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post #31 of 139 (permalink) Old 01-19-2005, 04:11 AM
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RE: Judge's order to remove evolution stickers from textbooks gets cheers from scientists

OK, while acknowledging that I am not a scientist; not even a botanist, nor have I played one on TV, here is one problem:
Darwin postulates that change takes place over time. This change produces benefits to the organism. We seem to see this on a historical basis. i.e. man, horse, etc.
However, the problem lies on the micro-molecular level. Cells are incredibly complex machines, yet in most cases, they are irreducibly complex. Meaning that no matter how complex they are, how specialized the function, they cannot be altered and still function. An example of this woule be a bicycle; it is somewhat complex; many parts. But all parts are required for it to function. Changing any individual part would make it a failure as a bicycle. For instance, 2 wheels, complete with rims, spokes, tube, tire, bearings and bearing races. Add to this the frame, seat, chain, sprockets, seat and brake. All these parts function as a machine to propel a person. Removing any one part makes for a defective bicycle.--An evolutionary deadend. One could also look at a motorcycle and postulate that the motorcycle "evolved" from the bicycle--similar appearance, and function. However, simply adding a motor to a functioning bicycle does not produce a motorcycle. There must be a mount for the motor, some sort of drive mechanism, speed control etc. Yet by the priniciples of gradual evolution there would have to be a bicycle with only a mount for the non-existant motor prior to the appearance of the motorcycle. Yet this extra appendage would not be of any benefit to the original bicycle.-- or a bicycle w/o the mount, but with the motor, or with a huge motor, too heavy for the wheels-- or a motor with the shaft facing the wrong way, or turning the wrong direction. Most of the changes would be detrimental to the bicycle, w/o producing anything close to, and useable as a motorcycle.

Thats a short illustration--I hope you at least understand the point. Evolution looks good in the big picture; its problems lie in the tiniest of details.

As for "time". I know the popular understanding is that adding sufficient time allows for many small changes. However, exactly how does time help? If the mathmatical odds for something happening are 1 in 10^50, ( to pick a number) that number does not change with the mere passage of time. We seem to believe that eons of time improve the odds; truth is, eons of time are simply eons of time.

If you would apply the same skepticism to evolution as you do toward ID, perhaps you'd see some of its problems.
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post #32 of 139 (permalink) Old 01-19-2005, 07:29 AM
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RE: Judge's order to remove evolution stickers from textbooks gets cheers from scientists

MS, thanks for the response. I understand the example you raise.

I think this concern is about variation. There are lots of variations in real organisms, we and other species show differences from individual to individual, and these differences are inherited via DNA. The first thing to observe is that variation at the level of a whole organism reflects variation at the cellular level, which in turn reflects variation in DNA. Since we observe, for example, a lot of inherited variation between people - tall, short etc, this means that at a cellular level, the 'machinery' differs from one person to the next i.e. there is no single 'bicycle', but a huge range of models. This is not the best way of demonstating that cellular machinery is free to vary - we just have to look at DNA variation from person to person. This is incredibly well documented in tens of thousands of studies. The notion that it is impossible to change the bicycle even slightly without breaking it is really not supported. I think you would be amazed by the kind of detailed molecular studies of genes and cellular machinery done in the last few decades, but unfortunatley it's not very accessible to the layman.

A good example of the power of evolution, this time directed by man, is in the changes wrought by artificial selection of farm animals and crops. These have typically come a long way from their wild ancestors. You can actually follow evolution of microorganisms in the test tube too, tracing the effects of altered DNA to the products of DNA (protein molecules).



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post #33 of 139 (permalink) Old 01-19-2005, 08:17 AM
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RE: Judge's order to remove evolution stickers from textbooks gets cheers from scientists

As I recall, Darwin used the example of pigeons to show how humans deliberately changed species and then asked the question, "Are there natural process that do the same thing?"
I also seem to remember Stephen Gould using an example of a bird species spread across the Northern Hemisphere from the UK to Siberia. There were small changes between birds geographically close but they could still interbreed. But the birds at the eastern and western ends of the range were so different they couldn't interbreed. Is that true?

If I understand your argument correctly, does it imply that smaller organisms change more rapidly than larger accounting for the rapid evolution of things like viruses? (bird flu?)
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post #34 of 139 (permalink) Old 01-19-2005, 08:32 AM
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RE: Judge's order to remove evolution stickers from textbooks gets cheers from scientists

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kerry edwards - 1/19/2005 3:17 PM

As I recall, Darwin used the example of pigeons to show how humans deliberately changed species and then asked the question, "Are there natural process that do the same thing?"
I also seem to remember Stephen Gould using an example of a bird species spread across the Northern Hemisphere from the UK to Siberia. There were small changes between birds geographically close but they could still interbreed. But the birds at the eastern and western ends of the range were so different they couldn't interbreed. Is that true?

If I understand your argument correctly, does it imply that smaller organisms change more rapidly than larger accounting for the rapid evolution of things like viruses? (bird flu?)
Yes, Darwin used examples from livestock domestication extensively. The birds you are thinking of are the 'species rings', a good example is the herring gull/lesser black-backed gull ring:

http://www.origins.tv/darwin/zimmergulls.htm

You're right too about the rate of change and body size. Smaller organisms tend to have shorter generation times, and so natural selection can operate more quickly on smaller species. This is why we have problems with antibiotic resistence in bacteria, for example (e.g. MRSA).

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post #35 of 139 (permalink) Old 01-19-2005, 08:38 AM
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RE: Judge's order to remove evolution stickers from textbooks gets cheers from scientists

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kerry edwards - 1/18/2005 10:51 PM

Around here, the species 'Creationist' abounds in many variations from the 6000yr old creationists to the billions of years old earth type.
They all share the common feature (if I understand them correctly) that there must be a supermind of some kind, outside of natural processes, that was involved in the creative process. Without such a supermind, there's no way to explain the complexity of the universe but especially our own minds.

Kirk:
If you don't discuss these things in philosophy classes, where else will they be discussed? Human minds tend naturally to philosophical theology. Good philosophical theology is better than bad philosophical theology (theist or atheist).
I think the political situation in the US makes it impossible to construct a teaching environment for philosophy that would not become a vehicle for teaching religion in school. It also has a lot to do with personal bias - if the country is to be best served by placing more emphasis on critical thinking skills, at the high school level it should be more in the area of applied mathematics and engineering so we can develop a work force that can survive in the world of globalization.




Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

-President Barack Obama, 1st Inaugural address
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post #36 of 139 (permalink) Old 01-19-2005, 08:56 AM Thread Starter
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RE: Judge's order to remove evolution stickers from textbooks gets cheers from scientists

Quote:
kerry edwards - 1/19/2005 8:17 AM

As I recall, Darwin used the example of pigeons to show how humans deliberately changed species and then asked the question, "Are there natural process that do the same thing?"
I also seem to remember Stephen Gould using an example of a bird species spread across the Northern Hemisphere from the UK to Siberia. There were small changes between birds geographically close but they could still interbreed. But the birds at the eastern and western ends of the range were so different they couldn't interbreed. Is that true?
Similar scenarios are found in the Great Rift Lakes of Africa. As an example, the Cichlid genus Tropheus is intrinsically bound to rocky oucroppings in the shallows to midwaters of Lake Tanganyika to such an extent that they're unable to traverse sand flats to other outcroppings. Like your birds, they've developed an astonishing array of color variations which are able to interbreed. There are also other variations which have received separate specific status and cannot interbreed.

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post #37 of 139 (permalink) Old 01-19-2005, 09:04 AM
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RE: Judge's order to remove evolution stickers from textbooks gets cheers from scientists

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MS Fowler - 1/19/2005 6:11 AM

OK, while acknowledging that I am not a scientist; not even a botanist, nor have I played one on TV, here is one problem:
Darwin postulates that change takes place over time. This change produces benefits to the organism. We seem to see this on a historical basis. i.e. man, horse, etc.
However, the problem lies on the micro-molecular level. Cells are incredibly complex machines, yet in most cases, they are irreducibly complex. Meaning that no matter how complex they are, how specialized the function, they cannot be altered and still function. An example of this woule be a bicycle; it is somewhat complex; many parts. But all parts are required for it to function. Changing any individual part would make it a failure as a bicycle. For instance, 2 wheels, complete with rims, spokes, tube, tire, bearings and bearing races. Add to this the frame, seat, chain, sprockets, seat and brake. All these parts function as a machine to propel a person. Removing any one part makes for a defective bicycle.--An evolutionary deadend. One could also look at a motorcycle and postulate that the motorcycle "evolved" from the bicycle--similar appearance, and function. However, simply adding a motor to a functioning bicycle does not produce a motorcycle. There must be a mount for the motor, some sort of drive mechanism, speed control etc. Yet by the priniciples of gradual evolution there would have to be a bicycle with only a mount for the non-existant motor prior to the appearance of the motorcycle. Yet this extra appendage would not be of any benefit to the original bicycle.-- or a bicycle w/o the mount, but with the motor, or with a huge motor, too heavy for the wheels-- or a motor with the shaft facing the wrong way, or turning the wrong direction. Most of the changes would be detrimental to the bicycle, w/o producing anything close to, and useable as a motorcycle.

Thats a short illustration--I hope you at least understand the point. Evolution looks good in the big picture; its problems lie in the tiniest of details.

As for "time". I know the popular understanding is that adding sufficient time allows for many small changes. However, exactly how does time help? If the mathmatical odds for something happening are 1 in 10^50, ( to pick a number) that number does not change with the mere passage of time. We seem to believe that eons of time improve the odds; truth is, eons of time are simply eons of time.

If you would apply the same skepticism to evolution as you do toward ID, perhaps you'd see some of its problems.
That was a thoughtful response. My refutation of your points on cell biology is pretty straightforward - we see the evolution of cells every day in the process they go through to develop resistance to particular drugs. You seem to suggest that evolution is an active process partaken by the cell itself, as if it has a mind to change, but that is not how it works. Let's take your cell biology example. In the millions of germs targeted by an antibiotic, a few survive that have some characteristic that makes them less susceptible to the drug. It is that slight variations that make evolution work - these variations accumalate over time. A germ that is resistant to penicillin in 1942 survives today as one resistant to the newest drug, while it is still resistant to penicillin even tho it hasn't been used in twenty years to fight that particular germ. In other words, a change was permenantly encorporated into the organism.

Let's now look at humans. Instead of antibiotics, its things like lions and tigers. Why do humans snore? Its a pretty useless habit. Why do we sleep? A major waste of time. Evolution gives us the answers - humans that do not sleep at night, fall off cliffs, fall into holes, and are eaten by night time predators. Those that crawl into a cave and sleep, have a much greater chance of survival, just as the bacteria that is constructed somewhat differently has a better chance of survival against its anitbiotic predator. If the human makes growling noises while sleeping, he has an even greater chance of survival because the noise will scare off smaller predators that may bite or poison him in his cave, leading to infections tha wil kill him. Evolution certainly is a better explanation than one that claims we were specifically designed to snore.








Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

-President Barack Obama, 1st Inaugural address
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post #38 of 139 (permalink) Old 01-19-2005, 09:18 AM
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RE: Judge's order to remove evolution stickers from textbooks gets cheers from scientists

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kvining - 1/19/2005 10:38 AM

I think the political situation in the US makes it impossible to construct a teaching environment for philosophy that would not become a vehicle for teaching religion in school. It also has a lot to do with personal bias - if the country is to be best served by placing more emphasis on critical thinking skills, at the high school level it should be more in the area of applied mathematics and engineering so we can develop a work force that can survive in the world of globalization.
I'm certainly not opposed to teaching applied mathematics and engineering but my experience has been that there are lots of people in those fields that are fundamentalists in religious philosophy. Critical thinking skills in those fields do not pass directly over into critical thinking skills in the Humanities.

My experience has been that philosophy can be taught to high school students and have a significant effect. Over the years, some of my best students have been high school students. Granted, there will be significant political pressures on the philosopher who does it in some districts, but it can be done and done well. Socrates was executed for corrupting the youth after all. Something must have been working.
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post #39 of 139 (permalink) Old 01-19-2005, 09:36 AM Thread Starter
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RE: Judge's order to remove evolution stickers from textbooks gets cheers from scientists

I'm sure it's possible Kerry, but you'd really be walking a tightrope in certain parts of the bible belt, including the parts my family is from. Remember the movie Footloose? That was a liberal love-fest, comparatively speaking...

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post #40 of 139 (permalink) Old 01-19-2005, 09:56 AM
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RE: Judge's order to remove evolution stickers from textbooks gets cheers from scientists

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kvining - 1/19/2005 4:04 PM

Quote:
MS Fowler - 1/19/2005 6:11 AM

OK, while acknowledging that I am not a scientist; not even a botanist, nor have I played one on TV, here is one problem:
Darwin postulates that change takes place over time. This change produces benefits to the organism. We seem to see this on a historical basis. i.e. man, horse, etc.
However, the problem lies on the micro-molecular level. Cells are incredibly complex machines, yet in most cases, they are irreducibly complex. Meaning that no matter how complex they are, how specialized the function, they cannot be altered and still function. An example of this woule be a bicycle; it is somewhat complex; many parts. But all parts are required for it to function. Changing any individual part would make it a failure as a bicycle. For instance, 2 wheels, complete with rims, spokes, tube, tire, bearings and bearing races. Add to this the frame, seat, chain, sprockets, seat and brake. All these parts function as a machine to propel a person. Removing any one part makes for a defective bicycle.--An evolutionary deadend. One could also look at a motorcycle and postulate that the motorcycle "evolved" from the bicycle--similar appearance, and function. However, simply adding a motor to a functioning bicycle does not produce a motorcycle. There must be a mount for the motor, some sort of drive mechanism, speed control etc. Yet by the priniciples of gradual evolution there would have to be a bicycle with only a mount for the non-existant motor prior to the appearance of the motorcycle. Yet this extra appendage would not be of any benefit to the original bicycle.-- or a bicycle w/o the mount, but with the motor, or with a huge motor, too heavy for the wheels-- or a motor with the shaft facing the wrong way, or turning the wrong direction. Most of the changes would be detrimental to the bicycle, w/o producing anything close to, and useable as a motorcycle.

Thats a short illustration--I hope you at least understand the point. Evolution looks good in the big picture; its problems lie in the tiniest of details.

As for "time". I know the popular understanding is that adding sufficient time allows for many small changes. However, exactly how does time help? If the mathmatical odds for something happening are 1 in 10^50, ( to pick a number) that number does not change with the mere passage of time. We seem to believe that eons of time improve the odds; truth is, eons of time are simply eons of time.

If you would apply the same skepticism to evolution as you do toward ID, perhaps you'd see some of its problems.
That was a thoughtful response. My refutation of your points on cell biology is pretty straightforward - we see the evolution of cells every day in the process they go through to develop resistance to particular drugs. You seem to suggest that evolution is an active process partaken by the cell itself, as if it has a mind to change, but that is not how it works. Let's take your cell biology example. In the millions of germs targeted by an antibiotic, a few survive that have some characteristic that makes them less susceptible to the drug. It is that slight variations that make evolution work - these variations accumalate over time. A germ that is resistant to penicillin in 1942 survives today as one resistant to the newest drug, while it is still resistant to penicillin even tho it hasn't been used in twenty years to fight that particular germ. In other words, a change was permenantly encorporated into the organism.

Let's now look at humans. Instead of antibiotics, its things like lions and tigers. Why do humans snore? Its a pretty useless habit. Why do we sleep? A major waste of time. Evolution gives us the answers - humans that do not sleep at night, fall off cliffs, fall into holes, and are eaten by night time predators. Those that crawl into a cave and sleep, have a much greater chance of survival, just as the bacteria that is constructed somewhat differently has a better chance of survival against its anitbiotic predator. If the human makes growling noises while sleeping, he has an even greater chance of survival because the noise will scare off smaller predators that may bite or poison him in his cave, leading to infections tha wil kill him. Evolution certainly is a better explanation than one that claims we were specifically designed to snore.






Nicely put. I would add to this the interesting observation that if you remove the 'selection pressure' of antibiotics from a population of resistant bacteria, they will loose this adaptation (revert to 'wild type') - again though natural selection. This is because there is a cost to maintaining the adaptation for antibiotic resistance. This is all beautifully documented down to the last DNA base pair in microbial genetics. We can see it happen in the lab.

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