Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."



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adam

Hi Amba,

My undergraduate degree was in neuroscience and I plan to go for a PhD soon. I didn't spend too much time on evolution, but here's my impression of this debate.

I think it's very likely something else is going on besides just materialism in this world. Particulary, as the author pointed out, in the area of consciousness. This issue, more than any other, is the most challenging thing for science to cope with.

However, I think in some sense IDers may be barking up the wrong tree. My personal sense/belief (perhaps a loony one) was the divine (however you choose to define it) guided evolution to an extent via its mind/consciousness. Since quantum mechanics and evolution have a chance quality to them, I sort of think that "the divine" steered those chances in a particular direction.

However, obviously that steering was certainly not perfect given all the flaws we have in the world today: ticks, poisonous snakes, other parasites. Furthermore, I have it heard it claimed that when you look up close at biological organisms they more resemble a rube-goldberg machine than expert-engineering. From my experience studying molecular biology and neuroanatomy that's more or less the impression I got.

Also, from my training, I think most scientists freely admit that they don't know how life originated. With a field like evolution, the very complexity of life and the randomness of many processes make it impossible to prove that things happened in such a way. Also, since it happened in the past under unknown conditions it's pretty hard to test. So, evolution theorists can at best show that something is consistent with the theory. However, this doesn't mean that it can't be falsified, it just means it hard to falsify. For instance, the appearance of an organism, with absolutely no relation to any others with a different genetic code (not genes but the way in which virtually all cells translate the information on DNA) would be pretty strong evidence against evolution. The fact that so much data can be reconciled with it is pretty strong support that they've got something right. Also, it's a general point of science that nothing can be proved right, only proved wrong. It's always conceivable that some counterexample exists that we haven't yet come across.

In conclusion, I think the whole process of life is a big complicated mess of chance with some steering behind it to make sure that eventually that in the end it would produce a create capable of writing symphonies and discovering theorems.

amba

Adam,

We may never know for sure, but I bet you're onto something.

You'd be interested in the work of Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz. THE MIND AND THE BRAIN would be a good place to start. He's a neuropsychiatrist who's in the process of proving, in collaboration with a quantum physicist, Henry Stapp, that mind is not completely reducible to matter, and can influence it.

Jill Fallon

What a fabulous article. thank you so much for pointing me to it.
Quite the best thing on intelligent design that I've read.

Chris Hallquist

May I suggest:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe.html
In short: we've seen new species emerge, no one's proposing modern bacteria emerged directly from simple molecules, and "irreducibly complex" things aren't so mysterious.

The hostility, I suspect, is largely from how often people who don't know what they're talking about tout their lack of understanding as disproof. If he Reed would spend some time reading resources on evolution like the ones posted above and having non-hostile conversations with biologists, he'd get his answers.

Biologists are the main ones who get worked up about creationism because they're the main targets. But they're not the only ones: http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/?p=67

Final point: at present, we have no alternative to evolution that has any support. We can observe mutation, recombination, basic chemisty, etc. We've yet to observe any action by a non-human designer. We certainly don't understand everything, but we have to go with the best we've got, which is, by far, evolution.

karen

Thank you so much for the great article, amba!! I must confess, I'd never heard of ID before coming to your blog. I kinda agree with Adam, as much as a Catholic can. I believe God can do anything and if he created us, he can "steer" us along in evolving. I always have a hard time with timelines; how do they know how many billions of years or how many light years away anything is? I like science. I'm sure you saw my dopey comment on A's site about my chat with the nutritionist? He's a doctor, and very with it, it's hard to remember EVERYTHING bright people say--geesh. But, the fact that they can identify genomes and break it down to the few that influence our body's response to what and how we eat... and create a chip to implant, i guess to record responses... like Fred says, though... grown ups playing God. In this case it's doctors playing God. I think that's funny :)

Funky Dung

"like Ales Rarus, a former lib-or-even-lefteral who turned Catholic and right"

I'm thrilled to be linked, but I think you might have gotten the wrong impression of me. My theology is very "right", but my politics are very "moderate". I only registered Republican in an attempt to oust Sen. Arlen Specter in the the primaries. I didn't vote for Bush - either time. I don't like party politics, but if forced to pigeon-hole myself, I'd say I'm a Bob Casey, Sr. Democrat.

RE: Fred Reed, I've never heard of the fella. I wonder when I linked to him. *shrug*

RE: Intelligent Design, I don't buy it. It's pseudoscience and bad biblical exegesis. The only ID I believe is that God created the universe and the life in it. I don't much care how and evolution is just as good as any other method in my eyes.

Funky Dung

RE: the three posited propositions of evolution, why must one adhere to all three? I doubt all supporters of the theory do. I know I don't. Did life appear accidentally? No. God created it. Did it evolve by natural selection and mutation? Yes. Was that process truly random? No. It appears as such, but God "rolls the dice" for the process, so to speak. A process may seem entirely random but actually have a deterministic and predictable event generator - iuf only we had all the data (which we don't).

Funky Dung

Now I see - Matteo linked to Reed and you compared Matteo to me. *sigh* I guess it's time for coffee. ;)

amba

Funky Dung: I apologize. I was free associating a bit too much, and I knew it right after I did it :) ! I'd just been reading your blog, and I was trying to remark, far too briefly and indiscriminately, on the phenomenon just dawning on me that there are a lot of people articulately blogging who were once a lot more liberal, theologically and/OR politically, than they are now. And that making that turn back to faith and certainty (which certainly changes one's politics too, though not necessarily to extremes) seems to have liberated the voices of many, probably because such a change involves both a lot of thought and a lot of emotion. I know that my own turn to the right (which only took me to the center) did.

Next time I'll link to you more than in passing . . .

Chris Hallquist

It's also worth making a distinction between "God was subtly involved in the process" and "This cannot be explained without God." Eugene Volokh just had a good post on this: http://volokh.com/admin/trackbackdrum.pl?post=1118942329 (how do I link, btw?) It's like the difference between saying "God helped defeat Hitler" and saying "we should teach school kids that there's good evidence Hitler could not have been defeated without divine intervention."

Willa Cartwright

Hi,

Interesting points but with all due respect, here are some corrections. Firstly though, don’t take this as a me being on one side or the other. Indeed I’d welcome an opposing theory / idea / concept that would compete against the theory of evolution. Anyway, here are some corrections.

1. The theory of evolution is categorically NOT even related to the origin of life. Darwin’s theory does not, even for one second, discuss how life arose in the first place. What Darwin's theory proposed is how "speciation" occurred and that is all. The question of the origin of life is another field altogether. This is a mistake many people, including and specifically the ID’ers, do and say that evolution is talking about the origin of life. It’s a common mistake, but it is just not true.

2. Your point about the eye. You do mention that the ID‘ers do say the eye looks designed. Sadly though, the fact is that the eye of all mammals is badly flawed. It’s clearly undesigned and accidental in it’s construction. In essence, it’s inside-out. Which is why there are blind spots. On the other hand, many invertebrates such as octopus and squid have a better constructed eye. Infact, it’s so much like the human eye, but the major difference is that it is not inside-out. It doesn’t have a blind spot. So the question arises that if life is “designed”, why do some creatures have errors and some not?

3. There is a belief my many people who do not fully understand what Charles Darwin proposed as “speciation” through the mechanism of evolution. Indeed many believe that evolution is "some mysterious force that always makes the correct and best choice". This however, couldn't be further from the truth. At the end of the day it may help people to treat evolution as nothing other as a process. There is no direction, nor is there any plan. If evolution does exist, it can just as easily be described as biological opportunism.

Thanks

Willa

big dirigible

Holy Cow! Reed's essay has at least one error or misconception in damn near every paragraph. It's like an tract on finance written by someone who understands the gold standard, is a little vague on the silver standard, and has never heard of paper money. How would you begin to explain credit, deficit spending, interest, stocks, futures, options, hedges, PayPal, or junk bonds? You couldn't - the guy's just not in the running. He's barely begun to do his homework.

There are indeed some real puzzles in evolution, real weirdos I doubt Reed's heard of yet. As there are in any field of human endeavor. My own fields are physics and mechanics. Mysteries remain in both. I don't yet feel any dire need to invoke metaphysics to solve them.

Quite a bit of what the Sunday supplements call "evolution" is rubbish. Quite a bit of what the scientific journals call "evolution" is rubbish. Finding a silly pro-evolution statement in print, and pointing out that it's rubbish, is a far cry from demonstrating that it's all rubbish. Distinguishing what is and isn't rubbish is the work of a lifetime. It can't possibly be explored by typing into a little text box like this one.

Rob

Even I, ignorant as I am, found plenty of errors in this essay. For example:

The third proposition, that the mechanism of evolutions is chance mutation, though sacrosanct among its proponents, is shaky.

In modern times, at least, no one thinks that "chance mutation" is a particularly powerful evolutionary force. It's sex, baby, that's where the real action is.

I'm not sure when chance mutation was superceded, but I think it was at least twenty years ago...

Meta-jester

Rob, perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but I don't see how "sex" by itself can produce novelty in creatures. In any event, how would a Darwinist say sexual differentiation arose if not through random mutation?

Random mutations is problematic. It's impossible to name a random mutation that's had an salutary effect. If random mutations were helpful, radiation would produce creatures more reminiscent of B-movies ("50-foot Woman", "Godzilla", etc.) than the cancerous unfortunates of reality.

MJ

amba

"Random mutations is problematic." MJ, that's my problem with the theory of evolution in a nutshell.

The Anchoress

Through a very circuitous route, I am very glad to have found this piece.

amba

I am very glad you did.

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