Sep 22 2017

In Defense of Elitism

ID-OnlyBiologyClassOne thing I really like about sports is that it is the ultimate meritocracy. You are judged on your skills, talents, and ultimately your performance. Professional players are evaluated by the numbers, and traded accordingly. Their salaries are a direct reflection of their value to their team.

All this has even been reduced to a science, sabermetrics, which is praised for its cold calculating approach to exactly how much each player is worth to their team. I never hear complaints about this in professional sports. I only hear comments about how one’s favorite team is doing, and the performance of various players. You can even play “fantasy football” or other sports where you get to pick your own players based on their statistics.

This approach to professional sports is the ultimate in elitism. They even refer shamelessly to “elite players” without anyone batting an eye. There is no serious criticism of the NFL for unfairly discriminating against smaller players, or for the undemocratic way in which players are recruited. The hard work that leads to elite performance is also recognized and praised.

The same is true in other spheres of life as well, such as celebrity. I will not praise celebrity culture, but it is a simple fact that celebrities are generally judged on talent, skills, performance, and persona. Critics and fans are ruthless. This is true of actors, artists, and musicians. In Hollywood, elitism is institutionalized. There are arcane rules and negotiations about the order in which credits appear on the screen, based on the perceived elite status of the actor.

No one seriously thinks that amateur football players should be admitted to the NFL (they would be crushed), or that big budget movies should star acting hacks in order to be egalitarian (they would be eviscerated).

Why is it, then, that in intellectual spheres elitism is criticized and shunned? A comparable amount of talent and training may be necessary to a respected professor or scientist, and yet many people think their opinions are just as valuable with respect to their specific ares of expertise.

Interestingly, the more physical and immediate the outcome, the more elitism is tolerated. Compare surgery to medicine. The skill and talent of the surgeon is unquestionably recognized, and no one sane would allow a self-trained and uncredentialed “surgeon” to perform major surgery on them. But I have news for you – many areas of medicine are just as hard and take as many years of training. They may not require the technical skill, but clinical decision-making and the fund of knowledge needed to back it up take years to develop.

It makes no more sense to think that someone should be allowed to practice medicine without formal education or proper certification, than to think that someone should be allowed to operate without the same, or play major league basketball without any experience.

Similarly, many people feel entitled to have their own opinions about complex scientific topics based on a superficial understanding only. Criticizing such behavior is then decried as “elitism.”

The cry of “elitism” has become a major component of anti-intellectualism, denying the value and legitimacy of intellectual pursuits. Everyone might be entitled to their own opinion, but that does not make all opinions are of equal value. Some opinions are more factually based, thoughtful, and logically sound than others. Some opinions have been put through the meat-grinder of peer-review, open discussion, and close evaluation. These should not be put on the same level as the random musings of an uninformed mind.

You don’t have to look far in our culture to see where rampant anti-intellectualism has gotten us. Perhaps a first step to improving the situation is to stop selectively demonizing intellectual elitism. We praise elite athletes, give our money and adulation to elite performers and artists, and trust in those with elite technical skills. We should also recognize the value of elite intellectual talent and skills.

127 responses so far

127 Responses to “In Defense of Elitism”

  1. WyseMDon 22 Sep 2017 at 8:51 am

    I find it interesting that if you follow the money you can see where our society’s values lie. Elite entertainers and sports figures (essentially entertainers) make much more (are valued higher) than doctors, engineers, scientists, farmers, etc. when in reality the latter are much more important to the functioning and advancement of our civilization. I think this strange inversion of priorities is in part related to the luxury and abundance we have created for ourselves where we have the excess time and money to spend on these things. I wonder who would be “kicked of the island” first in a survival situation or in a post-apocalyptic situation.

  2. Ori Vandewalleon 22 Sep 2017 at 8:53 am

    (Kind of a weird argument to be making in the midst of the Colin Kaepernick thing.)

    The problem as I see it is that no one likes to think they are bad at thinking. People will readily admit to not understanding complex topics (“I hated physics!”), but I think we’re able to put distance between that–a lack of specific knowledge and technical skill–and the act of thinking itself. After all, we spend every waking moment inside our heads, thinking our thoughts and processing the world around us; how could we possibly be bad at it?

    Because we’re almost unshakably confident that we can think well, we believe that if we’ve put some thought into a topic, then our opinions must be valid. And without immediate evidence to the contrary, this belief can remain untested and intact. That’s obviously not the case in sports, where an untrained amateur who’s maybe swung a racket a couple times will simply be incapable of competing against Federer or Williams.

  3. MWSlettenon 22 Sep 2017 at 9:20 am

    It’s not often that an elite athlete, celebrity or surgeon has any power beyond that of persuasion. Criticism of “elitism” usually centers around partisan efforts to compel or restrict behavior based on ideology. I know it’s fun to say “truth has a liberal bias,” but that kind of elitism that will never change minds.

    I read an intersting article at NPR the other day about Daryl Davis, a black man who convinced 200 members of the KKK to quit the organization. SPOILER ALERT: He didn’t do it by telling them he was smarter than they are.

    http://www.npr.org/2017/08/20/544861933/how-one-man-convinced-200-ku-klux-klan-members-to-give-up-their-robes

  4. Nidwinon 22 Sep 2017 at 9:25 am

    There’s also the perceived or not so well perceived gap between amateurism and professionalism. Also the urban legend that everyone can become any engineer, doctor or get a phd, master if they had the time, money or the right support without too much effort, plays a role in it.

    The gap between JoeSixpack and Tom Brady is obvious but because JoeSixpack was able to fix his leaking toilet he suddently thinks he’s close to be a professional plumber and can nearly do and fix everything. So when JoeSixpack gets confronted with a real plumber and gets called out for just being an amateur in plumbery it’s when all that “eletist bratt” comes out.

  5. Lobsterbashon 22 Sep 2017 at 9:41 am

    Steve, it’s because “everyone” believes they are playing the game, a game in which the rules are poorly understood by outsiders and the metrics of performance are disrespected.

    I like your analogy between professional sports and intellectualism, but a key problem with the analogy is that people recognize and openly admit that they couldn’t hope to be a part of leagues that constitute professional-level competition. But the world is filled with Joes who fancy themselves an intellectual capable of competing toe-to-toe with experts who publish. They believe they are in the game, perhaps largely because the boundaries and the rules haven’t been made clear enough to them.

    Here, I just pulled a random comment off of a recent Youtube video of Neil Degrasse Tyson on CNN discussing hurricanes and climate change: “First off carbon dioxide has nothing to do with green house affects or green house gas. WATER CAUSE GREEN HOUSE AFFECT AND TEMPERATURE SHIFTS . So Neil isn’t that bright. I’ll agree there’s something up but his argument ain’t it.”

    Troll, or does that person believe they are in the game?

  6. Steven Novellaon 22 Sep 2017 at 9:46 am

    MWS – I think you hit on a good point. People often interpret, “I have specific knowledge and expertise in this area,” as “I am smarter than you.” But that is not always the implication, and is not an accurate way to even state the situation. This gets to communication skills and taking an effective approach, but does not change the basic point.

    Having said that, sure, some people use their intellectual position to push their personal beliefs and ideology. I file that under -stepping outside your genuine area of expertise. It’s OK to do that, but then you cannot confuse the authority you have within your area of expertise with your opinions and values that have nothing to do with your expertise. None of this invalidates the expertise, nor should it be used to dismiss the very idea of expertise – but that is what populism and anti-intellectualism does.

  7. DanDanNoodleson 22 Sep 2017 at 11:15 am

    WyseMD — You opine about entertainers and athletes making more than doctors, but you are missing two-thirds of the equation. The value of a skill is determined by three factors: its value to society, its relative scarcity, and the structure of the industry in which it is applied.

    No one is seriously claiming that throwing a football is more important than saving lives, but there are a lot more people who can save lives than people who can throw a football, and football is a zero-sum industry, where medicine is not. Not only does a football team’s success relies upon having better players and coaches than the next one, there aren’t even enough elite players to make 32 teams consistently competitive (in a country of 320 million people).

  8. DanDanNoodleson 22 Sep 2017 at 11:30 am

    I think the problem is pretty simple: elitism is accepted wherever differentiation is easy. There is no way for me to avoid the fact that I am not as fast or strong as an elite athlete, just like there is no way for me to pretend that I’m as handsome as George Clooney. I can plainly see both for myself. But it is easy to believe that I’m smarter than someone else, to dismiss their opinions as the rantings of a lesser brain.

    It is even easier when the subject matter is extremely complex and correctness is difficult to discern, e.g. with regard to climate change, where I can ignore the warnings of climatologists and not suffer any ill effects for years. And when those ill effects do happens, the changes will have come incrementally, allowing me to justify them in other ways.

  9. WyseMDon 22 Sep 2017 at 11:42 am

    DanDan – Interesting food for thought there, thanks. Maybe I should start a franchise, the “Connecticut Emergency Docs”!

  10. Lobsterbashon 22 Sep 2017 at 11:57 am

    DanDan, you stated in a better way what I was trying to say. Intellectualism is inherently in the weeds, a fuzzy gray landscape full of landmines and illusions. A valid map in this landscape is in the form of proper training and education, which give us tools and abilities to effectively navigate, an ability we do not easily come to, naturally. Unfortunately, to actually think scientifically we need this map to even be able to recognize whether or not it’s a valid map. But almost everyone thinks they have a valid map.

    Just like you said, the feedback in sports and physical appearance is salient and immediate; differentiation is easy. In intellectualism, that kind of feedback only trickles in after spending years wading through a wall of quality books and talking with/listening to the most qualified people available.

    The human brain isn’t adapted to deal well with modern complexity…

  11. DickKon 22 Sep 2017 at 12:01 pm

    The physical skill required and displayed when doing something (sports, surgery, plumbing, carpentry, welding,…) is apparent to even the most casual observer and all can agree, more or less, on a “talent” ranking. Knowledge and thinking, however, aren’t so obvious. Here we run into Dunning and Kruger’s remarkable demonstration: We need to be good in order to recognize good, an unnecessary requirement when evaluating physical activities.

  12. tb29607on 22 Sep 2017 at 12:16 pm

    WyseMD,

    I agree that actors would be the first off the island. I would also be interested to see how displaying prior test results on a topic for all participants in a discussion would affect the discussion.

  13. Kabboron 22 Sep 2017 at 12:29 pm

    To use a visual metaphor, think of knowledge about a given topic as your physical distance from the an object representing the topic. The less you know about it, the farther you are from it and the fewer details are visible to you. The planet earth is a blue dot. Then as you get closer you notice that it is blue, green and white, and you can see the shapes of continents. You keep getting closer and at a certain point you realise there are forests, cities, populations, culture and so much more.

    The closer you get the more there is to know, and the more you realise that you need expertise to have a serious understanding of the topic, which at a distance can be quickly and easily summarized. To a casual observer will you get observations like “Homeopathy seems to be medicine because it is in the pharmacy and people use it, so it probably works fine”.

  14. Johnnyon 22 Sep 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Steve, if you don’t mind, I have a nitpick with one of your examples. In sports, it is perfectly possible to measure how a player performs, fit in a team, etc. But music is more subjective, don’t you think? At least subjective in a way that sport talent is not. The music I find deeply meaningful and very good, you might find to be useless crap, and vice versa. You can measure commercial success, but I don’t think you personally like all commercially successful music.

  15. David Twitchon 22 Sep 2017 at 2:09 pm

    “it is a simple fact that celebrities are generally judged on talent, skills, performance, and persona”

    While athletes may be judged on talent, this has not been the case with many celebrities for a long time. In the US, they are often chosen based on looks and carefully packaged. Instead of Aretha Franklin or Janis Joplin, we get Brittany Spears and Justin Bieber. Of course there are still many very skilled actors and actresses, I’m just saying that in many cases talent no longer matters.

  16. Npsychdocon 22 Sep 2017 at 2:20 pm

    Steven – I share the opinion of intellectual elitism being used often and unfortunately in a pejorative fashion and this being related to anti-intellectualism, further used by folks who want an easy way to bash good, honest academic findings from those who are often at the pinnacle of their respective fields. Anti-vaxxers, chronic Lyme peddlers, etc, are empowered by this aspect of our society. There’s no question that this ultimately hurts a lot of people.

    Ethically, however, I see potential for difficulty in reconciling the need for elite circles in some respects, where entry is based primarily on some type of performance, while also valuing human dignity – the idea that worth is implicit based on one’s existence. This is why I don’t like the sports analogy, particularly football (forgive me for making the analogy somewhat concrete but I think the point is worth mentioning). Academic circles, and particularly healthcare must be elite but also must place human dignity at a premium. Some balance this better than others…the ethically elite 🙂 While other elite circles can create a toxic work environment which is hard to sustain.

  17. sarah_theviperon 22 Sep 2017 at 2:30 pm

    It’s a little weird to me that you are bringing art into this. Art is subjective, and judges tend to have their biases. It is more luck than anything. I have been on both ends where I am left going WTF. I think some of this relates to the article by Danto where he lays out the case that art is dead. Dead in that everything that could be done has been done, so artists should just do what they want.

  18. Kabboron 22 Sep 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Whether or not you consider the artists to be talented, celebrity is such that there is no way you can substitute in a random talented singer for Justin Bieber at a concert and expect a happy audience. In a similar fashion, a sports professional will get paid more to sell a drink in a commercial than an unknown actor. The sports player is neither better at acting or drinking than the actor. Known names and faces fetch a premium, and the more popular and well known, the higher the premium.

  19. tudzaon 22 Sep 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Will we get to vote when we’re ready for it?

  20. hardnoseon 22 Sep 2017 at 3:52 pm

    The analogy is not valid.

    We don’t have to worry about elite athletes destroying the world economy, the way our trusted elite bankers almost did.

    We don’t have to worry about celebrities convincing us to take harmful drugs if our blood pressure or cholesterol is above some arbitrary limit.

    We don’t care if an elite athlete or singer has been indoctrinated into an ideology, such as materialism. We only care about admiring their performance, and we can ignore their personal beliefs.

    By endorsing intellectual elitism, Steven Novella helps the intellectual elite towards their goal of running our lives.

    I STRONGLY disagree with this. Ordinary people CAN think, and non-experts can sometimes perceive nonsense that the experts miss.

    As most of you already know, I often disagree with the mainstream medical or scientific consensus in areas where I am not an elite expert. It is NOT because I have a superficial and inferior understanding. When I disagree it is I have reasons to think the ideology that underlies the consensus is wrong.

    If I need medical advice, I pay a medical doctor for it. But they can be wrong, because medical knowledge is limited. In my parents generation, most people had blind faith in their doctors. But now many of us don’t, for good reason.

    Unlike Steven Novella and his elitist friends, I respect people and their ability to reason. Yes, domain knowledge has to be acquired, but basic reasoning skills are practically universal.

    Sometimes the most utterly stupid ideas are generated by the most respected elite experts. The world is complex and we naturally want to understand much more than we possibly can. Experts easily fool themselves into thinking they understand more than they do.

    When a baseball player is considered one of the greatest, it’s because of his numbers, and you can’t argue with the math. When a singer is considered one of the greatest, there is more room for debate, but at least we can all agree they hit the right notes and make nice sounds.

    When an intellectual is considered one of the greatest, the reasons can be confusing. Sometimes it’s because they have a charismatic personality — Freud was charismatic and convincing, and a great writer, but his good ideas were stolen and his bad ideas were ludicrous. Noam Chomsky is considered the world’s greatest linguist because he convinced people that the ability to learn a human language is innate (well duh, we haven’t seen too many talking cats). He dominated American linguistics and trashed the ideas of many great linguistic experts. And he went on to spout simplistic and naive political ideas, for decades, and his followers mindlessly believe all of it, because he is the “world’s greatest linguist.”

    So intellectual elitism is not necessarily something we should put our faith in, or allow to determine our physical and financial health.

    But we have no choice, because they already are determining theses things. The best we can do is disagree and try to resist.

  21. tb29607on 22 Sep 2017 at 5:14 pm

    Hardnose,

    “We don’t have to worry about celebrities convincing us to take harmful drugs if our blood pressure or cholesterol is above some arbitrary limit.”

    While celebrities may not advocate medications for hypertension or hypercholesterolemia they do advocate vaginal steaming, bird poop facials, vitamins alone for post partum depression, vaginal hormone injections, and anti vaccination views which are all potentially harmful and have no proven health benefits.

  22. RickKon 22 Sep 2017 at 6:04 pm

    Ah the irony. Nobody in this blog with the possible exception of Egnor has surrendered their intellect to ideology more completely than hardnose.

    High schools across America spend millions on football stadiums while closing science labs and music programs. And now DeVos is our Sec Ed. So the existence of American intellectual or academic elites is only temporary.

  23. mumadaddon 22 Sep 2017 at 6:16 pm

    “Unlike Steven Novella and his elitist friends, I respect people and their ability to reason. Yes, domain knowledge has to be acquired, but basic reasoning skills are practically universal.”

    hardnose MUST be Jay/Bob Novella trying to unite skeptics behind a common idiot.

    (Words would have been far better served by a facepalm emoticon)

    http://villains.wikia.com/wiki/File:Triple-facepalm-picard-812.jpg

  24. sarah_theviperon 22 Sep 2017 at 8:33 pm

    @Kabbor I guess to some extent I will agree about celebrity, although personally I would prefer another no name singer to Justin Bieber.

    Maybe this is more to the point of what Dr. Novella was talking about though. I don’t think elitism is that accepted in art from people. I have had people come up to me and tell me it is easy to make it in art all you have to do is dribble paint. Clearly that person did not realize Jackson Pollock so far has been the only adult human capable to moving his hands in fractal patterns, so no not easy.

  25. tb29607on 23 Sep 2017 at 12:08 am

    sarah,

    I think you hit the point concisely. Thank you.

  26. tb29607on 23 Sep 2017 at 1:02 am

    In addition, I believe there is one level of “evidence” lower than the anecdote, that being the “well thought out opinion”. At least anecdotes are based in reality. Baseless opinions, no matter how well considered, fall into the rear end category of everyone having one, and all smelling the same.

  27. sarah_theviperon 23 Sep 2017 at 2:47 am

    If you go on youtube and search for “kid art or modern art” you may come up with some evidence. If you care to listen to Miller in his book Colliding Worlds some of modern art was trying to visualize the science coming out. According to Miller for example Picasso and Einstein were influenced by the same book.

  28. edwardBeon 23 Sep 2017 at 12:42 pm

    “At least anecdotes are based in reality” Nope. That’s why we don’t accept anecdotal evidence as proof of the effectiveness of pseudo-medical procedures like homeopathy, acupuncture, TCM, and so on and on. When a friend says that she got better after having acupuncture, so it must have been the acupuncture, I just sigh quietly. I have given her several books on critical thinking and always receive a positive, enthusiastic response, but then she comes out with something like that and I realize that some horses will never drink no matter how many times you lead them to the water. She is much brighter than me in some areas, especially in her perceptions of some of our friends, but she really just can’t seem to see herself even remotely as well as she sees me and other people. It is very frustrating, but I wouldn’t trade her for anyone else that I know.

  29. edwardBeon 23 Sep 2017 at 12:48 pm

    STV, have you seen the documentary on Marla Olmstead, “My kid could paint that.”? An absolutely adorable girl whose paintings even a partially color blind old guy like me can appreciate. The whole film is available on You Tube from Sony Pictures.

  30. hardnoseon 23 Sep 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Also, notice that Novella often expresses strong opinions on subjects he is NOT an expert in. If the scientific mainstream has decided on something, he will support it, without bothering to analyze their reasoning. He assumes the majority is correct, because they represent the “elite experts.” He does not seem to consider herd instincts and group think, or financial motivations.

  31. hardnoseon 23 Sep 2017 at 1:43 pm

    And speaking of dribbling paint —

    People do not become “great” artists simply because they have amazing great skills and creativity. To some extent, that is sometimes true. But other factors can be more important, such as who you happen to meet and who happens to like you.

    According to what I have read, a group of wealthy art lovers used to go out and search for the next “great” artist. That is supposedly what happened with Pollock.

    Then, of course, people started gasping at his amazing skill. Never mind that those paintings could be made by a drunk with his eyes closed. (No I am not against modern expressionist art, BTW, I like some of it).

    There are plenty of examples of this kind of thing. Novella emphasized athletes because the judgements of greatness are usually objective.

    But in art and entertainment, subjectivity is involved.

    And in philosophy, political science, etc., well, it’s all subjective.

  32. hardnoseon 23 Sep 2017 at 1:46 pm

    “When a friend says that she got better after having acupuncture, so it must have been the acupuncture, I just sigh quietly”

    Because you “know” that acupuncture can’t possibly work.

    If your friend feels dramatically better every time she gets acupuncture (not just once), then she is being rational in thinking acupuncture can work.

    You pseudo-skeptics define “critical thinking” as agreeing with the organized materialists. No thinking is actually involved.

  33. chikoppion 23 Sep 2017 at 2:20 pm

    Having less knowledge of a field of study does not make a person more capable of rendering sound judgement.

    Being an outlier among the consensus of expert opinion does not imply greater insight.

    Uninformed group think is as likely to influence poor conclusions, based on common heuristic biases or common lack of knowledge, as it is to result in good judgement.

    Cognitive heuristics (intuition) evolved to simplify the processing of immediate tasks common to everyday survival. They did not evolve to address, nor or they applicable to, the assessment of highly complex phenomena that are removed from basic tasks and interactions.

    The history of science is largely one of overturning common assumptions, based on conclusions drawn from rigorous and methodological research.

    What matters is the quality and quantity of the evidence. Experts, those deeply engaged with the evidence within the context of a devoted field of study, are in a far better position to render sound judgement. The degree of consensus among experts is a measure of the degree to which all available evidence supports a particular conclusion (or the degree of confidence with which that conclusion is held).

    More knowledge is superior to less knowledge. Evidence supersedes intuition.

  34. chikoppion 23 Sep 2017 at 2:33 pm

    [hardnose] If your friend feels dramatically better every time she gets acupuncture (not just once), then she is being rational in thinking acupuncture can work.

    Nope. If she gets accupuncture within a day or two of every time she gets a cold, and feels better after the acupuncture, that does not mean the acupuncture had any effect whatsoever. Many symptoms are intermittent. She might feel less anxiety, as she fooled herself into thinking she was taking proactive measures, but there is no actual evidence of intervention.

    She is not being rational. She is being the opposite of rational. If she now believes acupuncture is effective and pursues it as treatment for a far worse disease, she has failed to think critically.

    Evidence derived from methodological experimentation is superior to intuition or anecdote.

  35. chikoppion 23 Sep 2017 at 2:38 pm

    [hardnose] You pseudo-skeptics define “critical thinking” as agreeing with the organized materialists. No thinking is actually involved.

    Speaking of “thinking involved,” define the term “materialism.” What is the evidence for “non-materialism?”

  36. hardnoseon 23 Sep 2017 at 3:53 pm

    There is no good definition of “materialism.” You “skeptics” use the word to mean a limiting view of reality, where all the basic substances, forces, fields, are already known. And where the basic principles of everything are basically understood.

    A “non-materialist” approach, on the other hand, says that we do not yet understand the basic principles. Our science is a valid attempt to understand, but it is far from complete, and we have no way to know how much we still don’t know.

  37. Charonon 23 Sep 2017 at 3:55 pm

    @DanDanNoodles, ?

    “there are a lot more people who can save lives than people who can throw a football”

    In what universe? Any high school has a few dozen football players, but only a handful of people who will go on to be doctors (and even they have little to no medical knowledge yet).

    You get extremely high salaries in industries where mass consumerism is available – recorded music, broadcast football, etc. 50 million people can watch the same football game. 50 million people can’t see the same doctor at once. So in industries like football or music you get a huge number of people who do it for little or nothing, and a tiny elite who do it for enormous sums. Medicine doesn’t have that stratification – it has a modest number, who all make a pretty decent living.

    A very obvious example of the need for mass consumerism is stage acting vs. film acting. Film actors get paid far more than stage actors, because a stage actor reaches hundreds to maybe a few thousand people at a time, while a film actor can reach hundreds of millions with a single performance. This is one reason why even elite ballet dancers are pretty poorly paid.

  38. bachfiendon 23 Sep 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Hardnose,

    ‘There is no good definition of materialism’. You ‘skeptics’ use the word in a limiting view of reality, where all the basic substances, forces, fields, are already known. And where the basic principles of everything are basically understood’.

    No. There’s a perfectly good definition of ‘materialism’. It’s the idea that matter is the fundamental element in nature, and that everything results from material interactions, including consciousness and thought. Obviously not everything is understood – the nature of 95% of the Universe, dark matter and dark energy, is not known.

    What we ‘skeptics’ argue is that if you’re going to make statements, such as the Universe is conscious or intelligent, organisms can iniate mutatations which are non-random, directed and to the needs of the organism or that psi abilities such as precognition exist, then you should have adequate evidence that they’re real.

  39. hardnoseon 23 Sep 2017 at 5:29 pm

    “matter is the fundamental element in nature, and that everything results from material interactions, including consciousness and thought.”

    We have been through this too many times. You never say what you mean by “matter.”

    And if you are going to insist that the universe is dead and that dead matter creates life, you should not base your claims on sheer dogmatism.

  40. chikoppion 23 Sep 2017 at 5:56 pm

    <blockquote[hardnose] There is no good definition of “materialism.” You “skeptics” use the word to mean a limiting view of reality, where all the basic substances, forces, fields, are already known. And where the basic principles of everything are basically understood.

    A “non-materialist” approach, on the other hand, says that we do not yet understand the basic principles. Our science is a valid attempt to understand, but it is far from complete, and we have no way to know how much we still don’t know.

    That statement is pure ignorance and indicative of your “if I stick my head far enough in the sand maybe I can pretend I know something” modus operandi.

    “Materialism” is a colloquial term for monistic physicalism. It is a philosophical concept with a long history (dating back to the ancient Greeks) as I and others have pointed you to repeatedly. It has absolutely nothing to do with what is “known” and “unknown,” which is an epistemological question.

    What YOU mean by “materialism” is that science demands evidence prior to establishing proportional belief. You want to assert answers without evidence. Hence the incessant refrain of “maybe it just hasn’t been discovered yet.”

    Get back to us when there is sufficient evidence to establish some heretofore unknown force (which, by the way, would still not invalidate materialism). Until then, stop appealing imaginary things as evidence. Science is not a process of make-believe. We DO KNOW what we know. The fact that there are things that we don’t yet know does not invalidate what we do.

  41. chikoppion 23 Sep 2017 at 6:00 pm

    Crap. Correcting quotes…

    [hardnose] There is no good definition of “materialism.” You “skeptics” use the word to mean a limiting view of reality, where all the basic substances, forces, fields, are already known. And where the basic principles of everything are basically understood.

    A “non-materialist” approach, on the other hand, says that we do not yet understand the basic principles. Our science is a valid attempt to understand, but it is far from complete, and we have no way to know how much we still don’t know.

    That statement is pure ignorance and indicative of your “if I stick my head far enough in the sand maybe I can pretend I know something” modus operandi.

    “Materialism” is a colloquial term for monistic physicalism. It is a philosophical concept with a long history (dating back to the ancient Greeks) as I and others have pointed you to repeatedly. It has absolutely nothing to do with what is “known” and “unknown,” which is an epistemological question.

    What YOU mean by “materialism” is that science demands evidence prior to establishing proportional belief. You want to assert answers without evidence. Hence the incessant refrain of “maybe it just hasn’t been discovered yet.”

    Get back to us when there is sufficient evidence to establish some heretofore unknown force (which, by the way, would still not invalidate materialism). Until then, stop appealing imaginary things as evidence. Science is not a process of make-believe. We DO KNOW what we know. The fact that there are things that we don’t yet know does not invalidate what we do.

    If you are going to use philosophical terms, please learn what they mean.

  42. michaelegnoron 23 Sep 2017 at 6:27 pm

    Elites hrs non-elites is a false dichotomy. There are some elites who are good, and some are bad. Same goes for non-elites.

    The real dichotomy is a**holes vrs non-a**holes. A**holes are a plague, and they cause incalculable damage. Some a**holes are elites, and they hide behind their credentials, which makes them particularly dangerous. AGW frauds and Darwinists come to mind.

    Luckily a**holes aren’t that hard to spot.

  43. RickKon 23 Sep 2017 at 6:34 pm

    “Luckily a**holes aren’t that hard to spot.”

    Truer words were never spoken.

  44. bachfiendon 23 Sep 2017 at 7:16 pm

    Hardnose,

    ‘Matter’ is everything that we have evidence exists. It includes ordinary matter, ordinary energy, dark matter and dark energy (the nature of the latter two being unknown), and all the forces and force fields mediated by force particles.

    We don’t have any evidence that there are consciousness, intelligence or information fields or forces. There’s no evidence that there’s an inherent tendency in the universe to increasing complexity and intelligence in biological systems. There’s no evidence that mutations are non-random, directed and to the benefit of the organism. There’s no evidence that the universe is intelligent, conscious or consists of information.

    The evidence is that the universe doesn’t ‘care’ about the fate of humans. Humans will inevitably go extinct sooner or later, leaving absolutely no trace.

    This may be distressing to people such as you or Michael Egnor, but it’s what the evidence indicates.

  45. duofaciatison 23 Sep 2017 at 10:31 pm

    Asimov summed it up eloquently:
    “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’” ― Isaac Asimov

  46. Willyon 23 Sep 2017 at 11:02 pm

    Once again, Dr. Egnor lays a rotten egg. **shole.

  47. BillyJoe7on 24 Sep 2017 at 1:58 am

    Looks like I’m not the only one who read Michael Egnor’s post as self-referential. 😀

  48. BillyJoe7on 24 Sep 2017 at 2:44 am

    “We have been through this too many times”

    Yes, but you never seen to learn anything no matter how many times we go through it with you.

    “You never say what you mean by “matter.””

    BS. We have repeatedly told you what is meant by “matter”
    Hint: it’s not billiard balls all the way down as you laughingly suggest.

    “And if you are going to insist that the universe is dead”

    BS. We don’t insist the universe is dead.
    But, certainly the universe is dead except for a vanishing small part of it.

    “And if you are going to insist…that dead matter creates life…”

    BS. We don’t insist life comes from non-life.
    However there are many possible mechanisms for this to occur, and it is far more likely than not that life can come from non-life. Viruses are regarded as non-living, but it is a close call because they have have characteristics that otherwise only living things have.

    “You “skeptics” use the word to mean a limiting view of reality, where all the basic substances, forces, fields, are already known”

    BS. All the particles and forces THAT AFFECT OUT EVERYDAY EXPERIENCES are known.

    “Because you “know” that acupuncture can’t possibly work”

    BS. What we say is this:
    There is no evidence for meridians, acupuncture points, or chi.
    There is no evidence that acupuncture works for anything in properly conducted trials.
    It doesn’t seem to matter if you insert needles randomly, or you just prick the skin with a tooth pick.

    “Also, notice that Novella often expresses strong opinions on subjects he is NOT an expert in”

    BS. He informs his readers about expert opinion and suggests that, if you disagree with expert opinion, you had better have good reasons…like a thorough and detailed background knowledge of the subject, familiarity with the literature on the subject, and peer reviewed opinions based on that detailed background knowledge and literature.

    “If the scientific mainstream has decided on something, he will support it, without bothering to analyze their reasoning”

    BS. His support of expert opinion is in proportion to the degree of consensus by the experts. If the 95% of experts agree, than it is far more likely than not that they are correct. Certainly as opposed to an random internet poster schooled in the university of google.

    “He does not seem to consider herd instincts and group think, or financial motivations”

    You’ve been here 10 years so you know this is bullshit.

  49. BillyJoe7on 24 Sep 2017 at 2:45 am

    ^this is not for the benefit of hardnose who has amply and repeatedly demonstrated his inability to understand ANYTHING.

  50. hardnoseon 24 Sep 2017 at 6:08 pm

    “He does not seem to consider herd instincts and group think, or financial motivations”

    “You’ve been here 10 years so you know this is bullshit.”

    I have been here 10 years and REPEATEDLY been told we should trust the mainstream scientific consensus.

    And I always mention group think and the fact that dissenting from the herd can ruin careers. And you all deny it.

  51. bachfiendon 24 Sep 2017 at 7:22 pm

    Hardnose,

    Dissenting from consensus can ruin careers, if the dissent is fallacious, and the person persists with the dissent, despite repeatedly being shown that the dissent is fallacious.

    Dissenting from consensus can lead to awards, research grants, even in some cases the Nobel Prize, if the dissent actually turns out to be not fallacious.

    Despite your repeated statements, no one believes that everything is known or understood in science.

    The mainstream scientific consensus deserves the respect it’s given. Your half baked ideas deserve no respect.

  52. chikoppion 24 Sep 2017 at 8:03 pm

    [hardnose] And I always mention group think and the fact that dissenting from the herd can ruin careers. And you all deny it.

    Dissenting from the herd can also lead to Nobel Prizes and getting one’s name in the history books or plastered on the side of research centers. The distinction is the nature and cause of that dissent.

    If the dissent is based on sound research and is proportional to the evidence, that’s exactly how science is supposed to work.

    If the dissent is overreaching, overconfident, ignores established science, or is based on poor/non-existent methodology, then yes, that sort of failure in judgement can damage reputations.

    Francis Peyton Rous had the hypothesis that viruses could be a vector for cancer, which was an idea initially disregarded as well outside the consensus. It took him (and others) nearly fifty years to patiently build sufficient evidence to support the hypothesis. He was awarded a Nobel. The history of science is a history of dissent, but of dissent governed by meticulousness and propriety.

  53. chikoppion 24 Sep 2017 at 8:06 pm

    Oops. Bachfiend already said it more economically.

  54. MosBenon 25 Sep 2017 at 11:00 am

    Egnor is still kicking around here? Hey, Egnor, remember when you were completely wrong in the thread about storage solutions for renewable energy sources; that you were just looking to score cheap points and it led you to completely miss the point of the post and mischaracterize Steve’s position? Do you remember how you doubled down even when people pointed out your mistake? And then how you disappeared from the thread rather than simply admit that you had been wrong and not apologize? That’s because you have no integrity. You’re the “a**hole” here.

  55. Enfant Terribleon 25 Sep 2017 at 12:02 pm

    bachfiend,

    “There’s no evidence that mutations are non-random, directed and to the benefit of the organism.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-a-shapiro/cell-cognition_b_1354889.html

  56. chikoppion 25 Sep 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Nope. Nope. Nope.

    We’ve burned through more than a thousand comments on cellular biology. Look though the past articles and you’ll have hours if not days of reading.

    Enfant Terrible…seeking out confirmatory anecdotes is NOT skepticism nor critical thinking. Did you also seek and engage with critique or contradictory findings, or did you mearly look for an anecdote for the sake of contradiction and post it uncritically?

    In every field there is an established body of research. You cannot evaluate a claim outside the context of the entire field. You also cannot look at any isolated line of research and draw conclusions from it. Science is a process which advances methodically, unravels by successive iterations of experimentation, and seeks to increasingly isolate variables and expose assumptions and biases. It isn’t a game of, “what can I find to maybe support my preconceptions.”

  57. hardnoseon 25 Sep 2017 at 1:54 pm

    There is plenty of evidence, unless you insist on ignoring Shapiro.

  58. BillyJoe7on 25 Sep 2017 at 3:21 pm

    Shapiro was slaughtered in that thousand post thread.
    No evidence. No mechanism. And ignorance ignorance/misunderstanding of modern evolutionary biology.
    A microbiologist speaking outside his area of expertise.

  59. Schnaveon 25 Sep 2017 at 11:05 pm

    The problem is with elitism, not the existence of elites. But then again, it is always socialist elites that line people up by the millions for execution or mass starvation. When left unfettered, their social engineering always “fails up” to that level.

  60. BillyJoe7on 26 Sep 2017 at 8:08 am

    Schnave,

    You’re committing the equivocation fallacy.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fq10HaOq-4c

  61. Enfant Terribleon 26 Sep 2017 at 9:32 am

    BillyJoe7,

    “Shapiro was slaughtered in that thousand post thread. No evidence. No mechanism. And ignorance ignorance/misunderstanding of modern evolutionary biology. A microbiologist speaking outside his area of expertise.”

    WHAT?! OMG… what the hell is going on here?! Shapiro IS the modern evolutionary biology!

    One important technical point to bear in mind is that *mutations are not errors*. Mutations are any inheritable changes in the genetic material. This is *not* a point of disagreement. This definition and notion is commonplace in the specialized literature, including textbooks. In ” Evolution – Nicholas H. Barton et al – 2007,” we read (page 325): “Mutation, formally defined as a heritable change in the genetic material of an organism,”… . Similarly, in “Genetics – Macmillan Science Library – Vol. 3 – 2003,” we read (page 93): “A mutation is any heritable change in the genome of an organism.”

    Everybody that has some trustworthy background on this issue knows and agrees that it is true that there are mutations that appear through errors. However, it seems to me that most evolutionary biologists think, or at least say, that the great majority of mutations are indeed due to errors and are indeed errors. In Douglas Futuyma’s “Evolution – 2005,” we read, page 166, “These alterations, or mutations, are considered by most evolutionary biologists to be *errors*. That is, *the process of mutation is thought to be not an adaptation*, but a consequence of unrepaired damage.” (Note however that in this passage Futuyma is referring specifically to unrepaired damage to DNA…).

    And *this is the view that is being disputed* (by a minority, arguably). What is, then, (or what are) the option(s)? (that is, options from a realistic point of view, not from fancy scenarios like “God-Driven Intelligent Design,” etc).

    We have been dealing, as a matter of fact, with two crucial questions: *first*, if mutations are not always errors, what are they besides being errors? *Second*, what is the relative importance of each type of mutation to the generation of variability in genomes? (this second question also means: what is the relative importance of each mutation type to… evolution?).

    We may categorize mutations in three groups (always with some degree of anthropomorphism in these ideas, just like in the notion of “natural genetic engineering”; and, most important: always with borderline cases between these three categories). Mutation can be errors, sometimes, as Futuyma mentioned, i.e. the consequence of unrepaired damage. Mutation can also be the consequence of the action of the biological machinery, like in transposition events or in gene amplification through the action of transposons. Third, *mutation can be an attempt made by the organism to improve its chances of survival*. It is this third instance that Shapiro calls “Natural Genetic Engineering.”

    I will provide to the skeptics here a series of citations to back up the position that this third type of mutation really exists and is well established in biological mainstream wisdom and discourse. Mark Ridley, in his respected textbook “Evolution” (2004), says that (page 88) “Natural selection imposes direction on evolution, using undirected variation.” By this, he is saying that Natural Selection is *The Driver* of evolution. Whenever an organism is trying to survive (and they, we…, usually are), it is trying to impose a direction to the evolutionary process, so to speak. If the organisms possess some ways to do so by altering their own genomes, so these very processes can be said to be, partly or greatly, drivers or co-drivers of the evolutionary process.

    That is what I will try to back up below:

    Citation 1: first, I will present a group of citations taken from the book “Evolution,” authored by Nicholas H. Barton et al (2007). This textbook has received many highly favorable reviews by prestigious publications, like Nature Genetics. Link: http://evolution-textbook.org/index.html

    Page 347- In fact, mutation is actively regulated and manipulated in organisms in many ways. (induced under stress, increased in specific regions of the genome) see chapter 23… …For now, note that even when there is some control over the rate of mutation, the particular mutations that are seen are not directly linked to their adaptive value.

    Page 659 – Mutation is inevitable, because the genetic material cannot be replicated with perfect accuracy. However, mutation rates are under genetic control… …However, there is also evidence that mutation rates are not as low as they could be…. …So we need to explain why mutation rates are as they are.

    Pages 662-663 – Some genes have evolved mechanisms to raise their mutation rate. .. … evolution of high mutation rates at these particular loci. … … in coevolution between bacterial pathogens and their hosts. … (in a) arms race…. … Pathogenic bacteria have evolved a variety of mechanisms for increasing mutation rates at specific *contingency loci*. Most involve *microsatellites*

    Citation 2: this second group comes from Futuyma’s prestigious “Evolution” (2005).

    Page 460 – 10 percent of all genetic mutations in mice are thought to result from retroelement transpositions, many of them into coding regions or control regions…. … Occasionally, transposition can lead to adaptive evolution. [Note: adaptive but non-directed] Perhaps the most dramatic example involves the origin of the vertebrate immune system. [Note: this citation from page 460 exemplifies mutation through the action of the biological machinery of the cell]

    Page 461 – The Origin of New Genes. These mechanisms (for the origins of genes) include lateral gene transfer, exon shuffling, gene chimerism, retrotransposition, motif multiplication, and gene duplication. [note: Futuyma is listing as means for the appearance of new genes a number of mechanisms that lie clearly outside what one would consider to be errors; they fit more appropriately in the category “changes performed by the cell’s machinery, often as an attempt to increase its survival capabilities”].

    Citation 3 and 4: below are citations from two journal articles, the first from the Journal of Bacteriology, and the second from PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). Both journals of repute.

    Journal of Bacteriology,Sept. 2001, p. 5445–5448, Vol. 183, No. 18.
    Starvation-Induced Transposition of Pseudomonas putida Transposon Tn4652.

    Transposons are widespread in genomes and have important roles in evolution. Transpositional activity of a mobile element is generally maintained at a low level, yet a high frequency of transposition may occur in response to certain environmental stimuli. It has been shown that different stresses, such as carbon starvation (17), temperature effects (16, 21), and UV light (7), can enhance transposition of bacterial mobile elements. Moreover, it is hypothesized that activation of transposition under stress conditions might serve as an adaptive response to overcome stress and permit new traits to evolve (4, 24). However, the exact molecular mechanisms that underlie stress induced transposition remain undefined…. … …Therefore, we believe that Tn4652 serves as a good example of transposons that are activated under stressful conditions to increase the overall mutation rate and to generate new and potentially useful mutations.

    PNAS – June 6, 2000 – 6646–6651 – vol. 97 – no. 12. (passages may be discontinuous)
    The SOS response regulates adaptive mutation. Gregory J. McKenzie, Reuben S. Harris, Peter L. Lee, and Susan M. Rosenberg

    Upon starvation some Escherichia coli cells undergo a transient, genome-wide hypermutation (called adaptive mutation) that is recombination-dependent and appears to be a response to a stressful environment. Adaptive mutation may reflect an inducible mechanism that generates genetic variability in times of stress.

    Previously, however, the regulatory components and signal transduction pathways controlling adaptive mutation were unknown. Here we show that adaptive mutation is regulated by the SOS response, a complex, graded response to DNA damage that includes induction of gene products blocking cell division and promoting mutation, recombination, and DNA repair.

    The bacterial SOS response, studied extensively in Escherichia coli, is a global response to DNA damage in which the cell cycle is arrested and DNA repair and mutagenesis are induced (1). SOS is the prototypic cell cycle check-point control and DNA repair system, and because of this, a detailed picture of the signal transduction pathway that regulates this response is understood.

    Adaptive mutation (also called stationary-phase mutation) is a collection of phenomena in which mutations form in stressed or starving, nongrowing, or slowly growing cells, and at least some of these mutations allow growth (reviewed by refs. 14–19).

    It is a model for mutational escape of growth-control, such as in oncogenesis, tumor progression, and resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs (16, 20–22), and also, like SOS mutagenesis, implies that evolution can be hastened when the need arises (23).

    The results reported indicate that adaptive mutation in the Lac system in E. coli is regulated by the SOS system. This identifies SOS as a signal transduction pathway controlling the transient, differentiated condition (52) of adaptive mutation, and likewise identifies adaptive mutation as a new form of SOS mutagenesis.

    Generality. This report describes the second example of SOS mutagenesis in starving cells independent of UmuDC, both of them dependent on RecA and RecBC. In the first example, aging colonies induce SOS and mutation (74, 75). That SOS response requires cAMP, a signal molecule produced during starvation, and RecB.

    Other stationary-phase stress- or starvation-induced mutagenesis mechanisms exist in prokaryotes and eukaryotes (reviewed by refs. 17 and 18), and there are many examples in the literature of recombination-associated mutation in eukaryotes (reviewed in refs. 17, 18, 52, and 78).

    Understanding the regulation of all of the different adaptive or stationaryphase mutation mechanisms will illuminate when, how, and whether cells adjust their mutation rates and mechanisms, thereby inducing heritable changes, and presumably increasing their options for survival.

    Conclusion: in his review of the textbook “Evolution” (Barton et al, 2007), Francisco J Ayala says (A textbook for all seasons. Nature Genetics. Vol. 39. N.10. Oct 2007):

    The last two chapters of Part III, ‘Evolution of Genetic Systems’ and ‘Evolution of Novelty,’ are priceless. In length, depth and excitement, these two chapters go far beyond what is typically covered in evolution textbooks. The increasingly relevant topic of the evolution of evolvability is helpfully included, and evo-devo considerations are again brought to bear in these chapters.

    In light of this comments from Ayala, it is interesting to add this citation from Barton et al’s “Evolution” (pages 715, 716, and 717):

    In particular, some scientists emphasize the importance of *exploratory systems* that constrain and shape initially random variation so as to produce a final well-coordinated outcome. There is a loose analogy with natural selection, which shapes random variation over many generations of replication to produce organisms with high fitness. Indeed, in some cases these systems actually depend on natural selection between replicating lineages within a developing organism. … …A simple example is the development of vertebrate limb. … …The vertebrate immune system relies on natural selection …In this section, we have emphasized processes that allow complex organisms to be coded by compact genomes and to develop reliably despite unpredictable perturbations. These features also make it much easier to generate novelties, because any change is likely to at least maintain existing functions and may specify an advantageous se of coordinated phenotypic changes without requiring an improbable coincidence of multiple changes to the genome.

    So, concluding, it seems that the idea that “evolvability has evolved” is gaining impetus within the biological scientific community. And this evolution of evolvability can only be achieved by organisms in both two ways: 1- Reducing undesired changes. 2- Increasing the possibility that changes (mutations) will be of the advantageous type. Since, in regards to the latter, it is impossible for the cell (at least almost always) to know exactly what change is necessary, the best it can do is to direct the changes to where it is most likely to yield beneficial outputs. It can, thus, both *direct the changes themselves* and also *constrain what type of changes* will be done.

    This is what Shapiro has labeled as natural genetic engineering.

  62. chikoppion 26 Sep 2017 at 10:22 am

    [Enfant Terrible] So, concluding, it seems that the idea that “evolvability has evolved” is gaining impetus within the biological scientific community. And this evolution of evolvability can only be achieved by organisms in both two ways: 1- Reducing undesired changes. 2- Increasing the possibility that changes (mutations) will be of the advantageous type. Since, in regards to the latter, it is impossible for the cell (at least almost always) to know exactly what change is necessary, the best it can do is to direct the changes to where it is most likely to yield beneficial outputs. It can, thus, both *direct the changes themselves* and also *constrain what type of changes* will be done.

    This is a fair reading and consistent with modern synthesis, however it is not consistent with how people generally interpret or utilize the term “directed,” which is what BillyJoe7 was referring to.

    The colloquial language you use above is symptomatic of how confusion arises. The evolutionary process, through natural selection, may result in genetic mechanisms that impact the frequency of mutation at locations within the genome (including in response to environmental factors). That much is non-controversial. The genomes of organisms have evolved variable mutation rates as a result of shaping by evolutionary forces.

    However, the cell doesn’t “direct” changes or “know” anything. This is where the principle gets misinterpreted. The outcome (phenotype) of the mutations is not predictive or somehow “intentional.” There is no agency, just evolutionary processes.

  63. Enfant Terribleon 26 Sep 2017 at 10:44 am

    chikoppi,

    “However, the cell doesn’t “direct” changes or “know” anything. This is where the principle gets misinterpreted. The outcome (phenotype) of the mutations is not predictive or somehow “intentional.” There is no agency, just evolutionary processes.”

    Learning and memory — abilities associated with a brain or, at the very least, neuronal activity — have been observed in protoplasmic slime, a unicellular organism with multiple nuclei.

    When the amoeba Physarum polycephalum is subjected to a series of shocks at regular intervals, it learns the pattern and changes its behaviour in anticipation of the next one to come1, according to a team of researchers in Japan. Remarkably, this memory stays in the slime mould for hours, even when the shocks themselves stop. A single renewed shock after a ‘silent’ period will leave the mould expecting another to follow in the rhythm it learned previously. Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University in Sapporo and his colleagues say that their findings “hint at the cellular origins of primitive intelligence“.

    It is well-established that cells receive, interpret and adjust to environmental fluctuations, says microbiologist James Shapiro of the University of Chicago, Illinois. But if the results stand up, he says, “this paper would add a cellular memory to those capabilities“.

    The organism chosen by the Japanese team could scarcely seem less promising as a quick learner. Physarum polycephalum is a slime mould belonging to the Amoebozoa phylum. It moves at a steady rate of about one centimetre per hour at room temperature, but this changes with the humidity of its environment. It slows down in drier air, and Nakagaki’s team used this sensitivity to stimulate learning.

    The team found that when the mould experienced three episodes of dry air in regular succession an hour apart, it apparently came to expect more: it slowed down when a fourth pulse of dry air was due, even if none was actually applied. Sometimes this anticipatory slow-down would be repeated another hour later, and even a third. The same behaviour was seen when the pulses were experienced at other regular time intervals — say, every half hour or every 1.5 hours.

    If the dry episodes did not recur after the first three, the amoeba’s sense of expectation gradually faded away. But then applying a single dry pulse about six hours later commonly led to another anticipatory slowing in step with the earlier rhythm.

    The same team has previously shown that these amoebae can negotiate mazes and solve simple puzzles2, 3. So the new finding adds to “the cool things Physarum can do”, says applied mathematician Steven Strogatz of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

    Like all living organisms, slime moulds have built-in biochemical oscillators, like the human body clock. In other kinds of slime mould, these oscillators can create periodic ripple patterns in response to environmental stress, helping the organism coordinate its movements. Nakagaki’s group thinks that the versatile rhythmic sense of Physarum stems from many different biochemical oscillators in the colony operating at a continuous range of frequencies.

    The team’s calculations show that such a group of oscillators can pick up and ‘learn’ any imposed rhythmic beat, although the knowledge decays quickly once stimulus ceases. The calculations also show that a memory of the beat can stay within the system, and be released again by a single, later pulse — just as the researchers observed.

    Saigusa, T., Tero, A., Nakagaki, T. & Kuramoto, Y. Phys. Rev. Lett. 100, 018101 (2008).
    Nakagaki, T., Yamada, H. & Tóth, Á. Nature 407, 470 (2000).
    Nakagaki, T., Kobayashi, R., Nishiura, Y. & Ueda, T. Proc. R. Soc. B 271, 2305-2310 (2004).

    https://www.nature.com/news/2008/080123/full/451385a.html

  64. SteveAon 26 Sep 2017 at 11:46 am

    ET

    You’ve just comprehensively proved chikoppi’s point. And you seem oblivious to it.

    Slime moulds might be able to ‘learn’ stuff, but that doesn’t mean they direct their own evolution.

  65. chikoppion 26 Sep 2017 at 11:57 am

    *Ugh*

    None of which implies cognition or comprehension. Again, no agency.

    Nature is filled with regular chemical and molecular processes. When incorporated into replicating organisms the evolutionary result is automatic “behaviors,” which may or may not be environmental adaptations, expressed through the phenotype.

    Even “smart” materials “learn” to adopt particular shapes at different temperatures. These are merely uniform non-organic alloys and polymers.

    This is the problem with colloquial language. Compare this…

    Like all living organisms, slime moulds have built-in biochemical oscillators, like the human body clock. In other kinds of slime mould, these oscillators can create periodic ripple patterns in response to environmental stress, helping the organism coordinate its movements. Nakagaki’s group thinks that the versatile rhythmic sense of Physarum stems from many different biochemical oscillators in the colony operating at a continuous range of frequencies.

    To this…

    Like all living organisms, slime moulds have built-in biochemical oscillators, like the human body clock. In other kinds of slime mould, these oscillators can create periodic ripple patterns in response to environmental stress, which result in syncopated movements within the organism. Nakagaki’s group thinks that the versatile rhythmic sense of Physarum stems from many different biochemical oscillators in the colony operating at a continuous range of frequencies.

    Our language is peppered with anthropomorphisms. Such as, “the crane strained against the heavy load” rather than, “the heavy load nearly exceeded the mechanical tolerances of the crane.” At no point is it implied that the crane has cognition or agency.

  66. hardnoseon 26 Sep 2017 at 12:13 pm

    They will strive with every available ounce of strength and determination to deny intelligence in nature.

    Kind of funny to watch.

  67. chikoppion 26 Sep 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Speaking of automatic behaviors that lack cognition…

  68. Enfant Terribleon 26 Sep 2017 at 1:53 pm

    chikoppi,

    “None of which implies cognition or comprehension. Again, no agency.”

    There are recent published findings that show how communities of microorganisms show decision-making abilities (Takagi et al. 2007). Professor Toshiyuki Nakagaki and his colleagues presented a confined culture of a migrating slime mould Physarum with a repellent stimulus (quinine) and observed that the crawling culture halted in its tracks. After a lengthy period, extending in some cases to hours, the colony either retreated or passed to one side of the obstacle, or even divided into two and reassembled into a single colony once the obstacle was passed. The phenomenon was reported by journalists as perhaps hinting at the origins of intelligence (Ball 2008, 385). But there is little in the report to suggest intelligence played a part; the research was primarily concerned with memory and decision-making. […] In defining intelligence, adaptation of and to the environment, reaction to unforeseen circumstances and communication with others are frequently
    mentioned. It is the essence of such intelligence that we observe in single cells. The castaway on the island is no less intelligent than the community of people that constructed their home town. We should also note that the crude shelter that the castaway constructs wonít be as durable, or as perfectly precise, as the shell homes made by testate amoebae.

    Cellular memory

    These models can illuminate areas that, currently, science cannot explain. One
    is the curious, controversial but apparently well documented phenomenon known as ‘cellular memory’, examples of which have been collected and discussed by a physical therapist named Leslie A. Takeuchi (2004). Takeuchi cites several examples of radical behavioural change after organ transplants from donors who had exhibited the acquired behaviour. These include a 7-month-old boy who developed a mild form of cerebral disability, like that of his donor, and a 47-year-old man who discovered a new liking for classical music, later to discover that his donor was a 17-year-old classical violinist. There was a 29-year-old fast-food eating lesbian who became a vegetarian and
    developed a strong preference for men and a middle-aged man who acquired an eating disorder; both these new behavioural traits being those of the organ donors. One such person wrote a book about her new craving for beer and chicken nuggets, neither of which she had liked before the transplant but to both of which her donor was devoted (Sylvia and Novak 1997). Such stories lack an explanation in orthodox science and so are usually dismissed as fanciful. Is it possible, however, that given cellular intelligence, cells in such great numbers as are transplanted could then introduce such characteristics into the cell community that has received them?

    Supremacy of the neuron

    We have faced cells that take decisions, act altruistically, perform judicious manipulations, adapt their surroundings to suit themselves and alter their life-styles to match changing circumstances. Yet when we discuss the brain, we are faced with the concept of the neuron as little more than a ‘go’ or
    ‘no-go’ gate, a kind of transistor. It is at the synapses, we are told, where intelligence emerges as large communities of neurons act in concert. Here we face a philosophical absurdity. If a ‘lowly’ Amoeba is ingenious enough to build a home for itself, how can it be that the neuron – the most highly-evolved cell we know – is essentially a mere binary switch?

    […]

    We need to consider the intelligence of single cells. Whole cell biology is the most enticing, attractive, enlightening and captivating aspect of biology that we now need to embrace, and do so with enthusiasm. It shows us so much, and can teach us still more.

    Ford, B. J. (2009). On intelligence in cells: The case for whole cell biology. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 34(4), 350-365.

    Avaliable at: https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/32549743/a-ISR_Ford.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1506450744&Signature=%2B84cbF5s0BQ4lCRkTW7rEy5cx00%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DOn_Intelligence_in_Cells_The_Case_for_Wh.pdf

  69. chikoppion 26 Sep 2017 at 3:33 pm

    You’re at it again…uncritically seeking seemingly confirmatory anecdotes in isolation.

    The first paragraph refers to the responses of a multicellular micro-organism to environmental stimuli. Micro-organisms aren’t inert matter and have evolved biological (not cognitive) reactions. Biological processes do not require agency.

    Here again, terms like “memory” and “decision making” are being used as very narrow characterizations of biological processes only to be willfully and uncritically reinterpreted in the broad, anthropomorphic sense.

    There’s even a clarification/disclaimer in the quote:

    “In defining intelligence, adaptation of and to the environment, reaction to unforeseen circumstances and communication with others are frequently mentioned.”

    That single cell organisms react to external stimuli or inter-cellular signaling exists in cells that have evolved in a multicellular organism does not require cognition, self-awareness, or agency. These are evolved biological processes.

    The second paragraph begins with the admission that there is no known explanation and concludes with an unfounded speculation. You even bolded both.

    The penultimate paragraph is foremost a gross oversimplification of how a neuron functions, but it also takes anthropomorphic language from the original domain of characterization and presents it in a literal and unqualified context. Read in context of the original qualifiers.

    These games of anecdote wack-a-mole are diversionary, tedious, and unproductive. Why don’t you provide your definition of cellular “intelligence” that is incompatible with evolved mechanistic processes.

  70. Enfant Terribleon 26 Sep 2017 at 4:27 pm

    chikkopi,

    “Why don’t you provide your definition of cellular “intelligence” that is incompatible with evolved mechanistic processes.”

    Planning: When we plan something, we create a mental simulation of several possible events, through an internal representation of the external world, and choose one of the possible events that ends up being the “plane.” This process is triggered (initiated) by external and/or internal stimuli (such as: absence of food leading to hunger, etc.), goes through the stage of generating alternatives to solve the problem (simulations using internal representations, and competition between alternatives), and ends up leading to the “final plan” (which appears through “choice”); usually this whole process is still followed by the “deflagration of action” (that is, the decision to make the choice made real). All this process is something objective, which occurs in the human organism, our neurons, etc. And part of this process is accompanied by a subjective counterpart (that is, the consciousness of the process). The triggering stimulus may be accompanied by a subjective experience (feeling of hunger); simulations using representations may also be accompanied by subjective experiences (identification of alternatives to starve or going hunting or going to McDonalds, etc.); the final plan may also be accompanied by a subjective experience (feeling of choosing between alternatives); and finally the decision to implement choice can also be followed by subjective experience (in this case, the “free will” to act).

    Intelligence: I think it is more productive to think of intelligence as the ability of a system to interact with its environment adaptively, ensuring its well-being and survival. For example, a cell system that always produces a particular molecule is less intelligent than a cellular system that identifies whether such a molecule is needed at that moment and only then produces it. Likewise, I find it fertile to think that many computer systems are intelligent, capable of evaluating a situation and making a more appropriate decision to the situation. Intelligence is the successful working of a mind. So, according to these definitions, even individual cells possess or are minds endowed with intelligence.

    The point is: there is as much intelligent planning in a man (Kasparov) when playing chess as in a cell (like the bacterium Escherichia coli) when “deciding” to synthesize beta-galactosidase. Whether these events are accompanied by awareness or not, that is another matter…

  71. bachfiendon 26 Sep 2017 at 6:28 pm

    Enfant Terrible,

    Computers are intelligent? Bacteria are intelligent? So they therefore have minds? Of all the things you’ve claimed, this is the most stupid one (and that’s really saying something).

    Non-intelligent entities (such as computers and bacteria) can perform intelligent actions, either as a result of programming (computers) or natural selection (bacteria). There’s no need to anthromorphise them. Or evidence that it’s true anyway.

  72. hardnoseon 26 Sep 2017 at 7:46 pm

    So … when bacteria do things that require intelligence, they aren’t actually being intelligent, because natural selection made them intelligent??

  73. bachfiendon 26 Sep 2017 at 8:45 pm

    Hardnose,

    ‘So.. when bacteria do things that require intelligence, they aren’t actually being intelligent, because natural selection made them intelligent?’

    No, no, no. Bacteria do intelligent things without being intelligent. Bacteria synthesise enzymes in the presence of their substrates, and don’t synthesise the enzymes when their substrates are absent, which is an intelligent action (the bacteria aren’t wasting energy and resources producing enzymes not useful) as a result of mechanisms favoured by natural selection. Not because bacteria are intelligent, with minds, able to decide to do something. Or not.

  74. chikoppion 26 Sep 2017 at 10:57 pm

    [Enfant Terrible] Intelligence: I think it is more productive to think of intelligence as the ability of a system to interact with its environment adaptively, ensuring its well-being and survival.

    I think this is too broad, given the evolution of mechanistic processes.

    Changes in the genome produce changes in the phenotype. The phenotype determines (is) the physical characteristics of the organism, which in turn determines survivability in a given environment.

    If the organism reproduces successfully its genomic information will be passed forward to the next generation. The more frequently it reproduces the more of that particular genome (and phenotype) will be present in successive generations. If it fails to reproduce or reproduces poorly, that particular genomic profile will become less present within the population.

    Mutations produce variations of traits within a population. Those variations may be either consequential or inconsequential to the success of a particular organism. Variations that lead to successful replication get passed forward at a greater rate. Future populations are then better adapted to that environment.

    Organisms that have some areas of the genome that are more or less variable are displaying an evolved mechanism. Having some areas of the genome that are highly variable, or for which the expression is regulated by environmental factors, is an inherited trait.

    There’s nothing about this process that implies cognition. Extant populations exist because they are evolved (they have inherited the necessary traits and mechanisms) to survive and replicate within their environment. If the species has survived environmental changes then whatever mechanism(s) allowed some ancestors of that species to survive are also part of the inheritance.

    For example, a cell system that always produces a particular molecule is less intelligent than a cellular system that identifies whether such a molecule is needed at that moment and only then produces it.

    Here’s where things get complicated.

    Gene expression is an evolved trait. The presence of environmental factors can “switch on” or “switch off” particular genes, which impacts the proteins produced. This mechanism is fundamental to many processes, such as embryonic development. There isn’t a “decision” being made, it’s just molecules interacting through an inherited mechanism.

    Similarly, environmental factors can increase the rate of mutation at locations within the genome. This increases variability within a population under stress, making it more likely that some percentage of that population will survive the environmental conditions. Whatever organisms survive will pass the adaptation forward. This is also an inherited trait.

    This process has been demonstrated over and over again, from Lenski’s E. coli experiments, to the wonderfully visual MEGA plate experiment:

    https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/09/a-cinematic-approach-to-drug-resistance/

    When considering “adaptation” it is also necessary to consider the members of a population that did not have fortunate mutations. Within a variated population, it is the genetic mechanisms that are crucial to successful interaction with the environment that get inherited by succeeding generations.

  75. BillyJoe7on 27 Sep 2017 at 7:31 am

    ET,

    I hate to break it to you, but anthropomorphisms are not real.
    And in the mouth of microbiologist, James Shapiro, they become actual lies.
    It makes sense that he is one of your heroes.

  76. Enfant Terribleon 27 Sep 2017 at 11:47 am

    bachfiend,

    “Computers are intelligent? Bacteria are intelligent? So they therefore have minds? Of all the things you’ve claimed, this is the most stupid one (and that’s really saying something).”

    Have you never hearded the experession “artificial mind”? Yes, computers have minds, intelligence too. The same with bacteria.

    You can read intelligence definition here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligence

    It’s really, really stupid that you don’t know these definitions and expressions.

  77. Enfant Terribleon 27 Sep 2017 at 12:29 pm

    bachfiend,

    “Bacteria do intelligent things without being intelligent.”

    Oh… I see…. it’s all random! 😀

    “Bacteria synthesise enzymes in the presence of their substrates, and don’t synthesise the enzymes when their substrates are absent, which is an intelligent action (the bacteria aren’t wasting energy and resources producing enzymes not useful) as a result of mechanisms favoured by natural selection. Not because bacteria are intelligent, with minds, able to decide to do something. Or not.”

    Bacterias are not only reacting to the presence of substrates. Bacterias can also antecipate periodic events in the enviroment.

    “When plasmodia of the true slime mold Physarum were exposed to unfavorable conditions presented as three consecutive pulses at constant intervals, they reduced their locomotive speed in response to each episode. When the plasmodia were subsequently subjected to favorable conditions, they spontaneously reduced their locomotive speed at the time when the next unfavorable episode would have occurred. This implied the anticipation of impending environmental change. We explored the mechanisms underlying these behaviors from a dynamical systems perspective.”

    “Information processing is an interesting component of biological systems. Although the brain has evolved to perform this specific function, information processing is possible without a brain, and organisms as simple as amoebae are much more intelligent than generally thought. For example, the true slime mold Physarum polycephalum can solve a maze and certain geometrical puzzles, in order to satisfy its needs for efficient absorption of nutrients and intracellular communication [1-4]. Thus, from an evolutionary perspective, information processing by unicellular organisms might represent a simple precursor of brain-dependent higher functions. Anticipating and recalling events are two such functions; however, the way in which they self-organize has so far remained unknown.”

    “P. polycephalum is a useful model organism for studying behavioral intelligence [5]. Its plasmodium is a large aggregate of protoplasm that possesses an intricate network of tubular structures, and can crawl over agar plates at a speed of approximately 1 cm/h at room temperature. In order to investigate primitive forms of brain function (such as learning, memory, anticipation, and recall), here
    we have examined the rhythmicity of cell behaviors [6,7] and the adaptability of cells to periodic environmental changes [8,9]. Our approach was to expose organisms to periodic changes in ambient conditions and to observe their behavioral responses. As there has been much controversy in recent years over the existence of non-human intelligence [10-13], this subject requires evaluation by modern scientific techniques.”

    “Here we show that an amoeboid organism can anticipate the timing of periodic events. Moreover, we explore the mechanisms underlying this behavior from a dynamical systems perspective. Our results hint at the cellular origins of primitive intelligence, and imply that simple dynamics might be sufficient to explain its emergence.”

    Discerning a periodicity is not easy, even for humans. According to history textbooks, when the Ancient Egyptians recognized the regular periodicity of the flooding of the river Nile and succeeded in anticipating the next flood, this breakthrough triggered the invention of the calendar and was a symbol of the dawn of civilization. It is thus remarkable that a single-celled organism can perform such a function.”

    https://lib-repos.fun.ac.jp/dspace/bitstream/10445/4400/2/Final20071109.pdf

  78. hardnoseon 27 Sep 2017 at 12:58 pm

    “Bacteria do intelligent things without being intelligent.”

    Well that says it all, I guess. Materialist mythology at its craziest.

  79. hardnoseon 27 Sep 2017 at 1:02 pm

    “computers have minds, intelligence too”

    A computer’s intelligence comes entirely from its human creators.

    Bacteria, on the other hand, are created by nature and are part of the naturally intelligent ecosystem.

    You know — materialists insist that our human intelligence results entirely from the signaling of neurons. Don’t they ever wonder if signaling can happen with other mediums? Such as communication networks in bacteria communities?

    No, they don’t wonder, because they “know” it can’t.

  80. BillyJoe7on 27 Sep 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Do you guys even understand the word ANTHROPOMORPHISM?

    Bacteria don’t communicate!
    Bacteria do not have minds!
    Bacteria do not socialise!

    Not unless you are EQUIVOCATING!

    Do you still talk to your teddy bear?
    Do you still have tea parties with your dolls?
    Do cranes strain against the weight?

    The bullshit you guys believe in is beyond COMPREHENSION.

  81. Enfant Terribleon 27 Sep 2017 at 3:53 pm

    BillyJoe7,

    “Bacteria don’t communicate! Bacteria do not have minds! Bacteria do not socialise!”

    This is just your belief.

    Under natural growth conditions, bacteria live in complex hierarchical communities. To conduct complex cooperative behaviors,bacteria utilize sophisticated communication to the extent that their chemical language includes semantic and even pragmatic aspects. I describe how complex colony forms (patterns) emerge through the communication-based interplay between individual bacteria and the colony. Individual cells assume newly co-generated traits and abilities that are not prestored in the genetic information of the cells, that is, not all the information required for efficient responses to all environmental conditions is stored. To solve newly encountered problems, they assess the problem via collective sensing, recall stored information of past experience, and then execute distributed information processing of the 10^9–10^12 bacteria in the colony—transforming the colony into a “super-brain.” I show illuminating examples of swarming intelligence of live bacteria in which they solve optimization problems that are beyond what human beings can solve. This will lead to a discussion about the special nature of bacterial computational principles compared to Turing algorithm computational principles, in particular about the role of distributed information processing.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.05022.x/abstract

  82. bachfiendon 27 Sep 2017 at 4:51 pm

    Enfant Terrible (and hardnose),

    Well, of course multicellular bacteria exist. You have an example of one in your mouth in the form of dental plaque if your dental hygiene is not good.

    Bacteria do intelligent things, but that does not mean that they’re intelligent in the commonly understood meaning of the word. Just because bacteria respond in useful ways in response to changes in their environment that to our understanding appear intelligent or intelligible doesn’t mean that they’re intelligent. Bacteria synthesising an enzyme to metabolise an new substrate in the environment is no more intelligent than a human displaying the patellar reflex during a neurological examination.

    You’re making the category error of expanding the definition of ‘intelligence’ to be able to apply it to bacteria, then asserting that bacteria display human-level ‘intelligence’.

    ‘You know – materialists insist our human intelligence results entirely from the signalling of neurons. Don’t they ever wonder if signalling can happen with other mediums?’ Well no – the evidence is overwhelmingly that human intelligence results entirely from the functioning of physical brains, but not necessarily entirely from the signalling of neurons. There’s an entirely respectable hypothesis that astrocytes (of which there are a roughly equal number to neurons in the brain) are also important in brain function, including in producing ‘intelligence’.

    The human brain is extremely complex – it’s the most complex structure in the Universe that we know of. If the human brain was simple enough to understand then we’d be too simple to understand it. Not understanding how the brain functions fully (which may be something that we’ll never achieve) doesn’t allow you to assert that ‘woo’, such as psi, exists.

  83. BillyJoe7on 27 Sep 2017 at 5:11 pm

    ET,

    “Oh… I see…. it’s all random! ”

    It’s not actually funny that you don’t understand evolution. 😉

  84. BillyJoe7on 27 Sep 2017 at 5:13 pm

    …and you still don’t understand the meaning of an ANTHROPOMORHISM!

    “Under natural growth conditions, bacteria live in complex hierarchical communities…blah…blah…blah”

    This is pure COMEDY!

  85. BillyJoe7on 27 Sep 2017 at 5:22 pm

    I’m starting to understand how someone can get himself into a state where he can believe that he will get better results in his exam today if he studies for it next week.
    The termites eat slowly centimetre by centimetre into his brain.

  86. BillyJoe7on 28 Sep 2017 at 7:15 am

    William Dembski:
    “What are your thoughts on the origins of natural genetic engineering systems”

    James Shapiro:
    “Where they come from in the first place is not a question we can realistically answer right now”

    😀

    That’s because he aint no evolutionary biologist.
    Seriously, he has missed about the last fifty years of the history of evolutionary theory.

    A modern evolutionary biologist would have answered:
    “Where they come from is the ordinary process of evolution by random mutation and natural selection”

    There is no need for a “higher order”, even if only at the level of the cellular machinery (James Shapiro – hence his intelligent, communicating, socialising bacteria!) rather than the level of the supernatural (William Dembski).

    It’s already been fully encompassed within Modern Evolutionary Theory.

  87. hardnoseon 28 Sep 2017 at 10:58 am

    “Bacteria don’t communicate!”

    BillyJoe7 does communicate, however he does not think. And if he reads, he does not think about what he reads. He probably should get the prize for the most dogmatic and unthinking commenter at this blog.

  88. hardnoseon 28 Sep 2017 at 11:00 am

    “the evidence is overwhelmingly that human intelligence results entirely from the functioning of physical brains”

    Interesting that you do not cite any of that “overwhelming” evidence. Probably because it doesn’t exist.

  89. Enfant Terribleon 28 Sep 2017 at 12:07 pm

    BillyJoe7,

    “It’s not actually funny that you don’t understand evolution.”

    Neither that you don’t understand irony.

  90. Enfant Terribleon 28 Sep 2017 at 12:17 pm

    BillyJoe7,

    “Where they come from is the ordinary process of evolution by random mutation and natural selection”

    This is an old and wrong concept. Mutations are not random, not the way most people think. Shapiro introduces the notion of ‘biochemical intelligence’. Most scientists (like Richard Dawkins) don’t warn people about such interesting facts because they may mean that there is something more to life than the mechanics of biochemistry.

  91. BillyJoe7on 28 Sep 2017 at 12:54 pm

    ET,

    It is even less funny that you don’t understand what evolutionary biologists mean by “random”.

    So you don’t understand the meaning of ANTHROPOMORPHISM and EQUIVOCATION, and now add COLLOQUIALISM to the list.

    Let me give you a bit of advice, which I know will go unheeded:

    Before you read what the contrarians and fringe dwellers have to say about any topic, you should become fully conversant with what the real experts in the field have to say on the subject of their expertise, otherwise you will not be able to understand why the contrarians and fringe dwellers are wrong.

    In short, before you criticise something you must understand the thing you are criticising.

    Oh, and you must put aside your preconceived ideas about “life, the universe, and everything”,
    There’s a beautiful world out there waiting for you.

  92. BillyJoe7on 28 Sep 2017 at 1:06 pm

    ET,

    I would be embarrassed if your mate hardnose agreed with me because it would mean I was wrong.
    It must be embarrassing for you that he agrees with you.

  93. hardnoseon 28 Sep 2017 at 1:47 pm

    “Mutations are not random, not the way most people think. Shapiro introduces the notion of ‘biochemical intelligence’. Most scientists (like Richard Dawkins) don’t warn people about such interesting facts because they may mean that there is something more to life than the mechanics of biochemistry.”

    ET,

    BillyJoe7 only reads Dawkins and Coyne, and their devoted followers.

    It is hopeless trying to de-program him. Folks like BillyJoe7 don’t want to wear out their brains, so they become mindless followers of a cult.

  94. RickKon 28 Sep 2017 at 4:08 pm

    ET said: “Most scientists (like Richard Dawkins) don’t warn people about such interesting facts because they may mean that there is something more to life than the mechanics of biochemistry.”

    How is it that you can so easily diminish and demean the mere “mechanics of biochemistry”? Perhaps you should consider BillyJoe’s message – that time spent reading philosophical debates about biochemistry might be better spent learning about the amazing biochemical processes and mechanics. Particularly if you’re going to take a position on the limits of unguided nature.

    Mr. Minchin asks: “Isn’t this enough? Just this world? Just this beautiful, complex wonderfully unfathomable world? How does it so fail to hold our attention that we have to diminish it with the invention of cheap, man-made myths and monsters?”

    Indeed

  95. bachfiendon 28 Sep 2017 at 4:39 pm

    Hardnose,

    The evidence is overwhelmingly that human intelligence results entirely from the functioning of physical brains. I didn’t need to give any evidence, because my purpose in writing that was to introduce the continuation ‘but not necessarily entirely from the signalling of neurons’, which is what you’d claimed was asserted by ‘materialists’. Astrocytes, of which there are an equal number to neurons, are possibly, even probably, important in brain functioning, including intelligence. Einstein’s brain apparently differed to ‘normal’ brains in having more astrocytes (not that is very good evidence).

    The evidence is that mutations are random. On previous threads, I’ve challenged you many times (and you’ve refused to respond) how you’d distinguish between mutations being non-random directed and to the benefit of the organism (your belief) and mutations being random non-directed with the deleterious mutations being winnowed out by natural selection leaving the beneficial mutations.

    It’s not possible to detect mutations in real time. It’s not possible to detect a single mutation in a bacterial colony containing millions of cells. The cells containing the mutation have to reproduce many times, so that by the time a new mutation is first detected, there may be millions of copies of the mutation.

    The only way of distinguishing between the two possibilities is that if mutations are non-random directed and to the benefit of the organism, then beneficial mutations would occur early and frequently in response to change. Or if mutations are random non-directed with the deleterious mutations winnowed out by natural selection, then beneficial mutations would occur infrequently and late in response to change.

    And what do we see? Beneficial mutations occurring infrequently and late, as in Lenski’s multidecade experiment. And the very high rate of extinction of species.

  96. hardnoseon 28 Sep 2017 at 4:39 pm

    “time spent reading philosophical debates about biochemistry might be better spent learning about the amazing biochemical processes and mechanics.”

    That statement is not logical. Biochemical processes and mechanics can be “amazing” without being sufficient to explain life.

  97. BillyJoe7on 28 Sep 2017 at 4:55 pm

    ET,

    Ignore that ignorant fool, hardnose, who’s been hanging off your arse like a dag off a sheep.
    I would suggest scraping him off at the next fence post.

    😀

    For your information, I read James Shapiro’s book “Evolution: A view from the 21st century” when it first came out, and again when this topic came up on this blog again last year.

    The details of biochemical mechanisms within bacteria are fascinatingly complex and masterfully covered. But his philosophical perambulations had already been put to bed by advances in evolutionary biology. The evidence is that epigenetic mechanisms that contribute to evolution have all been placed there by a usual process of random mutation and natural selection.

    No “higher order” is required. And it is interesting that even James Shapiro has no mechanism whereby this supposed “higher order” can DIRECT evolution. But, it’s worse than that. There is not even any POSSIBLE mechanism. James Shapiro, unfortunately, is on a “road to nowhere”.

  98. Enfant Terribleon 28 Sep 2017 at 6:06 pm

    BillyJoe7,

    “But his philosophical perambulations had already been put to bed by advances in evolutionary biology.”

    How is that? I mean, look what Shapiro wrote in 2007:

    Forty years’ experience as a bacterial geneticist has taught me that bacteria possess many cognitive, computational and evolutionary capabilities unimaginable in the first six decades of the twentieth century. Analysis of cellular processes such as metabolism, regulation of protein synthesis, and DNA repair established that bacteria continually monitor their external and internal environments and compute functional outputs based on information provided by their sensory apparatus. Studies of genetic recombination, lysogeny, antibiotic resistance and my own work on transposable elements revealed multiple widespread bacterial systems for mobilizing and engineering DNA molecules. Examination of colony development and organization led me to appreciate how extensive multicellular collaboration is among the majority of bacterial species. Contemporary research in many laboratories on cell–cell signaling, symbiosis and pathogenesis show that bacteria utilise sophisticated mechanisms for intercellular communication and even have the ability to commandeer the basic cell biology of ‘higher’ plants and animals to meet their own needs. This remarkable series of observations requires us to revise basic ideas about biological information processing and recognise that even the smallest cells are sentient beings.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1369848607000544

    So, are you telling me that in 10 years we made so much progress that we solved this issue? Sorry, I can’t believe in this. I searched for more recent articles on the subject, and look what I found:

    More recently, in view of tremendous advances in methods for studying individual cells as well as population-based microbial behavior, the bacterium has been compared explicitly to a parallel distributed processing (PDP) network (Bray, 2009) that displays ‘minimal cognition’ (Lengeler et al., 2000; van Duijn et al., 2006; Shapiro, 2007). Arguments concerning bacterial ‘intelligence’ (Jacob et al., 2004; Hellingwerf, 2005; Marijuán et al., 2010) and even cells ‘thinking’ (Ramanathan and Broach, 2007) are appearing in mainstream journals, including the special series in this one. British psychologist Richardson (2012), who has been researching human intelligence (sometimes despairingly) since the early 1970s, recently concluded in an extraordinary article in EMBO that the nascent study of unicellular intelligence might provide the key to understanding intelligence in complex vertebrates, including humans. Unknown to Richardson (2012), a microbiologist specializing in computational biology has introduced a plausible formula for establishing ‘bacterial IQ,’ based on genome size and proportion of DNA segments coding for signal transduction (ST) proteins, as well as a rough gage of ‘introversion’ or ‘extroversion’ based on the relative proportion of environment-contacting ST systems (Galperin, 2005). Finally, neuroscientists and neurobiologists tracing the evolution of complex human, brain-based behavior increasingly locate its origins in the microbial realm (Allman, 1999; Damasio, 1999; Greenspan, 2007).

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4396460/ (2015)

    This is exactly the opposite what you are telling me. I am sorry, but I am very skeptic of you.

  99. bachfiendon 28 Sep 2017 at 6:09 pm

    BillyJoe,

    It’s almost pointless noting where hardnose persists in going wrong. He appears only to be able to read articles in the popular press and abstracts of journal papers. Anything more difficult, such as reading books (even Shapiro’s one) or the journal papers, is beyond his (limited) abilities.

    But that’s OK. He’s got a PhD in experimental psychology, which he doesn’t appear to have used.

  100. CKavaon 28 Sep 2017 at 8:48 pm

    No Enfant Terrible, you are not ‘researching’ the topic. You are searching for opinions that reflect your preferred conclusions and then block quoting them. The quality of the evidence/the arguments, the consensus of other researchers in the relevant fields and even a basic understanding of the topics under discussion are irrelevant. All you desire is quotes and references that you can trot out to ‘prove’ your opinion is valid.

    I’d hazard a guess that your chosen articles aren’t random or the result of your in depth research but just gleaned from various sites and then hastily reposted here in your trademark walls of text. You never bother with summarising research or making arguments for too long before returning to your endless quoting because when you do so you quickly demonstrate your fundamental lack of knowledge about the topics you pontificate on. In essence, to are an ‘intellectual imposter’ mimicking genuine research into a topic but without ever bothering to do basic research. You want psi and magic, and mystical forces guiding nature, and that’s what you seek out and find.

  101. hardnoseon 28 Sep 2017 at 10:13 pm

    “The evidence is that epigenetic mechanisms that contribute to evolution have all been placed there by a usual process of random mutation and natural selection.”

    What “evidence” are you hallucinating?

  102. bachfiendon 28 Sep 2017 at 11:06 pm

    Hardnose,

    What evidence are you hallucinating that epigenetic mechanisms aren’t due to random mutations and natural selection?

  103. BillyJoe7on 29 Sep 2017 at 2:49 am

    ET,

    Without anthropomorphising or equivocating, and assuming you now know what these two words mean, do you believe “cells are sentient beings”? And did you read only the abstract that you copy and pasted holus bolus, or do you have access to, and did you read, the article as well? If not, how can you be confident that you have understood his meaning.

    The focus of the sentence you highlighted in the abstract of the article is the word “sentient”.
    The word “sentient” appears only once in the actual article:

    Our status as the only sentient beings on the planet is dissolving as we learn more about how smart even the smallest living cells can be.

    This is the usual definition of the word “sentience”:

    Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. Eighteenth-century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think (reason) from the ability to feel (sentience).

    But James Shapiro appears to be using the words “sentience” and “smart” interchangeably.

    So, in your opinion, do bacteria feel, perceive, or experience subjectively?

    How confident are you that James Shapiro is using the above definition of the word “sentience”?
    How confident are you that he is not anthropomorphising?
    How confident are you that he is not equivocating?

    This is his final sentence:

    This mastery over the biosphere indicates that we have a great deal to learn about chemistry, physics and evolution from our small, but very intelligent, prokaryotic relatives.

    Nothing in that final sentence about bacteria feeling, perceiving, or experiencing subjectively.
    Or, indeed, throughout the whole article.

    I am interested in what you think.
    I am also willing to dissect that article further if you are interested.
    I am interested to see if you have the ability to engage in an actual discussion.

  104. BillyJoe7on 29 Sep 2017 at 8:12 am

    BJ: “The evidence is that epigenetic mechanisms that contribute to evolution have all been placed there by a usual process of random mutation and natural selection”

    HN: “What “evidence” are you hallucinating?”

    Genetic mapping of changes that are improve reproductive fitness show that these changes all reside in the sequence of DNA bases, not in the modification of DNA through methylation or histone changes that are produced by the environment via epigenetic mechanisms.

    If you disagree, then please link to either a modification of DNA (through either methylation or histone changes) or a change in the sequence of DNA bases that improves reproductive fitness and is produced by the environment via epigenetic mechanisms and that are not coded for in the genome.

  105. Enfant Terribleon 29 Sep 2017 at 11:38 am

    BillyJoe7,

    a) do you believe “cells are sentient beings”?

    I think they can be. Even a rock can be a “sentient being”, or a bycicle (panpsychism). We just don’t know.

    b) “And did you read only the abstract that you copy and pasted holus bolus, or do you have access to, and did you read, the article as well?”

    Yes, I have the article, and yes, I have read it.

    c) “So, in your opinion, do bacteria feel, perceive, or experience subjectively?”

    Maybe. I don’t know. In fact, I would say almost the same thing about you: I don’t know if you can experience subjectively, but I think that certainly you can perceive things, and to feel.

    d) “How confident are you that James Shapiro is using the above definition of the word “sentience”?”

    He uses the word “sentient” as synonimous of cognitive.

    Living cells and organisms are cognitive (sentient) entities that act and interact purposefully to ensure survival, growth, and proliferation. They possess corresponding sensory, communication, information-processing, and decision-making capabilities.

    And by cognitive:

    Here the term cognitive refers to processes of acquiring and organizing sensory inputs so that they can serve as guides to successful action.

    And by cognitive again:

    Whether or not bacterial behavior ultimately should be described as ‘cognitive’ is a matter for the scientific community to decide, when consensus finally forms around what cognition is (Bechtel et al., 1998). The absence in psychology and elsewhere in the cognitive sciences of agreed definitions for key concepts, such as cognition, has been decried for well over a century – James (1984) arguably setting the benchmark for despair – and continues to be a cause for concern (Staats, 1983; Sternberg, 2005). As it stands, cognition, like ‘intelligence,’ is a highly polysemic theoretical construct that can be defined quite broadly (La Cerra and Bingham, 2002) or very narrowly (Wynne, 2004), depending on the investigator’s personal intuitions and the ground in which those intuitions are embedded, whether in the principles of biology or the human case (Lyon, 2006; see Table ​Table11). Needless to say, this state of affairs is far from ideal.

    e) “How confident are you that he is not anthropomorphising?”

    Pretty sure. The phrase “Our status as the only sentient beings on the planet is dissolving as we learn more about how smart even the smallest living cells can be” shows that.

    f) “How confident are you that he is not equivocating?”

    50%.

    g) “I am also willing to dissect that article further if you are interested.”

    Sure.

  106. Enfant Terribleon 29 Sep 2017 at 2:46 pm

    RickK,

    “How is it that you can so easily diminish and demean the mere “mechanics of biochemistry”?”

    Because I can. Because I know the literature. Your knowledge is old. Very old. Try to update yourself.

    Informatics rather than mechanics is now the key to explaining cell biology and cell activities. The traditional mechanistic view held that the structure of biological molecules determines the actions of cells in some kind of linear fashion. But today we know that biological molecules change their structures as they interact with other molecules and that these structural changes contain information about the external environment and conditions within the cell. As illustrated below, we have abundant results showing that what a cell does is a function of the information it has about itself and its surroundings (i.e. about past molecular interactions). Much contemporary research aims to understand how cellular processes are controlled adaptively to guarantee survival and reproduction in response to the millions of molecular events that occur in each cell cycle. This informatic approach is richer than a mechanistic one because it allows us to discuss complex, non-linear, goal-oriented processes with all kinds of feedbacks and decision points. (See O’Malley & Dupre´, this section, for
    further discussion about the inadequacy of mechanistic thinking).

  107. bachfiendon 29 Sep 2017 at 5:03 pm

    Enfant Terrible,

    ‘Informatics rather than mechanics is now the key to explaining cell biology and activities. The traditional mechanistic view held that the structure of biological molecules determines the actions of cells in some kind of linear function. But today we know that biological molecules change their structures as they interact with other molecules and that these structural changes contain information about the external environment and conditions within the cell.’

    I’m not certain who wrote that. It seems to me it’s setting up a straw man argument. Of course biological molecules undergo structural changes as they interact with other molecules as part of the mechanistic process of cell metabolism, resulting in some ‘information’ as to what the cell has just done. What ‘information’ is available in the cell has to be determined mechanistically, by what changes have occurred in biological molecules. All it’s doing is calling the structural changes in biological molecules ‘informatics’, but adds precisely nothing to understanding.

    And the ‘information’ is evanescent. Biological molecules, such as enzymes and structural proteins, get turned over. Cells divide. So really, ‘informatics’ adds precisely less than nothing.

  108. BillyJoe7on 29 Sep 2017 at 5:50 pm

    bachfiend,

    He is quoting James Shapiro.

    The guy should stick to his area of expertise which is Microbiology.
    When he strays into other areas he is pig ignorant and can safely be ignored.

    The problem is that he is not ignored.
    People as pig ignorant as he is suck it all in.
    Unthinkingly.
    Trance like.
    Then he becomes a liability.

    I mean just look at that quote.
    Total pig ignorant bullshit.
    As you have amply shown.

    Informatics IS mechanistic.
    Mechanics is NOT linear.
    The structure of molecules changes mechanistically.
    This structural change in the molecules changes the information inherent in the system.
    Informatics IS mechanistic.

    I mean, who is actually fooled by the anthropomorphism contained in the following:

    “molecules change their structures”

    No, they do not.
    Molecules do not change their structure.
    Molecules obey the laws of physics and chemistry.
    The structure of molecules changes mechanistically according to the laws of physics and chemistry.
    How could this be any clearer!

    What I don’t understand is how Shapiro gets away with all this bullshit.

    In his foul mouth, molecules become the agents of change.
    Before long the cell is directing its own evolution.
    And the world’s evolutionary biologists are debunked by an ignorant fool.

    No mechanism.
    No evidence.
    Just bullshit unrecognised anthropomorphic delusion.

    Outside his area of expertise, James Shapiro is a crank, pure and simple.
    And it doesn’t take an expert in those areas to recognise that.
    As you have amply illustrated.

  109. Pete Aon 29 Sep 2017 at 8:16 pm

    Let’s get this abundantly clear and correct: it was not the British-Canadian physician James Shapiro who wrote that crap; neither was it the American professor of English and comparative literature, James S. Shapiro; it was, I think, written by an American biologist named James Alan Shapiro who, it seems, ventured far beyond the limits of his expertise.

  110. DevoutCatalyston 30 Sep 2017 at 7:19 am

    # MWSletten, In the off chance that you are reading this, because of your comment I bought the documentary Accidental Courtesy about Daryl Davis — mind blowing stuff. Thank you.

  111. BillyJoe7on 30 Sep 2017 at 7:35 am

    ET,

    “Even a rock can be a “sentient being””

    Let me break it to you gently. A rock is not a sentient being. Period.
    So please pull that fucker out of your bed and toss it out the window.

    “Yes, I have the article, and yes, I have read it”

    But did you read it critically, or were you nodding your head in agreement.
    I’m thinking a chiropractor may be in order…wait, what am I saying…

    BJ: “do bacteria feel, perceive, or experience subjectively?”
    ET: “Maybe. I don’t know”

    Yes you do. You know that bacteria do not feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. Yes you do.

    “I don’t know if you can experience subjectively”

    Please don’t bullshit me.
    I’m pretty sure that you would easily put a million to one odds that I experience subjectively.

    “He uses the word “sentient” as synonimous of cognitive”

    So he is NOT saying that bacteria can experience subjectively?

    “Pretty sure [he is not anthropomorphising]. The phrase “Our status as the only sentient beings on the planet is dissolving as we learn more about how smart even the smallest living cells can be” shows that”

    Even if “sentient” just means “cognitive”, he is still anthropomorphising (and equivocating), because the way bacteria can be said to be “smart” is very different from the way human beings are smart. I mean they’re on a completely different level of smart. Come back when bacteria can make little cars and rockets that take them to the moon and back, and phones and computers, and understand quantum physics and relativity.

  112. BillyJoe7on 30 Sep 2017 at 7:38 am

    Hmmm…looks like ET is not the only one being moderated!
    And, like ET, no links at all.
    I did swear though so I’ll remove that and try again.

  113. BillyJoe7on 30 Sep 2017 at 7:41 am

    ET,

    “Even a rock can be a “sentient being””

    Let me break it to you gently. A rock is not a sentient being. Period.
    So please pull that little fv<|<er out of your bed and toss it out the window.

    “Yes, I have the article, and yes, I have read it”

    But did you read it critically, or were you nodding your head in agreement.
    I’m thinking a chiropractor may be in order…wait, what am I saying…

    BJ: “do bacteria feel, perceive, or experience subjectively?”
    ET: “Maybe. I don’t know”

    Yes you do. You know that bacteria do not feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. Yes you do.

    “I don’t know if you can experience subjectively”

    Please don’t bv||$h!+ me.
    I’m pretty sure that you would easily put a million to one odds that I experience subjectively.

    “He uses the word “sentient” as synonimous of cognitive”

    So he is NOT saying that bacteria can experience subjectively?

    “Pretty sure [he is not anthropomorphising]. The phrase “Our status as the only sentient beings on the planet is dissolving as we learn more about how smart even the smallest living cells can be” shows that”

    Even if “sentient” just means “cognitive”, he is still anthropomorphising (and equivocating), because the way bacteria can be said to be “smart” is very different from the way human beings are smart. I mean they’re on a completely different level of smart. Come back when bacteria can make little cars and rockets that take them to the moon and back, and phones and computers, and understand quantum physics and relativity.

  114. RickKon 30 Sep 2017 at 8:58 am

    This whole conversation is just weird – as if emergent properties imply intelligence in the component parts.

    So what if the collection of cells in a bacterial colony can achieve information processing similar to the collection of cells in a beetle? That doesn’t mean each cell is intelligent, any more than each water molecule “understands” fluid dynamics or each atom of silicon can perform logical operations.

    All that’s really been determined here is that in addition to being a great designer, evolution is also a great programmer.

    Alert the media!

  115. Pete Aon 30 Sep 2017 at 5:13 pm

    Simplified blogging:
    http://www.gocomics.com/wrong-hands/2015/03/12

  116. hardnoseon 30 Sep 2017 at 5:51 pm

    “in addition to being a great designer, evolution is also a great programmer.”

    And by “evolution” you probably mean natural selection. Natural selection certainly is a great genius!

  117. bachfiendon 30 Sep 2017 at 6:25 pm

    Hardnose,

    ‘And by ‘evolution’ you probably mean natural selection. Natural selection certainly is a great genius!’

    And certainly you’re very, very tedious, demonstrating repeatedly that you don’t understand evolution at all, despite repeated attempts to educate you.

  118. tb29607on 30 Sep 2017 at 7:26 pm

    BillyJoe7

    “Genetic mapping of changes that are improve reproductive fitness show that these changes all reside in the sequence of DNA bases, not in the modification of DNA through methylation or histone changes that are produced by the environment via epigenetic mechanisms.”

    Is there a resource you can direct me to regarding the histone changes you mention? What I recall of histones is that they function in packing and storage of inactive DNA segments. Epigentic and/or environmental mechanisms for histone change (or any changes in histones) were not mentioned. Cell and molecular biology and genetics classes were several years ago for me so I am sure what I was taught is out of date. Would appreciate suggestions for an update source.

  119. BillyJoe7on 01 Oct 2017 at 2:31 am

    tb,

    “Is there a resource you can direct me to regarding the histone changes you mention/”

    Perhaps read the first two paragraphs of this link:
    (i.e. ignore the section headed “Tools of the trade”)

    https://www.whatisepigenetics.com/chromatin-remodeling/

    Then read this link which is more specifically about what you are after:
    (It is linked to at the end of the previous link)

    https://www.whatisepigenetics.com/histone-modifications/

    If you need a refresher on Epigenetics, start here:
    (If you follow all the links at the end of each section they will take you eventually to the two links above)

    https://www.whatisepigenetics.com/what-is-epigenetics/

    You probably won’t need to read the first section titled “A Super Brief and Basic Explanation of Epigentics for Total Beginners”.
    (But I daresay it would be REQUIRED READING for the likes of hardnose. 😀 )

  120. BillyJoe7on 01 Oct 2017 at 2:39 am

    hardnose,

    I see you can’t answer the question I posed a couple of days ago:

    Genetic mapping of changes that improve reproductive fitness show that these changes all reside in the sequence of DNA bases, not in the modification of DNA through methylation or histone changes that are produced by the environment via epigenetic mechanisms.

    If you disagree, then please link to either a modification of DNA (through either methylation or histone changes) or a change in the sequence of DNA bases that improves reproductive fitness and is produced by the environment via epigenetic mechanisms and that are not coded for in the genome.

    My guess is that you do not understand the question.
    If so, please read the links provided above, especially the link titled:

    “A Super Brief and Basic Explanation of Epigentics for Total Beginners”

    😀

  121. BillyJoe7on 01 Oct 2017 at 2:42 am

    …oh and here is a link that is right up your alley:

    https://www.whatisepigenetics.com/epigenetics-avoiding-the-pull-of-pseudoscientific-nonsense/

  122. BillyJoe7on 01 Oct 2017 at 3:21 am

    Rick,

    “This whole conversation is just weird”

    You won’t believe this (actually, probably you will), but there are fringe dwellers who believe that even electrons are conscious!
    I kid you not. Here is a link:

    https://www.brucelipton.com/blog/does-electron-have-consciousness

    Here is another one:

    https://conscienceandconsciousness.com/2015/10/30/could-electrons-be-conscious/

    Quote: “People still laugh when I say I think electrons are conscious” 😀 😀 😀

  123. tb29607on 01 Oct 2017 at 10:09 am

    BillyJoe7,
    Thank you for the links:)

  124. hardnoseon 01 Oct 2017 at 8:05 pm

    “Genetic mapping of changes that improve reproductive fitness show that these changes all reside in the sequence of DNA bases, not in the modification of DNA through methylation or histone changes that are produced by the environment via epigenetic mechanisms.”

    First of all, you didn’t link to that “evidence” you have been hallucinating. I have no idea where you got that quote from.

    And DO YOU REALLY THINK biologists have all the information about changes that improve reproductive fitness???

    Sean Carroll convinced you everything about physics is known, and someone else must have convinced you everything about biology is known.

  125. chikoppion 01 Oct 2017 at 9:30 pm

    [hardnose] And DO YOU REALLY THINK biologists have all the information about changes that improve reproductive fitness???

    DO YOU REALLY THINK that some imaginary future evidence is going to justify the baseless contradiction of all current evidence?

    The consensus theory must be wrong because…reasons that have yet to be discovered (never mind that the consensus theory is an extremely exacting, robust, and predictive model). I guess we’ll just have to have faith that it will one day be invalidated.

    You’re welcome to your beliefs, but this unhinged litany of vindictives against the scientific community for not sharing them is hubris run amok.

  126. BillyJoe7on 01 Oct 2017 at 11:24 pm

    hardnose,

    “First of all, you didn’t link to that “evidence””

    You are not worth the effort.

    “I have no idea where you got that quote from”

    From my own previous response to you a few days before which also included a question that you still haven’t answered probably because, I’m guessing, you still don’t understand the question.

    “Sean Carroll convinced you everything about physics is known”

    How many times are you going to repeat that lie.
    I’ve never said any such thing.
    Sean Carroll has never said any such thing.

    “and someone else must have convinced you everything about biology is known.

    I can see this becoming another one of your repeated lies.

    “And DO YOU REALLY THINK biologists have all the information about changes that improve reproductive fitness???”

    Because we don’t know everything doesn’t mean we don’t know nothing.
    I’m telling you what the evidence is.
    So, here it is again and that pesky question you don’t understand and can’t answer:

    Genetic mapping of changes that improve reproductive fitness show that these changes all reside in the sequence of DNA bases, not in the modification of DNA through methylation or histone changes that are produced by the environment via epigenetic mechanisms.

    If you disagree, then please link to either a modification of DNA (through either methylation or histone changes) or a change in the sequence of DNA bases that improves reproductive fitness and is produced by the environment via epigenetic mechanisms and that are not coded for in the genome.

  127. RickKon 02 Oct 2017 at 5:01 am

    BJ7: “You won’t believe this (actually, probably you will), but there are fringe dwellers who believe that even electrons are conscious!”

    Thanks for links. Sounds to me like it’s just another form of religion where people need to feel the universe is conscious so they can believe they have universal significance. Look at our buddy hardnose – his whole schtik is about self-importance. If he and the conscious electron folks are right, they are manifestations of the universal consciousness field and therefore they are the point of the universe. Egnor comes at it a different way with his god and his white Christian male superiority. But it all boils down to the same hubris and the same inability to imagine a universe where they’re not the center.

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