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Simon Conway Morris: “Fossil evidence demands a radical rewriting of evolution.”

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Were we talking about Simon Conway Morris?

Yeah, we were. And get a load of this, from Cambridge Alumni Magazine (#65 Lent, p. 32):

Paleobiologist Professor Simon Conway Morris says that examination of the fossil evidence demands a radical rewriting of evolution.

Stephen Wilson, “Rethinking evolution,” Cambridge Alumni Magazine

, 2012, no.65, p.32-35.

Remember, this guy isn’t poison yet because he doesn’t agree that there is evidence for design in nature. But he says,

The idea is this: that convergence – the tendency of very different organisms to evolve similar solutions to biological problems – is not just part of evolution, but a driving force. To say this is an unconventional view would be something of an understatement. To start with an example of convergence (itself an astonishing phenomenon), take the “camera eye” – an eye comprising a lens suspended between two fluid-filled chambers, and the kind of eye which you are using to read this feature.

“If you go to the octopus and, if you’re not too squeamish, dissect it, you’ll find that it has a camera eye which is remarkably similar to our own,” says Conway Morris. “And yet we know that the octopus belongs to an invertebrate group called the cephalopod molluscs, evolutionarily very distant indeed from the chordates to which we belong.

“The common ancient ancestor of molluscs and chordates could not possibly have possessed a camera eye, so quite clearly they have evolved independently. The solution has been arrived at by completely different routes.” Or, in other words, evolution has converged on a solution.

Most biologists agree that convergence is a common occurrence; but Conway Morris goes a step further, believing that evolution converges on the best possible solution, rather than on a best fit, random solution (leading many commentators to accuse him of being a creationist – something he finds amusing, but says is rubbish).

“It all comes down to not whether convergence takes place, but whether it means anything. I think it does, not least because when thinking about the combinatorial possibilities, the numbers of things [biological solutions] that ought to work is ridiculously large, whereas we seem to find that the number of things that actually work is surprisingly small – a very small fraction of all possibilities.”

Conway Morris’d be safer as a design guy. He’d have friends.

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21 Responses to Simon Conway Morris: “Fossil evidence demands a radical rewriting of evolution.”

  1. Poison, you say? It would seem SCM is staying away from the poison quite well so far.

    What makes the author of this thread imagine that Simon Conway-Morris doesn’t have friends being an anti-ID guy?

    In fact, one might easily conclude that SCM has more (possibility of) friends and far more legitimate colleagues for this very reason.

    Why do you ID folks think SCM continues to reject ‘intelligent design’ as hypothetically ‘detectable in nature’ even though he is a religious believer? He is a highly educated guy who surely knows about information as a biological concept and has considered ID arguments carefully.

  2. Well Gregory, perhaps you can enlighten us to the evidence that SCM has towards ‘information as a biological concept’ that makes him reject the design inference. Personally, I can’t seem to find, nor have I’ve ever seen, on the web, through many debates with atheists, any empirical evidence demonstrating the capacity of purely material processes to generate functional information, that has withstood scrutiny.

    The Law of Physicodynamic Insufficiency – Dr David L. Abel – November 2010
    Excerpt: “If decision-node programming selections are made randomly or by law rather than with purposeful intent, no non-trivial (sophisticated) function will spontaneously arise.”,,, After ten years of continual republication of the null hypothesis with appeals for falsification, no falsification has been provided. The time has come to extend this null hypothesis into a formal scientific prediction: “No non trivial algorithmic/computational utility will ever arise from chance and/or necessity alone.”
    http://www-qa.scitopics.com/Th.....iency.html

    The Law of Physicodynamic Incompleteness – David L. Abel – August 2011
    Summary: “The Law of Physicodynamic Incompleteness” states that inanimate physicodynamics is completely inadequate to generate, or even explain, the mathematical nature of physical interactions (the purely formal laws of physics and chemistry). The Law further states that physicodynamic factors cannot cause formal processes and procedures leading to sophisticated function. Chance and necessity alone cannot steer, program or optimize algorithmic/computational success to provide desired non-trivial utility.
    http://www.scitopics.com/The_L.....eness.html

    Is Life Unique? David L. Abel – January 2012
    Concluding Statement: The scientific method itself cannot be reduced to mass and energy. Neither can language, translation, coding and decoding, mathematics, logic theory, programming, symbol systems, the integration of circuits, computation, categorizations, results tabulation, the drawing and discussion of conclusions. The prevailing Kuhnian paradigm rut of philosophic physicalism is obstructing scientific progress, biology in particular. There is more to life than chemistry. All known life is cybernetic. Control is choice-contingent and formal, not physicodynamic.
    http://www.mdpi.com/2075-1729/2/1/106/

    “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain – Michael Behe – December 2010
    Excerpt: In its most recent issue The Quarterly Review of Biology has published a review by myself of laboratory evolution experiments of microbes going back four decades.,,, The gist of the paper is that so far the overwhelming number of adaptive (that is, helpful) mutations seen in laboratory evolution experiments are either loss or modification of function. Of course we had already known that the great majority of mutations that have a visible effect on an organism are deleterious. Now, surprisingly, it seems that even the great majority of helpful mutations degrade the genome to a greater or lesser extent.,,, I dub it “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain.(that is a net ‘fitness gain’ within a ‘stressed’ environment i.e. remove the stress from the environment and the parent strain is always more ‘fit’)
    http://behe.uncommondescent.co.....evolution/

    Michael Behe talks about the preceding paper on this podcast:

    Michael Behe: Challenging Darwin, One Peer-Reviewed Paper at a Time – December 2010
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....3_46-08_00

    Where’s the substantiating evidence for neo-Darwinism?
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1q-PBeQELzT4pkgxB2ZOxGxwv6ynOixfzqzsFlCJ9jrw/edit

    Genetic Entropy – Dr. John Sanford – Evolution vs. Reality – video
    http://vimeo.com/35088933

    Music and verse:

    Apocalypitca – Nothing Else Matters -
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSMXMv0noY4

    Romans 1:20
    For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

  3. I have sometimes heard that one of the best evidences for evolution without design is the concept of “nested heirarchy.” But is convergent evolution a refutation of nested heirarchy?

  4. “It all comes down to not whether convergence takes place . . .”

    Actually, this is a very open question as well, although someone with materialistic blinders wouldn’t be able to see it. I don’t mean it is an open question in the sense of whether two organisms have a similar solution, but in the sense of whether nature happened to blindly stumble upon the same solution twice in her groping about.

    The traditional concept of “convergence” is of course premised upon a wholly naturalistic mechanism, with nature blindly stumbling toward some vague notion of increased fitness. As a result, when you see similar biological solutions in unrelated organisms you have two possible conclusions: either (i) nature got incredibly lucky . . . twice . . . , or (ii) something about nature or its physics and chemistry drive the blind search toward a common solution.

    Morris is taking the latter approach, which, incidentally, is not dissimilar from Denton’s view. The obvious problem and the elephant in the room with this approach is that it only takes a few minutes and a very cursory knowledge of the biological world to come up with a half dozen examples of creatures that did not arrive at a similar solution, even creatures in virtually identical environments. So the idea that two disparate organisms will inevitably converge on a similar solution evaporates under the evidence. As a result we must modify our conclusion in (ii) above as follows: either (a) the organisms aren’t inevitably driven toward a similar solution, but might, sometimes, in some circumstances be driven toward them (which is just another way of saying it happened by “chance”), or (b) there are a very limited number of possible solutions, and therefore the odds are good, though not perfect, that the organisms would converge upon a similar solution. Denton seems to be in this latter camp. It sounds like Morris may be also.

    Of course, based on the evidence, one might rationally take the position that neither (x) chance nor (y) some undefined natural process is driving organisms to similar solutions. Perhaps there is a third possible explanation for why similar biological machines exist in unrelated organisms — one that the materialist is loathe to consider.

  5. 5

    He is a highly educated guy who surely knows about information as a biological concept and has considered ID arguments carefully.

    You think so? I actually would like to question how the entire state of biological sciences have handled the concept of information.

    I would have three immediate questions for Simon Conway Morris:

    1) In this material universe, is it even conceivably possible to record transferable information without utilizing an arrangement of matter in order to represent that information? (by what other means could it be done?)

    2) If 1 is true, then is it even conceivably possible to transfer that information without a second arrangement of matter (a protocol) to establish the relationship between representation and what it represents? (how could such a relationship be established in any other way?)

    3) If 1 and 2 are true, then is it even conceivably possible to transfer information without the irreducibly complex system of these two arrangements of matter (representations and protocols) in operation?

    - – - – - – -

    Also Gregory, if you have a minute, would you please return to a previous conversation here and tell me if you agree with the distinction being made.

    Thanks

  6. Upright Biped @5:

    Excellent questions.

    —–

    BTW, in #2, I presume you mean “If 1 is no, then . . .”

    And in #3, I presume you mean “If 1 and 2 are no, then . . .”

  7. 7

    Hi again Eric. Hope all is well.

    #1 There is no way to record transferable information without utilizing an arrangemt of matter.

    #2 There is no way to transfer that information without a second arrangement of matter to establish the relationship between the represenation and the thing it represents.

    #3 These two arrangments of matter are an irrecucibly complex system that must exists in any system of recorded information transfer.

    I’m happy to discuss with anyone who can demonstrate a system otherwise.

  8. Collin-

    Just about anything can be made into a nested hierarchy- it all depends on the criteria used.

  9. UpBiped Right,

    As usual, totally unreflexive, forgetting the person. Dehumanising. Yes, I know you don’t realise what this means or how to respond to it without derision or attack.

    1) In this material universe, is it even conceivably possible [for human beings] to record transferable information

    Who ‘records’ the ‘information’? Human beings do. You conveniently forget and pretend that it doesn’t matter. But it does.

    “a completely anthropic entity requiring a human observer…” – UpRight BiPed (cited thread)

    Have you bought-in then (like a housing bubble) to the term ‘anthropic principle’ coming from a physicist, from a cosmologist?! This is sheer folly in light of those who actually study anthropos. Yet this (hegemonic) misunderstanding is rampant in USAmerican PoS, otherwise called WAP.

    Your distinction is WAP not worth my effort, friend.

    Repeat: What makes the author of this thread imagine that Simon Conway-Morris doesn’t have friends being an anti-ID guy? Why do you ID folks think SCM continues to reject ‘intelligent design’ as hypothetically ‘detectable in nature’ even though he is a religious believer?

  10. Gregory, your assumption that only human beings record information is unfounded. Upright BiPed’s questions (these particular ones at least) do not depend on identifying the ultimate source of the information. The question is simply how information is recorded, transmitted and received in a physical universe and the implications of that for any communication system and assessing the likely origin of such a system.

  11. 11

    Pardon the pun, but evolutionists are truly blind if they actually believe the nonsense they spout.

  12. Whether you realise it or not, Eric, humans are those ‘we’ communicate with as equals. You are not writing to robots. Non-human information ‘recoders’ are communicatively distinct from ‘us.’ Surely you agree?

    Your expression ‘ultimate source of information’ is either empty or obscure to me without your personal reflexive inclusion of theology or philosophy or worldview, as you prefer. I welcome it, but this is not a (natural) science theme.

    ‘How information is recorded’ without involving the ‘designer/Designer’ in a process of recording is mysterious at best. Who, what, when, where, how – this makes IDM-ID explanatory power weak at best. Likewise, it weakens it as ‘(natural) science.’

    Your appeals to ‘systems thinking’ are noted, though not convincing (because primitive so far) when considering the figures involved.

  13. 13

    Gregory,

    As usual, totally unreflexive, forgetting the person. Dehumanising. Yes, I know you don’t realise what this means or how to respond to it without derision or attack.

    I have not attacked you (not here, or anywhere else that I can remember). Nor do I particularly care about your feelings. If we were having as discussion of Masekela or Monet, then your feelings would probably be more interesting. I have, in fact, enjoyed your exchanges with Timaeus, Nullsalus, and others.

    I did however see you (in typical scorn of ID) conflate physical information with recorded information and asked you to engage on that subject – which you promptly ignored.

    1) In this material universe, is it even conceivably possible [for human beings] to record transferable information

    Who ‘records’ the ‘information’? Human beings do. You conveniently forget and pretend that it doesn’t matter. But it does.

    Verifiably Wrong. This is exactly what I had tried to engage you on previously. So having pointlessly taken out your razor to give me a little of it, perhaps it’s time for you to put up your imagined superiorities, and open your eyes. You took it upon yourself to write the words “for human beings” into my sentence. But why? There is not a creature on the surface of the planet that communicates with any other creature on the surface of the planet without recording information into an arrangement of matter. It cannot be done otherwise. How would you think it could be any different? When a wolf howls, he is recording information into an arrangement of matter to act as a representation within a system – to communicate (transfer) information. The other wolves perceive those representations and have the physical protocols in their brains to actualize their meaning. When a bee dances in flight on the way back to the hive, the other bees see the dance and can respond to it based upon its pattern. They can do so because they have a protocol in their sensory system which allows them to actualize that information. It is not I who has injected anthropomorphism into these observations, it is you. Clearly, you.

    Perhaps if you weren’t looking down your nose, you could see what was directly in front of you. One of the things you might find is the obvious.

  14. Why do you ID folks think SCM continues to reject ‘intelligent design’ as hypothetically ‘detectable in nature’ even though he is a religious believer?

    Perhaps his religion is getting in the way.

  15. “We need a solution – we need Salvation – lets send some people to the Moon to gather information” – Larry Norman

  16. “It is not I who has injected anthropomorphism into these observations, it is you. Clearly, you.” – UB

    This must be a joke in UB’s language to imagine that wolves ‘record’ and ‘calculate’ in a reflexive sense. Why does UB ignore ‘reflexivity’ *completely* in his discourse? Is his dehumanising so purposefully prolific?

    If UB wants to take a (neutral) ‘systems approach’ and impute ‘agency’ to non-human creatures, fine. Then he must take the ‘design’ on the chin by practitioners in that language.

    Otherwise all that is visible in his position is a transfer of ‘designer’ (can’t talk about it!) to ‘recorder,’ which isn’t all that helpful. Human beings are both physical and mental ‘agents’. Soon perhaps UB is going to attribute ‘recordability’ to flowers, rocks and galaxies?

  17. 17

    Gregory,

    This must be a joke in UB’s language to imagine that wolves ‘record’ and ‘calculate’ in a reflexive sense.

    A wolf’s vocalizations (howl, moan, bark, woof, whelp, snarl, etc) are all communications that are sent from one animal to another, or others. Those individual communications (by the reality of this being a material universe) are necessarily communicated through a material medium. Upon massive observation of wolf packs, the participants involved do not become disoriented by their communication, but do (in fact) know what their gestures and vocalizations mean. It seems rather extraordinary that this would be news to you. Whatever point you wish to impart about reflexivity is not germane to the physical observation of those communications. I rather think its a haphazard bluff of no consequence to the observations. Perhaps you can prove me wrong with the details.

    And with the apparent loss of control you demonstrated in your last post, I will leave it at that.

  18. —-Gregory: “As usual, totally unreflexive, forgetting the person. Dehumanising. Yes, I know you don’t realise what this means or how to respond to it without derision or attack.”

    In the liberal arts, reflexivity, or social constructivism, refers to non-linear or circular causation. It is a derivative of Heglian philosophy or dialectical idealism: Thesis A enters into conflict with Thesis B, out of which thesis C emerges as a new reality which, in turn, enters into conflict with thesis D, producing thesis E, and so on., Mutual or circular causation is often associated with such phenomena as “synergy” or “symbiosis, but it does not apply to ID communication models, which are, by definition, linear, as when a sender communicates or causes a one-way message through a medium, to its effect, a receiver.

    Yes, one can think of communication as a “mutual” exchange of thoughts and ideas, or a kind of mutual causation out of which a relationship emerges as the effect, but that same model cannot logically be applied to ID theory or to the origins of the universe. The designer does not collaborate with the design to fashion some new reality. God did not collaborate reflexively with the big bang or with a DNA molecule to produce some third effect. In both cases, the effect proceeds in linear fashion from its antecedent cause. The designer is the cause, the design is the effect; the painter is the cause, the painting is the effect. ID reasons from the effect—the painting, to its cause—the painter.

  19. AMEN.
    Convergent evolution has been the soft underbelly of evolutionary error.
    Its just impossible to expect or predict such endless like responces to like needs in biology by unrelated creatures or features of same.
    A common design from a thinking designer makes greater sense in predicting like responces to like needs.
    Convergent evolution never happaned.
    A m,arsupial wolf is just a placental wolf with minor adaptations due to the early area influence they moved too.

    The Octopus eye thing is case in point that makes silly evolutionary concepts of mutations always johnny on the spot.
    Their is probably just one eye model and the few differences are simply parts of the equation of this single model.
    Octo simply is fine with our eye type and the others have other needs.
    I think creationists could be the leaders on this eye thing and discover ways to manipulate the single eye model for healing eye problems.
    i welcome this personally.
    lets dream and think and imagine.

  20. Joe @ 8 noted

    Just about anything can be made into a nested hierarchy- it all depends on the criteria used.

    Very true, and also for all information in general.

    For anyone who doesn’t believe this, try this experiment. Try to organize, let’s say 12 nouns hierarchically in several ways.

    Let’s say you pick the names of automobile controls. Would you put the accelerator and the brake pedals in a category called Velocity Control? Or would you put the brake pedal and reverse gear in a category called Posterior Lights? How about listing the controls under alphabetical categories, the “DNA” of the words? Or mabe what they look like, their morphology.

    Which way is best?

    -Q

  21. OK, let’s have some fun.

    Did the automobile evolve from the motorcycle or did the motorcycle evolve from the automobile? Which has the more “evolved” engine (two stroke or four)?

    If you were an alien from another planet, how could you tell?

    Oh, and don’t forget the bicycle, the adult tricycle, the paddle steamer (a living fossil who returned to the sea?).

    Was there any convergent engineering taking place?

    And finally, what would the Tree of Wheeled Transportation look like?

    -Q

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