Is evolution a hard science?

Discussion about scientific issues as they relate to God and Christianity including archaeology, origins of life, the universe, intelligent design, evolution, etc.
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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#61

Post by jlay » Mon Oct 14, 2013 5:50 am

hughfarey wrote:
You just said a mouthful and don't even realize it. Yes, they go hunting. For what? Transitional fossils. You see, the problem here (which I doubt you will acknowledge) is that forensic science is entering into the search with an agenda. And that agenda in many cases is to find links and confirm Darwinism. Again, provide an example and we can discuss that particular one.
I'm not sure you understand the process of fossil hunting. The hunt for transitional species is indeed due to an "agenda." It's more usually called a hypothesis. A good example is the recent explorations in Greenland and Canada. A fossil lobe-fish called Eusthenopteron was discovered n 1881 and dated to 385 million years ago. A fossil tetrapod called Ichthyostega was discovered in 1932 and dated to about 370 million years ago. A hypothesis in accordance with evolution suggested that intermediate forms would be found in intermediate strata. A hypothesis in accordance with creationism would be that fish and amphibians are different "kinds" and that no such intermediate form would be found. When palaeontologists went out and looked in the predicted place for the predicted fossil, they found it. Several in fact, such as Acanthostega and Tiktaalik. To that extent the hypothesis in favour of evolution was confirmed and the hypothesis in favour of creationism was rejected.
But is this enough? No. A further evolutionary hypothesis is that yet more intermediate forms will be found in strata intermediate between Tiktaalik and Eusthenopteron, or between Acanthostega and Ichthyostega or even between Tiktaalik and Acanthostega, and the search continues. Creationists, on the other hand, have to rethink. Now they consider Tiktaalik merely a "fish" and Acanthostega an early "amphibian," and not transitional stages at all. Their new hypothesis would be that no transitional species will be found between Tiktaalik and Acanthostega.
Well we know what will happen, don't we? Even as I type, new fossils, intermediate between Tiktaalik and Acanthostega, and found in intermediate strata, are being identified. The evolutionary hypothesis will be confirmed, and the creationist hypothesis will change again. No, they will say, this new creature is either a late form of "fish" or an early form of "amphibian" and no intermediate stage will be found between the new creature and anything of the other class.
And so it will go on. Eventually a row of fossils forms from fish to amphibian, each dated less than a million years apart, will be laid out in a museum, and every single one will be a confirmation of an evolutionary hypothesis and a rejection of a creationist one. And yet creationists will nervously make an arbitrary division between fish and amphibians somewhere along the line, and say that no intermediate species will be found between them - but they'll probably say that last bit in a worried whisper, as a new crate is being unloaded at the door...
Of course the problem here is that the same things were said about the Coelacanth. That is until is was discovered to still exist, which of course means it did not "transition" into anything other than a....., wait for it,....... a Coelacanth. And just as you exampled above about creationists, evolutionists will change again. Much like when evolutionists were trying to convince us that rodhocetus had a fluke, which of course would demonstrate Darwinism. That is until they discovered that it didn't.
Your whole statement is question begging as it just assumes the dates confirm something. The inference being that because something is old then it must be transitional. To make it worse, you employ an evolution of the gaps fallacy. "Don't worry, just have faith that evolution will fill in those gaps." Shameful. The fact is that you are taking ON FAITH all of these claims about what you state above. You've never as much as handled the actual evidence. You are trusting a question begging hyposthesis, and then insinuating that we are the one's not being honest with the information.
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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#62

Post by PerciFlage » Mon Oct 14, 2013 6:21 am

jlay wrote: Of course the problem here is that the same things were said about the Coelacanth. That is until is was discovered to still exist, which of course means it did not "transition" into anything other than a....., wait for it,....... a Coelacanth.
Coelacanth isn't a species - it's an order. Living coelacanths aren't the same as fossil species, they're different species which are classified in the same order.

In any case, why should new species arising from an older, transitional species mean that every single member of that original species has to die out? If two populations of an ancient species, A, gave rise to two new species, B1 and C1, which in turn gave rise to B2 and C2 and so on up to the "modern" species Bx and Cx, then any, all, or none of the A, B or C species could have gone extinct in the mean time, and A would be transitional to all of them regardless of whether it had gone extinct.

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#63

Post by neo-x » Mon Oct 14, 2013 6:29 am

Your whole statement is question begging as it just assumes the dates confirm something. The inference being that because something is old then it must be transitional. To make it worse, you employ an evolution of the gaps fallacy. "Don't worry, just have faith that evolution will fill in those gaps." Shameful. The fact is that you are taking ON FAITH all of these claims about what you state above. You've never as much as handled the actual evidence. You are trusting a question begging hypothesis, and then insinuating that we are the one's not being honest with the information.
Ah! the famous question begging charge, I had a premonition it was bound to be held up soon.

However, the above by you is disappointing. Let me ask you a sincere question J, how much have you really studied about evolution I mean what are your authentic sources on the subject? I really want to read what you have read and try to make sense of it, because how you present evolution is baffling to say the least.
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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#64

Post by jlay » Mon Oct 14, 2013 6:52 am

Let the snobbery begin.

Neo, that is a shameful debate tactic. Question begging is fallacious reasoning. Are you arguing otherwise??
If you'd like to actually present an argument fine. But in this case all you are doing is attempting to attack me. If what I pointed out isn't question begging, fine, feel free to demonstrate such.

And notice the clever moving of the goal posts by Perci.
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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#65

Post by neo-x » Mon Oct 14, 2013 7:02 am

Nothing shameful in asking a man for his sources. Where is the shame in that? I fail to see.
It would be a blessing if they missed the cairns and got lost on the way back. Or if
the Thing on the ice got them tonight.

I could only turn and stare in horror at the chief surgeon.
Death by starvation is a terrible thing, Goodsir, continued Stanley.
And with that we went below to the flame-flickering Darkness of the lower deck
and to a cold almost the equal of the Dante-esque Ninth Circle Arctic Night
without.


//johnadavid.wordpress.com

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#66

Post by PerciFlage » Mon Oct 14, 2013 7:21 am

Jlay - I think neo is struggling because you haven't actually made clear what it is that you consider to be question begging.

Is it that you think the line of reasoning goes something like this: "this fossil is transitional because it has intermediate features"? Or like this: "We know that this fossil is old because it is transitional. How do we know it is transitional? Because of how old it is."? Perhaps something else entirely?

I'm guessing that your charge is based on something at least similar to the "this fossil is transitional because it has intermediate features" line of reasoning, and you're absolutely correct here: using this line of reasoning alone for calling a fossil species transitional would indeed be begging the question. The problem is that no one uses this sole line of reasoning.

The actual situation is much more complex. There's a hypothesis - that species are descended from one another - that demands amongst other things that rudiments of fully fledged traits in one species make earlier appearances in other species. When such rudiments are found in abundance in the fossil record, and when the fossil record categorically does not show a jumble of features appearing at random, unordered times in the past, then I don't think it is particularly fallacious reasoning to call such species transitional. Couched in a necessary amount of uncertainty, yes. Question begging, no.

So the line of reasoning you are presenting is an example of question begging, but it's also hugely simplified and not representative of the state of evolutionary sciences.

Edit to add: In your opinion, where and how did I move the goalposts?

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#67

Post by hughfarey » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:39 am

jlay wrote:Of course the problem here is that the same things were said about the Coelacanth.
What same things? I'm afraid you've lost me here. Are you saying that fossil coelocanths were predicted, and found. If so, that's a verification of my argument. The fact that living coelacanths exist is wholly irrelevant in this context. For all I know all the transitional stages are lurking at the bottom of some muddy ocean somewhere. The point is that some of them discovered different environments, for which change was essential for survival. Others of them were happy with the environment they were in.
That is until it was discovered to still exist, which of course means it did not "transition" into anything other than a....., wait for it,....... a Coelacanth.
It doesn't mean anything of the sort. There are thousands of organisms, from bacteria to sharks, that are descended with very minor modification from ancient ancestors, because their environment hasn't changed. Modifications arise with change of circumstances, either because the environment you are in changes, or because you move to another environment. That's what happened to the coelacanths and their relatives.
And just as you exampled above about creationists, evolutionists will change again.
I didn't realise they had changed in the first place. If you can't find a living example of something that appears in the fossil record, you may suppose that it has become extinct. If it turns out that somewhere in the world a patch of environment hasn't changed, and the ancient form persists, then you rejoice; it has no effect on the theory of evolution at all.
Much like when evolutionists were trying to convince us that rodhocetus had a fluke, which of course would demonstrate Darwinism. That is until they discovered that it didn't.
I think you do have a point here. As long as only a few transitional stages are found, it is tempting to assume that each more recent stage evolved from the next oldest stage, and until fairly recently this was overstated. Now that we have a abundance of transitional forms, be they fish to reptile, reptile to bird, land mammal to cetacean or hominoid to homo, we can see that most of them are ancestral cousins rather than ancestors in the strict sense.
Your whole statement is question begging as it just assumes the dates confirm something. The inference being that because something is old then it must be transitional.
No. The prediction is that a transitional form will be found at a transitional age. If something transitional is found at a younger age, the hypothesis is not confirmed. If something not-transitional is found at the transitional age, the hypothesis is not confirmed. If a transitional form is found at a transitional age then the hypothesis is confirmed and the theory of evolution supported.
To make it worse, you employ an evolution of the gaps fallacy. "Don't worry, just have faith that evolution will fill in those gaps." Shameful. The fact is that you are taking ON FAITH all of these claims about what you state above.
Yes of course. Any prediction is a matter of faith, and scientists have as much as anybody else. Every time I drop a ball, I have faith that it will go downwards, and every time I feel hungry, I have faith that a sandwich will do me good. What's wrong with that? When something has happened sufficiently many times to sufficiently many people, faith that it will happen in the future seems justified. It will seem shocking, I dare say, but it is creationists who have no faith. They do not really trust themselves to make predictions. Not any more. Not like the good old days when they said with confidence; "You will never find an intermediate stage between fish and amphibians" or reptile and birds or even the famous "missing link" between humans and everything else. The trouble is, every single prediction made by a creationist will fail unless it is indistinguishable from a prediction that could be made by an evolutionist. That's what I think, and that's real faith!
You've never as much as handled the actual evidence. You are trusting a question begging hyposthesis, and then insinuating that we are the one's not being honest with the information.
How very unfair. I'm not insinuating anything of the sort. I have no reason to suspect you or many other creationists of dishonesty and I defy anyone to find anything I have written that suggests I have. You're just wrong, that's all.

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#68

Post by pat34lee » Mon Oct 14, 2013 5:40 pm

PerciFlage wrote:
No Known Mechanism of Evolution.
It is also a very curious fact that no one understands how evolution works. Evolutionists commonly protest that they know evolution is true, but they can't seem to determine its mechanism.
Apart from descent with modification combined with natural selection?
Also known as adaptation, it has never created anything new. As the name implies, it is a means for the animal to adapt, within limits, to its environment. Adaptation will not give gills to a bird, or opposable thumbs to cats.
On the Second Law of Thermodynamics
Whether in an open or closed system, the addition of energy cannot increase complexity without a mechanism for it to do so. Wind and weather are not complex systems, and do not contain information, any more than snowflakes or crystals.

Living beings put off entropy for a time by taking energy from sunlight or eating and breathing, processing that energy and nutrients, and converting them into whatever is needed to fuel and repair the system. Without this type of conversion, any type of energy added is purely destructive.
Similarities between organisms are not explicable by common evolutionary descent. Even the most trenchant creationist can see that this statement makes no sense, right? Right? Please?
You can use anything to explain anything else if you have a good enough imagination. That does not make it proof, just a so-so story. If similarity can be explained by evolution, it can also be explained by common design, and probably by several other ways.
There are huge numbers of transitional forms in the fossil record.
Actually, there are none. From single-cells and up, there are no fossils showing evidence of an eye being formed, or a flipper changing to a leg. Every fossil that is complete, comes with every feature intact and fully formed for it to live in its environment. There is some evidence of devolution and losing information, but none showing any gain.

For evolution to have happened in the time available, all changes in plants and animals would be almost 100% of the time moving in the direction of complexity and organization, totally against what we see in nature.

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#69

Post by PerciFlage » Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:56 am

pat34lee wrote: Also known as adaptation
The article stated that there is "no known mechanism". Descent with modification in tandem with natural selection is mooted as the major mechanism. To argue that there are limits to that mechanism is one thing, but to say that there is no known mechanism is just unsupportable.
Whether in an open or closed system, the addition of energy cannot increase complexity without a mechanism for it to do so. Wind and weather are not complex systems, and do not contain information, any more than snowflakes or crystals.
Living creatures do have mechanisms for using energy to decrease the entropy in their local system - they photosynthesise and they metabolise. Again, the second law being a barrier to local order only really applies in closed systems, or systems with total homogeneity of energy.
Similarities between organisms are not explicable by common evolutionary descent. Even the most trenchant creationist can see that this statement makes no sense, right? Right? Please?
You can use anything to explain anything else if you have a good enough imagination. That does not make it proof, just a so-so story. If similarity can be explained by evolution, it can also be explained by common design, and probably by several other ways.
The article stated that similarities are not explicable by common descent. Of course similarity can be explained by both common descent and creation, but the point is that similarities aren't just explicable by common descent, but they are necessary.

By way of analogy, a necessary result of spraying a garden with a hosepipe is that the leaves and grass in that garden become wet. If we come across a wet garden then we know that a hosepipe is among the many possible explanations, and oppositely if we come across a bone dry garden we can say with a reasonable level of confidence that it has not been given a hosing in the recent past.

To argue that similarities are not good evidence for evolution is a fundamentally different thing than to argue that evolution cannot explain them.
Actually, there are none. From single-cells and up, there are no fossils showing evidence of an eye being formed, or a flipper changing to a leg. Every fossil that is complete, comes with every feature intact and fully formed for it to live in its environment.
What would you consider to be a transitional form then? A fossil with some not intact features? Assume for argument's sake that evolution is true - what sort of features would you expect to see in a transitional form?

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#70

Post by hughfarey » Tue Oct 15, 2013 8:50 am

It's good of you to drop by, pat34lee, but it's not clear that you have read any of the intervening posts since your last comment. Why on earth should adaptation give "gills to a bird"? It seems that life originated in the seas and moved onto the land, and adaptation certainly did give "lungs to a fish." Your next comment seems to misunderstand the nature of evolution too. "There are no fossils showing evidence of an eye being formed, or a flipper changing to a leg." Evolution is a process, and a fossil is a moment frozen in time. Of course you can't watch a fossil eye being formed, the concept is as absurd to an evolutionist as it is to a creationist. What you can see is a succession of different species with ever more sophisticated eyes - which is exactly what would be expected from an evolutionary point of view and is evidence that evolution is true. The same is true of flippers and legs.
Now, "Every fossil that is complete, comes with every feature intact and fully formed for it to live in its environment." Every creature fits its environment as best it can, of course, but to suggest that it invariably fits its environment perfectly, so that no improvement is possible, is very misleading. The fact that there is variety even within the offspring of a single pair gives this the lie. Life is often a struggle in which less well adapted versions of an organism reproduce less well than better adapted ones. The only time evolution might stand still would be if the reproductivity of any particular organism depended wholly on chance, and even then, genetic drift may change it slightly.
Finally: "There is some evidence of devolution and losing information, but none showing any gain." I'm not sure you know what you mean by this. Vertebrates are incomparably more complex than cnidarians, which are in turn rather more so than bacteria. In what sense do you claim information is lost?

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#71

Post by pat34lee » Tue Oct 15, 2013 1:15 pm

hughfarey wrote:It's good of you to drop by, pat34lee, but it's not clear that you have read any of the intervening posts since your last comment. Why on earth should adaptation give "gills to a bird"? It seems that life originated in the seas and moved onto the land, and adaptation certainly did give "lungs to a fish." Your next comment seems to misunderstand the nature of evolution too. "There are no fossils showing evidence of an eye being formed, or a flipper changing to a leg." Evolution is a process, and a fossil is a moment frozen in time. Of course you can't watch a fossil eye being formed, the concept is as absurd to an evolutionist as it is to a creationist. What you can see is a succession of different species with ever more sophisticated eyes - which is exactly what would be expected from an evolutionary point of view and is evidence that evolution is true. The same is true of flippers and legs.
Now, "Every fossil that is complete, comes with every feature intact and fully formed for it to live in its environment." Every creature fits its environment as best it can, of course, but to suggest that it invariably fits its environment perfectly, so that no improvement is possible, is very misleading. The fact that there is variety even within the offspring of a single pair gives this the lie. Life is often a struggle in which less well adapted versions of an organism reproduce less well than better adapted ones. The only time evolution might stand still would be if the reproductivity of any particular organism depended wholly on chance, and even then, genetic drift may change it slightly.
Finally: "There is some evidence of devolution and losing information, but none showing any gain." I'm not sure you know what you mean by this. Vertebrates are incomparably more complex than cnidarians, which are in turn rather more so than bacteria. In what sense do you claim information is lost?
Why give gills to a bird? Answer is "Why not?" Not being facetious here. Remember that there is no goal in evolution by definition. This is one of the problems with it as a theory. How can you explain, say the pyramids, if you must say that there was no plan, and for every block that is moved toward a spot that would aid in the building, there are many chances for one to be moved away.

The more sophisticated eyes. I read Dawkins' story about this. It sounds reasonable until you consider that it wouldn't work. First, you're talking about different types of eyes that work differently, so its less upgrading than totally changing each step. Second, you would need to explain why would it continue to change if it worked at any point. Why didn't some, at least, retain the less advanced eyes? Why would a simple invertebrate such as the squid have eyes so similar to us? Remember that according to evolution, eyes had to evolve from scratch at least 40 times, and possibly many more.

On evidence. To make the statement you did, you must start with the notion that evolution is true, that it happened, and in the way that science has arranged the charts. Those are huge assumptions. Remember that when dealing with the past, science only works with possibilities and probabilities. The very best they can do would be to show how something could have happened, not how it must have happened.

See this page for a little on devolution: http://english.pravda.ru/science/myster ... niverse-0/

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#72

Post by pat34lee » Tue Oct 15, 2013 2:30 pm

PerciFlage wrote:
pat34lee wrote: Also known as adaptation
The article stated that there is "no known mechanism". Descent with modification in tandem with natural selection is mooted as the major mechanism. To argue that there are limits to that mechanism is one thing, but to say that there is no known mechanism is just unsupportable.

They probably should have put "no known mechanism that works." Those limits mean that it is useless to explain evolution.
Whether in an open or closed system, the addition of energy cannot increase complexity without a mechanism for it to do so. Wind and weather are not complex systems, and do not contain information, any more than snowflakes or crystals.
Living creatures do have mechanisms for using energy to decrease the entropy in their local system - they photosynthesise and they metabolise. Again, the second law being a barrier to local order only really applies in closed systems, or systems with total homogeneity of energy.

There is a limit to what adding energy can do. Otherwise, overeating wouldn't make us fat and x-rays wouldn't give us cancer.
Similarities between organisms are not explicable by common evolutionary descent. Even the most trenchant creationist can see that this statement makes no sense, right? Right? Please?
You can use anything to explain anything else if you have a good enough imagination. That does not make it proof, just a so-so story. If similarity can be explained by evolution, it can also be explained by common design, and probably by several other ways.
The article stated that similarities are not explicable by common descent. Of course similarity can be explained by both common descent and creation, but the point is that similarities aren't just explicable by common descent, but they are necessary.

By way of analogy, a necessary result of spraying a garden with a hosepipe is that the leaves and grass in that garden become wet. If we come across a wet garden then we know that a hosepipe is among the many possible explanations, and oppositely if we come across a bone dry garden we can say with a reasonable level of confidence that it has not been given a hosing in the recent past.

To argue that similarities are not good evidence for evolution is a fundamentally different thing than to argue that evolution cannot explain them.

It comes down to assumptions. To say that two fossils are similar would be factual. To say they are related is an assumption.
Actually, there are none. From single-cells and up, there are no fossils showing evidence of an eye being formed, or a flipper changing to a leg. Every fossil that is complete, comes with every feature intact and fully formed for it to live in its environment.
What would you consider to be a transitional form then? A fossil with some not intact features? Assume for argument's sake that evolution is true - what sort of features would you expect to see in a transitional form?
How about ants or bees with less than perfect multifaceted eyes? Since our nearest simian ancestor was about three feet tall, where are all the munchkins from them to us? The oldest sapiens are nearly our size.

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#73

Post by hughfarey » Tue Oct 15, 2013 3:00 pm

pat34lee wrote:Why give gills to a bird? Answer is "Why not?" Not being facetious here. Remember that there is no goal in evolution by definition. This is one of the problems with it as a theory. How can you explain, say the pyramids, if you must say that there was no plan, and for every block that is moved toward a spot that would aid in the building, there are many chances for one to be moved away.
No, that's the whole point. Any tendency towards a lifestyle that renders an organism less likely to survive is extremely unlikely to last. There are, of course, a number of birds that spend a long time underwater, and they have remarkable adaptations to that, but they spend so much more time breathing air that gills would be a hindrance rather than a help. It is not impossible that one day a penguin might be born with some form of atavistic gill. If this freak proved an improvement on his brothers, it is not impossible that his mutation could be passed on to his descendants, but there is no evidence that such a thing has occurred in the past.
The more sophisticated eyes. I read Dawkins' story about this. It sounds reasonable until you consider that it wouldn't work. First, you're talking about different types of eyes that work differently, so its less upgrading than totally changing each step.
Please re-read Dawkins. The whole point of his description is that each eye he describes is not a totally different eye but a minor modification of the one before.
Second, you would need to explain why would it continue to change if it worked at any point.
Circumstances. Success at any point tends to lead to increased population, and increased predation. A slight improvement of the eye would allow an organism to spot a predator and take evading action. Other versions, whose eye did not change, may have evolved another adaptation.
Why didn't some, at least, retain the less advanced eyes?
They did. Dawkins illustrates his point about ancestral eyes by examples of every stage that still occur in living organisms.
Why would a simple invertebrate such as the squid have eyes so similar to us? Remember that according to evolution, eyes had to evolve from scratch at least 40 times, and possibly many more.
Yes. Much to the surprise of lots of people, an organ based principally on physics seems intrinsically simpler than an organ based on chemistry. It is much more difficult to evolve a liver than an eye, which is a relatively simple job. A squid is not a "simple invertebrate"; it is the pinnacle of mollusc evolution so far.
On evidence. To make the statement you did, you must start with the notion that evolution is true, that it happened, and in the way that science has arranged the charts.
Not at all. One might simply dig slowly down through a stratified rock, putting everything you found on a table, with the first ones, from the topmost strata, at one end and the last ones you come to at the other end. Without any assumption of evolution, there is visible evidence of a process of gradual change. In the unlikely event that someone with no knowledge either of science or of creation myths looked at this table, I think an evolutionary scenario would be more likely to occur to him than a creationist one.
Those are huge assumptions. Remember that when dealing with the past, science only works with possibilities and probabilities. The very best they can do would be to show how something could have happened, not how it must have happened.
Absolutely true. Science does not establish reality, it makes working models of it. Evolution is an excellent working model of the development of life.
See this page for a little on devolution
Yes, thank you, I rarely find myself on Russian websites. The paragraph referring to devolution says: "Although energy cannot be created from nothing or destroyed into nothing by any natural process, the energy in the universe is becoming increasingly more useless. This process is called entropy which is the opposite of evolution. The universe is devolving not evolving!" The last two sentences are untrue. Evolution is a biological process and cannot be identified with other types of change, such as the life and death of a star or the expansion of the universe. It is also entropic, as the tiny amount of order which can be found in the biomass is as nothing compare to the energy which has passed through it and dispersed into space. Imagine, if you will, a child attempting to make a pile of glass marbles on a carpet, from a box containing thousands. From time to time a small heap will be achieved here and there, but overall the marbles end up scattered all over the floor. The little ordered piles are organisms, while the vast majority of the material and energy from which life is made has indeed ended up scattered. So, entropy is not the opposite of evolution, and the universe is not devolving.

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