Facts of evolution cannot be denied.

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by Dinosaur, Jan 31, 2015.

  1. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    There is no "should". There are no "poor choices". Nature picked what was best in a given set of circumstances. You don't get to decide what "should" be best in the long run.
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  3. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    There's certainly a difference between noting the existence of what appears to be evidence of design, and confident assertions about where that supposed design came from.

    But in the context of this thread, it's important to recognize that it's possible for Darwin and Wallace to have been wrong about the mechanism of speciation, without thereby committing one's self to intelligent design (even without the caps). Perhaps there's another as yet unknown naturalistic explanation for the observed facts, different than Darwin's, that doesn't posit a conscious intentional designer. This has been set up as a dichotomous either-or argument between Darwin and ID, where any doubt or "denial" of the former is taken to be support for the latter. That's foolish in my opinion.

    I certainly don't believe in intelligent design, for a whole variety of reasons, but I do think that the arguments surrounding it like a cloud raise all kinds of fascinating issues in the philosophy of biology. That's certainly interesting. (To me, anyway.)

    Exchemist has already mentioned Paley and his argument regarding finding a pocket-watch lying on the ground. Paley thought that would be obvious evidence of the existence of a watchmaker somewhere.

    So what is it about watches that suggests watchmakers to us?

    Obviously we are already familiar with watches and know where they come from. So let's imagine that we have never seen a watch before and have no idea where they come from.

    Paley's intuition seems to come down to three components:

    1. Complexity - this isn't enough obviously. There are countless sand-grains on a beach, each with its own geometrical shape and spatial relationships with all of the others. That's much more complex, in its own way, than a watch.

    2. System - the thing isn't just complex, but all of the thing's parts operate together... like a clockwork... to form an interdependent whole.


    3. Teleology - the parts aren't just working together, they are working together to achieve some end, to realize some purpose.


    Paley and most of his contemporaries thought that complex teleological systems were evidence of design. That's not a foolish idea by any means (no matter what Sciforums might say). And living organisms are pretty much the paradigmatic examples of complex teleological systems. Hearts seemingly exist to pump blood. Eyes seemingly exist so that we might see. Muscles so that we might move. Bones to give us rigidity. Everything has its purpose and everything works together.

    In the 18th century, the theological design argument seemed unanswerable. Life seemed to be clear and unambiguous evidence of design. That's why 18th century religious free-thinkers were more apt to be deists (those who doubted revealed religion) than atheists (those who doubted the existence of God).

    And that's why Darwin's ideas were such a mid-19th century bomb-shell and why belief in Darwinism has become such an article of unquestioning faith for a certain kind of atheist fundamentalist. Natural selection suddenly seemed to offer an explanation for complex teleological systems that didn't need to presuppose the existence of a designer.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, a whole new class of ostensible ID evidences have been coughed up since the 1980's by some physicists, with their "fine-tuning" arguments. I'm exceedingly skeptical about these assertions, which no doubt makes me antiscience.


    Apart from that, I think that the evidence would be precisely what it was 200 years ago, the existence of complex teleological systems, living organisms. The issue would then be whether evolutionary theory is capable of explaining what biologists observe. Of course evolutionary biology is a work-in-progress, so it probably can't explain the origin of everything that biology observes yet.

    That doesn't imply that ID deserves equal time in science classrooms. ID isn't a scientific theory and it doesn't really explain anything. Assuming for the sake or argument that ID is true, we still don't know what this hypothetical designer is, where it came from, how many of them there might be, or even what its mysterious mode of action was. When it comes to empirically testable hypotheses of its own, ID theory is strangely sterile and unproductive. Any explanatory gaps in evolutionary theory that ID proponents might use to attack it, shrink to insignificance compared to the explanatory gaps in ID proposals themselves.

    But I wouldn't have any objection to telling suitably advanced biology students about whatever unanswered questions are still active research topics in evolutionary biology, as opposed to telling them that everything is already settled and that expression of any doubts about any of it is antiscience and damnable denial. Atheists shouldn't be so quick to turn themselves and science along with them into the mirror image of the religious fundamentalism that they hate so passionately.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2015
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  5. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    The evidence shows that you have that back to front.
    This forum alone is evident that the facts are it is the religious fundamentalism and similar, that actually hate science with a passion.
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  7. Hipparchia Registered Senior Member

    I have repeatedly stated that I view the possibility of intelligent design (without any religious aspect) as being an interesting one that should be considered. If an either-or-argument has been set up, then it is by good persons such as yourself who are anxious to attack the foolishness of ID (the kind filled with and inspired by religion). I support such attacks, but they have nothing to do with anything I have been discussing in this thread.

    I can readily see why that is an interesting topic, however I suspect that your interest revolves around the likes of the Discovery Institute and their promotion of ID. Have you considered the impact of that view of intelligent design impacts on the ability of scientists to consider, dispassionately, lower case intelligent design.

    Darwin thought Paley presented his argument in an effective manner. I think I read that he modeled the structure of Origin of Species on Paley's work. (That's just an aside.)

    You seem to have summarised Paley's arguments well, as far as I understand them. My question about (religion free) intelligent design is, "Is there any other way we might test the idea, given the century and a half advantage of understanding and technique that we have?"

    Since it is a work in progress (which is largely what makes it interesting, at least to me) it seems foolish to exclude from consideration a possible, natural explanation for some of the currently poorly understood aspects of evolution.

    And you continue to classify all consideration of intelligent design as being connected with the dishonest, superstitious, unsubstantiated nonsense of Intelligent Design proponents. It is disappointing that you seem oblivious to that.
  8. wellwisher Banned Banned

    I believe in the process of change that life undergoes, that is called evolution. Where I differ is the mechanism behind the biological change. The problem I see with the current theory is it is based on random assumptions. What that does is it allows the theory's curve to not have to touch all the data consideration, since it can use the fudge factor to ignore what it does not wish to include.

    Water is necessary for life. Life does not appear, at any level, if we take out the water and replace it with any other solvent. This has been demonstrated in the lab to test that obsolete assumption, any solvent will do. How does the existing theory fudge factor water out, since I never see the global impact of water mentioned when it comes to any steps in evolution?

    At any step of evolution and at any level of life, from cells down to any gene, in that step, if water was not present, the effect would not occur. Yet water is ignored in favor of a random tradition. The theory is obsolete, by default, because it leaves out a major variable. Because the current explanation for evolution, is not an very intelligent design, it has become a dead end theory that cannot be examined; dogma.
  9. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    And I was siding with you and agreeing with you. Don't be so defensive that you start attacking your friends.

    I don't know how you can say that I'm one of those who set up an either-or-argument, when what I wrote was a warning against thinking that way. I wasn't criticizing you Hipparchia, those remarks were directed more at the likes of Dinosaur, Fraggle and their friends.

    Arguments about 'evolution' shouldn't be imagined as if they are a dichotomy between absolute unquestioning fundy-style belief in 'the facts of evolution' (whatever they are) as suggested in the subject line and adherence to ID (whether capitalized or not) as the only other alternative. The possibility (however remote it might be) remains that future science might conclude that Darwin and Wallace were wrong about natural selection being the engine of speciation, without any suggestion that any intelligent designer exists. Maybe somebody will propose a different naturalistic explanation for what's observed that somehow succeeds better.

    I'm not expecting that to happen, I'm just pointing out that it remains a possibility that can't be excluded by expressions of devout scientistic faith and by careful avoidance of any blasphemous expressions of 'anti-science' or 'denial'. (Again, the criticism implicit in those words is not directed at you.)

    I personally think that natural selection is a very good and very plausible theory, and I would give it a high likelihood of being true. I'm very impressed by how well the flood of new information currently coming in from molecular genetics and genomics coheres with a theory that was advanced in the middle 19th century, when little was known about genetics. That's a wonderful example of consilience (when unrelated avenues of inquiry point to the same conclusions), and I'm inclined to take that as a strong indicator of truth.

    I'm not as familiar as you seem to be with the Discovery Institute. I've never mentioned them.

    What is "lower case intelligent design"? From earlier remarks, I take it that it's ID that isn't joined at the hip with Biblical creationism (and by extension, with Islamic or Hindu creation theories, I guess). But that still leaves open the question of what 'lower case ID' is actually proposing. That's the crucial question in my opinion.

    My remarks about Paley were intended to provide an answer to your question about what signature intelligent design might have in our universe, if it was present. Paley and his contemporaries thought that they could recognize it in complex teleological systems in nature, exemplified by biological organisms.

    Maybe hypothetically, at some time in the future. But if 'lower-case' ID is going to be a 'natural explanation' for anything, its content and its details need to be filled in first. 'Lower-case ID' needs a lot of work, in order to raise it above the level of a speculative possibility to the status of a scientific theory. What is the nature of the "intelligence" (presumably nothing religious) that supposedly produced the "design"? What was this intelligence's mode of action in realizing this design in what we observe?

    One reason why the theory of biological evolution by natural selection can be criticized is because it makes its details known. So it's possible to question whether the theory can account for particular observations.

    I don't see how that's possible with ID, whether of the upper-case or the lower-case variety.

    The upper-case monotheistic variants of ID posit (for religious reasons) the existence of a designer that's typically believed to be omnipotent. It can do anything, so that any conceivable state of affairs is consistent with its action. And its mode of action is said to be miraculous, so that there's no understanding of how the design was actualized in what we observe. There's no way of testing whether the theory actually works, no way of determining whether the theory is consistent with observation. (There may be difficulties like the problem of evil, but God works in mysterious ways.)

    The lower-case versions of ID are largely blanks at the moment. There have been suggestions that maybe aliens have designed and have guided the elaboration of life on earth. Stitchen-style ancient astronaut hypotheses seemingly propose something like this, where humans were genetically engineered by aliens. (Did the aliens devote their attentions to designing starfish and tube-worms too? Where did the almost infinite panoply of life on earth originate?) We know nothing whatsoever about these supposed super-powered aliens, and we have no reason to even believe that they exist. Nor do we know anything about their supposed modes of action.

    An alternative to the alien-design theories can be found in the late 19th century, when many biological theorists proposed the existence of a vital life-force that shaped life into forms. This was an age that knew very little about developmental biology and next to nothing about its mechanisms and mode of action. It was profoundly mysterious to the Victorians how a fertilized egg could elaborate through fetal development into a hugely complex organism. Many biologists of the period imagined that they saw a mysterious formative power at work that wasn't consistent with known physics or chemistry. And obviously, if this mysterious power could shape fetal development, it could shape the whole history of life on earth. So these kind of theories became alternatives to Darwinism. It was believed that life has some mysterious force within it that inherently strives to achieve higher and higher forms. Today developmental biology is far better understood, and the formative life-force theories have faded away into the history of biology (except for Rupert Sheldrake who apparently still promotes them). Interestingly, developmental biology has merged seamlessly into the new synthesis of natural selection and genomics, another example of consilience.

    So we are essentially in the same position with ostensibly secular 'lower-case ID' that we are in regarding the religious 'upper-case' variants. Neither variant constitutes a scientific theory that can compete with biological evolution by natural selection in providing explanations for whats biologists observe, in explicating the mechanism by which it came about, and in making testable predictions of what they are likely to observe in the future. We have to have some idea about what isn't likely to happen in a theoretical scheme, before we can possibly recognize observations that are inconsistent with it.

    You asked up above how we might test lower-case theories of ID. My answer is that we can't, there's no way, until the ID theories flesh themselves out with content and details, explaining precisely what it is that they are proposing and how everything is supposed to work.

    I wouldn't call believers in religious variants of ID "dishonest" or even "superstitious" (a word that typically refers to belief in folk magic). "Unsubstantiated" certainly does seem to fit their ideas.

    But "unsubstantiated" is equally applicable to lower-case versions of ID as well. I don't think that ID becomes any better, or any more plausible, if religion is drained out of it. Its plausibility, and its status as a scientific theory, are functions of whether its details make sense, of its explanatory power and of the quality of the reasons we have for believing in it.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2015
  10. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Agree with almost everything you say in this post. However I think it is worth pointing out that the theory of evolution makes no attempt to explain the origin of life. Darwin's book was about the origin of species, not the origin of life. There is no theory of the origin of life, so far. There are some interesting hypotheses, and some evidence for parts of some of these, but we are a long way from a theory, due largely to the absence of observations we can make about the distant epoch in which it took place.

    As to teleology, you put your finger on an interesting point here, which may answer some of the questions I expressed before about why evolution is the target of religious fundamentalists. It seems to me that the appearance of teleology is implicit in the mechanism of natural selection, which does not require a designer. To a certain religious mindset, this really is Darwin's "dangerous idea". But for anyone who accepts that natural selection can work, I do not see how they can infer evidence for a designer from evolutionary processes.

    Lastly, I feel bound to observe that your last point strikes me as a real Aunt Sally. Nobody tells students everything is settled. If it were, we would stop doing science! It is quite reasonable - and in fact commonplace - to express doubt about parts of any theory where there is evidence that does not appear to fit it. Teaching the problems with current theory - and the hypotheses being formulated around them - is the most exciting part of learning any science. But of course, you do have to teach the understanding of the theory first, to avoid students thinking that thy can just wake up one morning and arbitrarily decide to "question" anything they like, without knowing what they are talking about.
  11. Hipparchia Registered Senior Member

    Yazata, my apologies. I entered this discussion with some trepidation, because I have seen posters given very short thrift for anything that seems to deviate from the standard line. Well intentioned people, in my opinion, can become evangelical and dogmatic in defending that line. I can see I have likely misinterpreted much of what you have said and was reacting to imagined implications. I shall be more careful in future.

    You have made a lengthy post and I have to prepare a meal. I shall try to respond to it more fully later, as I read only the opening lines and posted this only to explain and apologise.
  12. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    Totally agree with all your post exchemist, particularly the last sentence.
    The only thing I may "question" is your statement in the first paragraph, that we have no theory for the origin of life.
    My only argument would be that if we look at the history of the Universe from that first momentous era when spacetime evolved, we can reasonably logically step by step infer how the Universe evolved to what we see today, with regards to how temperatures and pressures dropped as expansion took hold, to how our first fundamentals then evolved [E=Mc2] to atomic nuclei, atoms of lighter elements, first stars, heavier elements synthesised, more stars, planets etc etc. Isn't it reasonably logical to assume that following that line as to how the Universe evolved to what we see today, that Abiogenesis is/was the next step?....Yes, an assumption, but an assumption that follows from a complete lack of evidence for any other "process"......I also obviously include "Panspermia" withing the process of Abiogenesis.
  13. wellwisher Banned Banned

    Abiogenesis begins in water. Water was there from the beginning; time=0. Water is still there today and has its finger in every activity. This is why if you remove the water, there is no life, and nearly all of the nano-scale biochemical activity is inhibited. You can't substitute for water, because everything that works, in concept, to generate life, was selected to work in water. Water imposed/imposes a type of environment selection process, at the chemical level, which is why all things needed for life need water to be present.

    Water played a major role in the chemical selection process from which life would emerge. Water did not hand off the baton to replicators, when they appeared on the scene. The two became part of a three legged race; tied together as a team. DNA contains the most chemically bound water of any molecule in the cell. The stability of the DNA is based on its close chemical tie to water; no more need to change.

    The DNA, as packed chromosomes, late in cell cycles, implies the DNA is taken offline, yet the cell continues to do tasks. Water is not a one trick pony. Water has the most impact on life, yet it is overlooked in evolution based on the level of its global contribution. This become lumped into organic randomness, which is not even real, but an artifact of leaving out a main variable.
  14. paddoboy Valued Senior Member


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    Nup, totally incorrect. We did not even have a first element until at least 380,000 years post BB. Maybe in the first billion years, most probably we would have then had water.
  15. Daecon Kiwi fruit Valued Senior Member

    Water wouldn't even be able to exist until at least after the very first generation of stars had already become supernovae, due to oxygen atoms not being fused?
  16. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Well yes obviously we know that abiogenesis took place, somewhere, at some time, and in some way. But that isn't a theory of abiogenesis, it's just a statement of the bleedin' obvious.

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    We do not know how the first biochemical system capable of replication arose, we do not know how the first membrane arose, we do not know how the first respiration mechanisms arose (aerobic and/or anaerobic). We have some ideas - exciting ideas- about what all these steps could possibly have involved, but no solid evidence as to what these original processes were. It seems to me we are still at the stage of competing speculative hypotheses for these things, pending evidence that would allow us to test them and pick the most successful.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2015
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  17. paddoboy Valued Senior Member


    Not so obvious though, to those with a religious agenda

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  18. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    Christians believe in abiogenesis - though their version involves a handful of mud and a magic wand.
  19. origin Heading towards oblivion Valued Senior Member

    What random assumptions were made? How can you believe that a scientific theory would have a assumptions that were just chosen at random? That is crazy!

    What is the 'theory's curve"? What is the fudge factor?

    Life as we know it does in fact require water.

    You already said as much.

    I think the first 2 times was sufficient to get you the point across that water is a requirement of life as we know it.

    It doesn't. Would you please clearly state the what the 'fudge factor' is that removes water from evolution?

    That is because water has nothing to do with evolution, except for the trivially obvious fact that without water there is no life.

    Now you have stated 4 times that water is needed for life processes. Has anyone ever disagreed with this? I think not, so you repeating this over and over is not necessary - no one is disagreeing with you.

    WTF??? Where the hell did that come from? What does water have to do with a random tradition. Which traditions are you talking about? What does this have to do with evolution?

    What theory; evolution? What major variable; water? Water is not a major variable in evolution - unless your point is that a dry or wet environment will favor animals that are more adapted to those environments.

    What is that suppose to mean?

    Why do you think you cannot examine evolution? I do not even know exactly what that is suppose to mean. You apparently do not understand the definition of the word dogma.
  20. Rav Valued Senior Member

    He really wont be happy until you acknowledge the fact that water is essentially a medium through which God directs evolution.
  21. wellwisher Banned Banned

    The title of this topic is, the facts of evolution cannot be denied. One fact that is being denied is, water played a significant role throughout evolution, from abiogenesis to the present. The high level of impact, applied by water, is being denied by mainstream theory. Does that make the main stream theory a type of religion?

    The DNA has a double helix of water woven into its structure, without which the DNA will not work. If you know anything about the chemistry the bases in the DNA, these bases have more hydrogen bonding positions than the base pairs can use. These extra were designed to be used by water. If you look at any text book, the water is not even shown in any figure, even though this water is critical to the functionality of the DNA. This has also been proven. Can anyone explain why a this is being ignored? If the backbone of theory is genetic mutations and genetic drift, but the theory tries to leads one to believe there is no water present in the DNA structure, this is not even real. This is fantasy DNA.

    Again, I am not denying that life started with simple chemicals, and evolved through stages of change, into higher and higher order and complexity. The difference is in my theory, I don't deny the DNA has a double helix of water, because this has been proven by science. It is not goof to deny science and expect the theory to be real. An intelligent design does not need to leave out variables and then use fudge factors to make it appear better than it is. My approach is not about religion, but it is about chemistry and the philosophy of science.

    Good science should be able to make predictions. The predictions of the status quo theory of evolution is like saying it will rain in the future, but we can't tell you when or where it will rain with any certainty. Although we have cataloged thousands of data point of rain storms, the curve extrapolates in a fuzzy way, that can happen anywhere. The science is stuck at dark ages magic trick, because it denies the significance of a main variable that give logic. The DNA has the most chemically bound water of all molecules in life. This was always the goal. It was not a crap shoot that allowed rain to appear one day.

    The supporters of this main stream unintelligent design don't know the difference between chemistry and religion. The supporters, that deny chemical observation, use the same tactic that is common to all liberalism. It lumps all opposition as deniers and phobias. The idea is to end the discussion, with emotion, since they can't defend their position with science.
  22. origin Heading towards oblivion Valued Senior Member

    No one is denying that water is a requirement of life. Water, like oxygen and carbon are obviously vital to life and yet they have no direct impact on evolution.
    That is because water has no more impact than carbon hydrogen, oxygen etc.

    Of course not, that is an bizarre thing to say. Do you really know so little about the theory of evolution?

    The chemistry of DNA is understood and nothing is being ignored.

    That is a freaking laugh riot. You are saying science is denying something that has been proven by science. WTF?

    There you go again with this mysterious "fudge factor". Either clearly state what this fudge factor is or we will have to conclude there is no fudge factor and you are simply lying.

    Your approach is steeped in ignorance and concentrates on uninteresting side issues that have little or nothing to do with evolution.

    Nice anti-science rant and absurd analogy. The theory of evolution is one of the most robust theories out there, the fact that you think it isn't shows just how blind you are.

    So it is the goddamn liberals! I knew it. I see your problem, your reactionary politics has so infected your mind that it clouds your ability to rationally and logically assess a scientific principle. That is really sad to see. But you are oblivious to your predicament and probably think you are the purveyor of truth. So what the hell, enjoy your fantasy!

    Again please identify this evolution 'Fudge Factor' or admit that it is a lie you made up to support your unsupportable position.
  23. Kristoffer Giant Hyrax Valued Senior Member

    I thought it was common knowledge that liberals are climbing in your windows, snatchin' your people up...

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