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  #21  
Unread August 21st, 2006, 07:40 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Battle Against Scientific Illiteracy

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Carey: The statement you put forward was, in essence, that . . . the theory of natural selection is 'half-assed'.
Do you misstate what I say on purpose or are you just offensively careless? Read what was written—the “half-ass notion” was/is the notion that evolution/natural selection is “comparable in any substantial way” to the superb theory of gravitation; and it seems that yourself now agree when you say that: “In fact, I think that comparing the two [the theory of gravitation and selection] is a pretty empty exercise altogether.”

“Superb” is Penrose’s top ranking for certain theories (e.g., Galilean Dynamics, Maxwell's Electromagnetic Theory, Einstein's Relativity Theories, Quantum Theory). I think he may have indicated somewhere that “natural selection” fell short of “superb,” although, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I think he’s also indicated that he’s a believer in natural selection.
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  #22  
Unread August 21st, 2006, 08:14 PM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Battle Against Scientific Illiteracy

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Read what was written—the “half-ass notion” was/is the notion that evolution/natural selection is “comparable in any substantial way” to the superb theory of gravitation
Come on, Fred . . . you and I both know what you really mean is that the theory of gravitation is superb, while the theory of natural selection 'doesn't explain all that much' . . . and your only source on this statement is Penrose's book . . . which is on physics, not evolution.

Speaking of citation, your argument over the last year or so generally consists of: "Penrose said so". I trust that he's a very smart fellow and an authoritative figure among physicists. Does that mean we can take his word as final on science as a whole, including biology? Definitely not.

Last edited by Carey N; August 22nd, 2006 at 01:05 AM.
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  #23  
Unread August 22nd, 2006, 08:12 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Battle Against Scientific Illiteracy

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. . . and your only source on this statement is Penrose's book
Nonsense. I’ve explained that natural selection is essentially a circular notion, similar to “emergence,” that lacks the predictive power, understanding, and convincing coherence of a good physical science theory, say like gravity.

Additionally Carey, despite your nonsensical whine, you yourself have also acknowledged: “I think that comparing the two [natural selection (or "evolution") and gravitation] is a pretty empty exercise altogether.”
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  #24  
Unread August 22nd, 2006, 09:07 AM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Battle Against Scientific Illiteracy

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Originally Posted by Fred
I’ve explained that natural selection is essentially a circular notion, similar to “emergence,” that lacks the predictive power, understanding, and convincing coherence of a good physical science theory, say like gravity.
You have stated all these things as fact without acknowledging the fundamental differences between evolutionary biology and astrophysics (which I have explained a number of times before and won't repeat). You say that selection is a circular notion, similar to emergence, and yet selection can be quantified and studied mathematically, which you also refuse to acknowledge. You have not 1) offered even a slight hint as to what might be a better explanatory framework for biological evolution, or 2) confronted the vast, long-standing literature that overwhelming suggests the opposite of what you claim, (this research has been collated into books accessible to laymen . . . I've pointed them out, but you won't read them).

Last edited by Carey N; August 22nd, 2006 at 09:25 AM.
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  #25  
Unread August 22nd, 2006, 09:38 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Battle Against Scientific Illiteracy

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. . . as the two sciences explain fundamentally different phenomena.
And yet, Carey, cosmological “natural selection” is an hypothesis proposed by the physicist Lee Smolin as a scientific alternative to the anthropic principle in his, IMO, lame attempt to addresses the problem of complexity in our universe, which is largely unexplained—similar, I might add to the largely unexplained complexity in life/biological evolution . . . . thus we witness the deceptive seductiveness of “selection”; and that even physicists, albeit the lesser physicists, may occasionally succumb to it’s allure.
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  #26  
Unread August 22nd, 2006, 10:00 AM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Battle Against Scientific Illiteracy

If some elements of cosmic 'evolution' satisfy the requirements of inheritance coupled with differential 'reproduction' (I can't envision how this might be, but I'm not an expert in this area), then I can see why physicists may want to use the concept of natural selection to explain features of the universe. I can't comment in a detailed way upon this idea, since I'm not familiar with selection in space, so to say. I will note that your own quote a few posts ago acknowledged that physicists have only tried to borrow the concept of selection because it works so well in biology. Let's let this point rest since it really isn't relevant to the main discussion.

Now, please address this request: if natural selection is such a weak concept, then suggest something (even just a hint) that could take its place. If you actually have a viable idea that supersedes natural selection in the context of biological evolution, you will immediately become one of the most renowned scientists on earth. There's some motivation for you.

Last edited by Carey N; August 22nd, 2006 at 10:13 AM.
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  #27  
Unread August 22nd, 2006, 12:57 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Battle Against Scientific Illiteracy

Well Carey, it seems to me that the point of our discussion here was merely that natural selection is not really comparable to an actual superb theory, like say gravity—and you’ve acknowledged: “I think that comparing the two [natural selection (or "evolution") and gravitation] is a pretty empty exercise altogether.” So it seems that we more or less agree . . . isn’t that wonderful?

The Anthropic Principle (used to explain the structure of the universe considering how the forces are incredibly and precariously balanced—for no apparent reason—in a manner that constrains it to evolve to a point that allows us humans to have evolved and exist, and which is somewhat contrary to the Copernican principle) is interesting—it’s essentially the idea that the universe is fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life; or that the only reason we’re here is b/c the universe is fine tuned, otherwise we’d not be here; or that the laws of physics and the universe are the way they are so life could evolve and become aware of them.

However, admittedly, the Anthropic Principle does seem to be about as circular/tautological as selection, doesn’t it? And, like natural selection, the Anthropic Principle really is not comparable to an actual superb theory, like say gravity.
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  #28  
Unread August 22nd, 2006, 04:39 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Battle Against Scientific Illiteracy

Just to let Fred and Carey know that at least one other person is watching their (rather slow) discussion I thought I'd mention that one reason why Fred finds physical theories like gravitation so compelling and "superior" to "circular notions" like natural selection as a mechanism for evolution - may have little to do with the logical validity or elegance of the theories themselves.

That meta-study I have referenced a few times before Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition shows that a need for closure is one of the most highly correlated characteristics of conservative minds. Other interesting factors that also correlate positively with a conservative orientation are uncertainty avoidance and an intolerance of ambiguity. Conservative minds also show a strong negative correlation with the integrative complexity of the ideas they hold.

So, while you both are having trouble understanding how the other can not see the simple truth in your positions - perhaps the reasons for that are not to be found so much in their respective objective validity - as in the minds that are seeing them.

I'll add a little plug here for my hypothesis - this illustrates for me additional evidence for the emotional basis of one's beliefs. An interesting question to me is: If a conservative mind finds integratively complex ideas uncomfortable compared with less complex ideas - does a liberal mind find more integratively complex ideas more appealing than simpler ones?

My first guess is no. I have not heard of any liberal-minded scientists (perhaps those who accept evolution and natural selection as elegant and highly useful descriptions of the living world) dismissing or criticizing the theory of gravitation because it is not integratively complex.


Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; August 22nd, 2006 at 05:26 PM.
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  #29  
Unread August 22nd, 2006, 05:41 PM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Battle Against Scientific Illiteracy

A valiant attempt to dodge the big question that you can't answer . . . I'll go ahead and give you another chance, though:

If natural selection is such a weak concept, then suggest something (even just a hint) that could take its place.
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  #30  
Unread August 22nd, 2006, 06:35 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Battle Against Scientific Illiteracy

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Carey: If natural selection is such a weak concept, then suggest something (even just a hint) that could take its place.
Well Carey, as I recall, a few posts back, you noted that the “origin of bacteria in the first place was momentous,” and I tended to agree, and asked if you’d perhaps explain how your natural selection explains the momentous origin and evolution of life/bacteria. However, you never did. And as I noted, I suspect that you can’t and won’t be furnishing much in the way of theories/ explanations/ evidence that will provide the predictive power, understanding, and convincing coherence of a good physical science theory, say like gravity. Nevertheless, you should still attempt to do so, and then perhaps you’ll better appreciate the current shortcomings in your natural selection and, as Mayr calls it, your “philosophy of biology.”

I see that your buddy MM has weighed in, indicating that you and I seem to be “having trouble understanding how the other can not see the simple truth in [our] positions - perhaps the reasons for that are not to be found so much in their respective objective validity - as in the minds that are seeing them." Well, I think we can understand how it is that MM “feels compelled by her emotions,” to believe whatever it is that she happens to believe here since, as she has previously declared, she believes whatever it is she believes b/c that is what makes MM herself “feel good,” and, as she explains in her so-called “axiom,” MM “uses her brains to justify it” (and also, as MM has amplified, “what makes us different are the things that make us feel good”).

But really Carey, you and I actually see many things similarly: First, we agree that Einstein’s general relativity, his theory of gravitation, is a superb theory. Second, we agree, using your words, that “comparing the two [natural selection and gravitation] is a pretty empty exercise altogether.” Third, I don’t disagree that the idea of natural selection is compelling and even useful, but rather that it, like “emergence,” is, ultimately, merely one of those deceptively circular/tautological cool sounding terms that seem to explain a lot more than it actually explains (probably similar to how MM’s “axiom” seems to explain, to MM anyway, a lot more than it actually explains); while you, Carey insists that the “apparent circularity [of natural selection] just isn't important at all.”

And BTW, perhaps you should tell MM that Einstein’s general relativity is amazingly complex, whereas natural selection, essentially survival of the fittest, is actually rather simplistic, and really could never begin to explain the momentous origin and evolution of life/bacteria.

God, Carey, will this thread ever end?
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