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Posts by drtom

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  • CARTOON: The Dawkins Delusion

    01/01/2012 6:23:30 PM PST · 382 of 523
    drtom to GourmetDan
    Again, the point is that the existence of biological systems, mechanisms, behaviors, etc is not evidence of 'compatibility' with evolution without engaging in logical fallacy.

    This would be true in a fully observable environment where all mechanisms are observable and parameters are measurable, and everything adds up to a rule. In a post-Newtonian world this approach is not sufficient anymore. When you have unobservable mechanism or the observation itself changes the outcome, you instead now observe input states and output states and design a postulative framework that can bridge the two states. Then you test the framework by throwing scenarios and supplemental observations at it. In other words, you try to break it by finding inconsistent states and incompatible behaviour.

    Simple example: for centuries we thought the sun was made of coal until we realized that it would burn out too fast. Then we tried to explain it with fission but spectral analysis did not provide evidence of fissable materials and the energy balance didn't add up. When Bethe and Weizsaecker provided their CNO cycle explanation it was a theory at the time and fusion was little more than a concept. Over the decades we attempted to disprove each step in the CNO cycle to no avail and by now B/W is the accepted standard for solar energy production. But for all we know it could also be Superman's hampster on a warp drive bike providing energy in the core.

    For a more recent and abstract example, QED and QCD are complex frameworks that involve the concept of exchanging a virtual particle in order to describe weak & strong interactions. We can observe certain input and output parameters but we have no direct observation of said particle. I would argue that the QED is one of the most scrutinized conceptual frameworks in physics and that it has held up remarkably well. However, each experiment, each interpretation of observations was founded in the assumption of a QED.

    If you postulate evolution as a conceptual framework with a few practical drivers such as a gradient towards better adaptability, you can test observable parameters against it without commiting a fallacy (provided of course appropriate bracketing on the part of the researcher). As with CNO or QED, individual observations will not prove or disprove the theory, but they provide waypoints. If we agree that sexual reproduction offers greater adaptability than asexual there should be a gradient from A to S.

    If we found only members of A and members of S, it would be hard to postulate that there is a gradient towards S for organisms of higher complexity. While it would also not conclusively prove that some imaginary being decided to make some A's and some S's and this will stay like this for all eternity, I would consider it evidence. However, the discovery of the same species in A and S states, parthenogenesis, hermaphrodism and so forth all are (IMHO) pointers towards a dynamic system. (Parthenogenesis (IMHO again) is a remnant of an A-centric ancestry which tries to compensate for the shortfalls of S - but that's another discussion).

    Main point is that postulating the existence of a conceptual framework with unobservable mechanisms, and using observations of observable members of the corresponding system to test the compatibiity with such framework does not constitute logical fallacy.
  • CARTOON: The Dawkins Delusion

    12/31/2011 11:14:18 PM PST · 378 of 523
    drtom to GourmetDan
    Not sure where you got the basis for your statement.

    Where did I say that sexuality is conclusive and sufficient proof for evolution? You have to follow the chain of argument before impute such a thing. If anything, the fallacy occurred on the theists' side:

    Consider the claim in post 32. It stipulated that there will never be a plausible way to bridge the emergence of sexuality and evolution, effectively implying that there CANNOT be a bridge because sexuality is a hallmark of creation (if anywhere, this is where your fallacy argument comes to play).

    In response, I showed that sexuality is in fact compatible with an evolutionary context.

    Where did you see a postulation "because there is sexuality, evolution is proven"?
  • CARTOON: The Dawkins Delusion

    12/31/2011 3:41:32 PM PST · 362 of 523
    drtom to grey_whiskers
    so I'll mull over how to recast my *actual* question, so you don't conflate a re-casting and a mixing of my statements with Dan's, with an answer to my question.

    That's excellent and in fact much appreciated. I am always open for a challenging good debate based on mutual respect and factual statements. Unfortunately, it happens more and more that what starts well turns into (a) ad hominem or (b) a mob mentality whereby party A pings their peer group and suddenly party B feels akin to stumbling into a union meeting and are being drowned out by the resident thugs.

    I'll await your post. Happy 2012!
  • CARTOON: The Dawkins Delusion

    12/31/2011 11:22:40 AM PST · 338 of 523
    drtom to grey_whiskers
    OK, there actually are now two questions to answer, (a) your logical deductions and (b) the inquiries you posted. I'll start with (a), then try to find a pheasant for tonight's dinner in this town, and come back to (b) this afternoon.

    Let's look at the problem presented. Per definitionem, you are looking at two single-element state matrices, i.e. we can P:={asexual} and Q:={sexual}. Also (per definitionem quaestionis) P=!Q and Q=!P. Thus, in this binary case, indeed !(!Q)=Q and !(!P)=P.

    Second, P-->Q is incomplete as you need to include a transition operator. (Call it what you want, the incentive, the driving force, the slope, the gradient). Let's borrow the notation from the guys over at physics and define the transition as <P|u|Q>.

    You are postulating that <P|0|Q>, i.e. both states exist because some imaginary being decided that (for no apparent reason) it would be a good thing to have the same specie occur in both states.

    Conversely, evolution postulates <P|u|Q> while the inverse <Q|u|P> is not true as Q apparently is a desirable state and u is a "gradient".

    I have two observable states P and Q, and I have a "gradient" u that unidirectionally transitions P into Q.

    Thus, Dan's claim that This is the fallacy of 'begging the question' for assuming that what exists has 'evolved' and can be organized into 'transitional stages' is non-sensical. It forces u=0 without giving a justification. In layman's terms, Dan is saying "any exploration into u by observing P, Q is moot because it is based on the assumption that u<>0 but I demand u=0 a priori". In other words, "don't show me proofs of Evolution because by doing so you are postulating that Evolution is true".

    But so that this is not a unidirectional debate, what I would like to ask is this: "Show me that u MUST be 0". I.e., in our particular case, show me why P and Q NEED to coexist without a transition between the two.
  • CARTOON: The Dawkins Delusion

    12/29/2011 10:53:24 PM PST · 52 of 523
    drtom to chrisser
    Great question!

    Of course, an insufficient albeit factually correct answer would be that evolution is still on-going.

    More to the point, however, it depends on the complexity of the lifeform.

    If you were a simple organism (like a simple bacterium) your high reproductive rate allows for sufficient mutation to survive. A more complicated reproductive system is not required. Arguably, bacterial conjugation which, as a mechanism for the exchange of genetic material, is regarded as the equivalent to sexual reproduction at a single cell level, can increase the speed of mutational adaptation. But the need for increased adaptation only became urgent during modern times with its biological/chemical advancements. In simplified layman's terms - nature didn't throw a new antibiotic on the market every week. B/Conj was discovered after WWII, but we don't know if it existed in earlier times or if it is a recent evolutionary step.

    The more complex the organism gets the more beneficial DNA transfer becomes, but it comes with a price: it requires a complex reproductive system and it requires a mate.

    Simple invertebrates include an intermediary evolutionary step in the form of hermaphrodism: The search for a mate is facilitated by the fact that you can do it with any other representative of your species, not only 50%.

    Once you get into really complex organisms you need to optimize the quality of the genetic exchange and have to forgo hermaphrodism. This is dangerous as you reduce your chances by 50%, but nature concentrates on the species and not the individual.

    In case you are interested, here is an intriguing article in non-scientific literature, somewhat related to the subject: it shows how sexual reproduction seems to be superior in slow (compared to single cell system) reproductive systems. Sexual vs. asexual reproduction

    Hope I answered your question. Cheers!
  • CARTOON: The Dawkins Delusion

    12/29/2011 10:17:31 PM PST · 51 of 523
    drtom to editor-surveyor

    Don't get a hernia from desperately trying to have the last word without admitting that you're out of your league when it comes to biology.
  • CARTOON: The Dawkins Delusion

    12/29/2011 5:51:44 PM PST · 38 of 523
    drtom to editor-surveyor
    Not so.

    There are enough "kritters", as you call them, that exist in both sexual and asexual reproductive forms and thus can easily represent transitional stages. This occurs in many taxonomies, from the simplest single cells (look up "conjugation") to relatively complex lifeforms (look up "caenorhabditis").

    In an evolutionary context, sexual reproduction will generally win out despite the need for a mate. This can be proven by means of statistics, or through experiments.
  • CARTOON: The Dawkins Delusion

    12/29/2011 5:10:36 PM PST · 28 of 523
    drtom to editor-surveyor
    The accident imaginators will never have an explanation for sexual reproduction.


    You are not seriously trying to suggest that this is some kind of unsolved mystery, are you?
  • CARTOON: The Dawkins Delusion

    12/29/2011 4:04:51 PM PST · 22 of 523
    drtom to metmom

    See post 15.

  • CARTOON: The Dawkins Delusion

    12/29/2011 2:48:04 PM PST · 15 of 523
    drtom to Teotwawki
    Once lifeforms become more complex (i.e. with specialized cells) a pure cell splitting process won't work anymore and reproductive systems that carry the entire genetic code evolve.

    Some plants can get by on self-pollination but, again, with rising complexity, you need two partners in order to avoid cumulative deterioration ("the incest syndrome").

    Next step up are hermaphroditic lifeforms (mostly invertebrates) which do not have separate sexes. In these groups, hermaphroditism is a normal condition, enabling a form of sexual reproduction in which both partners can act as the "female" or "male".

    Some hermaphroditic individual animals favour to act as a particular gender (although the other set of reproductive organs seems to be fully intact) which could be argued as the forerunner for split sexes.

    Through evolutionary processes one set of organs gradually ceases to function while the other is being enhanced. Do this over a few hundred million years and you have a new taxonomic group of lifeforms that presents with two distinct sexes.

    In a nutshell, you are correct: the two sets of organs did not evolve separately and turn out to be complementary "by accident".
  • Christopher Hitchens, militant pundit, dies at 62

    12/26/2011 10:23:52 PM PST · 272 of 274
    drtom to A_perfect_lady
    Allow me to congratulate you on a fight well fought. You stood up to the mob mentality of the resident self-righteous bible-thumpers and you did well. Your posts are succinct and well articulated (both of which doesn't bode well when arguing with the mob, unfortunately, but then again, nothing does).

    I take my hat off to you.
  • Christopher Hitchens' Body Donated to Medical Research

    12/26/2011 3:10:46 PM PST · 16 of 38
    drtom to Randy Larsen
    Committed to the end and then some!

    Rest in Peace Christopher Hitchens!

    Hear hear. A questioning mind and not just a blind follower. A true inspiration.
  • Norway shooting: Anders Behring Breivik's planning appears meticulous

    07/24/2011 3:09:55 PM PDT · 18 of 26
    drtom to Joe Boucher
    This murderer will spend NO more than 21 years in a Danish prison,

    Why would he go to a Danish prison?
  • Killer Cougars

    09/28/2010 10:42:16 PM PDT · 36 of 55
    drtom to Conservateacher; Celtic Cross
    This is incorrect.

    By federal law, it is legal in Canada to carry a rifle for predator protection in wilderness areas year-round. The only exceptions apply to restricted guns and handguns, which require registration as trapper, tour guide, scout etc.

    This federal law might be overruled locally by provincial law and each municipality's shooting regulations. Many municipalities have no-shooting areas and each province has differing laws regarding carrying a rifle out of season. Since in most provinces small game hunting is an almost year-round season, however, it is generally accepted to carry a shotgun and small game license.
  • Einstein's Relativity Affects Aging on Earth (Slightly)

    09/26/2010 6:47:12 PM PDT · 23 of 30
    drtom to wendy1946
    Thought experiments are not a rational basis for physics.

    That is not correct. Most theories-turned-laws in physics originated in an observation that could not be explained at the time. Hypotheses about the physical explanation emerge which then evolve into theories which are meant do be refuted, often in the span of decades. If a theory cannot be disproven it evolves into a lemma or construct. Special relativity has been proven hundreds of times over. General relativity is generally accepted (at least the concept that gravity influences time has been accepted). QED is another example of a framework that started as a hypothesis which is now generally accepted.
  • Dumb or Dumber ???

    08/10/2010 9:40:24 PM PDT · 10 of 31
    drtom to Jimma

    Dumbest. Post. Ever.
  • Finalist dies at World Sauna event in Finland

    08/07/2010 2:12:06 PM PDT · 18 of 58
    drtom to George from New England

    Rules (from Wikipedia)

    - Start temperature is 110 degrees Centigrade.
    - The stove will get half a liter of water every 30 seconds.
    - Use of alcohol is prohibited prior to and during the race.
    - Before the sauna any creams should be wiped off and wash.
    - In the sauna the competitor has to sit erect, hips and thighs attached on the bench.
    - Swimming-costume must be normal. Men may have a maximum 20 centimeter pant leg and women 5 centimeters wide shoulder straps.
    - The hair must be tied on ponytail, where they extend up to the shoulder.
    - Touching the skin and brushing is prohibited.
    - Other competitors must not disturbe.
    - When Judges ask, competitor show thumb up to be okay.
    - Competitors have to leave sauna without assistance.
    - With improper performance comes first warning. Another results in disqualification.
    - The winner is the one who is the last in the sauna.

  • Video of the Largest Wolf Pack Ever Found in Oregon

    08/06/2010 11:46:57 PM PDT · 112 of 125
    drtom to txhurl
    Until then, you are lost in leftist theory.

    Wish I had seen this before I engaged in a response to your previous post.

    Sorry, I had really just wanted to chat with someone who also has had direct experience with wolves and found your post very intriguing. But I have long given up carrying on conversations with people that include primitive political attacks in their responses. Could have been a good conversation. Oh, well. Good night.
  • Video of the Largest Wolf Pack Ever Found in Oregon

    08/06/2010 11:35:52 PM PDT · 111 of 125
    drtom to txhurl
    Never owned: you are correct. Never lived around one: I have. Good friend of mine in Ft. Fitzgerald nursed an injured bitch back to health and then decided to keep her because her foot didn't heal. Saw her almost every day.

    See my post to Tom Hawks: there is a difference between killing to teach, train, etc. and "killing everything in its path".

    Re boredom: sorry, but I have observed packs that spend an entire day grooming, socializing, playing, rearing, cleaning the area, you name it. If you adopted a wolf and expected her to be sitting nicely in the yard, without a pack, without a purpose and without constant interaction, then it is no wonder that she started to entertain herself. A wolf is not a domestic dog and a master/owner (no matter how benevolent) does not replace the social interaction and hierarchy of a pack. Lone wolves, even in the wild, are strange. So are lone lions, hyenas or elephants. Animals that are instinctively drawn to form social groups turn erratic if this environment is withheld.

    And they do retain their predatory instincts. You need to be aware of this and compensate for it. A very difficult thing to do, which is why it is not recommended to have wild animals as pets.

    Although it honors you that you tried to save one from starving.
  • Video of the Largest Wolf Pack Ever Found in Oregon

    08/06/2010 11:22:25 PM PDT · 108 of 125
    drtom to Tom Hawks
    There's a difference between "killing everything in their paths" and a natural hunting instinct.

    I have seen grays take out three bison calves in a row although the pack could only get rid of 1 1/2 afterwards. The reason was (a) the pack was so large that it couldn't communicate and agree on a single target (it split while the hunt was on) and (b) when the hunting frenzy developed it was impossible to stop them. Human behavior is quite similar by the way. Think of the buffalo eradication in the 1800s. After some trophy bulls were taken sometimes shooting frenzies developed just to kill and the carcasses were also left to rot on the prairie. Or the Japs in Nanking during the war. And so forth. It's a predatory instinct. Ever seen a henhouse after a nightly visit by a raccoon? Nothing left alive, yet only one bird taken away. Housecat empty a golf fish pond? Same story.

    Yet, you can have an entire pack play with the pups for four hours while deer stand in visible range. You can see buffalo grazing right beside a resting pack. In fact, as a human you can even acquaint with a pack and get fairly close.

    So, hunting instinct, yes. Killing everything in their paths, definitely not.

    But allow me to make one concession: there are such things as marauding packs. They don't have a territory or develop a proper pack hierarchy and are often lacking alpha wolves. They are rogue packs that do indeed spend the entire day travelling and hunting. But that's not a wolf pack just like a marauding drug gang is not an assembly of human beings.