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 The site is no longer maintained, but the language persists.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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1,486 thoughts on “What mixture of “design” and “evolution” is possible as the IDM collapses?

  1. Allan Miller: Also it is striking how certain flatfish can change the colour and pattern of their upper surface to match that of the seafloor on which they are lying.

    Does this capacity increase the chances of the genes of those that exhibit the behaviour to be passed on?

    It increases the chances of the organism producing offspring before it dies. The genes are an essential part of that offspring as are many other components and processes.

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  2. Allan Miller: What do you mean by group transmittion?

    The mechanism by which a trait becomes shared by a clade. Common genetic descent is the usual one. You reject that (sometimes), so must mean something else. How does it work?

    I don’t reject the fact that DNA gets transmitted. I would reject the proposal that genes transmit themselves through the generations.

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  3. CharlieM: I don’t reject the fact that DNA gets transmitted. I would reject the proposal that genes transmit themselves through the generations.

    Reject all you like, that is pretty much what happens. Of course the genes that specifically do that – DNA polymerases and their adjuncts – are but a fragment of the total genome.

    Nonetheless, this does not actually address the quote of mine that it purports to address. Common genetic descent is a thing. You share ‘common genetic descent’ with your parents, and back through the generations with coalescent ancestors. We know the mechanism(s). It is that which you ‘reject’ in believing that a common trait does not, in fact, result from a common genetic origin, not whether genes can be said to be active or passive actors in the process.

    (I’m just back off (another) holiday, and see you’ve been wading through my many historic utterances in my absence. For funzies, I might work backwards … we probably will not meet in the middle).

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  4. CharlieM: asks Allan: What do you mean by group transmittion?

    Allan: The mechanism by which a trait becomes shared by a clade. Common genetic descent is the usual one. You reject that (sometimes), so must mean something else. How does it work?

    Charlie: I don’t reject the fact that DNA gets transmitted. I would reject the proposal that genes transmit themselves through the generations.

    That doesn’t work. DNA doesn’t get transmitted to the entire species/kind/group, so cannot explain how groups remain homogeneous. Allan asked for the mechanism that broadcasts novel traits to the entire group.

    In addition, to give some weight to your denial that genes “transmit themselves”, you still need to deal with parasitic DNA elements in some other way than turning a blind eye to them. You rely on observation , remember?

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  5. Corneel:
    In addition, to give some weight to your denial that genes “transmit themselves”, you still need to deal with parasitic DNA elements in some other way than turning a blind eye to them. You rely on observation , remember?

    I followed the link and read onwards for a few comments, and found this by me. Evidently I’d already said similar several times already, even then. It contains the essence of my twin mantras: that the protein sequences supposedly ‘acting upon’ the genome nonetheless derive from it, and that the evolutionary argument on subgenome levels of selection shouldn’t be confused with a physiological one on gene expression. Add my trademark dose of sarcasm, and you have the essence of every post I’ve written on this matter! I think I’ll just link it in future: saves finger-ends.

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  6. Allan Miller: Evidently I’d already said similar several times already, even then.

    Perhaps you need to use a more extreme form of that argument.

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  7. Alan Fox: It’s sex, isn’t it?

    I doubt it. Charlie insists on groups developing certain “passions” but I think he means something else.

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  8. Corneel: Perhaps you need to use a more extreme form of that argument.

    Not sure what form that might take!

    I think Charlie’s ‘holism’ is better named ‘fuzzism’. If the genetic detail can be rendered in vague enough terms, by sleight of hand the role of genes, elucidated by reduction, becomes magically subordinated to the vague requirements of a ‘system’. For lo, ‘genes’, in the general sense, cannot be expressed without ‘the system’, in the general sense …

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  9. Allan Miller: I think Charlie’s ‘holism’ is better named ‘fuzzism’.

    No, it is more akin to prose poetry. Just look at it:

    Truth is a unity and it is because of the way in which we are constituted that entities which are connected are at first perceived by us as separate. Knowledge is the process by which connections are made and unity is restored.

    That’s friggin’ beautiful. Pity it is completely hollow.

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  10. Corneel: No, it is more akin to prose poetry.

    Just girding my loins to wade through the last week! A coffee, first …

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  11. CharlieM:
    You have shifted position from talking about genes acting to talking about genomes acting. I would say that this is a step in the right direction.

    I haven’t. I do find odd notions being attributed to me. The genome ‘acts’ via the effect of subsections thereof – genes.

    Maybe we can come to a mutual understanding of what is meant by ‘gene’

    It varies somewhat – in the discussion that followed this comment, Corneel advanced the gene=product view favoured by molecular biologists. So a ‘gene’ would produce either a functional RNA directly, or an mRNA which further processing would translate into a protein. But when Dawkins talks of ‘Selfish Genes’, he is not using that definition, but the broader one coined by George Williams: simply, any segment of a genome with a significant degree of evolutionary persistence independent of neighbouring units. That ‘independent persistence’ is effected, in cyclically haplodiploid eukaryotes, by iterated recombination at the end of the diploid phase. It slices genomes into subunits that integrate into the genomes of the future population, and it is those ‘persistent segments’ that a gene-centrist is interested in.

    They couldn’t give a tuppenny fig if these genome segments ‘act’, are ‘acted upon’, or whatever other semantic tomfoolery one wishes to import. What counts is the correlation with organismal fitness of such a segment (typically measured as mean offspring of carriers vs non-carriers). This is what justifies the choice of ‘the gene’ (so defined) as a unit of selection below that of the organism. The – ahem – whole reflected in the parts. It should be right up your street.

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  12. Allan Miller:

    CharlieM:
    What is there to defend. You declared it a non sequitur. And so in line with your depth of argumentation I suppose I could have replied, No it isn’t!

    So, you are precisely illustrating the uselessness of scattering the words of others about like scripture. If I can’t critique it, you can’t defend it, and Talbott isn’t here …

    Talbott says something you like: ‘it’s a system not just genes’. But it gains weight (you presumably imagine) if an authority says it (even if that authority is not a biologist). But the longer quote doesn’t support the conclusion. Being a system or not does not depend on the synapomorphies of certain genes in social insects. That’s why it’s a non sequitur. I can’t really flesh that out. But if you declared ‘no it isn’t’, you would need to explain why being a system is a conclusion following on from the synapomorphy question. It’s not just rehashing the Monty Python sketch.

    It’s not so much what Talbott says here, it is the copious references he gives. References highlighting the intricate coordination required for the most seemingly simple of cellular processes.

    Previously you wrote::

    Against my better judgement, I read the Talbott text-dump, and it’s just a non-sequitur. After a discussion of whether a particular state is convergent or synapomorphic (commonly descended), his ‘genes, in other words…’ paragraph does not flow as a conclusion from either possibility.

    Here is the paragraph in question:

    Genes, in other words, are not master controllers or bearers of controlling instructions, but rather represent resources that evolving organisms can employ in their own ways. The same genes can be put to very different uses, and different genes can be caught up in the service of similar ends. The determination of a gene’s meaning is made by the organism as a whole, based on its patterns of activity.

    This is the concluding paragraph to the whole piece not just to the last few sentences. And even a quick scan of the page can stimulate me to follow the reference, read the primary paper if it is available to me, and to look at related research.

    For example from the reference, (Halfmann 2016, doi:10.1016/j.sbi.2016.05.002)., he provided we read this:

    Recent discoveries are raising the curtain on a new dimension of the sequence-structure paradigm. In it, function derives not from the structures of individual proteins, but instead, from dynamic material properties of entire ensembles of the proteins acting in unison through phase changes. These phases include liquids, one-dimensional crystals, and — as elaborated herein — even glasses. The peculiar thermodynamics of glass-like protein assemblies, in particular, illuminate new principles of information flow through and, at times, orthogonal to the central dogma of molecular biology.

    Proteins are not just lumps of matter floating in a watery liquid. Thermodynamics plays a large part in their mutability, and intrinsically disordered regions have their role to play in their behaviour. I think it’s worth trying to find out what the latest research is telling us about these processes.

    To say that everything is controlled by the genes is a gross simplification that does not come close to the reality of the situation.

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  13. CharlieM,

    It’s not so much what Talbott says here, it is the copious references he gives. References highlighting the intricate coordination required for the most seemingly simple of cellular processes.

    How many times? I KNOW!!! I KNOW!!!! I KNOW!!!!! (Perhaps that’s what Corneel meant by a more extreme form: more exclamation marks … 🤔). I spent years at university, pre and post grad***; I have kept up with the subject matter since. If you think ‘processes are complicated/coordinated’ is a refutation of gene centrism, you don’t really grasp the subject matter.

    But either way, you don’t need to say it 50 times.

    *** As an undergrad in the 1970’s, if one wrote to one of the chemical/medical supply companies, they’d send you a nice big chart with the main biochemical pathways on – sheets covered in molecules and arrows heading every which way. I had to learn this shit. But thank goodness for Talbott telling me it’s complicated. I’d never have known otherwise.

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  14. CharlieM,

    As to your Halfmann quote, this is NOT ‘orthogonal to the central dogma of molecular biology’. Unless it involves reverse translation, which it doesn’t. People claim on a daily basis that the dogma is under threat. People thereby prove on a daily basis that they don’t know what it states.

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  15. CharlieM,

    . I think it’s worth trying to find out what the latest research is telling us about these processes

    No, we should definitely stop looking now; we’ve learnt everything there is to know. 🙄

    To say that everything is controlled by the genes is a gross simplification that does not come close to the reality of the situation.

    Do you think ‘everything is controlled by the system’ is somehow superior in that regard?

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  16. Kantian Naturalist:
    Some people in this conversation may be interested in What Genes Can’t Do by Lenny Moss.

    From the blurb, at least he appears to attempt to distinguish the evolutionary and the physiological stances, though even in doing so his ‘gene-P’ (Preformationist) seems to fall into the trap of conflating the evolutionary stance with genetic determinism.

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  17. Righto, I’m caught up. I’ve been away in the far North-West of Scotland, contemplating the passions of midge and tick for my particular brand of A-positive. I’ll collate my responses in this single post that people can just skip over, rather than spamming the sidebar.

    CharlieM

    No. I believe that in Darwinian terms,bacteria are just some of the organisms that do outcompete us on a massive scale.

    Yikes! I’ve never been beaten to a hot dog by a bacterium! Well, I probably have, but there was still plenty left. I think an ecology primer might be in order, particularly the sense of ‘competition’.

    CharlieM

    I think that physics does show that the more dense the substance the more likely it is to fossilise.

    Perhaps, but that’s a fair way from the ‘matter is condensed energy’ line you started with.

    CharlieM

    What about the pernicious political influence of Darwinism? A Darwinian extremist might argue that not vaccinating against a disease is a good thing because it will eliminate the weak members of the group.

    Whataboutery alert! Still, if I ever encountered such an individual, I would of course tell them they were talking shite, and that Darwinian evolution is not in any case a manifesto – descriptive not prescriptive.

    CharlieM

    In my opinion the nucleus is the physical focus of the life (etheric) principle in eukaryotes. In transplanting the nucleus the life force is also transplanted.

    Aye, that’s handy – the smallest unit that’s been transferred successfully: that’s where the life force is located! And not much to do with those little thready things, merely used by the ‘life force’.

    Still, we have eliminated the cytoplasm. It’s a start.

    CharlieM

    So we can agree that the nucleus is the seat of a strong regenerative life principle. But cells can retain living activity even after the nucleus along with the genome is ejected.

    They’ve lost the ‘regenerative’ part though…
    It is not necessary that the genome be constantly present, nor constantly active, in order for the genome to be the source of that which resides in the cytoplasm. It needs to make good losses, but cells are good for a few hours or days without. Depends on turnover.

    CharlieM

    But genomes and proteomes are not separate in this way, they belong together and are a unity. And thus we get into paradoxes and contradictions when we try to think of one being the cause and the other the effect or them being related as in a means to an end.

    On the contrary, one evades a paradox: that for which your elaborate and ad hoc solution is the invention of a precursor Mind.

    CharlieM

    Living beings are not machines nor are they factories.

    Given my oft-expressed distaste for the over-extended metaphor, I’m surprised you think I might be of the opinion they were.

    CharlieM

    Me: As you’d find if you consumed death cap fungus […]
    Charlie: Yes my actions will result in changes to gene expression. I also agree with that.
    Me: A spectacular piece of point-missing
    Charlie: What gets passed on are living processes. There are many external influences which can disrupt these processes.

    My point, though, was that the components of the cell which you invoke as ‘living process’ have a shelf-life measured in hours, as the ‘death cap’ experiment shows dramatically. They don’t have any persistence, but turn over continually, to be refreshed from the genome. Only that has the constancy required to provide the ultimate seat of regulation. Of course DNA turns over too, but it has a handy template-based mechanism of allowing the ‘message’ to outlast any given instance of the ‘medium’. It also scatters into trillions of novel copies of that same ‘message’. But, again because of that template mechanism, the informatic role persists. There is no equivalent means of ‘cytoplasmic’, or ‘nuclear-but-not-chromosomal’, persistence.

    CharlieM

    Charlie: Proteins are fundamental to all life.
    Me: All of modern life. But still, their sequences reside in DNA.
    Charlie: Fundamental to all known earthly life.

    Digging your heels in here suggests that you deny the possibility of a precursor system unless an example has left descendants of that type. That’s pretty restrictive – the only valid evolutionary processes are those that fail to eliminate competitors! – and sums up a lot of Creationist rhetoric, even though you would distance yourself from Creationism.

    CharlieM

    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.

    Sure – the whole of life does. That’s Dawkins’s answer to Paley in The Blind Watchmaker, for example – although in this instance, the ‘tolerance’ is probably not due to the selection that tends to be Dawkins’s go-to assumption.

    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.

    It means that there is no reward for further improvement in fidelity. If fidelity is sufficient to keep deleterious mutations below one per replication, that’s as good as it need be for the organism. That’s why prokaryotes can get away with less fidelity – their genomes are shorter. Add to that the constraints on further improvement – there are penalties for taking too long, and limitations due to the mechanism of improvement being itself mutation-dependent – and you can’t simply declare the mutation-permitting gap as ‘built-in’ – it’s just what’s left between where the system has been ‘improved’ to, and 100%. Additionally, regardless what the designer ‘chooses’, if there is an adaptive improvement available, organisms will evolve towards that. Design ‘choices’ can’t persist indefinitely if there is evolution available.

    Interestingly, you seem to be subscribing to a ‘pandesignism’ which is a precise mirror of the ‘panadaptationism’ Dawkins is often accused of, and just as bad.

    CharlieM

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

    Haha. Just have a squint in this mirror, will you?
    Also: you’re wrong. There’s a lot of investigation that can be done using the ever-expanding libraries of genome sequences on the origins of the repair systems. Of course, since these are ancient, the singularity of LUCA prevents us looking too much further back.

    CharlieM

    CharlieM: The whole reflected in the parts.
    Me: Oh, if you like that slogan, you’ll love gene centrism …
    Charlie: I quite like it but it does not have the universal applicability of ‘the whole reflected in the parts’.

    Another point goes sailing over the hedge. I mean the concept of gene centrism, not the slogan. Gene centrism (in some formulations) treats genes as little competitive entities, engaged in a contest for colonisation of a ‘landscape’ in precisely the same way as the organisms they sit in.
    CharlieM

    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.

    Except where they don’t. If an allele is lost (what would stop that – especially in a situation of relative advantage?) then the change is irreversible.

    CharlieM

    Charlie: 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.
    Me: We have no evidence whatsoever of disembodied minds. At a bit of an impasse then, aren’t we?
    Charlie: So you have become the spokesperson as to what evidence is held by every other person on the planet?

    To the same extent you just did!
    I know there’s Britain’s Most Haunted and suchlike, but that’s hardly evidence. I realise disembodied minds are hard to capture in a glass jar, but to invoke them as causes of material effect surely requires some kind of material evidence?

    CharlieM

    And do you think that cell membranes and organelles are ‘diluted’ when a cell divides, when one becomes two?

    Yep. What else? If you split the material in two, each has half. That’s dilution. Organelles self-replicate (because they have DNA … ), while during the growth phase new cellular products (including a lot of the organellar material, to head off that gotcha) are synthesised from the nuclear genome.

    CharlieM

    Where I live songbirds of the same species do not always have the same habits. Some overwinter here while other conspecific birds remain here.

    Sure. Triggered by cold, Arctic birds migrate. Without that trigger, locals stay put. It doesn’t really have any bearing on the broader question of genetics of behaviour.

    Having flexibility and ranges of behaviours within species is a wise move to ensure the continued survival of that species.

    But not every behaviour varies.

    Descent is not about abstract isolated genes, it is about the reality of whole organisms passing through the generations.

    Due to recombination in sexual species, it is about both.

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  18. There’s more!

    CharlieM

    Me: […] this regulation itself has a genetic basis […]
    Charlie: I think a better way of putting it is that regulation has a genetic component.

    Even though it may seem unduly picky, and the riposte lengthy, I still go with my original contention. Bearing in mind that by ‘genetic’ I simply mean ‘DNA sequence’, here are some kinds of regulation:

    1. Allosteric regulation. This involves a conformational change in an enzyme occurring at a location other than the active site due to a binding interaction. This allows a product, for example, to inhibit the pathway that produces it. Since the sequence of the allosteric site is directly encoded in DNA, in exactly the same way as the active part, then this form of regulation has a genetic basis.

    2. Chromatin remodelling. The distinctive banding of chromosomes in some preparations is due to regions of greater and lesser chromatin condensation. In condensed regions (heterochromatin), transcription is inhibited, giving a coarse means of regulation. This remodelling is performed by enzymes, produced from the genome, and therefore does not merely have a genetic component, but a genetic basis.

    3. Histone modifications. DNA is in intimate association with histone, which can be methylated, phosphorylated etc. These modifications can interfere with access to the machinery of translation, in a finer version of the above coarse control through chromatin. The modifications don’t just happen by chance. They happen, consistently and repeatedly in a given tissue at a given stage, due to enzymes. Guess where they come from?

    4. DNA modifications, of which the best studied is DNA methylation. Such modifications allow the silencing or the turning on of genes. Again, this doesn’t just happen; it is itself tightly controlled, but fundamentally methylation and demethylation are carried out by enzymes – essentially, DNA sequence, albeit translationally processed. There is a bidirectional relationship with genotype here – the enzymes are ‘directed’ to certain sites by the genetic sequence at those sites, and can only methylate sequences with certain characteristics, such that ‘the genome’, broadly understood, is involved at both ends of the relationship.

    5. Promoter and repressor binding. Small RNAs and proteins bind, with great specificity, to certain sites which can result in both up- and down-regulation of transcription. Again there’s a bidirectional relationship: the binding site is genetic, as is the molecule bound (either directly, for RNA, or via the translation system for protein).

    6. RNA titration. Because nucleic acids bind very well to their complement, it is possible to inhibit an RNA, be it small (regulatory) or ‘large’ (mRNA) by production of an antisense transcript. From the genome.

    I could go on! My point is that all of these mechanisms do indeed root in genetics. This is why one is able to make definitive statements about regulatory states at specific points in a life history, and know that they generalise to the entire species.

    Because genetics.

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  19. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: Maybe we can come to a mutual understanding of what is meant by ‘gene’

    That’s not in doubt. Any sequence of nucleotides that is found in an organism’s genome can be called a gene.

    So why restrict the number of human genes to twenty odd thousand?

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  20. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: Fossilised bones and shells are far more common than soft tissue fossils.

    Yes and the reasons are well understood. You make statements as if they are somehow profound rather than obvious.

    And so if all the pre-Cambrian fossils represent only a very tiny minority of organisms present at that time then on the whole we have little clue as to the actual variety and abundance of life in those times.

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  21. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: Which do you think appeared first in evolution, relatively soft cell membranes or hard mineral deposits?

    I’m guessing it was cells that had no hard parts. Can you guess why?

    And so the first forms of physical life would have left very little or more probably no evidence of their existence. The pre-Cambrian earth could have been teeming with life that was so diaphanous that no trace of it has been left.

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  22. dazz:

    CharlieM: It was the ID movement’s championing the flagellum as irreducibly complex that prompted this research. They made some important discoveries in their attempt to refute the position of ID advocates.

    Yeah, right, because noting that the bacteria flagellum can’t move if you chop off it’s flagellum is such a groundbreaking discovery!

    Hilarious.

    If that’s all there was to it there would not be so much controversy surrounding it.

    Hereis a paper from 1966, ‘Formation of Bacterial Flagella’. It begins:

    The bacterial flagellum, because of its relative chemical and structural simplicity, ease of isolation and purification, and its rapid rate of synthesis, offers a convenient test system to investigate the biosynthesis of subcellular structures.

    Not quite as simple as once imagined.

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  23. Corneel:

    CharlieM: What about the pernicious political influence of Darwinism? A Darwinian extremist might argue that not vaccinating against a disease is a good thing because it will eliminate the weak members of the group.

    Here in the Netherlands, a major group that refuses to have their children vaccinated are anthroposophists. Is this really the direction you want this argument to go?

    If people do not want to be vaccinated they should not be forced to do so. Our kids had all the usual vaccinations but this was our decision.

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  24. CharlieM: The pre-Cambrian earth could have been teeming with life that was so diaphanous that no trace of it has been left.

    The small shelly fauna (often neither small nor shelly) left fossil evidence as far back as the Ediacaran period from around 630 million years ago. The oldest uncontroversial evidence of life on Earth goes back 3.5 billion years. Hard parts bloom in the Cambrian, the proliferation of armoured plates and spikes perhaps due to an explosion in predatory species. Eyes, which also become widespread in the fossil record during the Cambrian period would also have been useful to predators and prey.

    But certainly, prior to the Ediacaran, fossil evidence, other than tracks and burrows, is sparse.

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  25. CharlieM: So why restrict the number of human genes to twenty odd thousand?

    A more specific definition of a gene is a sequence of DNA that is transcribed into messenger RNA and then transcribed into a protein (such as a specific enzyme), although some RNA molecules function as ribozymes (RNA catalysts). The number of genes in the human genome is an estimate based on the number of DNA sequences encoding functional proteins. There are more, many more I suspect, non-coding genes that are transcribed into RNA that act as control factors and gene switches.

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  26. CharlieM: If people do not want to be vaccinated they should not be forced to do so. Our kids had all the usual vaccinations but this was our decision.

    At what age should children be allowed a say in decisions that affect their own lives? I see in UK the unfettered right to choose or refuse medical treatment is 16, though the Court of Protection can intervene where children and parents disagree.

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  27. newton: CharlieM:

    Canids are a very plastic group with a wide range of potential forms within it.

    What makes one group plastic with a wide range of forms?

    It takes all sorts. Just as in the cells of an individual animal, some cells remain pluripotent and some become extremely specialised. The whole reflected in the parts.

    The more advanced the animal the more that individuality becomes manifest within the group. Dogs demonstrate much more individuality than fish.

    I’m sure you’ve noticed that life is very complex at all levels.

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  28. CharlieM: Just as in the cells of an individual animal, some cells remain pluripotent and some become extremely specialised.

    This is nonsense, Charlie. The reason dog breeders have been able to tease out Canis familiaris into the wide variety of colours, shapes and sizes is due to high genetic diversity in the species prior to domestication and selective breeding. The process is not endless as diversity only accumulates slowly and is overtaken by inbreeding, the lack of genetic diversity that causes grief to many pedigree breeds these days.

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  29. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: What about the pernicious political influence of Darwinism? A Darwinian extremist might argue that not vaccinating against a disease is a good thing because it will eliminate the weak members of the group..

    Are there really such “Darwinian extremists” or are you just making them up?

    Practically all world views and ideologies will have their extremists. Darwinism lends itself to be misused in this way.

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  30. CharlieM: CharlieM: What about the pernicious political influence of Darwinism? A Darwinian extremist might argue that not vaccinating against a disease is a good thing because it will eliminate the weak members of the group.

    Me: Here in the Netherlands, a major group that refuses to have their children vaccinated are anthroposophists. Is this really the direction you want this argument to go?

    Charlie: If people do not want to be vaccinated they should not be forced to do so. Our kids had all the usual vaccinations but this was our decision.

    So did my kids. I was pointing out the “pernicious political influence” of anthroposophy and Steiner’s philosophy that founded it. Do I need to remind you that it was YOU that tried to use vaccination refusal as a stick to beat “Darwinism”?

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  31. CharlieM: Darwinism lends itself to be misused in this way.

    But unlike those “Darwinian extremists”, anthroposophists refusing to vaccinate their children actually exist.

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  32. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: The chain of woolly mammoth reproduction has been broken but they have still managed to sequence its genome. Is this not preserved information?

    Yes. But it is far from enough to resurrect the species.

    Yes, I agree. Scientists now have the ability to put together the genome of a woolley mammoth, but the genome alone won’t resurrect anything.

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  33. Alan Fox:
    Now, had you said the Svalbard Global Seed Vault…

    Yes, seeds as opposed to genomes. The seed, the whole seed and nothing but the seed. 🙂

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  34. OMagain:

    CharlieM: If we let our passions dictate our lives then we cannot be free.

    What, even the birds with their passion for flying?

    There is physical freedom and there is mental, spiritual freedom. Some people can be put in prison without curtailing their mental freedom. An albatross may have gained a certain freedom from the earth but it isn’t free to decide to go to central Africa to live.

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  35. newton:

    CharlieM: And my point is that genes don’t do anything either directly or indirectly.

    In the case of Down Syndrome, the extra copy of a chromosome is a coincidence?

    Chromosomes aren’t genes, they are complex, active molecules.

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  36. CharlieM: KN: Are there really such “Darwinian extremists” or are you just making them up?

    Charlie: Practically all world views and ideologies will have their extremists. Darwinism lends itself to be misused in this way.

    So you’ll have an example ready to hand, then.

    1+
  37. CharlieM:

    In the case of Down Syndrome, the extra copy of a chromosome is a coincidence?

    Chromosomes aren’t genes, they are complex, active molecules.

    There are a lot of complex active molecules that are not related to Down syndrome , what is unique about the chromosome?

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  38. Darwinian extremists run rampant in the social sciences and humanities. Darwinian Literary Studies (https://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/06/magazine/the-literary-darwinists.html) and Universal Darwinism (https://www.universaldarwinism.com/page1.html) are just two examples. Biology isn’t really the main problem here, where post-Darwinian ideas are already in circulation, and some say “Darwinism is dead”. It’s rather the “extension” of Darwinian ideas into social sciences and humanities, as applied to human beings, that is most problematic. The list of Darwinian extremists in SSH is considerable, not that it’s likely anyone here is even aware of this, such that they could come up with a list themselves.

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  39. Gregory,

    Why do you think of Literary Darwinism as a major problem now? I think of it as a dumb short-lived fad from 15 years ago — a short-lived attempt to bring “evolutionary psychology” into literary studies at a time when the fad from “po-mo” was over and literary theorists were looking for the hot new thing. Is literary Darwinism still around or did it go away after people lost interest in nonsense like Madam’s Bovary’s Ovaries?

    For that matter, is evolutionary psychology still popular? I don’t know any philosophers who have much respect for it. The closest is Dennett with his memes, but even philosophers I know who think Dennett is right about intentionality and consciousness think he’s wrong about memes.

    Gregory: The list of Darwinian extremists in SSH is considerable, not that it’s likely anyone here is even aware of this, such that they could come up with a list themselves.

    So who’s on your list of “Darwinian extremists” in the social sciences and humanities?

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  40. Kantian Naturalist,

    “a dumb short-lived fad from 15 years ago — a short-lived attempt to bring ‘evolutionary psychology’ into literary studies”.

    Agreed.

    “is evolutionary psychology still popular? I don’t know any philosophers who have much respect for it.”

    Still quite popular among atheists, yes. Not popular at all among religious theists. It’s a pretty stark contrast. EVopsych might be among the most atheist- or agnostic-dominated fields in the history of the Academy.

    With a 3 minute search:
    https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/psychology/sections/evolutionary-psychology
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272735820300805
    https://researchportal.bath.ac.uk/en/publications/evolutionary-psychology-and-artificial-intelligence-the-impact-of
    https://psychcentral.com/lib/evolution-and-psychology/

    The opinions of the philosophers you mention likely matter very little in confronting eVopsych. They believe they are “respected” among themselves, which seems to be enough for them to continue promoting eVopsych.

    Sorry, one name is not a “list”. Be welcome to go further to show if you’ve been looking or not. Do you have a list, KN? Dennett is far too easy & obvious! MBO’s author David Barash isn’t in SSH; he’s more of a psychological biologist.

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  41. Allan Miller: Will no-one save us from the horrors of misguided literary criticism?

    Aye, those Darwinian extremists destroy everything that is precious to us.

    1+
  42. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: If we let our passions dictate our lives then we cannot be free.

    Of course we are restricted by our bodies. But we are also restricted by our passions, especially so if we follow our passions without first filtering them through our rational thinking activity. Freedom comes with control of passions, not with being dictated by them.

    I know this is off-topic so I shall be brief: conceiving of the passions as threats to the freedom of the self requires conceiving of the passions as external to the self, and doing requires demarcating the boundaries of the self such that the passions are external to it. Doing that consistently generates a conception of the self that entails a logically incoherent conception of agency, responsibility, and freedom.

    The messy details behind this claim can be found in the section on Stoicism in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.

    Why should that entail conceiving of the passions as external to the self? A man may contenplate suicide and so be a threat to himself. This does not mean that he is somehow separate from himself. As well as external dangers we face dangers from within.

    Passions are a good thing as long as we have self-control.

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  43. Corneel:

    CharlieM: And that is a problem of Darwinian evolution. It forces organisms into ever more restricted niches so that they remain as creatures and forego their potential to become creators in their own right.

    CharlieM: Of course we are restricted by our bodies.

    Bodies are just matter. You told us that it’s passion and archetypes that drives the evolution of morphology. How can mere matter resist that and impose limits on the non-material?

    Living organisms are not just matter. They are intrinsically active, self-governing bodies. Living activity is the primal state of matter and ‘dead’ matter is the product and residue of this activity.

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  44. Corneel:

    CharlieM: My gut flora and fauna are much more successful than I am in a Darwinian sense. But they are the basis on which my existence depends.

    But you are not in competition with them, so they do not displace you. In fact, since you are its habitat your gut flora depends on you for its existence, not the other way around. My guess is that you are confusing yourself by mentally grouping all bacteria again.

    It is a mutually dependent, well-balanced, symbiotic relationship. Disease and death comes when the balance is disrupted. If it were not for the bacteria and such like we would be wading through a layer of corpses. Nature is finely balanced at all levels. The whole reflected in the parts.

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  45. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Me: Since when do the paints completely determine what the painting will look like?

    Charlie: They don’t. And it is the artist who determines which paints to use.

    Then why are random mutations a problem?

    They aren’t a problem when they are kept under control. It’s a matter of maintaining balance.

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