Common Trends in Evolution

Does evolution repeat itself? Could evolution repeat itself? Where do people stand in relation to the thoughts of  Gould and Conway Morris?

Gould has a point, everything is in a state of becoming. As Heraclitus would say, all is change. Replay the tape and nothing would be the same. But would or could there be any similar trends? Would life in general proceed in such a radically different way that Gould makes out?

From “Life’s Grandeur”, Gould states:

“…no persuasive or predictable thrust toward progress permeates the history of life…

“Wind the tape of life to the origin of multicellular animals in the Cambrian explosion, let the tape play again from this identical starting point, and the replay will populate the earth (and generate a right tail of life) with a radically different set of creatures. The chance that this alternative set will contain anything remotely like a human being must be effectively nil, while the probability of any kind of creature endowed with self-consciousness must also be extremely small.”

Conway Morris disagrees with Gould’s conclusion. He champions an inevitable path and cites convergent evolution as evidence which suggests this.

In “The Crucible of Creation” he states,

“What we are interested in is not the origin, destiny, or fate of a particular lineage, but the likelihood of the emergence of a particular property, say consciousness. Here the reality of convergence suggests that the tape of life, to use Gould’s metaphor, can run as many times as we like and in principle intelligence will surely emerge.”

I’m interested in what people have to say about this and its relation to topics such as the emergence of bilateral symmetry and differentiation from head to tail, extreme specialization, encephalization, endothermy, caring for young, transitions from aquatic to terrestrial living and other related topics. These processes have occurred multiple times in different lineages over time.

267 thoughts on “Common Trends in Evolution

  1. colewd:
    In this case you have a workable model that could be improved and worked very well for local effects.

    What we had was the observation that things fell, that they accelerated as they went down, planetary orbits. Newton assumed a force-acting-at-a-distance and it kinda worked to describe the observations and predict other observations. The issue is that the basic assumption produce a model that worked for some cases, failed for other ones. Gravitation remained happening, whether the model was perfect or not. Einstein changed the assumption and exchanged it for one that lead to models better describing many more observations on top of the ones Newton’s already dealt with. They predict planetary orbits, objects falling, etc, and many more things that Newton’s didn’t.

    With common ancestry we have a similar situation, only with many more variables to consider. Common ancestry seems rather undeniable. It explains too many things. It fits the kinds of things we’re find continuously. Thus hard to see how it could be false. Everything fits. Like gravitation, it’s right there regardless of whether our models work well enough to explain all the data or not. But then it’s our models and assumptions about how it works that need revising, since common ancestry is right there in all its splendour. Like with gravitation, we don’t reject the phenomena, we revise the assumptions and models.

    colewd:
    The origin of new animals is beyond science at this point as there is no model that can approximate their genetic origin.

    This is false. Plenty of models describe and explain the origin of many animal, plant, and microbial, species. Some such origins have been witnessed and studied. I suspect that you need to revise your knowledge and assumptions. However, you prefer to reject the phenomena. Do you really fail to see the problem?

    colewd:
    Guessing based on limited data leads to faulty conclusions and misleading assumptions.

    It’s no guess. It’s inference. The limited data show patterns of divergence even in places where the divergence doesn’t seem to have any reason to be. For example, if we examine genomes we can see points where we expect jumps and rearrangements to happen very rapidly. Lo and behold, we examine other species, we see lots of movements right at those positions. How is it possible for different species to have the same genetically-dangerous points, close to very similar genes? The best guess is that the very similar genes are divergent versions of a common ancestral form, and that the jumping/accident-prone regions were inherited from the common ancestral form as well. It just fits.

    Do assumptions fail? They sure do. When it happens, we revise those assumptions. Sometimes the assumptions are so deeply unconscious that we don’t see them until confronted with perplexing data. For example, we, as individuals, fail to consider the role of sexual reproduction, a very important detail that doesn’t escape population geneticists. We are also in trouble once we learn that so many organisms can exchange genes laterally. For technical limitations, we, for eons, mostly focused on point mutations, making recombinations and rearrangements go far from our imaginations as if they didn’t happen. Yet, they happen a lot. So, we need to consider many kinds of phenomena to properly model evolution. It’s hard work, given the complexities, differences in reproduction, genetic exchange across species, particularities in the histories of different lineages, etc.

    colewd:
    I want you to take your models as far as you can but then recognize their limits when the evidence of those limits is supported by the observation.

    We recognize the limits of our models Bill. Only we don’t reject the phenomena when our models fail. We check our assumptions and start studying the issues. We gather more information to try and test the assumptions and come up with better ones. That’s how science works.

    colewd:
    Rejecting the possibility of a created universe may lead to very poor scientific assumptions.

    Sorry, but no. Rejecting the possibility of a created universe is the philosophically proper starting point. It certainly cannot be accepted out of some misinformed creationists pretending to know better how science works than scientists themselves. That would be very poor reasoning. Show me these gods, able to create universes, then we talk about such considerations. But considering gods out of ignorance about how nature works? Please!

    colewd:
    When you label God a magical being you are assuming His non existence which is circular reasoning.

    We’ve been through this already. It’s not an assumption, it’s not circular reasoning. It’s the philosophically proper starting point. Leaving aside the philosophical absurdities necessary to ignore in order to consider gods real. That before even visiting the absurdities proposed within each religion.

    colewd:
    A rational universe that allows for scientific models is evidence of His existence.

    I don’t see why. How would you know if the universe could be any different? What might be your assumptions here? That the universe had to be irrational and impossible to model if it wasn’t created? Why? On what basis? On what foundations? All you can say is that the universe can be somewhat modelled by people.

    Being our minds a result of the very way the universe works, evolved to deal with the way their reality works, I’m not very surprised that we can model the universe to some extent. Everything we are and do relies on how the universe works, not the other way around. As usual, you put the cart before the horse, and you fail to consider that you might be doing just that.

  2. Entropy,

    We’ve been through this already. It’s not an assumption, it’s not circular reasoning. It’s the philosophically proper starting point. Leaving aside the philosophical absurdities necessary to ignore in order to consider gods real. That before even visiting the absurdities proposed within each religion.

    It’s circular reasoning because you are ignoring evidence that could make it wrong.

    don’t see why. How would you know if the universe could be any different? What might be your assumptions here? That the universe had to be irrational and impossible to model if it wasn’t created? Why? On what basis? On what foundations? All you can say is that the universe can be somewhat modelled by people.

    The predictable universe is very unlikely the result of chance. What we are observing is evidence of very careful planning. You are ignoring this evidence which
    makes your philosophical starting point most likely wrong. Your are taking predictability for granted.

    Being our minds a result of the very way the universe works, EVOLVED to deal with the way their reality works,

    Minds evolving needs to be established or your reasoning is circular. Your initial circular reasoning of no Creator is leading to further circular reasoning of evolved minds.

    The problem of starting with a brute fact is that if you use that brute fact, ” the universe exists,” as a foundation for your theories you will often go down the path of shaky assertions like the mind evolved. Not based on evidence but based on an unexplained starting point that you are now using to explain the contents of the entity who’s origin remains unexplained. You are locked by Godel’s incompleteness theorm.

  3. colewd: A rational universe that allows for scientific models is evidence of His existence.

    That is not how the concept of evidence works.

    colewd: You are locked by Godel’s incompleteness theorm

    That is not how Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems work.

  4. colewd: The problem of starting with a brute fact is that …

    We should all welcome colewd as a new atheist. It is obvious that he can no longer accept God as a brute fact.

  5. Kantian Naturalist,

    That is not how the concept of evidence works.

    Based on what objective definition of evidence?

    That is not how Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems work.

    Why?

  6. Neil Rickert,

    We should all welcome colewd as a new atheist. It is obvious that he can no longer accept God as a brute fact.

    I am skeptical of atheism :-). If I was not convinced of God by the evidence I would go with you on the agnostic side where I used to reside.

    I am interested if KN’s “objective” definition of evidence will exclude the predictable universe and its make up as evidence for God.

    I don’t doubt he will correct me on Godels theorem.

  7. CharlieM: I’m sure I’ve heard Behe saying up front that he believes the designer is God. He also says that design can be investigated without considering who or what the designer is.

    Yes, that is what IDers say. Total nonsense, of course: You cannot investigate Design without taking the motives and abilities of the Designer into account.

    CharlieM: I would look at any particular irreducible complex system on its own merits. In the case of the lamprey blood clotting system I would like to know, if it evolved from a simpler system, how any extra step came to be gradually inserted into the system. To get fibrin from fibrinogen requires an activator of prothrombin to produce thrombin. No activator of prothrombin, no blood clot. But if that is all that the system consists of then fibrin would be produced constantly and the blood circulation would come to a sticky end. The system needs to be inhibited once the fibrin has done its job. Fibrin needs to be produced in the right amount, quickly enough to stem the leak but not in amounts that would be detrimental to the circulation. And don’t forget that the blood clotting system is normally inactive, but prepared for any forthcoming ruptures. It sits in waiting for events that have not happened yet.

    I have been made aware of creatures such as lampreys with a relatively simple system and creatures such as lancelets with no system at all, but I haven’t seen any evidence or demonstration of anything in between. The lamprey system may seen simple looking at the diagram but that is deceiving. It is still a complex, sophisticated system if we think about the details of all the processes involved. We should not take the diagram as reality.

    Oops. You appear to have forgotten to answer the question: Please explain to us how an irreducibly complex blood clotting cascade arose. Was it by *poof* perchance?

    You seem to miss the fact that Irreducible Complexity, like the entire line of ID argumentation, is a completely negative argument. That is, by arguing that certain biological features could not have possibly have evolved, IDers hope that by default Creation will be accepted. No, it isn’t
    The same goes for fuzzy Steiner woo, I am sorry to say.

    CharlieM: I think it is an additional matter as to whether or not an irreducible system could be achieved through standard evolutionary means. I think it depends on the system. Some no doubt could, but I have strong doubts that it is possible for all of them. Apart from just so stories, I haven’t seen much evidence that the blood clotting system could have come about through blind evolutionary processes.

    If an irreducible complex system could be achieved through standard evolutionary means, then why is being IC relevant to deciding whether the blood clotting system could have evolved through “blind evolutionary processes”?

    But knock yourself out: How did you decide that the human blood clotting system could not have evolved through “blind evolutionary processes”? Did you
    a) study real hard to acquire complete knowledge of all the possible routes by which this system could have evolved and painstakingly excluded all of them?
    OR
    b) did you go “Holy Moley, sure looks complex, can’t have evolved”

  8. colewd: If I was not convinced of God by the evidence I would go with you on the agnostic side where I used to reside.

    But there isn’t any actual evidence.

    I am interested if KN’s “objective” definition of evidence will exclude the predictable universe and its make up as evidence for God.

    But we do not have a predictable universe.

    Yes, some aspects of the universe are somewhat predictable. We mostly concentrate on what we can predict, and ignore that which we cannot predict. And that makes it look a lot more predictable than it really is.

  9. colewd:
    It’s circular reasoning because you are ignoring evidence that could make it wrong.

    It seems like you don’t understand the burden of proof. What we need is evidence that makes the magical beings right, not your convoluted, philosophically backwards stance that magical beings should be the default position.

    colewd:
    The predictable universe is very unlikely the result of chance.

    When did I say it was the result of chance? Is it really that hard to understand that “chance” is not the only non-magical-being-in-the-sky option? I think I’ve asked you this a million times already. Can you already acknowledge and understand the point?

    colewd:
    What we are observing is evidence of very careful planning.

    I suspect we have very different definitions for “very careful planning.” Either way, can plans be made in a reality that doesn’t allow for plans? Cart-before-the-horse Bill.

    colewd:
    You are ignoring this evidence which makes your philosophical starting point most likely wrong. Your are taking predictability for granted.

    I’m not ignoring anything. I don’t take predictability for granted. I take it as a necessary, foundational, feature of reality. Otherwise there would be no intelligence, plans, etc. We would not be here Bill, if there wasn’t a bit of predictability to the reality that surrounds us. Cart-before-the-horse Bill.

    colewd:
    Minds evolving needs to be established or your reasoning is circular.

    Nah. Minds evolving is what science has shown us. But, let’s say we didn’t know about evolution yet: minds still need a reality that allows them to work as minds. A reality that has some predictability. Your cart-before-the-horse problem doesn’t go away even if we ignore our knowledge of evolution.

    colewd:
    The problem of starting with a brute fact is that if you use that brute fact, ” the universe exists,” as a foundation for your theories you will often go down the path of shaky assertions like the mind evolved.

    As I said, that minds evolved is not an assertion, but what the evidence indicates.

    How could you do anything without acknowledging that the universe exists Bill? Do you think it doesn’t? How do you go about your daily life then? Do you walk in front of buses? Do you let yourself fall down precipices? How do you manage to write these comments without at least imagining that maybe you’re really writing a comment?

    No wonder you have trouble remembering that you’re putting the cart before the horse, time and again.

    Anyway, but putting a magical being in the sky at the very bottom, or very top, a question of perspective, aren’t you making it into a brute fact? Something that’s just there for no reason? Something that’s there just because it’s there?

  10. Entropy,

    It seems like you don’t understand the burden of proof. What we need is evidence that makes the magical beings right, not your convoluted, philosophically backwards stance that magical beings should be the default position.

    You are invoking a labeling fallacy. Order is evidence of intentional creation.

    How could you do anything without acknowledging that the universe exists Bill? Do you think it doesn’t? How do you go about your daily life then? Do you walk in front of buses? Do you let yourself fall down precipices? How do you manage to write these comments without at least imagining that maybe you’re really writing a comment?

    It’s fine to acknowledge it. The issue is how did it come into existence?

    Anyway, but putting a magical being in the sky at the very bottom, or very top, a question of perspective, aren’t you making it into a brute fact? Something that’s just there for no reason? Something that’s there just because it’s there?

    A Creator is the answer to the questions why are we here. How did a predictable universe with intelligent observers come into existence? One answer to the question leads to lots of other discovery.

  11. Neil Rickert,

    It’s a story. It’s a morality play. It isn’t real life.

    Some of the Bible is story and some is event documentation. The story of Job ends with God sharing the depth of his creation with Job.

    Are we in a created universe? Do we live in a random accident? The decision is personal based on experience and evidence. The story of Job for me details samples of evidence that the wonders we experience are caused by an Intelligent Creator.

    Could it all be a random accident devoid of intelligent cause?

    There is way too much evidence against this hypothesis IMO. As you ponder that this may be false the exploration commences a pretty interesting journey.

  12. colewd:
    You are invoking a labeling fallacy.

    No I’m not. I’m trying to explain to you that magical beings cannot be a default position.

    colewd:
    Order is evidence of intentional creation.

    Which order? Whose order? What if we find both order and disorder? What if we find combinations of order and disorder? Would we have to conclude that the universe is only partially created? How? Why?

    colewd:
    It’s fine to acknowledge it.The issue is how did it come into existence?

    Maybe it didn’t. Maybe it was always there. Maybe it did. Maybe it happened because it just happens. Maybe because some enormous kind of phenomena sprouts universes from something else. Maybe plenty of sensible things, rather than an absurd magical being in the sky.

    colewd:
    A Creator is the answer to the questions why are we here.

    Only if you’re fine with fantasies rather than actual answers.

    colewd:
    How did a predictable universe with intelligent observers come into existence?

    Somewhate predictable, and, again, intelligent observers could not exist without a somewhat predictable universe. What could an intelligence do without what defines intelligence: the ability to deal with somewhat predictable phenomena. Without somewhat predictable phenomena intelligence would not be possible. What would it deal with? How would it be possible for it to even exist? Do you understand that intelligence has to be composed of somewhat predictable phenomena or it wouldn’t work?

    colewd:
    One answer to the question leads to lots of other discovery.

    It sure does: we discover that we’re at home in the universe. On the other hand, your “answer” only leads to absurdity, if you allow yourself to actually think about it.

  13. Entropy,

    It sure does: we discover that we’re at home in the universe. On the other hand, your “answer” only leads to absurdity, if you allow yourself to actually think about it.

    The label “absurdity” is subjective. As is the label “magical” and other logical fallacies you are invoking. I think your worldview makes it very difficult to observe the world objectively and limits your discovery or alternatively pushes you to shaky conclusions. Such as the claim that the brain evolved.

  14. colewd: The label “absurdity” is subjective. As is the label “magical” and other logical fallacies you are invoking.

    For someone who rabbits on endlessly about the “labeling” fallacy, it is mighty ironic that you reckon that just labeling something a fallacy is sufficient to make it one. Separately, you really cannot wrap your brain around the anthropic principle at all.

    I think your worldview makes it very difficult to observe the world objectively and limits your discovery or alternatively pushes you to shaky conclusions.

    And this is precisely how we view you. The difference is, we have the data.

  15. colewd:
    The label “absurdity” is subjective. As is the label “magical” and other logical fallacies you are invoking.

    There’s nothing subjective about considering putting the cart before the horse absurd.

    colewd:
    I think your worldview makes it very difficult to observe the world objectively and limits your discovery or alternatively pushes you to shaky conclusions.

    How ironic. Have you tried looking at yourself in the mirror?

    ETA: In case you missed it:

    Entropy:
    Somewhat predictable, and, again, intelligent observers could not exist without a somewhat predictable universe. What could an intelligence do without what defines intelligence?: the ability to deal with somewhat predictable phenomena. Without somewhat predictable phenomena intelligence would not be possible. What would it deal with? How would it be possible for it to even exist? Do you understand that intelligence has to be composed of somewhat predictable phenomena or it wouldn’t work?

  16. colewd: Could it all be a random accident devoid of intelligent cause?

    There’s plenty of evidence of intelligent cause. But it is mostly human intelligence that is involved. The ways in which human intelligence works can be quite subtle, and that’s why people don’t see it.

  17. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: I should have said that they do have a circulatory system

    Alan Fox: Yes.

    Charlie: but…

    Alan Fox: Oh dear!

    CharlieM: …it does not contain red blood cells to transport oxygen around the body.

    Alan Fox: So smaller animals with slower metabolisms can manage without haemoglobin and erythrocytes. That’s not IC then.

    What is not IC?

    CharlieM: But I believe the circulatory system is of pretty low pressure…

    Alan Fox: Have you checked?

    The article Evolutionary origins of the blood vascular system and endothelium states:

    As higher pressures evolved in response to increased metabolic demands and gravitation, there was a need to depressurize the gas exchanger. This was accomplished by the separation of systemic and pulmonary circulations.

    Low metabolic rate, lack of gravitational effects, no heart, no red blood cells; all these features preclude the need for the circulatory system to be high pressure.

    Alan Fox: Why is that a bug and not a feature?

    Who suggested it is a bug? Amphioxus has everything which it needs to survive and continue to exist over evolutionary time.

    But it is interesting that it’s believed animals such as amphioxus already had many of the genes required in the development of a heart before hearts appeared and that hearts evolved independently several times. All of us had the genes required in the development of our hearts before we possessed hearts. The whole reflected in the parts.

    Alan Fox: The ancestral morphology doesn’t need haemoglobin, erythrocytes, clotting mechanisms but such adaptations can evolve.

    They can indeed evolve and have done in various animals. But was this evolution driven by a multitude of accidents at the molecular level? That is the question.

    CharlieM: …and amphioxus also has remarkable regenerative powers. Having a blood clotting system in these creatures would be like putting a 300 horse power Ferrari engine into a Model T Ford.

    Alan Fox: That is a poor analogy that doesn’t make sense to me. Evolution occurs in parallel.

    Having such an engine in a Model T Ford would be a disaster because even if it could be accommodated the drive train would be ill-equipped to cope with such power and even if it did manage to stay in one piece the car would be nigh on impossible to drive.

    Imagine if amphioxus had developed eyes equivalent to those of an octopus, what good would they do. All the complexity of its eyes would be of no more value than the rudimentary eye spots which it has already.

    Alan Fox: Does amphioxus have “remarkable regenerative powers” by the way?

    The following article suggests that it does. Vertebrate-like regeneration in the invertebrate chordate amphioxus

    Our work provides insight into the basis of regeneration in the chordate ancestor. Even as adults, amphioxus possess remarkable regenerative potential and share a number of anatomical and molecular features with vertebrate regeneration models.

    Research has been carried out on their regenerative powers.

  18. colewd: That is not how the concept of evidence works.

    Based on what objective definition of evidence?

    Because the rational intelligibility of the universe — to the extent that is rationally intelligible, as per Neil’s crucial qualifications — is not itself a variable that can be manipulated via experimental techniques. It is a practical presupposition of empirical inquiry, not something that can be investigated through empirical inquiry. Hence it is not something that can be taken as evidence for adjudicating between competing hypotheses.

    That is not how Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems work.

    Why?

    The Incompleteness Theorems specify the structural properties of a specific class of formal systems. They have nothing to do with metaphysics, epistemology, worldviews, or anything else that involves semantic content or meaning.

    To explicate that a bit further: the Incompleteness Theorems tell us that if a formal system has sufficient logical structure that it can be used to capture the axiomatization of arithmetic, then they must be statements about that system that are true but cannot be proven.

    Note by contrast the first-order symbolic logic is complete: every sentence that can be build using the laws of logic is provably true or provably false.

    So when Goedel shows that you can’t have completeness if you want to capture the axioms of arithmetic, he was showing that arithmetic cannot be reduced to logic.

    The Goedel results are quite fascinating — and as put to work by Alan Turing and Alonzo Church, form the basis of modern computing theory. But they have nothing do with metaphysics or epistemology, because in metaphysics and epistemology, we are dealing with words that have meanings (often more than one!) and making claims about what’s true or false about the world. The Goedel results are about formal systems, which we define as the rule-governed manipulation of meaningless symbols.

    Put otherwise, the Godel results have nothing do with metaphysics or epistemology for the exact same reason that the mind is not a computer program: because syntax is not sufficient for semantics.

  19. Kantian Naturalist,

    Because the rational intelligibility of the universe — to the extent that is rationally intelligible, as per Neil’s crucial qualifications — is not itself a variable that can be manipulated via experimental techniques.

    If you restrict evidence to hypothesis testing this may be true in the strictest sense. I say strictest as parameters such as fine tuning have been measured.

    Evidence is a broader term than hypothesis testing. It is a general tool of human decision making IMO.

    Thanks for the discussion on Godel 🙂

  20. Entropy,

    ETA: In case you missed it:

    I saw it yet along with the “cart before the horse” argument I don’t see your point other than asking me to accept a strictly materialistic or physicalist view.

    A real problem exists here in science as if the Evolutionary paradigm is wrong thousands of scientific papers are based on a faulty working hypothesis.

    The evolutionary paradigm is based on methodological naturalism and when inferences are made that are not fully tested layers of misunderstanding can develop.

    If full hypothesis testing is the standard then methodological naturalism works fine IMO.

  21. colewd:
    I saw it yet along with the “cart before the horse” argument I don’t see your point other than asking me to accepta strictly materialistic or physicalist view.

    Asking you to accept? On what basis would you reject a physicalist view, other than illusion?

    In a non-physicalist universe, what would an intelligence deal with? What would be the somewhat predictable phenomena it would gather, study, and decide? What would be the intelligence’s problems to solve? Would this intelligence work in somewhat predictable ways? If not, then how could it possibly be called intelligence? How could it possibly decide? Is it, ahem, mere randomness? Would non-physicalist intelligence mean something else entirely than what it means when we talk about ours? If so, then how can you infer such non-physicalist intelligence based on ours if they’re not even in the same gross category?

    Are you starting to understand your cart-before-the-horse problem yet?

  22. colewd:
    I say strictest as parameters such as fine tuning have been measured.

    Fine tuning has been measured? Did someone get out of our universe and measured the parameters of other universes already? Did they catch someone tuning those parameters in ours too? Wow, science goes faster than I thought. Why didn’t we heard that some god was caught in the act? Are they hiding these discoveries from the public to avoid telling every religion that they had the wrong gods?

  23. CharlieM: Imagine if amphioxus had developed eyes equivalent to those of an octopus, what good would they do. All the complexity of its eyes would be of no more value than the rudimentary eye spots which it has already.

    Not sure what I’ve said that induced you to make these remarks. As usual, I find it difficult to see the point you are, presumably, trying to make. Adaptations have costs and benefits in particular niches and selection sifts those that work. This is not news.

  24. colewd: I saw it yet along with the “cart before the horse” argument I don’t see your point other than asking me to accept a strictly materialistic or physicalist view.

    A real problem exists here in science as if the Evolutionary paradigm is wrong thousands of scientific papers are based on a faulty working hypothesis.

    The evolutionary paradigm is based on methodological naturalism and when inferences are made that are not fully tested layers of misunderstanding can develop.

    If full hypothesis testing is the standard then methodological naturalism works fine IMO.

    Nobody requires you or anybody else to adopt “a strictly materialistic or physicalist view”. You and any scientist world wide are completely free to develop a research program based on “methodological supernaturalism”. Acquire those grants. Go perform those supernatural experiments. Write those papers that scientifically prove God exists and be sure to submit them to top-notch journals like Nature and Science. You are not restricted; You are free!

    Given the enormous potential impact, one wonders why nobody has ever done so before. Peculiar, don’t you think?

  25. Kantian Naturalist: Yep, that’s just Kant, from “Critique of Teleological Judgment” in Critique of Judgment.

    Yes and Goethe agreed with Kant on this:

    In Goethe as the Founder of a New Science of Aesthetics Steiner said:

    …it is characteristic that all German philosophers, for the last hundred years, have struggled to find the most suitable scientific form for the peculiar way in which, in the work of art, spirit and object, idea and reality, melt into each other. The task of Æsthetics is none other than to comprehend the nature of this interpenetration, and to study it in detail, in the single forms in which it asserts itself, in the various branches of Art. The merit of having given a stimulus to this problem in the way indicated, and thereby to have set the ball rolling in connection with the chief, central questions of Æsthetics, must be ascribed to Kant’s Critique of Judgment which appeared in 1790, and at once created a favourable impression on Goethe. In spite, however, of particularly serious work devoted to this subject, we are bound to admit to-day that an all-round satisfactory solution to these æsthetical problems is not forthcoming.

    Are we any nearer solving these problems today than they were in Steiner’s time?

    Kantian Naturalist: The big questions in philosophy of biology since Kant have been:

    1. realism vs heuristic: is teleology just a necessity about how we need to think about life, or is teleology a genuinely real property of life?

    2. teleology vs mechanism: can we understand teleology and mechanism as different kinds of objectively knowable causal structures, or is teleology somehow not fully knowable from a scientific, third-person standpoint?

    3. form and math: can formal causes be described mathematically? Or does a commitment to mathematical descriptions eliminate formal causes and leave us only with efficient causes?

    In The Philosophy of Freedom Steiner denies that nature can be said to have a purpose. It is a mistaken concept which still does “a good deal of mischief”. Machines are built according to purposes external to themselves. The purpose lies within the mind of the inventor, but, as Steiner states, “an animal certainly is not determined by an idea floating in mid-air, but it is determined by an idea inborn in it and constituting the law of its nature. It is just because the idea is not external to the natural object, but is operative in it as its very essence, that we cannot speak here of adaptation to purpose.”
    Steienr ends chapter 7 of “The Philosophy of Freedom with:

    Whoever calls a thing purposive because its form is in accordance with plan or law may, if he so please, call natural objects also purposive, provided only that he does not confuse this kind of purposiveness with that which belongs to subjective human action. In order to have a purpose it is absolutely necessary that the efficient cause should be a concept, more precisely a concept of the effect. But in Nature we can nowhere point to concepts operating as causes. A concept is never anything but the ideal nexus of cause and effect. Causes occur in Nature only in the form of percepts.
    Dualism may talk of cosmic and natural purposes. Wherever for our perception there is a nexus of cause and effect according to law, there the Dualist is free to assume that we have but the image of a nexus in which the Absolute has realized its purposes. For Monism, on the other hand, the rejection of an Absolute Reality implies also the rejection of the assumption of purposes in World and Nature.

    Reality is unity. Not an amorphous, undifferentiated unity, but a unified whole composed of countless parts, all interconnected and evolving together.

  26. Sorry, I wrote, “Steienr ends chapter 7 of “The Philosophy of Freedom with:…”

    That should read, “chapter 12”.

  27. Corneel:
    CharlieM: I’m sure I’ve heard Behe saying up front that he believes the designer is God. He also says that design can be investigated without considering who or what the designer is.

    Corneel: Yes, that is what IDers say. Total nonsense, of course: You cannot investigate Design without taking the motives and abilities of the Designer into account.

    I’ve noticed many conversations about the irreducible complexity of mousetraps here and elsewhere. Where are all the conversations about anything to do with the designer/s of these traps? I can look at some bacteria and see that they have the ability to grow flagella and this ability is shared by all bacteria of this kind and I don’t need to take that thought any further.

  28. Corneel: CharlieM: I would look at any particular irreducible complex system on its own merits. In the case of the lamprey blood clotting system I would like to know, if it evolved from a simpler system, how any extra step came to be gradually inserted into the system. To get fibrin from fibrinogen requires an activator of prothrombin to produce thrombin. No activator of prothrombin, no blood clot. But if that is all that the system consists of then fibrin would be produced constantly and the blood circulation would come to a sticky end. The system needs to be inhibited once the fibrin has done its job. Fibrin needs to be produced in the right amount, quickly enough to stem the leak but not in amounts that would be detrimental to the circulation. And don’t forget that the blood clotting system is normally inactive, but prepared for any forthcoming ruptures. It sits in waiting for events that have not happened yet.

    I have been made aware of creatures such as lampreys with a relatively simple system and creatures such as lancelets with no system at all, but I haven’t seen any evidence or demonstration of anything in between. The lamprey system may seen simple looking at the diagram but that is deceiving. It is still a complex, sophisticated system if we think about the details of all the processes involved. We should not take the diagram as reality.

    Corneel: Oops. You appear to have forgotten to answer the question: Please explain to us how an irreducibly complex blood clotting cascade arose. Was it by *poof* perchance?

    Poofing into existence would be something that came about by blind chance. The potential to form a blood clotting system would have been present in the direct ancestors of creatures such as lampreys.

    Cornell: You seem to miss the fact that Irreducible Complexity, like the entire line of ID argumentation, is a completely negative argument. That is, by arguing that certain biological features could not have possibly have evolved, IDers hope that by default Creation will be accepted. No, it isn’t
    The same goes for fuzzy Steiner woo, I am sorry to say

    These features no doubt did evolve. But they would have evolved as in an unfolding of potential in a similar way to which our mature organs were potentially present in the zygote.

    When we hear that
    “the genes associated with the heart today probably existed in animals that didn’t have hearts”
    , we can understand that if that is the case the potential is present for future realization. But it takes a lot of coordinated activity to produce a heart.

  29. Entropy,

    Asking you to accept? On what basis would you reject a physicalist view, other than illusion?

    On the basis it does not fit the evidence. The only way it makes sense is as an a priori starting point and then you end up getting misled by force fitting data into a brute fact.

    I used to have a physicalist view but it no longer makes any sense given what we know about the universe.

  30. Corneel:
    CharlieM: I think it is an additional matter as to whether or not an irreducible system could be achieved through standard evolutionary means. I think it depends on the system. Some no doubt could, but I have strong doubts that it is possible for all of them. Apart from just so stories, I haven’t seen much evidence that the blood clotting system could have come about through blind evolutionary processes.

    Corneel: If an irreducible complex system could be achieved through standard evolutionary means, then why is being IC relevant to deciding whether the blood clotting system could have evolved through “blind evolutionary processes”?

    Behe’s main argument against the more complex IC systems evolving by standard evolutionary means is covered in his book, The Edge of Evolution”

    Corneel: But knock yourself out: How did you decide that the human blood clotting system could not have evolved through “blind evolutionary processes”? Did you
    a) study real hard to acquire complete knowledge of all the possible routes by which this system could have evolved and painstakingly excluded all of them?
    OR
    b) did you go “Holy Moley, sure looks complex, can’t have evolved”

    I looked, and I’m still looking, at some of the details of the complexes involved. Prothrombin is cleaved enzymatically at two sites in order to decome active and produce fibrin. Both prothrombin and fibrinogen need to be present in blood plasma and maintained at suitable levels. In humans fibrinogen is produced from three genes and so its production is in itself a complex process. i haven’t yet looked into its production in amphioxus.

    Doolittle wrote an article, Step-by-Step Evolution of Vertebrate Blood Coagulation which is a story of a whole host of associated genes and convergent evolution, but even this is after the initial arrival of blood clotting systems in the evolution of animals. He wrote:

    The availability of whole-genome sequences for a variety of vertebrates is making it possible to reconstruct the step-by-step evolution of complex phenomena such as blood coagulation, an event that in mammals involves the interplay of more than two dozen genetically encoded factors. Gene inventories for different organisms are revealing when during vertebrate evolution certain factors first made their appearance in or, on occasion, disappeared from some lineages. The whole-genome sequence databases of two protochordates and seven nonmammalian vertebrates were examined in search of approximately 20 genes known to be associated with blood clotting in mammals.

    Fibrin formation is a coordinated process and it needs to be well controlled.

    Fibrin formation is a process of initiation and amplification. The specific properties of platelets and the coagulation system cooperate to ensure that fibrin formation occurs only at the localized site where it is required to initiate wound repair. This is achieved by a number of physicochemical means.

    Any blood clotting system, even the most simple, provides a multitude of amazing processes that operate in a well orchestrated way.

  31. Corneel,

    Acquire those grants. Go perform those supernatural experiments. Write those papers that scientifically prove God exists and be sure to submit them to top-notch journals like Nature and Science. You are not restricted; You are free!

    Current scientists are daily collecting evidence that supports the Created universe hypothesis. When you get “stuck in cart before the horse” paradigm the evidence becomes invisible. Been there done that 🙂

  32. colewd:
    Corneel,

    Current scientists are daily collecting evidence that supports the Created universe hypothesis.

    Nonsense. Why there is a universe is untestable.

    When you get “stuck in cart before the horse” paradigm the evidence becomes invisible. Been there done that 🙂

    Still at it, too.

  33. The article Molecular Evidence for Convergence and Parallelism in Evolution of Complex Brains of Cephalopod Molluscs compares cephalopods and vertebrates and begins:

    Coleoid cephalopods show remarkable evolutionary convergence with vertebrates in their neural organization, including (1) eyes and visual system with optic lobes, (2) specialized parts of the brain controlling learning and memory, such as vertical lobes, and (3) unique vasculature supporting such complexity of the central nervous system…

    Cephalopods’ blood vessels are composed of three layers, smooth muscle cells, basal membrane, and endothelial cells (ECs) as in vertebrates.

    And this review asks, “why did cephalopods evolve intelligence?”

    Intelligence in large-brained vertebrates might have evolved through independent, yet similar processes based on comparable socioecological pressures and slow life histories. This convergent evolutionary route, however, cannot explain why cephalopods developed large brains and flexible behavioural repertoires: cephalopods have fast life histories and live in simple social environments. Here, we suggest that the loss of the external shell in cephalopods (i) caused a dramatic increase in predatory pressure, which in turn prevented the emergence of slow life histories, and (ii) allowed the exploitation of novel challenging niches, thus favouring the emergence of intelligence. By highlighting convergent and divergent aspects between cephalopods and large-brained vertebrates we illustrate how the evolution of intelligence might not be constrained to a single evolutionary route.

    I have argued elsewhere that the form of higher vertebrates can be seen to have a triple aspect. There is a polarity between the metabolic/limb system which is more inclined towards growth, regeneration and movement and the head/nervous system with its emphasis on sense experience and mental capacities. Two extremes of physio-mechanical forces and mental-spiritual forces. We expend energy both by moving and by thinking. Between these poles the rhythmic system of the heart and lungs holds the balance. Traditionally, in societies which gave rise to Western culture, these three aspects have been represented by three vertebrate types; the bull, the eagle, and the lion respectively. In the human form these three aspects are relatively well proportioned. And so four creatures are often depicted. The four creatures associated with the Gospels is an indication of this. Also some sphinxes are shown with the face of a human, the body of a lion, the tail of a bull, and the wings of an eagle.

    Invertebrates diversity can also be looked at in a similar manner. Creatures such as earthworms with their intestine-like form are closer to the metabolic pole, and adult insects with their hard, outer covering and advance nervous systems closer to the head pole.

    Octopuses share a similar position within invertebrates as humans do within vertebrates. They have the most advanced central nervous system of any invertebrate coupled with extremely dexterous arms, each with their own “mini-brain”.

    The image below was taken from here, “The amazing brains and morphing skin of octopuses and other cephalopods”, by Roger Hanlon. A video I think is worth watching in full.

  34. colewd:
    On the basis it does not fit the evidence.

    You have to do much better than this. Physicalism in my case, is not the presumption that the physical is the only thing there is, but that the physical is the immediate. What we have in front of us. Anything else has to be supported by evidence. the problem is that evidence seems to consist of the physical as well. So, physicalism is a starting point and a foundation until proven otherwise. Mere wishful thinking, gods-of-the-gaps, no matter how rhetorically adorned, are not evidence.

    colewd:
    The only way it makes sense is as an a priori starting point and then you end up getting misled by force fitting data into a brute fact.

    I never force fit anything. When confronted with failing models I assume that we’re missing something. I don’t “force-fit” them. I just don’t jump to “it must be some magical being in the sky” though, since magical beings in the sky remain to be proven to exist, and are philosophically backwards / nonsensical.

    Newton’s law of gravitation has an, apparently, failed assumption, yet it worked for many cases. Einstein’s seems to be right, we even detect gravitational waves. If Einstein’s fails at something that it’s supposed to describe and predict, I Won’t jump to “angels pull and push things around,” since we don’t know that there’s any angels, let alone capable of moving planets and things around in somewhat predictable trajectories.

    colewd:
    I used to have a physicalist view but it no longer makes any sense given what we know about the universe.

    It doesn’t make sense to you because you prefer to remain ignorant of the most basic epistemic and philosophical foundations. The proper answer for the unknown is “I don’t know”, not “there must be a supernatural magical being in the sky.” The proper answer to failed models is “let’s gather more data around this problematic issue and figure it out,” not “god-did-it.” Normally gathering more data leads to interesting discoveries and better theories and models. Why should we jump to conclusion other than because you want your magical being in the sky to be real?

  35. colewd to Corneel,
    Current scientists are daily collecting evidence that supports the Created universe hypothesis.

    That’s not possible to do. Are they collecting magical beings in the sky in some hidden facility? How?

    colewd to Corneel,
    When you get “stuck in cart before the horse” paradigm the evidence becomes invisible.

    I doubt that Corneel is stuck in a cart-before-the-horse paradigm. For one, it’s only me who mentions the problem, for another, the problem is all yours.

    colewd to Corneel,
    Been there done that 🙂

    If this were true, you would not avoid the damning questions:

    Entropy:
    In a non-physicalist universe, what would an intelligence deal with? What would be the somewhat predictable phenomena it would gather, study, and decide? What would be the intelligence’s problems to solve? Would this intelligence work in somewhat predictable ways? If not, then how could it possibly be called intelligence? How could it possibly decide? Is it, ahem, mere randomness? Would non-physicalist intelligence mean something else entirely than what it means when we talk about ours? If so, then how can you infer such non-physicalist intelligence based on ours if they’re not even in the same gross category?

    It’s you who’s stuck in a cart-before-the-horse problem and it’s you who refuses to think about it.

  36. colewd: Current scientists are daily collecting evidence that supports the Created universe hypothesis.

    Citation?

  37. Entropy: It’s you who’s stuck in a cart-before-the-horse problem and it’s you who refuses to think about it.

    This is why, colewd, you never say anything very interesting. You are stuck in a loop of not-thinking and just regurgitating.

    colewd: When you get “stuck in cart before the horse” paradigm the evidence becomes invisible. Been there done that

    Why don’t you tell us what your great revelation was then, that got you out of that paradigm and let you see the previously invisible?

    Praise de lard, was it?

  38. colewd:
    Current scientists are daily collecting evidence that supports the Created universe hypothesis.

    The usual phrasing is “many people say” there is evidence. Alas, the Trump/Fox News approach to fabricating support has grown thin, and only works anymore on True Believers.

  39. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: Imagine if amphioxus had developed eyes equivalent to those of an octopus, what good would they do. All the complexity of its eyes would be of no more value than the rudimentary eye spots which it has already.

    Alan Fox: Not sure what I’ve said that induced you to make these remarks. As usual, I find it difficult to see the point you are, presumably, trying to make. Adaptations have costs and benefits in particular niches and selection sifts those that work. This is not news.

    Amphioxus has a circulatory system but lacks a clotting system. You observe quite correctly that they manage just fine without one. Any evolutionary path from proto-chordates to jaw-less primitive vertebrates must have involved the acquisition of a blood clotting system. Did the evolution of the circulatory flow required for respiration, the nervous control of the system, the presence of suitable substances within the fluid, and the clotting system come about one after the other or in parallel? I suggest they all emerged together or at least their individual evolution occurred in preparation for the whole, complex, functional, circulatory system. What benefit would there be in just one part of this complicated, well orchestrated system appearing without the complimentary parts?

    That is the point I am trying to make.

    Does anybody know of any actual simpler intermediate blood clotting systems between proto-chordates and jaw-less primitive vertebrates?

  40. Entropy to colewd: Physicalism in my case, is not the presumption that the physical is the only thing there is, but that the physical is the immediate. What we have in front of us. Anything else has to be supported by evidence. the problem is that evidence seems to consist of the physical as well. So, physicalism is a starting point and a foundation until proven otherwise. Mere wishful thinking, gods-of-the-gaps, no matter how rhetorically adorned, are not evidence.

    Your mind which is doing the interpretation is surely the starting point. What you take to be the physical has already been interpreted as such by your act of thinking.

  41. While watching one of the videos from here, provided by Daniel Hafner, he brought my attention to this quote which I found quite amusing:

    “The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn’t need its brain anymore, so it eats it! It’s rather like getting tenure.” .Daniel Dennett

  42. Entropy: Physicalism in my case, is not the presumption that the physical is the only thing there is, but that the physical is the immediate. What we have in front of us. Anything else has to be supported by evidence. the problem is that evidence seems to consist of the physical as well. So, physicalism is a starting point and a foundation until proven otherwise. Mere wishful thinking, gods-of-the-gaps, no matter how rhetorically adorned, are not evidence.

    I think that this position, however good enough for a working stiff (or scientist), is a bit simplistic when it comes to arguing with proponents of rival world-views.

    For one thing, there needs to be some argument for the claim that what we perceive, when all goes well (normal conditions*, normal senses**) are physical things and not “sense-data.”

    For another, the physical and biological sciences end up giving us a picture or image of the world that really does call into question some of the stability, permanence, and mind-independence that our senses seem to give us — e.g. we would perceive different colors if we had different kinds of cones in our retinas, the world would be perceived quite different if we could see ultraviolet light, or if we had the olfactory receptors of a bloodhound.

    I think that because what we take to be “the immediate” is in fact highly causally mediated, involving fantastically complex causal loops between brains, bodies, and environment, we need to qualify the kind of immediacy with which experience and inquiry begin.

    * the ‘normal’ here would need to be explicated very carefully.
    ** the ‘normal’ here would need to be explicated even more carefully.

    colewd: Current scientists are daily collecting evidence that supports the Created universe hypothesis.

    We all know it’s extremely important for you that you believe that this is so, but it is not. This is simply false. What you believe is happening, is not actually happening.

  43. CharlieM:

    Are we any nearer solving these problems today than they were in Steiner’s time?

    Well, I think Dewey in Art as Experience (1934) definitely marks an advance beyond Kant in terms of understanding of the problem of aesthetics.

    In The Philosophy of Freedom Steiner denies that nature can be said to have a purpose. It is a mistaken concept which still does “a good deal of mischief”. Machines are built according to purposes external to themselves. The purpose lies within the mind of the inventor, but, as Steiner states, “an animal certainly is not determined by an idea floating in mid-air, but it is determined by an idea inborn in it and constituting the law of its nature. It is just because the idea is not external to the natural object, but is operative in it as its very essence, that we cannot speak here of adaptation to purpose.”

    Yep, this is why Kant introduces the phrase “purposiveness without purpose” when talking about organisms.

    The rather difficult question, which is also the question of the origin of life, is how to understand the transition from a non-teleological kind of organization, even in rather complex molecular systems, to a teleological kind of organization, as we see in living things.

    We could call this, in Aristotelian terms, the question of the origin of the nutritive soul.

    Reality is unity. Not an amorphous, undifferentiated unity, but a unified whole composed of countless parts, all interconnected and evolving together.

    Yep, as long stressed by Spinoza, Hegel, and others.

  44. Entropy,

    So, physicalism is a starting point and a foundation until proven otherwise. Mere wishful thinking, gods-of-the-gaps, no matter how rhetorically adorned, are not evidence.

    Let’s focus here. Is physicalism the cart or the horse. I am assuming that it is the horse in your analogy. Is this correct? If I were to claim it is the cart how would you argue against that?

    What do you mean by “proven otherwise”. What is the standard of proof you are asking for?

  45. Kantian Naturalist,

    So, physicalism is a starting point and a foundation until proven otherwise. Mere wishful thinking, gods-of-the-gaps, no matter how rhetorically adorned, are not evidence.

    What is your argument beyond this assertion?

  46. colewd,

    The part you attributed to me was actually my quoting Entropy; it’s not my own view.

    In fact I see that you attributed the same quote to Entropy (correctly) and to me (incorrectly). That’s pretty funny!

  47. Kantian Naturalist: I think that this position, however good enough for a working stiff (or scientist), is a bit simplistic when it comes to arguing with proponents of rival world-views.

    For one thing, there needs to be some argument for the claim that what we perceive, when all goes well (normal conditions*, normal senses**) are physical things and not “sense-data.”

    I think there are two primary tools we can use here. One is intersubjective agreement – do all observers seem to be sensing the same thing. The other is consistency — if we construct models based on what we think we’re observing, and those models pass a fairly wide variety of tests or make consistenly correct predictions or do not produce paradoxes under experiment or “strenuous observation”, these things are strong indications that our perceptions are largely correct.

    I also note that we make extensive use of instrumentation capable of translating what we presume is reality, into things we are able to sense. We can’t see much of the electromagnetic spectrum, for example, but our instruments can. We can intersubjectively agree that radios work and that hard radiation is harmful to us. Perhaps we can consider these as immediate observation once removed?

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