Darwin impersonator visiting England

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Re: Darwin impersonator visiting England

Postby Brian Jordan » Sun Jan 26, 2014 9:07 pm

ShaunJohnston wrote:I am astonished. You seem to me precisely wrong. When you come across a new process won't you assess its nature by the most developed of its products, rather than from those that most resemble the matrix from which it developed, that may not show its essential nature most clearly? Should you concentrate on how viruses developed, to know how all of nature evolved? Or on products demonstrating the most advanced of its capabilities, such as creatures with culture and consciousness ?

I'm astonished we differ in such fundamentals. You seem to me like someone announcing they are about to climb Mt Everest who, on surmounting the foothills, says, I've conquered the mountain. No, you've only managed the foothills. Accounting for our own mental capabilities is what we expect of a theory of evolution. How can there be an question about that? Why would science limit itself to accounting for lichen when science itself is a product of an evolved creature that itself needs to be accounted for?

Am I not allowed to call for schoolchildren to be taught a theory of evolution that can account for their own ability to question science? What principle of science is this, that so limits the range of what a theory of evolution must cover? I am at a total loss. I don't know how to respond, what questions to ask?

Perhaps I can ask, what limits should be set to the theories of evolution we teach our children? And do we tell them about these limits, or pretend they don't exist?
Ah, well, there you have it: you are indeed precisely wrong. "Look, there's an enormous mountain. Let's get to the peak to see what it's made of, then we'll know all about it." Not, of course, that human beings are exactly a new phenomenon, having been investigated as long as human beings have had enough free time to think about such matters.
As for your development of your analogy, nobody is claiming (other than perhaps in the minds of the creationists) that in ascertaining the first steps in the development of life they have uncovered the whole story of evolution and human development.
You clearly don't want anyone to investigate your feet, lest they discover that you haven't a leg to stand on.
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Re: Darwin impersonator visiting England

Postby cathy » Mon Jan 27, 2014 5:10 pm

Shaun what you are saying does not make sense.

Firstly if you wish to examine and critique evolution and natural selection you need a far greater understanding of it than you seem to have. For example your maths. I'll allow for you picking a figure of 5% out of thin air for the efficiency of natural selection but what are you actually doing with those figures afterwards? What are your rates of changes of allele frequencies over time? How are you calculating your figures? Population statistics are complex, you seem to be just chucking figures in to something even simpler than a compound interest calculation.

Secondly why would you assess something like evolution by the most developed of its products? Give some kind of clear reasoning for that starting point? Brian is right you wouldn't assess the history of transport by looking at a boing 747.

Somebody once said that any technology that looks sufficiently advanced to a person that has not seen its predecessors will look like magic. They were right. Forty years ago an i phone with voice recognition would have been unknown and the stuff of science fiction. Watching sci fi programmes from then shows i phones were unimaginable.

Hundred years ago it would have been the stuff of magic.

But see the i phone seen as a progression and amalgamation of old landlines, old computers that did a few calculations. thru to mobile tech. increased computing power, better ways of storing data etc -and whoopee do the i phone is perfectly acceptable, almost inevitable not magic at all. So why would you start the way you are? Like a sixteenth century individual faced with a i phone, baffled at how it could come into being? It does not make sense to me. You're bound to end up confused. Look at the start and the progression and then see what you come up with.

If you are assessing the difference between life and non life, the most logical and easiest starting point is the thing that is closest to non life. Then you can see the differences more clearly. From their the obvious logical way is to then look for relationships between various living things to see if you can see a progression in thinking from lichen thru to culture. Non human primates show evidence of laughter and smiling. Crows (or is it ravens) show evidence of forward thinking and delayed gratification when they throw bread that's been thrown at them into rivers to attract fish rather than eating straight away.

You may still come to the same conclusions but at least they will be better informed conclusions.

Thirdly why do we expect a theory of evolution to account for our mental capabilities. All evolution does is favour what enhances survival. In our case mental capabilities. It could just as easily have been bigger claws, longer necks etc. We happened along a path of hunter gathering with little but brain power to see us thru. Evolution happens fastest when times are tough and populations small. We lived thru that. But you cannot expect evolution to come up with us at all. It will if circumstances allow, if times were always comfortable we'd probably be still up in a tree chewing grapes and picking fleas.

Fourthly, we teach our children what we currently know. Including the limitations. Nobody is actually taught how evolution could or should effect free will or consciousness because they are unknown!! If asked that would be the answer, currently we know pretty well that we came down from trees etc, we know how various things evolved - or have a very good idea tho knowledge being knowledge that is constantly adapting. But as for free will and determinism - they are still the preserve of philosophy, we do not yet know how they evolved. You are free to insert in there whatever magic you wish. It is not a limitation it is an unknown.
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Re: Darwin impersonator visiting England

Postby cathy » Mon Jan 27, 2014 5:16 pm

As for your mountain analogy - your version is like being parachuted to the peak and saying mountains are just points in the air with good views. No understanding that there is a huge pile of rocks beneath the clouds.
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Re: Darwin impersonator visiting England

Postby ShaunJohnston » Mon Jan 27, 2014 6:39 pm

Wow, Cathy, this is a very well-considered reply. I will have to read it carefully to draw meaning from it.

Thank you.
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Re: Darwin impersonator visiting England

Postby Brian Jordan » Mon Jan 27, 2014 6:56 pm

I think you've hit the nail on the head, Cathy, with your phone analogy. ISTR an old time travel film, A Yankee in King Arthur's Court, where the equivalent of mobile phones astounded the locals. They, of course, would have had no option but to gawp at the phone, maybe chop it open with a sword, and wonder at the magic.
We, on the other hand, have all been born since the fact of evolution was realised and have inherited a primer written by Darwin. We may open the theory up to examine its entrails, but with vastly superior knowledge to Darwin's, not King Arthur's mediaeval ignorance.
Shaun's mountain-top approach might be appropriate if an alien had suddenly sprung mammals on an unsuspecting world inhabited only by algae but for us, now, it just won't wash.
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Re: Darwin impersonator visiting England

Postby ShaunJohnston » Mon Jan 27, 2014 10:31 pm

Cathy, if you’ve the patience, tell me where my logic is wrong.

Population statistics is concerned with the effect of genetic mutations on creatures’ chances of surviving and reproducing. Beneficial mutations increase those chances, harmful mutations decrease them--that’s natural selection. That's all we're concerned with, right?

In the course of each generation the number of beneficial mutations will be increased slightly by natural selection. The number of harmful mutations will be decreased slightly. But because there are many more harmful than beneficial mutations produced in each generation, despite the slight decrease due to natural selection many more harmful than beneficial mutations will enter the gene pool and accumulate with each generation. As a result, harm will rapidly increase.

If this isn’t logical, please tell me your version. Merely telling me I’m wrong isn’t dealing with our communication problem.

Second. Why I pick what’s most difficult to account for-- If you can account for what’s most difficult to account for, it’s likely it will account for what’s easiest. But if you can account for only what’s easiest, you’ve no cause for assuming it will account for what’s most difficult.

Third. If we have mental capabilities, and if we are not exceptions to the processes governing the rest of the world, those mental capabilities came to us through the process of evolution. Then our theory of evolution should be able to account for them. If it can’t, as the modern synthesis can’t--it involves only purely physical processes--it isn’t an adequate explanation for evolution. Some other theory that can account for the evolution of mental capabilities is likely to be able to account for the evolution of everything else as well, and would be a better theory. Such a theory must be possible, since we did evolve mental capabilities. Why not admit that, and look for such a theory?

Four. If your theory can’t explain to a child where his experience of being conscious comes from, why should he be content with a theory that can explain only things remote from him, like creatures growing bigger beaks and claws?

Do you understand my points? I fear you reject them because they cast doubt on the modern synthesis? If you will disagree with anything I say that casts the modern theory in a bad light, tell me and I will thank you and stop posting.
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Re: Darwin impersonator visiting England

Postby psiloiordinary » Tue Jan 28, 2014 8:32 am

Shaun,

Read "Evolution" by Futuyma and it will explain why you are talking nonsense in detail and show you where you are wrong.

Unfortunately it does not fit on a forum post and will involve work on your part. Plus you will need to understand done maths.

Or you could just ignore me.

Regards,

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Re: Darwin impersonator visiting England

Postby Roger Stanyard » Tue Jan 28, 2014 9:22 am

ShaunJohnston wrote:Cathy, if you’ve the patience, tell me where my logic is wrong.

Population statistics is concerned with the effect of genetic mutations on creatures’ chances of surviving and reproducing. Beneficial mutations increase those chances, harmful mutations decrease them--that’s natural selection. That's all we're concerned with, right?

In the course of each generation the number of beneficial mutations will be increased slightly by natural selection. The number of harmful mutations will be decreased slightly. But because there are many more harmful than beneficial mutations produced in each generation, despite the slight decrease due to natural selection many more harmful than beneficial mutations will enter the gene pool and accumulate with each generation. As a result, harm will rapidly increase.

If this isn’t logical, please tell me your version. Merely telling me I’m wrong isn’t dealing with our communication problem.




It isn't either logical or mathematical.
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Re: Darwin impersonator visiting England

Postby Roger Stanyard » Tue Jan 28, 2014 9:25 am

ShaunJohnston wrote:Third. If we have mental capabilities, and if we are not exceptions to the processes governing the rest of the world, those mental capabilities came to us through the process of evolution. Then our theory of evolution should be able to account for them. If it can’t, as the modern synthesis can’t--it involves only purely physical processes--it isn’t an adequate explanation for evolution. Some other theory that can account for the evolution of mental capabilities is likely to be able to account for the evolution of everything else as well, and would be a better theory. Such a theory must be possible, since we did evolve mental capabilities. Why not admit that, and look for such a theory?



Why is it not explained by evolutionary biology?
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Re: Darwin impersonator visiting England

Postby ShaunJohnston » Tue Jan 28, 2014 2:54 pm

psiloiordinary wrote:Read "Evolution" by Futuyma and it will explain why you are talking nonsense in detail and show you where you are wrong. Unfortunately it does not fit on a forum post and will involve work on your part. Plus you will need to understand some maths.
Curiously, when I ask people to explain something about the modern synthesis, that they believe in, they invariably tell me I need to go and read some books. I say, no, if you can't explain what you believe, it's you that needs to read some books. This isn't a site on population statistics, its about what to teach in the school classroom. What's said in the classroom can surely be put into a simple post.

I'm saying that there's a gross mistake in Singer's statistics. Your response is to direct me to another book of statistics. You know the saying "garbage in, garbage out"? This is an issue that can't be solved by more statistics, only by examining the assumptions built into those statistics. I've pointed out a potential flaw in those assumptions. The appropriate response is to either declare me out of bounds for some reason, or present in words an answer. Or say it can't be simplified enough to explain to children.

I have a copy, and I've read, Huxley's "The Modern Synthesis," that modern evolutionary theory is said to be based on. I can't find the answer to my question there. Can you?
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Re: Darwin impersonator visiting England

Postby ShaunJohnston » Tue Jan 28, 2014 3:16 pm

Roger, here are ways of regarding modern evolutionary theory as not being able to account for consciousness.

One is the physicalist way, that consciousness may exist but it can't act back on the physical world--it can't for example drive our behavior. Our sense of having free will is an illusion. The behavior of living creatures is totally directed by their brains, bodies and the physical world. For a mechanism for evolution you therefore need consider only physical and chemical processes. We don't know how what gave rise to consciousness, it may be an emergent property, but it doesn't matter since consciousness can't have any effect on the rest of the world.

Another way is to say, yes, we humans experience consciousness, and we can influence how things evolve through conscious decision, by contributing to efforts to save endangered creatures for example. So we do have free will, but only we humans have it, are conscious, it came about through culture after we'd evolved biologically, so we don't need to consider it as agent of evolution. This is the argument from human exceptionalism.

A third way is to say, if we can be conscious and have free will, clearly evolution can transact in terms of consciousness and free will somehow, and unless we invoke human exceptionalism we can't in principle deny consciousness and free will to other living creatures or other agents involved in the process of evolution. Then a mechanism of purely physical processes that takes no account of the possibility of consciousness being involved in the process of evolution is suspect and needs to have its tires kicked.

I subscribe to the third of these. Do you declare it illegitimate? Or is your subscription to one of the other ways simply your preference, that you recommend to children?
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Re: Darwin impersonator visiting England

Postby ShaunJohnston » Tue Jan 28, 2014 3:42 pm

You must wonder why I continue to post. It's because it helps me think through the presentation I plan to give (see first post in this thread). Since I wrote that post I've abandoned my plan to give presentations to the public as a Darwin impersonator, channeling Galileo, with Galileo acting as the innocent savant, in favor of presenting just as myself, more like a standup comedian. My current title is, "Evolution--It's Making Me Crazy." I would explain what it is about modern evolutionary theory that drives me crazy. Our conversations are helping me clarify what that is.

So this is working for me.

My ultimate goal is to come across someone who can explain to me where I'm wrong, so I can end this quest.
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Re: Darwin impersonator visiting England

Postby psiloiordinary » Tue Jan 28, 2014 4:16 pm

Your statistics are hopelessly wrong and ignore most issues that apply here.

Your goal is not to find out where you are wrong. That has been pointed out to you repeatedly here and you simply ignore it.

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Re: Darwin impersonator visiting England

Postby ShaunJohnston » Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:47 pm

"Your statistics... ignore most issues that apply here." I know. That's what I'm pointing out. All accounts of how evolution works I've read deal only with the effect of natural selection on the frequency of beneficial mutations. They point out that though the effect of natural selection is tiny, allowing beneficial mutations to spread only extremely slowly at first, it is yet so inexorable over hundreds of thousands of generations that the beneficial mutation will eventually become the more common version of the allele. The entire focus is on this statistical analysis of natural selection acting on the beneficial mutation. But none have dealt with what happens to the harmful mutations. If you do that you get a conclusion like what I show here http://www.evolvedself.com/schbd.htm.

Cathy very appropriately likened the Singer statistical formula to a compound interest calculation. Isn't it? Suppose I said to you, I'll put $1 into your bank account every month that'll grow at 5% annual interest (that's the effect of natural selection on the frequency of beneficial mutations). It's only a little, but over thousands of years the compound interest will make it amount to a lot. OK? At the same time, I'll withdraw $100 from your account every month but, don't worry, all that money gets reduced by that same 5% every year (that's the effect of natural selection on the frequency of harmful mutations), so that after thousands of years it's grown so big the 5% it's being reduced by each month will be as much as the $100 I used to withdraw. So the total of all the $100s I've withdrawn, less that %5, stays the same for here on, while the $1 I go on adding each month goes on increasing at compound interest without limit, forever. You'll really make out.

Can you see the flaw in this offer? You can see it in my diagram, in the gray line. The short term loss, of $$ or of fitness, makes moot the supposed eventual gain in $$ or fitness through compounding over eons.

Come on, put your point of view forward. Don't leave me to do all the explaining. You'll be glad when some kid asks you the same question, you'll know what to say.
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Re: Darwin impersonator visiting England

Postby Brian Jordan » Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:56 pm

Oh dear Shaun! First you dismiss biologists, then statisticians are talking out of their hats. Only our Shaun is in step! And now you are complaining that not only can evolution not account for consciousness and/or free will, but consciousness cannot account for evolution. Catch 22!
Try thinking lower down the mountain: the levels of consciousness of algae, worms, rats are all different and the question of any of them altering evolution by their free will is ridiculous. However, the degree of consciousness and the extent of their cleverness can clearly have an effect on their interaction with their environment and so be amenable to natural selection. Dull minds are out-competed by craftier monkeys.
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