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Ch. 2: Light Will Be Thrown (A Devil's Chaplain) 
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Post Ch. 2: Light Will Be Thrown (A Devil's Chaplain)
This is the place for talking about Ch. 2: Light Will Be Thrown (A Devil's Chaplain).



Tue Apr 12, 2011 12:21 am
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Post Re: Ch. 2: Light Will Be Thrown (A Devil's Chaplain)
Another very good essay called "Darwin Triumphant."

Dawkins talks about a candidate for "Core Darwinism" that is potentially beyond the reach of factual refutation. He is clearly quite confident that this is the case for his formulation:

Quote:
the minimal theory that evolution is guided in adaptively nonrandom directions by the nonrandom survival of small random hereditary changes. Note especially the words small and adaptively.


He also gives a good explanation of the Second Law of thermodynamics as it applies to evolution:

Quote:
Far from there being any mystical urge towards disorder, it is just that there are vastly more ways of being recognized as disorderly than of being recognized as orderly. So, if a system wanders anywhere in the space of all possible arrangements, it is almost certain... that we shall perceive the change as an increase in disorder. In the present context of evolutionary biology, the particular kind of order that is relevant is adaptation, the state of being equipped to survive and reproduce.


He is quite persuasive in giving his particular views on evolution, particularly for the layman, so I'm curious to see where other scientists disagree with him. I think he addresses some of the controversies in some later essays, including his well-known arguments with Stephen Jay Gould. I've read some of the debate before, as I recall Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium, but I'm a little hazy on the details on where they actually disagree.

By the way, I own a hard copy but I found the complete text online where I am copying quotes from. I don't want to post the link here, so if anyone is interested, PM me.



Last edited by Dexter on Sat May 07, 2011 7:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Sat May 07, 2011 7:20 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2: Light Will Be Thrown (A Devil's Chaplain)
Dawkins gives a useful perspective on the genetic content we share with our nearest existing relatives, the chimpanzees. What he says actually could reassure the anti-evolutionists, so they should pay attention to it. That we share almost 99% of our DNA with chimps doesn't mean that we are almost identical genetically to chimps. If we looked at how many of our whole genes are identical with chimps, the number would be almost zero. The number that are very close would be very high. The small difference in total DNA isn't insignificant, as it represents a very long time in our terms (though not really in evolutionary terms), going back to that common ancestor with chimps, anywhere from 5 million to 8 million years ago.


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Sun May 15, 2011 7:58 am
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Post Re: Ch. 2: Light Will Be Thrown (A Devil's Chaplain)
Some interesting speculation about the future of genetic technology in "Son of Moore's Law". He extrapolated the cost of sequencing DNA, which could probably be updated in the nearly 10 years since it was written, but I'm not familiar with the current state of technology and I'm guessing wouldn't change it too much.

By 2050, says Dawkins, each individual could sequence their genome for about $160 (in today's dollars). You could have a drug tailored specifically for you, and of course predict your demise. We could have nearly full knowledge of the tree of life by categorizing living species. Detectives finding a bloodstain may be able to issue a computer image of the person, including a series of faces from babyhood to old age.

We should be able to read what DNA is telling us about the environment of an unknown animal (as DNA evolved for survival in that environment). Finally, he says, we might be able to do a Jurassic Park-style reconstruction from modern bird and reptile DNA, as well as reconstruct any species from the "missing link" on up, including breeding a "new Lucy." As he says, the ethicists will have their hands full. Scary and interesting stuff!



Sun May 15, 2011 11:40 am
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Post Re: Ch. 2: Light Will Be Thrown (A Devil's Chaplain)
re: the Information Challenge
Did anyone else find this section to be a challenge to digest? It reminded me of his criticisms in the "Postmodernism Disrobed" essay from ch.1 (which I was glad to read!), just seemed like a multiplication of words veering off topic rather than a direct answer, as if maybe there isn't a good answer? I'd love to read a precise of what he's saying. "I have a horror of blinding people with science" ah well, this essay was a horror for me. There's got to be a more straightforward answer (?)


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Tue May 17, 2011 12:12 am
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Post Re: Ch. 2: Light Will Be Thrown (A Devil's Chaplain)
Dawn wrote:
re: the Information Challenge
Did anyone else find this section to be a challenge to digest? It reminded me of his criticisms in the "Postmodernism Disrobed" essay from ch.1 (which I was glad to read!), just seemed like a multiplication of words veering off topic rather than a direct answer, as if maybe there isn't a good answer? I'd love to read a precise of what he's saying. "I have a horror of blinding people with science" ah well, this essay was a horror for me. There's got to be a more straightforward answer (?)

No, I find his statement about being clear about science to be his typical approach. There was, indeed, no TV-friendly, soundbite approach that he could use to answer the question put to him by the Australian film crew. The explanation that he launches into may seem lengthy, but are there parts that are filler, that he could omit and still expect us to think that he'd delivered on his promise? What he's doing here is in fact just the opposite of what he accuses the postmodernists of doing: manufacturing content to use to obscure like the cloaking ink of an octopus. As we might see, I do part ways with Dawkins when it comes to his theory of memes, where I have suspicions that motive is coloring his scientific thinking. But here, explaining how evolution has worked, he's in his element and surely is one of the best at doing this kind of thing. I become inspired with awe when I see the ancestral patterns of life laid out as Dawkins does.


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Thu May 19, 2011 7:46 am
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Post Re: Ch. 2: Light Will Be Thrown (A Devil's Chaplain)
Quote:
explaining how evolution has worked, he's in his element and surely is one of the best at doing this kind of thing.

Yep, I'm sure you're right about that...Time for me to take the role of a skeptic I guess :?
Thanks for your perspective, DWill.


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Thu May 19, 2011 10:29 pm
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