Monday, October 26, 2015

DISINHERIT THE WIND

I haven't been writing blog posts recently although I have some exciting ones in mind.  The reason is that I have been busy finishing a play that I have been laboring on for a couple of years and that just opened in Los Angeles this  week.  The play is called "Disinherit The Wind."  It dramatizes a lot of the ideas that appear in this blog plus a few new ones.  Here is our first review:




Disinherit the Wind
Disinherit the Wind
Photo used with permission of Ed Krieger

'Disinherit the Wind' spellbinding

Rating: * * * * *

“Disinherit the Wind’ Is one of the most compelling, riveting , spell binding shows to hit the stage in a very long time. A college professor Bertram Cates [masterfully portrayed by Matt Chait] takes a position not totally in compliance with the academic norm and is vilified. Eventually the matter winds its way into a court room and the scene is set for an overpowering melodrama of intellectual battle. The amazing detail with which the issues unfold on stage and before the court creates an experience that is truly unforgettable. Much of the credit goes to Matt Chait who not only wrote the play ‘Disinherit the Wind’ but who also brought the lead character Bertram Cates to life on stage along with another stellar performance from Circus-Szalewski as the more than a little arrogant Professor Hawkins. 
The pivotal issue is the extent to which any level of spirituality plays a significant role in the character and advancement of man versus a belief solely in the Darwinian Theory of evolution and natural selection. This is somewhat rather weighty material and presented by a lesser cast could be a theatrical disaster. However the entire team presenting the world premiere of ‘Disinherit the Wind’ currently at the Ruby Theatre at the Complex in Hollywood, California is so unbelievably skilled that what appears to the audience in something a bit over two hours of utter intellectual and even emotional enchantment. 
This is not just another play, this is something deeply extraordinary. It certainly is not yet another bizarre musical like ‘Les Miserable’ where soldiers are singing in the middle of a fire fight nor is it yet another possibly funny but typically witless comedy. ‘Disinherit the Wind’ is something utterly unique as it thoroughly captures the minds of everyone who watches as the story unfolds. 
The only possible negative would be my observation that just maybe it could be shortened a wee bit. But then again doing so could damage the overall impact of the story. But that aside ‘Disinherit the Wind’ is one the most worthy and poignant plays to have ever been staged. It deserves ten stars but I am confined to maximum of but five. 
But don’t just take my word for it, get over to The Ruby Theatre at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90038 now and see for yourself what great theatre really is. It runs now through November 29th with shows Fridays and Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM and Sunday afternoon shows at 3:00 PM. Tickets are only $25 [just $15 for students and seniors] and reservations may be made by calling 323-960-4420.


If you live in the LA area come and see the play.  If you have any problem with the $25 just say you are a student.  We have a very liberal interpretation of what it means to be a student.  For instance, by virtue of the fact that you are reading this blog,  that would qualify you, in my eyes, as a student.  No one will question you about it.  I promise.  

The play is also published.  If you would like a copy please go to:

As always, feel free to comment on the play or the book.  New blog posts coming soon!!!

***P.S. And now (as I write two months later) you can see a video of the play if you go to vimeo.com and search for 'Disinherit  The Wind.'

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

TREE OF LIFE

The neo-Darwinian tree of life, where the trunk, the universal ancestor of all life, gradually branches out in different directions due to accumulations of mutations, forming greater and greater varieties of species and blossoming into the amazing diversity of life that we see today, is considered to be the ultimate proof of the 'fact' of evolution. 

Although this 'canonical' tree of life is thought to exist by many evolutionary biologists, the actual details of the tree have never been agreed upon.  There have been a multitude of different attempts to map out this tree of life but they vary so widely depending on which technique of classification is used and which particular method within each technique, that many biologists have given up on the idea of a 'canonical' tree altogether.  In the 1960's chemist Linus Pauling and biologist Emile Zuckerkandl proposed a way of confirming rigorously the proof of 'macroevolution.'  Since random mutations are thought to occur at regular intervals (the 'molecular clock'),  you could date the divergence of one type of animal from another by the amount of difference in common genes.  In other words there are genes that code for proteins that perform  similar functions in all animals.  As a result of mutations, so the theory goes, these proteins vary from each other by one or two or several amino acids  which are the result, according to the theory, of mutations or errors, during the DNA replication process for these genes.  If two animals from different phyla share proteins with lots of amino acid variations, that would indicate that these phyla diverged on the tree of life from each other a long time ago.  Less amino acid variation would indicate a more recent divergence. If it turned out that the tree of life based on these 'molecular clock' calculations matched the tree of life based on shared anatomical features, than that would be hard proof, according to Pauling and Zuckerkandl, that macroevolutionary change was caused by random mutations.  It didn't.

In fact the actual world of scientific attempts using both methods, or different attempts at using the same method, are so varied, and the different points of view so contentiously debated, that the world of tree classification, which is both large, in the number of scientists involved in it, and minuscule, in the  myopic obsessiveness and pre-occupation of its participants, that it could best be described as, I believe the scientific term is, a hot mess.  

Some of the problems arise from the fact that different proteins  have very different mutation rates.  Histone proteins, for instance, show almost no variation at all from one species to another, even from one phyla to another.  Other proteins show modest variation and others show great variation.  Depending on which protein you use to figure out divergence dates, you come up with an entirely different tree.  Also, how do you classify different animals?  Which body features do you focus on to make your tree?  If you focus on one set of features you group animals together in one way leading to one type of tree, and if you focus on another set of features you wind up with a very different type of tree.

Just a side note here about molecular clocks.  I read a defense of them from 'The Human Evolution Coloring Book' 2nd edition. The author contends that the molecular clock is actually the same for all molecules, it's just that some proteins cannot tolerate any mutations, so the organism that is the recipient of such a mutation dies instantly or at least before it can reproduce, so the mutation doesn't survive.  In comparing horses to humans, they note that in the last ninety million years there have been no mutations in the histone protein which binds DNA and can tolerate no change in it's shape.  For cytochrome C, which is an enzyme necessary for the oxidation of food, there is a 12% amino acid difference between horses and humans.  And in fibrinopeptides, which aid in the blood clotting process by acting as spacers between the sticky surfaces of fibrinogen (at a certain point the fibrinopeptides are discarded and the separate sticky clumps of fibrinogen come together to form the larger clot)  there is a difference between horses and humans of 86%.  

Now this is in a coloring book, so beyond the purpose of learning about the molecular clock, it serves the function of re-enforcing the idea of evolution to children.  Supposing all of the above to be true and that there is a consistent molecular clock of random mutations, which I don't believe for a moment; is this really a good defense of evolutionary theory?  If the best that mutations can do is to be tolerated; if 86% of the amino acid composition of horse and human fibrinopeptides differ and yet they still perform the identical function, what does that say about mutations as the engine to drive macroevolutionary change?  With the right teacher, these kiddies could go back over their coloring book and notice that mutations bring either death, disability or, at best, tolerance.  Where are the mutations in all of this that improve or change the functioning of any of these proteins?  How is the process of evolution forwarded one iota by any of this?

 Of course if you try to create a tree of life using only actual fossils, with no speculation  as to genetic or morphological divergence points, than you do not wind up with a tree at all.  We can start with the fact that for at least the first three quarters of biological life, about three billion years, there was nothing but bacteria.  These bacteria underwent tremendous adaptation to every climactic condition on this planet, but this was accomplished chemically and molecularly with no real morphological change.  The next event in the fossil record is the appearance of some tiny animals in the Ediacaran period, over 550 million years ago.  These were sponges, mollusks and worms that are very simple organisms in comparison to most modern day plants and animals, but represent a huge and inexplicable leap from bacteria, with no fossils of complexity intermediate to bacteria and Ediacarans ever found.  Then we have the Cambrian explosion.  Around five hundred and thirty million years ago, for a period  of time less than seven million years (an eye blink in the four billion year old history of life) we have discovered treasure troves of highly complex animals with legs, gills, intestines, exo-skeletons, spines, tails, mouths, anuses and compound eyes (so much for both Darwin's and Dawkins' explanation of the gradual evolution of the eye).  And more than that, the Cambrian menagerie is so varied, that it represents twenty-three of the twenty-six phyla, or basic body plans, of all the animals that populate the earth today.

Where are the predecessors?  And you should know that the existence of a Cambrian explosion was known to Darwin, and he realized that it was a challenge to his entire theory.  Therefore, there have been armies of evolutionary paleontologists who have explored the pre-Cambrian sedimentary layers on this planet as never before since Darwin expressed his concern, in the hopes of finding at least some fossils that would begin to explain the gradual, advantageous mutation by advantageous mutation scenario demanded by Darwinian evolution.  Short of those few Ediacarans that I already mentioned, and bacteria which have been here unchanged for billions of years, there is nothing.  In fact what was actually discovered after Darwin were two enormous Cambrian deposits, one in British Columbia, the Burgess shale, and one in China, the Chengjiang fossil site.  Through the study of these remarkable deposits it has been determined that the Cambrian explosion was much wider, more varied and more compressed (the entire explosion taking place betweeen five and seven million years) than originally thought, which served to only make the Cambrian conundrum that much more difficult to yield a Darwinian solution.

Trying to explain the Cambrian explosion by molecular clocks; in other words taking the present day representatives of phyla found among Cambrian fossils and using the amount of amino acid differences to determine when these phyla diverged, we get results, depending on which proteins are measured, of divergences from a few billion years ago (even though there are absolutely no fossils for all that time to support this hypothesis) to a few million years ago, in other words over 500 million years after the Cambrian explosion.  So much for molecular clocks!

Of course the Cambrian explosion is not the only mystery for Darwinians in the fossil record.  In fact if you look at the record as a whole, it looks to be, in shape, more like a layer cake than a tree.  Geologists used to date layers of rock simply by their elevation; those on the bottom were considered older and those on top were considered to be younger.  Then, with the understanding of plate tectonics, the picture became murkier.  Layers of sediment that were below the surface have commonly overrode the layers that were on the surface during plate shifts.  How to date these sediments then?  In 1815 a geologist, William Smith, studying the fossil strata exposed during the construction of a canal, offered a new idea to solve this dilemma of determining the age of rock layers.  Since the fossil strata are so distinct from each other, so discontinuous, each one having whole new types of animals not present in earlier strata, and absent of so many types of animals from previous strata, that the easiest way of determining the age of rocks was by the fossils revealed in them.  In other words a layer cake, not a tree, with each layer a different flavor from the other layers and the whole thing covered with a bacterial frosting.  And that is a standard dating technique that geologists use to this day.  "Chew upon this" my neo-Darwinian comrades!

I need to also mention convergent evolution.  There are some animals that share an almost identical trait, but little else.  For instance, moles and mole crickets have, structurally, almost identical forelimbs, but based on this we cannot classify moles with insects or mole crickets with mammals.  Whales and bats share almost identical systems of echo location.  Should we then move bats away from their squirrel neighbors and join the dolphins and porpoises on their branch of the  tree of life, or shall we have the whales join the bats and squirrels on their branch?  There are actually many of these situations, where identical or almost identical traits and features, and very complex features at that, turn up on completely different animals.  Evolutionists have been forced to come up with the idea of convergent evolution; that after different animals diverged on the tree they underwent separately the identical sequential processes of accidental, random mutations leading to identical features on completely different body plans.  If one evolutionary path of random mutations seems mathematically and logically impossible, try pondering the probability of the identical series of accidental mutations occuring two or three different times. Darwin's whole basis for constructing his tree of life was that similarity implies common ancestry.  Now we are told that it does except in those cases, those very many cases, actually, when it does not. 

I will mention one more thing before I get to the real point of this post.  The tree is built based on the understanding that similarity implies descent from a common ancestor, yet as more and more genomes are studies, ORFans, or genes of unknown origin, have been sprouting up in every major group of organisms including plants, animals, eukaryotes and prokaryotes.  They have homologous relationships with no known organisms.  They are referred to as having a "de novo' origin," which is neo-Darwinian for "huh?"  Is the tree of life now surrounded by a forest of slender saplings, or are the ORFans more like the entire Cambrian bestiary, hanging in air with no evolutionary roots at all?

To finally get to the real point of this post: even if a canonical tree of life were found; even if, as Pauling and Zuckerkandl had hoped, the molecular tree comported perfectly with the anatomical tree, would that give hard proof of "macro-evolution?"  Absolutely not!
I don't know whether to call it a tautology or a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it has elements of both.  If you define every amino acid change in a protein as a mutation, you are already assuming Darwinian evolution before you begin.  What all these scientists are trying to prove, really, is that living organisms got here by random, accidental processes.  By defining any differences in proteins as mutational you are assuming that those changes were random and accidental to begin with.  Also, even if they were random mutations, all you have proved is that random mutations are associated with morphological change, not that they cause morphological change.  Actually, all that you would have proven is that amino acid changes in proteins, whether accidental or intentional, are associated with morphological changes.

Since Pauling's and Zuckerkandl's premises are all grounded in neo-Darwinian theory to begin with, the theory is never actually tested.  That is why, when the results come out and the molecular and anatomical results do not comport, the theory is never called into question, but the assumption is that the technique must be wrong.  And that is why scientists have tried again using different proteins and different systems of classification, and tried again, and tried again, and are still trying.


I do think there are replication errors, but these have nothing to do with macroevolution. These are the little one or two amino acid differences in genes within a species.  These can provide more or less resistance to certain diseases and more or less ability to digest certain foods.  The reason that mutations have an effect at this level is because the digestive system and the immune system depend on the ability of individual protein molecules to bond with food molecules to aid digestion, or food wastes to aid in elimination, and to bond with antigens to aid with their removal from the blood stream.  So one or two changes in amino acids in these molecules that work by themselves can cause an improvement in performance. As for the rest of the body, regarding any structural proteins or proteins involved in any of the other sustaining processes that involve the interaction of several proteins working in concert, mutations either cause death, disease. disability or, and this is the best case scenario, no change in function.  But they never cause improvement of function.  There is absolutely nothing in these mutations to forward a macroevolutionary agenda.

To introduce a new trait, or novel adaptation, the organism needs way more than a modified protein.  A new trait is accompanied by a change in shape and changes in proteins may cause a change in the shape of the protein itself, but not  a change in the shape of an entire feature.  Proteins are sub-microscopic.  They are the machinery and the tiny constituents of cells.  They would no more determine the shape of a new trait or a new feature than the shape of grains of sand determine the shape of sand sculptures, or the shape of individual pixels determines the shape of the pictures formed by those pixels.  Beyond shape, a new feature requires changes in the blood circulatory system to get needed chemicals to that new area, changes in the nervous system so the area of that trait is sensitive to heat or pain or pressure and a change in the musculature so that the new trait can be controlled  either consciously or unconsciously; a re-apportionment of brain real estate so that there is a control center for the organization of the electrical inputs coming through those new nerves, changes in the skeletal structure, in the equilibrium, and changes in the fantastically complex system of embryological gene firings and cell differentiation and cell migration to enable that new feature to be built with all the different cells that it needs in the exact place that those cells need to be in and in the appropriate relationship to the other cells that comprise that trait.  Do you really think that all of this is accomplished by a few amino acid changes in a protein?  That is ridiculous!

All of these changes have to happen in a synchronized, coordinated way.  Their introduction can be gradual, but all the adjustments have to take place in concert with each other and not sequentially.  The thought of such a coordinated effort on so many fronts occurring randomly or accidentally is incomprehensible.  The only way that this could happen is if these different simultaneous adaptations were all aspects of the same idea.  There is no other way to account for it.  Unlike neo-Darwinian evolutionary change, which is entirely hypothetical, I can give you actual examples of the kind of evolution I am talking about.  Please look at my blog posts: "Soapberry Bugs" and "Pit Vipers, Vampire Bats and 'Biological Learning'."

The reason that there is no agreed upon tree of life, the reason that molecular comparisons and the fossil record  do not even come close to matching neo-Darwinian expectations, is because all the premises of neo-Darwinism are dead wrong.  But, of course, no one will listen to any of this and neo-Darwinian biologists will continue to tear out what remains of their hair by trying desperately and relentlessly to reconstruct a process that never happened in a way that even faintly resembles the way they imagine it.


Your comments are welcome.

Monday, June 15, 2015

BLIND RICHARD DAWKINS

Neo-Darwinism is a theory that was first articulated in the nineteen thirties.  That was some sixty years after Darwin's 'On The Origin of Species' and the genetic discoveries of Gregor Mendel.  Mendel's work was not widely known or accepted, however, until the turn of the twentieth century. Neo-Darwinism was an attempt to meld Darwin's theories with Mendel's genetics.  The nineteen thirties was also twenty years before the discovery of the DNA double helix formation and the discovery a few years later that within the DNA were myriads of information arranged in coded sequences of nucleotides.  Our whole understanding of the replication process, the mixing of genes during sexual replication, the actual processes of mutations,  and the actual processes of how traits change from one generation to the next, has evolved exponentially since that time and continues to evolve.  Neo-Darwinian thinking has not.

Case in point is found in the writings of Richard Dawkins. It seems that Dawkins' main idea through all his writings is that things are not the way they seem.  Over and over we are taught that we cannot trust ourselves, our  perceptions, or our intuitive reactions to the world.  No!   That would be very ignorant and pre-Darwinian of us.  Well, if we can't trust ourselves, our instincts or our perceptions, then who can we trust?  Why, Richard Dawkins, of course!

In the Blind Watchmaker Dawkins tries to earn our trust by showing us the following example of how random mutations mixed with natural selection will yield remarkable results in very short order.  He takes a sentence from Shakespeare's Hamlet, "METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL."  Then he asks how many attempts it would take for a monkey hitting the keyboard of a typewriter, or any purely random banging of typewriter keys to come up with that phrase.  If the typewriter consists only of the twenty-six letters of the English language and a spacer,  then there are twenty-seven possibilities at each position (twenty-six letters plus the spacer).  Since there are twenty-eight letters plus spaces in the sentence, then you could calculate that it would take twenty-seven times twenty-seven times twenty-seven, repeated twenty-eight times, or one in ten thousand million, million, million, million, million, million tries, or one in 10 to the thirty-ninth power.   Good luck!

Now comes Dawkins' stroke of genius, borrowed from Darwin's stroke of genius.  With natural selection the chances are much, much better and the sentence can be achieved much, much more quickly.  How exactly?  He starts with a completely random twenty-eight letters:

     WDLMNLT DTJBKWTRZREZLMQCOP  but now he would 'breed' it.   In other words, knowing that he wants to get to "METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL," he selects  the letter group from the first generation of attempts that most closely resembles the target sentence.  He gets WDLMNLTDTJBSWIRZREZLMQCOP. He then does a second generation of attempts using this second arrangement and again selects the grouping that best forwards his progress toward the target sentence.  By the fortieth generation he has achieved...METHINKS IT IS LIKE I WEASEL, and then it takes him just three generations more to achieve the perfect typing of the sentence that he was trying to get to.  Does this seem fishy to you?  I know Dawkins doesn't want you to trust your instincts, but let's follow this 'fishy' impulse for a couple of minutes.  Look at his second attempt.  The only difference from the first attempt is that a K is replaced by an S, but this S is  the twelfth letter in the series, exactly like the S of IT IS in the final sentence.  If it were a random bang at the typewriter, wouldn't you probably have to have about twenty-six such bangs before you wound up with the right letter in the right sequence of letters?  Then, the last step takes just three attempts.  Three random attempts to replace an I with an A.  Very lucky!  Or was he just banging on one key and not the other twenty-seven?  Yes, he must have retained every key once it happened on the right letter and just randomly went after the remaining letters.  But why would he do that?  If the sequence is not yet functional, how would anyone, how would 'nature' know that those other parts of the nonsense sequence were potentially useful?  Those positions that had reached the targeted letters, not knowing there was a target, and still being non-functional, would be subject to mutation as much as the ones that hadn't already achieved the perfect letter.  The reason that there are so few steps is that Dawkins has, by his own admission, programmed his computer to seek out only those  letter changes that forward his agenda of changing the sentence to reach the final goal and, once achieved, removing them from further mutation attempts.  This is, of course, exactly the opposite of random evolution where there is no goal in mind at all.  So Dawkins says this is natural selection at work.  What is natural about it?  Every sentence, except perhaps the last few have no meaning at all.  Why would they be selected?  What possible advantage would one piece of gibberish have over the other?  There is nothing to select, nothing that could yield a possible advantage until we get to a meaningful sentence.  Natural selection begins when the process of random mutations creating a meaningful sequence ends. Neo-Darwinism and the natural selection process does not avoid the purely random process of mutations until after we wind up with something that is possibly functional.

This, I imagine, is Dawkins' way of suggesting how a functional protein can be created from a random sequence of nucleotides. Each three nucleotides in a gene code for an amino acid.  If a gene is on average a thousand nucleotides long, and the average protein sequence is over three hundred amino acids long, and there are twenty possible amino acids at each spot on the chain; then the chances of finding by random mutation a functional protein are one out of 20 to the three hundredth power, or ten to the three hundred and ninetieth power.  If you put that in perspective, 10 to the sixty-eighth power is the number of atoms in the Milky Way Galaxy and 10 to the eightieth power is the number of elementary particles in the known universe.  So is it as hard to evolve a functional protein from a random sequence of nucleotides as it is to randomly find "METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL" on a keyboard?  No.  It is 10 to the three hundred and fifty first power  harder!

Suppose, though, that somehow we got to a functional protein, and let's give Dawkins a break and say that this protein is an additional protein to hundreds of other proteins that had already gotten here by also beating these miraculous odds; and let's say that all the equipment for storing nucleotides and transcribing them and translating them, fabulously complex equipment that was here from the beginning of life 3.8 billion years ago; let's suppose that all of the proteins involved in that equipment had also beaten these miraculous odds and gotten here as well; and let's put aside such things as the construction of the double helix and the construction of a nucleus, and nuclear ducts and pores, and the dazzlingly complex timing system for the expression of proteins; that all these things had also beaten these incredible odds and managed to arrive here as well.  Okay, so now we have a new sentence, "METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL."  And never mind how it gets expressed, because in biological terms we have found a functional nucleotide sequence but we have no system of initiating the expression of this new code so that it can be translated into a meaningful sentence.  This brand new functional nucleotide sequence can not possibly be part of the timing sequence of gene expression in the organism in which it just emerged.  How or why does that timing sequence of gene expression change so that our new code can ever get translated into a functional protein?

For Dawkins' sake, let's just suppose it did.  Now let's look at the actual functionality of that new sentence.  If this sentence suddenly emerged randomly into the world of literature just like a new protein might suddenly emerge randomly into the world of functional biological organisms, what function would it serve?  The sentence "METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL"  is only 'functional' if it winds up in a Shakespearean play.  If it emerges into an Ellery Queen mystery or into a Walt Whitman poem it would be of no use at all.  In fact, it would ruin both the mystery and the poem.  Even if it emerged into the wrong Shakespeare play, it would also be ruinous.

"Friends, Romans, countrymen,  METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL!"

or,

"Romeo, Romeo, wherefore  METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL?"

Even if by an absolutely amazing coincidence it emerged in the right play, in Hamlet, it would have to emerge in exactly the right place.

"To be or not to be,  METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL."

And even if it emerged in exactly the right place, there would be no place for it, because that phrase, Hamlet being already a highly functional play, is already there.  There are no gaps in meaning in Shakespeare's great play.  He did not write,

Hamlet: Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?

Polonius: By the mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.

Hamlet:  (Mysterious pause.)

Polonius:  It is backed like a weasel.

No.  Shakespeare would never write a play with a hole in it, hoping that someone many, many years in the future will come up with just the right sentence to fill in that hole.  The play is a completely integrated unit, so the line, METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL, is already there, and all that work, all those absolutely uncanny and impossible strokes of amazing luck taking place over centuries resulted in nothing more than an awkward redundancy.

So we can either give Hamlet the line as in:

Hamlet: Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?

Polonius: By the mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.

Hamelt: Methinks it is like a weasel.  METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL.

Which would make Hamlet a stutterer.  Or we could give Polonius the line, as in:

Hamlet:  Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?

Polonius:  By the mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.

Hamlet: Methinks it is like a weasel.

Polonius: METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL.  It is backed like a weasel.

In which case we have made Polonius an impudent mimicker of Hamlet, or a mumbler,  repeating Hamlet's words to himself.  Whether we make Hamlet a stutterer or Polonius a mimicker or a mumbler, we have diminished the quality of the play and in neo-Darwinian terms, we have created something that, after overcoming all these impossible odds for more years than there are in the life of the entire universe, and finding ourselves with absolutely inconceivable good luck to be in the one literary (biological) context where we could be of any possible use, we wind up diminishing the value of the play (organism) and becoming a prompt candidate not for retention but for elimination and can expect to no longer be around after the first encounter with a good editor (natural selection).

It is not only Dawkins, but all neo-Darwinists and even many of the biologists who question neo-Darwinism who  make this assumption:  that the path of evolution is the creation of an 'improved' protein.  Improved for who?  For which organism?  Each organism has the suite of proteins that is perfect for it.  Replacing one of those 'inferior' proteins in any healthy organism with an 'improved' protein would do nothing but wreak havoc and probably cause the death of that organism.  Living organisms are not Tinkertoys or Lego sculptures.  They are exquisitely synchronized, electronically, chemically, mechanically and metabolically coordinated machines, and the proteins that they have are the perfect proteins that work in perfect synchronicity with all the other proteins of that organism and within all the organs and organelles and tissues and systems of that organism.  The introduction of a new, 'improved' protein would be not an advantage but a disaster.

And where has this nucleotide sequence that has been slowly and randomly mutating into a functional protein, where has this sequence been for all these centuries?  According to neo-Darwinists it could have been a sequence that is part of 'junk' DNA,  so that it can mutate over time without causing any effect to the organism since this 'junk' DNA sequence is not expressed anyway. This brings up two problems.   If it is part of the junk DNA that is not fired, then how does it suddenly become fired?  How does it work itself into the dazzlingly complex and precise system of gene firing that is already in place?  Also, if the neo-Darwinists are keeping abreast of current scientific events, they should know that we are running out of 'junk' DNA.  Scientists are discovering that much, if not all, of the supposed junk DNA is not junk at all, but is either used for the manufacture of RNA sequences, or is  part of the incredibly elaborate firing system of genes used during embryosis or is useful in many as yet undiscovered ways.  So there may very well be  no stretches of 'useless' DNA that can be mutationally tinkered with over the centuries without a negative effect on the organism.  Another neo-Darwinian scenario is that a protein that was used for one purpose, gets mutationally converted over time to another protein with a different use.  The problem with this scenario is that scientists have not been able to find one scenario of any protein changing mutationally into another protein of a different function without the first protein becoming non-functional.  That means that in the process of mutation changes to the individual nucleotides of the sequence, the sequence would quickly reach a point where it could not form a protein at all (a protein is a three dimensional molecular machine, so the nucleotide chain, after it has been translated into an amino acid chain, must be folded into a stable three dimensional machine or it can do no work.  There are strict rules for these foldings and they require the curling back and binding of amino acids with others in the sequence which in turn depends on the chemicals of the different nucleotides and their spatial relation to each other.)  A few random changes in nucleotides and the sequence is no longer foldable; therefore no longer functional.  The organism without the benefit of that mutated protein would either die immediately or, being in a severely diminished state, be quickly eliminated (selected out).  The final scenario is that the whole process begins with a duplication mutation, where a section of DNA is copied twice onto the same chromosome.  This would mean that we start the sequence of impossibly rare mutations with a barely possible mutation. A mutation where enough DNA is copied twice so that it could convert, by itself, into a functional protein, is so rare, that I don't think that any researcher can point to one example of such a mutation occurring naturally. And from there we have to begin a process of thousands of impossibly minute chance occurrences to then wind up in an organism which just happens to be 'waiting ' for this perfect protein.  The problem is, organisms aren't waiting for proteins, just like great Shakespearean plays are not waiting for missing sentences.   They already have the exact right ones that they need in exactly the right order and in exactly the right number.

I am not saying that evolution doesn't happen.  It just doesn't happen one protein at a time, and it doesn't happen even close to the way that Dawkins thinks it happens.  If you want to know how I think it happens, please read my post, 'Evolution.'  Thanks.



Your comments are always welcome.






Sunday, May 31, 2015

WATCHMAKERS, BLIND OR OTHERWISE

In Richard Dawkins book, 'The Blind Watchmaker, which became very popular among a gullible public,  Dawkins builds a watch as follows:  a screw, which tells time, is added to a lever, which also tells time, thereby making a screw-lever contraption that tells slightly better time; which is then added to a cog, which also tells time, making a scew-lever-cog which tells even better time, until the watchmaker winds up with a mechanism that tells time as precisely as a well crafted watch.  Of course in reality, as opposed to the world of Dawkinsian novellas, everything that a watch maker assembles does not tell time by itself, in fact serves no function what so ever, until the entire watch is assembled.  This means, of course, that anyone who undertakes to make a watch, sighted or otherwise, must have a foreknowledge of where they want their endeavors to end up; a foreknowledge which guides the selection and shaping and combining of materials, with the goal of making a watch in mind.  With nothing in mind, in fact with no mind, watches cannot possibly be made. That is why paleontologists, as they sift through ancient layers of rock, will find varieties of fauna of remarkable complexity, especially at the molecular level, where all the major biological functions, no matter what organism they are found in,  require a stunning level of molecular complexity and precision; but those same paleontologists never find inorganic material randomly forming themselves through upheavals of tectonic plate shifts, volcanoes, rock slides, avalanches or floods, into refrigerators, typewriters, or even spears or axes.  No!  Spears and axes come much later.  Spears and axes are evidence of intelligent design; but the presence of bacteria, almost four billion years ago, bacteria which replicate, digest, grow, have systems of homeostasis and metabolism, have a way of sensing their environment, a way of excreting wastes, all of which require such complexity that they are studied in microbiology departments at the finest universities all over the world, in which the best of these microbiology students and teachers are garnering Nobel Prizes every year for their endeavors (If the bacterium was so damn simple, what is all the fuss about?); yet, this presence of bacteria in the world of Darwinian and Dawkinsian fantasy, offers to these delusional people no proof of intelligence what so ever.

Dawkins keeps babbling about how people are comforted by a notion of God.  God is a notion for some people and an experience for many others. Those people for whom God is a notion derive comfort by it simply because it comports with what they already believe and what their friends and neighbors believe.  They find the comfort of being part of a like minded group.  Yet exactly the same thing holds true for Darwinia and Dawkinsia.  Even though Darwinians and Dawkinsians hold a cynical world view, a view in which there is no inherent value of living beings, and the only thing that matters is living longer and having more children; they are comforted in exactly the same way that religious people are comforted by reading the Bible.  When they read any Darwinian or Dawkinsian stories, no matter how cynical the world view is,  they are comforted because it comports with what they and their cynical colleagues already assume they know and further convinces them of their superiority in the face of those knuckle draggers, those deluded people, who do not subscribe to the empty, dry, joyless beliefs of Darwiniana and Dawkinsiana. The absence of love, of connection, of a deep joy and gratitude for life, is replaced by this materialist cynicism, but it is a cynicism that is shared by their materialist friends and associates, and in a dark, joyless way, is comforting in the same way that shared religious beliefs are comforting (but, of course, it is neither bonding nor joyous  in the way that shared religious experiences are bonding and joyous).

Although I believe that I probably come from a different place spiritually than most Intelligent Designers, I have enormous respect for the scientific work that they do and for the valiant courage that they display every day by speaking the truths that they have uncovered.  They do this at a great cost to their professional standing, to the security that they can provide for themselves and their families, and even, at times, in the face of organized hostility by the ignorant Darwinian and Dawkinsian masses, at a great cost to their personal safety.  It is most definitely not the quest for comfort that has led them to pose serious, scientific challenges to the current orthodoxy.

Dr. Stephen C. Meyer relates the story of a prominent paleontologist from China who came to the United States to give a lecture on the Maotianshan Shale, a treasure trove of Cambrian rock,  and the startling diversity and complexity of fauna that had been fossilized there.  Toward the end of his lecture he raised his hand with his fingers spread out and pointing upward and said that Darwin hypothesized a tree of life that looks like this; with a common ancestor (his forearm), very gradually accumulating diversity, beneficial mutation by beneficial mutation,  so that the tree gradually separates into the various classes, and phyla of animals (his upward and spreading fingers).  "Yet the Maotioanshan Shale turns the Darwinian Tree  upside down," he said, and turned his hand so that all the fingers were facing straight down.  Here we see a whole wide variety of complex fauna from twenty three different phyla, with no direct antecedents in pre-Cambrian rocks; in fact no direct antecedents anywhere.  All of this menagerie of creatures with intestines and complex eyes, and spines and exoskeletons and mouths and anuses and nervous systems, seems to spring up from nowhere.

At this point a Darwinian in the audience rose from his seat and hostilely challenged the Chinese paleontologist, Dr. Chen.  "You come from an authoritarian government.  Do you feel comfortable criticizing Charles Darwin in that environment?"  His comment was followed by a thick and palpably tense silence.  The unflappable Dr. Chen replied, "In my country you can criticize Charles Darwin; you just can't criticize the government.  Here, in America, you can criticize the government; you just can't criticize Charles Darwin!"



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

DNA, OUR MODERN REPLICATOR?


"Another rare voice of reason has entered the evolution debate. Matt Chait presents a very cogent explanation of a third option, that needs to be considered by anyone who is interested in the entire science vs. religion question. 
Chait's Blog, Beyond Evolution: Is There God After Dawkins? suggests an answer to the question that neither of the warring sides are likely to find appealing. Which means he's probably closer to the truth than either. Some of his posts are lengthy and involved, but it is a 'must read' for anyone who has given some thought to this issue."   Michael H., The Daily Grail                                                                                                                                    
Modern, neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory centers on the arrival on this planet of the replicator, defined by Richard Dawkins in his book, 'The Selfish Gene,' as a molecule that replicates by itself. This is the central creation miracle that starts the whole process of Darwinian evolution; an event so improbable that James Watson, one of the discoverers of the double-helix formation of the DNA molecule, declared it to be a 'miracle.' Watson's research partner, Frances Crick, contemplating the seeming impossibility of such a thing happening on earth, preferred to think of it as happening on another planet or moon and surviving, embedded in a meteor, an explosion that carried it from another solar system (ours was way too young, according to Crick, for such a pre-biotic evolution to have had the many millions of years necessary for all the separate and precise components of a replicating molecule to randomly assemble); so this pre-biotic evolution took place in another solar system, survived the enormous impact of an explosion strong enough to carry it out of the gravitational field of that solar system, survived a journey of many generations through unbearable heat, unimaginable cold, terrifying poisonous radiation, the complete lack of food sources, and the heat and percussion of an earth landing, to establish itself on this planet. This wacky scenario, called panspermia, was more plausible to Frances Crick than the current one being espoused by Richard Dawkins.

Let's put that aside for a moment and look at grammar. Grammatically, can a molecule replicate by 'itself'? Does a molecule have a 'self'? And what do we mean, mystics and materialists alike, when we use the word self?  The word self connotes a living being who is capable of initiating activity and experiencing desires. This is not my belief system, by the way. This is simply how we actually use the word. For instance if we have an infant, we, the parents, proudly tell our family and friends each and every activity that our young darling was able to accomplish by herself. "She stood by herself!" "She took her first step ('by herself' may or may not be included, but always implied)!"  He said "Dada!" Everyone who has kids has done this and everyone who hasn't has suffered through endless recitations of the accomplishments of other people's children. But the reason that the parents are thrilled is that their baby has just done something new and done it by her or his self.

Not true for the family car, the furniture, the house or any other inanimate object in one's possession. In fact if you have an acquaintance who begins bragging to you how their power mower started by itself, how their car just went for a drive by itself, how their house just expanded and built a whole new wing by itself, etc., that would be a good reason to call the proper authorities and send someone over to determine if your friend was now a danger to himself or others. I should mention here some modern technology that is advertised as doing things by itself. For instance, there are cars that may soon be on the public market that 'drive themselves.' This is true only in a limited sense. These cars do not drive themselves in the same way that we drive ourselves. Of course, we need equipment (a car) to drive ourselves anywhere. But we initiate that drive because we desire, for whatever reason, to get somewhere or just to have the pleasure of a drive. A car that drives itself, does not initiate the drive (thank God) but is merely the instrument for taking you where you want to go and when you want to go there. The car cannot take you where it wants to go, because the car, although it is a machine, is an inanimate object that does not experience anything, does not desire anything and does not initiate anything. Only living beings do that, and it is only of living beings that we can accurately say, " She did that by herself," "She always wanted to become a lawyer and she did,"or "He felt like taking a walk."  Living beings feel like doing things.  Inanimate objects, including machines, do not. It is only of living beings that you can ask why. "Why did you do that," would be a very natural thing to ask your roommate, but a very unnatural thing to ask a butterdish that just smashed to pieces on the floor. Animals also have selves; again not because of our belief system, but because of our grammar, because of the way we talk about them. "Snuggles doesn't like to be fed this early." "Fido always loves to go to the dog park." Rightly or wrongly, we talk and behave as if animals have feelings, experience things and desire things. And we can reasonably brag about how our pets did things by themselves. "Scruffy was lost for a week, but somehow he found his way back to our house, all by himself."

Now we do sometimes say of machines, our car for instance, "She likes to be driven at least once a week." What we mean by that is that if 'she' is not driven that often, then the battery will lose its charge, or something else will happen. But what we don't actually mean, unless we are ready for fifty-two hours in a mental institution, is that our car experiences things, is actually unhappy when it is idle, and in a much better mood when it is moving. What we really mean is that we like the car to be driven at least once a week because we don't like to call the tow truck when the car is not driven once a week.

So let's get back to the creation event of neo-Darwinist thinking; the miraculous, random accumulation of a molecule that had the remarkable ability to replicate by itself. And, by the way, it is this replicating molecule that is not only the theoretical origin of neo-Darwinian evolution, but it is the entire reason for the existence of neo-Darwinian evolution. According to Dawkins we, that is living beings, are merely the temporary vessels for housing DNA. What we experience in this life and the way that we experience it doesn't matter a whit. What is of real significance are the genes that we have and how we are able to pass our genes on to the next generation (true success if we do; true failure if we don't).

To our knowledge, the only things that have selves, or, if you prefer different language, the only things that are capable of initiating, accomplishing and experiencing activity, are living beings. So when we say that a molecule began replicating by itself we are already conferring on that molecule the status of a living being. The Darwinian creation myth doesn't just begin with a molecule that could suddenly replicate by itself, it begins with a molecule that is suddenly alive. Now neo-Darwinian theorists will disagree. They will say that there was a very long evolution of replicating molecules before there was anything that we could call life. The truth is the earliest life forms that have been discovered by examining ancient rock layers for fossils or for traces of ancient life, were photosynthesizing and chemotrophic bacteria that lived very close to four billion years ago, when this planet had just cooled down enough so that the water on its surface was not boiling. Chemotrophs that lived way below the surface of the water near thermal vents are supposedly the very oldest living creatures. They survive in water that is way above the boiling point (but not actually boiling because the boiling point is much higher far below the surface) because of the extra bonding of their protein molecules. How could such a creature accumulate in an environment where each separate part would last no longer that the time it would take to boil an egg? In fact, exactly as long as the time it would take to boil an egg.

And speaking of time, when did this pre-biotic evolution take place on this planet? It seems like single celled life was already here and thriving the moment the surface water stopped boiling, just under four billion years ago.  Originally, Darwinists thought that this pre-biotic evolution must have taken place for fully half that time, two billion years, and the development of post-biotic evolution took place for the next two billion. When bacteria were found to be almost four billion years old, evolutionary theorists suddenly recalibrated and determined that pre-biotic evolution could have taken place in ten million years. Interesting.  When Einstein noticed that Isaac Newton's predictions were off a hair when light traveled in the vicinity of a large star, he came up with a whole new way of looking at space and time.  When neo-Darwinian evolutionists were off by 99.5%, they just slipped in a completely different number and no one blinked. In fact, it was evolutionists who determined that the early earth atmosphere had no oxygen. Was this based on any proof, any meteorological or geological evidence? No. It was merely based on the idea that pre-biotic evolution could not have taken place in an oxygenated atmosphere because the organic material that was supposedly floating around in these pre-biotic soups would have oxidized in the presence of oxygen. In other words, we readjusted our understanding of the early earth atmosphere to fit a theory rather than coming up with a theory based on the evidence. But now there is evidence, and there most certainly was, at least small amounts of oxygen, in the early earth atmosphere. There were also a whole raft of conditions that would have made pre-biotic evolution impossible, including ultra-violet radiation, continual meteor bombardments, hugely powerful and frequent volcanoes, etc. Also, there is absolutely no evidence that organic material ever existed on this planet prior to the organic material found within those first photosynthetic and chemotrophic bacteria.

Of course that was then.  What about now?  Is DNA our modern replicator? The whole neo-Darwinian theory is based on this assumption. But, is DNA a molecule that replicates by itself? Absolutely not! DNA replicates in conjunction with a whole cell's replication. Its replication is initiated by the arrival within the nucleus of certain very complex protein molecules that are released when a cell begins the replication process. Which brings us to another word whose meaning I would like to discuss before we go any further with the debunking of DNA as a 'replicator,' and that word is 'molecule.' A molecule is any stable grouping of two or more atoms. That is a category that is so broad as to be almost meaningless.  If we  consider the fact that in our everyday lives we rarely have any interaction with individual atoms, then every stable object we encounter could be considered a molecule, including iphones and the Taj Mahal. Of course it seems ridiculous to refer to something as technically precise as an iphone and something as exquisitely designed as the Taj Mahal as a molecule, but it is, I contend, equally ridiculous to refer to DNA, helicase, DNA polymerase, and many other mega protein molecules, whose exquisite precision of design and complexity surpasses both iphones and Taj Mahals, as molecules. 


Why were these marvelously complex creations referred to as molecules in the first place? I believe it is because of the schizophrenic attitude of the neo-Darwinian scientific establishment regarding biological complexity. On the one hand evolutionists don't want you finding out too much about the fantastic complexity of living bodies and living cells because that might lead you to the obvious conclusion that living bodies and their countless synchronous processes were the product of a transcendent intelligence and not the result of random copying errors and natural selection. On the other hand, evolutionary scientists take great pride and possessiveness about the complexity that they do understand, so they can brush off unanswerable questions about evolution with a "yes, of course I know the answer, but it's too difficult to explain to a layman like you" type of response.  Referring to enzymes, proteins and DNA as molecules makes them sound rather simple. I mean, if there are trillions of protein molecules in every lamb chop, how complicated can they be? On the other side is the obvious fact that molecular biology departments and graduate schools are springing up like weeds all over the planet, and their graduates are garnering the lion's share of Nobel Prizes every year. If it's all so simple, what's all the studying, all the research and all the fuss about? Here is a very 'simple' animation, simple because many parts are left out, of DNA replication in prokaryotic cells, the 'simplest' of cells; a process that has been going on for nearly four billion years: 




                       ,   


Here is another animation, still simplified, but much closer to what the process actually looks like and in real time:


                                          video

As the narrator said, "numerous components have been deliberately left out to avoid confusion."  Among those components are: the laying down of starting stretches of RNA nucleotides to which the DNA nucleotides are attached, because DNA polymerase cannot start new chains, but only add to existing chains.  Then, the RNA stretches are removed and replaced with  new DNA stretches; also the proofreading of the new nucleotide strand as the polymerase doubles back to check on the bonding of the two strands.  If the bonding is off at any point, that means that the wrong nucleotide was placed on the new strand, so the polymerase backs up, enzymes are used to detach the wrong nucleotide from the chain and the correct nucleotide is inserted in its place; and disentangling, since all this work is done in the incredibly close confines of coils of DNA that are folded over and over each other.  When the coils get tangled an enzyme cuts one of the tangled strands, removes the other strand and re-attaches the strand that it cut.  And all of this, the laying down and removal of RNA stretches, the proofreading and the disentangling, plus many other functions, are all done at absolutely lightning speed.


I remind you that what you just watched is bacterial DNA replication; before there was man, before there were dinosaurs, before there were land animals, this is the exact same process that was taking place in photosynthetic and chemotropic bacteria almost four billion years ago at the so called 'simple' beginnings of life.  I could also show you equally remarkable animations of DNA transcription and DNA translation, but you can look them up yourself.  Just google DNA transcription animation and DNA translation animation.  All of these, at a level of complexity and precision that exceeds many times what you are able to see in the animation, were part of the precise, electronic equipment absolutely necessary to allow the first living beings to even have a life. How in the world can you imagine life 'beginning' as a competition among viable organisms, if the organism needs this much complexity and precision to become viable in the first place?

I remind you that if you call yourself an evolutionist then you believe that all living creatures from dragon flies to elephants to redwood trees to humans, and all the amazing organs and complexities within them, had their origin in copying errors made by this very equipment whose functioning you just watched.  (And I did not forget about natural selection.  Natural selection is, as the name implies, a selection process, not a creative process.  It selects among existing alternatives.  It does not originate or create anything.)  If you subscribe to such a theory that is your business, but after you have explained in detail how such a thing could have happened, which no one has ever even begun to have done on a molecular level, particularly when you consider that replication errors which take place on the molecular level  have absolutely nothing to do with the shapes of organs, organelles, or any visible contours of the body, both internal and external, but have to do only with amino acid changes within a protein molecule, supposed changes that take place within an existing gene with not even an attempt  to explain the formation of a new gene; even after you have explained all that, which you never will; then you would still have to explain how this fantastically precise and elaborate equipment got here in the first place.

We call DNA a molecule even though our DNA is composed of billions of individual nucleotide molecules strung together. A more accurate word would be an electronic component, a component of an amazingly complex charged system which supplies all the materials needed to grow, and all the equipment needed to maintain, a living body. The DNA is the component where all the coded recipes for the protein materials, at least the amino acid component of these materials, which we call genes, is stored. That is actually what DNA does. It stores the amino acid recipes for proteins, and it stores them passively, I might add. Other components are needed to copy these recipes, to select which recipe (gene) is to be copied and when, to direct the copied recipe to the equipment where the recipe will be translated into amino acids; components to link the amino acids into a chain, to add other molecules to the chain, to splice molecules from the chain, and components needed to fold the chain and to direct the finished protein product to the place in the body where it is needed.

Without this entire network of synchronous components, DNA is useless; a computerized library of recipes with no one or nothing to read these recipes, no one or nothing to copy them  and bring them to the larder where the coded recipes could be translated into amino acid ingredients; in fact there are no amino acid ingredients; no larder where the ingredients would be stored, and no kitchen or kitchen equipment to prepare the recipe if there were ingredients. 
To think of DNA as having an independent existence, as replicating by 'itself;' a molecule, if you like, of stored coded recipes for proteins, of this helpless molecule spreading through the 'pre-biotic seas,' when it has no way of manufacturing proteins and no body to manufacture the proteins for, has got to strike even the most dyed-in-the-wool evolutionist as absolutely ludicrous. That is why it is so much better to refer to DNA as a component, because it communicates the accurate meaning that DNA is electronic, is an enormously complex piece of equipment and depends for its functioning on a whole system of other charged and enormously complex components.



I should mention the other part of this neo-Darwinian fantasy.  The 'replicator' is floating in a pre-biotic pool of organic molecules, including protein molecules.  It is in these imaginary pre-biotic pools (no evidence of any such thing, of any organic material on this planet prior to the arrival of bacteria has ever been discovered) that the 'supposed' replicators competed and evolved.  Competed for what, I would venture to ask?  For food sources?  Do molecules eat?  Do molecules need to eat?  How in the world do we suddenly have hungry molecules?  And what do they need food sources for?  Do they have systems to break down and digest these food sources?  To convert them into what?  Into replacement cells for a body that they don't have?  Molecules continue to exist as long as their bonds are not broken.  Are these replicating molecules trying to become better survivors?  In order for them to become replicators, as the fantasy goes, they had to have stayed in tact for millions of years, the exact same molecules; because, don't forget, this is prior to life, so there are no new generations.  These would have to be the exact same molecules that started accumulating millions of years ago and somehow survived countless volcanoes, meteor bombardments and tectonic plate shifts. How much better at surviving could they get? 

And exactly what is floating in these pre-biotic pools?  Are there protein molecules there?  How could that possibly be?  Every naturally occurring protein molecule that we have ever encountered has been manufactured through the genetic processes of transcription and translation with the components of DNA, RNA, RNA polymerase, DNA polymerase, helicase, TRNA molecules, ribosomes, and others.  Every protein molecule is a three dimensional machine whose shape, series of charges and chemical make-up are designed for a specific function within a living body and are manufactured specifically to fulfill that function, and that includes the proteins that are stitched together in laboratories in the hopes of being re-inserted into a living body and fulfilling a specific function there.  


Amino acids cannot form chains in water, yet the belief is that that is exactly what was happening in these pre-biotic tide pools.  They cannot survive in sunlight, in the presence of oxygen, cannot withstand heavy jostling (first think of whipping a meringue from egg whites, which quickly denatures all the proteins in the egg whites and makes them stiff, then gradually work your way up to volcanoes, meteor bombardments, and tectonic plate shifts).  The more familiar you are with the complexity, delicacy and specificity of design of protein molecules and the ingeniously protected, metabolized, homeostatic environment in which they are manufactured, an environment as different from the environment of the earth outside of living bodies and the environments created in high tech laboratories as the environment of Jupiter differs from the environment of our own planet, the more laughable this fantastical theory becomes. 

Why would people adopt such an absurd theory of a creation and evolution based on replicators, and why would so many people readily accept it?  It is because they have been so indoctrinated in the idea that evolution equals science, that anyone who questions evolution, who even thinks about it deeply rather than blindly accepts it, has to be either a fundamentalist knuckle dragger or delusional in some profound way.  Yet if they believe in such an obviously nonsensical theory, it is they who are delusional; they who are so committed to not seeing transcendent intelligence, unfathomable beauty and precision in the world around us, that they seek desperately to adopt any belief system that portends to explain the origin and development of life without the intercession of intelligence, no matter how ludicrous those explanations are.  

If you have taken the time to seriously consider the above paragraphs, then you have to conclude that Richard Dawkins, the Emperor of Neo-Darwinia, has no clothes; that his evolutionary  pronouncements on the origin and development of life are as fanciful as any other creation myth or fairy tale, whether a religious fairy tale or a scientific fairy tale.   

I know that hundreds of you read these words every day.  There must be some Darwinists among you.  I have just ruthlessly attacked your belief system.  Aren't there any among you who will defend yourselves and show me the error of my ways?  I look forward to your comments.


Friday, March 6, 2015

YET MORE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

So here comes a whole new raft of novels and movies about artificial intelligence machines taking over the world, clamoring for their civil rights and falling in love with or rebelling against their human creators. Oh, God, what disheartening nonsense!  It is disheartening because it belies the absymal lack of understanding in our society of just what it means to be a human being, in fact, to be a living being.

A living being is consciousness.  By that I do not mean that that being has the ability to recognize pictures of herself or picture or articulate any particular thing about herself or the world around her.  I simply mean that living beings experience the world around them and desires things in that world.  They do not necessarily (I am talking about all of life at the moment) know they are conscious, know they are experiencing anything, know anything, in fact, in the sense of their ability to articulate that knowledge either to others or to themselves. Yet they all know, without articulating it or having any thoughts about it,  they all know the things  they are attracted to, and things they want to avoid, what food sources they prefer, what temperatures they feel comfortable in, when it is too hot; when it is too cold; and they all know pain which leads them to want to stop that experience and avoid it in the future, and they all know pleasure which leads them to want to continue that experience and re-experience it in the future.

Artificial intelligence machines, robots, computers, anything that humans create and manufacture, except when they are procreating and giving birth; anything else does not have consciousness, knows absolutely nothing about anything, experiences absolutely nothing and desires absolutely nothing.  They are all electronic machines running on an electronic code.  They are programmed patterns of electricity that work when they fit, or are compatible with other patterns of electricity.  The electricity does not know that it is part of a code.  The electricity does not know that it is recognizing patterns.  The electricity does not know that it is electricity.  It is a stream of electrons.  What could it possibly know?  What could an electron know?  We learn things when we observe the machine and see which patterns are recognized and which patterns are not, but the electrons themselves,  not the human interacting with the electronic machine, but the machine itself, knows nothing. What could a billion electrons know?  What could an electron be conscious of?  What could an electron desire?  Yes, the electrons can be programmed so that when they have more success with a certain pattern of electrons they use that pattern more.  But there is nothing in that electron that is thinking, "Wow, I had some success with this program, so I'll try it some more."  There is no 'I' in this electronic equipment that experiences anything.  There is no pleasure when it solves a problem; there is no defeat or frustration when it fails to solve a problem.  An electronic machine does not care whether it is on or off, whether it is functional or broken.  An electronic machine does not care about anything.

An electronic machine has no interest in its human masters.  An electronic machine does not know that it has human masters.  An electronic machine does not know that it is an electronic machine.  It is patterns of electrons; and electrons, whether arranged in patterns or not, know nothing.

Now once the patterns have meshed and a problem is solved, the machine may include an audio device which comes on when it receives a certain electrical pattern and says, "I did it" in a proud sounding voice.  It may even, if it has a face, have another electronic gismo that turns the corners of that face upward into a smile when it says "I did it."  But again, there is nothing in that machine that knows it succeeded, or that takes pride in its success,.  In fact the machine is not even an 'it', which is a unitary consciousness, which all living beings are and which all non-living machines are not.  Everything that a robot is programmed to do is a simulation to give the impression that the robot is experiencing something or desiring something when it is not.  A robot could even say, "I need a charge."  It says that when its battery is low, but it does not need a charge.  You need to charge it because you may want that robot to keep serving you and keep you company, but the robot has absolutely no interest in doing either of those things.  The robot will do them, simply because it is programmed that way, but not because it wants to.  The robot has the same experience if it is on or off, if it is used constantly or has never been removed from the box that it arrived in; and that experience is no experience. So the robot does not need a charge.  You need to charge your robot because you want it to do things for you.

Consciousness is the background, the non-physical bowl within which you experience your experience and desire your desires.  It is not a thing.  You are not a thing.  You are context, not content.  You are not a 'that' but a 'that which'.  You are that which experiences and desires.  I have written a lot more about this in other posts.  The important thing here is that you are consciousness, you are an experiencer and a desirer, and a machine, any machine, even an artificial intelligence machine, even your own biological brain/body machine (although it has a consciousness, an experiencer, a desirer, a Self, attached to it); the brain/body without the Self, as in a non-conscious comatose body/brain on life support, like all the other machines, electronic or otherwise, experiences nothing, knows nothing and desires nothing.

Why doesn't someone make a film about that?


So what do you think of this?  Is this stupid?  Is this crazy?  Is it brilliant?  And why do you think that?  Please let me hear from you.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

BEING AND ORGANISM

You are a living being.  You have an organism.  Confusion about what we are as opposed to what we have infects every aspect of our society.  Let's get clear on it.  Everything about you that is measurable and observable; everything that medical doctors diagnose, that biologists observe and measure, that genealogists categorize; the blood you send to the laboratory and the fingerprints and the genome and all the ways that people who don't know you have of distinguishing you from other people, all of that is part of your organism.  That is all part of what people see when they look at you from the outside, whether with the naked eye or with scientific instruments.  

Regarding one's life from the inside out is an entirely different matter.  From the inside out you are you, a being, an experiencer and a desirer.  The way you experience the world is affected by the structure of your organism and the condition of your organism, but you are not your organism. You are that which experiences your organism,  experiences the world through the intercession of your organism, and desires things in the world many, but not all of which, originate in particular biological conditions of your organism.  But your organism experiences and desires nothing.

Your stomach is not hungry.  There may be certain chemical conditions in  your stomach that you translate into the experience of hunger, but it is you, the living being, that is having that experience.  Your stomach, like all matter, experiences nothing.  There may be all sorts of chemical reactions and muscular contractions happening in your intestines and around your midsection, which are either the result of you feeling certain things, or which cause you to feel certain things, but your 'gut' feels nothing.  You feel things which are connected to activity in your midsection, but your midsection is unaware of what you are feeling;  has no interest in whether it is tight or relaxed, loose or firm, or whether you are exploding with passion or enjoying deep and peaceful serenity.  And your midsection doesn't care whether it is helping you digest food, whether there are blood and nerves and digestive fluids coursing through it, or whether there is nothing coursing through it, whether the being, that is you, has departed, and it is now providing an evening meal for a group of hyenas.  Your midsection is matter.  It experiences nothing.  It is interested in nothing.  It is matter. 

There may be millions of electrical pathways being charged in your brain at this very moment, and these pathways may be recording your thoughts, or they may be leading to other neurons that hold information associated with those thoughts, but your brain is not thinking.  Your brain is matter, and matter does not think.  Those electrical patterns must be translated at every waking moment into conscious thoughts.  Who is responsible for this miraculous job of instantaneous and constant translation from electrical and chemical patterns into actual thoughts?  I will leave the answer to that question up to your imagination, for now.  But it is you, not your brain, not your organism, that is experiencing the thoughts associated with these electrical firings and chemical reactions. You, a living being, who experiences and desires, you think.  Your brain may help you record your thoughts, help you remember your thoughts and define your thoughts, but your brain does not think your thoughts.  The brain is matter and matter does not think.  

Your genes may control the kinds and qualities and amounts of proteins that your body manufactures, and govern your physical traits, but although the genes may shape to a great degree the way in which you experience the world, it is you, and not your genes, that experiences that world.  Genes are strings of nucleic acid molecules.  They are matter and matter experiences nothing.  Your eyes translate photons into electrical impulses which form patterns of electrical charges in the brain.  This is not sight.  This is no more than a video camera does. A video camera does not see its pictures.   You do that.  And your eyes and optical nerve and optical cortex of the brain do not see the world around you.  You do that.  You, not your eyes, are the seer of your sights.  You, not your ears, are the hearer of your sounds, the taster of your tastes, the thinker of your thoughts, the doer of your deeds.  Your amazing body, with its amazing brain and sense organs are the equipment that allow you to do that in the specific way that humans are able to do that.  Just like tigers and stingrays and tulips each have their own amazing equipment that allows them to experience the world in a tiger way or a stingray way or a tulip way.  You are the ground of being, the context of your experience and your desires.  You are not a that, but a that which; that which experiences and desires.

And scientists cannot see you.  No one can.  Oh, we can see how you express yourself through your face and hear how you express yourself through your words, but you, the expresser of these expressions, is not a thing, not a content, but a context and cannot be seen.  And because scientists cannot see you, nor see your experience, they make an egregious error.  They confuse you with your organism.  They conclude that the purpose of the organism is to survive, which is absolutely true; but then they go on to say that the only purpose of the organism is to survive, which is absurd.  Nothing survives just to survive.  If I build a machine I want it to survive at least long enough so that I can use it at least once, but use it for some purpose other than survival.  To build a machine to survive, just to survive is, as I said, absurd, which is exactly the conclusion that neo-Darwinist, materialist scientists reach: life is meaningless and absurd.  But the purpose of life, which eludes the scientist, is to provide a certain kind of experience for the being that occupies that organism.  The reason that all the biological activity that scientists study is focussed on survival, is that the organism is designed to provide this particular experience, this particular way of being in the world, for as long as possible.  And what the scientists do not see, or avoid seeing, is that these processes, these unconscious processes, all serve the conscious being.  The organism is the servant of the being.  Just as the being must serve the organism to provide for the organism what the organism needs in order to survive.  The being inherits a set of specifically designed desires so that, being utterly ignorant of the survival needs of the body, having no formal knowledge of how to take care of this precious equipment, the being simply does what it wants to do, eats what it wants to eat, drinks what it wants to drink, rests when it feels tired, moves to a cooler area when it feels hot, moves to a warmer area when it feels cold, has sex with a member of the opposite sex of its species when it feels horny, and by acting to satisfy this exquisitely designed pattern of desires, it survives and its progeny survive.  In the same way, the organism serves the body.  Whatever you want to do, or your dog wants to do, or a fish wants to do, or a grape vine wants to do, the moment any living being has a specific intention, whole cascades of electrical firings, energy shifts, muscular contractions and releases, gene firings and chemical reactions, shifts in blood or plant enzymes, are set precisely in motion to allow that being to do exactly what it wants at the moment and at the exact rhythm that it wants to do it.

Is this too far out for you?  If anything, it is too far in.  What I am talking about is nothing 'supernatural,' no mysterious substance, no ethereal ectoplasm, or anything that you may or may not catch a glimpse of once in your life time.  I am talking about you, the you that is there at every moment of your life, the very ground of your being.  Closer than your breath, closer than your thoughts, closer than your body sensations.  You are not your body and you never were your body.  You were not the size of a single cell when your organism consisted of one fertilized ovum.  You were not eight pounds when you were born.  You are not one hundred and eighty pounds now.  Your body, your organism is those things.  You are a being which is not a thing, which is boundless.  You may not realize this and live within a claustrophobic prison built of your own unfulfilled desires, but that is a prison of your own making.  The truth is that you are boundless.  You have no height, no breadth, no weight.  There is no limit to what you can understand or experience.  There is no end to you, spatially or temporally, whether you realize it or not.

Now when I say that this body and brain is not a being and is not capable of experience or desire, I don't mean to imply that this is just your equipment. This absolutely precious organism, built with unfathomable complexity and precision, that you have been given is your opportunity to experience this world in a particular way.  This is your organism that responds instantaneously, miraculously, to your every intention.  It is not the random result of some absurdly fortuitous chain of accidental molecular collisions.  It is a purposeful, intentional gift.  It allows you to be in this world in a particular way and to enjoy it and learn from it.  This learning has to do with those desires beyond the purely biological, that you arrive here with.  It is in the pursuit of those desires, the satisfaction of those desires, and the deepening understanding of which desires are important and which are not, that precious lessons are learned.

We live in a society where it is thought that we are the random result of molecular accidents, with no planning, no caring, no purpose involved.  Also that there is no self, no boundless context of experience and desire, that all we are is a combination of genes and brains that we have received in a random game of chance in which some of us are lucky and some unlucky.  In a world focussed on material organisms rather than on experiential beings, no wonder that our main concern is in acquisition, whether of money, possessions, fame or sex partners. No wonder that we treat each other so shabbily.  No wonder that we obsess on this unfair treatment and think our entire lives are dependent on the way others respect us or not.  And this is a world where the reality is that you have the capacity at any moment to close your eyes, be still, go within, and in moments fall back in love with the universe, yourself and all the beings in it; and you can do this at any time you choose.  Can you see the strength and resiliency in that?  You are not that fragile thing that has to enter a room terrified of what someone might say to you or how someone might mistreat you.  You are the boundless self that is not in any real way affected by these treatments.  And these are your spiritual brothers and sisters, whether they realize it or not.  Enter the room with joy, with excitement.  How will this relationship with my new brother or sister, with such similarly magnificent equipment as I have, and with a being which is not only similar to my being, but is actually a different aspect of the exact same being (discussed in other posts), how will this interaction unfold?  Going into a room fearing an insult or going into a room excited to have an enjoyable interaction produce two very different results.  Neither result actually changes you.  You will still emerge from this interaction as perfect and boundless as when you went in, but your momentary experience in the first case has a very good chance of being torturous and, in the second case, has a very good chance of being wonderful.

Is it any wonder that we have to go back over a hundred and fifty years to find any music or writing that could be described as glorious or transcendent?  The passion for the joy and beauty and glory of life that filled Michelangelo and Shakespeare and Beethoven and that resonates so profoundly with us (when we can find those rare modern musicians and actors that know how to play them), where is anything in modern art that matches that depth?  Do you really think that we have no more Shakespeares and Michelangelos because we now know more about life, or because we now know less?  I know that we know more about organisms than they did, but in our fascination with our organisms have we overlooked, degraded or misjudged our actual life? These men looked at the world as a glorious creation and their talents as glorious gifts, which they were.  They believed in destiny and fate and purpose and design and reverence and gratitude.  And, of course, they were right!


Please feel free to comment.