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Unread August 17th, 2006, 04:57 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 483
Default Re: Battle Against Scientific Illiteracy

Carey: Everyone acknowledges that natural selection is an algorithm, not a set of deterministic equations.
I don’t know that I’d necessarily “acknowledge that natural selection is an algorithm.” In the context/tone in which you’re using the term here, do you mean a so-called “non-deterministic algorithm,” as opposed to a “deterministic algorithm? You seem to be opening up a can of worms that we probably don’t want to get into. Anyway, I thought your POV was that things are deterministic, although unpredictable by us humans due to various limitations (and also except that we humans do seem to have amount of free will)?

Regarding what "the evidence actually tells us regarding the origin and evolution of life," well, here it is, again:

We sapient beings find ourselves in a universe that began about 14 billion years ago, apparently from a singularity, with inexplicably low entropy. Life on Earth seems to have begun around 4 billion years ago, but for most of that time not much seemed to be “evolving” except for single cell stuff and some algae . . . until the “Cambrian Explosion,” a little over ½ billion years ago, when lineages of almost all animals we see today, rather suddenly, appeared . . . and today, somehow, voila, we sapient beings find that we exist.

Why the sudden explosion and why we sapient beings? Well, for one thing, only b/c of the extraordinary 'specialness' of the Big Bang and the absurdly low entropy of the universe that we sapient beings find ourselves in, a universe where where such "Cambrian explosions" and sapient beings are even possible, and perhaps even inevitable, depending on one’s views regarding determinism.

But beyond that, who Knows? As noted at—
Interpretations of this critical period are subject of lively debate among scientists like Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard University and Simon Conway Morris of Cambridge University. Gould emphasizes the role of chance. He argues that if one could "rerun the tape" of that evolutionary event, a completely different path might have developed and would likely not have included a humanlike creature. Morris, on the other hand, contends that the environment of our planet would have created selection pressures that would likely have produced similar forms of life to those around us -- including humans.
And so there you have it—some Darwinians say the explosion and sapient beings are the result mostly of chance, while some contend that the explosion and sapient beings are here b/c our planet would have created selection pressures to make it so (although exactly why our planet would necessarily be predisposed to behave that way doesn't seem to be too clear)
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