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  #1  
Unread July 14th, 2006, 05:33 PM
James Brody James Brody is offline
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Default Selling Evolution

A mixed week: Anne Coulter's latest book bombed Darwians as "liberals" and evolution as "holey" rather than Holy. Coulter is quite radical and I sometimes enjoy her bombast; she's also a bit impulsive. Darwinians fight a two-front battle: traditions to the left reject the notion of human instinct, those to the right dislike our skepticism about top-down designers. "New Scientist" pointed out this stuff several years ago but Coulter probably doesn't read it. (Robin Smith has an intriguing title: "Lies at the Altar" but is a disappointment, a stack of mottos rather than a structure spun from mate selection research.)

Not to worry!

Nature and Discovery Channels already converted our kids, I think, because of the immediacy and salience of what Uncle David has to tell them about choosing partners. I've also found the highschoolers to react "cool" when they hear I'm an evolutionist and, over the past decade, more adults know the word and I can spin Buss into recommendations intended to soothe marital partnerships.

I've probably lost a couple of chanters, however, and I've compromised: if they hear voices, I don't first reach for my explanations of schizophrenia or tell them that magnetic stimulation to their temporal lobe will keep them in church all the time.

Even the chanters still want the utility of mate selection data.

Even the chanters want both their immediate and future kids to have some breaks.

Even the chanters get into the idea that parents are the best predictor and exploratory system for their offspring...

And their Commandments instantiate evolutionary good sense.

I sometimes feel like Screwtape recruiting Wormwoods and, like CS Lewis's character, I ratchet ahead unless there's a war...

Life is good!

JB
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  #2  
Unread July 14th, 2006, 08:11 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Selling Evolution

Quote:
JimB: Darwinians fight a two-front battle: traditions to the left reject the notion of human instinct, those to the right dislike our skepticism about top-down designers.
Jim, I’d not be terribly concerned about the Left, considering their inclination towards self-destruction, and/or their disinclination towards spawning. Regarding most everyone else, however, the problem really seems to be the blatant, hardcore atheism of the current mutation of Darwinianism—the evidence that our 14 billion year old low-entropy universe, and we sapient beings, are accidents, besides being somewhat unpalatable, simply isn’t all that convincing.

But not to worry brother Jim—I suspect that Darwinianism will evolve and adapt.
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  #3  
Unread July 17th, 2006, 07:30 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: Selling Evolution

Not so very much accidents...

Mutation plays a very small part to evolution by natural selection...

Mostly you have inheritence and differential fitness...
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  #4  
Unread July 25th, 2006, 06:35 PM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default not quite . . .

Mutation is the ultimate source of all variation present within a population . . . without mutation, there would be eventually be nothing for natural selection to select, and evolution would halt.

Perhaps you meant that inheritance and differential reproduction through time are the non-random processes that transform variation generated by random mutation into adaptations . . . ? I would agree with that.

By 'accident', Fred refers to the perspective that there is no universally defined (by a supreme intelligence) meaning to life. This notion is very upsetting to Fred and prompts him to cite great minds of the past that, in their dying years, produced platitudes about the necessity and inevitability of a divine creator.
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  #5  
Unread July 29th, 2006, 09:05 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Selling Evolution

Quote:
Carey: By 'accident', Fred refers to the perspective that there is no universally defined (by a supreme intelligence) meaning to life. This notion is very upsetting to Fred….
As I noted in another thread, I don’t find the accident scenario to be “upsetting,” necessarily, it’s just that I find randomness to be a rather ineffective explanation, a masquerade for ignorance, like not knowing which Monty Hall door has the prize, or not knowing how/why entropy at the beginning, 14 billion years ago, was so low. But then it’s my view that “randomness” is an illusion . . . although ignorance certainly seems to be real, and probabilities are nothing more than our attempts to quantify our ignorance. Consider Carey: Can one prove randomness? Is randomness falsifiable?

Last edited by Fred H.; July 29th, 2006 at 02:49 PM.
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  #6  
Unread July 29th, 2006, 03:57 PM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Selling Evolution

By randomness, do you refer to an explanation of biological evolution, or of the universe's origin?

If you refer to evolution, then you're mistaken . . . no serious biologist thinks that adaptive evolution is driven by random processes. The generation of variation (by mutation) is effectively random - by which I mean that mutations occur at random with respect to their effect upon organisms (we've had this precise discussion before). Non-random processes, on the other hand, 'select' variants which happen to be better at making copies of themselves, and thereby govern adaptive evolution.

If you refer to the creation of the universe, then I'm not really equipped to enter the discussion, as I'm no expert on astro-physics . . . it's hard to believe that anything with inherent order is created totally randomly, but, on the hand, a non-random process doesn't by any means imply the existence of divinity. In other words, "non-random" is not synonymous with "Creator", as you seem to imply.
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  #7  
Unread July 29th, 2006, 05:01 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Selling Evolution

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Carey: The generation of variation (by mutation) is effectively random - by which I mean that mutations occur at random with respect to their effect upon organisms
I’m not terribly clear what you mean by “effectively random . . . with respect to their effect upon organisms,” but if you simply mean that “mutation” is random,” I’m inclined to disagree. As I’ve said, Carey, I just find randomness to be a rather ineffective explanation, a masquerade for ignorance, like not knowing which Monty Hall door has the prize, or not knowing how/why entropy at the beginning, 14 billion years ago, was so low; and that it’s my view that “randomness” is an illusion . . . although ignorance certainly seems to be real, and probabilities are nothing more than our attempts to quantify our ignorance . . . whether we’re talking physics, cosmology, or biology.

As far as I know Carey, we can’t prove randomness, and randomness is not falsifiable.
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  #8  
Unread July 29th, 2006, 08:53 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Selling Evolution

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Originally Posted by Fred H.
I’m not terribly clear what you mean by “effectively random . . . with respect to their effect upon organisms,” but if you simply mean that “mutation” is random,” I’m inclined to disagree.
Mutation is effectively random, unless and until we can plot the paths of all energetic particles and the DNA in reproductive (sperm and egg) cells.

One cause of mutation is the natural radioactivity of the uranium in the earth. Radioactivity sends alpha particles (protons) in various directions. Occasionally, one of those particles makes a direct hit on a reproductive cell that is still healthy enough to become part of a fertilized egg. This sometimes causes the birth of an organism with a different DNA pattern, which changes the sequence, which changes (or activates or deactivates) a protein which actually affects the fitness of that individual.

(Radiation sickness is not a problem with someone having too much radiation in them; it is the overall effect of many cells being disrupted by the alpha particles that flew through them and chopped up too much DNA and proteins.)

That is what I mean by random mutation. Granted, in a deterministic world, all mutations are actually predetermined. But at a level that naturally appears random to us.

You're welcome, Fred.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
I’m inclined to disagree.
Then what causes mutation that's not random???
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  #9  
Unread July 30th, 2006, 08:59 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Selling Evolution

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Mutation is effectively random, unless and until we can plot the paths of all energetic particles and the DNA in reproductive (sperm and egg) cells
Yeah, like the motions of stars and planets appeared to be inexplicable until Newton discovered his laws of gravity and Einstein discovered general relativity, after which we were able to plot their paths—as usual, Tom has things backwards.

As best I can tell, we can’t prove randomness, and it’s not falsifiable. And so it remains: Randomness is an illusion, although ignorance certainly seems to be real.
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  #10  
Unread July 30th, 2006, 12:33 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Selling Evolution

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Originally Posted by Fred H.
Tom has things backwards.
"Backwards" is deciding on a philosophy and disregarding facts that are against that philosophy. That is what makes up a Fred. I just gave you a set of facts, you mentioned no fact to dispute mine; you just threw some ignorant shadow at me. This is what I expect from you, Fred. Keep up your excellent example of ridiculous arguments, they fully support my philosophy.
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