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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Comments

Marcus Cicero

Very sensible man.

Thanks for this.

sleipner

The important thing is...ID being a new, untested, unsupported theory belongs (if anywhere) in a college research lab. Not in any junior high classroom!!!

That is the issue that has all the evolutionists fuming. Not that we categorically reject any inquiry into ID, but that its proponents' entire raison d'etre is to push this unsupported viewpoint into the minds of unsuspecting children, and give it the same credence without evidence or review as real, provable science.

Sure, discuss ID all you want. Research ID all you want. But don't just make the unsupported claim that it is true and then ramrod it through ignorant education boards into science classes.

Tom Strong

Well-said, Sleipner. That's an important aspect that has mostly been left unsaid at deansworld.

amba

Sleipner, first of all, they DON'T "make the unsupported claim that it is true." As they DO say at Dean's World, they propose it as an alternative and, they claim, falsifiable hypothesis.

As to suggesting to impressionable minds that we might not know all there is to know about the origin of life and species, here's part of Doc Rampage's comment I didn't quote:

I think one of the biggest advantages of the anti-evolution movements is that they create skeptics. . . . Of course there are always a few people like Dean who are just natural skeptics, but most of us tend to be more trusting, and that early experience with questioning science is an important learning experience.

In other words, you might actually be teaching the little buggers . . . critical thinking! Question the priest! And question the scientist!

Chris Hallquist

They do deserve credit for getting people to think. I became pretty bored with creationism after my mother (a PhD in biochemistry) explained to me the diference between the real laws of thermodynamics and the imaginary creationist version. ID sparked my interest in evolution again, with more credible arguements (at least comapred to young-earthers).

More thoughts on a recent blog post of mine.

sleipner

I don't think of ID as being a way to spark young minds into scientific inquiry methods. The problem is that its ties to religion become immediately apparent in the way that people want this taught.

They want the teachers to inject uncertainty into the parts of evolution that really have NO uncertainty, as ID mostly discusses the evolutionary process that is relatively well understood, documented, and researched. The entire purpose for this is to make the students less doubtful of the outrageous claims of religions.

It would be like teaching Flat Earth Society propaganda in a geography class. Instead of ID, they should discuss the various more reputable sub-theories of evolution--there are far more concepts and evidences inherent in evolutionary theory than could ever be taught in a single year, or ten years for that matter.

Plus there is some dissent as to the exact mechanisms and progression of evolution. Those topics actually have scientific legitimacy, and are fully capable of instilling inquiry without resorting to topics that instead of promoting knowledge and understanding of scientific inquiry attempt to stifle it instead.

ID is still merely at the stage of religious dogma, with no valid falsifiable premises or predictions, and no real evidence other than the desire of its proponents that it be so. Until and unless any real evidence appears for its existence, it does NOT belong anywhere but the research lab or the church.

JJay

As interesting as sleipner's views are on ID, they have to be balanced against those he holds on pederasty and the National Man Boy Love Association.

Laniker

Before I say anything, I must come clean and say that I am unaware of exactly how the curriculum of evolution is currently taught in our public schools. But, however it is taught, it ought to be taught within the scope of science.

The scientific method consists of gathering empirical evidence carefully and only making conclusions based on the most rigorous of logic. Because we have defined this process as science, science cannot, nor ever will be able to, produce the reason *why* things happen. All it can say is *what* happens. Look at physical forces. We talk about electromagnetic forces and say that positively and negatively charged ions attract each other. You then ask the scientist, Why? Our answer: A nucleus with less electrons than it *ought* to have has an *affinity* to attract extra electrons, and so magnesium ions, which are lacking, bond with oxygen ions, which have extra. But this doesn't explain why, it gives more details as to *what* is happening. Why is this affinity there at all? Our answer: we have no clue.

In terms of evolution, it is scientific to say that all evidence suggests common ancestors and to map out what that tree looks like. But saying that God made it happen and saying that God had no part in it are equally unscientific. Once you start to talk about why, you are in the area of philosophy or theology. Students should be taught (explicitly and implicitly) that there is a distinction. If we're going to have philosophy class in high schools, it should be labeled a philosophy class.

Laniker

note--when I say *why*, I'm referring to the original why, what early scientists referred to as the "Original Cause"

sleipner

Hrm...out of context yet again, Jjay, and totally off topic too.

amba

Laniker,

Good point, that neither "God did it" or "There is no God and He didn't do it" belongs in science class. We can only talk about "what" we know.

However, why not teach, e.g., the controversy over the bacterial flagellum? "It's so intricate it looks like it was designed. Here's how evolutionists think such a thing could plausibly have come about. But of course we're not 100% sure."

I go back to William Dembski's remark that in critiques of Intelligent Design, "the designer . . . is claimed to be 'supernatural,' when in fact the nature of nature is precisely what’s at issue, and the designer could be perfectly natural provided that nature is understood aright." In other words, there could be an intelligence at work in nature itself, something that is aware rather than blind, random and merely material.

The intuitive sticking point for me in the theory of evolution -- and this was so long before I ever heard of ID -- is whether mutation is really totally random. Most random mutations are lethal or deleterious. Could the intricacy of life really have been built up one random mutation at a time?

The more I think about it, the more I think having an evolution-vs.-design debate in science class would be a good way to teach evolutionary theory. If a scintilla of doubt remained, that would just be the truth, wouldn't it?

sleipner

There are in my opinion two completely separate versions of ID. One postulates an exterior intelligence, and the other postulates some form of self-selective mutation.

The former is the one I object to...where is this putative intelligence? Pretty much the only possibility is God or space aliens.

The latter is nothing more than a set of concepts already inherent in some variants of evolutionary theory, and really doesn't need a separate title to distinguish it. The question can be reduced to, "Does environment and/or the individual organism have the capacity to affect the direction and pace of evolution within an individual's offspring."

In other words, can a fish, simply by realizing that it would be advantageous to be bigger, influence its offspring to be more likely to be bigger? This could theoretically occur either as a "placebo effect" caused by the fish itself, or by some evolved capability within the genome of all species to more rapidly adapt than mere natural selection would allow.

I think my biggest objection to the phrase is the name itself, as it sounds precisely like repackaged creationism. As I mention above, some theories within ID may actually be valid scientific inquiry, but once you start looking at deific involvement or cosmic universal consciousnesses you start pushing all my Jesus-freak buttons.

Lebon

About Intelligent Design
ID is most often and wrongly linked to God and creationism, as opposed to Darwinism and evolutionism. We are there in fact facing an old philosophical problem transposed this time from man to the universe: the difficult and even impossible distinction between what is innate and what is acquired. But the reader of my pages http://controlled-hominization.com/ will perhaps agree that evolutionism is not in contradiction with all forms of ID. As a materialist, I think that the confrontation between both concepts is sterile and that a synthesis is even possible.
If any great complexity of a feature could not exclude evolutionism, science itself could not reject some forms of ID in the evolution of the universe, at least in some steps of the process. After all, man himself is already a local actor in this evolution, an actor showing little intelligence so far (global warming, life sciences …). He could however be led to play a greater and nobler part if he succeeds to survive long enough (dissemination of life in the cosmos, “terraforming” of planets, planetary and even stellar formation, artificial beings…). The development of this kind of “draft ID” could only be limited by our refusal to do so and by our ability to survive. We would be viewed as gods by our ancestors from the middle Ages, and we would also view our descendants as gods if we could return in a few hundreds or thousands years.
By his refusal to consider that intelligence could already have played a significant part in the evolution of this universe, man takes in fact for granted that he is the most advanced being. It is in fact just another way for placing himself once again in the middle of everything, as for the Earth before Galileo. This anthropocentric view is not very rational.
Within the frame of evolutionism, the concept of ID could however be applied to the future man if he manages to survive long enough to be able to play a significant part in the evolution of this solar system, in the galaxy, and why not more. And it could also apply to eventual advanced ET preceding man in this cosmic part, advanced ET who could for instance, thanks to their science, have already played a significant part, even if they were themselves born from random processes.
Without going back to a controversial God, pure intelligence born from random processes is so far too easily ignored in the evolution of this universe, and I think that this choice has more to do with faith in man’s solitude in the universe than with true science. Even if it appears later that the ID concept has yet never been used by other beings in this universe, what could prevent man from applying it in the future? As with the Big Bang, ID would certainly remain in the field of hypotheses, but science progresses that way, and it would not be scientific to exclude one hypothesis that could be quite credible. ID is too easily discarded and laughed at, somewhat like continental drift not long ago, and a lot of other concepts too.
Benoit Lebon

amba

Thank you. In fact, when we began to have a crude inkling of genetic engineering, the thought also struck me that "If even we can do this, why couldn't someone else have done it much better?" The coexistence of several different protohominid species (as just discovered for H. erectus and H. Habilis), and, later, the coexistence in time of several different species of early man, sure makes it look as if someone was experimenting. I don't see any point in leaping to "belief" in any of these speculations, but as you say, why rule them out??

Mikkel

Amba, I've seen Dr. Behe have a "debate" (unfortunately it wasn't a debate, just him talking and then a pro-evolutionist, who happens to be a very devout Jew, so he talked about some background of how Judiasm views the topic) in person.

There is no problem with him criticizing evolution or the Darwinian process. However, from his talk it became very clear that he didn't fully comprehend the important points of the theory.

Specifically, he focuses on the random mutations part, and NOT the natural selection part. Random mutations are meaningless without selection. Secondly, he confuses present structure with purpose. The crux of his argument is that since the current design is so complicated and relies on many parts working together, that there is no way they all mutated at the same time.

I suppose this is his falsifiable proposal and really highlights the flaw in his thinking "Behe's new book, The Edge of Evolution, provides some hard numbers, coupled with an ingenious argument. The key to determining the exact powers of Darwinian evolution, says Behe, lies with fast-reproducing microbes. Some, such as malaria, HIV, and E. coli, reproduce so quickly that within a few decades, or at most a few millennia, they generate as many mutations as a larger, slower-breeding animal would in millions of years. By observing how far these creatures have evolved in recent times, we can estimate the creative limits of random mutation."

Re: the complexity that couldn't have arisen at the same time. No one is claiming that it did, but that the function was different along the way. This is seen perfectly and definitively in the Genome project. Animals of very different species share a lot of the same genes that are basically identical, however, the expression of those genes can be extremely different. In some animals a certain gene might only affect one part of its development, but in another, that same gene can affect three or four or ten parts of development. In addition, the same function (say how breathing works) may be controlled by different genes...to the point where one gene that affects breathing in one animal is present in another, but doesn't participate.

Dr. Behe's example of flagellum is along this line. It very well could have had operated completely differently before the last piece evolved, and just because we take something out now and it breaks doesn't mean anything.

But more importantly is about natural selection. He literally said "and so then there is natural selection, but that's not important to my argument." Actually, it drives the entire theory of evolution!

There are computer programs called genetic algorithms that use Darwinian principles to solve very complex problems. They have "genetic code," random mutation, "breed" and "die" based on a selection function. If the function that determines how well something is working is wrong, then the program doesn't work at all. Yet if it is correct, then it can come up with better solutions to current so complex and/or strange that people couldn't think of it.

The professor that went after Dr. Behe demonstrated this point by having a genetic algorithm create a picture of a smiley face. He ran one with just random mutations and obviously nothing happened. But when he had something that had random mutations and selected the best "genetic line" based on how much it looked like the smiley face...within a few hundred iterations there was a smiley face.

Dr. Behe's falsifiable experiment does not satisfy this condition. Simply having something reproduce over and over again without the complexity of the real world will lead to nothing (not to mention it took billions of years for it to lead to something even in the real world). Also, once an organism is complex then it is more likely that single mutations can be integrated in new and interesting ways...so single celled organisms aren't likely to grow legs any time soon.

amba

Thanks Mikkel --

I actually have a post on that computer simulation of evolution, if I can find it from the titles. ... I can't, that fast. Anyway, IIRC one of the objections raised was that there was a human intelligence rewarding predetermined outcomes. It was teleological in a way that evolution supposedly is not.

You've actually raised one of the problems with evolutionary theory: what governs gene expression??

Mikkel

Yes the example of the smiley face is not a good one because the outcome is predetermined. When they use it to solve real problems, they have very basic rules on how things should act, but not the structure of how it accomplishes it. They've made robots that have simple "brains" completely with simulated neural networks this way.

The argument is that this usage is not teleological because the criteria for what makes life successful is pretty unchanged: eat and reproduce. Some simulations of "planets" with a sun, different varieties of plants and a couple animals (with semi-realistic properties) competing have shown that the ratios of plant to animals and lifespan/reproductive rate/etc. need to be pretty close to what we actually see in nature or everything falls apart. My friend made one and tried a long time to get a weird configuration to work but never could. All genetic algorithms also create results that display punctuated equilibrium and other strange phenomena that aren't implicit to the system (or evolutionary theory) but seen in real life as well.

As for gene expression? I'm not sure, I know very little about it. I will ask some of my friends who work with that. My feeling is that we don't know though.

Mikkel

Correction: they don't say how things should "act" but just that has goals it needs to accomplish. It can fulfill them in any way. (Most "OK" iterations for the robots just go in slow spirals if you don't tell them to try and do something quickly, because that's a good way of covering ground)

amba

I believe the "evolving" strings were finding ways to carry out certain simple mathematical operations.

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