Evolution is a Fact, Explained by a Theory

The animal family tree
The animal family tree | Source

The Objective Reality of Evolution

Owing to the unremitting grip of religious literalism on human consciousness, many people still refuse to acknowledge their genealogical kinship with all of earth’s creatures. Such folks often argue that evolution is “just a theory”.

Sadly, that argument is as ignorant as it is illogical. While it is true that science has articulated a theory of evolution, to say that it is “just” a theory is to betray an ignorance of what science is.

Nor does it follow that evolution is “just a theory”.

Believe it or not, life on earth evolved, and continues to do so. This fact of evolution is incontrovertible.

As is the fact of ‘macroevolution’: the tree of life wherein all contemporary species, including Homo sapiens, share common ancestry.

Evolution is every bit as factual as the following:

“The earth orbits the sun”

“Matter is composed of atoms.”

“Light travels at a finite velocity.”

Like all facts, evolution is empirically evident, even if (like the three other facts noted above) only indirectly. And like all facts, it is explained by a scientific theory.

In fact, it is only through the elucidative power of scientific theory that indirectly-evident facts such as the heliocentric solar system, the atomic composition of matter, the speed of light, and evolution become known.

As I said, the loaded phrase “evolution is just a theory” betrays (or worse, seeks to take advantage of) a fundamental misunderstanding of what a scientific theory is. A scientific theory is not merely a belief, opinion or guess. Nor is it equivalent to a hypothesis. A scientific theory is a well-developed explanatory framework for understanding the world, based on a minimal number of naturalistic assumptions (self-evident “axioms”) that allow logical inferences to be made from a diverse assortment of empirically verifiable facts. A theory generates testable predictions, and affords insight into the wherefores of nature. In other words, it is a naturalistic model that explains objective reality.

Darwin's gift to humanity

So, the theory of evolution is a naturalistic model that explains the objective reality of evolution. The theory of evolution by means of natural selection was first published by Charles Darwin (1809-1882) in 1859. Before that time there were other theories, most famously that of Jeanne-Baptiste Larmarck (1744-1829). And Darwin actually scooped his contemporary Alfred Wallace (1823-1913), who independently came to the conclusion that evolution is driven by natural selection. So Darwin wasn’t the first to proclaim that life evolved—quite a few discerning observers had already come to that conclusion. What Darwin (along with Wallace) did was to provide the first scientifically compelling explanation for how it occurs. Moreover, Darwin’s theory begins to approach the question of ‘why’ life evolves (without quite answering it, as I discuss elsewhere), from an entirely naturalistic perspective.

The single figure from Origin of Species, illustrating Darwin's conception of species divergence under the influence of natural selection
The single figure from Origin of Species, illustrating Darwin's conception of species divergence under the influence of natural selection | Source

Darwin’s great gift to humanity was publishing his “abstract” On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, in which he shared the brilliant insight he had gained from reasoned consideration of a great many detailed observations of nature. Darwin’s one and only motivation in this endeavor was curiosity: he sought the truth. As a result of his labors, and by virtue of his insight, ‘the scales fell from our eyes’ (so to speak), allowing us to clearly see that every living thing on earth is related: we are one big family. If you haven’t read Origin of Species you owe it to yourself to do so. It represents one of the most significant intellectual breakthroughs in human history, and for that reason alone it should be required reading in the school curriculum.

The truth of evolution is manifest in the fact that two separate branches of earth science—geology and biology—have independently uncovered concordant records of the historical descent of life. For geology it is the fossil record, supplemented by information from known rates of mineralization and radioactive decay. For biology it is the genetic record, supplemented by information from anatomy, physiology, cell biology, and embryology. Here are but a few of the relevant observations: 

Geological manifestations of evolution

The geologist Charles Lyell (1797-1875), a friend of Darwin and one of his major influences, recognized that sedimentary rocks containing fossils would take millions of years to form by contemporary processes. Thus, based on the uniformitarian assumption (i.e., that physical processes can be assumed to have operated the same way in the past as they do now) articulated earlier by James Hutton (1726-1797), fossils from deep sedimentary strata must represent life forms that lived many millions of years ago. This fact is substantiated by radiometric dating.

Furthermore, geological layers of sediment have distinctive signatures, allowing their horizontal correlation despite geographically differential erosion that exposes different surface layers in different locations. What paleontologists found was that fossils from the deepest (most ancient) layers were quite different than those from more shallow (more recent) layers. And as one ascends upward through layers, one can find a clear progression of life forms, with many modern forms appearing only in the upper strata. And fossil humans are only found in the very upper stratum—their recovery entails barely scratching the surface.

A cladogram of the evolution of tetrapods showing the best-known transitional fossils. From bottom to top: Eusthenopteron, Panderichthys, Tiktaalik, Acanthostega, Ichthyostega, Pederpes (artist: Maija Karala).
A cladogram of the evolution of tetrapods showing the best-known transitional fossils. From bottom to top: Eusthenopteron, Panderichthys, Tiktaalik, Acanthostega, Ichthyostega, Pederpes (artist: Maija Karala). | Source
Ambulocetus natans, a primitive whale from the Eocene of Pakistan, pencil drawing, digital coloring, by Nobu Tamura.
Ambulocetus natans, a primitive whale from the Eocene of Pakistan, pencil drawing, digital coloring, by Nobu Tamura. | Source
 Illustration of Protarchaeopteryx, a feathered dinosaur, by Conty.
Illustration of Protarchaeopteryx, a feathered dinosaur, by Conty. | Source
Illustration of the dromaeosaurid dinosaur Microraptor.
Illustration of the dromaeosaurid dinosaur Microraptor. | Source
Tyrannosaur baby covered with down feathers
Tyrannosaur baby covered with down feathers | Source

Folks who don’t want evolution to be true often claim that there is no evidence that evolutionarily transitional forms of life ever existed. They are mistaken: the fossil record is replete with transitional forms, known aptly as “transitional fossils”. To name but a few of the more famous examples: Archaeopteryx (one of the first discovered, transitional between dinosaurs and birds), Titaalik (transitional between fish and land vertebrates), and Ambulocetus (the “walking whale”, transitional between land mammals and whales).

Evolution deniers have argued that these are not transitional fossils, because (1) fossils with completely modern features have been found in sediments contemporary with, or older than, those in which the transitional fossil was found, and (2) the transitional forms are not truly transitional (e.g., Archaeopteryx was fully a bird, not a dinosaur). But these arguments are false, as they are based on a simplistic misconception of evolution, and hence an unrealistic expectation of what a transitional fossil should be. A transitional fossil is simply evidence that at one time there were organisms with features similar to those of two completely different modern groups. That the fossilized creature may well have been an evolutionary “dead end”—and not the actual transitional species—is irrelevant. The branching pattern of evolution and the rarity of fossilization are such that it is extremely improbable to find fossils that represent actual transitions. What would be expected however is that in strata from the distant past, fossils will be found that are more or less similar to two different existing groups. And this is exactly what we find: for example, there are now fossils indicating that many therapsid dinosaurs—an extinct family of reptiles that included Tyrannosaurus rex—had bird-like feathers, indicating that birds are in fact (descended from a sub-group of) dinosaurs. The specification hierarchy is: {dinosaurs{birds}}.

The spectacular ‘Cambrian explosion’ of animal fossils is also cited by evolution deniers as being inconsistent with evolution, as is the phenomenon of ‘punctuated equilibrium’—long periods in which life forms remain unchanged, punctuated by abrupt periods of change. But these fallacious claims are also based on a misconception of the evolutionary process, coupled with complete ignorance of developmental genetics. The latter field has taken a quantum leap in just the past 20 years, and has been integrated into evolutionary theory. Current theory actually predicts what is observed: an initial explosion of diversity, followed by rapid winnowing and punctuated equilibria over time within the successful lineages. And to understand why that is we have to turn to biology.  

Replicating DNA
Replicating DNA | Source
Phylogenetic tree of life on earth (by self-made [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)) or CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Phylogenetic tree of life on earth (by self-made [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)) or CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Why it is important that we acknowledge our animal nature

The fact that human beings are animals was self-evident long before Darwin articulated his theory of evolution: Homo sapiens fulfill all of the defining criteria required for inclusion in the animal kingdom. The argument that we are unique and different from all other animals is entirely irrelevant—the same can be said for any animal species, each of which has unique attributes and talents. The specification hierarchy is {animal{human being}}.

So what makes us different from our non-human cousins? The religious answer is of course that human beings, unlike other animals, supposedly have a “spirit” or “soul”. Since such a thing is not definable, it is not testable, and therefore not scientific. There are on the other hand a number of reasonable scientific theories that explain the uniqueness of human experience. My favorite is that of Julian Jaynes, which holds that the human talent for art, science and technology (and the attendant illusion of duality between ‘soul’ and body) manifests our unique metaphor-based consciousness, which developed concomitantly with our complex language. Our predilection for religion is probably a vestige of an earlier pre-conscious mentality that also developed along with language, and which was similar in many ways to modern day schizophrenia (which in this light can be seen as an atavism)--although the condition was then the culturally-supported norm, and hence not viewed as a mental illness. Thus, ancients who heard the voice of God were being quite literal—that is, they literally heard a voice speaking to them, which they attributed to their god. Only, as in schizophrenia, it was a hallucinated voice, coming from inside their head. And amazingly, the hallucinated words that those ancient poets wrote down in authoritative texts are to this day interpreted literally by religious fanatics, who as a result are driven to deny objective reality.

Despite our unique consciousness, we are animals—a species of great ape—and it is important that we acknowledge that. For if we do not, then not only do we fail to recognize the rather awe-inspiring fact that we are related to all other life on earth, but we fail to truly know ourselves. Our animal nature explains much about us, including the shadow selves that we would rather not think about. And if we don’t acknowledge the shadow, we won’t ever transcend or control it. And being the wild animal that it is, it will continue to wreak havoc.

A gene regulatory network sub-circuit that is conserved between sea urchins and sea stars
A gene regulatory network sub-circuit that is conserved between sea urchins and sea stars | Source

Biological manifestations of evolution

The historical information of life is recorded in the linear sequence nucleotides—A, C, G, and T—that make up the DNA molecule. Because of that fact we can deduce the history of life by measuring the progressive divergence between the genomic DNA sequences of diverse organisms. Recently Diethard Tautz and colleagues developed a method of “genomic phylostratigraphy”, described as “a statistical approach for reconstruction of macroevolutionary trends based on the principle of founder gene formation and punctuated emergence of protein families”. The approach uses well-established phylogenetic trees (constructed from matrices of character similarities, including DNA sequence, among different organisms) and fully sequenced genomes from diverse organisms to deduce the phylogenetic point of origin of each of an organism’s genes. Thus for example, some genes will be shared among all eukaryotes (life forms based on nucleated cells), others among animals and fungi but not plants, and still others only among animals. From this it can be deduced that some genes were inherited from the common ancestor of all eukaryotes; others from the common ancestor of animals and fungi; still others from the common ancestor of all animals. The approach is thus analogous to geological stratigraphy—hence the name.

The late Stephen Jay Gould predicted in the 1970s that macroevolutionary changes in animal form would involve “regulatory genes”—i.e., genes that regulate the ontogenetic activity (“expression”) of other genes—which control developmental timing and patterning. Mutations in such genes had been found to cause dramatic changes in the development of fruit flies (e.g., producing an extra pair of wings), suggesting that only small genetic changes were needed to account for the relatively rapid changes in form observed periodically in the fossil record. In the early 1980s it was discovered that the DNA sequence of one class of such genes—the homeobox (“Hox”) genes—is conserved between flies and humans. This was quite surprising at the time, because it had been assumed that evolution was based on gradual changes in DNA (and hence protein) sequences. Since then high conservation of DNA sequence among families of regulatory proteins has been found to be the norm. Moreover, sequencing of many animal genomes has shown that a basic toolkit of ~20,000 proteins is highly conserved among all animals, from sponges to humans. And this includes proteins that (like Hox proteins) regulate gene expression. So what gives? If all animals have a similar genetic toolkit, how does evolution work?

The key is found in developmental biology. No, ontogeny does not recapitulate phylogeny, as famously suggested by the German naturalist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919). But embryos of different species within the same class do generally pass through a stage where they are quite similar in appearance, much more so than either the adults or the earlier developmental stages. For example, like fish, embryos of terrestrial vertebrates all develop through stage of possessing a notochord and gill arches. This is referred to as the “phylotypic stage”. A recently published phylostratigraphic analysis of Domazet-Loso and Tautz showed that the most ancient genes specific to the class are expressed at this stage, whereas more recently evolved (e.g. family-specific) genes tend to be expressed at the divergent earlier and later stages. This indicates that the phylotypic stage is a genetically entrenched developmental “bottleneck” that modern species inherited from a common ancestor.

To understand why such a bottleneck exists, you have to know something about how genes control organismal development. They do so through ‘gene regulatory networks’ defined by DNA sequence-specific interactions between genes, mediated by sequence-specific DNA binding proteins called ‘transcription factors’. For example, Hox proteins are a family of transcription factors important for pattern formation during animal development. Gene regulatory networks constructed by DNA sequence-specific interactions encode algorithmic control circuits that direct development along a specific trajectory in response to local environmental cues experienced by the cells and tissues within a developing embryo. They represent the “hardwiring” of development. The networks are evolvable however because they are modular, such that some circuits can be used as ‘plug-ins’, directing similar processes in various different contexts. The evolutionary co-option of a module for a new purpose can occur with relatively minor mutations. On the other hand, ‘master-control’ circuits exist that control a whole suite of processes—for example, eye development. And such circuits tend to be the most deeply conserved in evolution (a phenomenon known as ‘deep homology’), and the ones that are deployed during the phylotypic stage. For example, a gastrulation (formation of the gut) in sea stars and sea urchins, whose common ancestor lived ~500 million years ago, is controlled by the same genetic regulatory circuit.

And this helps explain macroevolutionary patterns such as the Cambrian explosion and punctuated equilibria. The common ancestor of all animals appears to have existed ~700 million years ago, so the gene regulatory networks that control animal development have had many billions of years to independently evolve (calculated as the sum of all the tree branch lengths). During that evolution some gene regulatory circuits became deeply entrenched from the get-go, while others had more freedom to change. But the ones that become entrenched are a major constraint on what direction evolution can take going forward. So it is naïve to expect that it would be possible to transform contemporary species from one to another in the laboratory—that ship sailed long ago.

Yet another important piece of the puzzle fell into place with the recent discovery of microRNAs, small pieces of RNA (about 21 nucleotides long) that bind sequence-specifically to gene transcripts (mRNAs), and by virtue of that binding, prevent translation of the transcript into protein. In other words, microRNAs suppress the expression of specific genes. One of the results of their doing so is to make the gene expression less noisy, i.e., more precise. Intriguingly, unlike the repertoire of genes that encode proteins, which is more or less the same among all animals, the repertoire of microRNA genes increases progressively through animal evolution, with the emergence of each new lineage accompanied by an expansion of the microRNA repertoire. Moreover, the diversity of microRNAs in an animal is proportional to the relative complexity of that animal—for example, vertebrates have a microRNA repertoire that is much larger than that of their closest invertebrate relatives; bilaterians have more microRNAs than cnidarians; and cnidarians have more than sponges. So it appears that microRNAs may have played an important role in the evolution of animal complexity.

Trilobites: Phacops and Walliceratops (by Nobu Tamura)
Trilobites: Phacops and Walliceratops (by Nobu Tamura) | Source

Moreover, they may help explain the winnowing of morphological diversity following the Cambrian explosion of animal life. An illustrative example of this pattern is provided by the evolution of trilobites, an extinct class of Arthropods that originated in the Cambrian and existed for 300 million yeas until the end of the Permian. Because of their small size and hard exoskeletons, trilobite fossils are numerous and particularly well-preserved. What has been found is that intraspecific morphological variety was much greater among Cambrian trilobites than among trilobites of later epochs. This may be explained by the cumulative evolution of microRNAs, which would have resulted in more consistent patterns of gene expression, and hence more precise development resulting in less morphological variation. But this would have come at a cost—more genetic entrenchment, and hence less developmental plasticity, meaning decreased evolvability. And so like many other entrenched life forms, trilobites became extinct when the proverbial shit hit the fan (when the bolide hit the earth) at the end of the Permian.

To make a long story short, the theory of evolution has come a long way since Darwin. We now have many more fossils, we know the physical basis for genetic inheritance, and we know how it works to reproducibly generate a complex multicellular organism from a single cell zygote. Darwin didn’t have the benefit of this knowledge. Which is a testament to the brilliance of his theory: for the vast amount of scientific knowledge that has accumulated since the publication of Origin of Species a century and a half ago has done nothing but strengthen that theory, making obvious the objective reality of evolution.  

What evolutionary theory does not (yet) explain

The renowned evolutionary biologist (and Christian theist) Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-1975), one of the architects of the modern synthesis of genetics and evolutionary theory famously said that “nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution”. He was absolutely right. And this is why the sophistic arguments of evolution deniers are, to any genuine biologist, utter nonsense.

Nevertheless, any honest biologist will also admit there are explanatory holes in the theory of evolution. The biggest concerns the origin of life from non-life—i.e., abiogenesis. We still do not know how that happened. And until we do, that gap in knowledge will remain a bastion of hope for those who prefer not to know.

There is actually a very good argument for why this is not a trivial problem, one that intelligent design sophists have undoubtedly latched on to. And that is this: unlike in non-living (abiotic) systems, in which information is entirely descriptive of structural constraints imposed by the laws of physics, the genetic information that characterizes life is algorithmically prescriptive (anticipatory), affording cybernetic control via arbitrarily configurable switches encoded in DNA. In other words, the genetic algorithms that control organismal ontogeny and physiology are completely arbitrary with respect to the laws of physics and chemistry. The scientific explanation for how those algorithms evolved is not found in physics or chemistry, but in biology: Darwinian natural selection. But as admitted by Darwin himself, natural selection does not explain their origin. It cannot, because natural selection presupposes the capacity for exponential growth via reproduction. And as far as we know that requires prescriptive information-bearing polymers such as DNA and RNA.

So, if physics and chemistry do not suffice to explain the origin of prescriptive information, and if such information evolves by natural selection only after it has already originated, how did it originate?

David Abel has termed this gap between non-life and life “the cybernetic cut”, the unbridgeability of which he sets forth as a null hypothesis that has yet to be invalidated by experimental evidence or theory. He has thus thrown down the gauntlet (and indeed, has offered a prize to anyone who can solve the problem).

Although it may be tempting to throw up ones hands and say abiogenesis is impossible (and thus that life must have been supernaturally created), it behooves us to recall that prior to the Wright brothers, many people thought that human flight was impossible, for the same reason: faulty assumptions that engender inadequate theoretical understanding. For any self-respecting scientist, the seeming impossibility of abiogenesis is nothing but an invitation to come up with a paradigm-changing idea that explains why our current limited understanding of nature makes it seem impossible. Nature is way bigger than our naturalistic models, so it would be silly to expect that our understanding is ever complete enough to know how everything works (or worked in the past). To invoke “supernatural” explanations for aspects we don’t yet understand is irrational, and a complete intellectual cop-out.

Here’s my idea for how the cybernetic cut was bridged: life not only evolves—it also develops. So along with a theory of evolution, we need a theory of development. By development I refer to a systemic trajectory of change that increases determinacy, and hence predictability. Development occurs in complex systems at many hierarchical levels, and is characteristic of change not only in biological systems, but in abiotic ones as well. Organisms clearly develop into existence. But so do tornadoes, galaxies, and the universe as a whole. And, I suggest, the evolution of life has entailed development at the level of ecosystems and phylogeny.

Unlike evolution, development explains why things don’t work quite the same way now as they did in the distant past—any more than an adult human works the same way as an infant. The Cambrian explosion clearly manifested the immaturity of animal life. With maturity many possibilities are lost. And many more (qualitatively different) opportunities are gained. The development of life is inconsistent with the uniformitarian assumption, at least as far as biology is concerned. The phenomenology of development doesn’t completely invalidate that assumption (e.g., it remains reasonable for geological processes over the past few billion years), but it does provide context that circumscribes its application.

I submit that common principles drive development in all complex systems—both biotic and abiotic—and offer a conceptual route toward bridging the cybernetic cut.

What are these principles?

I conclude by naming two that bear consideration. The first is reflexivity, or cybernetic causality—the agency of feedback. Feedback manifests whenever events substantially affect the probability of their own recurrence. Positive feedback cycles drive growth and, when energy resources become limiting, selection. Negative feedback produces definition. Development occurs whenever feedback cycles emerge. And given the deep combinatorial complexity of the universe, they are bound to emerge.

The second is the principle of maximum entropy production (MEP), an extension of the Second Law of thermodynamics. I argued in a previous hub that this Law and its attendant principle—the need to dissipate, and to do so as fast as possible given constraints—is the final cause of everything in this universe, including life.

So in closing I submit that because of complexity, reflexivity, and the Second Law of thermodynamics, life is inevitable whenever and wherever suitable initiating conditions exist. Given the size of our universe, I would expect life to be ubiquitous, a defining characteristic of the vast number of earth-like planets that undoubtedly can be found within the billions of solar systems in each of the universe’s billions of galaxies. With any luck humanity will find a way to test that hypothesis.


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Comments 83 comments

Manna in the wild profile image

Manna in the wild 5 years ago from Australia

Nicely written and well researched. You put a lot of concepts, facts and ideas into a concise comprehensible essay.


Baileybear 5 years ago

Come and advertise your hub in one of my evolution/Darwin ones, if you like. I will link. Some of it will be too technical for some to understand. But even if you try to avoid jargon, the religious extremist will still think 'cambrian explosion' was overnight and that two apes or monkeys gave birth to a monkey (these things were on James Watkins' hub, which I have given up on).

It is interesting to note that people before Darwin came up with idea of evolution/common ancestor, but they might have had wrong mechanism and/or were light on evidence, which is where Darwin made an impact. The hatred & twisted information (lies) from the opposition is rather disturbing.

I am considering writing a hub about some misconceptions, but I don't mind if you beat me to it. I was thinking of writing to a rather basic level, not too technical.


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 5 years ago from SE MA

I think we only differ from other animals in degree, and some of us don't differ all that much. Our greatest difference is our conceit that the differences matter.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Hello JC! Well, I'm trying to read this with my morning coffee and it just isn't working out too well. I'm getting stuck looking up the meaning of words I'm not familiar with (although I should be).

I will have to return later when my brain is more functional.

"Although it may be tempting to throw up ones hands and say abiogenesis is impossible" was one phrase that stood out to me. I think perhaps that is what is happening to the religionists - they just throw up their hands (in prayer) to find answers that they think cannot be explained.

I have no doubt that someday we will be able to explain abiogenesis and that time is in the not too distant future. Hopefully, this will be the "apocalypse" that they are so anxiously awaiting.


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Manna--I may be preaching to the choir, but I felt a need to offset some of the ridiculously misinformed propaganda that's been propagating on Hubpages of late. I only hope that this provides food for thought for those who retain some curiosity. Thanks for the positive feedback!

Baileybear--thank you, I'll take you up on your offer. I take it from your comment that my "non-technical" writing skills still need some honing. Good to know!

Pc--I agree that we are not as different from other animals as many seem to think. I would say that our biggest difference is our unsurpassed ability to wreak technological havoc (which is no doubt connected to our conceit).

Austinstar--Sorry about the technical language! Like I said to Baileybear, I guess I need to work on that... I expect we will solve abiogenesis within the next decade. Thanks for stopping by.


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 5 years ago from SE MA

Well, before oxygen using animals arrived, the plants "wreaked havoc" on their environment with their waste byproduct, didn't they?

:)


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Indeed--and we may be creating an ecological catastrophe that rivals that one!


Manna in the wild profile image

Manna in the wild 5 years ago from Australia

Hi JC. I've got a built-in BS detector that usually works pretty well, and this David Abel guy is raising a few hairs. Curiously it started in the first millisecond of looking at that lifeorigin site. Here is how it works:

1) Awful color scheme.

2) (C) notice out of date.

3) Crude frames based web hosting

4) Pseudo-legalese.

All this is not commensurate with the ability to give a million dollar prize. As an artist, things like aesthetics and colour scheme done poorly smack me in the face, and immediately there is a disconnect between some individual who claims to be able to give a huge prize but did not purchase the services of a graphic artist. Similarly for the pseudo legal wording.

I smell a rat.

So I did a quick search, and most top results come from non academic sites. One odd reference is here: http://richarddawkins.net/articles/1649 where you can read the comments and there are similar feelings expressed.

And what kind of peer-review scientist offers up a list of peer reviewed publications via blog spot? http://davidlabel.blogspot.com/

I would be very happy to be proven wrong on this hunch.


Manna in the wild profile image

Manna in the wild 5 years ago from Australia

My B.S. bell is now ringing loud with this David Abel guy, see this:

http://www.youdebate.com/cgi-bin/scarecrow/topic.c...

I found this"

"http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2008/04/guelph-creati... where one says: I don't know about the rest of you but I don't often hear atheists say things like that. Maybe he's thinking of aliens who write genetic programs? I also don't know too many atheists who would publish papers with known creationists who use the data to support their religious agenda."

Creationists like him:

http://creation.com/who-wants-to-be-a-millionaire

http://www.conservapedia.com/Creation_science


Baileybear 5 years ago

Joyous, yes there's a lot of science jargon needs explaining, defining or avoiding if want to be understood by layperson. Even Austinstar said she didn't know what jargon words meant, & she's in medical field. I noticed you often explained jargon with more jargon.


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Manna--good nose! Yes, Abel certainly smells like an IDer, and he may well be one. You can see why creationists would latch onto his 'cybernetic cut' hypothesis, which is a perfect set-up for ID.

And I think it IS basically ID sophistry. But it is the best (really, the only good) sophistry that they have come up with. It is good because they are simply pointing out, using sound arguments, a very real conceptual brick wall that science has run up against. Abel doesn't quite go so far as saying that that proves ID--but that conclusion is implicit in his papers (some of which I have read, and are actually published in reasonable peer-reviewed journals).

I cite Abel not because I agree with him about his "cybernetic cut" being unbridgeable--I think it is bridgeable. But the conceptual problem he describes is real, and we haven't yet found the bridge. We will (I actually think we are very close)--we just need some fresh new ideas. In the meantime, it doesn't help our cause to pretend the problem doesn't exist, regardless of the questionable motives of those who point it out.

Thanks much for your sleuthing and perspicacious comments!


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Baileybear--thanks for the heads-up. I will work on fixing that as I continue to revise the hub. I appreciate your candor!


FCEtier profile image

FCEtier 5 years ago from Cold Mountain

A recent poll in the U.S. reported results that 86% don't believe in evolution -- in the States. [sigh]


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

FC--is that right? I had recently heard 40%. If you are right then we really are up shit creek without a paddle, as far as democracy is concerned...


FCEtier profile image

FCEtier 5 years ago from Cold Mountain

http://www.gallup.com/poll/145286/four-americans-b...

This was published last week. I guess my memory was off a few per centage points! LOL


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore

40% is high enough! Lol 86% would mean total despair.

Joyous I thought this was wonderful and even the title was perfectly chosen. I for one, appreciate you going to this effort - I sincerely hope it gets widely read.


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

FC--whew! Good to know. Though as Jane says, 40% is bad enough.

Jane--Thank you. I hope so so too. We clearly need to work on reducing the public ignorance quotient.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

JC, we definitely need to work on the uninformed about evolution and dangerous beliefs from the bible.

It is so bad sometimes that I just want to gag. I've narrowed it down to the fact that these people CAN'T READ! Nor do they wish to learn. I have people at work, supposedly educated people (Nurses, Technologists, et.) and they absolutely cannot read and follow even simple directions. I have learned to be very specific when I leave a note for someone. And use very simple words. Preferably one syllable words. I'm not kidding! It's so frustrating.

I had one tech store a leaking bag of blood on a shelf in the blood bank refrigerator and neither he nor the nurse bringing it down thought to store the unit in a ziplock bag and stand it upright. Sure enough the entire unit of blood leaked out into the refrigerator. I see daily examples like this. Amazing.

So if you can't get people to seal a leaking bag of blood, how in the world are you going to get them to think about the complexities of evolution? Help me!!!


Baileybear 5 years ago

Yes, Austinstar & JC - make it as simple as possible, and if they are stuck in their mindset, they will still read the opposite, but I figure we may as well educate those that are confused about the issue, and only find all that propaganda.

Agree Austinstar - people can't seem to read or follow directions these days. They're used to 'instant this-and-that'. Brains are withered up from lack-of-use.

I wonder sometimes if my hubs are too long, but they get good comments, so they mustn't have got bored.


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Austinstar--I agree. We are rapidly becoming an illiterate society. I think it's important for scientists to try to communicate their work as broadly as possible, but it's getting harder and harder, and not only because scientists (myself included) have a hard time simplifying their work. If you have to dumb it down to bite size catch phrases and one syllable words to get their attention, I think you're in trouble.

It's an interesting evolutionary phenomenon really. I speculate that the decline into illiteracy is linked to the rise of technology, particularly television. TV is to modern America as lead-laden water was to ancient Rome: it has engendered widespread stupidity. But it's more than that. Our fast-paced, noisy lifestyle is not very conducive to thoughtful reflection... The internet on the other hand is on the level (I think) a good thing. But only to the extent that its users have the capacity to engage their brains. We have to keep working on that. It seems to have come down to a war of words....

Baileybear--I agree that the only folks we can hope to connect with are those whose minds aren't locked tightly shut. They are out there.

Your hubs are not too long at all. You do a wonderful job of presenting information in a way that is easily understandable (but without 'dumbing it down'), and you do it in an engaging way. Your excellent series on Darwin and evolution has probably won over many 'hearts and minds' in this war of words.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

BB's hub and this hub combined should be required reading in schools. They both present Darwin and Evolution in a serious well thought out light.

Thanks, you two!


f_hruz profile image

f_hruz 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

English was not my first language but I find it most stimulating to read hubs like yours. It's great to have to look up a few words here and there to widen ones vocabulary - let the non-scientists among us present the arguments you raise so well, spread a simpler version to the less literate. The numbing down of the human mind doesn't have to become a global movement. It's bad enough to be flourishing so well among the religious types of some countries – ahaha! Keep up the good work as a scientist – it may just inspire more of us to not only look up a word, but even pick up a few books on related subjects.

I have some questions for you:

Since all forms of life seem to have some degree of intelligence, relevant to it's existence and continued development/evolution, what is it in the natural environment, over and above the information transmitted during reproduction which makes a mature entity function differently from a recent offspring?

Do all forms of life have some form of memory they can build an experiential learning base around?

Why is man so greatly indifferent to learning to exchange insights into various forms of intelligence and experiential information with other highly evolved forms of life on this planet, whales and dolphins especially?

Maybe you can point me to some text or links I should read if an answer maybe a bit lengthy.

Simple words, like “God is love and truth”, etc. are perfect for the simple minded religious types - thanks ever so much for a great hub and for being such a valuable contributor to this community - I'm quite happy to keep learning from you! :)


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Thank you Austinstar and f_hruz, you have made my day;-)

f_hruz, in answer to your questions:

"Since all forms of life seem to have some degree of intelligence, relevant to it's existence and continued development/evolution, what is it in the natural environment, over and above the information transmitted during reproduction which makes a mature entity function differently from a recent offspring?"

Good question. All life forms are responsive to their environment, and "tuned into" different aspects upon which their survival depends. Some species are developmentally very plastic, such that they will develop one form in some conditions and another form in other conditions. Others (such as ourselves) are less plastic, although our psychology is still very much influenced by the environment it develops in (the 'nature-nurture' interaction).

Of course, whatever changes are elicited strictly by environmental conditions ('acquired characters') do not get transmitted to the next generation--there has to be at least some genetic (heritable) component. But the environment can elicit adaptive genetic responses that would otherwise not be expressed, and if those responses enhance the organism's reproduction, the genes that make them possible will be selected. So the environment does play a role, not only as the agent of selection, but also by influencing the development and physiology of the organism. And eventually genetic mutations might occur that produce the same changes independently of environmental input (a phenomenon known as 'genetic assimilation').

"Do all forms of life have some form of memory they can build an experiential learning base around?"

Yes--at the most fundamental level it is carried in the sequence of the DNA molecule, which is in essence a memory storage device. But there are other forms of "epigenetic" memory produced for example by biochemical modifications of chromatin (the complex of DNA and protein that makes up the chromosomes), as well as by feedback loops that emerge in cell physiology. So really there are lots of forms of memory, at many different levels.

"Why is man so greatly indifferent to learning to exchange insights into various forms of intelligence and experiential information with other highly evolved forms of life on this planet, whales and dolphins especially?"

That is a really good question. I don't really know the answer, beyond the "conceit" that Pc alluded to. Personally I don't think we give other animals the credit they are due, as far as intelligence goes. It's just that their intelligence manifests differently than ours. I do think it is in part explained by our unique language-based consciouness, through which we have become very self-absorbed. There are however some among us who communicate with other species. One such person is Aya Katz here on hubpages. Here's a recent hub of his that is somewhat relevant to your question:

http://hubpages.com/education/Developmental-Delay-...

Hope that makes sense. Thanks for the comment and excellent questions!


f_hruz profile image

f_hruz 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Thank you very much for your highly informative reply.

It is very interesting to know that ... the sequence of the DNA molecule is in essence a memory storage device ... and that there are other forms of "epigenetic" memory produced for example by biochemical modifications of chromatin (the complex of DNA and protein that makes up the chromosomes), as well as by feedback loops that emerge in cell physiology. So really there are lots of forms of memory, at many different levels.

Do you feel it maybe possible for the brain as the CPU of a living entity to develop special functions which may assist in the proliferation of such experiential data - if found to be of importance for the advancement of special mental functions for the living entity as a whole?

The problem with information processing is not that we don't have the technology, and the biological equivalent maybe just as well equipped to do this kind of work, but systems may not know what to do with all this data if it was not collected and stored for a special, clearly defined purpose ... but when the collection of information is quite focused, can the storage and processing of it serve a useful purpose which may then also benefit the advancement of the whole entity as part of a larger process - the low level of brain activity in humans is mostly determined by the culture of the society we live in but there are ways to bring about change to the better ... :)

I learned from another hub that dolphins and porpoises were original land-dwelling mammals. It would be really interesting to trace back, how these changes were brought about – if it was mostly determined by changes in the environment or if it may have been a more reasoned, self determinative move one could possibly equate to humans developing technologically to the point where they may want to live on other planets.


Baileybear 5 years ago

Joyous, I've seen little definition boxes that can pop up in some webpages. Can that be done in hubpages? ie so get a definition (preferably one you can write yourself), without taking you away from the main hub?


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

f_hruz--

"Do you feel it maybe possible for the brain as the CPU of a living entity to develop special functions which may assist in the proliferation of such experiential data - if found to be of importance for the advancement of special mental functions for the living entity as a whole?"

I don't know how (or even whether, or to what extent) the brain makes use of 'low level' biological memory such as that stored in DNA. Clearly the organism makes use of genetic memory during its development, and that probably is how instinctive behaviors are encoded into neural circuits. But once the brain is mature, I think its capacity to process genetic information is probably very limited. At that point most of the processing of experience is direct, via interaction between the environment and neural circuitry (which encode and store the experiential memory of the individual organism).

I do think that the information processing done by the the human brain is in some ways unique compared to other animals, owing to our metaphorical consciouness. In my opinion this does two things--one, it gives us an internal sense of time that affords a kind of deep "foresight" and "hindsight" that other animals don't have; and two, it disconnects us from direct experience by interfering with the information processing performed by the unconscious mind. So in some ways other animals do much better than we do at information processing (at least they do it more rapidly). This relates to my hub on Julian Jaynes's theory of consciousness (http://hubpages.com/hub/Julian-Jaynes), as well as that of Aya Katz cited in my previous comment.

I agree with you about the problem with information processing. We live in an age of information overload--where the proliferation of information surpasses our ability to process it. In biomedical science I think we are seeing an explosion of information with very little advancement of understanding....

The evolution of dolphins, porpoises, and whales is indeed a fascinating subject. I doubt very much that their ancestors were motivated to return to the sea by reasoned self-determination. They were probably just being opportunistic--following the food for example. I supsect also that those animals lacked the cognitive abilites of their modern descendents (just as our primitive ancestors lacked our cognitive abilities). Which raises the interesting question of how and why cetacean sentience evolved to its present state. I wonder what dolphins think about. Are they aware that their ancestors were land mammals? Do they argue amongst themselves about whether they evolved or were specially created in the likeness of the great dolphin god? I suspect not. I think we alone among animals are condemned to suffer such delusions, as a consequence of our unique form of language-based consciousness....


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Baileybear--the only way I know of to do that would be to use a separate text module as a glossary. That's actually a good idea...

It would be really cool if hubpages could come up with a tool that would allow you to program pop-up definitions for technical words.


Manna in the wild profile image

Manna in the wild 5 years ago from Australia

Warning: opinion-based stuff follows. Don't cut-and-paste into your PHD thesis!

"I do think that the information processing done by the the human brain is in some ways unique compared to other animals, owing to our metaphorical consciousness."

I almost disagree. I am really quite sure that the organ is identical in basic topology and parts. There is a mid-brain and a fore-brain. There are two hemispheres, and a corpus-callosum and so on. Therefore I think the way that we process information is exactly the same.

however...

"I think we alone among animals are condemned to suffer such delusions, as a consequence of..."

Yes. I suspect this too, and it is a consequence of different ratios of activity in various parts of the brain. We know for example that the amygdala is a powerful nerve-oriented fear-processing, long-term memory processor. It's a basic efficient survival-portion of the brain. In humans, the cerebellum is huge compared to other animals and as such has the ability to say, "hold on a min... let's do a little more pattern-matching here, there could be a different way to react...."

Again, I am sure that the cerebellum is also significant in the other great-apes, but in humans the ratio of power it has over other functions is large, while I'd hazard a guess that it's a minor or dwarfed role in most if not all other animals.

As for *where* memory is actually stored in the brain, this is an open question. Some think there are hidden mechanisms yet to be discovered.

Personally, I think there is a boatload of activity in our brain that happens before an event makes it into our consciousness. That is patterns, chemicals, signals that are below a critical threshold. In humans, when these pass a threshold and become controllable thoughts (patterns), then by virtue of our big-brain architecture, we can take a second look at the data, and a third and so on. In other animals, I suspect that the deal is pretty much done as that threshold is crossed.

So yes - we are capable of delusion.

We also have instinct which is built-in brain patterns. I watch my cat try to bury her extra food with imaginary dirt surrounding the dish on a wooden floor. It's quite stupid, sort of like cat-OCD. She has to do it, just has to, and does. She doesn't evaluate the result otherwise she'd be there all day. That's instinctive and not in the higher thought processes. But when she is stalking and playing it's a different matter.

Yuh never know. One day religious bigotry might be curable.


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Manna--good points. You are right about human neuroanatomy being essentially the same as that of other animals, and I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. There is nothing qualitatively "extra", so the information processing mechanisms are undoubtedly the same. The difference is quantitative (e.g., a few more neurons in specific regions) and this somehow affords the ability, as you say, to "take a second look at the data, and a third and so on". That fits with my conception of human consciousness. And I would agree that with other animals (and even some humans) "the deal is pretty much done as that threshold [into attentional awareness] is crossed". So the question is what is it about our brains that allows introspective thinking? I am not a neurobiologist, so I really don't have much to say on the matter. Your ratio hypothesis makes sense to me.

I read somewhere today that sociable people tend to have a relatively large amygdala...

I think the only cure to religious bigotry is a liberal education, which is one of the reasons religious fundamentalists are opposed to it. Of course, this requires basic curiosity, and I sometimes wonder if this is something that some people lack from the get-go. If that's the case religious bigotry may be incurable...


Manna in the wild profile image

Manna in the wild 5 years ago from Australia

"I read somewhere today that sociable people tend to have a relatively large amygdala"

That would surprise me.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore

"Personally, I think there is a boatload of activity in our brain that happens before an event makes it into our consciousness. That is patterns, chemicals, signals that are below a critical threshold"

I read an article a while back in the New Scientist that posited we have a kind of unconscious central processing unit that sorts information amd makes decisions for us...which then seep through to our conscious brain, giving us the illusion of freewill. Mindblowing.


Baileybear 5 years ago

I read about some brain research that shows that those on the autistic spectrum (who are less geared towards social interaction) have differently 'wired' brains; also many on autistic spectrum have some parts of brain more developed than others eg visual or maths areas might be strong; social areas weak


f_hruz profile image

f_hruz 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Religiosity doesn't have to be cured. If it gets to be castigated more like a self-inflicted mental disability, social dynamics may put it in it's right place one day.

I was asked in the past by folks who heard me switch from English or German into Italian or Russian at international events, which language I am actually using to think in. I had to tell them that my thoughts are free of any one of them, since the use of a language is to me just a learned reflex which may actually slow down when I don't use a language for a while. It is the human ability to think in highly abstract ways and to use reason to advance complex arguments based on conceptual ideas which will help us make the best use of the internet in the future and possibly bring about the next big step in our evolution as a cultured life form.

I can even see an intellectual revolution bringing about a re-evaluation of the enormous wast of human resources the Vatican is presiding over, which would serve a much better purpose as a global centre for the advancement of the human mind with the first topic on the adjenda: global disarmament!

If we could only learn how to be socially more skilled in eliminating the three major mind polluting factors from our global environment: nationalism, religiosity and consumerism, the downfall of the Vatican could be made into a part of such a global strategy!


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Manna--http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/vaop/ncurrent/...

Jane--I think most of the information processing that goes on in the brain is unconscious, and that consciousness is just an overlay of that. So your comment makes perfect sense to me, and fits with Julian Jaynes's theory of consciouness being a recent human development.

As far as free-will is concerned, I think that much of what we say to justify our behavior is an after-the-fact rationalization that may not have anything to do with the actual motivation for the behavior...

Baileybear--interesting. That would suggest then that information processing depends not only on the general anatomy of the brain, but also on the specific wiring, the development of which I would guess is controlled by both genetics and environment (as with most things).

f_hruz--it's interesting that you don't think in language. I do--or at least I think I do. Now that I think about it I'm not so sure. Maybe when I'm consciously thinking in words it is a "second-order" thought process....

I hate to say what I see for the future, because it isn't pretty. I guess I have a pretty dim view of human nature, particularly when resources get scarce and push comes to shove. I'm afraid that is only going to cause an increase in the 'mind-pollutants' you listed (excepting perhaps consumerism, which will have to end when the global economy collapses).

I found Cormac McCarthy's The Road to be a disturbingly realistic assessment of human nature...


Manna in the wild profile image

Manna in the wild 5 years ago from Australia

For those who would like in-frame word lookup on hubpages and others using chrome there is an extension at https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/ipdjaafa... and probably one for other browsers by adding an extension.

and you might find better ones after some experimenting.


TahoeDoc profile image

TahoeDoc 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

Great hub and great discussion!


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Manna--thanks for tip and link. That looks useful...

TahoeDoc--thanks for the positive feedback! Nice to 'meet' you too;-)


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Nice information. I learn much from you. Thanks for share with us. Love and peace!


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 5 years ago

Perhaps there was an evolution millions of years ago. But man has not evolved in thousands of years. Our civilization keeps funding wars that are from hell. Man will continue to be greedy and warring until there is enlightenment. Great hub!


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Prasetio30--thank you, I appreciate that. Love and peace to you as well!

Micky Dee--good to see you here. Humanity does seem to be stuck. I keep hoping that we will grow up. But it seems that we are hell-bent on destroying that which sustains us. Sadly, we are still ruled by fear and greed, rather than love and generosity...

I think enlightenment requires that we know ourselves, which means acknowledging our animal nature. Until we come to grips with that it will get the better of us.


Manna in the wild profile image

Manna in the wild 5 years ago from Australia

"I think enlightenment requires that we know ourselves, which means acknowledging our animal nature."

This is one of the most important things I've ever read.


mrpopo profile image

mrpopo 5 years ago from Canada

Great Hub JC. You tackle on some of the common misconceptions found with evolution and go a step further and explain why these misconceptions are so important to address.


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Thanks Manna and mrpopo;-)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

You wrote: "Such folks often argue that evolution is “just a theory”. Sadly, this argument is as ignorant as it is illogical."

The Truth is that it is ignorant to claim a theory is more than a theory. Anybody with a dictionary or a computer can look up the definition of a theory. Evolution IS just a theory. That is a fact.

You wrote: "Believe it or not, life on earth evolved, and continues to do so. This fact of evolution is incontrovertible. As is the fact of ‘macroevolution’: the tree of life wherein all contemporary species, including Homo sapiens, share common ancestry."

This is not a fact—it is a theory. You falsely conflate the two. A fact is: 1) something that actually exists; reality; truth 2) something known to exist or to have happened 3) a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true

A theory is none of these things and you know it. If it were then fact and theory would be synonyms, which they are not.

You wrote: "So what makes us different from our non-human cousins? The religious answer is of course that human beings, unlike other animals, supposedly have a “spirit” or “soul”. Since such a thing is not definable, it is not testable, and therefore not scientific."

A soul or spirit is absolutely definable. It is idiotic to say it is not. It has been defined countless times and it is surely as factual as you telling me you "know" what happened 14 billion years ago.

You wrote: "Our predilection for religion is probably a vestige of an earlier pre-conscious mentality that also developed along with language, and which was similar in many ways to modern day schizophrenia (which in this light can be seen as an atavism)--although the condition was then the culturally-supported norm, and hence not viewed as a mental illness. Thus, ancients who heard the voice of God were being quite literal—that is, they literally heard a voice speaking to them, which they attributed to their god. Only, as in schizophrenia, it was a hallucinated voice, coming from inside their head. And amazingly, the hallucinated words that those ancient poets wrote down in authoritative texts are to this day interpreted literally by religious fanatics, who as a result are driven to deny objective reality."

This is a shameful, demeaning section that smacks of being inspired by demons. So when you read the words of Jesus, or Paul, or Moses, or John, or Doctor Luke—you see mentally ill people suffering from schizophrenic hallucinations? Utterly ludicrous. Utterly insulting. This kind of thought can only come from the blackest of hearts. May God have mercy on your soul.


SirDent 5 years ago

I agree with what james wrote in his comment. I also have this one small part to add.

If believers in Christ are unfit as you stated, they are on their way out anyway. Survival of the fittest or natural selection according to evolution makes certain of this.

So I ask, what is the point or punding it into the ground?


mrpopo profile image

mrpopo 5 years ago from Canada

James, you missed the point entirely. The statement "evolution is JUST a theory" suggests that theories are of low value. You can further infer that a person who thinks a theory is of low value probably has a wrong definition of the word in the first place. JC defined it properly to correct this issue. If you still think that a theory defined as an explanation that can consistently predict and create insight into the world around us is "just" a theory, you are lowly undermining its true value. It's dishonest to say the least.

Evolution has been proven, whether you define it as micro or macro evolution (I don't think most scientists even differ between the two). I'm certain you can't argue against micro evolution, so here is a link that has many proofs for macro evolution. http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/default.ht...

The explanation for this, natural selection, is a theory. The phenomenon of gradual change - evolution - is fact.

Defining a soul and proving its existence would be a good start. Insinuating that an exaggerated age of the Earth is as plausible as a soul is not a very good argument. First, you make it seem that either both can't be known, which begs the question of how you can define a soul if you can't know what it is, or that both can be known.

Personally I think the schizophrenia explanation makes a lot of sense. You can think it's insulting, evil or demeaning, just like some think it's insulting, evil or demeaning to be related to apes. I can see why you'd think that; it probably has something to do with a negative view in categorizing schizophrenia as an illness. An illness is a condition - it can be good, bad or neutral depending on the selection pressure. For instance, sickle cell disease is categorized as a disease and in most situations is harmful, but it can offer a significant advantage against malaria. In that light there's little reason to think that calling these writers schizophrenic is insulting. It's only insulting if you think so based on your own biases for schizophrenics. Nonetheless the schizophrenia explanation is a very good possibility and it may make more sense if you read JC's related hub: http://hubpages.com/education/Julian-Jaynes


Baileybear 5 years ago

James is paranoid that everyone is possessed by demons. Seems the schizophrenia analogy was very appropriate and hit a nerve or two


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

James--what mrpopo said. I only have a couple of things to add:

(1) A fact is simply something that is true about objective reality. Some facts only come to light by virtue of scientific theory. Do you deny the other facts I listed? To be consistent, you would have to say that it is "just a theory" (and therefore "not a fact") that matter is composed of atoms. Is that what you believe?

(2) You say that a soul or spirit is absolutely definable, but you did not define it. Please do so in a way that is scientifically testable. I would love to hear your theory.

I'm sorry if you feel insulted--that was certainly not my intent. Thanks for weighing in with your comment.

SirDent--where did I ever state that "believers in Christ are unfit"? Did you even read the hub?

Mrpopo--thank you, very well said.

Baileybear--indeed!


mrpopo profile image

mrpopo 5 years ago from Canada

Anytime JC. Btw great take on the bicameral mind, a very interesting read!


Manna in the wild profile image

Manna in the wild 5 years ago from Australia

You might like to take a look at this: http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/42672.html


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Interesting piece Manna. He makes the same point regarding certainty that I tried to make in my hub on Science and Religion. So I agree with his oppostition to the cocksure certainty of atheists, which is why I am not an atheist (although I am agnostic).

What he fails to mention however (and this is a biggie) is that rational arguments that lie outside the domain of science depend entirely on the validity of their assumptions. And without science, we have no way of testing those assumptions. This is where the Kalam Cosmological argument fails: it is based on the assumption that existence is binary (to be or not to be). As a developmentalist I reject that assumption (see my hub The Creation of Humanity Part 1). I think existence is more adequately modeled by fuzzy logic than by crisp logic. Moreover, semiotics is key (but, unfortunately, neglected in most of these discussions). So the question is not "to be or not to be"; it is "what do you mean by 'to be'?"

Bottom line: Badar's piece is religious sophistry. And I am happy to accept his invitation to "bring it on";-)


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi Joyus Crynoid :)

Very good! ~ I don't know how I missed this before.

I, too, had problems with some of the scientific jargon, but, luckily, my husband is a chemist, so he could translate for me :) :)

I'm going to link to my hub on the subject ~ hope that's ok?

Mine is long Maybe too long ~ but a bit more simplistic, I think. :)


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Hi Trish,

Yes, I need to work on my non-technical writing (that's one of my reasons I joined hubpages:) I tend to fall into the jargon without even realizing it. I'm glad you had a translator!

Please do link to this. I have seen your hub, and skimmed through it. It is indeed long, but I think you do a good job of explaining things and covering all the bases.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Thank you, Joyus Crynoid ~ keep up the good work :)


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

And thank you for the link :)


surfric profile image

surfric 5 years ago

Very nice job. I like Dennett's take on this subject, in Darwin's Dangerous Idea. He does a good clear job of explanation of all manner if things using natural selection, better than Gould in my opinion.


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Trish--thanks, and you're welcome!

Surfric--I haven't read Dennett's book, although I have read various accounts of it, both positive and negative. I will put it on my 'to read' list. Thanks for the comment!


Bob Darely 5 years ago

Hi, I'm not an evolutionist, but I'm wondering...where are the "missing links" in evolution, and why haven't we found their fossils already?


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Bob: There are lots of transitional fossils. Read the hub


Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 5 years ago from California

Lerista skinks are living animals that are making a transition from lizard-like creatures to snake-like creatures. If you go online, you can easily find pictures of these skinks with useless legs sticking out of their sides. Here is one link: http://www.livescience.com/3053-evolution-action-l...


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Excellent! Thanks LTW.


gconeyhiden profile image

gconeyhiden 5 years ago from Brooklyn, N.Y.C. U.S.A

hey joyus, is that a self portrait? very nice. you wrote one hell of a hub. I have written two hubs lately on the subject but my approach was a bit different as I attacked the bible=Gods word and the common seemingly growing notion in U.S. that science is crap, just a club. you put in way more detail then me. the first hub was written because a scientist named Dr. Heinz Lycklama claimed the that the laws of thermodynamics prove evolution was absolutely impossible. I smelled a rat and tried to take this statement apart. I mailed him & asked for his equations or proofs. well im still waiting. I find it interesting you say it does the opposite as it probably must either allow for or actually figure into the reactions. Im an artist not a scientist and i spend a lot of time looking at strange bugs and spiders. not a quote but Darwin said to the effect..what kind of God would create parasites that feed on their living hosts? The only thing i could add to this very well written hub is that wallace did read Darwin before putting his theories together and kind of look at him for inspiration and insight. well thats what im lead to believe so they did have a prior connection. Since your hub is fine and detailed Ialso invite you to link to my hubs if you choose to. I find it sad that we even have to write these hubs in this day and age. BIG THUMBS UP!!!!


gconeyhiden profile image

gconeyhiden 5 years ago from Brooklyn, N.Y.C. U.S.A

hey joyus, is that a self portrait? very nice. you wrote one hell of a hub. I have written two hubs lately on the subject but my approach was a bit different as I attacked the bible=Gods word and the common seemingly growing notion in U.S. that science is crap, just a club. you put in way more detail then me. the first hub was written because a scientist named Dr. Heinz Lycklama claimed the that the laws of thermodynamics prove evolution was absolutely impossible. I smelled a rat and tried to take this statement apart. I mailed him & asked for his equations or proofs. well im still waiting. I find it interesting you say it does the opposite as it probably must either allow for or actually figure into the reactions. Im an artist not a scientist and i spend a lot of time looking at strange bugs and spiders. not a quote but Darwin said to the effect..what kind of God would create parasites that feed on their living hosts? The only thing i could add to this very well written hub is that wallace did read early Darwin before putting his theories together and kind of took him for added inspiration and insight on the subject. well thats what im lead to believe so they did have a prior connection. Since your hub is fine and detailed Ialso invite you to link to my hubs if you choose to. I find it sad that we even have to write these hubs in this day and age. BIG THUMBS UP!!!!


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden Author

Thank you gconeyhiden. Yes, that is a self-portrait.

The second law of thermodynamics is widely misunderstood, even among scientists. It does pose a problem for biology, just not the one most people think. It poses no more problem for abiogenesis than it does for the spontaneous generation of tornadoes, hurricanes, and other dissipative structures. The problem is that all non-living systems do disintegrate over time. Only living systems repair themselves in order to stay alive. But this can actually be seen as being in the service of the Second Law, if you bring final cause back into science. This can be done in a completely naturalistic way, without recourse to anything supernatural, but most scientists don't buy it (yet). I have a couple of other hubs on that subject ("Why We are Here", "The Scientific Misconception of Life"). I also recommend the new book "Incomplete Nature" by Terrence Deacon, which is a groundbreaking, paradigm-changing work that rivals Darwin's in importance.

Thanks for reading and commenting. I will check out your hubs on the subject.


Insane Mundane profile image

Insane Mundane 4 years ago from Earth

LOL! You said: "And so like many other entrenched life forms, trilobites became extinct when the proverbial shit hit the fan (when the bolide hit the earth) at the end of the Permian."

Do you even realize what the life of trilobites consisted of or is this random quotes from New Age web pages via a free-for-all Internet?

You don't even know how the trilobites actually became extinct...

Oh, no, shall we get their relatives involved too, like the Horseshoe crabs or perhaps the Cephalocarida?

Groovy, and this Hub is yet to explain the reason why the Neanderthals and the Homo erectus became extinct along with other beings like the Homo floresiensis, while failing to provide where the Homo sapiens came from.

Yeah, I'm totally not convinced that the Theory of Evolution explains why Cro-Magnon man appeared from nowhere and demolished the Neanderthals in the competitive race of survival.

Sure, everything that is alive will adapt, acclimate, evolve, etc., but that explains nothing when it comes to the origin of life. Even your God Darwin, who stole most of his "theories" from others before he wrote his beloved book, admitted to that.

Evolution has nothing to do with creation or religions, for that matter, and only a damn fool would think otherwise.

The only reason I landed here, is because I often get censored from atheist Hubs albeit I don't represent any organized religions, and was just seeing if you delete people just the same, as your fellow hubbers often do.

As redundant as it is, please feel free to be the first human on Earth to prove the missing link between the Homo erectus and the Homo sapiens, at your convenience, of course. Blah! :D


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 4 years ago from Eden Author

IM: I won't delete your comment, because it's fine with me if you want to share your idiocy with the world.

As for the missing link nonsense that you keep throwing up, I addressed that in the hub. If you can refute my argument for why you would not expect to find a "missing link" in the fossil record please do. But don't bother posting any more foolishness, because I will delete it.


Insane Mundane profile image

Insane Mundane 4 years ago from Earth

Oh, great, I get threatened with the "brave act of deletion," as usual - along with insults speaking about an idiocy of mine; how so lame...

Hell, lets just temporarily change the subject: If I have studied biology, varied fields of science, mathematics, astrophysics, and quantum mechanics among many other branches and fields of life's studies and experiences, just saying, then surely you cannot call me an idiot when I'm merely asking simple questions, since you are obviously an all-knowing being of some sorts. Hey, I'm trying to learn here... What's with the bad attitude toward us idiot people, as you say, like me?

By the way, out of the entire history books of evolution and known species to exist on planet Earth, have ya ever known another race of beings besides the Homo sapiens, that spoke, communicated, and used so many diverse ways of expression and different forms of languages before?

Yeah, surely the chimps, apes, bonobos, orangutans and gorillas are in utter envy right now, but what made us so great and separate from those little ape people you think that we spawned from?

Why are we the only race upon the gazillions of species to ever form on this diverse planet Earth, to ever have these discussions online, for example? Why so many languages and complex linguistics? Animalistic, eh? Nope, don't think so...

What, the Homo erectus would have did it?

The Neanderthals was just a keyboard stroke away?

LOL!

If you delete this particular comment, you are worse than most religionist extremists, as I'm not being pervasive or aggressive in the slightest, with those remarks.

It's a shame, however, that I have to watch each and every syllable that I reply back to the Evolution hubs with, all while I welcome any of y'all to come onto my hubs without ever having to worry about censorship.

Censorship achieves nothing but covering up lies and protecting the misinformed.

What a shame, but please enlighten me nonetheless...

If you do delete me, I'll just post it elsewhere, blah,. blah...


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 4 years ago from Eden Author

Insane Mundane, I will allow your comment because it only proves my point. You appear incapable of having a rational discussion. I asked you to refute my argument regarding the irrelevance of your missing link BS. You did not, and so I can only conclude you cannot.

Sorry about the insults, but you invite them by your demeanor as a commentor. You reap what you sew. But I suppose that you have to live up to your user name somehow.

To be fair, you are correct in pointing out the uniqueness of Homo sapiens. I have written on that subject as well, and on the scientific misconception of life. But that only means that our theories are inadequate. The factuality of evolution is self-evident as the factuality of anything else. You don't have to know all the details, or even know how it works to recognize that.

In short, all your questions and arguments are completely irrelevant. And moreover, you have not offered any reasonable alternative.

So, unless you can refute my argument for why you would not expect to find a missing link, and can offer a better explanation for all of the facts that I described in the hub, don't bother posting any more comments.


npolynomial profile image

npolynomial 4 years ago

Hi Joyus, I saw that you had commented on one of my hubs and so I started reading yours, which I enjoyed.

I wanted to add for the skeptics: Both science and math use the same definition for the word theory. For instance, I study computational complexity theory, which is entirely mathematical and logical and has been rigorously proven. If not for the fact of being proven, it would have likely remained "computational complexity hypothesis". Other theories are number theory, theory of relativity, electrodynamics, thermodynamics (yes these last two are in fact theories. Interestingly, The Law of thermodynamics is a branch of theoretical physics. So yes it is a common misconception about what the word theory means. People who say "it's just a theory" should probably say "it's just a hypothesis"... oh wait, it used to be a hypothesis until it was shown to be true against large numbers of attempts to prove it wrong. So in all cases, the evolution hypothesis worked to explain the data, so therefore it became a theory. One might say that a theory is a hypothesis that proved to be valid. Also while I'm ranting about the theory of semantics, how often do you hear computation theory "is just a theory"? Does computation being a theory make the computer you're using to read this any less real somehow? Think about it...

So I'm also an amateur chemist and have experimented with possible abiogenesis methods in vitro and in silico and evolution experiments.

In one computer model I had a swarm of "cells" of two types. Both types could replicate, although I left the chemical details out of it so it happened spontaneously. Additionally one type of cell had the ability to attack and the other type had no "weapon". They both had a vision system to see 120 degrees in front of them.

The behavior of both cells (1000 of each type) were controlled by their individual DNA, initialized with random bases... actually their particular DNA system which I spent a lot of time designing used 6 bases instead of 4...

The DNA determined EVERY behavioral characteristic of these creatures, allowing for open ended evolution to be simulated.

Initially, the cells did almost nothing, most remained stationary and died before replicating, while some accidentally killed others. But overall not much to see. In fact, not much for them to see either. Although they had "eyes" their behavior did not know how to make sense of the information in any way. But, the few that did survive that managed to replicate would produce two daughter cells that had a nearly identical DNA coding to their own, but possibly with a mutation. Mutation was simulated and introduced as neutrons that could potential hit a cell, which would inflict a varying amount of damage to the cells' DNA's integrity.

Natural selection naturally took over. Consider this... I the programmer (AKA God to these creatures) had no idea what the effect of this experiment would be. I did not program a plan to follow or any behaviors whatsoever. In fact I did the extreme opposite, I gave them random behavior (randomly strung together meaningless DNA). BUT, natural selection weeded out bad designs and caused the emergence of truly useful and novel behavior in as short as 10,000 generation (1 month).

Examples of behavior noted:

Defensive cells (with no ability to attack) AKA prey.

-Tendency to group in clusters.

-Tendency to divide clusters at a certain size and grow two new clusters made of multiple cells. This has to be something similar to multicellular life on Earth.

-Ability to quickly circulate the exterior walls of a "cluster" into the middle of the cluster, presumably to avoid individual damage of the cells by "taking turns" resisting the environment.

-Behavioral changes due to proximity of the attacker (predator). Remember, this came about through natural selection alone. This is remarkable since they figured out how to judge distance using two rudimentary 1-D cameras for eyes. They had to integrate this information and make a simple reflexive decision if a predator was coming.

Behaviors seen in the predator:

-No clumping/grouping effect.

-Seemingly purposeful drive to follow prey and attempt to kill them.

...clarification:

(the prey were selected for survival) / (the predators were selected for survival plus, explicitly, food energy obtained by the prey). The prey did not require food.

-Higher tendency to kill "eat" prey that each other... since eating a predator offered to food and thus no advantage.

I'm now working on more powerful simulations intended to run much faster and much longer =)

I'll write something about it someday.


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 4 years ago from Eden Author

Brilliant comment npolynomial. Your computer models are fascinating, and compelling evidence for the causal efficacy of natural selection. Thank you!


Anoj 2 years ago

light does not have a finite velocity


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 2 years ago from Eden Author

Yes it does--it is 299,792,458 meters (~186,000 miles) per second.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 18 months ago from Ohio, USA

" Current theory actually predicts what is observed: an initial explosion of diversity, followed by rapid winnowing and punctuated equilibria over time within the successful lineages"

You have this backward. The theory was rewritten to account for the expl0sion of diversity.


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 18 months ago from Eden Author

nicomp, scientific theories are continuously being revised, that is the nature of science. I stand by my statement (note that I said "current theory"). So what is your point?


nicomp profile image

nicomp 18 months ago from Ohio, USA

My point, and I stand by it, is that your statement is incorrect. You assert that current theory predicted an event which it most certainly did not predict. We do agree that scientific theories are revised.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 18 months ago from Ohio, USA

Could you describe a few beneficial mutations that created information?


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 18 months ago from Eden Author

nicomp, current theory does indeed predict the pattern of the event (i.e. what is observed in the fossil record), if not the event itself. But no scientific theory has the capacity to predict particular events in truly complex systems, only patterns. Think of the difference between predicting the outcome of a single coin toss and predicting the aggregate outcomes of 100 coin tosses. Scientific theory does not help with the former, but it does with the latter. See Chance & Necessity by Jacques Monod, or my book Global Insanity (or my hub on those books). Also, you can read my paper in Biological Theory (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233834867... which describes in more detail how the pattern of diversification (followed by winnowing) seen in the Cambrian Explosion is theoretically expected.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 18 months ago from Ohio, USA

You didn't answer my question.


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 18 months ago from Eden Author

I know; I was addressing your first comment (your incorrect assertion that I made an incorrect statement). As for your question, there are plenty of examples, I just don't have them at the top of my head and am busy doing other things at the moment. But I will get back to you on that, I promise....


nicomp profile image

nicomp 18 months ago from Ohio, USA

You did make an incorrect statement, but we can move beyond that. The Cambrian explosion is part of a pattern and that part was not predicted by evolutionary theory until the theory was modified to include that pattern.

I am still interested in your answer to the question.

BTW, predicting the outcome of a 100 coin tosses is even more difficult than predicting the outcome of a single coin toss. 2^100 outcomes are possible in the former while only 2^1 outcomes are possible in the latter.


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 18 months ago from Eden Author

nicomp, you need to read more carefully before you comment. I said predicting the aggregate (meaning average) outcome of 100 coin tosses (approximately 50 heads and 50 tails) is easier than predicting the specific outcome of a single toss. I did not say the specific outcomes of 100 tosses, which is what your calculation is for.

BTW, the pattern of the Cambrian explosion is indeed predicted by a modified theory, but the theory was modified not to include that pattern, but rather on first principles. Read my paper cited above.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 18 months ago from Ohio, USA

Aggregate does not mean average.


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 18 months ago from Eden Author

OK, then pardon my error. I meant average.

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