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Evolution: What is 'Natural'? - Comments

maton100's Avatar Comment 1 by maton100

Thanks for the posting.

Sun, 11 May 2008 08:34:00 UTC | #169225

27513's Avatar Comment 2 by 27513

shoulden't this be a video?

Sun, 11 May 2008 08:42:00 UTC | #169231

Big Gus's Avatar Comment 3 by Big Gus

I've certainly not heard this one before. Straight to the heart of the matter as usual!

Sun, 11 May 2008 08:43:00 UTC | #169235

Solarium Solaris's Avatar Comment 4 by Solarium Solaris

Its strange how nature is overwhelmingly piloted by greed and self-interest but at the same time so beautiful, mysterious, and loved.

Sun, 11 May 2008 09:02:00 UTC | #169249

helen sotiriadis's Avatar Comment 5 by helen sotiriadis

'understanding evolution in order to plan for our long-term survival is like understanding gravity in order to make airplanes fly.'
- toomanytribbles

Sun, 11 May 2008 09:03:00 UTC | #169250

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 6 by mordacious1

This reminds me of an experiment we did in elementary school. We took a petri dish of blood agar and placed a small amount of bacteria in it. They spread and thrived, until they eventually started dying off by the abundance of their own waste products. Soon there were few bacteria left. This is our planet if we don't use our reasoning skills to overcome our Darwinian instincts to avoid this outcome.

Sun, 11 May 2008 09:32:00 UTC | #169263

flobear's Avatar Comment 7 by flobear

This is why he's a Professor of Public Understanding of Science.

Sun, 11 May 2008 09:56:00 UTC | #169275

FelixJ's Avatar Comment 8 by FelixJ

Time to add this to my general list of memorable quotes, I think:

"I'm a passionate Darwinian in the academic sense (...), yet I am a passionate Anti-Darwinian when it comes to human social and political affairs."

Sun, 11 May 2008 10:07:00 UTC | #169284

HourglassMemory's Avatar Comment 9 by HourglassMemory

Was this a debate?
A discussion with more scientists and experts?

Someone would have to ask the person who put it on Youtube, where he or she got it, and try to find out the whole, complete thing.

I would very much like to see it.
"Science, technology and our future: the big questions" is a pretty interesting subject.

The video response to that video is also interesting(funny) to watch.

Sun, 11 May 2008 10:13:00 UTC | #169285

82abhilash's Avatar Comment 10 by 82abhilash

Dawkins seemed to be a bit lost. If a non-intelligent purposeless process, without foresight called evolution can create an intelligent purposeful creature with foresight (humans). Then you needed not compartmentalize your mind into darwinian and anti-darwinian. The natural world driven by darwinian evolution in itself can provide explanation for the uniqueness of human beings. Which is what Daniel Dennett claims by the way.

Intelligence can result from non-intelligence. A process without foresight can create a creature with foresight (all be it rarely). Pretty much any human endeavor can be understood as an outcome of micro processes that by them selves have no capacity to appreciate these endeavors or understand their significance.

The world filled with wonder would not need any real magic. Conjuring tricks are enough. If the trick is good enough we will appreciate it even after we find out how the trick is done.

Sun, 11 May 2008 10:22:00 UTC | #169291

ZT's Avatar Comment 11 by ZT

sadly the numbers of intelligent and aware people on this planet are few and far between.
we are screwed because our western materialistic society has lost all long term goals, instead focusing on short term material gain.
'the brain' may be able to see a long term view, but who's eaxtly going to act on it when we have such a herd mentality?

in a darwinian selection process it will be those who survive the starvation and disease as our planet goes down the pan from global warming, overcrowding and lack of resources. this is presuming a nuclear holocaust doesnt exterminate everything!

life will find a way through it all, it just might not be humankind!

Sun, 11 May 2008 10:32:00 UTC | #169295

DalaiDrivel's Avatar Comment 12 by DalaiDrivel

"I'm a passionate Darwinian in the academic sense (...), yet I am a passionate Anti-Darwinian when it comes to human social and political affairs."

This is what I see lying, illogical IDiots as attacking the most, in order to portray Dawkins as a hypocrite.

82abhilash:

"The world filled with wonder would not need any real magic. Conjuring tricks are enough. If the trick is good enough we will appreciate it even after we find out how the trick is done."

Ths is a confusing statement. The world, filled with wonder, does indeed not need any real magic- nor conjuring tricks. Why would you then say that conjuring tricks are enough?

I hesitate to label a trick as "good." A trick is a deception. The creationist deception we already understand, as a prolonged trick played by humans on humans, valuing dogma and ignorance over truth and curiosity, long past its credibility sell-by date (which for some people, predated Darwin).

What are you getting at in the first two paragraphs of your post? This is not clear.

Intelligence does NOT result from non-intelligence, at least not immediately. To find non-intelligence I'm not sure if you would have to rewind back to our origins in bacteria or not. The non-inteligent, abstract idea of evolution is the means, the cause, but not a precursor. Human intelligence evolved, result from, less sophisticated ape intelligence. All animals possess a degree of intelligence, so to say we resulted from non-intelligence in strictly true, but only in a specific, limited and distant sense. :)

Sun, 11 May 2008 10:47:00 UTC | #169302

82abhilash's Avatar Comment 13 by 82abhilash


DalaiDrivel

The world, filled with wonder, does indeed not need any real magic- nor conjuring tricks.


There are conjuring tricks all over the place and a really good magician can invoke a sense of wonder. But when I used the word 'trick' here it had multiple meanings. And in any case my statement stands.

Trick can be a good deception, but not necessarily. For people of say the fifteenth century lot of technology today will seem magical. They are all good tricks, instruments that tap in to the knowledge of how the world is. They testify to our developed sense of understanding of our world, in the same fashion a magician has a developed understanding of the human mind. Neat tricks but not real magic. Even if we can appreciate how the trick is done we may still be able to enjoy it, if it is a neat trick.

Creationists used to point out that the beauty of nature testifies to the greatness of god. Understanding evolution helps us to appreciate the beauty of nature without invoking a great god. Evolution is one of those neat tricks - complicated phenomena that tap into the fixed laws of nature. Something what magicians do all the time. Understanding it does not take away from the beauty of nature, in fact it enhances it.

Now there is another way the word 'trick' is used. As a synonym for deception. Which is what you have mentioned. Although I submit creationism was not deception for the longest time in human history. It was reduced to one only when better ideas (neater tricks, may I say) came along. So their propaganda piece is a trick intended to deceive (as opposed to a trick for survival (evolution) or a trick for entertainment (a magic show)). Well even in that case I would still say knowing the trick is still important. I think you will agree.

Sun, 11 May 2008 11:09:00 UTC | #169310

Byrnie's Avatar Comment 14 by Byrnie

I'm not sure whether this was recorded before/after expelled. However, a terrific and plaintive answer to the odious connection between social-darwinism and darwinian evolution.

Sun, 11 May 2008 11:16:00 UTC | #169313

82abhilash's Avatar Comment 15 by 82abhilash


DalaiDrivel

Intelligence does NOT result from non-intelligence, at least not immediately. To find non-intelligence I'm not sure if you would have to rewind back to our origins in bacteria or not. The non-inteligent, abstract idea of evolution is the means, the cause, but not a precursor. Human intelligence evolved, result from, less sophisticated ape intelligence. All animals possess a degree of intelligence, so to say we resulted from non-intelligence in strictly true, but only in a specific, limited and distant sense. :)


I agree. Intelligence does not result from non-intelligence immediately. Evolution is an extremely slow process. Which is why it is so difficult to see within the time scales we are accustomed to. A fact that the creationists try to take advantage of. 'All animals possess a degree of intelligence' and we evolved from them. Although I would call animal intelligence as proto-intelligence.

What I understand from Dennett is that we can track the evolution of the phenomenon called intelligence beginning with species that are non-intelligent all the way up to us, the most intelligent species on the planet. Which is where things stand now. Perhaps in the distant (or not so distant future) if we go extinct and another intelligent specie may emerge or it may not. Evolution has no foresight. Besides even in evolutionary terms intelligent life seems complicated enough so as not to emerge too often compared to say single cellular life.

Sun, 11 May 2008 11:16:00 UTC | #169315

Barry Pearson's Avatar Comment 16 by Barry Pearson

HourglassMemory asked: Was this a debate? A discussion with more scientists and experts?
I think this is it (April 19, 2002):

http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/media/reports/new-scientist-greenpeace-science-debates

http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/about/new-scientist-and-greenpeace-debate-the-big-questions

Sun, 11 May 2008 11:31:00 UTC | #169318

FelixJ's Avatar Comment 17 by FelixJ

"I'm a passionate Darwinian in the academic sense (...), yet I am a passionate Anti-Darwinian when it comes to human social and political affairs."

This is what I see lying, illogical IDiots as attacking the most, in order to portray Dawkins as a hypocrite.


Well, some people just love to misinterpret on purpose.

Sun, 11 May 2008 11:32:00 UTC | #169319

DalaiDrivel's Avatar Comment 18 by DalaiDrivel

JernJane,

Indeed. A rational person knows there is no need to misinterpret for the sake of truth, other than for the sake of manufactured truths, or for the sake of continuing our personal opposition to something.

God tells us he created the Earth in six days, and then gives all the evidence to the contrary. God is a prick.

We would have to misinterpret, wouldn't we?

I should have credited you with that cut-and-paste. I am sorry. But thank you.

82abhilash:

I understand where you are coming from now. Thanks for clearing that up.

Sun, 11 May 2008 12:00:00 UTC | #169330

Artful_Dodger's Avatar Comment 19 by Artful_Dodger

"I'm a passionate Darwinian in the academic sense (...), yet I am a passionate Anti-Darwinian when it comes to human social and political affairs."


I really can't get over the fact that nobody on this site is willing to challenge Dawkins on the glaring inconsistncy here. The obvious question is this: if we get everything from natural selection, and natural selection "selects" for individual and group survival, where do we get the idea that we must transcend this natural impulse? If all nature is "red in tooth and claw", how on earth can human nature be exempted from that, from where on earth does it derive the inclination to fight against nature? This is a question which, try as he might and mince it as he will, Dawkins has abjectly failed to address.

Sun, 11 May 2008 12:08:00 UTC | #169340

rthille's Avatar Comment 20 by rthille

Natural selection created brains which have a mechanism we term 'morals' in order to maximize the success of those genes. In small groups/tribes, without the human morals we have evolved, we would have been unable to cooperate and would have been much less successful. Wolves, I contend, have morals as well. Think about a wolf pack where the Alpha couple are the only breeders, and the other females act as 'nannies' to the pups. If a nanny wolf were to kill a pup not it's own, I have to believe that the rest of the pack would react negatively toward the nanny wolf, but further, I believe that they would see the act as "immoral", as evolution has tuned the brains of wolves to succeed in packs and the emotional reactions we term 'morals' must reinforce those actions which help the pack (and therefore the genes) succeed.

As for humans, we evolved our moral sense in small groups, but with our evolved intellect, we can see that the best way to guarantee our success as individuals is to aid the success of our species, and further most if not all the other species which make up our ecosystem. Sure, we wouldn't find it immoral to wipe out the polio virus or the common cold. But if it was determined that thru unintended consequences doing so would have detrimental effects on other species or ourselves, we _would_ find it immoral.

Morality is just a higher-level abstraction in brains for optimizing the success of the genes creating those brains.

Sun, 11 May 2008 12:14:00 UTC | #169342

Barry Pearson's Avatar Comment 21 by Barry Pearson

DalaiDrivel said: This is what I see lying, illogical IDiots as attacking the most, in order to portray Dawkins as a hypocrite.
They are not illogical. They are fighting a political (not scientific) battle, and destroying the credibility of their opponents is a logical, rational, tactic.

Have a look at the "The Wedge" (document). They don't oppose evolution because they think it is factually inaccurate. They oppose it because they object to what they consider to be the consequential "materialistic Worldview". I think the truth or otherwise of evolution is largely irrelevant to their motivation, except for their need to be able to convince others that it is untrue. (So if it is true, that is an inconvenience to be covered up).

Sun, 11 May 2008 12:20:00 UTC | #169344

Artful_Dodger's Avatar Comment 22 by Artful_Dodger

rthille, on a naturalistic premise committed to the "natural slection" paradigm, how can you say that natural selection "created" anything? "Created" is an active verb which requires personal, conscious agency. All you can say is that this "mechanism" by which you define morals "popped into existence" without any rhyme or reason. Emerging as it necessarily does in this way, over whatever period of time might be involved, it cannot be said to be "directed" towards the organisation of human society, or towards anything else, as this is also to attribute intentionality to this mechanism, which requires it to have been set up by some purposeful agent which is external to the mechanism itself.

Sun, 11 May 2008 12:31:00 UTC | #169349

epeeist's Avatar Comment 23 by epeeist

Comment #178464 by Artful_Dodger

"I'm a passionate Darwinian in the academic sense (...), yet I am a passionate Anti-Darwinian when it comes to human social and political affairs."

I really can't get over the fact that nobody on this site is willing to challenge Dawkins on the glaring inconsistncy here.
You really are a tosser aren't you? The only reason you raise this is to cause quarrel dialogue.

Who says we get "everything" from natural selection? Do you really think that Beethoven's Opus 131, Homer's Illiad, Newton's Principia or even religion are a direct product of natural selection?

I had a moan on another thread about the way theists seem to conduct arguments. Your post typifies what I said, emotive language, loaded questions and simply bad reasoning.

And by the way - you still owe me a description of how you separate the literal from the metaphorical in your "holy book". And who gives you the right to do it.

Sun, 11 May 2008 12:34:00 UTC | #169351

Artful_Dodger's Avatar Comment 24 by Artful_Dodger

Do you really think that Beethoven's Opus 131, Homer's Illiad, Newton's Principia or even religion are a direct product of natural selection?


No, epeeist, I don't. That's my point!

Sun, 11 May 2008 12:40:00 UTC | #169357

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 25 by Cartomancer

if we get everything from natural selection, and natural selection "selects" for individual and group survival, where do we get the idea that we must transcend this natural impulse?
You've answered your own fatuous question Artful: We get it from natural selection, same as everything else. Being able to think rationally is a tremendously useful survival trait - much better than simply following instinctive programming to the letter. Instinctive programming was useful before reason came about, but once reasoning had developed its carriers were almost bound to out-compete the old units working on the less effective software of instinct alone. Only someone who misconcieved of natural selection in a narrowly teleological way could possibly be confused by this simple idea.

Sun, 11 May 2008 12:40:00 UTC | #169358

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 26 by Quetzalcoatl

Artful-

I notice you Dodged the rest of Epeeist's post. Shocking.

Sun, 11 May 2008 12:41:00 UTC | #169360

Wosret's Avatar Comment 27 by Wosret

Artful Dodger, that is because he need not address it. It is logically fallacious to suggest that because something is natural, that it is therefore good. That is the naturalistic fallacy. Diseases, cancer, and rape are all natural. Do you think they then must be good? It is only inconsistent if you think that natural equals good. He need not address that it doesn't because he expects everyone listening to already know that it doesn't.

Sun, 11 May 2008 12:43:00 UTC | #169361

Artful_Dodger's Avatar Comment 28 by Artful_Dodger

Do we get our concern for "Truth" (Dawkins is notoriously concerned about it!) from survival-oriented natural selection? Is falsehood not often much more conducive to survival than "Truth?" It may be another fatuous question, but it's another one that still hasn't received a satisfactory answer.

Sun, 11 May 2008 12:46:00 UTC | #169366

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 29 by Paula Kirby

Artful:
Evolution by Natural Selection DESCRIBES how complex life forms came about. It does not PRESCRIBE how best they should run their societies.

Sun, 11 May 2008 12:47:00 UTC | #169367

Artful_Dodger's Avatar Comment 30 by Artful_Dodger

Artful:
Evolution by Natural Selection DESCRIBES how complex life forms came about. It does not PRESCRIBE how best they should run their societies.


Indeed, Paula. So where does the PRESCRIPTION come from then, if everything, as Cartomancer has reminded us, comes from natural selection?

Sun, 11 May 2008 12:51:00 UTC | #169369