A Challenge to both Evolution and Intelligent Design

How does science work? And what's all this about quantum mechanics?

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Nikolai
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Post by Nikolai » Tue Dec 16, 2008 8:20 pm

Hi Mark,
I couldn't disagree more - a) that there's any difficulty telling the animate from the inanimate,
If it seems easy to tell them apart, it is still the same nature of judgement as distinguishing a good from an evil act, or a beautiful from an ugly object. And just as an unreflective person may have a black and white view of right and wrong (and not be aware of their inconsistencies) so does an unreflective person think the distinction between life and non-life straightforward. The only difference is that there such a very dominant social narrative about the difference between life and non-life that we are almost blind to the perspectival nature of the judgement.
I couldn't disagree more - a) that there's any difficulty telling the animate from the inanimate, and b) that even if there were it wouild pose a problem for evolution.
I explored this a little above. If we don't know what's alive and what isn't the organism and the environment would tend to blend into one. We would have an unstbale sense of what is 'adapting' and what is 'being adapted to' and the organims would be seen as increasingly continuous with its non-living surroundings (a little like Dawkins' 'extended phenotype').

Interestingly, Lovelock has gone down this road a little way when he allows for the fact that Earth (including both 'living' and 'non-living' components) is best understood as a single living organism. From my perspective the problem still remaims: if planet Earth is living, then what is not-living - and why?

All the best, Nikolai

Morpheus
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Post by Morpheus » Tue Dec 16, 2008 10:56 pm

In Lovelock's theory ALL is living! That's the whole point of his Gaia hypothesis. Earth is a self-regulating system, rather like a living cell.

It's also true that Lovelock believes that Earth could die - that is to say, it can only tolerate a degree of destruction of its interrelated functions. It could reach a point beyond which it can no longer function as a self-regulating system and becomes a dead planet. A dead Earth would be Like a dead human being whose component chemistry remains, and yet the WHOLE is no longer a functioning system. So maybe Lovelock believes in vitalism after all?

mark black
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Post by mark black » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:15 am

Nickolai,

I've read Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis and nowhere in it does he refer to the earth as a living organism. In fact, it's a rather boring treatsie concerned with the inputs and ouputs of environmental systems. It's written purely in terms of systems analysis. I understand that the title was suggested to him, and was picked up on and mythologized by new-age environmentalist types who probably hadn't read it.

If you want a simple definition of life you could apply the entropic test. Life spends energy to maintain a state of negative entropy. Inanimate objects do not. You could look for DNA based reproduction and evolution - also unique to living organisms. You can look for biologically intelligent structures and behaviours. These are characteristics of living organisms - not possesed by inanimate objects.

It's not merely a subjective categorization like good and evil, but an objective biological reality. It's like you're saying, because the human body is about 20c worth of chemicals, a human being is worth 20c. The body may be made from chemicals, but your perspective is waaaay off.

mb.

mark black
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Post by mark black » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:22 am

Morpheus,

It's worse than that. In his latest work, Lovelock says that it's already too late to tackle climate change and that by the end of this century billions of people will die, and the only habitable spot left on the planet will be at the North Pole. Cheery thought! We have to suppose and act on the basis that he's overstating the case.

mb.

Morpheus
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Post by Morpheus » Wed Dec 17, 2008 3:05 pm

Yes, he thinks we've had it. I saw him on TV not long ago and he reckons we have only about 40 years (maybe less) before our Earth system reaches tipping point, when it can no longer maintain homoestatis. Yet he reckons we should be investing in low carbon nuclear energy if we've any hope of saving ourselves. I don't feel happy about nuclear energy at all. In any case, aside from the widescale ecological carnage we've already caused, we're competing with natural climatic changes and a potential pole reversal (as we all know such patterns are part of Earth's natural history). Then there's the threat of a super-volcano under Yellowstone Park in the USA which could erupt at any time and wipe out life as we know it. So we may all be going down with the ship whatever we do.
Last edited by Morpheus on Wed Dec 17, 2008 3:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Morpheus
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Post by Morpheus » Wed Dec 17, 2008 3:29 pm

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Arising_uk
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Post by Arising_uk » Wed Dec 17, 2008 4:31 pm

Overstating is the word as unless we are Cetaceans the North Pole will be the last habitable place as its an iceberg. Did he mean the South Pole?

Nikolai
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Post by Nikolai » Wed Dec 17, 2008 10:48 pm

Mark
Life spends energy to maintain a state of negative entropy.
I'm sure you can see the tacit vitalism in this statement. What is this 'life'that is drawing in the energy from around it? What is this difference between 'life' and the energy it uses to fuel itself. Using entropy as a definition of life as juxtaposed agianst non-life is rather like saying that the whirlpool is something separate to the river, and is again like saying that smoke is something separate to the its carbon constituents.

Believe it or not, I can't disprove vitalism. But I do think it is salutary for Darwinists to recognise that the theory is predicated on the existence of some 'unseen' extra which is metaphysical. It is for that reason that Evolution is based on faith, for without this faith the theory breaks down.
t's not merely a subjective categorization like good and evil, but an objective biological reality.
Those cute little snows huddling together are also a biological reality, if that is how we are accustomed to seeing them!

Nikolai

PS - I was referring to later Lovelock. The Gaia Hypothesis is his earliest exposition and tentative of necessity.

mark black
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Post by mark black » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:02 pm

Morpheus,

Put the pole reversal, yellowstone, asteriod impact threats from your mind. It's like stood in frount of a speeding car and worrying about alzhiemers. True, they could happen tommorow and there's not a damn thing we could do about it, but they may not happen for another 100,000 years. Think upon the massive advances we've made in just the past two hundred years. If we can survive the man-made threats which are sure to devestate us this coming century if we don't act to prevent them - then it will be reasonable to worry about super volcanoes and asteriods etc. For now we've got to get out of the road.

mb.

mark black
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Post by mark black » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:04 pm

Arising-UK,

Is it? I always get them mixed up. So it's the South Pole that has land. But is it polar bears or penguins?

mb.
Last edited by mark black on Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.

mark black
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Post by mark black » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:28 pm

Nickolai,

I'm not sure that it is vitalism. From what little I know of it - no more than a wiki definition, I see there are certain compatabilities, but my discourse is rational scientific.

In terms of this discourse, the distinctions between a lifeform and the energy a lifeform uses to maintain a state of negative entrophy have already been mentioned. Negative entropy, DNA based reproduction/evolution, and biological intelligence apply to lifeforms, and do not apply to energy. These are scientific phenomena that can be identified, observed, tested and so on. There's nothing metaphysical about them.

Similarly, the organism may be made up of 20c worth of chemicals, but you go too far to suggest that there's something magical/metaphysical in the fact that 20c worth of chemicals are more than just chemicals. It's amazing - I'll grant you that, mind bogglingly complex, but it's all entirely compatible with known elements and scientific forces.

Except for the ultimate sceptical doubts we may harbour - that reality is an illusion, discounting this, evolution is not based on faith. Evolution is based on observation and the exhaustive testing of the hypothesis that follows from those observations.

There are fossil records and DNA evidence that all point in the same direction. There's biology, genetics, agronomy, climatology, geology, archeology - and a host of other discplines welded into a grand narrative by the modern evolutionary systehsis.

In comparison, your thin sceptial doubt - based soley on chopping the logic of definitions is measely and wicked. I do hope you're playing devil's advocate for kicks.

mb.

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Arising_uk
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Post by Arising_uk » Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:16 am

Yup, the bloody massive continent of Antarctica plus Penguins.
http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_big_is_Antarctica
Its why the polar bears may die out as they can't swim for ever.
Still, they may well swim to land and adapt if we don't shoot them all first.

mark black
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Post by mark black » Thu Dec 18, 2008 10:46 am

a_uk,

South Pole, Land, Penguins. South Pole, Land, Penguins. South Pole, Land, Penguins. Okay, I've got it. Thnak you for the corrective.

mb.

mickthinks
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Post by mickthinks » Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:28 pm

What happens when something living becomes something non-living? How do you know?
I don't claim to be able to identify reliably the moment of death. My inability is not a fatal flaw, nor indeed a flaw of any kind, which would threaten the basis of evolution theory.

You point seems to be this: because we cannot answer all questions of life and death, we cannot distinguish them at all. I think that is nonsense, Nik.

Mick

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Rortabend
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Post by Rortabend » Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:55 pm

You point seems to be this: because we cannot answer all questions of life and death, we cannot distinguish them at all. I think that is nonsense, Nik.
Well said. This is a popular tactic of the intelligent design lot. Evolutionary theory can't explain everything about life therefore it explains nothing about life. Doh!

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