Intelligent Design - why not?

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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby webplodder on May 18th, 2017, 5:21 am 

Serpent » Mon May 01, 2017 11:41 pm wrote:
webplodder » May 1st, 2017, 10:35 am wrote:The fact is our universe is so finely tuned to support the development of life that it seems highly unlikely it was just a blind accident.

Then how come life is so rare? There seems to be an awful lot of non-living, chaotic universe between the finely-tuned bits. If life was the purpose, why all the waste?

Then, too, don't you wonder whether that proposition is right-side-up?
The fact is, life is so finely-tuned to exist in this universe that it seems highly unlikely that it could have developed any differently, given the laws of physics.


This, then, begs the question: Are the laws of physics self-sustaining in the absence of an intelligent observer?

My view is that any phenomena we experience must be a synthesis of some kind of input that originates outside of our mind and the chain of events that results in us becoming conscious of it. It's really the old chestnut: Does a tree that falls in the forest make a noise if no ears are about? This is really all about pattern recognition, something we are designed to deal with, but if the patterns are absent then effectively they do not exist.

Science is a process of observation, which 'disturbs' whatever is being observed thus changing it, and further observation, which, again, disturbs it creating a kind of feedback loop which modifies the universe in which we live. So, following this logic we have changed reality greatly via scientific experiments. Did spacetime really exist before Einstein? Clearly it did not.

Essentially we have Godlike powers.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on May 18th, 2017, 10:37 am 

webplodder » May 18th, 2017, 4:21 am wrote:[s -- The fact is, life is so finely-tuned to exist in this universe that it seems highly unlikely that it could have developed any differently, given the laws of physics.]

This, then, begs the question: Are the laws of physics self-sustaining in the absence of an intelligent observer?

They must have been, for quite some time before there were any an intelligent observers...
either in order to produce some intelligent observers
or incidentally producing intelligent observers
(unless the truly intelligent observers are yet to be produced)

My view is that any phenomena we experience must be a synthesis of some kind of input that originates outside of our mind and the chain of events that results in us becoming conscious of it.
.....
Essentially we have Godlike powers.

Ultimate ego-centrism. Not exactly rare in humans, but hardly productive of unbiased data.
Luckily for the rest of us, there is no Big Crunch every time an egotistical human dies.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby mitchellmckain on May 18th, 2017, 1:07 pm 

Mossling » May 11th, 2017, 10:08 pm wrote:I recommend reading Richard Dawkins section on early DNA/RNA evolution in his book The Selfish Gene, where he talks about how it was likely that protein chains formed that had molecular openings for complementary molecules which have natural "affinities" to slot themselves in. Those separate molecules would then join together as a new 'spine' and then separate away from the 'mother' spine and wait for relevant molecules with affinities to arrive as before. He states that it is highly questionable whether these early DNA strands are alive in the conventional sense, and yet actually he doesn't care! Haha. He then mentions how these ordered systems are reflected in how crystals assume natural ordered structures.


I do not recommend this book. His genetic anthromorphizing reductionism in that book is a bit strange. DNA and RNA are just information storage systems by which living organisms pass on what they have learned to the next generation. I do recommend his book Climbing Mount Improbable, however. This is where he coined the term "designoid" for things with the appearance of design without being designed at all.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Mossling on May 18th, 2017, 8:57 pm 

mitchellmckain » May 19th, 2017, 2:07 am wrote:
Mossling » May 11th, 2017, 10:08 pm wrote:I recommend reading Richard Dawkins section on early DNA/RNA evolution in his book The Selfish Gene, where he talks about how it was likely that protein chains formed that had molecular openings for complementary molecules which have natural "affinities" to slot themselves in. Those separate molecules would then join together as a new 'spine' and then separate away from the 'mother' spine and wait for relevant molecules with affinities to arrive as before. He states that it is highly questionable whether these early DNA strands are alive in the conventional sense, and yet actually he doesn't care! Haha. He then mentions how these ordered systems are reflected in how crystals assume natural ordered structures.


I do not recommend this book. His genetic anthromorphizing reductionism in that book is a bit strange. DNA and RNA are just information storage systems by which living organisms pass on what they have learned to the next generation. I do recommend his book Climbing Mount Improbable, however. This is where he coined the term "designoid" for things with the appearance of design without being designed at all.

Pass on what they have learned? Sounds a little anthropomorphized ;P. Would you care to expand on why Dawkins' idea is strange and too reductionist for you? Do you have another respected author that we can compare views with?
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Lomax on May 18th, 2017, 10:01 pm 

mitchellmckain » May 18th, 2017, 6:07 pm wrote:I do not recommend this book. His genetic anthromorphizing reductionism in that book is a bit strange. DNA and RNA are just information storage systems by which living organisms pass on what they have learned to the next generation.

I don't follow, for two reasons. "Selfish" in the sense of genes is just a metaphor, not an anthropomorphic fallacy. And my understanding is that there's little evidence for Lamarckism - that is to say, we do not pass on, via our DNA, what we have learned in our generation. Unless you are being metaphorical too.

Either way I rather like the gene-centric perspective of it: living organisms are just systems by which DNA and RNA pass themselves on to the next generation.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Forest_Dump on May 19th, 2017, 5:39 pm 

Mossling wrote:Do you have another respected author that we can compare views with?


As it happens, I have always been more of a Steven J Gould fan. E. O Wilson probably comes in second. I think the main reason is that, aside from Dawkins religious chauvanism, he is very oriented towards genetics and the world of today so that his primary focus is on explaining how things came to be. Both Gould and Wilson were more palaeontologists and so were more focused on fossils and the hows and whys things were as they were, i.e., the study of the past for its own sake. This is, I think, an age old tension within those kinds of science. There was a great discussion of this in Trinkaus' and Shipman's "The Neanderthals" with regard to the tension between paleoanthropologists and geneticists and it seems to be repeated many times in many ways where the two fields do need to calibrate with each other..
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Mossling on May 20th, 2017, 1:50 am 

Thanks Forest, I'll check it out. :)
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby mitchellmckain on May 21st, 2017, 4:07 pm 

Mossling » May 18th, 2017, 7:57 pm wrote:
mitchellmckain » May 19th, 2017, 2:07 am wrote:[quote="
I do not recommend this book. His genetic anthromorphizing reductionism in that book is a bit strange. DNA and RNA are just information storage systems by which living organisms pass on what they have learned to the next generation. I do recommend his book Climbing Mount Improbable, however. This is where he coined the term "designoid" for things with the appearance of design without being designed at all.

Pass on what they have learned? Sounds a little anthropomorphized ;P. Would you care to expand on why Dawkins' idea is strange and too reductionist for you? Do you have another respected author that we can compare views with?

Why do you demand a different author when I recommended a different book by the same author?

He is a good author when he sticks to science and I would say the same of Stephen Hawking. But both have occasionally left science somewhat behind and indulged in pontificating non-scientific opinions and then their books are not so good. For Stephen Hawking, "Brief History of Time" is good and "The Grand Design" is not so good. As for Dawkins, I certainly recommend "Climbing Mount Improbable" and "Ancestor's Tale," but I do not recommend "The Selfish Gene" or "The God Delusion." For their other books you will have to look to the recommendations of other people.

But ok, here is another book and author to take a look at, "The Self-Organizing Universe" by Erich Jantsch.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Lomax on May 21st, 2017, 10:25 pm 

My memory of The Selfish Gene - I have the 5th edition - is that it is a book about science. It argues for the gene-centric theory of evolution as against individual- and group-selection, and it attempts to explain the mechanisms by which altruistic behaviour evolves. I don't understand why is being lumped in here with The God Delusion (which I also found well-argued, albeit without bringing anything new to the table).
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby mitchellmckain on May 22nd, 2017, 4:45 am 

Lomax » May 21st, 2017, 9:25 pm wrote:My memory of The Selfish Gene - I have the 5th edition - is that it is a book about science. It argues for the gene-centric theory of evolution as against individual- and group-selection, and it attempts to explain the mechanisms by which altruistic behaviour evolves. I don't understand why is being lumped in here with The God Delusion (which I also found well-argued, albeit without bringing anything new to the table).


Lumping? The two books are, of course, very different. I only put them together as examples of books by Richard Dawkins which I don't think are very good and which contain non-scientific opinions. It's not that I have any HUGE disagreements with them. Sure you might take the "The Selfish Gene" as a metaphorical way of presenting genetic evolution and I have no problem with genetic evolution. Likewise, I quite agree with Dawkins that all those purported proofs of God's Existence are objectively flawed.

But I think these two books also have flaws, and so I point to books which are better.

The so called "metaphor" in "The Selfish Gene" doesn't sound like a metaphor to me and I think it is a highly distorted picture. I don't like anthropomorphizing reductionism in general -- not in Richard Dawkin's "Selfish Gene" nor in Whitehead's "Process and Reality." Dawkin's version is like saying the computers are a bunch of bits organizing themselves to direct peripheral devices. It sounds to me like the silliest sort of nonsense AND it frankly adds a highly philosophical non-scientific element to the presentation.

The flaw in the God delusion is the treatment of God a scientific hypothesis. It is no such thing. It fails the criterion for a scientific hypothesis. Treating it like scientific hypothesis lends too much legitimacy to the creationists who want nothing more than to have God treated as such. This is a huge mistake! Furthermore, Dawkin's arrogant bragging that reading this book will turn theists into atheists makes the book more of a comedy than a serious discussion of the topic. So why DOES Dawkins put God forward as a scientific hypothesis? It is to make his theological opinions look like science and this is the worse kind of pseudo-science there is.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby NoShips on May 22nd, 2017, 5:44 am 

@ Lomax and Mitchell and the usual voyeurs...

I think you raise some excellent points in your post above, Mitchell. I was wondering if either yourself or Lomax is familiar with the late Australian philosopher and logician David Stove, who never attained superstardom even in philosophical circles, but did achieve some degree of notoriety later in life for his collection of essays attacking certain Darwinian dogmas in his collection "Darwinian Fairytales".

The preface opens with...

"This is an anti-Darwinism book. It is written both against the Darwinism of Darwin and his 19th century disciples, and against the Darwinism of such influential 20th century Darwinians as G.C. Williams and W.D. Hamilton and their disciples. My object is to show that Darwinism is not true: not true, at any rate, of our species. If it is true, or near enough true, of sponges, snakes, flies, or whatever, I do not mind that. What I do mind is, its being supposed to be true of man. [...]"



... and the truculence never abates. Essay 1 continues...

"If Darwin's theory of evolution were true, there would be in every species a constant and ruthless competition to survive: a competition in which only a few in any generation can be winners. But it is perfectly obvious that human life is not like that, however it may be with other species.

This inconsistency, between Darwin's theory and the facts of human life, is what I mean by 'Darwinism's Dilemma'. The inconsistency is so very obvious that no Darwinian has ever been altogether unconscious of it. There have been, accordingly, very many attempts by Darwinians to wriggle out of the dilemma. But the inconsistency is just too simple and direct to be wriggled out of, and all these attempts are conspicuously unsuccessful. They are not uninstructive, though, or unamusing.
"



Darwin is not Stove's principal target, however. Most of the heavy artillery is directed at the excesses of sociobiology; a hapless Dawkins at the head. Lomax, you tell us above: "I don't follow, for two reasons. "Selfish" in the sense of genes is just a metaphor, not an anthropomorphic fallacy."

A metaphor? Well, so these guys keep insisting, but nevertheless belied time and time again in their own words. How about translating all these teleological -- teleology which Darwin is alleged to have extirpated from biology -- and intentional so-called façons de parler into non-metaphorical language for a change? This turns out to be a lot harder to do than you might think. See Essay X, especially pages 188-193.

The whole thing is available online using the link below. Like him or not, agree or disagree, Stove is as sharp as they come, a brilliant logician, and backs all his claims with direct quotes from the culprits themselves. He's also very, very funny. Enjoy! :-)

http://www.maxddl.org/Creation/Darwinia ... lution.pdf
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Eclogite on May 22nd, 2017, 8:47 am 

I may respond more fully later, but I just needed to vent about Dave Stove. I have a copy of Darwinian Fairytales. Having read it I was infuriated to learn he had died, thus depriving me of the opportunity to lambast him for his cherrypicking, agenda driven, blind, sophomoric nonsesnse.

End of rant. Please continue.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby RoccoR on May 22nd, 2017, 8:51 am 

RE: Intelligent Design - why not?
webplodder, Serpent, mitchellmckain, Mossling, NoShips, Lomax, et al,

The question of: Intelligent Design - why not? is a question on the pivot as to:

    • Why the "Theory of Intelligent Design" is false?
    • When was the "Theory of Intelligence Design" compromised or dis-proven?

The question under examination has nothing to do with the viability of alternatives such as "Darwinian Theory." Whether of not the alternatives (ie Darwinian Theory --- Selfish Theory of Human Nature) are evaluated as highly probable (or not) is irrelevant to the question.

Synthesized down to the base issue (reduced form) is the question as to: • what makes "Intelligent Design" ("certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause") impossible (the "why not" of the original question)?

There is a clarification to be made: [url]New World Encyclopedia[/url]

    "Intelligent Design"
    The 1960's "Intelligent Design Creationism" (IDC). The Discovery Institute, Center for Science and Culture.

This is somewhat different from ""Intelligent Design" creationism (IDC)." While all "creationism" has a component of "Intelligent Design" --- the concept of intelligence design stands alone.

SO! The question remains; or is Intelligent Design simply and "argument from ignorance;" based on the lack of evidence?

Most Respectfully,
R
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Braininvat on May 22nd, 2017, 10:07 am 

ID isn't even an argument, since it emerges only a speculation, viz. that this universe was designed by some sort of prior existent mind. There is no testable hypothesis there. What sort of evidence could ever satisfy the requirements of proof, of empirical adequacy? Anything that could ever be cited as evidence of a teleological structure could always just as well be accounted for by the weak anthropic principle. One could just as well speculate that we are all just characters in a video game. What sort of reality proof would not meet with the true believer's assertion, "ah, but that's just how the software was written, to make it seem as real as possible?" IOW, there is no argument in such matters, only clever sophistry.

Even the mildest sort of ID, say something like "there is a universal field of elemental logic, a sort of thin panpsychism, that nudges symmetry-breaking right after a singularity blows, towards complex molecular formations," is untestable. We can determine the energy density of the Higgs field, but we can''t determine that it is aware of a yearning for baryonic matter and just has to scratch that itch.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on May 22nd, 2017, 10:15 am 

RoccoR » May 22nd, 2017, 7:51 am wrote:
SO! The question remains; or is Intelligent Design simply and "argument from ignorance;" based on the lack of evidence?

Most Respectfully,
R


It's not an argument. There is nothing of substance to support it as an argument, or even as a theory. If you put it as a positive statement: "The universe is intelligent [or an intelligence or driven by an intelligence]. You could come up with analogies and metaphors, but no observations, to support that argument.
At best, it is a conjecture, or a projection.
However, if you turn it around to the statement: "You can't prove it isn't."
You don't have to support that; all you've done is shove the onus onto the negative argument, and the most you can accomplish is an impasse.
If you put it as a question: "Why Not?"
It just hangs there with no answer and you can pretend you won an argument, without having made one.
But Why?
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Lomax on May 22nd, 2017, 1:42 pm 

mitchellmckain » May 22nd, 2017, 9:45 am wrote:The so called "metaphor" in "The Selfish Gene" doesn't sound like a metaphor to me and I think it is a highly distorted picture. I don't like anthropomorphizing reductionism in general

In the introduction to my edition, Dawkins defends himself by saying:

Richard Dawkins wrote:no sane person thinks DNA molecules have conscious personalities, and no sensible reader would impute such a delusion to an author.

I hope you will not take it too hard if I say that I agree with him. On page four (of all editions) he says:

Richard Dawkins wrote:It is important to realise that the above definitions of altruism and selfishness are behavioural, not subjective. I am not concerned here with the psychology of motives. I am not going to argue about whether people who behave altruistically are 'really' doing it for secret or subconscious selfish motives. Maybe they are and maybe they aren't, and maybe we can never really know, but in any case that is not what this book is about. My definition is concerned only with whether the effect of an act is to lower or raise the survival prospects of the presumed altruist and the survival prospects of the presumed beneficiary.

(Italics in original.) So the metaphorical nature is affirmed, and the working definition provided, before 98.8% of the book is read. I can well see how the word "Selfish" will still mislead those who have read the title and not the book, but a guy needs a catchy title.

mitchellmckain » May 22nd, 2017, 9:45 am wrote:The flaw in the God delusion is the treatment of God a scientific hypothesis. It is no such thing. It fails the criterion for a scientific hypothesis.

I have to disagree with you if only because you used a capital G. It may well be that theism de re and deism de re fail to meet the standards of falsifiability (although the logical positivists presented tenable arguments that such claims are unintelligible), but the Christian god - the one who goes by the proper name "God" - very certainly has empirical claims made about Him. Is it or is it not the case that Jesus was born of a virgin? Did he or did he not rise from the dead? Did Moses or did Moses not speak to (or, more importantly, listen to the divine commands of) a burning bush? The tenets of Christianity are saturated with such claims, and they are either factually true or they are not.

I have heard it said that "As a Christian I believe it to be true, but as a historian I believe it to be false". Well I couldn't have put it any better myself.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Lomax on May 22nd, 2017, 1:46 pm 

NoShips - I may read it, in spite of Ecoglite's disclaimer, although I confess I won't rush. Before I do I need you to reassure me of something:

David Stove wrote:If Darwin's theory of evolution were true, there would be in every species a constant and ruthless competition to survive: a competition in which only a few in any generation can be winners. But it is perfectly obvious that human life is not like that, however it may be with other species.

While The Selfish Gene is a book-length attempt to explain why that need not be so, the fuller quotation you provided above gives me the impression that Stove merely asserts it and then moves on. So that I can take him seriously, will you promise me, compañero, that this is not so?
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Braininvat on May 22nd, 2017, 1:58 pm 

Serpent, looks like we parallel posted. Seems like several have noted the Popperian fail mode of ID. It just plain cannot be falsified. It is speculative metaphysical conjecture. Even the more specific empirical claims that relate to an Intelligence, like the virgin birth 2000 years ago of a Matrix software agent named Yeshua, simply cannot be tested. There is no real access to falsification. Falsifiable in principle is not falsifiable in fact.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Lomax on May 22nd, 2017, 2:05 pm 

As to the OP: Graeme M, I think you set so stringent a criterion for "agency" that you define it out of the realm of possible and coherent concepts. Suppose that mental stuff was uncaused: how would that qualify it any better for the role of agency? Either our thoughts and behaviours are uncaused (and thus, random and chaotic) or they are caused (and thus, beholden to their causes). It seems to me entirely a non-sequitur to conclude in either case that they therefore do not exist, or are not in any sense ours. We don't apply that logic to our bodies so why apply it to our minds?
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby DragonFly on May 22nd, 2017, 3:16 pm 

The Intelligence System of an ID needs be Fundamental/First and not something/someone Smart that evolved, such as a life form or an information system, for then one only has some kind of non primary alien/automaton (like us terraforming planets in the future, for example).

Is an atom First/Fundamental? No, for it has parts that would be more so. How about a proton? Nope, for it's made of quarks, but we're getting closer.

The above, almost 'silly' line of questioning redeems itself by revealing to us that no system, much less a Super System of Mind, can be the basis of all that goes on.

Making the ID Mind very large doesn't help, but even hurts the argument, and besides, all that we see goes in the opposing direction, which is from the simpler to the more composite and complex.

The 'golden template' that life has to ever come from a Larger Life has to be thrown out of the stained-glass window after only one usage.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby NoShips on May 22nd, 2017, 6:31 pm 

Eclogite » May 22nd, 2017, 9:47 pm wrote:I may respond more fully later, but I just needed to vent about Dave Stove. I have a copy of Darwinian Fairytales. Having read it I was infuriated to learn he had died, thus depriving me of the opportunity to lambast him for his cherrypicking, agenda driven, blind, sophomoric nonsesnse.

End of rant. Please continue.


Quite so. Probably a child molester too. After all, everyone knows that people who attempt to criticize Darwinism clearly have something wrong with them, whether it be ignorance, stupidity, insanity, or membership of a nefarious, Christian fundamentalist-motivated conspiracy to discredit a theory which enjoys a sui generis status among scientific theories in being flawless and unimpeachable.

Mr Stove, your Fosters-swilling beer gut, fake g'day-moite Okker accent and specious lip service to atheism fool no one.

P.S. And even if there was something wrong with it, we'd rather not know. Keep out and get therapy.

Yours most respectfully
The Darwinian Association for Promotion of Open Minded Thinking and Healthy Scepticism
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby NoShips on May 22nd, 2017, 6:42 pm 

Lomax » May 23rd, 2017, 2:46 am wrote:NoShips - I may read it, in spite of Ecoglite's disclaimer, although I confess I won't rush. Before I do I need you to reassure me of something:

David Stove wrote:If Darwin's theory of evolution were true, there would be in every species a constant and ruthless competition to survive: a competition in which only a few in any generation can be winners. But it is perfectly obvious that human life is not like that, however it may be with other species.

While The Selfish Gene is a book-length attempt to explain why that need not be so, the fuller quotation you provided above gives me the impression that Stove merely asserts it and then moves on. So that I can take him seriously, will you promise me, compañero, that this is not so?



Ah, Lomax, why does everyone assume that people like Stove are ignorant hillbillies who wouldn't know kin selection from marrying one's sister?

You weren't entirely clear, but I suspect you allude to the "problem" of altruism. Yes, Stove knows all about that. (Yes, he's literate!). He's also aware that it is sometimes used as a technical term in biology. It doesn't help.

Is it entirely out of the question that Dawkins is just conceptually confused? It wouldn't be the first time something like this has happened, you know. And Stove isn't the only person to have noticed. See also Mary Midgley.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on May 22nd, 2017, 6:49 pm 

Braininvat » May 22nd, 2017, 12:58 pm wrote:Serpent, looks like we parallel posted. Seems like several have noted the Popperian fail mode of ID.

My hope was a kind of flash posting, where everyone who sees the log in its eye points it out at once.
We got pretty close.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Lomax on May 22nd, 2017, 6:53 pm 

Sorry to be pushy NoShips, but you didn't answer my question. Does Stove support his claim that if Darwin's theory of evolution were true, we would be in constant ruthless competition to survive, or does he not? In your original quotation of him, he makes the assertion, and then moves on, so I am asking if he ever comes back to the point in order to support it. Dawkins's book is a defense of the "gene's-eye view" of evolution and an explanation of how the gene's need to compete ruthlessly gives rise to the individual's, and the species's, more altruistic behaviour. If Stove simply asserts the contrary then I entirely fail to see how his book constitutes a refutation, or qualifies as being worth my time. So I'm asking you whether this is the case before I make up my mind whether to read him. You won't persuade anybody by adopting a victim-complex about how everybody hates those poor martyred Darwin doubters.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby NoShips on May 22nd, 2017, 7:09 pm 

Lomax » May 23rd, 2017, 7:53 am wrote:Sorry to be pushy NoShips, but you didn't answer my question. Does Stove support his claim that if Darwin's theory of evolution were true, we would be in constant ruthless competition to survive, or does he not? In your original quotation of him, he makes the assertion, and then moves on, so I am asking if he ever comes back to the point in order to support it. Dawkins's book is a defense of the "gene's-eye view" of evolution and an explanation of how the gene's need to compete ruthlessly gives rise to the individual's, and the species's, more altruistic behaviour. If Stove simply asserts the contrary then I entirely fail to see how his book constitutes a refutation, or qualifies as being worth my time. So I'm asking you whether this is the case before I make up my mind whether to read him. You won't persuade anybody by adopting a victim-complex about how everybody hates those poor martyred Darwin doubters.



Yes, he does. See Essay V (I just did a quick scan). He begins (and continues for several pages with direct quotes)...


"I have no difficulty in accepting the fact of evolution. The proposition, for example, that existing species have all evolved from others, is not at odds with any rational belief that I know of. But I do not believe the Darwinian theory or explanation of evolution. There are several reasons. One of them is, that if that theory were true, then a struggle for life would always be going on among the members of every species; whereas in our species at any rate, no such struggle is observable.

This is a very obvious objection, of course, and would suggest itself to even the dullest person, once the Darwinian theory had been put before him. It is so obvious, indeed, that it always embarrasses me to put it to Darwinians, and embarrasses them to have it put to them. People as clever as Darwin and Wallace, therefore, must have seen this objection coming a mile off, and presumably each of them had some reply to it which satisfied his own mind at least. But if they did, they never told the public what these replies were. Darwin not only never replied in print to this obvious objection: he never directly adverted to it at all. The same is true of Wallace, as far as I know: though there are a few of his published works which I have not read
."

[...]
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby NoShips on May 22nd, 2017, 7:16 pm 

Lomax » May 23rd, 2017, 7:53 am wrote:Sorry to be pushy NoShips, but you didn't answer my question. Does Stove support his claim that if Darwin's theory of evolution were true, we would be in constant ruthless competition to survive, or does he not? In your original quotation of him, he makes the assertion, and then moves on, so I am asking if he ever comes back to the point in order to support it. Dawkins's book is a defense of the "gene's-eye view" of evolution and an explanation of how the gene's need to compete ruthlessly gives rise to the individual's, and the species's, more altruistic behaviour. If Stove simply asserts the contrary then I entirely fail to see how his book constitutes a refutation, or qualifies as being worth my time. So I'm asking you whether this is the case before I make up my mind whether to read him. You won't persuade anybody by adopting a victim-complex about how everybody hates those poor martyred Darwin doubters.



Herein lieth the confusion (I believe). Are Dawkins et al offering us an eliminative reduction of altruism (i.e., there is no such thing), or are they offering a causal explanation for the existence of altruism?

It seems they can't make up their own minds. I wrote a lengthy and boring blog on this topic a few years ago when I was young, stupid and brainwashed. Should I post it here or somewhere else or throw myself off a bridge? :-)
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Forest_Dump on May 22nd, 2017, 7:31 pm 

Personally I think it would be great if something like ID could be argued in anything close to a reasonable degree. From my perspective I think some kind of intelligent deity is possible and some kinds of supernatural force are even more possible as some types of force or power not yet recognized by science. So this even goes so far as to recognize a possibility that this or these as yet undiscovered forces or powers could be concentrated in some places, plants or animals and ultimately even in people (which could even account for and help explain some unusual individuals in history whether this be Jesus, Mohamod, Moses, Buddha, etc. characters or even storied shamans, etc.) However, while I hold these ideas as possibilities, even a wish list, I doubt science is capable of making much progress in these kinds of directions and certainly think for science to be able to do its thing properly, a high standard of skepticism and scholarly critique must be maintained. So, as much as I might like to see some viable and scientifically acceptable ID arguments, this has not happened yet and all the ones I have seen are, at best, sour-grapes critiques of evolutionary theory (based on some kind of lame-brained belief that toppling evolutionary theory would leave ID or creatinism as the default) and very poor logic convolutions (although sometimes well constructed with the intent of hiding the premises and fallacies).

So to me, probably even more interesting is not the content of ID arguments themselves but why people feel the need to try to bend and twist science to shore up their religious beliefs. At some levels I can understand why some kind of scientific stamp of approval is necessary as science has proven time and again to be the best, most effective and most expansive method available for increasing our knowledge of the world and our abilities to change the environments we live in as well as understand our place within it, etc. But religions survived the shift from a geocentric world to a heliocentric world, perhaps one of the most profound revolutions in thought for many peoples, and many other big changes in our understanding of the world. And I know even First Nations religious leaders, for example, who have no problem incorporating traditional mythical figures such as "Flint" sxplicitely in the genetic bottleneck of 70,000 years ago (I even heard that in a Midiwiwin ceremony a couple of years ago). I know for an absolute fact that FN religious leaders who believe in all kinds of supernatural beings, the Creator, etc., have absolutely not problem with the concepts of evolution, including human evoluton, etc. So why is it that some Americanist religious sects do have so many conceptual problems with our evolving understanding of the world? To me, then, it is not an inherently religious problem but really some kind of social/cultural issue expressing itself in politics and philosophy.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby NoShips on May 22nd, 2017, 7:50 pm 

Oh well, here we go. I wrote the following some years ago. Move it to another place if it's not appropriate for this thread.



A few days ago I had the pleasure of probing certain philosophical implications of Darwin's theory of evolution with a couple of my friends here. I always enjoy discussions of these kind, and while obviously, if there's a last word to be said on any of these difficult issues it certainly isn't going to come from yours truly, we can still doubtless learn from, and share with, each other. There can be few better ways of consolidating your understanding of a theory -- or exposing lacunae in your understanding of that theory -- than by mounting a defense of said theory while it's under assault.

And if none of that works, at the very least we can still poke, prod and pester each other.

I'm unsure if my criticisms of certain neo-Darwinian doctrines were convincing to my friends. In any case, I'd like to to take the opportunity here to present my thoughts on one particular aspect of the brouhaha -- altruism -- in a more systematic form. This will inevitably get lengthy, but if you'll promise to indulge my prolixity, I promise not to throw the chalk at you when you doze off. Of course, nobody is under any obligation to read this tripe.

Much of what follows is inspired by the dizzyingly brilliant (clever AND hilarious!) but little recognized Australian philosopher David Stove, and in particular his blistering attack on sociobiological silliness "Darwinian Fairy Tales".

Here goes then...


Since its very inception, altruism has presented a problem for the theory of evolution through natural selection; a problem that Darwin himself appreciated and acknowledged. Under a conceptual system where the tendency is for only the fittest organisms to survive and reproduce, there would appear to be no place for altruism, that is, behavior which benefits the recipient to the detriment of the altruist. If it were to appear at all, through mutation say, we should expect it to be eradicated immediately by the ruthless winnowing of natural selection.

Unfortunately for the die-hard Darwinian, though, it's a rather obvious fact of life that altruism not only exists, but isn't particularly rare, manifesting itself most conspicuously perhaps in the form of the parental altruism seen in countless species, not least our own, towards their offspring.

Meanwhile, let us not forget that Darwin's theory is presumably a general theory which applies to all species. And, yes, we humans take our place among these exalted ranks.

And since we're doing reminders, let us not forget either that, just as there is no "problem of evil" except to those people committed to the hypothesis of an all powerful and wholly benevolent deity, likewise the "problem of altruism" constitutes a problem only for those people caught in the quicksand of an all-consuming hobbyhorse, in this case the theory of Darwinian natural selection. For the rest of the world, there IS no problem of altruism.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(INTERLUDE)

Before proceeding any further, friends and lovers, it is necessary to make a brief digression and contrast two types of explanation commonly employed in science and philosophy:

Type 1 : Eliminative Reduction (ER) -- An ER purports to reveal that some phenomenon we'd mistaken as genuine turns out in fact to be illusory. An eliminative reduction of phenomenon P gets rid of P. There is no such thing as P.

Think of a rainbow, for example. Science disabuses us of any "Arc-en-ciel" sophistry, and explains to us how we're beguiled into believing that there is an arch suspended up there in the heavens. Think also of sunrises and sunsets.

A few philosophers hold that in order to progress with cognitive science we should perform an ER on the human mind, insisting that our commonsense inventory of mental states and processes -- beliefs, desires, hopes, fears, consciousness, etc -- correspond to nothing in reality. On this account, only brain states are real; science has no place for the "folk psychology" panoply of assorted spooks.

It might even be argued that Darwinism itself, if successful, executes an eliminative reduction on our antediluvian understanding of "design" in nature. Assuming Darwin is right, there is no design in nature; only apparent design.

Type 2 : Causal Explanation (CE) -- A CE purports to identify the cause or causes of some given phenomenon P. P is not eliminated. P remains very real.

We're told these days that polio, the disease, is caused by poliovirus, the virus. This is a causal reduction. Identifying the cause does not get rid of polio, alas. And presumably if there was more poliovirus around, there would be more polio victims.

Or imagine if sunspots were identified as the cause of typhoons here on Earth. This would be another example of a CE. Meanwhile, the wind outside keeps howling -- for real!


By contrast, then, we see that in the case of a causal explanation, a given phenomenon P is explained, whereas in the case of an eliminative reduction P is explained AWAY.

Hold that thought...


(end of interlude - please return to your seats)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Where were we again? Ah yes, the problem, or at least ONE problem facing Darwinians, then, had always been altruism. Something simply had to be done about it.

It was with an almighty sigh of relief, then, that devoted Darwinians everywhere greeted the inchoate theory of "Inclusive Fitness" (IF) when it was first introduced in the 1960's. IF held the promise of being able to offer a Darwinian explanation for, if not ALL altruism (it doesn't help much with the courageous corporal who throws himself on a grenade to save his unrelated brothers-in-arms), then at least for the existence of altruism among kin.

With apologies to the biologists, and for the benefit of the uninitiated, the theory of Inclusive Fitness -- in its original instantiation (see Note 1 below) -- can be encapsulated in the following maxim advanced by W. D. Hamilton in 1964:

"... we expect to find that no one is prepared to sacrifice his life for any single person, but that everyone will sacrifice it for more than two brothers [or offspring], or four half-brothers, or eight first-cousins." (Stove's square bracket interpolation)

The idea is simple. The degree of altruism we should expect is a function of the proportion of genes shared by the organisms concerned. Brothers, for example, share 50% of their genes in common, so from the perspective of the selfish gene, it makes no evolutionary sense for Groucho to sacrifice his life for Chico alone (it's a bum deal - a complete set of his own genes dies while only a half set lives on in Chico), but it does make excellent business sense for Groucho to sacrifice himself in order to save Chico, Harpo, Gummo and Zeppo.

This is the theory of Inclusive fitness. Now, it certainly proved handy in explaining certain troublesome Darwinian anomalies, for example, the aforementioned parental altruism, and especially, the curious behavior of hymenoptera (bees and such) where we see sterile worker ants, say, slave away for an entire lifetime without a hope in Turpan of reproducing.

Dazzling successes notwithstanding, spoilsport Stove points out that the theory of Inclusive Fitness would also appear to entail, among others, the following absurd consequences:

(i) Since parents and offspring share 50% of their genes in common, we should expect offspring in all sexually reproducing species to exhibit precisely the same degree of altruism towards their parents as their mummies and daddies extend to them.

(ii) Since the sibling-sibling and the parent-offspring relationships both involve a 50% shared gene complement, we should expect siblings to exhibit the same degree of altruism towards each other as parents do to their children.

(iii) Women share 50% of their genes with the eggs they produce; men 50% with their sperm. Eggs and sperm share ALL their genetic material with their producers. Meanwhile, any two sperm produced by the same man will share 50% genetic material in common. Erm, well, you figure all out the relationships. And then say thank you to the theory of Inclusive Fitness for exposing all this unsuspected altruism right before our very eyes.

(iv) Even worse is to come. Consider the fate of asexually reproducing species -- bacteria brothers, say -- which share 100% of their genetic makeup in common. The theory of Inclusive Fitness would lead us to expect PERFECT altruism between these selfless conspecifics. Stove observes wryly, "Why, they would never even be able to decide which one of them was to go through a doorway first." And what then, we might ask, becomes of the famous Darwinian struggle for existence among these Buddhist bacilli?

The list goes on and on. Stove is relentless. Nothing remotely resembling these theoretical predictions has ever been observed in nature, of course.



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

NOTE 1
The reason I emphasize "in its original instantiation" is that whenever an embarrassing hole is pointed out anywhere in the evolutionary theory fabric, nothing is more certain than death and airplane delays that some likely Darwinian will promptly sew a patch on it. And if or when this patch fails he, or a fellow conspirator, will apply a patch to the patch. Then, after the theory has been patched and occluded with impenetrable mathematics to such a degree that it's no longer possible for the interested and impartial layman to identify inconsistencies, he'll puff out his chest and declare:

"Evolutionary theory has been rigorously tested for well over a century and not a SHRED of evidence has even been adduced which militates against it."

As Karl Popper sagely pointed out, a theory that can handle ANYTHING is not something one ought to be proud of. A theory that explains everything, a theory in fear of no conceivable observation or state of affairs, a theory that excludes nothing, is a theory that explains just that: Nothing. It's a lame duck. See also our friends in the Religion forum for more of the same. Is there any possible evidence, any plague or pestilence, any carnage or calamity, which might be brought to bear on their "God did it" hypothesis such that beads of anxiety-induced sweat might appear on their pious brows? I think not. More likely than not you'll be reassured that your prima facie disconfirmatory evidence actually serves to CONFIRM their theory.

"Our theory can handle that very nicely, thank you very much"

It's precisely this RELIGIOUS attitude to Darwinism, epitomized by dogmatic zealots the likes of Richard Dawkins, that Stove, myself, and many others find disturbing. Meanwhile, anyone summoning the temerity to draw attention to the glaring absurdities and ad hoc repair tactics associated with modern evolutionary theory is dismissed either as a religious nut (an enemy of "good science"), stoopid, or else not-so-politely invited to mind her own business (the "You're not a doctor" syndrome).

Boys and girls, I've read David Stove and I've read Dawkins and there's no doubt in my mind who the idiot in this two-man village is. Stove says it better than I can:

QUOTE
"It is logically possible, of course, that every one of my objections is worthless: either mistaken as to fact, or else based on a misunderstanding of the theory that it is intended as an objection to. But as against that possibility, the inclusive fitness theory, in its essentials, (as distinct from its mathematical details), is not a hard one even for laymen to understand. Besides, there is no real as distinct from logical possibility that I was mistaken in saying, (for example), that sibling altruism is not as common or strong as parental altruism. But what mainly reassures me, that not all my objections can be wide of the mark, is the following fact. That at various places where the theory seemed to me, from the time I first vaguely heard of it, to have an obvious puncture - asexual reproducers, sibling altruism, and parental self-sacrifice, for example - a patch has in fact been proposed, either by Hamilton himself or by one of his disciples.

I therefore find myself in an impasse. On the one hand, the theory of inclusive fitness has many consequences, the falsity of which is so obvious that even a layman, (not to mention an intelligent child of nine), can see it. The falsity of these consequences is therefore, presumably, more obvious still to professional biologists. But on the other hand, the inclusive fitness theory is universally accepted by evolutionary biologists, and indeed is generally regarded by them as the greatest addition to their explanatory power that has been made since the 1930s and '40s, when Darwinism merged with Mendelian genetics. In fact it is understating the case, to say that the theory is universally accepted. Inclusive fitness is by now a perfect article of faith with virtually all evolutionary biologists, and with all of the lay readers who take their beliefs about evolution from them. An objection made to the theory is never considered to prove anything except the incompetence of the objector. I did not know this when I first began to express criticisms of the theory. But since that time I have learnt it by experience: as Laplace said in another connection, ''par experiences nombreuses et funestes
.'

Scientists sometimes (as is well known) continue to work with a theory which they themselves know is false. Laymen, when they hear of such a case, are apt to be audibly critical of the scientists' conduct; but of course they have no better theory to suggest, and the only result is, that the scientists grow angry and impatient with their lay critics. But these features of scientists' behaviour are not ones which deserve esteem, and still less, imitation. They are departures from rational behaviour, not forms of it. They arise only because professional scientists, without the guidance of some theory however unsatisfactory, do not know what to do with themselves. But laymen have other occupations, and the indignation they feel, when scientists stick like limpets to a theory they know is false, is not only natural but rational. A rational interest in science, as distinct from a professional one, is an interest in what is true, or probably true, or probably close to the truth: in that, and in nothing else. If a scientific theory is certainly not even near the truth, then, whatever attractions it may have for scientists, it is of no interest to a person who is simply trying to have rational beliefs and no others. That is how things actually stand, of course, with the theory (for example) that the blood is stationary, or that the earth is shaped like a bullet, or that it rotates from east to west. It is also how things actually stand with the theory of inclusive fitness."
UNQUOTE

End of Note 1.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

DENOUEMENT (Please all gather in the living room)

Finally we come to the crux, a subtle ambiguity not easy to spot and one which allows befuddled mountebanks like Dawkins get away with hawking their absurdities to those hapless souls lacking the razor-sharp perpicacity of a David Stove, and that means pretty much all of us. This is the point I was trying -- with limited success, I suspect, no doubt thanks my own verbal clumsiness -- to convey to a friend here the other day.

David Stove sets the stage:

QUOTE

Altruism was, from the very start, a problem for the Darwinian theory of evolution, if not something worse than a problem. As a result, Darwinians have always been under a certain temptation to 'cut the knot', and deny the very existence of altruism. This temptation was always strongest, naturally, for those Darwinians - such as Fisher - who were most convinced of the sufficiency of natural selection to explain everything in evolution. But, of course, for Darwinians to come out and explicitly deny the reality of altruism, would have brought Darwinism into open conflict not only with common sense, but with common decency.
For this reason, Darwinians successfully resisted the temptation for a very long time: in fact for more than a hundred years. But after the mid 20th century, their views became steadily more and more 'selectionist'. They were therefore obliged to concede to altruism at least the respectable status of being 'a problem' for Darwinism; since it could manifestly not be fobbed off any longer with any designation less than that, or with the old prudent silence. It was even sometimes admitted to be a problem which lies unpleasantly close to the vital parts of Darwinism, and one which at the same time is peculiarly resistant to treatment. But still, no Darwinian yet dared to say, or probably even to think, that altruism is an illusion. The uneasy truce on this subject, between Darwinism and common sense, subsisted from 1859 to the second half of the 1960s.


UNQUOTE


Now, so far we've been treating the theory of inclusive fitness as a Causal Explanation (you WERE paying attention during the Interlude, weren't you?), in other words, as a theory identifying the cause (selfish genes) of a very real phenomenon (altruism). But is this the only way the theory can be interpreted? Is this the way the sociobiological architects of the theory intend it to be interpreted?

Well, the answer appears to be yes and no. Much in the writing of prominent IF theory proponents suggests a causal explanation. Here's Stove again:

"He [Dawkins] said that it had long been clear that the greater than average chance of a gene being shared with close relatives ' must be why altruism by parents towards their young is so common'. If this is not causal talk, then I cannot understand English. And it is perfectly representative of 50 per cent of what inclusive fitness theorists write about kin altruism."

On the other hand, the very same writers are liable, before the day is done, to sneer ...


'Scratch an "altruist" and watch a hypocrite bleed' - Ghiselin

'... altruism [is] something which has no place in nature', [or in human nature either]: 'we are born selfish' - Dawkins


... etc., etc., comments which defiantly refuse to yield to a CE (causal explanation) interpretation of their own theory. It seems now, instead, that we're being offered an eliminative reduction (ER) -- altruism is an illusion. There is only "apparent" altruism.

Well, which is it, guys? Is altruism real and causally determined in accordance with your theory of Inclusive Fitness? Or is altruism merely an illusion: we're all selfish?

You can't have it both ways. And EITHER way, their theory generates outlandish predictions. It either (i) grossly overestimates the amount of genuine altruism in the world in the case of CE, or else (ii) grossly underestimates the amount of genuine altruism in the world (there is none), while grossly overestimating the amount of apparent altruism in the world, in the case of ER.

But they DO want it both ways for reasons that Stove pinponts magnificently, but which would take too long to rehearse here.

Well, why can't they just make up their minds and be consistent with whichever interpretation they feel is the appropriate one? Why must they vacillate between two logically inconsistent interpretations?

One hypothesis would be that they are perfectly aware of the inconsistency, yet do this purposely in order to deceive... well, decent people like you and me.

Stove balks. Why posit conspiracy when a simple hypothesis of incompetence and confusion can explain it?

Yes, this second hypothesis seems not only more plausible, but also more ... deliciously impertinent, doncha think, boys and girls?

Stove makes no apologies for his impertinence: "This hypothesis is somewhat disrespectful, I must admit, to inclusive fitness theorists. But then, better scientists than they are certainly have often fallen into exactly this kind of confusion about colour. So the disrespectfulness of the hypothesis can hardly be a decisive objection to it."

Yes! Yes! Yes! Mr Stove! I've been that soldier right here in the hallowed precincts of this science forum trying to make sense of some scientifically enlightened guru's reductionism. The conversation might go something like this (perhaps in response to another curious member enquiring into what happens when a tree falls in a forest and... well, you know):


Science Fan : Well, you see, science tells us that sound is nothing but certain vibrations of air molecules.

Me : Well, what about these sounds I, and presumably you, hear in your head when we put on a Sinatra CD, say?

Science Fan : Oh, well, these are CAUSED by the sound waves. [Note : this is a causal explanation for the real sounds in my head]

Me : Well, are they sounds or not? Are they real or not?

Science Fan : I suppose.

Me : But a moment ago you told us sound is nothing but certain vibrations of air molecules?

Science Fan : Yes, that's right.

Me : But there are no vibrating air molecules in my brain as far as I'm aware.

Science Fan : Then it's not real sound. [Note : this is an eliminative reduction -- the sounds in my head are not real]

Me : Well, then, um, what's the difference between you and a deaf person?

ad infinitum, ad nauseum ...


(close final curtain)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Well, if there's anyone still here, I'm filled with admiration for your patience. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you have any. And most of all, do yourself a favour and read David Stove using the link below, or at least Essay VIII : 'He Ain't Heavy, He's my Brother' or Altruism and Shared Genes.

I'll leave you now, comrades, with one of the most memorable passages from the aforementioned Essay VIII...

"In any discussion of the inclusive fitness theory with an adherent of it, the same extraordinary phenomenon of 'Janus faces' will be met with. On one face of the theory, arising out of the idea that kin altruism is caused by shared genes, there is an extravagant exaggeration of the amount of kin altruism that exists; on the other, there is the idea that kin altruism is an illusion, the underlying reality of which is shared selfish genes. Any discussion of altruism with an inclusive fitness theorist is, in fact, exactly like dealing with a pair of air balloons connected by a tube, one balloon being the belief that kin altruism is an illusion, the other being the belief that kin altruism is caused by shared genes. If a critic puts pressure on the illusion balloon - perhaps by ridiculing the selfish theory of human nature - air is forced into the causal balloon. There is then an increased production of earnest causal explanations, of why we love our children, why hymenopteran workers look after their sisters, etc., etc. Then, if the critic puts pressure on the causal balloon -perhaps about the weakness of sibling altruism compared with parental, or the absence of sibling altruism in bacteria - then the illusion balloon is forced to expand. There will now be an increased production of cynical scurrilities about parents manipulating their babies for their own advantage, and vice versa, and in general, about the Hobbesian bad times that are had by all.

In this way critical pressure, applied to the theory of inclusive fitness at one point, can always be easily absorbed at another point, and the theory as a whole is never endangered. A defender of the theory does need, it is true, a certain mental agility: an ability to make sudden and extreme 'gestalt switches', (as the best authors in the philosophy of science now say), from a picture in which animal life is swimming in kin altruism, to one in which there is no kin altruism at all. But this ability, it has turned out, is by no means uncommon; and it is the only one which a defender of the inclusive fitness theory needs. Given that, his theory is stable under any criticism whatever
."
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Forest_Dump on May 22nd, 2017, 7:58 pm 

NoShips I have to repeat my argument that taking Dawkins thoughts as being representative of evolutionary theory is kind of like taking alt-right Southern Baptists as being representative of Judeo-Christianity. Dawkins is at an extreme in almost deifying Darwin and the first edition of the Origin as holy script and in according selectionism or adaptationism (there is a difference in these two "schools" but I can't remember what it is) almost sole attention. The fact of the matter is that, despite the fact that Dawkins is an extremely good writer and arguer, he is not representative of evolutionary theorists. He's just the loudest - kind of a Trump character if you will.

When it comes to human, and for that matter primate, evolution, for example, I do not believe "natural selection" strictly speaking, was the strongest evolutionary force. Given the time involved, population densities, number of offspring at a time, years between generations, etc., we can't equate the evolution of primates with the evolution of fruit flies or cod fish. In fact, given the low population levels over such broad regions, at times confined to Africa (!) but at other times (i.e., during the Middle Miocene) also spread throughout Europe and Asia, genetic drift among highly dispersed small populations, probably not experiencing strong and focused selective pressure, more likely would have "evolved" due to the founder effect and genetic drift and then experienced further change when, for example environmental changes led to gene flow between populations that had been seperated for tens or even hundreds of thousands of years.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Lomax on May 22nd, 2017, 8:07 pm 

NoShips » May 23rd, 2017, 12:16 am wrote:
Lomax » May 23rd, 2017, 7:53 am wrote:Sorry to be pushy NoShips, but you didn't answer my question. Does Stove support his claim that if Darwin's theory of evolution were true, we would be in constant ruthless competition to survive, or does he not? In your original quotation of him, he makes the assertion, and then moves on, so I am asking if he ever comes back to the point in order to support it. Dawkins's book is a defense of the "gene's-eye view" of evolution and an explanation of how the gene's need to compete ruthlessly gives rise to the individual's, and the species's, more altruistic behaviour. If Stove simply asserts the contrary then I entirely fail to see how his book constitutes a refutation, or qualifies as being worth my time. So I'm asking you whether this is the case before I make up my mind whether to read him. You won't persuade anybody by adopting a victim-complex about how everybody hates those poor martyred Darwin doubters.



Herein lieth the confusion (I believe). Are Dawkins et al offering us an eliminative reduction of altruism (i.e., there is no such thing), or are they offering a causal explanation for the existence of altruism?

Something closer to the latter; certainly not the former. There is an old debate among evolutionary biologists about what is selected, and what is selected-for; is it the gene, the individual, the society, the species, something else, some mixture of the above? Dawkins's aim was partly to support the claim that regardless of what or who is selected, the genes are what are being selected-for. It was also partly to explain how altruistic behaviours among individuals and societies often serve to preserve their genes' place in the pool. Probably the most famous example is that of "kin selection". J.B.S. Haldane, a proponent of the gene's-eye view, was once asked by a skeptical interviewer if he would therefore die for a brother. "Two brothers", he replied, "or eight cousins". I will read your longer post when I get time.
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