Nature's Destiny - Michael Denton

Debate specific books

Moderator: Moderators

Locked
User avatar
otseng
Savant
Posts: 18571
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2004 1:16 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA
Has thanked: 146 times
Been thanked: 212 times
Contact:

Nature's Destiny - Michael Denton

Post #1

Post by otseng »

This thread is to debate the book Nature's Destiny by Michael Denton.

The following debaters are allowed to participate:
Cathar1950
McCulloch
Confused
Furrowed Brow
otseng

Here is the agenda:
- Start off with background info of the author and book.
- Clarify any terms used.
- Cover one chapter at a time and debate the points made in that chapter. We might skip some chapters if we agree to it.
- Give closing arguments and final thoughts on the book.
- Go out for a drink.

User avatar
otseng
Savant
Posts: 18571
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2004 1:16 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA
Has thanked: 146 times
Been thanked: 212 times
Contact:

Post #121

Post by otseng »

Chapter 14 is titled "The Dream of Asilomar". It refers to the 1975 International Congress on Recombinant DNA Molecules held at the Asilomar Conference Ground.
In February 1975, 140 participants--mostly biologists, with a handful of lawyers and physicians and 16 members of the press--gathered at the rustic conference center overlooking the Pacific to tussle with an issue that had just burst onto the biology scene: the safety of recombinant DNA research. Known officially as the International Congress on Recombinant DNA Molecules but remembered ever since simply as "Asilomar," that meeting was widely hailed as a landmark of social responsibility and self-governance by scientists.

Asilomar occurred at a unique moment in biology. Researchers had just discovered how to cut and splice together the DNA of disparate species and were beginning to contemplate the cornucopia of experiments this opened up. "Recombinant DNA was the most monumental power ever handed to us," said California Institute of Technology president David Baltimore, one of the organizers of the 1975 meeting. "The moment you heard you could do this, the imagination went wild." But a number of scientists at the time raised concerns about whether such experiments might create dangerous new organisms, microscopic Frankensteins that could sneak out of the lab undetected on the sole of a Hush Puppy and threaten public health.
http://www.biotech-info.net/asilomar_revisited.html

Recombinant DNA technology is limited to tinkering with specific features of organisms by transplanting genes from one organism to another. We do not have the capability of directly changing DNA and generating something novel that was designed beforehand.
page 327 wrote:But no genetic engineer, from his knowledge of the principles of bioengineering and from his knowledge of the behavior and properties of macromolecules, could possibly specify the design of a living system a prior and encode the instructions for its assembly in a DNA sequence.
Further, what we are able to see are minor functional changes, not major functional changes.
page 341 wrote: Despite the evidence that organisms can undergo microevolutionary change and their components are clearly not quite as constrained as are the cogs of a watch, there is also no doubt that throughout the twentieth century, with each advance in knowledge, the design of living things has been revealed to be increasingly less and less modular and to increasingly approach the watch model or even the holistic nonmodular ideal of Coleridge and Aristotle. This is particularly true of advances made over the past three decades in studies of the molecular genetics of development. Just as the complexity of living things in terms of the sheer number of unique adaptive components has grown relentlessly, so too has their integrative complexity. The studies of the nematode are graphic testimony to this.
The reason for this is that "nowhere in the organism is there a set of genes restricted to making the brain, an eye, or a leg. No structure or process or organ is genetically isolated." (page 334) "It is impossible to isolate any part or organ in the nematode and treat is as an independent developmental entity." (page 335)

Though Denton doesn't say this, this is evidence that macromutations are not able to generate novel morphological features. Micromutations are constrained in what it can do. But for a new organ to appear requires for many (if not all) parts of the genetype to change simultaneously.

What Denton does say is:
page 342 wrote:The design of living systems, from an organismic level right down to the level of an individual protein, is so integrated that most attempts to engineer even a relatively minor functional change are bound to necessitate a host of subtle compensatory changes. It is hard to envisage a reality less amenable to Darwinian change via a succession of independent undirected mutations altering one component of the organism at a time.

User avatar
Confused
Site Supporter
Posts: 7308
Joined: Mon Aug 14, 2006 5:55 am
Location: Alaska

Post #122

Post by Confused »

otseng wrote:
Confused wrote:Would you not consider natural selection/adaption trial and error? I sure would.
Yes, but only in regards to biological organisms, not to things that are not biological.
Would you consider Carbon/Silicon organic or biological? Man has already tested Silicon and found it to be unsuitable in this universe. Is it possible that life did this earlier in the trial and error phase.

Confused wrote:Is the evidence for such a claim any stronger than for one that might claim that life adapted to the universe by a mere chance happening of a spark leading to the formation of simple life forms that evolved into complex ones?
otseng wrote:Much stronger. Especially considering the fact that there is no scientific explanation of how the first life was formed.
What is this evidence that the universe was created specifically for life rather than life adapted to an already formed universe through trial and error?
Confused wrote:Eye: lobsters is much more evolved with higher acuity. Perhaps Denton needs to update his information.
otseng wrote:Actually, lobster eyes are covered in chapter 15.

Sorry, jumping ahead again. My bag. Ok, slow down, deep breathe. Think happy thoughts :) :) :) :) :) :) Will try to stay on focus instead of overall ramblings :) :)
Confused wrote:Fire: meet fur. Meet polar bears. No overwhelming requirement for fire. It is only so very important if one proves human life was the ultimate target of life in general. No proof, so fire is irrelevant.
otseng wrote:His argument about fire is not about warmth. But that it is necessary for metallurgy.
Why is fire necessary? If the universe was created for life with man being the ultimate target (biocentric isn't good enough to support Dentons claims, only anthropocentric will support his claims), then why were all other animals created with all their needs available. Their anatomy and physiology doesn't require cooking, fire for warmth, metallurgy for weapons, dishes, etc......, hands for building things etc.... Only man requires these. Why is it that man had to evolve from prehistoric forms to develop the brain capacity for learning and creating? A whale is born already knowing how to swim, a turtle is born already knowing how to survive, etc... Man seems to be the only creature that requires not only a minimum of 10 years before they can start to have the skills needed to survive but also the only creature born without any ability to survive. Even the lowest forms of creatures, if left alone at birth, stand a halfway decent chance of survival. A baby, will die from exposure. Granted, there are some mammals that require some nurturing from a parent in the from of milk, but at the most, this is 6 weeks. Still, they are born being able to walk or develop skills to walk within the first day or so. Why would a universe created for life, human life the ultimate goal, provide such scant resources for its ultimate goal? Why did man have to develop these on his own?
What we do for ourselves dies with us,
What we do for others and the world remains
and is immortal.

-Albert Pine
Never be bullied into silence.
Never allow yourself to be made a victim.
Accept no one persons definition of your life; define yourself.

-Harvey Fierstein

User avatar
QED
Prodigy
Posts: 3798
Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2005 5:34 am
Location: UK

Post #123

Post by QED »

otseng wrote:Chapter 14 is titled "The Dream of Asilomar".
page 342 wrote:The design of living systems, from an organismic level right down to the level of an individual protein, is so integrated that most attempts to engineer even a relatively minor functional change are bound to necessitate a host of subtle compensatory changes. It is hard to envisage a reality less amenable to Darwinian change via a succession of independent undirected mutations altering one component of the organism at a time.
This opinion isn't one that I've heard expressed before. However, I can't help noticing that the description of the apparent design of biological systems being less modular and more holistic is familiar to me in terms of the products derived from Genetic Algorithms. It is always the "whole" organism that is being tested for fitness, not some part in isolation.

While things may be hard to "envisage", it is not fair to talk of independent undirected mutations. To even hear talk of "undirected mutations" from someone at Denton's academic level is surprising -- as direction is strongly built-in to evolution by natural selection. It's a tired old strawman to suggest that the random component involved in NS makes the entire process lack direction.

User avatar
otseng
Savant
Posts: 18571
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2004 1:16 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA
Has thanked: 146 times
Been thanked: 212 times
Contact:

Post #124

Post by otseng »

Confused wrote:
otseng wrote:
Confused wrote:Would you not consider natural selection/adaption trial and error? I sure would.
Yes, but only in regards to biological organisms, not to things that are not biological.
Would you consider Carbon/Silicon organic or biological? Man has already tested Silicon and found it to be unsuitable in this universe. Is it possible that life did this earlier in the trial and error phase.
I would not consider carbon or silicon to be biological organisms.

Though life might have tried to come about it other ways in the past, we have no evidence that it has.
What is this evidence that the universe was created specifically for life rather than life adapted to an already formed universe through trial and error?
The evidence is that we can determine the optimal components a priori. Prior to life coming about, it can be determined what the optimal components are. This eliminates it as a result of trial and error.
Why is fire necessary?
Without fire, there is no metallurgy. Without metallurgy, there is no metal tools. And almost every technological innovation requires the use of metal or metal tools. There would be no way to look at the stars, to observe microscopic objects, to create glass, to create plastic, to perform chemical experiments, to mass produce books, to do efficient farming, to have computers, to fly to the moon, to build large buildings, etc.

Without being able to handle fire, our life would be almost no different than animals.
Man seems to be the only creature that requires not only a minimum of 10 years before they can start to have the skills needed to survive but also the only creature born without any ability to survive.
Actually, I think this is a good argument to show that humans are not evolved from animals. :)

User avatar
otseng
Savant
Posts: 18571
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2004 1:16 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA
Has thanked: 146 times
Been thanked: 212 times
Contact:

Post #125

Post by otseng »

QED wrote:However, I can't help noticing that the description of the apparent design of biological systems being less modular and more holistic is familiar to me in terms of the products derived from Genetic Algorithms. It is always the "whole" organism that is being tested for fitness, not some part in isolation.
The problem is that major functional changes cannot be isolated to certain genetic changes. Or even a sequence of changes.

Denton quotes Ernst Mayr, "Every character of an organism is affected by all genes and every gene affects all characters."

Denton goes on stating, "The fact that many genes are elements in complex combinations which play diverse roles influencing many different aspects of development implies that the process of development is not genetically compartmentalized."

I think an analogy is that life is more like ants creating an ant nest versus contractors building a home. Any part of the ant nest cannot be attributed to a single ant, but as a result of all of the ants. Whereas the wires in a home can be attributed to the electrician. Likewise, an organ in the body cannot be isolated to a set of genetic code.

User avatar
otseng
Savant
Posts: 18571
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2004 1:16 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA
Has thanked: 146 times
Been thanked: 212 times
Contact:

Post #126

Post by otseng »

Chapter 15 is titled "The eye of the lobster".

Most complex eyes found in animals are based on refraction. But lobster eyes are based on a different mechanism, reflection.

"This unique optical system is found in only one group of crustaceans, the so-called long-bodied decapods, which include the shrimp, the prawns, and lobsters." (page 355)

The mystery is why did they develop a totally different mechanism of sight?
page 356 wrote:Why should an organism drop its perfectly functional refracting eyes and start out on the hazardous journey to reflection? Refracting eyes provide orrganisms with excellent image-forming capabilities, as witness the flight of the dragonfly. Many crustacean cousins of the lobster - crabs, for example - which occupy the same ecological niche as the lobster and have the same predatory lifestyle have refracting eyes and obviously survive quite well in the same level of illumination.
Another interesting observation in the chapter is about human brains.

Homo sapiens is considered to have arrived on the scene about 250,000 years ago. Denton quotes Paul Davies: "The mystery in all this is that human intellectual powers are presumably determined by biological evolution, and have absolutely no connection with doing science. Our brains have evolved in response to environmental pressures, such as the ability to hunt, avoid predators, dodge falling objects, etc."

Human beings then had the capacity to understand complex science and mathematics over 200,000 years before they first used it. How can evolution explain this conundrum?

User avatar
Confused
Site Supporter
Posts: 7308
Joined: Mon Aug 14, 2006 5:55 am
Location: Alaska

Post #127

Post by Confused »

otseng wrote:
Confused wrote:
otseng wrote:
Confused wrote:Would you not consider natural selection/adaption trial and error? I sure would.
Yes, but only in regards to biological organisms, not to things that are not biological.
Would you consider Carbon/Silicon organic or biological? Man has already tested Silicon and found it to be unsuitable in this universe. Is it possible that life did this earlier in the trial and error phase.
I would not consider carbon or silicon to be biological organisms.

Though life might have tried to come about it other ways in the past, we have no evidence that it has.
What is this evidence that the universe was created specifically for life rather than life adapted to an already formed universe through trial and error?
The evidence is that we can determine the optimal components a priori. Prior to life coming about, it can be determined what the optimal components are. This eliminates it as a result of trial and error.
Why is fire necessary?
Without fire, there is no metallurgy. Without metallurgy, there is no metal tools. And almost every technological innovation requires the use of metal or metal tools. There would be no way to look at the stars, to observe microscopic objects, to create glass, to create plastic, to perform chemical experiments, to mass produce books, to do efficient farming, to have computers, to fly to the moon, to build large buildings, etc.

Without being able to handle fire, our life would be almost no different than animals.
Man seems to be the only creature that requires not only a minimum of 10 years before they can start to have the skills needed to survive but also the only creature born without any ability to survive.
Actually, I think this is a good argument to show that humans are not evolved from animals. :)
Ok otseng. You win. You spent the past forever addressing so many perfect science issues, now the part of the book that is suppose to actually show why all these science mysteries point to this wonderful God you are opting to rush through at a rapid rate of 1-2 chapters a day. If this is the best half wasted response you are going to give to any future posts about this book, then I will concede this debate. Look forward to The God Delusion.
What we do for ourselves dies with us,
What we do for others and the world remains
and is immortal.

-Albert Pine
Never be bullied into silence.
Never allow yourself to be made a victim.
Accept no one persons definition of your life; define yourself.

-Harvey Fierstein

User avatar
QED
Prodigy
Posts: 3798
Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2005 5:34 am
Location: UK

Post #128

Post by QED »

otseng wrote:Chapter 15 is titled "The eye of the lobster".

Most complex eyes found in animals are based on refraction. But lobster eyes are based on a different mechanism, reflection.

"This unique optical system is found in only one group of crustaceans, the so-called long-bodied decapods, which include the shrimp, the prawns, and lobsters." (page 355)

The mystery is why did they develop a totally different mechanism of sight?
page 356 wrote:Why should an organism drop its perfectly functional refracting eyes and start out on the hazardous journey to reflection? Refracting eyes provide orrganisms with excellent image-forming capabilities, as witness the flight of the dragonfly. Many crustacean cousins of the lobster - crabs, for example - which occupy the same ecological niche as the lobster and have the same predatory lifestyle have refracting eyes and obviously survive quite well in the same level of illumination.
Here's another opportunity to mention the central problem with the interpretation of such findings. Denton's conclusion is that there must be something intelligent guiding this "hazardous journey". The evolutionist would not disagree. Denton, they would say, has found the apparent "intelligence" that natural selection can supply.

Presuming that a sentient designer had good reason to adopt this particular mechanism, likewise the Theory of Evolution has equal access to whatever advantage such an adaption would confer. Once again, the symmetry is maintained with between natural and supernatural interpretation.
otseng wrote: Another interesting observation in the chapter is about human brains.

Homo sapiens is considered to have arrived on the scene about 250,000 years ago. Denton quotes Paul Davies: "The mystery in all this is that human intellectual powers are presumably determined by biological evolution, and have absolutely no connection with doing science. Our brains have evolved in response to environmental pressures, such as the ability to hunt, avoid predators, dodge falling objects, etc."

Human beings then had the capacity to understand complex science and mathematics over 200,000 years before they first used it. How can evolution explain this conundrum?
John Barrow (A recent winner of the $1.4 million Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities) has put forward many reasonable explanations for this and other "higher" cognitive capabilities. Human cognition has evolved to accurately model the external world as, more than most other animals, man has evolved in a direction that makes him reliant on the effective handling and adaptation of materials found in the environment. Any significant misunderstanding of the world at this level (as a quantity surveyor of sorts) is liable to have a deleterious effect. The "basic training" thus gained becomes, like the capacity for language, an inherited structuring that supplies a predisposition to logic that is a reflection of the actual logic presented by the world. Natural Logic is the basis of integer arithmetic which, in turn, is the basis of higher forms of mathematics.

Looking at the history of mathematics we see a gradual evolution that took an abrupt upwards turn when the Egyptians and Babylonians first took to writing things down. The Logical foundations were made good by Greeks around Euclid's time. I can see no mystery in the unfolding of these events if they are seen in their proper perspective. I appreciate Davies point that the organ that does calculus now is essentially the same biological mechanism owned by cavemen, but calculus is built upon a series of simple operations that cavemen could probably perform individually. It is the sequencing and assembly of these operations that has taken thousands of years to perfect.

User avatar
Furrowed Brow
Site Supporter
Posts: 3725
Joined: Mon Nov 20, 2006 9:29 am
Location: Here
Been thanked: 1 time
Contact:

Post #129

Post by Furrowed Brow »

Otseng wrote:Homo sapiens is considered to have arrived on the scene about 250,000 years ago. Denton quotes Paul Davies: "The mystery in all this is that human intellectual powers are presumably determined by biological evolution, and have absolutely no connection with doing science. Our brains have evolved in response to environmental pressures, such as the ability to hunt, avoid predators, dodge falling objects, etc."

Human beings then had the capacity to understand complex science and mathematics over 200,000 years before they first used it. How can evolution explain this conundrum?
Well maybe the human brain has seen a few changes over that 250,000 years. It seems the human brain is still evolving.

That might explain why it to the best part of 247,500 years to think up a mathematical equation as complex as Pythagoras' theorem.

User avatar
otseng
Savant
Posts: 18571
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2004 1:16 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA
Has thanked: 146 times
Been thanked: 212 times
Contact:

Post #130

Post by otseng »

Furrowed Brow wrote:Well maybe the human brain has seen a few changes over that 250,000 years. It seems the human brain is still evolving.
It would appear that their findings only show the deleterious effect of evolution.
Their analyses focused on detecting sequence changes in two genes - Microcephalin and “abnormal spindle-like microcephaly associated” ( ASPM ) - across different human populations. In humans, mutations in either of these genes can render the gene nonfunctional and cause microcephaly - a clinical syndrome in which the brain develops to a much smaller size than normal.

Locked