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?