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. 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?

    Not sure why you are asking me this because I have only fleetingly mentioned mutations, but here goes: No, your caricature is not the truth, nor is it an accurate representation of my (or anybody’s for that matter) views. That is why your arguments consistently get labeled as strawmen or caricatures and fail to appeal to anyone but yourself.

    Now, duck genitals … will you concede that having them spiral in opposite directions may not be the most optimal Design choice for harmonious intercourse?

  2. CharlieM: 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.

    Then whatever you are going to write is going to be irrelevant since in biology the sexes are defined by the sizes of the gametes they produce.

    CharlieM: The division of the sexes has developed from an original hermaphroditic state.

    No, wrong. Hermaphrodites are individuals that produce both male and female gametes. I sure hope that you’ll agree that this requires the distinction between male and female gametes in the first place. The division of the sexes evolved from isogamy.

    CharlieM: 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.

    Sex is not necessarily genetically determined. For example, alligator embryos have their sex determined by ambient temperature (yay epigenetics!).

    Now, just like the pro-ID folks in the discussion on the “Design explanation for sex”, you got stuck teleologically explaining the division of the sexes in failing to understand what the actual question is! Luckily for you, this can be easily remedied: Read less nonsense from pompous Austrian charlatans and read more work from actual biologists (The paper from Allan will do as well).

  3. phoodoo: Do you mean poorly matched or poorly adapted?

    Is there a difference in your opinion? If not, why not?

  4. phoodoo,

    And to make things a little more explicit, I will be posting the penis of the beetle Callosobruchus maculatus below. Not only does this spiky affair fail to fit comfortably, it completely shreds the female apart on the inside during copulation.

    @CharlieM … regardless of “emotional state”.

    Figure from here.

  5. Corneel: phoodoo: Do you mean poorly matched or poorly adapted?

    Is there a difference in your opinion? If not, why not?

    Well, I believe poorly matched is a term of art which more literally means ” I don’t know what the hell I am talking about, but dam I hate being wrong all the time, so evolution needs to be true!”

    Or something like that. At least that how Jock uses it. Of course there are a lot of commentaters here that have their own dictionary so that if they wrote ‘the sky is blue” what they really mean is, “Three organgutans are making moonshine whiskey out of pumpernickel bread.” Alan owns the only copy of the encryption tool.

  6. phoodoo: Well, I believe poorly matched is a term of art which more literally means ” I don’t know what the hell I am talking about, but dam I hate being wrong all the time, so evolution needs to be true!”

    Or something like that. At least that how Jock uses it.

    Really? Well, I thought it was crystal clear. Jock was offering a counterargument to Charlie’s claim that the diverging of males and females during evolution (which Charlie accepts, to a point) would have proceeded in a way that ensured they were well matched. Jock argued that the portrayal of both sexes harmoniously co-evolving was not compatible with certain observations. Charlie has since responded in a way that shows that he too perfectly understood Jock’s point. So it appears the confusion is all yours.

    It was you that interjected saying that since there is nothing maladapted in evolution there could not be poorly matched sexual organs in evolution. That shows that you missed the fact that poor matching could be beneficial to the female, as this grants her greater control over the copulation (female ducks actively reject certain partners and suffer a lot of male harassment as a consequence). Hence, the awkward female genital morphology is clearly adaptive.

    As I see it, nothing about poorly matching genital morphologies is incompatible with evolution by natural selection OR evolution by vitalistic forces OR Intelligent Design. What makes it interesting though is the fact that only proponents of the latter two find the idea of sexual conflict unpallatable to the point where they deny it exists.

    Why is that, I wonder?

  7. Corneel,

    Then why for heaven’s sake call anything poorly matched, if you are then going to say, it makes perfect sense. That is not what poorly matched means. Its like saying men and woman are poorly matched because they have to be in the same place to procreate, they can’t do it by telegraph.

    I realize you guys are all about changing what words mean, but when you say poorly, when what you really mean is perfectly compatible, then don’t blame others for saying you don’t make sense in the world of people who are using English.

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

    Corneel: 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.

    Selection is acting on the variation within the population. You can call this evolution, I call it reversable, adaptive changes around a mean.

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

    Corneel: 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.

    And those genetic mutations you are talking about can cause phenotypic changes which are then subject to possible selection. I’ve been reading about quantitative trait loci and it makes very interesting reading. For instance here

    Study of more than 4,000 genes suggests that RNA levels often have no effect on protein abundance, points to new gene regulation mechanism

    There are very complex processes which, through the way that gene expression is regulated, result in the particular phenotype that is subject to selection as it develops. Populations can be very adaptable to changing conditions yet remain within the limits of the kind. Those populations with the least plasticity are the most likely to go extinct.

    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.

    Corneel: 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.

    I suspect the appearance of mice with exceptionally dark coats was due to genetic regulatory changes associated with areas such as quantitative trait loci having the effect of producing these colours. Only when these appear will natural selection come into effect.

    I found this quote from molecular biologist Nina Federoff regarding the way in which humans have manipulated the plants which were to become maize:

    “…man’s first, and perhaps his greatest feat of genetic engineering.”

    Of course it was the plants themselves that manipulated their own genomes. Those early farmers just selected what became available to them.

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

    Robin: 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.

    We are in agreement that machines with parts which break and have to be replaced by humans is a long long way from living organisms that maintain their viability by constantly replacing their own material constituents.

    Regarding kidney regeneration I also found this: “Origin and fate of the regenerating cells of the kidney” Here is the abstract:

    The kidney has the capacity to regenerate itself provided that the damage is limited and the structure of the kidney remains intact. Nevertheless, in disease conditions this potential may be compromised, leading to progression to chronic kidney disease. For development of new therapeutic strategies it is a prerequisite to understand the origin and regulation of the kidney regenerating cells and the processes that underlie maladaptive repair. Because of the complexity of the kidney consisting of a high number of different cell types, it is a complex task to unravel the origin and fate of cells responsible for regeneration. This review summarises the recent and most important advances in identifying regenerating cell populations of the kidney, and highlights the existing controversies.

    But within organisms turnover of material takes place at many levels, regenerating cells is just one example. By eating, drinking and breathing we are constantly exchanging material with our environment. Cells do the same. An active cell is constantly exchanging materials with the extracellular environment through such processes as osmosis, excretion and ingestion via vesicles, and active transport through pores. We metabolize, cells metabolize. The message of “the ship of Theseus” applies equally to individual cells as it does to us as individuals. The whole reflected in the 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.

    Robin: This assessment doesn’t match with reality from my experience.

    We all experience reality in our own limited ways.

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

    Robin: Ok. That was rather my point from the beginning.

    From what I could tell you thought of this as evidence that machines are in some way superior to organisms. I believe it shows the opposite.

    CharlieM: 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.

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

    I’m not looking at models, I would say I’m looking at how things are in actuality.

  10. Corneel to phoodoo:
    Now, duck genitals … will you concede that having them spiral in opposite directions may not be the most optimal Design choice for harmonious intercourse?

    This anatomical design does allow harmonious intercourse to take place between two consenting adult ducks. Mission accomplished. The female duck can be a faithful partner or a raving nymphomaniac as it pleases her. 🙂

  11. Corneel:
    CharlieM: 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.

    Then whatever you are going to write is going to be irrelevant since in biology the sexes are defined by the sizes of the gametes they produce.

    That may be true for many species, but this way of looking at things isolates just one aspect of differences between the sexes.

    CharlieM: The division of the sexes has developed from an original hermaphroditic state.

    Corneel: No, wrong. Hermaphrodites are individuals that produce both male and female gametes. I sure hope that you’ll agree that this requires the distinction between male and female gametes in the first place. The division of the sexes evolved from isogamy.

    Of course you are right. I should have said androgynous.

    CharlieM: 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.

    Corneel: Sex is not necessarily genetically determined. For example, alligator embryos have their sex determined by ambient temperature (yay epigenetics!).

    Now, just like the pro-ID folks in the discussion on the “Design explanation for sex”, you got stuck teleologically explaining the division of the sexes in failing to understand what the actual question is! Luckily for you, this can be easily remedied: Read less nonsense from pompous Austrian charlatans and read more work from actual biologists (The paper from Allan will do as well).

    I prefer reading work from people with as wide a spectrum of beliefs as possible.

  12. Corneel to phoodoo:

    And to make things a little more explicit, I will be posting the penis of the beetle Callosobruchus maculatus below. Not only does this spiky affair fail to fit comfortably, it completely shreds the female apart on the inside during copulation.

    @CharlieM … regardless of “emotional state”.

    Figure from here.

    How do you know this is not a comfortable fit? Perhaps the female has masochistic tendencies and the pleasure outweighs any pain you might image she is feeling. Don’t judge insect copulation by the standards of human copulation. The female beetle might benefit from having her vagina shredded in this way and it doesn’t seem to stop her future engagements, nor does it stop her laying fertilized eggs. And it would seem she can kick the male off any time she likes.

    And if this contact results in offspring then the fit is as it should be.

  13. Corneel to phoodoo:
    As I see it, nothing about poorly matching genital morphologies is incompatible with evolution by natural selection OR evolution by vitalistic forces OR Intelligent Design. What makes it interesting though is the fact that only proponents of the latter two find the idea of sexual conflict unpallatable to the point where they deny it exists.

    Why is that, I wonder?

    I haven’t argued that conflict is non-existent. We see it all the time. For example we usually have a pair of blue tits nesting in one of our bird boxes, but this year after they had spent considerable time and effort preparing the site a couple of stroppy tree sparrows came along and kicked them out. Rutting stags, male lions killing the cubs of rivals, the list is endless. But what is conflict on a lower level can on the whole be of benefit. Individual conflict can benefit the species on the whole.

    Despite the conflicts during the mating season and the effects of avian flu, ducks in this area seem to be thriving. Conflicts occur in behaviour rather than in any seeming mismatch of sexual organs.

  14. phoodoo: Then why for heaven’s sake call anything poorly matched, if you are then going to say, it makes perfect sense. That is not what poorly matched means. Its like saying men and woman are poorly matched because they have to be in the same place to procreate, they can’t do it by telegraph.

    I realize you guys are all about changing what words mean, but when you say poorly, when what you really mean is perfectly compatible, then don’t blame others for saying you don’t make sense in the world of people who are using English.

    Well, from the male duck’s perspective, the match is terrible.

    I have no idea why, but it’s quite amusing to see you struggle so much with the concept that males and females can have different reproductive interests. Are you single, by any chance?

  15. CharlieM: Selection is acting on the variation within the population. You can call this evolution, I call it reversable, adaptive changes around a mean.

    Nonlin, is that you?

    CharlieM: Populations can be very adaptable to changing conditions yet remain within the limits of the kind.

    Yep, that sounds like Nonlin. What happened to the nested archetypes that curiously mimic the pattern established by common descent, I wonder? Can’t a population draw from an archetype at a higher taxonomic level? If not, will you realize that there is absolutely no difference whether the archetypes nest or not, since a population cannot move beyond the limits of archetype at the lowest taxonomic level anyway?

    CharlieM: I suspect the appearance of mice with exceptionally dark coats was due to genetic regulatory changes associated with areas such as quantitative trait loci having the effect of producing these colours. Only when these appear will natural selection come into effect.

    Oh dear. You don’t know what a quantitative trait locus (QTL) is, do you?

  16. CharlieM: That may be true for many species, but this way of looking at things isolates just one aspect of differences between the sexes.

    Yes, it isolates the very thing you asked for:

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

    Emphasis mine.

    CharlieM: Of course you are right. I should have said androgynous.

    No, androgynous means having both male and female characteristics which cannot predate the distinction between males and females either. You should have said isogamy.

    CharlieM: I prefer reading work from people with as wide a spectrum of beliefs as possible.

    Which, given that biological research is a secular enterprise, is EXACTLY what you will be doing by reading the works of actual biologists.

  17. CharlieM: Individual conflict can benefit the species on the whole.

    Unfortunately for this view, it has been shown that sexual conflict lowers net reproductive rate:

    Although sexual selection can provide benefits to both sexes, it also can be costly because of expanded opportunities for intersexual conflict. We evaluated the role of sexual selection in a naturally promiscuous species, Drosophila melanogaster. In two replicate populations, sexual selection was removed through enforced monogamous mating with random mate assignment or retained in promiscuous controls. Monogamous mating constrains the reproductive success of mates to be identical, thereby converting prior conflicts between mates into opportunities for mutualism. Random mate assignment removes the opportunity for females to choose beneficial qualities in their mate. The mating treatments were maintained for 47 generations, and evolution was allowed to proceed naturally within the parameters of the design. In the monogamous populations, males evolved to be less harmful to their mates, and females evolved to be less resistant to male-induced harm. The monogamous populations also evolved a greater net reproductive rate than their promiscuous controls. These results indicate a potentially widespread cost of sexual selection caused by conflicts inherent to promiscuity.

    CharlieM: The female beetle might benefit from having her vagina shredded

    This is getting pathetic, Charlie.

    Please explain, because I truly do not understand: Why is it so hard for you to accept that mating isn’t always a harmonious affair in animals?

  18. Corneel,

    I have no idea why you feel that if males and females have different interests that equates to poor matching.

    I suppose you feel that if males like to watch sports and girls want to watch a rom-com that also is poorly matched. Oh, and they have to be in the same room to procreate remember. To some that might be a really poor match.

    The argument gets dumber and dumber. If I didn’t know better I would assume Jock said this.

  19. phoodoo: I have no idea why you feel that if males and females have different interests that equates to poor matching.

    I suppose you feel that if males like to watch sports and girls want to watch a rom-com that also is poorly matched. Oh, and they have to be in the same room to procreate remember. To some that might be a really poor match.

    LOL. It seems that you have missed I was talking about reproductive interests, meaning that the reproductive strategies of males and females cannot be simultaneously optimized.

    phoodoo: The argument gets dumber and dumber. If I didn’t know better I would assume Jock said this.

    Why yes, I just keep dumbing the argument down until you finally grasp it.

  20. Corneel:
    CharlieM: Individual conflict can benefit the species on the whole.

    Corneel: Unfortunately for this view, it has been shown that sexual conflict lowers net reproductive rate:

    “Although sexual selection can provide benefits to both sexes, it also can be costly because of expanded opportunities for intersexual conflict. We evaluated the role of sexual selection in a naturally promiscuous species, Drosophila melanogaster. In two replicate populations, sexual selection was removed through enforced monogamous mating with random mate assignment or retained in promiscuous controls. Monogamous mating constrains the reproductive success of mates to be identical, thereby converting prior conflicts between mates into opportunities for mutualism. Random mate assignment removes the opportunity for females to choose beneficial qualities in their mate. The mating treatments were maintained for 47 generations, and evolution was allowed to proceed naturally within the parameters of the design. In the monogamous populations, males evolved to be less harmful to their mates, and females evolved to be less resistant to male-induced harm. The monogamous populations also evolved a greater net reproductive rate than their promiscuous controls. These results indicate a potentially widespread cost of sexual selection caused by conflicts inherent to promiscuity.”

    If sexual selection lowers the net reproductive rate and reproductive rate is a measure of fitness why does it persist? Isn’t natural select all about increasing fitness?

    If it benefits drosophila to be monogamous why is promiscuity the norm?

    CharlieM: The female beetle might benefit from having her vagina shredded

    Corneel: This is getting pathetic, Charlie.

    Why? Isn’t it the case that non-pregnant women benefit from having the lining of there uteri destroyed every month? Mating once does not prevent female beetles from producing fertile eggs after subsequent matings.

    Corneel: Please explain, because I truly do not understand: Why is it so hard for you to accept that mating isn’t always a harmonious affair in animals?

    I have never argued against there being conflict involved in mating. What I am saying is that the polarity of male and female sexual organs are well matched to allow for procreation.

  21. Corneel: LOL. It seems that you have missed I was talking about reproductive interests, meaning that the reproductive strategies of males and females cannot be simultaneously optimized.

    What makes you think this is the case in ANY species? And what makes you decide to call this poor, AND YET also call it beneficially adaptive?

  22. CharlieM: If sexual selection lowers the net reproductive rate and reproductive rate is a measure of fitness why does it persist? Isn’t natural select all about increasing fitness?

    If it benefits drosophila to be monogamous why is promiscuity the norm?

    These are fantastic questions. I note though that they do not only concern evolution by natural selection. Any explanatory framework that presents itself as an alternative to the standard evolutionary account needs to be able to explain why reproductive strategies that are harmful to mates and that lower the population net reproductive rate persist. These are bare facts. So far, we have only received denial from your (and phoodoo’s) end.

    As to your first question, modeling approaches have shown that male strategies that increase reproductive success in competition with other males at the cost of harm to females will spread in a population. The key observation is that selection occurs predominantly at the organismal level, not at the level of the population. Hence, any male strategy that increases the female mate’s reproductive investment or diminishes her remating propensity is able to spread, because it gives a competitive edge over males without this strategy.

    And this automatically answers your second question: it is clearly not beneficial to individual Drosophila fruitflies to be monogamous since promiscuous flies enjoy a higher reproductive success in a population where both strategies exist. I vaguely remember monogamy tends to occur in species where offspring receive biparental care (like humans), but I may be wrong about that.

    From experience I can tell you that the realization that sexual conflict can severely lower reproductive rate at the population level is baffling, even to some professional biologists. So don’t worry: you are not alone. And this is just dioecious species (having males and females): hermaphrodites are vicious.

  23. My spidey-sense tingles! Sex, did someone say?

    The basic problem with this ‘how did the sexes diverge?’ question is that it presumes a multicellular asexual diploid, which then threw up gendered forms and meiosis, maybe both at once, with attendant head-scratching over simultaneity. But there is no evidence such an organism ever existed. Diploidy is a product of sex. Even asexual diploids had sexual ancestors (because they contain at least some of the genetic machinery involved in meiosis, even if they no longer indulge). There are no exceptions, to my knowledge. Asexuality in diploid eukaryotes is a derived characteristic, not the starting point. Sex likely played a significant part in eukaryogenesis.

    So: sex arose in haploid populations, by fusion and subsequent division, rather than in diploid populations by division and subsequent fusion. This simple flip of perspective profoundly changes the constraints. In the latter, you have to find another ‘divider’ to fuse with, and if you’re the first, there aren’t any. This is similar to ‘who did the first female mate with?’. But start with haploidy and fusion instead, and you already have a population of potential partners.

    Gender itself came later, after multicellularity. You need multicellularity to nurture eggs, or multiply pollen/sperm.

  24. CharlieM,

    This anatomical design does allow harmonious intercourse to take place between two consenting adult ducks. 

    Consenting? A female mallard would like a word with you…

  25. phoodoo,

    Could you perhaps clarify, phoodoo? Are you claiming that duck penises and duck vaginas are “well matched”?
    We all agree that they are “fit for purpose” [insert aquatic mammal joke here], but you appear to be claiming something further…

  26. Hermaphrodite sea slugs are a good ‘un, if they haven’t been brought up already. In some, two slugs, both equipped with a penis, each attempt to stab the other with it without being stabbed themselves, rather than waste time locating an actual organ. Some have a gland that destroys sperm after stabbing. Others have a mutual, simultaneous copulation of a more conventional kind, beyond the simultaneous ‘batting-and-bowling’ aspect. Some alternate roles. Some go for stabbing (with or without the transfer of sperm) and a more familiar insemination. Just to get him/her in the mood, I suppose.

    All rather hard to see teleology in, though I don’t doubt people will have a go.

  27. Corneel:
    CharlieM: Selection is acting on the variation within the population. You can call this evolution, I call it reversable, adaptive changes around a mean.

    Corneel: Nonlin, is that you?

    CharlieM: Populations can be very adaptable to changing conditions yet remain within the limits of the kind.

    Corneel: Yep, that sounds like Nonlin. What happened to the nested archetypes that curiously mimic the pattern established by common descent, I wonder? Can’t a population draw from an archetype at a higher taxonomic level? If not, will you realize that there is absolutely no difference whether the archetypes nest or not, since a population cannot move beyond the limits of archetype at the lowest taxonomic level anyway?

    When a kind or a species takes on physical form the limits of archetypal expression is set. This is similar to what we see with pluripotent stem cells. The line of specialist cells that they give rise to will not normally produce cells with the potential of the former pluripotent cells they developed from.

    CharlieM: I suspect the appearance of mice with exceptionally dark coats was due to genetic regulatory changes associated with areas such as quantitative trait loci having the effect of producing these colours. Only when these appear will natural selection come into effect.

    Corneel:Oh dear. You don’t know what a quantitative trait locus (QTL) is, do you?

    The concept of quantitative trait loci is not hard to understand. My mistake with that example was that I chose the wrong example. I should have been more careful and researched mice coat colour which I now believe to be a strongly Mendelian trait.

  28. CharlieM: When a kind or a species takes on physical form the limits of archetypal expression is set. This is similar to what we see with pluripotent stem cells. The line of specialist cells that they give rise to will not normally produce cells with the potential of the former pluripotent cells they developed from.

    The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012

    CharlieM: The concept of quantitative trait loci is not hard to understand. My mistake with that example was that I chose the wrong example. I should have been more careful and researched mice coat colour which I now believe to be a strongly Mendelian trait.

    Don’t worry about that: Coat colour can be easily recoded as a continuous trait. But could you please explain what you meant by “genetic regulatory changes associated with areas such as quantitative trait loci” producing mice with exceptionally dark coats? Does it involve genetic mutations at multiple genomic positions affecting coat colour, perchance?

  29. Corneel:
    CharlieM: That may be true for many species, but this way of looking at things isolates just one aspect of differences between the sexes.

    Corneel: Yes, it isolates the very thing you asked for:

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

    Corneel: Emphasis mine.

    But the answer only satisfies those who already believe in the orthodox account of evolution.

    CharlieM: Of course you are right. I should have said androgynous.

    No, androgynous means having both male and female characteristics which cannot predate the distinction between males and females either. You should have said isogamy.

    Again this depends on one’s point of view. From a physical perspective isogamy is apt. But from my point of view androgenous and hermaphroditic are also apt. So I take back what I said about my use of “hermaphrodite” being wrong. I use these terms with respect to soul qualities. I believe soul qualities to be primal to physical qualities and not just something that came about through the arrangement of physical matter and so I’ll stick with these terms.

    CharlieM: I prefer reading work from people with as wide a spectrum of beliefs as possible.

    Corneel: Which, given that biological research is a secular enterprise, is EXACTLY what you will be doing by reading the works of actual biologists

    No, that would be to focus on just one aspect of learning and I would be ignoring subjects such as philosophy and cosmology.

  30. Corneel:
    CharlieM: When a kind or a species takes on physical form the limits of archetypal expression is set. This is similar to what we see with pluripotent stem cells. The line of specialist cells that they give rise to will not normally produce cells with the potential of the former pluripotent cells they developed from.

    The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012

    Is it normal for specialized cell nuclei to insert themselves into egg cells replacing their existing nulei? Are specialized cells able to revert to pluripotency without the insertion of foreign genes by artificial means?

  31. (CharlieM,

    But the answer only satisfies those who already believe in the orthodox account of evolution.

    Not strictly true. The fact of sex, and the role of males, have been a puzzle on the ‘orthodox’ account for a long while. Largely, I think, due to a ‘diplocentric’ bias.

  32. CharlieM: Are specialized cells able to revert to pluripotency without the insertion of foreign genes by artificial means?

    Oh yes, most plant cells for example.

  33. CharlieM: No, that would be to focus on just one aspect of learning and I would be ignoring subjects such as philosophy and cosmology.

    Then just read the works from actual philosophers and actual cosmologists as well.

    Unless you wish to keep telling yourself that your one-sided diet of anthroposophist screeds represents a “wide a spectrum of beliefs”.

    CharlieM: I believe soul qualities to be primal to physical qualities and not just something that came about through the arrangement of physical matter and so I’ll stick with these terms.

    Eh … yeah.

    Oh, won’t you look at the time. Gotta go.

  34. CharlieM,

    Yes Allan’s opus magnum does address these issues. But only with regard to the interaction of molecules. 

    Not quite true, old bean! I may have a reductionist bias, but I’m not that reductionist!

    As regards what it leaves out on sexual dimorphism, it was 54 pages long already…

  35. Corneel:
    CharlieM: If sexual selection lowers the net reproductive rate and reproductive rate is a measure of fitness why does it persist? Isn’t natural select all about increasing fitness?

    If it benefits drosophila to be monogamous why is promiscuity the norm?

    Corneel: These are fantastic questions. I note though that they do not only concern evolution by natural selection. Any explanatory framework that presents itself as an alternative to the standard evolutionary account needs to be able to explain why reproductive strategies that are harmful to mates and that lower the population net reproductive rate persist. These are bare facts. So far, we have only received denial from your (and phoodoo’s) end.

    As to your first question, modeling approaches have shown that male strategies that increase reproductive success in competition with other males at the cost of harm to females will spread in a population. The key observation is that selection occurs predominantly at the organismal level, not at the level of the population. Hence, any male strategy that increases the female mate’s reproductive investment or diminishes her remating propensity is able to spread, because it gives a competitive edge over males without this strategy.

    And this automatically answers your second question: it is clearly not beneficial to individual Drosophila fruitflies to be monogamous since promiscuous flies enjoy a higher reproductive success in a population where both strategies exist. I vaguely remember monogamy tends to occur in species where offspring receive biparental care (like humans), but I may be wrong about that.

    From experience I can tell you that the realization that sexual conflict can severely lower reproductive rate at the population level is baffling, even to some professional biologists. So don’t worry: you are not alone. And this is just dioecious species (having males and females): hermaphrodites are vicious.

    Yes, life is very complicated. And because within it there is a tangled mess of multilayered, convoluted, interactions, it cannot be disentangled into meaningful linear causal laws in the way that mechanical systems can. And Goethe was trying to develop a science of life with its own laws and rules that were not just borrowed from the physics of matter. The idea of the typus is something that could be developed further in relation to life as a compliment to the ways that formulae and equations are used in physics. Another aspect of viewing the living world in this way is in coming to an understanding of how the polarities of life and death, expansion and contraction, growth and decay, cooperation and conflict, and such like, are all necessary contributors to the evolution of life on earth.

    So rather than denying forces that are destructive to the continuance of life, I see these as a necessary pole in the processes of the living world. As Goethe said, nature cares nothing for the individual, or something along these lines. Individuals are dispensable from the point of view of the typus, just as individual cells are dispensable from the point of view of our continued existence as individuals.

  36. Allan Miller: My spidey-sense tingles! Sex, did someone say?

    The basic problem with this ‘how did the sexes diverge?’ question is that it presumes a multicellular asexual diploid, which then threw up gendered forms and meiosis, maybe both at once, with attendant head-scratching over simultaneity. But there is no evidence such an organism ever existed. Diploidy is a product of sex. Even asexual diploids had sexual ancestors (because they contain at least some of the genetic machinery involved in meiosis, even if they no longer indulge). There are no exceptions, to my knowledge. Asexuality in diploid eukaryotes is a derived characteristic, not the starting point. Sex likely played a significant part in eukaryogenesis.

    So: sex arose in haploid populations, by fusion and subsequent division, rather than in diploid populations by division and subsequent fusion. This simple flip of perspective profoundly changes the constraints. In the latter, you have to find another ‘divider’ to fuse with, and if you’re the first, there aren’t any. This is similar to ‘who did the first female mate with?’. But start with haploidy and fusion instead, and you already have a population of potential partners.

    Gender itself came later, after multicellularity. You need multicellularity to nurture eggs, or multiply pollen/sperm.

    From haploid to diploid. From an original unity life becomes polarized. I can agree with that.

    The symbol of the vesica piscis has been well known in the mystery schools since ancient times as containing much wisdom on this aspect of twofoldness and what develops from it.

  37. Allan Miller: CharlieM,

    This anatomical design does allow harmonious intercourse to take place between two consenting adult ducks. 

    Consenting? A female mallard would like a word with you…

    That is my point. If the female is receptive she relaxes her vagina which allows full penetration. If she is being raped the invading penis is prevented full access.

  38. CharlieM: From haploid to diploid. From an original unity life becomes polarized. I can agree with that.

    It goes back to haploid every generation. With a few exceptions.

    Are you walking back your contention that non-teleological explanations for sex fail?

  39. CharlieM: Yes, life is very complicated. And because within it there is a tangled mess of multilayered, convoluted, interactions, it cannot be disentangled into meaningful linear causal laws in the way that mechanical systems can. And Goethe was trying to develop a science of life with its own laws and rules that were not just borrowed from the physics of matter. The idea of the typus is something that could be developed further in relation to life as a compliment to the ways that formulae and equations are used in physics. Another aspect of viewing the living world in this way is in coming to an understanding of how the polarities of life and death, expansion and contraction, growth and decay, cooperation and conflict, and such like, are all necessary contributors to the evolution of life on earth.

    Rubbish!

    It saddens me that you have bought into the idea that biology is so “very complicated” that it “cannot be disentangled” and I forcefully reject the idea that complementing the findings of decades of meticulous research with soothing stories adds something of scientific value.

  40. Corneel: It saddens me that you have bought into the idea that biology is so “very complicated” that it “cannot be disentangled” and I forcefully reject the idea that complementing the findings of decades of meticulous research with soothing stories adds something of scientific value.

    Agreed.

  41. DNA_Jock:
    CharlieM: If it benefits drosophila to be monogamous why is promiscuity the norm?

    DNA_Jock: Great question. “Because cheating works in a monogamous population” is the answer.
    Next up, Evolutionarily Stable Strategies

    It’s all about balance. Populations are successfully maintained through balancing opposing forces which tend to evolve in a one-sided way. As this paper, “Evolution under monogamy feminizes gene expression in Drosophila melanogaster”shows.

    Earthly life in general has not only persisted for billions of years, but it has evolved to the point where conscious beings can contemplate it. This is down to the wisdom inherent in nature. There are eddies within eddies but nature spirals on into the future.

  42. Allan Miller: Hermaphrodite sea slugs are a good ‘un, if they haven’t been brought up already. In some, two slugs, both equipped with a penis, each attempt to stab the other with it without being stabbed themselves, rather than waste time locating an actual organ. Some have a gland that destroys sperm after stabbing. Others have a mutual, simultaneous copulation of a more conventional kind, beyond the simultaneous ‘batting-and-bowling’ aspect. Some alternate roles. Some go for stabbing (with or without the transfer of sperm) and a more familiar insemination. Just to get him/her in the mood, I suppose.

    All rather hard to see teleology in, though I don’t doubt people will have a go.

    It is of little benefit to ask what purpose a sea slug serves. But we can study these fascinating creatures and look to see in what way they are individual expressions of a general form. And we can see that they have inner drives, even if they have no conscious awareness of them.

    Steiner:

    No one has recognized better than Goethe that an organic science, without any dark mysticism, without teleology, without assuming special creative thoughts, must be possible. But also, no one has more vigorously rejected the unwarranted expectation of being able to accomplish anything here with the methods of inorganic science

    To look for a purpose behind any organism was anathema to Goethe. Fine for machines but not for living beings. He wished to study nature under its own terms and not by the methods appropriate to inorganic science.

  43. CharlieM,

    So there is neither a teleological nor a non-teleological account, according to you? Seems a bit empty, then. If Steiner and Goethe taught us anything … well, they didn’t. Seems science got a lot further without Goethe’s urgings than if it had noted them. What has been achieved by dispensing with ‘the methods of inorganic science’ (whatever they may be)?

  44. CharlieM: We are in agreement that machines with parts which break and have to be replaced by humans is a long long way from living organisms that maintain their viability by constantly replacing their own material constituents.

    Regarding kidney regeneration I also found this: “Origin and fate of the regenerating cells of the kidney” Here is the abstract:

    But within organisms turnover of material takes place at many levels, regenerating cells is just one example. By eating, drinking and breathing we are constantly exchanging material with our environment. Cells do the same. An active cell is constantly exchanging materials with the extracellular environment through such processes as osmosis, excretion and ingestion via vesicles, and active transport through pores. We metabolize, cells metabolize. The message of “the ship of Theseus” applies equally to individual cells as it does to us as individuals. The whole reflected in the parts.

    I think you’re engaging in a little overemphasis here, Charlie. I know the story of the “Ship of Theseus”, but the fact is, replacing iron with iron in the body or replacing calcium with calcium is not really either mechanical part replacement or renewal in any real sense. At least to my understanding.

    We all experience reality in our own limited ways.

    Fair enough…

    From what I could tell you thought of this as evidence that machines are in some way superior to organisms. I believe it shows the opposite.

    No, I don’t think that at all. I was noting that (I’m assuming you’re referring to my response concerning James Watt) to Phoodoo because that was what James Watt was attempting to imply to see his steam engine.

    I simply don’t see organisms and machines as equivalent at all.

    I’m not looking at models, I would say I’m looking at how things are in actuality.

    As you note above, “we all experience reality in our own limited ways.” There is no way to experience “actual” reality (whatever that might be); all we can do is experience some variation of some model of reality we can interact with and believe in.

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