Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Discussions on general biology and biological evolution, genetics, zoology, ecology, botany, etc.

Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby charon on December 3rd, 2019, 2:00 pm 

lateralsuz » December 3rd, 2019, 11:50 am wrote:
I don't think the question I posed is unreasonable.


Of course it's not unreasonable but, as a metaphysical question, we could be here for a long time :-)

If you're merely sticking to physical/chemical processes, that's a different matter. As you say, we don't know yet. So we might also be here for a long time!
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby charon on December 3rd, 2019, 2:06 pm 

The trouble with a lot of questions here is that, if we don't know the answer, it's unlikely - not impossible, just unlikely - that we're going to win the Nobel prize by amazingly coming up with the answer.

Of course, if we do know the answer the question becomes redundant.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby davidm on December 4th, 2019, 10:57 am 

To return to the OP:


lateralsuz » November 30th, 2019, 12:18 am wrote:
“Evolution is a process of change, but it isn’t really a process of ‘start’.”


This is right, though idiosyncratically put. Evolutionary biology deals only with how life changes, not how it began.


Finipolscie, (a clear supporter of Evolution theory), therefore links Evolution to reproduction in species...


Evolution is an incremental change in allele frequencies over time. Individuals (members of species) reproduce with variation, but only populations evolve. For example, if two populations of the same species become geographically separated, they will be subject to different selective pressures, while no longer being able to interbreed because they are physically separated. Given enough time, their genotypes may become so different that even if the populations re-unite and try to interbreed, they may fail to produce offspring, or produce sterile offspring only. They are now held to be two different species, whereas before they were one species. This is called allopatric speciation.

At what point do you feel that we can consider something as ‘Evolution’ rather than just chemical reaction?


When allele frequencies in living populations change over time.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby davidm on December 4th, 2019, 12:51 pm 

As to abiogenesis, I quote the biochemist Laurence A. Moran from his Sandwalk blog:

Given what I know about physics, chemistry, and biochemistry, I think that the origin of life on Earth was a highly improbable event. I see it as more like a lucky accident than something that follows inevitably from the laws of physics and chemistry. … if the origin of life were so easy we would probably have a better hypothesis than we do now.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby TheVat on December 4th, 2019, 1:05 pm 

Abiogenesis relates to the weak anthropic principle (often abbrev. as WAP)....i.e. the reason we find ourselves on a planet where an improbable chain of chemical events took place is that only on planets where this rarity happens can a conscious being arise and take notice of its past. For this reason, consciousness tends to behold an immediate environment derived from and characterized by lucky accidents.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby davidm on December 4th, 2019, 2:11 pm 

TheVat » December 4th, 2019, 11:05 am wrote:Abiogenesis relates to the weak anthropic principle (often abbrev. as WAP)....i.e. the reason we find ourselves on a planet where an improbable chain of chemical events took place is that only on planets where this rarity happens can a conscious being arise and take notice of its past. For this reason, consciousness tends to behold an immediate environment derived from and characterized by lucky accidents.


In addition, there is no guarantee that even if life arises elsewhere, it will evolve to complexity, much less intelligence. Certainly the history of earth gives us no reason to believe this, though admittedly one data point is not reliable.

The distance from Los Angeles to New York City is 2,450 miles. In this ingenious video, that distance is reimagined as the history of the earth. The 2,450-mile distance becomes 4.5 billion years. Earth begins in Los Angeles. New York is the present day. Note that:

Multicellular organisms did not evolve until the time line reaches Pennsylvania, 324 miles from New York City.

The age of the dinosaurs begins 130 miles from New York City.

Hominins diverge from chimps 3 miles (!) from New York City.

Modern humans first appear 570 feet from the center of Manhattan!

Recorded human history begins 15.7 feet from the center of Manhattan.

World War II occurred 2.6 inches ago!

And so on.

If facts like these don’t give pause to ID advocates and SETI enthusiasts alike, I don’t know what will.

Again, though, when it comes to life, earth is the only data point we have. That should also give pause to life/intelligence pessimists like Moran (and me). It could be that as an abode for life, the earth is atypical. We can’t assume our experience is the norm. For all we know, if life exists on other worlds, those worlds could be more hospitable to life than ours, not less, and original life, complex life, and even intelligence, would evolve on such worlds much more quickly there, than they did here. We just don’t know. The universe is shockingly diverse, as evidenced just by the nature of all the extra-solar planets that we have discovered. Who knew that there was a ringed extra-solar planet with a ring system thousands of times larger than that of Saturn, which rings would be easily seen by the naked eye from earth, if that planet replaced Saturn in our system? Yet, there is just such a world. And many other weird worlds besides, totally outside our experience.

I suspect an infinite universe holds secrets far beyond our fathoming, including life forms based on chemistry totally different from ours, and perhaps life forms that cannot be described in Darwinian terms — perhaps they are Lamarckian, or evolve in other ways we have not yet dreamed of.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby charon on December 5th, 2019, 10:15 am 

davidm » December 4th, 2019, 3:57 pm wrote:To return to the OP:


Actually, I was referring to the OP :-)
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby davidm on December 5th, 2019, 11:16 am 

In was referring to myself. Perhaps I should have said to "turn" to the OP.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby charon on December 5th, 2019, 11:49 am 

I liked your video. I was waiting for them to say 'Trump becomes President' but it didn't :-)

It certainly puts the our own existence into perspective, although you might get to LA and find it wasn't worth it. But I jest. Maybe.

I think, and sorry to keep repeating the same old shtick, what might literally change our perception of time forever is the fact that there may not have been a beginning at all - in which case time isn't linear any more.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby lateralsuz on December 5th, 2019, 9:28 pm 

davidm


If you do not think that your use of 'BS' is foul language then you are very wrong.

You are the one who likes to throw accusations of creationism around purely on the assumption that a phrase dares to say something that you don't like, even though it is actually reasonably accurate in the context that it has been used. If you were to stop hurling abuse and actually read the words, not get blinded your paranoia, you would find whole sections of book 2 which dismantle the creationist arguments step by step.

I do understand what the author actually says, rather than what you layer on top (eg. the words 'intent to walk'). Perhaps it would help if you actually read the book rather than impose your own prejudices on it without having done so.

The Wikipedia link which you provided says exactly the same as the author has stated. In its first sections the Wikipedia article even states that myosin pulls the muscle fibres to make them contract.

Other than trying to deliberately ruin the purpose of this debate I don't know what your blatant distortions are trying to achieve.

The author refers to observed and proven effects that seem to make choices, but if you read the book he does look at chemical ways to explain things. Yet, as with the latest text books, there is no answer to the most impressive mechanisms within a cell. That is a fact, even if you don't like it.

I am aware that there are very simple chemical mechanisms which seem to reproduce themselves, but as I understand it, these are limited because they cannot extend to the chemicals required for the production of life, and only seem to operate on short polymer lengths.

Please stop trying to ruin my thread with your diversions and stick to the topic.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby TheVat on December 5th, 2019, 11:11 pm 

You wrote the OP, posed a question as to where evolution really starts. After that original post, this website allows members to challenge your sources, the way your framing the question may be problematic or not, offer their own perspectives and sources, and even reject the terms you use. This isn't ruination, it's healthy scientific discourse. It sharpens thinking all round.

While I'm not overly concerned about labels (surely you can let some flack wash over you and get on with advancing your own interpretation and conjecture?), and it may not be Creationism, you do seem to hint strongly at the possibility of conscious molecules which is, to most readers, rather similar to a "god of the gaps" argument. You've seen those, right? They often take the form:

Here is a step in a physical process we can't yet explain (a missing link in a causal chain, perhaps).

Gee, maybe it's some metaphysical thingy for which there is no evidence or logical basis or any sort of plausible method to test for! Maybe chemicals just want stuff!

So I think crosswinds are inevitable here, and your best course is to set out clearly what you think the mechanisms are, how probable they are, and why scientific realism is not adequate.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby davidm on December 6th, 2019, 10:56 am 

“BS” is standard idiomatic English, used all the time, including by public speakers. In fact, the storied philosopher Harry Frankfurt, famed for his “Frankfurt cases” in free-will studies, wrote a book called “On Bullshit” — yes, he spelled it out! If “BS” gives you the vapors, you must be a delicate snowflake indeed.

You keep circling back to my early posts in this thread, such as my good-humored depiction of hydrogen and oxygen in a pickup bar, while ignoring my most recent posts, in which I answered your questions. Why is that? Is it that you just don’t like the answers?

I pointed out the fact that you misconstrued Dawkins — positive selection is Darwinian selection, only elucidated in terms of genotypes, since Darwin only had access to phenotypes. Your response? Crickets.

I explained to you exactly what evolution is — change in allele frequencies over time — and how that is different from mere chemical change. This is what you wanted to know. Your response? Crickets.

I gave you a long list of abiogenesis hypotheses, discussed at a linked wiki page. Your response? Crickets.

I pointed out to you that it is illegitimate to hold that the complexity of the cell is some kind of mystery for evolution, because complex cells did not simply pop into existence. The first replicators sensitive to selection pressures were simple. I mentioned creationism only in the context that the complexity of the cell is a frequent trope of creationists who allege that this complexity is somehow a defeater for evolution. I did not say that you, or your author, is a creationist. I don’t know that. (I speculated that your author might, instead, be a panpsychist.) Your response? Crickets.

However, I also quoted the biochemist Larry Moran, whose expertise leads him to believe that abiogenesis was indeed an astonishing fluke accident, unlikely to be repeated anywhere else. And I posted an intriguing video demonstrating how astonishingly long it took for multicellular organisms, the basis of all complex life, including us, to evolve. This hints that abiogenesis and multicellular evolution may indeed be one-offs. That’s perfectly possible, and wholly non-mysterious if true. Your response to all this hard work I did on your behalf? Crickets, crickets, crickets!

I linked, twice, a blog post from your author, in which he clearly links, if only by implication, the behavior of motor proteins to intent. And I asked, if he did not wish to make such an implication, then why did he invoke motor proteins in the first place? The wiki link I gave you shows the clear chemical pathways of such proteins, obviating any mystery about them and clearly removing any need to impute purpose or intent to them. Your response? You guessed it — crickets!

I have not “blatantly distorted” anything. I clearly and specifically answered the questions that you posed. You have ignored my responses, which indicates that you have zero interest in a good-faith discussion — only in whining, and pretending to be offended by the common idiom “BS” as a diversion to your lack of knowledge, and your lack of interest in being educated. In sum, the only person ruining this thread is you.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby lateralsuz on January 13th, 2020, 2:41 pm 

TheVat » December 6th, 2019, 4:11 am wrote:
While I'm not overly concerned about labels (surely you can let some flack wash over you and get on with advancing your own interpretation and conjecture?), and it may not be Creationism, you do seem to hint strongly at the possibility of conscious molecules which is, to most readers, rather similar to a "god of the gaps" argument. You've seen those, right? They often take the form:

Here is a step in a physical process we can't yet explain (a missing link in a causal chain, perhaps).

Gee, maybe it's some metaphysical thingy for which there is no evidence or logical basis or any sort of plausible method to test for! Maybe chemicals just want stuff!


While you might not be concerned by labels - I believe they are being used here to discredit the discussion and therefore dissuade people from joining the debate - for fear of being falsely labelled too.

While possibly unintended, your phrase (above) "Hinting at conscious molecules" appears to encourage this behaviour and I would ask you to take a neutral stance in your comments. I have not hinted about consciousness in molecules - that is your suggestion.

The point is not about a 'God of the gaps' – but about control – which is a subject that have written about on other posts. I do not plug God - but control is a real factor that has to be explained.


The OP asked where people saw the boundaries of Evolution as opposed to chemical change, and in the context of the quoted phrase, whether this might point us towards the transition point from chemistry to life.

In this context we have seen other contributors suggest that reproduction and even self-replication might be one factor that marks a boundary between evolution and chemical change. Control might be another - and I was hoping to canvas many other ideas from people.

This is not for metaphysical reasons, but as a matter of seeking definitions and furthering analysis.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby lateralsuz on January 13th, 2020, 3:46 pm 

davidm

Sorry for my delayed response – I have been ill.
I do not know what crickets means – but I assume it is yet another derogatory term.


davidm » December 6th, 2019, 3:56 pm wrote:“BS” is standard idiomatic English, used all the time, including by public speakers. In fact, the storied philosopher Harry Frankfurt, famed for his “Frankfurt cases” in free-will studies, wrote a book called “On Bullshit” — yes, he spelled it out! If “BS” gives you the vapors, you must be a delicate snowflake indeed.


The fact that foul language is often used in the wider world does not stop it from being foul language.

I pointed out the fact that you misconstrued Dawkins — positive selection is Darwinian selection, only elucidated in terms of genotypes, since Darwin only had access to phenotypes. Your response? Crickets.

I explained to you exactly what evolution is — change in allele frequencies over time — and how that is different from mere chemical change. This is what you wanted to know. Your response? Crickets.

I gave you a long list of abiogenesis hypotheses, discussed at a linked wiki page. Your response? Crickets.

I pointed out to you that it is illegitimate to hold that the complexity of the cell is some kind of mystery for evolution, because complex cells did not simply pop into existence. The first replicators sensitive to selection pressures were simple. I mentioned creationism only in the context that the complexity of the cell is a frequent trope of creationists who allege that this complexity is somehow a defeater for evolution. I did not say that you, or your author, is a creationist. I don’t know that. (I speculated that your author might, instead, be a panpsychist.) Your response? Crickets.


Yes – you have undertaken many lengthy diatribes which challenge a point that was not being made.

For example - it is irrelevant whether Darwin anticipated Dawkins’ comments on ‘positive selection’. The point being made (to somebody else) was that Dawkins clearly states in books (like the Blind Watchmaker), that the processes behind evolution which not only accelerate its progress but also give it a perceived direction by displaying a trend of improvement, was through creatures consciously selecting mates for the desirability of their attributes. You did not address this point in any way.

The academic distinction of when something is categorised as evolution in species does little to address the OP. How frequently a gene appears in a population does nothing to say how the change in the original gene was different to mere chemical change.

You have spent many other paragraphs claiming that false comments have been made by various people and then directing us to Wikipedia articles that actually say the opposite of what you suggest.

As mentioned previously, the Wikipedia article on motor proteins actually confirms pretty well all of the the author’s statement and also uses the term ‘walk’. The article on Abiogenesis also confirms the point that I was making - it even begins by saying that it is an evolutionary process linked to molecular self-replication. I said that Abiogenesis processes had to find mechanisms of reproduction and didn't make it a requirement to be 'self-replication' - the Wikipedia article goes further than me but makes the same point. Even if the extent of your seemingly petty argument was to challenge my use of the word reproduction because it is somehow completely different to ‘molecular self-replication’ I would point out that the two are not dissociated as they have to come together at some point.

As far as I can see I have not mentioned "...that the complexity of the cell is some kind of mystery for evolution" Once again you are introducing your own comments and seemingly trying to foist them onto me... presumably as a further way of discrediting me and deterring debate. Collectively I feel that your many comments amount to trolling.

I am sure you could contribute a lot to the debate if you chose to present you viewpoint in a manner of constructive challenge rather than perpetual mud-slinging based on comments that have not been made. When you do that, it is blatant distortion.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby Serpent on January 13th, 2020, 5:14 pm 

lateralsuz » December 2nd, 2019, 5:30 am wrote:When people choose to attack the author rather than the issues, it tends to suggest that the attacker is fearful of the debate and has lost the argument.

Indeed!! Look in the mirror.
GIGO doesn't refer to an author, but to the material. A competent, conscientious programmer may upload incorrect information quite innocently, yet the answer returned is just as wrong. To call to his attention that his code doesn't match the application is not an attack on his person. However, when that programmer chooses garbage over wholesome matter to input, he is entirely at fault and should be called on it.
Similarly, BS refers not to the author but to the content. If the author unknowingly uses bogus information, he needs this brought to his attention. If he uses it deliberately, he should be blamed for it.
Both responses are to the 'issue' and not "foul language" by any normal standards. Even tiny tots could use either expression and not need their mouthwash.

If you are able to defend the "issue" - or even define it clearly and logically - why waste time complaining about attacks that have not taken place? (Incidentally impugning the character of a fellow poster; i.e. committing the very act of which you accuse him?)

As for the issue as presented in in the OP:

I have long been intrigued by the phrase:
“Evolution is a process of change, but it isn’t really a process of ‘start’.”

That's not a phrase; it's a sentence, a statement, a claim. It's also a bit silly - How could there be a process of start, when a start is a single, unique event?

This quote from the book ‘Our Existence Part 2 : The Nature and Origin of Life, Mind, and Soul’

This is a title I would mistrust the second I clapped eyes on it. Nature, Origin, Life, Mind and Soul all crammed in under "our existence" raise five distinct red flags -- or white ones, depending on how much each subject is being abused in the service of that "our".

my basic question to you is whether you agree with it, and to what degree?

This sounds as if you are expecting posters to read the book, rather than asking a particular question.

At one level it is perhaps traditional to argue that chemicals will always react and change into compounds etc. However we do not normally consider chemical reactions as Evolution.

At what level? There is no 'level' at which arguments about chemistry take place: chemical processes are observed; laws are extrapolated; prediction made; experiments performed. Yes, the same chemicals react the same way in the same conditions - whether that's forming or dissolving compounds, it's always the same compounds in the same proportions; this doesn't change over time.
No evolution involved, until some stable biological entity has been formed. Whether any biological entity proceeds to evolve is an open question: evolution can only be observed backwards.

Finipolscie, (a clear supporter of Evolution theory), therefore links Evolution to reproduction in species, and so identifies the living cell as the only known mechanism that we have for Evolution in the Universe.

He didn't need to. That link's been in effect for a long time, and he doesn't appear - from what you say here - to have a clear idea how it works.

At what point do you feel that we can consider something as ‘Evolution’ rather than just chemical reaction?

At last, a straightforward question.
My personal opinion: When it swims upstream, does something the hard way, resists entropy, proceeds from lesser to greater complexity.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby davidm on January 13th, 2020, 5:34 pm 

lateralsulz,

I have not read your latest response to me, and I am undecided whether I will, because I am increasingly tired of this typical sort of tedious message-board twaddle. For now, I will respond to your reply to Vat. You write:

While you might not be concerned by labels - I believe they are being used here to discredit the discussion and therefore dissuade people from joining the debate - for fear of being falsely labelled [sic] too.


Of course, this is directed toward me. And there is not a molecule — nay, not a quark — of truth in this charge. I answered the questions that you asked — and you did not respond to the answers! You merely whined, as you are doing here again.

I have not hinted about consciousness in molecules …


Of course, that is EXACTLY what you did. It was YOU who linked to an author who writes as follows:

Did you know that the power in your muscles comes from a myriad of tiny chemicals which have legs that actually walk? …
There are many aspects of Life which seem to break the core principles of science
- by it seeming to be an assembling influence/force;
requiring sterile chemicals to make choices and perhaps even to have a crude degree of awareness.


Hey, YOU linked the guy! Are you now disavowing the above?

In this context we have seen other contributors suggest that reproduction and even self-replication might be one factor that marks a boundary between evolution and chemical change. Control might be another - and I was hoping to canvas many other ideas from people.

Oh, control? What control? Why don’t you be specific, about what you mean? There is no control in evolution or abiogenesis — just stochastic natural processes, partly mediated by natural selection (also natural). If you have evidence suggesting otherwise, please present it, and stop whining about your reception here, and making baseless charges against your interlocutors. Make your case!

Thanks!
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby hyksos on January 14th, 2020, 12:37 am 

lateralsuz » December 6th, 2019, 5:28 am wrote: Yet, as with the latest text books, there is no answer to the most impressive mechanisms within a cell. That is a fact, even if you don't like it.

Yes. In fact biology has a discovered a whole selective ion channel in the membranes of amoebas. We have no idea what its function is.

All eukaryotic cells engage in an intricate process called Alternative Splicing, which is used to process messenger RNA before it leaves the nucleus. We have many educated guesses as the function of alternative splicing, but nobody knows for sure. It could be a mechanism to fight cancer, to fight off viral infection, or even to fight off viruses that cause cancer. The tweed jackets at genetics symposiums have varying opinions on the matter.

I have noticed that you and Finipolscie find kinesin proteins walking with legs to be most "impressive". Well that's nothing. Wait until you hear about what bacteria do. Try nosing around about 1.) bacterial conjugation and 2.) bacterial transduction. These processes will blow your mind six days from Wednesday. You will likely also be wondering why no teacher throughout your education ever told you that these things go on in nature.

But just to be clear so there is no misunderstanding . . . Is your positive assertion in this thread that these cellular mechanisms did not evolve through natural selection?
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby lateralsuz on January 15th, 2020, 7:29 am 

Hi Hyksos

Thanks for this. It's nice to have some constructive observations.

To be honest, I didn't pursue my early studies in biology/biochemistry, (babies and life took me away from a career), so the reason why I draw from the author is because he brings a lot of interesting factors to the fore... (and it was reassuring for me to find that they were backed-up with sources to prove they were true).
In other words, I use his examples because I don't have better ones, but I really welcome your additional suggestions.

I think that once the first cell got going, Evolution as we understand it became a reality. The 2 questions that stick in my mind are therefore
- what brought about structured change before the first cell, if that is our only known source of real-world evolution?
- what provided a 'sense of direction' in this previous form of evolution, to develop even the most rudimentary cell.

Life as we know it did not exist at that point - so what improvement to a bunch of chemicals would drive the generation of dna, rna, ribosomes, or any other components? Before life, survival is not an issue to a bunch of chemicals - yet even if they did just last longer from basic changes, how does that explain the coming together of even the basic chain of interactions in DNA reproduction etc.?

I am therefore intrigued by the unexplained control which operates in mechanisms today. If we can understand control, we may be able to start answering the points above.

As evidence of control, I am intrigued to consider how unthinking chemical cell processes such as Homologous Recombination (another DNA Repair example from Finipolscie I'm afraid), which are obviously complex sequences of interacting mechanisms, could not only evolve, but somehow string themselves into a cohesive process to achieve a seemingly conceptual purpose - the accurate repair of DNA.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby davidm on January 15th, 2020, 11:30 am 

- what brought about structured change before the first cell, if that is our only known source of real-world evolution?


If by “first cell,” you mean the first complex cell, as we have today, then that was not the first cell. Proto-cells were rudimentary, but subject to selection pressures.

- what provided a 'sense of direction' in this previous form of evolution, to develop even the most rudimentary cell.


Evolution does not have a “sense of direction.” There is no telos in evolution at all, only stochastic processes party mediated by natural selection.

I am therefore intrigued by the unexplained control which operates in mechanisms today.


What “control”? Please define what you mean by “control.”

If we can understand control, we may be able to start answering the points above.


This is classic question-begging — inserting some mysterious, undefined “control” into the premise of an argument, whereas in fact it must be derived from the conclusion of an argument. So show evidence for “control” — indeed, please define what you mean by “control.” Natural selection, genetic drift, neutral evolution, sexual selection, etc., all of which we observe to exist, are the exact opposite of “control.” They are bottom-up, not top-down. Per Dennett, they are cranes, not skyhooks. Your “control” is an alleged skyhook. Please provide evidence for it. (The complexity of cells, or “walking” molecules, etc., are not evidence.)
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby Serpent on January 15th, 2020, 12:38 pm 

I think what leads to this kind of misunderstanding is a combination of wishful thinking skewed perspective.

Humans want to be the pinnacle of creation; the very aim and purpose and raison d'etre of evolution. This quite natural desire for importance is supported by a huge psycho-sociological infrastructure; the notion infuses our belief systems, our language, our culture.
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals.
*
It takes a serious effort to stop assuming that one is the center of the universe through membership in the human race.
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

Aye, there's a conceptual thud!

And evolution can only be tracked - indeed, can only be perceived - in looking backward, from what exists in the present to the path by which it arrived at the present. From this perspective, it does appear as a chain of necessary events leading from a little smut of primordial nothing to Wond'rous Me. It's hard to see the branches, blind alleys and sudden cutoffs; even harder to notice the much straighter lines of species that were more successful, much earlier and have therefore remained unchanged, and will probably continue on relatively unchanged after this short, unstable innovation self-terminates.

* Shakespeare, of course; Hamlet A II S 2
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby TheVat on January 15th, 2020, 1:45 pm 

Lateral, whatever comments from David have rubbed you the wrong way, I will point out that our rules for discourse in the science forum require you to answer valid critique and requests for evidence. David's remarks here...


This is classic question-begging — inserting some mysterious, undefined “control” into the premise of an argument, whereas in fact it must be derived from the conclusion of an argument. So show evidence for “control” — indeed, please define what you mean by “control.” Natural selection, genetic drift, neutral evolution, sexual selection, etc., all of which we observe to exist, are the exact opposite of “control.” They are bottom-up, not top-down. Per Dennett, they are cranes, not skyhooks. Your “control” is an alleged skyhook. Please provide evidence for it. (The complexity of cells, or “walking” molecules, etc., are not evidence.)


...need to answered, if this thread is to meet our basic standards. Please do so, or I will have to lock the topic.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby hyksos on January 20th, 2020, 2:22 pm 

- what brought about structured change before the first cell, if that is our only known source of real-world evolution?

We don't know because abiogenesis has not been observed. The educated guesses fill bookshelves.

(edit: abiogenesis has not even been observed in a lab. some have tried. {?expand})

- what provided a 'sense of direction' in this previous form of evolution, to develop even the most rudimentary cell.

To answer this question we have to do what Freeman Dyson did (/attempted to do) in his book. This question turns out to be equivalent to a seemingly different question. What does it mean for a collection of molecules to be "alive"? What does it mean for it to be "dead"? As you pointed out, survival is not an issue to a bunch of molecules.

At first those questions lead into issues about thermodynamics. However once it appears that answers are forthcoming, you find out that when applying the definitions, tornadoes are alive. THen things like fire is alive.

We didn't make any mistakes in our reasoning, but we are not getting the answers we want. Tornadoes and fire are "living"? Instead this might have something to do with a code. Tornadoes don't replicate genes. So the question of direction might have a better answer there.




unthinking chemical cell processes such as Homologous Recombination (another DNA Repair example from Finipolscie I'm afraid), which are obviously complex sequences of interacting mechanisms, could not only evolve, but somehow string themselves into a cohesive process to achieve a seemingly conceptual purpose - the accurate repair of DNA.

. . . unthinking processes -- achieve a seemingly conceptual purpose. . .

Alright. Presumably you have not attempted to look up bacterial transduction, so I'm tableing the topic.

Bacteria in the oceans will bring in an invading virus, and pull aparts its DNA. They will snip the DNA ring at a particular location and then insert or remove portions of it, then stitch it back together. They then produce this new, modified virus, then send it back out into the water.

{awkward pause while that sinks in}

There are 100 various plausible reasons why bacteria do this. One educated hypothesis is that they are engaging in a form of self-vaccination. When their brethren bacteria get infected by the modified virus, it has already been made benign and won't kill them. But they will gain an immunity to it. When the genuine deadly form shows up later, they have an immunity to it already.

Another hypothesis is that this is a vector for the trading off of DNA between bacteria. (cr. horizontal gene transfer)

Bacteria do other crazy things which I will not mention at this time. Transduction is definitely in the top 5 list of "crazy stuff they didn't tell you in school".

Per your point, bacteria do not have a brain. As you put it, these are "unthinking chemical cell processes". Nevertheless they can do things like modify DNA in realtime, and do so in effective and purposeful ways.

Long story short, bacteria are "reading" DNA. They don't have a mind, and they don't even have eyes. One might assert that science doesn't know how bacteria do this. One would be wrong. We know exactly how they do it. Not only does science understand how they do it, modern medicine has already hijacked the method. ( they are called restriction endonucleases. Those enzymes were used to uncover the genetic basis of Huntington's disease in human beings. )

One might assert that these processes did not evolve. One would be wrong. They certainly did evolve for pedestrian reasons. The justification is detailed, and you have to know how bacteria live and specific details about their genes and their DNA that only biology geeks would know. Anyways, a good place to start would be prokaryotes.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby lateralsuz on February 1st, 2020, 10:07 am 

davidm/TheVat

It is hard to tell the difference between you.

If by “first cell,” you mean the first complex cell, as we have today, then that was not the first cell. Proto-cells were rudimentary, but subject to selection pressures.


Once again, you make huge presumptions and try to put words in other peoples' mouths, and again, this it is not what I was saying. I refer to the first viable cell that can reproduce and metabolise. Viruses cannot do this. They rely on other cells to provide reproduction and some metabolism. As stated before, part of this debate is try to discuss the points which distinguish something living from something that is not.

The nature of life is a valid consideration and one that has been treated seriously by science, but without an accepted definition emerging. Surely that is a reason to debate it rather than running away from the issue. It may not be something you want to debate but that doesn't invalidate it for others.

Evolution does not have a “sense of direction.” There is no telos in evolution at all, only stochastic processes party mediated by natural selection.


I totally agree that chemical change doesn't have a sense of direction, but people like Dawkins in their books such as the Blind Watchmaker, and the God Delusion absolutely talk about a sense of direction achieved through better survival and the desirability of attributes when selecting a mate etc. So the question is again valid - what led to the emergence of a living cell when it is not a survival factor in a pre-evolution, pre-replication age? It certainly doesn't have to be God - but I am intrigued to think what factor it might have been.

What “control”? Please define what you mean by “control.”


As I have said before, control is not a matter of following a fixed code, (such as DNA), even if that code describes a complex set of steps. It is a matter of responding to circumstances that cannot be defined in advance, in order to achieve something.

I have given you the example of Homologous Recombination but you ignore it. Why?

This is classic question-begging.


So you're now saying that it is unreasonable to ask questions when proven circumstances clearly pose a question. How is science to proceed if we are not allowed to question? Or is it just that you have a sensitivity to certain types of question because you presume that it could raise some sort of religious bogey-man?

This is absurd.

Let's just consider decent answers to valid questions and you may well find that you can defend your position even better.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby lateralsuz on February 1st, 2020, 10:44 am 

Hyksos

You seem to have been annoyed when I made the comment that there were 'seemingly conceptual processes' at work - but you then spent a lot of time diverting onto matters of pure speculation regarding bacterial and viral change, when the example given was Homologous Recombination. I feel that this process is a good example of where we see a seemingly conceptual activity - so please talk about this example.

Homologous Recombination, (if you don't know), is where DNA has been damaged to such an extent that both strands of the double helix are broken in the same locality, and therefore the DNA code cannot be automatically re-built using the template of an existing half strand - as normal. It is also very important, as we all know, to preserve the exact sequence of the original code and not introduce even a single error.

The breaks also tend not to be clean, as referred-to in the text books, (such as the 'Molecular Biology of the Cell' by Alberts et al, the text book quoted by the author as the valid source of information, and which I have therefore read in order to be sure). Have you?

The breaks in the DNA strand can involve entire sections of missing code of varying length on different sides of the DNA 'ladder' and in places that are not opposite each other - so people have struggled and failed to conceive of pre-coded instructions that could advise an enzyme to investigate the size of a break itself, because it is not a fixed issue.

We can observe what is happening and rationalise it quite simply by describing it in the following way:

1 - identify how big the break is, and the size of any gap where there is no remaining code at all.

2 - if the cell was in the process of replicating another whole strand of DNA at the time, then refer to that copy as a template, but if not - try to find another potentially suitable strand of DNA instead.

3 - identify missing sections of DNA and the amount of code to be rebuilt, by first analysing the code which does remain and then finding similar sections in the chosen template.

4 - align and then rebuild the code.

Now while this is our rationalisation of the process, scientists do observe these steps happening, but they cannot envisage how the steps could be coded in DNA or even the chemistry of the enzymes involved. It is a valid issue, and it does seem to demonstrate control in a situation which does not have a clean start point like the replication of a cell.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby davidm on February 1st, 2020, 11:58 am 

Once again, you make huge presumptions and try to put words in other peoples' mouths …


I have done no such thing. You invoked an author. I quoted his own words, and yours, in responding. You have pretty much ignored my responses, preferring to complain instead — as you are doing again in this post.


. I refer to the first viable cell that can reproduce and metabolise.


What about it? It evolved!

As stated before, part of this debate is try to discuss the points which distinguish something living from something that is not.


I already answered this question. Something living reproduces with variation, and is thus subject to natural selection. Nonliving things do not do this. That was my response. You never responded to it.

The nature of life is a valid consideration and one that has been treated seriously by science, but without an accepted definition emerging.


There is some fuzziness between life and non-life, but so what? What is the big deal? This is to be expected, because, as the biologist P.Z. Myers memorably said, life — biology — is just baroque chemistry. Is fire alive? It reproduces, but not with selectable variation. Is the wind alive? It moves, it changes, it can grow or diminish, like living things, but without reproduction. And so on.

Surely that is a reason to debate it rather than running away from the issue.


I have run away from nothing. I have answered all your questions, and you have yet to address any of my responses, including in this latest post of yours that I am quoting.

It may not be something you want to debate but that doesn't invalidate it for others.


I have engaged in the debate, and answered your questions, and you have ignored the answers. Also, I never claimed that I was the arbiter of what is valid or invalid to discuss. Where did you get that idea?

I totally agree that chemical change doesn't have a sense of direction, but people like Dawkins in their books such as the Blind Watchmaker, and the God Delusion absolutely talk about a sense of direction achieved through better survival and the desirability of attributes when selecting a mate etc.


You misinterpret Dawkins — as I believe I have explained to you. Did you notice the word “blind” in Blind Watchmaker? It is a metaphor by Dawkins. It means evolution is blind — no foresight, no planning, goal or direction, and certainly no control. You mention the desirability of attributes when selecting a mate. This is called sexual selection, and is certainly a driver of evolution. You do realize, I hope, (or not?) that peacocks, for example, do not choose to grow bigger, brighter plumage to attract a mate. It’s just that bigger, brighter plumage, which they get by happenstance alone, may prove more attractive to potential mates. Also, much of evolution does not involve selection at all, but drift — pure accident. I have explained this, too. You have ignored my explanations, while claiming to want a debate.

So the question is again valid - what led to the emergence of a living cell when it is not a survival factor in a pre-evolution, pre-replication age?


As has been explained to you repeatedly, living cells evolved from simple replicators, which at some point became subject to selection pressures.There is no mystery here. Populations, on which evolution operates, do not AIM to survive: there is no “survival factor.” Only individuals aim to survive. But evolution does not operate on individuals! See more about this below.

As I have said before, control is not a matter of following a fixed code, (such as DNA), even if that code describes a complex set of steps. It is a matter of responding to circumstances that cannot be defined in advance, in order to achieve something.


No, it is NOT. This is the exact opposite of evolution. Individual organisms do indeed respond to circumstances that cannot be defined in advance. Humans and most other animals do this all the time. But, as I have also explained, evolution operates at the level of populations, and not individuals. Populations respond to nothing in advance, and are trying to achieve nothing — only individuals WITHIN a population do this. Populations are driven to change by random mutation, natural selection and drift — no control at all.

… Homologous Recombination …


What about it? I’ve responded to almost all your questions, and you have ignored all my answers. If I missed responding to this one, who cares? You don’t respond to my responses, anyway. There is nothing about HR that means blind evolution needs rethinking, so who cares?

So you're now saying that it is unreasonable to ask questions when proven circumstances clearly pose a question.


You don’t know what question-begging is, do you?

As to “proven circumstances,” they all validate blind evolution, and disconfirm goal, direction, telos or control of any kind.

Or is it just that you have a sensitivity to certain types of question because you presume that it could raise some sort of religious bogey-man?


Not at all. I have even defended religious belief. But this is sort of like arguing with another poster here, who denied being an advocate of ID, while at the same time employing (bogus) word-for-word ID talking points in an effort to discredit evolution. I asked him, what, then, are you arguing for, if you oppose both evolution and ID (i.e., creationism)? He did not tell me. Instead, he threw a tantrum and personally attacked me, just as you are doing.
So tell us, what is your point? What are you actually arguing for, and what evidence do you have to support your argument? Please make a non-question-begging argument!

This is absurd.


I agree, your posts here have been absurd.

Let's just consider decent answers to valid questions and you may well find that you can defend your position even better.


LOL, this is rich. Again, I’ve already done this, and you’ve ignored my answers! And I predict you will do so again.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby hyksos on February 1st, 2020, 1:15 pm 

You seem to have been annoyed when I made the comment that there were 'seemingly conceptual processes' at work -

I am not annoyed in the slightest. I love this topic and always take advantage of any opportunity to talk about it with others.


but you then spent a lot of time diverting onto matters of pure speculation regarding bacterial and viral change, when the example given was Homologous Recombination.

Neither topic is was a "diverting onto". Bacterial transduction and conjugation are not speculative. They are both observed. In the case of conjugation, the bacterium will grow a little needle and poke a nearby bacterium. The "needle" is then used as a conduit to transport DNA material between them.


the example given was Homologous Recombination. I feel that this process is a good example of where we see a seemingly conceptual activity - so please talk about this example.

My examples were more relevant than Homologous Recombination. Your central dogma in this thread is that unthinking chemical processes could never give rise to conceptual purposes.

But bacteria read DNA. They do so effectively and correctly. I have personally worked with restriction endonucleases under lab conditions. I can report to you that they identify a particular sequence of base pairs and bind to it having found it. It is not a matter of near-misses. Rendos identify a subsequence with the precision that I can only describe as the precision of a laser. It's like watching a computer text-search a single word appearing in a large novel and finding it, every time.

But wait ... bacteria have no mind. They have no eyes. But they are engaging in the reading and modification of DNA information. That's a conceptual purpose! From whence these "concepts"?


I feel that this process is a good example of where we see a seemingly conceptual activity - so please talk about this example.

"so please talk about this example."

I am not a 19 year old with an internet connection. I have been on the internet for a long time. Your attempt to redirect will fail.

Luckily, you can still recover from this faux pas. You can give some indication to me (and to us) that you have read what I wrote to you by intelligably responding to its contents. I'm not asking for you to agree with me, only indicate that you have read me. If you show an honest attempt to do that, I would be more than happy to talk about homologous recombination.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby Forest_Dump on February 1st, 2020, 2:03 pm 

These days I tend to avoid these arguments because they seem to immediately become personal attacks and affronts needlessly and because it seems to me that they also immediately become convoluted. And I suspect that many don't really want the simpler answers for reasons that escape me. Nonetheless I will address the question of why complexity seems to have direction when it really doesn't.

Suppose we create a simple scale of complexity however you wish to use it. In our hypothetical evolving world, life would start at "1". As "1" organisms multiply and generate variety through copying errors, there would be more diversity and, of course, ultimately selection as some became better than others. Eventually some mutation would create some that we could classify as a "2". These too would increase in number and diversity although, of course, many might die in the transition and competition would increase through time. However, eventually, some could revert to "1"s and some "3"s could appear again simply by chance. Those that reverted to "1"s might do okay but the chances are that they would not because the world of "1"s was already intensely competitive and probably near capacity. The "3"s, however, are in a new world so may do well and then increase.

All this is actually very simple and should be easy to grasp and I would hope obviously a case of simple math and seen as a natural consequence "chance" as soon as variation is argued to be possible from simple copying errors (mutations). It is also a reflection of the world we actually live in. In our world, the number and variety of the most simple (non-complex) organisms far outweighs the more complex forms. However you want to measure complexity, the number and variety of more complex organisms is extremely rare compared to the number ad variety of less complex forms. There is no real evidence that there is any directionality or that more complex forms are in fact preferred, etc. It all seems to be a very simple consequence of pure chance.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby davidm on February 1st, 2020, 6:49 pm 

I agree with Forest_Dump — our being here is basically chance, though not entirely so — natural selection is not chance, though it is unpredictable, and clearly follows no pre-determined pathways. However, the feeders of natural selection — mutations — are chance, uncorrelated to the environment. Humans were not inevitable, for example.

As Forest points out, mutations are copying errors — and they happen all the time. If there is intent or control hidden in any of this, then the controller and intender must be flat-out incompetent. A coder or engineer who made errors all the time would be fired.

Basically, arguments to the complexity of the cell, homologous recombination and the like all strike me as throwbacks to Paley’s watch argument, but transferred from the phenotype level to the genotype level. They are basically Gap-style arguments, or arguments to incredulity, without interest.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby Serpent on February 1st, 2020, 10:04 pm 

It's just that The Gap has shrunk down to: "But how do you get from chemicals floating about aimlessly to the first recognizable cell?"
The thread title gives the gist of lateralsuz's argument (as I imperfectly understand it), which might be stated as
"Evolution is acceptable as an explanation of everything that happens after the first reproductive cell.
But it doesn't explain how the first cell got to be alive."
I'm comfortable with my inability to explain that. Lateralsuz isn't. So she's clinging to out-there literature that gives purposeful control to mindless organelles and legs to molecules, instead of learning some of the fascinating, wonderful, amazing, mind-bending science that already exists.
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Re: Evolution : a process of ‘change’ not of ‘start’

Postby lateralsuz on February 2nd, 2020, 6:37 am 

Forest / davidm

I agree with Forest_Dump — our being here is basically chance, though not entirely so — natural selection is not chance, though it is unpredictable, and clearly follows no pre-determined pathways. However, the feeders of natural selection — mutations — are chance, uncorrelated to the environment. Humans were not inevitable, for example.


The trouble with saying that it all boils down to chance is that when you are confronted with the odds, you argue rightly that it cannot be down to chance, but to process. So when Dawkins and others do say - 'what process?', and 'what could provide a drift towards DNA and replication?', we are back onto the difficulties that prior to the first cell there is no known replication process on the active chemicals required for life.

It may well be that some will emerge later, but as things stand, there is only potential and hope.

The transition point(s) between our definitions of chemicals vs life is not just an academic topic that might tick off the religious interest; it/they could unlock our entire understanding of physical life as we know it. I feel it is worth debating.

When DNA is a code - what could truly lead to the development of a code?
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