Monday, February 14, 2005

Testing Evolution

Here is a fascinating story about evolution being studied outside its traditional context of organic hydrocarbons. I often wonder why Creationist/Intelligent Design supporters do not stand by their convictions and refuse to use the latest antibiotics. After all the old ones worked well enough in the past. If these microbes can not evolve new traits then there is no reason to use new drugs. Of course they may say (and some have) that when God created these pathogens he gave them all kinds of genes against future medicines but that they only got around to using them after we got complacent. "You give us the word God," say the bacteria "and we will start producing that chemical that disables penicillin. It would have been nice if you had given us the go ahead as soon as the humans started wiping us out. Who's side are you on anyway?"

Many products and pieces of software are being developed via genetic algorithms, which is essentially the same thing as evolution but cleaner and which initially drew the same criticism from designers and programmers as from Creationists (supposedly, you can't get anything new and useful from random changes, no matter how strong the selective pressure is and no matter how many individuals you change and test). With that the case, an I.D./Creationist needs to be careful now and in coming years that he does not accidentally buy something that he does not believe can actually exist.

8 Comments:

At Tue Feb 15, 03:16:00 PM 2005, Blogger Hammertime said...

Apesnake,
I think your concept of creationists' beliefs is entirely stereotypical.

We don't say that nothing useful ever comes from a mutation, nor do we deny the existence of selective pressure. In fact, it is how the 'kind' of animals on the ark came to be the various species we have today.

It is worth your while to learn what the other side actually has to say. Of course, you can find someone who believes the example you put forth - but I can find someone who thinks that 'men came from monkeys'. Neither is representative of the viewpoints of the hypotheses they 'represent'.

 
At Tue Feb 15, 11:51:00 PM 2005, Blogger Apesnake said...

Sometimes when I criticize the creationist view point I pick on the most lame versions the hardest. While that may be somewhat unfair, it is also somewhat justified because the most lame versions are a lot more common than you might think.

I have heard a lot of versions of creationism - young earth, old earth, dinosaurs lived with Adam, dinosaurs lived before Adam, dinosaur fossils were faked by Satan etc. I have never heard of a version of creationism where evolution is true but instead of tracing back to a common single celled ancestor, is traced back Noah's crowded boat full of beasts. This version seems even stranger because for all the genetic diversity seen within each species to emerge since the rainy days, evolution would have to work extremely fast. Haven't creationists always claimed that there has not been enough time for evolution to account for all the diversity in biology? Still, I am pleased to have heard of this new version of creationism. It is sort of like finding a new species of parasite. You are not happy to see it but there is a certain thrill of discovery.

I will leave out the whole discussion of Noah, his supertanker of biology, the prospects for an entire world of incest and inbreeding, his lack of plant life and the difficulties of putting ecosystems back together after catastrophic destruction for a later post.

Thanks for your comment.

 
At Wed Feb 16, 01:06:00 PM 2005, Blogger Eric Grumbles said...

Hey Apesnake, I think you haven't been around enough Deists (like me). You said, "I have never heard of a version of creationism where evolution is true ... ". But that is exactly what I believe. Well, sort of. Maybe?

If "God" exists, I cannot conceive of a being such as he must be that would not follow the rules of the universe he created.

 
At Wed Feb 16, 10:24:00 PM 2005, Blogger Apesnake said...

"If "God" exists, I cannot conceive of a being such as he must be that would not follow the rules of the universe he created."I agree and that seems to be an important point for Deism which Dictionary.com defines as:
The belief... in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural revelation.Which is why few deists even Christian deists (many Christians wouldn't call a deist a "true Christian") accept the bible stories as literal events. It is also most probable that very few creationists would describe themselves as deists. This being the case I think I can safely criticize creationists for not believing in evolution even if their are a few deists creationists that do. If fact, since most of what the creationist movement is about is opposing evolution, you might want to rename you version of deist creationism to avoid confusion. You could call yourselves deiationists.

Dei-lightful!

 
At Fri Feb 18, 02:15:00 PM 2005, Blogger Eric Grumbles said...

If you haven't read Carl Sagan's book "Contact" you should. One of the key themes in the book is Intelligent Design and how you would go about proving it. Another key theme is Deism (I realized belatedly that Sagan was like a Deist as well, but because we tend to not proselytize most people think we are atheists or agnostics).

If you haven't read it, it's a great read, and much better than the movie.

 
At Fri Feb 18, 11:31:00 PM 2005, Blogger Apesnake said...

When I was answering your last comment I was thinking I was referring to hammertime, which is why it was confusing me that you would call your self a deist and still have the Ark belief.

Deism, and evolution seem to have no conflict and I personally have no particular problem with deism. I don't see it as necessary to explain the emergence or development of life and there are even some theories of cosmology that would not require a moment of creation. Above that level when you get into whys, what-fors and what-could-be's It is time for science to take a break and let theology have a run around.

As far as Sagan's "Contact", I have not read it. From what I know from biology I would have to say that for Intelligent Design to be true (the soft version where God just kind of taps and tinkers, so there are no Satanic fossils, and young earths to explain) I would have to say this:

In order for soft I.D. theory to be true, given all other observable facts known, God would have had to create a universe that was completely capable of getting to this state on its own and yet decided to not let it progress naturally. Like a parent that refuses to ever let go of the bicycle seat. While this is slightly better than one that is hungry for foreskins and asks his people for war booty, it still would not inspire much worship from me.

I figure that if there is a God, she would probably want us to be atheist or at least, agnostic until she tells us differently. She must appreciate honest appraisals of available evidence over faith for faith's sake. She has yet to tell me I am wrong. I will leave a post if she mentions anything.

Plus the atheist position is more fun. It makes Christians blow smoke out their ears.

 
At Sun Feb 20, 02:45:00 PM 2005, Blogger Eric Grumbles said...

Apesnake, try "Contact" if you're looking for some reasonable Sci Fi reading. The essential idea is that there is a "God" but it is really a race of creatures whose science is so advanced that they could shape the universe itself. As Asimov and Heinlein told us, magic is science that you can't understand. This race then left clues within certain constants of math and the physical universe that would validate that they really existed. Pure speculation of course, but a good read. And it does show us one way to actually prove Intelligent Design.

 
At Mon Feb 21, 08:38:00 AM 2005, Blogger Apesnake said...

It sounds like contact might be an interesting read when I get the time. It sounds, however like the intelligent design it deals with is design of the laws of physics rather than the "intelligent design theory" that Christians and some other religions who are opposed to evolution use which would be better termed "intelligent implementation theory" as it purports there to be some degree of meddling by God or other ner-do-wells in the emergence and development of life. I might be wrong as I have yet to read the book but knowing that Carl Sagan is not known to have been much of an I.D./creationism supporter it might not be a bad bet.

 

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