ORIGINS: UNIVERSE, LIFE, HUMANKIND, AND DARWIN

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ORIGINS: UNIVERSE, LIFE, HUMANKIND, AND DARWIN

We debate origins of the Universe, life, Earth, humans, religion, atheism, using common sense, evolution, cosmology, geology, archaeology, and other sciences, to repel biblical creationism and other religious beliefs.

Location: Oxford University, England
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The portrait is Charles Darwin, age 31, in 1840

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Comment by Shaun Johnston on September 14, 2013 at 7:54pm

Joseph, I do not engage here in order to change your mind, only to   affirm that evolution is controversial.  By controversial I mean in general, among the majority that experience consciousness as different in kind from any form of matter and also that they have free will. To them l think "emergent  properties" would smack of an appeal to magical thinking.  I am myself among that majority. To me, darwinism is not the kind of theory likely to account for what I experience myself being. For us non-believers, darwinism (modern synthesis) remains controversial.

Can you see how reasonable it is for ordinary people to doubt the darwinian origin story -- random damage to the blueprint we're built on, followed by a 1-2%-efficient culling process of individuals?  It's just not convincing unless you place blind faith in population statistics and emergence.  We won't put our faith there just because an influential minority say so. That kind of blind deference to authority lead to witch trials and eugenics. Do you endorse such blind obedience?  Or should we think for ourselves? Perhaps you think, because we're determined, we can't think for ourselves.  But if we can't how can you? And if you can't, why should we pay you any attention?

The implications of darwinism are controversial.

Comment by Joseph P on September 14, 2013 at 6:59pm

The entire idea is a complete nonstarter, for me, Shaun.  You're proposing we develop a new model, because the old model doesn't account for something that I don't believe exists.  You see the problem here?

Evolution can explain the development of consciousness.  It's just an emergent property of a sufficiently-advanced processing engine ... the brain.

Your statement about free will is ... odd.  Do you have an idea of any sort of mechanism to allow for free will?  My understanding of our current model of reality is that it's deterministic.  Even the cumulative effect of quantum mechanical oddity can be summarized on the macro level, using well-established rules.

For that matter, I don't see how quantum activity would translate into free will, even if it was truly random.

Even if there was such a thing as free will, I don't see how it acts as any kind of reason to reject Darwinian biological-evolution.  If we have a mechanism for free will, then clearly it was there all the time, and biological organisms simply incorporated it.  How do you think it invalidates Darwin's proposal?

So, yes, I have a major problem with your logic.  You need to explain why we need to shove free will into the equation, before you can use it as an excuse to look for a new model.

"I am of the opinion that  individual creatures do not live long enough to direct their own evolution ..."

Uhhhh, individual creatures don't evolve.  I think you have a few holes in your understanding of natural selection.  :-P

Oh, and sorry about the questioning of your atheist creds.  You wouldn't believe the people I've unmasked, masquerading on here, who only came clean indirectly, after I questioned them about their beliefs, in deep detail.

"Ah, so you do think that some sort of creator being that we would call a god - possibly the Christian one - probably does exist.  Right, let me go get the moderators to kick your ass off the site."  ^.^

Some people don't read the agreement that they digitally signed.  Heh heh heh.

Comment by Chad Kreutzer on September 14, 2013 at 6:42pm
Dorian, be careful attributing intent where no exists: Evolution happens in populations, not individuals. In the examples you cite, it is not the individual organisms "choosing to change" it is simply that of the large population, the ones who survived already had the mutation necessary to enable them to survive. Those ones reproduced and passed on that trait to their offspring.

As to free will, Shaun, on a level metaphorically similar to Dorian's example of our "moving 350+ miles per second in seven different directions," free will is an illusion. But on a middle world human scale that is just a pointless sophistry. As far as I am concerned, I am sitting at my desk at work, not moving aside from to type this comment. And as far as I am concerned, I freely chose to write this comment. Sure, in theory we could trace back antecedent after antecedent to show that I didn't chose to make this comment but was rather compelled by layers of cause, but that, although it might be true, is silly, sophomoric, and pointless.
Comment by Dorian Moises Mattar on September 14, 2013 at 6:11pm

Shaun logic doesn't always correlate with reality.

Back in the 1600s it was unimaginable to conceive that we are moving at 350+ miles per second in 7 different directions, but we are.  And we are doing that without anyone feeling any motion sickness or anything flying around the house.

But more interesting is your comment that creatures do not live long enough to direct their own evolution.  I'm not sure where you are drawing this conclusion from, but it couldn't be further from the observed facts.

Just think about the HIV virus, it constantly mutates to it's advantage.  Even as the immune system kills it off.  It actually hides and mutates again and again.

Bacteria becomes immune to drugs even as most of them die from such drug.  The very few remaining bugs mutate to become immune to the drug.

There is no controversy in Evolution, only missing pieces to the puzzle.   Evolution is a fact, but the theory that explains it, is incomplete.

Comment by Shaun Johnston on September 14, 2013 at 5:54pm

I am not a theist, but l am driven by logic to accept that in a world that contains creatures with consciousness and free will, consciousness and free will cannot be defined as absent from how they evolved.  Judging from your answers, though, my opinion is controversial, confirming that-- unless you deny any validity to my logic--there can be controversy in evolution.  I am of the opinion that  individual creatures do not live long enough to direct their own evolution, but some agency at the level of the species or the order or the kingdom might. Can logic rule out such a possibility ?

Comment by Dorian Moises Mattar on September 14, 2013 at 5:48pm

I'm not an expert, I'm just throwing that out there based on educated assumptions, but have you seen what a Fly can do?

http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_dickinson_how_a_fly_flies.html

Comment by Joseph P on September 14, 2013 at 5:18pm

I wouldn't go so far as to say that all animals are conscious.  Most insects have such primitive stimulus/response processing that I don't think it qualifies.  Then, there are plenty of animals that have an even more primitive nervous system.

Most of the animals in our section of the tree are probably conscious, though.  I imagine most mammals would qualify to some degree.  Some mollusks are damned smart too, for that matter.  You have higher order processing evolving in a few different sections of the tree.

And Shaun, no.  Really, you need to read up a lot more on ... well, I'm not even sure what the name of the branch of evolutionary study is that involves brain development, but they have some rather good working models on the subject.

There's no faith in Darwinism.  It's the only working model we have, for the evolution of biological creatures.  It won out over a few competitors.  Creationism doesn't even have a model, which is why the term creation science is such a steaming pile of crap.

You're not a theist who sneaked on here, are you?

Comment by Homer Edward Price on September 14, 2013 at 4:37pm

Shaun Johnson's thought shows the classic theistic assumption that if something happened, "somebody" had to make it happen. The assumption is that the "somebody" is an anthropomorphic being, having  consciousness and free will like ourselves.  This is the way children think.  It is not the way scientists think.   Children in school should be exposed to real science, not to childish pseudo-science.

Comment by Dorian Moises Mattar on September 14, 2013 at 2:30pm

Shaun, it would seem to me that all animals are conscious, they simply don't possess the brain power to understand things the way we do because consciousness is directly proportional to the brains capacity.

Consciousness therefore is a natural occurrence and had to evolve with time and could not have simply popped into existence.

Comment by Shaun Johnston on September 14, 2013 at 1:51pm

"

I think there is a controversy, but it doesn't involve creationism. It involves how free will and consciousness evolved. If we can be conscious then consciousness can be an agent in the world through other "creatures." And it is only faith in Darwinism that makes some people deny free will--most others experience us as having it. Grant us free will and that too could exist in other agents in the world. To me it seems plausible that the creation (small "c") of conscious creatures like us with free will involved the operation of a process also involving (in some way) conscious and free will of its own.

Isn't that controversial?

 

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