samedi 13 octobre 2012

On Reading The Greatest Show by Dawkins - Parts of it!

Not Blueprint but Recipe
Rock around the Clock ...
The Great Chain of Being
Bacteria and Irreducible Complexity
A Turkish Creationist was mentioned

Dawkins made a challenge, on knowing the past.
On Reading The Greatest Show by Dawkins - Parts of it!
Overlooked in Previous, about Dawkins' The Greatest Show on Earth
Medieval Matters for Richard Dawkins
Do evolutionists ever make unfalsifiable claims?
Two bishop Richards in dialogue (tongue in cheek)
Dawkins said Edgar Andrews had his book "well written" and that is one true word from him
Assortedretorts : ... on "Science Works" quote c/o Dawkins
... on Side issue to "Science Works"

Not blueprint but recipe.

Saying as Dawkins does that our genes do not give a blueprint but a recipe for our bodies, one that is followed step by step during pregnancy, does not dispense of a wisdom ordering the process.

If such a thing as a recipe with moderate complexity can give us a thing as simple as a piece of cake, we may possibly say the connection is a huge bonus in the way of nature, even if it be blind. We may possibly be grateful for the chance that made man discover cake baking.

But if a cake bakes itself, so to speak, and ends up with more nobility, not just than cakes, but than machines for which there are blueprints, if it in the end involves a high complexity subsumed in a higher unity, and if the "cake" is conscious, well, then the fact of such a recipe - written in four letters of the DNA - requires an intelligent designer.

Whether it be pregnancy or termite hive building or bees or birds in their swarms, it staggers belief that a chance of individually predetermined and very simply ruled behaviour should produce beauties like the things mentioned by repetition on a collective scale. It does explain things if we assume that either it was planned by God much more intricately and still with much more precision and correction than I plan a composition and break it down to tablatures*, or it is - alternatively or rather also - directed by God during process or - in the non-pregnancy cases - directed by angels during process.

A hive of termites is, like the cake, dead matter, except for builders. But the end result of a pregnancy (or whatever the corresponding development is called in non-mammals) is alive. Baking kills something that did not become alive due to baking: yeast cells. But pregnancy enhances life in what was barely alive when as yet just two gametes.

Now, I am not saying that an embryologist is likely to see God bending down over the fœtus moulding it. For the reason that God is not matter, but spirit. But I say what Dawkins has to say about embryonic development as order emerging from a recipe rather than from a plan makes a spirit guiding and a spirit producing the process to start with indispensable. Actually for that matter, unlike Laplace, I very much doubt the feasability of orbits getting on rotation after rotation and billions of them, without a spirit to guide them, all by blind "co-pressure" of gravitation and inertia on planets or satellites.

When I plan the tying of a complex decorative knot, like a three lead five bight Turk's head, I start out with the end of the process before me, then copy the diagram with successive turns of the strand taken away so as to end up with a series of diagrams starting with a simple crossing of the strand. Without that there is no chance in the world I could have found a recipe leading to a three lead five bight Turk's head. Now, whether it be a hive or a swarm or a living being that is being made, the order covers a far greater complexity than that covered by a common order in the three lead five bight Turk's head - and Dawkins wants me to suppose there was no intelligence behind it?

Does Dawkins even believe it himself, or is it a formula to which he ties himself? In the same book he says "if [such and such a fish] takes the trouble to grow two extra eyes - don't be a pedant, you know what I mean" ... that is he speaks and maybe also imagines as if he believed the populations themselves were producing voluntarily their mutations, though he knows very well that that is not the case.

Rock around the Clock ...

A sundial is not inaccurate as to portion of day, if it is made on the spot for that spot and has at least three different scales, one for equinoxes, one for each solstice. It will show, God willing and weather permitting, each evening and each morning and each noon accurately in such a case, as well as the six hours between morning and noon or between noon and evening. But it is true, it will not show each hour at same length of time each day over the year. It is quite useless as a stop watch, the nearest the ancients came to that was the clepsydra or burning wax candles.

Now, Dawkins compared dendrochronology to daisy-chaining. Sounds very accurate in theory. I have however last year or the one before read about the German Irish pine chain of tree rings, and seen diagrams of the periods that only recently tied up. I must see after seeing those diagrams I am considerably less impressed by dendrochronology. Up to that recently it was my one major misgiving about Young Earth Creationism as per Bible.

However, Dawkins is behind his adversaries. His Greatest Show on Earth came in 2009 and for the work From Nothing to Nature a later edition than the one I read came in 1993. Its author is Edgar Harold Andrews. He dealt, pretty properly on my views, with C14 and other clocks, not to mention the relative time scale of Permian and Devonian and so forth.

Dawkins sets forth the case of that relative time scale as in essence "everywhere we find rocks of unmistakably Devonian type below those of unmistakably Carboniferous type." That makes it sound as if many finds included many such "rock periods" on top of each other. Do we? I actually looked up the fossile finds in wikipedia, and most of them were, very precisely only one of such periods. I do not know how much non-devonian fossiles you find in Devonshire. I suspect it is pretty little. As little as, for instance in Hunsrück Slates in Taunus or Gauja in Latvia. On the list of fossile sites most are only one "rock period" and a few are two, but hardly many enough to warrant a complete relative chronology by daisy-chaining unless evolutionist assumptions are made about faunas being in development between "rock periods" rather than contemporary different geographic faunas. Dawkins does admit there are places where fossiles are out of the expected order, precisely as Andrews said, but says that is only where there is other evidence the rocks were slanted out of original position. May I suggest that there has recently been shed new light on how sediments form and that such evidence comes from sediment being formed "the wrong way" according to standard evolutionist assumptions?

Now, to the exact chronology or supposedly such.

Carbon 14 is renewed all the time. Which means it is being produced all the time (and an organism that dies is cut off from it, but the atmosphere and organisms living in it are not), which means that there can be an initial buildup. Which means that there can have been a time with so little C14 in atmosphere that an organism having breathed that and died can 7000 years later be dated as one having lost nearly all of its initial C14. If LXX Bible is correct that 7000 years after would be now, but obviously if earth is "very old" (like billions of years) this scenario would be totally irrelevant for C14: only, we have no reliable "clock" saying that the earth is "very old."

Unless it were for the non-organic radioactive clocks. Now, I do admit I am stumped by potassium 40 argon 40 dating "having its stop clock freeze" by crystallisation. The scenario depicted by Edgar Harold Andrews is like "how do we know there was no argon to begin with", but argon atoms featuring at random distances in crystals in positions precisely where we would expect a potassium compound as everywhere else in the crystal does seem awkward. If that be the case. E. H. Andrews did (the edition I read in Swedish translation, which is not identical to the later 1993 edition) also state that in igneous rock we cannot be sure all is from molten lava, since in eruptions solids come up unmolten.

But I came across another thought about radio-active volcanic dating. What if the half lives have not been independently measured accurately, but measured thanks to presumed at least relative ages of certain finds where they are found close to sediments of certain "rock periods"? Which would very well explain the harmony if "independent" dating methods and the supposed special pleading for each of the dating methods to be younger.

I am relieved Dawkins admits that a sedimentary layer of rock is seldom if ever sandwiched between two layers of igneous rock.

Going back to daisy-chaining, I think historical such is very much more reliable than archeological or paleontological such.

There is a fine daisy-chain going back from Bishops to Apostles who saw Christ risen - which Dawkins presumably does not wnat to know about, or has not hitherto wanted to know about.

The Great Chain of Being

Dawkins calls it a Medieval Myth. He also says that in it men come between angels and beasts, but not all men on the same rung. Well, in the Medieval case of it, they did. St Thomas Aquinas believed all men to be by nature equal, or at least inequalities to be opaque and non-hereditary before acting of the person. No man is by him seen as what Aristotle considered "naturally a slave", unless he first proves it by base actions. But this is not the first time Dawkins shows a slighter grasp on history than historians have.

Now, the fact is that "intermediate species", like Tiktaalik according to Dawkins' account, fit very well into The Great Chain of Being, even if Evolution is a fraud on the macroevolutionary scale.

As to apes and men, Dawkins says there is evidence on the human side but not on the chimp side. And I am not adverse to calling Australopithecus Hemianthropus either. Not speaking for other creationists, I am satisfied there is, apart from the dating problem alrady dealt with, archeological evidence for trolls having lived - and possibly alongside men. The Beowulf poet would have thought of degenerated Cainites.

Now, Dawkins obviously believed there were intermediate skeletons on the chimp side too - but that they disappeared. The explanation is not impossible, but it leaves the argumentation from fossiles in the air. And indeed Dawkins would prove all of evolution independently of fossile finds, just by diversity and today's intermediate forms along with continental or geographical distrubition of the species. That is where I would plead for the Great Chain of Being.

Bacteria and Irreducible Complexity

I am not sure why Dawkins says the experiment on Escherischia coli by Lenski et al. was hated by Creationists. I love it.

The "tribe" that evolved a capacity to consume citric acid (in air) by two independent mutations do indeed give a hunch of what we mean by irreductible complexity. Mutation A gives no benefit (or not the one we are concerned with) until there is also mutation B. Only the two together give a real benefit.

Now there is trouble for the thesis insofar as the real benefit depended on only two mutations. Between non-eye ancestor and eye developing, for instance, there would be many more mutations necessary. And for eye, I am not at all sure that the light-sensitivity for sleep regulation is improved by a lense. I am not even sure it can be seen as sight. Does a creature which sleeps at night see light and darkness or only sense agility and sleepyness?

But another case of irreducible complexity is what Dawkins explains with coevolution, like the pollination of the Orchid bee, which really looks very much designed as a practical joke, harmless but annoying no doubt, on that bee. It is lured into the orchid, it cannot get out where it fell in (Dawkins, that article would have made your fame in a Creationist Biology Publication!), it must get through a hole its own size, which closes in on it, then it is hammered against the flower walls, and only after taking or giving away the pollen on its back is it finally released to repeat the process on next flower. Of course, there are examples of what can well be coevolution, like arms race - prey and predator both faster or both getting better camouflage and so on. But fastness and colour are continuous spectra, the precise process of pollination is hardly that. I wonder if Dawkins has a plausible "coevolutionary" scenario for how orched bee and bee orchid developed their interdependence.

With bacteria, the irreducible complexity is reducible to just one mutation being preserved while apparently of no use until the next one takes on. But there is another reason I love this: Escherischia coli remains Escherischia coli. Unless of course this is a parallel of how salmonella evolved (capability to consume citric acid in air is a diagnostic test of salmonella vs E. coli), in which case we would have an example of how sicknessgiving bacteria arose. Salmonella and Escherischia share the bacillus form of the bacteria.


Dawkins has a very good chapter on what amounts to observed microevolution by natural (or experimental) selection.

In Silver Foxes it concerns tameness. In certain fish, cichlids, I think he called them, either camouflage or females attraction painting. And in maize, also known as corn, oil content. In that latter context Dawkins makes it very clear that there are natural limits to what can be done by selection. A very important admission.

Dawkins - like "the other Dawin" Darwin - makes a leap of faith in assuming macroevolution is just a prolongation of microevolution. And that continuities of the type he assumes to prove the latter should be explained by it rather than by God producing a Great Chain of Being.

A Turkish Creationist was mentioned

Dawkins mentioned some of what he called the latter's inaccuracies. Muslims may whether evolutionist or not have a knack of misrepresenting what they argue against. Atheists may have taken over their unfair way of criticising Christianity from Muslims. But in one particular, the Turk was actually on spot:

Where is the intermediate between a fish and a starfish?

Why so? A starfish is invertebrate and a fish whether cartiliginaceous (is that the word or am I adding to the dictionary?) or with real bones is vertebrate. Now, the transition from invertebrates to vertebrates is one of the transitions that on my and presumably other creationist views gives a headache to an honest evolutionist.

Another one, not sure if the Turk mentioned it, is the transition from animals without thought or speech to man who has thought and speech.

A third, not seen so far in your book (not read all chapters yet) is transition from one number of chromosomes to a higher one, specifically in mammals. You know the neat packaging of the genes. They don't just need to be there, they need to be properly packaged as well. No problem for flowers or salamanders that can go octoploid, but mammals most likely cannot. Unless Red Viscacha Rat arose as tetraploid of Viscacha Rat (neither of those are either Viscachas or Rats, btw). I have been nagging about this one and debunking P Z Myers' answer as inadequate.**

Not yet read all of the book, skipped first two chapters (rabbits lacking in Devonian faunas may however be due to climactic reasons, or simple stench of certain kinds of swamp) and not yet read far beyond half. Might be back later if I get a chance to finish it.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Médiathèque des Halles
St Faustus of Cordoba
and St Gerald of Aurillac

*I made an unusually unusable tablature last Sunday:
(links on
bad tablature
my excuses for it

God makes a very great many "recipes" if you like that do not fail. Those that do arise as mutations in those that do not. Not said as an argument, but as a praise.

**Here is the link to the challange I have given so far, and yes it has been sent to a paper that did not take it and to an evolutionist of Gouldian type as well:
Letter to Nature on Karyotype Evolution in Mammals

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