Could we be supreme beings ?

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Offline neilep

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Could we be supreme beings ?
« on: 06/12/2005 17:05:09 »
I have placed this question here in this ' just chat ' section because it has some non scientific overtones and although I am an athiest/agnostic I thought it might be interesting to get your learned opinions on it.

Is it reasonable to assume that in our far far far distant future , that we will have the ability to create a life form and deposit it on a planet of our own construction., and that life their will evolve into a sentient society ?

What would be the  ramifications for that society ?…would we be God ?

Perhaps there are Beings with this capability already, and they are wending their way creating life forms and societies in their own happy corner of the Cosmos.
What if us and our own planet is one of them ?

Is it  plausible that one day we shall be able to do this ?

If you feel this quetsion should not be here on this forum then I shall be happy...Nay..delighted beyond my 4 months old giggles and smiles to delete it.

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #1 on: 06/12/2005 19:13:28 »
I don't think we're that far from being able to create a life-form now. It is far from implausible that genetic manipulation will allow new species to be created within the next few decades.

Will we ever be able to construct a planet? That, I think, is more uncertain. Just the sheer weight of raw materials needed would push such a project firmly into the realms of Larry Niven & his ilk.

Would our newly-created life-form develop sentience? Well, I don't see any reason why not if the DNA we used to construct it came from already-sentient creatures.
Would that life-form worship us as gods? Who knows! It has been suggested by certain anthropologists that the worship of a higher being is inherent in humans. As of yet there is no evidence of it in even the most advanced of our simian cousins. However, the vast majority of even the most "primitive" of civilisations have some form of religion, so maybe that is indeed the case.
Moreover, our new creatures could be guided in that direction by our own intervention. Knowing the propensity for being hero-worshipped that is displayed by many humans, I would see that as a distinct possibility.

Our we & our planet constructs by a more advanced civilisation? There have been a few suggestions of this type. I hesitate to call them theories as to my mind that puts them on too firm a scientific footing. As far as I can tell, most are based on the same kind of misinterpretations and downright falsified "evidence" as Von Daniken's "Chariot Of The Gods". It might be impossible to ever prove either way.
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another_someone

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #2 on: 06/12/2005 20:39:40 »
First question – what is life?

Second question – what do you mean by 'create life'?

We, as all animals, are capable of creating life – it is known as reproduction.  What may be more in line with what you are asking is whether we can design a living entity.

The problem with the notion of designing life is that our scientific understanding of life is that it is not designed, but evolves.  As such, the most one can ask is whether we could design the initial living entity (or its precursor) which, if it is truly living, would then evolve into something beyond that which we designed.

So, I suppose one might rephrase the question to ask whether we are capable of designing a novel self-reproducing entity that is capable of evolution.  Is that sufficient for your definition of life, or would you wish to add some further constraints in order to define something as living?

Insofar as the above definition goes, we can already produce such entities within the confines of a computer, but not yet in the outside world.

As Dr Beaver mentions, I think the greater problem would be in the realms of planet creation.  Creating a small asteroid, that maybe possible; but the amount of matter and energy that would be required to create an Earth sized planet does seem quite enormous, let alone the problems of finding an appropriate (and unoccupied) orbit around some star that it might be placed in, and then actually moving it into that orbit.

Would we be Gods?  It rather depends upon what you define as a God.  Would we be any less devil than we would be God – and who could tell one from the other?

Would they believe us to be Gods – well, their perception and our reality need by no means be the same thing, and who and what they considered to be Gods would depend upon their perception and understanding of reality.  Since our creation could not pre-exist its own creation, it could not know who created it, except that we might inform it that we created it – but than, how can it know that our information is correct?

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Offline neilep

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #3 on: 06/12/2005 21:22:00 »
Thank you both for your very interesting and thought provoking replies.

I shall do my best to be more pedantic in my choice of words. Aren't semantics a nuisance sometimes ?

When I posed the question I thought it might just be taken for granted and assumed that I meant 1: the life that we create is able to evolve and become sentient and that 2: I have no doubt that (assuming we do not anhiliate ourselves or some catastrophe does not destroy us)...then I see no reason why we should not be able to make a planet....Please don't apply our current ways of thinking and abilities to the future !!

 We may in time be able to create something from nothing on a planetary scale.....even a dyson sphere !

If we have to agree on definitions on everything before we proceed then we're not going anywhere.

I also believe that we may even be able to control the sun so that it does not destroy us. However, Our lives are destined for the other side of the atmosphere....It's a neccisity for our survival and so we are either going to have to find a way to find habitable planets and then somehow get there...or create our own...maybe create many.

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Offline ukmicky

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #4 on: 06/12/2005 21:51:44 »
Hi Neil. I can't see us ever colonising other planets, because we find it to hard just getting off earth. And unless someone does the impossible and invents anti-gravity and then goes on to find a way to bypass the effects of relativity  the furthest we will be going is mars and even then it will be a case of the few rather than the masses.

Michael                                      
« Last Edit: 06/12/2005 21:52:25 by ukmicky »

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #5 on: 06/12/2005 22:34:20 »
quote:
And unless someone does the impossible and invents anti-gravity...


Who says that's impossible? All you have to do is turn the mass of your spaceship negative and instantly you're travelling FTL.
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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #6 on: 06/12/2005 23:16:47 »
quote:
Originally posted by ukmicky

Hi Neil. I can't see us ever colonising other planets, because we find it to hard just getting off earth. And unless someone does the impossible and invents anti-gravity and then goes on to find a way to bypass the effects of relativity  the furthest we will be going is mars and even then it will be a case of the few rather than the masses.



It depends upon what one means by 'we'.

As humans, I doubt we will be able to travel the many light years to foreign stars, but it is plausible that we would create machines (possibly even artificial life) that might be able to do the journey.

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #7 on: 06/12/2005 23:44:51 »
quote:
Originally posted by neilep

When I posed the question I thought it might just be taken for granted and assumed that I meant 1: the life that we create is able to evolve and become sentient and that 2: I have no doubt that (assuming we do not anhiliate ourselves or some catastrophe does not destroy us)...then I see no reason why we should not be able to make a planet....Please don't apply our current ways of thinking and abilities to the future !!




So you wish us to think about a problem but not use current thinking to do it with.  It would be nice to think is some way as our descendent of many generations time would (though, to be fair, it might be very terrifying to do so), but alas the only thought I can perform is that which is the here and now.  I could no more think the thoughts of the 26th century than someone of the neolithic age could think as I think.  I may fantasise, but such fantasy would be as meaningful as the religious thoughts of our ancestors.

What we might ask is, whatever we might be able to do, what is it that we wish to achieve by doing it?  I am not saying we would have no reason for doing such a thing, but without knowing what is the final intent, we cannot know exactly what the details of the implementation might be.

quote:

I also believe that we may even be able to control the sun so that it does not destroy us. However, Our lives are destined for the other side of the atmosphere....It's a neccisity for our survival and so we are either going to have to find a way to find habitable planets and then somehow get there...or create our own...maybe create many.



You are assuming an immortality of the human species.

We have never achieved an immortality for the human individual, and no species has previously been any more able to achieve immortality as a species than the individuals have achieved immortality as individuals.  Is it reasonable to expect that humans, as either a species any more than as individuals, be able to achieve immortality?

One of the major limiting factors in interstellar travel (even more so for intergalactic travel) is the mortality of us as individuals.  So, in many ways, the immortality of the species is closely bound to the problems of the mortality of the individual.  The problem is that if we achieve immortality, either as individuals, or as a species, we will have effectively undermined evolution.  Evolution can only work by the death of the old and birth of the new.  If the death fails, then there is no room for the birth, and no possibility of a new tomorrow.

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Offline neilep

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #8 on: 07/12/2005 00:01:21 »
I am saying that surely it's a limitation when it comes to prediction or speculation about the future when the tools that we have are the ideas and knowledge of today and that perhaps when recognising this we can allow for creative imagination to assist us in our deliberations.

well, Yes..I suppose I am assuming the longeivity of humans as a species, it's about the only thing that I, as a pessimist allow myself to be optimistic about (well...there may be a few othe things too)

I realise our ability to live for interstellar periods is impossible..today...but tommorrow ?..in a thousand years ?...who knows ? I may be part cyborg...or all android, perhaps that's the future for astronauts !!..there may be a way to stop/pause the aging process or slow it down to a grinding halt, perhaps evolution can be human made too. Does one really have to die to aid continuity to evolution ?


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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #9 on: 07/12/2005 00:19:25 »
Evolution relies on the mutation of DNA. I don't see any reason why, in the future, we couldn't effect such changes in living creatures including ourselves. Admittedly, I doubt we could ever turn ourselves into fish overnight!
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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #10 on: 07/12/2005 01:42:59 »
quote:
Originally posted by neilep
I realise our ability to live for interstellar periods is impossible..today...but tommorrow ?..in a thousand years ?...who knows ? I may be part cyborg...or all android, perhaps that's the future for astronauts !!..there may be a way to stop/pause the aging process or slow it down to a grinding halt, perhaps evolution can be human made too. Does one really have to die to aid continuity to evolution


But that is the point – if you are android, then you are not human, then evolution will have moved on from humanity to androidanity.  True, it may be that the move from human to android may in some way be a continuum, where the society of androids will merely be a continuation of the historic society of humans, but we/they will no longer be humans, and humans as a species will be dead.

This, I think, to in no way be an implausible scenario.  Already, we have the seeds of our own destruction, not in the weapons we so much fear, but in our refusal to reproduce.  I have seen speculation that the human species will peek at 9 billion persons at around 2070, and after that start a gradual process of decline.  While this is ongoing, we are integrating machines ever more into our society.  Not yet recognisable androids, maybe we shall never actually replace humans with things that look like humans, but they are nonetheless taking on the jobs of humans, and ever more performing the roles within human society that were once performed by humans.  It is the increased use of machines that allows us to get away with a diminishing human population without causing serious harm to human society.  It would be wrong to say that the transition will be without any pain, all change involves some pain; but it is nonetheless a transition that is possible.

I am not saying that by 2080 every human will be replaced by a machine, but increasingly we already substitute machine labour for human labour, and as human labour becomes scarcer, so there will be incentives for machine labour to become ever more ubiquitous, and as machine labour becomes ever more the norm, so the remaining human labour will become ever more redundant, and thus the cycle feeds upon itself.

These machines, taking upon themselves the mantle of their human creators, could easily perform long distance space travel.

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #11 on: 07/12/2005 01:52:14 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver

Evolution relies on the mutation of DNA. I don't see any reason why, in the future, we couldn't effect such changes in living creatures including ourselves. Admittedly, I doubt we could ever turn ourselves into fish overnight!



Not at all.  To mutate means nothing more or nothing less than to change.  DNA mutation is one means of mutation, but mutation can be anything that effects a change that allows one system to take a niche previously occupied by another system (for system you can read animal, or anything else that can perform the requisite function, and that is capable of self-replication).

The important thing about evolution is that it is not something one can do to oneself.  Evolution depends upon the constraints the environment places upon the units operating within it.  The units cannot dictate to evolution how they should evolve, only the external environment is capable of doing that.

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #12 on: 07/12/2005 02:24:25 »
quote:
but mutation can be anything that effects a change that allows one system to take a niche previously occupied by another system (for system you can read animal, or anything else that can perform the requisite function, and that is capable of self-replication)


I don't agree. Grey squirrels are taking over habitats previously occupied by reds & there is no mutation involved in that.

I don't know the exact definition of "mutation" but I take it to mean a sudden change in structure that would not occur in normal reproduction. That is certainly how mutation is thought of in genetics. Ordinarily, DNA exactly reproduces itself. Mutations occur when something happens to cause the DNA not to replicate exactly.

 
quote:
The important thing about evolution is that it is not something one can do to oneself. Evolution depends upon the constraints the environment places upon the units operating within it. The units cannot dictate to evolution how they should evolve, only the external environment is capable of doing that.


Again, I beg to differ; that may be the case in the natural world, but not in the laboratory.
The hybridization of plants has been going on for ages. Growers have produced variations that will grow readily in different soil types. Such hybridization is caused by forced mutation & mutation, as I stated above, is the method of evolution. Therefore, by hybridizing plants we are causing evolution into different types. GM crops are a case in point. They are merely artificial mutations of existing strains of crops.
We are also forcing faster evolution into species by means other than genetic manipulation. I read recently that battery hens are giving birth to chicks whose legs are smaller. By restricting the movement of these hens, we are causing their legs to become superfluous & this is being reflected in the chicks (Bad news for the chicken leg industry!). This definitely is a case of an organism adapting to better suit its environment; but it is the actions of humans that is causing it.
I think confusion arises because most people consider evolution to be a very-long-term process. By forcing mutations we are merely speeding up what may have eventually occured naturally.
As such I see no reason why humans should not force their own evolution. By identifying cancer-causing genes (or whatever it turns out to be) and either eradicating them or switching them off, we would, if these modified genes were allowed to propogate through natural reproductive means, have forced a mutation upon ourselves & caused our own evolution into a cancer-resistant species.
« Last Edit: 07/12/2005 02:36:03 by DoctorBeaver »
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Offline neilep

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #13 on: 07/12/2005 06:12:54 »
Surely the evolution of humans is affected by the way and how humans live, where we live, what we live in and the tools that we use in everyday life, be it a razor to shave or a train to travel in.......Is it plausible that the very method of our ways of living, using the tools that humans have created, affects evolution ?

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #14 on: 07/12/2005 12:21:55 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver

I don't agree. Grey squirrels are taking over habitats previously occupied by reds & there is no mutation involved in that.

I don't know the exact definition of "mutation" but I take it to mean a sudden change in structure that would not occur in normal reproduction. That is certainly how mutation is thought of in genetics. Ordinarily, DNA exactly reproduces itself. Mutations occur when something happens to cause the DNA not to replicate exactly.



http://www.dict.org/bin/Dict?Form=Dict1&Database=*&Strategy=*&Query=mutation
quote:

mutation \mu*ta"tion\ (m[-u]*t[=a]"sh[u^]n), n. [L. mutatio, fr.
     mutare to change: cf. F. mutation. See Mutable.]
     Change; alteration, either in form or qualities.
     [1913 Webster]
 
           The vicissitude or mutations in the superior globe are
           no fit matter for this present argument. --Bacon.
     [1913 Webster]



Mutation has a wider meaning, and a meaning that precedes the discovery of DNA.  DNA is a possible mechanism of mutation, one that applies only to organisms governed in their form by their DNA.

With regard to the issue of red and grey squirrels, ofcourse there was mutation involved.  It may not have been the mutation of the red squirrel that formed the grey squirrel, but something mutated from something.

I suppose in one respect I was inaccurate, in the implicit assumption that the mutation (of the species) is what allows the species to take over the niche, in fact it is more commonly a preceding mutation followed by an environmental change that allows the new species an advantage over the older (but not necessarily parent) species.  But, this is merely the way things tend to happen, not a limiting criteria that require them to happen that way.

quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver
 
quote:
The important thing about evolution is that it is not something one can do to oneself. Evolution depends upon the constraints the environment places upon the units operating within it. The units cannot dictate to evolution how they should evolve, only the external environment is capable of doing that.


Again, I beg to differ; that may be the case in the natural world, but not in the laboratory.
The hybridization of plants has been going on for ages. Growers have produced variations that will grow readily in different soil types. Such hybridization is caused by forced mutation & mutation, as I stated above, is the method of evolution. Therefore, by hybridizing plants we are causing evolution into different types. GM crops are a case in point. They are merely artificial mutations of existing strains of crops.



You have missed my point (and are again making an artificial distinction between human induced change and non-human induced change).

What I said is that an organism cannot govern its own evolution.  In your example, humans are a part of the environment of the plant, and it is the environment (the humans) that govern the changes in plants, not the plants that dictate their own changes.

quote:

As such I see no reason why humans should not force their own evolution. By identifying cancer-causing genes (or whatever it turns out to be) and either eradicating them or switching them off, we would, if these modified genes were allowed to propogate through natural reproductive means, have forced a mutation upon ourselves & caused our own evolution into a cancer-resistant species.



This is an interesting issue because it is subject to multiple views.  In such a scenario, is it humans that choose to change themselves, or is it humans that are being forced to change by whatever creates the cancer?

Ofcourse, all of this even assumes that eradicating cancer is a good thing.  The fact is that in the industrialised world, as fast as we extend longevity, so even faster we reduce fecundity.  Could we end up being an almost immortal, but totally infertile, species; and as such, is that really in the interests of the human species, or would it in fact give an opportunity for some other fast breeding species to overtake us?  In times of environmental stability, longevity can often be a more efficient use of resources; but during times of rapid environmental fluctuations, rapid reproduction and high mortality can give a species the opportunity to rapidly adjust its population to the prevailing conditions.

Thus, even if one accepts the eradication of cancer to be a matter of free choice, rather than merely a response to our environment; it is still the environment, and not us, which determines if that choice leads to a successful outcome or not.
« Last Edit: 07/12/2005 13:18:34 by another_someone »

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #15 on: 07/12/2005 12:27:10 »
quote:
Originally posted by neilep

Surely the evolution of humans is affected by the way and how humans live, where we live, what we live in and the tools that we use in everyday life, be it a razor to shave or a train to travel in.......Is it plausible that the very method of our ways of living, using the tools that humans have created, affects evolution ?



In part this is true, but what it has not done is create speciation.  We are still the same species we were tens of thousands of years ago.  We have changed in such details as height, IQ, size of jaw, colour of skin; and these have been adaptations to our environment, but they are changes in breed/race, not in species.

But even the changes we have had depend upon the mortality of the individual, just as the evolution of new species depend upon the mortality of the old species.

As a comparison, we could never introduce more advanced cars (or other forms of transport) unless we were capable of retiring from service their antiquated predecessors.  One can to a limited degree retrofit new components to old models of vehicle, but ultimately one will come to a point where one cannot keep patching up the old, and has to work with a new design from the ground up.

Immortality of the component parts of an evolutionary system condemns a system to be frozen in time.
« Last Edit: 07/12/2005 12:51:54 by another_someone »

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #16 on: 07/12/2005 13:57:32 »
quote:
What I said is that an organism cannot govern its own evolution. In your example, humans are a part of the environment of the plant, and it is the environment (the humans) that govern the changes in plants, not the plants that dictate their own changes.


I wasn't implying that plants govern their own evolution. I was leading up to the point that by messing with genes we are already creating new species or, at least, new variants of species. (my knowledge of taxonomy is non-existant so I don't know if "species" is the correct term or whether I should have used "genus")

According to that link you included, it seems my definition of mutation was pretty much accurate. I didn't realise, however, that scientists apply it only to naturally-occurring changes & not to those induced by human intervention. (I'm sure, though, that when I read about that mouse with a giant ear on its back it was referred to as a mutation)
« Last Edit: 07/12/2005 14:03:39 by DoctorBeaver »
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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #17 on: 07/12/2005 14:19:10 »
quote:
One can to a limited degree retrofit new components to old models of vehicle, but ultimately one will come to a point where one cannot keep patching up the old, and has to work with a new design from the ground up.


Tell that to Microsoft! [:D]
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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #18 on: 07/12/2005 15:49:14 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver

quote:
What I said is that an organism cannot govern its own evolution. In your example, humans are a part of the environment of the plant, and it is the environment (the humans) that govern the changes in plants, not the plants that dictate their own changes.


I wasn't implying that plants govern their own evolution. I was leading up to the point that by messing with genes we are already creating new species or, at least, new variants of species. (my knowledge of taxonomy is non-existant so I don't know if "species" is the correct term or whether I should have used "genus")

According to that link you included, it seems my definition of mutation was pretty much accurate. I didn't realise, however, that scientists apply it only to naturally-occurring changes & not to those induced by human intervention. (I'm sure, though, that when I read about that mouse with a giant ear on its back it was referred to as a mutation)



I accept that we are capable of mutating species.  For the most part, as you say, whether what we create is a new species or just a new breed is a diversion.  But the point is that mutation is only the first requirement of evolution.  The second requirement is that the mutated entity be successful within the environment, and that cannot be determined by the organism itself, but by the nature of its environment.

As I said, we may be able to someday cure cancer, but we cannot dictate that the cure for cancer will actually enhance the survival of the species (as distinct from from the survival of the individual).

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #19 on: 07/12/2005 16:03:10 »
quote:
I accept that we are capable of mutating species. For the most part, as you say, whether what we create is a new species or just a new breed is a diversion. But the point is that mutation is only the first requirement of evolution. The second requirement is that the mutated entity be successful within the environment, and that cannot be determined by the organism itself, but by the nature of its environment.


I agree; although how long would a species need to survive before being labelled as successful? There was a lot of evolution involved with dinosaurs - and they were around for a very long time - but ultimately they failed.
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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #20 on: 07/12/2005 16:49:00 »
I thought it was generally considered that Dino died out due to a cataclysmic collision or some Earthbound disaster....personally I just think they upped and went off planet hopping !

Thank you guys for the fascinating posts.

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #21 on: 07/12/2005 19:51:43 »
Plenty of species of dinosaur died out before the cataclysm
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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #22 on: 07/12/2005 20:18:47 »
quote:
Originally posted by neilep

I thought it was generally considered that Dino died out due to a cataclysmic collision or some Earthbound disaster....personally I just think they upped and went off planet hopping !



Not sure how relevant it is to talk of dinosaurs as a collective group.  It certainly was not a single species, and as far as I can ascertain, there was a considerable degree of variety amongst them.

What we can say is that they were big, and lived around the same time, and most of them died out around 65 million years ago.

What we can say is that around 65 million years ago, most of the species of big animals alive at the time perished.  The interesting question must be what was different about those species that did not perish.

I would posit that the reason they survived was in fact just because they were less successful, they were less efficient at utilising the opportunities the environment provided them, so when those opportunities disappeared because the environment changed, they were less adversely effected.

If the above statement were true, what would that imply for the successful position humans have on this planet at this time, and the vulnerability we have due to that very success, vulnerability to any catastrophic environmental changes beyond our control?

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another_someone

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #23 on: 07/12/2005 20:48:06 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver
I agree; although how long would a species need to survive before being labelled as successful? There was a lot of evolution involved with dinosaurs - and they were around for a very long time - but ultimately they failed.



How we designate 'success' in natural terms is a difficult question, except to say that a mutant organism that fails to establish a viable line of descendents could not be regarded as successful.  Beyond that, one can only look at degrees of success.

The criteria for degrees of success could be either restricted to the success of the species, or the success to the species and its descendent species.  It could also be a measure of the longevity of the species, or a measure of the size of the species (as measured in number of individuals, or as biomass), or one could measure the environmental impact of the species (e.g. the amount of oxygen if creates in the atmosphere).

 It human terms, if we set about making a change, and have intended certain outcomes to ensue from that change, then we have implicitly set our own standard for what success or failure of that change should be.

Ofcourse, it is possible that the human definition of success excludes any criteria for the species at large (certainly, medical researchers that are looking to cure cancer do not have the survival of the species in their list of success criteria; they only look at the survival of the patient).

On the other hand, in the context of this debate, we are discussing the longevity of the human species, and within those terms, any action that reduces the likely longevity of the human species would be regarded as a failure.

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #24 on: 07/12/2005 20:58:27 »
Good site about evolution

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-intro-to-biology.html

From that site:-

 
quote:
The process of evolution can be summarized in three sentences: Genes mutate. [gene: a hereditary unit] Individuals are selected. Populations evolve.
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Offline neilep

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« Reply #25 on: 07/12/2005 22:07:02 »
good site about dinosaurs HERE

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Men are the same as women, just inside out !

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #26 on: 07/12/2005 22:39:45 »
[:(!]
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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #27 on: 08/12/2005 14:29:45 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver

Good site about evolution

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-intro-to-biology.html

From that site:-

 
quote:
The process of evolution can be summarized in three sentences: Genes mutate. [gene: a hereditary unit] Individuals are selected. Populations evolve.




Interesting, although I have a few question marks regarding it (not that I doubt that it knows what it is talking about, only that some details may be open to debate).

One point of interest is that it defines a gene (as you highlighted) as a hereditary unit.  It seems to deliberately not define it as a particular biochemical mechanism (e.g. a segment of DNA or RNA), but allows for any mechanism of inheritance to be genetic in nature.  There are arguments that might be proposed in favour of such a broad definition of a gene, but puts into question why Richard Dawkins felt he had to discriminate between genes and memes.

It mentions in its history of evolutionary theory that all of Lamark's theories are now considered erroneous.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamark#Legacy
quote:

Nowadays, the idea of passing on to offspring characteristics that were acquired during an organism's lifetime is called Lamarckian. This view was, until very recently, thought to be completely inconsistent with modern genetics, but recent discoveries, as discussed in the article on epigenetic inheritance, show that this is not quite the case. So Lamarckian ideas continue to be important even when his theories on the general mechanics of evolution were wrong.. Another contemporary view is that memetic ideas of cultural evolution could be considered a form of Lamarckian inheritance of non-genetic traits.



One issue that is totally overlooked in most comments on evolution is the role of viruses, particularly retro viruses.  I am not saying that anyone knows what their impact is, on the contrary, it seems no-one has even begun to look at what their impact might be, although it is clear that viruses are captured in the core DNA and can persist there through the generations, and thus have the possibility to cause mutation and drive evolution within a species (even if they are not a dominant force).  More interestingly, they can carry genetic information across species boundaries.

It also repeats the old mantra that
quote:

Evolution is not progress. The popular notion that evolution can be represented as a series of improvements from simple cells, through more complex life forms, to humans (the pinnacle of evolution), can be traced to the concept of the scale of nature. This view is incorrect.



While I would be the last person to argue that humans are in any way special, but in one sense one might say that evolution does progress (although this is not the same as saying that humans are the end-point of that progression, or that the progression in any way reflects 'improvement' or superiority).  Evolution is a cumulative process, thus one might expect that species that evolve later might be more complex than those that evolved earlier, simply because of the accumulation of complexity.  Whether that complexity improves function, or even whether it may at times reduce efficiency, is I suspect an open question; only that the accumulation of complexity would seem to be a natural consequence of accumulated change that is the mechanism for evolution, and thus there must be a notion of progression (i.e. progress but not necessarily improvement).

It also states:

quote:

The primary line of evidence for this is the similarities between young apes and adult humans. Louis Bolk compiled a list of 25 features shared between adult humans and juvenile apes, including facial morphology, high relative brain weight, absence of brow ridges and cranial crests.



Whereas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoteny#Neoteny_in_humans
quote:

Neoteny in humans

There is a controversial debate which argues that humans are neotenous and retain certain juvenile characteristics into adulthood that are not seen in other great ape species. Many scientists discredit this argument since there is no delay of sexual maturity in humans.
While neoteny is not a physical state that humans experience, it is widely acknowledged that paedomorphic characteristics in women are desired by men.



The reference to T.mirus and T.miscellus was particularly interesting since I was not aware that polyploidism was quite so common in plants (or even that it was a successful strategy).

Also, I had not realised that plants arrived so much later than animals.


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Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #28 on: 08/12/2005 14:47:27 »
I haven't fully absorbed the info on that site yet. I'll go back and have a proper read through it.

 
quote:
but in one sense one might say that evolution does progress


Sort of. I noted the bit about earlier generations being re-introduced & taking over from later ones. That means that although it may seem as if evolution is advancing, it is only advancing with regard the immediately predeeding generation; the evolutionary chain as a whole is not.

I haven't read Dawkin for a while. Maybe I should refresh
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another_someone

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #29 on: 08/12/2005 15:32:57 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver

Sort of. I noted the bit about earlier generations being re-introduced & taking over from later ones. That means that although it may seem as if evolution is advancing, it is only advancing with regard the immediately predeeding generation; the evolutionary chain as a whole is not.



In that case, you would be correct.

The point I was making is that subsequent generations, some of which will not be replaced by preceding generations, have the possibility of being more complex than their ancestors.  That they have the possibility does not mean they inevitably will be, but it would indicate that on average there would be a progressive increase in complexity.

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #30 on: 08/12/2005 16:09:08 »
quote:
The point I was making is that subsequent generations, some of which will not be replaced by preceding generations, have the possibility of being more complex than their ancestors. That they have the possibility does not mean they inevitably will be, but it would indicate that on average there would be a progressive increase in complexity.


I think, in general, that is probably correct. However, I can think of a few questionable examples. Take the slow worm. That has evolved from a lizard with legs. Seals' flippers are also residual limbs. Are those creatures more, or less, complex than their ancestors?
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« Reply #31 on: 08/12/2005 16:58:54 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver

I think, in general, that is probably correct. However, I can think of a few questionable examples. Take the slow worm. That has evolved from a lizard with legs. Seals' flippers are also residual limbs. Are those creatures more, or less, complex than their ancestors?



As I said, it does not follow that every descendent will be more complex than its ancestor, only that the average complexity would rise.

More specifically, the complexity I refer to is the complexity of the genome.  Without mapping the DNA, there would not be any proper answer to that question.  Would a more complex genome always result in a more complex body design?

You question is even narrower than that, because you are concentrating upon a single aspect of body design, that of limb design.  It is like comparing the complexity of a human to a millipede because humans only have two legs, or comparing a human to a mouse because humans lack a tail, or a human to a fly because humans lack wings.  Human ancestors very probably did once have tails, so in that respect our design is simpler to that of our ancestors.  It is even possible that our ancestors had more chromosomes than we have (it is speculated that the common human/ape ancestor had 48 chromosomes, as do chimpanzees and gorillas, whereas modern humans have 46).  Maybe this is a case of humans being simpler than our ancestor, or it could be simply a rearrangement of the genome package into a smaller number of units, but retaining at least as much complexity.

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sharkeyandgeorge

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #32 on: 10/12/2005 16:21:26 »
my understanding is that you dont ever lose chromosomes but that they depend on the evolutions of the dna thats why the fern has so many well over a hundred because it has exsisted so long and evolved so much i suspect that apes have more than humans because they had too evolve twice since the splitting of species to take advantage of envioromentle niches where as humans with our supreme adaptability were able to fill similar niches with one body type

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another_someone

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Re: Could we be supreme beings ?
« Reply #33 on: 10/12/2005 22:22:19 »
quote:
Originally posted by sharkeyandgeorge

my understanding is that you dont ever lose chromosomes but that they depend on the evolutions of the dna thats why the fern has so many well over a hundred because it has exsisted so long and evolved so much i suspect that apes have more than humans because they had too evolve twice since the splitting of species to take advantage of envioromentle niches where as humans with our supreme adaptability were able to fill similar niches with one body type

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http://www.corante.com/loom/archives/2005/08/29/the_chromosome_shuffle.php
quote:

The scientists reported that the banding pattern surrounding the centromere on human chromosome 2 bore a striking resemblance to the telomeres at the ends of two separate chromosomes in chimpanzees and gorillas. They proposed that in the hominid lineage, the ancestral forms of those two chromosomes had fused together to produce one chromosome. The chromosomes weren't lost, just combined.
Other researchers followed up on this hypothesis with experiments of their own. In 1991, a team of scientists managed to sequence the genetic material in a small portion of the centromere region of chromosome 2. They found a distinctive stretches of DNA that is common in telomeres, supporting the fusion hypothesis. Since then, scientists have been able to study the chromosome in far more detail, and everything they've found supports the idea that the chromosomes fused. In this 2002 paper, for example, scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center reported discovering duplicates of DNA from around the fusion site in other chromosomes. Millions of years before chromosome 2 was born, portions of the ancestral chromosomes were accidentally duplicated and then relocated to other places in the genome of our ancestors. And this past April, scientists published the entire sequence of chromosome 2 and were able to pinpoint the vestiges of the centromeres of the ancestral chromosomes--which are similar, as predicted, to the centromeres of the corresponding chromosomes in chimpanzees.



http://www.riverapes.com/Me/Work/HumanHybridisationTheory.htm
quote:

All the great apes, that is both major taxa of Pan, P. paniscus (bonobo) and P. troglodytes (‘common’ chimpanzee) as well as the subspecies of Gorilla and the subspecies of Pongo (orang-utan) have 48 chromosomes whereas we have 46.
Applying the simplest principles of parsimony to this observation it would seem fairly obvious that the last common ancestor of the Hominoidae (that is the great apes and the hominids) had 48 chromosomes too. A simple cladogram of this indicates that 48 (often written 2n = 48) chromosomes is the primitive condition and that descended from that ancestor only humans have the derived condition of 46.


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Offline VAlibrarian

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« Reply #34 on: 11/12/2005 01:40:54 »
Another someone alluded briefly to the concept that furnishes my response to this topic. If you wish some perspective on the moral issues surrounding humans creating life, think as a parent. Any of you people have kids? If you look at it objectively, human reproduction assumes a godlike power of creating a sentient being. Moreover, the parent bears responsibility for much of the outcome. Few of the denizens of our jails had parents worthy of the name. If you wish to make a judgement on human fitness to assume this role of "God", think for a moment on how well we are currently performing in that role. Not a pretty picture, in my view.

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Offline m.levert

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« Reply #35 on: 17/09/2007 03:30:03 »
aren`t humans nearly at the upper limit of brain size as related to efficiency? much bigger or more convoluted and impulses would start taking longer to arrive at their target neurone, so there`s a certain maximum size for optimal efficiency.

does not our ``evolutionary future`` lie in electronic enhancement and the co-mingling of our organic bodies with artificial computational elements?

``cyborg`` is a nasty word. i prefer ``post human``

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another_someone

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« Reply #36 on: 17/09/2007 04:27:49 »
aren`t humans nearly at the upper limit of brain size as related to efficiency? much bigger or more convoluted and impulses would start taking longer to arrive at their target neurone, so there`s a certain maximum size for optimal efficiency.

I cannot see that this is a major issue.

Already the human brain is slower than the brain of a fly (a fly has much quicker reaction times than humans), but this is not a particular problem for most human activity, where millisecond response times are ever less the issue and high level processing is more the issue.  For high level processing, the brain is massively parallel, so even though any single calculation may be slow, it can do so many at once that it can produce a final result in a reasonable time.

The bigger problems with increased brain size are the amount of energy required to run the brain, and the size of the head of a baby with regard to the size of the pelvis of a woman (if the head gets any bigger, unless women start getting wider in the hips, all births will have to be by caesarian).


does not our ``evolutionary future`` lie in electronic enhancement and the co-mingling of our organic bodies with artificial computational elements?

``cyborg`` is a nasty word. i prefer ``post human``

Ultimately, if we go down that road, we will be looking at total electronic solutions (it may start with enhancements, but as the enhancement gets ever more competent, the biological functions will ever more atrophy, until they become totally redundant).

In fact, it may in any case be that robots will ever more undertake the functions of humans, so we do not actually need humans within human society at all.

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Offline that mad man

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« Reply #37 on: 17/09/2007 20:24:02 »
Evening all, I'm back!  [;D]

I think you are right and that man is now changing his own evolution and is in a sense now becoming "God"
Technology and medicine is now getting so advanced that at some time in the future I can see us going out into space and "seeding" a planet.

If that is possible then it may have already happened, in the distant past on our planet, and I do say "may" Perhaps that is where we get the idea of God and looking to the heavens from in the first place. [;)]

We as humans may not live long enough to get to a viable planet but an android/robot could and take human DNA with it.
Find some native primitive life that is animal or ape like and then do some genetic work on them. Not a big stretch of the imagination, after all, that's what we are trying to do now, experimenting with hybrids.

I'm not sure though if our internal clocks (bio rhythms) would allow us to live comfortably on a planet with a different day/year to earth so genetic modification of a primitive would be better.

As far as brain size is concerned I thought that our adult brains were still evolving and increasing in size but slowly.

Bee








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Offline neilep

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« Reply #38 on: 17/09/2007 21:29:24 »
What an excellent thread  ! *smug mode*
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Offline Karen W.

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« Reply #39 on: 17/09/2007 21:32:32 »
LOL LOL yes! It brings back some funny memories! HEE HEE HEE!

"Life is not measured by the number of Breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."

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Offline m.levert

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« Reply #40 on: 24/09/2007 21:17:29 »
why not just work towards downloading the entire intellect into a silicon based virtual existence?

if it were possible to guarantee a cohesive mental condition, i for one would be very keen on putting my whole awareness and existence into some form of mechanical body which would last forever.

if you could stay sane, you would see the far flung future of humanity, maybe live out billions of years as a virtual entity, evolving right along with the universe itself.

what`s not to like????

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another_someone

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« Reply #41 on: 24/09/2007 23:04:26 »
why not just work towards downloading the entire intellect into a silicon based virtual existence?

if it were possible to guarantee a cohesive mental condition, i for one would be very keen on putting my whole awareness and existence into some form of mechanical body which would last forever.

if you could stay sane, you would see the far flung future of humanity, maybe live out billions of years as a virtual entity, evolving right along with the universe itself.

what`s not to like????

How would you know it would be billions of years - it could all be just a fraction of a second, but with billions of years worth of data uploaded as if you had lived through it all, and an instant later you are shut down.

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Offline m.levert

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« Reply #42 on: 24/09/2007 23:57:12 »
another someone is correct- how would you know?

oh no, hang on - the whole idea is not to be shut down but to continue indefinitely.

supposedly, the human time sense would be altered by the upload and connection to vast computing potential. could a computer experience time?

but you would be more than just a computer, you would also be human. this implies continuing human perception,although contained in an imperishable vehicle.

obviously, it`s hard to imagine how one would be changed by direct mental connection to a multi billion teraflop device, i`ll get back to you on that one.

.....never mind, i`m still up for it.

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Offline Michaelmoon

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« Reply #43 on: 26/09/2007 11:27:06 »
Hope Iam not changing the subject, but are there still people out there who can control their goosebumps. I can at will 'relese them' , concentrate them in a particular part of my body and continue to 'release them'. .....At any temperature. Of couse I can control them the other way when being cold I can hold them back. Can of course also just let them be. Cheers

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Offline m.levert

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« Reply #44 on: 05/10/2007 15:55:13 »
ok that`s it i`m outta here.