Friday, December 16, 2005

The Bat, the Bird, and the Flatfish




If animals were designed by God an "Intelligent Designer," why do bat skeletons look like the other mammals instead of like birds? And what's up with the fingers?

Bonus question: Was God the "Intelligent Designer" drunk when He made the flatfish? (Note the twisted skull.) Or was it a practical joke?

70 comments:

oracle25 said...

I don't get how your first question has anything to do with wether or not there was an intelligent designer.

In regards to your second question, the more appropriate question may be "how can natural selection produce such a creature?".

Sadie Lou said...

I don't get your point here either. Just because skeletons resemble each other makes Creation a joke? God's sense of humor goes beyond the flat fish, too. Giraffes? Hello.

oracle25 said...

Yes, if anything I think these animals show the creativeness of the designer. I think you have effectively put your foot in you mouth JA.

JDHURF said...

Obviously the both of you have missed JA’s point. The point being that if an intelligent designer had ‘designed’ these creatures it effectively negates the ‘intelligent’ portion of such a designer. Furthermore it illustrates how “the theory of natural selection explains life as we know it, with all of its quirks and tragedies. We can prove mathematically that it is capable of producing adaptive life forms and track it in computer simulations, lab experiments, and real ecosystems. It doesn’t pretend to solve one mystery (the origin of complex life) by slipping in another (the origin of a complex designer). “It’s natural to think that living things must be the handiwork of a designer. But it was also natural to think that the sun went around the earth.” Our bodies are riddled with quirks that no competent engineer would have planned but that disclose a history of trial-and-error tinkering: a retina installed backward, a seminal duct that hooks over the uterer like a garden hose snagged on a tree, goose bumps that uselessly try to warm us by fluffing up long-gone fur.
The moral design of nature is as bungled as its engineering design. What twisted sadist would have invented a parasite that blinds millions of people or a gene that covers babies with excruciating blisters? To adapt a Yiddish expression about God: If an intelligent designer lived on Earth, people would break his windows.
Physical evolution, like morality, does not require a white coated technician in the sky.” – Steven Pinker, Psychology professor, Harvard University.

Esther said...

The real question is why some people of faith are so threatened by science that they feel the need to undermine science education?

It would seem to me that a true person of faith would have the inner strength to reconcile any seeming contradictions between the bible and scientific knowledge.

oracle25 said...

jdhurf, yours is an old argument that has been tried time and time again. The idea that certain animals or parts were wrongly put together or were somehow a mistake on the creators part is ridiculous at this point in time. For instance, at one time there was considered to be over a hundred "vestigial" organs in the human body, as of now that number has dropped to zero. And while I do not claim to personally know what function the flatfish's shape has I can assure you that their either is one we already know of or one that we will find.

Esther, were you asleep during the last topic? this has already been discussed. however I will say that it is true that my faith does not rest on new scientific discoveries that seem to prove or disprove my beliefs, however I believe that most known science support what I believe. But when all is said and done my faith does not rest on what is the newest modern trend but on God and what he has done in my life.

asher said...

You'd really think God would have anticipated this really clever argument by evolutionists. Maybe we should pose this intellectual point to our closest ancestors: I'm sure there are two or three chimps who might understand this level of understanding...after all they've been around alot longer than humans

Random said...

Asher, chimps are not ancestors, they're cousins. They've been around exactly as long as we have. Sharing a common ancestor means exactly that - neither branch is descended from the other.

And God doesn't need to "anticipate" anything - He's the one who set it up this way. It's up to us to expand our understanding so as to fit with His will, not to reduce Him so as to comply with our understanding.

""Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'" (Matthew 36:37)

Think about what "with all your mind" means. It means God isn't afraid of honest scientific inquiry, and that by engaging in it without any preconceptions you are not attacking God, you are worshipping Him.

Jewish Atheist said...

I don't understand how one could look at the bat skeleton and not believe in evolution.

Evolution neatly and satisfactorily explains why bats have skeletons like other mammals' and why birds look more like reptiles and dinosaurs. Evolution explains why the flatfish has eyes on one side (because it's ancestors were flat with one eye on each side -- flatfish whose eyes were more on one side than the other would out-survive those with one eye facing the ground when they had to lie on the ocean floor and successive generations gradually moved the eye from one side to the other) unlike, for example, the manta rays. If animals were designed by an Intelligent Designer, one would expect more sensible designs.

What does ID have to say about why bats are more like mice than like birds? God was being creative? Please. Sometimes I wonder if the whole ID thing is just a big practical joke -- you guys are just trying to see how frustrated you can make the rest of us. :)

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

People who don't believe in evolution don't even try to understand evolution.
They look at every bit of evidence out there and put it in context with the bible, not common sense. What about hind legs for whale bones? And as far as vestigial organs in humans. Lets see:male nipples, wisdom teeth, appendix, tonsils, a tail bone. Man can live without any of these to a ripe old age. They served a purpose at one time, and some still CAN perform a function, but they are unneeded. If we were intelligently designed I would be able to scratch the itch I have right now in the center of my back, but I have a useless appendix instead.

asher said...

Chimps are our cousins? They've been around as long as humans have?

Water, clouds, fog and rain all have the same chemical makeup. Can you mistake one for the other.

It's amazing how intelligent animal accestors were. The ones who survive are the ones who have the adaptable fuction. Please look up the term "tautology" and tell me what it is.

The ID vs. evolution controversy is apparently only about it being taught at the high school level. And public high school at that. Apparently once you get to college you can learn all about this stuff in a class you can enroll in from the Department of Evolution. Just asking...has anyone ever taken a course like that? Hey, we're all college grads.

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

Asher, it is apparent that you don't know much about evolution, yet you want to mock it. That is typical of creationists.
If you are going to debate evolution vs. creation, don't you think it would be fair if you knew the basics of what you are debating against?
I would also like to know what is in an ID text book. What is it that you can teach a kid about ID in a science course?

Stephen (aka Q) said...

JA:
If animals were designed by an Intelligent Designer, one would expect more sensible designs.

First, let me admit, I have only a rudimentary understanding of evolution, and I can't address the issues you raise at the level of detail.

But I don't really understand the problem here. Richard Fortey says that every niche on earth that could possibly support life has been filled with a life-form that is properly adapted to that niche. The flatfish looks like that sort of being — adapted to exploit a niche that other fish were not exploiting.

JA, you indicate that the flatfish is properly adapted to that niche (i.e., with two eyes on one side of its skull and no eye on the other). But then you say it isn't a sensible design; so if there's a God he screwed up.

Which is it? Is the flatfish properly adapted to its environment? If so, there's no reason God couldn't have designed it with asymmetrical eyes.

Is the idea of an intelligent designer ridiculous just because the flatfish looks ridiculous? I'm with my fellow theists, I'm not able to follow your argument.
Q

Jewish Atheist said...

Q:

My argument is this:

If a normal flatfish adapted to become a flatfish that lives on the bottom via evolution, it's understandable that it's skull got twisted since that is the shortest distance (i.e. smallest amount of genetic change) from one to the other. However, if I were designing a bottom-dweller from scratch, I would make it flat so that it could be on its belly like a manta ray rather than on its side with a twisted head. Wouldn't you? It seems obvious that that twisted flatfish is simply an flatfish which adapted (i.e. evolved) to lie on the ocean floor.

If it is in fact designed, it would appear that the designer took a regular flatfish and twisted it so that it could lie on one side. Do you agree? Don't you think that's a rather sloppy way to go about it? It's sort of like if you see a desk that's made out of a door with a hole for a doorknob, you assume the desktop was adapted from a door, not that it was made from scratch to look like a door.

Why why did the designer make bats by taking a mouse-like creature and giving it wings? According to evolution, it's obvious why bats, insects, birds, and pteredactyls have completely different kinds of wings (because they evolved wings separately -- a process known as "convergent evolution") but according to ID, it doesn't make as much sense.

Here's the short version: Life seems to be distributed among nested species. In other words, they may be classified with respect to (1) kingdom, (2) phylum or division, (3) class, (4) order, (5) family, (6) genus, and (7) species.

Those with more of those numbers in common are more similar, genetically and morphologically (i.e. their body makeup) than those with less similar classifications. Moreover, the no animal can be of the same higher number without also sharing a lower number. So, two animals can't be in the same order unless they're also in the same class.

To an evolutionary biologist, it's therefore obvious why bats are more similar to mice than to birds, even though birds and mice both fly. It's because mice and bats share kingdom, phylum, and class, (Animals, Chordata, Mammals) while bats and birds share only kingdom and phylum (Animals and Chordata -- birds have their own class. Here's a neat website where you can explore animals by taxonomy.)

The basic question is this: if we are designed, than why can we be classified so neatly in a NESTED hierarchy, a hierarchy which encompasses nearly everything.

With organisms, even if on the surface there are similarities between distantly related species (like bats and birds) the features which don't change as rapidly, like the basic layout of the skeleton or whether we're warm-blooded or cold-blooded, will be different.

Bats and birds both fly, but they evolved to fly from distant branches of the family tree of life. That's why the bones in bats' wings look like mammalian hands or paws instead of like birds' wings. DNA testing will confirm that bats and mice are more closesly related than bats and birds.

According to evolution, one can make predictions like we will never discover a bird with milk-giving breasts that are like a mammals. If you found a single bird with mammalian breasts, evolution would be seriously compromised. If we discovered a bird with a completely different kind of breast -- like the difference between a bird wing and a mammalian wing -- then that would be an example of convergent evolution.

Jewish Atheist said...

I should be more clear: if we discover two animals which are distantly related (based on DNA comparison) which share features with each other that don't otherwise appear in both branches of the tree of species, evolution predicts that under the surface, those features will more resemble features of the animals closer relatives -- even though they serve a different purpose -- than of the distantly-related creature's feature which serves the same purpose.

oracle25 said...

Your argument about flatfish falls apart when you assume that a "regular" flatfish did not have a twisted skull, as far as I know we have not found the skeleton of one that does not have a twisted skull so how cold it have evolved? Why not create creatures that are so interesting? people who come up with new worlds often make up creatures that are strange and cool, doesn't it stand to reason that a designer would make fun interesting animals instead of normal boring ones?

Jewish Atheist said...

as far as I know we have not found the skeleton of one that does not have a twisted skull so how cold it have evolved?

Oracle, there are many kinds of flatfish, like flounder, halibut, and sole. The overwhelming majority don't have twisted skulls. The idea is that one kind of flatfish evolved to be the flatfish with a twisted skull.

oracle25 said...

Forgive me I don't study fish, do these flatfish have eyes pointing towards the ground? Do they live in the same conditions as this particular breed?

Jewish Atheist said...

Oracle, you've seen flatfish. They're just really flat. They swim vertically, with one eye on each side of the body, so that if they were to lie on one side, one eye would be facing down into the ground and the other would be facing up. You can do a Google image search on "flatfish" if you like. (Actually I just found this amazing picture of another twisted flatfish. It completely blends into the ground and its eyes are totally on one side of its head.

I don't know what kind of conditions they generally live in.

oracle25 said...

So one could assume that these particular types of flatfish were designed to suit their environment, of course I suppose one could also suggest that fish evolved this way so I don't think this really helps either side.

Sadie Lou said...

I really love what random had to say. Goord job expressing what I was thinking in my mind...

Jewish Atheist said...

Sounds like you're coming around to theistic evolution, Sadie Lou. :)

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Just to be clear, I believe in theistic evolution. To me, even with my limited knowledge, the evidence is strong and clear that evolution really occurred.

So you aren't arguing against God's existence in this post; you're arguing only that if there's a Creator, the Creator must have utilized the process of evolution to result in the world as we see it today.
Q

CyberKitten said...

Q said: Just to be clear, I believe in theistic evolution. To me, even with my limited knowledge, the evidence is strong and clear that evolution really occurred.

So why bring God into it? Just because we don't know (yet) how it all started off?

Orthoprax said...

Current or soon to be theistic evolutionists,

Keep in mind that once you admit that evolution occured but concurrently believe that it could not have happened without divine direction, you are just a short education away from dismissing the need for any divine direction at all.

No evolutionist will say that it _cannot_ be that God directed evolution, but almost all will say that the data and theory also do not suggest any _need_ for directed evolution.

It is a natural phenomenon that does not seem to require any divine input and has a well fleshed-out naturalistic explanation. You're just tacking God onto it because you really haven't studied the subject in any sufficient detail to understand how it can possibly work autonomously.

Read up, if you dare.

"Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypoth├Ęse" - Laplace

oracle25 said...

Tho this does not apply to me I would like to say that the only possible way evolution could have taken place is by divine intervention. The code of life and the way the universe is put together is far to complicated for even our supposedly super evolved brains to understand. Everything would have to be set in the exact right place in order for even the smallest life to exist here. It is my belief that if everyone approached the data with an open mind (as the Atheists who developed the ID theory did) they would see that the only even slightly plausible explanation for life is ID.

asher said...

Jewish atheist...please look up the word "tautology" which I have now asked for the 5th time.

By humans catagorizing animals in these 'scientific' ways, only proves how different we are from our cousin chimps.

On a recent "Nature" program we learned that humans are the only animals that can sing to a rhythmic beat. There has to be some biological reason for that ..try coming up with one.
The songs of most birds haven't changed since we acknoledged birds. However, in my lifetime we've gone from be-bop, to rap in one generation. Not to mention the invention of new instruments.

Hey, wouldn't an intelligent designer come up with a bird with three wings? Just cause you didn't think of it first.

The idea that creatures changed (evolved) with changing environments begs the questions on a micro level: do you know how complicated a kidney is? a liver?

Face facts: what evolution gave people is a way of understanding the world without a creator. If they didn't have Darwin, they would have no choice. Give me a third possibilty: God, Darwin or what?

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Orthoprax:
How arrogant!
Q

Orthoprax said...

Oracle,

In my mind, I happen to be more skeptical about hypotheses regarding the actual origins of life than about the claim of common descent or even that natural selection played a strong majority role in speciation and adaptivity. I am more open to the idea that there was some "God" that set the ball rolling rather than one who sneaks in once and awhile to tweak the process.

Asher,

You have deomstrated your ignorance on this topic numerous times and have shown little inclination to learn. I would advise JA to ignore your posts since you add nothing to the discussion.

Orthoprax said...

Q,

I'm not arrogant. I was one a theistic evolutionist myself. Then I learned more.

Jewish Atheist said...

Q: So you aren't arguing against God's existence in this post; you're arguing only that if there's a Creator, the Creator must have utilized the process of evolution to result in the world as we see it today.

That's correct. This post was about evolution, not about theism. (More for you later in this comment, Q.)

asher: Jewish atheist...please look up the word "tautology" which I have now asked for the 5th time.

asher, I know what a tautology is. I don't see how it's relevant. Survival of the fittest isn't a tautology; it's simply obvious. Yes, "fittest" is defined by those who survive, so the worst you could say about the statement is that it's redundant. BTW, if you had read the link in my previous post, you'd see that even the creationist organization Answers in Genesis says that the argument that Natural Selection is a tautology is "doubtful, hence inadvisable to use." Again, asher, you haven't done your research. I continue to beg of you, before you say something, poke around for 5 or 10 minutes on the web and see if what you're saying a) makes sense and b) hasn't been soundly rebutted already. As Orthoprax says, just writing your completely uninformed -- and unsupported -- beliefs isn't very useful.

By humans catagorizing animals in these 'scientific' ways, only proves how different we are from our cousin chimps.

I agree that humans are extraordinarily unique. Amazing evolution. I would understand if one believed in theistic evolution because of the amazing distance our species has come, although I would disagree. Not believing in evolution altogether though is a different matter.

Face facts: what evolution gave people is a way of understanding the world without a creator. If they didn't have Darwin, they would have no choice. Give me a third possibilty: God, Darwin or what?

"Intelligent Design." :) But I do agree with you that without evolution, it would be hard to explain how things came to be without a designer. Before Darwin, I think it would have been sensible to assume a God. However, it remains the case that the majority of people who believe in evolution are theists (since most people are theists.)

Q: There is a grain of truth to what Orthoprax is saying -- often the opponents of evolution really, really don't understand it. The theory is so compelling if you really study it that it gets rid of the *need* for God as an explanation -- the argument from complexity of organisms is totally devastated. However, people do of course continue believing in God for other reasons. Somewhere around 99% of biologists believe in evolution, while only 40% or so (in the U.S.) are atheists.

There are some great and very readable booksbooks about evolution out there, by atheists like Darwin or by "separate magesteria" people like Gould.

Jewish Atheist said...

Rats. I meant "atheists like Dawkins," not Darwin.

And, just "books." :) Although "bookbook" sounds like a cute product.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

I didn't say that evolution dismisses the possibility of God, only that it generally dismisses the _need_ for God to explain how it works. I think there's more than just a grain in there.

Jewish Atheist said...

Orthoprax, I wasn't disagreeing with that part of your post. My "grain" was a response to the "you are just a short education away from dismissing the need for any divine direction at all." I think you may have overstated that, since many people who accept evolution remain theists. People like you and I go from evolution to atheism without passing Go, but that's not the only possibility.

Orthoprax said...

Ok, I admit I was using a little hyperbole.

JDHURF said...

“Those who cavalierly reject the theory of evolution as not being adequately supported by facts, seem to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all. Like the majority of men who are born to a given belief, they demand the most rigorous proof of any adverse belief, but assume that their own needs none.” – Herbert Spencer

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."
- Aldous Huxley

“Today, the theory of evolution is an accepted fact for everyone but a fundamentalist minority, whose objections are based not on reasoning but on doctrinaire adherence to religious principles: - James Watson, winner of the Nobel prize for his co-discovery of the structure of DNA

"The hope of science is the perfection of the human race. The hope of theology is the salvation of a few and the damnation of almost everybody."
- Robert Ingersoll

Geology shows that fossils are of different ages. Paleontology shows a fossil sequence, the list of species represented changes through time. Taxonomy shows biological relationships among species. Evolution is the explanation that threads it all together. Creationism is the practice of squeezing one's eyes shut and wailing 'does not!'."

By the way I have a question for you JA, I have an open dialogue with a number of people on a thread right now about religious individuals becoming atheists; and I made the comment that one must accommodate the fact that a religious Jew may also be an atheist for the two essential requirements for being a religious Jew are following the laws of Shabbat and Yom Tov and following the mitzvoh in some degree, for my friend Eli is Jewish and he told me as much…….is that true? I did some research and it seems to be so, for Judaism is different from Christianity in that it is based more on tradition and the practice thereof rather than a dogmatic mythology. What would you say?

Orthoprax said...

Jdhurf,

It depends who you ask, but generally the three basic laws that a Jew must follow to be considered religious is keeping the Shabbos/Holidays, keeping kosher, and "family purity" which is refraining from sexual relations while a woman is menstruating.

Judaism is primarily an Orthopraxy than an Orthodoxy where it stresses traditional rituals and fidelity to the Law rather than maintaining a catechism. In some respects Judaism, meaning Orthodox Judaism, is tolerant of wide ranging religious views in terms of things like the afterlife, the nature of God, and the meanings behind the laws. Though recently, as in since the Emancipation and especially following the Holocaust, some forms of Orthodoxy have been lead to an extreme form of religious fundamentalism as an apparent protective mechanism. This has resulted in a severe reduction in tolerance and a construction of a hardy dogmatism in some circles. Although, generally, there remains a typical "don't ask, don't tell" understanding that if you doubt the party line, keep it to yourself.

To note, I am a skeptic who is also an observant Jew. Case in point, eh?

CyberKitten said...

Orthoprax said: I didn't say that evolution dismisses the possibility of God, only that it generally dismisses the _need_ for God to explain how it works.

That's exactly right. Evolution does not directly address the 'existence of God' issue - but it does make an interventionist God unecessary to explain the diversity of life on Earth.

As Orthoprax quoted Lapace:

"I have no need to that hypothesis"

Evolution says nothing (or at least very little) about the Origins of Life but it's far more than adequate in explaing just about everything else. Take away evolution & modern biology would collapse no longer making sense.

I understand why many theists reject Darwinian Evolution - but it is very much like rejecting the idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

jdhurf:
The hope of science is the perfection of the human race. The hope of theology is the salvation of a few and the damnation of almost everybody.

You demonstrate your utter ignorance of theology. Don't assume all theists are narrow-minded American fundamentalists, or radical islamofascists. Such ignorant folk are a small, non-repesentative minority within Christianity and Islam respectively. It is not necessary to be of that ilk just because one believes in God / religion. I resent it when people mischaracterize me as such a person.
Q

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Orthoprax (to Asher):
I would advise JA to ignore your posts since you add nothing to the discussion.

I was thinking the same thing about the gratuitous remarks you directed toward me and my fellow theists. What did the comment add to this thread? Absolutely nothing!

You've diverted the thread in a direction that is likely not edifying to anyone.

I'm not arrogant. I was one a theistic evolutionist myself. Then I learned more.

Another arrogant statement.

JA believes that I am wrong when I profess a belief in God. Nonetheless, I enjoy a dialogue with him because I learn from him and he treats me with respect. He is not condescending; he does not insult me gratuitously; and he's even willing to acknowledge it when I have a valid point.

Keep in mind that once you admit that evolution occured but concurrently believe that it could not have happened without divine direction, you are just a short education away from dismissing the need for any divine direction at all.

JA has already made the point that demonstrates how wrong you are: "In the US, according to a survey published in Nature in 1997, four out of 10 scientists believe in God. Just over 45% said they did not believe, and 14.5% described themselves as doubters or agnostics. This ratio of believers to non-believers had not changed in 80 years." (source)

If it takes only a "short education" to make God irrelevant, why do so many scientists (presumably long-educated) continue to believe?

Now, since you presume to preach to me, I have a text for you in return:
Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles (Romans 1:22-23).

"Claiming to be wise, they became fools" — The possession of an open and inquiring mind is prerequisite to wisdom. As soon as someone like you thinks he has it all figured out, his mind begins to atrophy.

"They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for [mundane substitutes]" — Emphasis here on the word glory. Even if atheism is right, in my opinion it is an inglorious worldview.

Atheists may be right; science has demonstrated at least the possibility that the cosmos may have arisen spontaneously. (I think there are serious gaps in the scientific explanations which require atheists to take several leaps of faith; so I am conceding only possibility, not probability, much less certainty.)

But by rejecting any concept of a transcendent reality, atheists consign human beings to nasty and brutish lives. We came from nothing, we are headed only for oblivion. When life is good, it's good; but when misery takes hold, it's better just to put a bullet through your head and die in despair. The cosmos is empty and cold; love is nothing more than a chemical reaction. There can be no right and wrong — even Hitler is entitled to his opinion — because there is no such thing as an objective moral reality.

To be highly evolved is a loss, not a gain; for, unlike other animals, we possess consciousness and are therefore aware of our tragic circumstance.

I'd rather be a Buddhist. Buddhists concede that joy and love are illusory; but they add that suffering is equally illusory. Therefore one can aspire to untroubled equanimity.

Better yet to be a believing Jew or a Christian. Better to believe in a God who transcends mundane existence, who gives purpose and direction to human life, who indicates that at least some things are wrong and at least some other things are right, who imparts comfort and hope in the midst of suffering, who assures us that love is real and suffering is not the ultimate reality.

Wishing it were so does not make it so, I know that. But that's what "the glory of the immortal God" means, at least in part, for me. What does atheism offer that I should be eager to join you in it, or that you should boast as if you've discovered something noble and sublime?

btw, I should make it clear that I am grateful to science for extending human life and making life more comfortable in inumerable ways. But it is not necessary to reject God in order to accept the benefits of science; therefore such benefits do not accrue to the credit of an atheist worldview.
Q

CyberKitten said...

Q said: Atheists may be right; science has demonstrated at least the possibility that the cosmos may have arisen spontaneously.

..and followed up with: But by rejecting any concept of a transcendent reality, atheists consign human beings to nasty and brutish lives.

Are you saying that because, in your opinion, Atheism points to what you consider a meaningless existence (without God & Heaven) that we should turn our backs on the idea - because we'd rather be happy than right? If Atheism is correct should be just reject it anyway because the implications are too much for some (or even most) to handle? Personally I don't find that a reasonable response.

Rather than it being "better just to put a bullet through your head and die in despair" isn't it better to try and improve the human condition?

..and I think you hit the nail firmly on the head with this comment: To be highly evolved is a loss, not a gain; for, unlike other animals, we possess consciousness and are therefore aware of our tragic circumstance.

..and THAT is the probable reason why we have religion(s) in the first place. We are aware of our condition & have developed coping mechanisms to deal with it. One such 'comfort blanket' is religion.

asher said...

And so it goes:

Where do animals get their "instinct" from?

How do baby ducks know to follow their mother as soon as they are born?

Why do baby turtles head to the sea as soon as they hatch to avoid being eaten by predators?

How did chameleons learn to change their colors?

How do birds know to fly south for the winter and in an arrow formation?

How did bears learn how to hibernate for the winter?

How did beavers learn to make a dam?

How does each type of bird know how to make a nest for specific trees?

Why do many male animals fight, almost to the death, in order to decide who will mate with the females?

Why do many animals engage in some strange courtship rituals that has nothing to do with their existance?
(peacocks displaying their feathers or birds who build a structure just to "impress" the opposite sex)

The answer to these and other mysteries can be found within the pages of Darwin's Origin of the Species through Natural Selection.

Jewish Atheist said...

JDHURF: Orthoprax pretty much covered it, I think. Orthodox Judaism places much more emphasis on following the rules than on theology. However, I'm not sure what someone like Orthoprax does with the first commandment. :)

Q: There may not be Meaning without God, but there are many meanings. Many atheists have very happy, fulfilling lives. So do many deists and many who are religious but don't derive particular meaning from that worldview. And don't forget the many who are made miserable by religion, who have the feeling of never living up to unrealistic expectations. (Think Catholic boys who are told not to masturbate or Baptists who are gay.)

Orthoprax said...

Q,

You're going overboard. As I explained, I did not say that once you realize evolution is true therefore you realize God does not exist, but that once you realize evolution is true then God is not needed to explain it.

This is just as true as when you understand the orbits of the planets how you don't need God to be the one pushing each one along. The theory of gravity explains it without involving God.

One can very well be an evolutionist and a theist, but being a "theistic evolutionist" is a position easily rocked by education.

Stop being so sensitive and read what I write, not what you think I am writing.

Romans...jeez...

Ben Avuyah said...

Q,

That was a classic appeal to consequences. Remember the consequences of a belief to not affect it's truth or falsehood.

oracle25 said...

Cyberkitten said: Take away evolution & modern biology would collapse no longer making sense.

This is patently false, in fact the most creationists I know of are biologists, the reason being that biology screams of a creator. The fact is biology holds (arguably) the strongest case for creation. Perhaps you should do a little more research next time :)

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Ben Avuyah:
Agreed. As I said, "wishing it were so doesn't make it so, I know that."

JA:
Atheists begin with the conviction that we came from nothing and are going only to oblivion, right? Meanwhile, every human life devolves inevitably into suffering. How can you possibly construct meaning within those parameters?
Q

JDHURF said...

Orthoprax and JA,

Thank you for answering my question, you shed much more light on the subject than I had hoped for. I hope you don’t mind if you use your quotes in the thread, giving credit to you of coarse.

“Atheists begin with the conviction that we came from nothing and are going only to oblivion, right? Meanwhile, every human life devolves inevitably into suffering. How can you possibly construct meaning within those parameters?”

I’m a secular humanist and consequently also an atheist. As far as I know most atheists do not assert that human life came from nothing, human life is the evolutionary upsurge of the material world of matter-energy. We are headed to death and this death marks the end of human conscious life, there is tremendous support that death of the physical body coincides with the death of ones selfhood; i.e. psychology, physiology, and neuroscience. The conscious self (or soul as you might say) is really an extension of the physical body through the brain, it is hard to imagine how consciousness would survive the dissolution of the brain; for consciousness seems to be intrinsically bound to the brain. As far as every human life devolving into suffering, I would say speak for your self. I am not suffering and I do not for see such circumstances, my great grandparents did not really suffer, my grand parents are not really suffering and I do not see any reason to believe that I will be any different. Sure there is to be a certain extent of physical discomfort, but that is no reason to hold such pessimistic views of growing old and dying. One may have high levels of physical pain and still love life with as much fervor as they always have, making life just as worth living. Meaning in life is easy, live life for life. I actually wrote an essay on the meaning of life without the supernatural. In any case and in all honesty the idea of infinite existence in a supernatural realm comes off as unappealing to me, existence for infinity? No thanks.

Orthoprax said...

Jdhurf,

Sure, quote away. But I'm curious, where is this thread? I think I'd like to check it out, if you don't mind.

asher said...

Folks: two shows of interest this week:

Barbara Walters on Tuesday with "Heaven, where is it and how do we find it". I imagine she'll be interviewing St. Peter with her usual in-depth questions like: do you wear boxers or briefs.

Nova: the birth of christianity. Since PBS is supported mostly by the goverment, wouldn't this be a violation of church vs. state?

All of you athiests out there...why aren't you upset about getting off on Dec 25th as a paid holiday? This is outrageous. It proves that America is a Christian country. We should make that day just a regular work day with postal service, santiation pickup, stock market and all the banks open. Where is the outrage about this giving into religious america?


Orthoprax: when you say something of interest could you inform the room. We're all waiting.

oracle25 said...

Jdhurf, You assume that humans have the ability to detect consciousness outside of life. All those things you referred to deal only with examining the natural, any life after this exists in the super-natural. As C.S. Lewis put it

"Because science studies Nature. And the question is wether anything besides Nature exists - anything 'outside'. How could you find that out by studying simply Nature?"

So you see you cannot prove one way or another wether or not there is consciousness after death.

Furthermore consciousness is not connected eternally to the mind but to the soul.

As to what you should live life for, living life 'for life' is a very problematic way of living it. You see according to evolution life is meaningless and random to begin with, if we try to live for that then it can only lead us into more meaningless and random things. Therefore there would still be no 'purpose'.

Orthoprax said...

Oracle,

"So you see you cannot prove one way or another wether or not there is consciousness after death."

Is there consciousness in a coma? Where did it go? Why is it that the mind changes in response to chemical and physical changes in the brain? Do you know any examples where there is a mind but no brain?

"As to what you should live life for, living life 'for life' is a very problematic way of living it."

I think he means that one should live life, enjoying it for the sake of being alive.

oracle25 said...

Of course there is consciousness in a coma, thats like saying "is there consciousness while your sleeping?". While it is true that the mind is connected to consciousness on earth (and to a certain degree after the resurrection of the dead) it is not eternally completely connected to the mind. Although it is possible I am wrong on this point in one sense, that is that God probably does use the mind for consciousness, but the other part of consciousness would have to be the soul, that is what separates us from all other creatures on earth. Hmm, I shall have to think on that more.

In regards to your second point: that is basically the same statement and I give it the same answer.

Orthoprax said...

Oracle,

"Of course there is consciousness in a coma, thats like saying "is there consciousness while your sleeping?"."

Not exactly, since a coma is a rather different neurological state than sleep. But in either of these cases the individual is _unconscious_. There are then two option to explain this: a)consciousness has gone somewhere else or b) it has _stopped_ functioning.

So since you believe that the the brain is only part of the story of consciousness and it somehow continues even when the brain shows no sign of it, where does it go?

"In regards to your second point: that is basically the same statement and I give it the same answer."

I'm not arguing with you. But for some people that is meaning enough to live by. Conversely, some people aren't satisfied by the meaning which theism might give them. "Meaning" is a subjective thing.

JDHURF said...

Orthoprax,
The thread is being run at the website: atheists.com under the forum “general”. Thank you again for your insight.

Asher,
“All of you athiests out there...why aren't you upset about getting off on Dec 25th as a paid holiday? This is outrageous. It proves that America is a Christian country.” –
I’m not so really upset but rather disappointed. The United States of America is a secular nation it is not a Christian nation; the fact that Christmas is accepted as a national holiday only illustrates how fragile a secular democracy really is, for the Christian majority may impose unconstitutional injustices on the rest of the population (which is the case here). Christmas was not even viewed by America as a national holiday until the early 1800’s. Also there would be more of an outrage if it were not for the fact that individuals that are not Christians have a lot of larger issues to deal with, i.e. defending biology and science from monotheistic mythology. The Secular Coalition for America would like to see the national acceptance of Christmas done away with, unfortunately this is pale in comparison with the larger issues at hand.

Oracle25,
“So you see you cannot prove one way or another whether or not there is consciousness after death.” – No not yet, but I can show the vast amount of evidence that would lead one to understand the interconnectedness of consciousness and the physical body, how consciousness is reliant upon the brain and how and why different brain states effect and alter states of consciousness. Technological advances in studying brain activity are producing intriguing correlations between brain activity and different states of consciousness. Consciousness is not a study specifically for the psychologist there are neuroscientists and physiologists all contributing to the vast research of the consciousness. I believe that with these scientific researches there is conclusive evidence that consciousness is not of supernatural existence but of material “real” existence. Such scientific clues would be things such as the Circadian rhythm (a cycle or rhythm that is roughly 24 hours long; the cyclical daily fluctuations in biological and psychological processes. You will experience many different circadian rhythms that ebb and flow during the course of any 24 hour period. “Researchers have discovered over 100 bodily processes that rhythmically peak and dip each day, including blood pressure, the secretion of different hormones, and pain sensitivity. Normally, your circadian rhythms are closely synchronized with one another. For example, the circadian rhythm for the release of growth hormone is synchronized with the sleep-wake circadian rhythm so that growth hormone is released only during sleep.”* These circadian rhythms are controlled by a biological clock – a tiny cluster of neurons in the hypothalamus in the brain known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus or SCN. Thus proof that a least a good deal of the consciousness, is in actuality, a function of the brain, matter, and existence without interference from supernatural causes. There are also legitimate research done with hypnosis with it’s regards to consciousness, memory, and the brain. Hypnosis is a legitimate field and is defined as: “a cooperative social interaction in which the hypnotized person responds to the hypnotist’s suggestions with changes in perception, memory, and behavior” it is a slight alteration of consciousness in which using a PET scan can show what part of the brain is being activated allowing further proof of consciousness being material and a product of the evolutionary process of the human mind and tissue. There are also fields of research on consciousness through studying meditation and psychoactive drugs the later being substantial proof of the brains correlation with consciousness, and which parts of the brain produces certain states of consciousness. These studies give a great insight into the body rhythms and processes that regulate naturally occurring cycles of consciousness; the results, in my opinion, would tend to negate any form of supernatural consciousness and confirm the humanist viewpoint and belief of consciousness being a product of gradual evolution of the human mind and brain.
*Psychology by Hockenbury and Hockenbury.
To end with your idea of consciousness let me ask you this. Where you conscious before the development of your physical self? You gain consciousness while you brain reaches a certain developmental stage in the womb, you are born with out consciousness you only acquire it through the creation of your physical self; why would the end of the physical self be any different? If you maintain consciousness after death, why not before birth also?

. “As to what you should live life for, living life 'for life' is a very problematic way of living it. You see according to evolution life is meaningless and random to begin with, if we try to live for that then it can only lead us into more meaningless and random things. Therefore there would still be no 'purpose'” – No there is still purpose to be found. Through the evolutionary upsurge we have been created the magnificent species Homo sapiens with our indomitable powers of the mind. With these characteristics it is our responsibility to do the best that we can to help create a peaceful and tranquil world-state. I could write more about this topic for I have written an essay on it entitle “Secular humanism and the meaning of life” but I believe Orthopax already summarized the point well enough: “I think he means that one should live life, enjoying it for the sake of being alive.” The only point that I would add is that one should also do their part in helping create a more peaceful and tranquil world-state.

I know this is terribly long but there is real science behind the notion that consciousness is intrinsically bound to the brain and to claim otherwise illustrates the lack of knowledge pertaining to this subject.

Orthoprax said...

Jdurf,

I should also add that even in the most conservative view, if you are born from a Jewish mother then you are a Jew in the very essence of your being. It is a cultural/national/peoplehood connection that cannot be severed no matter what the individual believes.

The religious groups won't recognize a purely secular Jew or a Jew who follows another religion as a _religious Jew_ but his standing as a Jew, as in "a member of the tribe," is not in question.

oracle25 said...

Jdhurf, I agree that the human mind is a fragile thing, it can be influenced by many outside things. Hypnosis is a strange thing, it can make people believe they are other people or are better at something than they usually are. The interesting thing I find though is that whenever I see a hypnotist working I observe that his abilities are limited to things that the person being hypnotized already knows about, so their 'power' of suggestion is not as extreme as it may at first seem. One must of course realize that the mind has many jobs because it controls the whole body (a rather extraordinary job for an evolved organ) so it should come as no surprise that the brain has certain cycles.

JDHURF said...

Oracle25,
Hypnosis is very limited as to what it may accomplish with understanding and studying consciousness. Hypnosis is but one minute area in which consciousness may be viewed and studied.

“So it should come as no surprise that the brain has certain cycles.”

Yes but I was not describing certain cycles of the brain, I was describing certain cycles of consciousness that are produced and regulated by the brain. Which illustrates great support for the idea that consciousness is indeed produced by the physical brain and is completely reliant upon the material world, of which it is a product of. Remember that in recent history it was not known that light itself was a physical attribute of the world, only until 1926 was it known that light consisted of photon that can be viewed as both particles and wavelengths. There is no reason to not believe that consciousness itself will one day be understood, defined, and materialized as light was; for surely it will.

You speak of the soul and of consciousness. What is the difference? How does one differentiate between the two? Do you really believe the soul to be a phantom like specter that inhabits the human body and mind using these two things merely as tools? For as I see it the personality is what people misconstrue as actually being the soul of a person; for if the soul is you then it is really your personality and the personality is only a generalized concept of the overall consciousness of an individual. Consciousness is merely ‘self reflexive insight’, a product of the evolutionary upsurge of the human mind. That in any case there is no such thing as a ghostly soul as you believe. Not to say that there is any harm in believing so.

oracle25 said...

Can you prove that I do not have a soul? I do not know for sure what a soul is, it may be a phantom like thing that you describe. But I find it more likely that your soul is you, it is something that is a part of you. It is not something that just sits in side you waiting to go to heaven or hell. It is as much apart of you as your mind is. This also allows us to come up with new and original ideas, unlike our monkey "ancestors".

I do not study the mind, so I cannot expertly speak on the mind. However according to my experience living with my own mind every day I have drawn some conclusions. These are that any cycles in the mind can only effect a person in the physical sense, and cannot effect the person in a spiritual sense. That is, it cannot change one personally, what you think, what you believe, etc.

JDHURF said...

I completely disagree.

“Cycles in the mind can only affect a person in the physical sense, and cannot affect the person in a spiritual sense. That is, it cannot change one personally.” – Oracle25

Cycles ‘in the mind’ or derived from the brain most certainly can and will affect the ‘spiritual sense’ of a person, in other words their personality. Look up the story of Phineas Gage for one of the best examples ever. My view of an individuals spirit is the inspiring principle or dominant influence, and is different than the soul for I would define the soul as the “inner self”, the “private I”; the soul is the emotional part of an individual or the essential part and is really an extension of ones conscious awareness and personality. I do not see how the soul, spirit, personality, and consciousness are exclusive they all rely on one another and are wholly natural. A case of having one change personally is easily demonstrated with psychoactive drugs, methamphetamine for instance. Prolonged abuse of amphetamines or cocain can result in “stimulant-induced psychosis” also called “amphetamine psychosis” or “cocain psychosis” (Snyder, 1986). Here is an excerpt from the text “Psychology by Hockenbury and Hockenbury” – “Schizophrenia-like symptoms develop, including auditory hallucinations of voices and bizarrely paranoid ideas. “Cocain bugs” refers to an unusual tactile hallucination that occurs in a stimulant-induced psychosis but not in schizophrenia: People itch and tingle, claiming that insects or small animals are crawling on or under their skin.”
So as you may see in this sweeping overview there are even dramatic instances where alteration of the brains normal functioning change and alter one personally. If one where to begin having these hallucinations, paranoia, fears, and anxieties one would be changed personally, how could they not? Your personality will change, maybe before drug use one was calm and mild mannered, but then after extended use of drugs their personality was altered and they became rash and ill tempered; this is the change in the chemical make up of ones brain leading to the change in ones personlaity or “self hood” and/or “soul”. For if the soul is you and you have undergone such a change, surely the soul that is you has also changed.
I could go on and on giving instances such as this and elucidating the reasons, factors, and the conclusions to be drawn from such cases. However, I will refrain myself; if you would like to continue this line of inquiry email me at jdhurf@hotmail.com. I would be more than happy to delve into this deeper with you.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

jdhurf:
Your argument from the lack of consciousness during a coma is a good one. But what do you make of near death experiences? E.g., when the body on the operating table is clinically dead for a minute or more, but the person finds himself somehow looking down on his body from above.

The evidence is anecdotal, obviously — but what other kind could we expect to produce with respect to this subject? Doesn't it suggest at least the possibility of consciousness apart from brain function?
Q

JDHURF said...

No it does not. Obviously you have not been to my blog site, I just had a post on this very subject, check it out.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

jdhurf:
I'm late getting back to you, but here's my response.

I've had a look at the post you mention, but I don't find it persuasive. You're offering a theory, and a theory that doesn't take all of the facts into account.

I find it significant that, in some accounts of near death experiences, the person is no longer looking out through the eyes of the body. As in the example I offered, the person seems to leave the body and look down from a vantage point somewhere up at the ceiling.

From that wholly unnatural vantage point, they watch the doctors working on the body. Some say that they are given a choice, whether to depart forever or return to the body. And then they experience a descent, back to the body, and life returns at the very moment that their consciousness re-enters the body.

You're welcome to dismiss such anecdotal evidence as hallucinatory, but you shouldn't mistake your sceptical interpretation for proven scientific fact.

Also, I've given further thought to your example of a person in a coma. It seems to me that we might have to distinguish between consciousness and the formation of memories: i.e., a person could be conscious while comatose, but no memories are formed in the brain.

Obviously I can't prove it. But the hypothesis opens up the possibility that consciousness exists during a coma, even though we don't have the data to show it.

In my opinion, we simply know too little about consciousness to leap to any conclusions about it.
Q

mclesser said...

what it do flatfish???

Anonymous said...

I think that the answer is somewhere in the middle of both arguments. I think that God created different classes of life which then could adapt as needed. I think that God put life on the earth and tends to it's needs but also allows things to progress. Dogs are an example of a known case of evoution that humans caused because we desired it. I don't think that comparing a bat to a bird just because they both fly. It doesn't disprove the existance of a creator. It doesn't even make any sense. thats like trying to disprove the bible by preaching out of a harry potter book... just because they are both books.
I think the more I learn about science the more I believe in God.

Gordie said...

Defining God is the part most people fail at.

All the scientists I know who claim agnostic notions about a creator do so as result of the lack of evidence. However being good scientists who don't know the ultimate answers, simply claim, I don't know.

A brilliant scientist I know who died tragically last year struggled with his faith in the old testament through his teens.

He still preached the stories as fact, but his scientific mind could not reconcile the reality with the myth.

When he was 19, he decided to put it to one side. He decided to worship god and not question the stories.

However he also went on to write some maginificent award winning papers on biology.

Dave said, "I prefer a world with God than one without, so I'm not going to think about it anymore".

Dave enjoyed the community and ritual of the United Free Church of Scotland.

Now I have experienced their community and it's not based on fear of god... in fact it's all based on humans helping each other. There seems to be no direct involvment from any diety whatsover.

Without the humans the church would be an empty building with some uncomfortable seats.

I remember being frightened of the place as kid, thinking God would get me.

Dave's older brother Mark found me late for Sunday school and asked me why I was upset.

He said it's ok, God loves you come on in.

Now, the point is... it was Mark who was the nice guy that made it all better, not the old testament stories filled with so much primitive angst.

The culture of that church was one of love not fear. Go to another church on the same street in my home town and I would have been scared into attendance with old testament threats about the wrath of god.

If there is a god, it seems it is a benign God. Humans make the decisions and try to describe the universe.

God or no god, we're all playing the same game and we don't have enough evidence to determine how best to live together.

Democracy is deeply flawed, but it's the best idea we've had yet about how to try and keep people happy and it's based on asking humans, what they think. Not a dictator.

It's hard to believe that people thousands of years ago could determine what was a physical act or a miraculous one. For all their engineering skills, they were still incredibly ignorant of so many things we know today.

We will be described the same way in thousands of years.

Anonymous said...

There is no solid evidence of a "Creator". There is scientific proof of evolution though.

hamza said...

by the way to create same thing without variety is not intelligence......to create a variety of different species is intelligence...like birds with this type skeleton can fly and bats with type of skeleton fly too.....like having concord and boing 747 ...just example......well as far as flat fish is concerned having that type of skull actually help the fish to campfladge as lie flat on sea floor with both eyes to moniter predators and its quiet intllegent coz a eye will be wasted if on other side....think godi meant intelligent creater has given you an intelligent brain...too

zundrah said...

I can answer these questions too easily; (since I know everything (joke!)
Bats look like mammals because they are mammals - they are basicaly flying dogs and should not be confused with birds! They have canines not beaks and their fingers are still there because they were once normal legs with fingers but they mutated outwards and extended their legth to fly better. They started this because they use to leap from tree to tree - they eat bugs and friut from trees, that is thier complete diet.
And the flat fish looks very odd because it has not yet finished the evolution of turning it's head into this new desired position - that will take a few more hundred million years to do that but they have done very well so far! lol

Anonymous said...

Yes, well I think it is a Flatfish and God was'nt drunk. I think you may have insulted him be saying that but never mind I think that that first picture is a Flatfish!
Liv xx:)(L)