Rand and Darwin - Conflict or Not?

Doug Bandler's picture
Submitted by Doug Bandler on Fri, 2011-01-14 09:06

A common critique of the Objectivist ethics from evolutionary theorists is that it is in violation of the facts of biological reality. These critics say that Rand based her ethics on an Aristotelian meta-biology and not a Darwinian one. Thus for Aristotle, the teleology of an oak tree, the essence of the tree's existence, is the full grown tree itself. But Aristotle's biology has been replaced by Darwin's, in which an oak tree is an acorn's way of making more acorns.

The criticism is that Rand is wrong in one of her basic statements about life. She says that every function of a living organism is directed toward a single goal: the organism's survival. But this isn't true. Living organisms have reproductive organs, and the functioning of those organs is not directed to the organism's survival. Most living organisms spend a significant part of their lives living for the sake of something that will happen when they are no longer there to care about it, that something being the survival and reproduction of their descendants.

Thus the characteristics of living organisms are best explained by reproduction, not by survival. It is argued that this fact seriously undermines if not destroys the Objectivist ethics.

What are some opinions on this. I understand that Binswanger weighed in on this subject. Does anyone know what his answer was?


Sir Minuscule Marcus, Benighted Prince of Conceptual Darkness

darren's picture

Whether it is a car, boat, plane, house or a dinner for five.

All very relevant examples, Marcus. What was the "ingredient" added to the individual parts comprising a car, boat, plane, house, and dinner for five, that turned their parts into whole cars, whole boats, whole planes, whole houses, and fancy dinner parties? Was it "another part"?

Nope.

It was intelligence. Mull that over and try to prove otherwise, shnook.

@ Frediano - you've got the wrong topic. Try again.

darren's picture

the principle that complexity can result from exceedingly simple rules.

Thanks, Frediano, but the topic under discussion is specificity, not complexity. Nice try, though.

Reread my post regarding ink-blobs and Ayn Rand portraits and you'll get the . . . picture.

@ Sir Minuscule Marcus, Benighted Prince of Darkness

darren's picture

It cannot be the "basic Darwinian paradigm" because Darwin didn't know anything about genetics.

Captain Obvious to the rescue: there have been lots of Darwinians AFTER Charles Darwin, who follow in his footsteps regarding small incremental changes over long periods of time and who do know something about genetics. I never mentioned Charles Darwin himself, you dolt.

You might say that it is the neo-Darwinian paradigm, but that is not a paradigm.

Deny, deny, deny. The neo-Darwin paradigm is certainly breaking down now, but it was the ruling paradigm from the 1940s to about the 1990s. Some people still naively believe it.

Remember the argument between Dawkins and Gould?
Punctuated equilibrium versus adaptive gradualism?
What the two would agree upon, like me, is that there was no supernatural power involved in the process.

Their opinions on evolution should be taken together to get a more accurate picture of the truth. Gould showed that phyletic gradualism is bunk -- the fossil record overwhelmingly shows stasis punctuated by sudden change; and Dawkins agreed on film that biological organisms could have been intelligently designed as long as the designer one has in mind is a space alien, not a supernatural intelligence. Fine by me. The two together: intelligence was required to create code from chemicals; small, incremental changes plus natural selection picking and choosing based on unspecified (and unspecifiable) criteria of "fitness" is bunk: species appeared and branched explosively, not slowly and incrementally.

I've had enough of this debate because we are never going to agree.

Sounds like denial.

In my opinion evolution is an entirely natural process from start to finish.

By "evolution" you mean "neo-Darwinism", and by "natural" you mean "material". I agree. That's why adding random variation -- "noise" -- to material elements will never convert them into a code.

You can argue about what or who was the "prime mover" in the universe until you're blue in the face, but for me it doesn't actually affect my view of the world today or the origins of life.

On this thread, I've said almost nothing about prime movers or supernaturalism; you were the one obsessing over that. Like any true cult member, Marcus, you constantly have to prove your cult-membership bona fides, in this case by constantly and vehemently asserting your militant atheism even when it's not the topic under discussion. It's the Objectivist equivalent of obsessively clicking one's heels and shouting "Seig Heil" even when it wasn't necessary. Anyway, do try to focus and concentrate on discussion topics, Marcus. If you do, maybe -- like Whinefield -- you'll even be promoted at work.

Is that the best you've got?

Robert's picture

I mean seriously. The last half dozen posts have consisted of you trying to play gotcha and getting slapped because you can't get your facts straight.

And then after being slapped down by the simple restating of facts that you have ignored in your zeal to smear me; all you have left is to try an goad me for being a glorified 'mechanic'?

Do you think that being categorized as a productive member of a larger collaboration with a commercial organization is an insult?

It makes me wonder what sort of capitalist are you?

Do you understand that a workforce (mechanics, janitors and chrome knob polishers all) is the torque wrench that multiplies the force that the 'men of the mind' (to borrow Rand's term) apply to a problem?

And given this, how in all that is holy could you rationalize that I would be offended by being called a 'mechanic.'

Do you imagine that I'm bitter about being asked to contribute some small thing to the creation of a new class of medicines? Even if my only contribution was to clean and maintain the precision instruments that they use?

Do you even accept the idea that one can be proud about putting in a good days work, regardless of the nature, just because to do so is honest and morally up lifting? And if not, what sort of Christian/God-botherer are you?

If it is true that you imagine that I'm bitter for only being a cog in the creative wheel, then I can tell that you've no concept about how hard it is to create something, anything, let alone something nobody has ever seen before.

Possibly that is why you believe so vehemently that God created the universe. To the point that you'll go to extremes of smearing the mere acquaintances of your opponents without the slightest compunction.

More likely, you're just an immature over-stuffed pseudo-intellectual college-educated jerk who has no inkling about how fast you can go from having a double-barreled job title to being another unemployment statistic. A statistic in a suit with a CV and a brown-bag lunch in your brief case wearing out shoe leather in search of a job, all the while envious of those Jiffy Lube guys who can pay their rent in cash just because they can fix a car.

I am a glorified mechanic. My tools are a Gilson autopipette and a Mass Spectrometer. I sling Jurkat cells and juggle aliquots of 6M guanidine isothiocynate for a living. I deal in the tangible and I do the bidding of others.

What's your point?

"a' Experiment?

Frediano's picture

What is a reasonable number for the number of possible earth-like laboratories in the Universe?

http://www.openminds.tv/billio...

2 billion earth like planets, just in our single Milky Way galaxy?

Then, which estimate do we use for the total number of galaxies in the Universe? They range from Hubble's 125 billion to the German simulation's 500 billion.

We readily come to an estimated number like 250 to 1000 x 10^18 earth like planets.

We need to consider what is going on on any one of those singular planets. Is it 'a' experiment? Or like on earth, is it thousands of miles of coastline on myriad seas, billions of tiny crevices in which these serial experiments are being run, subject to what appears to be universally existing filters/bias in the local shake and bake?

Are these such experiments run once, or constantly?

As well, the any numbers derivable from the estimates above suffer from an obvious bias: life as we know it. If we include the forms of life we observe clustered around deep sea vents based on chemical, not solar energy, then the possible laboratory sites increase dramatically.

Life appearing in the universe? Self aware animated bits of the same stardust found everywhere?

How could it possibly be stopped?

Marcus:

Frediano's picture

It's a principle that religious people never want to acknowledge, but is true on its face: That the sum total (of complexity) is greater than its parts.

And Wolfram's NKS not only suggests, but demonstrates in a repeatable manner, the following form of that: The sum total of even simplicity can be far greater than its parts, as well, resulting in ordered complexity.

regards,
Fred

I was workin'

Brant Gaede's picture

I was workin' in the lab late one night
mixing up every chemical on site--in sight.
Applying heat, applying cold,
wondering if this was the way to grow old, when,
voila! voila! I had grown some mold!

--Brant
nothing more need be said, but I'm callin' it "Darren"!

In fact, it is just as likely to have been authored by a lessor

Marcus's picture

Frediano, you hit the nail on its head.

It's a principle that religious people never want to acknowledge, but is true on its face: That the sum total (of complexity) is greater than its parts.

This principle is applied everywhere. Individually nuts and bolts are just not as complex as the finished article. Whether it is a car, boat, plane, house or a dinner for five.

With regards to evolution the religious type does the equivalent of setting their eyes on a rock in the ground and then looking up at a jumbo jet and saying, ‘My God, from that to this, it’s a miracle! A higher intelligence must be involved.’

To admit such a truism that the sum total is greater than its parts though would be the nail in the coffin of creationism and theism.

Complexity bias

Frediano's picture

There is another bias in your argument that is patently false. Wolfram created a compendium of the work in this area (his NKS-- New Kind of Science) that amply presents , and even demonstrates, the principle that complexity can result from exceedingly simple rules. In other words, it is not necessary in the least that complexity be authored by a greater complexity. In fact, it is just as likely to have been authored by a lessor complexity. It is only via anthropomorphization of humans authoring complexity that the bias of 'complexity is always authored by greater complexity' clouds our judgement. We say the universe must be limited to what we can do, as we do it-- even as the universe emitted us.

There is a lot of controversy over how much of his work is original and how much is simply a compendium of others work in the field, but that is a petty distraction. He clearly put an enormous effort into collecting and presenting and even extending the science of this topic.)

Wolfram makes no claims at all regarding the applicability of his NKS results to the issue of the necessity for a first designer, but his work clearly demonstrates, by presenting repeatable counter examples, the possibility of unforeseeable complexity resulting from a simple set of rules.

Our daily experience includes ready hints of this principle, even if the underlying principle is much broader: "the law of unintended consequences."

We not only have no means of predicting the complexity that results from our complex designs, we have no means of predicting the complexity that comes from even simple designs.

The universe, fortunately, is not encumbered purely bv our such bias. It is encumbered by its own set of bias/filters.

Filters

Frediano's picture

These sorts of filters don't appear in material nature naturally. If you believe otherwise, provide an example.

'an' Example?

1] The big one: "What works, works."
2] Any number of natural laws.; the apparent quantization of energy levels, resulting in fewer available states.
3] The consequences of that resulting in 'memory' -- an accumulation of previous states.
4] The consequences of the 'handedness' of certain configurations of atoms/molecules. A bias towards 'right handedness' filters out left handed candidates, for example. (I'm not talking about gross characteristics like human left/right handedness, but things like helix winding.)
5] Gravity is a very powerful filter that naturally creates gradient (is itself gradient) out of disorder. In fact, all of the natural field effects impress gradient as their consequence.
Gravity results, for example, in the curious universal appearance of spherical planets orbiting spherical Suns. Gravity is an obvious filter, when the topic is creating and sustaining a fluctuation of order from purely random disorder.

Another explanation for the apparent universal behavior in our 'random' universe is that a perfectly ordered external entity ordered it. And again...that just kicks the can down the road.

Certainly enough to replace certainty on the topic of that which is safely outside of this universe with scientific doubt.

Dense cherry picking

Frediano's picture

And he was wrong, as my earlier link to unclaimed "MegaMillion" showed. There need not be any winner of a lottery.

Again, the perseverance on 'a'. And, the curious claim that a single failed lottery somehow 'shows' -- in 'financial analyst' logic world, I guess, that during the course of a lifetime (not 'a' lottery), there need not be any winner of any lottery. Your anecdote is equivalent to looking at a single region in that 10^80 particle region and over one cycle observing -- as 'a' observer observing event candidates serially, one at a time, a single failure to realize sufficient local fluctuation to achieve gradient of any kind, and concluding, 'see! nobody ever wins the lottery.'

To the closest whole %, and for the typical human lifetime, the probability is 100% that over the course of your lifetime, someone will win some lottery somewhere. There is an exceeding small chance that over that amount of time, no individuals anywhere will win any lottery. It is a very unlikely run of universal bad luck analogous to life appearing in the Universe.

if we run those experiment for billions of years, that might indeed happen once. But as you have well argued, the probability of that happening is not 100%, but slightly below, by some very small finite number. As small, do you think, as the estimated .7x10^-38 abundance of life in the visible universe?

Did I ask for your help?

The universe is neither a single lottery nor specific singular winner. And neither is it running lotteries one at a time, a point lost on our young 'financial analyst.'

Is this indicative of the quality of your financial analysis? If so, then I'd wonder. On second thought, given the state of modern economic art(economists can't reach any kind of science to authoritiatively tell us what allready happened, nor what just happened now, and are certainly in no shape to tell us what is going to happen)I wouldn't wonder at all.

You see, when you go to the racetrack to bet on the ponies(analogous to staring at the scoreboard and betting on a game played by others), there are these sad sacks who will sell you expert crib sheets, to turn the experience into a kind of but not really science. They employ statistics. Math even.

So there are different kinds of people in the world. There are folks who play the game, and run the race. There are folks who stare at the scoreboard and place bets. And there are the folks who are hired to write crib sheets for the folks who stare at the scoreboard and place bets.

Some are beast builders, some are carcass carvers, and then there are the folks who choose to work for both.

All of the above are all about managing risk in the universe, as it is. Some participate with ROI at risk, and others shed risk by working for a gyaranteed ROI at a severe discount, and some, via equities, do a little of both. And all of them are subject to scientific doubt.

None of this riveting cherry picked discussion is either proving or disproving the existence of any first designer/creator, except via the abuse of Feynman's Cargo Cult Science.

Was it an old white guy on a throne throwing thunderbolts? I doubt it, even in the face of your certainty.

In fact, especially in the face of your fanatical true believer certainty, now that I see what twists and turns and obfuscations are required in order to defend it.

Financial analyst, or fanatical analcyst? Either way, an unsightly boil on the economic ass of mankind.

Thanks for stating your case...

Marcus's picture

...Dazzler.

"But if you're trying to get from species A to species B under the assumption that small point-mutations did it all incrementally over long stretches of time, I don't think you'll get anywhere (and that, of course always was the basic Darwinian paradigm)."

It cannot be the "basic Darwinian paradigm" because Darwin didn't know anything about genetics.

You might say that it is the neo-Darwinian paradigm, but that is not a paradigm.

Remember the argument between Dawkins and Gould?

Punctuated equilibrium versus adaptive gradualism?

What the two would agree upon, like me, is that there was no supernatural power involved in the process.

I've had enough of this debate because we are never going to agree.

In my opinion evolution is an entirely natural process from start to finish.

You can argue about what or who was the "prime mover" in the universe until you're blue in the face, but for me it doesn't actually affect my view of the world today or the origins of life.

@ Marcus

darren's picture

You've said that your intelligence is not god.

I've merely pointed out that the intelligent input need not be God.

You've said that your intelligence is limited by the physical constraints of our world.

I said that chance is limited by the physical constraints of our world. You've got X particles to play with, Y changes/sec allowed by quantum law, and Z time.

You’ve said that your intelligence allows for mutation and variation in the genetic code.

Yes, something designed by an intelligence can also have input from chance, as well as from deterministic forces.

So what is your conclusion?
Is your theory incompatible with the process of evolution or just the initial progenitor of life?

It's incompatible with any theory of abiogenesis that relies only on chance and necessity.

It's compatible with Darwinian assumptions regarding chance and small, incremental changes, but what it does is to downplay the importance of all that. Most people, including IDists, would agree that chance and selection played a role in varying one kind of rose to another kind. But both are still roses; same species, different varieties.

My ideas were influenced by James Shapiro (and others) who started out as traditional evolutionists, but who found they had to abandon key features of it. For example, I believe that much -- maybe most -- of the variation in a species was there to begin with, in the original bauplan, "blueprint", or archetype. Under various kinds of stresses -- Barbara McClintock called it "genome shock" -- the genome rearranges itself and gives itself new abilities. (McClintock won a Nobel Prize for showing this process existed.) There's still natural selection, but it has the exact opposite function as previously thought: its purpose is to select variations that DON'T work and throw them out. Once you start moving large chunks of the genome around, you can get large changes in the organism's phenotype and really wind up with something different from what you had before. But if you're trying to get from species A to species B under the assumption that small point-mutations did it all incrementally over long stretches of time, I don't think you'll get anywhere (and that, of course always was the basic Darwinian paradigm).

What are you getting at?

Life is based on coded-chemistry, and codes require intelligent input. As I tried to explain in my post to Brant, you can't get codes out of chemical elements by adding noise -- chance events -- to them, even over long periods of time. Whatever contribution (positive or negative) chance and necessity might play in altering the code, in the past or in the present, it still is true that you cannot originate codes from chance or necessary events.

What does your intelligence mean to us humans and our view of life and the universe?

That's a very speculative question, and by asking it, you've gone far outside the narrow margins pertaining to this particular thread on Rand and Darwin.

@ Leonid

darren's picture

Here you refer not to objects but to their mental representations,

I intentionally didn't use the phrase "mental representation" but, yes, that's what I was referring to. Thank you for being the first to use the term and broach this important topic.

which are obviously part of consciousness.

Agreed.

Objects exist independently of consciousness.

Not without employing the stolen concept fallacy. I agree that something exists independently of consciousness but we can't call them "objects." That's why I used Peikoff's term (from a metaphysics lecture I attended live many years ago), "Puffs of Meta-Energy." And no, "puffs of meta-energy" are not "objects."

See, this is an example of equivocation, Leonid. You're trying to use the word "object" to mean BOTH that which we experience with consciousness and our senses, AND that which is presumed to exist apart from consciousness and the senses. They're two different things, and rightly, should have two different words to denote them. "Objects" are representations as given in, or experienced by, consciousness.

An "object" IS an object because it is experienced as such by an experiencing "subject", i.e., consciousness and senses.

Too dazzling? Put your damned shades on.

darren's picture

Frediano stated the likelihood of someone winning Lotto despite the infinitesimal odds in our lifetime is 100%.

And he was wrong, as my earlier link to unclaimed "MegaMillion" showed. There need not be any winner of a lottery.

Now, gruntster, I know you're a glutton for punishment and insults (which is why you keep coming back for more), but I'll try to restrain myself and actually attempt to explain something to you (though it's a bit like pointing at something and having your dog stare at your finger, rather than at the thing you're pointing at).

Here's the scenario:

Suppose you're visiting your usual Mexican whorehouse you like to visit on weekends. And on this particular weekend, the madam tells you that, because of the worldwide recession and slump in business, she's going to hold a raffle with all of the other, uh, customers (Winefield, Frediano, Marcus, and Leonid). Including you, there are five patrons total. The winner of the raffle gets to, uh, spend quality time with any one (or two) of the female talent employed at the establishment for free for that evening.

There are five customers. The madam cuts up five little bits of paper, and on one of them, she writes "Winner!" Then she folds each paper in half, and in half again, so that each folded piece looks identical to any other folded piece from the outside. Then she throws all five folded pieces of paper into a hat and shakes it (the hat, not her arse). Then she passes the hat around, and each of the five patrons withdraws one folded piece of paper.

Question: What are the odds that YOU, personally, will win? Answer: 1-in-5, or 1/5, or 20%.

Question: What are the odds that ANYONE -- a non-specified patron -- meaning you OR Whinefield OR Frediano OR Marcus OR Leonid -- will win? It's the SUM of the odds of each specific patron: 1/5 for you, plus 1/5 for Whinefield, plus 1/5 for Frediano, plus 1/5 for Marcus, plus 1/5 for Leonid, or 1/5 + 1/5 + 1/5 + 1/5 + 1/5 = 5/5 = 1 = 100%

And why must this be so? Because the madam -- who is the goal-directed, intelligent designer of the raffle -- intentionally set it up in such a way that there must be a winner. That there will be a winner of the raffle was pre-determined by her when she set up the whole thing.

Get it?

Don't you understand that if she had decided, instead, to be a tease by tearing up 2 million pieces of paper (for example, taken from her paper shredder, writing the word "Winner!" on one small shred, and putting them all into a big barrel) that, with only 5 patrons, not only do the odds of winning go down for a specified person -- your odds are now 1 in 2 million -- but that it doesn't follow that SOMEONE must win. There might be no winner. And do you really not get that as the number of paper shreds increases, the odds against ANY ONE winning go up.

@ The Objectivist Two-Step

darren's picture

A bit of explanation re my remark about the Augean stable-full of intellectual muck being produced by the current "information" fad.

The inevitable back-peddling. I call it "The Objectivist Two-Step." Let's see how well you dance it, Ellen.

What I mean is the use of the term "information" with multiple different meanings all of which are conflated...

The term "information" hasn't been used that often in this thread, Ellen. The string I've been harping on has been the concept of "code", not "information." Why don't you point out precisely where I (or anyone else) equivocated on the term "information."

Re: Promotion

darren's picture

I was promoted in August 2010.

To Chief Mechanic and Chrome Knob Polisher?

That's great! Congratulations, man, you made it!

Re "information"

Ellen Stuttle's picture

A bit of explanation re my remark about the Augean stable-full of intellectual muck being produced by the current "information" fad.

What I mean is the use of the term "information" with multiple different meanings all of which are conflated into a supposed overarching "information" theory which in fact includes soup and nuts and fish and fowl and rocks and computers and the state of the nation and the origins of the universe and the properties of light and lots more in one murky mish-mash and calling this mish-mash cutting-edge science when really it's often nonsense produced by equivocation. Darren is skilled at purveying the mish-mash.

Ellen

Actually

Robert's picture

I was promoted in August 2010. That would make it seven months ago.

And the hits just keep on coming...

@ Frediano - Re "filters"

darren's picture

There is also yet no acknowledgement or recognition of the effect of filters in your analysis.
Filters aren't a part of everyone's domain,

True. For example, the kind of filters that sort through random, noisy environments, selecting certain things and excluding others in order to put them into lower probability positions and configurations that have order, structure, and hierarchy, are all products of intelligence. These sorts of filters don't appear in material nature naturally. If you believe otherwise, provide an example.

What 'a' experiment are you

darren's picture

What 'a' experiment are you referring to, when offering this argument as an analog to what goes on in the entire universe?

Er, you just posted this:

And, what is really required? Its easy to run this experiment. Hypothesize some finite number of states. Randomly generate states. Is every state eventually realized? You can run this experiment for small N. You can run it for larger N. At some point, it takes more time to run then you or I have. But not more time than the Universe, all of existence has had.

Had you forgotten so soon, Fred?

So why don't we let you do the honors, since it's your example. Go ahead, Fred. Hypothesize some finite number of states (and I mean, state an actual, hard number). It's up to you: you can make N large, or you can make N small. You can make it binary -- as in "heads" or "tails" as the two possible states -- or you can make it several hundred. Whatever you want. Just stop blowing smoke and giving us handwaving explanations and USE SOME CONCRETE NUMBERS AND PERFORM AN ACTUAL CALCULATION. Shouldn't be hard for a Princetonian like you.

"Twit"? Make it "twat", if you prefer.

darren's picture

The universe is an incomprehensibly large number of laboratories running an incomprehensibly long list of experiments.

The universe is not an "incomprehensibly large" anything. It has about 10^80 particles. Period. Any experiment you care to hypothesize cannot make use of a larger number of entities -- including "laboratories" -- than there are fundamental particles. I assume that even you are capable of grasping that simple fact.

With a concept like "infinity", or a bullshit concept like "near infinity" you can blow smoke up the arses of fellow sycophants and claim "HEY! ANYTHING'S POSSIBLE!" Ah....but...with a much smaller, concrete number like 10^80, certain things are NOT possible. The constraints I pointed out to you -- X number of particles, Y number of transitions/sec, Z amount of time -- have the inconvenient property of allowing some things to occur, but ruling out others.

And one of the things it rules out is any event whose odds of occurring are smaller than 1 in 10^142, or whose bit-depth, in terms of information, is greater than 500 bits.

As for your high school boxer friend, he sounds OK to me, though it seems he must have punched out your lights a number of times in the ring, since you're a simpleton, unable to grasp elementary ideas of probability.

Not enough time to come up with us without a designer, because we're so complex?

See what I mean? Randomly occurring ink-splatters on a piece of paper also display complexity, but it makes no functional difference where on the paper a given blob of ink happens to fall. So this sort of complexity can very well be put down as having occurred by chance. But if the ink-blobs form a pattern we recognize as a portrait of Ayn Rand, then it matters a great deal where on the paper any given blob of ink happens to be. It's obvious that each blob of ink in that kind of scenario has a function -- contributing to the overall image of Ayn Rand. The reason we do NOT ascibe chance to the second example, is not because the portrait of Ayn Rand is more "complex" than the ink blobs in the first example; the reason we do not ascribe chance is because the function of each blob of ink in the second example is highly specific. So "complexity" is one issue; "specificity" is another.

Generally speaking: chance alone can account for "complexity" in many contexts; deterministic law can account for specificity in many contexts (such as Marcus's prior example of crystals, whose patterns are specified but also very uncomplex); but both "complexity" and "specificity" cannot be accounted for by chance, determinism, or their interaction. "Complexity" and "Specificity" -- the sort of thing we see in languages, art, and codes -- are always products of design.

Dazzling roadshow

gregster's picture

Earlier Dazzler used the dishonest technique, which to give credit he has refined to an obvious skill, of context-dropping. Taking one word from Ellen's "have heard the genetic code described as literally a code by various biochemists and molecular biologists, who I think are beguiled by the current "information" fad which is producing an Augean stable-full of intellectual muck" and having fun with it. I see through this. It's oddly funny though I shouldn't laugh. When it suits him he drops words altogether. This time "someone." Frediano stated the likelihood of someone winning Lotto despite the infinitesimal odds in our lifetime is 100%. Each week it is demonstrated that this is true. No "determinism" about that. But Dazzler proceeds to fluff about with that word - and its meaning to him. And mentions the Big fucking God's Bang again! A non sequitur from the Dazzler trick book.

Twit?

Frediano's picture

@darren:

The ink just ran out in my printer, I had to change the cartridge. So you see, being called an uneducated 'twit' by a 'financial analyst' isn't the worst thing that has happened to me in the last five minutes, by far.

I get it. You've mastered +, -. x, / and %, and are fully qualified to RTFM guess for folks until you guess wrong and are shown the door, where an avalanche of other 'financial analysts' are waiting to give double entry accounting on steroids shtick the old college try.

Had a high school friend, he was a semi pro boxer. No good at it, so he sold Amway for a few years. That didn't work out, so he's a 'financial analyst' now.

He finally found his niche. He guesses for a living, applying rote formula, leaning heavily on math we'd all learned by jr hs.

He isn't a big fan of calculus either, and also sometimes shows inappropriate childish rage. It's at times like this that I truly regret there is no telethon for patarnalistic megalomania. My condolences.

The experiment's been run, many times. The lottery's been won many times. Ditto the Sweepstakes. The probability is 100% given enough time.

And by the way, we're here.

How much time does the universe have? How many experiments is it running in that time? The answer is not 'a' experiment.

Not enough time to come up with us without a designer, because we're so complex?

But the designer is far less complex than us? Or came from outside this universe? And, you don't see that as just kicking the can down the road?

So 'financial analyst.' That would make you one of those people with a boss, chasing Hayes points.

I wouldn't know. Not since I was 26. Been signing both sides of my paycheck for (almost)30 years.

You got a lot of balls calling people around here 'mechanic.'

You're a lightweight arithmetician, with a religious freaks' grasp of logic.

Q: What do you call a 'financial analyst' who is still working for someone else, and asking them to sign his paycheck?

A: No damn good at what he does.

But that's just me.

Prove me wrong. Go quit your job tomorrow, put yourself out there. Risk your own skin, the skin you believe is all that.

Or, hang in the cut, and get healthy here, calling folks you merely disagree with 'mechanics.'

Not my problem. But reading you is like watching a train wreck.

What 'a' experiment are you referring to?

Frediano's picture

@darren

What 'a' experiment are you referring to, when offering this argument as an analog to what goes on in the entire universe?

There is no analog to 'a' experiment. As if, in the entire Universe, there was 'a' traffic cop who enforced some kind of law, 'all such experiments must be run serially...there is 'a' laboratory where this is occurring, so get in line and run this thought experiment serially.

I don't see the analog to 'a' single experiment, run serially.

You've described 'a' circumstance where there is 'a' single particle undergoing 'a' state change, or equivalently, 'a' major casino in Las Vegas or 'a' dice roll, executed serially.

From where this perseverance on 'a', when pondering what is possible by the entire universe?

There is also yet no acknowledgement or recognition of the effect of filters in your analysis. Filters aren't a part of everyone's domain, that's OK, I can live with you not seeing the concept.

Let me guess...you are also one of those believers in 'the' economy? (As opposed to, the economies...)

Can't you read?

Robert's picture

"hardly setting the world on fire"

What part of "JL is no longer my employer." do you not understand?

Why must you persist in attacking someone who has absolutely nothing to do with what I wrote three or four posts ago? Are you that much of an ass? Have you no honor at all?

"be sure to let me know when you get tenure."

What part of that rant describing why I want to do commercial science did you not understand?

"Until that auspicious day for the taxpayers of the U.S."

What part of "my salary comes from the commercial firm collaborating with our lab" did you not understand.

The tax-payers haven't shelled out a dime.

"you're just a mechanic..."

And you're just stupid enough to think that that is an insult.

I guess I'll just have to add advocate for class warfare to your list of psychological problems.

@ Handsome

darren's picture

Isn't J.L. That was so last year.

Well, excuse me! "Last year" was all of 3 months ago. Twit.

@ gruntster

darren's picture

Not surprised that a twat like you follows a twit like Fred. The singing group of Twit-and-Twat.

1] 1/10^6 What are chances of someone winning the lotto...in our lifetime? 100%
Wrong. No one need win Lotto at all. And obviously, what's relevant here is the odds of a specific person who has bought a ticket winning the jackpot. Those odds aren't 100%.

Same for the Sweepstakes.

You're a stupid, uneducated, uncouth fellow, gruntster, so let me teach you something for the first time in your cursed life: if you claim that the odds of X occuring are 100%, then that's DETERMINISM. Are you claiming that life in the universe was DETERMINED? That the odds of it occurring were 100%, i.e., given the Big Bang, it was 100% that life would appear?

@ Nancy Boy

darren's picture

You also need to learn the etiquette of authorship in scientific papers. The PIs name goes last (or close to it if there is a collaboration).

Ah. A thousand pardons. That means she's the first-author on all of 4 publications. Not exactly setting the world on fire.

And what your Google search doesn't tell you is that Jennifer has also been dabbling in start up companies as well as a patent for a medical device.

Not dedicated to pure academic research, I see. Well, I approve. I like to see entrepreneurship flourish wherever it can. For his part, Shapiro lectures quite a bit, and was also a visiting professor at several universities. Don't know if he was involved in startups or not.

She has just made tenure at one of the top Pharmaceutical Chemistry Departments in the country.

At KU? Splendid! Be sure to give her my warmest congratulations! Say, isn't KU a tax-funded university . . . pretty much like all universities in the US (with the exception of Hillsdale College)? So now, she's in the same sinecure-cruise-ship as Shapiro: tenured at a tax-payer funded university.

Anyway, Nancy Boy, be sure to let me know when you get tenure. Until that auspicious day for the taxpayers of the U.S., you're just a mechanic who polishes and cleans lab machines.

Great point Fred

gregster's picture

1] 1/10^6 What are chances of someone winning the lotto...in our lifetime? 100%
2] 1/10^7 What are chances of someone winning the sweepstakes...in our lifetime? 100%
3] Multiply them. What are chances of some one individual winning the lotto AND sweepstakes... in our lifetime? Small. In Universal time? 100%

You see that Dazzler uses various devices in his crooked thinking to attempt to obfuscate. He posited that it was impossible for chemical elements to evolve into genetic 'codes.' Just downpage he repeats the old chestnut hangover from quantum theory that we can't be sure that an entity will act according to physical laws. And here we have another attempt using mathematical probability to state that the chance of an event is near impossible. The elements combine by rules according to their identity. Genetic 'codes' do not suggest a designer.

No? No.

darren's picture

Eventually, that lottery number comes up.

Wrong. Eventually "a" -- as in "one" -- lottery number comes up. It need not be a "functional" one that leads to the result of someone actually winning. Happens often. See:

http://chicago.cbslocal.com/20...

How could you possibly preclude it from coming up?

See above.

It is one of gazitrillions of equivalent states.

We're not arguing that a particular state, combination, or permutation has zero chance of occurring given enough random trials. We're arguing that some patterns indicate intention (hence, cheating), while others do not . . . even though these patterns have exactly the same probability.

Here's a simple question that I assume you're capable of answering:

You are head of security for a major casino in Vegas. A patron plays the dice table and rolls 40 double-sixes serially. Everyone around him claims he cheated and must have employed loaded dice. Question: Do you calm the other patrons down by telling them "Hey, not to worry, folks, it's just pure dumb luck! The chances of rolling a given specific number on one die is 1/6; the chances of rolling a given specific number on another die is also 1/6; the chances of getting any unique combination of numbers with the two dice together is 1/6*1/6 = 1/36. The chances, therefore, of getting any unique combination with successive rolls of two dice is 1/36^n, where "n"=number of rolls. So the chances of getting double-sixes 40 times in a row are exactly the same as getting any other combination 40 times in a row . . . so calm down! There's no evidence of "design" here!"

Is that really what you would tell them? Just curious.

And, what is really required? Its easy to run this experiment. Hypothesize some finite number of states. Randomly generate states. Is every state eventually realized? You can run this experiment for small N. You can run it for larger N. At some point, it takes more time to run then you or I have. But not more time than the Universe, all of existence has had.

Well, that's obviously untrue, and I've already stated why several times. The laws of reality forbid coin-tosses or dice-rolls or any other entity such as an electron, etc., from changing its spatial position or any other physical state from occurring more than 10^45 times per second. Right? Right! So that's one physical constraint you have to take into account when conducting a hypothetical experiment. Right? Again, right! Another physical constraint is the number of coins or dice or electrons being used in your hypothetical. Right? Right! Since coins and dice are composed of fundamental particles, you cannot have more coins or more dice than there are total fundamental particles. Right? Again, right! The estimated total number of fundamental particles you have at your disposal to conduct a hypothetical experiment with is 10^80. So isn't that another physical constraint you have to take into account before conducting a hypothetical experiment? Yes. Finally, every coin-toss, or dice-roll, or electron collision, happens over time and therefore takes time to occur. All of the coin-tosses and all of the dice-rolls and all of the nuclear collisions have to occur within the time that the Universal Casino has been open for business: about 12 billion years. So that's yet one more constraint you have to take into account in your hypothetical. Right? Once more: Right!

10^80 particles; 10^45 state changes; 10^10 years. Your hypothetical experiment has to fall within those parameters or it's simply invalid. You can't make believe that reality is different from what we know it to be just to make your experiment come out the way you want it to. That would be an example of the "Procrustean Bed" fallacy that, I believe, I brought up in an earlier post.

My boss...

Robert's picture

Isn't J.L. That was so last year.

What part of "my boss is one of those men" did you not understand?

Guess you need to sharpen up on both your reading comprehension and Google skills.

You also need to learn the etiquette of authorship in scientific papers. The PIs name goes last (or close to it if there is a collaboration).

And what your Google search doesn't tell you is that Jennifer has also been dabbling in start up companies as well as a patent for a medical device. That won't show up on your scholar search because (1) they are in the process of filing it and (2) it isn't public domain research. She has just made tenure at one of the top Pharmaceutical Chemistry Departments in the country.

By comparison, Shapiro has been established at UC for a lot longer. And I don't recall him mentioning in his CV that he invented something or co-founded a small company...

I could go on. You should really quit while you are behind.

For myself, I'm going off to work on something far more engaging than your inane drivel.

Besides, this cyber stalking crap is getting creepy. I'm positively sure that my colleagues past and present don't need you peeking in their windows just so you can prove to your fans that I'm full of it. I'm sure they'll take that one on faith - it is their way.

Oh, and if Marcus or Linz could place me under moderation that would be great. I've edited my personal details to omit my surname. I'm hoping that this will help keep this discussion tit-for-tat discussion about my ex-colleague - including Darren's evaluation of her looks (WTF?) off Google.

She didn't ask for this creepy little sod's judgments. And I had no idea that he'd single her out as a way to insult me.

@ Handsome

darren's picture

Guess it takes a loser to know a loser. Your boss -- Professor Jennifer Laurence, the one who, by your lights, ought to be outpublishing and out-researching an old veteran like Shapiro -- published (1) paper in 2008, nothing in 2009, (1) in 2000, (2) in 2001, (1) in 2002, nothing in 2003, (1) in 2004, nothing in 2005, (1) in 2006, nothing in 2007, then -- as if to say "Sorry," she pushes through (4) in 2008; then we're back down to (2) in 2009; and finally, 3 more "in press" for which there are no dates yet. I don't see her name as first-author on anything, and I don't see any books that she's authored (Shapiro has a few). The question of whether or not her research is interesting, relevant, fruitful, exciting, innovative, leads to other avenues of questioning and research, etc., are different issues altogether that I leave to some of your more literate colleagues -- the ones not tasked with cleaning equipment -- to answer.

On second thought, don't bother watching that video of Shapiro. It's too advanced for you. Recommend it to your boss.

Don't appreciate calculus?

Frediano's picture

Darren:

I think you missed the relevance of what happens in calculus every day. Infinities are often -- not always -- readily tamed by throwing other infinities at them, the results being, finite.

The universe is not a single laboratory running an incomprehensibly long list of experiments, requiring an infinite amount of time to complete. The universe is an incomprehensibly large number of laboratories running an incomprehensibly long list of experiments. The result of throwing those two 'near infinities' at each other can readily be a finite result.

What % of the mass of the known universe is life? It is an infinitely small %. "Highly improbable.' And yet, from our perspective, a decidedly finite amount.

Hoyles estimate for mass of visible universe: 8 x 10^52 kg
Biomass estimate on earth: 5.6x10^14 kg

By those arbitrary estimates, the visible known universe is 0.7x10^-38 life. Infinitely small. Highly improbable. Especially in a visible universe that is at least 75% made up of a single electron orbiting a single proton. And yet, here we all are, a finite result.

Improbable clearly happens. Not very often. But where it does, it is a 100% certainty.

Darren

Leonid's picture

"To account for things that could not have come into existence through random combinations of pre-existing material entities, or by means of necessary, deterministic forces; i.e., codes."

How an arbitrary assumption which doesn't pertain to reality can account for anything?

"I said that consciousness AND (notice the word "and", Leo. It's a conjunction.) physical nature existed simultaneously, and that one cannot be reduced to the other, nor did one precede the other."

It doesn't make the trick. Your consciousness which "exists" separately from existence is a contradiction in terms. Nothing exists without to be part of existence.

"And it's also true that a physical entity -- an OBJECT -- is only an "object" when experienced by consciousness."

Here you refer not to objects but to their mental representations, which are obviously part of consciousness. Objects exist independently of consciousness. I hope you did existed even before I became aware of your existence. You are not my nightmare, aren't you?

"Obviously, you're the kind of nerd who believes that philosphical problems are solved by recourse to looking up words in a dictionary . . . as if lexicographers hold all the answers!"

Since you are obviously dislike dictonaries and their definitions would you be so kind to present your definition of consciousness?
Maybe we are talking about different things?

"I'm perfectly willing to consider that biological coded-chemistry was designed by intelligent martians or venusians."

And who designed theirs?

Anthropomorphizing the Universe...

Frediano's picture

While waxing poetic about calculus, you forgot to mention a basic fact about simple probability: probabilities -- including those that apply to lotteries -- multiply when considered in tandem. "What are the odds of winning Lotto? Perhaps 1/10^6". "What are the odds of winning the Irish Sweepstakes? Let's say 1/10^7." "What are the odds of someone's winning BOTH Lotto AND the Irish Sweepstakes? 1/10^6 x 1/10^7 = 1/10^13."

1] 1/10^6 What are chances of someone winning the lotto...in our lifetime? 100%
2] 1/10^7 What are chances of someone winning the sweepstakes...in our lifetime? 100%
3] Multiply them. What are chances of some one individual winning the lotto AND sweepstakes... in our lifetime? Small. In Universal time? 100%

Statistical probabilities that result in numbers large compared to human lifetime scales are not nearly as scary when scaled to Universal time scales. It is a parochial human bias to limit the Universe to human scales of probabilities, limited to human timescales.

But, winning the lotto or sweepstakes is not subject to the same set or character of filters. GATC. What works, works. An experiment not run in a single laboratory, serially, as a human might imagine it, but possibly in quadrazillions of laboratories simultaneously, in parallel, along the thousands of miles of shoreline and cracks and crevices of some long ago sea.

A patient universe, with nothing to do but that which is clearly possible.

Doug

Leonid's picture

"The reason one posits an Intelligent First Cause is to explain the existence of a system of coded-chemistry, which obviously cannot emerge -- spontaneously or incrementally -- from non-intelligent causes. Codes are always tell-tale products of intelligence, goal-directedness, and teleology."

Codes presuppose something which has to be be coded. That means properties existed before codes. Coded biochemistry based on 5 nucleotides-which initially had been used by cell in transfer of energy and only later for the storage and transfer of information. They assumed this function as result of natural selection-organisms which failed to transfer survival properties died out. The argument "Codes are always tell-tale products of intelligence" is akin to the argument of intelligent "watchmaker" as a creator of Universe. This is simply non sequitur. As we know today the "watchmaker" could be blind.

The origin of life doesn't require very long time, it could have been spontaneous and relatively quick event. The reason for it is that life has an ability to transfer energy in much more effective way than abiotic processes

"every atom effectively rendered capable of photo-absorption by organosynthesis becomes a billion times more efficient as a transporter of energy from sunlight to black-body radiation than that same atom in an abiotic state."

Finally the premise of intelligent Martian doesn't solve any problem, it simply exchanges one uknown by another. There is no difference between god and intelligent leprechaun.

No?

Frediano's picture

Eventually, that lottery number comes up.

How could you possibly preclude it from coming up? It is one of gazitrillions of equivalent states. And, what is really required? Its easy to run this experiment. Hypothesize some finite number of states. Randomly generate states. Is every state eventually realized? You can run this experiment for small N. You can run it for larger N. At some point, it takes more time to run then you or I have. But not more time than the Universe, all of existence has had. And, we're not talking about 'directly resulting in mankind.' We're talking about, resulting in sufficient local order in the noise that, given physical laws which act as those filters(which you clearly ignored in your response,) were sufficient precursors to have launched the cold process that eventually emitted mankind and everything else.

A surprisingly small fluctuation in the local dominance of matter over anti-matter is required in order for one or the other to dominate. An analogy to what is not only possible, but in fact likely, with the cumulative local 'random' events has been examined in the context of ocean net heating/cooling by Professor Wunsch of MIT. A read of his article here gives a good description of the nature of such 'random' events when they involve any 'history' of some kind -- such as would be the case of a current local cumulative state.

http://royalsociety.org/News.a...

Now we heat and cool the ocean over some small region using the atmosphere. To determine whether the ocean is to be heated and cooled on any given day, we simply flip a coin: if it's heads, we heat the ocean. If it's tails, we cool it by a like amount. Because we assume we have a true coin, the long-time average temperature of the ocean is the starting temperature, T0. Hasselmann pointed out, however, that the actual time history of temperature in this model ocean is very different from being near T0! Almost all the time, it is rather far from T0; in fact, the probability of its being T0 tends rapidly towards zero.

Most of the time, the ocean is either warm or cold compared to T0 and tends to stay that way for extended periods (we cannot predict whether it will be warm or cold, or the time interval over which it will stay warm or cold, but we can confidently predict the statistics of its departures from T0.

A consequence of this type of behaviour (and which a reader can easily check by having a small computer do the coin-tossing many times) is that systems with a memory of the past history of forcing can have very strange, unintuitive, behaviour that violates "common sense." The behaviour here can be understood by noting that if one tosses a true coin 2 million times, the probability of exactly 1 million heads and 1 million tails is very small. Instead, one expects a finite surplus of one or the other corresponding to excess heating or cooling.

The point being, that truly purely 'random' sequences of events not only can, but likely do, result in local fluctuations of net imbalance, sufficient enough to create local order(gradient.)

Add the effect of filters -- not only natural physical laws, but simply 'what works, works' -- and an infinitely patient universe given all the time in the world, and the ordering that we call life is not only possible, but likely inevitable. Moot, we're here, we exist. Who was there to stop that which is obviously possible?

I was less than convinced by your rebuttal: "No."

regards,
Fred

Richard:Your area of expertise is physiotherapy?

Leonid's picture

Yes, mental. It helps to develop cognitive abilities, thinking, you know...

Idiot.

Robert's picture

You've looked me up. Congratulations. You know how to use Google. Now go have a lie down, you must be exhausted.

Later, perhaps you could learn to comprehend what you read too?

I'm a Research Associate. Which is a fancy term for junior/bench scientist. I'm employed by Principal Investigators (Tenured Faculty like Shapiro) to assist them with their research projects. Successful PIs have labs full of erks like me and are able to publish half a dozen papers a year and often more.

My current boss is one of those men.

As a Bench Scientist I'm called upon to move heaven and earth to answer the research questions they were given the funding to ask. That means that I'm supposed to only get one or two papers out a year. I can't get any more out because I'm the one DOING the experiments described in the paper.

A successful PI on the other hand is supposed to be managing the lab (hiring and firing) and finding funding - the latter is the most important to the University because 50% of everything he finds goes to them. Therefore cash strapped Universities of today like PIs who pull in money and tend to regard those that don't the same way the general public currently sees Unionized public workers - and for many of the same reasons.

Do you get the lay of the land in academic science now? 1-2 papers per year from a guy who has been in the biz since the late 60s doesn't add up to 'successful scientist.'

Not any more.

Further, as a bench scientist, I've learned more extraction, purification and analytical techniques for DNA, RNA, proteins, bacteria, fungi and yeast then I can list on a 2 page resume.

But that's my job. And I'm very good at it. The University of Kansas has frozen wages across the board since 2008. But somehow I managed to rate a pay raise and a promotion. So either I'm a bullshit artist of rare talent (not likely, I've stayed in one place too long and worked for too many folks here) or I'm a known and well regarded employee.

And yes, when the Laboratory's computer controlled precision engineered analytical devices (Liquid Chromatograhy devices - $20K - $100K each, LC-ESI/MS, $50K - $100,000 each etc.) go down, I break out the overalls and the tools and fix them myself.

Surprisingly, that turns out to be a bonus for an employer facing the cost of paying to fly a certified field engineer out from the East Coast or Europe, put him/her up for the night, and then paying him $150/hour to fix the problem.

Americans used to praise that sort of attitude and self reliance not to mention the time (i.e. money) savings it brings.

I'd pause to wonder why you express disdain it if I actually gave a rat's arse about your opinions.

My publication record is bleak for a simple reason. I'm attempting to transition into industrial science.

Why?

(1) Having done my PhD in industry, I like the pace (ie faster than academia) and the fact that they are product and profit (as opposed to paper and taxpayer funding) orientated.

Industry is for capitalists. That is where I want to be. That way when the project fizzles, it's not taxpayer money I'm risking.

And FYI: most projects fizzle (i.e. do not lead ~directly~ to epoch making discoveries or to new technologies or to consumer products that yield a tangible return of or even on the capital invested in it). It's just that in academia, you can cover up the fact by publishing something - anything - that is unique about the fizzled project.

That may be overly cynical.

But the people who tell you that are the PIs who've spent a career banging away at the same problem by a multitude of approaches. Each approach constitutes a project and occupies the time of a Masters, PhD or Post Doctoral erk each costing $20-60K per year in salaries and benefits and that amount again (or more) in consumables and equipment time... Add that up and see how economical a way of conducting research that is; then revisit my statements above.

(2) I predict that the world of public-funded research is about to implode under the Federal and State budget deficit. I don't want to be in academia when that big bang happens.

What does one do when attempting to transition to industry?

One acquires as many new skills as one can. You seem to have seen my CV so why don't you show it to your christian molecular biology buds and see how their expertise compares to mine.

One joins laboratories that are in or associated with the Medicinal or Pharmaceutical Chemistry field because the faculty in those areas do not disdain or palpably despise commercial science like those in the pure biology/ecology fields do. One does this because those faculty have connections in industry - handy for finding jobs.

Another advantage is that their projects are often collaborative efforts with and funded by industry - as my current position is. Thus, even though I'm nominally a state employee, the money that pays my wages comes from commerce. And that is something I take more pride in than any of the papers I've published thus far: including the co-first authored paper in PNAS.

Why am I at University in the first place? Because thanks to every country in the world subsidizing tertiary molecular biology training (with your dime and mine) there is a molecular biologist bubble. For employers industry, it's an employers market. Too many people chasing too few jobs. So industry can pick and choose whom they please and they are very discerning. Because I was born in and trained (on my own dime) in NZ, I've got two strikes against me in their eyes.

One, I am a skilled foreign worker and as such am subject to immigration quotas (50,000 H1Bs issued per year in the entire US) that are waived if I work in academia. My solution is to get a Green Card (a 7-10 year process) -- on my own dime -- while working at a University. That way I won't have to beg my Industry employer to spend $50,000+ in legal fees, immigration applications, and such for the chance to win the H1B lottery in order to legally to hire me. Oh yes Virginia, that is what hiring a H1B immigrant can cost a private company per employee - see Microsoft's laments on the topic.

Two, I need to prove myself in the American scientific culture which naturally trusts folks that are trained in US institutions over those trained in foreign countries. Can't blame them for being that way, I'm just saying that it is very inconvenient for prospective migrants.

Am I writing this because I want your sympathy? No.

I'm writing this to answer your slur and explain the hierarchy in academic science - something you plainly have no fucking clue about.

And here is why you are an idiot.

Without a scintilla of an attempt to determine the proper context you are presuming to judge the fledgling careers of two folks who've been doing academic science for less than a decade each. Then you are comparing us unfavorably to someone who has been in the business over four times that long and has achieved (in terms of rate of publication) exactly what we have.

That is beyond idiotic.

Ellen...

Marcus's picture

"Speculating -- including speculating that life is so rare a development, earth might be the only place it's appeared -- that's ligit. But the lack of evidence thus far for life elsewhere in the cosmos, if there truly is a lack of evidence thus far, demonstrates nothing except lack of evidence."

I didn't say the idea of a "single progenitor" should be accepted just because I learnt it at university - only that it was not a controversial idea.

I'm not blind to the argument that if it happened here, then it must have happened elsewhere. I was just stating the bald fact that there is no evidence for it and that I can easily accommodate the thought that life is unique to earth.

It's funny that these days saying that there may be no other life in the universe is controversial.

The panspermia theory could be an idea that is coming of age.

The Martian bacteria fossil, if you believe it is real, is a big boost. And of course the finding that there was once liquid water on Mars adds momentum to the idea.

Panspermia may be better able to explain how life first evolved at source, but one must still assume that the beginning of life was a rare event. Otherwise why were not multiple forms of life transported from Mars to Earth?

Junk and nonsense...

Marcus's picture

You still haven't proven your point Dazzler.

I asked you to cite a mainstream science journal that said Junk DNA was history.

Instead you have dragged up NewScientist (a pop science magazine that reports all sorts of fanciful things) and a list of research publications that propose different functions for some regions of non-coding DNA, but no cigar with regards to proof that Junk DNA does not exist.

But that's not even that important right now, because as I said I do not think that most DNA is junk anyway, although there are leftovers from evolution in the genetic material - pseudogenes and inactive transposons for example.

We haven't even spoken yet of recombination, gene shuffling or the fact that genes can be exchanged between different species and still function.

However, what is your bottom line Dazzler?

You've said that your intelligence is not god.

You've said that your intelligence is limited by the physical constraints of our world.

You’ve said that your intelligence allows for mutation and variation in the genetic code.

So what is your conclusion?

Is your theory incompatible with the process of evolution or just the initial progenitor of life?

What are you getting at?

What does your intelligence mean to us humans and our view of life and the universe?

Lay your cards on the table.

@ Ellen Stuttle

darren's picture

who I think are beguiled by the current "information" fad

LOL!! I love it! Thank you for that!

No, you have it wrong, Ellen. Its not "information" that's a fad. It's television and rock-and-roll. Those are obviously fads, and I'm sure we can expect to see them disappear . . .

. . . any day now.

[Isn't it fascinating to see someone sit in front of her computer (an information-processing machine), then post over the Internet (an information-storage-and-access network) and assert nonchalantly "This 'information' thing is just a fad . . ." Then, after that, she'll make a call to her husband on her digital cell phone, over a digital network; then she'll watch a DVD on her hi-def television. Yep. 'Information' certainly is a fad!]

@ Dr. Twat-for-Brains Winefield

darren's picture

LOL! Denied tenure at KU?

Anyway, twat-for-brains, that was an amusing display of viciousness and envy. I enjoyed it. Your current job appears to be repairing lab machinery, and I see you have all of 4 papers published since 2008 (that would be 1 or 2 papers per year, right?).

Shapiro's been at this for 45 years, and is probably at least 70. As far as I'm concerned, if he wants to take it easy and publish less frequently, that's fine by me. He's earned it.

But let's face it, handsome: you ain't exactly setting the world on fire with bold, innovative ideas about anything; you're more interested in preserving venerable old ones, and you seem to have it in for anyone with anything new to say.

In other words, academia is the perfect place for you.

Here's a modest example of saying something new:

Abstract: Cells are cognitive entities possessing great computational power. DNA serves as a multivalent information storage medium for these computations at various time scales. Information is stored in sequences, epigenetic modifications, and rapidly changing nucleoprotein complexes. Because DNA must operate through complexes formed with other molecules in the cell, genome functions are inherently interactive and involve two-way communication with various cellular compartments. Both coding sequences (data files) and repetitive sequences (generic formatting signals) contribute to the hierarchical systemic organization of the genome. By virtue of nucleoprotein complexes, epigenetic modifications, and natural genetic engineering activities, the genome can serve as a read--write storage system. An interactive informatic conceptualization of the genome allows us to understand the functional importance of DNA that does not code for protein or RNA structure, clarifies the essential multidirectional and systemic nature of genomic information transfer, and emphasizes the need to investigate how cellular computation operates in reproduction and evolution.

And here's a very accessible 1-hour video of Shapiro, with a Q&A session at the end (it'll save you the effort of having to read his technical articles and moving your lips at the same time):

http://vimeo.com/17592530

Highly recommended. Enjoy!

Darren - code and OL

Ellen Stuttle's picture

(#96771): Yes, I've heard that often [that the genetic code isn't literally a code]. . .

. . . but only from Objectivists; not from biochemists or molecular biologists, who assert that the genetic code is completely isomorphic to all other known codes; i.e., it has all of the same formal characteristics as Morse Code, ASCII, and languages. So calling the arbitrary-yet-meaningful sequence of bases a "code" is far more than metaphor.

I, too, have heard the genetic code described as literally a code by various biochemists and molecular biologists, who I think are beguiled by the current "information" fad which is producing an Augean stable-full of intellectual muck. Unless those scientists are themselves IDers (some of them are), I think they're inadvertently providing apparent support for the ID claims with their linguistic imprecision.

I'm not an Objectivist, so you've now heard it from at least one person who isn't. I bet you've also heard it from others who aren't Objectivists.

 

Ah, yes, "Objectivist Living." I snooped there a bit, and was especially fascinated by one thread that pondered the question of whether or not it was moral for a human to have sexual relations with an animal. The answer the various posters came up with -- and appeared to be satisfied with -- was "No, it is not moral for a human being to have sexual relations with an animal . . .because the human did not first get the animal's consent."

At that point I tip-toed away from OL, finding the whole experience just . . . beastly.

Here's how your "snoop[ing] there" looked to me:

Starting November 24, 2010, you posted gluts of posts using the screen name "AristotlesAdvance" -- which you also used here for awhile until you were put on moderation here for the lack of a photo. On OL, you were soon placed in the "Limited to 5 posts a day" category. By the time you "tip-toed away" (you were last active on OL Dec 14 2010 07:09 AM), you'd wracked up a total of 80 posts. Considering that you were badly out-matched by a few of those responding to you, I'm not surprised if you found "the whole experience just...beastly."

I only vaguely recall the thread you mention, I wasn't following it, but I think the tone was primarily facetious.

Ellen

Marcus - origin of life

Ellen Stuttle's picture

(#96777)

[ES] "A question to Marcus: When you claim a single origin of life, are you speaking only of earth?"

[Marcus] No I'm not talking only of Earth.

We simply have no evidence of life starting anywhere else in the universe.

The results from Mars are interesting, but even if one could prove there were fossil bacteria there (which some people assert) there is no way to know if there was not some cross-contamination with Earth involved. I don't believe the evidence for it is there.

This is not some sort of creationism, this is just an interpretation of the facts.

My saying that there was a single cell, an original progenitor, is not controversial, it is what I was taught at university.

At first I was sceptical of that idea too. I thought that there must have been multiple starts - however when you consider the cell architecture as it is today and the complex set of steps leading up to the first cell I am more in favour of the single progenitor idea.

Even if you believe that there were multiple starts, there was still only one viable progenitor, only one successful event. Why is that so hard to grasp that idea without evoking a supernatural power?

I saw a documentary last week that sort of clarified this if you will. It was actually about how stars produce the elements that make up the earth, and how they would have lead to our present sun and our location. That event is in itself quite rare. Then on top of that you need just the right chemistry, conditions and environment for life. Certain factors have to come together in a vast ocean at just the right moment.

If life is inevitable why do we not have it everywhere in multiple forms to observe in the universe? Accepting the rare event just makes life seem more precious and valuable, not less. It does not require a supernatural deity to do that.

I'm still not entirely sure if you're asserting categorically that life has only started once at any place or time throughout the entire spatio-temporal extent of the universe and that once on this planet.

In part of your reply you seem to be speaking categorically. But in this part, you might be referring only to the development on earth and earth's very close neighborhood -- Mars is practically contiguous to earth on a cosmic scale.

"The results from Mars are interesting, but even if one could prove there were fossil bacteria there (which some people assert) there is no way to know if there was not some cross-contamination with Earth involved. I don't believe the evidence for it is there.

[....]

My saying that there was a single cell, an original progenitor, is not controversial, it is what I was taught at university.

At first I was sceptical of that idea too. I thought that there must have been multiple starts - however when you consider the cell architecture as it is today and the complex set of steps leading up to the first cell I am more in favour of the single progenitor idea.

Even if you believe that there were multiple starts, there was still only one viable progenitor, only one successful event."

(Btw, your having been taught something "at university" in no way guarantees its truth, as I hope you of all people with your tracking of the unreliability of what's taught at university on a certain subject should know.)

The theory that all life *on earth* came from an original single progenitor which formed here has good scientific reasons to support it, even if it turns out to be wrong.

However, any claim made at this time which rules out the possibility of life's developing elsewhere in the cosmos is just an assertion which can't be provided with decent scientific support considering how miniscule our knowledge is of what's out there and how enormous the cosmos is (maybe even bigger than Big Bang theory holds it to be).

Speculating -- including speculating that life is so rare a development, earth might be the only place it's appeared -- that's ligit. But the lack of evidence thus far for life elsewhere in the cosmos, if there truly is a lack of evidence thus far, demonstrates nothing except lack of evidence.

(I used the qualifying phrase "if there truly is a lack of evidence thus far" because I've seen mention of reports pertaining to some evidence for the panspermia hypothesis. I haven't read any of the links I've seen posted various places, so can't assess the quality of the reporting, whether it's all hype, as I assume much of it is, considering the sources, or whether there are any real hints to report.)

Ellen

"that explains why

Robert's picture

-- unlike you -- he's actually accomplished something in science."

What? Become a tenured (i.e. immune from being fired) faculty member at a taxpayer funded university and published 1-2 papers per year for the past six years. You don't know what that means do you, you jack ass?

Taking your standard of success (achieving tenured faculty status at a famous big city University and publishing a swag of papers) as a standard, let me translate his publication record for you.

It means that he can't attract Ph.D students or Post Docs or collaborators or funding or all three. The last co-authored paper he wrote was in 2005.

In the world of highly ranked public Universities like UC, that does not automatically equal "success." More likely that equals "drag on the department's resources."

But I'd have to read some of his papers to confirm this.

The following phrase from "Natural Genetic Engineering and Natural Genome Editing: Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1178: 6–28 (2009)" does not bode well.

"So it seems appropriate to revisit Crick’s dictum and ask how it stands up in the light of ongoing discoveries in molecular biology and genomics.The answer is “not well.” The last four decades of biomolecular investigation have brought a wealth of discoveries about the informatics of living systems and made the elegant simplifications of the central dogma untenable.

That is overly theatrical context dropping bullshit.

The "central dogma" requires refinement in the light of new information gathered by techniques Watson and Crick hadn't dreamed of. In the same way and for the same reason that Newtonian Mechanics requires refinement in the light of modern quantum physics.

Neither science's 'central dogma' is untenable. Newton and Crick saw a forest and were unable to make out the trees. This guy is looking at the veins in the leaves and denying the existence of the forest.

@ Frediano

darren's picture

Eventually, that lottery number comes up.

No. And just because that lottery number comes up, we are not required to admit that it must have been chance . . . and we often do NOT admit this in those instances in which lottery winnings establish a "pattern" that we find to be unlikely (that is, suspicious), given the probabilitist resources that are known.

While waxing poetic about calculus, you forgot to mention a basic fact about simple probability: probabilities -- including those that apply to lotteries -- multiply when considered in tandem. "What are the odds of winning Lotto? Perhaps 1/10^6". "What are the odds of winning the Irish Sweepstakes? Let's say 1/10^7." "What are the odds of someone's winning BOTH Lotto AND the Irish Sweepstakes? 1/10^6 x 1/10^7 = 1/10^13."

So if someone wins Lotto, and then wins the Irish Sweepstakes, and then wins five other lotteries, we don't call it luck, we call it suspicious, and with good reason. The suspicion is that the winner employed goal-directed design (known as "cheating") in order to benefit from a desired configuration of numbers that is functional, i.e., that specify him as the winner.

Thankfully, casinoes the world over are not run by Objectivists: in the real world, when a patron wins too often, it isn't just explained away as "luck." Obviously, the guy cheated.

Given the probabilistic resources that we know about in the universe -- X amount of time since the universe began, Y number of fundamental particules, and Z number of physical states that it can obtain, at most, per second -- any event that occurs in the universe by chance alone has to have odds that are within the constraints of X*Y*Z. If the odds fall outside that region, then chance alone cannot have been the cause of the occurrence.

As you posted about the coins self-organizing in the presence of noise (being shaken whilst in a drawer), it is also unlikely that fundamental particles floating around the universe, being "shaken" by different kinds and magnitudes of noise (radiation, impacts from other particles, gravitational disturbances, chemical forces suddenly appearing, etc.) would form even the simplest element of a living organisms, such as a protein. In fact, it is far less likely for that to happen than it is for your coins to organize themselves by being shaken.

@ Sir Minuscule

darren's picture

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N...

Much of this DNA has no known biological function and at one time was sometimes referred to as "junk DNA". However, many types of noncoding DNA sequences do have known biological functions, including the transcriptional and translational regulation of protein-coding sequences. Other noncoding sequences have likely but as-yet undetermined function, an inference from high levels of homology and conservation seen in sequences that do not encode proteins but appear to be under heavy selective pressure.

The term is currently, however, an outdated concept, being used mainly in popular science and in a colloquial way in scientific publications, and may have slowed research into the biological functions of noncoding DNA.[27] Several lines of evidence indicate that many "junk DNA" sequences are likely to have unidentified functional activity, and other sequences may have had functions in the past.l

http://www.newscientist.com/ar...

'Junk' DNA gets credit for making us who we are

The blueprint for life is not all about genes. Now we are finally pinning down how much differences in non-coding DNA – stretches of the molecule that don't produce proteins and used to be considered "junk" – shape who we are.

In recent years, researchers have recognised that non-coding DNA, which makes up about 98 per cent of the human genome, plays a critical role in determining whether genes are active or not and how much of a particular protein gets churned out.

Now, two teams have revealed dramatic differences between the non-coding DNA of people whose genes are 99 per cent the same. "We largely have the same sets of genes. It's just how they're regulated that makes them different," says Michael Snyder, a geneticist at Stanford University in California.

This detail led them to conclude that inherited non-coding DNA sequences – not mutations in genes – may drive the lion's share of differences in where transcription factors attach.

The changes in non-coding DNA that lead to these differences include single-letter changes peppered across the genome as well as structural changes to the genome, in which large chunks of DNA are deleted, duplicated or flipped. Rare deletions of this kind have previously been linked to autism, schizophrenia and obesity.

http://www.genome.gov/Pages/Re...

The human genome is an elegant but cryptic store of information. The
roughly three billion bases encode, either directly or indirectly, the
instructions for synthesizing nearly all the molecules that form each
human cell, tissue and organ. Sequencing the human genome1–3 provided
highly accurate DNA sequences for each of the 24 chromosomes.
However, at present, we have an incomplete understanding of the
protein-coding portions of the genome, and markedly less understanding
of both non-protein-coding transcripts and genomic elements
that temporally and spatially regulate gene expression
. To
understand the human genome, and by extension the biological processes
it orchestrates and the ways in which its defects can give rise to
disease, we need amore transparent viewof the information it encodes.

Willingham, A. T. & Gingeras, T. R. TUF love for ‘‘junk’’ DNA. Cell 125, 1215–1220
(2006).

Balakirev, E. S. & Ayala, F. J. Pseudogenes: are they ‘‘junk’’ or functional DNA?
Annu. Rev. Genet. 37, 123–151 (2003)

http://www.junkdna.com/hologen...

http://www.nextbio.com/b/searc...

[Search for "Junk DNA" at NextBio.com site: "Any of the DNA in between gene-coding DNA, including untranslated regions, 5' and 3' flanking regions, INTRONS, non-functional pseudogenes, and non-functional repetitive sequences. This DNA may or may not encode regulatory functions.]

[409 results for published literature]
http://www.nextbio.com/b/searc...

Including:

TUF love for "junk" DNA.
The widespread occurrence of noncoding (nc) RNAs--unannotated eukaryotic transcripts with reduced protein coding potential--suggests that they are functionally important. Study of ncRNAs is increasing ...
Authors: Aarron T Willingham, Thomas R Gingeras
Source: Cell 2006 Jun 30

Transcriptomics: Rethinking junk DNA.
Source: Nature 2009 Mar 12

Junk DNA enhances pEI-based non-viral gene delivery.
Gene therapy aims at delivering exogenous DNA into the nuclei of target cells to establish expression of a therapeutic protein. Non-viral gene delivery is examined as a safer alternative to viral ...
Authors: Ethlinn V B van Gaal, Ronald S Oosting, Wim E Hennink, Daan J A Crommelin, Enrico Mastrobattista
Source: International journal of pharmaceutics 2010 May 5

Genetics: junk DNA as an evolutionary force.
Authors: Christian Biémont, Cristina Vieira
Source: Nature 2006 Oct 5

Combinatorial epigenetics, "junk DNA", and the evolution of complex organisms.
At certain evolutionary junctures, two or more mutations participating in the build-up of a new complex function may be required to become available simultaneously in the same individuals. How could t ...
Authors: Emile Zuckerkandl, Giacomo Cavalli
Source: Gene 2007 Apr 1

Is "junk" DNA mostly intron DNA?
Among higher eukaryotes, very little of the genome codes for protein. What is in the rest of the genome, or the "junk" DNA, that, in Homo sapiens, is estimated to be almost 97% of the genome ...
Authors: G K Wong, D A Passey, Y Huang, Z Yang, J Yu
Source: Genome research 2000 Nov

A brief history of the status of transposable elements: from junk DNA to major players in evolution.
The idea that some genetic factors are able to move around chromosomes emerged more than 60 years ago when Barbara McClintock first suggested that such elements existed and had a major role in control ...
Authors: Christian Biémont
Source: Genetics 2010 Dec

Pseudogenes: are they "junk" or functional DNA?
Pseudogenes have been defined as nonfunctional sequences of genomic DNA originally derived from functional genes. It is therefore assumed that all pseudogene mutations are selectively neutral ...
Authors: Evgeniy S Balakirev, Francisco J Ayala
Source: Annual review of genetics 2003

Genomic gems: SINE RNAs regulate mRNA production.
Mammalian short interspersed elements (SINEs) are abundant retrotransposons that have long been considered junk DNA; however, RNAs transcribed from mouse B2 and human Alu SINEs have recently been ...
Authors: Steven L Ponicsan, Jennifer F Kugel, James A Goodrich
Source: Current opinion in genetics & development 2010 Apr

The role of noncoding "junk DNA" in cardiovascular disease.
Authors: Kasey C Vickers, Brian T Palmisano, Alan T Remaley
Source: Clinical chemistry 2010 Oct

Whole genome duplications and a 'function' for junk DNA? Facts and hypotheses.
been called "junk" DNA. However, it might have important f… ...
Authors: Reiner A Veitia, Samuel Bottani
Source: PloS one 2009

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

You can access the full text of most of the above articles linked to NextBio.com

Now, why don't you sit down, take a nice long pee, and read some of these articles.

Noise by itself...

Frediano's picture

...is not the same as noise plus a filter.

Shake/add noise to a drawer full of coins, it will take an almost infinitely long time before they ever order themselves. It is not an infinite amount of time, but it might as well be, if we have to wait around and humanly wait for it to happen. The arrangment that is ordered is one possibility of many trillions. Like winning the lottery. And yet, by observation, someone wins the lottery.

But add a simple filter, a bias, and shaking them/adding noise is exactly what is required to order them. It is exactly what is done to order them. They are shaken --through a filter.

Is there evidence in the universe of any such filters? I mean, other than the blatantly obvious one: "What works, works."

GATC. Shake and bake. Simple combinational rules. What works, works. And judging from experience, what nearly works is close enough. But clearly, the point has been well made, 'shake and bake' isn't necessary all the way up the food chain to result in 'mankind;' at some point very early in this process, there was selection-- a brand new filter that accelerated the refinement of self-ordering, responding simply to simple rules and randomness guided by an increasingly effective array of filters.

From exceedingly simple rules emerge complex systems, daily and readily demonstrated.

It's easy to acknowledge a universe with noise. For me, it is impossible to imagine this universe and not see its many filters.

In a classic thermodynamic sense, it is clear that the universe is proceeding from a more ordered state(infinite gradient)to a less ordered state(the consumption of all such gradient including simple objective 'identity,' which is also gradient.) Even as locally, on the way to this apparent dim 3 deg K future over some universal time scale far beyond human time scales, humans temporarily arrange their local well ordered neighborhoods at great effort, by running uphill, even as the universe as a whole seems inexorably to run downhill, consuming all gradient.

And while doing so, we anthropomorphize the universe, and what we cannot imagine that it can and cannot do. So, what is a cosmically long time in terms of human perception becomes 'forever...never...infinity.' As in waiting for a local imbalance, a fluctuation in the distribution of matter and anti-matter, sufficient to give us two for the price of none(as far as conservation laws go...) And yet, what size local fluctuation in the massive uniform 'nothing' is actually required to create two for the price of none, obeying all conservation laws?

0 = 0

A + - A = 0

Two for the price of none. All present and accounted for. Baryon, charge, whatever. Even if it is exceedingly rare, a 1 in a qaudaziltrillion event. It is one such possible random configuration. Eventually, that lottery number comes up.

We parochially wonder, "From what order to what disorder?" .. and then jump to the conclusion of an infinite impressed order at some time in the past. Impressed by what Creator or equally by what Cold Process? Why not cyclic, as opposed to the consequence of other verse actions? Creator or Cold Process makes no difference to the existential paradox, because the logic of 'if there was a first Creator, then who or what created the first Creator?' is balanced by 'if there was a first Cold Process, then what created the first Cold Process?' Such arguments just kick the existential can down the road.

"life" is an exceedingly cosmically unlikely random arrangement of borrowed dead star dust. True enough. What % of the total mass of the known Universe is life? It would seem to be, exceedingly minuscule. Yet from our perspective, at the center of the lucky lottery winners world, not so fringe. However, from our experience, mathematically, we experience the practical results of battling infinities all the time, of the finite product resulting when the infinitely small and infinitely large collide. Happens every day in calculus classes. Maybe it happens once in billions of years over billions of cubic light years of space.

In fact, maybe it happens so often as to be inevitable. We are, after all, here.

Or, maybe an old white guy with a greybeard on a throne in the sky is throwing thunderbolts.

"The paradigm of "junk DNA"

Marcus's picture

"The paradigm of "junk DNA" is long gone. Wake up and smell the coffee."

Show me a mainstream scientific publication that says this.

How can any Scientific journal possibly assert that "junk DNA is history" when the function of many of our non-coding regions are still unknown?

It is interesting that Shapario does not dispute the process of evolution either, nor can I find in his latest review where he states that non-coding DNA is a higher form of coding or that junk DNA is history.

Personally, I would agree that non-coding DNA regions are most likely useful and not junk DNA. However there are clearly non-coding regions that are left-over’s of the evolutionary process because you can still identify the old gene sequences which are similar to those that are now functional. They are called pseudogenes.

Which reminds me of something else that is a big blow for your idea that an intelligence was involved in the designing of the code.

Why do animals that are more closely related (according to evolution) have more similar coding regions in their genes and their lineage be traced this way through highly conserved regions in mitochondrial and ribosomal DNA?

Why do we humans develop a tail, webbed fingers and plenty of body hair in the womb and then reabsorb them?

Isn't that just a wasteful and redundant thing for the intelligence to program into the code?

Good Sir Marcus Minuscule, Prince of Conceptual Darkness

darren's picture

You really believe this?

Just reporting what I read. The paradigm of "junk DNA" is long gone. Wake up and smell the coffee.

I even looked up Shapiro and he doesn't even have that many publications.

LOL! Hey, Marcus, do you know what the word "schmuck" means? It's a bit like "fuckwit" or "moron" but more anatomical. Look it up if you're unsure.

Anyway, you are one.

Here's a link to a list of publications by James Shapiro:

http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.ed...

And, for the record, here's his CV:

http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.ed...

From what I can tell though, he is loved by the ID community. So either he is a Christian or he must have written something you like.

The ID guys like him because his approach to evolution is non-Darwinian. I have no idea whether or not he's a Christian. I'm pretty sure, however, that he's not an Objectivist: that explains why -- unlike you -- he's actually accomplished something in science.

"Noise"? I can't hear you . . . can you speak louder?

darren's picture

Why can't "noise" enhance (by change) rather than degrade genetic code?

For the same reason that static never enhanced one's television reception; and the same reason that taking a pen-knife and intentionally scratching a vinyl record never enhanced its sound quality; and the same reason that, if you want to straighten up and organize your bachelor pad, you probably wouldn't do it by setting off a bomb in your living room hoping that the force of the explosion would pick up the books and clothing from your floor and put everything back where it belonged; and for the same reason that, when you put a kettle of cold water on the stove to boil, the coldness of the kettle doesn't cool down the flame of the stove.

In a word: entropy.

When left by itself, the "natural" state of things in a closed system is chaos. In the state of chaos, each entity in the system has the same probability of occupying a certain position in space as any other entity . . . that's what distinguishes, for example, the state of matter called "gas" from other, less chaotic states, like liquid and solid.

When a system is organized, or structured, what that means from the standpoint of probability is that certain elements of the system occupy positions that would be considered highly improbable in the state of chaos.

Example:

It is highly improbable that clay -- found in a natural state of amorphous "chaos" in many parts of the world -- should, of its own accord, appear in solid, geometrically regular, rectangular blocks, having had the water driven out of them by prolonged exposure to a heat source such as the sun, and then appear neatly stacked to form a regular flat surface we quaintly call "a brick wall." In fact, even when we do find clay bricks in such an unnatural configuration, we know from experience (as well as from our knowledge of probability and entropy) that it is much, much more probable for these same bricks to appear as a pile of gritty, sandy, rubble . . . and I'm sure you know from experience that if someone, or something, doesn't intentionally put in the effort to maintain the organizational structure of the system, then a brick wall WILL crumble over time and eventually even out all of the low-probability elements that comprise it, into more or less identical elements ("rubble"), each element of which having about the same probability of occupying a given section of space as any other element. From the standpoint of probability, that's what "rubble" IS. (Hope this is clear as mud!)

"Noise" is a random, high-probability element that raises the overall probability -- the entropy -- of all other elements in a closed system, making them all about the same -- that is, making previously organized and structured elements themselves resemble noise.

That's what "degradation" is. It's when the probabilities of structured elements within a closed system -- bricks stacked to form a wall; paper neatly sewn into signatures in books; etc. -- begin to resemble the much higher probability of the particular noise invading the system.

Statistically speaking: randomness and chaos have a very HIGH probability of appearing; structure and organization (of any sort) have a very LOW probability of appearing. That's why, when randomness and chaos collide with structure and organization, it is the latter that start to resemble the former and not the former that resemble the latter.

I'm NOT trying to make the case for teleology here; I'm merely pointing out a statistical fact: "chaos" is more highly probable than "order"; that's why, in the material realm, the flow of events is FROM "order", TO "chaos." And the only way to reverse that flow -- to reverse entropy -- is to add order and structure back into the closed system from outside the system.

Why can't "noise" enhance (by change) rather than degrade genetic code?

To "enhance" something in a closed system (assuming you're using the word "enhance" the way most people would use it; i.e., "to improve") requires that the system in question become even more organized and structured than it currently is (e.g., adding insulation to our brick wall, or perhaps, making it even more structurally sound by bringing it up to code for earthquakes). In the case of the genetic code, it might comprise the new ability to code for a brand new protein that gives the organism in question a new ability -- a new ability without incurring loss somewhere else in the system. And from a probability standpoint, what is required to add greater organization to a closed system? Moving elements within the system to positions of EVEN LOWER probability than what they currently occupy.

If you look at it from that standpoint -- i.e., moving elements from their currently occupied positions within a closed system (e.g., the genome) to positions of even lower probability -- then you'll see why noise is precisely the wrong thing to add for the sake of enhancement: since noise is an amorphous, high-probability event, it raises the probabilities of elements within the system, not lowers them.

Now, it is true that, within a closed system -- for example, a kettle full of cold water on top of a stove -- there is a small but non-zero probability that entropy will flow the other way; i.e., there is a small, but non-zero, probability that the cold kettle will, indeed, impart its coldness to the flame from the burner, rather than the burner imparting its heat to the kettle, and I don't believe there is any proof, mathematical or otherwise, demonstrating that it cannot occur. (High school physics instructors like to awe their freshman students by telling them that there is a small, but non-zero probability that all of the oxygen molecules in the classroom will suddenly all coalesce into one corner of the room and stay there, thus asphyxiating all of the students. What they forget to mention is that, though true, there is a much, much higher probability that this will NOT happen, because the random distribution of oxygen molecules being chaotic, each oxygen molecule has about the same probability of occupying a certain position in space as any other molecule of oxygen; so that state of chaos has much, much higher probability than the more highly structured and less probable one in which all molecules are in the upper left corner of the ceiling and everyplace else is left in vacuum. And they forget to mention to them that nature always plays the probabilities.)

So, I can't prove to you that noise from outside the genomically closed system -- such as X-rays, cosmic rays, chemical insults from lifestyle habits like excessive smoking or drinking, etc. -- cannot enhance the genome. But I also can't prove to you, mathematically, that your room cannot be cleaned and organized by setting off a bomb inside of it. The most we can do is compare a high-probability event with a low-probability one and ask ourselves which way nature would most likely go.

Oh no Bobby Dazzler...

Marcus's picture

"...current thinking is that there are several codes in the genome..."

You really believe this? That is a downright lie. This is not at all current thinking. It may be a lone theory somewhere (if you could link to it).

I even looked up Shapiro and he doesn't even have that many publications. On top of that, he studies Bacteria which have very few non-coding regions.

From what I can tell though, he is loved by the ID community. So either he is a Christian or he must have written something you like.

Anyway, how do all the other aspects of coding DNA fit into your scheme?

Introns for example, which must be spliced out of the code before it can be made into a protein?

Long telomere repeats that keep the integrity of the chromosome and may determine ageing?

Regions that code for editing RNA and for protein translation?

Transposons, when they are active can jump around the genome inserting themselves and causing mutations and other changes. They may even cause cancer?

Vast quantities of repetitive DNA?

What did the intelligence programme viruses for? Short renegade pieces of DNA that cause cells in your body to become sick or die or become cancerous?

Tell me how that fits in with your theory that genetic material is a code programmed by the designer.

Noise

Brant Gaede's picture

Why can't "noise" enhance (by change) rather than degrade genetic code?

--Brant

@ gruntster

darren's picture

Not only do you pee sitting down, gruntster, but you shit standing up.

Seems you've got everything backward.

Not God, just an intelligent goblin

gregster's picture

FFS

Keep the entertainment coming Dazzler. I'll interject when I get the chance.

I just assumed that invented

darren's picture

I just assumed that invented codes would not allow for errors.

You mean "human-invented codes", since ALL codes, semiotically refer or point to something outside themselves, hence, they all must come about by means of an intelligence that creates -- invents -- the pointing. Blind nature doesn't create symbols that point and refer to other things; only goal-directed intelligence does.

But getting back to your statement . . .

The reason human-invented codes must allow for errors is that, when a sender transmits a coded message to a recipient, it must, by definition, first pass through something called a "channel," in which, it must experience some breakdown due to the ubiquitous presence of noise. "Noise" is anything that degrades the original coded message: heat, radiation, chemical insult, etc. In the case of human codes, this could also include, of course, inadvertent error on the part of the sender -- such as a typo.

Suppose you had an efficient, non-degenerative, non-redundant code, in which the single letter "A", when received by your intended recipient, decodes (per his little black code book) as "Pick up secret information at trash bin Main Street and Maple Avenue; then assassinate suspicious-looking shopkeeper across the street since he is plottong mass destruction." Suppose, also, that the letter "B" decodes as "Do nothing. Await further instructions from headquarters". Given that an error, either on the sender's part or in the communication channel, would lead to disaster, there obviously has to be some way confirm, or check, that if "A" was intentionally sent, then "A" was received (and same for "B", of course). In the absence of any other kinds of communication for use as backup, how would the sender confirm his message? Probably, he would do the obvious thing: send the message a 2nd time; i.e., he would be forced to build in redundancy in his transmissions. However, there are better, more efficient (and more elegant) ways of building in redundancy without laboriously having to send the entire transmission a second time. Building in redundancy makes the code less frail and prone to error -- more "robust", as they say -- but obviously, the very act of communicating something from a sender, through a channel, to a recipient, can lead to degradation of the original message.

What invented codes do you know of include a tonne of non-coding junk in them which (at best) forms a physical framework for the rest and (at worst) are just non-functioning leftovers from a learning process?

Not even DNA contains a ton of "non-coding junk." That model, in which the supposedly non-coding sections of DNA were supposed to be evidence of evolution -- vestiges, or dead-ends, that were preserved -- is long gone. Not all of it is understood, of course, but current thinking is that there are several codes in the genome -- a code "hierarchy", in which certain higher codes control, or "format", codes lower down. The supposed "non-coding" sections of DNA are now thought to be such higher-up coding. See online articles by biochemist James Shapiro (U. of Chicago) who has published a lot in this field.

The truth is...

Marcus's picture

...that I don't really know how the genetic code resembles invented codes.

I just assumed that invented codes would not allow for errors.

It may be tempting to look at the code as if it were a simple programming language of A,G,C and T that makes protein.

However that is a simplification.

DNA is not the code strictly speaking but more the manuel and the tool box at the same time.

What invented codes do you know of include a tonne of non-coding junk in them which (at best) forms a physical framework for the rest and (at worst) are just non-functioning leftovers from a learning process?

Intelligent Design...

Marcus's picture

@ Not Exactly a Clever Boy

darren's picture

So, by your lights, unless a system is perfect -- incapable of error -- it cannot, in principle, have been designed?

Otherwise your intelligence has created a physical world that can cause error in its own code which must be self-defeating.

You're stuck on the God-thing, Good Sir Minuscule. I said nothing about creating the entire physical world. I said that codes -- all codes, including the genetic code -- require intelligent input, and that they can never be explained as having been caused simply by chance or deterministic physical laws. What does any of that have to do with the entire physical world? Nothing.

So if your intelligence is limited by normal physical laws, how is it possible that it can exist at all?

(Yawn) I take it, you're unable to reply rationally to my last post regarding "wobble" and "redundancy". You asserted they were "errors"; I showed they were safety features. Here's my sage advice to you Marcus:

I understand from Coddington that you sit down to pee. Very well. Next time you do so, bring a hardcopy of the PDF I linked to previously on protein synthesis and code theory and read it. You might learn something.

So you admit...

Marcus's picture

...that your intelligence must work within the constraints of our physical world?

Otherwise your intelligence has created a physical world that can cause error in its own code which must be self-defeating.

So if your intelligence is limited by normal physical laws, how is it possible that it can exist at all?

Your intelligence would need another intelligence to exist, and where would that intelligence exist if not in the physical world?

We cannot find your intelligence in our physical world or think up a possible system for it to exist within. By our physical constraints such an intelligence would not be possible. You have to believe that it somehow exists outside itself. It must "flick itself off itself".

Your argument is just as circular as evolution.

If an organism is suited to its surroundings without defect through natural selection, then it must have been designed. If, however, it is not suited to its environment it would not be subject to natural selection. Circular argument.

So the question for you is: What would be your requirement of proof to disprove the existence of the designer?

Is there any?

"Specificity" is consistent with "redundancy"

darren's picture

That's where you're wrong, the code is wobbly, i.e. error prone.
That's what I meant. There is redundancy in the thrid base that codes for each amino acid, making this more of a two base code.

"Redundancy" is a safety-factor built into all intelligently designed engineering systems, including communication systems and codes. A code with NO wobble or redundancy built into it -- a non-degenerative, "efficient" code -- is frail (error prone), since even a single substitution of a code symbol would immediately and radically change the way in which the coded message is decoded by the recipient.

"Wobble" (redundancy) is good. The purpose of wobble, from a design or engineering standpoint, is to cut down on the rate of error and render the entire system more fault-tolerant.

You inadvertently admitted so yourself.

You wrote:

When the neutral mutations build up, the code can be radically altered when the first or second position is mutated.

Key words: "WHEN" and "BUILD UP."

"Wobble" or redundancy buys the entire system time, thus cutting down on the rate of error. Without wobble, a single mutation would immediately and radically alter the meaning of the coded message. Without wobble, or redundancy, there would be no time for errors to "build up." A single error would destroy the meaning of the original communication.

"Wobble" -- also called "degeneracy" in code-theory lingo -- is a sign of sophisticated, forward-looking engineering. The genetic code would be far more error-prone if it didn't have the wobble and were, instead, "efficient", i.e., if each codon-triplet were completely unique, and uniquely specified one and only one amino acid. In such a system, if "noise" -- let's say, radiation -- caused a substitution to occur, the unique triple would now code for the wrong amino acid. "Efficient", non-wobbly codes don't permit neutral mutations: every mutation -- every error -- in transmitting a non-wobbly efficient code is an injurious one.

The wobble, or degeneracy, inherent to the genetic code, allows it to display a trait called "synonymity"; i.e., several different triplets, each one coding for the same amino acid, as if they were linguistic synonyms -- but there is never any ambiguity in the communication flow: in the case of RNA, whether the codon is UUA, UUG, CUU, or CUG, the system will recognize that these are all synonyms for the same amino acid: leucine.

No human intelligence have ever designed a code to be error-prone when they want it to perform a specific productive task.

"Wobble", or "redundancy" or "degeneracy" makes the system less error prone, not more. Humans build it into their communication systems all the time, especially when they're trying to preserve data. Error-correcting codes used in coding CDs and DVDs, for example, are examples of codes that make use of "wobble", or "redundancy." If they didn't, they would cease to play the moment they had the slightest scratch. As you know, CDs and DVDs are quite robust, playing flawlessly even when scratched or dirty -- thanks to built-in "wobble", or redundancy that the software engineers wrote into their code. See excerpt below

http://www.ece.iit.edu/~biitco...


Coding theory based models for protein translation initiation in prokaryotic organisms

Informational analysis of genetic sequences has provided significant insight into parallels between the genetic process and information processing systems used in the field of communication engineering. . . . we make several key observations that lead one to hypothesize that similar to engineering, information-processing systems, the genetic system contains mechanisms to protect an organism from errors that occur within its genome.

The first observation is mutations or errors are present within the genome of an organism. Analogous to an error-producing channel used by an engineering system to transmit information to a receiver, genetic processes, such as replication can introduce errors into the genome of an organism . . .

If survival and evolution of an organism necessitates errors, then, similar to an engineering communication system, there must exist a genetic error correction mechanism (Battail, 1997). The error control mechanism employed by an engineering communication system is constructed using principles from the field of Coding Theory, specifically channel (or error-control) coding theory. Error control is accomplished by introducing redundancy into the original information sequence . . .

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Why would your intelligent designer want that?

He wouldn't be so intelligent if he did not include wobble, or redundancy.

Finally: "specificity" does not rule out "redundancy" or "wobble." It's perfectly OK from a design/engineering standpoint that UUA, UUG, CUU, or CUG are all synonyms for the amino acid leucine. What undercuts specificity is not synonymity but, rather, ambiguity; that is, a situation in which UUA on Monday might code for leucine, but then on a Wednesday might, instead start coding for alanine, and on Friday code for arginine. That would be non-specific ambiguity and works against the mathematical fundamentals of a code:

In all codes, you're mapping one set set of symbols onto another. The first set -- the domain (or "sender" in information theory) -- has a character-alphabet of N. The second set -- the antidomain (or the "recipient" in information theory) has a character-alphabet of K. For all codes, N > K. And this is true of the genetic code, as well. The domain is the set of all codons, which equals 64 (N=64); the antidomain is the set of amino acids that will be constructed into proteins, which equals 20 (K=20). 64 > 20, so the specificity of the code is in evidence. But if it were the other way around -- if each codon could decode as more than one kind of protein, then N< K and the code is no longer specific -- it wouldn't function as a code.

So you're confusing these two ideas about codes: "synonymity" (which is perfectly consistent with "specificity") and "ambiguity" (which is inconsistent with "specificity" and the very nature of a code).

"A high degree of specificity."

Marcus's picture

That's where you're wrong, the code is wobbly, i.e. error prone.

That's what I meant. There is redundancy in the thrid base that codes for each amino acid, making this more of a two base code.

If one position is mutated it can lead to either no change, an early termination of the protein, a substitution or deletion of the amino acid. If it leads to no change (neutrality, as you say) that mutation of the third position stays put. When the neutral mutations build up, the code can be radically altered when the first or second position is mutated.

No human intelligence have ever designed a code to be error-prone when they want it to perform a specific productive task.

Why would your intelligent designer want that?

As to Biochemists, they don't speculate about whether the "genetic code" (yes, that's its name) is the result of an intelligent designer or not. The question doesn't even occur to most of them to ask in the first place.

It didn't occur to me before you raised it here. When I was learning about the genetic code I didn't say to myself, wow, this is so intelligent. It's heavy! That must have been the result of a mind.

Ever seen the jumbled mess of chromosomes in an undividing cell? There is nothing intelligent or orderly looking about it.

Sir Minuscule Marcus, Benighted Prince of Conceptual Darkness

darren's picture

So why not replace the word "intelligence" with nature?

Fine by me if you want to be pantheistic about it. I have no problem, in principle, with the notion of an inherent intelligence in material nature. But most people use the word "nature" in contradistinction to the word "intelligence." "Nature," in the Darwinist paradigm, is supposed to consist of two things only: matter and motion; the idea of teleology, intentionality, or goal-directedness, is omitted. The two causes that are presumed by Darwinists to create all effects that involve matter and motion are "chance" and "necessity." i.e., randomness and strict deterministic physical law.

I deny that an effect called a "code" -- linguistic, biological, or otherwise -- can be caused by those two causes alone. Codes always require intentionality (and, no, by the word "intentionality" I don't mean "psychological motivation").

"Intentionality" or "goal-directedness" is a unique property of intelligence and designing agents. "Nature" -- as most people, including Darwinists, use that term -- doesn't have that property.

There's nothing circular about the argument. "Codes" exhibit complete lack of chance and necessity, a high degree of specificity, and they compress and store information about some other system; they always refer to something outside themselves -- in semiotics lingo, we might say that codes "point." Morse Code compresses and stores information about a system called "The English language". The genetic code compresses and stores information about a system called "Protein synthesis".

You problem -- aside from the usual Objectivist one of not really knowing what you're talking about -- is that you don't want to admit that the genetic code is, in fact, what biochemists admit it to be: a true code.

If you're wondering how most biochemists deal with the issue -- especially those who are atheists, which is probably the majority -- they deal with the issue by simply choosing not to inquire how the genetic code came to be written, concentrating, instead, on the more immediately tangible and fruitful problem of how, in detail, the code works.

@ Sir Minuscule Marcus, Benighted Prince of Darkness

darren's picture

The majority of mutation are deleterious, not beneficial and:

Correct. I said that already. That's certainly true of single-base substitutions. Therefore, injurious changes to an organism's genotype obviously aren't drivers of evolution as that term is used by Darwinists.

"In 1859, Charles Darwin set out his theory of evolution by natural selection as an explanation for adaptation and speciation. He defined natural selection as the "principle by which each slight variation [of a trait], if useful, is preserved".

The words "if useful" to be given special emphasis.

Are you trying to claim, Sir Minuscule, that a mutation can be both "deleterious" and "useful" to an organism? I don't think so (and I don't think Darwin thought so either, irrespective of his confusion on the nature and function of his hazy concept "Natural Selection").

The words "if useful" are circular when taken with the word "preserved." Right? Right! Question 1: "By WHAT MEANS can we ascertain whether or not a trait-variation is to be called 'useful'?" Answer 1: Obviously, whether it is 'PRESERVED'.'" Question 2: By WHAT MEANS can we ascertain the cause of a trait-variation's having been 'preserved'" Answer 2: Obviously . . . it must have been 'useful'".

Sorry, Sir M, but a physical science like biology cannot -- and should not -- rest on circular arguments.

Intelligence?

Marcus's picture

"...that does NOT mean that chance and determinism played NO part at all."

What's your hang up with "intelligence" being involved?

It seems to be a circular argument. Human beings have intelligence to understand and invent codes, therefore there must be an "intelligence" that made the genetic code? Therefore intelligent human beings must be the product of intelligence?

So why not replace the word "intelligence" with nature?

Is it simply because a Jew claimed that a burning bush spoke to him in the desert?

What is the purpose of this intelligence? What is its motive for designing the code? How does using the word "intelligence" clarify any of the details at all about the origins of life? How does it advance our scientific understanding of the world one iota?

The light going oput of the Dazzle

Marcus's picture

"YOUR THEORY REQUIRES BENEFICIAL MUTATIONS THAT LEAD TO GREATER FITNESS; NOT INJURIOUS ONES THAT CAUSE CANCER...

"Variations" within a given species are not new species. Darwinism claims to explain the origin of SPECIES, not merely VARIATIONS within species. If it were only the latter, then it would be no more interesting than what professional plant and animal breeders have been doing for centuries. (In fact, that's actually where Darwin got most of his ideas from: watching professional animal breeders, and then extrapolating from that to all of nature.)"

It appears that you don't understand Darwin's theory or I am not communicating it to you.

The majority of mutation are deleterious, not beneficial and:

"In 1859, Charles Darwin set out his theory of evolution by natural selection as an explanation for adaptation and speciation. He defined natural selection as the "principle by which each slight variation [of a trait], if useful, is preserved".

The words "if useful" to be given special emphasis.

Richard Goode

darren's picture

Last time I checked, theories of abiogenesis are highly speculative.

That never stopped a Darwinist from asserting that things had to happen in just the way he claims.

According to Wikipedia, "The sequence of chemical events that led to the first nucleic acids is not known."

See what I mean? The Wikipedia article proves my point. "The sequence of chemical events that led to the first nucleic acids is not known."

DNA is a nucleic acid, and there was no "sequence of chemical events" leading up to a code.

That's like saying the following:

"The sequence of chemical events is not known that caused squiggles of ink on sheets of paper to form into a pattern that begins "Who is John Galt? . . ."

Sequences of chemical events had nothing to do with how ink-squiggles (called "letters") became organized onto flat sheets of paper to form intelligible words and sentences. The force doing the organizing was called "goal-directed intelligence." So, as I say, the Wiki article proves my assertion about those who tout abiogenesis.

Since we don't know how life first arose, we can't put a figure on the probability of it happening.

The exact opposte is the truth: the very purpose of probability is to make statements about phenomena whose causes are not known.

Specifically, we employ probability when we know a great deal about a "class phenomenon" or an "aggregate phenomenon" but absolutely nothing about a specific, concrete phenomenon inside that class.

We don't know why a coin appears on one particuar toss "heads" and on another toss "tails." It just does, so we employ probability and validly claim that over many tosses -- in the aggregate -- we can confidently expect to see "heads" half the time and "tails" half the time, and our confidence will grow -- never into certainty, but it will grow nevertheless -- as we increase the number of tosses. We don't know specifically why any one particular man will develop cancer; but we successfully employ probability when we claim that over the course of a decade, X-thousands of men between the ages of Y and Z will develop cancer. Insurance companies do this all the time when compiling their actuarial tables.

For example, no other species followed the (non-avialan) dinosaurs, and it is not assumed that they did.

No, but that's only because dinosaurs were rather rudely wiped out almost instantaneously from some sort of disaster; not because (in the absence of such "force majeure" disaster) they would constitute an exception to the Darwinist scenario.

If today, we were to wipe out some given species with nukes, that wouldn't disprove the Darwinian assumption that all species are en route to becoming some other species. This obviously has to be the case because according to Darwinism, a "species" is not rigidly fixed; it's assumed to be "fluid", morphing into something else over time, since the forces of change -- mutation and natural selection -- are supposed to be continually operative.

And finally: it turns out that birds did not evolve from dinosaurs, having been a separate and unique species all along. See the work of ornithologist (and Darwinian evolutionist, by the way) Alan Feduccia, University of North Carolina.

Minuscule Marcus

darren's picture

I think you are anthromorphising the DNA code here.

Because I called it "elegant"?

So tell me this?
Why is the code wobbly, i.e. liable to create errors or mutations? Is the creator imperfect?

The code, as such, is no more "imperfect" than Morse code, ASCII code, or any other code. The wobble you have in mind is in the REPLICATION of the code -- not the code, per se -- during which process point mutations, or single-base substitutions can sometimes -- occasionally -- creep in. These "proofreading" errors in replication are rare -- on average, about one in a billion base-pair replications in mammals.

You confused the code with the mechanism that replicates it. (That's hilarious.)

I'm not only talking about evolution here, I am talking about mutations that happen inside the cells of your body on a daily basis due to errors in DNA replication.

You don't evolve new organisms, or new abilities for old organisms, by making already existing organisms sick: base substitutions are either neutral or injurious, ergo, they are unlikely drivers of Darwinian evolution, which requires mutations that increase an organisms so-called "fitness."

The ones that give you cancer spontaneously are a good example of this.

Therefore, a good example of why point mutations are not drivers of evolution. You don't evolve new species by giving the old ones spontaneous cancers.

You appear not to understand your own position, Marcus, so let me spell it out for you: YOUR THEORY REQUIRES BENEFICIAL MUTATIONS THAT LEAD TO GREATER FITNESS; NOT INJURIOUS ONES THAT CAUSE CANCER.

Varaitions in individual members of a species happen all the time

"Variations" within a given species are not new species. Darwinism claims to explain the origin of SPECIES, not merely VARIATIONS within species. If it were only the latter, then it would be no more interesting than what professional plant and animal breeders have been doing for centuries. (In fact, that's actually where Darwin got most of his ideas from: watching professional animal breeders, and then extrapolating from that to all of nature.)

Little Bobby Dazzler...

Marcus's picture

"Since life relies on a sophisticated an elegant system of coded chemistry, life must have had intelligent input."

That's hilarious.

I think you are anthromorphising the DNA code here.

So tell me this?

Why is the code wobbly, i.e. liable to create errors or mutations? Is the creator imperfect?

I'm not only talking about evolution here, I am talking about mutations that happen inside the cells of your body on a daily basis due to errors in DNA replication. The ones that give you cancer spontaneously are a good example of this.

Varaitions in individual members of a species happen all the time and are selected for or against in every generation, with or without any unusual external forces being brought to bear upon them.

Darren

Richard Goode's picture

Darwinists, and those who subscribe to abiogenesis, believe they know how life arose.

No, they don't. Last time I checked, theories of abiogenesis are highly speculative. According to Wikipedia, "The sequence of chemical events that led to the first nucleic acids is not known."

Since we don't know how life first arose, we can't put a figure on the probability of it happening.

> There's no evidence that life has originated serially.

Darwinian evolution -- including abiogenesis -- assumes that each step in evolution happened after the other, in serial fashion, chemicals first -- self-replicating molecules next -- simple prokaryotes next - more complex eukaryotes after that -- then multi-celled organisms -- then the so-called "Tree of Life" with species being formed, becoming extinct, etc.

You're equivocating. (Or did I mistake your original point?)

Each species -- each fossil -- is assumed to be an intermediate between a species that came before it and some other species that is to follow (assuming the constancy of mutation and the ubiquitous presence of Natural Selection).

Not true. For example, no other species followed the (non-avialan) dinosaurs, and it is not assumed that they did.

@ Richard Goode

darren's picture

Well, I'm not everyone, and I'm no statistician, so I'm specifying an implausible region of rejection, viz., zero.

And since you admit it's implausible, I reject your conclusion.

Anyway, since we don't know how life first arose, we can't put a figure on the probability of it happening.

Darwinists, and those who subscribe to abiogenesis, believe they know how life arose. Ergo, we can -- and should -- put figures on the probability of it having arisen according to their imagined scenario.

There's no evidence that life has originated serially.

Darwinian evolution -- including abiogenesis -- assumes that each step in evolution happened after the other, in serial fashion, chemicals first -- self-replicating molecules next -- simple prokaryotes next - more complex eukaryotes after that -- then multi-celled organisms -- then the so-called "Tree of Life" with species being formed, becoming extinct, etc. Each species -- each fossil -- is assumed to be an intermediate between a species that came before it and some other species that is to follow (assuming the constancy of mutation and the ubiquitous presence of Natural Selection).

Theists, especially of the Biblical Fundamentalism variety, believe that each species was created instantaneously and independently from one another. They would agree that there's no evidence that life originated in serial manner. My argument relates to the Darwinisn paradigm; not to non-Darwinian ones.

@ Marcus

darren's picture

"You assume, incorrecty, that amoebas are "simple" because they are single-celled."
No, I never said they were. I was just illustrating a point.

You obviously assumed amoebas were simple (ergo, easy for nature and "blind" processes to create) precisely in order to illustrate your point. That IS the point of Darwinian evolution: simple structures evolve into more complex ones from the interaction of two forces or processes: mutation and natural selection. If your point, or evolutionary theory, is different from the one this thread is concerned with -- Darwinism -- why don't you state it explicitly?

I could have said Algae, bacteria or slime-mold if you prefer.

It wouldn't have made any difference to the outcome of your argument. Algae, bacteria, and slime-mold are all extremely complex organisms . . . no way they could appear from non-living chemicals without intelligent input from outside the system itself.

"First explain the amoeba."
First explain God. How did he create all this?

You mentioned amoebas; I never mentioned God. I spoke of intelligence. I also spoke of codes -- a point you keep evading.

If you don't know the answer to that question, why do you consider an "unexplained" act of creation to be more credible than an incompletely understood act of nature?

Easy. In fact, I've answered it eleven times already. This will make it an even dozen. Ready? Steady? Go!!! . . .

CODES ARE ALWAYS THE TELL-TALE SIGN OF INTELLIGENCE. Since life relies on a sophisticated an elegant system of coded chemistry, life must have had intelligent input. God-intelligence or martian-intelligence. It's all the same to me as far as this argument is concerned.

That's just an argument from ignorance. It doesn't advance our understanding of life one ioata.

No, actually it's an argument from forensics, which routinely must distinguish whether someone was a victim of design (murder) or chance (accident). The existence of coded-chemistry at the foundation of life is forensic evidence that design was involved -- and, by the way, that does NOT mean that chance and determinism played NO part at all. As I've posted previously, the issue is whether or not we can plausibly claim that chance and necessity were the ONLY two processes involved in the appearance of life. It's pretty clear that that is an implausible claim.

And actually, it is Darwinism that relies completely on the argument from ignorance, inventing, as it usually does, imagined scenarios in imagined pre-history that have just those right natural forces -- forces that, conveniently enough, happen NOT to exist today (so don't bother looking for them, Mr. Empiricist) -- in order to make the answer conform to theory. This particular type of informal fallacy is called the Bed of Procrustes (from the Greek myth about the Trials of Hercules). Procrustes was an ogre who would torture his victims by putting them on his bed. If the victims were shorter than the length of the bed, he would put them on a rack and stretch them until they fit his bed; conversely, if his victims were longer than his bed, he would cut off their feet and ankles until they fit. Either way, he insisted that his victims fit his bed exactly.

Same with Darwinism and its advocates. If the facts don't fit the theoretical bed, cut them off at the ankles by omitting them entirely; however, if there are too few facts to establish the plausibility of the theoretical bed, stretch the available ones until they conveniently fit.

Most people call that simple intellectual dishonesty. Darwinists call it Standard Operating Procedure.

Congratulations

Richard Goode's picture

Statisticians don't merely say "As long as it's non-zero, it has some chance of occurring." That would be meaningless to them. They specify a plausible region of rejection. If a calculation falls within that region, they declare the event to be "impossible by chance." ... Everyone does this, not just professional statisticians.

Well, I'm not everyone, and I'm no statistician, so I'm specifying an implausible region of rejection, viz., zero. Anyway, since we don't know how life first arose, we can't put a figure on the probability of it happening.

If someone wins a lottery with fantastically slim odds, we congratulate him and call it luck. If he continues to win lotteries serially, each with fantastically slim odds, we arrest him and call it cheating.

Good analogy! There's no evidence that life has originated serially.

Darren

Richard Goode's picture

Without consciousness a "Hardwood table" doesn't exist as a "hardwood table." The quality "Hard" doesn't exist without consciousness, neither does the material "wood".

... if the physics guys are correct and these "puffs of meta-energy" (or whatever we wish to call them)...

Why not come clean, and call them "noumena"?

reed

gregster's picture

The Objectivists here are not concerned about the absence of animal consent That's stretching it. Maybe in Rotorua.

Dazzler...

Marcus's picture

"You assume, incorrecty, that amoebas are "simple" because they are single-celled."

No, I never said they were. I was just illustrating a point. I could have said Algae, bacteria or slime-mold if you prefer.

"First explain the amoeba."

First explain God. How did he create all this?

If you don't know the answer to that question, why do you consider an "unexplained" act of creation to be more credible than an incompletely understood act of nature?

That's just an argument from ignorance. It doesn't advance our understanding of life one ioata.

Ellen...

Marcus's picture

"A question to Marcus: When you claim a single origin of life, are you speaking only of earth?"

No I'm not talking only of Earth.

We simply have no evidence of life starting anywhere else in the universe.

The results from Mars are interesting, but even if one could prove there were fossil bacteria there (which some people assert) there is no way to know if there was not some cross-contamination with Earth involved. I don't believe the evidence for it is there.

This is not some sort of creationism, this is just an interpretation of the facts.

My saying that there was a single cell, an original progenitor, is not controversial, it is what I was taught at university.

At first I was sceptical of that idea too. I thought that there must have been multiple starts - however when you consider the cell architecture as it is today and the complex set of steps leading up to the first cell I am more in favour of the single progenitor idea.

Even if you believe that there were multiple starts, there was still only one viable progenitor, only one successful event. Why is that so hard to grasp that idea without evoking a supernatural power?

I saw a documentary last week that sort of clarified this if you will. It was actually about how stars produce the elements that make up the earth, and how they would have lead to our present sun and our location. That event is in itself quite rare. Then on top of that you need just the right chemistry, conditions and environment for life. Certain factors have to come together in a vast ocean at just the right moment.

If life is inevitable why do we not have it everywhere in multiple forms to observe in the universe? Accepting the rare event just makes life seem more precious and valuable, not less. It does not require a supernatural deity to do that.

@ reed

darren's picture

The Objectivists here are not concerned about the absence of animal consent.

LOL! Scary.

@ Doug Bandler

darren's picture

For Objectivism, existence has metaphysical primacy over consciousness.

You mean Matter has metaphysical primacy over consciousness. "Existence" includes both mind and matter.

Its true that in order to be identified as an object of some type there needs to be a consciousness capable of making the identification. But the "object" does not have to be experienced by consciousness in order to be an _existent_.

If you make a list of an existent's qualities -- spatial extension, weight, color, texture, etc. -- you're not going to find a single one that is intelligible without a reference to consciousness. I admit that there's something that seems to exist without consciousness -- perhaps we might call it "Puffs of Meta-Energy". But these "puffs" are not objects. "Puffs" become "objects" when experienced by consciousness.

As for the term "existent", it simply means "that which exists"; it does not mean "that which is material." Consciousness, therefore, is an existent, too, and it doesn't require some other existent, such as a material one, in order to be itself.

It is regardless if it is perceived.

But the question is, "It is . . . WHAT?" Without consciousness a "Hardwood table" doesn't exist as a "hardwood table." The quality "Hard" doesn't exist without consciousness, neither does the material "wood". I agree with Callum, Blake, et al., from a previous thread: in the absence of consciousness, it's nonsense to speak of libraries and books (and, by implication, rocks, clouds, stars, light, sound, plants, colors, etc.). By trying to do so, we commit the Stolen Concept fallacy.

So the real question, at least for metaphysics, is this: if the physics guys are correct and these "puffs of meta-energy" (or whatever we wish to call them) are the ultimate non-divisible self-existing entity, how do these non-descript puffs -- which, themselves, lack all qualities such as weight, color, texture, etc. -- interact with consciousness, such that the entire world of qualitative experience that we all share -- blue skies, white clouds, brown soil, yellow suns, flowers, sounds, etc. -- arises before us?

Rest assured...

reed's picture

Darren -
The Objectivists here are not concerned about the absence of animal consent.

@ Brant

darren's picture

You are very entertaining with your big brain,

(Sigh)

If only you were a chick . . .

@ Richard Goode

darren's picture

It's a matter of luck, not a matter of available "probabilistic resources".

Sorry to disagree, but . . . you're wrong. Statisticians don't merely say "As long as it's non-zero, it has some chance of occurring." That would be meaningless to them. They specify a plausible region of rejection. If a calculation falls within that region, they declare the event to be "impossible by chance." The rejection region is calculated based on plausible resources available -- the physical context of the event. Everyone does this, not just professional statisticians.

If someone wins a lottery with fantastically slim odds, we congratulate him and call it luck. If he continues to win lotteries serially, each with fantastically slim odds, we arrest him and call it cheating. We specify a "rejection region" within which we specify that such-and-such an event cannot plausibly have occurred by chance.

This is all Standard Operating Procedure in statistics and calculations of probability.

@ Ellen Stuttle

darren's picture

Only metaphorically can the genetic "code" be described as a "code."

Yes, I've heard that often . . .

. . . but only from Objectivists; not from biochemists or molecular biologists, who assert that the genetic code is completely isomorphic to all other known codes; i.e., it has all of the same formal characteristics as Morse Code, ASCII, and languages. So calling the arbitrary-yet-meaningful sequence of bases a "code" is far more than metaphor.

Merlin Jetton does and explained at length on OL.

Ah, yes, "Objectivist Living." I snooped there a bit, and was especially fascinated by one thread that pondered the question of whether or not it was moral for a human to have sexual relations with an animal. The answer the various posters came up with -- and appeared to be satisfied with -- was "No, it is not moral for a human being to have sexual relations with an animal . . .because the human did not first get the animal's consent."

At that point I tip-toed away from OL, finding the whole experience just . . . beastly.

How interesting, Ellen, that you find anything that goes on there worthwhile.

Brant

Richard Goode's picture

Science not being a know-it-all doesn't mean an armchair philosopher citing some maybe known facts and figures is really privileged to substitute his conjectures for that "not."

Well said.

The extent of that "not" is dauntingly huge. Check out Wikipedia's list of unsolved problems in physics.

Darren

Richard Goode's picture

if the odds are less than 1-chance-in-10^142, then it is clearly not possible for it to have occurred by chance

This is clearly false. If the odds are greater than zero, then it is possible for it to have occurred by chance. It's a matter of luck, not a matter of available "probabilistic resources".

@ Marcus

darren's picture

Not sure what amoebas have to do with the Great Miracle that is Dazzler . . .

But in any case, you are missing two important points:

1. The real miracle that has to be explained by your theory (which you blithely ignore altogether) is the amoeba! You assume, incorrecty, that amoebas are "simple" because they are single-celled. They are fantastically and mind-numbingly complex. Even Francis Crick claimed that the evolutionary gap between non-living chemicals and the simple single-celled organism was far greater than the gap between that same single-celled organism and man. So first explain the miracle of the amoeba, since no one else has been able to do so.

2. You also wrote, "To add all those odds together makes it seem impossible you were ever born." You do realize, of course, that odds -- probabilities -- do not add; they multiply. Thus, if the odds of a miraculous amoeba appearing from non-living chemicals were determined to be 1-chance-in-X, and the odds of the Miraculous Dazzler appearing from an amoeba were found to be 1-chance-in-Y, then the chances of BOTH those miracles occurring are 1-chance-in-X times 1-chance-in-Y, or 1/X*Y.

Because of this, probabilities very quickly "inflate", and soon outstrip the material resources you have at your disposal, such as the total amount of time available in the universe since t=0, the total number of material particles capable of undergoing change, and the total number of changes any material particle can undergo per second.

So . . . one miracle at a time. First explain the amoeba.

@ Doug Bandler

darren's picture

It seems like an updated example of the Argument from Design.

It is.

An impossible event for chance requires intelligence to explain it. God? As far as my replies to Leonid go, I only mentioned a "Big Coder in the Sky." Could be intelligent martians.

OK, so you're leaving open the possibility that the designer is a super intelligent alien. That's better than god but its still a design argument.

Correct. By the way, so did Richard Dawkins, in Ben Stein's documentary "No Intelligence Allowed." Dawkins admitted that what he really objected to in the Design argument was the suggestion (by some) of a supernatural agent of design. He was perfectly willing to consider -- consider, not necessarily accept -- the suggestion of a naturalistic designer.

1) He makes an analogy between language and biological codes. He argues that language requires a creative intelligence and so do the biological codes. Is this analogy accurate?

To be exact, I claim that any code -- computer, linguistic, or biological -- is the product of goal-directed intelligence.

2) He draws another analogy between Morse code and coded chemistry and he reaches the same conclusion. Morse designed his code and the chemical bonds must also have had a designer.

No, no, I didn't say that. I said that the chemical bonds are precisely those parts of the DNA molecule that are NOT code, and which, therefore, DO NOT require the positing of intelligence or design to explain them. The chemical bonds function in a strictly deterministic way. The code part of the DNA molecule is the non-deterministic ORDER OF BASES -- their sequence along the double-helix spine, analogous to the sequence of letters when spelling intelligible words, or the sequence of words when constructing intelligible sentences. This sequence is NOT chemically or physically determined in any way: chemically, any base -- A, G, C, or T -- can occupy any position within the lattice . . . just as (going back to the language analogy) any letter can physically occupy any blank space within a given sequence of letters typed onto a blank page. But only certain sequences are "functional", i.e., create meaningful, intelligible words or sentences. Same for the order of bases in DNA (and RNA, of course): only certain specific sequences decode by the ribosome as a specific amino acid required in building a given protein.

3) He argues that the science of probability shows that there could not have been enough time for life to have originated from non-life. There are assumptions built into this claim that I seriously question but to answer them would require more knowledge of science than I have.

To be precise:

There are approximately 10^17 seconds (approx. 12 billion years) at evolutionary theory's disposal to evolve life; that is, to juggle various elements around until the right one occurs by chance and self-replicating life can be said to exist. Additionally, the total number of elements that your theory has at its disposal for juggling cannot be greater than the total number of elementary particles that are surmised to exist (about 10^80). Finally, according to our current understanding of the way material reality works, transitions between one state of matter and another cannot occur faster than 10^45 times per second (known as "Planck Time", after the father of quantum mechanics, Max Planck).

So the total "probabilistic resources" at evolution's disposal are:

10^17 x 10^80 x 10^45

Simply add the exponents:

10^142

In other words, if your theory posits some scenario in which we can calculate the odds of it occurring, and if those odds are equal to, or greater than 1-chance-in-10^142, then we can accept -- at least in principle -- that such scenario may have occurred by chance. However, if the odds are less than 1-chance-in-10^142, then it is clearly not possible for it to have occurred by chance; for you've exhausted all existing probabilistic resources in the entire universe (amount of available time x total number of particles x maximum number of material state-changes possible per second). Either you admit that something other than chance played a role in causing the effect you are trying to explain, or you have to change one or all of the previous parameters.

Something else we can do is to convert the 10^142 number into bits (binary digits) by taking the log-base-2, to get about 500. In other words, if we determine that a system incorporates 500 bits of information or more, then it is not possible for such system to have come about by chance . . . again, not within the limitations of 12 billions years of time, 10^80 fundamental particles, and 10^45 state-changes per second.

I'll leave discussion of this up to the more knowledgeable as this is where advanced biology meets advanced epistemology. As I keep saying, some Objectivist scholar is going to have to address these sophisticated theistic arguments, especially when they are science heavy.

Why is a scientific question, such as "What are the odds of life having evolved from non-life given certain material constraints and considerations?" a question for epistemology?

This is very typical of Objectivists. They often try to substitute philosophy for science.

Ellen

Doug Bandler's picture

Thanks,

I'll look into that. I don't agree with Darren and I suspect that there is "something wrong" with what he is presenting. But when you're a layman, its tough to know the details.

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