Friday, April 05, 2013

Two Books on the Cambrian Explosion

I finished reading The Cambrian Explosion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity by Douglas Erwin and James Valentine. It's a wonderful book. It brings you up to date on the fossil record, dating issues, evolutionary developmental biology, climate change, and molecular phylogeny. The book offers a reasonable evolutionary explanation for the apparent rapid diversification of animal groups during the Cambrian (about 530 million years ago).

The important point is covered in a paper by Erwin et al. (2011). It shows that the main animal groups probably split gradually over a period of tens of millions of years before the "explosion" became visible in the fossil record [see The Cambrian Conundrum: Fossils vs Genes]. The authors show that the molecular data indicates an earlier divergence and trace fossils are consistent with that data.

The other book is about to be published. It's called Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design and the author is an expert paleontologist and evolutionary biologist named Stephen Meyer.

It certainly sounds exciting if you read the announcement on Evolution News & Views (sic) [Coming in June, a Game-Changing New Book: Darwin's Doubt, by Stephen Meyer].
We've been keeping something from you, dear readers, but now it can be told. The evolution debate is about to undergo a paradigm shift....

Here is a sweeping account, stunningly illustrated with gorgeous color photos, of the frontiers of the scientific critique of Darwinism and the case for ID. Exacting and thorough, yet remarkably accessible to the thoughtful lay reader, Darwin's Doubt introduces us to the challenges to Darwinism based on the study of combinatorial inflation, protein science, population genetics, developmental biology, epigenetic information, and more.

Meyer explains how post-Darwinian alternatives and adaptions of Darwin's theory -- including self-organizational models, evo-devo, neutral or nonadaptive evolution, natural genetic engineering, and others -- fall short as well. He demonstrates that the weaknesses of orthodox evolutionary theory, when flipped over head-to-foot, are precisely the positive indications that point most persuasively to intelligent design.

Evolutionary biologists studying gene regulatory networks and fossil discontinuity, among other fields, have come tantalizingly close to reaching this conclusion themselves.

The Cambrian event, fundamentally, represents an information explosion, the first but not the last in the history of life. As no book has done before, Darwin's Doubt spells out the implications of this fact. Dr. Meyer stands on the verge of turning the evolution debate in an entirely new direction, compelling critics of the theory of intelligent design, at last, to respond substantively and in detail. The book will be a game-changer, for science and culture alike.
It would not be fair to criticize Meyer's book before we get a chance to read it. It will be fun to see how the science compares with that in the book by Erwin and Valentine. I'm really looking forward to reading about the Intelligent Design Theory that explains all of the scientific data. I'm especially curious about why the designer did the deed 530 million years ago and why everything since then looks so much like evolution. I'm sure that's going to be covered. We can be practically certain that a paradigm-shifting book like this isn't just going to be several hundred pages of evolution bashing.




Erwin, D.H., Laflamme, M., Tweedt, S.M., Sperling, E.A., Pisani, D., and Peterson, K.J. (2011) The Cambrian conundrum: early divergence and later ecological success in the early history of animals. Science 334:1091-1097. [PubMed] [doi: 10.1126/science.1206375]

85 comments :

  1. Do you have a post with a big list of all the must-reads? I need a summer reading list!

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  2. ...and the author is an expert paleontologist and evolutionary biologist named Stephen Meyer

    For those who may have missed the irony or don't know the Disco 'Toot notables, here's the man's CV:

    http://www.stephencmeyer.org/curriculum-vitae.php

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  3. Not to mention how the designer apparently descended intermittently over a 8-15 million year time-period and managed to tweak and adjust the genomes and bodymorphologies of then extant life everywhere on the planet. And how curious it its that said designer decied to intervene and start designing said global-scale biodiversity by starting to introduce, as his first unambigous designs, hard body tissues that fossilise well, like bone and teeth. Isn't that just so convenient?

    Also, is it really the same designer that decided to return and start making brand-spanking new designs, curiously and happily coinciding with the end of the P-Tr extinction and subsequent diversification? Well of course it is. Odd how this mysterious unnamed designer, designing things by just blanket "design"(no details offered ever), looks so much like a natural evolutionary process.

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    1. Oh silly me. "Common design - common designer", fixes it all right?

      What are the odds that, even if you as a "designer" sits down and thinks "I'm going to reuse some of my older designs", inadvertently produces a nested hierarchy, into which every species on the planet fits, both genetically, morphologically(and temporally in the fossil record)?

      What are the odds that your designer sat down and designed this specific pattern?

      Here's a small insight into it's train of thought:

      Oh, I'm going to design a bacteria with a genome like this.
      Oh, I want to design another organism, re-using some of my bacteria designs(the 2common designs"-argument), so it looks like this new organism genetically and morphologically, mostly derives from the first one.

      Oh, I'm going to design a 3rd organism, this time re-using designs from the 2nd organism, so it looks like it mostly derives from the 2nd one.

      Oh, I'm going to design a 4th organisms, this time re-using designs from the 3rd, so it looks like it mostly derives from the 4th one.

      Oh, I'm also, intermittently, going to go back and re-tweak my previous creations, so that it looks like they each independently changed since I first created them.

      Not only am I going to do this, mysterious designer as I am, I'm going to do it in such a way that the degree of change it looks like they underwent, is directly proportional to how old their time of divergence will look like if calculated. Haha, take that - future humans whom I'm going to create at some point too!

      Anyway, back to business, creating a 5th organism, this time re-using designs from the 4th, so that it looks like it mostly derives from the 4th one.

      Oh, I just got a brilliant idea. I'm going to go back to the first organism I designed, and then derive a whole new "branch" from it. But I'm not going to be deriving this branch from the original genome I first created, no, I'm going to change it slightly so it looks like that first genome evolved for a time before this new "divergence" happened, THEN I'm going to make the new branch. There, perfect!

      Oh, I just got another brilliant idea. In addition to the intermittent return to tweaking the genomes of previously designed organisms, I'm going to do the exact same I just did to the first lineage: Intermittently derive more independent branches off of each of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th etc. etc. linages I created, using the same hilariously illogical method I just used to create a branch off of the 1st one. Brilliant!

      And I'm going to do this for millions and millions and millions of species. And to top it all off I'm going to kill them all in teh-flud, burying them in the millions in seemingly temporal order matching with morphological sequence, so that it just so happens to look like they changed over a very long timescale.

      I wonder what the odds of me creating and designing life, exactly using this method is? I wonder if it even makes sense to postulate that anything would do "design" like this? Hmmm.

      Nevermind that, I'm going to need a hell and someone to send there anyway. What better way than to decieve all the smartypants thinking persons?

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    2. There was an amusing exchange that occurred when Meyer tried to obtain rights to a photo by geologist Callan Bentley for use in his book:

      http://blogs.agu.org/mountainbeltway/2013/02/14/the-discovery-institute-feels-sorry-for-my-students/

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  5. ////I'm especially curious about why the designer did the deed 530 million years ago and why everything since then looks so much like evolution.////
    .

    And I would like to add... why did the designer not design complex animals such as humans, other mammals, dinosaurs & birds then and there in the Cambrian? Why did he only design some primitive ocean-dwelling creatures?

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    1. Vimal, you and Rumraket have done an excellent job of convincing me that the 'designer' doesn't go about things in the same way that we humans do.

      This is quite a relief to me, as I was beginning to think that we were underachieving. ;)

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    2. Good point, we wouldn't want to have a mundane and comprehensible designer around. Better to keep it mysterious and maybe a bit messy ;P

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    3. Rumraket, indeed. And neither must we anthropomorphize!

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    4. "And neither must we anthropomorphize!"

      Especially since the real designers are a pink unicorn and a flying monster with noodly appendages.

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    5. Also, the designer shouldn't leave any tangible physical evidence behind, like space-ship landing marks, toolmarks or footprints.

      Also, the designer is probably invisible, breathes incorporeal fire and lives in Carl Sagan's garage.

      http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/The_Dragon_in_My_Garage

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    6. twt, Fifi doesn't actually design anything. She leaves that to the FSM. She just comes to your in your sleep to make your dreams end at the right time so you don't miss school.

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    7. The dragon/designer in Rumraket's garage establisdhes universal laws, creates consciousness and self awareness, and balances out the solar luminosity paradox with just the right assortment of biological organisms to keep the ocean from turning into steam. And it does it all without thinking a single thought throughout its entire existence!
      For the benefit of Mr. Kite, there will be a show tonight on trampoline....

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    8. Yes, and in that process, that designer also created countless barren planets with nothing but dead, unconscious rock on them, laws that lead to disease, drought, gratuitous natural catastrophe and annihilation, and countless indifferent extinction events.

      It's almost as if the designer looks exactly like what one would expect from an indifferent and random natural process, simply playing itself out on cosmic time and distance scales.

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    9. The designer is in casual fashion, recurrently de-anthropomorphized to such an extend that one wonders in what way this designer can be distinguished from one that doesn't exist at all.

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    10. Rumraket, there you go again, anthropomorphizing. Yes, undoubtedly, WE would make only one planet or fill each of them with life. How dare that designer go around doing things differently than us?

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    11. there is nothing special about this planet...were environmental conditions otherwise, we would just be different beings having a similar conversation on some other permitting pile of rubble that we might call, say, Earth...which is what is actually happening: the earth is just some other pile of rubble vs the planet we might otherwise have come to exist on but could not or at least did not.

      It all just natural selection on a cosmological scale for life permitting conditions. No designer required.

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    12. Andyboerger you miss the point. When the products of your designer look so much like not having been designed by anything we associate with having been designed, why believe it is in the first place? What observation then merits the design inference, if at any point trying to draw analogies with ways in which we think things are designed, you jump in and say we shouldn't anthropomorphize? To someone like you, what does non-design even look like?

      I can only go by what I know are the products of design: human inventions, and then contrast them with the rest of nature. Now you're telling me the rest of nature is designed too, but you've ruled out all your analogies to human designs in your attempt to shield your design hypothesis from being falsified.

      So what have you got left? Faith, pure, blind faith.

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    13. SRM, can you give a specific reason why a person who believes in an intelligent agency behind the universe should accept your above articulated argument any more so than a person who is committed to an atheistic/mechanistic philosophy should listen to the arguments of someone who is committed to the former?

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    14. Why, you should listen to the arguments of those you disagree with in order to determine whether you just might be wrong. In this case, you have offered nothing other than the equivalent of "we can infer nothing at all about what a deisnger might or might not do", while offering as evidence in its favor things the designer has done, which you presumably recognize because those are things a designer would do. Can you see the contradiction? Or perhaps it's just that you are the only person qualified to decide what a designer would do.

      And the point of your vaious opponents is that a designer who looks just like no designer isn't something we need to hypothesize. So why do so?

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    15. Andy,
      It is the small matter that, regardless whether there is a designer/creator or not, the chemical phenomenon that is life will or at least can occur where conditions are permissible, and it will not occur where conditions are not permissible. This is the only thing that distinguishes earth from present day Venus (or pick your favourite planet).

      On the other hand, to posit a creator/designer that somehow makes things right for life is to, with no particular good evidence, invoke an agency of tremendous complexity, that by some unknown means brings about what we see all around us. There is always a chance of course that you might not be wrong. But there does not seem to be any circumstances that I can see that would justify such a tremendous leap of faith. But hey, millions of people who can scarcely afford it play the lottery every day too.

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    16. Rumraket, I am not saying the entire universe was designed in order to shield my 'design hypothesis'. I am saying the entire universe is designed because that is consistent with my overall philosophy. This universe is an expression of Mind. This was the conclusion that Wallace arrived at, using nearly identical empirical evidence, and interpreting it quite differently, from Darwin. But it is hardly only he. Many smart people have expressed insights that have shaped my views (and those of many others), such as Einstein, Lovelock Huxley, Jung, etc.. MANY people have perceived this 'mind' - and many others haven't. I side with, and number myself among, those who have. And you side with, and number yourself among, the many (again, some of them exceptionally smart) people who haven't.
      This is fine. It is an interesting discussion (at least to me) that will be going on long after you and I have stopped functioning, I suspect.
      But where is the proof that those who believe in god need to stop believing? Forget about the burden of proof of presenting evidence FOR a god, what about the compelling argument for discarding belief? It doesn't exist.
      Notice what SRM wrote. To him, the earth is 'just some pile of rubble', and if the laws of the universe didn't make it possible for OUR kind of life to exist, then perhaps OTHER laws would make it possible for OTHER types of life to exist. This is sheer philosophy, it is not science. And it is self defeating to boot. If the earth is a pile of rubble, and consciousness is entirely coincidental and arbitrary, then WE, too, are merely piles of rubble that think. If that's what we are, where comes the compelling justification for discarding what you call 'blind faith'? What necessitates/establishes the beneficence of doing so?
      Just cuz you say so? I know you don't think that. So what's the better argument?

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    17. andyboerger,

      You don't seem to grasp the difference between not believing something exists because there is no evidence that it does, and believing something exists despite the fact that there is no evidence that it does.

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    18. lutesuite, that is nonsense.
      There is plenty of evidence; it just isn't evidence that is accepted by those who are committed to a philosophical stance of naturalism/materialism.

      This (naturalistic/materialistic) stance is a choice, and I respect it and validate it. But I don't personally adhere to it.

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    19. @Andyboerger
      In general terms, a compelling argument for discarding blind faith is that people's beliefs inform their actions, and if they believe in false or unsubstantiated things, they're more likely to be making choices that lead them further from their goals instead of towards them. History is replete with examples of people employing mindless adherence to doctrine and blind faith, leading to all manner of groteque atrocities.

      Of course I have to thank you for effectively conceding all my arguments, since your response basically amounted to an appeal to emotional conviction in your head(itself supported by an appeal to authority), followed by a long winded rant about how there's nothing wrong with believing things on a fallacious(and, I might add, counterfactual) appeal to consequences.

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    20. oh, gawd, Rumraket, that is just so silly. And spoken like a true, and blind, believer.
      You really don't get that there are people whose lives have been vastly better because of their beliefs in an intelligent agency of some kind supporting their actions.
      You don't get that because you, not me, are a blind fool. It is hopeless, obviously, but what would you say about Jackie Robinson? How did his faith lead him further from his goals?
      Oh, wait, it didn't. It sustained him through an incredibly difficult ordeal and enabled him to become an inspiration to millions of black people at the dawn of the civil rights movement.
      You don't see that. You're not expected to.

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    21. Rumraket writes, ' History is replete with examples of people employing mindless adherence to doctrine and blind faith, leading to all manner of groteque atrocities. '

      What a dumb line that is.

      History is very big, and it tells thousands of stories about billions of people. So it is 'replete' with a lot of things. HIstory is the Great Grab Bag that anybody can use to make their point. 'History is replete...' is basically tautological.

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    22. Notice what SRM wrote. To him, the earth is 'just some pile of rubble', and if the laws of the universe didn't make it possible for OUR kind of life to exist, then perhaps OTHER laws would make it possible for OTHER types of life to exist. This is sheer philosophy, it is not science.

      I would call it neither philosophy nor science, just something that is unremarkably evident. And I wasn't talking about different laws, just different planetary bodies. Since we know that life is a possible phenomenon in this universe, it would seem self-evident that some planets will have the right conditions for this chemistry, and some (I imagine most) will not. A seed from a plant may float many miles through the air. It is no good to think it is some part of a pre-determined plan if it lands in fertile soil and sprouts when it could have, by the sheerest of chance just as easily landed on a salt pan in the desert.

      And it is self defeating to boot. If the earth is a pile of rubble, and consciousness is entirely coincidental and arbitrary, then WE, too, are merely piles of rubble that think. If that's what we are, where comes the compelling justification for discarding what you call 'blind faith'? What necessitates/establishes the beneficence of doing so?

      Because we all have about 70 years or so to ask and sometimes answer questions like "how did the earth form?" or "what is the sun?" or "what exactly is this phenomenon we call life?". Does it serve any grand purpose? No. Our species and indeed our earth will one day disappear (apparantly our sun swelling into a red giant must be part of the plan) and it is quite likely not one shred of our existence will ever be discovered nor our leaving be lamented. A noble human use of our asking and answering questions is to fullfil our current curiosities regarding this unusual situation we find ourselves in. Blind faith fills up that hole at the end of a question, leaving no room for an answer based on evidence and observation.

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    23. @SRM:

      To your first paragraph above; it isn't just the, very natural and reasonable, recognition that if conditions make life possible on some planets, then it would naturally be, and only could be, the case that such discussions related TO life would have to be conducted on planets where such conditions were/are met. No argument there. The reason that Lovelock theorized his 'Gaia Hypothesis' was due to the regulatory mechanisms that followed. According to his research and studies, the TYPES of life forms, and the chemicals they produced, expelled, etc. regulated the temperature of the ocean, etc. so that the increasing luminosity of the sun did not have the effect it otherwise would have, i.e., heating the earth's surface such that life quickly (in planetary terms) became UNlivable again. That, to me, to Lovelock, to many others, adds another layer, worth considering, to the argument that 'if it were not so, we couldn't be here to discuss it, so we shouldn't think it in any way out of the ordinary that it IS so."

      As to your second paragraph, that is an answer that is acceptable to a great number of people. There are many others who would say that we all have about 70 years or so to do as much good as we can to help other people. Others would say we should use our, or at least that THEY are going to use THEIR, brief time to fulfill ourselves in as many ways as possible. Either of these arguments, humanitarian or epicurean, are equally valid to the persons who hold to them as your reply is to you. Same for people who have dedicated their lives to creating artwork.
      Probably up to this point, you would agree. What if I then throw in people for whom faith is most important, and for them it is through a life of faith and worship that they can best use their brief stint here? What if they aren't interested in the same questions that you are, and unconcerned about their being no room for an answer based on evidence and observation?
      Unlike Rumraket, you don't seem to me to be someone who would insist that they 'just should' think differently. So, do you either validate their choices -though they would be unacceptable to you - or do you have a better argument for why they should relinquish them?

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    24. @AB, You constantly use language which has nothing to do with facts or evidence. Case in point here: "validate", "relinquish", "important for them", "best use their stint here", "unconcerned about their [sic] being no room for... evidence and observation", blah blah.

      So, do you either validate their choices -though they would be unacceptable to you - or do you have a better argument for why they should relinquish them?

      Basically you are saying people have emotional blurts. We know that. But your language, such as "validate" and "relinquish", establishes some other standard for belief, one based on wishful thinking and emotional blurts.

      If that is the standard, then tell it like it is: it is a standard for belief based on wishful thinking and emotional blurts. Don't sugar coat it with the politically correct language of epistemic relativism from the PC Dictionary of Non-Biased Language.

      You're sugar coating it with bafflegab such as "for them it is through a life of faith and worship that they can best use their brief stint here."

      Let's analyze AB's bullshit, word for word.

      "Validate". To "validate" wishful thinking and emotional blurts means what, exactly? It means AB is trying to bully us into being a liar like he is. We're supposed to pretend that wishful thinking and emotional blurts are NOT wishful thinking and emotional blurts. We're supposed to call them candy canes and sugar gum drops, like in the Candyland where AB lives.

      "For them". This is the language of relativism. We were talking here about OBJECTIVE FACTS. Most religious people in America not only say that the existence of their God and associated sub-gods (saints, angels, whatever) are OBJECTIVE FACTS but the revelation of their traditional authorities is an OBJECTIVE FACT and that gay people are unnatural and that gay marriage will destroy civilization is an OBJECTIVE FACT.

      But if you ask, "Hey where's your evidence for these facts?", oh, then we get epistemic relativism: "For them, it's real."

      "through a life of faith and worship". No, it is not just "a life." They can lead whatever life they like-- but they make STATEMENTS which they present as OBJECTIVE FACTS which are BINDING ON OTHER PEOPLE so strongly that they TAKE OTHER PEOPLE'S FREEDOM AWAY. It isn't just "a life", it's their claim to OBJECTIVE FACTS binding on EVERYONE EVERYWHERE which AB ALWAYS seeks to inoculate from the requirement that these fact-claims NOT BE LIES, FRAUD, PREJUDICE AND BULLSHIT.

      they can best use their brief stint here? No, it's not how they use their stint here. It's how they make statements that purport to be OBJECTIVE FACTS that are binding on other people's brief stints here.

      I'll remind AB again: in the middle ages, when there was an earthquake, Christians said, as an OBJECTIVE FACT, that the best explanation was that Jews had desecrated communion wafers. This was OBJECTIVE FACT which had consequences for other people. It wasn't just living your life in faith blah blah blah AB's PC bullshit. It killed people.

      If you don't have any conscience, could you at least have the guts to call wishful thinking wishful thinking?

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    25. oh, go 'way, Dio. You always end up bringing up your own pet peeves. I prefer to see how SRM responds to the questions I have posed to HIM, not you. I am not asking you to do anything differently from your always charming, rage filled, hyperventilating routine.

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    26. So, andy, your position seems to boil down to this: That it is of no importance whether one's beliefs are true or not.

      I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on that.

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    27. lutesuite, I would say that it is of a lesser importance, not no importance. It is much more important what people do with their beliefs. Beliefs are like food. Some people eat only really healthy food and still get cancer, while others overindulge on crisps and beer (guilty as charged) and live to a ripe old age.
      We are much more than our beliefs; thus, to the extent that we use them to create a life that is worthwhile and benefits others, their value lies not in their truth, but in their application.

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    28. It is much more important what people do with their beliefs. Beliefs are like food. Some people eat only really healthy food and still get cancer, while others overindulge on crisps and beer (guilty as charged) and live to a ripe old age.

      But, all else being equal, if you had to place a bet on which one would live to old age, on whom would you place it?

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    29. lutesite asks, 'But, all else being equal, if you had to place a bet on which one would live to old age, on whom would you place it?'

      Well, that raises an interesting question of its own. Suppose there are two, not people, but civilizations. One is based primarily on hunting and gathering, believes that certain rituals will result in animals becoming slower and thus easier to hunt and kill, and that the moon and the sun are exactly the same size, and are both deities.

      The other continually investigates- the stars, the shape of the land, ultimately the inner workings of the atom. It develops the internal combustion engine, with frightening impact on the atmosphere. It creates weapons that can destroy entire cities in an instant, from a distance of several thousand miles. All these discoveries are based on truth.

      So, all else being equal (and placing the former at a safe distance from the latter so as not to be encroached upon) if you had to place a bet on which civilization would live to old age, on whom would you place it?

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    30. The second one, obviously.

      Is that some sort of trick question?

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    31. nope, not a trick question, and I would advise you to steer clear of Vegas.

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    32. Suppose we reword your question slightly, Andy.

      The first society believes that all illness are caused by evil spirits or demonic possession, and when someone falls ill they sacrifice an animal or pray to the deities.

      The second society investigates the physiological causes of the illnesses, identifies these, and devises specific empirically proven treatments for them.

      Which society would you bet on persisting longer?

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    33. @Andy
      All I can say is, people have every right to think what they wish. But believing obviously nonsensical things is not to be encouraged. It is not so much the question of God, or the conviction that some such entity exists, that concerns me. The problem is religion, that curious collection of ritual and false knowledge that almost always stems from belief in god. And hopefully we can agree that it is all made-up bullshit.
      I mean really, step into a Catholic Church or mosque and the grossly fabricated nature of religion becomes palpable in the extreme. We would not be so shy in calling out similar nonsense existing in a non-religious context.

      I’m not talking about all aspects of spiritual philosophy but I am speaking of the beliefs of most people that have ever lived. The people who, as a result of indoctrination, believe they are in possession of real facts about the motives and nature of god and the nature of the universe. What god wants, what god doesn’t want, what happens after death, what is god’s plan, what god has done and what god will do.
      As an example, these are the people who refer to Jesus as “The Lord” – a confused melding between an inscrutable creator of the universe and an extraordinary but human-like individual who lives in the palace ‘round the corner with whom they, if they do things just so, may cultivate a personal and protective relationship. You may be very thoughtful and philosophical Andy, but the average person is not. They believe what they believe because they were told it was all true from an early age and because people fear a life filled with random events and also the cessation of the only existence they have ever known (life). It is rarely a choice in any normal sense.

      It is normal to be afraid of death, it is not normal to actually believe there is an escape hatch from this fate in any sense that could provide consolation to a living person. It is normal for humans to distrust or even be repelled by the customs and behaviors of people different from themselves, it is not normal to believe that this repulsion is sanctioned by the creator of the universe. It is normal to wonder where this universe came from and how, it is not normal to think it was created and is governed by an invisible human-like cosmological, loving and severe, father figure.

      And all this must be propagated through indoctrination. Hence the call for teaching creationism (which of course is patently false) in schools, the calls for the ritualistic practice of prayer (to who?) in schools as well. And all the rest. While religion may be a private matter to some, it demands a role in society and policy for its own survival if nothing else. And it is just too dumb, too ridiculous a belief system to be afforded that role without vigorous protest.

      People must be allowed to believe what they will, it is a fundamental right. But unless these same people are very good at separating personal beliefs from action (and I’m not sure how possible that is), they should be excluded by and large from positions of power and influence in society. Of course the very opposite of that situation is the norm in the US and is even worse in other (mainly muslim) countries. How many religious people actually believe their sense of morality is delivered unto them from god? Shocking. It is not that most religious people are bad or dangerous, far from it obviously. It’s just that someone who believes they are in alliance with, and receiving counsel from, an invisible and supernatural lord should be considered with deep suspicion. I doubt you quite fall into this category, but you are not like the vast majority of shockingly credulous religious people.

      So, to answer your question, religious people should be encouraged to seriously question the validity of their beliefs...that is a start, at least.

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    34. @Andyboerger

      It is you and and the defenders of Intelligent Design who anthropomorphize. Who are the only intelligent designers of complex mechanisms we know of? Homo sapiend, therefore IDiots are making an immediate statement that they believe that biological organisms were created by an entity with certain properties that are human like. That is anthropomorphizing.

      Paley's watchmaker is an anthropomorhizing comparison. The posters here you criticize for anthropomorphism are merely jokingly showing in a redutctio ad absurdum that Intelligent Design reduces to anthropomorphism.

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    35. @SRM,

      By and large, I agree with everything you wrote. I think your characterization of organized religion is accurate, and your assessment of its adherents is as well, for the most part.

      The problem, as I see it, hinges upon HOW best to get people to question and examine their beliefs. In related fashion, it has to do with who would go about fostering such type of education.

      Would it be, for example, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and certain of the people who visit this site regularly? I would say no. Their hatred of religion is every bit as 'palpable' as the grossly fabricated nature of religion you refer to. And hatred is hardly a good starting point from which to effect positive change.
      You write with nuance and understanding. That is in somewhat short supply on this site. All too often the 'antitheists' who comment here sound every bit as intolerant as the people they criticize. Religion has been around for centuries, and begins its indoctrination at a young age. I would guess that the most vitriolic opponents of religion here developed their antipathy somewhere around their adolescence.
      In both cases, the mindset is immature, and frankly, that is on full display here at Sandwalk, all too often. An adolescent attitude that is, well, palpable.
      I assume you've read "Lord of the Flies". The Dawkins' of this world may protest to the steeple tops (irony intended) that atheists are not going to round anybody up, torture anyone, etc. because of their beliefs. That's what RELIGIONS do, they protest. Well, I would argue that that's what closed minded, adolescent people whose philosophy is mostly shaped by the things they are AGAINST do. Give them time and put them in power, in other words.

      So, I most definitely would NOT want the 'militant atheists' who have zero respect for religion, nor even the willingness to try to understand its meaning in the lives of believers - the people who refer to Christianity as an 'odious cult', demean religious beliefs, generalize about it and lump all its features from the wafers at church to the Vedas into one 'deluded' hodgepodge, etc. - to get anywhere near a position of being able to encourage the questioning process that you and I both agree would be very beneficial - anymore than I would wish to put a fox in charge of a henhouse.
      Someone who thinks like you, writes like you; in short, UNDERSTANDS like you might be an ideal type of person to spearhead the right kind of approach to helping wean humanity away from its immature beliefs. The problem is that the people most clamoring for the task are unqualified in the extreme.

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    36. @Andy
      Well thank you for your kind words. But I'm not so sure. I think the only things that differentiates me from the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens is that I lack their eloquence, charisma, and the megaphone that they have earned through scholarly accomplishments. Were I to possess those attributes I don't doubt I too would be considered a militant atheist. Indeed, amongst my small circle of friends and acquaintances, that is precisely how I am viewed.

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    37. ...oh I should make clear that eloquence, charisma and a megaphone aren't the only things I lack. Hitchens for example seemed to have a near-encyclopedic knowledge of history and recent world events. I know very little about anything, by comparison.

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    38. Andy attacked Rumraket for making an excellent point, indeed the only point that matters.

      Rumraket: ...people's beliefs inform their actions, and if they believe in false or unsubstantiated things, they're more likely to be making choices that lead them further from their goals instead of towards them. History is replete with examples of people employing mindless adherence to doctrine and blind faith, leading to all manner of groteque atrocities.

      Andy responded to that by calling it a "dumb idea," but this is the point Andy cannot refute.

      Suppose, for the sake of argument, that a religion fostered good values. What difference would it make, if its fact-statements are false? Because any policy, any planned action, results from applying fact-claims to values:

      (Value) + (Fact-claim) --> (Policy)

      If your fact-claim is false, then your policy will produce the OPPOSITE of what your value seeks.

      Suppose your value is: "Those who kill children should be executed." A lot of people think that's a good value.

      But you get your fact-claims from Martin Luther and many Christian authorities, who said Jews murdered Christian children and put their blood in matzos.

      The policy that logically follows is, "We are at fault in not slaying them [Jews]" which is what Martin Luther actually said.

      If your value says to the protect the innocent and punish the guilty, with religious epistemology, you will protect the guilty and punish the innocent. That is not hypothetical, that's the real history of Christianity and Islam, at least.

      Andy blathers on endlessly about the wonderful 'good' values of certain religious believers, but if their fact-claims are false, then their actions will produce the opposite of what these 'good' values dictate.

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    39. Dio, I didn't call it a 'dumb idea', so to start off you misquoted me. It is NOT a dumb idea, because it is true that history, almost by definition, is 'replete' with any number of things. I called it a dumb line, because it is an example of lazy argumentation. "History teaches us ...." is almost always followed by a statement that reveals the prejudices of the person using it, because history can be rifled through to make nearly any point a person wants to make, as well as its opposite. I explained above that that was my reason for calling R's LINE, not his idea, dumb.

      Here is a real life example that counters what you write above. A relative of mine was recently nominated for "Catholic Man of the Year" by his diocese. I left the Catholic church many years ago, but this relative and I are very close. Now, Steve Oberski might joke that he was nominated because of his ability to procure little boys for perverted priests.
      But in fact, as I gleaned from the nomination that I read, he was nominated for his volunteer work, which included but was not limited to work for the Veterans Administration, The Audobon Society, and the downtown homeless shelter. In fact, the day we were scheduled to meet, he was late because he had been preparing lunches in the morning, along with other parishoners, to take to the shelter. With a little research, I found that a non-denominational church in my city runs a similar program to support the needs of the homeless. I couldn't find any similar atheist organization, by the way, as those two programs seems to be the only things on offer in my city.

      So, unless this is a complete anomaly, the church encourages volunteering, supporting those who have served the country by risking their lives for it, preserving the environment, and helping those most vulnerable in society. Were that NOT the case, then I don't see how my relative would have been nominated. Not only does the church encourage this, but it has gone to the trouble to create certain ceremonies and awards, such as 'Catholic Man of the Year' to foster it.

      So, please tell me how this story supports your final paragraph. My relative believes that it is 'good' to do volunteer for worthy causes. How are his actions the opposite of that?

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    40. Dio, I didn't call it a 'dumb idea', so to start off you misquoted me... I called it a dumb line

      Oh! Well that's completely different! I'm so fucking sorry I said "dumb idea" when you really said "dumb line"!

      But-- I said something false! Why can't you validate my lifestyle, Andy? I have faith that you really said "dumb idea"! Even if it's contradicted by the facts, still, it's faith. I'm a good person and I've made the choice to build my life around the faith that you really said "dumb idea"! Facts be damned. Why can't you validate my life-choices?

      because it is an example of lazy argumentation.

      Begging the question. What is your evidence Rumraket's "line" is dumb? Your evidence is it's lazy.

      Your honor, I will prove that the accused killed John F. Kennedy. What is my evidence? My evidence is that he murdered the President. Thus, I have proved my charge.

      You have no response to Rumraket's excellent argument, so you call it dumb. Pathetic.

      My relative believes that it is 'good' to do volunteer for worthy causes.

      No Andy, your relative does not believe it is 'good' to do volunteer work. Those are what the facts say-- but I have faith that your relative does not exist. I have chosen to live my life based on that faith. Why can't you validate my life choices?

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    41. Dio writes,
      '(Value) + (Fact-claim) --> (Policy)

      If your fact-claim is false, then your policy will produce the OPPOSITE of what your value seeks.'

      The ancient Polynesians valued rowing boats around in circles in the ocean until they died of starvation. Their 'fact-claim' was that the stars were a type of canopy in the night sky, perhaps sentient, NOT giant gas balls like our own sun.
      Thus, their policy produced the OPPOSITE of what their value sought. They kept bumping into islands, inhabiting them, trading with their inhabitants, etc.
      Gosh, Dio! You're RIGHT!

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  6. The title sells itself as "the case for intelligent design" - I'll be looking forward to hearing what empirical potentially-falsifiable claims they come up with in favour of design (as opposed to what can't evolve, as that only raises the question of how it came about as opposed to giving an answer).

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  7. Said before and so say it again but the cAmbrian explosion is not in any way a subject for biological scientific investigation.
    Its just snapshots of biological data points.
    Yet evolutionists and ID critics are striving to say conclusions can be drawn about bioloical origins and processes by rock analysis.!
    How so??

    Connections are entirely based on geological conclusions.
    Ideas of descent likewise are based on sequences of fossils based on geological presumptions.
    No geology and there is no biology right?!
    SOOO if its about geology then its investigation is not pure biology right!?
    Sooo if its not pure biology its not biological conclusions based on the scientific method.
    This because the METHOD demands a careful investigation .
    A careful investigation on biology can't be tainted by a unrelated subject interfering with conclusions.
    So this cambrian stuff is not relevant to scientific biological investigation.
    This has been the logical flaw in evolution from the beginning and why a wrong idea was not quickly dismissed or diminished in its claims as a scientific theory.

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    1. Byers said: SOOO if its about geology then its investigation is not pure biology right!?... A careful investigation on biology can't be tainted by a unrelated subject interfering with conclusions.
      So this cambrian stuff is not relevant to scientific biological investigation.
      This has been the logical flaw in evolution from the beginning and why a wrong idea was not quickly dismissed or diminished in its claims as a scientific theory.


      No Byers. You have not demonstrated that geology and biology are non-overlapping sets.

      Suppose Newton want to test his ideas of physics. He examines the data for positions of the planets going back a few hundred years. A 17th century Byers, and I'm sure there were many, would then rebut the new idea with:

      SOOO if its about astronomy then its investigation is not pure physics right!? ...A careful investigation on physics can't be tainted by a unrelated subject interfering with conclusions.
      So this planetary stuff is not relevant to scientific physics investigation.
      This has been the logical flaw in Newtonism from the beginning and why a wrong idea was not quickly dismissed or diminished in its claims as a scientific theory.


      Physics and astronomy overlap. Biology and geology overlap. You cannot exclude a mountain of evidence by playing word-games, assuming that one discipline never overlaps another. You have no proof of their non-overlapping status.

      When you play word-games like this (and it is your ONLY case against evolution) you are begging the question, assuming what you need to prove.

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    2. Lets think about this.
      You say physics and astronomy is equal to biology and geology.
      I say it ain't.

      The astronomy only exists because of the physics.
      The geology is unrelated to biological existence.
      Likewise biology is unrelated to the actions of geology.
      They do not overlap in their respective mechanisms.
      They are completely independent.
      If its important to your case that they be connected, and my point is that it is, then this shows the logical flaw in methodology.

      newton would not allow a biological theory be based or in any way justified by a geological foundation.
      Thats not scientific investigation on biology.
      It must only be on biology to be scientific.
      Science is a higher standard of evidence gathering.
      Why am I wrong here?

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    3. It's not that you are wrong necessarily, it's that you're just making things up. Like "newton would not allow a biological theory be based or in any way justified by a geological foundation." Who knows if that is true or not, or how it is relevant to scientific truth even if it is.

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    4. No Byers. This is what you need to prove.

      Likewise biology is unrelated to the actions of geology.
      They do not overlap in their respective mechanisms.
      They are completely independent.


      More begging the question! You need to prove this.

      You simply re-state your hypothesis using slightly different wording, and present that as evidence for your hypothesis. Bullshit; you need to prove this, not just re-state your assumptions in slightly different words.

      All biology affects geology. Photosynthesis has been changing the chemistry of Earth for billions of years, causing a large spike in oxygen that changes geochemistry. Stromatolites (fossils of bacterial mats) make up a huge amount of rock on Earth, not to mention all the other fossils. The skeletons of coral reefs form huge layers thousands of feet in thickness.

      Byers, do you deny that plants make oxygen? Do you deny that oxygen changes geochemistry? Do you deny that the ratios of isotopes of oxygen change at different strata?

      Do you deny that living things affect the chemistry of the oceans, and this affects the chemistry of the lithifying mudstone and siltstone at the bottom of the sea?

      Do you deny that one species-- humans-- are rapidly acidifying the ocean, that this acidity is dissolving coral reefs and changing the composition of lithifying ooze at the bottom of the ocean?

      Do you deny that living things change the acidity of the oceans?

      The white cliffs of Dover in England are 1,000 feet thick and consist of SKELETONS of tiny plankton stacked atop each other, and Byers looks at SKELETONS and nothing but SKELETONS stacked up for 1,000 feet and says: That has nothing to do with biology!


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    5. Its fine but unrelated to our discussion.
      Biological breakdown of geology or other things is small details.
      Dover collection of skeletons is about biology bits simply being collected.
      Its just what it is. it tells no tale of descent or process.

      Drawing connections between biological data points is the investigation in evolutionary biology.
      yet these connections are all speculative and so NOT scientific investigative methodology.

      Fossils are just snapshots of a moment.
      The geology is what is actually being studied in these things in drawing conclusions about biology.
      A great whoops in methodology legitimacy.

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    6. Not true Robert. All information can be evidence, even the words in the bible. But there is weak evidence and strong evidence. The evidence in the fossil record is strong. You cannot discount it by declaring it irrelevant. I gather you are saying it doesn't describe evolutionary mechanism, the consequence of biological chemistry. In this you are correct, but no one has claimed otherwise.

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    7. Byers,

      stop bullshitting.

      Are skeletons biology or geology? Simple question.

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    8. I answered.
      Skeletons are the remnants of former biological agents.
      Them being turned into hard structures is a special case .
      Them being classified as geological elements is a special case.

      Yet they tell no tale except what they show in their present form or what can be gleaned from them.
      Geology can't be used as biological scientific evidence for conclusions about biology.

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    9. So skeletons are biology AND geology!

      I win.

      Thus biology and geology overlap, and fossils can be used to prove evolution.

      Byers: Geology can't be used as biological scientific evidence for conclusions about biology.

      NO. You just admitted the same evidence can be biology AND geology, thus fossils can be used to prove evolution.

      Why so scared of fossils, Byers? I guess because we have so many transitionals now.

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    10. Thus biology and geology overlap, and fossils can be used to prove evolution.

      Now we should ask Byers to explain how biology and the text of the Old Testament are supposed to overlap.

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  8. Andy,

    ////Vimal, you and Rumraket have done an excellent job of convincing me that the 'designer' doesn't go about things in the same way that we humans do.
    This is quite a relief to me, as I was beginning to think that we were underachieving. ;)////
    .

    But all your fellow ID proponents are constantly likening biological designs to man-made objects as evidence for an intelligent agency. Then why shouldn't we expect that intelligent agency to behave like humans?

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  9. Lutesuite writes,
    Suppose we reword your question slightly;
    The first society believes that all illness are caused by evil spirits or demonic possession, and when someone falls ill they sacrifice an animal or pray to the deities.
    The second society investigates the physiological causes of the illnesses, identifies these, and devises specific empirically proven treatments for them.
    Which society would you bet on persisting longer?"

    You are using a hypothetical situation that somewhat loads the dice. Of course I would choose the latter in such a case. I presented you with two actual ways of life, that of indigenous people (where we still allow them to be) and our modern world based on technologies derived from knowledge.
    The indigenous tribes have been able to live in the same way for centuries ( or more ) because they live as participants in an ecosystem, like other animals. They may believe that the sun and the moon are the same size, but what they KNOW is more important. They, either instinctually or through their education, live sustainably. If the white people had not settled in North America, the Native Americans would still be there, living exactly as they did for centuries. The air would be just as clean as it was then, the forests would be just as healthy, and populated with thousands of species that are now near extinction.
    Our society, on the other hand, is pushing itself to some very dangerous limits. We have used our scientific knowledge not just to make medical advancements. You therefore have to look at the whole package.
    Therefore, in your potted example, I will 'bet on' the latter. If you tell me that the first society is based on a tribe that has actually existed for thousands of years in the Amazon, I'll bet on it.

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    1. You are using a hypothetical situation that somewhat loads the dice..

      I was quite aware that that was what I was doing. I wish you had similar insight when you did the same thing. Has science produced nothing other than nuclear weaponry and carbon emissions?

      I presented you with two actual ways of life, that of indigenous people (where we still allow them to be) and our modern world based on technologies derived from knowledge.

      "Where we still allow them to be"? So you admit that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, those societies you are describing have disappeared. And that's not only because of encroachment by more "advanced" civilizations, though that already poses a serious problem for your argument. Can you give me a single example of a civilization that disappeared because it knew too much about the world that surrounds it

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    1. lutesite, are you serious? I mean, truly, serious? You think these indigenous societies have NOT disappeared mostly because of encroachment by more exploitative humans? So you think, what, they unbelieved themselves into extinction? Or, that maybe the millions upon millions of squirrels, foxes, beavers, wolverines etc, that have died in the last 500 years due to deforestation (to say nothing of other environmental degradation) - they just naturally died out too?

      Yeah, happens all the time. A colony of beavers started believing that their bridges should be built up to the sun, instead of horizontally, and they died out just before the white men came.

      As for your question ' Can you give me a single example of a civilization that disappeared because it knew too much about the world that surrounds it?'
      -have you ever read or heard about Carl Sagan's speculations on The Fermi Paradox? This is from wiki:

      This (basically Sagan's) is the argument that technological civilizations may usually or invariably destroy themselves before or shortly after developing radio or space flight technology. Possible means of annihilation include nuclear war, biological warfare or accidental contamination, climate change, nanotechnological catastrophe, ill-advised physics experiments,[Note 4] a badly programmed super-intelligence, or a Malthusian catastrophe after the deterioration of a planet's ecosphere. This general theme is explored both in fiction and in mainstream scientific theorizing.[50] Indeed, there are probabilistic arguments which suggest that human extinction may occur sooner rather than later. In 1966 Sagan and Shklovskii suggested that technological civilizations will either tend to destroy themselves within a century of developing interstellar communicative capability or master their self-destructive tendencies and survive for billion-year timescales.[51]

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  11. lutesuite, I am still trying to understand exactly what your most recent comments implied.
    - first of all, you would admit that the human race is a species of animal, correct?
    - you would also admit that other than the human race, no other species applies anything remotely similar to human medicine to lengthen their lives or heal their injuries. Again, is this correct?
    - Human medicine is a result of knowledge, and what you would call 'truth'; and yet millions upon millions of species have arisen and lived, some much longer than the human species, without this knowledge. Again, correct?
    - We have no reason to suspect that any other species on the planet has anything similar to what we think of as 'beliefs', correct?
    - again, we have species that have arisen and lived, just as without medicine, without belief, some much longer than the human species. Yes?
    - the human brain, with its ability to form beliefs, as well as its ability to test those beliefs, act upon them and make discoveries, is an evolutionary adaptation. It is as much a 'tool' to us as a bat's sonar is to it, correct?
    - and yet, you seem to think that the indigenous human cultures of this earth, with beliefs that other animals don't have, and also without medical discoveries that other animals don't have, would very likely disappear, without being pushed off their land (the way many other animals have been due to human intervention). Do you think this is because their beliefs are bad? Do you think beliefs are such a powerful thing that they could cause a species of animal (us) to disappear on their own? That a species that lives more or less in alignment with nature (hunters and predators, along with rivals such as bears and foxes) would be in danger of disappearing BECAUSE of its brain and what it produces (false beliefs)? What sort of an evolutionary adaptation is that?

    No, indigenous tribes living in alignment with nature are NOT going to go extinct because of beliefs. We came very close to extinction at a time when many other species DID become extinct, but this was not because of beliefs. The fact that we indeed DID survive may have even been partly attributable TO beliefs that were nevertheless false. Certain superstitions could have had the psychologically beneficial effect of emboldening us to tough out certain situations, for example.
    On the other hand, humans COULD conceivably become extinct through misapplication of knowledge, because this knowledge can be used to cause us to live so UNnaturally (see the reference from wiki above).

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    1. It's quite simple Andy.

      As you say yourself, it can reasonably said that humans are the only species that have existed on earth to posses what can properly be called beliefs. What is at issue here is the merits of true vs. false beliefs. So your example of species that have thrived without beliefs of any sort is completely irrelevant.

      Your claim is that primitive societies have disappeared almost entirely as a result of encroachment by more advanced civilizations, being "pushed off their land." That is not the case. They have disappeared because they have become more advanced civilizations. i.e. they have replaced many of their false beliefs with correct ones.

      Of the 7 billion people now living on earth, what percentage live in primitive hunter/gatherer societies? You think that's just an accident?

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    2. Lutesuite, that simply isn't the case. If you look at even recent history, you will find that in the Polynesian islands such as Hawaii, Tahiti, etc. tribal culture living sustainably were more or less thriving up until the time the Europeans 'visited'. In Central America you find the same story, and of course in North America as well.
      So called 'primitive' peoples, living with beliefs that we know to be untrue, but not exterminating themselves, precisely because their way of life, sustainabiity, enable them to continue just like all the other animals they lived among. Forest people are like other 'forest creatures' - they tend not to over-exploit and their way of life can last as long as any other species in the wild. As they say, nature provides, and why would this not be so?
      It is true that some tribes, obviously, became 'more advanced', but this induced them to require more arable land in order to feed their growing populaces. So, they DID remove the forest people from their lands, just as they removed the forest birds and mammals, etc.
      But our way of life has reached its limit, because our overexploitation of resources cannot continue on a planet that has only limited resources available to us. An endgame occurs, predictably, in more or less the way that Sagan speculated about.
      So it is true that our way of life, based on discovery and establishing what is true from what isn't, can yield very real benefits to people at the individual level. But if you want to talk in terms of survivability, you will find forest people being able to go on, and on, and on, in the same way, because their way of life is so close to other animals. They don't use more than they need, thus depleting their own ecosytem. It doesn't matter if they believe the sun and the moon are the same size. What matters is that they don't use more than they need.

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    3. lutesuite writes, 'Of the 7 billion people now living on earth, what percentage live in primitive hunter/gatherer societies? You think that's just an accident?'
      Of course it's not an accident. But it is a result of what I stated earlier. Even as recently as five hundred years ago you still had plenty of people living more or less as they always had, in North America, in Polynesia, in what is now part of Indonesia, in Central and South America, etc.
      In all these cases, those societies could have gone on living just as they always had if not for Europeans invading. They didn't become 'more advanced'; they had their way of life altered or destroyed against their will.
      The reason they were to continue their way of life for thousands of years, and saw no real need to change it, was because they were content to live similarly to other animals in the forest, not using more than they needed, therefore not depleting their own environment. Our, knowledge based society DOES deplete its own environment, which is why we felt the need to take land from others, and which is why we have come nearly to the end of that endeavor, as the planet has reached a point where it may not be able to sustain us much longer.
      So while it is true that our modern and 'advanced' society and culture has been able to provide numerous benefits to INDIVIDUALS, it is in fact LESS successful than the way of life of the forest dwellers in the collective, because their way of life can go on and on and on, despite them thinking the sun and the moon are the same size. And ours can't do that, unless we very quickly adjust it and realign it with the sustainability principles that the forest dwellers never lost.

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    4. @Andy: Aren't you underestimating "primitive societies"? There have never been any hunter-gatherers in Polynesia. Polynesia was colonised by Austronesian sailors between roughly 900 BC and 1300 AD; they were the first humans there, and they were fully advanced farmers who had crossed the Pacific with their domestic dogs, pigs, and chicken. In Europe, only the Scandinavians had developed comparable seagoing skills by the Middle Ages.

      Even Papua New Guinea and the Amazon basin had well-developed Neolithic cultures well before the arrival of the Europeans. As a matter of fact, pottery and domesticated plants were known in South America earlier than in Europe. Central America was the home of the most advanced Native American civilisations. Of the 16th-century cities of Western Europe, only Paris was comparable with Tenochtitlan in terms of size and importance.

      Even those cultures that could be claimed to have lived "closer to nature", like those of the Native Australians or the first migrants from Beringia to the New World, tended to cause a lot of damage in the local ecosystems (especially the magafaunas) within centuries of their arrival. There was no real "symbiosis" with the environment, except perhaps in pre-Neolithic sub-Saharan Africa, where our species had evolved, giving its cohabitants enough time to adapt to its presence.

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    5. Further on that topic:

      http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080401-mammoth-extinction.html

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    6. Piotr, although the information you provide is, as always, interesting, I am not sure how you are using it to (or even if you are intending to use it to) counter the broader argument I am making; that erroneous beliefs don't necessarily translate into low survivability for a culture, and that a great deal of knowledge does not guarantee high survivability.

      For example, I assume that you and I would agree that had the Europeans visited North America in the 20th century rather than centuries before, they would not have encountered tribes that had set the Cuyahoga River on fire (1952),'killed' Lake Erie (as so declared in 1970), or caused a major nuclear disaster (Three Mile Island, 1979). Nor would the tribes be eating a large percentage of food that was delivered to them over hundreds or even thousands of miles at great environmental cost.
      Furthermore, I assume you agree that the great North American forests, so dense that the legend holds that a squirrel could have moved from the Atlantic Coast to the Mississippi River without once stepping onto the ground, would still be there to a far greater extent than now. Yes?
      And may I also assume that you aren't predicting the tribes would no longer be there, that they would have become extinct through insufficient knowledge in those three or four centuries?
      I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this, as this is by far the more salient matter over which lutesuite and I are arguing.

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    7. lutesuite, Piotr brings up a fascinating topic: the seafaring abilities of the ancient Polynesians.
      As you know, they used stars to navigate their routes.
      They may have believed that these stars were put their BY a deity (perhaps to assist them), or were themselves deities.
      They almost certainly believed the stars were much smaller than the earth, were much closer to the earth than they actually are, and that the ones that appeared closest together in the sky WERE closest together.
      Furthermore, they almost certainly did NOT believe that they are giant balls of gas that have a lot in common with the sun.
      Would you argue that these (numerous) erroneous beliefs compromised their navigational abilities in some way, and that knowledge of the true nature of the stars would have improved them?

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    8. It's true that, at least in North America, the European immigrants and their descendants caused far more damege than the indigenous tribes, but it was already a continent stripped of most of its large mammal fauna. Climatic change alone doesn't explain it, given that the American megafauna had lived through dozens of glacial-interglacial cycles. Of course the American Indians adapted to the changes. It was mammoths, horses, camels, mastodonts and ground sloths that didn't. The Europeans have been far more destructive so far, but they haven't become extinct either and I don't think they will soon.

      When the Europeans arrived at Easter Island, the local situation was one of an endgame: the Easter Island Polynesians had deforested their homeland completely and were desperately struggling against an environmental disaster of their own making. In New Zealand, Madagaskar, and even Australia, you can see the archeological destruction horizon coinciding with the arrival of humans.

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    9. Would you argue that these (numerous) erroneous beliefs compromised their navigational abilities in some way, and that knowledge of the true nature of the stars would have improved them?

      No, because they got the relevant facts correct, and that was what mattered in their situation. They needed the stars only as a frame of reference and whatever their beliefs about their "true nature", they didn't invent counterfactual stories about their configuration in the sky or their orientation with respect to the cardinal directions.

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    10. Piotr, Rumraket wrote,

      "people's beliefs inform their actions, and if they believe in false or unsubstantiated things, they're more likely to be making choices that lead them further from their goals instead of towards them."
      He didn't stress whether or not he was referring to the people he was talking about getting the RELEVANT things right. Should I have assumed he meant that, and would you have?

      Lutesuite wrote, later on in that thread after I had responded, 'So, andy, your position seems to boil down to this: That it is of no importance whether one's beliefs are true or not.'
      Again, should I have assumed that he was being fastidious in his application of 'true', as you are being now?

      Reading between the lines can be so difficult! ;)

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    11. Piotr writes, 'The Europeans have been far more destructive so far, but they haven't become extinct either and I don't think they will soon.'

      Well, it is encouraging to see you so sanguine about environmental destruction, etc. Take that, Carl Sagan!
      I hope you are right, but as we DO live on a finite planet and are exploiting its resources rapidly (topsoil, fish stocks, water, etc.), can you explain where that confidence comes from? Do you assume we will inevitably find technological solutions to counterbalance our wasteful and destructive tendencies?

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    12. Of course, Cassandra, the end is nigh. Nevertheless, so far it remains a grim prediction, not a fact. It's possible that our civilisation will self-annihilate, but if it does, it will be the result of greed and short-sightedness, not of too much wisdom and knowledge. Note where the warnings come from (and so ideas how to solve at least some of the problems): people who know something about the Earth and its resources, certainly not from people inspired by blind faith in supernatural protection. The traditional message of the church, by contrast, has been as follows: "Grow and multiply, exploit the planet, and never fear. God will take care of other problems and provide you with all you need".

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    13. Piotr writes,' It's possible that our civilisation will self-annihilate, but if it does, it will be the result of greed and short-sightedness, not of too much wisdom and knowledge.'
      Hang on, I never said anything about 'wisdom', let's remember. Knowledge, and the wisdom to use it constructively, are not the same thing, I am sure you agree.

      No argument that it will be the result of greed and short-sightedness (if it should come about), but also it will attributable to a misuse of the knowledge we possess.
      If a driving instructor teaches his eight year old to drive, but then the child causes a fatal accident, the child will have used the knowledge of how to drive a car to do harm.
      The father's stupidity and willingness to break the law will be the main cause, and secondarily the child's physical and emotional limitations concerning the operation of an automobile. But the knowledge will have played a role. Without it, the death would not have occurred.

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    14. My point throughout this thread is that humans have always been aggressive exploiters of natural resources and thought little about the consequences. They could get away with it as long as the resources seemed practically unlimited in comparison with population sizes, but they did cause mass extinctions and other environmental disturbances even with their simple technologies before the Neolithic revolution. We have become aware of the dangers ahead only thanks to the scientific knowledge we possess. Shklovsky and Sagan, by the way, were men of science, both of them. So are, for example, the climatologists whose warnings are routinely ignored or ridiculed by denialists (including too many politicians and the ignorant majority of the public opinion). "Global warming my a*se! We had snowfalls at Easter this year -- where's the bloody warming?"

      Quite a few cultures before us have collapsed because of self-inflicted ecological disasters. They had never seen them coming, they had no rational explanation for them, and I suppose they blamed them on the bad temper of their gods.

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    15. Piotr writes,
      'Shklovsky and Sagan, by the way, were men of science, both of them. So are, for example, the climatologists whose warnings are routinely ignored or ridiculed by denialists '

      Of course of course. No argument. I am not an either/or thinker and I am not arguing that science is always/inevitably/usually, etc. bad or harmful. Nothing of the sort.
      But Rumraket, lutesuite, and Diogenes all seem to be arguing that erroneous beliefs will inevitably lead to trouble, and I disagree with that. As I wrote above, I believe (yes, intentional use of that word) that beliefs are less important than that. For example, other species get along without having them at all, one way or another. They also seem to feel that only knowledge will save us from whatever troubles we find ourselves in, but unlike you, they never bothered to make that conditional on the necessity for that knowledge being applied wisely. Because two of those persons are ideologues, they wouldn't want to even make that explicit, as it would lead to questions concerning the 'dark side' of knowledge/science, which they are ideologically opposed to even admitting exists. To them, religion has no (and no possible) light side and science has no (and no possible) dark side.
      But you needn't have pointed out the bona fides of men like Shlovsky and Sagan to ME, as I do not see things in the blinkered, closed-minded way that Rumraket and Diogenes do.

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  12. Ana Ruiz
    I've recently seen Isaac Newton bios on youtube and he stressed his conclusions , unlike the others, were not just based on hypothesis but on proving stuff.
    So i can say he would never alow geology to be the object of investigation for drawing biological conclusions.
    Yet this is what evolutionists do.

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    1. Good to see that Isaac is embracing new technology.

      A lot of older folk never do make the transition.

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  13. SREM.
    The fossil record IS evidence for what it describes.
    Yet I'm insisting its NOT biological scientific evidence.
    The connections, the stuff of their theory, is not fossilized.
    Process and descent claims are not shown in the fossil record except by assumptions of geology.
    Without the geology assumptions there is no biological evidence.
    SO i say biological evidence is only that if based on biology.
    No geology cheat notes.
    S o a flaw in the investigation has been going on for some time now.
    I'm on solid ground in daring evolutionists they can't provide biological scientific evidence for Toe in its great claims.

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  14. Diogenes
    I don't see how I lost anything.
    Overlapping means nothing as to process and descent.
    The fossils are just a snapshot in time.
    It is the fossil sequences in segregated strata that is being used as the evidence for descent and process(evolution).
    The white cliffs of dover are the remains of creatures collected turned to stone.
    Thats all they are.
    Yet to connect them by descent and the process is not in any way found in stone.
    If another collection is claimed to be in sequence to the first it is not by any biological scientific investigation.
    Its just connecting like looking creatures from strata said to be separated in time.
    Where's the biology here?
    Its only geology ideas that is being used for biological conclusions.
    You can't prove evolutionary biology using rocks.
    Why am I wrong here???

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