Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Was Evolution Guided?

Introduction 

The current and most commonly accepted theory of evolution is frequently called the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis. Its basic thesis is that the laws of nature, and natural selection operating on random processes, accounts for how life went from single-celled organisms to all the species on Earth today.

Here are a few facts that are pretty much accepted by scientists. The Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. Fossil evidence for the earliest single-celled organisms seems to point to life starting around 3.7 billion years ago, shortly after the Earth cooled enough to support life. 

Life mostly consisted of single-celled organisms until about 600 million years ago, when we have evidence of quite well-developed animal phyla. This occurred during the Cambrian Explosion – an explosion of life.

So life went from single cells to humans in about the last 600 million years. 

The Fossil Record

The fossil record is pretty clear about this. But what the fossil record does not show is what Darwin expected - a gradual changing from one species to the next. Rather, it mostly shows many species remaining fairly unchanged for a few million years, and then dying off and replaced by entirely new species. Stephen J. Gould called this 'punctuated equilibrium'. 

Here's a quote from the Wikipedia article: "Punctuated Equilibrium is a theory in evolutionary biology which proposes that once species appear in the fossil record they will become stable, showing little net evolutionary change for most of their geological history. This state is called stasis. When significant evolutionary change occurs, the theory proposes that it is generally restricted to rare and geologically rapid events of branching speciation ... the process by which a species splits into two distinct species, rather than one species gradually transforming into another. Punctuated equilibrium is commonly contrasted against the belief that evolution generally occurs uniformly and by the steady and gradual transformation of whole lineages." 

Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr complimented Gould's paper, stating that evolutionary stasis had been "unexpected by most evolutionary biologists" and that punctuated equilibrium "had a major impact on paleontology and evolutionary biology". 

Today, the fossil record still supports Punctuated Equilibrium, and the late Stephen Gould and others have made numerous attempts to explain it. 

But none of these attempts seem to be satisfactory. And there is no currently accepted theory as to why punctuated equilibrium occurs.
 

Explaining the Fossil Record 

Let me be clear. Gould and most evolutionary biologists believe that there is a purely naturalistic explanation for punctuated equilibrium. I do not.

Why? Because as a Computer Scientist, I am familiar with 'evolutionary algorithms' that attempt to simulate aspects of evolution. But unless programmers build (their own) intelligence into these algorithms, only minor changes are found. And the faster computers today operate at trillions of operations per second. I see no computer evidence that comes anywhere near showing that Neo-Darwinism can explain these rapid evolutionary changes.
 

What can? Think about the automotive industry. Modern cars started with the first internal-combustion-engine cars. Each year slight changes were made. And then a new model would come out that had major changes. But any major change (say involving the transmission) necessitated major changes in many parts of the car to work. This is how cars have evolved. Major changes in new models did not come about by small changes. There had to be many changes that were designed into any new model. And you can apply the same reasoning to virtually any device such as smart phones. 

And this seems very similar what the fossil record looks like. Insignificant changes over large periods of time, resulting in the the same species being around for large periods of time. And then large changes in a short period of time resulting in entirely new species.  

But who was responsible for the evolution of cars and smart phones? Human intelligence, of course.

Conclusion 

So I've concluded that the evolution of life was also guided by an intelligence or intelligences. (The intelligences behind evolution had to be incredibly capable, but they do not appear to be 'perfect' because the fossil record does not show perfection in the evolution of life).

The hypothesis that the evolution of life was guided fits the fossil record, and fits with what we know about the weaknesses of evolutionary algorithms. So I believe that it is the best explanation as to how entirely new species occurred. This is a perfectly valid scientific hypothesis, because it can be falsified. 

And I am open to it being falsified. It would not change my worldview at all. My conclusion is based on the evidence. If evolutionary biologists come up with a plausible way that life could have evolved naturalistically, I will happily accept that.

My advice is, don't hold your breath waiting for it.

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Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. The views expressed herein are those of the author. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at tfarage@hotmail.com.
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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What shall we do about issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples?

In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that states that issue marriage licenses, must also issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. I do not wish the argue the issue here, rather to give a solution to the probems it has caused. 

One problem was that a number of county clerks did not wish to do issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Yet, one can argue that since they are government employees, they should be fired for not doing so. 

And yet doctors, even in county hospitals, are not required to perform abortions if it violates their belief system. 

How can we handle this issue? We want to allow people to follow their beliefs as long as they are peaceful. Otherwise we would be violating the bedrock principle of our country - the right to act according to one's beliefs. 

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The root cause of many such conflicks comes from the fact that government has way overreached in many areas. 

If we got states out of the business of issuing marriage licenses, we wouldn't be arguing about this. If 3 men get married in a church, that is their business since I am not endorsing it personally or through my government. 

But the government has a cetain legitimate role here. If a married couple, or group of individuals get divorced, there may be children to deal with, property issues, and other issues that might only be resolved by the government. 

So a good way to handle this is for states to stop issuing marriage licenses to anyone. Any couple or group could get a minister, or priest, or even a lawyer to witness their marriage. They would sign some marriage documents of their own choosing. There would not be any government employees issuing a marriage license, since there would be no more marriage licenses, which imply a government's endorsement of a marriage.

This couple could go to the county office and register these decuments, along with any other related documents, such as pre-nuptual agreements. The state would just have to stamp 'received' on it, and no one in the government would need to sign or endorse anything.

We'd have to clean up a few things like that have gotten entangled in marriage such as health insurance, the income tax, etc.

But for most of the history of the world, governments were not involved in marriage. Even at the start of the United States marriage licenses were not issued. 

Keep marriage private. Even schools would not have to teach about what the government's current definition of marriage is.

And then we would be not waiting for the Supreme Court to decide what its next definition of marriage will be.

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Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer at The University of Texas At Dallas. The opinions given here are his alone.