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  #1  
Old 12th April 2016, 10:52 PM
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Default The Paradox of Evolution

I plodded through The Paradox of Evolution: The Strange Relationship Between Natural Selection and Reproduction, Stephen Rothman, 2015. Rothman PhD is a long standing lecturer, professor emeritus in physiology at the University of California, San Francisco.

I just saw the title in Dymocks so I bought it. Curiosity killed the cat.

I have only once ever tossed a book across the room. This room has too many nice breakable things. I might have inadvertently killed the cat though I could have laid the blame squarely at Rothman's feet.

Shortly into it I had pencil in hand filling the margins with criticisms and corrections to his heresy. Rothman is an Aristotlean and apologist for the Demiurge, one can only conclude. He defends teleology in evolution. Nature is forward-looking. Or is it the guiding hand of the Author and Sustainer of life? Strains of the hypnotically tedious William Lane Craig (who gets cited in the notes.)

Rothman believes that he is mounting nothing less than a Kuhnian revolution, a paradigm shift in evolutionary biology. He believes many notions.

Rothman argues that natural selection and reproduction are purposive, the former impelled by danger, the latter by death. He is as much as stating that the organism or nature has awareness of the eventuality of death so they reproduce to perpetuate their lineage, group or life itself. He hammers the point of purpose in natural selection and reproduction.

The reality is, that with advancing awareness of one's mortality, so libido diminishes, it doesn't increase with age. So how does death drive reproduction?

Mating behaviour, reproductive equipment and sexual makeup, including how the brain is wired, are heritable. It powerfully evolves in its own right, under its own impetus through natural and sexual selection. Rothman might be wont to ascribe volition to it in nature or something 'transcendental' but that's his conceit. Our parents obeyed the reproductive urge going back 3,600 million years. It is self reinforcing.

AFAIK humans are the only species to realise sex with the opposite gender can result in babies. I think whales or even chimps just do it, as the old swing tune goes, 'let's do it, let's fall in love.'

Do they even apprehend death? Flowering trees don't. They obey and in turn contribute to genetic, phenotypic, genotypic, evolutionary algorithms in such events as cross pollination or generational adaptation through natural and sexual selection under constraints of environment, competition, of physics and chemistry which enables life, the universe and everything.

Reproduction drives itself. It is all reducible to ionic attraction between elements, valent, co-valent bonds in molecules, from simple to highly evolved DNA/RNA. A genome carries the history of cumulative adaptation. It is backward referring. The chemistry for life is set in train by fusion in a supernova creating the elements in the periodic table, caught in orbit around the Sun (water probably arrived by comets.) This is set in train by the Big Bang and subsequent constraints on matter and dimensions. The laws of physics are for current purposes constant though they may differ in different universes. I don't know. For 700 million years here, there was just chemistry on a cooling planet.

Though it might have originally been oceanic thermal vents, most of life is energised by the Sun, enabled by atmosphere, water (from comets?), gravity. Rothman doesn't understand entropy. He thinks that our biota is a closed system where natural selection is destructive, it is an entropic agency. This is predicated upon life, speciation and accumulating adaptations and complexity obtaining in defiance of Newton' Third Law, entropy since it is a manifestation of increasing order. Yet this occurs through natural (and sexual) selection. This is contradictory.

Entropy still prevails in the cosmos. It just takes interesting and devious pathways to get there (heat death) in astrophysics but surely in evolutionary biology, and music which is an algorithmic process. And is art done in reaction to danger? Isn't it playing with algorithms and juxtapositions and tensions and such? Isn't it narrating life?

Stephen Jay Gould and Lewontin are cited in various publications. Daniel C. Dennett isn't though. Dawkins cracks the necessary mention.

Rothman's book is recommended as a test for one's understanding of evolution and critical thinking.

As Steven Weinberg said about the objectivity of science, "you would have to be very educated to be that wrong."

Half a star. A few paragraphs were educative.
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Last edited by Strato; 12th April 2016 at 11:27 PM. Reason: typos
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  #2  
Old 13th April 2016, 12:24 AM
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Default Re: The Paradox of Evolution

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Strato said View Post
Rothman argues that natural selection and reproduction are purposive, the former impelled by danger, the latter by death. He is as much as stating that the organism or nature has awareness of the eventuality of death so they reproduce to perpetuate their lineage, group or life itself. He hammers the point of purpose in natural selection and reproduction.
This sounds horribly familiar. He doesn't have views on the evolution of hominids being driven by predation and resulting in australopiths using weapons and developing combat techniques?

I shit ye not about theists coming up with such ideas.
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Old 13th April 2016, 12:47 AM
wadaye wadaye is offline
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Default Re: The Paradox of Evolution

I like your gusto Strato. I think such books are dangerous unless defused with intelligent comments in the margins. It's much more effective than simply throwing them in the bin where the possibility of them being recovered or replaced for that matter still prevails. The book you have described seems to be a rage against both evolution and against sex.


Speaking of sex, one of my favourite topics, the notion that Chimpanzees do not link procreation to the birth of babies is contested. Active polyandry by female Chimps is thought by some ecologists to be a way of protecting the future young by sharing the possibility of patrimony among the males of the group thus increasing the likelihood of help from the males in proportion to the degree to which they consider they might be the father, and also to avert the possible catastrophe of an infant being killed. Of course one could argue that they simply remember the good time and give junior a better time because they had a fling with junior's mum a year or two ago, but that's pretty complex behaviour too one would think.

I was also thinking whether I could add anything new via armchair thought experimentation to "the problem of sex" in evolutionary biology. Probably not I decided, but in any case I was thinking about how as organisms become bigger the problem of gene sharing becomes more difficult. Sex then is simply the mechanism by which evolution can occur in populations rather than in individuals. Populations have the great advantage over individuals of expendability. Any particular individual in a population of sufficient size is expendable. A related concept is that in an ideal situation where with perfect cooperation between male and female the number of offspring per female could be double of that which could be achieved if she received no support from the male. Thus both male and female would have exactly twice the number of offspring through sexual reproduction - even though each is only half related to the parent, than could be achieved by a form of asexual reproduction, like cloning. Sex introduces genetic variation among individual offspring and unequal survival and reproductive success among offspring.

Cloned offspring, as my uni lecturer taught us, for example as occur in one mammal species where the zygote or morula always undergoes division into four identical embryos, by definition can't have differential genetic reproductive success as they are all effectively identical. Identical twinning is essentially a pre-development form of clonal asexual reproduction, after which the organisms develop and revert to normal sexual reproduction.

So what's all this got to do with the book? Well this despising of sex in the religions attacks the greatest gift that sex actually gives us, which is our unique individuality.

It is the uniqueness of every individual created through sexual reproduction which is the genetic differences among each individual, on which time and chance act to create natural selection.

The author of the book has missed the reality that it is not natural selection which is entropic, but the somewhat "unnatural" intervention of industrial humans armed with information technology which is increasing entropy on earth, depending on how one measures the entropy. Species loss is a good example of entropy.
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Old 13th April 2016, 12:52 AM
Spearthrower Spearthrower is offline
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Default Re: The Paradox of Evolution

A professor should know that the superfluous is not a good basis on which to stake extensive claims.
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Old 13th April 2016, 06:33 AM
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Default Re: The Paradox of Evolution

But...but...small canines!!2!
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Old 13th April 2016, 07:37 AM
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Default Re: The Paradox of Evolution

To be fair, the poster in question is a special case, not least for having committed a variation of the Harun Yahya fallacy, in attempting to pass off an aquarium ornament as a hominid fossil.
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Old 13th April 2016, 08:57 AM
wadaye wadaye is offline
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Default Re: The Paradox of Evolution

PS we should recall that "the problem of sex" is both a problem for evolutionary biology and for religion.

For biology because in the worst case scenario a female can only give birth to the same number of offspring but each is only half related. This is adequately compensated for it seems by the fact that sex gives variation among offspring allowing for natural selection to act.

For religion sex is a problem because it is an act in which God is or should be entirely unwelcome.
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Old 13th April 2016, 10:21 AM
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Default Re: The Paradox of Evolution

Very dated now (1996), but George C. William's "Plan & Purpose In Nature" would address most of the bum-custard presented in "The Paradox Of Evolution".

Life is somewhat cognitive, at least animal life, and in recent years we have learned to understand that relatively simple organisms like fruit flies can to some extent, think and plan.

The ability to think and plan [and the ability of plants to cash in on animal abilities to do so] means that organisms do not randomly disperse, or are passive agents in their environment. What Dawkins called "extended phenotype", but with more emphasis on cognition, self-awareness, and purposefulness to benefit themselves and their offspring.

This extension of natural selection, which I call cognitive selection, is common, but of course not universal. It is what creationists see, and misunderstand, as the hand of god.
There is "intelligent design" in evolution, but it emerges from the organisms themselves, and not some external agency, like deities or LGM.
I think is is folly to assume animals cannot perceive or predict death or the consequences of sex. It is unscientific to do so. The matter, in the case of each animal, should be decided on the basis of observation and experiment. [The opposite is also true of course, we should not assume animals perceive sex causes offspring, or can predict their own deaths].

One can get a lot of functionality out of a 100,000 neuron brain. Including the ability to self medicate [and of course, substance abuse] by organisms of the fruit-fly grade of organization.
So when does functionality become purpose? A difficult question, but one that cannot be answered by mere assumptions.
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Old 13th April 2016, 10:29 AM
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Default Re: The Paradox of Evolution

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Strato said View Post
Do they even apprehend death? Flowering trees don't.
You heartless monster.
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Old 13th April 2016, 01:10 PM
wadaye wadaye is offline
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Default Re: The Paradox of Evolution

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You heartless monster.
lol.

Plant biologists talk about plants making "decisions". I nipped the apical shoot - the vertical stem, of a young casuarina I planted in the backyard as an experiment. The plant quickly "chose" a side shoot to become the new apical shoot and carried on virtually uninterrupted. I was very impressed with its determination.
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