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Phillip Mercer

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Could turtles be intelligently designed?
« on: 08/03/2010 14:30:02 »
Phillip Mercer asked the Naked Scientists:
   
I heard your story about turtles moving through soft sand and how their flippers and angled perfectly and how to design a robot to do the same, it would take ages and many calculations.

With an animal so intricately suited to its environment, wouldn't saying that it came about by chance be the same as saying that the LHC, or a satellite, or even an automobile randomly came about by pure chance?

Is it that difficult to at least entertain the idea that Intelligent Design could be a possibility?

Kind Regards,

Phil Mercer

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 08/03/2010 14:30:02 by _system »


 

Offline Bored chemist

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Could turtles be intelligently designed?
« Reply #1 on: 08/03/2010 19:46:32 »
Phillip,
For that to make any kind of sense you would need a designer; so you  start with a turtle - which is complicated and then you end up having to explain the designer of the turtle. The trouble is that the designer would need to be even more complicated so something would have been needed (by your logic) to design the designer.
Unfortunately, this designer of designers would need to be more complicated still and so on.
So not only do you need to explain the turtle, but you need to explain an ionfinite series of increasingly complex designers.
At best, that's pointless.

 Also this bit
"With an animal so intricately suited to its environment, wouldn't saying that it came about by chance be the same as saying that the LHC, or a satellite, or even an automobile randomly came about by pure chance? "
shows that you simply don't understand how evolution works.
You may find this interesting.

So to answer your question
"Is it that difficult to at least entertain the idea that Intelligent Design could be a possibility?" .

It is very difficult to do so, it is also unnecessary, and unhelpful.

« Last Edit: 08/03/2010 19:51:10 by Bored chemist »
 

Offline Geezer

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Could turtles be intelligently designed?
« Reply #2 on: 08/03/2010 23:20:13 »
I've never tried breeding turtles, but I'm pretty sure that if I did, I'd be able to significantly modify some of their characteristics through unnatural selection. This suggests they are still quite capable of evolving.

If they were "designed", apparently they were designed in a way that allows them to mutate and evolve. If they had been designed properly in the first place, they would all be identical and they would have no need to evolve.

 

Offline Madidus_Scientia

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« Reply #3 on: 09/03/2010 05:54:42 »
wouldn't saying that it came about by chance be the same as saying that the LHC, or a satellite, or even an automobile randomly came about by pure chance?

Yes, it would be silly to attribute it to chance. Which is why I don't believe they came about by chance, I think they came about via the process of evolution.
 

Offline JP

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Could turtles be intelligently designed?
« Reply #4 on: 10/03/2010 03:55:11 »
You may find this interesting.

Amazing video.  Thanks for sharing it!
 

Offline Don_1

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Could turtles be intelligently designed?
« Reply #5 on: 10/03/2010 16:17:07 »
Oh dear.

So my little chums here

are having their marine cousins used in 'evidence' of a god or intelligent designer eh!

Well, they don't take too kindly to that accusation and asked me to point out that turtles have had some 300 million years of evolution to get to where they are today.

The earliest fossils of turtles show they had teeth and were only half shelled. They have come a way since then and learned how to survive mass extinctions and how to walk on sand, amongst other things.

Would you not think an intelligent designer would have designed them the way they are today in the first place? In fact, doesn't that go for all life? Or is this intelligent designer so unintelligent, that it took around 100 million years to get turtle design right?

No sir, turtles are not evidence of an intelligent designer, if anything, they are quite the contrary.
 

Offline stereologist

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Could turtles be intelligently designed?
« Reply #6 on: 10/03/2010 18:07:23 »
One of the tricky things for people to understand is that it is easy to mess with people's sense of what random means. Here you say pure chance.

In a coin toss there are only 2 outcomes - heads or tails. The number of outcomes is limited. The same with evolution. The number of outcomes that is limited. The changes are due to mutations. Some are detrimental. Some are supportive. Some might not have a noticeable effect. The most important issue is that there are only a limited number of choices. At any given point in the evolutionary process their is a limit to what can happen.

I have seen creationists state openly or imply that the number of choices is overwhelming large. That simply isn't true.
 

Offline Mazurka

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« Reply #7 on: 16/03/2010 16:55:54 »
The difficulty I have with Intelligent Design is that it is trying to dress up creation in a pseudo scientific way. 

1)If people wish to believe that god created the world (in 4004BC - or whenever) they are welcome to.  To be clear as, personally as a kind of geologist, I think they are wrong, but that is my own view.

2)If people wish to believe that life somehow emerged from the primordial soup and evolved over billions of years to the complexity we see today, they are welcome to.  In my view they are right and there is plenty of evidence to support this.

If people wish to believe that some entity that is not a god (or by definition they believe in god) came along and designed life they are not considering where the entity came from which logically is either 1)a god or 2)evolution on some distant planet. 
 

Offline norcalclimber

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Could turtles be intelligently designed?
« Reply #8 on: 18/03/2010 21:48:27 »
There is another form of intelligent design available though.  Epigenetics has shown us that DNA and evolution is far more complicated than we previously thought.  For instance, we can see from studies done with the stickleback fish among others, that it is very possible that many of the genes for large phenotypical changes are possibly present already in the DNA.  Epigenomic markers determines whether a specific gene is expressed at all, as well as how much it is expressed.  Stickleback fish bred away from their natural predators often cease expressing the protrusions which gave them their name.  This possibly gives us a clue as to how whales "lost" their legs.  In every study I have looked at, where the environment has been stressed in some way, the organism rapidly evolved into a more fit organism; often far quicker than we would expect from purely random mutations.  It is becoming increasingly obvious that life can and does evolve much faster than we previously thought.  Take the "nylon bug" for instance.

Possibly "intelligent design" is simply a local population evolving traits and changes because they will allow them to survive better, because they need to evolve.  Epigenetics proves life has found a way to manipulate DNA at least a little bit, perhaps life is actually capable of semi-directed mutation based on the experiences of the parent organism.

Could we even possibly make a guess as to when the ability to direct mutation may have first evolved?  From what I have read, life on Earth was extremely basic with very little diversity for the first ~3.5 billion years, then in a few hundred million years tens of thousands if not millions of new species showed up.  Could this be evidence for when "intelligent design" or epigenomic markers first evolved?
 

Offline Samvolta

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Could turtles be intelligently designed?
« Reply #9 on: 24/03/2010 16:40:46 »
The outcome of evolutionary traits are almost limitless though there are obviously boundaries. Intelligent design works well if a turtle simply appeared, but turtles evolved in the late Triassic period from various other ancestors. Where did they come from? The randomness of evolution is too mind boggling in complexity to map every single mutation that led to the evolution of the turtle for example. Before the turtle, there were a myriad of different traits expressed in creatures leading up to the "finished product". It's too slow of a process to be considered an intelligent design. With evolution, the thousands of mutations that occur due to environmental pressures such as soft sand, the turtle would have adapted over millions of years to combat any inconvenience to the species.
 

Offline echochartruse

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Could turtles be intelligently designed?
« Reply #10 on: 26/03/2010 01:40:36 »
Phillip,
For that to make any kind of sense you would need a designer;

Maybe Mother Nature & Father Time
 

Offline echochartruse

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Could turtles be intelligently designed?
« Reply #11 on: 26/03/2010 01:55:42 »
The outcome of evolutionary traits are almost limitless though there are obviously boundaries. Intelligent design works well if a turtle simply appeared, but turtles evolved in the late Triassic period from various other ancestors.

Earth did not always have turtles. We do now.
Did turtles always exist? Was it just the same species doing adaptaions to the surrounding
environment? Did an entirely new species come from another species?
did the kangaroo climb a tree to become a possum then decide to climb down and becoem a rock wallaby? then why didnt they all become possums?

Survival of the fittest, why didnt they all become one species what changed some to be another species, dont they know humans are top of the evolution chain. What part of evolution makes some species realise that they are needed for the survival of other species?

Sorry I have so many questions, I would like to understand.
 

Offline Geezer

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Could turtles be intelligently designed?
« Reply #12 on: 26/03/2010 05:43:15 »
Hi!

Echo, are you proposing an alternative theory to the theory of evolution as originally proposed by Darwin?

If so, please go for it!

TNS may not be the best place for you to propose a new theory, but if you want to present it here, we will do our best to ensure that your theory is reviewed and critiqued without prejudice.

Please understand that a theory is always a theory. It is never a "fact". A theory becomes accepted by the scientific community when very few scientists are willing to argue against it

The onus is on the presenter to convince "the community" that there is sufficient evidence to justify the theory. It is never the other way around.
 

Offline echochartruse

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Could turtles be intelligently designed?
« Reply #13 on: 26/03/2010 08:46:07 »
I'm the one asking the questions here not proposing anything
 

Offline BenV

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« Reply #14 on: 26/03/2010 11:43:21 »
Earth did not always have turtles. We do now.
Did turtles always exist?
No, but the precursor to turtles has existed for a very long time.

Was it just the same species doing adaptaions to the surrounding environment? Did an entirely new species come from another species?
Essentially yes, but you shouldn't get hung up on the idea of different species.  "Species" are, after all, just labels that humans put on different things.

did the kangaroo climb a tree to become a possum then decide to climb down and becoem a rock wallaby? then why didnt they all become possums?

There was once an ancestor of all these animals.  Some of these (for whatever reason) spent more time in the trees - this population were then subject to the selection pressure of arborial life, and eventually became the species we now call the possum.  Other populations of this ancestor species moved into other environments, and different selective pressures acted.

Survival of the fittest, why didnt they all become one species what changed some to be another species, dont they know humans are top of the evolution chain.

This is due to the fact that several different things can be the "fittest" for different ways of life in the same area - each one specialising towards a different way of life.

Humans are not special - we're not top of the evolution chain - every extant species is the pinnacle of evolution.

What part of evolution makes some species realise that they are needed for the survival of other species?
No species does this (except humans, who do realise how reliant we are on other species) - all species merely adapt to the local conditions.  Local conditions includes the other species present.
« Last Edit: 26/03/2010 12:43:50 by BenV »
 

Offline Geezer

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Could turtles be intelligently designed?
« Reply #15 on: 27/03/2010 07:49:35 »
I'm the one asking the questions here not proposing anything

Actually, Phillip Mercer is the one who asked the question. You can, of course, ask your own question by starting a new topic at any time.
 

Offline echochartruse

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Could turtles be intelligently designed?
« Reply #16 on: 28/03/2010 23:49:33 »
If they were "designed", apparently they were designed in a way that allows them to mutate and evolve. If they had been designed properly in the first place, they would all be identical and they would have no need to evolve.

If something can evolve to suit its environment, which has been established happens, then wouldn't any one think that there is some intelligents about it?


 

Offline rosy

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« Reply #17 on: 29/03/2010 08:55:24 »
Quote
If something can evolve to suit its environment, which has been established happens, then wouldn't any one think that there is some intelligents about it?
Um... no? Evolution is a necessary condition for life to survive in an environment which changes (not least as the result of living things trying to live in it). If one understands how evolution works, no other explanation is necessary.. abiogenesis, the origin of life from the "chemical soup" is a different and at present a much more interesting question and one that we haven't really answered as yet.
There are an awful lot of people out there (as evinced by the selection of google ads I'm looking at whilst typing this) who really, really want to Believe that it was all done by some "higher intelligence", and hey, maybe it was.. the thing about "higher intelligence"s is that we humans can attribute to them any properties we care to, but there's not a jot of evidence one exists (and the things we have to invoke them to explain get smaller and smaller as our understanding of the universe around us gets better.
If you want to Believe, go ahead and Believe, but it's going to have to be a matter of Faith and not of proovable fact.
 

Offline norcalclimber

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Could turtles be intelligently designed?
« Reply #18 on: 29/03/2010 17:36:37 »
Quote
If something can evolve to suit its environment, which has been established happens, then wouldn't any one think that there is some intelligents about it?
Um... no? Evolution is a necessary condition for life to survive in an environment which changes (not least as the result of living things trying to live in it). If one understands how evolution works, no other explanation is necessary.. abiogenesis, the origin of life from the "chemical soup" is a different and at present a much more interesting question and one that we haven't really answered as yet.
There are an awful lot of people out there (as evinced by the selection of google ads I'm looking at whilst typing this) who really, really want to Believe that it was all done by some "higher intelligence", and hey, maybe it was.. the thing about "higher intelligence"s is that we humans can attribute to them any properties we care to, but there's not a jot of evidence one exists (and the things we have to invoke them to explain get smaller and smaller as our understanding of the universe around us gets better.
If you want to Believe, go ahead and Believe, but it's going to have to be a matter of Faith and not of proovable fact.

Perhaps I am the one misinterpreting.... but it seems to me that echo is saying that the life itself which evolved to suit it's environment is the "intelligence", not some "higher power".  Personally, life seems extremely intelligent.... all I have to do is look around and I see some pretty incredible things which "life" came up with.  This doesn't make me believe in a "god", but it does make me suspect that life is far more complex than we realize.
 

Offline rosy

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« Reply #19 on: 29/03/2010 18:24:35 »
Hm. It's just possible we have an English-to-English translation issue here... 

My interpretation of "intelligent" includes not only doing stuff, but doing it to achieve an end. That might be me typing a comment on a forum, or my cat mewing for food or even, at a pinch, an insect jumping out of the way of a descending boot. Molecules, and when it comes right down to it the bits of life that aren't just molecules responding to their environment are insignificant compared to the bits that are (consider the full glory of an ATP cleaving, hydrogen pumping protein), can't have intelligence in this sense.

Evolution does (amazing!) stuff, but it's all done by tiny random changes (which may have large effects, or small effects, or effects which are only of cumulative importance). That's not, to my mind, either intelligence or design, it's just monumentally cool...

Once you start attributing "intelligence", in the means-to-an-end sense, to the processes of life, I'd say you're either invoking (whether you know it or not) a higher power, or attributing an equivalent level of intelligence to the little pots of (very simple) chemical soups currently stirring in my fumehood in the lab. I hold my hand up to suspecting them of being malicious, but then I'm a PhD student and I think I'm just being paranoid on that one.

Survival isn't an objective for life (although it may become so for life-forms), it's the end result of a whole lot of coincidences (those individuals which take a cautious approach to lions survive, those who don't, don't, and only the former pass on either genes or learnt behaviours).
 

Offline norcalclimber

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« Reply #20 on: 29/03/2010 20:32:38 »
Hm. It's just possible we have an English-to-English translation issue here... 

My interpretation of "intelligent" includes not only doing stuff, but doing it to achieve an end. That might be me typing a comment on a forum, or my cat mewing for food or even, at a pinch, an insect jumping out of the way of a descending boot. Molecules, and when it comes right down to it the bits of life that aren't just molecules responding to their environment are insignificant compared to the bits that are (consider the full glory of an ATP cleaving, hydrogen pumping protein), can't have intelligence in this sense.

Evolution does (amazing!) stuff, but it's all done by tiny random changes (which may have large effects, or small effects, or effects which are only of cumulative importance). That's not, to my mind, either intelligence or design, it's just monumentally cool...

Once you start attributing "intelligence", in the means-to-an-end sense, to the processes of life, I'd say you're either invoking (whether you know it or not) a higher power, or attributing an equivalent level of intelligence to the little pots of (very simple) chemical soups currently stirring in my fumehood in the lab. I hold my hand up to suspecting them of being malicious, but then I'm a PhD student and I think I'm just being paranoid on that one.

Survival isn't an objective for life (although it may become so for life-forms), it's the end result of a whole lot of coincidences (those individuals which take a cautious approach to lions survive, those who don't, don't, and only the former pass on either genes or learnt behaviours).

Wow, if you honestly believe all the components of life are just monumental coincidences then you really have a tremendous amount of faith.

We also now know that evolution is not just "random changes".  It is still up for debate how much is actually "random", but without a shadow of a doubt we can see that epigenetics plays a huge part in DNA.  Epigenetics is the software which decides how to run the DNA code, and epigenetics is specifically influenced by choices made in the life of the organism.  Please watch "Was Darwin Wrong?" by Naked Science, at the end they discuss epigenetics a little bit; Pay close attention to what they tell us we are learning.

You can break up life into individual bases, but that is no longer life.  Life (as we know it) contains either DNA or RNA.  When you go smaller than that, it is no longer life but rather the components of life.  At that level, it may be purely chemical reaction.  Saying that the individual bases which are used to build life, are actually life, would be like saying a tire is a car.  Life, does in fact try to survive.  An individual tries to survive however it can, and a species tries to survive(through procreation) however it can.  A specific base may not have intelligence, but single celled bacteria certainly does... even though it is just a collection of bases.
 

Offline rosy

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« Reply #21 on: 29/03/2010 21:57:08 »
Quote
Wow, if you honestly believe all the components of life are just monumental coincidences then you really have a tremendous amount of faith.
You think so? Not really. The combination of random mutation and selection over a very long time seems to me to be a perfectly adequate explanation.
Yes, I know what epigenetics is.
Yes, epigenetics is important to what happens to an individual, that's not news. Barr bodies have been known about for years, and  which X chromosome it is that folds up is inherited between cells within an individual (including the effect to which carriers of haemophilia are themselves deficient in whichever-clotting-factor-it-is, and, according to my 1st year cell biology lecturer, tortoiseshell cats).
Certainly one might expect some epigenetic effects to carry over between generations.
And this is all very interesting. But I fail to see how it supports your vitalist speculations. All this talk of the "choices" organisms make.. do E. coli make choices in any meaningful sense? Do hair follicles? Hair follicles are on the face of it much more complicated cells than E. coli. Are you attributing this intelligence to some sort of "life force"? You seem to privilege the DNA polymer over individual bases, why? Do you believe DNA/RNA is in some way special (beyond the fact that it happens to form the basis of the genome?
I just can't work out where you imagine this "intelligence" works its way in. Can you explain?
« Last Edit: 29/03/2010 22:05:03 by rosy »
 

Offline norcalclimber

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« Reply #22 on: 29/03/2010 23:09:50 »
Quote
Wow, if you honestly believe all the components of life are just monumental coincidences then you really have a tremendous amount of faith.
You think so? Not really. The combination of random mutation and selection over a very long time seems to me to be a perfectly adequate explanation.
Yes, I know what epigenetics is.
Yes, epigenetics is important to what happens to an individual, that's not news. Barr bodies have been known about for years, and  which X chromosome it is that folds up is inherited between cells within an individual (including the effect to which carriers of haemophilia are themselves deficient in whichever-clotting-factor-it-is, and, according to my 1st year cell biology lecturer, tortoiseshell cats).
Certainly one might expect some epigenetic effects to carry over between generations.
And this is all very interesting. But I fail to see how it supports your vitalist speculations. All this talk of the "choices" organisms make.. do E. coli make choices in any meaningful sense? Do hair follicles? Hair follicles are on the face of it much more complicated cells than E. coli. Are you attributing this intelligence to some sort of "life force"? You seem to privilege the DNA polymer over individual bases, why? Do you believe DNA/RNA is in some way special (beyond the fact that it happens to form the basis of the genome?
I just can't work out where you imagine this "intelligence" works its way in. Can you explain?

And that is the crux of it.

Where is the line which delineates consciousness from purely chemical reaction?  Where does "choice" come in?

I really don't know.  But I do know that the more we understand about life, the more complex and dynamic we see it really is.  Purely random is already an abstract, because no matter what there is always a limited range of possibilities at the molecular level.  The more dynamic and complex we see life actually is, the more the range of possibilities appears to have been limited even further.  There is always an inherent random nature, this allows diversity.  But there is a separate level of control as well, which keeps a population stable enough to continue to reproduce.  I have no idea how exactly this control is exerted, how it gathers information, or how it makes choices.  But in the past 200 or so years of research, we have repeatedly seen that life is capable of evolving far more rapidly than we previously thought.  We have also seen that even significant phenotypical changes can occur without even changing the DNA.  We are discovering that what we used to think was "junk DNA" is actually critical.  I do feel that all life as we know it has some programmed desire for immortality, but I do not pretend to know where it came from nor do I think it is supernatural in any way.
 

Offline echochartruse

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Could turtles be intelligently designed?
« Reply #23 on: 30/03/2010 05:30:40 »


Perhaps I am the one misinterpreting.... but it seems to me that echo is saying that the life itself which evolved to suit it's environment is the "intelligence", not some "higher power".  Personally, life seems extremely intelligent.... all I have to do is look around and I see some pretty incredible things which "life" came up with.  This doesn't make me believe in a "god", but it does make me suspect that life is far more complex than we realize.

Thank you for putting it right, exactly what I meant
 

Offline Geezer

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« Reply #24 on: 30/03/2010 05:53:54 »
[There is always an inherent random nature, this allows diversity.  But there is a separate level of control as well, which keeps a population stable enough to continue to reproduce.  I have no idea how exactly this control is exerted, how it gathers information, or how it makes choices.  But in the past 200 or so years of research, we have repeatedly seen that life is capable of evolving far more rapidly than we previously thought.  We have also seen that even significant phenotypical changes can occur without even changing the DNA.  We are discovering that what we used to think was "junk DNA" is actually critical.


These are good questions. However, if you are going to assert that these are scientifically proven theories, you really need to provide some support for them. Failing that, it's really just your opinion. Nothing wrong with having an opinion of course, but you really should try to distinguish between the two.

TNS tries to keep things upbeat and lighthearted. Science does not have to be boring, but TNS is also very interested in supporting proven scientific theory and all the incredibly painstaking research that goes along with it.

TNS also welcomes new theories too, which is why TNS has a forum for new theories.
 

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Could turtles be intelligently designed?
« Reply #24 on: 30/03/2010 05:53:54 »

 

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