The Blind Watch Dropper

Here is one of the more essays I wrote based on discussions I’ve had hereon and on other sites like Pandas Thumb. I think this is one of the more appropriate essays for discussions here and it also happens to be one I feel is fully finished at this point. Well…I’m happy with it, but clearly I may edit it a bit given constructive criticism… 🙂

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I haven’t seen much press on this lately, but back in the late 1980s, Creationists – a slice of Christians who hold that the creation of the universe, Earth, and all living things on Earth were created by God exactly as described in the Christian Bible and that the Earth is roughly 10,000 years old…tops – tried an end around to the 1987 Supreme Court decision (Edwards v. Aguillard) barring the teaching of Creation Science in public schools. The attempted end-around was called Intelligent Design (ID).

ID, boiled down, is essentially a dressed up version of William Paley’s The Watch and The Watchmaker argument for the existence of God, or rather, a slightly gussied up Teleological Argument for the Existence of God. Paley’s argument goes like this: if you stumble upon a rock in the woods, you could reasonably surmise that it had been there, in that state, forever (keep in mind that Paley wrote his analogy in 1802 and was not familiar with what we now know about geology and in particular plate tectonics and erosion and similar forces. So, he can be forgiven for thinking that some items of the universe (like planets and stars) and the Earth (like soil, rocks, mountains, rivers, land masses, and so forth) exist unchanged forever) as a simple object of nature. By contrast, if you stumble upon a watch, you would not think that this item had been there forever, but rather you’d likely think that this item reflected the intent of a creator and, in particular given its complex parts working in intricate harmony, functions specifically for a purpose the creator designed it for. Given this, by analogy one can reasonably look at the universe and, seeing its complex interactions working in intricate harmony, infer it too must be designed and conclude, therefore, there is an ultimate Designer.

All Teleological Arguments rely on the same basic argument: certain features and functions of the world exhibit complexity that appears far too harmonious and intricate to have occurred by accident and thus must have been intelligently designed. Ergo…God.

It’s helpful to understand a bit about the history and use of the concept to better understand the application of teleology in theology, but it’s not absolutely necessary. That said, here are a definition and a brief summary:

Teleology comes from the Greek telos, meaning end (as in goal or purpose), and logos, meaning reason. So, teleology is about understanding the purpose of things. In its most basic form, teleology is the study of the purpose that phenomena serve rather than the cause by which they arise in order to provide an explanation for the phenomena. In other words, teleologists hold that the purpose for the sky being blue is more useful in understanding aspects of the world than studying and understanding optics and the Rayleigh Diffusion Effect. I admit, I’ve had no luck digging up a teleological explanation for the sky being blue, but apparently there used to be some popular ones back before modern science’s explanations. The point is, teleology attempts to address ‘why’ things occur, as opposed to scientific approaches that attempt to answer ‘how’ things occur. It’s also worth understanding that teleology, particularly as popularized by Aristotle and Plato in their day, was a reflection by analogy of the fact that nearly all human endeavors are goal-oriented and purpose driven. Thus by analogy, Aristotle saw the universe as rational and purposeful – analogous to human rational and purposeful behavior – and thus felt that all phenomena can only fully be understood when one considers and appreciates the purpose of the various phenomena.

There are a number of issues I have with teleological arguments and perspectives, but I’m going to focus on four main issues here.

First and foremost, technically there is no actual argument in the teleological approach to the existence of God as it’s simply a tautology and thus question begging. If your philosophy’s premise assumes that all things have purpose and goals, using that philosophy to argue for a goal-oriented and purpose-creating designer is simply restating your premise’s assumptions. It’s just arguing in a circle. Intelligent Design tries to dress the argument up a bit by focusing on complexity vs purpose and goals, but the issue remains the same. In ID, the argument is changed slightly to certain biological and informational features of living things are too complex to be the result of natural selection (or natural processes) and therefore must be the result of intentional and rational (intelligent) design requiring an intelligent designer. This, of course, suffers from the same tautological issue noted above: the first premise of ID is that living things are too complex to be the product of natural processes, but if the premise is that living things can’t come about from natural processes, what’s left? By premising that living things can’t be the product of natural processes, the premise implies something other than natural processes – i.e. design processes. To then conclude a designer is simply restating the premise. Yet again, a tautology.

Next, there’s the fallacy of the General Rule. The fallacy of the General Rule is a logical fallacy wherein someone assumes that something in general is true in all possible cases. A standard example is the claim that “all chairs have four legs”. But clearly rocking chairs have either no legs or two legs, depending on the design, and there are plenty of modern chair designs with three legs, and not a few bar stools that are essentially held up on a single pole. In the case of ID, the assumption is that complexity implies design and since biological objects are complex they must be designed. The thing is though, not all designed things – well, human designed things – are complex. Consider toothpicks, paper clips, floss, and Popsicle sticks as but a few examples. These objects are never used in teleological arguments for obvious reasons. And while it’s certainly possible that a toothpick could come about through natural processes, we know a human-designed toothpick when we see it and not because of the harmonious workings of its complex parts. No, it’s because of two things: man-made toothpicks have tell-tale evidence of being manufactured and they exist in greater collected numbers than nature could reasonably produce.

Another issue with ID that is related to the fallacy of the General Rule noted above is that it relies upon a false dichotomy. A false dichotomy is a logical fallacy wherein someone argues that some condition has only two alternatives when in fact there are more. An example would be someone who insists that the only alternative to driving a car is walking when clearly bicycles, skateboards, pogo sticks, and air travel all exist. In the case of ID, even if one were to agree that most, if not all, living organisms are too complex to have come about through evolutionary processes, it’s questionable at best whether a designer (and specifically God) is the only alternative. There are abundant natural processes that lead to complex organized structures (think snowflakes, tree rings, and the Giant’s Causeway). And even if we grant a necessitated designer, since there’s no way to assess or know anything about the supposed designer inferred by ID, the designer could very well be invisible pink unicorns or aliens. The bottom line is that it’s a rather large (and unrealistic) stretch to assume the only way to get biological complexity is either evolution or God.

Lastly, as noted above, we don’t infer design from complexity so much as we infer design from indications of manufacturing. This, for me, the primary failure of all forms of teleological arguments for the existence of God and ID in particular.  Designs are a very specific form of plan and planning. We make designs (usually written and drawn) to help us visualize how various components and processes will interact and work in a given environment in order to (hopefully) highlight problems and issues before we actually manufacture the object of design. So the truth is that looking at an object tells one very little about the actual activity that went into designing that object. And while looking at an object can indicate something about whether the object was designed, it’s really the indications that the object was manufactured through some tool use process that provides that inference. Manufacturing leaves evidence; design does not.

I’ve never found the ID arguments for the design of biological organisms all that compelling for a number of reasons. The dubious math, the fallacious arguments, the disingenuous bait and switch to Christian apologetics, and so forth. But even beyond that, there was something about the objects in nature – organisms themselves – that just don’t seem designed to me. There is something different about them compared to man-made objects, but I was not able to put my finger on what I felt the difference was. And then it hit me one night: replaceable parts.

All man-made objects – every single one – are either designed specifically to be replaced or have components that are designed specifically to be replaced. Why? Because tool users and manufacturers learn really quick that tools and/or certain parts of tools wear out. So as designers, we anticipate the need for maintenance.

No such anticipation or planning for maintenance can be found in nature. None. If something breaks in an organism, either that organism learns to live without it or it dies. Or, in the case of humans, that part gets replaced by human designed or human configured replacements (as in my case). But even in the later case, humans have to create a work-around, because biological parts actual resist being replaced. You can’t just replace human parts with other human parts willy-nilly. In most cases, the new parts just won’t work, or worse, they’ll be rejected by the body’s immune system. But of particular note, there’s no surplus of replacement parts anywhere; no storage unit somewhere with a bunch of eyes or hearts or toes or hair or kidneys or…anything. Not even bark or leaves or antennae or scales. Nothing.

Of course, this makes perfect sense given evolution and other similar natural processes. It makes no sense if there were an actual designer, particularly an omni-god Designer, behind it all.

601 thoughts on “The Blind Watch Dropper

  1. What is unique regarding earthly life as it is now and life throughout the history of the earth is that now life has reached the stage where it includes creatures that can consciously determine the course of future evolution. Was this just one big accident of blind evolution sending out its tentacles in all directions? Or did the expanding life forms have attributes that allowed for multicellularity, consciousness and eventually self-consciousness?

  2. From the op:-

    Robin: All man-made objects – every single one – are either designed specifically to be replaced or have components that are designed specifically to be replaced. Why? Because tool users and manufacturers learn really quick that tools and/or certain parts of tools wear out. So as designers, we anticipate the need for maintenance.

    No such anticipation or planning for maintenance can be found in nature. None. If something breaks in an organism, either that organism learns to live without it or it dies.

    Below is a photo of a primary flight feather from a wood pigeon. Notice that the tip has started to break up due to the forces imposed on it by constant use. This damage will only slightly affect its efficiency but if it were allowed to continue across all of the flight feathers, the pigeon’s ability to fly would be severely compromised.

    The feathers on each wing are moulted one at a time which allows the bird to maintain its flight capability while replacing worn out feathers. There is no down-time as maintenance is ongoing as the bird gets on with the business of living.

    This is an example of the wisdom found in nature which contradicts your statement in your second paragraph above. There are many other examples such as the healing of broken bones and regeneration of limbs in some animals.

  3. CharlieM: This just confirms the fact that selection is working on what already exists. What creates the diversity in these cases is the changes in allele frequencies over the generations. This is polar nature of Darwinian evolution. There are differences between parent and offspring on one pole and selection on the other pole. Together these processes, when they are well balanced, allow populations to remain viable in an ever changing environment.

    You are using careless language, which has resulted in several misleading statements. It is true that selection, in isolation, cannot create new alleles, so allelic diversity will never increase as a result of natural selection. But for the number of genotypes, genetic variation (heterozygosity), number of discrete phenotypes and phenotypic variation of quantitative traits (phenotypic variance) your claim that “natural selection is a process which leads to a reduction in variety” is not necessarily true. Hence, the fact that natural selection has to act on current phenotypic variation does not imply it cannot result in greater genotypic or phenotypic “diversity”. The only thing that cannot increase as a result of natural selection is allelic diversity.

    You do deserve credit for recognizing that evolution by natural selection allows populations to cope with changing environments. That shows you are two steps ahead of phoodoo and Steve who imagine that species need to have started off maladapted under an evolutionary scenario.

    CharlieM: Limitation analogous to individual development. When stem cells give rise to specialist cells their path becomes determined and it is extremely difficult for these cells regain the plasticity of their ancestor cells.

    Likewise, to take a specific example, it would be very difficult for a population of gorillas to evolve into the more general primate type of their ancestors.

    Heh. I don’t think you have demonstrated that natural selection always results in greater specialization (hint: it doesn’t). Instead, this is a limitation of your model, where species change is analogous to cell differentiation.

    So, will you retract your statement that natural selection is “limited”, as you seem to have confused evolution by natural selection with your own model of species change?

  4. I recall being gently admonished by this blog’s founder when I said something along the lines of there needing to be a constant supply of new alleles for selection to work on. Lizzie pointed out that existing genotypes get shuffled at meiosis so that these new combinations of existing alleles become available for selection. Dog breeders didn’t need new variation, as there was plenty still of recombination to sift through. At some point, in small populations under high selective pressure, either extinction, or sometimes speciation, happens.

  5. Alan Fox: Lizzie pointed out that existing genotypes get shuffled at meiosis so that these new combinations of existing alleles become available for selection.

    Creationists (and the occasional anthroposophist) like to portray natural selection as mere removal of certain phenotypic classes, leaving the implicit suggestion that species cannot change beyond the existing variation by this process. This betrays a deep ignorance of the underlying genetics where the change in allele frequency at multiple loci can definitely result in the appearance of completely novel genotypes and hence, phenotypes.

  6. CharlieM:
    From the op:-

    Below is a photo of a primary flight feather from a wood pigeon. Notice that the tip has started to break up due to the forces imposed on it by constant use. This damage will only slightly affect its efficiency but if it were allowed to continue across all of the flight feathers, the pigeon’s ability to fly would be severely compromised.

    The feathers on each wing are moulted one at a time which allows the bird to maintain its flight capability while replacing worn out feathers. There is no down-time as maintenance is ongoing as the bird gets on with the business of living.

    This is an example of the wisdom found in nature which contradicts your statement in your second paragraph above. There are many other examples such as the healing of broken bones and regeneration of limbs in some animals.

    That’s not a bad counter, Charlie, but it’s a rather extreme exception. It’s like the example of shark’s teeth that constantly get replaced, but then completely ignoring the fact that no other animal has this capability.

    But, fair enough…my statement that such maintenance cannot be found in nature is wrong. I sit corrected. However, I submit there’s a rather obvious difference between the replaceability of fenders, wheels, tires, seats, and headlights and the lack of such replaceability of fingers, eyes, kidneys, shoulders, feet, and pancreas. Just sayin’…

  7. Corneel:
    CharlieM: This just confirms the fact that selection is working on what already exists. What creates the diversity in these cases is the changes in allele frequencies over the generations. This is polar nature of Darwinian evolution. There are differences between parent and offspring on one pole and selection on the other pole. Together these processes, when they are well balanced, allow populations to remain viable in an ever changing environment.

    Corneel: You are using careless language, which has resulted in several misleading statements. It is true that selection, in isolation, cannot create new alleles, so allelic diversity will never increase as a result of natural selection. But for the number of genotypes, genetic variation (heterozygosity), number of discrete phenotypes and phenotypic variation of quantitative traits (phenotypic variance) your claim that “natural selection is a process which leads to a reduction in variety” is not necessarily true. Hence, the fact that natural selection has to act on current phenotypic variation does not imply it cannot result in greater genotypic or phenotypic “diversity”. The only thing that cannot increase as a result of natural selection is allelic diversity.

    I would argue that it is me who is using “natural selection” in the way that Darwin intended. The variability has to be present before natural selection can occur.

    Darwin wrote:

    Several writers have misapprehended or objected to the term Natural Selection. Some have even imagined that natural selection induces variability, whereas it implies only the preservation of such variations as arise and are beneficial to the being under its conditions of life.

    Descent with modification and natural selection (which Darwin later equated with the struggle for existence) are, he proposed, the two processes which in combination could result in the emergence of new species.

    Corneel: You do deserve credit for recognizing that evolution by natural selection allows populations to cope with changing environments. That shows you are two steps ahead of phoodoo and Steve who imagine that species need to have started off maladapted under an evolutionary scenario.

    I’ll leave it for phoodoo or Steve to reply to this if they feel the need.

    CharlieM: Limitation analogous to individual development. When stem cells give rise to specialist cells their path becomes determined and it is extremely difficult for these cells regain the plasticity of their ancestor cells.

    Likewise, to take a specific example, it would be very difficult for a population of gorillas to evolve into the more general primate type of their ancestors.

    <Corneel: Heh. I don’t think you have demonstrated that natural selection always results in greater specialization (hint: it doesn’t). Instead, this is a limitation of your model, where species change is analogous to cell differentiation.

    So, will you retract your statement that natural selection is “limited”, as you seem to have confused evolution by natural selection with your own model of species change?

    No. As Darwin realized, natural selection does not create, it preserves.

    Again, Darwin wrote:

    Unless favourable variations be inherited by some at least of the offspring, nothing can be effected by natural selection.

    Natural selection is powerless without the diversity created in a breeding population.

  8. Alan Fox:
    I recall being gently admonished by this blog’s founder when I said something along the lines of there needing to be a constant supply of new alleles for selection to work on. Lizzie pointed out that existing genotypes get shuffled at meiosis so that these new combinations of existing alleles become available for selection. Dog breeders didn’t need new variation, as there was plenty still of recombination to sift through. At some point, in small populations under high selective pressure, either extinction, or sometimes speciation, happens.

    It doesn’t matter whether it is through gene shuffling or a modification of the genome by some external influence the result will be variation in the progeny which may affect their fitness.

    A good question to ask would be, why, without invoking teleology, would division of the sexes have come about in the first place? The separation and consequent progress of variation has to have happened in both the diverging male and female lines in a way that ensured they were well matched. This reduces somewhat the odds of it happening by blind fortuity.

  9. Corneel:
    Alan Fox: Lizzie pointed out that existing genotypes get shuffled at meiosis so that these new combinations of existing alleles become available for selection.

    Corneel: Creationists (and the occasional anthroposophist) like to portray natural selection as mere removal of certain phenotypic classes, leaving the implicit suggestion that species cannot change beyond the existing variation by this process. This betrays a deep ignorance of the underlying genetics where the change in allele frequency at multiple loci can definitely result in the appearance of completely novel genotypes and hence, phenotypes.

    That isn’t natural selection, that’s descent with modification. Naturals selection is the term used for the preservation of particular modifications.

  10. Robin:
    CharlieM:
    From the op:-

    Below is a photo of a primary flight feather from a wood pigeon. Notice that the tip has started to break up due to the forces imposed on it by constant use. This damage will only slightly affect its efficiency but if it were allowed to continue across all of the flight feathers, the pigeon’s ability to fly would be severely compromised.

    The feathers on each wing are moulted one at a time which allows the bird to maintain its flight capability while replacing worn out feathers. There is no down-time as maintenance is ongoing as the bird gets on with the business of living.

    This is an example of the wisdom found in nature which contradicts your statement in your second paragraph above. There are many other examples such as the healing of broken bones and regeneration of limbs in some animals.

    Robin: That’s not a bad counter, Charlie, but it’s a rather extreme exception. It’s like the example of shark’s teeth that constantly get replaced, but then completely ignoring the fact that no other animal has this capability.

    But, fair enough…my statement that such maintenance cannot be found in nature is wrong. I sit corrected. However, I submit there’s a rather obvious difference between the replaceability of fenders, wheels, tires, seats, and headlights and the lack of such replaceability of fingers, eyes, kidneys, shoulders, feet, and pancreas. Just sayin’…

    All the features you mention are being constantly replaced at the cellular level. And of course if you want examples of the renewal of structures take a look at the plant world. A small cutting can quite often produce a whole plant.

  11. CharlieM: A good question to ask would be, why, without invoking teleology, would division of the sexes have come about in the first place?

    LOL. The answer is in the paragraph that you are responding to, viz: “existing genotypes get shuffled at meiosis”, which produces lots of novel phenotypes and has the unforeseen benefit that homozygous lethals get weeded out. The idea that meiosis is good for the species (check out baker’s yeast!) and the origin of sex have been discussed here at some length. For an introduction, you should read this.

    The separation and consequent progress of variation has to have happened in both the diverging male and female lines in a way that ensured they were well matched. This reduces somewhat the odds of it happening by blind fortuity.

    No it does not. This is a classic creationist line, and it is doubly wrong. Firstly, if you think about it for a second, really poorly matched individuals are going to contribute less to the next generation, so there’s an ever-present selective pressure in favor of minimal compatibility. Co-evolution is the default. Secondly, and this is the surprising bit, there’s plenty of species that are NOT “well matched”. As the rather entertaining polemic that I am currently reading makes clear, there is something of a genital war going on (check out ducks and dolphins!).

  12. DNA_Jock: The idea that meiosis is good for the species (check out baker’s yeast!) and the origin of sex have been discussed here at some length. For an introduction, you should read this.

    I’m sure it’s all squared off. In fantasyland that is. But what about this : https://www.theguardian.com/science/2022/jun/28/do-we-need-a-new-theory-of-evolution

    I’d say we don’t. We need to drop the whole nonsense. Which, as I showed repeatedly, it’s simply beyond repair. But what do you think?

    And remember, this is the guardian – itself a bastion of the nonsense – you’re up against.

  13. CharlieM: All the features you mention are being constantly replaced at the cellular level. And of course if you want examples of the renewal of structures take a look at the plant world. A small cutting can quite often produce a whole plant.

    This is not accurate. Kidneys, for example, do not – alas – get replaced on any level. I unfortunately know this all too intimately. When renal glomerulus or nephrons become inflamed or get destroyed, they do not heal or get replaced in any way. Livers regenerate; kidneys do not.

    But more to the point, renewal of structures isn’t the same thing as replacement parts in machines. This, I submit, is still a valid way to differentiate the two categories.

  14. Nonlin.org,

    Thanks for the link. It is, as you implied, a truly appalling piece of journalism — “nonsense”, even.
    This paragraph

    At the start of the 20th century, the rediscovery of the work of the 19th-century friar and father of genetics, Gregor Mendel, started to provide the answers. Scientists working in the new field of genetics discovered rules that governed the quirks of heredity. But rather than confirm Darwin’s theory, they complicated it. Reproduction appeared to remix genes – the mysterious units that programme the physical traits we end up seeing – in surprising ways. Think of the way a grandfather’s red hair, absent in his son, might reappear in his granddaughter. How was natural selection meant to function when its tiny variations might not even reliably pass from parent to offspring every time?

    is so egregiously wrong that I nearly stopped there. But I soldiered on to finish the thing. It’s the result of the media ‘covering’ science like it is a sporting competition, packed with mythical rivalries and manufactured dramas, but painfully light on the specifics. Sadly, most of the media also covers politics this way. Sigh.
    I’m with Doolittle:

    We don’t need no friggin’ new synthesis. We didn’t even really need the old synthesis

    and with Wray, Hoekstra, Futuyma, Lenski, Mackay, Schluter, and Strassmann. Do you have any specific criticisms of what they wrote back in 2014?

  15. CharlieM: That isn’t natural selection, that’s descent with modification. Naturals selection is the term used for the preservation of particular modifications.

    You are playing word games. Consider: How did the novel trait (“modification” if you like) spread through the population if all natural selection does is “preserve” it? Assuming the modification is adaptive, then natural selection is probably what fixed the trait. Also note that Darwin was still pursuing ideas of blending inheritance. Under particulate (Mendelian) inheritance changes in allele frequencies are the direct result of differential reproductive success among genotypes.

    CharlieM: The variability has to be present before natural selection can occur.

    I am not contesting that natural selection needs to act on current phenotypic variation. What I am taking issue with is your peculiar insistence that natural selection is not -cannot be- responsible for any diversity or novel forms that result from this process. As I argued above, changes in allele frequencies are the direct result of differential reproductive success among different genotypes. I have shown examples where the change in allele frequency at multiple genetic loci results in novel phenotypes, even without input of new mutations. Hence, natural selection can result in novel phenotypes. Citing Darwin at me, who was pushing a theory of blending inheritance, is not going to persuade me otherwise.

  16. CharlieM: A good question to ask would be, why, without invoking teleology, would division of the sexes have come about in the first place? The separation and consequent progress of variation has to have happened in both the diverging male and female lines in a way that ensured they were well matched. This reduces somewhat the odds of it happening by blind fortuity.

    I see Jock already linked to Allan’s opus magnum. Very good. My money is on the fact that large numbers and resource stocking are both beneficial for gametes but don’t combine so well.
    But, for entertainment’s sake, could you please explain the division of sexes with teleology? You can also have a go at the purpose of sex itself, if you like: that didn’t go so well last time.

  17. Nonlin.org: We need to drop the whole nonsense. Which, as I showed repeatedly, it’s simply beyond repair.

    Go ahead. It’s your website, after all.

  18. DNA_Jock:
    CharlieM: A good question to ask would be, why, without invoking teleology, would division of the sexes have come about in the first place?

    DNA_Jock: LOL. The answer is in the paragraph that you are responding to, viz: “existing genotypes get shuffled at meiosis”, which produces lots of novel phenotypes and has the unforeseen benefit that homozygous lethals get weeded out. The idea that meiosis is good for the species (check out baker’s yeast!) and the origin of sex have been discussed here at some length. For an introduction, you should read this.

    Your link has no mention of ovaries, carpels, testicles, penises, pistils, uteri, Vasa deferentia, styles, fallopian tubes, anthers, and all the varieties of marvellous structures fashioned to allow reproduction to take place. There is no mention of how all of that genetic activity has brought about the appearance of all of these sexual organs. “The genes did it. We don’t know exactly how they did it, but they must have done it somehow.”

    CharlieM: The separation and consequent progress of variation has to have happened in both the diverging male and female lines in a way that ensured they were well matched. This reduces somewhat the odds of it happening by blind fortuity.

    DNA_Jock: No it does not. This is a classic creationist line, and it is doubly wrong. Firstly, if you think about it for a second, really poorly matched individuals are going to contribute less to the next generation, so there’s an ever-present selective pressure in favor of minimal compatibility. Co-evolution is the default. Secondly, and this is the surprising bit, there’s plenty of species that are NOT “well matched”. As the rather entertaining polemic that I am currently reading makes clear, there is something of a genital war going on (check out ducks and dolphins!).

    Can you provide any specific examples of poorly matched sexual organs? Without buying Lucy Cooke’s book I have no idea why drake and duck genitalia would not be perfectly suited to result in the continued production of offspring. Just yesterday I watched a mother mallard swimming down the river with her brood of seven ducklings and I have a suspicion that it didn’t involve any form of IVF. 🙂

    Sexual reproduction is achieved through the participation of whole organisms and not just through miosis in specialized cells.

  19. Nonlin.org,

    I like this:

    You may recall the gist from school biology lessons. If a creature with poor eyesight happens to produce offspring with slightly better eyesight, thanks to random mutations, then that tiny bit more vision gives them more chance of survival. The longer they survive, the more chance they have to reproduce and pass on the genes that equipped them with slightly better eyesight. Some of their offspring might, in turn, have better eyesight than their parents, making it likelier that they, too, will reproduce. And so on. Generation by generation, over unfathomably long periods of time, tiny advantages add up. Eventually, after a few hundred million years, you have creatures who can see as well as humans, or cats, or owls.

    Ask any of the self-proclaimed experts here (ahem KN) and they will yell, “That’s a caricature of evolution, no one believes that!” No one except for everyone who has ever been taught about evolution in school that is.

    “The first eye, the first wing, the first placenta. How they emerge. Explaining these is the foundational motivation of evolutionary biology,” says Armin Moczek, a biologist at Indiana University. “And yet, we still do not have a good answer. This classic idea of gradual change, one happy accident at a time, has so far fallen flat.”

    Come on Armin, of course no one believs that, it’s a caricature! Geez, why don’t you study biology!

    There are certain core evolutionary principles that no scientist seriously questions. Everyone agrees that natural selection plays a role, as does mutation and random chance. But how exactly these processes interact – and whether other forces might also be at work – has become the subject of bitter dispute. “If we cannot explain things with the tools we have right now,” the Yale University biologist Günter Wagner told me, “we must find new ways of explaining.”

    Gunter, Gunter, CARICATURE! Didn’t you learn anything at Yale??

  20. Robin:
    CharlieM: All the features you mention are being constantly replaced at the cellular level. And of course if you want examples of the renewal of structures take a look at the plant world. A small cutting can quite often produce a whole plant.

    Robin: This is not accurate. Kidneys, for example, do not – alas – get replaced on any level. I unfortunately know this all too intimately. When renal glomerulus or nephrons become inflamed or get destroyed, they do not heal or get replaced in any way. Livers regenerate; kidneys do not.

    Adult kidneys constantly grow, remodel themselves, study finds

    I agree that livers are more plant-like than kidneys in their power of regeneration. This is to do with the retention of etheric vitality. The brain is even less able to regenerate. The metabolic/limb pole retains stronger powers of growth while the head/nervous pole uses the available energy to achieve consciousness at the expense of regenerative growth. The heart/lung/rhythmic system maintains the balance between these two poles.

    Robin: But more to the point, renewal of structures isn’t the same thing as replacement parts in machines. This, I submit, is still a valid way to differentiate the two categories.

    Yes, I agree, it is a good way to distinguish organisms from machines.

    Organisms are constantly renewing themselves from within while machines have to be maintained by external agents if they are to remain functional.

    If we think of ourselves as somewhat autonomous units then the equivalent autonomous unit with respect to machines would have to include the human agent. I can picture myself and my car as an autonomous unit, but not my car on its own.

  21. CharlieM,

    Have you already forgotten that your question was

    why, without invoking teleology, would division of the sexes have come about in the first place?

    which Allan’s opus magnum addresses.
    Your listing “no mention of ovaries, carpels, testicles, penises, pistils, uteri, Vasa deferentia, styles, fallopian tubes, anthers, and…” does not make you sound erudite — it makes you sound like you are yet again losing the plot.

    Can you provide any specific examples of poorly matched sexual organs?

    I did. Ducks and dolphins.
    Must you be spoon-fed everything?

  22. DNA_Jock,

    You seem to have this weird caricature of evolution, where you imagine that species need to have started off maladapted under an evolutionary scenario.

    Evolution by natural selection allows populations to cope with changing environments.There is nothing maladapted in evolution. There are no poorly matched sexual organs in evolutions-nor anything that works poorly in evolution.
    You are spouting a caricature of evolution that no one believes.

    Its like you have this idea that there was once all these creatures coming along with random mutations that were poorly suited for the conditions, but over millions of years those that were slightly less poor got more mutations that made them even less poor. Eventually yea they became precise and all, but this caricature idea that things started off poorly matched, what a silly creationist idea!

  23. phoodoo: There is nothing maladapted in evolution. There are no poorly matched sexual organs in evolutions-nor anything that works poorly in evolution.

    The morphology of the vagina of female ducks looks decidedly adaptive to me, as does the penis of male ducks. Could you explain why you consider “poorly matched sexual organs” to be maladaptive for both parties involved?

    Before answering that, you might want to read up on sexual conflict first.

    ETA: Ooooh, and perhaps you could tell us the Design explanation for male and female ducks having genitals that work at cross purposes. That is an … interesting Design choice.

  24. Corneel,

    You seem to be confusing your posters. Its is Jock who is saying that the sexual organs of these creatures are poorly matched (poorly adapted).

    But since evolution (according to you) can’t make poorly adapted features, it must be some caricature of evolution that Jock is proposing.

  25. Corneel:
    CharlieM: That isn’t natural selection, that’s descent with modification. Naturals selection is the term used for the preservation of particular modifications.

    Corneel: You are playing word games. Consider: How did the novel trait (“modification” if you like) spread through the population if all natural selection does is “preserve” it? Assuming the modification is adaptive, then natural selection is probably what fixed the trait. Also note that Darwin was still pursuing ideas of blending inheritance. Under particulate (Mendelian) inheritance changes in allele frequencies are the direct result of differential reproductive success among genotypes.

    I’m not sure what you take the verb “to select” to mean other than to choose between alternatives. Whichever way Darwin thought the modification of descendants came about this was still not selection. It was that which selection worked upon.

    CharlieM: The variability has to be present before natural selection can occur.

    Corneel: I am not contesting that natural selection needs to act on current phenotypic variation. What I am taking issue with is your peculiar insistence that natural selection is not -cannot be- responsible for any diversity or novel forms that result from this process. As I argued above, changes in allele frequencies are the direct result of differential reproductive success among different genotypes. I have shown examples where the change in allele frequency at multiple genetic loci results in novel phenotypes, even without input of new mutations. Hence, natural selection can result in novel phenotypes. Citing Darwin at me, who was pushing a theory of blending inheritance, is not going to persuade me otherwise.

    The most often cited examples of the processes of natural selection operating on variability doesn’t explain the appearance of the feature. Peppered moths, Galapagos finch beaks, climate change affecting the timing of flowering etc.

  26. Safe to say that phoodoo did not take Corneel’s advice about reading up on sexual conflict before responding.
    Your mistake, phoodoo, is in thinking that “poorly matched” is the same as “maladaptive”. It is not.
    Like Corneel, I am eagerly awaiting the Design explanation for oppositely spiraling genitals.

  27. CharlieM: I’m not sure what you take the verb “to select” to mean other than to choose between alternatives.

    From “”Biology 3rd edition” by Neil A. Campbell, which is a basic textbook intended for first year biology students:

    Natural selection: Differential success in the reproduction of different phenotypes resulting from the interaction of organisms with their environment. Evolution occurs when natural selection causes changes in relative frequencies of alleles in the gene pool

    I mean. Damn, Charlie.

    CharlieM: Whichever way Darwin thought the modification of descendants came about this was still not selection. It was that which selection worked upon.

    Lacking the concept of genetic mutations, Darwin believed that phenotypic variation just sprang up in response to requirements from the environment (“altered conditions of life”). Yes, he was wrong about that. Little wonder, since he wrote the Origin over 160 years ago. Could you please adjust to the fact that we are currently in the 21st century? Or at the very least not further than 80 years in the past?

    Now stop citing Charles Darwin at me and accept that, according to “modern” genetics, novel phenotypes can result from the action of natural selection.

    CharlieM: The most often cited examples of the processes of natural selection operating on variability doesn’t explain the appearance of the feature. Peppered moths, Galapagos finch beaks, climate change affecting the timing of flowering etc.

    That is why I showed you different examples where the appearance of a novel feature was explained by natural selection changing the genetic composition of the evolving population. And in the dark depths of time I even gave you a numerical example.

    You are making excuses now. Please stop that.

  28. DNA_Jock: is so egregiously wrong that I nearly stopped there. But I soldiered on to finish the thing. It’s the result of the media ‘covering’ science like it is

    Right. “nothing to see here folks. It’s just a flesh wound”. I thought so.

    Corneel: Go ahead. It’s your website, after all.

    Two things I love in particular about “evolution”. First, “science by consensus” and then “my website, my science”.

    Btw, if you haven’t seen it, Coyne immediately came up with an angry rebuttal. Touche?

  29. Btw, if you haven’t seen it, Coyne immediately came up with an angry rebuttal. Touche?

    Yep, Coyne thought that Guardian article was garbage, just like others here. His conclusion was that we have evolution right, and there’s no need to change anything.

  30. Corneel: which is a basic textbook intended for first year biology students:

    I have always maintained evolutionists don’t believe in evolution except when they do. Is the caricature of random meaningless mutations accidents that would normally destroy something, instead slowly adding up to precision parts the truth?

  31. phoodoo: I have always maintained evolutionists don’t believe in evolution except when they do.Is the caricature of random meaningless mutations accidents that would normally destroy something, instead slowly adding up to precision parts the truth?

    I don’t know why, but I continue to be surprised at creationists’ utter inability to even consider, much less understand, the concept of selection. We continue to explain that mutations are random, that the vast majority of them are either neutral or harmful, that organisms unlucky enough to receive harmful mutations do no survive to pass them on, while those which luck into the good ones live and breed some more.

    The idea of keeping what works and discarding what does not can’t be all THAT hard to understand, can it?

  32. Flint: I don’t know why, but I continue to be surprised at creationists’ utter inability to even consider, much less understand, the concept of selection.

    What are you talking about? What does some living longer than others have to do with it? I understand why evolutionists always want to hide from their theory, but I am just asking if your theory is true or not. Random, usually meaningless accidents (or usually bad) sometimes get lucky enough to be useful.

    Your argument now is, yea, but you didn’t mention some live longer than others? So, you didn’t mention sunlight feels warm, or that some bees sting. I am talking about the accidents part. I have heard tell that the whole accidents start off making small differences in how organsims work, and most time these accidents cause all kinds of bad and gruesome effects, but every once in a while, a little knob, or gross looking flap of skin causes some tiny advantage. It can turn into scales or a claw, given enough time, and one day, boy that claw works great.

    I guess its not a caricature anymore, except it will be again soon in the next argument. Because evolutionist don’t believe the text books, but they also don’t not believe them.

  33. I think there must be sme skeptical handbook, that advises all its disciples, whenever someone mentions random accidental mutations, you need to immediately start interrupting furiously with, “selection, SELECTION!” and then like a scientologist just start waving your hands and say I can’t hear, you, I can’t hear you!

    As if the fact that not every accident lives on is a mechanism. All it means is that some accidents die. Wow! That’s not a mechanism, its an observation. Its has nothing whatsoever to do with the idea that it is chaotic mutations which are the supposed cause of acummulated accidents causing function.

    I am not sure who you are supposed to be fooling.

  34. phoodoo: Is the caricature of random meaningless mutations accidents that would normally destroy something, instead slowly adding up to precision parts the truth?

    Evolution is a trial and error learning system. That caricature is what creationists use so that they can avoid trying to understand it.

  35. How fascinating, accidents can learn how to make better accidents.

    And this is of course not a caricature. Maybe even Jerry Coyne believes it.

  36. Flint: Foreign concept, we know.

    The concept that evolution learns? Yes that’s a very foreign concept. So foreign it’s the first time it’s ever been uttered on planet Earth.

    I am sure if someone who isn’t a member of the atheist church had ever mentioned it they would be accused of making a caricature of your theory. But even then it would be such a preposterous theory for sure others would assume they are taking the piss out.

  37. phoodoo: The concept that evolution learns? Yes that’s a very foreign concept. So foreign it’s the first time it’s ever been uttered on planet Earth.

    You sure about that? Seems very much in line with how selection sifts variation with respect to the niche environment. The variant phenotypes that survive the process pass on and proliferate their genotypes. The information gained is stored in changed DNA sequences giving a new baseline for further (environmentally designed) adaptive change.

  38. Corneel:
    CharlieM: A good question to ask would be, why, without invoking teleology, would division of the sexes have come about in the first place? The separation and consequent progress of variation has to have happened in both the diverging male and female lines in a way that ensured they were well matched. This reduces somewhat the odds of it happening by blind fortuity.

    Corneel: I see Jock already linked to Allan’s opus magnum. Very good. My money is on the fact that large numbers and resource stocking are both beneficial for gametes but don’t combine so well.
    But, for entertainment’s sake, could you please explain the division of sexes with teleology? You can also have a go at the purpose of sex itself, if you like: that didn’t go so well last time.

    I would not wish to explain the division of the sexes in this way as I don’t believe that this is the right way to go about things.

    It is my belief that gender only applies to the lower aspects of any organism. In the case of humans the astral principle is neither male nor female. The etheric and physical bodies are polar opposites. Men have female etheric forms while women have male etheric forms.

    The division of the sexes has developed from an original hermaphroditic state. The development of one-sided soul qualities has lead to the appearance of distinct sexes. The individualized physical forms are a reflection of soul qualities.

    These are my beliefs and I wouldn’t expect any other person to just accept them. It is up to you if you feel justified in believing that soul qualities are derived from physical processes. We are all more ignorant than knowledgeable when it comes to reality and so I think trying to be as honest as one can with ones self is more important than having correct assumptions.

    Gender differences have not come about for any purpose, rather they are consequential of our past history. Genetic processes are not a driving forces, they are physical manifestations of higher life processes. Etheric forces determine living processes down to the genetic level. There are field-like properties which determine the concentrations and dispersals of physical matter in living systems.

  39. phoodoo: I should have known you were a closet Idist.

    Because I use the word “information”? When did the ID movement get sole use of this word? Is it copyrighted? The niche designs! Phoodoo demonstrates how intelligent he is.

  40. DNA_Jock:
    CharlieM,

    DNA_Jock: Have you already forgotten that your question was

    “why, without invoking teleology, would division of the sexes have come about in the first place?”

    which Allan’s opus magnum addresses.
    Your listing “no mention of ovaries, carpels, testicles, penises, pistils, uteri, Vasa deferentia, styles, fallopian tubes, anthers, and…” does not make you sound erudite — it makes you sound like you are yet again losing the plot.

    Yes Allan’s opus magnum does address these issues. But only with regard to the interaction of molecules. The separation of the sexes might very well have sprung from a previous condition in which all organisms were asexual haploids. In my opinion, whatever form life took prior to the division of the sexes will still have been determined by etheric forces controlling the genetic activity.

    CharlieM: Can you provide any specific examples of poorly matched sexual organs?

    DNA_Jock: I did. Ducks and dolphins.
    Must you be spoon-fed everything?

    Why do you imply that they are poorly matched?

    Here is an account of some research on the sexual antics of some ducks, a sort of “Lady Quackerly’s Lover”. 🙂

    Not all males are hit equally hard by these defenses. Those that the female actually wants to mate with have an easier time. If she’s into a male, she strikes a pose that signals her receptiveness, keeping her body level and lifting her tail feathers high. She repeatedly contracts the walls of her genital tract, relaxing them for long enough for favored suitors to achieve full penetration.

    If the female is receptive the drake’s penis is ideally suited to achieving “full penetration”. This is not very different to us. Penetration requires arousal, only with us it is the male who needs to be aroused. A flaccid penis is hardly suited to being thrust up a vagina.

    The sexual organs are perfectly matched, but only when the emotional state is just right. Here again we see the wisdom inherent in nature.

  41. CharlieM: Adult kidneys constantly grow, remodel themselves, study finds

    Did you read the article? So far, this is limited to specially engineered mice:

    Dr. Dekel and his research team conducted a study using a “rainbow mouse” model developed at Stanford’s Weissman lab, a mouse genetically altered to express one of four alternative fluorescent markers called “reporters” in each cell. The markers allowed researchers to trace cell growth in vivo — growth, they were surprised to find, that was sectional and multi-directional.

    This has not actually been observed in humans yet. It may well lead to some interesting treatments for people with kidney disease, but naturally speaking, this is a non-starter. It simply isn’t the same as actual machine replaceable parts.

    I agree that livers are more plant-like than kidneys in their power of regeneration. This is to do with the retention of etheric vitality. The brain is even less able to regenerate. The metabolic/limb pole retains stronger powers of growth while the head/nervous pole uses the available energy to achieve consciousness at the expense of regenerative growth.The heart/lung/rhythmic system maintains the balance between these two poles.

    This assessment doesn’t match with reality from my experience

    Yes, I agree, it is a good way to distinguish organisms from machines.

    Ok. That was rather my point from the beginning.

    Organisms are constantly renewing themselves from within while machines have to be maintained by external agents if they are to remain functional.

    If we think of ourselves as somewhat autonomous units then the equivalent autonomous unit with respect to machines would have to include the human agent. I can picture myself and my car as an autonomous unit, but not my car on its own.

    I don’t find this to be a useful model of reality or life or mechanical processes. Clearly your mileage may vary…

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