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  1. #1
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    Default Human Evolution, is it random, or is there an inevitable evolutionary path?

    Predestined that is, in the same way that different types of animals tend to take on similar body shapes and behaviors to fill similar habitats and evolutionary niches.


    Examples: Dolphins, Penguins, Seals and Fishes all have similar shapes and swimming techniques because the laws of physics determines the optimum shapes and propulsion techniques for creatures that live in and move under water.


    Marsupial cats and feline species are similar, because because they fill(ed) similar evolutionary niches in their respective environments.


    I'd speculate that the distinctive adaptation of humans is tool use. Perhaps one might say that all creatures are tool users, in that whatever adaptations their bodies take on, those adaptations are in effect the tools they use to survive with.


    Horses have teeth that are adapted for chewing vegetation, but a Cat has teeth designed for eating meat. But the teeth essentially equate to the tools used by each animal, to survive in it's own evolutionary nitch.


    So maybe it could be said that, different types of animals are equipped with different types of "biological tools" that are provided through the process of evolution.


    The difference with Humans, might then be viewed in that a Humans primary tool is it's brain, and instead of developing "biological tools" like other animals, Humans create "artificial tools" using the power of their minds.


    A submarine is a tool built by Humans, and it has a shape that is very similar to a Whale or a Fish.


    Another element about evolution, is that there seems to be a lot interdependency between all living species including Humans. Sort of like a system that requires many parts to continue to function properly.


    If there is an element of inevitability to evolution, might it be that creatures tend to take on an optimized form for whatever it is that they do?


    I'd speculate that throughout evolutionary history, a significant function of the optimization process that creatures undergo, is one of interacting with their environment in some way that provides some benefit to other creatures. Either by direct or indirect interaction. Perhaps one could even say, that the role of some creatures is to simply provide a cause for other creatures to adapt towards a more optimized form.


    I have a hypothesis that the planet that we are all on now, will be the only home that the life from this planet will ever primarily inhabit. We may gain the technology to build off world colonies on mars or elsewhere in our own solar system, but I sort of doubt that we will ever travel interstellar space as they portray in sci-fi movies. I think the distances between stars is just to far.


    Perhaps we might pack a probe with a variety of hardy earth bacteria, and place it in a small ship set on a collision course with some other young earth like planet our future astronomers might discover, but why?


    I think the planet we are on is our planet forever, and I contemplate why we humans have evolved to occupy it.


    If there is a set of physical laws that are guiding all evolution of life on some inevitable evolutionary path, I think we might learn something about the nature of those physical laws by examining what they have produced thus far. It seems for the most part, that every living thing so far has or had some purpose towards shaping the nature of life as a whole.


    So then what might be the Human purpose towards shaping the nature of life as a whole?


    I want to believe that the inevitable evolutionary path for Humans is that of becoming the caretakers of the planet.


    This makes sense to me, because I think it is what life would ask of evolution to produce, if all life might speak in a single voice.


    I can see the future as a garden planet full of life, with a race of incredibly loving and benevolent beings acting to protect the life on earth using their vast understanding of science, accumulated knowledge, and technological capabilities.


    These future people might feel for their job of caring for the entire earth, much the same way that those of us who have horses to love and care for, feel good about loving and caring for our horses.


    Could it be that the physical nature of the universe is to create living worlds and set them on evolutionary paths that ultimately provide each world with it's own caretaker species, to oversee and protect the life of each world….



  2. #2
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    Heh-heh; obviously you didn't listen to NPR this morning like I did. By 7:00 AM, after hearing about the acidifying oceans killing shellfish, the drought killing the trees, and people killing each other everywhere, I didn't know whether to shoot myself or crawl under the bed. I thoroughly hated the human race before I even got up! But after all, SOMEone has to feed the horses . . . and they make it all worthwhile!



  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lady Eboshi View Post
    Heh-heh; obviously you didn't listen to NPR this morning like I did. By 7:00 AM, after hearing about the acidifying oceans killing shellfish, the drought killing the trees, and people killing each other everywhere, I didn't know whether to shoot myself or crawl under the bed. I thoroughly hated the human race before I even got up! But after all, SOMEone has to feed the horses . . . and they make it all worthwhile!

    I'm not sure that people as "we" are now are the designated end product...

    It could be that the damage that "we" are doing as a species today, will be the causative factor that creates what "we" will evolve to become, in the distant future.

    Hope that makes sense?


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  4. #4
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    OMG, Stephen Jay Gould is turning over in his grave right now. Let me help a dead guy out and make at least one point:

    The common designs you mention in well-adapted swimmers comes only in part from natural selection. The other cause(s) are common body plans inherited from an ancestor, as well as developmental pathways that structure patterns of growth. And the history of evolution-- which genes and body plans survived through some past environment and which ones did not influences present and future evolution as well. In short, and another Gould point, evolution is historically contingent.

    The take-home message from Gould and others is to be careful about thinking of everything as well-adapted for the present, engineering-type purpose we attribute to things now.

    And most evolutionists would rarely talk about environmental conditions as macro as "planet Earth." Rather, they'd look at finer-grained features of the local habitat of the organism.

    Last, every species (and individual member of it) trying to leave the most offspring they can, naturally pollutes and thereby changes the environment they live in. We are no different. So yes, species cause their own evolution in this sense-- changing the requirements of survival.
    The armchair saddler
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  5. #5
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    Great post. And speaking of evolution, less and less do the requirements of survival include the necessity of "marriage." Now THAT'S a step up!


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  6. #6
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    I had a smaller debate with a friend about evolution, with gharials as a topic (long story), and I asked her a few questions. And being an evolutionary biologist, she had some good answers.

    Of course, I've always been under the assumption that evolution has a purpose, that things evolve to survive, etc. Here's what she told me:

    You're implying a reason for evolution, and that there's a point to evolution, but there isn't. Changes happen at random, sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad, and over a very long time the good changes win out. Every lineage of living things is evolving all the time, but it takes a while for the changes to be perceptible.
    The dude abides ...


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  7. #7
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    On randomness:

    Evolution is not random, but caused by so many and layered contributing factors.... and those arranged uniquely in each historical moment, that you can't find genuinely repeatable events as you can with physics (at least above the quantum level).

    But Opus1's friend has it right as well: There can be no end-directed agency in evolution.

    But, yo! Many have sought to insert God into the evolutionary process in order to get the cause of that apparent direction we see what look like slowly-perfected adaptations.
    The armchair saddler
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    OMG, Stephen Jay Gould is turning over in his grave right now. Let me help a dead guy out and make at least one point:

    The common designs you mention in well-adapted swimmers comes only in part from natural selection. The other cause(s) are common body plans inherited from an ancestor, as well as developmental pathways that structure patterns of growth. And the history of evolution-- which genes and body plans survived through some past environment and which ones did not influences present and future evolution as well. In short, and another Gould point, evolution is historically contingent.

    The take-home message from Gould and others is to be careful about thinking of everything as well-adapted for the present, engineering-type purpose we attribute to things now.

    And most evolutionists would rarely talk about environmental conditions as macro as "planet Earth." Rather, they'd look at finer-grained features of the local habitat of the organism.

    Last, every species (and individual member of it) trying to leave the most offspring they can, naturally pollutes and thereby changes the environment they live in. We are no different. So yes, species cause their own evolution in this sense-- changing the requirements of survival.
    Quote Originally Posted by Opus1 View Post
    I had a smaller debate with a friend about evolution, with gharials as a topic (long story), and I asked her a few questions. And being an evolutionary biologist, she had some good answers.

    Of course, I've always been under the assumption that evolution has a purpose, that things evolve to survive, etc. Here's what she told me:

    "You're implying a reason for evolution, and that there's a point to evolution, but there isn't. Changes happen at random, sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad, and over a very long time the good changes win out. Every lineage of living things is evolving all the time, but it takes a while for the changes to be perceptible."
    I see what you're saying, and that philosophy works well as a template for evolutionary science. But the earth and all the life on it is still a part of the universe, and there is also a branch of science that seeks to explain the nature of the universe and all of the matter within it.

    Everywhere an astronomer looks with a teliscope they see stars, galaxies, and more reciently they are seeing other planets. So the evidence thus far is that the universes probably has a very similar set of basic structural attributes that are responsible for all that similarity that seems to exist everywhere the astronomers look.

    So why not apply that same principle of "similarity" to both life, and also to the concept of evolution....

    All life has similarities, so why not speculate on the cause of those similarities?

    Is evolution really a process of serendipitous accidents... or could the stress of a need for change trigger a biochemical process that triggers those mutations that lead to the needed change?

    If biochemical processes that trigger evolution are "designed" into life itself, then those chemical reactions must certainly have the atoms that are constructing those chemicals, and those atoms must then be obeying the physical laws that govern the behavior of all matter.

    Why should we separate particle physics, from evolution?

    There is much that life will never evolve into. We can be sure that a cat will not evolve into a lump of iron. That's because the underling nature of matter will not allow the necessary physics to occur for a cat to become a lump of iron.

    So if we can agree that evolution does have governing principles underling it's workings, we might then speculate on what they might be, how they might function, and how those forces may shape life in the future.

    If we could travel to another world with life on it, would scientists be truly shocked to discover that the life on that alien world is evolving in a similar way, with similar body plans, then life has evolved here?

    Some mechanical configurations at least, must be universal to all life.



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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    On randomness:

    Evolution is not random, but caused by so many and layered contributing factors.... and those arranged uniquely in each historical moment, that you can't find genuinely repeatable events as you can with physics (at least above the quantum level).

    But Opus1's friend has it right as well: There can be no end-directed agency in evolution.

    But, yo! Many have sought to insert God into the evolutionary process in order to get the cause of that apparent direction we see what look like slowly-perfected adaptations.
    Then explain the marsupial cats.

    God is another subject.



  10. #10
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    Cats have no explanation.


    Nor is any necessary.
    "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

    ...just settin' on the Group W bench.


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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ghazzu View Post
    Cats have no explanation.

    Nor is any necessary.
    The elements cast out from exploding stars formed a planet, and from those elements, the cats were made.

    All Cats are made of stars.

    The fact that cat like creatures made of stars should arise under separate isolated conditions, is a result that confirms something additional to random mutations.

    Find that answer, and you have found the explanation of the cats.......

    Including Schroeder's cat.



  12. #12
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    This thread is too deep for a holiday weekend. Lol.


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  13. #13
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    If it's all random then I am SOOOO off the hook!



  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by alterhorse View Post
    The elements cast out from exploding stars formed a planet, and from those elements, the cats were made.

    All Cats are made of stars.

    The fact that cat like creatures made of stars should arise under separate isolated conditions, is a result that confirms something additional to random mutations.

    Find that answer, and you have found the explanation of the cats.......

    Including Schroeder's cat.
    That's Schroedinger's cat, FYI.
    The armchair saddler
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by alterhorse View Post
    Then explain the marsupial cats.
    I know nothing about marsupial cats. But I think I can explain those in general evolutionary terms without even breaking a sweat.

    What will make this conversation *much* better is if you explain what kind of issue you had in mind by naming marsupial cats as a hard case.
    The armchair saddler
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lady Eboshi View Post
    If it's all random then I am SOOOO off the hook!
    Au contraire!

    What you (and all the wackos quacking about quantum mechanics giving us back all we'd like from free-will to God) need to appreciate is the question of scale.

    So, yes, life on Earth obeys all laws of physics and chemistry. Those also work in parts of the known universe until you get into very micro and very macro dimensions. On all those planets where people are talking about repeated (or different) evolution, people are assuming some basic level of similarity.

    Go "up" a level to organic life, and things get very, very historically contingent. So, would evolution proceed as it does if sex (a way to create and spread genetic variability in a lineage) had not evolved? And what difference does it make that that heritable variability is stored in DNA or RNA? What difference does it make if lifetimes for organisms are short or long? What difference would it make if X or Y species had not duked it out for survival in the past? What difference would it have made if some of the mass extinction events of the past had not happened?

    All of these things happened here with the particular pedigree of life we have. But had things gone otherwise at some point in the past, there is no reason to assume that the same endpoint would be reached.

    For this reason-- the injection of historical accident-- it's impossible to reduce the path of evolution to even the most constant and ubiquitous rules of physics and chemistry in place.
    The armchair saddler
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  17. #17
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    I was watching that show life after humans, or something like that. It said that if the entire time frame of the world was put into a 24 hr. day, the whole existence of mankind would take like a minute and a half.
    Kind of makes us a tad insignificant in the large scheme of things.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    Au contraire!

    What you (and all the wackos quacking about quantum mechanics giving us back all we'd like from free-will to God) need to appreciate is the question of scale.

    So, yes, life on Earth obeys all laws of physics and chemistry. Those also work in parts of the known universe until you get into very micro and very macro dimensions. On all those planets where people are talking about repeated (or different) evolution, people are assuming some basic level of similarity.

    Go "up" a level to organic life, and things get very, very historically contingent. So, would evolution proceed as it does if sex (a way to create and spread genetic variability in a lineage) had not evolved? And what difference does it make that that heritable variability is stored in DNA or RNA? What difference does it make if lifetimes for organisms are short or long? What difference would it make if X or Y species had not duked it out for survival in the past? What difference would it have made if some of the mass extinction events of the past had not happened?

    All of these things happened here with the particular pedigree of life we have. But had things gone otherwise at some point in the past, there is no reason to assume that the same endpoint would be reached.

    For this reason-- the injection of historical accident-- it's impossible to reduce the path of evolution to even the most constant and ubiquitous rules of physics and chemistry in place.
    It's a simple matter of the macro not being able to exist without the micro....

    Think of fractal geometry....



  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by alterhorse View Post
    It's a simple matter of the macro not being able to exist without the micro....

    Think of fractal geometry....
    So you mean that micro-patterns add up to create macro ones in terms of evolution's selection pressures and larger history?

    I'd say that's true on a trivial level: When a species goes extinct, all that means is that a micro-event happened: Yet one more organism died.

    When that individual was the last of a species, the event "counts" as a larger one. And this is in a non-trivial sense. What happens when the last individual representing the only species in a dying higher-level taxon dies? It's still just one more dead thing. But it takes an enormous amount of heritable uniqueness with it.

    And does the event that caused the extinction of a higher-order taxon amount to the micro-part of a pattern, or is it so unusual and large that it counts as macro-evolution in it's own right?
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    So you mean that micro-patterns add up to create macro ones in terms of evolution's selection pressures and larger history?

    I'd say that's true on a trivial level: When a species goes extinct, all that means is that a micro-event happened: Yet one more organism died.

    When that individual was the last of a species, the event "counts" as a larger one. And this is in a non-trivial sense. What happens when the last individual representing the only species in a dying higher-level taxon dies? It's still just one more dead thing. But it takes an enormous amount of heritable uniqueness with it.

    And does the event that caused the extinction of a higher-order taxon amount to the micro-part of a pattern, or is it so unusual and large that it counts as macro-evolution in it's own right?
    I'd not focus on heritable uniqueness, and consider the idea that living things don't have to be phylogenetically related to possess similar function and form (marsupial cat).

    The explanation for the process of creating that similar function and form, can be an evolutionary one, but those same forms could hypothetically also be viewed as repeating patterns, where the fundamental basis, or primary source of forming those different patterns in the first place, arrises out of the structure of the micro.... The function and form is an underlying inevitability in it's own right, independent of the exact biology that transpired to bring it into existence.

    Thus all the primary "TYPES"/"SHAPES" that life may form into, are inevitable when the MACRO pattern for that form comes up into existence out of the MICRO pattern".... we might say the micro manifests itself into the macro, in what we experience as "a state of environment".

    Life does not form on the surface of the moon because the micro pattern for life in the underlying fabric of the universe, is not expressed into the macro level in that location. But when an astronaut visits the surface of the moon, they bring with them a "bubble" of macro pattern along with them to prevent the "natural" macro pattern that exists on the moon from disrupting the pattern that is the astronaut.

    Edited to add: Get rid of any idea of the dimension of time, think of all forms of life that have ever existed, or will ever exist, and see them all existing simultaneously. That is an example of what a point of view looking out towards the macro would look like, if one could exist in the state that is in the underlying micro. There is no time there, only ALL of the patterns.
    Last edited by alterhorse; Nov. 24, 2012 at 11:38 PM.



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