Given complex vertebrates what is the likelihood of abstract intelligence

OrdinaryClay
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Given complex vertebrates what is the likelihood of abstract intelligence

Let's start with a biological system that already has vertebrates. This gives us a very powerful starting point for evolution to work from. We have had complex vertebrates for at least 250 millions or so. If you look at the evolutionary history it is pretty amazing that we are the only intelligent species to arise. This would seem to have implications for the probability of intelligent life forming. The raw material for intelligence has been available for a very, very long time yet we only recently developed abstract thought. Put another way, you can look at the evolutionary record as a sort of sample space or a set of trials. We see no evidence for abstract thought until us. The fact that we have only recently formed intelligent life is additional evidence for how unlikely it is to happen.
 


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Not this sh*t again.Believe

Not this sh*t again.

Believe it or not, you aren't the first person to make this argument on here.

 

OrdinaryClay wrote:

Let's start with a biological system that already has vertebrates.

Fail.

OrdinaryClay wrote:

If you look at the evolutionary history it is pretty amazing that we are the only intelligent species to arise.

Fail.

OrdinaryClay wrote:

The fact that we have only recently formed intelligent life is additional evidence for how unlikely it is to happen.

Fail.

It is not useful to look at statistics in reverse. I can't tell you how many times we've heard the "OMG it is so unlikely that intelligent life could have developed that God must have done it!" argument.

Your chances of winning any given lottery are one in millions, but if you win, then you win. Period. It doesn't matter what the odds were before the drawing. The probably that you won is 1/1. A small probability is not zero probability. It shouldn't be shocking that we've only recently developed abstract thought, since we know the process of evolution takes a long time.

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OrdinaryClay wrote:If you

OrdinaryClay wrote:
If you look at the evolutionary history it is pretty amazing that we are the only intelligent species to arise.

Could you, uh, please give us your definition of "intelligent species?"


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geirj wrote:OrdinaryClay

geirj wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

The fact that we have only recently formed intelligent life is additional evidence for how unlikely it is to happen.

Fail.

It is not useful to look at statistics in reverse. I can't tell you how many times we've heard the "OMG it is so unlikely that intelligent life could have developed that God must have done it!" argument.

Your chances of winning any given lottery are one in millions, but if you win, then you win. Period. It doesn't matter what the odds were before the drawing. The probably that you won is 1/1. A small probability is not zero probability. It shouldn't be shocking that we've only recently developed abstract thought, since we know the process of evolution takes a long time.

No offense, but I'm not sure you understand statistics.

That is not the argument I'm making. I don't think you understood what I'm saying. Evolution has a high degree of randomness to it. Because of this fact you can view each species that evolves as a random trial. You can view each species as a sort of throw of the dice. You can roughly view the set of species as a sample of a random population of possible species. Out of that trial we have only one successful attempt at an intelligent species. I say roughly because not all species are filling a niche that could support the energy levels needed for the brain development needed by intelligent life. Still this can be used, in a way, as a population estimator. The estimator seems to indicate that intelligent life is not as common as we would like to believe in vertebrate development.

You are playing way to loose with the notion of "long" time. The time since the Chicxulub event and now is shorter then the time between the Jurassic and the Cretaceous. The Cenozoic itself is 65 millions years old, yet the genus Homo has only been extant for a couple million. There were many species that evolved and went extinct during the other 50 or so million years(I'm ignoring the first 10 million or so to allow recovery from Chicxulub).

 


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Balkoth wrote:OrdinaryClay

Balkoth wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:
If you look at the evolutionary history it is pretty amazing that we are the only intelligent species to arise.

Could you, uh, please give us your definition of "intelligent species?"

Very good question, for this discussion it would be any life that was capable of developing tools that were detectable through the archaeological evidence. This is a good measure because it definitely indicates a strong level of abstract thinking. 
 


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Do other apes that use

Do other apes that use sticks and the like as tools not count, by your definition?

You also seem to be trying to exclude dolphins, octopi, etc in your definition.

Edit: I'm no scientist, mind you, so I imagine DG and others can give far better examples.


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OrdinaryClay wrote:No

OrdinaryClay wrote:

No offense, but I'm not sure you understand statistics.
 

None taken. But just to set your mind at ease, I do.

Here is what you said:

 

OrdinaryClay wrote:

The fact that we have only recently formed intelligent life is additional evidence for how unlikely it is to happen.

So are you saying that God is responsible for intelligent life?

 

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OrdinaryClay wrote:We have

OrdinaryClay wrote:

We have had complex vertebrates for at least 250 millions or so.

While technically correct (thanks to the face-saving "at least" phrase), you are off by an order of magnitude.

But, as for abstract intelligence, many species exhibit general abstract intelligence: dolphins, chimps, even birds. Mankind isn't unique in our ability to think abstractly.

What we are unique in is our current position. It took us tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of years to go from the ability to think abstractly, to simple innoations such as farming. Once we gained that ability, our achievements progressed at a very rapid rate.

Who says there weren't others who thought abstractly to the same extent? It's entirely possible (even likely) that neandertal was perhaps equal to mankind at the time. It's even possible that mankind caused their extinction, as they were potential competitors. (NOTE: I actually have very little education in this specific subject. I could very well be wrong.)

What has enabled mankind to take advantage of our abstract thinking abilities?

Our physiology.

This could be the first time an intelligent species had a general physiology that enabled them to take advantage of their intelligence. From our ability to produce a wide range of sounds (leading to speech), to our fine motor skills, to our opposable thumbs, to the fact that we live on land and can create fires, our physiology has as much to do with our success as our shear brainpower.

When you have to combine the two (general physiology with brainpower), the odds of it happening go up a bit.

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Balkoth wrote:Do other apes

Balkoth wrote:

Do other apes that use sticks and the like as tools not count, by your definition?

You also seem to be trying to exclude dolphins, octopi, etc in your definition.

Edit: I'm no scientist, mind you, so I imagine DG and others can give far better examples.

Do chimps, apes, dolphins and octopi leave behind archaeological evidence? No, they don't

While it is obvious intelligence of some level has developed in other animals, the difference in both kind and degree between the genus Homo and other genera is very dramatic. Do you really believe that any of these species has developed a theory of mind, or self awareness or abstract thinking even approaching what humans have. The only one that can even be discussed seriously in this light are the great apes and chimps specifically. Yes, they are intelligent without a doubt, but again the difference in degree is stunning and overwhelming.

Even if you stretch it and consider chimps somehow as an example they are so close to us in lineage that it adds strength to my point - which is, given the sample space intelligence is very rare.
 


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geirj wrote:OrdinaryClay

geirj wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

No offense, but I'm not sure you understand statistics.
 

None taken. But just to set your mind at ease, I do.

Good.

 

Quote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

The fact that we have only recently formed intelligent life is additional evidence for how unlikely it is to happen.

So are you saying that God is responsible for intelligent life?

Given your assertion above it would be much more interesting in this thread if you gave your thoughts on my conjecture.


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nigelTheBold wrote:While

nigelTheBold wrote:

While technically correct (thanks to the face-saving "at least" phrase), you are off by an order of magnitude.

I have no idea what you are saying. Obviously, 2.5 billion years is meaningless when it comes to discussing vertebrates, and I have no idea why you would think 25 million years is some magic number for vertebrates. It seems obvious that we had complex vertebrates before 25 million years. Can you explain better?

 

nigelTheBold wrote:

What has enabled mankind to take advantage of our abstract thinking abilities?

...

When you have to combine the two (general physiology with brainpower), the odds of it happening go up a bit.

Actually, most anthropologists believe our anatomoy was one of the driving factors in our mental development. In other words, that anatomy preceeded our leap in mental ability, not the other way around.

But more to the point, by pointing out that intelligence is dependent on coevolution strengthens my point.

 


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geirj, that first post of

geirj, that first post of yours made me laugh so hard I couldn't read the rest.

"yeah, but what about--"

"Fail!"

"But we're the smarte--"

"Fail!"

Oh man that was funny to read.

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OrdinaryClay wrote:Let's

OrdinaryClay wrote:
Let's start with a biological system that already has vertebrates. This gives us a very powerful starting point for evolution to work from.

The funny thing here is that ours is the only biological system we know, and it has vertebrates. it also exhibits evolution. If you have one brother, is he your favourite brother?

OrdinaryClay wrote:
We have had complex vertebrates for at least 250 millions or so. If you look at the evolutionary history it is pretty amazing that we are the only intelligent species to arise.

It would be, if that were true. You could say that it's pretty amazing that we're the most intelligent, but someone would have to be on a scale from least to most.

OrdinaryClay wrote:
This would seem to have implications for the probability of intelligent life forming. The raw material for intelligence has been available for a very, very long time yet we only recently developed abstract thought.

But crows have abstract thought, too. They can come up with novel solutions to problems:

Urban Crows

I've met people who are less intelligent than these crows.

OrdinaryClay wrote:
Put another way, you can look at the evolutionary record as a sort of sample space or a set of trials. We see no evidence for abstract thought until us.

See crows above.

OrdinaryClay wrote:
The fact that we have only recently formed intelligent life is additional evidence for how unlikely it is to happen.

A friend of mine says "CAW!" in response. Do you speak crow? Or just eat it?

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OrdinaryClay

OrdinaryClay wrote:

nigelTheBold wrote:

While technically correct (thanks to the face-saving "at least" phrase), you are off by an order of magnitude.

I have no idea what you are saying. Obviously, 2.5 billion years is meaningless when it comes to discussing vertebrates, and I have no idea why you would think 25 million years is some magic number for vertebrates. It seems obvious that we had complex vertebrates before 25 million years. Can you explain better?

I certainly can explain better: I was wrong.

Vertebrates arose only 525 MYA or so. So, my bad.

Quote:

nigelTheBold wrote:

What has enabled mankind to take advantage of our abstract thinking abilities?

...

When you have to combine the two (general physiology with brainpower), the odds of it happening go up a bit.

Actually, most anthropologists believe our anatomoy was one of the driving factors in our mental development. In other words, that anatomy preceeded our leap in mental ability, not the other way around.

But more to the point, by pointing out that intelligence is dependent on coevolution strengthens my point.

I'm actually not even sure what your point is.

My point was simply, we had general intelligence for many thousands of years before we began to leave significant traces of our intelligence. Therefore, it's fruitless to speculate about the rise of intelligence in general, other than to note that we are the first "successful" case. (Here, "successful" means building a civilization to the point of leaving archeological traces.)

There is ample evidence that dolphins and whales are quite intelligent. But, they'll never be able to build a civilization, as their physiology is not adapted to general tool-making. There is substantial evidence that dolphins can learn from each other, for instance, and pass down knowledge to offspring. So in their case, at least, intelligence came in spite of their form, not because of it.

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nigelTheBold

nigelTheBold wrote:

Vertebrates arose only 525 MYA or so. So, my bad.

This is what I thought you meant. I shrunk the sample space to 250 million years so as not to include simple chordates. A reduced sample space (number of species evolved) actually gives you the advantage in the argument. So in a nut, I threw those arguing against my point a advantage.
 

Quote:

I'm actually not even sure what your point is.

My point was simply, we had general intelligence for many thousands of years before we began to leave significant traces of our intelligence. Therefore, it's fruitless to speculate about the rise of intelligence in general, other than to note that we are the first "successful" case. (Here, "successful" means building a civilization to the point of leaving archeological traces.)

This is my point. Having given evolution many, many tries it only did it once. This has implications on how probable it is because evolution is a stochastic process for the most part. If I had a jar of white and black marbles and you drew out a single black marble in 10,000 tries this tells you something about the probability of drawing a black marble.
 


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 OrdinaryClay wrote:No

 

OrdinaryClay wrote:

 

No offense, but I'm not sure you understand statistics.

Evolution has a high degree of randomness to it. Because of this fact you can view each species that evolves as a random trial. You can view each species as a sort of throw of the dice. You can roughly view the set of species as a sample of a random population of possible species. Out of that trial we have only one successful attempt at an intelligent species.

 

 

I don't think your dice analogy accurately represents evolution.  We don't have "one successful attempt."  What we have is each generation rolling numerous dice, keeping the sixes, and rerolling the rest.  The beneficial traits are passed on and the detrimental ones get rerolled.  The new species is the cumulative effect of many small random successes, not a singular random trial. 

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econgineer

econgineer wrote:


OrdinaryClay wrote:
 

No offense, but I'm not sure you understand statistics.

Evolution has a high degree of randomness to it. Because of this fact you can view each species that evolves as a random trial. You can view each species as a sort of throw of the dice. You can roughly view the set of species as a sample of a random population of possible species. Out of that trial we have only one successful attempt at an intelligent species.
 

 

I don't think your dice analogy accurately represents evolution.  We don't have "one successful attempt."  What we have is each generation rolling numerous dice, keeping the sixes, and rerolling the rest.  The beneficial traits are passed on and the detrimental ones get rerolled.  The new species is the cumulative effect of many small random successes, not a singular random trial. 

I use the dice analogy because people seem to grasp it better, and they typically don't understand the real definition of a random variable. A random variable is roughly any event space with associated probabilities. In this case we view a species at any given point as an event. Sure they change and produce new species and yes they go extinct, but still you can view the end result, called a species, of evolution as an event. It is a random variable because there is an associated probability with each event(species). The ultimate probability of for each event(species) is a complex joint probability of the evolutionary steps true, but it does not matter because the total species event is still random.
 


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Didn't it stop being random

Didn't it stop being random when we started keeping dice?

Otherwise it sounds too much like the "I can accept microevolution but macroevolution is impossible" argument.

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*rolls dice*8... bah!

*rolls dice*

8... bah! mulligen

 

*rolls dice*

3... mulligen

 

*rolls*

*rolls*

*rolls*

*rolls*

W00t! 18 Str!

 

Now on to Con!

 

 

 

... You know, i think you may be on to something JC *snicker*

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jcgadfly wrote:Didn't it

jcgadfly wrote:

Didn't it stop being random when we started keeping dice?

Otherwise it sounds too much like the "I can accept microevolution but macroevolution is impossible" argument.

I don't understand your question.


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OrdinaryClay wrote:Balkoth

OrdinaryClay wrote:

Balkoth wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:
If you look at the evolutionary history it is pretty amazing that we are the only intelligent species to arise.

Could you, uh, please give us your definition of "intelligent species?"

Very good question, for this discussion it would be any life that was capable of developing tools that were detectable through the archaeological evidence. This is a good measure because it definitely indicates a strong level of abstract thinking. 
 

Neanderthals beat us by a few hundred thousand years.

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OrdinaryClay wrote:I use the

OrdinaryClay wrote:
I use the dice analogy because people seem to grasp it better, and they typically don't understand the real definition of a random variable. A random variable is roughly any event space with associated probabilities. In this case we view a species at any given point as an event. Sure they change and produce new species and yes they go extinct, but still you can view the end result, called a species, of evolution as an event. It is a random variable because there is an associated probability with each event(species). The ultimate probability of for each event(species) is a complex joint probability of the evolutionary steps true, but it does not matter because the total species event is still random.
Speciation is not an event. "Species" is just a human classification model imposed on nature, and there is really no definite moment when a new species arises.

Second and more importantly, where mutation itself is random, natural selection is not. (The "keeping the sixes" idea.)

 

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


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neptewn wrote:OrdinaryClay

neptewn wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

Balkoth wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:
If you look at the evolutionary history it is pretty amazing that we are the only intelligent species to arise.

Could you, uh, please give us your definition of "intelligent species?"

Very good question, for this discussion it would be any life that was capable of developing tools that were detectable through the archaeological evidence. This is a good measure because it definitely indicates a strong level of abstract thinking. 

Neanderthals beat us by a few hundred thousand years.

They are in the same genus as us. There are many examples of the genus Homo that produced intelligence that is detectable via archeology. This is why I refereed to the genus Homo over the last couple million years or so as the example of intelligence.
 


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JillSwift wrote:OrdinaryClay

JillSwift wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:
I use the dice analogy because people seem to grasp it better, and they typically don't understand the real definition of a random variable. A random variable is roughly any event space with associated probabilities. In this case we view a species at any given point as an event. Sure they change and produce new species and yes they go extinct, but still you can view the end result, called a species, of evolution as an event. It is a random variable because there is an associated probability with each event(species). The ultimate probability of for each event(species) is a complex joint probability of the evolutionary steps true, but it does not matter because the total species event is still random.
Speciation is not an event. "Species" is just a human classification model imposed on nature, and there is really no definite moment when a new species arises.

Second and more importantly, where mutation itself is random, natural selection is not. (The "keeping the sixes" idea.)

 

Jill, thanks. you answered my question to OC that he didn't understand.

Let's make a deal - I'll think it up and you say it. It seems to work better that way. Smiling

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JillSwift wrote:OrdinaryClay

JillSwift wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:
I use the dice analogy because people seem to grasp it better, and they typically don't understand the real definition of a random variable. A random variable is roughly any event space with associated probabilities. In this case we view a species at any given point as an event. Sure they change and produce new species and yes they go extinct, but still you can view the end result, called a species, of evolution as an event. It is a random variable because there is an associated probability with each event(species). The ultimate probability of for each event(species) is a complex joint probability of the evolutionary steps true, but it does not matter because the total species event is still random.
Speciation is not an event. "Species" is just a human classification model imposed on nature, and there is really no definite moment when a new species arises.

Second and more importantly, where mutation itself is random, natural selection is not. (The "keeping the sixes" idea.)

The clean demarcations of taxonomy may be a human construct, but the notion of a terminal end point (at any given moment in time) of evolution called a species is real. This terminal endpoint can be considered an event. It does not matter that breeding boundaries may be loose at times, at other times they are definitely not loose.

I have been careful not to say evolution is completely random, but it has enough random components to consider it a random variable. Both mutations and the environmental situation do have randomness. Natural selection may be the action that does the picking, but what is available for the picking has a large random component.
 


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OrdinaryClay wrote:The clean

OrdinaryClay wrote:

The clean demarcations of taxonomy may be a human construct, but the notion of a terminal end point (at any given moment in time) of evolution called a species is real. This terminal endpoint can be considered an event. It does not matter that breeding boundaries may be loose at times, at other times they are definitely not loose.

But if you were to look only at the terminus, all you see is what exists at that time. There is no randomness involved at all, as the chance of existence is 100%.

Quote:


I have been careful not to say evolution is completely random, but it has enough random components to consider it a random variable. Both mutations and the environmental situation do have randomness. Natural selection may be the action that does the picking, but what is available for the picking has a large random component.

Not as large as you imply. As the available genetic material is based on the success of prior genetic material, randomness in any given iteration is tightly constrained, and the vast majority of the genetic material passed from one generation to the next has been vetted by natural selection.

Genetic variance within a population is generally fairly small from generation to generation.

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OrdinaryClay wrote:The clean

OrdinaryClay wrote:
The clean demarcations of taxonomy may be a human construct, but the notion of a terminal end point (at any given moment in time) of evolution called a species is real. This terminal endpoint can be considered an event. It does not matter that breeding boundaries may be loose at times, at other times they are definitely not loose.
A rather loose definition of "event".



OrdinaryClay wrote:
I have been careful not to say evolution is completely random, but it has enough random components to consider it a random variable. Both mutations and the environmental situation do have randomness. Natural selection may be the action that does the picking, but what is available for the picking has a large random component.
So, continuing with the dice analogy: One can roll ten dice, with the sixes kept on each roll and the rest re-rolled, once all the dice are sixes - that happened randomly? Once a constraint has been placed on an otherwise chaotic system, it's results are no longer random.

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The main evidence for the

The main evidence for the estimating the likelihood of intelligence arising is not the number of surviving species displaying it, it would be the number of times it developed independently. We have cetaceans, primates, some birds, and elephants (arguably).

Birds (some parrots, crows) is particularly significant, since their brain structure appears to be significantly different from primates, showing that the requirements for intelligent brains are not as restricted as we might have thought based on the chauvinistic concentration on our own case. This definitely improves the 'odds' for intelligence arising in any total life tree.

The strong contingent component in the survival of any given lineage, and the absence of any longer term purposive or target-driven element in the selection mechanism means that there are almost certainly many more cases where a lineage which hit upon a version of brain structure and associated elements which had the potential for even better ultimate intelligence than ours died out for other reasons, entirely unrelated to its intelligence. This and the extreme difficulty of deducing anything about the behavior of a long extinct species make it hard to get any good data across time about this.

The strong tendency of the most successful lineage in a particular ecological niche to 'crowd out' other potentially equally successful branches for reasons which are often highly contingent, further reduces the apparent likelihood of emergence if we only consider surviving species.

All of this means our 'sample' is grossly inadequate to make any solid estimates of the likelihood of some form of high-level intelligence emerging and persisting.

It is way too early to say whether intelligence at our level is even of ultimate long-term advantage to survival - the prospects of a catastrophic crash can't be ignored, based on our relatively short history and current trends...

The fact that our history is still so short on the evolutionary time-scale (the reference to our intelligence becoming evident only recently) simply means that we have much greater uncertainty as to our long term viability - it says nothing about the odds of us reaching this point, that would be clearly fallacious reasoning. The significance of the timing of our emergence is relative to preceding events - you could argue that because we have taken longest to emerge, that is some evidence to the relative probability of that emergence, but how close to the present is not really relevant in itself. Our relatively short history as in a intelligent species simply means we have insufficient data to estimate our longer term prospects.

The point is that we really have little data to base any estimate of probability here.

It really is too early to tell whether intelligence like ours is an ultimate survival advantage....

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OrdinaryClay wrote:neptewn

OrdinaryClay wrote:

neptewn wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

Balkoth wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:
If you look at the evolutionary history it is pretty amazing that we are the only intelligent species to arise.

Could you, uh, please give us your definition of "intelligent species?"

Very good question, for this discussion it would be any life that was capable of developing tools that were detectable through the archaeological evidence. This is a good measure because it definitely indicates a strong level of abstract thinking. 

Neanderthals beat us by a few hundred thousand years.

They are in the same genus as us. There are many examples of the genus Homo that produced intelligence that is detectable via archeology. This is why I refereed to the genus Homo over the last couple million years or so as the example of intelligence.
 

Well you open with species and move to genus, but okay.. What's your overall point? Intelligence is cool?

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neptewn wrote:OrdinaryClay

neptewn wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

neptewn wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

Balkoth wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:
If you look at the evolutionary history it is pretty amazing that we are the only intelligent species to arise.

Could you, uh, please give us your definition of "intelligent species?"

Very good question, for this discussion it would be any life that was capable of developing tools that were detectable through the archaeological evidence. This is a good measure because it definitely indicates a strong level of abstract thinking. 

Neanderthals beat us by a few hundred thousand years.

They are in the same genus as us. There are many examples of the genus Homo that produced intelligence that is detectable via archeology. This is why I refereed to the genus Homo over the last couple million years or so as the example of intelligence.
 

Well you open with species and move to genus, but okay.. What's your overall point? Intelligence is cool?

Seems like his point is "Wow! Thousands of years of natural selection keeping beneficial changes for offspring has brought man to whee he is today! Isn't God great for doing that?"

If by "doing that" you mean "leaving it alone", we might well be in agreement.

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
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OrdinaryClay wrote:JillSwift

OrdinaryClay wrote:

JillSwift wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:
I use the dice analogy because people seem to grasp it better, and they typically don't understand the real definition of a random variable. A random variable is roughly any event space with associated probabilities. In this case we view a species at any given point as an event. Sure they change and produce new species and yes they go extinct, but still you can view the end result, called a species, of evolution as an event. It is a random variable because there is an associated probability with each event(species). The ultimate probability of for each event(species) is a complex joint probability of the evolutionary steps true, but it does not matter because the total species event is still random.
Speciation is not an event. "Species" is just a human classification model imposed on nature, and there is really no definite moment when a new species arises.

Second and more importantly, where mutation itself is random, natural selection is not. (The "keeping the sixes" idea.)

The clean demarcations of taxonomy may be a human construct, but the notion of a terminal end point (at any given moment in time) of evolution called a species is real. This terminal endpoint can be considered an event. It does not matter that breeding boundaries may be loose at times, at other times they are definitely not loose.

I have been careful not to say evolution is completely random, but it has enough random components to consider it a random variable. Both mutations and the environmental situation do have randomness. Natural selection may be the action that does the picking, but what is available for the picking has a large random component.

You are way off base here - "species" are nowhere near tightly defined and clearly bounded to justify using the idea this way.

Even at one point in time there are clear counter examples, such as 'ring' species. There are a related group of birds which inhabit high northern latitudes, and members of the group can be found in a complete circle around the polar regions. Comparing the population within one small geographic region with another a bit further around the ring, they can interbreed freely and so are technically the same species, although they have some differences in the mix of characteristics within the 'species'. This same close relationship is found as we compare geographically adjacent groups all the way around the ring. 

But if we compare populations widely separate within this total group, they are no longer capable of interbreeding.

So 'species' is an somewhat arbitrary measure of genetic distance, based on one, albeit important, measure. 

There is also a lot of evidence of what were at one point separate species re-merging into one again. 

The 'Tree of Life' has sections, at least, which are a chaotic tangle rather than a neat branching structure. Heck, even real trees do that.

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nigelTheBold

nigelTheBold wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

The clean demarcations of taxonomy may be a human construct, but the notion of a terminal end point (at any given moment in time) of evolution called a species is real. This terminal endpoint can be considered an event. It does not matter that breeding boundaries may be loose at times, at other times they are definitely not loose.

But if you were to look only at the terminus, all you see is what exists at that time. There is no randomness involved at all, as the chance of existence is 100%.

This makes no sense. Saying an event is 100% certain once it occurs has no meaning when talking about the probability of it happening.
 

Quote:

Quote:


I have been careful not to say evolution is completely random, but it has enough random components to consider it a random variable. Both mutations and the environmental situation do have randomness. Natural selection may be the action that does the picking, but what is available for the picking has a large random component.

Not as large as you imply. As the available genetic material is based on the success of prior genetic material, randomness in any given iteration is tightly constrained, and the vast majority of the genetic material passed from one generation to the next has been vetted by natural selection.

Genetic variance within a population is generally fairly small from generation to generation.

A composite random variable is still a random variable. Joint probabilities are still probabilities.
 


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JillSwift wrote:OrdinaryClay

JillSwift wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:
The clean demarcations of taxonomy may be a human construct, but the notion of a terminal end point (at any given moment in time) of evolution called a species is real. This terminal endpoint can be considered an event. It does not matter that breeding boundaries may be loose at times, at other times they are definitely not loose.
A rather loose definition of "event".

Not at all.
 

Quote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:
I have been careful not to say evolution is completely random, but it has enough random components to consider it a random variable. Both mutations and the environmental situation do have randomness. Natural selection may be the action that does the picking, but what is available for the picking has a large random component.
So, continuing with the dice analogy: One can roll ten dice, with the sixes kept on each roll and the rest re-rolled, once all the dice are sixes - that happened randomly? Once a constraint has been placed on an otherwise chaotic system, it's results are no longer random.

Your analogy is bogus because you have a prior decided what is to be kept. In a real environment both what is defined as a niche is in part random as well as the phenotypic expression of how to fill that niche is in part random. Species (10 sixes) we see are not inevitable. There is a truly stochastic component to evolution at every step.
 


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Oh, and I forgot about this

Oh, and I forgot about this one, of crows not just using tools, but MAKING tools:

Tool-making crow

I argue that the leg you are attempting to stand on is not present.

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neptewn wrote:OrdinaryClay

neptewn wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

neptewn wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

Balkoth wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:
If you look at the evolutionary history it is pretty amazing that we are the only intelligent species to arise.

Could you, uh, please give us your definition of "intelligent species?"

Very good question, for this discussion it would be any life that was capable of developing tools that were detectable through the archaeological evidence. This is a good measure because it definitely indicates a strong level of abstract thinking. 

Neanderthals beat us by a few hundred thousand years.

They are in the same genus as us. There are many examples of the genus Homo that produced intelligence that is detectable via archeology. This is why I refereed to the genus Homo over the last couple million years or so as the example of intelligence.
 

Well you open with species and move to genus, but okay.. What's your overall point? Intelligence is cool?

Genus and species are for these intents and purposes interchangeable. My point has been explained multiple times.


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BobSpence1 wrote:The main

BobSpence1 wrote:

The main evidence for the estimating the likelihood of intelligence arising is not the number of surviving species displaying it, it would be the number of times it developed independently. We have cetaceans, primates, some birds, and elephants (arguably).

Birds (some parrots, crows) is particularly significant, since their brain structure appears to be significantly different from primates, showing that the requirements for intelligent brains are not as restricted as we might have thought based on the chauvinistic concentration on our own case. This definitely improves the 'odds' for intelligence arising in any total life tree.

The strong contingent component in the survival of any given lineage, and the absence of any longer term purposive or target-driven element in the selection mechanism means that there are almost certainly many more cases where a lineage which hit upon a version of brain structure and associated elements which had the potential for even better ultimate intelligence than ours died out for other reasons, entirely unrelated to its intelligence. This and the extreme difficulty of deducing anything about the behavior of a long extinct species make it hard to get any good data across time about this.

The strong tendency of the most successful lineage in a particular ecological niche to 'crowd out' other potentially equally successful branches for reasons which are often highly contingent, further reduces the apparent likelihood of emergence if we only consider surviving species.

All of this means our 'sample' is grossly inadequate to make any solid estimates of the likelihood of some form of high-level intelligence emerging and persisting.

It is way too early to say whether intelligence at our level is even of ultimate long-term advantage to survival - the prospects of a catastrophic crash can't be ignored, based on our relatively short history and current trends...

The fact that our history is still so short on the evolutionary time-scale (the reference to our intelligence becoming evident only recently) simply means that we have much greater uncertainty as to our long term viability - it says nothing about the odds of us reaching this point, that would be clearly fallacious reasoning. The significance of the timing of our emergence is relative to preceding events - you could argue that because we have taken longest to emerge, that is some evidence to the relative probability of that emergence, but how close to the present is not really relevant in itself. Our relatively short history as in a intelligent species simply means we have insufficient data to estimate our longer term prospects.

The point is that we really have little data to base any estimate of probability here.

It really is too early to tell whether intelligence like ours is an ultimate survival advantage....

You are just re-saying (with more words) the argument that the notion of intelligence is broader then I'm accounting for. As I pointed out above the difference between any other "intelligence" and the genus Homo is huge, both qualitatively and quantitatively. The only species that even comes close are chimps.

Persistence is irrelevant to my point. I believe that we as a species are doomed in the short term.
 


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BobSpence1 wrote:You are way

BobSpence1 wrote:

You are way off base here - "species" are nowhere near tightly defined and clearly bounded to justify using the idea this way.

Even at one point in time there are clear counter examples, such as 'ring' species. There are a related group of birds which inhabit high northern latitudes, and members of the group can be found in a complete circle around the polar regions. Comparing the population within one small geographic region with another a bit further around the ring, they can interbreed freely and so are technically the same species, although they have some differences in the mix of characteristics within the 'species'. This same close relationship is found as we compare geographically adjacent groups all the way around the ring. 

But if we compare populations widely separate within this total group, they are no longer capable of interbreeding.

So 'species' is an somewhat arbitrary measure of genetic distance, based on one, albeit important, measure. 

There is also a lot of evidence of what were at one point separate species re-merging into one again. 

The 'Tree of Life' has sections, at least, which are a chaotic tangle rather than a neat branching structure. Heck, even real trees do that.

All this does not matter since the crux of my argument depends on the fact that most biologists agree that the concept of species exists.


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HisWillness wrote:Oh, and I

HisWillness wrote:

Oh, and I forgot about this one, of crows not just using tools, but MAKING tools:

Tool-making crow

I argue that the leg you are attempting to stand on is not present.

I argue that you are so uncomfortable with the notion of rare intelligence at a level even near that of a humans that you broaden the definition to include species with effective learning adaptations.


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Statistics is a valuable way

Statistics is a valuable way to extract useful information from sparse data, and data with many uncertainties in it. But the models used to analyse the data must be based as closely as possible on the known relationships and processes of the system being analyzed, especially when the data is limited and of poor quality. This helps us choose which data is most likely to retain effects from some preceding 'event' we are investigating. If, for example, there is good evidence that a lineage has gone thru a 'choke point' where the population was down to a relatively few individuals, it is pointless to look for indications in the data from later in history for any useful hints as to the genetic makeup prior to the choke point.

Where there are alternative hypotheses for the actual nature and behavior of the system under study, separate statistical models should be developed to analyse each one.

My point is that OC seems to be way over-estimating the significance and/or usefulness of purely statistical analysis here, ie analysis not tightly bound to the relevant details we do know about the evolutionary processes involved.

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OrdinaryClay wrote:I argue

OrdinaryClay wrote:

I argue that you are so uncomfortable with the notion of rare intelligence at a level even near that of a humans that you broaden the definition to include species with effective learning adaptations.

I think you have exactly as much of an idea as to the likelihood of intelligence developing as we all do: that is, none. What you present is poor speculation at best. After all, our only reference gives it a 100% chance of developing in an arbitrary biosphere. The length of time it takes to develop is irrelevent.

"Yes, I seriously believe that consciousness is a product of a natural process. I find that the neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers who proceed from that premise are the ones who are actually making useful contributions to our understanding of the mind." - PZ Myers


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OrdinaryClay

OrdinaryClay wrote:

HisWillness wrote:

Oh, and I forgot about this one, of crows not just using tools, but MAKING tools:

Tool-making crow

I argue that the leg you are attempting to stand on is not present.

I argue that you are so uncomfortable with the notion of rare intelligence at a level even near that of a humans that you broaden the definition to include species with effective learning adaptations.

Where do you get this notion of anyone here being particularly "uncomfortable with the notion of rare intelligence"???

You are the one who appears to have a strong agenda to prove that intelligence is extremely rare, and are over-emphasizing certain aspects of the data to support it.

I don't think anyone here has a particular problem with the idea that intelligence may indeed be very rare. We are making that point that we really have insufficient data to strongly support either the 'rare' or 'common' hypothesis. As well as pointing out where you do seem to be making invalid assumptions. 

We have no data on which to base any strong assertion of extreme rarity, especially of the possibility that we are unique. Certainly none of any statistical significance - the sample we have is such a tiny fraction of the time and space of the universe, even restricting it to our observable universe.

We do have modest but stronger evidence pointing to multiple pathways to intelligence sharing many of the basic attributes we once thought of as unique to our species, which is forcing us to revise the old assumptions about our extreme uniqueness. EDIT: That is the point of referencing other species showing significant levels of intelligence.

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

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OrdinaryClay

OrdinaryClay wrote:

nigelTheBold wrote:

But if you were to look only at the terminus, all you see is what exists at that time. There is no randomness involved at all, as the chance of existence is 100%.

This makes no sense. Saying an event is 100% certain once it occurs has no meaning when talking about the probability of it happening.

My point is this: you are starting at the endpoint, the "species," and saying that the chance of that species existing is astronomical. Sure, I'll go with that; if you were to start at the beginning and predict which forms would appear, the chance of achieving a specific goal would indeed be astronomical.

Once that species exists, however, it is absolutely certain it exists.

So, to discuss the "probability" of a species existing, you need some sort of reference. You are really providing none. All I can tell is that you seem to think that it's a miracle that mankind exists, because the odds of achieving this specific configuration with this specific genome is too astronomical to believe.

That's fine, except that no single species is a goal. Evolution hadn't planned mankind. We are no more and no less likely than any other species. To discuss the "odds" of us being here (which is what you appear to be attempting) is ridiculous.

And to disregard the evidence of abstract thinking in other animals is rather disingenuous.

Quote:

A composite random variable is still a random variable. Joint probabilities are still probabilities.

Yes. But your implication is that evolution is random. Period. Full stop. I can only surmise this is because you feel that no random process could result in humanity. That's true. No purely-random process could result in mankind.

Fortunately for us, evolution is not purely (or even mostly) random.

"Yes, I seriously believe that consciousness is a product of a natural process. I find that the neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers who proceed from that premise are the ones who are actually making useful contributions to our understanding of the mind." - PZ Myers


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OrdinaryClay wrote:I argue

OrdinaryClay wrote:

I argue that you are so uncomfortable with the notion of rare intelligence at a level even near that of a humans that you broaden the definition to include species with effective learning adaptations.

I didn't say we're not the smartest. We are. But in that, we just exhibit the most complicated "effective learning adaptations".

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OrdinaryClay

OrdinaryClay wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

You are way off base here - "species" are nowhere near tightly defined and clearly bounded to justify using the idea this way.

Even at one point in time there are clear counter examples, such as 'ring' species. There are a related group of birds which inhabit high northern latitudes, and members of the group can be found in a complete circle around the polar regions. Comparing the population within one small geographic region with another a bit further around the ring, they can interbreed freely and so are technically the same species, although they have some differences in the mix of characteristics within the 'species'. This same close relationship is found as we compare geographically adjacent groups all the way around the ring. 

But if we compare populations widely separate within this total group, they are no longer capable of interbreeding.

So 'species' is an somewhat arbitrary measure of genetic distance, based on one, albeit important, measure. 

There is also a lot of evidence of what were at one point separate species re-merging into one again. 

The 'Tree of Life' has sections, at least, which are a chaotic tangle rather than a neat branching structure. Heck, even real trees do that.

All this does not matter since the crux of my argument depends on the fact that most biologists agree that the concept of species exists.

Of course the concept exists! If you are basing your argument on the mere fact that that a particular concept exists, you have no argument.

Any serious argument employing a particular concept has to consider the practical significance of the concept, and the current evidence supporting the coherence and usefulness of it, otherwise it is meaningless to say you are basing your argument on it! That should be blindingly obvious.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

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OrdinaryClay wrote:bogus

OrdinaryClay wrote:

bogus because you have a prior decided what is to be kept. In a real environment both what is defined as a niche is in part random as well as the phenotypic expression of how to fill that niche is in part random. Species (10 sixes) we see are not inevitable. There is a truly stochastic component to evolution at every step.
 

The six-sided dice are a simplification.  How about considering 100-sided dice?  And consider again that numbers 98, 99, and 100 are beneficial results to be kept and the others will be rerolled.  This is still a tremendous simplification, but it considers that certain result (10 sixes or a platypus) is not inevitable.  But, given enough time, say millions of years, you are going to end up with 98s, 99s, 100s.  Different groups of players (i. e. diferent gene pools) will end up with different orderings like 100, 98, 99, 99, 100...   thus different species (for lack of a better word) would result.  

Now back to the original post.  Better thinking ability will always be preferable to worse thinking ability from a survival standpoint.  So evolution will inevitably converge to smarter species.  And I would say, abstract thought is guaranteed given enough time, even if the exact species at the end is not guaranteed.

And by the way, I'm a layman, so others can feel free to point out my ignorance of evolution.  I won't be offended.

 

 

 

Responsibility: A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one's neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, 1911


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BobSpence1 wrote:My point is

BobSpence1 wrote:

My point is that OC seems to be way over-estimating the significance and/or usefulness of purely statistical analysis here, ie analysis not tightly bound to the relevant details we do know about the evolutionary processes involved.

The only refuting reasoning I've seen you use so far is the broadening of the definition of intelligence. I did offer a specific definition of visible through archaeology. This is a very reasonable "cut off point" because it is closely indicative of the power of the intelligence as well as it being observable through archeology. Broadening the definition of intelligence arbitrarily is a weak argument because it relies on a very soft notion of intelligence, especially given the glaring difference between hominid intelligence and any others being offered.
 


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nigelTheBold

nigelTheBold wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

I argue that you are so uncomfortable with the notion of rare intelligence at a level even near that of a humans that you broaden the definition to include species with effective learning adaptations.

I think you have exactly as much of an idea as to the likelihood of intelligence developing as we all do: that is, none. What you present is poor speculation at best. After all, our only reference gives it a 100% chance of developing in an arbitrary biosphere. The length of time it takes to develop is irrelevent.

It amazes me how this myth clings on. An improbable event is not made more probable by it having happened. Saying that a probabilistic(with a probability of .01 for example) event is 100% certain because it happened is non-sensical. The fact that we "happened" does not make it certain it will happen anywhere else or that it would even happen again here. The length of time is relevant because evolution is time sensitive.
 


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BobSpence1 wrote:We do have

BobSpence1 wrote:

We do have modest but stronger evidence pointing to multiple pathways to intelligence sharing many of the basic attributes we once thought of as unique to our species, which is forcing us to revise the old assumptions about our extreme uniqueness. EDIT: That is the point of referencing other species showing significant levels of intelligence.

In the context of intelligence we have more attributes that make us unique. Choosing to focus on the smaller set that does not constitutes a weak argument.


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nigelTheBold

nigelTheBold wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

nigelTheBold wrote:

But if you were to look only at the terminus, all you see is what exists at that time. There is no randomness involved at all, as the chance of existence is 100%.

This makes no sense. Saying an event is 100% certain once it occurs has no meaning when talking about the probability of it happening.

My point is this: you are starting at the endpoint, the "species," and saying that the chance of that species existing is astronomical. Sure, I'll go with that; if you were to start at the beginning and predict which forms would appear, the chance of achieving a specific goal would indeed be astronomical.

Once that species exists, however, it is absolutely certain it exists.

So, to discuss the "probability" of a species existing, you need some sort of reference. You are really providing none. All I can tell is that you seem to think that it's a miracle that mankind exists, because the odds of achieving this specific configuration with this specific genome is too astronomical to believe.

That's fine, except that no single species is a goal. Evolution hadn't planned mankind. We are no more and no less likely than any other species. To discuss the "odds" of us being here (which is what you appear to be attempting) is ridiculous.

And to disregard the evidence of abstract thinking in other animals is rather disingenuous.

The reference is the population that your sample was taken from - assuming a random sample. Things not happening is information too. Things not happening has predictive power too. Focusing on just the events that confirm something is throwing away huge amounts of real world and meaningful information.
 

I didn't disregard any evidence. I made an evidence based choice that there is a distinct and major difference between our species on others that demonstrate intelligence.
 

Quote:

Quote:

A composite random variable is still a random variable. Joint probabilities are still probabilities.

Yes. But your implication is that evolution is random. Period. Full stop. I can only surmise this is because you feel that no random process could result in humanity. That's true. No purely-random process could result in mankind.

Fortunately for us, evolution is not purely (or even mostly) random.

I can hardly believe my eyes.- an atheist that is arguing against the random nature of evolution. I'm arguing that the random components of evolution allow us to treat a speciation event as a random event. Just because there are non random components does not nullify the random nature of evolution. You seem to be arguing for some kind of predetermination. I'm stunned.
 


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BobSpence1

BobSpence1 wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

You are way off base here - "species" are nowhere near tightly defined and clearly bounded to justify using the idea this way.

Even at one point in time there are clear counter examples, such as 'ring' species. There are a related group of birds which inhabit high northern latitudes, and members of the group can be found in a complete circle around the polar regions. Comparing the population within one small geographic region with another a bit further around the ring, they can interbreed freely and so are technically the same species, although they have some differences in the mix of characteristics within the 'species'. This same close relationship is found as we compare geographically adjacent groups all the way around the ring. 

But if we compare populations widely separate within this total group, they are no longer capable of interbreeding.

So 'species' is an somewhat arbitrary measure of genetic distance, based on one, albeit important, measure. 

There is also a lot of evidence of what were at one point separate species re-merging into one again. 

The 'Tree of Life' has sections, at least, which are a chaotic tangle rather than a neat branching structure. Heck, even real trees do that.

All this does not matter since the crux of my argument depends on the fact that most biologists agree that the concept of species exists.

Of course the concept exists! If you are basing your argument on the mere fact that that a particular concept exists, you have no argument.

Any serious argument employing a particular concept has to consider the practical significance of the concept, and the current evidence supporting the coherence and usefulness of it, otherwise it is meaningless to say you are basing your argument on it! That should be blindingly obvious.

That the concept exists means that biologists believe the demarcation is real. If the demarcation is real(even if it is fuzzy) then the event (speciation) I'm focusing on is real.