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We have no problem with creationists coming over, we have a problem with creationists claiming their claims are scientific, when they refuse to follow the scientific method and insist on belittling science and overusing logical fallacies.

 

See, we're a science forum, and we have rules of conduct. The fact creationists keep showing they're unable to follow the scientific method (and obey our rules) doesn't mean we will prevent ALL creationists from proving themselves unique in that aspect.

 

~moo

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It does not have to. From Merriam-Webster: "2c:to devise for a specific function or end" Nothing about consciousness here. An algorithm can (and does with NS) do the "devising". Here you are insisting on sticking with a preconceived idea. Discard that pre-Darwinian idea that design must mean an intelligent entity doing the designing.

 

From Merriam-Webster: "Devise: 1 : invent, 2: plot". You are postulating that a non-conscious entity can "devise", and that evolution has a "specific function or end." I think you are stretching the definitions of terms past their breaking point. We cannot have communication through language unless you and I can each understand a word to have a particular meaning, and to agree on that meaning. You keep insisting on using terms that, at least to me (and I think to most others here) imply the action of an intelligence. To design (v) requires planning, a consciously thought-out series of steps. A design (n) is the result of designing. Natural selection is a natural process, incapable of planning, goals, or design. NS results in structures, but not designs.

 

To me, the word "design" necessarily implies a conscious, intelligent "designer". You seem intent on insisting otherwise, and I am baffled as to why. You are conflating "design" with structure.

 

Sedimentary rocks have structure. Crystals have structure. They do not, in general, have design, and we do not talk, for example, of a river having "designed" a bed of sedimentary rocks by delivering silt of differing compositions. Similarly, although we humans can program a genetic algorithm and use an analog of natural selection (by definition, it is artificial selection) to design an end result, it is the fact that a conscious, presumably intelligent human is using selection as a tool that justifies use of the verb "design." The algorithm itself does not "design", although it may generate useful structure.

 

And here you are giving in to the IDers. I prefer to do good science and ignore what the IDers want to do. I refuse to let them dictate the terms I use.

 

Considering the abominable percentage of the population that believes in Ignorant Drivel, I think it is foolish to ignore them. How many politicians espouse fundamentalist/ID views? How many have influence over how much is spent for research, and in what fields? I think it is a very bad idea to adopt the terms that IDers use, while giving them different meanings. Much better to adopt clearly different terms, and clearly distinguish what you mean. Otherwise, you are misleading those who read this forum and have not yet learned to think clearly about the mechanisms of evolution.

 

Basically, GDG, you have just made the basic claim of ID. That is the central claim of ID: that NS is incapable of design. What you try to do is say "there is no design", but that simply will not work. I suggest you read some history about this (but you did not read Dennett, did you?). Paley made the basic Argument from Design in his Natural Theology. Darwin knew that an acceptable theory of evolution was impossible unless there was a process that produced the designs in living organisms. Lamarck's attempt was use/disuse. Darwin's was NS. Take away NS as a means of producing design and you are saying that ID is correct.

 

Far from it. I reject your misleading use of the term "design", not the fact of evolution and natural selection. Natural selection results in structure, not design. Most of us, both scientists and general population, consider the term "design" to require planning and intelligence. As far as I can tell, you alone want to redefine it. I can't agree that your redefinition of "design" is useful, and think it leads to a great deal of misunderstanding and miscommunication. If Dennet thinks we should call this "design", I'll have to disagree with him too. Just because he is published does not make him correct.

 

Not at all. You are stuck in your pre-conception of the terms.

 

Or to put it another way, I am insisting on ascribing the accepted definitions to the words I use. You haven't shown me any common definition that supports your reformulation of the terms.

 

That is the result of fitness. Look how Darwin phrased it: "I think it would be a most extraordinary fact if no variation ever had occurred useful to each beings welfare, in the same way as so many variations have occured useful to man. But if variations useful to any organic being do occur, assuredly individuals thus characterized will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life;" Because a variation is "fit", then the individual possessing it will have reproductive success. What you have done is turn NS around and put the cart before the horse. Because of the result, we have an objective means of measuring "fitness". Fitness is the ratio of the progeny actually produced to the progeny expected from Mendelian inheritance. This allows us to avoid the tautology: the fittest survive; we know the fittest because they survive.

 

You cannot tell what "fitness" is until you look at the success of a particular phenotype in the population. For example, animal X may have a mutation that causes it to bear 4X the wild type number of offspring. Is that fit? You cannot tell: it may be that the resulting offspring do not survive to maturity, or that the mother is so taxed that she expires instead of bearing several more litters. And the mutation may be far more subtle: perhaps the ability to metabolize lactose in adulthood, which may not confer a benefit until food supplies run scarce, and those that can drink milk have a benefit. "Fitness" is what worked.

 

Then how do you get organs that have a function/purpose? How did legs for running, eyes for seeing, biochemical cascade for blood clotting, etc. arise? These are designs. If they did not come about by natural selection, how did they arise?

 

They are structures that evolved. They are not "designs": they were not "designed."

 

Look what I said again: "That is the reductionist definition of "changes in allele frequency through time". But that is NOT the essence of natural selection. After all, genetic drift will have some organisms reproducing more successfully and will dominate. "

 

Changes in allele frequency through time is NOT the essence of natural selection. Genetic drift will do the same. But genetic drift does not produce eyes, blood clotting systems, placentas, etc. Stick to the conversation. Genetic drift can alter small populations. But the characteristics do not necessarily have anything to do with "fitness". Deleterious traits can be fixed by genetic drift. So, you tried to give a definition of NS which misses the essential features of NS. I called you on it.

 

Genetic drift is not natural selection, true: instead of selection based upon survival/reproductive fitness, you have selection based on random chance. It is still an evolutionary process. Technically, NS by itself does not produce eyes, blood clotting systems, etc. either: for that, you need descent with variation.

 

Are you sure you are not an IDer in disguise? This is another favorite IDer argument: NS is a tautology. But NS is not a tautology. You stated that "individuals with that variation benefit". How do they benefit? By doing better in the competition for scarce resources. Why do they do better? Because the variation is a better design for the purpose/function of getting scarce resources. Design.

 

Yep, positive. Considering who is pushing "design" here, and who objects, I think it clear that the stealth IDer is not me.

 

Take another look at what you are mis-quoting. I did not say that NS was a tautology: I said that "individuals with a useful variation benefit" is a tautology. The variation is useful because they benefit: they benefit because it was useful. If they did not benefit, it would not have been a useful variation, and vice versa. The problem is that not all variations are obviously "useful".

 

"We" haven't. You and a subset of molecular biologists have. I am saying that you (plural) are in error. Again, enhanced differential reproduction is a (just one of many) results of having that better design. But we haven't "defined" useful to mean that. In the work of the Grants on beak size in Galapagos finches, "useful" was not "defined" in terms of "reproduce more successfully". Instead, it was defined as better able to crack larger seeds. In the study on peppered moths, "useful" was "defined" in terms of being better able to avoid predators.

 

Look what I bolded. Even you acknowledge that reproductive success is a result of "useful". The variation has to be useful for something other than just reproduction.

 

If the variation does not have an effect on reproductive success, it will not be selected. Other than that, the bottom line is that it does not much matter what the variation is. Whether or not it was beneficial can really be determined only in retrospect.

 

Now some other points:

 

1. In evolutionary biology "random" means "random with respect to the needs of the individual or population". In an environment getting warmer, just as many deer will be born with longer fur as shorter fur. But only the shorter fur is "useful". So you have selection of the animals with shorter fur.

 

2. If the variation is neutral (not lethal or detrimental but not beneficial), it can still come to dominate. That is genetic drift. In fact, over time the variation has a 50% chance of being eliminated and a 50% chance of being fixed.

 

3. The process you descibe is design. It is designing a population for that particular environment. It is picking those designs thrown up by "random" variation that do better in that particular environment.

 

Again, I suggest that the term "design" carries conotations that are the opposite of what we intend. Thus, the term "design" is poorly selected.

 

The problem is not in the way that evolution and natural selection work: it is in your insistence on using terms that imply the action of an intelligence, like "design", "purpose", and "goal."

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From Merriam-Webster: "Devise: 1 : invent, 2: plot". You are postulating that a non-conscious entity can "devise", and that evolution has a "specific function or end."

 

That part of the definition does not apply. Altho, come to think of it, Darwinian selection has invented, and evolutionary biologists do refer to evolution as "inventing" structures.

 

No, I am not saying that evolution has a "specific function or end". I am saying that natural selection has a short term goal: designing the population to fit the current environment. Don't put words into my mouth. Evolution and natural selection are not synonymous. Nor is there an specific short term goal as getting a specific design.

 

You keep insisting on using terms that, at least to me (and I think to most others here) imply the action of an intelligence. To design (v) requires planning, a consciously thought-out series of steps.

 

I am asking you to shed your implications; they are erroneous. Design does not mandate an intelligence. Look at what natural selection IS. As you noted, it is an algorithm. That is, it is a series of steps that, if followed by a servile dunce, is guaranteed to yield a result. In this case the guaranteed result of natural selection is design.

 

NS results in structures, but not designs.

 

And you are seriously going to try to tell people that an eye is a structure and not a design? Riiiiggghht. Are you then going to try to sell them a bridge? Perhaps you will try Dawkins' approach and try to use the word "designoid". Instead I am asking you to do what Darwin did: face the problem squarely. Living organisms have designs in them. How did those designs get there? Are they the result of being manufactured by an intelligent entity? Or are they the result of an algorithm? They are the result of an algorithm.

 

To me, the word "design" necessarily implies a conscious, intelligent "designer".

 

Then shed your preconceptions. That is what you are supposed to do when doing science. Is that "necessarily" really necessary. NO! You seem intent on insisting otherwise, and I am baffled as to why. You are conflating "design" with structure.

 

Similarly, although we humans can program a genetic algorithm and use an analog of natural selection (by definition, it is artificial selection) to design an end result, it is the fact that a conscious, presumably intelligent human is using selection as a tool that justifies use of the verb "design." The algorithm itself does not "design", although it may generate useful structure.

 

Sorry, but the algorithm DOES design. When an intelligence designs, he knows exactly what each part is for in the overall design, does he not? Whoever heard of a watchmaker who doesn't know how the watch works? But when humans use Darwinian selection to design (and natural and artificial selection are just aspects of Darwinian selection), they don't know how the design works. What's more, structures are not all that result. Instead, one result is a program that can beat the human checkers champ at checkers. The program has whole sections of code that the human who set up the Darwinian selection cannot figure out what it does. Or in another example there is a circuit that can discriminate between verbal commands. What's more, the people using Darwinian selection speak of the algorithm as doing the designing:

"So it's not told anything about what's good and what's bad or how it achieves the behavior. Evolution just plays around making changes, and if the changes produce an improvement, then fine. It doesn't matter whether it's chang-ing the circuit design or using just about any weird, subtle bit of physics that might be going on. The only thing that matters to evolution is the overall behavior. This means you can explore all kinds of ways of building things that are completely be-yond the scope of conventional methods. I allow evolution to write all the design rules." Brian Thompson in Evolving A Conscious Machine BY Gary Taubes Discover 19: 72-79, July 1998

 

Considering the abominable percentage of the population that believes in Ignorant Drivel, I think it is foolish to ignore them.

 

I am not saying "ignore them". Listen carefully: I am saying do not let them define the terms or the debate.

 

I think it is a very bad idea to adopt the terms that IDers use, while giving them different meanings.

 

It is the IDers that have changed the meaning. You are letting IDers adopt the terms scientists use and give them different meanings. Why is it OK for IDers to do that but we must not insist on the correct meanings? As I said, and you agree: "design" has an implicit prepositional phrase after it: "by an intelligent entity". You have gone so far as to say this prepositional phrase is "necessary". But it is not. Darwin didn't think it was necessary. Neither do I. You can have design without an intelligent entity. You can have design by an algorithm.

 

Far from it. I reject your misleading use of the term "design", not the fact of evolution and natural selection. Natural selection results in structure, not design.

 

Now who is changing definitions? You say sedimentary rock has structure. But that is not at all the same as an eye, is it? Or an ear, or a placenta, or any of the other thousands of designs that make up living organisms.

 

Most of us, both scientists and general population, consider the term "design" to require planning and intelligence.

 

Then it is time to face reality and realize that this is not the case. Isn't that what science is supposed to do: reality? Here you want to cling to an error: design requires intelligence.

 

As far as I can tell, you alone want to redefine it.

 

LOL! Not at all. I told you to read Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Dennett will introduce you to others that have looked at NS this way. I have quoted other scientific articles where Darwinian selection is viewed as a designer. Then, of course, there is always Darwin. And, of course, there is Dawkins who also sees this as design. He coined the term "designoid" because he makes the same mistake you do: design must mean an intelligence. So he used "designoid" for those designs in living organisms that are made by natural selection and not an intelligence.

 

Or to put it another way, I am insisting on ascribing the accepted definitions to the words I use.

 

That's the point: they are not the accepted definitions. You have added an unspoken prepositional phrase and then you try to tell us it is part of the definition.

 

You haven't shown me any common definition that supports your reformulation of the terms.

 

Sure I did. You just used another common definition of "design". But that doesn't negate 2c.

 

You cannot tell what "fitness" is until you look at the success of a particular phenotype in the population.

 

Kind of sidestepped my argument, didn't you? First you start out claiming that "fitness is the degree of relative reproductive success". I point out to you that this is not the case, that reproductive success is just a means of measuring fitness. Fitness is not reproductive success, but can be measured by reproductive success. Then you try to come back and say the same thing in a different way, ignoring my arguments. The phenotype is "fit" as the phenotype. Reproductive success is one way of identifying what phenotypes are fit.

 

But notice that identifying fitness is not always retroactive. The reason it is difficult to predict fitness in advance is because the environment is usually too complex. But when we do know the environment well, what designs are going to be "fit" can be predicted in advance. This was done in this study:

Evaluation of the rate of evolution in natural populations of guppies (Poecilia reticulata). Reznick, DN, Shaw, FH, Rodd, FH, and Shaw, RG. Science 275:1934-1937, 1997. The lay article is Predatory-free guppies take an evolutionary leap forward, pg 1880.

 

The researchers predicted -- in advance -- what phenotype the population would evolve by natural selection.

 

They are structures that evolved. They are not "designs": they were not "designed."

 

Now who is stretching definitions? Remember, the examples I gave have a purpose/function. The examples of structure you gave me -- such as layers in sedimentary rock -- do not. If we are looking at the definintions of "design" as a noun, we come to this: "5 a : an underlying scheme that governs functioning" Doesn't an eye, ear, legs, blood clotting system fit this? If not, why not? Here you are confusing the verb of "design" with the noun. If the entity does not result from the verb -- with your addition of an intelligent agent -- then the noun doesn't apply. You are obfuscating the language.

 

Genetic drift is not natural selection, true: instead of selection based upon survival/reproductive fitness, you have selection based on random chance.

 

LOL! Which means that such a process will not give you eyes, ears, etc. These cannot arise from chance! You were trying to claim that designs could arise this way. You keep ducking that they cannot.

 

Technically, NS by itself does not produce eyes, blood clotting systems, etc. either: for that, you need descent with variation.

 

LOL! Do you realize that "descent with modification" is natural selection? Remember that natural selection is a two-step process? Remember that natural selection requires inheritance? "descent with variation" is natural selection, not something different.

 

Yep, positive. Considering who is pushing "design" here, and who objects, I think it clear that the stealth IDer is not me.

 

LOL! Nice try. Remember, I am saying that design arises from an unintelligent process. ID doesn't say that. It is you that is using the standard ID argument: design requires intelligence; natural selection cannot produce design.

 

I said that "individuals with a useful variation benefit" is a tautology. The variation is useful because they benefit: they benefit because it was useful. If they did not benefit, it would not have been a useful variation, and vice versa. The problem is that not all variations are obviously "useful".

 

Let's remember what you said and the context: "I have no problem with the quote: it means only that where there is a "useful" variation, individuals with that variation benefit -- which is what "useful" means in this context. It is a tautology."

 

Now, what quote are you referring to? A quote from Darwin describing natural selection. So what did Darwin say again?

"If, during the long course of ages and under varying conditions of life, organic beings vary at all in the several parts of their organization, and I think this cannot be disputed; if there be, owing to the high geometric powers of increase of each species, at some age, season, or year, a severe struggle for life, and this certainly cannot be disputed; then, considering the infinite complexity of the relations of all organic beings to each other and to their conditions of existence, causing an infinite diversity in structure, constitution, and habits, to be advantageous to them, I think it would be a most extraordinary fact if no variation ever had occurred useful to each beings welfare, in the same way as so many variations have occured useful to man. But if variations useful to any organic being do occur, assuredly individuals thus characterized will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life; and from the strong principle of inheritance they will will tend to produce offspring similarly characterized. This principle of preservation, I have called, for the sake of brevity, Natural Selection." [Origin, p 127 6th ed.]

 

Nowhere did Darwin state "individuals with a useful variation benefit". You made up that tautology.

 

If the variation does not have an effect on reproductive success, it will not be selected. Other than that, the bottom line is that it does not much matter what the variation is. Whether or not it was beneficial can really be determined only in retrospect.

 

Again, the result of selection is an effect on reproductive success. It's not that a variation has an effect on reproductive success. Rather, as Darwin pointed out, the effect is on the performance of the individual in the competition for scarce resources. The result of doing better in the competition is increased reproductive success. The selection comes first, then the reproductive success. You are having the reverse: reproductive success then selection. Look at all the equations in population genetics: first you have selection, then changes in allele frequency due to differential reproduction.

 

As I pointed out, in many, many studies the "benefit" is determined without reference to reproductive success. The Grants determined the benefit of larger beaks in a drought in the Galapagos to the ability to crack larger seeds for food. In the peppered moth studies, Kettering determined the benefit of coloration to different predation rates.

 

Again, I suggest that the term "design" carries conotations that are the opposite of what we intend.

 

And again, I say discard the connotations. The term is fine; we just need to get rid of the connotations.

 

The problem is not in the way that evolution and natural selection work: it is in your insistence on using terms that imply the action of an intelligence, like "design", "purpose", and "goal."

 

The problem isn't the terms, but your insistence on tacking the action of an intelligence to them.


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But it can appear to. For example, due to the inertia of the process, populations retain some adaptations to past environments -- environments that have a good chance of occurring again.

 

Can you give me some examples in evolutionary history where this happened? I can't think of one.

 

Remember, "environment" to an evolutionary biologist means everything that interacts with the organism. That is so complex that I can't see one happening again.

 

Most people, and I think you here, use "environment" to mean "climate". But even here I don't see too many examples. How many times did the last series of Ice Ages oscillate? Yet we don't see the major mammals oscillating as the climate grew warmer and colder. Instead, we see species of mammoths either 1) going extinct in the warm periods or 2) tracking the environment by moving north or south. In the new glaciations we see new species of mammoths evolve, not a species evolving to warm weather and then evolving back again.

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But it can appear[/i'] to. For example, due to the inertia of the process, populations retain some adaptations to past environments -- environments that have a good chance of occurring again.

 

Can you give me some examples in evolutionary history where this happened? I can't think of one.

 

Remember, "environment" to an evolutionary biologist means everything that interacts with the organism. That is so complex that I can't see one happening again.

 

Sure, the CCR5-delta32 mutation. The mutation is a small deletion of a receptor protein, and two copies provide immunity to Black Death, which at one time decimated Europe. Thus, Europeans have a much larger proportion of this allele than do others. On the other hand, the mutation has some negative effects. However, I'm sure you can work out that it can take many generations to reduce an allele's frequency if it has only a small negative effect.

 

Now in modern times, the environment has been reproduced -- HIV attacks the exact same receptor, so that the protection carried over from the Black Death a few centuries ago now applies to the HIV pandemic. Evolution didn't "plan" for this, it just hadn't "forgotten" that old allele yet.

 

Another example is the genes that allow us to get fat, which are now detrimental. However, being chubby is less of a problem than the starvation that was frequent before we had modern agriculture, so we are stuck with that for now. But if our civilization collapses, it will again be useful.

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lucaspa,

your argument for using the word design in relation to the action of natural selection is well laid out, tightly argued and reasonably well referenced. (I especially like your appeal to Aristotle). There is only one problem with it. That is not the way the majority of biologists appear to use the term. Perhaps they are wrong and you are right, but I don't think you are going to change the status quo through debate on an obscure science forum.

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We have no problem with creationists coming over, we have a problem with creationists claiming their claims are scientific, when they refuse to follow the scientific method and insist on belittling science and overusing logical fallacies.

 

See, we're a science forum, and we have rules of conduct. The fact creationists keep showing they're unable to follow the scientific method (and obey our rules) doesn't mean we will prevent ALL creationists from proving themselves unique in that aspect.

 

~moo

 

put simply, you want creationists not to be creationists, why don't you say so in the beginning, guess it'll be way less messier that way..not to mention honest.

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put simply, you want creationists not to be creationists, why don't you say so in the beginning, guess it'll be way less messier that way..not to mention honest.

 

Wrong, if one is a creationist and believes the formation of the Universe is accurately described by the book of Genesis he/she is totally entitled to that position. As far as I know nobody from Science Forums attempts to force creationists from being creationists in anyway.

 

It is not like we sit around posting about creationism and how to prevent people from being creationists. Nor do we go look for creationist forums and post pro-evolution threads, thus going out of our way to disprove their beliefs. On the contrary the topic of evolution vs creationism is usually brought up by a creationist going out of his/her way trying to disprove evolution.

 

The problem is not being a creationist but rather voicing that position on the forum. It comes to the fact that creation (as described in Genesis) is not backed up by any scientific evidence. The only evidence to back it up is religious evidence (Genesis).

 

Therefore, when one tries to promote the idea of creationism as an accurate one, they are actually promoting religion on the forum, not science. Which as you know is not allowed according to the forum rules.

 

A personal note: If one truly has faith in the biblical account of creation and their version of God, they should not feel compelled prove their beliefs. By attempting to do this, one is admitting that they themselves do not have faith in the words of their own religious texts, instead they need more to validate their beliefs.

 

With that said, I end on this definition:

 

Faith- Belief; the assent of the mind to the truth of what is

declared by another, resting solely and implicitly on his

authority and veracity; reliance on testimony.

Edited by toastywombel

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i will reply to this paragraph only, as it is the most relevant and a reply to the other paragraphs will open a can of worms each..

 

The problem is not being a creationist but rather voicing that position on the forum. It comes to the fact that creation (as described in Genesis) is not backed up by any scientific evidence. The only evidence to back it up is religious evidence (Genesis).

and so a creationist should keep his unscientific creationism belifs hidden, and he's free to discuss any other scientific matters..

meaning, that creationist, as far as the forum is concerned, should stop being a creationist:

the sign or notice or forum rule should say something along the lines of:"if we don't know you're a creationist, we don't mind you even if you are one"..

does that sound a bit intolerant?

doesn't that corolate to scienceforums' reality accurately?

i find it to be the sitiuation here, the more you distant yourself from your criationism belifs, the easier you'll be accepted and the more positive reaction you'll get..

i really don't mind it THAT much, there are religion forums out there... but why would i need to practice my right of debating allowed topics from my position and suffer hell for it?

"discussion of evolution is allowed, as long as it is from a scientific standpoint, and the creationist standpoint is not considered scientific by this forum"..can it be any simpler? can it be any more honest? can it be any directer and more straight forward?

 

regradless of whether i or others agree or disagree with that statement, it describes the present reality of this forum, and that at least should be stated openly beforehand, so one can measure his actions more accuratly.

 

Therefore, when one tries to promote the idea of creationism as an accurate one, they are actually promoting religion on the forum, not science. Which as you know is not allowed according to the forum rules.

who wants that to happen?

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this is a science forum religious beliefs should be kept out of it. creationism is a religious belief.

 

i'm a strong believer in karma but i keep that out of what i post because it isn't scientific. i have nothing but anecdotal evidence to back up my beliefs.

 

i have no issues with keeping my (i suppose you could call it religious beliefs, perhaps spiritual is a better word, but then i don't believe in 'spirits'. umm someone a little more versed in these matters help me out) beliefs of dubious nature out of this forum, i don't see why its such a problem for others.

 

i imagine there are also a few other members with religious beliefs that manage to keep the out of here because this is a place for scientific debate.

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It is not like we sit around posting about creationism and how to prevent people from being creationists.

I think this would be a very interesting and potentially fruitful exercise for us to engage in, though. Maybe a thread in Psychology and Psychiatry.

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why not raise a "no creationists" sign here? less headache for everyone, no benefit lost, and better atmosphere for everyone (i'm talking for real)

 

Because then the flat-earthers, astrologists, alchemists, wizards, etc will complain that THEY were not warned. Since it would be difficult to have a warning for every belief out there, maybe you should display a warning for all whenever you enter a site. Maybe it will save you time, which should be your main interest?

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That part of the definition does not apply. Altho, come to think of it, Darwinian selection has invented, and evolutionary biologists do refer to evolution as "inventing" structures.

 

Well, in my dictionary there was no other "part" of the definition.

 

I am asking you to shed your implications; they are erroneous. Design does not mandate an intelligence. Look at what natural selection IS. As you noted, it is an algorithm. That is, it is a series of steps that, if followed by a servile dunce, is guaranteed to yield a result. In this case the guaranteed result of natural selection is design.

 

If you are going to communicate an idea, you must perforce use terms in a way that will be understood by the receiver. If you do not know the receiver that well, you had best use terms according to their commonly-accepted definitions. As a moderator, you should be well aware of this concept. Fields of endeavor often develop their own terms ("terms of art"), which usually have specific meanings known to people in that field, but generally unknown to the lay public. For example, in law we often use the term "constructive", as in "constructive notice" or "constructive trust". The meaning of "constructive X" in law does not mean "helpful" or "creative", but instead means that X did not in fact occur, but will be treated as if it did. For example, "constructive notice" means that a party did not actually receive notice, but for legal reasons will be treated as if he or she had received notice. You appear to be using "design" in a similar fashion, as a term of art in some subset of the field of biology (or perhaps philosophy), without regard for the common definitions of the term.

 

This argument is posted on a public forum, frequented both by people with scientific training, and those with little or none. Thus, you cannot assume that your audience is familiar with terms of art peculiar to your field. The most common definitions of the term "design" all indicate the action of intelligence:

 

design (v): 1: to conceive and plan out in the mind 2: intend 3: to devise for a specific function or end 4: to make a pattern or sketch of 5: to conceive and draw the plans for.

 

design (n): 1: a particular purpose: deliberate planning 2: a mental project or scheme: plan 3: a secret project or scheme: plot 4: aggressive or evil intent -- used with on or against 5: a preliminary sketch or plan 6: an underlying scheme that governs functioning, developing, or unfolding : motif 7: the arrangement of elements or details in a product or a work of art 8: a decorative pattern 9: the art of executing designs.

(Merriam Webster)

I've italicized a few words in the definitions that specifically suggest intelligence or consciousness, as you seem to have trouble noticing them. Note that you don't get away from intelligence until the sixth definition of the noun (and not at all for the verb). And again, for the umpteenth time, I am not proposing that evolution is the work of intelligence: I am saying that "design" is a particularly poor choice of terms because evolution is not the work of intelligence. There may be perfectly valid philosphical or biological reasons for using the term "design" as a term of art in this case, but if you use the term with lay people and fail to explain that you are not using it in its common and accepted sense, you are not communicating. When your use of the term implies the opposite of the common meanings, failure to explain nearly guarantees that you will be misunderstood. When I talk to lawyers, I know I can use the term "constructive" in the legal sense and be understood: if I am talking to non-lawyers, or to someone whose knowledge of law is unknown, I know I have to explain what "constructive" means or use other terms in order to be understood. I'd bet that if you look at how "design" is used in the field, it is either explained (perhaps as "unintelligent design" or something similar), or is being used in a context where its use as a term of art can be assumed. You can continue asserting that "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less" like Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass, or you can choose to be understandable.

 

LOL! Not at all. I told you to read Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Dennett will introduce you to others that have looked at NS this way. I have quoted other scientific articles where Darwinian selection is viewed as a designer. Then, of course, there is always Darwin. And, of course, there is Dawkins who also sees this as design. He coined the term "designoid" because he makes the same mistake you do: design must mean an intelligence. So he used "designoid" for those designs in living organisms that are made by natural selection and not an intelligence.

 

Then I take it that Dawkins cares about being understood. So far, I am not impressed with "Darwin's Dangerous Idea". Perhaps my opinion will improve when I've read more, but it strikes me as an odd choice of authority. I am interested in seeing what Gould and Orr criticized so much.

 

His analogy based on patent law strikes me as fundamentally inaccurate. He says:

"Patent law, including the law of copyright, is a repository of our practical grasp of the question. How much novelty of design counts as enough to justify a patent? How much can one borrow from the intellectual products of others without recompense or acknowledgment? These are slippery slopes on which we have had to construct some rather arbitrary terraces, codifying what otherwise would be a matter of interminable dispute. The burden of proof in these disputes is fixed by our intuitive sense of how much design is too much design to be mere coincidence. Our intuitions here are very strong and, I promise to show, sound. Suppose an author is accused of plagiarism, and the evidence is, say, a single paragraph that is almost identical to a paragraph in the putative source. Might this be just a coincidence? It depends crucially on how mundane and formulaic the paragraph is, but most paragraph-length passages of text are "special" enough (in ways we will soon explore) to make independent creation highly unlikely. No reaqsonable jury would require the presecutor in a plagiarism case to demonstrate exactly the causal pathway by which the alleged copying took place. The defendent would clearly have the burden of establishing that his work was, remarkably, an independent work rathter than a copying of work already done.

"A similar burden of proof falls on the defendant in an industrial-espionage case: the interior of the defendant's new line of widgets looks suspciously similar in design to that of the plaintiff's line of widgets--is this an innocent case of convergent evolution of design? Really the only way to prove your innocence in such a case is to show clear evidence of actually having done the necessary R-and-D work (old blueprints, rough drafts, early models and mockups, memos about the problems encountered, etc.). In the absence of such evidence, but also in the absence of any physical evidence of your espionage activities, you would be convicted--and you'd deserve to be! Cosmic coincidences on such a scale just don't happen."

 

To start, copyright is not part of patent law; each covers non-overlapping fields (with the exception of design patents), and has decidedly different rules and principles. Copyright admits that "independent creation" (his words, I assume not in the religious sense) can and does occur. For example, if you photograph the Empire State Building, you automatically have copyrights in your photograph. However, somebody standing right next to you can photograph the ESB at the same time, and have copyrights in his or her photograph, despite the fact that it is indistinguishable from yours. Thus, in copyright infringement litigation, it is not sufficient just to show similarity: one must also show that there was access to the "original".

 

I assume that by "industrial espionage" he really means patent infringement, as the interior of a marketed device cannot be considered "secret", or require spying to copy. In patent law, it does not matter if you have copied the device or not: just making, selling, or using the device constitutes infringement. The plaintiff need only prove that the accused device meets all of the claim limitations in the asserted patent (i.e., that it falls within the legal description of the patented invention). Innocent independent invention of the same device is not a defense, although if you can prove that you invented the device prior to the patentee's date of invention, you win by invalidating the patent itself. These "cosmic coincidences" do happen -- often enough that the US Patent Office has a special procedure (called "Interference") for determining which of two or more applicants was the first to invent.

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