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Cyrus
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[*] posted on 20-9-2004 at 20:43
Darwin's Black Box


Since many of the members seem to be evolutionists, I was wondering what you all thought of this book, I've read it, and think that the author makes several good points.

Please don't tell me it's garbage or that the guy it a "nutcase" just because he differs with your view.

I want a fair and scientific analysis of this book, and not rantings or namecalling, because that's not scientific.

However, whether you take the pro or con position, I'll try to debate, but I'm WAY out of my league in biochemistry. :(
So if you tell me the fancynamease and the nutherfancynameose combine to make polystuffanoids, and this proves x, I won't be able to respond.




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[*] posted on 21-9-2004 at 03:05
Evolutionists


I haven't read the book.

"Since many of the members seem to be evolutionists,"

You make it sound as if the theory of evolution is just another belief of no more or less credibilty than creationism, for example.

I am not sure what an 'evolutionist' is. I take it you are implying someone who believes in evolution. Evolution is a phenomenom, natural selection is the mechanism behind it. Evolution is a fact - you cannot dispute the evidence. Natural selection is the best theory to explain evolution. Scientists do not 'believe' in natural selection, they accept it as the best hypothesis for the data.




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[*] posted on 21-9-2004 at 07:24


Darwin's Black Box

Since many of the members seem to be evolutionists, I was wondering what you all thought of this book, I've read it, and think that the author makes several good points.

I have not read the book, please can you give me a summary.
The more I have learnt about science the more I have thought that some thing might have set this up. The deeper I go, the more amazed I am. Maybe life was set up on a few worlds a 1000 million light years apart and even for a God that maybe it takes between a 100 and a 1000 man years to check it out . When a God get back here, I do not think he will be impressed. I think one of the other worlds would probably be a lot better to spend time on. Why bother when no one listens.
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I think a God would be thinking, natural selection, evolution, I designed that.
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[Edited on 21-9-2004 by mick]
typo

[Edited on 21-9-2004 by mick]
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[*] posted on 21-9-2004 at 07:51


Evolution isn't a "belief", it's a scientific fact. There isn't a debate between "evolutionism" vs "creationism", it's more like this: religious crackpots sticking fingers into their ears with closed eyes going "la la la la la" and science happily going on, ignoring them or laughing at them.

I'd say the only places they're taken seriously are the US, the Middle East and the Vatican.

[Edited on 2004-9-21 by axehandle]




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[*] posted on 21-9-2004 at 08:27


There is a book in the FTP called "The Blind Watchmaker". It should be read by anyone interested in this discussion.

I read the book, it's great, but I am not interested in this discussion.
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[*] posted on 21-9-2004 at 09:38


I would also like to recommend a book that is germain to this topic, "Straw Dogs" - "thoughts on humans and other animals" - by John Gray.

I think that the question of the validity/non-validity of creationism is really just a subquestion of the only really important question, i.e., "Does God exist?"




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[*] posted on 21-9-2004 at 11:23
Headcases


"I'd say the only places they're taken seriously are the US, the Middle East and the Vatican."

axehandle: there are more headcases around than you might suspect, from Tony Blair to the girl next door. The vast majority of the world's population believe stuff like this. Nutjobs were even trying to put a reference to god into the EU constitution.




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[*] posted on 21-9-2004 at 11:53


I never thought the theory of evolution was a scientific fact. It does not explain dinosaurs, which are a scientific fact.
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[*] posted on 21-9-2004 at 13:06


I haven't read Darwin's Black Box. I have read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and I think that book fairly well explains how evolution or any other robust, current theory came to overthrow previous theories, and what would be necessary to change or overthrow it in turn. At this late stage, changes in evolutionary theory are far more likely to be evolutionary (ha ha) rather than revolutionary in nature. If a theory seems to explain many things well, but can't explain everything, it will remain the dominant theory until it's modified or replaced with something superior in every way. Example: quantum theory and relativity still haven't merged to give us a unified physics, but right now we don't have the evidence/theories to say there's truly superior alternatives. People who come online and start sharing their own nonstandard theory of physics are usually dismissed as kooks right away (this saves a lot of time in the long run).

People who come online and share their doubts about evolutionary theory, anywhere from "God made us and biologists are a bunch of liars" to "I don't see how Complex System X could've come about from random mutations," are likely to be dismissed about as quickly. In the more subtle cases this is unfortunate, since once you have a decent grasp of a theory it's more interesting to look at exceptions or challenges to its assumptions than it is to rehash the evidence for it.

Unfortunately, discussing evolution almost always boils down to a puppet fight between theists and atheists. There's little room for fence-sitters or the openly curious to participate because the lines are drawn in the sand and then the opposing camps begin their thousand-messages-long threads flaming and arguing back and forth. Theories and their acceptance aren't based on the sort of crude popularity contest you can stage on a message board anyway, so if you are really curious, you'll simply have to educate yourself (or take some courses) in the relevant areas of biology, then maybe see how current research is dealing with whatever points Darwin's Black Box raises.

Evolution/Creation, Gun Control, Drug Legalization, Abortion, and the Holocaust form the five points of the unholy portal to the 7th circle of Flamewar Hell. You can learn a lot by skimming others' arguments, but participating in them yourself is as sure a time-waster as sleeping 14 hours a day. This is especially true if you are not familiar with both sides' arguments. If you have already picked a position about a topic, be sure to read what your opponents actually say when you peruse their works. It's too easy to focus on holes in someone's argument while missing relevant points that they may be making, or to mentally translate everything they say so that they are just like you (except they're idiots). Understand arguments from the perspective of the arguer as well as your own, or you might as well debate a myna bird or a piano.




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[*] posted on 21-9-2004 at 15:03
Evolution is a Fact, Natural Selection is a Theory


Evolution is the change of form of species with time. The evidence for this is incontestable. Natural Selection is the process behind this.

There is a 4 billion year fossil record.

What you say Polverone is just proper argument. Rational argument is what science is. Scientists criticise theories continually - that is what they do. Creationism is not rational argument.

Natural Selection explains available evidence and makes testable predictions - it is a good theory. Creationism does neither, it is neither a hypothesis nor theory.




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[*] posted on 21-9-2004 at 15:27


Polverone, thank you.

I love the fact that you stay above the mudthrowing and mostly try to state the facts.

First,

"Evolution isn't a "belief", it's a scientific fact. There isn't a debate between "evolutionism" vs "creationism", it's more like this: religious crackpots sticking fingers into their ears with closed eyes going "la la la la la" and science happily going on, ignoring them or laughing at them. I'd say the only places they're taken seriously are the US, the Middle East and the Vatican. "

Hmm, Crackpots. I think this is pretty close to nutcases. Anyhow, I think that the simplifications you use are quite, well, overly simplified, and I did request posters to refrain from namecalling on this topic. For example, the author of Darwin's black box, Mr Behe, is a member of the scientific community and I assume he has done more research and knows more about biochemical challenges to evolution than anyone on this forum, if I've insulted anyone I don't mean too. Please tell me if you've written any books about biochemistry, and I'll recant my statement. :)I just want to say that it's not scientific to label him a "crackpot" because he doesn't agree with the position that evolution was the cause of life on this earth. This should be obvious, but yet I have to say it.


I wasn't trying to start a full fledged flame war complete with nutcases and crackpots, I wanted a scientific analysis of the arguments in the book. I may have been misenterpreted or misspoken by the word "debate". I wanted for example, someone to say that the argument in chapter 3 is invalid because of point X, and then we could discuss that specific argument.

Nor was I trying to find "absolute truth" by asking y'all. I knew I'd get a bit of the "nutcases" speech. I wanted to see if there was ANYONE on the board who had read the book, who knew a bit about biochemistry, and who could comment on what they thought of the book's arguments. I think they pose a valid challenge, so I suggest that you all read the book. I could try to summarize the book but I doubt I'd do it justice.

Prince Charles, since you know evolution to be true solely on the basis that it is the best "hypothesis for the data", why not read the book, and then decide if evolution is still the best hypothesis for the biochemical data.

Since no one has read the book, I don't want to randomly debate, which is, as Polverone said, useless, and I may read the Blind Watchmaker. It was mentioned in Darwin's black box.




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[*] posted on 21-9-2004 at 15:37
Gentlemen, there needs to be some clarification of terms here before this discussion gets seriously off track.


People using the same words while assuming different meanings causes much confusion.

Natural Law: Summary of observed behaviour or processes.

scientific Theory: in sciences a theory is a model, it provides a framework for understanding the mechanism that drives the observed phenomenon or process.

scientific Hypothesis: an idea that is testable.

these are often used very differently when used in casual conversation between laymen.

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[*] posted on 21-9-2004 at 15:40


Seems I have to clarify what I meant. First, I didn't mean "religious crackpots" as in "crackpots because they are religious" or as in "religious because they are crackpots" but as in "religious AND crackpots". Far from all that are religious are crackpots...

Secondly, what I had in mind when I wrote it was people who try preventing evolution being taught in schools or that want creationism to be taught alongside. Those people ARE crackpots, in my very unhumble opinion (at least on that particular issue).

Still, I'm sorry I went off topic, the issue is one of a few that makes me toss reason out the window and bring forth the flamethrower...

"The Blind Watchmaker" is actually a very good book. I read it about 10 years ago -- translated of course...


[Edited on 2004-9-21 by axehandle]




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[*] posted on 21-9-2004 at 16:02


Evolution is not a synonym for Darwin's theory of Natural Selection.

That is a common misconception, and it also leads to much confusion.

Authors espousing "creationism", often get caught in this trap and feel that by disproving Darwin's theory, they have disproved evolution.

Evolution is a Natural Law, whereas Darwin wrote a paper that provided a model to explain evolution. He called his theory natural selection. It was an amazing departure from the concepts held to be true at that time, but had alot of flaws, and some bioligists have serious doubts as to the validity of his theory.

That does not mean that the Natural Law, of evolution is in question or under debate.

However, "creationists" often fail to make that distinction. Perhaps because this misunderstanding is one that helps forward the "creationist" agenda?

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[*] posted on 21-9-2004 at 18:03
Logical Fallacy


Cyrus: You are pleading to authority. All that matters is the argument, not who is making it: the argument should stand by itself. It doesn't matter whether you are the pope or a beggar, the argument is the same.

There is no evidence for the supernatural. As is said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I'll just stick with what I can see and measure. God and ghosts are just fairy stories.

As to theories and hypotheses:

A theory is a hypothesis, but one that has withstood rigorous testing. A hypothesis is a model that explains available data and makes testable predictions. There are many hypotheses but few theories.




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[*] posted on 21-9-2004 at 18:55


I haven't read the book, but I've looked at it (and even considered buying it). Cyrus, please correct me if I misrepresent the contents.

The crux of the argument is that systems that arise through evolution by natural selection ("evolution" for the remainder of this post) have certain characteristics. In particular, they are reducible, that is there exists an incremental sequence of functional forms leading back to the primordial one. If a system does not admit such a sequence it is called irreversible.

The most important class of irreducible systems are those that have a set of parts such that any change to any member of that set will stop the whole set from serving any purpose.

Clearly, irreducible systems cannot be evolved. Behe presents what he claims are examples of irreducible sets. Unfortunately, that's were his arguement stops. He provides no convincing argument, let alone proof, as to the irreducibility of these objects. In fact, the systems' complexity works against him, since irreducibility is harder to see in complex systems.

By way of illustration, Behe claimed that the common mouse trap is irreducible. Unfortunately, some clever person later found a way to reduce it to a simpler form. If Behe can't detect reducibility in such a simple system, what hope has he of seeing it in something enormously more complex?
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[*] posted on 21-9-2004 at 19:45


Well in that case, the book is complete horseshit since there's absolutely nothing on this planet(discovered anyway-staying within the known)that doesnt have something similer to DNA/RNA.That inturn is reducable to reactions of the few major groups of the sequence.Granted these are very complicated and even unlikely to exist 'in the wild'(lack of better expression)but a similer model based on simpler chemicals could easely exist.

Take your average plastic(moleculer) chain and spin it around outdoors for a few million years outside.It's bound to change,even by one atom).
Now add sheer statistics of the number of such that could be on the planet and the billion's of years of time.

I'm not suporting Darwin's theory(I dont even)but just saying this book is complete propeganda(like the UFOnaught thing).
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[*] posted on 21-9-2004 at 23:07
Can we please not muddy the waters further?


IvX, it's obvious you haven't even read the Amazon reviews of this book. I'm not sure even what you're trying to say. Your post reminds me of when people find an essay topic they weren't prepared for on a test and try to wriggle their way through it while saying as little of substance as possible. If you can't say something coherent and/or illuminating, don't say anything at all.

I'm sorry to pick on this post publicly; what follows should be understood to apply universally rather than just this post. I've lately noticed a number of responses to topics that seem to contain vague generalities or barely relevant facts. Don't speak when you have nothing to say! If you just want to have casual conversations with board members, use U2U messages, start a topic in Whimsy, or start emailing members. If you want to share some interesting facts or observations with the world and they're not very relevant to an existing thread, start a new thread, in Whimsy if necessary.

This site is indexed by many search engines and archived by archive.org. What is said here will likely endure as long as the internet itself. I'd like us to be storing up rubies instead of gum wrappers.

I don't mean that simple things or beginning things are unwelcome, or that it's a sin to be uninformed. I do mean "Please don't try to chime in on a topic you don't know very well just to participate." Knowing when to keep silent and observe is valuable. If you feel like a thread deserves more responses but you don't really have anything to add, send a U2U to the thread starter saying "I know very little, but I find this interesting and would like to hear more if you continue to investigate."

Some of the things I enjoy most -- like Marvin's touches of humor and BromicAcid's detailed (often illustrated) accounts of experimentation -- can't be extracted from everybody by fiat. Neither will I censor somebody's messages for lack of content except in the most extreme cases.

Still, try to remember that many more people read here than post, that messages deserve a little more care (even when short!) than the typical IM or forced school essay, and that feigning knowledge, skill, insight, or cleverness won't work very well here.




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[*] posted on 22-9-2004 at 03:33
apologies


Looking at my previous posts, I realise I may have been guilty of leaving incomplete/misleading messages.

I have read the book, I attended my mother's church where, when someone found out I was going to university, they promptly presented me with this book.

They did so with a flourish and a half-malicious grin, as if bearing the death-knoll of all of science and the absolute proof of God's existence on a platter.

It was an interesting read, because the author is an interesting guy and very well spoken.

Without detracting from a previous review of the book, I did get a different sense of the whole thing.

What I remember, was that he absorbed darwin's theory of survival of the fittest, because something was obviously needed to explain the fossil record.

But after that, there was the departure from the standard model. He goes on to give several entertaining descriptions of some very complex physiological organs and processes, and finally states that they are too complex to have begun through blind trial and error, and are, in fact too complex to have been designed by anything but "God".

I agree with him that there does seem to be some other mechanism going on than simple, random mutations.

Speciation is simply far too advanced to account for that.

I am also pleased to see another scientist who looks at our everyday world and sees miraculous things. I also look at the world around us in wide-eyed wonderment.

However, I do not agree with the presented argument that the sheer complexity of life, and the failure of the current models of evolution and speciation, are in itself, absolute proof of the Hand of God.
-------------------------------------------

For example, one recent development helps to shed some light on a heretofore unknown idea.

Biological Symbiosis on the genetic level.

Take for example, a lichen.

For those who aren't aware, a lichen is those plasmoids you see growing on bare rock.

How does something grow on bare rock you ask?

Good question.

Answer, it doesn't, two creatures grow on bare rock, a fungus and an algae. The fungus is tough and produces and acid that eats away the rock and releases micronutrients locked within, the algae photosynthesizes and makes food for the both of them.

Bio-Teamwork! :D

Darwin wasn't aware of that when he created his theory.

Another (albeit unproven) example of bio-teamwork is in the cells that provide the energy for us to read this right now. Mitochondria.

For those who don't, mitochondria are those little, massively productive, energy factories. But why do they have their own, completely seperate dna and none of the other cell organs do?

Well, perhaps, back in the old cellular wars, two cells decided to team up and fight together and live in the same house?
--------------------------------------------------

These two examples of symbiosis don't themselves disprove Behe's hypothesis, or the whole theory of creationism.

However, this does show that perhaps there is an explanation that allows for the holes in darwin's theory to be explained.

Perhaps it is only one of many mechanisms fueling the process of evolution?

It is obvious, to me at least, that we simply don't have enough information available about the mechanism of the evolution of living creature to say that darwin's theory is either bunk or absolute truth.

Darwin's theory is incomplete. We now know that speciation (speciation = the formation of new species over time) doesn't take millions and billions of years. The fossil record bears that out. There are long period of relative stability and short periods of almost frenzied evolution.

Speciation occurs faster than a tomcat gettin' off the woodstove on the first cold day of fall, but just because we don't know why, it isn't satisfactory to blindly pin the tail on the donkey.

In this case, the donkey being God.

sincerely,
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[*] posted on 22-9-2004 at 04:54
Disproving Creationism


You cannot disprove creationism: that is the whole point - it is not testable. The gist being that god made everything and that is why things are the way they are. Creationism is is no different to saying the universe was manufactured by a gang of invisible chocolate moneys. Both are equally unsubstantiated and neither make testable predictions.

HT: In realitiy, there are no species - species are arbitrarily classified by human taxonomists.

Let's not get side tracked, this is not about Darwin, this is about the theory of natural selection: all forms of life on earth have evolved from the first primitive organisms by means of natural selection. There is no evidence for any other mechanism. Maybe you have found some, if so please share.




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[*] posted on 22-9-2004 at 04:55


Polverene, please be specifc.I was saying that there's no example of 'irreducable' aspects that Behe claims of.With all due respect(and I really mean that) you havent read the book either and the review(which I've read also)will always be whatever the reviewer thought of the book.

As an example to how natural selection could be real I gave the platic chain example, not as prety as the wolves to rat-dogs example but hey it's orignal. :)

[Edited on 22-9-2004 by IvX]
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[*] posted on 22-9-2004 at 07:01
as clear as mud on the moon.


Quote:
Originally posted by IvX
Well in that case, the book is complete horseshit since there's absolutely nothing on this planet(discovered anyway-staying within the known)that doesnt have something similer to DNA/RNA.That inturn is reducable to reactions of the few major groups of the sequence.Granted these are very complicated and even unlikely to exist 'in the wild'(lack of better expression)but a similer model based on simpler chemicals could easely exist.

Take your average plastic(moleculer) chain and spin it around outdoors for a few million years outside.It's bound to change,even by one atom).
Now add sheer statistics of the number of such that could be on the planet and the billion's of years of time.

I'm not suporting Darwin's theory(I dont even)but just saying this book is complete propeganda(like the UFOnaught thing).


The book was well written, I found his writing style to be similar to Isaac Asimov. The term "complete propaganda" would be better applied to a pseudo-scientific book like "the case for christ".

(my mother is a fundamentalist christian and I get oodles of these books given to me) :(

Again; I think you are being a little harsh in your criticism.

also I don't understand the term "irreducable aspect" could you please expand the term for clarification?

Sorry, I know I'm a little thick.:P

sincerely,
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[*] posted on 22-9-2004 at 11:19
My bad


I was refering to Cyrus saying "irreducable systems" and supppose complete horseshit was a bt harsh- just the concepts.
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[*] posted on 22-9-2004 at 20:04


These are mostly good posts! Thank you people.

Yes, Hermes, I think that the world is too amazing of a place to come about by natural selection only, and I do believe it got here by creation. Now, the fossil record does show some things that seem to contradict this, but lets move on, and if debate about that is wanted, start another topic.

Calling a book names before even reading it is pretty funny Ivx. Don't judge a book by its cover, or by geomancer's review! ;) I do think it was well written, and if I was commiting a logical fallacy by appealing to the book, I'm sorry. As a quick summary, I think the above ones did ok, but Behe provided a LOT of arguments, and they did seem pretty complex to me. For example, blood clotting.

An enzyme is needed to activate the blood clots. Again, I forgot the names, but I do remember that one was called Christmas factor. ;) Anyhow, this enzyme is only activated by another enzyme, and so on and so forth, (there are about 15 enzymes involved IIRC) except that it's not even a straight path, meaning enzyme A activates enzyme B activates enzyme C and so forth, there is "feedback" and kinds of other comlications. For example, if all of the enzymes were functioning well, the animal would still die, because clots wouldn't magically go away, THEY need enzymes to destroy the clots after a certain time. Also, after some of the enzymes are activated, they will wander around causing clots, so the animal needs enzymes to deactivate those enzymes, and there are enzymes to regulate the regulation enzymes, and ....

You get the point, hopefully. All of this is really complex.

Animals have blood clotting systems today. How did they get there?

Either all of the enzymes appeared all at once, or they appeared gradually.
If you say that somehow all of the enzymes were mutated into existance at once, take a class on probability.
:)If they appeared gradually, they would be useless at best unless the whole system is there.

Even if most of the proteins were there, it wouldn't have a good reason to be selected, think of people who bleed to death because they lack Christmas factor.
Natural selection doesn't help there.

Let's say, somehow, all of the proteins nessecary to clot blood were there. The animal would die of blood clots, because it still needs those removal enzymes.

His point is that is that this system cannot develop gradually, because until it is finished, it's a hindrance and not a help, and Natural Selection, which y'all have told me many times DOES work :), will not select this organism.

Even if I could disign a simpler system, it doesn't matter. Animals today don't use my system. They use the complicated system. Now, if you show me a system that can function WELL with one less enzyme, and all the rest the same, that is a start, and if you can go from there reducing one enzyme at a time, until you have 1 enzyme left, you da man!

His other point is that NO ONE has even come close to doing this in a detailed and logical, believable way, because it's not possible in his opinion. If you can do it, post away!

This is just to give an idea of his arguments, of course I most likely botched it, but hey, I'm just a "layman" in this area. :D

Now, I don't even want to try to say that this "disproves" "layman's definition evolution/Darwinian theory" . It doesn't. It just makes it a lot less believable.




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Twospoons
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[*] posted on 22-9-2004 at 20:34


I always find it hysterically funny when people find something "so amazing it can't have occurred naturally".

Just because you don't understand it, doesn't mean its not true. Example: chaotic systems (like the Mandelbrot set)often appear random, but they're not - you just can't see the pattern because its too complex for the human mind to grasp. Classic case is the pseudo-random number generator in a pc program. Rest assured the sequence of numbers will repeat eventually , but to the casual observer the numbers have the appearance of randomness.

Blood clotting: well whose blood are you referring to? Mammalian? Fish? Insects? Molluscs? Each have their own unique blood systems for oxygen and energy transport - not all iron based either. Copper is in common use in marine animals and I seem to recall that sea-slugs use vanadium based blood. So lets take a very simple organism capable of surviving superfical damage by the simple fact that its 'blood' can seal a wound by simply drying out. To me it seems only a small step to modify a blood protein such that the drying process is accelerated, closing any wounds faster, promoting survival of a wounded individual. Through successive modifications of proteins, including duplication and divergence of structure I think you can get to a complex 15 enzyme system in a complex animal over 300 million years.

Sure you can destroy the system by removing one enzyme, but what about progressive reversal - undoing the system one gene at a time, slowly reducing the efficiency of the system until you are back to the simple 'drying in the air' mechanism. Just because no-one has done it yet doesn't mean its impossible, just that no-one knows how. Would you have thought quantum teleportation possible, 10 years ago? How long has it been since the human genome was sequenced? hardly surprising we don't know what it all does. Yet.

Its like a big building - remove part of the foundation and the whole thing collapses. But that doesn't prove that small buildings can't exist without said foundation structure.

In fact the whole discipline of civil engineering provides a very good model for evolution. " Oh shit, it fell down. So lets change it a bit and try again"

So this guy *thinks* a system is irreducble. Well frankly thats just an opinion, formed because the guy simply doesn't know enough to be able perform the reduction. Science: you cannot prove a negative.

This is all just my opinion - no proofs, ergo not science:P

These threads are always so much fun, trying to disassemble fallacious arguements. Just as long as there's no mudslinging or name calling ...



[Edited on 23-9-2004 by Twospoons]
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