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Thread: Complexity by substraction (by D. McShea & W. Hordijk)

  1. #1 Complexity by substraction (by D. McShea & W. Hordijk) 
    Moderator Moderator Cogito Ergo Sum's Avatar
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    People who claim that the theory of evolution cannot explain the complexity of life and propose that an Intelligent Designer has constructed everything,
    often refer to the complexity of the human eye, the bacterial flagellum, the blood coagulation cascade, etc.

    Although scientists debunked many claims by pointing to simpler versions of those structures that exist today (such the photoreceptors of Euglena sp.),
    two scientists have formulated an alternative explanation: complexity by substraction.

    D. McShea explains:
    "Instead of building up bit by bit from simple to complex, you start complex and then winnow out the unnecessary parts, refining them and making them more efficient as you go (...) What we need to do next is pick an arbitrary sample of complex structures and trace their evolution and see if you can tell which route they proceeded by, [from simple to complex or the opposite]. That will tell us whether this is common or not."
    This formulation was tested with a computer program (that mimicked evolutionary processes) and evidenced by the reduction of skull bones throughout the evolutionary transitions (e.g. human skulls have fewer bones than fish skulls).

    This is, in my opinion, a promising hypothesis (and an argument against ID). What do you think?


    Source:
    Alternative way to explain life's complexity proposed


    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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  3. #2  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    I thougt, as a little experiment, I would respond in two parts. In part 1 I express my thinking before reading the article, in part 2 after reading the article. Objective of the experiment - can my mind be changed by facts.

    Part 1: While I can certainly agree that some evolutionary pathways lead to less complex organs or organisms, there surely has to be a plausible means of generating the more complex original. To take an extreme example, I can see no way (pun intended) that there could have been somthing more complex than the vertebrate eye, from which that eye evolved. If we restrict to examples where we are simplifying a complexity generated earlier, then I don't quite see how this adds anything to our understanding of evolution. It is beneficial, I suppose, in that it is a good way of illustrating that evolution is not about becoming more complex, it is about becoming fitter. Other than that I can see no advantage to the concept and it certainly fails to refute ID.

    Part 2: Well reading the article didn't do much for me. I suspect, (Oh what a surprise) that part of the problem is that this popular version of the research has been sexed up to make it more interesting. the computer simulation, as described, is simplistic. The independent corroboration relates to minor reductions of complexity, from structures that do not - even at their most comples - exhibit a high degree of complexity. There is no hint at all of what complexity may have preceded the bacterial flagellum.

    The most it seems to be saying is - sometimes evolution makes things more complex and sometimes it makes things simpler. If we study this a bit more we may be able to quantify the extent of each process. Well, duh! I think I already new that.


    So, am I quite missing the point?


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  4. #3  
    Moderator Moderator Cogito Ergo Sum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    I thougt, as a little experiment, I would respond in two parts. In part 1 I express my thinking before reading the article, in part 2 after reading the article. Objective of the experiment - can my mind be changed by facts.

    Part 1: While I can certainly agree that some evolutionary pathways lead to less complex organs or organisms, there surely has to be a plausible means of generating the more complex original. To take an extreme example, I can see no way (pun intended) that there could have been somthing more complex than the vertebrate eye, from which that eye evolved. If we restrict to examples where we are simplifying a complexity generated earlier, then I don't quite see how this adds anything to our understanding of evolution. It is beneficial, I suppose, in that it is a good way of illustrating that evolution is not about becoming more complex, it is about becoming fitter. Other than that I can see no advantage to the concept and it certainly fails to refute ID.

    Part 2: Well reading the article didn't do much for me. I suspect, (Oh what a surprise) that part of the problem is that this popular version of the research has been sexed up to make it more interesting. the computer simulation, as described, is simplistic. The independent corroboration relates to minor reductions of complexity, from structures that do not - even at their most comples - exhibit a high degree of complexity. There is no hint at all of what complexity may have preceded the bacterial flagellum.

    The most it seems to be saying is - sometimes evolution makes things more complex and sometimes it makes things simpler. If we study this a bit more we may be able to quantify the extent of each process. Well, duh! I think I already new that.


    So, am I quite missing the point?

    I think you have summarized the article well.
    Yet, I could not let this opportunity pass to refute ID.
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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