Chaos Manor Mail, Wednesday, February 03, 2016
“This is the most transparent administration in history.”
Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.
We had many comments on Intelligent Design, and it seems reasonable to discuss that subject.
It began this way:
Okay, where do I stand on ID? In the middle. I have long thought that creation/evolution need not be mutually exclusive, since it seems to me that both play a part in the overall reality. I concluded this when I studied the matter in high school, college and in private discussions with some of my professors who became personal friends.
Arguments that favor ID are the presence of mathematics throughout the universe, the existence of natural law and the concept of irreducible complexity.
Math is all over. The patterns of landscape, mountain ranges created by geological action, coastlines created by erosion, the paths of rivers all follow and can be described by fractal geometry. Everything in nature that uses the spiral or parts of a spiral – the whorls of a mollusc shell, the arrangement of leaves around a stem or branches around a tee trunk adhere to the Fibonacci series. Pi, originally used to describe the relationship between the radius and circumference of a circle, keeps showing up in all sorts of places that have little or nothing to do with circles. Can this all be coincidental?
Natural law exists, physics in all its variations, and chemistry are mostly concerned with determining these laws and they cannot be avoided, at least not directly (more about this at some future time). As far as we understand them these laws exist throughout the universe.
Irreducible Complexity (IC) is the idea that many complex systems must have all of the parts present to function at all. A good example is the mammalian/human eye. Consider the parts – transparent membrane, focusable lens, iris to regulate light, receptors to detect light and color (not present in all species), a broadband data transmission cable connected to a signal processor (brain), precise separation between lens and retina, all formed into a ball rotating in a lubricated socket with a shield/wiper in front (the lid), with washer fluid (tears) all enclosed in a flexible housing maintained by a transparent fluid. Take any one of those components and consider how the eye would function without it. Then explain how this system developed by random changes no matter how long or how many small changes happened over time.
Once you have this basic structure it can be modified to suit local conditions/requirements, and that is where evolution/natural selection plays a role. There is survival value in the eagle’s long-range vision, of the specific musculature of the lion, of the color/pattern of an antelope and so forth. The creator building the system included a mechanism for adapting that system to suit future needs, including needs the creator may not have envisioned. While the species is developing these local improvements the individual can still function, perhaps not as efficiently or effectively, but long enough to pass the adaptation to the next generation.
Then there is man. Many species have remained essentially unchanged for millions of years. Yet man, assuming we actually descended from the early homonids, has only been around for 100,000 or so and has changed dramatically in that time. Modern man seems to just appeared less than 50,000 years ago and rapidly took dominion over the planet. How did that happen and why? Were we prodded a bit? Did a creator manipulate us to become what we are? Or, for some reason or another did man take a “fast track” to develop so dramatically? There has been little change, at least physically, from the earliest modern man to the guy who walks the streets today. Why is that? I have no idea, but suspect that someone flicked the “off” switch for rapid development.
So that’s where I am, where are you?
And I answered
You are hardly alone; St. Augustine once speculated that the world might have been created in germinal causes and evolved; this was over a thousand years before Darwin. When you find a watch, you generally expect to find a watchmaker, not a random process; finding a watchmaker logically leads to speculation of how the watchmaker was generated. Evolution of a fully formed eye has been modeled on computers, but it requires many steps, and at each step the animal that has inherited the required change must be more survivable than those without it; but it is difficult to show how some of the steps from a light sensitive spot to a fully formed eye can have been much of an advantage. In any event it requires a very long time, which is one reason evolutionary theorists have been so opposed to the notions of catastrophe in evolutionary theory.
Of course some evolutionary paths are better mapped and intrinsically likely; no doubt there has been survival of the fittest, but it is much easier to believe that certain evolutionary steps thrived because somehow there was a goal; you can get from a light sensitive cell to a fully formed eye if you know the goal in advance. On the other hand, it is difficult to see intelligence in some human and animal features. Why do we have an appendix?
Fully accepting either hypothesis – intelligent design or blind chance as the explanation for finding a watchmaker – requires a fair amount of Faith. Of course it is not likely that a random group of atoms would get together to perform both Hamlet and Swan Lake even in 20 billion years.
There were many letters in response.
It’s not “chance”
Evolution doesn’t proceed by “random chance”. There is nothing random about natural selection. Out of billions of variations only a few survive – not by chance but because they are the ones that work.
This is pretty basic Jerry.
Stop saying it is ID vs. “chance”.
I do not understand the charge of silky, and I cannot believe that you think that I do not understand the mechanism of survival of the fittest, so I am at a loss. If mutations and changes do not happen by Chance, then they must happen by design and intention; the whole point of Darwinian theory was that there is no design, and thus all the changes in each generation of a species is at random, which is to say, by chance; if they are not, then they must be aimed toward an end, and Darwinian theory will have none of that. Since most of the changes will either result in no improvement in survivability or actually decrease it, those will not likely produce more offspring and this will disappear while those that give a survivability or reproductive advantage will tend to propagate and thus be “bred into” the species. This is of course a simplification, but it is the essence of the theory.
To say that they are not by chance concedes the debate before it begins; if not by chance. Then it must be by some selection; one possible selector is Intelligent Design. I have never said those are the only alternatives, but I am not sure what other selection mechanisms – non-chance – there are.
why we have an appendix
The appendix has long had a reputation as a redundant organ with no real function. Doctors often remove it even in mild cases of appendicitis to prevent future infection and rupture, which may not always be necessary. But new research on the way innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) protect against infection in people with compromised immune systems may redeem this misunderstood organ.
While the appendix is not required for digestive functions in humans, Belz tells mental_floss, â€œIt does house symbiotic bacteria proposed by Randal Bollinger and Bill Parker at Duke University to be important for overall gut health, but particularly when we get a gut infection resulting in diarrhea.â€
Infections of this kind clear the gut not only of fluids and nutrients but also good bacteria. Their research suggests that those ILCs housed in the appendix may be there as a reserve to repopulate the gut with good bacteria after a gut infection.
ILCs are hardier than other immune cells, and thus vital to fighting bacterial infections in people with compromised immune systems, such as those in cancer treatment; they are some of the few immune cells that can survive chemotherapy.
Conceded. Which demonstrates that I chose a bad example; but there others. There are many improvements I can think of to humankind, and even more to certain species; yet surely I am not more intelligent than the Creator, at least as we reason Him to be. One argument against Intelligent Design is that we are trying to improve the species; GMO, on ourselves and our crops. Of course maize as we know it was intelligently designed, bred over many generations from a not terribly useful plant to what we have today. Most breeds of dog are by design, although some breeds do not instantly think of Intelligent Design.
Intelligent design of the eye
The eye of a Nautilus argues against Intelligent Design. It is a lensless pinhole camera, only slightly more advanced than the photoreceptor-lined pit of an annelid worm.
Which demonstrates that not everything evolved with intention or Intelligent Design. St. Augustine’s hypothesis that creation was created with germinal causes and evolved allows for evolution with and without intelligent design. The duck-billed platypus does not seem a particularly intelligent design; or at least it indicate a sense of humor in the Designer.
I repeat this for completeness:
“Of course it is not likely that a random group of atoms would get together to perform both Hamlet and Swan Lake even in 20 billion years.”
Or, as Fred Reed put it in his column of 17 March, 2005:
“Evolution writ large is the belief that a cloud of hydrogen will spontaneously invent extreme-ultraviolet lithography, perform Swan Lake, and write all the books in the British Museum.”
The quote is from one of Fred’s columns on the subject of evolution, and evolutionists, and can be found here:
It is worth reading for those interested in the subject, if only for the questions he asks. As a footnote, he also addresses the ‘monkeys typing on a typewriter for long periods of time’ argument supporting the plausibility of evolution. In short, it doesn’t.
He has written a few other columns on evolution over the years. They can be accessed from his website:
I cheerfully agree that Fred’s example was more eloquent than mine, and I probably should have cited Fred; I was in a hurry. The argument about Shakespeare’s work and all the books in the British Museum is of course older than either Fred or me.
Intelligent Design — to me and other ID proponents, anyway — is less a proposal for how things happened as it is a rational and strictly scientific critique of the claims of evolutionists.
Abiogenesis in particular is very wobbly. I think that any rational person, knowledgeable in the basics of chemistry and math, would examine the claims of the evolutionists here and wonder that they call themselves scientists. In no other field (saving maybe climate studies) are we told by our “betters” that we must accept as established science an edifice constructed entirely of assumptions, each of which is not only unproven and unprovable, but flies squarely in the face of other science in which we are quite confident. When these weaknesses — of which there are more than a dozen — are pointed out to them, the True Believers invariably shout “Creationist!” or at the very least condescendingly tell us that they are the real experts and we should ignore those simple-minded, misled folks over there. This more closely resembles religion at its worst than any kind of science.
Not that random mutation and natural selection aren’t real. Michael Behe’s The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism does a very good job of putting this into mathematical perspective.
Any comment on this would have to be longer than I have time to write just now; I agree with most of it. Farming, animal husbandry, and GMO have demonstrably produced real evolutionary change – no one supposes that all the breeds of dogs happened by chance, but some of them very likely did. There is “natural” evolution, but organs like the fully developed eye and eye socket strain credibility when the steps to produce one by starting with light-sensitive cells and a series of steps, each one adding to increased survivability of its bearer, are detailed. There are very many.
From the homo sapiens sapiens to the homo sapiens domesticus to the homo sapiens optimus:
If you’re under the age of 40, there is a good chance you will achieve ‘electronic immortality’ during your lifetime.
This is the idea that all of your thoughts and experiences will be uploaded and stored online for future generations.
That’s according to a futurologist who not only believes technology will let humans merge with computers, that this will create an entirely new species called Homo optimus.
And, he claims this could occur as soon as 2050.
Who would really want “all” of their thoughts and memories stored online for future generations? Also, the idea of implants seemed great until we learned the medical devices can be hacked. I don’t like the idea of someone hacking my nervous system, my endocrine system, or any of my bodily systems for that matter. I certainly don’t want to have to run firewalls and antiviruses and IP tables and all this nonsense either.
If the roll-out of PC and smartphone technology taught me anything, it’s that I’ll be waiting a very long time before I put any of their products into my body.
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Joshua Jordan, KSC
This is not really on subject, but it belongs here if you are thinking about the origins and future of Man.
I was reading one of your contributors when I came upon ID. Now, to an engineer, ID stands for Internal Diameter. To a cop, ID is for IDentification. To a doctor, ID means Infectious Disease. To someone who is embroiled in the Culture Wars, ID stands for Intelligent Design. But for those of us in the mental health field, by Rosa’s Law it stands for Intellectual Disability and this is the term that we are required by Federal Law to use. Yes, it is the new euphemism for mental retardation, moron, idiot and other terms that have stood in the past for . . . Intellectual Disability (someone obviously disliked it so much they made a Federal Case out of it). I wonder how long the current euphemism will last.
And it is interesting that whenever anyone uses ID for Intelligent Design, it will set up an unconscious association. I wonder how long it will take for people to start using an alternative term?
You wrote, “…it is much easier to believe that certain evolutionary steps thrived because somehow there was a goal; you can get from a light sensitive cell to a fully formed eye if you know the goal in advance. On the other hand, it is difficult to see intelligence in some human and animal features. Why do we have an appendix?”
As a design engineer, I have long (long before I ever heard the term “intelligent design”) seen in evolution evidence of a design process in evolution, just as engineering designs evolve. The variety of life we see looks to me just like a series of engineering designs: try one thing, see what works or doesn’t, what could be improved; the next version is a bit better or is slightly altered for new requirements, etc. Many machines, from the automation systems I primarily work with to cars, planes, and other things, exhibit vestigial design features (an unused bracket, perhaps, or a clearance cutout for a component formerly used) that are no longer necessary but are still present on later versions because nobody has bother to update the drawings and/or tooling.
An hypothesis that has come to many of us, I am sure. As if we are an experiment. Asimov used that idea in more than one story. It is of course rejected by most religions.
And that, I think, ends this discussion. I doubt any opinions firmly held have been changed, nor was that the intent. Beliefs about fundamental things are often more Faith than Reason. Some religions encourage questions about fundamental assumptions; others discourage but permit them; a few simply forbid the laity from asking those questions. My own has a spotted and inconsistent history on such matters. So it goes.
Space Access ’16 Conference Preliminary Agenda – April 7-9 in Phoenix
Wednesday, 2/3/16 – Updated Conference Info with Preliminary Agenda is available for Space Access ’16, along with conference registration and hotel room reservations links. SA’16, April 7-9 2016 in Phoenix Arizona, Space Access Society’s next annual conference on the business, technology, and politics of radically cheaper access to space, this year with a strong sub-focus on Beyond Low Orbit: The Next Step Out.
Don’t forget Pledge Week; keep this place open.
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