What mixture of “design” and “evolution” is possible as the IDM collapses?

This offers the simplest “neutral” colloquial mixture of “design” and “evolution” that I’ve seen in a long time. The site is no longer maintained, but the language persists.

“As a designer it is important to understand where design came from, how it developed, and who shaped its evolution. The more exposure you have to past, current and future design trends, styles and designers, the larger your problem-solving toolkit. The larger your toolkit, the more effective of a designer you can be.” http://www.designishistory.com/this-site/

Here, the term “evolution” as used just meant “history”. The author was not indicating “design theory evolution”, but rather instead the “history of designs” themselves, which have been already instantiated.

The topic “design is history” nevertheless enables an obvious point of contact between “evolution” and “design”. They both have histories that can be studied. Present in the above meaning of “design” are the origin, processes and agent(s) involved in the “designing”. This differs significantly from the Discovery Institute’s version of “design theory”, when it comes to history, aim, structure and agency, since the DI’s version flat out avoids discussion of design processes and agent(s). The primary purpose of the DI’s “design theory”, meanwhile, is USAmerican religious apologetics and “theistic science”.

The quotation above likely didn’t come from an IDist, and it isn’t referencing “Intelligent Design” theory as a supposed “scientific theory”. The “designer” in the quotation above is a (more or less intelligent) human designer, not a Divine Designer. This fact distinguishes it “in principle” from the Discovery Institute’s ID theory, which is supposed to be (depends on who you’re speaking with in the IDM) about first biology, then informatics, and statistics. The DI’s ID theory is not actually focused on “designing by real designers”, but rather on apologetics using “design” and informational probabilism.

The Discovery Institute’s failure to distinguish or even highlight the differences and similarities between human design and Divine Design, and instead their engagement in active distortion, equivocation, double-talking, and obfuscation between them, are marks of its eventual downward trend to collapse.

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885 thoughts on “What mixture of “design” and “evolution” is possible as the IDM collapses?

  1. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: I might post other examples of your ‘trivial amount’ of extra genomic material, there are many of them in the research literature.

    Is that a threat or a promise? I’m sorry if this seems harsh but the more you post the less I feel you have any real grasp on biology.

    Whether threat or promise I have just provided a further example. See the link concerning RNAs in my previous post.

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  2. Allan Miller: Centrioles are made of tubulin which is made by enzymes whose sequence is contained within the genome acting on tubulin sequences. The organising principles are likewise enzyme-directed.

    From here, Beyond genes: Are centrioles carriers of biological information? April 24, 2015, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

    Scientists have discover that certain cell structures, the centrioles, could act as information carriers throughout cell generations. The discovery raises the possibility that transmission of biological information could involve more than just genes. Centrioles may actually be carriers of information, which holds profound implications for biology and disease treatment

    In my opinion a welcome step beyond gene-centrism.

    I would hope that neither of us is arguing that it is the physical substance that is passed on through the generations.

    Correct me if I am wrong but i’d say that you are arguing that a static sequence with the occasional disruption is what gets passed down through the generations. I am saying that along with this sequence certain vital active principles also get transmitted through the generations and these use the sequences but are not controlled by the sequences.

    For example there is redundancy built in to the way the sequences are controlled by this activity. The way the cell uses its genome is contingent upon circumstances. This is an innate behaviour of the cell.

    I will, if you prefer, retreat from my ‘trivial’ assertion. There is a significant amount of phenotype contained in an egg. But none of that persists beyond a few divisions of the blastocyst – new copies are made from the genotype of the zygote, and the parental copies turn over and dilute. And in that process, new levels of phenotype emerge, from cellular replication. Blastula phenotype gives way to gastrula phenotype, then embryo, foetus, infant, junior, adult.

    New copies are produced through the same activity which persists through the generations. Activities are just as real as material substance. In fact I would say they are a more basic form of reality.

    And the forms of the phenotype are more stable than the materials of which they are composed but they are are still dynamic as your series shows.

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  3. Allan Miller: You seem to be mashing this nest of phenotypes into one. Because an egg contains a bit of phenotype, necessary to get the ball rolling, in some vague manner then it also contains the phenotype of the adult.

    I mash them together because they are one in reality. They are one in the same sense that Goethe ‘saw’ the unity in plants. We should not mistake the visual images for the reality. We need to look beyond the instances provided by our sense experiences in order to grasp the true reality as it relates to time and space.

    You are thinking in static images in which you believe every stage is a separate phenotype. But a developing organism is not a series of ‘stills’, it is a continuous dynamic flow. There is not a nest of phenotypes but one ever changing phenotype. Rates of change may vary but the change of form over time is continuous, it does not come about through discrete steps.

    I would advise anyone to watch this video which is an excerpt from a set of videos which have been linked here a few times in the past. It demonstrates nicely the flow of cells involved in the developing forms.

    The early stages do not contain the phenotype of the adult in any way, vague or otherwise. The various forms we observe are all equal expressions of the whole suited to their time and place within the whole.

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  4. Allan Miller: But that phenotype actually arises by genomic repetition, with epigenetics – enzymes are extracted differentially under chemical influence depending on location. Those chemical influences themselves are genetically sourced.

    And all these activities are coordinated with each complex playing its part.at all levels. Replication is not a molecule or even a group of molecules, it is a combination of activities.

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  5. Allan Miller: But deep inside this growing soma, lie new eggs – their haploid composition is already set while she is a foetus, and they lie suspended in meiosis for 20 years or so, before maturing and releasing. The whirr of organismal development takes place largely above their heads, and is not passed on. All that is passed on is in the genome of the egg, with its starter pack of components derived from the mother’s genotype. The capacity of these quiescent genes to be passed on depends largely on the success of their identical copies engaged in the ‘whirr of development’.

    What is passed on is living active substance. The ability to replicate is what is constant throughout evolution. Genes may come and go, mutate and develop, Chromosome numbers may change, but the one thing that remains from the beginning until now is the process of replication.

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  6. Allan Miller: You’re just picking random examples of a particular linguistic stance. People hardly ever talk of ‘genes doing things’ when there is another stance available. Birds make nests, couples have intercourse, hearts beat, cells replicate, enzymes methylate. You’ll find Dawkins***, or any less self-publicising gene-centrist, doing much the same thing, and they aren’t contradicting themselves.

    Your examples do nothing to address nor undermine any of the points I have repeatedly made.

    (ETA, I knew I’d seen Dawkins comment on this, so had a quick look. Given your penchant for arguing with the words of others: “At times gene language gets a bit tedious, and for brevity and vividness we shall lapse into metaphor.“).

    If you are talking about genes doing things then you are equating ‘genes’ with entities that are much more than strings of nucleotides.

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  7. Corneel: CharlieM: That chance mutations bring about all life forms is your belief not mine.

    No, I do not believe in tornado-in-a-junkyard scenario’s. Try harder, Charlie.

    So where do the novel forms originate that become available for selection? Selection does not create. Weeding out reduces the available variation.

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  8. Corneel:

    Me: What is “the creativity of life”? The ability to create something new perchance? Please define.

    Charlie: Yes. Novelty within limits. Such as the ability to take and use the archetypal form in an individual way.

    So the “creativity of life” is the ability to use the archetypal form in an individual way? Could you suggest another slightly less presupposing definition please?

    It was more of a description rather than a definition.

    Creativity involves taking the general form and adapting it in specific ways to suit the needs and passions of the being in which it expressed. .Birds have a passion for flying and so they express the general pentadactyl limb in the form of a wing.

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  9. CharlieM: Birds have a passion for flying and so they express the general pentadactyl limb in the form of a wing.

    How did they obtain that passion? It seems somewhat catch-22 to me.

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  10. CharlieM: I have just provided a further example. See the link concerning RNAs in my previous post.

    Hmm!

    CharlieM: Individual feathers grow, wear down through use and are then discarded as new ones grow.

    Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

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  11. CharlieM: So where do the novel forms originate that become available for selection? Selection does not create. Weeding out reduces the available variation.

    We have had this discussion before. Selection reduces variation, but the change in allele frequencies caused by selection does create novel phenotypes by allowing novel combinations of previously rare alleles. These may even result in novel discrete characters in the case of threshold traits, such as paired spikelets in maize ears.

    You dismissed it as “plasticity” back then, and went into good ol’fashioned “they are still dogs” creationist mode. Still, it qualifies as the creation of novel forms by selection.

    CharlieM: It was more of a description rather than a definition.

    Creativity involves taking the general form and adapting it in specific ways to suit the needs and passions of the being in which it expressed.

    It is interesting, although a bit worrisome, that you are incapable of describing “creativity” in any other terms than the mechanism you wish to apply it to. Note that in your “description” the making of completely novel forms is not a creative act. How come you missed such an obvious omission, I wonder?

    Would you object to the definition of “creativity of life” as “the ability to make novel functional forms”? That would be a bit more inclusive, don’t you agree?

    CharlieM: Birds have a passion for flying

    Except ostriches, emus, kiwis, Campbell teals, Cassowaries, Galapagos cormorants, dodos, all penguins, and several dozens of other bird species, both alive and extinct.

    They have the wings and everything and they refuse to fly! Such weirdos!

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    Alan Fox
  12. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Genomes get replicated with variation but so do cells and so do organisms.

    Again: phenotypic variation needs to be heritable and stable in order to be evolutionary relevant. Modifications of cells and organisms typically do not get propagated to future generations.

    I don’t see what’s so hard about this.

    What do you mean by stable variation?

    We all know that phenotypic variation and genotypic variation go hand in hand. We also know that genome and outward form are not directly coupled, otherwise the same genome could not lie at the base of the multitude of cell types within the body.

    The whole of the argument revolves around the relationship between genes and outward form. There is no dispute that DNA holds the information required to arrange amino acids making up proteins, whether these proteins are structural, enzymes, transcription factors or whatever. But without the accompanying organisational processes also being passed down through the generations DNA sequences mean little.

    What we see flowing through the generations are living cells.full of purposeful activity.

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  13. CharlieM: What do you mean by stable variation?

    Remember, this exchange started with you borrowing Mary Jane West-Eberhard’s “Genes as followers, not leaders in evolution” quote to argue against a gene-centered view of evolutionary change. A successful change requires that any evolutionary novelty that is introduced is stably inherited, lest it not be rapidly lost again.

    CharlieM: We all know that phenotypic variation and genotypic variation go hand in hand. We also know that genome and outward form are not directly coupled, otherwise the same genome could not lie at the base of the multitude of cell types within the body.

    In a famous experiment, August Weismann showed over a century ago (!) that repeated mutilations of mice tails do not get carried over to the germline. Conversely, we know that germline mutations of the DNA can generate stably inherited phenotypic effects. Hence, the merry hand-in-hand symmetry that you suggest does not exist. As Allan has been trying to tell you for days now, the causal chain goes from genotype to phenotype, not vice versa.

    CharlieM: The whole of the argument revolves around the relationship between genes and outward form. There is no dispute that DNA holds the information required to arrange amino acids making up proteins, whether these proteins are structural, enzymes, transcription factors or whatever. But without the accompanying organisational processes also being passed down through the generations DNA sequences mean little.

    As any breeder will be able to tell you, if you want change the characteristics of a population, the desired trait variants need to be heritable. For example, I can make small fruit flies by breeding them at high temperature. This effect is completely non-genetic, but ephemeral. The effect will vanish as soon as return the breeding cultures to their usual temperature regime. Hence, what really matters is whether the change in gene regulation gets stably inherited. So far, the vast majority of heritable variation in any species you care to name can be traced to differences in the DNA sequence, even though the phenotypic effects tend to be mediated through gene products as you have rightfully pointed out.

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  14. Gregory:

    Please go back to snoozing with Steiner, CharlieM, & don’t pretend to know anything about “ID theory” with me as you just did. You’re not a voice that has offered anything that isn’t said better about ID theory by others. What you wrote shows you don’t understand and I will not spend time with a Steiner-Goethe fox to explain.

    “The world is full of designed objects, both ‘natural’ and created by humans.”

    So, you either agree with atheist Adrian Bejan’s “design in nature” or with the DI’s “Design in nature” that can be inferred “strictly scientifically”. Which is it? Please don’t duck, as it exposes the silly in what you wrote. It would appear you support the “theistic science” of the DI, except from the marginal, very tiny echo chamber that is Goethean foxiness.

    I would not wholeheartedly agree with either, but I can agree in part with comments from both sides. But I would not agree with anyone who tried to use science to proselytise their religion or beliefs.

    I can look at an eagle’s wing and understand the design principles within it. A slice through it front to back assumes the form of an aerofoil section which directs the airflow so as to provide lift. This I would call natural design.

    I’m not sure if it interests you to look at ‘designs’ like this for their own sake or if you are solely interested in their source.

    I see lots of wisdom in this type of natural design and if you were to ask me where they originated I’d be happy to share my thoughts. But my observation of these designs does not depend on these thoughts.

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  15. CharlieM: I see lots of wisdom in this type of natural design and if you were to ask me where they originated I’d be happy to share my thoughts. But my observation of these designs does not depend on these thoughts.

    If you didn’t have the beliefs you do about the origin of natural design, would you see complex organizational structures as natural design?

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  16. Neil Rickert:

    CharlieM: That chance mutations bring about all life forms is your belief not mine.

    It’s not my belief, either.

    Good.

    Within organisms belonging to the same kind there are are various differences between the genomes of each individual. Instead of thinking of these differences as being chance mutations we should think of them as a built in flexibility which allows the kind in question to survive in a variety of changing conditions. There is wisdom in allowing for a measured ‘play’ in the system. Rigidity leads to extinction. This feature of living systems keeps them on course but it does not plot the course they take.

    I look at life and see inner organisational forces fighting to alleviate disruptive external influences such as cause mutations.

    If one of those mutations turns out to be useful to those inner organizational forces, then shouldn’t those forces go ahead and use that mutation?

    As I’ve said it allows for flexibility. It is the variety present in the forms of the beaks of Galapagos finches that ensures the survival of the group.

    Don’t forget that those inner organizational forces are also a result of earlier evolution.

    The inner organisational forces within eukaryotes have been in operation since the birth of eukaryotes. The earliest eukaryotes could not have existed without them.

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  17. Neil Rickert:

    CharlieM: When I compare say the eyes of any creature compared with the early attempt by humans at designing cameras I am aware of which are exquisitely designed and which are cobbled together.

    Indeed. The camera is exquisitely designed, while the eyes are cobbled together. The eyes work pretty well, but mostly because the neurons in the visual cortex are able to compensate for the crudeness of the “cobbled together” apparatus.

    If you want to ‘see’ the visual system as something that has been cobbled together then that is what you will ‘see’. I think you need to look at these things agian with ‘fresh eyes’ and not with the intention of finding excuses for ‘blind’ evolution.

    Who was it said that it’s interesting that as eyes have evolved there is always something more in existence to be revealed by them? Or words to that effect.

    Prokaryotes are very successful in terms of Darwinian evolution and they have no need for eyes in achieving this success.

    But without eyes with which to experience the play of light we humans would have a greatly reduced knowledge of the cosmos. Eyes play a large part in the development of human consciousness. Eyes along with advanced nervous systems, the physical attributes necessary for very fine dexterity, vocal and auditory systems allowing for sophisticated communication, are all major factors which have turned creatures into creators.

    Humans are not at the pinnacle of evolution in the Darwinian sense but we are leaders of individual consciousness and creativity. So it is true that there is no apparent progress in Darwinian evolution. It is just a measure of the fecundity of life.

    But the progress of individual consciousness can be seen in evolution, and this is achieved by a movement of living forms which is many respects against the Darwinian current. Higher eukaryotes exist despite being inferior to eukaryotes in a Darwinian sense.

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  18. Allan Miller:

    CharlieM:
    You believe that the phenotype is extracted from the genotype (what is doing the extracting?)

    The genotype. RNA polymerase, the ribosome, tRNA – all extracted from genotype (by RNA polymerase, the ribosome, tRNA…). The latter two, indeed, are direct template-copies of genotype.

    Where in these templates are the metal ions that play a vital role in the processes?

    And we are both stubbornly sticking to our beliefs.

    I’d see mine as more the product of education than belief, but what the hey!

    A good education will provide you with knowledge of current beliefs. But beliefs are like living forms in the course of evolution, they are constantly changing.

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  19. Allan Miller:

    CharlieM,

    Stephen Talbott, …

    Ach, Talbott, Noble, Jablonka … should I just dump the collected works of Richard Dawkins on you; save either of us having to type anything?

    I’d be happy to discuss any Dawkins quotes you post. It’s up to you whether you ignore, dismiss out of hand, or provide more detailed comments on any quotes I post. All feedback is welcome. We all make mistakes at times, but we can only learn from our mistakes if we know that they are mistakes.

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  20. CharlieM: But beliefs are like living forms in the course of evolution, they are constantly changing.

    Hardly. Do you believe that you can fly? That maggots spontaneously occur in rotten meat? Some things once understood will never change.

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  21. CharlieM: Instead of thinking of these differences as being chance mutations we should think of them as a built in flexibility which allows the kind in question to survive in a variety of changing conditions.

    I’m okay with that idea of flexibility.

    Here’s a suggestion. Where there is a flexibility that aids survival, why don’t we call that “intelligence”. And then if we sense a need for intelligent design, we can recognize that the intelligence can come from the organisms themselves (that flexibility that you mentioned), instead of being imposed from the outside.

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    Alan Fox
  22. CharlieM: Prokaryotes are very successful in terms of Darwinian evolution and they have no need for eyes in achieving this success..

    How did you decide this? Do you think light plays no role in the life of cyanobacteria?

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  23. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: Evidence from personal experience. Been there, done that.

    You’re up against Fox’s conjecture. No intelligent entity can understand, in the sense of deconstruct, anything as complex than itself. Your first person experience is very misleading and it shows

    On the other hand self-deception is not something that you could possibly suffer from 🙂

    No intelligent entity can understand anything by deconstruction alone. Do we understand each other on this point? 🙂

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  24. Kantian Naturalist: I also like Talbott’s stuff, though I think he’s sloppy in ways that make it easy to caricature. But if you agree with Talbott’s view about organisms as centers of their own activity & exhibiting what Kant calls ‘intrinsic teleology’ (the link from Kant to Talbott is a straight line that runs through Coleridge), then one should not say that:

    CharlieM: When I compare say the eyes of any creature compared with the early attempt by humans at designing cameras I am aware of which are exquisitely designed and which are cobbled together.

    if the ones that are “exquisitely designed” are “the eyes of any creature” and those that are “cobbled together” are “the early attempt by humans at designing cameras”

    The reason why is that the design argument depends upon conceptualizing living things as devoid of their own intrinsic purposiveness, which is why it must be imposed on matter from outside. In this regard the whole “design argument” or “design inference” depends upon a mechanistic ontology of matter, and that is not compatible with the vitalism that Talbott is drawing upon.

    It is because matter is construed as passive and inert that something essentially non-material must be added to it in order to get life and mind. But if matter is not construed as passive and inert to begin with, then there is no need for design.

    Talbott’s remarks on the Intelligent Design reasoning — a response to Klinghoffer — give a pretty good idea of where the line is drawn.

    I understand and empathise with the point you are making. To talk about the eye being designed is to invoke thoughts of some external designer manufacturing this living form from without. And here Talbott sees a comparison between two opposing sides :

    He writes:

    As for neo-Darwinists, they also believe that mindless stuff is inadequate to explain the rise of seemingly well-designed organisms — although, as we will see, they are not likely to ackowledge or even recognize the belief. However well they may camouflage the fact, they, too, propose an intelligent external designer, calling it “natural selection”. I will note below the close kinship between the two designers…

    But he also writes:

    If we are looking for design, we will have to find it as an active intelligence working in and through the organisms we are studying…

    The design comes from within in response to the forces acting on and through the living being. As Goethe said in his “Theory of Colours”:

    …the eye has to thank the light for its existence. The light calls forth out of indifferent auxiliary animal organs, an organ that is akin to itself; the eye forms itself by the light for the light, so that the inner light can meet the external light.

    Obviously this ‘inner light’ is the consciousness that lights up in the creature.

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  25. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: Prokaryotes are very successful in terms of Darwinian evolution and they have no need for eyes in achieving this success..

    How did you decide this? Do you think light plays no role in the life of cyanobacteria?

    This remark is worth exploring further. We can see the way that different organisms use light.

    Plants and cyanobacteria use light to provide them with the energy that allows them to grow and survive. This takes away the need for higher animals to direct their activities to this task. The initial work has been done for them by the plants and cyanobacteria. They simply have to eat the plants to get energy. They are now free to use the light for higher ends. By means of the light they are able to become conscious of the universe around them.

    Plants achieve growth and differentiation of form. Animals achieve growth and the differentiation of form, and added to this the unfolding of consciousness. This further development is only possible because of the foundation which has been laid down by the plants and lower life forms.

    Here we observe the evolution of consciousness reenacted at a lower level by the development of the individual (evo-devo). The whole reflected in the parts.

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  26. Corneel:

    CharlieM: I’m not talking about individual reproduction. I’m talking about the evolution of life in general and the ways in which we are becoming aware of how we are affecting earthly life in general.

    Life in general is becoming aware of their urges? Life in general is starting to make conscious decisions? Life in general starts wearing condoms and taking contraceptives?

    Hogwash. You were talking about particular human individuals that decided to “not get their genomes replicated” and now try to generalize to all of life from that.

    I am talking about the trajectory of evolution. First we have growth and differentiation. Then alongside this creatures with inner consciousness begins to appear. And most recently rational self-consciousness becomes a feature within life.

    If you can imagine an alien intelligence with a lifespan of billions of years, is this not what they would witness when looking at the earth? Fist they would see vast swathes of vegetation colonising the earth and eventually beacons of light as our cities sent their light out into the darkness of space.

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  27. CharlieM: If you can imagine an alien intelligence with a lifespan of billions of years, is this not what they would witness when looking at the earth? Fist they would see vast swathes of vegetation colonising the earth and eventually beacons of light as our cities sent their light out into the darkness of space.

    I can imagine quite a few alien intelligences, but most of them don’t share your anthropocentric fetish. Yet all of them will be the result of a long lineage of successfully reproducing individuals.

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  28. Corneel:

    CharlieM: The other day I went to the local shop. I considered whether to take the car or to cycle. I decided to cycle. In doing this I had effectively increased my metabolic activity. I would say that the source of this metabolic change was a conscious decision. Or do you think that my genes made me do it?

    Yes, it was your decision, but that decision is not heritable. It doesn’t get transmitted to your children in any way whatsoever. That decision did not make you the founder of a stable lineage of proud cyclists with high metabolic demands.

    Encore: phenotypic variation needs to be heritable and stable in order to be evolutionary relevant. The rest is completely irrelevant in this particular context.

    My kids inherited the means to form their physical bodies from my wife and I. They inherited the protein forming abilities through the genome. But on top of this they inherited their use of language from the culture that we brought them into. They develop by a complex interaction of cellular processes including genetics, behaviour including learning, environmental influences.

    At the stage where life begins all the processes take place without any individual’s conscious input or interference. There are now living beings that have a much greater input into the shaping of organisms by these processes.

    I inherited and was at one time a living functional cell, not just a genome.

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  29. OMagain:

    CharlieM: To take this to the extreme when an architect creates a magnificent building do we heap our admiration on the person or on their genes?

    If everybody created the same building, in the same way that birds create the same nests you’d have a point

    Whereas the individuality of animals in general lies chiefly at the level of the kind or group (taxonomic level, usually species), the individuality of humans lies chiefly in the single organism.

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  30. OMagain:

    CharlieM: Birds have a passion for flying and so they express the general pentadactyl limb in the form of a wing.

    How did they obtain that passion? It seems somewhat catch-22 to me.

    How did you obtain a passion for any hobbies or activities that you enjoy? Is it all in your genes?

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  31. CharlieM: I inherited and was at one time a living functional cell, not just a genome.

    True of course, but irrelevant to the issue at hand.

    Let me take you on a completely unethical thought experiment here. Let’s say I take my time machine and go visit you when you were one “living functional cell”. I take you into my laboratory and swap out your nucleus with that of the zygote that would later become Rowan Atkinson (I had to make a guess about your age here, hope it is flattering). Content with my job, I return to the present.

    Now, nobody disputes that for Charlie to succesfully develop into a full grown human being he needs both the cytoplasm and the nucleus, as well as the loving care and pedagogical skills of his parents. Yet modern genetics tells us that only one of those zygotes will later develop into someone very similar to, perhaps even indistinguishable from the Charlie we all know and love. Is it the zygote receiving the Charlie nucleus (containing the genome), or is it the one with the Charlie cytoplasm (containing all the proteins, ribozymes, organelles, etc)?

    The effect of being raised in a different family is more interesting and I might be open to arguments that cultural inheritance has some relevance. All the hoopla about “cellular processes” definitely is not.

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  32. CharlieM: How did you obtain a passion for any hobbies or activities that you enjoy? Is it all in your genes?

    Is that an answer to my question? Are you saying that the two questions have the same answer?

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  33. Corneel:

    CharlieM: So where do the novel forms originate that become available for selection? Selection does not create. Weeding out reduces the available variation.

    We have had this discussion before. Selection reduces variation, but the change in allele frequencies caused by selection does create novel phenotypes by allowing novel combinations of previously rare alleles. These may even result in novel discrete characters in the case of threshold traits, such as paired spikelets in maize ears.

    You dismissed it as “plasticity” back then, and went into good ol’fashioned “they are still dogs” creationist mode. Still, it qualifies as the creation of novel forms by selection.

    The maize example accords well with Goethe’s ‘urpflanze’. Early in his study of plant morphology He wrote:

    I am beginning to grow aware of the essential form with which, as it were, Nature always plays, and from which she produces her great variety.

    The writer of the above link wrote about Goethe’s morphology:

    He dubbed these processes as actions of the Proteus, which have 3 aspects. Proteus in potentia is the nucleus of formative forces with productive potential. Proteus actus is the actualization of that potential. Finally, Proteus actus adaptus is the additional adaptive quality to Proteus actus.

    Maize and teosinte are just two actualizations of the potential forms this plant can take on. Whether we are discussing maize or dogs all that human interference is doing is releasing the potential already inherent in the type and taking them to their extremes in many cases.

    From your second link,

    An alternative view is that the discrete traits distinguishing higher taxonomic groups are threshold traits whose underlying mode of inheritance is multifactorial although not necessarily highly polygenic. Under this model, selection would favor new multigenic combinations that would switch the trajectory of development to another path and thereby create a discrete shift in morphology. An implication of this model is that evolution is dependent on multiple genes that segregate in populations without a visible effect on the phenotype, since they exist only in combinations below the threshold required to shift the trajectory of development…Theses experiments imply that populations contain substantial cryptic genetic variation, which, if reconfigured, could produce a discrete shift in morphology and thereby a novel phenotype. Thus, evolution would not be dependent on rare mutations, but on standing, albeit cryptic, genetic variation.

    In other words it is not the genes but the way genes are ‘reconfigured’ that correlates with various phenotypes. The configuration is there in potential waiting to be realised. And this involves the ways in which genes are combined.

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  34. Corneel:

    CharlieM: It was more of a description rather than a definition.

    Creativity involves taking the general form and adapting it in specific ways to suit the needs and passions of the being in which it expressed.

    It is interesting, although a bit worrisome, that you are incapable of describing “creativity” in any other terms than the mechanism you wish to apply it to. Note that in your “description” the making of completely novel forms is not a creative act. How come you missed such an obvious omission, I wonder?

    Of course creating completely novel forms are acts of creation. But so are adaptations.

    Would you object to the definition of “creativity of life” as “the ability to make novel functional forms”? That would be a bit more inclusive, don’t you agree?

    I have no problem with that.

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  35. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Birds have a passion for flying

    Except ostriches, emus, kiwis, Campbell teals, Cassowaries, Galapagos cormorants, dodos, all penguins, and several dozens of other bird species, both alive and extinct.

    They have the wings and everything and they refuse to fly! Such weirdos!

    I was talking about birds in general. You have given examples of extreme cases. Obviously ostriches do not share anywhere near the same passion for flying as albatrosses. The form of their wings gives one indication of how much they enjoy flying. Birds exist in a multitude of forms, but they all share characteristics which mark them out as birds.

    If I said males are sexually attracted to females and vice versa, this general statement does not preclude the fact that there are exceptions. And the fact that these exceptions exist is an interesting question from a standard evolutionary point of view.

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  36. CharlieM: Whether we are discussing maize or dogs all that human interference is doing is releasing the potential already inherent in the type and taking them to their extremes in many cases.

    CharlieM: In other words it is not the genes but the way genes are ‘reconfigured’ that correlates with various phenotypes. The configuration is there in potential waiting to be realised.

    Now you are making excuses. The Mona Lisa was “in potential” in the paints before Leonardo da Vinci applied them to the canvas, but still I wouldn’t deny the bloke was creative. Analogously, the novel configurations weren’t established until selection was applied.

    CharlieM: Me: Would you object to the definition of “creativity of life” as “the ability to make novel functional forms”? That would be a bit more inclusive, don’t you agree?

    Charlie: I have no problem with that.

    Good. In that case, I maintain that the combination of mutation and natural selection is able to achieve what you call the creativity of life, for the reasons given above.

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  37. CharlieM: You have given examples of extreme cases.

    There appear to be dozens of “extreme cases”. Those pesky birds just can’t seem to behave.

    CharlieM: The form of their wings gives one indication of how much they enjoy flying.

    It sure does: If the wings are too small to support flight, the bird clearly doesn’t enjoy flying.

    Here are some interesting questions that popped into my mind: how do we untangle ability to fly from desire to fly? And how do we find out which one precedes the other?

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  38. Corneel: Here are some interesting questions that popped into my mind: how do we untangle ability to fly from desire to fly? And how do we find out which one precedes the other?

    I expect any animal falling from a height has the desire to fly, In my experience.

    1+

  39. Corneel:

    CharlieM: What do you mean by stable variation?

    Remember, this exchange started with you borrowing Mary Jane West-Eberhard’s “Genes as followers, not leaders in evolution” quote to argue against a gene-centered view of evolutionary change. A successful change requires that any evolutionary novelty that is introduced is stably inherited, lest it not be rapidly lost again.

    Okay.

    CharlieM: We all know that phenotypic variation and genotypic variation go hand in hand. We also know that genome and outward form are not directly coupled, otherwise the same genome could not lie at the base of the multitude of cell types within the body.

    In a famous experiment, August Weismann showed over a century ago (!) that repeated mutilations of mice tails do not get carried over to the germline. Conversely, we know that germline mutations of the DNA can generate stably inherited phenotypic effects. Hence, the merry hand-in-hand symmetry that you suggest does not exist. As Allan has been trying to tell you for days now, the causal chain goes from genotype to phenotype, not vice versa.

    Weismann’s experiment was totally needless as thousands of years of Jewish boys being born with foreskins would have told him the same thing without him having to mutilate mice.

    You have added ‘symmetry’ to my words. I said that they go hand in hand, I did not say that this was symmetrical. In fact I have argued the opposite. By ‘hand in hand’ I meant that they are intimately connected.

    And as I have been trying to point out for a long time there is no simple causal chain. There is and never has been a time during the evolution of earthly life when phenotypes in some form were absent. The genome, as we imagine it, sits within the phenome. This is an indication of the polarity of organisms. Genes as they are conventionally understood are particulate, pointwise, entities, building structures in an expansive way by addition. The opposite pole is field-like, planar, producing form much like a crystal condenses out of solution. Form is not added, it emerges out of the field which is present along with the egg or seed. Material expands and form condenses as the organism develops.

    Quantum mechanics has forced people to begin to take heed of this side of matter. Some people have argued that there are no particles, only fields.

    In my opinion the way that we are taught induces us to imagine things at the molecular level as if they were similar to solid objects. We picture them as objects bounded in space just like the objects of our experiential sense world. Some people cannot even imagine their boundless field-like quality. But understanding living organisms in this way adds another dimension to the genome. People usually discuss the genome without taking into account its opposite pole. They have divided reality in two and proceeded to disregard one half.

    This shortcoming is beginning slowly to be addressed. Such as in this article

    How quantum entanglement in DNA synchronizes double-strand breakage by type II restriction endonucleases
    How sequence recognition proceeds to catalysis is perhaps the least understood aspect of the enzymology. Concerted cutting of both strands requires intersubunit correlations to synchronize the two catalytic centers. Under physiologically optimum conditions, several type II endonucleases demonstrate products that are cleaved entirely in both strands without producing intermediate single-strand cuts [7–10], suggesting a mechanism of synchronization between spatially separated nucleotides that is conserved in this class of enzymes. Such an absolute correlation over distance is a hallmark of quantum entanglement.

    Material bodies separated in space do not normally interact in this way.

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  40. Corneel:

    CharlieM: The whole of the argument revolves around the relationship between genes and outward form. There is no dispute that DNA holds the information required to arrange amino acids making up proteins, whether these proteins are structural, enzymes, transcription factors or whatever. But without the accompanying organisational processes also being passed down through the generations DNA sequences mean little.

    As any breeder will be able to tell you, if you want change the characteristics of a population, the desired trait variants need to be heritable. For example, I can make small fruit flies by breeding them at high temperature. This effect is completely non-genetic, but ephemeral. The effect will vanish as soon as return the breeding cultures to their usual temperature regime. Hence, what really matters is whether the change in gene regulation gets stably inherited. So far, the vast majority of heritable variation in any species you care to name can be traced to differences in the DNA sequence, even though the phenotypic effects tend to be mediated through gene products as you have rightfully pointed out.

    Over thousands of years humans have adapted creatures such as dogs to suit their needs, but they cannot take these adaptations beyond certain limits. No matter what grotesque form they end up in, they remain dogs. Once a dog always a dog. Once a bird always a bird. Once a pigeon, always a pigeon. There is plenty of evidence of evolution from the general to the specific form, not so much evidence of radiation outwith the type once it has been established.

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  41. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: I see lots of wisdom in this type of natural design and if you were to ask me where they originated I’d be happy to share my thoughts. But my observation of these designs does not depend on these thoughts.

    If you didn’t have the beliefs you do about the origin of natural design, would you see complex organizational structures as natural design?

    I already see it that way.

    Goethe:

    Nature! We are encircled and enclasped by her – powereless to depart from her, and powerless to find our way more deeply into her being. Without invitation and without warning she involves us in the orbit of her dance, and drives us onward until we are exhausted and fall from her arm.

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  42. OMagain:

    CharlieM: But beliefs are like living forms in the course of evolution, they are constantly changing.

    Hardly. Do you believe that you can fly?

    Yes, with a suitable vehicle around me I can fly.

    That maggots spontaneously occur in rotten meat? Some things once understood will never change.

    The belief in the way that maggots form is forever changing.

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  43. Neil Rickert:

    CharlieM: Instead of thinking of these differences as being chance mutations we should think of them as a built in flexibility which allows the kind in question to survive in a variety of changing conditions.

    I’m okay with that idea of flexibility.

    Here’s a suggestion. Where there is a flexibility that aids survival, why don’t we call that “intelligence”. And then if we sense a need for intelligent design, we can recognize that the intelligence can come from the organisms themselves (that flexibility that you mentioned), instead of being imposed from the outside

    And I’m okay with the idea of intrinsic intelligence. Machines are examples of designs where the intelligence is imposed from the outside. But living beings are not machines.

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  44. Alan Fox: Allan Miller is:

    Heading off backpacking for the next few days.

    And here was I thinking it was some cryptic metaphor 🙂

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  45. Corneel:

    CharlieM: If you can imagine an alien intelligence with a lifespan of billions of years, is this not what they would witness when looking at the earth? Fist they would see vast swathes of vegetation colonising the earth and eventually beacons of light as our cities sent their light out into the darkness of space.

    I can imagine quite a few alien intelligences, but most of them don’t share your anthropocentric fetish. Yet all of them will be the result of a long lineage of successfully reproducing individuals.

    And regarding alien life forms. What attributes do you think they would need to possess to get to a point where they could observe life in a separate region of the universe?

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  46. Corneel:

    CharlieM: I inherited and was at one time a living functional cell, not just a genome.

    True of course, but irrelevant to the issue at hand.

    Let me take you on a completely unethical thought experiment here. Let’s say I take my time machine and go visit you when you were one “living functional cell”. I take you into my laboratory and swap out your nucleus with that of the zygote that would later become Rowan Atkinson (I had to make a guess about your age here, hope it is flattering). Content with my job, I return to the present.

    You flatter me by a couple of years.

    Now, nobody disputes that for Charlie to succesfully develop into a full grown human being he needs both the cytoplasm and the nucleus, as well as the loving care and pedagogical skills of his parents. Yet modern genetics tells us that only one of those zygotes will later develop into someone very similar to, perhaps even indistinguishable from the Charlie we all know and love. Is it the zygote receiving the Charlie nucleus (containing the genome), or is it the one with the Charlie cytoplasm (containing all the proteins, ribozymes, organelles, etc)?

    We don’t know how either of the zygotes would turn out, assuming that they stayed viable until adulthood.

    The effect of being raised in a different family is more interesting and I might be open to arguments that cultural inheritance has some relevance. All the hoopla about “cellular processes” definitely is not.

    The simplicity that you assume does not match the real complexities involved. The person I have become is shaped a good deal by my life experiences. I doubt the individuals known as Rowan Atkinson and CharlieM would be recognisable from the product of this procedure.

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  47. OMagain: CharlieM: How did you obtain a passion for any hobbies or activities that you enjoy? Is it all in your genes?

    Is that an answer to my question? Are you saying that the two questions have the same answer?

    It is a further consideration prompted by your question. Physical appearance can tell us things about people. We could compare two people and tell from their appearance which one spent their time sitting in front of the TV eating junk food and which one liked nothing better than going to the gym and working out daily.

    Animals do not demonstrate such individuality, but animal groups do. All anteaters enjoy the same food which differs from that of giraffes and their relative physical appearance matches this.

    We cannot easily causally separate an animal’s appearance from its likes and dislikes.

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  48. CharlieM: Yes, with a suitable vehicle around me I can fly.

    via extension metal can fly, cardboard boxes can fly, little liquor bottles can fly (full or empty), suitcases can fly, JetA can fly, plastic can fly, water can fly, dogs can fly, ect., etc. Your stance disassembles to absurdity, CharlieM.

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  49. CharlieM: Me: Ach, Talbott, Noble, Jablonka … should I just dump the collected works of Richard Dawkins on you; save either of us having to type anything?

    Charlie: I’d be happy to discuss any Dawkins quotes you post. It’s up to you whether you ignore, dismiss out of hand, or provide more detailed comments on any quotes I post.

    I’m simply not keen on Debate By The Words Of Others. It is a distinctive ID trait: Debate By Proxy; Debate By Glove Puppet. My default mode when encountering a lengthy text dump is to skip straight over it.

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