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Author Topic:   The Definition for the Theory of Evolution
Wepwawet
Member (Idle past 4451 days)
Posts: 85
From: Texas
Joined: 04-05-2006


Message 16 of 216 (409178)
07-07-2007 8:48 PM
Reply to: Message 15 by Grizz
07-07-2007 7:31 PM


Please turn to The Book of Darwin: Chapter 1, Verse 1
This is another disconnect between the two camps. See, they have a source they can point back to and say "Look; it says right here Goddidit, and if you don't believe me you can argue with the author...while you're toasting in eternal hellfire."

They want us to quote some seminal, single definition that is eternally true, and they want us to nail down the target for them. Scientists and serious students (and I would add people of modest intelligence but honest intentions) have little trouble dealing with uncertainties. Isn't this really the same thing as say The Golden Rule...sure it means treat others just like you want to be treated, but it's really much more than that. We all know what the ToE is, but can any two of us agree on how it's phrased; does this make it any less true than the Golden Rule which has umpteen different phrasings in the Bible alone. Maybe we should insist on a quid pro quo and ask them to standardize their eternal truths before they come gunning for temporal knowledge.

I suggest we start by saying The Theory of Evolution is the collective scientific understanding of developmental biology that begins with Darwin's Theory of Descent with Modification through Natural Selection. If they want to know what that means we can point them to Origin of the Species with the warning that this is all just where it starts.

Edited by Wepwawet, : Believe me, it's better this way


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RAZD
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From: the other end of the sidewalk
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Message 17 of 216 (409181)
07-07-2007 9:04 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Modulous
07-07-2007 6:22 PM


Re: my opinion, my Favorite
I would say it includes natural selection, hereditary variation, neutral drift and epigenetics to name a few but I would be more keen to draw a line between the phenomenon and the theory that explains the phenomenon.

Would epigenetics cover the ground of evo-devo too? This seems to be an emerging aspect critical to how some (not all) features develop. It also seems a bit "technese" for a common definition (although that was not in the original specs). I was also thinking of including something regarding the effect of changes in the environment, and this would cover that.

Thanks.


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RAZD
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Message 18 of 216 (409187)
07-07-2007 9:20 PM
Reply to: Message 16 by Wepwawet
07-07-2007 8:48 PM


Re: Please turn to The Book of Darwin: Chapter 1, Verse 1
The Theory of Evolution is the collective scientific understanding of developmental biology that begins with Darwin's Theory of Descent with Modification through Natural Selection ...

... adds the modern synthesis (with genetics), and is flavored as necessary by new theoretical mechanisms and phenomena...

That would be some grand unified synthesis theory. Interesting approach. The only caveat that I have is that it doesn't necessarily exclude aspects that some people have preconceived as being necessary, like extremely long periods of time or a single common ancestor back at the start of life.

Enjoy.


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Dr Adequate
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Member Rating: 8.3


Message 19 of 216 (409214)
07-08-2007 1:37 AM


Remember, a theory is an explanation for a fact. Definition 1 says what evolution is. But the explanation for evolution is the law of natural selection and the laws of genetics: that's the theory of evolution.

anastasia
Member (Idle past 4295 days)
Posts: 1857
From: Bucks County, PA
Joined: 11-05-2006


Message 20 of 216 (409215)
07-08-2007 1:40 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by RAZD
07-07-2007 11:18 AM


Re: Your opinion, Your Favorite
Hi RAZD,

You probably won't find my comments too useful, but I was still interested in the topic, and I had a small thought.

Your definition;

Evolution is the (hereditary) change in species over time.

and the Forum definition, would probably not cause the fundies to lose any sleep.

The theory of evolution, on the other hand, can be stated as “All the living forms in the world have arisen over billions of years from a single common ancestor which itself came from an inorganic form.” This can be equated with the commonly used terms “macroevolution” (used by evolutionist) or simply “theory of evolution” (used by creationists).

This one would.

I suggest you put it all out there on the table so that there can be no misconception.

I also have found it useful to dwell on BIG changes happening one small step at a time. Much of the doubt arises when us neophites try to think on a large scale. Macro evolution, if I understand genetics rightly, is something which occurs on a 'micro' level.

I guess I am wondering if your def. is for those 'in the know', or for the average layman?


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Dr Adequate
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Message 21 of 216 (409225)
07-08-2007 2:05 AM
Reply to: Message 20 by anastasia
07-08-2007 1:40 AM


Re: Your opinion, Your Favorite
Yes, and the theory of gravity would make fundies lose sleep if we told them it included the formation of the Solar System, but it doesn't, as such. Nor does the theory of evolution as such include abiogenesis and universal common descent, and I don't see why we should change the meaning of "theory" and "evolution" and "theory of evolution" just to give creationists insomnia.

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anastasia
Member (Idle past 4295 days)
Posts: 1857
From: Bucks County, PA
Joined: 11-05-2006


Message 22 of 216 (409236)
07-08-2007 3:03 AM
Reply to: Message 21 by Dr Adequate
07-08-2007 2:05 AM


Re: Your opinion, Your Favorite
Yeah, point taken. I was going to say that the abiogenesis reference should be removed.

The common ancestry part seems a little more important.

I am not suggesting that anyone TRY to cause insomnia...but decent with modification is not the thing that creationists contest. That is easily observable. To ensure no oversight, it must be clear that macro evolution happens.

The best means I personally have found for understanding, is in breaking things down to the smallest level. That is not conclusively common ancestry, BUT the possibility of common ancestry, with modification, seems to make the most sense. Similar ancestry would probably suit as well, but it is up to you guys to decide which is more plausible.


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Doddy
Member (Idle past 4252 days)
Posts: 563
From: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 01-04-2007


Message 23 of 216 (409244)
07-08-2007 7:32 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by subbie
07-07-2007 3:42 PM


Re: Your opinion, Your Favorite
subbie writes:

As stated, it could encompass either Darwinian or Lamarkian change.

Yes, that's why you often read "the theory of evolution by natural selection". Both of those gents had a theory of evolution, but only one had much explanatory power when presented with the evidence.


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Grizz
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Posts: 318
Joined: 06-08-2007


Message 24 of 216 (409249)
07-08-2007 9:58 AM


It also helps to define what it is not. It is not an information rich theory like the Standard Model of particle physics or General Relativity. There are no equations or models that arrise from the theory that are capable of making specific predictions about the future. Essentially the theory is in a unique class in that it's explanatory power lies in the ability to reconstruct the past and not predict the future.

The theory also could be characterised as defining classes of interacting chaotic systems which comprise a whole. Small changes in a variable can lead to large changes in the whole. One cannot predict what those changes are or will be - one can only predict the whole will change. Not only are the components capable of directing the whole but the whole is capable of shaping the future of the parts through natural selection.

Looked at in this way neo-darwinism is essentialy a dynamical chaotic Theory of process. It is a lesson in chaos and systems theory.


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Dr Adequate
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Message 25 of 216 (409258)
07-08-2007 10:47 AM
Reply to: Message 24 by Grizz
07-08-2007 9:58 AM


It also helps to define what it is not. It is not an information rich theory like the Standard Model of particle physics or General Relativity. There are no equations or models that arrise from the theory that are capable of making specific predictions about the future. Essentially the theory is in a unique class in that it's explanatory power lies in the ability to reconstruct the past and not predict the future.

I would debate this supposed uniqueness, but as a forensic scientist has informed me I'll be murdered the day after tomorrow, and an archaeologist has told me that I'll be buried a few days later, I don't see why I should waste my precious time.

Instead, I thought I'd devote my last few hours to predicting the gravitational interaction of more than two bodies ... oh, wait, that's impossible, isn't it?

* rolls eyes *


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Grizz
Member (Idle past 3813 days)
Posts: 318
Joined: 06-08-2007


Message 26 of 216 (409266)
07-08-2007 11:42 AM
Reply to: Message 25 by Dr Adequate
07-08-2007 10:47 AM


I would debate this supposed uniqueness, but as a forensic scientist has informed me I'll be murdered the day after tomorrow, and an archaeologist has told me that I'll be buried a few days later, I don't see why I should waste my precious time.

Instead, I thought I'd devote my last few hours to predicting the gravitational interaction of more than two bodies ... oh, wait, that's impossible, isn't it?

hmmm...Ok I'm game although I don't want to stray too much from the OP.

The solutions to central force motion for an n-body system are not solvable without using perturbative methods; However the resulting equation for the center of mass of the n-body system is perfectly capable of predicting the future position of the center of mass. One is capable of making exact inferences about the the future of the system as a whole. If you would I will gladly share the equations of motion for the center of mass of a 3 body system in a central force field.

What does the theory of evolution exactly predict about the future of biological systems? Outside of inherently unpredictable events such as mutations what is the formalism for making predictions about specific states of the organism in the future? In it's current form the theory of evolution states systems will change - it is incapable of predicting what the future states will be. The only prediction for an organism is it will eventually no longer be tenable - it will 'die'.

Natural selection acting on random mutations is of no value in making any specific predictions about the future states of a genome because the underlying mechanism is random. In it's current form it's utility lies only in its ability to act as a theory of mechanisms to account for the past. You cannot use it to predict the future of a species.

If you would care to share what the theory predicts about future specific mutations that will occur in a genome I will be happy to listen and learn. * Rolls Eyes * (counter to your eye roll) :)

Also .....

You are confusing solvability with predictability. There are many techniques one can employ to circumvent the solvability issue and still arrive at specific predictions about the future state of a system - there are perturbative methods, computer modeling, simulations ect. We send probes to land on the surfaces of bodies within a complex dynamical system because we have the tools to predict the future physical states of systems with a high degree of accuracy. Classical graviation is an extremely usefull tool not only in explaining the past states of a system but also in predicting the future. We can do all this because gravitation does not describe a random process - the future is deterministic.

Edited by Grizz, : No reason given.

Edited by Grizz, : No reason given.


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Modulous
Member (Idle past 446 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 27 of 216 (409273)
07-08-2007 12:03 PM
Reply to: Message 22 by anastasia
07-08-2007 3:03 AM


Re: Your opinion, Your Favorite
I am not suggesting that anyone TRY to cause insomnia...but decent with modification is not the thing that creationists contest. That is easily observable. To ensure no oversight, it must be clear that macro evolution happens.

The first big hurdle is to try and convince creationists that they don't have a problem with the theory of evolution. We shouldn't word it so that they do have a problem with it just to fit their misconceptions. Creationists agree that (at least most of) the mechanisms proposed in the ToE can lead to genetic changes in a population.

The disagreement is twofold: How much change the theory of evolution can explain (it can explain micro but not macro according to the creationists) and how much change has occurred on earth (only micro and not macro).

Either way, there is little true quarrel from creationists about the theory - most think that common ancestry is the theory of evolution and we should take pains to steer them from that misconception. It is only when we agree on consistent terms that we can have a meaningful debate.


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Grizz
Member (Idle past 3813 days)
Posts: 318
Joined: 06-08-2007


Message 28 of 216 (409280)
07-08-2007 12:35 PM
Reply to: Message 27 by Modulous
07-08-2007 12:03 PM


Re: Your opinion, Your Favorite
It is only when we agree on consistent terms that we can have a meaningful debate.

Looking at the literature available there does not seem to be a standard defintion for what evolution is. There are too many terms a lay reader comes accross - Darwinism, neo-dariniwms, mutations, natural selection, gene drift ect ect. The result is information overload.

A student looking at a physics text might see a defintion of gravity such as 'the force of attraction between 2 bodies'. One can very easily conceptualise this. Reading and following a theory of origins like the Big Bang also is easy to conceptualise.

When a student or lay reader comes accross the theory of evolution and reads something like 'Naural slection acting on random mutations' then hears further talk about alelle frequencies and all other sorts of foreign ideas the result is not so easy to conceptualise. It can be easily discarded as mumbo jumbo. IMO the scientific community does a very poor job of presenting the theory to the public.


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Dr Adequate
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Posts: 16107
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 8.3


Message 29 of 216 (409283)
07-08-2007 12:45 PM
Reply to: Message 28 by Grizz
07-08-2007 12:35 PM


When a student or lay reader comes accross the theory of evolution and reads something like 'Naural slection acting on random mutations' then hears further talk about alelle frequencies and all other sorts of foreign ideas the result is not so easy to conceptualise. It can be easily discarded as mumbo jumbo. IMO the scientific community does a very poor job of presenting the theory to the public.

One can only make things so simple. How should we explain evolution without mentioning such abstruse concepts as random mutation and natural selection?


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16107
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 8.3


Message 30 of 216 (409285)
07-08-2007 12:55 PM
Reply to: Message 26 by Grizz
07-08-2007 11:42 AM


The solutions to central force motion for an n-body system are not solvable without using perturbative methods; However the resulting equation for the center of mass of the n-body system is perfectly capable of predicting the future position of the center of mass.

Shifting other people's goalposts is impolite.

What does the theory of evolution exactly predict about the future of biological systems? Outside of inherently unpredictable events such as mutations what is the formalism for making predictions about specific states of the organism in the future?

Population genetics.

In it's current form the theory of evolution states systems will change - it is incapable of predicting what the future states will be.

But this is not true. It predicts that adaptive change is overwhemingly more likely than maladaptive change.

Natural selection acting on random mutations is of no value in making any specific predictions about the future states of a genome because the underlying mechanism is random.

Which makes all those repeatable experiments a bit odd, no?

If you would care to share what the theory predicts about future specific mutations that will occur in a genome I will be happy to listen and learn.

I did not, of course, claim to be able to do this, any more than you claimed to be able to use the theory of gravity to predict the fall of dice.

I can, however, predict what will happen on the introduction of a new broad-spectrum antibiotic --- without needing to predict anything about specific mutations --- with a vatic accuracy that would be the envy of, for example, a meteorologist.

You are confusing solvability with predictability.

Nope. Hey, I've got a great idea --- why don't you let me tell you what my opinions are, instead of you guessing.


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