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  #11  
Unread May 30th, 2006, 01:50 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Emergent Networks and Fine Art

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Carey: . . . it was PREDICTED that mother waps will preferentially lay female offspring in larger host larvae, and male offspring in smaller host larvae. This prediction relies completely upon the paradigm of evolution driven by differential reproductive success: mother wasps that bias the sex ratio of their offspring toward females when laying eggs into large hosts will have more grand-children in the long run than mother wasps that do not do this, leading to the fixation of sex ratio bias behavior.
Yeah, essentially survival and perpetuation of the traits/individuals that are the “fittest.” I don’t doubt that life “evolves” and that the traits that result in higher survival and reproduction rates are going to, well, survive and reproduce at higher rates . . . I mean how could it be otherwise? All we need do is attempt to determine the specific traits/individuals that are actually surviving and reproducing at higher rates, and we simply back into our predictions—can’t go wrong unless we somehow misidentified the required traits, in which case we’d simply reassess things, maybe get more grant money for more “research,” re-determine the required traits, and eventually a correct prediction is inevitable, even for a “fawning undergrad psych student,” using one of MM’s characterizations.

Hell Carey, using your paradigm of evolution driven by differential reproductive success, I’ll even make a prediction: Since atheists typically have lower birth rates, and are also a rather small percentage of the population, I’d predict that folk having religious traits will continue to have more offspring than atheists . . . but then the Bible has more or less already predicted that religious folk will inherit the earth.
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  #12  
Unread May 30th, 2006, 10:33 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Emergent Networks and Fine Art

So, to summarize, the problem is that natural selection is ultimately nothing more than a circular explanation that, as Dawkins has acknowledged, many believe is true but that can’t really be proved. It doesn’t really predict any more than common sense and maybe a bit of imagination would predict—the individuals/traits having higher survival and reproduction rates are going to, you guessed it, survive and reproduce at higher rates—how could it be otherwise? What is needed is a theory for the phenomena of biological evolution that is as coherent and convincing as our present theories of the inanimate world.
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  #13  
Unread May 31st, 2006, 01:30 PM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Emergent Networks and Fine Art

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Originally Posted by Fred
What is needed is a theory for the phenomena of biological evolution that is as coherent and convincing as our present theories of the inanimate world.
There already is one, but you just haven't invested the effort to find out about it. You portray only a charicature of what evolutionary biology really is, so of course you find it unsatisfying.

For everyone's sake, Fred, read some source material on evolution, and see what you've been missing. It's obvious that all you know of the subject has been gleaned from scant reading here and there, which gives you no sound basis upon which to argue about the basic principles involved. The simple fact is that evolutionary biology, and all of its extensions, both explain and predict far more than mere common sense ever could (though the core idea of natural selection does indeed appeal greatly to common sense, as you've pointed out yourself). Perhaps my parasitoid wasp example didn't convince you, but if it's mathematical principles you require, there are many sources available at your disposal (key phrases: population genetics, quantitative genetics, Price theorem). You simply need to make an effort to learn about them, and then we can actually have a discussion about this.

Potential starters:
1) Compilation of classic papers
2) Readable textbook

Last edited by Carey N; May 31st, 2006 at 06:51 PM.
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  #14  
Unread May 31st, 2006, 08:24 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Emergent Networks and Fine Art

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Carey: There already is [a theory for the phenomena of biological evolution that is as coherent and convincing as our present theories of the inanimate world—“natural selection”] but you just haven't invested the effort to find out about it.
I’ll admit that “natural selection” can be quite compelling. But I’d say that you and those from whom you have learned are probably too in love with your core belief (as Dawkins acknowledges that it is indeed a “belief”) in the circular notion of “natural selection,” and perhaps also somewhat threatened by the ID folk, to ever acknowledge that natural selection isn’t anywhere near as coherent or convincing as are the superb theories that we have for the inanimate world.

But then Ernst Mayr has acknowledged that, “biology is not the same sort of thing as the physical sciences,” and that the “philosophy of biology has a totally different basis than the theories of physics.” So I suppose we really shouldn’t expect that anything coming out of the “philosophy of biology,” will ever be as coherent and convincing as theories coming out of the physical sciences. Nevertheless, I’m disappointed that you can’t see and/or acknowledge that natural selection is obviously circular and ultimately not all that explanatory . . . hell, we could say that stars and galaxies are a result of cosmological natural selection, but what the hell would that actually tell us? (Except that some may find it more palatable than saying, “God did it.”)
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  #15  
Unread June 1st, 2006, 12:25 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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And so, to reiterate, the problem is that natural selection, although somewhat compelling, and probably superficially true, is ultimately nothing more than a circular explanation that, as Dawkins has acknowledged, many believe is true but that can’t really be proved. It doesn’t really predict much more than common sense and maybe some imagination would predict—the individuals/traits having higher survival and reproduction rates are going to, you guessed it, survive and reproduce at higher rates—how could it be otherwise?

As physics/cosmology doesn’t rely on some sort of circular cosmological natural selection to explain the evolution of stars, galaxies, or the solar system (although one could argue that there is a “selection” process in the forming of such things); so too biology must find a more coherent and convincing theory(s) than the circular “natural selection” to superficially explain biological evolution.

Keep an open mind Carey, don’t blindly accept what your books and the establishment are preaching, and maybe you yourself will discover a more coherent and convincing theory(s) . . . and if I’m still alive maybe you’ll want to apologize for calling me myopic.
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  #16  
Unread June 1st, 2006, 05:35 AM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Okay Fred . . . you've AGAIN repeated your opinion on this matter, to my chagrin. I want to be able to discuss this subject with you - I really do. But we just cannot hold such a discussion until you've made some attempt to really dig into the literature on evolution. Believe me, Fred, I take everything I hear with a grain of salt, but natural selection is one of those ideas that just doesn't break down under even the most intense scrutiny. That is not to say we know everything there is to know, or that the field isn't still rife with controversial arguments, but everyone agrees on the validity of Darwin's core ideas - not because we're fawning over previous generations of scientists, but because natural selection is an extremely powerful explanatory tool. Again, you can see this for yourself by reading source material (I glean that you've read Mayr's philosophy of biology, but that isn't the right vein - you need to see some basal theoretical and empirical work on the subject to get a better feel for what it is in practice).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred
I’m disappointed that you can’t see and/or acknowledge that natural selection is obviously circular and ultimately not all that explanatory.
In responding to this, I'm going to more or less repeat an argument made in one of our older discussions. I want you to directly address these two parallel points in your response, to make sure that we're on the same page. Don't simply refer to Dawkins and say that evolution is a belief - I want you to present an argument of your own.

1) Evolutionary Biology, like other forms of history, is inherently circular, for it attempts to explain current patterns based upon past events. Because the end-result is already known, the explanation must, almost by definition, be circular. This is what I think you really mean when you refer to the circularity of evolution. In this sense, Fred, EVERY possible explanation of life MUST be circular. If we agree that evolution happened, what remains to be explained is the mechanism by which it happened; this leads us to the central issue of natural selection.

**We've accepted that evolution, as a form of history, contains an element of circularity . . . we're now moving on to the different potential mechanisms by which evolution may have occurred.**

2) Evolution by natural selection entails the differential survival and reproducion of replicating entities in time, leading to the biased preservation of heritable information that is better able to make copies of itself in a particular environment. One moves from generation A to generation B to generation C, ad infinitum . . . the process of natural selection is therefore non-circular both temporally and logically, and it arises by virtue of heritable information and differential reproduction alone (This leaves open the question of how the first replicating entities arose, but the mechanistic explanations for it are certainly non-circular, while the supernatural explanations are highly circular). Yes, Fred, the core principle of selection can be drawn from common sense (funny that no one thought of it until 150 years ago) . . . but the extensions of this principle are not at all obvious. You will immediately see this if you look into the references I've provided for you. If you want math-oriented work, go for something on population genetics, or read Fisher's classic Genetical Theory of Natural Selection (this one takes months to digest, though).

Now consider an alternative mechanism of evolution: e.g., divine influence. This idea proposes that an intelligence of some kind was already present at the beginning of everything, and eventually produced intelligence of its own ilk in the form of human beings. I cannot imagine a more blatantly circular mechanism of evolution . . . it proposes that the end-result (intelligence) was already present at the beginning, thus incorporating the phenomenon under investigation into the definition of the mechanism by which it arose. You can't get much more circular than that.

Last edited by Carey N; June 1st, 2006 at 06:37 AM.
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  #17  
Unread June 1st, 2006, 11:14 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Emergent Networks and Fine Art

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Carey: Yes, Fred, the core principle of selection can be drawn from common sense (funny that no one thought of it until 150 years ago) . . . but the extensions of this principle are not at all obvious.
I think we’d agree that “selection” more or less satisfactorily explains the primary mechanism utilized (supposedly “artificially,” by humans) to “evolve,” for example, wolves into shi-tzus, and that humans have been using that mechanism for more than 150 years on various plants and animals; so I’d argue that humans have been aware of “selection” for far more than 150 years (although they may have used other terms, e.g., “breeding” rather than “selection”)—but of course Darwin was clever enough to put a “natural” in front of “selection,” and voila! we now have “natural selection,” a new and, you insist, “extremely powerful explanatory tool,” to explain an evolution that is nevertheless, supposedly, ultimately purposeless, directionless, blind, and essentially unpredictable. Go figure.

Most things seem to “evolve,” and some sort of “selection” usually, if not always, seems to be implicated in the process.

But invoking “selection” and calling it “natural,” and maybe even embellishing it with the cool sounding “differential reproductive success,” to “predict” how/why “mother wasps that bias the sex ratio of their offspring toward females when laying eggs into large hosts will have more grand-children in the long run than mother wasps that do not do this,” which initially may sound impressive, is nevertheless ultimately circular, and just not terribly enlightening.

Regarding the “circular mechanism” of “divine influence,” greater minds than ours have already considered such things, like Einstein’s spirit vastly superior to that of man manifest in the laws of the universe, or Planck’s conscious and intelligent Mind that is the matrix of all matter, or Penrose’s universe that has a purpose and that’s not here somehow by chance.

So anyhoo, I still think that Dawkins got it right, that “natural selection” is a belief that can’t be proved.

Last edited by Fred H.; June 1st, 2006 at 11:38 AM.
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  #18  
Unread June 2nd, 2006, 05:38 AM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Emergent Networks and Fine Art

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Originally Posted by Fred
. . . to “predict” how/why “mother wasps that bias the sex ratio of their offspring toward females when laying eggs into large hosts will have more grand-children in the long run than mother wasps that do not do this,” which initially may sound impressive, is nevertheless ultimately circular, and just not terribly enlightening.
. . . you didn't even attempt to understand the general point of my example, which was that we can make very clear, testable predictions about many aspects of wild populations under the framework of evolution by natural selection. Additionally, you have once again neglected the point I made about non-circularity of selection vs. circularity of any historical explanation of life. In our discussion about a year ago on this topic, I gave you the benefit of the doubt and assumed you just skimmed over that argument, but now I believe you see it, realize that you cannot argue against it, and instead re-state your opinion on this matter without actually confronting the details.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred
Regarding the “circular mechanism” of “divine influence,” greater minds than ours have already considered such things, like Einstein’s spirit vastly superior to that of man manifest in the laws of the universe, or Planck’s conscious and intelligent Mind that is the matrix of all matter, or Penrose’s universe that has a purpose and that’s not here somehow by chance.
I don't care if a bunch of smart guys have indicated their support for deism. Once again, you failed to address my clear argument that ANY deistic explanation of life is inherently circular, and instead opted just to cite other people. By the way, Fred, wasn't it you who told me a few posts ago not to blindly accept what some authorities have written on this matter? And yet here you are, doing exactly that with Einstein, Planck, and Penrose. What's that I smell . . . ? It's Fred's duplicity!!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred
So anyhoo, I still think that Dawkins got it right, that “natural selection” is a belief that can’t be proved.
READ A BOOK on the subject and then come back to tell me what you think about it.

Last edited by Carey N; June 2nd, 2006 at 06:02 AM.
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  #19  
Unread June 2nd, 2006, 09:43 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Emergent Networks and Fine Art

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Carey: . . . you didn't even attempt to understand the general point of my example, which was that we can make very clear, testable predictions about many aspects of wild populations under the framework of evolution by natural selection. Additionally, you have once again neglected the point I made about non-circularity of selection vs. circularity of any historical explanation of life.

Carey: In this sense, Fred, EVERY possible explanation of life MUST be circular. If we agree that evolution happened, what remains to be explained is the mechanism by which it happened; this leads us to the central issue of natural selection.

**We've accepted that evolution, as a form of history, contains an element of circularity . . . we're now moving on to the different potential mechanisms by which evolution may have occurred.**
Well Carey, if you’re saying that the individuals/traits having higher survival and reproduction rates are always going to, well, survive and reproduce at higher rates, and that therefore we can always predict that, well, the individuals/traits having higher survival and reproduction rates are always going to, well, survive and reproduce at higher rates—unless something changes where those individuals/traits no longer have the higher survival and reproduction rates, in which case other individuals/traits will have higher survival and reproduction rates, well then, yes, I’d say that’s a slam-dunk . . . although I still find the circularity less than satisfying.

OTOH, I doubt that you could persuasively argue that, say, Newton’s laws of motion/gravity and/or Einstein’s general relativity explanations are circular. Plus there is always the nagging problem of how it is that a universe with low entropy ever began in the first place (14 billion years ago), providing the opportunity for life to evolve, but perhaps that is beyond the scope of this discussion.

Regarding smart guys supporting deism, I don’t know that your charges of any supposed circularity are terribly relevant—those guys, and I, more or less acknowledge that our deism is a belief, although a belief by those who have studied and understood the mathematics and the science and evidence involving the more profound mysteries of the universe; whereas you are denying what Dawkins, the credentialed Oxford zoologist (and raging atheist), readily acknowledges—that natural selection is a belief that can’t be proved.

And regarding my appealing to authority, well, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea frigging culpa. But then I’d say that we all, more or less, appeal to some sort of authority, and perhaps argue what we perceive to be the most credible/persuasive/convincing points and conclusions made by such authority.

So it boils down to this: Although you seem to acknowledge, to some degree, the circularity of natural selection, you temper that by asserting (unconvincingly IMO) that all explanations of life must be circular; and additionally you refuse to acknowledge, as Dawkins acknowledges, that natural selection is a belief that can’t be proved. Fine, I understand—natural selection is your baby, and no one likes admitting that their baby is ugly.
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  #20  
Unread June 2nd, 2006, 04:49 PM
James Brody James Brody is offline
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Default Re: Emergent Networks and Fine Art

"I'm going to provide you here with one example illustrating that you are mistaken."

Bless you all by whatever gods may be, that I can vanish for a week or more and no one changes!

Love you all...well, almost all!

JimB
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