William Paley’s Excellent Argument

[note: the author formatted this is a way that did not leave space for a page break. So I am inserting the break at the top — NR]

  1. Paley’s teleological argument is: just as the function and complexity of a watch implies a watch-maker, so likewise the function and complexity of the universe implies the existence of a universe-maker. Paley also addressed a number of possible counterarguments:
    1. Objection: We don’t know who the watchmaker is. Paley: Just because we don’t know who the artist might be, it doesn’t follow that we cannot know that there is one.
    2. Objection: The watch (universe) is not perfect. Paley: Perfection is not required.
    3. Objection: Some parts of the watch (universe) seem to have no function. Paley: We just don’t know those functions yet.
    4. Objection: The watch (re universe) is only one possible form of many possible combinations and so is a chance event. Paley: Life is too complex and organized to be a product of chance.
    5. Objection: There is a law or principle that disposed the watch (re universe) to be in that form. Also, the watch (re the universe) came about as a result of the laws of metallic nature. Paley: The existence of a law presupposes a lawgiver with the power to enforce the law.
    6. Objection: One knows nothing at all about the matter. Paley: Certainly, by seeing the parts of the watch (re the universe), one can know the design.
  2. Hume’s arguments against design:
    1. Objection: “We have no experience of world-making”. Counter-objection: We have no direct experience of many things, yet that never stops us from reasoning our way through problems.
    2. Objection: “The analogy is not good enough. The universe could be argued to be more analogous to something more organic such as a vegetable. But both watch and vegetable are ridiculous analogies”. Counter-objection: By definition, no analogy is perfect. The analogy needs only be good enough to prove the point. And Paley’s analogy is great for that limited scope. Hume’s followers are free to pursue the vegetable analogy if they think it is good enough. And some [unconvincingly] do imagine the universe as “organic”.
    3. Objection: “Even if the argument did give evidence for a designer; it’s not the God of traditional Christian theism”. Counter-objection: Once we establish that the universe is designed, only then we can [optionally] discuss other aspects of this finding.
    4. Objection: “The universe could have been created by random chance but still show evidence of design as the universe is eternal and would have an infinite amount of time to be able to form a universe so complex and ordered as our own”. Counter-objection: Not possible. There is nothing random in the universe that looks indubitably designed. That is why we use non-randomness to search for extraterrestrial life and ancient artefacts.
  3. Other arguments against design:
    1. Darwin: “Evolution (natural selection) is a better explanation”. “There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws.” — The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. Counter-objection: “Natural selection” would be an alternative hypothesis to Paley’s if it worked. But it demonstrably doesn’t, so there is not even a point in comparing the two.
    2. Dawkins: “Who designed the designer?” Counter-objection: Once we establish that the universe is designed, only then we can [optionally] discuss other aspects of this finding (see counter-objection to Hume).
    3. Dawkins: “The watch analogy conflates the complexity that arises from living organisms that are able to reproduce themselves with the complexity of inanimate objects, unable to pass on any reproductive changes”. Counter-objection: Paley is aware of the differences between the living and the inert and is not trying to cast life into a watch. Instead he is only demonstrating that they both share the property of being designed. In addition, nothing even “arises”. Instead everything is caused by something else. That’s why we always look for a cause in science.
    4. Objection: “Watches were not created by single inventors, but by people building up their skills in a cumulative fashion over time, each contributing to a watch-making tradition from which any individual watchmaker draws their designs”. Counter-objection: Once we establish that the universe is designed, only then we can [optionally] discuss other aspects of this finding (see counter-objection to Hume).
    5. Objection: In Dover case, the judge ruled that such an inductive argument is not accepted as science because it is unfalsifiable. Counter-objection: Both inductive and deductive reasoning are used in science. Paley’s argument is not inductive as he had his hypothesis formulated well before his argumentation. Finally, Paley’s hypothesis can absolutely be falsified if a random draw can be found to look designed. This is exactly what the “infinite monkey” theorem has tried and failed to do (see counter-objection to Hume).
    6. Objection: Paley confuses descriptive law with prescriptive law (i.e., the fallacy of equivocation). Prescriptive law does imply a lawgiver, and prescriptive laws can be broken (e.g., speed limits, rules of behavior). Descriptive laws do not imply a law-giver, and descriptive laws cannot be broken (one exception disproves the law, e.g., gravity, f = ma.). Counter-objection: Of all the laws with known origin, all (100%) have a lawgiver at the origin. The distinction between descriptive and prescriptive laws is thus arbitrary and unwarranted.
    7. Objection: It is the nature of mind to see relationship. Where one person sees design, another sees randomness. Counter-objection: This ambiguity is present only for very simple cases. But all humans agree that organisms’ structures are clearly not random.
    8. Dawkins: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Counter-objection: Just a corollary: since organisms indeed appear designed, then they are most likely designed according to Occam’s razor.
  4. In conclusion, Paley is right and his opponents continue to be wrong with not even a plausible alternative hypothesis.

Links:

https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/paleys-argument-from-design-did-hume-refute-it-and-is-it-an-argument-from-analogy/

https://philosophy.lander.edu/intro/paley.shtml

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchmaker_analogy

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1,308 thoughts on “William Paley’s Excellent Argument

  1. Corneel:

    CharlieM: There must be something in the fact that many people consider the human brain to be the most complex structure in the known universe.

    If it makes you happy, I’ll confess it fills me with wonder. However, it fails to prove that evolution is advancing towards this particular goal.

    It doesn’t need to prove it. We can understand the trajectory that evolution has taken from the research that has been done and from this we can see what course it has taken. Evolution has reached a point where it has produced beings by which nature has the ability to self-reflect. This is not the survival of the fittest, in fact most prokaryotes are much fitter than we are in this sense.

    Life on earth has survived and thrived for as long as it has because there is an inbuilt wisdom that has maintained an overall balance. It could so easily have developed in such a one-sided way that one species became so dominant that it destroyed all the others and in so doing destroyed itself.

    It has now reached the stage where this is becoming a distinct possibility. The difference here is that now Mother Nature has produced beings which themselves have the power to determine the course it will take in future.

    We haven’t taken this power away from nature, we have been given this responsibility. So it doesn’t matter whether we believe that it is all an accident, that it has all been planned, or somewhere in between.

    Our beliefs don’t matter nearly as much as our actions do. The fact is that we do have this ever increasing power. Are we mature enough to handle the responsibility?

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  2. Alan Fox: A design is a what? To design is to do what? Is designed means what?

    If you must ask, you have bigger problems.

    Alan Fox: I can say quite openly that the designing in biological evolution happens when the niche selects individuals in a population via their individual and differential ability to survive and reproduce.

    Nonsense. There is no “niche” and there is no “selects”. Describe a “niche”/”selects” relative to x,y,z, organisms to see.

    Alan Fox: I was referring to benthic predators.

    There is no “benthic predators”. It’s just a bogus name some people give to some arbitrarily grouped organisms.

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  3. Nonlin.org: There is no “benthic predators”. It’s just a bogus name some people give to some arbitrarily grouped organisms.

    Benthic just means “open-ocean-dwelling”. Admittedly occupation of the benthic zone is sparse but it exists and predators exist in that zone. And organisms of very different evolutionary origins show similar traits, adaptations and strategies.

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  4. This thread is still about Paley and his argument for design. Any more questions, concerns, new arguments? Aside from “you don’t understand Paley but I have no proof of that” stupidity.

    I see some people deep into the weeds of “evolution” arguing about pure nonsense.

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  5. Alan Fox: Benthic just means “open-ocean-dwelling”. Admittedly occupation of the benthic zone is sparse but it exists and predators exist in that zone. And organisms of very different evolutionary origins show similar traits, adaptations and strategies.

    Nonsense end to end.

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  6. Nonlin.org: Nonsense. There is no “niche” and there is no “selects”.

    Goodness me, you don’t like the active voice do you.

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  7. Nonlin.org: If you must ask, you have bigger problems.

    And the logic there is?

    No, I don’t have to ask. Years of asking (by many others as well as me) demonstrate there is no useful answer that can be found in “Intelligent Design” circles. Certainly not at non-lin’s blog. And see the evasion in non-lin’s latest non-answer!

    (see what I did there?) 😉

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  8. Nonlin.org:
    This thread is still about Paley and his argument for design. Any more questions, concerns, new arguments? Aside from “you don’t understand Paley but I have no proof of that” stupidity.

    Nobody said they had no proof that you don’t understand Paley (or Hume, or Darwin, or Dawkins) Your OP is the proof. It’s enough to point out that you imagine that those single sentences, poorly read from wikipedia by yourself, are full objections, arguments and answers. If you don’t get that, then there’s nothing we can do to help you.

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  9. Entropy: Nobody said they had no proof that you don’t understand Paley (or Hume, or Darwin, or Dawkins) Your OP is the proof. It’s enough to point out that you imagine that those single sentences, poorly read from wikipedia by yourself, are full objections, arguments and answers. If you don’t get that, then there’s nothing we can do to help you.

    Yep. Time to move on.

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  10. Alan Fox: And organisms of very different evolutionary origins show similar traits, adaptations and strategies.

    Except that you don’t actually mean adaptations, nor strategies. You mean accidents to their DNA were amazingly fortuitous.

    Niches don’t cause lucky accidents.

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  11. phoodoo: Niches don’t cause lucky accidents.

    Correct. Random mutations supply the adaptations that are selected by the niche where beneficial and discarded where deleterious.

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  12. Alan Fox: Correct. Random mutations supply the adaptations that are selected by the niche where beneficial and discarded where deleterious.

    Such as a mutation in a virus in bats finding itself in a novel environment, where it accidentally happens to thrive.

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  13. CharlieM: Because they took on a specific form too early to advance further. In other words they specialised into a niche which had a confining effect on their further progress. Only those that remained less specialised could continue to develop in novel ways.

    So you said. And I replied that this was contradicted by the large diversification in morphology and habitats within gastropods. Clearly, morphological stasis does not extend beyond the few groups you googled to support your view.

    CharlieM: In my opinion this shows that there is a trend towards the increasingly complex nervous systems required for higher conscious awareness.

    In some lineages there is, but clearly it doesn’t generalize. Observe: In that same page you link to, there is an alternative scenario where placozoans and sponges have lost neuronal cells altogether. Ask yourself why you ignored that scenario, and blindly accepted the one that supports your story.

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  14. CharlieM: Life on earth has survived and thrived for as long as it has because there is an inbuilt wisdom that has maintained an overall balance. It could so easily have developed in such a one-sided way that one species became so dominant that it destroyed all the others and in so doing destroyed itself.

    Ecosystems tend to resilient to perturbation and remain in a more or less stable equilibrium. There is a rich body of mathematical theory that describes the dynamics behind that. If that really interests you, I suggest you start feeding your admiration for “Nature’s wisdom” by learning some ecology.

    CharlieM: We haven’t taken this power away from nature, we have been given this responsibility. So it doesn’t matter whether we believe that it is all an accident, that it has all been planned, or somewhere in between.

    Our beliefs don’t matter nearly as much as our actions do.

    I can agree with that.

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  15. phoodoo: So pretending random mutations aren’t reasonably defined as lucky accidents is nonsense.

    It’s an interesting point, but not for the reasons phoodoo suspects.

    If a random mutation happens to be of benefit in a particular environment then that’s a “lucky accident”. But what you don’t seem to be clear on is what proportion are lucky and what proportion are unlucky?

    Are all random mutations reasonable defined as lucky accidents?

    If so that means that all random mutations are beneficial, otherwise in what sense are they lucky?

    You don’t differentiate, you just say “random mutations are defined as lucky accidents”.

    But what about mutations that cause sickness and/or immediate death? Or an inability to out run a predator? Are they also lucky accidents? They must be, for you do not allow the possibility of such as all mutations are reasonably defined, by you, as lucky accidents.

    So, phoodoo, is there only one sort of mutation, the sort of mutation that is a lucky accident? Or are there other types as well, that are not so lucky?

    If so, do you have any guesstimates as to the relative proportions of not-lucky vs lucky?

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  16. OMagain,

    First, please take a moment to mock Alan and Allan and others for not being able to admit the theory of evolution is one of lucky accidents accumulating.

    Cheers.

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  17. phoodoo,

    Come on phoodoo, nobody is fooled. Evolution depends both on random mutation and non-random selection. Doesn’t bother me if you want to call mutations “lucky accidents”. There’s still those two essential elements that result in evolutionary change. Without lucky accidents, there’s no variation for selection to sift, sorting the beneficial from the deleterious. Without non-random selection, evolution wouldn’t happen as “lucky accidents” on their own achieve nothing.

    They go together like a horse and carriage,
    You can’t have one without the other!

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  18. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Because they took on a specific form too early to advance further. In other words they specialised into a niche which had a confining effect on their further progress. Only those that remained less specialised could continue to develop in novel ways.

    So you said. And I replied that this was contradicted by the large diversification in morphology and habitats within gastropods. Clearly, morphological stasis does not extend beyond the few groups you googled to support your view.

    I’m not sure if you are getting the point I am making. Gastropods are like you say massively diverse. But within this diversity the individuals in any single breeding population are very similar. Carnivores are not going to have offspring that suddenly become grazers, and desert dwellers are not going to decide to relocate to a tropical rain forest.
    See here

    Gastropod feeding habits are extremely varied, although most species make use of a radula in some aspect of their feeding behavior. They include grazers, browsers, suspension feeders, scavengers, detritivores, and carnivores. Carnivory in some taxa may simply involve grazing on colonial animals, while others engage in hunting their prey. Some gastropod carnivores drill holes in their shelled prey, this method of entry having been acquired independently in several groups, as is also the case with carnivory itself. Some gastropods feed suctorially and have lost the radula.

    On the other hand the human offspring of parents who were vegan organic crop farmers might decide to go and live in the middle of a city and live on big Macs and KFC drumsticks.

    CharlieM: In my opinion this shows that there is a trend towards the increasingly complex nervous systems required for higher conscious awareness.

    In some lineages there is, but clearly it doesn’t generalize. Observe: In that same page you link to, there is an alternative scenario where placozoans and sponges have lost neuronal cells altogether. Ask yourself why you ignored that scenario, and blindly accepted the one that supports your story.

    I don’t ignore that scenario. In looking to understand any group of organisms we have to consider not just as they are at present but also their evolutionary history. As some evolve further others remain at an earlier stage and even fall back towards a previous stage. How else are we able to look at traits and distinguish what is derived and what is ancestral, what is novel and what has been retained from forebears.

    We can see examples of this within the life cycles of some individual organisms. Some organisms are free swimming in their earlier stage and then at a later stage of development become sessile.

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  19. phoodoo:
    Alan Fox,

    Lucky accidents that die less.

    Lucky accidents that cause others to die more. Depends on your point of view. Lucky for Coronavirus, unlucky for humans.

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  20. CharlieM: I’m not sure if you are getting the point I am making. Gastropods are like you say massively diverse. But within this diversity the individuals in any single breeding population are very similar

    I think we are all pretty clear on the point you are trying to make, repeatedly.
    And the point is:

    I, CharlieM, cannot tell them apart.

    I did enjoy your choice of snails.
    They all look like snails to Charlie.
    Well, except for the ones that don’t look like snails.
    Yeah, but within any single breeding population they’re very similar…
    Errr, they look might look similar to you, but again, that might just be your ignorance; although here at TSZ we have discussed the amazing diversity of conotoxins, within the genus and even within species.
    You are hanging an awful lot on the fact that humans are omnivores.

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  21. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Life on earth has survived and thrived for as long as it has because there is an inbuilt wisdom that has maintained an overall balance. It could so easily have developed in such a one-sided way that one species became so dominant that it destroyed all the others and in so doing destroyed itself.

    Ecosystems tend to resilient to perturbation and remain in a more or less stable equilibrium. There is a rich body of mathematical theory that describes the dynamics behind that. If that really interests you, I suggest you start feeding your admiration for “Nature’s wisdom” by learning some ecology.

    I also admire your faith in mathematical modelling. It is nigh on impossible to predict the motion of more than two planets, so how much more difficult is it to come to grips with the interactions of the multiplicity of life on earth.

    From your link:

    The British biologist Alfred Russel Wallace is best known for independently proposing a theory of evolution due to natural selection that prompted Charles Darwin to publish his own theory. In his famous 1858 paper, Wallace proposed natural selection as a kind of feedback mechanism which keeps species and varieties adapted to their environment.

    The action of this principle is exactly like that of the centrifugal governor of the steam engine, which checks and corrects any irregularities almost before they become evident; and in like manner no unbalanced deficiency in the animal kingdom can ever reach any conspicuous magnitude, because it would make itself felt at the very first step, by rendering existence difficult and extinction almost sure soon to follow.

    Natural selection is the inbuilt wisdom of life in the same way that a centrifugal governor is an example of human wisdom built into a machine.

    I thought that Nonlin might like this comparison between a human construction and a natural process. I don’t think she/he is very pleased with us in the way we are using this thread.

    CharlieM: We haven’t taken this power away from nature, we have been given this responsibility. So it doesn’t matter whether we believe that it is all an accident, that it has all been planned, or somewhere in between.

    Our beliefs don’t matter nearly as much as our actions do.

    I can agree with that.

    🙂

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  22. DNA_Jock:

    CharlieM: I’m not sure if you are getting the point I am making. Gastropods are like you say massively diverse. But within this diversity the individuals in any single breeding population are very similar

    I think we are all pretty clear on the point you are trying to make, repeatedly.
    And the point is:

    I, CharlieM, cannot tell them apart.

    I did enjoy your choice of snails.
    They all look like snails to Charlie.
    Well, except for the ones that don’t look like snails.
    Yeah, but within any single breeding population they’re very similar…
    Errr, they look might look similar to you, but again, that might just be your ignorance; although here at TSZ we have discussed the amazing diversity of conotoxins, within the genus and even within species.
    You are hanging an awful lot on the fact that humans are omnivores.

    I am pretty sure that I can tell the difference between the garden snails that I find in my garden and the cone snails that we have discussed here. Both are interesting in their own ways. I’m pretty relieved that the snails I come across in my garden aren’t equipped with the same harpoons as the cone snails. The barbed point is yet another structure that nature has beaten us to as a novel invention.

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  23. You seem incapable of understanding the problem here. You are saying that [within whatever clade we are discussing] there is less variation than amongst humans.
    And the counter-argument is: that’s merely the result of your ignorance, as in “they all look the same to me”.
    You can tell the difference between a terrestrial snail and a marine snail. Bully for you. But to a prey animal being attacked, the precise repertoire of toxins (some of which they may be resistant to) that this cone snail, Jonathan, uses is a matter of life and death. You claim that there is little variation between individual snails in “any single breeding population”, because they all seem alike to you, CharlieM.
    Your thinking is so anthropocentric that you cannot see that anthropocentric thinking is leading you astray.

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  24. Alan Fox: Colouration of Carcharodon carcharias and Lagenorhynchus acutus. Similarities coincidental?

    Why ask me? What’s your point if any?

    Alan Fox: No, I don’t have to ask.

    But you DID ask. And there’s another possibility why the answers are never satisfactory to you. No comprehension.

    Allan Miller: Such as a mutation in a virus in bats finding itself in a novel environment, where it accidentally happens to thrive.

    This is as stupid as “one organism – one genome” and “alleles can be added”.

    …skipping on extreme stupidity as always (you know who you are)…

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  25. phoodoo: First, please take a moment to mock Alan and Allan…

    Wait a minute, aren’t Alan and Allan allele of each other? Yes, one “gene” is longer than the other, but I can see the random mutation. Now, which one is “beneficial” and which one “deleterious”?

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  26. CharlieM: Natural selection is the inbuilt wisdom of life in the same way that a centrifugal governor is an example of human wisdom built into a machine.

    I thought that Nonlin might like this comparison between a human construction and a natural process. I don’t think she/he is very pleased with us in the way we are using this thread.

    Only there is no “natural selection” as shown. It’s all backward looking and telling stupid myths about the past. No testable forecasts whatsoever unless very vague like those employed by other fraudsters, the fortune tellers:
    “I can see a wedding in your future…”
    “oh, no, she knows EVERYTHING about me now”

    As long as you’re discussing design (or not), you’re in the right thread. As far as your position, I’m not sure what you’re arguing.

    DNA_Jock: Your thinking is so anthropocentric that you cannot see that anthropocentric thinking is leading you astray.

    That’s right, Charlie? How can you understand snails when you were not raised by them like Jock? You were not even raised by monkeys like Tarzan, so what do you know?

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  27. Nonlin.org: Why ask me?

    To see if you had any curiosity. Perhaps to see if you had an alternative explanation for what I see as convergent evolutionary traits. A non-answer serves. No worries.

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  28. Nonlin.org: Wait a minute, aren’t Alan and Allan allele of each other?

    Oh dear! You have no idea what an allele is!

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  29. Alan Fox,

    True, that. But it does serve as a delightful echo of one of my favorite creationist errors, the assumption that a gene’s homologs in other species will have the same name. We’ve seen that often enough here.
    But if Alan Fox is allelic with Allan Miller, then what locus is DNA_Jock?

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  30. Nonlin.org,

    This is as stupid as “one organism – one genome” and “alleles can be added”.

    Not at all stupid, then. Though I’d prefer ‘counted’.

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  31. phoodoo:
    OMagain,

    First, please take a moment to mock Alan and Allan and others for not being able to admit the theory of evolution is one of lucky accidents accumulating.

    Cheers.

    If evolution is a theory of lucky accidents accumulating, does that mean this Coronavirus didn’t arise in a wild animal and then take off in humans? In which case, why in fuck are we all sat at home?

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  32. Allan Miller: If evolution is a theory of lucky accidents accumulating, does that mean this Coronavirus didn’t arise in a wild animal and then take off in humans?

    Huh? What??

    There are viruses so its not fair to call the theory of evolution the theory of lucky accidents accumulating (Oh and some die less)?

    Woooo….

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  33. phoodoo: Huh?What??

    There are viruses so its not fair to call the theory of evolution the theory of lucky accidents accumulating (Oh and some die less)?

    Woooo….

    It’s not accurate, but also: so what? If viral transfer between species is lucky accidents, and one can express tautologically that the virus strains that transmit more successfully infect more people, have you defeated something in the real world?

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  34. phoodoo: There are viruses so its not fair to call the theory of evolution the theory of lucky accidents accumulating (Oh and some die less)?

    Yes, ‘there are viruses’. The question is did the coronavirus evolve via ‘lucky accidents’ or was it designed?

    Was it designed phoodoo? That’s what you seem to be implying, but for some reason won’t actually say.

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  35. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1567134820301829?via=ihub

    198 sites in the SARS-CoV-2 genome appear to have already undergone recurrent, independent mutations based on a large-scale analysis of public genome assemblies.

    Detected recurrent mutations may indicate ongoing adaptation of SARS-CoV-2 to its novel human host.

    Seems like there’s plenty of luck available to the virus. Phoodoo, is your designer giving extra luck to the virus then? Or what’s the intelligent design explanation for its adaptations?

    By focusing on mutations which have emerged independently multiple times (homoplasies), we identify 198 filtered recurrent mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 genome. Nearly 80% of the recurrent mutations produced non-synonymous changes at the protein level, suggesting possible ongoing adaptation of SARS-CoV-2. Three sites in Orf1ab in the regions encoding Nsp6, Nsp11, Nsp13, and one in the Spike protein are characterised by a particularly large number of recurrent mutations (>15 events) which may signpost convergent evolution and are of particular interest in the context of adaptation of SARS-CoV-2 to the human host.

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  36. At least Behe has the integrity to be consistent with his own position re: Intelligent Design and says that his ‘Intelligent Designer’ did indeed design malaria.

    Yet in phoodoo world viri ‘just exist’ and that’s that. No relation to evolution or design or anything. They just exist and have no bearing on the larger question of evolution or design.

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  37. Allan Miller: If viral transfer between species is lucky accidents

    The existence alone is lucky accidents, don’t you know that. It’s your theory!

    Geez.

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  38. CharlieM: I’m not sure if you are getting the point I am making. Gastropods are like you say massively diverse. But within this diversity the individuals in any single breeding population are very similar.

    I agree with Jock that this claim seems to be based solely on anthropocentrism.

    One of the courses I taught made students score polymorphism in shell colour of Cepaea nemoralis, grove snails. There are literally thousands of papers published on this topic alone, so I daresay that your statement is obviously wrong. I am willing to bet that any study of genetics, physiology or morphology will uncover considerable diversity within most gastropod species, with many higher than that observed in humans.

    I know you don’t value that diversity like you do human diversity, but that is not relevant to the point of establishing teleology in evolution.

    CharlieM: As some evolve further others remain at an earlier stage and even fall back towards a previous stage.

    Good of you to acknowledge that, but that doesn’t make sense if evolution is proceeding teleologically. What makes these lineages stall or even fall back?

    CharlieM: On the other hand the human offspring of parents who were vegan organic crop farmers might decide to go and live in the middle of a city and live on big Macs and KFC drumsticks.

    Yes, I guess eating uniform junk food at a large anonymous corporate chain is the pinnacle of expressing one’s individuality.

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  39. This quote struck me:

    CharlieM: I also admire your faith in mathematical modelling. It is nigh on impossible to predict the motion of more than two planets, so how much more difficult is it to come to grips with the interactions of the multiplicity of life on earth.

    Yet later you say this:

    CharlieM: Natural selection is the inbuilt wisdom of life in the same way that a centrifugal governor is an example of human wisdom built into a machine.

    On the one hand you believe ecological dynamics to be beyond human comprehension, but a few sentences later you compare NS to a machine part. The workings of centrifugal governors are well understood. James Maxwell wrote a famous paper on centrifugal governors one and a half century ago (oh look, it has math). That paper later went on to provide the basis for feedback control theory (lots of math as well). We can learn to understand stuff, even the very complex things.

    To see “wisdom” should not be an excuse to declare a process incomprehensible and stop caring about its workings. I don’t see any wisdom in disinterest.

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  40. DNA_Jock:
    You seem incapable of understanding the problem here. You are saying that [within whatever clade we are discussing] there is less variation than amongst humans.
    And the counter-argument is: that’s merely the result of your ignorance, as in “they all look the same to me”.

    That is not what I am saying. You are doing exactly what Corneel warned against when he wrote, “Gastropods are a taxonomic class, whereas humans are a species.”

    Humans are a species and I am comparing individuals within the species H. sapiens to individuals within, say the species A. arbustorum, the copse snail. But any species will do.

    You can tell the difference between a terrestrial snail and a marine snail. Bully for you. But to a prey animal being attacked, the precise repertoire of toxins (some of which they may be resistant to) that this cone snail, Jonathan, uses is a matter of life and death. You claim that there is little variation between individual snails in “any single breeding population”, because they all seem alike to you, CharlieM.
    Your thinking is so anthropocentric that you cannot see that anthropocentric thinking is leading you astray.

    So pick any species of snail you like, preferably local to your area. Compare the activity, habits and range of the individuals within any local population. Now compare the members of your family group. How does this compare with the activity, habits and range of the snails? Are the glaring differences you see just your subjective interpretation due to your human bias?

    Do we all look alike to snails? Maybe their gastropocentric thinking is leading them astray 🙂

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  41. Nonlin.org: Only there is no “natural selection” as shown. It’s all backward looking and telling stupid myths about the past. No testable forecasts whatsoever […]

    This in stark contrast to creationism.

    1+
  42. phoodoo: Still waiting for you to mock Alan and Allan. Hurry up, how long is this going to take?

    Alan, Allan, you are idiots.

    Now, any other excuses?

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  43. phoodoo: The existence alone is lucky accidents, don’t you know that. It’s your theory!

    It’s clear that you don’t want to address what your “theory” says about covid-19 or the research I just linked to that shows how it’s got very lucky indeed with it’s mutations.

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  44. Nonlin.org:

    CharlieM: Natural selection is the inbuilt wisdom of life in the same way that a centrifugal governor is an example of human wisdom built into a machine.

    I thought that Nonlin might like this comparison between a human construction and a natural process. I don’t think she/he is very pleased with us in the way we are using this thread.

    Only there is no “natural selection” as shown…

    What about Wallace’s version of natural selection, do you agree with it? An example being the change in beak morphology of Darwin’s finches to suit local conditions.

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  45. phoodoo: The existence alone is lucky accidents, don’t you know that.It’s your theory!

    No, that’s not my theory. Evolution is not a theory of initial origin. Have you learned nothing these ten long years? 🤔

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