Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Evolution Is Purposeless and Unguided—Deal with It!

Many prominent scientists get it right when they say that evolution is purposeless and unguided. The same is true for plate tectonics, supernovas, radioactive decay, and the weather.

If you have a problem with this, read Jerry Coyne at What’s the problem with unguided evolution? and take it up with him. I'm tired of trying to convince theists and accommodationists of something that's as plain as the nose on your face.
Not to beat a dead horse (I think it’s still alive), but I vehemently oppose those evolutionists and accommodationists who won’t affirm that evolution is unguided and purposeless (in the sense of not being directed by a higher intelligence or teleological force). For to the best of our knowledge evolution, like all natural processes, is purposeless and unguided. After all, scientists have no problem saying that the melting of glaciers, the movement of tectonic plates, or the decay of atoms are processes that are unguided and purposeless.
Some beating of dead horses may be ethical, when here and there they display unexpected twitches that look like life.

Emile Zucherkandl and Linus Pauling (1965)

120 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. So, Jerry Coyne starting out by rejecting anything but the idea that evolution is purposeless and unguided looks at it with science that is unequipped to discover if it is or is not purposeless and unguided and comes to the conclusion that evolution is purposeless and unguided and, as he also began being enraged with the idea, he's storming at people who believe that evolution is purposive and guided.

    Well mow me down with a truck load of spinach. And I'm supposed to pretend that he kept his ideological and stormy emotions entirely out of the "science" that is the subject of his diatribe. I'm sorry, I'm not that good a pretender.

    Where is the science directly demonstrating that evolution is purposeless and unguided? I'm trying to figure out how you would test that idea without leaving legitimate scientific methods. Where are the papers dealing with this?

    I'd reject the idea that purpose and design in evolution are concepts susceptible to entering science but as folks with credentials like Coyne insist on pretending science can address those ideas, it's kind of silly to blame those without such credentials for making the same error.

    As this goes on my skepticism of the scientific nature of a lot of what gets called science only grows.

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    1. Perhaps the concept of purposeless evolution should be restated as, based on our current understand of biological evolution, we have no need to posit a purpose to the process. Nothing at all new about this. Laplace had no need of positing the existence of a god to maintain the stability of the Solar System.

      Of course, it is possible that some purpose or other may someday be discovered, in which case, the theory of biological evolution would have to be modified. Nothing new about this. The notion that the universe would eventually undergo a great collapse, which was held for several decades after the discovery of the big bang, is now in serious doubt due to the discovery of dark energy.

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    2. TTC,

      You are too much engaged into reading things that were not written. Go read Jerry's stuff again, and you will notice ... oh come on, who am I kidding? You will not notice anything. You will not notice that Jerry said that such is the conclusion from years of experience, you will not notice that he did not say that we should start that way. You will not notice anything because you have one and only one interpretation, whatever you want it to be this time. Regardless, Jerry is talking about the conclusion about how evolution works as per the evidence, and that we should say it as it is. Anything you have said about Jerry is thus a display of your incredible incompetence at reading comprehension (plus your ability at putting words into people's mouths).

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    3. Based on the experience of reading him for years, Jerry Coyne's position is obvious as are his intentions, Those are purposeful and misguided. They have been since Francis Galton started to steer evolutionary science in that same misdirection. I think I'm right in giving him priority over Thomas Huxley, though I'd really have to consult the historical record to assign that responsibility. Perhaps Spenser can take the laurels from both of them, though it's been a long time since I dipped into his pre-Origins publication.

      As I said, when your ground rules preclude the possibility of dealing with something, that your conclusions don't include that should be no surprise. Eugenics is a good example of what happens when you do include ideas that aren't properly allowed into science (because science can't process them) and the results of that botch are called "science". It can be a real life disaster. ID as science would be another, as is what Coyne wants to do here. I'm in agreement with LM and others that religious ideas can't be honestly inserted into science, I'm just going them one idea farther and saying that their ideology contains another set of ideas that can't be honestly inserted into science to produce honest science.

      If Coyne's intentions weren't obvious LM wouldn't have written this post as it's written and a bunch of blog atheists wouldn't be having the discussion they're engaged in over it.

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    4. "Where is the science directly demonstrating that evolution is purposeless and unguided?"

      You are reversing the burden of proof. Where's the positive evidence that God did any of it? The very fact that mutations and selection can be explained without the need for an interfering god points to natural, unguided and purposeless. If you, or anyone else, wants to put a god in the equation, bring the evidence. Until then, the most logically reasonable position to hold is that it is purposeless and unguided.

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    5. Thought Criminal writes:

      Where is the science directly demonstrating that evolution is purposeless and unguided? I'm trying to figure out how you would test that idea without leaving legitimate scientific methods. Where are the papers dealing with this?

      There are some very clever ones from the 1940s and 1950s, if I remember correctly. Again if I remember correctly, Richard Lenski co-authored a survey paper discussing some of these. That's my more or less vague recollection at the moment.

      I could have a look back and see if I can come up with a citation, or you could yourself if you are really interested in learning answers to the questions you ask above.

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  3. SLC, when you begin by defining a study so as to exclude ideas from the study, it's no surprise that the results of that study aren't dependent on those ideas. Is that too high a level of philosophical content?

    the discovery of dark energy

    Oh, has it been discovered? I'd thought that, as "dark matter", it was pretty much invented because the old models couldn't explain the speed of the expansion of the universe and the amounts of both have been adjusted as desired. I believe I recall someone calling it an amazing creation of matter out of nothing, Lavoisier notwithstanding.

    How was it discovered and what is its nature? Hey, maybe "dark energy" is comprised of a number of forces. Imagine the chances for physicists and cosmologists to sucker consortia of countries into funding even hoopier infrastructure projects to find it. My dear sister-in-law the research biologist who is actually required to find stuff will throw a fit that LM might feel in Toronto if that happens.

    Where is the science demonstrating that evolution is purposeless and unguided published? That was the question. One which I will state you can't answer because it doesn't exist. Prove me wrong.

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    1. Excuse me, it's up to Mr. McCarthy to provide evidence that there is a purpose to evolutionary biology, not the other way around. As we sit here today, the purposeless hypothesis has not been falsified by the discovery of evidence for a purpose.

      As for dark energy, Mr. McCarthy's argument is nothing more then a god of the gaps argument. The rate of expansion of the universe appears to be soundly based on observations. The proposed explanation of the existence of something called dark energy is a hypothesis, not a theory, as thus far, it only provides an explanation for the acceleration, but does not propose any independent testable hypotheses.

      Another hypothesis that has been proposed is modified Newtonian gravity. Unfortunately, as has been discussed on Ethan Seigel's blog, this explanation appears to raise more problems then does dark energy.

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  4. Not to beat a dead horse (I think it’s still alive), but I vehemently oppose those evolutionists and accommodationists who won’t affirm that evolution is unguided and purposeless (in the sense of not being directed by a higher intelligence or teleological force).

    Then why do "evolutionists" spend so much time insisting that evolution is the "EXACT OPPOSITE of random chance"?

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    1. Then why do "evolutionists" spend so much time insisting that evolution is the "EXACT OPPOSITE of random chance"?

      "Not random chance" does not equal purpose. What purpose does water have in flowing downhill?

      BTW, your restating "not random chance" as "exact opposite of random chance" is a strawman. Don't use strawmen if you don't want to look dishonest.

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    2. Because "random chance" is not the same as "unguided and purposeless."

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    3. BTW, your restating "not random chance" as "exact opposite of random chance" is a strawman. Don't use strawmen if you don't want to look dishonest.

      Except when people conflate the two, which happens quite often. It's not dishonest to note that such a conflation causes confusion.

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    4. Because "random chance" is not the same as "unguided and purposeless."

      Perhaps you would like to provide a definition of "random chance".

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    5. A great number of people (including writers on evolution) are sloppy with the word 'random'. It has a number of possible meanings, only one of which is "without purpose". Another is "with equal probability", and when people talk of evolution being the opposite of random, they tend to mean the latter - with NS, alleles do not fix with equal probability - but such antithetical usage is best avoided IMO.

      Evolution is random according to most senses of the word. It's a succession of 'chance' events, despite biases. There is a directional 'arrow' when Natural Selection is in operation - when there is a reproductive differential between types, the generational sampling error inevitable in finite populations is skewed, but a probabilistic element remains.

      This is little different from the situation in a connected space of unequal pressure. 'Random' motion of molecules - any molecule can move in any direction - results in equilibration, without guidance or purpose, but the outcome is statistical, not certain.

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    6. Micheal M,

      Think of a planet orbiting the Sun. The movement is unguided and purposeless, yet, you would have a lot of trouble trying to describe it as random chance.

      I also have to correct you on one more thing, what Dawkins (not "evolutionists," but that particular guy), was referring to is natural selection, not evolution (evolution and natural selection are not synonyms either). Oh, but don't take me wrong here. I would not describe evolution as random, but elements of the process are, and thus I would not describe it as "the exact opposite of random" either.

      Anyway, I understand how and why you would be confused. I don't think that your confusion comes out of dishonesty. I expect you to be willing to understand these explanations. Are you?

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    7. Except when people conflate the two, which happens quite often. It's not dishonest to note that such a conflation causes confusion."

      Examples, please, of scientists using that phrasing. Mind you, conflating the two does happen quite often, by creationists. In the same way you did.

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    8. Richard Dawkins has routinely conflates "random chance" and "random", and doesn't like it when people call him on it.

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    9. I'm don't think I am confused, but there is always that possibility; I am, like everyone else here, a human being. ;)

      However, one of the definitions of "random" is "proceeding, made, or occurring without definite aim, reason, or pattern", "lacking a definite plan, purpose, or pattern", or "[h]aving no specific pattern, purpose, or objective". Chance is harder to pin down with respect to purpose; however, it can be defined as "a situation favoring some purpose". Therefore, either "random chance" is a bit of a contradictory concept or affirming that evolution is "unguided and purposeless" and that evolution (or natural selection) is the "EXACT OPPOSITE of random chance" is itself contradictory.

      We could spend years going round and round about the exact definition of "random" (hint: there is no single definition), but it would seem to be more fruitful to some sort of self-consistency within evolutionary biology.

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    10. Michael M,

      Agreed that there's more than a single definition for random and chance, and perhaps for random chance. This is the crux of the problem with creationists of a rhetorical and charlatanry bent. This is why I prefer to explain as clearly as possible what I mean, and this would be a reason why I would not use such wording as "the exact opposite of random," even if I mostly agree with Dawkins that natural selection is not random.

      Anyway, note that your first definition for random includes the word "pattern," as one of the lacking things in stuff that's "random." Did my example of a planet orbiting the sun help at all? If not, well, now think whether there is no patter in orbits despite orbiting is unguided and purposeless. Evolution also has patterns, but, unlike gravitation, evolution is a consequence of how living forms work, and thus of several processes, rather than a single process.

      So, yes, you are confused and mistaken. Random chance is far from being the same as unguided and purposeless. The opposite of purposeless is not a thing with a pattern, but a thing with a purpose. Things with a purpose might have patterns, but not everything with a pattern has a purpose.

      So please read carefully and take the time to try and understand what has been explained. You seemed to ignore my example completely in your answer.

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    11. Do you think you could cut down on yhe condescension, Negative Entropy?

      I acknowledged that I may be mistaken or confused. Why can't you do the same?

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    12. Michael,

      What condescension? I admitted from the beginning that I understood how you would be mistaken, but "you" was a generic "you," not a you "you" (despite the next sentence used a you "you," which probably was quite confusing, so apologies). Meaning I agreed that the terms allow for confusion. Yet, I had explained how something like a planet orbiting the Sun can easily be described as "unguided and purposeless" but would be problematic if described as "random chance." You ignored that part altogether in your answer. I try and explain by example, and feel aggravated if the examples are not taken into account. After all, you continued with dictionaries, which only stressed the problem I already acknowledged (that I understand how the terms could be confusing). So, I showed to you that your dictionary definition had something that could help us out, instead of concentrating on the parts that don't help. I added to the example, and then asked you to actually try the examples since in your answer you seemed to have ignored the exercise of understanding the prior example given. If you think that such a thing is condescending, then there is nothing I can do about it, because I rather say things clearly, or at least try to say them clearly, than be careful that something might look harsh or condescending, or whatever else. Why can't people concentrate on the message and forget how it "sounds"? I have had people actually insulting me, and even then I try to see if they said something besides the insults. They often have said something besides the insult, and I rather acknowledge that I understood the point, than ignore the point altogether because I was insulted. (Isn't it to be expected that an explanation will always sound "condescending"? Should I feel condescended to because you sent me a dictionary definition as if I were unable to read one? Because you gave me "a hint" that there are many definitions? Or should I rather take the point and answer?)

      I hope that did not come just as bad as the previous. If so, and if that's a barrier for communication. No problem, then I stop. I don't think there is anything else to explain anyway.

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    13. Then why do "evolutionists" spend so much time insisting that evolution is the "EXACT OPPOSITE of random chance"?

      I would say they don't insist that evolution is the exact opposite of random chance. Natural selection, artificial selection and sexual selection are all non-random (as the word 'selection' implies). But, there are random processes that give rise to the variation that is selected (i.e. random mutation). And random genetic drift is a random evolutionary process (as the word 'random' implies).

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  5. Excuse me, it's up to Mr. McCarthy to provide evidence that there is a purpose to evolutionary biology, not the other way around.

    Ah, one of the most dishonest practices of new atheist double standard on full display and in such a transparently dishonest manner. As I started out by pointing out that science "is unequipped to discover if it is or is not purposeless and unguided," and as it is Jerry Coyne who presents his ideological contention as science IT IS FOR THE PERSON WHO ASSERTS THAT THEIR POSITION IS A SCIENTIFIC ONE to defend their position that it is. Just more evidence that his position is ideological, not scientific.

    There is no rule of logic that atheists get to rig the rules in their own advantage, none that other people are obliged to honor. Though, as blog atheism has nothing to do with honest, adult, discourse, I'm sure that will be news to most of the kids.

    As for dark energy, Mr. McCarthy's argument is nothing more then a god of the gaps argument.

    On the contrary, what's being inserted into a rather sizable gap in cosmology is MATTER AND ENERGY, unobserved, undefined, "measured" to order. I didn't bring God into it, nor would I because that would be quite as incompetent as your citation of the idea of "God in the gaps" in this context. As I'm always having to point out, the criticism of trying to find God in the gaps of knowledge was first made by Henry Drummond, the evangelical lecturer and proponent of evolution. Inserting invented "matter" into the gaps of knowledge is a specialty of atheists.

    Ethan Seigel's

    Unless you provide a link I can't comment on it.

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    1. No Mr. McCarthy, it's up to you to provide evidence for purpose in evolutionary biology. Thus far, most biologists are satisfied that the notion of random mutations and natural selection/genetic drift can account for the diversity of life we observe now and for the diversity of life that existed in the past. For instance, provide a testable hypothesis by which purpose could be inferred. In the absence of such a hypothesis, your complaints involve nothing but blowing smoke.

      As for dark energy, physicists don't know what it is as we sit here today. So what, as a hypothesis, it will do until another, better explanation comes along. If Mr. Mccarthy has a better explanation, let's hear it (and no, modified Newtonian gravity doesn't appear to be a better explanation).

      As for Ethan Siegel, his blog is on Scienceblogs, at Starts with a Bang.

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    2. "Science is unequipped to discover if it is or is not purposeless and unguided..."

      Wrong. If it was guided we should see evidence of it and we do not. Indeed, we can explain the entire process of evolution perfectly well using only purposeless, unguided processes and that strongly supports the hypothesis that it is unguided and purposeless. Alternative explanations need to be supported with evidence of where naturalistic explanations fail AND positive evidence of the alternative claim. Until then the only reasonable position to hold, because it is the only position supported by evidence, is that evolution is an entirely natural process. To claim that science can't rule out god, therefore god is possible is reversing the burden of proof. Science does not need to rule out god until there is some evidence to rule god in.

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  6. SLC, no it isn't, because I didn't assert that there was purpose in evolutionary biology. My challenge is to the idea that evolutionary biology can deal with that idea. I think you're inserting wishful thinking into what I wrote because you can't deal with what I wrote. There's no gap for you to fill with your desired straw man.

    I know who Ethan Siegel is, I think I've commented on his blog, though it's hard to remember. I seem to recall he's got some problems dealing with the idea of creating a universe out of nothing, defining "nothing" as physical laws, which aren't nothing. How you can have physical law without physical entities, for one. But if you want me to address whatever it is you brought him into this about, you'll have to specify what that is.

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    1. Actually, in doing a Google search, modified Newtonian gravitation (MOND) is an alternative to dark matter, not dark energy. My mistake. The only alternative to dark energy I am aware of has something to do with energy levels in the quantum vacuum, which hypothesis I am not competent to comment upon.

      As for purpose in evolutionary biology, science can deal with it if a testable hypothesis can be constructed. In the absence of a testable hypothesis, science, indeed, can't deal with purpose. That's one of the reasons why the string hypothesis and dark energy aren't currently scientific theories.

      By the way, the quantum vacuum is just as mysterious as strings and dark energy. However, testable hypotheses has been constructed (e.g. calculation via vacuum corrections of the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron agrees with observations to 10 significant digits; not too shabby).

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    2. Excuse me, the notion of "nothing" relative to the creation of the universe is something of a misnomer. The current view of "nothing" is quite different then it was in the 19th century. "Nothing" today now consists of the quantum vacuum, which ain't nothing as it consists of virtual particles. It is quite possible, as I argued on another thread here, that the universe could have begun it's existence as a transient discontinuity in the quantum vacuum, with a slight excess of particles being created over anti-particles because of CP violation.

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    3. The current view of "nothing"

      Well, if you want to make "nothing" mean "something" then you should stop calling it "nothing". If you don't, then don't complain when people point out that all you've done is call something "nothing". And don't complain when they think you're being dishonest when you try to shove something into an ideologically motivated cosmology where nothing should be. Somewhere I read someone compare this attempt with Feynman's anecdote about a painter who could make yellow by mixing red and white paint. All it took was a touch of yellow to "brighten it up". I think this is an attempt to "Brighten" up something into "nothing? Typical "Bright" behavior.

      You can't point to the papers demonstrating that evolution is purposeless and unguided, can you. Why not admit that you have come up with nothing to answer my challenge. And that Coyne et al are trying to pass off that nothing as science.

      As I said, if scientists want to do this they've got no leg to stand on to complain when non-scientists do it.

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    4. The problem is that the quantum vacuum isn't nothing but it also isn't something. That is to say that it exists but it doesn't exist at the same time. Contradiction? Not at all, just another one of the reasons why nobody understands quantum mechanics.

      However, unlike purpose in biological evolution, the quantum vacuum produces testable hypotheses. In particular, the vacuum corrections of quantum electrodynamics produce estimates of the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron that agree with experiments to 10 significant figures. They are also very likely responsible for the neutron/proton mass difference. It also provides an explanation for pair production (e.g. when an electron is promoted from a virtual state in the quantum vacuum to a real state in the physical world, the hole left behind becomes a positron).

      The statement that evolutionary biology has no purpose is equivalent to the statement that it is unguided. Every textbook on biology, which are more rigorously peer reviewed then papers in the technical literature, states that evolution is an unguided process. To paraphrase Laplace, we have no need of a guider.

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    5. It wouldn't matter if every textbook on biology said that, it doesn't make it a scientific statement, it's a rather badly done philosophical speculation, not science. Lots of textbooks on biology promoted eugenics in the pre-war period, including the one at issue in the Scopes trial - a matter of inconvenient historical fact that isn't susceptible to refutation, unlike eugenics. That didn't make eugenics scientific, it made it a pseudo-scientific speculation based on the contemporary interpretation of natural selection mixed with copious amounts of class, race, ethnic and other prejudice.

      You can paraphrase Laplace as often as you can manage, it doesn't change what I said above, when you begin by defining a study so as to exclude ideas from the study, it's no surprise that the results of that study aren't dependent on those ideas. You've said nothing that refutes that point. Laplace didn't include other areas of science or history in his elucidation of his law that weren't necessary for it. That doesn't negate them. Science is defined as, among other things, not allowing the introduction of concepts necessary to judge for a purpose or teleology in evolution. That precludes ideas for AND AGAINST that concept from being a scientific concept. If you want to address it you've got to go outside of science to do it. You can lie about it or be mistaken about it but that's doesn't change the nature of your statements on it one bit, in reality.

      Feyerabend was right,"The younger generation of physicists, the Feynmans, the Schwingers, etc., may be very bright; they may be more intelligent than their predecessors, than Bohr, Einstein, Schrödinger, Boltzmann, Mach, and so on. But they are uncivilized savages, they lack in philosophical depth". Only it wasn't just the physicists. And it's a lot worse these days.

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    6. So, essentially, you're saying you want all those kids to get off your lawn.

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    7. So, essentially, you're saying you want all those kids to get off your lawn.

      I don't own a lawn. What I'm arguing about is honesty and dishonesty.

      I said that what Coyne and his fellow ideologues are claiming, that their ideological position against the idea that evolution is purposeful and guided is a scientific position, is clearly and obviously false It's an ideological position that in no ways meets the requirements to be honestly called science.

      As I said, I'd reject the idea that purpose and design in evolution are concepts susceptible to entering science but as folks with credentials like Coyne insist on pretending science can address those ideas, it's kind of silly to blame those without such credentials for making the same error. I reject that being done when it's ID "science" that pretends to do it and I also reject it when it's atheist "science" that pretends to do it.

      What should be obvious after decades of these interminable wars is that claiming science for atheism, and with it the universe, has been unsuccessful and damaging to not only the public understanding of science but scientists' understanding, as well. Scientists, by virtue of their enhanced sciencyness and wonderfulness, don't get to violate logic and their own claimed standards and methods. Those have worked kind of well and shouldn't be violated in favor of ideology.

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    8. Mr. McCarthy has pontificated at great length with word salads but let us notice that he has thus far failed to provide a testable hypothesis for the notion that there is purpose, or as I would put it, guidance in evolutionary biology. I'm not going to comment on Feyerabend who is somewhat in disrepute these days, except to state that I once took a course from Julian Schwinger, I knew the late Prof. Schwinger and Feyerabend was no Julian Schwinger.

      I really find is amazing that someone like Mr. McCarthy, who AFAIK, has never published a paper in a peer reviewed scientific journal, can sit at his computer and bad mouth scientists like he does. He reminds me of a schmuck named Robert O'Brien who lives in California, a broken down statistician who teaches the subject in a junior college, who is also into the practice of bad mouthing all the scientists who succeeded Isaac Newton.

      Mr. McCarthy, who, as far as I can tell majored in philosophy in college, is a textbook example of why philosophy is totally useless to science these days. As Richard Feynman put it, "Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.

      But of course, Mr. McCarthy, like his hero Feyerabend, will be along to bad mouth Feynman.

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    9. Feynman was a great physicist, very great, indeed. He was a crappy philosopher. Perhaps if the curriculum of advanced science wasn't necessarily so focused on the narrow specialties of science it would have room to teach scientists when their ideas had breached the bounds of science, going badly where no science has ever gone before, into realms more competently handled by competent philosophers. Feynman, being, as an atheist once said to me, "only ten times smarter than anyone else" sometimes corrected himself.

      Feyerabend isn't exactly a hero, just someone who said some useful things, like Feynman sometimes did.

      SLC continues with his practice of false association. I've truly never heard of Robert O'Brien and have no idea of what he has to do with my point that Coyne's contention is entirely unsupported in the scientific literature, is not properly a scientific concept and so misrepresenting it as science does no service to science or the public understanding of science in exactly the way that non-scientists in the ID industry are prone to doing, to be railed against by Coyne and his fellow ideologues. Anyone can notice an irony, SLC. You and your pals are really good at generating those.

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    10. Robert O'Brien is a troll who used to infest a number of sites over at Scienceblogs until he was banned for being a schmuck (e.g. PZ Myers, Jason Rosenhouse, and Ed Brayton). The association between O'Brien and McCarthy is anything but false. Both are in the business of bad mouthing scientists, particularly atheist scientists. Of course, Mr. O'Brien would probably be quite upset to being paired with Mr. McCarthy as he is a notorious gay basher.

      I'm sure that the late Prof. Feynman would take as a great compliment Mr. McCarthy's statement that he was a poor philosopher.

      And I note that Mr. McCarthy has still not provided a testable hypothesis for the proposition of guidance for evolutionary biology.

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    11. And I note that Mr. McCarthy has still not provided a testable hypothesis for the proposition of guidance for evolutionary biology.

      Perhaps if you'd noticed that I have said from my first comment on this thread that there is no possible way for science to test a "hypothesis for the proposition of guidance in evolutionary psychology" and have pointed that out to you and others, you would stop harping on that flat note.

      I'm sure that the late Prof. Feynman would take as a great compliment Mr. McCarthy's statement that he was a poor philosopher.

      Perhaps you're right, considering that quote you gave. I wonder if the physicist, Feynman, had any practical knowledge of contributions from ornithologists to efforts to preserve species of birds. Maybe he was too busy philosophizing about things like that to observe the work of his fellow scientists. I'm told that kind of nescience is not unusual among physical scientists, by people who work in the biological sciences. Though it would be surprising to find Feynman thinking that given some of his other philosophical observations.

      I thought one of the virtues of the sciency view of life was the absence of sacred cows, of the greatest of the great being susceptible to logical criticism by even the most humble of observers. Or so I'm always being told by blog atheists.

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    12. Sorry, just noticed the typing error above, make that "evolutionary biology".

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  7. Being truly scientific, we can't rule out the possibility that evolution is guided in some manner by a higher intelligence. I personally find this unlikely (though the incredible effectiveness of DNA as a blueprint for life is evidence for some that some guiding force was behind its apparently very rapid evolution; see Conway Morris' Life's Solution for more) but I can't rule it out, and nor should any other scientist. I find far more compelling, however, the notion that evolution is indeed guided, but not by a higher intelligence. Rather, it is guided by a million billion lower intelligences that are all pursuing their own ends. Through sexual selection and other agentic selection, the real magic of evolution occurs. This idea is support by Margulis, Sagan, and Butler, to name a few.

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    1. I would be rather reluctant to cite the late Prof. Lynn Margulis, HIV/AIDS denier and 9/11 troofer, as a source of sound scientific information.

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    2. How do you feel about W.D. Hamilton's AIDs theory and his other "science"?

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    3. Until 5 minutes ago, I never heard of W. D. Hamilton. Apparently, Dr. Hamilton was convinced that HIV was introduced into the human population via an oral polio vaccine developed from chimpanzees.

      According to a couple of articles found via Google, it appears that the scientific consensus is that Hamilton's hypothesis is unfounded, so of course, Mr. McCarthy probably thinks it's the cats meow, as he thinks that scientific consensuses are always wrong.

      As for me, I have no competence to make an independent evaluation so I'll go with the consensus.

      By the way, I can't find any evidence that Hamilton denied that HIV caused AIDS, so, if true, he was not a denier, unlike Margulis and her pal Peter Duesberg.

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    4. SLC, if you start by admitting ignorance, it's not a good idea to continue by laying false accusations in hopes of distracting people from that admission.

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    5. Re Anthony McCarthy @11:34 PM

      Just for ducks, what is Mr. McCarthy's position on the relationship, if any, between HIV and AIDS? Apparently his hero Hamilton was not a denier.

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    6. My hero Hamilton? The guy was a pseudo-scientific jerk who invented one of the stupidest ideas inserted into evolutionary science since it began as a formal study. One built on by E.O. Wilson (he's sensibly dumped it recently), Richard Dawkins and pretty much the entire new atheist hall of fame.

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    7. Also an unreconstructed eugenicist and scientific racist.

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    8. My hero Hamilton? The guy was a pseudo-scientific jerk who invented one of the stupidest ideas inserted into evolutionary science since it began as a formal study.[...] eugenicist ... [froth] ... racist.

      He was beaten to the punch by Haldane on that one (and was mightily miffed at Maynard Smith for pointing that out). Either way, the proposition that genes can proliferate by assisting copies of themselves, and not just by becoming directly copied, seems to me an eminently plausible one, with some empirical support - even if its proponent was a noted puppy-strangler and regularly cussed on the Sabbath.

      Delete
    9. I spent a half hour or so listing problems with the idea of Hamiltonian "altruism", including that those dim-witted selfish genes would have to directly compete with genetically based traits that, presumably, evolved through their enhancement of survival and, presumably, leaving more offspring and so more reliably allowing genes to survive. You know, little things like eye-sight and hearing.

      http://zthoughtcriminal.blogspot.com/2012/05/irrationality-of-selfish-altruism.html

      That there were other scientific racists doesn't do a thing to make Hamilton less racist. You can see him cited on white supremacist websites, as I found to my disgust during a google search about Wilson's recent apostasy.

      Delete
    10. I spent a half hour or so listing problems with the idea of Hamiltonian "altruism", including that those dim-witted selfish genes would have to directly compete with genetically based traits that, presumably, evolved through their enhancement of survival and, presumably, leaving more offspring and so more reliably allowing genes to survive. You know, little things like eye-sight and hearing.


      I don't think you really care, but you have deeply misunderstood the 'selfish gene' metaphor. However, discussing your ramblings would take more time than I care to put in.

      That there were other scientific racists doesn't do a thing to make Hamilton less racist. You can see him cited on white supremacist websites, as I found to my disgust during a google search about Wilson's recent apostasy.

      I wasn't referencing Haldane as "another scientific racist", but as a pre-emptor of Hamiltonian kin selection. You are becoming tedious and obsessive on the matter of 'atheistic' scientists' less relevant views. I agree with you that eugenics and racism are unsavoury and deplorable philosophies. But that does not make any scientific theory proposed by someone tending towards them one iota more wrong (or, for that matter, right). It's just irrelevant, pointless mud-slinging. Fisher horsewhipped badgers, you know. Williams was fond of eating the last exemplar of a species in a pie. And don't get me started on Charles so-called bloody Darwin. The bastard.

      Delete
    11. Re Allan Miller

      Let's not forget Nazi scientists Phillip Lenard and Johannes Stark, both Nobel Prize winners in physics. Relative to Stark, I guess that Mr. McCarthy would opine that the Stark effect doesn't exist because Stark was a Nazi.

      Delete
    12. I don't think you really care, but you have deeply misunderstood the 'selfish gene' metaphor

      Oh, now those genes are "metaphors". I love how so many lame-brained bits of psychological pseudo-science go from being physical reality to "metaphors" before they get an embarrassed and perfunctory burial in the bone yard of discontuned "science", only to live on in increasingly disused books in university libraries. See also: memes.

      I don't think Richard Dawkins thought he was talking about "metaphors" in 1976 when he first wrote that bit of animal lore that he so notably didn't excise in the 30th anniversary edition of his previously major claim to fame.

      SLC, you are coming unglued.

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    13. Mr. McCarthy has been unglued since he was born.

      Delete
    14. SLC, you have spent all day here pretending I didn't say what I said yesterday - as I pointed it out that's what I'd said, over and over again - only to have you paraphrase what I said as a refutation of me pointing out, again, that I had said it. And you expect me to be bothered by your insults after that.
      "Unglued" was the politest term I could think of for the behavior you're exhibiting.

      Delete
    15. Re Anthony McCarthy

      Yawn.

      Delete
    16. You getting enough oxygen, SLC? Because that might explain the yawning and your lapses in perception. Or, no, I believe that science has changed its mind about yawning and oxygen levels. This month, at least.

      Someone really needs to write a study of the bizarre notion of what science is among the new atheists, the self-appointed defenders of science who are burning the village to save it. Logic and reading acuity are collateral damage in their ideological war, as well. Yet people wonder why science is in trouble.

      Delete
    17. Actually, someone really needs to write a study as to why scientists should pay the slightest attention to a troll who has no scientific credentials, whose education was in philosophy, and who, instead of spending his spare time working to defeat the referendum on same sex marriage in Maine, instead spends his spare time on various blogs bad mouthing reputable scientists and producing boring word salads. but then, apparently, Mr. McCarthy has no interest in getting married, unlike Barney Frank and Mary Cheney.

      By the way, we should add Neil Tyson to the list of scientists who Mr. McCarthy has bad mouthed. We can call the list the Anthony McCarthy hall of fame as it is actually a great honor to be bad mouthed by a putz like him.

      Delete
    18. Oh, now those genes are "metaphors".

      They are only metaphorically selfish, not in actuality. You really think he believed that they individually weigh up the best course of action for themselves? Or that when he refers to the 'gene's-eye view', he actually thought genes had eyes? Oh, apparently you do:

      I don't think Richard Dawkins thought he was talking about "metaphors" in 1976 when he first wrote that bit of animal lore that he so notably didn't excise in the 30th anniversary edition of his previously major claim to fame.

      He evidently had not read the piece on alarm calls to which you referred us (apparently with some pride). There is little doubt that he would have taken a hatchet to his own prose had he done so ... maybe.

      This previous comment of yours is a little gem of Not Getting It wrt gene-level evolution. Worth a repeat.

      those dim-witted selfish genes would have to directly compete with genetically based traits that, presumably, evolved through their enhancement of survival and, presumably, leaving more offspring and so more reliably allowing genes to survive. You know, little things like eye-sight and hearing.

      This appears to be a statement that 'selfish' genes reduce fitness and would not survive due to 'virtuous' ones that enhance it. Is that how you think the genic evolution model works?

      Delete
    19. It wouldn't matter what silly phrase Dawkins called his imaginary genes, as he proposed them they weren't metaphors, he claimed they had real existence and had a real effect in the world. He was the one claiming they produced something he presented as "altruism", without any real life evidence of it and ignoring massive problems with his idea.

      I'd think that genes for sensory acuity would tend to wipe out any influence "altruism" genes in Dawkins scenario. Especially since they are far more relevant to the predation scenario. Dawkins story depends on the alarm bird seeing the predator, I mentioned hearing as a factor. Since those senses, presumably, were developed through natural selection to warn of danger and insure survival, among other things, Dawkins scenario would seem to present the paradox of an obvious selective advantage being mitigated into a selective disadvantage through his entirely theoretical genes. And in the case of eyesight and hearing, differences in those abilities are indisputably real and relevant to the proposed scenario. Dawkins' "altruism" is entirely speculative and highly counter-intuitive, if not irrational. The idea of selfish "altruism" was invented to try to force a situation that is clearly not explainable by natural selection into an undocumentable, irrationally assered universal concept of natural selection able to explain virtually everything about behavior. It includes so many patches, paradoxes, assumptions and add-ons that it is far less probable than the idea that the whole enterprise is basically flawed. It is certainly not parsimonious in any sense of the word, for you fans of Occam's Razor.

      Delete
    20. It wouldn't matter what silly phrase Dawkins called his imaginary genes, as he proposed them they weren't metaphors, he claimed they had real existence and had a real effect in the world.

      To repeat: the genes aren't the metaphors, the metaphor is the ascription of a quality not normally associated with such entities, eg "selfish", "altruistic", "co-operative" etc. Genes exist and have a real effect on the world.

      I'd think that [...]

      Repetition of a longer passage from your muddled piece simply gives more airtime to your misunderstanding. Dawkins was not saying that 'selfish genes' are some class independent of genes for - say - eyesight or hearing. "The Selfish Gene" means any gene. They all act in their own best interests (metaphorical quotes omitted).

      A gene that improves sight spreads by virtue of its effect on whole-organismal fitness. A gene that promotes the survival of relatives prospers by virtue of its net effect on the fitness of bodies that contain copies of the same gene, even where direct fitness is diminished. Save enough relatives and you gain copies overall. There is no difference between gene copies obtained by direct replication and those obtained by the direct replication of other copies.

      "Alarm-call" genes will tend to be eliminated only if the net detriment is less than the net benefit to the genes controlling the behaviour. Obviously, deaths to alarm-callers will be part of the overall balance sheet, but so will enhanced survival of relatives containing the 'alarm call' gene.

      Other genes in the alarm-caller might well wish that the bird would shut the f*** up - but how, mechanistically, do you think they can impose that assumed will? How does an eyesight gene suppress vocalisation, for example?

      Delete
    21. the genes aren't the metaphors, the metaphor is the ascription of a quality not normally associated with such entities, eg "selfish", "altruistic", "co-operative" etc. Genes exist and have a real effect on the world

      In Hamilton's and Dawkins' claims the "altruism" is 1. the product of actual, genetic material, molecular entities and the molecules they helped produce, 2. it has an effect that produces a real result in behavior which, 3. causes death in a way that has consequences for survival of individuals other than the one that dies, who are supposedly somewhat more likely to carry that genetic material, in other words it is something real that natural selection acts on which, 4. gives a reproductive advantage to the genetic material being propagated in the population. I'm sorry, but that would make what I'm criticizing an actual physical entity that has real effects in the world.

      As I said in that piece I gave the url for, the idea has huge problems, not least of which is that the scenario - which is, actually make believe - calls for the elimination of individuals certain to carry this genetic material, lowering the percentage of the individuals carrying the genetic material in the reproducing population on the off chance that the beneficiaries of those acts of self sacrifice might carry the same trait and might pass those on to future offspring.

      Those universe of those beneficiaries have less than a 100% chance of carrying the "altruism" genes whereas the theoretical self-sacrificing animal has a 100% chance of carrying it. Considering that the act of predation in the story is a choice between one bird that has 100% chance of carrying the "altruism" genes being killed and one of any of the other birds which would have less than 100% chance of carrying copies of those genes being killed, I don't see any way for it to work the way it's supposed to. Every time an "altruistic" bird gets killed, it lessens the chances of the "altruism" genes being passed on. "Altruism" carrying birds would be advantaging birds that don't carry the imaginary genes every time one of them sacrificed itself.

      As science? It would be impossible to exclude things known to exist, like visual acuity and the chance that the orientation of the bird to the predator was the actual reason for it to call out first from actual observations, it would be impossible to find out if the "altruism" genes were more than make believe for the purpose of counter-intuitively shoving unselfish behavior into a fundamentalist interpretation of natural selection. If those "altruism" genes existed, as I said, they would make sensory acuity a selective disadvantage because birds wanting to sacrifice themselves would be more likely to do that if they had better vision and hearing. Birds that could see and hear better due to genetic inheritance would die off in greater numbers than even "altruistic" birds that couldn't see and hear as well.

      That's an awful lot to overcome for Just So stories get to be passed off as science.

      Delete
    22. As I said in that piece I gave the url for, the idea has huge problems, not least of which is that the scenario - which is, actually make believe - calls for the elimination of individuals certain to carry this genetic material, lowering the percentage of the individuals carrying the genetic material in the reproducing population on the off chance that the beneficiaries of those acts of self sacrifice might carry the same trait and might pass those on to future offspring.

      You teach remedial algebra, so you should have no trouble grasping this basic fact, and could even turn it into an equation: if the number of copies of an altruistic gene gained by its effect is greater than the number lost through any adverse consequences of the behaviour, then the gene will spread just as if it was one of those easier-to-understand genes that had direct consequences on the bodies they lived in.

      Bear in mind, in working out your equation, that although a gene has 100% chance of being in a body it directly benefits, it only has a 50% chance of actually being passed on to a given offspring (in a sexual species), so be careful not to overestimate. And that an alarm call may assist multiple copies (in relatives) at once - the proportion of gene copies assisted is an important variable. And that altruists don't die every time they open their beaks. The resultant of all these factors determines whether the trait is selected for or against.

      Let x = average related copies preserved per copy.
      Let y = altruism-related mortality per copy.
      x = 0.02. y = 0.01.
      Would such a gene be favoured?

      Of course this is theoretical stuff - establishing 'true' causality is clearly difficult. But mathematically, one can establish the conditions that would need to hold for a gene to prosper by this "altruistic" mechanism, and they are not at all unrealistic. Establishing causality is difficult in all scenarios - the ones you find intuitively absorbable, as well as those you don't.

      If those "altruism" genes existed, as I said, they would make sensory acuity a selective disadvantage because birds wanting to sacrifice themselves would be more likely to do that if they had better vision and hearing.

      What on earth do you mean? You think altruists desire oblivion? They can see threats better and hurl themselves at them? You're yanking my chain!

      Birds that could see and hear better due to genetic inheritance would die off in greater numbers than even "altruistic" birds that couldn't see and hear as well.

      What makes you think it's an either/or? Genes for different characters occupy different points in the genome. The traits almost certainly assort independently, and have little interaction. Genes for good eyesight will spread (if good eyesight gains offspring) and genes for altruism will spread (if their net copy gain is positive). Are altruists doomed to be short-sighted and a bit deef? What mechanism do you think would maintain this linkage?

      Delete
    23. Ok, Mr. Picky, how about I change that phrase to "those birds compelled by their 'altruism genes' to sacrifice themselves.

      1. Dawkins asserts (with no evidence) that the first bird in a flock to call out a warning puts itself at slightly higher risk of being killed by a flying predator.
      2. That behavior is asserted to be based in the bird's genes (again with no evidence).
      3. Hamilton-Dawkins conjecture asserts that the avian "altruism" expressed by the bird putting itself at higher risk of being the bird in the flock being the one killed would advantage other birds in the flock who share that genetic trait because they would survive due to the "altruism" of the first one to call out. He doesn't seem to take into account that they would also advantage those which didn't share that trait.
      4. Obviously an "altruistic" bird which was better at seeing, hearing, sensing, predators would be more likely to call out first than an "altruistic" bird which couldn't see the predator. "Altruistic" birds with better eyesight and hearing would be at an enhanced risk of being killed (removed from the breeding population) as compared to "altruistic" birds with poor eyesight and hearing. In those birds better eyesight and hearing would lead to it being selected out of the breeding population.
      5. That's not to mention that all "altruistic" birds, under Dawkins' opportunistic animal lore, would be at a higher risk of not surviving and breeding as compared to "non-altruistic" birds. In order for natural selection to act on that trait, not all birds could have it, there would be nothing for nature to select if they all had it. Every time a bird in a species acted according to Dawkins' opportunistic folk lore, an "altruistic" bird would be removed from the entire population.
      6. Obviously a genetic trait that compels birds to sacrifice themselves would tend to diminish as a percentage of the species if Dawkins' lore is accurate. The percentage of birds which weren't so compelled to sacrifice themselves would increase in the population with each sacrifice of an "altruistic" bird, so the theorized gene complex governing that behavior would also diminish, continually.

      You seem to misunderstand my point. A bird that gets eaten has ALL OF ITS GENES removed from the breeding population regardless of where they reside in the genome. The percentage of any of its genes which weren't present in the entire population would decrease in the population when it dies. If they were present in the entire population then natural selection wouldn't be relevant because nothing would be being "selected" out.

      I think the idea that the first bird to call out is at higher risk of being killed is probably wrong. As I said, the first bird to call out BECAUSE IT SAW THE BIRD would probably be less likely to fly in the direction of the predator whereas birds that didn't see it would probably be more likely to fly into danger. The birds in the flock would almost always hear the warning call before the predator in most cases. They would probably be aloft in many directions before the predator heard the first call. I think Dawkins should have done more field research and less polishing his writing style.

      Delete
  8. The Thought Criminal:

    "[S]cience 'is unequipped to determine if [evolution] is or is not purposeless and unguided.'"

    Why? Science is equipped to determine purpose in other areas. Science can detect evidence of human purpose, e. g. with stone tools, ancient habitations, religious artifacts, etc. Why is it axiomatic that science can't even attempt to detect purpose in evolution? (Hint: it's not.)

    People like to claim that science excludes the supernatural, by definition. I disagree. Science excludes that which can't be empirically observed. If you consider the supernatural to be unobservable by definition, then sure. That kind of supernatural is beyond the purview of science. But if it's unobservable, then by definition it has no discernable effects.

    If there is no detectable difference between unguided versus guided evolution, then the 'guidance' isn't doing anything. If there is guidance that leads to a different result, that should be detectable, at least in principle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Show me where it's been published, subject to review and the normal procedures of science and withstands those methods.

      Delete
    2. Show you where what's been published? That science can detect purpose? That evolution is unguided?

      Delete
    3. If you want to assert that Coyne and LM's claim is science it has to follow the requirements made of things getting to be called science. That is unless you're proposing that the new atheists are exempt from even that ground-floor level requirement for getting to sell something as science. In which case science has already lost the war through the irony of the self-appointed defenders of science destroying its most basic meaning. Something I'm discovering has been an ongoing and increasing problem since the 18th century.

      Delete
    4. Your above post is word salad. Please try not to grossly violate the rules of English grammar in the future.

      Delete
    5. Re qetzel

      We're still waiting for Mr. McCarthy to propose a testable hypothesis for the proposition of guided evolution.

      Delete
    6. I answered you on that point several times. I'll continue by pointing out that you clearly don't understand the first point I made on this thread. I thought you worked in science, somewhere. Are things that bad that you don't even understand that point?

      Delete
    7. So Mr. McCarthy's response is that there is no testable hypothesis for the proposition that biological evolution is guided. The only response I can give then is that guided evolution is not science. Period, end of story.

      Delete
    8. The only response I can give then is that guided evolution is not science.

      Maybe if you took the remedial reading you so obviously need you would have noticed I said in the first comment on this thread,

      ... [science] is unequipped to discover if it [evolution] is or is not purposeless and unguided ...

      and you could have avoided many minutes of needless angst, overly dramatic outrage and multiple exposures of serial lapses in attention on your part. Not to mention you making false accusations that anyone with a minimal regard for the truth would have been able to see were entirely false, not that doing that has ever earned a blog atheist the criticism of their fellow atheists. Really, I wonder how many times I could have pointed it out before you and your good buddies might have noticed.

      Period, end of story.

      Forgive me for not betting the farm on that.

      Delete
  9. Three cheers and a Hip Hip Hurray for chaos and randomness.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Beat that horse... it appears to be a zombie. Despite having so many mortals wounds that it must surely be dead, it still seems to be staggering around in contradiction to all logic. Plus, if you get too close, it tries to eat your brains.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Silly cabbagesofdoom,

      You don't kill a zombie by beating it. ;)

      Delete
  11. Zombies are so last spring.

    If I didn't have to work for a living I'd study the use of the lower forms of commercial pop culture in new atheist invective. Always a sign of high quality thinking when that's one of its mainstays.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do not give up your day job.

      Delete
    2. If someone made me a good offer I'd do this full time. It's way easier to knock over silly things that new atheists say.

      Delete
    3. TTC,

      Misreading and putting words into other's people's mouths? I would not pay you for this. But surely there are idiots out there who would. I think you have not made the right connections yet. Try the dishonesty institute, they sure would be happy to have you mistaking everything evil evolutionists say. You make it much more confusing than them. They know that their following is impressionable by the kind of wording you use. I would give you an excellent reference:

      "This guy will mistake anything whichever way you like. He will be able to obfuscate the most enlightened texts rendering them to mean whatever you want them to mean, no matter what the original intentions. Your following will be completely impressed at the amount of evilness this guy can make scientists, such as those working in evolutionary biology, appear to display. Even lots of smart people will run after red-herrings built by this guy."

      Delete
    4. Re Negative Entropy

      I think that Mr. McCarthy would be a good fit over at the Dishonesty Institute as his shtick consists almost entirely of bad mouthing scientists who also happen to be atheists. A partial list of scientists he has bad mouthed on this blog include Richard Dawkins, Richard Feynman, Murray GellMann, Jerry Coyne, and Carl Sagan, in addition to his bad mouthing non-scientists James Randi and Martin Gardner.

      Hey Mr. McCarthy, how about a change of pace. How about bad mouthing Ken Miller and Francis Collins for a change?

      Delete
    5. Richard Dawkins, Richard Feynman, Murray GellMann, Jerry Coyne, Carl Sagan,James Randi and Martin Gardner.

      What? They're sacrosanct? I wonder how the famously iconoclastic Feynman would have taken that idea and that list and being put on it.

      Delete
    6. Assuming they took any notice of you at all, which is highly doubtful, they would probably advise you not to give up you day job.

      Delete
    7. I wouldn't presume to speak for them. I'd advise you to join SLC in remedial reading class and a course in basic rhetoric of the kind we were required to take first semester at the university. Including basic logical discourse.

      I wish Feynman was around to discover he'd joined the ranks of the elect. I'll bet he'd have done everything he could to break ranks. At least I hope he would have.

      Delete
    8. For some reason this came to mind.

      "Debating creationists on the topic of evolution is rather like trying to play chess with a pigeon; it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory."

      - Scott D. Weitzenhoffer

      From Troy Britains's excellent "Playing Chess with Pigeons" weblog.

      Delete
    9. TTC,

      Err? Those are your "talents." That you have declared above that you want neither creationism, nor ID in science, does not deter your talents from being useful for the dishonesty institute. They would ask you not to bad mouth them, but you would be able to make a living out of doing this misinterpreting and obfuscating for them. They love this kind of shit. Go feed it to them.

      Delete
    10. steve oberski, imagine my surprise that you would believe what I've said was supportive of creationism. You'd have to imagine it because it's pretty clear you haven't got a clue about this beyond trying to hijack science in your two-bit ideological struggle. If I had a dollar for every clueless thing a new atheist had said about evolution I'd be almost as rich as I'd be fore every clueless thing a creationist had said about it.

      N.E. I don't think I've encountered anyone quite as dishonest on these blogs since someone calling himself "wowbagger" was trolling me.

      Delete
  12. Negative Entropy-

    The sole dispute that I have with your with the content of your post pertaining to randomness and purpose is "random" quite literally defined as "lacking in purpose". There are other definitions, of course, so one is not locked into discussing purposelessness, and only puproselessness, when one uses "random". However, if one is going to talk about how a process is purposeless, it is self-contradictory to disregard the definition of "random" that addresses the concept of puropose and deny that purposeless process is simulaneously random. Doing so is akin to denying that Caucasians are white since white pigments absorb uniformly across the UV-visible spectrum and the pigments in Caucasian skin do not. One needs to use the definition of a word that is pertinent to the conversation and, in the question of the designation of purposeless processes as "random", the pertinent definition or "random" is the one that addresses "purpose" or its synonyms.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michael M,

      Now really you seem to be over the border. If I do statistical work, my definition of random will never be "lacking in purpose." If I am doing science my definition of random will never be purposeless. A process can be both purposeless and random. But these words cover different aspects of the process. One that the process has no intentions, the other that it has no defined direction or pattern.

      Purposeless might be part of the way in with a particular dictionary might try and define the word. But if you ignore the rest of the explanation, even that dictionary explanation, you will walk away with the worst possible concepts for almost any words. So here the question: are you seriously saying that planetary orbits are random? If not, then are you seriously saying that planetary orbits, because they are not random, have a purpose?

      Agreed, one has to use the definitions that pertain to the conversation. Do you really think that scientists are using your definitions for random and for purposeless when used in the contexts that we have been discussing? Do you really think that a scientist would mistake purpose with the defined orbit of our planet around the Sun? Or describe the orbit as random because it has no purpose? Seriously?

      Could not be any clearer Michael.

      Delete
    2. No, Negative Entropy, I do not think that celestial mechanics could be described as "random" in an easily comprehensible way. However, the whole analogy of evolution to celestial mechanics strikes me as a bait-and-switch With evolution, the people who communicate the science to the public explicitly emphasize that evolution is both purposeless and not random, whereas, with celestial mechanics, insofar as there is anyone actively communicating celestial mechanics to the public, they don't appear to be placing a similar, explicit emphasis on its being both purposeless and not random. That is essentially the crux of the matter, if one is going to call a process "purposeless" and "not random", one is not communicating the concept well if one ignores that "random" is often used, as it is defined, to mean "purposeless". In fact, ignoring the connotation of "random" as "purposeless" is text-book equivocation.

      Delete
    3. It is not an analogy of evolution to celestial mechanics, it is putting those words in a context where it will be much easier to grasp the difference between purposeless and random. A situation where you would clearly notice that the words play different functions. So no such thing as bait and switch. I use that example precisely because I know that often people cannot grasp a difference unless given a situation where the difference is clear.

      I can't see what would be the problem with anybody making an emphasis on any process as being both purposeless and not random. I would expect that to be an invitation to learn that there is a difference between these two concepts after all. I would assume that if people have thought that those concepts were mutually exclusive they would make an effort to understand the difference. At least that's what I expect from any person willing to understand rather than one looking for any place to start some rhetorical attack (I am not saying that the latter is you). Using these two concepts together can't be a textbook equivocation because such use obviates the definition(s) in use. If not, a simple clarification should suffice. However, putting so much emphasis in the possible connotation of "random" as "purposeless" is a true textbook equivocation. One pretending to have found a contradiction where there is none.

      Delete
  13. Arto Annila has construed a new evolution theory. Evolution in that theory is guided through energy resources by supreme laws of physics, see

    http://www.helsinki.fi/~aannila/arto/

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm a bit surprised that Mr McCarthy hasn't yet been mowed down with a truck load of null hypotheses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Where are these null hypotheses published in reviewed journals, nullified according to valid scientific practices? Mow me over with your citations that fulfill your contention with actual science.

      Delete
    2. The question is: How can science evaluate claims of purposelessness?

      Saying that purposelessness is the (scientific) null hypothesis presupposes that science can evalute claims of purposelessness.

      Delete
  15. Great. So if I hypothesize a guiding force in major league baseball determining the results, and someone scoffs and says there's no such thing, THEY have the burdon of proof according to TTC? Comical, to say the least. I suppose in his world skeptics have to disprove bigfoot too.

    I also notice TTC has yet to address the counter examples of forensic science and archaeology. If those disciplines can determine scientifically whether events were "guided", why can't biologists? Or is he going to deny their abilities as well?

    Sophistry is too elevated a term for the games TTC is playing. He's the poster boy for why philosophy gets a bad rap in the scientific community, tons of verbage signifying and accomplishing nothing, while the real work of science marches on.

    ReplyDelete
  16. ScienceAvenger, the claim is that the question of whether or not evolution is purposeless and unguided is a question that science can deal with. I said it was not a question that science can deal with.

    I'd be the one in the position of the challenger in your scenario. You don't seem to understand your own scenario.

    I'm challenging those saying that science can deal with that question to show where science has dealt with it. So far, all of the sophistry has been on the side of the sci-rangers who are claiming something about science without being able to 1. show where science has done what they assert it has done, using the regular methods and procedures of science, 2. tell us how science could deal with the hypothesis that evolution is purposeless and unguided.

    You do know, if you could come up with a way to test that with science, you might get a result that nullifies Coyne's claim, though I'd doubt it could be done. If it was possible, you might get an answer you just really hate.

    Among the several ironies is that 1. you sci-guys are proposing to do science of the kind that the ID industry tries to do, I'm the one denying that is possible to do with science in either case, 2. you sci-guys are showing you really, truly don't get that to do something with science, you really do have to do science to do it, 3. that you obviously want science to break its own rules and practices to satisfy your ideological desires, again, exactly as the ID industry does.

    It can't be done - deal with it.

    It's no wonder so many of you find agnosticism so enraging, you can't accept its necessity in science when science can't function. I've got no problem with admitting that question can't be answered scientifically.

    ReplyDelete
  17. "The sci-guys" would be a good name for a rock band.

    sci-rangers - not so catchy.

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  18. name for a rock band

    The sci-ranger idea of a valid response. High school level sophistry.

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  19. I'm beginning to think that you don't actually have a day job.

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    1. Well, you're here, aren't you.

      I'm a teacher, it's summer here. I'm on a light schedule.

      Delete
  20. Where is it published in reviewed journals that I'm here ?

    The only thing more frightening than the thought that you interact with other human beings on a physical level is that you actually get your mitts on impressionable young minds. Have you considered becoming a catholic priest ? There is definitely an overlap in skill sets.

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  21. This summer I'm teaching remedial algebra to people more likely to become sci-rangers than scientists. They asked me to do it for years but it took the recession to get me to agree.

    catholic priest

    Ah, of course, you're adding overt bigotry to your overt ignorance instead of producing citations to back up the phony scientific claims. Sciency enough for the new atheism.

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  22. but then, apparently, Mr. McCarthy has no interest in getting married, unlike Barney Frank and Mary Cheney. SLC

    If this is a feeler, SLC, forget it. You're not my type. There's not much about Mary Cheney that I would care to emulate. It's a hoot you'd bring her into your comment.

    You might enjoy learning about this group, one of the mainstays in the struggle for marriage equality.

    http://www.rcadmaine.org/

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    1. If this is a feeler, SLC, forget it. You're not my type.

      Not hardly. I prefer girls.

      Delete
    2. The only straight guys who have ever expressed an interest in my sex life before have been religious fundamentalists. So, you can imagine confusion on that point being brought up in this discussion.

      Delete
    3. For the edification of Mr. McCarthy, I have not the slightest interest in Mr. McCarthy's sex life. I couldn't care less if he is a top or a bottom. I do, however, support the concept of same sex marriage and would vote against the referenda currently on the ballots in Washington State, Minnesota, Maine, or Maryland if I were a resident of any of those states.

      By the way, whatever Mr. McCarthy thinks of Mary Cheney and her father, it was phone calls from the latter that convinced 2 Rethuglican legislators in Maryland to vote for the legal recognition of same sex marriage in Maryland. Without those two votes, the measure goes down to defeat so the devil must be given his due.

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  23. SLC, you're the one who started speculating about my private life in a discussion that had nothing to do with it. You have no standing to complain when I answered you.

    Mary Cheney supported the election of George W. Bush who put Alito and Roberts on the U.S. Supreme Court, who, among other things, have weakened the wall of separation between church and state in a appalling way but have moved the ongoing attempt to destroy effective self-government by an informed electorate, endangering all civil rights, the environment and the lives of the vast majority of lgbt people, who are citizens with as big a stake in those things as anyone else. She is a hypocrite.

    Ideally, the state should ONLY be in the business of recognizing civil unions, marriage being left as a non-state, private and/or religious matter. I'd favor something like the French system, under which, or so I've read, unmarried women and their widowed mothers form a major part of those entering into civil unions. If it's going to benefit married couples, though, it should not be allowed to discriminate among consenting adults.

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    1. Mr. McCarthy is a liar. I chastised him for spending inordinate amounts of time posting his crap on this blog, instead of productively spending his time working to defeat the referendum on same sex marriage in Maine where he resides. One can only conclude that he doesn't care about the issue and hence it is a fair comment to speculate that he has no interest in getting married. If he had such interest, he would be out beating the bushes to drum up support for a no vote.

      As for the Cheneys, Like Mr. McCarthy, I have little use for them. However, without Cheney pere's phone calls, the bill in Maryland would have gone down to defeat. So as I said earlier on, the devil must be given his due, regardless of how odious he is.

      Delete
  24. ... but then, apparently, Mr. McCarthy has no interest in getting married, unlike Barney Frank and Mary Cheney. SLC

    I don't see how whether or not I'm the marrying kind should have figured into this discussion. I wasn't the one who brought up whether or not anyone else would want to be married.

    One can only conclude ...

    Can only conclude? Given the number of wildly inaccurate speculations he's made here, I'd risk a far longer discussion if I enumerated some of the other conclusions that could be arrived at, starting with that SLC hasn't got sufficient evidence to start drawing conclusions on that basis or, indeed, on any rational basis. Apparently SLC believes he can divine things about my political activity that I haven't revealed by conventional means. That's what this one concludes. And he, a fan boy of James Randi.

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    1. So Mr. McCarthy, get out and beat the bushes and stop posting crap on this blog.

      Delete
    2. I've never found it necessary to "beat the bushes". Along with your top-bottom comment, you seem to be rather oddly interested in my private life for a straight guy. You should read what I've written on the topic on a blog that dealt with such topics. I think it was after I stopped using a pseudonym.

      Delete
  25. Speaking of James Randi, why isn't he spending all of his, uh, credibility on the issue of marriage equality in Florida? There's a lot more to be done there, I'd guess. And why isn't SLC scolding the old shyster on that point?

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    1. Mr. McCarthy really is a putz. If Mr. Randi were spending as much as a microsecond of his time on trying to get same sex marriage approved in
      Florida, he would be wasting his time. Absent a Supreme Court decision, there is not the slightest chance that same sex marriage would be legalized in Florida, or any other Southern state for that matter.

      Delete
    2. I doubt it would be as difficult as the struggle that The Reverend Martin Luther King joined onto in 1950s Alabama. Of course, his religious beliefs allowed him to see it as worth trying because he was morally compelled to do it. Without that the civil rights legislation of the mid-60s would never have happened, overturning masses of state law in reluctant locations. I believe I've pointed out to you that said legislation included atheists as a covered class whereas lgbt people weren't. I think The Rev. MLK would have if it had been possible. He had taken the massively controversial step of hiring Bayard Rustin, something that had a real cost to the campaign, out of a sense of justice. That was one of the major milestones in gay rights in the early 60s, something that had a major impact on my life.

      Randi should try to make an honest man out of his long time lover, especially after the shameful way he used him for his own PR efforts. He might never have stolen that other guy's identity, been arrested and face possible deportation if it hadn't been for that.

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    3. Mr. McCarthy is becoming unhinged. What do Martin Luther King and Bayard Rustin have to do with same sex marriage in Florida? Maybe Mr. McCarthy should invite Mr. Randi up to Maine to campaign for a no vote on the referendum there. That might be productive, although I suspect that most residents there have never heard of Mr. Randi.

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    4. Perhaps if you'd ever been a victim of major discrimination you would understand what the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 60s had to do with today's struggle for lgbt rights.

      Maybe Randi should use the "million dollars" to "back up" his famous PR "challenge" to promote marriage equality. He doesn't seem to be about to pay it out or be in danger of having to, under his "ground rules".

      Delete
  26. To the thought criminal,

    How do you determine who the "competent philosophers" are, in regard to the subject of guided or unguided evolution? Is it just dependent on whether you like what they say or not?

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  27. The Whole Truth, well, that's a problem, isn't it. A competent philosopher is one who can identify problems with arguments and statements, who can find flaws in reasoning and can distinguish between mere assertions and supported ideas. Those are all skills, they're not practiced consistently or with the same level of skill.

    Instead of "whether you like what they say or not," it might be better to think of it in terms of whether or not what they say persuades you or not. Though, there are differences in quality of persuasion, often based on mere preference instead of an ability to suspend personal preference to a sufficient extent to minimize the effect that has in a decision.

    You could always follow Wittgenstein's advice, "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent". Or, at least, not making believe that what you think about it rises to the stringent requirements to comprise science. Keeping in mind that even what people believe about science is, ultimately, believed on the basis of persuasion instead of absolute certainty.

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