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Posts Tagged ‘evolution’

Humans by our very nature really don’t understand what random chance means, still let me provide an introduction to the topic. What set of numbers are more likely to win the lottery you can pick either 7 13 17 23 32 41 or 1 2 3 4 5 6? Ok you might try to catch me out here, but be honest the first set of numbers, at least to most people, would be considered to more likely be the winning lottery numbers even though both sets have an equal chance of winning. They are statistically equal in their likeliness although most people would pick the first set as a less risky and more likely to win than the second set of numbers. I was introduced to randomness by a lecturer who got the whole room to put 20 random dots on a blank piece of paper, being of course a lecturer in psychology the results were rather predictable, either the dots where all in one corner of the paper or pretty much equally spaced throughout the page. No one decided that randomness would result in all 20 dots being in the same position or that they could be clusters. In all humans have a hard time understanding what random really means, this is much like evolution in many ways.

evolution vs creationI recently got hold of a magazine named “Creation or Evolution” produced by the United Church of God, which has members across the world [EV/0511/1.1], although there are a lot of things which I object too I will pick the one I am most confused by. Overall the whole thing directs you to either the acceptance of either creation or the blind chance of lucky accidents which is cheerfully named ‘evolution’. I‘m sure I will talk about some of the other issues that came to me while reading this magazine at another time, still statements like Blind chance and this, which I will quote confused me greatly: “..upon thousands of lucky chance mutations happened coincidentally so that the lens [and the eye could work]..” Now I understand that it has been argued that the eye could have only come to existence if the whole thing came about at the same time, this is not the issue that I want to focus on really and since many scientists have already discussed this I will settle with talking about blind chance of evolution and natural selection. Natural selection has never been the same as blind chance. Chance is the idea that you gain something positive from random events or possible events that could occur; it is in effect the end result of randomness. Blind is also a puzzling word in this sense it is the unguided and unthought-of process that we happen to follow, there are no rules and whatever happens just happens. So according to the United Church of God evolution is the result of an unguided random process that just happened to produce the living things that we can see today, is that a true reflection of evolution?

Well the answer is a little no here – around half of all pregnancies in humans result in the natural abortion of the embryo or fetus which is the consequence of abnormalities, where maladaptive combinations or growth results in it simply not working. Extra or missing genetic material can also lead to natural abortion. The human body and indeed most other living things will not bare or produce young if there is not a strict following of the rules which allow for the normal growth of the embryo or fetus. Only smaller variations will result in successful birth of young, if there is something really wrong with the genetics then it will never end in successful reproduction. In this way the occurred changes must be more gradual and build up over time. Darwin never really discussed this quite like that, still this is not an unguided process, and the laws of nature provide the rules in which adaption must take place. This also means that randomness is excluded since abnormalities of genetic combination have to take place within this process. The conclusion here is that natural selection is not an unguided or random process.

Well the answer is a big no here – there is one big condition that exists within the theory of evolution, that is environment is the most important factor in the development of species, living things must be able to live and survive in the environment that they are born into otherwise they will not bare young and the species will die. Darwin called this process adaptive, this implies that there is some intelligence to the change which there is not; its more like the environment is changing & developing and the resulting effect are successful changes within a line of ancestors resulting in successful reproduction. This is how we got to the level of many species on earth; it’s the changing environment which includes things like the temperature, oxygen level and also the level of food available. The slow change is the creator of species and anything that counteracts successful living in a particular the environments means the likelihood of a successful survival is diminished. Since the environment governs natural selection, natural selection is therefore, not a random and unguided process. It has specific rules.

Let’s now turn to the building up process, I said before I don’t really want to discuss the eye so I will just give you an outline to how such things as eyes or anything else can build up over time. This from Richard Dawkins book the blind watchmaker, he provides an interesting and powerful analogy; let us take the case of a monkey through random chance being able to type the sentence ‘Methinks it is like a Weasel’, the odds of the monkey being able to do that successfully are so unlikely I can’t even count the zeros. Needless to say it is very unlikely to happen within 100 years of non-stop monkey typing. This is effectively what the United Church of God is suggesting and thus the argument of natural selection having odds for success which is far past me being able to write all the zeros down in my life time. Now let’s use the true non-random and guided process of evolution to suggest that every time the monkey gets a letter right, it works and therefore, it stays. So the first letter of ‘Methinks it is like a Weasel’ is M – since it’s a successful letter, it works in the sentence and the M stays; this is a 1in27 chance of the monkey hitting the M key (26 letters and the space bar). At some point the monkey will hit the second letter E since this is again successful it will also stay, the odds of that happening is 1in27 by 1in27. Each time the monkey gets a letter right it stays and the odds & necessary time for the whole sentence to be completed is reduced significantly, rather than millions of years perhaps a few weeks of non-stop monkey typing. This is how natural selection works by each successful change adding up over time to create an overall successful difference, each change being governed by rules of success.

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So when creationists argue that Coelacanth fish which was found recently although thought to be extinct 70 million years ago thus proving evolution is therefore wrong, we can simply argue that the main condition of evolution, being that of environmental change being the driving force, was not present for these populations of fish. Crocodiles are thought to be around 200 million years old overlapping with the dinosaurs that became extinct 65 million years ago. Why did the Coelacanth and Crocodiles survive all this time? The answer is once again this was not random chance. Both are suited for their environments, they are so well adapted that they have not changed, any change would be of negative effect and such variations are less suited so they have pretty much stayed the same. Random chance plays very little in the particulars of evolution and natural selection, so the conclusion that random or blind chance has anything to do with it is always a wrong assumption. We must reject this notion of blind chance!

A little more on this matter…

I’ve found a blog post that deals with some of the other issues that tends to pop up in regards to evolution, in particular the writer addressed some of the common anti-evolution ideas that are around. I like the idea that the blogger suggests that most creationists that become critics of evolution have never actually studied biology in any form. Great blog post read it here:

http://naontiotami.wordpress.com/2008/05/17/revolution-against-evolution-the-limits-of-microevolution/

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EarthI was listening to a recently filmed debate and the idea came across that the earth was designed; this was presented by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. These are the things he mentions, which I have heard before, I would like to summarize them; if the earth were a little closer or further away, then the earth would freeze or boil. If the earth was not tilted then massive ice mountains would build up, drawing the water away from large parts of the world creating deserts. If the earth did not rotate at the 1000mph, rather at a slower 100mph then the days would burn everything alive and the night would freeze the same life. If the moon was a little closer then the tides would flood all the land. If the oceans where deeper it would absorb all the carbon dioxide making plant life impossible. If the atmosphere was a little thinner then meteors would fall to earth and cause vast devastation and if water did not expand when it freezes the fish in the seas would die. I agree with all of this, however, I disagree that this should be used in the case to support the idea of the Earth being designed for the life. This is not a religious debate, rather a reasoned one. The designed Earth statement means that it would be the result of a designer that knew what life required and then created the Earth for the purpose, even if the designer was nature.

What is to say that if one of these things changed that there would be no life on earth? Of course, there would be differences between the life that we know and the life that would have existed, that is a given in these new set of circumstances. The earth as we know is a perfect place for life and that life can be found almost anywhere on the planet. If we take the statement the earth is designed for life, let’s put that into a deductive model so we can see what we have:

The Earth was designed for Life.
Only Earth (or Earth like planets) has the ability to support life.
Life can only exist on the Earth or Earth like planets.

All we need is to find life that does not exist on earth, to show that environments unlike Earth’s can support living things and from that we can take the earth was not designed for life, since other places that are not like the earth has life on them. As soon as life not from earth exists then we either have to reject the idea of a designed earth or we have to consider that other planets or places in the universe are also designed. It just happens that the ‘unique’ set of circumstances makes the earth a successful place for life , being successful is different from the notion of a designed earth. Carolyn Porco discusses the idea that one of Saturn’s moons Enceladus has the three building blocks of creation; liquid water, organic materials and heat. This was discovered via the last probe that went passed the moon and in theory it is possible that life on Enceladus is completely achievable. This moon has the right environment for the life as we know it to exist. If it is later discovered that there is life on Enceladus, which would most likely be in the form of micro organisms, then that would prove false the statement the Earth is designed for life and we would have to rethink the statement to produce something like the earth and other places are designed for life. Or it would be equally likely that the statement some places in the universe have a greater likelihood of life depending on certain factors, would be an acceptable replacement. This is not design but rather chance and a certain possibility considering the size of the galaxy.

It is interesting that if life on Enceladus is found, where would this leave the idea of evolution as a scientific theory? I think that it would support the idea strongly, once we have removed the idea of the Earth being designed for life we are left with the notion that life is designed for the earth, even if we assume that the Earth is such a great place for life, then nothing better than evolution explains both this life in two places in our solar system.

I cannot wait until the next mission to Enceladus!

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* This is not the original video but it has the same gist

I have already done the Christians so it is only fair that I comment about this Muslim man as well. Mr Zakir Naik makes me very angry in so many ways; I don’t recognise his Dr as he does not deserve it. He might be a doctor but someone only deserves that honour when they are not so faulty in their understanding of the world. This man is not in the real world and once again the agenda that he is trying to present is more than clear. I will once again put the general statements in blue with my reaction afterwards. Watch the video before you read the comments, even if it’s only for the first couple of minutes or you will not understand my reaction to it.

Rape should first be dealt with by men averting their gaze, and then covering women up and finally Capital punishment. America should adopt Islamic law to stop rape. – Let me say that this is messed up in all respects, to start off with a logic problem; Naik argues that America suffers from more rape victims than countries with Islamic law like Pakistan. The population of Pakistan is 164 million; the population of America is 301 million so of course there are going to be twice as much of everything because there are almost twice as many people. Pakistan is a country where women can be sentenced to gang rape for a brother’s crime (cited in Hitchens – god is not great and here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4322021.stm). Rape Victims are the ones who are punished for being rape against their will, they did nothing wrong (cited here: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0DE6D81E39F934A25756C0A9649C8B63). They don’t listen to rape victims because it is against Islamic law (cited here: http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/006808.php) Why would women report being raped when they could suffer not only under the protection of the state but also punished for it by their society? They would not and this means that the level of reported rape in Pakistan is not a true reflection of rape that occurs.

Women should not be forced to cover up; if men are the ones that rape women then it is men who need to be forced to do things not women. Since we have already discussed why women covering up, as is required in Pakistan, does not stop rape it should never be used as a method of prevention. If you want to make the case for women covering up then don’t base it on these grounds. As for capital punishment he is wrong, America also performs this act against its people. The problem with it, is that it is clear that capital punishment does not work, so if the reason for capital punishment is to get your own back on people that have wronged you then it should be accepted, if you think that it stops crime then there is a body of evidence that goes against this. I don’t want to over cite the evidence, still it is the case from a large body of research. I think that it is wrong but that is my personal opinion. So would I rather live in America where rape is a crime and the state/society punishes the person committing the crime? Or would I prefer to live in Pakistan where the issue of rape is hidden, not discussed and ultimately not dealt with? The answer is America.

Islam is the best way of life; Islamic law achieves good things – See above! I am not saying that Muslim people cannot do good things but at its core, Islamic law does not protect good people. Zakir Naik is not doing a good thing here on the grounds that the more time & energy there is in moving away from the truths of an issue the less time & energy we spend dealing with the issues that we as societies need to address. I will simply say here that if the statement “Islamic law achieves good things” is true, then we only need to find one event where it does not achieve good things for the statement to be proven false. I have given the evidence that proves this statement false. I can accept that Islamic law can achieve good things sometimes, but that is a completely different statement and has a completely different meaning to what Naik illustrates for us.

Atheists have become atheist because they believe in science and technology – Umm… No! After Naik’s statements about atheists he goes on to talk about how science is represented in Koran, that is a different debate although I will acknowledge those fact as being true, I don’t have evidence to say it is wrong at this time. I don’t agree with his idea of science and the use of his metaphor of creation. Still speaking as an atheist, even though I don’t speak for the group, I never became an atheist because of science and technology. I rejected religion because I believe it is not true, it does little to explain things in the world. I rejected religion because it does harm, so many things have been done in the name of religion to which religion never has to answer for. I reject religion not because it has been replaced with science and technology but personal experience and reason. To be an atheist is not to accept science, atheism does not equal science. To be an atheist does not mean you believe in evolution. Atheism is non-belief and it should never be confused with belief of anything non-religious. Atheism is the rejection of theology, Evolution is a scientific theory.

These are the reasons why Zakir Naik is wrong and why he does not understand the world.

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