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The Ego of Man

I should start by saying that I mostly like all of James Joyner's new guest posters over at OTB And so far, I've liked Steve Verdon. I'm sure many people find him (like me) often a tad caustic, but I admire someone who will stand up and call a dimwit a dimwit.

Having said that; He blew it.... a mile high.
(He gave no link for his excerpt, so I have none)

Dover High School Administrators: Dimwits
The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, "Of Pandas and People," is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.

With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments.

[Steve's words]
Well it isn't as bad as it could be. At least they make the tautological statement that a theory is just a theory instead of saying evolution is a theory (i.e., evolution is a fact, the theory of evolution is "just" a theory). Of course, this is true of all theories. The statement that theory is just a theory is like saying, rain is just rain. It is an obvious truism that contains almost no information.

There are gaps in a great many theories. All theories have controversies. These two facts do not render theories false, meaningless nor does it mean that alternatives are to be considered on equal footing. Such views underscore either an empty-headed understanding of science or it is a sign of dishonesty. ...

Also, I think it is misleading to simply say that students should keep an open mind about any scientific theory in general. Science does not work that way. Theories are ranked according to how well the theories fit the data. If a theory does not fit the data as well as another theory why should we opt for the theory with less explanatory power?

Excuse me? Did he just say, "I think it is misleading to simply say that students should keep an open mind about any scientific theory in general." WOW! The ego of man on proud display.

Considering he prides himself on being a scientist, I'm quite stunned he said that. I guess Steve would have thrown rocks at Copernicus.*

The guidelines were extremely well thought out and well worded. It covered all aspects fairly. (and that's hard to come by nowadays.)

In case Steve was asleep in 9th grade, the Sun does not rotate around the Earth, the planet is not flat and angels do not dance on the heads of pins. If there is one truism in science is, it is that the more man is convinced he is right, the more often he is proven wrong. And every generation thinks theirs' is enlightened - immune to such folly.

If there is a 'dimwit' to be castigated, it is Steve himself for unfathomable hubris.

When you fail to question a theory, you have officially made your beliefs into a religion.

Clarification: I get his point that "there are theories and then there are theories." In rereading my post it looked like that was my only problem with it. It was not. I disagree strongly with refusing to teach another theory because "we all know" which one is right. History should have taught us the danger in that.

I tried very hard to NOT talk about the merits of one theory over another and perhaps I was unclear.

I'll stop now, lest I change the discussion from one of the scientific method to one of the origin of man. (which I'm not discussing, but I'll put a further comment in the comments)

*Postscript: Contrary to the (modern) legend, Copernicus was not stoned to death. His work was actually published just a few weeks before his death and he never knew the stir it would cause.


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Comments (136)

Lots of people get this wro... (Below threshold)

Lots of people get this wrong. Darwin published two distinctly different works; Evolution was the first, an assembly of data concerning the evolution of plants and animals (psst...we get new flushots every year cause them little bugger evolve), and the second publication was The Theory of Natural Selection. Evolution is not a theory but a scientifically proven fact. The theory of natural selection remains just that, a theory but the best one around. Things evolve, microevolution is seen around us from everything from the common cold to insects developing immunities to pesticides. Macroevolution can be bothersome to those who believe an invisible man in the sky did it all.

PS:PS: The proper ... (Below threshold)

PS:

PS: The proper way to question any theory is to conduct repeatable experiments of your own, or to indicate scientific work done by others, that provide a reasonable difference to what has been considered the norm. Simply arguing because you do not happen to believe in something, with no evidence save for an emotional predisposition, means you are a contrarian, not a person of good will that has chosen to embark upon a knowledgeable breakthrough.

Indeed, evolution is a real... (Below threshold)
mcg:

Indeed, evolution is a reality, but what we do not yet have is an explanation for the origin of life. There's a difference, and that's one thing that bugs me about the way the Pennsylvania statement is worded: "Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view."

Naturalism does not yet have a credible explanation for the origin of life. There are a variety of theories being explored. And yes, ID definitely provides one proposed explanation for the origin of life---God put it there. (On that very specific point, certainly no less preposterous than the panspermia idea, which does nothing but shift the origin-of-life question to another planet.) But Darwinism is not an explanation for the origin of life, it is an explanation for the diversity of life that arose from the first life.

Admittedly, ID attempts to go much further than to simply explain the origin of life, and challenges the notion that evolution is the sole process driving the development of the species. To form a complete naturalistic counterpart to ID you need both modern Darwinism and some sort of abiogenesis theory.

Evolution is an unproven th... (Below threshold)
Ron:

Evolution is an unproven theory, Gunny. It may be "proven" to scientists, but none of them have ever won a debate with Kent Holvind. Evolution itself relies on theories of theories, i.e. radio carbon dating. Carbon dating is so exact it can date the skeleton of a fossil as being 20m years younger than the flesh on the bones it is attached to.

Just to be clear I'm not sa... (Below threshold)
mcg:

Just to be clear I'm not saying that Darwinism is "on probation" or anything like that just because we don't have an established abiogenesis theory. That is a debate I'm not getting into. Just that there is a slight difference of scope between ID and darwinism.

If one were to question, sa... (Below threshold)

If one were to question, say Einstein's Theory of Relativity, I would suggest they speak to the people of Hiroshoma or Nagasaki. They may have an interesting point of view of how a "theory is just a theory."

While no such proof is available for evolution, the basic outlines of Darwin's theory have held up remarkably well for 150 years. While the processes involved in evolution are just now becoming known as a result of evolutionary biology, psychology, archeology and anthropology, what's clear is that intelligent design is an anthropromorphic construct...not necessarily "wrong" but something akin to putting chicken before the egg.

Bio-tech labs are not run on principles related to intelligent design. If we want our children to be running these labs in twenty years rather than sweeping the floors of German and Japanese bio-tech factories, I would suggest that we teach our children modern biology...which is based on Darwin's theories of evolution.

You know, in Einstein's day... (Below threshold)

You know, in Einstein's day it was thought we knew nearly everything about physics there was to know. The universe was hought by nearly everyone to be totally mechanistic until quantum mechanics turned that idea on its ear. It's funny how wrong we often are.

That said, intelligent design looks unlikely. To paraphrase Glen Cook, it's not necessary to explain anything. The weak anthropic principle says we have to be here, or we wouldn't be asking how we got here. How unlikely the steps to evolve a human are is immaterial in an infinite universe.

"Evolution itself relies on... (Below threshold)

"Evolution itself relies on theories of theories, i.e. radio carbon dating. "

Wha? ho? WTF? Counting atoms as they do in Radio carbon dating to measure the decay of certain isotopes is hardly "theory." Anything measurable is as close to fact in science that you can get.

I suppose because no one has stepped off the 250,000 miles from the earth to the moon you're not convinced that's the case.

I hate to tell you, but Dar... (Below threshold)
Mescalero:

I hate to tell you, but Darwin's theory of evolution is still theory. But he isn't all wet either. Darwin's own journals detailiing his day-to-day encounters with reality on the HMS Beagle are very worthwhile reading for any scientist worth his sheepskin.

There is still the problem of the K-T Boundary problem where the dinosaurs disappeared. Much to my chagrin, a Christian fundamentalist brought this to my attention, but at the time I was in no mood to listen. Then I went to a party for new Engineering PhD's at UC Berkeley and I got into a rather long conversation with a rather quiet fellow who was a from the Physics Department. Being the young, brash know-it-all-just-got-my-PhD type, I told this interesting physicist about my encounter with the Christian fundamentalist and his statement that comets hitting the Earth ended the dominance of the dinosaurs. Wow! How stupid! Only dumb Christians could come up with such nonsense! Without changing his expression, the physicist said "you might want to re-consider your last statement about the dinosaurs". Somewhat puzzled by this comment, I later asked my thesis supervisor to identify the physicist. His answer didn't register at the time, but it did later. My thesis supervisor just smiled and said "that's Louis Alverez, and the guy standing next to him is his son Walter!" Duh...the rest is history. If I've learned anything from this experience thirty years ago it is that theories are only as good as the experimental , critically- examined data by disinterested peers that is worth consideration. Even then, it will always be the guy who thinks outside the comfortable box (i.e., Eistein for example) that really advances our understanding of what is going on around us. Even Einstein had the balls to point out the holes in his own theories. That's what makes reading his works so enjoyable.

Paul, I have a theory that ... (Below threshold)

Paul, I have a theory that Zorkon the Space God controls everything, but sometimes he doesn't if he's not in the mood that day.

Now, should the schoolkids be taught to "keep an open mind" and treat that theory in exactly the same way as the theory of evolution, which has stood the test of reality for over 150 years so far?

Steve Verdon's statement was exactly right, even if the phrasing was poor. All theories are not equal, and to force students to approach them that way might even cripple their critical judgement.

Darwin's theories have stood, with refinements along the way, for 150 years. Darwin began with facts, invented a hypothesis, then looked for facts that would refute it. He found none. No one has yet. That's science.

ID begins not with facts, but with the idea that it wants to prove. I have never seen it presented in a form that could be falsified. As faith, it's weak. As science, it's bunk.

I just <a href="http://peak... (Below threshold)

I just wrote a post about a PBS affiliate in Albuquerque, NM who pulled a show about "Intelligent Design" because it was backed by some who had "religious ties".

Truely sad that those who have access to amazingly pertinent information are so scared of dissemination of this information if it has any sort of "religious ties".

When there's a billion to one chance that a random genetic mutation will lead to advancement of a life form, isn't it obvious that there was "Intelligent Design"?

Very interesting comments. ... (Below threshold)
Science Guy:

Very interesting comments. In fact, incredible comments. You rarely see this sort of discussion on the internet. Fine comments.

(Expect Superhawk who is in way over his head.)Everyone else is doing a fine job.

Carry on.

Theories about "how" we got... (Below threshold)
Jim Hines:

Theories about "how" we got to this point are interesting but can someone point me to the current scientific theory as to "why" and for what "purpose" life and the universe it inhabits exists? Is there an accepted theory as to where the evolution is taking us?

can someone point me to ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

can someone point me to the current scientific theory as to "why" and for what "purpose" life and the universe it inhabits exists?

Yikes Jim- I don't have that much Bourbon.

OK in my post I tried very ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

OK in my post I tried very very hard not to even touch on which theory was better than the other. That made the post very difficult to write. But perhaps if I touch on the issue here, it will make it easier to understand. (because you will know where I'm coming from)
========

So here is the deal. For generation after generation thru the millennia, every generation has been convinced -often convinced enough to kill those who disagreed- that their generation knew the origin of man.

***Our generation has no more clue than any of the ones in the past.***

Whether you believe we came from primordial ooze that got struck by lightning or you believe God put us here, you believe it not because you have proof, but because you have taken a leap of faith.

To be frank, having spent a great deal of time looking at both sides' arguments, neither side accounts for even 1% of the questions out there. (well, OK religion decrees the answer to be correct but you know what I mean.)

If I had to give it a score like a volleyball game but 100 points were needed to win, I'd score it like this:

Religion 1 - Darwin 2

(insert your favorite words for "darwin" and "religion" ID whatever, I don't care.)

When one theory takes a 10 point lead, get back to me. Till then, ignore the other at your own peril.

Look, there is a place for ... (Below threshold)
CrowScape:

Look, there is a place for intelligent design being taught in schools: it's called philosophy class. Intelligent design has no place in a science class because the "theory" is not a theory in the scientific sense that it is falsifiable. We can take the theory of natural selection and devise an experiment, albeit a hypothetical one, of documenting the physiological changes of various species over a period of hundreds of thousands of years to see if evolution is occuring. Sure, it's completely impractical at this point, but it is a physical possibility. Meanwhile, there is no possible experiment one could conceive of that could ever yeild the possibility of denying the existance of an intelligent design, which boots it right out of the science arena and right into philosophy, where metaphysical discussions on it can be done all day long. Pretending that intelligent design is science does a great disservice to all parties involved.

Hmmm. Darwin's Evolution T... (Below threshold)
epador:

Hmmm. Darwin's Evolution Theory and the teleological Intelligent Design (simply a renamed doctrine that predates Christianity and Hebrew culture) are apples and, well, not oranges, how about rocks? This is a discussion placing them side by side when the original article being flamed here tried to distance the two - in an admittedly ineligant manner.

An apple may rot, but it's seeds can sprout and grow new trees and new apples. A rock is good for bludgeoning your enemies or neighbors, but once you grind it down, all you have is dust. Certainly you may be able to make clay from it and fashion a nice pipe so you can enjoy a smoke and a pancake, but I prefer apple strudel every time.

Is that clear?

And its about as final as any discussion of this can be. Do we teach religious doctrine as scientific theory in public schools, scientific theory as humanistic doctrine, or present each as incomparable items, and leave it to developing adults to puzzle over these wonders, vagaries and paradoxes of multicultural human existence and our contradictions of truth?

Did you stop reading after ... (Below threshold)

Did you stop reading after the bolded section or something? Copernicus' theory had the best fit at the time...so why would I throw rocks, let alone reject it.

My point is, and always has been, you don't put all theories on equal footing (well maybe at first, but once you get data you shouldn't). Do you really believe that all theories should be given equal weight? Should we dredge up Ptolemy's model of the solar system, ressurect the notion of ether, and bring back lysenkoism? Personally I like Ian's theory about Zorkon, maybe we should just go with that.

Personally I take the probabilistic approach to evaluating theories, hypotheses and what not. Basically, I keep an open mind in terms of evaluting data in terms of its impact on the probability of a given theory being true. In other words, all theories are treated the same, the theory and the data go through Bayes theorem and what comes out the other side is a probability of the theory being true given the evidence.

Oh...and evolution...its a fact. It has been observed. Organisms change. That is what evolution means...you know...change. Now the theory of evolution, well yeah that is a theory. Of course, such statements are tautologies and pretty much devoid of any useful content.

Remember...Rain is rain.

My problem with the whole I... (Below threshold)
Ray Midge:

My problem with the whole ID thing is similar to Derb's over at NRO: that it's premised on pointing to what we presently don't understand and throwing up one's hands. "Why, it's irreducibly complex!" or some such. That claim isn't an honest attempt at greater understanding, it's a stop sign - a caricature of faith at it's anti-knowledge worst.

Oh, and in case no one saw it, last week one of those "Irreducibly Complex" problems of biology got a lot less complex - how our adaptive immune system became adaptive.

corante.com/loom/archives/the_whale_and_the_antibody.php

Wonderful atricle for the lay person on this new understanding. The Panda's Thumb sticks the knife in a little deeper here:

pandasthumb.org/pt-archives/000701.html

No Steve, read my clarifica... (Below threshold)
Paul:

No Steve, read my clarification.

My problem is the the theory of evolution is (scientifically) about as impressive as Ptolemy's.

Declaring it the "winner" by fiat is just silly.

Man Paul you are scientific... (Below threshold)

Man Paul you are scientifically illiterate. I'm not decalaring anything the "winner" in that it is true. If by winner, you mean it is more likely (given the current evidence) then yes, Darwinism is the best theory so far. I'm sorry I didn't run down through the Likilihood Principle, Bayesian Inference, and how Bayes factors are related to Ockham's razor.

Read Ian's post. He got it. You don't present the "theory" with less explanatory power as if it is on the same footing as all others. Do you ignore it? No, and ID has not been ignored. Philosophers of science (Elliot Sober), statistians (Richard Wein), mathematicians (David Wolpert, Jeffery Shallit), physicists (Mark Perakh, Dave Thomas) and biologists (Kenneth Miller, Wesley Elsberry, Steve Reuland, Dave Ussery) have looked at different parts and proclaimed much of ID wanting. This is not being ignored, I haven't ignored it. It just isn't for the introductory classroom, nor is it anywhere near a theory that has stood for over a century and a half.

Oh...and evolution is not about the origins of life. That is abiogensis. Evolution is about the diversity of life.

Ron,"Evolution itsel... (Below threshold)
Carleton Wu:

Ron,
"Evolution itself relies on theories of theories, i.e. radio carbon dating. Carbon dating is so exact it can date the skeleton of a fossil as being 20m years younger than the flesh on the bones it is attached to."

Uh, that would be really, really amazing. Because the half-life of C14 limits the effective range of radiocarbon dating to 50k years or so.
To paraphrase: you have less than no idea what you are talking about.

Paul- You appear to lack th... (Below threshold)
Carleton Wu:

Paul- You appear to lack the background for a serious critique of natural selection. Science is neither fashion nor instinct- ie only informed opinions have any serious value. You appear to be basing a great deal of your critique on instinct- but that is an unreliable guide to knowledge IMO, because it is inherently limited to what you are already familiar with. Only rigorous thought (or profound religious experience- eg Plato's gnoesis) can bring you into new terrain.
Id like to hear what it is that makes you think that we've only come to understand about 1% of the general nature of life and its evolution. Many people have worked lifetimes to vastly increase our knowledge, but you dismiss this with a casual 'plus ca change'...

A few points then my commen... (Below threshold)
Paul:

A few points then my comment:

* No Steve, you are not declaring one theory the "winner" in that you saying it is true, you just say that if you teach the other of the two major theories out there, you are a dimwit... hmmmmm.

* And for the record, I was awake in 9th grade and understand the difference between evolution and abiogenesis (which BTW you might note the proper spelling of, you consistently spell it incorrectly.) Bashing my comment above is just silly. I did not speak of the origin of man in my post and in fact I made it clear that my post had nothing to do with the origin of man. I posted the comment to help you understand my point. Yet you built the straw man. Sigh.

* If you read my clarification, I get your point that some theories are more plausible than others and should be weighted... I've never disagreed. But when you teach that close-mindedness is part of the scientific method, you blow it.

* It has not come up yet but it will so before it does lemme say this too... Yes, I get that ID is not so much a theory as much as it is an "anti-theory" (as a friend of mine humorously calls it.) If I refer to it as a theory it is only because I'm using the nomenclature of the day.

======

My larger point. This is about the 4th time you've posted the same post on OTB. Dover, Pennsylvania teaches ID and it pisses you off. We get it. We got it the first 3 times.

Here's where the hubris come. You have no more proof that evolution is a fact than I have proof the moon is made of cream cheese. (see my footnote) To bash -with such vigor- anyone who says otherwise is folly. In fact, the longer the theory of evolution stays out there, the more problems we find with it.

Looked at honestly, "your side" has a theory that is about 2% finished and "the ID'ers" have a theory that is 1%. (see my footnote) You strutting around the rhetorical barnyard like you have all the answers in silly.

You attack and call names (which I'm not always against but I am here) anyone who might have another theory. If yours was demonstrably better, then I'd back you up, but it ain't. (did I mention the footnote?)

You are not alone. Every generation thinks they have all the answers... Then a few centuries later we look back and say "Man what idiots" of the people who came before us.

So you just rant and rave and attack anyone who says there might be more to it than what Steve's brain can comprehend today. As I said, it is a prime example of the ego of man and I'd hate to stop the show.

---
Footnote: It might surprise many of you but I believe the theory of evolution to be true. But I'm enough of a (real) scientist that I can separate my beliefs from statements of fact. We do not have, in scientific terms, much more than a hunch today.

I love the "science v religion" battle (call it what you will evolution v ID, I don't care) because I am perhaps one of the few people who is on neither side. I realize both sides are idiots. The ID'ers for believing what is quite probably mythology and the Steve's of the world for believing they have all the answers.

But in the whole scope of life, the "science crowd" pisses me off more. (Ironic since I'm a science guy) The religious people admit they are acting on faith. The science crowd refuses to make that admission. And considering they pride themselves on being scientists, they have the added responsibility to admit when their beliefs exceed the bounds of known science. The religious people are, by definition, immune from this problem.
--

AND BTW Steve, the topic is NOT evolution V ID. (I know that is where you will go) I added the footnote to help explain my point. The point is that you are taking a terrific leap of faith and bashing anyone who offers another theory. Not a very scientific way of looking at things no?

btw steve, read Mescalero's... (Below threshold)
Paul:

btw steve, read Mescalero's post. twice.

In what respect does your o... (Below threshold)
Paul Zrimsek:

In what respect does your open-mindedness about the origin of species differ from Boccardi and Thornburgh's open-mindedness about the authenticity of the Bush ANG forgeries?

"The purpose of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid."
-- G.K. Chesterton

Steve, can you give me one ... (Below threshold)
Randy:

Steve, can you give me one example of one species that evolved into another species?

If evolution is a fact than for-sure you can give me just one tiny example of when it happened right?

If evolution explains the diversity of life, there must be millions of examples right? right?

Zrimsek that is funny but u... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Zrimsek that is funny but ultimately too poorly reasoned to warrant a reply. Thanks for the chuckle.

P

The C/E debate usually quic... (Below threshold)
PaulD:

The C/E debate usually quickly degrades into name-calling and elephant hurling. Thanks Paul for trying to steer the discussion away from arguing for or against a specific theory.

That said, the largest differences between Neo-Darwinians, Young Earth Creationists, Old Earth Creationist, IDers, and every other "belief system" are not which questions should be asked, which facts are accepted, or even the value of science. The main difference is one of perspective. Very similar to the liberal/conservative discussions, both sides see the same issues, but approach them from completely different mindsets. When a liberal attacks a conservative position, (s)he does so from her/his own position, which is held by a priori choice. The best conservative responses are often the ones that rephrase the problem into the conservative mindset. (As opposed to answering a critic according to their own thinking--which should at least be self-consistent)

My point here is, I believe, similar to Paul's, limiting the discussion to the origin/diversity of life to one framework and declaring that framework to be the only framework that can be operated in is no different than declaring liberalism/conservatism the only approach to government, and all other thinking as stupidity.

Thanks for the discussion,

PaulD

It was a serious question. ... (Below threshold)
Paul Zrimsek:

It was a serious question. In each case the reasoning is, "It hasn't been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt; therefore, I can believe whatever I like."

If it makes you feel any better, I'll admit my belief that Dan Rather is not Queen of the Space Unicorns is nothing more than a leap of faith.

Evolution is an unproven... (Below threshold)

Evolution is an unproven theory, Gunny. It may be "proven" to scientists, but none of them have ever won a debate with Kent Holvind.

That's because the requirements for winning a debate with Kent Hovind is that you convince him that you're right. Given that his mind is utterly closed, and given that he insists on muddying the debate on evolution with things like cosmology, astronomy and an atrocious lack of understanding of physics, chemistry, and most other things scientific, winning a debate with him by his rules is not possible. There are point-by-point refutations of his materials available on the web; all you have to do is Google. But if you need help, I'd be happy to point you in the right direction.

Oh, some other things not p... (Below threshold)

Oh, some other things not proven beyond the shadow of a doubt:

Einstein's theories of relativity.
Newton's law of gravitation.
Newton's laws of motion.
The laws of thermodynamics.
Kirchoff's voltage and current laws.
The blackbody equation.
The ideal gas law.
Bernoulli's law.

Is the horse dead now?

Oh, just went to the <a hre... (Below threshold)

Oh, just went to the Hovind FAQ on Talkorigins.com; it appears that Hovind has about five criteria for winning the debate; only the last has anything at all to do with evolution.

What we really need is anot... (Below threshold)
Paul:

What we really need is another 'Paul" in this discussion. ;-)

Paul Z read this especially the (bottom) part about reasonable doubt. Sorry that is all the time I can allow on your point. -- busy.

Are you sure angels ... (Below threshold)
Kyda Sylvester:

Are you sure angels don't dance on the head of a pin?

A farmer wakes up one morni... (Below threshold)
Sue Dohnim:

A farmer wakes up one morning and sees the shape of the Mandlebrot set impressed into his wheat field. He reports it to the local university and one of the science professors comes around to look at it.

The scientist says to the farmer that it is entirely possible, given enough time, that the wind could blow down the wheat stalks to create the Mandlebrot set.

When the farmer laughs and asks him what he's been smoking, the scientist then enhances his theory to say that the wind would only bend the weak stalks and that inertia and gravity would hold down the stalks once they're blown down.

The farmer, finally deducing that he's actually serious, tells the scientist that he is full of it, and that someone probably crumpled the stalks into the pattern observed.

The scientist begins to scream at the farmer, "What? You think aliens did this, don't you? You're a typical moronic hayseed who can't fathom all of the forces of nature we scientists deal with every day!"

"I see nature every day too, and I know it can't do this. And I didn't say anything about aliens, mister. I just said 'someone' did it," replies the farmer.

"Idiot. Imbecile. The wind did this, so you can take your UFO stories and shove 'em," spits the scientist as he walks off in a huff.

The farmer chuckles, shakes his head lightly, and goes back into his house. Maybe a stern phone call to the math department will prevent his wheat from being mashed down again, he ponders.

"You have no more proof ... (Below threshold)
CrowScape:

"You have no more proof that evolution is a fact than I have proof the moon is made of cream cheese."
-Paul

Untrue. Evolutionists have fossil records, inheritance/genetics, and extinction to point to, for starters. Meanwhile, you're stuck having to explain why those moon rocks can't be spread easily onto a bagel. But hey, at least you chose a theory that was falsifiable, unlike the IDers.

We are not required to keep... (Below threshold)
LagunaDave:

We are not required to keep our minds open to any and every theory. We are required to keep our minds open to new evidence. There is an important difference.

For the record, Copernicus' model of the solar system still used (small) epicycles and was no more accurate than Ptolemy's. Until Kepler realized that planetary orbits are elliptical, and modified the Copernican model to account for it, there was no scientific basis for preferring the Copernican model to the Ptolemaic one (or vice versa).

The situation with evolution through natural selection is quite different, in that there is overwhelming evidence for it, and no evidence for radical alternatives like intelligent design.

In addition, intelligent design fails the test of logical coherence and lacks any explanatory power.

It rests on the assumption that systems of great complexity could have only arisen through the conscious, intelligent design of some agent. Such an agent, capable of constructing and shaping the development of life, must perforce be no less complex or intelligent than the life forms it designed.

So who designed the intelligent designer?

CrowScape: You thi... (Below threshold)
Paul:

CrowScape:

You think because you have fossils of things that are dead you have evidence of evolution???

Boy, you're easy to please.

Answer Randy's question then we can talk.

If evolution is a ... (Below threshold)
If evolution is a fact than for-sure you can give me just one tiny example of when it happened right?

In order for me to accept that F=ma, I'm going to need you to show me one. Just a little one, though.

Whenever I see an evolution... (Below threshold)
merc:

Whenever I see an evolution discussion, one thing pops in my mind: the platypus - a mammal that lays eggs and (males only) has two 'fangs' on its hind legs to poison attackers (the poison's strong enough to kill a dog and make a person really sick).

The only mammal on the face of the planet that produces venom. The only mammal on the face of the planet that lays eggs.

What in tarnation evolved into that silly creature?

Many have stated that microevolution is a fact - and it is. Microevolution also has no theological implications. Macroevolution, however, is troublesome theologically - and difficult to support scientifically.

Peakah,---When the... (Below threshold)

Peakah,

---When there's a billion to one chance that a random genetic mutation will lead to advancement of a life form, isn't it obvious that there was "Intelligent Design"?---

No, because the weak anthropic principle says we have to be here to ask that question. It doesn't matter if the odds are a trillion to 1, or 10 e+1000 to 1. In an infinite universe, since it could happen, which we know because it did happen (we're here), it had to happen.

TallDave, there is no infin... (Below threshold)
Sue Dohnim:

TallDave, there is no infinite universe.

Still, the probability of a... (Below threshold)

Still, the probability of an event having happened after the fact is 1.000, approximately.

And what are the odds that I would have said exactly that?

So because we exist, it mus... (Below threshold)
Sue Dohnim:

So because we exist, it must be that random chance did it.

Wind makes crop circles, too. It can be scientifically demonstrated.

So because we exist, it ... (Below threshold)

So because we exist, it must be that random chance did it.

A couple of dozen smart replies later (as well as a sore backspace finger), I'm just going to leave it that I suspect you're committed to not understanding.

CrowScape said:Evo... (Below threshold)
PaulD:

CrowScape said:

Evolutionists have fossil records, inheritance/genetics, and extinction to point to, for starters.

Creationists and IDers use the same evidence to support their ideas, only with a different interpretation.

PaulD

How would one go about test... (Below threshold)

How would one go about testing ID as a scientific theory, may I ask?

because the weak anthrop... (Below threshold)
Sean:

because the weak anthropic principle says we have to be here to ask that question. It doesn't matter if the odds are a trillion to 1, or 10 e+1000 to 1. In an infinite universe, since it could happen, which we know because it did happen (we're here), it had to happen.

That's not argument, that's circular logic. We're here, so damn the odds of us being here.

That's like arguing the odds of an apple falling up from the floor to the table, landing inside a bowl on the table, cored, peeled and sliced, without human intervention, is like a trillion to 1, but since you left the room and the apple was on the floor, came back and found it in the bowl on the table, cored, peeled, and sliced - damn the odds, it's there so it must have happened and oh by the way you live alone so no way human intervention was involved.

That's like <p... (Below threshold)

That's like

No, it's really not. You're talking apples and humans, here.

It's, like, an analogy. I ... (Below threshold)
Sean:

It's, like, an analogy. I think the statement that the "odds" of the origen of life are irrelevant because we are here is essentially useless. When discussing any event possibility vs. probability comes into play. If there is more than one explanation for any possible event we look at the various probabilities. The probability that life was a cosmic accident is, scientifically speaking, zero.

For all intents and purposes, if you were to design an experiment where the odds of success, under ideal conditions, are "a trillion to 1, or 10 e+1000 to 1" any scientist worth their sheepskin would conclude that the odds such an experiment will succeed are zero. Zero. Time to consider the other possibilities.

It's, like, an analogy.<... (Below threshold)

It's, like, an analogy.

Just not a good or useful one. If you doubt that, compute the odds of apple levitation.

If the odds of an experiment having an outcome are, say, 1e-9 per trial, but there is, just as a point of discussion, one trial per second, eventually you're going to have a considerable probability of that outcome occurring. And, really, you're banging the wrong drum. What you're talking about is abiogenesis; the topic here is evolution.

Really, there's a ton of information on this subject (as well as more salient ones); there's no reason to even discuss this until you've read at least part of it.

Slart, I perfectly understa... (Below threshold)
Sue Dohnim:

Slart, I perfectly understand that if something exists, then there is a 100% chance it exists.

The question is, how did it come into being?

Oh, but now you'll accuse me of moving the goalposts from speciation to abiogenesis. Fine. You and TallDave brought up the subject of origins, but if you want to abandon that, great. I followed you while you moved the goalposts, so I can just as easily follow you back.

Natural selection is, of course, a very solid and sound scientific principle. No argument there. The problem occurs when we expand this principle to arrive at macroevolution.

The speciation that has been observed does not include any innovation. No breeding experiment has ever yielded anything other than the basic plant or animal that it began with. Thousands of observed generations of fruitfly mutation have never yielded a new fruitfly body part. Changes in the Hox genes will put familiar (and non-functional) body parts in new places, but natural selection would definitely not allow such an affected fly to live to reproduce.

Macroevolution hinges on the very idea that innovative body parts and systems simply spring into being from random mutations of DNA. This has never been observed.

The fossil record has gaps in it for much larger animals than microorganisms. There is currently no solid evidence of macroevolution that can be gleaned from the fossil record. By the way, Darwin explained the gaps by supposing that the more highly evolved organisms completely destroyed their nearest ancestors through conflict and resource-denial, thereby leaving no trace of the evolution between them. For the chilling implications of this theory, read Chapter Six of Darwin's Descent of Man.

Thus, teaching macroevolution as an undisputable fact is as silly as teaching that Zarkon is the Creator of All Things, Twizzlers and Mountain Dew Included.

I agree natural selection should be taught and that it should be linked to the theory of macroevolution, but not that macroevolution is the end-all and be-all. That would make it dogma, not science.

:When there's a billion to ... (Below threshold)
Mark:

:When there's a billion to one chance that a
:random genetic mutation will lead to
:advancement of a life form, isn't it obvious
:that there was "Intelligent Design"?

The innumeracy in this statement is astounding.

Consider that you can easily have a sea full of a TRILLION bacteria. If there is a billion to one chance that mutation will lead to advancement of these bacteria, then it will happen...not just once, but a THOUSAND times. And that's just over the course of one year. Leave the bacteria in the soup for a billion years, and beneficial mutations will happen a TRILLION times. Just through random chance! No need to invoke any designer.

Part of the problem people have with understanding evolution is that they can't comrehend the time scales and number of organisms involved.

Evolution is an observed fact in the present, not just in fossil records, by the way. Every day hundreds of microbiologists around the world are using evolution as a tool to breed all kinds of new bugs that didn't exist the day before. [I see it coming. Go ahead, ID'ers, challenge me by saying "that's just microevolution".]

-Mark

Just not a good or usefu... (Below threshold)
Sean:

Just not a good or useful one. If you doubt that, compute the odds of apple levitation.

I'd say they were right up there with spontaneous accidental creation of life.

If the odds of an experiment having an outcome are, say, 1e-9 per trial, but there is, just as a point of discussion, one trial per second, eventually you're going to have a considerable probability of that outcome occurring.

Actually, no. That isn't how it works. The only way the probability of the outcome increases considerably is if you eliminate one of the non-positive outcomes. As explained by my statistics professor - the odds are always a trillion to one, each and every time you perform the experiment. Example, you have a bag full of a trillion marbles. All are black except one, which is plaid. The odds of pulling the plaid marble from the bag (without looking) are a trillion to one. The odds remain a trillion to one each time you pull a marble unless each time you pull a marble you do not place it back in the bag.

Otherwise, each time you do the little experiment your odds of success are a trillion to one. Or, scientifically speaking, zero.

okay, Mark, that's just mic... (Below threshold)
Sean:

okay, Mark, that's just microevolution. And also, microbiologists around the world are using evolution as a tool to breed all kinds of new bugs that didn't exist the day before

So, the microbiologists breed the new bugs? Sounds like Intelligent Design to me.

Mark, what are the names of... (Below threshold)
Sue Dohnim:

Mark, what are the names of these "new bugs?"

You and TallDave brough... (Below threshold)

You and TallDave brought up the subject of origins

I did? I responded to a question of probability, but I plead not guilty to the crime of equating TOE to abiogenesis.

I followed you while you moved the goalposts

Again, you're wrong.

There is currently no solid evidence of macroevolution that can be gleaned from the fossil record.

Again, untrue.

For the chilling implications of this theory, read Chapter Six of Darwin's Descent of Man.

So, point of debate: if a theory has chilling implications, does that invalidate the theory? The strong force had some pretty chilling implications, but the theory and its consequences lined up fairly well.

If it helps to think of TOE as an approximation until something better comes along, please do. F=ma is another one of those approximations; it serves fairly well under nearly all conditions. I can't think of any theory that's derived from physical a phenomenon that you could point to and say it exactly describes that phenomenon under all conditions.

Actually, no. That isn't... (Below threshold)

Actually, no. That isn't how it works.

Actually, yes, it is. If the probability of getting an outcome in one trial is 1e-9, the probability of getting that outcome at least once in successive trials improves with the number of trials. If you repeat the trial 1 billion times, the probability of the outcome becomes something like 0.63. Neat, huh?

The only way the probability of the outcome increases considerably is if you eliminate one of the non-positive outcomes.

Or, one could just have more trials.

As explained by my statistics professor - the odds are always a trillion to one, each and every time you perform the experiment.

True. But the aggregate probability of the desired outcome does, in fact, increase as you conduct more trials. If you doubt this, ask your statistics professor. If he disagrees with me, he probably shouldn't be teaching stats.

[Sue]:Mark, what are the na... (Below threshold)
Mark:

[Sue]:Mark, what are the names of these "new bugs?"

Start with E.Coli B F- MVB63 and MVB64.

[Sean]:okay, Mark, that's just microevolution.

Thanks, Sean, now help me out once more. Please clearly and unambiguously, in scientific terms, define for me your dividing line between "microevolution" and "macroevolution". "I know it when I see it" doesn't count.

-Mark

hardcore "Darwinists": The... (Below threshold)
iurockhead:

hardcore "Darwinists": There is no God, its all a series of fortunate accidents and happenstance that we are here. Boy, are WE lucky, eh?"

hardheaded creationists: God did it all in 6 days on October 29th, starting at 9 am EST 6034 years ago. Exactly."

How about evolution as the mechanism used to attain a goal? To summarize, science is the study of how God does things, Religion is the study of why. I see no inherent conflict.

Actually, no. That isn't... (Below threshold)
CrowScape:

Actually, no. That isn't how it works. The only way the probability of the outcome increases considerably is if you eliminate one of the non-positive outcomes.

No, the probability of the outcome also increases with quantity. For instance, if there is a one in a trillion outcome for a single experiment, if you run the experiment about 700 billion times, the odds of the outcome occuring are slightly better than 50/50. Run it 2.3 trillion times, and the odds are better than nine to one that it will happen once. Now, consider that mutations are happening multiple times in each offspring of every species, so each reproductive effort produces numerous "spins at the wheel." It would seem that the possibility of a species to evolve into a different species after hundreds of thousands of years is more like a probability.

did? I responded to a q... (Below threshold)
Sue Dohnim:

did? I responded to a question of probability, but I plead not guilty to the crime of equating TOE to abiogenesis.

Probability of what? TallDave subtly shifted the argument to abiogenesis and you chimed in to support him. As soon as someone else tried to dispute spontaneous generation of life, you then waved it away with the old "that's not evolution, that's abiogenesis" feint.

So, point of debate: if a theory has chilling implications, does that invalidate the theory? The strong force had some pretty chilling implications, but the theory and its consequences lined up fairly well.

As far as I know, scientists who discovered the strong force didn't try to use it as justification to argue for racial genocide. Darwin did just that with natural selection. This is a whole new can of worms, though, so let's not go there.

Anyway, you misunderstood the "theory" I was disputing. I didn't argue that it invalidated natural selection, which you seem to think. I was writing about Darwin's explanation of fossil gaps.

Unless you're saying that you agree with his assessment of the fossil gaps, which would make me wonder if you agree with Darwin's proposals on how to apply this to mankind.

How about evolution as t... (Below threshold)

How about evolution as the mechanism used to attain a goal? To summarize, science is the study of how God does things, Religion is the study of why. I see no inherent conflict.

Neither do I. I do, however, see endless conflict with the six-thousand-year-old earth, unless it was God's intention to create it exactly as if it was billions of years old. And at that point, there's really no difference between the two other than a gigantic temporal discontinuity.

- Einstein would probably b... (Below threshold)

- Einstein would probably be very "vexed" by this sort of debate since he:

- Was a very deeply religious man, and openly admitted many of his own ideas troubled him when they ran counter to his "faith"....

- The "ether" was mentioned. This was one of Einsteins biggest conflicts. Sometime after his second theory he proposed an ether to act as a background for everything. Then he retracted it and called it his greatest mistake. Then near the end he returned to it since it was the only thing that withstood the onslaught of Quantum Mechanics which, like his own personal intellectual vacuum he abhored.... (His debates with other prominent scientists of the time over this aspect of nature are legendary)... Albert and Neils Bohr debating the validity of the Heisenberg principle:

N.B.: "Sometimes God throws the dice where you can't see them"

A.E. :"God doesn't throw dice...."

N.B.: "Don't tell God what He can do....."

I would submit a few other "items" as a mix in the soup of this discussion"...

1) There is growing evidence that we may actually be "devolving". The living proof of entropy. This is troubling a number of the experts in the field. To wit. If you placed a modern man back in the time of "lucy" would he survive as well as she...

2) Many of the greatest thinkers in History have gone back to a doubly based point of view and reasoning encompassing both experience and faith in their later years....

3) Paul is absolutely correct when he points out that every generation believes they have their finger on the pulse of "truth" only to be shot down by future developments....

4) What proof is there, if any, that all forms of study, yes even science, is diametric to philosphy. In fact the proof recently is tending to just the opposite. If you look at the leading edge thinkers in Physics today you will find they are embroiled in the sudden realization that all those wonderful, implacable measurements we've come to trust so implicitly over the ages, turn out to be subject to the way and the fact that we are doing the measurements in the first place. Not good when you're trying to support theories of any kind....

-5) Finally its of great interest that when leading scientists are willing to be candid they all admit in the end that nothing really has been "proven". Everything we have are really "models" that fit the data fairly well. But those models invariably give way to newer and better models and history has shown us over and over they don't always support what went before....

- As of now we all seem to trace back to a single female from upper Africa who seems to have just popped out of the weeds.... Hardly something to get too intense about if you're putting your intellectual bets on the table.....

- I see both sides as being right as far as their theories carry them. Nature could just as easily be the thumbprint of Gods good works in all its splendor, and we see it in all its forms, can measure and realize its measurable secrets, but never know its origins. That takes men of good will and intellectual honesty, and just a few precious moments of seeing the love in your childs eyes when he or she looks up at you adoringly....

Mark, I see you ignored "<i... (Below threshold)
Sean:

Mark, I see you ignored "So, the microbiologists breed the new bugs? Sounds like Intelligent Design to me."

My unscientific explanation of micro vs. macro evolution would be, micro involves changes within a species like the difference between a Chihuaha and a Great Dane, while macro involves an entirely new species evolving from a "starter" species. Sort of like a bird evolving into a lion. Now, if that's wrong, maybe you can enlighten me, and others, as to the significance to evolution of scientists creating new little bugs.

TallDave subtly shifted ... (Below threshold)

TallDave subtly shifted the argument to abiogenesis and you chimed in to support him.

If I correct your English, am I arguing against your point, and for someone else's?

Darwin did just that with natural selection.

Well, that naturally just invalidates the whole package, doesn't it?

Unless you're saying that you agree with his assessment of the fossil gaps, which would make me wonder if you agree with Darwin's proposals on how to apply this to mankind.

What errors Darwin made at the time are relevant to this discussion in what way, exactly?

Thanks for the info, Mark.<... (Below threshold)
Sue Dohnim:

Thanks for the info, Mark.

I Googled the terms you gave me and found this:

http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed&pubmedid=10377417

Since I'm not well versed in all of the microbiological terminology, could you just give me a quick rundown of the difference between E. coli MVB64 and the run-of-the-mill E. coli bacterium?

I kept seeing the word "recombinant" on that page above. That seems to imply that these guys altered the E. coli DNA themselves, which is not a good argument for macroevolution. Help me understand this if I'm incorrect, please?

If I correct your Englis... (Below threshold)
Sue Dohnim:

If I correct your English, am I arguing against your point, and for someone else's?

I haven't seen you correct my English. I can be just as obtuse and snotty as you, though. Watch.

I don't know, are you? Does correcting one person's rebuttal to another constitute support of that other person's point? Do words have any meaning whatsoever? Where does belly lint come from anyway?


Well, that naturally just invalidates the whole package, doesn't it?

Which is exactly what I said, isn't it? Oh wait, no I didn't.


What errors Darwin made at the time are relevant to this discussion in what way, exactly?

I don't know, maybe you could read the sentence again and see the phrase "by the way?"

Now, if you can drop the juvenile tone, please, maybe we can have a good discussion. Otherwise, you'll start sounding like one of those DU morons on a Bush-bashing kick.

I can do that. If you'll s... (Below threshold)

I can do that. If you'll stop ascribing arguments to me that I've not made, we'll get along just fine. It's a pet peeve of mine.

:Since I'm not well versed ... (Below threshold)
Mark:

:Since I'm not well versed in all of the
:microbiological terminology, could you just give
:me a quick rundown of the difference between
:E. coli MVB64 and the run-of-the-mill E. coli
:bacterium?

There is no such thing as run-of-the-mill E. coli bacterium. There are thousands of strains of that bug, indicated by funny letters and numbers after the Linnaean name. I'd recommend that anyone who wants to have a serious discuss about evolution get themselves to a couple college-level biology classes. The article describes the "establishment of an incipient genetic barrier between formerly identical lines", and I gave you names of two of the strains involved.

:I kept seeing the word "recombinant" on that page
:above. That seems to imply that these guys
:altered the E. coli DNA themselves, which is not a
:good argument for macroevolution. Help me
:understand this if I'm incorrect, please?

First, "recombination" is a natural thing that bacteria usually do all by their lonesome, in addition to humans doing it for them. The scientists relied on the fact that recombination rates can be measured in order to test their theory.

Second, you haven't defined what you consider to be macroevolution vs. microevolution, so it's hard to answer your question. Should I understand you to mean that if recombinant techniques are used, then it's only microevolution? That seems rather arbitrary.

Finally, you need to read the part of the article where they indicate that the bugs evolved for 20,000 generations from a common ancestor. The scientists did not "evolve" them. The scientists just fed them and watched.


Mark

Okay, Slart, maybe I misund... (Below threshold)
Sue Dohnim:

Okay, Slart, maybe I misunderstood you. Here's what I saw:

TallDave wrote:

Peakah,

---When there's a billion to one chance that a random genetic mutation will lead to advancement of a life form, isn't it obvious that there was "Intelligent Design"?---

No, because the weak anthropic principle says we have to be here to ask that question. It doesn't matter if the odds are a trillion to 1, or 10 e+1000 to 1. In an infinite universe, since it could happen, which we know because it did happen (we're here), it had to happen.


Notice TallDave mentions odds in relation to the universe, not in relation to a particular evolutionary event. This moves the argument from evolution to abiogenesis, possibly even to cosmic origins.


Then I wrote:

TallDave, there is no infinite universe.

I was going to proceed with the discussion with TallDave, regardless of whether he stayed strictly within the subject of evolution or not.


Then you wrote:

Still, the probability of an event having happened after the fact is 1.000, approximately.

And what are the odds that I would have said exactly that?

You didn't correct TallDave's swerve from the subject, so I naturally assumed that's where you wanted to go and that you agreed wholeheartedly with TallDave.

After a few more comments you posted this in reponse to someone else:

It's, like, an analogy.

Just not a good or useful one. If you doubt that, compute the odds of apple levitation.

If the odds of an experiment having an outcome are, say, 1e-9 per trial, but there is, just as a point of discussion, one trial per second, eventually you're going to have a considerable probability of that outcome occurring. And, really, you're banging the wrong drum. What you're talking about is abiogenesis; the topic here is evolution.


From the first half of this post, it seems you were willing to run with spontaneous abiogenesis while there were weak arguments against it, but then made the usual turn back towards the "abiogenesis is not evolution" once the holes in it were exposed.

Also, you never corrected TallDave the way you did Sean above, even though TallDave deviated from the subject as well.

That's why I felt you were supporting TallDave.

:Mark, I see you ignored "S... (Below threshold)
Mark:

:Mark, I see you ignored "So, the microbiologists
:breed the new bugs? Sounds like Intelligent
:Design to me."

I ignored it because I thought it was a joke. You're serious? OK, then. The microbiologists did not "design" the bacteria. They did not grab atoms from here and molecules from there and build themselves some bugs. They relied on a useful tool called "evolution" to do their work for them. They could not predict the results, they had to watch and wait while the little fellas evolved and then see what happened.

If Intelligent Design is allowed to USE EVOLUTION as one of its mechanisms, then we have reached a tautology.


:My unscientific explanation of micro vs. macro
:evolution would be, micro involves changes within
:a species like the difference between a Chihuaha
:and a Great Dane, while macro involves an
:entirely new species evolving from a "starter"
:species. Sort of like a bird evolving into a lion.

A bird evolving into a lion, evolving into a straw man. Who claimed birds could evolve into lions? They're not just different species, they're different orders! This is why I asked for a scientific definition.

:Now, if that's wrong, maybe you can enlighten
:me, and others, as to the significance to evolution
:of scientists creating new little bugs.

I gave only one example. Every day, scientists like microbiologists use evolution as a tool to do their jobs. Evolution is proven over and over again, since it demonstrably works.

When this is pointed out to proponents of ID who say evolution is "just a theory", the response is usually "well, yeah, that's evolution, but it's just MICROevolution. MACROevolution, that's what we wanna see." But when asked to scientifically define macroevolution, they cannot.

Mark

Thanks Mark.Maybe ... (Below threshold)
Sue Dohnim:

Thanks Mark.

Maybe my definition is wrong, but I see macroevolution as being the natural unguided transition from one creature to another with new, never-seen-before traits, especially body parts.

A bird evolving into a l... (Below threshold)
Sean:

A bird evolving into a lion, evolving into a straw man. Who claimed birds could evolve into lions? They're not just different species, they're different orders! This is why I asked for a scientific definition.

The whole argument for evolution is that everything living evolved from a puddle of ooze way way back in the day. According to evolutionists:

Every individual alive today, the highest as well as the lowest, is derived in an unbroken line from the first and lowest forms.
- August Frederick Lopold Weismann, German biologist/geneticist (1834-1914)

From the remotest past which Science can fathom, up to the novelties of yesterday, that in which Progress essentially consists, is the transformation of the homogeneous to the heterogeneous.
- Herbert Spencer, English philosopher/psychologist (1820-1903)

So it sounds like you're saying one puddle of ooze was necessary for the evolution of birds, another for the evolution of lions, another for the evolution of apes, etc., etc.

Or are you saying that everything did evolve from the same puddle of ooze but now evolution is somehow limited?

The scientists also acknowledged the fact that they were looking at bacteria which produces asexually and therefore isn't a very good comparison to animals that reproduce sexually.

:Maybe my definition is wro... (Below threshold)
Mark:

:Maybe my definition is wrong, but I see
:macroevolution as being the natural unguided
:transition from one creature to another with new,
:never-seen-before traits, especially body parts.

Thanks for responding reasonably. My comment on "body parts" is, I know what you are getting at, but be careful. The vast majority of organisms on this planet do not have any body parts. All unicellular organisms, molds, most algae, sponges, etc. have no body parts. Really, only higher plants, some fungi, and higher animals can be described as having "organs". A theory like evolution or ID must be able to account for the changes seen in nature for creatures who do not have body parts, too.

Now, "traits" is a much easier term and actually is one widely used in scientific discussions here, so let's take that.

One example of a trait would be resistance to antibiotics. Another example would be color-blindness. Both have been observed as having spontaneously arisen through genetic mutation and then persisted through many generations causing new types of creatures which have a trait that did not exist before.

But I suspect that you might consider this "microevolution", too?

See, to a bacterium, antibiotic resistance is a HUGE trait, as benefical to them as a second pair of eyes might be to us.

Here's another example. The fossil record for whales and horses is complete, also, and shows pretty clearly the transition from one type of animal to another. Those took millions of years, though, and we haven't had time yet to replicate them in the lab :) It's easier with microbes, they have so many generations in a short period of time.


Mark

Sean,The terms mic... (Below threshold)
PaulD:

Sean,

The terms microevolution and macroevolution are deceiving as the imply the same process, but just on a different scale.

Microevolution (refered to as "change within a kind" among Creationists) is mostly attributed to genetics and natural/artificial selection. Mutations can also play a role. Speciation can and does occur within these kind of changes -- meaning two offspring from a common ancestor can no longer interbreed. There usually is not much disagreement in this area.

Macroevolution (refered to as "goo-to-you" evolution among some Creationists), or just plain Evolution, is believed to be the process of primordial life generating the diversity of life we have today. The Neo-Darwinian Theory proposes that the changes due to mutations accumulate over eons of time, causing multiple branches to split out into life as we know it. Natural selection plays the role of getting rid of the many bad mutations.

The Creationists and IDers argue that the base problem of macroevolution is the source of information. Whereas microevolution is primarily a reshuffling of existing information (oftentimes losing information along the way), macroevolution requires huge amounts of novel information to be added to the biosphere for each of the proposed steps. The propsosed source of new information are mutations. All known examples of mutations resulting in beneficial changes are argued by Creationists as being examples of information loss. (ie a mutation within a bacteria disables its ability to perform a normally good function making it resistant to an antibiotic -- a loss of information resulting in the preservation of the organism)
By this reasoning, Creationists would classify all such changes as "changes within a kind" or microevolution -- not because of the size of the change, but because they did not add new information to the biosphere.
What Neo-darwinians need to *prove* macroevolution is an undisputable example of an increase of information from a non-intelligent source. I am not aware of such an example.

PaulD

:According to evolutionists... (Below threshold)
Mark:

:According to evolutionists

A serious question. Why do proponents of ID call people like me "evolutionISTS"? Is there something called "evolutionism"? It seems to me that this is a pejorative term meant to imply that evolution is just another faith or religion. I don't call myself an "evolutionist".

:So it sounds like you're saying one puddle of ooze
:was necessary for the evolution of birds, another
:for the evolution of lions, another for the evolution
:of apes, etc., etc.

I said no such thing. I simply meant that a bird never evolved into a lion, so it is unreasonable to ask for proof that it can.

However, pikaias (or something like them) did evolve into hippos, kangaroos, sharks, monkeys, and people. And Pakicetus evolved into whales.

:Or are you saying that everything did evolve
:from the same puddle of ooze but now evolution
:is somehow limited?

I didn't say that either. This is what I mean by straw man. I ask for a simple scientific definition of the difference between micro- and macroevolution, and I get everything except that definition. The definition you gave is "birds evolving from lions", and such a definition is unscientific and unreasonable because no proponent of evolution ever claimed birds can evolve from lions or vice versa.

:The scientists also acknowledged the fact that they
:were looking at bacteria which produces
:asexually and therefore isn't a very good
:comparison to animals that reproduce sexually.

So what? The vast majority of the biosphere reproduces asexually. Most of evolution happened before sexual reproduction evolved. If evolution can be shown in ANY group of creatures, then it has been SHOWN.

Mark

Sue,Have you ever se... (Below threshold)
Carleton Wu:

Sue,
Have you ever seen Bryce National Park. You'd swear that it was man-made, but it's creation is the process of natural geological processes. (We 'know' that bc we can observe those processes at work today in a similar fashion. Of course, Paul may remain agnostic on the matter if he so chooses, as may you).
You apparently rely on "folk wisdom" about what is and isn't possible, and a caricature of a 'scientist' who behaves absolutely nothing like one.

And, as for the mathematical argument- weak anthropic principle aside- ongoing research suggests that ridiculous odds aren't required for evolution to occur. So your thought experiment is both violated because of it's reliance on the probability of past events & doesn't appear to be particularly relevant given ongoing research.

Randy (and Paul, apparently... (Below threshold)
Carleton Wu:

Randy (and Paul, apparently, since you cite him approvingly): Yes, there are numerous examples of species developing into new species or branching off into different species. Everything that we have learned about life has confirmed this, from DNA sequencing to developmental biology. Our understanding that, for example, the chimps and gorillas branched off from a common ancestor is supported by every branch of biology that's relevant to the question.
So, if you need an example, go with that one. Demonstate some evidence that chimps and gorillas don't have a common ancestor. Falsify the theory.

I suspect your question is similar to asking me to prove that Clovis artifacts weren't made by hyperintelligent turtles- since it's a scientific theory, it can never be absolutely known. So you'll always have a stage for your nonscientific alternatives. But don't expect anyone who understands science to take you seriously.

Thanks PaulD, that was help... (Below threshold)
Sean:

Thanks PaulD, that was helpful.

Mark, :Or are you saying that everything did evolve from the same puddle of ooze but now evolution is somehow limited?

I didn't say that either.

I never said you did. I asked you a question - are you saying. I did not attempt to establish a straw man. I sought an explanation. I have not ascribed to you any comments you did not make. I told you what it sounds like you are arguing - that does not mean I was correct in what I thought you were arguing.

Now, for Sue's definition: macroevolution as being the natural unguided transition from one creature to another with new, never-seen-before traits, especially body parts.

You focus on the body parts and traits. The crux of the definition is the transition from one creature to another. Is that your definition of macroevolution as well?

- I'll ask the "humuculas" ... (Below threshold)

- I'll ask the "humuculas" question.... A prof in the cranal sciences asks his class to tell him how they picture "Themselves"...One student speaks up and says...."Oh thats easy....I just picture a screen in my mind and see "myself on it as I move through life"....The prof paused for a moment and then said..."But who's watching the screen?....

- Paraphrasing....if its all from an ancient form of DNA/RNA who or what generated the original "stuff"?....

Paul,First, I think ... (Below threshold)
Carleton Wu:

Paul,
First, I think your conflating issues of science and knowledge versus issues of curricula. Most scientists probably don't care that some people want to research ID. I mean, they may think it's a waste of time, but they think that about a lot of other research, too.
But you're advocating not just continuing to do research on a fringe crackpot theory, but actually teaching it in the classroom. Curious, you justify this with the usual herring about Copernicus- but why then do you choose ID as the crackpot theory that should be taught? Why not any of a thousand other biological longshots (eg the 'morphogenic field' theory of evolution)?
The answer appears to lie with your ignorance of scientific knowledge. You claim to be "a science guy", but you've yet to back that up. So I ask again- have you done significant formal or informal work in biology? Or are you operating on a hunch?
Finally, the argument (at least, the pedagological aspect of it) was IMO conceeded when you spoke of the issue as being religion v science. Regardless of the merits, at that point it becomes abundantly clear that only one of those properly belongs in a science classroom.

Sean,To go back to y... (Below threshold)
Carleton Wu:

Sean,
To go back to your misunderstanding of the weak anthropic principle, I offer you a thought experiment:
1000 enemy prisoners are scheduled to be executed. Each spends the night praying to his tribal gods that he be spared. In the morning, the emperor feels generous, and decides to spare one man, chosen at random.
That man may consider his prayer to have been answered. But we understand that while divine intervention may have occurred, it isn't necessary to understand the matter. It certainly doesn't prove the existence of a deity.

Even if I accepted your anally-produced trillion to one odds against mankind's evolution on any particular planet, there could easily be that many planets in this universe capabile of supporting life.

- Wu - number stacking is a... (Below threshold)

- Wu - number stacking is a pretty weak argument...easily called upon when your wagons looking empty.....

PaulD,That said, ... (Below threshold)
Carleton Wu:

PaulD,
That said, the largest differences between Neo-Darwinians, Young Earth Creationists, Old Earth Creationist, IDers, and every other "belief system" are not which questions should be asked, which facts are accepted, or even the value of science. The main difference is one of perspective....
My point here is, I believe, similar to Paul's, limiting the discussion to the origin/diversity of life to one framework and declaring that framework to be the only framework that can be operated in is no different than declaring liberalism/conservatism the only approach to government, and all other thinking as stupidity.

I think that you are bypassing the point (although I agree with your larger point about perspective). I do agree that both religion and science are valid ways of looking at the world. But what is being discussed here is (as far as I can tell) science, not religion. At least, we started with science education, and then moved into a general discussion of natural selection v ID. Which both claim to be scientific theories.
Therein lies the problem. ID and creationism are not on equal footing with natural selection in the scientific arena. I would not tell anyone what to believe- but I would say that the science that is taught in the classroom or funded by the state ought to be good science, not ideologically driven bad science like ID.
Now, personally, I don't buy creationism from a religious standpoint, but that's a different issue. And, not the issue we're discussing, I think. I think that your suggestion is dangerous, insofar as it tends to intrude religion and personal preferences into a scientific debate. Society is becoming more and more used to this sort of thing- the idea that we should teach bad science in science class because some parents prefer it to good science.

Analogy: some christian parents may believe that we should give everything we have to the poor. they may think that a microeconomics that's founded on individual selfishness is wrongheaded, and shouldn't be taught to their children, or any children. Which is all well and good, but their point wouldn't have anything to do with economics, really, and shouldn't be taught in an economics class.

- Wu - as a experienced Eng... (Below threshold)

- Wu - as a experienced Engineer I'm always amused with my scientist colleges reach the point in the debate when they resort to statistics. In this case its a totally specious argument, as is the well publicised "Life formula". You can't site statistics with a sample of 1. Until we find life somewhere else we have nothing to base such an argument on, regardless of how "logical" it may sound to us. I can't think of a single instance that would be less science-like than that.... Otherwise I tend to agree with your premises, while I may say they are somewhat naive if you think you can seperate "emotion" from policy entirely.....

Okay, Carleton, perhaps the... (Below threshold)
Sean:

Okay, Carleton, perhaps there are that many planets capable of sustaining life. Aren't the odds on each planet still a trillion to one?

Carleton, what a horrible analogy. Here is what Stephen Hawking said about the WAP.

The weak anthropic principle states that in a Universe that is large or infinite in space and/or time, the conditions necessary for the development of intelligent life will be met only in certain regions that are limited in space and time. The intelligent beings in these regions should therefore not be surprised if they observe that their locality in the Universe satisfies the conditions that are necessary for their existence. It is a bit like a rich person living in a wealthy neighborhood not seeing any poverty (1988, p. 124).

Here is where the disconnect lies: just because we are here to observe the traits in the universe that are required to sustain life as we know it does not lesson the improbability of those traits coming into existence without an intelligent hand behind them or of life being created spontaneously without intervention.

I shouldn't be surprised that the conditions for my existence are present, because here I am in existence? Except for the fact that I can observe those conditions and I can see how amazing it is that those particular, exacting, conditions exist not just on this planet but across the the entire universe.

WAP is weak. Its an explanation that does not explain anything. Its an observation about observation.

Sean,Twp problems:<b... (Below threshold)
Carleton Wu:

Sean,
Twp problems:
First, yes the odds are still a trillion to one on any given planet in that thought experiment. That means that they odds are that life will develop in at least one place.
It's like having a million-to-one lottery ticket. You'd be surprised if you won. But if you bought a million tickets, you would not be surprised at all, since it's more likely than not that you'd win. Now, each individual ticket is still a million-to-one shot, but your chance of winning (ie the universe's chance of having life develop) would be much much higher.

Second, your quote of the WAP was accurate, but your understanding of it is still lacking. You are confusing (perhaps intentionally) two aspects of the matter. They are:
1)given the physical laws that exist, what are the odds that life would develop spontaneously on an earth-like planet?
(As hunter pointed out above, we have no good way to estimate this, but from the size of the universe and the WAP, the odds would need to be far beyond even the ones you produced to make a rational person abandon scientific explainations).
2)what are the odds that the physical laws should be such that life could exist?
(physics does not yet have a fundamental theory, although we are beginning to reach the point where we can begin to speculate about it- if current theories continue to be validated. So we have far, far less of an idea what these odds would be than we do for the first question. That is, we don't know why the physical laws and constants are the way that they are, so we have no way of estimating what variability they might have had, or even if they could vary at all.)

That is to say, you cannot see how amazing it is that those particular, exacting, conditions exist because neither the biologists nor the physicists understand enough about their respective fields to even calculate the probabilities you refer to. You are merely going with your gut feelings in the matter, and gut feelings have no place in a scientific or statistical discussion.

WAP is strong- it is a generalization of a principle of statistics. It is not an observation. It is the recognition that discussing the probabilities of past events must take into account that those events have already occurred. That is, the odds of flipping 4 heads in a row are 1/16. They are only 1/4, though, after Ive flipped heads twice.

Charleton Wu wrote:<... (Below threshold)
Sue Dohnim:

Charleton Wu wrote:
Sue,
Have you ever seen Bryce National Park.

No I haven't, but I think I know of the place you're talking about.

You'd swear that it was man-made,

You'd presume a lot. I've seen pictures of the natural arches and bridges, and I know that wind and water can do such things, because I've seen such things happen on a smaller scale.

but it's creation is the process of natural geological processes. (We 'know' that bc we can observe those processes at work today in a similar fashion. Of course, Paul may remain agnostic on the matter if he so chooses, as may you).

Which agrees with what I just typed, thanks.

You apparently rely on "folk wisdom" about what is and isn't possible, and a caricature of a 'scientist' who behaves absolutely nothing like one.

Are you talking about my little story? It was an illustrative story, that's all. The characters were exaggerated on purpose to show how communication breaks down whenever these subjects are discussed.

I happened to exaggerate the scientist character more in order to make the narrative atypical. The typical narrative is, of course, the one that keeps popping up in these types of discussions: if you don't believe that science says "X", you are obviously a dirt-farming moron.

As many people smarter than me have said here, that's not how science works. That's how dogma works.

And, as for the mathematical argument- weak anthropic principle aside- ongoing research suggests that ridiculous odds aren't required for evolution to occur. So your thought experiment is both violated because of it's reliance on the probability of past events & doesn't appear to be particularly relevant given ongoing research.

It wasn't a thought experiment, it was a story. A parable, if you want to think of it that way.

If you're going to throw terms like "on-going research" around and try to say it completely shoots down everyone else's arguments and you win the game, you're going to at least need to mention names and/or publications.

Like, for instance, Dr. Henry Gee in a protest against a creationist website taking him out of context wrote the following in 2001:

That it is impossible to trace direct lineages of ancestry and descent from the fossil record should be self-evident. Ancestors must exist, of course -- but we can never attribute ancestry to any particular fossil we might find.
[...]
Neither does this mean that fossils exhibiting transitional structures do not exist, nor that it is impossible to reconstruct what happened in evolution. Unfortunately, many paleontologists believe that ancestor/descendent lineages can be traced from the fossil record, and my book is intended to debunk this view.

So much for saying that the current fossil record definitively proves macroevolution.

Also, I went to the talkorigins link that Slartibartfast provided, and not only there gaps, but there is at least one instance of an entire species being hypothesized from one tooth. Is that what passes as good science these days?

I'm looking for the probability stuff about the Cambrian Explosion now, I'll post it when I can find it.

Guys, at least a big part o... (Below threshold)
Charlie (Colorado):

Guys, at least a big part of this is coming around because a lot of you are using words you don't even understand. The problem with this whole debate is that the ID folks are bringing a knife to a gunfight.

(1) Randy: define for me what a species is. Tell me how you understand the process of speciation, and for extra credit, tell me about the distinctions between the taxonomic and cladist models of speciation. Once you do that, I'll be able to answer your question about "one species evolving into another" --- but I won't have to.

(2) Multiple people: tell me what you understand a "scientific theory" to be. Explain to me how scientific theories are evaluated. Compare and contrast the Ptolemaic and Copernican models of the motion of the planets, and explain why we adopted the Copernican over the Ptolemaic, and why we then refined that with Kepler's method, Newton's model, and the model of Special Relativity. Once you've done that, you'll be prepared for a discussion of what it means to say that evolution in general is considered "proven".

For extra credit, discuss the difference between "proof" in a deductive system like mathematics, and in inductive or adductive system like scientific inference.

Of course, once we've done that, we won't have to have the discussion, because you'll have more or less automatically grasped what "theory" means in phrases like "the theory of evolution".

(3) For Intelligent Design folks in general: explain to me how you would construct an experiment that would distinguish between the "argument from design" and the "blind watchmaker" of Dawkins.

Once you've done that (good luck, as I strongly suspect it's something that can be proven impossible in the mathematical sense of "proof") we can run the experiment. Until you do that, the whole argument that ID is "science" is specious, irrational -- as I've said elsewhere, it's like opening three no trump in a chess game: not so much wrong as simply a non sequitur, a joke.

Mark:" The microbiol... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

Mark:
" The microbiologists did not "design" the bacteria. They did not grab atoms from here and molecules from there and build themselves some bugs."

What if they did just that (via nanotechnology, for example)? What would that mean?

(I appreciate everyone's comments above. It's truly fascinating.)

- Brilliant Charlie...you'v... (Below threshold)

- Brilliant Charlie...you've just proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can prove anything within the context of its own rules...Sorry...no extra credit for that...

- and Carlton:

"(As hunter pointed out above, we have no good way to estimate this, but from the size of the universe and the WAP, the odds would need to be far beyond even the ones you produced to make a rational person abandon scientific explainations)."

- You quoted me....even agreed that theres no "scientific" basis for quoting statistical proof of any kind....then you turn right around and say "no rational person would abandon scientific explainations"... I agree.... so lets leave the statistics in the tool box and talk scientific explainations.... With a sample of one what will we use as a bench mark.....our "control"...and what then will be our test "subject" as well as our test "plan".... Face it.....until we find just 1 other example of independently extant life somewhere we have no basis for scientific proclamations....

- Lacking that we have no basis to reject competing theories.... "No matter how desperately or emotion driven our gut, logic, intelligence, beliefs, predjudices, or philosophies happen to be"....

- I can understand, on one level, how personally distasteful that situation may be to you as a scientist....it is to me also (I'm actually a physicist by training).... but trying to argue otherwise would be very un-scientific......tsk tsk....

---because the weak anthrop... (Below threshold)

---because the weak anthropic principle says we have to be here to ask that question. It doesn't matter if the odds are a trillion to 1, or 10 e+1000 to 1. In an infinite universe, since it could happen, which we know because it did happen (we're here), it had to happen.---

------------------------
That's not argument, that's circular logic. We're here, so damn the odds of us being here.

That's like arguing the odds of an apple falling up from the floor to the table, landing inside a bowl on the table, cored, peeled and sliced, without human intervention, is like a trillion to 1, but since you left the room and the apple was on the floor, came back and found it in the bowl on the table, cored, peeled, and sliced - damn the odds, it's there so it must have happened and oh by the way you live alone so no way human intervention was involved.
-----------------

You're mistaking "self-evident" for "circular." Obviously, life is not impossible, because we're here. That's not circular logic, that's just an observation on the state of the universe based on the known facts (to wit, we're here). Given that we are here, it is reasonable to assert this Universe must be able to support intelligent life. If the Universe is infinite in extent, and can support intelligent life, then it must support life since all possible outcomes, no matter how improbable, would be realized in an infinite Universe, and the only outcomes intelligent beings like ourselves would be around to observe are those that involve intelligent life appearing.

The flaw in your apple analogy is that you are talking about an event that does not affect the ability to observe it NOT happening. If the apple is not sliced, that does not prevent you from observing that it not sliced. If intelligent life does not arise, intelligent beings cannot observe that it didn't.

-------------
just because we are here to observe the traits in the universe that are required to sustain life as we know it does not lesson the improbability of those traits coming into existence without an intelligent hand behind them
--------------------

Actually, it does. It places infinity in the numerator.

Say the odds of a particular event happening within a particluar region of space in the Universe are 1/10. Well, guess what? The Universe is infinite. So the odds of it happening are infinity over 10. 10, 10000, 10e+10000, it doesn't matter.


I think God intentionally set up the Universe in such a way as to hide His hand, so that His creation would have the free will choice to believe in Him or not. I believe string theory will eventually show that all physical interactions are inevitable results of mathematical principles, with no arbitrary input values.

Ina word: Faith.

You didn't correct TallD... (Below threshold)

You didn't correct TallDave's swerve from the subject, so I naturally assumed that's where you wanted to go and that you agreed wholeheartedly with TallDave.

I don't always comment on statements I disagree with, nor do I always signify agreement when the opposite is true. Quirky of me, I know.

One mistake people tend to ... (Below threshold)

One mistake people tend to make (I did for years) is assuming the Universe is spherical. It is definitely NOT a sphere. IIRC the consensus most likely shape is a four-dimensional structure called a threesphere which is impossible to visualize but which can be described mathematically. It's three-dimensional extent is infinite.

Slarti, have you seen the i... (Below threshold)

Slarti, have you seen the info about the upcoming HHG movie? I hear Magrathea is prominently featured.

-

Clarification:Say ... (Below threshold)

Clarification:

Say the odds of a particular event happening within a particluar region of space in the Universe are 1/10. Well, guess what? The Universe is infinite. So the odds of it happening SOMEWHERE in the Universeare infinity over 10. 10, 10000, 10e+10000, it doesn't matter.

TallDave, the universe is n... (Below threshold)
Sue Dohnim:

TallDave, the universe is not infinite. A conservative estimate of the Universal Probability Bound, which is all of the probabilistic/specificational resources in the known universe, is 1 out of 10^150.

If a probability falls within that number, then you can say it has a probability of occurring at least once in our universe.

That said, it's estimated that the probability of randomly assembling a small protein of around 150 amino acids in length is 1 in 10^65. So you could say that the entire universe could generate two, maybe three tiny little proteins over its current known lifetime. Not the Earth though, since it's about 12 billions years younger.

Now consider that hemoglobin alone, which assuredly existed in Cambrian-era fauna, consists of over 500 amino acids, and you're talking impossible. Especially when hemoglobin is merely one protein in several hundred that would be necessary for Cambrian life.

Sue, The evidence ... (Below threshold)

Sue,

The evidence tends to indicate the Universe is probably flat and therefore infinite.

http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/m_uni/uni_101shape.html


The definition for UPB refers to the known universe, which I assume is the observable universe, which would be a finite light-cone of 16 billion light-years.

Sue,Also, I should... (Below threshold)

Sue,

Also, I should point out that 10^65 times 3 is much less than 10^150.

for instance:

2^10 = 1024 x 3 = 3072
2^30 = 1073741824

Sue:First off Sue,... (Below threshold)
CrowScape:

Sue:

First off Sue, I think your math teacher would get upset with you for not understanding exponents. Reminds me of the story of the politician hearing testimony from physicists on the feasability of some SDI energy beam in the 1980's. I'm not sure what the exact values or units were, but in describing the power needed to be generated in order for the laser to effectively blow up incoming missiles, the scientist said "We need 10^12, we have 10^6." At which point the politician was heard to exclaim "My God! We're half way there!" when, in fact, the scientist was saying that they were only one millionth of the way there. From the numbers you have provided, it would seem that there would be a hell of a lot more proteins floating around than a mere two or three. We're talking trillions of zillions here; 10^84th would be my guess.

Known universe is apparentl... (Below threshold)

Known universe is apparently a bit smaller than I thought:

"Modern science says that the known universe extends about 10 billion light years in all directions, and consists of 200 billion galaxies. This means it can take light approximately 20 billion years to cross from one side of the universe to the other. These numbers, however, are only of the known universe. No one knows exactly how big the universe actually is, or how far it extends."

http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2002/CarmenBissessar.shtml

If the universe is infinite, there are an infinite number of spaces the size of our known universe, and you're back where we started.

If anyone else finds this a... (Below threshold)

If anyone else finds this as fascinating as I do, I highly recommend Brian Greene's books, Fabric of the Cosmos and Elegant Universe.

One of the most interesting things I learned is that perceived relative velocity can actually be far greater than the speed of light for distant objects, due to the accumulated expansion of space over that distance, which is not limited by SOL considerations that only apply to movement through space.

Carleton Wu,I am n... (Below threshold)
PaulD:

Carleton Wu,

I am not aware of any attempt to remove the teaching of natural selection from any classroom. Selection in general is almost universally accepted. The point of the debate is the origin of the kinds. Let me elaborate.

There is a point of agreement between most models that I think should be used as a starting point. When we look at the life on the planet today, it is obvious that certain species share a common ancestor. (Note: I do not use the term species to refer to a taxonomic species, but rather two animals belong to the same species if they can interbreed).

The point of agreement is that the current species of today are descended from an ancestor species that may or may not be extinct. (I am using the word "kind" to refer to this ancestor species and all of its descendent species).

Now comes the disagreement,
The Creationist position is that selection can only remove information and that observable mutations do not increase information; thus, the information in the ancestral species' DNA is a union of the information in the descendent species. This process cannot be extended back indefinitely unless you have the entire biosphere's information contained in the original life form. The question to be answered then is where did the original ancestors come from--usually answered as God (Creationists) or some other intelligent designer (IDers).

This obviously does not sit well with the materialist. Since, we cannot start out with all of the information in the original life form, and because we must have a naturalistic explanation of the origin of the kinds without any designer, we have the proposed, but unobserved, increases of information of the organism (which originated from another unobserved process). I'm actually oversimplifying the massive complexities that must be overcome, but it is immaterial to my point.

To discuss genetics, natural selection, mutations, etc. in the classroom is essential to science education. However, how these organisms originally came to be is in the realm of philosophy. When an IDer looks at the evidence, (s)he sees overwhelming support that the information present today is from a designer. When a naturalist looks at the evidence, (s)he knows that it must have arrived over eons of changes. Competing models may be internally and externally consistent to the point that they can be verified, but the adoption of one over the other is much more likely to be attributed to a worldview than to anything else.

Adherents to both views can be equally educated and equally intelligent but arrive at completely different conclusions (not so different from liberals and conservatives again). It is the heavy-handedness against the competing models that this thread is all about.

Sorry for the verbosity,

PaulD

Hunter,I think I was... (Below threshold)
Carleton Wu:

Hunter,
I think I was misunderstood when I said that the odds wouldn't cause a rational person to abandon scientific explainations. By that, I didn't mean that one would be forced to accept those scientific explainations- people are still free to believe what they choose- just that a rational person would not be forced to turn away from a scientific explaination based on the numbers.

I think the most fascinatin... (Below threshold)
CrowScape:

I think the most fascinating thing about the universe is not so much its size, but that the net energy present in it is a whopping zero. Apparently God runs a huge deficit.

As opposed to of spa... (Below threshold)

As opposed to of space?

I checked out the H2G2 website, and it looks like it'll be really, really good. Hope the guy they got to play my part is more dashing than he looks.

Apologies, that was me. Th... (Below threshold)

Apologies, that was me. This is what I get for impersonating someone else as a joke.

PaulD, you said it yourself... (Below threshold)
CrowScape:

PaulD, you said it yourself;

However, how these organisms originally came to be is in the realm of philosophy.

Which is exactly why it has no place in a hard science class. So stop putting those ID stickers in the front of biology books and put ID where it belongs: in a philosophy class.

Remember, this thread was started in relation to a story where a philosophical rumination was pitted against a scientific theory in the world of academia, which is rediculous no matter what topics are being discussed.

It certainly looks better t... (Below threshold)

It certainly looks better than that BBC travesty.

Yes, as opposed to of. This is on p247 of Fabric.

The relativity time-slice stuff is also fascinating, wherein someone 10 billion lightyears away can move into our past or future just by walking back and forth across a room. The implications of relativistic determinism are interesting. Or will be interesting. Or were interesting. Or willen should willen won't wuzzen be.

PaulD,I wasn't tryin... (Below threshold)
Carleton Wu:

PaulD,
I wasn't trying to imply that natural selection was being removed from science classrooms- my objection was to introducing ID, which is not a scientific theory, and clearly has its basis in religious ideas. I have no objection to those religious ideas, except in that particular context...

I also disagree with the premise that Creationists and scientists are attempting to do the same thing from different worldviews.
I disagree with that premise bc it's abundantly clear that the Creationist position is one that is derived from a dogma. For example, there is no scientific reason to believe that information (by the normal definiation, or by Dembski's quirky one) cannot be created in genetic information by natural selection- certainly, both the biological evidence and computer simulations indicdate that this is not the case. Yet this is the current battle line, and the IDers will hold it for a while until it crumbles. Then, they will stake out another unlikely position with another set of preudoscientific postulates, until it is debunked as well.
I say this because the Creationist goal is not knowledge. The Creationist position is one that already knows the answer, and is merely searching for the mechanism by which that answer can be shown to be true. This is the antithesis of scientific inquiry. Which is why the two cannot be compared in the manner that you have done, I think.
Whereas, the scientific position has evolved ( :) ) over time to conform to the facts in evidence and the theories which those facts have failed to falsify. The scientific goal is a better understanding of biology; the Creationist goal is demonstration of a known truth.

I do agree that the choice between those viewpoints is often based on worldview, but do not agree that those worldviews are equal in some way in the scientific realm, or that both are therefore equally supported by the facts. There are plenty of young-earth Creationists who believe that the world was created more or less whole-cloth. There is nothing wrong with that worldview. But it is not a valid scientific worldview, it has no basis in science, and it is a mistake to include it in the discussion of the subject.

Adherents to both views can be equally educated and equally intelligent but arrive at completely different conclusions... They can, but for very different reasons. I would suspect that no one could arrive at the ID 'scientific position' without a prior worldview that endorsed a creator deity.

CrowScape,If you a... (Below threshold)
PaulD:

CrowScape,

If you accept that the question of origins is a matter of philosophy and that all questions of philosophy should be kept out of a "hard science class", are you proposing that Neo-Darwinian theory should be removed as well?

For the record, I am not supporting the addition of ID/Creationism to the current public school curriculum, nor am I advocating the removal of Neo-Darwinian theory. I also do not have a problem with the discussion of philosophy (especially in areas relevant to the material) in the classroom (hard science or otherwise), as long as there is freedom to disagree. That is all that I am supporting here.... intellectual freedom.

PaulD

Anyway, I think we as Chris... (Below threshold)

Anyway, I think we as Christians set ourselves apart by being the rational religion. That's why we don't issue fatwas when people criticize Christianity. (can you imagine if an image of Mohammed in a jar of urine or spattered with dung was displayed in a museum? Can you say "suicide bomber attractant"?) I think we shouldn't believe in ID in the absence of compelling arguments.

Carleton Wu,I agr... (Below threshold)
PaulD:

Carleton Wu,

I agree that Creationists rely on revealed truth as a starting point, and see the role of science to fill in the gaps of the unknown. I would propose that materialists are in search of a completely naturalistic process for every aspect of life, including origins. IDers, while mostly naturalistic in approach, disagree with a naturalistic origin, because they reject the notion (theoretically and observationally) of information increase.

However large these differences, all are attempting to achieve the same goal: describe reality. Worldview is a key factor in defining reality. If you doubt this, talk to a member of the "reality based community"

Unless we are willing to address some philosophical matters, it is difficult to seriously discuss origins. Hence the sticker in the textbook.

PaulD

Sue,I think you misu... (Below threshold)
Carleton Wu:

Sue,
I think you misunderstood it when I said "you'd swear it was man-made." I meant the impersonal you; perhaps it would make more sense replaced with "one". I wasn't suggesting that you're ignorant of geological processes; I was suggesting that things which appear to be formed with some intent can in fact be formed by physcial processes. That was in response to the idea that we can look at a complex world and therefore deduce a guiding intellligence.

No, telling people that they're stupid if they don't bother to understand the science before they critique or discard it for religious reasons isn't "science". However, it is something that scientists sometimes do, and bluntly, with good reason. Because they've spent years actually doing science, and when some farmer comes up to them and demands to be recognized as a scientific equal for saying "Jesus makes babies", they don't have to go through the scientific method to debunk it. There are thousands of ridiulous theories out there, from deranged people, people who want attention, and people whose dogmas demand that the universe behave a certain way. There is no need for them to waste their productive lives debunking that sort of junk.

Im not trying to argue from authority with the "ongoing research" line. Im merely pointing out that, for example, the supposed irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum has been shown to be incorrect.
http://tinyurl.com/96zm
The ID 'scientists' are constantly coming up with assertions and probabilities, and those assertions and probabilities are constantly being debunked or reduced by the actual scientific community. If you only read the former, you'll be deluded into thinking that their claims are holding up under scrutiny.

Dr.Gee is not necssarily authoritative. Im not sure why you'll ignore the vast majority of scientists, but when one fellow is misquoted, you'll bet the farm on it... Gee meant that specific ancestory cannot be traced. Ill fill in the part right after the misleading elipses: Just try this thought experiment -- let's say you find a fossil of a hominid, an ancient member of the human family. You can recognize various attributes that suggest kinship to humanity, but you would never know whether this particular fossil represented your lineal ancestor - even if that were actually the case. The reason is that fossils are never buried with their birth certificates.
http://tinyurl.com/4ju2z
As far as I can see, Gee is merely suggesting that the fossil record's completeness will never be known, so we will never know if a specific fossil is the ancestor of a specific later fossil. We can find an A. afarensis, but we can't tell if that particular organism was ancestoral to any other, because we can never know whether it produced any offspring, let alone trace her line through the fossil record.
If you understand his criticism, you'll understand why he continues to support both evolutionary theory, natural selection, and the idea that the fossil record demonstrates both of those.

Yes, hypothesizing a new species from a single tooth is what is passing for science these days. First, it's a hypothesis. It will be tested, and it isn't unlikely that it will be rejected. Second, if you knew much about the field, you'd know that typing teeth is very advanced- teeth are the fingerprints of the fossil world (loose analogy, but close). So, yeah, you find a new fingerprint, it's smudged a little bit, maybe you think you have a new suspect. But perhaps not, so file it as a hypothesis and move on to see what other evidence you can find.
That is exactly what passes for science these days.

For a summary of the state-of-debunking-ID field, here's a good link:
http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archives/000430.html
He touches on some of the Cambrian stuff you're off to find, so his links may be useful.

PaulD,Unless we a... (Below threshold)
Carleton Wu:

PaulD,
Unless we are willing to address some philosophical matters, it is difficult to seriously discuss origins.

I don't agree with the idea that discussions of 'origins' are philosophical and not scientific. Although that might be because of the vagueness of the term 'origins'. If you mean 'origins of life on earth', then I do disagree.

I think that there's no reason that science could not come up with a plausible scenario for the beginnings of life on our planet. Again (sorry if I reiterate this too often, but I dont want to be accused of dogmatism- it's very hard to not sound judgemental), it's perfectly possible that such an explaination would actually be incorrect, but it would be a good scientific theory (testable and all that), and therefore open for discussion in a science classroom.

If 'origins' is more a philosophical issue (eg where the basic physical laws come from), then I do agree. Physics has pushed the barrier pretty far, but my gut(!) says that it'll have a hard time pushing much farther.

On a broader scale, I agree that science is one way of looking at the world, and that in order to discuss competing worldviews we would need to resort to the philosophy classroom. My objection is, again, to take a different worldview than the scientific one, and attempt to smuggle it in to the science classroom by assuming some of the methods and terminology.
But you've already disavowed that; I think we agree that both materialists and religious dogmatics operate from worldviews which dicatate how they will interpret the objective world, reaching very different conclusions... (which maybe was your point all along and Ive just been repeating my anti-ID position over and over again while you gently talked me down? :) )

So, if that's the conclusion, then what's the next step? Do we abandon the idea of objective knowledge? Or is there some worldview or (combination of worldviews :) ) that we can use to iterate closer to an objective truth?
(ignore that last paragraph if you're a philosophy professor, I don't want to get in that>/b> deep!)

If you accept that the q... (Below threshold)
CrowScape:

If you accept that the question of origins is a matter of philosophy and that all questions of philosophy should be kept out of a "hard science class", are you proposing that Neo-Darwinian theory should be removed as well?

If you understand what science is, you would see that the answer is obviously "no." Evolution is a scientific theory because, well, it evolves. It is open to change and revision as new information emerges, as is true of all scientific theories. You can create testable hypothesis for evolutionary theories all day long, as is true of all scientific theories. You can go into the lab or into the field and add to the understanding of the topic.

This is all in stark contrast to ID and Creationism. There is no way possible to prove or disprove the existance of God and come to final conclusions on all related topics. There is no test that can be run to determine what hand God used to put what rock where. Aditionally, whether or not the universe exists due to random chance or divine intervention is irrelevant to science; the universe is what it is and science is just trying to see how it works.

What you are talking about is like the Whole Math that was being pushed a few years ago, where children could say 2+2=5 and be right as long as they felt good about the answer. Just as deconstruction should have been kept confined to English, so to should ID be kept confined to philosophy.

And you know what? I too have no problem with ID being taught in school; just not in biology class!

Carleton Wu,You sa... (Below threshold)
PaulD:

Carleton Wu,

You said, "I think we agree that both materialists and religious dogmatics operate from worldviews which dicatate how they will interpret the objective world, reaching very different conclusions..."

Yes, I agree.

Do we abandon the idea of objective knowledge?

No. The search for truth is a much higher and difficult goal. Truth is a matter most often discussed within the realm of philosophy. However, science is completely dependent upon the existence of truth in order to operate. At the same time, science is limited to only explore those parts of truth that exist in our natural context.

If the materialist philosophy is correct, and the only truth exists is that which is observable/testable, then science can provide answers to all questions.
However, if there is truth that transcends the natural world (as Creationists and many IDers would propose), then you are left with the real possibility of the scenario you described: a fully materialistic, valid scientific theory with no basis in reality (sort of a "Valid but False").
Obviously, this is a philosophical discussion with scientific ramifications.

Now to throw gasoline on the fire:
Operationally, biologists that approach their work with a common descent framework can easily accept the findings of a biologist working from a common designer framework; and vice versa. Unless the biologist told you which framework (s)he was working from, it would be hard to tell.

PaulD

Crowscape,I agree ... (Below threshold)
PaulD:

Crowscape,

I agree with you that Creationism has its basis in philosophy. But as I said to Wu, so does science. Divorcing science from philosophy results in the danger of a "Valid but False" scenairo (see earlier post).
Your analogy to math is poor, because math is the language of science and not built on top of philosophy. Learning a language is by rote, as is math. "I is a college graduate." is not a valid construct in the English language. Similarily, "2+2=5" is not a valid construct in the language of math.

PaulD

Just to add, because I don'... (Below threshold)

Just to add, because I don't think I explained this well above.

All objects in space are moving away from each other, because all space is expanding. The more distant an object, the more quickly they are moving away because there is more space in between them to expand. For objects below the scale of a supergalaxy, this movement is imperceptible. But above a certain very large distance, the accumulated expansion "velocity" actually exceeds the speed of light.

- TD - That description sou... (Below threshold)

- TD - That description sounds like the universe is "evaporating". If thats the case where is it evaporating "too". Which brings us full circle and illustrates why saying that we scientists have all the answers or at least the key to all the answers and can discard philosophy as a viable tool is so self defeating and arrogant.....

Just to comment (as opposed... (Below threshold)

Just to comment (as opposed to fully address) the hemoglobin hypothetical posed by Sue above:

I don't think anyone's proposing that proteins were formed completely randomly from amino acids. Or even that TOE actually requires that we know how life begun.

Not evaporating, just expan... (Below threshold)

Not evaporating, just expanding. And it's not expanding to anywhere, because there is nowhere else. I agree, it is very weird.

Certain aspects of philosophy are very useful and in fact underly science itself, but I think many other aspects are not useful and tend to hinder rather than advance our understanding of the world.

I don't think anyone's p... (Below threshold)

I don't think anyone's proposing that proteins were formed completely randomly from amino acids. Or even that TOE actually requires that we know how life begun.

The protein factories in any mammal are incredibly, unbelievably complex. We are building modern supercomputers just to understand some of the simpler protein foldings. When you think of the data requirements to encode the human form, with all the parts that then have have to make the other parts, all in a single cell for reproduction, it is truly awe-inspiring.

Of course, positing the WAP and the infinite universe, the chance evolution of said proteins is inevitable, but it has to be incredibly unlikely. I would venture to guess that intelligent life arises in only an infinitesimal proportion even of "known Universe" sized spaces. This is one reason that although I contribute all my spare processor time to [email protected], I do not expect them to find anything.

If Moore's law continues a while, we may get some insights on this front as supercomputers might be able to design new life forms. If evolution follows a very narrow path of what is possible, we should find it impossible to create any kind of fundamentally different synthetic life that doesn't already exist naturally. If there are many possible forms of life, and evolution just happened to pick the ones it did, that would imply a weaker WAP.

If the universe is expandin... (Below threshold)
Sean:

If the universe is expanding, and started from a big bang, how can you call it infinite? Something that is expanding has an end, and a beginning. That is not the definition of infinity. Kind of takes the wind out of WAP's sails.

Sean,In fact Brian... (Below threshold)

Sean,

In fact Brian Greene addresses that exact question in "Fabric." You can find it in the index under "shape of universe."

The answer is that it started out at infinite size. Since then, it has expanded. Its size now is also infinite, since any multiple of infinity is still infinity. This may be difficult to envision, but according to Green physicists assure us it is mathematically sound.

That's ridiculous. Somethi... (Below threshold)
Sean:

That's ridiculous. Something of "infinite" size cannot, by definition, expand.

I think what you and Mr. Greene mean is that the universe is very very very very very .... very very big, and getting bigger. Not infinite.

The answer is that it started out at infinite size.

What about the Bada-Big Bang theory? The universe supposedly started off very tiny, blew a gasket, then started expanding. Or is that considered "junk science"?

"That's ridiculous. Somethi... (Below threshold)

"That's ridiculous. Something of "infinite" size cannot, by definition, expand."

Why not? You seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that infinity is some sort of ceiling, like some imaginary "highest number." It's actually a mathematical concept that means it has no limits.

For instance, imagine a line of infinite length. Now imagine dots spaced along the line. Now imagine all the dots on the line are moving further away from each other. This is the 2d analogue of how the infinite Universe expands.

"I think what you and Mr. Greene mean is that the universe is very very very very very .... very very big, and getting bigger. Not infinite."

No, infinity is definitely not the same thing as a bunch of "very"s, and physicists are certain the Universe is infinite under the flat or saddle-shaped hypotheses.


"What about the Bada-Big Bang theory? The universe supposedly started off very tiny, blew a gasket, then started expanding. Or is that considered "junk science"?"

No, the big bang theory is entirely consistent with the universe being infinite at the start. You are probably imagining the universe starting as a small sphere of matter which expanded into empty space. In fact, the Big Bang happened EVERYWHERE in the Universe. It is space itself that has been expanding since then, at varying rates.


One interesting point on th... (Below threshold)

One interesting point on this is that the Universe is, on large scales, exactly the same in every direction. This uniformity is one of the underlying precepts behind the Big Bang Theory.

It's now believed by many physicists that the "lumpiness" we see (stars, galaxies, etc) which seems big to us but is insignificent on larger scales is due to... quantum physics! The idea is that during the first moments of the Big Bang, the Universe was totally homogenous. But during a very very very small amount of time (10e-30 secs IIRC) the Universe expanded a huge amount (10e+142 IIRC). This expansion took quantum indeterminacies (at extremely small sizes a phenomenon called quantum fluctuation operates, which dictates that they do not have precise energies), and expanded those differences to interstellar dimensions, creating enough difference to overcome the homogeneity and cause matter to begin to clump and form stars, etc.

Brian Greene explain all this much better than me of course.

SeanYou know, I wo... (Below threshold)

Sean

You know, I wondered about some of those same points and probably would have raised some of the same objections before reading the two Brian Greene books. If you're really interested you should pick them up.

Try Googling aleph null ... (Below threshold)

Try Googling aleph null infinity to get a variety of explanations of what the variety of meanings infinity has.

One of the interesting points in this link is that if a set is infinite, you can remove an element from that set and get another infinite set. So of course infinite sets don't have to contain everything, which makes what TallDave says above a bit easier to swallow.

Thanks for the link. I had... (Below threshold)

Thanks for the link. I had number theory in school of course but this is much better.

"Of course"? I don't think... (Below threshold)

"Of course"? I don't think I ever came within spitting distance of number theory. But then, I was ever an applied-math kind of guy. Is it presumptuous of me to ask what your background is, education-wise?

Not saying number theory's not useful; even abstract algebra has some applications.

Not at all presumptuous. I... (Below threshold)

Not at all presumptuous. I have a MS in Information Systems, BS in Accounting, CPA certification. I mostly work with database languages for accounting-related systems.

But I actually got number theory way back in 7th grade. Just the basics: natural, whole, rational, irrational, real, etc; no discussion of infinity. My in-school education was pretty standard. I am surprised this is not taught as basic math everywhere.

Hope you get to read this.

For instance, imagine a ... (Below threshold)
Sean:

For instance, imagine a line of infinite length. Now imagine dots spaced along the line. Now imagine all the dots on the line are moving further away from each other. This is the 2d analogue of how the infinite Universe expands.

It seems to me that the discreet elements along the infinite line are able to move apart, expand, simply because they are within an infinite space. That seems much like our universe. The galaxies, planets, whatnot, are able to expand because they are within an infinite space.

The definitions of infinity still seem to be something without end. While you may be able to travel along a sphere continually I have trouble seeing that as infinite. Travelling in a sphere, like going around the world, you eventually come to the place you started from. To me, once you come to your starting place you've reached an end and instead of travelling to infinity you are going in circles. Moving in one direction forever without getting anywhere new doesn't seem the same as inifinity to me. Otherwise a hamster on an exercise wheel is in infinity.

I'm not trying to refute all the mathematicians out there, 'cause I'm definitely not one myself, just saying what things seem like.




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