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Ichthus

The percentage problem

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Curious Christian here - I've been reading The God Delusion - I prefer not to comment, apparently I'm too stupid to understand anything because I'm a Christian. I've nearly finished chapter 4, and I have a question about the argument that evolution works because of a slow ascent of design. Examples given include the eye, where it begins with a very rudimentary semi-form of an eye, and then works its way up 1% of an eye, 2% and so on. No argument from me there, the problem not addressed is the progression from 0% to 0.0000001% of something. So far Richard's argument seems to solely be, "I'm not smart enough to understand this, an almighty God could not possibly be smarter than me, therefore there is no God."

(I know even many atheists think he's an 'arrogant jerk' in their own words, so I'll assume I can get a civil answer to this question from here instead of a Dawkins site.)

Thank you.

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Posted (edited)

Hmm, so to be sure I am not misunderstanding your question, but you wonder how the initial eye development (for instance) would start?

I will give an example (which most likely isn't true, but I feel like it should give a conceptual idea of progression from 0% to 0.0000001%): Let's say we have, through random variation, the first production of a protein which imports calcium through the membrane of the cell. After a while, through more variation this protein is changed ever so slightly and now reacts to light; only letting calcium through after it has been hit by light, this change does not provide any benefit yet but let's now say that high concentrations of calcium lead to inhibition of the movement apparatus, now this organism will move towards light as the movement apparatus on the "dark" side will be more active due to lower amounts of calcium. Maybe places with light have a larger amount of food and this organism will be fitter than its peers. 

That could be a conceptual beginning of the eye, slight changes which lead to more and more complex mechanisms that react to light, with each step of the way increasing the fitness or maintaining the fitness of the organism. Slowly over time this organism may be able to evade predators more easily due to its eye or find food better than without an eye.

Does that answer your question or did I completely miss the mark here?

-Dagl

Edit: fixed sentence

Edited by Dagl1

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As I understand, natural selection is not random changes caused by chance, but mutations that form in response to the environment so that the beneficial mutation has a higher chance of survival therefore produces more offspring. If the mutations do not happen purely by chance, which was Dawkin's whole argument, then why would a mutation form which forces more calcium? And if it does form but isn't in any way beneficial at first, like you say, then why would this mutation that only happens in a single or very small group of organisms survive long enough to evolve through the necessary steps required to become the beginnings of an eye?

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Posted (edited)
13 minutes ago, Ichthus said:

As I understand, natural selection is not random changes caused by chance, but mutations that form in response to the environment so that the beneficial mutation has a higher chance of survival therefore produces more offspring. If the mutations do not happen purely by chance, which was Dawkin's whole argument, then why would a mutation form which forces more calcium? And if it does form but isn't in any way beneficial at first, like you say, then why would this mutation that only happens in a single or very small group of organisms survive long enough to evolve through the necessary steps required to become the beginnings of an eye?

One misunderstanding in how you think of natural selection; Mutations arise randomly (although not entirely with equal chances (some nucleotide's have a larger chance of mutating etc, yet it still remains random)), any mutation which is better for that organism in that environment has a higher chance to spread through the population. The mutations do not form in response to the environment. 

So let's say that I have a stack of cards, if I randomly arrange, then sometimes I will build (part of) a house of cards right? There is no reason why this house of cards has formed, but if it turns out that this configuration is beneficial it will spread.

Mutations can give both benefits and negatives so it is possible for a particular set of mutations to come together. And while over time things that serve no purpose will eventually die off, it doesn't mean that, by chance, an organism with a currently useless feature cannot thrive. 

-Dagl

Edit: I think that a more detailed explanation/discussion is necessary as it most likely is better to walk through the entire thing in more detail but I am currently not in a position to do so (and a little distracted with some other stuff).

Edited by Dagl1

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No. If you randomly arrange cards, then there is absolutely no certainty you will ever get anything more than a mess of cards. I'm sure the blokes on the Mathematics forum can back that one up. 

To clarify - by 'response to the environment' I mean that the environment must dictate in some way what mutations form - for example, mutations leading towards a thick warm fur coat will not help in a desert environment.

The problem I have with Dawkin's argument is that he basis his entire theory on the fact that evolution isn't random, because, using the stack of cards idea, statistically you could rearrange the cards forever and not come up with any meaningful structure. I understand that mutations can be both negative and beneficial, and as you say, this system is based on chance.

27 minutes ago, Dagl1 said:

Mutations can give both benefits and negatives so it is possible for a particular set of mutations to come together. And while over time things that serve no purpose will eventually die off, it doesn't mean that, by chance, an organism with a currently useless feature cannot thrive. 

This doesn't solve the problem of how a useless feature becomes part of the dominant population, and why that useless feature would be one that is passed on, rather than a beneficial mutation. I have no problem with "It all happens by chance" - chance is a possibility, no matter how remote. But my problem with this is accepting one remote possibility as truth, and dismissing another because IT is improbable. And calling it 'logic'.  Surely the scientific view would be that no possible solution can be ruled out?

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Posted (edited)
10 minutes ago, Ichthus said:

No. If you randomly arrange cards, then there is absolutely no certainty you will ever get anything more than a mess of cards. I'm sure the blokes on the Mathematics forum can back that one up. 

To clarify - by 'response to the environment' I mean that the environment must dictate in some way what mutations form - for example, mutations leading towards a thick warm fur coat will not help in a desert environment.

The problem I have with Dawkin's argument is that he basis his entire theory on the fact that evolution isn't random, because, using the stack of cards idea, statistically you could rearrange the cards forever and not come up with any meaningful structure. I understand that mutations can be both negative and beneficial, and as you say, this system is based on chance.

Hmm, can you elaborate, because I don't see why there is no certainty you will ever get anything more than a mess of cards. If I can place any card in any position, and I keep doing this over and over again, then I will eventually reach that house of cards right? 

Regarding the mutations: The word "form" is wrong. The mutations don't form due to adaption to the environment, the mutations form, then they may "stick" in response to the environment.

I don't get the problem but that is maybe because you and I understand the statistics of it differently (see the first point, maybe after elaboration I understand your point better). 
You agree that mutations can arise randomly (right?), then randomly something which reacts to calcium could come to exist right? Which then COULD lead to the conceptual "story" I mentioned in the first post.

-Dagl

Edit: Response to your edit

The point is that the useless feature can tag along for a while, being spread through a population and then gain a function. 
Also I think it is important to note that many functions will be unknown to us, the fact that I can't answer why an increase in calcium is beneficial doesn't meant it isn't there.

Edited by Dagl1

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2 minutes ago, Ichthus said:

No. If you randomly arrange cards, then there is absolutely no certainty you will ever get anything more than a mess of cards. I'm sure the blokes on the Mathematics forum can back that one up.  

Building "house of cards" is too abstract idea.. but how about poker game, in which randomly picked up cards give you: poker, four of a kind, full house, flush etc. etc. It's relatively easy to calculate probability of picking up certain configuration of cards. Majority of time player has nothing interesting, rarely there is configuration that must win, no matter what.

 

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Posted (edited)

Yes, could. If you place cards in any position, you COULD eventually form any shape and order, but it is never a certainty. (This in answer to Dagl)

No, house of cards works better. In poker, you know exactly what the 52 cards are that are in the deck, and how many cards each player holds. This assumes much more certainty than being talked about in evolution. (This to Sensei)

Edited by Ichthus
clarification of who I was answering

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Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, Ichthus said:

Yes, could. If you place cards in any position, you COULD eventually form any shape and order, but it is never a certainty.

Ahh my bad, I was arguing from the assumption that there are basically a near infinite amount of "events" happening and that thus we would almost always see a certain configuration. But I understand your point and see that it is never a certainty (However I don't think that should matter for the evolution debate, as there are enough events happening for us to say that the calcium-pump protein will at some point come to exist right?)

 

4 minutes ago, Sensei said:

Building "house of cards" is too abstract idea.. but how about poker game, in which randomly picked up cards give you: poker, four of a kind, full house, flush etc. etc. It's relatively easy to calculate probability of picking up certain configuration of cards. Majority of time player has nothing interesting, rarely there is configuration that must win, no matter what.

 

Fair enough, thanks for the improvement!

 
Edited by Dagl1

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Posted (edited)

Well, the argument was about evolution theory in the book. Let's just say he's an arrogant jerk who doesn't speak for all people who follow natural selection at all, eh? I was wondering if evolution as a certainty could be explained better, that's all. I love a good science debate - thanks!

(However I don't think that should matter for the evolution debate, as there are enough events happening for us to say that the calcium-pump protein will at some point come to exist right?) 

Er, no. That's the point. it may come to exist, that is a possibility. Saying it 'will' happen is not right.

Edited by Ichthus
added info

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Ichthus said:

As I understand, natural selection is not random changes caused by chance, but mutations that form in response to the environment so that the beneficial mutation has a higher chance of survival therefore produces more offspring.

Mutation is random. Because it is caused by radiation from cosmic rays, radiation from the Sun, UV photons, x-rays, decay of radioactive Carbon C-14, reaction of free radical etc. etc.

If mutation is dramatic, organism dies quickly, unable to reproduce and spread bad gene further to the next generations. That's usually the case.

If mutation is less severe, organism is "left to its fate" in its environment. e.g. white bird is easily visible in green land, so predators can catch it more easily than camouflaged one. But on the snow, it's reversed, where white bird is camouflaged and harder to be caught by predators.

If mutation is even less dramatic, organism can hold it and spread it to the future generations. Or if there is no predators which can make use of inappropriate mutation.

 

4 hours ago, Ichthus said:

And if it does form but isn't in any way beneficial at first, like you say, then why would this mutation that only happens in a single or very small group of organisms survive long enough to evolve through the necessary steps required to become the beginnings of an eye?

It started much earlier than you think. There are single-cell microorganisms and plants which are light-sensitive

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photoreceptor_protein

 

 

Edited by Sensei

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Sensei - the eye was just a hypothetical. There are single-cell microorganisms that are light sensitive - this is a fraction of a percent. The original question was how it goes from 0% to even a fraction of a percent.

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On 3/27/2019 at 6:57 AM, Ichthus said:

To clarify - by 'response to the environment' I mean that the environment must dictate in some way what mutations form - for example, mutations leading towards a thick warm fur coat will not help in a desert environment.

This is wrong. The mutations that occur are not dictated by the environment - the environment may cause more mutations (eg. radiation, toxins, etc) but will not control whether they are favourable or not.

It is selection that "chooses" the mutations that are beneficial or selects against those that are harmful (eg if a mutation produces more hair, then that may aid survival in a cold environment. Or it may hinder survival in a warm environment).

On 3/27/2019 at 6:57 AM, Ichthus said:

No. If you randomly arrange cards, then there is absolutely no certainty you will ever get anything more than a mess of cards. I'm sure the blokes on the Mathematics forum can back that one up. 

You seem to be using the deck of cards analogy to imply that no information can be added by shuffling. It doesn't work like that.

A deck of cards is not a very good example because each card just represents one value. A library full of books that get copied is a better example. A spelling error made when a book is copied could change a word from having one meaning to another. Or copying could duplicate a word, or a sentence, or an entire book. Possibly with some errors. Or one of the copyists could forget a book. Or leave out a sentence or a word (imagine if the word "not" got deleted from a sentence - it would completely change the meaning).

29 minutes ago, Ichthus said:

Sensei - the eye was just a hypothetical. There are single-cell microorganisms that are light sensitive - this is a fraction of a percent. The original question was how it goes from 0% to even a fraction of a percent.

How does a single celled organism go from not being light sensitive to being light sensitive? This could be a single mutation that changes a protein so that it responds to light.

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6 minutes ago, Strange said:

 

This is wrong. The mutations that occur are not dictated by the environment - the environment may cause more mutations (eg. radiation, toxins, etc) but will not control whether they are favourable or not.

It is selection that "chooses" the mutations that are beneficial or selects against those that are harmful (eg if a mutation produces more hair, then that may aid survival in a cold environment. Or it may hinder survival in a warm environment). 

Then mutations are entirely random, tiny changes in genetic code that may do something or nothing at all. That is, you are saying exactly what Dagl said: it is all by chance, which is possible, but is not a certainty.

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27 minutes ago, Ichthus said:

Then mutations are entirely random, tiny changes in genetic code that may do something or nothing at all. That is, you are saying exactly what Dagl said: it is all by chance, which is possible, but is not a certainty.

As Dagl1 also said, it is not completely random: some areas of the genome are more stable than others.

But, yes, the source of variation in the genome is effectively random. A few changes are useful, a few are damaging and most have no great effect. But this may change if the environment changes; which is why a population with greater genetic diversity is more able to cope with environmental changes. Also multiple changes over time may have no effect until one particular change is able to make all the others have a significant effect.

I'm not sure what you mean when you say "which is possible, but is not a certainty". What is not a certainty?

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Sorry Strange! This has gone on a bit. If you look my original post, I was interested in some of Dawkin's claims about the certainty of evolution, you can look at his book if you want to feel embarrassed he represents intellectuals. His claim if that it is not random or by chance at all (Chapter 4). Actually, I don't think he's looked at advances in evolution theory since Darwin's first book.

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22 minutes ago, Ichthus said:

Sorry Strange! This has gone on a bit. If you look my original post, I was interested in some of Dawkin's claims about the certainty of evolution

Well, there is no doubt about evolution. It occurs. This has been known for thousands of years.

What you are asking about is the theory of evolution: ie. the explanation of how it occurs. 

23 minutes ago, Ichthus said:

His claim if that it is not random or by chance at all (Chapter 4)

I will have to take your word for that. I am not interested in reading his book.

23 minutes ago, Ichthus said:

Actually, I don't think he's looked at advances in evolution theory since Darwin's first book.

I doubt that very much. He is (was) a working biologist.

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On 3/27/2019 at 4:25 PM, Ichthus said:

Curious Christian here - I've been reading The God Delusion - I prefer not to comment, apparently I'm too stupid to understand anything because I'm a Christian.

Sounds like self flagellation to me.

Quote

(I know even many atheists think he's an 'arrogant jerk' in their own words, so I'll assume I can get a civil answer to this question from here instead of a Dawkins site.)

Do they? Actually I have never heard any Atheist or reputable scientist say that. Personally, at times he does appear abrasive somewhat, but that can be explained by the stupidity of arguments he is often confronted with re evolution and/or any magical spaghetti monster. I prefer this bloke as far more sedate and pleasing in his style.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag6fH8cU-MU what do you think?

Professor Lawrence Krauss is another whom I like, as well as Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and of course there are many others all with different styles.

 

 

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6 minutes ago, beecee said:

Do they? Actually I have never heard any Atheist or reputable scientist say that.

I might not go as far as "arrogant jerk" but I don't think his views on religion are worth listening to. He should stick to the subjects he knows (biology and evolution).

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3 hours ago, Strange said:

I might not go as far as "arrogant jerk" but I don't think his views on religion are worth listening to. He should stick to the subjects he knows (biology and evolution).

I think belief and faith have much to do with  biology and evolution....for their influence on  direction  in evolutionary terms.  Limitations imposed by faith or belief on  directions that might take

I agree his focus on religious belief  might be missing the mark.

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7 hours ago, naitche said:

I think belief and faith have much to do with  biology and evolution....for their influence on  direction  in evolutionary terms.  Limitations imposed by faith or belief on  directions that might take

That makes no sense. Biology and evolution are scientific disciplines so, even if some people’s research is influenced by their beliefs, the evidence and peer review will not be. 

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Posted (edited)

For the direction those take, Yes. 

Directions not seen because of common beliefs, either won't be taken in the 1st place or that direction  will be blocked by common/environmental expectation.

The direction of humanities Biology and evolution are going to be  influenced by the beliefs Humanity holds.

Belief limits direction.

Edited by naitche

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17 minutes ago, naitche said:

For the direction those take, Yes. 

Directions not seen because of common beliefs, either won't be taken in the 1st place or that direction  will be blocked by common/environmental expectation.

The direction of humanities Biology and evolution are going to be  influenced by the beliefs Humanity holds.

Belief limits direction.

Do you have any evidence for this?

Also, people hold a wide variety of beliefs and opinions so I doubt that has a significant effect.

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Posted (edited)
On 3/28/2019 at 7:44 PM, Ichthus said:

Sensei - the eye was just a hypothetical. There are single-cell microorganisms that are light sensitive - this is a fraction of a percent. The original question was how it goes from 0% to even a fraction of a percent.

Aren't plants absorbing sunlight and transforming energy carried by photons to chemical energy and converting carbon dioxide and water to organic matter. ?. Aren't almost 100% of plants sensitive to light by definition of what is plant?

Do you have some pet-plants? Notice, they are pointing their leafs toward the Sun..

The next step from "being able to detect any light" (from any direction) is to "detect direction of light".. and it's done by covering part of light-sensitive cells from one side.. step by step.. to make spherical object with little hole for light.. If light is illuminating light-sensitive cells inside it, light must pass through hole.. so organism knows direction of light..

Light is photon. Photons have various energies. Majority of photons, majority of light is invisible to human eye. But it is detectable by microorganisms, by animals, and plants. Entire world is flooded by photons. Entire world is flooded by light. Light which is invisible to human eye. Because you would be too much overwhelmed by the amount of light... You would be too much overwhelmed by the amount of data to process.. Too much data cannot be processed.. so there is needed a method of filtering data.. so microwave, infrared photons are ignored..

If somebody would point light-pointer with enough power at your back, you would feel it, and turn back. Light causes increase of temperature of the object. So any cell, any chemical molecule, is light-sensitive.

 

Edited by Sensei

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