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Science

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Global Warming? Energy Resources? Welcome to the newest old problem: we're running out of water. Electric cars save the Earth? An October 2008 study shows that light duty vehicles using electricity from the power grid of the United States withdrawal 5-20 times more water and consume 2-5 times more water than vehicles using petroleum based fuels. Ethanol and other bio-fuels have similar impacts.

ImageI do research and consulting to leverage time to advantage. I believe that TimeMatters.


"True innovators can be recognized as people who work best in environments where risk, openness, and idea-sharing are the norm; where ideas outrank seniority; where being wrong is not a failure; where learning is recognized as a continual process; and where challenge is viewed as the highest form of respect. They have a sense of urgency, energy, and optimism. The challenge their own ideas and theories as much as those of others. They have broad interests, they often see things differently than the rest of the organization, and they continually push new ideas and approaches for doing things." — from the Air Force Science Advisory board study "System Level Experimentation - Executive Summary". SAB-TR-06-02, July 2006. pdf version (855 kb, 77 pgs)


I recently read pieces of Richard Dawkins' book Climbing Mount Improbable. It's basically a pro-evolution (and anti-religion, therefore anti-creation) book that explores the analogy of climbing from lower life forms up to the top pinnacles of evolution, where species like mankind are found. I was particularly interested in reading Chapter 5 titled "The 40-fold path to enlightenment" . Creationists find value in the concept of irreducible complexity. In particularly, challenges to the evolution of the eye were an early use of the concept (probably because Darwin himself brought up the example).

Thoughts:
  • Dawkin's Chapter 5 is an excellent exposition on the range of light sensing devices of different animals.
  • The book proposes evolution of an eye is small changes from light sensing capability, then direction sensing, then image sensing, then sensitivity enhancements.
  • I realize referencing "the design of an eye" is inadequate. The concept of "eye" encompasses a huge variety of biological variations found in nature. It's not what you learned in High School. Or, maybe Dawkins has expanded the definition, to fit more into the definition.
  • To generate a reasonable time of evolution, page 165 discusses the Nilsson and Pelger's calculation where the 1829 steps to evolve an eye (not sure where this number comes from!) are considered. A computed calculation "...assumed that for every 101 animals possessing an improved eye who survived, 100 animals without the improvement survived." I think what he's trying to explain is a 1% better chance at survival for a single mutated animal once a mutated animal exists. In the computed model, the Coefficient of Variation describes the chance of a mutation in a relevant way happens, and no quantitative number was given. Heritability defines the fraction of surviving mutated animal that pass the mutation on to offspring. The model used 50%. Results come up to about 364,000 generations for the 1829 evolutionary steps, or about 1/3 of a million years if you assume 1 year generations of small worms, mollusks, and fish.
  • Regarding the assumptions going into the calculation, 50% appears way too high for passing on a mutation. That assumes mutated males or females are not eaten by predators, or a mutant males wins the race to a fertile female, and that the mutated change is a dominate gene. My words assume the chance of two simultaneously mutated animals just happening to mutate at the same time and then finding each other to pass on a recessive trait is intellectually zero.
  • It appears there is no qualitative or quantitative discussion of mutations that damage a species. Once a small change is obtained, it is assumed the descendants of that precise animal suffer the next improving mutation rather than any other of the existing population of peers. And it's assumed that the next "step" is able to do improvement before mutations destroy the prior step. Evolutionists James Valentine, and Cathryn A. Campbell, wrote in their work, “Genetic Regulation and the Fossil Record, “Most mutations to structural genes are deleterious, and presumably most regulatory gene mutations are deleterious as well, but occasionally a mutation may enhance regulatory activity.”
  • Possible selection criterion that make not having a mutation more lethal isn't discussed.
  • Dawkins does talk about descending back down the path of evolution to explain variations in modern eye-ish things (descent followed by parallel paths of evolution climbing back up different mountains). See pg 195. But that seems to put the evolutionary progression of events, greatly adding time.
  • In the end, Dawkins' work documents how good things can come from lesser things. But without considering features of time (and I don't mean the simpler discussion of how much you have of it, although I think errors were made there, too), he has described positive feedback mechanisms, but without full system discussions, hasn't really discussed the process of evolution. In exponential probability arguments, tiny parameter changes do huge outcome changes. Take the old game of accepting a penny and double that amount each days. How much money do you have at the end of a month. With only a 3% difference (29 to 30 days), there is a 100% change outcome. My point is that in these games of statistics, input and output are not linear to match intuition.
  • Although he apparently didn't think of it himself, Dawkins' words did bring to my mind an argument against irreducible complexity I had not though about before. Many examples I hear (such as the eye, blood clotting, or flagella) ask for integration of components rather than Darwinian incremental small smooth parameter changes. In other words, irreducible complexity arguments seem to request integration of "a lens" with "a retina" with "an optical nerve" with "an iris". This is an unnecessarily onerous task. If you read the Wikipedia irreducible complexity link, it seems to advocate that components could exist for other biologically purposeful reasons, and then the mutation causing evolution in this context is re-purposing of a component.
  • In contrast, Nilsson and Pelger's model assumes vernier variations in some parameter such as index of refraction. However, this form of "change" doesn't hardly come up to the concept of evolution since I'm not sure how a subtle 1% change can turn one type of cell into another. This makes me think of a joke of God and the Evolutionist having a discussion. The Evolutionist claims he can do everything God can do. God picks up dust and makes man. The evolution picks up the dust and God interrupts saying, "Get your own dust".
  • From independent sources, I find there is a big argument about the Nilsson and Pelger calculation. Apparently, it's important to note that it was not a computer calculation or simulation — just a calculation. Probably an analytical formula derivation, but apparently they never documented in their paper exactly what it was that gave the numbers. At one counter-evolution site, James Downard (an evolutionist) is quoted to say: "True, a 'computer' wasn't involved in these calculations," he writes, "so let's all slap Richie Dawkins for being a bad student of Nilsson and Pelger's work." Incidentally, James Downward's text on the page linked in the prior sentence takes N&P's 1829 steps and N&P's 364,000 generations, and turns it carelessly into a conclusion of "less than 2000 iterations" to evolve an eye. He writes, "The upshot of their study was to show how surprisingly few 1% incremental wiggles (less than 2000 iterations) could nudge an active patch of cells into a focusing eye." Most certainly not. Instead 1829 steps are assumed to evolve an eye, and from that assumption 364,000 generations or iterations are determined. Sadly N&P never published exactly the formula, or iteration calculation they used. And the concept of "eye" that Downward writes about is much broader than the device humans run around with. He would be better to say "crudely imaging light sensor" not "focusing eye".


Created by admin. Last Modification: Sunday 31 of October, 2010 18:46:25 EDT by brian.