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AI again

I still think we need to decide the question of whether matter causes mind or mind causes matter. It will make a big difference for AI research.

The Real PC
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I think we need to stop defining AI as "programming computers to do things which humans can do but which computers can't do yet".

The apparent lack of progress in AI is largely caused by our refusal to believe that anything we managed to program a computer to can be construed as intelligence. Popularly, intelligence is whatever makes us as a species feel superior to lesser animals and machines.

Devil's Advocate
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Can you list sample intelligent items please?

Artist
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I think the question "whether matter causes mind or mind causes matter" needs to be made much more precise before there's the least chance of answering it.

Be that as it may, it's not clear to me that answering that question is either necessary or sufficient for deciding whether AI is possible.

1. Suppose we discovered, beyond all doubt, that "matter causes mind" in the sense that human minds are entirely the product of the physical working of human brains. Then it *might* follow that in principle we could build brain simulators that would exhibit intelligence; but (a) for all we know, doing so might be too hard for us ever to manage, (b) for all we know, no technology we ever develop might enable them to run fast enough to be worth using, (c) people like John Searle could always argue that all we had was "simulated" intelligence.

2. Suppose we discovered, beyond all doubt, that "mind causes matter" in the sense that the operations of the human brain that correspond to thinking are in fact consequences of activity in immaterial "minds" inhabiting some spiritual realm. Then it *wouldn't* follow that AI is impossible, either in principle or in practice. Those immaterial minds might be operationally equivalent to running programs. Or they might not be, but other systems that are might deserve to be called "intelligent" despite not working the same way that humans do.

So answering the question about mind and matter wouldn't determine whether AI is possible. Conversely:

3. Suppose it turns out that AI is possible and even practical: some time in the next 50 years (it's always "the next 50 years", isn't it?) someone makes an intelligent computer system. It *wouldn't* follow that "matter causes mind": see #2.

4. Suppose it turns out that AI is impossible in principle. Then it *wouldn't* follow that "mind causes matter"; there might be some other reason why AI is impossible. (For instance, Searle's stuff about the "causal powers" of the brain.)

So answering the question about AI wouldn't determine whether "mind causes matter" or vice versa.

One other remark: the theoretical possibility of AI is a question on which I have never known anyone to change their opinion as the result of a reasoned argument. I'm sure it must happen occasionally, but it seems like this discussion is about as likely to be useful as a parallel one about, say, Christianity or socialism would be. That is: it might in fact be useful, but it's unlikely to change anyone's mind about the big issues. :-)

Gareth McCaughan
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Those who mind, don't matter.

Those who matter, don't mind.

Paul Brinkley
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I read recently that apparently the brain has alot of activities going on, on a quantum level, which has spawned lots of specualtions to the end that the Soul is some kind of quantum phenomenon.
If so, then there is no reason why we coulnd build quantum mechanichal devices to mimic the soul... some day.

I think however that the problem right now is more in the way of creating a way to store abstract knowlege in a way that makes sense to the machine. Real, concrete knowlege to a machine would be code. Abstract knowlege would be code that can be applied to many different contexts, created on the fly through trial and error and  merged with other "knowing" so as to create a larger "understanding".

Eric DeBois
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Gareth's argument is correct as far as I can see, but I think were we to somehow know the answer to this question, it *would* make a significant difference to AI research - at least, if it came down on the side of "mind causing matter". The other result would make no difference at all!

The problem, as I explained in the previous thread, is that you are comparing an unprovable proposition ("matter causes mind") with an unfalsifiable one ("mind causes matter"). This is not a useful game to play.

It would no doubt interest scientists of all kinds, if we could somehow show that God really did create the universe in 7 days, and then went around fiddling the evidence so as to create the opposite impression. All that useless research on the origins of life and the beginnings of the cosmos could be thrown away as meaningless.

As far as I can see, these two positions are equivalent - can you explain how they are different, or are you also suggesting that scientists should be investigating the possibility of divine intervention rather than wasting their time concentrating on "physical" explanations?

Dave Hallett
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Eric,

*Everything* has a lot of activities going on at a quantum level, at least according to quantum mechanics.

Dave Hallett
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I'm not talking about whether AI is possible or not. I think it will be possible, once the fact that mind causes matter is acknowledged.

The question is important for AI research. The newer quantum approach makes far more sense to me than the old mechanistic approach.

Mind causing matter or matter causing mind are two different philosophies. At some point you have to abandon materialism in order to make technological or scientific progress in certain areas.

I, and many others, believe that both matter and mind are composed of information. Both can be called machines, and both are accessible to scientific investigation.

The Real PC
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Paul,

I almost fell out of my chair after reading your post, good one:-)

Prakash S
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Dave Hallett >>
Ok let me rephrase that. There is (apparently) evidence of there being quantum level energy fields in/around the brain and that the nature of these fields change in concert with what we are thinking and feeling.

I really dont have a clue about this stuff, but it was said that the fluctuations are not likely to just be spinn off effects from the neuro chemistry.

Anyways.. this is all highly experimental and the day science can really define the soul Im sure we will hear about it. I just threw it in as some food for thought.

Eric DeBois
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Don Knuth speculates on the idea that the randomness seen in quantam mechanics may be tied strongly to the notion of free will.

Intelligence inarguably has a physical component.  Physical changes to the brain reflect changes to what we consider to be a persons level of intelligence.

Personally, I believe the soul and intelligence are quite distinct notions.  Intelligence is the ability to deal effectively with novel situations.  The soul makes moral decisions.  Intelligence may show us novel ways to get ahead personally that also screw other people over; the sould decides whether to take that path or not.

It's the soul part God holds us accountable for, not our intelligence.

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

"Anyways.. this is all highly experimental and the day science can really define the soul Im sure we will hear about it"

Science can never define or detect the soul.  Science does not involve itself in the world of which the sould is a part.

Even Gould speaks of separate "magisteria" for the realm of science and the realm of morality and the soul (religion).

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

There are obstacles to some of the new advances getting a lot of recognition. PR and spin from CSICOP for one thing. I would say get ready to revise your ideas about mind and matter.

The Matrix movies are, in a way, a pretty good description of reality (except for the robots using humans as fuel, and all that).

The Real PC
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

[Science does not involve itself in the world of which the soul is a part.]

I don't agree with that, and I don't think Knuth would either.

The word "soul" isn't very helpful because of it's anti-science connotations. The word "god" has the same problem. It's all information as far as I'm concerned.

The Real PC
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Jim,

There is no connection whatever between randomness and free will. A random universe does nothing to make free will more possible, and a deterministic one does nothing to make free will less possible. People seem to find this hard to inituit (it seems obvious to me), so if you want a reasoned argument, I suggest Dan Dennett's "Freedom Evolves" as a good place to find one.

Dave Hallett
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

"The word "god" has the same problem. It's all information as far as I'm concerned. "

Oh come now. Either there's an omniscient omnipotent being who created the universe or there isn't. What do you say?

Dave Hallett
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Insufficient data

pdq
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Artist -

A machine cannot be intelligent; that's what separates them from us.

However, if you asked someone 20 years ago, most would probably agree that a person that could translate a German newspaper into English well enough for me to understand it could be considered intelligent. The same is true for a person that could beat most of the world's grandmasters at chess.

To us, these are merely solved problems that machines can do and so intelligence must be something else.

Devil's Advocate
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

[Either there's an omniscient omnipotent being who created the universe or there isn't.]

I think that mind causes matter. That doesn't answer your question but then I don't think your question is scentifically useful. Unless you want to get sidetracked forever arguing about the meanings of "omniscient," "omnipotent," and "being."

The Real PC
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

"There is no connection whatever between randomness and free will."

I'll try to dig out Knuth's words on this later and post a summary.  It comes up in "Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About", which is a transcript of a series of lectures Knuth gave at MIT about God and Computer Science.

Dr. Knuth, of course, articulated his position much more clearly than my poor attempt at a paraphrase.

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I think you're missing my point. The question is, why should your proposal be taken anymore seriously than that of a diehard creationist, who believes that any scientific research not predicated on the notion that God created the universe is a waste of time?

Both of you are offering unfalsifiable propositions in a scientific contexts. Your expectation that pretty soon you will be proved right may well be mirrored by a conviction on the part of the creationist that God will shortly reveal himself to the world. And your suggestion that there are ESP-related experiments whose results cannot be adequately accounted for current science, is equivalent to an argument for God based on miracles.

What's the difference?

Dave Hallett
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

"The word "soul" isn't very helpful because of it's anti-science connotations. The word "god" has the same problem. It's all information as far as I'm concerned."

How do you scientifcally discuss what ought to be, as opposed to what is?

The soul and morality require talking about what ought to be, and science just doesn't get into that.  It can't.

Science might help everyone to live longer, healthier, more peaceful lives, but it can never tell us why that is a better outcome than, say, genocide.

Intelligence, on the other hand, is perfectly within science's purview.

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Real PC -

What do you mean by 'mind causes matter'?

I see lots of matter which appears to have no mind (air, water, manual transmission cars). Are you saying:
a) Each of these has a mind which causes it to exist.
b) Each of these does not exist because it has no mind.
c) Each of these exists because someone's mind (e.g. mine, yours) causes it to exist, and it will cease to exist upon that person's death.
d) Something else.

Devil's Advocate
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

...sorry

"a scientific context" (no s)

and

"adequately accounted for *by* current science"

mea culpa.

Jim,

Thanks - I'd be interested to read that.

Dave Hallett
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

"d) Something else."

One something else would be "exists because a mind without beginning and without end causes it to exist".  This gets by the problem of things "going away" when a person dies.

Not that I'm taking any position on this, mind you :).

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

[why should your proposal be taken anymore seriously than that of a diehard creationist]

It's silly to use the word "creationist" to describe anyone who is not a materialist. "Creationist" originally meant someone who believes the Judeo-Christian creation myth is literally true, an idea which most scientific people don't even consider.
Throwing words like "creationist" around might give you an advantage in this kind of debate, but it's just a technique to direct attention away from the real questions.

The Real PC
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

> Throwing words like "creationist" around might give you an
> advantage in this kind of debate, but it's just a technique to
> direct attention away from the real questions.

It's hard to know what else to do, when the "real questions" are so poorly defined.  I refuse to argue over whether "mind causes matter", which as it stands is basically a meaningless statement.  Perhaps it's useful shorthand for some coherent point of view, but I, for one, can't decode it.

Michael Eisenberg
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I figure nobody knows how the human brain works, not in totality, but because of it's very nature, you understand how a computer program works - after all you made it.

So, almost by definition, AI has to work in a way we can't comprehend, because we work in a way we can't comprehend. Yet this is impossible because we we can't write a program that we don't understand.

By the way, I think it would help if we all agreed on a definition for AI, we may be presenting different arguments based on assumptions that aren't agreed upon. For some people AI means natural language communication, for others it might mean decision making, and for others it may mean emotion and a certain level of unpredictability.

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

What I mean by AI is a simulation of human intelligence based on an understanding of what human intelligence is and how it works.
The purpose of AI research is not just to develop smarter technology. It is also a branch of cognitive science and. like psycholgy, is an attempt to understand how the mind works.

The Real PC
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

""Creationist" originally meant someone who believes the Judeo-Christian creation myth is literally true, an idea which most scientific people don't even consider."

Most scientific people don't even consider the hypothesis that the power of the mind can produce a 0.01% bias in a random number generator.  To them it's just as ludicrous as the Judeo-Christian creation myth.

I think the analogy is apt; both have loads of pseudoscientific evidence to back them, skeptics like Randi or Dawkins are labeled "spin doctors", and both define the cause of their phenomena (God / psi) in terms of negative existences: "something in the Beyond, something we don't know and can't study".

Alyosha`
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

There is no evidence for the Judeo-Christian creation myth. Putting creationists in the same category as serious scientists who have collected mountains of high quality evidence for psi is nothing but CSICOP spin.

The Real PC
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Marktaw->" Yet this is impossible because we we can't write a program that we don't understand."

Maybe you can't, I seem to do it with depressing regularity.

Steve Barbour
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Real PC, most creationist would say that the evidence for a 7 day creation is the same evidenc used for evolution.  It's all in the interpretation.

Steve Barbour
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Why should I be concerned with what creationists say? I don't consider stories in the bible to have any value as scientific evidence, so I'm not a creationist.

The Real PC
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Real PC,

Yes, by "creationist", I do mean someone who believes in the Judeo-Christian creation myth. You may not think there is much evidence for that account per se, but argument for the existence of the Judeo-Christian god from the existence of miracles is much of the same sort as you have been putting forward with regard to psi experiments. And if the Judeo-Christian God were shown to exist, the arguments of the creationists would be much strengthened, I'm sure you'd agree.

You may think that the evidence you're referring to is better than the evidence for miracles. You may even be right. It doesn't matter. "Things that science cannot explain" (whether miracles or psi results) are not evidence *for* something else, unless that something else would be false if the results had gone differently. But an absence of miracles doesn't disprove the existence of the Judeo-Christian deity, nor would failure of human thought to influence random number generators disprove the possibility that the physical world is merely a projection of a mental/spiritual/computational space (or any number of other unfalsifiable claims). It's always a possibility, but it's not a scientific proposition.

As far as I can see, the only difference between you and a creationist is that you think if the creationist were right, the world would look different from how it is. If that is true, then the creationist position is in fact more respectable than yours, as at least there are apparently some circumstances in which it might be dismissed, whereas your proposition will persist no matter what happens. I suspect though the creationist is actually as bad as you are, and will accomodate any physical evidence as necessary, even if the devil has to take the blame.

Other people seem to be taking an interest in the details of what you propose. I wish they wouldn't: it doesn't in the least matter, unless you can propose a way in which it can be proved wrong. If you can do that, I'm interested. If you can't, you're wasting everyone's time, especially your own.

And as regards the Matrix, as someone said recently: "Shhh! You'll get us all deleted!"


MarkTAW,

"because we work in a way we can't comprehend"

This is certainly true currently, and might be true forever, but as a working assumption, it has rather the air of a self-fulfilling prophecy, don't you think? I'd rather assume the opposite, and see how far the journey takes us.

PS For thoughtful Christians such as Gareth who may be reading this thread, I certainly don't wish to imply that the existence of miracles is the only argument for belief in a Judeo-Christian deity. It's just an example to illustrate the type of proposition that RealPC is unfortunately making.

Dave Hallett
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

did i stumble into freshman year philosophy class again? or is someone crossposting from alt.talk.philosophy.nonsense ?  both sides of the "debate" here are silly. I encourage you all to read a book or two rather than doing your research on the internet and the x-files.

rz "in asshole mode"

rz
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

You might want to look at the Intelligent Design movement.

Intelligent Design is an attempt to talk about God while playing by the rules of science.

So you have a thing.  How do you tell if it's a product of nature or the artifact of some intelligence?

Michael Behe, for example, uses the term irreducible complexity to describe something that must have been engineered because none of the individual pieces would be useful on their own.  He claims such structures exist at the bio-molecular level, and that this is evidence of an intelligent agent active in the development of life (yes, I'm vastly over simplifying his work).

These are the kinds of people you want to engage if you want to have a useful discussion about whether life, the universe, etc. were designed by an external agent or kinda just happened.  They're not saying "go read the Bible", they're saying "look at the physical evidence around you", so there can be a meaningful debate.

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I'm a humorous mind causes matter believer.

I'm of the belief that a "real" being that isn't just a simulation of some property (and thus limited by our ability to observe, thereof) we've observed will only be created by total accident.

It sounds goofy, but that's what I've come to believe.  I have changed my opinion, which I think was mostly driven by the collapse of the AI market.

On a practical level, it's unlikely that we'd be able to accurately model the brain at the proper level of detail, so it's probably the case that we'll never really be able to try it out.

I think the one thing that people forget is that there's a limit to how useful a "thinking" machine really is.  There's probably years, decades, or perhaps centuries of research left in making computers reproduce processes that it's not practical to have humans do.

But you can't forget what Von Braun once said.  Humans are the only kind of robots that can be easily constructed using unskilled labor and simple tools. ;)

Flamebait Sr.
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

rz,

"I encourage you all to read a book or two rather than doing your research on the internet and the x-files."

This from the man who earlier said: "actually all of biology needs a serious kick in the pants when it comes to physics. most molecular biologists are basing their models on a view of atomic structure that dates back to democritus"

:o)


Jim,

It's not clear if you're talking to me or someone else. Personally, I have very little interest in the sort of discussion you're describing, worthwhile though it might be. I'm just using creationism as an example of an unfalsifiable claim, hopefully one that will give Real PC some cause for concern. He doesn't seem to like the comparison, so I guess I made a good choice!

Dave Hallett
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

[Other people seem to be taking an interest in the details of what you propose. I wish they wouldn't]

Interesting that you care so much about what people take an interest in.

[it doesn't in the least matter, unless you can propose a way in which it can be proved wrong.]

The idea that mind can act independently of matter would be proven wrong if well-designed parapsychology experiments, with adequate power, repeatedly failed to find any effect.

How would you prove Darwinism wrong, by the way?

The Real PC
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Dave,
Your comments don't strike me as very rational. You compared me to a creationist, based on the fact that creationists are unscientific. You consider my ideas to be unscientific; therefore I am a creationist. If you take the time to write this out as logic, you will see that it doesn't make sense.
Anyway, you have an obvious emotional investment in preserviing the laws of physics in their current state. Once emotions are involved there is no use continuing an argument.

The Real PC
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

"The idea that mind can act independently of matter would be proven wrong if well-designed parapsychology experiments, with adequate power, repeatedly failed to find any effect.

How would you prove Darwinism wrong, by the way?"

Really. What about the possibility that mind *can* act independently of matter, but not in the way the experiments tested? Doesn't that seem possible? Aren't we looking at a potentially infinite number and variety of experiments here?

And how would you estimate "adequate power" unless you know what size of effect you're expecting to see?

The only thing I can think of to help you here is that if you had a specific mechanism in mind, perhaps one of your quantum mechanical effects, then it *might* be possible to come up with a proposed effect magnitude, and maybe even some falsifiable predictions. That would still only rule out one mechanism, though.

As to Darwin, the complication is that Darwin is mostly a story about what happened. No-one really doubts that evolution can occur, the only question is whether this mechanism is alone enough to account for the natural world around us. It's hard to design an *experiment* to test history. But finding a complex fossil in shale so old that only single-celled creatures are supposed to have existed, would certainly give the Darwinians some 'splaining to do.

But here's another possibility. Put a bunch of fish in a pond, and hire a bunch of people to pray that they turn into giraffes. Have a second pond of fish as a control, of course. If the power of prayer alone can transmute one species into another, Darwin is surely not the whole story. Not very likely, I grant you, but in principle it could happen.

Which is more than can be said for your hypothesis.

Dave Hallett
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

"Your comments don't strike me as very rational. You compared me to a creationist, based on the fact that creationists are unscientific. You consider my ideas to be unscientific; therefore I am a creationist. If you take the time to write this out as logic, you will see that it doesn't make sense.
Anyway, you have an obvious emotional investment in preserviing the laws of physics in their current state. Once emotions are involved there is no use continuing an argument. "

Oh you loser. Don't be so silly, this is the daftest argument it's ever been my foolish pleasure to engage in. And I *like* people who perturb the status quo. Try reading Rupert Shedrake "Seven Experiments That Could Change The World". Far more fun than anything you propose.

And you've badly misstated my argument.

It should read:
Creationism is not a scientific hypothesis, although it could be true.
Your proposition is formally equivalent to creationism in all important respects.
Therefore your proposition is not a scientific hypothesis, although it could be true.

Making sense yet?

Dave Hallett
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Ooops, typo. Rupert *Sheldrake*.

Try some Ken Wilber, by the way, I think you might like him.

No really.

Dave Hallett
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

"There is no evidence for the Judeo-Christian creation myth. Putting creationists in the same category as serious scientists who have collected mountains of high quality evidence for psi is nothing but CSICOP spin".

There ya go again, The Real PC, accusing your skeptics of spin.  The longer I'm here, the more I doubt I'm the close-minded one ...

First, to clear something up, there's two very distinct Creationist camps out there these days.  One is the good old Morris-and-Gish Young Earth Creationism (YEC), and then there is, as Jim Rankin pointed out, Behe and the Intelligent Design movement (ID).  ID borrows some arguments from the YEC camp ("where's the transitionals?", "evolution is a tornado in a junkyard producing a 747") but eschews others (Noachian flood, Young Earth).

And actually, there is plenty of (highly pseudoscientific) evidences for YEC.  Hang out on http://www.trueorigins.org/ or http://www.answersingenesis.org/ sometime.  And personally, I find Jahn's psi research just as ludicrous as feasibility studies on Noah's Ark.

Alyosha`
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

YES, we have the crackpot trifecta!

ID
PSI
Rupert "morphic resonance" Sheldrake

Any more? Come on some of you must believe in the healing power of crystals, surely?


Wednesday, October 15, 2003

>>> How would you prove Darwinism wrong, by the way?  <<<

I have thought about this occasionally.  It can be a bit difficult to imagine an alternative reality that looks almost like ours, but where Darwinism is obviously false.  Here are a few ideas:

- Parasites and other cases of evolution to simpler forms (e.g, cave animals loosing sight).  If every increment of evolution only resulted in more complex forms, it wouldn't quite disprove Darwin, but would make the theory almost useless.

- Molecular evolution.  Darwin didn't know about DNA.  Evolution of DNA cooresponds to macroscopic evolution.  If the relationship was random it could be an argument against Darwin.

- Cosmology.  Lord Kelvin had a fairly convincing argument that the sun was only about 10,000 years old.  That fact would have destroyed Darwin and just about any other argument for evolution.  But nuclear fusion came along and destroyed Kelvin's argument.

mackinac
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

If the soul exists, then so does magic.  All bets are off.  You're then talking about something which is not observable by science, but affects physical reality nonetheless.

If it doesn't, then it is all but inevitable that we will construct machines that are intelligent.  It is simply a matter of constructing a sufficiently sophisticated model of the neuron and using sophisticated imaging techniques (MRI, CT, terahertz imaging, etc.) and image processing algorithms to ascertain the network topology of human brains.

Matt Latourette
Thursday, October 16, 2003

mackinac: well, cave animals DO lose sight; eyes become vestigial organs and all.  So that's not a proof against Darwinism.

Darwinism briefly defined is the theory of "common descent of all species with modification increasing in complexity over long periods of time".  So, to disprove Darwinism, one would need to shoot holes in one of these four phrases:

* common descent of all species: if animals did not lend themselves to easy hierarchical classification; if one could not see genetic similarities at the molecular level between species, that would lend evidence for each species being a separate divine creation.
* via modification: if species showed solid boundries, if selective breeding didn't produce varieties as different as Chihuahuas are from Great Danes, if science hasn't shown that yes, bacteria in the lab can develop immunities to antibiotics that simply didn't exist in the genome before, there's another disproof.
* increasing in complexity: if we found hominid fossils in pre-Cambrian rock, that would disprove Darwinism completely.
* over long periods of time: if the earth was proven to be young, that would toss a huge monkey wrench into evolution.

Alyosha`
Thursday, October 16, 2003

I'm not about to put myself forward as a Sheldrake spokesman, but not all his ideas are as wacky as morphic resonance, though I'm sure he'd be charmed that you've heard of it.

His suggestion that the gravitational constant G may not actually be a constant, for example, is backed up by a fairly simple suggestion as to how we could discover whether this is true, given a little international cooperation. If, as he claims, successive measurements of G have consistently fallen just outside the error bars of the measurement before, it seems a worthwhile thing to try. Not least because, unlike all these other ideas, if it fails we can forget about it and go back to something else!

Dave Hallett
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Evolution of species in the direction of increasing complexity is obviously true. Natural selection obviously occurs. Mutations obviously occur.

The idea that mutations caused only by chance are the source of new species and increasing complexity is pure speculation, with no supporting evidence whatsoever. It is the foundation of neo-Darwinism.
A new species has never been created by artificial selection, only variations of an existing species. If neo-Darwinism were true, then it should be possible to take an existing species and create a new more complex species by selective breeding.

The Darwinist excuse is always that the process takes millions of years and therefore can't be simulated in a lab. I don't buy that excuse -- why should a simple one-celled species take millions of years to evolve into another more complex one-celled species? But in any case, the theory can't be proven right or wrong. Darwinism is unassailable because of the takes-too-long excuse.

Sheldrake's theory simplifies everything, and can be proven one way or the other.


The Real PC
Thursday, October 16, 2003

---"A new species has never been created by artificial selection"----

Nobody has produced a new star in the lab either (thkank God!) but that doensn;t refute nuclear fusion.

The problem with creating a new species in the lab incidentally, is not that it hasn't been done, but that if  you did do it you would have no way of reliably finding out because the number of individuals necessary would be so great.

You should be able to do it by gene splicing

Aloyosha makes a fair point; the theory of evolution itself may be unfalsifiable, because it is basically tautological, but but so much of what goes with it is clearly falsifiable.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, October 16, 2003

---" The idea that mutations caused only by chance are the source of new species and increasing complexity is pure speculation, with no supporting evidence whatsoever"----

No, it's not speculation - it's plain wrong. It's Natural Selection that directs and intensifies the effect of chance mutation that is considered the source of new species.

Before you want to attack an idea. learn it.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Real PC:

"If neo-Darwinism were true, then it should be possible to take an existing species and create a new more complex species by selective breeding"

That's not quite right. The suggestion is more that if two parts of a species become isolated from each other, the lack of interbreeding between them, coupled with their subsequent genetic change, whether through random drift or selective pressure, will eventually result in two species that can no longer interbreed.

There's an interesting example of this that shows how the concept of a species is actually quite artificial. There are two species of gull (I forget which two) that can also be seen as one species, depending on which way you go around the world.

To explain more clearly, this gull species has spread slowly around the world in one direction only (I don't remember why). As it has dispersed, it has gradually changed, but each succeeding minor variation has retained the ability to interbreed with its neighbours, so from that POV, it's all one species. However, having got all the way around the world and met up with its "original" form, *these* two variants are now so different that interbreeding is no longer possible. So how many species are there? There's no real answer. But it does show that natural speciation is quite possible.

Dave Hallett
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Stephen,

Last time I looked (a while back), the relative contributions of genetic drift and selective pressures to evolutionary change were still the subject of some controversy, and looked likely to remain so.

Dave Hallett
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Experiments that demonstrate geneticially-transmitted learning pretty much through Darwinism out the window. Darwinists say that chance mutations plus natural selection and NOTHING ELSE cause evolution.

The Real PC
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Alyosha` >>> mackinac: well, cave animals DO lose sight; eyes become vestigial organs and all.  So that's not a proof against Darwinism. <<<

Did I not explain that right?  Yes, cave animals do lose sight, etc.  My claim is that, if they didn't, if there were no examples of species evolving to simpler forms, then you would have an argument against Darwin.

>>> Darwinism briefly defined is the theory of "common descent of all species with modification increasing in complexity over long periods of time". <<<

Is there a biologist is the house to explain this?  This is quite different from my understanding of Darwin.  I thought that the concept of evolution had reached this level before Darwin came along with this theory of variation with natural selection.

The rest of your post seem to mostly agree with mine.  Maybe I had a sign error in my explanation.

mackinac
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Neo-Darwinists deny that evolution is progressive.

It's very hard to define "progress" or "complexity" anyway.

The Real PC
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Dear  Dave,
                  The problem with mutations is that they are non-directional, and most mutations are harmful anyway.

                    Also genetic drift is not the same as mutation. Genetic drift refers to the way in which different populations of the same species which cannot interbreed, normally because of geographical dispersion, will gradually become separate species. The only cause of change in the DNA is mutation; however the direction of that mutation is determined by natural selection.

                  So the dichotomy genetic drift/selectlve pressures is not the same as the dichotomy mutation/natural selection.

Real/PC
--"Experiments that demonstrate geneticially-transmitted learning pretty much through Darwinism out the window. Darwinists say that chance mutations plus natural selection and NOTHING ELSE cause evolution. "

Wrong end of the stick. An experiment that could prove that learned behaviour changes the genome (Lamarkism) would throw Darwinism out of the window, or at least force a serious reappraisal of its effect. However there is not a single experiment that shows this happening.

To put it in lay terms, however much garbage you post on this forum your offspring will not be genetically any the stupider for it.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, October 16, 2003

---"It's very hard to define "progress" or "complexity" anyway"----

It's a lot easier to define complexity than progress - the latter depends on a value judgement and the assumption of a set of goals. The former merely involves a description of the interaction between various parts.

Evolutionary theory denies the concept of progress as being in the least relevant. It however accepts that time will inevitably lead to an increase in complexity.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, October 16, 2003

People, this is why I mentioned Intelligent Design and irreducible complexity way back!  This is a serious challenge to straight Darwinism, and no Darwinist has really seriously addressed it.

Maybe there's a hole in Behe's arguments, but it definitely points out some places where Darwinists have more homework to do.  Instead of taking up the challenge, they mostly just throw insults like "Creationist" around.

Again, there's a lot of complex structures in organisms at the molecular level that are only useful if you have all the parts.  So the intermediate stages would not be selected for.  And it's totally improbabe the whole thing would spring into place at once.

How does a Darwinist account for this?

Jim Rankin
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Jim,
All they're going to do is get nastier. There are so many holes in Darwinism, and without Darwinism to lean on materialism is lame and unsupported. And Darwinism itself is lame and unsupported.
Why does this scare them into hurling insults (and it always has that effect)? If scientific materialism is over-turned (as it will be), their feelings of superiority over the superstitious and ignorant masses will be hard to sustain.
People like Sheldrake are more interested in discovering scientific truth than in feeling superior.

The Real PC
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Don Knuth:

"I can't claim to understand much at all about entangled bits; but for me the significance of the probabilistic model for quantum theory is that it clearly makes room for free will, and it allows God to exert dynamic control over the world without violating any laws of physics.  In other words, ... we can think of God as a tree pruner [think binary probability tree], occasionally influencing the outcome of various branches while simultaneously adjusting the nonobservable information behind the scenes so that all observations remain consistent with quantum mechanics.  And we ourselves -- even us, our spirits or souls or minds or whatever you want to call this part of our being -- we might be little tree pruners too, with much more limited and local powers, of course, but still able to exercise free will in this way."

From "Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About", p.185

He also talks about how randomization is a great tool in the computer scientist's arsenal, and how it makes sense to him God might use this tool in the universe as well.

"Arthur Peacocke's opinion is that God has perfect knowledge of the probabilities of events like radioactive decay, but he doesn't have knowledge of the outcome of those events."

and Stephen Hawking:

"All the evidence points to [God] being an inveterate gambler who throws the dice on every possible occasion."

p. 184 (along with several other quotes about physics and probability)

Jim Rankin
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Jim Rankin: Darwinists have addressed Behe's criticisms before ... if you're interested, check out http://www.world-of-dawkins.com/Catalano/box/behe.htm for more info.

The Reader's Digest version: in _Darwin's Black Box_, Behe makes the implicit assumption that evolution works only by adding new components.  This is not completely correct; components can also be removed in naturalistic evolution.  If this is the case, then Irreducibly Complex systems can be created by "scaffolding".

To describe scaffolding, picture a stone arch.  Arches are irreducibly complex - take one stone out and it will crumble.  How could you make an arch by stepwise refinements?  Simple, actually: build a pile of stones and take out the center rocks, Jenga-style, until it is impossible to remove any more.

In molecular biology, the analagous situation is a redundant refinement which later because necessary because the original pathways have become obsolete and no longer exist; or an enzyme originally designed for one process gets commodered for another process, which later becomes obsolete and disappears.

Alyosha`
Thursday, October 16, 2003

This is a nice philosophical argument, but Behe presents very specific molecular structures.  So it would be useful to see a plausible account of how the specific structures Behe presents evolved through natural selection.

Jim Rankin
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Also, it's quite funny they criticize Behe for not being published in academic journals.  It's nigh impossible to get a politically incorrect article published in an academic journal.

Jim Rankin
Thursday, October 16, 2003

That is true.

The Real PC
Thursday, October 16, 2003

It is also nigh impossible to get an article based on flimsy science published in an academic journal, which means failure to be published should not be taken as an implicit assumption of correctness.

I am not familiar with Mr. Behe's work. I belieive he made some assertion about a certain kind of beetle suggesting its evolution was unlikely.

I believe his argument was
1) I assume there is only one way this beetle could have evolved.
2) It is logically impossible for the beetle to have evolved this way.
3) Therefore, evolution is not a tenable hypothesis.

The problem is that we have a great deal of evidence which suggests evolution behaves as most people believe, and zero evidence that the initial assumption in this thought experiment is valid. Furthermore, said assumption is not exactly falsifiable because, as science is a rather late arrival on this earth, we have no data on the conditions in which this beetle lived previously.

Few journals of repute will accept an unverifiable hypothesis as inherently true.

Devil's Advocate
Thursday, October 16, 2003

The presence of souls does not imply the presence of magic.

It's a foregone conclusion, and every single scientist will say, that we do not have perfect, flawless understanding of every single physical phenomena.

So souls could exist and not "break" any known physical laws of the universe, especially if they are weakly interacting.

I don't believe in any sort of psionic powers, however.  I think that Larry Niven said it best when he said that "Psi and/or magical powers, if real, are nearly useless."  Otherwise, people would be profiting from them in ways other than telling people's fortunes for miniscule profits. ;)

Flamebait Sr.
Thursday, October 16, 2003

I thought magical powers were only passed on to the people who are both secretive and paragons of ethic behavior :)

Devil's Advocate
Thursday, October 16, 2003

The reason why Behe would have a hard time publishing in academic journals is because what he is doing is not science.  Rather, his work is the moral equivalent of throwing up one's hands in exhasperation and sighing, "we'll never solve this mystery!"  Nobel Prizes are typically not awarded for this level of investigative perserverence.

The capitulation is a bit premature.  Like I said, I gave you the Reader's Digest version.  If you want details, you got to dig in and read those links.  For example, some of Behe's examples are discussed here: [ http://www.talkdesign.org/faqs/icdmyst/ICDmyst.html ]; and one of them, the immune system, is described in excruciating depth here:  [ http://www.talkdesign.org/faqs/Evolving_Immunity.html ].

The first link also contains an interesting description of a irreducibly complex cascade which metabolizes a toxic, manmade chemical in some bacteria, a pathway that didn't exist prior to the 1930s or so.  Elsewhere on the net, you can find info on nylon-metabolizing bacteria that have arisen as a result of a point mutation.

Alyosha`
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Devils Advocate: Behe discussed the bombardier beetle briefly in _Darwin's Black Box_, but it wasn't a prominent argument (just a summary of what traditional young-earth creationists had been saying). 

Dawkins put to rest the bombardier beetle meme in _The Blind Watchmaker_ in a rather amusing way.

Alyosha`
Thursday, October 16, 2003

"The reason why Behe would have a hard time publishing in academic journals is because what he is doing is not science."

This is simply false.  Behe has published many papers in peer reviewed journals, so his competence is not in question.  They just won't publish ones that contain ideas they don't like.

Jim Rankin
Thursday, October 16, 2003

For the record, here's a response from Behe to a lot of the criticisms leveled against him (although it's quite old).

http://www.arn.org/docs/behe/mb_toresp.htm

I'll look at Alyosha's links when I get the chance.

His biggest complaint is there just hasn't been much (if any) work done in an area that has huge implications for the question of evolution and the origin of life.  Maybe that work's starting to happen now, but Behe certainly provided the scientific community a good swift kick to get them started.

Jim Rankin
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Let me restate what I meant in a more clear form:

"The reason why Behe would have a hard time publishing /Intellgent Design/ in academic journals is because what he is doing /in Darwin's Black Box/ is not science".

Explaining a mysterious process by appealing to "the Unexplained" as some nebulous entity is not science.  To do science, Behe must do more than complain about his inability to solve a problem; rather, he must propose a testable/falsifiable mechanism which can explain IC or the apperance of ID, and he has not done so.

Alyosha`
Thursday, October 16, 2003

There is nothing unscientific about criticising some unquestioned and untested assumptions of Darwinism. You can criticize a defective theory without immediately providing a better one.

The Real PC
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Wasn't Hitler a staunch advocate of darwinian intelligent design? Or maybe he was a design major in college. I forget which. 

rz
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Jim, in addition to some of the previous comments about Intelligent Design, there is one important part of the argument that strikes me as a misunderstanding of Darwinism.  The claim is that parts of a complex system would not evolve individually because they serve no purpose and would not be selected for.  This is the wrong way to look at things.  The only relevant question is "Would they be selected AGAINST?"  If the part serves has no negative effect, it doesn't matter whether or not it serves a positive purpose, it will continue to exist in the genome.  Look at vestigal organs.  They serve no purpose, yet continue to exist.  In the case of most vestigal organs, it is believed that they *used* to serve some purpose that is no longer relevant.  It is just as possible that in the future other systems would develop involving these organs that are currently useless.

The basic misunderstanding is that natural selection is a pro-active force, actively selecting positive traits.  That is not really the appropriate way to look at things.  It selects AGAINST traits that are less fit than other traits.  Traits that are neutral will get no preference, for or against, until they develop into a positive or negative trait.  The invididual parts of the system continue to exist in the species until the last part falls into place, at which time the system is complete giving a significant evolutionary advantage to the organism that contains the system.

Mike McNertney
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Godwin's law doesn't work when Hitler comparisons are made with the intention of stopping a thread.  =-)

Alyosha`
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Most mutations are harmful. You would need a bizarre array of harmfless mutations and some outrageous good luck to throw all those complex things together by chance.
In Darwin's time biologists had no notion of the complexity of organic systems. We will continue to be amazed by this complexity as science advances.
In DesCartes time engineers created statues that moved and seemed to be alive.  The philosophy of materialism grew out of the idea that organisms must be fairly simple, since they can be simulated. But materialism did not take off until Darwin's theory was accepted and, later, DNA was discovered.
The idea that organisms are simple enough to be thrown together by blind chance underlies modern materialism. Behe dares to question that idea.

The Real PC
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Unless it serves to change the topic to Godwin's law. I bet he never thought of that.

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, October 16, 2003

"Most mutations are harmful".

Actually no.  Most mutations are useless.  Rarely are they harmful to the living creature.

Biology is nothing like programming.  Leave out a semicolon and your program will crash.  However, DNA is rather fault tolerant; some mutations cause no change at all in the protein since multiple codons code for the same amino acid.  Sometimes the right amino acid is critical for the proper folding of the proteins, but most of the time any old amino acid will work as long as it's in the right hydrophobic/hyrdophilic category.

Take a look at hemoglobin, for example.  It's somewhere around 120 amino acids long (on average).  There's 200-some varieties in the human species alone; thousands if you look across the whole animal kingdom.  It's not a narrow target that we have only one in 4^120 chances of hitting.

Even completely random amino acids may turn out to have some use, somehow.  There's a documented example of a point mutation (which randomizes the whole protein sequence) which enables a bacteria to metabolize nylon (a man-made material).

* * *

Man, if Godwin's law only worked, I'd invoke it on the Exceptions threads.  "You know, the Nazis used exceptions too ..."

Alyosha`
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Why isn't there fossil evidence of species gradually morphing from simpler to more complex? All those fossils just happen to be missing -- what a coincidence.
Can't do laboratory experiments because the process is too slow. Can't get fossil evidence because the fossil record isn't complete. Your theory is truly unassailable.

The Real PC
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Somewhere on the JOS site, there is an essay arguing that some people just don't get the concept of pointers.  That perhaps they are missing the part of the brain needed for such understanding.

After reading through this thread, I have come to suspect that the same issue applies to Darwinism.  Too many of the anti-Darwin postings are full of nonsensical statements that have no relationship to Darwin's ideas.

There is nothing wrong with criticizing scientific theories.  But if it is a widely accepted and understood theory like special relativity, quantum mechanics or Darwinism, it seems like you ought to make some attempt to understand what the theory says and why it has gained acceptance so your criticism will make some sense.

BTW, I have heard some criticisms of special relativity that are as nonsensical as the arguments against Darwin here.

Z
Thursday, October 16, 2003

You think Behe criticizes Darwinism because his brain is too feeble to grasp it?

The Real PC
Thursday, October 16, 2003

>>> Why isn't there fossil evidence of species gradually morphing from simpler to more complex? All those fossils just happen to be missing -- what a coincidence. Can't do laboratory experiments because the process is too slow. ... <<<

AI can be an interesting topic.  But with that rehash of creationist nonsense I'll have to admit feeling a bit foolish in thinking that this thread might have had a few novel concepts buried in all the rantings and ramblings.

$ logout

mackinac
Thursday, October 16, 2003

"You think Behe criticizes Darwinism because his brain is too feeble to grasp it? "

I haven't seen any postings from Behe in this thread.

Z
Thursday, October 16, 2003

"Why isn't there fossil evidence of species gradually morphing from simpler to more complex?"

This is the unanimous testimony of archaeology; the farther back you go, the less complex critters you find.  So I have no idea what you are talking about.

Are you saying there are no transitionals?  This is nonsense: every animal alive is a transitional!  In fact, it's because of evolution that animals can be easily catagorized into well-defined families; the ID hypothesis would predict a plethora of species which are utterly uncatagorizable hierarchically.

Complaining about a lack of transitionals is just a creationist game; every time fossil B is found that fills in between A and C, creationists demand that we explain the gap between AB and AC.  Ad infinitum.  Every transitional we find to them is a new gap we can't explain, so this is a game that can't be won by a Darwinist.

The fact is there are more structural differences between a Chihuahua and a Great Dane, more intelligence differences between an Afghan and a German Shephard than there are among hominids, yet Creationists have no problem accepting them as genetically related, but when it comes to hominids they suddenly have a big problem.

Alyosha`
Thursday, October 16, 2003

[the ID hypothesis would predict a plethora of species which are utterly uncatagorizable hierarchically.]

You obviously have no understanding of ID.

And I don't know of any examples of smooth transitions. Where are the transitions between dinosaurs and birds? Reptiles and mammals? There are occasional oddities but nothing like what Darwinism predicts. All the missing links are still missing.

The Real PC
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Discovery of feathered dinosaur announced:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/science/dinos/2001-04-25-dromaeosaur.htm

Z
Thursday, October 16, 2003

"You obviously have no understanding of ID".

You obviously have no decent rebuttal, if a bald accusation of ignorance is all you can manage.

Alyosha`
Friday, October 17, 2003

Real PC -

Archaeopteryx?
Platypus?

Sometimes it seems like you would throw out the whole book just because the index is missing an entry or two.

Devil's Advocate
Friday, October 17, 2003

Dang, a lot of posting here while I was asleep!

Stephen, re genetic drift. You're quite right, I spoke sloppily. Not used to using the jargon these days. But the question remains as to how much of the change that we see is actually selected for, not least because selection is very hard to show.

Jim, thanks for the Knuth quote. Although QM certainly implies a role for randomness in the universe, at least at very small scales, I still think Knuth is mistaken when he says this has any connection to free will. If you imagine a universe in which everything was completely random, I think it's evident that free will would be very difficult to concieve of. So the issue is not that randomness permits free will, it's that people think that a deterministic universe and free will are somehow incompatible (I disagree). This leaves them looking for an escape hatch, and they generally settle on randomness, even though this is in fact a door to nowhere.

Alyosha, thanks for your posts. It's nice to hear from someone else who's familiar with molecular biology.

My fundamental problem with Behe is not that he's sceptical about the ability of Darwinist ideas to account for parts of nature. That's fine, though I don't know that it bears much repetition. But problems for Darwinists do not constitute evidence for intelligent design, just as problematic results for random number generators don't represent evidence for the primacy of mind over matter.

As regards his actual criticisms, arguments that X cannot be achieved by evolution are always rather tricky to validate. Imagine an infinite library in which each book corresponds to a genome, and all the possible genomes are represented, some corresponding to real organisms, some to possible organisms that don't exist yet, and some (the majority) not producing anything at all. Genome space, for short. Genome space has a very large number of dimensions, but never mind that for now.

Evolution is then a set of journeys through this space, each step passing through a valid organism. Behe is suggesting that some existing organisms are located in parts of this space where no such journey exists. Given the complexity of the space, this is a very bold claim. Some of the earlier comments about the possibilities of accumulated neutral change, and routes via simplification of more complex structures, illustrate that there are many routes we can conceive of, and there are probably a lot more that we can't.

Behe says he can't imagine such a route, and says that Darwinists must provide one, or the whole theory falls down. Given how little we know about genome space, I think this is an unreasonable demand. It's fine to raise the question, but not to expect an answer. This is really just another "argument from personal incredulity".

Further, Behe has the problem that he focuses on particular parts of organisms, sometimes very small parts. This may be misleading, as evolutionary selection occurs at the level of the individual organism (there is some selection within bodies as part of the immune system, but it isn't thought to contribute to evolution). This focusing down oon details gives the illusion that the genes involved have always had the function we now associate with them. Whereas they may have arisen in quite different organisms, in quite a different context, and with very different function.

The biggest argument of all against "intelligent design" is that the natural world doesn't reflect it. If you look closely at the design of organisms, the overriding impression is of inconsistency, baroque over-complication, boiler-plate kludges and general mayhem. Just what you'd expect from a random walk through a complex space, in fact.

Real PC,
I don't know if Alyosha understands ID, but it's horribly obvious that you don't understand much about Darwinism. If you can't bear to read someone as evangelical as Dawkins, try Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen (together, several books) for a less reductionist and perhaps more sophisticated approach, or Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" for a pretty impressive overview.

Dave Hallett
Friday, October 17, 2003

Lastly, I apologise to all and sundry for making a comparison with creationism. It may have been reasonable, but boy has it changed the topic of this thread, which should really have been quite short! Lesson learned, or so I may hope.

Dave Hallett
Friday, October 17, 2003

[Archaeopteryx?
Platypus?]

As I said, there are occasional oddities. Darwinism predicts continual, extremely gradual, transitions. Where are they??

And before you accuse me of belief in miracles and creation myths, remember I believe in evolution and science. I also believe in natural selection (as a change-restricting mechanism).

The Real PC
Friday, October 17, 2003

[If you look closely at the design of organisms, the overriding impression is of inconsistency, baroque over-complication,
boiler-plate kludges and general mayhem]

That is your impression. I, and many others, are impressed by the elegance of nature.

As for me being ignorant, I have read more than plenty of the Dennet, Dawkins, etc., reductionist evangelizing.

The Real PC
Friday, October 17, 2003

2 t's on Dennett. I know you will see a typo as evidence that I know nothing about anything.

The Real PC
Friday, October 17, 2003

"But problems for Darwinists do not constitute evidence for intelligent design"

For a materialist, nothing could ever be evidence for intelligent design.

Jim Rankin
Friday, October 17, 2003

That's why conversations with them quickly degenerate. I have never had a rational discussion about evolution with either a scientific materialist or a Christian fundamentalist. They go into panic mode and then become angry and insulting.

The Real PC
Friday, October 17, 2003

[An experiment that could prove that learned behaviour changes the genome (Lamarkism) would throw Darwinism out of the window, or at least force a serious reappraisal of its effect. However there is not a single experiment that shows this happening.]

Because after they cut tails off rats for several generations, and the offspring still had tails, Lamarckianism was "disproven."
McDougal's rat learning experiments showed genetically transmitted learning, and was replicated. But since the learning was not confined to descendents of the original rats, the results were ignored.
Biological fields explain it all logically and simply. They also explain mysteries like inheritance of personality traits.

The Real PC
Friday, October 17, 2003

Anyway a recent Scientific American article says that learning changes the genome (I have to find it ... later ... supposed to be working now).

The Real PC
Friday, October 17, 2003

"Darwinism predicts continual, extremely gradual, transitions. Where are they??"

No, it doesn't. Jeez. Have you read a book in the past 10 years?

rz
Friday, October 17, 2003

"No, it doesn't. Jeez."

Right, because Darwinism was totally blown away by the evidence, so they came up with a totally new theory but didn't tell the general public because they didn't want them to get the idea that scientists don't know everything.

Jim Rankin
Friday, October 17, 2003

Oh I see. You collect lots of useless harmless mutations, which don't get selected against. Then one day you get a useful mutation that suddenly makes all the useless ones work together. This is even less plausible than the gradual change idea.

The Real PC
Friday, October 17, 2003

I really wonder what your standard of comparison is when you deem something plausible / not plausible.

Alyosha`
Friday, October 17, 2003

It's called common sense. Something Darwinists have learned to ignore.

The Real PC
Friday, October 17, 2003

"The idea that it might be possible for machines to posses or exhibit artificial intelligence has been around for a long, long time. The advent of analog and digital computers has, to many involved in the field, suggested that it might even be possible to duplicate the thinking ability of the human brain..." http://CursorySapience.blogspot.com

Joe Nieters
Friday, October 17, 2003

Dearest Real PC,

I have not once been angry with you in this thread. Quite a variety of other emotions, but never angry. Mainly I've been disappointed to see someone who is so ignorant and yet so certain of their ground. If you've really read the authors you say you have, you need to go back and try again, because you're not understanding them very well.

The only bit that I thought was pathetically sad was the part where, having no more useful arguments to put forward, you tried to suggest that there was no more point in talking to me, because I was too emotional about the subject. You may be familiar with the psychological term "projection". If not, I suggest you look it up.

As for Dawkins, your quote "Darwinism predicts continual, extremely gradual, transitions" is alone sufficient evidence that whatever Dawkins you have read has gone in one orifice and out the other without much absorption, as he has specifically debunked this idea more than once.

If you've really read some Dawkins, perhaps you'd like to explain to me his position on punctuated equilibria (here's a clue, it relates to the above). Maybe you could tell me about Zahavi's suggestions on why the peacock's tail is so impractical. Or perhaps you could explain to me what Dawkins means by the "extended phenotype". Then again, I suspect you're bluffing.

Dave Hallett
Saturday, October 18, 2003

Jim,

"For a materialist, nothing could ever be evidence for intelligent design."

I see what you mean, and it's true that scientists have fundamental difficulties with unfalsifiable hypotheses, which non-materialist suggestions usually are.

But it's possible to have materialist theories of ID. If for example, we suddenly found vast troves of fossil evidence that complex creatures had suddenly appeared much longer ago, at the same time as simpler ones, evolution would be in big trouble. But materialists might well think it was more likely that intelligent aliens had turned up to terraform and colonise our planet, rather than having to fall back on a creator God.

Lacking such evidence, I don't think the "aliens done it" theory would be any more popular than the "God done it" theory in scientific circles, because again it's at least very hard to falsify, and maybe impossible.

So I don't think the issue is materialism per se, even materialist prejudices are part of the equation, which I agree may be true.

Dave Hallett
Saturday, October 18, 2003

Sorry, that should have read: "...even *if* materialist prejudices are part of the equation..."

Doh...

Dave Hallett
Saturday, October 18, 2003

"punctuated equilibria"

But punctuated equilibria is not Darwinism.  So Real PC's statements about Darwinism stand unrefuted.

Jim Rankin
Monday, October 20, 2003

AI will not beat human until it could make excuses to smb (=vindicate oneself?).
:)

Nekto
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

---"But punctuated equilibria is not Darwinism.  So Real PC's statements about Darwinism stand unrefuted. "----

This is absolute rubbish. The two names most associated with Punctuated Equilibrium, Gould and Eldridge, were both died in the wool Darwinists. Gould spent more than thirty years writing regular articles on Darwinism which have been published in a dozen or so books.

If the rest of your knowledge of this subject is of the same standard, then you have completely disqualified yourself from having anything reasonable to say.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

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