The Dim-Post

December 19, 2009

Science!

Filed under: science — danylmc @ 6:27 pm

The Herald has an op-ed written by physicist Jeff Tallon on atheism and the existence of God. Tallon makes the case for God based on the fine-tuning argument:

Is there in all probability no God? Can we account for the physical universe, the biological world and the nature of humankind without any recourse to a Creator? What is the likelihood that we are here merely by chance?

For the first time in our history we can start to quantify parts of this question in probabilistic terms. The result is surprising.

Let’s start with the physical universe. The field of cosmology tells us that the universe is exquisitely finely balanced.

Its density, back at the first moments of the “big bang”, was critically balanced to better than one part in one billion billion billion billion.

A fraction more dense and it all would have collapsed again. A fraction less dense and it all would have evaporated – no galaxies, no stars, no planets, no mother Earth.

A little this way and protons do not form. A little that way and neutrons don’t form. Tweak another way and no particles at all. Tweak another way and everything is hydrogen only.

Now if the universe were truly random this would not happen. It would be chaos with no structure.

If the existence of a God were the only solution to this problem then it would be a pretty compelling argument. But off the top of my head I can posit several alternatives, wiser minds than mine could no doubt offer more:

  • Only one kind of universe is logically possible so a universe with, say, a different weak nuclear force or less spatial dimensions simply could not exist.
  • All possible universes exist.
  • Some as-yet-unknown property of the universe requires an observer, so the possibility of life is a pre-condition for the universe.
  • The universe is infinite and it’s properties vary from region to region so there will be an infinite number of areas where the criteria for intelligent life to exist are met.

I’m not a fancy big city physicist but my understanding is that inflation theory favors the last option; that our universe is surrounded by inflationary vacuum expanding at many times the speed of light, containing a very large and possibly infinite number of varied universes.

Tallon moves onto the argument against evolutionary complexity with the very familiar reasoning known as Hoyle’s fallacy:

The biological world is constructed around amazingly complex molecules like proteins, DNA, RNA.

Each of these is like a sentence constructed of letters and words. It has been said that 1000 monkeys pecking randomly at 1000 typewriters will eventually type out all of Shakespeare’s works and The Encyclopaedia Britannica. The comparison is clear: wait long enough and the precursor to a protein, albeit complex, would naturally self-assemble.

Well, look at the odds for just the three words “The Encyclopedia Britannica”. It is easy to show that not even a billion monkeys typing on a billion typewriters for the lifetime of the universe will have a chance of coming up with just those three words.

Yet this problem is totally dwarfed by that of constructing a protein like nitrogenase. This is the catalyst that splits the bonds in a nitrogen gas molecule to make soluble nitrates.

Richard Dawkins demolished this argument in The Blind Watchmaker. He pointed out that evolution doesn’t work like that. Nitrogenase didn’t just spring into being, it evolved from simpler precursors via natural selection. To use the typing monkey analogy, line up 25 (or so) monkeys each of whom can only type a single randomly determined letter. If they type a letter that correctly corresponds to their corresponding letter in ‘The Encyclopedia Britannica’ (if the second monkey types the letter ‘h’, say) then it stays in the typing pool, incorrect monkeys are replaced with a new monkey that types another random letter. If you do this a couple times a minute then you get your row of monkeys correctly typing ‘The Encyclopedia Britannica’ in about an hour, depending on the breaks.

Of course evolution doesn’t work like this – organic molucules in the primordial ocean weren’t trying to arrange themselves into nitrogenase – but it does illustrate the enormous power of natural selection when applied to a random process.

Tallon concludes:

I could be wrong, but the bus slogan “There’s probably no God” is probably, nay, almost certainly, incorrect. It is a purely dogmatic statement that is not informed by science. And we haven’t even considered the nature of mind, mathematics, morals and mankind.

I don’t know how or why the universe exists, or how life on our planet began, so I have to admit that God might turn out to be the answer. But all throughout history people have used ‘God’ as an answer to difficult problems like the origin of thunder, or the cause of sickness, or why crops grow in spring, and they’ve always turned out to be wrong. So I really think you want to use God as an explanation of absolute last resort. It took thousands of years to understand the pathology of disease, we might want to wait more than a couple of years before we declare that the fine-tuning problem is unsolvable without appealing to divine intervention.

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49 Comments »

  1. If God created a finely tuned Universe, then there is probably more finely tuned stuff to discover. And that in itself will not prove or disprove God.

    And good on the Monkey Manager for replacing those deficient monkeys with ones that can type the right letters. The guy must be a genius for figuring out that the letter h had to stay, and the letter q following it meant a pink slip for the orangutan. Although imagine his annoyance in finally getting the whole sentence correctly typed out and then being hit with a copyright infringement.

    Those guys at Britannica know a lot, and to find a bunch of monkey’s can type out the sum of their knowledge given enough time and a good monkey manager will really piss them off.

    It’ll be like Wikipedia all over again.

    Comment by ZenTiger — December 19, 2009 @ 7:15 pm

  2. It all looks like Tallon is dressing up the anthropic principle in a God shaped dress. This is my go to list for the non-existence of god, 36 arguments for god all refuted. HT A&L Daily:

    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/goldstein09/goldstein09_index.html

    Comment by Will de Cleene — December 19, 2009 @ 7:35 pm

  3. Even if Tallon’s logic were correct, it wouldn’t explain why which flavour of religion he prefers is in anyway related to this universe creator.

    Comment by Richard — December 19, 2009 @ 7:36 pm

  4. The question was answered completely and unequivocally about 20 years ago.. it’s “42”.

    I believe this works just as well for AGW.

    JC

    Comment by JC — December 19, 2009 @ 7:42 pm

  5. This came out recently:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=looking-for-life-in-the-multiverse

    perhaps it’s for what you were looking =)

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — December 19, 2009 @ 7:52 pm

  6. God does not exist because there are untold other universes.

    Eh, if you say so. Sounds like a compelling scientific argument.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — December 19, 2009 @ 8:13 pm

  7. Positing God as the solution to the universe then just leaves you with the problem of what is the solution to God?

    To which the only answer is: turtles all the way down.

    Comment by Thomas Beagle — December 19, 2009 @ 8:21 pm

  8. ““There’s probably no God” is probably, nay, almost certainly, incorrect. It is a purely dogmatic statement that is not informed by science”

    Bwwwaahahahaha, *hic* aahahahahaha hahahahaha heeeee…

    The Herald’s comedy section is improving!

    Comment by Flynn — December 19, 2009 @ 10:13 pm

  9. His argument falls over almost immediately. To a large extent, if the universe were NOT finely tuned (and there may have been/be an infinite number that failed to ignite, so to speak), then this one would not exist. The argument contains the seeds of its own destruction.

    I have said it before, and will likely say it again, in many forums (fora?):
    Science canNOT be used to determine the existence or non-existence of a deity. It is, (almost?) by definition, outside the realm of science. I object to scientists who attempt to “prove” there is or is not a “god”.

    I recall a colleague of mine once said (and I am paraphrasing) that all good scientists had to be atheists. I replied that I couldn’t make that leap of faith. And so I am an agnostic, almost belligerently so. :-)

    Comment by David in Chch — December 19, 2009 @ 11:01 pm

  10. I’m sure there’s some sort of clever connection to be drawn between typewriter bashing monkeys and the herald, irony would feature heavily. Far to tired to come up with anything now though.

    Comment by Deus — December 20, 2009 @ 12:19 am

  11. God does not exist because there are untold other universes.

    Eh, if you say so. Sounds like a compelling scientific argument.

    I’m not dogmatic about it all – maybe both are true, or neither. My point is that a designer is not the sole solution to the fine-tuning problem, multiple universes works as well.

    Some people feel it violates Occams razor. Well the notion that there are many, many solar systems filled with many planets violates Occams razor as well, but it happens to be true.

    Comment by danylmc — December 20, 2009 @ 5:07 am

  12. …the bus slogan “There’s probably no God” is probably, nay, almost certainly, incorrect. It is a purely dogmatic statement…

    Yeah, it was easy to spot due to the use of the purely dogmatic term “probably.” Seriously, this guy’s a physicist?

    Comment by Psycho Milt — December 20, 2009 @ 7:14 am

  13. Seriously, this guy’s a physicist?

    Give him a break, it’s still the most intelligent, reasoned science column I’ve read in the Herald for a LONG time, even if I don’t agree with it.

    Comment by danylmc — December 20, 2009 @ 8:33 am

  14. This is nonsense. Sure, a different ‘tweaking’ of the universe might well have yielded a different result – but then there would probably be a species of pink Thimblejummets saying “Our existance proves it… there IS a God”.

    This physisist bloke is grasping at straws. You might as well say that the very existance of daisies proves that the universe is run by a clockwork elephant.

    Comment by Dave Mann — December 20, 2009 @ 8:45 am

  15. A fraction more dense and it all would have collapsed again. A fraction less dense and it all would have evaporated – no galaxies, no stars, no planets, no mother Earth.

    A little this way and protons do not form. A little that way and neutrons don’t form. Tweak another way and no particles at all. Tweak another way and everything is hydrogen only.

    Now if the universe were truly random this would not happen. It would be chaos with no structure.

    Nice argument, but it supposes that a selection of random occurrences can’t end up with the result that the universe is capable of sustaining life. Random doesn’t mean you’ll never have that result. A coin flip is random, and it’s statistically difficult to get 100,000 heads in a row, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen if you give it enough time or coin flips.

    Also, it’s not 1000 monkeys, it’s an infinite number with an infinite number of typewriters and an infinite amount of time. It’s supposed to be a demonstration of the impossibility of statistical impossibility – that given enough of each variable, you can end up with any result. That’s how I’ve managed to end up with three full houses in three consecutive poker hands. And I don’t know where the hell he got the idea that they have to type out The Encyclopaedia Britannica as well…

    Give him a break, it’s still the most intelligent, reasoned science column I’ve read in the Herald for a LONG time, even if I don’t agree with it.

    Comment by danylmc

    Is that a comment on Tallon or on the Herald? Seriously, this guy’s a physicist? Seriously, this is a newspaper?

    Comment by Chris C — December 20, 2009 @ 11:51 am

  16. I always like to respond to the fine-tuning argument with Douglas Adams’ story of the puddle. The puddle wakes up and notices that the hole it inhabits is the exact same shape as itself; surely the hole was designed by an intelligent creator, specifically for that puddle, for if the hole were any other shape, that particular puddle would not fit in it.

    Comment by Kadin — December 20, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

  17. “Random doesn’t mean you’ll never have that result. A coin flip is random, and it’s statistically difficult to get 100,000 heads in a row, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen if you give it enough time or coin flips.” …and the universe is really, really big. Chances are that our seemingly well behaved bit of it is just dumb luck. Universal laws don’t really exist. Science is wasting its time. Any moment our bit will revert to random soup. Can anyone prove this is wrong? Don’t give me empirical evidence, just because something happened yesterday doesn’t prove it will happen the same way today, not that it will be even remotely similar a billion light years away. Should we put this on our buses?

    Comment by Roger Parkinson — December 20, 2009 @ 3:46 pm

  18. I think “There’s probably no God” makes for a better slogan. Also, that’d have to be a bloody big bus, or really small letters.

    Comment by Chris C — December 20, 2009 @ 5:15 pm

  19. There’s no doubt that the universe is a very very odd place and I’m not sure that modern physics’ explanation of things is any more satisfying than the infinite series of turtles but if God could fine tune things so well then why make such a mess of the laws of thermodynmics – they cause so much trouble for the living, all that eating other things, let alone all the problems with communication.

    Comment by Neil — December 20, 2009 @ 6:54 pm

  20. which is just restating The Problem of Evil.

    Comment by Neil — December 20, 2009 @ 6:56 pm

  21. “an infinite number with an infinite number of typewriters and an infinite amount of time.’

    what would the cardinality of tine be?

    Comment by Neil — December 20, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

  22. time, that is.

    Comment by Neil — December 20, 2009 @ 7:01 pm

  23. Speaking of religion, I think TV3 news reached cosmic levels of banality by introducing their story on the Canonisation of Mary McKillop with

    “The Australians have beaten New Zealand again…”

    WTF???

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 20, 2009 @ 7:21 pm

  24. A side question: I remember reading there was a big kerfuffle in the UK about the word ‘probably’ in the sentence. Dawkins, who matched donations to the UK campaign, wanted “There is almost certainly no God”. Others just wanted it to state god doesn’t exist.

    At least part of the reason given for adding ‘probably’ was that it was thought someone could take the campaign to the advertising standards authority because they couldn’t “prove” what they were saying is the truth i.e. that god doesn’t exist (obviously missing the huge irony in thus having to ‘prove’ god – and providing a hilarious real life adaptation of the Connelly film ‘The man who sued God’…)

    Anyway – I wonder if the same issue was considered here and if there is anyone out there who can comment on why they chose the current wording???

    Also – did any of the UK buses crash in miraculously mysterious circumstances?

    Comment by Conor Roberts — December 20, 2009 @ 11:55 pm

  25. Well, that all-intelligent creator seems to be a miserable sod.

    He (she? it?) could have saved us all a lot of trouble and expense by putting in some higher mathematics and quantum electrodynamics into that bible, instead of all those war stories.

    Dammit, look at all the cost of the Large Hadron Collider for a start. And all that time and effort involved in looking for the God Particle, when just a few paragraphs could have solved the problem for us.

    Those christian fundies are always rabbiting on about the ‘revealed word’, whatever that means. C’mon guys – reveal something useful!

    Comment by Red Rosa — December 21, 2009 @ 7:23 am

  26. Recalls the words of Alfonso the Wise of Castile, who observed that if he had been consulted at the creation of the world, he would have saved the Creator from making some absurdities..

    Comment by Leopold — December 21, 2009 @ 8:04 am

  27. “But off the top of my head I can posit several alternatives, wiser minds than mine could no doubt offer more:”

    Which is the crux of the matter, is is not? With all our science and all our knowledge and so called wisdom we simply don’t know.

    And you are confident that as we get to that eureka moment, when we know this is it with absolute certainty, it would be any one of a number of possibilities as long as it is not “creator”.

    I can with all honesty say that I was an evolution supporter until I read Richard Dawkins. He more than any other author I have ever read convinced me that a fair amount of skepticism is required on the theory of evolution. The title of a recent book by him sums it up nicely “improbable”.

    Comment by cj_nza — December 21, 2009 @ 4:55 pm

  28. So what theory accounts for dinosauer fossils, cj_nza?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — December 21, 2009 @ 5:10 pm

  29. Which is the crux of the matter, is is not? With all our science and all our knowledge and so called wisdom we simply don’t know.

    We do know that when we don’t know something that you should look for evidence rather than just saying “God did it” like Tallon did. There was a time when all sorts of phenomena were attributed to gods and magic because with all the science and knowledge of the time we just didn’t know. While we may not know for absolute and utter certainty that there isn’t a creator of some sort (or that we live in a Matrix like simulation for that matter) doesn’t make a creator a plausible argument without any evidence.

    So what theory accounts for dinosauer fossils, cj_nza?

    God did it. Stop asking questions.

    Comment by Richard — December 21, 2009 @ 8:02 pm

  30. Perhaps God wife, Gaia, was giving instructions to the guys and gals of the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia!

    Comment by Clunking Fist — December 22, 2009 @ 3:43 am

  31. It seems the local ads just copied the UK ads. In the UK they were a direct response to a bus ad from a Christian organisation which said “When the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” – fairly innocuous in itself, but it also included a web site link to a quote which said if you didn’t believe Jesus was God then you will be in hell for eternity.

    Which I can understand annoyed non-believers (and which isn’t theologically correct, in any case – Jesus was rather contradictory on whether you had to sign up to the whole ideology or whether you just need to be a decent person).

    The word ‘probably’ was inserted as a copy of a Carlsberg beer campaign, which advertised ‘probably the best lager in the world’ (which is a lie, of course – the best lager in the world, at least when accompanied by a curry, is Kingfisher).

    Comment by Rob Hosking — December 22, 2009 @ 6:52 am

  32. Its density, back at the first moments of the “big bang”, was critically balanced to better than one part in one billion billion billion billion.

    The assumption is that the density of the universe was highly unlikely to be suitably balanced (implied by a billion billion billion billion being “big”). Does anyone know if there is any theoretical justification for this? After all balance occurred in the only instance of a big bang we can study, so why assume that it was unlikely.

    Comment by Adam — December 22, 2009 @ 8:56 am

  33. The good doctor’s actually replied on my blog if anyone’s interested.

    http://mediadarlings.net/2009/12/19/buses-bluster-and-the-big-bang/#comments

    Apologies for the whoring.

    Comment by The Bright Young Things of New Zealand's newsrooms — December 22, 2009 @ 11:35 am

  34. (which is a lie, of course – the best lager in the world, at least when accompanied by a curry, is Kingfisher)

    I’ll see your Curry-and-Kingfisher, and raise you a Takoyaki-and-Asahi.

    Comment by Phil — December 22, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

  35. CF @ 28 “So what theory accounts for dinosaur fossils, cj_nza?”

    Dinosaur fossils exist because some dinosaurs died in conditions where their bodies were not consumed by other organisms and it managed to fossilize.

    Or were you looking for an answer to a question you did not ask?

    Comment by cj_nza — December 22, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

  36. cj_nza: “I can with all honesty say that I was an evolution supporter … a fair amount of skepticism is required on the theory of evolution.”

    What is an alternative to evolution? Creationism? Intellegent design?

    Perhaps I misunderstand as I have never actually taken the time to study the detail of the theory of evolution.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — December 22, 2009 @ 4:55 pm

  37. CF @36

    I could have been more clear, I refer the idea that when people use “evolution” the suggest that more simplistic structures/organism will turn into more complex structures/organism by default. I take this to be the general understanding of evolution theory. The “directional process” resulting in ever increasing complexity seems to be a combination of wishful thinking/sloganeering. When somebody says “evolution” people don’t think change, they think “improvement/more complex” etc.

    I share the sentiment of Richard @ 29, in that you always need to search for the truth rather than just saying “God did it”, but we have moved from God did it to “Evolution did it”. People stopped asking the question because they think they found the answer.

    If you acknowledge that the best available theory is not necessarily the best possible theory, then you can continue your search for the best possible theory. There is enough conflicts between the currently accepted (or probably more aptly currently promoted) theory and real world observation to suggest it is not the best possible theory.

    Evolution is a two step process, 1) a process that change information in the gene; and 2) a process that determines if a change that occurred due to the new information in the genetic make-up continues in the species or disappears due to the organism in which the change occurred leaving no offspring.

    You could paraphrase into “manufacture” and “quality assurance”. Quality assurance is the process referred to as “natural selection” which determines that only those organisms that are fit to survive their current environment and can produce offspring will leave offspring (the unfit will become extinct).

    It should be clear that the assertion that, only those that are fit to survive in a specific environment will survive, is logical and rather “common sense”.

    Quality assurance is not random, an organism is either fit enough to survive or it is not. However quality assurance can only be done on something that is already manufactured, it is thus the dependent part of the process, the manufacturing process is random.

    Take this example from Danyl’s text “it evolved from simpler precursors via natural selection”. Using “via” natural selection is a misrepresentation of quality assurance as manufacture. The question remains how did it improve (became more complex)? Natural selection simply states that the “product of change” was fit enough to survive, it says nothing of the mechanism of change nor of the direction of change (eg less complex offspring from more complex ancestors).

    Comment by cj_nza — December 23, 2009 @ 9:28 am

  38. I share the sentiment of Richard @ 29, in that you always need to search for the truth rather than just saying “God did it”, but we have moved from God did it to “Evolution did it”. People stopped asking the question because they think they found the answer.

    Oh dear – we’re off down the science = faith route. Major difference is the evidence for God is unverifiable myth and science, including evolution is based on evidence.

    If you acknowledge that the best available theory is not necessarily the best possible theory, then you can continue your search for the best possible theory. There is enough conflicts between the currently accepted (or probably more aptly currently promoted) theory and real world observation to suggest it is not the best possible theory.

    You are now just making stuff up or regurgitating creationist nonsense. Here’s the challenge for you, find any peer reviewed scientific evidence that supports that last sentence. I await your reponse.

    Comment by richard — December 23, 2009 @ 11:26 am

  39. When somebody says “evolution” people don’t think change, they think “improvement/more complex” etc.

    I am still wondering where you are coming from, but won’t sweat it. My understanding of evolution is change, chance and competition, rather than the “improvement” you are concerned about. While some may indeed equate the theory with “improvement” I think (without evidence other than anecdote) that most don’t. That is why so many folk are concerned that the human race has opted out of natural selection: years ago I would have been eaten by a lion or fallen over a cliff. But with the miracle of spectacles, I can survive and pass on my faulty genes.

    I hope to evolve the ability to communicate with my wife across a shopping mall without shouting. Somehow, my brain will reach out and communicate with hers with a fair amount of privacy. I am almost there, but the dizzy moo keeps forgetting to charge her cellphone.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — December 23, 2009 @ 11:53 am

  40. The http://www.nogod.org.nz website has a discussion on their use of the word ‘probably’.

    David in chch:Science canNOT be used to determine the existence or non-existence of a deity. It is, (almost?) by definition, outside the realm of science. I object to scientists who attempt to “prove” there is or is not a “god”.

    Why can’t science be used to answer this question? If you’re using science in a very narrow sense in which it is limited to the purely empirical then this might be true but if you include theoretical approaches such inquiries are surely possible. I’ve seen one paper for example that used set theory paradoxes to argue – unconvingly imho – that omniscience isn’t logically possible. I have’nt seen it done but one could probably use Godel’s theorem to similar effect. In the event that we ever develop a rigorous account of consciousness that resolves all the philosophical problems then it may be possible to show that this or that conception of god is not logically possible.

    Neil:what would the cardinality of time be?

    Countably infinite or uncountably infinite, does it matter?

    Comment by chiz — December 23, 2009 @ 7:25 pm

  41. “does it matter?”

    i think it might in terms of how science can understand/represent how the universe works. Part of the difficulty with interpretations of quantum mechanics is the limted nature of our metaphors – wave vs particle.

    I think there might be something similar going on with representing time as having the cardinality of the reals. and somewhere in there is why it’s been so hard to unify quatum mechanics and general realitvity.

    but it’s a good excuse to link to one of my favourite representations of time –

    Comment by Neil — December 23, 2009 @ 8:25 pm

  42. “Oh dear – we’re off down the science = faith route.”

    No, you are just making stuff up.

    Comment by cj_nza — December 23, 2009 @ 10:28 pm

  43. “years ago I would have been eaten by a lion or fallen over a cliff. But with the miracle of spectacles, I can survive and pass on my faulty genes.”

    Which illustrates my bugbear perfectly. Your assumption is based on the idea of survival of the fittest (and the idea that fit mean “best”). You have faulty eyesight and you assume that you would have died an early death as a result of it. However it is as likely that the bloke with 10/10 vision (being a better hunter) were sent out more often, increasing his chance of being eaten by a lion. Having your “defect” could be beneficial and improve your chance of survival.

    Comment by cj_nza — December 23, 2009 @ 10:50 pm

  44. Of course, cj_nza and CF, that assumes that an evolutionary process takes place within an extremely small timeframe. It doesn’t, and the absence or survival of one of a species doesn’t mean that the species is going to die out or survive. It just means that the individual will die or survive. The process of evolution is about taking consistent and useful improvements to a species and passing them on to the next generation, where they’re inherited and passed around. There is, of course, a trade-off – like sickle cell disease, or an increased likelihood of skin cancer – but isolated examples of how one might survive another don’t prove or disprove evolution.

    In CF’s case, we have managed to evolve our brain capacity over many millions of years to the point where we can isolate the problems associated with poor vision and provide correcting implements. That means more of a tribe would survive, means they’re more likely to be more dominant, and, unlike the hunter, are more likely to improve. That IS a fit behaviour, because you can assume there’s nothing else wrong with CF that would affect his hunting capability, and so his tribe has one extra hunter compared to the other tribes.

    What are seemingly disadvantages in isolation take on a whole new form when they’re extrapolated to the dimensions needed to realise evolutionary principles.

    Comment by Chris C — December 24, 2009 @ 10:12 am

  45. “However it is as likely that the bloke with 10/10 vision (being a better hunter) were sent out more often” Yep, that’s how the collectivists would do it.
    :^)

    “can assume there’s nothing else wrong with CF that would affect his hunting capability, and so his tribe has one extra hunter compared to the other tribes.”
    Well, no: wouldn’t there be a nerd who invents/builds all this stuff? Possibly folk like me?

    Chris, I accept some aspects of evolution are slow: the change. But the chance could be fast. Aspects of competition are slow, others fast. Contrast: me as part of the lion’s menu; me and the lion having a common menu.

    But do we consider just the development of our brain as evolution, whilst the glasses are the result? Or should glasses (and aeroplanes and vaccines) be considered evolution? In the year 2000, when we will all be cyborgs, are we not merely continuing to evolve? We have managed to almost control the rate of our own evolution, we have accelerated it.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — December 24, 2009 @ 12:40 pm

  46. Neil:I think there might be something similar going on with representing time as having the cardinality of the reals. and somewhere in there is why it’s been so hard to unify quatum mechanics and general realitvity.

    Hmmm. There are, possibly, some connections between set cardinality questions (the continuum hypothesis, the axiom of choice, inaccessible cardinals, godels theorem etc) and the interpretation of QM in the sense that, supposedly, local realistic interpretations of QM may be possible in some set theories but not in others. Personally, however, I think this is probably telling us something about our choice of set theory rather than anything about QM. I don’t see the connection with the cardinality of time or what this has to do with GM vs. QM. General relativity is based on special relativity and, at least on a supeficial analysis, QM appears to be incompatible with SR. Its possible that this is where the conflict between the two begins.

    Comment by chiz — December 24, 2009 @ 1:28 pm

  47. Which illustrates my bugbear perfectly. Your assumption is based on the idea of survival of the fittest (and the idea that fit mean “best”). You have faulty eyesight and you assume that you would have died an early death as a result of it. However it is as likely that the bloke with 10/10 vision (being a better hunter) were sent out more often, increasing his chance of being eaten by a lion. Having your “defect” could be beneficial and improve your chance of survival.

    How does this in anyway undermine the evidence for evolution? Actually what relevance at all to the evidence in support of evolution does your point about how people think about it matter at all? People around these parts used to think the Sun moves slowly because Maui beat it up, that didn’t alter the fact that all the evidence is that it’s a burning ball of H2.

    Comment by Richard — December 24, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

  48. @ 47 “How does this in anyway undermine the evidence for evolution?”

    The theory states that a feature can evolve into a more complex feature or a less complex feature on condition that either the more complex feature or the less complex feature still renders the organism “fit”.

    The theory does not suggest as @ 44 “consistent and useful improvements” improvement as sole result of the process of change is not supported by the theory.

    The absence of scientific declarations of discovery of less complex descendants from more complex ancestors undermines the evidence for the theory of evolution.

    It does however fit perfectly with a world view of “consistent and useful improvements”.

    Comment by cj_nza — January 2, 2010 @ 1:04 pm

  49. The absence of scientific declarations of discovery of less complex descendants from more complex ancestors undermines the evidence for the theory of evolution.

    Less complex features are very common. Your tail bone is one. The eyes of Naked Mole Rats, the wings of Kiwis. A rather long list and I think there are sufficient “scientific declarations” that this is the case.

    Anyway, say you’re right. That still wouldn’t rule out evolution, just a different process from the one you’re claiming there are no “scientific declarations” for.

    BTW: In comment 37 you said “There is enough conflicts between the currently accepted (or probably more aptly currently promoted) theory and real world observation to suggest it is not the best possible theory.” I challenged you to link to some credible support for that statement and you’ve not responded to that. Pony up with some evidence for your statements, I’m willing to link to credible evidence for everything I’ve said.

    Comment by Richard — January 3, 2010 @ 9:32 am


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