Universal Common Descent Dilemma

  1. Despite lack of observational basis, Darwin proposed Universal Common Descent (UCD) saying:Therefore I should infer from analogy that probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed“. He also said elsewhere (referring to UCD): “…the littlest creature (or four or five of them)…” With his remarks, Darwin left the door open to creation (“life was first breathed”), but since then, Neo-Darwinists have rejected creation and replaced it with belief in undirected abiogenesis while maintaining belief in UCD.
  2. UCD is incompatible with the current view of Earth as just an ordinary planet circling an ordinary star located nowhere special inside an ordinary galaxy. If Earth is “nothing special” and abiogenesis is an ordinary “arising” of life from non-living matter, spontaneous abiogenesis would be a trivial common occurrence here on Earth as well as throughout the Universe, and we would have many “trees of life” instead of one. However, until now, all abiogenesis experiments have failed to produce life, spontaneous generation has been rejected, and the Fermi paradox stands, all these keeping the single “tree of life” and UCD hypothesis still alive and still inexplicable.
  3. Conditions for starting life should be similar to those required for sustaining it. The Big Bang model mandates a beginning of life. Furthermore, once started life must be sustained by the same or very similar environment. And since life is being sustained now on Earth, abiogenesis should be ongoing contrary to all observations to date. Tidal pools, deep sea hydrothermal vents, and the undersurface of ice caps have been hypothesized to originate abiogenesis due to their persistent energy gradients, but no abiogenesis or its intermediate phases have been observed around these sites. Given these, the only methodological naturalistic alternative is ‘limited window of opportunity for abiogenesis which suggests primordial life substantially different than all known forms of life, and perhaps originating on another planet followed by panspermia. However, this alternative defies Occam’s razor and the absence of supporting evidence including the earliest ever known fossils (stromatolites) that are of commonly occurring cyanobacteria rather than of alien origin.
  4. Universal Common Descent requires an inexplicable biologic singularity. All known forms of life are based on the same fundamental biochemical organization, so either abiogenesis happened only once or it happened freely for a while but then it stopped when the ‘window of opportunity’ closed and only one organism survived to become the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) of all existing life on Earth. However, these two biologic singularities should be unacceptable given the lack of evidence and the assumption of continuity in nature. Furthermore, the second scenario requires two discontinuities: one for the cessation of abiogenesis and the second one for the bottleneck leading to LUCA.
  5. In conclusion, UCD hypothesis leads to a number of bad and very bad scenarios: a) Earth is “nothing special” should lead to a “forest of life” rather than a single “tree of life” and to ubiquitous abiogenesis (unobserved); b) Alien life plus panspermia is refuted by the Fermi paradox and oldest known stromatolites fossils; c) Single event abiogenesis is an unsupported and therefore unacceptable singularity; d) ‘Window of opportunity’ abiogenesis followed by LUCA bottleneck is even less acceptable double-singularity. And this brings us back to Darwin’s “open door” to creation, perhaps the most rational alternative that fits all biologic observations.

Pro-Con Notes

Con: Maybe abiogenesis is happening a lot. I think the already existing life would dispose of it quickly though.

Pro:  if so, 1. We should be able to duplicate abiogenesis in the lab; 2. We should see at least some of the intermediate abiogenesis steps in nature; 3. Existing life can only process what looks like food. Cellulose is a well known organic material that cannot be broken down by a lot of organisms and is known to last as very long time in dry conditions.

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1,101 thoughts on “Universal Common Descent Dilemma

  1. Corneel:

    CharlieM: You pick sponges as an example because they are not very animal like. […] Again you have isolated an extreme example and not considered animal life taken as a whole.

    I picked sponges in an attempt to show you that your idea of an animal is like that of a three-year old who just learned “zebra” and “elephant” from a book with a lot of pictures. Sponges are not “plant like”; they are animals just like zebras, ostriches, jellyfish and earth worms. The only person continuously cherry picking an extreme example is you, whenever you take humans as the only and ultimate yardstick to measure all other organisms against.

    I was comparing animals in general with plants in general. If sponges are not “plantlike” then why did Linnaeus do the following?

    Linnaeus, who classified most kinds of sessile animals as belonging to the order Zoophyta in the class Vermes, mistakenly identified the genus Spongia as plants in the order Algae

    If I asked you if you thought sponges were more plantlike than zebras, would you be able to give me an answer? I would hope you could. On the other hand I would not expect an answer from a sponge or even a zebra.

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  2. Allan Miller:

    CharlieM: Do you know how closely the DNA sequences of mitochondria and bacteria match?

    Well enough to give strong support to the nesting of mitochondria in or very near alpha proteobacteria (and not the generality of bacteria, or some other clade within them).

    Well enough to suspect that they are closely related, but you cannot infer linear descent from this.

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  3. Allan Miller: CharlieM: Yes and that is the point I am making with my analogy. Your gluteus maximus and trapezius are very closely related in that they are both skeletal muscles, but no one would suggest that one developed from the other. But when it comes to mitochondria and bacteria that is exactly what is suggested.

    Is not. It is ‘suggested’ that they share common ancestry.

    So you agree that linear descent cannot be inferred?

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  4. Here is some interesting research

    Photosynthesis originated a billion years earlier than we thought, study shows.

    The earliest oxygen-producing microbes may not have been cyanobacteria. Ancient microbes may have been producing oxygen through photosynthesis a billion years earlier than we thought, which means oxygen was available for living organisms very close to the origin of life on earth…

    One surprising finding was that the evolution of the photosystem was not linear. Photosystems are known to evolve very slowly — they have done so since cyanobacteria appeared at least 2.4 billion years ago. But when Dr. Cardona used that slow rate of evolution to calculate the origin of photosynthesis, he came up with a date that was older than the earth itself. This means the photosystem must have evolved much faster at the beginning — something recent research suggests was due to the planet being hotter.

    I have included an image of just one of the protein complexes involved in photosynthesis. I would like to know the Darwinian path by which this process evolved in this very early organism?

    Also if the evolution of the photosystem was found to be non-linear, how accurate are other molecular clocks?

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  5. CharlieM: All of the plants energy is used up in growth and reproduction, it never reaches the stage of being able to learn. We have growth in common with plants but then we develop further in the way I have described. That, in essence, is the difference.

    Look, I can see that, in order to argue that humans contain the “essence” of all other life forms, you try to reduce the essence of all other living things to something trivial. Hence the essence of plants, bacteria and animals that do not appear in “My First Book of Animals” is reduced to growth. But most organisms sport a substantial collection of characters and abilities that humans do not (like photosynthesis). You dismiss that stuff as “not essential”, but that just goes to show that you don’t care about anything but cognitive abilities. People who actually give a damn about biology (like me) know better than to ignore the tremendous diversity of life and trust Charlie to distill the “essence” of all-plant-like-organisms for them.

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  6. CharlieM: I am being constantly told that bacteria are not even the equivalent of a single human cell but are remarkably similar to the organelles within a cell. And now you are asking why should they not be treated as the equivalent of multicellular eukaryotes?!

    That is because cell organelles have clearly become part of the organism, whereas most bacteria can survive as independent individuals. If you are already having problems wrapping your head around that basic stuff , then you are well advised to stay away from the more fuzzy cases, like the Wolbachia that Allan mentioned.

    CharlieM: Looking at life as a whole does not mean ignoring the detail. In fact the opposite is the case. In order to make the necessary connections the life processes should be studied in intimate details.

    Do you smell burnt rubber? That is from you making a 180 degree turn:

    Reductionist thinking does not make the connections, it only sees the separate parts.

    CharlieM: What is your point? Individual human cells can be sessile, motile, single, clustered, elongated, spherical, long lived or short lived.

    The point is that groups of bacteria exist that have certain characteristics that are decidedly not-plant-like, arguing contra you shoveling them unto the pile of “plant-like thingies”. Bacteria have greater diversity than animals or plants, as evidenced by the larger phylogenetic distances between them and by them having a greater repertoire of metabolic pathways. I believe we discussed this previously.

    CharlieM: If I asked you if you thought sponges were more plantlike than zebras, would you be able to give me an answer? I would hope you could.

    Does it look plant-like? Ah, so this is an example of you studying life in “intimate details”?

    I can see where the sentiment comes from; Sponges do not have active movement, and some of them may even harbour photosynthesizing symbionts. As far as I am concerned, neither of those things establishes sponges as being plants.

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  7. Corneel: Look, I can see that, in order to argue that humans contain the “essence” of all other life forms, you try to reduce the essence of all other living things to something trivial. Hence the essence of plants, bacteria and animals that do not appear in “My First Book of Animals” is reduced to growth. But most organisms sport a substantial collection of characters and abilities that humans do not (like photosynthesis). You dismiss that stuff as “not essential”, but that just goes to show that you don’t care about anything but cognitive abilities. People who actually give a damn about biology (like me) know better than to ignore the tremendous diversity of life and trust Charlie to distill the “essence” of all-plant-like-organisms for them.

    You look at the little word “growth” and then your thinking stops there because you do not see all that it entails. The word, “growth” is only trivial if we do not seriously think of the meaning behind it. Concentrate on plant growth and all that it entails: Mitosis, intake of nuitriants, differentiation of cells and organs, photosynthesis, rising up against the force of gravity, and much more. All that is contained in the understanding of plant growth. It is nothing like a reduction to a single, trivial concept. I’m sorry but if anyone is making light of concepts it is you.

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  8. That’s right!
    The little word “growth” encompasses phototropism, gravitropism, and apical dominance, all of which are seen in huma…
    Never mind.

    Personally, I do NOT think that sponges are more “plant-like” than zebras. But then I’m a biochemist by training, so I focus on the xylans.

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  9. DNA_Jock:
    That’s right!
    The little word “growth” encompasses phototropism, gravitropism, and apical dominance, all of which are seen in huma…
    Never mind.

    You have obviously forgotten or have not read my earlier post where I wrote the following:

    The essential nature of plants is growth, the essential nature of animals is growth and sentience. We contain the essence of plants in that we grow and we contain the essence of animals in that we are sentient.

    Yes growth even applies to humans.

    DNA_Jock: Personally, I do NOT think that sponges are more “plant-like” than zebras. But then I’m a biochemist by training, so I focus on the xylans.

    Probably because of your specialist training you are so focused on the detail that you have forgotten to consider the whole.

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  10. Sponges can move, you know. Some of them move considerable distances, though slowly. Others are fixed to a substrate, but their cilia still move and pump water. Plants, on the other hand, don’t have cilia, though some of them can move certain parts; think of sensitive mimosa and Venus fly traps.

    Now what is this sentience? If it’s mere ability to sense and respond to stimuli, don’t the plants I just mentioned have that? If it’s something else, what exactly is it that a sponge has or lacks that make it sentient or non-sentient, whichever you’re going for? What about a jellyfish?

    Charlie, as usual, makes it up as he goes along and has little idea of biology.

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  11. Sorry Charlie if I was being too subtle for you.
    In the post that I was responding to, you quoted Corneel thus

    …Hence the essence of plants, bacteria and animals that do not appear in “My First Book of Animals” is reduced to growth. But most organisms sport a substantial collection of characters and abilities that humans do not (like photosynthesis). You dismiss that stuff as “not essential”, but that just goes to show that you don’t care about anything but cognitive abilities. …

    and you condescended thus

    You look at the little word “growth” and then your thinking stops there because you do not see all that it entails. The word, “growth” is only trivial if we do not seriously think of the meaning behind it. Concentrate on plant growth and all that it entails: Mitosis, intake of nuitriants, differentiation of cells and organs, photosynthesis, rising up against the force of gravity, and much more. All that is contained in the understanding of plant growth. It is nothing like a reduction to a single, trivial concept. I’m sorry but if anyone is making light of concepts it is you.

    You are ever so carefully defining “growth” to mean those characteristics that you think that humans and plants have in common. Remember: the thing that Corneel is challenging is your baroque claim that all non-human life is just devolved versions of the acme that is man.
    viz:

    The whole human organism contains the essence of all forms of life within itself. It contains prokaryotes within itself in the form of mitochondria.

    and

    The essential nature of plants is growth, the essential nature of animals is growth and sentience. We contain the essence of plants in that we grow and we contain the essence of animals in that we are sentient.

    To maintain this Goethean archetype woo, you listed the aspects of plant growth that could be analogized to humans. I particularly enjoyed “rising up against the force of gravity.”
    To counter this, I listed three rather essential aspects of plant growth that cannot be analogized to humans, although I’m sure you’ll give it the good ol’ college try…

    All his talk of purity of essence reminds me of that movie with Slim Pickens…

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  12. John Harshman:
    Sponges can move, you know. Some of them move considerable distances, though slowly. Others are fixed to a substrate, but their cilia still move and pump water. Plants, on the other hand, don’t have cilia, though some of them can move certain parts; think of sensitive mimosa and Venus fly traps.

    Yes I hadn’t forgotten that a sponge is different to a mimosa or a venus fly trap in that it is an animal and they are plants.

    John Harshman: Now what is this sentience? If it’s mere ability to sense and respond to stimuli, don’t the plants I just mentioned have that? If it’s something else, what exactly is it that a sponge has or lacks that make it sentient or non-sentient, whichever you’re going for? What about a jellyfish?

    From Marc Bekoff, emeritus professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder:
    After 2,500 Studies, It’s Time to Declare Animal Sentience Proven

    For the purpose of this essay I am defining “sentience” as “the ability to feel, perceive, or be conscious, or to experience subjectivity”…

    Evidence of animal sentience is everywhere — the remaining questions are a matter of why sentience evolved, not if it evolved.

    Can you see any difference between a Venus fly trap snapping shut on an insect and a cat scratching its ear?

    The kind of sentience I am talking about requires a nervous system. More advanced animals can outwardly express their inner feelings to some degree.

    From National Geographic

    Sponges are among the most primitive of all animals. They are immobile, and live by filtering detritus from the water. They have no brains or, for that matter, any neurons, organs or even tissues. If you were looking for the evolutionary origins of animal intelligence, you couldn’t really pick a less likely subject to study.

    Over time, evolution co-opted the early PSD of the sponge and used it to craft true nervous systems.
    So it was with great surprise that Onur Sakarya from the University of California, Santa Barbara found that sponges carry the beginnings of a nervous system.

    With no neurons to speak of, these animals still have the genetic components of synapses, one of the most crucial parts of our nervous system. And their versions share startling similarities with those of humans.

    So one of the most primitive of animals has the makings of a nervous system but this animal is like the plants in that it doesn’t possess any nerve cells. Higher animals incorporate a central nervous system culminating in the most complex structure in the known universe.

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  13. CharlieM: Can you see any difference between a Venus fly trap snapping shut on an insect and a cat scratching its ear?

    Not in any important way.

    The kind of sentience I am talking about requires a nervous system. More advanced animals can outwardly express their inner feelings to some degree.

    Do cnidarians have inner feelings? You really are making it up as yo go along, aren’t you? You have no coherent view based on anything like observation.

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  14. CharlieM:
    Well enough to suspect that they are closely related, but you cannot infer linear descent from this.

    I still think you might be pursuing the ‘why are there still monkeys?’ fallacy. If the closest relatives of mitochondria are alpha proteobacteria, this is not a claim that mitochondria are ‘linearly descended’ from modern alpha proteobacteria. No-one is trying to infer that peculiar thing.

    What would you prefer to call the common ancestor of modern mitochondria and alpha proteobacteria, if not bacteria? Mitoteria? Bacchondria?

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  15. CharlieM addressing DNA_Jock: Probably because of your specialist training you are so focused on the detail that you have forgotten to consider the whole.

    Or perhaps he has been studying the intimate details in order to make the necessary connections.

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  16. Allan Miller: What would you prefer to call the common ancestor of modern mitochondria and alpha proteobacteria, if not bacteria? Mitoteria? Bacchondria?

    They’re plant … like-ish.

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  17. DNA_Jock:

    Sorry Charlie if I was being too subtle for you.
    In the post that I was responding to, you quoted Corneel thus:

    …But most organisms sport a substantial collection of characters and abilities that humans do not (like photosynthesis). You dismiss that stuff as “not essential”, but that just goes to show that you don’t care about anything but cognitive abilities.

    and you condescended thus:

    Concentrate on plant growth and all that it entails: Mitosis, intake of nuitriants, differentiation of cells and organs, photosynthesis, rising up against the force of gravity, and much more. All that is contained in the understanding of plant growth.

    You are ever so carefully defining “growth” to mean those characteristics that you think that humans and plants have in common.

    I have not defined growth. I assumed everyone would have known what I meant by it. Can we agree to call it expansion of material substance? I was certainly not defining “growth” above, I was specifying some entailments of plant growth in which I included photosynthesis (not something that accompanies human growth).

    Remember: the thing that Corneel is challenging is your baroque claim that all non-human life is just devolved versions of the acme that is man.
    viz:.

    The whole human organism contains the essence of all forms of life within itself. It contains prokaryotes within itself in the form of mitochondria.

    Do you deny that if we compare three entities, mitochondria, prokayotes and humans; the first and second are much more alike than either is to the third? If so how do you see the relationship? Also we contain prokaryotes within ourselves in the form of gut bacteria.

    and

    The essential nature of plants is growth, the essential nature of animals is growth and sentience. We contain the essence of plants in that we grow and we contain the essence of animals in that we are sentient.

    Which of these statements do you disagree with?
    1. Plants grow, decay and reproduce.
    2. Animals grow, decay, reproduce and are sentient.
    3. Humans grow, decay, reproduce, are sentient, are capable of self conscious rational thought and with their thinking are capable of exploring vast areas of space and time.

    To maintain this Goethean archetype woo, you listed the aspects of plant growth that could be analogized to humans. I particularly enjoyed “rising up against the force of gravity.”

    No I didn’t, see above.

    To counter this, I listed three rather essential aspects of plant growth that cannot be analogized to humans, although I’m sure you’ll give it the good ol’ college try…

    You are giving examples of the means by which specific creatures achieve growth. This does not alter the fact that all creatures have this in common, that they increase their material content, they grow.

    Here are typical examples:

    Grasses use their energy to grow and maintain viability.

    Zebras use their energy to grow up to a point, then they use it to move around satisfying their desire for food, mating and such like.

    We humans use our energy to grow up to a point. Some of it is used on moving about in order to satisfy our desires and our brains use up a considerable amount of energy which increases when we are concentrating.

    So we progress from growth to sentience to rational thought.

    And I have spent far too much time and energy composing this reply 🙂

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  18. John Harshman:

    CharlieM: Can you see any difference between a Venus fly trap snapping shut on an insect and a cat scratching its ear?

    Not in any important way.

    Okay, then how about the difference between a Venus fly trap snapping shut on an insect and you typing replies on a keypad?

    Do cnidarians have inner feelings? You really are making it up as yo go along, aren’t you? You have no coherent view based on anything like observation.

    They have inner feelings in the proportion that they have a central nervous system. In other words virtually non existent.

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  19. Allan Miller: CharlieM: So you agree that linear descent cannot be inferred?

    Sorry, you’ve lost me.

    Basically I said that when it comes to mitochondria and prokaryotes experts infer that one evolved from the other, mainly that (ancient) mitochondria evolved from (ancient) alpha proteobacteria. You said that this is not the case. They suggest common ancestry, not that one evolved from the other.

    I had previously given the example of the series of leaves on the stem of a buttercup. They can be placed in a hierarchical series due to similarity of form, but none in the series has developed from the one nearest to it. In other words we cannot infer linear progression of descent from their similarity.

    So when you wrote:

    Is not. It is ‘suggested’ that they share common ancestry.

    you were saying that they did not suggest that mitochondroa evolved from alpha proteobacteria, only that they shared a common ancestry. In other words they both evolved from the same presumably unknown source, not one from the other.

    Is that what you are saying?

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  20. Allan Miller: I still think you might be pursuing the ‘why are there still monkeys?’ fallacy.

    No I’m not.

    If the closest relatives of mitochondria are alpha proteobacteria, this is not a claim that mitochondria are ‘linearly descended’ from modern alpha proteobacteria. No-one is trying to infer that peculiar thing.

    Yes I already know that.

    What would you prefer to call the common ancestor of modern mitochondria and alpha proteobacteria, if not bacteria? Mitoteria? Bacchondria?

    I am saying that common ancestry is not the only scenario. As in the buttercup leaves they could have originated from the same plan and not be linear descended.

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  21. Corneel: John Harshman: Do cnidarians have inner feelings?

    They tend to be a little prickly,

    You should get to know one. You might be shocked by their affection.

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  22. CharlieM: They have inner feelings in the proportion that they have a central nervous system. In other words virtually non existent.

    So, in other words, inner feelings are not a characteristic of animals, only of some animals. What about flatworms? Do they have inner feelings? How would you know?

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  23. John Harshman: So, in other words, inner feelings are not a characteristic of animals, only of some animals. What about flatworms? Do they have inner feelings? How would you know?

    All animals either have sentience or have the potential to be sentient. Don’t forget everything is in the process of evolving. You would not say that because a 3 week old baby does not have rational thought then humans can not be said to have rational thought. The stage of development of the nervous system will determine their level of sentience.

    Plants capture light in order to produce energy and carbohydrates. It plays a vital part in their growth. Humans and higher animals capture light in order to sense the visual world. It plays a large part in their sentience.

    Contrary to what you may think I do not consider the divide between plants, animals and humans to be unbridgeable. There is graduation with forms in transitional positions. When I say that animals are sentient etc., I am talking about average, well developed animals, plants and humans.

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  24. CharlieM,

    I am saying that common ancestry is not the only scenario. As in the buttercup leaves they could have originated from the same plan and not be linear descended.

    Do you have any reason to suppose that the leaf cells in a given buttercup are not commonly descended?

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  25. CharlieM: All animals either have sentience or have the potential to be sentient.

    You must realize that to most people this all sounds like nonsensical blather. And you say it with such confidence!

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  26. Allan Miller: The only valid evidence is experimental evidence. I’ll be sure to tell the geologists and the astrophysicists.

    Sure, breeding dogs into cats (if we had the technology) would be evidence for “evolution” because everything is.

    No, it would be evidence of (not for) evolution because you would be doing descent with modification, not commencing a lineage with no antecedents. You gave me 2 choices, I had to pick one.

    Yes, Allan. Even geologists and the astrophysicists must show experimental evidence.

    What does that even mean: “descent with modification”? Modification of what? …considering that not even monozygotic twins are identical.

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  27. Alan Fox:
    Nonsense! It merely highlights your misunderstanding. OOL is a separate issue from UCD.

    Note that this OP does not ask for proof of the OOL mega-singularity. It merely explores the implications of the UCD hypothesis.

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  28. Allan Miller: It belongs squarely here, even if over your head. I was connecting the informatic issue back to the OP. The evidence for UCD is gradually eroded by entropy, in the Shannon sense. But this erosion is itself informative, because it is possible to arrange these differences in a data set into a ‘tree’ topology. This gives a probabilistic direction to change, which is relevant when people try to argue that the direction of travel between prokaryotes and eukaryotes is simply reversible, or that ‘it could be convergence’. It isn’t, for reasons closely analogous to the irreversibility of statistical thermodynamics. Local departures from expectation are permissible, but these cannot be summed up into one big anomaly, because the overarching pattern is divergent.

    What are you talking about? Looks like a passage from a conversation I was not part of.

    Does anyone else here know what this is about? Can you provide a link?

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  29. Nonlin.org: Note that this OP does not ask for proof of the OOL mega-singularity. It merely explores the implications of the UCD hypothesis.

    Descent with modification from a common ancestor assumes the prior existence of the common ancestor. (Well, I say assumes but the almost universal genetic code is a strong indicator of shared ancestry.)

    The consilient evidence of the branching relatedness of all extant and extinct life on Earth is not the least dented by your musings.

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  30. Nonlin.org: Did you read all relevant comments? Or just the last one?

    Depends who’s deciding what’s relevant. I scroll over comments by BA77, Kairosfocus, ET etc. Are there some gems there you’d like to draw attention to?

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  31. Alan Fox: Depends who’s deciding what’s relevant. I scroll over comments by BA77, Kairosfocus, ET etc. Are there some gems there you’d like to draw attention to?

    I’d add comments by Nonlin to that list, for obvious reasons.

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  32. Entropy: I’d add comments by Nonlin to that list, for obvious reasons.

    And reading gpuccio’s responses to nonlin’s comments there, I suspect nonlin is on gpuccio’s list too! 🙂

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  33. Alan Fox: Depends who’s deciding what’s relevant. I scroll over comments by BA77, Kairosfocus, ET etc. Are there some gems there you’d like to draw attention to?

    Too bad you can’t ban them, huh Admin Alan?

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  34. Nonlin.org: What are you talking about? Looks like a passage from a conversation I was not part of.

    Does anyone else here know what this is about? Can you provide a link?

    A link? What would that achieve? There was a side discussion about ‘information’, which you saw because you mentioned it. I saw a connection between information (the Shannon variety) and sequence divergence (part of the argument on common descent) and so constructed a post on that connection. You suggested I take it elsewhere, while admitting at the same time you don’t understand it well enough to know where it belongs.

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  35. phoodoo: Too bad you can’t ban them, huh Admin Alan?

    Kairosfocus was invited by Lizzie more than once to join discussions here. He’d have the same opportunity to comment within the rules as anyone else.

    BA77 regularly calls for dissenting voices to be silenced at UD and I suspect he’s better off staying there. Nothing stopping him registering and posting here (subject to TSZ rules) should he wish.

    ET/Frankie/JoeG is suspended from posting here. Should he wish to give an undertaking regarding future conduct, we could reconsider his suspension.

    So, you are talking nonsense, basically.

    And moderation issues belong in the moderation issues thread. I may have pointed this out before.

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  36. Allan Miller:
    CharlieM,

    Do you have any reason to suppose that the leaf cells in a given buttercup are not commonly descended?

    Good question. No I don’t.

    From Goethe quoted in “Thinking Beyond Darwin”, by Ernst Michael Kranich:

    …there is a difference between seeing and seeing, that the eyes of the spirit have to work in continuous living conjunction with the eyes of the body, for one otherwise falls into the danger of overlooking what one sees.

    Whether we are looking at the multiplicity in the plant growing from seed by cell division or the changing forms of the leaves along the stem, we must not lose site of the fact that the entity we are studying is a unified, viable whole. The cells or the leaves are just aspects of this whole.

    Goethe made a comparative study of plants in Italy with those of his native homeland. Steiner referring to this writes the following:,

    Goethe there regarded all the outer characteristics of the plant, everything belonging to the visible aspect of the plant, as inconstant, as changing. From this he drew the conclusion that the essential being of the plant, therefore, does not lie in these characteristics, but rather must be sought at deeper levels. It was from observations similar to these of Goethe that Darwin also proceeded when he asserted his doubts about the constancy of the outer forms of genera and species. But the conclusions drawn by the two men are utterly different. Whereas Darwin believes the essential being of the organism to consist in fact only of these outer characteristics, and, from their changeability draws the conclusion that there is therefore nothing constant in the life of the plants, Goethe goes deeper and draws the conclusion that if those outer characteristics are not constant, then the constant element must be sought in something else that underlies those changeable outer aspects. It becomes Goethe’s goal to develop this something else, whereas Darwin’s efforts go in the direction of exploring and presenting the specific causes of that changeability. Both ways of looking at things are necessary and complement one another. It is completely erroneous to believe that Goethe’s greatness in organic science is to be found in the view that he was a mere forerunner of Darwin. Goethe’s way of looking at things is far broader; it comprises two aspects: 1. the typus, i.e., the lawfulness manifesting in the organism, the animalness of the animal, the life that gives form to itself out of itself, that has the power and ability — through the possibilities lying within it — to develop itself in manifold outer shapes (species, genera); 2. the interaction of the organism with inorganic nature and of the organisms with each other (adaptation and the struggle for existence). Darwin developed only the latter aspect of organic science. One cannot therefore say that Darwin’s theory is the elaboration of Goethe’s basic ideas, but rather that it is merely the elaboration of one aspect of his ideas. Darwin’s theory looks only at those facts that cause the world of living beings to evolve in a certain way, but does not look at that “something” upon which those facts act determinatively. If only the one aspect is pursued, then it can also not lead to any complete theory of organisms; essentially, this must be pursued in the spirit of Goethe; the one aspect must be complemented and deepened by the other aspect of his theory.

    Whether it be a plant, a zebra, a human or earthly life as a whole, at all stages from its birth to its death it remains a unified, viable whole. And it is this whole that is the reality. Individual cells and leaves may come and go but it is the unified plant that is the overarching reality that the cells and leaves are just a part of.

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  37. John Harshman: You must realize that to most people this all sounds like nonsensical blather. And you say it with such confidence!

    Cantonese sounds like nonsensical blather to me. But I realise this is just because I don’t understand it. The fault lies with me and not the language.

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  38. CharlieM: Cantonese sounds like nonsensical blather to me. But I realise this is just because I don’t understand it. The fault lies with me and not the language.

    I agree that the fault lies with you, but in both your analogy and the present case. Your arrogance is not helpful. Some kind of coherent argument would work better, if you are capable of such a thing.

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  39. Nonlin wants to know what descent with modification means, then points out a case of it. Lulz.

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