Sunday, April 17, 2011

God and Evolution

Just looking through the pos that is moodle, and I came across a discussion that I barely even remember having (it's a phil 1000 class. lol). Honestly, it's a really interesting read after the first couple of posts when it becomes more about evolution. We end up discussing panspermia, macroevolution, microevolution, speciation, and genealogy. If you do know wtf those terms mean, then you might find it  interesting. If you don't know wtf those terms mean, it'll probably be even more interesting:

Alex: Let's say that God is an all-knowing omnipotent creator. We as humans are not all-knowing nor omnipotent. Because God knows all since the beginning to the end of all existence and humans are only aware of their own, God and humans operate on an extremely different level of 'reality'. If God is aware of human existence yet knows all till the end of time, then he does not have the correct necessities of what it is to be human, therefore God does not have what it takes to be emotionally and physically connected to the human experience and does not have interest in the human condition.

Me: if god's all-knowing & omnipotent, then wouldn't he have the knowledge or at least understanding of the human experience? 

It sounds like you're trying to attribute anything unexplainable to god.

I do see merit in the whole concept of there being an Alpha - in other words: I can agree with there being some sort of god...but I highly doubt that it cares about us (like we like to believe).

An analogy that I'd use would be: if you had an ant farm, would you really care whether or not they praised you, worshipped you, and bugged you? Personally, I'd let the ant farm do its thing - I'd imagine that:
-  (a) god has more important things to care about or
- (b)that we're just too insignificant to care about. 

The latter makes a lot of sense to me, considering how some people are blessed and others are just SOL - some deserve it, and some don't. I can't see a just god doing that to its people (but like I said earlier: it probably doesn't have any real reason to help us, anyways).

Andrei: Re to the ant farm analogy: that may be true, but it's not exactly the same. the ant farm you simply grabbed some ants, put them in a box with soil and watch them live.

Now picture that you created every molecule, every atom in their bodies, created natural laws that govern those ants, set in place complex cycles of water, energy, food sources, etc. Would you not care about them then?

And as for existence of god...I think most (if not all) would agree that universe didn't always exist. So it must've had a beginning, because if it didn't then by 2nd law of thermodynamics the sun would've burnt out by now (among many other things).
That means at one point there was no time, space or matter, in other words: no "nature". so nature couldn't have caused it to come into existence (big bang, creation, etc.) Then by definition the universe came into existence by supernatural causes, unless you're willing to violate causality.
Also, if there is no God, that means evolution is true, and if it is, then all species (humans included) should be trying to produce the fittest population by killing off the competition (other members of the same species) - survival of the fittest. this is obviously absurd. in fact we know the opposite to be true.

and lastly, personally i think that believing that DNA came into existence by accident is like believing that Scott library came into existence from explosion at Kinkos. I just don't have enough faith to be an atheist.

Me: That would depend, then: do you care for everything that you create? Do artists love everything that they create? Scientists? Chefs? Etc.? I'm not sure that the creation of humans is anything to be proud of (I'm sure it was a novel idea at the time...but we didn't exactly turn out so well for the world :P).

If I created something, and it horribly back-fired (have humans done anything good for the world as a whole?)...I wouldn't exactly be proud of it.

Since not every single person in the world can be said to be horrible, I'd say that it would be more fair (for the good people, at least) for a god to just let everyone be, than for everyone to be wiped out of existence. But then again, why wouldn't this all-powerful god just wipe out the bad in the world? Again, this re-inforces my point that if there is a simply doesn't care.

Why can't we see god & evolution going side-by-side? Could it not have created things with a mechanism for progress & development? Why can't god be the Alpha, that designed everything, or (at the very least), was responsible for creation of the particles/event that led to the first protobiont?

Andrei: Again, it's much more intimate than simply organizing things (what chefs or artists do - they organize produce or colors) but actually make the constituents, not simply organize them... i guess it's a bit difficult to imagine actually creating the matter smile

And the whole thing about "if God is so good then why is there suffering in the world" is in my opinion a bit different than whether God exists or not. there are several arguments but they both assume that God exists and attribute certain characteristics to him.

The reason why i don't believe that god could just give the big bang a "kick" and watch everything else happen as evolution takes over...
well, 1. there is no evidence what so ever that life did or even could come from non-living molecules. (origins)
2. there is no evidence presently that macro evolution is happening (one kind of animal changing into another kind of animal)
3.there is plenty of evidence limiting the age of the earth to well below billions of years needed for evolution: for example, Earth is slowing down as it spins; and if we go back 4.6 billions of years, Earth would be spinning so fast that winds would be 7000km/hr, no life would be able to form in such winds.
the moon is slowly moving away from the earth, again if we go back a few billions of years, moon would have to be almost rubbing against the surface of the earth.
there are many other factors that limit the age of the Earth to well below 30 thousand years. not nearly enough for evolution to take place.

Me: I was hoping to avoid the whole "humans can't understand god & his ways", 'cause that doesn't really go anywhere. What I don't understand is why you seem to assume that anything a creator WHOLLY creates, automatically makes that creator caring. If the creator's omnipotent, then it's really not that big of a feat...considering that anything's possible (by definition).

I'll agree with 1, but here's some food for thought: while there's no evidence of spontaneous generation TODAY, it's important to note the earth was a very different place back then. There was little or no atmospheric oxygen to attack complex molecules BUT energy sources were more intense than they are today (heat, lightning, UV rays, etc.)

Could you explain 2? Isn't macroevolution how organisms change over time? Regardless, it's arguable that there IS evidence. Some of the more famous examples are:
- the 2 strains of fruit flies that became a new species over a 4-year lab span (Dobzhansky)
- the fireweed (plant) that was doubled in chromosome count (Mosquin)
- The different species of Faroe islands house mice that developed over a 250 year time span.

But then again, it depends where you'd like to draw the line of macro vs. micro. Somewhere between the two, speciation occurs. For example, the many strains of bacteria can be seen as evidence for macroevolution...but it isn't exactly appreciated because they're such simple organisms (not many people realize how impressive bacteria developing new metabolic pathways is).

& in regards to your third point: how about Panspermia? Also, I'm not sure how much time needs to take place in order for you to think evolution has taken place - since it's a process. As for no life forming in the younger earth...never say never - there are forms of life in extreme environments of all types (even in places which people once said they could never hydrothermal vents, hot springs, glaciers, etc.) Organisms adapt to live. [On top of all this, he's assuming that the earth changes consistently and gradually. This obviously isn't the case. Think ice age, asteroids hitting, etc. Wind speeds wouldn't be linear if they were graphed]

There's a reason I talk about god being the Alpha (if anything at all) ;).

Andrei: oh i didn't say that the act of creation automatically makes god caring. it doesn't. i'm just saying i think if we assume god created us, it would make more sense that god would care about us than if we assume he simply nudged the universe into existence, it would make the "creation" less personal. but that's just my opinion.

in regards to #2 macro evolution is how one kind of animal changes into another kind of animal over time. that's different from MICRO evolution (the examples of which you provided). you had 2 different fruit flies became a new fruit fly... that's true, but they didn't become a reptile or even a dragonfly...
same applies to the other 2 examples
so all the evidence we have (one virus changing into a new virus, several breeds of dog producing a completely new breed, etc) are all examples of micro-evolution. it has never been observed that a single-celled organism (such as bacteria) can evolve into a more complex multi-cellular organism such as a fish.

3. panspermia simply delays the problem. if life on earth came from an asteroid, then where did it come from on that asteroid?
that's true that there are organisms that adapt to very hot conditions, but i've yet to hear of an organism that can live on the surface of the sun, because again, if for example we look at the sun, it's shrinking about 1.5m/hr in diameter, so that means just over 20000 years ago it would have been touching Earth. so again, it can't be billions of years old, which is needed for those adaptations.

Me: Each of those examples were classified as a new species. The last generations of the fruit flies were genetically incompatible - they couldn't even mate. The plant had a completely different chromosome count. Look how different humans are (& except for the deviations), we still have the same number of chromosomes. Same goes for the mice on the Faroe islands.

The problem with people who deny macro evolution is that the bar used to measure evolution always gets conveniently pushed back when it needs to be. You said it yourself:the Earth's very young. Give it time; with the lengthy (unrealistic) criterion of macro evolution, of course a skeptic isn't going to see it happen in their lifetime.

Do primates evolving into humans count as macro to you? We have a 98% genetic similarity to them. It's sort of chilling how the only difference between apes & humans stems from the 2nd chromosome, no? Evolution posits that Archaea, Eukarya, & Eubacteria all came from a common ancestor at one point of time. This theory will probably never be 100% proved (unless the manage to find remnants of every single living thing that ever existed at some point in time)...but there are solid grounds for a strong induction.

I'll agree with you on Panspermia. The only reason I suggested it was because you said that the earth was too young. If the earth's too young/the sun was too close/it was too windy/etc., and life came from somewhere else, then the fact still remains that from the point that life arrived here until now...there have been adaptations, microevolution, speciation, and macro evolution (but I suppose this is arguable - depending on the scientist that you ask).

Andrei: yes, they were classified as new species, and i wouldn't argue otherwise. but i never postulated that every single species was created, because the definition of 'species' changes constantly. i was talking about different kinds of animals. i think every 5 year old knows that a horse and a frog are different kinds of animals. and again, in those experiments you mentioned - those were still flies, not crabs or jellyfish or even cockroaches. same with plants and mice.

and same could be said about people who believe in macro evolution - the bar gets pushed to the point where adaptation within same kind of animal is considered evidence for macro evolution (like some finches having thicker beaks - it's still a finch, not a hawk).

so by your argument, the fact that we can't see macro evolution happening in our life time, but we can imagine it, is proof that it happened? well then i think evolution is just as much of a religion as creation, i guess if people want to believe it, that's their personal choice.

and yes, primates evolving into humans would count as macro evolution - again, one kind of animal changing into another kind.
it's true that humans and primates are similar (some studies say it's 96%, some say it's 95%) but even that difference is in millions of base pairs. and 0.1% change of those 2-5% is fatal to an animal. so how could it go from being one to being another without the animal dying?
i mean if the basic car structure (4 wheels, frame, doors, windows, engine, steering wheel, etc.) is the same for all cars, does that mean they evolved from a skateboard 2 billion years ago?

by the way, the fact that we all live on the same planet, with plenty of sun, water, and carbon has a lot to do with our organisms being similar - if a selenium-based life form that required argon for breathing evolved here somehow, it wouldn't be able to survive - not enough material for it to live. not to mention, if plants weren't made of carbon, animals would have no food source - to me that's evidence of intelligence.

and again, i wouldn't argue on micro evolution, speciation and adaptation - we observe those to happen, but i don't see that to be proof of macro evolution.

Me: So are you discrediting the whole concept of genealogy? Organisms become more complex over time...but I've already addressed that.

The fact that we can't see macro evolution in our life time doesn't mean that the only way to verify it is by imagination. After we die, other people do continue to live on. I'm saying that if it's not empirically verifiable by us, it can be by someone else. Just because you won't be around to see it, doesn't mean that no one will. If you're going to discredit a theory because you can't see it happening within your life span, then that's your decision to make - but life goes on after YOUR death. This would be like saying that gravity doesn't exist, assuming that if it can't be proved while you're alive it must not exist, then dying.

It's also a bit of a stretch to call evolution a religion. Yes, it does require belief...but it's subtantially less blind belief than religion requires. Evolution is a theory. Now I'm not saying that evolution doesn't have holes that you can poke through...but it's definitely a lot more valid, objective, and empirical than a lot of the stuff that passes for doctrines in religion.

Your point about animals becoming another without dying is a moot one. Let's say that 10 000 primates exist (5000 male & 5000 female). If 4999 pairs died & there was the chance that the last pair was able to live...then their successful genes carry on. The hard part is the initial survival - this is where "survival of the fittest" comes into play. The one pair that survives are able to pass on their SUCCESSFUL genes to produce more offspring.

Also, you can't compare a car to skateboard as an analogy for different organisms. First of all, skateboards don't reproduce. Second of all, skateboards lack genetic composition. Thirdly, skateboards and cars are assembled by humans. You see where I'm going with this? If you wanted to compare an animal with 2 legs to an animal with 4, then it'd be a lot more viable (but again, it'd take time which = macro evolution).

You're arguing that macro evolution is impossible. I'm only arguing that it doesn't make sense to say that it'll never happen (& that it may or may not have already happened, but that depends on which scientist you want to ask). It seems like (to use your examples) you're expecting frogs to turn into horses within 100 years. Simple to complex doesn't always just happen overnight.

Andrei: depends what you mean by genealogy. 

you gave examples of cross-breeding to produce new species, but i don't see where you mentioned that they are more complex species.

the problem isn't that we can't see evolution in our life time, the problem is that we can't see evolution in the time fifty thousand times longer than entire recorded human history, so there's absolutely no way to verify it, for this, the next and 10000 generations after us, which by definition makes it bad science, if you can even call that science.
which is why i think it's just as much of a religion - they both attempt at explaining origins of life. however neither creation nor evolution can prove their explanations. neither one has conclusive evidence that either one happened.

when i said an animal cannot change without dying, i wasn't referring to survival of the fittest concept, i was referring to the vast differences between humans and primates. although 95%, 96% (seems later research tends towards 96% rather than 98%) similarity seems pretty close, even at 2% difference it is still about 60 million dna base pairs. a change of only a few base pairs is fatal to an animal. so how do you change 60 million of them without an animal dying?

obviously we both understand how ridiculous the example of cars evolving form skateboards is. all i'm trying to show is how unreasonable it seems to me that just because 2 things (or organisms) are somewhat similar means they must have a common ancestor. as I said before, even 2% difference in genetic terms is huge.

well, even if evolution made sense given billions and billions of years, i brought up a number of factors that undeniably point towards earth not being more than a few thousand years old, which is why i have a hard time accepting a theory that requires those billions of years.

I stopped at this point. I'm of the opinion evolution has gotten to a point where there's reasonable evidence that it is occurring/has happened. I'm also in favour of evidence of the earth being more than a few thousand years old. I was also willing to look past some of the leaps of logic taken in the end and the reductio ad absurdum in the spirit of charitability, but any other point has been discredited and I really didn't see it going any further.

This'll be the last religious topic for a while! But then again, I think I would count this more towards science/evolution than religion.


- knowledge

1 comment:

  1. Was not feeling Andrei. Evolution as a religion? Come on.



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