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Intelligent Design

Nobel laureate, organic chemist and a leader in origin of life studies, Professor deDuve writes in his excellent book, Tour of a Living Cell, "If you equate the probability of the birth of a bacteria cell to chance assembly of its atoms, eternity will not suffice to produce one..”
Humans and all mammals have some 50,000 genes. That implies, as an order of magnitude estimate, some 50,000 to 100,000 proteins active in mammalian bodies. It is estimated that there are some 30 animal phyla on Earth. If the genomes of each animal phylum produced 100,000 proteins, and no proteins were common among any of the phyla (a fact we know to be false, but an assumption that makes our calculations favor the random evolutionary assumption), there would be (30 x 100,000) 3 million proteins in all life.
Now let's consider the likelihood of these 3 million viable combinations of proteins forming by chance: Proteins are complex coils of several hundred amino acids. Take a typical protein to be a chain of 200 amino acids. The observed range is from less than 100 amino acids per protein to greater than 1000. There are 20 commonly occurring amino acids that join in varying combinations to produce the proteins of life. This means that the number of possible combinations of the amino acids in our model protein of 200 amino acids is 20 to the power of 200 (i.e. 20 multiplied by itself 200 times), or in the more usual 10-based system of numbers, approximately 10 to the power of 260 (i.e. the number one, followed by 260 zeros!). Nature has the option of choosing among the 10 to power of 260 possible proteins, the 3 million proteins of which all viable life is composed. In other words, for each one correct choice, there are 10 to power of 254 wrong choices!

Randomness cannot have been the driving force behind the success of life. Our understanding of statistics and molecular biology clearly supports the notion that there must have been a direction and a “Director” behind the success of life.

Topics: evolution
  • Jan 15 2012: Mutation is random. Selection is not. You have a fundamental misunderstanding of how evolution works. Take a sea of particles buzzing around. Eventually, a pattern will form which causes itself to repeat. For instance, once a few particles bond, their gravity begins attracting other particles which coaelesce to gas, and eventually end up as a star.

    You are asking what is the probability that stars simply assembled themselves, and that's just not how anyone has ever claimed it works. If you leave a bunch of proteins alone for a few billion years, when you come back any proteins which caused the reproduction of themselves will be greatest in number. No randomness involved, it's simply that the molecules which could not cause their own reproduction did not, and therefore were eventually used as material for those which could. Biological organisms are not special, they are simply the outcome of the almost tautological process of self-replicating patterns replicating themselves. They do not do this randomly. They do it in accordance with the laws of physics.

    >Now let's consider the likelihood of these 3 million viable combinations of proteins forming by chance

    That would be meaningless. Try calculating the likelihood that 1 viable self-replicating protein is formed, and then the odds that its reproduction would lead to other self-replicating proteins. Not by chance, because chance isn't how it works. Through primarily electromagnetic interactions with its environment.
  • Jan 15 2012: Absolute nonsense.
    Sorry, but as a previous Molecular Biologist I have to say that nonsensical tripe such as this shouldn't even be allowed on TED.
    I don't have the time to make a full refutaton to all of this right now, so start with this article:

    I would like to think that TED will start moderating these forums a little better aswell..
    • Jan 16 2012: Because I see the world from a different point of view I am to be silenced? Are you serious?!

      Can you please explain to me what feels and reads the need for the condescending attitude towards thought that does not agree with the writer I have been receiving? I have written my thoughts about it, but have not received a response yet. Disagree fine, but what's with the attitude? I thought the TED audience might be intellectually above this name calling etc. In contrast, my Rabbis taught us to encourage and love tough questions. There was literally nothing we were not allowed to ask or protest from foundational theological beliefs to the meanings of actual text. For me the Talmud is one long debate and celebration of the human mind. I was not always religious and became so after my studies. I debated evolution, science and philosophical issues and never was called names or put down for my views. In the end we might agree to disagree (even today), but always with respect and love.

      In general, I have experienced that many of the lefts/liberal adherents are filled with contempt and even hatred to those they disagree with -- they believe that everyone who disagrees with them is sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic, islamophobic, racist and bigoted. This allows them to feel superior and do not have to engage in deeper discussions and ideas that would make them uncomfortable - such as the possibility that there is more than meets the eye than pure randomness. Or that our physical, intellectual and emotional lives might contain more than meaningless star dust.
      As the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre taught, people are free to make their own meaning. (Yes, this Orthodox Jew, also has a background in philosophy as well.)....

      If you'd like you can read the rest of this reply on above. I have run out of space here.
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        • Jan 16 2012: What is wrong with this forum. I was quiet inspired by this film and expressed my thoughts about it. And no one has yet to answer my question (on this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday yet!) why all the name calling because you do not agree with my opinion? Why all the vitriol to silence my thoughts? The states I quoted are not mine but eminent scientist in their fields. Would you tell them too take their opinions elsewhere? Is my quoting them because I share their views unacceptable?
          I am just astounded by many of the reactions I have received. I will state again:In general, I have experienced that many of the lefts/liberal adherents are filled with contempt and even hatred to those they disagree with -- they believe that everyone who disagrees with them is sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic, islamophobic, racist and bigoted. This allows them to feel superior and do not have to engage in deeper discussions and ideas that would make them uncomfortable - such as the possibility that there is more than meets the eye than pure randomness. Or that our physical, intellectual and emotional lives might contain more than meaningless star dust.
          As the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre taught, people are free to make their own meaning. (Yes, this Orthodox Jew, also has a background in philosophy as well.) The language and attitude in this debate/discussion is frightening to me as it is representative on a very small scale what happens to a society when Meaning is removed. You may think I am making too much of this. I do not believe so. Life is lived on a micro before it is lived on a macro scale....
          I am actually sickened by the reactions I have received. So I will end with Toscanini said in 1933, regarding Richard Strauss, "To Strauss the composer I take off my hat; to Strauss the man I put it back on." regarding his support of the Nazi's.
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          Jan 18 2012: Hi David

          I think I warned you before to expect a backlash. Please don't let it get to you. The rude ones soon get fed up & meaningful dialog can be had with the rest. I am a Christian, which is of a similar popularity to a Jew. I'll give you a wee bit of advice. Don't start a conversation, it's like a feeding frenzie. Just trawl around & try to answer some of the basic questions that folks are asking about life. Keep going we need folks from all viewpoints.

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        Jan 16 2012: i don't recall calling you sexist, intolerant or anything of that sort. in fact, i didn't call you anything at all. i was strictly restraining myself to talk about this conversation, and the ideas you have presented here. are you certain you are not crying wolf?

        you try to find the reason behind harsh words. you consider some possibilities, but not one that comes to the mind first: that your so called "logic" is as old as dirt, it as as wrong as it can get, we are fed up with it, thoroughly. it is explained all over the internet already. it has been refuted like hundreds of times. but it just keeps coming up, like zombies from the grave.

        why should i expect you to be really interested in the topic if you failed to look around, and read what you can? don't you think that the hundreds or thousands of experts out there might also have something to say about it? that those might be worth reading?

        this is a good starting point for you.

      • Jan 16 2012: Hi David,
        Just wanted to warn you that there are some real extremists out here on TED. My first reaction was.. "How refreshing" Finally someone with some new input. The people who criticize the most can be a bit annoying and sarcastic at times but don't let it get to you. We can only hope they go away. However there are the other religious extremist also... they are sort of on both ends of the proverbial ongoing battle here at TED.
        But I would like to engage with you in a discussion. I see intelligence everywhere in nature (as opposed to in some human beings). I see nature as full of wonderment and creation. I ask myself how can it all come to be out of simple material explanations. I have arrived at a few conclusions that we may get into latter on in the discussion.
        For most people, perhaps especially here at TED, they can only go so far as to accept they idea that intelligence is simply an emerging property from the physical. I myself could never understand how a thought could arise out of the purely physical. That's like squeezing blood from a stone in my mind. But further than that they will not go. They will not step over the line to even discuss the possibility of a spiritual reality in the world. People will fight to the death for this reason. As you quickly heard from the two previous comenters... they'd like to run you out of town. Don't let them bother you. There are some really interesting people on TED too. Some have even had NDE and tell you in detail what it was like..... again ... to use the word NDE is almost like swearing in the atheist / evolutionists church of Richard Dawkins. We can get started then and see where things lead us !!
        Greetings Daniel
        • Jan 17 2012: Sorry Daniel, but the only reason you find this refreshing must be that you have not noticed that this is classic creationist fallacy.

          Note that the paragraph starts by stating tons of credentials for a person about to be quoted (nobel laureate, notable chemist, and such). Now notice the actual meaning of the quote:

          "If you equate the probability of the birth of a bacteria cell to chance assembly of its atoms, eternity will not suffice to produce one.” Here I go:

          It is true that a chance assembly of their atoms would not produce a bacterium. Do bacteria arise that way at all? Nope, we know they don't. So what is this supposed to support then? I can tell you, creationists think that evolution is chance and chance alone. So far, I have never read a single book on evolution that states: "the first living cell was a bacterium assembled randomly from a bunch of atoms." Have you?

          So, often quotes to well informed scientists, when not deformed, are introductions to what really happens in nature, not introductions to a stance on creationism. But creationists quote out of context for pure effect.

          Then he presents a calculation where no protein is related to each other across living forms because that "favors" the evolutionary assumption (?) That's the clearest misrepresentation of evolution that I have seen in a long time. Do you notice the problem at all? He is presenting something that actually would contradict evolution as something that is in accord with evolution! Then evolution means that each and every organism is assembled from atoms by mere chance. Truly?

          Then again the insistence of calculating the probability for the proteins to assemble by chance. That is not what evolution means.

          We know that randomness is not the key to the success of life. Evolution is not utter randomness. That means that either David is lying or ignorant, none of which are good foundations for inferring an intelligent designer.

  • Jan 24 2012: You continually seek to denigrate me personally questioning my sources and where I got them from as if this will damage logic or change reality. I thought you and I agreed to disagree?

    The one who posits intelligent design has to answer for the existence of the creator. But the agnostic must answer for everything else. It seems much more reasonable to side with the former. I could describe love as seen through brain scans and physiological terms but I would not have understood love in the slightest. The scientific process can only describes process not meaning, purpose, intention, etc.

    Judaism has for the last thousands of years long before the debate such as ours states that the creator did not just create matter, but time and space. Therefore, ascribing the concept of time, space and matter to the creator is untenable. This is logical if you think it through. This is a longer theological discussion, but I only mention it because the God you believe in I also do not believe in. This is the one we learned about in day school or bible classes if you went to such thing. Few have really spent much time really forcing themselves to seek an answer from different sources whether a creator exists. I don't mean reading a few articles on the internet, but meeting people of different views and conversing as if your life depended upon it. AND I will admit that many religious people have not asked the questions to really know logically why they believe what they do about a creator as well. I care for a faith based on reason, but you'd laugh at that idea...and perhaps you have done the research, but I have rarely met an agnostic who has. Instead they assume that theology is simple. It is not. I would never say I understand astrophysics because I read the poem Twinkle Tinkle Little Star, but many who have not studied the most important question feel able to comment because they once had a conversation...
    • Jan 24 2012: David,

      Check out your comment thread here David. You have posted the same comment 3 times.
    • Jan 24 2012: David,

      It would help if you clarified who you are talking to. If it is me, I have no idea how my questions denigrate you personally. You do that yourself by misrepresenting scientific understanding as if it were all about mere and utter randomness. All regardless of the many times I told you that's not so. Then you come up with quotes, and instead of answering my questions you avoid the answer and give all this nonsensical turnabout. How do you expect to have answers if you are not willing to give answers yourself? If you are unwilling to confront and correct your own misunderstandings?

      Did you read beyond whatever it was that made you feel insulted? I ask because I tried to start some answers right there.

      Best and hopefully this one is not denigrating you too much,

      EDIT: I question your sources because it is common creationist-quack practice to take quotes out of context to make it appear as if scientists/[or perceived opponents] said something they did not actually say. The practice is so common among these quacks that it has a name: quote-mining. If you cared to check for yourself, then you would discover that most of those quotes are either false, or part of an explanation of how something that looks so "designed" to your eyes, can happen naturally. Also, when quoting from third sources you should start with "according to [whichever creationist quack source here], Dawkins said in such and such book ..." Otherwise you are giving the false impression that you read Dawkins' book, which you did not.
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    Jan 22 2012: Hi, David.

    Thanks for taking the time to write your wievpoint. On these forums, there are a lot of people with years of experience in scientific fields. Most scientists are used to looking at evidence, as they have devoted their lives to it, and therefore can seem harsh and uncaring when you read their responses.

    I'll try to be gentler with the way i respond.

    First of all, the book you are quoting is an excellent book from 1984.
    The author, Christian deDuve (you forgot his first name) is a biochemist and cytologist.
    If you've read the entire book (which was his first) and his following work, you would
    know that the man you are quoting, doesn't believe in an actual, existing "driving force"
    if by "driving force" you mean "something that resembles god".

    Your math is sound, but the pieces you try to do math with doesn't work that way. The fundament of it is wrong. The assumptions you make about the number of amino acids is way off.

    If you REALLY want to know about this, then i reccommend you using three minutes reading the beginning of this article: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/abioprob.html

    If you don't care about truth , and only want to make up flawed hypotheticals to prove to yourself and others that your god is true, then don't read it.

    And sorry if that comes off harsh. I am not assuming you are not after truth. I hope you are. But, being an atheist, i hold my judgement until i see evidence ^_^
  • Jan 17 2012: "A proportion of favorable mutations of one in a thousand does not sound much, but is probably generous ... and a total of a million mutational steps sounds a great deal, but is probably an understatement. ... With this proportion, we should clearly have to breed a million strains (a thousand squared) to get one containing two favorable mutations, and so on, up to a thousand to the millionth power to get one containing a million. ... No one would bet on anything so improbable happening ... And yet it has happened!"-Julian Huxley

    No, I wouldn't bet on it myself.
    • Jan 17 2012: I would ask where did you get those numbers from. A group of scientists by the early 1990s introduced mutations at each position in a protein (one position at a time with every possible amino-acid), and much more than 95% of these mutations had no effect in the activity of the protein. I doubt that this would be the same in every protein, some proteins must tolerate much less, some perhaps more. However, this shows that most-mutations-are-bad is a myth.

      As for advantageous mutations and your probabilities, other experiments with the same protein introduced a process that produced random mutations, combined with a selecting environment for a different activity for this protein. The process also was able to recombine those proteins that survived the selective environment. The process was carried out with higher selective pressure, and the protein evolved a very high activity towards a new substance that it did not recognize before. [Middle to late 1990s.] Thus, I doubt that advantageous mutations need a thousand squared strains to occur and succeed.
      • Jan 18 2012: : I was quoting Julian Huxley, the late evolutionary biologist, so I didn't come up with those numbers. But, I don't believe anyone is being honest with themselves if they don't admit that evolution is improbable to say the least, despite the attribution of billions of years to aid in the effort. Even Richard Dawkins theorized about aliens playing a role. In the same way, Intelligent Design is improbable, and more importantly IMPOSSIBLE if you don't believe in a higher power. So it's not surprising that there are heated debates on this subject; one side is using what they know about science and extrapolating it back to understand the world, and the other is using what they know about God to make sense of the world. Unfortunately religious fervor has gotten in the way of science over the years, but I think this speaks more to narrow mindedness and unwillingness to change in our lovely species than to a particular religion. I don't think God is intimidated by science.

        We can't see evolution happen, we can see natural selection happen. Evolution has some big problems, one of which is the origin of life (something coming from nothing) and the other is speciation (something turning into something else by a series of advantageous mutations.) Natural selection and more importantly, human's selection or "higher selective pressure" is easy to see and duplicate but does not prove evolution. People have been using 'higher selective pressure' for ages to select for desirable qualities in animals specifically. They haven't selected for a different species yet (although the definition of species is dicey as well.)

        Here's a fun thought: Let's say you fully believe in God and the Bible and the seven day creation story. If you walked in on day 8, how old would you say Adam, and the mountains, waters, trees, plants and animals were? Mature, fully grown, not babies, not seedlings, not eggs. Yet technically you believe they were less than seven days old. How would you determine age?
        • Jan 18 2012: Dear Ms. Rose,
          I wish I had time to respond to all these comments, but frankly I'm overwhelmed with reading person suggested to me which I'm slowly getting through. I am still quite awed by the tone and cynical disrespect and aggression of most of the responses I have received. In addition, the preconceived notions that people feel I or anyone who believes differently than they do have is fascinatingly sad to me. My questions have been largely ignored and maligned. I've mentioned, I'm a psychotherapist and did not see the world and how we interact with each other, whether through politics, arts, intellect, medicine, etc. as separate forums which allow different behaviors in each. Love and respect are the prerequisite for all interactions at all times. The Torah states love your neighbor as yourself - it does not state love humanity as yourself, although obviously included. Why? It is easier to love an amorphous idea than the actual person next door whose character you dislike. We tend to judge ourselves according to what we think and philosophically aspire to rather than our actions. No one in the Milgram experiment would have thought they would have ever acted the way they did beforehand.
          When I quote a noble laureate disagreeing with their views I'm insulted and demeaned but they allow themselves a double standard. As I mentioned before I would no more tell an astrophysicist I understand what their study is about because I learned the poem twinkle, twinkle Little Star. I know many people who have not seriously studied religion in their adult years with competent teachers believe they understand theology. This is a pity.
          In terms of your questions. The Talmud asks these and much harder ones. I direct you to:

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          Jan 22 2012: Dear Ms. Rose.

          I just wanted you to know, that my sister, who is doing her doctorate on microbiology here in Norway, has directly observed speciation (what you would call macro-evolution), as have all university students of microbiology in Norway.

          It's sad that you don't know enough about evolution to know how the mechanisms of it is.

          To David Kaufman:
          Quoting a Nobel Laureate, you did. You also did it out of the context of the book, and failed to mention that your equations, based on the Nobel Laureates words (you say), goes DIRECTLY AGAINST what the Nobel Laureate himself beliefs and thinks.

          Simply put, it is YOU who disagree with him, and when you get insulted by others who you dishonestly says disagree with him, you are "only" insulted by people not agreeing with you. One of them happens to be a Nobel laureate. They may still be wrong, and you can still be right, but please stop being intellectually dishonest or lazy.
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          Jan 23 2012: Hi Marius.

          Just curious; what change did your sister actually see ? A new colour of orchid, is called a new species. A bunch of rabbits who lose the ability to mate with another bunch, are called a new species. Speciation & Macro Evolution are not the same thing.

        • Jan 23 2012: Pete,

          I am sorry to inform you about this, but, if it is not, "speciation" naturally leads to "macroevolution," whether YECs like it or not. We might not see enough changes in the lab for you to accept it (how much do you need?). Yet, we have not found any barriers there that would stop populations from diverging so much that you would then put them into different genera, more time and events and you would put them on different families, and so on.

          There's plenty of proof that this happens by just putting together the evidence in nature. Holding to a "request" to have all of this happen in a lab is mere mental gymnastics to avoid confronting the truth. I am sure that some years from now, after scientists show real-life examples of new families, creationists will say "familiation is not the same as macroevolution." Where does denial stop Pete?

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          Jan 24 2012: Hi Gabo.

          Just an honest enquiry Gabo. I want to be up to date; if an orchid evolves into a non- orchid then I need to evolve my views. This may be the day; I need to ask to find out. Sorry.

        • Jan 24 2012: "I am sorry to inform you about this, but, if it is not, "speciation" naturally leads to "macroevolution"
          > Speciation is actually a synonym for micro-evolution and this is undeniable. However micro-evolution does not lead to macro-evolution. It cannot. It is just a philosophical supposition not yet proved furthermore masked as scientific law. If not the evolution theory should/must be called evolution law. But it isn't.

          "We might not see enough changes in the lab for you to accept it (how much do you need?)."
          > changes we are able to see are showing only and exclusively the micro-evolution process. We see such micro-changes constantly indeed. However Peter put a simple but powerful question: did anyone of us see an orchid become an non-orchid? Or to extend the question: an ape becoming a man? There are too many missing links to simply state: "macro-evolution exists". If a lot of people believe in that, they are free to do that. But they cannot force other ones to consider that a "scientific law". Because it isn't.

          "Yet, we have not found any barriers there that would stop populations from diverging so much that you would then put them into different genera, more time and events and you would put them on different families..."
          > populations, genera and families diverge a lot. Biologically it is quite impossible that a perfect frog cell in course of the time become a perfect ape cell. A frog is a frog. An ape is an ape. A man is a man. Forever. If we are really now living the n-th millionth iteration of the macro-evolution process where are all the families/species between the man and an ape? Between fish and spiders? The planet should be full right now of this sub-families/species. But i do not see all that. Why? Simple: they do not exist at all.

          "There's plenty of proof that this happens by just putting together the evidence in nature."
          > Plenty of proof? Which ones exactly? All the best-selling Dawkings books? No, thanks. They are not.
        • Jan 24 2012: Paolo,

          "Microevolution" refers to evolution among relatively closely related species, oftentimes genera in the same family, depending on who's making the study. It is called "microevolution" to distinguish these studies from the larger scale ones ("macro" evolution), but there's no precise definition for this term. Speciation was previously denied by creationists, so they held their own version mean "changes within a kind," so they can move the goalposts. They define "kind" according to their level of denialism, not noticing that were it not because of previous ignorance, humans and chimps would be in the very same genus, thus well inside what you call now microevolution.

          Evolution is not called a "scientific law" because biology is not physics, and because evolution is the result of a series of phenomena, not something you can summarize with a single equation. You need to update your understanding of science just a bit.

          There are plenty of sub-families, sub-species, species, sub-genera, sub-order, long et cetera, all over the place. This was the first thing that frustrated me about biology, that it started with a neat classification, but as data accumulated, lots of confusion. Wanna guess why? Because the process of evolution is not a neat and tidy one, and leaves lots of things all over the classification scale, which is what we should expect from such a process. Natural processes don't think, "oh, some humans will want neat and clear barriers across species, so let's make them so." Thus, sometimes it looks as if species/genera/families/orders are perfectly separated, sometimes it doesn't. Then, if we look at fossils, the mess increases, barriers look less convincing.

          There is evidence in lab experiments, fossils, biogeography, molecular biology, etc. that confirms that there are no barriers stopping divergence anywhere.

          Science is not just books by Dawkins. Still, "The Greatest Show on Earth" could give you a good start.

    • Jan 18 2012: Stephanie,

      I think you might be quoting some creationist source who claimed to quote Julian Huxley. That's different.

      In any event, the numbers mean nothing because they forget natural selection. Evolution, again, is not pure randomness. Mutational background is somewhat random, but selection rejects deleterious mutations while promoting advantageous thus building up a background that can carry on to a next generation. This is an exponential process where favourable mutations would naturally "cluster" together because of selection, reproduction, and recombination. Only those who don't understand evolution think that it is "improvable." Evolution is the natural consequence of life and the way nature works. No way around.

      Richard Dawkins "theorized" about alien life because he was asked to. The question was, imagine a plausible scenario for intelligent design, what would that be? He answered that question. It does not mean that's what he truly thinks happened, regardless of the propaganda machinery that brought the wrong idea to you (it probably was that mockumentary).

      We see evolution happening all the time. There is no stopping it. We have witnessed speciation in lizards and other organisms, we have witnessed new traits appearing in populations that were moved to a very different environment, we have performed evolutionary experiments in the lab producing novel activities. But that's not all. There is a lot of evidence all over the place. Just put it together and you get to evolution. Evolution is confirmed by so much data that only ignorance and misinformation can keep you from accepting that it makes sense, even if you rather don't believe it for whatever personal reasons. Sure, if they existed, all powerful gods could have created everything to make it appear as if evolution happened. But I have no reason to believe that, unless you can show me those gods. Otherwise, all I see is incredulity based on misinformation. But gods? I see none.
      • Jan 18 2012: Dear Gabo,

        Actually I stole that quote by Huxley from a great article by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, "Are Mormons Any Weirder Than The Rest Of Us?' Read it, it's wonderful.

        I did not say that evolution was impossible, only improbable and unable to be proved. Natural selection is a process that reduces genetic variance in a population. I think it's great that the origin of life is an open problem; it leads to discussions like this. If we knew everything about the world, what would the fun in that be? I'm actually more concerned with health than evolutionary science, and there's still a lot to be discovered.

        So are we still evolving today? Yes, we are. We are reducing our genetic variance every day, and becoming more homogeneous. But we're all still human. Evolution requires increasing complexity, and advantageous mutations do not necessarily increase complexity. You must agree that it would take a lot of advantageous mutations to increase complexity from a chimpanzee to a human, hence the billions of years. I don't consider that proof that we came from chimps, even if we share 96% of our genes.

        • Jan 18 2012: Hey Steph,

          Yep, I thought so, because all I got when googling for the quote was creationist web-sites. Not very reliable. I wanted to know the context. In the end it does not matter anyway whether Huxley said so or not, what matters is that we understand how evolution happens and has happened.

          I know you said evolution could not be proven, I said that yes it can be proven and has been proven by loads of experiments, and loads of different lines of evidence.

          Now natural selection should have the effect of reducing genetic variability for sure, but things such as point mutations, genome rearrangements, duplication events, and recombination add genetic variability. So, I guess, there is no way of running out of variability, is it?

          Sure we are evolving, and I can assure you that if anything, we are adding genetic variability. I now from first-view data. I am involved in some studies about susceptibility to particular diseases, and the sequencing involved in these studies reveal addition of such variability. For instance, a recent study on parents/offspring, with full genome sequencing found about 60 mutations introduced in each baby (differences in positions compared to the parents). While previous studies showed a number close to 100.

    • Jan 18 2012: Stephanie,

      Oh, I was forgetting. The origin of life is not a problem for evolution. While I have no doubt that the origin of life might involve processes similar to those of evolution, once life is there, evolution follows naturally.

      I am talking science here. Evolution is well established, and too many evidences say that evolution is a fact. Too many evidences also say that evolution happened naturally, or at least show no reason to think that it did not happen naturally. The origin of life is still an open problem. But I see no reason why an open problem should mean that evolution, a well established fact, would be false. What's your logic there?

      • Jan 18 2012: Hey Gabo,
        While in on the subject of evolution... once again. You seem to be pretty knowledgeable on the subject, so I would like to ask you a few simple and honest questions, so here they come.
        As in many scientific theories, there always seems to come about modifications on that theory further down the line of research. Einstein's relativity for example.
        Now I'm no scientist and certainly no biologist.
        So, even though we can clearly see the process of evolution taking place in such experiments involving the breeding of mice or moths and the like. We see the factors that provide the basis for the"survival of the fittest" Such as the color in a specific bird or animal or moth that will help to hide it from its eventual predator. As the white and brown spotted moths against the stem of the birch tree. Moths that can't be seen, can't be eaten by their predators either.
        Now .. in the process of this "driving force" (OK with that word, I'm sure there is a more correct technical word but I don't know it) in this struggle for survival... this mechanism as it were... in your own mind.... is there any room for improvement in this process? Or has the process reached perfection? Understand that the process is still occurring over the "course of time" Perceivable in the present moment but still quite "theoretical" for all that occurred for many millions of years ago.

        Now to look again at the theory... Is there any room for a "more correct or more perfect" theory?
        This question came up about the theory simply because their seems to be an ongoing reference to Darwin's idea for the "theory of evolution" and to say that it is "FACT" in all capital letters seems to me to be sort of a monumental unconditional truth that cannot be tampered with at all cost. There is so incredibly much reputation based upon it.....
        • Jan 18 2012: Hey Daniel,

          (Maybe this is too simplified, hopefully not confusing.)

          Look a bit carefully, and you might notice that I try and correct the misreference to anybody who accepts evolution as "Darwinist," or to refer to evolution as "natural selection." Evolution is a fact in the sense that we know very well, beyond reasonable doubt, for example, that species have changed across the eons, and we know lots of patterns that reveal common ancestry and much more. Several lines of evidence show that common ancestry, at least to a degree, is true for most-if-not-all species. Example, we are undoubtedly related to chimps by common ancestry, but the evidence becomes a bit prone to mistakes as we go farther and farther back into evolutionary relationships. Now, the mechanisms responsible are the theories that are perfectible. Natural selection is a fact, but it is not the only one mechanism for evolution, and it alone would explain very little. However, add background mutations and you get something much stronger, then add the effects of recombinations, and so on. Today we know that there's many other mechanisms in life that affect evolution, and they might explain things much better. Some parts of evolutionary theory, like evolution being mostly tree-like, well, not true. In microbes there's much more than that, and in us, at huge time-scales, well, there is also room for non-tree derivation. This because microbes are quite good at getting genes from other organisms not in parent-offspring relationships, and because we have acquired parasitic DNA elements that have given us non-vertical avenues for variability. Still, maybe most of our human evolution is through vertical inheritance, mutations and tree-like. Thus, room for better and more powerful explanations for evolution, sure there is.

          So, when I say evolution is a fact, I don't mean Darwin's theory, but our relationship with the rest of life, and the ongoing processes. Things have improved since Darwin.

      • Jan 18 2012: Also Gabo,

        Maybe we're not talking about the same things. I'm talking about primordial sludge, single celled organisms turning into multi-celled, fish growing legs and walking out of the ocean, and chimps turning into humans as dubious. That is part of the theory of evolution that I have problems with. I believe that dogs have a common canine ancestor, I believe that humans migrated from Africa/Asia and in Europe advantageously lost their ability to produce melanin so that they could absorb more vitamin D, etc. In none of those instances was there evolution to increase complexity, there was genetic variance that was expressed or not expressed. If that is what you are calling the theory of evolution then I am on board. What I'm NOT on board with is common ancestry from a single celled organism and increasing complexity. Do you see the difference? Complex genetic variance to specialization (with some loss of information) vs. simple to extremely complex.
        • Jan 18 2012: Hey Steph,

          No we are not. You are talking about something that's not evolution, like chimps transforming into humans, while I am talking about evolution, like a common ancestral population that divided, and as time and generations passed diverged and adapted until they started looking more and more like chimps, while the other population through generations diverging and adapting started looking more and more like us.

          Let's see: fish did not grow limbs, but across the variability of fins among fish, some fins were somewhat useful for crawling into mud because they were longer. Some of those fish bearing such fins or semi-limbs were able to make a living in mud (other fish with such anatomy existed, but were so far from mud that they were just examples of existing variability, neither harmful, nor advantageous in such environments). Once the first mud-fish bred, the offspring recombined genes giving them such limb anatomy producing a new variability that included a modification giving some fish a hinge. Those were better able to survive in the mud by moving better and faster, thus outcompeting the parent generation, and so on, until you got a generation where the fins were so modified they looked like limbs. Mutations increased variability, and thus "paved the way" for other improvements along the way. You know that we have enormous and inconsequential variability on almost any characteristic among humans, right? Why wouldn't any of those characteristics be advantageous under some conditions and not under others? Why wouldn't parents sharing such characteristics have children with such characteristics even more pronounced?

          Further back, of course, multi-celled organisms descend from unicellular ones. How else could it be?

          This is no magic Steph. I wouldn't be on board either if it were.

        • Jan 19 2012: Stephanie,
          Existence lead by confusion boats, mutinied from stern to bow...

          Are we speaking of the same phenomena Stephanie? Your knowledge is far beyond mine on this matter here but I have the feeling we are speaking of the same thing. Devolution.
          I don't think this concept has yet to become any scientific theory, however, when looking at the human being it seems quite obvious that it is a most active principle in our development. I wonder if this concept is being looked at in the field of biology. It is the first time I have seen anyone mention it here on TED at least. As the conversation here moves on, I hope we can go deeper in what devolution means in respect to the human beings development.
          Perhaps we are coming from the same angle here... and although we don't need to reveal our philosophical backgrounds on exactly this discussion, we might carry on our own discussion at a later point in time, perhaps on a new discussion.
          The principle of devolution to me has been like a revelation in understanding the origins of mankind. ... and although the concept is not generally discussed in all circles of evolutionary sciences, it comes as a befreeing factor in an otherwise locked discussion around the development of our species.
          I hope that you will say more about this principle of devolution or as I tried to put it... the "holding back" of certain elements of the "driving forces" of evolution.
          Perhaps you know something about embryology here too. In any case, your contributions are welcome and I think you can spread some new light on the subject.
          Thank you!
      • Jan 18 2012: Gabo,

        Thanks for the quick response, I have to read it again tomorrow to really digest what you said. Now I am off to bed 11.30pm here.

        Here is a thought before I leave you and go off to sleep.

        Could it be that a species is actually held back in its development for one or another reason. Instead of progressing further towards "specialization" as with the woodpeckers beak or the fins of the fish or whatever the developing limb, fin, organ of sight, hearing etc. etc. Could one consider somewhere along the lines of the progression of the species that the "driving force" (I use the word again here) is working in... shall we say ... the opposite direction.

        Think about that until tomorrow.

        Good night.
        • Jan 19 2012: Dearest Gabo,

          Well, by your term of endearment "Steph" at least we can assume that you don't hate me for my dissension, which I appreciate. I also appreciate the history of the walking fish that you presented. Sorry for my flippant "turning into" wording which suggests strongly of the magic that your practical self would not tolerate. I sadly remain unconvinced, but that is okay. I still maintain that point mutations, genome rearrangements, duplication events, and recombination are insufficient to explain it all. Especially when talking about adding information (more DNA), not just variation. Not to say that it is impossible. I am actually more concerned with the human body, and belief or non belief in evolution is pretty inconsequential. Except for the fact that things I don't understand, instead of dismissing them as artifacts of evolution, I seek to find a purpose behind them.

          For example, loss of expression for the gene for 3rd molars has been portrayed as an evolutionary advance. We don't need all those teeth, so we're evolving without them. And yet what's really going on is insufficient growth of the mandible to hold the 3rd molars, and subsequent loss of gene expression. Insufficient growth of the mandible is largely a result of hypoxia, improper diet, and improper breathing, and (besides being unattractive) negatively affects the growth and development of the face and airway, and that affects the whole organism. The same is true for lateral incisors. Yet people have labeled this as proof of evolution. (I'm sure you won't agree with them now.) Devolution.

        • Jan 19 2012: Hey Steph,

          I also appreciate your good mood regardless of my often harsh style.

          I don't think that anybody should just disregard anything because it could be an artifact of evolution. Artifact or not, it could have some effects, and, when dealing with our health, we better make sure that we are not missing something important.

          Those molars (are you talking about the "wisdom teeth"?), I would not herald them as proof of evolution despite such disappearance is also evolution (some things can go down, some things can go up, depending on selection pressures or lack thereof). Mostly because it is not a matter of coming up with all sorts of examples without a proper explanation, and explaining how a loss of genes happens requires a bit of work. Disappearance is due most often to random genetic drift. Yet, most people would present it as if there would be a selection pressure for the disappearance. That because most people, even many scientists, think it is all driven by selection, when lack of selection can let some things just go. I would talk about such example, not as proof of evolution, but as showing that natural selection and evolution do not mean the same thing, with natural selection being one mechanism, but other mechanisms also being around (such as random drift).

          Anyway, not to worry. Have a fantastic day.
      • Jan 19 2012: Hey Gabo,

        I sent a reply to Pete just now that I would like you to take a look at. I tried to explain a little more the point of view where I am coming from.
        I have followed you and Peter a little bit earlier in this and other discussions... as the announcer in the boxing arena ;-) You guys can really go at it. But I'm not there... I am a pacifist at heart. Can't learn a thing when I'm angry... But back to devolution again.. This is a very interesting idea that may build a bridge between those promoting intelligent design and those promoting the evolution theory that leaves little place for the spiritual being of man.
  • Jan 17 2012: You state that, "Once you understand that nature and the way it works explains the whole thing, the designer seems unnecessary, but that does not mean there is no designer." There you have it, we agree that we can disagree. Still, you and others have not addressed what I believe is the far more important issues about the nature and tone of this whole dialogue and its implications. I have no problem with this and never needed to resort to anything, but open and respectful dialogue. Far from what I experienced. Again, I am a psychotherapist, to me relationships and how the process of discussion and conclusion is paramount because only open and respectful dialogue allows the free flow of ideas and growth. What I have experienced in these conversations is far from this. Everything from telling me that my thoughts are ignorant to disallowing my comments on TED. I kept at the dialogue anyway because of this principle that I try to live by. I can imagine that many would not have and given up and you would be the worse for it. Many grand mistakes have been made in history and much suffering because one side felt it had the only truth and closed itself off from any other way of viewing issues.
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    • Jan 17 2012: David,

      I apologise for any hostility from my quarter; to explain, the argument you are promoting has been used in the past by underhanded people in the past to try to taint the education of our children. I love analogies so, what reaction would you expect from the Trojan people if they saw the Greeks wheeling up a second Trojan horse to their city gate?

      But Trojan horse it is, David, and I will take on good faith that you bring it forth innocently. I will now respond without vitriol.

      Science by definition has never closed itself off from any argument, and never will. In this subject the existence of an "intelligent agent" guiding the course of evolution cannot be disproved because this agent could have intervened only once in the staggering number of mutations leading our current existence and we would most likely never find evidence of that individual mutation. Indeed such an agent need not have intervened at all but merely be on the lookout for mutations that would cause a species to wipe out Earth's biosphere to be said to have been intelligently guiding our evolution, and we would have no evidence of it's existence. In this case the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and that is accepted in the scientific community.

      Some time in the future through sheer computing power or time travelling microscopes we may document every genetic mutation responsible for modern man. Such information would probably require a modern computer system about the size of the Earth just for storage let alone processing but doubtless in future we will all have access to not only every path our DNA took to reach our current state but every misstep and meandering it took along the way. The process of discovering this data will doubtless yield many scientific and medical boons that will save lives and provide us a better quality of life than we would have otherwise. Which is where I start to have a problem with Intelligent Design.
    • Jan 17 2012: Once you bring a null hypothesis such as "God did it" into the equation people start thinking that's good enough. You see less interest, motivation, funding into exploring our genetic roots and you miss out on all the cures to disease, longer life spans and myriad other benefits that science is so well known for.

      Worse, you also begin to see anger, reprobation and even violence against those who are trying to help people but are seen by the religious to be insulting God's work and meddling in his affairs. If you want some examples from history I'll dig some up for you, there are plenty, but I think you and I both know the truth of this.

      All through this, not once will science say that God does not exist - and believe me, if scientists were ever uncover any evidence pointing to the existence of such a being they will be the first to let you know. In the meantime, Christianity has never been a good friend to science and continues to this day to try to subvert science for it's own purposes through arguments such as the one you put forward.

      In this thread you have been provided with sufficient information to educate yourself on the current state of the discourse between the two viewpoints and to reach your own scientific conclusions regarding this subject, but for the sake of appearing magnanimous I will list them again for you:


      Also, based on my earlier assumption of your ignorance of the manipulative history of the argument you have used in this thread I feel you should also check these out:


      Please, please, please do not repost the same argument again, or talk about the "tone of this discussion". Ignorance is no excuse, especially if wilful, and if I come home drunk and see you've pulled this stunt again I'll probably end up being banned from TED.
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    Jan 15 2012: this constitutes as an idea how? btw you are willing to learn, or just showed up to spread propaganda? in the former case, you can read wikipedia or one of the hundreds of books out there.
  • Jan 15 2012: Mutation is disastrous in any system as evidenced by birth defects. Why assume that one mutation after another just happened to work out in our evolutionary time after time after billions of times? Interestingly, Professor Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in high energy physics (a field of science that deals with the very early universe), writing in the journal "Scientific American", reflects on:
    how surprising it is that the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the universe should allow for the existence of beings who could observe it. Life as we know it would be impossible if any one of several physical quantities had slightly different values.
    Although Weinberg is a self-described agnostic, he cannot but be astounded by the extent of the fine-tuning. He goes on to describe how a beryllium isotope having the minuscule half life of 0.0000000000000001 seconds must find and absorb a helium nucleus in that split of time before decaying. This occurs only because of a totally unexpected, exquisitely precise, energy match between the two nuclei. If this did not occur there would be none of the heavier elements. No carbon, no nitrogen, no life. Our universe would be composed of hydrogen and helium. But this is not the end of Professor Weinberg's wonder at our well-tuned universe. He continues:
    One constant does seem to require an incredible fine-tuning -- The existence of life of any kind seems to require a cancellation between different contributions to the vacuum energy, accurate to about 120 decimal places.
    This means that if the energies of the Big Bang were, in arbitrary units, not: 1 our of 100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 000000000000000001,
    there would be no life of any sort in the entire universe.
    This and a billion other things that had to happen just so exactly... and you have no doubts?! A previous comment on this thread stated, "absolute nonsense". The certainty is so odd to me.
    • Jan 15 2012: Whenever somebody brings up Intelligent Design in a forum of intelligent people I'm struck by how they remind me of that guy who somehow got invited to the party full of nice people but feels the need to start cracking racist jokes. Then, as now, the only effective response is to ignore that person. You can't reason with that person as they are evidently missing either the willingness or ability to think about their views and the effect it has on the society they callously play a part in. In fact, the contrary seems to be true; they actually consider their bias to be an intrinsic part of themselves and their culture and see anyone not willing to support this insanity as betraying the personal freedom of the individual and the values of their community. They adopt that accusatory stare of the 8 year old who suspects you of murdering the tooth fairy. Does this remind you of anyone, David? Does someone who believes in supernatural beings have any self-awareness, or awareness of reality in general? I'm interested in your response.

      Cherry-picking quotes of Nobel Laureates a sound theory does not make. Statistics and probability have, tragically, become hallmarks of a bad argument (you aren't helping) and in this subject people typically fail to comprehend the effects of attractors and the sheer size of the sample area, ie. everything, ever. In your defense, if these events you wish to attribute to some "Grand Maker of Everything" did take place within the last few thousand years or whatever the faith you hold leads you to believe is the true age of the universe then I would almost be tempted to agree with you. Sadly my friend the facts do not support most of your assumptions, let alone your conclusion.
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        • Jan 17 2012: Fair call, and I apologise.

          In the meantime, I just cannot accept an argument that we were just created. It is not out of lofty ideals of intellectual purity, although I do have some (seemingly misplaced) aspirations there. It is also out of the real world dangers of cravenly accepting such a stopgap theory on a topic so important as our very existence.

          Christianity, and in turn Creationism, has had it's boot on the neck of science for thousands of years and expecting them to play fair now is naive. Historically, every time science has tried to advance Christianity has not just resisted but has resorted to such things as torture, murder, litigation, intimidation, sabotage, etc. Why? From Galileo to stem cell research, every time we try to learn more or help people we are attacked, and every time this happens we think the validity of our arguments will be enough to convince anyone.

          Would Christians happily drag us back into the middle ages where God was everything and pneumonia a death sentence? From my experience, most no, some yes, but that's an effect of modern thought on Christianity. In this religion it is not the most true argument that prevails, it is the most seductive. People are afraid of being morally conflicted so the most simplistic argument holds sway. Why do I mention this? Because it doesn't matter that the majority of Christians like low infant mortality rates now, take away the effect of modern thinking on that religion and they'll happily lose a couple of children to preventable disease because that's God's department and Father Jones says disease is His tool.

          How does this relate to this discussion?

          This discussion is the thin edge of the wedge they are using to try to bring Christian Science back as a contender to actual science.

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          Jan 18 2012: Hi Julian

          "Would Christians happily drag us back into the middle ages where God was everything and pneumonia a death sentence ?"

          If Alexander Fleming hadn't taken time out from church to discover penicillin then we may well still have pneumonia.

          Christians have always been front & centre in science. Maybe not in evolution, but that's a very small part of science.

  • Jan 26 2012: Why does the need for direction imply a director? Occam's razor, the simplest (logical) explanation is usually the answer, and a director is one complication too far. I'm not saying it cateforically rules out an initiator, but there is just no role for an intervening director.
  • Jan 26 2012: It is this sort of abuse of apparently scientific reasoning that misleads vulnerable people - but anyone with a real understanding of the science will not be fooled. All intelligent design does is prove you don't understand the facts. Talking like a scientist does not make you one, unfortunately millions of undecided people will probably think it sounds reasonable. It's not. Sorry, but this sort of quasi-science has been debunked so often I'm surprised it is still being used.
  • Jan 26 2012: This question is based on a complete misunderstanding of evolution which is forwarded by adherents of 'intelligent' design. Genetic mutation is random - evolution is not. It is directed by natural selection which certainly isn't random. Stop playing with maths and statistics and try to understand evolution for what it is.

    Ps Hi peter - I'm not following you!
  • Jan 24 2012: The one who posits intelligent design has to answer for the existence of the creator. But the agnostic must answer for everything else. It seems much more reasonable to side with the former. I could describe love as seen through brain scans and physiological terms but I would not have understood love in the slightest. The scientific process can only describes process not meaning, purpose, intention, etc.

    Judaism has for the last thousands of years long before the debate such as ours states that the creator did not just create matter, but time and space. Therefore, ascribing the concept of time, space and matter to the creator is untenable. This is logical if you think it through. This is a longer theological discussion, but I only mention it because the God you believe in I also do not believe in. This is the one we learned about in day school or bible classes if you went to such thing. Few have really spent much time really forcing themselves to seek an answer from different sources whether a creator exists. I don't mean reading a few articles on the internet, but meeting people of different views and conversing as if your life depended upon it. AND I will admit that many religious people have not asked the questions to really know logically why they believe what they do about a creator as well. I care for a faith based on reason, but you'd laugh at that idea...and perhaps you have done the research, but I have rarely met an agnostic who has. Instead they assume that theology is simple. It is not. I would never say I understand astrophysics because I read the poem Twinkle Tinkle Little Star, but many who have not studied the most important question feel able to comment because they once had a conversation...
  • Jan 24 2012: The problem just saying that there are trillions of collisions means little especially given only 13 billion years to create life in - and many of those years were useless in terms of the evolution of just amino acids let alone the human brain and DNA.

    The one who posits intelligent design has to answer for the existence of the creator. But the agnostic must answer for everything else. It seems much more reasonable to side with the former. I could describe love as seen through brain scans and physiological terms but I would not have understood love in the slightest. The scientific process can only describes process not meaning, purpose, intention, etc.

    Judaism has for the last thousands of years long before the debate such as ours states that the creator did not just create matter, but time and space. Therefore, ascribing the concept of time, space and matter to the creator is untenable. This is logical if you think it through. This is a longer theological discussion, but I only mention it because the God you believe in I also do not believe in. This is the one we learned about in day school or bible classes if you went to such thing. Few have really spent much time really forcing themselves to seek an answer from different sources whether a creator exists. I don't mean reading a few articles on the internet, but meeting people of different views and conversing as if your life depended upon it. AND I will admit that many religious people have not asked the questions to really know logically why they believe what they do about a creator as well. I care for a faith based on reason, but you'd laugh at that idea...and perhaps you have done the research, but I have rarely met an agnostic who has. Instead they assume that theology is simple. It is not. I would never say I understand astrophysics because I read the poem Twinkle Tinkle Little Star, but many who have not studied the most important question feel able to comment because they once had a conversation...
  • Jan 24 2012: Why is that the improbability of all these different molecules and atoms aligning like this form such an argument against life existing? A human didn't just happen from nothing? this is billions of years of atoms and molecules colliding, how many collisions of atoms and molecules do you think would have happened in those billions of years? just to form one amino acid say you need a trillion trillion collisions of some atoms.. yea no problem that's easy.

    The vastness of space and the ridiculous nature of physics at a small scale is mind boggling but does not mean that suddenly there is a need for some guy conducting it all. Open your mind. It is incomprehensible to think about all the different atoms wizzing about us, how did they form galaxies? that seems improbable.. must have been done by this guy who planned or whatever.. riiiight.... lrn2science. Atleast science has provided actual mechanisms and answers as to how these things have occured, just you cant accept how improbable they are because there are so many trillions of things happening all the time?

    Intelligent design is the biggest load of bumph and nonsense you could have really said to explain it all, instead of considering the chances of all these different molecules assembling, consider the probablity of some guy designing all this and existing at all? probablity of that is less than the probablity of life on earth rising up from natural processes. The entire point about religion is it is faith, you are basically saying oh something may have happened because some guy said this and then i saw this book and some words were in this order and yea.. that seemed to make sense.. not really that credible when compared to the scientific process of experiment and hypothesis that has actually come up with answers about the world around us.
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      Jan 24 2012: Hi Polar.

      The universe is Time, Space, & Matter. An infinite being outside of T, S, & M needs no creator, as, being outside time, he has no beginning. That's the reasoning.

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        Jan 25 2012: Hi Peter.

        I'm replying to your previous question in this post, because i'm not able to directly reply to your other post. In the lab, my sister has observed speciation in insects, a kind of short-lived flie. (the more generations in a short time, the better)
        These were separated and put under different severely altered conditions, manually "steering" evolution by changing environments a great deal.
        The flies went on, through over 100 generations, to change so radically that they could not interbreed. They had speciated.
        Their appearance was so radically different, that they did not appear as the same species, and, indeed, were not.
        So genetically different (caused by isolation and extreme environments) they had become, that one of the three or four sets of flies couldn't longer produce offspring with it's originated species.
        It had, in short terms, become "something else" than a fly. Still an insect, but a pre-fly.
        Kind of the same way that wales are still mammals, even though their lineage is from land animals, only with a significant time difference.

        One "kind" became another "kind".

        Disproving macroevolution could be done by finding a genetic mechanism that disallowed a certain magnitude of change, but has not yet been found. And, since we among other things have the fossils that tracks whale lineage, its hard to say that macroevolution doesnt exist when we can track the wale through the fossil layer and see that it "used to" live on land.
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          Jan 25 2012: Hi Marius.

          thanks for that. I have heard of this sort of thing with fruit flies.

          "....change so radically that they could not interbreed..."
          Isn't that a loss of function ?

          "...become "something else" than a fly. Still an insect, but a pre-fly..."
          If it was a fly, & became a pre-fly, is that not the opposite of evolution? It has lost the ability to fly .

          You see, we have been breeding dogs for generations, & seeing many changes, but as we get purer & purer thoroughbreds we get bigger & bigger vets bills due to illness. I am told this is because the available dna options are getting less. This makes sense to me although Gabo will probably know the detail. However after years of manually guiding 'evolution' in Dogs, Cattle, Racehorses, Roses etc... we have never witnessed anything producing new parts that would allow it to change to something else. We can produce mutants with too many legs/wings etc.., & functions can be lost, but if macroevolution was really happening we should be surrounded by examples.

      • Jan 25 2012: Add those pre-whale fossils to the molecular genetic evidence, the embryo development evidence ...
      • Jan 25 2012: Pete,

        No, that they can't breed with the original population is not a loss of function, because they can breed with members of their own derived population. Would it be a loss of function if we can't breed with chimps?

        We are surrounded by examples of "macroevolution", but dogs are not one. Dogs are bred, not evolved proper. They exemplify the kinds of changes that can be made in a few years, but evolution does not over-purify breeds, nothing in nature would select for organisms that would give identical copies of themselves. Natural selection gets traits selected for environments, but other variant traits are left untouched.

        But, it is you who should explain what barrier is there stopping separated species to continue diverging until they belong to different genera, then different families, et cetera. As I said, we see no such barrier. You are the ones saying that there is one. Show us so. In the meantime I can show you genetic evidence, biogeographical evidence, fossil evidence, and all sorts of evidence that say, yes, the divergence you see happening here, continues and continues, and does not seem to have a stop. Do you clearly understand this Pete? Various sources of evidence show that this process produces genera, families, orders, et cetera with time. This is not one generation wolf, the next cat. This is some carnivore population long ago that was neither, but had some of the characteristics we see them sharing, but you could not classify it as either. Lacked most of the specific characteristics of them. But separated into two lineages (at least), one lineage, after some generations, shows incipient characteristics of felines, the other some canine (a creationist back then would have said: they are still carnivores!) ... and so on, until we get these guys. Nothing magical about it. Plenty of evidence that this is so.

        So, you propose a barrier, you prove that it is there and explain why all lines of evidence clearly say otherwise.

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          Jan 26 2012: Hi Gabo

          " Would it be a loss of function if we can't breed with chimps?"
          Most certainly yes. If we could do something; anything; & we can no longer do it, then that is a loss of function in anyone's terms.

          "We are surrounded by examples of "macroevolution","
          OK, may I have one please.

          Fruit flies have only produced deformed fruit flies after thousands of generations of attempting to induce macroevolution. If we cannot do it deliberately, what chance has random mutation?

          You are the expert. You say there is no barrier. We only discovered dna a century or so ago. Up until recently we thought most of it was junk. I have no feel for how far we have got with research in this area. All I know is that looking around, everything seems well confined in it's place. We have dozens of examples of living fossils which have remained unaltered for millions (your dates) of years. There is nothing with an organ in transit to being a different organ. To me it's just common sense.
          Fossils generally don't have much in the way of organs. All we can say is that we think one fossil became another fossil over X years. There is no possibility of proof.

          We're going round in circles.

      • Jan 26 2012: Hey Pete,

        Everything around you are examples of "macroevolution." There's enough evidence to reconstruct the histories for many of these examples. There is also "footprints" of the process within our DNA, anatomy, and embryology. Everything from palaeontology, to biogeography, to molecular biology say so. While absolutely nothing indicates a barrier against divergence. Again, you propose that barrier, where is it? How would your proposed barrier be consistent with all the evidence showing that "macroevolution" has happen and continues to happen?

        1. Whale evolution fossils: they occur in proper order across geological layers. They naturally occur in the proper order. The anatomy modifies in steps in the proper order. Example: the respiratory orifice "moves" from one fossil to the next slightly towards the head. So, here you have all the elements. Proper order, newer have more of their anatomy corresponding to modern whales. Undeniable evolution from land to water: "macroevolution."
        2. Molecular data. By similarity, the molecular data suggested that whales were related to land-dwelling mammals, add that to the fossil evidence which concurs. Makes for an even stronger case.
        3. Embryology. The whale embryo develops in a similar way to certain land-dwelling mammals.

        More generic evidence:
        4. Biogeography. Darwin observed, for instance, that species within the same genera tend to live closely. Genera under the same family tend to live somewhat farther, and so on. Suggesting a continuum of divergence: sub-species to species to subgenera to genera to subfamilies to families, et cetera.
        5. Molecular data: we share parasitic DNA at equivalent positions with chimps, then with gorillas, and so on. These insertions can only have gotten into equivalent positions by being inherited from common ancestors.
        6. I got short of space ... but much much more ...

        Don't try and just deny. Show how your barrier is consistent with all the data supporting "macroevolution."

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          Jan 27 2012: Hi Gabo,
          You don't know when to quit do you ? Lol, I like that.

          I doubt we have the technology yet to identify any genetic barrier, if we had you no doubt would come across it before I. All I am saying is that I do not see anything remotely like one creature deviating from the confines of it's type.

          Case in point; whales.
          Creodonts,  Archaeocetes,  Pakicetus,  Ambulocetus,  Rhodocetus,  Basilosaurus, 
          All alleged precursors to modern whales. You can certainly make the evolution argument. Trouble is that you first have to believe in evolution. They could just as easily be half a dozen more distinct type of creatures. A few of the 99% which have gone extinct.

          Likewise with genetic similarities, we can eat whales, whales can eat us, ditto monkeys. We all breath the same air; if we were not compatible the whole system would break down. What is unreasonable about that ?

          At the end of the day it is about worldview. You look at the data & see evolution, I look & see god. Neither of us can prove the other wrong, so we debate.
          Up until a few years ago I was a bit mystified by all the biological jargon, but since it has been shown that we are dealing with electro-mechanical machines it really is case closed for me. I don't think I could ever concede that there was no requirement for a designer. At the end of the day evolution may have indeed occurred, but it would be a very weird way for any designer to go about things & why would the end result (us) just happen to be engineers who can understand the mechanism (to an extent). Does it ever blow your mind, like it does mine?

      • Jan 26 2012: Oh, and no, that we can't breed with chimps is not a loss of function. A loss of function in that regard would be if we could not breed with other humans. But if you want to play such a game, then I claim that it is a gain of function. One that helps prevent losing the advantages that the evolutionary process has accumulated in our population. Chimps won too. They have their advantages given their environment. For them, as for us, breeding with other apes would result in too many dead offspring. Since it is hard as it is, gaining the function of specific breeding helps each species have a higher probability for survival.

        How does that look like now?

      • Jan 27 2012: Pete,

        [I erased this. After your comment, even though I find it nonsensical, I see that there is no point in answering. But remember what you said. To you it is all a matter of making up a worldview then forcing everything into it. That's not the way I work, but anything I could say would be useless to you. I would think that most people would be able to notice what's wrong with your answer. Ciao for a while.]
  • Jan 23 2012: In River Out of Eden, Dawkins describes the intricate functioning of genetic coding in the living cell: “The genetic code is not a binary code as in computers ... but a quaternary code, with four symbols. The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like… DNA messages ... are ... pure digital code. Dr. Paul Davies on the same subject: “In a living organism we see the power of software, or information processing, refined to an incredible degree ... the problem of the origin of life reduces to one of understanding how encoded software emerged spontaneously from hardware. How did it happen? How did nature "go digital?"
    Life is possible – if, and only if – the technology of life is in place. The entire apparatus of evolutionary explanation therefore depends on the prior existence of genetic material with these remarkable properties. So the problem is just pushed back a step: how did such a thing come into existence? How did life begin?
    Sir Fred Hoyle to describe the extreme improbability of a chance origin of the first living organism on earth: “A junkyard contains all the bits and pieces of a Boeing 747, dismembered and in disarray. A whirlwind happens to blow through the yard. What is the chance that after its passage a fully assembled 747, ready to fly, will be found standing there? So small as to be negligible, even if a tornado were to blow through enough junkyards to fill the whole Universe.”
    In an interview with Ben Stein Richard Dawkins responded to questions about the Origin of Life from the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed:
    Stein: How did it start?
    Dawkins: Nobody knows how it started, we know the kind of event that it must have been, we know the sort of event that must have happened for the origin of life.
    Stein: What was that?
    Dawkins: It was the origin of the first self-replicating molecule.
    Stein: How did that happen?
    Dawkins: I told you I don't know.

    What makes you so sure that there is no intelligent design
    • Jan 23 2012: David,

      Before deconstructing the fallacies in this comment of yours, can you be very honest and tell me where did you get those quotes from? Could it be that in the originals (if these are not invented quotes), the authors themselves told you how it actually is explained by natural processes, and where do these metaphors break?

      (The last one must be the mockumentary "expelled," which I would not take as reliable, but even if it were, why not knowing something should mean "gods"? If gods did not work for explaining volcanoes, why should they explain the origin of life? Why shouldn't you have to prove that there's gods before offering them as explanations for anything?)

      So, focus: where from those quotes? My bet: creationist propaganda. But let me know if I am wrong, and thus where else from. Not where did the creationist propagandists take those quotes from, but where did ***you*** get them from.


      P.S. I already told you, tornadoes in a junkyard are a misrepresentation of what nature is all about. Neither evolution, nor the origin of life, are about utter randomness. How many times do you need to read this for you to stop misrepresenting them.
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    Jan 23 2012: if you go to the casino the odds might be 100 to 1 but you might win on the first roll. fact is life happened maybe we got lucky. the odds for replicating life and dna are educated guesses at best. its amazing but more believable than some super being. andmuch more believable than any particular religious view.
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      Jan 25 2012: Odds are a funny thing. Here in Norway, there is one lottery eweek, where people have a less than 1 in to win, if you go by the possible combinations. Weirdly enough, someone wins every week.

      Even though there are only 5-6 million people here.
    • Jan 25 2012: The lotto/casino examples are independent events. Every lotto run is not linked to the past lotto events.
      Mathematically: P(A) = probability of an event A.

      The complexity of life consists instead of billions or trillions of events perfectly correlated. Each single step needs the event before in order to exist. This is called "Conditional probability".
      In Mathematics is rendered as P(A|B) = the probability of A, given B

      Well, given the tremendous number of dependent events needed in order to have life and nature as we know, the conditional probability calculation leads clearly to a ZERO.
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        Jan 25 2012: Agree that the odds of wining a single turn is different to life. I guess once every 1000 or so runs, you'll get red 10 times in a row.

        It's a very big call to say life starting through nature processes has zero probability. I don't know enough about the earliest building blocks of life to argue the details of probability.
        I expect a lot of scientists have different views in this area.
        I'm not sure how speculative the early steps in developing life are. Guess we needed C, H, O etc and whatever else makes up the most basic form of DNA.

        My understanding is Quantum theory may suggest infinite universes - so there is a probability life got started on some of them including ours.

        I admit the inception of life is something I struggle to conceptualise. And a lot of other things - the start of the big bang, gravity. The processes that support just one human, or even a plant are amazing. Yet they seem to work naturally fine.

        I'm fine with the first generations of stars creating the elements needed for planets and life.
        I'm fine with evolution once DNA got going.

        There are plenty of gaps in my world view, and I have the benefit of a reasonable 20th century education. But all areas I think I understand work naturally. So I expect the others will too.

        The difference is our experiences, the information we've come across and how we interpret it. The probability argument got me thinking - but is not convincing enough for me in light of everything else I understand.

        There might be a being or beings that kick started life on this planet. This might be some being outside time and space barely understandable by humans. Or just something that developed naturally somewhere in the universe but got a billion year headstart. The least plausible is young earth views.
      • Jan 25 2012: Paolo,

        There's a few problems with your assumptions and calculations.

        1. As pointed out by G M, since you don't know how life started, you don't know what the probabilities were for life to be started [naturally].

        2. Once started, you don't know how the processes of evolution works, thus you cannot calculate the probability of anything to get to life as we know it.

        3. A calculation such as the probability of A given B assumes that B is in place. So, it can't be zero.

        4. Life is very different to lotto, for sure. But here's one example of a difference you seem to ignore: Let's say that the probability of B is 1 in a million, and you have ten million individuals. Then, something close to 10 will have B. Since B is advantageous, these ten reproduce more successfully, and you get a huge background of B, meaning that now you can assume B and A should be no problem. Same process, since A and B work together very well, individuals with A+B become prevalent again because they reproduce better and faster, so C is not that much of a problem ...

        5. The above assuming single points for improvement, but it is actually better with recombination. Say either A or B can give you an advantage. A few individuals have A, a few B, but they increase in the population outcompeting individuals with neither. Then, individuals with A can find individuals with B so frequently, that they might recombine, and have a huge probability of producing A+B offspring, which grow even better than either parents. Recombination in the lab, like the one I am describing, shortens directed evolution experiments by orders of magnitude compared to single mutations without recombination.

        And so on and so forth ...

        (Unlike G M, I would not be swayed by probabilities based on plain ignorance, I would not be swayed for not having answers for anything. I shall repeat: gods were used for explaining volcanoes when we did not understand them. That was wrong. Why should they be any better for anything else?)
        • Jan 26 2012: We are talking about 2 different topics.

          For instance consider mathematically the possibility that the event "perfect human DNA" comes from a semi-perfect human DNA that comes from something else and so on back for millions of years till to reach the first original bacteria. Consider all the possible events there. I would not like to do the exact calculations but it will surely approach 1E-some trillions (at least).

          Now in one of the mathematics courses i attended years ago at the university I remember well that 0,999........ is equal 1. The same reasoning can be applied the way around, namely 0,00000000000000000000000.........1 = 0.

          We can indeed write that as:
          1E-some trillions = lim(n => infinity) 1/10^n = 0

          Mathematics clearly speak against the evolution theory.
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          Jan 27 2012: Gabo, You certainly made and developed these points more succinctly than I.

          One correction, I'm not swayed by the probability argument - I'm comfortable with a naturalistic universe but acknowledge the gaps in my understanding and don't think anyone really knows for sure if there are gods or super aliens. Although (1) I have little time for the specific religions from volcano gods to Ra to Jesus etc, (2) find it strange people find an invisible, intangible, unexplained super god creator more easy to believe than a natural process and (3) keeping with the probability theme I put the odds on a non specific, non interventionist creator being at 0.0001%

          Paulo thats like saying the probability of me being born is 0.000000000000.....0001, ie zero, because the chance of mum meeting dad was very small and this was dependent on their parents meeting etc etc for 10,000 generations - yet here I am.

          Just looking at the start of DNA - suggest by your assumptions there are effectively close to infinite C, O, N, H etc atoms and molecules on earth. Even if there is low probability of these forming some self replicating building blocks this is multiplied by some factor reflecting the number of atoms and molecules etc.
      • Jan 26 2012: No Paolito, mathematics do not speak against evolutionary theory. Proper understanding of natural phenomena, evidences all over the place, and proper mathematics speak volumes for evolutionary theory.

        What you are trying to calculate, forgetting your basic mistakes about what the formulas should be, is the probability that, should we start evolution from the moment of those prokaryotes whose lineage lead to us, it would lead to us again. That should truly approach zero. But something else would be here instead probably making the very same mistake you are making.

        If I had won the lotto, I might as well think some gods sent me the money because the probabilities that it would be me were slim. I would be wrong though, because given enough trials, somebody would have to win the lotto. The probability that somebody will win it approaches 1, while the probability that such person will be me is small. Do you understand your mistake there yet?

        [Addition: What you are saying would be equivalent to saying: because the probability that John would win the lotto is close to zero, yet John has the money, mathematics shows that there's no lotto.]

        Your mathematics clearly speak against getting an education from creationist quacks.
    • Jan 28 2012: G M,
      Sorry that I misunderstood part of your comment as "swaying."
  • Jan 19 2012: Hello Peter,
    I see the whole process at more like a wave motion. Evolving the one millenium and devolving in the next. As I spoke earlier here somewhere about the development of a rose. We have the seed, that develops to a stem and leaves, and then eventually if all other conditions are available (warmth, sunlight, nourishment from the earth, water) the flower will be the crowning glory of the plant. Evolution may have occurred in a more "wave motion" ...

    Now I don't know if Gabo is out there reading my response to you comment but in this case I hope so.
    I have to admit here that I usually don't get so much positive response either from the creationist point of view or the evolutionists. I have an approach to these questions that is somewhat out of the ordinary as you surely begin to notice if you read some of my other comments here and on other discussions on TED.
    I have to further admit my perspectives on these things are not my own. I am not that clever. But perhaps towards the end of the discussion here I can reveal just where these ideas come from.
    The critical point for me is not the question of "intelligent design" per say, nor is it a question about natural selection. At least not at this point in the discussion. But my main focus here is upon the development of consciousness in regards to the processes of evolution / devolution. Something I see to be a pivoting point in the entire development of humanity. .... Does this make sense..??
    If this conversation is to be fruitful, then what I see as the idea of "intelligent design" has to be the result of a longer discussion.... a discussion that must first wander "through" the "active principle of devolution" and then arriving at "consciousness"

    But before we get any further, the whole concept of devolution must be made clear. It is a generally unknown idea. Gabo, being well read in this field, I thought might have a clue as to what it is all about.

    Thanks so far
  • Jan 19 2012: Gabo.

    I want to hear what you know about "devolution" Gabo. Do you recognize it as one mechanism of the many. I do gather that you have dwelt upon the idea, although I know that it is generally pretty unknown and not at all on the front lines of evolutionary science. I just wonder if anyone in the main stream is looking into it. I'm not even sure you can find any info about it the general media although there are a few books that I have come across that go deeper into it.

    I just listened once again to the lecture by Sebastian Seung "I am my Connectome" where he attempts to point out that our thinking and feeling can influence your DNA, neural connections in your brain, etc. Should this prove to be true, it could force us to abandon certain ideas about the phenomenon of consciousness... at least as I see it. Neither the intelligent designers or creation will be supporting me here either Gabo. I am looking for stepping stones. Stepping stones that can give a more complete picture of what mankind is all about. I am fully aware of how I am setting myself out on a limb here... not being a scientist or biologist, however, I choose to take the chance. After all, this is a simple discussion forum ... and I can take the chance of making a fool of myself.

    The connection between this little lecture by Seung and that which I am attempting to get at about devolution is still on the horizon of our discussion, .... way out there on the edge of the ocean, just before our boat might fall off the edge, but as I said to Stephanie ... "my existence lead by confusion boats mutinied from stern to bow"....
  • Jan 19 2012: David, Stephanie, Gabo, and other readers,

    Devolution is a concept that comes up very seldom. Yet here it has come up twice already.

    When we speak of intelligent design in the sense of a "creator being" it awakens a certain antipathy among the strict and loyal followers that adhere to the principles of evolution. An intelligent designer is not a part of their world view and is without a doubt a long way from it. It cannot be proven scientifically. But can the principle of devolution perhaps point to a form for intelligence that works and operates within the stream of evolution itself. Something holding back development. Something kind of like a metamorphosis process that could resemble the development of a flower... to use a simple picture. Could it be that the processes working in evolution resemble a rose.. where the concentration of developing forces enfold in the seed formation and then expand in the pedal and leaf. ...??
    I can't speak for Stephanie and cannot as yet grasp what her careful mentioning of the "devolution" principle really means for her. I hope we can get a bit closer to this principle if Stephanie is willing. By her comments here I can quickly see that she has far more knowledge on the subject than myself, however I think we share a perspective or two that might lead this discussion to another level than the usual bickering that arises from a discussion between the evolutionist and the intelligent design perspective. The discussions on TED have generally panned out in anger and aggression towards each corner.
    If we can first see the phenomenon for what it is, we may then be able to locate a form for logic in the process of certain physical developments which appear to be held back in diverse species, especially in the human being. Certain developments can be seen as "held back" almost to give room for other, perhaps higher organs to develop. Organs like consciousness perhaps. ... Does this make any sense....?? ... to anyone...??
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      Jan 19 2012: Hi Daniel.

      Seems to me there are four possibilities under discussion.

      1. Evolution by natural causes.

      2. Intelligent design where the designer sets the whole thing in motion with an innate ability to evolve & generally look after itself.

      3. As number two, but the designer also tweaks the system as problems arise.

      4. As number two but without the ability to evolve.

      In the first three cases we would expect our dna to be improving over time. It should be getting more sophisticated & generally better at it's job. ie 'evolving'.

      In number four we would expect the quality of the dna to be reducing over time. Allowing more illness & deformities etc. ie 'devolving'.

      Like you, I am just a layman at this. What would be cool would be to analyse dna from 1000 years ago & compare it with today, but I think we'll need to wait a bit 'till we get a bit smarter.

      • Jan 19 2012: Hello guys,

        DNA much more than 1000 year old has been analyzed. No such thing as "higher quality."

        A Problem you would be facing to test if DNA was of higher quality is that there is no easy way to define such a thing. What would be your measure? In my mini-answer above, the measure I am thinking about is, for example, amount of parasitic/selfish/junk DNA. Neanderthals had a lot of these, just like we do. But maybe you are thinking that the DNA was of much higher quality billions of years ago? (I doubt it, you being a YEC.)

        Now, here a bit of a problem. If DNA were degrading, then we would expect that DNA would degrade a heck of a lot faster in organisms with very short generation times. That means that there should be no Bacteria at all. Yet. Furthermore, bacteria in the lab have been through as many generations as chimps and us have been separated. No signs of degrading DNA.

        You seem to fail to understand that selection (negative selection) keeps wrong variants out of the pool, while neutral, semi-neutral, and advantageous variants would survive. It's that simple.

        But don't get me wrong, DNA does degrade. We only notice when organisms are put under environments where some functions are dispensable. Then, the unnecessary genes can undergo degradation, just like, after a rich fruit diet, some ancestral populations of apes loss the ability to synthesize vitamin-C. The diet provided enough, thus organisms with faulty vitamin-C genes were able to survive, and, with time, a version of the faulty gene was able to predominate instead of the functional version in the overall ape population.

        The message is, environment matters. Characters can degrade or upgrade depending on the environments. We have known this for a long time. Only we don't use the term "devolution" because "evolution" among scientists does not mean "upward spiral." After all, what works in one environment could be disadvantageous in another. Right?

        Best and good weekend (I am out for a bit).
  • Jan 17 2012: I will in the near future respond, but am presently very busy. Still, I wanted to acknowledge your thoughtful and respectful reply. Thank you.
  • Jan 17 2012: Faith and science CAN coexist.

    Scientists are usually labeled either "creationists" or "evolutionists". Why it must be so?
    And who has the right to insult the other party just because of his beliefs?

    Science is based on mutual respect. If any so-called scientist lacks of it, it cannot be considered as a real scientist since he does not accept openly any other divergent point of view.

    Science involves questions, tough question marks, possibility to lose or to win. Faith as well.

    I think there are a lot of intelligent scientists (and normal people) out there having doubts with the evolution model but being scared to be expelled by the scientific community they have to believe in evolution. Unwillingly. At times a part of them takes courage to raise the hand and ask such uncomfortable questions.

    The video is actually stunning. The replication of the DNA is a perfect machine of cooperation, coordination and elegance, no matter what people beliefs. And this is just a tiny part of our organism.
    I have personally enormous doubts that the question "where does such beauty come from?" can be fully answered only by the evolution model without any driving intelligence behind that. Let put the question in another way: How can beauty AND functionality coexist perfectly only and exclusively within the evolution theory?
  • Jan 17 2012: No, I do not know everything about evolution, I admit! I admit! But that is not not the issue. Please carefully read my response, I think you missed the point as well. I thought I was clear as I wrote: "I have no problem with the Big Bang and even the concept of evolution –

    it is how or through what guidance this process came about and continues to manifest itself is another issue.

    And this is the difference in our opinions – please inform me if it is otherwise." What difference does what my knowledge of about "Where does the theory of evolution state that each and every organism assembles itself by pure random chance?" have to do with my thoughts about what I consider purposeful and meaningful design? Misrepresenting scientific knowledge would in my mind being drawing black and white conclusions about the factual solidity and philosophic and psychological implications of that knowledge.

    I now respectfully ask you to comment on my concerns.
    • Jan 17 2012: But Dave,

      How can anybody answer your concerns if your concerns are based on a cartoon that has nothing to do with evolution? You are the one who wrote this:

      "If the genomes of each animal phylum produced 100,000 proteins, and no proteins were common among any of the phyla (a fact we know to be false, but an assumption that makes our calculations favor the random evolutionary assumption),"

      Note the thing between parentheses. Not only you don't know everything about evolution (neither do I), but you know nothing about it if you think that it is about every organism assembling itself randomly. This mistake (if not misrepresentation), has everything to do with your seeing purpose and meaningful design because that's the basis for your claim, at least as you presented it. Your claim is based on a misunderstanding of scientific knowledge. Should you understand what evolution really is about, you would have no problem understanding why some of us don't see such "purpose and meaningful design pointing to a designer," behind any of it. I do not mean to say that you would agree, only that you would understand. Once you understand that nature and the way it works explains the whole thing, the designer seems unnecessary, but that does not mean there is no designer. At such point, some prefer not to believe in designer(s) without direct evidence for such, while others prefer to hold to a belief in designer(s) for whatever reasons such as religion.

      The answer, as Dustin Rodriguez told you, is that randomness is not all there is to evolution. Mutations are somewhat random, but selection and survival are not. I would add that you need better information and logic too. Example: birth defects happen when deleterious mutations occur. That does not mean that every mutation is deleterious. Do you see your fault at logic there? More to say, but maybe if we go by steps, or if you already got it, then that's it.
  • Jan 17 2012: David,

    The "Director" is busy right now. What can we see on earth, physical or non-physical that points to any form of intelligent design. To talk about directors gets very abstract and a lot of people fall by the way. I think if your discussion is going to get off the ground and not result in mere bickering we have to point at something more concrete. As you have quickly experienced, there are some hard barked atheists and evolutionist out here and as I warned you... you must not swear in their church. If someone gets hung up on your intro don't worry, lets get on with the discussion. I have the good will to see your point. Your saying that the mystery of existence is enormous and when looking at it... being a Nobel laureate or top notch scientist one simply has to be taken back by the complexity of it all. Its downright amazing to be alive!!
    My thoughts lie more around the phenomena of consciousness and thinking. These two things, to me, represent aspects of the "Director" as you put it. Through these two things the intelligence of mankind and in all plants and animals reveal depending upon the degree of "consciousness" that manifests itself within the physical expression of the living.
    Well .... How do we puzzle the whole thing together..?? It's a pretty darn big question. Things are so incredibly complex. I mean... just look at this video. Who cannot be amazed by what is going on inside of us. Where in heavens name does this "intelligence" arise. And we do see intelligence of the highest degree from microcosm to macrocosm.
    To simply say.. well ... it must be God that is steering and controlling all this DNA double helix etc. within our bodies. Or is it another "force" that lies closer to the physical nature of our being. I mean, we know that when we die, all this internal activity will come to an end. So I pose the question, What is this activity within our being that keeps us alive? Can we talk about a "life force" that sustains the physical body?