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 The site is no longer maintained, but the language persists.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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1,506 thoughts on “What mixture of “design” and “evolution” is possible as the IDM collapses?

  1. Corneel: epigenetic modifications of DNA

    That’s not stored in the DNA?

    Corneel: self-sustaining feedback loops

    Where are they stored?

    In a loop? Where does the loop exist?

    Corneel: niche inheritance

    Where is that stored?

    Corneel: behavioral and cultural transmission.

    Where is the container that holds that?

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  2. phoodoo: Me: epigenetic modifications of DNA

    phoodoo: That’s not stored in the DNA?

    No, “information in the DNA” is commonly understood to refer to nucleotide sequence.

    phoodoo: Where is that stored? (3 times)

    Heritable information is transmitted by copying particular patterns. The media that express those patterns are: gene activity & metabolic circuits, the environment in which a population lives and the activities of organisms for feedback loops, niche inheritance and behavioural inheritance, respectively.

    Are you working towards some point? Will you let me in on it?

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  3. Corneel: metabolic circuits, the environment in which a population lives and the activities of organisms for feedback loops, niche inheritance and behavioural inheritance, respectively.

    Oh, so you are using inheritance as a metaphor for things that aren’t inherited?

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  4. phoodoo: Oh, so you are using inheritance as a metaphor for things that aren’t inherited?

    Sorry, I need you to unpack that for me.

    Are you trying to make the point that because sequence information is being copied that somehow nullifies the significance of DNA as the physical medium?

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  5. Corneel: Are you trying to make the point that because sequence information is being copied that somehow nullifies the significance of DNA as the physical medium?

    Oh my heavens. Ha.

    Are you trying to make the point that DNA inheritance is not DNA inheritance?

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  6. Allan Miller:

    What I would argue about is the creativity attributed to what is seen as copying errors. A certain amount of tolerance is built in to the replication system. Any engineer will tell you that ranges of tolerance are built in to systems as required. This sloppiness is not an error, it is wise design. I know from experience how too much rigidity and lack of tolerance can be detrimental to correct function.

    I’ve already covered this. You didn’t address it last time and I can’t be arsed repeating the whole thing again, but basically replication and error correction’s infidelity is not ‘built-in tolerance’. The system is faithful enough to succeed enough; there is diminished reward and capacity for improvement. Prokaryotes make 10x the errors of eukaryotes.

    There are tolerances to the amount of changes made to the genome from outside influences. In fact this can be used to the advantage of the population such as stress-induced mutagenesis in bacteria. There are also built in redundancies. If this isn’t wise design then it does a pretty good job of giving that impression.

    What does it mean to say ‘the system is faithful enough to succeed enough’, other than there is a built in range of variation, i.e. a tolerance.

    Was their engineer more tolerant?

    This question stems from a dualistic way of thinking which separates the designer from that which is designed. The designs and patterns apparent in living systems are intrinsic to these systems and do not have an external source.

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  7. phoodoo: Are you trying to make the point that DNA inheritance is not DNA inheritance?

    phoodoo, I am trying as hard as I can, but I do not understand what your beef is.

    Parents physically transmit DNA in the gametes to their offspring. The genetic information is carried along encoded in the nucleotide sequence. Hence, the offspring inherit genetic information from their parents.

    What’s the problem?

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  8. Allan Miller:

    In my opinion mutations are a feature of the necessary variability built in to the process of evolution. But they do not play a large part in the progress of evolution towards organisms with more advanced forms of individual consciousness.

    You both insist that mutations result from ‘wise design’ and that they are trivial in effect. That’s quite some doublethink.

    Mutations can have a wide variety of effects on individuals, some of them fatal. But the fatality of a few bacteria is trivial in terms of the survival of large populations. Triviality is relative and context matters.

    You have said that prokaryotes have ten times the ‘error’ rate of eukaryotes. This only goes to show that populations of prokaryotes have a much higher tolerance of ‘errprs’ than eukaryotes.

    By the way, I notice that sometimes the term ‘akaryote’ is being used instead of ‘prokaryote’. I think this is a good idea so I’ll follow suit.

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  9. Corneel: Parents physically transmit DNA in the gametes to their offspring. The genetic information is carried along encoded in the nucleotide sequence. Hence, the offspring inherit genetic information from their parents.

    What’s the problem?

    This:

    phoodoo: Where is the rest of the inheritable information stored that is not in DNA?

    Good question. Sources of non-genetic inheritance include…

    Are we still using English?

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  10. phoodoo: What’s the problem?

    This:

    phoodoo: Where is the rest of the inheritable information stored that is not in DNA?

    Good question. Sources of non-genetic inheritance include…

    Are we still using English?

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with that exchange.

    phoodoo, what is the problem? Out with it!

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  11. Allan Miller:

    CharlieM: Quantum mechanics tells us that entities at the molecular level have behaviours which are very different from some diffuse cloud of matter in space being ‘wibbly’ round the edges. Imagining matter in space in this way is to take the world of our experience and transferring it to the quantum realm. This is inappropriate at the atomic level. At this level it is meaningless to talk of matter in this way because there is no such matter as we know it. That type of Newtonian thinking has been superseded.

    Yeah, I’d take lessons in physics who thinks that Life once wasn’t ‘condensed’ enough, in an Einsteinian manner, to fossilise.

    Pardon?

    Matter as we experience it exists in three or four basic states, depending on ones point of view. As we all know solid matter is generally the most dense. These states correspond to the classic elemental categories of earth, water, air and fire.

    We also know that living beings exist in a wide variety of forms, some of which have a much higher density than others. Jellyfish are much less dense than trilobites.

    As stated here:

    “The fossil record is biased against soft-bodied life forms such as jellyfish, because they leave little behind when they die,” said study member Bruce Lieberman of the University of Kansas.

    The relative frequency of fossil forms does not reflect the relative frequency of living forms at the time they existed. Fossil evidence gives a distorted account of ancient life.

    The ‘wibbliness’ of molecules affects, among other things, replication accuracy. That’s your ‘wise design’ feature: something unavoidable at the level the design operates.

    The amount of initial changes to the genome from external causes is reduced by processes within the cell. Living systems can cope with certain amounts of disruption and even compensate for it. Limited repair systems can be observed at all levels. If injured we can tolerate a certain amount of blood loss and and the leak can be repaired within limits. This is intrinsic wisdom.

    Darwinian account give us little more than speculation as to how these repair systems evolved. No matter how intricate systems like this are they must be accounted for and the easiest explanation is that they are cobbled together from simpler precursors which just happened to fit the bill. This is just like the gadgets that ‘Q’ provides for James Bond on his missions, they are always available at just the right time. He was never issued anything like jam trousers 🙂

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  12. CharlieM: Triviality is relative and context matters.

    Can we find anyone that could argue with these bland generalities?
    Anyone? Bueller?

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  13. CharlieM: You have said that prokaryotes have ten times the ‘error’ rate of eukaryotes. This only goes to show that populations of prokaryotes have a much higher tolerance of ‘errprs’ (sic*) than eukaryotes.

    Does it? You’ve already remarked on the “triviality” of individual bacteria. It’s not tolerance, is it?

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  14. CharlieM: Matter as we experience it exists in three or four basic states, depending on ones point of view.

    It’s more a question of temperature than opinion.

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  15. CharlieM: I notice that sometimes the term ‘akaryote’ is being used instead of ‘prokaryote’. I think this is a good idea so I’ll follow suit.

    I suggest that would lead to confusion. “Akaryote” denotes an enucleated cell. Erythrocytes would qualify.

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  16. CharlieM: Darwinian account give us little more than speculation as to how these repair systems evolved.

    A cursory search shows much more then mere speculation. Try it!

    And in any case, isn’t it the case that a little more then speculation is infinity preferable to mere speculation on it’s own?

    Many things are mere speculation, much fewer reach the bar of more then that. Darwinian accounts are not mere speculation, they are that plus that “little more” that you attest to.

    Whereas alternative accounts are just that, mere speculation. So the same winner still wins, no matter how small you make the margin.

    What alternative account has the same depth as the Darwinian account? Shall we trade technical papers on origins of specific systems? One for one?

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  17. OMagain: What alternative account has the same depth as the Darwinian account?

    Charlie’s method is much more useful and productive, try to keep up. It’s about doing without that scientific modeling bullshit and “observing things directly” instead… then proclaiming unquestionable truths like the holy powers of analogy, holes reflected in the parks, organismal inner wisdom, group knowledge, archetypes condensing into jellyfish, and even denser stuff!

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  18. Corneel: There is absolutely nothing wrong with that exchange.

    phoodoo, what is the problem? Out with it!

    So again, just to repeat for my entertainment’s sake, since you clearly won’t be understanding any of it, your sources of non-DNA inheritance are DNA sources of inheritance? And that’s no problem for you. Cool.

    And just for the heck of it, let’s continue the rest of the conversation in Lithuanian. Should be just as clear.

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  19. phoodoo: So again, just to repeat for my entertainment’s sake, since you clearly won’t be understanding any of it, your sources of non-DNA inheritance are DNA sources of inheritance?And that’s no problem for you.Cool.

    And just for the heck of it, let’s continue the rest of the conversation in Lithuanian.Should be just as clear.

    I must admit, I am not familiar with many of the terms Corneel is using, or how he is using them, so I share your confusion. Sometimes it sounds sort of like a dispute about whether information is in libraries, in books, or in the content of the books. Or in this case, whether information is in the DNA (that double helix stuff), or whether it’s in the sequence of base pairs within the DNA.

    But I don’t think the two of you have the same understanding of what “heritable information” is actually referring to. Most peoples’ religions are the religions of their parents, which were the religions of their parents, and on back into the indefinite past. So can we say religion is heritable non-DNA information?

    I believe it’s incumbent on Corneel to carefully define and explain his terms, essential for those like you and me who don’t know what he’s referring to.

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  20. Allan Miller:

    CharlieM: When humans create complex items the parts are constructed and assembled with the whole complete item already present in the mind.

    They have the advantage of dealing with material which does not react when components are bolted together.

    Yes this is usually the case at the macroscopic level, although I would have qualified that by saying that there may be no immediate discernible reactions. But there can be reactions which do need to be dealt with. We all know how corrosion has to be dealt with in the metallic components of our vehicles.

    You invoke quantum physics on the one hand but display no idea how physics works at the molecular level on the other. You can’t just shuffle atoms round with the power off.

    And that adds weight to what I have previously brought up about the unhelpful thinking which treats protein complexes as nano machines. Here is what I wrote in ‘Metaphors’

    Why call these dynamic complexes within cells “nano machines” when a more realistic term would be “nano beings”. They do not behave and function like dead machines with their levers, struts, braces, containers and clamping devices. They are living tissues and living beings, going through their own life cycles and functioning in ways reminiscent of higher animals such as insect colonies, or of growing vegetation. Their nature and activity is more like that of the animals and plants of our everyday sense world than that of human made machines

    When making comparisons with the macroscopic world of our experience, these microscopic protein complexes are much more comparable to social insects than to machines. They are constantly active, harnessing the energy under their control as they work in coordination with others for the good of the whole to which they belong. The inner activity of living beings is intrinsic whereas the inner activity of a machine is determined from without.

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  21. Allan Miller:

    There is no need for accidental coming together of parts.

    This is a common ID misconception. Neither do I. But there is a world between ‘accident’ and ‘intent’.

    There is indeed. And looking at cellular processes there is a great deal of intentional activity, all in support of the whole organism. And life as a whole shows this same intentional type of activity. As with individual higher animals there is a progression from growth to motility to consciousness, so there is the same progression in evolution. It begins with the growth of physical life, then comes motile organisms, and then higher levels of consciousness.

    Conventional natural science takes it for granted that matter precedes mind. I believe the opposite.

    Bully for you. So how does that work? Given that all known minds have a physical substrate, and construction begins with opposable thumbs, how does your Magic, disembodied Mind actually implement its conceptions?

    Positing a magic, disembodied Mind is the result of dualistic thinking. Mind and body are two sides of the same coin.

    Are you so omniscient as to have knowledge of all known minds? When you say ‘physical’ do you think of that as being equivalent to ‘material’?

    Opposable thumbs are like stretches of DNA, they can do nothing on their own.

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  22. Allan Miller:

    CharlieM:The whole reflected in the parts.

    Oh, if you like that slogan, you’ll love gene centrism …

    I quite like it but it does not have the universal applicability of ‘the whole reflected in the parts’. 🙂

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  23. Allan Miller:

    Allan Miller: Yeah, I’d take lessons in physics who thinks that Life once wasn’t ‘condensed’ enough, in an Einsteinian manner, to fossilise.

    *from someone who*, dagnabbit! Trying to type while the kids take the piss out of me for doing what I rag them about

    Okay, that makes more sense.

    I am saying that in a macroscopically, physical sense life may not have condensed enough to fossilise.

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  24. CharlieM: Positing a magic, disembodied Mind is the result of dualistic thinking. Mind and body are two sides of the same coin.

    You can say that, or you can say that Mind precedes and gives rise to Matter, but you can’t say both.

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  25. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: Conventional natural science takes it for granted that matter precedes mind. I believe the opposite.

    What are minds made of?

    That is a question for a dualist to answer. Its a bit like asking, “What are emotions made of?”

    Do you believe that matter is condensed energy?

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  26. CharlieM: That is a question for a dualist to answer. Its a bit like asking, “What are emotions made of?”

    It is bit the same if someone said emotions created the physical universe.

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  27. CharlieM to Alan Fox:
    Do you believe that matter is condensed energy?

    I don’t now about Alan, but I don’t “believe it.” What I know is that such is what Einstein’s most famous equation states, besides some experiments and nuclear bombs confirm. Thus it seems so.

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  28. CharlieM: Do you believe that matter is condensed energy?

    Not in the same sense of “condensed” in which liquid water is condensed steam, at any rate.

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  29. CharlieM,

    What Entropy said. The concept that energy and matter are two sides of the same coin is well-supported by observation and experiment. And states depend very much on temperature.

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  30. CharlieM,

    Well you made several comments (that I picked up on but this is the first time you responded) that I took to mean minds preceded matter. Hence my question.

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  31. Alan Fox:
    Kantian Naturalist,

    I’m not sure.Phase changes, solid to liquid to gas to plasma, are all temperature-dependent.

    Is there any known process which “condenses” energy into matter? If so, what form does that matter take? Quarks? Gluons?

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  32. Flint,

    E = mc^2

    At the pressure and temperature found at the centre of stars, energy escapes but gravity retains matter.

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  33. Flint: But I don’t think the two of you have the same understanding of what “heritable information” is actually referring to. Most peoples’ religions are the religions of their parents, which were the religions of their parents, and on back into the indefinite past. So can we say religion is heritable non-DNA information?

    Ah, that’s probably it. Thanks Flint.

    phoodoo: So again, just to repeat for my entertainment’s sake, since you clearly won’t be understanding any of it, your sources of non-DNA inheritance are DNA sources of inheritance? And that’s no problem for you. Cool.

    Let me explain myself. This discussion proceeds in the context of Charlie borrowing quotes from Eva Jablonka. Jablonka explicitly separates the concepts of “inheritance” and “genetics”. So when you were asking “Where is the rest of the inheritable information stored that is not in DNA? “, I naturally assumed you were on board with how these terms are used by her and several other people promoting an “extended synthesis of evolution“.

    So to define my terms:

    Heritable variation is variation in phenotypes that contributes to resemblance among relatives, e.g. parents and offspring. That may be due to genetics, but this is not necessarily so. For example, children tend to speak the same language as their parents, yet DNA has nothing to do with that. Vice versa, part of the genetic variation is not heritable.

    Genetic variation is variation in phenotypes that is caused by differences in genotypes. This is understood to be caused by differences in the nucleotide sequence of DNA. Other modifications of DNA (e.g. DNA methylation) go into the bin marked “epigenetic variation”.

    Friends again? If this is not what you meant, let me know. I don’t mind explaining myself, but I have to know what it is you don’t agree with or do not understand.

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  34. Flint: Sometimes it sounds sort of like a dispute about whether information is in libraries, in books, or in the content of the books. Or in this case, whether information is in the DNA (that double helix stuff), or whether it’s in the sequence of base pairs within the DNA.

    I think the dispute focuses on the question whether information can be reified and said to exist independently of libraries and books. Charlie has been arguing that information is separate from its physical carriers and that’s why I half expected phoodoo to argue the same. Hence my attempt to identify the physical carriers of non-genetic heritable information.

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  35. Corneel,

    It links to the idea some have that “minds” can exist without any physical medium to exist in. How do they know?

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  36. Alan Fox: It links to the idea some have that “minds” can exist without any physical medium to exist in.

    The same people tend to assume that pretty much anything not-matter springs forth from some non-descript parallel realm. I note with some glee that’s a form of non-material reductionism.

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  37. Corneel: The same people tend to assume that pretty much anything not-matter springs forth from some non-descript parallel realm. I note with some glee that’s a form of non-material reductionism.

    Questions regarding the ‘rules’ that presumably apply in such a realm are ignored. Much like phoodoo and his ‘special decision making realm’ he thinks he makes decisions in that are unbound by causality as we understand it. Does that ‘special’ realm not have it’s own set of rules then? If so, why are they not restrictive in the same way the ‘rules’ here are? What are those second ‘rules’?

    etc etc.

    I suspect it’s a bit like object permanence for babies. Push the problem back a level to some other realm and it can be ticked off as ‘solved’.

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  38. And what about the interface? How do immaterial minds impinge on the physical realm?

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  39. Allan Miller:

    CharlieM:
    Why would it be of any concern to a group of chemicals whether or not they were copied accurately? Do mineral crystals care if they grow into perfect regular solids? Do they try to avoid degradation or distortion of their growth patterns? What gives living substance the additional feature of self preservation?

    In the case of nucleic acid, this feature is provided by semiconservative replication. By its very nature, this gives exponential growth in ideal conditions. When that growth is constrained, the conditions for a Darwinian competition between variants is enabled. This doesn’t directly explain origin, but does provide an impetus for tuning copying fidelity – to the extent that a particular degree is advantageous, or optimal, compared to rivals, it will tend to increase.

    Yes and this is what is found when changes are recorded in the properties of features such as Darwin’s finch beaks and peppered moth wing colouration. Changes which are advantageous increase in frequency within populations. But these changes are not irreversible and can be seen to fluctuate within a range of states which may include returning to previous states. As you say, a tuning process.

    RNA is a good example of a living, active molecule which is present in every form of life on the planet.

    RNA is active but DNA of exactly the same sequence and only minor chemical distinction is ‘passive’? Hmmm …

    Subtle changes can make a big difference.

    And living systems need a combination of both active and passive components. For example bones are passive relative to muscles and they work together to provide movement.

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  40. Allan Miller:

    CharlieM:
    And this shows just how limited our freedom is at this time. Evolution has a very extensive future.

    Maybe so, maybe not. That is hardly relevant to the present and its past.

    (eta – my sexuality is a source of considerable pleasure, for many reasons both direct and indirect. I’d be sorry to lose it, along with sight, hearing and the pleasure of eating and drinking, in the progression to disembodiment).

    Pleasure is a good thing but in my opinion when we become addicted to it or over dependent on it then it rules us instead of us ruling it. Both Christ and Buddha taught that renunciation and self discipline is the only true way to happiness. Advice that is easy to say but hard to follow. And that is why I can’t claim to have made any appreciable progress along that path. But at least I can understand the truth in it.

    Animals haven’t reached the stage where they can choose to renounce pleasure, they don’t have this freedom.

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  41. Alan Fox:
    Flint,

    E = mc^2

    At the pressure and temperature found at the centre of stars, energy escapes but gravity retains matter.

    ??? OK, I don’t understand this statement. What enables stars in the first place is that the temperature and pressure convert matter to energy. But is there any process that works in the reverse, “condensing” energy into matter? I’m not aware of any. Perhaps just after the big bang?

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  42. Flint: Perhaps just after the big bang?

    Yes, I think that is so. I was a little sloppy in my reply. At a high enough pressure and temperature matter and energy become convertible and if energy were in excess and matter could be removed from the environment, matter would be created from energy (in principle). As you say,[in stars] escaping energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation drives the conversion of mass to energy.

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  43. Alan Fox: Yes, I think that is so. I was a little sloppy in my reply. At a high enough pressure and temperature matter and energy become convertible and if energy were in excess and matter could be removed from the environment, matter would be created from energy (in principle). As you say,[in stars] escaping energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation drives the conversion of mass to energy.

    As I understand it, at the time of the big bang and shortly thereafter (perhaps 10^ -12 seconds), the bosons had so incredibly much energy that quantum tunneling was ubiquitous. This process is how bosons convert into leptons and baryons. This conversion produced nearly but not quite exactly the same number of particles and antiparticles, which mutually annihilated. The annihilation process itself produced enough energy to keep the tunneling going for a bit longer.

    Anyway, this explanation is consistent with the standard model, which also says that well within the first second, the energy had dissipated (particle-ized?) so that the number of baryons and leptons in the universe has been essentially constant ever since. Most of a star’s energy isn’t due to matter converting to energy, but rather from some elements being converted to less energy-intensive elements, mostly two hydrogen atoms forming one helium atom, which is a more efficient form so something like .04% of the original energy is released.

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  44. Flint: Most of a star’s energy isn’t due to matter converting to energy, but rather from some elements being converted to less energy-intensive elements, mostly two hydrogen atoms forming one helium atom, which is a more efficient form so something like .04% of the original energy is released.

    Well, fusion of hydrogen to helium is converting mass to energy!

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  45. CharlieM: Pleasure is a good thing but in my opinion when we become addicted to it or over dependent on it then it rules us instead of us ruling it. Both Christ and Buddha taught that renunciation and self discipline is the only true way to happiness.

    Happiness is a good thing but when we become dependent on it for our well being then it rules us instead of us ruling it. Therefore I usually aim for distress and complete misery. It is the only true way to freedom.

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  46. Corneel

    CharlieM: In the da Vinci analogy natural selection is equivalent to the adjustments he made during the course of completing the painting. Adjustment that were necessary to bring the details back into line with how he had envisioned it.

    But the painting is not completed and never will be. And if you keep adding “adjustments” the process is indistinguishable from painting.

    The painting was completed when da Vinci stopped working on it. Evolution is still a work in progress.

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  47. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: We have no evidence whatsoever of replicating life ever having existed without some sort of membrane within which the complex processes of replication can take place.

    But do we have evidence of minds before matter?

    Not evidence that would satisfy many people today, no. But neither you nor I can speak for everyone. Their are individuals who claim to have personal knowledge of mind transcending time.

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  48. CharlieM: The painting was completed when da Vinci stopped working on it. Evolution is still a work in progress.

    That makes it a little hard to tell the difference between the ongoing painting and the “adjustments”, doesn’t it? I sure don’t see any.

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