RE: Dawkins etc

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Fri Aug 31 2001 - 11:42:16 BST

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    From: Vincent Campbell <>
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    Subject: RE: Dawkins etc
    Date: Fri, 31 Aug 2001 11:42:16 +0100
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            <It's a testament to the power of morphic resonance that any two
    species with
    > different genes and proteins end up appearing and behaving as incredibly
    > closely as many of the marsupials and placentals. (Not to mention the S.
    > American and Australian marsupials.) The improbability that these
    > parallels
    > result *exclusively* from natural selection is beyond calculation. Why
    > should wolves appear? Why should cats appear? Why should flying
    > squirrels
    > appear? It's absurd that natural selection, by itself, would produce the
    > same array of creatures twice in two different places.>
            Well really.... What's this obsession with asking 'why' questions
    all the time, as though there was some purpose to natural selection? The
    animals you mentioned emerged because the environment offered a niche for
    organisms to exploit, and they happened to be the ones to exploit it. The
    fact that particular niches (Dawkins' calls them 'trades') have been
    exploited time and again is a demonstration of this, not a refutation of it.
    Remember a significant proportion of life on Earth today, on land certainly,
    is only here because a bloody great asteroid helped wipe out the dinosaurs,
    unless you're going to claim that the dinosaurs resonated to the Kupier belt
    or Oort cloud to one of the asteriods in a mass suicide pact. When the
    dinosaurs where removed, surviving organisms began to occupy the vacant
    ecological niches.
            That this post-asteroid process occured entirely through natural
    selection is clearly not as improbable as the chances of you understanding
    it appear to be.

            <Neanderthal evolved from Homo heidelbergensis a minimum of 500,000
    > ago. The most recent spurt in brain growth occurred between 500 and 200
    > Kya. This spurt was almost identical in the African and Eurasian lineages
    > of Homo sapiens. The result is that Neanderthal had the same brain size
    > and
    > identifiable neural structures as modern humans.>
            Are you basing this on surviving neanderthal brains, because I was
    kind of under the impression that the most we had were skulls, which tells
    us something about size, and very little about capability.

            < Their advanced vocal tracts, which evolved after the split from
    our common ancestor, were also
    > the same. Here's Stephen Mithen from The Prehistory of the Mind (page
    > 141):
    > "The hyoid is a bone that can provide detailed information about the
    > structure of the vocal tract. Its movement affects the position and
    > movement of the larynx to which it is attached. That found at Kebara,
    > lying
    > in an undisturbed position with the mandible and cervical vertebra, is
    > virtually identical to that of a Modern Human with regard to its shape,
    > muscular attachments and apparent positioning."
    > While these parallels could theoretically result from natural selection,
    > the
    > combination of morphic influences and natural selection is far more
    > plausible.>
            No it isn't because there's no evidence for MR, and no way to test
    for it. Besides, this week's New Scientist reports that a study has shown
    that Red and Fallow deer both have dropped larynxes, previously thought to
    only occur in humans. Mithen wouldn't have known this of course when
    writing his book (which is good from the bits I've read. I don't recall him
    mentioning MR at all though).

    >>To get MR's foot in the door
    >> with me, you'd have to prove that there is something that current
    > >> thinking clearly doesn't have a hope of explaining.
            <The quality of being alive.>

            Just coz you don't want to accept the mechanistic processes that
    underpin your existence, doesn't mean they're not there. If you want to
    believe in some kind of life force then sciene is not the plcae you're going
    to find it (those neat fictions some call religions have some great just-so
    stories that might appeal).

            <All organic structure irreducible to genes.>

            Who said all organic structure was reducible to genes?

            <Mind and memory.>

            Yeah right. Cut out your brain and plop it on the table. Now show
    me you've got mind or memory without it.

            <Self-existence and self-determination.>

            What does 'self- existence' mean? The concept of 'I'? Try reading
    Daniel Dennett, for starters.
            As to self-determination. Nice bit of wishful thinking.

            < Convergent evolution not explainable according to natural
    selection or species-hopping
    > genes. >
            Tell you what. You keep misreading and selectively quoting stuff,
    and I'll keep going back to source and show how they show convergent
    evolution is perfectly explainable by natural selection, and you can keep
    ignoring that. We'll be here forever perhaps as you clearly want to deny
    this coz you know that if you accept this the whole edifice falls down
    around you.

            <Cumulative progress across generations of a given species in
    > completing specific tasks.>
            There's no credible, reproduced evidence for this, and anecdotes of
    hundreth monkeys and the like have been ridiculed by serious scientists with
    good reason.

            <The passing on of acquired characteristics.>

            Such as? There's a name for this you know- Lamarckism. It kind of
    went out of fashion after, oh what's his name.... oh yeah Darwin, came

            Even in human culture, Lamarckism isn't necessarily what is going on
    (I'm trying to be fair to those on the list like Kenneth, who seem to be
    pro-Lamarck for culture). Hey, guess what? This sentence is actually on
    topic! I could even stick in the word memes here without it looking like a
    vain effort to pretend we're on topic.

            <Non-materially coordinated behavior among groups.>

            How many more times? All sorts of cogent explanations for flocking
    birds etc. have been offered- some you even nearly acknowledged (the viisual
    field of birds), but clearly you don't want to accept the reality of that.

            <Those are the more significant ones.>

            And merely within the few days of interaction on this list they've
    been argued away at various levels- from my more pedantic examination of
    sources/evidence cited, to the more philosophical arguments from others
    (such as Joe's demolition of your notion of time).

            You are doing very well to keep going, but for me you've reached the
    stage of refusing to see jupiter's moons through the telescope, because to
    do so would make your world crumble.


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