steveb at creek-and-cowley.com
Sun Jun 16 00:48:27 PDT 2002
On Sun, 2002-06-16 at 01:51, Don Smith wrote:
> Mutations occur all the time.
Yes. This is beside the point, however.
> Very, very rarely a mutation occurs that is actually beneficial, ...
Oh, don't be patronizing. The idea of natural selection isn't at all
hard to grasp. That doesn't, however, mean it works. If natural
selection of mutants generates new life forms, then either there should
be a lot more intermediate forms than we have seen, or else successive
mutations need to occur in a short period of time. The absence of
intermediate forms can be explained partly by the difficulty of finding
fossils, but that isn't really convincing and it does nothing to address
even bigger problems like the beginnings of single-celled life.
There are other selection mechanisms. IIRC, Darwin came to favour
sexual selection. That's unconvincing, too, but in recent decades
there've been a lot of more complex and (heh heh) evolved arguments
about natural selection that I'm quite open to hearing about.
It might be that someone can show a satisfactory selection mechanism.
However, I'm not going to be impressed by simple word arguments. Darwin
could get away with that but in this computing age I expect to see some
probabilistic analysis. This is just the same amount of respect and
acceptance I give to some ideas in my own field, say cosmology. The
subject is interesting and for sure there is value in it, but that
doesn't obligate us to accept everything a cosmologist pronounces to be
> I don't think you understand. Evolution *is* the mechanism the explains
> how these changes occur.
On the contrary, I think I understand it pretty well. "Evolution" is a
catch-all term for a phenomenon involving lot of different ideas about
mutation and selection. Invoking the term might invoke mystical
religious-like awe in some people, but not me. I like to hear the
Evolution also tends to be confused with adaptation (as in the previous
quoted famous example of the black & white moths in the UK). No
reasonable person doubts that adaptation exists. This is not at all an
explanation of how deer can evolve from protozoa.
> There is no problem with the overall theory of evolution, i.e., natural
> selection of random mutations. I guess by problem, you mean it is still
> a theory. It will *always* be a theory because there is no way to ever
> prove it (without a time machine).
Of course there is a problem. If there were no problem biologists
wouldn't have spent so much time thinking up alternative selection
mechanisms. Simple natural selection has been out of favour for over a
hundred years. Update yourself, Don...
> 65 million years ago there were only a few species of small rodent-like
Now see, you've just done the one thing in all this that I REALLY object
to. You are stating a presumption as if it were truth. In this case
it's doubly objectionable because you're also contradicting yourself;
you just said you can't prove things about the long-ago past.
As you move forward through the fossil record more and more
> different species of mammals appear and disappear until you have the
> diversity of mammals the world over you see today. These are facts, not
They are neither facts nor theories. They are conclusions based on
observations, filtered through a large amount of bias.
> Now, in my mind, none of this precludes the existance of God.
Nor for me. However, my religious interest here is entirely an ethical
one, as I said. If evolution were a more complete explanation of how
life evolved I would have no scientific objection to it, and if more
> set up the laws of physics at the big bang knowing the what the results
> will be. What is a wonder is how exquisitely balanced those laws are,
> because with very small variations, the universe would have collapsed
> back again within a few thousand years or spread itself out too quickly
> to form stars.
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