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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Practical Applications of Evolution

In my recent post on butterflies and intelligent design, one commenter questioned how one might apply the principles of evolution in one's life. While evolution might not be helpful for some aspects of modern life, it may have many practical and even profound implications for the economy. For example, if random mutations and natural selection actually were sufficient to bring about the many structures and systems that appear to be the result of brilliant engineering, then we should not be surprised to find major industries applying these same principles. For example, have you noticed how many defects crop up in many American-made automobiles and other products? I suspect that they are there on purpose, giving you a chance to approve or reject a mutation that is just part of a grand scheme leading toward ever better performance. This also explains why so many manufacturers prefer to lay-off skilled workers and replace them with the uneducated: this means more mutations introduced into products, allowing more opportunities for major advances.

Software manufacturers are perhaps the best examples of evolution at work. For example, would you be surprised to learn that Microsoft actually doesn't use any programmers at all, but simple uses evolution to produce all of its software? At least that's what one key source has reported. Rather than hiring expensive and ungrateful programmers, they take basic software and allow it to mutate over and over by copying it back and forth to defective hard disks that cause random bits to be flipped, skipped, or chipped. The mutated software is then automatically tested to eliminate programs that can't run at all, and then the programs that might be functional are given to beta testers to see what they do. Potential winners are then shipped to customers, all of whom are unwitting beta testers. This explains why so many "updates" lack previous features and have new bugs and other fatal flaws. But it's a small price to pay for evolutionary advance that ultimately might just lead to software that actually seems like some kind of intelligence was behind its design.

See? Makes sense to me.

41 comments:

Schuyler said...

As you pointed out the term “evolution” is used frequently to describe the development of wonderful, new products engineered by man. Occasionally a goof in the lab results in new products, concepts, etc. But behind each one of these developments is someone directing technology’s progress. We do not have integrated circuits, equipment or software building themselves without man’s direction. Having designed IC’s for 20 years, I have never seen a random defect in a chip result in better circuit functionality. The random defects you mentioned that occur from copying software don’t make it better, but instead make it non-functional. Even when a design flaw was accidentally put in technology, it doesn’t fix itself.

What biologists want us to believe is the machinery of living organism evolved without any direction from an intelligent being. They use concepts like natural selction as the mechanism, but ignore all observed phenomena (such a those I pointed out above) demonstrated by modern technology. I don’t care if they leave God out of the equation, but it’s much better to say “I don’t know” than to foist a fable on people and call them names when they don’t believe. It sort of reminds me of a high school math trick where we “proved” 0 =1. All of the algebraic steps were correct, except one, when the equation was unknowingly divided by 0.

The evolution you described is really intelligent design and definitely has application in society. The evolution described by biologists has a ‘divide by 0’ in it somewhere. If we force children to accept the illogical as fact we’re damaging their ability to reason and think clearly

Jared* said...

A while ago there was a post at T&S about the use of evolutionary ideas in engineering. Not being an engineer, I can't comment on it.

Christian Y. Cardall said...

Here is the post Jared referred to.

Anonymous said...

Evolutionary principles can be seen all over. For example take a daring teenager. Little Joey tries his luck by coming home 5 minutes after curfew. Because Mom and Dad did not get upset, next time he tries 10 minutes. Eventually he ends up defeating his curfew all together.

Also think about some of those evil leaders in the world, I'll use Hitler. He didn't just one day say to the German people, "Hey, let's engage in war with the whole world", instead he took small steps to warm the people up to the idea.

And what about those fees the cable company slowly piles onto your bill over an extended period of time?

Alma 37:6 comes to my mind, "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass".

Schuyler said...

This is an interesting article, but I’m not sure what Glen’s experience is. He’s clearly not a chip designer. He is correct that the computer has replaced the drafting table, but it hasn’t replaced the innovation process engineers use to create new products. For custom circuits used in many high performance circuits, engineers still design the circuit structure and then use a computer to vary transistor parameters using a statistical search algorithm to optimize the circuit for its application. Technicians aided by computers, then layout each transistor according to specifications provided by the engineer. These circuits can then be placed in a library where automated tools may repeatedly use them. For less critical circuits, engineers design what is called a standard cell library. For this class of circuits, engineers may write a behavioral code that describes what they want the circuit to do. Tools synthesize this code into gates found in their standard cell library and then automatically place and connect these drawn gates together to create the desired circuit. If it doesn’t at first meet area, power or performance criteria, they change parameters and let the computer run until these criteria are met. These are very powerful tools, but they require engineering work to set up libraries, transistor models and gate parameters. This isn’t evolutionary. It’s using a set of parameters and mathematics to do something that might be very laborious for a human to do by hand. The resulting circuit are usually sufficient for a lot of applications, however, by using the custom approach I first described one can always create circuits that are smaller, faster and consume less power. My colleagues at Intel tell me that in order to get the performance they need most of their circuits require a custom design.

Just to make this point, I asked a co-op student to write tests to thoroughly test a hardware multiplier I designed. He started with a methodical approach of checking the product of every possible multiplier/multiplicand combination. After half a day’s work on this, he concluded that even using our fastest servers it would take 7 year! (That’s running about 300 multiplications a second on a very advanced server, and each multiplication tests the ten’s of thousand of transistors in the circuit.) After analyzing the circuit paths, he was able to reduce the number of multiplications to a few hundred.) This was a relatively simple circuit. Image using true evolutionary principles on more complex circuits or software that involve millions of bits that are randomly changed. Experts in these fields would just laugh!
I suspect as technology advances, tools will continue to improve and require less human intervention, but it will still require engineers to direct what they do.

Schuyler said...

Anon 1:54pm

You made my point. Intelligence is behind each evolutionary step you described.

Anonymous said...

A great example of evoltuion at work is Kimberly-Clark cutting down ancient forests so that it can make something to blow your nose and wipe your rear.

Jared* said...

Thanks for the link, Christian. My comment had the link, but it's hard to see.

I certainly would not argue that God has never intervened in creation. I do argue that those events cannot be identified, and that the ID paradigm has not been shown to be a useful guide in research. Biology has been underestimated time and time again.

Unlike engineeers designing chips, we aren't talking about the creation of genomes out of wholecloth. Rather, small and simple steps--duplication then diversification of genes and regulatory elements, formation of symbiotic relationships (ie. mitochondria), and so forth.

Furthermore, the same basic regulatory genes exist from fruit flies to humans. How genes are used seems to be as important as differences in genes, as I briefly discuss here.

Clark Goble said...

A few comments. First, any analogy with evolution has to include what is key to evolution. That is sexual reproduction and success at reproduction being tied to the environment. While I understand most of the comments here are being humorous, it is an important point to mention that without those elements, it just isn't evolution.

There has been computer based demonstration of the principles of evolution. That is the appearance of design from non-desgn. It is actually studied in information theory quite a bit at the moment.

One can argue that there is no empirical direct evidence of macro-evolution. (Although there is indirect evidence) ID proponents can argue that the molecular changes are too improbable. But I think one can't argue against the principle of evolution as a kind of mathematical principle.

Schuyler said...

cvJared,

Thanks for the link to your blog. It's very informative and has given me more information to ponder.

It's common knowledge that man has used selection to breed animals and plants. Every year there is a new strain of the flu virus. Clearly, these examples demonstrate some of the principles of evolution, and are applicable to modern society. What I take issue with is individuals, groups or organizations with an agenda that cherry pick science to back up their beliefs. In my opinion both 'classical' ID proponents and evolutionists who 'know' man evolved from primordial soup fall into that camp. Since you are an expert in this field and since I am not, I'd like your opinion on this subject.

I have found that my definition of ID is not aligned with those of the classic 7-day creation folks. My definition is something like the manipulation of genes, chemicals, building materials, computer code, etc by someone intelligent (God, man, etc) to create new or improved organisms, medicines, computer chips, bridges, software, etc. usually in an 'evolutionary' manner.

Yes, this definition of evolution does have practical applications for modern society. The focus by those who claim as ‘fact’ that man evolved from apes to prove their atheistic viewpoint doesn’t.

Sister in Indy said...

I've always thought the definition of "species" was interesting. I learned that two organisms are the same species if they can mate and produce viable offspring who are capable of reproduction. For instance, a horse and a donkey are two different species because even though they can mate and produce a viable offspring (mules), the offspring are always sterile. Also by definition, a squirrel that is diurnal and a squirrel that is nocturnal are different species because their waking habits differ so that they never have the opportunity to mate. Or hominid A is a different species from hominid B because they lived 100,000 years apart and never had the opportunity to mate and produce viable, reproductive offspring (yes, I heard that in an anthropology lecture at Butler University).

Technically, by that definition, we have many different species of humans running around on the planet at this very instant. For instance, my in-laws were unable to produce viable offspring and therefore had to adopt my husband. So they must be different species.

I think the definition of species is problematic in itself. Sure, we witness microevolution all the time, but a fruitfly is still a fruitfly and a squirrel is still a squirrel, everything multiplying within its sphere of creation.

Only in fairy tales do frogs turn into men.

jeff g said...

The lack of understanding for the prinicples of evolution by natural selection is staggering to say the least. Its threads like this that make evolutionists think that instead of focusing so much on politicized disclaimers and their place in science we should focus more on helping the students actually understand what it is that they are to accept or reject.

Evolution by natural selection is what Darwin invented with stunning genius, not evolution in general. Evolution had been around for a long time, but nobody accepted it 1) due to traditional beliefs and 2) nobody had a good mechanism for the process to use. Darwin came up with a mechanism and made several bold predictions which pretty much all came true.

Darwin's idea is not "survival of the fittest" or merely gradual change. This can easily be seen in that he clearly stated that evolution requires and deductively follows from 3 prerequisites: 1) replicators, 2) variation, and 3) a struggle not for survival but for replication. Thus all those complaints that "survival of the fittest" is but a tautology simply miss the mark entirely. Darwin's idea is of differential replication with no room for tautologies.

One can also see in this formation of Darwin's idea that no intelligence is needed or even wanted. What happens to survive in order to replicate does so for a reason and over the course of many, many generations these reasons will become exaggerated in the form of designs.

Another point worth mentioning is that selection doesn't operate upon random mutation which happen to arise in a particular organism's birth. Instead, it principally operates on the variation which already exists within a given population. Thus, mutations don't just come along in the nick of time, but instead are always laying around just waiting to be used.

Having stated these basic principles, we can now continue. Random changes in software or engineering designs don't count as Darwinian evolution since they don't replicate. This is the difference between the evolutionary algorithm mentioned in Jared's link and that posited by Jeff. Gradual changes in economic policies don't count either for the same reason.

If you really needs examples of how evolution has helped us practically speaking one shouldn't have to look too far. Those evolutionary algorithms are a good example. Modern germ theory is another. Understanding the "actions" of AIDS and Tuberculosis without appeals to evolution is simply impossible. Modern cognitive science is based squarely in the camp of evolution which is contributing immensely to both psychology and neurology. It is simply inconceivable that anybody can have even a shallow understanding of human nature anymore without some appeal to evolution.

While Jeff's forms of evolution are forms of ID, the evolution taught by biology is correctly described by Schuyler as not being the same thing at all. This is not because there is something being divided by 0 somewhere. Instead it is due to the software engineers exploiting the inherently mindless process of evolution to their own advantage by selecting their own environment for these algorithm to work. They choose the seletive pressures. In biological evolution the pressures were the environment. The pressures weren't choosen by stating "who ever sees better will be more fit" but instead simply turned out to be "whatever chance changes happen to help an organism replicate better, these chance changes will tend to spread through out the population." In biology replication was assigned by nobody, replication simply happened. In engineering, replication is defined by the engineers who said which ever design does "x" better, make that design replicate better." There is a huge difference between the two.

Anon: Small changes is not what Darwin was talking about at all. Your example doesn't even vaguely resemble Darwinian natural selection.

Schuyler: I too take issue with those who choose a position and then try to "find" science that backs up their preconceived position. This is exactly why I'm so strongly against any ID in schools since this is clearly what they are doing. There are other organizations on the other side of the fence which do the same thing, but at least the science leans in their favor! At least they have some evidence for their ideas.

That man evolved from a common ancestors as apes is a fact, but it does not "prove" anything atheistic at all, at least not directly. Those IDer's who act as if it did simply play into the exact same game that their atheistic friends are playing. Such IDer's will never win that game since ALL the evidence is against them.

SinI: You have engaged in some fancy equivocation. There is a difference between two groups of organisms which cannot mate (donkeys and horses) and those which do not mate (squirrels). The actual definition is actually that two groups are different species if they will not mate under natural circumstances. This definition is a little wishy-washy as it should be since speciation can only be defined somewhat arbitrarily and always many generations after the fact. What also needs to be pointed out is that there is a difference between the separation of individuals and the separation of gene pools. This is the difference between your human example and that of the squirrels.

The idea of frogs turning into humans is a childish misrepresentation of Darwinian evolution. Nobody believes it for a second so lets not bring it up anymore.

Anonymous said...

Jeffery, On this board you are going to have to accept the fact that people like Sister in Indy are going to bring up frogs turning into men.
You make way too much sense for people here.
BTW, Ask Sister in Indy if she believes in talking snakes.

Jared* said...

Schuyler,

I wouldn't want to over-sell my expertise. I have some general background and then my focused area of research. I am an interested observer of other areas. (A dermatologist can comment more knowledgably on neurology than a plummer, but he still isn't a neurologist.)

It seems clear to me that our geneome is derived from common ancestors of existing apes. Did God tweak the genome to make us? Who knows--that's not an question that science can answer. Science can neither confirm nor rule out a role for God in the creation of life or species.

Because we've done a pretty good job of assembling the story of life on earth and the forces that shape it, some see God as superfluous and conclude he does not exist. Nevertheless it remains possible that he directly intervened from time to time, but we cannot detect it--at least scientifically.

In practical terms, God is not relevant to science--science seeks natural explanations that can be tested. This may seem scandalous at first, but then how relevant is God to meteorology?

Another analogy would be trying to detect the hand of God in the history of the world (putting aside defining religous events). How would you detect God's favor on one nation vs another? Is conquering and prosperity evidence of favor? If not, is domination and slavery?

Anonymous said...

Science can neither confirm nor rule out a role for God in the creation of life or species.
Good point!
Science can neither confirm nor rule out the role of the flying Spagehetti monster in the creation of life as well.
Something to think about.

ghettooutlaw said...

With regards to evolution, I think there is a great deal of hypocrisy in the scientific community at large. Consider the following: the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute searches for life in the universe by listening for radio signals coming from space that display a discernible pattern. If a signal from space were detected that translated into a simple "hello", even if it were repeated only a few times and then was gone, the assumption would be that it has to be the result of a deliberate action by an intelligent life form. However, if one dares to suggest that a strand of human DNA (the complexity of which makes the space shuttle look like a brick in comparison) is the product of intelligent design, the scientific elite would brand such a person a lunatic.

Anonymous said...

Please state your source for that info ghetto. I would like to know where this was said.

ghettooutlaw said...

My 8:24 AM, November 26, 2005 post was a paraphrase of comments made in the article "America’s Skeptical 44%" by Bill Hoesch, M.S. Geology. The article can be found at the following address: http://icr.cybrhost.com/headlines/skeptical44.html. I found this article to be particularly enjoyable and I think you will too.

Jared* said...

I dunno--looks like a nice helping of incredulity to me. And from ICR, no less--Henry and John Morris being two of the fathers of creationism in the George McReady Price tradition.

The fact that the recently discovered whale transitionals exist at all ought to give them pause. But no, it's just ammunition for more incredulity. "Oh, you have whales worked out? Well if that's true, then you should have everything else worked out too. You don't, so it all must be bunk."

ghettooutlaw said...

I would agree that the article is a nice helping of incredulity. After all, I think the majority of people would agree that the existence of time, space, dimension, matter, energy, and life coming about without the actions of an intelligent creator is an idea that makes reason stop and stare with mouth agape.

Sister in Indy said...

Um, looks like my attempt at humor went over like a lead balloon. I tend to forget that in an environment lacking body language and vocal inflection, much is lost.

Just to clarify--

1. I know the difference between polycystic ovarian syndrome and speciation.

2. "Only in fairy tales..." was my attempt at a bad joke. Anyone who knows a lick about evolutionary theory also knows that frogs and men have different phylogenies.

3. No, I don't believe in talking snakes, but in highly figurative language.

jeff g said...

Don't worry SinI, despite my overly harsh comment, I got the joke and it gave me a bit of a chuckle. I thought that the point of it was naive and ridiculous, but I thought it could not have been said in a more light hearted and jovial manner.

I guess I get a little defensive when people run around calling the entire biologist community hypocrites.

will said...

ghetto,

Bill Hoesch, who sports a degree from that respected and TRACS-accredited institution, ICR, borrows an argument from Bill Dembski regarding SETI. While the argument is fallacious, I think it's also instructive. If we ponder it long enough, we start asking the right questions regarding messages, meaning, and media. In this respect, I think that ID advocates do the world a favor by forcing us to flesh out these ideas.

ghettooutlaw said...

will,

I had never before heard of Bill Dembski but I looked him up online and found some really good material. For this, you have my thanks. I admit that my original post was an exercise in hyperbole. Still, I do not think the argument is too far off the mark. My intent was to demonstrate that it is ridiculous for anyone who calls themself a scientist to dismiss out of hand a theory that is sound, coherent, and has a substantial backing in the scientific community.

jeff g said...

What exactly is this scientific theory that is being rejected out of hand? Remember that a theory, for it to be even worthy of any consideration whatsoever it must offer some sort of possibly falsifiable future observation. Has any IDer ever offered a single falsifiable observation that both serves as a corrective to Darwinian natural selection AND confirms the "theory" of Intelligent Design?

I have never heard of a single one ever being offered. This is why ID has been gotten much air time in peer reviewed material, not out of some atheistic conspiracy. Whatever title one wants to slap on ID, it simply cannot be that of scientific theory, scientific hypothesis or science of any kind.

jeff g said...

Doh! I meant (as should be somewhat obvious):

"This is why ID has NOT gotten much air time in peer reviewed material, not out of some atheistic conspiracy."

Sorry about that.

ghettooutlaw said...

Jeffrey,

I want to thank you because you have made me realize that I have been misusing the word "theory". In response to your post, you are absolutely right. ID has never offered any possibly falsifiable future observation. Of course, neither has evolution. Neither ID or evolution has or can.

I for one am not trying to correct natrual selection. I think that natural selection is a verified fact. Species can and do change in response to their environment. This is something that can be observed and studied. It is when one steps into the realm of trying to explain the origin of life that things get tricky. We are dealing with past events that cannot be observed, tested, verified, or falsified (unlike natural selection). Consequently, asking an IDer to produce a falsifiable observation is no different that asking an evolutionist to demonstrate single cell organisms progressing to humans in a lab setting.

Evolution and ID are both scientific models. A scientific model is a tentative scheme or structure that corresponds to real objects, events, or classes of events, which has explanatory power (http://www.nmlites.org/standards/science/
glossary_5.htm). Evolution, in the conventional sense, proposes that the origin of life came about through solely natural processes without any action/intervention by a pre-existing intelligence. ID proposes that all life originated as the result of deliberate action by a creator. I think that mathematical probability makes the ID model a much more rational one. This is a subject dealt with in detail in the paper "What is the Probability of Evolution Happening Soley by Natural Means? by Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon. Part of this paper can be found at http://www.ankerberg.com/Articles/_PDFArchives/science/SC3W0102.pdf

I am not proposing that evolution be removed from schools. I would hope that any sane person realizes that simply is not going to happen. What I think most ID advocates are proposing is that both models be presented with their respective strengths and weaknesses as opposed to evolution being taught as having been proven unequivocally as the only explanation for life origins and that ID has no merit.

I for one do not think there is an atheistic conspiracy. I think the problem is that too many people cannot separate ID from religion. By religion I mean the sevice or worship of God or the supernatural. I have heard the argument that ID is an attempt to force religion on people. What religion? Christianity? Judaism? Islam? All these (including other faiths) have an origin story. I am pleased that ID has sought to remove any specific religious element from the model. merriam Webster also defines religion as "a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith". This sounds like evolution as much as it does ID.

jeff g said...

Wrong again about evo and predictions. Many critics of evolution claim that it isn't really science since it doesn't make any predictions about the future which can be falsified. This is patently false in every way and is based in an incorrect understanding of Popperian falsification. The hypothetico-deductive method of science isn't based upon predicting the future. It is based in predicting future observations of the past, present or future.

For instance, when Darwin proposed his theory of evolution by natural selection, his ideas could have been falsified by a demonstration that: the earth wasn't very old, there were no particular patterns in the distribution of taxa, the fossils were scattered in a relatively random way, DNA sequences didn't match with predicted evolutionary paths, mathematical evolutionary models didn't even come close to modeling genes pools, evolutionary algorithms weren't able to produce what in retrospect appeared to be "irreducible complexity" in computer simulation and so forth.

One prominent evolutionary biologist who was rather tired of that same ol' criticism quipped when asked what would prove the current theory wrong, "precambrian rabbits." In other words, if evolution were wrong, it could EASILY have been falsified in its predictions. But it isn't so it hasn't.

While you are mostly right about the origin of life thing, biologists have not been near as "dogmatic" in their statements about that subject. This is due, as it should be, to a lack of evidence and understanding. Anybody putting forth any theory about life's beginnings is simply arguing from ignorance, including IDers.

While I agree with the definition you give of a scientific model, I strongly disagree with your use of it. The key phrase is "explanatory power" which doesn't simply mean covering the appearances. Once again, a scientific explanation must be falsifiable, it must make predictions (not of the lame fortune telling kind that IDers want to attribute to it). It must explain something without some appeal to an unobservable magic intelligence which can be invoked to cover any ignorance no matter how big.

1) Evolution by natural selection in any sense whatsoever doesn't say much of anything about the origin of life, so I'm not sure what it has to do with the current conversation. This is not to say that science, biology to be specific, doesn't say anything at all about it. See Robert Hazen's new book Genesis which just came out on the subject.

2) I would also be careful about attributing too powerful of statements to ID as well. Their position is that SOME things originated by the deliberate action of a creator. Admittedly, the origin of life is one point which they would probably hold strong to but that qualifier should be kept in mind for it is one of the major reasons why ID is a terrible science. They are never specific as to what was designed by the creator and what was not. Neither do they ever answer how or when this design happened. Thus, their statements amount, in the scientific sense, to just so much sound and fury without much content at all. When an evolutionary mechanism is discovered for anything, they simply back up a little bit: "Well maybe that wasn't designed by the Designer, but surely everything else was..." until the next thing in the "everthing else" is shown to have a naturalistic explanation as well. Thus, they claim to have a foot to stand on no matter how much evidence is mounted against them because until a mechanism and evolutionary path is provided for every single biological entity (something which never will happen by the very nature of the beast) they will always claim that science "can't" explain X. Who can say that this isn't the worst scientific model ever?

I for one simply don't trust much on anything these mathematical models attempt to demonstrate, and this from a math major. The mathematicians at work simply don't have any clue what numbers to plug into their models for them to work, nor to they ever give full credit to the power of natural selection as a process. They say the chances of a human forming are 1 in 10^1,000,000 or some huge number like that. Well if every single replicator that had ever been created had actually survived to replicate along with its off spring and so on, 10^1,000,000 looks like a puny number in comparison. Natural selection weeds out all the vast numbers of bad options making design a near certainty. Such models also tend to be far to dogmatic in ignoring yet to be discovered mechanisms. Take self-organizing complexity theory for instance. This theory shows how order can come for free, without natural selection OR a designer of any kind. This is now being more fully integrated into NeoDarwinian evolution with great outcomes. The moral of the story is that these mathematical models don't show much of anything except the mathematicians biases. Again, mathematical models "against" natural selection do not amount to one shred of evidence in favor of a designer. That should also be pointed out. Again, there is no reason to accept ID as a legitimate science here either.

Of course you aren't proposing that evolutoin be removed from schools. If any IDer claimed that they would automatically be rejected in all their claims. Evolution has produce far too many RESULTS to be written off by any rational mind. But that is the difference between it and ID. ID has produced NO RESULTS whatsoever. It is merely an attempt to save faith in a literal reading of the Bible with the tools of mathematics.

This is not to say that the NeoDarwinian theory is perfect. Nobody ever claimed that is was. Thousands of grad students are currently at work in their fields trying to patch up the hole which admittedly exist in the theory. Nevertheless, these holes should not be exaggerated as has been done by IDers. The theory of evolution can be divided into 3 aspects: 1) the fact of evolution, 2) the mechanisms of evolution and 3) the paths of evolution. Lots of work has to be done in 3 and we are now coming to see that some work should be done in 2 as well. While it is almost impossible to imagine a mechanism dethroning natural selection as the primary mechanism, it is sitll theoretically possible as complexity theory attempted but failed to show. Nevertheless, 1 has never been called into question by anybody except those who have their own agenda.

Teach the controversy? We already do to grad students, just like what is done in every scientific field. Since when did science become a humanity where free debate and equal air time are guaranteed for any theory that can be invented by the human mind? Should be teach the controversy between Ptomeleic astronomy and Coperican or between astronomy in general and astrology? How about between chemistry and alchemy? Neuroscience and phrenology? Germ theory and demonic possession? After all wouldn't it be a sign of dogmatism and a lack of freedom of thought if we didn't teach these to high school students as well? This whole subject reminds me of this page:
http://static.flickr.com/9/12560931_6246357501_b.jpg

Even the sttrongest IDer has to laugh a little bit at that and seen some similarity in the argument which are put forth by the ID side.

P.S. There is a difference between "a religion" and religion in general. There can be no doubting that ID is trying to force a creator on people and if that doesn't imply religion in general what does?

Jared* said...

[Rubbing eyes] Did I just see an approving reference to Ankerberg and Weldon?

I'm not sure which article you had in mind, but what gives you confidence that those guys represent science any better than they do Mormonism (or Islam, Catholicism, etc)?

While the formal claims of ID are not religious, it is clear--from their own words--that the proponents of ID have a religious agenda. One of the interesting things that came out in the Dover trial is that the first ID textbook, Of Pandas and People, used the term "intelligent design" where early drafts used the term "creationism." These changes just happened to occur around the time of a significant court defeat for creationism.

The ID label was slapped on old creationist arguments. Since then, they've tried hard to strip ID of religion. They won't say who they think the designer is, how many designers there were, when they did their designing, or how or why. This makes ID useless in trying to understand the history of the earth.

jeff g said...

I really appreciate that 3 part distinction of the NeoDarwinian theory which I mentioned earlier. To recap: 1) the fact of evolution, science is finished here; 2) the mechanism of evolution, we think we have the main component right (natural selection) but lots of other mechanisms continue to crop up; 3) the path of evolution, this will never really be finished.

What if we apply this division of goals into the ID camp? 1) the fact of design, the case is looking weaker by the day; 2) the mechanism of design, nobody has ever even started; 3) the paths of design (the when, where, who, etc.), the only progress has come from leeching off of biological evolution, no progress has been made independant of it whatsoever.

ghettooutlaw said...

Jared and\or Jeffrey,

I think we are experiencing a serious disconnect in our understanding of one another. Let's take a moment to simplify and clarify. Define evolution in 25 words or less. I will be gone for a few days but will check back sometime this weekend.

jeff g said...

Evolution is the gradual change of species over time and implies common descent.

Natural selection is the differential replication of entities within a context with limited resources.

Darwin invented the later but not the former, the later being a mechanism to explain the former.

will said...

It's also worth noting that the original emergence of life is described by a different term, abiogenesis.

Jared* said...

ghettooutlaw,

Jeff and I run a blog, Mormons and Evolution, that you might want to look at.

Maybe it would be better to move conversation there--I could create an open thread, if it is agreeable to all.

ghettooutlaw said...

Jared & Jeffrey,

Hi guys! I am back home and I am preparing a post. I will be a day or two because I want get my thoughts organized and concise. I think my next post will greatly clarify my position and I think you will agree that we are not that far apart in our thinking. In the meantime: Jeffrey, I like your definition of evolution and natural selection. I agree with you absolutely. Jared, I have looked at Mormons and Evolution and I like your writings. I think there is a lot of merit to your take on ID. I do take some exception and will clarify in my upcoming post. After that, if you would like to continue this discussion on the Mormons and Evolution blog, I would be happy to do so. Lastly, I am sorry that you took my 6:25 PM, November 28, 2005 post as an approving reference to Dr. Ankerberg and Dr. Weldon. I was simply making reference to some interesting math cited in a document on Dr. Ankerberg's website. I will be back soon!

ghettooutlaw said...

I think the definition of evolution and natural selection provided by Jeffrey is right on target. The fact that species change over time in response to their environment is beyond question. I agree with this wholeheartedly. The big problem in our culture is that when one says “evolution”, the typical, average person takes this to mean that everything (time, space, dimension, matter, energy, life) came into being completely through natural processes with no action from an intelligent being. I regard this as the conventional view of evolution and this is what I mean in the rest of this post when I use the term “conventional evolution”.

Evolution, natural selection, and intelligent design have, for some time now, become terms that get thrown around like 50-LB sledgehammers. They each mean something different to everyone. There are people in the ID camp that believe in a literal 6-day creation and a universe that is 6000-7000 years old, those that believe in divinely guided evolution that has been going on for billions of years, and every possible view in between. There is just as much discord in conventional evolutionary circles among people who do not believe in any deity as there is among IDers.

ID is not science. Conventional evolution is not science. ID cannot provide a mechanism or sequence of events for how God brought about His creation. We were not there to witness it, can only speculate on the mechanism used, the amount of time taken, and definitely cannot test it. These same problems/limitations apply to conventional evolution. Such is the nature of the problem when one starts crossing into the realm of how the universe came into being. That is a subject on which it is only possible to speculate. For example, I do not know enough about Irreducible Complexity to comment on it extensively but I do understand the basic concept. First, I want it understood that I am not suggesting that we should not try to figure out how things came about. After all, as I have already stated, organisms change over time in response to their environment. Still, even if one rejects IR, it does not change the problem that when investigating origins, one eventually crosses out of the realm of what is observable and testable into speculating. That goes for ID and conventional evolution.

Sadly, this is not really a war of science. The apparent animosity between religion and science is an artificial construct. There is no discord between scientific truth and gospel/scriptural truth. When there does seem to be a conflict, it is because we either do not understand the science or the scripture. This is a cultural war.

As for my own take on ID, I don’t think that ID has any more place in grade school or high school than conventional evolution does. Students should be instructed on how things operate, on what can actually be observed and tested. I see no problem with teaching evolution and natural selection as defined by Jeffrey. Still, if one simply insists on delving into the realm of origins then admit that it is speculation. However, it seems that many science educators flatly refuse to acknowledge the limitations of conventional evolution (i.e. disclaimers in science texts books).

This is the reason I feel the ID battle is one worth fighting. The “other side” (for lack of a better term, nothing derogatory meant) will not relent. Does the ID side have an agenda? Some people clearly do. The same is true for the conventional evolution side. As long as conventional evolution proponents guffaw at the suggestion that conventional evolution is not above reproach, I will continue to support ID in schools.

jeff g said...

You do still exist!! I had almost given up hope on checking this thread (I wonder if Jeff is even still reading this?).

I definitely agree that while metaphysical naturalism and Neo-Darwinism might be good friends, they are definitely not identical twins. I do believe that evolution can lead somebody to disbelief, but this is clearly not the typical case. Usually those who simply shrug their shoulders and say they believe in evolution rather than religion simply have no clue what evolution or religion are. Such shallow people give both evolution and religion a bad name.

There is a difference between saying "since evolution is true, there must be no God" and "since there is not God, evolution must be true." These are two arguments which each deserve careful attention as completely separate issues. Conflating the two only leads to error and irrationality.

"There is just as much discord in conventional evolutionary circles among people who do not believe in any deity as there is among IDers."

I can hardly think of a great exaggeration of the truth. While in the evolutionary camp there are certainly people who disagree with eachother, and that quite fiercely at times, then issues which they debate are FAR smaller, specific and technical than those of the ID camp. Evolutionists debate the importance of adaptationism, gene-centrism, the Baldwin effect and the like. Most people aren't even familiar with these issues but simply take any kind of disagreement as signs of all positions in these camps as being wrong. How would religionists like it if people used the same logic against them?

All those people involved in the "Dawinian Wars" do not debate whether evolution has happened. They all agree on that. Remember the three separate issues: 1) the fact of evolution (no debate at all in science), 2) the mechanism of evolution (some debate), 3) the paths of evolution (plenty of debate). In ID, as you have defined it, the debate in each of these three areas, if it has even started, simply dwarfs that of the evolutionist camp. They can't decide if evolution played any part, how God intervened in any way, or even where and when it might have happened. They scientific claim amount to nothing at all.

Strictly speaking, I should mention, that while all creationists think that they are IDers, this is simply not true. There are young-earth creationist, old earth separate creationists, Intelligent designers, evolutionary creationist and deistic evolutionists. These camps often have claims which contradict one another and simply cannot be harmonized by any stretch of the imagination. In order to ID to have any leg to stand on whatsoever, they have had to reject all claims made by YEC's and OESC's. This reminds me of the meeting at which a member from the audience asked Michael Behe, the prince of ID, whether he believed that human's shared a common ancestor with other primate. He answered that he did which of course left all those YEC's and OESC's who thought they were on the same page as him all dejected. If YEC's and OESC's had put any thought into the matter at all they would reject ID as an apostate version of creationism for that is exactly what it is. See my recent post for more details here:

http://mormonevolution.blogspot.com/2005/12/intelligent-design-and-theistic.html

You have correctly hit the nail on the head in your comment. The real issue is that IDers think that evolution is saying something that it is not. Evolution, in the biological sense, says nothing about the origins of anything except new species. It doesn't say anything about the origin of the universe or even the origin of life itself, not directly anyways. They have fallen into the same trap as those stupid atheists who can't distinguish between the two arguments I mentioned above. This is why defenders of evolution get so exhausted in arguing with anybody who thinks they are in the ID camp (which usually they really aren't).

"There is no discord between scientific truth and gospel/scriptural truth."

I would be careful with that one, for most all atheists will believe that just as much as you do. Sure, they will say, the immense amount of truth which can be gained from science is certainly not in conflict with the scattered few truths of religion. This statement only amounts to saying that truth is ultimately not in conflict with itself.

I too have problems with biological evolutionists talking about the origins of life or the universe in their classes. This should be left to the abiogenesists (an up and coming field) and the astronomers. Of course these are rarely, if ever, taught in anything less than a university in anything but the most brief of passings.

Your concluding paragraph has me worried. Nobody but a few stupid students are the ones which say that your "conventional evolution" is beyond reproach. Nobody teaches this in any text book or class room setting. They do teach that the fact of evolution, as I have mentioned it, is beyond reproach, which it is. ID is a movement opposed to THAT statement no matter how embarrassed some IDers might be about it. It is claims like this that clearly show how biased these people are in "movement."

Mormanity said...

Interesting comments. Definitely true that those who believe in the Creation are widely diversified - old earth, young earth, etc. Lining up with apparent allies can result in some big surprises down the road.

The problem for some Christian parents is that they assume teaching of evolution will be used to challenge faith in God. It doesn't have to be that way, but it is used by many atheists to discredit the Bible. Why not include discussion of the theory that blind chance may have been inadequate to create this universe? Many might welcome that, regardless of the problems with particular schools of thought within the creationist movement.

jeff g said...

"The problem for some Christian parents is that they assume teaching of evolution will be used to challenge faith in God."

I understand such a worry, and I agree that if a teacher does do that then they should be reprimanded. However, it is not the teachers who are doing it, so why are IDers attacking them? I have no problem whatsoever with ID being taught and discussed in a philosophy class or something like that. Instead of trying to pass ID off as science, maybe they should focus more on the ground in which they might be a little more "adapted."

ghettooutlaw said...

Jeffrey,

I am glad that we now have a beter understanding of what we have been trying to discuss and that we are not very far apart in our views. Your comments on my last paragraph set me to thinking. I am willing to admit that perhaps I am a bit cynical. Maybe I should exercise more faith in the ability of students to think critically for themselves. Maybe I am too disconnected. It has been a LONG time since I was in high school. I think we have stretched this particular thread to its limit but I will still be lurking around Mormanity and I am going to try to spend more time at the Mormons and Evolution blog. I look forward to more discussions with you.

jeff g said...

No problem. It was nice chatting with you. It's not very often that I find somebody who I speak so strongly to and they are able to keep their cool as well as you have. My best wishes.