Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate Catch-All

manta173 wrote:
Dreaded Gazebo wrote:

Ken Ham constantly relies on the absence of proof (which I suppose is faith) to make his point. The line of reasoning that "Because I feel your methods are inaccurate/incorrect proves that my point of view is correct" is not scientific method, and I think that is Bill Nye's entire argument.

Although I haven't had time to watch, I have been to one of Ken Ham's lectures and read some of his books (~15 years ago). I used to be a big paleontology nut and consumed everything I could on the topic. His viewpoint used to be:

"We don't have enough evidence to prove the theory of evolution.
Therefore it is a theory, not fact.
Therefore we still have room for other theories based on different interpretations."

Which in general is not a bad interpretation of the scientific method. The real argument would be over the level of data required to prove something a human cannot observe first hand.

If he has indeed gone to your statement then it is a sad day, because it will be that much harder to move forward.

The problem with the bolded section is that what a theory means in the scientific community, and what Ken Ham and his followers think it means. The theory of evolution is being equated to "I have a theory that my car runs on magic because I don't understand and internal combustion engine's mechanics". That's not what a scientific theory is. The theory of evolution is an attempt at an explanation for a long series of observed changes in animals which DID happen. Fossil records prove that these changes occurred, what isn't proved is HOW those changes occurred, that's what the theory is about, and even then it's based on a crapload of evidence that something DID occur, and Ham and his beliefs are willing to totally ignore all the evidence because of the use of a single word in front of it.

What's interesting to me is that I went to Ham's museum on a lark with my ex-wife. We thought it would be amusing... it was not. It was terrifying. That is the only museum I was glad to be out of for reasons other than my feet hurt, I'm done walking. Seriously, I could not get out of there fast enough. Especially after they wouldn't let me get on the triceratops with a saddle for a picture. There is a dedicated guard next to the sign so that only kids can. For that, Ken Ham is an asshole.

EDIT: Those 22 messages are sending me into rage stroke. Not enough... facepalms... in... the word...

We don't have enough evidence to prove the theory of evolution.
Therefore it is a theory, not fact.

Well, to some degree, that's true.

It's a hard fact that creatures change over long spans of time, into entirely new creatures, while often leaving the old creatures around as well. We can be as certain about that as we can ever be about something we didn't personally witness.... and, given the notoriously unreliable human memory, probably more certain, in most cases.

But 'evolution' is an idea to try to explain the evidence of the large changes life has gone through. "Survival of the fittest" is an extremely loose idea: "fittest" can mean whatever you want it to mean at the moment, and it can be used to justify absolutely horrific things. The Theory of Evolution, despite the mountain of evidence it's trying to explain, is not a terribly specific theory. It has a strong circular argument at its core: creatures that survive were the fittest, and we know they're the fittest because they survived.

Example: there might have been an incredibly good mutation in humans, one that made its tribe superior. Say it happened 50,000 years ago, and that tribe arose and would have taken over the planet... except the volcano they were living on had other ideas. This is hypothetical, but it's nearly certain that many beneficial mutations have been extinguished due to other factors. So it's not just survival of the fittest, there's also a component of survival of the luckiest as well. But we don't talk about that, and sort of handwave the luck into general 'fitness'.... which again goes back to that circular argument, that fit creatures survive, because creatures that survive are defined as fit.

But, while the Theory of Evolution is fuzzy and not very well defined, you can be as certain as humans ever get to be that the Earth is much, much older than 6,000 years, and that creatures slowly change into new species.

Phil Plait on whether Bill Nye should have engaged in the debate, and whose voices should be heard:
http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astro...

So I urge anyone reading this who is a believer of any stripe to speak up. In almost every case, evolution is not a threat to your beliefs. It’s an important part of science, and the basis upon which our understanding of biology is founded. It’s like the Periodic Table in chemistry, or Newton’s Laws in physics; without it, biology makes no sense. And we know biology makes sense.

So overall, I suppose I’m glad Bill Nye took on this mantle. Debating a creationist may seem to elevate creationism as a debatable topic—and again, to be clear, it isn’t—but in this case, that may be the price paid to elevate the conversation, and to get the public talking. Clearly, what we’ve been doing for decades isn’t helping, so it may very well be time our methods evolved.

I know the Noetic Institute has been referenced by some of my NewAge friends. It studies how thoughts and consciousness can directly shape the world around us. Woo-woo stuff, "picture it and it will happen".

Chairman_Mao wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:

What the hell is noetics?

Even Wikipedia doesn't seem to know.

I feel sorry for how terribly their education systems have failed those people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noetics

Haha, why would someone expect Bill Nye to explain something like that? Might as well ask him to explain the book of Exodus.

Malor, I have to disagree with the idea that evolution is "fuzzy and not well defined". We have enough understanding of it to formulate mathematical systems that usefully evolve systems that are better than humans can design by themselves. If it were not well understood, that would not be possible.

Remember, too, Darwin did not have genetics and an understanding of DNA/RNA and other aspects of modern biology to build upon. If you just stick to his work, sure, any new theory is going to be fuzzy in some way. But we know a *lot* more now.

I just read that list of people's questions, and I agree, the ignorance there is striking, both of theology, and science. Several of the questions were misinformed, or have been answered satisfactorily for decades, while others are cheap theological gimmicks that have nothing to do with evolution. Makes me want to cry with frustration, if only for the sly "gotcha! Bet you didn't think of *that*!" attitude in so many of them.

We have enough understanding of it to formulate mathematical systems that usefully evolve systems that are better than humans can design by themselves.

By just throwing random circuits at the wall to see what sticks. They're not really mathematical systems: genetic algorithms are just about random iteration in gigantic volume. And we get to define the 'win' state any way we like, where in evolution, it's not so simple as that.

Fitness is fundamentally a subjective idea. We can't use it to make useful predictions about the real world. We can use it, sometimes, to make tools, but we can't use the concept of 'fitness' to determine which of two people are superior.

We've had, of course, quite a number of attempts to do that, and so far, they've been disasters.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
Chairman_Mao wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:

What the hell is noetics?

Even Wikipedia doesn't seem to know.

I feel sorry for how terribly their education systems have failed those people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noetics

Haha, why would someone expect Bill Nye to explain something like that? Might as well ask him to explain the book of Exodus.

It sounds like the boss's religion towards the end of the IT crowd. Space wishing? Crap, I can't remember what it was called.

Robear wrote:

I just read that list of people's questions, and I agree, the ignorance there is striking, both of theology, and science. Several of the questions were misinformed, or have been answered satisfactorily for decades, while others are cheap theological gimmicks that have nothing to do with evolution. Makes me want to cry with frustration, if only for the sly "gotcha! Bet you didn't think of *that*!" attitude in so many of them.

Pretty much. The smarmy look on that dude who was talking about the second law of thermodynamics screams "someone taught me this as a good way to 'gotcha'" and "If you asked me to write down the second law of thermodynamics under my question, I totally couldn't".

I'm not an evolutionary biologist, but I've read that even if the whole fossil record disappeared overnight, DNA sequencing more than proves that modern creatures all evolved from various common ancestors (in many cases, the genetics is changing what was thought from the fossil evidence). Given the timescales involved, and the fact that we have both the fossils and various radioisotope dating of rocks sandwiching the fossil record, it's hard to see what more compelling evidence there could ever be for the evolutionary model.

I think what would have been most helpful would have been an old earth creationist in the debate, who could have presented a moderate religious view that accepted the science instead of making it into a false dichotomy between the All Science No God position which I suspect would be unacceptable to many religious Americans and the No Science With God which is willing to ignore what's in front of your face to be able to take a 2000 year old religious text literally. I guess I've never understood how American Religion now seems to equate to Evangelical Christianity.

Malor wrote:

By just throwing random circuits at the wall to see what sticks. They're not really mathematical systems: genetic algorithms are just about random iteration. And we get to define the 'win' state any way we like, where in evolution, it's not so simple as that.

What? That's emphatically not what genetic (and other evolutionary) algorithms do. Of *course* we get to define the "win state", because we are taking advantage of the way that environmental stresses shape populations. That's far from random, and by defining the fitness parameters, we create a target for the population to evolve towards, without knowing exactly what it will look like when it gets there.

Remember, selection pressure is non-random, and that in turn *reduces* random variation in the generations. That's the point - it's *not* random, just like evolution. If it were random, it would not be useful for the tasks for which evolutionary algorithms are used. (Mutations and the like can be random, but they are not evolution. Selection pressures across populations are not random.)

Evolution is not random, and the advantage of EAs is that they are far more efficient than random iteration of possible solutions.

Evolution is not random,

Of course it is. If you roll enough dice, you can make some predictions about the results you'll see, but the rolls are still random.

You've got a very fundamental misunderstanding there.

Remember, you yourself said this:

without knowing exactly what it will look like when it gets there.

... and yet you think it's not random?

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/T7Zz0R2.jpg)

Malor wrote:

Fitness is fundamentally a subjective idea. We can't use it to make useful predictions about the real world. We can use it, sometimes, to make tools, but we can't use the concept of 'fitness' to determine which of two people are superior.

We've had, of course, quite a number of attempts to do that, and so far, they've been disasters.

I separated it out because you're using this in an odd way. Fitness applies to populations, not individuals. Fitness is *always* contextual to the population's environment; your reference above is to individuals, which is not relevant. There is no "universal fitness metric" that could be used to measure people against each other objectively. There are only the selection pressures on the population to which they belong, and the outcome of those pressures on the population. It's by the *results* of those pressures that we can say "oh, this group is more fit for this environment"; it's not something that is intended to be prescriptive (although one could correlate particular gene sets with particular environments and judge the likelihood that they would up some groups' ability to survive in that environment). Fitness in evolution is a way of describing how well an population does in a particular set of circumstances. It's not something that would ever be applied to an individual.

Robear wrote:

There is no "universal fitness metric" that could be used to measure people against each other objectively.

Clearly you have never seen Henry Cavill shirtless.

Seth wrote:
Robear wrote:

There is no "universal fitness metric" that could be used to measure people against each other objectively.

Clearly you have never seen Henry Cavill shirtless.

Or Chris Hemsworth's beard. Totes jelly.

Demosthenes wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:
Chairman_Mao wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:

What the hell is noetics?

Even Wikipedia doesn't seem to know.

I feel sorry for how terribly their education systems have failed those people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noetics

Haha, why would someone expect Bill Nye to explain something like that? Might as well ask him to explain the book of Exodus.

It sounds like the boss's religion towards the end of the IT crowd. Space wishing? Crap, I can't remember what it was called.

Spacestar Ordering!

Malor wrote:

Quote:

Evolution is not random,

Of course it is. If you roll enough dice, you can make some predictions about the results you'll see, but the rolls are still random.

You've got a very fundamental misunderstanding there.

No, sorry, you're confusing some of the *mechanisms* of evolution, which are random, with evolution itself, which is non-random. For example, we can start with a random population of animals which can all breed together, but they are still the same animals. We will see lots of random mutation in their offspring, and we'll see random deaths, but mating is often non-random (at least in chordates), and the biggest influence of all, the environment, is decidedly non-random in it's effects on the population. So the effects on the *population* are actually predictable to some degree, while the effects on individuals is indeed more random (but still not completely so).

Try a thought experiment. Take a population of cells. Some have a fatty layer which resists alcohol; some don't. Now pour some alcohol onto their plate. Is it random which ones die? To a small degree, yes. Some of the fatty ones may die, and some of the regular ones may live. But the majority of the fatty ones are much more likely to live than the majority of the regular ones. That's non-random across the population. In the next generation, there will be a higher percentage of fatty cells than the regular ones. If evolution were random, that would not be true.

Selection pressures create outcomes on populations that are not random (even though the source of the pressure may be random). It's an important thing to understand; evolution *decreases* random outcomes in breeding across populations, by selectively culling and advantaging different sub-populations respectively.

Evolution would not work if it were random.

Remember, you yourself said this:

Quote:

without knowing exactly what it will look like when it gets there.

... and yet you think it's not random?

Yes. If we knew the outcome, we'd not need to perform the experiment. And yet, the outcome of evolving an antenna design will only yield antenna designs which come within a certain proximity of certain parameters that we've set. That's seriously non-random; it will never yield something outside those parameters if the algorithm is properly defined. And again, if that algorithm were random, it would not move the population towards the solution region; it would scatter it randomly across the solution space.

The fact that EAs work is one thing that tells us that evolution is non-random.

Here's an article that might help you make the distinction between random processes and non-random outcomes. Mutation is random, but selection is not.

In evolution, the "fittest" is the one who has the most offspring!

Quintin_Stone wrote:

In evolution, the "fittest" is the one who has the most (viable, surviving to have offspring of their own) offspring!

FTFY

Quit clouding the thread with your "facts" and "science", Tanglebones. Don't you have some books to read out of order?

“Like every other creature on the face of the earth, Godfrey was, by birthright, a stupendous badass, albeit in the somewhat narrow technical sense that he could trace his ancestry back up a long line of slightly less highly evolved stupendous badasses to that first self-replicating gizmo---which, given the number and variety of its descendants, might justifiably be described as the most stupendous badass of all time. Everyone and everything that wasn't a stupendous badass was dead.”

Paleocon wrote:

“Like every other creature on the face of the earth, Godfrey was, by birthright, a stupendous badass, albeit in the somewhat narrow technical sense that he could trace his ancestry back up a long line of slightly less highly evolved stupendous badasses to that first self-replicating gizmo---which, given the number and variety of its descendants, might justifiably be described as the most stupendous badass of all time. Everyone and everything that wasn't a stupendous badass was dead.”

Excellent.

Podunk wrote:
Paleocon wrote:

“Like every other creature on the face of the earth, Godfrey was, by birthright, a stupendous badass, albeit in the somewhat narrow technical sense that he could trace his ancestry back up a long line of slightly less highly evolved stupendous badasses to that first self-replicating gizmo---which, given the number and variety of its descendants, might justifiably be described as the most stupendous badass of all time. Everyone and everything that wasn't a stupendous badass was dead.”

Excellent. :D

The paragraph before it is even better.

“Let's set the existence-of-God issue aside for a later volume, and just stipulate that in some way, self-replicating organisms came into existence on this planet and immediately began trying to get rid of each other, either by spamming their environments with rough copies of themselves, or by more direct means which hardly need to be belabored. Most of them failed, and their genetic legacy was erased from the universe forever, but a few found some way to survive and to propagate.”

I love that book.

Podunk wrote:

I love that book.

Ok, clearly I need to read this, what book?

robear wrote:

I just read that list of people's questions, and I agree, the ignorance there is striking, both of theology, and science. Several of the questions were misinformed, or have been answered satisfactorily for decades, while others are cheap theological gimmicks that have nothing to do with evolution. Makes me want to cry with frustration, if only for the sly "gotcha! Bet you didn't think of *that*!" attitude in so many of them.

My favorites were the ones that implied without a creator, we have no reason to be here. Or that the alternative to believing in a creator is belief in aliens.

And if the tables were turned where a group of atheist scientists only believed in one science book to govern all others, or only had one world view it would be just as dangerous and shameful.

Demosthenes wrote:
Podunk wrote:

I love that book.

Ok, clearly I need to read this, what book?

Cryptonomicon

Also, I am not sure even after looking up the second law of thermodynamics that I understand it. Aren't these laws subject to the test conditions/environment that are the earth or our solar system?

Does this mean that if another law of thermodynamics does support evolution that they will change their mind or at least their retort?

fangblackbone wrote:

Also, I am not sure even after looking up the second law of thermodynamics that I understand it. Aren't these laws subject to the test conditions/environment that are the earth or our solar system?

Remember, it covers isolated systems. That is, if you have energy and/or matter inputs into your system, entropy can decrease while that is true.