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. 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”.

    The other day I looked at some pictures of crowds in China, and I was struck by the fact they could all be clones. Male and female body shapes didn’t look much different, everyone had Asian eyes, straight black hair, thin bodies. Peas in a pod. I wonder if the Chinese themselves can tell each other apart. Maybe Chinese humans are no different than snails of a given species, but I’m quite sure Charlie’s flavor of humans look varied as hell. To him, of course.

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  2. Like many others, this thread tends to devolve into one side gritting its teeth in grim determination to pretend selection doesn’t exist, and the other side trying hopelessly to get the idea of selection across to those who cannot afford to recognize it. I particularly enjoyed the “all luck is good luck” argument. Every casino in the world would just LOVE to have such people visit.

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  3. CharlieM: 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?

    I already covered this, although my example was the local squirrels.

    Are the glaring differences you see just your subjective interpretation due to your human bias?

    Yes. Yes they are. And I don’t see the differences as that glaring, btw.

    Do we all look alike to snails?

    Yes we do. [We are lumped in with equines, canelids, hippos, elephants, and cars as “izabai”, which means “big squisher from above”]

    Maybe their gastropocentric thinking is leading them astray

    Well, I think so…
    You think that you understood the paragraph whose final sentence you quoted, but you evidently did not comprehend it. I chose my verb carefully.

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  4. Allan Miller: It’s true! 😕

    I believe that’s spelt “It’s twue! It’s twue!” and I hate to disappoint you, m’am, but…

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  5. Flint,

    I had expected that merely writing “They all look alike to [me|him|CharlieM].” would be sufficient to get this point across.
    I had assumed that everyone would be aware of the challenges of cross-racial identification — it features in so many police procedurals etc. It is a well known and well studied effect (the paragraph in question describing it dates from 1917). Expanding it to our (in)ability to spot diversity in other species seems pretty bloody obvious to me.

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  6. Flint:

    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”.

    The other day I looked at some pictures of crowds in China, and I was struck by the fact they could all be clones. Male and female body shapes didn’t look much different, everyone had Asian eyes, straight black hair, thin bodies. Peas in a pod. I wonder if the Chinese themselves can tell each other apart. Maybe Chinese humans are no different than snails of a given species, but I’m quite sure Charlie’s flavor of humans look varied as hell. To him, of course.

    That’s just a case of you not looking closely enough. We are all unique individuals no matter which race or nation we belong to. Below is an image of a mass of barely 🙂 distinguishable bodies. But each one is an individual with a unique biography which could make an interesting book. What would hold anyone’s interest regarding any individual snail would not be its individuality but the details in life of the species in general. The activities of the group as a whole would make very interesting reading, but you would soon get bored if you were to read the biographies of a few dozen snails from the same group.

    Incidentally, I have a story about snails that some might find amusing. One year we had an infestation of snails eating our plants. We don’t like killing them so I used to put them in an adjacent field. My wife said that they would probably just make their way back as they ‘home’. I hadn’t a clue if she was right but I was taking no chances. So I got myself a large screw top jar, gathered them up and put them in it. I put the jar in our vestibule meaning to take it with me when I went to work the next day. I could then release them into a field a few miles from home. No snail is going to negotiate this journey back, even a homing snail.
    Although it might make a good adventure story. Maybe it could be called, ‘Brian come home’ 🙂

    I had left the jar lid slightly loose to let air in, but I made sure it was turned on a few threads so that it would not come off easily. But when I went to pick it up the next morning, the lid was off and there were snails all over the place. They were up the walls, behind pictures, in amongst our coats and jackets, in our shoes, everywhere!

    All I could picture in my mind was some leader of snails hatching a plan, getting a group together, climbing up to the lid and giving out instructions. “Right team get round the rim. Its a right hand thread so if we all walk in the same direction as I tell you, between us we should be able to get the lid off this thing after a few circuits and so make our escape.”

    We had a wreath hanging on the wall which was probably an added incentive as quite a few had made their way there. I gathered up as many as I could and did as I had planned. But one or two still turned up in the next few days.

    These days I mainly ignore them but I’m sure I can sometimes hear sniggering from the flower beds 🙂

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  7. DNA_Jock:

    CharlieM: 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?

    I already covered this, although my example was the local squirrels.

    So for individuality and individual learning would you say that snails are on a par with squirrels?

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  8. DNA_Jock:

    Are the glaring differences you see just your subjective interpretation due to your human bias?

    Yes. Yes they are. And I don’t see the differences as that glaring, btw.

    You think that The difference between you and your mother; likes, dislikes, physical appearance, habits and travels, etc., are on a par with the difference between the next snail you come across and its mother?

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  9. OMagain: Alan, Allan, you are idiots.

    Now, any other excuses?

    Moderators! Come on. This is beyond the pale. How can he talk about the Al(l)ans like this?

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  10. Flint: The other day I looked at some pictures of crowds in China, and I was struck by the fact they could all be clones. Male and female body shapes didn’t look much different, everyone had Asian eyes, straight black hair, thin bodies. Peas in a pod. I wonder if the Chinese themselves can tell each other apart.

    That is a brain perception thing. I perhaps felt that at one time, when I first came here. Now it is not that way at all. Every person looks completely different.

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  11. DNA_Jock:

    Do we all look alike to snails?

    Yes we do. [We are lumped in with equines, canelids, hippos, elephants, and cars as “izabai”, which means “big squisher from above”]

    Maybe their gastropocentric thinking is leading them astray

    Well, I think so…
    You think that you understood the paragraph whose final sentence you quoted, but you evidently did not comprehend it. I chose my verb carefully.

    I would say that the powers of comprehension that you attribute to snails is far more than is in evidence.

    Here is that paragraph:

    It has often been remarked that the individuals of a human race with which one is unfamiliar look alike. This we always discover to be due to our failure to notice marked individual differences. As our familiarity with the type increases, these individual traits become increasingly obvious. Now precisely what is true in our experience with our fellow men is still more true of other types of organism. We note at first only the species or racial differences, or perhaps if they be equally conspicuous, certain age and sex differences, but as we continue to live with the organisms and to observe them carefully day by day, we come to appreciate those qualitative and quantitative peculiarities which constitute individuality. As far as we can see, there is no significant difference in degree of individuality between earthworm and man, ant and monkey.

    Pick an expert on snails who has studied them very closely, and knows them intimately. Can you give any examples of the writings of these experts that stress individual attributes. Do they write about the snails as individuals or do they write about them as a group? You cannot say that to these experts the snails all look alike because they are unfamiliar to them.

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  12. phoodoo:

    Flint: The other day I looked at some pictures of crowds in China, and I was struck by the fact they could all be clones. Male and female body shapes didn’t look much different, everyone had Asian eyes, straight black hair, thin bodies. Peas in a pod. I wonder if the Chinese themselves can tell each other apart.

    That is a brain perception thing.I perhaps felt that at one time, when I first came here.Now it is not that way at all.Every person looks completely different.

    Even from my location here in the West our populations are becoming increasingly multicultural. Once upon a time when I could wander freely round the local shopping centres, I came in contact with people of all races and nationalities. Although I can usually recognise racial types, individual differences are always apparent excepting twins and such obviously.

    Anyone who thinks that all Chinese people look alike are just showing that they are not very observant in general.

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  13. CharlieM,

    There is something interesting though, when I am having discussions among my friends, and we are describing someone we both know, perhaps we forgot their name or something, the way of describing them is different than how I might describe someone in the west, being as how eye color and hair, and skin tone as well are not as different, we use different ways of talking about someone’s identity and features. But it is funny to me how we can quickly know who we mean.

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  14. phoodoo:
    CharlieM,

    Yes.I have a hard time believing there is similar variety amongst, say, chimpanzees.

    What about slugs? Would you consider them to be just as individual as chimpanzees?

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  15. CharlieM,

    Well, I have often wondered why is there so much more variety among humans then just about any other organism. Say horses, or elephants or lions or whatever, there just isn’t the variety of facial shapes, jaw structures, eyes, etc…

    I find that to be curious.

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  16. CharlieM: So for individuality and individual learning would you say that snails are on a par with squirrels?

    I don’t know. Neither do you. Which is the point you resolutely keep missing.

    CharlieM: You think that The difference between you and your mother; likes, dislikes, physical appearance, habits and travels, etc., are on a par with the difference between the next snail you come across and its mother?

    Yes. I think that from a snail’s perspective the differences between snails might be more glaringly varied. Speaking “objectively”, I have no idea. And neither do you. Hilariously, you don’t even know for your cherry-picked anthropocentric attributes: “habits and travels” anyone?

    CharlieM: Pick an expert on snails who has studied them very closely, and knows them intimately. Can you give any examples of the writings of these experts that stress individual attributes. Do they write about the snails as individuals or do they write about them as a group? You cannot say that to these experts the snails all look alike because they are unfamiliar to them.

    Oh dear. The same article that you were quoting also noted this very important distinction

    Field naturalists and the born lovers of animals know by intimate acquaintance that important individual differences exist in many species of organism, but experimentalists are less generally aware of this fact, for their attention tends to be monopolized by problems of species characteristics and of general organic functions or reactive capacity.

    The “writings of experts on snails” that are available from the past 100 years are pretty much exclusively the writings of experimentalists, not field naturalists.
    Experimentalists go to great lengths to reduce the individual variation between animals. It’s a perennial problem.

    CharlieM: Anyone who thinks that all Chinese people look alike are just showing that they are not very observant in general

    Precisely. The question then becomes: are they aware of this failing of theirs, or do they blithely rabbit on about how Caucasians show much more individual variation than the Chinese do?

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  17. DNA_Jock,

    No, this is naive. You could do measurements on animals like say horses or tigers or squirrels, or snakes and almost certainly there would be much more uniformity in the animals in things like distance between the eyes, size of the nose, shape of the jaw, etc… Those differences would never be as much as the differences you would get if you measured humans.

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  18. phoodoo: No, this is naive. You could do measurements on animals like say horses or tigers or squirrels, or snakes and almost certainly there would be much more uniformity in the animals in things like distance between the eyes, size of the nose, shape of the jaw, etc… Those differences would never be as much as the differences you would get if you measured humans.

    Hard to put a number on ‘almost certainly’ though. If you are so sure about this, and you must be to call someone else naive over it, then why is it ‘almost certainly’ and not just ‘certainly’?

    How unsure are you?

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  19. ID seems to be the art of leaving sufficient wriggle room to unsay anything said and never, ever getting off the fence. If you never say anything that can be tested you can never be wrong either…

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  20. Unlike phoodoo, I would like to see some data before I start pontificating about the %CV of human and horse skulls, but that’s just the way I roll.
    Apparently, this is naive.

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  21. Alan Fox: To see if you had any curiosity.

    You ask me something to see if I “had any curiosity”?!? Do you know how questions work? So you don’t have any point.

    Corneel: 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.

    Gotcha. Then you admit “evolution” is “creationism for atheists”.

    Let’s remember this!

    But you know what? “Evolution” is not even that. Because most honest atheists admit this much: they cannot disprove God (creationism). Whereas “evolution” can easily be disproved. As for instance: “natural selection” is impossible without a “selection criteria” aka “fitness” which obviously neither you nor anyone else can quantify. Remember? As easy as 1-2-3. Anyone not-mentally-impaired can see this simple and unbeatable logic.

    OMagain: Alan, Allan, you are idiots.

    And where’s the TSZ police when you need it? Oh wait, he is assaulting the police 🙂

    CharlieM: 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.

    Let’s not re-label ‘adaptation’ as “natural selection”. No need for that. Look, it’s obvious all organisms were endowed by their Creator with various abilities (limited abilities) to adapt. That’s all. What’s wrong with that?

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  22. OK everyone. Enough with the specie-ism, you white middle aged, heterosexual men of [mostly] European descent!

    OMagain: If you never say anything that can be tested you can never be wrong either…

    As in “evolution” you mean?

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  23. Nonlin.org: As in “evolution” you mean?

    Well, sadly, due to the lack of enumerated alternatives to “evolution” we’re just going to have to stick with what we know is a flawed hypothesis. While you and phoodoo et al know plenty about “evolution” and how very flawed it is, which I find odd for a start as why spend so much effort on something you already know is wrong, you seem to be unable to articulate any alternative.

    So, given the lack of proposed alternatives to even untestable “evolution” we’re just stuck with it!

    If only someone was to propose something! But all we have are critiques of something which we already know you think is void of explanatory power.

    Critique “evolution” all you like, it does not advance any alternative. Not that one has been proposed anyway.

    I mean, you convinced me 14 posts ago. You made me a convert. I now know evolution is wrong. But what’s right and where to send my money has not yet been revealed!

    Where do I send my money nonlin?

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  24. phoodoo:
    DNA_Jock,

    No, this is naive.You could do measurements on animals like say horses or tigers or squirrels, or snakes and almost certainly there would be much more uniformity in the animals in things like distance between the eyes, size of the nose, shape of the jaw, etc…Those differences would never be as much as the differences you would get if you measured humans.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the appropriate distinguishing metrics vary among species. I read about a species of birds that breeds in Europe and winters in Africa. This species keeps the same mate year after year, and can identify that mate each spring even though they’ve been apart all winter.

    They get it right every time, every bird, even though even to ornithologists they all look essentially identical. What metric(s) do you suppose the birds are using for identification, that they have never been seen to make a mistake. Must be something pretty damn obvious to the birds. Whatever they are, I seriously doubt they’d apply to humans at all – using them, WE would all look identical.

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  25. Simply asking how would we look to them seems anthropocentric to me. Some animals may say we all smell the same to them, or sound the same

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  26. dazz:
    Simply asking how would we look to them seems anthropocentric to me. Some animals may say we all smell the same to them, or sound the same

    Yeah, anthropocentric figure of speech. I suppose we should refer to how we are perceived.

    If Charlie is correct and humans have more intraspecies variation than most, one might expect we would be most ripe for some branching event(s), necessarily of the sympatric variety. Except humans show not the slightest inclination toward breeding isolation – we’ll cheerfully fuck anything that moves.

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  27. OMagain,

    I would like to answer this, but after the gratuitous way you spoke of Alan and Allan, I don’t see how I could. I think you are just too hot headed to reason with.

    You owe them an apology.

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  28. phoodoo:
    OMagain,

    I would like to answer this,but after the gratuitous way you spoke of Alan and Allan,I don’t see how I could.I think you are just too hot headed to reason with.

    You owe them an apology.

    Your outrage on our behalf is gratifying, but really, after counselling, I’m (sniff!) fine. So don’t not-answer on my account.

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  29. Nonlin.org: Gotcha. Then you admit “evolution” is “creationism for atheists”.

    LOL. You are really reaching here. No, I have admitted no such thing.

    Nonlin.org: Because most honest atheists admit this much: they cannot disprove God (creationism).

    Here is my honest appraisal for you: Many (most?) christians believe in God without being a creationist. Sure, I cannot disprove the existence of God nor do I have any inclination to do so. Disproving special creation is a walk in the park. As a scientific hypothesis it’s dead, Nonlin. Been so for a long time. As far as I can tell, christianity has survived fine without it.

    Nonlin.org: As for instance: “natural selection” is impossible without a “selection criteria” aka “fitness” which obviously neither you nor anyone else can quantify. Remember? As easy as 1-2-3. Anyone not-mentally-impaired can see this simple and unbeatable logic.

    … except for the entire scientific community, educators worldwide, the catholic church, even some people in the Intelligent Design community, and oh, quite a large chunk of the world population. Denial really is your way of life, isn’t it? Why don’t you admit to yourself that evolution by natural selection is generally accepted, and not just by the mentally impaired, but by many people much smarter than you. So your “simple and unbeatable logic” must be lacking. What it’s lacking is substance. Name calling does not make for a good substitute.

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  30. I wonder if people who think selection can’t be quantified have a similar opinion on the R0 metric used by epidemiologists? 🤔

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  31. phoodoo: No, this is naive. You could do measurements on animals like say horses or tigers or squirrels, or snakes and almost certainly there would be much more uniformity in the animals in things like distance between the eyes, size of the nose, shape of the jaw, etc… Those differences would never be as much as the differences you would get if you measured humans.

    I’ll kick off this discussion. One of the trivia is used in teaching genetics is that any family group of chimps you observe in a zoo is likely to have greater genetic variability than observed in the entire human population.

    We show that there is clear differentiation between the verus, troglodytes, and ellioti populations at the SNP and haplotype level, on a scale that is greater than that separating continental human populations.

    The reason for this is that humans are genetically very uniform, especially those of non-African descent, as a result of the relatively recent genetic bottleneck when modern humans left Africa. My gut feeling tells me this will translate into low morphological variation as well.

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  32. DNA_Jock: Charlie: Do we all look alike to snails?

    Jock: Yes we do. [We are lumped in with equines, canelids, hippos, elephants, and cars as “izabai”, which means “big squisher from above”]

    Another thing polluting this comparison is that humans are a social species and most snails are not. We are geared towards recognizing individuals, moreover we are geared towards recognizing human faces. Human brains have specialized mechanism for face perception, and there exist disorders that specifically impair this ability to recognize faces.

    As far as I know, no such mechanisms exist for recognizing individual snails.

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  33. Corneel: I’ll kick off this discussion. One of the trivia is used in teaching genetics is that any family group of chimps you observe in a zoo is likely to have greater genetic variability than observed in the entire human population.

    But we are not talking about genetic variability, we are talking about physical differences, particularly in regards to facial features.

    They have much less variability there. I think it would be really ridiculous (Jock notwithstanding) to argue otherwise.

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  34. phoodoo: They have much less variability there. I think it would be really ridiculous (Jock notwithstanding) to argue otherwise.

    Then I’ll be really ridiculous, which goes well with the mentally impaired, I suppose.

    If I was a betting man, I would go for the opposite prediction: that most animal species have greater morphological variation than humans, especially the domesticated ones, which were bred into a ridiculous variety of forms.

    Can you present some studies that show otherwise?

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  35. phoodoo: But we are not talking about genetic variability, we are talking about physical differences, particularly in regards to facial features.

    A quick google search reveals that variation in facial features has considerable heritability, with estimates between 28 to 67% narrow-sense heritability.

    Don’t underestimate the power of the genetic side.

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  36. Corneel,

    If you are pressed for time though, just go to Meryl Streep and Kim Jong Un.

    Perhaps you would like to classify them as two completely different animals.

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  37. phoodoo: Let’s just make this easy

    Let’s not. I like your initial suggestion better:

    You could do measurements on animals like say horses or tigers or squirrels, or snakes and almost certainly there would be much more uniformity in the animals in things like distance between the eyes, size of the nose, shape of the jaw, etc… Those differences would never be as much as the differences you would get if you measured humans.

    That I would take seriously as an argument.

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  38. phoodoo: Then after that, tell me if this chimp is male or female.

    Why did you pick chimps and not gorilla’s, I wonder?

    ETA:

    Bonellia viridis

    The pale- to dark-green female, with a 15 cm-long, round or sausage-shaped body, lives on the sea-floor at a depth of 10 to 100 metres, concealed by burrowing in gravel or hiding in rock crevasses or burrows abandoned by other animals. [..] The male is rarely observed: it has a flat, unpigmented body which grows to only 1–3 mm, taken up mostly by reproductive organs and devoid of other structures; it lives on or inside the body of a female.

    Sexual dimorphism is very shallow in humans.

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  39. phoodoo: Perhaps pigs?

    You do know that you are allowed to do research on your own? Gather data, present facts etc.

    If you are so convinced write an actual goddam paper!

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  40. phoodoo:
    CharlieM,

    There is something interesting though, when I am having discussions among my friends, and we are describing someone we both know, perhaps we forgot their name or something, the way of describing them is different than how I might describe someone in the west, being as how eye color and hair, and skin tone as well are not as different, we use different ways of talking about someone’s identity and features. But it is funny to me how we can quickly know who we mean.

    Yes, the balance between group and individual is interesting. In my opinion the evolution of life up to the higher animals is a move from group identity to individual identity. Take yeast, where the individual cells are all pretty much identical. The interesting differences are at the species level and higher. Moving on to multicellular animals, the lower animals don’t display very much in the way of personal identity. Again the interesting differences lie at the species level.

    Displays of personality don’t appear until the stage of the higher animals. Individuality requires being able to interpret experiences at a personal level and that requires a complex, sophisticated nervous system which the lower animals don’t possess. Lower animals function through instinct which is an unconscious group wisdom. The more that animals advance then the more individual learning takes over from group instinct. That is why dogs are so easily trained but it’s not so easy to train a fish. I believe the US Navy had a program where they trained dolphins. They knew better than to try to train sharks.

    Humans have the most individuality but we still have to develop from birth at which time our behaviour is totally instinctive. We gradually learn to become individuals and it isn’t long before our individual learned behaviour come to the fore and become more prominent than our instinctive behaviour.

    We share common features with our species, our race our family and our sex and this is what others will see on first impressions. Where I come from it wasn’t so very long ago tat the clan was deemed to be more important than the individual.

    But what distinguishes individuals from the group is their personal character. And it is this personal character that determines the individual as you know. Chinese are more pure bred than Europeans and so on the whole they have retained their distinctive racial features. But each Chinese person is as much an individual as any Westerner whose ancestry may be more mixed. The importance of racial or clan differences is a thing of the past.

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  41. phoodoo: Perhaps pigs?

    Sure, but you need the measurements. Anything is better than “they all look the same to me”. Note that even Jock instantly thought along, suggesting to present such data as the coefficient of variation (%CV). The trouble is finding the relevant studies (or doing the work yourself), which will be non-trivial, but until somebody shows something concrete this will remain an is-not / is-too style of argument.

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  42. phoodoo:
    CharlieM,

    Well, I have often wondered why is there so much more variety among humans then just about any other organism.Say horses, or elephants or lions or whatever, there just isn’t the variety of facial shapes, jaw structures, eyes, etc…

    I find that to be curious.

    And it’s not just physical features. As I mentioned in the above post, I believe it has a lot to do with the transition from instinctive to learned behaviour.

    If all the members of a species act according to the instincts common to that species they will look and act in a similar way. But if each member acts as an individual then differences will become more noticeable. Animals instinctively know what food is good for them and that is what they eat. On the other hand we have individual preferences, likes and dislikes, which can have a big effect on our appearance. We can starve ourselves, build up excess fat, exercise to build muscle, style our hair how we want and so on. We are unique, no other animal has so much freedom to alter the way it looks.

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  43. Corneel,

    Maybe Meryl Streep and Kim Jong Un are the same person. We better measure to find out.

    I have a call into her/his Agent/Commander in Chief.

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  44. Corneel: but until somebody shows something concrete this will remain an is-not / is-too style of argument.

    Not quite. The anthropocentric gang are so un-self-aware that they keep shooting themselves in the foot.
    phoodoo’s citing the skulls of horses and now also pigs shows a blissful ignorance of the diversity of skull shape in these domesticated animals.
    As a counter argument, he offers up the purported lack of sexual dimorphism in chimps. WTF? Does he think that a chimp cannot tell the difference? Because if he thinks that a chimp can tell the difference, yet humans cannot, he is making our point for us.
    Charlie is retreating from the awesome argument that humans are omnivores to the even more awesome argument that humans frequent hairdressers. What’s next, “no other animal performs cosmetic surgery”.

    In my garden, there’s a morbidly obese squirrel, and a squirrel with ADHD.

    As dazz noted, even the focus on “looks” is anthropocentric; humans have poor senses of smell and hearing, so we devalue those.

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