Monday, October 1, 2007

A Happy Accident...

So my father said it again: the reason he can't possibly accept evolution as a working law to the diversity of life upon earth is due to a singular passage in his holy book, which reads as such:

Genesis 1:24: And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
As you can see, his main point of contention is underscored--that is, "after his kind."

It's hard to argue with a man who thinks that "after his own kind" means animals can adapt, but not evolve... And, instead of going into a long dissertation about how adapting is just evolution on a small scale, and that, after enough small adaptations, you end up with a completely different looking animal... And that, throughout the whole process, the creature never once didn't produce not after its own kind... After all, it's own kind kept changing!

You know what? Dissertation will now commence!

Add to that the fact that no creature that produces sexually ever produces it's "own kind." It may be seen as a matter of semantics, but every creature born through sexual reproduction is an "average" of the two creatures that mated. Further, many creatures reproduce across their kinds (though it is by no means the "norm"), thus further having to stretch a literal interpretation of Genesis. Take for instance the wholphin, the liger, the zorse... And while one can twist and squirm and claim "adaptation" over "evolution," it still negates an "of their own kind" clause, most especially in the case of the liger (and occasionally some wholphins)! Two completely different species with completely different amounts of chromosomes have mated to produce a creature that is neither tiger nor lion, but the female liger (and female tigon) are able to mate with both of its parents species--further strengthening evolutionary models of natural selection and the tree of life, and further crumbling a book (and subsequent faith) which claims Mind before Matter...

My father also said something to the effect of "if all diversity evolved, why are there still some creatures who haven't?"

But before I could even begin to adequately explain, he shut me down with a "No!" and the continual shaking of his head...

Despite the fact that evolution happens most times in small, local steps as necessity, chance, and environment dictate--say, that fish with the stronger fins able to flop to the next puddle and survive until the rainy season as opposed to the others whose fins weren't as strong and couldn't make the land crossing... This process ensures that only those stronger-finned fish will pass on their genes (DNA), as well as the learning process of moving over land to reach a more suitable area. The same type of fish on the other side of the forest had no such need to "walk" to another body of water, and thus will change and adapt only as much as it needs to--and thus, separated by maybe only a few hundred yards, you may have the beginnings of speciation occurring and, given a bit more time, other environmental factors, and other causes such as disease and predation, you may end up after only a few hundred years with two completely different looking fish that had the same genetic base--and further, may now not be able to interbreed with one another, thus ensuring that both branches of this tree will survive and continue to grow more branches. Of course, branches that haven't had enough time can still intermingle--maybe due to lack of similar mates, or some sort of quake that separated one from the rest--and some of those changes may then re-enter the original gene pool, but certainly not enough to ensure that all the guppies (or what-have-you) will have super-strong fins, and perhaps may even be bred out of this population as the need isn't present! But trying to explain all this to my father as he continues to state "after their own kind" as if it were some type of magical spell to ward of the real world not only seems an exercise in futility, but ultimately an exercise in patience for people who want to remain willfully ignorant... (sorry, Dad...)

Sigh.

Thus, while my father (and others...) insist on an out-dated mode of thinking which involves a "Mind before Matter" telelogical law, as soon as Darwin put forth Natural Selection as the algorithm by which all life (including man) came to be, Matter no longer needed a Mind to have initiated the movement of energy through life. Such a revolution in societal perspective rarely happens, but when it does, it takes a few years and generations before truth can actually be accepted as truth.... Enter the first proponents of ID, who started trying to chip away at the profound truth which Darwin uncovered mere months after his scientific discoveries were uncovered...

More often than not, then and now, they often end up reinforcing the tenants of evolution and natural selection, thus dooming themselves to a never-ending battle against basic facts of life...


But to get people such as my father to understand the basic premise behind how evolution works, I came across a great passage in Darwin's Dangerous Idea, in which author Daniel Dennett has hit upon the perfect analogy to explain why evolution producing life isn't just the mere ramblings of those blinded by Satan and his evil cohorts, but indeed the only possible scientifically-backable position we currently know about and can utilize! Here are some excerpts:

Any elimination tournament produces a winner, who "automatically" has whatever property was required to advance through the rounds, but, as the coin-tossing tournament demonstrates, the property in question may be "merely historical"—a trivial fact about the competitor's past history that has no bearing at all on his or her future prospects. Suppose, for instance, the United Nations were to decide that all future international conflicts would be settled by a coin-toss to which each nation sends a representative (if more than one nation is involved, it will have to be some sort of tournament—it might be a "round robin," which is a different algorithm). Whom should we designate as our national representative? The best coin-toss caller in the land, obviously. Suppose we organized every man, woman, and child in the U.SA. into a giant elimination tournament. Somebody would have to win, and that person would have just won twenty-eight consecutive coin-tosses without a loss! This would be an irrefutable historical fact about that person, but since calling a coin-toss is just a matter of luck, there is absolutely no reason to believe that the winner of such a tournament would do any better in international competition than somebody else who lost in an earlier round of the tournament. Chance has no memory.
[Emphasis through underlining mine.]
Imagine the Earth in the very early stages of its development--radiation, the sun, chemical reactions happening right and left... And fundamental Christians going to tell us it's easier to believe god sneezed and created life than that, at some point, those billions and billions of chemical reactions eventually crossed some type of relational threshold that we consider to be "life"? Really?

Dennett continues:

[...] In contrast to tournaments of pure luck, like the coin-toss tournament, there are tournaments of skill, like tennis tournaments. Here there is reason to believe that the players in the later rounds would do better again if they played the players who lost in the early rounds. There is reason to believe— but no guarantee—that the winner of such a tournament is the best player of them all, not just today but tomorrow. Yet, though any well-run tournament is guaranteed to produce a winner, there is no guarantee that a tournament of skill will identify the best player as the winner in any nontrivial sense. That's why we sometimes say, in the opening ceremonies, "May the best man win!"—because it is not guaranteed by the procedure. The best player—the one who is best by "engineering" standards (has the most reliable backhand, fastest serve, most stamina, etc.)—may have an off day, or sprain his ankle, or get hit by lightning. Then, trivially, he may be bested in competition by a player who is not really as good as he is. But nobody would bother organizing or entering tournaments of skill if it weren't the case that in the long run, tournaments of skill are won by the best players. That is guaranteed by the very definition of a fair tournament of skill; if there were no probability greater than half that the better players would win each round, it would be a tournament of luck, not of skill.
And thus, there are many species who not only aren't the "best" adapted, there are some who were well-suited to environs whose branches were cut short regardless. Thus, random chance plays a huge part in which species have changed, which have survived, which have died off into evolutionary dead ends... A lot of ID proponents like to imagine that all creatures were formed thus, and have so remained, and therefore cannot account for not only a lot of the fossils in our past, but a great deal of the geology, biology, physics, and other sciences in which evolutionary law has been strengthened. They are forced to think up arguments against such facts and truths, and then find the necessary data (albeit, ill-used data) to back up such fantastical claims--unlike traditional science which simply takes the facts and truths as we know them, and see what answer we end up with.

To continue with Dennett's analogy:

[...] Skill and luck intermingle naturally and inevitably in any real competition, but their ratios may vary widely. A tennis tournament played on very bumpy courts would raise the luck ratio, as would an innovation in which the players were required to play Russian roulette with a loaded revolver before continuing after the first set. But even in such a luck-ridden contest, more of the better players would tend, statistically, to get to the late rounds. The power of a tournament to "discriminate" skill differences in the long run may be diminished by haphazard catastrophe, but it is not in general reduced to zero. This fact, which is as true of evolutionary algorithms in nature as of elimination tournaments in sports, is sometimes overlooked by commentators on evolution.

[...] We can now expose perhaps the most common misunderstanding of Darwinism: the idea that Darwin showed that evolution by natural selection is a procedure for producing Us. Ever since Darwin proposed his theory, people have often misguidedly tried to interpret it as showing that we are the destination, the goal, the point of all that winnowing and competition, and our arrival on the scene was guaranteed by the mere holding of the tournament. This confusion has been fostered by evolution's friends and foes alike, and it is parallel to the confusion of the coin-toss tournament winner who basks in the misconsidered glory of the idea that since the tournament had to have a winner, and since he is the winner, the tournament had to produce him as the winner. Evolution can be an algorithm, and evolution can have produced us by an algorithmic process, without its being true that evolution is an algorithm for producing us. The main conclusion of Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (1989a) is that if we were to "wind the tape of life back" and play it again and again, the likelihood is infinitesimal of Us being the product on any other run through the evolutionary mill. This is undoubtedly true (if by "Us" we mean the particular variety of Homo sapiens we are: hairless and upright, with five fingers on each of two hands, speaking English and French and playing tennis and chess). Evolution is not a process that was designed to produce us, but it does not follow from this that evolution is not an algorithmic process that has in fact produced us.
I happen to believe that this is the main contention in the on-going "argument" between those who accept the valid science behind evolution, and those who wish to make up fantastical numbers and "science" in order to find another way to explain everything: WE ARE NOT SPECIAL, as in, we are not blessed in any particular way by any particular deity, nor are we the end-all, be-all of the evolutionary process. Especially considering like many other things in "life," we are but an accident (albeit to us a happy one) in a never-ending process... It's not only a bit humbling, but also a bit of a bummer, especially if you are looking forward to the never-ending praise orgy in the afterlife...

And while we could sit here and bemoan the fact that there isn't any "specialness" about us, and that, with or without us, life will go on in some form or another, I bask in the randomness of it all, the meaningless of it all.

While some (like my father) seem to think that even just wanting to enjoy life is somehow "a meaning" that I am "desperately seeking," I am content in the fact that, while I may not be special, I am evolved enough to appreciate truth when I see it, facts when they are presented, and have the wherewithal to take my chances in the skills and luck that produced me, even if it was...

A happy accident...

22 comments:

FCSuper said...

Not to change the topic too much, but it's funny how pervasive misinformation is. I recently saw a movie. Before the movie, there was the usual movie trivia pre-show. One question was something like, "What animal was invented by Napoleon Dynamite?"

I was like, "Huh?" He didn't invent any animal. He may have spruced up the Liger a bit, but he didn't invent it. Well, "Liger" came up as the answer. Dolts.

Anonymous said...

Your father is a smart man.

Jason Hughes said...

FC: I saw that same trivia question when I was waiting for Transformers to start this past July... And I pretty much had the same thought, LOL!!

Anon: Would you care to elaborate on why you feel my father's position is the "smarter" one, than, say, the one I set forth in this post?

Or is all you have "clever" little quips...?

Anonymous said...

If I elaborated would you care ?

Anonymous said...

Let's put all the in depth things aside for a minute . Unless you have a personal relationship with God you can never fully understand how real He is. I am not good at speaking why I believe the way I do like you are. I know for me He is real. Explain the hard stuff I am not good at . There are things that have happened that I know have come from no where else but Him . Things That I have learned and experienced for myself .
I like reading your blog to better understand others point of views. I will probably get ripped to shreds for my post but oh well. ;)

Anonymous said...

Let's put all the in depth things aside for a minute . Unless you have a personal relationship with God you can never fully understand how real He is. I am not good at speaking why I believe the way I do like you are. I know for me He is real. Explain the hard stuff I am not good at . There are things that have happened that I know have come from no where else but Him . Things That I have learned and experienced for myself .
I like reading your blog to better understand others point of views. I will probably get ripped to shreds for my post but oh well. ;)

Jason Hughes said...

That depends on how you view "care"...

I do care about what you feel is a logical and reasonable way of viewing the issues, and how you came to that conclusion despite mounds of scientific evidence, as it boggles my mind that intelligent people like my father bury their heads in the sand and try to explain it all away with illogical reasoning and thought...

Secondly, "personal relationships" with god have nothing to do with the appearance of life on this planet, only how you feel you interact with said god... I'm sorry, but claiming a relationship with god somehow makes all the evidence go away seems to me to be a bit of a dodge...

And I don't rip people to shreds unless they generally ask for it by being insanely stupid (dumber than your average fundie) or extremely rude, so for now, you have immunity... Fair enough? :D

Anonymous said...

I 'll Take it fair enough ;)

Sylvia said...

Now Ja....you know I love you. In fact, you're one of my closest and dearest friends.
However, when it comes to other peoples' beliefs...well, like most, you have a one tracked mind. Which is totally fine, everyone is entitled to their own opinions.
The way I see it is this: Daddy has his beliefs on how man was created or how the earth came about. Things that which he was taught from very early on. He BELIEVES in these things....and sticks with those beliefs. I applaude daddy for always believing and never wavering. You say "His head is stuck in the sand." But, I just think that he believes one thing and you believe another.
This is your blog, and I'm sure I'm going to get a lot of negative fall back from this, but I wish that you wouldn't try and "push" how you believe on others. Oh my, there I said it. Please don't hate me...well, you can hate me...but please believe me that I love you and respect your opinions and beliefs, even if I don't understand where you come from half the time....
I do love you. And I'll talk to ya later...
Sylvia

mom said...

hello jason! the one thing i remember about this whole talk we had on the deck about all this stuff is that you even said the science you have to back you up on how you think we all came about is that science did not even prove this yet. so to believe in God or a bunch of people that i see that have not been around from the beginning and they are just giving me what they think happened and have some so called science knowledge to back some of the things they think happened i will have to say i will go with God. why? i really can't get it all out in words because its the relationship i have with Him day in and day out. He gives you insights to you that you can't explain and that is very supernatural and that is why science has not and probably won't ever catch up to since He is supernatural. its not the feelings i have about Him that make me believe that He made it all but the stuff He does in my life that made me think He made it all. see i still say you need some supernatural stuff to happen to you. :) that lightening didn't do it. :) well, you just keep reading your books and waiting for science to catch up to the supernatural God who doesn't always do things with logic but somehow it all works out and one day it will make sense and i feel bad for the people that will probably still shake a fist in His face. i will continue to pray for you. love and prayers

Jason Hughes said...

Sylvia said: Now Ja....you know I love you. In fact, you're one of my closest and dearest friends.

Back at ya, sis...


Sylvia said: However, when it comes to other peoples' beliefs...well, like most, you have a one tracked mind. Which is totally fine, everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

Scientific fact is *not* an opinion... However, there are certain opinions that are derived from the facts presented... And about the one-track mind--what have I presented here that is one track" if you don't mind indulging me a little... If anything, I constantly am reanalyzing what I read and what I learn, and if I am to be accused of being on "one track," I hope it's the track of learning more and more about my life and this planet... But that's just me.. :D

Sylvia said: The way I see it is this: Daddy has his beliefs on how man was created or how the earth came about. Things that which he was taught from very early on. He BELIEVES in these things....and sticks with those beliefs.

And I answer, "The most costly of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind." --H.L. Mencken Just because you believe something doesn't make it worthy of belief, let alone some type of barrier against facts and knowledge. Dad swallowed creationsts lies about science whole-heartedly back in the day and never gave itr a second thought! Does it matter in the long run--I suppose not, but what I don't understand is how people live so comfortably with a lie that they've convincved themselves is truth.... It bogges me, really...

Sylvia said: I applaude daddy for always believing and never wavering.

And I do not...

Sylvia said: You say "His head is stuck in the sand." But, I just think that he believes one thing and you believe another.

It all comes back to the "why" of the believing... Dad only believes this stuff because he refuses to even remotely analyze and challenge his beliefs since they were formed back in the day... Would you applaud Dad for still believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy? Why or why not? in six hundred words or less...) :D

Sylvia said: This is your blog, and I'm sure I'm going to get a lot of negative fall back from this,

I like to think of it as constructive criticism, much how you feel you are giving me some... Tit-for-tat, and all that stuff...

Sylvia said: but I wish that you wouldn't try and "push" how you believe on others.

I have presented facts and truths about the knowledge we have gained as a people, as humans, on this planet... The only thing I'm pushing is for people to start challenging their own ideas about things and thinking all discussion should stop because of how one yahoo read Gensis as opposed to how another yahoo read Genesis... That gets no one nowhere fast...

Sylvia said: Oh my, there I said it. Please don't hate me...well, you can hate me...but please believe me that I love you and respect your opinions and beliefs, even if I don't understand where you come from half the time....

Don't hate you--are you that afraid of losing my love? I'm a lover AND a fighter... :D

Mom said hello jason!

Hi Mom!

Mom said the one thing i remember about this whole talk we had on the deck about all this stuff is that you even said the science you have to back you up on how you think we all came about is that science did not even prove this yet.

If I remember correctly, I said there's still alot of answers science is looking for, and that as more answers are found and more questions are raised by those answers, the things we know today are apt to cange and modify as we learn more and more...

Mom said so to believe in God or a bunch of people that i see that have not been around from the beginning and they are just giving me what they think happened and have some so called science knowledge to back some of the things they think happened

I have news for you--Moses wasn't around then either... (or whoever really wrote Genesis...) They are just cultural stories handed down generation to generation and finally someone thought, "Hey! I should write this down!" and there you have it...

Mom said i will have to say i will go with God. why? i really can't get it all out in words because its the relationship i have with Him day in and day out.

As stated to Anon, a personal relationship in no way suddenyl voids all knowledge and facts about the universe...

I'd cover the rest, but my lunch break is almost up... Maybe I'll check back tonight--I'll keep y'all in suspense... :D

Mom, Syl, love you guys!!! Tell everyone else I said hi and love and hugs!!

Anonymous said...

There is much more evidence to prove the existence of God and His creation of the universe than there is to try to prove the man-made theory of evolution. Evolutionists pretend to have all the answers to how the earth and man were made -- the problem is that they overlook the obvious in their research. It is all a matter of faith - you have faith in a theory that says God did not create the earth, man, etc (you believe there is no God, right?). Christians have faith that there is a God because of the creation that is before us, because of the Word He left us that points to His being the creator, and the prophecies of the Bible that have been and are being fulfilled as we speak. You truly have more faith to not believe in creation and God than those of us who actually do have a personal relationship with Him. It takes a lot more faith to believe in mere man than it does to believe in an almighty God.

Jason Hughes said...

Anon said: There is much more evidence to prove the existence of God and His creation of the universe than there is to try to prove the man-made theory of evolution.

Show me your evidence.

Anon said: Evolutionists pretend to have all the answers to how the earth and man were made -- the problem is that they overlook the obvious in their research.

No one is claiming to have all the answers--but science has a lot of evidence and facts that directly contradict a literal interpretation of the bible.

Anon said: It is all a matter of faith - you have faith in a theory that says God did not create the earth, man, etc (you believe there is no God, right?).

If it's a matter of faith, I don't expect you'll be posting a bunch of this evidence you claimed to have then, right? BTW, just for facts as facts sake, the "theory of evolution" is not a theory--it's a scientific law. Any resepctable scientific web site can explain to you the correct scientific use of the word theory, but to save you some goole time, I posted about it here if you care to read...

Anon said: Christians have faith that there is a God because of the creation that is before us,

So you have eye balls, therefore there's a god?

Anon said: because of the Word He left us that points to His being the creator,

Which, as pointed out by many many people (including myself) is patently a false literal historical document, while it can be used as a cultural historical document...

Anon said: and the prophecies of the Bible that have been and are being fulfilled as we speak.

Prophecy requires 20/20 hindsight and the peculiar ability to be able to state something can mean anything you wish it too... I see monsters under my bed and in my closet at night if I squint and just believe hard enough...

Anon said: You truly have more faith to not believe in creation and God than those of us who actually do have a personal relationship with Him.

Maybe for you, it does require a huge leap of faith (although I can't even begin to fathom why...) to take facts and knowledge at face value, and *not* have to try to force-fit it (while discarding others) in order for the "literal history" of the bible to be true... And, as stated earlier, a "close, personal" relationship does *not* automatically make reality disappear--if anything, it should make reality even more glaringly obvious, but I'll digress for now... And for the record, evolutionary theory is *not* a theory about man and where he came from (in the most concrete sense of where life came from), but simply the scientific law by which the diversity of life has been adequately explained, documented, tested, and proven true... Life itself (as in, where the first "living" thing happened to come to be) may be what started the diversity in the first place, but evolution itself doesn't even pretend to explain where we came from (in the literal sense) but in the diversity of that which you see with the eye balls you have... I can elaborate further if you wish...

Anon said: It takes a lot more faith to believe in mere man than it does to believe in an almighty God.

I disagree in the most fundamental of senses...

But I think you knew I would... :D

Anonymous said...

You should get this book. It will either solidify your belief or it will make you see that evolution is a load of crap.

http://www.livingwaters.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=150

Jason Hughes said...

Please PLEASE tell me you telling me to read a book by a nut case isn't your proof of evidence...

BTW, I've also dealt with some of Mr. Comfort's silly arguments before here, but I'm assuming you won't read it anyway, right?

And did I call your belief system a "load of crap"? You're getting snarky for someone who was afraid of getting "ripped to shreds," aren't you? Immunity may be coming to an end, but regardless, having already perused this title when it first came out, what I can tell you is that it should not even remotely make you feel affirmed in a belief of creationism or ID, as Ray makes even some of the dumbest fundies seem intelligent by comparison...

To put this "book" simply, the statements made by Ray (and sometimes the fictional atheist Ray professes doesn't exist...) are so completely ludicrous it would take me hours to refute them all... Hours I don't have. Most especially, when I came across footnote 39 (the "chicken and egg" footnote...), I realized just how impossible it would be to extract any type of constructive information from this volume, even if only to see if someone would be able to ably construct a semi-valid argument for ID (which he didn't even do...) I'm going to have to assume you've read said volume and found it thoroughly engaging and life affirming?

As with most creationist, or "ID" arguments, the most effective strategy is to use so many known bad arguments that there is no hope of addressing them all. A rational person becomes so overwhelmed by all the BAD "points" being made that to try and take the time to explain why each and every point is bad just isn't worth the breath...

The book wasn't worth the paper it was printed on... I would suggest spending your money on something a little more practical, such as ear plugs and blinders... After all, both will leave you in much the same place Ray does with this abysmal book...

And look--I did it all without calling your belief "crap."

I can't guarantee that in the future, of course, if you continue trying to use other people's crappy books to argue for you...

Anonymous said...

The first couple Anon.is me. The last couple are not me I am still scared of being ripped to shreds HAHA:) I will just call myself Bob how's that ?

A.K.A No Name said...

The first/last anon must be someone you know or someone who is new to the internet. Uh Anon, you know that if you put your name, he will not automatically know where you live, your blood type, etc. etc., right? Why not go ahead and type the/a name?

Anonymous said...

You all don't know me any way so if I choose to kep my name to myself so be it. Maybe I have a really horrible name !

Jason Hughes said...

All these Anon's...

This is beginning to look like a 12-step program...

A.K.A No Name said...

The first/last anon must be someone you know or someone who is new to the internet. Uh Anon, you know that if you put your name, he will not automatically know where you live, your blood type, etc. etc., right? Why not go ahead and type the/a name?

mom said...

hello jason! the one thing i remember about this whole talk we had on the deck about all this stuff is that you even said the science you have to back you up on how you think we all came about is that science did not even prove this yet. so to believe in God or a bunch of people that i see that have not been around from the beginning and they are just giving me what they think happened and have some so called science knowledge to back some of the things they think happened i will have to say i will go with God. why? i really can't get it all out in words because its the relationship i have with Him day in and day out. He gives you insights to you that you can't explain and that is very supernatural and that is why science has not and probably won't ever catch up to since He is supernatural. its not the feelings i have about Him that make me believe that He made it all but the stuff He does in my life that made me think He made it all. see i still say you need some supernatural stuff to happen to you. :) that lightening didn't do it. :) well, you just keep reading your books and waiting for science to catch up to the supernatural God who doesn't always do things with logic but somehow it all works out and one day it will make sense and i feel bad for the people that will probably still shake a fist in His face. i will continue to pray for you. love and prayers

Anonymous said...

Let's put all the in depth things aside for a minute . Unless you have a personal relationship with God you can never fully understand how real He is. I am not good at speaking why I believe the way I do like you are. I know for me He is real. Explain the hard stuff I am not good at . There are things that have happened that I know have come from no where else but Him . Things That I have learned and experienced for myself .
I like reading your blog to better understand others point of views. I will probably get ripped to shreds for my post but oh well. ;)