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Author Topic:   A point about probability
Theodoric
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Posts: 5777
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005


Message 31 of 65 (519821)
08-17-2009 3:43 PM
Reply to: Message 30 by InGodITrust
08-17-2009 3:00 PM


Re: Disproving Natural Selection Through Probability
But there might be other places to look, like the development of a body part plus the instinct to utilize it.

So your purpose is to try to find things that may disprove evolution?


Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts
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slevesque
Member (Idle past 2537 days)
Posts: 1456
Joined: 05-14-2009


Message 32 of 65 (519825)
08-17-2009 4:03 PM
Reply to: Message 30 by InGodITrust
08-17-2009 3:00 PM


Re: Disproving Natural Selection Through Probability
I have not yet read Behe book, it is actually in shipment and I expect to recieve it soon.

Basically, he develops exactly the idea you have in mind, about the probability of multiple complementary mutations happening simultaneously.

I think this idea came to him because of the objections he encountered to his ireducible complexity argument. Obviously, his 1996 book 'Darwin's black box' made a lot of waves. Cetainly, some of the objections were reasonable, such as that the parts used in an irreducibly complex system could be useful in another system, and thus thiese pieces could have developpped independantly. Of course, this argument can only bring you so far in terms of refuting Behe's irreducible complexity. At one point, you will have to refer to double, triple, etc. simultaneous mutations to explain any given irreducibly complex system. This is why I think Behe started to investigate the probabilities of these mutations, and how many times you can statistically refer to them durign a given number of generations inside a given population number.

All this deeply strengthens irreducible complexity, because if Behe was accused of 'arguing from ignorance', his opponents were simply appealing to luck. Because of what is discussed in 'On the edge of evolution', this opposition is no longer holdable.

Edited by slevesque, : No reason given.


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Stagamancer
Member (Idle past 2812 days)
Posts: 174
From: Oregon
Joined: 12-28-2008


Message 33 of 65 (519829)
08-17-2009 4:35 PM
Reply to: Message 29 by slevesque
08-17-2009 3:39 AM


Re: Disproving Natural Selection Through Probability
Suppose I walk down a beach, and see my name written in the sand. Mathematically, there is a very astronomically small probability that all the sand grains are all in this position. But even if the probability is vanishingly small, it is not zero, and so I could postulate that considering all the beaches in the universe, and in all the billions of parrallel universes, than the possibility that this arrangement of sand grains happens naturally somehwere is high, and so I just happen to be at that very particular place.

Theoretically, my hypothesis is 'valid', but it will always be an appeal to luck, and we all know that the more logical hypothesis to draw is that someone wrote my name in the sand.

You're analogy is not a good one for two reasons.
1) you're talking about an individual finding his own name in the sand, but evolution is not about individuals. Any individual within a population can introduce a mutation to a population, so using the probability of a specific individual getting a mutation is an irrelevant argument. What's important is the probability of a mutation occurring in a population, and this is much higher.

2) Names in the sand have no known natural mechanism for forming. However, mutations have a known natural mechanism, so there's no reason to introduce any supernatural force. What's more probable, mutations occurring on their own (an observed and documented phenomenon), or a super being that makes changes to DNA and phenotypes without leaving the littlest bit of empirical evidence?


We have many intuitions in our life and the point is that many of these intuitions are wrong. The question is, are we going to test those intuitions?
-Dan Ariely
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slevesque
Member (Idle past 2537 days)
Posts: 1456
Joined: 05-14-2009


Message 34 of 65 (519865)
08-17-2009 10:55 PM
Reply to: Message 33 by Stagamancer
08-17-2009 4:35 PM


Re: Disproving Natural Selection Through Probability
My analogy was more about the relationship between mathematical probabilities and scientific hypothesises and theories. At what point does a theory become a simple appeal to luck ?

Of course, the issue is not if mutations happen. Or if natural selection happens. It is about if natural selection+mutations can produce all the biological structures we see in nature.

If some structures require two mutations to happen at the same time in the same individual in order for them to be advantageous, what is the probability of it happening ? What if some structures require three simultaneous mutations ? or four ? or five ? When does it become a simple appeal to luck ?

Now this is the thing, on a theoretical level, mutation+natural selection can produce absolutely anything in one single generation. Theoretically, I can produce a baby which would be a bear. ''All'' I would need is that every single mutations required to change my human DNA to the DNA of a bear happen in that single generation. Mathematically, it can happen. But would it be scientifically justifiable to propose this explanation if it did in fact happen ? I do not think so, because it would simply be an appeal to luck analog to my example of the name on the beach. Proposing that my baby's embryo was genetically modified by some evil crazy scientist from the government would probably be the way to go.

Ok I know my example is a bit silly, still, I hope that what I mean to say is clear enough.


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Stagamancer
Member (Idle past 2812 days)
Posts: 174
From: Oregon
Joined: 12-28-2008


Message 35 of 65 (519869)
08-17-2009 11:43 PM
Reply to: Message 34 by slevesque
08-17-2009 10:55 PM


Re: Disproving Natural Selection Through Probability
If some structures require two mutations to happen at the same time in the same individual in order for them to be advantageous, what is the probability of it happening ? What if some structures require three simultaneous mutations ? or four ? or five ? When does it become a simple appeal to luck ?

Examples please.

''All'' I would need is that every single mutations required to change my human DNA to the DNA of a bear happen in that single generation. Mathematically, it can happen. But would it be scientifically justifiable to propose this explanation if it did in fact happen ?

You're right, a simple appeal to luck is not enough. You need more evidence. BUT, simple probability also cannot disprove anything. Ergo, if an explanation is highly improbable and there is a better, more probable explanation, go with the more probable explanation. That's parsimony. But if there is an explanation that is highly improbable, but there is no better explanation, the improbability of it does not disprove it. There is no viable alternative to evolution by natural selection. IDers have not produced any POSITIVE evidence for their "hypothesis". There is ample positive evidence for natural selection.

Edited by Stagamancer, : Came up with a better argument


We have many intuitions in our life and the point is that many of these intuitions are wrong. The question is, are we going to test those intuitions?
-Dan Ariely
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slevesque
Member (Idle past 2537 days)
Posts: 1456
Joined: 05-14-2009


Message 36 of 65 (519875)
08-18-2009 12:59 AM
Reply to: Message 35 by Stagamancer
08-17-2009 11:43 PM


Re: Disproving Natural Selection Through Probability
Examples please.

I'll probably have a couple once I read Behe's book. As of right now, I would think every irreducibly complex system requires at least a two simultaneous mutations. Since by definition, an irreducibly complex system cannot be deconstructed piece by piece, it cannot have been constructed step by step, or one mutaiton at a time, and so at one point two or more steps must have been down at the same time to make it become irreducibly complex.

You're right, a simple appeal to luck is not enough. You need more evidence. BUT, simple probability also cannot disprove anything. Ergo, if an explanation is highly improbable and there is a better, more probable explanation, go with the more probable explanation. That's parsimony. But if there is an explanation that is highly improbable, but there is no better explanation, the improbability of it does not disprove it. There is no viable alternative to evolution by natural selection. IDers have not produced any POSITIVE evidence for their "hypothesis". There is ample positive evidence for natural selection.

Natural selection isn't being questioned here, it is rather Neo-Darwinism; the capacity of Mutations+Natural selection to create. This is revealed by Behe's title: On the edge of Evolution. Sometimes, hearing some evolutionists, it seems as though Neo-Darwinism has no limits in its capacity to create, but I do think that there is a limit, an edge, to the powers of Neo-Darwinism. Even on a theoretical level. (considering a finite amount of time of course)


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PaulK
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Posts: 14346
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 1.6


Message 37 of 65 (519876)
08-18-2009 1:23 AM
Reply to: Message 36 by slevesque
08-18-2009 12:59 AM


Re: Disproving Natural Selection Through Probability
quote:

I'll probably have a couple once I read Behe's book. As of right now, I would think every irreducibly complex system requires at least a two simultaneous mutations. Since by definition, an irreducibly complex system cannot be deconstructed piece by piece, it cannot have been constructed step by step, or one mutaiton at a time, and so at one point two or more steps must have been down at the same time to make it become irreducibly complex.

That would be wrong. Irreducible complexity can be arrived at in a number of ways - Behe's argument assumes that "parts" are merely added (never lost), never change and partial assemblies never co-opted from systems with different functions.

At the genetic level neutral mutations can and do spread through populations. Thus there is only a need for simultaneous mutations if every single mutation would be detrimental on its own.

quote:

Sometimes, hearing some evolutionists, it seems as though Neo-Darwinism has no limits in its capacity to create, but I do think that there is a limit, an edge, to the powers of Neo-Darwinism. Even on a theoretical level. (considering a finite amount of time of course)

That would also be wrong - it is just that the limits are not exceeded in any known case. (The existence of limits is quite clear !)

Also I should warn you that there are a lot of traps in probability. One of them is arguing from hindsight. Simply arguing that the exact sequence of events is incredibly unlikely is meaningless because every every sufficiently long sequence of events is incredibly unlikely. Toss a coin 30 times, recording the sequence of heads and tails - the odds of getting that sequence are a billion to one against.


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slevesque
Member (Idle past 2537 days)
Posts: 1456
Joined: 05-14-2009


Message 38 of 65 (519878)
08-18-2009 1:45 AM
Reply to: Message 37 by PaulK
08-18-2009 1:23 AM


Re: Disproving Natural Selection Through Probability
That would be wrong. Irreducible complexity can be arrived at in a number of ways - Behe's argument assumes that "parts" are merely added (never lost), never change and partial assemblies never co-opted from systems with different functions.

I am not an expert on Behe's argument of irreducible complexity, but I do think every point you have brought up here have been answered by Behe on his blog (I don't check it regularly thoug hI can't really direct you on that)

The one thing I noticed when irreducible complexity is being discussed is that often enough, people usually consider Behe's initial statements about irreducible complexity in his 1996 book, and then go on to see the arguments against it on sites such as talkorigins.org. But of course, all the waves of criticism Behe has received did not go unanswered on his part, but unfortunately, rarely anyone from both sides go beyond the initial rebuttals.

At the genetic level neutral mutations can and do spread through populations. Thus there is only a need for simultaneous mutations if every single mutation would be detrimental on its own.

Neutral mutations do not exist, only nearly-neutral mutations do (which have been redefined by Kimuara is effectively neutral mutations)

That would also be wrong - it is just that the limits are not exceeded in any known case. (The existence of limits is quite clear !)

Well obviously the argument Behe makes in his recent books is that some aspects of the biodiversity we see implies that these limits have to have been exceeded.

Also I should warn you that there are a lot of traps in probability. One of them is arguing from hindsight. Simply arguing that the exact sequence of events is incredibly unlikely is meaningless because every every sufficiently long sequence of events is incredibly unlikely. Toss a coin 30 times, recording the sequence of heads and tails - the odds of getting that sequence are a billion to one against.

Of course, and this was the case of the OP with the video of an amazingly improbable golf shot. It is arguing from hindsight since it was a recorded event that has been witnessed and documented.

On the other hand, none the gradual formations of any of the systems that are been discussed here has been witnessed or documented, they have only been assumed. Thus I would think it is not arguing from hindsight


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PaulK
Member
Posts: 14346
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 1.6


Message 39 of 65 (519879)
08-18-2009 2:14 AM
Reply to: Message 38 by slevesque
08-18-2009 1:45 AM


Re: Disproving Natural Selection Through Probability
quote:

I am not an expert on Behe's argument of irreducible complexity, but I do think every point you have brought up here have been answered by Behe on his blog (I don't check it regularly thoug hI can't really direct you on that)

Even if Behe has offered answers he cannot rule those possibilities out altogether. Thus your point is still incorrect.

quote:

Neutral mutations do not exist, only nearly-neutral mutations do (which have been redefined by Kimuara is effectively neutral mutations)

You mean that neutral mutations (by the standard definition) really do exist. Your personal hair-splitting definition may be convenient to you, but because it relies on differences too small to be significant it offers nothing of relevance to this discussion.

quote:

Well obviously the argument Behe makes in his recent books is that some aspects of the biodiversity we see implies that these limits have to have been exceeded.

Actually he argues for his own limits (which - according to comments I have seen) do not appear to be real limits.

quote:

On the other hand, none the gradual formations of any of the systems that are been discussed here has been witnessed or documented, they have only been assumed. Thus I would think it is not arguing from hindsight

Yes, it would be arguing from hindsight - even more so than in the case of the golf example. At least in the case of the golf shot there is a genuine goal (to get the ball in the hole). You would be assuming an explicit goal to produce the observed system - when there is no goal to even produce a system performing the same task. It is only by hindsight that you know of the existence and function of the system. If evolution had gone some other course you would be looking at a completely different system in a completely different species and calling THAT too improbable to evolve.


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anglagard
Member
Posts: 2184
From: Socorro, New Mexico USA
Joined: 03-18-2006


Message 40 of 65 (519880)
08-18-2009 2:24 AM
Reply to: Message 36 by slevesque
08-18-2009 12:59 AM


Deep Something or Other
slevesque writes:

Sometimes, hearing some evolutionists, it seems as though Neo-Darwinism has no limits in its capacity to create, but I do think that there is a limit, an edge, to the powers of Neo-Darwinism. Even on a theoretical level. (considering a finite amount of time of course)

Relative to the 6,000 year time limit insisted upon by the most geology, physics, chemistry, and biology-denying fanatics, which would be closer to infinity? Indeed if treated as a mathematical series which number would be closer to approximating infinity, 6,000 years or 3.8 billion?

It appears to me you have a problem with deep time which may influence your rejection of Neo-Darwinism. There is a potential cure, although it does not work on all who suffer from this disability.

This would be the Sagan cure. Here is a mildly amusing variant you may want to consider:

http://www.worsleyschool.net/science/files/toiletpaper/history.html

The concept of deep time is as necessary to understanding gradual descent with modification as the ability to visualize both deep time and three dimensions is in geology (and in the case of 3D, organic chemistry). You either have it or you don't.

The same applies to deep space. I remember reading as a child in the old 1964 World Book Encyclopedia that if the sun was the size of a dime the nearest equivalent neighbor, Alpha Centauri, would be a dime 10 miles away.

The great short film by the Eames' brothers, Powers of Ten, attempts to show what is meant by distance on the macro and micro levels. Naturally it requires an understanding of logarithmic expansion/contaction and magnification of viewpoint, another challenge for one who may be clueless about deep time or, indeed, space or even logarithms. Had they made an equivalent film concerning the history of life on Earth, it would come across as an Ozu film with the payoff of some supposed ultimate purpose a loooooong time coming. Of course for those who accept the current enlightened human understanding, namely those who question and think about any declarations of fact concerning the universe (aka the works of God as opposed to the words of men) as opposed to declaring perfect (pseudo-god) absolute knowledge of the universe without evidence, such a film would be more a Kieslowski, a gradual unfolding of eternal truth without any final solution.

Sorry about the multidisciplinary stuff, but sometimes the beauty of creation and the best of human understanding overwhelms me and I wax philosophic.

OK, so where is that 'limit' to evolution at anyway? Is it in just a simple misunderstanding of one book?

Evidence?


The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas - uncertainty, progress, change - into crimes.
ó Salman Rushdie

This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. Itís us. Only us. - the character Rorschach in Watchmen


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slevesque
Member (Idle past 2537 days)
Posts: 1456
Joined: 05-14-2009


Message 41 of 65 (519914)
08-18-2009 12:04 PM
Reply to: Message 40 by anglagard
08-18-2009 2:24 AM


Re: Deep Something or Other
Don't worry, I do not have any problem with deep time and 3D space. I mentionned a finite amount of time because the limit to evolution isn't applicable with infinite time, since any improbable event will happen with infinite time.

But since you don't have an infinite amount of time to work with, than evolution does have a limit. The thing here is to discover where is that limit, and if currently observable biological systems require this limit to be exceeded in order to have been produced by natural-Selection+Mutations


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dwise1
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Posts: 3170
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Member Rating: 4.6


Message 42 of 65 (519919)
08-18-2009 12:39 PM
Reply to: Message 26 by InGodITrust
08-17-2009 1:28 AM


Re: Disproving Natural Selection Through Probability
The thing about math is that we get to wave our hands for a much shorter time than in some other disciplines. In very short order, we are called upon to sit down and do the math.

To start with, in order to realize the stated goal of using probability to disprove evolution by natural selection, it would be necessary both to learn probability and to have an actual and accurate probability model for evolution by natural selection. The first point is relatively easy and the second point is absolutely crucial.

First, what's the probability of two things both happening if we know the probability of each of them? For example, given the probabilities of p1 and p2, probability p of them both occurring is:

quote:
p = p1 ◊ p2

Since all probabilities range from 0 to 1, inclusive, if p1 and p2 are both less than 1, then p is less than either of them.

Another example would be the flipping of a coin and getting heads (which we will assume is 0.5, even though that's a bit off due to the uneven distribution of mass in a coin). If we flip the coin twice, the probability of heads both times is (0.5)2 = 0.25. If we flip it 10 times, then the probability becomes (0.5)10 = 0.0009765625. And so on.

That coin-toss example has often been used in the past by creationists to "disprove" evolution. An obvious problem with it is that it falsely assumes that a fixed sequence of events must occur one after the other, for generation after generation, without any breaks. Rather, there can be breaks in such a sequence that last for several generations without disrupting such a sequence in the least. Also, we're not just dealing with an individual line of descent, but rather with an entire population of individuals. So the question becomes: within a given population, what is the probability that at least one individual will acquire the mutation?

That is a different kind of question. We already know how to calculate the probability of p1 and p2 and p3 and p4. But now we need to calculate the probability of p1 or p2 or p3 or p4. Here is my approach:

In order to find the probability of something happening at least once in a given number of attempts, we figure out the probability of it not happening.

For any probability p of something happening, there is a probability q of it not happening, such that:

quote:
q = 1 - p
which also says that
p = 1 - q
which we will use later

So if we have a probability p and we want to know the probability of it happening at least once in n attempts (P), that would be:
quote:
q = 1 - p
Q = qn
P = 1 - Q = 1 - qn

To keep the first test simple so that we could do it by hand, let's do the coin toss again. p = 1/2 and n = 4. What's the probability of heads coming up at least once?
quote:
q = 1 - p = 1/2
Q = qn = (1/2)4 = 1/16
P = 1 - Q = 1 - 1/16 = 15/16

OK, now lets take a simple evolutionary situation, plug some token values in, and see what answer grinds out. The ony difference here is that we will need a calculator, so I'm using Excel so expect some round-off in the display.

Two mutations. Let's given them an equal probability of happening -- oh, say, one in a million. We have a population of 100,000. What's the probability of those two mutations both showing up at the same time in at least one individual within 100 generations?

quote:
p = (10-6)2 = 10-12
q = 1 - p = 0.99999999999900
Q = q100,000 ◊ 100 = q10,000,000 = 0.99999000027
P = 1 - Q = 9.99973 ◊ 10-6
or about 1 in 100,000

Not too probable, but nowhere near "astronomical".

Of course, we had over-restricted that into an unrealistic scenario. That scenario required that both mutations appear at the same time in the same individual, but there's no reason to place that requirement. The usual scenario is for one mutation to be neutral and then selection starts acting on it when the second one appears. In that case, then what's the probability of one of those mutations appearing?

quote:
p = 10-6
q = 1 - p = 0.99999900000000
Q = q100,000 ◊ 100 = q10,000,000 = 0.0000454
P = 1 - Q = 0.9999546
or just a smidge less than dead certainty

Within 10 generations, P is 0.63212. Within one generation, it's 0.095. Yet again, hardly astronomical.

Of course, to come up with meaningful results, we must have an accurate probability model for evolution as well as the actual probabilities of the events happening. Rather, the purpose of this exercise was to demonstrate the effects of populations and multiple generations on any probability calculations.

And when creationists present their probability arguments, then their probability models must be examined for accuracy. And above all, we cannot simply accept their conclusions supported solely by hand-waving. We must insist that they do the math and that they show their work!

PS
Case in point: Kent Hovind made a claim that, since the sun "burns its fuel" at a rate of 5 million tons per second, that means that 5 billion years ago the sun would have been so massive that it would have sucked the earth in from its orbit. Sounds impressive. Astronomical numbers and lots of creationist hand-waving.

But if we do the math, we will find that the total mass lost at that rate over a period of 5 billion years only amounts to a few hundredths of one percent of the sun's total mass. IOW, a fairly insignificant loss that would have only affected the earth's orbit by about 600,000 of its 93 million mile radius.

Just another object lesson to do the math!

Edited by dwise1, : PS


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anglagard
Member
Posts: 2184
From: Socorro, New Mexico USA
Joined: 03-18-2006


Message 43 of 65 (520007)
08-19-2009 12:49 AM
Reply to: Message 41 by slevesque
08-18-2009 12:04 PM


Re: Deep Something or Other
slevesque writes:

Don't worry, I do not have any problem with deep time and 3D space.

That's a revealing statement. All the earth and astrophysics professors I studied under, when they mentioned deep time, felt even they could not fully appreciate just how old life, the earth, and the universe truly are.

I mentionned a finite amount of time because the limit to evolution isn't applicable with infinite time, since any improbable event will happen with infinite time.

And I mentioned that for all practical purposes billions of years are damn close to infinite when compared to our limited experience.

But since you don't have an infinite amount of time to work with, than evolution does have a limit.

Please feel free to support this assertion by providing any information concerning what this so-called limit is and when and where it occurs.

The thing here is to discover where is that limit, and if currently observable biological systems require this limit to be exceeded in order to have been produced by natural-Selection+Mutations

No. The thing here is for you to identify where such a purported limit is, along with the characteristics of such a supposed limit. You made the assertion, it is up to you to defend it, not us.

Edited by anglagard, : grammnnar


The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas - uncertainty, progress, change - into crimes.
ó Salman Rushdie

This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. Itís us. Only us. - the character Rorschach in Watchmen


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lyx2no
Member (Idle past 2612 days)
Posts: 1277
From: A vast, undifferentiated plane.
Joined: 02-28-2008


Message 44 of 65 (520077)
08-19-2009 9:24 AM
Reply to: Message 41 by slevesque
08-18-2009 12:04 PM


No Time Limit
But since you don't have an infinite amount of time to work with, than evolution does have a limit.

Time has not delivered us from three mile long anacondas and intelligent microbes, physics has.

As for the many things that are physically possible but not available for comment, they also have not been ruled out by a time limit, but by chance. That simply isn't the direction evolution took (here).

Once life gets past the single cell phase, which does seem to take an incredibly long time, there are other limits that it runs into way before it gets to another time limit.

Can you describe a condition that evolution has not had time to evolve?


It's not the man that knows the most that has the most to say.
ó Anon

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InGodITrust
Member (Idle past 2217 days)
Posts: 53
From: Reno, Nevada, USA
Joined: 05-02-2009


Message 45 of 65 (520124)
08-19-2009 1:42 PM
Reply to: Message 44 by lyx2no
08-19-2009 9:24 AM


Theodric, you asked if I was trying to find a way to disprove evolution by natural selection. Yes.

I'm not smart enough or well educated enough to discover a way to overthrow Darwin's theory myself, but I'm hoping someone else can. Maybe Behe; I'll have to check out his work.

Why? Religion. Even if I could stretch the Bible to interpret that a day is not literally a day in Genesis, and maybe God layed down fossils while tweaking and fine tuning life forms, I still could not stretch it to the point of Darwin. Man evolving by chance is impossible to reconcile with the Bible. God created man in his image; Jesus walked the earth as a man; and only man--not animals--can be blessed with everlasting life through Jesus.

I bet it would seem to most scientist that someone searching for a way to disprove Darwin is on a futile mission, like a treasure hunter looking for the Lost Dutchman's Mine. But even if I don't find anything, all is not lost: I'll learn a little about biology.

Edited by InGodITrust, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 44 by lyx2no, posted 08-19-2009 9:24 AM lyx2no has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 46 by InGodITrust, posted 08-19-2009 2:48 PM InGodITrust has not yet responded
 Message 50 by Theodoric, posted 08-19-2009 7:36 PM InGodITrust has responded

    
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