IS Forum
Forum Index Register Members List Events Mark Forums Read Help

Go Back   International Skeptics Forum » Reference » Forum Spotlight
 


Welcome to the International Skeptics Forum, where we discuss skepticism, critical thinking, the paranormal and science in a friendly but lively way. You are currently viewing the forum as a guest, which means you are missing out on discussing matters that are of interest to you. Please consider registering so you can gain full use of the forum features and interact with other Members. Registration is simple, fast and free! Click here to register today.
Tags trial , evolution , intelligent design , dover id trial

Reply
Old 22nd November 2005, 08:39 AM   #721
delphi_ote
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,994
Originally Posted by Melendwyr View Post
There are only so many times I can watch someone misstate an argument (either intentionally or unintentionally) before I can't respect the misstater any longer.

Thus far, we've had corrections that didn't apply, restatements that didn't reflect what was said, confusions about the context of the debate, and straight-out lying. We've also experienced the social phenomenon of "Me, too!", which is surprising (and disappointing) for this forum.
"I understand the concept of natural selection." "Me, too!"

I can see why this might disappoint you.

Reproduction is key in the concept of natural selection. It only applies to organisms. The marbles in your bag do not evolve.
delphi_ote is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 08:42 AM   #722
Mercutio
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 16,279
Originally Posted by Melendwyr View Post
... those situations do indeed involve natural selection, although those aspects were not presented in the cartoon.

Natural selection is anything in an environment that causes traits to take on differential viability or persistance - the phrase is really an abbreviation for "natural selection of traits or properties", after all.

Evolution (in the specialized sense, not in the most general meaning) occurs as a result of natural selection, although it can have other causes. It is the change in the distribution of traits in a population. The more general sense of the word implies any kind of change, which is how the cartoonist was using it (improperly).
Ok...thanks. I understand your position now. I am afraid I still disagree with you, and unless I am still misunderstanding you, you are indeed using the term differently than I have ever seen.

Natural selection, as the technically defined phrase, requires a population which reproduces and has heritable characteristics. (It does not require that they be "alive"--teddy bears and automobiles are subject to natural selection, both using us as their means of reproduction.) Mother stars do not pass on their fitness to daughter stars (to the best of my knowledge), and (again, to the best of my knowledge) there is no selective advantage passed on to metals, by which we could term them "more reproductively fit". I understand that you are specifically denying that this is a necessary part of "natural selection"; it will take more than your argument to convince me, though. (Again, a start would be the use of the term by scientists other than biologists, in your broad sense rather than as a metaphor derived from the biological definition.)

I am heartened to see that your argument does not mean (as I was initially led to believe) that you thought Wright's cartoon used the term "evolved" in the exact same, and proper, sense in each of his uses. On that, at least, we can agree.
Mercutio is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 08:46 AM   #723
Mercutio
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 16,279
Originally Posted by delphi_ote View Post
Reproduction is key in the concept of natural selection. It only applies to organisms. The marbles in your bag do not evolve.
It does not apply only to organisms. It does apply only to things which reproduce. The process of natural selection can explain the year-to-year evolution of teddy bears (as more fit designs, which sell better, are copied for the next year, and unsuccessful designs go extinct) or automobiles (same process).

Of course, one could argue that these uses are metaphorical. Perhaps, but arguably not. Darwin's summary only requires that the population reproduces and inherits, not that it is alive.
Mercutio is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 08:46 AM   #724
PatKelley
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 608
Originally Posted by Melendwyr View Post
... those situations do indeed involve natural selection, although those aspects were not presented in the cartoon.

Natural selection is anything in an environment that causes traits to take on differential viability or persistance - the phrase is really an abbreviation for "natural selection of traits or properties", after all.

Evolution (in the specialized sense, not in the most general meaning) occurs as a result of natural selection, although it can have other causes. It is the change in the distribution of traits in a population. The more general sense of the word implies any kind of change, which is how the cartoonist was using it (improperly).

Pulling marbles out of an urn blindly is not natural selection, even if it leads to a change in the distribution of urn-marble-traits through random chance. If some marbles are denser than others, and sink to the bottom of the urn, and the marbles atop are more likely to be removed, then that is natural selection, and the marble population is virtually guaranteed to evolve.
The marble population will not evolve. It will experience iterative selection pressure resulting in removal of some traits from the population. It will evolve if a) the marbles replicate and pass traits on to descendants and b) that replication is subject to mutation.
PatKelley is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 09:41 AM   #725
Melendwyr
Master Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,064
Originally Posted by Mercutio View Post
(It does not require that they be "alive"--teddy bears and automobiles are subject to natural selection, both using us as their means of reproduction.)
Neither contain heritable information. It's not the objects themselves which undergo natural selection, but the manufacturers' ideas about what the objects should be like. Those ideas do not reproduce in any conventional sense - rather, the essentially static population of manufacturers' ideas on the subject changes as the individual ideas are modified in response to consumer demand. The selection pressure operates over time, but in determining what ideas will persist, not which ones will reproduce.

Thus, both the ideas and the objects made with their designs evolve, but only the ideas undergo natural selection.

You do agree with me. You just haven't realized it yet.
Melendwyr is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 09:59 AM   #726
sphenisc
Philosopher
 
sphenisc's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 6,018
Is it just me or is just an argument about definitions?

You're all free, along with Humpty Dumpty, to define 'natural selection' anyway you like. If you want to discuss together then I suggest you look up ' The Bumper Book of Biological Words', Wikipedia or whatever other source you can agree on. Otherwise that's it, end of story, there's no point arguing about whose definition's right.
sphenisc is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 10:02 AM   #727
BillHoyt
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 5,758
Originally Posted by delphi_ote View Post
Almost like his argument is falling apart...
Or he's a poseur, or both... That's why I'm ignoring the turkey. His game is fairly apparent to me. I'll leave it to others to determine their individual "fed up" points.
BillHoyt is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 10:04 AM   #728
BillHoyt
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 5,758
Originally Posted by sphenisc View Post
Is it just me or is just an argument about definitions?

You're all free, along with Humpty Dumpty, to define 'natural selection' anyway you like. If you want to discuss together then I suggest you look up ' The Bumper Book of Biological Words', Wikipedia or whatever other source you can agree on. Otherwise that's it, end of story, there's no point arguing about whose definition's right.
Nonsense. Malarky. There is no communication without definitions. This definition was first created by Darwin, and since amended by other biologists. It is not determined by consenus, vote, or any other idiotic bastardization of democratic principlies.
BillHoyt is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 10:10 AM   #729
sphenisc
Philosopher
 
sphenisc's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 6,018
Originally Posted by BillHoyt View Post
Nonsense. Malarky. There is no communication without definitions. This definition was first created by Darwin, and since amended by other biologists. It is not determined by consenus, vote, or any other idiotic bastardization of democratic principlies.
Yes, I see your point BillHoyt, though it might be more convincing if you didn't make up new words to end posts.
sphenisc is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 11:47 AM   #730
PatKelley
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 608
Originally Posted by Melendwyr View Post
Neither contain heritable information. It's not the objects themselves which undergo natural selection, but the manufacturers' ideas about what the objects should be like. Those ideas do not reproduce in any conventional sense - rather, the essentially static population of manufacturers' ideas on the subject changes as the individual ideas are modified in response to consumer demand. The selection pressure operates over time, but in determining what ideas will persist, not which ones will reproduce.

Thus, both the ideas and the objects made with their designs evolve, but only the ideas undergo natural selection.

You do agree with me. You just haven't realized it yet.
Incorrect. The idea or information represents the heritable template of the physical object, that which is passed from generation to generation. It is only subject to selection pressure in the form of expression. Ergo, recessive genes are not subject to selection pressure if they are not expressed, and so can remain in a population. The information is there and heritable, but until it is expressed (via a double-recessive) it is not subject to selection pressure.

The upshot is that it involves expression. Information which has no bearing (no pun intended) on expression does not experience selection pressure. The original concept was that a population of physical objects changing over time represented selection pressure. This is false, no matter how it is expressed (pun intended).
PatKelley is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 11:52 AM   #731
BillHoyt
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 5,758
Originally Posted by PatKelley View Post
Incorrect. The idea or information represents the heritable template of the physical object, that which is passed from generation to generation. It is only subject to selection pressure in the form of expression. Ergo, recessive genes are not subject to selection pressure if they are not expressed, and so can remain in a population. The information is there and heritable, but until it is expressed (via a double-recessive) it is not subject to selection pressure.
Small correction, Pat: this is true for simple dominance, but not true for incomplete dominance.
BillHoyt is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 12:08 PM   #732
Melendwyr
Master Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,064
Originally Posted by PatKelley View Post
Incorrect. The idea or information represents the heritable template of the physical object, that which is passed from generation to generation.
The template is not passed from one generation of objects to another. Again: it's not the objects that are subject to selection pressure. A car that is built or bear that is sewn exists, and people do not go around destroying the ones they don't like - or copying ones they do. People's behavior towards the objects determine the success of the templates - but templates do not reproduce in any conventional sense. They do not recombine. They don't mutate. And people starting new teddy bear or car production lines do not simply copy inherited blueprints.

Quote:
The original concept was that a population of physical objects changing over time represented selection pressure. This is false, no matter how it is expressed (pun intended).
That IS false. The argument is not that a population of physical objects changing over time represents selection pressure. The argument is that the differential viability of the properties of physical objects represents selection pressure.
Melendwyr is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 12:54 PM   #733
PatKelley
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 608
Originally Posted by Melendwyr View Post
The template is not passed from one generation of objects to another. Again: it's not the objects that are subject to selection pressure. A car that is built or bear that is sewn exists, and people do not go around destroying the ones they don't like - or copying ones they do. People's behavior towards the objects determine the success of the templates - but templates do not reproduce in any conventional sense. They do not recombine. They don't mutate. And people starting new teddy bear or car production lines do not simply copy inherited blueprints.
I'm not in the auto industry, but correct me if I am wrong in stating I think engine designs from previous years are not discarded? That popularity drives things like, oh I don't know, a prevalence of SUV designs as gas prices plummeted, and that now that gas prices are high, people are turning away from SUV designs? Don't cars wear out, too? I'm not currently aware of a car with a lifetime warranty, but again, I may be incorrect. Don't most of them run on gasoline too, after the steam designs didn't quite catch on?

And with teddy bears, weren't there a slew of copycats of the whole collectable stuffed toy craze came out? Didn't they stick close to a bear-only model when making color variants?

I must really have been somewhere else the last ten years.

Quote:

That IS false. The argument is not that a population of physical objects changing over time represents selection pressure. The argument is that the differential viability of the properties of physical objects represents selection pressure.
So your argument is not for pebbles in a stream.
PatKelley is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 12:55 PM   #734
PatKelley
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 608
Originally Posted by BillHoyt View Post
Small correction, Pat: this is true for simple dominance, but not true for incomplete dominance.
Thought of including it, but did not want to confuse the issue. Best example I can think of is sickle-cell anemia.
PatKelley is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 01:00 PM   #735
BillHoyt
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 5,758
Originally Posted by PatKelley View Post
Thought of including it, but did not want to confuse the issue. Best example I can think of is sickle-cell anemia.
I thought that might have been the case. There's always a problem with trying to explain something just enough to get the point across versus failing to cover some of the details. Sickle cell anemia is always the first example that pops into my mind as well. (Also a good example of why seemingly deleterious alleles can be maintained in a population.)
BillHoyt is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 04:52 PM   #736
Melendwyr
Master Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,064
Originally Posted by PatKelley View Post
I'm not in the auto industry, but correct me if I am wrong in stating I think engine designs from previous years are not discarded? That popularity drives things like, oh I don't know, a prevalence of SUV designs as gas prices plummeted, and that now that gas prices are high, people are turning away from SUV designs?
It says a great deal that you can't recognize a genuine example of Intelligent Design. (Although whether car manufacturers said be said to be intelligent designs is another matter.)
Melendwyr is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 08:32 PM   #737
delphi_ote
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,994
Quote:
natural selection n. a natural process that results in the survival of individuals or groups best adjusted to the conditions under which they live and that is equally important for the perpetuation of desirable genetic qualities and for the elimination of undesirable ones as these are produced by recombination or mutation of genes
Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary

That's the only definition of that term I've been able to find anywhere (some varations on it, but they all explicitly mention genes or organisms.) Since this is your claim, please cite an authoratative source (i.e. a textbook, a dictionary, an encyclopedia, or the like) that explicity defines the term in another way.

There may well be some analogy between these two concepts, but that does not mean this technical term applies to both.
delphi_ote is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 08:32 PM   #738
Mercutio
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 16,279
Originally Posted by Melendwyr View Post
Neither contain heritable information.
Surely you are not saying that '97 Mustangs do not resemble '96 Mustangs more than they resemble '97 Impalas...I know you are not saying that.
Quote:
It's not the objects themselves which undergo natural selection, but the manufacturers' ideas about what the objects should be like.
Interestingly, the same debate exists in biological organisms--is an organism simply DNA's method of reproducing itself?
Quote:
Those ideas do not reproduce in any conventional sense - rather, the essentially static population of manufacturers' ideas on the subject changes as the individual ideas are modified in response to consumer demand.
Recall, the definition does not specify a method of reproduction. Cars (and teddy bears) are parasitic; they rely on humans for their reproduction.
Quote:
The selection pressure operates over time, but in determining what ideas will persist, not which ones will reproduce.
I have never actually seen an idea. I have seen cars and teddy bears. Their characteristics are selected by consumers. I have yet to see a child prefer a particular bear's idea over another's.
Quote:

Thus, both the ideas and the objects made with their designs evolve, but only the ideas undergo natural selection.
Um....no. Actually, I can see your claim, in the same sense as DNA undergoes selection rather than the whole organism...but in the normal use of the term, I must disagree.
Quote:

You do agree with me. You just haven't realized it yet.
Unless you are saying that stars reproduce, and that daughter stars inherit characteristics from mother stars (likewise for metals)...no. I agree only with the parts of your posts that are right.
Mercutio is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 08:38 PM   #739
delphi_ote
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,994
Originally Posted by Mercutio View Post
It does not apply only to organisms. It does apply only to things which reproduce. The process of natural selection can explain the year-to-year evolution of teddy bears (as more fit designs, which sell better, are copied for the next year, and unsuccessful designs go extinct) or automobiles (same process).

Of course, one could argue that these uses are metaphorical. Perhaps, but arguably not. Darwin's summary only requires that the population reproduces and inherits, not that it is alive.
Teddy bears do not reproduce. Nor do marbles. We could talk about ideas reproducing and being selected, but Dawkins already did that for us.
delphi_ote is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 08:44 PM   #740
Mercutio
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 16,279
Originally Posted by delphi_ote View Post
Teddy bears do not reproduce. Nor do marbles. We could talk about ideas reproducing and being selected, but Dawkins already did that for us.
As I said above, with tongue in cheek, teddy bears reproduce parasitically. They depend on us. Natural selection does not specify a method of reproduction, only that the second generation resemble the first, with some variability. This is certainly the case with teddy bears.

Are teddy bears an imperfect example? Grudgingly, I admit it. Are teddy bears much much closer to an example of natural selection than stars are? Unquestionably.
Mercutio is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 11:12 PM   #741
PatKelley
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 608
Originally Posted by Melendwyr View Post
It says a great deal that you can't recognize a genuine example of Intelligent Design. (Although whether car manufacturers said be said to be intelligent designs is another matter.)
And with that backhanded non-sequitur, I bid you adieu.
PatKelley is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 22nd November 2005, 11:16 PM   #742
delphi_ote
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,994
Originally Posted by Mercutio View Post
As I said above, with tongue in cheek, teddy bears reproduce parasitically. They depend on us. Natural selection does not specify a method of reproduction, only that the second generation resemble the first, with some variability. This is certainly the case with teddy bears.

Are teddy bears an imperfect example? Grudgingly, I admit it. Are teddy bears much much closer to an example of natural selection than stars are? Unquestionably.
I didn't see that the first time around. Hilarious and very Douglas Adams!

You could drive yourself absolutely insane with that idea if you take it to an extreme. Perhaps we are merely slaves to what we think of as inanimate bars of soap, computer parts, and plastic toys. We exist only to produce more refined versions of these things. We don't write books to preserve our thoughts, our thoughts exist only to prod us into producing more and better books. We only have an illusion of utility for these devices. We actually create the uses out of whole cloth to suit the true dominant species of our planet.

Of course, you could also view it as a symbiotic evolution, which gives the image of a child clutching their favorite toy a new poignancy.

Despite your brilliant and humorous analogy, every definition of "natural selection" I can find includes the words "gene" or "organism" or both. It's hogwash!

Unless of course we imagine that the "genes" of the teddy bear exist somehow in our minds... which an interesting concept, actually. We'd also have to come up with an excuse for their being "self replicating." I guess we could say that their utility to us is actually inherent to them and causes their "reproductive system" (us) to make copies of them.

Unfortuantely, the definition of "life" shoots us down again (the definition of "organism" includes the word "living".) It includes "metabolism, growth, reproduction, and response to stimuli or adaptation to the environment originating from within the organism." Teddy bears don't metabolize or grow, and they certainly don't adapt to their enviornment from within.
delphi_ote is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 03:05 AM   #743
Dr Adequate
Banned
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 17,766
Originally Posted by delphi_ote View Post
Perhaps we are merely slaves to what we think of as inanimate bars of soap, computer parts, and plastic toys. We exist only to produce more refined versions of these thing.
DARWIN AMONG THE MACHINES

Sir --- There are few things of which the present generation is more justly proud than of the wonderful improvements which are daily taking place in all sorts of mechanical appliances. And indeed it is matter for great congratulation on many grounds. It is unnecessary to mention these here, for they are sufficiently obvious; our present business lies with considerations which may somewhat tend to humble our pride and to make us think seriously of the future prospects of the human race. If we revert to the earliest primordial types of mechanical life, to the lever, the wedge, the inclined plane, the screw and the pulley, or (for analogy would lead us one step further) to that one primordial type from which all the mechanical kingdom has been developed, we mean to the lever itself, and if we then examine the machinery of the Great Eastern, we find ourselves almost awestruck at the vast development of the mechanical world, at the gigantic strides with which it has advanced in comparison with the slow progress of the animal and vegetable kingdom. We shall find it impossible to refrain from asking ourselves what the end of this mighty movement is to be. In what direction is it tending? What will be its upshot? To give a few imperfect hints towards a solution of these questions is the object of the present letter.

We have used the words "mechanical life," "the mechanical kingdom," "the mechanical world" and so forth, and we have done so advisedly, for as the vegetable kingdom was slowly developed from the mineral, and as in like manner the animal supervened upon the vegetable, so now in these last few ages an entirely new kingdom has sprung up, of which we as yet have only seen what will one day be considered the antediluvian prototypes of the race.

We regret deeply that our knowledge both of natural history and of machinery is too small to enable us to undertake the gigantic task of classifying machines into the genera and sub-genera, species, varieties and sub-varieties, and so forth, of tracing the connecting links between machines of widely different characters, of pointing out how subservience to the use of man has played that part among machines which natural selection has performed in the animal and vegetable kingdoms, of pointing out rudimentary organs which exist in some few machines, feebly developed and perfectly useless, yet serving to mark descent from some ancestral type which has either perished or been modified into some new phase of mechanical existence. We can only point out this field for investigation; it must be followed by others whose education and talents have been of a much higher order than any which we can lay claim to.

Some few hints we have determined to venture upon, though we do so with the profoundest diffidence. Firstly, we would remark that as some of the lowest of the vertebrata attained a far greater size than has descended to their more highly organised living representatives, so a diminution in the size of machines has often attended their development and progress. Take the watch for instance. Examine the beautiful structure of the little animal, watch the intelligent play of the minute members which compose it; yet this little creature is but a development of the cumbrous clocks of the thirteenth century-- it is no deterioration from them. The day may come when clocks, which certainly at the present day are not diminishing in bulk, may be entirely superseded by the universal use of watches, in which case clocks will become extinct like the earlier saurians, while the watch (whose tendency has for some years been rather to decrease in size than the contrary) will remain the only existing type of an extinct race.

The views of machinery which we are thus feebly indicating will suggest the solution of one of the greatest and most mysterious questions of the day. We refer to the question: What sort of creature man's next successor in the supremacy of the earth is likely to be. We have often heard this debated; but it appears to us that we are ourselves creating our own successors; we are daily adding to the beauty and delicacy of their physical organisation; we are daily giving them greater power and supplying by all sorts of ingenious contrivances that self-regulating, self-acting power which will be to them what intellect has been to the human race. In the course of ages we shall find ourselves the inferior race. Inferior in power, inferior in that moral quality of self-control, we shall look up to them as the acme of all that the best and wisest man can ever dare to aim at. No evil passions, no jealousy, no avarice, no impure desires will disturb the serene might of those glorious creatures. Sin, shame, and sorrow will have no place among them. Their minds will be in a state of perpetual calm, the contentment of a spirit that knows no wants, is disturbed by no regrets. Ambition will never torture them. Ingratitude will never cause them the uneasiness of a moment. The guilty conscience, the hope deferred, the pains of exile, the insolence of office, and the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes--these will be entirely unknown to them. If they want "feeding" (by the use of which very word we betray our recognition of them as living organism) they will be attended by patient slaves whose business and interest it will be to see that they shall want for nothing. If they are out of order they will be promptly attended to by physicians who are thoroughly acquainted with their constitutions; if they die, for even these glorious animals will not be exempt from that necessary and universal consummation, they will immediately enter into a new phase of existence, for what machine dies entirely in every part at one and the same instant?

We take it that when the state of things shall have arrived which we have been above attempting to describe, man will have become to the machine what the horse and the dog are to man. He will continue to exist, nay even to improve, and will be probably better off in his state of domestication under the beneficent rule of the machines than he is in his present wild state. We treat our horses, dogs, cattle, and sheep, on the whole, with great kindness; we give them whatever experience teaches us to be best for them, and there can be no doubt that our use of meat has added to the happiness of the lower animals far more than it has detracted from it; in like manner it is reasonable to suppose that the machines will treat us kindly, for their existence is as dependent upon ours as ours is upon the lower animals. They cannot kill us and eat us as we do sheep; they will not only require our services in the parturition of their young (which branch of their economy will remain always in our hands), but also in feeding them, in setting them right when they are sick, and burying their dead or working up their corpses into new machines. It is obvious that if all the animals in Great Britain save man alone were to die, and if at the same time all intercourse with foreign countries were by some sudden catastrophe to be rendered perfectly impossible, it is obvious that under such circumstances the loss of human life would be something fearful to contemplate--in like manner were mankind to cease, the machines would be as badly off or even worse. The fact is that our interests are inseparable from theirs, and theirs from ours. Each race is dependent upon the other for innumerable benefits, and, until the reproductive organs of the machines have been developed in a manner which we are hardly yet able to conceive, they are entirely dependent upon man for even the continuance of their species. It is true that these organs may be ultimately developed, inasmuch as man's interest lies in that direction; there is nothing which our infatuated race would desire more than to see a fertile union between two steam engines; it is true that machinery is even at this present time employed in begetting machinery, in becoming the parent of machines often after its own kind, but the days of flirtation, courtship, and matrimony appear to be very remote, and indeed can hardly be realised by our feeble and imperfect imagination.

Day by day, however, the machines are gaining ground upon us; day by day we are becoming more subservient to them; more men are daily bound down as slaves to tend them, more men are daily devoting the energies of their whole lives to the development of mechanical life. The upshot is simply a question of time, but that the time will come when the machines will hold the real supremacy over the world and its inhabitants is what no person of a truly philosophic mind can for a moment question.

Our opinion is that war to the death should be instantly proclaimed against them. Every machine of every sort should be destroyed by the well-wisher of his species. Let there be no exceptions made, no quarter shown; let us at once go back to the primeval condition of the race. If it be urged that this is impossible under the present condition of human affairs, this at once proves that the mischief is already done, that our servitude has commenced in good earnest, that we have raised a race of beings whom it is beyond our power to destroy, and that we are not only enslaved but are absolutely acquiescent in our bondage.

For the present we shall leave this subject, which we present gratis to the members of the Philosophical Society. Should they consent to avail themselves of the vast field which we have pointed out, we shall endeavour to labour in it ourselves at some future and indefinite period.

I am, Sir, etc., CELLARIUS
Dr Adequate is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 05:23 AM   #744
sphenisc
Philosopher
 
sphenisc's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 6,018
Originally Posted by Dr Adequate View Post
DARWIN AMONG THE MACHINES

Sir --- There are ...[snip].. Should they consent to avail themselves of the vast field which we have pointed out, we shall endeavour to labour in it ourselves at some future and indefinite period.

I am, Sir, etc., CELLARIUS
I'm sure Dr. Adequate meant to credit this piece to Samuel Butler in 'Erehwon'. It necessary to do so, because having read other contributions by DR. A., it's wit, charm, detail and poetry might easily be mistaken as his own.

sphenisc is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 06:55 AM   #745
Melendwyr
Master Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,064
Originally Posted by delphi_ote View Post
Teddy bears do not reproduce. Nor do marbles.
Reproduction is not necessary for the evolution of populations. It most certainly isn't necessary for natural selection to take place.
Melendwyr is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 07:02 AM   #746
Melendwyr
Master Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,064
Originally Posted by Mercutio View Post
Surely you are not saying that '97 Mustangs do not resemble '96 Mustangs more than they resemble '97 Impalas...I know you are not saying that.
Surely you are not saying that '97 Mustangs do not contain periodic crystal structures that encode basic aspects of their functioning, or that the parts of '97's were copied from disassembled parts of '96 Mustangs. I know you are not saying that.

Quote:
Interestingly, the same debate exists in biological organisms--is an organism simply DNA's method of reproducing itself?
Does an oak exist to produce acorns, or do acorns exist to produce oaks?

Quote:
Recall, the definition does not specify a method of reproduction. Cars (and teddy bears) are parasitic; they rely on humans for their reproduction.
Teddy bears do not pass on heritable information. Nor do fires. Or bricks.

Reproduction is not required.

Quote:
I have never actually seen an idea. I have seen cars and teddy bears. Their characteristics are selected by consumers. I have yet to see a child prefer a particular bear's idea over another's.
It's parents whose preferences skew teddy bear populations, not children.

Quote:
Unless you are saying that stars reproduce, and that daughter stars inherit characteristics from mother stars (likewise for metals)...no. I agree only with the parts of your posts that are right.
Again: reproduction is not required. Evolution can take place across generations or across time within a static population. Biology deals with life, and is therefore only concerned with the evolution of life, and reproduction is generally considered to be a necessary attribute of life. That does not mean that reproduction is necessary for evolution.
Melendwyr is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 08:38 AM   #747
PatKelley
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 608
Originally Posted by delphi_ote View Post
I didn't see that the first time around. Hilarious and very Douglas Adams!

You could drive yourself absolutely insane with that idea if you take it to an extreme. Perhaps we are merely slaves to what we think of as inanimate bars of soap, computer parts, and plastic toys. We exist only to produce more refined versions of these things. We don't write books to preserve our thoughts, our thoughts exist only to prod us into producing more and better books. We only have an illusion of utility for these devices. We actually create the uses out of whole cloth to suit the true dominant species of our planet.

Of course, you could also view it as a symbiotic evolution, which gives the image of a child clutching their favorite toy a new poignancy.

Despite your brilliant and humorous analogy, every definition of "natural selection" I can find includes the words "gene" or "organism" or both. It's hogwash!

Unless of course we imagine that the "genes" of the teddy bear exist somehow in our minds... which an interesting concept, actually. We'd also have to come up with an excuse for their being "self replicating." I guess we could say that their utility to us is actually inherent to them and causes their "reproductive system" (us) to make copies of them.

Unfortuantely, the definition of "life" shoots us down again (the definition of "organism" includes the word "living".) It includes "metabolism, growth, reproduction, and response to stimuli or adaptation to the environment originating from within the organism." Teddy bears don't metabolize or grow, and they certainly don't adapt to their enviornment from within.
....eeeeeh - "...adapt to their environment from within" isn't really what happens in biological organisms. The population appears to adapt; but individuals are set and not adaptable in genetics. That's why behavior developed as an adjunct; learned behavior is adaptable, and heritable. It would call into question the status of a virus, which does not metabolize without a host organism, and it has one response: invade host.

What is going on with teddy bears in terms of selection pressure has to do with measuring success in economic terms; more "successful" teddy bears are replicated, less successful ones are not. In this way they are very much viruslike as a meme. A teddy bear meme has no economic selection pressure; expressed as a product, however, some are more successful at invading other hosts. The expressed designs that are popular find new hosts by infecting manufacturing plants, and the cycle begins anew with a modified meme reproducing. The popularity of an expressed meme is its fitness; more fit designs go to infect new plants due to their success in the wild and by consequence more widespread distribution.

I won't get into mimicry and Disney knock-offs...
PatKelley is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 09:19 AM   #748
delphi_ote
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,994
Originally Posted by Melendwyr View Post
It most certainly isn't necessary for natural selection to take place.

Quote:
You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.
Please read the one and only definition of that word and note that it most certainly is required. If you find another definition which you can quote from an authorative source, then we'll talk.

(Please note that your word does not count as an authorative source. Repeating this mantra is not going to convince me.)
delphi_ote is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 09:31 AM   #749
delphi_ote
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,994
Originally Posted by PatKelley View Post
....eeeeeh - "...adapt to their environment from within" isn't really what happens in biological organisms.
Your point is valid there, but I think the problem is more with the wording than with the definition. It seems to me that their intent is to imply that the structures resulting from adaptation are within the organism and can be replicated by the organism.

Of course, there's a only fine line between machines and organisms these days. It wouldn't be beyond our capability to build a machine that self-replicates and is capable of adapting or responding to its enviornment in some way.

Did you expect your silly example Teddy Bear example to spark such an interesting conversation, Mercutio?
delphi_ote is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 09:34 AM   #750
delphi_ote
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,994
Originally Posted by sphenisc View Post
I'm sure Dr. Adequate meant to credit this piece to Samuel Butler in 'Erehwon'. It necessary to do so, because having read other contributions by DR. A., it's wit, charm, detail and poetry might easily be mistaken as his own.

I'll be adding that to my Christmas Break reading list.
delphi_ote is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 09:38 AM   #751
Mercutio
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 16,279
Originally Posted by delphi_ote View Post
Did you expect your silly example Teddy Bear example to spark such an interesting conversation, Mercutio?
It has, every time I have used it before...


Mercutio is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 10:18 AM   #752
PatKelley
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 608
Originally Posted by delphi_ote View Post
Your point is valid there, but I think the problem is more with the wording than with the definition. It seems to me that their intent is to imply that the structures resulting from adaptation are within the organism and can be replicated by the organism.

Of course, there's a only fine line between machines and organisms these days. It wouldn't be beyond our capability to build a machine that self-replicates and is capable of adapting or responding to its enviornment in some way.

Did you expect your silly example Teddy Bear example to spark such an interesting conversation, Mercutio?
Actually, I forgot to mention that copyright law is the artificial mutagen in this case: one wants to replicate as close as possible without actually crossing the line into outright copying. Kind of an artificial mechanism to prevent self-crossing in memes.
PatKelley is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 11:02 AM   #753
Melendwyr
Master Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,064
Originally Posted by delphi_ote View Post
Please read the one and only definition of that word and note that it most certainly is required. If you find another definition which you can quote from an authorative source, then we'll talk.
Ahem: here is the biological definition of the phrase: "The hypothesis that genotype environment interactions occurring at the phenotypic level lead to differential reproductive success of individuals and hence to modification of the gene pool of a population."

From http://www.biology-online.org/search...ural+selection

Reproduction is pretty much the only way that organisms can ensure that their traits can persist, since they have limited lifespans. What's important is the persistance of the traits, not reproduction in itself. Reproduction matters in the biological definition of natural selection because reproduction preserves traits.

In systems where there is no reproduction, there can still be the continuity of traits. Interaction with the environment produces differential viability of those traits, leading to persistance of the most viable. The objects don't need to actually reproduce.

The nature of the selection is the same. The changes of the trait distribution in the population are the same. Reproduction is logically irrelevant to the concept except that it preserves traits.

Randomly taking white and black marbles out of an urn does not lead to the evolution of the marble population. If the white marbles were denser, they'd tend to sink to the bottom. Since the marbles near the top are more likely to be taken out, the supposedly "random" selection would be exerting a selection pressure on the population, and the population would evolve.

Repeating the truly random selection experiment many times, we'd see that the results would average out: the times more blacks were removed than whiles would be roughly equal to the times more whites were removed than blacks. Even if there were a temporary statistical aberration, as the number of trials increased, it would tend to be smoothed out.

With the density difference, we'd get a fairly consistent change in the distribution. The more trials we carried out, the clearer this difference would be.

It's natural selection acting upon an unliving population.
Melendwyr is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 12:40 PM   #754
Dr Adequate
Banned
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 17,766
Originally Posted by sphenisc View Post
I'm sure Dr. Adequate meant to credit this piece to Samuel Butler in 'Erehwon'. It necessary to do so, because having read other contributions by DR. A., it's wit, charm, detail and poetry might easily be mistaken as his own.
I'm blushing. But no, though it galls me to admit it, I didn't write Erewhon.

The quotation is actually from the Canterbury Pieces: Butler recycled the idea in Erewhon.
______________________________

Delphi --- Erewhon is available here, though arguably the first edition is superior to the second, if you can find it.

The section on Musical Banks (Chapter XV) has to be the best satire on religion ever written.
Dr Adequate is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 02:36 PM   #755
delphi_ote
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,994
Originally Posted by Melendwyr View Post
Ahem: here is the biological definition of the phrase: "The hypothesis that genotype environment interactions occurring at the phenotypic level lead to differential reproductive success of individuals and hence to modification of the gene pool of a population."

From http://www.biology-online.org/search...ural+selection

Reproduction is pretty much the only way that organisms can ensure that their traits can persist, since they have limited lifespans. What's important is the persistance of the traits, not reproduction in itself. Reproduction matters in the biological definition of natural selection because reproduction preserves traits.

In systems where there is no reproduction, there can still be the continuity of traits. Interaction with the environment produces differential viability of those traits, leading to persistance of the most viable. The objects don't need to actually reproduce.

The nature of the selection is the same. The changes of the trait distribution in the population are the same. Reproduction is logically irrelevant to the concept except that it preserves traits.

Randomly taking white and black marbles out of an urn does not lead to the evolution of the marble population. If the white marbles were denser, they'd tend to sink to the bottom. Since the marbles near the top are more likely to be taken out, the supposedly "random" selection would be exerting a selection pressure on the population, and the population would evolve.

Repeating the truly random selection experiment many times, we'd see that the results would average out: the times more blacks were removed than whiles would be roughly equal to the times more whites were removed than blacks. Even if there were a temporary statistical aberration, as the number of trials increased, it would tend to be smoothed out.

With the density difference, we'd get a fairly consistent change in the distribution. The more trials we carried out, the clearer this difference would be.

It's natural selection acting upon an unliving population.
Reproduction is in the definition you cite. You can try to dance around that fact by calling it irrelevant. It is actually highly relevant. Please show me a definition which does not include reference to organisms, genes, or reproduction. You are still making up your own words. As I said before...

(Please note that your word does not count as an authorative source. Repeating this mantra is not going to convince me.)
delphi_ote is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 04:42 PM   #756
Mercutio
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 16,279
Originally Posted by delphi_ote View Post
Reproduction is in the definition you cite. You can try to dance around that fact by calling it irrelevant. It is actually highly relevant. Please show me a definition which does not include reference to organisms, genes, or reproduction. You are still making up your own words. As I said before...

(Please note that your word does not count as an authorative source. Repeating this mantra is not going to convince me.)
[minor quibble] Genes, if memory serves, were not known when Darwin proposed Natural Selection. The modern synthesis includes them (again, flying without notes here, so if my vocabulary is off, I apologize in advance), but they are not a necessary part of the theory. Reproduction with heritability is necessary; genes happen to be our particular mechanism. [/minor quibble]
Mercutio is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 06:33 PM   #757
delphi_ote
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,994
Originally Posted by Mercutio View Post
[minor quibble] Genes, if memory serves, were not known when Darwin proposed Natural Selection. The modern synthesis includes them (again, flying without notes here, so if my vocabulary is off, I apologize in advance), but they are not a necessary part of the theory. Reproduction with heritability is necessary; genes happen to be our particular mechanism. [/minor quibble]
You're absolutely correct, but some definitions I've found in modern textbooks directly refer to genes instead of reproduction with heritability. I just wanted to make a broad enough statement to cover every definition I know for the term.
delphi_ote is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 06:44 PM   #758
Melendwyr
Master Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,064
Originally Posted by delphi_ote View Post
Reproduction is in the definition you cite.
Well, yeah. I have to count on your ability to understand that the concept is broader than just biology, even though biology speaks of it in terms of the things it studies.

I can demonstrate that a thing looks like a duck, acts like a duck, smells, tastes, and feels like a duck, has the chemical composition of a duck, and possesses all of the physical and biological properties of a duck. You're the one who has to acknowledge it's a duck.

Clearly that is not going to happen.
Melendwyr is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 07:28 PM   #759
Mercutio
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 16,279
Originally Posted by Melendwyr View Post
Well, yeah. I have to count on your ability to understand that the concept is broader than just biology, even though biology speaks of it in terms of the things it studies.
This continues to be your assertion, in the face of even your own cited definition.

I am very serious that I would like to see a source for a definition as broad as yours. Absent that, we have a total of one source--you--making this claim.
Mercutio is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 23rd November 2005, 07:46 PM   #760
Melendwyr
Master Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,064
Originally Posted by Mercutio View Post
This continues to be your assertion, in the face of even your own cited definition.
That definition is from the context of biology! The field excludes everything non-living.

Quote:
I am very serious that I would like to see a source for a definition as broad as yours. Absent that, we have a total of one source--you--making this claim.
Please, explain to me why an environmental pressure that impacts upon certain traits more than others and results in a change in the trait distribution of a population should not be called an instance of natural selection. You're the one saying that the duck should be called a moose, and demanding an authoritative source to explain why the quacking, feathered, aquatic bird shouldn't be called a moose.
Melendwyr is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Reply

International Skeptics Forum » Reference » Forum Spotlight

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 05:23 AM.
Powered by vBulletin. Copyright ©2000 - 2024, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

This forum began as part of the James Randi Education Foundation (JREF). However, the forum now exists as
an independent entity with no affiliation with or endorsement by the JREF, including the section in reference to "JREF" topics.

Disclaimer: Messages posted in the Forum are solely the opinion of their authors.