2005 9:40 AM

Jeff:

Actually, considerably bigger and still growing, almost exclusively as a function of nutrition and hygiene:

http://www.newyorker.com/printables/fact/040405fa_fact


Sunset is an observed phenomenon. Speciation by Natural Selection is not. The rate of sensets is one per day. The rate of Darwinism is zero.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2005 10:19 AM

You know, I've never actually seen the sun set, ie. sink below the horizon. I've seen it sit above the horizon. I've seen it a bit lower. And then I saw it was gone. But did I see it actually move under the horizon? Nope - it's just too darn slow.

Posted by: creeper at May 31, 2005 10:43 AM

OJ:

Either you are a moron, or are being intentionally deceptive.

The former is clearly and decisively not the case, so it must be the latter.

No, sunset is not an observed phenomena under the circumstances you have imposed upon speciation. Which, after all, is the matter under discussion.

Right now, look outside your window for 1.6 seconds. Any sunsets?

No.

Therefore, by your insistence that a sunset happen during the observation period in order for sunsets to exist, they do not. That is because, by ignoring time, you are imposing quantity upon rate.

Even my 12 year old daughter, who suffers the vapors at the mere thought of math, can figure that one out.

Further, your argument has been "speciation," not "speciation by Natural Selection."

You can no more conclusively say such a thing has never happened than I can assert that such absolutely has.

As for growth--that is within the 10% realm I mentioned.

Do you think humans will eventually be 18 feet tall?

If not, then this example has nothing to do with cranial expansion.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at May 31, 2005 11:01 AM

So is nutrition being responsible for a tripling in cranial capacity over 4 million years an observed phenomenon?

Posted by: creeper at May 31, 2005 11:02 AM

Jeff:

Are you suggesting that sunsets have never been observed? Because that's all I'm saying about Darwinism.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2005 11:07 AM

creeper:

No.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2005 11:08 AM

"Are you suggesting that sunsets have never been observed? Because that's all I'm saying about Darwinism."

He's saying quite clearly that sunsets have never been observed by the arbitrary standards that you've set.

Posted by: creeper at May 31, 2005 11:14 AM

"So is nutrition being responsible for a tripling in cranial capacity over 4 million years an observed phenomenon?"

"No."

So nutrition isn't responsible for a tripling in cranial capacity over 4 million years?

Posted by: creeper at May 31, 2005 11:22 AM

Okay, if you guys deny sunsets I suppose it's no worse to accept Darwinism.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2005 11:33 AM

We're not denying sunsets.

Posted by: creeper at May 31, 2005 11:40 AM

No, it wasn't observed, but we know it suffices to increase human size in general quite radically.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2005 11:47 AM

Human size in general is not the issue.

The height difference between Australopithecus and modern man is approx. 30%. The difference in cranial capacity is close to ten times that.

There is no evidence of nutrition affecting cranial capacity as separate from height.

Posted by: creeper at May 31, 2005 11:55 AM

You figure heads were going to stay the same while we doubled in size?

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2005 12:01 PM

Who doubled in size?

Posted by: creeper at May 31, 2005 12:05 PM

humans

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2005 12:07 PM

Which ones? From when to when?

Posted by: creeper at May 31, 2005 12:11 PM

OJ:

Did you see any sunsets during that 1.6 seconds?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at May 31, 2005 12:13 PM

"You figure heads were going to stay the same while we doubled in size?"

I figure there's no evidence of nutrition affecting cranial capacity in different proportion to the rest of the body.

Posted by: creeper at May 31, 2005 12:18 PM

earliest man was in the 3'+s now we're over 6'

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2005 12:20 PM

Earliest man being who?

Posted by: creeper at May 31, 2005 12:23 PM

Actually, if we're talking about Australopithecus afarensis (4 million years ago), then my figures are wrong - he didn't have a cranial capacity of 500 cc, but 380-450 cc. So we're closer to a quadrupling of cranial capacity than a tripling over the last 4 million years.

Posted by: creeper at May 31, 2005 12:39 PM

Incidentally, Orrin, this is what the skull of an Australopithecus afarensis looks like:

http://skullduggery.com/images/0246.jpg
http://www.evolutionnyc.com/ImgUpload/P_442121_916003.jpg

And this is what a human skull looks like:

http://www.sculpturegallery.com/three/human_male_skull.jpg

We're not just talking about a simple difference in size here, but morphological differences.

Now how does nutrition fit into this?

Posted by: creeper at May 31, 2005 12:51 PM

Creeper:

How dare you allow actual observations to intrude.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at May 31, 2005 2:22 PM

There's no reason the cranial capacity to height proportion should have stayed static--the arm length, tail length, body hair ratios obviously didn't.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2005 2:46 PM

Jeff:

I've seen 43.6 x 365 sunsets. That's a rate of one every 24 hours.

No one has ever seen speciation via Natural Selection. That's a rate of 0.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2005 2:56 PM
« SUCH A DEAL | Main | HAVE YOU HUGGED A MODERATE TODAY?: »