Design, Evolution, Chance...

Discussions on creation beliefs within Christianity, and topics related to creation.
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Design, Evolution, Chance...

#1

Post by Anonymous » Wed Dec 29, 2004 6:13 pm

Kurieuo: Split from Prove God's existence

Hi, I'm new to the site. I'm atheist but I hope I'm openminded. A couple of questions regards previous arguments put forward:
Mastermind wrote:"We who design and create require a creator, but our creator does not? Why not? "

Because of His nature. Not all things have a beginning, because if they did, nothing would be around!
Couldn't it equally be said that it is in the universe's nature not to have a beginning? I believe that this is the predominant non-spiritual explanation.

Regards the "watch implies watchmaker" argument, I have a couple of queries that I'd be interested to see discussed. Firstly, how are you judging what is designed and what not? How would you respond to the assertion that someone of God's incredible power and grace was so complex that He could only have been the product of intelligent design?

Secondly, I know that it is possible to produce highly complex programs without writing a line of code. The technique is referred to as a genetic algorithm. It can be used to produce highly sophisticated (i.e. completely incomprehensible but incredibly efficient) code. I have seen this demonstrated in front of me, in the form of ant-like automata that become gradually smarter and more effective as dodgy "survival" strategies are weeded out.

In this case the output appears very clearly to be designed - I know that I would have extreme trouble producing programs of equivalent sophistication. And yet there is no real designer, just a bunch of initial conditions and consequences of inefficiency at a given task. Is there any reason why this couldn't be seen as an explanation for the biological "watches" we see around us?

Thanks for your time.

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#2

Post by Mastermind » Wed Dec 29, 2004 6:20 pm

lifewish wrote:Hi, I'm new to the site. I'm atheist but I hope I'm openminded. A couple of questions regards previous arguments put forward:
Mastermind wrote:"We who design and create require a creator, but our creator does not? Why not? "

Because of His nature. Not all things have a beginning, because if they did, nothing would be around!
Couldn't it equally be said that it is in the universe's nature not to have a beginning? I believe that this is the predominant non-spiritual explanation.

Regards the "watch implies watchmaker" argument, I have a couple of queries that I'd be interested to see discussed. Firstly, how are you judging what is designed and what not? How would you respond to the assertion that someone of God's incredible power and grace was so complex that He could only have been the product of intelligent design?

Secondly, I know that it is possible to produce highly complex programs without writing a line of code. The technique is referred to as a genetic algorithm. It can be used to produce highly sophisticated (i.e. completely incomprehensible but incredibly efficient) code. I have seen this demonstrated in front of me, in the form of ant-like automata that become gradually smarter and more effective as dodgy "survival" strategies are weeded out.

In this case the output appears very clearly to be designed - I know that I would have extreme trouble producing programs of equivalent sophistication. And yet there is no real designer, just a bunch of initial conditions and consequences of inefficiency at a given task. Is there any reason why this couldn't be seen as an explanation for the biological "watches" we see around us?

Thanks for your time.
But the universe does have a beginning. Look up the Big Bang theory.

We believe everything that is governed by comprehensible laws to be designed. Since we believe the entire universe was designed, then logically, everything must have a creator. Everything is ultimately Order, its just the degree that varies. When things are left alone by intelligent beings, they tend to fall into apparent dissorder, short of extreme luck or intelligent interference. On the other hand, the universe is far more complex than any mechanism known to man. We don't see motherboards growing out of mountains, so why would I assume anything to the degree of complexity that man and the universe have achieved would come about at random.

The program you mentioned, the one that designs these efficient algorithms, did it spring into existance on its own? I highly doubt the computer just decided to write code at random on its own.

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#3

Post by Anonymous » Thu Dec 30, 2004 5:46 am

But the universe does have a beginning. Look up the Big Bang theory.

As I understand it, the current theory has to do with an extra mathematical concept called imaginary time (which seems less ludicrous once you find out how important imaginary numbers are in the study of electromagnetism), See http://www.hawking.org.uk/lectures/bot.html for more details - it's the bottom third of the lecture.

We believe everything that is governed by comprehensible laws to be designed.

A blob of water is governed by comprehensible laws, specifically its internal fluid mechanics and the electrostatics that lead it to minimise its surface area. Does that mean that God puts serious consideration into the design of each raindrop? If so, how come they're all so similar?

When things are left alone by intelligent beings, they tend to fall into apparent dissorder, short of extreme luck or intelligent interference.

I would argue that that is not necessarily the case if order means that a thing tends to produce more, similar things, whereas disorder means that a thing tends to die off.

On the other hand, the universe is far more complex than any mechanism known to man. We don't see motherboards growing out of mountains, so why would I assume anything to the degree of complexity that man and the universe have achieved would come about at random.

I disagree that the universe is significantly more complex than a standard motherboard. Sure it's larger, but most of the most significant (to our physical workings) components are there - chemistry, physics, even biology if you include dust mites :)

And, in the context of this discussion, having a large universe surely just means there's more room for interesting stuff to happen.

The program you mentioned, the one that designs these efficient algorithms, did it spring into existance on its own? I highly doubt the computer just decided to write code at random on its own.

Given some of the bugs Windows has thrown at me I could probably argue that point :P but no, you're right, the initial program was set up by a creator. To continue the analogy, this would seem to be equivalent to God creating the Earth devoid of recognisable life (just as the "ants" controlled by the genetic algorithms were originally devoid of intelligence) but with a sufficiently high density of "chaining" molecules in its rockpools that complex patterns (such as prions and simple RNA) could emerge. Given a few million years of random mixing and matching, it would seem likely that a pattern with the winning strategy of replication would show up.

Of course, in a universe containing the force of gravity and the right mix of chemicals, this sort of environment could easily emerge spontaneously (take a big pile of dust, allow it to coalesce, add a sprinkling of "dirty" asteroids and stand well clear).

I assume that this is considered less plausible than the religious explanation. If you can see any holes in my logic, I'd appreciate being informed.

Apologies for all the italics, I'm still trying to get the hang of quotes :? [/quote]

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#4

Post by Mastermind » Thu Dec 30, 2004 1:41 pm


As I understand it, the current theory has to do with an extra mathematical concept called imaginary time (which seems less ludicrous once you find out how important imaginary numbers are in the study of electromagnetism), See http://www.hawking.org.uk/lectures/bot.html for more details - it's the bottom third of the lecture.


Actually no, the current theory has nothing to do with that(for now). That is just one of Hawking's concepts, which is neither proven nor generally accepted until more data can be collected. It was an intereting article, however. For now, I will keep the half dimensional nature of time as the acceptable norm, rather than Hawking's circular concept, if only because it's simpler and there is no actual proof of the circle time(something which I suspect is unprovable).



A blob of water is governed by comprehensible laws, specifically its internal fluid mechanics and the electrostatics that lead it to minimise its surface area. Does that mean that God puts serious consideration into the design of each raindrop? If so, how come they're all so similar?

I would expect them to be similar, they are governed by the same laws, aren't they? You can build an assembly line that keeps making similar cars without actually putting any care into each of them.

I would argue that that is not necessarily the case if order means that a thing tends to produce more, similar things, whereas disorder means that a thing tends to die off.

Let's take 2 groups of five rocks each. You leave one group out on top of a hill, and you grab some tools and work on the other group. Which group is more likely to end up with holes for nose and eyes? The one left alone, or the one you work on to achieve this? I believe the more laws govern something, the closer to order it is. There is no empirical evidence of laws coming out of nowhere. For example somebody throws a baseball. The baseball flies and drops in a field. This would be relative disorder, as the laws affecting it from the start are the same that affect it untill the end. Now, say I decree the Law of the Intercepting Palm, and stop the ball in mid air by catching it. My "Law" caused something new to happen, which could be classified as a sort of "Law". From the example above, if this universe was ruled by chaos, I would not expect new things to reappear, short of incredible luck. like the group of five rocks, it is always possible that over hundreds of years of punishment by nature that they all end up with faces, or that a hailstone might fall at the exact moment the baseball is in the air and stop it, but what are the odds of that?[/i]

I disagree that the universe is significantly more complex than a standard motherboard. Sure it's larger, but most of the most significant (to our physical workings) components are there - chemistry, physics, even biology if you include dust mites :)

And, in the context of this discussion, having a large universe surely just means there's more room for interesting stuff to happen.


I don't think you understand just how complex the universe is. Can man make new laws of physics to rival those which we have already? A motherboard would be an ingenious manipulation of these laws, and perhaps set some miniature "laws" of our own, but we will likely never achieve the complexity necessary to create laws to rival gravity or electromagnetics.

Given some of the bugs Windows has thrown at me I could probably argue that point :P but no, you're right, the initial program was set up by a creator. To continue the analogy, this would seem to be equivalent to God creating the Earth devoid of recognisable life (just as the "ants" controlled by the genetic algorithms were originally devoid of intelligence) but with a sufficiently high density of "chaining" molecules in its rockpools that complex patterns (such as prions and simple RNA) could emerge. Given a few million years of random mixing and matching, it would seem likely that a pattern with the winning strategy of replication would show up.

Of course it could happen, but what are the odds that a computer is going to program me Doom 3(preferably to run with all settings on high), out of random bit allocation? Again, evolution COULD happen, much like naturalist creation, but I don't like the idea of relying on luck.

Of course, in a universe containing the force of gravity and the right mix of chemicals, this sort of environment could easily emerge spontaneously (take a big pile of dust, allow it to coalesce, add a sprinkling of "dirty" asteroids and stand well clear).

I assume that this is considered less plausible than the religious explanation. If you can see any holes in my logic, I'd appreciate being informed.

Apologies for all the italics, I'm still trying to get the hang of quotes :?


I hate the quotes myself, so I'll also use italics :p

Again, what I don't like about the naturalist explanation is that it relies on luck. Logically, either could happen, but I find the theistic explanation to have quite a few more logical explanation that the standard naturalist "luck did it", or my personal favorite "I don't know, it just did!"
Last edited by Mastermind on Thu Dec 30, 2004 2:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#5

Post by Anonymous » Thu Dec 30, 2004 3:10 pm

It's perfectly readable, no worries. I'm going to use {} to indicate when text is from my arguments from 3 posts ago.

Actually no, the current theory has nothing to do with that(for now). That is just one of Hawking's concepts, which is neither proven nor generally accepted until more data can be collected. It was an intereting article, however. For now, I will keep the half dimensional nature of time as the acceptable norm, rather than Hawking's circular concept, if only because it's simpler and there is no actual proof of the circle time(something which I suspect is unprovable).

Oh right, cheers. I'm too much of a pure mathematician - I often fail to keep up with this stuff.

{A blob of water is governed by comprehensible laws, specifically its internal fluid mechanics and the electrostatics that lead it to minimise its surface area. Does that mean that God puts serious consideration into the design of each raindrop? If so, how come they're all so similar?}

I would expect them to be similar, they are governed by the same laws, aren't they? You can build an assembly line that keeps making similar cars without actually putting any care into each of them.


So wouldn't it be equally plausible to suggest that there is an "assembly line" for producing good-quality species? I think that that's a fair summary of evolution. The only difference is that this "assembly line" is a natural consequence of probability theory and genetics, rather than requiring explicit construction (in the same way that the sun is an assembly line for producing helium, and didn't necessarily need someone to start the process going).

{I would argue that that is not necessarily the case if order means that a thing tends to produce more, similar things, whereas disorder means that a thing tends to die off.}

Let's take 2 groups of five rocks each. You leave one group out on top of a hill, and you grab some tools and work on the other group. Which group is more likely to end up with holes for nose and eyes? The one left alone, or the one you work on to achieve this?


That seems slightly irrelevant to the thrust of my argument. Obviously planned optimisation is more effective than no optimisation. However, that doesn't mean that spontaneous optimisation can't occur. In particular, in your example the rocks are unable to breed in any meaningful way, so there's no way for good characteristics to be concentrated, and there is no downside to not having holes for nose and eyes. Given these two requirements (say, new rocks appear that look like older rocks and rocks that don't look facelike are smashed), I'd imagine that the rocks would end up looking facelike.

I believe the more laws govern something, the closer to order it is. There is no empirical evidence of laws coming out of nowhere.

I would disagree. Newton's Laws of Motion technically come out of nowhere - they are emergent properties of the low-level structure of "everyday" materials such as plastic and wood. Equally, the magnetic field (as I understand it) is an emergent property of photon-based interactions between charged particles in specific patterns.

For example somebody throws a baseball. The baseball flies and drops in a field. This would be relative disorder, as the laws affecting it from the start are the same that affect it untill the end. Now, say I decree the Law of the Intercepting Palm, and stop the ball in mid air by catching it. My "Law" caused something new to happen, which could be classified as a sort of "Law". From the example above, if this universe was ruled by chaos, I would not expect new things to reappear, short of incredible luck. like the group of five rocks, it is always possible that over hundreds of years of punishment by nature that they all end up with faces, or that a hailstone might fall at the exact moment the baseball is in the air and stop it, but what are the odds of that?

I think (correct me if I'm wrong) that I've answered most of this, apart from the bit about the universe being ruled by chaos. As I'm not too hot on Quantum Information Theory (we don't learn that til next year), mind if we leave that for the moment, unless you feel it's specially important?

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#6

Post by Mastermind » Thu Dec 30, 2004 4:38 pm

So wouldn't it be equally plausible to suggest that there is an "assembly line" for producing good-quality species? I think that that's a fair summary of evolution. The only difference is that this "assembly line" is a natural consequence of probability theory and genetics, rather than requiring explicit construction (in the same way that the sun is an assembly line for producing helium, and didn't necessarily need someone to start the process going).

The whole basis of the argument is whether God did indirectly cause the sun to produce helium. And at any rate, producing helim and producing sentient organisms made up of every chemical imaginable are two very different things. You can expect the earth to provide you with the metal, but you can't expect the earth to mold that metal in the exact way you want. As for probability, to be honest, I don't believe we know enough to calculate the odds. Atheists claim there are at least 50 thousand systems capable of supporting life in our galaxy. Theists claim there are none. What we do know is that no wave of any type that could be considered as artificial has been detected yet(like radio transmissions for example), and as such, the balance probably tips in the favor of theists. Then again, if we do find aliens of any sort, and they are sentient, we could probably settle the issue once and for all.



That seems slightly irrelevant to the thrust of my argument. Obviously planned optimisation is more effective than no optimisation. However, that doesn't mean that spontaneous optimisation can't occur. In particular, in your example the rocks are unable to breed in any meaningful way, so there's no way for good characteristics to be concentrated, and there is no downside to not having holes for nose and eyes. Given these two requirements (say, new rocks appear that look like older rocks and rocks that don't look facelike are smashed), I'd imagine that the rocks would end up looking facelike.

You are confusing two different subjects. My problem with evolution isn't whether it's possible to have happened, but rather if it is likely. I would probably accept a much more liberal stance on Creation than most people here, but relying on random(and unlikely mutations), of which only a very small minority actually are beneficial is not my idea of "likely". What I believe is that God raised a few base species of plants and animals out of the ground/water, and gave them the ability to further evolve. This thesis no longer relies on luck, so it seems more logical to me. In addition, there is always the possibility that evolution was designed, if not by God then at least by another sentient race, and the least an atheist could do is accept such a theory instead of the "we got lucky" results i keep hearing.


I would disagree. Newton's Laws of Motion technically come out of nowhere - they are emergent properties of the low-level structure of "everyday" materials such as plastic and wood. Equally, the magnetic field (as I understand it) is an emergent property of photon-based interactions between charged particles in specific patterns.

Out of nowhere? I was under the impression that the laws have been around for quite a bit. Every single substance, no matter what is still subject to the laws of motion. The sun is pretty much made out of gas yet it still flies through space. Of course, the lighter the particle is, the easier it becomes to influence their motion, but by no means are they defying any of newton's laws.


I think (correct me if I'm wrong) that I've answered most of this, apart from the bit about the universe being ruled by chaos. As I'm not too hot on Quantum Information Theory (we don't learn that til next year), mind if we leave that for the moment, unless you feel it's specially important?

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#7

Post by Anonymous » Thu Dec 30, 2004 6:40 pm

My problem with evolution isn't whether it's possible to have happened, but rather if it is likely.

Ah, in that case I have been arguing completely the wrong case - I've spoken to several Christians who believe evolution to be intrinsically implausible rather than just less plausible - I'd assumed you were the same. Would I be correct in summarising your stance as pro-microevolution but anti-macroevolution?

As for probability, to be honest, I don't believe we know enough to calculate the odds.... In addition, there is always the possibility that evolution was designed, if not by God then at least by another sentient race, and the least an atheist could do is accept such a theory instead of the "we got lucky" results i keep hearing.

When I mentioned probability in the context of evolution, I just meant that, when only "good" mutations get passed on and any "bad" mutations get struck from the record, species optimisation would seem to be a natural result. This would also seem to put paid to the reliance of species optimisation on dumb luck - correct me if I'm wrong.

Out of nowhere? I was under the impression that the laws have been around for quite a bit. Every single substance, no matter what is still subject to the laws of motion.

Subatomic particles aren't subject to the laws of motion in any usual sense. Concepts such as "leverage" have no meaning in the absence of solids. Looking back, I think we may be talking at crossed purposes regards what a law is. For example, you say: we will likely never achieve the complexity necessary to create laws to rival gravity or electromagnetics. I see laws as patterns inherent to the universe - things that are always true within precisely defined parameters. When I talked about emergent laws, I meant in the sense that many of those patterns can be seen as a product of their parameters.

If I recall correctly, this part of the discussion claims descent from your comment that: We believe everything that is governed by comprehensible laws to be designed. IIRC, my raindrop response was intended to make the point that you apparently have a very broad definition of what seems "designed" compared to myself, which leads to some difficulties with the assertion that the appearance of design implies a designer. It's hard to believe that frost patterns on windows are the work of Jack Frost when you can see the crystals forming. Are you able to justify the assertion that everything governed by comprehensible laws is designed (other than by saying that, since God created everything, everything is designed)?


I don't think I've missed anything apart from macroevolution. Regards that, where would you say that evolution ceases to be plausible? At the level of species? Or genus? Class? Phylum? How do you justify that "cut-off point"?

My first argument for macroevolution would be that, if microevolution including speciation can happen in very short periods of time (fruitflies can be encouraged to speciate within months), why shouldn't macroevolution be able to happen over very long periods of time? When one has hundreds of millions of years to play around with, it seems plausible that more complex developments could occur.

Once you have replicating molecules, the obvious next stage would be for them to gather together for mutual support. Thus single-celled organisms evolve, as any group of molecules able to cooperate to that extent would be vastly more effective than their neighbours at replicating, due to their ability to regulate their own surroundings. Once you have single celled organisms, multicellular organisms also become practical. At some point the hunter became the administrator - viruses took over the role of coordinating the cells, in the form of DNA. Cells are then able to specialise - some can do one job, some another, and all be more likely to have descendents.

Sooner or later, chlorophyll is "discovered" as the ultimate cellular energy source and the world divides itself into animal and vegetable. Zooplankton emerges and gets bigger and more complex until eventually we have one heck of a lot of jellyfish lookalikes - diploblasts. Then the discovery is made that having a space inside yourself (in animals it's generally in the torso) is a good way to protect squishy bits, and organs really start to become the in thing.

All this may sound ludicrous, so I'll cover one example in a bit more detail. It's reaching the end of the dinosaur era, the prey is getting smaller, a lot of it is hiding up in trees. What's a dino to do? Some of them get smaller, faster, lighter. They get aerodynamic. They'll do anything to catch up with the mammals - cold blood is not a survival trait in this context and the only reason why they're still around is that the mammals are real wimps at the moment. One individual manages to get webbing around its arms, like a flying squirrel. Woah, this is cool, he can practically glide. Makes it a lot easier to chase prey over rocky slopes. He gets plenty of food and the girls kinda like that in a guy - someone who's able to bring them a dead rodent on Valentine's day and so on. Soon a whole group has this adaptation. Gliding becomes their major advantage and, as they get smaller and lighter, so they become better able to catch prey, so they spread.

A couple of other changes occur. Their arms gradually deform for maximum aerodynamic effect - they're batlike. At some point they start to gain the ability to regulate their body temperature - a definite bonus when you've got that much surface area. Some joker of a gene gets hammered by high energy radiation and starts producing scales with slits in. Sounds dumb til you realise that they're able to help support the dino's weight whilst flying. Once the dinos can get to good heights, they can also start taking advantage of high-growing nuts and fruit. Their teeth tend to grow together - much easier to manage than all those separate ones, and a great saving in calcium. Makes it a lot harder to get seeds stuck in your teeth :)

So, we have flying, feathered, warmblooded dinos with beaks. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

Sorry to go into such ridiculous length, but this is one of the more controversial areas of evolutionary theory, and I figured it'd be best to lay out my understanding of the process and then ask people to point out dumb mistakes. Can anyone see any?

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#8

Post by Mastermind » Thu Dec 30, 2004 7:14 pm

Ah, in that case I have been arguing completely the wrong case - I've spoken to several Christians who believe evolution to be intrinsically implausible rather than just less plausible - I'd assumed you were the same. Would I be correct in summarising your stance as pro-microevolution but anti-macroevolution?

Something like that. Right now, I believe God made a few base animals which evolved into multiple types of the same animal. For example, if God made a cat, it would evolve into a tiger/lion/cheetah whatever. I am, on the other hand, open to the possibility that animals may very well have evolved from a single celled organism, as the Bible is rather vague on the creation process(in other words, almost anything goes). I do not believe humans evolved from anything, however. I am still thinking whether the making man out of dirt part is literal or figuratively speaking, but if it is not literal, then I don't know what it means. In addition, humans are quite different from animals. We may share the same building blocks(something I would expect God to do, seeing how our building blocks are made for our survival on current earth conditions), but we are different(for example, human metabolism is an incredible mechanism, far superior to any other creature on the planet, and pretty much the odd one out. Humans live roughly 3 times more than they should. Fast animals usually have very short lives, while slow animals like turltes live for quite a bit. Based on a human's average speed and metabolic rate, we should live to about 20-25). I am also not quite sure whether we were even created on planet earth, or whether Eden isn't actually on another planet(I will do some research on this subject soon enough).

When I mentioned probability in the context of evolution, I just meant that, when only "good" mutations get passed on and any "bad" mutations get struck from the record, species optimisation would seem to be a natural result. This would also seem to put paid to the reliance of species optimisation on dumb luck - correct me if I'm wrong.

The dumb luck i was talking about has nothing to do with natural selection. To get a mutation in the first place you need luck. To get a good mutation you need even more luck. Mutations aren't the result of natural selection, they are, as far as naturalism is concerned, random.

Subatomic particles aren't subject to the laws of motion in any usual sense. Concepts such as "leverage" have no meaning in the absence of solids. Looking back, I think we may be talking at crossed purposes regards what a law is. For example, you say: we will likely never achieve the complexity necessary to create laws to rival gravity or electromagnetics. I see laws as patterns inherent to the universe - things that are always true within precisely defined parameters. When I talked about emergent laws, I meant in the sense that many of those patterns can be seen as a product of their parameters.

First, I don't think we know enough about subatomic particles to judge whether they are subject to the usual laws of motion. If i smack a subatomic particle with another, i would expect it to go in the opposite direction, assuming no other force goes into play. At the subatomic level however, relatively weak forces like electromagnetism have much more effect though. I do not see this as a different law, but rather a different effect of existing laws. All laws are always in effect. It is just that as you change the size, the laws that have more power will dictate the results. Gravity is almost irrelevant at a subatomic level, yet when you deal with black holes, no subatomic force will be able to resist its might, as the atom is crushed into oblivion.

If I recall correctly, this part of the discussion claims descent from your comment that: We believe everything that is governed by comprehensible laws to be designed. IIRC, my raindrop response was intended to make the point that you apparently have a very broad definition of what seems "designed" compared to myself, which leads to some difficulties with the assertion that the appearance of design implies a designer. It's hard to believe that frost patterns on windows are the work of Jack Frost when you can see the crystals forming. Are you able to justify the assertion that everything governed by comprehensible laws is designed (other than by saying that, since God created everything, everything is designed)?

Many things form a pattern when they crystalize, a pattern that can be explained based on LAWS. The simple fact that laws allow for such harmony, be it as small as a snowflake make me reluctant to accept that it all just happened at random. Remember, in my world, God knew that snowflake would be like it is.

I don't think I've missed anything apart from macroevolution. Regards that, where would you say that evolution ceases to be plausible? At the level of species? Or genus? Class? Phylum? How do you justify that "cut-off point"?

To be honest, I don't. If a scientist can find cut off points that make the theory plausible, I would probably accept it. I do not believe, however, that such complexity can arrive about at random, from start to finish, no matter how much time is given, and when that time is relatively limited, it becomes almost impossible.

My first argument for macroevolution would be that, if microevolution including speciation can happen in very short periods of time (fruitflies can be encouraged to speciate within months), why shouldn't macroevolution be able to happen over very long periods of time? When one has hundreds of millions of years to play around with, it seems plausible that more complex developments could occur.

Once you have replicating molecules, the obvious next stage would be for them to gather together for mutual support. Thus single-celled organisms evolve, as any group of molecules able to cooperate to that extent would be vastly more effective than their neighbours at replicating, due to their ability to regulate their own surroundings. Once you have single celled organisms, multicellular organisms also become practical. At some point the hunter became the administrator - viruses took over the role of coordinating the cells, in the form of DNA. Cells are then able to specialise - some can do one job, some another, and all be more likely to have descendents.

Sooner or later, chlorophyll is "discovered" as the ultimate cellular energy source and the world divides itself into animal and vegetable. Zooplankton emerges and gets bigger and more complex until eventually we have one heck of a lot of jellyfish lookalikes - diploblasts. Then the discovery is made that having a space inside yourself (in animals it's generally in the torso) is a good way to protect squishy bits, and organs really start to become the in thing.


I read about an interesting speciation example a while ago. Some bacteria were put in the same dish as anoter predator bacteria. The weaker bacteria latched onto each other for protection, and the organism became multicellular. This may seem like proof for macroevolution to the average Joe, but for me, it just raises more questions. For starters, how would the dna know how to change as to accomodate a multicellular organism? The original organisms did not attach to each other because of genetics. As far as dna is concerned, they are not attached. This suggests two things to me: Either God intervened in the process, or he left some sort of coding in their dna that would cause them to react this way. The second one seems the most plausable explanation, since the odds to have all those cells mutate at random to THE EXACT SAME MUTATION are ridiculous. Of course, this implies some sort of design...

All this may sound ludicrous, so I'll cover one example in a bit more detail. It's reaching the end of the dinosaur era, the prey is getting smaller, a lot of it is hiding up in trees. What's a dino to do? Some of them get smaller, faster, lighter. They get aerodynamic. They'll do anything to catch up with the mammals - cold blood is not a survival trait in this context and the only reason why they're still around is that the mammals are real wimps at the moment. One individual manages to get webbing around its arms, like a flying squirrel. Woah, this is cool, he can practically glide. Makes it a lot easier to chase prey over rocky slopes. He gets plenty of food and the girls kinda like that in a guy - someone who's able to bring them a dead rodent on Valentine's day and so on. Soon a whole group has this adaptation. Gliding becomes their major advantage and, as they get smaller and lighter, so they become better able to catch prey, so they spread.

First, I'm relatively sure dinosaurs ate each other as well, so there was no shortage of food. Second, squirrels ARE rodents, and rodents don't eat meat. I do get your point though, however we have about 15 recorded speciacions in the last 200 years(yes, the concept is extremely old). I did a calculation a while ago, based on this number, and included natural disasters(we had about 7 ice ages, each of which erradicated 80-95% of all life, effectively reducing the overall gene pool, and reqiring even more time. The numbers i get(which are likely innacurate, but i have to accept them for now since they're all i have) do not fit. I'm not even going to start on the first organism...

A couple of other changes occur. Their arms gradually deform for maximum aerodynamic effect - they're batlike. At some point they start to gain the ability to regulate their body temperature - a definite bonus when you've got that much surface area. Some joker of a gene gets hammered by high energy radiation and starts producing scales with slits in. Sounds dumb til you realise that they're able to help support the dino's weight whilst flying. Once the dinos can get to good heights, they can also start taking advantage of high-growing nuts and fruit. Their teeth tend to grow together - much easier to manage than all those separate ones, and a great saving in calcium. Makes it a lot harder to get seeds stuck in your teeth :)

The arms may deform, but the dna doesn't. You need a random dna mutation that causes the deformation to get passed on to the rest of the local population. Getting the mutation is rare. You would likely reqire a great deal of gradual mutations to get wings. This takes time. A lot of time.

Sorry to go into such ridiculous length, but this is one of the more controversial areas of evolutionary theory, and I figured it'd be best to lay out my understanding of the process and then ask people to point out dumb mistakes. Can anyone see any?

I have a feeling I've outdone you in length.

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#9

Post by Prodigal Son » Mon Jan 10, 2005 3:53 pm

doesn't probability prove God's existence? if it is improbable that the universe is here by chance/random acts doesn't that leave us with it having to have been created? what's the new argument against God now?

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#10

Post by August » Mon Jan 10, 2005 6:03 pm

Hi Lifewish, good discussion.

I would like to weigh in on a few points.
My first argument for macroevolution would be that, if microevolution including speciation can happen in very short periods of time (fruitflies can be encouraged to speciate within months), why shouldn't macroevolution be able to happen over very long periods of time? When one has hundreds of millions of years to play around with, it seems plausible that more complex developments could occur.
Fruitflies do indeed speciate in a few months. However, you have to look at the way the experiment was designed. Firstly, fruit flies have a short lifecycle, so what can take millions of years to happen in other examples, can be 'simulated" with fruitflies in a very short time. The fruitfly experiments have been going on for about 80 years. Mutations in the fruitflies are also accelerated, by exposing them to 15000 times more radiation than would be the case in nature. The results of the fruitfly experiment is speciation,, when the meaning of speciation includes subspecies as a new species. But the subspecies is still a fruitfly, the subspecies just refuses to mate with the previous generation, thus justifiying the new species moniker. However, to allow that to happen, there was interference from the human side again, physically seperating the mutated fruitflies from the others to encourage them to breed, they did not do so spontaneously. But even if we assume that somehow the mutations can in nature get seperated from the non-mutated examples, the most interesting finding was that the offspring of the mutated fruitflies was sterile, making any further propagation of the new species impossible.

The problem with your whole argument is that there is no proof in the fossil record to support it. Transitional species are missing, and we also saw the rather abrupt appearance of many new species during the Cambrian explosion.
All this may sound ludicrous, so I'll cover one example in a bit more detail. It's reaching the end of the dinosaur era, the prey is getting smaller, a lot of it is hiding up in trees. What's a dino to do? Some of them get smaller, faster, lighter. They get aerodynamic. They'll do anything to catch up with the mammals - cold blood is not a survival trait in this context and the only reason why they're still around is that the mammals are real wimps at the moment....Gliding becomes their major advantage and, as they get smaller and lighter, so they become better able to catch prey, so they spread.
You are describing a couple of problems here not yet overcome by current scientific theory. The biggest one is morphological novelty, or the origination of organismal form, ie how did the wings, fur, feathers etc develop? A few quotes...

1. Kevin Padian, before he became president of the militantly Darwinist organization in which GME all work as staff members, acknowledged that there is an unsolved problem here. "How do major evolutionary changes get started?" he wrote in 1989. "I would like to see a new evolutionary synthesis that approaches questions of how morphogenesis [the development of form] constructs new features, and how it does so well, so often, and so quickly."

2. The Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology in which Gerd B. Muller and Stuart Newman argue that what they call the "origination of organismal form" remains an unsolved problem.

So if you have solved this, you would be ahead of the scientific community. There are many studies done on this subject, and none of them conclude that characteristics inherent to morphological novelty, and therefore development through natural mechanisms of new phyla or species.

I will gladly answer any further questions.

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#11

Post by August » Mon Jan 10, 2005 8:17 pm

Sorry, last sentence should read:

There are many studies done on this subject, and none of them conclude that characteristics inherent to morphological novelty, and therefore development through natural mechanisms of new phyla or species, is explainable with current scientific theory.

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Sorry to go quiet

#12

Post by Anonymous » Thu Jan 13, 2005 7:33 am

I'm currently struggling with the Maths Worksheets of Doom. This is an interesting discussion we're having - I will be back.

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Oh, and...

#13

Post by Anonymous » Thu Jan 13, 2005 7:53 am

The fruitfly experiments have been going on for about 80 years. Mutations in the fruitflies are also accelerated, by exposing them to 15000 times more radiation than would be the case in nature.

My dad used to study biology. I was referrring to experiments that he personally had done, with no selection process apart from the environment of the experiment (i.e. no "intelligent design" apart from that necessary to set the process in motion). And that environment definitely didn't include 15000 times more radiation than in nature.

Although the theory that the science labs where my dad worked were routinely irradiated to induce mutations would explain a lot about my sister... :P

Just one last point before I went quiet again :)

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Re: Design, Evolution, Chance...

#14

Post by LittleHamster » Sat Dec 08, 2018 2:46 pm

The Sunday morning religious show. Gives a good intro on some issues related to evolution, chance, etc...

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