Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Survey Answer Key

Well I'm a bit disappoint with the lack of responses to Monday's survey post, but as promised I'll post my opinions. These are not "the answers" as the title of this post would suggest. This is just my opinion. Unfortunately, I do not have my original answers, but I will do my best to reproduce them.

To the best of your understanding, and in your own words, please explain what "evolution" means.

Evolution is changes in organisms over time as a result of the successful reproduction of organisms with beneficial traits. Beneficial traits, in this case, are those that help the organism reach maturity and bare offspring. These traits are not always limited to ones that only benefit the organism. Organisms that protect their young and work together with others are generally better at passing their genes. Evolution is something that happens generation to generation, but does not always bring about a net change in a species' traits.

If you accept the theory of evolution, please explain in your own words why; or if you do not accept the theory of evolution, please explain in you own words why not.

I accept the theory of evolution because it makes sense to me. It is easy to see how it can work in real world situations, and it is currently the best explanation we have for our origin. This is a theory based on supporting evidence. I will put my stock in it until I see reasonable evidence against it.


So, these are my thoughts on evolution. I welcome your opinions and comments.

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Here is an article about an observed example of evolution occurring generation to generation:
http://judson.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/22/a-natural-selection/

32 comments:

  1. First off, love the blog. I agree with you on pretty much everything. Now that I'm back in internet contact, here is my response to the survey:

    To the best of your understanding, and in your own words, please explain what "evolution" means.

    Evolution is the process of an organism adapting to it's environment over a long period of time. An organism with the most advantagous characteristics will have greater performance and survivability, thus that organism will have a greater chance of surviving it's environment. If a species does not have characteristics that allow it some advantage over others, then it's genetic line will die out. This process is completely fluid and continuous, with the exception of modern technology halting the evolution of the human species.

    If you accept the theory of evolution, please explain in your own words why; or if you do not accept the theory of evolution, please explain in you own words why not.

    I accept evolution as a valid and probable theory because it is heavily backed up by fact and logic. It easily and completely explains the origin of all life on the planet all the way back to, but not including, single-cell organisms. The fossil record completely backs up the theory. To me the theory makes complete sense, and has plenty of evidence, so I accept it.

    ---

    Pretty much the same kind of thoughts. I kind of glossed over the reproductive aspect of evolution, because I rolled it into the concept of "surviving".

    I can't wait to read more.

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  2. It's interesting that you say technology has halted the evolution of the human species. It is true that humanitarianism has allow weak traits to be passed on, when the carrier probably should have died. But this is assuming that physical strength is a requirement of a survivability trait. It would seem to me that we evolved a trait that makes us value human lives. This allows some physical weakness through, but the gain in collective intelligence is worth the trade off. Think of how many scientists and engineers may have died before fulfilling their potential. So it's a bit of a trade off, but I think the end result is a trait that allows the species to survive.

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  3. I don't see how technology has halted evolution. "Evolution," when taken in the context of the theory of evolution, takes millions of years to come about. The high technological era, arguably, has only lasted a couple of thousand. Yet, more to the point that showkiller was trying to make, Evolution in itself means "advancement" or "becoming something greater." Regardless if we haven't grown another finger in the last seven million years, we have rockets and jets and computers. In this sense, we have evolved lightyears ahead of previous non-technological years.

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  4. Counter-point to my previous argumenet: people still put song lyrics on their away messages

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  5. Also, the answer to the second question is, "because that's what scientists are right now telling me." People believed the string theory so fucking hard until it was disproven, and now people believe the M-Theory, which is the biggest load of magical fill-in-the-blank crap ever, and when that becomes disproven, people will believe another theory. Needless to say, the Theory of Evolution is a lot more tangible, but it's not like WE came to these conclusions ourselves by actually seeing the facts. We're just believing what people are telling us.

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  6. First of all, Evolution does not "by definition" take thousands of years. It happens generation to generation:

    http://judson.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/22/a-natural-selection/

    Hit the link for an observed example. We don't just believe these things because scientists tell us. We call them theories because they are explicitly not proven. These are ideas that seem to fit observed evidence. The mere fact that theories get disproved is proof that they are challenged constantly. Religious leaders don't challenge belief in God. Skeptical thinking is their enemy.

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  7. Sorry, that link didn't really show up right. I'll add it to the main post.

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  8. I was talking about evolution purely in a biological sense. I'm not saying the human race isn't advancing, but natural selection is no longer occuring(with the exception of maybe Darwin award winners :P ). Not to pick on fat people, but before technology they never would have survived. Granted, you could also argue that they never would have been fat in the first place. Genetic diseases that normally would kill off their host are allowed to be passed on and grow in the gene pool. Technology and medicine allow us to compensate for this, but it surely isn't the same process as before. Maybe that's the defining characteristic that makes humans the dominant species: the ability to fight evolution and natural selection.

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  9. To ShowKiller: Actually religious leaders are challenged daily when they get the question, "why, if I've gone to church my entire life, is my son dying of cancer?" and that sort of question. That's some pretty concrete evidence proving the other side's point.

    Regardless though, I'm pretty sure you didn't go out yourself and uncover bones. Nor did you make complex mathematical theories about changes in creatures biological history, nor did you uncover all the missing links in the world. You're believing what others are telling you. As I've said, Evolution is a litttttle bit more tangible because we can go out in museums and see it for ourselves. Even still, we're not discovering these truths for ourselves. We're having them told to us. So there's blind trust on some level, somewhere.

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  10. Technology has not halted evolution. I can not stress this enough. Evolution does not favor "physical superiority". It favors only those organisms that survive and reproduce in the CURRENT environment. If the physically weak people can live to reproduce, than they are most certainly "fit" to exist in THIS environment. Evolution only removes those which can not survive. So in our current society, fat is "fit".

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  11. AirSoarer: I'm sure people will argue this, but natural selection and evolution do not go hand-in-hand. To me, we're fighting off natural selection BY evolving past it. The word "evolution" has nothing to do with biological changes... and maybe the theory of evolution shouldn't either. Creatures adapted hands and feet to escape predators in the water. Why is it different that we've developed pacemakers to fight off heart attacks and antibiotics to fight off infection?

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  12. We can't all go out and uncover bones. So yes, we do need to place trust in scientists on some level. But this is entirely different than faith. By definition, faith is belief in something without evidence. There are no classroom labs to test your faith. The scientific process allows for criticism and change. If an idea is proven wrong, it changes. I have a lot more trust in that process than I do in the blind acceptance of "holy" dogma.

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  13. All that is true, but my answer to the "why do I believe in the theory of evolution" would be "because Scientists tell me it is true."

    Yes, you are totally right about how scientists (usually) test and scrutinize their methods, but that in the end isn't the answer to the question. I believe in Evolution cause I trust what the scientists tell me.

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  14. On believing scientists:

    It's impossible to be a leading mind in EVERY field of study possible. Thus, you have to accept that there are people who know more than you. Sadly enough, believing scientists is kind of akin to the religious believing their leaders. Dogma is dogma.

    The difference however is that scientists can explain and back up their findings with facts. You can just as easily reject a scientific theory as you can a religion. But like I said earlier, science can offer supporting evidence while religion can't. Without concrete proof, either are technically just as valid.

    ---
    On evolution:

    I think that this is just an arguement of semantics. I'm arguing that the nature of evolution has changed. What is happening now is not what has happened for millions of years. My view of the theory is of the naturally occuring environment. It explains how we got from single-cell organisms to now. Humans are still changing, but I just don't see that we are "evolving" in the old ways.

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  15. no, i did not uncover those dinosaur bones, but i saw them with my own eyes. i did not discover the theory of relativity, or gravity, but i see them evident in my life. i did not find the missing link, but i have seen bones of ancient humans in different stages of evolution. nobody has ever brought me to hell, nor have any of my dead relatives contacted me from heaven. i did not meet jesus. not to mention the fact that dinosaur bones and frackin (hehe) gravity have been around far longer then any religious dogma. i do not believe in science because "that's what scientists right now are telling me," but because it's been around for much longer than any sort of religious dogma. they lost me at adam and eve.

    .......

    i do not believe technology has halted human evolution. our lives are far too short to ever make the assumption that technology has halted evolution. relying too much on technology could have a detrimental effect on the survival of certain undesireable human traits, but only time will tell. At this point in our evolutionary journey, I don't think the fittest will necessarily possess stronger physical characteristics, but rather stronger mental faculties.

    .....


    noah: "why, if I've gone to church my entire life, is my son dying of cancer?"
    because it is god's will and serves a higher purpose.

    amen to that logic!

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  16. dearprudence, you can see gravity? You can prove those dinosaur bones existed billions of years ago? Or are you believing those who tell you that it's not Jesus who is holding your legs down and those dinosaurs didn't drown in the great flood a 10,000 years ago.
    I certainly don't believe in any form of organized religion, but as airsoarer said, dogma is dogma. Just because you're believing someone who can back up his theories, doesn't mean on some level, it's not the same blind faith that everyone has.
    I believe in science, but I reject a lot of ridiculous new-age theories: quantum brain theory, M-Theory... Just cause some people have theories and math to back it up, doesn't mean it's correct.


    Also, another correction, religion has been around far longer than science. Far, far, far longer. You can't say that "well, evolution has been around longer than religion!" cause someone is going to say "well Adam and Eve have been around longer than evolution!"

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  17. you know, i had a nice long rebuttal all typed up for that - but i'm not even going to bother. that response was ridiculous and you missed my point.

    i'm going to go outside and watch some gravity.

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  18. airsoarer you are right on the money. I've read all your posts here and it makes sense. There is no way the human race's weaker members (physically and mentally) are dying off. I mean we have people who live their lives in wheel chairs, or rely on inhalers and medicine to survive. Granted this is all helping the race's survivability ( which is in a sense evolution) but it is certainly not Darwin's idea.

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  19. If I missed your original point, I would be more than willing to listen to a clarification.
    I believe your point was, "I know gravity exists cause I can see gravity's effects" which is an incredibly odd point to argue. One could easily say, "I know Jesus exists because Jesus keeps my feet connected to the ground and prevents me from floating away." That statement in itself is proving my point.

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  20. Yes, but you have no physical evidence to support your belief. That makes it a delusion.

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  21. I believe Noah's point is that you've never personally seen a graviton. No one has. It's only been theorized by scientists. You can observe gravity's effects, but you can't explain it without knowledge from someone else. Scientific knowledge is passed down from "authority" in the same way religion is. As much as we'd like science to be this iron-clad beacon of truth, it's a belief as much as anything else.

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  22. AirSoarer has it on the nose.
    Not only have we not seen a graviton, but scientists are leaning towards acknowledging that gravitons don't exist... The math that we thought was so grounded no longer works when we go outside our galaxy, our satalites are reacting to gravity that shouldn't be there, and several new quantum theories explain every single force in our universe BUT gravity. In actuality, we have no physical proof to support general relativity. We just had lots and lots of math, which is no longer even adding up.

    Still, evolution is a bit different. There is plenty of concrete physical evidence that shows we have evolved, considering all the bones we have dug up that have similar structures to bones ten thousand years earlier. Hell, even Showkiller provided a link showing us how we can see can watch evolution in our own lifetime.

    I had another point, something that had gotten lost in a flurry of replies. That point was, we have not gone out looking for evolution. We have not decided to become archaeologists or scientists, nor have we done anything in our life time to find concrete proof of evolution beyond what we read in textbooks and wikipedia articles. We simply read something scientists have written and tell ourselves that THIS must be the truth... it's the same thing a person does when he picks up a bible and figures the truth must be in there.

    I'll once again clarify that I'm not saying we're all idiots for believing in science. On a lot of ways, one could argue that it's more "logical" to agree with what the scientists have to stay then all the Priests and Rabbis in the world... but we shouldn't look down on those who believe in organized religion because we're doing the same thing they're doing: believing in a popular opinion because of what we've read.

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  23. Just to clear it up, I believe that general relativity and the theory of evolution are more or less correct. So I'm not sure where "my beliefs" came from.

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  24. i get noah's freakin point. i'm just completely baffled because he's contradicting himself like 20 million times and i have no idea where he's coming from. if you're playing the devil's advocate, then fine, but if you aren't, then whoa. i'm aware that science is just as theoretical as religion, i was merely explaining why i find it easier to believe in scientific theories. i don't think it's right to look down on people who believe in organized religion; it's the ones who are fanatical about it that worry me. i believe everyone is entitled to believe in whatever helps them get through the day, and no one has any right to take away whatever comfort or happiness they get from believing in a higher power. if believing that jesus will save you and you'll live forever in god's good graces makes you a better person, then so be it. a woman asked me a little while ago how i can not have faith in a higher power, and i answered that i don't feel the need to rely on a higher power - i have family and friends who love me, and in the end that's what gets me through the day. she was totally baffled. i equate belonging to an organized religion as belonging to an extended family - it gets you through the hard times and makes you feel good. it's when people of one religion try to force it on to people of another religion or of no religion that really bothers me. religion should not be a fan club. now, i am completely against the indoctrination of young children, because i definitely believe that your beliefs should be decided upon once you've had some time on this earth to figure out where you stand. but that's another story.

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  25. How in the world am I contradicting myself? I don't think you get my point at all.
    I was explaining my response to the second question, where I said that everyone's answer, on some level, should be "because that's what I was told by scientists." Did you read all the comments before you responded to me?

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  26. Noah, I see your point about how we have a similar faith in scientist that people have in religious leaders. For some reason, though, you're putting these faiths on equal footing. The scientific process has a questioning nature, and urges people to think critically. You keep pointing out how scientific opinion changes all the time. You validate my point every time you do. Science is composed of theories. You can challenge and change theories. Much harder to change religious dogma (although it does change).

    You also keep pointing out the most advanced theories you can find. (I would appreciate if you could link where you're getting this info from by the way.) When you do this you're just setting up a straw man to knock over. Most of these theories are very conceptual and very far reaching. String theory has never been presented as fact. That would be ridiculous. It's an idea, and the scientific community has always treated it as such.

    Now were does religion get their explanations? They make it up! God did it! This is intellectual bankruptcy. This is giving up. The answer is "I don't know, we will never know." Religion urges you to accept. Blind faith is not a virtue. Science seeks the truth in a skeptical manner, and that is why I will always uphold it.

    Sorry for rambling.

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  27. Ramble away, discussion passes time doing documentation at work

    I think we have a misunderstanding in what I'm pointing out right now. I never said religion and science were on the equal footing, I even said in my last comment that you could say it's more "logical" to believe in science, because of the scientific process and the scrutiny of theories. Religious leaders will tell you that what they know is pure fact, while the scientific community will tell you everything you know might be different one day (I will note, completely irrelevant to the topic, that some scientists in the 90s swore up and down that the string theory was the answer to the universe, but enough digressing).

    I'm saying how we, as non-scientists, learn about science is the same way others, as non-religious men, learn about religion. We are told about it by our teachers or our parents or our peers, and we read up on it. We read what others personally believe. And just like we've never seen God, we ourselves, have never gone out and watched evolution with our own eyes. We have bones, but we never dug them up, we never carbon dated them, we never compared them to bones of the past or present. I'm not putting science on the same pedestal as religion, but the way we come to accept science is the same way others come to accept religion.

    So, in a lot of ways, our answer to number two should be, "because I read up on something that I personally believed." There are clearly other aspects to the answer, but a lot of it is faith that the authorities we are listening to are correct.

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  28. I think we have reached a point we agree on. You are basically saying that we need to express caution in what we hear, even if it's from a scientist. I can agree with that. Good talk.

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  29. Also, I mentioned "general relativity" which is the theory of gravity that superceded Newton's Law. The M-Theory is the ever expanding, magical theory taken right out of a comic book, which can probably never be proven but because the underlying math sort of ties together quantum mechanics and gravity, scientists are rushing towards it like flies to a fire. It's pretty much the theory of reality, the end-all equation that ties everything in life together. It's also one of those theories that scientists throw in MWI (pretty much alternate universers) to even out all their math.
    I can't really give any good links, but as always, wikipedia will give you a great description of both of them.

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  30. Yes, I think we can agree on that point.

    Wikipedia actually has a very basic (as basic as it gets) description of the M-Theory here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introduction_to_M-theory

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  31. The funny thing is I came into this topic putting science on a pedestal, and I basically convinced myself of otherwise. Funny how you can change what you believe by examining why you believe it. If only more people would do that.

    Anyway, put up a new post so we can can debate it...

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