Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon May 13, 2013 11:04 pm UTC

chenille wrote:Reproduction is not all about guys luring babes. Even if you're going to ignore asexual animals and ones that simply release gametes into the water, behaviors of female humans and starfish are some obvious exceptions you might want to consider.
No, it's not, which is why I didn't say that. But, spawning as a reproductive strategy is still very much bound by these behaviors, and my point about 'from humans to starfish' was that everyone, from humans to starfish (not sure why you limited it to behaviors of female humans, but you may have mistook my reference to the Sexy Son Hypothesis), is very actively engaged in behavior that will improve their chances at successfully reproducing. Pointing to a lot of purported altruistic behaviors usually reveals that they aren't nearly as altruistic as you'd think. And, awesomely enough, human society is complex enough to be so built past this point that saying "I'm only interested in biology because it's an intellectual pursuit and I associate those with intelligence and intelligence with money and money with success and success with having lots of sex", still leaves you somewhere interesting without all that reductionism.

At the risk of getting too sidetracked here, I'm just going to say 'Yes, biologically speaking, organisms are only really interested in reproduction'. Humans are neat and unique insofar as being at least the bearers of a trait that is potentially outside the realm of biological pressures, and that trait is 'sapience'.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby chenille » Tue May 14, 2013 12:35 am UTC

Um, I mentioned female behavior because you casually left it out - you described all animal behavior as about being sexy for the females or surviving long enough for that, which implicitly is about only male behavior. You'd have to read your comment very generously to think it actually describes asexual reproduction or kin selection, but that particularly I felt needed at least a little rebuke. I guess I was too vague.

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby gmalivuk » Tue May 14, 2013 1:00 am UTC

chenille wrote:Um, I mentioned female behavior because you casually left it out - you described all animal behavior as about being sexy for the females or surviving long enough for that, which implicitly is about only male behavior. You'd have to read your comment very generously to think it actually describes asexual reproduction or kin selection, but that particularly I felt needed at least a little rebuke. I guess I was too vague.
Well it didn't seem especially vague to me or to doogly.

speising wrote:but if you break it down, what does people (stereo)typically make happy? wife/husband, kids, ....
The evolutionary drive to reproduce may explain why those things tend to make many people happy, but the goal consciously being worked towards when someone's seeking "happiness" is not necessarily reproduction. And of course, for everyone who wants to accomplish something that doesn't involve kids, or who still has life plans after they've lost the ability to have kids, "reproduction" can't be said to be their only goal even if you do squint really hard and ignore nuance.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Tchebu » Tue May 14, 2013 1:30 am UTC

but if you break it down, what does people (stereo)typically make happy? wife/husband, kids, ....


... friends, hobbies, fulfilling careers, creative endeavors, listening to music, discussing the mysteries of nature on the xkcd science forum, watching cat videos on youtube...

And, awesomely enough, human society is complex enough to be so built past this point that saying "I'm only interested in biology because it's an intellectual pursuit and I associate those with intelligence and intelligence with money and money with success and success with having lots of sex", still leaves you somewhere interesting without all that reductionism.


The underlined part isn't actually part of the thought process of any person (except upon self-reflection of the sort that we're engaged in now), nor does it have to... moreover I don't even think that it's the real cause for our affinity intellectual pursuits. I'm no behavior expert, but I find it much more plausible that we have an innate affinity for learning about things because it allowed us to understand and manipulate our surroundings, which enhances our survival, so that we have a better chance to use all those other behavioral predispositions that we evolved to woo sexual partners...
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue May 14, 2013 1:36 am UTC

chenille wrote:Um, I mentioned female behavior because you casually left it out - you described all animal behavior as about being sexy for the females or surviving long enough for that, which implicitly is about only male behavior. You'd have to read your comment very generously to think it actually describes asexual reproduction or kin selection, but that particularly I felt needed at least a little rebuke. I guess I was too vague.
For the second time, my statement is not about asexual reproduction (which I thought would have been a given, considering the point was about male/female behavior), which is why I pointed out that I wager you were missing my reference to the Sexy Son Hypothesis. For asexual reproduction, my statement can be simplified even further, to 'it's only about reproduction'.

The thing you're forgetting is that 'mate selection' in females is a behavior, just like 'sing a crazy song' or 'defeat other males' or 'build a big nest' are some male behaviors. And let me stop you before you try to straw man a 'so females only behavior is mate selection?'.

Tchebu wrote:I'm no behavior expert, but I find it much more plausible that we have an innate affinity for learning about things because it allowed us to understand and manipulate our surroundings, which enhances our survival, so that we have a better chance to use all those other behavioral predispositions that we evolved to woo sexual partners...
Er... Right? I'm saying that our intelligence, with all our complex behavior ability, social interactions, idea synthesis, etc, is all a functional tool that we developed because it was useful to our ancestors in A ) surviving, and B ) procuring, keeping, and successfully copulating with mates. Somewhere along the line, protohuman females decided that individuals who could intellectually adapt, use tools effectively, and navigate our complex social groupings, were 'sexy' and chose them as mates. Interestingly and awesomely, 'human society' (to use the term as loosely as anyone wants to) is complex and convoluted enough to, as I said, be a beast in and of itself, an ecosystem of its own, if you will, and more than the sum of it's parts
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Dopefish » Tue May 14, 2013 2:15 am UTC

I'm pretty sure lady folk don't lay down and die after they pass menopause and their children have all moved on to be self-sufficient, so theres probably some motivations that don't just lead back to reproduction.

Still, our motivations as a species don't necessarily have to be identical to our motivations as individuals.

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby gmalivuk » Tue May 14, 2013 2:35 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:The thing you're forgetting is that 'mate selection' in females is a behavior, just like 'sing a crazy song' or 'defeat other males' or 'build a big nest' are some male behaviors. And let me stop you before you try to straw man a 'so females only behavior is mate selection?'.
It's not a straw man when you yourself clearly implied that the main relevant behavior of females is to find something sexy or not.

In addition, I'm not sure why you're pretending like female mate choice is the only way it ever works. There are other species of animals where males are the choosier ones as a rule.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue May 14, 2013 2:49 am UTC

Dopefish wrote:I'm pretty sure lady folk don't lay down and die after they pass menopause and their children have all moved on to be self-sufficient, so theres probably some motivations that don't just lead back to reproduction.
No, because grandmother care was something highly advantageous for young rearing. Females surviving past menopause is only found in species that have heavy parental care. Highly social species.
Dopefish wrote:Still, our motivations as a species don't necessarily have to be identical to our motivations as individuals.
Agreed. We can thank 'culture' for that.
gmalivuk wrote:It's not a straw man when you yourself clearly implied that the main relevant behavior of females is to find something sexy or not. In addition, I'm not sure why you're pretending like female mate choice is the only way it ever works. There are other species of animals where males are the choosier ones as a rule.
The original statement was that all life cares about is reproducing. I'm saying that's a true statement, and adding that all life as we see it now is that way because females selected for it (this addition obviously only applies to sexually reproducing organisms).

You're right, there are organisms where the male is the choosy sex; those species where the male investment towards reproduction is higher than the females, such as sea horses. Typically, the female has a larger investment in reproduction. There are of course other exceptions; spawning animals tend to represent a more equal split of investment, which is why you tend to not see the same sorts of selection pressures (organisms that reproduce via spawning don't have brightly featured males, or, if they do, they also have complex behavior surrounding their spawning behavior, such as 'beta males' that use sneakiness as their strategy).

Also, there is a difference between the statements 'females selecting males has resulted in all behavior and traits we see today' and 'the only thing females do is select mates'.
Last edited by Izawwlgood on Tue May 14, 2013 2:52 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby chenille » Tue May 14, 2013 2:52 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:The thing you're forgetting is that 'mate selection' in females is a behavior, just like 'sing a crazy song' or 'defeat other males' or 'build a big nest' are some male behaviors. And let me stop you before you try to straw man a 'so females only behavior is mate selection?'.

Ah, fair enough, you stopped me in time. I actually was going to pretend you said something that implied all animal behavior consisted only of gonochoristic males trying to survive and lure females. For instance, if you had said something like:
Take an Animal Behavior class, and you'll see how ALL behavior, from human to star fish, can be boiled down to 'females found it sexy', or 'increases the chances of making it to the point where females might find something sexy'.

...then pointing out the sexism in ignoring all female behavior except maybe mate selection, inaccuracy in skipping asexual reproduction, and so on, would have made sense. But I shouldn't argue without acknowledging what you actually said! So sorry for the derailing, it was my mistake, and I will be happy not to bother you about it further.

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue May 14, 2013 3:02 am UTC

chenille wrote:Ah, fair enough, you stopped me in time. I actually was going to pretend you said something that implied all animal behavior consisted only of gonochoristic males trying to survive and lure females
You make a good point that this does not at all apply to hermaphrodism.
chenille wrote:...then pointing out the sexism in ignoring all female behavior except maybe mate selection, inaccuracy in skipping asexual reproduction, and so on, would have made sense. But I shouldn't argue without acknowledging what you actually said! So sorry for the derailing, it was my mistake, and I will be happy not to bother you about it further.
Yes, because saying that modern humans are biologically and behaviorally as we are because of female mate selection is the same as calling all present day females walking ovaries. Or did you skip the very next sentence from that paragraph you quote from me, wherein I wrote; "The advantage of knowing is that you are aware of the tendencies." Or maybe the bit later, where I wrote; "And, awesomely enough, human society is complex enough to be so built [up that it] still leaves you somewhere interesting without all that reductionism."

Biology *is* sexist. Saying that females have a larger investment in reproduction is not a sexist statement, nor is it sexist to state that female mate selection is an enormously powerful selective force.

But sure, for the fourth time since discussing this point with you, I'll say that the topic of female mate selection doesn't apply to asexual species (and we can certainly add hermaphroditic species too! What else am I missing?). It was incorrect of me to say ALL life is this way because of female mate selection, because not all life is under sexual selection pressures.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby ImagingGeek » Tue May 14, 2013 3:50 pm UTC

Tchebu wrote:
So do plants - it isn't via magic that they keep their leaves orientated towards the sun...


Certainly, but only if you stare at them carefully enough. That's my point, that the perceived complexity of something actually depends on the level of detail at which you study it. I don't think we actually disagree. At first glance plants certainly seem immobile and definitely are less mobile than animals.

You're being anthropocentric; most animals are relatively non-motile. Species like anemones, sponges, simple nematodes, etc, outnumber us fast-movers 100's:1. Many of those are equally-to-less motile than plants...

And, again, why should motility be indicative of complexity? Many bacterium are motile on a scale that makes us humans look positively slow (in terms of body lengths/second); I'd argue that we should be considered more complex than a lowly e coli...

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby PolakoVoador » Tue May 14, 2013 4:11 pm UTC

ImagingGeek wrote:
Tchebu wrote:
So do plants - it isn't via magic that they keep their leaves orientated towards the sun...


Certainly, but only if you stare at them carefully enough. That's my point, that the perceived complexity of something actually depends on the level of detail at which you study it. I don't think we actually disagree. At first glance plants certainly seem immobile and definitely are less mobile than animals.

You're being anthropocentric; most animals are relatively non-motile. Species like anemones, sponges, simple nematodes, etc, outnumber us fast-movers 100's:1. Many of those are equally-to-less motile than plants...

And, again, why should motility be indicative of complexity? Many bacterium are motile on a scale that makes us humans look positively slow (in terms of body lengths/second); I'd argue that we should be considered more complex than a lowly e coli...

Bryan


I believe Tchebu wasn't advocating that mobility equals complexity. S/He was just pointing out what is usually perceived as a defining characteristic of complexity. I also think s/he meant vertebrates, and not animals, in his/hers comparison.

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Tchebu » Tue May 14, 2013 4:26 pm UTC

I believe Tchebu wasn't advocating that mobility equals complexity. S/He was just pointing out what is usually perceived as a defining characteristic of complexity. I also think s/he meant vertebrates, and not animals, in his/hers comparison.


Yes, basically this (oh and I'm male, PolakoVoador). And in line with that thought sponges are also intuitively less complex than a rabbit... But yes, I did mean vertebrates earlier... when I say animal I actually pretty much always mean a cheetah, unless otherwise specified.

I'm not saying that motility should be an indicator of complexity, I'm just pointing out that our intuition behind complexity does seem to take it into consideration. I'm not proposing a definition, but my I am pointing out that whenever we sit in our armchair and say "organism A definitely seems more complex than B, there's probably some complexity scale for living organisms" we do so from a very anthropocentric, as you said, perspective and more importantly, based on details visible from the armchair. The verdict on which organism seems more complex might change as we study them at various levels of detail and so the complexity scale itself would too...

Basically I'm proposing a notion of a renormalization group flow for complexity... lol
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby ImagingGeek » Tue May 14, 2013 6:57 pm UTC

Tchebu wrote:I'm not saying that motility should be an indicator of complexity, I'm just pointing out that our intuition behind complexity does seem to take it into consideration. I'm not proposing a definition, but my I am pointing out that whenever we sit in our armchair and say "organism A definitely seems more complex than B, there's probably some complexity scale for living organisms" we do so from a very anthropocentric, as you said, perspective and more importantly, based on details visible from the armchair. The verdict on which organism seems more complex might change as we study them at various levels of detail and so the complexity scale itself would too...

But here again you illustrate my point - there is no non-subjective measure of complexity; do you measure 'arm-chair' phenomena? genetic phenomena? behavioral phenomena? morphological phenomena? A mixture of those? Something else completely?

Take a human vs. a mouse - who is more complex? Most people would say people (I'm sure the mice would disagree), but behavior aside its hard to say one is more complex than the other. Mice & men are made almost entirely of the same things - same genes, same tissues, same overall structure, etc. The biggest difference is simply the size of our brain, relative to our bodies. But the genetic/embryonic processes that create our bodies are (mutations aside) driven by the same genes, our genomes are the same size, we have the same number of genes, we share the same overall body plan, the various neurological/biochemical/etc pathways are largely the same, etc, etc, etc.

Ultimately, there is no good measure of complexity out there, but to ring my rant back OT, based on those measures we do have, there is no evidence of an evolutionary drive towards more complexity either.

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue May 14, 2013 7:22 pm UTC

ImagingGeek wrote:I'm sure the mice would disagree
It is rather anthropocentric of you to assume that mice are a vain or proud species.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby PolakoVoador » Tue May 14, 2013 7:43 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
ImagingGeek wrote:I'm sure the mice would disagree
It is rather anthropocentric of you to assume that mice are a vain or proud species.


In fact, there is good evidence that mice are intellectually far superior compared with us [1].

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby qetzal » Tue May 14, 2013 8:15 pm UTC

ImagingGeek wrote:But here again you illustrate my point - there is no non-subjective measure of complexity; do you measure 'arm-chair' phenomena? genetic phenomena? behavioral phenomena? morphological phenomena? A mixture of those? Something else completely?


I would amend this slightly: there is no single non-subjective measure of complexity. In fact, there are multiple non-subjective measures one might use. The problem, IMO, is that different measures give disparate results. Thus, tomatoes can be more complex than humans when counting protein-coding genes, but less complex when measuring genome size.

On top of this, no single non-subjective measure seems to do a good job capturing our subjective sense of relative complexity.

Personally, I think the fact that we can't find an objective measure to say that humans are more complex overall than mice or tomatoes is simply an indication that we're NOT more complex overall. In contrast, I'm comfortable saying humans are more complex than E. coli because that's true by the large majority of possible measures: genome size, number of genes, number of cells, number of cell types, number of biochemical processes, etc.

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby dudiobugtron » Tue May 14, 2013 8:43 pm UTC

Tchebu wrote:(oh and I'm male, PolakoVoador).

Congratulations! Now no one will suspect you of having no purpose except mate selection.

(I understand from the context that what you actually meant is 'I prefer male pronouns', but I couldn't resist.)
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby tomandlu » Wed May 15, 2013 6:04 am UTC

ImagingGeek wrote:Take a human vs. a mouse - who is more complex?


I would argue that any definition of complexity that concludes that a mouse is more complex than a human is wrong.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby HungryHobo » Wed May 15, 2013 12:32 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:I would argue that any definition of complexity that concludes that a mouse is more complex than a human is wrong.

why?

can you explain what complexity even means to you then? is it just "I feel like I'm more complex than that" or something more meaningful?

There are frogs with huge genomes, partly because they need a whole load of extra cellular machinery to allow them to survive everything from freezing in winter to high temperatures in summer and code for every stage from an egg to a fully formed frog.

There are plants with utterly vast genomes which need code to handle all the possible changes and poisons in their environment.

By one measure the Difference engine is hugely complex yet looking at it another way it's less complex than a 2 dollar childs toy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Difference_Engine

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby doogly » Wed May 15, 2013 12:56 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:
tomandlu wrote:I would argue that any definition of complexity that concludes that a mouse is more complex than a human is wrong.

why?

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby tomandlu » Wed May 15, 2013 1:11 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:
tomandlu wrote:I would argue that any definition of complexity that concludes that a mouse is more complex than a human is wrong.

why?


Mainly because I can't type.... that's the complete opposite of what I intended to say. Apols - swap 'mouse' and 'human' around in that quote... essentially I would argue that all mammals are certainly as complex as each other, and probably all vertebrates, and, indeed, anything with an exoskeleton. Really you've probably got to hit the non-arthropods before the debates about complex/simple becomes meaningful... and I've no idea about flora.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed May 15, 2013 1:20 pm UTC

I'm going to go out on a limb here, because this isn't really my field, but my sense on the 'what is complexity' thing is that virtually all eutherian mammals are at approximately the same level of 'complexity'. We all, approximately, do the same tricks (nice wordfilter) genetically, developmentally, and behaviorally, and how different everything is, from forearm length to neuronal circuit formation, is just a matter of degrees.

With that in mind, the difference between a man and a mouse is the systems we house, just the instructions that lay the way for them. It's not a reasonable analogy to just say our 'software' is doing more (I wager it is) because our hardware (brains, in this case) is also 'doing more'. But how our brains get 'more complex' is via the same pathways and developmental turns that all eutherians follow, ours just 'do it longer'.

Of course, I should have paid more attention in Dev Bio.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Xenomortis » Wed May 15, 2013 1:25 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:There are frogs with huge genomes, partly because they need a whole load of extra cellular machinery to allow them to survive everything from freezing in winter to high temperatures in summer and code for every stage from an egg to a fully formed frog.

There are plants with utterly vast genomes which need code to handle all the possible changes and poisons in their environment.

Genome size is likely misleading. Large parts may be unused.
(Not to mention the (possibly inaccurate) reported size of the genome for certain amoeboids.)
But, for what it's worth:
The human genome is about 20% bigger than the mouse genome.
Our brains are considerably larger, forming a much larger network (and more complicated*).
And we're just bigger.

With those thoughts alone, I'd be highly skeptical of any complexity relation that put humans strictly below mice.

*this can be said objectively.

HungryHobo wrote:By one measure the Difference engine is hugely complex yet looking at it another way it's less complex than a 2 dollar childs toy.

I cannot think of any, non-electronic, children's toy that I would think of as being more complicated than a mechanical difference engine, with any consistent take on complexity.
Maybe I'm missing something.

(I don't disagree that complexity in biology is hard to quantify).
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed May 15, 2013 1:35 pm UTC

Xenomortis wrote:With those thoughts alone, I'd be highly skeptical of any complexity relation that put humans strictly below mice.
Ability to proliferate rapidly? Mice have us more than trounced in terms of reproductive turnover.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby HungryHobo » Wed May 15, 2013 3:08 pm UTC

Xenomortis wrote:I cannot think of any, non-electronic, children's toy that I would think of as being more complicated than a mechanical difference engine, with any consistent take on complexity.

I was thinking more the electronic ones.

From one way of looking at it they're simple cheap toys, on the other they're incredibly precisely made massive networks of transistors.

I agree re-genome size but if you're going to argue based on brain size then the blue whale is orders of magnitude more complex than mice or men.

I was just trying to get across that something can be completely brainless yet still have an far more complex set of cellular machinery to deal with their environment.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby dudiobugtron » Wed May 15, 2013 9:20 pm UTC

In terms of adaptability, are you allowed to count things like use of tools? Because with tools, humans have already adapted themselves to survive in very high and very low temperature and pressure environments - (eg: the bottom of the ocean, space, etc...)
I think because of tools, humans (in the long run) are more suited to more different types of situation that any other extant organisms (or certainly mice, anyway).

I'm not sure this is a measure of complexity though.

Izawwlgood wrote:
Xenomortis wrote:With those thoughts alone, I'd be highly skeptical of any complexity relation that put humans strictly below mice.
Ability to proliferate rapidly? Mice have us more than trounced in terms of reproductive turnover.

Sure, but we have them trounced in terms of reproducing apple turnover.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Sprocklem » Thu May 16, 2013 7:37 pm UTC

dudiobugtron wrote:In terms of adaptability, are you allowed to count things like use of tools? Because with tools, humans have already adapted themselves to survive in very high and very low temperature and pressure environments - (eg: the bottom of the ocean, space, etc...)
I think because of tools, humans (in the long run) are more suited to more different types of situation that any other extant organisms (or certainly mice, anyway).

I'm not sure this is a measure of complexity though.


I would argue that simple tools and things like clothing would be us adapting to an environment, however once you get to things like the space station or space/scuba suits we are no longer adapting to the environment but rather changing the environment around us.

You could argue that we can do this makes us more complex. But moles and beavers can also adapt the environment to increase survivability, although it is to a lesser extent.

If you consider this ability complexity than does this make humans and moles more complex than say wolves who don't really change their environment.

After thinking this over a bit I suppose the ability to adapt the environment is a form of adapting to survive better in the environment in which the species in question inhabits.

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Agrajag619 » Sat May 03, 2014 2:31 pm UTC

Thanks to everyone who discussed this with me last year! I learned a lot and I’ve learned even more from the reading I’ve done this past year. I’ve come to accept that evolution occurs, i.e. that all life evolved from simple forms over past 3.7 billion years or so. I’ve also stopped believing in Christianity, which is what my creationism was based on (though not because of evolution – you can reconcile Christianity and evolution if you really want to).

I still haven’t been able to choose between some kind of deism (the earth was created by a God, but not the God of any religion) and naturalism (everything has come into being by chance). My reservations about naturalism are mainly due to the fine-tuning argument and the unlikelihood of the origin of life – if anyone has good explanations of those I’d love to hear them. I’m not too concerned about figuring it out, though, since I’m pretty burnt out on philosophy after this year. If there is a Creator, he doesn’t appear to be too concerned with humans, and the way I’m constructing ethics right now the existence or nonexistence of God really shouldn’t affect the way I live.

Anyways, all of this is very much unrelated to the original thread topic, but again I just wanted to thank you guys for taking the time to reason with me last year in such a respectful and constructive way. I wish you all the best!

If anyone reading this is Christian and struggling, I encourage you to read Why I Believed by Kenneth Daniels. It helped me a lot. Link: http://infidels.org/library/modern/ken_daniels/why.html

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat May 03, 2014 2:46 pm UTC

I applaud you for listening and considering, and actually coming back and telling us what you've concluded!

Agrajag619 wrote:. I’ve come to accept that evolution occurs, i.e. that all life evolved from simple forms over past 3.7 billion years or so.
I'm sure you've heard of Intelligent Design, which has it's own host of issues, but I still marvel at how some branches of American Christianity tries to deny evolution in the first place.

Agrajag619 wrote:I’ve also stopped believing in Christianity, which is what my creationism was based on (though not because of evolution – you can reconcile Christianity and evolution if you really want to).
Whatever your faith has come to, I hope you find something that works. For what it's worth, unless you're a biblical literalist, there's no reason reality should invalidate your faith.

Agrajag619 wrote:. My reservations about naturalism are mainly due to the fine-tuning argument and the unlikelihood of the origin of life – if anyone has good explanations of those I’d love to hear them
I don't know what the 'fine-tuning' argument is, but I can assure you there's no issue with the 'unlikelihood of the origin of life'. Science recognizes the probability for the occurrence of what it hypothesizes to be the precursor chemical reactions from occurring is low, but that the time scales involved and the reaction chamber to be staggeringly large.

Agrajag619 wrote:f there is a Creator, he doesn’t appear to be too concerned with humans, and the way I’m constructing ethics right now the existence or nonexistence of God really shouldn’t affect the way I live.
I don't believe in God myself, but I always found it shockingly presumuptuous of the faithful to opine on what God is and isn't concerned with, in both directions.

Agrajag619 wrote:Anyways, all of this is very much unrelated to the original thread topic, but again I just wanted to thank you guys for taking the time to reason with me last year in such a respectful and constructive way. I wish you all the best!
You as well!
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby gmalivuk » Sat May 03, 2014 2:56 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I don't know what the 'fine-tuning' argument is, but I can assure you there's no issue with the 'unlikelihood of the origin of life'. Science recognizes the probability for the occurrence of what it hypothesizes to be the precursor chemical reactions from occurring is low, but that the time scales involved and the reaction chamber to be staggeringly large.
The fine-tuning argument is that the base constants of the universe seem to be within an extremely narrow range of values that would allow for life (as we know it) to exist at all.

I don't know if Agrajag619 meant to lump it together with the unlikelihood of life arising (as in, life is unlikely in the sense that the physical laws allowing for life are unlikely) or if they are two separate remaining questions (as in, there's the fine-tuning question, and also there's the issue of life in this universe being so unlikely).
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In any case, there are a number of non-theistic responses to the issue of fine-tuning. For one thing, we don't (and can't) know how many other "universes" might exist with different laws. If there's a huge multiverse, then the fact that one universe has these precise laws shouldn't be surprising. But even if this is the only universe, the important thing is that fine-tuning is about life as we know it. It seems conceivable that life of some kind might arise in countless different forms, even in "exotic" universes where stars never form or they burn out within millions of years or so on.

And then the question of why the laws are so suited to life as we know it gets flipped around: life as we know it is suited to the laws we've got in this universe because this universe is where it evolved. If the laws had been different, someone else might be pondering the same question about their universe, however inconceivably different from ours it might look.
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These may not be entirely satisfying answers, but they are examples of ideas people have come up with for why we might see what looks like fine-tuning even without there being a Creator to do the tuning in the first place.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat May 03, 2014 7:47 pm UTC

Ah, I've heard that as the 'Goldilocks theory'. I like the notion of life being a 'fill in the cracks' enterprise, with respect to ecosystems and physical constants alike.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby ahammel » Sat May 03, 2014 7:51 pm UTC

It's not by any means clear how life arises on a planet, or even how often, so I think it's basically waffle to say that it's likely or unlikely.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby johnny_7713 » Mon May 05, 2014 8:45 am UTC

ahammel wrote:It's not by any means clear how life arises on a planet, or even how often, so I think it's basically waffle to say that it's likely or unlikely.


To the best of my knowledge all the current evidence points at life only having arisen on Earth once, given that all known organisms appear to share a common ancestor. So at the very least we have no evidence of life arising after the life-time of the last universal common ancestor.

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby speising » Mon May 05, 2014 8:53 am UTC

i don't think we'd have any evidence if life had started independently multiple times on earth. all the latecomers wouldn't have stood a chance against the established lifeforms and would have disappeared very quickly.

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Sleeper » Mon May 05, 2014 9:58 am UTC

Agrajag619 wrote:I’ve come to accept that evolution occurs


Heck yeah! You rock.

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Xanthir » Mon May 05, 2014 4:05 pm UTC

Agrajag619 wrote:I still haven’t been able to choose between some kind of deism (the earth was created by a God, but not the God of any religion) and naturalism (everything has come into being by chance). My reservations about naturalism are mainly due to the fine-tuning argument and the unlikelihood of the origin of life – if anyone has good explanations of those I’d love to hear them. I’m not too concerned about figuring it out, though, since I’m pretty burnt out on philosophy after this year. If there is a Creator, he doesn’t appear to be too concerned with humans, and the way I’m constructing ethics right now the existence or nonexistence of God really shouldn’t affect the way I live.

There's no real difference between deism and naturalism anyway; the observable effects are identical, so it's just a matter of what you feel better about believing. In naturalism, the universe is unexplained; in deism, the universe is explained as creation by a god, who is itself unexplained. That feels like just moving the question to me, so I'm naturalist, but if you really feel like believing in a non-interventionist creator being, whatever.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Frenetic Pony » Tue May 06, 2014 10:06 am UTC

speising wrote:i don't think we'd have any evidence if life had started independently multiple times on earth. all the latecomers wouldn't have stood a chance against the established lifeforms and would have disappeared very quickly.


In the same environment, with the same circumstances, I'd say life would probably arise nigh identically to any other life. Or at least life that would leave any lasting impression. Which is the problem with saying we could have evidence one way or another that life arose only once or multiple times on earth. Any truly basic life form, like self replicating RNA or even a prokaryotic cell, isn't exactly going to leave around evidence like a well preserved fossil for us to find.

Also the best evidence for evolution is that the only rational explanation for much in the way of human behavior is that we are the all too close descendants of dimwitted proto-apes. Heck it's probably the only rational explanation of why I'm on here at the moment, procrastinating from writing that python script I need to get that vacation spot I promised my friends. Or much of any of the rest of my behavior :mrgreen:

Stupid dumb proto-ape ancestors. I blame them, it's all their fault!

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby peregrine_crow » Tue May 06, 2014 1:29 pm UTC

Ok, so the source for this is a vague memory of hearing this on the news a while a ago, but I believe that a bunch of biologists created some kind of self replicating cells from scratch by recreating the circumstances of earth at the time when life first emerged. Now keep in mind that this was science being reported on a regular news channel, so the soundbite was probably something like "Scientists create life!", but if my memory reflects reality then at least not all life on the planet shares a common ancestor.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby ahammel » Tue May 06, 2014 1:35 pm UTC

peregrine_crow wrote:Ok, so the source for this is a vague memory of hearing this on the news a while a ago, but I believe that a bunch of biologists created some kind of self replicating cells from scratch by recreating the circumstances of earth at the time when life first emerged. Now keep in mind that this was science being reported on a regular news channel, so the soundbite was probably something like "Scientists create life!", but if my memory reflects reality then at least not all life on the planet shares a common ancestor.

Closest I've heard to something like that is making organic compounds and cell membrane-like structures.
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