Fearful Symmetries

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March 15, 2012 Tags: Science & Worldviews

Today's entry was written by Stephen Barr. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Fearful Symmetries

In his essay Fearful Symmetries, published in the October 2010 issue of the journal First Things, physicist Stephen Barr offered a critique of the modern tendency to make the investigative strategy of reductionism into a “metaphysical prejudice.” It is a mistake, he says, to take the extraordinary success of the scientific practice of looking at things in smaller and simpler parts as proof that “the further we push toward a more basic understanding of things, the more we are immersed in meaningless, brutish bits of matter.”

Perusing the writings of atheistic scientists and philosophers like Daniel Dennett, one could easily get the impression that arriving at a simpler explanation for something equates to a revelation that things are “lower, cruder, and more trivial.” But at the heart of Barr’s critique is the observation that in fundamental physics and advanced mathematics, “simpler” does not mean more chaotic and inchoate, but rather more elegant and beautiful. Those who hold to a philosophical reductionism “overlook the hidden forces and principles” that govern the processes of cosmic evolution.

Barr’s article lays out the way that the work of scientists and mathematicians exploring the fundamental principles of physics (from Kepler to Einstein to those currently running the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland) actually suggests “that order does not really emerge from chaos, as we might naively assume; it always emerges from greater and more impressive order already present at a deeper level.” This excerpt gives his first example, the starting point from which he guides us into strangely beautiful world of particle physics, and towards the discovery that “matter, although mindless itself, is the product of a Mind of infinite profundity and infinite simplicity.”

Fearful Symmetries

“Let’s start with a simple but instructive example of how order can appear to emerge spontaneously from mere chaos through the operation of natural forces. Imagine a large number of identical marbles rolling around randomly in a shoe box. If the box is tilted, all the marbles will roll down into a corner and arrange themselves into what is called the “hexagonal closest packing” pattern. (This is the same pattern one sees in oranges stacked on a fruit stand or in cells in a beehive.) This orderly structure emerges as the result of blind physical forces and mathematical laws. There is no hand arranging it. Physics requires the marbles to lower their gravitational potential energy as much as possible by squeezing down into the corner, which leads to the geometry of hexagonal packing.

At this point it seems as though order has indeed sprung from mere chaos. To see why this is wrong, however, consider a genuinely chaotic situation: a typical teenager’s bedroom. Imagine a huge jack tilting the bedroom so that everything in it slides into a corner. The result would not be an orderly pattern but instead a jumbled heap of lamps, furniture, books, clothing, and what have you.

Why the difference? Part of the answer is that, unlike the objects in the bedroom, the marbles in the box all have the same size and shape. But there’s more to it. Put a number of spoons of the same size and shape into a box and tilt it, and the result will be a jumbled heap. Marbles differ from spoons because their shape is spherical. When spoons tumble into a corner, they end up pointing every which way, but marbles don’t point every which way, because no matter which way a sphere is turned it looks exactly the same.

These two crucial features of the marbles—having the same shape and having a spherical shape—should be understood as principles of order that are already present in the supposedly chaotic situation before the box was tilted. In fact, the more we reduce to deeper explanations, the higher we go. This is because, in a sense that can be made mathematically precise, the preexisting order inherent in the marbles is greater than the order that emerges after the marbles arrange themselves. This requires some explanation.

Both the preexisting order and the order that emerges involve symmetry, a concept of central importance in modern physics, as we’ll see. Mathematicians and physicists have a peculiar way of thinking about symmetry: A symmetry is something that is done. For example, if one rotates a square by 90 degrees, it looks the same, so rotating by 90 degrees is said to be a symmetry of the square. So is rotating by 180 degrees, 270 degrees, or a full 360 degrees. A square thus has exactly four symmetries.

Not surprisingly, the hexagonal pattern the marbles form has six symmetries (rotating by any multiple of 60 degrees: 60, 120, 180, 240, 300, and 360 degrees). A sphere, on the other hand, has an infinite number of symmetries—doubly infinite, in fact, since rotating a sphere by any angle about any axis leaves it looking the same. And, what’s more, the symmetries of a sphere include all the symmetries of a hexagon.

If we think this way about symmetry, careful analysis shows that, when marbles arrange themselves into the hexagonal pattern, just six of the infinite number of symmetries in the shape of the marbles are ex-pressed or manifested in their final arrangement. The rest of the symmetries are said, in the jargon of physics, to be spontaneously broken. So, in the simple example of marbles in a tilted box, we can see that symmetry isn’t popping out of nowhere. It is being distilled out of a greater symmetry already present within the spherical shape of the marbles.”

In the full essay, Barr gives a richer description of how this most basic kind of symmetry is just one sort of order, and how even this form points to other much more complex kinds of symmetry whose properties may be described only through the tools of complex mathematics. As he says, “the symmetries that characterize the deepest laws of physics are mathematically richer and stranger than the ones we encounter in everyday life.” But even more important than the fact that such mathematical concepts exist and are beautiful, more important even than the way such esoteric mathematical symmetries have suggested imminently practical experimental projects, is the way they point to a universe that is anything but brutish and trivial, though its elegance may be hard to see:

“It is true that the cosmos was at one point a swirling mass of gas and dust out of which has come the extraordinary complexity of life as we experience it. Yet, at every moment in this process of development, a greater and more impressive order operates within—an order that did not develop but was there from the beginning. In the upper world, mind, thought, and ideas make their appearance as fruit on the topmost branches of an evolutionary tree. Below the surface, we see the taproots of reality, the fundamental laws of physics that shimmer with ideas of profound simplicity.”

This essay appears with the permission of First Things. To read Barr’s complete essay, please click here.


Stephen M. Barr is professor of physics at the University of Delaware and Director of its Bartol Research Institute. Barr’s areas of specialty are theoretical particle physics and cosmology, and in 2011 he was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society “for original contributions to grand unified theories, CP violation, and baryogenesis." He is also author of Modern Physics and Ancient Faith and A Student’s Guide to Natural Science.


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Roger A. Sawtelle - #68540

March 16th 2012

First I want to thnak BioLogos for bringing to our attention this excellent piece and First Things for publishing it and Prof. Stephen Barr for writing it.  I hope people will read the original article available through the portal.

Second, any discusion of symmetry requires due homage to Emma Noether, the Mother of this concept.  She was a contemporary of Einstein and approaches him in the importance of her intellectual contribution, but has not received nearly the same recognition.  During her lifetime she was discriminated against because of her gender and Jewish ethnicity.  See my book for more information.  

Third, Evolutionary biology obscures the wideranging impact that Darwinism, monistic, materialistic, reductionistic Scientism has on science and life.  Barr demonstrates how the laws of physics contradict the ideas of Dennett and Dawkins.  Biology is a realtively narrow discipline.  Ecology is a cross disciplinary approach to understanding Life and how it developes.  With this added perspective it is easier to see that Darwinism is wrong headed.

What Barr is saying based on Noether’s Theorem is that order does not emerge from chaos, but order emrges from order.  That should be fairly obvious, but it goes against what D & D are saying.  Reality is inherently a complex unity,  It is not a simplicity that becomes complex that we can understand by rediscovering its simplicity.  Reality is symmetrical.

In my understanding of the Big Bang Creation, that there never was any chaos, except “in the beginning” when God the Father posited a Singularity Black Hole which contained the whole of the universe.  Instantanuously came the Light and the beginning of time and space and matter and energy and God determined natural laws (based on the Logos) that give the universe its past and current and future form and direction.  It seems to me that Gen 1:1-3 and John 1:1 pretty well nails this. if that matters. 

        


beaglelady - #68542

March 16th 2012

“In my understanding of the Big Bang Creation, that there never was any chaos, except “in the beginning” when God the Father posited a Singularity Black Hole which contained the whole of the universe.”


A Black Hole? Really?


Steven Curry - #68546

March 16th 2012

Roger, evolution has always included ecological adaptation—that is, the environment can exert selection pressure. This is the standard view of evolutionary biologists, including Dawkins.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68550

March 16th 2012

So Steven, you are still stalking me. 

I heard you when you told me this the first time.  Are you ready to listen to another point of view or are you going to stick to your dogmatic opinion? 

Unfortunately this statement is not a scientifically veritifiable one as far as I can tell.   While it may be true you have offered no scientific evidence that it is true.  It is just a statement of what you believe to be fact.


beaglelady - #68554

March 16th 2012

“It is just a statement of what you believe to be fact.”


It is a statement of what most biologists accept as fact. Really!

btw, what is a “Singularity Black Hole” ?



Roger A. Sawtelle - #68556

March 17th 2012

BL,

A Singularity is an unique event.

A Black Hole is where matter is condensed so tightly that it loses all form and light cannot escape its gravitation.

The unique aspect of the initial Singulary of the universe is that there was nothing outside of the chaos of the initial “black hole,” except God Who of course is not a thing. 

Are you carrying Steven’s water?

 


beaglelady - #68559

March 17th 2012

Roger,

Don’t confuse a black hole with the singularity.  You should read my book to find out more.


Steven Curry - #68557

March 17th 2012

“It is just a statement of what you believe to be fact.”

Well since you demand to revisit what was demonstrated in a previous thread, I’ll repost it here:

Roger Sawtelle,

Your recent responses raise more questions.

You continue to claim that “Dawkins has clearly and specifically rejected environmental selection”. However environmental selection has always been part of evolution. Dawkins is a supporter of standard evolutionary theory, not an opponent of it. For example,

“Hairiness is one of those characteristics that can increase or decrease in evolution again and again. Vestigial hairs, with their associated cellular support structures, lurk in even the barest-seeming skin, ready to evolve into a full coat of thick hair at short notice (or shrink again) should natural selection at any time call them out of retirement. Look at the woolly mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses that rapidly evolved in response to the recent ice ages in Eurasia.” http://books.google.com/books?id=rR9XPnaqvCMC&pg=PA67

Indeed his books contain many examples of organisms adapting to ecological niches.

The above quote appears to disprove your idea that “Dawkins has clearly and specifically rejected environmental selection”. However you have asserted that the quote “does not say that the environment guides evolution”, that it raises a “meaningless question”, and that it shows “pathetic reasoning” on my part. It behooves you to explain these statements.

(In light of your previous comments, I would remind you that your response should not involve personal attacks.)


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68558

March 17th 2012

Steven, Steven, Steven

Where do you get these ideas that I demand anything from you but civility and reason.

Of course by your stalking me to this blog you have gone it off topic. 

By not backing up your statement that All biologists have always believed in population pressure and because Richard Dawkins is a biologist, (even though he is more of an ethnologist,) ergo he must believe in population pressure and be an ecological adaption, (even though he has publicly rejected ecology as a discipline) you have demonstrated to my satisfaction that you are not willing or able to discuss this issue with an open mind.   

However you did defend Dawkins’ gene’s eye view of evolution.  Please consider Gould critique of this view:

Richard [Dawkins] has taken [Darwin’s] posture of trying to beat the level of explanation down, and has carried it to its ultimate extreme: it’s not even the organisms that are struggling, it’s only the genes. The organisms are ``vehicles…’’ The only active agents in Richard’s worldview are genes. He’s wrong…Richard is basically wrong, because organisms are doing the struggling out there. If organisms could be described as the additive accumulation of what their genes do, then you could say that organisms are representing the genes, but they’re not. Organisms have hosts of emergent characteristics. In other words, genes interact in a nonlinear way. It is the interaction that defines the organism, and if those interactions, in a technical sense, are non-additive that is, if you can’t just say that it’s this percent of this gene plus that percent of that gene then you cannot reduce the interaction to the gene. This is a technical philosophical point. As soon as you have emergent characteristics due to non-additive interaction among lower-level entities, then you can’t reduce to the lower-level entities, because the non-additive features have emerged. These features don’t exist until you get into the higher level. His argument is wrong.

 

Another scientific view that take issues with Dawkins is the Superorganism perspective, which is close to the ecological understanding of evolution to which I subscribe.  Dawkins and Darwin are not necessarily the final word of evolution.  They are not above criticism.  Again if you are interested in discussion an alternative point of view read my book.  

 

 


Steven Curry - #68560

March 17th 2012

If your question is whether the environment exerts selection pressure in evolutionary theory, then the answer is to look at any introductory textbook on evolution. Since this is the Internet, here is Wikipedia:

“Natural selection most generally makes nature the measure against which individuals and individual traits, are more or less likely to survive. “Nature” in this sense refers to an ecosystem, that is, a system in which organisms interact with every other element, physical as well as biological, in their local environment.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution

If your question is whether Dawkins believes that the environment exerts selection pressure, then the answer is to look at any book by Dawkins on evolution. For example,

“Hairiness is one of those characteristics that can increase or decrease in evolution again and again. Vestigial hairs, with their associated cellular support structures, lurk in even the barest-seeming skin, ready to evolve into a full coat of thick hair at short notice (or shrink again) should natural selection at any time call them out of retirement. Look at the woolly mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses that rapidly evolved in response to the recent ice ages in Eurasia.” http://books.google.com/books?id=rR9XPnaqvCMC&pg=PA67

(In light of your previous comments, I would remind you that your response should not involve personal attacks.)


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68562

March 17th 2012

Steven,

Thank you for that quote from the Wikipedia.  As you know the Wiki is constantly changing.  The last time I checked it out it did not say that, but I am glad it it has come around to my view.  I am glad that Dennis agrees with my view and if you say so that most biologists agree with me.

However Richard Dawkins does not agree.  Your quotes do not say that the environment is the driving force of natural selection.  Neither does this quote:

 Natural selection, if it is to have a long-term effect on evolution, must choose between alternative entities that aspire to be long-term. These entities must have at least the potential to survive indefinitely through generation after generation in the form of copies. Genes have this potential immortality. Bodies, even the best of them, are mortal. The most natural view of adaptive evolution is the gene’s eye view. A body is the genes’ way of making more genes. A body is a “throwaway survival machine” for its genes.

In talking about NS he does not mention ecology or the environment in any way shape or form.

 


Steven Curry - #68571

March 18th 2012

“As you know the Wiki is constantly changing. The last time I checked it out it did not say that, but I am glad it it has come around to my view.”

Roger, Wikipedia did not “come around” to including environmental selection. It has always been part of evolution. It is mentioned by Darwin himself, e.g.,

“In looking at many small points of difference between species which, as far as our ignorance permits us to judge, seem quite unimportant, we must not forget that climate, food, &c., have no doubt produced some direct effect.” http://books.google.com/books?id=YY4EAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA99

The Dawkins quote you found appears to originate from the textbook “Advanced Biology” by Roberts et al. The textbook introduces natural selection with the usual adaptive explanation,

“As we look at organisms, we cannot help being struck by the way their structure and physiology seem to suit them for living in their particular environments. We say the organism is _adapted_ to its environment…Adaptation and the close relationship between structure and function can be explained by a further concept: _evolution_. It is generally believed that present-day species have arisen by a process of gradual evolution from pre-existing forms that lived in the past, this being achieved by _natural selection_.” http://books.google.com/books?id=HHaDGynAz1EC&pg=PR2

You should ask yourself: Why would a textbook present two contradictory views of evolution—Dawkins vs. the textbook itself—without mentioning that they are contradictory?

The answer is that they are not contradictory. The Dawkins quote you gave is just another introduction to the gene’s eye view, like the quote from “Climbing Mount Improbable”. The gene’s eye view is not in opposition to the theory of evolution. It has nothing to do with rejecting environmental selection. As I mentioned before, Dawkins says the gene’s eye view “is not a new theory, not a hypothesis which can be verified or falsified, not a model which can be judged by its predictions…I am not trying to convince anyone of the truth of any factual proposition.”

We can further verify that Dawkins is not opposed to environmental selection by flipping through his books, e.g.,

“Hairiness is one of those characteristics that can increase or decrease in evolution again and again. Vestigial hairs, with their associated cellular support structures, lurk in even the barest-seeming skin, ready to evolve into a full coat of thick hair at short notice (or shrink again) should natural selection at any time call them out of retirement. Look at the woolly mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses that rapidly evolved in response to the recent ice ages in Eurasia.” http://books.google.com/books?id=rR9XPnaqvCMC&pg=PA67

You continue to dodge this last quote. Are you finally ready to address it? See #68557 above and beaglelady’s response #68563.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68576

March 18th 2012

Steven,

You must decide if you are going to engage in serious discussion or play the fool with BL as you have done below. 

Since you asked a seerious and reasonable question I will respond, but please dump the bad attitude.

First, you have to keep in mind that Dawkins is not your everyday biologist.  His training was in ethnology.  He has made clear that he is a Darwinist and idealogue first and a scientist second.  His activities against those who disagree in some way with his ideas concerning Darwin and atheism reveal this. 

Second, adaptation was not a part of the evolutionary process as Darwin explained it in a clear and precise summary which he wrote in the Origins.  This is the radition that Dawkins seeks to be true to and he has for the most part.

Third what the text book seems to say is that evolution results in adaption.  That is different from the statement that my view and perhaps the one you hold which is that the need to adapt is Natural Selection which results in evolutionary change. 

The difference is subtle, but real and important.  One says that evolution creates adaption, so adaption is purely secondary, while the other says that adption creates evolution, so adaptation is primary.  Ecology minded people like myself think adaptation is primary and I think that studies have should this.  Darwinists are eager to claim tghat evolution is more important than the ecology.

The gene’s eye view as developed by Dawkins keeps evolution on the level of the DNA.  He really does not explain how Nateral Selection works, except to say that the selfish gene works to assure its survival. 

As I am sure you know his main concept for Natural Selection is Wiliam Hamiliton concept of kin selection.  As far as I can see kin selection has nothing to do with ecological adaptation.  When a study came out last year written by a team that included E. O. Wilson was very critical of kin selection, Dawkins and Dennett rushed to attack it.        

What I am finding is that there is so much discussion and debate concerning evolution not only between thaose who oppose evolution, but among those who agree that it exists, it does take place is because the process is unclear.  D & D would have us think that their said is clear and obvious and some aspects are, but there are important aspects that are not.

Now it appears that I made a mistake in concentrating on Dawkins’ theoretical works where he does not talk about adaption for the reasons mentioned.  You found a more popular work of Dawkins where his discussion conforms to more popular views and ironicallly a more accurate understanding of evolution.  While his words do imply ecological adaption, he does not say the environment shapes evolution and as far as I know he never has.                  

 


beaglelady - #68577

March 18th 2012

“While his words do imply ecological adaption, he does not say the environment shapes evolution and as far as I know he never has.”     

Baloney!! See  #68563, which I wrote yesterday to explain the meaning of the quote. Did you read it?  If an ice age isn’t part of the environment I don’t know what is.

btw, in addition to being an evolutionary biologist Dawkins is also an ethologist (not an ethnologist).       


Steven Curry - #68589

March 19th 2012

Roger, your response is like the ending of a reductio ad absurdum proof where obvious absurdities and contradictions appear.

Your statement “adaptation was not a part of the evolutionary process as Darwin explained it” is objectively false. It’s like saying electric fields are not part of Maxwell’s equations as Maxwell explained them. Here is the direct disproof: http://books.google.com/books?id=YY4EAAAAYAAJ&q=adapt+OR+adapted+OR+adaptation

If the phrase “adaptation was not a part of the evolutionary process as Darwin explained it” is constrained to the context of “in a clear and precise summary which he wrote in the Origins” then the latter is an equivocation. Whatever you interpreted from whatever summary does not supersede the plain meaning of the book itself!

So far I have covered only one of sentence of your reply. There are too many absurdities and confusions therein for me to address. However I will also point out the last sentence, which is a kind of grand finale to the reductio ad absurdum proof:

“While his words do imply ecological adaption, he does not say the environment shapes evolution and as far as I know he never has.”

You should focus on that sentence and ask yourself whether honesty is an important part of your value system. Read the Dawkins quote again. Read it several times. Read the context. Read beaglelady’s responses #68577 and #68563. Read your sentence again.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68592

March 19th 2012

Steven,

You did it again.  Your “direct disproof” makes my my statement true.

Please look at your reference again.  It says, “No results found in this book for adapt OR adapted OR adaptation<br” refering to the Origin of the Species.  

You must check your references before making grand statements as to what they say.  I know that you are not stupid, but your arrogance seems to lead you to make stupid mistakes.  It is time to wake up and smell the coffee.

Science is not static.  Science is constantly moving ahead.  That is the problem with Richard Dawkins.  He wants to demonstrate that Darwin was absolutely right, and if you are taken in by him, be consoled that many others have been too.  

But you have to opportunity to break out from under Dawkins’ delusion if you have the guts to admit you made a mistake.  Which is more important your pride, or the truth.   


Steven Curry - #68593

March 19th 2012

Roger, the Google Books link works for me. Cutting & pasting the link into the address bar also works. Here is a shortened version for good measure:

http://snipurl.com/22owejk


beaglelady - #68603

March 19th 2012

I tried your link. It came back with 90 results!


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68606

March 20th 2012

Steven,

Thank you for a link that worked.

Your quote from the Wiki concerning Natural Selection is a good one.  These part of the Wiki has changed much for the better since I last used it.

It does confirm basically that the ecosystem is the basis for natural selection.  If we agree on that point, this is excellent.  If this make you feel vindicated that is fine too. 

You do make your point that Darwin did discuss adaption, but it still seems to me that he made adaption the result of Natural Selection, not the basis of Natural Selection.  In any case it is an anachronism to suppose that Darwion understood ecology more than 100 years before the establishment of modern ecological thought by James Lovelock.

I really do not know why you insist that Dawkins’ gene’s eye view of evolution is compatible with ecological natural selection, but that is your problem.  I really do not have a problem with people having differing opinions from mine.  That is what discussion is all about.  Live and learn.     


Steven Curry - #68609

March 20th 2012

Roger, you originally believed that Darwin did not mention adaptation (even though adaptation has been a fundamental part of evolutionary theory since Darwin). After realizing that mistake, you now say that Darwin made adaptation “the result of Natural Selection, not the basis of Natural Selection”. I must say this appears to be a retreat into incoherence. It is like your response to the Dawkins quote on ice ages:

“While his words do imply ecological adaption, he does not say the environment shapes evolution and as far as I know he never has.”

Again note beaglelady’s responses #68577 and #68563. Since you have dodged this point, I will help you out. You claim Dawkins “does not say the environment shapes evolution”, but Dawkins actually says “evolved in response to the recent ice ages”. Indeed Dawkins is referring to adaptation as Darwin defined it.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68610

March 20th 2012

Steven,

There are two issues,  One is what happened and the other is why it happened.  We are in agreement that adaption is an important part of evolution.  We seem to be in agreement that nature, that is the ecosystem per Wiki, governs Natural Selection, that is determines how life forms adapt.  

Darwin and Dawkins say that adaption happens because of Malthusian conflict for Darwin and selfish gene action for Dawkins.  My understanding of why evolutionary change place is because organisms are not selfish or conflictive, but interact to create a diverse ecosystem that maximizes the benefits for all.  

I am in agreement that Dawkins agreees with Darwin.  Where I see the difference is with the Wiki view and Dawkins.  If Variation is governed by mutation and symbiogensis, changes in genes, the Natural Selection is governed by Symbiosis. 

You need two steps to have a process as Darwin so clearly and wisely indicated.  Organic variation is the first step.  Natural Selection by symbiosis is the second.           


Steven Curry - #68612

March 20th 2012

Roger, you are still dodging the Dawkins quote on ices ages which contradicts your claims. Your response to the quote was:

“While his words do imply ecological adaption, he does not say the environment shapes evolution and as far as I know he never has.”

Read the Dawkins quote again. Read it several times. Read the context. Read beaglelady’s responses #68577 and #68563. Read your sentence again. You claim Dawkins “does not say the environment shapes evolution”, but Dawkins actually says “evolved in response to the recent ice ages”.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68615

March 20th 2012

I mam not trying to dodge Dawkins’ quote.  It is just that I have read so many of his other writing that it is hard to take this seriously.  As I say it goes against his gene’s eye view which is taken to be his bottom line and as far as I know is his bottom line.

I would like to welcome him into the fellowship of ecological evolutionists, but that would seem to make him incoherent.  As I say from all I have read eecept for this book which I must admit I haven’t read he has expressed the other view. 

Honestly right now I don’t have the time to figure out Dawkins’ quirks.  I’ll let you do that.  I just know what I think and know about ecological evolution and if Dawkins agrees with my view that’s fine.  He and you are welcome to read my book.  


Steven Curry - #68617

March 21st 2012

continued #68616


beaglelady - #68614

March 20th 2012

“Thank you for a link that worked.”

Both links worked


beaglelady - #68597

March 19th 2012

“You should focus on that sentence and ask yourself whether honesty is an important part of your value system.”

We already know the answer to that, I’m afraid.


beaglelady - #68563

March 17th 2012

“Your quotes do not say that the environment is the driving force of natural selection.”

 

OH YES THEY CERTAINLY DO IMPLY THAT (if I may assist here).

The end of the Dawkins quote reads:

”...Look at the woolly mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses that rapidly evolved in response to the recent ice ages in Eurasia.”

Do you understand?  “...rapidly evolved in response to the recent ice ages in Eurasia.” Ice ages count as part of the environment, and they make it VERY, VERY COLD.  Glaciers were advancing.  And so Woolly mammoths and woolly rhinceroses evolved. Their woolly coats helped keep them nice and warm.  (So did their enormous size, btw.) I’ve seen actual mammoth hair at the American Museum of Natural History, as well as the remains of a baby woolly mammoth.

 

 

 


Steven Curry - #68572

March 18th 2012

But environmental selection is a new idea—it only recently got added to Wikipedia. In fact Roger predicted this recent trend in biology, and he continues to be vindicated with each new research paper that confirms environmental selection.

The reason Darwin himself mentions environmental selection is actually due to a time-loop paradox caused by a Singularity Black Hole. For a detailed explanation buy my upcoming book, “DARWIN’S PARADOX: How Darwin Plagiarized Wikipedia”.


Chip - #68611

March 20th 2012

“…order does not really emerge from chaos, as we might naively assume; it always emerges from greater and more impressive order already present at a deeper level.” This excerpt gives his first example, the starting point from which he guides us into strangely beautiful world of particle physics, and towards the discovery that “matter, although mindless itself, is the product of a Mind of infinite profundity and infinite simplicity.”

If I didn’t know better, it sure sounds like Barr/BL is claiming that it is possible to study some element of the created order using only the tools of science, and subsequently arrive at the conclusion that a Mind is responsible for its production.  IOW, physics can lead us to the discovery that matter is intelligently designed. 

Am I on the right website here?


Steven Curry - #68616

March 21st 2012

Roger,

Again, the gene’s eye view does not go against environmental selection. More than likely you don’t understand the distinction between genotype and phenotype. A genotype is like a blueprint and a phenotype is like the thing made from a blueprint.

Suppose we have the blueprints of ten similar but slightly different engines designed to run in cold weather. We build the engine for each blueprint and test them under frigid conditions. The most efficient engine is the winner.

We may point to the blueprint of the winning engine and say, “This is the winner.” What we mean is, “This is the blueprint which produced the winning real-life engine.” Of course it’s the real-life engine that won, not the piece of paper containing the blueprint! The piece of paper itself is not tested. Nonetheless, on another level it does make sense to say that a blueprint won.

Phenotypes are selected against the environment. Their success or failure impacts genotypes. Talking about genotypes does not imply that phenotypes have vanished from the picture.

It is sometimes useful to compare blueprints of engines rather than real-life engines. When we do so, that does not mean we are uninterested in real-life engines! That’s the gene’s eye view. Get it?

Roger, you are the only person on the planet who believes that Dawkins rejects environmental selection. The idea doesn’t even make sense. That together with the ice ages quote should convince you that you just misunderstood.


beaglelady - #68619

March 21st 2012

“That together with the ice ages quote should convince you that you just misunderstood.”

 

Misunderstood? I think this is willful refusal to see reality.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68618

March 21st 2012

Steven,

You have your quote.  I’ve got mine.

“Grass provides the staple diet for a whole community of grazers, and the grazers manure the grass. It is even true that, if you removed the grazers, many of the grasses would die. But this does not mean that a grass plant exists to be eaten, or in any sense benefits by being eaten. A grass plant, if it could express its wishes, would much rather not be eaten. How, then, do we resolve the paradox that if the grazers were removed the grasses would die? The answer is that, although no plant wants to be eaten, grasses can tolerate it better than many other plants can (which is why they are used in lawns that are designed to be mown). As long as an area is heavily grazed or mown, plants that would compete with grasses cannot establish themselves. Trees cannot get a foothold because their seedlings are destroyed. Grazers, there­fore, are indirectly good for grasses as a class. But this still does not mean that an individual grass plant benefits by being grazed. It may benefit from other grasses being grazed, including other plants of its own species, since this will have dividends in manure and in helping to remove competitor plants. But if the individual grass plant can get away with not being grazed itself so much the better.

 

We began by lampooning the common fallacy that flowers and animals are placed in the world for the benefit of humans and cattle are docilely eager to be eaten.  We must have no truck with the pop ecologist fallacy, the holisty grail of all individuals striving for the good of the community, the ecosystem, ‘Gaia.’ It is time to get fussy and sharpen up what we mean whenever we talk about a living creature being there ‘for the benefit of’ anything.  What does ‘for the good of’ really mean? …What kind of entity is it whose ‘benefit’ will be served by a living body or part of a living body?

 

The answer is DNA.  It is a profound and precise answer and the argument is airtight, but it needs an explanation.”  Climbing Mt. Improbable, Pp 267-68

How can a gene determine which blue print will produce the best engine?  That is the most absurd idea ever.


Steven Curry - #68620

March 21st 2012

“How can a gene determine which blue print will produce the best engine?”

Genotypes don’t determine genotypes. Phenotypes are built from a variety of slightly different genotypes. The environment induces differential reproduction of those phenotypes. This produces changes in the genotypes over time.

Roger, why do you suppose that you are the only person in the world who has come up with the idea that “Dawkins has clearly and specifically rejected environmental selection”? Just lucky?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68621

March 21st 2012

Steven,

Have you ever heard of a popular book written by Dr. Frank Perry entitled, Darwin’s Blind Spot?

James Lovelock, the Father of modern ecology, testified in his autobiography that Dawkins stenuously oppoesed his ideas. 

One would think that if what Dawkins meant to say that the environment was the final arbitrator of evolution, the source of natural selection, that is what he would have said, instead of attacking and ridiculing environmental scientific thinking.

Now if you can find a statement by Dawkins that shows clearly how Natural Selection works with his gene’s eye view as you say. I would be glad to see it.  I have been looking for it for a long time.  Certainly he must have made this clear somewhere, or may be you can ask him and let him speak for himself.     


Steven Curry - #68628

March 21st 2012

Roger, do you understand the paragraph I wrote?

“Genotypes don’t determine genotypes. Phenotypes are built from a variety of slightly different genotypes. The environment induces differential reproduction of those phenotypes. This produces changes in the genotypes over time.”

These are just basic facts about biology. If you understood them then I think your problem would be solved. Remember, until now you thought that The Origin of Species did not mention adaptation. You seem to misunderstand things in fundamental ways.

I already gave you two quotes from Dawkins describing environmental selection. When I pressed you on one, you dismissed it saying “it is hard to take this seriously” and “I don’t have the time to figure out Dawkins’ quirks”.

Now the goalposts have moved. Now you ask me to “find a statement by Dawkins that shows clearly how Natural Selection works with his gene’s eye view”. Here is passage from The Selfish Gene:

“Natural selection favors genes that control their survival machines in such a way that they make the best use of their environment. This includes making the best use of other survival machines, both of the same and of different species.” http://books.google.com/books?id=0ICKantUfvoC&pg=PA66

(Of course “survival machines” just means phenotypes.) Will you move the goalposts again?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68630

March 21st 2012

Steven,

I am beginning to understand Dawkins better.  Dawkins sees life forms as survival machines, which is irrational when it comes to human beings, because living for the sake of living is irrational if life is meaningless as Dawkins believes.

Ecology sees life forms as part of a harmonious whole, which has a purpose.  The problem with Dawkins and Darwin is that they do not understand the nature of nature.  They see nature as a collection of individuals struggling for survival.  This is still the problem with gene’s eye view which has been criticized by Gould and Migley. 

Again we agree in some sense in terms of adaption, but now the nature and purpose of adaptation.  In my opinion Dawkins is too involved with his ideology to understand and appreciate ecological scientitfic theory and practice.  He needs to get with the program or get out of the way.    


beaglelady - #68631

March 21st 2012

“I am beginning to understand Dawkins better.  Dawkins sees life forms as survival machines, which is irrational when it comes to human beings, because living for the sake of living is irrational if life is meaningless as Dawkins believes.”

It isn’t irrational for humans to want to survive, just as much as any creature.  Besides, we aren’t discussing the meaning of life right now.  So stop moving the goalposts.

“In my opinion Dawkins is too involved with his ideology to understand and appreciate ecological scientitfic theory and practice.”

With all due respect, I think you’re projecting here, Roger.


Steven Curry - #68633

March 21st 2012

Roger, is this an implicit admission that you were mistaken to claim that “Dawkins has clearly and specifically rejected environmental selection”? If so then I think we deserve to hear it.

You also owe me an apology regarding your comment #68592. That’s a pretty intense diatribe based upon assumptions which proved to be wrong. I hope you will take your own advice offered therein.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68637

March 21st 2012

Not so.  It is the environmentalists who define the environment.  Dawkins is not an environmentalist or an ecologist.  He is a Malthusian and there is a big difference. 

As for the #68592 statement.  That was not a diatribe.  You have to look at Dawkins’ statement to see a diatribe.  It was a mistake based on the information and link that you gave me.  On the other hand the statement about Dawkins that I made was not wrong and not a mistake.

Accusing me of slander was a mistake and a libel that you have yet to acknowledge.     


Steven Curry - #68639

March 22nd 2012

Roger, you did not need me to inform you that The Origin of Species discusses adaptation. You could have acquired that knowledge at any time prior to blindly proclaiming that “adaptation was not a part of the evolutionary process as Darwin explained it”, and at any time prior to composing your ill-mannered response. It behooves you to follow your own advice laid out in that very same response:

“You must check your references before making grand statements as to what they say. I know that you are not stupid, but your arrogance seems to lead you to make stupid mistakes. It is time to wake up and smell the coffee.”


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68632

March 21st 2012

BL,

It isn’t irrational for humans to want to survive, just as much as any creature.  Besides, we aren’t discussing the meaning of life right now.  So stop moving the goalposts.

It is irrational to live, if life is not worth living.  It is all part of life, my dear lady.


beaglelady - #68650

March 22nd 2012

“It is irrational to live, if life is not worth living.  It is all part of life, my dear lady.”

Nobody is saying that life is not worth living.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68654

March 22nd 2012

BL,

Dawkins is.  He is saying that all life forms, which includes human beings, are simply survival machines. 

Survival for survival’s sake is not a reason for living.  We know that we are not going to live (physially) forever and we know that the earth will not last, so the hope for survival is futile. 

Thus according to Dawkins’ view life is not worth living.  Why strive for something that is impossible to achieve?    


beaglelady - #68657

March 22nd 2012

No, Roger, you have not made a case that Dawkins believes that life is not worth living.  If he really thought that, he could have ended his life long ago.  And now he is retired!  I don’t understand your need to twist everything. Do you work in a pretzel factory?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68661

March 22nd 2012

Beagle Lady,

Apparently you are not familiar with Dawkin’s book, The River Out of Eden.  In the fourth chapter he refers to school bus accident in England where many Catholic children lost their lives. 

An article in the Sunday Telegraph quoted a priest who did not try to explain the accident, but said, “But the horror of the crash, to a Christian, confirms the fact that we live in a world of real values: positive and negative.  If the universe were electrons, there would be no problems of evil and suffering.”8

The priest saw the meaning of the accident as not directly based on the existence of God, but on the meaning and value of human life.

Dawkins response is clear.  “On the contrary, if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies like the crashing of this bus are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune.”  

For Dawkins based on Darwinism the meaning of life is DNA.  He ends the chapter thusly:  “DNA neither knows nor cares.  DNA just is.  And we dance to its music.”  (Emphasis added.)

This is the substance of Dawkins’ gene’s eye view of life.  Nothing really matters. 

BL, do not blame me for Dawkins’ views or the complex nature of life.  They ere what they are.

  


beaglelady - #68662

March 22nd 2012

Roger, do you have the goalposts on wheels? You have not made the case that Dawkins believes that life is not worth living. He doesn’t believe that it has real meaning, but  he doesn’t say that life is not worth living.  On the contrary, he chooses to continue his own existence.


Steven Curry - #68640

March 22nd 2012

Let us recap. Roger claimed that “Dawkins has clearly and specifically rejected environmental selection”. First of all, anyone who understands the basics of evolution will notice that the claim doesn’t make sense. Of course the environment can exert selection pressure—how could anyone think otherwise?

Putting aside the nonsensical aspect of the claim, I provide a quote in which Dawkins mentions environmental selection:

“Hairiness is one of those characteristics that can increase or decrease in evolution again and again. Vestigial hairs, with their associated cellular support structures, lurk in even the barest-seeming skin, ready to evolve into a full coat of thick hair at short notice (or shrink again) should natural selection at any time call them out of retirement. Look at the woolly mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses that rapidly evolved in response to the recent ice ages in Eurasia.” http://books.google.com/books?id=rR9XPnaqvCMC&pg=PA67

That should have been the end of it, right? Nope! Roger eventually responds:

“While his words do imply ecological adaption, he does not say the environment shapes evolution and as far as I know he never has.”

That sentence appears to be a logical contradiction. But regardless of that, one cannot claim that Dawkins “does not say the environment shapes evolution” when Dawkins actually says “rapidly evolved in response to the recent ice ages”.

Roger eventually dismisses the Dawkins quote altogether, saying “it is hard to take this seriously” and “I don’t have the time to figure out Dawkins’ quirks”.

Roger then moves the goalposts: he now requires that I find a quote from Dawkins referencing the gene’s eye view and natural selection. I present an excerpt from The Selfish Gene:

“Natural selection favors genes that control their survival machines in such a way that they make the best use of their environment. This includes making the best use of other survival machines, both of the same and of different species.” http://books.google.com/books?id=0ICKantUfvoC&pg=PA66

Natural selection and the environment are right there in the same sentence. That should *really* be the end of it, right? Not so! When asked if he was mistaken about Dawkins, Roger unleashes this gem:

“Not so. It is the environmentalists who define the environment. Dawkins is not an environmentalist or an ecologist.”

So when Dawkins refers to the environment, it doesn’t count. Even though Dawkins has clearly and specifically showed that he supports environmental selection, Roger continues to insist that “Dawkins has clearly and specifically rejected environmental selection”.


beaglelady - #68647

March 22nd 2012

Your problem, Steven, is that you are immersed in reality. The objective reality of nature will do that to a person, you know.  You have good reading comprehension skills, and you answer questions willingly without tap-dancing around the issues.  For a quick cure, I recommend that you read my book.  You desperately need it. 


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68649

March 22nd 2012

Steven,

Yes, you are right, I insist that Dawkins rejects environmental selection as environmentalist understand environmental selection.  If you disagree why don’t you ask Dawkins if he thinks the ecology guides evolution and see what he says.  Don’t bug me.   Talk to him if you really want to know what to think.  I already know what I think and why I think it.  I do not need his or your approval of me or my ideas.

I tried to engage you in a scientitfic discussion, but you insist in engaging in an ideological debate, which seems popular on the web.  I probably made some technical mistakes in presenting my position.  In my own defense I asked you to read my book which presents my position is a much more cohesive manner than can be done through the blog, and of course you refused.

This is a difficult topic which cannot be resolved by sound bites as you are trying to do.  I tried my best to get through to you so we could have at least a positive conversation, but you are stuck in you ideology.

If you are satisfied with Dawkins’ superficial, dogmatic monistic point of understanding of life, there is not much I can do to change that.  It is unfortunate but that is life.  I am concerned however that you like Dawkins feel the need to take ideas personally and stigmatize those who disagree with you.      


beaglelady - #68653

March 22nd 2012

“I probably made some technical mistakes in presenting my position.  In my own defense I asked you to read my book which presents my position is a much more cohesive manner than can be done through the blog, and of course you refused.”

But if you make so many fundamental errors on a blog, then it’s certainly not worthwhile reading your book.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68664

March 23rd 2012

“Natural selection favors genes that control their survival machines in such a way that they make the best use of their environment. This includes making the best use of other survival machines, both of the same and of different species.” http://books.google.com/books?id=0ICKantUfvoC&pg=PA66

OK,

let me try one more time.  Dawkins says in this statement that NS favors genes who make best use of their environment.  The obvious problem with this statement is that it treats both NS and genes as agents, persons who can think and act, can control and favor. 

Second, which is my basic position, is that if NS is the environment which controls evolution, how can genes or survival machines use or control it?  Natural Selection, that is nature or the ecology, controls or selects or determines which life forms will survive, not the other way around. 

Adaptation to or conforming to the needs of the environment puts the environment in control, not the gene.  Dawkins refuses to understand or acknowledge that.          


beaglelady - #68669

March 23rd 2012

“The obvious problem with this statement is that it treats both NS and genes as agents, persons who can think and act, can control and favor.”

Nowhere is this implied.

“Adaptation to or conforming to the needs of the environment puts the environment in control, not the gene.”

I think we’ve been over this many, many times.  You know, the last ice age, woolly mammoths, etc. 


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68695

March 24th 2012

BL,

Thank you for your persistance.  Proof texts have their value in both theology and science, but of course they must viewed in context to determine their real meaning. 

You have your proof texts and I have mine.  I think that mine are more relevant because they are based on Dawkins’ bottom line which is the gene’s eye view of evolution. 

If you have evidence that this is not his bottom line, I would be very glad to consider it.


melanogaster - #68713

March 26th 2012

Roger,

The bottom line is the evidence, not books written for laypeople.

Science is not about proof texts.

I have a challenge for you: write a coherent, meaningful comment about ideas and evidence without referring to any people whatsoever, as individuals or groups.

I don’t think you can do it.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68716

March 26th 2012

Melangaster,

I agree with you fully.  Science is about evidence.

The only problem with your statement is that people have scientific ideas and people do studies which provide evidence, therefore I do not see how anyone can write about science without mentioning people.

If you tell me what aspect of evolution that you want to challenge me on, I will be glad to discuss the evidence.

 


beaglelady - #68697

March 25th 2012

“Thank you for your persistance.  Proof texts have their value in both theology and science, but of course they must viewed in context to determine their real meaning.

Moving the goalposts again!

“If you have evidence that this is not his bottom line, I would be very glad to consider it.”

Baloney! You show no willingness to consider any evidence.

 

 


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68709

March 26th 2012

I just learned that E. O. Wilson’s new book is scheduled to be released 4/7 named, The Social Conquest of the Earth.  Purportedly it challenges Dawkins’ kinship selection and gene’s eyeview concepts of Natural Selection. 

    


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