Purpose of Evolution

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Purpose of Evolution

CNN's Piers Morgan Debates Atheist Ricky Gervais, Declares America a 'Very Christian Nation'

This is an article I found discussing the brief conversation between the comedian Ricky Gervais and a CNN news personality Piers Morgan. Take a look at the link to get the background, there is a transcript toward the bottom.

This is one one of the comments I found interesting:

Submitted by MidAmerica on Sat, 01/22/2011 - 3:46pm wrote:

One of the errors he makes is that every religion has a different God.  What different religions have as a difference is different interpretations of what God is and what constitutes religious behavior and ritual.

  But all religions have as their basis that there is something that is a higher power than a human being.  And that, is where I think atheism runs up against it's own brick wall.  They think because they personally can't find a god therefore that means there is no god.

  I personally do not believe it rational (or even scientific) to expect that a human being is the highest form of creation and that absolutely no way can something be more evolved than a human brain.  That would be just a little arrogant.   But.... if humans are not the highest form of creation where does the levels of creation stop?  When the highest form is reached what is just beyond that?

   Atheism and Humanism are just relics from the rise of the industrial age when humans began to view the world like their machines.  A world merely made of cogs and gears and nothing more.

I've been reading Evolutionary Psychology: The Science of Human Nature by Allen MacNeill and it has given me a bit clearer perspective on this kind of misunderstanding. Previously I have done almost zero study on the theory of evolution so this book has been pretty valuable to me. MacNeill does a bit of a survey course on evolution before he gets into the meat of the human nature aspect.

Anyway, the mistake we make, and theists are a shining example of this, is that we project purpose on the world around us. This includes ideas like evolution, once we have been exposed to them. We have the ability to recognize purpose in the actions of the people around us, which is a positive trait, unfortunately we also project purpose onto things which have none.

He uses the example of a guy riding a bike and running into a headwind. The guy mumbles under his breath something about the wind trying to hinder his progress. Atheists and skeptics do this kind of thing all of the time, it's natural and is very difficult for many of us to avoid doing. In situations like this it is seemingly innocuous but the general trait of assigning purpose to purposeless things/ideas is potentially damaging to the progress of our intellect.

When this guy [who wrote the quoted comment] is looking at how advanced the human species is, he is getting himself confused. He is assuming that the plan was for humans to be more advanced than the other life forms on this planet. He is assuming that there is some kind of check list, some *point* to how fast or slow evolution might be. He figures that since the plan was for us to advance this far, that there must be other plans somewhere else which are even more fun! In his effort to understand evolution he is seeing it through the filter of how he would do it - what his purpose and plan would be.

What I'm coming to understand is that the theory of evolution is nothing more than the study of the process of one trait being propagated over another. If we can gather enough information about the circumstances of resources and competition in the past it might give us some idea of why one trait came to be common over another. Lots of traits of current living things don't have much use at all, and likely never did, which is educational for me. It is helpful for me to look at these things and realize, "Yeah, there really is no plan here, obviously".

I have heard it argued that evolution breeds out inefficiency but that doesn't hold water either. Traits which are prevalent now were present in those who successfully survived and propagated; that's it. There might have been much more efficient traits held by those who were not successful at survival and propagation but it doesn't matter - the only yardstick of success evolution has to offer is which ones survived. Whether or not they are or were efficient doesn't come into the equation at all.

Have I come away with a valid understanding? It's interesting to me that I have never actually looked at evolution and that it is much simpler and more difficult than I suspected. It is difficult to comprehend, because it is much simpler than my mind naturally allows it to be.


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There is no evidence for, or

There is no evidence for, or need for, a 'purpose' in evolution.

Once you have a collection of self-replicating molecules, any variation which can be reached thru a series of small changes, each of which forms a molecule which is still sufficiently stable and can still self-replicate, is potentially reachable by 'evolution'.

This includes variations which have more 'coding' units, which will have more possible variations. The number of potential paths evolution could take will grow factorially, ie much faster than exponentially, as the length of the genome increases.

So there is inevitably a measure of randomness, or contingency, to which actual set of life-forms exists at any one time.

There is no requirement to be 'perfect', just capable of surviving and reproducing at least as well as, and ideally a bit better on average than, those forms sharing the same region and relying on the same resources.

=======

About the bit you actually quoted, I reckon most atheists would not assume we are the 'pinnacle of creation'. There could well be a much more advanced form of sentience elsewhere in the Universe, conceivably outside, if there is an 'outside'.

The Big Bang could even have been initiated by a conscious being in a 'metaverse', but as Stephen Hawking has recently said, such a scenario is not necessary.

What does not really work is that such a being corresponds in any detail to 'God'.

Infinite in power or extent is not only unnecessary, but unlikely. Whatever motivations such an entity may have would hardly be likely to be comprehensible to us.

And there is no logical justification for assuming it must be 'good', however you define that. It certainly does not follow that it would be be motivated to treat us in any way we would consider as 'good', or even care about us.

It also would not serve as a 'reason' for, or origin of, existence itself, since something of any non-trivial complexity would require an explanation itself.

It presumably had its own 'purpose' within its own consciousness'. If it consciously caused us to emerge, it may have had some purpose in mind, which may have been no more than some equivalent of 'for its own amusement'.

We are able to form our own intent, an aim in life, but not necessarily. Some are content to drift, with no 'purpose' other than survive in some modest comfort to enjoy the passing parade of history.

We are not morally or logically obliged to share any 'purpose' a hypothetical creator may have had in mind. We may well be forced to do what such a being intends. We may arguably be morally obliged to cooperate with it, but only if we feel our existence is overall a positive experience.

If some entity created a life-form with the purpose of tormenting it for Its own pleasure, that life-form would have no 'moral' obligation to cooperate, let alone worship it, IMHO.

In short, that quote still displays the ancient fallacy of equating any 'higher power', or even 'creator', with a specific concept of God.

There is a greater power - it is the Universe, and the forces and energies that keep it in existence and motion. It could destroy us next week with a giant meteor.

There is no reason to assume it is sentient in any sense.

Whatever initiated the Big Bang need not be more than a finite random event, let alone something 'sentient'.

 

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

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


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We don't believe in God

We don't believe in God because there is no evidence i.e. there is no justification for the claim that any God exists. "Personally can't find a God" is an obvious strawman and is also quite ambiguous. What does it mean to personally find a God? To be psychologically conditioned to one God concept? Believing that God exists via a non sequitur after an emotional life experience? Every situation that the phrase might imply seems like intellectual bankruptcy anyways.

Evolution does breed out inefficiency in general because organisms that are not as efficient are less likely to survive and reproduce. It is a competition and nothing is free; any energy that is wasted is energy that you could have spent on your survival and that some of your competitors probably are spending on their survival.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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There is no "purpose", there

There is no "purpose", there are only processes that have existed long before our existence and will go on long after our extinction.

This ride we observe is as finite as what came before us and will continue after us. If I had to assign a "purpose" to life it would be to get over our own tribal bullshit as a species.

 

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Atheistextremist
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Amen

Brian37 wrote:

 

If I had to assign a "purpose" to life it would be to get over our own tribal bullshit as a species.

 

 

I mean, fucken A.

 

 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


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The fact that

The fact that so many different cultures have spawned so many different ideas of gods, would hint to me that god is a creation of human cultures and not the other way around.

The fact that every particular  religion seems to be a particular reflection of the culture which spawned it, would also hint to me of every religion being man made.

I have heard theists try to use the "every culture worships a higher being" argument many times.

If such a thing as a "god" actually existed, why would it allow every culture to develop radically exclusive ideas about it ? Why not an international, available in every language, clear cut text rather than outdated old scirptures and parchments ?

The little cop out that they use about not being able to know god is an utter contradiction. They are claiming that man can not grasp god, yet every religion proclaims itself to have done the very thing that they say man can not do.

It's like one theist that I was arguing with, not too long ago, that used the whole "god is far beyond our thinking" argument. My answer was : If god is far beyond our thinking, then how do you even know of his existence at all  ?

It's no different than theists who will tell openly admit that you can not know the mind of god and then proceed to tell you exactly what god's will is.

 

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
― Giordano Bruno


Atheistextremist
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Humans do

marcusfish wrote:

What I'm coming to understand is that the theory of evolution is nothing more than the study of the process of one trait being propagated over another. If we can gather enough information about the circumstances of resources and competition in the past it might give us some idea of why one trait came to be common over another. Lots of traits of current living things don't have much use at all, and likely never did, which is educational for me. It is helpful for me to look at these things and realize, "Yeah, there really is no plan here, obviously".

I have heard it argued that evolution breeds out inefficiency but that doesn't hold water either. Traits which are prevalent now were present in those who successfully survived and propagated; that's it. There might have been much more efficient traits held by those who were not successful at survival and propagation but it doesn't matter - the only yardstick of success evolution has to offer is which ones survived. Whether or not they are or were efficient doesn't come into the equation at all.

Have I come away with a valid understanding? It's interesting to me that I have never actually looked at evolution and that it is much simpler and more difficult than I suspected. It is difficult to comprehend, because it is much simpler than my mind naturally allows it to be.

 

give human qualities to things around them. We tend to see organisation or apparent designs where there are none. This tendency to anthropomorphize glowering hills and singing trees and the angry sea is an inherent human quality that definitely projects into our uninformed opinion about the nature of things and the universe. If you think about it, before the Greek Miracle, it was considered that every natural event that happened had a divine cause - you still see priests claiming the effects of vulcanism and plate tectonics are lessons sent from god. It's flat out stupid stuff.

I think your points about the simplicity of evolution are valid. This stuff is a blind process driven by reproductive success. I'd say it does over a long period of time lead to improved efficiencies in species. A fish that can't swim fast might reproduce once or twice but in the longer term a shark is going to get hold of its finny fin fins. And there are evolutionary oddities - tiny legs on whales, for instance.

The simplicity of the fundamentals of evolution go all the way down to considering DNA as an ecosystem of its own, to earlier self assembling RNA molecules and that's long before you get deep down to particle physics.

Yeah, it's tough on the brain. I spent most of last night reading and by the end of it lay in bed thinking how much easier it would be not to learn, not to understand, but to cling to generalisation and reify all those 'I don't knows' into a strong 'man' with a plan.

 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


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Atheistextremist wrote:Yeah,

Atheistextremist wrote:

Yeah, it's tough on the brain. I spent most of last night reading and by the end of it lay in bed thinking how much easier it would be not to learn, not to understand, but to cling to generalisation and reify all those 'I don't knows' into a strong 'man' with a plan.

That's one of our big problems when confronting adults.  Maybe the largest.  Ignorance is easy, and living based on your personal and cultural instincts is an idea re-enforced by those around you.  The whole thing is circular and to young minds it is absolutely brutal.

 

In America, I think the most practical long term solution is to influence education and popular media to encourage skepticism.  To make it a positive trait.  Psychologically, arguing people down isn't possible when they just go home and get propped up by their family and friends again.

 

I think we mostly help the outliers by giving them a community so they can break out of that cycle.  Well, that and being public with alternate views so we can perhaps shift the demographic bit by bit.

Everything makes more sense now that I've stopped believing.


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Purpose? Seriously?Does the

Purpose? Seriously?

Does the wind have purpose?

Does gravity have purpose?

To state that evolution has a purpose is to imply that there was a rationale for evolution, a plan. As an atheist (and I admit, I haven't done a great deal of study in the subject) I think that idea preposterous. Too, I find the idea that man is the greatest of evolved beings rather hubristic - and theistic. It is the religious who claim that man was created in god's image. Not "evolutionists" or atheists. Having argued with many religious folks over the years, I question whether man is even the most intelligent of beings.


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The Point?

Atheistextremist wrote:
I'd say it does over a long period of time lead to improved efficiencies in species. A fish that can't swim fast might reproduce once or twice but in the longer term a shark is going to get hold of its finny fin fins.

Which is something I've always figured and it certainly would seem apparent that this is the way it turns out. It is only rational to assume that the traits which lend a species toward the best chance of surviving and breeding will be the ones which become more common than a similar trait which is less efficient. What I am learning to identify is my insistence upon thinking that this is the point of evolution - when evolution doesn't have a point at all.


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Agreed

marcusfish wrote:

Atheistextremist wrote:
I'd say it does over a long period of time lead to improved efficiencies in species. A fish that can't swim fast might reproduce once or twice but in the longer term a shark is going to get hold of its finny fin fins.

Which is something I've always figured and it certainly would seem apparent that this is the way it turns out. It is only rational to assume that the traits which lend a species toward the best chance of surviving and breeding will be the ones which become more common than a similar trait which is less efficient. What I am learning to identify is my insistence upon thinking that this is the point of evolution - when evolution doesn't have a point at all.

 

But could we say it has an observable outcome?

 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


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Another thing I always get

 

annoyed by in bad evolutionary texts is when authors decree a particular creature 'decided' to come up on land. WTF do they say this for? You'd assume that over a period a range of mutations would collect in a given population and these would be shaped by a changing environment. The mutations that led to mudskipping would allow mudskippers to do well around mud, for instance. Creatures unable to escape the water would be subject to the rigours of predation and over generations might select in another direction.

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


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I missed this gem


Submitted by MidAmerica on Sat, 01/22/2011 - 3:46pm wrote:


Atheism and Humanism are just relics from the rise of the industrial age when humans began to view the world like their machines.  A world merely made of cogs and gears and nothing more.

 

 

What sort of a pea-brain would make a statement like this. Atheism and humanism were gifted to us thanks to wonderful thinkers like Thomas Willis, Descartes and John Locke who variously argued that there were underlying physical fundamentals, no sign of a soul and that the rule of law must exist solely to protect the rights of the individual. 

Only a person with no idea would fail to see that outside of the opaque process of abiogenesis every component of every cell functions in this natural elemental reality, is made of the stuff of the universe and the earth and employs functions that can be readily described by biochemistry. If there's some non physical part to the body of this crackpot MidAmerica, I'd be keen for him to show it to us.

And why you would compare our ham-fisted cogs and gears to the startling nature of physical cellular chemistry I cannot tell.

 


 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


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 Not only does evolution

 Not only does evolution not have a 'purpose' ( I think by simply implying the word purpose you automatically take a creation approach) but it doesn't even have a direction.  The most common error that even many atheists make is to assume that we're more evolved then a mouse.  We're just as evolved as every other species that shares our environment.  We're simply better adapted for the current environmental conditions.  Much like dinosaurs were better adapted to their environment than mammals.  

Quote:

 I personally do not believe it rational (or even scientific) to expect that a human being is the highest form of creation and that absolutely no way can something be more evolved than a human brain.  That would be just a little arrogant.   But.... if humans are not the highest form of creation where does the levels of creation stop?  When the highest form is reached what is just beyond that?

there is so much wrong with that paragraph ..... first of all, the word creation has no meaning when discussing evolution.  And being 'more evolved' is relative to a set of parameters, i.e. one species is better evolved to handle a cold climate.  If a small comet struck tomorrow, cockroaches would be better evolved to survive than just about any mammal.  By this guys thinking they would be the pinnacle of evolution (or creation as he eloquently puts it).

Read my sig for my thoughts on this guy's comment Smiling

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Figuring It Out

Atheistextremist wrote:

marcusfish wrote:

Atheistextremist wrote:
I'd say it does over a long period of time lead to improved efficiencies in species.

What I am learning to identify is my insistence upon thinking that this is the point of evolution - when evolution doesn't have a point at all.

 

But could we say it has an observable outcome?

That's the only reasonable way to look at it, from what I have been learning.

It's exciting to finally do some reading on evolution. I am beginning to come away from my old understanding, steeped in projecting my humanity onto the topic, and am adopting a less emotionally involved viewpoint. It's all pretty simple to folks who have already done a bit of examination of the theory of evolution but, for me, it's kind of like learning basic algebra for the first time and realizing it wasn't as difficult as I thought it was going to be!


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Straw Sims

Ktulu wrote:

Quote:

 I personally do not believe it rational (or even scientific) to expect that a human being is the highest form of creation and that absolutely no way can something be more evolved than a human brain. 

there is so much wrong with that paragraph

This guy is building a straw man city filled with straw men and straw dogs, all sitting around their straw dining room tables. I am not sure what argument he thinks he is trying to answer, but identifying that might be a crucial first step in his journey toward sounding less like a complete dolt.

[EDIT: ]