Nested Sets Of Causation

Discussion in 'Health and medical' started by John Edser, Jan 26, 2004.

  1. John Edser

    John Edser Guest

    phillip smith wrote:

    > RO:- The reservations of the first poster seems to be about the accuracy of determination of
    > allele effects. Epistasis will often reduce the rate of change of the allele frequency due to
    > selection, and random events can
    dramatically
    > change allele frequencies in small populations. Couple them together and
    they
    > will likely increase the frequency where the less advantagous allele is
    fixed
    > by "accident" in a population, but it would still have to occur by accident
    and
    > against selection pressure.

    PS:- The question is. Is the definition of evolution as changes in gene frequencies reasonable. I
    have no question that the frequency of phenotypic traits can change under selection. This not the
    same thing.

    JE:- Yes, they "are not the same thing." Causation is the basis of reasoning within the sciences.
    Deleting causation within the sciences is like deleting all musical instruments within music. At the
    moment it remains unclear if a gene freq change is a cause of evolution or just an affect of another
    cause. Four epistemologically different causations can exist here:

    1) A gene freq change causes Evolution.

    2) Evolution causes a gene freq change.

    3) An unknown causes both.

    4) No causation exists between them,
    i.e. they are correlated but independent, events.

    Although it may seem "obvious" that
    1) is correct it cannot be taken as true unless at the very least, its ani-thesis 2) is eliminated.
    Of course 1) and 2) cannot both be true because you end up with only a causative tautology.

    I put it to sbe readers that 2) is correct. This is because selection causes evolution and evolution
    by natural selection causes gene freq change. This argument forms a non reversible logical structure
    consisting of two nodes (one way arrows):

    gene freq change ---> evolution ---> natural selection

    The above can be imagined as a Russian Doll set consisting of 3 dolls. The first and smallest doll
    is "gene freq change" which is entirely a subset of "evolution" which respectively, remains entirely
    a subset of "natural selection". Thus only natural selection is the largest doll in the set. This
    means that natural selection is the major inductive causative supposition from which evolution and
    respectively, gene freq changes are only deductions.

    In the reverse order: gene freq changes limit what can evolve and what defined evolution limits what
    natural selection can do.

    The Neo Darwinists have reversed testable cause and affect within evolutionary theory because they
    simply deleted cause and affect from their applied epistemology.

    PS:- In small populations it seems that drift is a factor in gene frequencies so we can say
    frequencies change but we don't know why.

    JE:- Very exactly stated. Because drift is only a random process all we can say about it is "we
    don't know why", period. Neo Darwinists want to make out they know more than they can know when they
    invoke drift as causative to evolution. All Neo Darwinism can validly suppose is that drift is
    assumed to cause random temporal variation because it make no difference to the testability of the
    theory of evolution to may this hypothesis.

    John Edser Independent Researcher

    PO Box 277 Church Pt NSW 2105 Australia

    [email protected]
     
    Tags:


  2. Larry Moran

    Larry Moran Guest

    On Tue, 27 Jan 2004 06:40:25 +0000 (UTC),
    John Edser <[email protected]> wrote:
    > phillip smith wrote:

    [snip]

    > The question is. Is the definition of evolution as changes in gene frequencies reasonable. I
    > have no question that the frequency of phenotypic traits can change under selection. This not
    > the same thing.

    We need a way to *define* evolution so that we know it when we see it and so that we can distinguish
    evolution from other things that superficially resemble it.

    Evolution is a phenomenon of populations and not of individuals so any *definition* has to address
    populations. Evolution deals with changes in heritable characteristics (genes/alleles). Simple
    changes in phenotype due to environment, for example, are not examples of evolution. (The classic
    examples is increased height and health of Caucasians over the past 500 years.)

    When a population evolves the genetic composition changes. Hence, the basic minimum definition of
    evolution is a change in the frequency of alleles in a population over time. Nobody has ever come up
    with a better definition that allows us to separate evolution from similar phenomena and to
    recognize real evolution when we observe it.

    > JE:- Yes, they "are not the same thing." Causation is the basis of reasoning within the sciences.
    > Deleting causation within the sciences is like deleting all musical instruments within music. At
    > the moment it remains unclear if a gene freq change is a cause of evolution or just an affect of
    > another cause. Four epistemologically different causations can exist here:
    >
    > 1) A gene freq change causes Evolution.
    >
    > 2) Evolution causes a gene freq change.
    >
    > 3) An unknown causes both.
    >
    > 4) No causation exists between them,
    > i.e. they are correlated but independent, events.

    As usual, John gets confused by his own rhetoric. The *definition* of evolution says absolutely
    nothing about cause, nor should it. We now know something about the cause of evolution (natural
    selection, random genetic drift, etc..) and those explanations form the core of evolutionary theory.
    It would be wrong and silly to *define* evolution in terms of one of its causes. We don't do this
    for other phenomena in science (e.g. gravity, chemical reaction, earthquake, etc.) so why should we
    do it with the word "evolution."

    Larry Moran
     
  3. John Edser

    John Edser Guest

    > JE:-
    > Yes, they "are not the same thing."
    > Causation is the basis of reasoning
    > within the sciences. Deleting causation
    > within the sciences is like deleting all
    > musical instruments within music. At the
    > moment it remains unclear if a gene freq
    > change is a cause of evolution or just an
    > affect of another cause. Four epistemologically
    > different causations can exist here:
    >
    > 1) A gene freq change causes Evolution.
    >
    > 2) Evolution causes a gene freq change.
    >
    > 3) An unknown causes both.
    >
    > 4) No causation exists between them,
    > i.e. they are correlated but independent, events.

    LM:- As usual, John gets confused by his own rhetoric. The *definition* of evolution says absolutely
    nothing about cause, nor should it.

    JE:- Typically, LM epistemologically beheads the biological sciences and then tries to appear as if
    butter would not melt in his mouth. The _enormity_ of the error that LM is making should not escape
    any sbe reader's attention. As far as LM is concerned no difference can exist between the opposing
    causative suppositions that the sun is stationary and earth moves OR the earth is stationary and the
    sun moves. For LM they are the same view. Contesting propositions of causation are what EVERY
    TESTABLE theory of science is about.

    Darwinian theory simply states that evolution is CAUSED by natural selection. It was never suggested
    that natural selection was caused by evolution.

    LM is post modern in his epistemology. Thus he deletes everything that matters allowing his views to
    move their goal posts to anywhere he wishes. NOW LM can never be wrong. What LM doesn't realise is,
    this also means LM cannot ever be right.

    The reason why LM cannot understand why Hamilton's rule is arbitrary is because _everything_ in LM's
    world is arbitrary, non testable and forever relative to yet another, hopeless relative. LM should
    learn that zero random process can be validly suggested to cause anything, within the sciences. Of
    course, LM is not proposing that drift "causes" evolution because he has deleted that word cause
    from his lexicon; problem solved.. or was it...

    Best Wishes,

    John Edser Independent Researcher

    PO Box 266 Church Pt NSW 2105 Australia

    [email protected]



    We now know something about the cause of evolution (natural selection, random genetic drift, etc..)
    and those explanations form the core of evolutionary theory. It would be wrong and silly to *define*
    evolution in terms of one of its causes. We don't do this for other phenomena in science (e.g.
    gravity, chemical reaction, earthquake, etc.) so why should we do it with the word "evolution."

    Larry Moran
     
  4. Larry Moran

    Larry Moran Guest

    On Wed, 28 Jan 2004 18:36:23 +0000 (UTC),
    John Edser <[email protected]> wrote:
    >Larry Moran wrote:

    [snip]

    > As usual, John gets confused by his own rhetoric. The *definition* of evolution says absolutely
    > nothing about cause, nor should it.
    >
    > JE:- Typically, LM epistemologically beheads the biological sciences and then tries to appear as
    > if butter would not melt in his mouth. The _enormity_ of the error that LM is making should not
    > escape any sbe reader's attention. As far as LM is concerned no difference can exist between the
    > opposing causative suppositions that the sun is stationary and earth moves OR the earth is
    > stationary and the sun moves. For LM they are the same view. Contesting propositions of causation
    > are what EVERY TESTABLE theory of science is about.

    John, John, John .....

    Try and keep up. Do you understand the difference between a *definition* and a *theory*?

    Evolutionary theory is all about possible causes of evolution. Evolution, the definition, defines
    what evolution is.

    This isn't really that difficult. Try reading an introductory textbook instead of trying to reinvent
    the English language.

    Larry Moran
     
  5. John Edser

    John Edser Guest

    > JE:- Typically, LM epistemologically beheads the biological sciences and then tries to appear as
    > if butter would not melt in his mouth. The _enormity_ of the error that LM is making should not
    > escape any sbe reader's attention. As far as LM is concerned no difference can exist between the
    > opposing causative suppositions that the sun is stationary and earth moves OR the earth is
    > stationary and the sun moves. For LM they are the same view. Contesting propositions of causation
    > are what EVERY TESTABLE theory of science is about.

    LM:- John, John, John ..... Try and keep up. Do you understand the difference between a *definition*
    and a *theory*?

    JE:- Yes, do you?

    LN:- Evolutionary theory is all about possible causes of evolution.

    JE:- Incorrect. Evolutionary theory "is all about" providing ideas, ON THE TABLE, of TESTABLE
    evolutionary processes where cause and affect are defined in each case. The view that fairies cause
    evolution is not a scientific process, because fairies are not a testable supposition. Any view that
    reverses cause and affect anytime it wishes to do so, simply because it denies causation even exists
    within a scientific theory, is just childish in the extreme.

    Hamilton's rule, which entirely reverses cause and affect (c to -c) by incorporating thesis and anti
    thesis within just the _one_ rule, is a classic example. To make Hamilton's rule a testable view two
    rules must be supposed to exist:-

    1) rb>c only producing OFA

    2) rb>-c only producing OFM

    Where one rule must refute in favour of the other.

    Which one refutes is demonstrated when cmax is appended to the rule:

    rb>K-c

    where K = cmax

    LO:- Evolution, the definition, defines what evolution is.

    JE:- Dear oh dear.. Evolution, the definition, can only define what evolution can be tested to be.
    Without a testable theory of evolution, any definition of what somebody thinks they understand
    evolution to be, is scientifically _empty_. LM thinks that just a subjective definition can produce
    meaning. Defining an affliction as "the gripe" does not necessarily mean that somebody understands
    what they are talking about even if the defined term sounds impressive. Calling random temporal gene
    freq. change "evolution" reduces evolution to the epistemological equivalent of "the gripe".

    ______________________________________
    Nested sets of fitness are the next stage in the sets of fitness saga.
    ______________________________________

    LP:- This isn't really that difficult. Try reading an introductory textbook instead of trying to
    reinvent the English language.

    JE:- Why not the Koran or the Bible?

    Try thinking for yourself, for a really refreshing change...

    Best Wishes,

    John Edser Independent Researcher

    PO Box 266 Church Pt NSW 2105 Australia

    [email protected]
     
  6. Larry Moran

    Larry Moran Guest

    On Thu, 29 Jan 2004 14:35:41 +0000 (UTC),
    John Edser <[email protected]> wrote:
    >Larry Moran wrote:
    >>John Edser wrote:

    >>> Typically, LM epistemologically beheads the biological sciences and then tries to appear as if
    >>> butter would not melt in his mouth. The _enormity_ of the error that LM is making should not
    >>> escape any sbe reader's attention. As far as LM is concerned no difference can exist between the
    >>> opposing causative suppositions that the sun is stationary and earth moves OR the earth is
    >>> stationary and the sun moves. For LM they are the same view. Contesting propositions of
    >>> causation are what EVERY TESTABLE theory of science
    > >> is about.
    >
    >> John, John, John ..... Try and keep up. Do you understand the difference between a *definition*
    >> and a *theory*?
    >
    > Yes, do you?

    I do. You don't. Goodbye.

    Larry Moran
     
  7. John Edser

    John Edser Guest

    >>> Typically, LM epistemologically beheads the biological sciences and then tries to appear as if
    >>> butter would not melt in his mouth. The _enormity_ of the error that LM is making should not
    >>> escape any sbe reader's attention. As far as LM is concerned no difference can exist between the
    >>> opposing causative suppositions that the sun is stationary and earth moves OR the earth is
    >>> stationary and the sun moves. For LM they are the same view. Contesting propositions of
    >>> causation are what EVERY TESTABLE theory of science
    > >> is about.

    >> John, John, John ..... Try and keep up. Do you understand the difference between a *definition*
    >> and a *theory*?

    > Yes, do you?

    LM:- I do. You don't. Goodbye.

    JE:- That is what I call a well reasoned argument that leads any rational reader to a logically
    sound set of unbiased conclusions that can be tested against nature in a rigorous way, to sort out
    the better view.

    _________________________________
    A definition of evolution must invoke a testable theory of evolution to mean anything within the
    sciences. Different theories of evolution must define evolution _differently_. It is a total
    misconception to suppose that different theories compete to fulfil the _same_ definition.
    _________________________________

    Many Thanks,

    John Edser Independent Researcher

    PO Box 266 Church Pt NSW 2105 Australia

    [email protected]
     
  8. Jim Menegay

    Jim Menegay Guest

    "John Edser" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...

    JM:- For epistemology junkies, this has been an interesting dialog between John Edser and Larry
    Moran (initiated by Phillip Smith). I have reconstructed the arguments below by clipping from
    several posts. I've done some rearranging, but hopably I have not introduced any distortions.

    Here is the dialog:

    PS:- The question is: Is the definition of evolution as changes in gene frequencies reasonable? I
    have no question that the frequency of phenotypic traits can change under selection. This not the
    same thing.

    JE:- Yes, they "are not the same thing." Causation is the basis of reasoning within the sciences.
    Deleting causation within the sciences is like deleting all musical instruments within music. At the
    moment it remains unclear if a gene freq change is a cause of evolution or just an affect of another
    cause. Four epistemologically different causations can exist here:

    1) A gene freq change causes Evolution.

    2) Evolution causes a gene freq change.

    3) An unknown causes both.

    4) No causation exists between them,
    i.e. they are correlated but independent, events.

    [snip]

    if:= We need a way to *define* evolution so that we know it when we see it and so that we can
    distinguish evolution from other things that superficially resemble it.

    As usual, John gets confused by his own rhetoric. The *definition* of evolution says absolutely
    nothing about cause, nor should it. We now know something about the cause of evolution (natural
    selection, random genetic drift, etc..) and those explanations form the core of evolutionary theory.
    It would be wrong and silly to *define* evolution in terms of one of its causes. We don't do this
    for other phenomena in science (e.g. gravity, chemical reaction, earthquake, etc.) so why should we
    do it with the word "evolution."

    JE:- Typically, LM epistemologically beheads the biological sciences ...[snip] Contesting
    propositions of causation are what EVERY TESTABLE theory of science is about.

    Darwinian theory simply states that evolution is CAUSED by natural selection. It was never suggested
    that natural selection was caused by evolution.

    LM-: John, John, John .....

    Evolutionary theory is all about possible causes of evolution. Evolution, the definition, defines
    what evolution is.

    This isn't really that difficult. Try reading an introductory textbook instead of trying to reinvent
    the English language.

    Try and keep up. Do you understand the difference between a *definition* and a *theory*?

    JE:- Yes, do you?

    ig:- I do. You don't. Goodbye.

    JE:- That is what I call a well reasoned argument that leads any rational reader to a logically
    sound set of unbiased conclusions that can be tested against nature in a rigorous way, to sort out
    the better view.

    _________________________________
    A definition of evolution must invoke a testable theory of evolution to mean anything within the
    sciences. Different theories of evolution must define evolution _differently_. It is a total
    misconception to suppose that different theories compete to fulfil the _same_ definition.
    _________________________________

    END clipped dialog.

    My immediate reaction was that Moran was obviously right and Edser was obviously wrong. So I started
    out to write a note saying this. Have you ever had one of those experiences where you set out to
    prove something, but then you think of a potential counter-argument you have to crush, and that
    leads to more imagined counter-arguments, so that eventually you end up believing what you set out
    to disprove? Well, that didn't exactly happen here. Instead, I reject both thesis and antithesis.
    Hegel fans should know what is coming next. It all depends on your definition of "definition"...

    There are three entities to consider:
    1. The loose definition of the phenomenon.
    2. The precise definition of the phenomenon.
    3. The causal explanation of the phenomenon.

    Entity #1 - the loose definition - makes no reference to causality. On the assumption that we expect
    to have competing theories, it CAN'T refer to causality - it is the stadium within which the
    theories compete - it can't be biased.

    Entity #2 and Entity #3 - the precise definition of the phenomenon and the causal explanation,
    together constitute the THEORY. Why do you need theory before you can produce a precise definition?
    Because the precise definition has to make reference to observations, and observations are "theory
    laden". Also, because the kinds of observations that are required will depend on the causal
    structure.

    So Larry is right that the loose definition of the phenomenon is independent of (and logically
    prior to) the theory. But John is right that the precise definition of the phenomenon is a creature
    of the theory.

    I encourage doubters to produce a list of phenomena and check this conceptual framework against
    their list. My list included the origin of life, the origin of the moon, human monogamy,
    photosynthesis, and others. In each case, I notice that the competing theories (that I am aware
    of) agree on a loose definition of the phenomenon, but introduce more or less subtle differences
    in their precise definitions. Particularly interesting to Einstein fans is one of Larry's examples
    - gravity.

    Neither Larry nor John should interpret this as an attempt to mediate. I recommend against an
    attempted reconciliation at this time. Separation (with a restraining order) is probably a
    good idea. ;-)
     
  9. John Edser

    John Edser Guest

    _________________________________
    A definition of evolution must invoke a testable theory of evolution to mean anything within the
    sciences. Different theories of evolution must define evolution _differently_. It is a total
    misconception to suppose that different theories compete to fulfil the _same_ definition.
    _________________________________

    JM:- There are three entities to consider:
    1. The loose definition of the phenomenon.
    2. The precise definition of the phenomenon.
    3. The causal explanation of the phenomenon.

    Entity #1 - the loose definition - makes no reference to causality. On the assumption that we expect
    to have competing theories, it CAN'T refer to causality - it is the stadium within which the
    theories compete - it can't be biased.

    Entity #2 and Entity #3 - the precise definition of the phenomenon and the causal explanation,
    together constitute the THEORY. Why do you need theory before you can produce a precise definition?
    Because the precise definition has to make reference to observations, and observations are "theory
    laden". Also, because the kinds of observations that are required will depend on the causal
    structure.

    So Larry is right that the loose definition of the phenomenon is independent of (and logically
    prior to) the theory. But John is right that the precise definition of the phenomenon is a creature
    of the theory.

    JE:- Science cannot refer to just "the loose definition" That is all. This was proven by Darwin. He
    defined evolution as the transmutation of species because the loose definition of evolution was one
    _species_ being changed into another. This contested species being created and remaining separate.
    In Both cases species remains the focus. As it turned out, the species concept WAS NOT the focus of
    Darwin's theory but the concept of one evolving population, was. Darwin refuted the fixed species
    concept and replaced it with an evolving population concept. Thus the loose definition of evolution
    did _not_ represent Darwin's testable theory of evolution. The loose definition of evolution was
    different to, and did not represent, Darwin's view.

    Today evolution is defined as "any gene freq. change in a deme". The word "any" just means that this
    definition cannot refer to a _testable_ supposition because it allows random gene freq. changes to
    be defined as "evolution". If EVERY gene change is valid "evolution" then evolution, like creation,
    cannot be tested to refutation. Unless Neo Darwinian's change this definition to "any NON RANDOM
    gene freq. change in a deme" they have destroyed the theory of evolution as a scientific view. They
    cannot hide behind a spurious "loose definition" as a justification for doing so.

    >snip<

    Best Wishes,

    John Edser Independent Researcher

    PO Box 266 Church Pt NSW 2105 Australia

    [email protected]
     
  10. Larry Moran

    Larry Moran Guest

    On Sat, 31 Jan 2004 23:34:46 +0000 (UTC), J
    im Menegay <[email protected]> wrote:

    [snip]

    > My immediate reaction was that Moran was obviously right and Edser was obviously wrong. So I
    > started out to write a note saying this. Have you ever had one of those experiences where you set
    > out to prove something, but then you think of a potential counter-argument you have to crush, and
    > that leads to more imagined counter-arguments, so that eventually you end up believing what you
    > set out to disprove? Well, that didn't exactly happen here. Instead, I reject both thesis and
    > antithesis. Hegel fans should know what is coming next. It all depends on your definition of
    > "definition"...
    >
    > There are three entities to consider:
    > 1. The loose definition of the phenomenon.
    > 2. The precise definition of the phenomenon.
    > 3. The causal explanation of the phenomenon.
    >
    > Entity #1 - the loose definition - makes no reference to causality. On the assumption that we
    > expect to have competing theories, it CAN'T refer to causality - it is the stadium within which
    > the theories compete - it can't be biased.
    >
    > Entity #2 and Entity #3 - the precise definition of the phenomenon and the causal explanation,
    > together constitute the THEORY. Why do you need theory before you can produce a precise
    > definition? Because the precise definition has to make reference to observations, and observations
    > are "theory laden". Also, because the kinds of observations that are required will depend on the
    > causal structure.
    >
    > So Larry is right that the loose definition of the phenomenon is independent of (and logically
    > prior to) the theory. But John is right that the precise definition of the phenomenon is a
    > creature of the theory.

    Please give me a precise definition of evolution that works and is a "creature of theory." Please
    explain why your "precise" definitions isn't mentioned in the textbooks on evolutionary biology. I'm
    sure you must have such a "precise" definition in mind because if you don't your posting doesn't
    make sense. It would be a great help to me if someone could come up with an example definition
    instead of making vague accusations against the standard one. (I'm expecting a comparision between
    your precise definition of evolution and the "loose" one that evolutionary biologists use. Which one
    is better, in your opinion, and why?)

    > I encourage doubters to produce a list of phenomena and check this conceptual framework against
    > their list. My list included the origin of life, the origin of the moon, human monogamy,
    > photosynthesis, and others. In each case, I notice that the competing theories (that I am aware
    > of) agree on a loose definition of the phenomenon, but introduce more or less subtle differences
    > in their precise definitions. Particularly interesting to Einstein fans is one of Larry's examples
    > - gravity.

    I don't understand these sentences. Could you elaborate? Are you referring to *definitions* of "the
    origin of life" etc. I would *define* "the origin of life" as "the point in time when the first life
    began." Do you have something else in mind?

    What about "gravity"? The word is normally *defined* as something like "the attractive force between
    massive bodies that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the
    square of their separation." This doesn't look to me like a definition that's a creature of theory.
    What did you mean?

    Larry Moran
     
  11. Jim Menegay

    Jim Menegay Guest

    "John Edser" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...

    > Today evolution is defined as "any gene freq. change in a deme". The word "any" just means that
    > this definition cannot refer to a _testable_ supposition because it allows random gene freq.
    > changes to be defined as "evolution". If EVERY gene change is valid "evolution" then evolution,
    > like creation, cannot be tested to refutation. Unless Neo Darwinian's change this definition to
    > "any NON RANDOM gene freq. change in a deme" they have destroyed the theory of evolution as a
    > scientific view. They cannot hide behind a spurious "loose definition" as a justification for
    > doing so.
    >
    That's curious, John. Here I thought Kimura was the scientist who had done more to revive the theory
    of evolution as a scientific view than anyone since Fisher. He broke the back of extreme
    adaptationism - which was hopelessly at odds with newly emerging facts. Furthermore, he provided the
    conceptual basis for molecular taxonomy.
     
  12. Jim Menegay

    Jim Menegay Guest

    [email protected] (Larry Moran) wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
    > On Sat, 31 Jan 2004 23:34:46 +0000 (UTC), Jim Menegay [email protected]> wrote:
    > > PS:- The question is: Is the definition of evolution as changes in gene frequencies reasonable?
    > > [snip] JM:- There are three entities to consider:
    > > 1. The loose definition of the phenomenon.
    > > 2. The precise definition of the phenomenon.
    > > 3. The causal explanation of the phenomenon.
    > >
    > > Entity #1 - the loose definition - makes no reference to causality. On the assumption that we
    > > expect to have competing theories, it CAN'T refer to causality - it is the stadium within which
    > > the theories compete - it can't be biased.
    > >
    > > Entity #2 and Entity #3 - the precise definition of the phenomenon and the causal explanation,
    > > together constitute the THEORY. Why do you need theory before you can produce a precise
    > > definition? Because the precise definition has to make reference to observations, and
    > > observations are "theory laden". Also, because the kinds of observations that are required will
    > > depend on the causal structure.
    > >
    > > So Larry is right that the loose definition of the phenomenon is independent of (and logically
    > > prior to) the theory. But John is right that the precise definition of the phenomenon is a
    > > creature of the theory.
    >
    > Please give me a precise definition of evolution that works and is a "creature of theory."

    "Evolution is change in gene frequencies caused by differential survival and reproduction of
    organisms." This definition is a creature of the neo-Darwinist theory (Fisher, Wright, et al.) It
    certainly wasn't Darwin's precise definition - he had never heard of genes. His definition involved
    things like speciation and adaptation, even though his causal ideas were not that different from
    Fisher's. People between Darwin and Fischer (Bateson, for example) also talked about evolution
    without necessarily talking about changes in gene frequencies.

    Since Kimura and Hamilton, we have better precise definitions that work even better. That is because
    we have better theories. Of course, if you prefer to think of precise theories as not containing any
    reference to causation, then Kimura and Hamilton don't change Fisher's precise definition, in your
    view. But you have to admit that the definition of evolution HAS changed since Darwin. And, for that
    matter, the definition of "gene" has changed since Fisher.

    > Please explain why your "precise" definitions isn't mentioned in the textbooks on evolutionary
    > biology.

    Clearly, it IS mentioned in textbooks.

    > I'm sure you must have such a "precise" definition in mind because if you don't your posting
    > doesn't make sense. It would be a great help to me if someone could come up with an example
    > definition instead of making vague accusations against the standard one. (I'm expecting a
    > comparision between your precise definition of evolution and the "loose" one that evolutionary
    > biologists use. Which one is better, in your opinion, and why?)

    The precise definition is best for explaining, testing, and understanding the theory. The loose
    definition is best for expanding, improving, and overthrowing the theory.

    Personally, I am disappointed that the modern precise definitions of evolution don't explicitly
    mention speciation.

    >
    > > I encourage doubters to produce a list of phenomena and check this conceptual framework against
    > > their list. My list included the origin of life, the origin of the moon, human monogamy,
    > > photosynthesis, and others. In each case, I notice that the competing theories (that I am aware
    > > of) agree on a loose definition of the phenomenon, but introduce more or less subtle differences
    > > in their precise definitions. Particularly interesting to Einstein fans is one of Larry's
    > > examples - gravity.
    >
    > I don't understand these sentences. Could you elaborate? Are you referring to *definitions* of
    > "the origin of life" etc. I would *define* "the origin of life" as "the point in time when the
    > first life began." Do you have something else in mind?

    I would change your loose definition to "the process by which the first life began" for starters.
    The process is what people are interested in. But then someone is going to ask for a definition of
    "life". And people like Francis Crick are going to foul things up by offering theories like
    "Directed Panspermia". Should we ask for the origin of life on Earth? People like Cairns-Smith are
    going to come up with theories of organisms built from clay that are ancestral to modern organisms
    only with some stretching of concepts. Every theory forces some revamping of any attempted precise
    definition.

    You really never understand exactly what it is you are trying to explain until you explain it!
    Thereby, you produce a precise definition. But even before you succeed, you had a goal in mind for
    what you were going to explain - that vague goal is the loose definition.

    >
    > What about "gravity"? The word is normally *defined* as something like "the attractive force
    > between massive bodies that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely
    > proportional to the square of their separation." This doesn't look to me like a definition that's
    > a creature of theory. What did you mean?

    Actually you are giving Newton's precise definition of *gravitation*, not of gravity. Gravity is the
    force here on earth that makes apples fall and it was known long before Newton. Galileo provided the
    first quantitative theory of gravity. Newton reduced gravity to a special case of a new theory -
    gravitation. Einstein showed that Newton's gravitation, along with the laws of conservation of
    momentum and energy, are only approximations to a more general theory - General Relativity. The
    loose definition of gravity as a tendency of things to seek the center of the earth is still valid,
    but the precise definition changes with each new theory. Even if you leave out Einstein, gravity now
    includes a mix of the centripetal force due to gravitation, the centrifugal force due to the earth's
    rotation, and small changes in the shape of the earth caused by lunar and solar tides.

    Incidentally, Newton had a loose definition of gravitation before he had a precise one. He knew
    there was an attractive force from Copernicus, but it took a careful analysis of Kepler's laws to
    determine that it must be an inverse square force.
     
  13. Larry Moran

    Larry Moran Guest

    On Mon, 2 Feb 2004 07:03:10 +0000 (UTC),
    Jim Menegay <[email protected]> wrote:
    > [email protected] (Larry Moran) wrote in message
    > news:<[email protected]>...

    [snip]

    >> Please give me a precise definition of evolution that works and is a "creature of theory."
    >
    > "Evolution is change in gene frequencies caused by differential survival and reproduction of
    > organisms." This definition is a creature of the neo-Darwinist theory (Fisher, Wright, et al.) It
    > certainly wasn't Darwin's precise definition - he had never heard of genes. His definition
    > involved things like speciation and adaptation, even though his causal ideas were not that
    > different from Fisher's. People between Darwin and Fischer (Bateson, for example) also talked
    > about evolution without necessarily talking about changes in gene frequencies.

    Thank-you very much for offering a concrete example that we can examine. The definition of evolution
    that I prefer is the one in the article that I wrote for the Talk.Origins Archive. I don't claim
    that this definition is original. In that article I've tried to summarize the consensus among
    evolutionary biologists.

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolution-definition.html

    "Evolution is a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many
    generations."

    There are many variations of this definition. Some of them are mentioned in the article. The most
    common variant refers to changes in the frequency of alleles in a population.

    Keep in mind that this is a minimal definition of evolution and doesn't address the birth and
    extinction of populations. It is, admittedly, a creature of prior knowledge in that it assumes an
    understanding of populations of organisms and of heredity.

    What are the possible causes of these changes that would form part of evolutionary theory? One of
    them is a Lamarckian form of evolution where the heritable characteristics of a population changed
    within an individual in response to the environment. In theory, we could imagine that there would be
    no differential survival of organisms in this this type of evolution (i.e. every individual gave
    rise to one and only one descendant). The heritable characteristics of the population would change
    over time and the population would evolve.

    We know that this isn't the way that evolution occurs but it isn't ruled out by the definition of
    evolution. That's the way it should be.

    What are some other possible causes of changes in heritable characteristics? One of them is
    mutation. New alleles (mutations) arise in a population at measurable frequency. This is an
    important part of evolutionary theory and it is consistent with the definition of evolution since
    the definition doesn't specify causes. Your definition does specify a cause. It says ...

    "Evolution is change in gene frequencies caused by differential survival and reproduction of
    organisms."

    Is it your intention to eliminate mutation and possible Lamarckian explanations by defining them out
    of existence? Why do you want to do this?

    I realize that we're quibbling over details. Perhaps it would be best to think of your proposed
    definition as a simple variant of what most of us agree is the standard definition. I really don't
    see that it's profoundly different in spite of the fact that I think it's a bit too restrictive.

    > Since Kimura and Hamilton, we have better precise definitions that work even better. That is
    > because we have better theories. Of course, if you prefer to think of precise theories as not
    > containing any reference to causation, then Kimura and Hamilton don't change Fisher's precise
    > definition, in your view. But you have to admit that the definition of evolution HAS changed since
    > Darwin. And, for that matter, the definition of "gene" has changed since Fisher.

    I don't see that Kimura and Hamilton had any effect on the definition of evolution. I also don't see
    any significant different between the definition that I prefer and what Darwin thought of as the
    minimal definition of evolution. Darwin didn't know as much as we know about genes and how they work
    but he did know about heritable characteristics and why they were important in evolution. In fact,
    he proposed a theory of genes.

    >> Please explain why your "precise" definitions isn't mentioned in the textbooks on evolutionary
    >> biology.
    >
    > Clearly, it IS mentioned in textbooks.

    Okay. Let's assume that your proposed definition is mentioned in textbooks. Why is it more "precise"
    than the one I prefer? Is it simply because you use the word "genes" instead of "alleles" or
    "heritable"? Or, is it because you specify a cause, a cause which seems pretty nebulous to me.

    >> I'm sure you must have such a "precise" definition in mind because if you don't your posting
    >> doesn't make sense. It would be a great help to me if someone could come up with an example
    >> definition instead of making vague accusations against the standard one. (I'm expecting a
    >> comparision between your precise definition of evolution and the "loose" one that evolutionary
    >> biologists use. Which one is better, in your opinion, and why?)
    >
    > The precise definition is best for explaining, testing, and understanding the theory. The loose
    > definition is best for expanding, improving, and overthrowing the theory.

    Evolutionary theory is supposed to explain the causes of evolution. In order to do this we have to
    have a common understanding of what evolution is. That's the purpose of a definition. There may be
    many possible causes of evolution. Some of them will be right and some of them will be wrong. It
    seems to me that you are advocating that we change the definition of evolution according to the best
    available evolutionary theory of the day. If we had done this in the past then the definition of
    evolution might include a cause such as natural selection and that would be extremely self-serving
    and wrong. It would restrict evolution to only those causes that most people accepted in any given
    year and eliminate by fiat all competing causal theories.

    There are some people who would like to do this. They would like to "define" evolution as changes
    caused by natural selection and eliminate random genetic drift as completely irrelevant to
    evolution. Some of these same people want to rule out neutral changes. They don't think they
    represent real evolution. In my opinion this is a serious error.

    > Personally, I am disappointed that the modern precise definitions of evolution don't explicitly
    > mention speciation.

    This is a problem. If we want to cover all levels of evolution then we should also deal with the
    birth and death of populations. That's why I emphasize that the definition is a "minimal" definition
    designed to distinguish between processes that resemble evolution at the population level and
    process that really count as evolution.

    >> > I encourage doubters to produce a list of phenomena and check this conceptual framework against
    >> > their list. My list included the origin of life, the origin of the moon, human monogamy,
    >> > photosynthesis, and others. In each case, I notice that the competing theories (that I am aware
    >> > of) agree on a loose definition of the phenomenon, but introduce more or less subtle
    >> > differences in their precise definitions. Particularly interesting to Einstein fans is one of
    >> > Larry's examples - gravity.
    >>
    >> I don't understand these sentences. Could you elaborate? Are you referring to *definitions* of
    >> "the origin of life" etc. I would *define* "the origin of life" as "the point in time when the
    >> first life began." Do you have something else in mind?
    >
    > I would change your loose definition to "the process by which the first life began" for starters.
    > The process is what people are interested in. But then someone is going to ask for a definition of
    > "life". And people like Francis Crick are going to foul things up by offering theories like
    > "Directed Panspermia". Should we ask for the origin of life on Earth? People like Cairns-Smith are
    > going to come up with theories of organisms built from clay that are ancestral to modern organisms
    > only with some stretching of concepts. Every theory forces some revamping of any attempted precise
    > definition.

    Please offer a definition that illustrates the problem and how you would solve it.

    > You really never understand exactly what it is you are trying to explain until you explain it!
    > Thereby, you produce a precise definition. But even before you succeed, you had a goal in mind for
    > what you were going to explain - that vague goal is the loose definition.

    Hmmmm ... I really don't see your point. The distinction between what you call a "loose" definition
    of evolution and a "precise" definition of evolution is very close to nitpicking. Nitpicking can be
    fun but there's a risk that we miss the main point.

    >> What about "gravity"? The word is normally *defined* as something like "the attractive force
    >> between massive bodies that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely
    >> proportional to the square of their separation." This doesn't look to me like a definition that's
    >> a creature of theory. What did you mean?
    >
    > Actually you are giving Newton's precise definition of *gravitation*, not of gravity. Gravity is
    > the force here on earth that makes apples fall and it was known long before Newton.

    I think this discussion is getting way too semantic for my liking.

    > Galileo provided the first quantitative theory of gravity. Newton reduced gravity to a special
    > case of a new theory - gravitation. Einstein showed that Newton's gravitation, along with the laws
    > of conservation of momentum and energy, are only approximations to a more general theory - General
    > Relativity. The loose definition of gravity as a tendency of things to seek the center of the
    > earth is still valid, but the precise definition changes with each new theory. Even if you leave
    > out Einstein, gravity now includes a mix of the centripetal force due to gravitation, the
    > centrifugal force due to the earth's rotation, and small changes in the shape of the earth caused
    > by lunar and solar tides.
    >
    > Incidentally, Newton had a loose definition of gravitation before he had a precise one. He knew
    > there was an attractive force from Copernicus, but it took a careful analysis of Kepler's laws to
    > determine that it must be an inverse square force.

    Please give me your preferred *definition* of gravity so I can try and see what you're talking
    about. It seems to me that you are confused about the difference between a definition of gravity and
    the cause (explanation) of gravity.

    Larry Moran
     
  14. John Edser

    John Edser Guest

    > JE:- Today evolution is defined as "any gene freq. change in a deme". The word "any" just means
    > that this definition cannot refer to a _testable_ supposition because it allows random gene freq.
    > changes to be defined as "evolution". If EVERY gene change is valid "evolution" then evolution,
    > like creation, cannot be tested to refutation. Unless Neo Darwinian's change this definition to
    > "any NON RANDOM gene freq. change in a deme" they have destroyed the theory of evolution as a
    > scientific view. They cannot hide behind a spurious "loose definition" as a justification for
    > doing so.

    JM:- That's curious, John. Here I thought Kimura was the scientist who had done more to revive the
    theory of evolution as a scientific view than anyone since Fisher. He broke the back of extreme
    adaptationism - which was hopelessly at odds with newly emerging facts.

    JE:- No. So called extreme adaptationism is NOT hopelessly at odds with newly emerging facts, if and
    only if, such hypothesis of adaptation are TESTABLE. Like Fisher, Kimura has misused non testable
    models within synthetic reasoning. Models are only correctly used to provide help with analysis of a
    synthesis. They cannot be used as synthesis in their own right and cannot contest the synthesis they
    were simplified from. The view that drift is evolution has destroyed the testable status of
    evolution that Darwin (and the so called adpatationists) fought to maintain all their lives. Today
    evolution is just post modern waffle.

    AW:- Furthermore, he provided the conceptual basis for molecular taxonomy.

    JE:- It is a valid analytical use of a simplified model to create taxonomic sets based on possible
    gene inheritances.

    Best Wishes,

    John Edser Independent Researcher

    PO Box 266 Church Pt NSW 2105 Australia

    [email protected]
     
  15. Jim Menegay

    Jim Menegay Guest

    [email protected] (Larry Moran) wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
    > On Mon, 2 Feb 2004 07:03:10 +0000 (UTC), Jim Menegay <[email protected]> wrote:
    > > [email protected] (Larry Moran) wrote in message
    > > news:<[email protected]>...

    First, let me say that it was not my intention to create and defend a taxonomy of the roles of definitions-of-
    phenomena in epistemology. My main point was that definitions serve multiple purposes, and that
    different definitions serve different purposes better than others.

    Second, let me express my regret that I chose the words "loose" and "precise" for the two kinds
    of definitions - I fear that Moran prefers to think of himself as "precise", rather than "loose",
    and he is offended that I have made Edser's kind of definition "precise", whereas Moran's kind is
    "loose". My apologies for that - it wasn't my intention. My view is that both kinds of
    definitions are necessary, and perhaps additional kinds, as well. "Precise" is not better than
    "loose" in this context.
    >
    > [snip]
    >
    > >> Please give me a precise definition of evolution that works and is a "creature of theory."
    > >
    > > "Evolution is change in gene frequencies caused by differential survival and reproduction of
    > > organisms." This definition is a creature of the neo-Darwinist theory (Fisher, Wright, et al.)
    > > It certainly wasn't Darwin's precise definition - he had never heard of genes. His definition
    > > involved things like speciation and adaptation, even though his causal ideas were not that
    > > different from Fisher's. People between Darwin and Fischer (Bateson, for example) also talked
    > > about evolution without necessarily talking about changes in gene frequencies.
    >
    > Thank-you very much for offering a concrete example that we can examine. The definition of
    > evolution that I prefer is the one in the article that I wrote for the Talk.Origins Archive. I
    > don't claim that this definition is original. In that article I've tried to summarize the
    > consensus among evolutionary biologists.
    >
    > http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolution-definition.html
    >
    > "Evolution is a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many
    > generations."
    >

    I like this definition. "Heritable changes" is a big improvement over "change in gene frequencies".
    "Spread over many generations" is also a desirable clarification, though I will quibble about one of
    its side-effects below. Of course, this is an example of what I have called a "loose definition",
    since it doesn't mention causality. It might also work as a precise definition - I don't insist that
    a precise definition HAS TO talk about causality.

    > There are many variations of this definition. Some of them are mentioned in the article. The most
    > common variant refers to changes in the frequency of alleles in a population.
    >
    > Keep in mind that this is a minimal definition of evolution and doesn't address the birth and
    > extinction of populations. It is, admittedly, a creature of prior knowledge in that it assumes an
    > understanding of populations of organisms and of heredity.

    The "minimal" nature of the definition tends to make it verge toward my "precise" pole of the
    spectrum. Why has this aspect of Darwin's thinking been excluded? Because the theory doesn't address
    these aspects of the phenomenon. There is nothing wrong with that - no theory can do everything. But
    the fact that speciation is excluded does support Edser's position that definitions of phenomena may
    be contaminated by the theory.

    >
    > What are the possible causes of these changes that would form part of evolutionary theory? One of
    > them is a Lamarckian form of evolution where the heritable characteristics of a population changed
    > within an individual in response to the environment. In theory, we could imagine that there would
    > be no differential survival of organisms in this this type of evolution (i.e. every individual
    > gave rise to one and only one descendant). The heritable characteristics of the population would
    > change over time and the population would evolve.
    >
    > We know that this isn't the way that evolution occurs but it isn't ruled out by the definition of
    > evolution. That's the way it should be.
    >
    > What are some other possible causes of changes in heritable characteristics? One of them is
    > mutation. New alleles (mutations) arise in a population at measurable frequency. This is an
    > important part of evolutionary theory and it is consistent with the definition of evolution since
    > the definition doesn't specify causes. Your definition does specify a cause. It says ...
    >
    > "Evolution is change in gene frequencies caused by differential survival and reproduction of
    > organisms."
    >
    > Is it your intention to eliminate mutation and possible Lamarckian explanations by defining them
    > out of existence? Why do you want to do this?
    >

    I certainly wouldn't want to rule them out in a loose definition of the phenomenon. But if my theory
    ruled them out, or if my theory just didn't cover these possibilities, I might word the precise
    definition as I did. You did ask me to provide a precise definition, remember?

    Incidentally, your preferred definition suffers from a similar problem. The phrase "spread over many
    generations" seems to define saltationist explanations out of existence. I suspect this wasn't your
    intention. But, nonetheless, your definition seems to be something of a creature of a theory that
    DOES rule out saltation. Also, did you intend to rule out gene changes within a generation - such as
    Lamarckism? Or, does the "spread over many generations" simply indicate the delta-t that should be
    used in measuring change? There are probably changes in gene frequency that take place over the
    course of a year in a population of annual plants. That certainly isn't "evolution", but I'm not
    sure it is a good idea to exclude explanation of this phenomenon in the definition.

    These are quibbles, to be sure. My intention is not to attack your definition or to attack you. I'm
    simply pointing out that it can be difficult to come up with definitions that are totally
    independent of theory.

    > I realize that we're quibbling over details. Perhaps it would be best to think of your proposed
    > definition as a simple variant of what most of us agree is the standard definition. I really don't
    > see that it's profoundly different in spite of the fact that I think it's a bit too restrictive.
    >
    > > Since Kimura and Hamilton, we have better precise definitions that work even better. That is
    > > because we have better theories. Of course, if you prefer to think of precise theories as not
    > > containing any reference to causation, then Kimura and Hamilton don't change Fisher's precise
    > > definition, in your view. But you have to admit that the definition of evolution HAS changed
    > > since Darwin. And, for that matter, the definition of "gene" has changed since Fisher.
    >
    > I don't see that Kimura and Hamilton had any effect on the definition of evolution.

    No effect on your definition. Kimura, at least, has an effect on the precise, theory-laden
    definition that you asked me to provide. My precise definition should probably be changed to
    accomodate Kimura.

    > I also don't see any significant different between the definition that I prefer and what Darwin
    > thought of as the minimal definition of evolution. Darwin didn't know as much as we know about
    > genes and how they work but he did know about heritable characteristics and why they were
    > important in evolution. In fact, he proposed a theory of genes.
    >
    > >> Please explain why your "precise" definitions isn't mentioned in the textbooks on evolutionary
    > >> biology.
    > >
    > > Clearly, it IS mentioned in textbooks.
    >
    > Okay. Let's assume that your proposed definition is mentioned in textbooks. Why is it more
    > "precise" than the one I prefer? Is it simply because you use the word "genes" instead of
    > "alleles" or "heritable"? Or, is it because you specify a cause, a cause which seems pretty
    > nebulous to me.

    Because it specifies a cause. That is by the definition of "precise" which started this discussion.
    A hope I have made clear that my "precise" definition is an obsolete one (since Kimura) and that
    "precise" is not better than "loose" in my mind.

    >
    > >> I'm sure you must have such a "precise" definition in mind because if you don't your posting
    > >> doesn't make sense. It would be a great help to me if someone could come up with an example
    > >> definition instead of making vague accusations against the standard one. (I'm expecting a
    > >> comparision between your precise definition of evolution and the "loose" one that evolutionary
    > >> biologists use. Which one is better, in your opinion, and why?)
    > >
    > > The precise definition is best for explaining, testing, and understanding the theory. The loose
    > > definition is best for expanding, improving, and overthrowing the theory.
    >
    > Evolutionary theory is supposed to explain the causes of evolution. In order to do this we have to
    > have a common understanding of what evolution is. That's the purpose of a definition. There may be
    > many possible causes of evolution. Some of them will be right and some of them will be wrong. It
    > seems to me that you are advocating that we change the definition of evolution according to the
    > best available evolutionary theory of the day. If we had done this in the past then the definition
    > of evolution might include a cause such as natural selection and that would be extremely self-
    > serving and wrong. It would restrict evolution to only those causes that most people accepted in
    > any given year and eliminate by fiat all competing causal theories.

    I agree with this. That is why we need loose definitions. Precise definitions, contaminated by
    theory, shouldn't be used to delimit the discipline.

    >
    > There are some people who would like to do this. They would like to "define" evolution as changes
    > caused by natural selection and eliminate random genetic drift as completely irrelevant to
    > evolution. Some of these same people want to rule out neutral changes. They don't think they
    > represent real evolution. In my opinion this is a serious error.

    Are you sure that "some people" are claiming that neutral changes don't happen? Or are they simply
    excluding them from the theory because the theory doesn't cover them? (Much like the way you have
    excluded speciation from your definition.) I can't say that I have sufficiently come to understand
    "some people"s thinking yet to answer my own question here.

    Obviously, it is an error to claim that neutral changes don't happen. It is also an error to claim
    that they are irrelevant, unless you specify clearly what you think they are irrelevant to. And
    finally, it is reckless to assume that they won't contaminate the testing of a narrow theory that
    excludes them without doing a careful analysis. But, having done that analysis, you have just
    constructed a testable theory that includes neutral changes. So, in the final analysis, I guess I
    would have to agree with you that "some people" are wrong.

    > > Personally, I am disappointed that the modern precise definitions of evolution don't explicitly
    > > mention speciation.
    >
    > This is a problem. If we want to cover all levels of evolution then we should also deal with the
    > birth and death of populations. That's why I emphasize that the definition is a "minimal"
    > definition designed to distinguish between processes that resemble evolution at the population
    > level and process that really count as evolution.
    >
    > >> > I encourage doubters to produce a list of phenomena and check this conceptual framework
    > >> > against their list. My list included the origin of life, the origin of the moon, human
    > >> > monogamy, photosynthesis, and others. In each case, I notice that the competing theories
    > >> > (that I am aware of) agree on a loose definition of the phenomenon, but introduce more or
    > >> > less subtle differences in their precise definitions. Particularly interesting to Einstein
    > >> > fans is one of Larry's examples - gravity.
    > >>
    > >> I don't understand these sentences. Could you elaborate? Are you referring to *definitions* of
    > >> "the origin of life" etc. I would *define* "the origin of life" as "the point in time when the
    > >> first life began." Do you have something else in mind?
    > >
    > > I would change your loose definition to "the process by which the first life began" for
    > > starters. The process is what people are interested in. But then someone is going to ask for a
    > > definition of "life". And people like Francis Crick are going to foul things up by offering
    > > theories like "Directed Panspermia". Should we ask for the origin of life on Earth? People like
    > > Cairns-Smith are going to come up with theories of organisms built from clay that are ancestral
    > > to modern organisms only with some stretching of concepts. Every theory forces some revamping of
    > > any attempted precise definition.
    >
    > Please offer a definition that illustrates the problem and how you would solve it.

    Are you asking me for a precise definition of the origin of life? I can't provide one, because I
    claim that a precise definition is a creature of the theory, and I don't have a theory of the
    origin of life.

    If Crick believed that his Directed Panspermia solved the problem, then he might have been tempted
    to provide a precise definition of the origin as "the process whereby life first appeared on earth".
    His causal explanation: aliens did it.

    As a loose definition of the origin of life, I would prefer "the process by which autopoeisis came
    into existence". Other people would prefer "the process by which reproduction with heritable
    variation came into existence". Cairns-Smith has a theory which satisfies the second definition. I
    believe that the theory must be extended to satisfy the first definition, to be taken seriously.
    Does a theory of the origin of life have to explain protein synthesis and the code?

    My point is that different theorists will prefer different definitions of the phenomenon.
    >
    > > You really never understand exactly what it is you are trying to explain until you explain it!
    > > Thereby, you produce a precise definition. But even before you succeed, you had a goal in mind
    > > for what you were going to explain - that vague goal is the loose definition.
    >
    > Hmmmm ... I really don't see your point. The distinction between what you call a "loose"
    > definition of evolution and a "precise" definition of evolution is very close to nitpicking.
    > Nitpicking can be fun but there's a risk that we miss the main point.

    For the phenomenon of evolution, there is some truth to what you say. Evolution is a well studied
    phenomenon; we have some concensus on how narrow the definition should be; there are clearly
    multiple causes to be covered; and we may be able to come up with a single definition (like yours)
    that doesn't mention theory, but provides exactly the right amount of narrow focus.

    If you and John had restricted your controversy to the definition of evolution, then maybe I
    wouldn't have been tempted to comment. But towards the end, it seemed that you two were talking
    about the relationship between theory and definition in general. And, for a lot of phenomena, I
    think the relationship is pretty muddy.

    >
    > >> What about "gravity"? The word is normally *defined* as something like "the attractive force
    > >> between massive bodies that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely
    > >> proportional to the square of their separation." This doesn't look to me like a definition
    > >> that's a creature of theory. What did you mean?
    > >
    > > Actually you are giving Newton's precise definition of *gravitation*, not of gravity. Gravity is
    > > the force here on earth that makes apples fall and it was known long before Newton.
    >
    > I think this discussion is getting way too semantic for my liking.

    Gee, I'm sorry. Semantics has no place in a discussion of the meaning of the word "definition". ;-)

    I hope you didn't interpret my distinction between gravity and gravitation as some kind of putdown.
    I seized on it only because the fact that gravity can be (mostly) reductionistically explained by
    gravitation seemed like it would help me make my point.

    >
    > > Galileo provided the first quantitative theory of gravity. Newton reduced gravity to a special
    > > case of a new theory - gravitation. Einstein showed that Newton's gravitation, along with the
    > > laws of conservation of momentum and energy, are only approximations to a more general theory -
    > > General Relativity. The loose definition of gravity as a tendency of things to seek the center
    > > of the earth is still valid, but the precise definition changes with each new theory. Even if
    > > you leave out Einstein, gravity now includes a mix of the centripetal force due to gravitation,
    > > the centrifugal force due to the earth's rotation, and small changes in the shape of the earth
    > > caused by lunar and solar tides.
    > >
    > > Incidentally, Newton had a loose definition of gravitation before he had a precise one. He knew
    > > there was an attractive force from Copernicus, but it took a careful analysis of Kepler's laws
    > > to determine that it must be an inverse square force.
    >
    > Please give me your preferred *definition* of gravity so I can try and see what you're talking
    > about. It seems to me that you are confused about the difference between a definition of gravity
    > and the cause (explanation) of gravity.

    I gave an ancient loose definition above - a tendency of things to seek the center of the earth. A
    good precise definition for Galileo's time might have been - the acceleration of 9.8 m/sec^2 toward
    the center of the earth experienced by an unsupported object. At the time, there were no good causal
    explanations. However, I think that it is clear that Galileo had created a THEORY of gravity simply
    by giving a precise definition of the phenomenon. Not all theory is reductionism.

    Newton, though, did provide a successful reductionist (causal) explanation, and also redefined
    the phenomenon - pointing out that gravity varies with altitude and with latitude. New theory -
    new precise definition of the phenomenon. Please don't ask me to put Newton's precise definition
    into words.

    Newton's law of gravitation has a precise definition much like the one you offered above. Did it
    include a causal structure? Newton didn't think so. "Hypotheses non fingo". Later, Einstein provided
    one, but only by changing the precise definition to include gravitational effects of rotation,
    gravitational effects of massless objects, and other refinements.

    My point is simply that precise definitions of phenomena change with the theories that support them.
    I might ask, by the way, which came first - your preferred definition of evolution, or your
    preferred theory of evolution? You have crafted your definition to accomodate future changes in
    theory, but I suspect that careful scientists of a couple of generations ago, knowing less than you
    know of modern theory, might not have come up with the definition that you now propose.

    My final point, which I'll hope you agree with, is that rigid epistemological methodologies don't
    work. Saying that THE definition MUST be theory-neutral is as much of a mistake as saying that THE
    definition MUST be part of the theory. The progress of science is much messier than that.

    No, let me correct that. That was my ORIGINAL point, and my only point. I hope we can let this
    subject die. You are welcome to have the last word, if you want.

    Jim
     
  16. Jim Menegay wrote:
    > [email protected] (Larry Moran) wrote in message

    >>> Incidentally, Newton had a loose definition of gravitation before he had a precise one. He knew
    >>> there was an attractive force from Copernicus, but it took a careful analysis of Kepler's laws
    >>> to determine that it must be an inverse square force.
    >>
    >> Please give me your preferred *definition* of gravity so I can try and see what you're talking
    >> about. It seems to me that you are confused about the difference between a definition of gravity
    >> and the cause (explanation) of gravity.
    >
    > I gave an ancient loose definition above - a tendency of things to seek the center of the earth. A
    > good precise definition for Galileo's time might have been - the acceleration of 9.8 m/sec^2
    > toward the center of the earth experienced by an unsupported object. At the time, there were no
    > good causal explanations.

    Ok, the use of the words "precise and "loose" are non standard in these contexts, such that, they
    should be dropped. It certainly had me confused as to what was really being referred to. Precise
    and loose are equivalent to exact and inexact, this does not express the intent of these words as
    used here.

    What we have here is *General* (loose) and *Specific* (precise) definitions. Precise simply means
    making an exact, clear definition. Such a definition can a general or specific one.

    A General definition would be "that entity which results in mass attracting mass, is named gravity".
    This is general, i.e. non specific as it does not specify anything but the effect. The effect could
    have any associated mathematics. It is also indeed precise, i.e. no room for interpretaion, hence
    the use of the word loose is very misleading. A Specific definition would be "that entity which
    results in mass attracting mass with a relation of mM/r^2, is named gravity". A specific definition
    would restrict what is named gravity, in this example.

    It is then more clear why general and specific definitions can both be considered the most
    appropriate depending on the circumstances. *All* definitions, whether general or specific, should
    be precise.

    Kevin Aylward

    http://www.anasoft.co.uk SuperSpice, a very affordable Mixed-Mode Windows Simulator with Schematic
    Capture, Waveform Display, FFT's and Filter Design.

    "That which is mostly observed, is that which replicates the most"
    http://www.anasoft.co.uk/replicators/index.html

    "quotes with no meaning, are meaningless" - Kevin Aylward.
     
  17. Tim Tyler

    Tim Tyler Guest

    Larry Moran <[email protected]> wrote or quoted:

    > http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolution-definition.html
    >
    > "Evolution is a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many
    > generations."
    >
    > There are many variations of this definition. Some of them are mentioned in the article. The most
    > common variant refers to changes in the frequency of alleles in a population.
    >
    > Keep in mind that this is a minimal definition of evolution and doesn't address the birth and
    > extinction of populations.

    It seems to work OK there - provided you permit the concept of a population with zero members.

    > There are some people who would like to do this. They would like to "define" evolution as changes
    > caused by natural selection and eliminate random genetic drift as completely irrelevant to
    > evolution. Some of these same people want to rule out neutral changes. They don't think they
    > represent real evolution. In my opinion this is a serious error.

    Anyone apart from John? I don't think I've come across this elsewhere.
    --
    __________
    |im |yler http://timtyler.org/ [email protected] Remove lock to reply.
     
  18. Tim Tyler

    Tim Tyler Guest

    Jim Menegay <[email protected]> wrote or quoted:

    > Incidentally, your preferred definition suffers from a similar problem.
    >
    > The phrase "spread over many generations" seems to define saltationist explanations out of
    > existence. I suspect this wasn't your intention. But, nonetheless, your definition seems to be
    > something of a creature of a theory that DOES rule out saltation. Also, did you intend to rule out
    > gene changes within a generation - such as Lamarckism?

    Saltation and Lamarckian changes would still show up as change spread over many generations.

    > Or, does the "spread over many generations" simply indicate the delta-t that should be used in
    > measuring change? There are probably changes in gene frequency that take place over the course of
    > a year in a population of annual plants. That certainly isn't "evolution" [...]

    No? It /does/ seem to qualify under most definitions I can think of.

    ...then the "Cairns-Smith" bit:

    > As a loose definition of the origin of life, I would prefer "the process by which autopoeisis
    > came into existence". Other people would prefer "the process by which reproduction with heritable
    > variation came into existence". Cairns-Smith has a theory which satisfies the second definition.
    > I believe that the theory must be extended to satisfy the first definition, to be taken
    > seriously. [...]

    "Reproduction with heritable variation" and "autopoeisis" are alternative attempts to characterise
    the nature of living systems.

    It isn't clear how you can have an evolving system which isn't also characterised by autopoiesis.

    I guess a trivial one might be too ineffectual to be regarded as being autopoietic.

    How non-trivial self-reproducing systems arise from the simplest ones is equally a problem for all
    theories of life's origin.

    I think selection for large size may have been an important element here.

    In model systems there's often strong selection for small size - smaller agents reproduce rapidly,
    and need fewer resources than larger ones - and soon come to dominate.

    My candidate for the original and most basic force that selected for large size: gravity.

    One way in which large objects differ from small ones is that the influence of gravity on them is
    more pronounced.

    Small objects can be thrown all over the place by thermal motion. Large objects sink to the bottom.
    This difference in behaviour can be selected for - on inclined surfaces, in "updraughts", or in
    moving water.

    Once large organisms don't face overwhelming competition from smaller relatives, life can more
    easily become complex.
    --
    __________
    |im |yler http://timtyler.org/ [email protected] Remove lock to reply.
     
  19. Jim Menegay

    Jim Menegay Guest

    Tim Tyler <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
    > Jim Menegay <[email protected]> wrote or quoted:
    > > As a loose definition of the origin of life, I would prefer "the process by which autopoeisis
    > > came into existence". Other people would prefer "the process by which reproduction with
    > > heritable variation came into existence". Cairns-Smith has a theory which satisfies the second
    > > definition. I believe that the theory must be extended to satisfy the first definition, to be
    > > taken seriously. [...]
    >
    > "Reproduction with heritable variation" and "autopoeisis" are alternative attempts to characterise
    > the nature of living systems.

    It is important that they characterize the problem differently. Modern life happens to have both
    characteristics - the interesting question regarding OOL is which came first.

    >
    > It isn't clear how you can have an evolving system which isn't also characterised by autopoiesis.

    Evolving systems without autopoiesis are routinely constructed and studied by "Artificial Life" and
    "Genetic algorithms" researchers. To my mind, naked gene systems are another example of a system
    with heritable variation that are not autopoeic.

    As I understand it, autopoeisis includes a self-maintaining and self- reconstruction aspect that is
    quite distinct from reproduction. I am acting autopoeically when I replace 95%+ of my body's atoms
    over the course of a year, without changing my exterior form or internal organization significantly.
    All modern biological life has this characteristic - even when it is not reproducing. Naked genes -
    whether built from clay or RNA - do not (though perhaps a different hypothetical genetic substance
    might be autopoeic).
     
  20. Tim Tyler

    Tim Tyler Guest

    Jim Menegay <[email protected]> wrote or quoted:
    > Tim Tyler <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...

    > > Jim Menegay <[email protected]> wrote or quoted:

    > > > As a loose definition of the origin of life, I would prefer "the process by which autopoeisis
    > > > came into existence". Other people would prefer "the process by which reproduction with
    > > > heritable variation came into existence". Cairns-Smith has a theory which satisfies the second
    > > > definition. I believe that the theory must be extended to satisfy the first definition, to be
    > > > taken seriously.

    [...]

    > > It isn't clear how you can have an evolving system which isn't also characterised by
    > > autopoiesis.
    >
    > Evolving systems without autopoiesis are routinely constructed and studied by "Artificial Life"
    > and "Genetic algorithms" researchers. To my mind, naked gene systems are another example of a
    > system with heritable variation that are not autopoeic.

    > As I understand it, autopoeisis includes a self-maintaining and self- reconstruction aspect that
    > is quite distinct from reproduction. I am acting autopoeically when I replace 95%+ of my body's
    > atoms over the course of a year, without changing my exterior form or internal organization
    > significantly. All modern biological life has this characteristic - even when it is not
    > reproducing. Naked genes - whether built from clay or RNA - do not (though perhaps a different
    > hypothetical genetic substance might be autopoeic).

    "Distinct from reproduction" doesn't seem to be part of the definitions I have seen.

    Consider, for example:

    ``Autopoiesis literally means "self-production" (from the Greek: auto for self- and poiesis for
    creation or production) and expresses a fundamental complementarity between structure and function.
    The term was originally introduced by Chilean biologists Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana in
    the early 1970s. More precisely, the term refers to the dynamics of non-equilibrium structures; that
    is, organised states (sometimes also called dissipative structures) that remain stable for long
    periods of time despite matter and energy continually flowing through them. [...]''

    - http://www.wordiq.com/cgi-bin/knowledge/lookup.cgi?title=Autopoiesis

    It doesn't seem to say anything about /how/ stability is maintained.

    I would suggest populations studied by "Artificial Life" and "Genetic algorithms" researchers fit
    into this definition just fine - if they are in a stable situation. Similarly with populations of
    "naked genes".

    Such populations survive environmental perturbations by having made multiple backup copies of their
    genome in advance - so that when copies are destroyed they can be easily replaced.
    --
    __________
    |im |yler http://timtyler.org/ [email protected] Remove lock to reply.
     
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