Monday, August 12, 2013

University of Rostock

The University of Rostock was founded in 1419. It’s said to be the oldest university in the Baltic Sea area. The main university building is a prominent landmark in Rostock but I was more interested in the Zoology building off to the side.

Looks like I just missed an important conference. Does everyone know who Willi Hennig is?



84 comments :

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willi_Hennig - German Biologist, one of founders of cladistics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cladistics)

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  2. Yeah, I know who Willi Hennig was, and more importantly I have been on the receiving end of lots of hostility from the Willi Hennig Society. A very interesting and affirming experience.

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    1. Hostility over what? Don't leave us hanging.

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    2. Take your pick: over pointing out the inconsistency of parsimony given certain evolutionary parameters, over advocating resampling methods, over advocating maximum likelihood methods. Did I leave anything out?

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    3. Arnold Kluge (a central figure in the WHS), expressed his horror that my book was entitled Inferring Phylogenies. I had acknowledged openly that one was to think of phylogenies as being "inferred"!

      In his view, how could one be wronger than that. Saying that it was inference, not some kind of deduction, falsification, or abduction (whatever that means)!

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    4. Harshman writes: "Take your pick"

      OK. I pick "pointing out the inconsistency of parsimony given certain evolutionary parameters."

      Anyone care to enlighten us benighted folks?

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    5. Joe himself has written a short memoir of the height of the parsimony battles in the 1970s/1980s and it is online as part of a series of readings for a course.

      http://www.faculty.biol.ttu.edu/Strauss/Phylogenetics/Readings/Felsenstein2001.pdf

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  3. It's all about internal disputes within systematics. The Hennig Society is home to a number of people that some would consider fanatical on certain subjects that are of interest only to systematists and that would be tedious to explain and probably to have explained to you. Joe is not a member.

    As for the question, read this:

    Felsenstein, J. 1978. Cases in which parsimony or compatibility methods will be positively misleading. Systematic Zoology 27:401-410.

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    1. Palpable proof that there is serious controversy among the experts when it comes to evolution, therefore baby Jebus.

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  4. Congratulation Larry and Mrs. Sandwalk. I have to say that this kind of celebrations become rare among both atheists and devote believers. So, good for you Larry!!! It is admirable :) Love, or rather different kinds of love after a few years of marriage are just so awe inspiring. If evolution was able to "create" those amazing feelings, it would be more than chance. That is why I don't buy the origin of life and evolution as a product of chance and I'm surprised that Larry does. Well, it's his choice isn't it?

    Anyways, Larry good for you!

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    1. The main mistake is that you don't understand that because evolution is natural it does not mean that it is pure chance. Think about this: gravitation is natural. Scientists can explain the orbits of the planets based on gravitation. Would it make sense to you to assume that because gravitation is natural these scientists think that the movements of the planets are due to pure chance? They say gravitation, the creationist thinks "chance." They say evolution, the creationist thinks "chance."

      Of course, for evolution you have many layers of your ignorance protecting you from realizing what your problems are. You have to understand a bit more to understand evolution than to understand gravitation. It does not help that you are unwilling to understand the former.

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    2. NE, I think it's good to be a little humble sometimes there are very few absolute truths and the theories of gravity and evolution are definitely not among them. The effect of gravity e.g. Is today best explained by General Relativity, but it does not explain what gravity is or how it acts. If the hypothetical graviton would be proven to exist, then we would have a better idea of what gravitation is and how it acts (I.e. the exchange of gravitons by two bodies). Natural selection acting on random mutations as the full explanation for the diversity of life is also being questioned by some scientists for good reasons. It would be good if also the merits of the theory of evolution could be discussed in a purely factual way as other scientific theories, but since it effects people's world view in a more fundamental way it has become like a religion with dogma that are not to be questioned.

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    3. ilikai,

      First and foremost, your answer does not change the fact that Quest reduction of evolutionary processes to pure randomness is worse than mistaken.

      With that out of the way, the example of gravitation was intended at demonstrating that thinking "nature therefore random" is mistaken. Would you agree or disagree to this?

      Then more to your apparent points, there's a bit of confusion in your comment besides not really being about my main point. Gravitation and evolution are both facts beyond reasonable doubt. Sure, today the best theory about gravitation is within the general theory of relativity, that does not mean that gravitation is not a real phenomenon, only that Einstein's "explanation" predicts better what happens than Newton's. But gravitation stays. We certainly are "bound" to our planet, things actually fall, and objects in space affect each other's trajectories in ways mostly predictable from their masses.

      As per evolution, of course there's been challenges to the mutation/natural selection parts. Given horizontal gene order, there might be little hope to figure out the complete history of life. Yet, life has still changed through the eons of the history of our planet, and different species are still related by common ancestries, only with much more complexity than previously imagined. So, maybe we have to think differently about mutations and include such phenomena as chromosome rearrangements, horizontal gene transfer, what-have-you to that, and there's also the "random" fixation of neutral and semi-neutral mutations. Sure, more than natural selection going on. Still evolution is still a fact at many levels, while the theories about how it happens, which factors play the most important roles, might change, and our understanding of the history of existent life forms might remain forever incomplete.

      I could not care less if some discovery changed my worldview. I do not know of anybody around me who would care about that when dealing with scientific evidence. It takes strong evidence to convince most of us about strong claims. But that is to be expected. Otherwise we would be wasting time with any little piece of nonsense that just about anybody proposed. To be taken seriously people have to come with evidence strong enough to support their claims. Creationists mostly come and offer rhetorics and misinformation. That will never convince me.

      It took evidence to convince me about evolution. I don't see why now I should turn into a creationist just because there's lots of open questions. As I told Quest. If ignorance works for you as reasons to accept imaginary beings as real, then good for you. Yet, don't expect me to accept such nonsense.

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    4. NE, I think that you often can learn more about a man from his enemies than from his friends. In the same way you can learn more about a theory by looking at its weaknesses than its strengths. The prevailing theory of evolution has a lot of weaknesses as I'm sure that you are aware. Why not learn from them instead of just asserting that its a "fact"?
      One of the weaknesses that have been put to the test is the proposed explanation for similar morphology and features appearing in different species without evolutionary connection, i.e. convergent evolution. This hypotheses was tested in Richard Luskin's e-coli study and has so far not been verified. This is how our understanding develops, not by just asserting that its a "fact".

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    5. Richard Lenski, of course...not Luskin :-)

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    6. Which particular results of Lenski's experiment are problematic for the "prevailing theory of evolution"? Can you explain it in some detail?

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    7. ilikai1820 says,

      Natural selection acting on random mutations as the full explanation for the diversity of life is also being questioned by some scientists for good reasons.

      There's not a single evolutionary biology textbook that says that natural selection is the full explanation for the diversity of life. I doubt that any textbook has made that claim at any time in the past forty years.

      It's usually a good idea to learn about evoluionary theory before crticizing it. Otherwise you will look like an idiot.

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    8. Welcome back Larry, I guess that you've finished the cruise since you have time to comment on my post :-) I can write a longer description about evolution if you want, I thought it was better to keep it concise...

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    9. You weren't "concise" ... you were WRONG.

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    10. Ok, so if we start with Natural Selection...what other forms of adaptation do you propose?

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    11. I know that there are other sources for genetic variability than random mutation, but to quote Niles Eldredge: "natural selection is the heart and soul of evolution".

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    12. ilikai,

      Try to keep it straight, your first claim was:

      «Natural selection acting on random mutations as the full explanation for the diversity of life is also being questioned by some scientists for good reasons»

      Larry told you that no book on evolution said that Natural selection acting on random mutations was the full explanation for the diversity of life. The diversity of life and adaptation are two different things. Related, but different things.

      As per your quote to Niles Eldredge, may I ask in what century was that written, and whether there's anything after that quote that might indicate other processes involved? It is astounding that creationists would think that the theory of evolution was set in stone when Darwin wrote his book, or that some quote, probably out of context (as per creationist MO), would be the last word on such matters.

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    13. ilikai,

      As per your answer to me. I am starting to suspect that you don't care about what we are explaining. Should you pay proper attention you would have learned that there's a difference between the facts and the theories that explain those facts. Granted that sometimes the border might be quite blurred, but still, I tried to make it clear to you in the third paragraph where I explained to you the difference between the fact of gravitation, and the theories that describe and predict it's behaviour.

      Then I proceeded to explain to you that there's also facts of evolution (not just one, but several), and that the theories are such things as the mechanisms proposed so far to explain how it happens, such as natural selection, fixation of neutral and semi-neutral mutations, etc.

      Of course I am interested in the weaknesses in the theory of evolution. That's where I have the higher chances of finding something interesting and worth publishing. However, I don't think that we are talking about the same things, since you come from a creationist misinformation background, while I have actually studied evolutionary relationships and processes.

      Lenski's experiments have their strengths and their limitations. Whether those experiments reproduce or not something like convergent evolution is inconsequential. We can't expect a single experimental setup to be the final word in how to reproduce all the types of events that have played a role in the history of life. In the meantime, there's enough of statistical analyses that help us differentiate divergent and convergent evolution with different degrees of confidence for many cases, cases where gene recombination has occurred leading to the false impression of convergence, maybe other cases I currently don't recall, while other cases remain undecidable.

      In any event, sure, challenges are welcome by all concerned scientists. But they are far from being the cartoons that creationists play with while imagining them to be what we actually understand about evolution.

      Are you paying any attention now? I gave you the benefit of the doubt so far, but your answers seem to reveal that you truly don't care about these answers. Do you?

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    14. The (distorted) Eldredge quote is from Reinventing Darwin (1995). It's the opening sequence of Chapter 2:

      Adaptation is the very heart and soul of evolution. It is the scientific account of why the living world comes in so many shapes and sizes: how the giraffe got its long neck, why porpoises look so much like sharks and the extinct ichthyosaurs, how birds fly, and literally millions of similar questions.

      Of course Eldredge emphasises (overemphasises?) adaptive change as the source of biological diversity and doesn't mention processes like random drift and its consequences, or the role of chance in general. He talks about one aspect of evolution and leaves a very important part of the story untold.

      Incidentally, the very next sentence is worth reading too:

      The only other account of this spectacular display of diversity is the creationist tale: that a supernatural Creator fashioned the world, including its organic contents, the way we find it. But that form of explanation, by its very nature, lies outside the bounds of the scientific enterprise.

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    15. PG, thanks for the Eldredge quote, I don't have the book, so sorry for replacing "adaptation" for "natural selection" even if it does not change the meaning. It looks like Niles joins me in the ranks of idiots in LM's view. But as NE points out, the book was after all written last century, all of 18 years ago, so we have indeed learnt a lot since.

      I do not agree with Niles statement of a static creation as the only alternative to the purely naturalistic account of evolution though, but more about that some other time...

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    16. ilikai1820rental,

      Don't worry! Even Larry doesn't know what mechanism is responsible for the diversity of life. He is probably going to tell you that random genetic drift does the trick, but he may as well tell you that a bolt of lightning does it, because there is the same proof for both mechanisms

      The rest of the morons here still can't figure out what they call "chicken and egg dilemma or paradox" just because all of the sudden they have a chicken, and egg and a third dilemma:) They claim there is no evidence for the imaginary God, yet the do not provide any evidence for their believes they call "science". Facepalm

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    17. @Quest

      According to modern evolutionary theory, natural selection and random genetic drift are the two most important mechanisms involved in fixing alleles in a population. That's what it says in all evolutionary biology textbooks. If you want to understand evolutionary theory then you must read the textbooks or other books and articles that cover modern evolutionary theory.

      There are evolutionary biologists who emphasize adaptation but quoting them as the only authorities on evolutionary theory is about as honest as claiming that Ray Comfort speaks for all creationists.

      Modern evolutionary theory may not be correct or complete but that's not the point. Right now it says that the diversity of life requires both natural selection and random genetic drift. If you are going to criticize the modern explanation for the diversity of life then that's the version you should criticize, not some strawman version that you make up.

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    18. I don't doubt natural selection, nor genetic drift. They make perfect seance to me. I just don't think that they can bring us from a universal common ancestor in the time available, if ever. Call it an argument from personal incredulity if you want, but it does not help in solving the problems.
      I don't like straw-men, as I have mentioned on this blog before. Just so that I do not have to write an essay describing modern evolution every time that I refer to it, what I will do in the future is write Evolution* when ever I mean modern evolution as preached by mainstream science.
      What I was discussing in my post was convergent evolution. I think it's an interesting commonly occurring phenomena and it must be a headache for cladists and paleontologist a alike.

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    19. @ilikai: You forgot to enlighten me as to the significance of Lenski's E. coli experiment. Why do you think it's a problem for modern evolutionary theory?

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    20. What I was discussing in my post was convergent evolution.

      You discussed convergence? Where? You simply insinuated, in one of your posts, that morphological convergence was a problem for evolutionary theory (without explaining what made you think so). That's pretty far from discussing anything.

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    21. ilikai,

      I just don't think that they can bring us from a universal common ancestor in the time available, if ever. Call it an argument from personal incredulity if you want, but it does not help in solving the problems.

      Well, proposing that some imaginary beings are real does not solve any problems either. It's much worse. So, since you are not convinced, what other mechanisms would you include/propose? What kinds of tests would you look for or design to test if there's any possibility for such phenomena to explain what we see today to some degree, or else to eliminate them as candidates to be main players? What other factors might be out there that might help the processes mentioned? For example, would recombination play some role? Would horizontal gene transfer offer other avenues to mixing successful variants?

      Sure there's open questions. Despite that, there's lots of literature showing examples after examples of results that show that proposed mechanisms can do a lot in much less time than we would have imagined. Are there gaps? Sure. Is that a reason to propose that imaginary beings are real? I don't think that knowledge gaps of any size should suffice to convince a reasonable person that imaginary beings are real.

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    22. I don't doubt natural selection, nor genetic drift. They make perfect seance to me. I just don't think that they can bring us from a universal common ancestor in the time available, if ever. Call it an argument from personal incredulity if you want, but it does not help in solving the problems.

      It's not a matter of "wanting" to call it an argument from personal incredulity. That's exactly what it is. It could be a textbook example. And labelling it at such actually does help solve the problem, by pointing out that the only "problem" is your own ignorance and devotion to superstition. If you address those, your questions will be easily answered.

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    23. "According to modern evolutionary theory, natural selection and random genetic drift are the two most important mechanisms involved in fixing alleles in a population.'

      Well Larry, according to you professor Coyne is the world's leading expert on speciation. So, in his book "Speciation", I find that most speciation is due to natural selection and not due to genetic drift, as you claim. Actually, he goes as far as saying that hypothesis that reproductive isolation results from genetic drift are not supported by either theory or experiments.

      So, Larry; who is behind the modern evolutionary theory?

      It's not you because you are no expert on speciation? I doubt Nick Mitzke is. And even if he is, he is has a more difficult problem to resolve before he comments here; the egg, chicken and third dilemma issue :)

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    24. Quest,

      1. Reproductive isolation is not the same thing as allele fixation. They are related, but they are far from being the same thing. Therefore, even if there was evidence that absolutely never is genetic drift involved in reproductive isolation, that would not mean that random genetic drift does not play a role in allele fixation.

      2. I doubt that Jerry would be "the" leading expert on speciation. He might be among the speciation experts, but I doubt that today anybody can claim a big topmost title for anything.

      3. If he's a leading expert on speciation, that does not mean that he has the last word on how reproductive isolation. It might be mostly true for the organisms that he has studied, but that does not mean that he is right overall.

      4. Many people work on evolution. I doubt that there's a single person that everybody just listens to. Science is something many people do. Not the realm of a single person. Therefore there cannot be someone we would call "the one and only" who would be behind evolutionary theory.

      5. I doubt that Nick is worried about any eggs, chickens and other "dilemmas."

      6. The arrogant tone you used to show off your ignorance suggest that you are nothing else but an imbecile.

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    25. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    26. NE, you write: "Despite that, there's lots of literature showing example after example of results that show that proposed mechanisms can do a lot in much less time than we would have imagined."
      Can you give an example of this where it's clearly not a circular reasoning? A classical example of circular reasoning is e.g. the whale evolution.
      Again I refer to Lenski's long running E-Coli study (55,000 generations) to see what Evolution* really can accomplish, and I would argue that it's a lot less than most scientists would expect.

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    27. A classical example of circular reasoning is e.g. the whale evolution.

      Another dumb blind asserton, or are you going to support it with a few details? How is it circular?

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    28. Quest - You quote Coyne, yet it seems you would disagree with him entirely on all matters of evolution. Including whether speciation even happens.

      So why quote his authority on mechanisms of speciation? Drift MUST be involved in reproductive isolation in some circumstances, since it generates differences between sub populations that would result in diminishing interfertility eventually, given some other physical isolating mechanism. But I suspect Coyne is referring to mechanisms operating while there is gene flow between the subpopulations. Which is not the case everywhere always.

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    29. @ilikai1820rental

      Your pseudonym is uncomfortably close to advertising for rentals on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. For that reason, and only that reason, I will be banning all comments from you unless you change your pseudonym to something more neutral.

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    30. Quest says,

      Well Larry, according to you professor Coyne is the world's leading expert on speciation. So, in his book "Speciation", I find that most speciation is due to natural selection and not due to genetic drift, as you claim. Actually, he goes as far as saying that hypothesis that reproductive isolation results from genetic drift are not supported by either theory or experiments.

      Here's what Coyne and Orr say on page 484

      The modes of speciation that have been hypothesized can be classified by several criteria, including the geographic origin of barriers to gene exchange, the genetic bases of those barriers, and the causes of evolution of those barriers. These criteria are independent of one another; so, for example, two species may conceivably form by geographic separation (allopatry) of populations, in which reproductive isolation then evolves by either natural selection or genetic drift, which results in few or many genetic differences.

      It's pretty clear that they are aware of the two main mechanisms of evolution. They would never say that "Natural selection acting on random mutations [is] the full explanation for the diversity of life" which is what il...al implied was the standard explanation of modern evolutionary theory. He/she seemed to think that ideas about random genetic drift (and other factors) were only recently being proposed as challenges to Darwinism.

      Coyne and Orr believe that most (all?) of the reproductive isolation required for cladogenesis is the result of natural selection and not random genetic drift. That's an opinion they are entitled to hold. It does not conflict in any way with modern evolutionary theory.

      I don't know if they still believe what they wrote almost ten years ago and I don't know if they represent the consensus view among experts on speciation. It's a view shared by many people who comment on this blog but I don't think they are correct. I believe that the reproductive isolation that evolves in separated populations is due to random genetic drift (accident) and not selection for inability to reproduce.

      It is simply not true that Coyne and Orr deny theoretical models of speciation by random genetic drift. They discuss them at length in their book. What they say (page 489) is ...

      This model is supported by genetic data showing that reproductive isolation is based on epistatic interactions among several or many loci. It is theoretically possible that the allele substitutions could be caused by either genetic drift or natural selection. However, no convincing examples have been described in which speciation can be attributed entirely to genetic drift (Coyne and Orr 2004). In contrast, natural selection may contribute to the origin of species in several ways.

      Many adaptationist sympathizers make the same point. It is almost impossible to PROVE conclusively that random genetic drift is the mechanism for fixation of any allele. There is always an adaptationist "just-so" story lurking in the background.

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    31. Re: "Again I refer to Lenski's long running E-Coli study (55,000 generations) to see what Evolution* really can accomplish, and I would argue that it's a lot less than most scientists would expect."

      Note: "long-running" = about 20 years, on a population of E. coli that fit into a couple refrigerators, out of a total population of terrestrial bacteria which (according to an off-hand comment I once heard from Stephen Gould on PBS) out-masses all other living things by a factor of ten. In that time, in that relatively tiny population, Lenski's experiment showed that the bacteria could evolve (in a two-step process) the ability to thrive in an environment which was initially hostile - a very significant improvement.

      Mathematical literacy requires that numbers be compared in relevant ways. 20 years (and 55,000 generations) is a very small number in the context of at least 3 billion years of life on Earth. (20/3 billion = 0.00000000666...) Another way of looking at it, is that that tiny population (relative to all bacteria) would have had to time to produce 150 million very-significant improvements over the last 3 billion years. Multiple that by a factor of probably over a trillion for the average total population of bacteria over that time, and I for one am impressed by the capability of natural evolution which Lenski's experiment has demonstrated.

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    32. Typo alert: "have had to time to produce" should be "have had time to produce".

      I will add, I very much doubt if a human design team could have accomplished such a significant improvement to the bacteria's genome in that amount of time. (We would have used genetic algorithms in a random search, but I don't think our computers are big enough.)

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    33. Hi Larry,

      I fully understand where you are coming from. I'm just not sure that is what Coye Orr ment, especially Coyne. I will get back to you. I'm about to take off

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    34. NE,
      Where is the evidence??? You claim to be a scientist, so your beliefs must be based on evidence. Right? I'm a simple man trying figure out why some the best brains in the world are lacking common sense... I can't use the appropriate word but eventually I will have to.

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    35. @Laurence, ok I have now created a new account and will make no more comments on your blog using my previous name, i.e. Ilikai.

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    36. Laurence, you wrote:
      "...which is what il...al implied was the standard explanation of modern evolutionary theory. He/she seemed to think that ideas about random genetic drift (and other factors) were only recently being proposed as challenges to Darwinism."

      Just for the record, I have never made any such claim.

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    37. Andy Wilberforce writes,

      @Laurence, ok I have now created a new account and will make no more comments on your blog using my previous name, i.e. Ilikai.

      Thank-you very much. Sorry to make a fuss but I don't allow advertising.

      Call me "Larry."

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    38. @Andy Wilberforce,

      You said ...

      Natural selection acting on random mutations as the full explanation for the diversity of life is also being questioned by some scientists for good reasons. It would be good if also the merits of the theory of evolution could be discussed in a purely factual way as other scientific theories, but since it effects people's world view in a more fundamental way it has become like a religion with dogma that are not to be questioned.

      And when I challenged you, your response wa to defend natural selection. It certainly sounds like you have an incorrect understanding of modern evolutionary theory.

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    39. @Andy Wilberforce,

      Any relation to Bishop Samuel Wilberforce (Soapy Sam) of "whether it was through his grandmother or his grandfather that Huxley considered himself descended from a monkey" fame ?

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    40. Quest,

      What are you talking about? My comment was a clarification about there being a difference between reproductive isolation and allele fixation, and about a few other details. I don't need evidence for that. You, on the other hand, need to learn to read. Your previous comments suggested that you are an imbecile, now you did nothing but confirm those suspicions.

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    41. Andy Wilberforce (ex ilisomething),

      Can you give an example of this where it's clearly not a circular reasoning? A classical example of circular reasoning is e.g. the whale evolution.

      I am as puzzled, as Piotr. What the heck do you mean that whale evolution is circular? I know of no circular argument about whale evolution having being very fast. Of course, checking fossils should give us ideas about how fast evolution can happen, but I was talking about something different, but I rather save it for later. I want to first know what you are talking about and whether you are really interested in any answers.

      Again I refer to Lenski's long running E-Coli study (55,000 generations) to see what Evolution* really can accomplish, and I would argue that it's a lot less than most scientists would expect.

      Again I insist that you should read what we write, and that I suspect that you truly don't care. Otherwise you would have read what I said before about Lenski's experiments, and maybe you would have noticed already that you are not being very sensical about what you can get from those experiments. What exactly makes you think that such experiment is enough to test each and every aspect of what evolution can accomplish?

      While you are answering, I suggest you to really learn about evolution, about experimentation, and about experimental design and science in general.

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    42. NE, your guess is pretty close to what I mean, i.e. that the speed of morphological change is being inferred from the fossil record and as in the case of whale evolution the evolutionary connection to the proposed predecessors has been under much debate.
      I'm sorry that you feel that I did not read your responses. It has been a hectic week. I will try to find some time this week-end and re-read your posts before elaborating more on the subject.

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    43. Andy W,

      OK. My own schedule is quite hectic now. Take your time.

      As per the fossil record and whales. I don't think that there's a lot of debate about those fossils demonstrating the transitions, and certainly, if we have lots of fossils demonstrating changes in some lineage, there's nothing wrong with inferring that therefore the changes can happen as quickly as those fossils and the dating methods suggest at the very least. Nothing circular there.

      Still, I was thinking more about experimental evolution, where adding recombination, for example, speeds up the acquisition of new functions by orders of magnitude compared to experiments without recombination. Those experiments really surprised me, and I was already convinced that millions of years of evolution do not even fit in my imagination in terms of all that could happen.

      So I wait to learn about why you think that whales and fossils are circular arguments, and for you to read what I said about Lenski's experiments. I don't know when will I connect again though.

      Have a good weekend

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    44. Larry and others & NE who didn't get what professor Coyne meant in his book about natural selection being the driving force in evolution-that is according to him:

      "1. When I say that speciation is often (not always) an "accident"--I mean that reproductive barriers are accidental byproducts of genes that diverged for other reasons. That is not genetic drift, but pleiotropy, and

      2. As we show in chapter 11 of our book (Speciation, by Coyne and Orr), the evidence is that most reproductive barriers resulted from genes that diverged by natural selection, not genetic drift. Hypothesis that reproductive isolation results from genetic drift are not supported by either theory or experiment. Thus, as far as we can see, speciation usually esults from natural selection, although the reproductive barriers may be pleiotropic byproducts of the genes that diverged by selection. That does not rule out the involvement of drift completely, but we know of very few cases where it is implicated (a chance in chirality of snails, from right- to left-handed coiling or vice versa, may be one such case)."

      So, we are back where we have started; Who is behind the modern evolutionary theory? It seems that Larry thinks that he is, but he can't seem to find any acknowledged experts to agree with him. So, why should I read books of so-called evolutionary experts, if none of them can't even agree on what mechanism is driving the evolution?

      Moran, Coyne and Dawkins have different ideas as to what that mechanism is. Should I read all the books of all the experts on evolution and figure it out myself? I have read one not that long ago, and he thinks that they (evolutionists) need a new theory because natural selection acting on random mutation or drift is bulls..t! How could a theory that is also a fact be true, if nobody has any idea how evolution works???

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    45. Mechanism of evolution is not the only problem evolutionists seem to have.

      Some experts skeptical about evolution ask:

      "How do you make a cell membrane without DNA and how do you make DNA without a cell membrane?

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    46. Quest,

      I think your biggest problem here is that you have confused speciation with evolution in general. Coyne and Orr say that selection is the main cause of reproductive isolation (though as a byproduct, not directly). And the reason for that is that drift is very slow compared to selection, so it's likely that selection will get there first. This has nothing at all to do with whether drift is a major mechanism of evolution. Again: evolution != speciation. You can't freely substitute one for the other.

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    47. Quest says,

      So, we are back where we have started; Who is behind the modern evolutionary theory? It seems that Larry thinks that he is, but he can't seem to find any acknowledged experts to agree with him. So, why should I read books of so-called evolutionary experts, if none of them can't even agree on what mechanism is driving the evolution?

      Jerry Coyne understands that random genetic drift is an important mechanism of evolution. Here's what he say in Why Evolution Is True.

      Both drift and natural selection produce genetic change that we recognize as evolution. But there's an important difference. Drift is a random process, while selection is the anti-thesis of randomness. Genetic drift can change the frequencies of alleles regardless of how useful they are to their carrier. Selection, on the other hand, always gets part of harmful alleles and raises the frequencies of beneficial ones.

      As a purely random process, genetic drift can't cause the evolution of adaptations. It could never build a wing or an eye. That takes nonrandom natural selection. What drift can do is cause the evolution of features that are neither useful nor harmful to the organism.

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    48. So many errors, assertions, and nonsequiturs, so little time:

      "How could a theory that is also a fact be true, if nobody has any idea how evolution works?"

      1) I have an idea how evolution works, stated previously on this blog. So do Dr.s Dawkins, Coyne, and Moran. Their ideas have a huge intersection in a Venn Diagram sense, and comparatively small areas of disagreements about some details.

      2) Evolution as a fact is demonstrated by Dr. Lenski's famous E. coli experiment, among many other observations.

      3) If all humans managed to destroy themselves leaving chimpanzees as the most intelligent surviving species, the theory of electro-magnetism would still be true even though no chimpanzee understood it. The workings of the universe don't care whether you understand them or not. If this were not the case, I expect when you tried to turn on your computer to disrupt a blog thread, nothing would happen.

      4) The above (implied) principle, if true, would apply much more cogently to the god hypothesis - unless you are claiming there is some human being who understands the mechanisms of your god (e.g., exactly how does it let there be light, and change water into wine?).

      In fact, the above statement fails on so many levels that I conclude that it hopeless to try to reason with you. As my friend Mario says, believe whatever it takes to get you through the night.

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    49. Jim V
      "I have an idea how evolution works,as it has been stated previously on this blog. So did Dr.s Dawkins, Coyne, and Moran. Their ideas have a huge intersection in a Venn Diagram sense, and comparatively small areas of disagreements about some details."

      So, go back to school!

      2) Evolution as a fact is demonstrated by Dr. Lenski's famous E. coli experiment, among many other observations.

      What kind of evolution? Are you an idiot? Do you know what we are talking about? OMG as Larry would say...

      "3) If all humans managed to destroy themselves leaving chimpanzees as the most intelligent surviving species, the theory of electro-magnetism would still be true even though no chimpanzee understood it. The workings of the universe don't care whether you understand them or not. If this were not the case, I expect when you tried to turn on your computer to disrupt a blog thread, nothing would happen."

      So, You are an idiot... or possibly you are snowed..You sound like Beyers sh..t or something...


      "4) The above (implied) principle, if true, would apply much more cogently to the god hypothesis - unless you are claiming there is some human being who understands the mechanisms of your god (e.g., exactly how does it let there be light, and change water into wine?)".

      In fact, the above statement fails on so many levels that I concluded that it is hopeless to try to reason with you.

      You must be snowed or a drank evolutionists....

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    50. Quest,

      You imbecile, I told you already: "reproductive barriers" is not the same as "evolution", speciation is not the same as evolution.

      Jerry did not say that natural selection is The driving force in evolution. Not even The driving force in speciation/reproductive barriers. Can't you read? Nah, of course you can't. In one of those paragraphs you will find these words: "often (not always)" in the other "most." Again, he was talking about speciation and reproductive barriers, not about evolution as a whole.

      You just keep adding evidence that you are an imbecile. I would suggest again that you go back to school, but if you lack the most basic capacity for reading comprehension school would be a waste on you.

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    51. Negative Embicile,

      That is exactly my point can't you see you moron? Read my all comments again! Nobody knows how evolution works; sometimes, most of the times etc. so why should I go to school to learn it, if world's experts can't agree on how evolution works, or what is the main driving force or forces are. Maybe they should go back to school and you too? ;)But who is going to teach the teachers? Maybe Behe or Venter? But Venter has been questioning the very bases of evolution, so Coyne would like it, though Larry agrees with Venter that the last common universal ancestor is bulls..t lol

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    52. You just told Negative Entropy that his point was exactly your point, and then you restate a point that's diametrically opposed to what he said. Can you see the confusion?

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    53. Would you like to see your confusion? I don't think you can. You are a moron like the rest of them....

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    54. Quest,

      You can't pass judgement on whether scientists can agree on which forces do what in whichever scientific endeavour if you mistake such things as reproductive isolation and evolution, if you can't tell the difference between "The" driving force of something and "an important" driving force of something. You can't pass judgement on what scientists can agree on or not if you don't know what they are talking about. You can't pass judgement on anybody's intelligences if yours won't let you realize how much imbecility you display every time you show that you missed each and every point we have made. You have missed our points even when explained at kindergarden level. You are an embarrassingly unaware of your incompetence. No amount of schooling can help you. You're mental ineptitude will always hold you down.

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  5. If evolution was able to "create" those amazing feelings, it would be more than chance.

    The usual pure assertion without any evidence, and argument by incredulity. Typical creationist.

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    1. Jeffrey Shallit wrote,

      "The usual pure assertion without any evidence, and argument by incredulity. Typical creationist."

      Well, all you have to do to prove me wrong is to present evidence, which I'm sure you have, otherwise you wouldn't be making the usual pure assertion that "evolution did it", or they (feelings) had to have evolved.

      While you at it, maybe you can answer this question that NickM and other smart guys like you weren't able:

      "Enzymes are needed to produce ATP. However, energy from ATP is needed to produce enzymes. However, DNA is required to make enzymes, but enzymes are required to make DNA. However, proteins can be made only by a cell, but a cell can be made only with specific proteins.

      So, how is this ALL possible in view of evolutionary prospective?" Evolution did it but how?

      I mean, if evolution did it; "created" all those amazing feelings, and you have evidence of that, I'm sure, evolution had to have overcome the above mentioned issues first, in order to create those feeling, don’t you think Jeffrey?

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    2. So you are the type of thinker to whom any type of chicken-and-egg dilemma is an unfathomable mystery. I'm sorry for your predicament.

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    3. Quest,

      Other than thinking that any lack of knowledge cannot mean but that some imaginary being that you might call "God," or "the intelligent designer," or something else, is real, can you explain what makes you think that if that's the way things work among living forms today that has to have been the way things worked among living things since the very beginning?

      There's explanations for many of these chicken/egg situations that you list, but, besides them requiring you to get an education, I don't think you would care. All you are looking for is questions that have not been answered to insert your gods as if imaginary being were proper explanations for open questions. Sorry Quest, but imaginary beings remain imaginary no matter how much we humanity might know or ignore about the origins of whatever thing you might care to "ask" about.

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  6. As neuroscientists have found, logic and reason can offer choices, but the motivation to select one of those choices comes from emotion. (People with a certain part of their brains damaged by tumors cannot feel emotion and can figure out good chess moves but no longer care whether they win or lose and can't decide what move to make, for example). Therefore, if emotion did not exist, evolution would have had to invent it - which it did.

    As with many other feelings, one can get lost in the question of why emotions feel exactly the way they do. My general answer is that, assuming emotions can exist in this universe (which evidently is true), then they have to feel like something. Therefore the amazing way they feel is just the way emotions of the human sort feel in this universe. Well, it works for me, and much better than "god did it".

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    1. Jim,

      How does this explain how those feelings have evolved? Just because you don't like the alternative and chose to believe that evolution did it? That's not much of an argument by any means.

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    2. I don't think that it is about liking or disliking Quest. It's about whether there's evidence for that "alternative" that you are talking about. Not having a complete, atom-to-atom, instant-to-instant explanation for everything does not mean that your "alternative" exists. It just means that there's no atom-to-atom, instant-to-instant explanation.

      Many things were quite well ignored when I realized that there's no gods. If your position is that ignorance has to be filled with gods, and you find that satisfying, then good for you. Not so good for me. Why not? Well, humanity has made gods out of ignorance for quite a long time. Volcanoes, thunder, rain, the Sun, the list is huge. Since those things turned out to be natural phenomena, I see no reason for ignorance to continue being an inspiration to justify believing that imaginary beings are real.

      Emotions are explained quite well by evolutionary processes. The explanations take a while, but truly, I do not think that it would be worth explaining any of it to you. It's not an atom-to-atom instant-to-instant explanation, and therefore you would take refuge behind a curtain of more specific questions. That's classic creationist MO. So I rather explain to you why gods-of-the-gaps arguments are so ineffective when tried on people like me.

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    3. Re: "How does this explain how those feelings have evolved?"

      My previous answer was addressed to the issue of whether emotions, such as love, were purely supernatural or were biological functions (with a dedicated sub-organ) which serve a useful purpose which would cause them to have evolved. How they evolved is a different issue, to which I can only give a layman's general estimate. The evidence that I as a layman see is this: as mentioned, there is a part of the brain which processes emotion (in fact one of the oldest parts of the brain, which we share with most animals which have brains) - we know this because when that part of the brain is injured, people no longer feel emotion. We can see from paleontology that brains have evolved (comparing brain case sizes -skulls - of older and older human precursors). Therefore it seems plausible to me that the emotion center (amygdala) evolved. I suspect biological researchers have compared the amygdalas of humans, lemurs, etc. and could cite further evidence, but I have not studied this.

      As to the processes by which things (including human designs and human thoughts) evolve, I have discussed this at this site before. I will confine myself this time to one part: random trial and error is a very powerful process - see, for example, the so-called "No Free Lunch Theorem" (no search procedure is more effective than a random search, when results are averaged over all landscapes); the use of pseudo-random numbers in doing massive numerical integrations; and the Monte-Carlo design method.

      I was reflecting this morning on the fact that steam engine boiler explosions were common through most of the 1800's, and it took humans the better part of 100 years to evolve a reliable design; and as we speak, better designs are evolving. (I spent 35 years designing steam engines myself.) A lot of that work, as I know, was pure trial and error. What (some) humans can do in 100 years (actually, thousands of years starting with the wheel) probably takes biological evolution hundreds of millions of years - but it has had the necessary time.

      A modern steam engine (e.g. steam turbine) is an amazing machine, capable of extracting more than 90% of the thermodynamically-available energy of the steam which drives it. Steam engines have served very useful purposes in human society. But there are other ways of harnessing energy - windmills, watermills, internal-combustion engines, jet engines, etc. Humans could have stumbled on some other means and never put the effort into steam engines that they have. Similar, there are probably thousands of other ways that thinking creatures could be motivated besides the specific thing that happened to evolve (the amygdala) - perhaps some of them would be better and would have resulted in fewer wars. I suspect you are assuming only the amygdala would work, which could be a form of the Lottery Fallacy.

      These sort of thoughts, vague as they are due to lack of detailed knowledge on my part, still seem much more concrete to me than "god did it". It seems to me that "god did it" is just an excuse for not having any explorable idea; I call it "the god ate my homework" excuse.

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    4. Jim, I think you over simplify a difficult problem even if you make an effort to go beyond the common "just-so stories" of evolution. Mind cannot be reduced to the brain in the way water can be reduced to H2O. The free will of a conscious being cannot be reduced to materialistic processes. A conscious being can take decisions that go against their gut feelings and even their own sense of logic - how could that have evolved by purely materialistic processes? I don't agree with a lot of what Thomas Nagel writes in his book "mind and cosmos", but he has a good point in that human consciousness is one of the greatest challenges to the purely materialistic neo-Darwinian concept of evolution.

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    5. ilikai,

      Do you truly expect a full blown explanation of a complicated evolutionary path within a blog comment?

      Do you realize that when you say "Mind cannot be reduced to the brain in the way water can be reduced to H2O" you're shielding your mind from further knowledge behind a rhetorical device? Of course the relationship between the mind and the brain is not the same as that between water and H2O. H2O is just the elementary composition of water and thus it cannot be a proper metaphor for what scientists understand the mind to be in physical terms. What you are doing is akin to saying that rivers cannot be reduced to water in the same way that salt can be reduced to NaCl. Of course not! To understand the river you have to understand much more than the naming of the elements involved in its components. We would have to take into account many other phenomena besides naming the components. The sun evaporating the water, condensation, how rain forms, how rain falling high would have to flow down, how crevices offer better ways for water flow, and how softer terrain will be eroded and start forming a river bank. Long et cetera. Well, nobody "reduces" the mind to the elements of the brain. We have to learn much more about what those elements do and how they work together, what role might interactions with the environment play, molecules moving, energy flows, neuronal connections, long etc. Scientists don't pretend to "reduce" things into named elements. Scientists aim at understanding how things work by studying what's going on. Note that I write "reduce" between quotes to highlight that you use that word as another rhetorical device protecting you from further understanding. Exactly the same thing you do when you write "merely materialistic." Your rhetoric pretends to tie us into a little creationist cartoon about how scientists try and understand natural phenomena.

      From what I have studied so far, in general terms that our minds are the result of evolutionary processes, Darwinian and otherwise, is an easily acceptable proposition. I don't think that consciousness pose any challenge to evolution. It's surely a scientific challenge to understand how consciousness works, the roles of all those physical components, their actions and interactions. But that it has evolved is unquestionable. I think you are mistaking the evidence that consciousness has evolved with the lack of a full blown explanation of how precisely the mind works. To understand that it has evolved all we have to do is study lifeforms and witness the many different levels of consciousness around us. From the easily understandable in physical/mechanical terms to the ones adding layers upon layers of complexity until we reach the one we most mystify out of mere ignorance: our own. Sure, how it works will be linkable to how it evolved, but a challenge to evolution? Not likely.

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    6. Re: "Thomas Nagel writes in his book "mind and cosmos", but he has a good point in that human consciousness is one of the greatest challenges to the purely materialistic neo-Darwinian concept of evolution."

      I can only respond from my point of view, which is that I am not a philosopher and have not read Dr. Nagel's book, but I have seen lengthy excerpts from it at various blogs (such as Brad DeLong's blog, where Dr. Delong gave a counter-example to one of Dr. Nagel's assertions), and I have done some computer programming. It seems to me that if Dr. Nagel took some courses on computer programming, he would find out that some of the types of things which he claims minds could not do materialistically, can be and have been programmed on computers. For that matter, computer programs exist that can beat the best human chess players at chess and the best Jeopardy players at Jeopardy. And as we know from Dr. Turing's work, all possible computer program algorithms can be reduced to combinations of simple NAND circuits (although that is not the only way they can be achieved).

      Billions of years of evolutionary processes occurring in trillions of creatures in parallel could, it seems to me, produce some powerful neural algorithms. Why not? For that matter, if you google "genetic algorithms" you will find that some things which human designers find amazing and beyond their reach have been produced by them.

      The reason we can't directly sense such algorithms at work in our brains is of course that there are no nerves which monitor and report brain activity, so thoughts seem to arrive fully formed. However, we know we have about 86 million neurons in our brains, each with several synapses, and that no super-computer yet built has that amount of processing capability.

      I see more evidence of evolutionary processes (both biological and in the development of human designs and thoughts) just about every day, while supernatural things happened long ago and far away, with no cameras recording them, and/or can easily be explained by materialistic means: the laws of probability; illusionist's tricks; tall tales. Convincing evidence of the supernatural would require repeatability (to some degree of statistical significance) under controlled conditions, but the last I knew, Randi's million dollar prize for evidence of any paranormal activity had yet to be claimed. So for me the incredulity occurs strongly on the supernatural side.

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    7. However, we know we have about 86 million neurons in our brains...

      About 86 billion, with nearly a [US] quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) synapses.

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    8. @ Jim, I can recommend you to read the book. I don't agree with everything, but he makes a good argument for his case. As for the computer algorithms you propose as equal to human consciousness - I honestly don't even know how to respond to that.

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    9. Sorry, Mr. Gasiorowski, you are right. I should check my facts rather than depending on my memory. (Sometimes I do, but evidently not enough.) Thanks for the correction. (I might also have better said quadrillions or more creatures evolving in parallel - depending on the moment in history.)

      iliakai (?) the excerpts I have seen from Dr. Nagel's book dealt with human powers of reasoning and logic which he claimed were inexplicable by materialistic means. I am far from the only one to find those arguments ill-conceived and unconvincing (as you will find from many negative reviews), but as I am one, I see no point in reading the book and encountering them again.

      As for the sensation of consciousness, I don't claim to know how to simulate it in a computer. I don't even know if the sensation of consciousness is a necessary component of intelligence. My off-hand thought, however, is that "the problem of consciousness" seems no different in principle to me than the problem of the scent of a rose. That is, a rose has a certain scent to creatures with our evolved organs of smell. I can conceive of a universe in which a rose would have a different scent, say the scent of an orange, and I can't explain why its scent has the exact sensation which it does. But, given this universe including our noses, its scent had to have some sensation and the scent of a rose is the sensation it happened to have. I feel the same way about the sensation of consciousness which my brain gives me. (Which is often confused and far from supernatural, as the above error demonstrates.)

      I find myself taking up too much space here on off-topic matters again and will refrain from further comments for at least a few days.

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  7. "H2O is just the elementary composition of water and thus it cannot be a proper metaphor for what scientists understand the mind to be in physical terms."

    Hell, it cannot even be a proper metaphor for what scientists understand water to be in physical terms. There are whole symposia on trying to understand water's structure and behaviour.

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