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Thread: the origin of religions

  1. #1 the origin of religions 
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    forgive the obvious pun on darwin, but i find it is quite accurate to describe the work i will herein present.

    it has been established, debated, argued for and against, thoroughly tested and finally highly accepted by all biologists and most others that the origin of the species can be explained by natural selection of various varieties with heritable traits which vary across members of a species and affect the ability of the organism to reproduce.

    these three things are the basic requirements for natural selection to act upon a body causing evolution over periods of time.

    i propose that these basic requirements are met by religions of today and those of times past, and thus the origin of such religions is explained similarly to that of the species.

    in a species, for example humanity there are variations such as height, proportional brain size, and skin tone which affect our ability to survive to the age of reproduction, and then to produce offspring which survive to the age of reproduction. height and ability to stand upright affected our ability to see predators over tall grass and survive, brain size affected our tool making abilities which affected all areas of man's life, and skin tone affects the propability of developing melanoma of the skin. all of these traits would be passed down because those with them are more able to reproduce than those without them.

    but where can these different traits be found in religions? One can observe the evolution of christianity out of judaism to find examples of such variation. thanks to historical texts and mythological texts we have well preserved information that the first christians were jews and considered themselves to still be jewish after jesus was born. however the initial variation in between them was that one variety of judaism thought jesus was the son of god, while the others thought he was either insane or a heretic. the teachings of jesus changed many parts of this variety almost simultaneously(a rare occurance, but a useful example for it shows in extreme how these variations affect success). the teachings of jesus provided one extreme change which i will discuss: the change from action based entry to heaven to acceptance based entry. in the action based entry to heaven that the original variety believed in one was made to practice a difficult way of life which was not appealing to converts(to be explained later). the faith based new variety was far more appealing, if one believed in jesus as their savior one thought they would go to heaven, far more appealing to converts(discussed next).

    heritability of physical traits in organisms is now much better understood in the past. thanks to the gene theory we have developed an understanding of how chromosomes pass on information with variation to new generations(produced via reproduction). this heritability is one of the important factors in natural selection, if a variation isn't heritable it isn't involved in natural selection.

    what though, could be the method of heritability in religion? beliefs do not reproduce physically, they have no physical form. in order for a belief to be inherited into a new generation it must be taught. there are two major methods of heritability of beliefs through generations, namely indoctrination and conversion. this is vastly different from heritability via reproduction and the passing down of genes in that there are two methods in the heritability of beliefs. a religion can be strong in one yet weak in another and still survive. one more question which must be adressed in the heritability of religions is "what are the heritable units?". as we see in species, reproduction is not a conscious action of the whole species, each individual reproduces with variability on their own to make the whole subject to natural selection. this is also the case with religion, individual beliefs are equivelant to genes in that they are passed down from one generation to another through indoctrination and conversion. but not only one individual, or not merely two individuals is involved in the reproduction of beliefs. throughout the lifetime of an organism which carries beliefs(as an organism carries genes) it is affected by indoctrination by its parents from a young age, and subject to attempts at conversion throughout its lifetime. in this way the heritable units(beliefs) of multiple types of religions can be represented in one individual and passed down by that individual.

    as we have seen, both organisms and religions are subject to variability of heritable units. i have explained briefly how the effects of certain heritable traits effect the success of an organism, and for further information one can easily find their own research on it, for brevity i shall not delve further into it here.

    however, on the subject of affects of beliefs on a religion's ability to be represented in the next generation i feel that merely the example of faith versus action in judaism and christianity is not sufficient for such bold a claim as my own. another example of exactly how a trait affects a religion's ability and method of reproduction (for one must always keep in mind that there are two such methods, both of equal or nearly equal importance.) is the difference between fundamentalist creationists and christian religions more closely related to religions/belief structures that base their beliefs on observation. the beliefs of fundamentalist religions are specialized for indoctrination, and have very weak powers of conversion. fundamentalist creationist communities are closed societies. they do not welcome new members(a result of their beliefs and reaction to any form of disagreement) and their belief structure provides significant discouragement from any attempt to leave. often the penalty for trying to leave is death or religious condemnation. through indoctrination that such religious condemnation causes one's soul to be unacceptable to their god the religion is able to keep up a large percentage of the indoctrinated membership while not making any new converts. we then look at a christian religion on the opposite end of the spectrum(i will use the UMC as an example), apostasy is discouraged by religious means but there is no physical backlash against the abandoner by the community. this means that the religion's ability to practice solely indoctrination is diminished as indoctrinated members are subject to conversion to other beliefs. thus the religion in order to survive must have some type of trait which allows it to convert enough members to make up for the loss. this comes in the form of the less extreme views which because they do not differ greatly from other societal norms encourages some members of other beliefs to change, believing their souls will be saved for little cost.

    as with all theories, this is a work in progress. i am no theologian so i cannot provide every belief of any religion without much research, just as darwin could not study each and every trait of each and every species. however as with his theory, the evidence i've provided for my own is sufficient unless evidence can be brought against it. so i say, bring on the gauntlet all!

    *edit, fixed a spelling error in the first sentence.


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    Saul - You might appreciate some of the resources I have pulled together here. Cheers.


    NOTE: Some of the videos got lost in the upgrade at the site. If you see in the center of the screen some random characters (like "1iMmvu9eMrg&e"), simply add a youtube URL in front of it to see it... like this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v= (then the characters here)


    So... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iMmvu9eMrg&e, as the example above.


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    i'm currently still enjoying the video. it is quite informative.

    i have not reached any part where it is a direct parallel of my thoery, but the psychological model is useful in determining the types of belief which are attractive versus unattractive.

    in order to really flesh out the theory i'll have to get a lot of historical as well as theological information from a multitude of religions and do more research on topics such as the one presented in the video.

    and is that you in the video?
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    Quote Originally Posted by saul
    and is that you in the video?
    Haha... No, that's Andy Thompson.

    I'll try to spend a little more time with your OP when I am not working (or, more likely, if I'm bored on a conference call one of these nights).


    Would it be possible to boil your primary points into bullet point form? Like we're on an elevator and you only have 3 floors to get me the gist?
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    yes, my main points are:

    there are three main requirements for evolution to occur on any body, namely heritability of traits, variability within those heritable traits, and these heritable traits must have an affect on the body's ability to produce similar bodies.

    darwin used physical traits in organisms, subject to variation through processes which at the time were not understood but are now better understood, as well as evidence of their heritability(again, not well understood at the time, but now very well understood), and observations about their effects on the organism's ability to reproduce to justify how natural selection caused the speciation of organisms.

    ideals/religions/cults/sects contain not genes within a genome in an organisms but individual beliefs within a religion or set of beliefs in an organism. they are passed down not through reproduction of the organism, but various methods of teaching.
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    I believe the concept you are describing is called the "meme."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme
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    I also agree with Harold. As I ready your summary, my first thought was the concept of a meme, interestingly one of the things which help make Dawkins famous before his atheism made him so very infamous.
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    thank you for the link harold. yes i agree completely that my ideas are summed up by this term.

    i had not heard it before, as i have not read dawkin's book and have only read a couple articles about him. i do truely hate it when i have an idea which i think is new but in fact was already publicized by another.
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    It just means you're on the right track.

    A quick google suggests this is a useful link:
    http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi.../memetics.html


    And the book I referenced where this was articulated by Dawkins was published in 1976, and is known as The Selfish Gene.


    He also wrote more in 1991, an exposition known as Viruses of the Mind.

    http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi...-the-mind.html
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    this is more philosophy than science.
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    evolution is science, i don't think anyone disputes that. studying evolution of thoughts in a similar way to genes in a genome is probably the most scientific discussion about religion there has been on this sub-section since i've started participating.

    so please explain. why you think it's philosophy?
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    Quote Originally Posted by saul
    so please explain. why you think it's philosophy?
    Why do you think philosophy is a bad word? Now don't be coy, you know you do.
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    philosophy is a bad word to describe what i've put forth. it is often used to describe any rational, methodical investigation of the world, which also describes science.

    however, to call this work philosophy and not a scientific theory is to say that it may fall under the other definition of philosophy; a personal belief about how the world works.

    in order to be considered a scientific theory my work must be based on observations of the world (it is), explain natural phenomena (it does), and be falsifiable (if it's wrong, it is).

    so, philosophy describes some thoughts well. and i occasionally participate in the philosophy section on this forum. but in regards to this article, you're right ophiolite; i think philosophy is a very, very nasty word.


    on another note, nobody has yet attempted a refutation of my claims. attempts to disprove a theory are a very important part of forming a strong theory, can i get some help here?
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    The first step would be to define how you are personally referring to "memes" and how we might test/disprove them.

    For example, "My hypothesis is that memes propagate more fully the more frequently people interact in ways which allow their transmission. To test this, I will create a basic idea, implant it into a host participant, and then have that participant interact with two groups. The control group will have only one interaction with the host. We will then measure the transmission of the meme by questionnaire. The group size will be 100 participants. The study group will have 10 interactions with the host, and we will measure the transmission of the meme by questionnaire of that group. The study group will also have 100 participants. If a positive effect of meme transmission is found among the group with more frequent interactions, we will further test if transmission continues to increase linearly as more interactions take place. We will have a group with 20 interactions, 50 interactions, and 100 interactions and measure the difference in propagation."


    Sorry for it being so sloppy. It's been quite some years since I wrote one of those.
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    One of the arguments against memetics was and is that the rate of variation in transmission of memes is so high as to make the result chaotic, unlike the case of gene transmission, where the overwhelming majority of copying mistakes have no external effect whatsoever.

    Prior to the imposition of Christianity by Constantine, there were innumerable pagan religious groups in the Roman Empire – religion was chaotic and it took a meme-manager in the form of an emperor to create order. The pagan religions themselves had their own leaders, priests, but on a smaller scale. The point being that ideas transmitted from person to person are infinitely divergent because the donor’s and the recipient’s mental pictures are always different. Variation is not occasional; it occurs every single time. In order to establish an idea as a religion, it requires one individual to manage the transmission and corral the unfocused divergent ideas into an organized set of beliefs. This individual might be a shaman, a priest, a king, a radio personality or a TV pundit.

    I’m suggesting that the idea of memes is rather overblown, and that memes do not spontaneously organize themselves into religions; it takes an individual person to manage the organization into something beneficial, usually more so to the organizer than to the people so manipulated.
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    in biology there are both full biological organisms with all the mechanisms of reproductions, and genomes of varying sizes. but there are also little packets of dna enclosed in viruses. my view of memetics places religions and other organized belief structures in the position of a full cell.

    a religion is clearly defined, as is a species. there can be small differences between members of the species but nothing too significant or the organisms would be classified as different species. individual's beliefs within a religion take on a similar form. the tennets of the religion are there, but the members disagree on certain details, or topics the religion doesn't have doctrines for.

    bunbury, the main objection with memetics is definately the variability, i agree with you there. i think however that we're not looking deep enough into the correlation between biological information and memetic information. without studying genes, when an observer looks at the offspring of two parents of common phenotypes, they may be shocked at the differences. the parents could be carriers for genes of obnormal coloration, monstrously unusual height, abnormal numbers of appendages, or any variety of odd characteristics. we have no cause to believe memetic information differs from this model, in fact there is much evidence in support of it. the creation of a religion is as you pointed out catalyzed by an individual or small group. the formation of the religion's doctrines is influenced by religions of the past(as well as other memetic units) which interacted with the person forming the religion, the memetic equivelant of giving birth. when new religions are formed, they often steal their doctrins from religions past(the copying of memetic information). but they don't copy all parts of any one religion(usually), and often borrow heavily from differing religions. so, the memetic child resembles parts of each of the parents, but isn't identical to any.

    this study of memetics is on the large scale and thuroughly explains the development of many different religions. on the small scale memetics is different and - as you suggested - greatly chaotic.

    if you look at a hundred individuals like in inow's example and expose them to a test subject with a particular bit of memetic information differing from the subject's, you won't see much perfect copying. depending on the interaction (an incredibly vague term in describing a repeatable experiment) there will be varying amounts of copying, perhaps none will recieve the information, perhaps all.

    i think a good test of small scale memetics would be to take three trial groups of one hundred individuals, introduce an individual with a unit of memetic information which differs from all other individuals in the group and initiate a particular type of interaction for a perscribed time limit (preaching is a time honored tradition in the transmition of memetic information). the individuals could be polled about multiple memetic units to provide a degree of blinding in the test. all test groups are to be polled for the same information. the introduced individual should be the same for each test group (to prevent changes in data based on charisma of the introduced individual) and should preach about multiple units of memetic information, preaching about the same units to each test group. a second poll could be run of each group to determine which of the units preached about was most affected by an equal amount of preaching by a person of a standard ability to transmit memetic information.

    variables in this test include disposition of test subjects (primarily in regards to memetic information not being tested for, the tested information is to be differing from the introduced individual for all test subjects) and effectiveness of units of memetic information at being transmitted.

    the second variable is the true test variable, if a significant difference can be found between the ability to be transmitted for different units of memetic information then the data will show that two of the three requirements for the hypotheses of small scale memetics are true (views were transmitted, and different views have different abilities at being transmitted). by simple observations of the world, the third requirement is proven true (there is variability in people's views).

    my apologies that there are more than one changing variable. it is almost impossible to eliminate the non-test variable in this case. you will not find a test group of 100 individuals which all have exactly the same views on everything, and we do not have a sufficient enough understanding of memetics to decide which views affect the test subjects' abilities to copy the memetic information provided to them. the only answer to this problem is to run the test on a much larger scale to smooth out the variability from individual to individual.
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by saul
    a religion is clearly defined, as is a species.
    Here you have certainly identified a strong similarity between your two spheres. Religions are not clearly defined, nor are species. You seem to think they are. This is seriously wrong and, for me, calls into question whether you know what you are talking about (on this occassion).
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    what i meant by clearly defined isn't that there is a line drawn between the two that seperates them and which makes it easy to determine if something is or is not a religion or if it is or is not a species. i used that sentence to introduce the fact that they are both collections of individuals with certain similar qualities, these qualities are generally what we use to determine if an individual is a member of a certain species or a certain religion. do forgive the terrible wording. now, besides that are there any errors in what i've said? i'd like to hear what bunbury has to say, he's presented a fair arguement against memes
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    Saul, for one who had not heard the term meme before Harold mentioned it you have certainly latched on to it like a tick on a bear's behind. There was a book, The Meme Machine, by Susan Blackmore that tried to claim there is a science of memetics. It was a good read but met with much skepticism. You might like it. (I had a brief email correspondence with Blackmore, but by then she had moved on to consciousness issues and we didn't really talk about memetics. We talked about Daniel Dennett!)

    I have to disagree that "memetics .... thuroughly explains the development of many different religions". It takes much more than memetics to explain religions. Genetics is blind. Memetics, to be credible, should also be blind, but if the development of superstitious ideas into a formal religion requires a charismatic leader then it is not blind and so is not anything like genetics. Without such a leader you have a billion slightly varying ideas never gelling into a coherent philosophy. Hope I'm not misunderstanding your arguments, but frankly I find your prose a bit jumbled and the absence of capitals is a distraction. What's your objection to capital letters?
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    first i don't claim any special insight into memetics, i won't be able to answer every question just as darwin couldn't answer every single negative response he might recieve to his work in origin of the species. however it is my understanding that individual units in memetics (perhaps, let's say the belief in a monotheistic god) occupy a certain position (or perhaps one of only a couple possible positions) in the "genome" of an individual's belief structure. as such, one cannot have a belief in both a monotheistic god and pagan gods because they occupy the same position.

    also, certain beliefs tend to propogate together. pagan gods appear quite human in their behaviours while the three monotheistic gods are quite inhuman in my observations, yahweh being overly righteous and lording over humanity, allah demanding total obedience and submission, and the christian god which is usually viewed as an extremely loving god. but we see that no monotheistic religion with a man-like god has propogated nearly as well as those three types. is this not similar to how in biology a parent which provides little care to its young generally produces many offspring while one which provides much care generates few offspring? in the biological example the propogation is due to two different strategies in reproduction, the first to seed the world with many offspring each with a small chance of success, the second to bring into life a single or a small group of offspring with a very good chance of reproducing. so too do the units of memetics propogate together when they form a strategy. the monotheistic gods appeal to the idea of an authority figure(as part of their strategies) to bring in converts and to keep their members in line. the pagan religions spread the power over the world into many different gods, there was authority there but it was not as strong as that of the monotheistic god. many other memetic units and some environmental changes ultimately led to the failure of many pagan religions while monotheistic religions propogated.

    I have no objection to capitals, however I don't think that there is any point in using them. Grammar is something used to help clarify the point one is trying to put across, I generally find that some parts of grammar are helpful in getting my point across while others are useless. To change the appearance of one letter which doesn't change the meaning of the word or phrase at all does not do me any good.
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    Quote Originally Posted by saul
    in biology there are both full biological organisms with all the mechanisms of reproductions, and genomes of varying sizes. but there are also little packets of dna enclosed in viruses. my view of memetics places religions and other organized belief structures in the position of a full cell.

    a religion is clearly defined, as is a species. there can be small differences between members of the species but nothing too significant or the organisms would be classified as different species. individual's beliefs within a religion take on a similar form. the tennets of the religion are there, but the members disagree on certain details, or topics the religion doesn't have doctrines for.
    Here the main advantage Christianity holds over the pagan religions is that it has a book. The sum total of all that has to be communicated from one generation to the next, in order to keep the religion from severely mutating over time is: "Read the book."

    Most of the pagan cultures were illiterate, or even when they had writing (like the Greeks and Romans) the religious leaders hadn't bothered to assemble a standardized text of teachings. That allowed them to mutate wildly by region, and over generations.




    bunbury, the main objection with memetics is definately the variability, i agree with you there. i think however that we're not looking deep enough into the correlation between biological information and memetic information. without studying genes, when an observer looks at the offspring of two parents of common phenotypes, they may be shocked at the differences. the parents could be carriers for genes of obnormal coloration, monstrously unusual height, abnormal numbers of appendages, or any variety of odd characteristics. we have no cause to believe memetic information differs from this model, in fact there is much evidence in support of it. the creation of a religion is as you pointed out catalyzed by an individual or small group. the formation of the religion's doctrines is influenced by religions of the past(as well as other memetic units) which interacted with the person forming the religion, the memetic equivelant of giving birth. when new religions are formed, they often steal their doctrins from religions past(the copying of memetic information). but they don't copy all parts of any one religion(usually), and often borrow heavily from differing religions. so, the memetic child resembles parts of each of the parents, but isn't identical to any.

    I think this is just because memes evolve very very rapidly compared with biological evolution. The host doesn't have to die in order for a meme to die. Indeed, a person like Thomas Edison can try 300+ different designs for a light bulb in a year's time, "killing off" every failed version to extinction as he goes. Imagine if biological evolution had the ability to move that fast.
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    Welllllll -- does not all change in some way involve an evolutionary type of process with those changes sometimes being beneficial and sometimes detrimental? Merely labelling something as evolution does not REALLY make it a scientific discussion

    The change mechanisms may be somewhat different from process to process, but they always seem to involve adding to or subtracting from that which already exists. Still, I don't think we would label this process as mathematical.

    The evolutionary steps of man-made "things" are pretty easy to find and define since we have a reasonably complete record of them. We can follow the evolution of transportation devices as they apply on land, sea and air. We can follow the evolution of economic formats, governmental and political structures. We can see the evolution of implements of war, realizing that if the bow and arrow had been a superior weapon, we would all live in teepees today.

    This discussion seems to be a somewhat futile effort tco legitimize a philosophical description of the evolution of religion by comparing it the far less well defined biological theory of the evolution of life. It is as though we can legitimize a phylosophy or religion merely by somehow cloaking it in science terms.

    While all schools of knowledge from science to philophy to sociology to mathematics to religion are in some way interrelated, the gray lines between them are still there. The evolution of religion remains more a religious/philosophical topic than a scientific study.
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

    If God DID do all of this, is He not the greatest scientist of all? -- dt, 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Welllllll -- does not all change in some way involve an evolutionary type of process with those changes sometimes being beneficial and sometimes detrimental? Merely labelling something as evolution does not REALLY make it a scientific discussion.
    my first post gave more than a vague hint that i think anything with heritability of variable traits which have an affect on the heritability of the trait will evolve. so yes, many different changes can be described by evolution. and of all the people who have viewed the topic and/or discussed it nobody questioned whether or not it was scientific. what about my arguements was unscientific? was it perhaps that it wasn't purely mathematical?

    The change mechanisms may be somewhat different from process to process, but they always seem to involve adding to or subtracting from that which already exists. Still, I don't think we would label this process as mathematical.
    well in biological evolution we can say for certain that change occurs through the process of small changes over a large timescale, but in societies we can see a rapid shift from one ideology to a completely new way of thinking(a brief study of the industrial revolution will reveal the drastic changes in the economy that do not resemble such small additions to that which exists). and i agree that the process isn't mathematical, it deals with the thoughts and opinions of men rather than the force of gravity the sun applies on the earth, or the slowing of time on earths surface due to gravitation, then again so does biology and that is most certainly a science.

    The evolutionary steps of man-made "things" are pretty easy to find and define since we have a reasonably complete record of them. We can follow the evolution of transportation devices as they apply on land, sea and air. We can follow the evolution of economic formats, governmental and political structures. We can see the evolution of implements of war, realizing that if the bow and arrow had been a superior weapon, we would all live in teepees today.
    again i find myself agreeing with you(although with some reservations as to your particular examples). the evolutionary history of political systems, economic organizations, religions, ideologies, and different technologies is fairly well documented and the ease of seeing the effects of evolution in these histories is in part what led me to come to the understanding of religions that i presented in the OP. so i ask again, how is any of this unscientific?

    This discussion seems to be a somewhat futile effort to legitimize a philosophical description of the evolution of religion by comparing it to the far less well defined biological theory of the evolution of life. It is as though we can legitimize a philosophy or religion merely by somehow cloaking it in science terms.
    how did you arrive at that conclusion? i mean honestly the implications of the theory are exactly the opposite of that. rather than seeing a modern religion or philosophy as "legitimate" or "true" the theory suggests that they are simply the result of what people are likely to believe in under different circumstances. this whole thing actually declares all religions and all philosophies which can be shown to have resulted from such an evolutionary history to be simple products of evolution, rather than having some property of being right or wrong.

    i took the liberty of fixing some of your spelling errors, i hope i didn't miss too many.[/quote]
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    My problem with your OP, saul, is that it is vague enough that it is difficult to agree or disagree with.

    The problem with evolution, especially biological evolution, is that it requires one to gloss over and/or ignore discrepancies and things which don't always quite add up.

    I can think of things in religion which do not seem to follow a straight evolutionary path and are certainly not compatible with the biological theory of evolution which you have seemed to use as the pattern for your religious theory of evolution.

    Although mutation is an accepted potential mechanism for biological evolution (even though it does not seem that we have any examples of beneficial mutations among living things), the change from Judaism to Christianity would more closely resemble a religious mutation than a slowly developed, minor change followed by more minor changes.

    Christianity involves a radical change from Judaism in the form of Jesus of Nazareth who is considered by Christians to be God, Himself, intervening into the physical world of humanity in an effort to change religion into a spirit-based experience.

    Nor am I convinced that one can securely trace religions from a single early religion to all of today's religions. What is the tree of life, so to speak, that connects, say, the old Norse religions with Shinto? My sense is that some religions sprang up independently of other religions and evolved or changed, suvived or died, within the confines of their own framework.

    One can easily see a close relationship between Greek and Roman religions of ancient days, but I am not sure how they would relate to Judaism which probably more likely is related to older Chaldean religions, from which Abraham came.

    I'm not trying to throw water on your whole theory. I just continue to think that the "evolution" of religion does not explain religious beliefs any more than any other scientific excursion into religion.

    The scientific study of religion has hardly anything to do with religion other than to support or undermine the bases upon which it may be founded. Science can testify to the validity and accuracy of religious texts and history found in religious writings, but is less able to invalidate a belief.

    In biologial evolution, the end result is the survival of the adaptation which is best suited to survival in a given environment and enhances that environment. I am not sure the same has always been true in the case of religions.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner

    The problem with evolution, especially biological evolution, is that it requires one to gloss over and/or ignore discrepancies and things which don't always quite add up.
    More like you just have to gloss over gaps, because you're trying to find evidence of events that transpired a very very long time ago, and gaps are to be expected.

    I have yet to see any clear contradictions in the evidence we have, though.


    Although mutation is an accepted potential mechanism for biological evolution (even though it does not seem that we have any examples of beneficial mutations among living things), the change from Judaism to Christianity would more closely resemble a religious mutation than a slowly developed, minor change followed by more minor changes.
    This is also a gap problem. It's clear from the evidence that exists that Judaism had many mutations and offshoots. Even the dead sea scrolls are believed to have been kept by an offshoot cult. In Jesus' day, he is recorded to have encountered at least two distinct schools of Judaist thought: the Pharisees and the Saduccees, who disagreed over topics as fundamental as whether there would be a spirit in the afterlife. (A lot like modern protestant faiths disagree.) Also within the bible there are all kinds of "heretics" mentioned, which I take to mean "religious movements that didn't go anywhere."


    Christianity was just the most successful mutation, and even it didn't stay in its original form, but actually managed to mutate and fragment quite a lot before Constantine got hold of it. Then, after him, we've it dividing into Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholicism, and later on fragmenting further into Protestantism. ----- You don't see evolution in all of this?


    Nor am I convinced that one can securely trace religions from a single early religion to all of today's religions. What is the tree of life, so to speak, that connects, say, the old Norse religions with Shinto? My sense is that some religions sprang up independently of other religions and evolved or changed, suvived or died, within the confines of their own framework.
    You could say the same thing about language. It's hard to say whether people in different regions all started talking separately, or one group started it and everyone else followed after.

    If religion does have a true starting point, it was probably among Proto-humans of some kind gathering around a skilled artist in some cave somewhere and watching him/her draw pictures of their latest kill or just listening to an old man tell them stories. From that point, you'd get separate "species" of religion appearing in different regions and evolving separately down their own paths, just like diverse biological species do.
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    Quote Originally Posted by "kojax

    Nor am I convinced that one can securely trace religions from a single early religion to all of today's religions. What is the tree of life, so to speak, that connects, say, the old Norse religions with Shinto? My sense is that some religions sprang up independently of other religions and evolved or changed, suvived or died, within the confines of their own framework.
    You could say the same thing about language. It's hard to say whether people in different regions all started talking separately, or one group started it and everyone else followed after.

    If religion does have a true starting point, it was probably among Proto-humans of some kind gathering around a skilled artist in some cave somewhere and watching him/her draw pictures of their latest kill or just listening to an old man tell them stories. From that point, you'd get separate "species" of religion appearing in different regions and evolving separately down their own paths, just like diverse biological species do.
    the most commonly held belief for abiogenesis is that we all descended from one organism, but if there developed ten or twenty self replicating cells within the ocean which could compete with each other than our natural history wouldn't look much different a few million years later than if it had begun with a single cell.

    the same applies to religions. if there were only one religions which all others developed from then in the period of a million years it wouldn't look much different than if religions developed independantly in different areas but were still able to compete with each other. however it hasn't been millions of years since religions developed, only thousands or tens of thousands. dayton you brought up a good point about how many religions seem to differ completely from each other. it is possible that religion developed seperately in different areas when there was little human traffic between these areas, but that doesn't undermine a sound theory that over time these religions split and evolved according to their dawkinsian fitness(a term i believe i've just coined).
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner

    I can think of things in religion which do not seem to follow a straight evolutionary path and are certainly not compatible with the biological theory of evolution which you have seemed to use as the pattern for your religious theory of evolution.
    I tend to agree. While biological evolution is a useful metaphore for the development of ideas (thus the deliberate meme versus gene word play) there are big differences between the two which are important to keep in mind.

    (even though it does not seem that we have any examples of beneficial mutations among living things)
    (Though a side comment thats utter BS. Just this week there was an example of this in the news of plants near Chernobyl nuclear having adapted and thrived in the high radiation environment--many other examples exist.)

    Even Christianity has changed in huge ways over the past couple centuries over what parts we emphasize and teach as opposed to what parts we largely ignore. Many of our problems with Islam seems to be based in it's lack of change--not surprising when it's adherents read it's original text and language.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    I tend to agree. While biological evolution is a useful metaphore for the development of ideas (thus the deliberate meme versus gene word play) there are big differences between the two which are important to keep in mind.

    (even though it does not seem that we have any examples of beneficial mutations among living things)
    (Though a side comment thats utter BS. Just this week there was an example of this in the news of plants near Chernobyl nuclear having adapted and thrived in the high radiation environment--many other examples exist.)

    Even Christianity has changed in huge ways over the past couple centuries over what parts we emphasize and teach as opposed to what parts we largely ignore. Many of our problems with Islam seems to be based in it's lack of change--not surprising when it's adherents read it's original text and language.
    fox, you're right. biological evolution is simply a metaphor to memetic evolution. they obviously are not direct parellels as memetic offspring can be the result of a single parent and random(ish) mutation, a cross of two parents with or without mutation, or a cross of many parents with or without mutation. wheras in biology we see that evolution is always the result of parents of one species(in very rare occasions a new species could possibly arise from two different species) and some mutation which is either benificial or detrimental. this alone causes vast differences in the appearance of an evolutionary map of different "species" of memes versus different biological species. the biological map looks like a tree where essentially all transformations arise from a single line(species) splitting into two or more different species, the memetic map is more chaotic with similar splits, but also with multiple lines fusing in different places to form one or more new religions.

    also, thanks for pointing out the obvious bs in dayton's post. it makes me question his understanding of biological evolution, which in part explains his inability to understand many of my metaphors between it and memetic evolution.

    finally, you brought up a wonderful point about memetic evolution that i've not yet made it a priority to discuss. various religions and groups of religions can vary greatly in their rate of mutation whereas biological species tend to vary less(although they do certainly vary) in their rate of mutation. the rate of mutation actually helps to determine whether the core(generally unchanging) beliefs of a religion will surive drastic changes over time which affect the dawkinsian fitness of the beliefs which can easily mutate.

    islam is a particularly good example of this compared to christianity. as you pointed out, one of the major reasons for islam's lack of change is the combination of their reliance on the quran and the fact that many of the followers can read the original language it was made in and have access to it in that language. christianity however is practiced(and has been since roman times) mostly by people who don't read the language that the old testament was created in, or the language the new testament was created in. the translation of the bible into many languages and using these new and imperfectly copied(often on purpose) to base religions on led to much mutation and solidified the new mutations as seperate religions. while in islam rather than converting the quran into other languages, it is a common belief that one should learn arabic to read the quran in its original form.

    some of the less important parts of christianity such as the literal interpretation of genesis could be modified easily giving mutations of christianity with that new trait more credibility and believability in an increasingly secular and well understood world. while islam's creation beliefs cannot easily be modified thanks to the environment of killing infedels and heretics along with the literal interpretation of the quran practiced by most muslims. other rapid changes such as increased tolerance of gays in modern times are also more easily handled by a religion who's belief structure can rapidly change.
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    lynx_fox said:

    (
    Though a side comment thats utter BS. Just this week there was an example of this in the news of plants near Chernobyl nuclear having adapted and thrived in the high radiation environment--many other examples exist.)
    Possibly we have a different understanding of the word mutate which you conveniently do not even use in your rebuttle.

    If you are going to suggest that "any change" involves a mutation, I think you are dengrating the dramatic alteration which I think is required for a change to qualify as a mutation.

    If you had a patch of petunias in Chernobyl which reseeded themselves each year and over the some 25 years since the Chernobyl incident, the ones most capable of living in a high radiation area had finally become the dominant petunias, I would consider that an adaptation rather than a mutation. Now then, if one spring they had all come up as pansies, that I would consider a major mutation.

    For more than 100 years now, science has studied the fruit fly because it's 14-day life cycle and is small package of genes makes it a very productive and informative object of study. I am not sure how many generations are included in the various strains and varieties of fruit flies which have been studied in the last century, but it must number in the millions.

    They have subjected these test subjects to every potential cause of mutation that we can conjure up, but never have we induced a mutation that produced a better fruit fly. This does not prove that such has never occurred, but it does point out the rarity and unlikelyhood that such mutations are plentiful in the history of life on earth.

    In the mean time, scientists have bred fruit flies to their genetic extremes for several features. For example, there are a minimum and maximum number of hairs which fruit flies can be bred to. Those with fewer than the minimum or more than the maximum never survive.

    They have been subjected to special environments where they quickly adapted and adjusted. However, when the "adapted" fruit flies were reintroduced to their original environment, they quickly reverted to their earlier form or were eliminated by their inability to compete with regular flies in that environment.

    One of the interesting things is that even in millions of generations, fruit flies have never produced anything other than more fruit flies. Scientists have never bred them to a "better" fruit fly. Left to themselves, they alway breed back to the basic fruit fly with the normal genetic productions of variations in colors and hairs.

    My sense is that if the adapted "petunias" from Chernobyl were reintroduced to a less radio active environment, they would revert to their former makeup and even if cross bred with non-radiated petunias in a not radiated environment, the radiation adaptation would soon be lost except to the extent it existed before Chernobyl.

    Now then, if you brought them into a non-radiated environment and they retained their radiation compatible qualities, I would say you have seen the development of a new variation of petunia. But I wojld not consider this a mutation

    My dictionary says a biological mutation is "a sudden inheritabele change appears int he offspring of a parent organism due to an alteration a gen or chromosome or an increase int eh number of chromosomes." (Why not decrease in chromosomes also?)

    Not all changes are mutations. Perhaps it is not me who does not understand the meaning and significance of mutation.
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    dayton, in order for you to be sure that you are correct you would have to identify the gene which has helped the petunias to survive the new environment and see if it exists at all in other petunias.

    if it exists but is rare in petunias all over the globe then you are certainly correct. however if it is unique to those petunias then it is most certainly a genetic mutation that occured there.

    additionally your remarks on cross breeding the mutants is worse BS than the BS you're trying to defend. regardless of whether the mutation developed there or millenia ago, the petunias in that region would still be able to interbreed with petunias of a different genotype for that trait. and if you subjected mutated organisms to an environment where their mutations are not favorable they will loose them over a number of generations.

    the reason that we haven't changed the fruit fly could simply be because it doesn't get better. it is the ideal organism for its niche. if we eliminate the niche then we will either change or destroy the species. no matter how much you breed them for certain traits, if you subject them to an environment where those traits no longer help them as much as the basic ones, they will be lost.

    and perhaps we haven't seen a single example of a completely new gene in fruit flies in the past hundred or two hundred years(when i find the time i'll do some research that will probably disprove that, unless someone beats me to it), but what kind of scale is that in an evolutionary sense? it's like saying a baby will never grow up because there isn't a noticable change in two or three minutes.
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    saul said:

    additionally your remarks on cross breeding the mutants is worse BS than the BS you're trying to defend. regardless of whether the mutation developed there or millenia ago, the petunias in that region would still be able to interbreed with petunias of a different genotype for that trait. and if you subjected mutated organisms to an environment where their mutations are not favorable they will loose them over a number of generations.
    Strange that you would label my explanation worse BS and then say essentially the same things I said in an effort to prove me wrong

    Having gone out now and looked at some stories about the Chernobyl aftermath, it seems to me that we are not sure, yet, as to what has occurred or whether changes will survive. Interesting stuff, tho.

    It appears that what they are talking about in some of the stories is that radiation has disrupted the genetic makeup of some plants and I would agree that such changes would appear to be mutations. They do not know, yet, as to whether these changes will survive in perpetuity.

    I do not see any experiements in which they have cross bred the changelings with "normal" plants but they are able to define several genetic changes which they are as yet unable to label as beneficial or detrimental -- although there seems to be an allusion in some to the idea that they may be ominously detrimental if allowed to breed into the normal farm crops.

    But then, who knows, perhaps if we ate bread from the radiation altered wheat, we would become more tolerant of radiation and nuclear weapons would be rendered useless. Maybe there will come a day when we all glow in the dark.

    Well, I think we have digressed from the OP somewhat.
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    Quote Originally Posted by saul
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax

    Nor am I convinced that one can securely trace religions from a single early religion to all of today's religions. What is the tree of life, so to speak, that connects, say, the old Norse religions with Shinto? My sense is that some religions sprang up independently of other religions and evolved or changed, suvived or died, within the confines of their own framework.
    You could say the same thing about language. It's hard to say whether people in different regions all started talking separately, or one group started it and everyone else followed after.

    If religion does have a true starting point, it was probably among Proto-humans of some kind gathering around a skilled artist in some cave somewhere and watching him/her draw pictures of their latest kill or just listening to an old man tell them stories. From that point, you'd get separate "species" of religion appearing in different regions and evolving separately down their own paths, just like diverse biological species do.
    the most commonly held belief for abiogenesis is that we all descended from one organism, but if there developed ten or twenty self replicating cells within the ocean which could compete with each other than our natural history wouldn't look much different a few million years later than if it had begun with a single cell.

    the same applies to religions. if there were only one religions which all others developed from then in the period of a million years it wouldn't look much different than if religions developed independantly in different areas but were still able to compete with each other. however it hasn't been millions of years since religions developed, only thousands or tens of thousands. dayton you brought up a good point about how many religions seem to differ completely from each other. it is possible that religion developed seperately in different areas when there was little human traffic between these areas, but that doesn't undermine a sound theory that over time these religions split and evolved according to their dawkinsian fitness(a term i believe i've just coined).
    after this post seems to be the point where the conversation digressed from the topic at hand. perhaps a response to this or a prior post?

    additionally, what you said that i objected to was this:

    My sense is that if the adapted "petunias" from Chernobyl were reintroduced to a less radio active environment, they would revert to their former makeup and even if cross bred with non-radiated petunias in a not radiated environment, the radiation adaptation would soon be lost except to the extent it existed before Chernobyl.
    which based on your objection that they are not mutants, suggests that you think this only occurs in the case of non-mutants(otherwise it isn't evidence of yoru point, merely random information).

    what i said in response was:

    additionally your remarks on cross breeding the mutants is worse BS than the BS you're trying to defend. regardless of whether the mutation developed there or millenia ago, the petunias in that region would still be able to interbreed with petunias of a different genotype for that trait. and if you subjected mutated organisms to an environment where their mutations are not favorable they will loose them over a number of generations.
    which means that your theoretical test to show that the petunias haven't mutated at chernobyl is not a good test because the results would be the same whether they mutated there, or if the mutation occured millenia ago.
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    saul wrote:

    which means that your theoretical test to show that the petunias haven't mutated at chernobyl is not a good test because the results would be the same whether they mutated there, or if the mutation occured millenia ago.
    My recollection is that you wre talking about mutations that resulted from the Chernobyl accident. I have now agreed that it appears some life has experienced mutations as a result. Previously, I was merely commenting that observed changes could be due to adaptations to radiation rather than radiation induced changes. After reading more about it, I am satified that radiation has caused some serious genetic alterations to some plants and maybe some animals. Only time will tell if these mutations are beneficial or detrimental. I can only go back to what I noted about the fruit flies -- no induced mutation in them has produced a beneficial change.

    Earlier, saul quoted Kojax: (which I had missed)

    the most commonly held belief for abiogenesis is that we all descended from one organism,
    This is totally inaccurate -- abiogenisis is one idea as to how life began on earth. The idea that we all descended from one organism is evolution. The two topic are different and should not be confused by combining them into one topic.
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    no induced mutation in them has produced a beneficial change.
    I think the definition of mutation you are working under is a bit limited. Technically any change from the original is a mutation. Consequently, no two sperm cells contain the exact same DNA as a result of mutation. It is these natural variations that get selected for; by the environment and/or through sexual selection.

    It is that you don't think that new forms or "kinds" can develop through successive natural variations that I don't understand. Mutations are not all big changes.
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    I disagree with you Kalster. Your definition assigns mutation to virtually any natural difference that appears from a specific gene pool such that two brown eyed parents have a blue eyed child would be a mutation when it is only the appearance of a recessive gene.

    A mutation involves some structural change in the chromosome makeup or the addition or subtraction of a chromosome in the DNA. The long slow natural selection of a long bird bill to adapt that bird to a specific food source is not a mutation, but rather a classic example of natural selection and survival of the fittest.

    Donkeys and other such hybrids are not mutations because they are incapable of reproducing their genetic makeup through reproduction amongst themselves and yet they represent a marked difference from either parent.
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    You can disagree all you want, but it should be noted that your disagreement is rooted in a misunderstanding on your part.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    saul wrote:

    which means that your theoretical test to show that the petunias haven't mutated at chernobyl is not a good test because the results would be the same whether they mutated there, or if the mutation occured millenia ago.
    My recollection is that you wre talking about mutations that resulted from the Chernobyl accident.
    your recollection is wrong. i was never talking about mutations being induced by chernobyl. the example wasn't even brought up by me(perhaps the person who brought it up is of that opinion, perhaps not). what i have been stating is that mutations have occured since we have began to understand genes. the topic only came up because it was a knit pick you had about evolution, which we have shown here(and directly after the above quote, you state you agree) that mutations have occured and your issue with evolution was resolved.

    unfortunately i think that the scope of our deviation from the OP has rendered this topic irrepairable for the time being.
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    Dayton, why is it that the DNA in different cells in my body varies by a small amount? Why do cancerous tumours form when the DNA of the cells within them was originally identical to the DNA of the surrounding cells?

    Never mind long-term changes within a population, the DNA in our own cells changes throughout our lifetime.
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    A review of page 2 of this thread indicates that Lynx_Fox was the first to mention how the plants at Chernobyl had adapted to the high radiation when she said:

    (even though it does not seem that we have any examples of beneficial mutations among living things)
    (Though a side comment thats utter BS. Just this week there was an example of this in the news of plants near Chernobyl nuclear having adapted and thrived in the high radiation environment--many other examples exist.)
    This was a direct comment on my mention of the apparent lack of observed examples of beneficial mutations suggest that Lynx_Fox equates adaptations to be equal to mutations, which they are not.

    You, saul, then responded to that post with (in part) this:

    wheras in biology we see that evolution is always the result of parents of one species(in very rare occasions a new species could possibly arise from two different species) and some mutation which is either benificial or detrimental.
    So, technically, you were not the one who brought up Chernobyl, but you were surely playing off Lynx_Fox's post, as that is what you were commenting on. And, seemingly, several posters have taken up this theme that mutations and adaptations are the same. They are not.

    But, I will grant, there is nothing in your comments which can be more than tangently related to Chernobyl. As I later mentioned, it would appear that some of the flora and fauna of the area have experienced chromosome changes that definitely qualify as mutations -- it remains to be seen if these mutations will be beneficial or detrimental.

    Buuuuuttttt -- as this might relate to your original philosophical theory of religious evolution, you need to show the evolutionary mechanisms by which religion evolved and showing which religions evolved into which other religions.

    My point earlier was that Christianity appears to have been a dramatic mutation from Judaism rather than the minor slow gradual change you seemed to be suggesting.

    I think, overall, I was suggesting that religious evolution is as difficult to link together as is biological evolution. Certainly, there is apparent evolution among some religions, but not others.

    I am not sure of the evolution of the Jewish religion which tracks down through vastly pagan polytheistic Medo-Persian religions into the monotheistic religion based on the Abrahamic covenant. That, of course, is your burden to provide credence to what appears to be your theory that all religion is evolved from one basic early religion. Did Abraham's (actually Abram at that time) religion evolve or mutate from a preceding religion or did it appear as a bolt out of the blue completely new and unrelated to any other religion?

    However, I still remain skeptical as to the understanding of mutation as discussed based on my aside that I am unaware of any observed mutation which has been beneficial to any life form. No such examples of observed natural beneficial mutations have been offered. But there does seem to be a misguided willingness to ascribe changes that come through natural selection as being mutations. They are not.


    So, technically, you are correct -- you did not bring up the Chernobyl mutations. But I think you did make comments on it which would be technically, "talking about it." And it is you who has been using biological evolution as an analogous pattern for religious evolution. While the analogy may be useful to show some things, it will not be analogous to other things.
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

    If God DID do all of this, is He not the greatest scientist of all? -- dt, 2005
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  41. #40  
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    i find your latest post refreshing, although there are things i disagree with it is quite logical and easy to respond to.

    i don't think i said i was never talking about chernobyl, but only that i hadn't brought it up as the example. as far as the accuracy of fox's statements about it, a beneficial change in the natural phenotype of a population is adaptation. and it is adaptation without mutation if the gene which helps them to survive in high radiation existed before that. i do not have the time or money to go to chernobyl and take a sample of the plants myself, but if tests were done to show that the gene mutated there then your would certainly concede that there is at least one perfectly good example of a benificial mutation. and if it hadn't evolved there, could you not concede that human's do not posess this gene (as we certainly do not thrive in such an environment). well, assuming that there is a common ancestor between plantae and animalia(one would have to go back eons) then one could see that the mutation to create such a gene did in fact occur, and was not present in our common ancestor.

    essentially, the fact that the plants have such a trait that isn't shared with every other organism is proof that at some point there was a mutation to cause it.

    i am pressed for time and must go now, i will finish my response with an edit in about two hours.
    physics: accurate, objective, boring
    chemistry: accurate if physics is accurate, slightly subjective, you can blow stuff up
    biology: accurate if chemistry is accurate, somewhat subjective, fascinating
    religion: accurate if people are always right, highly subjective, bewildering
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  42. #41  
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    This was a direct comment on my mention of the apparent lack of observed examples of beneficial mutations suggest that Lynx_Fox equates adaptations to be equal to mutations, which they are not.
    No I don't, because successful adaptations depend on natural selection. You rule these out from your very statement. Variety of soybeans and flax have by genetic modification AND natural selection adapted to the high radiation environment around the disaster site. Without the radiation they wouldn't have the genetic variation which made more tolerant than their original strain; if removed from that environment they wouldn't need the genetic variance so might in time adapt to something less tolerant to radiation.

    And so we don't turn this into a biology discussion, I should point out that while memes and collections of memes we might call a religion can revert to an earlier form based on writings and oral traditions, biological evolution never goes backwards. The best it can do is adapt again to another environment which might resemble an ancestor species or if its adaptations haven't achieved full speciation it might interbreed and recombine with original form (such as subspecies Homo Sapien Neanderthals did with Europeans).
    Meteorologist/Naturalist & Retired Soldier
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