Monday, 2 April 2012

If It Wasn't For Evolution We Wouldn't Have Science

No, you read the title correctly. It isn't science that gave us evolution; it is evolution which is giving us science. It was science which discovered evolution of course, because science is all about discovering things that have always been there.

For evolution you need three basic things:
  1. Competition between different versions
  2. Selection based on a test of fitness.
  3. Replication.
And the 'winner' is the version which produces the most copies and eventually vanquishes the other version.

Of course, this is normally thought of in terms of genes and biology, but genes are not the only things which meet these three requirements.  Another is scientific hypotheses.

Science can (should?) be seen as a body which consists of hypotheses which are either still in competition or,  for all practical purposes have played out the competition and determined the winner.  As the hypotheses compete and emerge as winners, they give rise to new hypotheses and so the whole body of science progresses and develops and tends toward a closer approximation to the truth.

I'll take a simple idea to illustrate this.

The competing hypotheses. There was once a time when most people in the West believed the earth was flat, despite the fact that Eratosthenes had shown it not to be in about 240 BCE. The two ideas - flat earth and spherical earth  - both existed in the ideas pool. The flat earth idea predominated but never entirely exterminated the spherical earth idea. The flat earth idea had been useful to an extent but it meant that people were afraid of falling over the edge, so progress in exploration was limited.  These were versions of the 'shape of earth' idea.

The test for fitness. Gradually, as more and more knowledge was accumulated more and more people came to hold to the spherical idea. Even Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE) seems to have accepted that the earth was spherical. He went so far as to argue that there could not be people living on the far side of earth because, since they must have been descended from Adam they would have had to build ocean-going ships to take them there.

He said, "It is too absurd to say, that some men might have taken ship and traversed the whole wide ocean, and crossed from this side of the world to the other, and that thus even the inhabitants of that distant region are descended from that one first man", but I won't dwell too long on Saint Augustine's inadvertent ridiculing of the idea that everyone is descended from the biblical Adam.

The point here is that in the competition for ideas, the spherical earth idea was winning because, with more information, more people became convinced it was the best explanation of the evidence.  For a scientific hypothesis, this is the only real test for fitness.

So, by 1492 Christopher Columbus not only knew the earth was round but was prepared to prove that sailing West was the quickest way to China, thinking earth was much smaller than it turned out to be.  In so doing he not only failed to reach China but thought he had missed and was in India; and so misnamed the aboriginal inhabitants of the Caribbean and the New World which he had accidentally discovered in the process.

Replication. That just about convinced all but a few remaining die-hards that earth is spherical, but a few lingered on until we were able, with science, to go out into space and look at earth from a distance and see that it is spherical. Now belief in a flat earth is more likely to be a symptom of delusion and insanity than of a rational thought process. The idea of a flat earth is now replicated in the minds of just about everyone who ever took a basic geography lesson or saw a photograph of earth from space. No one in their right minds would think of telling their children anything but that earth is spherical. (Actually an oblate spheroid, just to deter hair-splitters and creationists looking for something to distract attention with).

We now have what amounts to a scientific 'Law'. The Spherical Earth Theory is not seriously disputed by anyone with any knowledge of the facts.  It is a comprehensive, falsifiable theory to explain the observed facts; supported by evidence, able to make and test predictions, and it has not been falsified.

So the body of science was changed by a Darwinian evolutionary process in which one idea won in a test for fitness and came to dominate the ideas pool to the almost total exclusion of its rival. The body of science has so progressed, making other hypotheses like plate tectonics, weather system generation and ocean currents possible.

Exactly the same principle can be applied to any scientific ideas and competing alternative hypotheses, whether it's about the best fuel for a rocket motor to get the the moon, the best rubber for a car tyre, the best Internet Transfer Protocol or the best explanation for the origin of living things.  

Without this Darwinian evolutionary process, 'science' would be a primordial soup of conflicting and contradictory notions none of which could be said to be any better than the other, and there would be no basis for using new knowledge that competitive selection of ideas produces, to develop new hypotheses, and so no progress would be possible. Indeed, there would be no basis for even describing a 'body of science'. Science and scientists could not exist.

So, if you imagine you don't believe in evolution you have to explain why science knows more now that it did before; why it can give us modern technology like radios, television and telephones where previously it could not; why we have better medicine now than we used to have and why I can post this blog on the Internet for you to read on your computer or mobile when, just a few years ago, this would have been literally unthinkable.  

Where did that idea come from? 

It evolved by Darwinian evolution out of earlier, less complex and less well defined ideas built themselves on earlier hypotheses.  The fossils of this evolutionary process can be found in old science books and journals, in museums of technology and maybe in the minds of old, retired scientists.  Deformed and mutant forms of these ideas can frequently be found in the minds of creationists, priests and religious apologists and their followers.

If you dispute this, you have to explain why the process I outlined is not a Darwinian evolutionary process. Good luck with that.


24 comments :

  1. Darwinism has been scientifically rejected. The defeat of Darwinism in the faces of science can be reviewed under three basic topics:

    1- The Darwinism theory cannot scientifically explain how life originated on Earth.

    2- No scientific finding shows that the “evolutionary mechanism” proposed by the theory have any evolutionary power at all.

    3- The fossil record provided proves the exact opposite of what the theory suggests.

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    1. Good gracious! Has anyone thought to tell the scientific community who all seem to be totally unaware of this stunning revelation. Have you a reference to the peer-review journal in which this discovery was published, or are we just to take your word for it?

      Or are you referring to the scientific refutation of the creationist straw men they keep attacking because they can't refute the real Theory of Evolution?

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    2. 1 - Evolution does not need to account for how life began, God might have done it. Evolution only has to do with already living organisms. I find it sad that so many people seem to think that their god and evolution are at opposite ends.

      2 - Enormous amounts of findings show that natural selection drives evolution. We have observed many accounts of evolution in the short time we've been aware of it and natural selection is what drives it.

      3 - No other theory accounts for the fossil record except evolution. I am a former creationist so I am well versed in their arguments and none of them actually deal with fossils. Most deny the existence and simply rely on you taking their word for it. One of the most powerful things that got me to realize that evolution was real is when I went off on my own and actually looked at the fossils opposed to being spoon-fed by the side I "knew" was right.

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  2. The evolutionists’ claim that the universe started from “first atom” and life started from “first cell”. Who created the atom and cell, the evolutionists cannot answer. Inanimate matter must have produced a living cell as a result of coincidence in the belief of the evolutionists. Modern biologists have rejected this claim. Life comes from life has been proved. The theory of “spontaneous generation”, which asserts that non-living materials came together to form living organism has been rejected. In a lecture at the Sorbonne in 1864, Pasteur said; “Never will the doctrine of spontaneous generation recover from the mortal blow struck by this simple experiment.” The great evolutionists like Russian biologist Alexander Oparin and American chemist Stanley Miller experimented to prove that a living cell could originate by coincidence but failed and they admitted their failure. Oparin in “Origin of Life” and Stanley Miller in “Molecular Evolution of life” discuss it in detail. Jeffery Bada in his book “Earth” admits: “we still face the biggest unsolved problem that we had when we entered the twentieth century: how did life originate on earth.” The conditions required for the formation of cell are too great in quantity to be explained away by coincidences. The DNA molecule is so complex that it cannot be accidental or coincidental. Mechanism of evolution has been also rejected. No deer becomes horse and no ape becomes man. It is a fallacious theory having no historical and scientific evidence.

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    1. >The evolutionists’ claim that the universe started from “first atom”

      No they don't.

      >and life started from “first cell”.

      No they don't.

      I think we've got to the bottom of your problem - total ignorance of the subject upon which you are expounding.

      Do some learning, if you're not afraid to, then come back and discuss real science rather than your made up version.

      Many thanks for your contribution. It made me laugh out loud. I was amused that anyone has managed to remain so completely ignorant of a subject with so much information now freely available and yet feel they know more about it than do scientists who have studied and researched the subject extensively.

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    2. BTW, I noticed you made no attempt to refute the example I gave or to explain why it was not a Darwinian evolutionary process. Were you not able to?

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  3. Lamarck and Darwin believed in the transferring of traits of one species to the other. They maintain that living creatures passed on the traits they acquired during lifetime to the next generation. Giraffes evolved from antelopes and bears transformed into whales. However, the laws of inheritance discovered by Gregor Mendel (1822 – 1884) and verified by the science of genetics have nullified the theory of evolutionary mechanism. Neo-Darwinism advances the Modern synthetic Theory”. Mutations, i.e.; genetic disorders do not cause living beings to develop on the contrary they are always harmful. The fossil record theory of Darwin, which was a basic contention, has been rejected on scientific grounds. According to this theory, every living species has sprung from a predecessor. No “Transitional Forms” have yet been uncovered. On the contrary, the British Paleontologist, Drerk v. Ager in “The Nature of the Fossil Record” admits that the fossil records shows not gradual evolution but the sudden explosion of one group at the expense of another. This is just the opposite of Darwin’s assumptions. Douglas J. Futuyma, an eminent evolutionist biologist in his book, “Science of Trail” announces organism as the creation of some omnipotent intelligence. Fossils show, writes Harun Yahua, in his book, “The Importance of Conscience in the Quran”, that living beings emerged fully developed and in a perfect state on the earth. That means, that the Origin of Species, contrary to Darwin’s suppositions, is not evolution, but creation.” On the wonders of creation the Quran in Sura Rehman aptly announces: “He has created man. He has taught him an intelligent speech.” Then in the same Sura in verse 13 God announce; “Then which of the favors of your Lord will ye deny.”

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    1. >Lamarck and Darwin believed in the transferring of traits of one species to the other. They maintain that living creatures passed on the traits they acquired during lifetime to the next generation.

      You ignorance is quite profound isn't it. If you really don't know what Darwinian evolution is, and are not just trying to impress people with your ignorance, then I suggest you either learn about it and stop making such a fool of yourself, or you er... just stop making a fool of yourself by pretending to know the subject and hoping no one notices your ignorance.

      Thank you again for your amusing contribution.

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  4. One point I might make (I'm guessing you've read your Dennett and Blackmore and Dawkins' original idea about memes): Your competing hypotheses and tests for fitness are with regard to the abstract ideas concerning the shape of the earth. But the replication is with regard to memes - ideas instantiated, as it were, in people's heads.

    If it were all just ideas in people's heads then your account will seem less like bait-and-switch, but then leaves you open to the possible counnter-point: if enough people, regardless of the evidence, decide they prefer Creationism/ID/any other crackpot origin idea, then Darwinism will actually lose out in terms of fitness. This is not necessarily as far-fetched as you might imagine, muslima leallah above being a clear example of how memes do not need to be evidentially based to thrive.

    Just a thought, though.

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    1. Yes, you're absolutely right. It's the strength of the religion memeplex which is allowing it to survive in the face of the evidence. Of curse memes, unlike the body of science, does not necessarily apply the 'most vicarious explanation of the facts' test. Indeed, part of the memplex of religion is that it teaches its victims to distrust facts, hence it behaves like a virus in many ways.

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    2. Very true. But problematic if we wish to consider science as a collection of memes that must win out in Darwinian fashion...

      If we restrict the discussion to memes within science, then that's fair enough, but gives us the further problem then that science itself could not have developed as a result of meme competition.

      It's a bit like Hume's fork, I guess (or Ayer's update of it in LTL).

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    3. Indeed, but I was specifically referring to science.

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    4. Science did evolve as part of meme competition because (sigh... hear me out....)

      Consider memes as parasites/commensals on their fleshly hosts.

      The science memeplex -- the idea of using the scientific method to test ideas -- confers a survival advantage on the hosts who carry it, because it gives them *accurate information*, and being equipped with accurate information is a survival and reproductive advantage. It's not always determinative; other factors can outweigh it; but all else being equal, it is an advantage.

      The religion memeplexes often hamper the fitness of their hosts by spreading *inaccurate* information, but they have other advantages: they are hardy and reproduce fast.

      Consider this the competition between two viruses: one is very hardy and reproduces fast, but harms its hosts. The other is not so hardy and reproduces slowly, but benefits its host. You'd expect both to exist, but you'd expect the second to have more population over a very long period, and the first to have more population over a very short period.... which is what we see.

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  5. The process of scientific discovery cannot be understood via darwin evolution.


    You are overlooking a very simple point -- darwin evolution is about "survival of the fittest" which is to say that the descending generations of biological life developed so that the biological attributes that remain and survive over time are those attributes which increase survivability and thrivability of biological life according to the specific environmental conditions that the biological life finds itself in. In other words what is produced is best relative to the environmental conditions. It is not best according to any universal standards only subjective and relative standards and conditions.


    Science, on the other hand, is not relative. The scientific process moves forward according to truth and beauty. The scientific process is actually setup to eliminate environmental conditions from experiments and thus seek after universal truth, not simply relative truth.


    Thus science is not darwinian.

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    1. You're overlooking the point that Darwinian evolution is a far more fundamental process. Survival of the fittest in scientific terms can be survival of the fittest at explaining the evidence. This is the test for the best scientific hypothesis and the one which will be passed on.

      In fact, had you read it, you would have seen that the article makes that clear.

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    2. I am sorry, but the scientific process, cannot be understood in terms of Darwinian evolution. Science is not relative. Scientific theory is not relative to the environment in which the experiment takes place but rather science seeks to uncover and define universal laws and theorems.


      Further, a scientific hypothesis is judged on other criteria than simply "fittest". Keep in mind that darwinian thought is based on X evolving to be the fittest for its particular environment. Darwinian thought functions around relativeness in the environment as well as in relativeness of that which is being subjected to the environment. For example a certain organism might be more adapt to a particular environment than what has evolved what has evolved is dependent upon what preceded. In other words, the relativity in the system means that if one were to start life on earth from square one again it would not evolve in the same way a second time. Additionally darwinian progress is not actually progressing towards any end point.


      On the other hand, scientific inquiry is progressing towards a fixed endpoint -- universal scientific theories and eventually an universal unified theory -- but more importantly the process of scientific inquiry necessitates non-relativeness. The scientific process always returns the same results even if it is started over from scratch.




      When we are looking at scientific inquiry, the western model views four primary criteria for assessing theory: Agreement with Data (which you are focused on) but also Coherence, Scope, and Fertility. The later three are strongly focused on the universality of science and that its hypothesis are true not because they fit the environmental data but because they are universally true.


      IN SHORT: Darwinian thought is predicated upon relativism while scientific inquiry is predicated upon universalism.

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    3. >I am sorry, but the scientific process, cannot be understood in terms of Darwinian evolution.

      I'm sorry about your intellectual handicap.

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    4. Trying to argue that the scientific method can be understood in terms of darwinian thought is like trying to argue that rectangles are to be understood in the terms of their squareness -- its all backwards. Darwinism is a product of the scientific method, not the scientific method a product of Darwinism.

      Since you have resorted to name calling instead of philosophy of science, your fine readers will understand that you have conceded the point.

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    5. Then no doubt that you'll be able to give a line by line refutation of the three basic requirements for evolution I gave, and explain how they don't apply to scientific hypotheses.

      In fact, I, and I expect other readers, am wondering why you have not done so but have merely asserted that they don't. Unkind people might be thinking that this is because you know you can't but just want to convey the idea that you could if you wanted to in order to mislead people.

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  6. Rosa this isn't true. Science existed way before Darwin was born. Catholic Franciscan Friar Roger Bacon gave us the Scientific Method. He was born in 1214 and Darwin in 1809. It is wrong of you to claim that Science began when Darwin came up with his ideas regarding Evolution. The Catholic Church gave us Western Science as we know it.

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    1. >Rosa this isn't true. Science existed way before Darwin was born.

      So you don't even understand the difference between invention and discovery and imagine that Darwin invented evolution. No wonder you generate such hilarity you make your ignorantly infantile announcements.

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    2. No it is you who are having trouble understanding words and syntax. Your post implies that Evolution gave birth to science and this is not true. It is a False Cause fallacy.

      Evolution is a theory. It is not a sentient being. The point I am trying to make is that for Darwin to discover Evolution or anything at all, he needed the Scientific Method which was developed by Friar Bacon hundreds of years before him.

      How can a theory that Darwin developed predate the means he used to discover it? It is like sending an email without having the invention of a computer take place first. You have a temporal paradox at hand.

      Moreover, if you intended to state that the process of Evolution helped Darwin discover it due to the capacity for intellectual inquiry it gradually gave certain species, then that in itself is flawed. You would need to prove that the intention of Evolution or any process in nature is to develop intelligence in particular species in order to make scientific discoveries.

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    3. Think you may be mixing up the meta-levels, it's like asking how could we use our brain to learn about brains before we knew we had them. If I understand correctly, the post is saying that it was evolution (not the theory of evolution) that gave us science.

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    4. In my experience, Sacerdotus doesn't normally bother too much about what he's replying to. He usually pretends to be replying to something he finds easy to answer instead and relies on those he's trying to fool not reading what he's actually answering.

      You're right. Science is a Darwinian evolutionary process in which the fittest theories are selected to survive in the scientific meme pool, in other words, in the body of scientific knowledge, and future theories are built on those which survive the selection process. The test of fitness is how well the theory accounts for the observable facts and how well its predictions are fulfilled experimentally.

      Standing on the shoulders of giants is a metaphor for building on the success of survivors.

      Delete

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