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

realpc

amba,
I think the debate is really about whether or not neo-Darwinism should be presented to students as an already established, empirically verified, scientific theory.
No ID theorist is claiming to know how life originated or how new species evolved. ID is skeptical about neo-Darwinism, which is the standard mainstream theory. There are many professors who explain evolution theory as if evidence had been found to support the standard mainstream version -- this is simply not true.
There is evidence for evolution and there is evidence for adaptation by natural selection. There is no evidence for the neo-Darwinian theory.
Our mainstream science is mechanistic, and the great success of modern technology reinforces mechanistic assumptions about life. Scientists, in general, want to believe that the mechanistic approach will answer our questions and solve our problems.
Neo-vitalist scientists like Sheldrake are ignored, and the result is that scientific progress in certain areas is stalled. There is no real understanding of mental illness, there is minimal progress in cancer research. Our understanding is blocked because the mechanistic approach is so popular.
All of this is understandable, and no one can deny that progress in technology has been amazing. But a whole lot is missing, and I think that is all the ID theorists are trying to say. They do not have answers, or a specific theory to promote. They are merely pointing out that scientific materialism has some very obvious limitations.

sleipner

I beg to differ on your statement that "neo-Darwinism has no evidence" backing it up. That is simply outrageous...there are mountains of evidence in many disciplines backing up this theory.

According to Wikipedia, neo-Darwinism is merely the contention that genetic variations in populations arise through a combination of random mutations and genetic recombination through reproduction, and that speciation occurs when populations are reproductively isolated by geographic or other barriers.

Frankly I don't see how anyone with any grounding in science whatsoever could possibly object to this central tenet of evolutionary theory, or ignore the overwhelming mountains of evidence pointing to that concept as at least a huge if not primary contributor to evolution, even if other mechanisms may be involved.

Granted the scientific establishment can sometimes get a bit crabby about new theories coming along, but there's a very good reason for that - there's a lot of crackpots out there. Until and unless those would-be theorists can come up with credible, reproducible research to back up their claims, they are going to be (rightly) ignored. ID theorists still squarely fit within this category.

The biggest problem with ID is that 99% of the movement is funded and directed by those with a single nonscientific political agenda - they don't like evolution because they believe it controverts their belief in God. Therefore, they tell a bunch of Oral Roberts University pseudoscientist types to come up with any possible twisted hypothesis they can that seems to create doubt about evolution where none really exists. Many of the nonreligious supporters of ID believe in it because they cannot philosophically accept a random universe - it is too drab and mechanistic to fit into their worldview.

Certainly evolutionary theory has flaws and areas which are not fully understood - that is true about all scientific fields. However, to claim the entire field is flawed because we do not understand all of the details involved is antiscientific and inane. The correct process is to investigate those areas properly and continue the process of "filling in the gaps" that has gotten us tremendously far in our understanding of biology.

It is entirely possible that further investigation may turn up completely new and previously unexpected methods for rapid speciation, possibly even some method related to ID. However, until those methods have solid, scientific research backing up their claims, they canNOT be regarded as science, (or at best are hypothesis and not yet theory) and belong only in the research lab or philosophy course.

realpc

"According to Wikipedia, neo-Darwinism is merely the contention that genetic variations in populations arise through a combination of random mutations and genetic recombination through reproduction, and that speciation occurs when populations are reproductively isolated by geographic or other barriers."

First, if Wikipedia says something that does not mean we should mindlessly accept it as fact.
Second, neo-Darwinism is the contention that the genetic variations that are selected from are ALWAYS random errors. The variations never occur in response to environmental changes, for example.
Neo-Darwinism assumes there is no such thing as a life force or energy, and it insists that biology can ultimately be explained in terms of physics.
There is evidence to support evolution, and there is evidence to support adaptation by natural selection. But neo-Darwinism is entirely based on scientific materialism, which is an ideology, a matter of faith. There is NO evidence to support neo-Darwinism.


gljunket

WAY more than I NEED to know, methinks! So you tell me, oh wondrous point/counter-point, either/or debate teams, why should I care? What's wrong with my comfort in daily amazement and awe (quite different from shock and awe!) at our sciences of nature and the universe, and our rapidly expanding understanding, NOT being incompatible with the trendy buzz-label, ID? I have no trouble with ID not being taught in science, as long as I can still appreciate science (including evolution/adaptation by natural selection) as the current extent of our understanding, which doesn't EXCLUDE ID at all! For me, it's the best argument FOR ID. Did Darwin say they had to be mutually exclusive? If so, then I do think Darwin was wrong, and not very scientifically open-minded. I don't know about "neo's." Yet. Maybe your response will enlighten me.

Eustochius

RealPC,

I don't mean to be pedantic but you don't seem to grasp the point I was trying to make in the last thread: namely, that science works by hypothesis construction and considers a hypothesis strengthened if its PREDICTIONS are verified.

You complain that neo-darwinists have no proof that mutation is always random. Well, that's not how science works. Science doesn't prove anything per se. Science can falsify a hypothesis but it can't prove one. It can only show that the predictions that are derived from a hypothesis check out.

For instance, take Newton's law of universal gravitation. Science accepted it because every time they tested its predictions it worked.

However, later on it was shown that it areas of very strong gravitation that Newton's predictions didn't hold. Thus, Newton was falsified.

The fact is it's impossible to show that something ALWAYS and everywhere is true. You may have seen a thousand white swans but the next swan you meet may be black. All science is like this.

Again, in the case of evolution, scientists make materialist assumptions and they consider them verified when the data checks out. Why makes those assumptions? As I said before, it's Occam's razor. If you don't need to introduce a supernatural agency or an extra force, don't. Make your hypotheses as simple as possible and assuming randomness is the simplest hypothesis you can make. If the data accord with this assumption, you can consider your assumption verified but not proved.

So you're absolutely right that science has not proved that neo-darwinism is true. But that's an empty claim. Science can't prove anything. There could always be the 1001st black swan to walk around the corner and destroy your assumption that all swans are white. However, neo-darwinism does have evidence supporting its position. The evidence is that when you make materialist assumptions, the world checks out. I won't say it's bulletproof but to say that it has no evidence in support of it's views is to show a fundamental misunderstanding of the scientific enterprise.

It's up to the Sheldrakes and Dembskis of the world to find that black swan, to find that piece of evidence that neo-darwinism cannot explain AND that ID can. If it does that, than neo-darwinism is falsified. In that case, you would have evidence in favor of ID. However, still you'd have to somehow justify that an infinite being was involved and not just some unknown material process.

Even so, I do agree with you that scientists are sometimes sloppy philosophers and act as if they have proven something when really they have just provided evidence for something. As I said earlier, for non-materialist theories to become science, they need to show that they can explain phenomenon better than can a science based on materialism. But again, science works via occam's razor. Meaning it will go for the materialist explanation as long as it works because it's simpler.

Both laypeople and scientists need to hold these facts about science firmly in mind, so that laypeople do not unfairly criticize science and so scientists do not become close-minded and arrogant.

Eustochius

gljunket,

I myself have a bit of a mystical streak and there's nothing wrong with embracing both spiritual views and scientific ones. The problem comes when one mistakes a spiritual view with a scientific view. We just want to be careful about which is which. In your daily life it may not matter, but if we want to produce the best scientists, our kids should be able to distinguish the two.

Eustochius

Finally, a recent article shows that wikipedia is as accurate as britannica, even more so on scientific topics.

Eustochius

This goes well with the theme of this post and is in the same spirit: article on ID from booker rising

realpc

"in the case of evolution, scientists make materialist assumptions and they consider them verified when the data checks out."

No, the assumption that all mutations are random has not been verified. All that can reasonably be said is that NO ONE KNOWS what causes beneficial mutations. If we don't know the cause of something, we do not normally assume the cause is random.
ID theory merely says we don't know, and we are not justified in assuming the process is entirely random. It does not appear to be random, and ID researchers feel they have convincing evidence that it would be impossible for a random, mechanistic process to have created even the simplest life forms.
ID is a threat to scientific materialism, and that is why it is so strongly resisted.
Sheldrake supports his theories with evidence, but the evidence is ignored or denied by so-called skeptics who represent mainstream science, which is devoutly materialist.


amba

realpc, I agree with you; to me random mutation is the unconvincing part of neo-Darwinism, and also the place, it seems to me, where some kind of experiment could possibly be designed.

It's ironic, though, that you said that materialist science is "mechanistic" and that it is the great success of our technology that makes us believe in it -- when the argument ID scientists are making is that the bacterial flagellum, e.g., looks exactly like a piece of technology, a little machine!

realpc

amba,
Yes, well living things are machines -- if the word "machine" is defined as an object that was designed for some purpose.
When I say that our science is "mechanistic," I really mean that it denies the super-physical aspects of life -- the morphic fields, life energy, etc., that cannot be perceived by our senses or measured by our instruments.
Living creatures are physical machines, but they are also spiritual machines. I believe that the physical world that our senses perceive is only a very small part of what exists. (Well, maybe that goes without saying.)
According to digital physics, everything is information. Information is made of relationships; it is not constructed out of anything that could be called material. If everything is information (and I think it is), then everything is intelligence. If everything is intelligence, then of course evolution is directed and purposeful.

Eustochius

"No, the assumption that all mutations are random has not been verified."

Again, this is an impossible task. Scientists can't examine each and every of the gizzilion mutations that has ever occurred. What you're saying is like: "How does science know that my stomach produces pepsinogen (a stomach enzyme)? They haven't looked at my stomach!" Which of course is an absurd request. To me what seems a reasonable request is to ask (1) are the mutations we see today random and (2) is the assumption that mutations occur randomly sufficient to explain the data. I suspect that within a reasonable degree of certainty, for the cases examined, this is true. If ID can point, and I think they are trying, to things that can't be explained via this randomness, well that's what they should be doing. But my impression is that the jury is still out on a lot of their examples, at best.

Look, I'm not at all opposed to spirituality or to new scientific theories, but you seem to be saying that they have NO evidence whatsoever that mutation is random. But that's just crazy talk. And I'm sure you think so too, if you thought about it. You don't think the hand of God is always guiding every single little bilogical process, do you? That God has his hand in making anti-biotic resistant bacteria and new species of roundworms? Surely, God is not micromanaging every thing, from Hurricane Katrina to the multiplication of bacteria in your intestines? You even admit as such in that you say ALL mutations. Meaning you assume that most mutations ARE random.

"All that can reasonably be said is that NO ONE KNOWS what causes beneficial mutations."

Well, technically you don't know for absolutely certain that you're not just a brain in a vat.

However, if mutations are random, every once in a while a beneficial mutation will arise just by dumb luck. As long as the number of beneficial mutations produced are not larger than that expected by chance, then we're home free. That's the beauty of evolutionary theory--it's parsimony. Think about it this way, according to neo-darwinism,God made a universe that was constructed so that it just produced life spontaneously through natural selection. That's a pretty nifty thought, making a world that sort of constructs itself.

"If we don't know the cause of something, we do not normally assume the cause is random."

If chance is sufficient to explain something we don't. And that's the heart of the debate. Is chance sufficient?

"ID theory merely says we don't know, and we are not justified in assuming the process is entirely random."

Unless, we see something non-random in action, yes we do. Occam's razor. Look we need to distinguish between science and philosophy here. From a philosophical standpoint, we don't know and aren't justified in being absolutely certain that all mutations are random. There might be that black swan out there.

However, science aims to be a lean explanatory machine and therefore will get away with as few assumptions as necessary. Until it sees that black swan, it will go on the assumption that all swans are white especially if it's seen 10 million swans and has looked high and low for the black one and has come up dry.

Assuming randomness is much simpler than assuming an intervening force because randomness requires no explanation.

"It does not appear to be random, and ID researchers feel they have convincing evidence that it would be impossible for a random, mechanistic process to have created even the simplest life forms."

What do you mean it doesn't appear to be random? Life is complex sure, but that's not the question.

It's true they feel that way, and I would like for them to be right, but . . . .

"ID is a threat to scientific materialism, and that is why it is so strongly resisted.
Sheldrake supports his theories with evidence, but the evidence is ignored or denied by so-called skeptics who represent mainstream science, which is devoutly materialist."

Scientific orthodoxy is a problem but when the ID folks try to back door it through the schools and hang out with biblical literalists, it's a problem. It's resisted because of scientific orthodoxy, but it's also resisted because religious people have a really bad history of being sucky scientists. We still have people who believe that every word in the bible is literally true, and a lot of them. It's also resisted because it goes against Occam's razor. What hard evidence do you have that an infinite, all-powerful deity exists, after all? Just because something is not understood, we only want to invoke such an all-powerful being if there is no other explanation. If you thought about it, I'm sure you'd agree. If I find a card on my table, I could assume that it was placed there by an omnipotent being OR maybe my roommate did it. Both explain the data but one is explanatory overkill. However, if I see a card materialize out of thin air, then we can start talking God.

Science is a lean green explanatory machine remember. Frankly, I think the religious people are to blame more for this than the scientists. The fact is that science will eventually change it's opinion even if it takes a while. But a religious person is often bound to hold certain truths come what may. If religious people were as open to changing their creeds as scientists are, we wouldn't have this problem. I too lament scientific orthodoxy, but in this case, it's quite understandable. I really don't think you can say that the ID people have behaved better than the orthodox scientists. Maybe some IDers in isolation, but as a movement, no.

Finally,
it is natural to assume that mutations would be randomly distributed for several reasons. First, and most obviously, is that random processes require no explanation.

Second, quantum mechanical processes are random. Third, thermal motion is also random and that's what allows for chemical reactions in cells, all the little molecules are moving around very rapidly and bump into each. When the right two bump into each they can react. And that's how DNA replication proceeds, all the little molecules are jiggling around very rapidly, and thus coming into contact very frequently, and thus allowing for biochemical reactions to proceed at a swift pace.

Look, my mystical inclinations lean me in favor of non-materialist explanations but it seems to me that it's more the burden of the ID folks to show that randomness is insufficient to do the job. And that requires detailed looking into the guts of things.

Eustochius

Real PC: "I really mean that it denies the super-physical aspects of life -- the morphic fields, life energy, etc., that cannot be perceived by our senses or measured by our instruments."

(1)Science should be open to the possibility that there are such things but perhaps we aren't able to measure them yet. But it's crazy talk to think that science should accept entities it can't measure, directly or indirectly. If science did that, our technology would really suck.

Philosophically and spiritually believing in such things is a different matter. But trust me, you don't want science to invoke quantites for which it has no good evidence.

I agree that science should be more humble and be open to the possibility of such things, but I think you are being very uncharitable to the scientists. I have a hand in both of these though. I have my mystical inclinations but my background is in science, so I feel you are exaggerating scientists' failings.

sleipner

I humbly bow to the greater explanatory wisdom of Eustochius ;)

In other words, yeah, what he said.

I think one very interesting potential "directed" evolutionary process is in sexual partner selection. Say you have a drought, and a bunch of proto-camels are living in that area.

Presumably the ones who can store more water probably not only survive, but end up healthier looking and stronger than those who don't.

So which animals are going to be mating? The healthier ones, of course. The others might not have the energy, and even if they do they're less likely to bring offspring to term.

This is a slight variant of the true "survival of the fittest" paradigm, the point being, you don't necessarily have to die to fulfill the requirements for Darwinian selection.

The point I'm trying to make is that the cause of all speciation is not truly entirely random - competition and sexual partner selection makes a far more efficient weeding mechanism than true randomness.

realpc

sleipner,
You're describing adaptation by natural selection, which no one is arguing against. Natural selecton is not random.
We all know that organisms that are somehow better adapted will survive longer and reproduce more. And organisms that for whatever reason are considered sexier will reproduce more.
What you are saying is well known and was said by Darwin and no one disagrees. It's a part of Darwin's theory that is obviously true, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the current ID controversy.
The controversy is about whether the process of natural selection and adaption can explain the origin of life and the design of new organs and new species. We know that adaptation occurs and we understand the mechanism. The assumption of neo-Darwinism is that evolution is just adaptation over long periods of time.
ID does not say that god steps in at certain moments and meddles with the natural process. ID theorists are more likely to say that the entire universe is alive and intelligent, and naturally evolves in the direction of greater complexity, greater intelligence. There is no mention of a god person interfering with a natural process. Evolution is the natural process.

realpc

"But it's crazy talk to think that science should accept entities it can't measure, directly or indirectly."

Eustochius,
My background is in science also, but I have always questioned the mainstream orthodoxy and have some familiarity with alternative, or "new," science. There is no shortage of evidence, and no shortage of theoretical validation, for these ideas. Mainstream science does not look for life energy, or biologicl fields, so it does not find them. Mainstream science assumes that consciousness depends on a physical brain, so it discounts parapsychology on theoretical grounds, without considering the mountains of evidence.
Physicists infer the existence electromagnetic fields, although they cannot be observed or directly measured. But most biologists refuse to make a similar inference regarding morphogenetic fields. Or, more likely, they were never taught the concept, since it does not fit the mechanistic paradigm.

Eustochius

"ID does not say that god steps in at certain moments and meddles with the natural process. ID theorists are more likely to say that the entire universe is alive and intelligent, and naturally evolves in the direction of greater complexity, greater intelligence. There is no mention of a god person interfering with a natural process. Evolution is the natural process."

RealPC,

I think you're selecting out, in my view, the most elegant and responsible of ID theorists or perhaps more accurately you're conflating the speculations of mystically-inclined pantheists -- of which I consider myself a member -- with the broader ID movement. From what I know, the great majority of the ID movement comes from a Christian perspective and thus does include the idea of an omnipotent being doing some tinkering -- thus intelligent design. Further it appears that the creationists stepped behind ID in order to support it politically -- but they don't think in terms of some intrinsic intelligence that's built into life itself, they think in terms of a creator God. And frankly, I think a lot of ID supporters think in a manichean way: meaning they don't accept natural selection -- heck, they may not even believe species have even changed (you know it's a conspiracy, the palentologists made those dinosaur bones!).

But -- and I think we agree on this -- the question of whether natural selection by itself was able to bring off evolution seems unresolved -- at least to a quasi-lay (and lazy) person like myself.

I generally share your mystical inclinations but you seem to exaggerate the failings of mainstream science and ignore the bad behavior of the ID community.

realpc

Eustochius,
I think we basically agree about evolution. I am not concerned with what some non-scientific supporters of ID might believe. Both extreme views -- scientific materialism and Christian creationism -- are wrong, in my opinion. Many people, whether or not they are trained scientists, can see that the ID theorists' claim is quite reasonable, if it is explained to them. The Democrats have distorted the debate by confusing ID theory with the Christian creationism of some of its supporters. We should only consider what the ID theorists actually say, the ones who are scientific and rational, and not hold them responsible for the views of their extremist supporters.

karen

I know this probably isn't relevent, but when speaking of natural selection- it seems humanity doesn't necessarily work w/the strongest matings. We don't always get caught up in the physical (or the $$$$). So, blind women marry bald men, etc... even the mentally challenged get to mate- and the strengths they have are often accounted as weaknesses by the majority of humanity... eh, sleip?

What does this say about natural selection?

Also, being a dairy farmer and using Artificial Insemination (AI) to *mate* our cows, we use a varied # of traits in our breeding program. Type is high on our list, but things like production and componets (protien and fat)are important. And, !st calf heifers need to be bred to *calving ease* sires, or they will possibly die giving birth. Maybe you are talking about natural selections of the past, but w/so much human input screwing up every natural situation in the world- impacting, i guess i should say- how does this impact the true definition of *natural selection*?

Is evolution dead? is the definition changed?

sleipner

Good point Karen about human tinkering with "natural" selection - we effectively exaggerate the effects of sexual mate selection that occurs in the wild. In addition, our works, roads, fences, etc. have created new forms of geographical separation that may be driving evolution faster than before (though certainly not fast enough to keep up with the extinctions we're causing)

A very good example is dogs - 8,000 years ago the ancestors of all modern dogs were probably wolves. Amazing the thousands of breeds that have come about, from toy poodles to Irish wolfhounds to hairless Sharpei in just a few hundred generations of dogs.

If human directed selection can produce that incredible of an array of disparate species in just that short a space of time, then why is it so hard to believe that natural selection over a span 1000 times as long as that could do the same?

Eustochius and RealPC - I see where you're coming from, but I still think that you're assuming the existence of external unmeasurable and unprovable forces because you are too mystical to accept the mechanistic worldview Occam's razor requires, absent any evidence of such a mystical force.

I would also argue that a significant majority of ID supporters, and probably nearly 100% of the ones trying to push it into schools, are of the fundie persuasion.

Certainly the philosophical and even scientific investigation into the possibility of morphogenetic fields and universal unconsciousness manipulating or directing the development of life is a worthwhile speculation.

But as I've maintained from the beginning - until it has more evidencial grounding, it has no business in any but a religion, philosophy or a graduate student science course, and should not be used as a weapon by evolution's opponents to create doubt in the minds of the gullible and science-challenged.

karen

I think, sleip, that the point will be forever missed as long as people, IMhO, usurp the place of honour.

Humans choose mates by emotion, along w/alot of pheremones... You would most likely *limit* the gene pool and, therefore, mess up the nature of the selections. How long has this been going on- humanly?

Where are the smartypants?

Is evolution dead? Or... like every other Liberal definition... changed to fit the time at hand. Like moral values by Howard Dean and abortion by the great doctor/abotionist in Australia- the one that creates new life for aborted women? I may be *labeled* a fundie by those I *label* Liberal.

It's an idea that's been around since- well, how long has the Bible been around? The Torah? The Jewish peoples? Any story of a Creator?
And, no mention of the possibilities? Skip the thought of any Intelligent Desiginer?

Yeah, well- what the hell are we exploring space for? Signs of life having existed there- lakes, soil, the colour of rocks- any rocks at all?

If one gets mentioned- all should be mentioned as possibilities of the *Beginning*.

Isn't that what science classes are supposed to do? Present questions and prove theories? isn't it worth the mention of a question?

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