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Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 1 by Richard Dawkins

This article could serve as the basis for a master class in how to write good English. Such economy.

Richard

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 11:52:00 UTC | #302746

papasitocanada's Avatar Comment 2 by papasitocanada

This article is fascinating. Not only is it written in superb, British English, it is clear and interesting to read.
Moreover, it shows a general progression as one person learns from the other who, in turn, learned it from someone else. It starts small and different and, over the year, morphs into something more complex and one can easily see the history of where and how it happened. Hmmm I think I am seeing a pattern here...

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 12:12:00 UTC | #302755

Oromasdes1978's Avatar Comment 3 by Oromasdes1978

Richard

I completely agree, I particularly love his use of the word "dirigisme" - a fine word to use in such an article.

What an excellent analogy - I do like this sentence

Even sophisticated, entropy-defying complex systems are subject to the weather-like vagaries of mathematical chaos


Here the whole intelligent design rubbish falls down immediately when trying to even consider what a deity would have to do to organise all the "weather like vagaries" concerned with evolution by natural selection.

Yes, I did like this article, very interesting indeed.

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 12:19:00 UTC | #302762

Meph's Avatar Comment 4 by Meph

Richard, you forgot to say "first."

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 12:20:00 UTC | #302763

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 5 by God fearing Atheist

Indeed, it can make something far more complex than a conscious, deliberate designer ever could: with apologies to William Paley and Richard Dawkins, it can make a watchmaker.


A sentence waiting for a misquoter? Am I being too cynical?

I liked the irony of the US bible belt embracing Smith while rejecting Darwin.

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 12:26:00 UTC | #302767

kaiserkriss's Avatar Comment 6 by kaiserkriss

Great Article! I particularly like the multidisiplinary approach Mr Ridley has taken, something that is severely lacking is this age of specialization.

On another thread I was called for taking a similar multi disciplinary approach for illustrative purposes. Ridley has done a great job in stating my case.. jcw

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 12:47:00 UTC | #302777

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 7 by Diacanu

Hey! I've made the observation about the hypocrisy of the bible belt embracing Smith and not Darwin!

..except I kept it in my head, and if I wrote it down, it would've been laced with F bombs, and the paragraphs wouldn't be all pretty, and...

*Sigh* no wonder I don't make the big bucks...

Stay in school, kids.

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 12:51:00 UTC | #302779

xmd's Avatar Comment 8 by xmd

Ridley is my favourite author... after Dawkins

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 12:53:00 UTC | #302783

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 9 by Stafford Gordon

Wonderful; well written and giving historical clarity.

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 12:57:00 UTC | #302790

Apeseed's Avatar Comment 10 by Apeseed

I did find this strange.

Living beings are eddies in the stream of entropy. That is to say, while the universe gradually becomes more homogeneous and disordered, little parts of it can reverse the trend and become briefly more ordered and complex by capturing packets of energy.


Didn't this site recently feature an article about how life is actually an engine of entropy? Taking highly coherent energy from the sun and using it to generate biological structures, all the time stepping the energy down until it is dissipated into kinetic energy and finally heat.

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 13:05:00 UTC | #302799

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 11 by NewEnglandBob

Every radiant star reverses the trend toward increased entropy to become briefly more ordered and complex.

"Briefly" here means several billion years.

#10 by Apeseed: I think you meant an engine to reduce entropy, not an engine of entropy.

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 13:14:00 UTC | #302816

beebhack's Avatar Comment 12 by beebhack

I recommend Ridley's The Red Queen (about sex) and the Origins of Virtue (about why animals cooperate) -- absolutely seminal, consistently fascinating and, in the case of Origins, a barrage of evidence to use against those who insist that only belief in a deity stops us from slaughtering each other.

As to the entropy thing -- check out Peter Atkins's Creation Revisited, excerpted in the Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 13:21:00 UTC | #302827

InfuriatedSciTeacher's Avatar Comment 13 by InfuriatedSciTeacher

Well written.. I'll be sharing this with my department, or at least those members who are likely to bother reading it. I find the Smith/Darwin comparison interesting, especially after reading a fair amount of Enlightenment material. The interdisciplnary aspects are a wonderful addition.

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 13:32:00 UTC | #302846

Apeseed's Avatar Comment 14 by Apeseed

Comment #317873 by NewEnglandBob on January 12, 2009 at 1:14 pm

#10 by Apeseed: I think you meant an engine to reduce entropy, not an engine of entropy.


No. I meant an engine of entropy.

While I can't do justice to the article itself and others may recall which I mean, it showed than any seeming decrease in entropy was only apparent and not actual.

Roughly, All the radiant energy from the sun that fell upon the earth was converted into structure by plants. However this process was always imperfect with energy being wasted. All the plant matter was then food for animals who then became food for larger carnivores. At each step there was less and less energy.
It also showed how the organisms that made most efficient use of the available energy were selected for.

Edit:There we go, that's better.

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 13:36:00 UTC | #302848

Apeseed's Avatar Comment 15 by Apeseed

Sorry about the weirdly nested blockquotes.
I have no idea why that happened.

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 13:40:00 UTC | #302851

AmericanGodless's Avatar Comment 16 by AmericanGodless

Living beings are eddies in the stream of entropy.
#10 by Apeseed & #11 by NewEnglandBob: Yes, life is both an engine for general increased entropy and for localized decreased entropy. It is made up of dissipative structures, which utilize a flow of energy and a general increase in entropy to build and maintain themselves as local organized structures, thus doing both. The "eddy" metaphor is quite illustrative, as an eddy in a stream depends upon the flow of the stream to keep those leaves swirling around in its center; but while it is there, more leaves are drawn in, and an organized structure is formed that would not be there but for the energy flow of the stream.

Edit: Apeseed has got it pretty much right in #14: life uses energy to build things, but there is always a loss to inefficiency; so local order is increased (decreased entropy) while total order is decreased (increased entropy).

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 13:44:00 UTC | #302856

madamX's Avatar Comment 17 by madamX

Please be careful with the word entropy. Observations show that physical entropy does not decrease, ever. The “designed” complexity we observe around us is a product of an increase in physical entropy, not an exception to the rule. Also, it is better to use the word organized and not ordered. A crystal is ordered; a human is organized, and thus complex.

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 13:51:00 UTC | #302863

Jay Cee's Avatar Comment 18 by Jay Cee

10. Comment #317856 by Apeseed on January 12, 2009 at 1:05 pm

I did find this strange.


Living beings are eddies in the stream of entropy. That is to say, while the universe gradually becomes more homogeneous and disordered, little parts of it can reverse the trend and become briefly more ordered and complex by capturing packets of energy.


Didn't this site recently feature an article about how life is actually an engine of entropy' Taking highly coherent energy from the sun and using it to generate biological structures, all the time stepping the energy down until it is dissipated into kinetic energy and finally heat.



Isn't an organ, like the heart for example, more ordered than a bacterium and thus has lower entropy' Do organisms not evolve to lower entropy states over millions of years or is this an oversimplification'

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 13:57:00 UTC | #302868

alabasterocean's Avatar Comment 19 by alabasterocean

When I was reading Manuel Castells book about the rise of the information society my thoughts always drifted to Mr Dawkins The Selfish Gene. My teacher actually looked confused then I pointed this out and then mentioned that this was a communications lecture and not biology.

To bad, I could have used this reference four years ago.

Hail Biology!

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 14:11:00 UTC | #302876

Apeseed's Avatar Comment 20 by Apeseed

Comment #317927 by JAMCAM87 on January 12, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Isn't an organ, like the heart for example, more ordered than a bacterium and thus has lower entropy'


A quote from the article seems to be saying that it is quite the opposite that happens.

"By randomly mutating individuals of a species, various paths are explored in the quest of increasing entropy most rapidly. These mutations sooner or later naturally converge on the most probable path."

http://richarddawkins.net/article,2973,Evolution-as-Described-by-the-Second-Law-of-Thermodynamics,PhysoOrg

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 14:22:00 UTC | #302882

Stuart Paul Wood's Avatar Comment 21 by Stuart Paul Wood

Thought this was an engrossing article by Matt Ripley.

It is fascinating how simple organisation and selection over time can lead to such complexity in so many different disciplines whether the logic is applied to life or technology or economics.

It seems to be the way of things. No top down authority required. The article effectively demonstrates the impotence of ultimate authority should it even exist in the first place. Ultimate authorities are non-existent in fact and unworkable in concept.

Good!

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 14:26:00 UTC | #302887

mmurray's Avatar Comment 22 by mmurray

@Apeseed

Sorry about the weirdly nested blockquotes.
I have no idea why that happened.


Looking at the source it looks like you opened two blockquotes but never closed any of them. I expect you meant the second opening blockquote to be a closing blockquote.

Michael

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 14:32:00 UTC | #302891

Apeseed's Avatar Comment 23 by Apeseed

Comment #317951 by mmurray on January 12, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Looking at the source it looks like you opened two blockquotes but never closed any of them. I expect you mean the second opening blockquote to be a closing blockquote.


Thanks Michael. I'll watch out for that. My tagging can be a mess sometimes.

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 14:41:00 UTC | #302903

crusader234's Avatar Comment 24 by crusader234

Chaos theory...fractals, phase transitions,order out of chaos, self simularity on small and large scales etc etc etc. Science is evolving in the way it describes this creation more eliquintly every day. religion just sucks!

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 15:05:00 UTC | #302914

Stephen Welch's Avatar Comment 25 by Stephen Welch

Good article by Ridley with some lovely imagery about the survival of the fittest in the fields of both technology and ideas.

The only slight criticism is that the evolution of memes is Lamarckian, i.e. the inheritance is via acquired characteristics. While Ridley alludes to this he does not spell out this difference with Darwinian biological evolution.

Darwin is arguably the greatest and most influential scientist there's ever been but there is a tendency to over-use him. If we are not clear in our definitions it will be fuel for the creationists to criticise evolution.

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 15:06:00 UTC | #302915

Friggertool's Avatar Comment 26 by Friggertool

This article could serve as the basis for a master class in how to write good English. Such economy.

Richard


And indeed physics and biology, among others :-)

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 16:15:00 UTC | #302973

Don_Quix's Avatar Comment 27 by Don_Quix

Science is evolving in the way it describes this creation more eliquintly every day.

I think Christopher Hitchens may have put it best when he said religion is (and I'm paraphrasing) "humanity's first and worst attempt at describing the world around us".

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 17:23:00 UTC | #303012

NakedCelt's Avatar Comment 28 by NakedCelt

In the American South and Midwest, where Smith’s individualist, libertarian, small-government philosophy is all the rage, Darwin is reviled for his contradiction of creation. Yet if the market needs no central planner, why should life need an intelligent designer? Conversely, in the average European biol- ogy laboratory you will find fervent believers in the individualist, emergent, decentralised properties of genomes who prefer dirigiste determinism to bring order to the economy.
I can see an equal irony in Ridley's article: he himself draws a liberal-libertarian conclusion from Darwinian principles, yet the thrust of the article is to dethrone the Cartesian thinking, designing, reasoning individual so beloved of classic liberalism and Randite libertarianism.

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 17:35:00 UTC | #303018

Hellene's Avatar Comment 29 by Hellene

This article and the interview by Henry Chu, have put a ray of sunshine in my evening. This is what I live for.

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 17:37:00 UTC | #303020

mmurray's Avatar Comment 30 by mmurray

Thanks Michael. I'll watch out for that. My tagging can be a mess sometimes.


You know you can edit if you want to ? I usually don't get mine right until the second or third try!

Michael

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 17:44:00 UTC | #303023