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comprehensive comments on evolution and E O Wilson's book review in Boston Globe.

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  • Independent
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    This is the first of parts I'll post. Together, they present a rather complete statement of "where I'm at" with evolution and neoDarwinian theory.

    Edward O. Wilson’s The Meaning of Human Existence “ is not a new exploration . . . . but rather a summing-up of his ideas in compact and readable form.”
    Thus states Dan Cryer in a recent Boston Globe brief review of the book.
    [In my following discussion, Wilson’s own words will appear “italicized” and within quotation marks. Exact words from the article will be “standard text” within quotes].

    Dismissing any form of “creationism”, Wilson asserts, “We were created not by a super-natural intelligence . . . but by chance and necessity as one species out of millions of species in Earth’s biosphere.”
    Already one’s scrutiny should be caught by the “unscientific-ness” of terms that are employed, the presumption (chance) asserted by evolutionary theory with no actual evidence, nor even definition of term. Assumed to be science, evolution seems to be the only branch in which there is linguistic, rather than mathematical computations and “calculations” – and wherein the very theoretical dynamic assumed cannot be subjected to experimental methods, thus possible disproof.
    Dismissing any form of “creationism” . . he then states “we were created . . .. “
    What would be his definition of “created”? Do we wonder at this linguistic revelation of not only contradiction but almost concept-cancellation? Should he perhaps use a far different term that specifies what he must mean – that his view, (mainstream science’s), is that a process of sequential and synergic componential compoundings and co-minglings and copulations took place (from subatomics on into organisms). But also, how can one who accepts the “big bang” origin of the universe “dismiss any [which, here, implies every] form of creationism”?
    This may seem like nit-picking. But we’re dealing with supposedly scientific statements by one of the most revered senior statesmen of science, E. O. Wilson.

    “We were created not by a super-natural intelligence”. Just what, pray (or not if you’re not religious) tell does this mean? Are we to assume that E. O. is dismissing “ . .any form of supernatural . . . “ whatever? At any point of space-matter-time is not that beyond into change a matter of “super-natural” relative to that which existed before? Or we could say “post-natural” or some such?
    “Super-natural” as the term is used and abused is super-inapplicable in a scientific context and discussion. For one thing, “super- to what dimensions or constraints or contexts . . . of natural?” And just what are the constraints within which “natural” must be contained to be natural and not stray into “supernatural”? Of course we realize that Wilson (et al) are using “super-natural” as synonymous with “imaginary or delusional or religious or superstitious” or some such designations of cognitive constructs projected and displaced as causal actualities (paranoid processes). But to confine “super-natural” as a perspective of existence (and even evolution) – to guy-in-the-sky mental images assumed to be causalities of substantives is somewhat a scope of ignorance revealed not only be Creationists, but by evolutionists who can’t seem to “get the God out” in order to let the truly comprehensive recognition of evolutionary existence in.
    But there’s an even finer point to perceive for its dullness. What is an “intelligence”? Is it the neuronal activity of a brain? Is it the interface, through communication and even synchronicity, of brains (plural – as collaboration, as synergies)? Rather than what Wilson and Dawkins and others are saying, shouldn’t a scientist specify for example: “our sequential evolutionary diversity and complexity was not the result of any volition or decision by an anthropomorphic (or animistic) agency or complex apart; rather exists as what is inherent in the systemic and substantive essence of that which evolved even from, yet still inclusive of the sub-atomic level even unto the homo sapiens.
    I marvel that no one seems to get it that there can be a supernatural intelligence represented by and in an organized system (such as evolutionary) – without there being a supernatural intelligent guy (or any other species) in the sky (or elsewhere). That which is “supernatural” is inherent and systemic in the “natural” as the emergence or combinance and even the “random” evolution of existence. Is it that man, especially those of ev-sci, are so insecure (or would it be self-glorified) that they don’t realize that intelligent design is evident throughout existence. It is that design that the genius and “polymath” pinnacles of scientists and philosophers have realized, recognized, synthesized into ciphers of mathematics and linguistics, first by inference (“hmmm, seems to me that . . . . “) and then theorization (formulae, diagrams, etc.) and finally the “proofs” of experimentation and demonstration.
    What should we call those high-level extrapolations from existence, the expressions and expositions of such KNOWLEDGE AS DUAL DIMENSION OF ESSENCE . . . INTELLIGENCE!! How about . . . THE INTELLIGENT DESIGN OF THE INTELLIGENCE OF THE INTELLIGENT DESIGN IN THE UNIVERSE !!
  • Are you sure you want to delete this post?
    Fascinating --- always loved this subject. Hope to see your second article soon. It has always been difficult to grasp, and if you try to explain it, you find that it is impossible to explain the inexplainable. I always try to get a grip on the tiny microscopic universe, with subatomic particles, and then Zoom in on the gigantic universe all around us, with many solar systems --- going on infinitely & forever. The Grand Design.
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    eternal flame Wrote: Fascinating --- always loved this subject. Hope to see your second article soon. It has always been difficult to grasp, and if you try to explain it, you find that it is impossible to explain the inexplainable. I always try to get a grip on the tiny microscopic universe, with subatomic particles, and then Zoom in on the gigantic universe all around us, with many solar systems --- going on infinitely & forever. The Grand Design.
    Correct "Eternal", we as tiny microbes in this universe are the most arrogant bunch of cells ever in the universe; we think we can tell the universe what it is and that we are important. Sorry the universe can function extreemly well without us people and will do so. Nothing up there is aware of us "microbes" and our way of life. Indeed a lot of people have no idea on how gigantic the universe is compared to our tiny miserable planet being ruined by humans. I guess the universe does not care about our demise.
  • Liberal
    Durham, NH
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    I was goint to post this same review from the Globe but I haven't been able to find the time to edit it as you have. Thanks for sharing it as it's very important
  • Independent
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    “We were created not by a super-natural intelligence – but by chance and necessity . . . . . “
    NECESSITY? Is necessary. That Wilson accepts that only random processes result in the human as “ . . . one species out of millions of species in Earth’s biosphere . . .” how are we to account for a “necessity”? By what predetermining configuration of chance is an evolutionary “necessity” brought about? Especially when the human is considered in juxtaposition to all those other millions of species? Chance should preclude necessity.

    But here we must undertake separate scrutiny of this mere “one species out of millions”. The assumption of mainstream evolutionary science is, as noted, that pure, just chance (“random genetic mutations”} are the mechanism for variation. These nuances of genotype are “expressed” (so to speak) in phenotype which is of advantage to survival (including adaptation and propagation) in few cases – deleterious and leading to extinction of trait-inceptions in others – and primarily “neutral”.
    Throughout so much of those millions of species in Earth’s biosphere, one may define a genetic and morphologic and even cognitive dimension of the species as a “necessity” for its continuance in the evolutionary sequence. But what was the initial, the “original necessity”? And considering the proliferation of life-forms of such variance, was not “necessity” overwhelmed by diversification? And was that really necessary if necessity were the only necessity – unless diversity itself was??
    Especially in consideration of the infrastructure of organics, “chance” or “random” have . . . no actual basis, at least in sequential juxtaposition to the atomic and molecular and even cellular levels and systems of being. All of a sudden, from the ordered periodicity of elements and electro-calculable interrelationships of protons and electrons and ions and “conveyors” and compounds . . . . . all of a “creationistic sudden” we come to “all’s just chance and random . . . but necessary . . . .” ???? The infrastructure of all organic is the organized system from subatomics on up, subject to energies and forces and factors that are not “random”.
    Thus, for evolution’s “random” and “chance”, the meaning might be best stated as “the systemic and componential basis is so complex and microcosmic that we just have no way to perceive the process, much less demonstrate it”.

    What is “random”? What is “chance?” Should there not be specificity, even via mathematical representation? The terms are “deities of the deniers of Deity”. If, for example, a chemical reaction of such complexity as to defy actual analytical explanation results in the production of some highly complex and even functionally interrelated dynamic with some level of nature . . . would we assume the substrate dimensions of the reaction to be . . . chance? Random? But I’ll get back to this on a higher level in a bit.
    For now, repeating myself from previous writings, neoDarwinian theory is the only “science” that I’m aware of that “explains” what takes place with the concepts of an outcome de facto “accidental amenity”. What other science is based on “random” or “chance”? What other science uses such terms which are self-explanatory in that they have no explanation because that would be “ordering randomicity into systemicity” – would be “changing chance into probability or possibility”.
    Pure chance and mere random process could probably be “disproven” from the basis of actual substantive existence (atomic, molecular, etc.), and the unscientific nature of the terms (which have no substantive or systemic referent and are thus not scientific).
    And further, there’s the standpoint of evolution’s own theory that all is random and mere chance and a continuum of minor variance-levels (“uniformitarian”) over eons. There can be no “saltations” (macro-mutation-level changes). Yet how about the point when the organization and order (strong force, weak force, electron-sharing) of existence became “organic”? Micro-mutational variation only began with what we call life (some tobacco mosaic or other complex carbon molecule in the brine or clay)?? Yet with the advent of “vivation”’s astounding proliferation of forms one is supposed to assume that the infrastructure from cosmic creation (“Bang”) to cellular (life) no longer has pervasive systemic determination such as atomic and molecular “pre-life” levels. Then is not that first “life” an ultimate “macro-mutation” of essence, of existence?
    One is not supposed to consider the evolution of those millions of species -- and their astounding interface with each other and environment, resulting in such proliferation and prodigious mechanisms of behavior . . . . one is not supposed to consider a singular system of emergent, ascendant . . . . organization??
    Think of a scenario not of life-forms, but of, let’s say, geologic formations. Who would apply the term “chance” to the striations of marble? The term “random” to the pointillistic presentations of granites? “Necessity” to the jewels of gems? Rather, there would be explanations, even computational, to account for the . . . formulations of the formations.
  • Center Left
    Denton, TX
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    The idea of a deity is not being dismissed because of some sort of bias against the idea. The concept of a intelligent creator is dismissed because there is zero evidence that anything like that even exists. So making the assumption that one does exist, isn't founded on anything concrete. It is also illogical to make that assumption because then we are with the question, "where did the intelligent designer come from" and we still haven't answered anything about the origins of life.

    But you seemed to be confused on what evolution explains. Evolution does not deal with how life began on this planet. That field of study is called Abiogenesis. We don't know life began. We just don't have any evidence to flesh out any scientific theories.

    What evolution deals with is how life developed and diversified after it began. We can ascertain is that all known life originated from a single beginning. Which means, that if you go back far enough in any two organisms' ancestry, you will eventually find a common ancestor. This does not rule out the possibility of life starting on multiple, independent occasions, just that says that any life that did, did not survive long enough to leave any mark that has been detected.

    You also seem to be applying the word "randomly" as if there were zero controlling variables to guide the evolutionary process, which is just wrong. Random does not mean that anything and everything can happen at any given time, it just means that somethings aren't predictable but can still operate within a predictable system. For example. Let's say I had a random number generator that produced a different five digit number every minute. There are plenty of scientific predictions one could make. I could say that it will never produce a letter. I could say it would never produce a number above 100,000. The number produced is still random but operating under a predictable system of rules.

    And you try to make a claim that because something is considered random, that it can't be scientific, which is also wrong. Evolution is a random process in the fact that we can't predict the course that life takes because there are so many random external variables that shape the process (other life, solar radiation levels, human interference, spacial anomalies, Earth's magnetic field, weather, heat, when DNA is shifted, how it is shifted and so on) which all have a number of independent random variables affecting them as well.

    But evolution still operates within a system and we can easily make numerous specific predictions about what can and can't happen, and what has happened. For example, evolution predicts that whenever a new organism is found, it will be in a layer that is consistent with it's development and of the other organisms in that layer. So, we will never find a rabbit or a primate in the Pre-Cambrian era. The discovery of fossils in very specific detail and geography have been predicted because of noticeable gaps in the fossil record. Here is a paper outlining how traits were predicted using evolutionary biology. Here is a whole list of predictions made using Evolutionary Theory.

    Essential, what you have done is take the word "random" applied a very narrow, very specific definition/connotation to that word. While evolution does take a random course, it operates in a finite system allowing predictions to made and verified. The best way to argue against evolution is not with semantics but with the predictions the theory makes. Find a fossilized organism in a place that it has no business being. Something like a chimpanzee in the Cretaceous Period would turn the scientific world on its head. If some divine creator did just slap all the animals on the Earth, then stuff like that should not be hard to find at all.
  • Liberal
    Other Party
    Llos Angeles, CA
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    Excellent response Mr. Zach
  • Independent
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    Zack, you need to re-read what I wrote. Read it carefully. Read it analytically.
    Immediately what your disagreements with what I wrote state -- are what I dismissed as invalid (and worse) in what I wrote !!
    We agree, except you evidently didn't realize what you'd read that I said.
  • Independent
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    3rd part. but first, I'm glad a reader tells me that "the idea of an intelligent creator is dismissed because there is zero evidence
    that anything like that exists . . . . " Though he phrases it differently, THAT'S MY POINT RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING
    OF THE FIRST PART. That's my premise all the way through to the end of this third part !! BUT ALSO, THOUGH A
    A SUPERNATURAL INTELLIGENT GUY-IN-THE-SKY (deity) is absurd as "causation" . . . TO NOT RECOGNIZE AN
    . which organic evolution is just part of the process.

    okay. Third part now.

    But I must get to that “higher level” I spoke of just a bit ago.
    I must get to the human to really convey what I’m considering. This has been the level of my concern in the previous stuff I’ve sent. To dismiss my depth and verbiage is probably very easy. The ritual recitations of “random” and “chance” are so much clearer when the depths of componential and systemic determinants are not part of the picture. Just focus on the terms that float so nicely on the invisible surface.
    But lest I just babble on . . . .
    “There is . . . no demonstrable destiny or purpose assigned us . . . humanity arose as an accident of evolution, a product of random mutation and natural selection. Our species was just one end point out of many twists and turns in a single lineage of Old World primates.” (summation of Wilson’s premise).
    Another term so unscientific. “Accident”. According to what “saltational” departure from all other systemics of substantive existence such as atomic and molecular we come to something that can be scientifically termed an “accident”?

    Resulting from this “accident” of “chance” change from Old World primates, let’s look at the human closely.
    Yes, there’s the 98% +/- genetic “relationship” to chimp, our closest “relative” since the branch from common ancestor.
    But consider the cognitive difference!!

    Account for the cognitive scope and dimension of the human by any continuum of uniformitarian evolution (and inclusive of just random and chance as interactives)

    Account for the dimension of the potential conceptuality of the human (“mankind”, not every individual, of course) just by chance and random nuance changes that happened to be of benefit to his adaptation and proliferation as a species.

    Account for the “necessity” of man’s potential to infer the very sub-substantive level of wave lengths and strings and wormholes. Account for the awareness of atomic structure and molecular complexification and organic processes and now genomic manipulations by man . . . by a Darwinian, Gouldian, Dawkinian, Wilsonian paradigm of “necessity to survive”, chance, accident, . . . . . no design . . . . .

    Account, based on any perspect of mainstream evolution alone, for man’s recognition of the very scope (and expansion) of the cosmic universe. The scope and expanding knowledge of the microcosmic universe.

    Account, based on adaptation, for man’s discovery of and interface with for prevention of the componentialities (viruses, bacteria, prions) of diseases. How about the MRI and other scanning devices as a result of random and chance and “necessity”.

    Account for classical music (an exponential synergy of instrumental invention and sonic composition and beyond into the synesthesia of visual and even tactile response to sound . . . . .)

    Account for the “wiring of minds into a global mind of minds” that the internet represents in ways, to an extent, with astounding potential via remote operations (medical) and now 3-D printing of what the operation may need to implant.

    Account for man’s sequencing his own genome. Gee, came on this by accident?
    Account for man’s conception that there is an evolutionary process?
    Account for the mind of man which is a “cognitive replication and representation of the very universe”. (my words in quotes here).

    Account for the human and what the human does other than by . . . ANIMAL BEHAVIOR !!! Animal behavior?? Cognition is animal behavior?
    Well, what else could it be? Animal behavior. And between chimp and man there is such a “dimensional leap” (far more than “quantum” even in the TV-program sense) . .
    Shouldn’t evolutionary science be forced to recognize that Uniformitarianism is uninformed-itarianism?? There is so much more than “random” and “chance” and stasis-sequence (even with punctuations) that accounts for the phenomenon of man. For the Animal Behavior of man, so cosmically connected, so exponentially more complex than our nearest “Old World kin”-critter, is . . . . animal behavior. Thus within the evolutionary paradigm. Thus, one hell of a macromutation, saltation, . . . . phenomenologically (the scope of the mind’s behavior) . . . and temporally (in that blink of time).
  • Independent
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    Last part on E,O.Wilson article. But first, readers should note that it is Wilson as mainstream evolution spokesman -- who is using the term "random" in the sense of no organization, no system, no "design" (and let's try to get it through our heads that a "design" doesn't require a "deity-designer" !!
    Again, the reader's refutation of my point is exactly my point -- that "random" is an unscientific term applied to the evolutionary process and system so complex that the "mechanics" (quantum, atomic, molecular, etc.) are so-far indiscernable. Perhaps in a re-reading it will be revealed that my point is also that from sub-particulate science up to evolution . . . . and from evolution on through all the other sciences, there is no "factor" of randomness or chance. There is "systemicity" of substrate and substate components -- and transition into sequential process and state. "Chance" is the "missing link": evolution's position between other fields of science.

    but to part IV. The last on the matter from me, perhaps forever.


    Back to article: To understand who we really are, Wilson suggests, it’s necessary to see how Homo sapiens fits into the rest of the mix of living things here on Earth and possibly elsewhere. Cooperation as well as competition are built into our genome. Natural selection for social interaction – “the inherited propensities to communicate, recognize, evaluate, bond, cooperate, compete, and from all these the deep warm pleasure of belonging to your own special group . . has hard-wired us with the tools to become Earth’s dominant creature.”
    So much he leaves out that I’ve dealt with above. The phenomenon of man is not just adaptive, assimilative. “Survivalive”. It’s a dimension beyond into science and art and imagination, invention and exploration and performance and abstraction and prediction and projection and so much beyond the mechanistics of behavior into the machinations of actual existential creativity -- as manifestations of a higher order of evolutionary process and its infrastructure – animal behavior. Human behavior.

    Wilson grants the possible existence of some sort of benign religious instinct, but does not really explore the issue. He also considers, “We ravage the natural environment. We refuse to even discuss the ‘taboo’ subject of population control in an overpopulated world.”
    He seems to be a bit out of touch with declining and aging populations in parts of Europe and Russia, China’s “one child”, and rather pervasive discussions of population proliferations elsewhere (including the Catholic Church’s stalwart stance regarding birth control). There is ravage of the environment but there is remediation. There is strife, but an actual statistical study within a couple decades or so came up with . . . things are now more globally peaceful than they have been throughout most of history (the duration which included WW II, I, Civil War, 30 years war, War of the Roses, Crusades, and general reciprocal massacre and mutilation and mayhem as a global game of thrones and stones.

    The article’s writer asks, “Where does this grim analysis leave us? Well, Wilson might insist that his book isn’t so pessimistic after all. That we are ‘alone and free in the universe’ as his last chapter is titled, means that ‘we are completely free’ to shape the future. “ “Laid before us are new options scarcely dreamed of in earlier ages,” he [Wilson] writes. “They empower us to address with more confidence the greatest goal of all time, the unity of the human race.”

    New options? From what paradigm mutation of random and chance do we now come to “options”? From the “chance and necessity” and “one of millions of species of Earth’s biota”, how, from whence, this almost creationistic phenomenon that will “empower us to address with more confidence . . . . the unity of the human race.”
    Account for this “beneficent emergence” beyond man’s prior evolution so all of a sudden.
    Account for this beatitude from mere variance of Old world primate evolutionary behavior in so less a blink of the eye of evolutionary time than even the organic/morphologic divergence from chimp to human.

    As I read Wilson’s “free to shape the future, new options, empower us, unity of the human race” . . . . I immediately realized a profound revelation of conceptual and theoretical contradiction, . . . . or conversion.

    So too did Dan Cryer, the author of the Globe article.He concludes, “I would argue . . . ., that this is a faith-based assertion, running counter to all the evidence the author has marshaled throughout the book. Could it be that Edward O. Wilson is a believer after all?”
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    It took me a long time to read it all; compliments, it fits what I always said "people" and evolution started by accident and whatever is beyond our observed universe no one knows as well what runs the place; I think it is a big hairy monster who does not like microbe monkey DNA things.
    Ask AMC he knows!