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Unread August 20th, 2006, 11:39 AM
Carey N Carey N is offline
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 138
Default Re: Battle Against Scientific Illiteracy

Originally Posted by Fred
I doubt they have it “all wrong,” or that they’re necessarily “delusional”

Originally Posted by Fred, earlier
. . . thereby avoid half-ass notions like “evolution”—or natural selection for that matter—being comparable in any substantial way to the superb theory of gravitation
Theodosius Dobzhansky, a founding father of evolutionary genetics, famously wrote that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution" (fittingly for this general discussion, the guy was also a devout Christian). To refer to 'evolution' and 'natural selection' as half-assed is effectively to claim that biologists are delusional. You may not have realized it, but that's what you're doing.

Are you qualified to compare general relativity and natural selection? Granted, general relativity is superb, but do you even know what it is, aside from the verbal descriptions you get from Penrose? Do you know how to do multivariate calculus, ODE and PDE's? Differential geometry? Topology? Do you know population genetics, quantitative genetics, or Fisher's fundamental theorem? The Price equation? Hamilton's rule? Game theory? Somehow, I doubt it. If you aren't intimately familiar with the mathematics of both physics and evolution, in addition to the vast wealth of empirical data that they both enlighten, then you can't comment that one is 'better' than the other. So, put a plug in it.

But Carey says that "No one with all his marbles thinks that higher intelligence (or any other adaptation) is the result of pure (or mostly) chance," but then adds that, "things might turn out very differently (e.g. if the earth's orbit were such that the end-Cretaceous asteroid didn't hit us . . .)"
I suspect that Fred understands the point I was making and is only trying to be contrary. For anyone else who is reading and interested, I will explain a bit further.

To say that intelligence or any adaptation is the result of pure or mostly chance is to say that the features in question spontaneously popped into existence . . . obviously, that is false. The point Gould makes in his exposition is that if the history of life were re-run, then different evolutionary trajectories may have transpired. Historical contingency is an important feature of any phylogeny, but without natural selection, there would be no adaptive evolution in the first place. The chance events involved in the history of life are irrelevant without reference to the evolutionary process, and are therefore secondary to it.

Last edited by Carey N; August 20th, 2006 at 03:28 PM.
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