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Old 04-28-2005, 11:37 AM   #1
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Mmmm... Dawkins...

http://www.spiked-online.com/articles/0000000CAA03.htm

If you could teach the world one thing...

Darwinian natural selection, and its enormous explanatory power, as the only known explanation of 'design'

The scientific principle that I wish everyone understood is Darwinian natural selection, and its enormous explanatory power, as the only known explanation of 'design'.

The world is divided into things that look designed, like birds and airliners; and things that do not look designed, like rocks and mountains. Things that look designed are divided into those that really are designed, like submarines and tin openers; and those that are not really designed, like sharks and hedgehogs. The diagnostic feature of things that look designed is that they are statistically improbable in the functional direction. They do something useful - for instance, they fly. Darwinian natural selection, although it involves no true design at all, can produce an uncanny simulacrum of true design. An engineer would be hard put to decide whether a bird or a plane was the more aerodynamically elegant.

Not only can natural selection mimic design; it is the only known natural process that can mimic design. And now, here is the most difficult thing that I wish people understood. True design can never be an ultimate explanation for anything, because the designer himself is left unexplained. Designers are statistically improbable things, and trying to explain them as made by prior designers is ultimately futile, because it leads to an infinite regress.

Natural selection escapes the infinite regress, because it starts simple, and works up gradually - step by step - to statistical improbability, and the illusion of design. Engineers and other designers are ultimately made, like all living things, by natural selection.

So distant are many people from understanding this, they seriously believe that the existence of functional improbability is evidence in favour of intelligent design - the greater the improbability, the stronger the evidence. Truly, the precise opposite is the case. I wish that more people understood this.

Richard Dawkins is author of books including The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)), and Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)). See his website.
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Old 04-28-2005, 11:48 AM   #2
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My favorite analogy is by, I believe, Douglas Adams. Being surprised that a species fits exactly into its niche is like being surprised that a puddle fits exactly into a hole.
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Old 04-28-2005, 12:08 PM   #3
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The order is the thing. Order can't come from chaos, which is what the Big Bang theory purports. Evolution is very orderly and follows a strict set of rules. Deviation from the rules = extinction. Evolution itself points to intelligent design.
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Old 04-28-2005, 12:12 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrnoodle
Order can't come from chaos.
Why can't it?
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Old 04-28-2005, 12:38 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrnoodle
The order is the thing. Order can't come from chaos, which is what the Big Bang theory purports.
Order can come from chaos. Locally. For every bit of order we pull from chaos, we create more chaos. (Also known as the TAANSTAFL principle.)

Hey you! Yes, YOU! You are personally responsible for the eventual heat-death of the Universe!

Ah, well. Might as well enjoy the ride!
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The fun thing about evolution (and science in general) is that it happens whether you believe in it or not.
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Old 04-28-2005, 01:05 PM   #6
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I once had the question: "What is the opposite of entropy?" I asked all my friends, and no one could answer. Until I was fixing a computer problem for a friend in another department. He blithely and insightfully replied: "Accounting."
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Old 04-28-2005, 01:22 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrnoodle
...Order can't come from chaos...
Says who?
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Old 04-28-2005, 01:30 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrnoodle
Order can't come from chaos
Unless order precedes chaos then it necessarily emanates from it.
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Old 04-28-2005, 03:51 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrnoodle
The order is the thing. Order can't come from chaos,
Given a set of physical laws, points of local order can form in a chaotic environment. Conway's "Life" illustrates this. Starting with a completely random board, you will usually get small orderly areas appearing and disappearing, simply because for every rule set there are certain combinations of factors that have unique behaviors. The larger a chaotic field you have, the likelier it is that a particular combination of factors will appear somewhere in it.
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Old 04-28-2005, 04:36 PM   #10
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But if order precedes chaos, mightn't the "chaos" be orderly in its own way (though not, perhaps, in a way that we can measure)?

In the same way, if order seems to come from chaos, isn't it conceivable that the chaos wasn't really that at all?

HMs post seems to point to that. I don't know that there's any way to simulate true chaos on a board. Rules are inherent because the board and the pieces are limited to certain actions.

I'm way out of my balliwick here. But sometimes the simple questions are useful.
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Old 04-28-2005, 04:55 PM   #11
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Energy and matter are limited to certain actions, too.
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Old 04-29-2005, 11:07 AM   #12
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I guess what I'm trying to say is, if the universe is the result of intelligent design, there's no such thing as chaos -- just a kind of order that we perceive as chaos, but is actually subject to rules we either don't understand fully or haven't discovered yet.
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Old 04-29-2005, 11:56 AM   #13
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The exact same thing can be true if there is no designer as well.

There is no evidence of any definable first cause.
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Old 04-29-2005, 12:44 PM   #14
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So, it's all ordered, but we're not far enough away to discern the pattern?


(I actually find that thought comforting for some reason)
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Old 04-29-2005, 12:48 PM   #15
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Entirely possible.

That's why discovery is so important.

It's one of the reasons ideology can be such a problem.
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